As a book it is one of the most difficult to understand and yet one of the most relevant at the end of the age. The past determines the present and the present determines the future. The events relating to the Jewish people and Jerusalem foreshadow the events relating to the Christian Church and the end of the World. Who was Daniel? Why was he so special? What can be learned from Daniel’s experience? There is so much to be learned from his personal experience. What impact did Daniel have on the pagan World?
The book is not a chronology of events but a series of canvasses or pictures. The style of writing is like that in Revelation. The Hebrew writers followed a thought to the end and then went back and filled in the details. The central theme of the book is that God is in control of the events of the World and of mankind and that He judges all mankind. There are several parts.
The historical background.
The theme of the book.
Daniel the man and lessons from his life.
Contrast between Nebuchadnezzar – the man of the World and Daniel – the man of faith.
Interpretation. There are several canvasses.
1. The Babylonian Empire.
2. The Empire of the Medes and the Persians.
3. The Greek Empire.
4. The Roman Empire.
5. The Kingdom of God.
6. The Anti-Christ.
7. The Jewish people.
8. The end of the World.
10. Daniel the man.
The Bible is principally a book about salvation. The Bible is rooted in fact and is set in history – His story – and geography – His World. In order to have a better understanding of the message, it is necessary to know something of the history and geography concerning the four empires. God hammers out His message on the anvil of history. Daniel’s life spanned the 70 years of captivity in Babylon. It was not like enslavement or like the existence in the German concentration camps. The people led ordinary lives, rather like foreign workers in European lands today. Certain jobs were not open to foreign nationals. Much of their work would have been in the service industries and building work. The Jewish people had their own communities and retained their form of worship. The book, which is rich in symbolism and imagery, is self-contained, with a central theme and other minor themes. The central theme is found stated in Ch 2 v 20-22. God is universally sovereign over the events of the World and in His dealings with nations and in the lives of individuals. He is sovereign over the rise and fall of kings and nations. The powerful leaders were given the opportunity to revere God. This message is so relevant for the present century as one nation after another is experiencing turmoil and is threatened by terrorism and internal disintegration. The book holds out the prospect that the saints of the Most High will one day receive their inheritance – to rule with Jesus the kingdoms of the World. There are several lesser themes:
1. The Lord’s servants are often blessed with success.
2. The Lord’s servants are trusted with His secrets.
3. In times of suffering and trial, they have the comfort of His presence – as in the fiery furnace.
4. God is against the pride of man.
5. God is angry when His honour and glory is given to another.
6. God is full of compassion and mercy. He withholds His just judgement, if men repent.
As a believer in God, Daniel has to serve in a secular state, walking a careful path between loyalty to the king of the country and his loyalty to God. There are lessons for all believers from Daniel’s experience. It is like a tutorial class. The book, which spans the life of Daniel, contains prophecies to the Gentile nations throughout World history. Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Ezra and Nehemiah.
Daniel was taken captive in the first wave of exiles from Judah. There was no point in wishing his life away. He got on with living and serving God in his situation. He lived in the centre of the most powerful empire the World had yet seen. Daniel lived through the last days of the Assyrian Empire, the whole period of the Babylonian Empire and into the early days of the Empire of the Medes and the Persians. Through it all his loyalty to God did not waiver. He is one of the greatest prophets of God. The first 6 chapters relate to events in the Babylonian Empire over a period of 70 years. The remaining chapters relate to a series of visions of future events. God had placed His man at the centre of the political life of the Empire to influence events. Thereafter Daniel lived in the days of Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian. The story of Esther is about the time of the end of Daniel’s life. It takes place in the Persian Empire and tells how Haman sought to kill all Jewish people.
Prophecy. When mankind loses sight of the Second Coming of Jesus, it plunges downhill morally – losing sight of the purpose of God in Christ and it loses touch with reality and the urgency of the situation. A prophet should have a newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other. A vision in the Bible is an unveiling of what is happening spiritually. Hallucinations are the ideas of man. The test of the true prophet of God is that what he says comes to pass. There were always plenty false prophets – as there are today. Jeremiah had a real battle with the false prophets, who told people what they wanted to hear. Jer ch 5 v 31. False prophets fill the Church. The people love it. They like straw and not grain. In the New Testament there is twice as much exhortation to sound doctrine as to sound behaviour or conduct. What made Daniel a true prophet? Daniel got into the Word of God. He studied it diligently. He understood the present and the sin in the World on the part of his people and took the matter to God. Only those who understand what is in the Bible will be given prophecy for the future. There is no new doctrine to come or new prophecies to come. But those who have a hunger for the Word of God will be given a clearer understanding of what has already been revealed. Daniel was told to seal up the prophecy until the end of the age. Ch 12 v 9. There is both a partial fulfilment of prophecy, which is now history and one, which is yet to come.
The prophets must use the vocabulary of their day to express thoughts, which had never entered the mind of man. Thus they find means of calling by name peoples and countries, which would not come into being for centuries: e.g. John in Revelation referred to bombs as hailstones mixed with blood. Isaiah describes planes as horses flying with wheels like a whirlwind and roaring like lions and doves returning to their cots. Isaiah first foretold the captivity in Babylon.
A type is usually some person or thing, which actually lived or existed and which had a single counterpart or anti-type in the future. It is only like the anti-type in some respects. A symbol is the arbitrary use of one object to indicate another. Nations have always used symbols to depict themselves e.g. the British lion. It is possible for the same thing to be both a type and a symbol e.g. a lamb is symbolic and yet has certain qualities, which are like those of Christ. Heavenly things are not symbolised. As soon as the action leaves the Earth and passes into Heaven, the language becomes literal. The “Day of the Lord” denotes the end of the age.
