The book of Daniel is a book about God and His sovereign activities in the realm of mankind! The book gives a marvelous portrait of who He is, how He operates, and what He will be doing in the future. One can argue that this prophecy book is about the man Daniel; about a judgment of the Lord upon His people, about how He deals with the pagan nations; and it is about what He will do in the future. But the book is also about the Lord God Himself. His attributes, nature, personality, and character are set forth in great description throughout these pages. As one cannot escape noticing the prophet Daniel, and the great kings mentioned in the book, neither is it possible to escape seeing the One who works in the hearts of men, and who mightily moves the nations for His purposes!
It may be equally said that Daniel was written
God is Sovereign. Throughout the book, Daniel a predominant theme is that God is in charge of His universe, and of the affairs of men. It was the Lord who "gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand" (Dan. 1:2), and He gave the Hebrew youth "knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom" (v. 17). Jehovah is in charge of the hearts and minds of people. He also rules in history. "And it is He who changes the times and the epochs, He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men" (2:21).
One of the greatest testimonies to the sovereignty of God in Daniel comes from Nebuchadnezzar, after the Lord had humbled him like a lowly animal. He said,
God is the Living God. King Belshazzar and his court "drank wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone" (Dan. 5:4). But the God of Daniel lives! He decides, acts, judges, and brings about things not before seen. God is not passive, nor is He simply a Force of natural causes.
Twice in Daniel it is said that God is "a living God" (6:20, 26), and that He "lives forever" (4:34). God is self-existent and needs no outside power to Be! He just is! This is punctuated by the expression "a living God," and He lives and exists "forever," simply because life is His innate attribute that defines His very being.
God is Eternal. Because the Lord’s kingdom and dominion lasts forever (7:14, 27), it stands to reason that He is an eternal Being! But Daniel goes on and looks further at this attribute of God that shows He is an eternal being—He has always been, and He will always be! Because God is the author of the resurrection of the dead, the righteous who come forth will shine "like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, … like the stars forever and ever" (12:3b). They have come out of the grave by the power of "Him who lives forever" (v. 7b).
But the most clear expression of His eternality may be found in the expression Ancient of Days (7:9, 13, 22). This might better be translated, One advanced in days. Leupold well states that this pictures
God is Omniscient. This is the attribute of full and complete knowledge of all that is, of all that was, and of all that will be yet in the future. God knows potentially would could be, and actually what is! Down to the smallest workings of the atom, to the tracking of the most distant star, the Lord knows His universe, and all that is in it—because He is the Creator of it, in both its substance and in its function.
God revealed to Daniel the mystery and the meaning of the Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great and splendid giant statue (2:19). Daniel proclaimed to the king that God reveals "the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him" (v. 22). Only the God in heaven can make known "what will take place in the latter days" (v. 28); He is "the great God [who] has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true, and its interpretation is trustworthy" (v. 45b). (Italics mine.)
Because of His omniscience, prophecy is absolutely certain! What the Lord knows in a future sense, will come to pass! This is why the book of Daniel closes with the sobering words and encouraging words of Michael, who shared these predictions from the Lord, that "there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book will be rescued" (v. 1).
Since God is the author of all time, and He knows all that time will bring about, the book of Daniel closes with this fact: "All these events will be completed" (v. 7). "How blessed is he who keeps waiting" for what is predicted to come to pass (v. 12).
God is Holy. When Daniel testifies that "the light dwells with Him" (2:22), he is saying that the Lord is transparent, there is no sin in Him; He is pure and perfect! James must have had this in mind when he writes that God is the "Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow" (James 1:17).
Surprisingly, the word kod’esh is not used in the book of Daniel to describe the nature of God as the Holy One. But quite a few references describing holiness refer to that which belongs to the Lord.
A dream came to Nebuchadnezzar, delivered by "an angelic watcher, a holy one," who descended from heaven (4:13, 23). The vision of the ram and the goat was given to Daniel by two "holy" ones speaking with him (8:13). Prophecies were given to Daniel about the temple, the "holy place" that would be "trampled" and then "restored" (v. 13-14). Daniel mentions the holy mountain of God in Jerusalem (9:16, 20; 11:45), the holy city (9:24), the holy covenant (11:28, 30), and the holy people (8:24; 12:7).
