Does Daniel say that the nations will “worship” the one like a son of man?

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I am firmly of the view that in the symbology of Daniel 7 the “one like a son of man” who is brought to the throne of the Ancient of Days stands for the persecuted people of the saints of the Most High, in much the same way that the four beasts in the first part of the vision stand for malevolent and destructive empires. I also think that Jesus identified himself with this narrative as a way of speaking about his own suffering and vindication in connection with the judgment and renewal of Israel.

However, Daniel says that all peoples and nations would “serve” (yiflchun) this “son of man” figure (Dan. 7:14, cf. 27), and it is sometimes argued from the use of this verb that the “one like a son of man” is a divine figure who will be worshipped by the nations. If that’s the case, then Jesus’ self-reference as the Son of Man must be an implicit assertion of his divinity. It’s a fairly obscure point of interpretation, but since the claim has again been made here, I want to try and show once and for all why I think it is wrong.

As I’ve said many times before, this is not an argument against Trinitarianism, which I think was an inevitable and appropriate rationalisation of the problematic New Testament data under the circumstances. It is an argument for a political-historical reading of the apocalyptic story about Jesus, who was given authority to judge and rule over both Israel and the nations of the pagan world.

The Aramaic verb pelach occurs nine times in Daniel and, with the exception of Daniel 7:14, 27, has the clear meaning “pay reverence to” or “serve” with reference to a deity. Daniel and his friends do not “serve” the gods of the Babylonians; they “serve” only the God of Israel (Dan. 3:12, 14, 17, 28; 6:17, 21). So, for example, following the release of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar blesses the God who delivered his servants who “yielded up their bodies rather than serve (yiflchun) and worship (yisgedun) any god except their own God” (Dan. 3:28). In all these references the object is clearly stated: it is either God or the gods or an image of the gods.

Some sort of distinction needs to be drawn in Daniel between serving God or the gods and (falling down and) worshipping God or the gods. To “worship” (segid) appears to entail prostration and would typically have in view prostration before the image of a deity (cf. Dan. 3:5-6, 10-11, 15). To “serve” the deity presumably refers to a more general pattern of religious allegiance and devotion.

Outside of Daniel pelach is found only in Ezra 7:24 where the participle is used for the “other servants (palche) of this house of God”. We also find the noun polchan (“service, worship”) in Ezra 7:19.

The context in Daniel 7:14, however, is rather different. There is no reference to prostration or “worship”; nor do we have the narrative of conflicting religious loyalties that accounted for the use of pelach in the earlier chapters. The one who will be “served” by the nations is characterised not as a god or idol or as God, before whom they will prostrate themselves and worship; rather, he is said to be the recipient of dominion, glory and a kingdom—a dominion that will not pass away and a kingdom “that shall not be destroyed”. The point of the vision is that the “one like a son of man”, whether he is an individual or a group of people, will be given the authority to rule.

This distinction between the service of gods or God and the subservience of one political entity to another is reflected both in the Greek terminology and in the use of pelach in the Aramaic Targums. The six Aramaic chapters of Daniel are a very limited basis on which to determine the meaning of the verb.

The Greek versions have latreuō (LXX) or douleuō (Theod.). Both words can be used either for religious observance, the rendering of service to God, or for political servitude—for example:

…because you did not serve (elatreusas) the Lord your God with rejoicing and with a good heart for the abundance of everything. And you shall serve (latreuseis) your enemies whom the Lord will send against you… (Deut 28:47–48)

For the nations and kings that will not be subject (doulousousin) to you shall perish, and the nations shall be made desolate with desolation. (Is 60:12)

Daniel says of Nebuchadnezzar: “The strength of the earth and the nations and all the languages unto the ends of the earth and all countries are slaves (douleuousi) to you” (Dan. 4:18). According to the Psalms of Solomon the future Davidic king will “have the peoples of the nations to be subject (douleuein) to him under his yoke” (Pss. Sol. 17:30).

In the Targums pelach is widely used for the service or worship of God or gods, but also for the subordination of one people to another: Canaan will be “a serving (palach) slave to his brothers” (Tg. Gen. 9:25); Egypt will “no longer subjugate (yiflechun) the nations” (Tg. Ezek. 29:15). Isaac blesses Jacob: “May nations serve (yiflechun) you and may kingdoms be subject to you” (Tg. Gen. 27:29). When Israel makes war against a city and the city submits, “all the people who are inside it shall become givers of tribute to you and shall serve (yiflechun) you” (Tg. Deut. 20:11).

As with the Greek text, the distinction between the two contexts of usage is neatly illustrated from Deuteronomy 28:47-48:

Because you did not worship (pelachtaʾ) before the Lord your God in joy and beauty of heart, out of the abundance of everything, so you will serve (tiflach) your enemies whom the Lord will provoke against you. (Tg. Deut. 28:47–48).

It seems to me pretty clear, therefore, that pelach means “to serve” (not “to worship”) and that the precise connotations are determined by the context. At issue in the early chapters of Daniel is the question of which God/gods Daniel and his friends would “serve”, before which deity they would fall down and worship. In Daniel 7, however, the controlling question is who would rule over the nations—Greece, specifically in the person of Antiochus Epiphanes, or the people of the saints of the Most High.

The prophetic vision, consistent with the earlier texts cited (eg. Gen. 27:29; Deut. 28:47-48; cf. Pss. Sol. 17:30), is that the nations which formerly had served Nebuchadnezzar or Alexander or Antiochus Epiphanes would serve that part of Israel which remained true to the covenant during the crisis.

The angel interpreter says finally that “the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve (yiflchun) and obey him” (Dan. 7:27). The service of the nations is represented not as worship but as obedience. The LXX has “will be subjected (hypotagēsontai) to him”; Theodotion has douleusousin. The singular reference (“his kingdom… shall serve and obey him”) is either to the singular son of man figure or to the “people”.

So there is no basis for the claim that the “one like a son of man” would be worshipped as God by the nations. Rather, we have found further solid support for the political-historical reading of the apocalyptic story about Jesus, who was opposed by apostate Israel, killed by the pagan occupier, but was given authority to judge and rule over both Israel and the nations of the pagan world.