“That day” indicates a change of subject to a new phase of the subject. Prophecies go back over the same ground to fill in detail. So Daniel’s various prophecies are the same but with additional detail. Where there is a story telling of a number of things happening at the same time, the events have to be told one at a time. This may make it seem as if one is following another in point of time. When prophets deal with a series of events, which overlap as to time, they indicate that fact by starting each separate subject with an expression like “in that day.” God told Abraham about the bondage in Egypt, the return and exactly how long it would be. Gen ch 15 v 12-16. Jeremiah predicted that the time in Babylon would be 70 years. Jer ch 29 v 10. Those prophecies, which reveal times, have the greatest impact on the minds of the hearers. Daniel had been a student of Jeremiah and was interested to know that the period of captivity was to end after 70 years. Even so, he still had to pray it through. The return from Babylon was only a partial return. Many Jews remained in Babylon. Judea – later named Palestine by the Romans – was never independent and the Jews did not have a reigning king. Not until 1948 was there an independent state of Israel. In the Scriptures one line followed those who returned and another followed those still in exile. Ezekiel was told about those who did not return. In the New Testament when there is mention of the last days, the writer takes the themes of the Old Testament and re-styles them for the Church – e.g. abortion is sacrificing babies to the false god Molech.
In its day Babylon was the greatest empire the World had known. Succeeding empires moved westward by degrees. Judea was always situated within one of the empires and lies at the centre of the Earth. For all that he was a great king, Nebuchadnezzar was foolish to expect people to interpret a dream, which he could not even remember.
Daniel used the occasion to tell the king about the real God. At the time the Babylonians worshipped images. So it is not surprising that the king saw an image in his dream. Daniel explained that there would be a succession of empires throughout history, weakening as time goes by and ending up with clay and iron toes. During the reign of the kings, God would set up an eternal kingdom – the Kingdom of God and Christ, which would last forever. The feet are the vulnerable part of the statue. The statue would crumble, if struck by the stone. Human government cannot stand up to God, if He decides to act. Daniel told the king that an empire inferior to his would conquer it. At that time Babylon was considered impregnable. It was walled, with a river running through it. It was not like Jerusalem, which had an unreliable water supply. Babylon was self-supporting and could not be starved to death. The whole idea of great Babylon being overthrown was ridiculous to Nebuchadnezzar. Some terrible things happened in the Babylonian Empire. People were fed to lions and thrown into fiery furnaces. In the twentieth century man has witnessed six million Jews shot or gassed to death and millions of unborn babies thrown into hospital incinerators.
For Daniel the situation was not a happy one. He had been a prince in Judah and would have had expectations of being King one day, with a family. He was living in exile as a eunuch and his people had failed God and been banished from their land. Perhaps he felt that God had called them to an impossible task and now the bondage of Egypt had been replaced by the bondage in Babylon. Was there any future for Israel? How was Daniel to cope with life in such difficult circumstances? He could only cope by faith in God and trusting Him whatever the circumstances. The vision from God must have been a great encouragement for him, even though as God revealed His secrets to Daniel it caused Daniel to faint. ch 10 v 9. There is a strong desire to know what the future holds. God has told man all he needs to know and he is to trust Him for the rest. 5% of horoscopes come true.
Daniel lived at a time when the World was at a crossroads. There was a crisis. Which way would it go? How should Daniel respond? How should man respond to a World, which is seeking a new way forward out of one crisis after another? Daniel by his prayers, more or less alone, changed the history of the World. The angel came in response to his words. Dan ch 10 v 12. Daniel understood the times he was in, and something of the purposes of God, whilst most others were in ignorance or darkness. He spoke out. He interpreted the words of God. Ch 5 v 25 and v 30. “Mene, mene, tekel, parsin” brought an empire to an end immediately.
The series of visions are basically the same thing, with different aspects of the vision added from time to time in later chapters. This is a style of Hebrew writing. They tell of four Empires succeeding one another. The Babylonians. The Medes and Persians. The Greeks. The Romans. A beast is a strong powerful thing. It was not surprising that the king should dream of an image, since the Babylonians worshipped images. The image is of 4 metals decreasing in value, while increasing in strength. As the pictures build up they progress from the general to the particular.
Four is the number for the World. In the end times the whole World will again revolve round these prophetic lands. There is nothing new under Heaven. Prophecy in the Bible tends to repeat the same story or events and then adds a new dimension to it. It is like an artist working on a number of canvasses at the same time touching up first one and then another.
Daniel lived through a period of intense political and military activity. In his early years the Assyrian Empire ruled in the Middle East. They had captured the Northern Kingdom of Israel. In 612 B. C. the Assyrian Empire came to an end. Nahum the prophet had prophesied the downfall of Assyria. The forces of the Medes and the Persians and the Babylonians combined to defeat the Assyrians. The capital was captured in 612 B. C. A third power – Egypt – tried to win some of the spoils but in 605 B. C. Nebuchadnezzar, the leader of the Babylonian army, defeated the Egyptian army at the battle of Carchemish. The influence of Egypt went into decline and the Babylonians rose as a military and political power in the region. Nebuchadnezzar became king in 605 B. C. and ruled for 43 years until 562 B. C. Daniel lived through the last days of the Assyrian Empire, through the life of the Babylonian Empire and into the early days of the Persian Empire.
Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judah, sacked Jerusalem and carried off a number of leading Jewish people into exile in Babylon. Amongst these were Daniel and Ezekiel. Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem. Ezekiel prophesied to those taken captive in Babylon. During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Daniel rose to be a senior administrator in the Babylonian Empire. Daniel received a vision for the end times.
Lessons from the life of Daniel.
1. He did not fall apart when life became difficult. He got on and made the best of the circumstances. A bible, which is falling apart, usually belongs to someone who is not falling apart.
2. He was basically alone in all his decisions but he did have fellowship with a few others.
3. He knew his Scriptures.
4. He was available to God in his situation.
The first beast was Babylon. Winged lions were a symbol of Babylon. The sea was not a friendly matter for the Jewish people. Horn is a symbol for a king or ruler. The eagle’s wings speak of the speed with which Nebuchadnezzar acquired his kingdom. The wings also speak of the greatness of Nebuchadnezzar, who ruled as an autocratic despot. He had power of life and death over his subjects and captives. The wings were plucked when God stripped Nebuchadnezzar of his power. Later when restored after acknowledging God, he was set on his feet again. Behind the rise of Babylon was the spirit of Babylon – one of pride and strength, still evident in Iraq today. Nebuchadnezzar had his name inscribed on the bricks of the pavements in ancient Babylon. Saddam Hussein, who rebuilt the ancient city of Babylon, had his name imprinted on the bricks of the new city. The spirit of Babylon is very much present in the World and is in marked contrast to the God of Israel, who taught His people to be humble and to find their strength in Him.
