The book of Daniel has always been a kind of guide and an example for me to use throughout my whole life. I learned about the Bible stories in Daniel when I was very little and I always loved them. They taught me what faith is and how it comes to us in an understandable way. Stories like, “Daniel and the Lions’ Den” and “The Three Men in the Fiery Furnace” first taught me what God’s word is all about. No matter what age you are, the Bible stories in Daniel will give you a sense of comfort that the Lord is always watching over us. Daniel tells us in his prophecies of the coming Savior, which gives us a feeling of hope and joy that our Savior will someday come back and take us to be with Him in Heaven.
The book of Daniel is a very fascinating portion of God’s Word, which is written to teach us. Chapters one through six make up the historical background of the Israelites during this time. They describe historical events in Babylon during the Israelites captivity. The last six chapters make up the prophetic section. It foretells upcoming events that will affect God’s chosen people. It also records a series of dreams in which Daniel foretells the future. We can learn of God’s love for his people, which is a demonstrated throughout this book. The book of Daniel was written in two different languages. Chapter 2:4 through chapter seven were written in Aramaic. The rest of the book was written in Hebrew. It was done this way because the first part of the book of Daniel was for all nations and the last part of the book was for the Israelites.
Daniel is an Old Testament prophet and writer of the book of Daniel. He was born some where in Judah, possibly Jerusalem, but no one knows for sure. The Bible doesn’t talk about his earliest years. The first record of Daniel is during the exile of Judah, which started in about 605 BC Daniel was one of four men to be trained for important positions in the Babylonian government. This is the description Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon gave, in Daniel 1:4-5: “young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing every kind of aptitude of learning, well-informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.” Daniel and the other three men faced many different problems in the new culture of Babylon. They were in the limelight so to speak because they were chosen to be trained for government services. These men had to learn a new language far different from their own Hebrew language. They were taken from their homes in Judah as young men, away from their families and friends. Three major transitions faced these types of men. They had to study a heathen culture, adapt to heathen names, and eat heathen food. The first two problems the men did not have a problem with because it did not reflect on their faith or beliefs. The food was another story. They still had to abide to the rules God gave the Children of Israel at Mount Sinai.
After Daniel became such a high political figure in the Babylonian kingdom, the Lord used him to help the Jewish exiles. Being exiled in Babylon was not as hard on the Jews as it could have been. The Jews did not get treated like slaves. They could worship any god they wanted. It has been shown to us that even though Daniel had to work with heathens in the royal court, he still sustained his beliefs and proclaimed them. The kings saw how the Lord was with Daniel and in some instances the heathen kings praised the God of Israel, as in Daniel 4:34: “At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
The history of the kingdom of Israel up to this point is as follows: In 931 BC, the kingdom of Israel split and formed two separate countries, Israel and Judah. Israel lasted about two hundred years and Judah lasted about three hundred and fifty years. Judah, although they had Solomon’s temple, started following the ways of heathen nations around them. The people reflected the prophets the Lord gave them and so the Lord brought judgment upon them. Starting in about the year 605 BC, the Babylonians invaded Judah three times, demolishing their cities, destroying Solomon’s temple, and leading tens of thousands of Jews into captivity in Babylon. The Jews would then be in exile for the next seventy years. The Babylonians and the Medes, who were eventually let them go, would control them. During their exiles, the Lord gave them two prophets, Daniel and Ezekiel, so the people would not fall from the Lord. Ezekiel was a common man spreading the gospel among the people, while Daniel helped them from a higher political position. The Lord’s people did stray from the gospel at times, temptations from the other heathen nations got to them, but these two prophets led them in the way of the truth through the work of the Holy Spirit.
The people of Israel at the time the book of Daniel was written were very halfhearted in their faith. They varied between the gods of the Babylonians and others and the one true God. They were not really in much discomfort while they were enslaved so they did not always remember who was in control. The Israelites only prayed to God when things got bad as they did in the desert. Once things were restored to good conditions, they forgot the Lord who had brought them out of Egypt into the Promised Land. The people were weak in their faith before the exile of the Israelites. Judah was exiled because they disobeyed God’s word regarding covenant keeping, the Sabbath years, and idolatry.
