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23 December 2018

Introduction to Daniel

Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
The book of Daniel is a well-structured literary work, not a collection of folk stories and random visions. The first chapter presents key themes that are worked out in detail in subsequent chapters.
 The historically based stories in chapters 1-6 lay the foundation for the dream-visions of chapters 7-12. Even Nebuchadnezzar’s dream interpreted by Daniel in chapter 2 anticipates the detailed dream-vision of four beasts that ascend from the sea (Daniel 7:1-8).
Each of the visions from chapters 7-12 includes subjects common to the others; the dream-visions build on each other to provide a more complete picture.
For example, the cessation of the daily sacrifice in the Sanctuary is found in Daniel 8:10-139:26-2711:31 and 12:11. The “little horn” from the fourth beast occurs in the vision of the four beasts and the vision of the ram and he-goat (7:87:20-218:9).
The “abomination that desolates” is found in three of the four dream-visions, and in the book’s concluding section (8:139:2711:3112:11). The several visions are interrelated and interpret one another.
‘Daniel’ means “God is my judge” or “God is judge.” He first appears in Daniel 1:6 as a Jewish youth who just arrived in the courts of Babylon.  No information is provided on his family history, though he was from Jewish nobility (1:3 - “of the seed royal and the nobles”). Nothing is known about Daniel’s life prior to his arrival in Babylon. Virtually all that is known is derived from the book of Daniel, along with a few remarks from Ezekiel (14:1414:2028:3).
Daniel was young at the time of his deportation to Babylon, most likely a teenager. He received his final vision in the third year after the overthrow of Babylon by Persia around 536 B.C. (Daniel 10:1). This means his prophetic career in Babylon spanned a period of approximately seventy years. As far as is known, Daniel never returned to Judah after the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Great; presumably, he died in Mesopotamia at an advanced age.
Daniel was given the Babylonian name ‘Belteshazzar,’ which means “Bel protect [the king].” ‘Bel’ was the Akkadian form of ‘Baal’ (“lord, master”) and referred to the patron deity of Babylon, Marduk.
Daniel is classified as a prophet, though the book does not apply the label to him he is called a “seer” (chozeh) and a “wise man” (chakham). In Babylon’s royal courts, he was a noted interpreter of dreams (Daniel 1:17, 2:13, 5:11-12).
Daniel was a devout Jew living in a pagan culture occasionally hostile to the followers of Yahweh. Despite pressure and persecution, he remained loyal to the God of Israel. His ability to interpret dreams won him high praise, honor, and position in the Empire. He later served faithfully in the court of Darius the Mede after the downfall of Babylon (Daniel 5:31-6:1).
Daniel was a loyal Israelite concerned with the Jewish people, but the book is focused primarily on his role in the courts of Babylon and Persia (chapters 1-6), and his visions about Gentile kingdoms and their future significance for Israel (chapters 7-12).
Daniel epitomizes the faithful Jew who lives by God’s grace while resident in a pagan society. He perseveres despite the downfall of the Jewish nation and his vulnerability to powerful forces within the Empire. Yahweh provides him with wisdom to confound opponents and astound kings. Though powerless from a human perspective, God uses Daniel’s pronouncements before the king to change the course of history and empires (compare 1 Peter 1:1-2Hebrews 11:9-10).
Daniel served in important positions in the governments of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede. Nebuchadnezzar made him “chief of the wise men” and governor of the province of Babylon, Belshazzar appointed him third ruler in his kingdom, and Darius placed him over the provincial governors of his kingdom. Whether he served in the governments of the Babylonian kings who ruled between the death of Nebuchadnezzar and the elevation of Belshazzar is not addressed (Daniel 2:48, 5:29, 6:1-3).
The entire book of Daniel occurs during the time of Israel’s captivity in Babylon, the purpose of which was to punish Judah for their sins (2 Chronicles 36:15-17; Jeremiah 25:1-14).