Marc Taylor | Thu, 05/31/2018 - 13:44 | Permalink

Hello Andrew,

The Aramaic word for “serve” is pelach and it refers to the worship due unto God alone in every passage that it is used in the Bible. You attempt to make Daniel 7:14 and verse 27 exceptions, but this simply reveals a bias against the Lord Jesus being worshiped as God.
Notice first how it is properly defined in the Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon in citation of both Daniel 7:14 and v. 27: “to worship God.”…
This is also confirmed by Karl Keil and Franz Delitzsch. The affirm that “pelach is used in biblical Chaldee only of the service and homage due to God; cf. Daniel 7:27; Daniel 3:12-13, Daniel 3:17., Ezra 7:19, Ezra 7:24 (See the last paragraph of “verse 13-14”)”

Concerning Daniel 7:27 it is far more likely it refers to the worship due unto God. Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski point out that concerning the pronoun in our English Bible versions the “dispute arises from the Hebrew use of “serve and obey” with no pronoun following; thus the translators supply a pronoun to make for more idiomatic English. The Hebrew text refers earlier in the sentence, however, to “his kingdom” (malkutē), and both Greek versions of Daniel have “him” (autō), not “them,” at the end of the verse. In the immediate context the antecedent for “his” and “him” would be “the Most High.” Thus, Daniel 7:27 confirms that “service” (pelach) properly goes to God alone” (Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, page 303, footnote #6).

Finally, the Lord Jesus applied this section of Daniel unto Himself in Mark 14:62 which makes Him the proper recipient of worship due unto God alone thereby proving His Deity.

@Marc Taylor:

In Daniel 7:27, the most logical antecedent would be “the saints of the Most High,” which is exactly how the angel explains v.13-14 to Daniel (v. 18). Most translations note that 7:27 pronouns could just as easily be plural.

Especially since “Most High” does not appear as its own term. It only appears as part of the compound “saints of the Most High” — the elyonin.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

both Greek versions of Daniel have “him” (autō), not “them,” at the end of the verse. (See citation in my previous post).

From Brown-Driver-Briggs on Daniel 7:14 and Daniel 7:27:
“pay reverence to deity”

@Marc Taylor:

Well, auto only means “him” in oblique cases, but nonetheless, I don’t see how this establishes your point. The saints of the most high are portrayed as a single man in the vision.

What’s more, also in the Greek, “Most High” does not appear as its own word. Agois upsisto means “the highest holy ones.” The definite article is a translational interpolation.

If your point is correct, then anytime God or a characteristic of God shows up as part of a word, then the most likely referent for that word is God Himself, which would have startling implications for, say, Elijah.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

Grammar doesn’t always have to be used in such a strict Procustrean way. There can be exceptions and different ways of expressing an idea that may not accord with how things are ‘usually’ expressed.
However, when it comes down to properly defining “pelach” as used in both Daniel 7:14 and Daniel 7:27, I have already cited two Old Testament lexicons that do not agree at all with your position. The LXX (in both versions) also does not affirm your position. Now if you want to insist that pelach means something else then please cite a lexicon that agrees with you.
Charles Ellicott is correct in affiriming what has already been clearly defined:
Serve him.—In Biblical Chaldee this word is only used of rendering Divine service or worship. The “Son of man” is therefore here spoken of as God.

@Marc Taylor:

As with Anna in Luke 2:37, one of the ways Daniel rendered “pelach” (latreuō in the LXX) unto God (Daniel 6:16) was by praying to Him (which encompasses “thanking Him” cf. Daniel 6:10). That the Lord Jesus is prayed to (1 Corinthians 1:2) and thanked (1 Timothy 1:12) demonstrates that He is the proper recipient of pelach/latreuō thereby demonstrating that He is God.

@Marc Taylor:

Your two Old Testament Lexicons are one lexicon that borrowed the entry from a previous lexicon. Another lexicon that borrows from Briggs/Driver/Brown is the Old Testament Hebrew Lexicon — New American Standard which lacks any reference to deity.…

You will also note that, in one of your links, it cites the Strong’s definition, which omits a reference to deity, and Pierce’s “Outline of Biblical Usage” that does the same. I hope this satisfies your requirement of citing “a lexicon that agrees with [me].”

Lexicons are not holy books handed down to us from the Galactic Council of Word Meanings. They are works of translation and interpretation just like anything else, and that’s what Gesenius is doing. He’s looking at the word’s usage in the Bible and, because he thinks it’s referring to deity, he’s including that as a necessary component in the definition. As Andrew has already pointed out, there is a wide use of the term that has nothing to do with deity if we look outside the 9 or 10 occurrences in the book of Daniel.

The LXX absolutely supports this position. I showed you. There is no referent to a divine being in the Greek of v. 27. I am starting to suspect you do not actually know Greek or Hebrew and thus are relying on amassing as many citations as you can from people who do rather than actually being able to argue your point linguistically.

Ellicott suffers from the same problem, basing his argument on “biblical Chaldee” as if that means anything.

It seems like your argument basically boils down to, “I’m right because some smart people agree with me.” I am not impressed by that reasoning.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

The link you supplied is rather bland. If, as you assert, Daniel 7:27 refers to people, (1) it doesn’t make any reference to them and (2) even if it did (which it doesn’t) it doesn’t make any distinction between the service rendered unto God and the service rendered unto people. It’s like citing Strong’s Concordance and being content with that.
It wouldn’t matter if two of the lexicons I cited borrowed from one because they simply affirm what was already stated. Indeed, we see that even Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament was not produced by Joseph Thayer, so if an entry exists there and he didn’t put it in brackets [ ] it means he concurs with what was stated.
The LXX does not support your position in Daniel 7:27. I has the singular pronoun.

Your argument boils down to, “I’m right despite how the word is properly defined.” This is a “Humpty-Dumpty” approach that will always have a great fall.

@Marc Taylor:

I’m sorry my link wasn’t exciting enough. You asked me to cite a lexicon that upheld my position, and I did.

