Saturday, September 20. Daniel 12; Hosea 1 – 3

It’s difficult to read the final chapter of Daniel without thinking of the end of time – perhaps because “the end” is mentioned three times (vss. 4, 9, and 13). It’s also difficult to read it without thinking of the book of Revelation. So many phrases sound like John’s last book.

* The mention of names “written in a book” (Revelation 20:15; 21:27 – though this idea also appears in other places in the Bible – eg. Exodus 32:32).
* Raising a hand toward heaven and swearing by Him who lives forever and ever (Revelation 10:5-6).
* Sealing up the scroll (Revelation 22:10).

A significant point of the final chapter is that the future is assured. God knows what it is because He is determining it Himself. Those who want to be a part of that future should be wise and lead others in righteousness.

A significant difficulty is the change in numbers, from 1290 days to 1335 days. Is this a mistake, or is the writer calling for patience “just a little longer.” It’s difficult to know, and that’s one of the features of the final chapter. The Lord has reserved complete information about the end of time to Himself. He has given us just enough information to assure us He is in control, but has been obscure enough to keep us still in the dark. Until He comes, our trust must be in Him.

Friday, September 19. Daniel 9 – 11

It’s easy to get lost in Daniel 11. The events foretold there so closely mirror actual historical events (going from the fifth century B.C. to the second century B.C.) that scholars have doubted Daniel actually wrote it. There’s no way, they believe, Daniel could see that far into the future.

But this isn’t Daniel’s book. It’s the Lord’s book. Daniel is but the means God is using of communicating the message.

So what’s the message?

Daniel is, by this time, writing after the first return of God’s people from Babylon to Jerusalem. Daniel chose to stay in Babylon. So did a lot of other Jewish people.
Why did they stay? Perhaps Daniel himself was too old to make the journey by this time. Others, having made their homes (and perhaps grown up) in Babylon, chose the pagan environment over the city of God. God’s people are a divided lot. What does the future hold?

Alexander the Great (no doubt the mighty king of 11:3) will overcome the Persians, but at his death, his kingdom will be divided into four parts. Daniel 11 concerns itself only with two of them: The kings of the north (Syria) and the kings of the south(Egypt). Between them there will be conflict (11:5) alliances (vss. 6 & 17) and more conflict (vss. 7-13) and the balance of power will seesaw. God’s people will be caught in the middle, but the more violent prone among them will rebel – and fail. A king of the North will attempt to enlarge his boarders into Europe (coastlands – vs. 18) but will fail.

As time goes on, the northern kingdom will dominate for a while, and things will go badly for God’s people (vss. 20-28, 31-35). The king of the north will exalt himself as supreme – and it will look for all the world like he is, but soon, he, like all those before him, will perish (vss. 36-45).

Those who would like to see suggested identification of these kings involved might consult the NIV Application commentary on Daniel (pages 271-283), but remember: if Daniel wrote this book, NO ONE would know who those kings were. What did God intend for his people to get from this presentation if they couldn’t identify the kings?

Simply this, in the words of an old hymn: “The kingdoms of earth pass away one by one, but the kingdom of heaven remains.” As they always had (and as we persist in doing), God’s people pinned their hopes on earthly political movements and empires. But all those are destined to fail. The important thing is to have your name written in God’s book as one who leads others in righteousness (12:3).

Thursday, September 18. Daniel 6 – 8

There are three important visions in Daniel you should not miss.

The first is in chapter 2 where Daniel interprets the king of Babylon’s dream. Three kingdoms are to follow that of the Babylonians, but those kingdoms are not named.

The second is in chapter 7 where Daniel has a dream of four beasts, each representing a future kingdom. But again, the kingdoms are not named.

In chapter 8, Daniel has a dream of two animals, a ram and a goat. Here, we are told they represent two kingdoms, that of Persia (which was to follow that of Babylon) and that of Greece.

In biblical interpretation, one should seek the meaning that would have been understood by the book’s first readers. But in this case, other than what is plainly written (the mention of Persia and Greece), it would be difficult for the first readers to know much else. Their descendants would come to understand it through the events of history but for the first readers, the meaning is unattainable. I believe that is what is meant by the sealing of the vision.

What’s going on?

The kingdom of Greece, at Alexander the Great’s death, was divided into four parts (8:22), each ruled by one of Alexander’s generals. Chapter 8 assures the readers that though one of these divisions will become stronger than the rest, and take a position against God (the Prince of Princes) and His people, he will be destroyed by the Lord.

As we move into this section of Daniel, it will be tempting to see historical figures in the presentation, but the first readers would not know them. How would they read it?

As a light into the future.

Though they might return to their homeland from Babylon, their trust must always be in the Lord. Governments will come and go, and oppression will be ever-present, but those who hold to God’s hand will always be secure.

We need to remember that.

Wednesday, September 17. Daniel 3 – 5

It’s a long way from Babylon to the court of God.

Not really. God is everywhere. But as we serve God, and as people come to know God, the journey is often long.

This is all emphasized in Daniel 4.

