Introduction to the Book of Daniel
In recent years, liberal critics have attacked the authenticity of this book. They contend that it was not written in the sixth century BC by a man named Daniel, as the Bible clearly states. Instead, they theorize that it was written in the second century BC by an anonymous historian who invented fictional stories about an imaginary character named Daniel in order to bolster the courage of the Jewish people during a time of national suffering and persecution. They contend that whatever events are historically true are not prophetic at all but rather, the mere record of events after they occurred.
One obvious fallacy in these criticisms is that many of the prophecies unfold after the second century, after the lifetime of this imaginary historian. It is also obvious that these critics share a common disbelief in any supernatural aspect of revelation. They refuse to believe in a God who is able to reveal the end from the beginning, who knows all truth that could ever be known. Therefore they reject out of hand any and all prophecy.
They also disbelieve in a God who is almighty and who is active in history exercising His power. Therefore they disbelieve in the miracles recorded in Daniel. It is not the miracle itself that motivates their unbelief. Rather, it is their prior disbelief. Since they refuse to believe in a God who performs supernatural works, a God who is involved in the circumstances of real people, delivering and saving, then the story of the three young men preserved in the fiery furnace or Daniel preserved in the lion’s den must be mythology, fiction. Their humanistic bias makes it impossible for them to objectively interpret any Scripture that reveals a God who is all wise, all knowing, almighty, sovereign over the universe He created and active in history.
Against their criticism, we must note that Ezekiel, who lived at the same time as Daniel, mentions Daniel three times in the prophetic book that bears his name (Ezekiel 14:14,20 and 28:3). Jesus also refers to Daniel as an authentic person in Matthew 24:15. Are we to disbelieve the testimony of Ezekiel, s contemporary of Daniel? Are we to discount the testimony of Jesus, the Son of God? How foolish.
Considering that a major emphasis of the book of Daniel is that God is in sovereign control of the events of history, it is absurd to propose that the book is a lie, that God is not Lord of history, that He can only tell us what happened, not what will happen. If this book was written to bolster the faith of Jews during a time of persecution, how would it build anyone’s faith to propose a series of lies pretending to show that God is active in our lives, if in fact He is not?
The critics are mistaken. This book is nothing other than the record of God’s intervention in the life and times of a real human being named Daniel. It is the revelation of a God who is present in history and in the lives of faithful people, sovereignly working out His purpose.
In the years following the death of King Solomon, the nation of Israel had endured a civil war during which the ten norther tribes split off to form a separate national entity known as Israel, whose capital was Samaria. The two southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin formed the southern kingdom known as Judah. In 722 BC, long before the birth of Daniel, the Assyrians had conquered the northern kingdom of Israel. During this time, the Assyrians had also camped at the gates of Jerusalem, capital of the southern kingdom of Judah, but the city was miraculously spared (see 2 Kings 19:35).
In 612 BC, Assyria was defeated by the Babylonians and as Daniel entered his teenage years, the threat to Judah was from the Babylonian Empire. Really, though, the greatest threat to the nation was from within. God’s covenant people had fallen into gross idol worship and the resulting downward spiral of corruption had led to social injustice, immorality, and a complete breakdown of the spiritual life of the nation.
God continually warned His covenant people through the prophets but the spiritual and moral life of the nation spiraled out of control. In the summer of 605, the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, won a great victory over Egypt at Carchemish. This was followed by a march into Palestine and the first successful assault on Jerusalem. As a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s victory, a number of young men of nobility were taken captive to Babylon. Daniel was among these and must have been in his teens when this occurred.
In the ensuing years, the nation of Judah was allowed a measure of self-rule but continued to rebel against Babylonian rule. This led to two more assaults on the nation, in 597 BC and 586 BC. This final defeat resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple itself.
Daniel was trained as an administrator in Babylon and later also served in the Medo-Persian government, after that kingdom defeated Babylon. In 10:1, Daniel says that a vision came to him in the third year of Cyrus. That would be the third year after the Medo-Persian king Cyrus captured Babylon, which occurred in the autumn of 539 BC. That means Daniel was still ministering in 536 (69 years after the time of his captivity). He would have been over eighty years old by then.
1. The sovereignty of God in the events of human history.
In this book God gives us His perspective on the outworking of world history from the days of the Babylonian empire to the end of time.
People would have been asking, “Where is God? The political life of the nation is destroyed — all its institutions including the monarchy have been destroyed. The religious life of the nation — the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial system — all destroyed. Where are you God?”
The answer revealed in this book is that God is present in this universe and over it. God is present simultaneously before time, beyond time and meets us in time, in history, in the circumstances of our lives.
In the Old Testament temple, God placed a representation of His glory in the Holy of Holies, yet at the dedication of that temple, Solomon prayed, “Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built!” (I Kings 8:27).
The universe itself cannot contain God. He transcends this world and yet meets us in it. God is not only the Creator of the universe but also “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3) God “upholds” the universe. The word “upholds” is used of the men who were carrying their paralyzed friend to Jesus (Luke 5:18). God is moving the universe toward the fulfilling of His purpose. He not only creates; He sustains, upholds all He created and moves all things toward the fulfilling of His purpose.
Where are you God? He is moving all of time and history toward the fulfillment of His eternal design. But how could God allow evil to triumph over His covenant nation? Wicked people destroyed the holy city and everything in it that brought God glory. How can God allow that?
God’s response? That was not Babylon exercising evil independently against divine purpose. No, Babylon was an instrument of divine purpose. It was God who destroyed. For centuries God had called to Israel mercifully, patiently, truthfully confronting sin, revealing the remedy and promising restoration if the nation would turn back to Him. But the people continued to reject the prophets, despise the word of God, violate the commands of God and as they did, they sank more deeply into sin than the evil nations around them. And so God judged them.
Consider the words of 2 Chronicles: “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans” (2 Chronicles 36:15-17).
“The king of the Chaldeans” is Nebuchadnezzar. Who brought him against Jerusalem? God did. Who decreed the destruction of Jerusalem? God did. This does not mean that God willed the savagery of the Babylonians; in fact, they were later judged by God for their cruelty. But God did not violate His covenant with Israel. When the covenant was first established through Moses, God promised blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience (see Leviticus 26:1-42). God did not violate the covenant — Israel did. They had fallen into every form of immorality, idol worship, economic injustice and oppression of the poor. They refused to honor the Sabbath or the Jubilee year (when debts were forgiven, the land laid fallow so it could be refreshed, families were restored to their ancestral property).
God called to the people through the prophets but the nation ignored, mocked and despised God’s word until “there was no remedy.” The Lord would have glorified Himself in the deliverance and restoration of the nation but they would not have it; so the Lord glorified Himself in the judgment of the nation, using Babylon as the instrument of divine wrath. The people who loved their idols more than God were carried off to the center of world idolatry, the place where idolatry began (Genesis 11:4).
In allowing the destruction of the temple, God did not violate His glory. Before the Jerusalem temple was destroyed, God had removed His glory from the Holy Place because it had been violated by sinful people who refused to repent.
Why did God allow the destruction of the covenant nation? The answer is that God did not fail to protect Judah. Rather, God was triumphant in judging His covenant people. God did not passively stand back and allow the Babylonians to destroy Judah. God Himself was the Judge.
God’s holy, just character demands that He not be neutral regarding the decisions and actions of people and nations. Therefore God is active in history.
The men who wrote the books of the Bible interpreted history from the perspective that a just and moral God governs the affairs of nations. God had made covenant with Israel. How could God judge the covenant nation? Because He is loyal to His character and to His covenant.
2. The sovereignty of God in preserving the covenant nation.
In this book we see God working to preserve Israel even as He judged the nation for its flagrant sin. With Jerusalem and the temple reduced to rubble, God demonstrated that He is still present in history working out His pre-ordained salvation purpose in and through His covenant people — preserving a righteous remnant and restoring the covenant nation to the covenant land.
In this book we also see the outline of the future history of Israel over the many centuries in spite of Gentile domination. This history is still being worked out today in the face of continual, unsuccessful attempts to destroy the covenant nation.
3. The sovereignty of God over the lives of individual persons, including kings / rulers.
In the life of Daniel and his friends we see a God who preserves the faithful even in a society that is hostile to their faith. In the life of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar we see a God who judges sinners, even sinful kings, and yet also offers redeeming grace when a sinner repents and calls on the name of the Lord. In the life of Belshazzar, the last Babylonian king, we see a God who destroys evil government. In the life of Cyrus, the Medo-Persian king, we see a God who reveals Himself to pagan, idol-worshipping rulers and uses people of power to advance His kingdom purpose.
The sovereignty of God in determining the course of history does not relieve anyone, great or small, of moral responsibility. God held Nebuchadnezzar accountable for his sin of pride. God held Belshazzar accountable for his idolatry and his mocking of God. We are all accountable for the decisions we make and a just, moral God requires accountability, even of kings. Therefore Daniel testifies, “It is He who changes the times and the periods; He removes kings and appoints kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to people of understanding” (2:21).
4. The sovereignty of God over nations.
God used Babylon to judge Israel but then the Lord judged and destroyed Babylon. God used the Medo-Persian government to restore Jerusalem. We see the rise and fall of empires up to the end times and through all of it, God is on His throne. The Psalmist reminds us, “The Lord nullifies the counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples. The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Psalm 33:10,11).
Daniel the Man:
Along with Ezekiel, Daniel is known as an exilic prophet because he ministered in exile, in Babylon and in Persia. Daniel was taken into exile in the first captivity, in 606 or 605 BC (about the time Habakuk was prophesying). We know this date from Daniel 1:1, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, King Nebuchadnezzar came.”
In the first chapter we witness the calling and training of Daniel, both as a government employee and as a servant of God. Daniel rose through the ranks of administrative leadership to serve in the upper levels of government in the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empires for seventy years or more (into the decade of the 530s BC).
Though Daniel lived and served in kingdoms which were rooted in the worship of false gods, he lived his faith in the one, true God — lived it publicly, faithfully, in a society that was often hostile and even lethal in its response to any contrary faith. He served in secular government and as a divinely inspired recorder of history.
Person and Character of Daniel:
Chapter 1:3 indicates that Daniel was probably of royal or noble descent: “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.” Further, his parents must have been devout people. How else can you account for a young man being so devoted, so strong in character, at such a young age.
His spiritual maturity and insight are indicated by:
1. His ability to receive such remarkable revelations and visions from God.
2. His willingness to give rebuke and divine command to kings.
3. His God-centeredness, giving glory to God instead of himself (2:27-30)
4. His faith in God. For instance, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he would interpret the dream even before he knew it (see 2:12-19).
5. His obedience and integrity. When others conspired to destroy him, Daniel remained faithful, continuing to pray to his God as he always had (see 6:6-13).
Daniel’s personal righteousness is indicated by his resistance to the dietary change (recorded in chapter 1). In his value system, maintaining a covenant relationship with God was more important than his own comfort or safety.
His strength of character, courage and integrity, are indicated by his willingness to stand before kings in a foreign land and speak a word from God including admonishment. The second message to Nebuchadnezzar, that the king would go insane as a judgement from God, could not have been easy (see 4:19-27). Daniel not only delivered the prophecy but warned the king to humble himself before God. Remember that a king could have an official put to death merely for displeasing him.
The same is true for the incident regarding the handwriting on the wall (see 5:1-28). Daniel not only delivered the fatal pronouncement to Belshazzar but also rebuked the king for exalting himself before the true and living God. When any man or woman is willing to speak the word of God without consideration for their own personal safety or comfort, this is a demonstration of integrity and courage.
We see Daniel's humility when he interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream. He went out of his way to give glory to God, denying any personal wisdom (2:27-30).
We see his amazing faith in that same incident. Daniel could hardly have been more than 17 years old (it was the second year of Nebuchadnezzar according to 2:1 and Daniel could not have been much more than fifteen when taken captive). Daniel had faith to believe that God would reveal the matter to him in spite of his youth. Daniel said boldly that if the king would give him time, he would find the matter out. He and his friends then went in prayer to the Lord who honored their faith with revelation.
We see his integrity in the incident in chapter 6. When the edict of the king went out that no one could pray except to the king for thirty days, Daniel did not alter his spiritual discipline. Surely he was aware of the plot but he chose to honor God rather than respond to the plotters by compromising his spiritual discipline. All Daniel had to do was to cease praying for 30 days or become more secretive about it but he refused to alter his prayer life in any way.
Integrity is also indicated in refusing the king's menu and in the level of study and discipline to which Daniel committed during that time. He and his friends were found to be “ten times better” than the others (1:20). That involves the favor of God but also hard work and diligent commitment to walk before the Lord with integrity.
Daniel’s character is also revealed in the level of responsibility laid on him by the kings under whom he worked. His continued favor and advancement indicates that he worked hard and produced good results. Nebuchadnezzar referred to Daniel as “chief of the magicians” (4:9). This does not mean that Daniel was involved in the occult but that he was in charge of all the counselors to the king. Under Darius, Daniel was made one of three administrators over 120 princes (and the king planned to make him head of the three).
Daniel’s kindness to others is revealed in chapter 2. After he interpreted the dream and received a reward, Daniel remembered his three friends that they also might share in the reward.
Major events in Daniel's life:
1. As a youth, he was offered tasty, tempting food, the same food the king ate. However, the food had first been offered to idols. The meat would have been unclean according to Jewish law and therefore Daniel would have violated his covenant relationship with God. Daniel and his three friends asked for a substitute menu (1:5-16).
2. Daniel interpreted the first dream of Nebuchadnezzar which the wise men had been unable to interpret (2:1-45). As a result, the king gave glory to God and Daniel was promoted.
3. The three friends of Daniel refused to bow down to the king’s golden idol. Thrown into a fiery furnace, they experienced the joy of deliverance and God was glorified (3:1-30).
4. Daniel interpreted the second dream of Nebuchadnezzar (4:1-27).
5. Daniel interpreted the handwriting on the wall at Belshazzar’s banquet (5-28). That night Babylon fell to the Medo-Persians. Daniel prophetically announced the downfall of one kingdom and the exaltation of another.
6. Under Darius (Cyrus), other officials were jealous of Daniel and plotted against him, forcing the king to cast Daniel into the lion's den. God’s deliverance resulted in greater favor for Daniel (6:6-28).
7. Prophetic revelation relating to the future of Israel and the world (chapters 7-12).
8. Daniel was probably in his mid teens in the first chapter. Sixty-nine years later, in the third year of Cyrus, he has his final vision.
Daniel was not a prophet in the sense of an occupation. He was a government administrator. But God gave him prophetic anointing and revelation.
1. Positioned as an administrator, Daniel was available to be used by God to establish His glory in a foreign land that otherwise would not have glorified God. By the standards of that day, if the armies of one nation were greater than another, it was assumed that the gods of that nation were greater. Thus it was assumed that the God of Israel was weaker than the gods of Babylon.
Through the interpretation of the dreams which God gave to Nebuchadnezzar, God manifested His glory and His superiority over the impotent gods of Babylon. Through the rescue of the three friends of Daniel from the fiery furnace God showed His power and His glory. Through the interpretation of the handwriting on the wall God glorified Himself in judgment. Through Daniel’s miraculous deliverance from the lion's den God manifested His glory as Savior.
In each of these incidents, the kings gave glory to God, with the exception of Belshazzar. Daniel's position in the government allowed him to be used by God in these incidents.
2. As an administrator, God used Daniel to watch over the welfare of the captive people of Judah. Because he was taken captive before the great bulk of captives were taken into exile, he had time to rise to a high place of influence in the kingdom. This undoubtedly had a positive influence on conditions which the exiles experienced.
The exiles were able to maintain their institutions of prophets and priests (Jeremiah 29:1). They enjoyed freedom in their living conditions (in Ezekiel chapter 8, the prophet is living in his own house, freely visited by elders). They enjoyed the privilege of corresponding with their relatives back in Judah (Jeremiah 29:1,25).
There seem to have been good business opportunities. Many commercial tablets have been discovered containing Jewish names, showing that they were active in business (though the tablets date from the fifth century BC, representing circumstances a hundred years after exile, they imply that success may have begun at an earlier date).
The captives were allowed to settle on fertile land (near the river Chebar, Ezekiel 1:1,3 3:15,23). This was a rich farming area. We can speculate that Daniel had an influence in this.
3. As an administrator and advisor to the Medo-Persian king, Daniel must have had an influence on the king’s decree allowing the Jewish exiles to return to their land. He was still alive at the time of their return (538-537 BC). At that time, Daniel held the highest governmental post of his life (6:2,3).
It is extraordinary that although a complete change in government occurred when the Medo-Persians conquered the Babylonians, and though Daniel was over eighty years of age, he not only did not lose his position but rose in appointment and authority. Obviously, God was not finished with Daniel. We may assume that God preserved him so that he could influence the king who issued the decree allowing the Jews to return to their land.
4. As a prophet, Daniel received and recorded amazingly accurate revelations of the near future and events regarding the distant future.
Organization of the Book
The book is divided into two parts of equal length. Chapters 1-6 are primarily historical. Chapters 7-12 are prophetic visions of the future.
It is noteworthy that the historical section (from 2:4 to 7:28) is written in Aramaic which was the majority language of the culture. The historical section prior to 2:4 and the prophetic portion of the book after 7:28, which focuses on the future of Israel, are written in Hebrew.
1. A major emphasis of this book is the sovereignty of God. In what ways is the sovereignty of God demonstrated?
2. How would you describe the character of Daniel?
1:1,2 “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 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.”
The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim would have been 605 BC. In that year, the Babylonian king captured Jerusalem and carried away to Babylon some of the sacred vessels formerly used in the worship of Jehovah. In placing those vessels in “the house of his god,” Nebuchadnezzar was declaring that he and his gods were superior to the God of Israel. He believed he had not only conquered the nation of Judah but also the God of Judah.
He did not understand: “The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God.” God did that.
Judah’s defeat was an act of divine judgment on a people who had flagrantly violated the Lord’s commands for centuries. God had sent prophet after prophet to warn the people and call them to personal and national repentance. But the nation would not listen to their prophets, would not repent and return to the Lord, so eventually the season of grace ended and God poured out His wrath on a sinful, idol worshipping, unfaithful nation.
Jerusalem was conquered but God was not conquered by anyone. He was not fighting on behalf of His covenant people, not defending Israel. He was judging them. The Lord’s presence was not profaned when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed because He had removed His glorious presence from the temple prior to its destruction.
The Lord gave the vessels of the temple into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar for safe keeping. The Jews would not need these things for another 70 years.
The purpose of this book is to demonstrate that God is able to fulfill His purpose even when His covenant people are unfaithful, even when it appears that the ungodly are victorious. Not only was God in control, He was using Nebuchadnezzar as an instrument of His sovereign purpose.
It is God who is sovereign over the affairs of nations — God and God alone.
Daniel is also making an important point about truth in the opening verses of this book. The finely crafted gold and bronze vessels used in the worship of God represented the value which the Hebrew people ascribed to the worship of the true God. When Nebuchadnezzar placed them in his treasury alongside the vessels used to worship false gods, he was reducing the absolute truth and value of God-worship to the relative truth and value of idol worship. He was saying, “My sacred truth is better than your sacred truth.”
We live in an age that talks like that. We are told that truth is relative. “You have your truth, I have mine. Truth is whatever anyone says it is.” That is a lie.
Standing against that lie, the writer to the Hebrews says, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:1,2).
God is not silent. He speaks truth into every generation and because this truth-declaring God transcends time and place, there is then a body of truth that transcends our culture, our generation and that truth is personified in the person of Jesus Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).
Daniel lived in the midst of a pluralistic culture which worshipped many gods and viewed the world through a diversity of truth-perspectives. In the midst of that, Daniel remained faithful to the true God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
1:3,4 “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, 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.”
Nebuchadnezzar ordered the deportation of “some of the sons of Israel.” His purpose was not to make them prisoners or even slaves but rather, loyal servants of the empire. He carefully selected young men from noble and royal backgrounds, free from physical defects and demonstrating a high level of intelligence, wisdom, understanding and knowledge.
The intent of the training process was to erase the formative impact of Jewish culture and religion from the minds and personalities of these young Hebrew men and to indoctrinate them into a Babylonian way of thinking and living. The program was designed to erase their former identity and remold their personalities, to separate them from Jewish faith and culture and relocate them in a Babylonian mindset.
1:5 “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.”
The education / indoctrination program would occur over the course of three years and would involve not only intellectual and cultural training but also access to the finest food and wine. Having survived a season of famine and scarcity during the assault against Jerusalem, the king’s food might have seemed to be a blessing. However, Daniel saw it as a temptation to compromise.
In verse 8 we will read, “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” (1:8).
1:6,7 “Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 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.”
Even their names were changed from a Jewish to a Babylonian identity. Daniel, in Hebrew, means “God is my judge.” Daniel’s Hebrew name served to remind him that not only was he an Israelite but also living in covenant relationship with the God of Israel. His new Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, means “Bel protect the king.” Bel was the name of a Babylonian god (probably synonymous with Marduk, the chief of the Babylonian false gods).
The motive was to destroy Daniel’s identification with the God of Israel, erase his loyalty to the true God and declare him to be a servant of the false god. The king was attempting to alter not merely his name but his core identity. This was true for all the other young men who had been carried into exile.
It is sad that only Daniel and his three friends are listed. It sounds as though these were the only young men to resist the indoctrination program. Given the compromised state of Jewish spiritual and moral life at that time, most of the captives probably did not possess the ability to resist. Indeed, they must have thought themselves fortunate to be blessed with such an abundance of food and a royal education in a time of national defeat.
In reality, they were not blessed at all. Given the weak, compromised reality of their faith, they would not have been able to overcome the corrupting power of Babylonian cultural formation. Whatever purpose God had for their lives, the majority of the young men would have been unable to enter in and live out that purpose. They were useless to God in their generation.
We cannot compromise with our culture, allow our culture to form and shape us according to its anti-God values, and then be used by God to impact our culture redemptively. This is why the apostle Paul exhorts us, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1,2).
As Daniel and his three friends remained faithful to the God of their fathers, God would use their lives to impact Babylon. Not so for the young men who surrendered their identities to Babylon.
It would be valuable to reclaim here something of the history of Babylon. In Genesis 11 we read that a group of people gathered after the flood to build a great tower to the heavens and make a name for themselves. The tower had a religious and a humanistic aspect — they were seeking to glorify themselves apart from God. Many Bible scholars believe that this was the beginning of the worship of false gods. The Lord broke their unity of purpose by dividing their language and therefore the place was called Babel, which means confusion. The Babylonian mindset has been with us ever since, urging us to live as autonomous beings apart from God, seeking meaning and fulfillment in our creations but not in our Creator, seeking our own glory but not His, worshipping false gods but not true God. The result has always been confusion and darkness.
It was this ancient mindset that was pushing against Daniel and his friends. However, as we read the story we will see that the king changed their names but could not change their hearts.
Remember that Daniel was only in his teens at this time. He had been forcibly removed from his home, taken to a foreign country, to the capital city of the most powerful empire in the known world, a city renowned for its sophistication and education, its magnificent architecture and its beauty, with multiplied universities and manifold temples dedicated to a gallery of false gods. In this secular, pluralistic environment, with its devaluing of the sacred and its relativized, deconstructed concept of truth, in the midst of the intense pressure and seduction of the Babylonian indoctrination program, an impressionable young man chose to remain faithful to the one, true God.
1:8 “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.”
What’s wrong with eating the king’s food? Daniel understood himself as separated unto God for devotion and service to God. The dietary laws instituted centuries earlier in the Law of Moses were for the purpose of emphasizing the separation of Israel from the pagan, evil cultures around them. Those societies practiced every form of idol worship, immorality and wickedness, including the sacrifice of their children to their false gods. God desired to keep Israel separate from such damning corruption.
God desired a holy nation living in holy covenant with Him, devoted to Him, through whom He could speak redeeming truth to this lost world. The dietary laws represented God’s purpose to separate Israel unto Himself. During this church age, God has set aside the dietary restrictions of the Law, planting His Holy Spirit in us. It is the indwelling Spirit who leads us, separates us from sin and works progressively to deliver us from corruption and to transform us in holiness.
In Daniel’s day the Law of Moses was still in effect and it reminded him of God’s purpose to keep him in a special relationship of devotion. Furthermore, the king’s food may have been offered to idols prior to being served to the young men. This would have offended and grieved Daniel’s conscience, for it would have been a violation of the Mosaic Law.
So Daniel “made up his mind ,” set his heart, resolved that he would not defile himself. God had judged Israel for its failure to keep the Law. Daniel would not violate that Law even in Babylon.
This decision did not cause Daniel to become rebellious or disrespectful. He did not launch a program of civil disobedience, did not organize a series of marches or protests in front of the kitchen. Rather, “He sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.” Daniel respectfully honored the governmental authority which God had ordained over him even as he resisted the corrupting influence of that authority.
1:9 “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials,”
The word favor is chesed, lovingkindness. It is the faithful, loyal love with which God blesses those who are in covenant with Him. This reveals God’s intervention on behalf of Daniel. God planted His favor and His compassion in the heart of the leading official.
What was it about Daniel that invited the favor of God? Could it be his humility before God and people? Could it be His reverence for God, his desire to be faithful to God?
1:10 “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.’”
The king’s official is concerned about his own personal safety. He has been given responsibility for the well-being and education of these young men and if anyone’s health was compromised, he might forfeit his life.
1:11-13 “But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, ‘Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 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.’”
Daniel demonstrates concern for the well being of the official as he offers a solution in the form of a ten day test. This would allow the official to provide a simpler diet of healthy food while allowing the Hebrew youths to avoid defilement. The word which is translated vegetables refers to something that is sown. That could be vegetables or a grain such as wheat or barley. After observing Daniel and his friends for 10 days, the official could then compare their appearance with the other young men who ate the king’s food.
1:14,15 “So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. 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.”
The official agreed and at the end of the test, Daniel and his friends appeared to be healthier “than all the youths who had been eating the king's choice food.” This ten days was a time of proving. Daniel was giving God the opportunity to uphold him, to bless him and to show His divine favor on Daniel’s life. God was faithful.
The issue of eating the king’s food may seem rather insignificant. Daniel did not resist the changing of his name or his enrollment in the Babylonian educational system because he had neither voice nor choice in those matters. But he could choose to avoid defilement with food and so he did.
It may seem a small matter to us but Daniel was willing to build his future on this. A small stone may become a cornerstone in time. What seem to be insignificant issues in our lives may, later, prove to have formative impact on the person we became. We have heard it said many times but it is still true: choices become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny.
Daniel understood that holy obedience is the truest evidence that we have come to know and serve a holy God. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 1:15).
Paul said that Jesus came not only to save us from sin but to present us to Himself “holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:25-27). The Lord’s purpose is to preserve us from cultural corruption and to transform our lives in holiness so that we can be useful to Him in this world. As we practice the discipline of holy living, the Lord will make us holy and will use our lives to bless our generation.
Daniel chose to obey the Lord, to resist the corrupting, defiling influences of Babylonian culture insofar as he was able. This enabled the Lord, in future days, to use Daniel’s life for His purpose.
1:16,17 “So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables. 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.”
Because of the successful test, the official continued to withhold the king’s food and to give Daniel and his friends the simpler food which they had requested. Not only was Daniel’s health (and the health of his friends) superior to the other young men. They also excelled in “knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom.” In addition, God blessed Daniel with the supernatural gift of interpreting visions and dreams.
Notice it says, “God gave them knowledge and intelligence.” We see in this a combination of the natural gifts and talents which God had planted in them at birth combined with the grace and favor with which God blessed them. Whether natural gifting or supernatural grace, God was the source of their success and when natural gifting and grace converge, the result is men and women who impact their generation.
One gift of God not mentioned here, but which the Lord surely provided, was the ability to discern between that which was true and that which was false. The Babylonians had a rich understanding of astronomy, mathematics, architecture, agriculture and engineering but also a deep attachment to astrology and the worship of false gods. Daniel was exposed to counterfeit knowledge, to spiritual and intellectual darkness. But as he and his friends were immersed in the university life of Babylon, the Lord enabled them to discern between true knowledge and false.
1:18,19 “Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. 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.”
At the end of three years of training (see verse 5), the time came for the young men to be presented to the king, “and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.” Daniel and his three friends had endured the educational system of Babylon while resisting the defilement of Babylonian culture. Their names had been changed from Hebrew to Babylonian yet they retained their identity as faithful followers of the true and living God. They were found to be superior to all the other young men.
They had passed the most important test, the test which has nothing to do with Babylonian education. The test is this: can God trust us with favor, with promotion and skill? Will we be corrupted by success or will we remain faithful and glorify God? As God blessed, Daniel proved himself to God. This allowed the Lord to bless him more greatly and use him more truly in his generation.
“So they entered the king's personal service.”
God had formed and shaped their character. The Lord then placed them where they could glorify Him in a pluralistic culture. In the context of an educational, governmental and religious system that relativized truth, which devalued that which is truly sacred, that rejected the one true God and worshipped idols that are not god, God planted four Godly men.
We see in their lives the truth that promotion comes “not from the east, nor from the west, but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6,7).
1:20 “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.”
Nebuchadnezzar examined Daniel and his friends and found them to be superior to all his other counselors. Superior and undefiled. Yes, it is possible to swim against the current of an ungodly culture and still achieve excellence. It is possible to be immersed in the ungodly philosophical and scientific theories of the university and still be faithful to the true and living God. But it is impossible to surrender to the defiling corruptions of the world and glorify God with excellence.
1:21 “And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.”
From the time of Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian king, to the time of Cyrus the Medo-Persian king, was a period of 70 years. Daniel served God faithfully throughout the entire period of Israel’s exile. His administrative wisdom blessed a succession of kings. His prayers participated in the release of God’s purpose for Israel. His sacred writing opened God’s redemptive purpose to the end of history.
God had a purpose for Daniel’s life and he fulfilled it in his generation. The key to his success was faithfulness to the living God and a steadfast refusal to compromise that relationship.
God has a purpose for your life and mine. May we also be found faithful.
1. What was Daniel’s response to the Babylonian indoctrination program? (see v. 8)
2. What was God’s response to Daniel? (see v. 9,17)
This chapter begins the survey of world history which the Lord revealed to Daniel and in particular, the progression of Gentile empires which would conquer Israel. This is the record of “the times of the Gentiles” to which Jesus referred in Luke 21:24.
Beginning in 2:4, Daniel transitions from Hebrew, the language of Israel, to Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian Empire. He will continue to write in Aramaic through the end of chapter 7, during which time he will present the history of Gentile domination of Israel. Beginning with chapter 8, as the Lord reveals the prophetic future of Israel and the world, He again inspires Daniel to write in Hebrew.
There is a sense of divine displeasure in this. Prior to the time of Daniel, God revealed His word in Hebrew. Israel was the covenant nation that received God’s revelation and was appointed to carry that revelation to the nations. Due to disobedience and rebellion, the nation was judged, destroyed and sent into exile. During those yeas of apostasy, Israel was still God’s covenant nation but lost the privilege of being God’s messenger. So the Lord recorded contemporary history in the contemporary language — Aramaic.
There is a similar sense of this in the New Testament. After Israel rejected its Messiah, God revealed the New Testament in Greek, another Gentile language. The gospel has been proclaimed to the nations primarily through Gentile people. Through disobedience, Israel lost its nationhood. Through rejection of the Messiah, the nation forfeited its spiritual assignment as God’s messenger. In the last days, after the rapture of the church, the gospel will again be proclaimed by predominantly Jewish messengers (see Rev. chapter 7).
Nebuchadnezzar is the first of the Gentile kings to rule over Israel. He represents the beginning of “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). During the centuries since then, Israel has been controlled almost continually by Gentile nations. In 1948 Israel was reestablished as an independent nation but will be threatened by the Antichrist prior to the Lord’s return. Only in that day of the Messiah’s return will Israel exist according to God’s original purpose, as a light to the nations.
Chapter two is concerned primarily with a dream which greatly troubled the king. We will see in this chapter that Daniel’s interpretation of the dream focuses on the head and the feet of the statue — the beginning and ending of Gentile domination.
The fact that only four empires are mentioned does not ignore the fact that there have been many other empires over the centuries that have ruled major portions of the world and Israel. However, God is revealing the empires that would play a major role in Bible history.
2:1 “Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.”
“The second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar” would have been the second year in which he ruled alone, having ruled jointly with his father for two years previously. By this time, Daniel had completed his indoctrination / education and entered the service of the king. At this time, “Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.”
All people, from time to time, experience dreams of a troubling nature. Those who exercise great power and authority may find in their dreams a stormy overflow of remorse for the past, anxiety for the present and fear of the future. However, the dreams which Nebuchadnezzar experienced and the sleeplessness, the restless anxiety, this was from God. The Lord was stirring him, giving him revelation, though he lacked the interpretation.
2:2 “Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.”
The word “magicians” is derived from a word for a writing instrument and may denote scholars. “Conjurers” or “enchanters” may refer to astrologers, those who study the stars for signs. The term “sorcerers” refers to those who were involved in the occult. “Chaldeans” may refer to the entire tribal group that originated in Chaldea, who, with Nebuchadnezzar’s father, conquered the Assyrians. Or possibly the word may refer to wise men or priests who represented the Chaldeans. Taken together, these are the king’s counselors. Daniel and his friends are not among those invited because, as recent graduates of the training program, they not would be included among the senior advisors to the king.
2:3,4 “The king said to them, ‘I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.’ Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: ‘O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.’”
As one would expect, the counselors ask the king to tell them the dream so that they may interpret it.
2:5 “The king replied to the Chaldeans, ‘The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.’”
The king’s incredible response is that they must first tell him the dream and then interpret it. The command is accompanied by a solemn warning: they will be killed and their houses destroyed if they cannot satisfy the king’s command.
Some translators prefer to render, “The thing is gone from me” rather than, “The command from me is firm.” They understand this verse to mean that the king had forgotten the dream, which was his reason for not disclosing it. But the better sense of it is not that the dream has gone from him but that his command to interpret the dream has gone forth and is unchanging.
These counselors are savvy diplomats, skilled at telling the king what he wants to hear. It may be that the king was trying to protect himself against a false interpretation which they would have given him. All cultic activities are based on deception and lying spirits. If they are truly gifted in these matters and posses wisdom, they will tell him the dream and give a wise, discerning interpretation. But they are not gifted. Their wisdom is only the wisdom of this passing age. A world that rejects God may grow in learning but will never come to the knowledge of the truth. Only God can give us true insight into our lives, our times and our future. Only God can reveal the end from the beginning. He is everlasting, all wise, dwelling simultaneously before time and beyond time while meeting us in time.
These were men of learning but not of wisdom or true discernment. They could neither tell the king his dream nor interpret it truthfully. Further, their involvement with the spirits of darkness would always insure that there would be deception and confusion in all their activities.
2:6,7 “But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation. They answered a second time and said, ‘Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.’”
The king promises honor and great rewarded if they can tell him the dream and interpret it. However, promise of reward does not make the task of the counselors any easier. Separated from the mind of God, limited to their own wisdom and resource, they have no way of knowing the dream or discerning its true meaning.
The king is not being unfair in his request. His counselors claim to possess extraordinary, even supernatural gifts. If they are who they say they are then they should be able to satisfy his request. Their problem, as we have said, is two-fold.
1. Having rejected God, their wisdom, their power and their gifts are rooted entirely in this passing world.
2. Because they have opened their lives to the spirits of darkness, what little learning they do possess will always be tainted with lies and deception and will never rise to the level of true wisdom.
Separated from the mind of God, they cannot satisfy the king and they know it. So again they ask the king to tell them the dream.
2:8,9 “The king replied, ‘I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.’”
The king calls their bluff. He suspects the truth, that they “have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words …. until the situation is changed.” He repeats his command that they tell him the dream and its interpretation.
2:10,11 “The Chaldeans answered the king and said, ‘There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.’”
The Chaldeans answer with refreshing honesty: “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king.” They are correct, insofar as they are referring to fallen men who are separated from the wisdom of God. But there is a God who declares truth and he uses Godly people. But these are not Godly men and so God cannot use them to declare truth.
They then assert, “There is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods.” In this they are tragically wrong. There is a man who can declare the truth because he knows the true and living God. But the false gods in whom these men trust cannot reveal the truth because these gods do not exist. Because the gods of the Chaldeans did not exist, there was no one to give these men revelation of the king’s dream. There was no one in the heavenlies who could reveal truth to them other than the God whose existence they denied. The limited reason of these men can interpret facts but there were no facts to interpret. They need revelation and only God can provide that.
Furthermore, although false gods do not exist, the belief systems of false religions are empowered by demons and these fallen angels are not all-wise, neither can they foretell the events of history. What information they impart is a mixture of half truth and lying deception given for the purpose of seducing and destroying.
So the wise men of Babylon, cut off from revelation, deceived by lying spirits, are revealed to be imposters, costumed actors, bankrupt pretenders, nothing more than frauds. They have no wise counsel for the king. But they are mistaken — there is “ a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king.” The problem is, they don’t know the man or his God.
2:12,13 “Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.”
The king is now enraged and issues an order for the destruction of all the wise men of Babylon. This decree included even the young men who had recently graduated from the educational system and entered into public service. They were not present and so the guards went forth to search for Daniel and his friends to kill them.
2:14,15 “Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; he said to Arioch, the king's commander, ‘For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?’ Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter.”
Daniel was evidently unaware of what had transpired between the king and his counselors, so he asks the captain of the king’s guard for the reason for this decree of death. Noticed that Daniel asked “with discretion and discernment.” There was always a respectful dignity in Daniel’s dealings with others which always evoked a similar response from them.
The captain explained the matter to Daniel. Notice the favor of God that is always on Daniel’s life. The captain does not kill him, rather, he takes the time to explain the matter to Daniel.
2:16 “So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.”
Evidently, Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard relented, did not kill Daniel but instead takes him to see the king. Daniel asks for time and the king grants to this young, junior counselor that which he was not willing to give his senior advisors — time. Again, we see the favor of God on Daniel but also, an attitude which was evidently disarming and attractive to others, even to an angry, brutal, dictatorial king.
2:17,18 “Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”
Daniel is not trusting in his own limited wisdom nor in the magic arts of Babylon nor in the false gods of the false counselors. He intends to seek the true and living God, the source of all wisdom, the God who is sovereign over the events of time and eternity, who moves all of time and creation toward the fulfilling of His kingdom purpose and therefore can reveal to Daniel not only the king’s dream, but the entire scope of history.
1. Notice first of all that “Daniel went to his house and informed his friends.” There is power and revelation to be found in unified prayer. There is a time to go into the secret place of communion with God alone. And there is a time to join with our brothers and sisters in prayer.
2. Notice that Daniel is absolutely convinced that God is the source of true revelation. He knows that God is the source of all power, not the king. He knows that God is the source of all wisdom, not the so called wise men. He is confident that God will provide what he asks.
3. Notice that Daniel is requesting compassion from God. He is requesting that God act in accordance with His character — that He show mercy. One of the expressions of God’s lovingkindness is to reveal truth to us, to shed light in our hearts and shine light on our pathway. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31,32).
4. Notice also that Daniel is seeking “the God of heaven”. Whereas the wise men of Babylon worshipped the stars of heaven, Daniel worships the God who made the heavens and all its starry host. The answers to life’s most profound questions are not found in creation but in the all wise, all knowing, merciful Creator.
Over against the power of the king, Daniel and his young friends are trusting in a God who is “is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Over against the power of a king to take their lives from them, these young men are trusting in the God who “who gives life to the dead and calls into being that which does not exist” (Rom. 4:17).
Surely the kings of this world exercise authority but Daniel and his friends believe, “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16).
In this we see one of the wonderful paradoxes of the universe: God is sovereignly moving history to the fulfilling of His purpose, yet He moves people to pray according to His purpose and then moves in response to our prayers.
