The Latter Major Prophets – Daniel 1-2

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.  And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.  The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table.  They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.  The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.  Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.”  So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.  So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning.  And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.  The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service.  In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

  • Daniel 1:1-21

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.  So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”
Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”
Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”
The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”
This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision.  Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:
“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
    wisdom and power are his.
He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
    he knows what lies in darkness,
    and light dwells with him.
I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors:
    You have given me wisdom and power,
you have made known to me what we asked of you,
    you have made known to us the dream of the king.”
Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”
Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.”
The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”
Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:
“As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.
“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
“After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.
“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.

  • Daniel 2:1-49

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Daniel 1:3-7 ‘Education or Brainwashing’: “Nebuchadnezzar entrusts Ashpenaz, principal of the royal academy, with the instruction of young Jewish boys in the Babylonian culture, including cuneiform, Aramaic (the official language of the Babylonian Empire), astrology, and mathematics. All students at the royal academy were required to have no physical handicap, to be attractive in appearance, to show aptitude for learning, and to be well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace (v. 4). Ashpenaz is challenged to transform the Judean youths into cultured Babylonian princes, well-versed in Babylonian culture and literature.
“The royal academy is supported by the king, who supplies the students with a daily quota of food and wine (v. 5). The curriculum lasted some three years, during which time the young men were to develop into competent statesmen to be used for the advance of the Babylonian kingdom. The royal grant was to perpetuate the Babylonian system of cultural, political, social, and economic values. The education was intended to brainwash the youths and to make them useful Babylonian subjects.
“The process of cultural exchange is also evident in the change of names. Daniel (‘my judge is God’) becomes Belteshazzar (‘may Nebo [Bel or Marduk] protect his life’). The names of his friends—Hananiah (‘Yahweh has been gracious’), Mishael (‘who is what God is’), and Azariah (‘Yahweh has helped’)—are also changed. Hananiah becomes ‘Shadrach’ (’the command of Aku’ [the Sumerian moon god]), Mishael becomes Meshach (‘who is what Aku is’), and Azariah becomes Abednego (‘servant of Nego’ or Nebo/Marduk). Though it is clear that these names are reflections of Babylonian religious symbols, the youths do not object to them. They single out the issues that are important and do not pick quarrels over any and every thing that is different.”

  • Walter A. Elwell, editor, Baker Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 1:7 ‘names’: “A key factor in the ‘brainwashing’ process of the Babylonian training was a name switch. This was to link the inductees with local gods rather than let them continue to support their former religious loyalty.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Daniel 1:8-16 ‘Standing under Pressure’: “Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (respectively renamed Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by their Babylonian captors) are pressured to change their diet. Ordinarily, diet would not be a particularly significant issue, but God had already instructed these young men as to what they could and could not eat. The foods God had told them not to eat were the very foods the Babylonians required them to eat as prisoners of the king of Babylon.
“What could these young men do? …
“Yet, laying their lives on the line, they chose to stand fast in honor of God. And God gave them the grace to maintain their stand despite that pressure. Daniel asked that he and his friends be given nothing but vegetables to eat, and after ten days, they looked healthier than those who had eaten the royal food.
“As a result, Daniel and his friends were exalted and given positions of authority and responsibility in the kingdom of their captivity. The king found their wisdom and advice to be superior to that of the Babylonian magicians and enchanters. This turn of events reminds us of the way God exalted Joseph in Egypt when he maintained his integrity and obedience to God.”

