29 October 2019

Daniel: Part 1 - The Fourth Empire

30 Tishrei 5780
Rosh Chodesh Alef

Thank you to the poll participants.  I think we can dive right in now.

I have been pondering the mysteries of the Book of Daniel for about 50 years.  Each time I read it, I learn something new.
"As for you, Daniel, obscure the matters and seal the book until the time of the end; let many muse and knowledge increase." (Daniel 12:4)
The implication is that when we actually arrive to the End of Days, the riddles will be able to be understood.  Very recently, I was re-reading it, along with a book of collected commentaries, hoping to get some additional insight.  After several days of going back and forth between several translations and my book of collected commentary, I felt like I was making some progress toward a better understanding when something suddenly clicked in my mind and an amazing possibility occurred to me.  It may be the solution to one of the most intriguing codes in the book - "ad idan, idanin uplag idan" - often translated from the Aramaic as "a time, times, and a half [of time]." 

I pondered throughout the holidays how, or even whether, to share my thoughts on this subject outside my own family.  As I've continued to pore over the sources, as well as seek Hashem's will, I am more and more convinced that I have a viable explanation.  In fact, just yesterday, I had an even deeper insight into this possibility which just reinforces that viability.  So, I posted the poll to test the waters, so to speak, and now, I have determined to go forward as far as Hashem will allow.  

It looks like this subject can be covered in three parts, so pay close attention over these next three days...

As a quick overview, Daniel has been carried away to Babylon at the time of the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  He is intent on understanding when the Babylonian exile will end.  In answer to his prayers, Daniel receives prophetic visions which span world history, describing each of four major exiles that the Jewish people will endure until the End of Days when Mashiach will come and power will be transferred to Yisrael.  The angel Gabriel acts as a guide and interpreter to help Daniel understand what he is seeing - all of which was still future for Daniel, but almost all of which is now past history for us.  That being the case, it is easier to identify the who and how of these once-future prophecies historically.  And our great commentators like Rashi (1040 - 1105)Ramban (1194 - 1270), Abarbanel (1437 - 1508), etc. did just that. 

However, they did not live to see what we have now seen, so it may also be possible to shed some light on further developments as we approach the very End of Days.  Seeing as how we are living at the end of the fourth empire - the empire of Rome/Edom - I was concentrating my efforts on a portion of the prophecy that concerns it.  Daniel, chapter 7...
...as I looked on in the night vision, there was a fourth beast - fearsome, dreadful, and very powerful, with great iron teeth - that devoured and crushed, and stamped the remains with its feet.  It was different from all the other beasts which had gone before it; and it had ten horns.  While I was gazing upon these horns, a new little horn sprouted up among them; three of the older horns were uprooted to make way for it. There were eyes in this horn like those of a man, and a mouth that spoke arrogantly....  
Then I wished to determine the truth of the fourth beast, which was different from all of them - excessively dreadful;....

And concerning the ten horns that were on its head, and the other one that came up and the three that fell before it, and the horn that had eyes and a mouth speaking arrogantly, and its appearance was greater than that of its companions.

I looked on as that horn waged war with the holy ones and overwhelmed them, until the Ancient of Days came and gave revenge to the high holy ones, and the time arrived that the holy ones inherited the kingdom.

[The angel explained] "The fourth beast represents a fourth kingdom that will be on the earth, which will be different from all the kingdoms, and it will devour the whole land and trample it and crush it.

And the ten horns that sprout from that kingdom represent ten kings that will rise, and the last one will rise after them, and he will be different from the first, and he will humble three kings.
Some insight from the commentators:
"The exile represented by the fourth beast would be equivalent to all three previous ones" [i.e., Babylon, Media/Persia, Greece]. (Rashi from Vayikra Rabba 13:5)
"...the fourth kingdom [or empire], represented here [Daniel 7:7] by a fearsome unspecified beast, different from all the other beasts, is that of the Roman empire with all its metamorphoses.  This is the view of almost all the commentators and clearly that of our Sages in the Talmud and numerous midrashim."  (Artscroll Tanach Series - Sefer Daniel)
Can the "horns" be identified?  I believe so, because in our time, as opposed to Daniel's, this has already happened.  All we have to do is match it to the historical record.  If I am right, it could give us all some much-needed chizuk.

All are welcome to share their thoughts in the comments.

Proceed to Part 2 - The Little Horn.

May any learning from this blog post go to the merit of Rabbi Alon Yehudah Yosef ben Chanah Miriam for a refuah shleimah bimehira.  Amen!


  1. "From the time that the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination that causes desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches the end of the 1,335 days."

    Nabuchadnezzar stopped the 'tamid' sacrifice of the temple in the year 603 BCE. 1290 years later (687 CE) the Muslims started to build the Dome of the Rock on the site where the temple stood. Happy is the one who waits another 1335 years because Mashiach arrives in 2022 CE.

    BTW, the little horn was Titus. Pretty obvious.

    1. I appreciate the enthusiasm. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts; however, I would prefer to focus just on chapter 7 right now. You've skipped all the way to the end. :-)

      Rashi would agree with you on Titus being the little horn, but he doesn't explain how he uprooted three others. Also, R. Saadiah Gaon and Malbim disagree. Tune in tomorrow for more...

