THE PROPHECIES OF DANIEL
In the Light of
PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE EVENTS
Louis T. Talbot, D.D., LL.D., F.R.G.S.
Chancellor of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles
Copyright @ 1940
Louis T. Talbot
edited for 3BSB by Baptist Bible Believer in the spirit of the Colportage ministry of a century ago
Material help was received from the chart which accompanies these studies from the late Clarence Larkin, Harry A. Ironside and Leon Tucker, for which grateful acknowledgment is made.
To my wife, Audrey Lucile,
whose cooperation and understanding
have made my ministry possible,
I affectionately dedicate this book.
It was at the urgent request of my radio listeners that in 1937 I put into printed form the lessons on the Book of Daniel which I had been broadcasting over a period of months. God so signally blessed their distribution that a second printing was called for in 1940 and now it appears a third edition is required.
As I have gone over these pages in preparation for this reprint, my heart has been deeply impressed with the tremendous change in the world picture during the brief period which has intervened since the lessons were first published. I am not a “date setter” as this exposition plainly bears testimony, but I would be blind and faithless if I could not discern in the swiftly-moving events of our day ample indications that the “time of the end” cannot be far off. Surely the words of Luke 21:28 are for us today: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
Therefore, it is with the prayer that the Holy Spirit may use this series of lessons to teach what “God hath spoken” concerning things to come that we enter upon this study and send forth these lessons, trusting Him for an abundant harvest of souls through these printed pages.
— Louis T. Talbot
TWENTY-FIVE centuries ago, through the prophet Daniel, God outlined the course of Gentile world power, from its beginning to its end. In so doing, He told us that such changes had to take place before “the times of the Gentiles” could “be fulfilled.” How important it is for us to “search the Scriptures,” even the Book of Daniel, just now, when we see “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth” (Luke21:25, 26)!
May the Holy Spirit teach us this marvelous prophecy, so timely in this present day. Then, in spite of the wars and persecutions and tragedies and bloodshed, of which we read in bold headlines from day to day, we shall “look up,” for our “redemption draweth nigh,” even the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to rule in righteousness and peace.
It is a remarkable and significant fact that even men of the world, who have no personal interest whatever in Christianity, are convinced that this is a crisis period and that vast changes are impending. All students of prophecy have the same feeling which is intensified by their increased study of the Word of God and the knowledge it affords concerning the course of human and divine events.
We sometimes listen to men who question the authority of the Bible, and we wonder why it is that they do not study the Bible carefully and accurately. If they had any spiritual insight at all, they would see on its pages an accurate outline of the march of the ages and the trend of the times. They would see that prophecy is rapidly becoming history. God has written aforetime many prophecies concerning Christ, the Gentile nations, and the Jewish people.
Many of these prophecies have been fulfilled, and it would seem that the remainder are about to be realized, for “coming events cast their shadows before.”
The only way one can understand conditions in the world today is by bringing them under the lens of Holy Writ. The Book of Daniel throws a great deal of light on the chaotic conditions of Europe, Asia, and the world at large.
DANIEL—THE INSPIRED WRITER
It seems hardly necessary to take time to prove that Daniel was the divinely-inspired author of the book which bears his name, and that he lived in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus.
We are living in a day, however, when this fact is denied.
Destructive critics and so-called modernists would have us believe that this book was written by a pious Jew hundreds of years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, after these things had become history, and that the writer was a historian rather than a prophet.
They place the date of the book at the time of the Maccabees several hundred years after Nebuchadnezzar’s time, and claim that it was written after the events narrated therein had become history. They say that the language used was prophetic to make it more interesting.
However, there are many infallible proofs that the Book of Daniel was written by Daniel, and that its record is authentic. If you would like to make a study of those proofs, I would recommend that you read Sir Robert Anderson’s work, “Daniel in the Critics’ Den.” That is a good title, for Daniel is being assailed more in the “critics’ den” than he was in the lions’ den!
Dr. A. C. Gaebelein once compared the destructive critics of God’s infallible Word to crickets. He said, like the crickets, they are little creatures, black, living in the dark, and making a loud noise. And so they are!
When I was a student in a theological seminary in Chicago, I listened for an hour to one of these destructive critics as he argued that Daniel could never have lived before these prophecies came to pass. Before that professor sat some three hundred young men who were to fill pulpits in our churches! May God soon bring to naught such blasphemous apostasy! He will one day, when Jesus comes again.
The Jews of Christ’s day recognized the Book of Daniel as a part of the Old Testament canon, as stated by Josephus, the historian. They accepted all its claims to be a prophecy, as well as Daniel’s own repeated statement of its authorship, under divine guidance.