I’m confused that you say Daniel 7:27 makes no reference to people. It says, “shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” or in the Hebrew “le’am qaddise elyonin” or in the LXX “hagiois hupsistou.” There is no word for “the Most High” in either the Masoretic or LXX. There is no definite article. The kingdom is given to these people who very well may be “the saints of the Most High,” but the referent is still the saints, not the Most High.

If v.27 is intending to communicate that the kingdom will be given to God Himself, then I have to ask, what is the function of mentioning these people? v. 18 tells us flat out — these people will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.

These people are seen in a vision described in vv. 9 — 14 where the Ancient of Days gives the kingdom to one like a son of man. Daniel is confused. He asks an attendant to explain the meaning of all this to him, and the attendant says that the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom forever and ever. The Son of Man is an image representing this people, and Jesus will take this same image to describe himself and what God is doing in him.

There are several places in the Old Testament where a group of people, especially Israel, is referred to as a single person. Perhaps the most famous is Hosea 11 where the language freely switches between singular and plural, or several passages in Isaiah through the 40s and 50s chapters referring to Jacob and Israel as a single person.

>> Your argument boils down to, “I’m right despite how the word is properly defined.”

No, my point is that we do not have some universal, objective definition of ancient Persian words. You keep talking as if there’s a vault somewhere with the Official Standard Definition and I’m rebelliously not conforming to it. That’s not how translations or linguistics work. Someone didn’t invent English by writing an English dictionary and insisting everyone use those words and meanings to communicate. Dictionaries are records of how words were understood at the time the dictionary was written. In this case, we’re trying to reconstruct these definitions from words that nobody has used for literally millennia.

So, yes, forgive me if I’m not swayed because you can copy and paste 19th century lexical research. It’s totally fine to decide that you will accept an argument based solely on authority; just realize that’s what you’re doing. You’re unable to actually argue any reasons why your interpretation should be preferred or refute alternate interpretations. If you want to say, “These lexicon authors I agree with are really smart and, even though I don’t understand how they arrived at these conclusions, nor do I understand why yours are wrong, I trust these guys and they say you’re wrong,” that’s totally fine. Go with it! They probably are smarter than I am! Just don’t expect that to be sufficient grounds to convince anyone else.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

If that’s the best you have to cite then at least thanks for showing how little you have,
We go by what we have ad the evidence from lexical sources is certainly not anywhere near in your favor.

@Marc Taylor:

Did you read Gesenius? The entry for פלח is as follows:

Chaldean to labour; hence to serve (so often in the Targg.); specially, to worship God (compare עבר); followed by an accusative and ל Dan. 3:12, seq.; 7:14, 27.

So the basic meaning of the word is “to labour”, which leads to the common meaning in the Targums which is to serve or be a servant or slave to a person or nation, which in Daniel produces the special (ie., not normal) sense of serving a god. In view of this, the translation “worship” is misleading, particularly since Daniel repeatedly differentiates between serving a god and falling down before to worship a god. There is no objection, therefore, to the argument that in the very different context of Daniel 7:14, 27, pelach means “to be subservient to” (a people that has dominion) rather than to “serve” (a god).

While pelach occurs only 10 times in the Hebrew/Aramaic Bible, it is found 431 times in the Targums. The semantic scope of the word has to be determined on the basis of the widest possible corpus. There are plenty of examples in the Targums (omitted from the biblical lexicons) where pelach is used with reference to a relationship of subservience between one people group and another.

As for the referent for the pronoun in verse 27….

1. And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven

2. shall be given to the people (ʿam) of the saints of the Most High;

3. his kingdom (malkhuteh) shall be an everlasting kingdom,

4. and all dominions shall serve and obey. (Dan. 7:27 ESV modified)

As you note, there is no object in the Hebrew for “shall serve and obey” (line 4). malkhut at the beginning of line 3 has a third person masculine singular suffix, but the kingdom has been given by God to “the people of the saints of the Most High” (lines 1-2). It is, therefore, not God’s kingdom that is referred to in line 3 but the kingdom that has been given to the people (ʿam). The masculine suffix (“his”) refers to the masculine singular noun ʿam: the kingdom of this people—their rule over the nations—will be an everlasting kingdom.

To clarify the use of the pronouns in the Greek texts:

And he shall give the authority and the kingdom and the magnitude of all the kingdoms, which are under heaven, to the holy people (laōi) of the Most High, to reign over an everlasting kingdom, and all authorities will be subjected to him (autōi) and obey him (autōi) until the conclusion of the word. (LXX)

And the kingdom and the authority and the majesty of the kings which are under all the heaven is given to the saints of the Most High, and his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all the rulers will serve and obey him. (Theod.)

In the LXX autōi readily refers back to the masculine single “people” (laos). Theodotion lacks laos, so perhaps the translator understood autou (“his”) to refer to the Most High (hypsistou). But as Phil pointed out, this is an interpretation of verses 13-14, so the singular pronoun is just as well required by the singular “one like a son of man”. In any case, whom the rulers and authorities serve is fundamentally determined by the fact that the kingdom has been given by God to the (people of) the saints of the Most High.

@Andrew Perriman:

The word “worship” wouldn’t be misleading if it applied to God in Daniel 6:10, it is only misleading for those who deny the Lord Jesus is God because it applies to Him in Daniel 7:14.
Unless you can prove that the Bible uses this word for any other than God in a positive light you simply do not have a case. The evidence in Daniel 7:27 is not convincing at all — not even close.
This is why I also cited examples in the New Testament that demonstrate the Lord Jesus is prayed to and thanked (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:12), which was what Daniel did unto God (Daniel 6:10) when rendering Him pelach (Daniel 6:16). This demonstrates (1) that the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of pelach and (2) He is worshiped as God.

@Marc Taylor:

Marc, this is not about denying that the Lord Jesus is God. This is about not distorting the meaning of a passage in Daniel or the use that Jesus makes of the passage. My argument is only that he uses the symbolism for a specific and coherent purpose: to affirm the eschatological significance of his sufferings and of the suffering of his followers. That is a positive and thoroughly biblical claim to make, and I refuse to be brow-beaten by over-anxious apologists for an anachronistic conceptual orthodoxy.

