Daniel

The Kingdom of the Son of Man is Coming

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An Introduction to Courses

Choose your course based on your needs -

Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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Main Course

The meat! And what to do about it!

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Dessert Course

Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Daniel is to recognise the chiastic structure of chapters 2-7:

 

Chapter 2   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom.

 

Chapter 3   A test – Daniel’s friends choose the fiery furnace rather than commit idolatry.

 

Chapter 4   An emperor is humbled – and repents.

 

Chapter 5   An emperor is humbled – and does not repent.

 

Chapter 6   A test – Daniel chooses the lion’s den rather than commit idolatry.

 

Chapter 7   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom – initiated by ‘the Son of Man’.

These six chapters are in Aramaic, the international language, while the remaining chapters (1, and 8-12) are in Hebrew and therefore seem to serve as a Hebrew commentary on this central section. The central point from these stories, which is clearly designed to strengthen and encourage God’s people in exile, is that God is sovereign over human history, he intervenes in miraculous deliverance, and he humbles the most powerful.


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Click on the link above for an audio version of the Book of Daniel.

 

Download a Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …


Read
Read

Easy ⇒ Read Chapters 1 – 7.

Main ⇒ Read the whole book (12 chapters).

Full ⇒ Read Daniel through several times so you get a strong grasp of the structure and the different features and sections.


Watch
Watch

‘Peaky Blinders’ is a brilliantly scripted and filmed series about violent gang warfare in Birmingham. The Peaky Blinder gang rise to prominence through the successive series. All the subjects of violence and sex are touched as well as issues such as being Gypsies. As the stories develop the issues touch the matter of ‘honour among thieves’, and the refusal to sink certain levels. The series touch the issues of the unfairness of evil and violent people rising to prominence and gaining power, which is the background to the events of Daniel.

 

‘Chariots of Fire’ -Based on true events, this film describes the story of Eric Lidell and his devotion to Christ, even to the point of him not participating in the Olympic Final because the race was run on a Sunday. The film’s turning point hinges on the verse; ‘those that honour me, I will honour’ (1 Sam 2:30). Lidell’s decision parallels those of Daniel (Chapter 6) and his friends (Chapter 3) and their joint decision in chapter 1.


Study
Study

Read the BfL text and carefully study the chiastic section.

Study the introduction to Daniel in a Study Bible (NIV, ESV).

Explore the main themes of Chapters 8-12.


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation

 

Daniel 1:8   ‘But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.’

 

Daniel 4:32   ‘… until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.’

 

Daniel 7:13-14   ‘In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that well never be destroyed.’

 

Daniel 7:27   Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole of heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the rulers will worship and obey him.’ 

 


learn
Learn

Consider learning:

Daniel 1:8   ‘But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way.’

 

Daniel 4:32   ‘… until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.’


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation:  We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who learn through being challenged. Here are ten questions about the Book of Daniel. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Easy:

Q1   Which age group of people especially love the stories of Daniel?

Q2   How many people were in the ‘fiery furnace’?

 

Straightforward: 

Q3   What is the significance of the Babylonian names given to Daniel and his friends?

Q4   The book of Daniel is written in two different languages. What are they, and which parts are written in which languages?

 

Difficult: 

Q5   What is the main central argument and theme of Daniel?

Q6   Why was the Book of Daniel so crucially important for Jesus?

Q7   What is a chiastic structure?

 

Testing: 

Q8   Describe the pattern of Daniel’s regular private prayer, and also his pattern of fasting while in senior administrative government.

Q9   List three of the defining features of the ‘apocalyptic’ literary genre.

Q10   What possible solutions have been posed to the difficulties in understanding 11:36-45?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – Children.

A2 – Four (3:25). 

A3 – The new names seem to be derivatives of the names of Babylonian gods. 

A4 – The six chapters (2-7) form a chiastic structure and are written in Aramaic, the international language of the Babylonian court. The sections 1:1-2:3 and 8:1-12:13 are written in Hebrew, the local language of Judah. 

A5 – ‘The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and he gives them to anyone he wishes’. This is specifically stated in 4:17, 25, 32 and 5:21 (at the focus of the chiastic structure), but the point underlies and is expressed in each chapter of the book.

A6 – Jesus chose the concept of the ‘Son of Man’ (7:13-14) to describe his identity, instead of the politically charged title ‘Messiah’, and he seems to have rooted his teaching on the Kingdom of Heaven from the second half of Daniel 7. 

A7 – A literary devise used extensively in the Old Testament in order to highlight a specific point. It follows the pattern:  A B C, C’, B’ A’. Chapters 2-7 are a clear example. 

A8 – Daniel 10:6 states that his pattern was to pray three times a day facing Jerusalem. Daniel 2:18 and 9:3 also give insights into his approach to prayer. Although 1:12-14 could be considered to be a form of fasting, a clearer insight into Daniel’s practice of fasting while also holding down an important job is described in 10:3. 

A9 – The apocalyptic genre uses the following features: symbolic numbers, metaphoric images, it portrays current political events against the universal background of God challenging and defeating evil, apocalyptic literature is often ‘sealed up’ until the appropriate time of its fulfilment, it sees world history moving towards a ‘final conflict’ after which will come the judgement of God, where those faithful to God will be vindicated. 

A10 – The prophecy of chapter 11 builds up with increasing accuracy to a description of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. However, the description of his influence (v42) and the details of his death (v45) are markedly different to the historical evidence we have about him and his reign. Possible explanations include: 1) that the author is ‘telescoping’ the events; 2) that none of it has yet been fulfilled; or 3) that the chapter is included in a similar way to the speeches by Job’s friends are written in scripture, in order to be declared incorrect by God himself! In other words, this chapter is in the Bible specifically to teach us that we should never expect the future to be fulfilled in such a scripted way! The outcome is certain, but the route there is not determined; Jesus seems to have such a perspective in mind in Luke 17:1.  

taster course

Overview

Questions

5 mins

    • Book-in-a-Picture - The message and key features in a picture
    • Book-in-a-Picture
    • /
    • Video
    • /
    • Summary
    • /
    • Chiastic Structure

    Summary

     

    The book of Daniel tells the story of an exceptional young Jewish man called Daniel who was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and deported to Babylon in 605BCE. He then served as a senior administrator for a succession of emperors for over 60 years until at least the third year of Cyrus’ reign (537BCE). Daniel was a godly man, deeply committed to serving Yahweh, an exceptionally gifted administrator and  had the spiritual gift of prophecy.

