Old Testament Survey
Daniel was probably born between 625 B.C. and 620 B.C. during the reign of Josiah, the last good king of Judah. He was of the tribe of Judah and may have been a member of the royal family (Daniel 1:3-6). Daniel was among those who were taken to Babylon in 606 B.C. He would have been a very young man at this time, possibly a teenager. Daniels name means God is my judge. The Babylonians changed it to Belteshazzar which means Bel (Babylonian god) is my protector.
Daniel was faithful to God all his life. He lived before, during, and beyond the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity. He must have been about one hundred years old when he died. During his long life, Daniel served as an advisor to the kings of Babylon and Medo-Persia. While Jeremiah prophesied to the Jews in Judah, and Ezekiel was Gods spokesman to the Jewish captives in Babylon, Daniel prophesied in the courts of the pagan kings who ruled the world.
Very few faithful children of God have ever had as much influence on world history as Daniel did. In this respect, he is similar to Joseph who served as prime minister of Egypt when that nation was at the height of its power and glory. The lives of these two men show us that children of God can serve in the government and remain faithful to God. Daniel was a great man because he was a good man. God was able to use him because he was good.
In Daniel, chapter one, we learn of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah being taken to Babylon. They were chosen to be trained for the kings service. Their names were changed to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. They were fed from the kings table. This would include fermented wine, unclean meats, and food not properly prepared according to the law of the Jews (Leviticus 10:8-11; 11:1-47; 17:10-16; Proverbs 20:1; 23:29-35). They could not eat this food without violating Gods laws. Therefore, they requested they be fed vegetables to eat and water to drink. They soon excelled the other youths in health and appearance.
Daniel, chapter two, contains a prophecy of the coming of Gods kingdom. One night, King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. When he awoke, he was troubled by the dream, but could not remember what it was. He called his wise men, but they could not tell him the dream. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar ordered they all be killed. When Daniel learned of this, he sent word to the king that he would interpret his dream. He asked his friends to pray that God would reveal the dream to him.
Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he saw a great image. Its head was of fine gold. Its breast and arms were of silver. Its thighs were of bronze. Its legs and feet were of iron and clay. A stone struck the image and broke it to pieces. The stone then became a mountain and filled the whole earth.
God, through Daniel, revealed the meaning of the kings dream. The four parts of the image represented four powerful kingdoms. The head of gold represented Babylon. Babylon lasted from 612 B.C. to 538 B.C. The breast and arms of silver represented Medo-Persia, which ruled from 538 B.C. to 331 B.C. The belly and thighs of bronze represented the Greek Empire which was established by Alexander the Great. It lasted from 331 B.C. to 30 B.C. The fourth kingdom was Rome. Rome ruled much of the world from 30 B.C. to 476 A.D.
Daniel said, In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed... (Daniel 2:44). Gods kingdom is the church of Christ (Matthew 16:16-19). It was established in Jerusalem during the days of the Roman rulers. Like the stone which became a mountain, the church has grown and spread to the whole earth (Matthew 28:19, 20; Colossians 1:23).
In chapter three, we read of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego being cast into a fiery furnace. The king had made a great image (idol). He required all his people to bow down before it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego refused to bow down for that would be idolatry (Exodus 20:1-6). The king had them thrown into the furnace which had been heated seven times hotter than usual. A fourth man appeared in the furnace with them. They were not harmed in any way. The smell of fire or smoke was not even on them.
In chapter four, we read how Nebuchadnezzar learned that God actually rules in the kingdoms of men. He had a dream one night. He saw a huge tree. Birds nested in its branches. Animals took shelter under it. But it was cut down and only a stump remained. When the wise men could not tell the meaning, Daniel was called. Daniel told the king his throne would be taken from him until he learned that God rules in the kingdom of men (Daniel 4:17). A year later, the king was driven from his throne. He was forced to live like a beast in the wilderness. When he learned his lesson, he was restored to his throne.
Chapter five tells how Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall during the rule of King Belshazzar. The handwriting warned that Babylon was weighed in the balances and found lacking. That very night, Babylon was conquered by the Medes and Persians.
Chapter six contains the famous story of Daniel being cast into the lions den. The Medes and Persians made Daniel one of the three governors who were over the whole kingdom. Because the king liked Daniel so well, the others were jealous. They could find no wrong in Daniel so they persuaded the king to pass a law. The law forbade anyone praying to any god except the king for thirty days. They knew Daniel would remain loyal to God. When Daniel continued praying to God three times a day as was his custom, he was arrested. The king did not want to punish him, but the laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed. Therefore, Daniel was cast into the lions den. God sent his angel to close the lions mouths. Daniel was brought out unharmed the next day. The men who made this law were then thrown to the lions.
The last six chapters of the book of Daniel deal with the future history of Gods people. In chapter seven, we read of Daniels dream of four beasts. These four beasts represent four kingdoms. They are the same as the kingdoms represented by the four parts of Nebuchadnezzars image in chapter two.
In chapter eight, Daniel dreamed of a ram with two horns. This represented the Medo-Persian Empire. The two horns represented the two kings who ruled jointly. A male goat from the West attacked the ram and broke his horns. This represented the Greek army under Alexander. They defeated the Medo-Persian Empire in 331 B.C.
In chapter nine, Daniels vision of seventy weeks is recorded. The angel Gabriel told Daniel, seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city... (Daniel 9:24). Christ would come at the latter end of this period to make an end of sins...
Chapter ten tells of Daniels vision of a man. An angel came to Daniel to tell him what would happen to the Jews in the later days. He told of the coming of the prince of Greece. This was Alexander the Great.
Chapter eleven tells of conflicts in the nations. These would take place before Christ was born. Four kings would rule in Persia. Alexander would conquer Persia. His kingdom would be divided into four parts at his death. The kingdom of the North (Syria) would fight against the kingdom of the South (Egypt). Antiochus Epiphanes IV, an evil king of Syria is prophesied in verses 21-45.
Chapter twelve deals with the deliverance of the Jews from Antiochus Epiphanes IV. It also tells of the righteous and the wicked being raised at the same time. This refutes pre-millennialism which teaches the righteous are raised first and the wicked 1,000 years later. the future history of Gods people. In chapter seven, we read of Daniels dream of four beasts. These four beasts represent four kingdoms. They are the same as the kingdoms represented by the four parts of Nebuchadnezzars image in chapter two.
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