  • Ray C. Stedman, Adventuring through the Bible

Daniel 1:8, 9 ‘Daniel purposed’: “The pagan food and drink was devoted to idols. To indulge was to be understood as honoring these deities. Daniel ‘purposed in his heart’ (cf. Prov. 4:23) not to engage in compromise by being untrue to God’s call of commitment (cf. Ex. 34:14, 15). Also, foods that God’s Law prohibited (Lev. 1:1) were items that pagans consumed; to partake entailed compromise (cf. Dan. 1:12). Moses took this stand (Heb. 11:24-26), as did the psalmist (Ps. 119:115), and Jesus (Heb. 7:26). Cf. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18; 2 Timothy 2:20.
“God honored Daniel’s trust and allegiance by sovereignly working in a favorable manner for him among the heathen leaders. In this instance, it prevented persecution and led to respect; whereas later on, God permitted opposition against Daniel which also elevated him (Dan. 3; 6). One way or another, God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30; 2 Chr. 16:9).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Daniel 1:20 ‘ten times better’: “This probably uses the number qualitatively to signify fullness or completeness, i.e., they displayed incredible skill in answering, beyond the performance of other men who spoke without God’s help. Compare this with ‘ten days’ (vv. 12-15) which is quantitative, since it refers to an actual passage of time.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Daniel 1 ‘Challenge’: “Thomas à Kempis says that the man of God ought to be more at home in his prayer chamber than before the public. …
‘No man should stand before an audience who has not first stood before God. Many hours of communion should precede one hour in the pulpit. The prayer chamber should be more familiar than the public platform. Prayer should be continuous, preaching but intermittent.
“It is significant that the schools teach everything about preaching except the important part, praying. For this weakness the schools are not to be blamed, for the reason that prayer cannot be taught; it can only be done. The best any school or any book (or any article) can do is to recommend prayer and exhort to its practice. Praying itself must be the work of the individual. That it is the one religious work which gets done with the least enthusiasm cannot but be one of the tragedies of our times.”

  • A. W. Tozer, God Tells the Man Who Cares

Daniel 2-7 ‘The Prophetic Program for the Nations’: “Because chapters 2-7 deal with God’s prophetic program for the Gentile nations, Daniel’s original text shifts from the Hebrew language to Aramaic. Aramaic was not restricted to the Babylonians but was the common language of the day, and its usage had been extended, through conquest, to most of the world known to Daniel and his audience.
Therefore, it was ideally suited as the means to communicate the prophetic program to the Gentiles.
“The Gentile nations are to realize that their history is subservient to that of Israel, even though for the period of ‘the times of the Gentiles’ they are dominant. This dominance is but the consequence of God’s judicial fulfillment of His covenant with Israel and is moving progressively toward the fulfillment of the restoration of the nation of Israel, at which time the nations will submit to and worship Israel’s God (Isaiah 19:19-25; 60:3-14; 66:18-21; Zechariah 14:16; cf. Revelation 15:4) and will depend on Israel’s mediation for their understanding of the word of the Lord (Isaiah 2:2-3; Zechariah 8:20-23).”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Daniel 2:1-45 ‘The Times of the Gentiles’:The first of Daniel’s prophetic revelations is communicated through the medium of dreams. Whether to pagans (Genesis 41:1-8), patriarchs (Genesis 28:12-15; 31:11-13; 37:5-10), or potentates (1 Kings 3:5-15), only when God determined to reveal His will to Israel or His future plans for Israel had He employed this as a means. This is in no way comparable to modern psychological practices such as dream analysis (to reveal inner conflicts) or New Age dream therapy (to guide behavior and interpret the future). Such efforts are self-directed, but Daniel’s dream is divinely directed. It is clear from this account that the dream was designed by God and given sovereignly for the purpose of revealing His prophetic plan (Daniel 2:28).
“That a representative of the nation of Israel succeeded in interpreting the dream and the representatives of Babylon, the most powerful nation of that day, failed (verses 24-27,47) revealed that the destiny of the nations depended on Israel’s God and the fulfillment of God’s purpose for Israel (verses 28-30,45). One Gentile kingdom would follow another (verses 39-43), but the final and everlasting kingdom would be that promised to Israel by their God (verse 44). Prophetic revelation received in this form cannot be reduced to a spiritual message that has no corresponding reality. Daniel’s visionary content of judgment and salvation points to the actual physical destruction of empires and the national deliverance of peoples. Because Daniels prophecy speaks of a real future outcome, the interpretation of this prophecy cannot be handled subjectively but must be carefully exegeted, in context, using proper hermeneutical guidelines
.”