The New Testament texts have no bearing on the historical meaning of pelach in Daniel 7:14, 27. The early Christians appealed to Jesus because they believed him to be seated at the right hand of God in heaven; he was their “advocate before the Father” (1 Jn. 2:1).

I provided sufficient evidence that pelach has a range of meanings: labour, serve a human power, serve a god. You can’t just disregard it (along with the observations about context) and tell me that it always and only means “worship”.

Goldingay comments:

Elsewhere… פלח refers only to revering God, but outside the OT it denotes service more generally (KB, DTT2).

He translates pelach “give honor to”, which works for both human and divine objects, though the idea of service or working for has dropped out:

14 To him was given glorious kingly authority so that people of all races, nations, and languages would honor him; his authority would last for ever and not pass away, and his kingship would not be destroyed.

27 The mighty kingly authority of the kingships under the whole heavens will have been given to a holy people on high. Its kingship will be one that stands for ever; every authority will honor and show obedience to it.

Notice “Its kingship….” The Anchor Yale Bible Commentary on Daniel (Hartman and Di Lella) also supports my reading of Daniel 7:27:

Their royal rule. Literally, “its kingship”; the pronominal suffix of malkûtēh refers to ʿam, “people,” of the preceding sentence. (207)

@Andrew Perriman:

Andrew — I think everyone here, including yourself, is arguing from, and in support of, their presuppositions. I have done the same in previous posts, so don’t need to rehearse my arguments again. I always appreciate the fresh thinking your revisiting of chewable scripture brings. So just out of interest, of the ten uses of pelach in the OT to which you allude, are any used in a sense of referring to anyone other than God?

@peter wilkinson:

So just out of interest, of the ten uses of pelach in the OT to which you allude, are any used in a sense of referring to anyone other than God?

Yes, the two instances in Daniel 7. The argument I make, which is not a purely subjective one, is that pelach means “labour” or “serve”; it doesn’t mean “worship”, it doesn’t mean “serve a god”. A person can serve a human master or overlord; a person can also serve a god or gods. It is the context that makes it clear what sort of service is in view.

In most of the small number of biblical uses of pelach the religious meaning is made clear because a direct object is supplied: for example, “we will not serve your gods” (Dan. 3:17).

In Daniel 7:14, 27 there is no reference to gods, only to kingdom and nations. The “one like a son of man” is given the kingdom or empire that was taken from the fourth beast; therefore, “all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him” (Dan. 7:14). In this context, this is clearly not service rendered to gods but service rendered to a political authority.

The same applies in the case of verse 27. All “dominions” will “serve” the people of the saints of the Most High, whose (ie., the people’s) kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.

Arguably, it can be seen as a “fulfilment” of Isaac’s unwitting blessing of Jacob, which counts, I think, as very strong confirmation of my argument:

May nations serve (yiflchun) you and may kingdoms be subject to you. (Tg. Gen. 27:29)

Notice that LXX has:

And let nations be subject (douleusatōsan) to you, and rulers shall do obeisance (proskynēsin) to you. (Gen. 27:29 LXX)

Daniel 7:14, 27 are the only two places in the Aramaic sections of the Old Testament where pelach is used with reference to political authority rather than gods, but the Targums provide ample evidence that both meanings are available to the interpreter. We simply have to let the context tell us which is appropriate in these disputed texts.

The same is true for the LXX latreuō. BDAG gives the meaning “work for pay, be in servitude, render cultic service”. Mostly in the LXX it has God or gods as its object, but on occasion it is a political figure who is served: “And you shall not give any of your offspring to serve a ruler. And you shall not profane the holy name. I am the Lord” (Lev. 18:21).

This seems to me to be perfectly sensible exegetical method: we consider the range of use of the word, we consider context, we consider how it was translated. Context, in this case, is decisive.

@Andrew Perriman:

Your insistence that pelech does not mean worship in Daniel 7:14 does not at all fit the context. The Son of Man will be given ‘pelach’ by “all” people of “every” language. This goes far beyond mere political authority. It is universal. This is especially true in that the Son of Man will be coming from “the clouds of heaven” and He is to sit at “the right hand of God” (Psalm 110:1; Mark 14:62) when this occurs. Notice also that this dominion of His will never end. It is eternal. An eternal universal reign calls for worship.

Andrew Perriman | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 09:49 | Permalink

In reply to by Marc Taylor

@Marc Taylor:

Even if the idea is a universal service of all nations, that does not mean that pelach describes the worship of a divine figure. Coming on the clouds of heaven does not make the “one like a son of man” a divine figure; in the interpretation of the vision he is identified with the people of the saints of the Most High. Daniel does not say that this son of man figure will sit at the right hand of God. And that this is a everlasting kingdom echoes the covenant with David: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever” (2 Sam. 7:16). The point is simply that God will establish a Davidic kingdom in the future, with his own appointed king, which will last throughout the ages. Daniel 7 is a statement of a the qualifications for that kingship: faithfulness under persecution, which is why it is so important to Jesus.

@Andrew Perriman:

Psalm 110:1
The LORD says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” (NASB)

Daniel 7:13
I kept looking in the night visions,
And behold, with the clouds of heaven
One like a Son of Man was coming,
And He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him. (NASB)

Mark 14:62

All three refer to the Son of Man (Jesus) coming from the clouds of heaven being seated at the right hand of God.
Andrew Steinmann: The Messiah is likened to “a Son of Man,” meaning that he is not like a beast, but a human. However, the context also clearly signals that he is much more than a human. In fact, since he possesses an eternal kingdom (7:14), he is God, who alone has a kingdom that does not end (2:44-45; 6:27 [ET 6:26]; 7:27). His divine nature is signaled as soon as he is introduced as one who rides on the clouds (Dan 7:13). He rules as a human and over all humanity since elsewhere in Daniel , phrases like “all peoples, nations, and languages” are used in royal communications from a human king to his human subjects (3:4, 7. 29; 3:31 [ET 4:1]; 6:26 [ET 6:25]; cf. 5:19. Yet the divine vision reveals that “all peoples, nations, and languages will worship him” (7:14). The book of Daniel consistently condemns worship of any person or thing other than the one true God. Thus the portrayal of the Son of Man in 7:13-14 is of a Messiah who is both human and divine. This matches the claims about Jesus in the NT both in respect to the use of this passage and in respect to the two natures in the Christ…Thus the Son of Man receives the same honor and worship that the Most High receives (see Jn 5:22-23). This is an implicit affirmation of the divinity of the Son of Man — God the Son, the second person of the Trinity (Daniel, Concordia Commentary, page 358-359, 384).

