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Daniel’s World and Ours, Seem to Be Out of Control
God is in control…always. The prophet Daniel believed that. We will see that Daniel’s world, like ours, was a bit crazy. We may think God is not in control, but He is. Remember that, because right now…the world appears to be out of control. All you have to do is examine the news. Go ahead, pick your own source, it can either be your favorite digital source or if you are clinging to the analog world, a newspaper. No matter the source, the story is the same; the world looks crazy.
What is going to happen next? Who is lying about who today? What is the lie of the day? We are to believe what? Or, from when I was in the military, who are we at war with today? We are becoming used to not knowing everything about everything and we are seeing an entire generation growing up living on 2-minute sound bites from television and word bites from the web. No one wants to know the truth anymore, in fact, many now believe that truth is no longer absolute. The world is rushing headlong into the abyss.
It’s Nothing New
This is not anything new. King Solomon was actually right, yes that Solomon, you know, the King of Israel from a few thousand years ago. He said “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NASB95.)
Solomon’s words are prophetic. We always think that what we are going through is new even when it is not. A young teenage boy named Daniel experienced a world much like ours of today…out of control. His life went from certainty to one of chaos in just a couple of years.
A group of young teenagers, Daniel and his friends, would experience permanent dislocation, the removal of everything they knew, and separation from family. Nothing that happened to Daniel was his fault. But before we go much further into this story, we need to examine some background information. What was the world of Daniel like and what about the book from the Old Testament that carries his name?
For us to effectively enter the world of Daniel, we must do a bit of time traveling. It won’t hurt, well maybe just our brain, we are going backwards in time a bit from even the point where the book of Daniel first introduces us to Daniel, the teenager.
But before we move too far, how about the book of Daniel, what is this book, the book of Daniel? What is it all about? I understand there is a story here, or actually multiple stories; but is this something I need to take the time to become familiar with? First, an introduction to the book and how important the book is. The first voice we will turn to is Jerome. This is the same Jerome who completed a Latin language version of the Bible, called the Vulgate, in 404 AD. He lived from 347 AD dying in 420 AD and he wrote a commentary on the book of Daniel.
Jerome stated that “I wish to stress in my preface this fact, that none of the prophets has so clearly spoken concerning Christ as has this prophet Daniel. For not only did he assert that He would come, a prediction common to the other prophets as well, but also he set forth the very time at which He would come. Moreover he went through the various kings in order, stated the actual number of years involved, and announced beforehand the clearest signs of events to come.” (Jerome 1958, 15) It is incredibly bold as to what Jerome is saying. Jerome tells us the prophetic content of Daniel, which also speaks of Jesus, is actual provable written history; written in advance of the events.
Jerome went on to tell us about the accuracy of prophecies that Daniel relates. “For so striking was the reliability of what the prophet foretold, that he could not appear to unbelievers as a predicter of the future, but rather a narrator of things already past.” (Jerome 1958, 15-16)
Daniel has highly detailed prophecy in it. It just isn’t possible to have that much detail about an event before it ever happens. If you think that, you are missing the point. The thing is, it is all prophecy. Prophecy is history, written in advance. Because of that simple fact, those prophetic items that Daniel writes about that have not yet taken place, we can fully trust that God will also bring those to pass with the same incredible detail as the items which have already occurred.
Back to the world and time of Daniel. The religious world that Daniel and his friends, who we will meet in the book, were born into was initially one of revival after years of apostasy. The revival of King Josiah was a breath of fresh air for the nation of Judah. But it failed to turn the hearts of the people back to God. Apostasy took over almost immediately upon his death and before too long turned into abject unbelief.
The Kings of Judah
The history of the Kings in Judah, where Daniel is from, was one of disappointment, apostasy, revival followed by more disappointment. The original mission for Israel was to be a light to the world of the gentiles, who were busy following false gods; instead, the nation divided, the northern kingdom, Israel, became a nation of idol worshippers and they were removed from the scene, in judgment from God, by the Assyrians.
Judah, the southern kingdom, wound up taking a more extended journey down the same path. The nation of Judah was warned. They were told to repent. But Judah did not repent. The warnings and curses that Moses warned of back in Deuteronomy began to come true.
To get a better understanding of the this, let’s travel back in time to the rule of Manasseh, King of Judah. Manasseh became King after his father, Hezekiah, died.
Hezekiah was a good King, one who loved and served the Lord. He reinstituted the Passover, restored Temple worship, destroyed idols and saw the Lord perform a major, Biblical class, miracle in the destruction of the Assyrian army just outside the walls of Jerusalem. He had a flaw though, one which he shared with all the Kings of Israel; this flaw, the inability to train up his children in the Lord.
