The story of Daniel and his friends is a call to our generation to be courageous; not to lose our nerve and allow the expression of our faith to be diluted and squeezed out of the public space and thus rendered spineless and ineffective. Their story will also tell us that this objective is not likely to be achieved without cost. What makes the story of their faith remarkable is that they did not simply continue the private devotion to God that they had developed in their homeland; they maintained a high-profile public witness in a pluralistic society that became increasingly antagonistic to their faith. At a conference at the Salk Institute of Biological Sciences, in 1994, Nobel prize winner Steven Weinberg suggested that the best contribution that scientists could make in this generation was the complete elimination of religion. Society tolerates the practice of the Christian faith in private devotions and in church services, but it increasingly condemns public witness. To the relativist and secularist, public witness to faith in God smacks too much of fundamentalist extremism. They therefore regard it more and more as a threat to social stability and human freedom. CHAPTER ONE The tiny nation of Judah was located at a crossroad in the ancient Middle East where the interests of great nations frequently clashed, so it lived under constant threat of invasion. The region had been dominated by Assyria for some 50 years before Daniel was born. In the days of Hezekiah, one of the better kings of Judah, the Assyrian emperor Sennacherib marched on Judah in 701 BC. As Byron put it (“The Destruction of Sennacherib”): “The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold.” The sheep prepared themselves for a holocaust. Suddenly and unexpectedly Sennacherib withdrew, and Jerusalem was temporarily spared. Eventually the great Assyrian capital city of Nineveh fell in 612 BC to the Babylonian and Mede armies, who subsequently continued the tradition of threatening to snuff Judah out completely. As part of his policy for dealing with conquered nations, Nebuchadnezzar took the best of their young men to Babylon in order to have them trained to serve in his administration. Daniel and his friends were judged to be suitable material for that training, and so they were taken from their families, society, and culture, and transported to a strange and unfamiliar land many miles away. They had to cope not only with the emotional trauma of forcible removal from their parents, but also with the sheer strangeness of their new surroundings – new language, new customs, new political system, new laws, new education system, new beliefs. It must have been overwhelming. Daniel’s explanation of how they did finally adjust is the fruit of a lifetime’s reflection on the key events that shaped his life and made him what he was. He starts his book with a brief description of what was for him the momentous siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar and his subsequent deportation to Babylon on the Euphrates.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (605 BC), Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, 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 placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4 youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king's palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king. 6 Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. (Daniel 1:1-6) Daniel chooses to start with the events of the year 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar turned his military attention to Jerusalem at the edge of his empire. Its rebelliousness chafed the emperor and so he laid siege to it. Given the sheer military power involved, the outcome was a foregone conclusion. The city was taken, the king of Judah became a puppet ruler, and the first wave of deportations to Babylon began. Jerusalem itself survived at that time, until Nebuchadnezzar eventually destroyed it in 586 BC. These events are documented in more detail in the ancient stone tablets known as the Babylonian Chronicles. Why Does God Allow . . .? The big question for someone with Danielâ€™s background was: why had God allowed such a thing to happen? After all, was not his nation a special nation? Was it not the nation of Moses, who had been given the law directly by God? Was it not the nation that that same Moses had led out of the slave labor camps of Egypt and brought to the land that God had promised them as an inheritance? If God is real, how could a pagan emperor like Nebuchadnezzar violate the sanctity of Godâ€™s unique temple and get away with it? The first thing that Daniel says about God in his book is that God is involved in human history: a statement of immense import, if it is true. Daniel is not content to inform us of what happened; he is much more interested in why it happened. He is interpreting history. To assert that there is a God behind history is to fly in the face of the prevailing wind of secularism, and therefore to invite pity, if not ridicule â€“ certainly in a university environment.
Not long before Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem, Jeremiah had given a direct warning of precisely what would happen, and why (Jeremiah 22:3-9). Judah did not listen, and the morally inevitable happened. Daniel draws attention to it in the opening statement of his book, where he records that Nebuchadnezzar besieged the city, and the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand. That bit of history made sense when analyzed from a moral perspective in the light of God’s warnings. The punishment fitted the crime. The nation had compromised with immorality, injustice and idolatry, and so it would be taken into captivity by the most idolatrous nation on earth. But why should these righteous young men (or we) have to suffer for other people’s actions? After all, they were normal young people, full of energy and ambition; yet already in their hearts they were determined to try to follow God. In the end Daniel and his friends came to understand that God is interested not only in global history but also in the personal history of those who are often innocently caught up in its tragic aftermath. You know the stories, but we’ll be reading how God protected and even prospered His faithful saints in the middle of tragic and perilous times for the Jewish people. Beginning right here in the first chapter, “Daniel resolved not to defile himself” (Daniel 1:8) and God honored that: “God caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (Daniel 1:9). Were days always full of fun and joy for Daniel and his friends? Not at all. Just like in all our lives there are times of grief and time of joy. Times when we struggle to get through and times we relax a little. But overall, God always takes care of His faithful servants. In addition to the warnings, Jeremiah relayed this message from God, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). For most these words would be difficult to cling to in hope when facing cataclysmic events. But that’s the difference in Daniel and his friends. They knew the promise of God spoken through Jeremiah’s prophecies, and they believed it fully. He saw harm from God’s perspective, as Peter described, “Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled” (1 Peter 3:13–14). The final words Daniel penned were from an angel, “But go your way till the end, and you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13). Although he lived in this world, he did not live for it. It was in another world that he invested his life, and it is there that he now enjoys his inheritance. CHAPTER TWO
The Integrity of God’s Word One attack of atheists is that the Bible cannot be believed. Daniel, they once said, cannot be true because there is no written history to confirm it. But we know archaeology now confirms that Babylon did exist and Nebuchadnezzar was one of its kings. Nebuchadnezzar is explicitly mentioned in each of the first five chapters of the book of Daniel. Chapter 4 is actually written by him and describes how he came to faith in Daniel’s God. In the first chapter Nebuchadnezzar is learning that Daniel and his friends are far ahead of their peers intellectually, but does not yet know why. That is about to change, because Nebuchadnezzar is going to discover that a source of knowledge exists to which even his brightest and most experienced experts have no access. Chapter 2 addresses the question: is there any such thing as revelation? That has become the big question of our time. The latest (08/24/2016) Pew Research findings indicate that faith-based religions like Christianity are continuing to lose followers to the religion of the day, scientism, which is arguing that there is no evidence to support faith-based religions and Christianity in particular. This not only calls into question the validity of Scripture, but casts a cloud of doubt over revelations found there. Ironically, to the scientist, it is impossible that the revelations found in Daniel could have been written in 500-650 BC because they are too accurate. But there is an increasing amount of archeological evidence substantiating the historical accounts of the Bible.
Take for instance the “Nebo-Sarsekim Tablet”, which is only about 2” by 3”, found just outside of Bagdad, Iraq. Deciphered in 2007, it tells of Nebo-Sarsekim giving 1.7 lbs of gold to a temple in Babylon during the 10th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (c.595 BC). This confirms Jeremiah 39:3 which lists Nebo-Sarsekim as a chief officer of Nebuchadnezzar in the siege of Jerusalem. What must it have been like as Nebuchadnezzar’s armies besieged Jerusalem? Jeremiah tells us this final assault lasted nearly two years. Two years where the city was surrounded and completely cut off from the outside. Jeremiah wrote Lamentations while grieving over the horrors he witnessed during this time. “How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; she has none to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her; they have become her enemies. The roads to Zion mourn, for none come to the festival; all her gates are desolate; her priests groan; All her people groan as they search for bread; they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength. Lift your hands to Him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street. Look, O Lord, and see! With whom have you dealt thus? Should women eat the fruit of their womb, the children of their tender care? Should priest and prophet be killed in the sanctuary of the Lord? In the dust of the streets lie the young and the old; my young women and my young men have fallen by the sword; you have killed them in the day of your anger, slaughtering without pity.” Daniel lived to see the end of the Babylonian empire and its replacement by the Medo-Persian empire. After Daniel’s time that empire was in turn succeeded by the vast Greek empire of Alexander the Great. After Alexander’s death his empire was split among four of his generals. Daniel outlines this and the subsequent history of the Hellenistic period in the last section of his book, particularly in chapter 11. Although he does not name names, he gives a great number of accurate details of the complex relationships between the northern kingdom of the Seleucids and the southern kingdom of the Ptolemies. He then concentrates on the activities of one Seleucid emperor who is easily recognizable as Antiochus IV “Epiphanes”. By comparing what Daniel said with later historical records of the Hellenistic period, it is not hard to see that Daniel got the details right. But then comes the crunch. Some scholars argue that there was absolutely no way the author of the book of Daniel could have known such twists and turns of historical detail, unless he had lived after the events he records. Therefore, the book must have been written – or completed – no earlier than the second century BC. The detail given in the text is just not the kind of information that he could have guessed, however brilliant he was. And, as these scholars deny revelation, there was no other possible source of information. They do not believe that any source of knowledge exists that could accurately supply details of the course of world events in advance. Scientism isn’t the first to propose this line of reasoning. No less than the emperor of Babylon thought of it long ago; and it is considered in the first part of Daniel 2. The story goes like this. Daniel and his friends were not long into their careers in the Babylonian civil service when something very dramatic occurred. At first it looked as if it might lead to their execution, though it actually ended with them all being catapulted into the public eye and receiving unprecedented promotion to very high office. It started with a dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. Like any ancient oriental he took his dreams very seriously and he employed a special team of experts, mainly from the Imperial Institute of Futurology in the university, to interpret them for him. They were his think-tank: his political, economic, social, and religious forecasters. He was normally quite satisfied with their explanations. After all, it was not for nothing that they were trained in diplomacy, an essential discipline when you work in an absolute monarchy where your emperor does precisely what he wants. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death … those he wanted to promote, he promoted (Daniel 5:19). These men were understandably skilled at giving him what he wanted. This time it was very different. These advisors passionately believed in the power of the human mind to study historical movements, economic developments, and cultural shifts in order to be able to give some sort of advice to the emperor regarding the future. They were the brightest men that Nebuchadnezzar had; and of course they were
prepared to have a go at interpreting the emperor’s dream. All he had to do was to tell them what the dream was. “No,” said the emperor, “I will not tell you the dream. I expect you to tell me the dream and to interpret it.” They were stunned. He was not going to give them the data. Nothing like it had ever happened before. Nebuchadnezzar’s top Babylonian advisors did not believe there was such a thing as revelation. Their views were no different in essence from the views of scholars who think that Daniel could not have written his book in the sixth century BC because he could not have had access then to information about events that had not yet occurred. The story of Nebuchadnezzar and his dream also raises the question of the relationship between reason and revelation. Atheist thinkers often pit these against each other, as if revelation was anti-reason. Daniel’s story here shows that this is false. Reason and revelation are not even in the same category. Think of it on the human level first of all. The Babylonian advisors were prepared to use their reason on any data presented to them. Their problem was that Nebuchadnezzar was not prepared to reveal to them what he had dreamed. If he had been prepared to reveal it to them they would not have abandoned their reason; but they would have used it on the new data (the content of the dream as revealed to them by Nebuchadnezzar) in order to try to interpret it. In the very nature of the situation, however, their unaided reason could not produce that data. Only revelation by the emperor could do that. But Daniel believed that there was a God who knew not only the content of the dream but its meaning. He also believed that, if he so desired, God could reveal that information to him. So now the story advances the concept of revelation one level deeper. It is not human revelation now, but divine. However, the same principle applies. When God revealed the matter to Daniel this did not suspend his use of reason. Daniel had to use his reason to understand the words God said to him, and to formulate his response to Nebuchadnezzar. In turn the emperor had to use his reason to grasp that Daniel not only knew the content of the dream, but that his interpretation made sense. It is possible that when the sceptics say that reason and revelation are opposed to each other, what they actually mean is that there is no reason to believe in revelation. Our study reveals otherwise. When Daniel related the content of the dream to Nebuchadnezzar in all of its detail, Nebuchadnezzar had all the evidence he needed to believe in revelation. That belief was warranted, since there was no way, apart from divine revelation, that Daniel could have known what thoughts had gone through the king’s mind while he dreamed. Nebuchadnezzar now had strong reason to take seriously the claim that God had given Daniel the interpretation. But that did not mean that Nebuchadnezzar would be uncritical – he would also use his reason to see if the interpretation made sense. And so can we, since we have the whole account. Notice that our story gets to the essence of one important aspect of biblical prophecy. The apostle Peter, writing to Christians toward the end of his life (2 Peter 1:14), stresses that there is another world apart from this one: there is a real eternal dimension. Peter recalls the momentous experience he had when, along with James and John, he witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus on a mountain in Galilee. That experience convinced Peter of the fact that this is not the only world. There is a “higher” realm, just as real as this one, where Christ is not despised but he is the kingly source of light and power. The implications are clear: life invested for Christ is not a waste, as some may think. Peter knew, of course, that he was uniquely privileged to have been with Christ on that occasion. What about the vast majority of Christ’s disciples, who were not there? How could they – how can we – be convinced that Christ’s eternal kingdom is no delusion? Peter’s answer is framed in terms of the nature and purpose of prophecy: And we have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:19-21). The prophets claimed supernatural inspiration for their predictions that the Messiah would come – they claimed to be speaking the words of God.
