This introduction to our verse-by-verse study of the book of Daniel was given by Pastor Barry Forder on 18th April 2021.
Introduction to this study:
The book of Daniel is one of the best-loved books of the Bible; it gives us the story of ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and the fiery furnace’ and ‘Daniel in the lions den’ – stories that many of us learned and loved at Sunday school. However the years have come and gone and we so often tend to just skip over those quaint little stories without them having any real impact on our lives; however, I believe that once we have completed a serious verse-by-verse study of this amazing book we will never be the same. This book gives us real perspective, it helps us to see things the way that God sees them – the way Daniel saw them.
Daniel, whose name means ‘God is my judge’, was just a teenager, probably about 14, when the Babylonian army, led by king Nebuchadnezzar, came and took him and his friends away from all they knew, and carried them away into a distant land. It’s hard for us to imagine the feelings and emotions of a 14-year-old being taken from the security of a family, not knowing if he would ever see them again. Although we are told that there was not a righteous man in Jerusalem at that time (Jer 5:1 / Jer 8:5-6), (hence the reason for God bringing His judgment), it would seem that there were still some God-fearing mums, for Daniel and his friends had been brought up to know and fear God and even their names were a continual reminder of the God of Israel. But would that be enough? After all, how many young people today, after seeing all that Daniel saw, and enduring all that he endured, would make a stand for God in the midst of a pagan culture? How many of our young people leave home and go to the University of ‘Babylon’, where secular humanism rules, and find their once vibrant faith destroyed as they become ‘free’ to do what they want, as the moral constraints and stability of a loving family (church and/or home) become just memories? And how many of us can truly say, as we are thrust out into the world every Monday morning, that we desire purity more than worldly pleasure?
Do we really fear God and shun evil as Job did? (Job 1:8). Do we run from temptation like Joseph? (Gen 39:12). Or do we find ourselves dropping the odd expletive (Col 3:8), telling a ‘funny’ course joke to our colleagues so that we will fit into the crowd (Eph 5:4), maybe telling the odd little ‘white’ lie (Col 3:9). “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:10-11). Were you in church praising God last Sunday, and then blending right back into the world on Monday? I heard of a man who went up to a Christian once and asked: ‘You’re a Christian aren’t you?’ The Christian replied ‘That’s for you to tell me’ – i.e. it should be obvious to all around us. Too many Christians act as secret agents, never wanting to blow their cover.
Daniel hadn’t been in Babylon for five minutes before they could tell what the most important thing in his life really was. It is my earnest prayer and desire that by the time we reach the end of this study, we too can say along with Daniel that we have ‘purposed in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves’ – no matter what the cost.
Overview of the book of Daniel
The book of Daniel records the collapse of the nation of Israel and the beginning of the ‘times of the gentiles’ – a period of time that will last until the Messiah returns to set up His kingdom (‘thy kingdom come…’) and sit on the Throne of David (see Luke 1:32) (i.e. the throne of Israel) ruling over all nations from Jerusalem: “And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me: Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up” (Acts 15:13-16)
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord. (Luke 13:34-35)
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2:2-4) (We will deal more fully with this whole idea of ‘Replacement Theology’ – the lie that God has finished with Israel – in part 2 (chapters 7-12) of our study).
As we will see, the book of Daniel is very much a book of prophecy, foretelling the history of the world in advance; from the time of the Babylonian empire of Nebuchadnezzar, to the final world empire of Antichrist, and then ultimately into the Millennial reign of Jesus.
Many of the prophecies in this book have now been fulfilled, however chapters 2, 7 and 9 contain prophecies of vital importance if we are to have a biblical understanding of the times we are living in. This book details what we can expect on the near horizon as world events play out to their ultimate conclusion as we approach the imminent return of Jesus.
We will deal with it in detail when we get there, but the prophecy in chapter 9, known as ‘Daniel’s 70 weeks’, is possibly the most remarkable prophecy in the entire Bible and provides undeniable proof that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah. In fact, so accurate are the prophecies in this book that it has led many critics to claim that it must have been written after the time of Christ – a claim that is easily refuted by the facts! Nevertheless, the book of Daniel has come under great attack from the (self-titled) ‘Higher Critics’ and sceptics and we will deal with some of their claims and objections as we go through our study.
The book can be divided into two main sections, the historical (chapters 1-6), and the visions (chapters 7-12). Also of note is the fact that the section of the book that is dealing with the gentiles is written in Aramaic, as opposed to Hebrew (which makes up the rest of the book).