King Solomon recognized the need, wrote about it, and failed in it. Simple instructions really, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV)
Back to Hezekiah’s son, Manasseh. He followed one of the best Kings of Judah and wound up being the worst King in the history of Judah. Manasseh ruled longer than any Hebrew King, and he was an abysmal failure spiritually. God, through the prophet Jeremiah, held Manasseh personally responsible for misleading the people during his reign by placing them into a hole that not even a revival under Josiah could pull them out of. “I will make all the people in all the kingdoms of the world horrified at what has happened to them because of what Hezekiah’s son Manasseh, king of Judah, did in Jerusalem.” (Jeremiah 15:4, NET)
Manasseh sacrificed his own children (2 Chronicles 33:6) as he went about misleading the nation for 55 years. If there was any evil to do, to include placing the images of false gods into the Temple, he did it. In fact, he outdid the Amorites who Joshua booted out of the land. “But Manasseh misled the people of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem so that they sinned more than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed ahead of the Israelites.” (2 Chronicles 33:9, NET)
Towards the end of his life, Manasseh, after spending some quality time locked up as a prisoner, found the Lord and did repent. He was allowed to return home. He tried to undo all the evil he had done, but it was too late. His son, Amon, who next became King, was totally worthless and was assassinated after only two years. The story of Manasseh from the scriptures:
2 Chronicles 33:1–25
“Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD and committed the same horrible sins practiced by the nations whom the LORD drove out ahead of the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places that his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he set up altars for the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the stars in the sky and worshiped them.
He built altars in the LORD’s temple, about which the LORD had said, “Jerusalem will be my permanent home.” In the two courtyards of the LORD’s temple he built altars for all the stars in the sky. He passed his sons through the fire in the Valley of Ben-Hinnom and practiced divination, omen reading, and sorcery. He set up a ritual pit to conjure up underworld spirits and appointed magicians to supervise it.
He did a great amount of evil in the sight of the LORD and angered him. He put an idolatrous image he had made in God’s temple, about which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “This temple in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will be my permanent home. I will not make Israel again leave the land I gave to their ancestors, provided that they carefully obey all I commanded them, the whole law, the rules and regulations given to Moses.” But Manasseh misled the people of Judah and the residents of Jerusalem so that they sinned more than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed ahead of the Israelites.
The LORD confronted Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. So the LORD brought against them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria. They seized Manasseh, put hooks in his nose, bound him with bronze chains, and carried him away to Babylon. In his pain Manasseh asked the LORD his God for mercy and truly humbled himself before the God of his ancestors. When he prayed to the LORD, the LORD responded to him and answered favorably his cry for mercy. The LORD brought him back to Jerusalem to his kingdom.
Then Manasseh realized that the LORD is the true God. After this Manasseh built up the outer wall of the City of David on the west side of the Gihon in the valley to the entrance of the Fish Gate and all around the terrace; he made it much higher. He placed army officers in all the fortified cities in Judah.
He removed the foreign gods and images from the LORD’s temple and all the altars he had built on the hill of the LORD’s temple and in Jerusalem; he threw them outside the city. He erected the altar of the LORD and offered on it peace offerings and thank offerings. He told the people of Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. The people continued to offer sacrifices at the high places, but only to the LORD their God.
The rest of the events of Manasseh’s reign, including his prayer to his God and the words the prophets spoke to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, are recorded in the Annals of the Kings of Israel. The Annals of the Prophets include his prayer, give an account of how the LORD responded to it, record all his sins and unfaithful acts, and identify the sites where he built high places and erected Asherah poles and idols before he humbled himself.
Manasseh passed away and was buried in his palace. His son Amon replaced him as king. Amon was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned for two years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD, just like his father Manasseh had done. He offered sacrifices to all the idols his father Manasseh had made, and worshiped them.
He did not humble himself before the LORD as his father Manasseh had done. Amon was guilty of great sin. His servants conspired against him and killed him in his palace. The people of the land executed all who had conspired against King Amon, and they made his son Josiah king in his place.” (NET)
After all of that, decades of idolatry followed by an attempt to undo over 50 years of evil, Josiah, the grandson of Manasseh, became King. Something amazing happened; under Josiah, revival broke out in the nation and it started with Josiah. It all began when Josiah’s staff made an interesting discovery in the Temple as they were repairing it.
We see in 2 Chronicles 33, Manasseh, towards the end of his life, repented. But the damage was already done. Judah was no longer loyal to YAHWEH. An entire generation was raised under an administration where it was politically correct to be an idolater.
During the reign of King Josiah, the King would try to turn things around. One good King could not stop what was already in motion. Josiah would have an impact though as some of the generation being born and raised under his rule would ultimately make an impact for God. Much of that generation though, followed their parents lead. They learned what it was like in the good old days. The days when it was politically correct to be an idolater. Many would wind up in exile or dead.