We might wonder where Daniel acquired such great confidence and faith to go and stand before the king and make this request with his life hanging in the balance? The answer can only be that Daniel had fixed his eyes on the living God who is unfailing in His faithful, covenant love to those who look to Him in faith. We also are exhorted, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
1. Why could the Chaldeans not provide wisdom for the king? (see v. 6-9)
2. What is the major difference between Daniel and the Chaldeans?
2:19 “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven;”
In verse 18 we read that Daniel and his friends sought God for mercy and God responded in keeping with His heart of mercy. When you seek God, seek Him as if He is consistent with His character, for He is.
While it is possible that the vision came to Daniel as he and his friends prayed, it may be that they prayed, then Daniel went to sleep and God answered his prayer as he slept. It may not have been an all night prayer meeting; it may not be that they exhausted themselves crying out to a God who always hears us when our hearts are pure and our prayers are sincere. They were not as the prophets of Baal, who cried out to their dead, unhearing gods from morning till evening without any answer (I Kings 18:26-29).
Daniel and his friends were not deceived that God would hear them for the loudness of their voices or the multitude of their words, as Jesus warned, “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:6-8).
Yes, there is a place for travailing, persevering prayer where we press into God day after day, imploring Him to hear and respond. But there is also a place for this almost childlike trust — Daniel prayed and then rested in the assurance that God is good to those who call on Him and wait for Him. The wonderful verse, “He gives his beloved sleep” may also be translated, “He gives to His beloved even in his sleep” (Psalm 127:2).
Whether Daniel was awake or asleep, God revealed the mystery to him. “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” A man who seeks God hears from God. A man who hears from God blesses God. What follows is his song of praise.
2:20 “Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.’”
An eternal God is worthy of everlasting praise. As is God’s eternal being, so must be the worship and thanks that rises before Him. “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever.”
Daniel blesses the Lord because “wisdom and power belong to Him.” One of the many qualities of God which deserves praise is His wisdom. God alone is the Source of all wisdom. Because He is everlasting, dwelling simultaneously before the beginning and beyond the end, He knows all truth that could ever be true. He is “the only wise God” (Romans 16:27).
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9,10).
The Psalmist praised the Lord saying, “O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of your possessions” (Psalm 104:24).
Babylon was a center of worldly learning, hosting multiple universities which taught advanced concepts in architecture, mathematics, engineering, astronomy and agriculture. But in spite of all their learning, the wise men of Babylon were under a sentence of death, unable to reveal the king’s dream or interpret it. They were men of great learning but having rejected the true, living God, deceived into worshipping gods that are not alive or real, they were separated from the Source of true wisdom, encompassed in darkness.
The Psalmist reminds us that, “The fear (reverence) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10). Separated from the reverence of the God of all wisdom and truth, the wise men of Babylon were separated from wisdom and truth.
The king’s counselors were not unlike many university faculties today which continue to advance scientifically and technologically yet are, “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). For good reason the Apostle Paul reminds us that, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness before God” (I Corinthians 3:19). Daniel had been brought to Babylon so that he could be educated in the wisdom of the world but he understood that true wisdom is something we seek, not from a world which defines itself with lies and half truths, but from the all-wise God.
Daniel blesses the all wise God and also blesses the God who is the Source of all power: “Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
Because God is infinite, without limits, then His power must also be unlimited. Because all life originates in God, then all power must find its source in God. Because God is Almighty, it is as easy for Him to create a billion galaxies as to create one lily. It is as simple for God to raise the dead as it is to answer a child’s prayer. Jeremiah exclaimed, “Ah Lord God, behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for you” (Jeremiah 32:17).
Because God is perfect, He can never be less than He is. Therefore, His power cannot be diminished. The exercise of power in creation, redemption, judgment or any other act, does not cause God’s power to decrease.
God exercises His power as Creator: “He established the earth upon its foundations” (Psalm 104:5).
God exercises His power as Sustainer of all He creates: He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3b).
God exercises His power as Ruler over the nations: “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away” (Job 12:23).
God exercises His power in redeeming the lost: “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).
God exercises His power in keeping all whom He has redeemed, raising us from the dead and bringing us to eternal glory in His presence: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom. 8:11). “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:24).
Daniel blesses the Lord, for he knows “wisdom and power belong to Him.”
2:21 “It is He 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.”
Daniel praises three aspects of the activity of God in this world.
1. It is this all-wise, all-mighty God “who changes the times and the epochs (seasons).”
The Bible reveals, and this book of Daniel in particular reveals, a God who is in control of the movement of history, providentially shaping millions of independent choices and actions by fallen humanity toward the fulfillment of His preordained purpose. He sets the geographical boundaries and even the boundaries of time for the kingdoms of the world. And yes, in our own personal lives, He is able to change the boundaries that press against us.
Only a God who possess perfect knowledge of the truth and perfect power to carry out His will, can do this. God’s wisdom and power work in perfect unity — He knows all truth that could ever be known and possesses the power to bring into being that which He wills. God is able to change the times and seasons of nations and even in our own lives.
2. This all-wise, all-mighty God “removes kings and establishes kings.”
Indeed, all government is ordained of God, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1).
In a fallen world in violent rebellion against its Creator, God establishes civil authority as a check against unrestrained evil. This is not to say that God approves of every decision made by every government. God holds rulers and governments accountable for their decisions. Accountability is exercised within history — for instance, the Babylonian king Belshazzar profaned the holy vessels captured from the Jerusalem temple and God abolished his throne and his life that night. Accountability will also be required at the end of history. The Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate, decreed the death of God’s Son but he will stand before God and be held accountable for his decision.
It is God who ordains governments and He remains sovereign over that which He establishes. God demonstrates His omnipotence as Judge of kingdoms and kings as the Psalmist reminds us “When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge with equity. The earth and all who dwell in it melt; it is I who have firmly set its pillars … For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:2,6,7).
3. “He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding”
To whom does God give wisdom? To those who who are wise — that is, to all who reverence Him and seek Him: “The secret (or counsel) of the Lord is for those who fear (reverence) Him” (Psalm 25:14).
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord makes a promise to all seekers, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
Through James, the Lord makes a promise to all who desire wisdom, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
In the living God we find the revelation of truth and the wisdom to live what we learn. The Apostle Paul reminds us that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
In Proverbs 8:17, wisdom personified says, “I love those who love me; and those who diligently seek me will find me.”
2:22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.”
This is the God of revelation who delights in revealing what was hidden, who desires to reveal the profound things to us, who sees through the darkness, who is the source of light. To whom does God reveal “profound and hidden things?” Again, to those who seek Him.
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it, the Lord is His name, ‘Call to me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know’” (Jeremiah 33:1,2).
He reveals hidden things because they are not hidden to Him, as the Psalmist reminds us, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night, even the darkness is not dark to you, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to you’” (Psalm 139:12).
This is the God who wraps Himself “with light as with a cloak” (Psalm 104:1,2).
This is the One of whom John testifies, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (John 1:4).
This is the One of whom the Psalmist testifies, “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9).
2:23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king's matter.”
Daniel summarizes His thanks and praise for two great, necessary blessings:
1. “You have given me wisdom and power.”
The all-wise, almighty God can give wisdom and power to whomever He chooses. It is His gift of grace to Daniel who sought Him with a pure heart.
2. “You have made known to me what we requested of you, for you have made known to us the king's matter.”
Daniel and his friends made a very specific request of the Lord to know the king’s dream and the interpretation. If God had not answered their prayer, they would have died before the new day was ended. But God did answer and Daniel gives Him praise.
In our own lives we need to remember this lesson from the life of Daniel, that revelation can be life saving and life changing. The difference between victory or defeat, indeed, between life and death, can be revelation from the God who is alive in history.
2:24 “Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.’”
Having heard from God, Daniel sought out Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard.
1. Notice the compassion of Daniel: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon!”
2. Notice the boldness of Daniel: “Take me into the king's presence.”
3. Notice the confidence of Daniel: “I will declare the interpretation to the king.”
It is not that such great compassion, boldness and confidence reside in Daniel. It is rather that Daniel resides in the God of all compassion, in whose perfect wisdom and power he found boldness and confidence.
2:25-28 “Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: ‘I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!’ The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?’ Daniel answered before the king and said, ‘As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.’”
Daniel answers with the humility of a man who has truly encountered the living God, reminding the king that although none of his God-rejecting counselors were able to interpret his dream, “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries.”
Some of those counselors were astrologers (conjurors is also translated astrologers) who believed that the heavens reveal mysteries. Daniel believed that it is not the heavens that reveal truth. It is the God who created, fills and transcends the heavens — He reveals truth.
Some of those counselors were magicians and diviners, false priests who seek to manipulate truth through communion with darkness. But Daniel trusts in the Lord who is at the source of truth, Lord of Light and Creator of the heavens and earth, sovereign over the times and seasons.
1. Notice the stark difference between the feeble protests of the dead-idol-inspired counselors, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king”; and the confidence of a true prophet who trusts in the faithfulness of a God who declares truth, “There is a God.”
2. Notice the balance in Daniel’s perspective. He knows that even highly educated, brilliant people cannot attain true revelatory knowledge apart from the God who gives revelation. He knows that the wisdom of the world cannot rise to the wisdom of God nor is worldly wisdom sufficient to meet the crises of his times or our times.
3. Notice that Daniel draws a clear distinction between himself and those men who counseled the king — so-called wise men — conjurers / astrologers, magicians, diviners. Daniel wants the king to understand the difference between a mere psychic and a true prophet.
4. Notice that Daniel is also, in a subtle way, discrediting the gods of Babylon. It is not they who empower anyone to answer the king. It is Daniel’s God who reveals mysteries.
5. Notice that Daniel not only is certain that God can reveal mysteries. He also knows why this mystery will be revealed to the king: “He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days.” God is revealing the flow of history to the king.
“Latter days” may also be translated “end of the days.” It is a prophetic term used throughout the Old Testament in reference to future events, some of which occurred after the lives of the prophets but before our time and others which will be fulfilled later, in the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of His kingdom (see for instance Gen. 49:1-12, Deut. 4:30, Hosea 3:4,5, Micah 4:1,2). Here in Daniel chapter 2, “latter days” spans the centuries from Daniel’s life (approximately 620-530 BC) to the return of Christ.
6. Notice that God is not only sovereign over the events of history. He is sovereign in revealing the flow of those events when and to whom He chooses.
7. Notice that God revealed last days truth to an ungodly man but the interpretation of the truth came only through a Godly man. There have been times when songwriters, poets, artistically creative people have been given visions of truth. It's amazing the level of visionary revelation that may come through an ungodly source. But they can't carry it through to its full interpretation. That requires a Godly man or woman.
2:29 “As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.”
Again Daniel reminds the king that the source of his dream is God: “He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.” God’s purpose is to give revelation to the king of events which “will take place.”
2:30 “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.”
Again, Daniel refuses to glorify himself but gives glory to God. His humility is closely related to the revelation with which the Lord entrusts Him. Truly, “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). It is God who reveals mysteries and He does this so that people may be blessed with knowledge, discernment and wisdom to navigate their times. However, when we are the instrument or messenger of truth, we would do well to remember the humility of Daniel.
1. In response to God answering his prayer, Daniel blesses the Lord. What are some attributes of God that Daniel praises? (see v. 20-23)
2. Name one aspect of Daniel’s character that enabled him to receive such wonderful revelation from God. (see v 30)
Daniel now outlines the dream which Nebuchadnezzar had experienced.
2:31-33 “You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.”
Daniel describes the statue which is comprised of fine gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. The statue was not only large but “of extraordinary splendor” or “of exceeding brightness” or “whose brightness was excellent.” Its appearance was “awesome” or “frightening” to Nebuchadnezzar.
2:34 “You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them.”
This stone that “was cut out without hands” speaks of the true King of kings, Jesus, who exists but not by human creation; who is crowned but not by man. “Without hands” refers to the supernatural conception of Jesus, His resurrection, ascension and enthronement in heaven and His future return in glory, all of which is accomplished by the sovereign power of God, not by man.
In his dream the king sees the rock strike and crush the feet of the statue and in verse 44 we are told that the rock will then “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.”
The statue represents the centuries of Gentile domination over Israel and a succession of world empires but these are only temporary. Someday the statue will be broken and the reality that it represents — Israel’s loss of political and spiritual pre-eminence under world dominance — will also be broken. That which will endure forever is the kingdom of God on earth.
Isaiah, prophesying the someday birth of the Messiah, said, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:6,7).
2:35 “Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”
The empires that comprise the statue, represented by gold and silver, bronze and iron and clay, were crushed and carried away without a trace. Nothing remained of these once mighty kingdoms. They were crushed and scattered “like chaff from the summer threshing floors.” So it has been throughout the centuries. Empires rise with mighty boasts of power and then are destroyed, fading into dust. “But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” The great mountain that fills the whole earth is the kingdom of God, as we shall see.
Daniel certainly has the king’s attention. He has recalled the dream in every detail. Only God could have given this to Daniel. He has established his credibility and the credibility of his God.
Daniel now interprets the dream.
2:36-38 “This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.”
Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold, “to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory.” Notice that it is God who has given him his kingdom. He is “king of kings” but only because God established him. It is God who ordains governments, “He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all.”
Isn’t this the truth we read in verse twenty-one? “It is He who changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and appoints kings.” God had given Nebuchadnezzar dominion “wherever the sons of men dwell.” That does not mean that he ruled over all the world but over as much of the world as he had access to.
2:39,40 “After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces.”
The next kingdom, referred to in verse 32 as silver, is the Medo-Persian empire. After a succession of several kings, Babylon was conquered by the Medo-Persians. Daniel would later say to the last Babylonian king, “Your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians” (5:28).
The kingdom of bronze refers to the kingdom of Alexander the Great, who conquered the Persians. This will be interpreted by Daniel in 8:21.
The word inferior in verse 39 does not mean that the following kingdoms conquered less land than the Babylonians — each empire conquered more land and the Romans more than any of them. The word inferior is literally earthward and may mean lower, referring to the descending position on the statue of each succeeding empire. Lower also symbolizes the progression of time — one empire follows another.
Some commentators suggest that inferior may refer to the gradual downward spiral of humanity through the passing of time. Certainly the evolutionist’s boast that we are evolving to a higher form of being is contradicted by the cold, hard realities of history. The story of mankind is not an upward evolution from mud to gold but rather a devolution from God-likeness to depraved savagery, or, as with this statue, from gold to dust.
The kingdom of iron is considered by many commentators to refer to the Roman Empire which shattered and conquered everything in its path. Surely the Roman legions crushed all opposition. This certainly follows in the historical progression of empires. As the Medo-Persians conquered the Babylonians and the Greeks conquered the Medo-Persians, so the Romans conquered the Greeks.
However, some commentators believe that the fourth kingdom has not yet appeared, that there is a time gap between the third and fourth kingdoms that covers the time between the Greek Empire of Alexander and the end time empire of the Antichrist. For those commentators, the iron empire refers to the world government of the Antichrist. It is more likely that this fourth kingdom represents both the Roman Empire and the final world empire of the Antichrist, as we shall see.
2:41-43 “In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.”
Notice that as the iron extended down to the feet it became mixed with clay, which may represent the gradual weakening of the Roman Empire over time as it assimilated so many people groups — “they will not adhere to one another.” Or more likely clay represents the gradual decay of Roman society over time. It was an empire rising from “the seed of men” — by nature corrupt, transitory, perishable. So it was that mighty Rome of the iron sword and shield, dissolved in internal corruption and was conquered by barbarians.
The iron mixed with clay may also represent the final world empire of the Antichrist, comprised of a great variety of people groups and cultures which will not always fit together peacefully. The final world empire will be strong as iron yet mixed with the clay of human weakness, sin and continual warfare — destined to collapse under the judgment of God.
Combining these interpretations we see the iron empire of Rome in the historical progression of empires from Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece and then Rome. But we also see an end time representation as the dream passes over centuries of world history to those last days.
Referring back to 2:34, we see that the stone “cut without hands” will crush that final empire, even as all empires have fallen in time. As we have said, God ordains government for the establishing of peace but the Lord also judges all rulers and governments and eventually, will replace the final world government with the kingdom of His Son.
Jesus is that stone cut without hands. The Apostle Peter described Jesus as, “A living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God” and “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (I Peter 2:4,8).
Speaking of Himself, Jesus said, “The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone … And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Matt. 21:42,44).
Encountering Jesus, some are broken into repentance and faith. Others are crushed in judgment. The final empire of man will be destroyed when Jesus returns and He will then establish His kingdom on earth.
2:44,45 “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. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
“The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” So it will be that when the stone cut out without hands crushes the final world empire, the everlasting kingdom of God will be established on earth. Isaiah testifies of this, prophesying of the Messiah, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6,7).
Seeing that day from afar, the Apostle John said, “From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15).
Notice that each empire melts into the establishing of another until the last one is destroyed. Kings and empires appear in all their golden pomp and silver glory, conquering with armies of bronze and iron but inevitably they decline into mere dust. The God-rejecting humanist believes that progress is inevitable, fueled by the brilliance of the human mind. History proves otherwise. Brilliance is overwhelmed by depravity but depravity is crushed by the Righteous Judge who is also the merciful Savior and He will reign forever and ever.
Three wonderful truths must be noted here:
1. The kingdoms of this world exercise great power but it is God who gives them power and authority.
2. The same God who ordains governments and establishes kingdoms also brings them down according to His timing and purpose.
3. God’s foreknowledge of history reveals God’s sovereignty. How can God tell us what will happen if He is not also moving history to the fulfillment of His purpose?
2:46 “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense.”
The king is not mistaking Daniel for a god, as he makes clear in verse 47. But he recognizes Daniel as a worthy representative of the one, true God and he is awed by the gifts of God expressed through the man of God.
2:47 “The king answered Daniel and said, ‘Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.’”
The king recognizes that Daniel’s God is superior to all the gods of the Babylonian religious system, inasmuch as those gods could not reveal or interpret the dream but Daniel’s God is “a revealer of mysteries.” Nebuchadnezzar is not yet a believer in the true God but he has embarked on the journey toward true faith.
He also recognizes that Daniel’s God is “Lord of kings,” the sovereign ruler of those who rule on earth. Earthly governments and rulers are ordained by God but are subject to and accountable to the God who establishes and removes, lifts up and pulls down.
2:48 “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.”
Daniel was promoted to a position of authority in Babylon over all the groups of wise men and counselors. We see in Daniel’s promotion this absolute truth, “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation (promotion) but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6,7).
We may assume that the promotion of such a young man who did not worship Babylon’s gods or defile himself with the corrupting influence of that culture evoked some jealousy among the other counselors. Though Daniel had saved their lives, they may also have resented his success. Nevertheless, Daniel chose to make the Lord his refuge and his fortress, living as he did “in the shelter of the Most High” and “in the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).
Daniel made the decision early on not to defile himself in a land of defilements. He made the decision to be faithful to his God in a culture of many false gods. He made the decision to not seek promotion through compromise or unfaithfulness. He made the decision to call upon God and trust in God in a time of crisis. In due time, God promoted him.
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (I Peter 5:6).
2:49 “And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.”
Daniel also requested that the king promote his three faithful friends. This is not an example of Daniel trying to get his buddies in on the gravy. This is a Godly man wanting to see Godly men promoted so that the king could be well served and so that God’s righteous purpose would be served even in the administration of a pagan government.
It is only right that Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego were promoted, for they too had refused to defile themselves. They too had prayed to God, requesting his merciful intervention in their lives. They had been faithful, had humbled themselves before God and in due season, God exalted them.
In summary, the complexity of interpreting the meaning and historical timing of the four kingdoms should not obscure the main emphases of this chapter which are:
1. God is sovereign over the governments of this world, establishing and pulling down according to His purpose.
2. God is sovereign over history and in His timing His kingdom will break into time and history, will shatter the false thrones of the false kings and this righteous kingdom of God will fill the earth.
3. When men and women refuse the defilements of their generation and their culture, when they humble themselves before God and live faithfully for His glory, God will sovereignly place them where He chooses, bless them as He chooses and they will live for His glory.
1. Who does the “stone … cut out without hands” represent? (see v. 34)
2. In verse 34 we read that, “The God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” What is that kingdom?
3:1 “Nebuchadnezzar the king made a statue of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits, and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.”
The building of the golden idol did not happen immediately after Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Probably many years had passed — years which saw the king win victory after victory, extending his vast empire in every direction. In his conquest of Egypt, he may have seen the pyramids and sphinxes. He certainly witnessed the grandeur of temples and statues in every conquered kingdom as all had fallen before his power.
Gradually, pride crept into his heart. Though he had confessed that Daniel’s God was “God of gods and Lord of kings,” it had also been a marvelous revelation that he was the golden head of the statue (2:36-38). Was it not God who had given him the dream? Was it not God who gave Daniel the interpretation? Though he had been convinced that his power and his kingdom were a trust from God, had he not conquered these lands himself? Was he not mightier and more glorious than the gods and kings which those temples and statues represented?
“Yes, I am the head of gold,” he must have thought to himself. And so he built an image of gold on the plain of Dura, 90 feet high, 9 feet wide and covered with gold. The image represented the glory, the greatness and the power of Nebuchadnezzar. As with all idols, it was an act of defiance against the true and living God, to whom alone belongs the glory, the greatness and the power.
The idol may also represent Nebuchadnezzar’s understanding of himself as the embodiment of the gods of Babylon. This event was an early historical example of state religion — the ruler as not only king but also god, the divine king. Later, the Greek ruler of Palestine, Antiochus Epiphanies, declared himself to be “God Manifest” and set up an image to himself in the Jerusalem temple. The Roman rulers declared themselves to be gods and required the worship of all citizens. In the twentieth century, the German dictator Adolf Hitler required all German pastors to swear an oath of allegiance to himself.
3:2,3 “Nebuchadnezzar the king also sent word to assemble the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the chief treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the administrators of the provinces to come to the dedication of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the satraps, the prefects and the governors, the counselors, the chief treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the administrators of the provinces were assembled for the dedication of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.”
All the officials of the empire were summoned (commanded) to come to the dedication of the image. For some reason Daniel was not present — he may have been away on the king’s business or possibly he was exempted because of his unswerving loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar.
One commentator links this event with an attempted coup against the king between December 595 and January 594 BC, which would have placed this event fairly early in Daniel’s career and before the king had confessed the greatness of Daniel’s God. According to this theory, the king’s response to the coup was to summon administrators from across the empire to gather and participate in a loyalty oath to the king. However, there is no way to verify this theory.
3:4,5 “Then the herald loudly proclaimed: ‘To you the command is given, you peoples, nations, and populations of all languages, that at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of musical instruments, you are to fall down and worship the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.’”
The king’s herald issued the command that in the moment when the orchestra begins to play, “You are to fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up.” This was the ultimate loyalty oath — they are to worship the image (and by implication, the emperor who built it). In every century there is this choice to submit to and worship the world system or worship and serve the living God. How will we respond in our generation?
3:6 “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be thrown into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire.”
The command was accompanied by a warning: “But whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire.”
3:7 “Therefore as soon as all the peoples heard the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, bagpipe, and all kinds of musical instruments, all the peoples, nations, and populations of all languages fell down and worshiped the golden statue that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
The music played and the people “fell down and worshipped.” Most people, in most centuries, will worship the beast in whatever form he manifests. In the Revelation we read that most of the world receives the mark of the Beast. Most of the world worships the beast. But not everyone. There is always a righteous remnant who remain faithful to the living God.
3:8-11 “For this reason at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought charges against the Jews. They began to speak and said to Nebuchadnezzar the king: ‘O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree that every person who hears the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of musical instruments, is to fall down and worship the golden statue. But whoever does not fall down and worship shall be thrown into the middle of a furnace of blazing fire.’”
Some of the king’s counselors “came forward and brought charges against the Jews.” They reminded the king of his decree that all were to worship the image and whoever did not would be put to death by fire. This may have been an expression of jealousy toward these young men from another culture who had been given such great authority and favor by the king.
3:12 “There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods, nor do they worship the golden statue which you have set up.”
The accusers name names — the three young Jewish administrators appointed by the king — Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These were the three friends of Daniel who, as young captives in a strange land, refused to defile themselves with Babylonian culture. These are the three who joined with Daniel in prayer that the Lord would grant wisdom regarding the king’s dream and its interpretation. These are the three who were then appointed to high places of authority and responsibility in the kingdom.
The accusers are specific in naming the offense: “These men, O king, have disregarded you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up.” It is a compound crime: they refuse to worship the idol and in this, they disregard the king.
The fact that “they do not serve your gods” is a subtle reminder that the three young men are Jews, outsiders, worshippers of another God. Though the king had encountered that God and experienced His power, the suggestion is made that the worship of the Jewish God is not good for the king or the state.
Beneath these charges is the whispered accusation: Can these men be trusted with governmental responsibilities? Are they not a threat to the security of the king and the state?
We are reminded why thousands of Christians were put to death during the days of the Roman Empire. In refusing to worship the emperor, who had declared himself to be god, they were disobeying the law of the empire and, in the opinion of the state, practicing a false religion. The first charge was treason, the second charge was atheism. If the state declares the king to be god and you refuse to worship him, then you are regarded as a traitor and an atheist. Such were the charges against the three young men.
3:13-15 “Then Nebuchadnezzar in rage and anger gave orders to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; then these men were brought before the king. Nebuchadnezzar began speaking and said to them, ‘Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods, nor worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery and bagpipe, and all kinds of musical instruments, to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, very well. But if you do not worship, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can rescue you from my hands?’”
The king was enraged and ordered the three young men to be brought before him and he asks if the charges are true. But in a moment of leniency, possibly out of respect for their years of loyal service, the king gives them one more opportunity to worship the image and repeats the consequence of refusal, “But if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?”
Good question: “What god is there who can deliver you?”
The true and living God will answer that question Himself. How wonderful when God testifies on His behalf and ours.
One might wonder at the arrogance and forgetfulness of Nebuchadnezzar. He had once declared, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings.” But pride has a way of chipping away at the memory and sanity of kings and queens. The adage, “How the mighty have fallen” might be preceded by, “How much the mighty forgot before they fell.”
We are also reminded of the old proverb, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Nebuchadnezzar was the king, the chief justice and the lawmaker — all branches of government resided in him. Beside him there was no other authority. He knew something of the living God but in his practical world view, there was no authority above him. As we have said, there is a tendency among the proud to be forgetful.
We are reminded of the proud boast of the Assyrian commander before the walls of Jerusalem many years before, “Thus says the king, ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you; nor let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us’ … ‘Who among all the gods of these lands have delivered their land from my hand, that the Lord would deliver Jerusalem from my hand?’” (Isaiah 36:14,15b,20).
That night the angel of the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians and the king hobbled back to his throne, diminished and soon to be assassinated. Jerusalem was delivered.
Nebuchadnezzar’s question, “What god is there who can deliver you?” will be answered by God Himself. But first, the young men testify.
3:16 “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego replied to the king, ‘Nebuchadnezzar, we are not in need of an answer to give you concerning this matter.’”
The three men reply that they are not under any compulsion to answer the king. Their intent is not to express disrespect to the king but confidence in the faithfulness of God. They do not need to answer the king because they answer to Someone else — the Creator of the universe.
3:17,18 “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods nor worship the golden statue that you have set up.”
The confident testimony of these young men is that God is able to deliver them from the king’s wrath but even if God does not deliver them, that will not change who they are or how they live. Real character is revealed not when God acts in a manner consistent with our expectations and hopes but when He does not. They put the king on notice that their character will be consistent no matter what happens.
They are not doubting God’s ability to deliver them. Rather, they are leaving room for the exercise of the sovereign will of God. God is able to deliver His people, always and everywhere but sometimes His sovereign choice is that our testimony is faithfulness in martyrdom. God is glorified in showing His power to deliver and He is glorified in the willing sacrifice of faithful followers. He is glorified in delivering us from the furnace of persecution and He is glorified in delivering us through the furnace.
Our response is simply to trust Him. We are reminded of the words of Habakkuk, “Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines, though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food, though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls, yet I will exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:17,18). That is true faith — “We will not bow no matter what the outcome.”
Is this refusal to obey the king a sin? The Bible does teach that God ordains government: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1,2).
“Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right” (I Peter 2:13,14).
God has ordained governments for the purpose of establishing order in a fallen, violent world and we are commanded to submit to governments unless the government exceeds its God-given authority and commands us to disobey or dishonor God. There are times when governments oppose and blaspheme God with such arrogance that they annul or invalidate their divine mandate to govern. At such times, the believer must be faithful to God.
When the Apostles were brought before the governing body of Jerusalem and commanded to stop proclaiming Jesus, they answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). They were beaten for their faithful testimony.
When Hitler commanded the German church to swear allegiance to him, there were a few pastors who refused. They paid dearly for their faithfulness to Christ. It is God who establishes government but government is not God. If we are forced to choose between God and king, we must choose to be faithful to God no matter what the cost.
1. How would you describe the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego?
2. God has ordained governmental authority. Is this refusal to obey the king a sin?
3:19,20 “Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with wrath, and his facial expression was changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He answered by giving orders to heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered certain valiant warriors who were in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in order to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.”
Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego are submitted to the king and the government but not insofar as they are commanded to deny God and worship an idol. They remain servants of the king but their service to the state will be most excellent as they remain first and foremost servants of the true and living God. In compromising their faith to the living God, they would compromise their service to the king.
The king was enraged at the refusal of the young men to worship the image. No doubt he understood this to be an act of treason against the state and a personal affront to his authority. In his explosive rage he ordered the furnace to be heated “seven times more than it was usually heated” and he gave orders for the three young men to be thrown into “the furnace of blazing fire.”
3:21-23 “Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps, and their other clothes, and were thrown into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire. For this reason, because the king’s command was harsh and the furnace had been made extremely hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. But these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell into the middle of the furnace of blazing fire still tied up.”
The heat of the furnace was so intense that it killed the soldiers who carried Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. As the three young men were thrown into the fire, the soldiers perished outside the fire. We will see that it is far more secure to be thrown into the fire in submission to God than to stand outside the fire in rebellion against God.
3:24,25 “Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astounded and stood up in haste; he said to his high officials, ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?’ They replied to the king, ‘Certainly, O king.’ He said, ‘Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’”
Now the king witnesses something extraordinary — four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm, “and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!”
This fourth man, this “son of the gods,” may have been an angel (Nebuchadnezzar refers to him as an angel in verse 28). But more likely this was a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus (this is called a theophany). We recall that the Lord also appeared to Abraham (Genesis 18) and also to Jacob (Genesis 32:24-32 ). Whether this was an angel or the Lord Himself, the message is the same: God is with us.
We are reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah which the angel Gabriel quoted to Joseph, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son and they shall call His name Immanuel which translated means, God with us” (Matthew 1:23).
This “son of the gods” who stands in the furnace with the three young men provides a powerful, visible validation of the promise of our Lord, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Though we do not see His presence and sometimes we fail even to sense His presence, nevertheless, He is with us.
We are reminded of the promise of the Lord through Isaiah, “But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, nor will the flame burn you’” (Isaiah 43:2).
We are reminded of the words of Jesus, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The fact that the young men were walking about freely in the furnace means that the cords that bound them were destroyed, but they themselves were completely unharmed. Not even the cloth of their garments was singed. The fire of persecution was an instrument of liberation. It destroyed the cords that bound them but not their lives.
The writer to the Hebrews mentions those “who by faith … quenched the power of fire” (Hebr. 11:33,34). Surely this act of deliverance was a sovereign act of God but in response to the faith of three young men who refused to compromise.
Not everyone is delivered from the fire. Throughout the centuries hundreds of thousands of Christians possessed great faith but were martyred for their faith. God did not deliver them from the fire but stood with them in it and brought them through it into His eternal, glorious presence.
The issue is not faith as much as it is our willingness to suffer for the sake of Christ. Sometimes God delivers us from the fire of suffering, sometimes He delivers us through the fire. But always He stands with us in the fire of our circumstances. This is the doctrine of redemptive suffering. What was redemptive about this fire?
1. The young men were loosed, they walked about freely in the midst of their trial. The fire did not destroy them, it only served to release them. Your fiery trial cannot bind you but will release you as you worship the presence of the God who will not forsake His faithful saints.
2. The king will glorify God and warn the people to never offend this true and living God, as we shall see in verses 28 and 29.
3. The young men will be promoted as we shall see in verse 30.
In summary, greater good occurred by their going through the fire than by avoiding it. This is redemptive suffering.
3:26 “Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the furnace of blazing fire; he responded and said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the midst of the fire.”
The king calls for the men to come out of the fire but does not address them as rebels, traitors or atheists. He says, “Come out, you servants of the Most High God.” They truly are “servants of the Most High God” because their primary service is to God. This does not make them less loyal or less capable as servants of the king. Rather, it is the righteous foundation of character that enables them to do all things well in service to the king.
Notice the king’s designation of the true and living God as “the Most High God” (El Elyon). He is still a worshipper of the idols of Babylon but he realizes that the God of these young men is the Most High God, higher, mightier by far, than all the gods whose statues and idols fill the temples of Babylon. He is not ready to let go of his gods but he reevaluates their worth in comparison to the God of the Hebrew men.
At the command of the king, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire.
3:27 “The satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king's high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.”
Amazingly, the fire had no effect on them — not on their bodies nor their hair nor their clothing, “nor had the smell of fire even come upon them.” The fire destroyed nothing other than the cords that had bound them.
We are reminded of the apostle Peters’s exhortation to rejoice in the fires that test our faith since fire only serves to purify gold (I Peter 1:6,7). James also encourages us to rejoice in trials, “knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:3). In the same manner, the apostle Paul exhorts us to exult in tribulation, “knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope” (Romans 5:3,4).
Also, remember that one purpose of this book of Daniel is to encourage Israel during the centuries of Gentile domination. We see in this fire the age-old holocaust of persecution loosed against God’s covenant people and the prophecy of intensifying fire in the end times. But even as the furnace did not destroy these young men, so also will the furnace of centuries fail to destroy Israel. God’s people will be released in God’s timing and will fulfill His purpose.
3:28 “Nebuchadnezzar responded and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him, violating the king's command, and yielded up their bodies so as not to serve or worship any god except their own God.’”
The king cannot restrain his praise to God and his respect for these faithful witnesses to that God. He testifies of the greatness of the God who delivered the men in response to their faithfulness and their unwillingness to compromise. The king is still not converted. That will require a still greater humbling of his pride. But the day will come when he bows before the Lord and that momentous event will take place because a small group of core believers, living faithfully at the center of their society and their government, refused to compromise with the idols of their age, refused to defile themselves with the corruption of their culture, refused to doubt the faithfulness of a God who walks through fire with His people.
Notice the king’s regard for the integrity of the young men whose trust in their God was so great that they were willing to violate an unrighteous command even at the cost of their lives. This was not a cheap testimony — they witnessed with their lives. The result was that the ruler of the greatest empire in the world at that time was impacted.
You never know who your witness will touch. So let us stand tall before the golden idols of our age, trusting in the faithfulness of the God who says, “I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
3:29 “Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”
The king now issues a warning that no “people, nation or tongue” may speak “anything offensive” against the God of these young men. The former persecutor now forbids persecution. He does tend to be a bit over the top at times, promising cruel retribution against anyone who profanes the name of God but his motive is true — God is worthy of our worship.
What an impact these three young men had! All the gathered officials of the empire witnessed their deliverance and heard the king bless their God. It does not say he blessed the three men — he blessed their God. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). The faithful integrity of these three blazed with a light that illuminated God and focused the attention of the king God-ward. He recognized the three as servants of the true and living God, publicly recognized their act of service and blessed their God.
There was a dramatic change in Nebuchadnezzar’s apprehension of the God of Israel, a seed was planted which, by the end of his life, appears to have borne fruit. But the immediate consequence was that an egotistical, ruthless ruler who had demanded public worship of himself now publicly and sincerely blessed the Lord God of Israel and did so in the presence of those who constituted the leadership of his empire. Further, while he did not demand that everyone bless the Lord as he did, he forbade any word spoken against the Lord and in effect, forbade public or private interference in the worship of God.
Something happened in the king’s heart that day and an empire was impacted to its farthest regions. There was impact at least in this initial sense, that a policy of self aggrandizement, hostility toward the true God and persecution of His worshippers was converted to a policy of public recognition of the Lord God and protection of His worshippers. And this policy was initiated in a most humbling manner by the very one who had set himself up against the Lord.
Incredible that God could take three young men and through their bound hands touch an empire! But we ought not to be incredulous. This is always the outcome when God finds servants willing to be used by Him in the sacrificial ministry of the fiery furnace.
3:30 “Then the king caused Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego to prosper in the province of Babylon.”
Whatever that prosperity involved, it certainly included the favor and blessing of the king, security and peace from their enemies and the opportunity to fulfill their God-appointed tasks. What is more important than this — that we fulfill God’s purpose for our lives in our generation! He places us where He chooses so that we may glorify Him and fulfill the tasks which He designed for us.
Sometimes faithfulness results in loss of position and loss of prosperity in the kingdom of man. Faithfulness can lead to imprisonment and even death. But if this is God’s appointed task for anyone, that they glorify God by faithfully enduring persecution, loss and even death, then may God be glorified!
However, those who suffer for righteousness sake in the kingdom of man will surely enjoy promotion in the kingdom of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).
Let us close this chapter by remembering that eventually, King Nebuchadnezzar died, his kingdom was destroyed and nothing of Babylonian glory remained. So also the following kingdoms of Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome perished but the kingdom of God endures forever and ever. And all who are faithful to the God of the kingdom will enjoy eternal reward.
Surely it is so, as the angel related to Daniel, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever” (Daniel 12:3).
Since the kingdoms around us are perishing and the kingdom of God endures forever, since the rewards and riches of kings melts into dust but the true riches of heaven endure forever, then let us be found faithful.
1. What did the fire of the furnace destroy? (see v. 24,25)
2. In what ways was the king impacted by the faithfulness of these young men? (see v. 28)
Chapter four recounts the humbling of a proud king and his eventual conversion to faith in the true and living God. But it is also representative of God’s dealing with proud, idol worshipping Gentile nations throughout the centuries. Even as the Lord demonstrated His sovereignty in exalting Nebuchadnezzar, humbling him and exalting him again, so God proves among the nations that He alone is sovereign.
In fact, this is the theme of the entire book, as we read in chapter two: “Daniel said, ‘Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He 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’” (Daniel 2:20,21).
This theme is restated in chapter four. The Lord humbled Nebuchadnezzar, “In order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men” (4:17).
Again in verse 32 we read, “And you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes” (4:32).
Even as the book of Daniel reveals the flow of history regarding the covenant nation, Israel, it also reveals a God who is sovereign over the rising and falling of Gentile kings and kingdoms.
We also see in this chapter another demonstration of the inadequacy of God-rejecting counselors to interpret history. Though they are called wise men, they are unable to discern the meaning of the king’s dream. So it is in every century that the godless counselors of kings fail to interpret the times and the seasons with anything approaching the wisdom of a Godly prophet.
4:1,2 “Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: ‘May your peace abound!’ It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.”
The chapter opens with a proclamation by the king extolling the Most High God. He had previously acknowledged the greatness of Daniel’s God in 2:46-48 and in 3:28 but at that time he was still a confirmed worshipper of the idols of Babylon. Now he realizes that Daniel’s God is Most High, above all other supposed deities, the true Ruler who exercises true dominion. It sounds as though a true work of grace has taken place in the king’s heart.
Keep in mind that this is the king who destroyed Jerusalem, tore down the temple and carried away its holy vessels. Those holy things were then placed in the temples of the gods of Babylon, which was a way of declaring the superiority of the Babylonian gods to the God of Israel.
But no more. This God, Yahweh, survived the destruction of His covenant nation and the temple that had once stood as a testament to His glory. This God revealed mysteries of truth when the so-called wise men of Babylon were uncomprehending and mute. This God preserved the three faithful young men in the fiery furnace, standing with them in the flames. In the following narrative, we see this God humbling Nebuchadnezzar, removing him from his throne and then restoring him. As a result, the king confesses that the God of Israel is the Most High God.