The Chronology of the Book of Daniel:
606 B.C. Chapter 1 – Israel’s captivity in Babylon begins, Daniel deported
604 B.C. Chapter 2 – King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream
c.588 B.C. Chapter 3 – Nebuchadnezzar’s image & the fiery furnace
571-563 B.C. Chapter 4 – Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and fall
c.552 B.C. Chapter 7 – Daniel’s vision of the four beasts
c.550 B.C. Chapter 8 – Daniel’s vision of the Ram & He-goat
539 B.C. Chapter 5 – Babylon falls to the Persians – the writing on the wall
c.538 B.C. Chapter 6 – Daniel in the lions den
537 B.C. Chapter 9 – Daniel’s vision of the 70 weeks
c.535 B.C. Chapters 10 – The Spiritual War
c.535 B.C. Chapters 11-12 – Closing visions
As we have noted, Daniel was just a teenager when he was deported to Babylon in 606 B.C. Josephus records that he met Cyrus at the gates of Babylon in 539 B.C., and we know that he served under king Darius the Mede (who reigned in the province of Babylon under Cyrus). Therefore, we see that Daniel’s ministry stretched into his late 80’s, and saw him serve as ‘prime minister’ under two successive world empires – a feet unparalleled in history. But as Daniel records at the end of chapter 1, it was God alone who had lifted him up. His is the power, glory might and dominion, He alone rules in the kingdoms of men.
Pre-eminence, Purpose, Purity & Prophecy
The sub title of this study, ‘Pre-eminence, Purpose, Purity & Prophecy’ is an apt summary of the book.
Pre-eminence because the book shows time and again that it is God who rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan 4:17 / 4:25 / 4:32). It is He who orders the steps of a good man (Psalm 37:23), indeed, “Man’s goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?” (Prov 20:24). This was the basis of Daniel’s life, a confident assurance that whatever happened on the outside, however desperate things seemed to be, God was still on the throne, the One who is the same, yesterday, today, forever (Heb 13:8).
Purpose for two reasons:
Firstly because this book underlines the fact that God has a purpose for all that happens in our lives, as Daniel and his friends show – who would have thought that these teenagers who were dragged away in shackles would be the ones to bring the most powerful nation to its knees? Paul reminds us: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28).
Secondly, purpose because “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Dan 1:8). In this context the ‘purpose’ referred to is a determined conscious decision that is made in the heart “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matt 6:21). Daniel’s treasure was to do the will of God regardless of what others thought or said, as we will see in chapter 6: “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed,[that everyone should worship king Darius alone or be thrown to the lions] he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.” (Dan 6:10). Oh for men and women who purpose in their hearts to serve God. In the New Testament Paul purposed in his heart to preach the gospel: “But life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus-the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love.” (Acts 20:24 TLB) “…woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16), as a result of this purpose of heart we read: “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures” (Acts 17:2). For these people, serving God was a way of life, not just a ‘Sunday thing’. The challenge for us as we go through this book is: are we really living lives worthy of our calling? (Eph 4:1 / Col 1:10 / 1 Thess 2:12).
Purity. Because of Daniel’s purpose of heart, there was a beautiful purity about Daniel (as there was with Joseph). It is so easy for us to get tainted by the world and our surroundings, but when we do, it can so quickly escalate out of control. Chuck Smith sums it up clearly and concisely, “The flesh is never satisfied”. Chuck Missler comments that the more you feed a desire, the more you need to feed that desire; if you give into drink, you will need more drink to be satisfied, but then that will not be enough. If you take drugs, you will soon need more drugs to feed your habit; but that will not be enough. If you lust after the flesh, you will find yourself wanting more and more. If you gossip, one little story is never enough. Sin will always take you further than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay. If you have a tin of pure white paint, how many drops of black paint would it take to stop it being pure white? And so it is with our lives. Daniel never gave in; and twice in the book of Ezekiel God points to Daniel as an example of what a righteous man should be like. (Ezekiel 14:14 /20). May God put us through His crucible to remove the dross so that, like pure gold, we become reflections of His glory.
Prophecy. This needs no explanation other than to say that prophecy is one of the infallible and undeniable proofs that God has given us to show that His word is true (see 2 Peter 1:19). Jesus Himself in Matthew 24 pointed to a prophecy in the book of Daniel as the key to understanding the end-times, yet it is astonishing that so many Christians are ignorant regarding the prophecies in the Bible. Job said: “Why, seeing times are not hidden from the Almighty, do they that know him not see his days?” (Job 24:1). Jesus held the Jews accountable for not understanding the prophetic scriptures, and rebuked the Pharisees because, although they could predict the weather, they didn’t understand the signs of the times.
Facts about the book
Author: Daniel – how do we know? Because seven times we read “I Daniel…” and secondly because Jesus said Daniel wrote it (Matt 24:15). “If you don’t believe what Jesus said you’ve got much bigger problems than the authorship of Daniel!” – Chuck Missler
- Daniel uses his own name 75 times.
