The Book of Daniel

Anyone who has ever read the book of Revelation knows what it feels like to get done reading something and think, “What in the world did I just read?” Well, the book of Daniel is not too different. The book of Daniel is most commonly known for two great pieces of its plot: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace, and Daniel and the lions’ den. However, there is a lot more complexity to the book of Daniel than these two great shows of faith; majority of which is contained in the visions and prophecies that Daniel endures. Contrasting to the other prophets, Daniel’s main message through his prophecies does not seem to be themed by repentance and disobedience. Instead of being about these things, Daniel’s prophecies and visions are about as confusing as the book of Revelation. Moreover, the book of Daniel can be broken into two parts. The first part of Daniel is written more like a narrative, and the second part is written (at least in my opinion) like a diary or journal consisting of different visions and prophecies. However, there are some prophecies in the first part that are important in the grand scheme of the Bible.

The first part of the book of Daniel (chapters 1-6) is set in the Babylonian empire, and then the Mede/Persian Empire. It begins with telling how the Babylonians have overtaken Jerusalem, and explaining that the Jews are exiles during that time. Daniel enters the story, along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, as four people that are chosen to serve in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Before they were allowed to serve, they were chosen out of a group of people that basically went through an education program. From this time, we get a good idea of the physical and spiritual characteristics of Daniel. The only Jews who were allowed to go through this program were Jews that had good appearance, were skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace. Due to these constraints we get a good portrayal of the type of person Daniel may have been. Moreover, we can see that Daniel also had utmost spiritual fortitude because chapter one explains that Daniel and his four friends refused to eat the unclean meats of the court. After going through the education process in which they were taught the language and literature of the Chaldeans, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respectively.

In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign we begin to see how Daniel is a prophet of God. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that really spooked him, and he called all the magicians and wise men to the court. The task was simple: interpret his dream or die. However, the hitch in the task was that they had to first tell Nebuchadnezzar what his dream was without Nebuchadnezzar telling them what it was. This was to ensure that none of them would lie to save their own skin. Needless to say, none of the magicians or wise men were capable, and were therefore found culpable. Nebuchadnezzar sought to kill all the wise men for this penalty. After hearing of this and fearing his own death, Daniel sought God’s favor and knowledge of the King’s dream. Daniel’s potential to be a prophet is found in the fact that he received this knowledge from God, told Nebuchadnezzar his dream, and interpreted it. After this happened, Nebuchadnezzar rejoiced and seemingly began to accept God as his own God.

Following this we see a totally different change in Nebuchadnezzar that sets a pattern of erratic behavior on his part. Nebuchadnezzar asks all the people to worship the golden image that he had made. This is the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. The three refused to worship the golden idol, and for this Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into a fiery furnace. However, for their great faith, God saved them and not a single hair or piece of clothing was tarnished.

Nebuchadnezzar then has another dream about a tree, a divine encounter, and the tree being cut down. Daniel once again enters the story as a wise prophet and interprets the King’s dream. The dream foretold the King being dismantled from the throne, and this ends up happening. Once again we see how Daniel has the requirements to be a prophet.

Following Nebuchadnezzar, his son Belshazzar takes the throne. During his time on the throne, he throws a party, and during that party some spiritual hand writes a message on the wall. Enter Daniel. Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall to mean that the Babylonian kingdom will fall to a split kingdom, the Medes and the Persians. Following his prophecy, the Empire falls to the divided kingdom, and Darius of the Medes and Cyrus of the Persians take rule.

In the rule of King Darius, Daniel is set as one of three Presidents over the land. During his time as a president, the other presidents sought to have him removed, and almost prevailed by having Daniel thrown into the lion’s den for worshipping God. However, just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were saved, Daniel too was saved from the mouth of the lions. This marks the end of the narrative part of the book of Daniel (chapters 1- 6), and the rest is a systematic interpreting of visions and dreams during the Mede/Persian rule.

Now, I would like to shift to talking about the prophecies that were foretold by Daniel. There are five main ones: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue, a dream of four beasts during the reign of Belshazzar, a vision of a ram and a goat during the reign of Belshazzar, the prophecy of the seventy “weeks” during the reign of Darius, and the war-like prophecy during the reign of Cyrus. There are many disputes on the interpretations of these prophecies, but I plan on just giving the interpretations that I find most interesting and true.

The prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue is one that I love most.

Dan 2:31-45  “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.  (32)  The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze,  (33)  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.  (34)  As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.  (35)  Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.  (36)  “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation.  (37)  You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory,  (38)  and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold.  (39)  Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.  (40)  And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.  (41)  And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.  (42)  And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.  (43)  As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.  (44)  And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,  (45)  just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

This prophecy is one that prophecies five kingdoms, the first four being represented by the statue, and the fifth being represented by the rock. The head of gold on the statue is the Babylonian Empire which ruled from 612-536 B.C. The breast and arms of silver represent the Medo-Perisan Empire reigning from 536-330 B.C. Next, the belly and things of brass represent Greece which ruled from 330-146 B.C. the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay represent the Roman Empire reigning from 146 B.C to 476 A.D. These four kingdoms were prophesied by Daniel to come to pass, but most importantly is the kingdom represented by the rock. The rock represents the kingdom of God which is shown here to come to power during the Roman Empire. This prophecy is seen to be fulfilled in the New Testament with John the Baptist preaching “The Kingdom of God is at Hand”, and with the kingdom of God coming into power through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. History and the Bible tell us that these four powers came to pass in this order, and we also can see through history that Christians and Jesus came around during the time of the Roman Empire (as foretold) which means that the prophecy of the kingdom was fulfilled as foretold.

The next prophecy is the prophecy of the four beasts during the reign of Belshazzar.

Dan 7:2-14  Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.  (3)  And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another.  (4)  The first was like a lion and had eagles’ wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it.  (5)  And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’  (6)  After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it.  (7)  After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.  (8)  I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things.  (9)  “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.  (10)  A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.  (11)  “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire.  (12)  As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.  (13)  “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  (14)  And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.

Dan 7:19-27  “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet,  (20)  and about the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn that came up and before which three of them fell, the horn that had eyes and a mouth that spoke great things, and that seemed greater than its companions.  (21)  As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them,  (22)  until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom.  (23)  “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces.  (24)  As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings shall arise, and another shall arise after them; he shall be different from the former ones, and shall put down three kings.  (25)  He shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High, and shall think to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.  (26)  But the court shall sit in judgment, and his dominion shall be taken away, to be consumed and destroyed to the end.  (27)  And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.’

This prophecy is one that I saw was compared to both the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the book of Revelation. The lion represents the Babylonian Empire. The bear represents the Medo-Persian Empire. The bear on its side is supposed to represent how that one side (the Persian side) has more dominance than the other. The leopard with four heads was to represent the Greek Empire that had was divided by four of Alexander’s generals after his death: Lysimachus, Cassander, Seleucus, and Ptolemy. The fourth beast is to represent the Roman Empire. The iron teeth are to represent how strong the Empire was. The ten horns represent the first ten kings: Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula (Gaius), Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellisu, Vespasian, and Titus. The three horns that are plucked up are to represent Galba, Otho, and Vitellius for their short rule (7 months, 95 days, and 8 months respectively). The eleventh horn that raised up represents Domitian. He is pointed out as being different because Domitian is the Caesar that devastated and killed many Christians besides Nero. This prophecy also references the kingdom that will be everlasting, God’s kingdom.

The next prophecy is the prophecy of the ram and the goat.

Dan 8:3-14  I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last.  (4)  I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great.  (5)  As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes.  (6)  He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath.  (7)  I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power.  (8)  Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.  (9)  Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land.  (10)  It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them.  (11)  It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown.  (12)  And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper.  (13)  Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled underfoot?”  (14)  And he said to me, “For 2,300 evenings and mornings. Then the sanctuary shall be restored to its rightful state.”

Dan 8:20-22  As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia.  (21)  And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king.  (22)  As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power.

As noted in the last few verses, the ram represents the Medo-Persian Empire, and the goat represents the Greek Empire. In the prophecy, it says that the ram would have two horns, one greater than the other. This is like the bear on its side from the previous prophecy. This represents how that the Empire is split and how that one side is greater than the other. The goat with its one horn represents Greece and Alexander the Great as the horn. Just as history tells us, Greece steam rolled through ram and took over power. Afterwards, the horn broke off (Alexander died), and four horns took its place. These horns are represented once again by the four generals mentioned earlier that took over Greece after Alexander’s death. However, something this is different in this prophecy is the little horn that came out of one of the horns. This little horn is said to grow strong and fights against the host. This little horn represents Antiochus IV (Ephipanes). Antiochus is known historically for his persecution and destruction of the Jews during his time reigning. He casts down the host (Jews) and stars (rulers), exalted himself to prince (lord), took away the daily sacrifices, and did so for 2300 days. These things have been known to be true through tradition and history, and therefore make fit for good interpretations of this prophecy.

