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An Introduction to Daniel

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures


Tonight, it is my joy to introduce us to one of my favorite books, the book of Daniel. Let me take you back to that time period and set the historical frame of reference for you. In the year 931 B.C., 931 BC, King Solomon died. After his death there was no longer a united monarchy over all the nation of Israel, but there were two kingdoms now. There was the northern kingdom of Israel composed of ten tribes, and then there was the southern kingdom of Judah composed of two tribes, Judah and Benjamin. It's often just called Judah. Because of its gross idolatry, in the year 722 BC, the ten northern tribes of Israel were conquered and were destroyed by the Assyrians. The south, Judah and Benjamin, they didn't fall at that time, but because of their ongoing sin in idolatry, Judah was destined to fall as well. The prophet Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would spend 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah 25:11: "This whole land [he says] will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylonian seventy years." That was the prophecy of Jeremiah. Here's how it happened.

It was the late seventh century, below 600s B.C. Two great superpowers were fighting for control of the Middle East. (Imagine that.) Egypt on the one side, and Babylon in the Euphrates River Valley on the other. They were fighting for that little piece of land called Israel. Initially, for about three years, these two, great, political giants sparred with one another. There were only skirmishes between small portions of their armies, but it was only a matter of time until there would be a large-scale, decisive battle deciding who would control that central portion of the Middle East. That battle came in May/June of the year 605 B.C.

The Babylonian army was under the leadership of its crown prince, a man by the name of Nebuchadnezzar. He attacked the Egyptian army on the upper Euphrates River at a city called Carchemish. At the Battle of Carchemish the Babylonians fought, and they fought hand-to-hand combat in the city and outside of the city. And in the end, they decisively defeated the Egyptians. The Egyptians were forced to retreat south through the Promised Land, through the Nation of Israel, and back to their own homeland. This then gave complete control of Palestine to the Babylonians.

Nebuchadnezzar came with his seasoned army that had put the Egyptians to flight, and he came to Jerusalem. And He put the City of Jerusalem under siege. Look at Daniel 1:1. That's the background for this verse. "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it." So, he (somewhere after the Battle of Carchemish, sometime in the early summer of the year 605) he set siege to the City of Jerusalem. And in early August of that same year, 605 B.C., he took control of the City of Jerusalem.

But it wasn't very long after that, a very short time in fact (sometime on either August 15th or August 16th of that same month that he took Jerusalem), Nebuchadnezzar received word that his father, Nabopolassar, had died in Babylon. And so, he was forced to rush home. He was forced to rush home in order to claim the throne and consolidate his power. And so, he hurried (from somewhere around the 15th or 16th of August) up from Jerusalem, up through the land of Israel, up across, down into the Fertile Crescent and back to Babylon. On September 6, 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar arrived in Babylon, and on that same day he was crowned king.

But he also returned to Babylon with some of the sacred vessels from the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem. Look at verse 2. It says, "Along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god." In other words, he took, not all of them, but some of the vessels from the temple, the temple in Jerusalem, Yahweh's temple, and he placed those items in the temple of Marduk, the chief Babylonian god. This was likely intended to express his gratitude to his god for the victories that he had experienced. And it was also, in the ancient world, intended both to exalt the power of Marduk and to humiliate the defeated God, Yahweh.

These actions, and all of the providences that control them, set in motion a stage on which Yahweh could demonstrate that He was in fact the very one who gave Nebuchadnezzar not only his position, and not only his kingdom, but even victory over Jerusalem as well. In fact, look at the first part of verse 2 which I skipped: "The LORD gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, [the LORD gave] some of the vessels of the house of God" to him as well. So, Yahweh was now set to prove to Nebuchadnezzar and to the Babylonians that He was in fact not subject to any other gods. In fact, they don't even exist. Yahweh is—and this is a name we will encounter a number of times in this wonderful book. He is El Elyon. El: God. Elyon: most high. He is God Most High.

Nebuchadnezzar also returned to Babylon, not only with some of the vessels of the temple, but with captives from Jerusalem. He had identified, (while he was there in Jerusalem for those few days, really less than two weeks), he had identified the best and the brightest of the Jewish young men with noble blood. And he'd brought them back to Babylon in order to educate them and to prepare them for future governmental service in interacting with this land that was now his. Among those captives (we're not told all of them, but we are told who four of them are. Among those captives were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.

