We begin our study of The Book of Daniel. What events led to the writing of The Book of Daniel? What was happening in Daniel’s world? Just like The Book of Revelation, Daniel is mainly a call to believers to overcome the trials of this world. No matter what circumstances we face, and Daniel faces some incredible ones, we have the ability to overcome and serve as faithful witnesses of God and His Kingdom.
Introduction and Historical Background
This week, very appropriately, we start the book of Daniel. It’s appropriate for a couple of different reasons. First, it ties really nicely into Revelation because Revelation talked about being an overcomer and what an overcomer is all about, that we’re supposed to overcome these fiery trials. And we learned in Revelation that these fiery trials are good. They’re not to be avoided. We want them. We should enjoy having them in our lives as difficult as they are.
They come in a couple different forms. We get these fiery trials through external circumstances. And we have them internally where we have to overcome the flesh.
So as we face our fiery trials, we’re charged to be overcomers. We’re charged to be an example of overcoming and living life the way God intended us to live it, to be an example for all those around us, do be that beacon, that light, that shining light for others and guide them to Christianity as well.
Well, we can only do this through faith and commitment.
Daniel the overcomer
So now, as we start Daniel, we get an opportunity to see a great example of all of this. Daniel did exactly what Revelation told us we should be doing in our own lives. He overcame fiery trials that were imposed on him from external circumstances and within himself, undoubtedly.
He’s a great example of how to demonstrate to others how to do life right, how to overcome fear, stay committed and live life through faith.
So when you look at Daniel and you think of this as a book of faith and overcoming, faith and commitment are the two things we’re really going to dig into today. Faith and commitment.
We’re going to spend most of the time just setting the stage for the book of Daniel. We’re going to look at where we are in history and what the political landscape looks like to get a better sense of what Daniel is actually going through.
So let’s take a look at Daniel, 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.
And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
When’s all this taking place? This is about 605 B.C.
Let’s look at where we are biblically. When we think about how the Bible’s structured. 2000 B.C. and before, we’re looking at the book of Genesis. 1500-2000, we’re at the time of Moses: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Then from 1000-1500, we’ve got the monarchic period with kings: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Chronicles, all of those.
And then a couple of key dates in the history of Israel after that is 722, which is the Assyrian captivity, and several books center around that.
And then here we are in 605 to 586 time period where Nebuchadnezzar is the king of Babylon, and we’re going into the Babylonian captivity.
So we have the southern kingdom of Judah, and it’s besieged by the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. There’s a bunch of captives and articles taken from the temple, taken back to Babylon. All of this is done as part of God’s plan, though. This was all foretold by the prophets, specifically, by Jeremiah.
The Babylon captivity is foretold by Jeremiah
So we’re going to look really closely at Jeremiah today and how this was all prophesied to come to pass. Let’s look at Jeremiah 7:1. The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
“Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the Lord!’”
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Amend your ways and your doings, and I will cause you to dwell in this place.
“Do not trust in these lying words, saying, ‘The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these.’
“For if you thoroughly amend your ways and your doings, if you thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor,
If you do not oppress the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place, or walk after other gods to your hurt,
“then I will cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers forever and ever.
“Behold, you trust in lying words that cannot profit.
“Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, burn incense to Baal, and walk after other gods whom you do not know,
“And then come and stand before Me in this house which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered to do all these abominations’?
“Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of thieves in your eyes? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,” says the Lord.
“But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My name at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel.
“And now, because you have done all these works,” says the Lord, “and I spoke to you, rising up early and speaking, but you did not hear, and I called you, but you did not answer,
“Therefore I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to this place which I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh.
“And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brethren—the whole posterity of Ephraim.
So God’s speaking to Jeremiah, and he’s telling him to tell the people that they’re sinning. They know it. But he’s telling them they’re worshipping other gods, and they come into the temple to worship him too. They’re murdering then coming to worship him. They’re being false to God and false to themselves.
God’s telling them that if they don’t straighten up, he’ll do to them what he’s done to Shiloh.
So Shiloh was the main center of Israelite worship prior to the monarchic period. Today it’s located within the West Bank. People would travel from all over Israel to worship there because that is where the tent or the tabernacle was set up with the Ark of the Covenant.
We had this very important location that is now in ruins at this time, even at the time of Jeremiah. There’s nothing left of it.
So all the people understand exactly what Jeremiah’s talking about when he’s talking about this place called Shiloh. If they don’t straighten up, God’s going to make everything around them turn into ruins.
God’s anger at Judah’s sin
So back to Jeremiah, verse 16. “Therefore do not pray for this people, nor life up a cry or a prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you.
“Do you not see what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
“Do they provoke Me to anger?” says the Lord. “Do they not provoke themselves, to the shame of their own faces?”
Therefore thus says the Lord God: “Behold, My anger and My fury will be poured out on this place—on man and on beast, on the trees of the field and on the fruit of the ground. And it will burn and not be quenched.”
I think what we can take from this is that God’s not too happy with Judah. In fact, the first ten chapters of Jeremiah are all talking about this prophecy and what God’s going to do to the people if they don’t quit sinning, if they don’t turn back to him. How he’s going to destroy them if they don’t start doing life right.
Can you imagine being Jeremiah at this point? Just think how bad that must have felt! You have the God of the universe completely disappointed in you and all the people around you, and you get to hear all this from him, straight from his mouth.
Have you ever had somebody you really respect, somebody who you really look up to, and they’re disappointed in you, and you have to get the earful? Well, think how Jeremiah must have felt though all of this when it’s actually God, the God of the universe. The God that he loves is disappointed in him and his people.
