Daniel – Overview and Chapter 1

The following material in brackets are excerpts taken from a presentation on the book of Daniel by Dr. Ken Boa and Bill Ibsen. © Dr. Ken Boa and Bill Ibsen 2005.  All Rights Reserved.

[“Daniel’s prophecy is, in many respects, the most remarkable of any in the sacred record. It is unique in a number of ways: First, it is the most comprehensive book in the Bible, because it explores the beginnings until the end of history. And in doing so, it was the first prophecy giving a consecutive history of the world from that time to the end. It located most of its predictions within well-defined prophetic periods, though reaching many centuries into the future. It gave the first definite chronological prophecy of the coming of the Messiah. It marked the time of this event so definitely that the Jews came to forbid any attempt to interpret its numbers, since that prophecy shows them to be without excuse in rejecting Christ; and so accurately had its minute and literal predictions been fulfilled down to the time of Porphyry, A.D. 250, that he declared (the only loophole he could devise for his hard-pressed skepticism) that the predictions were not written in the age of Babylon, but after the events themselves had occurred. This evasion, however, is not now available; for every succeeding century has borne additional evidence to the truthfulness of the prophecy, and we are just now, in our own day, approaching the climax of its fulfillment. Daniel illustrates the succession of powers that would conquer God’s people from the time of the Babylonian captivity to the Second Coming of Christ. Daniel 11 alone contains over 100 specific prophecies of historical events that literally came true. (Source: Open Bible Intro, p. 832) There are at least 18 verses in Revelation that allude to the book of Daniel, as well as three verses in Matthew, and one verse in 2 Thessalonians. Daniel answers the universal, ultimate question of destiny: “Where is this all going, and how will it work out?”

Title: Daniel’s life and ministry bridge the entire seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. Deported to Babylon at the age of about sixteen, and handpicked for government service, Daniel becomes God’s prophetic mouthpiece to the Gentile and Jewish world declaring God’s present and eternal purpose. Nine of the twelve chapters in his book revolve around dreams, including God-given visions involving trees, animals, beasts, and images. In both his personal adventures and prophetic visions, Daniel shows God’s guidance, intervention, and power in the affairs of men. Author: Daniel claims to be the author (Daniel 12:4) of the book that bears his name and to have lived during the life of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1-2) and Darius (Dan. 9:1). This implies that Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel and lived to see the fall of Babylon (Dan. 5:30-31). Though we have a more minute account of his early life than is recorded of that of any other prophet, yet his birth and lineage are left in complete obscurity, except that he was of the royal line, probably of the house of David, which had at this time become very numerous.   He is supposed to have died at Shushan, or Susa, in Persia, about the year 530 B.C., aged about ninety-one years; his age being the probable reason why he did not return to Judea with other Hebrew captives, under the proclamation of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1), in 536 B.C., which marked the close of the seventy years’ captivity.  (Source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm)

Daniel 1:1-2 – Jehoiakim (“He whom Jehovah has set up”) was the second son of Josiah, and ruled over Judah for eleven years (610-599 B.C.). His original name was Eliakim. On the death of his father his younger brother Jehoahaz (= Shallum, Jer 22:11), who favored the Chaldeans against the Egyptians, was made king by the people; but the king of Egypt, Pharaoh-necho, invaded the land and deposed Jehoahaz (2 Kg 23:33; 23:34; Jer 22:10), setting Eliakim on the throne in his stead, and changing his name to Jehoiakim. Judah was now invaded and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiakim was taken prisoner and carried captive to Babylon (2 Ch 36:6-7). It was at this time that Daniel also and his three companions were taken captive to Babylon (Dan 1:1-2). Nebuchadnezzar reinstated Jehoiakim on his throne, but treated him as a vassal king.

