The Ancient of Days and His Manifested Presence
The prophets Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel saw someone seated on a heavenly throne in their visions. While Isaiah gives no description of the Eternal, and Ezekiel and Daniel describe Him having corporeal features, it is Daniel who identifies Him by calling Him the Ancient of Days. And it is Daniel who was given to see another one in a vision whom he called the Son of Man.
Whom or what did the prophets see?
In the following we will learn to distinguish between YHVH’s presence, which is everywhere in the universe at all times, and His manifested presence, which is made evident locally in various ways at His sovereign will.
We do not ask the reader to substitute our judgment for his or her own. The reader has therefore to expect that we will address the subjects mentioned in this study and offer their interpretation for the reader’s consideration.
From nothing, nothing arises
There were four things, four existing elements that served as building blocks of a universe that would eventually come into existence.
Science agrees that the universe consists of matter, energy, space, and time (but more properly “space of time”) that interact in particular ways we today describe as the “laws of physics”.
But before even these elements had come into existence, there was and there is a pre-existing “element” from which all building blocks of the universe have come into existence: Energy. That “Energy” caused and made matter and space of time to be.
Note: The Hebrew word Elohim literally means one of power and authority, or Power. From scientific point of view, it could be translated as “Energy” or “Force”.
Nothing indeed existed before “In the beginning…”; no thing, but not No one. Before there was nothing, Someone existed to give the beginning of everything.
From nothing, nothing arises, but something arises from nothing when Someone made it arise. Hence, something came from Someone, not from some thing. And this Someone is the One who Daniel called the Ancient of Days, i.e., the Ancient before [the beginning] of days.
How could that be? We will explain.
When we say that YHVH existed before the creation of the universe, although “existed” appears to imply the notion of time, it is used to denote existence before the universe was created. In such a case time is not to be understood in its sense we know it today, but only as a term to signify something analogous or similar to time.
Note: The Creator’s Set-apart Name is Yehovah. This Name means “He who exists [continually]”, who was, who is, and who will be, all in one at all times, the Eternal, the Ancient of Days. For more insight refer to the series of articles on the subject.
Before “In the beginning …”, there was nothingness; nothing existed, not even the terms “light”, “darkness”, “space”, “time”, “day one”, etc. The Eternal YHVH created all these terms before the actual creation was to begin.
Elohim even created “Beginning”: the very concept of time and space. The Eternal YHVH existed in infinity before the Beginning, but even this concept of infinity of space of time was not in existence and needed to be created as a concept. But before the Beginning, the Eternal created concepts of all that was about to be created with “In the beginning …”
But why would the perfect and self-sufficient YHVH Elohim need to create a universe. Because no one creates a whole universe without a purpose and a “blueprint” to start with. An artisan does not start creating new things without first preparing a design plan. And if this is true for a mere human, how much more it is for the Creator. Before it was possible to say, “In the beginning Elohim created …”, He had already had His master plan of the universe.
But “from nothing, nothing arises”?
The Creator utilized pre-existing elements to create the world as we know it. These pre-existing elements are earth, water, air, and fire, that served as the primordial building blocks of the universe. If these elements are translated into their primary states—earth for solid, water for liquid, air (or wind) for gas, and fire for plasma— we will have a better understanding of the pre-existence state of the primordial universe.
Note: Plasma is the fourth state of matter distinct from solid, liquid or gas and present in stars and fusion reactors; a gas becomes a plasma when it is heated until the atoms lose all their electrons, leaving a highly electrified collection of nuclei and free electrons.
As the Ancient of Days began to create the universe, He first brought together all these seemingly purposeless elements. He first invoked “from nothing” the light merely by commanding “Light, exist!” And the light existed.
Then He contrasted the light with darkness, as the light became “day”, while the darkness became “night”. As these two new things came together in unity, something entirely new came to be: yom echad or “one day”, the first measure for time. The concept of time was thus materialized with the creation of the first day, but more properly yom echad, then the heavens and the earth were created in Day 2, 3, etc. until the Ancient of Days rested on the First Sabbath.
Note: The medieval Tanak commentator Rashi (Shlomo Yitzchaki, 1040 – 1105) commenting on Gen. 1:8 says that the Hebrew word for heaven, shamayim, comes from the Hebrew words aish for “fire” and mayim for “water”, as the two concepts came together in echad to form the heavens.
The creation is relative, the Creator is absolute
Einstein was right in his theory of relativity; the theory in physics that space and time are relative concepts rather than absolute concepts. And indeed, it is so because only the Creator is the absolute, and everything else is conditional and exists solely upon His will, hence, the creation is in relativity. Or as Einstein’s teacher has said, “Space by itself and time by itself, are doomed to fade into mere shadows”, Hermann Minkowski.