The northern kingdom of Israel was destroyed by Assyria over a century before the rise of Babylon to prominence and Judah’s own captivity, around 721-720 B.C. The last remnant of the Assyrian empire was destroyed at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. by Babylonian forces under the command of the crown prince, Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 17:7-18, 2 Chronicles 35:20Jeremiah 46:2).
After Assyria’s defeat, Nebuchadnezzar subjugated the several kingdoms of northern Palestine including Judah. He imposed tribute on each new vassal, which in Judah’s case included the deportation of a select group of Jews to serve in the imperial civil service. Thus, in Daniel’s assessment, the captivity of Judah began around 605 B.C. with the subjugation of Jerusalem and his own deportation to Babylon (Daniel 1:1-2Jeremiah 25:1-12).
A new king came to power in Babylonia 626 B.C., Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. He formed an independent state in southern Mesopotamia where previously Babylon Assyria
Nabopolassar’s rise to the Babylonian throne marked the start of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, which endured until 539 B.C. when it was overthrown by the “kingdom of the Medes and the Persians”. Under Nabopolassar, the Babylonian kingdom rebelled against Assyria, a process that took several years to complete and culminated in the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C. (Daniel 6:28-31).
Daniel includes chronological references that coordinate key events with the reigns of kings of Judah, Babylon and Medo-Persia (e.g., 1:1-21:212:15:30-316:28).
The book applies a theological concept on the period it covers, the time of “the indignation” (za’am), a divinely ordained period of correction. When Daniel speaks of the “time of the end,” in view is not the end of History but the end of the “indignation” after it has run its full course. For example:
1.       (Daniel 8:17-19) – “So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was terrified and fell upon my face, but he said to me, ‘Understand, O son of man, that to the time of the end belongs the vision’…Then said he, ‘Behold me, causing you to know that which shall come to pass in the latter part of the indignation, for at an appointed time shall be an end.”
2.      (Daniel 11:36) – “And the king will do according to his own pleasure, and will exalt and magnify himself against every god, yea, against the God of Gods will he speak wonderful things and will succeed, until exhausted is the indignation, for what is decreed must be done.”
“Indignation” or za’am normally refers to the indignation of God with the resultant punishment of Israel for national sins (Isaiah 10:5, 10:25, Jeremiah 10:10, Lamentations 2:6). In the book of Daniel, the “indignation” began with the overthrow and captivity of Judah (Daniel 1:1-2, 9:4-19).
Based on the internal evidence, the book of Daniel was composed after the start of the Babylonian Captivity and completed by the early years of the Persian Empire (Daniel 1:1-2, 1:21, 5:31-6:1, 10:1). The range provided for Daniel’s career is from the “third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim,” when Nebuchadnezzar first besieged Jerusalem (606 B.C., to the “third year of Cyrus king of Persia” or 536 B.C. (Daniel 10:1).
The Babylonian Captivity developed over several stages, beginning in 605 B.C. with the subjugation of Jerusalem, and culminating in its destruction in 587-586 B.C. There were at least three deportations of Jews to Babylon (606, 598, and 587 B.C.).
The first half of the book is comprised of historical narratives that document Daniel’s activities in Babylon (chapters 1-6); the second half is a series of dream-visions (7-12).
The historical sections describe events in the lives of Daniel and three of his Jewish companions during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius the Mede. The dream-visions were received between the first year of Belshazzar’s reign and the third of Cyrus the Great (Daniel 1:1–4:375:1-316:1-28, 7:110:1).
The dream-visions are built on a framework of four successive kingdoms that precede God’s everlasting kingdom. This fourfold structure connects the historical and visionary sections. Three of the four kingdoms are explicitly identified:  Babylon, the “Medes and Persians”, and Greece. Though not named, the fourth kingdom is one of the four divisions of the Greek empire that resulted from the death of its first king (Daniel 2:24-45, 8:20-2511:1-4).
The theological theme of the book is that God rules over the kingdoms of this world and gives rulership to whomever He pleases, “even to the lowest of men.” Despite appearances, human resistance and machinations, God’s purposes are not thwarted. Daniel is the perfect example of how God directs the course of history through the lowly voice of a man without the military, economic or political power.