And the most convincing proof to a child of God in regard to this matter is the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ referred to the author as “Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15). Christ did not say, “Daniel the historian.”
That statement satisfies every believing heart that the Book of Daniel is authentic, a prophecy inspired by the Holy Spirit of God.
Daniel could look down the centuries and see the things that were to come to pass because God, as it were, put a telescope to his eye and let him see His great plan and purpose through the years.
THE THEME OF DANIEL
In the Book of Daniel God has been pleased to reveal, in a broad, sweeping outline, this prophecy: The Commencement, the Character, the Course, and the Consummation of “the Times of the Gentiles.”
Now we must distinguish between the two expressions, “the times of the Gentiles,” and “the fulness of the Gentiles.”
Our Lord used the former to designate Gentile world dominion when He said in Luke 21:24,
“Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
But the words, “the fulness of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:25), refer to the full number of the Gentiles to be a part of the church, which is “the body” or “bride” of Christ. Therefore, Paul in Romans 11:13-25 was warning the Gentiles not to be high minded. He said that “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”
James, likewise, at the first church council in Jerusalem, said the same thing, that “God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name”; and that afterward Hewould “return, and build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down” (Acts 15:14-18).
“The tabernacle of David” speaks of Israel, and after the church is complete, when “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in,” then it is that God will deal once more with Israel.
“The times of the Gentiles” began with Nebuchadnezzar, and will end with the return of Christ in glory. It is this vast sweep of Gentile world power that God outlined to Daniel before any of it had become history. It was to this period that our Lord referred when He said that Jerusalem should be “trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”
During that period, God said through Daniel, the Gentile nations were, to exercise lordship over the earth, and especially over the Jewish nation and the land of Palestine. From Nebuchadnezzar unto the last Caesar of the revived Roman Empire this period extends, even unto the personal, visible, bodily return of our Lord Jesus Christ to the earth.
“The times of the Gentiles,” therefore, occur during the interval which marks the interruption of the times of the Jews. Now the times of the Jews were interrupted when they were carried away captive to Babylon, and will resume when “the times of the Gentiles” have been fulfilled. God permitted the Babylonian captivity because of Israel’s sin. He had sent Jeremiah to warn His people of this impending judgment, but they would not listen to His pleading. Of this we shall have more to say later. But Israel will listen to God’s voice once more when the Son of God shall sit upon “the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever” (Luke 1:32, 33).
As we pursue our study of this fascinating book, we shall see how marvelously events—many of which have now become history—verify the prophecies which God gave through Daniel hundreds of years before the events transpired.
We must bear in mind that at the time Daniel wrote, very little of the record contained in the Book of Daniel had been fulfilled. The greater part of it was still future and much of it had reference to events that were to come to pass hundreds of years after Daniel had passed away.
Our study, therefore, will not only give us an intelligent understanding of what may be expected of the Gentile nations in the future, but it will also confirm our faith in the Bible as the Word of God. God is the only Being who knows the end from the beginning; and any book that portrays events hundreds of years before they take place, must have as its Author the only One who knows the future. That One is the living God!
OUR CHART—AN OUTLINE OF THE BOOK
We need to urge you, my friend, to read the Book of Daniel through, from beginning to end, repeatedly, prayerfully, if you would get a bird’s-eye view of this prophecy. And in this continued reading, we believe that a study of the chart in the front of this book will be helpful.
For example, you will note that we have stated the theme at the top of the chart, underneath the title. And God’s word to Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou . . . art a king of kings” (Daniel 2:37) introduces the period of “The Commencement, Character, Course, and Consummation of ‘the Times of the Gentiles,’” even as the return in glory of Christ, the “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16) brings to an abrupt close this period of Gentile worlddominion. (See top of chart).
Then you will note that, on our chart, we have outlined the Book of Daniel by chapters, indicated by the parallel columns running up and down the page. Each chapter is complete in itself; and each chapter culminates in a foreview of events to occur “in the latter time,” that is, in the end of this age. Please note these words on the chart—”in the latter time.” They are important, for they indicate events to transpire after the translation of the church.
This present age, or church period—from the cross to the rapture—is represented on the chart by the horizontal strip of blue. It was not revealed to Daniel, and is to be kept in mind in our study of this prophecy as a long parenthesis in God’s great plan, not revealed to the Old Testament saints.
We put it in the chart to make clear to us in this age just where the church comes in. If you will fold the chart so the two black, horizontal lines which border the strip of blue will meet, then you will see the outline of what God told Daniel concerning things to come.
Every careful student of New Testament teaching knows that the church began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2), and will be translated, caught up to be with Christ (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), before the events of “the latter time” (see bottom of chart) begin to run their course.
