Daniel 1-2

Thursday Evening Bible Study

December 8, 2005


Historical background

605 May/June – General Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon finished his conquest of the Assyrian empire with a final battle at Carchemish (located in modern Syria) against the Assyrians and their allies, the Egyptians.  After the battle, Nebuchadnezzar pursues the Egyptian army southward through Palestine.

605 August - Nebuchadnezzar learns of his father's death, returns to Babylon to be crowned king.

605 September - Nebuchadnezzar returns to Palestine, attacking Jerusalem and takes a few of the choicest of the people back to Babylon.  Our story begins …

Daniel 1

:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.

There were three waves to the Babylonian captivity:

The first group was taken to Babylon in 605 BC, which is what it being described here.  Daniel is in this group.

A second group, containing 10,000 captives taken in 597 BC included King Jehoiachin and Ezekiel the prophet.

The final group was taken at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, which took place in 586 BC.

Shinar – another name for Babylon

This is actually a fulfillment of a prophecy that Isaiah gave to King Hezekiah.  Ambassadors from the distant kingdom of Babylon had visited Hezekiah and Hezekiah had shown them all of his treasures.  Isaiah warned that one day those treasures would be taken to Babylon along with some of Hezekiah’s sons (II Kings 20:18).

:3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles,

It has been suggested that Daniel might have been a descendant of David.

:4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel was taken captive as a youth, possibly about 16 years old.

:5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king's delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar developed a three-year leadership program for his nation by taking the best of the best from every nation that he had conquered, training them, and then giving them responsibilities in his empire.

The idea is to make the government able to deal with each group better, to make a more “global” kind of government.

:6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

:7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

The act of giving them new names was to disconnect them from their Jewish heritage and immerse them more fully into Babylonian culture.  It’s interesting that Ezekiel mentions Daniel by name, and he still called him “Daniel”, and did not use the Babylonian name.

DanielDaniye’l – “God is my judge”

Belteshazzar[email protected]’tstsar – “lord of the straitened’s treasure”, or, “Lady, protect the king”

HananiahChananyah – “God has favoured”

ShadrachShadrak – “the great scribe”, or, “I am fearful of a god”

MishaelMiysha’el – “who is what God is”

MeshachMeyshak – “guest of a king”, or, “I am despised, contemptible, humbled before my god”

Azariah‘Azaryah – “Jehovah has helped”

Abed-Nego‘Abed [email protected] – “servant of Nebo”

:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

What were the “king’s delicacies”?

Perhaps they were things that were against the Jewish dietary laws.

Meat with blood in it was prohibited.  Eating blood was prohibited.  Pork, shrimp, other “unclean” animals.
Perhaps the buffet table looked like something out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom


The wisdom of resolutions

Making a resolution, or resolving to do something in your heart doesn’t make you immune to temptations, but if you don’t have any resolution in your heart, if you don’t have any purpose in your heart, then you are much more likely to wander down the wrong paths.

:9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.

:10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, "I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king."

Ashpenaz is concerned for his own job and worried for his life.  Daniel’s “resolve” might end up costing Ashpenaz his life.  Daniel’s response is to help take away some of the risk for Ashpenaz.

:11 So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

:12 "Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.

:13 "Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king's delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants."

I like the wisdom of this – Daniel asks for a trial period.  He doesn’t try and force Ashpenaz, instead he will persuade him with the testimony of his life.


Test me

I think it’s a great thing to be able to persuade people through the power of your words, your logic, and your arguments.
But I wonder if we don’t often forget the persuasive power of a life that is well-lived.
Jesus said,
(John 13:15 NKJV)  "For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
Paul said,
(1 Cor 11:1 NKJV)  Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.
Can you say to people, “You may not understand the words I’m telling you, but just watch my life …”?

:14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.

:15 And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king's delicacies.


God’s ways are best

Sometimes we get the silly idea that doing things God’s way is not a good idea.  Some think that being a Christian means that you don’t have any fun.
Study finds churchgoers live longer
The reward of going to church might be a longer wait for heaven. Regular worshipers live 10% longer than those who never attend services, says a national study to be published next month. Life expectancy for weekly churchgoers is 82, and 83 for those who attend more than once a week. Nonchurchgoers, the survey finds, live an average of 75 years. When researchers adjusted the data for lifestyle factors such as weight and tobacco use, nonworshipers still had the highest risk of early death.
USA Today - April 26, 1999, 4 a.m. ET
(Prov 6:23 NKJV)  For the commandment is a lamp, And the law a light; Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

:16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

:17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

:18 Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.

This is sort of a final exam for the university students.

:19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king.

:20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.

:21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

Cyrus overthrew Babylon in 539 BC.  Daniel had a long career, into his eighties.


Doing your best for God

Daniel and his pals were better than all the others.
A lot of us find comfort in what Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
(1 Cor 1:27 NKJV)  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;

We like this because we feel that if God uses foolish things, then He can use me.

But there is another side to this.  It’s good to be balanced in things like this. 
God can use smart people too.  God used Daniel.
Charles Spurgeon ran a school that trained men to be pastors.  He talked about the kind of men he wanted to see in the ministry –
He said that we should allow none but the best and the brightest in the ministry.  Some think that since they are not good at their current job, that they should go into the ministry.  Wrong.  He said that men in the ministry ought to be men who would succeed at whatever they did.
I think that as Christians, we ought to strive to be the best at whatever we do.  I think we ought to be living proof to the world that God is great.

Daniel 2

:1 Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.

:2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

:3 And the king said to them, "I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream."

:4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, "O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation."