The supernatural origin of biblical prophecy
In other words, the fulfilment of (supernatural) prophecy lies at the heart of what Christianity is. To claim to be a Christian and not to take it seriously is a contradiction in terms. Clearly the interpretation of prophecy is an area fraught with potential difficulty, but we should not allow that to detract us from seeing that Christianity is thoroughly embedded in history and prophecy. Many of its central events, including the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, were the subject of predictions made centuries earlier. In fact, Christ was crucified for claiming to be the Son of Man (Matthew 26: 64), predicted by Daniel, who would one day come on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13). He also told them frequently that he would be rejected by the religious leaders of his day, be crucified, and subsequently he would rise from the dead (see, for example, Matthew 16: 21). These predictions and their fulfilment are part of the evidence that Jesus is the Son of God. Atheist Richard Dawkins’ view is that we have a simple choice. Either we believe in miracles (and things like biblical prophecy), or we believe in the scientific understanding of the laws of nature, but not both. However, his statement is false – inexcusably so. Their naturalism is still a minority view – even among philosophers. There are many more scientists in the twenty-first century, who wholeheartedly believe in the resurrection of Jesus without reservation. CHAPTER THREE King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its breadth six cubits. He set it up on the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent to gather the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces to come to the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 3 Then the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the justices, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. And they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. 4 And the herald proclaimed aloud, “You are commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.” Daniel 3:1-6 It is an all too familiar scenario, as history repeatedly testifies – the attempt to harness religion in the interests of the totalitarian state, by making the state an object of worship. After being told his future, Nebuchadnezzar moves to ensure his kingdom and legacy remain intact. No doubt inspired by his dream, the king believes he can alter God’s future plans by cracking down on dissidents and building a towering 90 foot statue, not with a gold head only, but entirely of gold. He is insisting his gods are superior to the God of Israel and demonstrates it with forced worship of his statue. His belief is that he will consolidate his power and guarantee not only his legacy, but that he would be remembered forever as the most powerful king of all time.
What Idols Do the Government Set Before Us?
Though we are not in danger of the same atrocities as Daniel and his friends, we are witnessing much the same as far as legacy building and supplanting God with the religion of state – the federal government with the President holding unquestionable authority over all. President Obama’s January 28th, 2014 speech declaring “The debate is over, global warming is a fact of science”, was made not because global warming is a scientific fact, but because HE said so. (Let’s not forget these same scientists declared in 1970 that global cooling was a scientific fact that would bring on a new ice age by the year 2000). Like other members of the cult called science, the president even presumed to impose his supreme will over that of the Church and Bible: “If people find that (government mandated same-sex marriage) controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans," (Barak Hussein Obama, U.S. President 2008-2016). What the president has demoted to
obscure and thus without importance, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised," wrote St. Paul. "Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion" (Romans 1:25-26). Since Obama and his Supreme Court have declared the Bible obscure and LGBT “rights” superior, hundreds have been persecuted for disagreeing. Formerly protected rights of free speech and religious freedom have been replaced with only those words and religious practices approved by the federal government. There have not been any fiery furnaces erected as yet, but before Daniel and his friends faced a furnace of fire or a lion’s den, they were persecuted for their rejection of the state gods. In just a few examples, this past June (2016) a 30-year “model employee” was fired from his job at SPX Technology in Rochester, NY when a gay couple complained that he refused to look at their wedding pictures. When company officials asked about his support for gay marriage, Charles Rhodes answered honestly saying he could not go against God and the Bible. He was immediately fired. A University of Toledo teacher was suspended when she questioned whether homosexuals could be victims of civil rights violations. Crystal Dixon, a black woman, questioned the local paper when they wrote that gay civil rights were being trampled upon. Her comment was only that they should not be placed in the same category as what blacks had endured. Dr. Frank Turek was fired from the boards of CISCO and Bank of America after publishing the book “Correct, Not Politically Correct”. Had he condemned or criticized any “gay” person? Not at all. His book simply pointed out some of the social concerns associated with same-sex marriage. In the name of ‘equality’ Christianity is being systematically subjugated to naturalistic doctrine. Though we in the United States are not suffering the same persecutions as the Jews under Nebuchadnezzar, make no mistake, we are heading that direction. Ironically, those who deny prophecy the strongest are fulfilling it the most. A conference at the Salk Institute for Biological Sciences in La Jolla, California in 2006 discussed the theme: ‘Beyond belief: science, religion, reason and survival.’ Addressing the question whether science should do away with religion, Nobel winning theoretical physicist Steven Weinberg said: ‘The world needs to wake up from the long nightmare of religion… Anything we scientists can do to weaken the hold of religion should be done, and may in fact be our greatest contribution to civilization.’ Not surprisingly, evolutionary physicist and New Atheism’s most prominent spokesman, Richard Dawkins went even further saying, ‘I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion.’ There are five basic questions humanity asks. 1. Who are we? (Identity) 2. What does our future hold? (Destiny) 3. Why are we here? (Meaning) 4. Where did we come from? (Origins) 5. How should we live? (Morality) Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego knew the answers to these questions. They knew they were created by God in a universe made by Him. They knew their purpose was to know and to serve God. They knew they were to live justly and humbly before God and keep His commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13). They knew they were bound for a greater, eternal Kingdom. Therefore, they had no shadow of hesitation when they answered the King’s threats, “be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Daniel 3:18). Jesus told us the meaning of life. “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3)
What Idols are you tempted to put above God?
The greatest idol the world serves today are money and sex. Almost every law being passed today regulates either money or sex. Every claim to so called civil rights relates to an individual’s right to be given more money or to have sex without restrictions consequences. In recent elections many Christians have said there are more important issues than Christian morality. Specifically, they declare that how a politician plans to regulate money is more important than Biblical
values. According to Pew Research, the top two issues for 2016 are the economy and personal security, followed lastly by social issues. So what happens when the government denounces Biblical morality and establishes new gods with a new morality? Where are the Shadrachs, the Meshachs and the Abednegos? It’s easy to sit blindly in our comfortable homes and say, “Not me! I’d tell Nebuchadnezzar the same thing!” But are Christians doing so? Where are the outcrys against the immorality being pushed on us by the government? Where are the thousand man marches protesting the illegal seizure of property belonging to Christians and the illegal discrimination by the government against the free speech and practice of the Christian religion? Has anyone even written to their Senators about it? Resources: ● Capito, Shelley Moore - 172 Russell Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510 (202) 224-6472 Contact: www.capito.senate.gov/contact/contact-shelley ● Manchin, Joe, III - 306 Hart Senate Office Building Washington DC 20510 (202) 224-3954 Contact: www.manchin.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/contact-form CHAPTER FOUR Nebuchadnezzar was a big man in charge of a huge empire whose capital city was a wonder of the ancient world – a city originally engineered to reflect human achievement, symbolized in its famous ziggurat whose top “pierced the heavens”. Daniel makes sure that Nebuchadnezzar sees the connection – it is now the emperor whose greatness has grown and reaches to heaven (4:22). Like his ideological ancestors, the movers and shakers of ancient Babel, Nebuchadnezzar had succeeded in making a name for himself. And, just as in a much earlier time, when God had come down to see what was motivating Babel and had to judge it, so now God takes an interest in the motivations of Babylon’s king and found it necessary to judge him. Daniel 4:23 the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’. (ESV) Nebuchadnezzar let his accomplishments go to his head; “29 At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30 and the king answered and said, “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”” (Daniel 4:29-30) According to God’s analysis of his life, Nebuchadnezzar had three principal character faults. The first two were that he had neglected righteousness and had shown insufficient mercy to the oppressed. God regarded these failures as so serious that the emperor would have to endure a lengthy period of discipline that would involve him losing his reason and being excluded from human company to eat grass like an ox. He would eventually be restored, but not until he realized that God ruled in the kingdoms of men. Thirdly, like many powerful men Nebuchadnezzar was guilty
of an excessive pride. Coupled with his lack of moral integrity and humanitarian mercy, this trait fueled a driving ambition to create an aesthetic legacy that bore the unmistakable stamp of his name. How many leaders, past and present, have bent laws, even robbed and oppressed the poor in order to build great buildings to glorify their own names? I can’t ignore the parallels to the Church today. Matthew 13:31-32 “31 Jesus put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. 32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”” And much like King Nebuchadnezzar, there are seven ‘times’ of tribulation coming upon all the earth to try its inhabitants. Revelation 3:10 Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. This is a strong verse supporting a possible early exit for true Christians prior to the worst of the seven final years of tribulation. The hour of trial that is coming will try all who dwell on the earth. Literally His promise is that He will guard everyone who guards His Word of constancy. That calls upon us to live a Godcentered life, just as Daniel called upon Nebuchadnezzar to do, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”” (Daniel 4:27) God does not oppose possessing wealth or things that provide comfort or beauty. In fact, after Nebuchadnezzar repented, God restored more to him than he ever had before. Christianity does not regard enjoying beautiful things as wrong in itself. After all, God created our aesthetic sense, and most of us love to have flowers and color around us. By nature, we find drabness depressing. The proper use of our aesthetic sense should lead us to God himself, who is the ultimate source of beauty. But if our aesthetic sense (or anything else) becomes our master, it can drive a wedge between us and God and lead us into much evil. Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment is clearly connected with his pride. His intellect that had proudly reared itself up to heaven became darkened, and his behavior descended into that of an animal. A part of the New Atheist doctrine is to reject Biblical statements of man’s superiority over plants and animals. For them man is just another animal, no different than any other living thing. But for believers, the messenger from God was clear, Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him (v.16). Left to his own devices, mankind will always descend to animalistic behaviors. It is the Spirit of Life, God’s own Spirit, that separates us from plants and animals. When people fail to recognize Him in us, God gives them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:21-32). In that state it is often impossible to reach that person and they are lost in that condition until they come to their senses. Generally we cannot recognize if a person’s mind has surrendered so fully to animal instincts, so we must continue to try to reach them, but we should never be surprised or offended by their rejection. Romans 1:21 says these people do not honor God or give thanks to Him. Giving thanks is pivotal. Saying “thank-you” to someone indicates a certain dependence upon them. Expressing gratitude to God is an acknowledgment of indebtedness and dependence upon Him. It is here that humans in their pride tend to go wrong. They will not acknowledge that they are dependent upon someone higher than themselves. Paul claims that rejection of God has a detrimental effect on reason. Many atheists, who think that their position is an oasis of reason and clear-headedness, would loudly protest, proclaiming that religious beliefs are a “virus of the mind”. In addition, many atheists persist in maintaining that atheism is not a belief system while at the very same time claiming to believe it. They have determined in themselves that religion is faith without evidence whereas science is evidence supported truth. Anyone who would disagree are dismissed as religious fanatics, even if that person is not a believer themselves. Putting this into reverse is what is meant by “repentance”, which in the Greek is metanoia – “change of mind”. It involves a lifting of our eyes and mind towards heaven, which is exactly what Nebuchadnezzar did at the end of the period of his discipline: At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to 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 (Daniel 4:34). Changing our mind to follow God’s Word rather than our own will is the first step toward forgiveness and restoration in the Kingdom of God.