@Marc Taylor:

Neither Psalm 110:1 nor Daniel 7:13 makes the one who is given dominion God. Psalm 110:1 refers to the installation of YHWH’s king to rule in the midst of his enemies. It’s a greater king than David, but it’s still only Israel’s king. In Daniel 7:13 it is the persecuted community of the righteous that is given the authority to rule over the nations. Jesus fuses the two texts to create a narrative about his own right to rule over Israel in place of its current corrupt rulers.

You ignored my reference to 2 Samuel 7:16, which speaks of the future Davidic kingdom as an everlasting kingdom without claiming that the future Davidic king will be God.

Or Psalm 89:35-37:

Once for all I have sworn by my holiness; I will not lie to David. His offspring shall endure forever, his throne as long as the sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies.

David’s throne will be established forever, it will be an everlasting kingdom. Daniel believed that this kingdom would be inherited by the suffering Maccabean martyrs. Jesus fulfilled it because like the martyrs he suffered righteously, but was raised from the dead and seated at the right hand of God—and having overcome death was in a position to reign forever.

You also ignored my reference to Tg. Genesis 27:29: “May nations serve (yiflchun) you and may kingdoms be subject to you.” Isaac obviously does not mean that the nations will “worship” Jacob as God. This exactly explains the meaning of pelach in Daniel 7:14, 27.

@Andrew Perriman:

So we’re saying that in all the other OT usages, especially the seven usages in Daniel apart from Daniel 7, the direct object of pelach (whatever its precise meaning: worship or serve) is deity (gods or God). The Daniel context (ie Daniel as a whole) should be our primary guide to the meaning, shouldn’t it? We want to know how Daniel uses the word, not the targums or extra biblical literature (although that may be of interest). Maybe the two Daniel 7 usages need to be looked at again?

@peter wilkinson:

No, because the contexts are very different. Daniel 7 makes no reference to a god or gods, all the other instances are quite explicit. Daniel 7 is about dominion and kingship, not about worship of a deity or idol. And there is no good exegetical reason to exclude the evidence of the Targums for the definition of the meaning of pelach, which as I keep saying, does not mean “worship”. It means “labour” or “serve”.

@Andrew Perriman:

I don’t have it with me now but I know the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE) refers to pelach as “worship” in Daniel 7. It may be a few months until I have access to it, but if anyone else does please cite it.

@Marc Taylor:

New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis (NIDOTTE): His kingdom embraces all the powers of heaven and earth (4:35), yet never ending dominion is given to a human figure, whom all nations are to worship (7:13-14) (4:504, Daniel: Theology of, J. Baldwin, the Editor is Willem A. VanGemeren).

@Andrew Perriman:

I think you are right about the eschatological expectations of the Daniel 7 passages in the context (at least partially) of Israel’s national eschatological hopes/expectations. But here we come to presuppositions. Yours is that OT and NT can be interpreted almost exclusively according to historical, political eschatological expectations, and this how Jesus also defined himself. 

With the Daniel 7 passages there is a problem with this view. Any kind of political expectations described or raised by the passages were not realised in scriptural history, or beyond. The triumphal political expectations of Israel finally ended in AD 70/135, and all the surrounding nations were witnesses. The conclusion of her national, political expectations was not a triumph but a disaster. 

So were the Daniel 7 passages part of an unfulfilled eschatology? And when Jesus used the son of man terminology of himself, was he resurrecting the political expectations? Jesus was certainly a controversial political figure, but did not encourage the triumphal nationalistic expectations which might have been associated with Daniel 7. He actively discouraged such expectations.

It’s for this very obvious reason that the Daniel 7 passages lend themselves to being read in a very different way, though with the caveat that they are cryptic, and there is no direct reference to them in the NT

From this perspective, the first and most obvious thing to say about Daniel 7:13-14 and 26-27 is that pelach has no other meaning in Daniel than to describe the worship or service (the distinction has no bearing on the meaning) of deities or deity. 

Then there is the contextual language. If “the son of man” were triumphant Israel, should a nation such as fallible Israel really be given “authority, glory and sovereign power”? Should its dominion really be “an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom (be) one that will never be destroyed”? (7:14-15). The same question might be asked of 7:26-27, whether or not the pronoun in 27b is “Its” instead of “His”.

In the end, there are two very different interpretive methodologies which clash here. If the expectation of the Daniel 7 passages in context was for an exclusively political eschatology (which didn’t happen, and the meaning is somewhat cryptic anyway), there is ample precedent in Jesus and Paul for a radical re-reading of the OT to conform to events as they were unfolding in the story of Jesus himself, and not in the nationalistic history of Israel. This presuppositional re-reading of the Daniel 7 passages, and others in Daniel, has ample warrant in history as well as today.

@peter wilkinson:

Any kind of political expectations described or raised by the passages were not realised in scriptural history, or beyond.

But that’s not a problem for exegesis. It has no bearing on the question of whether the “one like a son of man” in Daniel 7 was understood by the author to be a divine person. It’s only a problem for theology or for apologetics.

And when Jesus used the son of man terminology of himself, was he resurrecting the political expectations?

The appeal of Daniel 7 to Jesus lay in the fact that it offered an alternative route to the fulfilment of national expectations: he would become the king seated at God’s right hand (cf. Ps. 110:1 etc.), ruling in the midst of his enemies, governing the nations with a rod of iron (cf. Ps. 2), not by way of military conquest but by patient faithfulness to YHWH under persecution.

From this perspective, the first and most obvious thing to say about Daniel 7:13-14 and 26-27 is that pelach has no other meaning in Daniel than to describe the worship or service (the distinction has no bearing on the meaning) of deities or deity.

