The Historical BackgroundThe larger setting for the book of Daniel takes place under the dark cloud of the three deportations (BC 605, 597, 586) of the Jewish people by king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. As Jehoiakim, the king of Judah began to reign (BC 605), the Lord prophesied by Jeremiah that, for the nation’s sin, they would go into a seventy year period of Babylonian captivity. "And this whole land shall be a desolation and a horror, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years" (Jer. 25:11). This period will end when God brings punishment and desolation upon Babylon. "’Then it will be when seventy years are completed I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation,’ declares the Lord, ‘for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans; and I will make it an everlasting desolation’" (v. 12).
The final deportation (BC 586) will be preceded by the destruction of both the temple and the city of Jerusalem. While there will be a small remnant of Jews left in the land, and even some who had fled to Egypt, God will abandoned them, and the last king, Zedekiah, for all their sinfulness and lack of trust in Him. "So I will abandon Zedekiah king of Judah and his officials, and the remnant of Jerusalem who remain in this land, and the ones who dwell in the land of Egypt. … And I will send the sword, the famine, and the pestilence upon them until they are destroyed from the land which I gave to them and their forefathers" (24:8, 10).
The Northern Kingdom of Israel had long been taken into captivity by the Assyrians (BC 722). There was no regathering or restoration of the Jews who were taken off. Most probably died in the journey to Assyria, and the remaining were placed under cruel and harsh servitude.
Nebuchadnezzar invaded to the west into Syria and into the land of the Jews, just before his father Nabopolassar died. By doing this he blocked off the expansion and influence of Egypt on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean Sea, and closed off any Egyptian deployment further into the Middle East. The Babylonian Chronicle says, "At that time Nebuchadrezzar conquered the whole area of Hatti," meaning Syria and the land of the Jews.1
Nebuchadnezzar was portrayed in his own puzzling dream where he saw a great tree whose "height reached to the sky, and … was visible to the end of the whole earth" (Dan. 4:11). In interpreting the dream Daniel said to him, "You have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth" (v. 22). Through the dream the Lord made it clear that the king would be cut down "until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes" (v. 25).
The king would then be afflicted by the Lord and would crawl about as an animal for a period of time (vv. 31-34). When he looks to the heavens he is restored and testifies that God "does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’" (v.35).
"This is the book of the universal sovereignty of God. Prophecy is here interwoven with history to show that God is overruling the idolatry, blasphemy, self-will, and intolerance of the Gentiles."3
Along with Noah and Job, Daniel is cited as an outstanding servant of the Lord by the prophet Ezekiel. God told Ezekiel that these men were able to deliver themselves from harm "by their own righteousness," yet they could save no one else (14:14-20). Daniel is also mentioned in 20:3.
The Lord Jesus Himself refers to Daniel’s name in regard to the prophecy of the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). The author of the book of Hebrews alludes to the book of Daniel when he writes that, by faith there were those who "shut the mouths of lions" (Heb. 11:33). Though not mentioning his name, Paul also alludes to Daniel’ prophecy of the "prince," the man of lawlessness who will someday enter the temple, "displaying himself as being God" (2 Thess. 2:4), "whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders" (v. 9).
Certain other Apocryphal books mention Daniel, the book of Daniel, and allude to various portions and chapters as well. They are: Ecclesiasticus, 1 Maccabes, Sibylline Oracles, The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs, Psalms of Solomon, 2 Esdras, Prayer of Nabonidus, Apocryphal Baruch, Jubilees, and possibly others. And in the Antiquities of Josephus, Daniel is called a prophet.
Daniel’s Status as a Prophet (Price’s stuff)
The Dead Sea Scrolls
The Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in caves at Qumran by Bedouin boys around 1947, have given great confirmation about the validity of our Old Testament. As these ancient scroll documents (circa. B.C. 100) were translated, they produced a treasure trove of knowledge confirming the Messianic hopes for the Jewish people. Discovered were large portions of Old Testament texts, as well as fragments of extra-biblical religious writings.
Because the prophet Daniel and his prophecy are mentioned so often, his book gains renewed stature by the archaeological community. Below are portions of quotes regarding Daniel with the scroll tablets indentification number:
"The book of Daniel was no doubt used as a primary text in the early formation of the Qumran movement."6 Altogether there were found in the Dead Sea caves eight copies of Daniel, representing twenty fragments, and maybe up to one dozen allusions, fragmentary allusions, paraphrases, and indirect quotations.