As we shall see, this hymn of praise and the work of grace that inspired it was purchased at the cost of the king’s sanity and pride. It was not his natural inclination to exalt the greatness of God; rather, he exalted the greatness of himself. However, having been humbled, the king publishes this hymn with the narrative that led to his new zeal for God.
The proclamation is “to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth.” Not only the people and nations which existed in that day but people of all nations in all times may be blessed by the truths revealed in this narrative.
The king’s purpose is “to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.” One of those wonders is that the Lord would depose him from his throne and his sanity and then restore him in true humility and greater glory.
4:3 “How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.”
The realization of the greatness of God leads Nebuchadnezzar to confess the humbling truth that whereas earthly kings and kingdoms are of limited duration, “His kingdom (God’s kingdom) is an everlasting kingdom and His dominion is from generation to generation.” How humbling indeed, to realize that the grandeur, pomp, power and wealth of Babylon, of which the king had boasted, was only temporary, finite and as insignificant as common dust compared to the true greatness of the kingdom of God.
4:4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.”
The king now moves into the narrative of his humbling and God’s exaltation.
Here is the essential problem in the king’s life: he is at ease and prospering. When anyone is separated from God, worshipping dead idols and destined for eternal separation from God in the torment of hell, it is dangerous to be deceived that all is well, to be “at ease and prospering.” It is difficult to sense separation from God when everything around us says, “You are fine. All is well.” Success can be the narcotic that numbs us to the absence of God. Far better to lose our prosperity and realize we are separated from the Creator and Redeemer of souls.
Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). When this life ends and our kingdoms crumble, neither our wealth nor our thrones will purchase eternal life with God. How terrible the awakening on that day when men and women realize they cannot redeem their eternal souls with the currency of earth. Nebuchadnezzar was at ease and flourishing, king of a mighty kingdom but his life hung in the balance.
4:5 “I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.”
Blessed be the Lord who loved us while we were still His enemies, who awakened us out of the sleep of spiritual death. God has a variety of ways and instruments to awaken us. He awoke the king with a dream that alarmed him. This dream is an expression of the mercy of God.
4:6 ,7 “So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me.”
He called for his counselors to interpret the dream but they were no wiser than the last time he summoned them. They were asleep, wrapped in the arms of their dead idols. Woe to men and women of power who look to the dead for wisdom.
4:8,9 “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.’”
Finally Daniel stands before Nebuchadnezzar who confesses that within Daniel resides “a spirit of the holy gods.” This could more accurately be translated, “The Spirit of the holy God.” The king related the dream to the man of God and asks for its interpretation.
4:10-13 “Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great. The tree grew large and became strong and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it. I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.”
Though the word angel is not actually in the text (it is added by editors), this is obviously not a human messenger nor is he sent from any earthly kingdom. He is “a holy one descended from heaven,” a messenger of God. We understand this to be an angel. God has a message for the king and Daniel will interpret it.
4:14,15a “He shouted out and spoke as follows: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field;’ ”
The angel commanded that the tree be chopped down and stripped of its foliage. This causes the creatures which once had found refuge there to flee away. However, a stump remains — the tree is not entirely destroyed though it surely is humbled.
4:15b “And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.”
Notice the change in pronouns: “And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.” The tree is no longer referred to as it but now as him. The tree symbolizes someone and this someone will be driven from the company of people, into the company of the beasts of the earth.
Who is this person? In verse 5 we read that Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed, frightened by the dream as if he senses on a subconscious level a message that applies to him personally.
4:16 “Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let a beast's mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him.”
Now the dream takes on a terrifying, sinister aspect. This person, whoever he is, will undergo a frightening transition into madness. For what reason?
4:17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
The reason for this terrible humbling is so that this person, whoever he is, will learn the lesson that God, the Most High, is the true ruler of this world and all dominion is from Him. It is God who delegates power according to His sovereign choice. Indeed, He is able to establish even “the lowliest of men.”
4:18 “This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
The king asks Daniel for the interpretation of this dream which so terrified him. Though his counselors have failed, he is confident that Daniel can reveal the truth to him, “for the Spirit of the holy God is in you.”
4:19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!’”
Evidently, Daniel was given the interpretation immediately and was appalled and alarmed by what he saw. The king sees Daniel’s alarm and encourages him to speak the truth. He may also be reassuring Daniel that he is permitted to be truthful (sometimes speaking truth to a man of power resulted in harm to the truth-speaker). Daniel replies that he wishes the dream applied to the king’s enemies and not to the king himself.
4:20-22 “The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged — it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.”
Daniel interprets the dream — the tree represents the king. Truly he and his empire were grand and glorious, stretching far and wide, encompassing many people groups which found refuge under his protection.
4:23-25 “In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,’ this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
Daniel repeats the decree of the angelic watcher but reminds the king that, “This is the decree of the Most High.” This is the command of God concerning Nebuchadnezzar. The tree will be cut down — the king will lose his authority, his throne. But empire and throne will not be entirely destroyed — a stump will remain with its roots. The “band of iron and bronze” which will wrap around the stump may represent the Lord’s protection of that throne while it is vacated. Or the band may represent the spirit of insanity which will bind the king’s mind.
The interpretation is as terrible as the king suspected it would be, “That you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven.” The king will lose his sanity, indeed, will lose his sense of what it is to be human. He will associate with the beasts of the field, will eat the grass they eat and be covered with the dew that covers them.
Ironic that he must lose his mind to gain a right mind. He must lose his throne for a season to truly be secure in his power. Where do we find our right mind and true security? Only in right relationship with the God who gives us minds to know Him, Who, being the source of all authority and power, provides the only secure refuge we can ever know.
This season of insanity will take place for “seven periods of time,” that is, seven years. The purpose of this judgment upon the king is simply this: “Till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”
God intends, not to destroy the king, but to humble him and destroy his self-deceiving pride. Thereby God will make him greater. Pride diminishes us, makes us small. Humility leads to exaltation. This is God’s goal with Nebuchadnezzar. The king has become small in the expanse of the glory and power of his conquest. This has diminished him and in time, would destroy him.
God intends to make him truly great by destroying his false glory, humbling his pride and forever erasing the deception that his accomplishments are by his own wisdom and the strength of his own hands. The goal is that the king will truly realize that it is the Most High God who rules and delegates authority on earth.
4:26 “And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.”
Daniel assures the king that during this season of humbling, the stump and roots of the kingdom will remain, that is, “your kingdom will be assured to you.” The kingdom will not be destroyed during this time of vulnerability. God will protect the king and his kingdom even as He does this severe work in the heart of the king.
When will the work be accomplished? “After you recognize that it is Heaven that rules.” The point of this dream is the theme of the book of Daniel: the sovereignty of God in history. As was stated in 4:17, this judgment is for the purpose of affirming that God alone “is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes and sets over it the lowliest of men.”
Nebuchadnezzar will learn this truth proclaimed by the Psalmist: “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation, but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6,7).
“Once God has spoken; twice I have heard this: that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11).
4:27 “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”
Yet even now there is the possibility of grace. It is possible to avoid this terrible season of judgment if the king will heed the admonition of Daniel. “Break away now from your sins” is an exhortation to repent of ungodliness, especially of the pride which always results in destruction and divine judgment. “Doing righteousness” reminds us that repentance is not merely a prayer. It is a reorientation of our way of thinking that results in a reorientation of the way we live.
He is also exhorted to show mercy to the poor. Though there has been no mention of economic injustice in Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, we know that his primary goal was to build a kingdom that brought glory to himself. Magnificent monuments, temples, palaces and universities, idols of gold and opulent gardens all require money — money derived from someone’s pocket. Often it is not the wealth of the wealthy that builds their kingdoms. It is the poverty of the poor.
But if the king will humble himself, it will not be necessary that God humble him. We see in this warning both the unrelenting judgment of God and the overflowing grace of God. He will confront sin and He will offer grace.
Let us always remember that even when a word of judgement is being spoken, there is often still time and opportunity to change, to turn. It is not necessarily a binding word in the sense of being unalterable. There is room for a changed heart to change the future.
1. Why was the Lord bringing judgment on the king? (see v. 25)
2. Was there time for the king to avoid the judgment of God? And if so, how would he do this? (see v. 27).
4:28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.”
God had given Nebuchadnezzar a terrifying dream which Daniel had interpreted as a warning to the king to repent of his sins of pride and injustice. The Lord then gave the king time to respond. However, he did not put away his sins, did not humble himself before the Lord. As a result, “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.”
4:29 “Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon.”
What marvelous grace! The Lord did not bring about judgment on the king until twelve months had passed. The Lord graciously gave him a full year to process the warning, to reflect on the words of the prophet, to repent of his sin and order his life in a Godly manner.
A pagan king is given a clear word of warning from God, a clear call for repentance, a clear explanation of his problem and what God intends to do about it and is given twelve months to reflect on it. Oh, the unsearchable riches of the mercy of God! This is a clear revelation of the heart of God. God is opening His heart and saying, “I want you to see what my heart is like.” It is a heart of justice and mercy.
The Psalmist reminds us that, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness” (Psalm 103:8).
God revealed Himself to Moses on Mount Sinai and testified of Himself, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth” (Exodus 34:6).
A just God confronts injustice. A holy God confronts that which is not holy. And a God of mercy does this with perfect mercy, giving the sinner time to turn, as Ezekiel reminds us, “‘For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God. ‘Therefore, repent and live’” (Ezkl. 18:32).
4:30 “The king reflected and said, ’Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’”
Whether our empires are small and unknown to anyone but ourselves, or great and visible to the world, this is the common thought of the human heart fallen from grace: “All that I have is the result of my wisdom and my strength. It is my talent that has built this.”
The Apostle Paul pricks our pride as he asks, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (I Corinthians 4:7).
James reminds us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow” (James 1:17).
Every good gift in our lives is from God but the proud human heart, separated from God by sin, does not believe this, claims all glory for itself. Nebuchadnezzar’s words reveal his heart: “I myself have built … by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty.”
Jesus said of us all, “His mouth speaks from that which fills his heart” (Luke 6:45). Our words reveal our soul. So it is that Nebuchadnezzar reveals his soul. He gives no glory to God and all glory to himself. He believes it is he who established the empire of Babylon by his own power and for his glory — God had nothing to do with it. He does not grasp the truth that he was the builder but God was the architect; that the authority and dominion which he exercised was a trust from the hand of Almighty God.
Nebuchadnezzar did not heed the warning which God gave him in his dream. He did not take to heart Daniel’s accurate interpretation of the dream. He rejected the call to humility, mercy and repentance. In fact, he was more confirmed than ever in his pride, continuing to give glory to himself. This is the same heart of pride that built the golden image and required the kingdom to worship it. Though he gave God brief glory when the three young men stepped out of the fiery furnace, his heart was not truly changed. He was impressed but not transformed.
The king’s problem is that he knows more now than he did before. He is held accountable now to a higher standard because he has truly encountered God, has received revelation concerning God and has testified of God. So his accountability is greater. We are accountable to God according to the light we have. Jesus said to the towns that had heard His preaching and had seen His miracles, yet rejected Him:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles had occurred in Tyre and Sidon which occurred in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. Nevertheless I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you people of Capernaum, will you be honored in heaven? No, you will go down to the place of the dead. For if the miracles I did for you had been done in wicked Sodom, it would still be here today. Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).
On the day of judgment, it will be better for pagan cities that never witnessed the mighty works of Jesus than cities which experienced His ministry but did not repent. Why? Because judgment is based on the light revealed to us. Greater light incurs greater accountability. That is not to say that pagan cities will escape judgment. But it will be worse for those who had more light. God holds us responsible for the revelation He has given to us.
4:31 “While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you.’”
God is able to remove sovereignty because it is God who gives power, authority and dominion. He ordains governments for the establishing of peace and order so that human society can function in a fallen world. But He also sets boundaries, requires accountability, pulls down thrones and removes kings. He sets the times and the seasons for every empire and though human souls tend to think that dominion is self-established and autonomous, it is not so.
Recall these words from chapter two, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings” (2:21). It was God who gave the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar. It was God who held him accountable to an ascending level of accountability as his knowledge of God increased. It was God who warned him and gave him a season of grace to process the warning. When the king refused the warning and increased in his pride and self glory, God acted in judgment — “He removes kings and establishes kings.”
4:32 “and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
The king will be driven away to live with the beasts of the field. For how long? For “seven periods of time” (seven years). For what purpose? “Until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”
“Most High God” refers to sovereignty, the God who reigns over the pantheon of false gods and false religions, over all human governments, over heaven and earth. Satan wanted to take the place of the Most High God (Isaiah 14:13,14) and he was cast out of heaven. At the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar had learned something of this Most High God and when he exalted himself against the Most High, he was cast off of his throne. God will humble the proud. He will humble thrones and empires and nations.
4:33 “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.”
The season of grace was for twelve months, in addition to years of powerful witnesses prior to that: Daniel’s interpretation of the earlier dream (2:25-45); the witness of the three young men (3:24-27); Daniel’s recent interpretation of the dream and prophetic warning.
The season of grace was generous but when that season was ended, judgment was immediate. Whereas the king had spent many years establishing his glory, the loss of glory and of sanity itself was instantaneous. A brilliant administrator and leader was reduced in a moment to the level of the beasts of the field.
There is a mysterious boundary separating judgment from grace. Only God knows when that boundary has been crossed. There is a silent clock counting away the season of grace. Only God knows when the time is complete and the season is ended. But we may be sure of this: there is a boundary between judgment and grace and just as there is a season of grace, there is also surely a time when the season is ended and the boundary is crossed into judgment.
There is actually a mental illness, called lycanthropy, in which a person believes that he is an animal and behaves as one. There is something of a human parable in Nebuchadnezzar’s descent into the likeness of a beast. Is this not the journey of fallen humanity? Human history does not record an upward evolution into greatness but a downward spiral, a devolution from God-likeness into beastly savagery.
How terribly ironic that Adam and Eve, made in the likeness of God, believed the lie that they could become little gods and in their sin, became less than their true humanity. In Romans chapter one we see the descending spiral of fallen humanity. Having rejected the revealed truth about God, humanity exchanged the glory of God for false religions and fell into an ever deepening abyss of corruption. We have not yet seen the bottom of that dark well.
We must note that Nebuchadnezzar was a brilliant administrator and charismatic leader, a man greatly gifted. He had built one of the most magnificent cities in world history and God was not judging the king for exercising the gifts which He had given him. God was judging him for the essential, fundamental sin of self-glory, pride.
God has given to all people talents, skills, intellect. He has designed a glorious purpose for each of us and does not want us to hide what He has planted in us. He wants us to accomplish what He has purposed for us.
Jesus said: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
Jesus said, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain” (John 15:16).
We were created to live fruitful lives, to produce good works which release the light of God’s goodness into this dark world. But the Most High does not call us to build and to create so that we may glorify ourselves. Rather, so we may glorify Him.
This is why the universe exists. That we may behold God’s glory and give Him glory.
This is why humanity was created: to behold His glory and give Him glory.
This is why we have been gifted by God: so that in all we do, He may be glorified.
4:34 “But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
Even as there was an end to the season of grace, there is also an end to the season of judgement if we will humble ourselves and confess the glory and greatness of God.
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven.”
Raising the eyes to heaven speaks of a restored perspective; no longer gazing at himself,
self-consumed, self-glorifying. Now gazing in the direction of God.
The goal of judgement was not to destroy the king but to destroy his self-destructive, self-consuming self-glory, that he would take his eyes off of himself and raise his eyes toward heaven. As he humbled himself, God lifted him up. This is a principle that we would all do well to learn: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time” (I Peter 5:6).
“And my reason returned to me.”
When the king lifted his eyes toward heaven, his reason was restored. Now that his blinding pride has been humbled and his perspective is restored, his reason is restored. Human intellect does not function at full capacity until it beholds God.
“And I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever”.
When reason is restored, we give glory to God. God gave intellect to humanity so that we may know Him and worship Him. It is unreasonable to refuse to give glory to God. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14;1). It is an exercise in foolishness to refuse to give honor and praise to God. True wisdom begins with a reverential awe of the living God, as we read in Proverbs, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Prov. 9:10).
The king realizes now that God is truly “the Most High,” above all the so-called gods of the Babylonians, above every throne and kingdom of earth. Beholding God, Nebuchadnezzar now understands this foundational truth: “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation.”
God alone is everlasting, therefore, His kingdom endures forever. This is not true of the kingdoms of man — temporary, finite, limited in power and duration. How crucial it is that every earthly ruler understands that their dominion is only for a season. They hold power as a temporary trust from the God whose kingdom endures from generation to generation.
4:35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’”
Because God is the Most High, Almighty, all-wise, everlasting, He acts in accordance with His will, always and everywhere fulfilling His purpose. He is the God who, as the Apostle Paul testifies, “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
This is the God of whom the Psalmist testifies, “For I know that the Lord is great and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps” (Ps. 135:5,6).
God alone is sovereign in the spiritual realm and in the affairs of earth. He will accomplish His purpose which He ordained from eternity.
We see in this hymn of praise the reasons for God’s judgment of Nebuchadnezzar:
1. To restore the king’s focus from self to God.
2. To restore his praise from self to God.
3. To engrave in his soul the everlasting truth about God.
4:36,37 “At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
This is the portrait of a man whose reason is restored — he is giving glory to God, understanding and confessing that God is sovereign in heaven and on earth. As a result of his restored reason and focus, “My majesty and splendor were restored to me … and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty.”
Now God can trust this king with sovereignty in the limited realm of an earthly kingdom, for the king is submitted to the God who is sovereign over all the kingdoms of the universe.
“And surpassing greatness was added to me.” God not only restores but adds even more. This is truly a work of grace. But it is all a work of grace. How can a man without reason be restored to reason? How can a man, living in the company of beasts, be restored to human society? By the grace of God. We might also ask, how was it that we who were spiritually blind were given sight? How could we who were dead in trespass and sin be raised into everlasting life? Only by grace. All is grace.
Here is another miracle: no one seized his throne while he was removed from it. Normally, a king weakened by insanity or illness would be assassinated— there would be a palace coup. He would be overthrown. But Nebuchadnezzar’s throne was preserved as God had promised (4:26).
The king concludes his testimony by praising and exalting the true, living God. He praises the Lord because “all His works are true and His ways just.” Yes, and he especially blesses the Lord because, “He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”
Let us not close without honoring the witness of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, four men who chose to remain faithful to God in an anti-God society; who chose to remain pure in a corrupt community. They were upstream swimmers in a downstream world, counter-cultural in the best sense of the term. As a result of their righteous lives, the most powerful man in the world came to worship God and the entire empire echoed with his praise.
1. The Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar 12 months to process the warning. What does this tell us about the heart of God? (see v. 29)
2. What did the king do when his reason was restored? (see v. 34)
Following the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 BC, several kings ruled Babylon briefly. Nabonidus took control of the throne in 555 BC and reigned until 539. The king we encounter in chapter 5, Belshazzar, was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. The reference in verses 2 and 11 to Nebuchadnezzar as Belshazzar’s father is probably a way of saying ancestor or forefather, though it is possible that he was an actual son and was adopted by Nabonidus to legitimize his rule.
King Nabonidus was away when the events of chapter 5 took place, possibly fighting the Medo-Persians who were overwhelming the Babylonian Empire. Belshazzar then would have been co-regent, sharing the throne with Nabonidus and reigning in his absence.
We have a hint of this later in 5:26 when Belshazzar offers to make Daniel “third ruler in the kingdom.” If Nabonidus was already the king and Belshazzar was co-regent, then Daniel could only be promoted to third in authority.
As chapter 5 begins, most of Babylon had been conquered and the enemy was literally at the gates of the capital city.
5:1 “Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand.”
Incredibly, while the enemy was pounding at the walls of Babylon, Belshazzar was drunk along with many of the leaders of the empire. How similar to those today who narcoticize their minds with entertainment and pleasure while the enemy of their souls, their family and their society is crouching at the gates.
Jesus said that it will be this way even to the end of human history: “For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:37-39).
It may have been that the king was leading toasts to their gods. Were they asking for help from the dead and powerless idols of Babylon? Were they praising gods who have no life, no intellect, no power to deliver? What a vain exercise by a king and his counselors on the night of their destruction!
5:2 “When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them.”
As the influence of the wine corrupted the king’s mind, he drank from the vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Jerusalem temple. This was an intentional act of sacrilege by the king. He knew the history of God’s dealing with his grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar. He knew the history of the sacred vessels. As we said in chapter one, they represented the value which the Hebrew people ascribed to the worship of the true God. But Belshazzar is intentionally devaluing them, as he uses them to praise gods that do not exist.
They trusted in their idols and in the seeming invincibility of the city itself. One ancient historian records that the walls of Babylon were over 80 feet thick, over 300 feet high and broad enough for two chariots to drive side by side on top of the walls. While this was probably an exaggeration, it is true that this was a city formidably defended. However, no kingdom or throne is unconquerable and it is God who determines the times and boundaries of every empire. If it is His good pleasure to pull down the walls, then it does not matter how high or broad they are.
5:3,4 “Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.”
As they profaned the sacred vessels, they “praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.” They trusted in statues made of gold and silver, altars of bronze, weapons of iron and walls of stone. But these created things have no breath nor life in them and they represent gods which also have neither breath nor life.
Interestingly, Jeremiah had prophesied the destruction of Babylon in amazing detail many years before: “For the destroyer is coming against her, against Babylon, and her mighty men will be captured, their bows are shattered; for the Lord is a God of recompense, He will fully repay. ‘I will make her princes and her wise men drunk, her governors, her prefects and her mighty men, that they may sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake up,’ declares the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts” (Jere. 51:56,57).
It took place exactly as Jeremiah prophesied. The powerbrokers of Babylon boasted in their dead idols, devalued the sacred vessels of the living God and drank themselves into oblivion on the night of their overthrow.
5:5,6 “Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king's palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. Then the king's face grew pale and his thoughts alarmed him, and his hip joints went slack and his knees began knocking together.”
In the midst of the drunken feast, a disembodied hand begins to write on the wall. Suspended in air, it inscribes a silent witness on the plaster and the king is terrified.
5:7-9 “The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, ‘Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me shall be clothed with purple and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.’ Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.”
The meaning of the words is not discernible to the king so he quickly calls for his counselors and promises great reward to whomever can interpret this message. But these wise men cannot interpret the inscription and the terror of the king increases. Daniel, the recorder of this story, does not explain why the counselors were unable to read the inscription but the reason is quite clear. They cannot read or interpret the message because it is from God and they, separated from God through unbelief, cannot understand anything God would say. With their minds and souls focused on gods of darkness, they cannot see into the light of God’s revelation.
They are like so-called wise men today who, though highly educated, understand nothing in the Bible and therefore criticize it as a collection of fables. The reason for their lack of understanding is because they are “darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart” (Eph. 4:18).
Their understanding is dark because they are excluded from the life of God. They are excluded from the life of God because their hearts are hardened by unconfessed sins. Separated from the true God by sin and unbelief, His truth is unintelligible to them.
Speaking of people who are separated from God, the Apostle Paul reminds us, “In whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Again, the Apostle says, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (I Cor. 2:14).
Separated from God and blinded to His revealed truth, the natural mind rejects the existence of God, suppresses His revelation and cannot understand His truth. Belshazzar’s God-rejecting counselors could not interpret any word from God, not to Nebuchadnezzar in years past and not to Belshazzar this night. Even so today, men and women who are conformed to the wisdom of the world are unable to accurately interpret the meaning and import of current events nor are they able to discern any coherent pattern for the future.
The impotence of his wise men causes the king to become even more terrified. Perhaps he is beginning to realize the magnitude of his sin and the depth of God’s anger.
Do not miss the irony here. A powerful, wealthy king has lived his life as if he were completely autonomous, as if there is no God who stands in judgment over the thrones of this world. On this very night he has profaned the true and living God. Now confronted by the real existence of this almighty, all-knowing God, he is terrified by the ignorance of his wise men, the bankruptcy of his wisdom and the absolute inadequacy of his power.
5:10-12 “The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, ‘O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans and diviners. This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned and he will declare the interpretation.’”
We read in 5:1,2 that “his wives and concubines” were already present. So the queen may actually be the queen mother or grandmother (possibly the widow of Nebuchadnezzar). She reminds Belshazzar that there is a man in the kingdom, Daniel, “In whom is a spirit of the holy gods” (or, as we have said previously, “The Spirit of the holy God”). She reminds the king that Daniel had proven himself to possess “extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight” and how he had blessed Nebuchadnezzar in days past.
The fact that Belshazzar has forgotten about Daniel may be explained by the fact that Daniel was by now an old man and may have been in semi-retirement. Most probably, though, the cause is that Daniel, the undefiled prophet of God, is not present at this corrupt, degenerate revel, was not a close confidant to such a self indulgent, depraved monarch and the king, being drunk, does not recall the name of any truly wise man.
Surely he had known of Daniel during the reign of his grandfather (again, Nebuchadnezzar is referred to as father but this was a normal way of referring to an ancestor). The queen mother (or grandmother) may have known Daniel personally during the former administration. She is not drunk and she reminds the king that there is a man of God who will speak the truth.
So Belshazzar, the brave secular humanist who has been mocking the holy God by profaning the sacred vessels which represent that God, now calls for a Godly man to bring him wisdom. We see here four characteristics of a dying civilization.
1. Bankruptcy of wisdom, no ability to discern the times:
The wise men, whose wisdom is rooted entirely in Babylon, are helpless to interpret the signs of the times. The enemy is at the gates, the kingdom is on the verge of collapse, but the king and his nobles are at a drunken feast. Jesus rebuked the religious leaders of his day for trying to predict the weather while being completely ignorant of the spiritual significance of the season they were living in (Matthew 16:2,3).
2. No sense of the sacred:
Having numbed their sense of the sacred through the worship of idols, they are busy profaning the holy things of God.
3. Moral debauchery:
Where there is a spiritual vacuum, darkness rushes in and expresses itself in every form of depravity, violence, immorality and savagery (see Romans chapter 1).
4. Superficial religion:
The king calls for a prophet who will speak truth to power but there will be no repentance — hearts are shallow and hard. Jesus spoke of seed which is unable to penetrate shallow, rocky soil. He was speaking of the word of God which is unable to sink roots in hearts which have only a superficial interest in the things of God.
This is how it is in a dying civilization. There may be many men and women who are called wise but few who are spiritually discerning. There may be much religion but no sense of the sacred. There may be temples on every corner but the land overflows with moral debauchery. There may still be true prophets in the land but the word of truth is unable to penetrate shallow hearts.
5:13 “Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah?’”
Imagine Daniel’s emotions as he walked into a banquet hall filled with drunken nobility and idolatrous images of non-existent gods. Then his eyes fixed on the sacred vessels from the Jerusalem temple, holy cups and saucers strewn about carelessly on the floor and on tables, resting in puddles of spilt wine.
5:14-16 “Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. Just now the wise men and the sorcerers were brought in before me to read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”
The king repeats his request and the promise of reward, “If you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me.”
5:17 “Then Daniel answered and said before the king, ‘Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.’”
A typical greeting to the king would be as the queen had just spoken, “O king, live forever.” But Daniel dispenses with tradition because he is a truth speaker and the king will not outlive this evening. He speaks almost recklessly, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him.”
Daniel is not being disrespectful but he wants the king to understand that the truth will be spoken freely, not purchased by reward. Daniel will speak the truth, not because he is paid to speak truth, but because God has appointed him to be a truth speaker. Besides, the king’s reward will be good for only a few more hours, if Daniel has rightly interpreted the inscription on the wall.
1. Why were the king’s counselors unable to interpret the writing on the wall?
2. In Belshazzar we see four characteristics of a dying civilization. What are they?
5:18,19 “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. Because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated and whomever he wished he humbled.”
Daniel has been summoned to interpret the writing on the wall. He first reviews the mighty works of God in former days, reminding Belshazzar that it was the Most High who had “granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father.” Although Nebuchadnezzar had great authority, this was delegated by the greater Sovereign who held the king accountable for that which was delegated to him.
5:20 “But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was taken away from him.”
Daniel also reminds Belshazzar that when the heart of Nebuchadnezzar became proud and arrogant, his throne and his glory was taken from him. Not only the holy Scriptures of the Jews, but the secular history of Babylon had revealed the humbling truth that no mere earthly king is sovereign in this universe. Had Belshazzar failed to learn this lesson so recently driven home to his grandfather? Surely he had heard the story of the three young men who had stepped out of the fiery furnace. Surely he had been told the account of his grandfather losing his sanity, spending seven years as a beast of the field and then being restored so that he could give glory to God. Surely he had read the decrees of his grandfather in which the God of Israel was praised as the sovereign, Most High God.
In fact, Belshazzar had violated the decree of Nebuchadnezzar, that “any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb” (3:29). He and his friends were not only drinking from the sacred vessels, they were praising their idols as they drank. This was blasphemy and deserving of death. Before the evening was over, the living God would enforce that decree.
5:21 “He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.”
It may be that the young king, in his drunken stupor, had repressed these important lessons of recent history so Daniel reminded him that “the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind and that He sets over it whomever He wishes.” Daniel wants Belshazzar to clearly understand that all authority is in the hands of this Most High God, that He is sovereign over all kingdoms and idols and bestows dominion on whom He chooses and removes dominion as He chooses.
5:22 “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this.”
Now Daniel moves courageously to the indictment of the king. “You knew all this.” Here is the key to the severity of God’s soon coming judgment of Belshazzar — he knew all these things. His sin was intentional — he knew the truth. He understood that God had judged his grandfather, had removed him from his position of authority and then had restored him when he humbled himself before God. Belshazzar knew these things but would not humble himself before the revealed truth of God. He chose to publicly profane and mock God. This was the rebellious act of an enlightened will.
An enlightened will — he knew the truth but chose to deny it. The judgment of God is based on light, on understanding. We are accountable for what we know. If we know truth about God and intentionally suppress that truth and act against the knowledge that we have, judgment is more severe.
Daniel continues to hammer away:
5:23 “But you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified.”
And so there it is. The king knew enough of the events of his grandfather’s interactions with the Lord to understand that he was sinning against a living God, a God who had recently intervened in Babylonian history. Profaning the sacred vessels from the temple was an intentional act of rebellion, blasphemy and sacrilege.
Belshazzar is surrounded by idols on which eyes have been painted or carved but they see nothing. Craftsmen have given them ears but they hear nothing. Blind and deaf, neither do they breathe or think. But there is a God present in that banquet hall, “in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways,” a God who hears and sees and the king has intentionally, willfully offended, profaned and mocked Him this night.
5:24 “Then the hand was sent from Him and this inscription was written out.”
As opposed to the dead, non-existent gods of Babylon, this God is alive, present, acting in history and able to communicate His will and His word. It is this true, living God who sent the hand and caused the inscription to be written.
5:25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: 'MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN’”
Mene means counted, numbered or appointed. It is repeated probably for emphasis.
Tekel means weighed or assessed.
Pharsin is the plural of peres and means divided. The prefix u is the equivalent of the English word and. So upharsin would be translated “and divided.”
The message reads: counted, counted, weighed and divided.
Daniel now interprets the writing:
5:26 “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’ — God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it.”
In fact, all kingdoms are numbered — their boundaries, the calendar of their days — all is ordained by God from eternity. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26).
The Psalmist reminds us, “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28).
It should humble every powerbroker in every century that no matter how glorious their throne and their dominion may seem to be, the extent of their kingdom and the number of their days has been appointed and established by the Most High God. Neither their gold nor their weapons nor their genius nor their technological savvy nor their idols of stone nor any other false god in which they trust will alter that which God has ordained. So it is that kingdoms rise and fall.
5:27 “Tekel; you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient.”
From the time that Adam and Eve rebelled against God, fallen human beings tend to believe the deception that we are autonomous beings, independent operators. We will determine our destiny and though we are accountable to the laws of our society, more or less, there will be no final accounting to a Most High Judge who transcends this world.
This was always a lie, from the Garden of Eden to this day. Adam and Eve were held accountable by God and so was Belshazzar and so are we. God weighed Belshazzar in the scales of divine justice and he was found deficient.
5:28 “Peres — your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
It was the Most High God who gave the kingdom to Nebuchadnezzar and his descendants. It was the Most High God who established their throne and their glory. It was the Most High God who removed dominion from Nebuchadnezzar when he became proud and this same God restored it again when the king humbled himself.
Now the Most High God is removing the kingdom from Belshazzar and giving it another nation. God ordains governments for the establishing of order and peace in a fallen world. But God also holds governments accountable for the way they exercise the authority, resources and opportunity which God gives. The misuse of power will lead to the loss of power, as we read in chapter two of this book, “He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan. 2:21).
There is a line which none can see but God. In His mercy and patience He calls to each of us, shining light into our darkness, speaking truth into our hearts. But there is a boundary between mercy and judgment and when that boundary is transgressed, mercy is no more.
5:29 “Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”
Daniel was clothed in purple and a gold necklace was placed around his neck. He was given authority as the third ruler of the kingdom. What empty treasures! The kingdom would exist for only a few hours more, a truth which Daniel well understood, which is why he began his discourse with these words, “Keep your gifts for yourself or give your rewards to someone else” (5:17).
Daniel spoke truth because he was a truth speaker, not to gain the gold or honor of a condemned monarch. What vanity to strive for earth’s rewards when they will all disappear, if not today then someday. Jesus asked, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
Our Lord told a parable about a man who labored for wealth, tore down his storehouse and built larger barns so there would be room for more, only to hear God say, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?” (Luke 12:20).
Daniel was third closest to a throne which would be cast down in a few hours. No doubt he wore the purple robe and gold necklace lightly.
5:30 “That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain.”
He who had mocked the living God then died. Notice the suddenness of judgment. Whereas Nebuchadnezzar was given twelve months to consider God’s warning and repent, Belshazzar’s judgment is immediate. This is not unfair or arbitrary on God’s part. Judgment is based on the light we have and Belshazzar was well aware of God’s dealings with his grandfather, as Daniel had reminded him, “Even though you knew all this” (5:22).
He had willingly, knowingly mocked and profaned the Most High God. His sin was willful, knowledgeable rebellion. Giving him more time to repent would accomplish nothing for he will not repent. For the same reason Jesus refused to perform more miracles for unbelieving Pharisees. When a heart is hard, cold and settled in its denial of the truth and rebellion against God, neither more time nor more light will bring about change.
There were people in Jesus’ day who heard the truth spoken by the man who was Truth incarnate, people who witnessed miracles — indeed, who witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead — whose only response was to plot the destruction of Jesus. This is the mystery of iniquity of which the Apostle Paul spoke (see 2 Thessalonians 2:7), the unfathomable mystery of the heart that will not be redeemed. Belshazzar was unredeemably lost. Judgment was pronounced and that same night, judgment was enacted.
The nobles of Babylon drank themselves into a stupor, supposing themselves to be secure in the midst of the idols of their false religion. But before the banquet was ended, the ancient prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the images of her gods are shattered on the ground” (Isaiah 21:9).
So it goes. Empires rise and empires fall and their idols and their nobles fall with them.
The Psalmist asks, “Why should I fear in days of adversity, when the iniquity of my foes surrounds me, even those who trust in their wealth and boast in the abundance of their riches? No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him for the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever, that he should live on eternally, that he should not undergo decay. For he sees that even wise men die; the stupid and the senseless alike perish and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses are forever and their dwelling places to all generations; they have called their lands after their own names. But man in his pomp will not endure; he is like the beasts that perish” (Psalm 49:6-12).
Notice this line, “They have called their lands after their own names.” I stood outside a large, abandoned building once, in a small town. Gazing through a window, I saw nothing but dust, broken furniture and cobwebs. There was a name inscribed on the cornerstone and I asked some local folks who that man was but no one could remember him. The ruins of his building outlived the memory of the man whose name was inscribed on the cornerstone.
So it is with every king who mocks the living God. His death mocks his boasting and the ruins of his empire outlive his dust.
5:31 “So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.”
That very night the Medo-Persian army entered Babylon. Another kingdom rises as one is reduced to the rubble of history. In time, Medo-Persia also fell to the Greeks and the Greeks to the Romans and the Romans to the barbarians.
Babylon is the nation that had conquered Jerusalem, looted and destroyed the temple, had taken into captivity many Jewish prisoners. The last act of the last Babylonian king was to honor and promote a Jewish exile. This honored exile, Daniel, would be used by God to intercede for the reestablishment of Israel. He would influence a Persian king, Darius / Cyrus, to send the Jews back to their land. He would prophesy the times of the Gentiles, the trampling under foot of Jerusalem, the coming of the Messiah and the establishing of God’s kingdom on earth — prophesies that would span over 2,000 years (and counting).
When history draws to a close, the last world empire, that of the Antichrist, will be symbolically called Babylon. That is fitting, for it will raise to its zenith the idolatry, immorality and wickedness practiced by all the Babylons of human history. But in that hour when time empties into eternity, an angel will cry out, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (Revelation 18:2).
Another angel will call out, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15)
Though Babylon fell, Daniel was spared. And so in that last day when the kingdoms of the world fall, God’s people will be secure in His mercy. How will we be secure? Those judgmental truths which God pronounced against Belshazzar, are they not also true regarding our lives? Our days also are numbered. We also are weighed in the scales of divine accountability and found wanting. We also will lay aside our kingdoms. How are we different from Belshazzar?
We are not different in sin, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
We are not different in mortality or accountability, “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Yes, this same judgment could be written over our own lives. But God in His mercy has provided a means of redemption, a holy Lamb who took our sins upon Himself, bore the judgment of God in our place, died our death and rose victorious from the dead. When we place our faith and trust in this holy Lamb, Jesus Christ, our sins are forgiven and we stand righteous before the just and holy God.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
“Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (I Peter 1:18,19).
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
“And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28)
Though our days also are numbered and we deserved the same judgment as Belshazzar, we are saved by the grace of the Most High God through faith in His Son. May God be praised!
1. People are judged by the light they have. What light did Belshazzar have? (see v. 18-22)
2. What did the words on the wall mean? (see v. 25-28)
Notice the similarity to chapter three. There, the three young Hebrew men — Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego — were challenged to deny their God but chose to remain faithful, even when threatened with death. God intervened and the king confessed the greatness of God. Now once again, a man of God, Daniel, remains faithful even in the face of death. God will deliver him and the king will give glory to God.
Liberal critics of this book contend that Daniel is not prophecy but historical fiction, written several centuries after this time as an encouragement to Israel during the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanies. One of their chief criticisms is that Darius the Mede did not exist, that he is either a fictional character or an error by a later writer who lacked accurate information.
The liberal critics are mistaken on two counts. First, the fact that we cannot always find archeological or historical records of a person does not mean that the individual did not exist. The silence of archeology or history does not nullify the truthfulness of the Word of God.
Second, it is possible that Darius was not a proper name but a title such as Caesar or Emperor. Darius, then, could be applied to any number of Medo-Persian rulers. This line of thinking would assign the name Darius to a Medo-Persian general, Ugbaru, who conquered the city of Babylon and ruled for one year while the king, Cyrus, was busy consolidating the empire elsewhere. Or Darius and Cyrus might be the same person, Cyrus being his name and Darius his title. In summary, there is no credible reason to ever doubt the authority of God’s inspired word.
Daniel chapter six signals a new era in the chronicles of world empires. Recalling the statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream, the gold head represented Nebuchadnezzar himself and the Babylonian Empire which passed into history. Now the next kingdom takes the stage, represented by the breast and arms of silver — the Medo-Persian Empire.
It is now 539 BC and as the chapter begins, we must note that Daniel is over 80 years old and has served with honor and distinction under the administration of several Babylonian kings. While still a youth, he had witnessed the conquest of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Now as an elderly man, he has seen the fall of Babylon.
He has a long view of the rising and falling of kingdoms and the history of empires. God will give him revelation of an even longer view of history, stretching to the end of time.
6:1,2 “It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they would be in charge of the whole kingdom, and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss.”