I am getting tired of answering this argument. Daniel 7:13 and 27 look much more like Tg. Genesis 27:29 (“May nations serve (yiflchun) you and may kingdoms be subject to you”) than Daniel 3:12 (“These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up”).

The verb pelach occurs 38 times in the Targum of Deuteronomy. In most of those texts it has reference to the service of gods or idols. In a small number of cases, however—probably about the same proportion as in Daniel—the context is different; the object of service is a human authority. For example, it is used for the service of a slave (15:17); a city “serves” the Israelites (20:11); and in a couple of passages we have pelach used for both service of idols and subservience to other nations:

And there you will serve (tiflechun) the nations, the worshippers (polche) of idols… (Tg. Deut. 4:28)

But the Lord will scatter you among all the nations, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the earth, and there you will serve (tiflach) the nations, the worshippers (polche) of idols that you have not known, you or your fathers, wood and stone. (Tg. Deut. 28:64)

No one in their right mind is going to argue that because it mostly refers to religious service in the book of Deuteronomy, it must have this meaning in all instances, even when the object of service is not explicitly said to be divine or representative of divinity.

In the end, there are two very different interpretive methodologies which clash here.

Well, yes, there is historical exegesis and there is the attempt to force Daniel to fit a misconceived theological paradigm. You takes your pick.

@Andrew Perriman:

To respond to your comments point by point:

1. Exegesis: this is the heart of the issue. My view is that Jesus introduced, and Paul took much further, a radical re-reading of the Hebrew scriptures, which introduces the possibility of a very different eschatological framework through which to view and read not only the immediate passages but eschatological passages elsewhere in Daniel.The passages of immediate interest do not conform quite so neatly to the exegetical box into which you want to place them, and the development of the story as a whole beyond Daniel and into the NT sheds fresh light on what the “son of man” meant in relation to the powers. 

2. Jesus does not refer to Daniel 7, so it cannot be said to “appeal” to him. On the other hand, the way he “misreads” Psalm 110 suggests that he would not be averse to “misreading” Daniel also. That he does this is indicated by the very different outcome for Israel and Jerusalem that he prophesies in the passages with close association to Daniel, in contrast with the triumph that Daniel and other “latter prophets” seem to predict for an Israel seen largely in national terms.

3. You may be getting tired of it, but the fact remains that in the context of Daniel, and also the majority context of the OT scriptures, not the targums, pelach has deities or deity as the direct object, whether it means worship or serve (the distinction is irrelevant). You have already said this in your introductory post, so I don’t know why it’s a huge issue for you to take the phenomenon slightly further. The significance of the phenomenon depends on the presuppositions you bring to interpretation of meaning. 

The paradigm for interpreting Daniel’s eschatology (not his theology as such) is broader than can be conceived from Daniel 7. If your presupposition is that Jesus gives a very different slant to the meaning of kingdom, which to me emerges from his character, lifestyle, teaching, acts of ministry, death, resurrection, outpouring of the Spirit (each having explicit kingdom significance but not as you interpret them), then fresh light is shed on the meaning of kingdom in Daniel, as far as what the triumph of the kingdom would look like, and how it would come about. The short version: not the same as that brought to “kingdom” by your presuppositions. 

Honestly Andrew I get what you are saying and proposing. I just think it doesn’t really stack up, and leads to a car crash further down the road. That’s why I think the foundations of what you are proposing need to be looked at more carefully.

@peter wilkinson:

Hey Peter,

Just wanted to say a bit about this point:

You may be getting tired of it, but the fact remains that in the context of Daniel, and also the majority context of the OTscriptures, not the targums, pelach has deities or deity as the direct object, whether it means worship or serve (the distinction is irrelevant).

If we suspend the specific passages under consideration, what we’re left with is the handful of times the word is used in texts that ended up in the Old Testament canon and, in that handful of times, the word is used with respect to serving gods.

However, that doesn’t mean -that word- means that.  As Andrew has demonstrated -that word- shows up in literature where it just means “to serve” and it can be tied to any object of service.  Thus, it’s totally appropriate to tie it to gods in the OT because that’s what those passages are talking about.  It’s the word you use to talk about serving gods; it’s also the word you use to talk about serving -anything-.

It’s not like the author of that portion of Daniel scanned the canonical Old Testament looking for the right word to use and noted that there was a word that always meant “serve a deity” in the canonical OT, so that’s the word they chose.  It’s a word that’s used in the Bible, but it did not originate with the Bible nor is it restricted to the Bible, so it’s fallacious to only look at the small number of biblical passages where the word appears and then use that as the definitive (no pun intended) meaning for the passages under contest.

That would mean the use of that word was constrained by a canonical activity that would only occur much later than the actual writing.

I think that’s why the repetition of this point is frustrating Andrew.  It’s virtually nonsensical.  Now, if the biblical writings were the only source we had for this word, it might be a different story because all our evidence of usage would come from those passages.  But we know for a fact the word does not mean “serve a deity.”  So…?

peter wilkinson | Mon, 06/04/2018 - 21:26 | Permalink

In reply to by Philip Ledgerwood

@Philip Ledgerwood:

I think this is where word studies reveal their limitations. Words have meanings in contexts, not just the number of times they have been used across a wide range of literature in various contexts unrelated to each other. There are two important contexts on which we should be focusing: the wider scriptural context and the specific context of Daniel. What is striking is that within these contexts, which are the contexts of a particular body of literature which was set apart from others, and the context of one book within which the majority of the usages of the word appear, 7 of the 9 are directly connected with deities, and the 2 remaining we are having the discussion about. Let’s just say it’s not an open and shut case and agree to differ.

@peter wilkinson:

I agree it’s not an open and shut case.

However, I’m confused/curious as to what you’re labeling as “context” for understanding these passages.

It appears to me (and please tell me if I’m wrong) that you are saying that, if a word appears in an Old Testament passage, that passage is “context” for other passages that contain that word because of the “wider scriptural context.”

I could agree that there is a historical context that could help inform us about how words are used. Documents from similar regions/cultures in a roughly similar time period are likely to use words and concepts in similar ways and that can help us in our discussion about the specific context of a writing. In this case, the Babylon targums are at least as helpful for the Aramaic portions of Daniel as other biblical writings and probably moreso than most.

