The book of Daniel is an extraordinary prophetic work. The writings predict the future of the kingdom of men from 607 BC down to our own times and beyond--a remarkable prognostication, particularly in light of the number of kingdoms mentioned by name, recognizable to this day. By uncanny interpretations of Nebuchadnezzar’s (606 – 561 BC) dreams, this young Jewish Babylonian captive (606 BC), rose to a position of great prominence in the kingdom, but power did not corrupt Daniel as it did the kings of Israel to whom much was also given: It caused Saul to go mad, David to sin greatly, and his son, Solomon, to stray when his wives turned away his heart to other gods. Daniel was able to maintain a balance between loyalty to the king with a superior loyalty to God, and never waver. |
Israelites taken captive included those of the king’s seed. The Chaldeans had captured the cream of the crop, as it were, Daniel among them: Children in whom was no blemish, but well favored and skillful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge,. . . . and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. (Dan 1. 4). Daniel was not a poor slave, but of the princely line, a well favored youth, selected to be educated in Babylonian ways. And in Babylon resided the seat of power and luxury and civilization.
Daniel’s prophecies were many and varied. Reduced to its simplest terms, his 70 weeks prophecy, dealing with the period of time that began with the Decree to rebuild Jerusalem (457 BC) to the coming of the Messiah, Daniel points to AD 26, the year of Christ’s baptism and ministry, (Dan 9. 23 – 25); a vision holding further promise in that Daniel was commanded to seal up the book of his prophecy until the end, when there shall be a time of trouble as never was since there was a nation; and many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Dan 12. 1, 2),--words incomprehensible to Daniel. His prophecies troubled him greatly— my countenance changed in me: but I kept the matter in my heart. (Dan 7. 28.)
The great difficulty, or resistance to his prophecies has made the book subject to attack—attack by those who ought to be its friend. Some critics have seized on the fact that the book is written in Aramaic and therefore written much later when Hebrew was no longer in use. This thinking doesn’t take into account that Aramaic was the language of Chaldea—Babylonia—where Daniel would have learned it. Such criticism, plus differing interpretations of Daniel’s astonishing predictions, have not only obscured the life and character of this man, ‘beloved of God’, but blasphemously defined Christ as uninspired and a fraud, because he affirmed the truth of the book by quoting it himself ( Mat 24. 15).
We see in his behavior, when he and his friends were appointed to eat the king’s meat, the extent of his great strength. After all, who would dare refuse an order from the king? Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself by eating food which may have been sacrificed to Babylonian idols. He could have temporized, but knowing his conduct might affect thousands of Hebrews who were not as favored as he--he would not allow himself to set such an example. The vigor of youth and a kind of naďve faith made this behavior possible, much like David who boldly attacked Goliath, the uncircumcised Philistine. It is noteworthy that his peers held him in reverence. His contemporary, Ezekiel, wrote of him, equating his righteousness with that of Noah and Job. (Ezek 14. 12 – 14). A most unusual thing to equate a contemporary with the Patriarchs.
When Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, he bestowed on Daniel the office of first President. Perhaps jealousy motivated some in the king’s court to plot his betrayal. They devised a scheme persuading Darius to establish a decree forbidding anyone to pray to any god or man save Darius himself. Disobedience would incur the lions’ den. Today this story has become an honored part of Bible lore, where the miraculous survival in the lion’s den has become no more than one of those fairy tales that tend to undermine Bible truth.
We see Daniel an old man—at least 80 years-- always the truth seeker-- trying to figure when Jeremiah’s prophecy of 70 years captivity would be fulfilled-- (Dan 9. 2), always giving God the credit for his prescience. What was it that made his success in trials possible, where other noble characters failed? Like Paul, he brought his body into subjection. (1Cor 9. 27). In other words, Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself. Perhaps because of the vividness of his prophecies, he saw the world for what it was; it was God’s world, not mans. He knew his power to be illusory and fleeting, so he did not allow himself to be deceived by pride. It has always held true for believers and children of God from the beginning of time—actions speak louder than words. So it was with Daniel.
In Daniel’s deep and often puzzling prophecies, God is telling us some things we’d do well to explore, but answers elude us, many hidden for centuries. (Daniel) said, I heard, but I understood not: O my Lord, when shall be the end of these things? He was told, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed until the time of the end. (Dan 12. 8, 9). Is that time upon us? Are we there yet? If you search out the Word, signs abound. We’ll know our answer when we no longer must look through a glass darkly.
Chapter four begins with a voice summoning John the apostle: Come hither and I will show thee things which must be hereafter. (Rev 4. 1). So here it is, right under our noses, in the book of Revelation, in the Greek, apokalypsis, meaning ‘the unveiling of something previously unrevealed’, lying fallow, as it were, for centuries, written down by the apostle John on the isle of Patmos (ca 95 AD). Today we are given to comprehend much more of the book of Revelation than were believers of former generations—the unveiling continues to unfold. The book is directed at followers of Christ, from the 1st century forward, to enlarge their knowledge of the past, present and future.
To discern the meanings of the signs and symbols which make up the context of the book is not an easy task, but try we must. The connection that exists between the books of Daniel and Revelation is one worth investigating; both put great emphasis on the time of the end. It’s interesting to note that the prophetic beasts of Daniel that began in his own time, and ends with the establishment of the kingdom of God (2. 44), seem to be the basis of beast imagery in Revelation, where events preceding the establishment of the kingdom and the victory of the redeemed are brought to light. This connection between Daniel and the Apocalypse is an indication that his prophecies may be the combination we need to unlock God’s Revelation, and therefore a good place to start a study. Only hard work and perseverance will get you anywhere in this effort. Prepare to dig in.
Blessed is he that reads (sees), and they
That hear the words of this prophecy,
And keep those things which are written therein:
For the time is at hand. (Rev 1. 3).