Daniel was a prophet, a man called from God and given the power to perform miracles, interpret dreams, and tell the future. Throughout his life Daniel proved he was a prophet sent by the Lord to help God’s people through this time of exile in a heathen nation. In such great events like the famous lions’ den Bible story, where Daniel was saved from hungry lions because God closed the mouths of the lions, Daniel shows what faith can do. It also shows that God’s plan will be carried out. The start of Daniel becoming a powerful man was when Daniel was asked to interpret the king’s dream. The only problem was that the king forgot what his dream was. None of the king’s wise men could figure out what the dream was about. If it wasn’t for Daniel all of those wise men including his three friends would have been put to death. The dream represented the time between Daniel and the coming of the Messiah. It’s main message was that earthly kingdoms would come and go but God’s kingdom would survive all and rise in the end. After the interpretations, King Nebuchadnezzar placed Daniel as an even higher political force in Bablyon.
A messianic reference in Daniel is in chapter 9:20-27, where the Lord speaks of the seventy ’sevens.’ This reference is one of only two passages in the Old Testament, which speaks about the coming Savior as the “Messiah” or the “Anointed.”1
“Seventy ’sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes there will be seven ’sevens,’ and sixty-two ’sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two ’sevens,’ the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city until the end and desolation’s have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one ’seven,’ but in the middle of that ’seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And one who causes desolation will place abominations on a wing of the temple until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
There are a few different interpretations for these verses; I am going to give you the one, which most Lutherans believe. The seventy ’sevens’ represent a five hundred year period containing these three sections. The first section, the seven ’sevens,’ illustrates the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s temple and its temple and its city walls during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. The sixty-two ’sevens,’ the second section, begins when the Jews could go back to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple and ends with Christ’s coming down to earth to pay for all our sins on the cross. The third section is the one ’seven.’ It is the time when Jerusalem will be destroyed, but the Lord’s work will not be wasted. Christ will make a promise of grace to many people and those who believe will be saved before the destroyer comes to crush Jerusalem. When it says, “the Anointed one will be cut off,” it refers to Christ and his crucifixion. It is saying that our Savior would die and give it all up after being rejected by God and man.
Another messianic reference is found in Daniel 7:13-14. This is probably the best known messianic prophecy in the book of Daniel. It tells of the way Jesus came to us on earth and his everlasting kingdom. The verses read: “In my vision at night I looked, there before me was one like a son of man, coming with clouds of heaven . . . He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power. . . His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.”
Daniel’s words can be used for us in everyday life. The stories in the book of Daniel show us just how powerful God’s Word is. In the story of Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the Lord tells us how even though the three men faced certain death, they would not bow down to the idol. They were confident that if the Lord wanted to save them he would and if he didn’t they would be taken to heaven to be with their Heavenly Father. When the men were thrown in, the furnace was so hot that it killed the guards holding them. Then the king noticed that there was a fourth man in the fire, who was an angel of God. The three were taken out of the furnace and not a hair on them was singed. That is the kind of faith that all people need. We need that kind of dedication to our God that nothing will phase us, not even death. Reading a story like this is something that can boost our faith no matter what the situation. We should also thank God that he has let us live in a nation, even if it is a immoral one, and have the freedom of religion. But no matter what we can see that God has a plan and if we let God guide us through life then everything will work to our best. In the book of Daniel it shows a rough time ahead but also a time of triumph. Because even though times would be bleak in the future for the Jews, the Savior would be on the way and God’s plan of Salvation carried out. Daniel closes the book with this statement: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.” This inheritance is our eternal life in heaven with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What a great inheritance it is!
The whole world will always benefit from both the book of Daniel and the man Daniel himself. It is that kind of faith which Daniel displayed, that God will save us from the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. May the work of the Holy Spirit strengthen our faith to better serve him.
Concordia Self Study Bible (NIV)
Jeske, John. Daniel. The People’s Bible. Milwaukee, WI, Northwestern
Publishing House. 1985.