Book Of Daniel
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In the sweep of great world empires, what happens to a few people is usually overlooked. When the city of Jerusalem fell into the hands of the mighty Babylonian army, it probably didn’t make much of a stir in the ancient world. It was an event so insignificant to the Babylonians that they didn’t even mention it in their official chronicles. The conquest of Jerusalem in 605 B.C. was just the first of three defeats the people of Judah would suffer under the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. This time he simply established Babylonian authority over Judah and left. On the surface not much had changed. But behind the scenes a few Jewish families and some young Jewish men were changed forever. Nebuchadnezzar took a handful of young men from their homeland to Babylon and thrust them into a new lifestyle. Every effort was made to break down their convictions. They had to make a difficult choice. Would they hold to their faith and to a life of obedience to God, or would they flow into the new culture? It was a time of crisis for these young men, including the man we will be studying—Daniel.

Daniel was a man who rose to a position of great influence and prestige in the world system but who never compromised essential biblical principles. He shows us how to live a life of spiritual integrity in the crush of a secular world. Anyone who has been tempted to cave in to the world’s pressures can learn a lot from him.

Historical Framework

Israel’s great king Solomon died in 931 B.C. Solomon’s son Rehoboam foolishly provoked the leaders of the northern part of the nation, and they split off from the south. That disastrous division was never healed. The ten northern clans or tribes were now called Israel. The two southern clans were called Judah. Israel existed until 722 B.C., when it was destroyed by the Assyrians. Judah was spared until 586 B.C., when the Babylonian armies crushed the nation.

Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian commander, came to Judah and Jerusalem three times to put down Jewish rebellion against the authority of the empire. In 605 B.C. the Jews were treated fairly well. A few young men (including Daniel) were taken hostage, but the nation was left relatively undisturbed. The second time Nebuchadnezzar came (597 B.C.) the treatment was harsher. More people were deported to Babylon, including King Jehoiachin and the prophet Ezekiel. Finally, in 586 B.C. Babylonian patience was exhausted. The temple of God was burned, the walls of Jerusalem were broken down, and the people were either killed or deported to Babylon. A summary of these three conquests can be found in 2 Kings 24—25 and 2 Chronicles 36.

God judged Judah for seventy years (605-536 B.C.)—a period called the Babylonian captivity. In 536 B.C. Babylon was defeated by a new world power (Persia) and Cyrus (the Persian ruler) allowed the Jews to return to Judah.

Daniel’s ministry in Babylon extended through the entire seventyyear captivity and into the reign of the Persians. Daniel lived well into his eighties or nineties! His primary focus as a prophet was on the Gentile (non-Israelite) nations. Even during the period of Judah’s humiliation God’s voice was heard in the courtroom of the emperor.

Babylon was famous for its hanging gardens. Check out this BCC documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zaFwJsasl2E

Civilization IV (The Computer Game) has an excellent animation of the Babylon palace being built: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoDK3FqMu60

Theological Focus

If you read the book of Daniel and only see a den of lions and strange visions, you have missed the main character in the book—the sovereign God! Daniel wrote this book not to glorify himself but to exalt the Lord. In every circumstance, in every crisis, Daniel points us to a God who is at work in human history.

To say that God is sovereign simply means that nothing happens that is not planned or permitted by God. That is true of kingdoms and it is true of our lives. Daniel’s God is not a weak, frustrated deity who sits in heaven, wringing his hands, hoping everything will turn out right. He is a God who orders all events according to his own will. The book of Daniel is written in a literary form known as apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic books speak to us in those times when God seems to be absent. The crushed people of Judah in Daniel’s day were saying, “Where is God?” Daniel answers their questions by showing them that even in a national catastrophe God is working out his purpose and plan.

Daniel is able to resist compromise because of his relationship to the sovereign God. His obedience was simply an expression of God’s kingship in his life. Daniel’s courage to proclaim God’s message came from his allegiance to the sovereign Lord who reigned as King, even above the kings of Babylon. Be prepared in this study to see God in a new way! It will be a stretching, convicting but life-changing adventure.

References

Daniel - A detailed explanation of the book by G.R. King
Daniel - Spiritual Living in a Secular World by D. Connelly
Daniel - God's Man in a Secular Society by D.K. Campbell
Your Daily Walk by B.H. Wilkinson
The Life Application Bible published by Tyndale House Publishers and Zondervan Publishing House

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