     

    The book recounts a number of prophetic dreams, messages and encounters that Daniel had, but the way the book is structured makes it clear that one prophetic message stands out above all the others. This is the prophecy in chapter 7 where Daniel prophesies that after a succession of four empires, God himself will intervene and establish his own Kingdom from heaven through the agency of the ‘son of man’ (7:13).

     

    This is what happened. The traditional view is that Daniel was written around 520BCE, and edited in the Maccabean period around 167BCE. Whatever the dating, the importance of this document is that Jesus understood Daniel’s leading prophetic message as the basis for his own identity and work (Mark 1:15, Mark 8:31). Just as Isaiah prophesied the coming of the (anointed servant-) King, so Daniel prophesies that the ‘Son of Man’ will initiate the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ on earth.

     

    There is a deep underlying song of joy that runs through the book of Daniel despite all the trials that Daniel and the Jewish people face. Again and again the point is made that God is sovereign over the kingdoms and empires of this world, and that despite the overthrow of his people’s capital city (1:1), he still determines which empires rule and which kingdoms are overthrown: ‘the Most High rules over the kingdoms of men and he gives them to whom he wills‘ (4:17).

    The themes of worship and praise are never far away, along with the converse imperatives to avoid idolatry, even in the context of persecution. The book seems to be structured in such a way as not only to focus on the leading prophetic message, but also to provide a spiritual reflection on handling the ministry of the prophetic and warning against some of the pitfalls of mistaken prophetic interpretation.  There are examples of the spiritual disciplines of intercession and fasting, descriptions of spiritual warfare and conflict, and insights into the dynamic of dreams, visions and spiritual encounters. Finally we should remember that it is a book of stories, many of which are especially loved by children.

    Chiastic structure:

     

    Chapter 2   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom.

     

    Chapter 3                    A test – Daniel’s friends choose the fiery furnace rather than commit idolatry.

     

    Chapter 4                                             An emperor is humbled – and repents.

     

    Chapter 5                                             An emperor is humbled – and does not repent.

     

    Chapter 6                    A test – Daniel chooses the lion’s den rather than commit idolatry.

     

    Chapter 7   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom – initiated by ‘the Son of Man’.

     

     

    Comments:

     

    • Language: The chiastic material is in Aramaic, the international language of the time (2:4 – 7:28). The other parts of Daniel (chapters 1 and 8-12) are in Hebrew, and serve as a Hebrew comment on, and a further exploration of, the implications of the chiastic material.

     

    • The first sequence, chapters 2-4, are a “lesser form” of the second sequence, chapters 5-7. In the first, it is Nebuchadnezzar who has the dream, in the second it is Daniel. In the first sequence, Daniel’s friends are tested, in the second it is Daniel himself.

     

    • Apex: The “arrow head” of the chiastic structure emphasises the truth that ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 25, 32, and 5:21). This statement answers the question implied by the sacking of Jerusalem in 1:1-2: ‘Has Yahweh been defeated? Is he a lesser God?’

     

    • The crescendo: The whole of the chiastic material reaches a crescendo in Chapter 7 where Daniel receives the main vision, and this serves as the leading prophetic message of the book. The message is that Yahweh is going to intervene and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth and this will be initiated by the “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:9-28). Verses 13 and 14 were axiomatic in Jesus’ self-understanding and in his proclamation of his identity (Mark 8:29-31).

     

    Video >
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever denied yourself and refused to compromise your dedication to Christ by abstaining from something that would give the powers in society some control over you (Daniel 1:8)?


    Question 2 -

    Is it a problem that Daniel was a chief magician?


    Question 3 -

    Daniel 10 describes a very powerful spiritual encounter. Many Christians worldwide described similar experiences in the wake of what was called ‘The Toronto Blessing’ in 1994-5. How should we assess whether such things are genuine?


    starter course

    the essentials

    Questions

    10 mins

    • the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Author and date: Most of the book is written as a record of Daniel’s own account (7:15, 8:15, etc), but in other sections he is described in the third person (1:8, 2:17, etc). The original stories date from the decades following Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem, but there is good evidence (for example, the use of later vocabulary and the increasing accuracy of the later details of the prophecy in chapter 11) that the whole document was edited around the time of the Maccabees in 165BCE.

    There is a foundational difficulty in understanding the nature of the events in Chapters 1-6 which present as historical, but are surrounded by historical questions. Chapters 7-12 are mainly historically accurate in as much as they describe the events of the second century BCE. Many conclude from this that Daniel was edited after the historical events had occurred.

    Genre:

     

    The first six chapters are ‘hero’ stories describing events in which Daniel and his friends played leading roles. Chapters 7 to 12 are apocalyptic visions. However, the “story/vision-dream” divide is not a simple “first part/second part” divide, since Chapters 2 and 4 are stories about the dreams and their interpretations.

    Apocalyptic: Chapters 7-12 are written in the genre of apocalyptic literature. This genre uses graphic pictorial images to portray overriding truths of human existence and development, and God’s intervention and dealings with humanity.

    Chiastic structure:

     

    Chapter 2 - A dreamFour kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom.
    Chapter 3 - A testDaniel’s friends choose the fiery furnace rather than commit idolatrous worship.
    Chapter 4 - An emperor is humbled......and repents.
    Chapter 5 - An emperor is humbled......and does not repent.
    Chapter 6 - A testDaniel chooses the lion’s den rather than commit idolatrous worship.
    Chapter 7 - A dreamFour kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom, initiated by the 'Son of Man’.

     

     

    Comments:

    Language:The chiastic material is in Aramaic, the international language of the time (2:4 – 7:28). Chapters 1 and 8-12 are in Hebrew and serve as a Hebrew comment on, and a further exploration of, the implications of the chiastic material.
    The first sequence:Chapters 2-4 are a “lesser form” of the second sequence found in Chapters 5-7. In the first it is Nebuchadnezzer who has the dream, in the second it is Daniel. In the first sequence Daniel’s friends are tested, in the second it is Daniel himself.
    Apex:The “arrow head” of the chiastic structure emphasises the truth that 'the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes' (4:17, 25, 32, and 5:21). This statement answers the question implied by the sacking of Jerusalem in 1:1-2: 'Has Yahweh been defeated? Is he a lesser God?'
    The crescendo:The whole of the chiastic material reaches a crescendo in Chapter 7 where Daniel receives the main vision: Yahweh is going to intervene and establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and this will be initiated by the "Son of Man” (7:9-28). This serves as the leading prophetic message of the book. Verses 13 and 14 were axiomatic in Jesus’ self-understanding and in his proclamation of his identity (Mark 8:29-31.)

     

     

    Outer chapters:

    Language:Chapters 1 - 2:3 and Chapters 8 - 12:13 are in Hebrew, and therefore serve as a Hebrew context and commentary on the "universally relevant" middle section.

