THE BOOK OF DANIEL.
Daniel, like Ezekiel, was a Jewish captive in Babylon. He was evidently of royal birth, being chosen to train for court service as per Ch. 1:3. In the polluted atmosphere of an oriental court, he led a life above reproach before God and man. Daniel lived to be fully eighty years of age. He prophesied during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, kings of Babylon, and in those of Darius and Cyrus kings of Persia, and was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
Daniel is distinctively the prophet of the “times of the Gentiles”, see Luke 21:24. In a vision he saw the whole course of Gentile world-rule and how it will end in catastrophe by the setting up of the Messianic kingdom.
The book may be divided up as follows:
Ch. 1. The early personal history of Daniel.
Chs. 2-4. The visions of Nebuchadnezzar and their effect upon him.
Chs. 5-6. The later personal history of Daniel.
Chs. 7-12. The visions of Daniel.
THE EARLY PERSONAL HISTORY OF DANIEL.
Daniel was taken to Babylon with the first group of captives when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Jehoiakin, king of Judah. This took place eight years before Ezekiel and others of that group were led away. Being of the royal seed, and therefore of a good class socially, Daniel was chosen among others to take a course of training for three years that he might be fitted to attend the court and engage in government service. His three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were likewise chosen. The prince who had charge of them gave them names more suited to their new locality. Daniel, he named Belteshazzar, and the other three were call Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego respectively.
From the very beginning the four young men showed their practical piety by asking that they be permitted to refrain from eating that which was ceremonially unclean to them. Fearing, lest a change of diet make them look sickly, the prince was not very willing to accede to their request. When, however, Daniel suggested a ten days trial they were allowed the liberty, and at the end of that time their countenances were fairer and fatter in flesh than the others who ate of the king’s meat, Ch.1. After their training was ended, Daniel and his three friends were interviewed by Nebuchadnezzar who found they were ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm.
THE VISIONS OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR AND THEIR EFFECT UPON HIM.
There was granted to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, a dream that bore the character of a vision of the “times of the Gentiles”. In his dream he saw a great image with a head of gold, his breast and arms of silver, his belly and thighs of brass, his legs of iron, and his feet part of iron and part of clay. While the king observed the image, he saw a stone which was cut out without hands fall upon the feet of the image. The image immediately collapsed and all the different parts were broken to small pieces and blown away as the wind carries off the chaff from the summer threshing floor. The stone, which caused the destruction, became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
When the king wakened in the morning the memory of it all left him. He called for his wise men and asked them to recall what he had dreamed and give him the interpretation of the dream. This they were utterly unable to do. Their lives were threatened, but Daniel promised to make the matter know to Nebuchadnezzar. God gave him the whole thing by the word of knowledge, and he proceeded to tell the king what he had dreamed and the interpretation of it.
Four great world empires would rule in turn throughout the “times of the Gentiles”. Nebuchadnezzar was represented by the head of gold. This would be followed by the Medo-Persian empire, which in turn would be overthrown, and the Grecian empire would take its place. That empire would be displaced and the Roman Empire would take its place. In the later time of the Roman Empire, the God of heaven will set up His kingdom upon earth and it shall abide forever. This of course, refers to the second coming of Christ, and His reign as King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. Such was the meaning of the dream, which God gave to the king, Ch.2.
Nebuchadnezzar grew in greatness and power. He ordered a great image to be made of himself, and put forth a decree that at the sound of the playing of various instruments of music, everyone was to bow down and worship the image. Daniel was evidently out of town at that time, but his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego refused to do homage. The penalty for such refusal was death in a fiery furnace. When Nebuchadnezzar saw how those men defied his command he had them bound and cast into the fire. To his great surprise, they felt no hurt and were seen walking up and down inside the furnace, and the Son of God walked with them. They were called out of the fire and when the king examined them, there was not so much as the smell of fire upon their clothes. Two things resulted from this incident: a clear testimony of the power of God was given, and the three men were promoted, Ch.3.
In Ch.4, we read of another dream which Nebuchadnezzar had in which he saw a vision of a great tree which was later cut down, but the stump allowed to remain in the ground only with a band of iron and brass about. Thus it was to be for seven times or seven years. Daniel interpreted the dream to mean Nebuchadnezzar himself would be very proud of his greatness and then suddenly become demented. He would be driven from among men and eat grass like an ox. His hair would grow like bird’s feathers, and his nails as bird claws. Then after seven years his rod reason would return to him and his greatness would be restored to him, only he would learn acknowledge that all power comes from God alone, and to Him the glory must be given. This strange experience came to the king a little later exactly as was predicted, Ch.4.