CHAPTER FIVE At this point, about seventy years have passed since Daniel was taken captive as a teenager. And nearly a quarter of a century has elapsed since the end of chapter 4. King Nebuchadnezzar is now dead after a reign of forty-four years, and Daniel is in his early eighties. There was a succession of kings in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. Most of them experienced untimely deaths. One was assassinated by his brother, another was killed in battle, and another was captured by the Medes and the Persians and lived the life of a prisoner of war. Onto the scene comes Belshazzar, a fellow who was addicted to wine, women, and song. Belshazzar was co-regent with his father, Nabonidus, until Nabonidus was captured by the Persian king Cyrus. At that point, Belshazzar became the sole ruler of Babylon. With Belshazzar identified and in place, it’s time to see how God used Daniel to foretell the immediate takeover of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian. Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled the same night it was spoken. The story begins in the massive banquet hall of Belshazzar’s palace as the king hosted a feast for more than one thousand attendees. Meanwhile, outside the walls of Babylon, the Persian armies had laid siege to the city, and Cyrus was about to execute his plans for an invasion. Thanks to the Babylonian Chronicle, the date of Belshazzar’s feast can be determined with a high degree of precision. The Chronicle states that on the sixteenth day of the month Tishri in Nabonidus’s seventeenth year (Saturday, October 12, 539 B.C.) “the army of Cyrus entered Babylon without a battle.” 1 Herodotus notes that Babylon fell during a time of “festival” or celebration (Herodotus, Histories 1.191). This corresponds closely to Daniel’s description of the fall happening the night Nabonidus held a “great feast for a thousand of his lords” The identification of Belshazzar as “king” (5: 1) was thought by some past scholars to be a clear example of historical error since the final king of Babylon was Nabonidus. Herodotus never mentioned Belshazzar as a ruler in Babylon, identifying instead Labynetus (i.e., Nabonidus) as the king when the city fell to Cyrus (Herodotus, Histories 1.77). Josephus, reflecting the understanding of his day, tried to solve the apparent problem by identifying Nabonidus and Belshazzar as two names for the same individual. “And when he was dead, [the kingdom] came to Baltasar, who by the Babylonians was called Naboandelus” (Josephus, Antiquities 10.11.2). King Belshazzar made a great feast for a thousand of his lords and drank wine in front of the thousand. Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought, that the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. Then they brought in the golden vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his lords, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. They drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. (Daniel 5:1-4) On that final fateful night, the whole territory surrounding the city of Babylon and the related provinces had already been conquered. Only Babylon with its massive walls and fortifications remained intact. Nabonidus had been defeated in battle and fled, leaving Belshazzar in charge of the remaining forces in the city of Babylon. Possibly to reassert their faith in their Babylonian gods and to bolster their own courage, this feast in the form of a festival had been ordered. The storehouses of Babylon were still abundant with food and wine, and there is evidence that there was plenty of both at this feast. The expression “drank wine in front of the thousand” indicates that Belshazzar was probably on a platform at a higher level than the guests and led them in drinking toasts to their deities. Under the stimulus of wine, the thought occurred to Belshazzar to bring in the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar almost seventy years before. The implication in the clause “when he tasted the wine” is that Belshazzar in his right mind probably would not have committed this sacrilegious act. Immediately the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, opposite the lampstand. And the king saw the hand as it wrote. Then the king’s color changed, and his thoughts alarmed him; his limbs gave way, and his knees knocked together. The king called loudly to bring in the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers. The king declared to the wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing, and shows me its interpretation, shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around his neck and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.” Then all the king’s wise men
came in, but they could not read the writing or make known to the king the interpretation. Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, and his color changed, and his lords were perplexed. (Daniel 5:5-9) The large reward that was offered was to no avail, for the wise men who assembled could not read or interpret the writing. This implies a twofold difficulty. Some have claimed that the text does not plainly indicate the language. In any case Daniel read the writing as Aramaic, and the suggestion of puns in the language (see later discussion) depends upon the Aramaic. The difficulty of the wise men in reading the writing may have been that it was written in Aramaic script without the vowels being supplied; but if written in cuneiform, the vowels would have been included. Daniel did not explain the difficulty in reading the writing on the wall, but apparently the language was in a form of Aramaic that the wise men could neither read nor undertand, much less interpret its meaning. The crisis produced by the wise men’s inability to interpret the handwriting on the wall is met by the entrance of one described as “the queen.” Since the wives of the lords and the king himself were said to be already at the banquet (v. 3), the queen would most probably be Belshazzar’s mother, who had not attended the banquet. This would be understandable if she were older and not physically up to, or interested in, a night of drunken revelry. Hearing the unusual clamor at the banquet and learning of the distress of her son, because of her position the queen was able to enter the banquet hall freely and speak to the king. Her address was courteous, but to the point. Like a mother, she told her son in effect to pull himself together because there must be some solution to his problem. Since one holding her position was highly regarded and treated with respect, she could speak out in a way that no other could. The solution the queen suggested was to invite Daniel the prophet, who had served as a man of wisdom under Nebuchadnezzar, to interpret the writing. The queen used the very words that presumably she had heard Nebuchadnezzar express (Dan. 4: 8– 9, 18): Daniel, she said, had “the spirit of the holy gods.” So great was Daniel’s genius that Nebuchadnezzar had made him “chief” of his wise men, which in itself was a remarkable position for one who was not a Chaldean. This honor placed upon him testified to Nebuchadnezzar’s confidence in Daniel’s abilities. Daniel’s excellent qualities manifested themselves in unusual knowledge and understanding, and the ability to “interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve problems” (v. 12). Daniel had not been assembled with the other wise men because he probably was in semiretirement and was no longer chief of the wise men. The queen urged, however, that he now be brought in to solve the present problem. It seems clear that Belshazzar knew something of Daniel, for his form of address in verse 13 goes beyond the information supplied by his mother. Daniel began by disavowing any interest in the gifts or rewards that the king offered. This was not prompted by disrespect or by the evident fact that they would be short-lived. Daniel was simply saying that he would give an unprejudiced interpretation with no attempt to seek favor from Belshazzar. Daniel promised both to read and to make known the interpretation. In 5:17 Daniel announced he would read and interpret the writing for the king. However, he did not begin doing so until 5: 24. Between these verses Daniel shared a history lesson from the life of Babylon’s first great king. It is the Most High God who sets up, and takes down, human rulers, and those human rulers need to acknowledge that the Most High God “rules the kingdom of mankind.” Daniel then itemized in detail the characteristics of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity— how he lived with the wild animals, ate grass like the ox, and was wet with dew. All of this proved that God was greater than Nebuchadnezzar and held him responsible for his authority. Only when Nebuchadnezzar was properly humbled did God restore him to his glory and kingdom. These facts were pertinent to Belshazzar’s situation because the king knew all of this. The difference was that he had not humbled himself the way Nebuchadnezzar had done. The contrast between the supreme power of Nebuchadnezzar and the very limited power of Belshazzar is also evident. Belshazzar was not even the first ruler in the kingdom, and was humiliated by the fact that Babylon was besieged and had already lost its power over the provinces surrounding the city. Having shared the most important message Belshazzar needed to hear, Daniel then turned to read the writing on the wall. The words, in Aramaic, are cognates of several Hebrew words that were measures of weight or currency. Mene is related to the Hebrew word mina. A mina was equal to fifty shekels. The word can also be translated “to count” or “to number.” The word is repeated twice, perhaps for emphasis. Daniel interpreted it to mean “God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end” (v.
26). Tekel is related to the Hebrew word shekel. A shekel was a unit of weight, but the word can be translated “to weigh” or “to be found light or wanting.” Daniel interpreted it to mean “you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting” (v. 27). Parsin is related to the Hebrew word peres, which was a unit of weight (a half-shekel). The word also can be translated “divided,” and as a play on words it could also refer to the Persians. Daniel interpreted it to mean “your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (v. 28). Through the handwriting, Belshazzar was made to understand that Babylon would fall to the enemies that were besieging the city at that very moment. Even while Daniel was interpreting the writing, the prophecy was being fulfilled as the Medes and the Persians poured into the city. Prophecy anticipating the fall of Babylon is found in both Isaiah and Jeremiah, written many years before. Both prophets had said that Babylon would fall to the Medes on just such a night of revelry as Daniel records (Isa. 13: 17– 22; 21: 1– 10; Jer. 51: 33– 58). Some of these prophecies may have their ultimate fulfillment in the future (Rev. 17– 18). More specifically, Isaiah writes of the invasion of the Medes, “Go up, O Elam; lay siege, O Media” (Isa. 21: 2), and speaks of his own shock at the horrors of war and judgment: “My heart staggers; horror has appalled me; the twilight I longed for has been turned for me into trembling. They prepare the table, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink. Arise, O princes; oil the shield!” (Isa. 21: 4– 5). Finally, the tidings come, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon; and all the carved images of her gods he has shattered to the ground” (Isa. 21: 9). Jeremiah is explicit: “I will make drunk her officials and her wise men, her governors, her commanders, and her warriors; they shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake, declares the King, whose name is the LORD of hosts. Thus says the LORD of hosts: The broad wall of Babylon shall be leveled to the ground, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (Jer. 51: 57– 58). Daniel recorded with simplicity the fulfillment of his prophecy: “That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was killed” (v. 30). The concluding verse of the chapter records how Darius the Mede became ruler of Babylon at the age of sixty-two. CHAPTER SIX A Christian Faith That Is Witnessed 1
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom one hundred and twenty satraps, to be over the whole kingdom; and over these, three governors, of whom Daniel was one, that the satraps might give account to them, so that the king would suffer no loss. 3 Then this Daniel distinguished himself above the governors and satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king gave thought to setting him over the whole realm. 4 So the governors and satraps sought to find some charge against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find no charge or fault, because he was faithful; nor was there any error or fault found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any charge against this Daniel unless we find it against him concerning the law of his God.” 6 So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: “King Darius, live forever! 7 All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. 8 Now, O king, establish the decree and sign the writing, so that it cannot be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the written decree. 10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. 11 Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12 And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king's decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.” 13 So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.” 14 And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. 15 Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.” 16 So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and 2