The first chapter of Daniel and chapters 8-12 were composed in Hebrew. The section from chapter 2 through chapter 7 was written in an Aramaic dialect closely related to the imperial Aramaic of the Persian Empire. The switch to Aramaic occurs at Daniel 2:4 when the “Chaldeans spoke to the king in the Syrian language.” The change back to Hebrew occurs in Daniel 8:1. This change is too specific to be accidental or the product of later copyists.
The Hebrew and Aramaic sections point to a date of the composition during the Babylonian Captivity; the man who wrote Daniel was familiar with both and uses grammatical and idiomatic features specific to the Mesopotamian area. The change in languages marks off major literary sections and serves ideological purposes.
There are verbal and literary links between the first and last literary units of the Aramaic section. For example, Nebuchadnezzar had a “dream and visions of his head upon his bed”, just as Daniel had “a dream and visions of his head upon his bed.”  Nebuchadnezzar’s dream left him “troubled,” just as Daniel was “troubled” by his dream-vision. Both dreams featured a fourfold division of kingdoms beginning with Babylon, to be followed by the establishment of God’s everlasting kingdom (Daniel 2:1-4, 2:28, 7:1-1528).
The narratives of the Aramaic section confirm the book’s claim that God gave Daniel “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams…in all matters of wisdom and understanding the king found Daniel and his companions ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers in his realm” (Daniel 1:17-20).
The accounts in chapters 2-7 validate these claims.  God enabled Daniel to use the language and learning of the Chaldeans to demonstrate that He rules over the kingdoms of the world, and to confound the supposed “wisdom,” ideology and religious beliefs of Babylon.
The use of Aramaic fits the historical setting; by the time of Nebuchadnezzar, it was the language of diplomacy and commerce among the nations of the Near East. Aramaic became the common tongue of many Jews by the end of the Babylonian Captivity (2 Kings 18:17-37, Ezra 4:11-22, 5:7-17, 6:6-12, 7:11-26, Nehemiah 8:8).
The contents of the Aramaic section concern events that occurred during Daniel’s career in the Babylonian Empire and the first few years after its conquest by Persia. In contrast, the visions of the Hebrew section concern events subsequent to Daniel’s life and the fall of the Babylonian Empire.
In the Book of Revelation
Verbal allusions from Daniel are used extensively in the book of Revelation and several repeatedly so. Source material from Daniel often sheds light on Revelation’s symbolism. For example, the phrase “what things must come to pass” from Daniel 2:28 is used in Revelation 1:14:1-2, and 22:6.
The little horn that “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” in Daniel 7:21 is echoed in Revelation 11:712:1713:7 and 17:14. The single great “beast seen ascending from the sea” is built on Daniel’s vision of four beasts from the sea (Daniel 7:1-8Revelation 11:713:1-2).
Revelation does not simply quote Daniel but interprets it in the context of Christ’s death and resurrection. For example, events once predicted to occur in “latter days” become the “things that much come to pass soon” (Daniel 2:27, Revelation 1:1).
Christ’s death and resurrection signified that the time of fulfillment is at hand (“the season is at hand” [1:1-3, 22:10]). Daniel was told to “seal” the book “until the time of the end,” whereas John is commanded NOT “to seal the book, for the season is at hand” (Daniel 12:4, Revelation 22:10).
Prophecies from Daniel occur in other New Testament books. The “abomination that desolates” is used by Jesus as part of his prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Daniel 8:13, 9:26-27, 11:31, 12:11, Matthew 23:36-38, 24:15, Mark 13:14, Luke 21:20-24).
The Apostle Paul’s “man of lawlessness” that takes his seat in the “sanctuary of God” is based on Daniel 11:36 (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
Most significant is Christ’s self-identification as the “Son of Man” from the vision of “one like a Son of Man” who approached the “ancient of days” to receive the kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).

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