Book of Daniel - Introduction
I. Introduction - the Book of Daniel was compiled shortly circa 164 BCE, following the Maccabean Revolt. There are two parts - Chapters 1-6, which we’ll consider today, and Chapters 7-12, apocalyptic visions in the future, extending from Babylonian rule to Persian.
Correspondence with actual history is mostly flawed in the details, but with some interesting links. Chapters 7-12 correspond with the vicious period of Antiochus’ persecution of the Jews, and the whole of the book is dated around the rededication of the Temple in December of 164 BCE.
Book of Daniel - Key Ideas
A. Originated as Aramaic court tales.
B. Daniel had the reputation as a wise seer in the Hebrew tradition. Ezekiel, who lived during the exile, mentions him in association with Noah and Job. He may have been one of the exiles.
C. Excluded from the canon of Prophets, which likely was closed out around 200 BC, and was put finally in Writings.
D. We see concepts of immortality and resurrection here. End-of-time concepts appear. Apocalyptic spirit was awakened by moments of national and cultural crisis. It’s influential in formation of Christianity and Islam.
E. Grounded in belief that God is master of human history, that he knows the future and will reveal its secrets to chosen ones, and that under His rule, the kingdom of His holy people will ultimately supplant the pagan empires of the world.
F. Was this a sort of pacifistic manifesto of the Hasidim to encourage the faithful to remain steadfast? The book was probably not written by people sympathetic with the warlike approach of the Maccabees.
Those who were Hellenized aren’t considered favorably here or in Maccabees.
G. Frequent use of the term, son of man, suggests faithful Israelites to be rewarded for steadfastness in the face of persecution and martyrdom, to come into divine presence to receive everlasting dominion in holiness, nobility, and grandeur, replacing vile pagan kingdoms.
H. Book of Daniel Questions: What is the meaning of the human enterprise? What sense do we make of evil and suffering? If God is just and all-powerful, why is He silent/inactive when people suffer? What’s after death? When is retribution for wrongdoing? Does God care, and when?
Book of Daniel Chapter 1 - Begins in 606 BC when Nebuchadnezzar takes people of Judah into exile - including Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
Others are put in service of king, but these men refuse to defile themselves. They fare well despite deprivation, and God gives them great knowledge and skill.
Book of Daniel Chapter 2 - Nebuchadnezzar has a dream experts cannot explain. All experts, including Daniel, are set to die. Daniel prays and God gives him understanding: King saw colossal statue symbolizing 4 successive pagan kingdoms - Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek. A stone symbolizing People of God, was cut from mountain without human effort and crushes statue. King acknowledges God and appoints Daniel and others to high rank.
Book of Daniel Chapter 3 - King sets up giant golden idol and orders all to worship it. D and companions do not.
They’re sentenced to a furnace to be burned. Daniel is not in story at this time. They’re accompanied by a 4th being (perhaps Divine) and are not harmed. N blesses God of Israel and grants the three a promotion.
Book of Daniel Chapter 4 - N’s autobiography. As to dream, he says Daniel told him he was the tree, arrogant and insane for 7 years. But his sanity and rule would be restored because of repentance and conversion. N offers a hymn of praise to King of heaven.
Book of Daniel Chapter 5 - This is a narrative of Belshazzar’s banquet. King brings in wine vessels N, his father, brought from Jerusalem Temple. Crowd drinks in praise of false gods. A mysterious hand inscribes 3 words on the wall. Daniel is brought in and reads the words, Mene (king’s days are numbered), Teqel (the king has been weighed and been found wanting, and Peres, the kingdom has been divided up.
Daniel is rewarded with honors, but that night the king is killed, and Darius the Mede replaces him.
Book of Daniel Chapter 6 - Daniel's fellow ministers are jealous, plot his downfall, and induce Darius to forbid petitioning anyone but king for a period of time. Still, D prays to God. The bad guys catch him and press the king to cast D into a lions’ den. The next day D is found safe. The king orders all betrayers and families into the lions’ den where they are torn to pieces. The king orders all to worship the God of D. D prospers in the reigns of Darius and Cyrus.
Book of Daniel - Part One - Study Guide -Lesson 1
I. Introduction and Background
II. Text to Study
A. Read 1:1-2.
1 In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it.
2 The Lord delivered King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power, together 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; he deposited the vessels in the treasury of his god.
This is crucial. What do we learn?
B. Read 1:3-8, 17.
Daniel 1:3-8, 17
3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some Israelites of royal descent and of the nobility - 4 youths without blemish, handsome, proficient in all wisdom, knowledgeable and intelligent, and capable of serving in the royal palace - and teach them the writings and the language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king allotted daily rations to them from the king’s food and from the wine he drank. They were to be educated for three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s service. 6 Among them were the Judahites Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael,, and Azariah. 7 The chief officer gave them new names; he named Daniel Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Mishael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego. 8 Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or the wine he drank, so he sought permission of the chief officer not to defile himself,
17 God made all four of these young men intelligent and proficient in all writings and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding of visions and dreams of all kinds.
What was the king seeking in these children? Why? What does Daniel show by not eating of the king’s diet? What do we learn in verse 17?
C. Read 2:17-23.
Daniel 2: 17-23
17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, of the matter, 18 that they might implore the God of Heaven for help regarding this mystery, so that Daniel and his colleagues would not be put to death together with the other wise men of Babylon. 19 The mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision; then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel spoke up and said: “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power are His. 21 He changes times and seasons, removes kings and installs kings; He gives the wise their wisdom and knowledge to those who know. 22 He reveals deep and hidden things, knows what is in the darkness and light dwells with Him. 23 I acknowledge and praise You, O God of my fathers, You who have given me wisdom and power, for now You have let me know what we asked of You; You have let us know what concerns the king.”
