John C. Whitcomb. Daniel. Moody Publishers, 1985, 2018. See here to purchase the book.
John C. Whitcomb has taught theology and Old Testament at Grace
Theological Seminary. This commentary on Daniel is conservative,
dispensational, pre-tribulational, and pre-millennial. “Conservative”
means that Whitcomb dates the Book of Daniel to the sixth century BCE
rather than the second century BCE. That allows the prophecies in the
Book of Daniel to be actual predictions that at least partially came to
pass, rather than fake prophecies written after the “predicted” events.
“Conservative” also implies that Whitcomb regards the Book of Daniel as
historically authentic, as opposed to containing historical errors. And
it entails that Whitcomb sees the Book of Daniel as predicting
eschatological events that will actually be fulfilled in our future, not
predictions about the Maccabean era that failed to materialize.
“Dispensational” means that Whitcomb contends that the Book of Daniel
concerns Israel, both historically and in the last days, not the church;
still, the tribulational saints who believe in Jesus after the rapture
of the church seem to factor into Whitcomb’s exposition of Daniel.
“Pre-tribulational” indicates that Whitcomb believes in the rapture of
the church prior to the Great Tribulation, and “pre-millennial” implies
that Whitcomb thinks Jesus will return to earth and will then establish a
literal millennial reign.
Here are some thoughts:
A. An asset to this book is its conservative arguments for the Book
of Daniel’s historical authenticity and sixth century date. Whitcomb
responds to the more liberal scholarly arguments that the captivity of
Daniel in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign is factually inaccurate
and contradicts Jeremiah 46:2; that the Greek words for musical
instruments in Daniel 3 attest to a Hellenistic date; that there was no
historical “Darius the Mede” who conquered Babylon; that, contrary to
Daniel 5, Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was not the
actual king of Babylon; and that there was no law of the Medes and the
Persians stating that a king’s decree cannot be revoked. Among other
things, Whitcomb appeals to the Aramaic of Daniel, a late second century
fragment of Daniel at Qumran shortly after the time that liberal
scholars think Daniel was written, Babylonian customs, the existence of
different Israelite dating systems, and a detail provided by the ancient
historian Diodorus Siculus (second century BCE) about Darius III that
sounds like the irrevocable law of the Medes and the Persians. The
endnotes provide more extensive scholarly discussion and documentation.
B. Was Whitcomb convincing in his conservative arguments? I would say
“Perhaps, but…” to a lot of these arguments. Whitcomb appeals to
Kenneth Kitchen’s 1965 article, “The Aramaic of Daniel,” which appeared
in the book Notes on Some Problems in the Book of Daniel. Kitchen
indeed does argue that the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel fits the
seventh-fourth centuries BCE more than the Aramaic in the late
second-first centuries BCE. At the same time, Kitchen’s conclusion
appears rather modest: “Some points hint at an early (especially
pre-300), not late, date—-but in large part could be argued to be
survivals till the second century BC…It is…obscurantist to exclude
dogmatically a sixth-fifth (or fourth) century date on the one hand, or
to hold such a date as mechanically proven on the other, as far as the Aramaic is concerned.”
Whitcomb refers to the scholarly argument that “Darius the Mede” was
the Median Gubaru, whom Cyrus made governor of Babylon, Syria, and
Palestine. Why does the Book of Daniel call Gubaru “Darius the Mede,”
however, as well as the son of Ahasuerus (Daniel 9:1)? Are these not
names of Persian kings? Whitcomb does well to refer to a possible
non-biblical reference to the unchanging law of the Medes and the
Persians, while responding to scholarly arguments that it is not such.
Still, a question occurs in my mind. Michael Fox argues that the
proto-Alpha text of Esther came before the MT Esther, and the
proto-Alpha text presents the king of Persia revoking his previous
decree. Could that indicate that the concept of an unchanging law of
Medes and Persians was a concept later invented (or applied) by biblical
authors rather than a historical memory? While Whitcomb characterizes
the liberal position as dating all of Daniel to the second century BCE,
scholars such as John Collins and John Goldingay maintain that many
stories in Daniel may be older than the final version of the book.
C. This is not to suggest that I find liberal arguments completely
convincing. Liberal scholarship tends to interpret the second kingdom of
Daniel 2 and 7 as the Medes, the third kingdom as Persia, and the
fourth kingdom as Greece, culminating in Antiochus Epiphanes. That
coincides with its view that Daniel is a wishful eschatological hope
about the end of Antiochus’ reign. Conservative scholars, by contrast,
contend that the second kingdom is Medo-Persia, the third is Greece, and
the fourth is Rome. The problem with separating the Medes and the
Persians is that Daniel often combines the two (Daniel 5:28; 6:8, 12,
D. In his chapter on Daniel 8, Whitcomb states: “Toward the end of
the times of the Gentiles…we should not be too surprised to find certain
aspects of the third kingdom still existing.” Whitcomb speculates that
“the eschatological extension of the third kingdom” will be Gog from
Magog (Ezekiel 38-39). A liberal scholar might understandably conclude
that Whitcomb is trying to force what the Book of Daniel is—-a document
from and about events in the second century BCE—-into an eschatological
scenario that concerns our future.
E. At the same time, Whitcomb raises some legitimate arguments that
call into question whether the prophecies in Daniel culminate solely in
the second century BCE. If the King of the North was only the Seleucid
Empire, Whitcomb asks, why does he take such a circuitous route to get
to Israel, attacking countries on the way? If his base were in Syria,
all he would have to do is go straight south to Israel.
F. The book offers interesting interpretations and prophetic
scenarios. For instance, Daniel 12:11-12 refers to the 1,290 days and
the 1,335 days. Whitcomb argues that Christ returns 1,260 days after the
Abomination of Desolation. Christ then spends thirty days cleansing the
sanctuary, and the days after that consist of judgment of those who
survive the Great Tribulation. Whitcomb also attempts to reconcile the
Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation, and to read both books in
light of each other. For example, Whitcomb interprets the Beast’s deadly
wound being healed in Revelation 13 in light of northern attacks on the
man of sin in the Book of Daniel.
G. The book used historical arguments to illuminate the Book of
Daniel, but there were also homiletical meanderings. Whitcomb at one
point refers to Saul not knowing about Samuel the seer (I Samuel 9). In
discussing how Darius threw the wicked men’s families to the lions in
Daniel 9, Whitcomb says that the Israelite culture was much more humane
than the Persian.
H. The book would have been stronger had Whitcomb explained why God
in the Book of Daniel would talk both about the time of Antiochus
Epiphanes and end-time events long after that. Whitcomb somewhat touched
on this, but not adequately.
I. A slight pet-peeve: on page 165, Whitcomb dates Antiochus
Epiphanes’ reign to 175-64 BCE. Whitcomb frequently did that with BCE
dates: cut off the first digit in the terminus ad quem year. He should
not do that with BCE dates because it is confusing. Antiochus IV’s reign
ended in 164 BCE, not 64 BCE, as Whitcomb knows.
My critiques notwithstanding, I still give this commentary five stars. It is informative, interesting, and meaty.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.
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