The Dating of Daniel
Summary. With the Dead Sea Scrolls, the dating of Daniel is pushed back at the least into the late second century B.C. But the modern attack does not wish to push the age of Daniel back to the period of the events in the book, during the sixth century BC. The nineteenth century saw liberal attacks against the dating based on the Neoplatonist views of Porphyry (A.D. 233-305). While praising the internal evidence of the book of Daniel, the liberal scholar and Hebrew lexicographer S. R. Driver took up the charge against the traditional and historical dating of the book. This critical view said Daniel was a pseudononymous work of the late post-exilic Maccabean period of around 168-165 A.D. But the problem with this feeble attempt at besmirching the book is that Daniel speaks clearly in 7:7-8 of the future Roman Empire that would come to fore in about 100 BC and conquered Israel in 63 AD. This diverse beast is that Empire, as clearly explained in verses 24-25.
The anti-inspirational mindset refuses to believe that the prophecies of Daniel 11 were uttered hundreds of years before that happened. While they see the historical tyrant and Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164) in verses 21-35, they want to argue that Daniel was written sometime after the events described, and not be divine visions, that gave Daniel the prophet a vast field of prophetic understanding.
The goal of the critics is to destroy all vestiges of foretelling into the future.
Daniel probably died, or doubtless was an old man, at the very end of the seventy-year period of captivity that ended in 536 B.C. Traditions say that he died and was buried in Babylon, or that he was taken back to Jerusalem the final years of his life. Whatever, the book was probably completed around 536, just before, or right at the close of the captivity.
There is no reason to deny the Daniel authorship of the book, and the captivity close, around 536. Walvoord writes:
In the Hebrew canon that was solidified in the sixth century AD, Daniel is listed among the Writings instead of the Prophets. Some try to argue that the book then has less significance in the minds of the rabbis, but this position is fallacious! The Writings (the Kethubim), or Hagiographa (Holy Writing) is the third division of Old Testament books. Daniel is placed between Esther and Ezra.
Why was the book so placed?
Some believe that by the sixth century AD, the Christians were relying on Daniel to make their case about Jesus being the prophesied Messiah. The rabbis then wanted to place the book outside of the works of the prophets, though at the same time, recognizing Daniel as a prophet. Daniel was not a professional prophet, though David is called a prophet by Peter in Acts 2:30, yet his psalms are placed among the Writings!
David was more than a prophet, and his works were not in a prophetic style. Moses was also a prophet, yet his Torah are not found in the prophetic books. Lamentations was early ascribed to Jeremiah, yet this poem was placed among the Writings. It must have been the style or composition that made the difference.
The puzzle goes on.
Though the books of Samuel and Kings resemble each other on one side, and Ezra, Nehemiah and the Chronicles on the other, why are the first classified among the Prophets, and the others placed among the Writings? The rabbis must have had their reasons. It must be remembered that these classifications are not inspired by the Holy Spirit, but the works themselves and their composition certainly are. The rabbis then must have been considering style, office of the writer, or whether he was writing within the Holy Land or not. Because of the tract Baba Bathra 15a in the Babylonian Talmud, some believe that Hebrew scribes in the fourth century AD simply capriciously moved Daniel to another category. Whatever, none of this affected the acceptance of Daniel as a part of inspired Scripture.The book was highly esteemed by visionaries of the
End and the Redemption in the Second Temple ear, and the Apocalyptic writers used it extensively.8
The Style of the Book of Daniel The language of Daniel is not complicated are difficult to understand. In so many ways, the book is easy to read. It is interesting to note the flow of the book from beginning to end. The book seems to cover the period of the life of Daniel, from his exile to Babylon as a youth, to his final years as an aged servant of the Lord.
In the first six chapters, the book is written in the third person, describing the events in Daniel’s life and the prophetic revelations given to him. But then an interesting shift takes place from chapters 7-12—Daniel begins writing in the first person, "I, Daniel." It was common in ancient times to narrate events in the third person, such as happens in the Torah, the writings of Moses. But why would Daniel shift from the third to the first person in his book? The answer may never be known.