cast him into the den of lions. But the king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Your God, whom you serve continually, He will deliver you.” (NKJV) How many believers have that kind of faith today? How many believers have the integrity of Daniel? Some sixty years after being appointed the most powerful citizen of Babylon, he finds himself once again in a position of authority on the verge of being promoted to a position of prince of princes. Through changes in kings and governments, his reputation of unwavering dedication to God remained. It has not yet been revealed where the new Babylon will be. Some believe it will be a restored kingdom, occupying the same area, but God swore that, once destroyed, that Babylon would never be occupied again (Isaiah 13:20). Therefore, the possibility remains that the Babylon of Revelation is a metonym for another land that commits similar sins against God. If that is your understanding, then you can see that Babylon can represent any single government or coalition of governments from Iraq to the European Union to the United Nations. An obvious comparison then has to be the United States. I’ve seen some write that New York City is the Babylon of Revelation, but in this time it must be recognized that the United States as a whole is that Babylon. Yes, Babylon was a city, but it was also a realm of influence, or kingdom. Even though his loyalty to the emperor was established beyond question, Daniel was clearly prepared to swim against the tide of polytheism and assert his conviction that there was only one true God – the God of heaven, whom he worshipped. He was not prepared to compromise that position, even if the emperor commanded it. That left him open to accusations of being arrogant, narrow-minded, bigoted, and antisocial. How could he possibly believe that he was right and the rest were wrong? Who did he think he was? It is all too familiar. Throughout history it has been the same. In the Roman empire, for instance, there was widespread tolerance of religion. You could worship whatever god you wished, provided you were also prepared to join in the worship of the emperor, or state deities, whenever public ceremony demanded it. The Christians were not prepared to do so, and consequently many of them were thrown, for public entertainment, to lions in the Coliseum. What is it about Christianity that continues to stir up opposition? It is its claim to be unique. Jesus said I am the way, the truth (John 14: 6); and that claim enrages those who claim that there is no absolute truth. For them, it represents the height of unacceptable intolerance. What does tolerance mean? One of the things that pose a real threat to human freedom is the contemporary understanding of tolerance. The old and true meaning of tolerance has been abandoned for something insidious and dangerous. The original meaning of the statement “I tolerate you” was famously (and perhaps rather extremely) expressed by Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Tolerance asserts the right to have convictions, to make judgments about right and wrong, which differ from those of others. It also asserts the right to express those views without fear. The word comes from the Latin tolerare, meaning “to bear, endure, sustain hardship”. Tolerance does not demand that we accept the opinions, beliefs, and lifestyles of others, but only that we learn to live without forcing them to line up with us. The seventeenth-century philosopher John Locke advocated tolerance in order to protect religious adherents from state coercion. Such coercion, we should remember, was one of the reasons the Pilgrims sailed for America. True tolerance is principled; yet it involves knowing how to put up with things and people, as well as knowing when to offer criticism. True tolerance makes judgments without being judgmental. A classic example of a view of toleration that is wrong was expressed by the French theologian Jacques Bénigne Bossuet, who wrote in 1691, “I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.” Such a view is, of course, offensive, and principled tolerance is always careful to avoid offence wherever possible. However, offence may not always be avoidable, especially where truth is concerned. The new tolerance, however, is completely different. It seizes on the idea of offence and holds that I must not ever offend anyone else by expressing disapproval of any aspect of his or her behavior or ideas. The new tolerance disapproves of all absolutes except this one: you will be tolerant of everyone else’s view. You must, however, be intolerant of intolerance. This means that criticism is forbidden, and must be replaced by unrestrained affirmation and praise. The old tolerance accepted the existence of other views while disagreeing with them; the new tolerance insists on accepting the views themselves and not merely their existence. Such tolerance dissolves freedom, truth and morality – other views are to be accepted to be just as true as your own. If we are not allowed to make judgments or have convictions any more, then all that is left is for us to descend to a kind of ethical neutrality. In the end, tolerance simply becomes a synonym for
unconditional approval. We have lost our human dimensions of virtue and truth. In that sense, we have become merely animal. The influence of this type of thinking is to be seen in the UNESCO Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance: “Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and our ways of being human”. This detaches tolerance from any specific object, and encourages “children to ‘tolerate diversity’ or ‘tolerate difference’”. Such teaching avoids encouraging children to develop their capacity for moral reasoning or the making of moral judgments. The result is that we increase the sense of moral uncertainty, rather than diminish it. None of us likes to be exposed to talk that is offensive to us; and it is true that some people have difficulty in differentiating between attacking people personally and criticizing the ideas they hold. The danger is now, however, that the desire to be completely insulated from any kind of offence leads to the paralyzing of enthusiastic discussion through which all participants could learn. UNESCO’s website states they “are known as the "intellectual" agency of the United Nations. At a time when the world is looking for new ways to build peace and sustainable development, people must rely on the power of intelligence to innovate, expand their horizons and sustain the hope of a new humanism”. The only possibility of restoring moral sanity is for more people with the same spirit as Daniel to boldly become “Christian extremists”. A Christian extremist does not compromise the truths of the Bible or the Gospel message. Like Daniel they do not go into the closet with their faith, but they come out for the world to see. CHAPTER SEVEN 1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel saw a dream and visions of his head as he lay in his bed. Then he wrote down the dream and told the sum of the matter. 2 Daniel declared, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts came up out of the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had eagles' wings. Then as I looked its wings were plucked off, and it 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. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, like a bear. It was raised up on one side. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth; and it was told, ‘Arise, devour much flesh.’ 6 After this I looked, and behold, another, like a leopard, with four wings of a bird on its back. And the beast had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, terrifying and dreadful and exceedingly strong. It had great iron teeth; it devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 I considered the horns, and behold, there came up among them another horn, a little one, before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. And behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking great things. 9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. Daniel 7:1318 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. 15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me. 16 I approached one of those who stood there and asked him the truth concerning all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of the things. 17 These four great beasts are four kings who shall arise out of the earth. 18 But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, forever and ever.’ 19 “Then I desired to know the truth about the fourth beast, which was different from all the rest, exceedingly terrifying, with its teeth of iron and claws of bronze, and which devoured and broke in pieces and stamped what was left with its feet, 20 and about the ten horns that were on its head, 21 As I looked, this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them, 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints possessed the kingdom. 23 “Thus he said: ‘As for the fourth beast, there shall be a fourth kingdom on earth,
which shall be different from all the kingdoms, and it shall devour the whole earth, and trample it down, and break it to pieces. 24 As for the ten horns . . . We are now at the center of Daniel’s writings so it is no surprise that this is a pivotal point in his message. Daniel saw a great sea, lashed by powerful winds, out of which emerged four strange, surreal beasts, one after the other. The image of a troubled sea sometimes occurs in the Bible as representing the restless nations of the earth, and Daniel is subsequently told that they represent empires that come out of the earth (v17). The animal imagery here is clearly designed to convey a message very different from that projected by the metallic sections of the colossal man. There are, however, important elements in common. For instance, we saw that the impression conveyed by the colossal man was not all darkly apocalyptic and doom-laden. The same is true here to a certain extent, although the picture is generally much grimmer. Just as the variety of metals in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream indicates the differing values of the successive empires, the various animals in Daniel’s dream denote what is probably best described as the relative “animal ferocity” of those empires. The first animal, for instance, is given a human heart. The subsequent animals become increasingly brutal, the fourth being predatory in the extreme. It has the eyes of human intelligence but shows no trace of human compassion. The first beast is a hybrid of a lion and an eagle. There is sufficient archaeological evidence for the lion to represent Babylon. The same imagery is found also in the writings of the prophet Jeremiah (4: 7; 50: 17). He describes Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar in particular) as an eagle (48: 40; 49: 22), as does Ezekiel (17: 3). The reference to the lion having its wings plucked off, made to stand like a human and given a human heart may refer to Nebuchadnezzar’s progress to a more human attitude (at least by ancient standards). The second animal is a bear, representing Medo-Persia. It is generally assumed to represent the supremacy within the empire of Persia over the Medes. The three ribs possibly reference Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. The leopard with wings conveys the impression of great speed, which fits well as a symbol for Alexander the Great, who conquered kingdoms sometimes in a day. Unlike the others, the fourth kingdom is not compared to any named animal, but simply described as different from all the others. It had ten horns. Daniel watched as another little horn grew up among them, displacing three of them. Looking more closely, Daniel could see that this strange little horn had human eyes, and a mouth speaking great things (v8). As he watched, the scene changed. He found himself looking into heaven itself. He watched the figure of the Ancient of Days taking his place on a throne that looked like a blazing fire. The throne had wheels that were on fire, and a river of fire flowed out of it. Fire represents God’s holiness – he is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12: 29). No attempt is made to describe the One on the throne. We are simply told that the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool (v9). There is a pause before Daniel resumes his description by repeating the phrase I saw in the night visions…. There now follows a passage of great importance for all biblical revelation (vv13-14). Not surprisingly, Daniel was especially interested in the fourth beast, with its frightening little horn, and with good reason. As he continued to watch, something unprecedented and ghastly happened: this horn made war with the saints and prevailed over them (v21). It was a most frightening prospect. This fourth beast, with all its horrific power, would not only fight with but overcome the saints. So far in the book of Daniel, when the state threatened Daniel or his friends with death, God supernaturally intervened and delivered them. Powerful and ruthless enemies will arise one day, wage outright war against God’s people, brutalize and kill them. The horn on the fourth beast represents one of those enemies. (The symbol of a horn is used in the Bible to denote power) The fourth beast’s horn has eyes, symbolizing human insight and intelligence, coupled with brutal animal strength. Notably, it lacks a human heart: it is dreadful, evil, ruthless genius. Every major war that has been waged throughout time has progressively become more brutal and bloody. If God can deliver his people, why doesn’t he? If God can prevent suffering, why doesn’t he? The problem of moral evil is inescapable. What is the answer to it? The vision gives three responses: 1There is to be a judgment. 2 The Son of Man will come. 3The saints will receive the kingdom. The most important message of all eschatology is not when the end will come but that we are fully prepared when it does. God provides prophetic glimpses to let us know He remains on schedule and “spur us on to good works”.
Many are seeking to know what our future holds. They run here and there to prophecy conventions, soothsayers, palm readers and astrologists, hoping to get a glimpse of tomorrow. Jesus addressed that with His disciples, and we should heed his words now, if indeed we are his disciples too. He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8). Why does God provide prophecy? Paul said, “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 emphasis mine). Our purpose is not to predict the future or set dates but to be encouraged to strengthen our faith in God. Main Points in Chapter 7 ● When will the end be? This is what the Disciples asked before Jesus ascended into Heaven. “He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8). We should be careful that we do not over emphasize those things God holds by his own authority. Since it is not in our authority, it would be necessary to usurp God’s to find out anything beyond what he has already revealed, and that just wouldn’t work out well. According to Jesus our chief study focus should be on becoming a better witness for him. ● Timeline for the Book of Daniel Archaeological evidence now tells us that Daniel and his friends were taken captive around 605BC. About ten years later Nebuchadnezzar had the dream of the giant statue (595BC). The remainder of Daniel’s visions occur over a 59-year period up until about 536BC. The vision we are looking at now happened at the beginning of Belshazzar’s reign around 553BC, about 17 years before Darius has Daniel thrown into the lions’ den. ● The Winds of Heaven Churning the Great Sea The 4 winds of heaven represent the actions of angels and can spell good news or bad for mankind. In this case it is the four winds, each in succession, stirring up four kingdoms for war against “the great sea”, or whatever empire is dominant at that time. ● Kingdoms Past, Present or Future? I’m going to cover the widely accepted interpretation, which is, from our perspective, that this vision speaks initially of past kingdoms. Several different groups have proposed that they only represent present nations including the US, but there is no Scriptural support and such speculation always brings dissention as others present opposing conjectures. Since Daniel chose to backtrack in his writing to overlay his final visions against the backdrop of those things that had already happened, we can readily assume he understood that these visions were enhancements to what God had already begun to reveal. We see the same technique used in other prophetic writings, most notably the Book of the Revelation. Since Revelation is an enhancement of the Old Testament prophecies, including Daniel, it makes sense to follow the same pattern when attempting to understand the meaning of all such prophecies. ● The Four Beasts of Daniel 7 Identified. In Daniel’s vision, four beasts rose from a great sea. Each one represented a kingdom that would rise to become a regional empire. The similarities with Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are too great to be ignored. v4. First beast: like a lion with the wings of an eagle, but the wings were plucked so that it could no longer fly. The first kingdom is parallel to the golden head and, as we already saw, represented the Babylonian empire. Archeological evidence tends to support this interpretation. Babylonia ruled from 605539BC. v.5 Second beast: like a bear holding three ribs. The bear represents the Medo-Persian empire. It is raised up on one side possibly to symbolize the superiority of the Persian side of the coalition. The three ribs represent the three kingdoms conquered, Babylon, Lydia and Egypt. Medo-Persia existed from 539-332BC. v.6 Third beast: like a leopard that had four wings and four heads, “and dominion was given to it”. Both the leopard and the four wings represent the speed with which this kingdom conquered and the vastness of that kingdom. This describes the expansion of the Grecian empire by Alexander the Great. The four heads likely represent Alexander’s four generals who divided the empire after his death. (Why did he move his throne to Babylon? Hmmmm.) The Grecian empire dominated the region from 332-63BC.