The related word sanctuary is used to describe the temple and possibly the temple walls (8:11; 9:17, 26; 11:31).
God is Transcendent. God is portrayed as being far above the commonplace of material existence. He is both near but far! He is the Sovereign who exists above all rulers, kings, and other gods. This transcendence does not imply passivity but universal dominion, whereby He controls and rules over all He has made.
Nebuchadnezzar described God as "the Most High God" who had done great things from him (4:2). A voice from heaven earlier had told him, "you [will] recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes" (v. 32). When he was restored to health, the king testified, "I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever" (v. 34). Belshazzar learned that he could not rule over an earthly kingdom without the providential granting from the God of heaven. Daniel told him, "O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father" (5:18), who was given grass to eat "until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind" (v. 21).
The "other horn," the prophesied antichrist, will fight against the Lord, "the Most High," and will attempt to thwart His plans and purposes (7:25).
God is Righteous. God is just and right in all that He does. There is no sin or evil in His nature. He will judge with perfect clarity and justice. He cannot be anything less that perfect and upright in His character, and in His dealings with humanity.
Daniel comes right out and says, "Righteousness belongs to Thee, O Lord" (9:7). In his great prayer of contrition, Daniel prayed that "the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice" (v. 14), and because righteousness is one of His attributes, Daniel appealed to the Lord who can be trusted to be gracious, "with all Thy righteous acts" (v. 16). Daniel, with great boldness, urged Nebuchadnezzar to "break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities" (4:27).
At the end of world history, and after the completion of the Seventy weeks prophecy, God will "finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, …" (v. 24). This righteousness will be part of the spiritual reality of the millennial reign of Christ.
Those who are blessed with the resurrection of "everlasting life," will have been led to salvation by others who have shared the grace of God with them. As Daniel closes his book, he writes of "those who lead the many to righteousness," and with this blessing, they will shine with glory, "like the stars forever and ever" (12:3).
On 9:7 Gill writes that God’s righteousness is
The God of Heaven. This expression implies the sovereignty of God. To say that the Lord rules from heaven, and that heaven is His, means that what comes down from heaven determines all that happens here below on earth. This is clear when Daniel, interpreting one of Nebuchandezzar’s dreams, reminds the sovereign "that it is Heaven that rules" (4:26b), i.e., the God who is in heaven reigns!
At the end of his seven years living as an animal crawling about in the grass, the king raised his eyes toward heaven in a gesture appealing to the Lord for mercy and deliverance (v. 34). He is miraculously healed and praises God for restoring his sanity.
Earlier in the book, Daniel has described the Lord as "the God of heaven" (2:18, 19, 28, 37, 44). The idea may be, "The Lord lives in haven and His power is in all the earth," or "The power is from the heavens." Human wisdom and intelligence is not sufficient in living in this world. There is a God who sees all, and is above all. His mysterious providence from heaven also controls what happens in the realm of mankind. Wood suggests
Why is adoh-nahy almost exclusively found in 9:3-19, the verses that lead up to the Seventy weeks prophecy?
The answer may be that Daniel pours out his heart as a servant to the Master, the Lord, about his own sins, about the sins of the nation of Judah. In doing this he cries out in prayers and supplications as a humble slave to ask God to "listen … for Thy sake." "Let Thy face shine on Thy desolate sanctuary," he pleads (v. 17). He confesses in several verses before, that the nation had "not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our God by turning from our iniquity" (v. 13).
The imagery is that the people are indebted to the Master for His mercy. Though the nation of Judah in captivity is undeserving, yet Daniel pleads that the Lord "not delay, because Thy city and Thy people are called by Thy name" (v. 19).
The Aramaic section of Daniel, 2:47 uses the word ma’ray for the word Lord.
