Daniel: God’s Witness in a Hostile Society
Key Text: Chapter 4:35
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
The name Daniel means “God is my Judge”. There are three Bible characters who received this name. David’s second son was called Daniel (1 Chronicles 3:1) as was a Levite in the days of Nehemiah (Nehemiah 10:6). By far the most prominent individual to bear this name, however, is the prophet whose inscription is found in this book.
Christian and Jewish authorities alike are agreed that Daniel wrote his prophecy in Babylon in the 6th Century BC.
He was among a group of captives who were brought from Jerusalem to Babylon after the defeat of King Jehoiakim. It appears that Daniel came from royal stock (1:3) and many believe he was born in Jerusalem.
There were other young men from prominent families who found themselves in Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar was resolved to make use of the very best talent that existed among these slaves for the benefit of his Government. Therefore his advisers selected some young men who would be trained in the language and customs of the Chaldeans. This was probably a strategy which he employed to subjugate this slave nation who would be restless and possibly rebellious. By taking some of their number and transforming them into Chaleans in language, dress and culture he was sending out a message that conformity to Babylon would be rewarded with prosperity.
Daniel and his three friends Hananiah (God has Favoured) Mishael (Who is what God is?) and Azariah (Jehovah has Helped) were selected for this purpose. Immediately their Jewish names were dispensed with and they were given Chaldean names; Belteshazzar (Lord of the Staitened’s Treasure), Shadrach (The Great Scribe), Meshech (Guest of a King) and Abednego (Servant of Nebo).
In Daniel’s account these young men are known as “children”. It is reckoned that this word is indicative of an age that lies somewhere between childhood and adulthood. In our language we would describe these young men as youths, boys or lads, therefore they were almost certainly teenagers, more likely to be in early than late teens. This makes the historical account in the early chapters all the more remarkable. Babylon did everything that was humanely possible to eradicate Jewish culture from these young men but still they did not forget the God of their Fathers and boldly represented His name in a hostile culture.
Daniel served as a close advisor to Nebuchadnezzar after which he appears to have fallen out of favour in the court of Babylon. He returned to brief prominence at the close of Belshazzar’s tenure and was present on that fateful night when mighty Babylon fell. Darius, the Mede, made use of Daniel’s extensive knowledge of Babylonian Government, in the regulating of the Empire of the Medes and Persians. It also appears that Daniel had considerable influence with Cyrus the Persian Ruler and may even had some influence over him as he made the decree permitting the Hebrews to return to their homeland. Daniel, therefore, the boy slave had a most remarkable life and career, at the heart of the mighty powers of the age, yet remained true to his faith throughout.
Attacks Upon Daniel
The Book of Daniel has been the subject of considerable attack by liberal scholars and theologians. Some have claimed the historic figure was not the author but that others compiled this work at a much later date. Others have questioned the validity of some of Daniel’s historical records while some have claimed the prophecy of the wars between Syria and Egypt and of the times of Antiochus Epiphanes (Ch 11) is so historically accurate that it had to be written by an eye witness not a prophet.
It is not necessary to consider the particulars of these objections. It is safe to conclude that as Christ validated the authenticity of Daniel his testimony is as sure as that of the Saviour (Matthew 24:15 Mark 13:14).
Daniel himself testifies that he was the recipient of divine revelation; 7:2, 4,6, 28, 8:1, 15, 9:2, 10:2, 12:5-8. In 12:4 he is commanded to preserve the book in which his words are found. Therefore the internal evidence of the scriptures points to this Book as an integral part of the Old Testament Canon.
Daniel’s Place in the Hebrew Bible
The Jews placed Daniel at the close of the Hebrew Bible preceding the historical books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Chronicles. Unlike those who compiled the sections of the English Bible the Hebrews did not consider Daniel to be truly a prophet. They believed Daniel was statesman who at times received prophet visions. He was not one who had received the training and qualifications which belonged to a true prophet. In this instance we must state that the English Bible is more accurate than the Hebrew Scriptures because Daniel was certainly one of the great Jewish prophets which Ezekiel himself testified to (Ezekiel 14:14, 20).
Purpose of Daniel’s Prophecy
Throughout his life and through his visions Daniel showed an ungodly society that the God of Israel was superior to the gods of the Gentile nations. He demonstrated that although the Gentile Empires appeared to be in the ascendancy on occasions, they would crumble and fall, while the God of Israel would continue to establish His Kingdom on earth. In fact the God of Israel would use the rise and fall of these great empires to further His cause among men. The power of a sovereign God is the primary lesson from Daniel’s Prophecy.
Section 1 Historical
By refusing to eat the King’s food Daniel and his friends are blessed by God and gain favour.
Daniel after prayer interprets the dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, which demonstrates the sovereignty of God among the Kingdoms of men, and the supremacy of God’s Kingdom in the world.
Shadrach, Mesech and Abednego are delivered from the fiery furnace to which they were committed after refusing to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
Nebuchadnezzar is stricken with insanity, which Daniel prophesied through an interpretation of a dream.
Daniel interprets the writing on the wall and Babylon falls to the Medes and Persians.
Daniel is trapped by the jealous princes who passed a law forbidding prayer to any deity save the King. For breaking the law Daniel was thrown into the den of lions from which he was saved.
Section 2 Prophetical
The vision of the four beasts is an enlargement of four kingdoms within Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Ch 2. The fourth Kingdom, however, in this vision is a terrible beast with ten horns. Three of these horns, which are Kings, succumb to a little more powerful horn which arises to make war with God’s people. To some this little horn is the Papacy, to others he is a political leader who will arise at the end of time. Ultimately the powers of Antichrist will be overcome by the one whom Daniel describes as the Ancient of Days, the judge of all the earth.
The battle between the ram and the goat represents the fall of the Medes and Persians to the Greek Empire, under Alexander the Great. The little horn on the Goat represents Antiochus Epiphanes who persecuted the Jewish people.
Daniel discerns the meaning of Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding the seventy years in exile. He sets himself to pray for the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. God reveals to Daniel a figurative period of 70 weeks during which the temple would be rebuilt and the Messiah would come to His people.
Daniel receives an angelic visitor who has come to reveal the future to the man described as “greatly beloved”.
The wars between the Kings of Egypt and Syria are described in a way which is verified by the histories of the period. The rise of Antiochus Epiphanes is also chartered. These events would take place three to four hundred years after Daniel.
Daniel transports us to the end of time, to the resurrection, everlasting rewards for the wicked and glory for the righteous. Daniel completes his vision with a reference being made to a period of 1,290 days (3 ½ years) which is the same as the times, time and half a time, 12:7, 7:25. This represents a period of persecution yet those who would endure this period and keep the faith would be blessed.
Daniel, himself, is the supreme example of faith remaining pure under fire and as such inspires persecuted Christians in every age.