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Bible Commentary
Daniel

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OVERVIEW

Author: Daniel

Time: 605 – 535 BC

Summary: The book of Daniel predicts the destiny of two opposing powers: The Kingdom of Men and the Kingdom of God, stressing that "the Most High rules in the Kingdom of Men". Daniel's prophecies generally deal with the nations that control Israel, from Daniel's day until the return of Christ.

Key verse: "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 for ever" (Dan 2:44).

Outline

1. Prologue: the setting: Dan 1

a) Daniel and his friends taken captive: Dan 1:1–7
b) The young men are faithful: Dan 1:8–16
c) The young men are elevated to high positions: Dan 1:17–21

2. The destinies of the nations that rule Israel: Dan 2–7

a) Nebuchadnezzar's dream of a large statue: Dan 2
b) Nebuchadnezzar's gold image: Dan 3
c) Nebuchadnezzar's dream of an enormous tree: Dan 4
d) Belshazzar's and Babylon's downfall: Dan 5
e) Daniel's deliverance: Dan 6
f) Daniel's dream of four beasts: Dan 7

3. The destiny of the nation of Israel: Dan 8–12

a) Daniel's vision of a ram and a goat: Dan 8
b) Daniel's prayer and his vision of the 70 "sevens": Dan 9
c) Daniel's vision of a man: Dan 10:1–11:1
d) Daniel's vision of the kings of the south and the north: Dan 11:2–45
e) The end times: Dan 12

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Background

In 605 BC Prince Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian army of his father Nabopolassar against the allied forces of Assyria and Egypt. He defeated them at Carchemish near the top of the Fertile Crescent. This victory gave Babylon supremacy in the ancient Near East. With Babylon's victory, Egypt's vassals, including Judah, passed under Babylonian control. Shortly thereafter that same year Nabopolassar died, and Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him as king. Nebuchadnezzar then moved south and invaded Judah, also in 605 BC. He took some royal and noble captives to Babylon including Daniel, whose name means "God is my judge" or "God is judging" or "God will judge" (Dan 1:1-3), plus some of the vessels from Solomon's temple (2Ch 36:7). This was the first of Judah's three deportations in which the Babylonians took groups of Judahites to Babylon. The king of Judah at that time was Jehoiakim (2Ki 24:1-4).

Jehoiakim's son Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah and Coniah) succeeded him in 598 BC. Jehoiachin reigned only three months and 10 days (2Ch 36:9). Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again. At the turn of the year, in 597 BC, he took Jehoiachin to Babylon along with most of Judah's remaining leaders and the rest of the national treasures including young Ezekiel (2Ki 24:10-17; 2Ch 36:10).

A third and final deportation took place approximately 11 years later, in 586 BC. Jehoiakim's younger brother Zedekiah, whose name Nebuchadnezzar had changed to Mattaniah, was then Judah's puppet king. He rebelled against Babylon's sovereignty by secretly making a treaty with Pharaoh Hophra under pressure from Jewish nationalists (Jer 37; 38). After a two-year siege, Jerusalem fell. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem, burned the temple, broke down the city walls, and took all but the poorest of the Jews captive to Babylon. He also took Zedekiah prisoner to Babylon after he executed his sons and put out the king's eyes at Riblah in Aramea (modern Syria; 2Ki 24:18 -- 25:24).

Scope

Daniel, the main character from whom this book gets its name, was probably only a teenager when he arrived in Babylon in 605 BC. The Hebrew words used to describe him, the internal evidence of Dan 1, and the length of his ministry seem to make this clear. He continued in office as a public servant at least until 538 BC (Dan 1:21) and as a prophet at least until 536 BC (Dan 10:1). Thus the record of his ministry spans 70 years, the entire duration of the Babylonian Captivity. He probably lived to be at least 85 years old and perhaps older.

Writer

There is little doubt among conservative scholars that Daniel himself wrote this book under the Holy Spirit's guidance. Probably he did so late in his life, which could have been about 530 BC or a few years later. Several Persian-derived governmental terms appear in the book. The presence of these words suggests that the book received its final polishing after Persian had become the official language of government. This would have been late in Daniel's life. What makes Daniel's authorship quite clear is both internal and external evidence.

Internally the book claims in several places that Daniel was its writer (Dan 8:1; 9:2,20; 10:2). References to Daniel in the third person do not indicate that someone else wrote about him. It was customary for ancient authors of historical memoirs to write of themselves this way (cf Exo 20:2,7).

Language

Daniel is written in two languages, not just one. The Book is written in Hebrew and in Aramaic:

* Dan 1:1 through 2:4a: Hebrew language
* Dan 2:4b through 7:28: Aramaic language
* Dan 8:1 through 12:13: Hebrew language

There are a number of theories why two languages were used. One reason may be that the Spirit of God was indicating that the message of this book was for both Jews and Gentiles. Thus, the Hebrew portions would get the attention of the Jews, while the Aramaic portion would have the attention of the Gentiles.

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