With a directness characteristic of the sacred writers, Daniel enters at once upon his subject. He begins his book in a simple historical style. Like one conscious of uttering only well-known truth, he proceeds at once to state a variety of particulars by which his accuracy could be tested. The overthrow of Jerusalem recorded here was predicted by Jeremiah, and was accomplished in 605 B.C. (Jeremiah 25:8-11). Jeremiah places this captivity in the fourth year of Jehoiakim, Daniel in the third. This seeming discrepancy is explained by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar set out on his expedition near the close of the third year of Jehoiakim, from which point Daniel reckons.  (Source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm) The Babylonian empire began with Nabopolassar on the death of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria in 626.  It was consolidated when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho in 605; first deportation from Jerusalem (royal family and nobility).  Second deportation in 597 (Ezekiel and 10,000 others).  Destruction of Jerusalem in 586.  Babylon taken by Cyrus of Persia in 539. As R. Campbell Thompson declares: “Events had already shown that Nebuchadnezzar was a vigorous and brilliant commander, and physically as well as mentally a strong man, fully worthy of succeeding his father. He was to become the greatest man of his time in the Near East, as a soldier, a statesman, and an architect. Had his successors been of such a stamp instead of callow boys or dilettanti without redeeming vigor, the Persians would have found Babylonia a harder problem.” Jer. 27:7: “All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant.”(Source http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm) He built the most magnificent city in the world. Nebuchadnezzar is mentioned by name 88 times in 8 OT books. Nebuchadnezzar was also known for his harshness: “whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled” (Dan. 5:19).  In 586 B.C., King Zedekiah, the youngest son of Josiah, tried to escape from the Babylonian siege at night.  When he and his sons were caught, they saw the cruel actions of Nebuchadnezzar, who blinded Zedekiah after he witnessed the murder of his sons (Jeremiah 39:5).  Nebuchadnezzar was also known for burning people alive as we see in Daniel chapter 3. (Source: http://www.truthnet.org/Daniel/Chapter1/)

Nebuchadnezzar did not defeat Jerusalem – God defeated Jerusalem as punishment for their sins.  Babylon was only an instrument for judgment; this is the theme of Habakkuk—how a wicked nation could be used for judgment. One of the main themes in the book of Daniel is the sovereignty of God. Here, even Jerusalem’s defeat was because of sin, not the strength of Babylon. The sins of Judah, which included idolatry, sexual perversion, and child sacrifice caused their defeat. For these reasons, God gave Jerusalem into the hand of Babylon.  God is in control of the nations. “Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring such a catastrophe on this place, that whoever hears of it, his ears will tingle.  Because they have forsaken Me and made this an alien place, because they have burned incense in it to other gods whom neither they, their fathers, nor the kings of Judah have known, and have filled this place with the blood of the innocents’” (Jeremiah 19:3-4).

Daniel 1:3-7 – Wishing to harness the best minds of his subject peoples, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the most promising of the Judean exiles be selected for training for royal service (1:3-5).  Daniel and his friends were under the control of Ashpenaz, and were likely eunuchs, as Josephus claims. This point is reinforced by the fact that they were under the direction and responsibility of Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs. These boys were the best Judah had to offer.  They would help administer the Babylonian kingdom. Daniel and friends would be taught by the teachers of the most advanced, the most powerful nation on the earth at that time. They needed to understand Babylonian culture, traditions, and religion. The Babylonian culture was a very religious system, with the King acting out the role of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon in the annual festival. (Source: http://www.truthnet.org/Daniel/Chapter1/) Instead of choosing means for the gratification of low and base desires, as too many kings of later times have done, he chose young men to be educated in all matters pertaining to the kingdom, that he might have efficient help in administering its affairs. He appointed them daily provision of his own food and drink. Instead of the coarse fare which some would have thought good enough for captives, he offered them his own royal viands. For the space of three years they had all the advantages the kingdom afforded. (Source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm)

BABYLONIAN INDOCTRINATION PROGRAM – Three years at the Babylonian Career Institute.  His God was his strength through this. Satan has a ready indoctrination program to do the same things to us; conformity to this present age and culture.