    Themes:

    1. The Most High is sovereign over the Kingdoms of men and he sets over them anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 25, 32 and 5:21). This is the specific answer to the question implied in the very first two verses of Daniel 1 which describe Nebuchadnezzar successfully capturing Jerusalem, taking away the Temple treasures and putting them in the temples of his gods in Babylon. Those who humble themselves before Yahweh are raised up (Daniel 4), while those who are don’t lose office (Daniel 5).

     

    1. God reveals mysteries (2:22, 28, 29, 47). Daniel is a prophet with prophetic anointing to communicate the revelation of mysteries to God’s people.

     

    1. The central prophetic message of Daniel is that after a succession of four ‘earthly’ kingdoms, God will set up his own Kingdom through the agency of the “Son of Man”. This is described primarily in Daniel 2:44-47, but subsequently in much greater detail in Daniel 7:9-27.

     

    1. The summary call for God’s people is to flee idolatry. The central examples are in chapters 3 and 6, and the call is for all God’s people to shun idolatry while they wait for God’s purposes to be fulfilled.

     

    1. Minor Themes – Chapters 1 and 8 – 12 explore:
      1. The timing of the coming of the Kingdom of the Son of Man.
      2. The steps needed before this can take place (Daniel 9).
      3. The nature of spiritual encounters with heavenly beings.
      4. Spiritual disciplines such as fasting, intercession and disciplined living.
      5. The nature of the spiritual struggle.
      6. The perspective and life required of God’s people as they await God’s future intervention.
    Literary Genre >
    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Should Christians interpret dreams? If so, what are the principles for interpreting dreams? Has God ever spoken to you in a dream?


    Question 2 -

    In ‘The God Delusion’, Richard Dawkins describes the God of the Old Testament as a monster. Is the God of Daniel a monster?


    Question 3 -

    In order to challenge the power of the assertive culture they lived in, Daniel and his friends abstained from food (1:8), but when it came to idolatry they were willing to die (chapters 3 and 6). Is there ever a place for Christians to be aggressive, such as the bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic in the USA and the shooting of a doctor in Pensacola (‘Wrath of angels: The American Abortion War’ by J. Risen and J. Thomas)?


    Question 4 -

    Daniel is repeatedly described as being distinguished and gifted with wisdom. Wisdom begins with ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 1:7), that is, it begins with a relationship with God and it grows and develops when we learn to see the world from God’s perspective. Which women and men do you know who are wise in the way Daniel was wise?


    Question 5 -

    In April 2014 a British High Court judge dismissed an appeal from a man who had been dismissed by his employer because he refused to do something on the grounds of his Christian faith. The judge said it was ‘irrational’ that Christianity deserves special protection from the law. If ‘heaven rules’, is this right?


    Question 6 -

    Despite the horrors of captivity, a deep theme of praise and worship run through these chapters. How can we fix our eyes on the returning Saviour and live a life of worship?


    main course

    Chapter by Chapter

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Chapter by Chapter - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • Daniel 1
    • /
    • Daniel 2-7
    • /
    • Daniel 8-12

    Chapter 1

     

    This chapter (1:1-2:4a) is written in Hebrew, the language of the Jews, and as such is an introduction to the central core of the book (2:4b to 7:28) which is written in the international language of Aramaic – the language of the Babylonian court. The remainder of the book (8:1-12:13) returns to the national Hebrew language, and seems to serve to develop the central core prophetic messages and thereby provide commentary and reflection. Daniel 1 therefore provides the historical context for the prophetic messages of chapters 2-7 which are the substance of the book of Daniel.

     

    1:1-2 describes Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem. This is obviously absolutely pivotal in the history of the Jewish nation. Most significantly, his removal of the sacred items from the Temple raises the question as to which ‘god’ is the more powerful: Nebuchadnezzar’s or Israel’s. This is the question that drives the whole book of Daniel. The author gives two answers: first that ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and he gives them to anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 26, 32 and 5:21). The God of Israel is still the Most High God even if he should choose to discipline his people for their disobedience to the covenant. But the second answer is that Nebuchadnezzar’s capture of Jerusalem was simply a small part in a far greater scheme of the rise and fall of empires that would ultimately lead to the establishing of God’s own Kingdom that will one day fill the earth. This is the message of the prophecies of chapters 2-7 that make up the central part of the book of Daniel.

    V1 This factual historical description roots the prophecies of Daniel firmly within the events of Israel’s history. The style of this historical record reflects the editorial practice of the religious historians and thereby connects Daniel to the events described in the books of Chronicles.

     

    In addition to rooting the forthcoming prophecies within the historical context, 1:3-21 also introduces Daniel, the central character of the book, along with his companions. The privileged backgrounds, intelligence, education and training of these young men are described, but the main focus is a description of a test of loyalty. Daniel finds himself immersed in a powerful foreign culture that is seeking to wipe out his Jewish identity. Along with his colleagues, he is forced to learn and excel in the language and culture of this foreign, non-Jewish empire. Even their names are taken from them and they are named after non-Jewish gods. Realising that ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch’, Daniel chooses to forego the exceptional food and drink provided by the emperor himself. His faith in Yahweh is vindicated, the young men excel over their colleagues, and from then on it is Yahweh himself (not the Babylonian educators) who is their teacher, and in addition to excelling in the literature and learning of the Babylonians, Yahweh anoints Daniel with a very powerful prophetic gifting. We should take note of one important point: God often tests the hearts of men and women very early in their lives. The axiomatic test for these men came not when they were two thirds of their way through life, but well before they were even twenty years old. In a most important sense, Daniel was only able to stand resolutely before Darius and risk his life in the lions den (Chapter 6) because he himself had made the decision to be loyal to Yahweh as early as 1:8. Look at the astonishing reward Yahweh gives Daniel: one of the most powerful prophetic anointings in the Old Testament, equal in significance to the prophetic anointings given to Samuel and Isaiah.

     

    This first chapter of Daniel introduces us to the leading point of the book, that God is sovereign and actively in control of his people, despite his apparent ‘defeat’ by the emperor of Babylon. But this immediately plunges us into a key challenge that all apprentices of Jesus face: how and in what way should we relate our faith to the culture in which we live? Daniel’s discerning and shrewd decision not to place himself and his friends under the ‘power and influence’ of the Babylonian rulers by eating their rich food and wine is an exceptionally clever way of distancing and separating themselves from that pernicious influence.

     

    Chapters 2 – 7

     

    From 2:4 – 7:28 the book of Daniel is written in the international language of Aramaic. The sections follow a clear Chiastic pattern:

     

    Chapter 2   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom.

