The importance of Daniel
The importance of the Book of Daniel cannot be overemphasized, it reveals God’s sovereignty over history, and the “kings” of the earth. Daniel makes it clear that God has authority over the plans of man; an in-depth study of the book is exceedingly rewarding and revealing. Also, Daniel is an extremely important Book of Prophecy, giving a large amount of important information. For those students of Scripture wanting to study the book of Revelation, an understanding of the book of Daniel is essential, as the prophecies and symbols given in Daniel, are important foundational information for interpreting the book of Revelation.
The man Daniel is held in great esteem in Scripture, as a humble servant of God he has few equals:
- Daniel is called “servant of the Living God (Dan. 6:20),” by Darius.
- In Daniel 9:23, Gabriel calls Daniel “highly esteemed.”
- Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel: Daniel was taken captive first by the Babylonians in 605 BC, while Ezekiel was taken captive in 597 BC. Ezekiel refers to Daniel three times, firstly in Ezekiel 28:3 where Daniel’s wisdom is underlined, then twice in chapter 14. (Vs. 14, 20) Ezekiel emphasizes that things were so bad in Jerusalem, even if Noah, Daniel, and Job were living in the city, the city would still be destroyed. This is a great compliment bearing in mind that Daniel was still alive, aged only 30 years old. Remember, this is not Ezekiel speaking, he is quoting God.
Date and Author
Since ancient times, Daniel has been accepted as an authentic part of the Jewish canon of Scripture. He is also called a “prophet” by Jesus (Matthew 24:15). Many modern scholars see Daniel’s visions as being “pseudo‐prophecies” – circulated in Daniel’s name around 168 to 165 BC to encourage the Jews who were suffering greatly under the persecutions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175‐163 BC). In spite of arguments to the contrary, an excellent case can be made for a sixth century BC dating of the Book of Daniel. Daniel seems to have been written in Babylon by the prophet himself, near the end of his life, about 540 BC – or compiled in Babylon from Daniel’s writings by his disciples shortly thereafter.
Daniel like Revelation is an apocalyptic book, lifting the veil on that which had been previously hidden. The prophetic significance cannot be underestimated with the most precise revelations ever given. 500 years of history is foretold with more clarity than Revelation – the prophecies are extremely detailed.
Daniels prophesies focus on three different eras:
- Near eastern events that immediately followed Daniel’s own day – Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece, continuing into the Roman era (600 – 105 BC).
- The coming of the Messiah (recorded in Dan. 9).
- The end of the age.
The modern era – the Church age – is skipped, Rome stretches from the coming of Christ to the return of Jesus (Prophetic peaks and valleys).
Apocalyptic Dreams and Visions: The book of Daniel belongs to the genre of prophecy, termed “apocalyptic”. Apocalypse comes from the Greek word apokalypsis, meaning “revelation,” the word describes an uncovering, of that which was previously hidden. Apocalyptic literate is characterized by rich symbolism that shows God’s control over the events of the world, and His active interference in the affairs of mankind. The Old Testament books of Joel, Zechariah, Ezekiel and Isaiah are considered to have apocalyptic content; however, Daniel stands superior to all Old Testament apocalyptic writing.
Structure and Language: The first six chapters consist primarily of stories about how Daniel and his friends adapted to life in the Babylonian court (scholars call these “court tales”), including the great faith with which they handled persecution. The final six chapters consist of apocalyptic visions given to Daniel, several related to future persecution facing the Jews during the intertestamental period, and a couple that look forward to the Last Days. Though the Old Testament is written in Hebrew, Daniel has sections written in Aramaic (2:4 to 7:28).
Because of Daniel’s stunningly detailed prophetic predictions, many so called “theologians” have claimed that the book was written after the events, as a book of encouragement for the Jews. Daniel’s prophecies are given for the reader to understand that God is in control of world events and reveal what God is going to do in the end. Otherwise, Daniel is just a record of various events that occurred in the life of Daniel.
