Session 32: Daniel
"In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands-a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. Daniel 2:44-45;
Daniel, Key verses: 2:20-22, 44-46; 4:34-37; 7:13
Key personalities: Daniel, Shadrach , Meshach, Abednego, Darius, Cyrus, Belshazzar, and Nebuchadnezzar
Timeline: About 605-538 B.C. This is during the conflict of the Mead and Persian empires and Babylon. In the last few years, the Meads conquered the Babylonians. The Iron Age is the main reason for the vast armies; however, bronze is still in the majority of farming tools. The Greeks were at their pinnacle of power and influence with their philosophy, economic and legal reforms, tragedy plays and poetry and ship-building for exploration and conquer. The Olmecs built Mexican pyramids, Nebuchadnezzar rebuilds one of the magnificent seven wonders of the world-The Hanging Gardens Babylon. Aesop writes his fables, and the Lao Tsu founds Taoism. Siddhartha Gautama, an Indian sage, becomes the Buddha. Alexander the Great conquers the Euro-Western world, paving the way for Rome to grow.
The Book of Daniel was composed by the Prophet Daniel while he and the Hebrews were captives in exile in Babylon. The Hebrews had to reinvent their purpose and sought how to get back God's favor and their land. In so doing, they also gained the favor of their captives. It is a book about faith under duress, character in the midst of none, and what is to come as comfort and encouragement to have, hold, and build upon real faith. This is clearly demonstrated by the epic example of faith by teenagers and old men. This is also a series of apocalyptic visions about the next 500 years of Jewish history up to the the coming of the Messiah and the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., where God's Kingdom triumphs over the world's kingdoms.
Like Ezekiel, Daniel Chapters 7-12 are in "Apocalyptic" writing, with narratives and prose set in vivid images with hidden meanings. This is a series of events and visions that God is still sovereign and in control. The Hebrews are still His people, being molded for a future where God rules and prevails over sin and the evils of men; those who know and love Him will attain the ultimate victory.
Young men faced faith challenges, Chapter 1
Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's apocalyptic dream, Chapter 2
The Fiery furnace, Chapter 3
Nebuchadnezzar's tree dream of doom, Chapter 4
Belshazzar handwriting on the wall, Chapter 5
Daniel and the lion's den, Chapter 6
Daniel's vision of the kingdoms, Chapter 7-12
The criticisms. There are many modern scholars who consider this Book to be about the "apocalypse". Because of this erroneous thinking, the criticism is that this wasn't written by Daniel at all; instead, some would lead us to think the Book of Daniel is a product written hundreds of years later by pious Jews who were under persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). There is no serious textual or historical evidence for these popular theories--only the pride and fear of conviction of its adherents.
Key Happenings: Hope in dire times, by refocusing on God.
How do we sing the Lord's Song in a foreign land? How do we know, worship, and approach God in a strange land that is not our's? Here are the Israelites, taken from their homes, who lost family, friends, businesses, lands, and all that they knew. They are now forced labor without a temple, a place of worship, or a way to know and seek God. Their quest was who and what now. God gives them a prophet of His to tell them. The message: God is in control--not the civil powers! They had to learn that faith can grow in harsh times and that faith can be anywhere, because God is everywhere (Psalms 137:1-6).
Daniel is a true wise man on his knees, of deep trusting faith, prayer and conviction through heroic crises of faith, whose life points to the truth and glory of God that He is the LORD and He will prevail no matter what. Daniel was taken captive as a teenager, along with the first wave which included Ezekiel. Nebuchadnezzar's officials renamed him to Belteshazzar, meaning one to protect the king. Daniel was willing to lay down his life and be in absolute obedience. He served kings sincerely and gained favor because of his character, wisdom, dream interpretation, and humility. Daniel is a foreign captive who rises up to be the main court official for two major kingdoms, who influences Babylon and Persian empire for hundreds of years.
Name Change. The chief official gave these captives new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. The main reason is for power and control, so they will not rebel and so they will become loyal to the new regime (Daniel 1:6-7).
Not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. A main test of faith to remain true to God's ordinances came in the challenge that their food will make them healthier than the king's food, which supposed to be the best (Dan 1:8)
Nebuchadnezzar is the quintessential villain in Scripture, bad as bad can be, a manipulating, calculating megalomaniac who ruled vigorously and had key advisors with wisdom to help him. He ruled 605-563 BC. He replaced kings of other kingdoms with his puppets as he did Judah with Jehoiachin and Zedekiah who were taken prisoner to Babylon. He liked to deport the best people of each kingdom to his in order to build Babylon up. He left other kingdoms with enough people to work the land, mines, and needed industries, but not enough for threat. He worshiped pagan gods of Bel and Marduk. He built the massive magnificent building, and at least one of the seven wonders of the world--the Hanging Gardens. He went mad because God was convicting him though Daniel. He went into the fields and ate grass like a cow, then he turned to God briefly setting the tone for the return.
