A New Understanding of the Perplexing Prophecies of Daniel

This article was first published on www.BahaiTeachings.org on September 16, 2020.

Of all the Hebrew prophets, perhaps Daniel is the most enigmatic. Biblical researchers and scholars rarely agree about any aspect of the book of Daniel, not even the dates when it was written.

Over the centuries, wide variances of opinion have arisen on the various interpretations of Daniel’s allegorical apocalyptic visions. However, interpreting them fully and correctly seemed impossible, perhaps because their meanings had been sealed until the “time of the end”: “Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end.” – Daniel 12:9.

Baha’is believe that the “time of the end” – not a day of destruction, but the promised period of history when our collective childhood could end and our maturation and unity begin – started in 1844 with the appearance of the Bab, who heralded the advent of Baha’u’llah and ushered in a new era of human maturity:

“Praise be to Him Who hath fashioned this new era, this age of majesty, even as an unfolding pageant where the realities of all things can be exposed to view. Now are clouds of bounty raining down and the gifts of the loving Lord are clearly manifest; for both the seen and the unseen worlds have been illumined, and the Promised One hath come to earth and the beauty of the Adored One hath shone forth.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 38.

So why did Daniel give prophecies that would be impossible to understand at the time? As Isaiah said, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come.” – Isaiah 46:10.

God has His own concept of time, and is not limited by ours. Here’s some insight from Psalm 90, verse 4: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.”

Another purpose could have been to demonstrate that God revealed His plan with unerring accuracy to the exact year, even over a span of thousands of years. If that’s the case, whether humanity recognizes it or not, God’s divine plan for our gradual spiritual education has been unfolding throughout our tenure as a species here on Earth.

Understanding the symbolic numerical code for biblical time is essential for deciphering the meanings of Daniel’s days and years. The key, throughout the Bible, is that one day stands for one year, indicated by many biblical verses, including these two:

“For forty years – one year for each of the forty days you explored the land – you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.”

Numbers 14:34

“I have assigned you the same number of days as the years of their sin. So for 390 days you will bear the sin of the people of Israel.”

Ezekiel 4:5

Perhaps Daniel’s most famous prophetic vision was the one concerning 2,300 days/years, in which he saw fearsome beasts and great destruction, and then the year 1844. In that prophecy, a horn of one beast took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord and His sanctuary was thrown down. Daniel’s vision continued about this last horn as follows:

“And a host was given him against the daily sacrifice by reason of transgression, and it cast down the truth to the ground; and it practised, and prospered.

Then I heard one saint speaking, and another saint said unto that certain saint which spake, How long shall be the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, and the transgression of desolation, to give both the sanctuary and the host to be trodden under foot?

And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.”

Daniel 8:12-14

The Baha’i teachings say that the advent of the Bab, one of the twin prophets of the Baha’i era along with Baha’u’llah, began the “cleansing of the sanctuary” with a new revelation from God. Could the sanctuary to be cleansed be the heart of humankind?

“In Daniel 8:13 it is said: … And he said unto me, Unto two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” … That is to say, how long shall this misfortune, this ruin, this abasement and degradation endure? Or, when will the morn of Revelation dawn? … Briefly, the point is that he fixes a period of 2,300 years, for according to the text of the Torah each day is one year. Therefore, from the date of the edict of Artaxerxes to rebuild Jerusalem until the day of the birth of Christ there are 456 years, and from the birth of Christ until the day of the advent of the Bab there are 1,844 years, and if 456 years are added to this number it makes 2,300 years. That is to say, the fulfilment of the vision of Daniel took place in A.D. 1844, and this is the year of the advent of the Bab. Examine the text of the Book of Daniel and observe how clearly he fixes the year of His advent! There could indeed be no clearer prophecy for a Manifestation than this.”

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 48-49.

In other verses, Daniel also offered the number 1,290 to ponder:

“And from the time that the daily sacrifice shall be taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days.

Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.”

Daniel 12:11-12

There are 1,290 lunar years in the Islamic calendar from the date of Muhammad’s declaration of his station as a prophet of God in the year 613, to Baha’u’llah’s declaration of his station as a prophet of God in 1863.

Reverting to solar years, Daniel gives his final numerical prophecy and is then told that his mission on Earth is finished: “But go thou thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.” – Daniel 12:13.

Prophetically, the 1,290 and the 1,335 days/years go together, the first logically following the second. The 1,335 solar years begin with the year 628, the year Muhammad signed a treaty with his enemies in Mecca that signified that recognized the Muslim community in Medina not only as a legitimate force, but also one to be respected and accorded contractual or diplomatic status.

The 1,335 solar years added to 628 equals 1,963 years, or the calendar year 1963, a momentous period in Baha’i history. That was the year when members of the world’s National Spiritual Assemblies cast their ballots to elect the first Universal House of Justice – the global administrative body of the Baha’i Faith. The declaration of Baha’u’llah in 1863 (the 1,290 years) was followed in 1963 (the 1,335 years) by completion of the three-tiered Baha’i administrative order at the local, national and international levels, devised by Baha’u’llah for the internal governance of the Baha’i Faith.