The problem of a leader enabling the groundwork for the moral degradation of a people is not a new problem. This is something that any student of history can see, and it is something we see taking place around us even today. One poor ruler, or a series of poor rulers, no matter the political party, and it is difficult, without God intervening, to turn things around.
The story of King Josiah as provided for us in 2 Chronicles 34.
2 Chronicles 34:1–7
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. He did right in the sight of the LORD, and walked in the ways of his father David and did not turn aside to the right or to the left. For in the eighth year of his reign while he was still a youth, he began to seek the God of his father David; and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of the high places, the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images.
They tore down the altars of the Baals in his presence, and the incense altars that were high above them he chopped down; also the Asherim, the carved images and the molten images he broke in pieces and ground to powder and scattered it on the graves of those who had sacrificed to them. Then he burned the bones of the priests on their altars and purged Judah and Jerusalem. In the cities of Manasseh, Ephraim, Simeon, even as far as Naphtali, in their surrounding ruins, he also tore down the altars and beat the Asherim and the carved images into powder, and chopped down all the incense altars throughout the land of Israel. Then he returned to Jerusalem.” (NASB95)
Josiah was the complete opposite of his father. By his actions, it appears that he had obviously spent a little time with his grandfather before his grandfather’s death. Many times, we underestimate the impact of grandparents, but while he was a very young boy up to the age of 5, Josiah learned lessons his grandfather had bitterly learned. As a little boy, he observed his grandfather desperately trying to undo what he had done. Manasseh obviously spent some time with the boy and Josiah learned from that.
Revival Under Josiah
For Josiah, after being King for 18 years, and having purged the land of idols, it was time to repair the Temple. 2 Chronicles 34 tells of an interesting discovery made.
2 Chronicles 34:14–28
When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the LORD, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the LORD given by Moses. Hilkiah responded and said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the book of the law in the house of the LORD.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan.
Then Shaphan brought the book to the king and reported further word to the king, saying, “Everything that was entrusted to your servants they are doing. “They have also emptied out the money which was found in the house of the LORD, and have delivered it into the hands of the supervisors and the workmen.” Moreover, Shaphan the scribe told the king saying, “Hilkiah the priest gave me a book.” And Shaphan read from it in the presence of the king.
When the king heard the words of the law, he tore his clothes. Then the king commanded Hilkiah, Ahikam the son of Shaphan, Abdon the son of Micah, Shaphan the scribe, and Asaiah the king’s servant, saying, “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and for those who are left in Israel and in Judah, concerning the words of the book which has been found; for great is the wrath of the LORD which is poured out on us because our fathers have not observed the word of the LORD, to do according to all that is written in this book.” So Hilkiah and those whom the king had told went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, the son of Hasrah, the keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter); and they spoke to her regarding this.
She said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Tell the man who sent you to Me, thus says the LORD, “Behold, I am bringing evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the curses written in the book which they have read in the presence of the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken Me and have burned incense to other gods, that they might provoke Me to anger with all the works of their hands; therefore My wrath will be poured out on this place and it shall not be quenched.
But to the king of Judah who sent you to inquire of the LORD, thus you will say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD God of Israel regarding the words which you have heard, Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Behold, I will gather you to your fathers and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, so your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place and on its inhabitants.’” And they brought back word to the king. (NASB95)
So we have a building not used for decades. That building was the Temple and it needed repairs. There had been little to no worship taking place for a long time. Even King Josiah had not been there. What they found, was a copy of the Torah.
What would this be like? It would be like us serving the Lord solely based on what we had been told growing up. We decide to repair the church building. In the church, we find Bible, and read it. Everything changes as a result. The impact on us would be huge.
This discovery had an extreme impact on Josiah. He desired to follow YAHWEH. The King did everything he could to be faithful. When he heard the Torah read to him for the first time in his life. It change him. He humbled himself before the Lord in repentance. He sought a word from the Lord from a prophetess who let him know that he would be honored for his soft heart, but for the nation, it was already too late.
Josiah worked hard on behalf of the Lord for 31 years in trying to turn his people, Judah, back to the Lord; but it was too late. Thanks to the actions set in motion by his granddad, Manasseh, and the generation that grew up under Manasseh’s rule, the pattern of sin and idolatry had become a lifestyle for Judah. But all was not lost during this time of revival under the rule of Josiah. There was hope for some as they followed the King’s example and turned towards the Lord.
The World Daniel is Born Into
A new generation was born, a generation that would wind up coming of age in Babylon as captives and exiles. Some though would die in judgement, victims of the evil Kings, symbols of the hubris of their rulers. Daniel and his friends are part of that generation being born towards the end of the rule of Josiah.