  2. That part about "ad idan, idanin uplag idan" stood out for me (Daniel 7:25, in the middle of a part where everything is in Aramaic). I've been working really hard on my Hebrew for the last year-and-a-half or so.

    Sometimes modern Hebrew uses what turn out to be real meanings for words it borrows. Like "idan" which means "era" in human terms, and of course (how could I have missed this? yeah, right), it's from Aramaic, as you pointed out. And "plag," which I've used for years to bring in Shabbat a bit early on long summer Fridays, likewise is borrowed from Aramaic.

    I'm not doing it now, but for example, this week in Yerushalayim according to my kitchen calendar, "plag hamincha," the earliest time I could take Shabbat, is at 3:42PM, 33 minutes before candlelighting time at 4:15, which in turn is 40 minutes before sunset.

    I'm wondering whether the "plag" here refers to the possibility of bringing in Geula early (seems a little late for that in retrospect), or at least learning things about it at "plag" time beforehand (which I'm taking to mean approximately proportionately according to my understanding of the concept. In other words, not "half a time," but a lot shorter than that.). Like the series you just started. Looking forward to reading the rest and learning what you have in mind!

    1. That's very interesting HDG. Daniel is written in both Aramaic as well as Hebrew. Pop quiz! Do you know which parts and why?

  3. Daniel 2:4b-7:8 are in Aramaic (seems like longer than half the book!). I don't know why.

    I'm sure your explanation is better than that of any of the sites I looked at, and I don't claim to have studied Daniel in any depth. Nothing replaces real study. I'm only now beginning to feel I can start studying seriously in the original languages, with minimal translation.

    1. I don't have an explanation, but there is a long one in that commentary I'm using. In part, it says...

      "So much of the book of Daniel is written in Aramaic because the Jews in the Babylonian exile used Aramaic as their vernacular.... However, the written word, especially when used for sacred purposes, remained lashon hakodesh - Hebrew. Therefore, the book begins in Hebrew. When we get to the dialogue between Nebuchadnezzar and his sages, we are given their dialogue untranslated. The same holds true [throughout]...", i.e. written account in Hebrew, dialogue in Aramaic.

      This was new to me, too, because it was the first time I had tried to compare the English translation to the original language.

  4. While most do explain the 4th beast referring to Edom, the Ibn Ezra famously says it refers to Yishmael. He then names the 10 horns as various countries of Yishmael during his era. I was considering writing a post a couple months ago (after Iran attacked the Saudi oil fields) about how the little horn refers to Shiite Islam coming to uproot 3 of the named Yishmalite countries.

    1. Yes, but as we can see in hindsight, the majority called it correctly because it is Edom that has ruled the world for the last 2,000 years, not Yishmael.

      During Ibn Ezra's lifetime (1089-1167), it must have appeared that Yishmael was set to conquer Rome and become the new dominant power, seeing as how Islam had conquered Catholic Spain. But Spain came back to attain imperial stature all on its own - thanks to the discovery of the New World. (See Spanish Empire

    2. Just to play devil's advocate (I'm not preferring one interpretation over another), who was in control of Eretz Yisrael for more time in the past 2000 years? It was not Edom.

      Who still controls Har Habayit? It is not Edom.

      Ibn Ezra's interpretation is not as short-sighted as you make it out to be.

    3. I don't think you can call not being able to see the future being short-sighted. In his own time, that was a reasonable assumption. I don't fault him for it at all.

      Why do you equate control of Eretz Yisrael with being a world empire? Sources tell us why Yishmael would be the one to occupy Eretz Yisrael in our absence. But occupation does not equate to rule.

      In the past 2000 years, Eretz Yisrael was ruled by Rome and the Byzantines until 638 when the Muslims took over. In 1095, the Christians took it back until 1291 when it fell once again into Muslim hands. The Ottoman Empire moved in 1517. And the British took it away from them in 1917 until the founding of the State in 1948. So, 865 years of Christian rule vs. 1083 years of Muslim rule, a difference of 218 years. Not so compelling. I don't see a connection between ruling Eretz Yisrael and qualifying to be called the Fourth World Empire which is supposed to run until Mashiach comes.

      Possibly a better method would be to ask who has the most military bases around the globe and that will tell you who is currently ruling the world. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. ;-)

    4. I should add that Muslims are in control of Har Habayit, as you well know, not because they rule over us, but because those who do allow them to control it.

  5. Yitzchok Abrams29/10/19 9:11 PM

    I for one am so "happy" you decided to continue. Please, we, I, need to hear it. You have given us chizuk in so many of your posts. Keep on keeping on.
    Shalom, Shalom

    1. Thank you, Yitzchok. I just hope you will still see it that way when I'm done.

  6. Yitzchok Abrams30/10/19 1:06 AM

    I think I will, if I "read" you right. Esav hates Yaakov and must return "kingship" back to him. But perhaps I'm jumping to the wrong conclusion here.��. Either way, looking forward for more.
    Shalom, Shalom

  7. I can make this very easy for all of you. How is your life working right now? How is your mental, physical, psychological, spiritual, economic health? That's your microcosm that's being reflected from the Book of Daniel. Horns are rays, each ray is another form of energy that is being transformed on the Tree of Life.

    In other news the embassies of Israel are shutting down - no diplomacy for Israel - https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-embassies-around-the-world-shut-as-diplomats-military-attaches-strike/