Babylon was considered impregnable, and it was self-supporting, so that it could not be starved out under a siege. It was walled with a river running through it. It was not like Jerusalem, which had an uncertain water supply. The idea of Babylon being overthrown was ridiculous to the Emperors of Babylon. The head of the image was of fine gold. Gold is the chief of the metals and the lion is the greatest of the beasts. Babylon was principally a military power, known for naked aggression. Habakkuk speaks of the Chaldeans or Babylonians and their fierce atrocities. Saddam Hussein was revered as a strong man, because he stood against the “Christian” Western powers and survived the first Gulf War, never mind that he brought misery to the people.
THE MEDES AND THE PERSIANS.
After Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach. He was followed by his son Neglissar and then by his son Labosordacus. Then came King Nabonidus, who reigned from 555 B. C. to 539 B. C. He abdicated and appointed his son Belshazzar to be on the throne as a viceroy. It was on the night of the Feast in Babylon in 539 B. C. that Bablyon fell to the combined forces of the Medes and Persians. This empire arose at the time when Belshazzar was the king. The writing on the wall told Belshazzar that his time was up. The Persian ruler was Cyrus II and the Median ruler was Darius I. Cyrus changed the policies of the Babylonians towards the Jewish people and other captured peoples and allowed them to return to their homeland, if they wanted to. Most of the Jewish people remained where they were in Babylon. The first wave of Jews returned under the leadership of Zerrubbabel. Later waves returned under the leadership of Ezra and then Nehemiah. The seat of power moved east at that time to Susa in Persia. It was there that Xerxes or Ahazuerus ruled when Queen Esther and Mordecai appeared on the scene in the book of Esther.
The 70 years spoken of by Jeremiah was at an end and the numbering was complete. It was time for Judah to return to the land. Babylon had been numbered. The Babylonians had forgotten to close the gate of the city during a feast and the Medes and Persians entered and overran the city. The new empire was a divided empire – hence the two arms of the image. Nebachadnezzar’s empire was divided between them. Although inferior to Babylon, the Persians captured it. (Iran – Iraq war. The same principalities?) In chapter 8 the ram represents the Medes and Persians as they overran Babylon. In chapter 7 it is described as a bear. In the image of the man it is represented as a breast and arms of silver. It was a divided Empire, depicted by the two arms of the image.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Empire was divided between two peoples. It was inferior to the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus the Persian had formed an alliance with the Medes. There never was a dominant Median Empire as such. The Medes had collaborated with the Babylonians to get rid of the Assyrians and then with the Persians to get rid of the Babylonians. Then the Persians dominated the new united Empire as its seat of power moved to the West. The ram in chapter 8 and the two horns of the goat represent the Medes and the Persians as they overran the Babylonians. It has great power. The three ribs suggest three extra areas of domination – Egypt, Lydia and Babylon. This Empire arose 70 years after Daniel predicted in the dream and it lasted about 200 years. The Kurds today may be the successors of the Medes, which might explain the hatred of them by the former Babylonian leader Saddam Hussein.
The belly and thighs were of bronze. Greece is the third beast and it features in chapter 7 as a leopard. The empire made of brass. In Chapter 8 the he-goat represents Greece. It came on the scene and destroyed the Medes and Persians. The one horn – Alexander the Great – was a conspicuous leader. He overran the Medes and Persians as he moved swiftly eastwards, his feet hardly touching the ground. The four wings represent the four generals who followed Alexander. After he died four generals took his place, as the Empire was divided into four parts – Macedonia – Asia Minor – Syria – Cyrene (North Africa). Each part of the Empire was ruled by a general. One of the generals attacked Israel at the time of the Maccabean revolt. In verse 11 of chapter 12 there is mention of Antioch Epiphanes who defiled the Temple in Jerusalem. Although Greece was replaced as a military power by Rome, Greek thought was not replaced by the Roman Empire but featured in the Roman Empire. The Romans were a military and economic power but Hellenism (humanism) dominated the culture as it does in Western civilisation today.
In the days of the Roman Empire God would carve out a new everlasting empire for Himself. The stone struck the iron and clay. Isaiah ch 28 v 16. The period covers from Daniel’s day to the end of Gentile dominion of the World. Jesus must have known this book well. He spoke of the Kingdom of God being near. It was what Daniel spoke about. Peter’s faith is the rock on which the kingdom would be built. Paul speaks about believers reigning with Christ. 1 Cor ch 15 v 24-28. All kingdoms will be subject to Christ. There was a response from Nebuchadnezzar. He fell down and worshipped Daniel. He should not have done this. Rev ch 19 v 10. Daniel was made Prime Minister.
Rome was the last Empire with the greatest emphasis on it. It lasted from 60 B. C. to 476 A. D. It was divided into East and West – the two legs of the image. The toes were of iron mixed with clay. It was exceedingly strong and ruled with an iron hand. It stamped on the residue when it scattered the Jews in A. D. 70. Iron shatters and crushes all things. Clay weakened the statue and caused the Roman Empire to break up. Rome has never fallen and been taken over by another empire, but it broke into many nations. The toes represent the different kingdoms and countries. Ten is a number, which indicates completeness and is not to be taken literally. There are many countries in the Roman Empire. Some will be strong and others weak or brittle. The Kingdom will mix with one another in alliances, but they will not hold together. Clay weakens the whole structure and causes the Empire to break up and prevents it coming back together again. Clay is the reason that every attempt at a United Nations of Europe has failed. The countries of Europe have been divided for 1,500 years. For the sake of political alliances rulers have intermarried but this has not brought peace among the countries. Ch 2 v 43. For 1,500 years the ten toes could not be wiped out nor united again into one Empire. The Roman Empire was different in that it was a republic. It has had no successor, but has been a collection of individual kingdoms and not a dictatorship. Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria were the only three nations of the old Empire to come under Russian domination. Now they are free. God has broken Russia to fulfil Daniel’s prophecy. Germany was partly in the original Roman Empire and partly out-with it. Southern Germany was within the Empire. Northern Germany juts out and comes up between the other nations. Germany still has a will to conquer. Today it is through the Euro.