Darius, ruler of the Medo-Persian empire, immediately began to organize the proper administration of the empire. He appointed 120 satraps, provincial administrators, over the kingdom. Daniel was one of three commissioners whose job it was to oversee the satraps.
Notice again the interplay between God’s favor and Daniel’s faithfulness. The young man who refused to defile himself with Babylonian food and culture, who kept himself pure before God, was then promoted by God to a position of influence in the empire. As a result of his faithfulness and God’s favor, even the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, glorified God. Now again, in a different empire, under a different king, Daniel is in a position of influence and authority.
6:3 “Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom.”
Again, the favor, gifting and anointing of God brought about Daniel’s promotion. His wisdom and discernment, his many years of experience and his unflinching integrity cause kings to trust him with promotion.
6:4 “Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.”
Daniel’s favor provoked a spirit of jealousy in his peers and they conspired against him to find some issue of negligence or corruption. Corruption was rampant in ancient governments, as today and Daniel’s integrity must have been a constant irritant in the souls of his fellow governors. Corruption cannot abide honesty any more than darkness can abide light. Unable to compete with Daniel’s insight and purity, and refusing to rise to his level of excellence, they conspired to do away with him.
How galling it must have been that “they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.” What a wonderful affirmation of a public official — no grounds for indictment!
No doubt they were thorough in their investigation of the man and with over 70 years of public service, there was no lack of testimony or records. But they found nothing — “no negligence or corruption.”
6:5 “Then these men said, ‘We will not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.’”
Now their affirmation of Daniel rises to a new height — since there is no sin of corruption or negligence to be found in him, since in his long record of government service there is no shred of wrongdoing, then his only vulnerability will be in regard to his God. What a great compliment to the man of God! The only way to get to him is through his God. But on this point the destroyers will be destroyed, for dependence on God is not vulnerability — it is our strength. He is the almighty, all wise, Most High God. These accusers are a thorn in the flesh. But what is a thorn against the power of God?
The Apostle Paul was afflicted by a thorn and he beseeched the Lord to remove it. The Lord responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9a).
Paul’s response, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor. 12:9b). If the only accusation against a follower of Christ is that we are followers of Christ, then may God be glorified. And He will be glorified in the witness of our suffering and our vindication. He will be glorified in our weakness, our defenselessness, for then He will display the perfecting of His power.
So it was that the Psalmist praised the Lord, “This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, and rescues them. O taste and see that the Lord is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! The righteous cry, and the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Psalm 34:6-8,17).
Secure in God’s defense, the Apostle Peter exhorts us, “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (I Peter 3:14,15).
Do not fear their intimidation but continue to share your witness “with gentleness and reverence,” not trading slander for slander, not demonizing our opponents. Daniel did not accuse his accusers, did not persecute his persecutors, did not stand in front of their houses holding up signs and chanting slogans. He simply stood in his integrity. In this, he foreshadows our Lord, “Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously” (I Peter 2:22,23).
Just as Daniel’s accusers could find no point of accusation against him, neither did Caiaphas the High Priest find any accusation against Jesus. Nor did the Roman governor, Pilate, who said repeatedly, “I find no guilt in this man” (Luke 23:4).
There was no way to condemn Jesus except in His relationship to the Most High God. So it was that the High Priest asked Him, “‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matt. 26:63,64).
Jesus’ forthright confession of His relationship to His Heavenly Father led to His condemnation by the High Priest. As with Jesus, so with Daniel. The conspirators could find no accusation against Daniel except in his relationship to God. So they conspired to create a conflict between Daniel’s service to the king and his service to God.
Notice that the written record contains nothing of Daniel’s words during this intrigue. His life is his only witness. He needs nothing other.
6:6 “Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: ‘King Darius, live forever!’”
The King James Bible refers to them as “presidents and princes.” Though they pretend to have the welfare of the state at heart, they are nothing more than petty powerbrokers scheming to advance their own careers at the expense of someone more righteous, more gifted, more honest than they are. We can imagine that they are not usually given to unity but on this one goal they are in agreement — Daniel’s death will be their gain.
They are nothing more than cold blooded assassins without the nerve to do their own killing. They will attempt to hide behind the power of the throne.
6:7 “All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions' den.”
That is a lie. Daniel was one of the commissioners and he was not consulted. In fact, the plot was hidden from him for the purpose of assassinating him.
They appeal to the vanity of Darius, placing him above any man or god. All petitions, all requests are to come directly to the king for a period of thirty days. Even the false gods of Babylon and Persia must bow before him.
How easily the rulers of this world are beguiled by the lust to be worshipped. Nebuchadnezzar built the gold image to himself. The Roman caesars declared themselves to be gods. How easily kings and queens are seduced by the bowing, the kneeling, the greetings — “Hail Caesar, long live the king, if it please your majesty.”
How corrupting it must be to have ten thousand servants scurrying about to serve one’s least desire. How intoxicating it must be to eat a bit of breakfast and then utter a few words by which thousands of souls will rise and fall, armies will march and fight, lamps will shine and candles fall dark.
The penalty for disobeying this edict will be death in the jaws of the lions. Darius the king holds that power in his hands. By his hands and words the lions of court and the lions of the pit are fed.
6:8 “Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.”
The “presidents and princes” plead with the king to sign this injunction into law and remind him that according to the tradition of the Medes and Persians, once an edict becomes law it cannot be revoked. There was one thing more powerful in the Medo-Persian Empire than the king. That was the law which the king authorized. The laws of the empire could not be overturned, not even by the king. He was bound by his own law.
They are attempting to snare Darius in his own power. If this edict is signed into law, even if the king discovers their true intent to destroy Daniel, he will not be able to save the man of God. He will be bound by the absolute authority of his own law.
The counselors appeal to the king as a god but snare him as a mere fool. But isn’t it always that way? A wannabe god sitting on a throne is only a fool with a nicer chair than the average fool. And whether a fool wears a gold crown or a grey hoodie, he’s only a fool.
Snared by his pride, the king was foolishly playing into the hands of the conspirators.
6:9 “Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.”
How could he resist? They appealed to him as a god. Furthermore, it was the unanimous appeal of the administrators of the kingdom (well, not entirely unanimous — Daniel being the exception. But the king doesn’t know that).
Furthermore, it was for the good of the kingdom — (well, not all of the kingdom but certainly good for those who controlled the wealth and power of the kingdom).
Darius signed the edict into law.
For the good of the kingdom.
6:10 “Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously.”
When Daniel learned of this new law, his response was to pray and give thanks to the Lord “as he had been doing previously.” Of course, Daniel could have compromised. Stop praying for thirty days. Or just close the window in your prayer chamber. That doesn’t mean you are an atheist. Doesn’t the Lord want you to preserve your life so you can continue to be a witness tomorrow? Lighten up a bit.
But nothing changed in Daniel’s devotion to the Most High God. The man of God refused to compromise, chose to remain faithful. He had first made this choice when he was a teenager, taken forcibly from his home in Jerusalem and brought to the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. There the young Daniel refused to defile himself with the stuff of Babylonian culture. He chose to remain faithful, from the very beginning.
Over the decades he had served kings with distinction and honor yet always giving honor and glory to the Most High God. Surrounded by multiplied idols and ambitious men who accommodated themselves to every false philosophy, who bargained with every false god and prostituted their talents at every false altar — nevertheless, Daniel refused to compromise.
Faithfulness to the one, true God is a choice in every generation. The earlier in life we begin to make that choice, the more deeply ingrained it becomes in our character.
Notice also that Daniel was giving thanks. Men were plotting to take his life but he was giving thanks. We are reminded of the exhortation of the Apostle Paul, “In everything give thanks, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thessalonians 5:18).
A weaker man might object: “How can I give thanks? They are plotting to destroy me.”
We give thanks because in the midst of lethal circumstances, our God is present providentially working all things for His glory and our good. “The eternal God is a dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).
Jesus said, “And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
Therefore the Psalmist praises the Lord, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth” (Psalm 34:1).
Why praise God at all times? Because, “I sought the Lord, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
6:11 “Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.”
The conspirators were spying on Daniel to see if he would violate the new law. Not surprisingly, they “found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God.” If conspirators against God were spying on us, would they find evidence of our faithfulness?
Notice that Daniel was making petition and supplication to God. Obviously he was requesting assistance. He has no promise that God will deliver him from the lions but he has every expectation that God will strengthen him to be steadfast and will stand with him among the lions.
Sometimes God is glorified in the death of His saints and sometimes in their miraculous delivery from death. But always the Lord is glorified in the faithfulness of His saints and it is He who stands with us, enabling us to be faithful.
6:12 “Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king's injunction, ‘Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?’ The king replied, ‘The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.’”
They hurry to the king and remind him of the edict which he had signed into law. The king agrees that this is the law and it cannot be revoked. The conspirators then spring their trap:
6:13 “Then they answered and spoke before the king, ‘Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.’”
They think they have Daniel in their net. Really, it is the king who is trapped. He has great respect for Daniel, has entrusted him with the highest office in the land next to the throne, and is horrified that he may be the instrument of Daniel’s destruction. The king is caught in the unbreakable net of Medo-Persian law. But Daniel is no more at risk than he was the day before the law was enacted. He is safe in the purposeful arms of the God who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Really when you think about it, the people who are most trapped are the conspirators. If God shows Himself mightier than the law of the empire, more powerful than the jaws of the lions, if the Most High God delivers Daniel even as He delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, then the king will not be bound by the law. Do you suppose the king will not be angry at the men who tried to force him to kill Daniel?
They have set their puny lives up against the power and wisdom of the true and living God. They have manipulated the king and the law to serve their own selfish ambition. It is the conspirators who are trapped. It is the destroyers who will be destroyed.
By the way, note the hint of anti-Semitism in their complaint to the king — “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah.” He’s a Jew — he’s not one of us. Behind this prejudice is the ancient desire of Satan to destroy the covenant people whose existence is central to God’s salvation purpose on earth.
6:14 “Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him.”
The king “was deeply distressed” (or “displeased with himself”) and for the remainder of the day “set his mind on delivering Daniel.”
What a tumultuous fall for the king! He had believed the lie that the people should petition only him — not the gods of Babylon, not the God of Israel. The king could play god for thirty days and everything would be fine, no one would be hurt.
One moment he was god above gods. Next moment he is just another self-deceived fool and a miserable, distressed fool at that. “What unspeakable tragedy I have caused!” he must have thought to himself. Frantically he searched for a way out.
What is more bitter than remorse, the crushing realization that our self-blinding pride has harmed others whom we love? Playing God really does cause harm. Ask Adam and Eve. Ask anyone who has believed the lie and eaten the forbidden fruit.
6:15 “Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, ‘Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.’”
The chorus of conspirators return at the end of the day to remind the king that he has no way out of the trap which they have set. The king is ruled by the law and by the corrupt legislators who crafted the law. He who played god for a day is now ruled by fools and foolish laws.
Why does anyone ever trust in the self-proclaimed gods of flesh and blood? In the end, they are as weak, impotent and stupid as the breathless idols of Babylon.
Daniel now faces the certainty of being thrown to the lions and he is standing alone. His three friends who years ago had taken their stand against idolatry are not mentioned. They may have been serving in other parts of the empire or may have died by now. Daniel is swimming upstream in a downstream culture and he is doing it alone.
But of course, a man or woman of faith is never truly alone. Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mathew 28:10).
The Lord has promised us, “I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebr. 13:5).
1. Daniel’s enemies could find no grounds for accusation against him other than his loyalty to God. What does this tell us about Daniel?
2. Daniel’s enemies pass a law that no one can make a petition to any man or god, for thirty days, other than to the king. What was Daniel’s response? (see v. 10).
6:16 “Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions' den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.’”
The king had no choice in this matter — he was bound by law — but even as he gave the orders, he uttered either a prayer or a testimony of faith, depending on the translation:
“May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
“Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”
However we translate those words, it is obvious that the righteous life of a Godly man had won the heart of the king.
6:17 “A stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing would be changed in regard to Daniel.”
The stone was rolled against the mouth of the den and sealed. For the corrupt conspirators, that hole in the ground was intended to be a place of death. For Daniel is was a place of deliverance. For the king it was a place of proving. For the Most High God it was a place of demonstration — He will deliver His servant and demonstrate His sovereignty.
From our perspective as followers of the resurrected Christ, we should not be surprised at the outcome. We celebrate the truth that no stone rolled against the mouth of a tomb and sealed with the authority of the emperor, nor any stone rolled against the mouth of a lion’s den and sealed with the authority of the king, can prevent the purpose of Almighty God. Truly, God does some of His best work in rooms sealed with a stone.
What is God’s purpose? It is that He is glorified in the lives of His saints. God is often glorified in the death of His saints who choose martyrdom rather than unfaithfulness. Sometimes, though, he stops the mouths of lions and quenches the fire. Always, He stands with us.
Daniel does not know in advance how he will glorify God. Will he glorify God in dying or in living? It is not his to know, only to be faithful. The Apostle Paul’s desire was that, “Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Phlpns. 1:21).
The writer to the Hebrews writes of those “who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight … and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment … (others) were put to death” (Hebrews 11:33,34,36,37).
Daniel does not know if he will live or die on this night. He does know by faith that the true and living God will stand beside Him.
6:18 “Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.”
The king passed a restless night without food or sleep, no doubt wracked by remorse at the damage wrought by his foolish pride.
6:19-22 “Then the king arose at dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions' den. When he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, ‘Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?’ Then Daniel spoke to the king, ‘O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.’”
At dawn the king raced to the tomb, probably expecting no response other than silence or the contented growl of well fed lions. But how great his joy must have been to hear the voice of Daniel ringing out from the darkness of the pit: “O king, live forever! My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths and they have not harmed me.”
Daniel’s first words are not, “Get me out of here” nor does he shout, “Kill those wicked men who put me here.” He does not cry out for deliverance. He gives glory to the God who has delivered him. Neither does he cry for vengeance, knowing that God is his defender. How consistent with the way he has lived his life. He has always lived to glorify his God. Put him in a lion’s den and nothing changes. He is still the same man he always has been.
Daniel then testifies of his innocence before God and before the king. For three centuries, Rome executed Christians for refusing to worship the emperor — the charge was atheism and treason. But they were innocent of any crime against God or the state, as was Daniel. The death of those followers of Christ was not a defeat for God or the martyrs — deliverance through death into the presence of God is a great and wonderful miracle.
However, God still has purpose for Daniel to fulfill and so the man was delivered from the lions. We will see that purpose more fully revealed in future chapters. In this moment, though, we see God glorified before the eyes of a humbled king.
6:23,24 “Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children and their wives into the lions' den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.”
Daniel was unharmed but those who had conspired to destroy him were themselves destroyed. They who had seduced the king to make himself greater than the gods were judged by the true and living God. They who had entrapped the king were themselves caught in their own trap. The fact that the men failed in their attempt to kill Daniel and were then punished is not surprising. It is a principle engrained in the structure of a moral universe:
“He who digs a pit will fall into it, and he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him” (Proverbs 26:27).
“The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed” (Prov. 11:6).
The Hitlers and Napoleons of history, and all the famous and petty self-declared kings who came before them and all who follow them, all reach for a bridge too far, grasp one crown too many and they fall. The Psalmist prayed in union with the laws of a just universe when he asked of God, “Let destruction come upon him unawares, and let the net which he hid catch himself; into that very destruction let him fall” (Psalm 35:8).
“Let the wicked fall into their own nets, while I pass by safely” (Psalm 141:10).
Sometimes cynics murmur, “Look, they are getting with it.” Not so. All will stand before the bar of justice — many in this life and everyone when this life is ended.
Regarding the killing of the family members of the plotters, it does not say that God approved of their deaths. The king exercised his authority but surely this was not an expression of the heart of God. Kings in that day exercised absolute power and though that power was given to them by God, this does not mean that God agreed with every decision. The Bible records the words and actions of many people but their words and actions are not always a reflection of the truthfulness and mercy of God.
The men were guilty of the attempted assassination of a government official, a righteous, innocent man of God. As is often the case, the criminals jeopardized other lives with their criminal activity. And as often happens, they also caused the death of their own innocent families. No one sins in a vacuum — many other lives are impacted.
6:25 “Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations and men of every language who were living in all the land: ‘May your peace abound!’”
The king now issues a decree glorifying the God of Daniel. The decree is in the form of a hymn.
6:26,27 “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God and enduring forever, and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, and His dominion will be forever. He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”
The king begins by declaring that God is “the living God” who endures forever, whose kingdom “will not be destroyed.” Empires rise and fall, powerbrokers live and die but the Most High God is everlasting and His dominion is forever. He is a God who “delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders in heaven and on earth.” His latest wonder stands before the king.
Daniel was a faithful representative of unfaithful Israel. God’s purpose for the nation was that they would be “a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison” (Isaiah 42:6,7). Because of unrepented idolatry, injustice and rebellion, the nation was judged and set aside. But God continued to raise up witnesses through whom He would shine His light to the Gentiles. Daniel was one of those.
Also, in Daniel’s deliverance and in the judgment of his enemies we see a prophetic foreshadowing of the someday deliverance of Israel from centuries of Gentile domination. At the end of history, Jesus will return and destroy the armies of the Antichrist. The destroyers will be destroyed, Israel will be restored and the Messiah’s reign on earth will be inaugurated.
What does the Lord require of us as we await that day of glory? That in every generation we be found faithful.
6:28 “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
We must note again that liberal critics of this book focus on the name of Darius, pointing out that no one by that name is mentioned as a king in the Medo-Persian Empire. As we said previously, it may be that either Darius was a sub-regent under the command of Cyrus or that Darius is a title such as Caesar. If the latter is the case, then the word “and” would be translated “even” and the sentence would read, “So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius even in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
Above all, let us remember that the lack of historical / archeological testimony does not disprove the word of God. If there were no evidence from non-Biblical sources, God’s word would still be inspired and authoritative for our lives. The Apostles remind us, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20,21).
We may trust that the Lord who said, “I am the way, the life and the truth” (John 14:6), whose name is “Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11), who in human form was truth personified, will only tell us the truth. God is continually revealing truth about our world, where we have been and where we are going. He reveals truth about our hearts and His heart. He reveals hidden things and shines light into darkness.
We need never be troubled by unbelieving critics of a God whom they do not know. Separated from God by their sin, how could they possibly understand or trust God’s word? But we may always and everywhere trust the word of our God, as Moses reminds us: “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19).
I praise God for this narrative of Daniel in the lion’s den because it is true and because it speaks into our lives of the importance of faithfulness in our generation.
1. In the morning, the king races to the tomb and calls out to Daniel. What is Daniel’s response? (see v. 22).
2. What is the king’s response to God’s might miracle in Daniel’s life? (see v. 26,27)
Chapters 1-6 gave us the historical record of Daniel, his faithful friends and the kings under whom they served. Now the book takes on a different perspective. The remaining chapters are prophetic, providing an outline of Israel’s future and salvation history until the return of Christ.
7:1 “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it.”
The first year of Belshazzar’s reign would be around the year 553 BC, after the events of chapter four (the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar) and before the events of chapter 5 (the judgment of Belshazzar, his death and the conquering of Babylon by the Medo-Persians).
In chapter 2, Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. He was still in his teens when he did that. Now, many years later, he receives a new revelation. He may have begun to read Jeremiah’s prophecy that after seventy years of judgment, the Jewish exiles would return to their homeland. That time is not yet fulfilled but it was on the horizon. New seasons call for new revelation. As God prepares to move, He gives to His prophet dreams and visions.
7:2 “Daniel said, ‘I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea.’”
On its most literal level, “the great sea” could be interpreted as the Mediterranean Sea, around which all of Bible history takes place. However, often in the Bible the sea represents nations, people groups. In the Revelation to John, we read: “And he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw where the harlot sits, are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues’” (Rev. 17:15).
Isaiah speaks of “the uproar of many peoples who roar like the roaring of the seas, and the rumbling of nations who rush on like the rumbling of mighty waters” (Isaiah 17:12).
The sea also can represent the chaos of nations out of which evil arises, “Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names” (Rev 13:1). The Beasts of human history rise up out of the chaos and confusion of nations:
The Beast of Nazism arose out of the economic and moral chaos of post-World War I Germany.
The Beast of Soviet Communism arose out of a collapsing Russia in 1917.
The Beast of racist genocide, violent Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism rise up out of the storm swept sea of unredeemed human hearts, religious deception, poverty and hopelessness.
But notice that in Daniel’s vision, the sea is stirred by the four winds of heaven. Wind often represents God sovereignly moving to accomplish His purpose. For instance in John 3:8 Jesus said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” In John 3 wind is a symbol of God sovereignly saving lost sinners by the gracious exercise of His will.
The word “stirring” is the same word used in Micah 4:10 in reference to a woman travailing to give birth. What Daniel is seeing in his vision is the Spirit of God travailing in human history to providentially accomplish His purpose amidst the stormy sea of sin, violence, rebellion and idolatry. While allowing rulers and citizens of the nations to exercise free will, even allowing the savagery of beastly kingdoms, God sovereignly moves history toward the fulfilling of His predetermined purpose. It is He who establishes kings and kingdoms, it is He who lifts up one and pulls down another, it is He who fixes the times and the boundaries of every nation.
The Psalmist praises the God who stills “the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves and the tumult of the peoples” (Psalm 65:7).
In Psalm 29:10 we read, “The Lord sat as King at the flood; yes, the Lord sits as King forever.”
God reigns over the chaos of the nations. Indeed, He “upholds all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3). The word “upholds” has a sense of carrying something toward a goal. The Lord is moving nations, time and history toward the fulfilling of His glorious purpose.
This is also true in our own lives. In the midst of the chaos of our times, He “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). If you love the Lord and are submitted to His design for your life, He is able to providentially lead you through to the fulfilling of His preordained purpose.
We must add, though, that some commentators identify the four winds with fallen angels, principalities and powers in the heavenly places — demonic spirits stirring up the chaos of nations. It is certainly true that Satan and his host of fallen angels continually incarnate their malice in human personalities. It is surely true that fallen, sinful people establish fallen, sinful institutions, oppressive economic systems and false religions, out of which arise wars and persecutions and genocidal campaigns of hatred and violence. It is also true that in Revelation 9:14,15 the four angels are released from imprisonment beneath the Euphrates River and in 13:1 the beast (the Antichrist) rises up out of the sea.
However, God is in sovereign control of fallen angels and even of the activities of the final, demonized world ruler. The best interpretation of this dream is that the four winds of heaven represent the Spirit of God moving, travailing over the stormy waters of human history and among the chaos of fallen human societies to accomplish His preordained purpose.
7:3 “And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another.”
Whereas in chapter 2, the prophet interpreted the king’s dream, in chapter 7:17 an angel interprets the dream for the prophet, informing Daniel that the beasts represent a succession of Gentile world powers. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the world empires were seen as components of a statue — gold, silver, bronze, iron and clay. Now, the empires are seen as beastly, violent and cruel. Nebuchadnezzar saw their power and their temporary glory. Daniel sees their true character. Nebuchadnezzar saw from a human perspective. Daniel sees from God’s perspective. Notice also that although these empires exist over many centuries, Daniel sees them all at once, as though he is seeing from the eternal perspective of God, who sees the beginning from the end, for whom a thousand years is like one day.
Notice again that the empires rise up out of the sea of nations, out of people groups and the chaos of fallen humanity. They rise up in that geographical region where all of Bible history takes place. They are physical / political representations of the spiritual struggle that has taken place throughout world history for domination of the land of the Bible, the people of the Bible and the destiny of Bible history.
Lest we cast our gaze too far into the history of nations, let us remember that the beast also rises out of the unredeemed human heart. Jeremiah reminds us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).
Jesus said, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders” (Matt. 15:19). Violent beasts arise in the souls of men and women unconquered by grace. In Revelation 19:11-16 we see heaven opened and the Lord Jesus mounted on a white horse leading the armies of God as the nations are subdued. God will conquer the beasts of history and He will conquer every heart that opens to His mercy and grace.
7:4 “The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it.”
The first empire “was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle.” Statues of winged lions guarded the gates of the palace in Babylon. They are an accurate representation of a powerful empire that moved swiftly to conquer. The fact that “a human mind also was given to it” may be a representation of Nebuchadnezzar himself as though he personifies the Babylonian empire.
Notice that the wings were plucked from the lion. This speaks of the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar when he was reduced to living with the beasts of the field. Then the lion “was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man, and the mind of a man was given to it,” which represent the restoration of the king when he humbled himself before God.
The lion standing upright also represents the gradual humanizing of Nebuchadnezzar throughout his life as he encountered the living God through the three Hebrew young men and through Daniel. Having encountered God, the beast became truly human in the best sense of the word.
The life of Nebuchadnezzar reminds us of the sovereignty of God over kings and kingdoms.
7:5 “And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’"
The second empire, the bear, is often interpreted as a representation of the Medo-Persian Empire simply because historically this is the empire which followed the Babylonian Empire. Also, a bear is noted for its size and power and the armies of Medo-Persia were huge and overwhelmingly powerful. Some commentators believe that the three ribs in the mouth of the bear represent the conquest of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt between 546 and 529 BC.
7:6 “After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it.”
The leopard with wings is an accurate representation of the empire of Alexander the Great who conquered the Medo-Persians. With the swiftness of a leopard Alexander conquered kingdoms from Macedonia (part of modern day Greece) to Egypt in the south and as far east as India. Alexander’s victories were won not by the superior size of his forces but by speed, maneuverability and brilliant strategy. He died unexpectedly at the age of thirty-three and his kingdom was divided among four generals, symbolized by the four heads.
Notice the phrase, “dominion was given to it.” It is God who gave dominion to Alexander. We are again reminded of the sovereignty of God over the history of nations. Even the beasts exercise authority only under the sovereignty of God.
Notice the historical accuracy of these prophecies which foretell events long after Daniel died. This is not recorded history — it is prophecy. God is able to reveal the future because He sees the end from the beginning. He exists before time, beyond time and meets us in time, all simultaneously. He reveals the secrets of time to build our confidence in His providential guidance over the events of history. He has ordained the end of all things and moves all of time toward the fulfilling of His purpose even while allowing the exercise of free will by millions of sinful, rebellious people and fallen angels.
7:7 “After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.”
The fourth beast is “dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong.” It has iron teeth with which it “devoured and crushed and trampled.” This is a representation of the Roman Empire, fierce and merciless in its conquest of every nation within its grasp.
We are reminded of the contrast between the Greek and Roman manner of conquest. Alexander did not crush the people he defeated, rather, they were assimilated into Greek culture while adding something of their own distinctiveness to the Greeks. Both the conqueror and the conquered contributed something to the new empire. However, the Romans ruthlessly slaughtered, destroyed and enslaved all whom they encountered. Not the least of Roman savagery was the bloody persecution of the church for three centuries.
Recalling the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream with its legs of iron, we see an accurate depiction of the Roman Empire. Whereas the Babylonian Empire lasted approximately 70 years, the Medo-Persian Empire 200 years and the Greek Empire nearly 200 years, the Roman Empire stood on legs of iron for nearly 600 years.
However, Daniel’s vision moves beyond the historic Roman Empire and into the future. In verse 23, an angel reveals that the fourth kingdom “will devour the whole earth.” The Roman Empire, while conquering vast territory, was limited to Europe, North Africa and the Mideast. In fact, even to our day, there has never been an empire which ruled “the whole earth.”
The ten horns, which correspond to the ten toes of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, seem to represent ten subdivided kingdoms within a world-wide empire which has not yet appeared. This fourth kingdom represents both the historic Roman Empire and something else, something more, beyond Daniel’s time and our time.
It is not unusual in Bible prophecy for a prophet to see across vast spaces of time without making a distinction between eras. A good example would be Isaiah 61:1,2: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.”
Jesus quoted this passage and applied it to Himself early in His ministry. However, He stopped in the middle of verse two, omitting the phrase, “the day of vengeance of our God.” That day is future, referring to God’s end time judgment of the world. Jesus came to offer grace. Contained in verse two is at least a two thousand year time gap between the first and second appearances of Jesus.
That’s not uncommon in the prophets and we find it here in Daniel 7:7. The historic Roman Empire becomes a representation of another fierce kingdom, still to come, encompassing the whole earth, with ten sub-kingdoms or administrative districts. We must note the similarity to Revelation 12:3, “Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems.”
Notice also the similarity to Revelation 13:1, “And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.”
The fourth beast which Daniel saw, the beast with ten horns, represents the ancient Roman Empire and yet moves beyond that kingdom and time to a kingdom and a time yet to be. Daniel sees the end time world government of the Antichrist.
7:8 “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.”
Another horn, smaller, rises up among the ten, uprooting three of the horns. Two characteristics of this horn stand out: “This horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.” Eyes and mouth are characteristic of a human being so we may gather that this horn is a person. The most dominant characteristic of this person is “a mouth uttering great boasts.” This is a supremely arrogant man.
This smaller horn may be a representation of a proud, insolent, God-rejecting king, Antiochus Epiphanes, who ruled several centuries after Daniel died, and who committed abominations in the Jersualem temple (175-164 BC). But Antiochus is also a foreshadowing of the foulest blasphemer of all, the final world ruler, Antichrist.
1. God allows people and fallen angels to exercise free moral will and yet still accomplishes His purpose in history. Are you confident that the Lord is able to work out His design for your life, even amidst the chaos of these times?
2. The fourth beast may represent the ancient Roman Empire but also may represent who or what?
Chapters 1-6 gave us the historical record of Daniel, his faithful friends and the kings under whom they served. The remaining chapters are prophetic, providing an outline of Israel’s future and redemption history until the return of Christ.
7:9 “I kept looking until thrones were set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow and the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, its wheels were a burning fire.”
Now the vision moves from earthly empires and kings to the thrones of heaven. Daniel is seeing into heaven: “I kept looking until thrones were set up.” The King James says, “thrones were cast down” but not in the sense of torn down. Rather, thrones were cast, set in place.
Daniel sees multiple thrones which speak of the authority, the government, the dominion of heaven. He watches as “the Ancient of Days (the Everlasting One) took his seat.” He sees a representation of God in His glorious power.
We are not told who sits on the other thrones but we know from Revelation 4:4 that elders sit on twenty-four thrones in heaven. They may be a representation of the redeemed church sharing authority with the glorified Christ as He promised (Rev. 3:21, 20:4 2 Tim. 2:12).
Daniel does not identify them because the focal point of the vision is the Ancient of Days. He sees a representation of the Lord God dressed in white which speaks of holiness, righteousness, purity. We see a similar description of the glorified Jesus in Revelation 1:14, “His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.”
In Daniel 7:13 the Ancient of Days seems to represent God the Father. However, whether the Ancient of Days is the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit or a way of expressing all three is beside the point. The point is that the Ancient of Days, the eternal God, is seated on His throne and the fire of His glory encompasses Him.
Wheels of fire may speak of the activity of God’s holy justice in history. God’s justice is not passive. While it is true that there is a future sense to the justice of God — the Lord will establish His justice across the earth when time is ended and Jesus returns — during these days of history the righteous God is actively involved in the affairs of nations, establishing kingdoms and pulling down kingdoms, confronting evil and proclaiming truth.
Previously, Daniel’s attention has been riveted on the beastly empires of this world order but now he looks up into heavenly realities. The seemingly invincible power of the beasts fades before the vision of thrones and the Ancient of Days seated in majesty amidst the fire of His glory. It is easy to fix our eyes on the beasts — they are everywhere in every century. Their thrones litter the landscape of history. But can you see the throne of the Ancient of Days towering over the wrecks of time?
7:10 “A river of fire was flowing and coming out from before Him; thousands upon thousands were attending Him, and myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; the court sat, and the books were opened.”
The fire of God's glory and judgment flow out from His throne as countless angels minister before Him. Fire as a symbol of glory and judgment is found throughout the Bible. For instance,
“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne. Fire goes before Him and burns up His adversaries round about” (Psalm 97:2,3).
“Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house” (2 Chronicles 7:1).
“Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting. When they came out and blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people. Then fire came out from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the portions of fat on the altar; and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces” (Leviticus 9:23,24).
Korah and 250 other men rebelled against Moses and against God, but, “Fire came forth from the Lord and consumed” them (Numbers 16:35). Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed by fire (Gen. 19). During the final days of human history, the fire of God’s judgment will be poured out on the earth (Rev. 8:7). At the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, “The heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10).
Daniel sees a visible manifestation of the glory and judgment of God encompassing and proceeding from the heavenly throne.
“The court sat,” representing the beginning of a judicial proceeding.
“And the books were opened.” These books represent perfect knowledge issuing in perfect judgment from One who is everlasting, holy, pure, glorious and whose authority is established forever. Daniel is witnessing the release of God’s justice in history and final judgment at the end of the age.
Of course God does not need books to remind Him of the events of history. He possesses perfect knowledge of every person and every circumstance from the beginning of time to the end and He always possessed that knowledge. The books represent that omniscience and they also speak of God’s revelation of truth to the unredeemed who will someday stand before His throne for judgment — they will see with perfect clarity the choices they made.
The high and the mighty, the poor and the downcast, the power broker and the peasant, all the unredeemed, will stand before this throne someday. Daniel has been witnessing the great and terrible kingdoms of the earth represented by the four beasts and so it is only natural that we are reminded that someday, the proud kings and queens of earth’s passing day will be summoned before the throne of Him whose dominion is forever and they will be held accountable. We are also reminded that although kings are invested with authority by God to rule the kingdoms of this world, even the mightiest of earth’s kings will face a final accountability before the judgment seat of God.
In these thrones and in these books Daniel sees the representation of that which was only temporary standing before that which is everlasting. Corrupted justice will stand before perfect justice. Corrupted power exercised corruptly will stand before perfect power exercised with perfect wisdom and purity. So it will be for all the unredeemed.
Sometimes people say of a criminal or a cruel tyrant, “They got away with murder.” No, they did not. They will have their day before the Supreme Court of the universe and the Prosecuting Attorney has perfect knowledge of every event in the history of the world. God’s verdict will be rooted in perfect justice founded in perfect wisdom and He possesses perfect power and all authority to carry out His decision.
What was the verdict that God wrote on the wall of Belshazzar’s banquet hall? “Your days are numbered. You have been weighed in the balance and found deficient. Your kingdom has been removed from you and given to another.”
What was the verdict given to Nebuchadnezzar when he exalted himself in pride? “A voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you’” (Daniel 4:31).
The day of reckoning is certain — sometimes it happens in history, always at the end of time. Therefore the Lord counsels His saints to be patient with the outworking of history: “‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19).
7:11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.”
Daniel continues to hear the boasting of the arrogant horn of the fourth beast, echoing blasphemous boasts of tyrants down the centuries and the blasphemy of the final world ruler, the Antichrist. In Revelation we read that he “opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6).
As Daniel continued to look, “the beast was slain.” Daniel witnesses the destruction of the final beast and his world empire. The details are richly supplied in the New Testament Revelation but history itself amplifies the lesson. Every demagogue boasts of his power and the permanence of his empire but in God’s timing and under His sovereign control, every empire falls, every tyrant dies and their false glory is consumed by the fire of God’s justice burning in history.
How quickly they rise, how suddenly they fall. How mighty they appear to be, how weak they truly are. So it will be with the final world ruler, the Antichrist. His empire will fall, he will stand before the Most High God and he will be judged.
Daniel watches as the beast’s “body was destroyed and given to the burning fire.” John also saw this event, recorded for us in the Revelation, “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20).
Nebuchadnezzar also saw this event in his dream, though portrayed with different symbols. The king saw a stone which “was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:34,35).
Daniel then interpreted the dream, “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. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy” (Daniel 2:44,45).
Beasts make their boasts but in the end, their kingdoms are crushed into dust, the mighty are slain and thrown into the fire. Throughout history we see the power of the beasts manifesting through their world empires, seemingly invincible. But we also see their sudden end. Where now is the power and glory of Hitler, Stalin, Nero? Ashes and dust.
No one would have guessed that Babylon would fall in a night. But it did. Who would have imagined, in 1940, that the thousand year reign of which Hitler boasted would shatter so quickly? He died, surrounded by the smoking dust of his capital city, his body consumed by flames.
Empires which seemed so almighty in their pomp and pride are crushed by “a stone cut out of the mountain without hands.” The stone which crushes the kingdoms of the world is the stone which the builders rejected, Jesus Christ. As the Lord said, “And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust” (Matthew 21:44, see also Acts 4:11 Psalm 118:22 I Peter 2:6-8).
So it will be at the end of the age. The mightiest empire in world history, the empire of the Antichrist, will be destroyed by God Almighty and its king will be cast into the lake of fire.
7:12 “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time.”
Across the centuries, every beast of human history has lost his or her dominion, one by one. To this day the kingdoms of the world still shake their fists against God, rebel against Him, against His purpose and against His redeemed. But it is only by God’s sovereign permission that they exist.
The phrase, “an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time,” reminds us that although each kingdom of man eventually loses its dominion and is swallowed up by the next kingdom, something of the life and culture of the previous empire is absorbed into the life of the one which follows it. For instance, the laws of Babylon influenced the Medo-Persian Empire. The Persian knowledge of mathematics was absorbed by the Greeks. Greek philosophy influenced the Romans and Roman law shaped the foundations of Western Europe. So kings and kingdoms perish but something of their legacy remains for a season. But only for a season. Someday this season, the time of the Gentiles, will be ended. The end will be sudden, cataclysmic at the return of Christ.
Notice the continued emphasis on the sovereignty of God in the history of nations: “Dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time” (7:12). God allows humanity the freedom to worship Him or rebel. He gives talent, resources and opportunity to do good or evil. But even evil functions within the restraining limits of God's authority. God appoints the boundaries and seasons of nations, according to His time and purpose, granting authority and taking it away.
The Apostle Paul reminds us, “For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God” (Romans 13:1). But Paul also reminds us that the Lord “determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,” (Acts 17:26). The same God who ordains governments also holds men and women morally accountable for the way they exercise the responsibility given to them. In the end, God removes the dominion of the beasts and if the Most High does extend the life and influence of any earthly empire or kingdom, it is only for a season, an appointed time and serves His holy, preordained purpose.
It is beyond our understanding how God allows individuals and governments to exercise free will while He causes all of history to flow toward the outworking of His eternal purpose. Providence — God shepherding the events of history while allowing human beings to make free, moral choices — is a miracle on the grandest scale.
The Psalmist said, “For the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Psalm 76:10). Even the wrath of fallen humanity is somehow used by God to serve His kingdom purpose.
God bends even the sin of the nations to His purpose. Though Pharaoh enslaved God’s covenant people and defiantly shook his fist at God, the Lord said to him: “For this cause I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth” (Romans 9:17). God allowed Pharaoh to rebel so that God could glorify Himself in the judgment of Pharaoh and the liberation of Israel.
The Psalmist spoke the truth when he said, “Once God has spoken, twice I have heard this, that power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11). Truly, “God reigns over the nations, God sits on His holy throne. … For the shields of the earth belong to God; He is highly exalted” (Psalm 47:8,9b).
God and God alone moves the river of human history through the channels of His sovereign purpose. It is this God who “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). It is God who sovereignly appoints the times and the boundaries. We have seen beasts strutting through the history of nations. Do we also have eyes to see the Ancient of Days ruling in history?
Daniel witnessed the fiery venom of beasts washing through history but he also saw, with prophet eyes, the age of the Gentiles consumed in fire. May we, who live in the midst of that age, bear witness to the everlasting fire of God's glory settling upon and flowing through the kingdoms of this world.
7:13 “I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with 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.”
Daniel has seen beasts emerging from the sea of human chaos. Now he sees One like a Son of Man on the clouds of heaven, presented before the Ancient of Days. The prophet has seen the beasts of the world order judged, broken and consumed in fire. He now sees a new order, an everlasting kingdom rushing into history as the Son of God stands before God he Father.
The leaders of the old order emerged from stormy seas, the chaos and violence of human history. They sat on thrones that crumbled as quickly as their corrupt kingdoms. The Leader of the new order appears in the glorious clouds of heaven, in the midst of everlasting thrones and an all consuming river of fire. He is holy and pure and His dominion is forever.
