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by Arno Clemens Gaebelein
THE BOOK OF DANIEL
At the close of the history of Hezekiah, the noble king of Judah, as reported by the prophet Isaiah, is found a significant prophecy. Hezekiah, like so many other good men before and after him, had fallen into the crime of the devil, pride 1 Timothy 3:6, and the Lord through the prophet Isaiah announced therefore the future judgment upon the royal house of David: “Behold the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store until this day shall be carried to Babylon, nothing shall be left, saith the Lord. And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shalt beget, shall they take away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon. Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. He said, moreover, For there shall be peace and truth in my days” Isaiah 39:6-8).
About one hundred years after this startling prophecy was literally fulfilled. The opening verses of the book of Daniel introduce us to this. The Babylonian king came and besieged the city of Jerusalem and conquered it. Among those carried away was Daniel and his companions. Daniel, as we learn from the third verse of the first chapter, was of princely descent.
This young man, the captive in Babylon, became, through the marvellous providence of God, one of the leading figures and prominent actors in the great Babylonian empire, under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. He was made, in spite of his youth, a great man--the prime minister of Babylon.
Of his personal history, his character and remarkable experiences we know more than of any of the other prophets of God. As a mere lad he was brought to the strange land as a captive. We behold him and his companions, true to Jehovah, maintaining their God-given place of separation. He honored Jehovah and Jehovah honored him. Soon the Lord used the young captive by revealing unto him the forgotten dream of Nebuchadnezzar and the interpretation of the dream. Then followed the exaltation of the obscure captive; and afterwards he seemed to have been the close companion of the great Gentile monarch, who acknowledged finally the Lord-God of Israel as his God. Then God honored him by giving him the great visions of the future, so remarkable in their scope. The Lord appeared unto him; he talked with angels, and the messenger Gabriel addressed him as “the man greatly beloved.” As an old man he had been quite forgotten during the reign of the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar; only the queen mother, the aged wife of Nebuchadnezzar, remembered him. In that memorable night when Babylon fell the old prophet interpreted the handwriting on the wall, though old in years, still young in his faith. Under the reign of Darius he was cast among the lions, on account of his devotion to Jehovah, and wonderfully delivered.
What a man of prayer he was we learn from the ninth chapter. He reached a very old age, continuing even into the reign of Cyrus, and when his great work was done, ere the Lord called him home, he received the promise: “But go thy way till the end be; for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of days” (Daniel 12:13). In the great faith chapter of the Hebrew Epistle his name is not mentioned, but his deeds are there. “Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” Hebrews 11:33.
The Authenticity of Daniel
Perhaps no other book of the Bible has been so much attacked as the book of Daniel. It is a veritable battlefield between faith and unbelief. For about 2,000 years, wicked men, heathen philosophers and infidels have hammered away against it; but the book has proved to be the anvil upon which the critics’ hammers have been broken into pieces. The book has survived all attacks, and we need not fear that the weak and puerile critics, the most subtle infidels of Christendom in our day, can harm the book. It has been denied that Daniel wrote the book during the Babylonian captivity. Kuenen and Wellhausen and their imitating disciples like Canon Farrar, Driver and others of inferior calibre, claim that the work was not written in the Exile, but centuries later. Daniel had nothing to do with the book at all; a holy and gifted Jew wrote it instead, and it is avowed fiction. Such are a few of the infidel statements made against this sublime book. These critics follow the wicked assailant of Christianity of the third century, Porphyr, who contended that the book of Daniel is a forgery, that it was written during the time of the Maccabees, after Antiochus Epiphanes, so clearly foretold in this book, had appeared. The whole reasoning method of the destructive Bible-criticism may be reduced to the following. Prophecy is an impossibility, there is no such thing as foretelling events to come. Therefore a book which contains predictions must have been written after the events which are predicted. But how could the man who committed such a forgery be a pious Jew? No, the book of Daniel is either divine or it is the most colossal forgery and fraud. No middle ground is possible.
We give a few of the evidences which answer the infidel attacks upon this great fundamental prophetic book.
It should be enough for every Christian that our Lord, the infallible Son of God, mentions Daniel by name in His great prophetic discourse delivered on Olivet Matthew 24:15. There can be no question that our Lord at least twice more referred to the book of Daniel. When He speaks of Himself and His coming again in the clouds of heaven as the Son of Man, He confirms Daniel’s vision in Daniel 7:13, and when He speaks of the stone to fall in Matthew 21:44, He confirms Daniel 2:44-45. How does the critic meet this argument? He tells us that our Lord accommodated Himself to the Jewish views current in His day. They say, perhaps He knew better, and some say that He did not know. In other words, they deny the infallibility of our Lord, and with this invention that He accommodated Himself against His better knowledge, they accuse our Lord of something worse. When the Lord uttered the words, “Daniel the prophet” He put at once His unimpeachable seal on both the person and the book of Daniel.
But there are other evidences. The heathen Porphyr declared that the book was written during the days of the Maccabees; as stated above the modern critics have echoed the opinion of that lost heathen soul. But the Septuagint version of the Old Testament, which was made before the time of the Maccabees, contains the book of Daniel. It was in the hands of the learned Hebrews, who translated in the third century before Christ the Hebrew Scriptures into the Greek. The book therefore antedates the time of Antiochus Epiphanes.
Furthermore during the days of the Maccabees a book was written, the first book of the Maccabees, a historical account of those eventful days. This Maccabean work not only presupposes the existence of the book of Daniel, but shows actual acquaintance with it, and therefore gives proof that the book must have been written long before that period 1 Maccabees 1:54, compare with Daniel 9:27; Daniel 2:49 and Daniel 3:1-30.
