ANCIENT OF DAYS.
A poetical epithet for God. It is an incorrect rendering of the Aramaic 'attiḳ yomin (Dan. vii. 9) or 'attiḳ yomaya (ib. vii. 13, 22), which should be translated "an aged one," "the aged one" (compare Dalman, "Die Worte Jesu," i. 194). "Ancient of Days" is used either to emphasize the contrast between the true God and the idols, the new gods (Judges, v. 8; Deut. xxxii. 17), or merely to express the venerable character of the being whose name the author hesitates to mention. From the above-cited passage in Daniel is borrowed the expression "re'esha mawa'el" (head of days) in the Book of Enoch xlvi. 1, and the description of the Son of Man in Rev. i. 14.
This name of God, used only in Dan. vii. 9, 13, 22, in which He is described as having "the hair of his head [white] like pure wool," denotes the One who is from of old; that is, old compared with all created things, that are of yesterday. As stated by Pseudo-Saadia and other Jewish commentators, God is often depicted by the rabbis as the venerable sage (Zaḳen) invested with judicial authority, whose sternness is tempered by mildness of judgment. To the devotees of mystic lore, within whose circle the Book of Daniel and the entire apocalyptic literature originated, the name naturally suggested itself as an attribute of majesty combined with tenderness, since they regarded the title "Zaḳen" (the aged one) to mean the one invested with the highest dignity. Accordingly "Ancient of Days" remained with these a favorite name of God (Pes.119a, B. B. 91b). It became, moreover, the standing name for God in the oldest portions of the Zohar, the (Book of Mystic Lore), in which the white, wool-like hair of the head became a prominent feature of the anthropomorphism of the Cabala. The following rational explanation of this anthropomorphic description of the Deity is given in Mek., Beshallaḥ Shirah (Ex. xv. 3), and Ḥag. 13a: "When represented as a warrior triumphant in battle, God appears as a fiery young hero; and in an assembly of the wise who seek truth and justice, He is depicted as a venerable sage, ca lm and majestic."