Background to Daniel – The Context
Daniel was born in 620 BC, so he would have been aged 15 during the siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC. He lived in a time of major change (upheaval) in world events, the Assyrian Empire was falling apart. Nations of the area were adjusting to the major changes and jostling for supremacy. Babylon – previously a province of the Assyrian empire, was ascending in power and dominance in the region. In 700 BC, Assyria was the dominant power with Nineveh, her capital. However, Babylon still remained a prominent city, being a major influence in the Assyrian council. At this time the ruler of Babylon, Merodach-baladan, tried to convince Judah’s king Hezekiah to join in a rebellion against Assyria (Isaiah 39). Hezekiah, in pride, gave them a grand tour of the palace and the Temple, which displayed the wealth of the nation – something the Babylonians were only too happy to observe, and would not soon forget. That plot of 700 BC failed. However, 70 years later a new king would succeed, that was Nabopolassar (626-605 BC), a general in the Assyrian army and ruler of the province of Babylon. In 626 BC he broke off from Assyria after the death of Ashurbanipal, then with his son Nebuchadnezzar he went to war against his former masters. His plan was not to just break from Assyria, he was going to replace Assyria as a world power. As a general in the Assyrian army, Nabopolassar was very familiar with the strengths and weakness of the Assyrian army, he also knew their strategies and tactics, a major advantage in warfare.
The Background to Daniel concerns two nations – Babylon and Judah:
Babylon was the capital city of the “land of Nimrod” (Micah 5:6). The city was built on the Euphrates River, and the Tower of Babel (a ziggurat), was built as a symbol of rebellion against God (Genesis 11:1-9). From 2100-1600 BC Babylon was the dominant power in the region. The Hammurabi civil code of 282 laws, are the first record of city laws and were written during this time. From 1600 Babylon diminished in power but still remined a prominent city, because of its great learning and religious prominence.
Babylon’s re-ascendancy to dominance in the region was assured after the city of Nineveh fell to Nebuchadnezzar’s army in 612 BC. Effectively signalling the end of Assyria as an empire (prophesied by Nahum). At this time Daniel is approximately 8 years old, as the Babylonians are in the process of mopping up the remnants of the Assyrian army. Egypt however, was also interested in dominating the region, Pharaoh Neco wanted his piece of the pie. Prior to the collapse of the Assyrian Empire, Egypt and Assyria shared the near East territories. So, in 609 BC, Egypt and Babylon are clashing, each wanting to become the sole dominant power of the region.
In 605 BC, at the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar II defeats the combined armies of Assyria and Egypt under Pharaoh Neco, signalling the end of Assyrian might and Egyptian intervention. Nebuchadnezzar II, becomes King of kings ruling over a vast territory, his reign lasting from 605 to 562 BC.
After the battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar lead his army south and takes control over cities previously controlled by Egypt. Jerusalem was one of those cities targeted. Neco had punished Jerusalem for their attempt to stop him going to battle against the Babylonians at Carchemish, by dethroning Josiah’s successor, Jehoahaz, who had reigned only three months (2 Kings 23:30‐32). Josiah having died from wounds received during his attempt to prevent Neco from supporting the Assyrians. Neco replaced Jehoahaz with his brother Jehoiakim, who became a vassal of Egypt (2 Kings 23:34). But Pharaoh Neco’s influence in Judah was short‐lived, as Nebuchadnezzar arrives at Jerusalem’s gates in 605 BC and the city capitulated, submitting to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, now a teenager, along with his friends, were included in the first wave of exiles, a small group of hostages deported from Judah to Babylon (Daniel 1:3).
While in Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar hears that his father has died, so he rushes home to assume the throne before his brothers take the crown for themselves. Nabopolassar died on 15 August, 605 BC and by September 7th Nebuchadnezzar had his coronation ceremony in Babylon (three weeks later). The message had to travel either over 1600 km along the fertile crescent and then down the coast to Nebuchadnezzar, or directly west across the dessert. Either way a remarkable feat, which would have left camel and horse carcases marking the route.
Remember that in 700 BC Merodach-baladan tried to convince Hezekiah to join in a rebellion against Assyria (Isaiah 39). Hezekiah, in pride, foolishly given the Babylonians a grand tour of the palace, and the Temple displaying the wealth of the nation. Hezekiah was a godly king, but unfortunately for Judah, Manasseh, the son who succeeded him was not. Manasseh is considered the most wicked of all the kings of Judah, reigning for 55 years. Having rejected God, he worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth, offering child sacrifices and being involved in a variety of occult activity. Manasseh is the king that forced Isaiah into a hollow log and sawed him in two. His son Ammon was no better, but he is assassinated after only two years on the throne, as a result, in 642 BC, an 8-year-old child called Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:1) becomes king of Judah.
Josiah plays an important role in the life of Daniel. Scripture chronicles Josiah’s spiritual growth:
In the eighth year of Josiah’s reign, at the age of 16 he sought the God of David, in the 12th year of his reign, aged 20 he purges the Temple of Idols, in the eighteenth year of his reign, aged 24 he repairs damage to the Temple. At the age 26, during the restoration of the Temple, the book of Deuteronomy is found (required to read daily by kings to prepare them to rule the people [Deut. 17:18-19]). Up till that time the nation had been ruled by a mixture of man’s wisdom and what was remembered of God’s word – syncretism. The book is read to Josiah, realising how much he has been failing God, he tears his clothes as an external display of his torment. Josiah reads the Scriptures, and the words of the law to the people, he then makes a covenant with God to follow God’s words. Following this there is a profound revival in Judah.
