Continued from Chapter 43

(Daniel 7:13-14, 27)

Christians often cite Daniel 7:13-14 as proof that the Messiah is to be a divine being.

The text reads: I saw in the night visions, and behold, there came with the clouds of heaven one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of days, and he was brought near before Him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and languages should serve him [shaltaneih]; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Some Christians maintain that since “one like a son of man” comes with the clouds of heaven and receives worldwide authority and obedience it is clear that he is more than merely human. Other Christians mistranslate shaltaneih, “serve him,” as “worship him” to indicate that he is recognized as divine. Daniel 7:27 reads: And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the holy ones of the Most High; their kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey them.

We see that in both Daniel 7:13-14 and 7:27 the terms “one like a son of man” and “the people of the holy ones of the Most High” refer collectively to the people of Israel who will receive worldwide authority and obedience. Rabbinical exegesis applied the term “one like a son of man” to the Messiah, but not as a divine or semi-divine being. There is nothing in Daniel’s visionary experience to indicate that “one like a son of man’ is a divine being. This is a visionary experience and as such the reality of the arrival of the true Messiah when he comes, as with any visionary experience, need not conform to the vision’s details.

The “people of the holy ones [alt. “holy exalted ones” ̶ ̶ because elyonim is also plural] of the Most High” refers to the faithful core of the Jewish people (see Psalms 34:10, 16:3; Daniel 8:24). God acts through His people who may therefore be called “holy exalted ones,” the name used elsewhere in Daniel to describe celestial beings. In the vision, the people of the holy exalted ones of God are represented by one like a man, that is, man is representative of the collective people of Israel. The emphasis is on heavenly power which acts through the faithful Jews as contrasted with the power of chaos which acts through the kingdoms of this world.

© Gerald Sigal