Moreover, every careful student of New Testament teaching knows that the calling out of the church, “the bride of Christ,” was not revealed to the Old Testament saints. It was made known to Paul, by special revelation, but “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men” (Ephesians 3:5) . Yet “from the beginning of the world” it was “hid in God”—this “eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord,” that “unto him” should “be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (See Ephesians3:1-21).
The twelve apostles did not understand about this church age. They expected the Lord to establish His kingdom immediately, while He was on earth. It was as though they and Daniel and all the Old Testament prophets were standing in the distance, viewing two mountain peaks which seemed close together. One represented Christ’s first coming as the suffering Saviour; the other, His second coming as the reigning King. But what they could not see, from the distance, was the great valley between the mountain peaks. That valley might well represent this church age, not seen by man until God gave the vision to Paul.
So you see, my friend, it is a great parenthesis separating the part of Daniel’s vision which has already been fulfilled from that part which yet remains to be fulfilled, after the church has been translated, forever to be “with the Lord.” This church age, then, comes in between “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (I Peter 1:11).
Now, with our open Bibles before us, let us follow the chart, chapter by chapter, for an outline view of this book. This is important, if we are to get the most from our detailed study later.
Chapter 1 tells the story of Daniel and his friends separated unto God from the evils of Babylon.
And these Hebrew youths are a remarkable type of the faithful remnant in Israel who will refuse to worship the Antichrist “in the latter time,” after the church has been translated.
Chapter 2 tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s forgotten dream, which God revealed to Daniel with the interpretation thereof.
It is a remarkably complete picture of all Gentile world power, from Nebuchadnezzar unto the return of Christ in glory, the “Stone” which will smite “the image” on the “ten toes.” Comparing chapter two with the chart, we note that all of this prophecy has been fulfilled except that of the revived Roman Empire, represented by the ten toes. This will be completely fulfilled “in the latter time,” when the Antichrist rules.
Chapter 3 tells of the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar set up; of the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to worship the image; and of their deliverance from the burning fiery furnace.
What a wonderful picture it is of the faithful Jewish remnant who will refuse to worship the image of “the beast” “in the latter time”! Indeed, chapters 3-6 foreshadow the moral conditions which will prevail at the end of the age.
Chapter 4 gives us the strange vision of Nebuchadnezzar, and the interpretation thereof.
His pride and madness foreshadow the pride and raging madness of the Gentile nations, culminating in the awful climax of pride and madness “in the latter time.” Nebuchadnezzar’s reason was restored, and the stump of the great tree was left, a prophetic picture of the Gentile nations which will be saved and will enter into the millennial reign of Christ on earth.
Chapter 5, with the story of Belshazzar’s feast and the overthrow of Babylon, typifies thesensuality and revelry of the Gentile nations and the overthrow of the false religious system ‘in the latter time.”
Chapter 6, Daniel delivered from the lions’ den, is another Picture of the faithful remnant inIsrael, which will be delivered from the “beasts” described in Revelation 13, who will hold sway “in the latter time.”
Chapter 7 gives us God’s view of Gentile world power, depicting the nations as ravenous beasts.
Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of the great image, in chapter 2, shows us man’s view of these same world powers. To man they appear great; to God, as wild beasts. Surely we are seeing today something of God’s view of the raging nations, with their poisonous gas, dive-bombers, armored tanks, machine-guns, atom and hydrogen bombs, biological warfare, horrible implements of war, death, and wholesale destruction!
Is it a mere coincidence that the coat-of-arms or emblem of almost every Gentile nation bears the image of a beast? The British lion, the Russian bear, the American and the German eagle, the Chinese dragon and serpent—these are some of the tokens of the bestial character of the vicious tendency in the Gentile world powers.
Chapter 8 tells us of that part of the Roman Empire, out of which the Antichrist will come “in the latter time.”
Chapter 9 gives us the great prophecy of the “seventy weeks” of Daniel—a comprehensive,exact prophecy of God’s dealings with Israel from Daniel’s day until Christ returns in glory. Only one week (the literal Hebrew word is one ‘seven’); only one period of seven years, of the seventy “sevens,” remains to be fulfilled. It will be the terrible seven years of the Antichrist’s rule “in the latter time.” But Israel’s Messiah-King will return to end that “reign of terror,” to deliver thefaithful remnant in Israel, and to set up His righteous kingdom on earth.
Chapter 10 presents the angelic ministry on behalf of Daniel, and the opposing forces of Satan and his fallen angels. It all foreshadows the day, “in the latter time,” when Satan and all hishosts shall be “cast down” out of “the heavenly places,” shortly before our Lord’s return in glory to bind Satan and finally to send him to his eternal doom. (Compare Ephesians 6:12-17 with Revelation 12:7-12; 20:1-3, 10).