Now, when we read a story like that, and when you think about the devastation this was in the lives of these young men, it's easy to focus on that. It's easy to see and imagine the horrific nature of being captured, of having your country besieged, your city besieged, your country taken, and you yourself carried off into captivity into a strange place. And that is horrific. And yet at the same time, this was God's grace to His people. He was preparing the way for them. Although they deserved to go into captivity because of their sin, God was still gracious.

In wrath, He remembered mercy, and He sent these men ahead of them. Because of Daniel, their captivity would not be so hard. It would not be so difficult, because by the year 586 B.C. (fast forward 18 years, by that time when most of the people were carried off to Babylon), Daniel had already been in Babylon for those 18 years and was already the second most powerful man in the empire. Daniel became for Israel in Babylon what Joseph had been for Israel in Egypt.

Now just to give you some idea, what I have just described to you is the first of three stages of deportation that happened with Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. That is the first deportation. It happened in 605 B.C. At this point, Daniel, his three friends, and a few of the nobility were taken to Babylon.

The second deportation came in the year 597 B.C. And the reason for it was this: Judah refused to pay its annual tribute. In other words, it didn't play along with Nebuchadnezzar. And so, Nebuchadnezzar returned to punish the city. And at that time, he took 10,000 captives of the most skilled, the most powerful, the most influential. And at this point he also took another man you know, a man by the name of Ezekiel, who would be called to be a prophet while living in exile in Babylon.

The third stage of the deportation happened in the year 586 B.C. Once again, Judah refused to pay its annual tribute. So, Nebuchadnezzar's army came, and this time they completely leveled the city. They destroyed the city and the temple. And he carried off to Babylon the majority of the population, leaving only the poorest and the most infirm there in the land. At this point, in 586 B.C., Israel's independence as a nation ended, and, in a very real sense, the Times of the Gentiles began.

Now why? Why did God allow His people to be taken into captivity? Because of His own loyalty, His own faithfulness to His Word. God had made a covenant with Israel at Sinai. This is what it says. Listen to Deuteronomy 11:26 and following:

"See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I am commanding you today, by following other gods which you have not known."

God says a blessing, a curse, depending on your obedience. The greatest curse (It's recorded in Deuteronomy 30:11 and following.) was captivity in a foreign land. And that's exactly what happens here.

Now, most of the details of these 70 years of captivity [that Jeremiah predicted and that are carried out here in the life of Daniel], most of them are unrecorded in the narrative of the Old Testament history. But we get little glimpses, little vignettes, little insights into these years from Daniel 1 - 6, from the prophet Ezekiel, and from certain Psalms, especially Psalm 137. During the exile, during those 70 years in Babylon, two prophets ministered to God's people there in Babylon. One of them was Daniel, and the other was Ezekiel. I'm looking forward to a journey through this great book of Daniel.

Let's look at just a little of the background. That's really what I want to give you tonight. I want you to have a broad picture of what's going on in this book. First of all, let's consider the author. It's important for you to know that many reject Daniel's claim to be an author, and instead they say it had to have been written much later than Daniel's time. Why? And I'm not making this up. If they were standing here, they themselves would say this. The primary reason is that they are anti-supernaturalists; that is, they don't believe that God supernaturally intervenes in human history. And if that's true, then it means there's no prophecy. God isn't telling someone what's going to happen in advance.

Well, they have a problem (if you're an anti-supernaturalist), because Daniel 11 (as we will see when we get there) describes in great detail events between Daniel's time period in the 500s B.C. and the Syrian king Antiochus IV who lived in the 100s B.C. I mean in great detail. It's incredible the detail that we will find there. And they say listen, there's no such thing as prophecy. That's too accurate. It couldn't have been written before. It had to have been written during or after those times. That's the argument.

They say listen, that would be like Martin Luther predicting all of the events from the Reformation to World War II. It just couldn't happen. No human can do that. And because they don't believe God can reveal those things, therefore there's only one explanation: it had to have been written after it happened. Just to give you an example. Here's John J. Collins, a commentator on the book of Daniel. He says,

"According to the consensus, (and this is a key word) 'modern critical scholarship'", this is a new idea for the most part. There was one person in antiquity who held it. "[But] modern critical scholarship, the stories about Daniel and his friends are legendary in character, and the hero himself most probably never existed." (end quote)

Now, you understand how they came to that conclusion. There's just one way. They came to that conclusion because they said God doesn't intervene in human history; therefore, read Daniel 11, that had to have been written after it happened.

