Studies in Daniel and Revelation

Daniel, Part One

The book of prophecy and history that the prophet Daniel wrote, that bears his name, has been called one of the most thrilling books in the entire Bible. Despite the fact that we know more about the man Daniel than any of the other prophets, his book has become a lightening rod for debate between conservative and liberal scholars. The prophecies of Daniel that have been fulfilled in history were fulfilled so accurately that liberal scholars, in their blatant attempt to strip the Bible of the miraculous, conclude that the book called “Daniel” is, in fact, a hoax; that somebody concocted an elaborate fiction masquerading as supernatural prophecy. It is not my intention to give more than a passing mention of this; I have studied all the arguments for and against the authenticity of Daniel and I accept the findings of conservative scholars that Daniel, the man and the prophet, was a real man, that he was not a hoaxster, and that his book is not a forgery or a work of fiction. On the point of the liberal abuse foisted upon Daniel, I agree with Pusey:

The rest which has been said is mostly mere insolent assumptions against Scripture, grounded in unbelief.

Incidentally, no less an expert than our Lord, Jesus Christ, believed what Daniel wrote to be true and trustworthy (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14). So, who is fool enough to question the intelligence of our Lord? Only a liberal would have the arrogance to do such a thing.

1. Daniel, the man and his place in history

Understanding who Daniel was can help us understand the things he saw and wrote. Three key words characterize this man: purpose, prayer, and prophecy (McGee).

1. Daniel was a man of purpose, 1:8; 6:10. Despite being in the minority, Daniel maintained his integrity. Not once, even when faced with death, did this man forsake his faith or his God.

2. Daniel was a man of prayer, 2:17-23; 6:10; 9:3-19. Prayer was a big part of Daniel’s life. Even though prayer got him tossed in the lion’s den, Daniel never stopped.

3. Daniel was a man of prophecy. The entire book of Daniel is one long prophecy, some fulfilled, some not.

Daniel, both the man and the book, are also fulfillments of an earlier prophecy. In Isaiah 39:1-8, we read a prophecy given some 100 years before it came to pass in Daniel 1:

“Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (verses 5-7)

At the time that prophecy was given, it seemed highly unlikely. But because of the unfaithfulness of God’s people, it came to pass. God’s instrument of judgment was the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel 1:1 sets the historical context.

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

This king of Judah, Jehoiakim, succeeded his brother Jehoahaz to the throne. Both of these men were the wicked and vile sons of Josiah, a very godly king who was responsible for bringing a religious revival to the nation as recorded in 2 Kings 23:31-37. The year was 606 BC, and Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem. Although not destroyed at this time, he did carry of its treasures and thousands of its citizens. Included in the first group of exiles was Daniel and his three friends.

When Jehoiakim died, his son Jehoiachin took the throne. He fought against Nebuchadnezzar and lost. The Babylonian king, once again, stormed into Jerusalem in 598 BC and took another group of captives back to Babylon with him, including the king and his family. The prophet Ezekiel was among the captives according to 2 Kings 24:6-16.

Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, assumed the throne and, like his nephew, made war against Nebuchadnezzar. This third time was enough for the Babylonian king, who marched into Jerusalem and leveled the temple and burned much of the city. Zedekiah’s sons were slain and the kings eyes gouged out. The blinded king, along with the final deportation, went into captivity around 587 BC, in fulfillment of Jeremiah 25:8-13.

The rest of Daniel’s history is given in chapter one.

It should be stressed that everything that happened to the Hebrews at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar was really a judgment from God upon their stubborn and rebellious hearts. For generations before their Babylonian captivity, God warned His people to shape up and repent. They turned a deaf ear to the prophets and as a result, God chose to use a pagan king to execute His divine judgment on a backslidden people.

2. Israel and its place among the nations

The only nation ordained of God is Israel. Much of the OT is taken up with the building and the establishing of Israel as a nation, it’s rebellion against God, and it’s judgment by God because of its unfaithfulness to Him. Much Bible prophecy concerns either the judgment of Israel or its restoration. The ultimate restoration of Israel, which will occur at the Second Coming of our Lord, is future and yet to be fulfilled. The judgment of Israel at the hands of nations around it is, for the most part, a record of history, though prophetic at the time the OT was written.

Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the Babylonian nation, is spoken of like this by the Lord, who chose him to be His instrument of judgment:

I have given him Egypt as a reward for his efforts because he and his army did it for me, declares the Sovereign LORD. (Ezekiel 29:20)

Up until Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian captivity, Israel had been the center of a system of nations, peoples, and languages that had been the result of God’s judgment at Babel. The nation of Israel was separate and distinct from all the nations around it. Deuteronomy 32:8 gives us an inclination of how special and unique Israel was among all the nations of the earth:

When the Most High gave the nations their inheritance, when he divided all mankind, he set up boundaries for the peoples according to the number of the sons of Israel.

In executing God’s judgment on Israel, God’s people lost their distinctive place among the nations and the “time of the Gentiles,” the time of Gentile dominance on the earth, began with Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.

This is not to say that God has done away with Israel as a nation, for it will be restored according to the words of many prophecies and promises that have never been revoked:

The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. (Deut. 28:13)

Though Israel has been judged severely for her apostasies, there was and is a faithful remnant that God will build upon in His restorative work. In fact, that remnant becomes the special object of the thoughts and plans of God revealed by His Spirit throughout the book of Daniel.

It is not an exaggeration to say that in a general sense, God’s plan for the world throughout all of its ages and dispensations has been with one goal in mind: the restoration of Israel, both as a nation on Earth and as a special, sanctified group of people. In fact, the whole purpose of the Tribulation period is to bring the Hebrew people to the place where they will finally and at last recognize Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as their Messiah.

3. Daniel’s reward for his faithfulness

Daniel and his three friends, taken captive in the first Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem, remained steadfastly devoted to Jehovah, yet at the same time they were given special privileges by the Babylonians and were given positions of trust and leadership in their government. Because of their faithfulness to God, they were not only blessed in the material sense, but also in the spiritual:

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. (1:17)

This is the special privilege of all believers in all dispensations, as is clear from what the Psalmist wrote:

The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him. (Psalm 25:14a KJV)

The fact that so many Christians today seem to be so ignorant of “the secret of the Lord” may very well be caused their lack of respect for the Lord.

In this regard, we see in Daniel the same character we saw in Joseph, who was able to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh to the benefit of the Hebrews. Similarly, the dreams Daniel will interpret will concern, not the dreamer, Nebuchadnezzar, but rather Daniel’s people, the Hebrews.

This is the first great lesson for us from the book of Daniel, and it has nothing to with any prophecy! Purity of heart and faithfulness to God must always precede any revelation or illumination of His Word. Putting head-knowledge ahead of heart-purity will result in a cold and shallow understanding of God and His Word. Trying to grasp the truths of Scripture without being in God’s presence will always disappoint.

This very first chapter of Daniel,then, reminds us that if we want to go on to penetrate and discern all that God has revealed to us the following chapters, we have to make sure that our hearts are right with Him.

4. The beginning of the parade of nations

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. (2:1)

And so begins the the first major division of the book of Daniel. The book naturally divided into two main sections, three if chapter one is considered a separate section on its own, for it concerns the personal history of Daniel. At any rate, the first division ends with chapter six, and the second division ends with the close of the book.

· Division One, chapters 2-6: Gentile dominance of the world. This first section concerns itself with the various Gentile nations that will dominate the world from Daniel’s day until the very end of days yet in our future. We learn that what moves these nations is not the will of God but human vanity and pride. This parade of nations is revealed to Daniel through the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar.

· Division Two, chapters 7-12: The heads of the Gentile kingdoms. This second half of the book concerns direct revelations from God to Daniel. These visions reveal the character of the rulers of the Gentiles in relation to the people of God.

The details of God’s dealings with His people at the end of the age are revealed in the final chapter. Chapter 7 gives essentially the history of the western powers, chapter 8 that of the eastern–the two horns. Chapter 9, although the emphasis is on Jerusalem and its people, concerns the western power that has invaded them. Chapters 10 to 11 focus on the east with the judgment of the nations there and the establishment of the remnant of Israel.

Next time, we will look at Nebuchadnezzar’s amazing dream and Daniel’s inspired interpretation.

(c)  2009 WitzEnd

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