Chapter 11 gives us a life-sized portrait of the Antichrist and his great antagonists “at the time of the end.”
Chapter 12 pictures the time of “Jacob’s trouble,” even unto the consummation of all thesethings “in the latter time”—yea, even unto the glorious reign of Christ on earth in peace and equity and righteousness.
There is no description of Christ’s kingdom in Daniel. We find that in Isaiah and in Revelation and in other portions of the prophetic Scriptures. Daniel tells us, rather, how that kingdom will be established.
What a vast store of “ wisdom and knowledge” God will open up before us as we study the Book of Daniel! And how this study will put the urge in our hearts to pray, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Do you want God-given wisdom, my friend, concerning things to come? Then you will find it as the Holy Spirit unfolds to you the Book of Daniel. Do you want to be a winner of souls, snatching them “as brands from the burning”? Then let the Holy Spirit put zeal into your heart through the study of this marvelous portion of His Word. It was through the prophet Daniel that the Holy Spirit said in Daniel 12:3,
“They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
CHAPTER ONE FOUR GODLY HEBREW YOUTHS AT BABYLON’S HEATHEN COURT
Foreshadowing the Faithful Jewish Remnant “in the Latter Days”
THE first chapter of the Book of Daniel is introductory, presenting:
(1) The record of the first deportation of the Babylonian captivity (vv. 1, 2);
(2) the faithful witness of Daniel and his three friends at Babylon’s heathen court, and God’s blessing upon them (vv. 3-20);
(3) the statement concerning Daniel’s long life, “even unto the first year of king Cyrus” (v. 21).
Here we are told that Daniel lived through the entire period of the seventy years’ Babylonian captivity. But that was not all; for not only did he live to see the faithful remnant in Judah return to their own land, after seventy years, as God had foretold; but Daniel also continued to live in Babylon “in the third year of Cyrus” (Daniel 10:1), still being mightily used of God, still receiving prophecies from God for His people.
Daniel’s was a long life, signally blessed of the Lord as he witnessed to four great monarchs, during their successive reigns, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Chapter one presents a foreview of all this, as well as the secret of the power of his godly life.
If we keep before us the theme of the Book of Daniel, “The Commencement, Character, Course, and Consummation of ‘the Times of the Gentiles ,’” we see also in this first chapter a foreshadowing of the faithful Jewish remnant “in the latter days,” during “the great tribulation” which will come upon God’s ancient people, Israel.
For Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, living separated lives at Babylon’s heathen court, are just a picture of the godly remnant in Israel who will refuse to worship the Antichrist in “the time of Jacob’s trouble.”
Therefore, our first lesson is historical, practical, and prophetic:
-Historical, in that it takes us back to the days of Judah’s captivity in a heathen land;
-Practical, in that it teaches us many lessons for our Christian experience as we live in this world of sin;
-Prophetic, in that it points on to that yet future day when a faithful remnant in Israel will suffer indescribable persecution rather than dishonor their Messiah and Lord.
May the Holy Spirit take the things of Christ and show them unto us as we read and study together this first chapter of the Book of Daniel.
Verses 1 and 2 tell of
THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY
“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of
Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.”
Here we learn how the times of the Jews were interrupted and how “the times of the Gentiles” began.
For years God had been warning the children of Israel, through His prophets, that, unless they turned to Him, He would allow their land to be invaded by the enemy and their people to be taken captive. Long before the events described in the first two verses of the Book of Daniel had taken place, the Israelites had forsaken the faith of their fathers. They had given up the worship of the one true God and idolatry was rampant. The religion of the heathen nations was more attractive to them because they had forsaken the God of their fathers. As a consequence, the floodgates of iniquity were opened and the false religion which they had adopted was powerless to work the change in the hearts and lives of the people, which alone could avert the impending judgment of God.
These conditions had existed for 490 years, and during that time God had been speaking a warning message to the nation through the prophet Jeremiah and others, but the people turned a deaf ear. At last the patience of God came to an end and He put them in the school of experience in the city of Babylon for seventy years. There they learned that “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
How much the Gentile nations of today need to learn that lesson!
God has been striving with them for thousands of years. He has been speaking in love, in mercy, in kindness; but the nations are turning a deaf ear to His voice, ignoring the inescapable fact that one day—and that day, I believe, is not far distant—He will speak in the language of thunder!
For if He spared not Israel when they sinned and turned their backs upon Him, you may be sure He will not spare the Gentiles.
In the days of Moses and Joshua, and even up to the time of David and Solomon, God had been with His people, Israel.