But in fact, there is compelling evidence that Daniel wrote this book. Let me, first of all, give you the biblical evidence. First and foremost, the book claims to be written by Daniel. I mean, integrity itself is at stake if this isn't true. Look at Daniel 7. Daniel 7:15: "As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me." Look at verse 28 of that same chapter: "At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself."

Chapter 8:1: "In the third year of the reign of Belshazzar the king a vision appeared to me, Daniel, subsequent to the one which appeared to me previously." Verse 15: "When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it." And so forth. There are other references. I won't look at all of them. But again and again the author of this book claims to be Daniel the prophet, who experienced these events during the 500s B.C.

A second line of biblical argument or biblical evidence is this. Ezekiel (Daniel's contemporary), Ezekiel arrived eight years after Daniel in Babylon. Ezekiel refers to Daniel. He does so in Ezekiel 14:14, 20, and he calls him righteous. He says he's righteous like Noah and Job. So, here's a man who lived during the same time period. He knew Daniel, and he affirms the historicity of Daniel the prophet. And he says he is also (in 28:3 of Ezekiel's prophecy) he is a very, very wise man.

But I think the coup de grâce in terms of biblical evidence comes with Christ's own confirmation. Christ Himself confirmed that Daniel was the author of this book. Look at Matthew 24. Matthew 24:15: "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION." You'll notice those words are in all caps. That's because it's quoted from the Old Testament, and here specifically from Daniel. "Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place," and so forth. Now, Jesus does several things here. First of all, He affirms that there was a Daniel. He affirms that he was, in fact, a prophet of God. And He affirms that he wrote the book that we call Daniel, because that's where that comes from. So, Jesus our Lord confirmed this for us. So, the biblical evidence is absolutely, overwhelmingly compelling.

What about extra-biblical evidence? Obviously, our greatest confidence is in what I just shared with you. But there's plenty of extra-biblical evidence as well. For example, the book of 1 Maccabees, which was written in 120 B.C., mentions incidents from Daniel as though they were from ancient times. And yet the critics say this book was written during that time. The book of Baruch, written about 200 B.C., refers to Daniel; again, before Daniel was supposed to have written, according to the critics. Daniel was introduced, or included, I should say, in the Septuagint, which was completed before the Maccabean Era, before 173 A.D., I'm sorry, B.C.

In addition, eight manuscripts of the book of Daniel were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and some of them date to about 200 B.C. Now, the Essenes who kept the Dead Sea Scrolls were ultra conservatives. They would not have included any recent or false books, questioned books. And yet there are eight manuscripts of the book of Daniel found among the Dead Sea Scrolls. In addition to all of this, Josephus recounts a story about Alexander the Great and the book of Daniel.

So, whether it's within the book of Daniel and within the Scripture or whether it's outside, the evidence is compelling. The only reason to reject it (and this is what I want you to see). This is the blindness of liberalism. This is the blindness of those who reject God's Word and supernaturalism is to say, well, it couldn't have been written before, because it's way too accurate. So that's the author. Daniel is clearly the author. We don't need anything more than our Lord's affirmation to believe it.

What about the date of the book's events? Easy to establish. The earliest date is 605 B.C. In chapter 1 verse 1, it says, "The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah." The final date in the book is 537 B.C. In chapter 10:1, we read of the "third year of Cyrus king of Persia."

Now this is pretty remarkable when you think about this man Daniel. You understand that he was captive in Babylon from about 15 years of age to about 85 years of age? His service in the government spanned about 70 years. And think about what Daniel experienced in those 70 years. I want you think about him as if you knew him, and I want you to think about the changes that he saw. In his 70 years, and just prior to that in his life in Israel, this is what he saw. He outlived his city. He outlived his nation. He outlived five kings of Judah. He outlived five kings of Babylon. He lived and served in the time of one king of Medo-Persia, and he lived and worked in two different world empires, at the very center of those empires. Here's a remarkable, remarkable man.

Now the date of the writing of this book was probably near the very, obviously, near the very end of his life and ministry. He writes about the third year of Cyrus in the year 537. He likely died somewhere around 535 or 534, and so this book was probably written just before that. Or perhaps it was compiled from memoirs that he wrote through the years. We can't be absolutely sure of that.