Geopolitically, at this time, Judah, the southern side of what was once the Kingdom of Israel; was technically still independent. In reality, the Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state to whatever power controlled the last army that had recently passed through area. Judah was located in the middle of a highly contested geographic area. This had happened more than once.
This is the world of political, religious and moral instability that Daniel was born into. Sir Robert Anderson tells us that “The prophet’s birth fell about the very year which was reckoned the epoch of the second Babylonian Empire. He was still a boy at the date of Pharaoh Necho’s unsuccessful invasion of Chaldea. In that struggle his kinsman and sovereign, the good king Josiah, took sides with Babylon, and not only lost his life, but compromised still further the fortunes of his house and the freedom of his country.” (Anderson 2004, 21)
Josiah, Decision Making and Us
Josiah made a decision; one he did not seek wisdom from the Lord about. The nation of Judah was geographically in-between two military powers. Egypt to the south and Babylon to the north and east. This led Josiah to attempt to align Judah with Babylon against Pharaoh Neco of Egypt.
The scriptures are silent about Babylon asking for this. He did not seek the Lord on this decision either. He made the decision on his own. It seemed to be the politically expedient thing to do. Records have not been discovered that there was ever an expectation by Babylon of Josiah doing this.
Josiah decided to cutoff Pharaoh Neco at Megiddo as he moved his army towards an engagement with Babylon. Ultimately, Neco would fight against Babylon at Carchemish, about 60 miles northeast of Aleppo on the Euphrates River.
Josiah’s decision was not one based on YAHWEH’s wisdom; it would not end well for him.
This is hard for us to read. We tend to do decision making the same way. We are not taught how to do effective decision making with the Lord in public schools. Most churches do not teach how to look to the Lord in our decision making either. For many of us, we do not have a truly Biblical worldview that would lead us to even think about including the Lord. We are believers, we know and love the Lord, we truly want to be about His business.
Somewhere along the line we became independent of Him in decision making. This is contrary to the instructions of Proverbs 3:5 & 6. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (ISV) As a result, we also tend to exclude Him as well on the really important decisions as well. We make decisions in a spiritual vacuum just as Josiah did and when we get into trouble we usually ask, “Lord help me.” In His grace, the Lord helps, but He also teaches us a lesson that we all have trouble learning, and this is to include Him in the decision making in the first place.
In this situation, Josiah thought he knew enough about the political situation to be able to make a good decision, we do the same thing. This points out to us, that we really do need to take everything to God in prayer, even the “easy” stuff.
The Death of Josiah
2 Chronicles 35:20–24
“After all this, when Josiah had set the temple in order, Neco king of Egypt came up to make war at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to engage him.
But Neco sent messengers to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, O King of Judah? I am not coming against you today but against the house with which I am at war, and God has ordered me to hurry. Stop for your own sake from interfering with God who is with me, so that He will not destroy you.”
However, Josiah would not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to make war with him; nor did he listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to make war on the plain of Megiddo. The archers shot King Josiah, and the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.”
So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in the second chariot which he had, and brought him to Jerusalem where he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.” (NASB95)
After the speed bump of a battle put forth by Josiah, Pharaoh Neco,” pressed forward till he reached the Euphrates, where he was completely routed by the Babylonian army under Nebuchadrezzar in the decisive battle of Carchemish, 604 BC. The battle left the Chaldaeans undisputed masters of Western Asia, and Judah exchanged the yoke of Assyria for that of Babylon.” (Nicol 1915, 572)
Meanwhile, back in Judah, things changed and did so suddenly. Josiah is now dead and so is his revival. The people never really did have their hearts in it. Josiah had been warned by Pharaoh Neco, of all people, that he was doing what God had ordered him to do; and as it says in the scriptures, Josiah did not listen, and it cost him his life. This changed everything in Judah, for the worse. 2 Chronicles 36 tells us what happened immediately after the battle and the death of King Josiah.
2 Chronicles 36:1–5
After this, the people of the land installed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz in Jerusalem as king to take his father’s place. Jehoahaz was 23 years old when he became king, and he reigned for three months in Jerusalem, after which the king of Egypt dethroned him and imposed a fine on the land of 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.
King Neco of Egypt installed Jehoahaz’s brother Eliakim as king over Judah and Jerusalem, changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim, and took his brother Joahaz back to Egypt. Jehoiakim was 25 years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem, but he practiced what the LORD his God considered to be evil. (ISV)
Pharaoh Neco, after losing the battle and most of his troops to Babylon, while on his way home, stopped off in Judah. Even though Egypt could not enforce Judah being a vassal state into the future, that did not prevent Pharaoh Neco exercising his battle won prerogative of appointing a governor and extracting tribute from Judah. That was what conquerors did, even if they lost a subsequent battle. By defeating King Josiah, Pharaoh Neco had won the right to loot Judah.
