The Book of Daniel

I am scheduled to teach two sessions on the Book of Daniel on June 2 and 9, 2019, at The Sanctuary UPC in Hazelwood, Missouri, where Mitchell Bland is pastor. This is in conjunction with Jeffrey Brickle, who will teach additional lessons on Daniel on June 16, 23, and 30.

The following is the content of the handout to be distributed for my sessions. I plan also to post the videos from the two sessions I teach.

“Written during the Jews’ exile in a foreign land, the Book of Daniel tells the story of how Daniel and his companions resisted ungodliness, thrived in the court of Gentile monarchs, and ultimately glorified the God of Israel. Please join us as we explore this strange and intriguing world of kings, sages, angels, and dreamers.”                                                                                                                                                                       —Jeffrey E. Brickle

[1] This book contains an unusual internal indication of its proper outline. The section from 1:1 through 2:3 is written in the Hebrew language; the section from 2:4 through 7:28 is written in the Aramaic language; the section from 8:1 through 12:13 reverts to Hebrew. Thus, the Hebrew language is used in the portions of the book dealing specifically with the nation of Israel. The Aramaic language is used in the portion dealing specifically with the Gentile nations of the world and their dominance over Israel.

[2] The significance of this structure is even more pronounced in view of the chiastic form of the Aramaic division. This is noted in the following outline:

A. Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (2)

B. Fiery Furnace (3)

C. Nebuchadnezzar Eats Grass (4)

C.’ Divine Graffiti (5)

B.’ Lions’ Den (6)

A.’ Daniel’s Vision of the Four Beasts and the Ancient of Days (7)

[3] The “A” chapters (2, 7), or the outer chapters, define the eschatological framework for this section. During the time described by these chapters, a series of four successive Gentile kingdoms will rise and fall, ruling temporarily over Israel, but they will be pulverized and replaced by the Kingdom of God. The “B” chapters (3, 6) explain that in the meantime—prior to the eschaton—Gentile nations will persecute the people of God for their faith, but that even in the midst of persecution God is in control. The “C” chapters (4, 5) reveal that Gentile sovereigns must submit to God or be crushed.

[4] Chapters 8 through 12 build on 2 through 7, assuming the reader already knows the content of the Aramaic section. Chapter 1 finds Daniel and his three Hebrew friends in Babylon in training for service to the king of Babylon.

[5] The essential purpose of Daniel is to chronicle the “times of the Gentiles.” This has to do primarily with the order of the Gentile nations destined to rule over Israel. The prophecies of the book include the course of the Gentile kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome (2, 7), more specific details concerning Media-Persia and Greece (8), even more details about Greece (11), the seventy weeks of years (9:24-27), and the activities of the antichrist (11:36-45).

[6] The story opens with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah in captivity in Babylon (1:1-7). This in itself, an unthinkable development to many Jews who believed Jerusalem was invincible because of the presence of the temple and the ark of the covenant, is a harbinger. The book will reveal extended periods of time when Israel will be “trodden down” of Gentiles. Though the forced name change (1:7) was designed to make the Jews more Babylonian, and their new names each contained a reference to a Babylonian god as opposed to their Hebrew names and their references to the God of Israel, the pagan names were insufficient to cancel the faith these young men had in God. There was a message here for the Jews of all time: required changes in identity to accommodate Gentile oppression need not rob the Jews of God’s protection and promotion. The ability of Jews to survive in captivity is seen in Daniel’s successful refusal to accept the diet designed by the Babylonians (1:8-16). Indeed, the Jews need not settle for mere survival; they can expect to prosper through faithfulness to God (1:17-21), even when under Gentile domination. These opening episodes from Daniel’s life seem designed to offer hope to the Jewish people in view of the more extended captivities yet to come.

[7] The dream of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was no ordinary dream (2:1-3). As the story progresses, we will learn that the dream was from the God of the Jews. Thus, even the Gentile political rulers who dominate Israel are seen to be subject to Israel’s God. The supremacy of the God of Israel is further seen in that the Babylonian advisors to the king are unable to divine the dream or its interpretation (2:4-12). It remained for a Jewish advisor, Daniel, to recover the dream which had escaped the king’s memory and to interpret it (2:13-45). In one way, it almost seems it is the Babylonians in captivity to the Jews; Israel’s God is able to promote them even under Gentile rulers (2:46-49). Those Jewish people who read the account would no doubt anticipate that their God could replicate their protection and exaltation regardless of the coming circumstances.