Nebuchadnezzar refers to Daniel as one who has the “spirit of the holy gods.” He’s a polythiest. He never renounces his polytheism, but after an encounter with the true God, he recognizes there is a “Most High” god. After all the years of Daniel’s influence, that’s as far as he got theologically.

But notice Daniel. He is the “chief” of the magicians. How could he occupy this position when the law of God plainly forbade magic? Before we are too critical, we might note that Daniel never engages in magic. But through his connection with God, he seems to be a magician. Daniel never claims to have power himself, but gives all credit to the Most High God. When you live in a pagan world, sometimes you will occupy uncomfortable positions that may bring criticism from the orthodox. You simply have to do the best you can.

Note that Nebuchadnezzar does not do what God commands, to “to right” and be kind to the oppressed, and the result is that God breaks him. Every time a government leader becomes broken through his rejection of a godly lifestyle, I am reminded of Nebuchadnezzar. Christians may wrongly believe that you can’t expect non-Christians to live as Christians live, but God does not subscribe to any such notion. They may not be God’s people, but they’d better behave.

Or else.

Thursday, August 1. Daniel 9 – 12

There are a number of prayers in the Old Testament where supplicants come to God and asked to be treated in accordance with their righteousness.  In the minds of Christians, taught from an early age they have nothing in their lives to commend them before God, a rather bold request.  You can see a few of these in Psalm 7:8; 18:20,24; 119:121; Job 29:14.

Daniel, however, makes no such claim before the Lord.  Though he may have been righteous, he identifies himself with the people of God.  They are not righteous, and his solidarity with them brings him under the same condemnation.  How unlike us Daniel is!  Daniel can never see himself separated from Israel.  They are the people of God.  If he separates from them, he cannot be one of God’s people.  When we are tempted to separate ourselves from the Church – for whatever reason – we should remember Daniel.  The Church is the body of Christ, and our relationship with God is determined by our relationship within that body. We cannot legitimately claim to be a Christian if in point of fact, we have no relationship with the community of faith.

Daniel’s prayer to God, and the legitimacy of his requests do not depend on his – or Israel’s – faithfulness.  His prayer depends on God’s faithfulness.  Perhaps that is why in chapter nine, and only in that chapter, the proper name of God (the “LORD”) is used, and used seven times.  The LORD is the name of the God who keeps his covenants.

Daniel knows the message of Jeremiah, that the captivity is only to last seventy years.  It should be coming to an end shortly.  Daniel prays for it.

Daniel receives an answer to his prayer and with the answer comes a repeat of something we have heard before.  In chapter seven, the Lord looks at future events occurring over a period of a time, times, and half a time (or 3 ½ times).  In chapter eight, the period is 2300 evenings and mornings (or 3 ½ years).  Here in chapter nine, the period is 1 week (a time), 62 weeks (times), and half a week (half a time).  The Bible student will exhaust himself trying to figure out what all this refers to.  There are no good answers.  Suffice it to say that though the city of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, and the sacrificial system restored, the trials for God’s people are not over, and will not be over, until the Lord brings to pass a blessing yet to come.  Thus, for Daniel – and his readers – there is hope for the present, warning for the future, and comfort in the end.  God knows what the future holds, and he holds his people for the future.

Wednesday, July 31. Daniel 6 – 8

There is a historical problem at the end of Daniel 5 that carries us into chapter six. Daniel says that “Darius the Mede” overcame Babylon at the age of sixty-two. The problem is compounded in 9:1 as he is further identified as the “son of Xerxes.”

If we just stick with the names, we must identify this Darius as Darius II, the grandson of Xerxes II. That gives us a date of 424 B.C. and makes Daniel nearly two hundred years old.

It’s a difficult historical issue, but one that is not without resolution.

First, the conqueror of Babylon was Cyrus, an undisputable fact. But, Cyrus was the son of a Median princess and was known even to Nabonidus as “Cyrus the Mede.” “Darius” was an old Iranian title for a king, and we know that Cyrus (or one of his descendants) made up another title, a Persian one, Xerxes, as a title for king. Second, remember that this book is not written by Daniel, but by someone who had access to Daniel’s writings. The first six chapters are written about Daniel, entirely in the third person. The second six chapters are also written about Daniel but the writer admits to reading the writings of Daniel (cf. Daniel 7:1). The book would have been composed long enough in the future that the writer would know these Persian titles. In fact, the writer admits to them. In the last verse of chapter six, he writes “So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius, who is also [the NIV translates this “and”] Cyrus the Persian.”

What should not be overlooked in the chapter however is the great faith of Daniel and Cyrus’ acceptance and admission of the sovereignty of the God of Israel.

Tuesday, July 30. Daniel 3 – 5

It’s easy to overlook sometimes how much time goes by in just a few chapters in the Bible. In chapter five, Daniel is said to have been appointed “chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners.” And yet, Belshazzar doesn’t seem to know him. To further complicate matters, Belshazzar has called in the magicians, enchanters, astrologers, and diviners to interpret the writing on the wall, but they cannot. If Daniel is their chief, why wasn’t he there, leading his crew?