The desire of Josiah to follow God, brought about the book of Deuteronomy being found, and then through the wisdom within the book, Josiah was able to lead, and guide the people of Judah. The receiving of the law, directing them to God’s ways, and away from man’s wisdom. Therefore, we can determine that Josiah as a mentor of Daniel, would have had a profound effect on the young man.
Before Nebuchadnezzar left to return to Babylon, he gave orders that the finest and best of the captives were to be taken to Babylon. The members of the Judean royal court, the noble aristocracy, were therefore taken to Babylon in the first exile. Daniel 1:3 reveals that Daniel was either a member of the royal family or the nobility, and was included amongst the group that is selected to travel to Babylon. Daniel was very likely a member of Josiah’s family, growing up in the court of the most righteous king since David, a man that wept over the Word of God. Daniel and his three friends would have learned to love the Lord under the guidance and teachings of Josiah. The sound teaching of God’s Word prepared Daniel for the hardship that was to come. Josiah was an example to the young Daniel, and most likely Daniel was privileged to have grown up hearing the Godly King read the Scriptures.
Historical Context in Babylon:
So, Daniel, with a number of other youths from royal, or noble families, was deported to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC, to be trained to serve in the king’s palace in Babylon. He served as a “wise man” (Daniel 2:12-13) from the age of 20, for over 60 years at the top rung of pagan governments, without compromising his relationship with God. After Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, he was followed briefly by three Babylonian kings, from 562 to 556 BC. This rapid change of weak kings destabilized and weakened the empire. Nabonidus (556‐539 BC) took the throne and reigned as the last of the Neo‐Babylonian kings. Nabonidus left his son Belshazzar as co-regent of Babylon (553-539 BC), and went to establish a city at an oasis in the Arabian desert; the goal was to establish and protect important trade routes.
In 539 BC, Cyrus the Great invaded Babylonia. In June, the city of Opus (Baghdad) fell, and within days Sippar surrendered. Medo‐Persian troops were moving toward the capital at Babylon, yet Belshazzar, who was in charge of the defence of Babylon, was throwing a party for a thousand of his friends in his palace.
So, Babylon was captured without much resistance by the Medo‐Persian army under Cyrus II (“the Great”), who reigned 559‐530 BC over the Persian (and later the Medo‐Persian) Empire. Darius the Mede (5:31; chapter 6; 9:1; and 11:1) is probably another name for Gubaru, a governor of Babylon. Under the rule of Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return home, but Daniel now in his eighties, is too old, so he remains in Babylon to serve in the court of Darius.
The Hellenising influence of Alexander the Great
The Persian empire continues for another 200 years, then in 334 BC Alexander the Great sweeps over the Persian Empire. Alexander dies from a mysterious illness in the city of Babylon aged just 33, and his empire is divided up between his four Generals in 323 BC. Of the four new kingdoms, the Egyptian (Ptolemy) and the Syrian (Seleucid) become the predominant powers.
In 175 BC a Seleucid leader became notorious for his eccentric behaviour, as well as for his hatred of the Jews, his name was Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 BC). After a failed attempt to conquer Egypt in 168 BC Antiochus takes his frustrations out on the city of Jerusalem. He institutes a strict policy of Hellenization to keep control of his kingdom. As part of his Hellenization program, he erects a statue of Zeus in the temple and sacrifices a pig on the alter.
The Maccabean rebellion
The desecration of the Temple and other atrocities led to the Maccabean revolt. The leader of the rebels was a priest named Mattathias (a member of a priestly family), and his sons, who fought a guerrilla war against Antiochus (led by Mattathias’ son Judas). The followers of Mattathias became known as the Maccabees, which means hammer. The Maccabees, after a series of victories in battle, eventually recaptured Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple. The dedication of the Temple is still celebrated today in the feast of Hanukkah (Hebrew for “Dedication”).
The Theme of Daniel
Daniel reveals powerful kings in Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Antiochus Epiphanes, but also reveals that they are no match for God. The Book of Daniel is a series of proofs that no man no matter how powerful can stand against God’s people. Don’t worry about persecution, God “is able” to protect you against the worst of kings.
God controls human kings and world history; therefore, He can rescue His faithful ones from pagan rulers, and establish His Kingdom.