     

    Chapter 3                    A test – Daniel’s friends choose the fiery furnace rather than commit idolatry.

     

    Chapter 4                                             An emperor is humbled – and repents.

     

    Chapter 5                                             An emperor is humbled – and does not repent.

     

    Chapter 6                    A test – Daniel chooses the lion’s den rather than commit idolatry.

     

    Chapter 7   A dream – four kingdoms will be followed by God’s Kingdom – initiated by ‘the Son of Man’.

     

     

    Chapter 2

    This is the first section in the chiastic structure. It is the story of the emperor’s dream which Daniel interprets, in contrast to the court magicians who couldn’t, and who in v10 condemn themselves out of their own mouths. The message of the dream is that there will be a succession of four empires, of which Nebuchadnezzar’s is the first, before God sets up his own Kingdom which will never be destroyed, will grow, endure for ever, and fill the earth. Its main point is therefore entirely consistent with that of the whole book: although the human evil nations will rise and fall, God has everything perfectly under control and he will initiate and establish his own Kingdom which will never fail. This revelation is repeated and developed substantially in the final chiastic section, chapter 7. This chapter therefore serves as an introduction to the second and greater revelation of chapter 7. One of the leading themes throughout the chapter is that the God of heaven reveals mysteries (v11, 22, 28, 29, 47). The structure of the chapter is straightforward:

    2:1-13   The king, the dream and the court advisers

    2:14-23   God reveals the dream to Daniel

    2:24-45   The interpretation

    2:46-49   The king’s response.

     

    The traditional view of Daniel’s interpretation is:

    625-539BCE: The gold head represents the Babylonian Empire.

    539-331BCE: The silver chest and arms represent the Medo-Persian Empire.

    331-63BCE: The bronze middle and thighs represent the Greek Empire.

    63BC-476CE: The iron legs and iron and clay feet represent the Roman Empire.

    33CE to now: The stone represents the Kingdom of Heaven brought by Jesus.

     

    The liberal view is that the Medes and Persians are the second and third kingdoms and the Greek is the fourth; this view therefore discounts any predictive prophecy.

     

    V1 The Jewish author, who must have been aware of the potential dating conflict with 1:5,18, is probably using a different counting system from that of the Babylonian court. It is possible that this initial event of the emperor’s dream happened before the end of Daniel’s three years of training, which would explain why he is unknown at the start of the story.

    V4 Aramaic was the language of the Babylonian court and as such indicates that this central content of the document, the six “events” from 2:4 to the end of chapter 7, is of universal significance for all peoples.

    V10 In contrast to this specific corporate admission by the ‘wise’ magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers that ‘no man on earth can do what the king asks’, the chapter affirms at least six times that there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries (v22, 28, 29, 30, and twice in v47). The defeat of Israel’s armies in 1:1 questioned the power of Israel’s God. But Yahweh has vindicated Daniel’s faithfulness in his body in 1:15, and now in his spirit in v29-30.

    V14-23 These verses give some insight into Daniel’s lifestyle patterns (Holy Habits) through which his prophetic gifting was maintained, practiced and developed: prayer, worship, rest and time for reflection are all patterns in Daniel’s daily lifestyle.

    V36-45 The description moves from the head to the feet, from metals that are most valuable to those that are least valuable, and from those that are weakest to those that are strongest. This may indicate a decline in morals with the successive empires. But it also contrasts with the establishing of God’s Kingdom which grows and is not overcome. Ephesians 1:10 states that Christ will bring all things in heaven and earth together under his headship.

    V46 The most powerful man in the world falls prostrate before a young Jewish man still in court training.

     

     

    Chapter 3

    This chapter is the second item in the first part of the chiastic structure. It describes the testing of Daniel’s three colleagues in the matter of idolatry. The parallel story in the second part of the chiastic structure is the story of Daniel in the den of lions, which is also a direct test of loyalty to Yahweh and the refusal to commit idolatry. This story is therefore a prelude to the parallel ‘advanced second phase’ story of Daniel.

    These men refuse to worship the golden image of the emperor, make an impressive statement of loyalty to the Lord, and as a direct result, are bound and thrown into a furnace. However the emperor then sees them walking around unharmed with one who ‘looks like a son of the gods’ (v25). They are released unharmed from the fire. The emperor declares that the Lord should be worshipped and promotes the three men. In one sense, this story encapsulates the entire Old Testament which in essence addresses the issue of idolatry. The first four of the ten commandments are about idolatry, and idolatry is the repeated sin of Israel and the direct reason for the nation’s expulsion from the promised land.

    V1       Nebuchadnezzar has received a dream about him being the head of a golden statue, so in one sense it is logical for him to make such a statue. But this incident illustrates the way that human beings so easily misunderstand what God wants, beginning well but taking tangential decisions that pervert God’s purposes for our lives.

    V12     Perhaps Daniel is not mentioned because the wise men are only too aware that he saved them from death in the previous story.

    V13     There is a sense of the ridiculous, even childishness, in the emperor’s response. It is as though the story is specifically told for children. Nevertheless, the issue is certainly not childish as they are being instructed to compromise Yahweh’s uniqueness by treating him as equal with other idols.

    V18     This is arguably the focus of the chapter: an uncompromising statement of belief and loyalty to the Lord in the face of violent death.

     

     

    Chapter 4

    This chapter describes (at length) the humbling of the emperor of Babylon. The chapter is framed as a letter from the Babylonian emperor to all the peoples of the world (v1). The letter tells the story of how Daniel interpreted a second of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, and then how the dream was fulfilled. The dream is about how the emperor would be humbled by the Most High God of heaven until he admitted that ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 25). The chapter is the final episode in the humbling of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon whose armies had besieged and captured Jerusalem and taken possession of the Temple treasures (1:1-2). The leading statement is stated three times by ‘a holy one’ (v17), Daniel himself (v25), and ‘a voice from heaven’ (v32) before Nebuchadnezzar states the truth in his own words in v34b-35. This is therefore both the divine and the Biblical answer to the implied question of 1:1: who is more powerful, the gods of Babylon, or the god of Israel? The chapter’s main point is once again that Yahweh is supremely in control of the nations of the earth. He humbles proud men and women.

    V1 ‘All peoples, nations and men of every language’ – the same group who were instructed to worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar (3:4).

    V25 What sort of madness was this? Perhaps we get a clue in the story of Elisha ‘blinding’ the soldiers and leading them to another town (2 Kings 6). The point is that they were not utterly blind (they could walk freely from town to town), but they were prevented (blinded) from recognising Elisha, the very man they had come to arrest even though he was the one standing in front of them and talking to them! A similar contemporary story is in Brother Yun’s ‘the Heavenly Man‘, where soldiers in the prison are prevented from realising that Yun and his family are celebrating the Lord’s supper right under their very noses!