v.7 Fourth beast: had ten horns, and was notably different from the other beasts and “exceedingly strong”. The ten horns represented a dynasty of 10 rulers from Sulla, whom Julius Caesar overthrew, to Domitian, who persecuted Christians more than any before. Three horns were plucked to make way on the fourth beast’s head for a new horn that speaks pompously.” The three horns were Galba, Otho and Vitellius, each destroyed by Vespasian. The Roman empire lasted from 63BC through 467AD. At the end of its dominion Vespasian rose to power much like Hitler in recent times (which is why some theorize this is a prophecy about the “Third Reich” meaning 3rd empire). It was Vespasian who crushed Judea during the Jewish rebellion of 66AD, during which time Nero committed suicide plunging Rome into a year of civil war known as the Year of the Four Emperors. Vespasian turned his efforts toward Rome leaving his son Titus to finish off Jerusalem, which he did in 70AD. Vespasian was known to be impertinent and irreverent, which landed him in early retirement when he once offended emperor Claudius’ wife, Agrippina and again a few years later offending emperor Nero. Vespasian so despised the Jews and their Christian counterparts that he took the treasures captured from the Temple and used it to build the Coliseum where he used untrained and ill-equipped Jews and Christians to battle wild animals and gladiators. ● Ancient of Days That the visions shown Daniel pertained to empires that would rise and fall in his future and our past cannot be denied. But now the revelation changes to parallel events in the distant future as we get a glimpse into heaven and the judgment throne of God. This cannot be a reference to the Judgment Seat of Christ (2nd Corinthians 5:10) since the One seated is clearly God the Father who then receives into His presence the Son of Man. Fire always represents holiness as well as judgment since any who are not equally holy are destroyed in the holiness of God. The only ones among mankind who can survive in His presence are those protected by the righteous Blood of the Lamb. ● The Son of Man Given Dominion. The beast with ten horns is destroyed, the other beasts’ lives are “prolonged for a season and a time” and dominion passes to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:12-13). Since verses 11 through 14 transpire in the future and the physical empires have long since been destroyed, many believe they must rise again in order to satisfy this prophecy. Who is the “Son of Man”? Standing alone the phrase means a human male, but with the surrounding text, Jewish teaching came to reference the Son of Man as One whom the world could see as a man but would in fact be God. When Jesus was taken before the high priests (Matthew 26), Caiaphas said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered, “Yes, it is as you say. But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy!” (Matt. 26:63-65). Jesus had quoted Daniel’s prophecy and Caiaphas knew it. This Jesus will one day be given all dominion to bring final judgment to Earth and the ultimate fate of every man, woman and child will be determined by how they answered one question, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:13-16).
CHAPTER EIGHT Daniel 8:1-14 1 In the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar a vision appeared to me, Daniel, after that which appeared to me at the first. 2 And I saw in the vision; and when I saw, I was in Susa the citadel, which is in the province of Elam. And I saw in the vision, and I was at the Ulai canal. 3 I raised my eyes and saw, and behold, a ram standing on the bank of the canal. It had two horns, and both horns were high, but one was higher than the other, and the higher one came up last. 4 I saw the ram charging westward and northward and southward. No beast could stand before him, and there was no one who could rescue from his power. He did as he pleased and became great. 5 As I was considering, behold, a male goat came from the west across the face of the whole earth, without touching the ground. And the goat had a conspicuous horn between his eyes. 6 He came to the ram with the two horns, which I had seen standing on the bank of the canal, and he ran at him in his powerful wrath. 7 I saw him come close to the ram, and he was enraged against him and struck the ram and broke his two horns. And the ram had no power to stand before him, but he cast him down to the ground and trampled on him. And there was no one who could rescue the ram from his power. 8 Then the goat became exceedingly great, but when he was strong, the great horn was broken, and instead of it there came up four conspicuous horns toward the four winds of heaven. 9 Out of one of them came a little horn, which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the glorious land. 10 It grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown. 12 And a host will be given over to it together with the regular burnt offering because of transgression, and it will throw truth to the ground, and it will act and prosper. 13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to the one who spoke, “For how long is the vision concerning the regular burnt offering, the transgression that makes desolate, and the giving over of the sanctuary and host to be trampled
Daniel 8:15-26 15 When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. 16 And I heard a man's voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” 17 So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face. But he said to me, “Understand, O son of man, that the vision is for the time of the end.” 18 And when he had spoken to me, I fell into a deep sleep with my face to the ground. But he touched me and made me stand up. 19 He said, “Behold, I will make known to you what shall be at the latter end of the indignation, for it refers to the appointed time of the end. 20 As for the ram that you saw with the two horns, these are the kings of Media and Persia. 21 And the goat is the king of Greece. And the great horn between his eyes is the first king. 22 As for the horn that was broken, in place of which four others arose, four kingdoms shall arise from his nation, but not with his power. 23 And at the latter end of their kingdom, when the transgressors have reached their limit, a king of bold face, one who understands riddles, shall arise. 24 His power shall be great—but not by his own power; and he shall cause fearful destruction and shall succeed in what he does, and destroy mighty men and the people who are the saints. 25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand. 26 The vision of the evenings and the mornings that has been told is true, but seal up the vision, for it refers to many days from now.” (ESV)
Vision of the Ram and Goat. Of all the prophecies of Daniel, this is one of the most controversial. It is so accurate that unbelievers cannot accept it was written by the Biblical Daniel around 551BC. They insist rather that it had to have been written by another Daniel or someone posing as him, somewhere around the 2nd century BC, thus making it historical and not prophetic. Medo-Persia and Greece The language and style of writing as well as manuscripts found that are older than the 2nd century, assure us this vision takes place two years after the vision of chapter 7. The two animals are identified as MedoPersia and Macedonia (Greece). Though we are “zooming in” on the two center empires of the 7th vision they are not the main focus, but rather what rises from them. Some believe Daniel is saying he was physically in Susa when he had this vision. Because of the wording, I rather believe he was not physically there, but is describing his location in the vision itself. The Little Big Horn The first fulfillment of this came when Antiochus IV became emperor of Greece. His ambition was to be greater than his grandfather, Seleucus. He subdued the kingdoms of the four generals, his great-uncles, and turned his sights to Egypt to seal his conquest. However, the republic of Rome was on the rise and was at that time in control of Egypt. As his army approached, a group of elders rode out to meet him. Probably assuming these were elders coming to surrender, Antiochus extended his hand to greet them, but they refused him, handing him a scroll prepared by the Roman senate instead. The senate had sent a warning that Antiochus turn back and not invade Egypt. Angered, Antiochus said he needed to confer with his generals, but the leader of the group drew a circle in the sand around Antiochus and said, “I must have your answer before you step out of that circle”. Though he was angered, he knew he was in no shape to take on the Roman armies, so he agreed not to invade. As he returned to camp, he was met by the man he appointed to be high priest over the Jews. He reported that there had been a rebellion in Jerusalem and he had been forced to flee. Antiochus turned his wrath over Egypt toward Israel and launched a fierce campaign that would see over 80,000 Jews murdered and 40,000 more taken as slaves. So great was his hatred that he did everything he could to completely eradicate Judaism, including riding into the Holy of Holies to sacrifice a pig on the altar of God. He erected statues of the Greek gods throughout the temple and instituted laws that made it a crime punishable by death to even mention the God of the Jews or His Law. If the Law said it was wrong, Antiochus insisted they do it. Whatever the Law said to do, Antiochus insisted they not. It became a crime to observe the Sabbath or any Holy Day. Any infant who was circumcised was put to death, hung around their mother’s neck and both thrown from the highest point of Jerusalem’s wall. Judaism was officially outlawed and a detachment of soldiers was left behind to enforce the new law and force worship of Zeus. Forty harlots were placed at the temple and all Jewish men were required to commit adultery there. Every date, season and Law of God was to be violated. (Much of the history of this period can be found in the writings from 1st and 2nd Maccabees and Josephus’ Antiquities.) A Shadow of What’s to Come To many it appears that Daniel’s prophecy was fulfilled in Antiochus IV, end of story. The thing we have to recognize is, as awful as history has been to the Jews, all the antichrists, from Antiochus, to Titus, to Hitler, have only been a shadow of what is to come at the “time of the end”. In Daniel 8:23, the chapter enters a new phase. Verses 23-27 of the chapter before us have to do with “a king of fierce countenance” who shall appear “in the latter time” (v. 23); and he is none other than the Antichrist who is to come. Again, while vs. 1-22 have to do with history, yet the men of whom they speak were shadows of that coming “man of sin” who is more fully described in the closing verses of the chapter. God provides 8 characteristics that define this latter day man of evil. (1.) He will have a dynamic personality; (2.) His program will be demonic; (3.) He will possess demonic power; (4.) He will be more destructive in his persecutions than any before; (5.) His character will be one of cunning deceit; (6.) He will be defiant against anything pertaining to God; (7.) He will be defeated without human means; (8.) He is destined to destruction and the fires of hell. In Daniel 8, God gives us a picture of the future using the historical Antiochus as a preview of the terrors that will come under the rule of the Antichrist. The next
chapters will transition to the end of days so that we can see the progression of Daniel’s writing from historical to prophetical. CHAPTER NINE Prophecy is often, “Already, but not yet.” –Michael Brown, Messianic Jew, Professor, host of The Line of Fire. Because of he teaches homosexuality as sin, Michael Brown has been profiled by so-called civil rights groups as the radical leader of a hate group. Answered Prayer Daniel, while reading Jeremiah’s prophecies, found that seventy years had been set for the duration of Israel’s captivity (v2). God had punished His people, just as Jeremiah had warned. But here in Jeremiah’s prophecy was God’s reminder that after seventy years, He would restore them to their land. Daniel calculated the reigns of the kings he’d served to be sixty-seven years. The time of Jeremiah’s predicted return was upon them. It would occur in three short years. Daniel continued to read: “In those days when you pray, I will listen. If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me. I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”(Jeremiah 29:12-14) The meaning of the passage was clear to Daniel: the key to the fulfillment of this prophecy — that Israel would return to its homeland — was the prayers of the people. Daniel had always been a praying man. Throughout his long years in Babylon, he prayed formally three times each day, bowing on his knees to face Jerusalem. And between those times, he prayed continually, making God his constant companion. Had the Jews in Babylon been confessing their sins and praying for their return to Judah? Daniel suspected that most of them had not. Either way, he would pray for them. He would take the burden of the Jews’ sins and place them before his God. Immediately he fell to his knees and began to pray and immediately God sent an answer. Two things we need to incorporate into our Christian lives, devotion (study and obedience) to God’s Word, and a steady and sincere prayer life. Seventy Weeks Daniel 9:24-27 24 “Seventy sevens (weeks) are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. 25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. 26 And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. 27 And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” (ESV)
In Aramaic writings, “weeks” used in this manner represents a collection of seven year periods. Gabriel outlined to Daniel events that would carry the Jewish nation 490 years into the future. The punishment for their sin would end, they would be restored to their city and their Temple, and their Messiah would come.
