Daniel: Stranger in a Strange Land
Daniel & the others of the royal seed were carried into Babylon in the first deportation in 605 B.C. Daniel would probably have been in his late teens or early twenties. Because of his commitment to God, Daniel rose to a position of prominence in Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. During the period of captivity, Daniel ministered in the palace, while Ezekiel preached to the exiles.
In the Book of Daniel, Belshazzar is mentioned immediately after Nebuchadnezzar. We know from secular writings that there were four rulers between Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, including Belshazzar's father, Nabonidus. At the fall of Babylon, Belshazzar was on the throne in his father's absence. Since Belshazzar was second ruler in the kingdom, the highest position he could offer Daniel was that of "third ruler" (5:16,29). Since the Captivity lasted seventy years (9:2), Daniel would have been in his late eighties or early nineties when the Medes & Persians came to power.
The book is divided into two distinct sections. The first half is historical; the last half is prophetic. Daniel uses third person in the first section, first person in the second. Each section is arranged chronologically; they overlap by several years.
The prophetic section uses classic apocalyptic language. Apocalyptic literature arose during times when God's people were oppressed. Its message, written in symbolic language, was to comfort those who remained faithful. Daniel himself did not understand all of the symbols (8:27).
The reign of Nebuchadnezzar (1-4).
Daniel & his friends (1).
The image made of four metals (2).
-Head of gold: Babylonian Empire, the first kingdom.
-Breast & arms of silver: Medo-Persian Empire, the second kingdom.
-Belly & thighs of brass: Grecian Empire, the third kingdom.
-Legs of iron, feet of iron & clay: Roman Empire, the fourth kingdom.
The fiery furnace (3).
Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation (4).
B. The end of Belshazzar's reign; the handwriting on the wall (5).
PROPHETIC SECTION (7-12).
The reign of Belshazzar (7,8).
Vision of the four beasts (7); same as four kingdoms in chapter 2.
Vision of the ram and he-goat (8); details of second & third kingdoms.
The reign of Darius (9).
Daniel works on return of Israelites (9:1-19).
Vision of the future (9:20-27). "Seventy weeks" may give a timetable of the Messiah.
The reign of Cyrus; more prophecies about the second & third kingdoms (10-12).
Lessons from Daniel:
If you mention Hananiah, Mishael, & Azariah, you will probably be greeted by blank stares, but most of us recognize the names of Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego. For some reason, we call Daniel's three friends by the Babylonian names, rather than their Hebrew names. Yet these three, along with Daniel, continue to inspire us to faithfulness in the face of adversity. Like them, we are strangers in a strange land (Hebrews 11:13; 1st Peter 2:11,12); like them, we can be victorious with God's help.
A theme running through the Book of Daniel is that God rules in the kingdoms of men (4:17). Most of the prophecies relate to this. Daniel outlines history from the Babylonian Empire to the Roman Empire, through the destruction of Jerusalem (Daniel 9:27; 12:11; Matthew 24:15ff.). When things look bad in the world, it is important to realize that God is in control and that He will ultimately work out His plans.
Several of Daniel's prophecies relate directly to the coming of the Messiah and to His kingdom. Daniel 2:44 predicts the establishment of the kingdom, or church, during the days of the Romans Empire, the "fourth kingdom." Daniel 7:13,14 anticipates the ascension of Jesus to heaven and the establishment of the kingdom ten days later on the Jewish Day of Pentecost (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:46-53; Acts 1:6-12; 2:1-4,33,36,47).
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