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Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
I heard recently that according to Daniel 7:25 the apostasy of the Christian church meant not only the rejection of the Sabbath but also the Israelite festivals. Is this true?
Some well-intended Adventists promote the observance of ancient Israelite festivals. They argue that Daniel 7:25 mentions a change in God’s law and also of “times,” which they take to refer to the Israelite festivals. Their basic argument is that the Aramaic word zeman (“times”) is the equivalent of the Hebrew word mocadîm used to refer to God’s “appointed festivals.” Let’s examine these Aramaic and Hebrew terms.
1.The meaning of zeman: The linguistic argument put forth by these individuals presupposes that zeman means “appointed festivals,” but the Aramaic noun zeman is never used in the Old Testament to refer to feasts. It is used to designate “a fixed time” (Dan. 7:12, 22), an extension of time to accomplish something (Dan. 2:16), a moment (Dan. 3:8), simultaneity of an action (“at the same time”; Dan. 4:33; Ezra 5:3), ”as soon as” (Dan. 3:7), and “time” in general (Dan. 6:10, 14; Neh. 9:28). The term is found in ancient inscriptions but it never designates a religious festival. It simply means “time, a moment in time.”
2.The Aramaic noun zeman is not the equivalent of the Hebrew mocadîm: In fact the same Aramaic root is found in the Hebrew Bible both as a verb and as a noun. The Hebrew verb zaman means “to appoint a time” for a particular activity (Ezra 10:14; Neh.10:35; 13:31). The Hebrew noun zeman means “appointed time, hour” in the sense of a time when something is to be done (Neh. 2:6). There are two passages in which it is used to designate the time when Purim was to be celebrated (Esther 9:27, 31). That usage is the closest the Hebrew noun comes to being associated with a feast, a non-Mosaic feast at that. This suggests that we should avoid assigning the meaning “appointed festival” to the Aramaic noun in Daniel 7:25.
3. Daniel’s usage of the term zeman: Instead of formulating our own meaning for the term “times” in Daniel 7:25, we should be informed by the way Daniel used that term. He consistently employed zeman (“times”) to designate time in general (e.g., Dan. 2:16, 21; 3:7, 8; 6:10, 13). We should pay particular attention to the way it was used in Daniel 7. The first time it appears is in verse 12: “The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.“* The passive form of the verb suggests that God is in control, extending the life of the beasts for a period of time (zeman). This has nothing to do with festivals, but has much to do with God as the One who controls the moment, the specific time when historical events take place. This is reinforced in verse 22: “The Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time [zeman]came when they possessed the kingdom:” The noun zeman refers to the moment when specific aspects of God’s plan occur. In this particular case it designates the time when the kingdom of God is given to God’s people.
That usage of the term helps us to understand Daniel 7:25: “He will speak against the Most High and oppress his saints and try to change the set times [zeman] and the laws [Aramaic: d_th, “law:’ singular].” D_th emphasizes the royal nature of God’s law. This power attempts to gain control over that which is under God’s exclusive control, namely the law of God and of His plan within time. God is the One who “changes times and seasons”; that is to say, the One who “sets up kings and deposes them” (2:21). He is the only One who determines when His kingdom will be established. In trying to gain control over “times” the little horn uses persecution to change the flow of history and to claim that it has the power to establish the equivalent of God’s kingdom on earth. Based on the terminology used in Daniel, it is clear that 7:25 is not dealing with the appointed feasts of the Old Testament.
*Bible texts in this column are quoted from the New International Version. Italics supplied.