After the kingdom was divided, there was an occasional king who loved the Lord and sought to lead God’s people in the paths of righteousness. The father of Jehoiakim, during whose evil reign Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and others in Judah captive—Jehoiakim’s father was the good king, Josiah, who repaired the temple, discovered the forgotten book of the law of Moses, and restored the temple worship.
But Jehoiakim “did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord” (II Kings 23:37), even as the nation had done for many years.
1. God’s Warning of Impending Captivity.
Through His prophets, and especially through Jeremiah, God had faithfully warned Israel of the impending judgment upon their idolatry, imploring them to repent and turn from their wicked ways, in order to escape this chastisement.
Let us turn to Jeremiah 25:1-14 to see one of these explicit warnings, where Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, is named, and where the seventy years’ captivity and deliverance therefrom are foretold. Jeremiah 25:1 reads,
“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah the king of Judah, that was the first year of Nebuchadrezzar [usually written, “Nebuchadnezzar”] king of Babylon . . . “
Jehoiakim began to reign at the end of the year, which Jeremiah counts the first year of his rule; whereas Daniel reckons his reign from the beginning of the following year. Therefore, Jeremiah 25:1 speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s going to Jerusalem in “the fourth year of Jehoiakim”; whereas Daniel 1:1 refers to it as “the third year,” the difference being only in the method of reckoning the time.
Doubtless Nebuchadnezzar thought he was going to Jerusalem of his own volition, to take the spoils; but Daniel says that “the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand” (1:2), even as Jeremiah had foretold this captivity, saying in Jeremiah 25:8, 9,
Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Because ye have not heard my words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof. . . .
In these words Nebuchadnezzar was called by the Lord “my servant.”
He was the human instrument used by the Lord God to discipline Israel and to cure her of idolatry. Although Israel as a nation is still rejecting her Messiah, she does not worship idols. Judah learned that lesson in Babylon.
2. Jehoiakim’s Insult to God’s Word. Written by Jeremiah, the Prophet.
And how did Jehoiakim receive Jeremiah’s warning from God? Turn to Jeremiah 36:1-32 and read the story of his infidelity and wicked insult to the Word of God. When the prophecy of Jeremiah was read in Jehoiakim’s presence, that evil king “cut it with the penknife, and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the roll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jeremiah 36:23). Moreover, Jehoiakim sought to kill Jeremiah, “but the Lord hid him” (Jeremiah 36:26). How wonderfully God took care of His faithful prophet!
No wonder God sent Nebuchadnezzar to Jerusalem, and “gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand” (Daniel 1:2). No wonder He permitted Jehoiakim’s dead body to be “ dragged out of the gates by the Chaldean besiegers, and left unburied.” (Compare Jeremiah 22:18, 19;36:30.) For that evil king added insult upon indignity to the God of his fathers, cutting to pieces and burning upon the hearth God’s holy Word.
My friends, we have many Jehoiakims in professing Christendom today. Unless they repent of their sin, their fate will be no better than was that of this wicked king of Judah.
I remember that, when I was a pastor in Oak Park, Illinois, I was teaching the Book of Daniel. Another minister of that city announced that he, too, would speak on this same theme. This is what he said:
“I have been a minister for forty-five years. I have studied Daniel and Revelation, and I have concluded that no one can understand these books.”
That man might just as well have taken a penknife and cut Daniel and Revelation out of the Bible and cast them upon the hearth to be consumed. But Daniel and Revelation are still in God’s inspired Word! The Holy Spirit does teach His humble, earnest seekers after the truth some very precious and searching lessons from these marvelous portions of His Word.
3. Israel’s Apostasy.
Now Jehoiakim was only one of Judah’s wicked kings who led Israel in idolatry and sin. We have already observed that for 490 years these evil practices had continued. Every seventh year had been designated by the Lord as a sabbatic year, when the land should rest. God had told Moses and Joshua that Israel was not to plant or harvest the crops that year, and that He would provide all they needed. But by the time Jehoiakim ruled, Israel had robbed God of 70 of these sabbatic years; for 70×7 equals 490. And every seventh year they had stolen from God; hence the70 years of the Babylonian captivity. God had been “keeping books,” and for Israel’s good the account had to be settled.
Today people are also forgetting the claims of God. Through covetousness or indifference or pleasure-seeking, man is doing with the Lord’s Day what Israel did with God’s year before the Babylonian captivity. Yet God’s blessings continue, even though His warning of judgment to come goes unheeded. It will not always be so.
One day our righteous God will speak up judgment, and His “enemies” will become His “footstool.” (See Psalm 110:1). Have you never bowed the knee to God? uh, my friend, “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way . . . Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (Psalm 2:12).
4. The Faithful Witnesses to God in Babylon.
In this life the innocent always suffer with the guilty; and Daniel and his three Hebrew friends were captives in a strange land, although they had not bowed the knee to a heathen God.
