Introduction to Daniel
Mar 25, 2015
The name Daniel means “God judges.” Daniel is a type of overcomer during the time of divine judgment. He was one of the first captives to be taken to Babylon, and he lived throughout the entire Babylonian captivity.
He provides us with the example of how to conduct one’s self while in captivity. He submitted to all of the kings of Babylon, knowing from the word of Jeremiah that this was what the “good figs” were to do (Jeremiah 24:5-7). When Babylon’s time to rule ended, Daniel led no revolutions but prayed and engaged in spiritual warfare until God raised up the Medes and Persians to overthrow Babylon.
There were portions of revelation that were sealed and could not be understood until thousands of years later. Toward the end of the book, In Daniel 12:9 the angel says,
9 And he said, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the time of the end.”
While there are critics today who insist that portions of Daniel were written after some of the prophecies were already fulfilled, it is clear that Daniel’s revelation foretold of things far into the future with great accuracy. The critics themselves acknowledge that all portions of this book were written long before the time of Christ—and before Rome took Jerusalem in 63 B.C. Yet Daniel wrote of the “iron” kingdom of Rome and even recorded many details about the little horn that extended the rule of Rome to the present time.
There is no chance, then, that Daniel’s prophecies were fraudulent, for he wrote of things far into the future—things which even he did not understand, nor could he, apart from further divine revelation. But God merely told him in Daniel 12:10, “none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight [sakal, “the wise”] will understand.”
Now that we have come to “the time of the end,” when the beast empires have run their full course, we know that these seals have been broken and these words have now come to light. Even so, the prophecies remain concealed to “the wicked,” for they have rejected the words without honestly seeking the insight needed to understand.
We now have been given the right to ask for insight. Let us pray, then, for wisdom and insight, so that we might be counted among those who understand in these end times.
The Seals in the Book of Revelation
The seven seals in Revelation 5:1 were opened one by one throughout John’s prophetic book in order to reveal the prophecies in Daniel little by little. The book of Revelation is the sequel to Daniel and likewise should be understood as a prophecy of world history. Whereas Daniel gives us the overall picture of the history of the Kingdom in captivity, John focuses primarily on the fourth “iron” kingdom and its little horn extension. Hence, John gives us further details that were not revealed to Daniel.
John therefore supplements Daniel and yet is dependent upon Daniel for its outline of world history. To teach, as many do, that most of the book of Revelation is yet future and that it covers only a period of seven years at the end of the age, blinds the eyes of many Christians today from seeing how prophecy has actually been fulfilled. Revelation actually covers the time from the height of the Roman Empire to the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
Each seal that is broken in the book of Revelation reveals another portion of world history within the parameters of Daniel’s prophecy. The same is true with the seven trumpets and the seven bowls of wine poured out.
It is curious to see the contrast between Daniel and Revelation. Daniel was shown more details regarding the earlier kingdoms (Babylon, Persia, and Greece), while John revealed the secrets of Roman rule. As John’s revelations progressed, and as the seals were broken, more intricate details came to light. It took only two chapters (Rev. 6 and 7) to open the first six seals, but when the seventh was opened (Revelation 8:1), suddenly we see it containing seven trumpets (Revelation 8:6). And then the seventh trumpet contains even greater detail, pictured as seven bowls of wine.
In other words, as the seals are opened, John sees greater details in the prophecies of world history. False prophets do not do such things, for they can more easily guess about things in the near future, but are hard pressed to know specific events yet to occur in the distant future.
Prophets in Daniel’s Time
There were three major prophets who were contemporaries during the time that Babylon took Jerusalem. Daniel himself, of course, was a young man when he was taken to Babylon. He was called to prophesy to those of the House of Judah in their Babylonian captivity.
Ezekiel knew Daniel and even endorsed him in Ezekiel 14:14, saying,
14 Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves, declares the Lord God.
This is repeated in verse 20. Ezekiel was a prophet to the House of Israel which had been carried to Assyria more than a century earlier. Ezekiel 1:1 says that Ezekiel “was by the river Chebar among the exiles.” He apparently traveled back and forth between Judah and Israel, for we read in Ezekiel 2:3,
3 Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day.”