But the fact that Daniel was later collected with other Old Testament writings (it wasn’t even canonized with the initial Prophets in the Hebrew Bible) does not mean those other writings provide context other than perhaps in a very, very general way. If I create an anthology of formative documents from American history and decide to include Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and George Bush Sr.’s “Thousand Points of Light” speech, their inclusion in the same collection does not mean how terms are used in one provide a reference for how they are used in the other.

I appreciate your acknowledgement that you can’t just count occurrences of words and what the most common meaning appears to be, but it really seems like Marc and your arguments suffer from this very thing. If you suspend that line of argument would anyone get the idea in Daniel 7 that the Son of Man is a deity and what he receives from the Ancient of Days (another deity) is religious worship of the nations? If there are reasons to think that, they surely can’t be the use of pelach.

@Philip Ledgerwood:

I am saying that the OT scriptures as a whole, and in this case Daniel in particular, provide a context which to an extent is set apart from more general contexts, and even the targums, because it was these writings and not any others which came to be accepted as a canon. Since there only seems to be one other usage of pelach, in Ezra, which retains the same kind of significance as the usage in Daniel, the wider scriptural context is supportive, but less relevant.

Daniel was of course ‘canonised’ in ‘the writings’ of the Hebrew scriptures.

I am also not denying the importance of word use in contemporary literature to compare with biblical usage in ascertaining meaning. In this case however, it is striking that the association with deity is so consistent, with no other alternative significance elsewhere in the canon, or even usage apart from Ezra (so I am told), until we get to this usage in Daniel 7 which is under discussion.

Since there is debate about the precise significance of the word in Daniel 7, I think a meaning that is a variant of Andrew’s proposal and accords with Daniel’s consistent and more or less exclusive usage elsewhere deserves more time of day. Especially as the passage and its interpretation in Daniel 7 is so cryptic. David Boyarin points up a paradox: that ‘son of God’ whilst popularly accepted as a divine designation has more human origins, whilst ‘son of man’, popularly accepted as a human designation, is closer to the divine in origin (according to some of the earliest Jewish interpreters of Daniel).

I’m fine about Andrew presenting a case for his own views and vigorously defending them. It’s very disconcerting when the views move from vigorous defence to no other view being admissible to personal abuse. That way deception lies?

@peter wilkinson:

Jesus does not refer to Daniel 7, so it cannot be said to “appeal” to him.

I find this extraordinary. There seems to me to be virtually universal agreement among commentators that Jesus’s response to Caiaphas is an intentional allusion to Daniel 7:13. Craig Evans, for example, commenting on Mark 14:62:

Caiaphas and company will see τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου … ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ, “‘the son of man’ … ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” This is an unmistakable allusion to Dan 7:13. Some of Jesus’ previous self-references as “the son of man” clearly alluded to the Danielic figure. The claim in 2:10 that “the son of man” has “authority on earth” to forgive sins implies that Jesus, as “the son of man” who in Dan 7:13–14 has been given authority in heaven, may now forgive sins “on earth.” The claim in 2:28 that “the son of man” is “lord even of the sabbath” probably reflects the same concept. The forecasts in 8:38 and 13:26 of the coming of “the son of man … with the holy angels” and “in clouds with great power and glory” clearly allude to Dan 7:13–14. Even the passion sayings and related sayings in which reference to “the son of man” routinely appears (e.g., 8:31; 9:9, 12, 31; 10:33 [esp. 45, which qualifies Dan 7:14]; 14:21, 41) probably allude to the struggle depicted in Dan 7:15–27. The high priest and his priestly colleagues at the moment sit in judgment on Jesus, but the day will come when they will see him coming with the clouds as “the son of man.”

Evans is a particularly sympathetic interpreter, but this is by no means an exceptional point of view.

…the fact remains that in the context of Daniel, and also the majority context of the OT scriptures, not the targums, pelach has deities or deity as the direct object…

Phil has done a good job of explaining my argument about your #3. All I would add is that you have not addressed the basic points I made about how the meaning of a word is determined, the relevance of context (kingdom not the worship of gods), and clear examples in the Targums that support the argument that when people serve someone who has “kingdom”, that someone is not a god but a king (dominion is taken from the Greeks and given to the Jews). Also, the phrase “the majority context of the OT scriptures” is meaningless in this case. The majority context is Hebrew, not Aramaic.

It would really help you would stay focused on the details of the exegesis and stop waving these generalisations about Jesus and kingdom in my face. They’re irrelevant.

@Andrew Perriman:

I must be suffering from Postost fatigue. Of course there’s an echo of Daniel 7:13 in Mark 14:62. It’s also most strikingly of all in Mark 13:26, which didn’t get mentioned in your extract.

I’m afraid I didn’t get any of the other son of man references as connected with Daniel 7 at all. Craig Evans seems to have had a rush of blood to the head in his excitement. More interesting is that he transitions from the usual unanimous position that the Daniel son of man is a corporate figure to an unquestioned acceptance that Jesus makes him an individual, namely himself.

On the rest of your response Andrew, I usually find that you are on weakest ground when you resort to personal abuse. That’s the case here too. I don’t wish to continue this, so that’s my final comment.