The four kingdoms, 2:31-35. Nebuchadnezzar's dream of future happenings. Daniel interprets it as the earthly kingdoms that are and will come after Babylon. The first one is Gold for the wonders of Babylon, with three coming and distinctive kingdoms--silver for the Medo-Persian empire; bronze for the Greeks; and, iron (strength) for the Romans. Finally, stone for the kingdoms' fall and spread over the earth. The point is that these kingdoms will persecute the faithful and be aware, prepare, and be loyal to God. Because Daniel was able to interpret this dream that others could not and because he was with character and could do what no other one could (actually interpret dreams and rule wisely), he is promoted to the level of a high official or prime minister.
Giant image. Evil officials who were incensed that these foreigners were officials prompt Nebuchadnezzar's pride to build a stature for people to worship, knowing that Daniel and pious Jews will refuse so they can get rid of them. The challenge is one of being faithful to God or being disloyal and bowing to the world and our situations. Thus, Daniel's friends were in dire jeopardy but kept to the faith (Dan. 3).
Fiery furnace. God protected His faithful. This was a kiln of blazing heat that cooked the guards who threw in Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego who were willing to die for their faith. The men gave a heroic response: if God rescues us good, if not ok, we are faithful to Him; yet, Nebuchadnezzar challenged them, "whose god can save you now?" And then he sees a 'son of the gods,'-this IS God in the furnace! Perhaps this is a Christophany, where Jesus shows up physically before His incarnation (Dan. 3:17-18; Matt. 6:2; 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of a Tree. Daniel warned him from his dream that if he does not remove his pride, he will lose his mind and the kingdom. The king had the choice to be humble and remain in power or lose it all. He thought because his city was 14 miles square with walls 85 feet wide and 230 feet high that he was safe and impregnable; however, his kingdom was torn away to Belshazzar, then taken over by the Persians (Dan. 4; 5:30-31).
Writing on the wall. Belshazzar, feeling prideful, disrespects God by defiling His Temple vessels. The message of a disembodied hand writing on the wall no was one else but Daniel could interpret, proving his worth to a new regime, and the king sees that God is the LORD. Belshazzar was killed as the Persian army sneaking through the city's underground aqueducts and took over. During this feast, everyone was drunk except the Jews (Prov. 16:18; Dan 5).
Jew. The original Aramaic was yehudai, and the name comes from the people from Judah; it was possibly originally a byword and or the name of a faithful clan that was adopted by the Hebrews to remind them in captivity that they are children of God, descended from Jacob (Ezra 4:23; Ezra 5:1-5; Esther 8:1; Daniel 3:12).
The word, seven, means 'completeness' and its meaning and its importance is compounded. For Hebrews, God rested on the seventh day, blood was sprinkled seven times, the Sabbath was the seventh day, mourning for a loved one was seven days, and so forth. Sometimes, seven in Aramaic can mean a week of time. When seven is said, the importance is imperative (Dan. 3:19; 4:16; 9:24; Rev. 1:9-20).
Son of man. This is the title that will be given to Jesus. Here is a picture of a heavenly body who, in the end times, is entrusted by God with full authority, glory, and sovereign power, who is to be worshiped. God will judge the world. In the context of Jesus, this title means He is Lord and King! This does not mean He is just a man like in Ezekiel, or His identification of being among humanity, even though He is identified with us. Rather, it is about God's Lordship and Messianic title (Ezek. 2:1-10; Dan. 7:13-14; Matt. 10:23; 16:27-28; 24:30-26:64; Rev. 1:13).
Daniel's four beasts (Dan. 7: 3-7) ties into Chapter 2, which represented the four succeeding empires as invading forces with wickedness and debauchery. Most scholars assume they are Egypt, Assyria, Babylon/Persia, and Alexandrian Greek/Roman, while others give them other orders, meanings, and speculations. These refer to idolatrous kingdoms that persecute the faithful. The early Church and the people of Revelation was in the age of Rome, the fourth period. Thus, if you read Daniel 11:2-12:3 and a Jewish history book between the testaments, you will see it all has been fulfilled. This is why some liberal scholars (mistakenly) say Daniel was written late after the fact (Rev. 13:1-4).
Made perfect. This refers to the consummation of our salvation; it is received by faith and applied to build more faith, producing righteousness. Also, it means our guarantee to be raised after death to heaven (Dan. 12:2-13; Heb. 1:14).