The nation of Judah was now, technically his. He had defeated Judah at the battle at Megiddo. Based on that, he set about the business of implementing excessive taxation, done in order to pay for the troops lost at Megiddo and Carchemish. He also engaged in a little king making as well. The nation of Judah was now his vassal state. It belonged to him. Josiah had cost him some troops and cash in the battle. It was time to be repaid for this.
He punished Judah for engaging in the battle by deposing Joahaz and then he made Eliakim, someone more disposed to provide him revenue, King of Judah. And as we learn about Eliakim from 2 Chronicles 36, “he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God.”
31 years of good rule obliterated. The world of the nation of Judah has turned upside down. It was once again politically correct to be an idolater. Oh, and taxes became miserable.
Eliakim Becomes Jehoiakim
2 Kings 23:34–35
“Pharaoh Neco installed Josiah’s son Eliakim as king to replace his father Josiah and changed his name to Jehoiakim. He transported Jehoahaz off to Egypt, where he died. As a result, Jehoiakim paid the silver and gold tribute to Pharaoh, but he passed on the costs to the inhabitants of the land in taxes, in keeping with Pharaoh’s orders. He exacted the silver and gold from the people who lived in the land, from each according to his assessment, in order to pay it to Pharaoh Neco.” (ISV)
To make his choice a bit more palatable to the masses, Pharaoh Neco changed Eliakim’s name to the throne name of Jehoiakim. Looking at the meaning of the names, Neco changed the name from “whom God sets up,” to “Jehovah has set up.” (Smith and Cornwall 1998, 125) Not a huge change, but the fact Neco could change the name with impunity indicates to all of Judah, Neco now owns them. Once in power, Jehoiakim begins his reign of taxation.
Judah Post Josiah
The young teenager, Daniel, is a member of the tribe of Judah. He is probably a prince. He may be an up and coming elite within the Kingdom.
Daniel was born during the revival. As he grew up he learned to love and serve YAHWEH. He has seen his beloved king killed. He then witnesses the next king deposed by Pharaoh Neco and after only being King for three months.
With the enforcement of the vassalage by Egypt, heavy taxes were assessed and geopolitically, things do not look good in Judah as now all of the money is going to Egypt. To the tune of 7,500 pounds of silver and 75 pounds of gold.
As a young boy, Daniel’s world has been turned upside down. It was politically correct to worship YAHWEH when he was born, suddenly, that is no longer the case. His parents, born and raised during the good rule of Josiah, worked to raise their son right in a world gone mad, but eventually that world would catch up and change the life of their son.
Let’s recap, taxes are up, Judah is now a vassal state of Egypt, but remember, Egypt did not win the battle at Carchemish, a young military commander, a prince by the name of Nebuchadnezzar from Babylon, did.
Nebuchadnezzar finds himself in the same financial situation that Neco was in; he also needs to pay down the debt incurred from his battle with Pharaoh Neco and provide appropriate rewards to his commanders and troops. Since Neco did not win that battle, Nebuchadnezzar did, he arrived in Judah in order to make some course corrections regarding the appropriate vassal status of Judah. Judah is actually a vassal state of Babylon, not Egypt.
Upon his arrival in Judah, Nebuchadnezzar discovered the situation left by Pharaoh Neco. The King of Judah was a toady for the Pharaoh and was busy collecting tribute and sending it to Egypt.
This tribute should be going to Babylon since. It was Babylon who had won the battle for control of the Levant. Nebuchadnezzar had defeated Egypt. Things had to change and fast.
Long story short, Roy Gingrich relates that “in the summer of 605 B.C., shortly after the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem and subjugated it. He then did three things: (1) He placed Jehoiakim, Judah’s king, under tribute; (2) he carried away some of the holy vessels of the Jerusalem temple to the treasure house of his god in Babylon; and (3) he deported a certain number of the choice young men of Judah to Babylon (these youth were chosen from the family of the king, the families of the nobles, and the families of the other upper classes).” (Gingrich 1994, 9)
Jehoiakim made the politically correct decision to serve Nebuchadnezzar, until he saw an opportunity to rebel, which he did. But even though Nebuchadnezzar could not personally deal with it at the time due to issues with Egypt, he did send some local mercenaries in the area under his employ to take care of it.
2 Kings 24:1–4
In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the LORD sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by his servants the prophets. Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the LORD, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the LORD would not pardon. (ESV)
No one missed Jehoiakim as he had a rather dubious reputation. Regarding the reputation, James E. Smith relates that “Jehoiakim has been called the Solomon of the last days of Judah. He was an irresponsible spendthrift even in a time of national poverty. He conscripted laborers to build for himself a magnificent new palace, though the country was hard pressed to make its annual payments to Neco (Jer 22:13–14). This king was a bigot, an arrogant and irreverent tyrant. He had one faithful prophet extradited from Egypt and executed (Jer 26:21). He destroyed the first scroll produced by Jeremiah, and placed that prophet under an arrest warrant (Jer 36:23–26).” (J. E. Smith 1994, 373)
Basically, a sorry excuse for a King.