It could be that in the first six chapters, as Daniel began writing about himself, he saw himself simply writing a diary, filled with objective observations. But as he continued, he opened up his heart and became bolder, recording more directly his own thoughts and feelings.
The book alternates between historical narratives to prophetic visions. And those visions are broad in scope, dealing with great rulers of Daniel’s own day, to far off forecasting of future world events.
Throughout the book there is the continual weaving of the importance of the nation of Israel in world affairs. Bultema writes
It is always difficult to find one all pervasive theme for any book of Scripture, but 4:32b may be one to consider for Daniel: "The Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes." This testimony of king Nebuchadnezzar may be the most obvious theme, along with other thoughts recorded by this great ruler. He also testified from his own experience with the Lord, "He is able to humble those who walk in pride" (v. 37b).
Though not the only theme or subject in the book, one cannot escape the great prophetic chronology of the seventy weeks of Daniel found in 9:20-27. The angel Gabriel said, "Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city" (v. 24). This prophecy, along with several others, is certainly one of the highlights of the book.
Concerning the theme Whitcomb writes
While it is difficult to isolate one overall theme. Here are subjects that stand out in the book:
When all seemed lost with the Jewish people, with the terrible destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the voice of God was needed to give a new testimony. The Lord still reigns and His mighty providence rules over all! This message became the central theme of Daniel. Those who were led into captivity needed to know that their trust in the true God of history would be vindicated.
It was not the purpose of this book to record all the details of the life of Daniel. His lineage, age, life and death, are not recorded. Besides the stories of his faithfulness to the Lord, there are only scattered incidents that are mentioned in the book. Clearly, there was an overriding purpose in the inspiration of the book that goes beyond the prophet. While some of the things Daniel wrote about were probably shared with those closest to him, his prophecy would become more understandable as Jewish history moved closer to the period of the birth of Christ, and even far beyond.
While there is no targeted audience mentioned in the book, in all probability the book was shared with those who returned from the Babylonian Exile. In actuality, that return took over 100 years, with terrible persecution and intrigue, that is recorded for us in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.
It is reasonable to ask, how much did those returning Jews fully understand about the far prophecies recorded in Daniel? More than likely they read the prophecies with much puzzlement as to what it all meant. They certainly were probably encouraged in reading of the stories of the spiritual and physical deliverance of Daniel and his friends from the hatreds of the Babylonians.
There is good evidence that the Jewish rabbis living at the time of the birth of Jesus had calculated some of the predictions concerning His first advent from Daniel 9:20-27. Some of the things recorded in the Gospels seem to indicate this fact.
But besides the Daniel 9:20-27 passage, the Jews knew the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Matt. 1:23; Isa. 7:14), and that He would come from Bethlehem (Matt. 2:6; Micah 5:2). Probably from reading the Torah scrolls left in the libraries by Daniel, or some of the priests while in captivity in Babylon, the magi knew of the appearance of the star at the birth of the king, as written in Numbers 24:17.
Mary was told by the angel the child in her womb was the Son of God, a reference to Psalm 2:7. The shepherds were informed that in the city of David, Bethlehem, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord, a reference to the Son of Man and His Lordship found in Daniel 7:13-14.
But more than this, the Jews during the time of Christ’s birth must have made Daniel 9 calculations. There clearly was an expectation of the Messiah’s arrival! For example, righteous Simeon was "looking for the consolation of Israel" (Luke 2:25). It was told him that he would not see death "before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (the Messiah)" (v. 26). In a blessing to God, he said, "my eyes have [now] seen Thy salvation" (v. 30).
To Mary, Simeon prophesied, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed" (v. 34). This could be an allusion to Daniel 9:26 where the prophet said, "the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing."
Besides Simeon, an eighty-four year old woman named Anna who served in the temple, after seeing the infant Jesus, "continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem" (v. 38). This indicates there were many who were expecting the coming of the Messiah at that time.
The book of Daniel has future implications that a far generation would better understand. The angel Michael said, "as for you, Daniel, conceal these words and seal up the book until the end of time" (Dan. 12:4). Michael further said, "Go, your way, Daniel, for these words [of this book] are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (v. 9). Then, there will be "those who have insight [and] will understand" (v. 10).