    V27 Genuine repentance is evidenced by ensuring that justice is practiced and the poor are looked after.

     

     

    Chapter 5

    The ‘hand writing on the wall’ is the next divine intervention. Belshazzar, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, is humbled by the Lord, but although he should have immediately repented, he does not (v28-30) and is immediately killed. The chapter reasserts the central truth that ‘the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes’ (v21), but because Belshazzar brazenly and publicly dishonoured God by using the sacred vessels to deliberately mock Yahweh, glorifying the gods of silver and gold (v4) despite knowing what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar (v22), his life was immediately taken from him. This judgement is similar to the judgement on Saul because he sought guidance from a witch (1 Samuel 28, 31), and the judgement on Herod for publicly taking honour for being divine (Acts 12:23). The story perfectly demonstrates the leading truth of the book of Daniel up to this point as expressed in v21. Yahweh may have allowed Nebuchadnezzar to overrun Jerusalem and take away the leading nobles and young men and the Temple articles while he disciplined his people for their idolatry, but that did not give the Babylonians any right to abuse Yahweh. This incident therefore parallels the Philistines’ frightening experience of hosting the ark of the covenant in their territory (1 Samuel 5).

    V2 The city was surrounded by Darius’ army (v31), so Belshazzar may have deliberately put on the feast and used the temple goblets as a public sign of his power and ability to defeat his enemies, thereby rallying support in order to defeat Darius.

    V5 This whole story is about the word of God (in this case the written word) shaping the lives of humankind. Human beings dance, celebrate and do what they want, but the word of God stands forever. Every human being at that feast died long ago, but the word God wrote that night is as powerful today as when it was first read.

    V13 Daniel 1:21 states that Daniel was in the royal court for around 66 years, presumably from his late teens to his mid-80s. His work in governance and administration must have varied considerably over the decades, but this verse indicates he was not prominent during the reign of Belshazzar.

    V30 This immediate judgement on Belshazzar is both a warning to us all, and perhaps also a severe mercy by God to prevent Belshazzar from committing further sin and thereby bringing further judgement on himself.

     

     

    Chapter 6

    This chapter is the fifth part of the chiastic structure (see the diagram at the beginning of this section) and is the “greater” parallel to the relatively “lesser” story of Daniel’s three companions being thrown into the fiery furnace because they refused to commit idolatry in chapter 3. Daniel resists a similar temptation and is ‘thrown to the lions’ (v7) for refusing to worship the emperor. However, God shuts their mouths, he is saved, his accusers are destroyed and the emperor promotes him to being the chief administrator over the whole country (v3, 28). Darius also writes to all the nations of the earth stating that Daniel’s God is the living God. Both stories, ‘fiery furnace’ and ‘lion’s den’, teach Yahweh’s demand for absolute zero tolerance with idolatry, so both are teaching manuals for all persecuted Christians. However, this story not only emphasises the points of the first story but is an important progression and development of it. First, this is about Daniel, not his friends. Second, there is a progression from worshipping an image (3:1) to worshipping a person (6:7). Third, while in the first story the three men make an impressive statement of trust in God, this story describes Daniel’s reliance on the Holy Habit of disciplined prayer – ‘three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed giving thanks’ (v10), ‘…and asking for help …’ (v11). This highlights one of the intentions of the Book of Daniel, which is to teach God’s people how to be godly and faithful in a hostile context. Fourth, in terms of the chiastic structure, this escalation therefore leads directly into the following chapter as its culmination, even though the dream of chapter seven took place some years earlier. Finally, we should see the parallel between Daniel and Jesus: both were framed on false charges, and both were sent to be executed. One is protected, the other dies, but both walk out of the ‘tomb’ alive.

    V1 The historicity of Darius is problematic. ‘Darius’ may be the throne name of the governor ruling Babylon on behalf of Cyrus.

    V10 When faced with a conflict of laws, Daniel chooses to obey God not man. This principle undergirds Paul’s general exhortation to submit to the civil authorities in Romans 13:1-7

    V24 Although the emperor’s actions are ruthless (and unacceptable) by today’s standards, he is perfectly aware that they schemed to kill Daniel. They have publicly prioritised their concerns over the King’s, so that he faced the loss of his very best advisor, in contradiction of their ‘job description’, ‘that the king might not suffer loss’ (v1). They demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with the emperor’s business, and that they are quite prepared to scheme in order to gain advantage at the king’s expense.

     

     

    Chapter 7

    This chapter is the crescendo of the chiastic structure. It also links the stories of chapters 1-6 with the visions of chapters 7-12. But the real significance of chapter 7 is that it contains the leading prophetic message of the Book of Daniel which is that after a succession of four kingdoms (empires), God will establish his own Kingdom on earth under the governance of ‘one like a son of man’ (7:13-14). In terms of the chiastic structure, this builds on chapter 2 in the first section where the same message is given through a dream to Nebuchadnezzar. Here it is substantially developed, with Daniel, not a pagan emperor, being the recipient of the dream, and Daniel is once again the interpreter of the dream. It also contains a leading description of God (7:9-10) and his intervention (7:26), which is once again a direct fulfilment of the leading truth of the chiastic section ‘the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and he gives them to anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 25, 32, and 5:21).

     

    This chapter not only contains the central message of the book of Daniel, but it significantly develops the genre of apocalyptic literature. Verses such as v25 will be developed and explored considerably in the remaining chapters of the Book of Daniel which, written in the (local) Hebrew language, act as a Hebrew reflection and exploration into this prophetic futurology. Apocalyptic literature is a highly developed genre which attempts to portray the titanic changes and developments of human existence, especially human interaction with spiritual forces, in terms of dramatic pictorial motifs, symbolic numbers and images. In this chapter the apocalyptic is used to portray the horrifying nature of corporate human evil into which God himself comes with warlike intervention. The outcome is never in question, but the conflict is overwhelming.

    7:13-14   These verses are some of the most important in the entire Old Testament and should certainly be placed alongside Isaiah 9:2-7 and Isaiah 52:12 to 53:14, as Jesus specifically chooses them to explain his own self-understanding (Mark 8:31, 14:61-62) and his mission to bring the Kingdom (Mark 1:14-15).