This everlasting kingdom comes through the agency of one designated as “the Son of Man.” “Son of” was a common Hebrew term. A wealthy man might be referred to as a “son of wealth.” A troubled man might be referred to as a “son of trouble.”
The One whom Daniel sees is called a Son of Man, for only a Son of Man can rule on the earth. God gave earth to man, man lost dominion to Satan and only a Son of Man can restore the purpose of God on Earth. But He is more than a Son of Man — He must also be a King for He is given a kingdom. He must be glorious for He stands in the glory of heaven. He must be everlasting for His kingdom is everlasting. He comes into view in clouds which is how we last saw Him on earth as He ascended to heaven (see Acts 1:9).
We know this Son of Man as the Son of God, King of kings and Lord of lords, Lion of Judah, Lamb of God and Risen Savior, Jesus the Christ. “Son of Man” is a term which Jesus applied to Himself more than any other. In doing so He was identifying Himself with humanity and He was identifying with this figure in Daniel who appeared before the throne of the Ancient of Days, who comes on the clouds of heaven and receives a kingdom that has no end.
Jesus may have preferred this title because it was less incendiary than other titles and allowed Him to avoid the violent, political / military expectations of the restless crowds of Israel. They were always one spark away from revolution, ready to crown someone as their Messiah / Deliverer. But the deliverance they desired was from the dominion of Rome, not the dominion of sin. Jesus knew that the real slave master was sin and deliverance would not be through political / military means but by an atoning sacrifice, a holy Lamb for sinners slain. When people tried to forcibly crown Him king He dismissed the crowds (John 6:15). He continued to define Son of Man in His own terms.
Jesus defined the Son of Man as preexistent Deity, sharing eternal life with God, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, the Son of Man” (John 3:13). He is not just the Son of Man who stood before the Ancient of Days. He shares everlasting life with the everlasting God.
He defined the Son of Man as a suffering, crucified Messiah, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14).
He defined the Son of Man as sharing eternal life and final judgment with the Father (Ancient of Days): “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; and He has given Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man” (John 5:25-27).
When Jesus was on trial before the Jewish rulers, He said, “Nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). The Jewish rulers understood that Jesus was applying Daniel’s prophecy to Himself and shouted that this was blasphemy (26:65).
Daniel saw the Son of Man coming “with the clouds of heaven.” Jesus promised that He would fulfill this prophecy: “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Jesus clearly claimed to be the Son of Man referenced by Daniel. The authorities declared Him to be a blasphemer. It is they who blasphemed God standing before them.
John also witnesses to this future reality in his Revelation, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen” (Revelation 1:7).
These clouds are the shekinah glory of God, the manifest presence and glory of God. When the Israelites traveled through the wilderness toward the land of promise, they were accompanied by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Many believe this was the cloud and fire of God’s shekinah glory. God placed His shekinah glory in the tabernacle and in the temple. In His earthly ministry, on the Mount of Transfiguration, Jesus pulled back His robe of mortality and revealed His true glory. There on that mountain the disciples were encompassed with the shekinah glory of God (Matthew 17:1-5).
Daniel saw Jesus before the throne of His Father, wrapped in shekinah glory.
7:14 “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.”
The Son of Man, Jesus, is given glory and a kingdom that includes all people, nations and tongues. Whereas the kingdoms of the beasts pass away, God’s kingdom cannot be destroyed and has no end. “Dominion, glory and a kingdom” is
the Father’s gift to His Son. He is the stone of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream which crushes the empires of gold, silver, bronze and iron and which then “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” (2:34,35).
Daniel sees “that all the peoples, nations and men of every language (will) serve Him.” The word serve is pelah which means to worship. The drawing in of people from every tribe and tongue and nation encompasses the church age but also includes the end of the age, when Jesus will return and establish His throne and the redeemed of the nations will come and worship Him. The Apostle Paul saw that day and said, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phlpns. 2:9-11).
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away.”
Isaiah prophesied of the coming Messiah and His everlasting kingdom, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6,7).
Though in His incarnation Jesus humbled Himself as a servant, dying on a cross to redeem lost sinners, in His resurrection and ascension He is seated “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come, and He put all things in subjection under His feet” (Ephesians 1:21).
Jesus testified of this when He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18). Truly, “His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.”
John, in the Revelation, heard thunders of heavenly voices proclaiming this truth: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
Though that day is not yet this day, it is established by the decree of Almighty God.
There is a time gap of centuries in chapter seven. The fourth beast represents both the Roman Empire of the past and the future rise of the boasting little horn, the Antichrist. Many generations lie between that historic empire and the future world empire which is destroyed by the Son of Man who returns in clouds of glory. As we said in the previous lesson, this is common in the prophets. They do not see time gaps in salvation history because they are not speaking in a context of calendar time. They are prophesying of eras, ages of history, outlining the events of salvation history through time till the end of time.
1. In verse 12 we read that the dominion of the beasts “was taken away.” Are you confident of the ultimate victory of God’s kingdom rule in your life and in this world?
2. Who is the Son of Man and what does Daniel tell us about His kingdom? (see v. 13,14)
7:15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.”
Daniel has been given visions of the end times — the judgment and destruction of the kingdoms of the world, the triumph of the Ancient of Days and the establishing of His everlasting kingdom. He has gazed into the throne room of heaven and peered through clouds of glory to the end of history. He is overwhelmed and alarmed.
It may be that Daniel hoped for a soon restoration of the Israelite nation in all its former glory. After all, Jeremiah’s prophecy stated that after 70 years the nation would be restored. Would the Messiah then come, this Son of Man, and establish the everlasting kingdom of the Most High God? But the visions indicated three more kingdoms would succeed Babylon and the fourth kingdom, the empire of iron, seemed to extend across time to some future point in history.
How is this to be interpreted? How long is the time before the vision is accomplished? Why the delay? This is alarming to Daniel as it is to all who hope and pray for the establishing of the kingdom of God in this violent, storm tossed world.
Jesus reminds us that as the end of the age draws near there will be wars and rumors of wars, false messiahs, famines and earthquakes, deadly persecution loosed against the church (Matthew 24:4-9). Yet the Lord counsels us, “See that you are not frightened” (24:6).
How is that possible? How can we not be alarmed? Because God is in control of history, across centuries and in the most tumultuous days. This is why He reveals the end from the beginning, so we will be confident of His sovereign Lordship over time and nations, as He said through the prophet Isaiah, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isa. 46:9,10).
Again the Lord says, “I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass” (Isa. 48:3).
The Psalmist confidently proclaims, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart from generation to generation” (Ps. 33:11).
Isaiah exhorts us, “The Lord of Hosts has sworn: ‘Surely, as I have planned, so will it be; as I have purposed, so will it stand’” (Isa. 46:9).
The Apostle Peter reminds us that there will always be those who mock the idea that God will someday judge the thrones of this passing world and establish His dominion across the earth (2 Peter 3:3-12). He reminds us that what we regard as slowness is only the patience and kindness of God as He offers saving grace to lost humanity. Peter then exhorts us to live out our hope faithfully: “Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” (2 Peter 3:14,15).
We do not know the day of our Lord’s return, the hour when His kingdom will be established. But we know His calendar has been set from eternity and each day is crowned by His sovereign Lordship.
7:16 “I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things.”
Whereas in chapter 2, the prophet interpreted the king’s dream, in chapter 7 an angel interprets the dream for the prophet. However, in both cases it is God who is the source. Daniel never claimed that he possessed prophetic wisdom — He always gave glory to God.
When the Lord revealed Nebuchadnezzar’s dream to Daniel, he confessed that the Lord “gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding” (2:21). He said to the king, “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (2:28). “But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man” (2:30).
Only God can reveal the mysteries of time and eternity.
7:17 “These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth.”
The angel reveals that the beasts represent kings who also personify their kingdoms. As stated earlier, they represent Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. The Roman Empire also is used to represent the final empire of the Antichrist.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, recorded in chapter 2 and in Daniel’s dream / vision recorded in chapter 7, we are presented with four successive world empires. The components of the statue in chapter 2 correspond to the beasts of chapter 7, presented in historical / chronological order:
1. Babylon: Head of gold (2:32) — lion with eagle wings (7:4)
2. Medo-Persia: Breast / arms of silver (2:32) — bear (7:5)
3. Greece: Belly / thighs of bronze (2:32) — leopard with wings (7:6)
4. Rome: Legs of iron, feet of clay (2:33) — dreadful beast (7:7)
In 7:17 the beasts are said to rise out of the earth, whereas in 7:3 they rise out of the sea. Both earth and sea represent nations, people groups and the chaos of human history out of which the beasts of human empires arise.
7:18 “But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.”
Notice how quickly the angel passes over the beasts and focuses on the kingdom of the Highest One. Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, Alexander the Great, the Caesars of Rome were considered great and mighty in their day. But neither they nor their crumbling thrones are of any interest to an angelic citizen of heaven who dwells amidst everlasting thrones of glory.
The angel declares with absolute certainty that the saints of the Highest One will receive and possess an everlasting kingdom. The saints are the redeemed people of God. We both receive and possess the kingdom.
The saints receive the kingdom from God. It is God’s gift to those who receive the King. Jesus said, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). When we surrender to the Lordship of the King, we are translated into His kingdom.
Only the Most High God can give us His kingdom because only He can judge and destroy the kingdoms of the world. Only He, the eternal God, can establish that which is eternal.
When the Son of Man returns, He will establish “an everlasting dominion which will not pass away” (7:14). He is the stone of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream who crushes the statue of gold, silver, bronze and iron. He is the Lion of the tribe of Judah who is worthy to break the seals and release the judgment of God on earth (Revelation 5:1-5).
We receive the kingdom but we also must possess what God has given. When Israel stood on the banks of the Jordan and looked across into the land of promise, the Lord said to Joshua, “Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you” (Joshua 1:3). But Joshua also commanded the people to “go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you” (Joshua 1:11). The land was God’s gift but the people had to march in and fight and labor to possess what God had given.
We receive and possess God’s gift of the everlasting kingdom by repentance and faith. As Jesus began His ministry, He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15).
We enter the kingdom as we turn from our sins and believe the gospel. What is the gospel? Simply stated: God was born in human form, died an atoning death for our sins and rose from the dead. When we turn from our sins and place our faith in Jesus, the Son of Man / Son of God, the crucified Lamb for sinners slain, the Risen Lord of Glory — then we are forgiven of our sins, reconciled to God, translated out of the kingdom of darkness and into the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13). We are given eternal life with God. Forgiven life, reconciled life, eternal life, life in the kingdom of God — this is God’s gift to us.
We possess the kingdom as we persevere, as we press on faithfully guarding that which has been entrusted to us, as we take hold of that for which we were taken hold of by Christ Jesus. We possess the gift as we pray, as we learn God’s truth and live God’s truth. We possess the gift as we grow in the grace and knowledge and likeness of Jesus.
Notice that this kingdom which we receive and possess is a kingdom that endures “for all ages to come.” God is everlasting, therefore His kingdom endures forever. Entering into relationship with God means sharing the unending life of God. It is a life which we receive and possess by faith. It is God’s gift and our possession.
7:19,20 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet, and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates.”
Daniel wants to know more about the fourth beast which is different from the others in its ferocity and its destruction. He desires to have a better understanding of the identity and significance of this kingdom. In particular, he wants to know more about “the meaning of the ten horns” and the “horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts.” Who or what is this fierce, fourth, boasting, arrogant beast?
7:21 “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them.”
Daniel must have been especially alarmed to see the fourth beast “waging war with the saints and overpowering them.” Who is this and when will these things take place? How is it that the saints, God’s redeemed who will receive and possess the kingdom, are overpowered by a beast of the world?
The beasts of every century are those leaders and their mobs who shake their fists at God, who attempt to bury God’s truth and crush God’s truth-speakers. Because the world hates God and rejects Him, it seeks to do violence to the covenant people of God as a way of expressing violence toward God. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also” (John 15:18-20).
So it was that Israel was persecuted. So it is that the church has been persecuted from the first century to this day. As the Apostle Paul said, quoting Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered” (Romans 8:36).
The beast in verse 21, though representing the Roman Empire, is especially a portrait of the final world leader, the Antichrist, who leads one final cataclysmic rebellion against God. It will be a time of unprecedented apostasy, blasphemy against God and slaughter of God’s people.
What will be the outcome?
7:22 “until the Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.”
Daniel quickly sees the outcome: the Ancient of Days passes judgment over the fourth beast and gives the saints possession of the kingdom. God defeats the beast on behalf of His people. The Ancient of Days, the everlasting God, destroys that which is temporary and establishes that which is everlasting. “The time arrived” when that which is timeless pushes into time. Daniel sees the end of the age when the saints possess the kingdom.
The saints possess the kingdom not because there is no warfare or resistance, not because they are not slaughtered from one century to the next, but because the Ancient of Days is present and speaking judgements in their favor. In the storms and tribulation of our times, remember that the Ancient of Days is present.
1. The Ancient of Days, Almighty God, is present in a universal sense. David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139:7)
2. The Ancient of Days, Almighty God, is present in a personal sense with those who are committed to follow Him, present in Christ Jesus who said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
“I will never desert you nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).
3. The Ancient of Days, Almighty God, is present through the Holy Spirit who now indwells the redeemed: “For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them and I will be their God and they shall be my people’” (2 Cor. 6:16).
The Lord is not merely present — He is present with authority to establish His kingdom and bring history to the fulfilling of His purpose. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
1. Jesus has authority to forgive sins:
Jesus is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” who “released us from our sins by His blood” (Revelation 1:5). He healed a paralyzed man, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Matthew 9:6).
Wherever the sins and failures of the past are binding your ability to rise up and fulfill the purpose of God, Jesus the righteous King and holy Lamb has authority to release you through the grace of forgiveness. He doesn't just forgive our sin, He breaks the power of canceled sin: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).
2. Jesus has authority to give eternal life:
“And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28 see also John 17:2)
When a spirit of death pushes against your life, seeking to kill and devour the purposes of God for you, the resources of God, the promises of God, Jesus has authority to give life, to restore life, to resurrect life. He has the authority to unbind resources and to speak new promises, open new doors of opportunity.
3. Jesus has authority over earthly kings and kingdoms, “It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings” (Daniel 2:21). He sets the times and the boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26).
4. Jesus has authority over the spiritual principalities and powers of this universe:
This authority is His by virtue of His creation of all things: “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16,17).
This authority is His by virtue of His resurrection, His triumph over death. After Jesus arose from the dead, He was seated at the Father’s “right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church” (Ephesians 1:20-22).
The Ancient of Days is present and exercising authority in history.
7:22 “And judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One.”
The Ancient of Days was incarnate in human form as the Son of Man. Though put to death by sinful men, He rose from the dead, ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the majesty on high. He has authority to forgive sin, to give eternal life and to exercise dominion over the spiritual and political world powers. This God is speaking judgments in our favor. If you are redeemed by the blood of the Lamb then do not be afraid of the judgments of God — they favor the saints.
When God judged the world with a universal flood, was that good news or bad news? It depends on where you stood in relation to the ark of safety. If you stood outside the ark, having rejected God’s offer of grace and safety, the flood was a sentence of death. But if you trusted in God’s gracious provision of safety, the flood proclaimed the good news that violence, evil and depravity will not continue forever, God will establish justice while providing a way of deliverance, safety, salvation and provision for those who entrust their lives to Him. There was room in the ark for more people. There was room on the ocean for more arks. There was room for every person who wold trust in God’s offer of salvation.
When God judged Pharaoh, broke his power allowing the Israelites to escape captivity, was that bad news or good news? It depends on where you stood in relation to the blood of an unblemished lamb. For those who said, “Yes, let the blood of the lamb be applied to the doorpost of my house,” the destroyer passed over those families. Judgment was good news for them — it meant liberation from slavery. It was good news if you loved God’s salvation purpose in history. It was bad news if you were shaking your fist at God.
The judgment that we read about in the Revelation reveals a God who is not vindictive or cruel but who does confront and break the demonic power systems of this world which resist His kingdom purpose, rebel against His grace and oppress His saints. That judgment favors the saints. God is acting in history to judge and break the power systems which conspire to trample His mercy, destroy His blessings, oppose His righteous purpose and oppress His covenant people. And in the midst of that end time judgment, there will be unprecedented harvest as men and women find refuge in the saving grace of God.
God purposes through judgment to release blessing in the lives of His saints.
He judges / breaks the power systems that resist His kindness
and that judgment is Good News for those who are conformed
in holiness with the loving purpose and character of God.
“O Lord, you have heard the desire of the humble; you will strengthen their heart, you will incline Your ear to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth will no longer cause terror” (Psalm 10:17,18).
This God of justice is, “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows” (Psalm 68:5).
The Psalmist prays with trusting faith, “May He vindicate the afflicted of the people, save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor” (Psalm 72:4).
The Psalmist is confident that God is sovereign over the thrones of this world, “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation. But God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6,7)
The Psalmist shouts with confidence, “For the Lord will judge His people and will have compassion on His servants” (Psalm 135:14).
In Isaiah 2:4 we see that the judgment of God breaks instruments of war and turns them into instruments of peace. In Psalm 103 we read of a God who forgives all our iniquities, heals all our diseases, redeems our life from destruction, crowns us with lovingkindness and mercy, who satisfies our mouth with good things and renews our youth like the eagle, who “performs righteous deeds and judgments for all who are oppressed” (Psalm 103:6).
The justice of God inspires praise among His people: “The daughters of Judah have rejoiced because of Your judgments, O Lord” (Psalm 97:8).
“I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, to you, O Lord, I will sing praises” (Psalm 101:1).
In Psalm 98, even creation rejoices in anticipation of God’s righteous judgment: “Let the sea roar and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy before the Lord, for He is coming to judge the earth; He will judge the world with righteousness and the peoples with equity” (Psalm 98:7-9).
God has always been present in history judging the beasts when their time of accountability is due. “He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away” (Job 12:23).
“The Most High rules over the kingdom of mankind and gives it to whom He wishes, setting over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17).
God has always been acting in history but a time came when the Lord acted in an unprecedented way — the Ancient of Days was born in human form. The prophet Micah prophesied this birth in Bethlehem centuries in advance, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).
The everlasting Son of God became the Son of Man and He walked through Galilee and Judea proclaiming the kingdom of God breaking into history. As Jesus approached the hour of the cross, He said, “Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out” (John 12:31). The cross of Christ was not a defeat for God. Rather, it is the instrument whereby judgment was released in favor of the saints:
1. On the cross, sin was judged (that which separates us from the kingdom purpose of God).
2. On the cross, death was judged (that which destroys the kingdom purpose of God).
3. On the cross, the powers and principalities of darkness were judged and disarmed (which oppose and resist the kingdom purpose of God).
This is why our past cannot determine our future. On the cross, our past was disempowered and God’s future released. The past cannot determine or shape our future. The future is determined by the Ancient of Days who is present and speaking judgments that favor His saints.
The beasts of this world cannot determine our future nor can our sin when it is covered by the blood of the Lamb. At the cross, we are translated into the kingdom of God, qualified to enter. Therefore the cross is the beginning point for saints possessing the kingdom.
Hear again the words of Jesus, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly (it is your Father's good pleasure) to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). Be patient, the saints will possess the kingdom. “It is your Father's good pleasure” to give you His kingdom. The entire universe is your inheritance. Therefore do not grow weary in doing good, do not cast away your confidence nor despise the day of small beginnings.
God is present where you are, releasing judgements that favor you.
This is not merely true on a personal level. It is also true on a historical level. Because God is present and speaking His word of judgment into history, the past history of nations and empires will not determine the future, no matter how much demonic activity and destruction has taken place. Daniel had seen the Beasts. God wanted him also to see His presence, authority and glory revealed in history.
John the Apostle had seen the beasts — friends and fellow apostles martyred, thousands of believers martyred, himself exiled to a slave labor camp. But Jesus appeared to Him at Patmos, revealed Himself to John, gave John a new message and said, “Come up here” (Revelation 4:1).
The word of the Most High God to Daniel, to John and to each of us is that He is not offering us a way out — He is offering us a way up: “Come up here and witness the struggle from a higher perspective.”
From that perspective we see:
1. A God who is present in human history.
2. A God who releases judgments not to destroy us but to break the demonic powers that resist His purpose so He can release blessing.
3. Past cannot determine future, no matter how much demonic resistance there may be.
4. The saints will possess the kingdom.
God’s kingdom will come and we will join our voices with the angels and shout, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
1. In verse 18 we read, “The saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever.” How do we possess that which we have received?
2. Daniel says in verse 22 that the Ancient of Days will come and will pass judgment “in favor of the saints of the Highest One.” Is judgment good news or bad news?
7:23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it.’”
Daniel has been given visionary sight across centuries of time. He has seen the destruction of worldly empires, the triumph of the Son of Man, the victory of His saints and the someday establishment of the eternal kingdom of the Most High God. Daniel is alarmed at the vision and we can imagine his questions — how and when will these things happen? In particular, the vision of the fourth kingdom, its destruction and the establishing of the new kingdom possessed by the saints, must have been quite perplexing to Daniel. In fact, it is still a source of wonderment because it did not happen in Daniel’s day and has not yet taken place.
So in verse 16 Daniel asked an angel for interpretation. The angel then provided a basis for interpretation (though we are still looking through a glass darkly). He tells Daniel that the fourth beast / fourth kingdom will be different from the others not only in ferocity but in its scope — it will devour “the whole earth.” Obviously this has not happened yet because there has never been an empire which ruled the entire earth. This kingdom is personified in its eventual leader, “That horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts and which was larger in appearance than its associates” (7:20).
This boasting horn is “the prince who is to come” (Dan. 9:26). He is “the man of lawlessness … who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thes. 2:3,4).
He is “the beast” of Revelation 13:1 whom John saw “coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” He is the beast who is worshipped (Rev. 13:4); the beast who speaks “arrogant words and blasphemies” (Rev. 13:5); who blasphemes God, “His name and His tabernacle” (Rev. 13:6); who makes war against the saints and overcomes them, to whom “authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given” (Rev. 13:7).
He is the one of whom Jesus spoke, who sets up an idol to himself, the abomination of desolation, in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple (Matthew 24:15). He is the Antichrist of I John 2:18. There have been many tyrants over the centuries who have exercised an antichrist spirit but there is coming at the end of the age the true personification of this spirit, the Antichrist.
7:24 “As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.”
“Out of this kingdom “ — out of the kingdom of the fourth beast, the Antichrist — “ten kings will arise.” These ten horns / ten kings may refer to regional administrative districts governing the earth under the Antichrist during the last days of the end time. They are the same as the ten horns of Revelation 17:12, “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.”
The other horn is a representation of the Antichrist, the final world ruler. His rising may refer to his gradual assumption of total control. Subduing the three kings may speak of rebellion on the part of three of his governors. Having defeated them and consolidated his control, he will establish absolute authority over his world government.
7:25 “He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.”
A primary characteristic of the Antichrist’s rule will be arrogant blasphemies against the Most High God and warfare against the saints. He will “intend to make alterations in times and in law.” He will attempt to subvert the worship of the Most High God by exalting himself and setting up an idol to himself in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple. He will put an end to temple sacrifices, worship, prayers, festivals, holy days. He will forbid the practice of the Mosaic Law. All attention will be focused on himself.
He will triumph over the saints “for a time, times, and half a time.” This represents three and one half years and roughly conforms to the 42 months of Revelation 11:2,3 and 13:5 and the 1290 days of Daniel 12:11. It is the second half of the Great Tribulation, a time of unprecedented persecution of Israel and slaughter of the followers of Christ.
Notice this phrase, “they will be given into his hand.” God will still be sovereign. In fact, the entire Tribulation is an expression of the justice and mercy of the Lord. Whatever brief victories the Antichrist enjoys, they are within the boundaries of the sovereign Lordship of the Most High God. And though this will be a time of extreme blasphemy against God and genocidal violence against His saints, it will also be a time of unprecedented evangelism and harvest as multitudes are swept into the kingdom of God. The Most High will rule over those times as He has ruled over all times.
This is the God who says of Himself, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9,10).
7:26 “But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.”
As we have said, this momentary triumph of the Antichrist is contained within the sovereign purpose and timing of Almighty God. When this season of tribulation is ended, the little horn that speaks blasphemies, the beast known as Antichrist, will be judged by the Most High God “and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever.”
So it is that we read in Revelation, “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Rev. 19:20).
7:27 “Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.”
In 7:18 the angel said to Daniel, “The saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom.”
Then in 7:22 we read, “The Ancient of Days came and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom.”
Now again we are promised that the time will arrive when the saints take possession of the kingdom. When is that time? When the Ancient of Days comes. He came once as the humble Son of Man, born of Mary, crucified on a Roman cross, risen from the dead. He is coming again in glory.
Jesus assures us of His return. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).
In His first advent He was wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger. In His second advent, He will come wrapped in clouds of glory, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
Angelic messengers also assure us of Christ’s return, “And after He (Jesus) had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:9-11).
In 7:22 and 7:26 the angel assures Daniel that the Ancient of Days will come and destroy the beast forever. In 7:27 the angel assures Daniel that the kingdom of the Most High will be given to the saints and it will endure forever. In contrast to the temporary empires of the world which seem so invincible and fall so suddenly, when the Ancient of Days establishes His kingdom it will be everlasting.
Not only will we abide in the kingdom of God. We will also share in the authority of the King. Jesus said to the overcomers in the church at Thyatira, “He who overcomes and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations” (Rev. 2:26).
To the church at Laodicea Jesus promised, “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21).
The Apostle John saw that day in heavenly vision, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
John saw the souls of those who were martyred during the reign of the beast, slaughtered because they would not worship the beast nor receive his mark. But John also proclaims the joyful news, “They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”
In Rev. 5:10, the heavenly choir sings in praise to the Lamb, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”
The Apostle Paul exhorts us, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him” (2 Timothy 2:12).
The saints will share in the dominion of our King, though our share of the throne is for the purpose of serving and glorifying the King.
7:28 “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."
Daniel is still troubled by what he has seen. He realizes there will be many more years of Gentile domination, more persecution of God’s people, more suffering, travail and tribulation. He also is assured that in the end, God will triumph and His dominion will be established across the earth. The people of God will possess the kingdom of God.
Not all of Daniel’s questions are answered nor are ours but he has enough light to live. We also have enough light to live and with the Psalmist we celebrate God’s faithfulness, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
1. Daniel says in verse 25 that the fourth beast, the Antichrist, will “wear down the saints of the Highest One … and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time.” What will happen to that man?
2. In verse 27 we are told of the outcome of this age long spiritual warfare. What is the outcome?
It is interesting to note that beginning with 8:1 Daniel writes in Hebrew, rather than the Aramaic which was used from 2:4 through 7:28. Remember that chapter one dealt with the attempt by Nebuchadnezzar to assimilate Daniel and his three friends into Babylonian culture and their refusal to defile themselves. This was recorded in Hebrew.
Beginning in chapter 2 and extending through 7, we read the narratives of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian and Roman Empires, which is written in the language of Daniel’s world — Aramaic. However, the remainder of the book paints in broad strokes the future history of Israel, recorded in Hebrew.
8:1,2 “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. I looked in the vision, and while I was looking, I was in the citadel of Susa, which is in the province of Elam; and I looked in the vision, and I myself was beside the Ulai Canal.”
This is two years after the vision recorded in chapter seven. In this vision, Daniel sees himself in the citadel of the city of Susa ( citadel may be translated fortress or capital). Susa is located about 225 miles east of Babylon and later became a residence of Persian kings. At this time it may still have been under Babylonian control or it may have already been conquered by the Persians who were pressing against Babylon.
8:3,4 “Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a ram which had two horns was standing in front of the canal. Now the two horns were long, but one was longer than the other, with the longer one coming up last. I saw the ram butting westward, northward, and southward, and no other beasts could stand against him nor was there anyone to rescue from his power, but he did as he pleased and made himself great.”
Daniel now sees a ram with two horns, which is revealed in 8:20 as the Medo-Persian Empire. The figure of a ram was also used by Persian kings as a symbol of their power — they wore crowns shaped like a ram’s head. The two horns represent the two nation alliance which formed the empire. But in Daniel’s vision, one of the horns is longer than the other which may be a representation of the more dominant Persian component.
In the vision the ram is butting (thrusting, goring) aggressively to the west, north and south conquering everything in its path, as did the Medo-Persian armies. In fact, they conquered as far east as India but the region to the east is of no significance to this narrative. Significant to Bible history is Egypt to the south, Asia Minor to the north, Israel to the west and further west, Greece.
None could stand before the Medo-Persian ram. Babylon, the gold head of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:32) and the lion with the wings of an eagle in Daniel’s dream (7:4), was about to be supplanted by the silver arms and breast of the statue (2:32) — Daniel’s bear (7:5). The prophet already knew this from his earlier dream in which the bear had followed the lion. Remember that the bear had three ribs in its mouth, possibly representing Medo-Persia’s conquest of Lydia, Babylon and Egypt between 546 and 529 BC
The ram “did as he pleased and magnified himself” as is the way with all the boasting, arrogant, kingdoms of this world. But Medo-Persia (the ram / bear) would later be conquered by the leopard with wings (Greece). This also is the way of the kingdoms of this world — they rise, they fall.
8:5 “While I was observing, behold, a male goat was coming from the west over the surface of the entire earth without touching the ground; and the goat had a prominent horn between his eyes.”
Daniel sees a male goat “coming from the west … without touching the ground.” We know from 8:21 that, “The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.” (This is also the leopard with four wings from 7:6)
That king is the Greek general, Alexander the Great, who, coming from Greece in the west, conquered the Persian empire in three years. He was famous for his brilliant tactics based on speed and rapid maneuver. It must have seemed to some generals that his armies moved without touching the ground.
8:6,7 “He came up to the ram that had the two horns, which I had seen standing in front of the canal, and rushed at him in his mighty wrath. And I saw him come up beside the ram, and he was enraged at him; and he struck the ram and smashed his two horns, and the ram had no strength to withstand him. So he hurled him to the ground and trampled on him, and there was no one to rescue the ram from his power.”
With a much smaller army, Alexander completely destroyed the massive Persian forces in a series of battles from 334 to 331 BC. (Remember that these events take place long after Daniel died in the 5th century BC. This is prophecy — God revealing the future.)
8:8 “Then the male goat made himself exceedingly great. But once he became powerful, the large horn was broken; and in its place four prominent horns came up toward the four winds of heaven.”
Alexander then did as do all the self-glorifying leaders of the kingdoms of the world, he “magnified himself exceedingly.” But he died unexpectedly at the age of 33 — “the large horn was broken.” Kings rise and fall. Thrones are raised up and cast down. It is a consistent theme of Daniel, that God is sovereign over the events of history, not the strutting queens and peacock kings. They seem so invincible, so glorious in the hour of their victory but in a moment their power and glory are swept away. We tend sometimes to be intimidated in the historical moment, by the flashing fire and majesty of the rulers of the world. But look across the centuries — the mighty ones rise and fall and their glory turns to dust.
Alexander glorified himself and then he died. So it always is.
There is also a revelation here of the human heart and the process of redemption. Sin enthrones itself in the soul of men and women and shakes its proud fist against God. But in an unexpected hour, the Spirit of God takes the word of God, pierces the soul and in a moment the rebel kingdom is cast down and Jesus is crowned King and Lord.
After the death of Alexander, in the place of the large horn “there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven.” It is a matter of historical record that Alexander was replaced by four generals who divided up his kingdom into four parts. Remember though that Daniel is not recording history after the fact. He is prophesying history before it takes place.
Two of those generals became relevant to Bible history. Ptolemy took control of Egypt, North Africa and Cyprus. Seleucus controlled Syria, Babylon and Media. Palestine lay between them and they fought for control of that holy land. Ptolemy is referred to in Daniel 11 as the king of the south. Seleucus will be known as the king of the north.
8:9 “Out of one of them came forth a rather small horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Beautiful Land.”
Descended from one of the four generals (Seleucus) was a man named Antiochus Epiphanes who ruled Syria and Palestine from 175-164 BC. He is the “rather small horn which grew exceedingly great.” His aggressive military expansion included “the Beautiful Land,” which was Israel. He is described in 8:23 as “insolent and skilled in intrigue.”
This “rather small horn” of 8:9, Antiochus Epiphanes, is the same as the little horn of 7:8 which supplanted three horns and which possessed “the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.” Antiochus is also a type or representation of the final world ruler, the Antichrist. The satanically inspired sin of Antiochus against the people of God is a foreshadowing of the Antichrist. Although Antiochus and Antichrist are different persons, they share many of the same characteristics and their crimes are motivated by the same, God-rejecting arrogance.
8:10 “It grew up to the heavenly lights, and some of the lights, that is, some of the stars it threw down to the earth, and it trampled them.”
This little horn will cause “some of the host and some of the stars to fall to the earth” where they will be trampled. In 12:2,3 Daniel is speaking of the resurrection of the righteous and he refers to them as shining “like the stars forever and ever.” Jesus also refers to the righteous who will “shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 12:43). So this verse, 8:10, may be a symbolic reference to the persecution and suffering which Antiochus visited on the people of God and in particular, righteous Jews. In the following verses we read of his campaign.
8:11 “It even exalted itself to be equal with the Commander of the army; and it removed the regular sacrifice from Him, and the place of His sanctuary was overthrown.”
The little horn “magnified itself to be equal with the Commander (Prince) of the host,” that is, he magnified himself alongside God, and “removed the regular sacrifice from Him and the place of His sanctuary was overthrown.” It is a matter of historical record that Antiochus attempted to corrupt worship in the Jewish temple by replacing Godly high priests with political appointees, forbidding the daily sacrifices and making it a criminal act to use or possess Old Testament Scriptures.
Antiochus arrogantly exalted himself to the status of a god — he minted coins stamped with his image and the words “Theos Epiphanes” which means, “God made manifest.” Devout Jews considered these coins to be a graven image and a sacrilege of the most depraved order.
He slaughtered tens of thousands of pious Jews and climaxed his demonic campaign by building an image to the Greek god Zeus in the Jerusalem temple and then slaughtered pigs on the holy altar as worship offerings to Zeus (in 167 BC). This is referred to in Daniel 11:31 as “the abomination of desolation.”
Jesus used the phrase “abomination of desolation” to refer to the final, climactic act of idolatry when the end time Antichrist sets up an image to himself in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple (Matthew 24:15). So 8:10 contains both a near reference — Antiochus Epiphanes — and a far reference — the Antichrist.
(Yes, these prophecies become complex and we ask, “Why study this? What is the value?” The value is this: God opens to Daniel and to us the times and the significance of the times so we can conform our lives to the presence and purpose of God in our day. Jesus criticized some of the religious leaders of His day for being able to predict the weather — though not very accurately — yet they had no discernment of their times. God was in their midst in the flesh and they missed it! They did not know the times. The Lord gives us these prophetic writings so we can recognize God’s presence and activity in our day — so we can know the times).
8:12 “And on account of transgression the host will be given over to the horn along with the regular sacrifice; and it will fling truth to the ground and perform its will and prosper.”
In sinning against the people of God, the temple of God and God Himself, in banning and suppressing the Scriptures and forbidding sacrifices, Antiochus assailed the truth of God. Truly, this man did “fling truth to the ground.” Antiochus Epiphanes then is a type of the Antichrist. They are two different people but the man of past history, Antiochus, represents the Antichrist of future history.
8:13 “Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to that particular one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision about the regular sacrifice apply, while the transgression causes horror, so as to allow both the holy place and the host to be trampled?’”
An angel cries out: “How long?”
Why does God allow the triumph of evil and for how long will this trampling of Israel continue? For creation and humanity, groaning in bondage, the answers to these questions are hidden in what the Apostle Paul called the “mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). But the angel seems to be asking more specifically, “How long will this small horn trample on the exercise of the Jewish faith in the holy place,” that is, in the Jerusalem temple.
8:14 “And he said to me, ‘For 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be properly restored.’”
In the phrase “evenings and mornings” the word “and” is not present in the Hebrew. It literally reads “evenings mornings” which is an expression of one complete day. Two thousand and three hundred days equals six and one half years — the approximate time of Antiochus’ persecution against the Jews.
Some Bible scholars contend that the 2300 evenings and mornings refers to a period of 1,150 evenings and 1,150 mornings. This would cover the time from Antiochus’ desolation of the temple with the altar to Zeus in 167 BC and the cleansing of the temple under the Maccabaens in 164 BC.
(Again we may ask, “What value is this to Daniel or to me?” The value is that in showing Daniel what will take place four hundred years into the future, God is demonstrating to Daniel His knowledge of world events and His sovereignty over the affairs of nations. We can be faithful to God in our generation because we know that God is working all things to the accomplishing of His kingdom purpose.)
8:15 “When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it; and behold, standing before me was one who looked like a man.”
Daniel is perplexed by the vision and as he wonders at its meaning, he sees someone standing before him “who looked like a man.” The word man, geber, means a mighty man, a valiant warrior. In the following verse we will see that this is an angelic being in the form of a man.
8:16 “And I heard the voice of a man between the banks of Ulai, and he called out and said, ‘Gabriel, explain the vision to this man.’”
Daniel hears “the voice of a man,” that is, using words which Daniel can understand, calling to the being who stands before him, “Gabriel, give this man an understanding of the vision.”
The name Gabriel is derived from geber el. El is short for Elohim, one of God’s names. Geber-el, Gabriel, means “mighty man of God.” Gabriel is an angel and though we do not know whose voice is calling to him, it must be either the Lord or another angel.
8:17 “So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; and he said to me, ‘Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end.’”
Gabriel approaches and Daniel becomes so frightened that he falls on his face. In the Bible, when human beings encounter angels, the first reaction is often awe and even fear. This is because angels stand in the presence of God and sometimes, though not always, they shine with the radiance of God’s glory. Even appearing in the form of a man, the brightness of Gabriel’s countenance, or possibly just the awesomeness of His power, is overwhelming to Daniel.
Also, Gabriel radiates pure holiness, a created being untainted by sin. This too would be terrifying to a man who, though holy and beloved of God, is a sinner. When Isaiah found himself in the presence of pure holiness, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).
Gabriel assures Daniel that he has come to explain the vision which “pertains to the time of the end.” “Time of the end” probably has two applications. Daniel was alive during the 6th century BC but the prophecies concerning Medo-Persia and Greece applied to the second century, far ahead of Daniel’s day. In particular, the vision is concerned with the end of Medo-Persian rule (when the Greek general Alexander defeated their armies) and the end of Antiochus’ rule, the Greek king who profaned the Jerusalem temple.
There is also an “end of time” application, as Antiochus is a representation of the Antichrist who will appear at the end of human history.
8:18 “Now while he was talking with me, I sank into a deep sleep with my face to the ground; but he touched me and made me stand upright.”
Daniel has already fallen on his face. Now as Gabriel approaches and speaks to him, Daniel falls into a “deep sleep,” such is the overwhelming nature of angelic presence. Gabriel touches him and enables him to stand.
8:19 “And he said, ‘Behold, I am going to inform you of what will occur at the final period of the indignation, because it pertains to the appointed time of the end.’”
Gabriel assures Daniel that he will interpret these events which will occur at “the final period of the indignation.” This word for indignation or wrath is normally used in reference to the wrath of God. Israel was subject to the wrath of God expressed through the Babylonians but soon the 70 years of judgment would be ended and a remnant would return and rebuild the Jerusalem temple.
Many years later, after the rejection of the Messiah, Israel would be subject to the trampling of the Gentiles for centuries culminating in persecution by the Antichrist. But there is also an end time to this.
When is that time? It is “the appointed time of the end.” Who appoints the time? The everlasting God who simultaneously exists before time and beyond time and meets us in time, the Almighty, who creates and destroys, who alone determines the end from the beginning. Again we see Daniel’s theme of the sovereignty of God in history. It is God who sets the boundaries of kings and nations, who appoints times and seasons. It is Almighty God, the Most High, who in perfect wisdom expressed through perfect power accomplishes His purpose.