This book in the Hebrew Scripture is not included with the Prophets. In our case it's with the prophets. In the Hebrew Scriptures it's not with the Prophets. It's with the Ketuvim, the Writings, because Daniel was not in the normal life of a prophet. He didn't live the life of a prophet like Elijah or Elisha, but he, instead, received his livelihood from his occupation as a statesman, as a public official. And so, it's in the Writings and not in the Prophets, although Jesus calls him a prophet in Matthew, as we just saw.

Now, I mention that the critics hate Daniel. In fact, let me put it bluntly to you. The book of Daniel is the most criticized book in the Old Testament. And it's criticized for several reasons. It's criticized for its authorship and date of writing. We've already talked about that. They include it with what's called the Pseudepigraphal. "Pseudo," you'll recognize that word "false". The false writings. That is, it claims to be written by Daniel, but in fact it's not.

They also attack it for its historical accuracy. I love this. You know, critics used to deny, they used to love the book of Daniel, because they said, look at that, the Bible can't get anything right: the Bible says Belshazzar was the last king of Babylon, and we all know from history that Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon. Well as it turns out, wouldn't you know, the Bible is very precise and accurate. Turns out that, in fact, Nabonidus was the last king. But he loved archaeology, and he left Babylon to go carry on his occupation and hobby as an archaeologist. And guess who he left in charge? His son Belshazzar. But they're always trying to find ways to attack the historicity of this book.

Its vocabulary: They claim there are Persian words in it that prove it came from a later era. But in fact, remember, Daniel wrote after Persia had conquered Babylon. They claim some Greek words prove it's from a later era. But one of the Greek words used was known in and used in Homer in the 8th century B.C. So, you just see how this goes on and on. They attack its accurate prophecies. Don't you love it? It's too accurate. It can't be genuine. What's really behind all of these attacks? It's a denial of inspiration. That's the bottom line. When you start with the predisposition that there cannot be any supernatural intervention in our world, that God cannot speak, that God cannot prophecy, then where do you go but where they've gone?

So, let's look then at Daniel, Daniel the man, remarkable man. He lived from about 620 B.C. to about 534 B.C., appropriately 86 years. Daniel, the name itself means God is judge, or God is ruler. You see how it fits the book itself. According to 1:3, Daniel was either of royal blood, possibly, or certainly of noble blood. His early years were almost certainly spent in Jerusalem, and then he spent three years being educated in Babylon. Another thing that's clear about this man is he had, by God's design, a natural gift and ability for administration. Think about this. Once he rose to a position in Babylon, he retained it through the rest of his life, through all of those changes in kings, and even through a change of empire, though he was not Babylonian. He was Jewish. As we will see, he was also a man of incredible faith in God, a man of incredible commitment to God and to His Word.

His character? Well, let's look at the estimate of Scripture. The estimate of Scripture according to Ezekiel: he was as righteous a man as Noah and Job. That's pretty good company. How would you like to be called as righteous as Noah and Job?

The estimate of history: He had authority, high authority in two successive, hostile empires: the Babylonian Empire, in 2:48; and the Medo-Persian Empire, in chapter 6:1 - 3. Edward J. Young writes this:

Although the known facts of Daniel's life are so few, nevertheless he is revealed as a man of stalwart character and priceless convictions. He is willing at all times to stand up for what he believes, and he is a true hero of the faith. Coupled with this, there is a gentle courtesy in his relation with others, and a simple and humble dependence upon the grace and power of the God whom he worships. (end quote)

Truly, a remarkable man.

What about Daniel's circumstances? Well, we've already seen that he was carried away in the first stage of the deportation of Judah in 605 B.C. when he was about 15 years old. And so, think about this. He lives his entire life in Babylon, a thoroughly pagan city under the authority of an evil, powerful man, and in a Gentile kingdom with seemingly limitless power. At this point, remember, they had routed Egypt, and they were the 900-pound gorilla in the Middle East. Nothing, it appeared, could take them.

Now why would God allow this to happen? Why would God allow Judah to be defeated, and why would He allow His people to be taken captive to Babylon? You need to understand it was no accident. It was a deliberate, divine judgment upon a rebellious nation. Why did God allow the captivity of His people? One Word. What is it? Idolatry, idolatry. It's interesting.

If you go back in Israel's history, there was very little record of idolatry during the reign of David. But after his death, the influence of idolatry grew dramatically, certainly under Solomon. Upon Solomon's death the kingdom divided. And in the ten northern tribes that I mentioned, Jeroboam set up the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. And in the southern kingdom of Judah, under Solomon's son Rehoboam, it really was no better. In fact, let me show you how bad idolatry had gotten.

I want you to turn to 2 Kings. Second Kings, and look at chapter 23, 2 Kings 23. In this passage, Josiah, one of the few bright spots (in fact, the greatest bright spot in the line of Judah's kings), he destroys Judah's idols. And, as it's documented, we're allowed to see just how grossly the Canaanite gods had permeated Israel's worship. Look at chapter 23 of 2 Kings and verse 4. It says:

Then the king commanded Hilkiah the ... priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers, [watch this now] to bring out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron ... carried their ashes to Bethel. He did away with the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense in the high places in the cites of Judah and in the surrounding area of Jerusalem…. [ By the way, the high places? Those of you who are going with us to Israel, you'll see the high place that's still at Dan. Those were like platforms on which gross sin, sexual orgies and other things were performed in view of the gods. That was the idea. So, this is what's going on.]

[They] … burned incense to Baal, to the sun ... to the moon ... to the constellations ... to all the host of heaven. [verse 6] He brought out the Asherah from the house of the LORD outside Jerusalem to the brook Kidron, [another idol] ... burned it at the brook Kidron, and ground it to dust, ... threw its dust on the graves of the common people. He also broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes which were in the house of the LORD, where the women were weaving hangings for the Asheria.

You get the idea. This is what Israel had come to. All of Israel's prophets spoke out against this idolatry. I could take you to a number of passages I have in my notes. But you understand that. You've read the prophets. It was Israel's idolatry that lead to their downfall at God's hands. In fact, the northern kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Why? Turn over a few pages to 2 Kings 17. Second Kings 17, and notice verse 7. Here's why the ten northern tribes fell:

Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt [up] from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods and [they] walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the LORD their God. Moreover, they built ... high places in all their towns.... They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim under every high hill and under every green tree ... they burned incense on all the high places.... They served [verse 12] idols, concerning which the LORD had said to them, "You shall not do this thing." ... the LORD warned Israel and Judah though all the prophets and every seer, saying, "Turn … keep My commandments...." However, [verse 14] they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the LORD their God. They rejected His statutes and His covenant[s] which He [had] made with their fathers ... His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain.... They forsook [verse 16] all [of] the commandments of the LORD their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves.... They made [verse 17] their sons and their daughters pass through the fire [In other words, they sacrificed their children to these idols.], [they] practiced divination and enchantments … sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking [them]…. So the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah.

That's the north. So, fast forward. The southern kingdom fell ultimately and finally to the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Again, the primary reason was idolatry. Turn over a few chapters to 23:26:

… the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him. The LORD said, "I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I ... removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, 'My name shall be there.'"

And it goes back to Manasseh's idolatry and all the kings before him. It was only after the seventy years of captivity that the nation of Israel's love affair with idols was finally broken. So, the Babylonian exile, then, was God's indignation against Judah.

But, here's the problem. And this is why I took you through that. Here's the problem. There is an inherent danger in God punishing His people. What was that danger? It was that the pagan nations around would assume that Yahweh was weak, that He was impotent to protect His people. And there was a potential that God's great name would be blasphemed. Now, this danger flowed from three mistaken conceptions that the pagans had.

First of all, of course, they believed there were many gods.

Secondly, they believed that a battle between two nations is, in fact, a battle between the gods of those nations. And you see where this is going.

Thirdly, if nation A defeats nation B in battle, it means the gods of nation A were more powerful than the gods of nation B, at least at that moment. This is how they thought. God is not going to let that happen. And so, He sends Daniel. He sends Daniel to Babylon.

How did God use Daniel in Babylon? He used him in two ways. First of all, to improve the life and welfare of the Jews there in Babylon. Leon Wood writes this. This is remarkable. Think about this. Compare this to Egypt, the captivity in Egypt. Leon Wood writes:

The lot of captives in a foreign land would naturally be expected to be hard and difficult. But this was not the case for most of the Jews in Babylon. They lived in good farming areas. They had their own homes. They enjoyed freedom of movement; continued their own institution of elders, priests and prophets; experienced adequate employment opportunities; and even carried on correspondence with the people in their own homeland. [He then writes this.] A principle reason for God's permitting Daniel to be taken to Babylon several years earlier than the main groups of captives was to allow him to achieve such a position before they came. Besides this, Daniel may have had much to do with affecting the return of the captives to Judah at the end of that captivity.

