I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow…
The panorama which passed before Daniel's mind in the night-season did not terminate in a scene of confusion and misery. This scene of brutal ferocity occurs in the middle of a great tragedy, and leads on to a peaceful triumph of truth and righteousness. These inhuman kings were not masters of the situation. One higher than they watched the moral chaos from his supernal throne, and, out of the tangled mass of conflicting ambitions and passions, brought a condition of permanent prosperity and peace.
I. OBSERVE THE DESCRIPTION OF HIS PERSON. He has the appearance of venerable age - "the Ancient of days." These inhuman monsters were "but of yesterday;" and, knowing that their time was short, were eager to make for themselves a name, be the methods what they may. But the Ruler of the nations is "from everlasting." His years outnumber all the generations of men. Human tribes come and go; dynasties rise and fall; to him they are like the meteorological changes on an April day. He sits unmoved, the calm Monarch of the universe. His clothing, "white as snow," betokens the immaculate righteousness of his administration. No intelligent being has ever detected the slightest blemish in his just and impartial sway. It is not consistent with his supreme dignity to give an account of his doings to human creatures, but to the extent that our moral judgments can comprehend his acts, we can join with the seraphim in the acclamation, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty;" "Just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." He is not an indifferent spectator of human affairs. He may be slow to anger, yet is he the more sure to punish. "His throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire." Sin, lust, crime, of every sort, shall be swept from his domains with a fiery besom; yea, all creatures who identify themselves with wickedness. Every force and element in nature is his servant, and a stream of fire issues from his feet. The earth, long stained with shameful crime, shall be purified, and the saints shall emerge from the trial "as gold that has been purified." Though long delayed, complete retribution shall in due time come, and the oppressed among the sons of men shall be publicly vindicated and honoured.
II. HIS SPLENDID RETINUE. His army is not reckoned by thousands, but by myriads, The largest number known to the ancients is put for an indefinite number. Everything that lives and breathes minister unto him. The orders and ranks of unfallen angels are his lieutenants. At a single glance of his eye they fly on fleetest wing to fulfil his Divine behests. One angel, with his invisible sword, scattered and decimated the proud army of Sennacherib. An east wind discomfited Pharaoh's host. A few flakes of snow annihilated the regiments of Napoleon. More than once a thunderstorm has defeated the most valiant troops of warriors. The locust, one feeble branch of God's military retinue, has chased a whole nation from the field. "To whom, then, shall we liken God?" And is not he a prodigious fool who challenges God to a contest? "Let the potsherds strive with the potsherds of the earth; but woe to the man who strives with his Maker!" Filled with Divine courage, "one man shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight."
III. HIS JUDICIAL. OCCUPATION. "The judgment was set." This language does not refer exclusively to the final and general judgment of mankind. It refers especially to a present judgment, and a special adjudication touching the ambitious kings. The activity of God's mental judgment is never in suspense. Judicial acts are always proceeding. "For judgment," said Christ, "I am come into the world." Still, it is permitted us to think of state occasions, when public investigations are made, clear proofs of human guilt are adduced, and world-wide approval is given of Divine verdicts. "The books were opened," viz. the volume of Divine Law, clearly read by men; the book of history; the book of memory; the book of conscience. The decision shall not be reached with unseemly haste. The investigation shall proceed under the superintendence of Wisdom herself, and her calm decisions can never be called in question.
IV. HIS ROYAL AWARDS. The act of Divine judgment, which was present to the view of Daniel, was an act concerning the "great beast." He had been seized by God's detectives, and arraigned before the bar of heavenly justice. His last daring act of rebellion was that of speaking proud and defiant words against God. Thus the haughty oppressors of nations boast, "Our wills are our own: who is Lord over us?" But their discomfiture will be complete and overwhelming. The beast was slain. Life was withdrawn. Nor this only. His body was destroyed. As he had consumed others, so, by a righteous retribution, he shall be consumed in the burning flame. Lesser penalties are imposed on the other beasts. Further opportunity of amendment is given to some. Dominion is forfeited, but life for a brief season is prolonged. Yet, in this heavenly assize, there are not only wrongs punished; rights are vindicated. Obedience, excellence, merit, axe commended, are exalted to the highest place. The human monarchs, who abused their sovereign trust, shall be dethroned - yea, destroyed; but in their place another shall arise - a King of righteousness, a pattern Prince. Instead of savage beasts, there shall be, as King of nations, a Son of man - a man fresh from the hands of God. His innate glory shall be partly veiled, "He came in the clouds of heaven." His is no usurped authority. He does not take this honour of himself. He professes allegiance to the world's Ruler and Judge, and receives the kingdom at the hands of God. "Angels and principalities and powers" delight to do him honour; "they brought him near" the everlasting Father. The Son of man does not disdain to receive the kingdom from the Creator and Originator of all things. Because of his meekness and righteousness (not because of muscular power and violence) the Son of man receives investiture of universal sovereignty. Others, like Alexander and Timour, had aspired to this, but they were not worthy. Real merit shall at length rise to the surface, and reach the topmost place. Before him "every knee shall bow," either attracted by his grace or awed by his power. To him shall appertain, not a kingdom only, but transcendent glory, and dominion born of love. All nations and languages shall ultimately serve him, and his kingdom shall be durable as eternity. Universality and permanency are the indelible marks of Messiah's empire. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
WEB: I saw until thrones were placed, and one who was ancient of days sat: his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, [and] its wheels burning fire.