The prophecy of the seventy weeks is one that is disputed amongst scholars. One view is the Premillinnial view that considers the seventy “weeks” part of the tribulation, and is not yet passed. However, the view I like is a little different.  If you look in the book we have, chapter 9 and verse 24 has a footnote that calls “weeks”, “sevens”. Most all interpretations of this prophecy rely on the assumption that it is not seventy “weeks”, but seventy “sevens” (seven days in a week).  In other words, most interpretations rely on this number representing 490 years. The chapter starts out with Daniel praying to God for comfort due to not understanding his vision, and ends with Gabriel explaining the vision to Daniel.

Dan 9:23-27  At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision.  (24)  “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place.  (25)  Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.  (26)  And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.  (27)  And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.”

The seventy “weeks” or seventy “sevens” represent 490 years split up into three groups. The first group is 49 years, the second is 434 years, and the third is 7 years. The first 49 years is the time until the rebuilding of Jerusalem found in Nehemiah. The next 434 years represents the troubled time of the Jews’ silent years and persecution by the Greeks. At the end of the 434 years it says that the “anointed one shall be cut off”. The KJV reads “(the) Messiah (shall) be cut off, but not for himself”. So the end of the 434 years is to mark the time of Jesus. The last seven years represent the coming of the New Testament. The text says that the seven years will be in two halves, the first half for the end of the sacrifices and offerings. The first three and half years are to represent Christ’s ministry during the Roman Empire, the half way mark marking the sacrifice of Jesus. The latter half is the time of the Apostles working to convert the Jews. The end of the passage given is making reference to the persecution of the Christians and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Chapters 10-12 mark the last prophecy given, the one that pertains to war, death, and resurrection. I will not be going into this one because it is rather ambiguous in nature, and would take another 20 pages to completely explain. The interpreter that I have been getting this information from does not go with the idea that this prophecy represents the “tribulation” or end of the world. Instead, he says that it tells the story of the persecution of the Jews during silent years, that ends with the Jews overcoming their adversaries. In chapter 12 it marks the end of the period, and the interpreter marks that this time is to represent the time period in which Judas Maccabaeus defeated Antiochus IV (Ephiphanes) of the Greek Empire. He is also the “little horn” from the ram and goat prophecy. Antiochus persecute the Jews to an extreme, and it ended with Judas Maccabaeus defeating him. The most controversial part of this interpretation lies in verses 2-3 of chapter 12. Dan 12:2-3  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.  (3)  And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever. The verses here say that there will be a great resurrection of people, and depending on your view of the context this could be talking about the same time in which Maccabaeus defeated Antiochus IV, or separate and apart from that. (Note: the context I’m referring to is one in which the interpretation of chapter 11 and verse 1 of 12 is not speaking of the end of the world). The idea that these verse are separate and apart from the given time frame goes back to how that this prophecy is supposed to somehow comfort Daniel. Up until the mentioning of the resurrection, the prophecy would appear to Daniel to mean that his people would be persecuted terribly, so Daniel wouldn’t be comforted by this. However, these verses are supposed to be the comfort by showing Daniel the big picture. The resurrection is supposed to speak of the second coming of Christ, and is supposed to comfort Daniel by showing him that all will be well in the end of time. This would supply the comfort that Daniel was seeking, and also fits the interpretation of the prophecy. This prophecy is one that is most complex and most difficult to follow, and I’m not going to say that I am completely confident in any sort of interpretation. However, the one that I have read is fitting and easy to believe.

I know that this has been rather lengthy, but like I said, the book of Daniel is mind blowing. There are so many prophecies with so many different views and so many different possibilities. I have given you the explanations that I find most fitting to the grand scheme of the Bible and most accurate to history, and I hope that you have found this all as interesting as I have. I’m not going to go as far to say that I am completely confident in all of these interpretations, but I will say that for all but the last, I feel very sure that they are accurate interpretations.

Source: Pat Mannon, Evangelist

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