8:20,21 “The ram which you saw with the two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat represents the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.”
The ram with two horns represents the kings of Media and Persia. The goat represents Greece and the large horn is the king, Alexander. We reviewed in 8:5-7 how the goat overpowered the ram. Historically, Alexander defeated the Medo-Persian armies in a series of battles.
8:22 “The broken horn and the four horns that came up in its place represent four kingdoms which will arise from his nation, although not with his power.”
The four horns that rise in place of the broken horn represent the four Greek generals who divided the empire of Alexander after his unexpected death.
8:23 “And in the latter period of their dominion, when the wrongdoers have run their course, a king will arise, insolent and skilled in intrigue.”
“In the latter period of their rule” refers to the latter time of the Greek empire. One of the last Greek rulers was Antiochus Epiphanes who, as we have discussed, was “insolent and skilled in intrigue.” The word “insolent,” (literally, “strong of face”) is a word used in Proverbs 7:13 to describe the brazenness of a prostitute. He was unashamedly arrogant.
He was also a master of deception. The phrase, “skilled in intrigue” may also be translated “understanding dark sentences.” Antiochus had satanically anointed insight into the plans and schemes of darkness. He tapped into Satan’s ancient desire to steal glory from God, destroy the covenant people and devalue the holy altar in Jerusalem which represented the presence of God on earth.
It is no coincidence that Adolph Hitler was consumed with the demonized passion to destroy the race of Jews and oppress Christ’s church. It is beyond coincidence that during the early days of WWII, he possessed an intuitive ability to make brilliant strategic choices. He was no doubt demonically inspired as his armies marched from victory to victory. But eventually, his arrogance led him to overreach and he was destroyed.
There is an interesting phrase in this verse: “When the transgressors have run their course.” That phrase may also be translated, “When the transgressors have reached their limit,” or, “When the rebels have reached the full measure of their sin,” or “When the sinners fill up their measure.”
We are reminded of the promise of the Lord to Abram that his descendants would possess the land of Canaan but not for another four generations, “For the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete” (Gen. 15:16). After Abram it would be another 400 years before the Israelites would possess the land. During that time, no doubt God was graciously calling to the transgressor while permitting the transgression to run its course.
God allowed the Canaanites to exercise free moral choice in sinning but at the same time, God was sovereignly in control of the times and the seasons. When the season of grace was ended and the sin of the people had reached the limit which God had set, then God ended the season, called for the destruction of Canaanite society and gave their land over to the Israelites.
We must remember that God’s mercy has no limit but His exercise of mercy has boundaries of time and season and sin. When the boundary is exceeded, God sovereignly acts with perfect power, wisdom, and justice, none of which violate His mercy.
In the book of Daniel we see this same sovereign God at work in the life of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, the Persian kings and in the days of the Greek rulers. When the Greek kings have filled up the full measure of their sin, when the moral / judicial boundary set by God has been reached, then a final king will arise. He will be arrogant and crafty, will be a blasphemer of God and of God’s people. But in the end, he too will go the way of all rebels.
8:24 “And his power will be mighty, but not by his own power, and he will destroy to an extraordinary degree and be successful and do as he pleases (prosper and perform his will); he will destroy mighty men and the holy people.”
Antiochus will be powerful “but not by his own power” — his power source does not originate within himself. As with the Antichrist, he will be satanically anointed.
Antiochus will use his power not to build up but to “destroy to an extraordinary degree.” He will be a destroyer of “mighty men and the holy people,” even the people of God. We have noted his cruel, violent, relentless persecution of the Jews. So it will be at the end of history — the Antichrist will destroy all who resist him. His destructive power will be so great that the people and nations of the world will take the mark of the beast and submit to him, crying out, “Who is like the beast, and who can fight against it?” (Revelation 13:4).
Antiochus will exercise power for a season and “prosper and perform his will”. He will have his way and prosper as the Antichrist will prosper for a season. But there was an accounting for Antiochus before the throne of God and there will be for the Antichrist. So for each of us. We all have been given time, opportunity and resources with which to do good or evil, to do as we please or to do as God pleases. When our time is spent, we will all be held accountable for our choices.
8:25 “And through his shrewdness he will make deceit a success (cause deceit to prosper) by his influence; and he will make himself great in his own mind, and he will destroy many while they are at ease. He will even oppose the Prince of princes, but he will be broken without human agency.”
A primary quality of Antiochus will be deception. Being a deceiver, he causes deceit to prosper. He will use deceitful schemes to establish his will and have his way.
Another primary quality will be arrogant pride: “He will magnify himself in his heart.” He will even “oppose the Prince of princes.” He will exalt himself against the Most High God. As we have noted, he stamped his likeness on coins and added the inscription, “Theos Epiphanes” which means, “God made manifest.”
And as we have noted, Antiochus erected an altar to the Greek god Zeus in the Jerusalem temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar. In Daniel 11:31 this is called, “the abomination of desolation.” Jesus used that phrase in referencing the final, climactic act of idolatry when the end time Antichrist sets up an image to himself in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple (Matthew 24:15).
We see that Antiochus provides a near or historical fulfillment of prophecy but there is also a far or future fulfillment in the Antichrist. He too will be an arrogant deceiver, persecuting Israel and the church while exalting himself against the Most High God.
But the end of the final beast is already confirmed. “And the beast (the Antichrist) was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).
So it was with Antiochus the so-called Epiphanes. Daniel prophesies, “But he will be broken without human agency.” That could mean that he will die with no one to help him but more likely it means that his death will be by divine decree. No man will take his life. Having filled up the measure of his sin, having exhausted the season of God’s patience, he will die under the judgment of Almighty God. It is a matter of historical record that Antiochus died of insanity and disease of the bowels. No human hand touched him.
8:26 “And the vision of the evenings and mornings which has been told is true; but as for you, keep the vision secret, because it pertains to many days in the future.”
The angel assures Daniel that the vision is true but directs him to “keep the vision secret.” A better translation might be “seal up the vision” or “shut up the vision.” The intent is not to hide the truth but to preserve it, seal it because “it pertains to many days in the future.” The people of Daniel’s generation would have no understanding of the vision because it did not pertain to them.
The vision would begin to make sense during the reign of Antiochus (second century BC) and will be clear in the final days of history when the Antichrist rises up against God. As with many prophets, Daniel saw a time and spoke a word more relevant to people yet unborn than to himself. But in revealing this to Daniel, in declaring the end from the beginning, the Lord demonstrates that even in the midst of chaos and suffering, He is sovereign over the nations, sovereign over kings and kingdoms, sovereign over their thrones, their time and their history.
8:27 “Then I, Daniel, was exhausted and sick for days. Then I got up and carried on the king’s business; but I was astounded at the vision, and there was no one to explain it.”
The intensity of the vision exhausted Daniel so greatly that he was unable to work. Even when he recovered his strength he was still astounded at what he had been shown. He again expresses his lack of understanding.
It is not that no one explained the vision to Daniel — Gabriel did this. But Daniel does not understand why these things must take place. Why must the holy people suffer? Why will God allow Himself to be opposed and blasphemed?
He knows that someday there will be a stone not cut with human hands which will destroy the kingdoms of the world. He knows this stone will become a great mountain and will fill the earth (2:34,35). Why is there a delay? Where is this stone?
Daniel does not understand why evil is allowed to continue as a dominating force in human history. He knows that Almighty God is sovereign, establishes kings and removes kings. He has personally witnessed the Most High God humbling Nebuchadnezzar and then restoring him. He will live to see the Lord remove Belshazzar in a night. It is incomprehensible to Daniel that the finite kingdoms of this world could ever oppose the infinite God.
He has no doubt of the power or presence of God acting in history. What he does not understand is the purpose and timing of God. However, by the end of this book Daniel will know that the Most High God is not only sovereign within history. He is also the sovereign Almighty God at the end of time and history.
1. Daniel is given prophetic revelation concerning a future king, Antiochus Epiphanes. Antiochus is a type or representation of who? (see v. 9).
2. Why does God reveal the future to Daniel? (see v. 26)
9:1,2 “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of Median descent, who was made king over the kingdom of the Chaldeans — in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, observed in the books the number of the years which was revealed as the word of the Lord to Jeremiah the prophet for the completion of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years.”
These events took place in the first year of the rule of Darius, after the Medo-Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC. Darius was the first Medo-Persian king to reign over Babylon. Actually, Darius is not a name but a title. This is probably Cyrus.
Daniel was reading from the scrolls of Jeremiah the prophet. In these prophecies he read that Jerusalem would be restored after 70 years of desolation. Remember that the Babylonians had first defeated Judah in 605 BC, after which many young men were taken into captivity, among whom were Daniel and his friends. Revolts against Babylon in 597 and again in 586 BC resulted in the complete destruction of Jerusalem, including the temple.
Jeremiah, who lived and ministered prior to and during the conflict with the Babylonians, had prophesied that Jerusalem would be restored after 70 years: “This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11).
“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place’” (Jeremiah 29:10).
That time would be measured from the first war in 605 so 70 years would be complete in 535. It is now 538 BC and Daniel realizes the time is drawing near for the restoration of Jerusalem.
Daniel believed the word of the prophet Jeremiah though it had been spoken decades before. He believed that God spoke truth through truthful prophets. He was willing to entrust his future and the future of his beloved nation to the accuracy and credibility of God’s word expressed through God’s prophet. But how will God accomplish His word? The current ruler of the Mid-East was Cyrus / Darius, a Medo-Persian king, a worshipper of idols. He did not know the Lord.
How can God accomplish His purpose through kings and governments that neither know Him nor obey His will? This is one of the themes of the book of Daniel: God accomplishes His plans because He is sovereign over the events of history and over the people who live that history. God in His wisdom and power can allow millions of people to make millions of choices as expressions of their free will while God providentially orders the events of history to fulfill His predetermined will.
Cyrus did not know God but God knew Cyrus. Long beforehand, God had spoken through Isaiah and had named Cyrus as the liberator of Israel. When Isaiah spoke the word of the Lord, sometime between 739-686 BC, Assyria was the dominant world empire. Babylon, which would later conquer Assyria, had not yet risen in power. The Medo-Persians, who would conquer the Babylonians, were not even on the horizon. Jerusalem was still standing and Cyrus would not be born for more than a hundred years. Yet God said this to Israel through His prophet Isaiah:
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone … confirming the word of His servant and performing the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’ And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built. And I will raise up her ruins again’ … It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid’” (Isaiah 44:24,26,28).
When Isaiah spoke those words, the cities of Judah were still standing. So was Jerusalem and so was the temple. Cyrus was unborn yet the Lord unveiled the future through His prophet. God declares the end from the beginning because He is present beyond the end and before the beginning, simultaneously. He declares the future because He sees it, understands it, is living in it and providentially orders it according to His preordained purpose.
Here is what the Lord said concerning Cyrus:
“Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed, whom I have taken by the right hand, to subdue nations before him and to loose the loins of kings; to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: ‘I will go before you and make the rough places smooth; I will shatter the doors of bronze and cut through their iron bars. I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden wealth of secret places, so that you may know that it is the Lord, the God of Israel, who calls you by your name. For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor though you have not known Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other’” (Isaiah 45:1-6).
The Lord said, as it were, “Cyrus, you don’t know Me but I know you and you are My instrument to accomplish My purpose.” If God had so marvelously fulfilled the word of Isaiah concerning Cyrus, who would not even be born until many years after that prophecy, surely He could be trusted to fulfill His word through Jeremiah concerning the return of the exiles to Jerusalem.
Daniel had no doubt of the authority of the prophetic Word spoken through Jeremiah but knowledge of God’s promise did not lull him into complacency. Rather, knowledge of God’s will stirred Daniel to pray. Faith is the assurance that God will fulfill His promises. Intercessory prayer — calling on God to do what God has promised — is a proof of faith. Such prayer is not a vain attempt to persuade God or change God or manipulate God. It is partnering with God in the birthing into history of that which He has chosen to do.
9:3 “So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.”
Daniel’s response to the word of God is to seek the God who spoke that word, to seek Him “by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” Moved by prophetic truth, Daniel comes before God in prayer. The answer to his prayer is God Himself and so he sets his heart to seek God’s face but he does not approach the Lord casually. He comes before the Lord with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.
Fasting is an act whereby we set aside some food or all food, some activities or all activities for a season so we can focus on hearing from God and partnering with God. Fasting is pushing aside the clutter of life so we may gain clarity in our spirit. Fasting is not about giving up something but gaining something — intimacy and clarity with God.
Sackcloth and ashes were outward symbols of an attitude of repentance, of grief over sin. Humbling himself before God, Daniel moves into prayer confessing the righteousness of God and the sins of Israel.
One might ask, “Why should Daniel pray? God is all wise, knows exactly what He intends to do. God is almighty, able to accomplish all that He purposes. God has revealed what He intends to do and will do what He intends to do. So why pray?”
We pray because God invites us to pray and because He has not only purposed the end of all things, He has also purposed the means to arrive at that end. Our lives, our witness, our giving, our ministry, the exercise of our talents, the release of our prayers, are part of the means by which God is moving this universe toward the end that He has ordained.
In Daniel chapter 9 we see a man discovering the will of God revealed in the Word of God. He then prays powerful, overcoming prayers and partners with God in the outworking of divine purpose on earth.
Nearly 70 years have passed, the time of judgment is almost over and soon will be the time of restoration, the time for the rebuilding of the nation. Knowing the Word of God, motivated by the Spirit of God, Daniel began to pray that God’s purpose would be established.
Prayer is our response to what God reveals in His Word. When we discover the purpose of God in the Word of God, we pray in agreement with that Word. As we pray in union with the heart of God, as we submit our lives to the power of God, as we line up our faith with the promises of God, we will participate in the triumph of God.
This is what it means to pray “in the name of Jesus” — we pray according to His will. Where do I discover His will? In His Word, the Bible.
In Revelation 22:20, the next to last verse in the Bible records Jesus saying, “Behold I come quickly.” Then John replies, “Amen. Come Lord Jesus.” Why does John pray for the very thing that Jesus says He will do? John is lining himself up with the Word of God, praying in agreement with the revealed will of Christ. We know Jesus is coming and only at the hour which God has determined but we pray for His return. We pray according to the will of God revealed in the Word of God.
The Apostle John said, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him” (I John 5:14,15).
Daniel located the will of God in the Word of God and he prayed. He wasn’t praying to change the heart or mind of God and neither do we. God has revealed His heart and mind to us but as we pray, God changes our hearts, positions our lives in agreement with His revealed will. Then, as we pray in union with God, the Lord uses our prayer as an instrument for the accomplishing of that which He has purposed. Not just our prayers but our entire life can be part of the means through which God moves history to the fulfilling of His purpose. This is kingdom praying, partnering with God in the establishing of His kingdom purpose on earth.
What kind of prayer is this kingdom praying? How did Daniel pray?
9:4 “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments’”
“I prayed to the Lord my God” (“I prayed to Yahweh my Elohim”).
Yahweh, “I Am Who I Am,” is the name God revealed to Moses when he encountered the Lord. Yahweh is the everlasting, Self-Existent God who redeemed Israel from slavery and still redeems. Elohim is the name of God associated with creation. “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Yet this mighty Elohim, Creator of the universe, is also “our Elohim and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” (Psalm 95:7). Yahweh-Elohim is the God who knows us and may be known by us, an everlasting, creative God who meets us, redeems and shepherds us, makes covenant with us and is faithful to His covenants.
Daniel begins his prayer by confessing that God is “great and awesome.” He is great and awesome in every aspect of His being — in power and wisdom and mercy and judgment. He is faithful to keep “covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments.” The Hebrew word for lovingkindness (or mercy) is chesed which has to do with the covenant love that is expressed in faithfulness. It is how God loves — He fulfills His covenants with faithful love.
Daniel moves into prayer by remembering and confessing who God is. When we pray over world events or personal needs, we can begin by remembering who this God is. Faith is strengthened when we remember the greatness of the God to whom we pray. This draws us into praise and worship and what better way to enter prayer than through the gates of praise: “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For the Lord is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations” (Ps. 100:4,5).
Daniel is praying for the restoration of the covenant nation, an event that is central to the salvation purpose of God on earth. He begins by recalling the greatness of God and giving Him praise.
9:5,6 “We have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, our leaders, our fathers, and all the people of the land.”
Now Daniel moves from praise to confession. He understands that though God declares His purpose and is sovereign in establishing His purpose, He calls people to stand with Him in prayer and faith for the accomplishing of His purpose. But if we would stand with the Lord then we must take accountability for personal and national sin through confession and repentance. Only then will God act to establish His declared purpose.
So Daniel confesses the sins of the nation: “We have sinned … acted wickedly … turning aside from your commandments … we have not listened to your servants the prophets.”
They not only turned aside from the commandments (the Law of Moses) but refused to listen to the prophets whom God sent to call them back to obedience when they violated His law. During the days of King Hezekiah couriers were sent out across the land proclaiming a message of repentance, “O sons of Israel, return to the Lord God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that He may return to those of you who escaped and are left from the hand of the kings of Assyria … But the people laughed them to scorn and mocked them’” (2 Chron. 30:6,10).
Notice the inclusiveness of Israel’s sin — “our kings, our leaders, our fathers, and all the people of the land”. From the highest thrones of leadership to the least of the people — all had sinned. And this is two fold rebellion — not merely that they turned aside from God’s word but that they would not listen to the call to return. When we will not listen to God and instead, mock the only truth that will save us, we will turn and wander into error and sin and destruction.
Notice Daniel’s use of the pronoun we:“We have sinned.” Although Daniel was a sinner, as all people are, it wasn’t his fault that the nation had been judged years before. He was just a boy when that happened. We see from his character revealed early in the story that he had not been a rebellious idol worshipper — he was a young man of integrity. But he identifies with the sin of his people. True intercession identifies with the people for whom we are praying and humbly confesses sin. The closer we draw to God, the more sensitive we are to sin. We accept God’s chastening, cry out for forgiveness and pray boldly that God’s purpose would not delay but will be fulfilled.
9:7 “Righteousness belongs to You, O Lord, but to us open shame, as it is this day — to the men of Judah, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those who are nearby and those who are far away in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of their unfaithful deeds which they have committed against You.”
Again he confesses the righteousness of God and the shameful unfaithfulness of the people. On behalf of the nation, he takes accountability for the devastation that has taken place. The problem is not God. The problem is not just a God-rejecting nation but a nation that refused to repent and mocked those who called them to repentance.
Notice how Daniel clearly sets the consistent unfaithfulness of the people against the continual faithful love of the covenant-keeping God. The Lord judged Israel, not because He is whimsical, capricious and uncaring, expressing His anger like an unstable person. Israel was judged only after generations of intentional, flagrant, willful, rebellious sin while ignoring the patient, gracious call of God to return.
9:8 “Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You.”
Again Daniel confesses that Israel’s sin was committed by “our kings, our princes and our fathers.” From the highest levels of government to the least families of the land, the nation had sinned.
Daniel also states clearly before the Lord that whatever sins the people have committed, it is “against You,” against the Most High God. David understood this when he prayed, “Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge” (Ps. 51:4). All sin is committed, ultimately, against God.
9:9 “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against Him;”
Daniel again confesses primary attributes of God — “compassion and forgiveness.” God expressed those qualities through centuries of patient calling to the sinful nation, offering the grace of deliverance and restoration whenever they turned to Him and cried for mercy. But as the centuries progressed, only a righteous remnant called to the Lord. The majority of the nation was content in their rebellion and multiplied iniquity.
9:10 “nor have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets.”
Daniel again confesses the truth that Israel’s downfall resulted from an unwillingness to obey the will of God revealed in His word through His prophets. The problem was not ignorance. The Lord clearly stated His truth through His prophets. The problem was willful rejection of the truth. This was not merely Israel’s sin. This is the universal sin of humanity. Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 1 that the truth “which is known about God is evident” (1:19). The problem is that people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (1:20).
Jesus said, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.” The problem is not that there is no light. The problem is that sinners prefer darkness.
9:11 “Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.”
It is not because of the sins of a few that judgment fell upon the nation. Daniel states that “all Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice.” That does not mean that there was not a righteous remnant. God always preserves a few who will not bow the knee to the false gods. But Israel as a nation had fallen deeply into apostasy.
“So the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him.”
Daniel confesses that transgression and disobedience resulted in the curse of the Law being visited upon the people. Through Moses, before Israel ever entered the Promised Land, the Lord had promised blessing in response to obedience and curse in response to disobedience (Deuteronomy 28, Leviticus 26). The nation had agreed to this when they had entered into covenant with the Lord. They understood the blessed consequence of obedience and the devastating consequence of unrepented rebellion and sin.
Though this was clearly written in the Law of Moses and though the nation understood this and though the prophets had warned them for centuries, Israel continually “transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us.”
Israel transgressed the Law and came under the penalty to which they had agreed in covenant with God. The bad news is, “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the Law to perform them’” (Galatians 3:10).
The Good News is that, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us — for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13). When we are in covenant relationship with God through faith in Christ, we have been delivered from the curse of the Law. But when people walk out from under God's protection, blessing and anointing, when people break covenant with God or choose to live apart from any covenant relationship with God, they are exposed to all manner of demonic strategies and curses and are exposed to the savagery of a violent, fallen world.
9:12 “Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem.”
The destruction of Israel at the hands of the Babylonians was not an example of God being out of control in human history; not an example of God being unable to defend His covenant people. Rather, God “confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity.” God was not a passive onlooker in the destruction of Jerusalem. No, God was actively judging His covenant people as we read in the history of Israel:
“The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on his dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy. Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans … Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles” (2 Chronicles 36:15-17,19).
God patiently, graciously called to His covenant people for centuries through the prophets but the people “despised His words and scoffed at His prophets.” Finally, God had no recourse other than to judge the nation. This did not represent the triumph of Babylon over the Most High God. Rather, it was God fulfilling His word through the Babylonians. “He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans.” The destruction of the temple and the city, the exile of the people to a foreign land, was “to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah” (2 Chron. 36:21).
But if the destruction of Israel was the result of God’s righteous judgment, why pray for restoration? Even though Jeremiah had prophesied restoration, how could Daniel have confidence that God would restore? Because of this wonderful truth: After promising blessing to the obedient and curses for the disobedient, God also promised restoration for those who repent (Deut. 30:1-5). If God is a covenant keeping God then He does bless, He does judge and He will restore when we call upon Him with humble confession of sin and sincere repentance. Consider the promise the Lord had made centuries before:
“So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you” (Deut. 30:1-3).
Restoration of sinful, rebellious people does not mean that God violates His holiness, forgets His righteousness or compromises His justice. God in His justice promised judgment on an unjust nation. God in His mercy promised restoration to the humble (Leviticus 26:40-45).
“If they confess their iniquity … then I will remember My covenant” (Lev. 26:40,42).
So it was that Daniel confessed sin on behalf of the people, trusting the Lord’s promise of restoration. God is a covenant keeping God even when we, the people of the covenant, violate His covenant, break His law and grieve His heart. God will still be God, true to Himself and faithful to His promises.
9:13 “As it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth.”
Daniel confesses the continued stubbornness and rebellion of the people. Even after all this calamity had come upon them, “Yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to your truth.”
Even after the destruction of Jerusalem, the burning of the temple, the slaughter of thousands and the forced exile of thousands more, the nation would not repent and submit to God’s truth. What hard-hearted, resolute rebellion!
Again, notice the continued use of the pronouns we and our, “Yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth.” In spite of all, Daniel continues to identify as an intercessor with the people and though they would not repent, Daniel repents, confessing sin on behalf of the nation.
Notice the phrase “giving attention to your truth.” “Giving attention” means “to gaze at.” The root of the word “truth” is “faithfulness.” The sinful nation was refusing to gaze at the truth of God’s faithfulness. Stubbornly confirmed in their rebellion, they were blind to the goodness of God.
9:14 “Therefore the Lord has kept the calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.”
“Kept the calamity in store” could be rendered “was watchful over the calamity.” The Lord was watching over His promise of judgment. The Lord said to Jeremiah, “I am watching over My word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:12).
God does not forget His commitment to holiness and justice. He does not forget His covenant promises to us nor our covenant promises to Him. He does not forget His promises to bless and to judge. When mercy is refused, only judgment remains as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:26,27).
This speaks of the consistency of God’s character — He does not cease to be just, holy and offended by sin. This also speaks of God’s all-knowing mind — He does not forget or pass over the sins of a nation except in response to humble repentance.
Daniel continues to confess the righteousness of God, “For the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done.” All that God does is in harmony with His perfect, righteous being. His righteous judgment is not at variance with His mercy nor is mercy at variance with justice. The problem is not God. The problem, as Daniel continues to confess, is that “we have not obeyed His voice.”
Notice that Daniel has not yet arrived at the request for which he is praying. He begins his prayer by confessing the greatness of God and the sins of the people. This is true intercession.
1. Daniel prays for the restoration of Jerusalem according to the word of the prophet Jeremiah. But if God already said He would restore, then why pray? (see v. 1,2)
2. Before he arrives at his request, what two important principles of prayer does Daniel demonstrate? (see v. 4-8)
3. Daniel bases his prayer on his confidence in the character of God. What aspects of God’s character is he trusting? (see v. 7,9)
9:15,16 “And now, O Lord our God, who have brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand and have made a name for Yourself, as it is this day — we have sinned, we have been wicked. O Lord, in accordance with all Your righteous acts, let now Your anger and Your wrath turn away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; for because of our sins and the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people have become a reproach to all those around us.”
Having confessed the greatness of God and the sins of the people, Daniel now recalls the mighty works of God in bringing Israel out of Egypt so many centuries before, who made a name for Himself by preserving Israel through the wilderness and bringing the nation into the land of promise. “In accordance” with those righteous acts, Daniel makes a bold request, asking the Lord to perform this might act: “O Lord, in accordance with all your righteous acts, let now your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem.”
Knowing that the seventy years of judgment is nearly complete, Daniel asks that God lift His judgment from Israel. He is asking that God act according to His word revealed through the prophet Jeremiah.
Daniel also wants to vindicate God in the presence of the nations. Israel had been called by God to be a light to the nations but instead had become an example of the judgment of God on sin, had “become a reproach to all those around us.” This caused the nations to disrespect Israel’s God. The nations interpreted Israel’s destruction as a failure by Israel’s God to defend the nation. They did not understand that God had exalted His glory and power in judging sinful Israel. Now Daniel wants the world to see the reality, not only of God’s judgment, but also the reality of God’s grace and mercy in restoring the covenant nation.
9:17 “So now, our God, listen to the prayer of Your servant and to his supplications, and for Your sake, O Lord, let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.”
Daniel asks that the Lord hear his prayer and act, “For your sake O Lord.” Everything God does is for the sake of His name and His glory. David the psalmist understood this when he said, “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Ps. 23:3).
Daniel is asking God to act according to His holy, unchanging nature, because of who He is.
Daniel’s request is so humble and poignant: “Let Your face shine on Your desolate sanctuary.”
The desolate sanctuary! Daniel remembers the temple with its delicately carved wood work, the gold and silver vessels adorning the altar of sacrifice, the precious rituals of sacrifice, the praise and prayers of the people rising with the sweet incense. He recalls the Holy of Holies, where God caused His shekinah glory to dwell, in which was the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat.
He no doubt remembers the high holy days celebrated with family and friends. But the precious vision lives only in memory for the sanctuary is nothing more than fire scarred rubble. It is as if Daniel is saying, “We have sinned, you have judged. Yet even now O Lord, let Your face shine on the memory of the desolate sanctuary. May the Lord shine the light of His countenance on that which no longer exists and if possible by your mercy and led by your light, may we rebuild and restore that which was lost.”
More than the rebuilding of an edifice of stone and wood, Daniel no doubt longed for the restoring of the priesthood and the sacrificial system. Was there some deep, unnamed yearning within him, some instinctive sense beneath his knowing, that every lamb brought to that holy altar pointed ahead to the someday sacrifice of the Messiah, the holy Lamb of God? Did he sense that the future of salvation history required a restored Israel?
9:18 “O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.”
Daniel asks that the Lord would hear him, not because of “any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion.” Daniel asks God to act, not because of who we are but because of who He is, not trusting in our merits but in His great mercy.
Creator of the universe, mighty as He is, hears us when we call in humble repentance and He regards us with compassion for that is His nature. God hears and responds to our prayers because He is a covenant keeping God, utterly faithful; because He is righteous and holy and will always act in a manner consistent with Himself; because He is merciful, forgiving and gracious, slow to judge and quick to forgive. Daniel understood the nature of God and so he prayed that God would answer, “On account of your great compassion” (9:18).
Notice Daniel’s boldness in verse 18, “O my God, incline your ear and hear! Open your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by your name.” God knew perfectly well the condition of Jerusalem but Daniel pressed in boldly because he understood the compassion and faithfulness of God.
9:19 “O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action! For your own sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people are called by Your name.”
Now Daniel arrives at the heart of his prayer — “Because of who You are, O Lord, forgive and act now.” Why was Daniel so confident that God would respond and fulfill His purpose to rebuild Jerusalem? After all, it was because of the people’s sin that God had judged them. The Babylonians were only God’s instruments of judgment on a sinful nation. The temple had been completely torn down, the capital city and the entire nation destroyed because the people had refused to repent and humble themselves before the Lord.
Why was Daniel confident that God would hear him and respond? Two reasons.
1. God had revealed what He would do through the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah:
“This whole land will be a desolation and a horror, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years” (Jeremiah 25:11).
“For thus says the Lord, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place’” (Jeremiah 29:10).
Nearly 70 years previously, the Lord had promised through Jeremiah the restoration of Israel. And many years before Jeremiah prophesied, the Lord had spoken through Isaiah:
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and the One who formed you from the womb, ‘I, the Lord, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone … confirming the word of His servant and performing the purpose of His messengers. It is I who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited!’ And of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built. And I will raise up her ruins again’ … It is I who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd! And he will perform all my desire.’ And he declares of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built,’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid’” (Isaiah 44:24,26,28).
Cyrus was not even born when the Lord spoke these words through Isaiah and Jerusalem was still standing. But God reveals the end from the beginning because He is the eternal, all-wise, almighty God, sovereign over history and ruler of the affairs of nations, determining the times and seasons and boundaries of every king and every empire. Daniel’s confidence in prayer was inspired by knowing the will of God revealed in the word of God.
2. Daniel was confident that God would hear him and respond because he understood that answered prayer is dependent on God’s unchanging character.
“O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness” (9:4)
“Righteousness belongs to you O Lord” (9:7).
“To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness” (9:9).
God’s response to our prayers is always based on His unchanging character, again as David the Psalmist understood: “He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
God answers prayer because of who He is — perfectly consistent with His name, His attributes, His nature, His being, His Word. This means that when we pray, our highest motive would be that God is glorified. So Daniel prayed that God would answer for the sake of His own name, “For your own sake, O my God.”
Daniel understood that the purpose of prayer is to give God the opportunity to glorify His name. Prayer is identifying with God’s purpose, which is to glorify Himself in all the earth.
“If you abide in Me and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples” (John 15:7,8).
God is glorified in answered prayer and fruitful lives because He has the opportunity to display His kindness, His wisdom, His power, His faithfulness, His justice. Even when we are disappointed with God’s answer or don’t understand His answer, God will glorify Himself by giving us grace to press on.
Daniel began his prayer in verse four but does not make a request of the Lord until verses 18 and 19. Three-fourths of Daniel’s prayer was spent praising God, confessing God’s unchanging attributes, confessing Israel’s sin and on behalf of the nation, offering repentance.
What was the result of Daniel’s intercession?
“Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, ‘Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him and let him go up!’” (2 Chronicles 36:22,23).
The Persian king, Cyrus, who did not know God, sent back any Jewish exile who wished to return to Israel and authorized the rebuilding of the temple. God restored the Israelites to their land. The temple was rebuilt. Eventually, the entire city of Jerusalem was rebuilt.
Two powerful forces are at work in this story: the Word of the Lord spoken through the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah and the intercession of Daniel according to the Word of the prophets. When people pray in agreement with the will of God, revealed in the Word of God, motivated by the Spirit of God, for the purpose of glorifying God, God establishes His purpose in history and directs the course of nations.
The most powerful force in the world is not military or economic or political. It is the people of God praying in agreement with the will of God revealed in the word of God.
The cynic would say, “God intended to restore Jerusalem anyway. He said so through the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah. What difference did Daniel’s prayer make?”
The answer is that Daniel believed his prayer made a difference. People in the Bible lived and prayed as though their lives and prayers were connected to the moving of God in human history. So have the great saints throughout the history of the church. They lived and prayed as though God will not move in human history except in response to prayer.
They were right. God has not only purposed the end of all things. He has also purposed the means to arrive at that end. All that we do, including our prayers, can be a part of the means by which God is moving this universe toward the end that He has ordained.
Daniel understood this and so he prayed. He prayed according to what God had said He would do and God did it. Yes, God said He would restore the nation but He did not until someone prayed, “O Lord, call forth what you have spoken.”
May we also be so bold as to pray that God would act according to His unchanging nature and Word in our day, among our generation. Have we not been invited to pray boldly?
“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
Even when we are unsure of the will of God, Jesus prays for us (Hebrews 7:25), the Holy Spirit prays in us and through us (Romans 8:26,27), drawing our prayer into union with God’s purpose.
1. Beginning in verse 4 and through verse 16, what two things does Daniel do before He asks God for anything?
2. What two factors gave Daniel the confidence to pray for the restoration of his nation? (v 19)
9:20,21 “Now while I was speaking and praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God in behalf of the holy mountain of my God, while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering.”
The angel Gabriel, who had appeared to Daniel previously (see 8:15,16) came to Daniel as he prayed. Daniel calls him a man because that is how he manifested. Notice that the answer to Daniel’s prayer was on its way to him even as he prayed. We are reminded of the word of the Lord through Isaiah, “It will also come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
God interrupted a man’s prayer with the answer to his prayer.
It is interesting that Gabriel appeared to Daniel “about the time of the evening offering” (or “the evening sacrifice”). This was the second offering of a sacrificed lamb which had been offered daily in the Jerusalem temple (when the temple still existed). Those lambs represented God’s willingness to forgive based on atoning sacrifice for sin and represented the someday sacrifice of Jesus. There had been no lambs offered for nearly 70 years since the destruction of the Jerusalem temple. But Daniel still counts time according to holy time, temple time.
The time of the evening sacrifice was when the people were reminded of the forgiving grace of God. In the early portions of this prayer Daniel confessed his own sin and Israel’s sin. Now a messenger comes from God, “about the time of the evening offering.”
9:22 “He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, ‘O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding.’”
Gabriel came in order to give Daniel “instruction” and “insight with understanding.” Angels exist to behold God’s glory and praise Him but they are also servants of the Most High God. One primary act of service is to bring messages to God’s chosen. The New Testament word for angel, angelos, and the Old Testament word, malak, both mean messenger.
9:23 “At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.”
At the very beginning of Daniel’s prayers “the command was issued” (“a word went out”) obviously from the throne of God. In the hour that Daniel had begun to pray, God sent a messenger in answer to his prayers. The messenger may not always arrive immediately. We will read in chapter 10 of an occasion two years after this in which Daniel was praying and demonic resistance delayed for 21 days an answer to his prayer. But the truth is this: God hears the prayers of the Godly!
The answer to our prayer may not break through immediately — there may be a long delay due to factors beyond our comprehension. We may not understand the answer when it arrives. We may not agree with the answer. However, God responds to the prayers of the Godly! Do not be weary in intercession — press in, be steadfast.
Gabriel has been commanded by God to give Daniel understanding of the revelatory visions which he has been shown and visions to come. As we discussed in chapter 8, the vision not only concerns events in the centuries immediately following Daniel’s life but also includes events at the end of history. Of special significance is God’s commitment to fulfill His promises to the nation of Israel.
Why is Daniel blessed to be given a glimpse of future and end time events? Because he is “highly esteemed” (precious) in heaven.
What is it about Daniel that God considers precious? Could it be his steadfast refusal to compromise with Babylonian culture throughout his life, remaining true to his Godly identity? Could it be his willingness to humble himself before the Lord, confessing his sins and the sins of his nation? Could it be his trust in the faithfulness of God to fulfill His promises? Could it be his willingness to kneel into the unformed places of history and partner with God in calling forth those things which are not?
9:24 “Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place.”
Seventy weeks can be translated seventy sevens and is to be understood as seventy weeks of years — 70 years times 7 — 490 years. A period of 490 years has been decreed / determined by God. For what purpose?
1. “To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin.”
The word transgression has to do with willful rebellion, defiance. The word sin has to do with missing the mark, coming short of the standard of God’s righteousness. The history of the human
race and Israel has been characterized by rebellion, defiance of God and falling short of His holy standard.
The phrase “make and end of sin” could be translated “abolish sin ” or “cancel sin.” During this period of 70 weeks of years God will put an end to sin (again, speaking of Israel in particular and humanity in general).
How can God “finish the transgression” and “make an end to sin”? How can God cancel, abolish the consequence of sin — judgment and curse? By offering Himself as a holy sacrifice for sin.
2. “To make atonement (reconciliation) for iniquity”
The word atonement, kaphar, has to do with canceling something, rendering it harmless, annulling it. It has to do with atonement, cleansing, pardon, forgiveness. So it was that Jesus was
the holy Lamb of God who was “crushed for our iniquities,” who made Himself a guilt offering, bearing our sins in our place (Isaiah 53:3-12).
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19). God did not count our sins against us because they were counted against Jesus, the holy Lamb sacrificed for us.
“And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
Jesus, in offering Himself as the Holy Lamb of God, canceled, annulled, put an end to sin’s offense by making a full, perfect and sufficient, atoning sacrifice for sin.
3. “To bring in everlasting righteousness”
Only God can bring sinners to righteousness and He has done this in Christ Jesus: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Jesus took our sins upon Himself, made an atoning sacrifice for sinners and now, all who trust in the holy Lamb of God are declared to be righteous. It is an everlasting righteousness, unfading, imperishable, fitting for all who share eternity with the righteous God. Even the sin-tainted universe will someday be dissolved and God will create “new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13).
4. “To seal up vision and prophecy” (literally, “to seal up vision and prophet”)
A royal document was sealed with a stamp or mark of the king which attested to its genuineness and insured that nothing could be added to it or taken from it. In the same way, the Holy Spirit inspired every word of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16) and confirms the truthfulness of God’s word in the hearts of believers and seals the word with the authority of the King. At the end of history, we will see that not one word of holy Scripture proved to be false, as Jesus prophesied: “For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18).
This is also true of the prophets who spoke God’s word. They are sealed with the stamp of God’s validation, declared by God to be true servants and truth-speakers. There is also a sense here of both prophecy and prophet being sealed in the sense that no one can add to or subtract from their words. God has spoken His inspired word in and through holy Scripture. The Old Testament revelation was complete with the prophet Malachi and the New Testament revelation was complete with the Revelation to John.
At the close of that Revelation, John said, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18,19).
What has been written is sealed — it cannot be changed. God Himself will confirm and fulfill every promise.
5. “And to anoint the most holy place”
This must contain a double fulfillment, not only referring to the consecration of the temple which would be rebuilt soon after the return of the exiles, but also referring to the consecration of the temple in the day when Jesus returns to establish His kingdom on earth. The Messianic temple will be consecrated as the place of Christ’s enthronement as He rules the earth.
During the 70 weeks of years God will “make an end of sin,” “make atonement for iniquity” and “bring in everlasting righteousness” by sending the Messiah who as the Lamb of God will make an atoning sacrifice for sin. God will confirm His word and consecrate the rebuilt Jerusalem temple. The end point of the 70 weeks is the return of Christ.
In the following verses Gabriel explains the division of the 70 weeks.
9:25 “So you are to know and discern that from the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince there will be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; it will be built again, with plaza and moat, even in times of distress.”
