God reveals through Daniel a panoramic view of Israel’s history while subjugated by the Gentile world powers until the time of Messiah’s coming and the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom.
Bible critics fiercely assail the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. Beginning with Porphyry in the 3rd century AD the Book of Daniel has been in the Critic’s Den! Porphyry claimed that instead of being written by Daniel in the 6th century BC, the book was a forgery written about 165 BC. The reason that Porphyry dated the book at 165 BC was because of the accurate prophecies it contains. He reasoned that it must have been written after these events took place, not before them, for how else could the author write with such accuracy? Several lines of evidence support the fact that the Book of Daniel was written in the 6th century BC.
- The Septuagint, the translation of the OT from Hebrew into Greek, took place in 285 BC. How could the Jews translate the book of Daniel in Greek 100 years before Porphyry said it was written?
- Josephus, the ancient Jewish historian who lived at the time of the Romans, wrote a history of the Jewish people from Abraham down to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. When he narrates the incidents of the Jews’ struggle with a ruler by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes, he says that these things came to pass according to the prophecy of Daniel, which was given 408 years before. Thus, according to Josephus, the book of Daniel was written about 533 BC.
- Josephus also tells that when Alexander the Great prepared to conquer Jerusalem in 332 BC, Jaddua the high priest showed him Daniel’s reference to him, which so pleased Alexander that he spared the city of Jerusalem. Thus, the Book of Daniel had to be written before 332 BC.
- The prophet Ezekiel was in exile in Babylon at the same time as Daniel. Daniel was taken in the first deportation by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC and Ezekiel in the second deportation in 597 BC. Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name three times in his book (14:14, 20, 28:3).
- The book has an internal chronology which correlates with the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus : 1:1 – 605 BC, 2:1 – 603-02 BC, 7:1 – 556-553 BC, 8:1 – 553-550 BC, 9:1 539 BC, 10:1 – 535-534 BC.
- But the highest authority for the authenticity of the Book of Daniel comes in Matthew 24:15 where Jesus says, “So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation, spoken of through the prophet Daniel…” Jesus says Daniel was a prophet and that should settle the matter.
Literary Structure and Content
The Book of Daniel has an interlocking structure that centers on chapter 7 with the vision of the human/divine Son of Man who receives an everlasting kingdom and who will rule over all peoples and nations (7:9-14). The stories of chapters 1 to 6 prepare for chapter 7 by showing how God is sovereign over the earthly kingdoms of Daniel’s day (5:21). The visions of chapters 8 to 12 give more details about coming earthly kingdoms and their involvement with the nation of Israel until the end times and the coming of Messiah. Chapter 7 interlocks with the two halves of the book. It is tied to the first half by the shared language of Aramaic (2—7) and by the corresponding elements of Daniel’s dream of the four beasts and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the four-part statue. It is tied to the second half by the content of the following visions which expand on Daniel’s dream of the successive Gentile powers, and the focus on the Messiah in 7:13-14 and 9:24-27. Thus chapter 7 acts as a conclusion to the first half of the book and an introduction to the second half of the book. The Son of Man (Messiah the Prince) occupies center stage.
Historical Introduction: Daniel and his three friends are faithful to God in exile and enter into the king’s service
(1) – Written in Hebrew in 3rd person.
Focus on the Nations of the World and the Most High God (2—7) – 2:4b—7 Written in Aramaic, lingua franca or common language of the Near East, in 3rd Person for 2—6 and 1st and 3rd Person for 7.
A Succession of World Powers: God reveals and Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the four-part
statue and stone representing the succession of four empires and the establishment of Messiah’s kingdom (2).
B Deliverance from Fiery Furnace: God delivers Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace after they refused
to bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold (3).
C Humbling of a King: Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a tree and the king is afflicted with
animal madness until he acknowledges God’s sovereignty (4).
C’ Judgment of a King: Daniel interprets the writing on the wall for Belshazzar predicting the fall of Babylon
to the Medes and Persians (5).
B’ Deliverance from Den of Lions: God delivers Daniel from the lions after he refuses to cease praying to God
contrary to the decree of Darius the Mede (6).
A’ Succession of World Powers and the End Times: Daniel dreams of the four beasts who represent four empires,
the Son of Man who receives dominion over all peoples and nations from the Ancient of Days, and the conflict of
the end times (7).
Focus on Israel in Relation to the Nations (8—12) – Written in Hebrew in 1st Person
- Vision of the Ram and Goat: Daniel dreams of the ram and goat representing Medo-Persia and Greece and the little horn which represents Antiochus Epiphanes (8).
- Prayer and Vision of the 70 “Sevens”: Daniel prays for his people and receives the revelation of the 70 “sevens” and Messiah’s coming (9).
- Vision of Israel’s Future: Daniel receives a final revelation brought by an angel concerning Israel’s near future from the period of the Persian kings to Antiochus Epiphanes and Israel’s distant future from the tribulation to the kingdom of Messiah at the end of the age (10—12).
