Dr. Richard L. Hamm

4 years ago

Does the book of Daniel that was written approximately twenty-six hundred years ago offer any significance for us today? What, if any guidance or revelation does it provide for the twenty-first century church? Does it have anything to say about critical issues facing todays culture? The book of Daniel is one of the most significant prophetic books in the Bible. Its prophecies of world-ruling empires and last day events are closely related to the book of Revelation. The last book of the Bible is indeed one of the primary places to find these prophecies, but many do not realize that the book of Daniel is an Old Testament complement to this intriguing New Testament book.

1. Purpose of the Book

Daniel is the shortest book of the Major Prophets. However, it is one of the most important writings of Old Testament prophetic literature. It is the most studied of the sixteen Major and Minor Prophets. In New Testament prophecy, Daniel is referred to more than any other Old Testament book. Moreover, it contains more fulfilled prophecies than any other book in the Bible.

J. D. Pentecost states, “The Book of Daniel is important historically. It bridges the gap between Israel’s historical books and the New Testament. It records certain events in Israel’s history in the 70-year Babylonian Captivity which are recorded nowhere else in Scripture. Daniel outlines the history of the times of the Gentiles and describes past and future empires that occupy and rule over Israel until the Messiah returns.

The prophecies in the book concerning God’s program for the Gentiles, for the land and the people of Israel, lay the foundation for His eschatological program. Some of the themes introduced in the Book of Daniel, with its emphasis on the Gentiles, are paralleled in the Book of Zechariah. And the themes introduced in these books come to their ultimate consummation in the Book of Revelation. To understand fully the culmination of God’s program revealed to the Apostle John in Revelation, it is necessary to understand the inception of His program revealed to Daniel.”

Despite decades of prophetic warnings by Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and other prophets, the nation’s rebellion and apostasy described in 2 Chronicles 36:16: “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.”

The covenant nation had been expelled from the “Promised Land” flowing with milk and honey. Jerusalem, the city gates and the temple were destroyed by fire, and the people, including Daniel was carried away and enslaved in a foreign land called Babylon.

The conclusion of the surrounding nations and perhaps many of the Jews themselves had determined that the God of the Hebrews had been discredited. Their God, Yahweh was incapable of delivering His chosen people from the mighty gods of the Assyrians. One hundred and fifty years earlier and now, the gods of Babylon had destroyed Jerusalem, Solomon’s Temple and carried the population away into captivity.

Gleason Archer, Jr states, “However, it was not because Yahweh, Jehovah God was weak or inferior that allowed these events to transpire, but to maintain His integrity as the Holy God, who carries out His Word. As God covenanted with Abraham, his descendants will occupy the land God promised them. Even though the nation must be disciplined because of her disobedience, she will be brought to repentance, confession, and restoration.”

Daniel’s writing declares the captivity, the deliverance that would come in seventy years and their return to their homeland, as well as Israel’s future deliverance and blessings that she will enjoy in the coming Millennial Age. One could conclude that the narrative in Daniel tells the story between false gods of human invention and the one true sovereign God.

2. Authorship and Date

The book of Daniel clearly identifies Daniel as the author (8:1; 9:2, 20; 10:2; 12:4). He is the author and primary character of the book that bears his name. Daniel’s name means “God is my Judge.” Jesus attributed the book to “Daniel the prophet” (Matt 24:15) when quoting from Dan 9:27. Little is known of Daniel’s family background other than he was born into the royal family and was of noble birth (Dan. 1:3, 6). Perhaps he was a descendent of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:17-18; Isa 39:6-7). To be selected for Nebuchadnezzar’s court, he would have had to be from an upper-class educated family (1:4, 17). He was physically attractive and mentally sharp (1:4). From the testimony of his contemporaries, he was known for his righteousness (Ezek. 14:14, 20) and his wisdom (Ezek. 28:3). He is mentioned in these passages with Noah and Job, who were historical people, so Daniel was also a historical person, not a fictional character. Though Daniel lived during the Babylonian exile, it was not as in the case of Ezekiel, who was in the midst of his fellow citizens who had been carried into captivity. Daniel lived in the court of the ruler of the world and in the service of nation of Babylon.

He would have been a young man, possibly a teenager when he was taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. (Dan 1:4). By his own testimony (10:1) he lived at least until the third year of Cyrus which was 536 B.C. Daniel could have lived until his late 80’s.

3. Languages

The text of Daniel is written in two languages: Hebrews was used in chapters 1, and 8-12; Aramaic in chapters 2-7. Archeology has shown that other writings of the same time share this trait. But why was the book written in two languages? And what criterion did the author follow in putting half his material in Aramaic and the other half into Hebrew? Archer states, “The Aramaic chapters deal with matters pertaining to the entire citizenry of the Babylonian and the Persian empires, whereas the other six chapters relate peculiarly Jewish concerns and God’s special plan for the future of His covenant people.”

4. New Testament Emphasis

The book of Daniel is quoted five times in the twenty-sixth edition of the Aland-Nestle Greek New Testament (pp. 766-67). Much of Daniel’s history and prophecy reappears in prophetic passages in the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation. Daniel contains many prophetic themes that are more fully developed in the NT: (1) the great tribulation and the antichrist, (2) the second advent of Jesus Christ our Lord, (3) the triumph of God’s kingdom (4) the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked, and (5) the day of judgment.

5. Conclusion

The lives of Daniel and his three friends demonstrate the NT teaching about personal separation from sin and the corruption of the world.

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