Daniel was taken into exile in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion in 605 B.C. It is likely Daniel was a teenager at the time. The Book of Daniel is the last of the major prophets, joining Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel as the other majors. They are called major simply because they are longer than the other prophetic books. Daniel served as a high ranking official in the Babylonian government and when Persia defeated Babylon in 539 B.C. Daniel was given a position of power in the new regime. Altogether, Daniel’s career in government lasted nearly 70 years. He served as both a government administrator and as a prophet of the Lord. His life shows us that we can serve God and His people in any lawful work. No matter how difficult, joyful, boring, or pleasant our job, we can still serve the Lord with gladness, seeing it as a calling from God. Daniel likely completed his book around 530 B.C. after Babylon fell to the Persians. His name means, God is my judge. Unlike most of the other Old Testament prophets, Daniel’s words did not demand repentance from the people. The first six chapters read like the Bible’s historical books, while chapters 7-12 are for the most part apocalyptic in style, like parts of Ezekiel. Much of what Daniel predicted took place after he died and before Jesus was born. As God’s people watched history unfold just as He had foretold through Daniel, it built faith in their hearts too. His life and writings show above all else that the Lord is in charge of events in the earth. We live like Daniel, not seeing the full victory God has promised us but trusting that we will receive it. Daniel points to Jesus in that in chapter 2 king Nebuchadnezzar dreamed about a stone that would become a mountain, crush all other earthly kingdoms, and fill the whole world. This stone is Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Chapter 7:9-14 describes Judgement Day and Jesus as judge. And as He taught about the days before Judgement Day, Jesus quoted Daniel. Chapter 9:27 deals with the antichrist and what Jesus called the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. Here are three themes to watch for as you read. First is God’s sovereignty. The narratives in Daniel emphasize God’s faithfulness and absolute autonomy over world history. Despite what we might see or hear, God is in control over global events, kingdoms, and governments. Second is faithfulness to God. God rewards those who are sincerely devoted to Him and acknowledge Him. This book reveals that It is possible for God’s oppressed people to survive and even thrive in a culture hostile to their faith. Third we look for prophecies of future events. Daniel’s four visions contain predictions of future periods of persecution, as well as the return of the triumphant Christ. Daniel’s visions encourage God’s faithful people who are living under oppression and persecution by offering a divine perspective upon reality that differs from the purely visible. God will ultimately win the victory so believers of every era can live their lives in the expectation of final triumph.
God has fulfilled His prophetic word and His rebellious people have been sent into exile. But God also extended His grace to a remnant in exile and God protected and prospered Daniel and three other young Hebrew captives. These young men received the best training of the time in the Babylonian kings court and, were well equipped to be God’s witnesses in Babylon. They made the God of Israel known even in exile. Nebuchadnezzar had overwhelmed Jerusalem and taken captives back to Babylon, along with the sacred objects from the temple. The Lord had now fulfilled His threat from Isaiah 39:7 that the sons of the royal family would serve in Babylon. Even with the rigorous education in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, the three young men continued to worship the Lord. These four young men, including Daniel, were to enjoy all the delights of the kings table..the rich food and the wine. For three years they were to be trained to work in royal service. The young men chose not to eat the food from the kings table because it was defiled. The first portion of the kings of Babylon’s food was offered to idols and a portion of the wine had been poured out on a pagan altar. In addition, ceremonially unclean animals were eaten and even those considered clean had not been slaughtered or prepared according to the regulations of Mosaic law. Daniel and his three friends ate vegetables instead and drank water and looked far better then those who ate and drank from the kings table. The education of the four young men was very similar to that of Moses in Egypt. All four of the young men had their names changed to help them fit into Babylonian society. God worked on behalf of the young men, paving the way for them to remain faithful and yet serve in a foreign land. Daniel and his friends completed a tough curriculum that included language, literature and science. God gave them wisdom and excellence and added many other gifts to their skills and learning. God would use these four young men as His witnesses among the nations. The magicians in Babylon were a class of soothsayer priests who could also interpret dreams and do wonders.