IDENTITY CHANGE – The commander of the officials changed Daniel, “God is my judge” to Belteshazzar, “Bel’s prince.” Changed Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious” to Shadrach, “Command of Aku.” Changed Mishael, “Who is what God is” (God’s power) to Meshach, “What is the power of Aku.”  Changed Azariah, “Yahweh helps” to Abed-nego, “Servant of Nebo.”  The adoption of foreign names is not unique to Daniel; Joseph was given an Egyptian name by Pharaoh, and so was Moses, whose name means “Drawn” in Egyptian. Application: Their Hebrew names referred to Jehovah God, but their new names referred to Babylonian gods. But God did not intervene. What a lesson for Christians. All too often we want to create an environment that is “free” from non-Christian influence in the belief that this will make us better Christians or more holy. The truth is, victory in spiritual warfare makes us better Christians. God was preparing Daniel.

Daniel 1:8  DANIEL’S CONVICTION – He “purposed in his heart” (KJV)–in advance.  He thought it through.  This shows his maturity and moral courage to say a firm “no” to cultural pressures.  He knew what the Scriptures taught on this, and was able to apply what he knew.  –Some are willing to die for Christ, but fewer are willing to live for Him. Daniel’s commitment to holiness: he did not want to defile himself with food; the “secular” education was acceptable, but not Nebuchadnezzar’s food. It was frequently the case that food used by the kings and princes of heathen nations, who were often the high priests of their religion, was first offered in sacrifice to idols, and the wine they used, poured out as a libation before their gods. Again, some of the flesh food used by the Chaldeans was pronounced unclean by the Jewish law. (Source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm)  Daniel wisely sought common ground without moral compromise.  He did not object to (a) learning the language and literature of the Chaldeans (v. 5; biblical precedent with Moses (Acts 7:21-23); (b) serving in the king’s court (v. 5; biblical precedent with Joseph (Gen. 41:40-44); (c) taking on the name of a pagan god (v. 7; biblical precedent with Joseph (Gen. 41:45).  But he drew the line at eating the king’s food because of the biblical prohibition in Exodus 34:15-16 (wrong foods, possibly strangled, dedicated to their gods).  Daniel was firm in his convictions, but not belligerent as to his rights. Daniel, like Moses, was educated in the learning and science of the land of his captivity.  Daniel sets an example for believers; we can learn the teachings and philosophy of the world, but we don’t have to accept them.

Daniel 1:9-13 – GOD’S GRACE IN DANIEL’S LIFE  AND  DANIEL’S CONVICTIONS/ ACTIONS “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, 10 and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.” 11 But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

Daniel translated convictions into consistent actions.  This was a gutsy request of an exiled hostage. He wisely went from Ashpenaz to the overseer under him with a lesser proposition (ten days insignificant in three years). This also represents a remarkable amount of trust that Ashpenz had in Daniel, as he was surely terrified of disappointing the occasionally harsh, cruel, ruthless King Nebuchadnezzar. Like the king’s wise men in chapter 2, a swift death sentence would surely await non-performance from Ashpenaz in his job of training up Daniel and his friends. This is a remarkable show of faith that in just ten days God would bring about an improvement in their appearance.  God honored his faith.  1:17-21  DANIEL’S REWARD –  “So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. 15 At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. 16 So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.17 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.18 Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s personal service. 20 As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm.” (Dan. 1:14-20)

CHAPTER 1 APPLICATIONS Their oral exams in Marduk Auditorium.  (See Psalm 119:98-100) We need not shelve our faith in order to advance in higher education. This interview also shows the king to have been a man well-versed in all the arts and sciences of the Chaldeans, or he would not have been qualified to examine others in them. Recognizing merit where he saw it without respect to religion or nationality, he acknowledged them to be ten times superior to any in his own land. Source: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/clt4/drdan1.htm No one in the realm excelled them.

Is America a figurative Babylon? A rich, fast, smart, savvy, seductive, hi-tech, insidious, sex-filled, pleasure-seeking (yet “religious”), individualistic, self-centered, materialistic, extravagant, excessive, intoxicating, highly-influential world power?

