of this study
has been some time since our little group has been concerned with the subject
of prophecy. Part of that has been the press of other concerns; another part
is the teacher’s reluctance to tread on the various theories of Revelation.
Indeed, prophecy is not the entire reason for studying Daniel. There are indeed
there is the study of the character of Daniel himself. He is indeed a hero
of the faith and as such his life is worth study.
there is the question of how God deals with an unrepentant nation. We see
this in Israel in the Old Testament, but perhaps it has its application to
we need to see the surety of prophecy.
punishes his nation
begin by examining the Scripture:
Daniel 1:1-21 NASB In the third year of
the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to
Jerusalem and besieged it. (2) The Lord gave
Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, 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. (3) Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his
officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal
family and of the nobles, (4) youths in whom
was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and
discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and
language of the Chaldeans. (5) The king
appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine
which he drank, and appointed that they
should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the
king's personal service. (6) Now among them
from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. (7) Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to
Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. (8)
But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's
choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials
that he might not defile himself. (9) Now God
granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the
officials, (10) and the commander of the
officials said to Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has
appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking
more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me
forfeit my head to the king." (11) But
Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed
over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (12)
"Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some
vegetables to eat and water to drink. (13)
"Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance
of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your
servants according to what you see." (14)
So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. (15) At the end of ten days their appearance seemed
better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king's
choice food. (16) So the overseer continued
to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving
them vegetables. (17) As for these four
youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even
understood all kinds of visions and
dreams. (18) Then at the end of the days
which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the
officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. (19)
The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel,
Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. (20) As for every matter of wisdom and understanding
about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all
the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. (21)
And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.
warns the nation in general
is no secret that God warns the nations who worship him about their conduct.
Indeed as the Scripture says, righteousness exalted people but sin is a reproach.
Jeremiah puts it this way:
Jeremiah 18:7-10 NASB "At one moment I
might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull
down, or to destroy it;
(8) if that nation against which I have spoken turns
from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it.
(9) "Or at another moment I might speak
concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; (10) if it
does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the
good with which I had promised to bless it.
see the point. It is not just that God concerns himself with the nation of
Israel, and no others, but rather all those nations who have any awareness of
him or of his righteousness are subject to his judgment. Much of this is done
in the general nature of the moral universe. As we say, what goes around comes
around. So it is no surprise when a nation falls for its moral failures.
the case of Israel however, we have specific prophecies which relate to this
event. To begin with, there is what is written in the law of Moses concerning
the nation of Israel and its obedience to God. Listen to what Moses says:
Deuteronomy 28:47-52 NASB (47) "Because you did not serve the LORD your
God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; (48) therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the
LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack
of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed
you. (49) "The LORD will bring a nation
against you from afar, from the end of the earth, as the eagle swoops down, a
nation whose language you shall not understand, (50)
a nation of fierce countenance who will have no respect for the old, nor show
favor to the young. (51) "Moreover, it
shall eat the offspring of your herd and the produce of your ground until you
are destroyed, who also leaves you no grain, new wine, or oil, nor the increase
of your herd or the young of your flock until they have caused you to perish. (52) "It shall besiege you in all your towns
until your high and fortified walls in which you trusted come down throughout
your land, and it shall besiege you in all your towns throughout your land
which the LORD your God has given you.
the entire chapter is instructive. But this is not the whole of the matter.
Before this king was born, God had prophesied through Isaiah exactly the
events. In the 39th chapter of Isaiah, we see him giving a warning to King
Hezekiah about the foolishness of his showing his treasures to the ambassadors
from Babylon. But note Hezekiah's reaction:
Isaiah 39:8 NASB Then Hezekiah said to
Isaiah, "The word of the LORD which you have spoken is good." For he
thought, "For there will be peace and truth in my days."
see the point no doubt. Despite this prophecy of disaster, Hezekiah's only
thought is that he will have peace and security in his own time. The comparison
with Neville Chamberlain is just too obvious.
God does not content himself with prophecies from the past to remind those in
the present. He sent Jeremiah to speak with King Jehoiakim. Listen to his
Jeremiah 25:8-13 NASB "Therefore thus
says the LORD of hosts, 'Because you have not obeyed My words, (9) behold, I will send and take all the families of
the north,' declares the LORD, 'and I will send
to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this
land and against its inhabitants and against all these nations round about; and
I will utterly destroy them and make them a horror and a hissing, and an
everlasting desolation. (10) 'Moreover, I
will take from them the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of
the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the
light of the lamp. (11) 'This whole land will
be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon
seventy years. (12) 'Then it will be when
seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,'
declares the LORD, 'for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I
will make it an everlasting desolation. (13)
'I will bring upon that land all My words which I have pronounced against it,
all that is written in this book which Jeremiah has prophesied against all the
there is no reaction from the king. No doubt he thought Jeremiah just one more
gloomy prophet of doom, ready to be ignored. Note, however, that God does not
necessarily use the righteous to punish his people. In fact, it seems to be his
preference to use the heathen to bring home his prophecy of destruction upon
those who used to be righteous.
dilemma is the same as that of many parents. You don't like smacking your child
on the rear end, you'd really rather motivate them with rewards than
punishment, but -- sometimes you just have to take action. Nothing else works.
But do note that the object of this exercise is not just punishment, but
repentance. God does not desire the destruction of anyone. He especially abhors
the destruction of those who claim his name. He lays out his method for
repentance in very simple terms:
2 Chronicles 7:14 NASB and My people who are
called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from
their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and
will heal their land.
loving heavenly father views punishment as a means to the end of repentance.
But note, in this instance, the punishment went on for 70 years. I leave it as
an exercise for the reader to determine whether or not there is a lesson here
for the United States of America.
might occur to you to wonder why Nebuchadnezzar took these people to Babylon
with him. It is a common occurrence of the time. There were at least three good
reasons to do this:
the people would be brought back as trophies. Nothing makes the king so
popular as a triumphal entry which shows how much loot he has acquired and
how many captives he has taken as servants.
these young men would also be hostages. They were taken from the
nobility, and therefore their presence in Babylon would deter their parents
from rebelling against the king.
too, the young men were the best and brightest. By taking them into his
service, he acquired some very useful servants who could be trained to his
other item of note: as you can see, they were placed in charge of the master of
the eunuchs. That means these young men were castrated. This is a very good
way of breaking up the local dynasty.
will note that Nebuchadnezzar took a large variety of trophies from the Jewish
Temple. No, I do not know if he took the Ark of the covenant. But the trophies
were taken were a very obvious reason: they tell the world that my God is
superior to your God, since I have your God’s possessions in my God’s temple.
addition you will notice that Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of these four
young men. It is interesting to see the transition:
Hebrew names were these: Daniel - God is my Judge; Hananiah - The grace
of the Lord; Mishael - He that is the strong God; Azariah - The Lord is a
Chaldean names were these: Belteshazzar signifies the keeper of the
hidden treasures of Bel; Shadrach - The inspiration of the sun, which the
Chaldeans worshipped; Meshach - Of the goddess Shach, under which name
Venus was worshipped; Abed-nego, The servant of the shining fire, which
they worshipped also.
the subtlety of their approach. They do not force the captives to worship their
gods, but they do put a subtle pressure on them since they now have the names
of those gods. It is a form of voluntary coercion.
might ask why the Babylonians took so much care and training these young men.
There are a number of reasons:
they would be totally dependent upon the king. This would ensure their
loyalty to the King and not particular factions in court or out of it.
they would also be impartial in giving advice and in carrying out the
king's business. This promotes honesty, diligence, and reliability. These
might even be useful virtues in civil servants today.
is also an example of wisdom. By charitably treating your captives, you
lessen the bitterness of captivity and defeat. This makes them more
amenable to supporting you as the rightful ruler.
does Daniel refuse the king's food?
might seem odd at first that Daniel refuses to eat the food set before him. At
the very least, we might consider this bad manners. But Daniel, a devout Jew of
the Old Testament, had at least three reasons to do so:
the meat could have been sacrificed to idols. As such, the Jewish law
would have prohibited him from eating it.
the meat in particular may have been considered unclean in the Jewish law.
It is well known that the ancient Jew would rather starve to death than
eat unclean meat. In fact, the Romans noted that this did happen with Jews
can find in their jails.
might surprise you, however, is the third reason: these may be considered
the dainties of an evil man.
As such, Daniel would have seen them as temptation to join in the evil
doings of the Babylonians.
matter of will
will notice in the Scriptures that Daniel "made up his mind." Other
translations have the phrase "resolved" or "purpose in his
heart". The concept that the Jew of this time, and the question of our
time, are to be separate from the world is stressed throughout Scripture. Note
please, that this is a matter of the will. It is not an emotional response, but
rather something that the Christian decides to do and systematically carries
is not something that we make up out of our own imaginations. Rather, it is
obedience to the command of God. So it is that the Christian must study the
Scriptures, so that such separation will be as God commands it, not how we
imagine it. We are to be "in the world, not of the world."
that this requires faith. Daniel displays this in his request to the
chamberlain to be fed only vegetables and water. He is confident that God's
dietary laws will produce a better result than feasting at the king's table.
goes about this in an exemplary way. First, note that he does so peacefully.
There is no sense of rebellion, no sense of “we are going to do it our
way," but rather he does so respectfully. He cares what others think of
his faith. It is his objective that they respect his beliefs, and might even be
attracted to them. It is a lesson to Christians: if you scream your faith in
anger, how do you really expect to be heard?
concept, the separation of the Christian from the world, is an essential one.
Daniel is an excellent example. As the apostle John put it,
1 John 2:15-17 NASB Do not love the world
nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father
is not in him. (16) For all that is in the
world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of
life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. (17)
The world is passing away, and also its
lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
example is before us. Let us go and do likewise.