Ruler of a Timeless Kingdom. Daniel uses the same terminology to describe the sovereign rule of the Lord, but in two different contexts that are overlaid with each other. When the three Hebrew children were spared in the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar declared the wonders of the Most High God: "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation" (4:3). For a moment at least, the king realized that the God of Israel held universal sway over the powers of the earth. The Lord’s kingdom supercedes all the earthly powers put together. His dominion over the nations continues from generation to generation and has no ending.
But Nebuchadnezzar’s humility would not last; he would return to his prideful ways. The Lord would humble him for seven years as he groveled in the grasses like an animal (vv. 28-34). But when his reason was restored, he would again testify that "His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation" (v. 34). Archer comments:
Activities of God.
Revealer of Mysteries. The magicians and conjurers of Babylon were doomed because they could not reveal the meaning in the troubling dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s giant statue (2:13). Daniel and his three friends called for a prayer meeting in which they appealed to God for an interpretation. They "request[ed] compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon" (v. 18).
When the mystery was revealed in a night vision to Daniel, he blessed God and said, "It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things" (v. 22a). Daniel told the king that "there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries," (v. 28) who will make known what is to take place in the latter days (v. 29).
After the dream was told to Nebuchadnezzar, he testified, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery" (v. 47).
On the mysteries in Daniel, Leupold writes:
Darius witnessed the relationship Daniel had with his God. When Daniel was tossed into the den of lions, the king said, "Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you" (6:16). When Daniel was spared, this sovereign ruler added that the men of his kingdom were to "tremble before the God of Daniel; for He is the living God" (v. 26).
Just before Daniel received the great Seventy weeks prophecy of 9:20-27, Daniel was praying over the sins of those who were in captivity with him. He over and over again refers to the Lord as "our God," and appeals to Jehovah as saving "Thy people." And several times, he cried out, "O my God" (vv. 18, 19). Because of his intimacy with the Lord, Gabriel said of him that he was "highly esteemed" (v. 23), probably meaning, of the Lord Himself!
The Providence of God. It may well be said that the entire book of Daniel reflects the doctrine of the sovereignty and providence of God. From beginning to end, the Lord is the one who is in charge of what is happening with Daniel, and the kings referred to in this prophetic work. Berkhof says that
In dozens of places throughout the book, the Lord is moving events and personalities to accomplish His purposes. He is the one who even keeps alive the great monarchs who have sinned against God and exalted themselves "against the Lord of heaven" (5:23). Belshazzar was told, "But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified" (v. 23b).
God’s providence keeps human beings alive, and causes people to walk certain paths through life! The providence of God is a central doctrinal theme in the book of Daniel!
The God who gives Laws. When the commissioners of the government under Darius began to plot the downfall of Daniel, they pondered their strategy and came up with an observation and then a plan. They argued, "We shall not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God" (6:5). They realized that his piety and devotion to his Lord had to be seen as a bone of contention with the king.
This argument by these governmental agents tells us that they knew of the Law of Moses and realized how faithful Daniel was in obeying his God. They conspired to bring down Daniel by the pagan "law of the Medes and Persians" (v. 8b). But by keeping the Mosaic Law, Daniel was seen to be innocent because of the miracle of his survival in the lions’ den. Daniel could say to the king in so many words, "’I have committed no crime’ (v. 22b) because of my keeping the Law of my God!"
In Daniel’s great prayer of contrition, he refers to the laws and commandments of the Lord that his people had ignored. He pours out his heart by prayer and supplications, "with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes" (9:3), and says that God is a great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and lovingkindness with "those who love Him and keep His commandments" (v. 4b). To disobey the Law is to practice "unfaithful deeds" against Him (v. 7b), to sin against His person (v. 8b), and to rebel against Him (v. 9b).
Daniel explains that the nation went into captivity because the people had not "obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His teachings which He set before us through His servants the prophets" (v. 10). He adds, "So the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him" (v. 11). And, "it is written in the law of Moses, all this calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Thy truth" (v. 13).
Surprisingly, the pagan enemies of Daniel knew of the Law of God, but as well, it was the holy legal code from God that was violated and amplified the sins of the people, thus causing them to go into the punishment of the captivity.
