An Overview of Daniel, Part 1

Divine Author:God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Daniel

Date: c. 540 – 530 BC

Setting: Babylon: In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, conquered Judah and deported many of the leading citizens to Babylon. Daniel was among the captives. In Babylon, Daniel served in the royal court where he was given his prophetic visions.

Key Verse: Daniel 9:26, And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.”

Theme :The Coming Prince

General Facts: 27th Book of the Bible; 12 Chapters; 357 Verses

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The Background Story

Two years after the death of Josiah, king of Judah in 608 BC, Nebuchadnezzar became king of Babylon. A warrior-king, Nebuchadnezzar set out to expand his empire by marching through Palestine to conquer Egypt.

The prophet Jeremiah had counseled Judah to submit to Babylon, but was considered a traitor for such a suggestion. Even when Jeremiah spoke in the name of the Lord, and wrote down what God said, the leadership did not listen (Jer. 25 – 28). The king of Judah threw his scroll into a fire (Jer. 36:4; 21-23). Not to be silenced, Jeremiah put a yoke around his neck to illustrate how Judah should humble herself before Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27:2-11).

The Babylonian Conquest of Israel: The First Invasion

In the end, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah, and took many citizens captive, including Daniel. The year was 605 BC. In addition to taking youth from the royal family, Nebuchadnezzar took priceless utensils from the Holy Temple (2 Kings 24:10; Daniel 1:1-2).

The Second Invasion

In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar returned to Judah in the eighth year of his reign. During this excursion, both the Holy Temple, and the royal palace treasures were confiscated, and carried into exile, along with many leaders in society, and skilled artisans (2 Kings 24:18-19; Jer. 25:1-3).

The Third Invasion

It was at this point that the Lord told His prophet, Jeremiah, to instruct the king of Judah to form a coalition with Babylon, and not with Egypt. Jeremiah warned people not to listen to the false prophets who were pro-Egyptians (Jer. 27:1-15).

Because King Zedekiah of Judah did not listen to the Lord through Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar marched a third time against Judah in the 18th year of his reign, 587 BC.  Nebuchadnezzar compelled Zedekiah to watch his sons being slaughtered, then he was blinded and taken to a prison in Babylon. The Sacred Temple was destroyed by fire, along with the royal palace, and many homes. Gold, silver, and bronze were taken from the Temple. The walls of Jerusalem were torn down. The only people left in Judah were the poorest of the poor to work the land (2 Kings 25:1-21).

The story of Daniel begins soon after the First Invasion of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, along with three friends, were taken captive to Babylon where they were renamed, and put to work in the royal palace. They would be challenged to honor the Lord, and not despair.

When Names are Changed

  • Daniel “God is judge” = Belteshazzar “protect his life”
  • Hananiah “Yah(weh) is gracious” = Shadrach “circuit of the sun”
  • Mishael “who is what God is?” = Meshack “sowing” or “possession”
  • Azariah “Yahweh has helped” = Abed-nego “servant of Nego” [the god of science and literature in Babylon]

The Book of Daniel is easily divided into two main sections. In chapters 1 – 6, the story is told of Daniel and the courage and conviction of his three friends. In chapters 7 – 12, the visions of Daniel are described.

Of particular interest for Bible scholars is the fact that Daniel chapter 1 is written in Hebrew, then, chapters 2 – 7 are written in Aramaic, and finally chapters 8 through 12 return to the Hebrew language. Aramaic is itself a Semitic language which was spoken widely in the ancient world beginning in the 6th century, and during the time of Christ.  While the New Testament was written in Greek, there are a few Aramaic words or phrases to be found.

Aramaic Word / Meaning / New Testament Reference

  • Talitha cum / “Little girl, get up!” / Mark 5:41
  • Ephphatha / “Be opened!” / Mark 7:34
  • Abba / “Father” / Mark 14:36
  • Raca / “fool” / Matthew 5:22
  • Rabbouni / “teacher” / John 20:16
  • Eli Eli lema sabachthani / “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” / Matthew 27:46
  • Hosanna / “O Lord, save us.” / Mark 11:9
  • Maranatha / “Lord, come!” / 1 Corinthians 16:22

Perhaps the reason for this distinctness is to emphasize the information in chapters 2 through 7 through the lenses of chapter 1, and then chapters 8 through 12.

Faithful to the Torah: Daniel 1:1- 20

Attention is focused on Daniel and his three friends, of whom it is said there was no physical blemish on them, and that they were intelligent (1:1-4). When the young men believed they were being asked to give up their Jewish heritage, and eat inappropriate foods, and drink wines from the table of King Nebuchadnezzar, there was cause for alarm. The prince of the eunuchs who had care of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah was concerned that the king would think he was not doing his job well, if the privileged captives became sick or emaciated (1:5-17). A test was suggested by Daniel, which allowed him, and his friends, to be faithful to the Torah, and the prince of the eunuchs to be relieved. Within a short period of time, Daniel and his friends were found to be in good health, and excelling in matters of wisdom and understanding (1:18-21).

