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Daniel 12 — Darby Translation (DARBY) — 12 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of distress, such as never was since there was a nation until that time. And at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that is found written in the book.

Is there an answer in this text to the question, "What is the time of distress in Daniel 12:12?"

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My answer below will adapt part of what I wrote in response to this question.

An answer ... rests on which presuppositions the reader is willing to make about the book of Daniel. Having at least one presupposition is inevitable, no matter who you are, and that affects the way one reads the entire book. My presupposition is this: Daniel is about kingdoms, and the author names all of the kingdoms that figure into his visions.

The first six chapters, the stories about Daniel and his fellow Jews during their activities in the royal courts of foreign kingdoms (aka the court tales), establish two themes in union together. First, God controls the rise and fall of kingdoms. (5.21) Second, it is better to serve this God than submit to pressure or pain to commit idolatry or other sins. (3.17-18)

By the time these two themes are established after six stories that illustrate them, the narrative begins to elaborate on the dream from chapter 2. This elaboration comes in the form of Daniel's dreams and visions, and an angel interpreting them to Daniel. What we read in chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 are all ultimately parallel and complementary descriptions of the same thing: the rise and fall of a series of kingdoms, the last of which is oppressive toward 'the saints', before that kingdom is in turn overthrown.

Again, my presupposition is that the author names all of the kingdoms in the series he describes: the first is Babylon (2.36-38), the second is a unified Media and Persia (8.20; 10.20a; 11.2a), and the third is Greece led by Alexander (8.21; 10.20b; 11.2b). To any historian of the ancient near east, what the author is portraying is very clearly the series of kingdoms that held power over the Jewish people: Babylon (605-538 BC), then Media-Persia (538-330 BC), then Alexander's Greece (330-323 BC).

This is where most presuppositions diverge, so that the fourth kingdom is thought to be the Roman empire, or the Roman papacy, or Islam, or what-have-you.

The details in Daniel 8 and 11, however, keep the historical context in the line of kings that followed Alexander. Both chapters mention how the king of Greece will suddenly die (as Alexander did), with his empire splitting four ways (an overly simplistic summary, but true enough). This is the fourth kingdom (323-140 BC). Chapter 11 describes the feuding of these successor kings, the Diadochi, in great detail, events that occurred in the fourth, third, and second centuries BC; primarily the Ptolemies (south of Israel, in Egypt) and the Seleucids (north of Israel, in Syria).

This brings us to the main question. The culminating events of each section are complementary details of the same historical events. Each section even uses several of the same words or phrases: 'little horn' of the fourth kingdom in chapter 7 and 8, the 'desolation' caused by transgression/abomination, and halted offerings in chapters 8 and 9 and 10-12, etc.

The descriptions of historical events in chapter 11 are too precise to be talking about anyone other than Antiochus Epiphanes and the events of 170-164 BC.

Because Daniel's different prophecies in chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 all seem to converge with the persecution of the Jewish people by Antiochus Epiphanes amidst his desecration of the temple in Jerusalem, this time period is the most likely referent behind 'the time of distress'.


John J. Collins. The Apocalyptic Imagination, p 87,114.

Raymond Hammer. The Book of Daniel, p 4-5.

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If that is the case mark what is the book and who is written in it and was this a time of distress worse than any recorded ...even the flood..? – John Unsworth Dec 8 '13 at 17:01
Daniel 9.11,13 mentions 'the Law of Moses', the author is clearly conscious of the Torah. Given this, I think it's probable the author is referring back to the 'scroll' in Exodus 32.32-33 (cf. Psalm 69.28). How that plays into the theology of the Book of Daniel is beyond the scope of this. – Mark Edward Dec 9 '13 at 3:42
The statement in Daniel 12.1, 'such as never has been since there was a nation till that time', seems to be a relatively common type of hyperbole in Hebrew literature. Compare Exodus 10.14 and 11.6, Ezekiel 5.9 and 16.16, Joel 2.2, and Matthew 24.21. – Mark Edward Dec 9 '13 at 3:46

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