THE LATER PERSONAL HISTORY OF DANIEL.
When Belshazzar the king, reigned over Babylon, he was did not heed of the lesson God had taught his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. At a great feast he and a thousand of his lords with their wives were drinking from the golden vessels, which were taken out of the temple. Suddenly a part of a hand appeared and wrote a sentence of unknown language upon the wall. The king was terrified by it, but could find no one able to interpret the writing until the queen mother told him of Daniel. Daniel was called in and gave the meaning which was, “thou are weighed in the balance and found wanting”. That night the Medo-Persian army took the city of Babylon, slew the king, and thus ended the Babylonian empire, Ch.5.
King Darius, the Mede, soon saw how excellent a man Daniel was and made him one of the three chief ministers of his kingdom. He also had in mind to make Daniel head over all, but through jealousy the others contrived to have him cast into the den of lions. God preserved His faithful servant, and the men who accused him were then cast to the lions and destroyed.
Daniel prospered after this and continued in office under Darius, the Mede, and Cyrus, the Persian, Ch.6.
THE VISIONS OF DANIEL.
To Daniel was likewise granted a vision of the “times of the Gentiles”. He saw four great beasts arise out of the sea. The first, as a lion, represented the Babylonian empire; the second was a bear and symbolized the Persian Empire; the third was a leopard and stood for the Grecian Empire; and the fourth was one of nondescript character, which was very terrible in appearance and had ten horns. This represented the Roman Empire. Special attention was drawn to its latter end then there would be an alliance of ten kings, from among whom would arise another king who would subdue three of the ten, and also be very blasphemous against God. This would be followed by a general overthrow of world government and God would set up His kingdom on the earth, Ch.7.
After this Daniel had a second vision and saw a ram with two horns against which a he goat with one horn came out of the west and killed the ram in a great rage. The he goat waxed strong but later his great horn was broken, and four came up in its place. Out of one of them sprang a little horn, which became strong and persecuted the people of God. The interpretation was given to Daniel by the angel Gabriel, who told him that the ram was a symbol of the Medo-Persian Empire, which would be conquered and displaced by the Grecian Empire, whose first king according to history was Alexander the Great. At his death, four of his generals divided the kingdom between themselves. From one of their divisions a king named Antiochus Epiphanes arose who became very powerful and was a great persecutor of the Jews. Daniel recorded just what he learned and secular history has taken to course as predicted, yet without an effort to move in accord with the prophecy, Ch.6.
A third vision was granted to Daniel as he prayed for the release of the Jews from their seventy years captivity. The angel Gabriel came and informed him that seventy weeks of time would comprise the history of his people. As the dates were given it was evident that seventy weeks of years was meant. In Ch. 5:25, we read that seven weeks, that is, seven weeks of years rather than of days which is seven times seven or forty nine years, would be the length of time used for the rebuilding of Jerusalem. After that there would be sixty-two weeks of years, or seven times sixty-two, which is four hundred and thirty four years. This period of time would end with the crucifixion of Christ, v.26. One week or seven years remains, during which time Israel will again take her place among the nations in the last days, and be greatly persecuted under the rule of antichrist, v.27. Thus God gave to Daniel a synopsis of Jewish history, which is of great interest to every student of prophecy.
In Ch.10, we read how a burden of prayer came upon Daniel, who fasted partially and prayed for three full weeks. Then a vision of the Lord was granted to him, from whom he learned that a conflict had taken place in the heavenlies against the powers of darkness, due to the changing of world dominion from the Persian to the Grecian rule. Through prayer Daniel prevailed and the battle was won. Great light is thus shed upon our prayer warfare of today as we wrestle with the powers of darkness. We can always prevail through prayer and faith.
Ch.11 is filled with a summary of local history touching Syria and Egypt after the division of the Grecian Empire and ending with a predication of the “man of sin”, vs. 36-45, who shall fulfill what is said of him in 2 Thessalonians 2:4-5. The closing chapter of the book predicts the great tribulation, Ch. 12:1; and the two resurrections, vs. 2-3; and Daniel is told not to publish the matter, vs. 8-9, as it referred to the time of the end. He was to rest in hope in then he would stand in his lot at the end of the days.