In Ezekiel 3:11 God tells the prophet, “go to the exiles.” Ezekiel 3:15 then says,
15 Then I came to the exiles who lived beside the river Chebar at Tel-abib, and I sat there seven days where they were living, causing consternation among them.
That these exiles were not the same as the Judahite captives in Babylon is made clear in 2 Kings 17:5, 6, which speaks of the captivity of the northern House of Israel:
5 Then the king of Assyria invaded the whole land and went up to Samaria and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
A notation of Ezra three centuries later tells us in 2 Kings 17:23, “So Israel was carried away into exile from their own land to Assyria until this day.” Scripture tells us that the Israelites were stubborn rebels, refusing to follow through on their vow when the Old Covenant was instituted in Exodus 19:8. So Ezekiel was told to go to “a rebellious people” (Ezekiel 2:3).
The point is that Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, but each ministered primarily to different people. Jeremiah was the third contemporary prophet, ministering to the people of Judah who remained in the old land until even they were taken to Babylon. Hence, Ezekiel ministered to Israelites in Assyria, Daniel to Judahites in Babylon, and Jeremiah to Judahites in the old land.
All three of these prophets, of course, overlapped with the others, but their main focus was upon the people among whom they ministered.
The Captivity of Daniel
The book of Daniel starts out (Daniel 1:1, 2),
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchad-nezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.
Jehoiakim reigned as king of Judah for eleven years (2 Chronicles 36:5) from 608-597 B.C. During his third year Jerusalem came under siege and was captured, and the first group of captives—including Daniel—were taken to Babylon. Jehoiakim himself was allowed to remain as a vassal king, but when he revolted in 597, he was killed and replaced by eight-year-old Jehoiachin. He lasted just three months and ten days (2 Chronicles 36:9).
It was then that King Nebuchadnezzar “brought him to Babylon with the valuable articles of the house of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 36:10). In other words, the vessels of the temple were not taken to Babylon with Daniel but with Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. A similar event took place 666 years later in 70 A.D., when the Romans took the vessels of the temple to Rome after destroying Jerusalem.
2 Kings 25:13-17 gives us an inventory of the temple vessels carried to Babylon. It is interesting to note that neither the altar of incense nor the Ark of the Covenant were listed, for according to the records found by Nehemiah, they had already been hidden by Jeremiah in Mount Nebo. This is recorded in 2 Maccabees 2:4,
4 It was also contained in the same writing, that the prophet, being warned of God, commanded the tabernacle and the ark to go with him, as he went forth into the mountain where Moses climbed up and saw the heritage of God. And when Jeremy came thither, he found an hollow cave, wherein he laid the tabernacle and the ark, and the altar of incense, and so stopped the door. (Septuagint Translation)
Ezekiel dates his ministry and revelations according to Jehoiachin’s captivity in 597 B.C., as we see in Ezekiel 1:2. The deportation of the temple vessels appears to be the most important event to Ezekiel.
Nebuchadnezzar and His Father
Nabopolassar revolted against Assyria and captured Nineveh in 612 B.C. The battles continued, however, until the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C., where Nabopolassar defeated the Assyrian and Egyptian coalition. This brought Syria and Phoenicia into the new Babylonian empire.
But then Nabopolassar died in August of 605, and his oldest son, Nebuchadnezzar, quickly returned to Babylon to secure his throne before returning the next year to take the city of Jerusalem in 604 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Akkadian name was Nabu-kudurri-usur, which means “O god Nabu, preserve/defend my firstborn son.” The god Nabu was said to be the son of Marduk, the chief Babylonian deity and their god of wisdom.
Babylon first took Jerusalem in 604, then (after Jehoiachin’s revolt) subdued the city again in 597. The city was finally destroyed in 586 B.C. after a second revolt by king Zedekiah. Nebuchadnezzar then started a 13-year siege of Tyre (586-573), ending with that city submitting to Babylonian rule. He then returned to build the infrastructure of Babylon, constructing canals, aqueducts, reservoirs, and temples. He was also known for building his famous “hanging gardens,” which were probably the setting of his boast in Daniel 4:30.
Daniel himself would have witnessed all of these things, for he outlived Nebuchadnezzar and outlasted the 70-year Babylonian empire itself.
This is an introduction to a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones