THE BOOK OF DANIEL
February 1, 1986 Issue
by Doug Edwards
One of the most remarkable books in all of the Bible is that of Daniel. It has an appeal that reaches out to all ages. Children enjoy the book because of its exciting stories - like Daniel being cast into the lions' den. Serious Bible students enjoy it because of its numerous prophecies - such as the Seventy Weeks prophecy. Even Bible critics and skeptics enjoy the book because of its alleged "textual and historical" problems. There is something in the book of Daniel for everyone. There are three areas of study that I would like to present in this article: an overview, a time span and a purpose of the book.
There are two basic divisions in the book: (1) chapters 1-6 are basically narrative, and (2) chapters 7-12 are basically prophetic. In order to get an overview of the book I would like to present a brief summary of each division.
The first division deals with Daniel and his dealings in Babylon. He is captured and brought to Babylon (chapter 1). He interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the four world kingdoms (chapter 2). Daniel's three friends are rescued from the fiery furnace (chapter 3). King Nebuchadnezzar suffers insanity because of his pride (chapter 4). Daniel interprets the hand writing on the wall at the feast of Belshazzar (chapter 5). Daniel is thrown into a lions' den because of his faith (chapter 6).
The second division is prophetic and thus more difficult. It is not my purpose to interpret these visions, only to briefly mention them. Daniel has a vision of four beasts rising out of the sea. The fourth beast has ten horns with another little one coming out (chapter 7). Another vision is then seen which involves a ram being destroyed by a he-goat (chapter 8). The coming of the Messiah is described in the prophecy of seventy weeks (chapter 9). The end of the Jewish nation is also discussed (chapters 10-12). It is important to keep in mind that the visions of the second division are in reality covering the same period of time as the vision of the four world kingdoms in chapter two.
A Time Span
It is my understanding that Daniel deals with the last days of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. It does not deal with a Millennial reign of Christ on earth. It does not deal with our future. The context in several places proves this to be true.
When Daniel was called in before Nebuchadnezzar in chapter two he told him the vision would deal with the "latter days" (chapter 2:28). When the phrase "latter days" is used in reference to the Jews as a nation it refers to the closing days of the Old Testament and the beginning of the New Testament. Moses used the same phrase in Deuteronomy when warning children of Israel about their future (4:30, 31:29).
There are several passages in Daniel that remind us that these events would take place during this period of time. The vision of the ram and he-goat, which deals with Persia and Greece (8:20-21), would be at the "time of the end" (8:17). The seventy weeks prophecy would apply to the Jewish people and their holy city (chapter 9:24). The vision would deal with the Jewish people in the latter days (10:14). The power of the holy people would be scattered (12:6-7).
In all of these passages there is a consistency that is to be noted. Daniel is talking about the Jews and their last days. He is not talking about events in our future.
Purpose Of The Book
It is a little bit difficult to determine all of the reasons for a book. Daniel does not list the reasons for his writing the book. The careful reader, however, will be able to see some reasons.
First, God is in control of the world. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that God sets up kings and removes them (2:21). This was comforting to the Jew. No matter how dark the future may look God is still in control. He even controls the destiny of the pagan nations and will use them to accomplish His goals.
Second, the book of Daniel shows to the Jews that the Messiah would come and bring forgiveness of sins (9:24-27). The family of David had become corrupt since the time of Solomon, and God punished them through Babylonian captivity (Psalms 89). Daniel tells us that the Davidic line would be established again.
Third, the Jews and their last days are a major consideration of Daniel (10:14). For some the future is dark with the destruction of the city and scattering of the holy people. For others it is a time of hope with many being purified and raised to eternal life.
Fourth, Daniel discusses the establishment of God's kingdom on earth (2:44). This was fulfilled during the Roman Empire (Mark 1:14-15, Acts 2).
The book of Daniel is important in God's scheme of redemption. It discusses the fate of the Jews and the coming of the Messiah. It should not be neglected in our study of the Scriptures. It is true that it may be more difficult to understand than some books, but it is a book that contains many blessings for its readers.
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