The starting point for the 7 weeks (49 years) is the rebuilding of Jerusalem which was decreed by the Persian emperor in 444 BC. (This is not to be confused with the rebuilding of the temple which began when the first exiles returned to Israel, an event which Jeremiah had prophesied — the prophecy which inspired Daniel’s prayer. The rebuilding of the temple was completed in 516 BC).
However, for many years the restored temple was surrounded by the ruins of the city itself, which had been completely destroyed in 586. The rebuilding of the city began under Nehemiah and continued in various phases until 396 BC, which would be approximately 49 years (depending on what month of each year the building began and ended). The rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem required only 52 days (see Nehemiah 6:15) but it may be that various other renovation projects extended until 396.
Following the 7 weeks (49 years) for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, there then appears to be a period of 62 weeks of years “until Messiah, the Prince.”
9:26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off (“put to death”) and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”
Sixty-two weeks of years would be a period of 434 years (62 x 7). If we begin counting in 396 BC when the restoration of Jerusalem was complete and count 434 years, you arrive at 34 AD.
Bible scholars are uncertain as to the exact date of Christ’s death but most propose 30 to 33 AD. The slight variation in years may be due to starting dates in the beginning and ending years. The point is that at the end of the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah will be put to death.
Whether we arrive at 30, 33 or 34 AD, the point is not a perfect symmetry of dates. The point is that God has a preordained schedule of events in history and is moving history to the fulfilling of His purpose. The death of the Messiah was a part of the fulfillment of redemptive purpose.
“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off (“put to death”) and have nothing (or “have no one”).”
The Messiah received nothing of His rightful inheritance. He was given ridicule and beating instead of praise and worship. He was given a crown of thorns instead of the crown of a king. In place of a kingdom He was given a cross. His nation rejected Him, His friends abandoned Him: “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11).
So you have the seven weeks of years for the rebuilding of Jerusalem and then 62 weeks until the death of the Messiah. This equal 69 weeks and leaves one week remaining on the prophetic clock. It appears that when Israel rejected the Messiah, God set Israel aside for a season and the clock stopped ticking. The final week / 7 years refers to the tribulation, at which time God’s end time clock will begin again in regard to Israel. The intervening centuries comprise the church age. Neither Daniel nor any of the Old Testament prophets saw these years. They saw the entrance of Messiah into history but not a second entrance and not the time in between the first and second.
We have mentioned before how Jesus read from the prophet Isaiah (recorded in Luke 4:18,19): “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”
When He finished reading Jesus said, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). But if we read all of Isaiah 61:1,2, we see that Jesus stopped reading in the middle of verse two. He omitted, “the day of vengeance of our God” because that phrase was not fulfilled in His first advent on earth. Even now, two thousand years later, it is not yet the day of vengeance. It is the favorable year of the Lord — the age of grace.
At the end of the age of grace, the judgment of the Lord will be poured out and then Jesus will return. Isaiah did not see the time gap between the first and second advents of Jesus; did not see the church age which so far has lasted nearly two thousand years. Jesus understood that it was “the favorable year of the Lord” but not yet “the day of vengeance of our God.” So He stopped reading in the middle of the verse.
There is a time gap, an interval between the 69th week and the 70th week.
There were seven weeks of years (7 x 7 years = 49 years) for the restoring of Jerusalem. This period began with the decree of the Persian emperor in 444 BC and was completed in 396 BC, a total of 49 years (as we have said, the time can vary depending on the month of the year that we start and stop counting).
“Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off” (Daniel 9:26) — sixty-two weeks of years (62 x 7 = 434 years) until the Messiah was put to death. That period of time concluded around 30-34 AD.
That is a total of 69 weeks of years. But there is a 70th week of years according to 9:24, “Seventy weeks have been decreed.” When is that last week? What will it be like? The angel tells Daniel something of the conditions of that last week:
9:26 “Then after the sixty-two weeks the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing, and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined.”
Often in prophecy there is a near fulfillment in history and a future fulfillment. In a limited sense, the near fulfillment took place in 70 AD when the Romans completely destroyed Jerusalem along with the temple and killed or enslaved the entire population. It was surely a time of destruction, war and desolation. However, that did not happen seven years after the death of Jesus nor did it happen over a period of seven years. So there must be a future fulfillment.
The future fulfillment of this final seven years will take place at the end of the church age — the seven years of the Great Tribulation. Verse 26 speaks of “the people of the prince who is to come.” These are followers of the little horn of Daniel 7 and 8 who overpowers the saints for a season (7:21); who “devours the whole earth” (7:23); who will “speak out against the Most High” (7:25); who exalts himself against God and desecrates the temple (8:11); insolent and destructive (8:24); opposing “the Prince of princes” (opposing Jesus, 8:25); who sets up “the abomination of desolation” in the rebuilt temple (11:31 12:11).
This is the Antichrist. We learn more about him in verse 27.
9:27 “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Some interpret this verse to mean that the Antichrist will make a treaty with Israel at the beginning of the seven years of the Tribulation but “in the middle of the week,” after 3 1/2 years, will break the treaty and commit the abomination of desolation referred to here and by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
Daniel says that “he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” Evidently, the Jerusalem temple will be rebuilt and temple worship and sacrifice restored but the Antichrist will interrupt the rituals (which Daniel mentioned in 8:11 — the little horn removes the sacrifice). The reason for this is that the Antichrist, possibly provoked to jealousy by the renewed zeal of the Jewish people for the worship of God, will build an idol to himself in the temple and require worship from all the world.
Daniel refers to this event again in 12:11, “From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days” (about 3 1/2 years). Halfway through the seven years of the tribulation, the Antichrist will interrupt regular temple ritual to set up an abominable idol to himself in the temple. This abomination will continue for 1,290 days. The Apostle Paul refers to this event:
“ … that you not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:2-4).
As previously mentioned, Jesus also referred to “the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15). The Apostle John also relates that those who will not worship the image of the Antichrist will be put to death (Revelation 13:14,15).
So the final week of Daniel’s vision refers to the seven years of the tribulation when the Antichrist will rule the earth, make a covenant with Israel, break the covenant in the middle of the seven years and set up an abominable idol to himself in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple. But Gabriel does not conclude his interpretation of the vision to Daniel until he declares the end of the Antichrist: “A complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
He who destroyed will be destroyed. He who made desolate will be made desolate. John the Apostle saw that event: “And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20).
To review the chronology:
1. The first week of sevens (49 years) began with the decree by the Medo-Persian emperor to rebuild Jerusalem (issued in 444 BC, completed around 396 BC).
2. The sixty-two weeks of seven (434 years) begins in 396 BC and concludes when the Messiah was “cut off” (put to death) around 30-34 AD.
3. The final seven years occur after the indefinite period of the church age. This seven year period is known as the Tribulation. In the middle of the seven years the Antichrist will break his covenant with Israel, interrupt the sacrificial ritual of the rebuilt temple and set up an idol to himself in the temple.
4. The last week climaxes with the return of Christ to earth.
Even though this time table is hard to interpret and could be flawed in any number of areas, it is not necessary that we have perfect understanding of the timing of God’s redemptive work. What is of precious value is to understand that God has a preordained schedule of events in salvation history and He will establish His purpose to the final day and hour.
This is the God who “who works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph. 1:11). This is the God who declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isa. 46:10). This is the God who says, “Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, I will certainly do it” (Isa. 46:11).
My faith is not in my ability to see it all and perfectly discern God’s calendar. My faith is in the God who does see and does establish His calendar with perfect wisdom.
We are living in the age of grace, the Church Age, but it is not an age without end. There will be a time when time is no more. Therefore the Scripture says, “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
1. Gabriel says that Daniel is “highly esteemed” (precious). What is it about Daniel that God considers precious? (see v. 23)
2. Gabriel speaks of the “prince who is to come,” (v. 26) a man of desolation and destruction (v. 27). We believe this refers to the Antichrist. What will happen to this man? (see v. 27).
10:1 “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia a message was revealed to Daniel, who was named Belteshazzar; and the message was true and one of great conflict, but he understood the message and had an understanding of the vision.”
The third year of King Cyrus would be two years after he issued the decree allowing Jewish exiles to return to their home land (see (2 Chron. 36:22,23). Daniel was an elderly man by now, surely in his eighties and may have retired from active service to the king. We read in 1:21, “And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.”
However, Daniel was not retired from service to the King of kings and yet another vision was given to the prophet. The vision provides an overview of history from the time of Daniel to the final establishing of the kingdom of God on earth.
“The message (dabar: word) was true (emeth: certain, faithful, worthy) and one of great conflict (tsaba: war).” This message describes the future of the covenant people.
In chapter 11 we will read of this great conflict as we did in chapters 8 and 9. Daniel understood that Gentile powers would overrun the land of promise. He knew it would be nearly 500 years before the Messiah would be born and then the Messiah would be “cut off” (see 9:24-26).
Now Daniel will be given revelation of another conflict, not merely on earth, but in the heavenly realm that surrounds earth. Given the spiritual warfare in the heavenlies between holy angels and fallen angels revealed to Daniel in this chapter, we might infer that the conflict on earth and in the affairs of nations is only a reflection of that heavenly warfare. We are reminded of the words of the Apostle Paul, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The truth of this struggle will be clearly revealed to Daniel.
10:2 “In those days, I, Daniel, had been mourning for three entire weeks.”
This refers to an extended season of fasting and fervent prayer. It may be that he was concerned over the future suffering and persecution which his people would experience, which future had been revealed to him in the previous visions. It may be that he was concerned over the relatively small group of Jews who had returned to Israel during the previous two years. Most of his countrymen were more comfortable in the house of their exile than in the land of God’s promise. Or it may be that the Spirit of God is stirring him to receive more visionary revelation.
10:3 “I did not eat any tasty food, nor did meat or wine enter my mouth, nor did I use any ointment at all until the entire three weeks were completed.”
This was not a total fast. Daniel was eating enough food to be able to function but it was enough of a fast to enable him to focus on God in reverence and humility. Calling on God, listening for God — he prayed for three weeks without an answer.
10:4 “On the twenty-fourth day of the first month, while I was by the bank of the great river, that is, the Tigris,”
This would be ten days after Passover, as Daniel stood by the banks of the Tigris River. Daniel’s period of fasting and prayer had included Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, memorials of God’s deliverance of the covenant people from slavery.
It is noteworthy that Daniel was by the Tigris River which had once flowed out of the Garden of Eden. As the Lord had once walked in the garden communing with Adam and Eve, so He now meets and communes with a man on the banks of that river.
10:5 “I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a certain man dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold of Uphaz.”
In verses 7 and 8 we learn that this is a vision. Daniel lifts up his eyes and sees this person who evidently is not physically present but rather, present in a visionary sense. His linen robe and sash are similar to the garb of a priest, but this is a heavenly priest. We are reminded of John’s vision of the glorified Christ, “And in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash” (Revelation 1:13).
10:6 “His body also was like beryl, his face had the appearance of lightning, his eyes were like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a tumult.”
Beryl is a gem that in its pure form is transparent but can appear in a variety of colors. The body of this heavenly being reflects the various hues and shades of heaven’s glory. His face radiates brilliant, blazing light — gazing at Him would be like gazing into lightning. His fiery eyes represent a capacity to penetrate into the deepest recesses of the human soul. “Arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze” speak of strength, stability. His voice thunders.
Again, notice the similarity to John’s description of the glorified Jesus in Revelation 1:14,15, whose “eyes were like a flame of fire,” whose “feet were like burnished bronze refined in a furnace” and whose “voice was like the roar of many waters.” This appears to be a vision of the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus, in the glory of heaven.
10:7 “Now I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, while the men who were with me did not see the vision; nevertheless, a great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves.”
Even though Daniel’s companions could not see the vision, they are able to sense the presence of the glory of God. As a result, “A great dread fell on them, and they ran away to hide themselves.”
We are reminded of Saul’s encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Saul alone saw the vision, so brilliant in blazing light that he was blinded. The presence and voice of the risen Christ threw him to the ground though his friends saw nothing and heard only an indistinct sound. Everyone heard the sound of something but only Saul’s life was changed.
We are reminded of the time when God the Father testified of His Son but the people standing by heard only thunder (John 12:27-29). While it may surely have been the purpose of God that only Daniel would see the vision and hear the voice, it is also true that not everyone is able to see the vision. Not everyone wants to hear the voice. But no one can escape the presence of God when God manifests in our midst. For some, the presence is nothing more than an indistinct sound, an unnamed dread. For others, the presence is life-changing vision and soul-shaking revelation.
Who sees? Who hears? Those who are prepared to see and hear. The Psalmist speaks of “a stubborn and rebellious generation … that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (Psalm 78:8). An unprepared heart is a faithless heart — unseeing, unhearing.
What is a prepared heart? It is a pure heart. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).
Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6). Satisfied with what? With God.
10:8 “So I was left alone and saw this great vision.”
Daniel is left alone — alone with this vision of God.
Jacob was alone when he wrestled with the Lord and was broken and blessed with a new name. There were many people on Patmos but John alone encountered the risen Christ and saw the indescribable glory of heaven and received revelation spanning the centuries.
Alone with God is the place of communion, revelation and vision. But it is also a place of shattering, stunning encounter with awesome majesty: “Yet no strength was left in me, for my natural color turned to a deathly pallor, and I retained no strength.”
The words “deathly pallor” could be translated “corruption.” In this overwhelming encounter with the Holy One, Daniel is confronted with his fallenness and corruption, the forces of death at work in all the fallen sons and daughters of Adam.
In such an encounter, Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint. Saul was blinded. Isaiah cried out, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips” (Isaiah 6:5).
When God made covenant with Abram, “A deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, terror and great darkness fell upon him” (Genesis 15:12). When God visited Mt. Sinai with His presence, He said to Moses, “Go down, warn the people, so that they do not break through to the Lord to gaze, and many of them perish” (Exodus 19:21).
John said of his encounter with the Lord of glory, “I fell at his feet as if I were dead” (Revelation 1:17). Ezekiel fell on his face (Ezekiel 1:28).
10:9 “But I heard the sound of his words; and as soon as I heard the sound of his words, I fell into a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.”
The inarticulate roaring of the voice now becomes distinct words and Daniel falls to the ground, overwhelmed.
10:10 “Then behold, a hand touched me and set me trembling on my hands and knees.”
A hand touches Daniel and enables him to rise to his hands and knees. This cannot be the person whom Daniel just saw, who was “dressed in linen, whose waist was girded with a belt of pure gold … (whose) eyes were like flaming torches.” If indeed that was Jesus, then this cannot be the same person because this being has been resisted by “the prince of the kingdom of Persia … for twenty-one days” (10:13). A demonic being could not resist the Second Person of the Trinity for twenty-one seconds. So this may have been the hand of the angel Gabriel who had previously appeared to Daniel (in 8:16 and 9:21).
10:11 “He said to me, ‘O Daniel, man of high esteem, understand the words that I am about to tell you and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.’ And when he had spoken this word to me, I stood up trembling.”
Daniel is again addressed as a “man of high esteem” (precious) in the sight of heaven (as in 9:23). The angel directs Daniel to understand the words that will be spoken to him and to stand, “for I have now been sent to you.” This is the meaning of the word angel — one who is sent. This messenger has been dispatched from heaven to speak with Daniel.
10:12 “Then he said to me, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words.’”
The angel has come in response to Daniel humbling himself before God so that he might understand the visions. Daniel wanted insight into the revelation which God had shared with him so he had fasted — set some things aside so he could pray without distraction. He had prepared his heart so that he could hear from God and according to verse 2, he had prayed for three weeks.
In response, God sent a messenger.
God is more than willing to open His heart to those who want to know Him more deeply. David had a yearning for the Lord. He said, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1,2).
David was confident of the Lord’s response, “The secret (counsel or intimacy) of the Lord is for those who fear (reverence) Him, and He will make them know His covenant” (Psalms 25:14).
God shares the intimate secrets of His heart with those who truly want to know His truth.
Jesus said, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7).
James exhorts us, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
Daniel prayed for understanding so God sent a messenger. The angel shares two precious truths:
1. “From the first day that you set your heart on understanding this and on humbling yourself before your God, your words were heard.”
Though Daniel had been praying for three weeks, God heard his prayer from the very first day. God hears us when we pray.
2. “I have come in response to your words.”
God responds to the prayers of his saints, especially when our desire is to know Him more truly and to discern His purpose more clearly. But if God heard Daniel from the day he began to pray, why the twenty-one day delay in answering? There are reasons why answers to prayer may be delayed.
1. Unconfessed sin can prevent God’s answer to prayer: “If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear; but certainly God has heard; He has given heed to the voice of my prayer”( Psalm 66:18,19).
2. If I pray with wrong motives God will withhold the answer until my motives are clarified, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
3. There may be other people involved in the answer to my prayer or circumstances which need to change or develop and this requires a process of time.
4. There may be something in the future which we don’t see but the Lord sees and He wants to prepare us for that. Jesus delayed in coming to Mary and Martha as their brother Lazarus died (John 11), not because Jesus did not understand their need; not because He did not care. But in a few days He would be arrested and put to death and He wanted to reveal that He is the source of resurrection life. He allowed Lazarus to die so that He could demonstrate His power over death.
So prayer may be delayed because of sin, wrong motives, process or preparation. But none of those reasons account for the delay in the answer to Daniel’s prayer. So there must be another reason why prayer may be delayed. This is the fifth reason for delayed answers to prayer.
5. Demonic resistance.
10:13 “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left there with the kings of Persia.”
We see now that this heavenly being is not the same person who appeared to Daniel in verses 5-9 for that seems to be Jesus and this could not be Jesus because He could not have been resisted for twenty-one days. “The prince of the kingdom of Persia” is not a reference to a human governmental ruler. No human king or earthly government could resist an angel for one minute, much less for 21 days. We recall that a single angel smote 185,000 Assyrians in one night outside the gates of Jerusalem (Isaiah 37:36).
This is a reference to an unholy or fallen angel — a demon. Persia was ruled in the earthly realm by a king, Cyrus, but overlaying and influencing the affairs of the nation was a demonic government in the heavenlies which resisted and opposed God’s purposes for that region.
Daniel did not know this, but during his twenty-one days of prayer there was a conflict being waged in the heavenly realm around Persia, waged by spirit-beings. There is conflict in the heavens which overshadows the conflict on earth.
Demons are unholy angels who fell with Satan in His rebellion against God. They actively resist God’s purposes in history, attempting to incarnate their perverse values into human personalities through temptation, seduction, deception and entrapment. Throughout the centuries they have influenced societies and governments through false religion and through the corruption of cultural values, social morality, creative arts, political process, educational institutions and economic systems.
Demonic powers exist in regional structures with hierarchies of leadership which the apostle Paul refers to as powers and principalities. He reminds us that our struggle is not primarily against people but against these spiritual powers of darkness that influence, seduce and entrap people and generations and societies: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The demonic power resisting Gabriel is called “the prince of the kingdom of Persia” but as we have said, there were probably other demons working in concert with this prince or leader in some kind of hierarchical structure. Notice later in this verse that Gabriel refers to “the kings of Persia.” There is a plurality of demonic resistance — it’s not just one demon. But no doubt one demon exercises leadership over the resistance.
“Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.”
Michael is mentioned again in 12:1 as “the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people.” Evidently Michael has a special assignment to watch over the nation of Israel. He is also referred to in Jude 1:9 as “the archangel,” one of the chief angels of heaven. He is mentioned in Revelation 12 as a commander of angels who make war on Satan and his angels:
“And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).
Michael and the holy angels of heaven triumph over the powers of darkness and so do the saints of God: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death” (Revelation 12:11).
10:14 “Now I have come to give you an understanding of what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision pertains to the days yet future.”
Gabriel’s message will illumine events in Israel prior to the first advent of the Messiah, especially the suffering which will take place during the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (which was discussed in detail in chapter 8). His message will also illumine the time prior to the second coming of the Messiah.
Two great mountain peaks of redemption history will be lifted up: the Messiah enters history as Redeemer and the Messiah concludes history as King to rule and reign over the earth. Gabriel’s message jumps across the time between these two appearances — the Age of Grace or Church Age, in which we are now living, and the future end time. The particular focus of Gabriel’s message is “what will happen to your people in … the days yet future.”
10:15 “When he had spoken to me according to these words, I turned my face toward the ground and became speechless.”
As the angel speaks to Daniel, the prophet is again rendered speechless and he turns his face to the ground. That doesn’t necessarily mean he fell to the ground but his eyes are downcast — he cannot even look at the angel. Weakened by his fast, his age, by the magnitude of the revelation of Jesus and by the holy messenger sent from the glorious presence of God, Daniel is overwhelmed with awed reverence.
10:16 “And behold, one who resembled a human being was touching my lips; then I opened my mouth and spoke and said to him who was standing before me, ‘O my lord, as a result of the vision anguish has come upon me, and I have retained no strength.’”
For the second time, an angel in the form of a man, possibly Gabriel, ministers strength to Daniel. We see in this the continual need for divine enablement if we hope to fulfill our callings. Notice also that in order for Daniel to speak, the heavenly messenger must touch his lips. So with us.
10:17,18 “For how can such a servant of my lord talk with such as my lord? As for me, there remains just now no strength in me, nor has any breath been left in me. Then this one with human appearance touched me again and strengthened me.”
Daniel expresses astonishment that such an exalted creature as Gabriel would be having a conversation with a mere human servant of God. The encounter has left Daniel weak and breathless and for the third time the angel touches Daniel, strengthening him.
10:19 “He said, ‘O man of high esteem, do not be afraid. Peace be with you; take courage and be courageous!’ Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, ‘May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’”
The angel not only touches Daniel — he also speaks to him and his words minister strength. Again he addresses Daniel as a “man of high esteem” (man of preciousness). Daniel is highly regarded in heaven, a man after God’s own heart.
What a marvelous paradox: in the presence of God we realize our corruption and our sin, our utter unworthiness to be in His presence. Yet this present God forgives our sin, lavishes His grace upon us, declares us righteous and precious.
Isaiah stood in the glory of heaven and cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5). But even as he cried out, an angel touched his lips with a burning coal from heaven’s holy altar and declared, “Your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” (Isaiah 6:7).
The same God who reveals that we are “dead in (our) trespasses and sins” is also the God who, rich in mercy, makes us “alive together with Christ” and raises us up with Him “so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:1-7).
The angel’s words communicate strength and renewal to Daniel, as the Psalmist said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul” (Psalm 19:7). Every word that God speaks carries life and creative, restoring, transforming power.
Daniel testifies, “Now as soon as he spoke to me, I received strength and said, ‘May my lord speak, for you have strengthened me.’” Even more than the touch of the angel, these words provide immediate strength to the man of God.
We may be encouraged in this. The God who met Daniel in His weakness and empowered Him is the God who also meets us in our weariness, our limitations and challenges. As He ministered grace and strength to Daniel, so He does to us through His living word found in holy Scripture.
10:20 “Then he said, ‘Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.’”
The angel reveals that the warfare in the heavenly realm will continue and the hosts of heaven will contend not only against the powers and principalities of Persia but also of Greece. The next world empire in this region would be established by Alexander the Great, leading the armies of Greece in conquest. Just as the political / cultural entity of Persia was influenced by spiritual powers of darkness, so would the empire of Alexander.
The angel goes forth to the unceasing conflict in the heavenlies. As long as human history continues, until the kingdom of God is established on earth, unholy angels will continue to resist God’s purposes and holy angels will continue to labor on behalf of God’s kingdom purpose and God’s kingdom people.
The fuel for this unremitting warfare is Satan’s hatred of God and of the human creature made in God’s image. Until our Lord returns, there will be no peace in this world except on Satan’s terms: “Bow down and worship me.” As long as there is a church which refuses, as long as the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, as long as the true and living God is worshipped in Spirit and in truth, as long as fallen men and women are being redeemed, sanctified and filled with the Holy Spirit, as long as ministries of mercy and peace pour out grace in a broken world, there will be no peace with the powers of darkness.
10:21 “However, I will tell you what is inscribed in the writing of truth. Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.”
The responsibility of the angel is to reveal “the writing of truth.” This truth is more than just a scroll or book. It represents the eternal decrees of God for this world: the rise and fall of nations and empires within the divine mandates of salvation history.
The decrees of God will not fail to be established. Indeed, the history of the fallen sons and daughters of Adam is only the outworking of God’s eternal redeeming purpose.
In the meantime, holy angels will continue to oppose the powers of darkness that rage against the Lord, His purpose and His people. The future is already decreed by a God who is all knowing, almighty and everliving. He declares the end from the beginning because the end of all things is as established as the beginning. Two thousand years ago the Apostle John heard this declaration in heaven, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
Has that happened yet? No, but God has already declared the establishing of His kingdom and the enthronement of the Messiah.
Note these closing words of chapter 10: “Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.”
“Michael your prince,” as we said, is “the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people” (12:1). He is “the archangel ” of Jude 1:9. He is the commander of angels who make war on “the dragon (Satan) and his angels” (Revelation 12:7,8).
When the angel says, “There is no one who stands firmly with me … except Michael,” he does not mean that the forces of righteousness are outnumbered. This angel and Michael represent the hosts of heaven who enforce God’s purposes and stand with God’s people. If he and Michael are the only angels God has assigned to that place and time, they are enough for they represent God Himself who will be faithful to establish all that He has decreed.
Though there are times on earth when much of the church is lulled to sleep and few there are who discern the times, there will always be a remnant who stand on the walls and blow the trumpet. Though there are times on earth when the saints are overpowered and put to death, there is always a new harvest-remnant rising up. And they are joined by a heavenly host who minister grace and strength to the people of God.
There are fallen angels making war across the heavenlies and on planet earth but there are also holy angels in far greater number and above them all is God the Almighty, the Most High, before whom there is no other. He will triumph. He will establish and fulfill His purpose in history, in your life and in mine.
1. From the first day of Daniel’s prayer, he was heard in heaven. Yet the answer was delayed for three weeks. Why? (see v. 12)
2. In verse 13 the angel says that “the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days.” What does he mean and what does this have to do with Ephesians 6:12?
In this chapter we see the transitory nature of human empires. One kingdom rises through violent destruction of another, only to be violently conquered and destroyed by the next kingdom. The insatiable pride of fallen man, refusing to learn any lessons from the slaughter of past generations, cycles on in its deathward spiral — the grievous, devolutionary parade of Adam’s sons and daughters, processing in royal pretense and pomp but only ever falling from grace.
Yet through it all God remains sovereign. History moves resolutely toward the fulfilling of God’s kingdom purpose which He discloses, revealing the end from the beginning.
There appear to be two major divisions in this chapter. Verses 1-35 present with precise detail the rising of the Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great and the warfare among his four generals following Alexander’s death. Verses 36-45 appear to jump to the end of the age, dealing with the final rebellion against God. In all of this, Israel is at the center.
What is so amazing about this chapter is that Daniel was writing in the sixth century BC (possibly in the 530s) but the events take place in the third and second centuries BC and at the end of time. Bible critics who disbelieve prophecy consider this book to be only history written by a first or second century BC historian who merely recorded events that had already taken place. But we believe in a God who is truly God, who declares the end from the beginning because He not only knows all truth but also has ordained and established history according to His redeeming purpose.
11:1 “In the first year of Darius the Mede, I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him.”
The angelic messenger of chapter 10 is continuing to speak with Daniel. We may well assume this to be Gabriel who had spoken to Daniel in 8:16 and 9:21. The words, “I arose to be an encouragement and a protection for him” probably refers to the last sentence of the preceding chapter, “Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince” (10:21). Just as Michael had assisted Gabriel in response to Daniel’s prayer (in 10:12,13), so now Gabriel assists Michael in the spiritual warfare over Persia.
However, it’s possible that the angel is referring to his support for Darius, the ruler of Persia. Remember that the word Darius may actually be a title and the person who is referenced here is actually Cyrus (see intro. to the notes on chapter 6). It was Cyrus who had released the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild. So Gabriel may be saying that he is providing encouragement, divine guidance and protection to the Persian ruler — not because he was a holy man, not because he was a worshipper of God but because at that time he was God’s governmental instrument for the furtherance of His salvation purpose on earth. God works through angelic and human servants to accomplish His purposes.
For instance, in the first year of Darius / Cyrus, men conspired to destroy Daniel (and possibly all Jewish influence in the government). Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den but an angel shut the mouth of the lions. As a result, the king gave praise to God.
We do not know with certainty whether Nebuchadnezzar forsook his idols to worship the true and living God, but he certainly gave praise to the Lord because of the witness of the young men and Daniel (see 3:28,29 and 4:34,35). We do not know if any of the Persian kings forsook their idols and came to be believers in the living God but as we have said, Darius / Cyrus surely gave glory to the God of Israel because of Daniel (6:25-27). It was the Persian king who decreed the return of Jewish exiles to their homeland (2 Chronicles 36:22,23). God ordained governments in this fallen world to establish order and though these governments are often in rebellion against God, nevertheless, the Lord is always able to uphold and sustain His salvation purpose.
11:2 “And now I will tell you the truth. Behold, three more kings are going to arise in Persia. Then a fourth will gain far more riches than all of them; as soon as he becomes strong through his riches, he will arouse the whole empire against the realm of Greece.”
The three kings who followed Cyrus were Cambyses who ruled from 530-522 BC; Pseudo-Smedis who ruled from 522-521 (known as Artaxerxes in Ezra 4:7-23); and Darius Hystaspes, who ruled from 522-486 (known as Darius in Ezra 4:24).
The fourth king was Xerxes, 486-465 (referred to as Ahasuerus in the book of Esther). Xerxes used his great wealth to gather an enormous army with which he marched against Greece in 480 BC. The destruction of his army marked the beginning of Persia’s decline and the rising of the kingdom of Greece.
There were other Persian kings after Xerxes but they are not mentioned in this text because for the next century and a half, Persia was in decline, even as Babylon had declined and fallen.
11:3 “And a mighty king will arise, and he will rule with great authority and do as he pleases.”
More than a hundred years after the defeat of Xerxes, Alexander the Great rose up and led the armies of Greece to conquer every nation and empire in his path. Alexander is the male goat of chapter 8:5 who crushes the ram. Daniel had already seen, in vision, the fall of Persia and the rising of Greece in chapter 8. Now in chapter 11 we see these events in detail.
Again we might ask, “Why is God revealing this to Daniel? How is this relevant to him or to us?” Remember that a major thrust of this book is the sovereignty of God in human history. Israel had been destroyed as a nation for much of Daniel’s life and he surely must have wondered, “How can redemptive history move forward without God’s covenant nation, Israel?”
Now, in the latter years of Daniel’s life, Jewish exiles have returned by decree of King Cyrus to begin rebuilding Israel. But Daniel has been given prophetic visions of history all the way to the end and he has been shown that the covenant people of God will suffer greatly. In fact, Israel was destroyed again in AD 70 and did not exist for nearly 1900 years. During those centuries, students of the Bible must have wondered as Daniel did for much of his life, “How can God fulfill His salvation purpose in history without the nation of Israel?”
In this book, God is reassuring Daniel that He, the Most High God, is in sovereign control of the events of history. Though He has ordained human governments which are often in rebellion against Him, and though He allows fallen angels to exercise evil influence throughout the world, nevertheless, God’s purpose will be established.
11:4 “But as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom will be broken up and parceled out toward the four points of the compass, though not to his own descendants, nor according to his authority which he wielded, for his sovereignty will be uprooted and given to others besides them.”
After conquering all the way to India to the east and south into Egypt and Ethiopia, Alexander died suddenly at the age of 33. All of his relatives were murdered, leaving no descendants to inherit his empire. Instead, four of his generals divided the empire according to the four points of the compass — north, south, east and west. This prophecy, written sometime in the 530s BC, was exactly fulfilled after Alexander died in 323.
11:5-9 “Then the king of the South will grow strong, along with one of his princes who will gain ascendancy over him and obtain dominion; his domain will be a great dominion indeed. After some years they will form an alliance, and the daughter of the king of the South will come to the king of the North to carry out a peaceful arrangement. But she will not retain her position of power, nor will he remain with his power, but she will be given up, along with those who brought her in and the one who sired her as well as he who supported her in those times. But one of the descendants of her line will arise in his place, and he will come against their army and enter the fortress of the king of the North, and he will deal with them and display great strength. Also their gods with their metal images and their precious vessels of silver and gold he will take into captivity to Egypt, and he on his part will refrain from attacking the king of the North for some years. Then the latter will enter the realm of the king of the South, but will return to his own land.”
The king of the south was the Greek general Ptolemy who controlled Egypt and the surrounding lands. He and his descendants, the Ptolemies, were involved in constant warfare and political intrigues against the rulers to the north, the Seleucids (descended from the Greek general Seleucus who controlled the region around Syria). This resulted in much suffering in Israel which lay between the warring kingdoms of north and south.
The kings attempted to make peace through marriage (11:6) but the result was only further violence and intrigue as family members murdered one another in bloody attempts to seize power. Conflict continued throughout the third and second centuries.
Daniel prophesied the details of these wars and plots with amazing accuracy, though our purpose here is not to trace that history. What is important to remember is that Daniel is writing more than three hundred years before these events took place. God is able to reveal the end from the beginning because He dwells before and beyond time. He meets us in time with prophetic revelation so we will know that He is sovereign over the circumstances of history.
11:10-13 “His sons will mobilize and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one of them will keep on coming and overflow and pass through, that he may again wage war up to his very fortress. The king of the South will be enraged and go forth and fight with the king of the North. Then the latter will raise a great multitude, but that multitude will be given into the hand of the former. When the multitude is carried away, his heart will be lifted up, and he will cause tens of thousands to fall; yet he will not prevail. For the king of the North will again raise a greater multitude than the former, and after an interval of some years he will press on with a great army and much equipment.”
The kings of the north and south will continue to make war against each other but one of the sons of the king of the north is of particular significance. His name was Antiochus III the Great who lived from 223-187 BC. His son would later immortalize his name by committing abominations in the Jerusalem temple.
11:14-18 “Now in those times many will rise up against the king of the South; the violent ones among your people will also lift themselves up in order to fulfill the vision, but they will fall down. Then the king of the North will come, cast up a siege ramp and capture a well-fortified city; and the forces of the South will not stand their ground, not even their choicest troops, for there will be no strength to make a stand. But he who comes against him will do as he pleases, and no one will be able to withstand him; he will also stay for a time in the Beautiful Land, with destruction in his hand. He will set his face to come with the power of his whole kingdom, bringing with him a proposal of peace which he will put into effect; he will also give him the daughter of women to ruin it. But she will not take a stand for him or be on his side. Then he will turn his face to the coastlands and capture many. But a commander will put a stop to his scorn against him; moreover, he will repay him for his scorn.”
Again, we are not concerned with the historical details of these wars. But we do note that the king of the north will defeat the king of the south and will enter “the Beautiful Land (Israel) with destruction in his hand”. Israel suffered greatly during this time as the marauding armies passed through the land. We also note the historical accuracy of verse 18, “a commander will put a stop to his scorn.” It is a matter of record that Antiochus III was defeated by a Roman general.
11:19 “So he will turn his face toward the fortresses of his own land, but he will stumble and fall and be found no more.”
Antiochus the III the Great was murdered soon after.
11:20,21 “Then in his place one will arise who will send an oppressor through the Jewel of his kingdom; yet within a few days he will be shattered, though not in anger nor in battle. In his place a despicable person will arise, on whom the honor of kingship has not been conferred, but he will come in a time of tranquility and seize the kingdom by intrigue.”
“A despicable person will arise” who seizes the kingdom “by intrigue.” This is Antiochus IV Epiphanes who came to power through the murder of his brother. Antiochus IV ruled from 175-164 BC. He exalted himself to the status of a god. He even minted coins stamped with his image and the words “Theos Epiphanes” which means, “God made manifest.” (He was described in 8:9-14,23-25. His life is a prophetic foreshadowing of the end time Antichrist).
11:22-28 “The overflowing forces will be flooded away before him and shattered, and also the prince of the covenant. After an alliance is made with him he will practice deception, and he will go up and gain power with a small force of people. In a time of tranquility he will enter the richest parts of the realm, and he will accomplish what his fathers never did, nor his ancestors; he will distribute plunder, booty and possessions among them, and he will devise his schemes against strongholds, but only for a time. He will stir up his strength and courage against the king of the South with a large army; so the king of the South will mobilize an extremely large and mighty army for war; but he will not stand, for schemes will be devised against him. Those who eat his choice food will destroy him, and his army will overflow, but many will fall down slain. As for both kings, their hearts will be intent on evil, and they will speak lies to each other at the same table; but it will not succeed, for the end is still to come at the appointed time. Then he will return to his land with much plunder; but his heart will be set against the holy covenant, and he will take action and then return to his own land.”
These verses trace the warfare between Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the king of the south but two thoughts stand out. In verse 27 we read, “for the end is still to come at the appointed time.” Antiochus won victories and gained much plunder but God had appointed an end for him as for all kings and empires. No amount of conquest or wealth would alter his appointment with God.
In verse 28 we read, “Then he will return to his land with much plunder; but his heart will be set against the holy covenant.” On his way back to Syria after defeating the king of the south, Antiochus passed through Israel and encountered a revolt which he crushed with ruthless cruelty, committing atrocities and abominations against the Jews and against God Himself. His heart was “set against the holy covenant” — a foreshadowing of the atrocities and abominations of the Antichrist in the last days.
11:29,30 “At the appointed time he will return and come into the South, but this last time it will not turn out the way it did before. For ships of Kittim will come against him; therefore he will be disheartened and will return and become enraged at the holy covenant and take action; so he will come back and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant.”
During another campaign against the south, “ships of Kittim” blocked Antiochus and he turned back. (Historical records verify that this was a Roman fleet from Cypress). We are constantly reminded that fulfillment of the detailed prophecies in this book prove that the Bible is truly God’s revelation. And they prove that God is truly sovereign over the events of history. He makes promises and He fulfills them, determining the end from the beginning.
11:31 “Forces from him will arise, desecrate the sanctuary fortress, and do away with the regular sacrifice. And they will set up the abomination of desolation.”
As we mentioned previously, after a victory in Egypt, Antiochus was returning to Syria through Israel. Unhappy with the Jewish nation, he massacred and enslaved tens of thousands of Jews and desecrated the temple, setting up “the abomination of desolation.”
This is the event referred to in Daniel 8:9-14 when the “small horn” (Antiochus) exalted himself against God, interrupted the rituals of prayer and sacrifice in the temple, destroyed Old Testament scriptures and desecrated the Jerusalem temple. The “abomination of desolation” was the sacrifice of a pig on the holy altar while setting up a statue to the false god Zeus in the temple. He even demanded worship of himself, calling himself a god.
This happened in 167 BC, approximately 370 years after Daniel’s prophecy.
As is often true in the prophets, there is a near and a far fulfillment of this prophecy. The near fulfillment was provided by Antiochus Epiphanes. However, Jesus referred to this event, which occurred 167 years before He was born, in reference to the end time abomination of the Antichrist in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple: “Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains” (Matthew 24:15,16).
Jesus was obviously not referring to the prior desecration of the temple in 167 BC — He is speaking of a future event. Although the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD, they did not perform any particular sacrilege or act of idolatry. So the far aspect of Daniel’s prophecy has not been fulfilled yet.
The Apostle Paul speaks of the coming of “the man of lawlessness ... who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4). John, in Revelation 13 speaks of the idolatrous worship of the Beast.
Daniel was not only receiving revelation of events in 167 BC concerning Antiochus Epiphanes. He was also receiving prophetic revelation concerning the end time Antichrist. This is for the benefit of the saints in every century — not so we can see the future with absolute clarity because we don’t. But we may be encouraged that if the Lord can declare these things so far in advance, He must be able to see clearly and therefore is truly sovereign over the outworking of world history.
God’s ability to declare the end from the beginning is an expression of His omniscience — He knows all truth that could ever be known. It is a declaration of His omnipotence — He is able to establish that which He purposes. But it is also an expression of His eternal nature. God exists before time, beyond time and in time simultaneously. Because He already lives in the future, He can declare it to us. Therefore we may live and labor securely, not because we see but because our God sees.