According to Einstein’s theory of relativity, energy transforms into mass (matter) expressed in the most famous formula E=mc2. In the article Albert Einstein’s Formula Encoded in Genesis, we explained how this formula expresses in the simplest way the creation of the world.
In the same article, however, we also explained how the dark forces in this world found the way to reverse Einstein’s formula in order to transform matter into energy and thus to create the most sinister way of destruction that can ever exist (refer to the foresaid article for more insight into the subject).
With that being clarified, we can read the first verses of creation thus,
When at the beginning Elohim created (or: When Elohim began to create) heaven and earth—the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep. And the wind from Elohim sweeping over the water. Elohim said, “Light, exist!”; and light existed.
The power of prophet
The Sages teach that the power of a prophet is great as he is able to draw relevant comparisons between the manifestation of power in the heavens and the appearance of man. This they derive from the vision the prophet Ezekiel received, saying in Chapter 1:26, “on the top of the likeness of the throne, there was a likeness as the appearance of a man”.
But such a manifestation of power in the heavens cannot be limited only to a prophet but also to a group, as it was the case in Exo 24:10, when the seventy-four representatives of Israel (Mosheh, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and the seventy elders) saw YHVH Elohim in heaven.
Ibn Ezra explains that the words “they saw” here describes a prophetic vision, not perception with their physical eyes. This vision would be similar to that seen by the prophet Ezekiel, when he describes the appearance of the Eternal’s throne. Further, the prophet spells out that what he saw was not an actual throne but an image of such a throne.
Nevertheless, the Sages are troubled by the corporeal descriptions of the Eternal in prophecies, such as in Isa 6:5 and Eze 1:26-27. In these cases, the descriptions of YHVH are literally true but do not refer to Him but to His Kavod (created Glory): a celestial being similar but superior to the messengers. This Kavod is made visible to the prophets in order to confirm the providential communication. The Sages are forced to see it this way since the Creator is incorporeal and thus has no actual physical body or voice.
The uniqueness and oneness of the Ancient of Days
Before the creation, YHVH was Yachid; after the creation he became Echad. Yachid means the only one, no one else. Echad means He and the creation are together in unity. Yachid is exclusive, while Echad is inclusive.
And indeed, before the first act of creation, YHVH existed eternally and alone; He was the only One (He was Yachid, or “singularity”); that the term Yachid is exclusive is seen in,
See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god with Me; I kill, and I make alive; I have wounded, and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand. (Deu 32:39)
After YHVH created all visible and invisible things in the space of time, the messengers, animals, and humans, He exists as One or united with His creation (He is Echad); Echad in this sense is an inclusive term, as seen in Deuteronomy 6,
שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ יְהוָה אֶחָד׃
Shema Israel Yehovah Eloheinu Yehovah Echad
Listen up, Israel, Yehovah our Elohim, Yehovah is One!
Or, another echad statement,
I and My Father are one. (Joh 10:30)
What Yeshua is saying is that the Father and the Son work together in unity, with the same purpose and goal. Yeshua also desired this same unity of the Father and His people, as we see in his prayer,
… so that they all might be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I in You, so that they too might be one in us, so that the world might believe that You have sent me. And the glory which You gave me I have given them, so that they might be one as we are one, I in them, and You in me, so that they might be perfected into one, so that the world knows that You have sent me and have loved them as You have loved me. (Joh 17:21-23)
Since we believe all this to be true, YHVH indeed existed incorporeal, i.e., He had no physical form, because even the term “form” was not in existence either. All that came into existence afterwards, He created.
Daniel saw the Ancient of Days
According to Amos 3:7, “The Lord Yehovah does no matter unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets”. And He revealed this secret to Daniel.
After Daniel had for a while contemplated the forming and rising up of the terrible in appearance fourth beast that had ten horns and the coming up of a little horn among them, he saw another vision in heaven, saying,
I was looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days was seated. His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool, His throne was tongues of fire, its wheels burning fire. A stream of fire was flowing and coming forth from His presence, and a thousand thousands served Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him, the Judge was seated, and the books were opened. (Dan 7:9-10)
In this solemn scene, the thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; the heavenly court sat and the books were opened, and the sentence was about to be pronounced in the presence of the hosts of heaven. That heavenly court consisted of messengers of high rank, who are to be distinguished from the myriads of messengers who do not sit upon thrones but stand before the Ancient of Days as servants to execute His judgments.
The One described in the vision as “the Ancient of Days” is not the Eternal whom Daniel meant, for he could not see Him and live, but a someone who appeared like a man and in whose majestic appearance He made Himself visible to the mortal Daniel.
Because when Daniel represents YHVH as the Ancient of Days by stating “his garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like clean wool”, he does so not to describe the Creator as a man, i.e. having corporeal properties, but only because to express reverence and impression of His majesty in appearance.
Thus depicted the One who appears in such a majestic view is no more human than the heavenly throne on which He was sitting is a real throne but “throne of tongues of fire”, and whose wheels are “wheels of burning fire”.