- When was it written?: About 606-530 B.C.
- 27th book of the Bible;
- 12 chapters,
- 357 verses;
- 11,606 words;
- 16 questions;
- 218 verses of history;
- 79 verses of fulfilled and 60 verses of unfulfilled prophecy;
- 7 commands;
- 4 promises; and
- 6 messages from God.
Scope: From king Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon in 606BC to the establishment of the Messianic kingdom in the Millennium.
- Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael & Azariah.
- Gentile kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, Darius
Daniel is one of only a few people in scripture of whom no sin is recorded, Joseph being another – this doesn’t mean they didn’t sin, Romans 3:23 makes that clear, but in this way they become a type of Christ.
Daniel is called ‘beloved’ (Dan 9:23 / 10:11 / 10:19), the same title is given to John in the NT. Both Daniel and John were given revelations of the climax of world events. It appears that God reserves His most intimate secrets for those who are His beloved. The church is also called His beloved (Rom 9:25) – i.e. these secrets are for us – what a privilege!
It is recorded by Josephus (a Jewish historian) that in 332 B.C. Jeduthan, a Jewish high priest, met Alexander the Great at the gates of Jerusalem and presented to him a copy of the book of Daniel. Upon showing Alexander the prophecies about himself in the book, Alexander was so impressed that he spared the city!
The book of Daniel begins with an historical statement – something the critics try to obfuscate, yet there is no getting away from the fact that Daniel is a book of history as much as it is a book of prophecy.
Therefore, in preparation for our verse-by-verse study through Daniel is would be profitable to do a crash course in ancient history, to give us some of the background of the times that Daniel lived in and to set the scene.
Israel as a nation became divided during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The northern part of the nation became known as ‘Israel’, the southern part as ‘Judah’. Israel went from bad to worse and God sent prophet after prophet to warn them to repent or face judgment. All of this is recorded in the books of Kings and Chronicles. There was not a good king among the kings of Israel and so eventually God allowed the Assyrians to conquer Israel in around 722 B.C.
Judah was not a great deal better, with many bad kings who did not seek God but indulged in idolatry. However there were a few good kings such as Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 17:1-6), Joash (2 Chron 24:1-4), Hezakiah (2 Chron 29:1-2), and Josiah (2 Chron 34:1-2).
Josiah reigned in Judah from about 641 to 609 B.C. However Josiah’s death was brought about by a strange event that is recorded in 2 Chron 35:19-27.
Assyria had been the dominating world empire, having already conquered the northern kingdom of Israel as mentioned above; but their days were numbered as God had prophesied through Nahum. In 612 B.C. Babylon and Media formed an alliance and conquered Assyria’s capital, Nineveh. Three years later Pharaoh Necho, the king of Egypt attacked Assyria and defeated it at a place called Charchemish.
In 2 Chronicles 35:19-21 we read: “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Necho king of Egypt came up to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates: and Josiah went out against him. But he sent ambassadors to him, saying, What have I to do with thee, thou king of Judah? I come not against thee this day, but against the house wherewith I have war: for God commanded me to make haste: forbear thee from meddling with God, who is with me, that he destroy thee not.”
Now remember that Assyria had been Israel’s enemy for centuries – remember Jonah’s reluctance to go and preach to them? Consider also king Sennacherib’s taunts against Hezekiah (2 Chron 32). So the question has to be asked, why did king Josiah go out against Necho who was on his way to destroy Israel’s enemies? Surely Josiah should have been fighting with him if anything, not against him. The answer may be found in the opening line of verse 19: “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple” – prepared it for what? Reading chapters 34 & 35 of 2 Chronicles we discover that Josiah had been presented with ‘the book of the law’ that had been discovered as they were starting to repair the temple. After reading it, Josiah realised how far away from God the nation had gone – the same is true today, reading God’s word will show how far from God our nation has gone.
Josiah set about restoring everything according to the law of Moses, however in verse 3 of chapter 35 he tells the priests to ‘put the holy ark in the house that Solomon had built’. Now if they were to put it in there, it was obviously not in there at that time. So where was it?
There are various theories about what happened to the Ark of the Covenant, but by far and away the most plausible is that it was taken by the Levites during the reign of king Manasseh who was desecrating everything that was holy, in order to keep it safe. It is believed that it was taken to Ethiopia, and certainly there are many legends of the ark being in Ethiopia. Recent discoveries by Bob Cornuke (Base Institute) have brought to light some compelling evidence to support this belief. What makes all of this interesting is to realise that Pharaoh Necho was not himself Egyptian, but Ethiopian! Could this therefore be the reason that Josiah went out to fight with Necho? Even Necho himself was surprised by Josiah’s actions and told Josiah that he was following God’s instructions and claimed that ‘God is with me’ – a strange comment from a gentile, unless of course he actually had the Ark!
