By Rev. Dan Bergman
It was 605 BC, the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign. Daniel was a boy living in Jerusalem. Some say he was a teenager, but the Hebrew simply doesn’t support it. He had to have been younger. He was most likely of royal descent. He definitely stood out as having wisdom, skill, and character. He was raised to love and serve the God of his fathers. When Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem – Daniel was taken captive.
A Boy with Conviction – Chapter 1
Having been given special portions of the king’s food and drink that were forbidden by the Torah, Daniel made his choice to humbly request exemption from eating and drinking what was given him. His request was respectful, but resolute. He ought to obey God rather than men. We know the story, how he and his Hebrew companions were allowed to eat pulse (likely vegetables, from the Hebrew word for “seed”) instead of the meat, and drink water instead of wine for ten days. They proved that they were ten times better than all of the others to the king. He had no mother or father with him reminding him of what was right. He was a child – and yet he defied (with permission) the wishes of the most powerful man in the world. It is certainly a noble aspiration to “dare to be a Daniel.”
The Dream of a Wicked King – Chapter 2
Daniel has been apart from his home and family for three years now. He would never see them again, on this side of glory. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that none of his wise men could recount for him, or decipher. He was furious. He expected much of these wise men. He railed on them, promising that if they could not tell him his dream, and its interpretation, that He would cut them in pieces, and make their houses into dunghills! His wise men’s response in a nutshell was this:
“No one on earth can do this, only the gods can do such a thing! Kings never ask this of anyone! It’s impossible!”
This made Nebuchadnezzar’s blood boil with rage. He declared that all of the wise men in all of Babylon were to be killed! This included Daniel and his friends. When Daniel heard of the decree, he stood up to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who was the very man sent to kill all of the wise men! Daniel then went to the king to request that he be given some time to interpret the dream. The king agreed so Daniel and his friends besought the Lord to give Daniel the interpretation of the dream, and God did!
Nebuchadnezzar saw a great image, or statue. The different parts of this image were made of different materials. These materials represent the four major world powers that would come and go, ending with the revived Roman empire under Antichrist, that will be destroyed by the “stone cut without hands”, which is representative of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, as He destroys it at His second coming at the end of the seven-year Tribulation period.
As a result, in verse 47 and 48 of chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar declares “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.”
Facing an Ultimatum – Chapter 3
Have you ever been brought to a point of decision to follow God, or men? Daniel’s companions were about to have their faith tested in just such a way. Nebuchadnezzar had made a huge statue bearing his likeness, and ordered all to bow down at the appointed time and worship it. Daniel’s three friends would not. It was previously decreed that whosoever would not worship the king’s image was to be bound and thrown into a raging furnace. Let the Hebrews’ response sink in, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”1
Nebuchadnezzar becomes perhaps the most enraged that we see him in the entire book of Daniel! He commands to heat the furnace seven times hotter than its normal temperature. This would easily be thousands of degrees, as this is likely the furnace that was used to melt the gold for the statue! The heat from the flames was so intense the men who threw the Hebrews into the furnace died!
But God protected the young Hebrew boys! In fact, the pre-incarnate Son of God, Jesus the Messiah appears in the furnace with the three Hebrews! The boys are loosed from their bands, walking around in the midst of the furnace! Their hair was not singed, and they didn’t even smell of smoke! The King commands them to come out, and proclaims “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.2
Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream – Chapter 4
Later the king had another troubling dream. This dream begins by pronouncing the greatness of the king, but largely focuses on his coming judgment. Within this chapter, there is an amazing example of how the sovereignty of God is balanced with the free will of man. God’s sentence of judgment is pronounced against king Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, after giving the interpretation of the dream, gives the king counsel. He tells the king to “break off thy sins with righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.“3 God is sovereign – but he reacts to how men respond to him (repentance). As prophesied by Daniel, the king ends up going mad for seven years, living in the wilderness, and eating grass like an ox until the seven years were fulfilled. At the end of chapter four, Nebuchadnezzar praises the “King of Heaven,” and proclaims that He is able to abase those who walk in pride.