Scripture does not mention the creation of this throne, except in the words of David in a form of poetry, “Yehovah has established His throne in the heavens” (Psa 103:19). The eternity of the throne is distinctly described in Lam 5:19, “You, Yehovah, dwells forever, Your throne for ever and ever”. Now, if we believe that the throne is eternal, then the term “throne” expresses in a way one of the emanations of the Eternal, and not something created.
In Time of Reckoning Ministry (TORM), we believe that this eternal “throne” is the sefirah (emanation, radiance), Malchut, “Kingdom”, as we have already explained the ten emanations of YHVH Elohim in the article “The Ten Sefirot of the Creator Parts 1&2“.
This majestic appearance of His grandeur and magnificence is further manifolded by Daniel with the no less enigmatic expression “a stream of fire that was flowing and coming forth from His presence”. This “stream of fire”, Daniel perceived with his consciousness or “inner eye”, could also be compared to an individual or a compound of all ten sefirot (emanations) of the Eternal.
The Ancient of Days was seated and the myriads of messengers who served Him stood before Him. Then the heavenly books were opened for judgment. Daniel could not have been more perplexed than that. He so marveled that a messenger had to explain the vision that terrified him.
The Son of Man appears in heaven
If the vision of the Ancient of Days on the throne was not bewilderingly enough for Daniel, he saw another vision in which someone who looked like a man appeared in heaven. This one came to the Ancient of Days with what appears like clouds of the heavens. And he was brought before the Ancient of Days to receive the rulership over all nations in the world; as Daniel saw it, he wrote it down,
I was looking in the night visions and saw one like the Son of Man coming with the clouds of the heavens! And he came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him near before Him. And to him was given dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (Dan 7:13-14)
And when Daniel saw that heavenly being, he saw him in an image and depiction of a mortal. This act of receiving the two visions is introduced by the repetition of the headings in Dan 7:2 and Dan 7:7, “I saw in the night visions”, when Daniel saw the appearance of the four beasts. In this vision however, he saw one like a man coming with the clouds of heaven, i.e., in connection with them or surrounded by clouds.
This manner of appearance of the Son of Man is further prophesied in Mar 13:26, Mat 24:30; Mat 26:64, and Rev 1:7, when he will come on the earth to execute what has already been prophesied about him in Daniel 7, namely, to receive dominion, glory, and a kingdom over all nations.
The Son of Man who came before the Ancient of Days is not named by Daniel but is only described according to his appearance “like a son of man”, i.e., resembling a man. That this was a man is not implied in these words, but only that he was like a man, and not like some animate being.
But in the words “like a man” it is not meant that he was only a man.
He that came with the clouds of heaven might have appeared like having taken the outward form of a man, as the comparison (כְ “like”) implies that this heavenly being was in a human form, and not indeed a human. If this being the case, “son of man” is not to be understood in the sense we know it today, i.e., a mortal human being, but only as a term to signify something analogous or similar to man.
We should note that when Daniel saw someone resembling a man, he only saw an image alone, no corporeal features whatsoever as he did to describe the Ancient of Days, as it is said, “One like a human being (not “human being”) came with the clouds of heaven” and who came to the throne was nothing except an image.
Now, as the animate beings (the four beasts Daniel saw in the same vision) signify not beasts but kingdoms, and as the messenger interpreted the vision to Daniel, so that which appeared in the form of a man may signify something else than a human being.
This “man” who came with the clouds was brought to the Ancient of Days, and as for Daniel, his spirit in his body was pained and the awesome visions of the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man he saw affrighted him (Dan 7:15).
Daniel was greatly alarmed when the messenger interpreted the vision of the fourth beast, that is, the ten-horn beast, that was speaking words against the Ancient of Days. And that was the end of the visions, which Daniel kept in his heart (Dan 7:28).
It is most evident from the text of Daniel 7 that the prophet has seen clearly two distinctive realities in heaven: the Ancient of Days and the one whom he called the Son of Man.
Although the two separate visions are presented and properly addressed with words of man in metaphors of similitudes, no one in his proper mind can say that they are one and the same. Neither the language employed in its proper use, nor the context allows to suggest that one substitutes for the other.
And even though the Scripture is very explicit in saying that the Messenger of His Face (as we explained it in other studies) is the image of the invisible YHVH, this image should not be confused with equality and essence, but it must be viewed as a representation or manifested presence of the One who has entrusted His authority to him.
This representation is most evident in the solemn inauguration of the Son of Man as the ruler of the world by giving him the power and authority fully vested in his kingship. This means that while the heavenly throne is inalienably possessed by the King for eternity, His representative is appointed for its governing.
What the Rabbis say about the Son of Man
Rashi says that the phrase “one like a man was coming” refers to the King Messiah (Rashi on Daniel 7:13). See also Sanhedrin 98a:13.