The history of Germany is one of aggression, going back to the days of rivalry amongst individual states. Nazism is strong again in Germany and other European countries in the 21st century and there is a strong hatred of the Jewish people. Germany will dominate within the unified Europe, eclipsing Japan and U.S.A. The E. U. will be the biggest single economic unit in World trade. Germany will control that economic group. Therefore the man at the helm of Germany will in effect have a position of great power in the World. The Chancellor of Germany will wield the power in the material prosperity of the World. If there is a one World government then one man will be in that position of power at the head of the Government.
It is now conceivable that one man could in effect control the World. The World will wonder after the one World leader. Who is like the beast? If he could solve the mounting problems facing the World – like wars and food shortages and lack of water – like air and sea pollution – like deforestation – like economic problems – who would be like him? Many will see that it is preferable to have central control to ensure continuity of work. No longer can one country live independently of others around it. No one country is immune from the crisis in another country far away. The Pax Romana brought to the Roman Empire peace and stability at the expense of morality. Ch 8. The small horn is another nation coming out of the original nations of the Roman Empire and it pushes three others out of the way. That nation will have real power.
Rome was different from the other three empires in that, firstly, it was not succeeded and secondly, whereas the first three were ruled by dictators, Rome was ruled individually in the different nations within the Empire. There is always an inclination to break up, because of the clay. The King of the Roman Empire has made war on true believers in the past and will again during the last three and a half years of World history. By ch 12 only the Roman Empire is featured. The Anti-Christ comes onto centre stage.
God is in overall control, allowing what He will. Jesus is given authority by God over all the nations. The angel explains that the little horn warred against the saints and God’s people – the Jews. If Germany is the Little Horn, then Hitler was leader of the Little Horn and he waged war against the Jews in the Holocaust, even though they were not even in the war. The final leader of the Little Horn will persecute the saints. He will try to make right what is wrong, and wrong what is right. He will set up his own standards of right and wrong. It will be right to kill believers. They will be a troublesome people, spoiling the idea that the people are all gods.
When the Holy Spirit is pushed out of the Church, the Antichrist will have freedom to do as he chooses and there will be no one to stop him. Who speaks out today about moral matters affecting the nation? Where is the evidence of the Holy Spirit in the Church today? The Little Horn represents a man who will rule the new Kingdom and that man or his successor will be possessed by Satan himself. In a dictatorship the man stands for the nation. Eventually the man will become more important than the nation. Satan will use the leader of a nation in order to gain power and control for himself.
If there is a one-man government, then one man will dominate the World. Since the World is moving towards central control, it is conceivable that one man could dominate the World. There is the One Church movement and the One World movement – a New World Order. The World will wonder after the one World leader. At the beginning of the twenty first century there is a distinct lack of strong leaders in the nations of the World. The nations cry out for statesmen but only get politicians. The nations cry out for a strong leader who can deliver prosperity and stability. Who is like the Beast? If he could solve the problems of the World, who would be like him? The 3 other empires are still in existence. v 12. The eyes indicate intelligence – Satanic intelligence? A lot can be learned from the eyes of a person. Antichrist will have supernatural intelligence. The eyes reflect the inner man. He will brag and claim to save the World from disaster as an alternative Christ. He will be a master of intrigue, shrewd, deceitful and proud. The picture fits Antiochus Epiphanes who did the same things to the Jews in his days. The people were morally rotten. He will defy God and take Him on in battle. Zech ch 14 v 3. Jesus fights against him. The 2,300 days are literal and equal 61/2 years.
The prophecies lead to the point of the arrival of a man, who is the most sensational figure in prophecy. The whole World will wonder at him. He will continue to grow in power and arrogance until Christ comes. An arrogant people will admire his arrogance. In a dictatorship it is not necessary to distinguish between the dictator and the nation. The man soon becomes more important than the nation or all the nations. He becomes the empire. Eventually he becomes the embodiment of Satan himself. He has the will to conquer. The little horn is an absolute dictator. The little horn had eyes of a man and a mouth speaking great things – a bragging mouth. He will have Satanic intelligence. Ch 8 v 23. He will talk his way into power by flatteries, promises of peace and prosperity.
This king will make war on the saints and will prevail. He will speak against God. 2 Thes ch 2 v 4. He will not serve the gods of his father but will serve the god of fortresses – Zeus. A New Age god. This is the god of the Babylonian Mystery religion. There will be confrontation with the King of the South – is this Islam? Jer chs 50-52. The armies of the East and North could be China and Russia as they make a bid for World domination. The New Age Movement will come against any who will not be tolerant of others. Those who claim to have exclusive truth will be a source of trouble. They will seek to destroy the power of true religion. Germany has long wanted a return to paganism without the Hebrew God and to show that man is his own god. This accommodates the teaching of New Age very well. Satan will actually take over a man’s body, so that the little horn will become Satan incarnate – Anti-Christ. In times of difficulty a promise of peace and prosperity will be welcomed universally. Satan entered Judas for the big confrontation with Jesus. He will take over the person of the World leader in order to fulfil this task.
If at the same time Israel returns to her God and accepts Jesus as her Messiah, the battle lines will be drawn. They will be the leaders in moral and spiritual matters, opposing the materialistic solution offered by the Anti-Christ to the problems confronting the World. Satan has used Islam to try to wipe Israel off the face of the maps of the World. Anti-Christ will use the United Nations of the World to finish the task. There is a specific countdown. 31/2 years (42 months – 42 is the number in Scripture for the Devil) after the Jews have been crushed, the abomination will be set up. There are three references to it. First in 168 B. C. Antiochus Epiphanes. Second in 70 A. D. Titus. Third in the last days Anti-Christ. New Age may forbid the worship of Jesus. The body of a believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. There may be a United Nations resolution or law passed. Then the countdown will begin.