Handwriting on the Wall – Chapter 5
We find a new player introduced into the drama that is the book of Daniel. His name is Belshazzar. He is the son of Nabonidus, and grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. He is sitting as king while his father was on expeditions in Arabia. Belshazzar was a wicked, prideful, heathen ruler. He had thrown a huge party, using the sacred vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem as common vessels for use in their drunken pagan ceremonies.
The celebration was interrupted by a hand writing four words on the wall: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and UPHARSIN. In a panic, the king scrambles to find answers. The queen suggests that Daniel could tell him what it means, so he brings Daniel in. This is a paraphrase of what Daniel tells him: “God has finished your kingdom. It’s over. God has judged you to be inadequate. Your kingdom will be given to the Medes and the Persians.”
Belshazzar’s final act as king was to honor Daniel, and give him a third of the kingdom of Babylon. That night, Belshazzar was murdered, and Darius of the Medes took the kingdom.
Lying with Lions – Chapter 6
Being close to the Lord does not eliminate trials. Darius’ princes whom he set over the kingdom were jealous of Daniel, for Darius had promoted Daniel above all of them! They set a trap for Daniel by prompting Darius to forbid prayer to anyone but him. The penalty? A night in the lions’ den, which most certainly would be your last. Knowing this, Daniel still prayed as he had every day, preferring rather to die praying than to live without prayer. He was cast into the lions’ den by a sorrowful king who could not retract his law. Would Daniel survive? The God of heaven sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions! It was a miracle! Darius then makes this decree “I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.”4
Beasts, Bewilderment, and Blessings – Chapters 7 and 8
Now Daniel has dreams of his own. He sees four beasts which parallel the image seen in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, representing the Gentile kingdoms of the world. The fourth beast represents both what we know today as the old Roman empire, and the prophetic revived Roman empire under which the Antichrist will come to power.
We would be amiss not to mention Daniel’s amazing vision of the Son of man speaking with the Ancient of days! “…one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days …and there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”5
The kingdom was given to the Son (who comes in the clouds of Heaven) by the Father! This very passage is quoted by Jesus at His trial before being crucified, when asked if He was the Christ, the Son of God. Daniel then sees two more beasts which represent the Medo-Persian and Greek Empires.
Prayer and Prophecy – Chapter 9
The longest prayer in the Hebrew Scriptures belongs to Daniel. It has served as an example for a model of Jewish prayer. It should be noted that nothing negative is ever said about Daniel in all of Scripture, and yet the theme of his entire prayer is confession and repentance. We could do much to learn from Daniel. His prayer is interrupted in verse 20 by Gabriel the angel. He tells Daniel of the amazing timeline that begins when Jerusalem is decreed to be rebuilt. This timeline gives the exact timing for the Messiah’s coming, and also speaks of His substitutionary death! The timeline ends with a brief description of the seven-year Tribulation period.-
In the Company of the Savior and Angels – Chapter 10
This chapter provides an amazing glimpse of Jesus the Messiah that parallels Revelation chapter one. Daniel is terrified. He is then comforted by a number of angels who appear to him one at a time.
The History of the Future – Chapter 11
An amazingly accurate prediction of the events of world history, from approximately 500-175 B.C., is recorded here. Daniel writes the words of Gabriel, as he tells of world powers rising and falling, of specific conflicts and alliances, as well as the resulting actions on this stage of worldwide drama. The second half of this chapter is prophetic. It speaks of the Antichrist. Christ referenced this passage as a yet-to-be fulfilled prophecy known as the abomination of desolation. When we consider the many prophetic details of Daniel 11 that were fulfilled as predicted, we can have confidence that the remaining prophecies of this chapter and others in the Bible that are yet to be fulfilled will likewise occur as God has ordained!
The Final Chapter – Chapter 12
Daniel ends with the same prophetic treasure that it has continued in from the beginning. He continues with the words of Gabriel (who is by the way, the very angel that appears to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus in Luke1). Gabriel speaks to Daniel of the Tribulation period, and of the final resurrection. We will meet Daniel someday, if we are trusting in Jesus, the Messiah that Daniel prophesied of! We will with Daniel “…rest, and stand in thy lot in the end of days.”6
1 Daniel 3:16-18
2 Daniel 3:28-29
3 Daniel 4:27
4 Daniel 6:26
5 Daniel 7:13-14
6 Daniel 12:13