But the Messiah would be cut off, and Jerusalem and the Temple would be destroyed yet again. In the far distant future, a new persecutor would arise like no other the world had seen. He would inflict terrible misery until the consummation of the future awaiting God’s people. Six Prophetic Actions 1. “To finish the transgression” This is the first and most important item on the list of things that must be accomplished during the seventy weeks of years. The term “to finish the transgression” means that sin will come under control and will no longer grow and flourish. For all who believe, transgression was finished at the Cross. But for Israel, which rejected Christ, the perfect consummation of the Messiah’s redeeming work will not be realized until the end of the seventy weeks. Regarding this time, God says, “I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication. . . . In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness” (Zechariah 12:10; 13:1). 2. “To make an end of sins” This phrase points to the time when sin will be eliminated — not only in principle, but also in practice. This can’t happen until the reign of Christ during the Millennium. In that day, sin will have run its course in Israel, and it will be locked up, never to do its evil work again. “They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezekiel 37:23). 3. “To make reconciliation for iniquity” This is a statement of atonement. Though Christ isn’t explicitly mentioned in this verse, He is the One making the atonement (Daniel 9:26). Sin is ended because of the atonement of the Messiah, although the nation of Israel won’t realize the effect of this atonement until the end of the seventy weeks. 4. “To bring in everlasting righteousness” The Messiah’s death not only atones for sins; it also has the power to give the nation of Israel right standing before a holy God. When Christ died, He provided not only for sin to be removed, but also for righteousness to be granted. But again it should be noted that the actual becoming righteous occurs only when Israel as a nation makes appropriation at Christ’s second coming. 5. “To seal up vision and prophecy” These words refer to the time in the future when all prophecies will be fulfilled. When Christ comes in power and establishes His Kingdom, every prophecy concerning Him will become absolute reality. Once again, this demands a time beyond the boundaries of the first sixty-nine weeks of the prophecy, which as we will soon see, ended at the time of Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 6. “To anoint the Most Holy” Christ’s Kingdom can only be established in the future, when the holy place in the Millennial Temple is anointed (or, in today’s terms, completed and dedicated). The phrase “the Most Holy” is never used of a person in Scripture. It refers to the sacred place in the Temple often referred to as the Holy of Holies — where the reestablishment of religious service will take place in a future Temple (Ezekiel 41– 46). In the place of the Tabernacle and former temples, a new holy of holies shall be anointed. The holy of holies of this prophecy, the innermost shrine of the grand Temple described by Ezekiel, will be no mere continuation of former sanctuaries. All six of these events Gabriel foretells in Daniel 9:24 must be ultimately fulfilled and experienced by the nation of Israel. This won’t happen until the end of the 490 years of Daniel’s prophecy. Since none of these prophecies were fulfilled in the first sixty-nine weeks, there must be a future time in which they will be fulfilled. Jesus also cites the fulfilment of one of Daniel’s predictions as a key event in the future: So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place … then there will be great tribulation… Immediately after the tribulation of those days … Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man … and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven (Matthew 24:14-30). Daniel provides three references to an abomination of desolation: 1. And … he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator (9:27). 2. Forces from him shall appear and profane the temple and fortress, and shall take away the regular burnt offering. And they shall set up the abomination that makes desolate (11:31). 3. And from the time that the regular burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be 1,290 days (12:11). We are not told in detail what this abomination is but, as we mentioned earlier, the root idea presumably comes from the desecration of the temple by Antiochus, when he dedicated it to Zeus and
offered a pig on the altar. As we saw previously, that incident is a foreshadowing of the time of the end. Thus, Daniel 9 has the same ultimate focus as the visions of Daniel 7 and 8. Just how long is a week? Most people are only familiar with a week of days, but there is also a week of weeks. That may be surprising, but you can see it in the Feast of Weeks in Leviticus 23:15-16. There is also a week of months from Nisan to Tishri, or from Tishri to Nisan. Either way, it’s a week of months, and is ordained in Exodus 12:2 and Leviticus 23:24. Of course, our focus is on a week of years. There are sabbatical years for the land, and this is emphasized in virtually all of Leviticus 25, as well as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 15. 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord. 3 For six years you shall sow your field, and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in its fruits, 4 but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land, a Sabbath to the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. Leviticus 25:2-4 When looking at 2nd Chronicles 36, we discover the reason the Jews were in captivity for seventy years. 20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years. 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 We have something like that in English. If someone said it wouldn’t happen for a decade, we would not expect it for ten years. We understood that expression even though the word years was not used. The Hebrew word Shabuwa (literally a seven-period) is a week, but a week of years, not days. That may sound strange, but to the Jews it was very familiar. In Daniel 9:25, Gabriel says to Daniel, “Know therefore and understand.” This is not a cryptic hidden thing; this is something Daniel is expected to understand. Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time. Notice the sixty-nine weeks are seven plus sixty-two. Scholars aren’t quite sure why it was presented that way. One of the speculations is that it took seven weeks of years to get Jerusalem rebuilt. That’s a speculation; we’re not sure exactly why it is divided like that. This is a mathematical prophecy, so from one event to another is a specific period of time. Gabriel is speaking of Jerusalem being rebuilt, but picture the context of the situation. Daniel is now an old man, in his seventies or eighties. He was deported as a teenager, rose to power in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar, then again when Cyrus conquered Babylon. He has been away from Jerusalem his entire adult life, and Jerusalem is buried in rubble. But Daniel knows from Jeremiah’s prophecy that it is destined to be rebuilt, and suddenly Gabriel appears by him to speak to him about that very thing. He adds a footnote here; “the street shall be built again and the wall in troubled times”, and that is what is recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. In Daniel 9:25 we see a trigger and a target. The trigger is “from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem.” The target is “to the coming of an anointed one, a prince (the Meshiach Nagid or Messiah the Prince)” Between those two events is 69 weeks of years (69 times 7), which is 483 years. Decrees Some Bibles have a footnote saying there were three different decrees, or commandments, which could qualify as the one referred to in this verse. There are actually four decrees: 1. 2. 3. 4.
Cyrus in 537 B.C. (Ezra 1:2-4) Darius in 522 B.C. (Ezra 6:8) Artaxerxes in 458 B.C. (Ezra 7) Artaxerxes’ second decree in 445 B.C. (Nehemiah 2) There is a difference between the book of Ezra and the book of Nehemiah. The book of Ezra is the chronicle of Cyrus freeing the Jews to go home and build their temple. They struggle and struggle to build their temple, and that’s what Ezra is all about. They don’t get very far because they can’t protect themselves. That sets the stage for Nehemiah. Nehemiah is the cupbearer to the king, Artaxerxes. In 458 B.C., Artaxerxes issues a decree that’s useful, but we’re interested in the later one, the fourth one, in
445BC. It’s recorded in three different places in Nehemiah 2. This decree stands out because it is the only one of the four decrees that deals with the city of Jerusalem. The other three are dealing only with the Temple. “The street shall be built again, and the wall.” The word for wall is literally a trench or moat. The Hebrew word rechob means “street,” and the word charuts means “wall or moat” in verse twenty-five. Clearly, the focus of Gabriel’s trigger point is the city not the Temple. Therefore, the first three decrees are not the ones that should concern us because they deal only with the Temple, while the fourth specifically mentions the city. Nehemiah was obviously trusted by King Artaxerxes. As a favor to Nehemiah, the king gave him the authority to rebuild the city, put a wall around it, and have a Jewish government. That was all missing from the other decrees. Israel had been enslaved by Babylon. They were freed under Cyrus and went home, but didn’t have the authority to rebuild the main city. Nehemiah gets that authority, and that’s what Gabriel is referring to as he talks to Daniel: the decree to restore the city of Jerusalem. The decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus is recorded and dated, according to our calendar, on March 14, 445 BC. All ancient civilizations counted a year as 360 days, so Gabriel is telling Daniel that from the commandment to restore Jerusalem, until the Messiah will be 173,880 days (69x360). When did Jesus permit Himself to be proclaimed as a king? Many times in the New Testament we read about the enthusiasm of the crowd. In John 6:15, they tried to make Him a king, but He slipped away— He wouldn’t let it happen. Later He not only permits it, He arranges it. He intentionally sets things up to fulfill a prophecy of Zechariah. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 Jesus deliberately tells his disciples to go to a certain place to get a donkey and tells them what to say so the owner will release it. They bring it to Him, and He rides this donkey into Jerusalem to fulfill the Scripture; He is presenting Himself as a king to Jerusalem. We can calculate the date because we know that Jesus’ ministry began in the fall of 28 AD. How? Tiberius was appointed in 14 AD and Augustus died on August 19th of 14 AD, and we know from Luke 3 that His ministry began in the 15th year of Tiberius, which means that we need to add 14 plus 14 (the 15th year had not yet passed). So we have the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem with the decree of Artaxerxes Longimanus on March 14, 445 B.C. The triumphal entry occurred on April 6, 32 AD. If we take the number of years, adding the number of days between March 14 and April 6, and keeping up with the leap-year calculations, the number of days between the decree that triggered the calculation and the triumphal entry that concludes it is 173,880 days. Now look at Daniel 9:26 And after the 62 weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. Remember verse twenty-five to get the context here. Gabriel previously said there were “seven weeks, and sixty-two weeks.” The reference here in verse 26 to “after 62 weeks,” confuses many people, but if we do the math (62+7), it makes sense. It’s saying “after the sixty-nine weeks.” After 69 weeks the Messiah is cut off. The Hebrew word for “cut off” is karat, which means “to be executed”. Then begins the interval, the time of the Gentiles, between the 69th and 70th weeks. This interval in Daniel 9: 26 is also implied in other Scriptures. Perhaps the most dramatic is when Jesus, in Luke 4, reads in the synagogue at Nazareth. He opens to Isaiah 61:1-2 and reads, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” Now notice what He does at this point, “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”” Did you notice what He left out? Here’s the next part of that verse from Isaiah 61:2: “to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;” Is that “day of vengeance” going to be fulfilled? Absolutely, it will happen. Has it been fulfilled yet? No, that comma has lasted some 2,000 years. So we can say with confidence that the interval between the sixty-
ninth and seventieth weeks is implied here. We find the same interval in Revelation 12. We can find twenty-four places in the Bible where the interval concerning the Church is implied. Let’s look now at the climactic verse of the 70th week prophecy: And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.” Who is the “he” mentioned in this verse? The previous verse mentions both the Messiah, as well as “the prince that shall come.” This is grade school grammar; what’s the antecedent? It’s “the prince that shall come.” Some people try to say this “he” is the Messiah, but that doesn’t actually fit the text and creates other problems. This is not the Messiah. “The prince that shall come” will enforce the covenant with the many; that’s his role with Israel for this final “week” in the prophecy. Understand, though, he is the bad guy; he’s not a savior. Some would translate the phrase in Daniel 9:27 as “he signs a treaty,” but it doesn’t say that. The literal translation is “he enforces a covenant” (enforce is equivalent to confirm). It might be that he will be associated with a treaty, or he may simply enforce the Land Covenant in Deuteronomy that gives Israel the right to the land. It could be that simple. No matter what he actually does, his “enforcing” defines the seven-year period. In the middle of that seven-year period, this prince ignores his promise and causes “the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.” This implies, obviously, that there is a temple standing, and the Jews have returned to the Levitical system of sacrifices. Building the Temple may not be the subject of the treaty, but it’s at least a by-product of it. This verse also tells us that, “for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” This leader will evidently repeat the circumstance of a certain Greek leader in 167 BC. That was when Antiochus Epiphanes made Torah reading punishable by death. He slaughtered a pig on the altar. He also erected an idol of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, which is defined as the abomination of desolation. That’s what triggered the Maccabean Revolt. Jesus makes reference to this abomination of desolation in a briefing to His disciples (Matthew 24:15). He was referring to what Antiochus Epiphanes did two centuries earlier, but He was speaking about what would be done in the future by the prince that shall come. It is still an unfulfilled prophecy. Nothing like that has happened since He predicted it; although a Roman emperor did try. In 40 A.D., Emperor Caligula sent an order from Rome that his image be established in the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. Petronius, the general in charge, knew that if he tried to do that there would be an uprising, just like before. So he refused to follow his orders. When Caligula found out that he didn’t do it, he sent an order for Petronius to be killed. It’s interesting that within two weeks of sending that order, Caligula died. It mysteriously happened that the news of Caligula’s death arrived in Judaea before the order to have Petronius killed, due to some delays at sea. Not only did God stop Caligula’s plans, preserving Petronius in the process. The Temple was taken out of the equation when it was later destroyed by the Romans. In order for the abomination of desolation to occur, the Temple has to be standing. But God won’t allow another until the time ordained for all these things to take place. We know the Temple will be rebuilt because Daniel, Paul, John and Jesus all make reference to it standing during the end of times. There is a division of the seventieth week that’s described in a variety of ways. One that might sound foreign to our ears is found in Daniel 12:7 and Revelation 12:14. It is the phrase: “time, times, and half a time.” Revelation is quoting from Daniel, so we have to look at the Aramaic to understand what this means. It’s a way of counting. If we read, “a time and half a time” we would call that one and a half. But we have this other word that reads as “times” in English. It’s hard for us to understand because English doesn’t have a dual number for nouns. The only thing that may come close is the word both, if used like “I invited all my friends—both of them.” We understand that both means two, so in that sense, both is a dual word. CHAPTER TEN Spiritual Wickedness in High Places Gabriel, God’s messenger, says that his journey to Daniel has been resisted by certain powers in the unseen world, but now he has finally arrived to reveal to Daniel what is inscribed in the book of truth (Daniel 10:21). There follows a lengthy historical survey, which we can now interpret as beginning in Daniel’s time in Medo-Persia, tracing the rise of the Greek empire under Alexander the Great, and detailing the subsequent division of that empire into four parts under his generals. There follows the constant conflict between the various parts, particularly between the Seleucids (the “kings of the north”) and the Ptolemies (the “kings of
