Daniel 10 is a prologue to the apocalyptic history beginning in 11:2. Like Daniel 9, the chapter begins with Daniel concerned about the end of the captivity. From Daniel’s perspective the seventy years appear to be over. All the Jewish exiles should able to return to Jerusalem, but only few are taking advantage Cyrus’s decree. Daniel therefor turns to the Lord in prayer for his people, asking God when the final vindication of Israel will finally begin.
This vision is dated to the third year of Cyrus, King of Persia, likely 537 B.C. This third year could refer to Cyrus as king over all the Persian Empire or only to when he conquered the Babylonians. If the latter is the case, then this final vision of Daniel is in his seventieth year of service. The year 537 B.C. is after the first of the Jews began to return to Jerusalem, perhaps the reason for Daniel’s fasting and prayer. Daniel may have sought the Lord on behalf of those who were working in Jerusalem.
Daniel says he was fasting and mourning (10:2-3). This could be a “bread and water” fast since the text says he ate no choice food or wine nor did he use lotions. Oils and lotions were a luxury and a sign of joy and happiness (Ps 45:7). They would have been inappropriate during a fast.
What was the purpose of his fasting? Some suggest Daniel was upset the work in Jerusalem was going slowly. Others suggest he was still perplexed over the previous vision and was seeking the Lord for a clarification of the visions in Daniel 8 and 9. This fast begins before Passover and continues ten days beyond. During this period the Jews typically reflect on the Exodus, perhaps Daniel is looking forward to a new Exodus, from Babylon back to Jerusalem.
But fasting is associated with visions in the apocalyptic literature. Reflecting of the fall of Jerusalem, Jeremiah and Baruch fast for seven days (2 Baruch 9:2). In 4 Ezra the prophet fasts before visions in response to the command of the angel Uriel (4 Ezra 5:20). In the Greek Apocalypse of Ezra 1:5, Michael the archangel commands Ezra to “lay aside bread for seventy weeks,” and he claims to fast “twice sixty weeks.” After 120-week fast, Ezra has a series of visionary experiences. In the New Testament Peter has a vision after a short fast (Acts 10:10). Daniel’s fast may be significant because one of the many things Antiochus does is forbid the Jewish fast day (1 Macc 1:39).
In his vision, Daniel sees a “man” dressed in linen, a common outfit for an angel in Scripture (Ezek 9:2 and 10). White linen is considered to be ritually pure, a priestly garment (Lev. 16:4). This would be a bleached white garment, or brilliantly white. This form of a man wears a sash of gold, a common symbol of wealth in the Ancient Near East. His body is like chrysolite and his face is like lightning, literally, has the appearance of lightning, and his eyes are like flaming torches, again, bright light, glowing, radiant, emphasis on the burning (Ezek 1:4). The man’s arms and legs are like polished bronze (Ezek 1:7). His voice was like the sound of a multitude. A huge noisy crowd, overwhelming, incomprehensible.
There are similar angelic beings in apocalyptic literature. For example, in the Apocalypse of Abraham 11:1-3:
And I stood up and saw him who had taken my right hand and set me on my feet. The appearance of his body was like sapphire, and the aspect of his face was like chrysolite, and the hair of his head like snow. And a kidaris [royal tiara worn by Persian kings] was on his head, its look that of a rainbow, and the clothing of his garments (was) purple; and a golden staff (was) in his right hand.
Every angel is as the Great Sea in height, and the appearance of their faces is like lightning; their eyes are like torches of fire; their arms and feet look like burnished bronze, and the roar of their voices when they speak is as the sound of a multitude.
In the Apocalypse of Zephaniah the prophet encounters an angel he believes is the Lord himself. The angel identifies himself as Eremiel, an angel in charge of the abyss and Hades where “all of the souls are imprisoned from the end of the Flood.”
I saw a great angel standing before me with his face shining like the rays of the sun in its glory since his face is like that which is perfected in its glory. And he was girded as if a golden girdle were upon his breast. His feet were like bronze which is melted in a fire
Who is this angelic being in Daniel 10? Because of the glory associated with the appearance of the man it is assumed at the very least Daniel saw an angel of some kind similar to these later apocalyptic texts. A common suggestion this is the same angel Daniel met in chapter 9, Gabriel. But some have suggested this is a theophany similar to Ezekiel seeing God’s glory in his inaugural vision. There are many parallel between these two visions. There is also a remarkable similarity between this passage and the description of Christ in Revelation 1. Many Christian commentators, especially the early church, identified this being as the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ.
However, if this being is the same who speaks in in 10:10-14, then it has been hindered by the “prince of Persia” and needed the assistance of Michael. This being was sent by God with the answer to Daniel’s prayer, making it unlikely to be God himself. One solution is that the vision in 10:1-9 is different than the angelic being who speaks in 10:10.
Whatever the case, Daniel’s final vision begins with a powerful angelic being. He is overwhelmed by this vision and fell into a deep sleep before the angel reveals “what is inscribed in the book of truth.”