Something unique to the book of Daniel takes place in this verse.  Daniel switches from writing in Hebrew to writing in Aramaic.  Aramaic was the general language of the Gentile world in that day.

From this point until 7:28, it’s all in Aramaic.  Then the rest of the book reverts to Hebrew.

Why the different languages?

Chapters 2-7 are very important chapters for the Gentile world.  And God has Daniel write these chapters in the language of the world.

God speaks the language of the people reading His books.

:5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, "My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap.

Why does Nebuchadnezzar want them to tell him what he dreamt? Was this unreasonable for him to ask this?

Daniel will tell us what Nebuchadnezzar’s state of mind was when he had this dream:

(Dan 2:29 NKJV)  "As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.

I think it’s pretty reasonable for him to find out just how much these counselors of his know about the future by asking them what he dreamt.

If they can tell him what he dreamed, then they can tell him the truth about the future.


Discerning truth

How do you tell which religion is true?  How do we know that Christianity is any better than Islam or Mormonism?  Is the Bible any different than the Koran or the book of Mormon?
If you are simply listening to the arguments of men, it’s hard to tell.
The Bible is different from other books because of the element of fulfilled prophecy.  Only the Bible has the element of specific, detailed prophecies, which are then fulfilled.
The book of Daniel is one of the most amazing books of prophecy in the Bible, with predictions with such detail that for years many claimed that it had to be written after the fact.  It wasn’t.
Just like Nebuchadnezzar’s request of these men, the Bible knows the future and talks about things that no one else could know except for God.

:6 "However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation."

:7 They answered again and said, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation."

:8 The king answered and said, "I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm:

:9 "if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation."

:10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, "There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.

:11 "It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh."

I think that’s the whole point.  Nebuchadnezzar wants to hear from a god.

:12 For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Through the years men have come up with some pretty silly answers to life’s questions. 


Here are some results of a contest for “scientific” theories sponsored by Omni magazine.

Second Runner-Up: Why yawning is contagious: You yawn to equalize the pressure on your eardrums. This pressure change outside your eardrums unbalances other people’s ear pressures, so they must yawn to even it out.

First Runner-Up: If an infinite number of rednecks riding in an infinite number of pickup trucks fire an infinite number of shotgun rounds at an infinite number of highway signs, they will eventually produce all of the world’s great literary works in Braille.

Grand Prize Winner: When a cat is dropped, it always lands on its feet. And when toast is dropped, it always lands with the buttered side facing down. I propose to strap buttered toast to the back of a cat; the two will hover, spinning inches above the ground. With a giant buttered cat array, a high-speed monorail could easily link New York with Chicago.

-- Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 3.

I’m sure Nebuchadnezzar just wants to avoid some of this kind of silly stuff.

:13 So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.

:14 Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon;

:15 he answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, "Why is the decree from the king so urgent?" Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel.

:16 So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.

:17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

:18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.


Prayer / Asking God for wisdom

Faced with an impossible situation?  We need to learn to handle situations like this with prayer.
James wrote,
(James 1:5 NKJV)  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
God says:
(Jer 33:3 NKJV)  'Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.'
Instead of facing a sleepless night tossing and turning as you worry about your problem, go to God in prayer.  He has the answers.  But don’t just ask, learn to wait for His answer as well.

:19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

:20 Daniel answered and said: "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.

:21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.

This part of Daniel’s thanksgiving relates specifically to what he’s been shown regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is going to be about the changing of kings and the changing of empires.  Perhaps that is what is meant by the changing of times and seasons…

:22 He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.

:23 "I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king's demand."

:24 Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation."

:25 Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, "I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation."

:26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?"

:27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, "The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king.

:28 "But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:

:29 "As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.

:30 "But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

Daniel doesn’t claim to be anything special.  The only reason he has the answer is because he was in trouble and he asked God for help.

:31 "You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.

image – He sees a huge statue.

:32 "This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,

:33 "its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

:34 "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.

:35 "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Nebuchadnezzar saw this huge statue made of various materials.  As he’s watching, a stone comes out of nowhere, destroys the statue, and then becomes a great mountain.

:36 "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.

:37 "You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;

:38 "and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all; you are this head of gold.

Each part of the statue will represent a human empire on earth.

The first part, the head of gold is to be symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon.

:39 "But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.

The Babylonians would be replaced by the Medo-Persian empire.

The Persians would be followed by the Greek empire under Alexander the Great.

:40 "And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.

The fourth empire would be the Roman Empire.

:41 "Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.

I believe the feet and toes are a fifth group, something connected in a way to the Roman empire, but different.  I believe it is something still in the future.

:42 "And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.

:43 "As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.

This fifth empire would have some of the strength of the Roman empire (the iron), but it would have the weakness of men mixed in with it.

I believe this describes a “revived Roman empire”, and I think that it most likely describes today’s European Union.  The EU covers much of the same territory as the Roman empire, but there’s a weakness in that the various member nations don’t have a close adherence to each other.

It’s interesting to note that there are ten toes to a human statue, and though there are 25 member nations in the European Union, it’s interesting to note that last year there were talks about dividing the EU up into ten sections, to help make things more manageable.  Hmmmm…

If we follow the thread through Scripture regarding this, this revived Roman empire will be the base of operations for the antichrist.  We’ll see that when we get to Dan. 7.

:44 "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.

:45 "Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure."

The “stone” is Jesus.  He will destroy the revived Roman empire.

(Eph 1:10 NLT)  And this is his plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ--everything in heaven and on earth.

:46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him.

:47 The king answered Daniel, and said, "Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret."

:48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.

:49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.