Satan can be in only one place at a time. He can send his demons to do his work but he cannot possess more than one person at a time. He entered into Judas and attempted to triumph over Jesus. He failed, of course, in that Jesus rose from the dead. Satan will come again to possess the Anti-Christ. He will take over the person of the World ruler – the most powerful man in the World – in order to fulfil his task. The New Age Movement features in destroying the power of true religion. The willingness of Israel to exchange hundreds of prisoners for one hostage shows a commitment and concern for the life of one individual. What will Israel be like when the nation is converted? Ezekiel chapters 38 and 39 mention Gog and Magog. The battle of Armageddon has still to take place.
THE KINGDOM OF GOD.
During the days of the Roman Empire there would arise God’s Kingdom, created supernaturally by the birth of the child born not of man but of the Holy Spirit. King Jesus is the Son of Man. The Kingdom of God is the rule of God in the hearts of men. This Kingdom, which is in the midst of the others Empires, would last forever and would shatter the kingdoms of this World. As man chooses for his symbols things of value, like gold and silver, so God chooses a valueless rock or stone, which is despised by those who like precious metal. The stone represented Him, who was despised and rejected. Psalm 118 v 22. Similarly when man wants an emblem for his empire he chooses a strong animal like a lion or a bear. God chose as a symbol a lamb – weak and helpless, able to survive only by God’s grace. There is another contrast. In God’s Kingdom, the saints worship the King instead of cowering in fear of the emperor. When the books are opened there will be a day of reckoning when every action will be exposed and dealt with by the judge of mankind.
THE JEWISH PEOPLE.
Like a thread running through tapestry, the history of the Jewish people runs through the history of the several empires. The people start off in captivity in Babylon. At the beginning of the Empire of the Medes and Persians some Jews return to the land of Judah. The vast majority stay outside of the land. During the days of the Greek and Roman Empires there is a deepening longing on the part of the Jews to be free of occupying forces and to run their own affairs.
When Jesus arrived on the scene during the days of the Roman Empire, born the King of the Jews, there was an expectation that He will be a leader of a revolution against the Romans. It is the one charge laid at the door of Jesus, which concerned the Romans – that is – treason. When Pilate had Jesus killed he directed that above the cross should be placed the words – “King of the Jews.” So Jesus died King of the Jews. He rose as King of the Jews and is still King of the Jews. In Acts ch 1 v 6 the Disciples asked Jesus if He would at that time restore the Kingdom to the Jews. Jesus replied that the matter was in the timing of His Father. It was Ezekiel who prophesied that the Jews would be a nation again like other nations after 2,520 years. This came to pass on 10th May 1948. In the final phase of World history the Jewish people are back on centre stage of World politics. Jesus prophesied that Jerusalem would be downtrodden until the days of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Jerusalem came under Jewish rule in June 1967 A. D for the first time since 586 B. C.
THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS.
The Lord Jesus will manifest Himself in a manner, which will be utterly climactic for the existence of the World. It will obviously transcend all events in time and space hitherto experienced. It will be the final act of the divine presence, the culminating revelation of the majesty and transcendent glory of the triune God. Revelation gives a peep behind the scenes of what is happening in the unseen World. There is a spiritual battle going on between the forces of good and the forces of evil. The Devil is very active. The battle will have physical manifestations n Earth as there will be a time of tribulation such as the World has never known. Jesus said this. The occult is simply the name for the hidden things. God forbids man to enter the hidden World, except for specific moments. Faith is the only safe door by which a man may enter. Satan gladly encourages man to see what he should never see or hear – as he did with Eve, when he told her that she should be like God, knowing good and evil. That happens every time a man does something, which he should not do e.g. stealing or lying. A man loses his innocence in that area and gives Satan a foothold.
At the final stage of World history all the four Empires are still in existence. Yet God is in overall control of the affairs of the World from the beginning of time until the very end. The central message is that fallen man needs a saviour to restore his relationship with God. Astrology, E.S.P and others are Satanic counterfeits of spiritual gifts. The counterfeits even get into the Church. Ch 12 v 4. Daniel and revelation are sealed. Only the Holy Spirit can decipher for man. Only those who diligently seek after God will find out the meaning. Ch 12 v 10. A man needs to be refined and purged before God will allow him to understand the meaning. If a man does not understand the basic truths, how will he ever understand the hidden truths in Daniel? Neh ch 1 v 4. Revival follows on weeping for the sins of the people – not laughter. No revival ever began with other than weeping for sins.
Daniel was taken into captivity. Hab ch 1 v 6-11. The year of his arrival was 605 B. C. Joseph was taken into captivity in Egypt but God used the situation to His advantage. He raised up Daniel to be His instrument of grace in the Empire – to remind the World of His presence. Daniel did not bemoan his lot but got on with the task of living and serving God where he was.
A man need never feel that when he is in difficulties that God cannot use those difficulties to His advantage and for His purpose. Believers become caught up in the problems of others, within a family, Church or even a nation. No man is an island. Yet they can learn more about God through their suffering than they might otherwise do when they are perfectly healthy.
Shinar is the cradle of civilisation. Babylon. Gen ch 10 v 10. Babel was the first city. The culture was noted for astral studies. The wise men, who saw the star in the east and went to Bethlehem, were from this culture. The Jewish names linked them to God. They ended in “el” or “iah”. The Babylonian names linked them to the Babylonian gods – Bel and Marduk. “Daniel” means God is my judge.
God uses all kinds of people. Daniel was one of the more intelligent ones. He will use anyone who is willing. Daniel was regarded highly by God. Ezekiel ch 14 v 14. Daniel was in the same category as Noah and Job. Praise indeed. The chief of the eunuchs was used as an instrument of blessing to God’s children. God still uses non-believers to further His purposes and to bless His people. Cyrus and Gorbachev have both been used to let the people of Israel go. There was no one of God’s people involved. Over the question of the food, the chief of the eunuchs put his job on the line. He bent the rules out of mercy. Perhaps a boss, a teacher, a policeman or a judge will bend the rules to help a believer along life’s road. Believers should make sure that they recognise God behind the move and give Him thanks.