Anyway, Josiah died in the battle and Necho went on to defeat the Assyrians as has been mentioned (and was prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 10:5-11). With Josiah now dead, his son, Jehoahaz became king in Jerusalem, that is until Necho, on his way back from the battle, stopped off at Jerusalem, put Judah under tribute, carried Jehoahaz away to Egypt and made Jehoahaz’s brother, Jehoiakim, king instead.
With the Assyrians conquered there was now a ‘power vacuum’ that needed to be filled. Necho was powerful, but there was a ‘new kid on the block’; a young general called Nebuchadnezzar. The king of Babylon at that time was Nabopolassar, but it was his son Nebuchadnezzar who was destined to become one of the most powerful rulers the world has known. Three years after Necho had won at Charchemish he found himself going back again, but this time to fight against Nabopolassar’s Babylon under the command of Nebuchadnezzar. Necho lost the battle and so began the mighty Babylonian Empire.
Eager to make his mark, the young Nebuchadnezzar stopped off at Jerusalem on his way home for some trophies, and here begins the book of Daniel: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah…” (Dan 1:1) Jehoiakim was taken to Babylon but then allowed to return as a ‘vassal king’ and he reigned for another eight years. However the last five of these he rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar despite the warnings from Jeremiah who faithfully continued to prophesy in Jerusalem. When Jehoiakim died (at age 36) his son Jehoiachin (also called Jeconiah and sometimes simply Coniah) reigned, but only for three months and ten days (2 Chron 36:9). The Bible says he was evil in the sight of the Lord for which a blood curse was put upon him and his descendants (Jer 22:30). (NB: as he was of the royal line from king David this poses a real problem from the coming Messiah who is to be a descendant of David, of the royal line! Spot the difference between Matthew’s and Luke’s genealogies!). So eight years after his first visit, Nebuchadnezzar came again, laid siege to Jerusalem and took Jehoiachin back to Babylon along with more captives including a certain young priest called Ezekiel. Ezekiel started prophesying from Babylon in what would have been the 5th year of Jehoiachin; by this time Daniel would have been about 27 years old.
King Nebuchadnezzar then made Zedekiah (Jehoiachin’s uncle cf: 2 Kings 24:17) the final king over Judah. Zedekiah reigned for eleven years before he too was carried away to Babylon after once again ignoring the prophecies of Jeremiah. (see Jer 34:2-3, then Ezekiel 12:13 and finally Jer 52:8-11 for a dramatic fulfilment of prophecy – Zedekiah went to Babylon, but he never saw it!)
In Jeremiah we read: “Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzar-adan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem, And burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire: And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.” (Jer 52:12-14)
So Jerusalem was finally destroyed and the people of Judah were led away captive from the land to give the land the rest that it was owed. “…..To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” (2 Chron 36:21) (See also Lev 25:2-4 & Lev 26:32-35)
Judah had seen themselves as unconquerable, after all they were God’s chosen people, Jerusalem was the city of David. This complacency had led them into idolatry. Idols had been put on the hills and even on the temple mount; sexual immorality was everywhere. All that God had despised about the Canaanites whom God had removed from the land, Israel was now doing and worse. All that God had said would destroy a nation they had embraced – if you sow the wind you will reap the whirlwind. “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.” (Prov 14:34)
Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem three times in total; the final time in 587 B.C. he levelled the city and destroyed the temple. With the first siege began the ‘servitude of the nation’, which, as prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 29:10), lasted exactly seventy years (based on a 360 day year – we will cover this in ch 9). The final siege began a period of time known as the ‘desolations of Jerusalem’(Jer 25:11 / Daniel 9:2), also seventy years to the day. The first period of seventy years (servitude of the nation) was ended by the decree of Cyrus in 537 B.C. Legend has it that Cyrus was met at the gate of Babylon by an aged Daniel who presented Cyrus with a scroll of Isaiah in which there was a detailed prophecy from some 200 years earlier which not only mentioned Cyrus by name, but also recorded how he would take the city, and that he would set the captive Jews free and allow them to return home to Jerusalem (see Isaiah 44:24-45:6). The second seventy-year period (desolations of Jerusalem) was ended by the decree of Darius as recorded in Ezra 6:1.
So that is our historical background for this most incredible of books! Stay with us over the coming weeks as we study verse-by-verse, chapter by chapter through the book of the prophet Daniel.
May you be richly blessed and encouraged by this study.