     

    Chapters 8 – 12

     

    The text from 8:1 to 12:13 (the end of the book of Daniel) is in Hebrew, whereas 2:4-7:28 is written in the international language of Aramaic. The Hebrew text from 1:1-2:3, and from 8:1-12:13 therefore forms a context for the ‘international prophecies’ of 2:4-7:28 written in Aramaic. There is also a discernible change in the book’s content and style. While these five chapters are also about dreams and visions, as in Daniel 2, 4 and 7, they also include additional features of the ‘apocalyptic literary genre’ such as conversations with and between angels, details of ‘times’, and there is a focused description on the details of the animals in the visions. Daniel 10-12 are a unit describing a revelation about a great war (v1) which is prophesied in detail from 11:2-45.

     

     

    Chapter 8

    Chapter 8 is a vision describing the second and third images and kingdoms listed in the major prophecy of Chapter 7. The ram depicts the Mede and Persian Empire, of which the Persian part was the stronger (v3). The goat represents Alexander the Great who came from Greece in the west (v21) and conquered the Persian empire with astonishing speed from 334-331BCE and then established an empire that stretched to India. However, when he died in 323BCE after a period of upheaval, his empire was divided into four and led by four of his generals (v8). The little horn almost certainly refers to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who reigned from 175-164BCE. He conquered Palestine, enforced Greek culture and viciously persecuted those faithful to Yahweh, including banning circumcision and the Temple sacrifices, sacrificing a pig on the alter, dedicating an object to Zeus in the Holy of Holies, and burning the scriptures. This prophecy and its interpretation develops the leading prophecy of chapter 7 by giving a specific interpretation, where the emphasis seems to be on the need for God’s people to endure suffering knowing that ultimately, despite severe persecution, relief will come (v25). The apocalyptic images communicate that behind human conflict (and especially the Maccabean conflict) there is a greater cosmic spiritual conflict. It demonstrates that human governments and states are the arenas in which gross human evil is played out, and that God’s judgement will come and will fall on those who resist him.

    8:17-18  This description is a precursor to Daniel’s more profound experience in Chapter 10.

     

     

    Chapter 9

    This chapter records Daniel’s prayer in which, motivated by the vision of chapter 8, and Jeremiah’s prophetic statement that after 70 years Yahweh’s people would be allowed home, he confesses the nation’s sins and asks Yahweh allow his people to return. The prayer is an Old Testament model of confession, worship and petition, and is accompanied by the Holy Habits of prayer, petition, fasting, and ‘sackcloth and ashes’. The main development of the chapter is that in response to Daniel’s intercession for the return of God’s people at the end of their 70 years of (punishment) exile, God tells Daniel (through Gabriel) that another period of 70 ‘sevens’ has been decreed for Israel.

    V11 The curse is stipulated in Leviticus 26:14-45 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68.

    V20-27 This interpretation is complicated. The difficulties in understanding this are that we are not told what a ‘seven’ (v24) represents, or when the counting begins. There is therefore a good deal of ambiguity, and consequently scholars differ wildly in their interpretations. The ESV Study Bible has a useful summary of the leading perspectives. We are surely on the safest ground when we start with Jesus’ clear statement: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority’ (Acts 1:7), because if even he did not know the time of his return (Matthew 24:36), then how can we be so certain? Is it not wiser to gently hold the leading points of the passage on an open hand and humbly accept that we are all in a learning process that:

    1) God has the history and development of human progress in his hands – he knows what he is doing;

    2) Wickedness will be atoned for (v24);

    3) The Anointed One will come (v25), but will also be ‘cut off’ (v26); and

    4) Verse 27 seems to refer to a significant evil event, which could refer to Antiochus IV Epiphanes, or a similar later event, possibly events prior to the fall of Jerusalem in 70CE, or something similar at the end of history, but we simply cannot be certain.

    We should consider carefully that this reflection from Daniel 8:1 onwards in the Hebrew language is included in the canon of scripture precisely to instruct us NOT to interpret and understand prophecy in terms of forecasting the number of years, just as the arguments of Job’s friends are recorded to instruct us that their theology is absolutely wrong and should never be used! 2 Peter 3:12 states the principle exactly, that we ‘hasten’ the coming of the day of the Lord not by counting the days until such and such an event happens, but by living holy, godly lives now! Apprentices of Jesus should not predict that revival will happen on ‘such and such a date’. Our almost universal experience is that everyone who speaks like this (and I have done so twice during my ministry) makes a public fool of themselves.

     

     

    Chapter 10

    Chapter 10 is one of the most unusual in the Bible; we find ourselves in the deep waters of powerful spiritual experience. The introduction is reasonably typical: first, the event is dated in the reign of Cyrus (v1). Then follows a description of Daniel’s Holy Habits of mourning and fasting, but it is not clear if this preceded or followed the vision. Next there is a description of a heavenly being (v4-6) and Daniel’s physical response (v7-11). From 10:12-11:1 the ‘angel’ speaks and prepares Daniel for the message (which will run from 11:2-12:3). Daniel’s experience is overwhelming and he collapses until the heavenly messenger revives him. There are widespread reports throughout Christian history of experiences like this, especially in contemporary Pentecostal stream, so this chapter should be studied carefully. This chapter is also central in the study of angelology.

    V13-14 These verses are sometimes used to teach about the idea of ‘territorial spirits’. While it may be true that in certain areas and places in the world certain types of evil are especially prevalent, it is doubtful that these verses, written as they are in the apocalyptic genre, can support the huge weight of this teaching that is sometimes put on them.

     

     

    Chapter 11

    In this chapter the student faces one of the most challenging hermeneutical and interpretive difficulties in all of scripture. The prophetic message, which runs from 11:2 – 12:4, gives an outline of successive rulers in the wake of Alexander the Great’s empire (11:2-4) after his death in 323BCE. The following section (11:5-20) gives a description of the struggle between the Ptolemies and the Seleucids for possession of ‘the Beautiful Land‘ (v16). The focus moves steadily to the rise of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164BCE) and then describes his reign in detail (v36-45). While the description of his reign is accurate, the comment on Egypt (v42) and the description of his death (v45) is not consistent with the historical evidence. Various explanations have been proposed. Perhaps none of the events in the chapter have yet been fulfilled, but almost no one would take this view. Second, the author may be telescoping the final events in an apocalyptic transition to the end of history. Third, the chapter may be included in a similar way to how the speeches by Job’s friends are written in scripture in order to be declared incorrect by God himself! In other words, this chapter is in the Bible specifically to teach us that we should never expect the future to be fulfilled in such a scripted way! The outcome is certain, but the route there is not determined; Jesus seems to have such a perspective in mind when teaching about temptation in Luke 17:1. With the possible exception of Ezekiel 38-39, this chapter is unique in prophesying the future in such a detailed way, nevertheless we must acknowledge that this chapter appears to have been edited and rewritten after the events of the failed Maccabean uprising in 167-160BCE.