the south”), culminating in the desecration of the temple in Jerusalem by the Seleucid king Antiochus IV “Epiphanes” in the second century BC. The narrative uses the time of Antiochus as a prototype of the “time of the end”, when a fierce king will arise that “shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god” (Daniel 11:36). There will be a time of unparalleled trouble for Daniel’s people, Israel, followed by deliverance and the resurrection of the just and unjust. At that point Daniel is told to seal the book until the time of the end (12:4). He then observes two figures standing, one on each bank of the river, and he hears a voice asking the man above the river, How long shall it be till the end of these wonders? (12:6). The answer comes: a time, times, and half a time. Daniel does not understand it, so he asks what it means. He is again told that the words are sealed until the time of the end (12:7). The book concludes with a promise to Daniel: you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days (12:12). We know in God’s timing it’s getting close to the end. There’s a fascinating way for this to be illustrated. There are four periods involved: 1. Abraham to the Exodus 2. Exodus to the Temple 3. Temple to the Edict of Artaxerxes 4. Artaxerxes to the Second Coming Take the years when Israel is out of favor during each period, subtract them from the calendar years for that period, and the answer will be exactly 490 years. (“Out of favor” can refer to being in servitude or exile; these are interruptions of their freedom to serve God.) The first period was Abraham to the Exodus, and it covered 505 calendar years. We subtract 15 years to count the years when Ishmael was the heir. The total is 490 years. Next is the Exodus to the dedication of the first Temple. That has 601 calendar years with 111 years subtracted for the time they were in servitude to surrounding nations. This was during the period of the Judges, and there were six of those events. The total is 490 years. The third period is from the dedication of the Temple to the Edict of Artaxerxes, and that was 560 calendar years. (This is the edict that is the starting point for Daniel’s 70 weeks.) Subtract 70 years for the Babylonian captivity and we have 490 years, again. Finally, we take Artaxerxes’ Edict to the Second Coming of Messiah. Obviously, we don’t have all of our numbers for this. We do know the numbers for the first 69 weeks of Daniel’s 70, though. From the Edict to the birth of Messiah was 483 years. We also know that the final “week” will last seven years. Once again we have 490 years; even though we don’t know how long the church interval will last. So, beginning with Abraham, we have four equal periods of time. Why is that important? If all the calculations are right, this would be a confirmation that world history is coming to a climax. It also confirms that Israel is not only God’s timepiece, but they are still an important part of His plans, as well. Daniel’s first concern was that not many Babylonian Jews — less than fifty thousand — returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 2). The rest chose to remain in Babylon as aliens in a land of idolatry. Daniel was also distressed over the plight of those who had returned. As the book of Ezra makes plain, the children of Israel had encountered great difficulty in getting settled in the land. Although the altar had been set up and the foundation of the temple laid (Ezra 3), the work had been suspended because of opposition by the people of the land (Ezra 4:1-5, 24). All of this was of great concern to Daniel, for his primary purpose in encouraging the expedition had been the restoration of the temple as well as the city of Jerusalem. The distress of Daniel’s people burdened him so deeply that he fasted for three weeks, mourning and praying for God to disclose His will for the nation. God answered his prayer with yet another vision — the fourth one recorded in the book of Daniel. It came to him during the third year of Cyrus’s reign over Persia. Daniel was now in his eighties and had been a captive for around seventy years. The vision is described as “true, but the appointed time was long.” The vision pictured dark and difficult times for Daniel’s people, stretching far into the distant future. This is almost the same situation as the one presented in Daniel 9. Daniel prayed to God about the 490 years in the past that resulted in the seventy-year captivity, and God gave him a prophecy about the 490 years that were yet in the future. Here in chapter 10, Daniel prays to God concerning the Jews’ present failure to fulfill their responsibility, and God answers by giving him one of the most comprehensive messages about the future in the entire Bible. The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.. . . Then he said,
“Do you know why I have come to you? And now I must return to fight with the prince of Persia; and when I have gone forth, indeed the prince of Greece will come. But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth.” (Daniel 10:13, 20-21) These two verses reveal an often overlooked truth. In the invisible realms rages a battle that powerfully influences events in our world. As the apostle Paul says, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). When Gabriel left heaven to deliver God’s answer to Daniel, Satan dispatched his own “angel” — the one responsible for the demonic control of Persia — to intercept that answer and try to thwart the work of God. When the two angels clashed, a great battle erupted, which continued to rage for three weeks. Evil is not an abstract concept — every evil originates in a personality. Satan ordered the prince of Persia to do whatever it took to keep God’s plan in Persia from moving forward. This record makes it apparent that Satan assigns his demons geographically. It’s probable that he assigns one demon prince to head the satanic activity of each principality or government on the face of the earth. If there is a demon assigned to Persia, there is most likely a demon assigned to the territories where you and I live. It’s against this army of evil princes that we are in daily conflict. God let His prophet Daniel see this suffering ahead of time, and the vision was so real that Daniel reacted as if these horrible things were happening as he watched. So traumatic was this prophetic news that Daniel had to be “strengthened” three times (Daniel 10: 10, 16, 18). Daniel 11 offers a glimpse into events that were yet to come for Israel, foretold by prophetic words God had given to Gabriel to deliver to Daniel in response to his prayer. In this message, God unfolds the detailed revelations of what would befall the nation of Israel in the centuries to come. Daniel 11:1-2 gives the prophetic history of Persia. Daniel 11:3-20 foretells the history of Greece. Daniel 11:21-35 sets forth the history of Israel and Israel’s fierce foe during Maccabean times. Daniel 11:36-45 forewarns the people of God of the last great monster and murderer, the Antichrist. The prophecies of Daniel are recorded in such detail, and so many of them have been so meticulously fulfilled in history, that unbelieving critics have resorted to suggesting a late date for the book. According to them the book of Daniel was written after the prophecies it records took place, after Antiochus Epiphanes. That would make the book a forgery, the author a fraud, and its divine inspiration a farce. A major problem has arisen for this argument in that copies of the Old Testament have been found and dated to the 3rd century BC, 100 years before Antiochus, and Daniel is included in those texts. Daniel 11 concerns five rulers who would arise in future times, Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Alexander, Antiochus III, Antiochus IV, and Antichrist. CHAPTER ELEVEN The angel now predicts the events from 536 BC to AD 1948. Then he begins to talk about the rise of the Antichrist. Persia: 536 – 326 BC 1 “Also in the first year of Darius the Mede, I, even I, stood up to confirm and strengthen him.) 2 And now I will tell you the truth: Behold, three more kings will arise in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; by his strength, through his riches, he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece. (Daniel 11:1-2) Darius the Meade ruled from 536 to 530 BC. The four Persian kings were: Cambyses (530-522 BC); PseudoSmerdis (522 BC); Darius (522-486 BC); Xerxes I (486-465 BC, See Esther 1: 1). Xerxes I, also known as Ahasuerus, after growing rich, attacked Greece at Sardis of Asia Minor in 480 BC with 2,641,000 men and 1,200 ships. It was the largest invasion force the world had ever seen up to that time. Still, the Greeks stood their ground and eight months later the Persians lost the war. Greece Under Alexander the Great (326-323 BC) Alexander the Great was born in Pella in 356 BC. Upon taking the throne of Greece, he began a campaign against the Persian Empire. “3 Then a mighty king shall arise, who shall rule with great dominion, and do according to his will. 4 And when he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken up and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not among his posterity nor according to his dominion with which he ruled; for his kingdom shall be uprooted, even for others besides these.” (Daniel 11:3-4)
Alexander entered Asia in 334 BC with 34,000 men against Darius’ 400,000 men. Even with a much smaller army, within a year he controlled Syria. Alexander the Great died at the age of 33, only three years after gaining control of the known world. At the time of his death in 323 BC, none of his children took the throne. Instead, Alexander’s kingdom was split into four parts. Each of the four ruling generals of his empire took a portion of the empire for his own. Seleucus Nicator seized Syria, Cassander governed Macedonia (Greece), Lysimachus occupied Thrace (Turkey), and Ptolemy took control of Egypt. Ptolemy I Soter (323-285) Seleucus Nicator seized control of Syria. 5 “Also the king of the South shall become strong, as well as one of his princes; and he shall gain power over him and have dominion. His dominion shall be a great dominion. (Daniel 11:5) Then he was deposed and fled to Egypt. He became a general/ prince for Ptolemy and recaptured control of Syria. Seleucus ruled Syria from 311-280 BC. Berenice Marries Antiochus II Berenice, daughter of Egypt’s Pharaoh Ptolemy II, married Antiochus II to form an alliance between Syria and Egypt. 6 And at the end of some years they shall join forces, for the daughter of the king of the South shall go to the king of the North to make an agreement; but she shall not retain the power of her authority, and neither he nor his authority shall stand; but she shall be given up, with those who brought her, and with him who begot her, and with him who strengthened her in those times. (Daniel 11:6) Laodice, Antiochus II’s first wife, had Berenice and her son executed. She then poisoned Antiochus II and placed her own son, Seleucus II Callinicus, on the throne (246-226 BC). Ptolemy III Euergetes (246-221 BC) Berenice’s brother, Pharaoh Ptolemy III, attacked the Syrian fortress of Antioch. 7 But from a branch of her roots one shall arise in his place, who shall come with an army, enter the fortress of the king of the North, and deal with them and prevail. 8 And he shall also carry their gods captive to Egypt, with their princes and their precious articles of silver and gold; and he shall continue more years than the king of the North. 9 “Also the king of the North shall come to the kingdom of the king of the South, but shall return to his own land. (Daniel 11:7-9) Pharaoh Ptolemy III then captured Laodice and put her to death. Berenice’s father, Ptolemy II, died about the same time. Ptolemy III recaptured the Syrian & Egyptian gods as spoil, which the Persian king Cambyses had carried off after conquering Egypt in 525 BC. Seleucus III Ceaunus (226-223 BC) & Antiochus III the Great (223-187 BC) Syria’s ruler, Seleucus II, had two sons, Seleucus III and Antiochus III. 10 However his sons shall stir up strife, and assemble a multitude of great forces; and one shall certainly come and overwhelm and pass through; then he shall return to his fortress and stir up strife. (Daniel 11:10) The two sons started a war with Egypt, but one brother, Seleucus III, died before reaching the battle. Antiochus II pushed all the way to the Egyptian fortress at Raphia in south Israel by 218 BC. Ptolemy IV Philopator (221-203 BC) Egypt’s Ptolemy IV defeated Antiochus III at Raphia in 217 BC. 13 For the king of the North will return and muster a multitude greater than the former, and shall certainly come at the end of some years with a great army and much equipment. 14 “Now in those times many shall rise up against the king of the South. Also, violent men of your people shall exalt themselves in fulfillment of the vision, but they shall fall. 15 So the king of the North shall come and build a siege mound, and take a fortified city; and the forces of the South shall not withstand him. Even his choice troops shall have no strength to resist. (Daniel 11:13-15) At this time, a false prophet arose and misled the Jewish people to “establish” his “vision” by supporting the wrong king, Antiochus. The “many” included Philip of Macedon who entered into an agreement to divide Egypt between himself and Antiochus; but the Ptolemic general Scopas crushed the rebellion. Having lost the battle in the south, Antiochus turned back north and captured the port city of Sidon. Antiochus Controlled Israel Antiochus was in full control of Israel, the “glorious land,” by 197 BC.