Rabbeinu Bahya, in his comments on Genesis 2:3, wrote this about Messiah son of David,
The reference is to the Messiah who is the descendant of David, the final Messiah. It has been written of this Messiah “and his throne is as the sun before Me” (Psa 89:36). It is he who is meant when the Torah spoke of Man as being made in the image of the Lord. Daniel describes him as “and behold! With the clouds of heaven, one like a man came.”
This is the son of David, who is made in the image of God, as it is written, “and behold with the clouds of the sky, there was a man coming, and he came up to the One of Ancient Days and they brought him in front of Him and they brought him close to Him. And to him did He give dominion and glory and kingship.”
After man’s creation, described as part of sunrise, will come the redeemer, scion of the house of David, who has been made in the image of the Lord of whom it has been written: “and behold with the clouds of heaven, one like a man came; he came up to the Ancient of Days, and they brought him before Him. He gave him dominion, glory and kingship, peoples nations and languages.”
All in agreement with Psa 145:13, “Your kingship is an eternal kingship; Your dominion is for all generations”.
The High Priest putting Yeshua to oath by the living Elohim demanded an answer from him if he was the Messiah, the Son of Elohim. And Yeshua said to him,
You are yet to see the Son of Elohim sitting at the right hand of the Power of Elohim and coming on the clouds of the heaven. (Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew 26:64)
Yeshua speaking of himself meant not merely to say that he was the Messiah, but he designated himself as the son of man in Daniel’s vision. He thus laid claim to a pre-existence, quoting to the High Priest Psa 110:1 and Dan 7:13 as one prophecy.
The prophets’ inner eye
The prophets experienced visions with the inner eye. Whatever images Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel saw in heaven, they wrote them down, as if they had seen them in corporeal form.
If a prophet sees with his inner eye the most perfect figure of a man seated on a throne and revered by his officials, then he knows that this figure presents a powerful king. If this be so, then rational comparison of the invisible and eternal YHVH to One who has corporeal attributes is plausible, as such a comparison is alluded to in the verse: “Let us make man in our image after our likeness” (Gen 1:26).
We should note that these visions were given to Ezekiel and Daniel to see, but the descriptions and comparisons to human forms and appearance are their own, not of a messenger or much less a direct revelation from the Ancient of Days, as it was the case with Mosheh the greatest prophet. It was Ezekiel and Daniel who put down in writing in their own words concerning what they saw in heaven.
Therefore, after these two comparisons of the Ancient of Days, Daniel’s imagination gave him no other form than that of a human being expressed in words like, “The hair of His head is like clean wool”. Does the Ancient of Days have head and hair”, or this alludes to the shining radiance that emanates from Him, and not to a physical form?
As we have stated in other studies, when we discuss the matter of what the prophets saw, we must not go beyond the limits drawn in Exo 33:20, namely, “You are unable to see My face, for no man does see Me and live”, in our conceptions of what constitutes the sight of Elohim.
Instead, we must regard them as visions of the Ancient of Days in some form of manifestation. For, since Mosheh was the first to see the similitude of YHVH (Num 12:8), and not an actual form, we may fairly conclude that Daniel’s words are evidently intended to affirm something more than the fiery form in which He manifested Himself to him.
Only this similitude of a man is not described in order that the prophet being a mere mortal should make likenesses in his mind or even worse a concrete form of an object of the invisible YHVH, for this will constitute idolatry.
Thus, we find that Isaiah gives no description in Isa 6:1 of any form in which he saw YHVH sitting upon a high and lofty throne. Ezekiel and then Daniel are the first to describe the similitude of the Ancient of Days “as the appearance of a man” (Eze 1:26, Dan 7:9, and Dan 7:13).
With regard to this, Maimonides says in Guide of the Perplexed,
If so, why is it written in the Torah, “And there was under his feet” (Exo 24:10), “Written with the finger of God” (Exo 31:18), “The hand of the Lord” (Exo 9:3), “The eyes of the Lord” (Deu 11:12), “The ears of the Lord” (Num 11:18) and more like expressions? All such terminology is in accordance with the conception of sons of man who cannot recognize aught but corporeal things.
Furthermore, Maimonides states that “all is metaphorical, and all is a vision of prophecy and a mirage, the absolute truth of the matter no human mind comprehends or is able to fathom it or penetrate it”. Maimonides goes on to warn that if one thinks that Elohim is an old man, as it is written that the Ancient of Days sits, that he has white hair because of His great age, “such a person believes in his mind and anthropomorphizes Elohim and thus falls into one of the traps which destroy one’s faith, and his fear [of God] increases only on account of his imagination”.
In other words, what Maimonides says is that such a fear of Elohim is not based on knowledge or faith, but on a mere figment of imagination, which will eventually die out, like a plant without roots.
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May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days!