Meanwhile, God had a message for Nebuchadnezzar, and He needed Daniel to deliver that message. He wanted some faithful witnesses to His grace and power; He needed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to walk with Him through the fiery furnace. “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him” (Psalm 25:14).
Are you going through fiery trial, my Christian friend? Rejoice that you are “counted worthy to suffer” for Christ. (See Acts 5:41.) Rejoice that somehow, by His grace, you may give glory toGod. Daniel lived in the days of idolatrous Israel; you and I live in this day of apostate Christendom. It cost something for Daniel and his friends to take a stand for God. It will cost us something too if we bear a faithful testimony to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.
5. The Three Deportations to Babylon.
We have seen that Jehoiakim died before Nebuchadnezzar’s intentions of taking him as a captive to Babylon were carried out. In the first deportation (606 B.C.), when Daniel and his friends were taken captive, Nebuchadnezzar took only “a part of the vessels of the house of God”; these “he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god” (Daniel 1:2).
Think of it! A heathen monarch putting these sacred vessels in a heathen temple! It was in “the land of Shinar” that Nimrod and the rebels of his day had built the tower of Babel, when Godconfused the tongues of man. “Babel” was the beginning of “Babylon.” At Babel the mystery religion had its start; to Babylon the sacred vessels from Solomon’s temple were taken, to the temple of Bel, Nebuchadnezzar’s heathen god.
The second deportation of other captives from Judah took place in 598 B. C, eight years after Daniel was led away into Babylon. At this time Ezekiel was one of the prisoners of Nebuchadnezzar. And still later, in 588 B. C, this king of Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, took Zedekiah captive, slew his sons, put out his eyes, and left Israel’s capital city in ruins. All this Daniel lived to see—and more. What heartache and sorrow must have been his portion! Yet God used him mightily at a heathen court, not only to lead Nebuchadnezzar to the Lord, but also to reveal prophecies that covered all “the times of the Gentiles,” as well as “the seventy weeks” concerning Israel, even unto Messiah’s kingdom on earth. Why could God reveal these things through Daniel? The answer is found in the familiar, beautiful story that fills most of this first chapter of the book that bears his name.
THREE YEARS’ TRAINING AS COURTIERS
1. Youths of Royal and Noble Birth.
When Nebuchadnezzar wanted courtiers trained from among the Hebrew youths, he commanded Ashpenaz, “the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes,” to prepare them to “stand before the king” (v. 3).
These Hebrew “children,” or “ youths”, must have been very young; for some tell us that it was the custom of Oriental kings to begin the training of courtiers at the early age of twelve or fourteen years. Perhaps Daniel and his three friends were “of the king’s seed.” Certainly they were of the princely families.
2. “Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom” (1:4) were to be chosen for the king’s palace.
Youths in whom was no blemish, but well-favored, and skilful in all wisdom, and endued with knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace. Such a description would seem to fit a youth more than twelve or fourteen years of age; it sounds more like the list of qualifications of a college graduate! But in any case, it gives us a good photograph, as it were, of Daniel and his three friends— handsome, physically attractive, endowed with good minds that had received special training. With such gifts, and with royal or princely blood in their veins, they were set apart for positions of honor in the king’s palace. They were to be taught “the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans” (v. 4).
Many youths so well-favored would have become ensnared with all the flatteries and seductions of a heathen court, with all its splendor and earthly glory. But these Hebrew youths were true to the God of their fathers, living a separated life, even in the midst of a heathen, Oriental court of a powerful, pagan king.
3. A Three Years’ Course of Training.
Verse 5 tells us something of the courage required of these Hebrew youths if they were to be true to the God of Israel:
And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat [or “dainties”], and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
This was the king’s command; and he was an absolute monarch, holding the power of life and death. But small portions of the king’s dainties and his wine were offered to idols, in the belief that the whole would be blessed to those who partook of this food and drink.
To eat from these, therefore, indicated a faith in the heathen gods, to whom the sacrifice had been offered.
Could Daniel and his three friends have sought to quiet their consciences on this score with the excuse that obedience to the king was a matter of life or death? What would you have done, my Christian friend? I ask myself the same question. It was no light matter that these devout Hebrew youths faced.
Paul met the same issue many years later. To him the meat offered to idols was just the same as any other meat. But to those who put their faith in the idols, Paul’s partaking of that meat would have been an act of idol-worship. Therefore, the great apostle said, in I Corinthians 8:13 (cf. 8:7-13, 10:27, 28), If meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
It may be that Daniel and his three friends had also taken the Nazarite vow; and if so, they could not drink wine without breaking this sacred vow of separation to God. (See Numbers 6:1-21).
