Knowledge Will Increase — What Holly Thinks

Air travel, the Internet, cures for diseases. Did the prophet Daniel predict technological breakthroughs and scientific discoveries in the last days – or something else?

But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words, and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase. (Daniel 12:4)

A popular view held by students of end-time prophecy — based on the above verse — is that the Bible prophesied an increase in travel and secular knowledge. But upon closer examination, we find that Daniel didn’t predict the discovery of new galaxies or Google. He predicted something even more exciting — an increase in understanding of the end-time prophecies.

The following excerpt from the New American Commentary on Daniel puts this verse in its original context — and reveals what Daniel really said.

“Close up and seal the words of the scroll” is made up of two synonymous clauses, “close the words” and “seal the scroll.” As in 8:26 this admonition concerned the preservation of the document, not its being kept “secret.”

In the ancient Near East the custom was to “seal” an important document by impressing upon it the identifying marks of the parties involved and the recording scribe. A sealed text was not to be tampered with or changed. Then the original document was duplicated and placed (“closed up”) in a safe place where it could be preserved. An excellent illustration of this process is recorded in the Book of Jeremiah: “So I [Jeremiah] bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. I took the deed of purchase – the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy – and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah [the scribe]” (Jer 32:9-12). The sealing of Jeremiah’s property deed was not done to “hide” the contents or to keep them “secret” but to preserve the document. As a matter of fact, Jeremiah performed this transaction in the presence of his cousin “and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard” (Jer 32:12). There also was an “unsealed copy” of the deed that presumably was open for inspection.

Gabriel therefore was instructing Daniel to preserve “the words of the scroll,” not merely this final vision but the whole book for those who will live at “the time of the end” when the message will be needed. This future generation will undergo the horrors of the tribulation (“time of distress”) and will need the precious promises contained in the Book of Daniel – that God will be victorious over the kingdoms of the world and that the suffering will last only for a brief time – to sustain them.

An increase in travel toward the end of the age is not the idea of the phrase “will go here and there.” In a number of Old Testament passages (e.g., 2 Chr 16:9 Jer 5:1 Amos 8:12 Zech 4:10). Hebrew yesotetu denotes “to go here and there” in search of a person or thing, and that is the meaning here. An “intense” searching seems indicated by the verb form. The purpose of this search will be to “increase knowledge.”

Yet Gabriel was not predicting a mere surge in scientific “knowledge,” and so forth, in the last days. The article appears with “knowledge” (lit., “the knowledge”), showing that a particular kind of “knowledge” was intended, that is, when and how Daniel’s message is to be fulfilled. As the time of the fulfillment draws nearer, the “wise” will seek to comprehend these prophecies more precisely, and God will grant understanding (“knowledge”) to them.

— Holly Pivec
9/7/08