Why did all of this happen to Judah? Manasseh is why. His leadership had opened up the door for the nation to fall into a pit so deep, they would not even attempt to crawl out of it. Warnings had been given.
Deuteronomy 28 provided prophetic insight to events yet to come in the life of Judah and Jerusalem, prophetic insights coming true during the time of Daniel.
The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the end of the earth, swooping down like the eagle, a nation whose language you do not understand, a hard-faced nation who shall not respect the old or show mercy to the young. It shall eat the offspring of your cattle and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed; it also shall not leave you grain, wine, or oil, the increase of your herds or the young of your flock, until they have caused you to perish.
They shall besiege you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the LORD your God has given you. And you shall eat the fruit of your womb, the flesh of your sons and daughters, whom the LORD your God has given you, in the siege and in the distress with which your enemies shall distress you. (ESV)
In the type of siege warfare practiced at that time, it was not unusual to cut off the access of all supplies to a city, this would include food and water. Eventually, the citizens of a city under siege would turn to cannibalism for their food source. That outcome, at this point in time historically, is still in the future for Judah and Jerusalem.
Back to Nebuchadnezzar consolidating power. Another common action the victor would take would be to take back with them hostages. Isaiah prophesied this would take place. Hostage taking from the royal family would, in most circumstances, ensure future compliance from the vassal state; Nebuchadnezzar took hostages from the royal family. Josephus lays out some of the detail for us.
“But now Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took some of the most noble of the Jews that were children, and the kinsmen of Zedekiah their king, such as were remarkable for their beauty of their bodies and comeliness of their countenances, and delivered them into the hands of tutors, and to the improvement to be made by them. He also made some of them to be eunuchs; which course he took also with those of other nations whom he had taken in the flower of their age and afforded them their diet from his own table, and had them instructed in the institutes of the country, and taught the learning of the Chaldeans; and they had now exercised themselves sufficiently in that wisdom which he had ordered they should apply themselves to.” (Josephus 1987, 10.186-187)
The prophet Isaiah had predicted over 100 years before that it would actually come to this, that there would indeed be hostages taken.
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (ESV)
I have added emphasis to the section of the scripture we need to pay attention to. Hostages who would be taken.
They would be from the tribe of Judah. Some from the royal family were to be taken. They were to serve the king of Babylon. That this is actually happening should not be a surprise to anyone in Judah who has kept up with the prophecies of the prophet Isaiah.
J. A. Seiss adds that “the inference is, that in Daniel this prediction was fulfilled, as Josephus also states, and that in suffering and privation he was formed for the place in which he became so conspicuous and notable.” (Seiss 1879, 19-20)
Daniel and Others Become Hostages of Babylon
Daniel, as well as others, were to be hostages of Babylon.
To recap, Daniel grew up in a time of great geopolitical and financial uncertainty. Josiah was the King and made some bad decisions. As a result, Judah became a vassal of Egypt. Paid tribute to Egypt. Then became a vassal of Babylon and paid tribute to them.
Just like today in the promised land, enemies were everywhere. Judah, with guidance from Manasseh, had worked hard to outdo the sin of the surrounding nations as well as the sin of the Amorites who Joshua had booted out. In fact, they became much worse than the surrounding nations and the Amorites. But Josiah became King and revival broke out. For a while, it looked like things might change, but per YAHWEH, it was too late. Manasseh had just gone too far.
2 Chronicles 33:9
“Thus Manasseh misled Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (NASB95)
The requirements were simple. Israel and Judah must be loyal to YAHWEH. All they had to do was exhibit that faithfulness by following the law and not worshipping the gods of the surrounding nations. They did not do that.
Simply stated, the nation of Israel, followed by Judah, had turned their back on YAHWEH, exiling Him in His own land, to be on the outside looking in; by going after the gods of the surrounding nations. The gods of the surrounding nations were fallen divine beings who had originally been given authority by YAHWEH over the other nations (Deuteronomy 32) but had rebelled and demanded worship instead.
The result was simple, “God would rather have His people living in shameful captivity in a pagan land than living like pagans in the Holy Land and disgracing His name.” (Wiersbe 2000, 12) As 21st century believers, this is something we need to remember. Today, many profess to be followers of Jesus, but their lifestyle does not reflect that they truly are.
Faith in Jesus Christ should result in our being obedient to Him and His word. Our ongoing loyalty is reflected by the fruit that we show and the work that we do (James 1:22, Galatians 5:23 – 24).