Theological Reflection and Application
One of the themes of the Book of Daniel is “The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes” that is “Heaven rules” (4:17, 25, 26, 32, 34; 5:21). Let’s follow this theme through the book.
I. God rules over the circumstances of our lives (1).
What happened to Daniel and his friends? Nebuchadnezzar invaded their nation, took vessels of the house of God, and brought some of the sons of Israel to Babylon to serve as civil servants. In verse 2, Daniel tells us that God “delivered” the land of Israel to Nebuchadnezzar. It was God’s doing!
By God’s doing Daniel found himself in exile in Babylon. There God granted him favor and compassion in the sight of those who had authority over him (1:9). When we find ourselves in circumstances brought on by God, we can know that the opportunity to serve in a new and special way will come to us. God gives Daniel the opportunity to show His power and glory in the court of a heathen king. No matter our circumstances we can trust God and live faithfully in obedience to Him. Remember, God rules in the circumstances of our lives!
II. God rules over the course of nations (2—6).
A. God rules in the establishment of rulers (2—4).
God governs rulers. Nebuchadnezzar thinks that he is the supreme ruler on earth. He feels that he accomplished it all on his own. Through a dream, God warns him to repent (4:4-26). But Nebuchadnezzar will not repent of his sin of pride. So God allows this dream to come true, and the mighty king of Babylon becomes insane and acts like an animal. He eats grass in the fields for seven years until God restores him on his throne. Nebuchadnezzar praises the Most High God and acknowledges “His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation” (4:3b).
B. God rules in the establishment of the nations (5).
Why do nations rise and fall? Why has there been a succession of nations that have dominated on the earth? Why was there the Assyrian Empire which was conquered by the Babylonian Empire, which was conquered by the Medo-Persian Empire, which was conquered by the Greek Empire, which was conquered by the Roman Empire? Why do nations rise economically and militarily, and then fall (and sometimes rise again)?
When Belshazzar, Nebuchanezzar’s grandson, gives his feast in Chapter 5 he feels secure. He believed that the Medo-Persian armies could not breach his walls. They are enormous in height and width. He has a constant water supply and plenty of food to outlast any siege. His capital, Babylon, cannot fall. Yet in one night, God proves that He rules the nations of the earth – Belshazzar the Chaldean king is slain and Darius the Mede receives the kingdom (5:25-28, 30-31). God rules in the establishment of the nations.
C. God rules over the laws of the nations (6).
Governments pass laws for their people. Sometimes these laws are wrong. What is the believer to do? A believer obeys the laws that do not violate the commandments of God or contravene his responsibility to worship and serve God (see Acts, 4:19-20). Daniel violates a law that forbids him to pray to God. He obeys God and God delivers from the mouths of the lions.
But the deliverance does not always take place (see Heb. 11:32-40). Balthazar Hubmaier was burned at the stake in Vienna in 1528 for refusing to submit to a law outlawing baptism by immersion of believers and for believing in freedom of conscience. A few days later his wife was drowned in the Danube for the same reason. Daniel and the Hubmaiers were overcomers who received the approval of God for their faith and obedience. God rules over the laws of the nations.
III. God rules over the course of Israel and the nations to the end of age and the establishment of Messiah’s
The final chapters of the book of Daniel contain detailed prophecy from Daniel’s day to the end of the age. Daniel starts out as one type of book and then morphs into another. In the beginning we have the familiar stories about Daniel and the king’s food, the king’s dreams, Shack, Rack, and Bennie (I’m quoting the Veggie tales Version), the writing on the wall, and the lion’s den. But then we enter the Apocalyptic Zone. Fantastic images and heavenly messengers appear. They deal with the rise and fall of empires, 70 “sevens” and the coming of Messiah, Israel and the end time ruler.
What meaning does a collection of stories and visions set in a far away land over 2500 years ago have for us today? Daniel’s situation parallels our own. For most of his life, Daniel lives as part of a believing minority in a majority pagan culture. From the time he was a teenager until he died around the age of 90, he served under a series of pagan kings. From his story we can draw many useful principles as we attempt to live for Christ in a world filled with people who do not share our faith. Daniel’s God is our God and He is still in charge. He is in charge of nations, families, and individuals. He is in charge of the past, the present, and the future. He is in charge of good times and bad days. So: Relax! Since the circumstances of our lives are in God’s control, don’t worry; Reflect! Consider how you can serve God in your current circumstance; Remember! “The most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men!” God rules!
God controls the nations who subjugate Israel. Israel will one day be restored in Messiah’s kingdom after a period of tribulation. Daniel portrays the Messiah as a stone which will crush the kingdoms of this world (2:34, 45), as the Son of Man who receives everlasting dominion from the Ancient of Days (7:13-14, cf. Rev. 5:1-10), and as Messiah the Prince of the seventy “sevens” revelation who makes atonement for iniquity and brings in everlasting righteousness (9:24-27). Daniel’s vision of the man dressed in linen whose face had the appearance of lightning may be a pre-incarnate appearance of the Messiah (10:2-9) – note the similarity to Paul’s vision in Acts 9:1-9 and John’s vision in Rev. 1:12-16.