Israelology comes out of classical dispensationalism. Its basic premise is that God has a distinct future plan for the nation of Israel. He is not through with the Jewish people. There will be an opening of their eyes and a return to the land. Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel who will return in a historic and literal way, as described in "normal" language in both the Old and New Testaments.
Because of the pervasive position of the Jewish people throughout Scripture, a distinct study of their place in systematic theology has been lacking. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum coined the term Israelology and gave the word its rightful place in theology.12 Israelology would include the following biblical doctrines and facts:
- Israel’s election and permanent place in the Bible.
- The purpose of Israel as a witness to Jehovah, Isaiah 43:10-12.
- The unconditional covenants of Israel: Abrahamic, Davidic, Land, New.
- The conditional Mosaic covenant.
- The continuity of the Abrahamic through history.
- Israel as a "blessing" to the Gentile world.
- The "cutting off" of the Messiah and the Seventy weeks prophecy.
- The disbursement of the Jewish people throughout the world.
- The doctrine of the physical remnant of Israel.
- The literal seven year tribulation.
- The return of the Jews to their promised land.
- The second coming of the Son of Man to reign over Israel and the world.
The person of the Messiah also certainly dominates the pages of the book of Daniel. It is His kingdom coming down from the "God of heaven" that is first described in 2:44-45. It is a rule that will crush and put an end "to all these kingdoms [of the world]" and that "will itself endure forever" (v. 45b).
In the fiery furnace in which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego is tossed, the fourth person "walking about" could have been the preincarnate Christ, though some believe this was simply an angel. Nebuchadnezzar, looking into the fire, cried out the fourth "is like a son of the gods!" (3:25). This is the way the NAS translates his words. However, the Aramaic word for gods is ela’hin, a plural of ‘elah. As with the plural Hebrew word for God, elohim, this may be referring to the God of the Bible, or to gods. It is not expected that Nebuchadnezzar would be correct in his theology, though he was impressed that this person was a supernatural being.
Everyone agrees that the Son of Man in Daniel’s heavenly vision is the Christ (7:13). He is also probably the Highest One in the verses that follow, who will rule over the saints in His coming kingdom (vv. 18, 23, 25, 27). His kingdom "will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him" (v. 27b).
Christ is certainly in view as the Messiah in the Seventy week prophecy (9:20-27). He is the one who comes on the scene near the end of the prophecy. He is described as the one who "will be cut off and have nothing" at His first coming (v. 26). (This important prophecy will be explained later.)
While there is a difference of opinion, many commentators believe that Daniel sees the Messiah who speaks with him in 10:1-21. The old prophet has a similar response as John the apostle when he was confronted with the glorified Jesus in the book of Revelation 1:12-20. Daniel "saw the great vision," his strength left him, and his color changed to "a deathly pallor" (Dan. 10:7-8). He lost his strength and fell on his face in a deep sleep (v. 9). Trembling in his knees, he was lifted up by the being standing before him (v. 10). Also,the face of this personality had the appearance of lightning, eyes like flaming torches, arms and feet like bronze, and spoke like "the sound of a tumult" (v. 6).
On this vision McGee writes that Daniel
The human spirit is mentioned four times in the book of Daniel (2:1, 3; 5:20; 7:15). Five references can be taken as statements from paganism and refer to the "spirit of the
gods" or "holy gods" was residing in Daniel (4:8, 9, 18; 5:11, 14). The first three references were made by Nebuchadnezzar, and the last two by the queen mother of Belshazzar. The word for gods is the Aramaic plural equivalent of Elohim in Hebrew, and could refer to the deity Daniel worships, i.e., the God of Daniel.
At the beginning of the book of Daniel we are told that Daniel, and his friends, had been given by the Lord "knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom" and even "understood all kinds of visions and dreams" (1:17).
The queen mother, who remembered some of the spiritual accomplishments of Daniel in the days of Belshazzar’s father Nebuchandezzar, said this man had wisdom, and "an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams," and explanations of enigmas (5:11-12). She was virtually repeating what God had done with young Daniel as recorded in the beginning of the book.