But he who comes against him shall do according to his own will, and no one shall stand against him. He shall stand in the Glorious Land with destruction in his power. (Daniel 11:16) Antiochus Gave Cleopatra I to Ptolemy V (194 BC) When Antiochus learned Egypt had made an alliance with Rome, he did not attack Egypt but tried gaining control of Egypt by giving his 11-yr-old daughter, Cleopatra, to the 12-yr-old Ptolemy V in marriage. 17 “He shall also set his face to enter with the strength of his whole kingdom, and upright ones with him; thus shall he do. And he shall give him the daughter of women to destroy it; but she shall not stand with him, or be for him. (Daniel 11:17) However, Cleopatra sided with her husband and did not listen to her father. Roman Consul Defeats Antiochus (190 BC) Antiochus attacked the coastlands with 300 ships; but the Roman Consul Luscious Cornelius Scipio Asiaticus defeated him at Magnesia, in Asia Minor, in 190 BC. 18 After this he shall turn his face to the coastlands, and shall take many. But a ruler shall bring the reproach against them to an end; and with the reproach removed, he shall turn back on him. 19 Then he shall turn his face toward the fortress of his own land; but he shall stumble and fall, and not be found. (Daniel 11:18-19) Antiochus died in 187 BC while trying to plunder the temple of Bel, in the province of Elymais. His body was never found. Seleucus IV Philopator (187-175 BC) Seleucus IV, son of Antiochus the Great, gave orders to his finance minister to have the Jerusalem temple, the “glory of the kingdom”, plundered. 20 “There shall arise in his place one who imposes taxes on the glorious kingdom; but within a few days he shall be destroyed, but not in anger or in battle. (Daniel 11:20) Heliodors, his finance minister, quickly formed a conspiracy, and within a “few days” Seleucus IV was poisoned. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BC) Antiochus Epiphanes was most vile. He continually persecuted the Jews until the revolt of the Maccabees. 21 And in his place shall arise a vile person, to whom they will not give the honor of royalty; but he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue. 22 With the force of a flood they shall be swept away from before him and be broken, and also the prince of the covenant. 23 And after the league is made with him he shall act deceitfully, for he shall come up and become strong with a small number of people. 24 He shall enter peaceably, even into the richest places of the province; and he shall do what his fathers have not done, nor his forefathers: he shall disperse among them the plunder, spoil, and riches; and he shall devise his plans against the strongholds, but only for a time. 25 “He shall stir up his power and his courage against the king of the South with a great army. And the king of the South shall be stirred up to battle with a very great and mighty army; but he shall not stand, for they shall devise plans against him. 26 Yes, those who eat of the portion of his delicacies shall destroy him; his army shall be swept away, and many shall fall down slain. 27 Both these kings’ hearts shall be bent on evil, and they shall speak lies at the same table; but it shall not prosper, for the end will still be at the appointed time. (Daniel 11:21-27) Antiochus Epiphanes “obtained” the “honor of the kingdom” from his brother Demetrius I, and had Onias III, the “prince of the covenant” assassinated. Antiochus Epiphanes deceived Rome into officially recognizing him. He invaded Israel and most of Egypt. Ptolemy VI Philometer mobilized a large army to stop Antiochus; but his younger brother, Ptolemy VII Physcon, entered into a conspiracy with Antiocus. As a result, Ptolemy VI Philometer was overthrown. 4 Onias recognized that the rivalry was serious and that Apollonius, the son of Menestheus and governor of Coelesyria and Phoenicia, was intensifying the malice of Simon. 5 So he betook himself to the king, not accusing his fellow citizens but having in view the welfare, both public and private, of all the people. 6 For he saw that without the king's attention public affairs could not again reach a peaceful settlement, and that Simon would not stop his folly. 7 When Seleucus died and Antiochus who was called Epiphanes succeeded to the kingdom, Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption, 8
promising the king at an interview three hundred and sixty talents of silver and, from another source of revenue, eighty talents. 9 In addition to this he promised to pay one hundred and fifty more if permission were given to establish by his authority a gymnasium and a body of youth for it, and to enroll the men of Jerusalem as citizens of Antioch. 10 When the king assented and Jason came to office, he at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life. (2 Maccabees 4:4-10 RSVA) Antiochus IV Epiphanes Attacked Jerusalem Antiochus Epiphanes had high priest, Jason, deposed. 28 While returning to his land with great riches, his heart shall be moved against the holy covenant; so he shall do damage and return to his own land. (Daniel 11:28) Jason, thinking Antiochus was now powerless, started a rumor that he had died in hopes of getting the priesthood back. When Antiochus heard all of Israel rejoiced over his supposed death, he attacked with fury. This occurred in 169 BC. 5 When a false rumor arose that Antiochus was dead, Jason took no less than a thousand men and suddenly made an assault upon the city. When the troops upon the wall had been forced back and at last the city was being taken, Menelaus took refuge in the citadel. 6 But Jason kept relentlessly slaughtering his fellow citizens, not realizing that success at the cost of one's kindred is the greatest misfortune, but imagining that he was setting up trophies of victory over enemies and not over fellow countrymen. 7 He did not gain control of the government, however; and in the end got only disgrace from his conspiracy, and fled again into the country of the Ammonites. 8 Finally he met a miserable end. Accused before Aretas the ruler of the Arabs, fleeing from city to city, pursued by all men, hated as a rebel against the laws, and abhorred as the executioner of his country and his fellow citizens, he was cast ashore in Egypt; 9 and he who had driven many from their own country into exile died in exile, having embarked to go to the Lacedaemonians in hope of finding protection because of their kinship. 10 He who had cast out many to lie unburied had no one to mourn for him; he had no funeral of any sort and no place in the tomb of his fathers. 11 When news of what had happened reached the king, he took it to mean that Judea was in revolt. So, raging inwardly, he left Egypt and took the city by storm. 12 And he commanded his soldiers to cut down relentlessly every one they met and to slay those who went into the houses. (2 Maccabees 5:5-12 RSVA) Antiochus Attacked Egypt and was Repelled by Rome Antiochus attacked Egypt again in 168 BC. The Roman vessels under the command of Popilius Laenas drove Antiochus back. 29 “At the appointed time he shall return and go toward the south; but it shall not be like the former or the latter. 30 For ships from Cyprus shall come against him; therefore, he shall be grieved, and return in rage against the holy covenant, and do damage. “So he shall return and show regard for those who forsake the holy covenant. (Daniel 11:29-30) Antiochus was a Type of the Antichrist (165 BC) Antiochus occupied Jerusalem from 165 to 158 BC. 31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation. (Daniel 11:31) Antiochus set up his idol in the Holy of Holies and sacrificed a pig on the altar. For three years he controlled Jerusalem. Then Judas Maccabee started a rebellion that drove Syrian forces out of Jerusalem and all of Israel. This event is still commemorated today in the festival of Hanukah. Daniel prophesies this event almost 400 years before it was fulfilled by Antiochus Epiphanies. About 75 years after Antiochus’ death, Jesus referred to this passage in Matthew 24, stating it also refers to the future temple. This is a double-fulfillment prophecy referring to both Antiochus and the future Antichrist. The Maccabees (164-64 BC) After Antiochus’ three-year occupation, the Maccabees drove him out of Israel. 32 Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. (Daniel 11:32) News of the Israelite rebellion crushed his empire. He died a natural death in 164 BC in the city of Tabae. The Maccabees then ruled in peace from 164 to 64 BC when the Roman general Pompey conquered Jerusalem.
Roman Occupation and Diaspora (64 BC-AD 1948) Rome established control of Israel in 64 BC. 33 And those of the people who understand shall instruct many; yet for many days they shall fall by sword and flame, by captivity and plundering. (Daniel 11:33) Rome conquered Israel by the “sword” in 64 BC. The Messiah came and was crucified in AD 32, as we have seen in chapter 9. During this time Jewish Christians converted and instructed many. Rome destroyed the temple by “flame” in AD 70 and then dispersed Israel into either exile or “captivity” among the nations in AD 132. The “many days” turned out to last from AD 132 to AD 1948 or 1,816 years. Rise of Antichrist The remainder of this vision pertains to the time period after Israel’s return in 1948 AD. 34 Now when they fall, they shall be aided with a little help; but many shall join with them by intrigue. 35 And some of those of understanding shall fall, to refine them, purify them, and make them white, until the time of the end; because it is still for the appointed time. (Daniel 11:34-35) Israel continued in exile until the “appointed time” of their return, which was AD 1948. Sometime after 1948, we are to see the rise of the Antichrist. The Antichrist will prosper during the whole seven-year Tribulation period. Verse 39 (below) shows he will divide the land of Israel, possibly to create a Palestinian state. Religion of the Antichrist The religions of the Buddhists, Hindus, and Jews were well known in Daniel’s time. Islam is an outgrowth of Jewish and some Christian ideas. The Antichrist will not honor a god of the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, or Christians. Instead he will honor a god of “forces,” a god unknown in Daniel’s time. 36 “Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, shall speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the wrath has been accomplished; for what has been determined shall be done. 37 He shall regard neither the God of his fathers nor the desire of women, nor regard any god; for he shall exalt himself above them all. 38 But in their place he shall honor a god of fortresses; and a god which his fathers did not know he shall honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and pleasant things. 39 Thus he shall act against the strongest fortresses with a foreign god, which he shall acknowledge, and advance its glory; and he shall cause them to rule over many, and divide the land for gain. (Daniel 11:36-39) The worship of a god of forces is a very ancient form of paganism that teaches we are evolving into gods. Followers believe the force that once was the original creator God, was emptied out into creation. The Antichrist will claim he is the most advanced god. He will deny Jesus is the only Christ (1 John 2: 22), that Jesus is the only son of God (1 John 4: 15), that the Christ came in the flesh of Jesus (1 John 4: 3), and that Jesus is coming back in the flesh to earth (2 John 7). The temple will be the strongest of the strongholds until the two witnesses of Revelation are killed. The Antichrist will then place a teraphim (idol) in the temple, according to his religion. The Great War – Jordan Spared The Antichrist, while still ruler of Syria, will enforce a peace plan to divide Israel, but allow the temple to be rebuilt. (Perhaps in return for allowing a Palestinian state.) In reaction to this plan, three of the ten nations of his coalition will rebel and move to stop the peace plan. 40 “At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through. 41 He shall also enter the Glorious Land, and many countries shall be overthrown; but these shall escape from his hand: Edom, Moab, and the prominent people of Ammon. (Daniel 11:40-41) “At the time of the end” refers to the beginning of the seven-year period. The Antichrist will move against Egypt, ruining many countries in the process. The ancient countries of Moab, Ammon, and Edom are now collectively called Jordan. Jordan will not be harmed in this war. Jews that are aware of the predictions in Scripture will flee for safety to Petra, which is in Jordan. Three Rebellious Nations Egypt will lead a rebellion to stop the construction of a Jewish temple on the Temple Mount.
He shall stretch out his hand against the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape. 43 He shall have power over the treasures of gold and silver, and over all the precious things of Egypt; also the Libyans and Ethiopians shall follow at his heels. (Daniel 11:42-43) “4And the Egyptians will I give over into the hand of a cruel lord; and a fierce king shall rule over them, says the Lord, the LORD of hosts. 5And the waters shall fail from the sea, and the river shall be wasted and dried up.” (Isaiah 19: 4-5) The Antichrist will respond with an attack on Egypt. In Isaiah’s description of this battle, all of Egypt is laid waste and the Nile River stops flowing. Daniel adds that Ethiopia and Libya are with Egypt in this war. Now we know who the three rebel nations of Daniel 7: 24 are. The North Eastern War With Egypt destroyed, another rebellion will begin to rise from the northeast, so the Antichrist will turn his attention there. 44 But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore, he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. (Daniel 11:44) Northeast of Egypt is Israel and the West Bank. The Antichrist will return and enforce the peace covenant. He will insist the temple be finished. The West Bank Kingdom After the Antichrist squelches the rebellion in Israel and the West Bank, while the temple is being finished, he will select a piece of land for his international headquarters. 45 And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him. (Daniel 11:45) His headquarters will be in a large city in the area between Mount Moriah (Jerusalem), the Sea of Galilee, and the Mediterranean Sea. This will be in the newly independent Muslim state created in the West Bank. We are not told the name of the city, perhaps because it has not yet been built. The Antichrist will finally be destroyed at the Second Coming. The City of the Antichrist Some words in the prophecies should not be translated, but read in their original Hebrew. For instance, in Psalm 20: 1-3 God sends “help” to teach the people to restore the temple practices. The Hebrew word for help is “Ezra.” This is actually a prophecy about God sending a scribe named Ezra to restore the temple practices. The same situation exists in Isaiah 19 where it names the “City of Destruction.” The same thing might be true here. We know the Antichrist will place his headquarters in a West Bank city, but where? Time will tell. _____________________________________________________________________________________________ Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Further Reading: Against the Flow, John C. Lennox, Monarch Books; Revised ed. edition (March 27, 2015), ISBN-10: 085721621X Daniel (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries), John F. Walvoord. Moody Publishers.
A brief summary of the book of Daniel