You just see God's [you know, I love that line] in wrath He remembers mercy. I love the fact that even the prophet Jeremiah, when he watches his city being destroyed, he says even on a day like today, I just see expressions of God's steadfast love. And you see that with Daniel. God loving His people in spite of the necessity of punishing them.

But there's a second way that God used Daniel, and I just alluded to this. And that is to maintain the honor of the true God in the minds of the pagan nations. Again, Leon Wood writes this:

Pagans evaluated any foreign deity by the country's size, its prosperity, and the size and success of its army. Judah's God did not measure well by those standards. To Babylonians, their own deity seemed to be stronger. This was not pleasing to God, and He used Daniel as His special instrument to bring a change, a change in their thinking.

And we're going to see that unfold.

Briefly, consider how the book divides. There are three ways to outline the book of Daniel. One would be according to emphasis. You have in the first 6 chapters, historical narrative, stories. You have in chapters 7 - 12, prophecy. So many will divide the book just this way, in a very simple form: here's historical narrative, here's prophecy.

There's a second way, however, and that's according to the thought development. You have an introduction of sorts in chapter 1. Then in chapters 2 - 6 you have the events in the lives of Daniel and his Hebrew friends in relation to the rulers there in Babylon. And then in chapters 7 - 12 you have Daniel's visions of the great world empires. That's another way this book is outlined.

But there's another, even more fascinating way to outline the book of Daniel, and that's according to languages. The book of Daniel is unique in that part of the book is written in Hebrew, and part of the book is written in Aramaic. And so, here's how you outline it in that way. The first Hebrew section is really introduction. It runs from 1:1, to 2 and the beginning of verse 4. Then you all of a sudden change to a different language. You change from Hebrew to Aramaic. It begins in the middle of chapter 2:4, and runs through 7:28, the end of chapter 7. So, most of 2 - 7. And here in this Aramaic section, you have Yahweh's message to and plan for the pagan nations in their language, in the common trade language of that time. Aramaic was in that time period what Greek would later be and what English is today. And then you have the final section, chapters 8 - 12, Daniel switches back to Hebrew. And here you have Yahweh's message to and plan for Israel. Pretty remarkable, the structure. You see the brilliance of God the Holy Spirit, how He used Daniel.

Daniel was deliberately targeting two distinct audiences. He was targeting the Jews, and he was targeting Babylon. Babylon was multiracial, and its trade language was Aramaic and had been since the 8th or 9th century B.C. One author puts it this way:

Daniel had two distinct, although related, messages to deliver. One was a message of judgment concerning the defeat and final overthrow of the Gentile world powers. The other was a message of consolation and hope concerning future deliverance for Israel. The first message in Aramaic, the "lingua franca" of the Near East, was appropriate for the prophet's message concerning the future history of the Gentile kingdoms. The second message, which was exclusively directed to the Hebrew people, is appropriately Hebrew.

So that's how the book divides.

Now what is it about? This is where I want us to finish our time. What is the purpose of Daniel? You see, Daniel is not primarily a history of the exile. It's not even a history of Daniel. I mean, think about this. There are only five events from Daniel's eighty-five-year life described in this book. It's not a history of Daniel. It's not a history of the exile. So, what then, is the purpose of this book? Again, let's step back and remember that every book in the Bible has one primary message. There may be subthemes. There may be related themes. But it has one primary purpose. Just like when you write a letter to a friend, you have usually one primary purpose, and then you may add a few other things that you put in there. But that's exactly what's happening here. So, what is the primary purpose of the book of Daniel?

Here it is: to demonstrate the sovereignty of God over human history. Again, I like the way one author puts it:

This book is not intended to give an account of the life of Daniel. It gives neither his lineage nor his age, and recounts but a few of the events of his long career. Nor is it meant to give a record of the history of Israel during the exile, nor even of the captivity in Babylon. Its purpose is to show how, by His providential guidance, His miraculous interventions, His foreknowledge and almighty power, the God of heaven controls and directs the history of nations, the lives of Hebrew captives, and the mightiest of the kings of the earth, for the accomplishment of His divine and beneficent plans for His servants and for His people.

In other words, God is ordering all of human history for His own glory and for the good of His people.