The King’s Dream: Daniel 2:1-49

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. The year was 604 BC. Only Daniel could understand the dream, or even tell the king what he had dreamed. It was an amazing feat which all the wise men and magicians of Babylon could not replicate.

Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream a colossal image made of four metals: gold, silver, bronze, and iron. The metals were symbolic of succeeding empires beginning with Babylon (gold), the Medo-Persian Empire (silver), which would give way to the Greek Empire (bronze), which would then be conquered by the Romans (iron and clay).

“This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron, and part of clay” (Daniel 2:32-33).

While the statue stood, a massive rock appeared to smash the feet of the image, representative of Rome, causing the statue to collapse, while the rock, representing Jesus Christ, grew larger, into a great mountain, and filled the whole earth (Daniel 2:35).

A Prophesy That Has Been, is Being Fulfilled

From the vantage point of time, in the year of our Lord, 2021, it can be categorically stated that Daniel was a true prophet of God. All that Daniel said did come to pass, and is coming to pass in this very hour. It is exciting to be part of an ancient prophesy being fulfilled.

History conclusively confirms that the Babylonian Empire fell to the Persian Empire, which was conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece. The Greek Empire gave way to the Roman Empire.

Then came Jesus, and smashed the Roman Empire. Daniel said it would happen, John, in the Revelation saw the conquering Christ riding forth, and history confirms that what Daniel said would happen, and John saw would happen, did happen.

“After the conversion of Constantine, he allowed for the freedom of the Christian church for the first time in its existence. The Christians could crawl out of the catacombs, and actually build buildings, where they could publicly worship Jesus. It was a glorious time for the church after 300 years of persecution.

But a few decades after Emperor Constantine’s death, there arose a ruler from his own family who tried to turn his back on Christianity, and make the Roman empire solidly pagan. His name was Julian the Apostate.

By rejecting Jesus, Julian the Apostate made a wreck of his life, but thankfully his reign was short-lived. It is said that he was wounded in battle, and as he lay dying, sinking into the sand, he picked up a handful of sand filled with his own blood, and threw it into the sky and said, “Thou hast conquered, Oh Thou Galilean” and thus, Julian’s work perished with him. Attempting to overthrow the Christian religion by writing a book against it, he inadvertently ended up confirming most of its basic historic tenants.

Our faith is built upon a solid rock, that neither pagan, nor demon, can overthrow. Yes, there have been small clouds that have come and obscured the sun for a moment.  “Julian was such a cloud,” said Athanasius, the great defender of the faith. But the cloud, as he said, “…it is a little cloud, it passes away.” The sun, however, continues to shine in its brightness in the sky, and so it is with Christ” (Dr. D. James Kennedy).

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He declared His victory, and sovereignty, having all powers in the universe.

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Church, do not miss out on the message. Our God reigns. The strategic victory was won when Jesus rose from the dead. Today, the ascended Christ rules the nations with a rod of iron. This is not a future state to come, but a present reality. Jesus is now, today, in this very hour, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. But, do you believe this? If you do then sing, Church of the living Lord. Sing!

Crown Him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon His throne.
Hark! How the heav’nly anthem drowns
All music but its own!

Awake, my soul, and sing
Of Him who died for thee;
And hail Him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity!

Crown Him the virgin’s son!
The God incarnate born,
Whose arm those crimson trophies won
Which now His brow adorns!

Fruit of the mystic rose,
As of that rose the stem;
The root whence mercy ever flows,
The Babe of Bethlehem!

Crown Him the Lord of love!
Behold His hands and side,
Those wounds, yet visible above,
In beauty glorified:

No angel in the sky
Can fully bear that sight,
But downward bends his burning eye
At mysteries so bright!

Crown Him the Lord of peace!
Whose power a scepter sways
From pole to pole, that wars may cease,
Absorbed in prayer and praise:

His reign shall know no end,
And round His pier-ced feet
Fair flowers of paradise extend
Their fragrance ever sweet.

Crown Him the Lord of years,
The Potentate of time,
Creator of the rolling spheres,
Ineffably sublime.

All hail, Redeemer, hail!
For Thou has died for me;
Thy praise and glory shall not fail
Throughout eternity.

Crown Him the Lord of Heav’n,
Enthroned in worlds above,
Crown Him the king to whom is giv’n
The wondrous name of Love.

Crown Him with many crowns,
As thrones before Him fall;
Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For He is king of all.

Crown Him the Son of God,
Before the worlds began,
And ye who tread where He hath trod,
Crown Him the Son of Man;

Who every grief hath known
That wrings the human breast,
And takes and bears them for His own,
That all in Him may rest.

