Daniel (605-536) was deported from Judah in 605 BC and began his ministry three years later. He lived through the entire period of the seventy-year captivity in Babylon. He may have been of royal descent, was intelligent, courageous, devout, and good-looking. His contemporaries include Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Ezekiel, and maybe even Obadiah. Daniel was a saint and a seer; thus his book is both practical and prophetical. The conviction, commitment, and courage of Daniel and his three friends teach valuable lessons. Anyone who may find themselves in a time of testing and trial would do well to remember these good men.
The object of the book of Daniel seems not to give a summary historical account of the period of the exile, or of the life of Daniel himself. The theme, or tendency, which runs throughout the book, is of a far different character. It is to show the extraordinary and wonderful means which the Lord made use of, in a period of deepest misery, when the theocracy seemed dissolved and fast approaching its extinction, and to afford assistance to His people, proving to them that He had not entirely forsaken them. And also in making them sensible to the fact that His merciful presence still continued to dwell with them, even without the temple and beyond the Land of Promise. The book thus sets forth a series of miraculous tokens, by which God proclaimed amidst the heathen world, and in a period of abject degradation, that Israel was still His people, the nation of His covenant, still marching steadily onward to the goal marked out for them by the Lord.
The wonders related to Daniel (1-6) were designed, on the one hand, to lead the heathen power, which proudly fancied itself to be the conqueror of the theocracy, to the acknowledgment that there was an essential difference between world kingdoms and the Kingdom of God. On the other hand they were designed to impress degenerate and callous Israel with the full conviction that the power of God was still the same as it was of old in Egypt. The visions (2 and 7) accompanied by their symbols represent the whole tenor of the book. The development of heathen power, until the completion and glorification of the Kingdom of God, appeared to Daniel in the four-beast image, each successively surpassing the former: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and finally Rome. The Kingdom of God proves conqueror of all; a power which alone is everlasting and showing itself in the utmost glorification in the appearance of the Messiah. The captives have yet to experience a period of heavy trials, described in chapters 8 and 9, particularly alluding to the time of the struggles of the Maccabean period, illustrative of the last and great conflict which the people of God would endure before the coming of the Messiah.
Daniel was an actual historical person famed for his piety. Ezekiel refers to Daniel three times and regarded him with esteem as to link his name with Noah and Job. Jesus refers to Daniel by name and regarded his prophecies as inspired. Jesus identifies Himself with the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13 (See also Matt. 16:13, 24:30, 26:64, Mk. 24:62, and Lk. 22:69). In Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14 He refers to Daniel 8:13; 9:27; 11:31, and 12:11.
Early in his exile, Daniel showed remarkable conviction and courage. He did not fear the wrath of the king, and along with his three friends determined to obey God rather than man. They would walk according to God's will no matter what the cost. The wise men of Babylon were not able to interpret the meaning of the king's dream of Daniel 2. Daniel's faith was such that he offered to do what they could not do. Daniel was given divine enlightenment and recounted to the king all the aspects of his dream, God being the proper interpreter. The king was so impressed that he made Daniel his prime minister. Next followed the erecting of a golden image. All, with no exception, were to bow and worship the image. Daniel was undoubtedly away on the king's business at this time. The three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, however, refused to bow and thus brought on their trial by fire. They miraculously escaped the fire without harm by their deliverance. God had vindicated their faith.
Daniel bore witness before Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius. The humbling of Nebuchadnezzar led to the king's "conversion" wherein he formally acknowledged God. Belshazzar, however, refused to be humbled. Though terribly frightened at the handwriting on the wall during his blasphemous feast, this dissolute king refused to repent. Before Daniel gave the "handwriting" interpretation he preached to the king (5:17-25). That very night Belshazzar was slain and the kingdom passed into the hands of the Medes and Persians. Darius proved to be a warm friend to Daniel. Trapped into condemning Daniel to the lion's den, Darius acted swiftly to testify to his faith in the Lord when he witnessed the miraculous deliverance of Daniel.
The latter portions of the book deal with prophetic enunciations concerning Judah's future. The vision covered the history of three of Nebuchadnezzar's "dream" kingdoms. In perfect sequence the prophet chronicled the coming of Alexander the Great, the emergence of the four kingdoms, the dark days of the tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes, the struggle of the Maccabees, and eventually the intervention of Rome in the affairs of Palestine. His prophecies concerning "the time of the end", the "end time", and "the end of the days" have provided wide speculation as to their meanings. Concerning this, however, we must put ourselves in the same place as Daniel, in that he was told to shut up his words and go his way and seal them up. The book of Daniel is truly one of the most fascinating books in the Bible.
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