“While Babylon did everything it could to indoctrinate their minds and steal their souls, God granted the young men His own knowledge and understanding in every matter. In other words, whatever Babylon taught them, God interpreted to them. They learned the language, literature, and customs all right, but only so God could use them in the midst of it. They read the language of their culture with the lens of God. Thereby, they became culturally relevant without becoming spiritually irrelevant. Against all odds, they retained a God-centered worldview so that ultimately the world could view their God.” Beth Moore, Daniel, p. 26

There is no greater place to display the power of God than in a hostile environment. Daniel had tremendous potential, but couldn’t have a worse environment to actualize it. Too often we wish for what might have been rather than what is.  “I can’t serve God–I’ve got too many other problems to deal with.”  But none of us has a situation worse than Daniel’s. He would probably never see his parents again, never see the temple again, ripped out of his culture, and thrown into a foreign culture that was completely in conflict with what he had been taught. A hostile environment does not mean that we cannot be godly people.  We try to change the environment, but there is no better place to learn dependency on the power of God.  He was a young man but instead of floundering, he flourishes. Daniel studied and knew the Scriptures, and this gave him his moorings in a hostile culture.

At the point of compromise, sin can gradually erode our character.  Daniel “made up his mind” and moved from determination (who he was) to development (what he would do).  Without goals for godliness, you will never be godly.  He developed an eternal perspective; this life isn’t all there is.

Unlike Daniel, we are not in life-threatening situations when we compromise; the only thing threatened is our comfort level.  We must be more committed to obedience than we are to comfort. He was willing to push all his chips into the middle of the table as he bet on God’s character and promises.

God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). These four teenage boys were given a supernatural understanding by God, not for their glory, but for God’s glory. God was able to use them as an example, to encourage those who would follow in generations to come, in how to live a successful spiritual life. Do not underestimate how God may use our teenagers!

The flip-side to God being truthful is that not only will He be faithful to fulfill His promises, He will (and must!) also be faithful to fulfill his warnings about sin. God is not kidding about what He says. For example, God warned Israel through His prophets that their disobedience would result in another nation carrying them away from their homes into exile as slaves, but Israel ignored Him. So, He carried the northern tribes of Israel into captivity into Assyria, as Judah watched, but still did not repent. Therefore, God also carried Judah off into captivity into Babylon for the same reason. He means what He says; and we are foolish to act like Judah and ignore His commands. This is the law of the harvest illustrated.”] “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (See Gal. 6:7)

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND APPLICATION

1. What is your main take away from the message and how can you apply it to your life?

2. Daniel illustrates the succession of powers that would conquer God’s people (the Jewish nation –the times of the Gentiles) from the time of the Babylonian captivity to the Second Coming of Christ. It also reveals God’s ultimate restoration of Israel. Daniel 11 alone contains over 100 specific prophecies of historical events that literally came true. Miracles and prophecies are the two greatest proofs of the validity of the Bible as God’s Word. Jesus said, “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;  but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works (miracles), so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:37-38) “Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.” (John 14:29) What is one of the key purposes of the book of Daniel and why should it build our faith in God?

3. “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7) Reputation is what people think about us but character is what God knows about us. Daniel was a man of character and was more concerned about pleasing God than fitting in with those around him. Jesus says in John 5:44 that yielding to peer pressure will adversely affect our trust in God. Why is this true? What can we learn from Daniel about this?

4. Where do you feel the pressure of “Babylon” most in your life? How can Romans 12:1 help you?

5. Daniel and his friends seem to have won the respect of their pagan bosses. How do you think they did that and how can you do the same for your unbelieving bosses, business associates, family or friends? See Col. 4:5-6 and 1 Cor. 9:19-23.

6. God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). Do you believe that God will bless you and honor you as you honor Him either in this life or for sure in heaven?

7. The flip-side to God being truthful is that not only will He be faithful to fulfill His promises, He will (and must!) also be faithful to fulfill his warnings about sin. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” (See Gal. 6:7) Do you believe this is true and that the law of the harvest will happen either in this life or for sure in heaven?

 

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