  • Tim LaHaye and Ed Hindson, Exploring Bible Prophecy

Daniel 2:36-45 ‘’: “Five empires in succession would rule over Israel, here pictured by parts of a statue (body). In Daniel 7, the same empires are represented by four great beasts. These empires are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome, and the later revived Rome …, each one differentiated from the previous as indicated by the declining quality of the metal. A stone, picturing Christ (Luke 20:18) at His Second Coming (as the Son of Man also does in Dan. 7:13, 14), will destroy the fourth empire in its final phase with catastrophic suddenness (2:34, 35, 44, 45). Christ’s total shattering of Gentile power will result in the establishment of His millennial kingdom, the ultimate empire, which then continues on eternally. (2:44, 7:27)”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Daniel 2 ‘Reflections’: “Though we do not hear much of it in this age of spineless religion, there is nevertheless much in the Bible about the place of moral determination in the service of the Lord. ‘Jacob vowed a vow,’ and it was the beginning of a very wonderful life with God. …
“Daniel ‘purposed in his heart,’ and God honored his purpose. Jesus set His face like a flint and walked straight toward the cross. Paul ‘determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified’ (1 Corinthians 2:2). …
“These are only a few of the many men … of the Bible who have left us a record of spiritual greatness born out of a will firmly set to do the will of God. …
“Let us, then, set our sails in the will of God. If we do this we will certainly find ourselves moving in the right direction, no matter which way the wind blows.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Set of the Sail

My Thoughts

In Daniel 1 and 2, we see four friends who are in a difficult situation.  They are told by God what not to eat, but that is what they are being forced to eat.  Daniel stands firm, but the official is afraid that they will not look healthy without eating the royal food.  Daniel proposes a test, and the four friends look healthier than the others.

This seems to be the Holy Spirit guiding Daniel in the midst of a troubling situation.  The Holy Spirit can do that for us today, but it is better to be prepared by Bible Study and prayer first, and, then, try to learn what might happen beforehand.  Be prepared.  We see this in Daniel 2, when Daniel, about to be executed because Nebuchadnezzar required the wise men to do something impossible.  Daniel tells his friends.  He prays.  And then he goes to Nebuchadnezzar.  He tells the king that his request is impossible for men, but that God can do it.  Thus, when he tells the king his dream and then interprets the dream, it is God that gets the credit, and Daniel becomes an important person in the king’s court due to his relationship with the one true God.

In one case, God stepped in because the four friends were backed into a corner.  This does not always happen.  Many times, you do not come away with much if anything, not even your life.  In the other case, God replied to the prayers of Daniel and his friends.  Daniel went into the situation knowing that God was in control.

But before all this action, Daniel and the three others went to school.  It reminds me of Moses who was highly educated before running away for killing an Egyptian guard.  Moses had the education necessary to be a leader.  Daniel did as well, but Daniel was chosen as a prophet instead of the leader of an exodus.

Many think that the wise men that followed the star to Bethlehem could have come from the same school, having been taught about the Jewish God in that school.  Since everything ties together, it seems a distinct possibility.

Yet, more than one Bible commentary speaks of brainwashing. It was definitely brainwashing. They tried to force the royal food onto them, in part, to have them violate their God’s rules, making them less likely to entreat an angry God, making them more guilty and willing to follow Babylonian rules. We do the same thing today through the media, but it is more subtle. I recently heard a glowing, loving speech by a reporter who witnessed the current president visiting tornado victims, but the same reporter said hateful things about how the former president was “grand standing, playing politics, etc.” The same action, but totally different interpretations. Those who rely on the media to interpret the news for them are thus brainwashed into thinking only one side is right and the other is wrong. Babylon did not sugar coat their brainwashing. It was direct brainwashing with no apologies.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

“1. If your mom served you, or if you served your kids, nothing but healthy veggies for 10 days in a row, what results would you see: Ill health? Good health? Rebellion? Subservience? Why?
“2. What would be an equivalent choice between God’s way and the ‘royal food’ of the world today? What’s at stake for you in that choice?
“3. When your loyalty is tested (as was Daniel’s), what are you most likely to do?
“4. How has God’s mercy ‘favored’ you this year (for example, in your efforts toward excellence, or your service to others)?
“1. Who (or what) drives you up the wall with demands? How do you decide when to give in and when to say no?
“2. What influences you more: Daily horoscope? Church grapevine? Editorial page? Your boss? Other?
“3. Daniel was given wisdom. Nebuchadnezzar had power. Who in your life or society claims to have wisdom or power? How do their claims compare to God’s gifts to us?
“4. How may your prayer life reflect Daniel’s praise and thanksgiving? And his friends’ powerful intercession?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions per chapter, and the questions seem to speak for themselves.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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