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I have heard two sources today. One said that since the Babylonian year was 2 seasons the time was 3.5 yrs. The other said 7 years.

The references in Daniel 4:13, 20, 22, 29.

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    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 5:14
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    What justification was offered in your unnamed source saying that "time" here means "season" rather than "year"?
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 5:30
  • BDB: 2 definite time, = year (as modern Greek χρόνος, see EASophocles1173): ׳שִׁבְעָה ע = seven years, Daniel 4:13; Daniel 4:20; Daniel 4:22; Daniel 4:29; עִדָּן וְעִדָּנִין וּפְלַג עִדָּן Daniel 7:25 (i.e. 3 2-Janyears, see Dr; perhaps read dual for plural, compare Bev GunkSchöpf. 201).
    – Dottard
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 5:32
  • See Babylonian calendar.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jul 13, 2020 at 7:47

1 Answer 1

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This portion of Daniel is written in Aramaic, but Aramaic is also a Semitic language and has many similarities to Hebrew, including having the same alphabet. Daniel was a polyglot, and fluent in both Hebrew and Aramaic. He was familiar with the Hebrew reckoning of time.

The word "time" (יוֹם/yowm) in Hebrew can mean one of three things:

  • time
  • day
  • year

Basically, it just refers to a set period of time. It is nearly always translated as "day" (2008 times) but was also "year" (14) and "time" (64). In places, it might be ambiguous as to which was meant. With Hebrew, context is always vitally important.

Here, however, the word is the Aramaic equivalent of yowm. It is said to mean either "time" or "year," but was always translated as "time" in the KJV (13 times). The Strong's definition for this says:

עִדָּן ʻiddân, id-dawn'; (Aramaic) from a root corresponding to that of H5708; a set time; technically, a year:—time.

There is no indication that this could be merely a season; in fact, a season is not usually a precise time period.

Daniel's use of the word "ʻiddân" is noteworthy because there was a much simpler Aramaic word for "year" that he could have used: שְׁנָה/H8140/shenah. "Shenah" means simply "year." It is not ambiguous. It is the word that Ezra used in the following verse:

Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year (shenah) of the reign of Darius king of Persia. (Ezra 4:24, KJV)

And Daniel used the word as well:

In the first year (shenah) of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. (Daniel 7:1, KJV)

So, in choosing to use a word with a dual meaning, Daniel has provided a clue that the verse can be understood with a dual significance.

The first intent, of course, is to address an actual year. Nebuchadnezzar was to eat grass as an ox for seven years. But when the word "time" is used in the Bible, it often has prophetic significance. A time can represent a year. But in this particular prophecy, the "time" represents a millennium.

Nebuchadnezzar becomes a type for Satan, as depicted through the symbols of the prophecy. His hair grows like eagle's feathers, and his nails as birds' claws. Eagles don't typically eat grass--so why doesn't the Bible say that Nebuchadnezzar's hair grew like a horse's mane and his nails like calves' hooves? The peculiarity of this acted-out allegory draws our attention to see what its meaning might be.

Before this came upon Nebuchadnezzar, his heart was lifted up and he began to boast. This is the same sin of which Lucifer was guilty in heaven, spoken of in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! (Isaiah 14:12, KJV)

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: (Isaiah 14:12, KJV)

I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:12, KJV)

It was after this that Lucifer was cast down to the ground, just as happened to Nebuchadnezzar after he finished his boasting.

The prophecy is for Lucifer/Satan, as well as for our instruction. The prophetic "time" is not seven years in this case, but seven thousand years, following the time formulae of these verses:

For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. (Psalm 90:4, KJV)

But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8, KJV)

The Bible establishes the thousand-year day as a principle which applies in multiple prophecies, including the words of God's command in Genesis 2:17.

But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Gen. 2:17, KJV)

Adam died in that thousand-year "day," having lived but 930 years. No one on record has ever lived more than 1000 years here on earth, with Methuselah living the longest at 969 years--still short of 1000. God's word was true, by His reckoning.

And here in Daniel's prophecy, Nebuchadnezzar becomes a type for Satan, predicting that he will have but 7000 years (7 times) to eat grass as an eagle. The grass represents people (see Isaiah 40:7), and the eagle, as the king of birds, represents Satan himself (see Revelation 18:2).

Summary

The seven times are, in Nebuchadnezzar's case, seven literal years. But these same "times" are prophetic with respect to the prophecy embedded in the symbolism of the story. In both the literal and the prophetic fulfillments, a full seven is indicated which is not cut by half nor reduced to indefinite seasons.

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