Here’s some research I did a while back on the word,
specifically relating to the book of Daniel (I removed the Hebrew fonts. They
don’t transfer well):
Hidden or remote
(sing.) or (plur.); 2:44b; Heb. sometimes m., pl.—what is hidden;
specially hidden time, long; the
beginning or end of which is either uncertain or else not defined. 2:44a never. According to
context, it could point to: 1) Of time long past, antiquity, e.g., Deut. 32:7; Am. 9:11; Mic.
7:14; Is. 63:9.
2) Mostly it refers to future time, in
such a manner, that what is called the terminus
ad quem, is always defined from the nature of the thing itself.
Its etymology has been
and remains disputed or at best uncertain, and the various studies suggest that
no real progress has been made. Following E. Jenni, most scholars translate `oulām as “long time” or “farthest,
remotest time.” Various nuances of this translation must then also be
distinguished contextually. See TDOT, vol. X, p. 531.
The book of Daniel contains 5 occurrences in Hebrew (9:24; 12:2[bis]; 3, 7),
18 in Aramaic (2:4, 20[bis], 44[bis]; 3:9; 4:3; 4:34[bis]; 5:10; 6:6, 21, 26;
7:14, 18[ter], 27) of which 9:24 (Hebrew) and 2:4, 44; 3:9; 5:10; 6:6, 21, 26
(Aramaic) as well as one of the occurrences in 7:18 are plural. Dnl. 2:4; 3:9;
5:10; 6:21 belong to the royal greeting (cf. also 6:6). Dnl. 2:44; 4:3; 4:34,
and 6:26 also make clear that the concern (as in the book of Daniel in a larger
sense) is not only with the coming divine rule “forever,” but also with
extolling the present and the future rule as being perpetual.
The assertion that “everlasting righteousness” (9:24) will be brought to
the people and the city (cf. 11QPs a 16) then focuses more unequivocally on the
new future, and Dnl. 2:44; 7:14, 18; 12:2f. make clear that, and how, the
present “age of the world” will end and the new age (this age too, as the final
one!) will commence. At that time “many” will be raised to “everlasting life”
(12:2), others to everlasting shame and contempt.
Resurrection thus functions here as a solution to the problem of theodicy
and as instrument for balancing things out between the good and the wicked,
neither of whom will or may be permitted to end with death only. Here `oulām/`ālam acquires the meaning of “world/age of the world” (cf. already
Ps. 104:5; 148:6; Is. 40:28), something that then
developed further in early Jewish literature. See TDOT, vol. X, pp. 542, 543,
and TDNT, vol. I, pp. 202-206 under aioun,
According to TDOT, vol. XI, p.
149, an etymological relationship between `lm
and `oulām seems unlikely. However, I personally believe that the
word is indeed semantically related to the verb `ālam and the noun ta`älumâ
belonging to the semantic field “to hide.” That’s the only way to make sense of