The reliable Jewish historian Josephus also furnisheth historically an evidence for Daniel. He tells us that when Alexander the Great, who is mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy (chapter 8), came to Jerusalem in the year 332 B.C., Jaddua the high priest, showed him the prophecies of Daniel, and Alexander was greatly impressed with them.
Then we have the testimony of another prophet of the exile, the prophet Ezekiel. He speaks twice in the highest terms of Daniel, whose contemporary he was. (See Ezekiel 14:14-20; Ezekiel 28:3.) Daniel also betrays such an intimate acquaintance with Chaldean customs and history, as well as their religion, such as none but one who lived there and was an eye-witness could have possessed. For instance, the description of the Chaldean magicians perfectly agrees with the accounts found in other sources. The account of the insanity of Nebuchadnezzar is confirmed by the ancient historian Berosus.
Then there has been a most striking vindication of this book through the Babylonian excavations, tablets, cylinders and monuments. Into this we cannot fully enter, but we cite but one of the most striking.
The name of Belshazzar furnished for a long time material to the infidels to reject the historical accuracy of the book. The father of Belshazzar was Nabonnaid, who was not a son of Nebuchadnezzar at all. How then could Belshazzar be a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar? This objection is seemingly strengthened by the fact that no ancient historians include in the list of Babylonian kings the name of Belshazzar.
Berosus, who lived about 250 years after the Persian invasion, gives the following list of Babylonian monarchs: Nabuchodonosar (Nebuchadnezzar). Evil Marudak, who is the Evil Merodach of the Bible. Neriglissor. Laborosoarchod. Nabonnaid. Cyrus, the Persian conqueror.
Different attempts were made to clear up this difficulty, but they failed. Now, if Daniel wrote his book he must be correct. But the critics are ever ready to put the doubt not on the side of history, but on the side of the Bible. So they said Berosus was not mistaken and that if Daniel really had written the book which bears his name he would have been historically correct. This is how matters stood up to 1854. In that year Sir Rawlinson translated a number of tablets brought to light by the spade from the ruins of the Babylonian civilization. These contained the memorials of Nabonnaid, and in these the name of Bil-shar-uzzar appeared frequently, and is mentioned as the son of Nabonnaid and sharing the government with him. The existence of Belshazzar and the accuracy of Daniel were at once established beyond the shadow of a doubt.
Daniel was promised by Belshazzar to become the third ruler in the kingdom Daniel 5:16.
Why the third and not the second? Because Nabonnaid was the first, Belshazzar his son was the second and vice-regent. Nabonnaid had a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar for wife and therefore Belshazzar from his mother’s side was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar.
But have the critics learned by this complete defeat? Have they profited by this experience and will they leave the Bible alone? Not by any means. They will continue to look for flaws in the infallible Book. Some day they will discover the seriousness of their work.
The Important Prophetic Message of Daniel
It is impossible to overestimate the importance of the book of Daniel. It is the key to all prophecy; without a knowledge of the great prophecies contained in this book the entire prophetic portion of the word of God must remain a sealed book. One of the reasons why so few Christians have a correct knowledge of the prophetic forecast in the Bible is the neglect of the book of Daniel. The great prophetic portions of the New Testament, the Olivet discourse of our Lord Matthew 24:1-51;Matthew 25:1-46), and above all the great New Testament book of prophecy, the book of Revelation, can only be understood through the prophecies of Daniel.
To both, the Babylonian king and God’s prophet, were revealed the political history of the “times of the Gentiles” Luke 21:244). The rise and fall of the great monarchies, Babylonia, Medo-Persian, Graeco-Macedonia and the Roman, are successively revealed in this book. The appointed end of these times and what will follow the times of the Gentiles is made known. Our generation lives in the very shadow of that end. Then there are prophecies relating more specifically to Jerusalem and the Jewish people, showing what will yet come for that city and the nation.
It will be impossible in our brief annotations to do justice to all the details of this prophetic book. The larger work on the prophet Daniel by the author of The Annotated Bible should be carefully studied with the accompanying pages.
The Division of Daniel
The book of Daniel is written in two languages, in the Hebrew and in the Aramaic, the language of Chaldea. The first chapter is written in Hebrew, in style closely allied to the Hebrew used in the book of Ezekiel. Chapters 8-12 are likewise written in the Hebrew language. But chapters 2:4-7:28 are written in the Aramaic language. This gives an additional argument for the authenticity of the book. The author was conversant with both languages, an attainment exactly suited to a Hebrew living in exile, but not in the least so to an author in the Maccabean age, when the Hebrew had long since ceased to be a living language, and had been supplanted by the Aramaic vernacular dialect. Daniel was led to employ both languages for a specific reason. What concerned these great monarchies, Babylonia and Medo-Persia, was written in the language with which they were familiar. What concerned the Jewish people was written for them in Hebrew. We shall not follow the linguistic division of the book. We find in the book two main sections:
I. DANIEL IN BABYLON, NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM, AND HISTORICAL EVENTS
Chapter 1. Daniel and His Companions in Babylon
Chapter 2. The Great Prophetic Dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
Chapter 3-6. Historical Events
II. THE GREAT PROPHECIES OF DANIEL
Chapter 7. The Night Visions of Daniel
Chapter 8. The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat
Chapter 9. The Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks
Chapter 10. Preparation for the Final Prophecy
Chapter 11. The Wars of the Ptolemies and Seleucidae Predicted and the Coming Events of the End
Chapter 12. The Great Tribulation and Israel’s Deliverance
the Sixth Week after Easter