     

     

    Chapter 12

    The final verses of Daniel are distinctively apocalyptic. They describe the end of the vision which began in 10:1 and no longer focus on distinctive kings but on the wide sweep of God’s purposes culminating in the end of history. The ‘timing’ details are confusing because we are not told what a ‘time’ (v1,7,9,11) is, or how the figures ‘1,290’ (v11) and ‘1,335’ (v12) should be understood. The apocalyptic theme seems to be that God has all history under his control and is working out his purposes through the interplay of human action and responsibility. Ultimately, the righteous and the wicked will get their due for all they have done.

     

    Daniel 2-7 >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of Daniel:

     

    The overall message of Daniel is that the Most High rules over the kingdoms of men and he alone appoints the rulers of nations, (4:17, 25, 32 and 5:21). He will establish his Kingdom which will fill the earth. It is therefore imperative to worship him only!

     

    The leading imperatives:

     

    There are no specific, direct, unambiguous imperatives for the apprentices of Jesus in the book of Daniel.

    Implied Imperatives:

     

    • Worship Yahweh, The Most High (1:8, 2:47-48, 3:18, 4:37, 5:23, 6:10, 9:3). This is even more important in times of persecution.
    • The summary imperative for God’s people is to flee idolatry (Exodus 20:3-6, 1 Corinthians 10:14). Syncretism is strictly out of bounds for Christians. The examples of Daniel and his friends in chapters 3 and 6 endorse this clearly: disciples of Jesus must never commit idolatry, or compromise the uniqueness of Christ (John 14:1-10: ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’, etc).
    • Follow the example of Daniel’s resolution ‘not to defile himself’ (1:8), in other words, not to allow himself to get into a position where he was obliged to do what someone in authority (specifically a non-believing emperor) told him to do.  This was based on the principles that ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’.
    • Chapters 4-5 are examples of the importance of humbling ourselves before God.
    • Resist temptation – and specifically the temptation to commit idolatry – to the point of death (martyrdom), as per Daniel’s friends in chapter 3 and Daniel himself in chapter 6.
    • Daniel is an exceptional example of a godly person who honoured the Lord through his work in senior governmental administration. One of the implied exhortations of this book is that disciples of Jesus should learn excellence in their work.

     

    Themes with direct applications:

    • Here are a few applications of the themes in the Book of Daniel:
      • Praying and campaigning for the persecuted church.
      • ‘Fixing our eyes on what is unseen’ (2 Corinthians 4:18).
      • Standing firm in persecution.
      • Since God reveals mysteries (2:22, 28, 29, 47), we should pray for the gift of prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:1,6, 24-25).
      • The central prophetic message of Daniel has been fulfilled. The Son of Man has come and established his Kingdom. We must preach the Kingdom (Matthew 10:7). The end will not come until the Kingdom has been proclaimed throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14).
      • The book of Daniel describes profound experiences in the Spirit. Apprentices of Jesus should study these and be open to the Holy Spirit leading us into this arena in the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:7, 2 Corinthians 12:7).

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world – such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living – or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as; prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    • Practice the Holy Habits (Spiritual Disciplines) of …
      • Self-control (Daniel 1:8)
      • Simplicity (Daniel 1:8)
      • Fasting (Daniel 9:3, 10:3)
      • Intercession (Daniel 2:18, 9:3, 20)
      • Studying the scriptures (Daniel 9:3)
      • Service (Daniel 8:27)
      • Disciplined regular prayer (Daniel 6:10)

     

     

    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    Six times in chapter 2, Daniel states that God reveals mysteries. Compare this with Matthew 13:11. How can disciples of Jesus learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God?


    Question 2 -

    In the light of Daniel 1:8, should a Christian footballer play a world cup game on a Sunday?


    Question 3 -

    God humbled Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 4) until in some profound sense he realised that, despite his greatness and power, he was actually completely dependent on God! This shame brought Nebuchadnezzar to the point of redemption. Have you seen God humble a man or women so they come to the point of publicly acknowledging their dependence on him? This often happens just before a person dies.


    Question 4 -

    Daniel refused to obey Darius’ law (6:10) because of God’s command not to commit idolatry (see Acts 5:29). While there are examples of Christians refusing to obey the state authorities in countries like North Korea, the more widespread tests of discipleship often come in the home when parents refuse to let their children meet with other Christians (because ‘Christianity is stupid superstition, and when you grow up you’ll get over it’), or the school yard (where other pupils manipulate and sometimes bully Christians by excluding them and using social media to tyrannise their lives). Has this happened to you, or those you know? What can we do to strengthen those who are isolated in this way?


    Question 5 -

    In the 1970s, Hal Lindsey made a great deal of money by publishing “The late great planet earth”. This book was a sensationalised interpretation of various Biblical passages, including Daniel, in which he ‘predicted’ the end of the world through a strongly American perspective. The book was widely read, but years later Lindsey admitted he was wrong. More recently, ‘The Left Behind Series’, has had a similar following. Why is it so very dangerous for Christians to (uncritically) read this sort of literature? Why are the authors wrong?


    Question 6 -

    Read Daniel 3:18. An idol is anything that takes the place of God. What are today’s idols in the 21st Century?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Questions

    • A prayer -
    • Prayer
    • /
    • Sermon Series

    A prayer based on Daniel:

     

    O Lord you are great and awesome and you keep your covenant of love with all who love you and obey your commands. We bless you for your sovereign rule, and especially for sending Jesus to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Strengthen us to follow Daniel’s example of loyalty, service and prayer, and grant that your Church is strengthened with the gift of prophecy. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

     

     

    Commentary on the prayer:

     O Lord you are great and awesome and you keep your covenant of love with all who love you and obey your commands (9:1). We bless you for your sovereign rule (4:32), and especially for sending Jesus (7:13-14) to establish the Kingdom of Heaven on earth (2:44). Strengthen us to follow Daniel’s example of loyalty, service and prayer (6:10), and grant that your Church is strengthened with the gift of prophecy (2:47). In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

     

    Sermon Series on Daniel:

     

    Comment:   When preparing a sermon series on the book of Daniel, the church leader will need to weigh the benefits of systematically preaching through the twelve chapters against the alternative value of identifying and expounding the leading themes of this unusual prophetic book. The story-type narrative of the first six chapters invites systematic chapter-by-chapter exposition, but this systematic approach is less appropriate in chapters 7-12 as it tends to miss the more subtle nuances and exploration of prophetic ministry, the interrelation of private spirituality and discipline with the prophetic, and the nature of the whole book as a unit.

