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August 29, 2010

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In Daniel 12:4 Daniel is told to "seal the book until the time of the end." This establishes the context for the last part of the verse; so the increased knowledge spoken of in the last part can only be the knowledge contained in Daniel's book that is now unsealed. This is the knowledge of that part of Daniel's prophecies that has direct relevance to the "time of the end."

In understanding Daniel 12:4, I personally find it very helpful to compare this verse with Amos 8:11-12:

"But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall RUN TO AND FRO, and knowledge shall increase" (Dan. 12:4; NKJV).

"'Behold, the days are coming,' says the Lord God, 'that I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall RUN TO AND FRO, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it'" (Amos 8:11-12).

The "running to and fro" in Daniel 12:4 is surely in the same context as the "running to and fro" in Amos 8:12 -- the diligent "seeking the word of the Lord." But, of course, in Daniel 12:4 it is specifically the diligent searching of the unsealed prophecies of Daniel as they shed light on the prophecies of Revelation. And in this we see the crucial role prophecy plays for God's people in the last days. I found Martin's selection of one Spirit of Prophecy quote to be particularly relevant to understanding Daniel 12:4:

"The book of Daniel is now unsealed, and the revelation made by Christ to John is to come to all the inhabitants of the earth. By the increase of [prophetic] knowledge a people is to be prepared to stand in the latter days" (2SM 105).

While scientific knowledge is useful to the extent it affirms theological knowledge, in my view the knowledge referred to in Daniel 12:4 is in the one and only context of theological knowledge.

Point well taken Engel. Daniel predicts an end time explosion of theological knowledge. At the same time, we agree that Daniel was assisted by God in the study and mastery of the science of the Babylonians. As you put it, even today scientific knowledge may support theological knowledge. I would like to push that thought a bit further to suggest that scientific knowledge properly interpreted is, in a sense, theological knowledge. This is because the study of science is the study of God’s revelation in nature.

I like the idea that the study of science is the study of God. What I take exception to is associating scientific knowledge, even in a secondary application, with what God specifically sealed till the time of the end. In this crucial time of earth's history, our primary focus should be on what God knows we need to not only be prepared for eternity individually, but more importantly to corporately hasten that great day. Here's another relevant quote I've just come across:

"The prediction of Daniel, 'Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased' (Dan. 12:4), is to be fulfilled in our giving of the warning message; many are to be enlightened regarding the sure word of prophecy. . . . Upward Look, 37.

I appreciate the broader view you have taken on the subject. My point is directed more to those expositors who, regarding Daniel 12:4, tend to make more of scientific knowledge and advancements than on the explicit prophetic knowledge God has unsealed for our special and immediate needs in the last days.

I agree, Engel, with your central point--the promised increase of knowledge is an increase in a knowledge of biblical truth.

At the same time, I am comfortable with a secondary application of the principle to the increase of other kinds of knowledge. This increase can even be useful in facilitating the transmission of the biblical truth we are called to proclaim.

The following quotations from Ellen White seem relevant to this issue. “A knowledge of science of all kinds is power, and it is in the purpose of God that advanced science shall be taught in our schools as a preparation for the work that is to precede the closing scenes of earth’s history.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 186.

"The great storehouse of truth is [1] the word of God–the written word, [2] the book of nature, and [3] the book of experience . . . . Here are the treasures from which Christ's workers are to draw. . . . Through His own appointed channels the Lord will impart a knowledge of Himself to every seeker. . . . Natural science is a treasure house of knowledge from which every student in the school of Christ may draw." Christ’s Object Lessons, 125-126.

One of the verbal roots שׁוט šûţ (Da 12:4b) is attested in the Standard (Preexilic) Biblical Hebrew with the meaning "go about, to and fro", usually in order to find some thing (material or information). Jeremiah is the last writer that uses it with this meaning. After the exile, all occurrences (three in all) reflect a figurative meaning: not a physical wandering about to search for something, but it refers to doing such searching / investigation by eyes: Zec 4:10; 2Ch 16:9, and certainly in Dan 12:4.
Unfortunately, most translations failed to render the true meaning in Dan 12:4. A majority have taken the literal basic meaning of "going to and fro", and others (after Old Greek, Theodotion etc.), understood that "many will fall away (reading śoţ "to apostatize", instead of šûţ "to go about, investigate"), and the wickedness (or troubles) shall increase" (textual confusion between רעת "bad things" and דעת "knowledge").

Fortunately, a minority of traslators rendered the true meaning. For example the Spanish version CAB has: "Muchos lo estudiarán y aumentarán su conocimiento." (Many will study it and the knowledge will increase). The usual Romanian evangelical translation CNS gives the same meaning: "Many will read it..."

The proximate literary context of Dan 12:4, which is about the prophecy of Daniel, not science and technics in general, must determine our translation and exegesis. Thus KJV, ASV and the related versions are not to be followed in this case, nor our traditional interpretation regarding airplanes and modern media. These signs, if their are indeed signs, must be found elswhere, not in Dan 12:4.

Greetings to you Florin. Thanks for the textual analysis.

My concern is that any application of scientific knowledge to Dan 12:4 is a distraction from the real message of the verse. It relegates the message to little more than a curiosity, like the natural signs that are to precede the Second Coming. These signs indeed have their purpose, but Dan 12:4 should be regarded as a specific call to God's people living in the time of the end to study the unsealed prophecies. Understanding these prophecies is not a matter of passing interest. It is an important step in leading God's people to receive the seal of God "on their foreheads" (Rev 7:3), thus enabling them to stand in the great day of God's wrath.

If our evangelists would recognize the profound significance of Dan 12:4 as it concerns the prophetic knowledge God has unsealed, they may find that their preaching on this text would lead their listeners into a more earnest desire to understand for themselves the prophetic messages for our day.

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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