Daniel applied common sense and asked for time to see if the change of food made any difference. He did not overstate his claim. The food involved was probably food, which was specifically forbidden in Leviticus. They did not drain away the blood when they killed animals. A good diet is vital for spiritual health. They proved that they were fitter than the others. Obedience over the issue of food led to wisdom. It need not be a huge issue but one, which matters and calls for obedience. It is the little foxes in the vineyard, which spoil the vines. It is not a bargain with God, but blessings do follow on obedience. Daniel received a special gift from God to interpret dreams. It was a supernatural gift. The demonically inspired magicians and astrologers received a certain supernatural power from Satan but even their power was limited. God’s powers were greater. Daniel went along with the studies unless they contradicted the word of God. At the same time as Nebuchadnezzar gave orders to kill all the wise men who had failed him, he was sending out his troops to sack Jerusalem. Jer ch 52 v 12-14. Satan was using him to destroy life both in Babylon and elsewhere.
Dreams. Job ch 33 v 15. Dreams are usually used by God to warn people. Mat ch 2 v 12-13. The wise men and Joseph were warned by God. He takes advantage of the subconscious to speak to man. v 20-22 states the key theme of the book. World events are under His control. The pagan philosophers failed to tell the dream. Gen ch 41 v 8. There are a number of instances in Scripture where people make ridiculous demands or statements. This is one. In human terms what he was asking was impossible. It was also unjust to kill them for failing to deal with the dream. Satan gives his demons certain supernatural powers but these powers are limited by God. Astrology, sorcery and divination were common in Babylon. Saddam Hussein called on such people to help him in the first Gulf War. President Reagan of the United States consulted astrologers. God’s servants should have greater powers, if they come from God and if they are used for the glory of God. Gen ch 40 v 8. Interpretations belong to God.
v 13. Daniel was caught up in the problem. Believers are often caught up in the problems of others. The business may close. A class may be kept late. A road accident, e.g. a pile up, may involve others. Disease may be passed on to innocent people. Daniel was due to be killed. Daniel made enquiries to get to the root of the problem. It is important to find out what is the bottom line, causing the problem. Sin is at the root of all problems and all problems are basically spiritual in their nature. Then Daniel acted. He consulted the others in the group. It is wise not to deal with difficult matters alone. There is a danger of pride creeping in. There is greater credibility in a number acting. It avoids error. God knows everything. Why not ask Him? God told Daniel. It is not known quite how it happened, but obviously it did. Daniel praised God for His grace. It is all grace. There are mysteries beyond man’s understanding. God knows all the hidden things. The word “occult” means the hidden things. Daniel gives the glory to God and explains that the secret revealed is for the king’s benefit. Daniel did not just seek his own life or the lives of his companions but saved all the wise men, who were, after all, and especially later, his enemies. Truly Daniel did good to his enemies.
Time elapsed and Nebuchadnezzar forgot about the presence of God. The erection of the great image was an attempt by Nebuchadnezzar to unify the religions of his empire by self-deification. Isaiah ch 46 v 6. This attempt will be repeated in the last days. Rev ch 13 v 11-15 and ch 19 v 20. Leaders of men have been doing the same ever since. Lenin, Stalin etc. Power goes to their head. It is a comfortable feeling when everybody does the same thing and no one challenges the ruler. The enemies of the Jews made sure that their refusal was noted. When believers stand out there is always someone ready to point it out, in an effort to make the believers feel uncomfortable. Doeg the Edomite is always ready to take advantage. Again Nebuchadnezzar had made a ridiculous decision, without thinking it through and found himself in a mess.
He knew how valuable these men were to him and what service they had rendered to him. Darius did the same thing with Daniel and the lions’ den. There were spiritual forces behind the scenes orchestrating the attack on the Jews. Babylon was a place of demons. Rev ch 18 v 2. Darkness came over the face of Nebuchadnezzar. It was an evil spirit, which drove him to kill the Jews. Their reply was polite but definite. What would a man say today? It was the lesser three men who were picked out. Where was Daniel? Obviously not worshipping the image. Did the accusers leave him out because they were afraid of him or thought that the king would not kill Daniel? Innocent people were killed as a result – the soldiers. There was no guarantee that the three would survive. Some believers die and others are saved. God works out His own purpose. Who was the fourth man? Jesus. Was it a theophany – an appearance of Christ in the Old Testament? Did the three hear the word of God in Psalm 27 v 1-2 and Isaiah ch 43 v 2. “You will walk through the fire and not be burned and the flame shall not consume you.” Heb ch 11 v 33 suggests that it was by faith that they were saved from the fire. Nebuchadnezzar relented again. Even then the king made another rash and foolish statement. There was no understanding on the part of Nebuchadnezzar about grace. He may have recognised the power of God but presumably he thought of this as only a local god of the Jews. Some believers see Jesus as superior to other gods but behind all other gods are demons. Obedience by the three men brought forth blessing in the form of promotion. A great deal of trouble is caused by religious disagreement. It would save a lot of trouble if all the religions could be unified. Daniel and his companions would not compromise. They reached their sticking point. After the fiery furnace Nebuchadnezzar was forced to recognise God a second time. The furnace was probably used for baking bricks. There are always signs and wonders when God is at work. What effect did the miracle have on the officials present when the three came out unharmed? When the three men came out of the fiery furnace there was not even a smell of burning on their clothes but something had been burned off in their crisis in the fire – the ropes, which bound them. Many believers still have things, which cling to them and from which they need to be set free – rejection, shame, inferiority, jealousy, anger and others.
The English says that the statue was 60 cubits high and 6 wide. In Aramaic there is a play on words. It is all the sixes – 666 – the symbol for fallen man. All the images in Daniel point to the Anti-Christ figure at the end of time. Certain Jews would not bow the knee. Many did bow the knee but those who are concerned for the ways of God will not bow the knee to Satan. How quickly man forgets the blessings of God. The thoughts and imaginations are only evil continuously. In other words they have no worthwhile thoughts. The Jews are always in trouble and blamed for everything they do. Satan will point a believer out whenever he stands apart. The soldiers suffered in the fire. Others are sometimes hurt. If a person takes a stand for evil and becomes involved in evil activities, he may be destroyed as part of the enemy’s plan. Watch your company. Proverbs ch 13 v 20. How quickly Nebuchadnezzar forgot about God.