Daniel was taken as a young man to Babylon in 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar had just become king of Babylon. Our story in chapter five takes place sixty-six years later. Daniel is an old man and likely no longer “chief” of anything – yet certainly known by reputation.

Belshazzar was not really the son of Nebuchadnezzar. He was the son of Nabonidus, the fourth king to follow Nebuchadnezzar. He was not even of Nebuchadnezzar’s family, but Nebuchadnezzar was such a renown king of Babylon that he took the title “Nebuchadnezzar” and thus appropriated his name and reputation for himself. Unfortunately for Babylon, he was but a pretender with no interest in ruling the empire and his son, Belshazzar co-ruled with him, taking care of the daily administrative tasks.

Daniel, of course, doesn’t tell you all this. It does not interest him. What does interest him are five things: First, that Belshazzar is disrespectful to the God of Israel by taking God’s things and treating them as his own. Second, that Belshazzar values wealth rather than the Lord. The plateware of the Jerusalem temple was not valued by the king as belonging to Israel, but valued because they were gold. Third, that the Lord judged Belshazzar’s values and found them lacking. Fourth, that the Lord, in one night, brought an end to the Babylonian empire, giving it to the Persians. Fifth, that Belshazzar failed to learn the one thing Nebuchadnezzar found most important: that the God of Israel rules in the kingdoms of men and gives them to whomever he pleases. Fail to learn that lesson, and your goose is cooked.

Monday, July 29. 2 Kings 23, Daniel 1 – 2

Chapter two of Daniel contains a Joseph story of sorts. The similarity is on purpose. Note that Daniel personally asks the king for time that he might interpret the dream for him. But when Daniel goes to the king, he is “introduced” by Arioch who claims to have “found” among the exiles of Judah a man who can interpret the dream. The author of Daniel wants the reader to make the connection with Joseph, who was “introduced” to Pharaoh and someone who can interpret dreams.

But chapter two also serves to emphasize the sovereignty of God.

The astrologers protest that “there is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks.” No one can reveal the king’s dream except the gods – who do not live among men. Daniel affirms the conclusion of the astrologers: “no [one] can explain to the king the mystery” of his dream. But there is a God in heaven who can. This God has given the kingship to Nebuchadnezzar, but only temporarily. All kingdoms are temporary until this particular God sets up a kingdom that can never be destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar proclaims Daniel’s God the God of gods and Lord of kings.

In piggybacking on the story of Joseph, Daniel is connected to deliverance – at least the promise of it. This chapter sets the stage for a discussion of what is to come before God sets up his permanent kingdom.

Tuesday, July 31. Daniel 10 – 12

    The final three chapters of Daniel go together and the story within that section is the result of a vision Daniel received in the third year of Cyrus.  Chapter 10 pulls back the curtain for us a bit and we see that the struggles of earthly kingdoms, and the suffering of God’s people, is not just to political forces.  These are but symptomatic of a greater struggle that is cosmic involving the angels of heaven themselves.

    You will notice in these last chapters some repetitions:

*    First, the discussion of four empires occurs in chapters 2,7,8, and 11.

*    A ruler arises, characterized by pride, and his rule adversely affects the people of God (7:21; 8:12, 24; 9:26; 11:28 – 41).

*    His rule will not last long (7:9-11; 8:25; 11:45)

*    God and His people will ultimately triumph (7:26-27; 12:2-3)

*    The end of all things will come (7:25; 8:14; 12:6)

    Daniel gives us, in ever increasing detail – but never too much detail –  the story of the world’s future.

    Remember that Daniel is writing all this two years after the first return of the Jews Jerusalem from captivity.  The Lord has spoken through His prophets of the great days to come for His people, but Daniel holds all of that in check, telling them that bad times are not over – not for a very long time.

Monday, July 30. Daniel 7 – 9

    The literature in our reading is often called “apocalyptic,” the revealing of the future.  It has much in common with drama, for the reader is called upon to envision the images as if it were a play or (in our own day, a movie), and the result is really awesome – depending on the creativity of your imagination.

    But a danger exists: the danger of getting lost in the details of the vision and trying to give each part of the vision a meaning.  For example: what does it mean that the lion had its wings torn off?

    The answer is, it may have little  meaning at all beyond the loss of its power.  This is one of the characteristics of “dramatic” literature in the Bible.  It is filled with color, but much of it is just that: color.  The intended point(s) is always explained and should be the area of focus.  The four creatures represent four world empires that will arise.

    The message for God’s people is that the days of glory, promised by the prophets, are sill a way off, coming in the days of the last empire amid great persecution.  God’s people should remember that God is in control of all these events, trust Him and obey Him.   They should not take refuge in the power of any earthly kingdom, for they all will fall.

    You’ve already been introduced to the idea of four coming empires in chapter two.  As you read this section, the other empires (except for Rome) will all be named.  You will also notice commonalities (time, times and half a time can be 3 ½ times, 2300 evenings and mornings equals 1150 days, or 3 ½ years, middle of seven is 3 ½).  These all simply serve as threads to hold the visions together.