@Marc Taylor:

Thanks brother for putting that comment it was really helpful 😊

Kaleef K. Karim | Wed, 06/20/2018 - 14:12 | Permalink

Hi, thanks for this article. You made some great points. I wrote an article years back, I don’t know it if will be of any benefit, please do read it. I provided many sources that the “pelach” cannot mean worship in the context of Daniel, especially when the “Saints” receive the same “pelach”,

James L. Mays, Ph.D. is the Cyrus McCormick Professor of Hebrew and the Old Testament Emeritus at Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia, writes,

“It seems clear here that the one to whom was given dominion and glory and kingdom… and his kingdoms one that shall not be destroyed (7:14 rsv) is a human being namely, the Saints of the Most High (vv.18,22,27). That identification emerges in the exposition of the dream that Daniel receives from one of the heavenly court. The interpreter assures this community through the writer of the Book of Daniel that in a very short time- a time, two times, and half a time (v.25) – the dominion would be taken from the hands of the tyrant and given to the Saints to rule forever and ever. In short these people are the wave of the future and the future is at hand.” (James L Mays, Harper collins Bible commentary, page 630)

2. Arstein Justnes quotes Stedeul in “The time of Salvation”:

“Whatever difficulties exist with the redactional stages of this chapter in the Book of Daniel and however complicated the problem of the intended meaning of ’like a (son of) man’ v. 13 could be, one finding certain: the interpretation of the vision, Dn 7,18 speaks about a final and everlasting kingdom which will be given to ‘the saints of the Most high.’ In v. 21.22 the same group is called ‘the Saints’, in v.28 “the people of the saints of the Most high.’ They hall receive and retain forever the kingly power (v. 18.20), judgement (v. 22) and sovereignty, the greatness of all kingdoms under heaven shall be given to them, and all sovereignties shall SERVE and obey THEM (v.27).” (Ǻrstein Justnes. The time of salvation, page 164)

More information in the following article,…

Anansi | Wed, 01/16/2019 - 05:44 | Permalink

There is a very simple part of the Scripture that theories like these leave out: the text isn’t talking about a human being.

It says “one like a son of man”, NOT “son of man”. “One like a son of man” is the language used to describe celestial beings who appear like humans but aren’t. They’re “like”, or as if, but not “are”. This, frankly speaking, shows that people who oppose the Trinitarian reading aren’t reading that carefully.

Now, with the fact established that this isn’t an explicitly human character, which makes the definition of “pelach” given here obsolete (unless you’d be willing to teach an angel-Messiah or something of the sort), the question now becomes, what non-human being could the Ancient Days possibly be sharing his divinity with here; or more accurately, who would he be able to share his divinity with without advancing idolatry? And, since this figure is portrayed as Messiah, what non-human being fits the express office of Israel’s Messiah, and further more, the Messiah of all creation?

The text quite simply points to the Trinity. And this isn’t a uniquely Christian idea, according to modern discoveries about the presence of two YHWHs in Second Temple Judaism, as well as the Memra. 


It says “one like a son of man”, NOT “son of man”. “One like a son of man” is the language used to describe celestial beings who appear like humans but aren’t.

Can you indicate the texts which you think show that “one like a son of man” is a celestial person who is not an angel?

If the litmus test for being Deity is “worship,” and “prayer” check out Isaiah 45:14!


The fact that others have said prayers to God when speaking to other people is elsewhere described in the Scriptures (Acts 21:14; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:25).
Worshiping the Lord involves “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).

[1] So there is no basis for the claim that the “one like a son of man” would be worshipped as God by the nations. [2] Rather, we have found further solid support for the political-historical reading of the apocalyptic story about Jesus, who was opposed by apostate Israel, killed by the pagan occupier, but was given authority to judge and rule over both Israel and the nations of the pagan world.

[1] Agreed.

[2] Agreed, but then … how does this “political-historical reading”, at whose core is the individual Jesus, combine with …

I am firmly of the view that in the symbology of Daniel 7 the “one like a son of man” who is brought to the throne of the Ancient of Days stands for the persecuted people of the saints of the Most High (…)

… the collective understanding of the “one like a son of man”?

holyones_found | Sun, 10/13/2019 - 22:49 | Permalink

serve or worship, as spoken to some Greek friends. These two words can be used vice versa. However you cannot use Aramaic bible translation in here “A single Author/Translator” later will come “Lamsa”. The most known or common language during New testament is Greek, why would you write in Aramaic?  your target people are few and non-believing. “You cannot serve two masters”, can be viewed as “You cannot worship 2 masters”. When you worship someone you serve . Serve and obey are two fundamental basic building blocks of worship. 

Ahava Ba-ah | Sun, 06/27/2021 - 13:05 | Permalink

Church father Jerome (342/347-420) commented he did not know how the Septuagint, and he meant the Old Greek edition, became corrupted, but that it was rightly rejected. The difference in translation of pelach in Daniel 7:14 and 7:27 shows this corruption in my opinion. Did trinitarian christians change the original verb in Daniel 7:14 into latreuo or not? Or was it always latreuo? But then why not translate pelach with latreuo in Daniel 7:27?

@Ahava Ba-ah:

I can’t answer that, but how inappropriate is latreuō when the Aramaic pelach is used elsewhere in Daniel exclusively with reference to the “service” of a god (3:12, 14, 17, 28; 6:17, 21)? Given that pattern of usage in this section of Daniel, it seems to me that it is hypotagēsontai (“will be subject”) in verse 27 OG (and douleusousin in both verses in Theodotion) that is the more problematic translation. Or am I missing something?

@Andrew Perriman:

The use of Aramaic is limited in the Hebrew Bible. The situation in which man serves man is not dealt with in Aramaic in the Bible. So we cannot know if the authors would use pelach or another Aramaic word to mean to serve people not God/gods.  But we do know from the targumim that pelach was used the same way the Hebrew for to serve God/gods or people abad was used. Granted the targumim are of a later date. Yet, why base one’s argument that Jesus is divine on a text edition, the Old Greek, that was considered to be so corrupt that it was thoroughly replaced by the Theodotion revision. That edition became authorative in the Church. So why not trust its rendering of Daniel 7:14 and 7:28?

@Ahava Ba-ah:

I would have thought that, since the line about peoples serving the one like a son of man is not quoted in the New Testament, the doctrinal question needs to be settled on the grounds of the Aramaic, if the statements are relevant at all. The evidence from Aramaic Daniel must be taken into consideration, but:

  • the statements are formulaic: “serve gods, worship images” (3:12, 14, 17); “whom you serve continually” (6:16, 20);
  • the son of man figure is “served” because he has been given dominion, etc. ; it is not the Babylonian gods which have been given kingdom and glory but Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:37), so arguably the one like a son of man corresponds to Nebuchadnezzar, not to a god;
  • “obey/hear” (from shemaʿ ) in verse 27 seems to interpret “serve” (pelach) as a matter of political obedience.