Therefore, it is not impossible, that while the theology of these pagan people was skewed by their thinking, they were really referring in a very distinct work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Daniel! The pagan people did not fully understand what they were saying!
6:3 may lend credence to this argument. The biblical narration about Daniel says that he "began distinguishing himself" during the reign of Darius, and "he possessed an extraordinary spirit." This is not a statement from a pagan but is a part of the biblical analysis of the man. The Aramaic word extraordinary is yah’te’rah and refers to a spirit with an extraordinary, extreme ability.17 We can now examine the entire narration of Daniel and say that spirit in these passages might have in mind the Holy Spirit. Unger to a degree concurs with this view, and on 4:8-9 writes:
As in all of the Old Testament, salvation consists in basically believing in the God of Israel. He Himself was the object of salvation. The prime example of salvation faith is found in Abraham who simply believed all that God said He was going to do, in regard to his future generations. The Lord said: You will have many children! "So shall your descendants be" (Gen. 15:5b). "Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness" (v. 6).
Being called a "righteous one" was not a reference to living a perfect life. It became a category that classified those who belonged to God. Though the word is not used in Daniel, it is implied by other descriptions. Those who will be resurrected to salvation, and who now sleep in the dust, "will awake, … to everlasting life" (Dan. 12:2). They possess insight and "will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse" (v. 3a). They are those "who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (v. 3b).
The righteous will be "purged, purified and refined" while the wicked will not understand (v. 10) and will be resurrected to "disgrace and everlasting contempt" (v. 2b). Daniel was reassured that he would go his way "to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age" (v. 13).
After coming out of the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar praised Daniel’s three friends and said of them that they were God’s "servants who put their trust in Him" (3:28). It was said of Daniel that he was faithful to his God (6:4), and that he received no injury with the lions because "he had trusted in his God" (v. 23).
Almost all commentators attest that Nebuchadnezzar became a believer in God because of his astounding testimony following his seven years of crawling in the grass (4:28-37). After his reasoning powers returned, he "blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever" (v. 34a). Furthermore, he praised, exalted, honored "the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride" (v. 37).
The statements in Daniel about salvation form an important tapestry for the book, especially the thoughts found in the last chapter about the resurrection and of "everlasting life" (12:2).
The doctrine of the church cannot be found in the book of Daniel. The amillennial view takes the "fifth" kingdom of Daniel 7 as the church age. But this final kingdom is not described in a spiritualized sense, but in an actual, earthly and historical sense. It is not the church but the millennial kingdom of the "Son of Man" (v. 13). The expression Son of Man is always used in referring to Christ serving as the Messiah of the restored people of Israel, and not of the church.
In 7:13, the "Son who relates to Mankind" is entering the throne room of the Ancient of Days, following His sojourn, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven. He returns a second time to historically reign on earth for 1000 years over the saved Jewish people in the Holy Land. This reign is certainly not the church.
The church age was a mystery to those in the New Testament period. It was not predicted in the Old Testament. The church is the new "stewardship" ("dispensation") of God’s grace, granted to Paul by revelation and "was made known to me [as] the mystery" (Eph. 3:2-3), and "was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles and fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel" (vv. 5-6). The church is the "administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God" (v. 9).
- Harry Bultema, Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1988), 22.
- John F. Walvoord, Roy B. Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament (Wheaton: Scripture Press, 1987), 1343.
- John Gill, Gill’s Commentary, 6 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 4:544.
- Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990), 59.
- Frank E. Gaebelein, gen. ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 12 Vols., Gleason L. Archer, Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 7:67.
- Ibid., 94-94.
- William L. Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 405.
- Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, 106-07.
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 165.
- Ibid., 166.
- Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Minstries, 1993).
- Ibid., 769.
- J. Vernon McGee, Daniel (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), 163.
- Ibid., 196.
- John F. Walvoord, Daniel (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 243-44.
- A. Cohen, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah (London: Soncino, 1968), 42.
- Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 2:1626-27.