11:32 “By smooth words he will turn to godlessness those who act wickedly toward the covenant, but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
Antiochus Epiphanes persuaded some Jews to abandon their faith, compromise, collaborate with him. In every generation there are those who are willing to walk away from the living God and serve the paymasters of dead idols. By their apostasy, they prove that they were never truly people of faith. Though they may have called themselves Jews and participated in the rituals of the faith, they were not truly people of faith.
It is this way in the church. There are those who participate in the rituals of faith but do not truly know the Lord. They will eventually demonstrate their lack of devotion through faithless apostasy, as the Apostle John reminds us, “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us” (I John 2:19).
In contrast to those who abandon the faith, Daniel says, “But the people who know their God will display strength and take action.” Men and women of true faith prove their faith by their perseverance in faith. Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15). True faith is demonstrated through faithfulness.
However, faithfulness in times of persecution is not merely an act of the will. It is also an act of grace — God provides grace to persevere. The apostle Peter exhorted the persecuted church, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (I Peter 5:10).
Jude also reminds us, “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy” (Jude 1:4,5).
God Himself gives us grace to endure with steadfast faith. But we also have a responsibility to commit ourselves to faithful living, as the apostle Paul reminds us, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?” (2 Cor. 13:15). We must continually invite the Holy Spirit to examine our hearts, reveal our true motives and show us sin or compromise.
Jude also exhorts us to build ourselves up through the spiritual disciplines. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:20,21).
How do we build ourselves up in our most holy faith? In prayer, in worship of the Lord, in reading the Scripture and obeying it, living it day by day, in submitting to the correction and instruction and restoring grace of the Holy Spirit — in all these ways we build ourselves up in our most holy faith.
In Colossians chapter 3 the Apostle Paul exhorts us to put off our old ways (by not practicing them) and put on our new ways (by practicing them). As we commit ourselves to live the life of faith, God will keep us in the faith, as He promises through the prophet Isaiah, “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
In that day, in spite of terrible persecution and compromise, a righteous remnant resisted, displaying strength and taking action. Eventually, there was a righteous and successful rebellion against Antiochus, let by Judas Maccabeus and in 164 BC, Antiochus was defeated.
11:33 “Those who have insight among the people will give understanding to the many; yet they will fall by sword and by flame, by captivity and by plunder for many days.”
During those terrible days of persecution under Antiochus, faithful teachers in Israel continued to instruct others in the truths of the Jewish faith, even as the Torah was being burned and teachers and students were being slaughtered. Those who remained faithful suffered greatly but continued to “ give understanding to the many.” So it has been in the church. Throughout the centuries, faithful teachers have continued to instruct God’s people, though often at the cost of imprisonment and death.
11:34,35 “Now when they fall they will be granted a little help, and many will join with them in hypocrisy. Some of those who have insight will fall, in order to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time; because it is still to come at the appointed time.”
Many participated in the hypocrisy, pretending to be faithful while denying their faith. In the midst of the falling away, those who remained faithful suffered but the purpose of their suffering is “to refine, purge and make them pure until the end time.” Until the end of time, God will be purifying for Himself a people, a Bride made ready. God is not the source of persecution against His church or His gospel but He uses suffering to bring about the purifying and testing of his people. Therefore the Apostle Peter exhorts us, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation” (I Peter 4:12,13).
Why rejoice in persecution? Because persecution proves the genuineness of our faith. Again Peter exhorts us: “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” ( I Peter1:6,7).
Why rejoice in persecution? Because as James reminds, trials allow God to perfect His work in us: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4)
Peter also exhorts us, “After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you” (I Peter 5:10).
Daniel saw with prophetic vision the future suffering of God’s people. But he also saw in that suffering a God who is present working out His purpose in His people and in history.
Notice this phrase at the end of verse 35: “It is still to come at the appointed time.” Even times of persecution are “appointed” by God. As we have said, this does not mean that God wills opposition to His church or His gospel. But satanic forces in history function only within the boundaries of time and place permitted by God. And these forces function only to support God’s purpose of refinement in the lives of the redeemed.
The phrase in verse 35, “until the end time,” serves as a bridge to the final years of history which will be discussed in chapter 12.
1. Daniel prophesies of events far beyond his life time. What is God revealing about Himself through prophecy? (see notes to v 3)
2. In verse 31 Daniel prophesies that “the abomination of desolation” will be set up in the temple. The near fulfillment occurred in 167 BC, when Antiochus IV sacrificed a pig on the holy altar and set up a statue to the false god Zeus. What is the far fulfillment? (see v. 31)
11:36 “Then the king will do as he pleases, and he will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will speak monstrous things against the God of gods; and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.”
The prophetic message of the angel now appears to leap across centuries, using Antiochus IV Epiphanes as a type or symbol of the Antichrist who will appear during the tribulation at the end of history. The Antichrist is described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-10 as the man of sin who “takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” In Revelation 13:1-8 he is the beast who rises up out of the sea “speaking arrogant words and blasphemies.” In Daniel 7:3 he is the fourth beast who “will trample the whole earth.” In Daniel 8:11,12 he is the little horn who will exalt himself against God, remove the sacrifice from the temple and who “will throw truth to the ground.”
As Antiochus exalted himself and blasphemed the true and living God, so will the Antichrist. But notice the sovereignty of God even in this prophecy of wickedness: “He will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.” There is a limit to the sin and rebellion which God will allow. In Psalm 75 the Lord says, “When I select an appointed time, it is I who judge fairly” (Ps. 75:2). The psalmist then comments, “For not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert comes exaltation; but God is the Judge; He puts down one and exalts another” (Ps. 75:6,7). It is God who determines the times and seasons of empires and kings. Their blasphemy and rebellion occur only within the boundary which God has decreed.
God is moving history toward the fulfilling of His ordained purpose. The most vicious dictators of history, even the final world ruler, function only under the sovereignty of Almighty God. As Daniel says, “That which is decreed will be done.” That which God has decreed will be accomplished and within the boundaries and seasons which He has set.
11:37 “He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers or for the desire of women, nor will he show regard for any other god; for he will magnify himself above them all.”
We now read several characteristics of Antiochus which will also be true of the Antichrist:
1. “He will show no regard for the gods of his fathers.”
Whatever ancestral gods were worshipped by the family of Antiochus, he abandoned them, eventually exalting himself to the status of a god. So it will be that the Antichrist will disregard whatever religion was part of his upbringing, whether Jewish or Christian or any other world religion, and will set up an idol to himself in the rebuilt Jerusalem temple (see Matthew 24:15, 2 Thes. 2:3,4, Revelation 13:12-15)
2. “Or for the desire of women.”
This phrase can be interpreted in a variety of ways. It may mean that he will have no regard or respect for the dignity of women — he may be an abuser of women. It may mean that he has no desire or interest in women as marriage partners, being consumed by ambition or perverse sexuality.
However, taken between two statements about his disregard for the gods of his fathers or any other god, it may mean something like this: “He will have no regard for the gods which women desire.” In fact, some translations render this phrase, “He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women” (see for instance the NIV). This may be a reference to his rejection of nature gods or female deities which have been a part of many false religions.
Some commentators see a Messianic reference here. Israelite women desired above all else to be the mother of the coming Messiah and some see in this phrase the Antichrist’s rejection not only of the true God but also of the Messiah. They would translate, as does the ESV, “He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women.”
3. “Nor will he show regard for any other god.”
Not only did Antiochus disregard the traditional gods of his family and culture, he also disregarded and profaned the God of Israel. In this, he is an exact prototype of the Antichrist who will abolish all the religions of the world, persecute the church and convert the rebuilt Jerusalem temple into a shrine for the worship of himself.
4. “For he will magnify himself above them all.”
Antiochus IV called himself Theos Epiphanes — God manifest, exalting himself above the pantheon of Greek and Roman gods and even above Yahweh. In the same manner, the Antichrist will demand that the entire world worship him or be killed. In his insane lust to be worshipped, Antichrist will reject the true God and the false gods, the living God and the dead gods. His psychological profile so completely reflects Satan’s profile, whose desire has always been to be exalted above the very throne of God (see Isaiah 14:13,14).
11:38 “But instead he will honor a god of fortresses, a god whom his fathers did not know; he will honor him with gold, silver, costly stones and treasures.”
Antiochus worshipped power and spent his life and wealth in its pursuit. So it will be for the Antichrist — his god will be power — “a god of fortresses”. He will gladly spend his “gold, silver, costly stones and treasures” to acquire world wide domination.
However, though the Antichrist will be the final embodiment of this lust for world dominion, we see that spirit at work in every age. What motivated the generals of Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece? The “god of fortresses.” What motivated Hitler and Stalin? The “god of fortresses”. Stalin famously ridiculed the Pope by asking, “How many tanks does the Pope have?” What motivates national budgets bloated by weapons development while economies stagnate and families are hungry? The god of fortresses.
The Antichrist will reject all gods because his confidence is in cold steel and fire. He neither wants nor needs any gods other than himself. What he wants is worship and what he needs to acquire worship is power and to acquire power he needs wealth. He will be his own ultimate expression of god. Antichrist is the final incarnation of materialistic humanism — man worshipping himself at the altar of gold, steel and fire.
11:39 “He will take action against the strongest of fortresses with the help of a foreign god; he will give great honor to those who acknowledge him and will cause them to rule over the many, and will parcel out land for a price.”
The Antichrist will conquer even the strongest of rival militaries and will centralize dominion in himself. He will do this with the aid “of a foreign god.” That god is none other than Satan who will provide the strategic empowerment behind the final world government.
Those who collaborate with the final ruler will be given responsibilities and honor and, no doubt, a share in the wealth. But there will be a price. That price is the worship of the Antichrist and everlasting damnation.
11:40 “At the end time the king of the South will collide with him, and the king of the North will storm against him with chariots, with horsemen and with many ships; and he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through.”
The words, “at the end time” remind us that there is an end point for every empire and every king. So it was for Antiochus Epiphanes — eventually God determined to put an end to the troubles that he caused. As with every tyrant who has shaken his fist at God, there was an end to his kingdom, a moment when he breathed his last breath and time ended for Antiochus.
But this verse is not about Antiochus Epiphanes. Earlier in this chapter, the king of the South referred to the king of Egypt, descendants of Ptolemy. The king of the North referred to the Seleucids who ruled from Syria and from whom Antiochus was descended. But notice carefully the words of 11:40, “The king of the South will collide with him and the king of the North will storm against him.” This excludes Antiochus who would have been the king of the North — he cannot collide against himself. So this must be someone other than Antiochus.
Daniel is given prophetic revelation many centuries ahead of his generation to the very end of time, the end of history. Evidently, kings of the North and South are coming against the final world ruler, the Antichrist.
Remember that in chapter seven we read about the fourth beast with the ten horns: “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings’” (Daniel 7:23,24).
This fourth beast is “the prince who is to come” (Dan. 9:26). He is “the man of lawlessness … who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God” (2 Thes. 2:3,4). He is “the beast” of Revelation 13:1 whom John saw “coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.” He is the beast who is worshipped (Rev. 13:4); the beast who speaks “arrogant words and blasphemies” (Rev. 13:5). He is the Antichrist.
“Out of this kingdom” (7:24) — out of the kingdom of the fourth beast, the Antichrist — “ten kings will arise.” These ten horns / ten kings may refer to regional administrative districts governing the earth under the Antichrist during the last days of the end time. They are the same as the ten horns of Revelation 17:12, “The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.”
Some commentators believe that as the Antichrist consolidates his power, establishes his world government, that the kings of the North and South represent a military alliance of Muslim nations from the North and the South attacking him in response to his attempt to abolish Islam (and all religions). Other commentators believe this refers to an alliance involving Russia and Islamic nations. But it is probable that Russia will no longer exist as a nation. The end time will occur in a context of world-wide collapse of governments, economies and infrastructure. Nature itself will be disintegrating as the wrath of God is poured out.
The world will be governed, not by nation-states, but by regional administrators appointed by the Antichrist. These armies from North and South may represent an alliance of regional governors enraged at the Antichrist’s inability to provide the peace and security which he promised. However, the Antichrist will be victorious — “he will enter countries, overflow them and pass through.” He will establish and consolidate his world wide dominion.
11:41 “He will also enter the Beautiful Land, and many countries will fall; but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon.”
Many Bible scholars believe that the Antichrist will make a covenant of peace with Israel during the first half of the tribulation, allowing the Jews to rebuild the Jerusalem temple. The rebuilt temple will inspire a great revival of faith and devotion among the people which will coincide with an outpouring of the Spirit of grace which will lead to a massive turning of Jews to Jesus Messiah. A great army of Jewish evangelists will rise up, carrying the gospel across the world (Rev. 7:4-8).
This will arouse the jealous rage of the Antichrist who will then break his covenant with Israel and invade “the Beautiful Land.” The final war of history will be fought there. The focus of the end times will be Israel.
The phrase, “but these will be rescued out of his hand: Edom, Moab and the foremost of the sons of Ammon,” may indicate a turning to the Lord among some of the Muslim people groups around Israel, who would then provide shelter and aid to the Jews fleeing the wrath of the Antichrist. We cannot be certain of these things but what is certain is that the history of nations will conclude in that same region where God made covenant with Abraham, where the prophets spoke and Messiah lived and died and arose from death.
To that same region, indeed, to the same mountain from which He ascended to heaven, Jesus will return: The angels said to the disciples on the Mt. of Olives, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).
11:42-43 “Then he will stretch out his hand against other countries, and the land of Egypt will not escape. But he will gain control over the hidden treasures of gold and silver and over all the precious things of Egypt; and Libyans and Ethiopians will follow at his heels.”
As we have said, a primary motivating factor for the Antichrist will be an insatiable lust for wealth and power. He will establish his dominion across the world, of which Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia are representative. But his empire will be brief.
11:44 “But rumors from the East and from the North will disturb him, and he will go forth with great wrath to destroy and annihilate many.”
Continuing instability to the east and north could be a portrait of the empire of the Antichrist collapsing as quickly as it rises. In fact, the empire of the Antichrist will be established and destroyed in seven brief years. As God’s wrath is poured out on the world and economic and governmental systems disintegrate, it appears that commanders from regional sub-districts to the east and north may march against the world ruler who will counter-attack and destroy them.
There is a vague but interesting reference in 7:8, “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great boasts.” The little horn is the Antichrist and he uproots three of the ten horns. Recall that the ten horns may represent ten administrative sub-districts under the world government of the Antichrist. In 11:40,44, kings of the South, North and East will move against the Antichrist but they will be crushed — three of the horns are pulled up.
Notice also a similarity to Revelation 16:12 — “The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river, the Euphrates; and its water was dried up, so that the way would be prepared for the kings from the east.” The outpouring of the sixth bowl will create a supernatural drying of the Euphrates which will allow the kings of the east to cross over with their armies.
Some commentators believe that this passage in Revelation 16 refers to a final attack against Israel, motivated by anger against the outpouring of God’s judgment on the world and the unstoppable wave of evangelists pouring out of Israel. But it appears that Israel has already been attacked by the Antichrist. So it is more likely that this represents another alliance of regional commanders marching against the Antichrist.
Whether the object of their march is the Antichrist or Israel, it is in reality the Lord drawing the world into one last confrontation with Himself. In Revelation 16:14, the text clearly states that demons are released for the purpose of gathering these kings. Their destination is Armageddon, a plain located in present day Israel. Whoever they were expecting to fight — the Antichrist or Israel — it is the Lord Himself who will meet them. The drying up of the flooded Euphrates is an act of judgment whereby God draws all the armies of rebellious, unrepentant, God-rejecting rulers to their final destruction.
We do not see clearly into these prophecies today but clarity will increase as the church moves more deeply into those days. As we have said previously, we do not need perfect clarity regarding the future. It is enough to know that the true and living God, the God of grace and mercy and justice, is moving history to the fulfilling of His redeeming purpose. He tells us the end from the beginning, not so that all things will be perfectly clear to us so far in advance, but so we may be confident that it is God, and God alone, who is moving time and history to the establishing of that which He decreed from eternity.
11:45 “He will pitch the tents of his royal pavilion between the seas and the beautiful Holy Mountain; yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.”
Again, this may speak of a military campaign by Antiochus Epiphanes but that is only a representation of a far more profound event — Daniel now sees to the end of the end times. On the plains of Israel, somewhere between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee (or possibly between the Mediterranean and the Dead Sea) and in the region of “the beautiful Holy Mountain” (Mount Zion in Jerusalem), the Antichrist will make his last encampment. This may be a reference to the plains of Megiddo, located between the Mediterranean Sea and the Sea of Galilee, where the battle of Armageddon will be fought: “And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (Rev. 16:16).
So many centuries in advance, Daniel declares the outcome of this final battle, “He will come to his end, and no one will help him.” This could not be a reference to Antiochus because he did not die in the land of Israel. This must refer to the Antichrist.
This climactic encounter will take place at the return of the Lord Jesus and the Apostle Paul prophesied the outcome, “Whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming” (2 Thes. 2:8) The Lord Himself will destroy the army of the Antichrist and cast him, along with his false prophet, into the lake of fire, as John relates in the Revelation:
“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh” (Revelation 19:19-21).
The Antichrist will be destroyed and no one will deliver him from the wrath of Almighty God.
Some of the detailed prophecies in this book were fulfilled in the years following Daniel’s life and their fulfillment proves that the Bible is truly God’s revelation. They prove also that God is truly sovereign over the events of history. He makes promises and He fulfills them, determining the end from the beginning.
The fact that these final verses of chapter 11 are difficult to interpret provides a good reason to believe that they are future. If they had already been fulfilled then there would be much more clarity. However, we may rest in the assurance that what is not clear to us, God sees with perfect clarity. Regarding those events which are prophesied but have not yet taken place, how can we doubt their fulfillment, given the accuracy of the Word of God?
1. Daniel reveals some of the characteristics of the future Antichrist. What are some of these? (see v. 36-38)
2. What will be the final end of the Antichrist? (see v. 45)
12:1 “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise. And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”
“At that time” refers to the previous verses which describe the Antichrist’s invasion of Israel during the Tribulation. The deadly threat to Israel’s existence will arouse the defense of Michael, the archangel whose primary responsibility seems to be the defense of God’s covenant nation.
The “time of distress” refers to the final years of history, known as the Tribulation, which will be characterized by Antichrist’s unprecedented violence and persecution against Israel and against followers of Christ. At the same time, destruction will take place across the planet as every facet of human society breaks down and nature itself disintegrates under the weight of God’s wrath.
We are reminded of the words of Jesus, “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matthew 24:21).
Although the Tribulation will be world wide, this revelation to Daniel is concerned primarily with Israel during those last days — the distress in Israel due to the Antichrist’s persecution and God’s deliverance of the Jewish people. Moses, centuries before, had prophesied a time of distress “in the latter days” (Deuteronomy 4:30). Yet in that same prophecy he spoke of a return to the Lord. Jeremiah also prophesied a time of “Jacob’s distress” which seemed distant from even his own stressful time (Jeremiah 30:5-9). In that prophecy, Jeremiah also foresaw Israel’s deliverance.
The prophet Zechariah also foresaw this time of distress, prophesying that two-thirds of the nation of Israel would perish (Zechariah 13:8) but the Lord promises to “bring the third part through the fire,” and to “refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested” (Zech. 13:9). In that day of deliverance, “They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (13:9).
The angel assures Daniel that in the midst of unprecedented chaos and suffering, God will rescue and preserve all whose names were “written in the book.” This refers to “the Lamb’s book of life” (Revelation 21:27) which speaks of God’s eternal knowledge of all the redeemed. From eternity, God has known the names of the redeemed and has promised to preserve them.
We are reminded of the words of Jesus as He prayed to the Father, “Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one” (John 18:9).
Again, Jesus assures us, “This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day”( John 6:39).
“And I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28).
The Apostle Peter speaks of the redeemed as those “who are protected (kept) by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:5). We are saved by the grace of God and kept, preserved, by His power. The Lord has not only extended to us saving grace but also preserving grace. So it is that the angel assures Daniel that those of his people whose names are “found written in the book, will be rescued.”
12:2 “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
The phrase, “those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake,” does not refer to soul sleep. The Bible clearly teaches that when our bodies die, our spirit or soul continues to live. The phrase refers to the raising of resurrection bodies which will be united with our living spirit.
The Apostle Paul was confident that when he died, his spirit would go directly into the presence of the Lord: “We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
“Having the desire to depart and be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23).
Just as the soul or spirit of the righteous moves directly into the presence of the Lord when their bodies die, those who die in a state of spiritual separation from God remain separated, awaiting the day when God pronounces their condemnation. Jesus told a parable to illustrate this truth (Luke 16:19-31). The unjust man in the parable died and went to Hades (the place in which the unredeemed await final judgment). The redeemed man was carried away to “Abraham’s bosom,” a way of describing the habitation of the just.
In the resurrection, the soul of the righteous, the redeemed, will be united with an everlasting body in a state of eternal communion with the Lord. The soul of the unrighteous will be united with a resurrection body in a state of disgrace and contempt. The Hebrew word for contempt, as used here in 12:2, is deraown, which comes from a root word which means to repulse, to push away — implying a state of separation. As the unrighteous lived and died in a state of separation from God, so they will be raised in an eternal state of separation from God.
Notice the word everlasting, in verse two. Resurrection bodies are fit for eternity, indestructible, everlasting. The redeemed will live forever in communion with God, sharing in the eternal life of God. The unredeemed will live in a state of everlasting contempt, the hell of separation from all that is light and life, joy and grace, truth and love, fulfillment and meaning.
12:3 “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”
“Those who have insight” (or true knowledge) are those who, in Old Testament times, were faithful to God and by faith were declared righteous by God. After the death and resurrection of Jesus, “those who have insight” are all who have responded to the gospel by repenting of sin and placing their faith in Christ. This is wisdom — to know and love and worship the living God.
These wise ones “will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” There is a two-fold sense to this shining. In eternity, existing in the presence of God, we will reflect the brightness of God’s glory. But we also might say that the works which we do in this life, the decisions we make, the life we live, our use of the opportunities God gives us to share Christ with others and lead them to a righteous relationship with the Savior, impact our capacity to reflect the glory of God in eternity. There will be a reward in heaven that will result in a manifesting of God’s glory — we will shine like the stars forever.
12:4 “But as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time; many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase.”
Two important words in this verse are conceal and seal. Surely this does not mean that Daniel is being directed to hide the book. The purpose was to provide encouragement to the Jewish people during centuries of Gentile domination. It would nullify the purpose of the prophecies to hide them.
However, the book is concealed in the sense that it cannot be completely understood except as time passes and events unfold. We see now the accuracy of the prophecies concerning the empires and wars that followed Daniel’s generation. We see more clearly the interval of weeks after the restoring of Jerusalem until the coming of the Messiah. Future events will not be entirely clear until the last days, or, as the angel said, “until the end of time”. In this sense, the phrase “knowledge will increase” speaks of the progressive unfolding of revelation and applies to those who will be alive in the last days when those final events unfold. They will see more clearly than we see.
“Seal up” means that Daniel is to protect and preserve the book. In the same way that a king placed his seal on a document, thereby conferring his protection and authority to it, so the Lord declares His seal of authority to be on this document. It is sealed “until the end of time” — the prophecies will not fail to be fulfilled, God’s purpose will be established through history and to the end of time. Also, this prophetic revelation is sealed in the sense that what God intended to reveal through Daniel is complete — no one can add to it or take away from it. The revelation to Daniel was complete and God sealed it.
The phrase, “Many will go back and forth, and knowledge will increase” also applies in a particular way to those who have rejected the Lord. As we move closer to the end of time, as nations, economies, political and social institutions disintegrate and as nature itself unravels, people will run to and fro seeking answers from the latest guru, the newest expert, “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 3:7).
Indeed, knowledge multiplies today at an astounding rate. Never in history has so much information been available. But wisdom — the practical skill enabling people to live the truth — decreases. This is not surprising. We read in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
As societies reject God, there is a corresponding loss of wisdom and all else that is Godly — mercy, justice, peace, moral discernment, stability. The Apostle Paul warned that as we approach the end of time there will be a multiplying of wickedness (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The history of human civilization clearly is not an upward evolution into the light of greater wisdom and compassion. It is a devolution, a downward spiral into the deepening gloom of evil, idolatry, corruption and depravity.
As worldly foundations crumble, those who reject the Rock of salvation will have nothing to stand upon. Rootless, faithless, having rejected the wisdom of God that transcends every generation, they will be “tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
One cannot reject the God of truth and know the truth. Amos described those who, having rejected the Lord, are unable to know the truth. He said, “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, but they will not find it” (Amos 8:12).
Indeed, Paul says that apart from Christ the truth is veiled: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4). But to those who know and love the Lord, we encounter a Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
There are those who run to and fro, seeking knowledge and never arriving at the truth, swept away by every wind that blows. And there are those who stand anchored in every storm, rooted in the life of the Christ who said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
12:5,6 “Then I, Daniel, looked and behold, two others were standing, one on this bank of the river and the other on that bank of the river. And one said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be until the end of these wonders?’”
Daniel sees two beings standing on opposite sides of the river and he hears one, evidently an angel, call to “the man dressed in linen”. It is worth noting that the word river, yeor, is not the same word for river as was used in 8:2,3,6. That word was ubal and was referring to a canal called the Ulai. It is also not the same word as is used in 10:4. That word, referring to the Tigris River, was nahar.
The word in Daniel 12:5 is yeor which is used in Genesis 41 and throughout Exodus in reference to the Nile River. Though yeor can refer to the Euphrates or Tigris rivers, both of which were in geographical proximity to Daniel, this may be a reference to the Lord’s faithfulness in delivering Israel from enslavement and domination by the Egyptians; a way of encouraging Daniel and future readers that the same God who broke the power of Pharaoh will also break all future world powers in rescuing His covenant people and establishing of His kingdom purpose.
12:7 “I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed.”
We first encountered “the man clothed in linen” in 10:5,6. The similarity to John’s description of Jesus in Revelation 1:14,15 causes us to wonder if this is a pre-incarnation appearance of Jesus. “The man clothed in linen” lifts his hands toward heaven, utters an oath in the name of the Lord and answers that it will be “for a time, times, and half a time.” The word time is interpreted as one year. Times would be two years and half a time would be half a year — three and a half years. This would be the second half of the 70th week discussed in Daniel 9:24-27.
Remember that the angel Gabriel had said to Daniel that a period of seventy weeks of years had been decreed for the following purpose:
“To finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement (reconciliation) for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness” (9:24). This was accomplished by the offering of Jesus as a holy, atoning sacrifice for the sin of the world.
Gabriel revealed in 9:25 that the first 7 weeks (49 years) had to do with the restoring and rebuilding of Jerusalem. The starting point for the 7 weeks (49 years) was decreed by the Persian emperor in 444 BC. The rebuilding project began under Nehemiah and continued in various phases until 396 BC which would be approximately 49 years (depending on what month of each year the building began and ended).
There then appears to be a period of 62 weeks of years “until Messiah, the Prince” (9:25). Gabriel revealed in 9:26 that after sixty-two weeks (434 years) the Messiah would be “cut off” (“cut of” means “put to death”). Beginning with the restoration of Jerusalem in 396 BC, 434 years would take us to the approximate death of Jesus somewhere between 30-34 AD.
The period of 7 weeks and the 62 weeks equal 69 weeks, concluding with the rejection and death of Jesus. But the angel said to Daniel in 9:24 that there would be 70 weeks. It appears that when Israel rejected the Messiah, the prophetic clock stopped ticking.
These centuries between the 69th and 70th weeks comprise the Church Age. The final week is understood by many Bible commentators to be the 7 years known as the Tribulation. Half of the Tribulation would be “a time, times, and half a time” — 3 1/2 years— as the angel says in 12:7.
This is interpreted as the second half of the Tribulation because of the reference to the “shattering (of) the power of the holy people.” During the second half of the tribulation, the Antichrist will invade Israel — “tread under foot the holy city” (Revelation 11:2) and set up his image in the rebuilt temple (Rev. 13:5-8), inaugurating a time of unprecedented suffering in Israel (Rev. 12:4-6,13-17).
12:8,9 “As for me, I heard but could not understand; so I said, ‘My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?’ He said, ‘Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time.’”
Again, as he has done throughout these revelations, Daniel asks for clarification. The angel replies that the words “are concealed and sealed up until the end time.”
As we said in verse 4, this does not mean that the book is to be hidden. “Concealed” refers to the fact that the revelation will not be completely understood until the final events begin to unfold. There is a progressive sense to revelation — God reveals more in the New Testament than He did in the Old Testament and we see with greater clarity as time passes.
In the same way, the words “sealed up” do not mean that the book is to be hidden but protected and preserved. When a document bears the seal of a king, its authority is guaranteed and so is its preservation. How much more so when God seals the revelation of His sovereign purpose in history. This book bears the validating stamp of God’s authority.
For how long is this revelation guaranteed? “Until the end time.”
Kingdoms will rise and fall. Kings will exalt their glory and then be buried in the dust. But God has promised that there is a kingdom coming which will fill the earth and its King will reign forever. This promise will endure till time is no more.
12:10 “Many will be purged, purified and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; and none of the wicked will understand, but those who have insight will understand.”
In 12:3 we read, “Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven.” How is it that we will shine, we who once were rebels against God, filled and covered with sin? We will shine because of the saving, purifying work of God in our lives. Having repented of our sin and placed our faith in Christ our righteousness, we now look to Him, abide in Him, pray to Him, worship Him and live His truth day by day As we do, Christ is progressively refining and transforming us in His likeness.
There is also another means by which the Lord is purging, purifying and refining His people —through the centuries of fiery persecution. The Apostle Peter was writing to the church in the midst of violent persecution which was claiming many lives and would eventually claim his own life. He said, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 1:6,7).
Job suffered greatly yet he said, “But He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).
The Psalmist said, “For You have tried us, O God; you have refined us as silver is refined” (Psalm 66:10).
Zechariah said of the end-time persecution of Israel that the Lord would use it to refine a righteous remnant of Israel, “And I will bring the third part through the fire, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God’” (Zech. 13:9).
A third of Israel will be brought through fiery persecution to a point of purity which will inspire them to call on the Lord. Persecution will not destroy Israel. It will be an instrument of purification resulting in a holy remnant who call on the Lord.
In the days before the cross, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, the city that was rejecting its long awaited Messiah (Matthew 23:37,38). Then He said, “From now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matt.23:39).
Zechariah prophesied of that coming day: “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn” (Zech. 12:10).
Someday, a purified remnant of Israel will mourn for the Messiah they once put to death and God will answer their mourning with the return of Christ. As we said, persecution will not destroy Israel. It will prepare a people to greet their Messiah.
God’s purpose in history is to purify a people who know Him, worship Him, call upon Him and reflect His glory. This shining of glory is not just in eternity. The Lord wants to reflect His glory through us now in our generation. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16).
The Apostle Paul exhorts us to live in such a way that we may “prove (ourselves) to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15).
12:10 “But the wicked will act wickedly.”
The wicked will act in a manner consistent with their character even to the final hours of history. They will have no insight into their lostness, their separation from God. In the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, we see the wrath of God progressively poured out on the world while the gospel is proclaimed and yet the hearts of many remain hard, unrepenting. As the world collapses around the sinner and a gospel of grace is preached to the sinner, many will continue to reject God and die in their sin.
It is difficult to understand the unyielding nature of such wickedness yet this is what we see in Revelation 16:9, “Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory” (see also Rev. 16:11,21).
One would think that such an event would lead many to repentance, since by then it is common knowledge that the source of these judgments is none other than Almighty God. Yet the people refuse to repent or give glory to God, instead blaspheming the name of God. They become like the devil they serve — increased knowledge of God only leads to increased blasphemy. The more they know of God, the more they hate and defy God.
We are reminded of some of the Pharisees who saw the miracles of Jesus, heard the profound wisdom of Jesus and yet the more they saw and heard, the more obstinate they became in their resistance and hatred. Following the raising of Lazarus from the dead, some of the Jewish leaders were confirmed in their desire to destroy the Lord (see John 11:45-53). As Daniel says, “The wicked will act wickedly.”
12:10 “And none of the wicked will understand.”
They will not understand the revelation of God because they cannot unless they turn from their wickedness and call on the name of the Lord. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “and even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:3,4).
In our fallen, natural state we are blind to spiritual truth. God Himself is able to remove the veil but only for those who desire light. Why do people prefer the veil of darkness rather than light? Jesus said that people prefer darkness to light because their deeds are evil. They will not come to the light “for fear that their deeds will be exposed” (John 3:19,20).
Rejection of light and truth is not a philosophical or theological choice. It is a moral choice. People spew out their systematic reasons for rejecting the holy God but underneath their philosophical and theological constructs is a preference for evil.
12:10 “But those who have insight will understand.”
Those who have been enlightened by the light of Christ will understand the truth. Jesus said, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31,32).
When we open our lives to this Christ who is truth, He opens His truth to us and opens us to His truth: “God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all” (I John 1:5). When we open our hearts to this God who is light, He will release His light into our hearts.
“For God, who said, ‘Light shall shine out of darkness,’ is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).
12:11 “From the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days.”
Daniel is receiving this revelation some time in the 530s BC. As we have mentioned before, there is a near and a far fulfillment of this prophecy. In 167 BC the wicked Greek ruler, Antiochus Epiphanes IV, halted worship activities in the Jerusalem temple and erected an altar to Zeus. That abomination occurred approximately 370 years after Daniel lived — a near fulfillment.
However, that event does not exhaust the meaning of this prophecy. There must also be a far or future fulfillment because Jesus referred to an abomination of desolation which had not yet happened when He spoke (Matthew 24:15). Although the Romans destroyed the Jerusalem temple in 70 AD, they did not perform any particular sacrilege or act of idolatry. So the far aspect of Daniel’s prophecy has not been fulfilled yet. Nor can it happen until the Jerusalem temple is rebuilt.
Let’s refer back to Daniel 9:27 — “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”
Some interpret this verse to mean that the Antichrist will make a treaty with Israel during the seven years of the Tribulation but “in the middle of the week,” after 3 1/2 years, will break the treaty and commit the abomination of desolation referred to in 9:27 and in 12:11 and by Jesus in Matthew 24:15.
In Daniel 9:27 we read, “He will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering.” The Antichrist will interrupt the rituals of the rebuilt temple (which Daniel also mentioned in 8:11). The reason for this is that he will build an idol to himself in the temple and require worship from all the world.
To summarize, at some point in the future, possibly early in the Tribulation, the Jerusalem temple will be rebuilt. Halfway through the seven years of tribulation, the Antichrist will invade Israel, abolish the sacrificial system in the rebuilt temple and set up an altar to himself in the temple. That idolatrous altar is the abomination of desolation to which Jesus referred (Matthew 24:15). The time remaining in human history will be 1,290 days — about 3 1/2 years — the second half of the Tribulation. At the end of the seven years of tribulation, Christ will return, defeat the armies of the Antichrist and establish His kingdom on earth.
This period of 3 1/2 years is referred to multiple times in Scripture:
“He will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time” (Daniel 7:25).
“I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, as he raised his right hand and his left toward heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever that it would be for a time, times, and half a time; and as soon as they finish shattering the power of the holy people, all these events will be completed” (Daniel 12:7).
“Leave out the court which is outside the temple and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months” (Revelation 11:2).
“Then the woman fled into the wilderness where she had a place prepared by God, so that there she would be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Revelation 12:6).
“But the two wings of the great eagle were given to the woman, so that she could fly into the wilderness to her place, where she was nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent” (Revelation 12:14).
“There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him” (Revelation 13:5).
As we have said, this 3 1/2 years or 42 months refers to the second half of the tribulation.
12:12 “How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains to the 1,335 days!”
The additional 45 days may refer to a transition time after the defeat of the Antichrist, during which the kingdom of God is established and the earth is refreshed and restored. But the important truth here is not found in the deciphering of this or any other number. What is most crucial is the exhortation: “How blessed is he who keeps waiting and attains.”
Attains to what? The return of Christ and the establishing of the kingdom of God on earth, the marriage feast of the Lamb and the bride, the restoration of planet Earth ruled by King Jesus.
Who attains to this blessing? Those who keep waiting, who persevere, who press on, who are steadfast, unmoved, standing in faith and hope. The Apostle Paul exhorts the church: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58).
What was it that inspired Paul’s untiring zeal? It was the hope and promise of resurrection and reward. And so the angel reminds Daniel of this hope and promise:
12:13 “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age.”
Daniel would have been in his mid-eighties by now, nearing the completion of a lifetime of service to the Lord and to the governments of the Babylonian and Medo-Persian kings. With the Apostle Paul he could say with all sincerity, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7,8).
The angelic messenger blesses Daniel and sends him on his way to complete his years with the assurance of resurrection and reward. All of this is assured — there is a rest, there is a rising, there is a reward — an allotted portion at the end of the age. None of this can be destroyed. No earthly king nor earthly power nor demonic power can prevent that which God has decreed.
Our salvation, our rising, our reward is, as the Apostle Peter reminds us, “an inheritance imperishable and undefiled and unfading, being reserved in the heavens for you” (I Peter 1:4). The God who promises salvation and resurrection is Almighty and will uphold every promise by His sovereign power. We will rest in the presence of the Lord, we will rise to eternal life, we will be rewarded.
What is the value of this prophetic revelation in the book of Daniel? At times it is quite difficult to interpret. Much of it involves empires and kings buried in the dust of history or future events shrouded in fog. How is it relevant to our lives?
Daniel received this during a time when Israel had been destroyed as a nation, when Gentile powers were dominating Israel. This trampling of the courts of the Lord with accompanying persecution and slaughter would continue for another 2500 years, including the annihilation of Israel by the Romans in 70 AD and the terrible holocaust of the 1940s. Although Israel was reconstituted as a nation in 1948, the threats continue today and in the final days of history, there will be even greater holocaust visited upon the covenant people.
In the midst of this, God declares His sovereignty over the events of history, declares that His salvation purpose will be established. It is He, the Most High God, who established Nebuchadnezzar, humbled him and exalted him again. It is He, the Most High God, who removed Belshazzar from his throne and gave his kingdom to the Medo-Persians. It is He, the Most High God, who moved Cyrus to decree that the Jews in exile could return to their homeland and rebuild the temple.
It is He, the Most High God, who revealed to Daniel the rise and fall of empires long before their rulers were born. It is He, the Most High God, who through centuries of fire and slaughter, has preserved both Israel and His church. It is He, the Most High God, who declares the end from the beginning because He exists simultaneously before the beginning and beyond the end while meeting us in time.
This is the God who says, “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9,10).
How then shall we live? As Daniel lived — by faith in this eternal God who is present, who has no beginning and no end and yet meets us in the warfare and lies of our times, meets us with His revelation of truth. What greater truth to inspire faithful living than this: our God is present and He is Lord of kings, sovereign over thrones and governments, moving all of history toward the fulfilling of His preordained purpose.
Daniel’s life was an impactful testimony of the greatness and faithfulness of his God. His testimony was believable because he refused to be defiled, indoctrinated or conformed to the God-rejecting culture around him. He did not hide from that culture nor did he hide from his times. He exercised faithful accountability to the governments under which he served and to the Israelite people with whom he shared covenant and to the God of the covenant. He stood and lived like a candle, shining the light of holy truth, reflecting the glory of God in His generation and thereby impacting the world around him.
As the Lord said to Daniel, so He says to each of us, “Go your way. Live the life you have been given to live. Your rest, your rising and your reward are certain. As you live toward that great day, refuse defilement and be a holy witness to the presence of God in your generation.”
Jesus exhorted us, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). God grant us grace to shine.
1. Daniel is told in verse 3 that “those who have insight will shine brightly … like the stars forever and ever.” Who are they and in what way do they shine?
2. Daniel is promised rest, rising and reward. What is that? (see v. 13).
3. What is the relevance or value of this prophetic revelation to Daniel?