Nebuchadnezzar had a problem with his image. It was related to pride. Pride wants others to come and admire. In the World image is so important. Sound bites give out an image. Politicians and businessmen are very conscious of presenting an image to the World around them. What others think is important as it results in votes and profits. A slave is not too concerned about image. Religious people are also concerned about image. Mat ch 6 v 5. Clothes matter to religious people and to young people. They are more concerned what others think about them rather than what God thinks about them. People need to feel a sense of worth and achievement. Anyone who rejects the standards of the World is not welcome. Refusal to conform brings criticism and Nebuchadnezzar could not handle criticism.
This story fits the theme of the book – God is in total control of the affairs of the World. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was in control, but he could not destroy these men, if God chose to save them. So God demonstrated His power and control over the affairs of men and rulers and did so publicly before the most important men in the Empire.
It is clear that Nebuchadnezzar knew about God, yet he still tried his astrologers first. Ex ch 7 v 11. Believers today will try everything before turning to God in their situation. Pain is a warning from God that something is wrong. Today there are people called futurologists. The prophecy of Isaiah ch 47 v 12-13 had come true. Nebuchadnezzar had only head knowledge about God. His life style had not changed.
v 27 is a warning to all. It is all too easy to talk about and not do the words of God. The Bible is like a mirror. Man sees himself reacting as Nebuchadnezzar did.
v 19. Daniel had to speak out the truth and he knew that it would hurt. There are all sorts of reasons for not speaking in a given situation. Reading Daniel is like a tutorial situation. Who would have done what Daniel did? v 34. God can clearly work in a disturbed mind. Nebuchadnezzar was restored. Hostages were kept in their right mind by the grace of God. Is anything impossible for God? An insane person should never be written off. Nothing is impossible for God. Jesus cast out demons. The most effective witnesses are those, whose lives are patently bad in the eyes of the World, provided there is an effective and apparent change in life style. v 30. The good he does he puts down to himself. The bad, he blames on others. The World is sustained by grace. Heb ch 1 v 3. In His judgement of Nebuchadnezzar God shows mercy. The same pattern is seen in Adam and Eve, Cain, and Jonah. There is always a word of judgement and a word of mercy. Blessings and curses go hand in hand. God humbles the proud. A mighty king was reduced to wandering about like an animal. This need not have happened, if Nebuchadnezzar had responded to the earlier encounter with God. How many disappointments would have been avoided, if people had only dealt with sin at an earlier stage in life. Man brings so much distress on himself through disobedience.
An extraordinary testimony from Nebuchadnezzar. It refers to one of the central themes. God judges the proud man. Daniel had been named after one of the gods of Babylon – Bel. Jer ch 50 v 2. Daniel was referred to as chief of the magicians and not as uniquely in touch with God. v 18. Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist and believed in many gods, of whom God was but one. Daniel was His man. Daniel seems to have been the last choice. Perhaps the king was deluding himself and was trying to find a more favourable answer than he knew Daniel would give him. So often man turns to God after all else has failed him. Again the dream is used as a warning.
God used the same vision or dream to tell Ezekiel that the pride of Egypt would be brought low. Ez ch 31 v 3-6. Jesus used the opposite idea to convey what God would do. A mustard seed would grow to be a tall tree. Mat ch 13 v 32. Archaeology confirms that there was much to be proud of in the days of Babylon. The sin was in attributing the success to self and not to God. Other cases have been known when a person in a disturbed state of mind believed that he was an animal. The period of punishment was a definite limited time, fixed by God. The king was to get his kingdom back when he acknowledged God. Daniel gave him some advice in v 27. This is a dangerous thing to do. The same advice is given by most of the prophets. Ez ch 18 v 21.
Daniel was alarmed. v 19. Some of the things, which happen to believers, alarm them when they realise the seriousness of the situation and the fact that God’s wrath still rests on mankind. Immorality will have its consequences. Aids is one of them. In v 30 pride just burst out of the king. He was consumed with it.
“Look what I have done.” God through Jeremiah confirms that He was the one who enabled Nebuchadnezzar. Jer ch 27 v 6-8. Judgement fell upon him. God had been gracious and allowed him a full year to reflect on what Daniel had said to him in the interpretation of the dream. Pride came before a fall. Like the prodigal son, he came to his senses and returned to God. God graciously restored him. He had learned the lesson – God brings low the proud man. Let those boast that they know God. Jer ch 9 v 23-24. It is doubtful if Nebuchadnezzar exercised faith in God. Probably he acknowledged Him as one of many gods. Habakkuk ch 1 shows the nature of the Chaldeans.
In the year 539 B. C. Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, a usurper. Nabonidus was the last true king of Babylon. He retired to Arabia early in his reign, leaving Belshazzar acting king. Therefore Daniel was 3rd in line after Nabonidus and Belshazzar. (556-539 B. C.) Nebuchadnezzar was probably Belshazzar’s grandfather on his mother’s side. The word “son” does not mean exactly that in Hebrew. Jesus was termed the “son of David”, although many generations intervened. It means that He was the heir of David.
Recent archaeological finds have confirmed that Belshazzar was a real person. He does not appear to know about Daniel. The Queen-mother reminds him that Daniel has great powers but again speaks about him as a man with the spirit of the gods. He was linked with the religious people. The banquet. Women ate separately – as in Esther, where Queen Vashti was banished to a separate room. Esther ch 1 v 9. Daniel resisted the trappings of reward for what God would do through him. Man likes to pour rewards on those who achieve in the Worldly sense. The honours list. Daniel knew that it was due to grace and refused to take any credit. Healing is due to God. Man is not entitled to receive the credit. God did it – not Daniel.