And yet again, it may be that to eat “the king’s meat” would have been contrary to the Law of Moses, which forbade the eating of “things strangled” (Acts 15:20, 29; cf. Leviticus 11:10-16). In any case, it was because they wanted to please “God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) that these Hebrew youths separated themselves from heathen practices. And in so doing, they pointed the mighty Nebuchadnezzar to their God. And possibly there are other Babylonians in heaven today because these four young men, gifted, educated, handsome, wise, were true to the God of Israel. And surely He deserves the best!
My young Christian friend, get all the education you can. Be as attractive and lovable as you can, for Christ’s sake.
But, in the doing, remember that a godless world is looking on; and that God in heaven is looking to you to bear witness to His grace and His faithfulness and His power.
4. New Names for Daniel and His Three Friends.
Verses 6 and 7 tell us the Hebrew names of these four godly youths, as well as the heathen, Chaldean names given to them by “the prince of the eunuchs.”
As names signified much in those days, let us note their meaning here:
“Daniel” means “God is my Judge”; “Belteshazzar,” “Bel’s prince.”
Now Bel was Nebuchadnezzar’s god. Daniel might have been flattered by his new name; but let us note how often he refers to himself as “Daniel.” Others might call him the prince of a heathen god; Daniel loved the name that linked him with the Lord—”God is my Judge.”
“Hananiah” means “Whom the Lord hath favored”; “Shadrach,” “Inspired or illumined by the Sun-god.”
“Mishael” means “Who is comparable to God?” “Meshach” signifies “Who is comparable to Shak,” the “Babylonian goddess” answering to the earth, or Venus, the goddess of love andmirth.”
“Azariah” means “Whom the Lord helps”; “Abednego,” “Servant of the shining fire” or the Fire-god.
In these changes, it is very evident that the Chaldeans expected to alienate these Hebrew youths from their God, dedicating them to the four chief deities:
“Bel, the Chief-god; the Sun-god; the Earth-goddess; and the Fire-god . . . To the last the three youths were consigned when refusing to worship the golden image” which Nebuchadnezzar set up (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown).
How loathsome these new names must have been to these four young men! “But God” – their God – “looketh on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7), and He knew that their trust was in Him. Moreover, He honored their testimony by His mighty triumph over the heathen gods, whose names the Chaldeans gave to them, when He went with them through the fiery furnace and through the lion’s den.
We, too, bear a precious name – “Christian.” Do we honor Him, whose name it proclaims, before a godless world, by guarding our testimony, our daily walk? Surely Daniel and his friends can teach us many valuable lessons just here!
GODLY LIVES AT A HEATHEN COURT
1. Daniel’s Purpose of Heart.
Daniel seems to have been the leader in refusing to compromise the convictions of his soul, but certainly his three friends stood with him. In verse 8
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself
It seems hardly necessary to add more about the reason why Daniel “purposed in his heart” not to deny His God. How could he make a show of worshipping idols when he loved his Lord? Oh, for more young people and men and women who will have purpose of heart concerning doubtful things!
Daniel must have been courteous in his interview with the prince of the eunuchs; for he “requested” – he did not “demand” or speak rudely to his superior. True gentility is often sadly lacking in God’s people; yet it can be used for His glory, whereas a blunt word may do harm to the cause of Christ.
2. Daniel – Beloved of God and Man.
Not only do we read, in the book of Daniel, the reassuring greeting of the angel, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” (9:23; 10:11, 19); not only was Daniel “greatly beloved” by God; butmen, too, loved him.
We read in verse 9,
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
God did that; and surely Daniel would have been the first to give God the glory for a personality that led men to love him—for the Lord’s sake. And how our Lord needs lovable Christians! He can make us more and more like Himself if we let Him.
3. The Ten Days’ Trial.
Let us read verses 10-16, noting all the details of this remarkable story. It was a terrible risk, which the prince of the eunuchs took, because he loved Daniel. Could it be that somehow he believed that the God of Daniel would take care of His own?
He well knew that he would endanger his own head by disobeying the king’s command. And yet he gave these Hebrew youths a ten days’ trial, during which time they had “pulse to eat, and water to drink.”
Pulse was “any vegetable grown from seeds,” so that what they had was a vegetable diet. Daniel knew that God would bless them in this action; therefore, he could safely say to the prince of the eunuchs, “As thou seest, deal with thy servants,” after the ten days’ trial had passed.
In verses 14-16—
So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
Thus God honored their faith and their separation from heathen practices, even as He always honors the courageous testimony of His redeemed children.
TEN TIMES BETTER” THAN ALL THE WISE MEN OF BABYLON
No wonder Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, after their three years of training for service in the king’s palace, were found by Nebuchadnezzar himself to be “ten times better than the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm” (verse 20)!