[8] To what degree must God’s people submit to their Gentile captors? The necessary submission does not require giving any homage to heathen gods. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah) refused to bow before the golden image (3:1-18), their God came to their rescue (3:19-27). The superiority of the Jewish faith is seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s declaration of the supremacy of Israel’s God (3:28-30).

[9] Nebuchadnezzar’s confession that the God of Israel was the “most high God” (4:1-3) prefaced his account of a dream which presaged his own demotion from Babylon’s throne to an animalistic existence (4:4-18). Daniel was again called into service for the interpretation of the dream, and the Jewish prophet was so bold as to call on the king, his captor, to repent of his sins (4:19-27). Nebuchadnezzar testified that the dream was fulfilled precisely as predicted (4:28-33), and he concluded by exalting the “most High” and confessing the supremacy and permanence of the kingdom ruled by Israel’s God (4:34-37). It is apparent, then, that the dominion of God depends not on the political survival of Israel. He is not merely the God of Israel; He is the God of the whole world and of human history, including that of the Gentiles.

[10] Even if a Gentile king refuses to acknowledge the supremacy of Israel’s God, as did Nebuchadnezzar, he is still subject to God. This was discovered by a blasphemous and rebellious Belshazzar. As he presided over a drunken orgy which featured the sacrilegious use of the sacred vessels from the temple of the true God in Jerusalem (5:1-4), the finger of the offended God wrote Belshazzar’s doom on the wall (5:5-6). Again, as we would expect by now, the only wise man who could interpret the dream was the one whose God had been mocked: Daniel (5:7-24). The message was that Belshazzar had been judged by the God he ridiculed; his doom was sealed (5:25-28). But before Belshazzar’s demise, Daniel was promoted to third ruler in the kingdom (5:29).

[11] The message to Israel to this point is this: If their Gentile captor recognizes the God of Israel, he will be blessed; if he does not, he will be destroyed. Either way, the true God is glorified even in Israel’s captivity.

[12] When Belshazzar was slain, he was succeeded by Darius of Media (5:30-31). When Darius appointed his administration, he chose Daniel as the first of three presidents who would oversee 120 princes (6:1-3). Daniel was thus the closest to the king in authority. So, the people of the true God survive even the destruction of their oppressors.

[13] The story of the plot against Daniel by his jealous peers and subordinates (6:4-11) reveals the inability of the most highly placed Gentile authorities to thwart God’s purposes in the lives of His people (6:12-28).

[14] Israel’s captors are not the only ones to whom the true God speaks; He also reveals to his people the fate of the nations of the world (7:1-28). Daniel’s vision corroborates Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, providing even more detailed information about the fourth beast and its little horn. This concludes the Aramaic portion of the book which revealed the authority given to Gentile nations to dominate Israel for a time. This domination is conducted, however, strictly under the permission and control of Israel’s God.

[15] The book moves back into the Hebrew language with chapters 8 through 12. The more immediate future of Israel is in view by means of a vision given to Daniel (8). Even here, however, in a description of the Media-Persia and Grecian empires (8:20-21), it seems that the goat’s new little horn describes not only the soon coming Antiochus IV Epiphanes but more specifically the ultimate antichrist (8:17, 19, 23, 26).

[16] Daniel’s interest in Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years of captivity leads to a revelation of events both near and far pertaining to Israel (9). A total of 70 weeks of 7 years is determined upon Israel, beginning with the anticipated command to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem (9:25). These 70 weeks are broken, however, by a gap of an undetermined period of time between the sixty-ninth and seventieth (9:26-27). It seems apparent that the promised Messiah would come in conjunction with the sixty-ninth week, but he would be “cut off.” His ultimate and final coming would await the completion of the total 70 weeks.

[17] Daniel’s final vision (10:1-12:3) reveals details of the coming four centuries (11:2-35). If the Israelites recognized the accuracy of these prophecies, they would surely be prepared to accept the legitimacy of the rest of the prophetic elements of the book.

[18] The final enemy of the Messiah, the antichrist, passes in view (11:36-45). But Michael arises to declare the termination of Gentile dominion (12:1-3) with a final, unprecedented persecution which results in ultimate deliverance for God’s people. The prophecies of the book are sealed in anticipation of the final eschatological events (12:4-13). So, Daniel’s message, while predicting future trouble for Israel, assures the nation of God’s care during that time and of their glorious restoration in the end.[archive]