Shortly after their arrival God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream that troubled him greatly. This dream encompassed the flow of history over the centuries and God gave Daniel the ability to not only recount the dream but also explain it. For reasons known only to the Lord, when Nebuchadnezzar called for his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and astrologers, he demanded that they first tell him the dream he had dreamed and then interpret it for him. Nebuchadnezzar had reason to be afraid that his throne was in danger from other groups. That was always a cause for worry in kings of that place and time. The people Nebuchadnezzar had called to interpret his dream needed to know that dream so they could consult their books. They did not depend on divine revelation. Nebuchadnezzar was furious because they could not follow his orders and he ordered that all the wise men in Babylon be killed. Not following the kings orders specifically resulted in the death penalty and Nebuchadnezzar was sure the wise men were refusing his command. In reality, they had no way to carry out Nebuchadnezzar’s orders. When Daniel heard what had happened he gathered his friends and they prayed for God’s wisdom and the answer to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Once God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel he praised the God of heaven. The fact that Daniel was able to go at once to see the king shows the authority and influence he had been given. The king was incredulous that Daniel could both tell him his dream and interpret it but Daniel gave all the credit and glory to God in heaven who reveals secrets. Daniel made it crystal clear that no human could do what the king was asking but he knew the God who could. In the ancient world dreams were often understood as revealing the future.
It appears Nebuchadnezzar was interested in history, pursuing knowledge of the past and seeking to make a place for himself as history went forward. God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to understand the course of history, perhaps to impress upon him that Israel’s God, the God of heaven is also the God of all history. The progression in this dream moves downward in value; from the most valuable…gold…to the least valuable…iron and baked clay. Fine gold was the highest quality gold there was. Thighs were above the knees and legs below. The dream was frightening enough but then there was a rock cut out from the mountain that was not touched by human hands. It struck the statue smashing it to bits and then the rock covered all the earth. This new kingdom would replace all the other kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, the king of kings but notice the lower case letter k on both kings. But when Jesus is referred to in this manner it is always the King of kings, Jesus being much greater than any earthly king. Nebuchadnezzar had attained kingship over all other empires and their kings and he was the appointed ruler for that time in history. Silver was inferior in value to gold and the chest is lower than the head. Nebuchadnezzar was an extremely stable ruler who held the empire together . Persia, the silver portion of the statue was often threatened with internal divisions and instability around the edges of the empire. Bronze had less value yet and even though they were able to defeat the Persians, Greece was even less stable. Feet are crucial to stability and these feet were brittle. They indicate just how precarious the whole image, that is the earthly kingdoms and their power, would be. All sorts of things would cause division and weaken the kingdoms and countries that could not overcome their division. Once Daniel had finished explaining Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he fell down and worshiped him. He believed the spirit of the gods was in Daniel. But he also acknowledged what Daniel had done was not of an ordinary human spirit. Daniel is handsomely rewarded and made ruler over Babylon, as the kings deputy…much like Joseph and pharaoh.
Nebuchadnezzar’s megalomania, perhaps encouraged by the vision in chapter 2, constructed a huge gilded statue and then demanded that everyone in his kingdom worship it. He had not learned that God cannot be captured in any man made thing. The three friends of Daniel refused to worship this statue. They remained faithful to the Lord and He rescued them from the kings wrath. The plain of Dura is unknown though it may refer to the plain just adjacent to the city of Babylon. Seven different classes of government officials were listed here in chapter 3. The rules were that anytime music played people were to stop what they were doing and blow down to worship this 90 foot tall statue. Idol worship was normal outside of Israel so this was not a big deal to most of the people, but for the Jews in exile it was. Defying the king was the highest act of treason, punishable by death. The king found himself in an awkward position because he liked Daniel’s three friends so he gave them one more chance to worship the statue. They refused, declaring their faithfulness to God alone. They were entrusting themselves to God who had rescued the entire nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar was so enraged he ordered the fire of punishment heated 7 times hotter than normal. These ovens were heated to 1652-1832 degrees. The three young men told Nebuchadnezzar that even if God chose not to save them, they would worship only God. It was a bold statement. The three young men were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The fire was so hot it killed the men who tossed them in. But Nebuchadnezzar jumped up in amazement because he now counted four men in the furnace and they were walking around! The fourth was like a god or son of the gods. There is debate as to who this fourth person was. Some believe it was an angel. Others believe it was a Pre-incarnate Christ.
Nebuchadnezzar shouted for the men to come out of the furnace so they stepped out. Everyone was amazed because they were untouched by the fire. No hair was singed, their clothing was not scorched, and they did not smell like smoke. Again Nebuchadnezzar sang praises to the Jews God. In fact, Nebuchadnezzar referred to Yahweh as the Most High God. Nebuchadnezzar was surprised that God could and would rescue His people, but the three young men knew God can do anything. Nebuchadnezzar issued an edict that no one was to speak a word against the God of the three young Jews. The men were rewarded for their righteousness and faithfulness. And Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to even higher positions in the province of Babylon.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W