Lion's Den. Daniel became a respected official for Nebuchadnezzar, but he had a new king, Darius and new enemies--fellow leaders who hated God and people of character. So, they set him up. Darius knew of this, but was tied to his laws and sent Daniel to die by big cats. God protected him and this proved Daniel; those who accused him were given to the lions. God does not always protect His children, because He has eternity in mind for us, but here He shows He can (this time, with an angel) which convicted Darius the Persian king who took over from Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 6).
The Persians were so enamored by Daniel, they studied and knew the Hebrew Scriptures and saw the birth of Christ, when the Jews did not (Matt. 2:1-12).
Chapters 7 to 12 deal with earthly kings and kingdoms and the truth that God is Lord over the apocalypse. This is to give hope that the people in captivity have hope, have a future and are still and always under God's care just like the Book of Relation that gives the same message to persecuted Christians in dire times after losing everything. Many Christians make the mistake of thinking that Daniel is about the end times and is related to the Book of Revelation. But, if you study Jewish history and exegete the key words, it is obvious that Daniel covers the 500 years from the return of the exiles to the start of Christianity.
Aramaic. This is the language of conversing Hebrews that by the influence of the Assyrian's and other cultures especially in the captivity. It was a language for trade so words can be understood by different cultures to buy and sell by Jewish merchants. The structure of the language is the same, but the words are added and some meanings change, like the difference between old English from 400 years ago and modern English or Spanish and Italian. Some parts of Daniel and Ezra are written in Aramaic and a few words about it in their New Testament, like Abba for Father. Jesus and the Jews of the first century spoke this as their main language, and they knew Hebrew and Greek, too. Classic Hebrew remained, as it has today, for worship and Temple practices.
What happened to the Ark? A legend stated that Jeremiah hid it under the Temple Mount in a cave or gave it to an Ethiopian trader to hide it (Jer. 3:16).
God is committed to His people, to their betterment, spiritual formation, healthy relationships, healthy living, and wants us to excel in all things of faith and life, to know Him and continue to make Him known. Now was time for His judgment--a "time out"--for their unyielding disobedience. The discipline was to correct a wayward nation, to reboot them to be better and stronger for His glory. They were warned by God's Word and Prophets to repent or face their consequences. Here are the consequences. The Promised Land is left behind, and the majority of the peoples are taken into captivity for 70 years in Babylon. They left their Temple, the centrality of their religion and life, they left their homes, farms, business, synagogues, community--all they have known and felt secure and had confidence in. They must learn their lesson, then they will be brought back. Meanwhile the land rests, and they discover how to better connect with God and others, because God was still at work and His plan was restoration, as God wants His people to continue.
Key Takeaway: The Providence of God! Faithfulness regardless of circumstances! Real faith can grow in persecution and that faith can be anywhere, because God is everywhere. When hope is lost, remember the lesson of Ezekiel--Christ is our sanctuary and flows to us the nutrients we need. He shows us He restores and seeks us to be renewed and to be in Him. Christ gave us the grace of His love to make Him our home of faith and motivation in life.
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Daniel, like Ezekiel, portrays Christ as Judge and Ruler of absolute authority over all and His future reign on earth. Daniel predicts the coming Messiah, Christ, who will be crushed by men and prevail to crush the world's kingdoms Lord over the apocalypse (Daniel 2:34-35, 44; 7:13-14; 9:25-26; Matt. 25: 31- 46).
Questions to Ponder
1. What would you do and say if you saw a 'Christophany?'
2. What would you do if you were one of the people in captivity who lost everything, their homes, business, worship centers, culture, family? There are Christians today that go through that!
3. How and why does God take away kingdoms from men?
4. How do you get hope in dire times? What does it mean to refocus on God?
5. How do you avoid compromising? How did Daniel and his friends deal with it? What is the balance of respecting our civil authorities and following God's precepts (Rom. 13)?
6. Read Daniel 8:16 and 9:21, the Angel Gabriel explain the vision, what did he say? Why do false teachers like to speculate and create hidden meanings? By the way the same angel appears in Luke 1:19, hint!
7. Is Daniel and his friends the kind of the people you want to be? Why or why not?
8. God's plan is restoration, how does God want you to continue in your life and ministry?
9. What can you do to give back to God your worship, praise, gratitude, and devotion? As opposed to our self inspiration, impulses, and comforts in this life (John 14:23)?
10. What challenges do you face to be faithful to God or disloyal and bow to the world and your situations? What do you need to do?
11. What can you do to promt your faith to grow in harsh times? How does the fact that since God is everywhere your faith can be anywhere?
12. How can you better handle faithfulness regardless of your circumstances?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org