Intelligent people cannot always read the signs of the times. Sin darkens their understanding. They often delude themselves, coming to believe what they want so badly to happen. Those who are in touch with God see things in the spiritual realm, which others do not see (realise). Daniel demonstrated the grace and power of God by reference to the life of Nebuchadnezzar. God is in control of the World and the lives of everyone in the World. v 22. Belshazzar knew this, yet did not honour God. Pride would not let him admit it. He defied God, despite all the evidence facing him. Real prophets are not out for personal gain. They love the truth.
The bringing in of the Jerusalem cups was symbolic of defiance of God in the same way as Nebuchadnezzar’s outburst of pride in ch 4 v 30. Psalm 115 v 5- 6. Idol worship is sheer foolishness. What is worse, Belshazzar made the others to sin. The leaders of a nation are responsible for the people – as when Parliament passes a law against God’s declared order, it makes the people to sin.
Headmasters, directors, governors, ministers and parents all may lead the people for whom they are responsible to do what they would not otherwise do. Leaders who make the people to sin have a greater responsibility. The sins of the father are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who do not love and honour God. Good people cannot escape the wrath of God, whom they do not acknowledge. There is a day of judgement for all men – kings and murderers. Despite Daniel’s protestation the king drapes him in a purple robe. He was obviously not listening to Daniel or prepared to accept what he said. Even as the feast took place the enemy armies were taking the city. Satan is at work while the Church sleeps. The attackers diverted the river, which flowed through Babylon and entered along the bed of the dry river. Isaiah ch 13 v 22. The total destruction of Babylon took place. Rev ch 9 v 20. The division is between those who repent and those who do not.
Daniel had lived a godly life and risen to the top of his career. Jealousy is never far from the surface of life. Others wanted the success of Daniel without the godly life he had striven for. Psalm 59 v 3. Daniel was without fault. Politicians plot and scheme for power. Leaders are ousted by men in grey suits. Alliances are made in secret. v 12. Those who do not conform to the majority are regarded as a nuisance. They upset others. Not buying raffle tickets can upset others. There is a certain pointing of the finger involved. Esther ch 3 v 8. They went for the jugular. Daniel’s loyalty to God. The empire was ruled by the law. The rule of law was sacred and for the Medes and Persians it was their god. v 8. Esther ch 8 v 8. There also the rule of law could not be broken, even though lives were at stake. It is hard for people to admit that they are wrong. Daniel had a duty to God, which clashed with the law of the land. “Render unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar and render unto God that which belongs to Him.” Did Jesus have this situation in mind when the trick question was presented to him? There is always a degree of vulnerability in that God cannot be proved to those who deny His existence. Again it was foolish for the king to sign such a decree. What was he thinking about? Did pride get in again? King Xerxes did the same thing in Esther. Mordecai made Haman jealous. Esther ch 3 v 11.
“Do what you like with them.” Jer ch 38 v 5. King Darius realised what a fool he had been. Daniel could have prayed in secret. Even so Daniel knew that the time of the end of the captivity was near. However, he did not organise a praise meeting. He prayed earnestly. Without prayer there would be no return, despite what God had said. Daniel grasped that fact. It is a mystery. Daniel was caught up in the goings of God. He set things in motion in the unseen World. Solomon had prophesied that if God’s people humbled themselves and prayed, then He would bring them back.
Daniel opened the shutters on the west side of his house facing Jerusalem. Psalm 37 v 39. Prayer on knees is symbolic of a humble attitude. Hell was disturbed by Daniel’s prayers. He was 80/85 years old at the time. The plot trapped Daniel but he knew that the lions were not the worst thing, which could happen to him. Stopping the prayer ministry was worse. Daniel knew how much God wanted it done. He put God’s interests first and left the supernatural actions to God, instead of trying to act like a superman and claim what God would do. As a result God was glorified. It was not a question of fate or chance but of exercising his will and being prepared for whatever came. How often does man take time to ask a question of God: “What do you want me to do in this situation?”
Daniel and his companions each faced a different type of persecution. It is unthinkable today that people should have been fed to lions or burned to death. But babies are put in hospital incinerators. Dog fighting is allowed. Children are being mauled by dangerous dogs and little is done to tackle the problem. The stone over the den is reflected in Mat ch 27 v 66. A stone was placed over Jesus’ grave. Faith stopped the mouths of the lions. Heb ch 11 v 33. Did Daniel hear Psalm 37 v 39.
v 16. “May God help” as he threw Daniel in. “God bless.” Do people really mean it? It may be a casual remark. The king seems to have been split down the middle with compromise. Herod did the same thing in Mark ch 6 v 26. He fell out with both sides also and John lost his head. Herod lost respect. In contrast Daniel did not compromise. As a result he could face both God and the king. He finished the whole sorry mess by throwing the others in, thereby compounding the problem. It could all have been resolved if he had said: “no” in the first place. Man often creates a mess by indecision and compromise. If he says one thing to one and another to a second person, he finds himself unable to look either in the face. Man reaps what he sows. Psalm 54 v 5. Like Haman, who was hanged on his own gallows, the others were thrown to the lions. The message of Obadiah is: “As you do to others, so it will be done to you.” There was a certain measure of justice. They showed no mercy to Daniel, even when the king clearly wanted to be free. They in turn received no mercy. In Persia the relatives of a guilty man were punished with him. Daniel gave God the glory. By crying “cheat” the satraps were denying the miracle. They looked for another explanation. They claimed that the lions had been fed before Daniel went into the den. Many deny the miracles of Jesus and say “No” to Jesus. Daniel owed a duty to God, which clashed with his duty to the law of the land. The Persians worshipped the law, which was more important to them than the truth itself. It was not enough to have Daniel removed from office; they wanted rid of him altogether. He reminded them of God. Behind it all was Satan at work. The people of the World want rid of the Jewish people today. The Jewish people remind the people of the World of the God from whom they are running and hiding.
Daniel saw the people back in Judea but he did not go with them. The Angel came to minister to him. It had been heavy going, because the angel had been delayed. Spiritual forces were out to destroy the purposes of God. Believers have to be involved. Daniel knew that the battle was against principalities and powers and not flesh and blood. The intercessory prayer is conceived by the Spirit of God in the believer.