Daniel and his friends will show us how they were raised. They are exiled in a foreign country. There is no chance of returning home.
Daniel and his friends are to become Babylonian.
Daniel and his friends continue to remember who they are. They know where they are from. They know who is their God. They know who their loyalty extended to.
They refused to conform to the culture dictated by Babylon. They refused to compromise in an environment where it was not only politically correct to compromise, but it was the politically expedient thing to do.
In the church today, we find ourselves many times seeing the opposite. There is something in this story of Daniel we should take note of.
Dr. Walvoord notes that, “When the Word of God is ignored and violated, divine judgment sooner or later is inevitable. The spiritual lessons embodied in the cold fact of the captivity may well be pondered by the church today, too often having a form of godliness but without knowing the power of it. Worldly saints do not capture the world but become instead the world’s captives.” (Walvoord 2008, 30) For the church today, this is a big problem.
For example, the church I serve in has 1500 families that call it their church home. On any given Sunday we are lucky to see 1/3 of those families in all of our worship services combined.
We like to think that it is because there are a lot of options for someone to go and do something on any given Sunday in South Florida. But let’s look at this picture the same way that the Lord does. Anything that takes His place is a false god.
No matter how pretty it is on the intercostal today, or how gorgeous the golf course is, or how well the kids are doing in soccer, those good things have now replaced the Lord and the compromising has begun. Is He truly Lord?
Why do we think that Hebrews 10:23-25 does not apply today? “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:23–25, NASB95)
For Judah, compromise had taken over. A “nod” to YAHWEH was simply that, a “nod.” There was no worship, no relationship, no anything. God was not first in the mind of the nation, He was simply a “nod.” God had a different view from the people, “The LORD God of Israel who rules over all says: Change the way you have been living and do what is right. If you do, I will allow you to continue to live in this land.” (Jeremiah 7:3, NET) Daniel and his friends and where they wind up going are the fruit of the refusal of the nation to repent.
About Daniel and His Book
What does Daniel’s name actually mean? Daniel means “Judge of God; i.e., one who delivers judgment in the name of God; my judge is God; God is my judge; he that judges.” (Smith and Cornwall 1998, 58)
Stop and think about it the meaning of Daniel’s name. He goes into exile as a hostage. This is in fulfillment of prophecy. This is due to the nation rejecting YAHWEH. But he has a name that points to the judgement on Judah. The judgement that takes place during his lifetime.
Daniel wrote Daniel. There is a one chapter exception. Nebuchadnezzar, yep the King of Babylon, wrote chapter 4.
My authority regarding the authorship of the book comes from the comments Jesus made in Matthew 24. If Jesus believed that Daniel was the author, that is good enough for me. “Therefore when you see the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains.” (Matthew 24:15–16, NASB95)
The book of Daniel follows the life of Daniel who we see as a young teenager at the beginning of the book and as an old man at the end of the book. Dr. Walvoord tells us that “The book of Daniel, according to its own testimony, is the record of the life and prophetic revelations given to Daniel, a captive Jew carried off to Babylon after the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 b.c. The record of events extends to the third year of Cyrus, 536 B.C., and, accordingly, covers a span of about seventy years. Daniel himself may well have lived on to about 530 B.C., and the book of Daniel was probably completed in the last decade of his life.” (Walvoord 2008, 11)
The book starts off as historical narrative. Later in the book, prophecy. “The first division of the book (chaps. 1–6) consists of historical material and some prophecy (chap. 2); the second division (chaps. 7–12) contains both history and prophetic apocalyptic messages. Prophetic-apocalyptic may be the best designation, for Daniel takes on the character of both prophecy and apocalyptic.” (Miller 1994)
Having an understanding of the prophecies in this book are vital to having an understanding of what is going on in the book of Revelation. Daniel speaks to the end of the age as does John in Revelation and in fact, it appears that they both may have been attendees of the same meeting, but more on that later.
The book of Daniel is unique. It is written in more than one language. Arno Gaebelein relates that “the first chapter is written in Hebrew and so are chapters 8–12. But chapters 2:4–7:28 are written in Aramaic, the language of these eastern empires. The reason for this is very simple. What concerns these empires is written down in their own language and what concerns the Jews is written in Hebrew. Both languages are evidences that Daniel wrote the Book. The Hebrew especially is the same in style as the Hebrew of Ezekiel.” (Gaebelein 1911, 9)
Ezekiel was a contemporary of Daniel and was also in exile in Babylon, arriving in the second wave. Daniel deals with Israel, and it deals with the rise of gentile world powers. When it speaks about those gentile powers, it is in the language of those nations, Aramaic. When the book deals with Israel, it is in Hebrew.