Now we’re going to see what he prophesies about. All this is happening. Now he’s going to tell them what’s going to be the result.
They haven’t listened for 23 years
So in Jeremiah 25, The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah (which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon),
Which Jeremiah the prophet spoke to all the people of Judah and to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem saying,
“From the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, King of Judah, even to this day, this is the twenty-third year in which the word of the Lord has come to me; and I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, but you have not listened.
“And the Lord has sent to you all His servants the prophets rising early and sending them, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear.
So since God talked to Jeremiah, he’s been preaching and prophesying at the temple, telling people to turn back to God for 23 years, and they still haven’t listened. He’s telling them to stop their wicked ways, and they refuse to listen. Twenty three years of this!
Verse 5 goes on, “They said, ‘Repent now everyone of his evil way and his evil doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord has given to you and your fathers forever and ever.
Do not go after other gods to serve them and worship them, and do not provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands; and I will not harm you.’
“Yet you have not listened to Me,” says the Lord, “that you might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt.
“Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Because you have not heard My words,
‘behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,’ says the Lord, ‘and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant, and will bring them against this land, against its inhabitants, and against these nations all around, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, a hissing, and perpetual desolations.
‘Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones and the light of the lamp.
‘And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
‘Then it will come to pass, when seventy years are completed, that I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity,’ says the Lord; ‘and I will make it a perpetual desolation.
‘So I will bring on that land all My words which I have pronounced against it, all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah has prophesied concerning all the nations.
‘(For many nations and great kings shall be served by them also; and I will repay them according to their deeds and according to the works of their own hands.)’”
Here we are in 605 B.C. where Nebuchadnezzar, interestingly enough, it says “my servant Nebuchadnezzar,” a pagan king from a pagan kingdom is a servant of the Lord. The Lord is going to use Nebuchadnezzar to make all of this happen.
So 605, the Lord’s servant, Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon has taken over Judah and has taken many of the tributes.
So they attacked. This actually happened three times. Nebuchadnezzar comes against Judah or against Israel. In 605 where we’re at right now. And then he does so again eight years later in 597. And again 11 years later in 586 B.C.
It’s during this time Nebuchadnezzar is coming in and surrounds the city, and he’s taking tributes. He’s taking people back to Babylon. So again, God’s using Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan king from a pagan kingdom to carry out his will with Judah.
About Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon
Nebuchadnezzar, to get an idea who this guy was, he was a Chaldean king of the neo-Babylon empire who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C. Forty three years. Pretty good run in that particular time period when people were being deposed quite regularly.
He was a pretty successful king, though. He not only helped defeat the Assyrians, who had the Israelites in captivity before the Babylonians, he took Babylon, turned Babylon into one of the greatest cities in the world at the time.
Babylon itself rests on the Euphrates River where it became one of the centers of commerce and engineering and scientific advancement in the world the entire time.
So Nebuchadnezzar was bringing people from all over these captured lands as he continued to conquer them and keeping the best and the brightest to serve his empire.
He is credited with creating the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. According to legend, Nebuchadnezzar built the Hanging Gardens for his Median wife, Queen Amytis because she missed the green hills and valleys of her homeland. So there you guys go for your next anniversary. You have to live up to that.
He also built the grand palace that became known as The Marvel of Mankind. He also made Babylon almost impregnable from attack. The walls were over 50-feet tall and really thick. The Euphrates river ran through the city, so they had a water source should they be besieged. They were very safe from any kind of attack.
But we’ll see later in Daniel that there was a way to attack the city, and this city would actually fall.
The city itself had over 200,000 people in it at the time. This was the first city in the history of the world to reach 200,000 people.
So we have a great pagan king who’s doing amazing things in Babylon, lays siege to Jerusalem, and we saw that the people of Judah were given very clear expectations for their behavior from God, and now they’ve violated those expectations, so they’re going to suffer the consequences for the next 70 years. All this has been prophesied by Jeremiah.
Daniel and Friends
Let’s go back to the book of Daniel, Daniel 1:3. Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles,
Young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had the ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.
Here we have Daniel and his friends in captivity. They’re specially selected to serve the king. They’re going to go through this three years of training because they’re the cream of the crop of the thousands of Israelites that have been taken as tributes or as captives.
They’re good looking and gifted with wisdom and the ability to learn quickly. They’re to serve in the king’s palace and be taught the language and the literature of the Chaldeans.
They’re even renamed. So Daniel whose name means God is my judge, he’s renamed Belteshazzar, which is servant of Baal. Hananiah means the Lord is gracious is renamed Shadrach, inspired by the sun god. Mishael which means “Who is what God is?” is renamed Meshach, which means “Who is what the moon god is?” And finally Azariah, the Lord helps, is renamed Abed-Nego, servant of Nebo.
How would these young men react to all this? Will they submit to the temptations placed on them? Will they give in, excusing themselves through youth and inexperience? How would you have reacted in their place being put in a situation like that?
Daniel makes a decision not to defile himself
Well, let’s see what they did. Let’s look at Daniel 1:8. But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Daniel makes a decision. He makes a choice. When things get tough from temptation, he did not give up. He did not give in. He stayed committed through faith. He kept going. He purposed his heart. He chose. He didn’t give in. He made a commitment and he stuck to it. Something that’s rarely heard of today, in both young and old.
His commitment was not to defile himself with the king’s food possibly because the king’s food was something against the Leviticus what you can and can’t eat. Maybe it was used as part of a sacrifice to one of the pagan gods, so he wouldn’t want to eat it after that. But he chose not to do that for whatever the reason was. If it was used in idol worship, he didn’t want anything to do with it. He didn’t want to participate in that.