You can see immediately how this applies to us today. We go to our news feed, or we go to the favorite blog we have, or we go to the newspaper, wherever we get our news [for me it's the BBC] and we scour the news. And we look at the headlines. And it all looks like it's coming apart, it's unraveling. It looks like God is nowhere to be seen. Well, image if you're Daniel how it would have looked. And yet the message is, God is on His throne. He has a plan. He's still working out that plan, and He is in complete control. In fact, let me put it to you bluntly. Every chapter in this book drives home Daniel's conviction that Yahweh is sovereign over the lives of individuals, the affairs of nations, the span of empires, and ultimately all human history. God is on His throne.

Let me show you. Let me show you how this unfolds. Just briefly, look at Daniel 2. Daniel 2:21, here Daniel, in a poem, blesses God. And he says, "It is … [God] who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding."

Look down at verse 44. As he talks about the various Gentile powers, he ends with this. Verse 44: "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever." That is the kingdom of Jesus Christ our Lord. Daniel wants us to know history is under control. God has a plan, and it is perfectly on schedule.

Look at verse 47. "The king answered Daniel and said, 'Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries.'" Look at 3:29. The very end of the verse says, "… there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way." Chapter 4:17, Daniel says all of this has been done "… In order that the living may know That [Here it is: Elyon, the Most High, the Highest One above whom is no one else.] the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And He bestows it on whom[ever] He wishes And [He] sets over it the lowliest men." We see that in our own culture, don't we? God does what God chooses to do. And the story goes on through this chapter.

Verse 25, he says you're going to "be driven away from mankind," Nebuchadnezzar, and you're going to experience this terrible period of time "until [the end of the verse 25] you recognize that [Elyon] the Most High [One] is ruler over the realm of mankind and [He] bestows it upon whomever He wishes." Think back in your lifetime to the presidents who have sat in the Oval Office of our country. He, that is, God, sets over it whomever He wishes. Sometimes it's for our blessing, and other times it's for our curse. But He's in charge.

Now, I'm not going to take you to the rest of these verses. I wish I had time to do that. Let me just take you to one. Turn to Daniel 7, Daniel 7. Here you have this scene that unfolds. After he describes these world empires (And we're going to get to that in the beginning part of chapter 7.) he looks and he sees (in verse 9) the Ancient of Days, God the Father, sitting upon His throne. And verse 13,

"I kept looking in the night visions, and behold … the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him." [By the way, Christ, in His ministry, claimed this is Him, this is a fulfillment, that He is a fulfillment of this prophecy. And notice what happens to Christ our Lord.] Verse 14, "And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed."

This is where Daniel's going. God is in charge of all of the piddly, little rulers all over this planet, and they are like nothing to Him. He blows on them, Isaiah says, and they wither, and they're gone. But someday He will establish a permanent kingdom with a wise and righteous King, Jesus Christ our Lord. That's where our hope comes. And that's where this book will take us, because we worship El Elyon, God Most High.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You. Thank You for this amazing book that we get to study together. And Father, thank You most of all for the reassurance it is to our souls.

Lord, we, like Daniel, live in dark and difficult times. We look around us and we feel like our world is unraveling. We feel like You have put over it the lowliest of men.

But Father, we're so grateful to know that You have not abandoned Your throne, that You are still in charge, that every king and every ruler and every nation and every empire is completely at Your pleasure. Father, thank You.

We worship You, and we praise You that one day You will establish a kingdom which will never end, in which righteousness and wisdom will reign in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Until that day, make us faithful. Give us hope. Give us joy.

We pray in Jesus' name, Amen.


An Introduction to Daniel

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

First Lessons in Sovereignty

Tom Pennington Daniel 1

More from this Series



An Introduction to Daniel

Tom Pennington Selected Scriptures

First Lessons in Sovereignty

Tom Pennington Daniel 1

God's Plan for Human History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

God's Plan for Human History - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 2

Through the Fire - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Through the Fire - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 3

Heaven Rules - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

Heaven Rules - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 4

When Empires Fall - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

When Empires Fall - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 5

In the Lions' Den - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

In the Lions' Den - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 6

The King of Beasts - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 7

The King of Beasts - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 7:1-28

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

The Ram, the Goat, and the Little Horn - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 8

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

Seventy Years & Seventy Weeks - Part 4

Tom Pennington Daniel 9

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

The Spiritual War Behind World History - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 10

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

Wars, Rumors of Wars & the Last War - Part 3

Tom Pennington Daniel 11

The End of Time - Part 1

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The End of Time - Part 2

Tom Pennington Daniel 12:1-13

The Book of Daniel

Tom Pennington Daniel 1-12