Thousands of pages have been written about this book in the last two hundred years.
It has become fashionable for scholars to call into question the authorship of the book. Many do not stop there.
Some scholars question when the book was written. There appears to be an inability to accept that God would enable a prophet to actually write in such extreme detail about the future. The prophecies in this book are so specific, that there are many who work hard to discount the fact that the God of the Universe actually could supply the information, with the high level of specificity we see, in advance to Daniel.
For example, the prophecies in this book regarding the rise of Alexander the Great were specific enough to lead the priests in the Temple to utilize them as a means to prevent the destruction of Jerusalem.
Let me say that again, the High Priest knew his Bible. He was familiar with Daniel. When he saw the approach of Greek forces from the north, he knew Daniel had something to say about that. He saw the actions that the Greeks had already been involved in up to the point of their approach to Jerusalem. He concluded that this is someone Daniel wrote about.
The Jewish historian Josephus confirms this. Josephus tells us that when Alexander the Great came to Jerusalem, he was met outside of town by the priest and the high priest. They took a copy of the book of Daniel with them.
Josephus tells us the reaction of Alexander the Great.
That “when the book of Daniel was showed him, wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended; and as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present, but the next day he called them to him, and bade them ask what favors they pleased of him: whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year.
He granted all they desired: and when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired: and when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army on this condition, that they should continue under the law of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars.” (Josephus 1987, 11.337-338)
Jesus identified Daniel as a prophet. Ezekiel also references him in (Ezekiel 14:14 & 20; 28:3), as a contemporary. Ezekiel was part of the second deportation to Babylon.
Ezekiel’s ministry was to the Jews. All those living around Babylon and in the community, living in exile.
If you read through some commentaries, you will find some that question the dating, authority and authorship of the book. These were things which were not questioned until the 17th century.
What else was going on during the time of Daniel. To give us a bit more of a historical perspective, here are a few things that were taking place at the same time that Daniel was in Babylon.
- Construction on the Acropolis began in Athens.
- Mayan civilization flourished in Mexico.
- Aesop wrote his fables.
- Confucius and Buddha lived.
- Greek art began to truly excel.
- The Greeks introduced the olive tree to Italy.
The Phoenicians made the first known sea journey around Africa. (Guzik 2013, Da 1:1-2)
Sir Isaac Newton wrote a commentary on the book of Daniel. The criticism regarding the authority and authorship of the book of Daniel did not really pick up until the 18th century with one exception from the time of the church Fathers. Sir Isaac Newton states that “Daniel was in the greatest credit amongst the Jews, till the reign of the Roman Emperor Hadrian: and to reject his prophecies, is to reject the Christian religion. For this religion is founded upon his prophecy concerning the Messiah.” (Newton 1831, 25)
The theme of this short book, per James Boice, is simple, “The great and most important theme of Daniel is that there is but one God, who is Jehovah, and that he is sovereign over the events of history.” (Boice 2003, 15) We see this clearly in the first four verses of chapter one.
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along 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 he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:1–4, NASB95)
Anderson, Sir Robert. 2004. The Coming Prince. Galaxie Software.
Boice, James Montgomery. 2003. Daniel: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
Gaebelein, Arno C. 1911. The Prophet Daniel: A Key to the Visions and Prophecies of the Book of Daniel. New York, NY: Publication Office “Our Hope”.
Gingrich, Roy E. 1994. The Book of Daniel. Memphis, TN: Riverside Printing.
Guzik, David. 2013. Daniel, David Guzik’s Commentaries on the Bible. Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.
Jerome. 1958. Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel. Translated by Gleason L. Archer, Jr. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Josephus, Flavius. 1987. “Antiquities of the Jews.” In The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged, by WIlliam Whitson. Peabody: Hendrickson.
Miller, Stephen R. 1994. Daniel, The New American Commentary. Vol. 18. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
Newton, Isaac. 1831. Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel. New Edition. Translated by P. Borthwick. London: James Nisbet.
Nicol, T. 1915. “Captivity.” In The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, edited by James Orr, John L. Nuelsen, Edgar Y, Mullins and Morris O. Evans. Chicago, IL: The Howard-Severance Company.
Seiss, Joseph A. 1879. Voices from Babylon; Or, The Records of Daniel the Prophet. Philadelphia, PA: Porter & Coates.
Smith, James E. 1994. The Minor Prophets, Old Testament Survey Series. Joplin, MO: College Press.
Smith, Stelman, and Judson Cornwall. 1998. The Exhaustive Dictionary of BIble Names. Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos.
Walvoord, John F. 2008. Daniel: The Key To Prophetic Revelation. Galaxie Software.
Wiersbe, Warren W. 2000. Be Resolute, “Be” Commentary Series. Colorado Springs, CO: Victor.