Mystery Babylon the Great
The key Scripture that unravels the true identity of the end-time false religion is given in Revelation 17. Within this passage the false religion that the Antichrist will use to assist him in his rise to power, is described in detail and given the title “MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” The origin of the end-time false religion is obviously Babylon. The spirit of the Antichrist was the driving force behind the religion that consolidated the people of Babylon in their rebellion against God. With the rejection of God, mankind replaced God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom – the Tower of Babel was the result, a symbol of man’s elevation to the heavens as god. Mankind was elevated above the earth worshipping gods made in their image. The end time “Mystery Babylon” religion will also be created by the spirit of the Antichrist. The apostate religion will once more replace God’s wisdom with man’s wisdom, and humanism will focus on the formation of god men (and women), with the Antichrist eventually becoming the role model. Mystery Babylon will be the religion the Antichrist will use to unite people under him. There is no other possible explanation!
While man looks at history as being linear, God’s view of history is circular. History perambulates through time around a course ordained by God, resulting in a climatic end, as the history of the world returns to the great spiritual conflict between the Mystery Babylonian religion and God. The Prophecy of Genesis 3:15 comes to fruition in the last days, with the seed of the serpent rising up on the fertile ground of the Mystery Babylon religion, to confront the seed of the woman – Yeshua.
Babylon, under Nimrod, became the first world empire, where Nimrod as a tyrannical leader controlled the politics, military, economy and religion. Nimrod is a prophetic type of the Antichrist, who will in the future rule over the New World Order through control over politics, military, economy and religion. Just as the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah were held accountable and punished by the origins of their sin – the land of Nimrod – so too will all mankind in the end times be held accountable by the sins of the past. The Mother of false religions in Revelation 17 carries the title “Mystery Babylon the Great,” her roots are in the ancient Babylon religion which was the beginning of the rebellion against God after the flood. Just as God used Sargon and Nebuchadnezzar – kings over the land of Nimrod who were empowered by the mystery of iniquity – as tools of His judgement upon the Jews, so too will God use the Antichrist, the Pontifex Maximus from spiritual Babylon, the city of Rome, as His tool to create conditions on earth that will bring the judgement of God upon mankind.
Evidence that God uses pagan armies as a means of judgement and correction:
The Northern Kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians (730 BC), a people from the land of Nimrod. Their capital city was Nineveh, a city established by Nimrod. Note that God used the people from the land of Mystery Babylon religion, to punish the worship of Mystery Babylon religion (pagan idolatry) in Israel.
The Kingdom of Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians (605 BC), a people from the land of Nimrod. Their capital city was Babylon, a city established by Nimrod. Once again, the tool of judgement used by God, was the people from the land from which Judah’s idolatry originated.
Mystery Babylon Religion – the religion of Nimrod.
There is no coincidence in the book of Daniel being set in the “land of Nimrod” (Micah 5:6). Daniel is set in the city where the tower of Babel was erected in rebellion to God. When the significance of God using the region of the formation of Mystery Babylon the Great as a tool for correction and judgement is understood, Daniel then can be seen as a type of believer in the Last Days. Mystery Babylon Religion (Revelation 17), the apostate ecumenical church (2 Thess. 2:3), dominated by the Catholic Church, will be the religious power of the Last Days. God will use Mystery Babylon Religion as a Judgement on mankind, ultimately lead by the Antichrist – an anti-type of Nimrod – the king, and high priest of Mystery Babylon Religion. The book of Daniel in its first six chapters, deals with the pressure on the Jews to compromise with Mystery Babylon Religion. In the Last Days the pressure to compromise with the world, whose morals are guided by Mystery Babylon Religion, will continually increase.
God is always in control
The theme of Daniel will take on immense significance for the believers of the Last Days: God controls human kings and world history; therefore, He can rescue His faithful ones from pagan rulers and establish His Kingdom. Daniel warns that the Antichrist will “oppress” (7:25) the saints, John clarifies this statement in Revelation 13:7, warning that the Antichrist is “given power to make war against the saints and to conquer them.” The End Time’s believers must endure the rule of the Antichrist – it is a worldwide judgement (2 Thess. 2:10-11). That is why Daniel is so relevant for our times – Tribulation believers will be able to take comfort from the book of Daniel, in that no matter how bad things are, God is still in control. God will still “deliver” His Saints, in that there will be a resurrection of the righteous, and Jesus will establish His Kingdom, an earthly kingdom (Daniel 2:35), where He will reign from the City of Peace, from the Throne of David, with His righteous ones.