1. “God Gave Them Knowledge.”
“The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him ” (Psalm 25:15). And spiritual truth is always “spiritually discerned” (I Corinthians 2:14). We must be separated unto God if we want to know His will, His plans, and His purposes. First purity of life, then knowledge—this is God’s order for the Christian. In verse 17 we find—
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
To Daniel, true to God, taught by God, were given visions and dreams to interpret for Nebuchadnezzar, and to teach God’s people concerning things to come. In these respects he was very much like Joseph, who stood before Pharaoh, interpreted his dreams, and told him of future things. Like Daniel, Joseph had “purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself” when he said to the wicked wife of Potiphar, “How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph kept his heart and life pure; therefore, “God gave him knowledge” and power with God and man.
The temptations of Daniel and his friends must have been very great; but they set themselves against all the sin and the evil and the idolatry of Babylon.
2. “Therefore Stood They before the King.”
They were given positions of great honor among the king’s courtiers, among the wise men of Babylon. “Ten times better” than all the magicians, or “sacred scribes, skilled in the sacred writings” of heathen Babylon; “ten times better” than all the astrologers, or “enchanters . . .
practisers of the occult arts”!
No wonder these pagan wise men of Babylon became jealous of these four Hebrew youths. But their envious designs were of no avail, because the living God went with them through every trial.
And “they stood before the king.”
My dear Christian friend, one of these days you and I shall stand before the King of kings. Thank God! We shall not be afraid when we stand in His holy presence, for He has borne the penalty of all our sin “in his own body on the tree” (I Peter 2:24). But what will He be able to say to us in that day concerning our service for His name’s sake? Shall we meet with His approval upon the testimony of our lives?
My unsaved friend, you, too, will one day stand before Jesus, the King and “Judge of all the earth.” (See Genesis 18:25; cf. John 5:22, 27.) Shall you meet Him as your Saviour, redeemedand unafraid? Or shall you meet Him as your Judge, who will have to say to you, “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23)? The God of Daniel is the LordJesus Christ. Accept His finished work on Calvary, and spend eternity with Him and with Daniel and with all those who love Daniel’s God.
DANIEL AND HIS FRIENDS—
A TYPE OF THE FAITHFUL JEWISH REMNANT
DURING THE GREAT TRIBULATION
Before we leave chapter one, let us see in it a prophetic significance, as well as these beautiful, practical lessons. Let us remember that this chapter is introductory to the whole book, the theme of which is: “The Commencement, Character, Course, and Consummation of ‘the Times of the Gentiles.’” And the prophetic picture is important.
Daniel and his friends represent the faithful Jewish remnant which will come into view at the end-time, that short period between the translation of the church and the return of the Lord in glory. During that period the Antichrist will be in power. He will be an absolute monarch, just as Nebuchadnezzar was.
You will find, as we progress in our study of this book, that Nebuchadnezzar had all power. Daniel says of him that “all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down” (Daniel 5:19). So it will be with the Antichrist, for of him weread that “the king shall do according to his will.”
But there will be a remnant in Israel which will set its face against the pretensions and edicts of the monster who will be in authority.
That remnant will be the witnesses at the end-time. They will be the 144,000 of the seventh chapter of Revelation; and as Daniel Was used to exercise power and influence for God in Nebuchadnezzar’s realm, so the 144,000 will be used by God during the reign of the Beast to turn a multitude from sin to the one and only true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.
Those saved during the tribulation period through the ministry of the faithful Jewish remnant are also described in the seventh chapter of Revelation. We shall learn more about this Jewish remnant of the end-time as we proceed with the study.
In closing, let us remember also that we are living in a day of gross apostasy, even as Daniel did at a heathen court. There are lost and never-dying souls all about us, before whom we want our lives “to tell for Jesus.” They will, only if we love Him with all our hearts, and seek to make Him known.
When I was a pastor in a Texas town, I knew an elderly colored preacher, a dear saint of God.
One day I went to his home and found him seated at a little organ, his seven or eight children gathered around him as he sang, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”
Then, with the tears running down his furrowed cheeks, he turned to me and said, “It was my sin that sent Him to Calvary.”
I think Daniel’s love for the promised Redeemer must have been like that.
Is yours, my friend? If we love the Lord Jesus like that, then it will be our joy to purpose in our hearts not to defile ourselves in this evil world; we shall be looking forward to that day when we shall stand before the King!
Surely each one of us would praise Him even now in the lines of the old; hymn:
When I stand before Thy throne,
Dressed in beauty not my own;
When I see Thee as Thou art,
Love Thee with unsinning heart;
Then, Lord, shall I fully know—
Not till then—how much I owe.