Crown Him the Lord of life,
Who triumphed o’er the grave,
And rose victorious in the strife
For those He came to save.

His glories now we sing,
Who died, and rose on high,
Who died eternal life to bring,
And lives that death may die.

Crown Him the Lord of lords,
Who over all doth reign,
Who once on earth, the incarnate Word,
For ransomed sinners slain,

Now lives in realms of light,
Where saints with angels sing
Their songs before Him day and night,
Their God, Redeemer, king.”

—George J. Elvey

They Did Not Bend, Bow, or Burn: Daniel 3:1- 30

Perhaps, inspired by his dream, and the interpretation of it by Daniel, Nebuchadrezzar made a colossal image of gold that stood 90 feet tall, and 9 feet wide. With music playing, individuals were commanded to bow down before the image which Nebuchadnezzar had made, or suffer the penalty of death in a burning fiery furnace (3:15). When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego heard what the king had said, the Lord gave them grace to respond. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego answered, and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). These three men of God did not bow, they did not bend, and, in the providence of God, they did not burn, though the king tried to burn them alive (3:19-30). The Lord honored those who honored Him.

Some Dreams do Come True: Daniel 4:1-5:31

In chapters 4 and 5, the pride of Nebuchadnezzar, and the pride of Belshazzar are set forth in order to demonstrate important gospel truths that should comfort the people of God in every generation.

First Gospel Truth

It is God who establishes the kings, and kingdoms, of this world. It is the Lord who raises up earthly potentates, and disposes of them as He pleases.

Speaking to King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel had said to him, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him” (Daniel 2:20-22).

When Nebuchadnezzar forgot that truth, and exalted himself with pride, the Lord afflicted the king with the mental disorder called “boanthropy”, which caused a person to act like an animal.

For seven long and painful years Nebuchadnezzar acted, and looked like a wild beast, and the dream came true, as prophesy was fulfilled (Daniel 4:1-33). In matchless grace, God restored sanity to king Nebuchadnezzar, who learned to praise and worship the one true God (Daniel 4:34-37).

Second Gospel Truth

It is God who appoints the hour of our birth, and the day of our death. On October 7, 563 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty king of Babylon died. In 539 BC, one of his “sons”, or descendants, by the name of Belshazzar, reigned as king. Unfortunately, Belshazzar was a king given to sensual pleasure, and invited others to take part in his life of debauchery (Daniel 5:1-2). It was in the midst of a palace banquet, where sacred stolen vessels of gold and silver were used, taken from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, that the fingers of a hand began to write these words on the wall of the banquet hall:

“MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN”

This is the Divine Interpretation of these Words

Daniel 5:25-28

MENE – God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

TEKEL – Thou art weighted in the balances, and art found wanting.

PERES – Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians

Though Belshazzar initially trembled at the hand writing on the wall, once the meaning of the message was explained to him by Daniel, he did something unusual. He honored Daniel for speaking the truth. “Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. 30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain” (Daniel 5:29-31). Why was Belshazzar killed that night? Because it is the Lord who determines the day of our death.

On October 12, 539 BC, Belshazzar died when Babylon fell to the Persian general Gobryas, “And Darius the Median took the kingdom” (Daniel 5:31). Darius the Mede did not take the kingdom immediately. That would happen in 522 BC when he was 32 years of age, and yet, from a divine perspective, it was done, for history is ultimately God’s narrative. What the Lord decrees shall come to pass.  What God wills to happen, will indeed happen. The Lord’s hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? (Isaiah 14:27). Nebuchadnezzar and his grandson Belshazzar were proud men. Both were commanded to repent. Both failed to humble themselves before God. Both came under judgment at the hand of the Lord God Almighty. And, in the case of Belshazzar, the false god of Babylon could not “belshazzar” (lit. “Bel, protect the king”), and that too is an important lesson to remember.

Daniel in the Lion’s Den: Daniel 6:1-28

The Darius of Daniel 6 is known to history as Darius the Great. He was born in 550 BC and died in October 486 BC at about the age of 64. Among his many major accomplishments was the wise way he organized the Medo-Persian empire by dividing it into provinces, and placing satraps to govern it. A satrap served as viceroy to the king, but with considerable autonomy. The word came to speak of a tyrant, and ostentatious splendor.

Among the most capable of the rulers under Darius, was Daniel, which provoked envy and jealousy among rival political figures. In an unholy meeting, the enemies of Daniel thought they had found a way to either discredit him, or better yet, put him to death (6:7-18).

Though he was thrown into a lion’s den for his faithfulness to God, Daniel was not harmed, and the king was glad (6:23-27). Daniel went on to be promoted, and to prosper in the reign of Darius, and then, in the reign of Cyrus the Persian, who came to power in 546 BC (d. Dec. 4, 531 BC).

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