This is an interesting passage about reliance on God. Explain.
D. Read 4:7-14, and 16-25.
This is Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation. What do you make of these incredible verses?
Daniel 4: 7-14
7 In the visions of my mind in bed I saw a tree of great height in the midst of the earth; 8 The tree grew and became mighty; its top reached heaven, and it was visible to the ends of the earth. 9 Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant; There was food for all in it. Beneath it the beasts of the field found shade, and the birds of the sky dwelt on its branches; all creatures fed on it. 10 In the vision of my mind in bed, I looked and saw a holy Watcher coming down from heaven. 11 He called loudly and said: ‘Hew down the tree, lop off its branches, strip off its foliage, scatter its fruit. Let the beasts of the field flee from beneath it and the birds from the branches, 12 but leave the stump with its roots in the ground. In fetters of iron and bronze in the grass of the field, let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and share earth’s verdure with the beasts. 13 Let his mind be altered from that of a man and let him be given the mind of a beast and let seven seasons pass over him. 14 This sentence is decreed by the Watchers; this verdict is commanded by the Holy Ones so that all creatures may know that the Most High is sovereign over the realm of man, and He gives it to whom He wishes and He may set over it even the lowest of men.’
Daniel 4: 16-25
16 Then Daniel, called Belteshazzar, was perplexed for a while, and alarmed by his thoughts. The king addressed him, “Let the dream and its meaning not alarm you,” Belteshazzar replied, “My lord, would that the dream were for your enemy an its meaning for your foe ! 17 The tree that you saw grow and become mighty, whose top reached heaven, which was visible throughout the earth, 18 whose foliage was beautiful, whose fruit was so abundant that there was food for all in it, beneath which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged - 19 it is you, O king, you who have grown and become mighty, whose greatness has grown to reach heaven, and whose dominion is to the end of the earth. 20 The holy Watcher who the king saw descend from heaven and say, Hew down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump with its roots in the ground. In fetters of iron and bronze in the grass of the field, let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and share the lot of the beasts of the field until seven seasons pass over him - 21 this is its meaning, O king, it is the decree of the Most High which has overtaken my lord the king. 22 You will be driven away from men and have your habitation with the beasts of the field. You will be fed grass like cattle, and be drenched with the dew of heaven’ seven seasons will pass over you until you come to know that the Most High is sovereign over the realm of man, and He gives it to whom He wishes. 23 And the meaning of the command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots is that the kingdom will remain yours from the time you come to know that Heaven is sovereign. 24 Therefore, O king, may my advice be acceptable to you: Redeem your sins by beneficence and your iniquities by generosity to the poor; then your serenity may be extended.” 25 All this befell King Nebuchadnezzar.
E. Chapter 5 – This concerns a great feast of Belshazzar, perhaps Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson.
This feast may have begun during a victory celebration but is ultimately seen as a severe setback. There’s reference to vessels taken from the Temple. It should be remembered that Babylonian kings had not used these because of a fear that a prophecy of the Jews’ return might eventuate. When desecrated (as in the Temple of the later, Seleucid period), the hand appears!
Read 5:5-6, 10-12, and 18-30.
Daniel 5: 5-6
5 Just then, the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace opposite the lampstand, so that the king could see the hand as it wrote. 6 The king’s face darkened, and his thoughts alarmed him; the joints of his loins were loosened, and his knees knocked together.
Daniel 5: 10-12
10 Because of the state of the king and his nobles, the queen came to the banquet hall. The queen spoke up and said, “O king, live forever! Let your thoughts not alarm you or your face darken. 11 There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him; in your father’s time, illumination, understanding, and wisdom like that of the gods were to be found in him, and your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, exorcists, Chaldeans, and diviners. 12 Seeing that there is to be found in Daniel (whom the king called Belteshazzar) extraordinary spirit, knowledge, and understanding to interpret dreams, to explain riddles and solve problems, let Daniel now be called to tell the meaning (of the writing).”
Daniel 5: 18-30
18 O king the most High God bestowed kingship, grandeur, glory and majesty upon your father Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And because of the grandeur that He bestowed upon him, all the peoples and nations of every language trembled in fear of him. He put to death whom he wished, and whom he wished he let live; he raised high whom he wished and whom he wished he brought low. 20 But when he grew haughty and willfully presumptuous, he was deposed from his royal throne and his glory was removed from him. 21 He was driven away from men, and his mind made like that of a beast, and his habitation was with wild asses. He was fed grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until he came to know that the Most High God is sovereign over the realm of man, and sets over it whom He wishes. 22 But you Belshazzar his son, did not humble yourself although you knew all this. 23 You exalted yourself against the Lord of Heaven and had the vessels of His temple brought to you. You and your nobles, your consorts, and your concubines drank wine from them and praised the gods of silver and gold, bronze and iron wood and stone, which do not see, hear, or understand; but the God who controls your life breath and every move you make---Him you did not glorify! 24 He therefore made the hand appear and caused the writing to be inscribed. 25 This is the writing that is inscribed: MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN. 26 And this is its meaning: MENE – God has numbered (the days of) your kingdom and brought it to an end; 27 TEKEL—you have been weighed in the balance and found wanting; 28 PERES – your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and the Persians.” 29 Then, at Belshazzar’s command, the clothed Daniel in purple, placed a golden chain on his neck, and proclaimed that he should rule as one of three in the kingdom. 30 That very night, Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was killed and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.
What does this story teach?
III. Conclusion and Takeaways