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Daniel 12:4b New International Version

Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.

King James Bible

many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.

Which is more faithful to the original language?

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I blush to offer an answer as I have no authority to speak about the ancient Hebrew language employed by Daniel. Further, although I have consulted a qualified source, I cannot copy the comments fully because I'm working from an old book, and do not have the digital copy. This means I must put certain words in without their accent marks, and must miss out Hebrew words entirely. How much sense you will make of my answer is up in the air and even I don't know how it will land! But here goes, anyway...

The King James version is used in The Companion Bible (Bullinger) just as you have quoted it. The notes to verse 4b read as follows:

"Run to and fro: or, apostatize. The Heb. shut=to rove, turn about, despise. Hence, to do despite (Ezek.16:57; 28:24, 26). But if we spell sut with [Hebrew S) instead of with [Hebrew Su], the meaning is to swerve, turn aside, apostatize, "those who turn aside", or revolters (Ps.101:3 Hos.5:2); as in Ps.40:4, "such as turn aside to lies". So the Oxford Gesenius, p. 962 (these are the only occurrences of sut, unless Daniel 12:4 be another). The dots over the letter 'w', making it (Sin=S) and (Shin=Sh), formed no part of the inspired primitive text, but were added by the Masoretic scribes, and with the vowel points were gradually introduced into the Heb. text. The Sept., Swete's edition, vol. iii, p.572 (A) reads heos an apomanosin = "till many shall have gone raving mad."

As you do not ask for variations on the word 'knowledge", I shall end my quote here. It's interesting, though, that 'calamities' or 'wickedness' could be meant. Also that the Vatican (B), Theodotion's translation reads "knowledge" (= gnosis). But that, I suspect, would relate to a separate question.

However, I have something to say about the New Living Translation of Daniel 12:4b which hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I read it. Suddenly, the verse took on new meaning (to me):

"...seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase."

With the 19th century advent of steam rail and boat travel, telegraph, phone, and aeroplane flight, followed rapidly by computerisation, space travel and the digital age - the amount of knowledge that can be at our fingertips in seconds is mind-blowing. The amount of travel undertaken by billions in what has now become a global village would be unimaginable to people of the horse and cart era. There has been an explosion of knowledge that has actively resulted in rushing about all over the planet.

Yet there remains this anomaly; no amount of increased movement and knowledge leads the wicked to lessen their wickedness. On the contrary (12:10), this explosion has resulted in commensurate increase in wickedness. A raving madness has, indeed, overtaken this frenetic world. And apostasy from God's revealed, written word is all around, seeking to submerge us.

In view of all of that, the best translation of 12:4b appears (to me) to be that of Young's Literal Translation:

"And thou, O Daniel, hide the things, and seal the book till the time of the end; many do go to and fro, and knowledge is multiplied."

Which agrees totally with the KJV. Amen.

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    I respect the humility with which you presented your response. :) +1
    – Xeno
    Oct 5, 2021 at 20:40
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This verse has attracted much debate and controversy which I will not be able to settle here. However, there are a few characteristics of the text that stand out.

For completeness, the LXX of Dan 12:4 reads:

And thou, Daniel, close the words, and seal the book to the time of the end; until many are taught, and knowledge is increased.

The Verb שׁוּט

שׁוּט (shuwt = run/roam to and fro) is used sparingly in the OT (just 13 times) but Dan 12:4 is the only place where it used in conjunction with "knowledge". Here are some other places where the same verb is used:

  • Zech 4:10 - “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.”
  • Amos 8:12 - People will stagger from sea to sea and roam from north to east, seeking the word of the LORD, but they will not find it.
  • Eze 27:8, 26 - "rower" or "mariners"
  • Jer 5:1, 49:3 - "roam to and fro" describing people about to go into exile
  • Job 1:7, 2:2 - Satan roaming to and fro in the earth as a sign of his ownership
  • 2 Sam 24:2, 8 - David's army officers who went to and from throughout the land to conduct the census.
  • 2 Chron 16:9 - For the eyes of the LORD roam to and fro over all the earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts are fully devoted to Him.

Thus, the only pertinent parallel references to Dan 12:4 might be 2 Chron 16:9 and Amos 8:12. However, Jer 5:1 also appears to be a search for the righteous. Thus, there appears to be several possible ways to understand this somewhat mysterious verse (especially in view of the LXX)

  • The book of Daniel was to be sealed until the time of the end when people would understand better, ie, when knowledge of Bible prophecy has been increased by diligent search
  • The book of Daniel was to be sealed until the time of the end when people would more diligently search its pages to better understand
  • The book of Daniel was to be sealed until the time of the end when people would be able to look back and see how many of the prophecies had been fulfilled, see appendix below.

I do not believe that it is necessary to choose between any of these - all are correct at the same time and all are permissible by the grammar of the text.

APPENDIX - Prophetic Understanding

Note the following comments by Jesus:

  • John 13:19 - I am telling you now before it happens, so that when it comes to pass, you will believe that I am.
  • John 14:29 - And now I have told you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you will believe.
  • John 16:4 - But I have told you these things so that when their hour comes, you will remember that I told you about them.

From these we conclude that, predictive prophecies are not given so that we may know the future; rather, they are given to strengthen our faith when they come to pass (John 13:19, 14:29, 16:4). Prophecies are given in the Bible as a means to demonstrate its divine origin (2 Peter 1:19-21). Isaac Newton said, “Prophecy is not given to make men prophets, but as a witness to God when it is fulfilled”. Thus, the future can only be known in broad outline but will be recognized in detail with hindsight.

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