     

     

    Series Title:   God’s Sovereignty and Power

     

    Text Title Theme
    Chapter 1

    Main verse:

    1:10

    ‘The making of a statesman’ Chapter one is written in Hebrew, and as such serves the book by providing the context for the subsequent prophetic messages of chapters 2-7. The context is Nebuchadnezzar’s victory over Jerusalem and the deportation of the nobility to Babylon. The penetrating issue is ‘Why did Yahweh let this happen?’ Daniel’s resolution in v10 sets the direction for the remainder of the book.
    Chapter 2

    Main verse:

    2:47

    ‘Nebuchadnezzar’s dream’ This story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream begins a series of events that will reach a crescendo in Daniel’s dream in chapter 7. God’s sovereignty, the truth that he reveals mysteries, and Daniel’s own behaviour and example are all leading themes in the chapter.
    Chapter 3

    Main verse:

    3:18

    ‘The fiery furnace’ The testing of Daniel’s friends in the face of death develops the second of the leading subjects and imperatives of the book of Daniel: that we must never commit idolatry.
    Chapter 4

    Main verses:

    4:17,25,32

    ‘Nebuchadnezzar is humbled – but repents’ Three times in this chapter the book’s leading theme of God’s sovereign control and lordship is specifically stated. The sermon should expound this truth clearly.
    Chapter 5

    Main verses:

    5:21-22

    ‘Belshazzar is humbled and destroyed ’ The book’s leading theme (expounded three times in the previous chapter) is now endorsed and emphasised by Belshazzar’s stubborn disobedience.
    Chapter 6

    Main verse:

    6:10

    ‘The lion’s den’ This chapter mirrors and develops the example of Daniel’s friends in chapter 3. In addition to emphasising that we must never commit idolatry, Daniel’s godly spirituality is upheld as an example.
    Chapter 7

    Main verse:

    7:13-14

    ‘Daniel’s dream’ The message of this chapter is the focus of the entire book of Daniel: the Lord is not only sovereign over the kingdoms of this world, but he is going to bring in and establish his Kingdom through the agency of the ‘Son of Man’, and this Kingdom will fill the earth.
    Chapter 8

     

    ‘The ram and the goat’ Written in the apocalyptic genre, this chapter is one of the strangest in the Old Testament. Perhaps it offers the expositor an opportunity to teach about apocalyptic literature and the care that ought to be taken in its interpretation.
    Chapter 9

    Main verse:

    9:3

    ‘Daniel’s prayer’ This chapter contains one of the model intercessory prayers of the Old Testament. Daniel confesses the sins of his people and intercedes for the fulfilment of God’s promise of restoration. The final ‘apocalyptic’ section ambiguously describes the timing of future events.
    10:1 – 11:1

    Main verses:

    10:8-11

    ‘An overwhelming spiritual encounter’ This chapter describes an extraordinary spiritual encounter in Daniel’s life. As such it opens up the important issue of experiencing, discerning and interpreting powerful spiritual events. Once again, careful exegesis is paramount. The event should neither be flippantly dismissed, nor gullibly used to justify any and every strange spiritual experience.
    11:2 – 45

    Main verses:

    11:31-32

    ‘The future predicted’ This is surely one of the most perplexing and complicated chapters to understand. The foretelling of future political events culminating in the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes raises difficult questions for the faithful exegete.
    Chapter 12

    Main verses:

    12:2-3

    ‘The summing up of all history’ Most of the leading themes of Daniel are brought to a summary in these short verses, even though many questions are left unanswered.
    Sermon Series >
    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Chapter 5 tells the story of God’s judgement on Belshazzar. As disciples of Jesus we will be very cautious of interpreting events in other people’s lives as evidence of God’s judgement, not least because of Luke 6:37 and Romans 2:1. Nevertheless, scripture does state that God intervenes to warn people of the consequences of their sin. Can you think of examples of God doing this?


    Question 2 -

    Daniel’s decision in 1:8 takes the apprentice of Jesus into the complicated discussion about how we should relate to the contemporary culture around us. H Niebuhr’s book ‘Christ and culture’ is a very helpful entry into this discussion. Niebuhr identifies five approaches: 1) Christ against culture (where disciples separate themselves from culture), 2) The Christ of culture (where all culture is embraced), 3) Christ above culture, 4) Christ and culture in paradox (where disciples obey Christ in church and obey the government in the world), and 5) Christ the transformer of culture. Can you identify different contemporary situations where you will need to adopt each of these approaches?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions:

     

    QQQ             

    Have you ever denied yourself and refused to compromise your dedication to Christ by abstaining from something that would give the powers in society some control over you (Daniel 1:8)?

     

     

    QQQ             

    Is it a problem that Daniel was a chief magician?

    Comment:

    The answer to this rests on exactly what it meant for Daniel to be a ‘magician’, and the text simply does not provide the details. What the book of Daniel does do is to focus on the issue of ‘revelation’ and the ‘interpretation of dreams’, and in both these areas Daniel excels beyond the other ‘wise men’ precisely because he has been gifted by Yahweh himself (1:17b). 

     

     

    QQQ             

    Daniel 10 describes a very powerful spiritual encounter. Many Christians described similar experiences in the wake of what was called ‘The Toronto Blessing’ in 1994-5. How should we assess whether such things are genuine?

    Comment:

    The key test is always: what is the fruit of such experiences (Matthew 7:16)? Throughout the New Testament, and through 2,000 years of Christian history, Christians have testified to powerful and overwhelming spiritual encounters, so these cannot be dismissed out of hand. Whatever the phenomena, and whatever the experiences reported, the essential issue is always whether it leads to a greater and purer love for Jesus and obedience to him. The letter of 1 John addresses these issues; 1 John 5:1-5 is a summary of the three main tests for orthodoxy.

     

     

     

    Starter Course Questions:

     

    QQQ             

    Should Christians interpret dreams? If so, what are the principles for interpreting dreams? Has God ever spoken to you in a dream?

    Comment:

    Yes. The best foundation and starting point for interpreting visions, dreams and pictures is a life immersed in the Word of God and the Spirit of God. Although initially written with reference to the spiritual gift of tongues, 1 Corinthians 14:13 would seem to instruct us to pray for the spiritual gift of interpreting dreams. 

     

     

    QQQ             

    In ‘The God Delusion’, Richard Dawkins describes the God of the Old Testament as a monster. Is the God of Daniel a monster?

    Comment:

    Absolutely not! The God of Daniel is revealed in the atoning work of God himself on the cross.    

     

     

    QQQ             

    In order to challenge the power of the assertive culture they lived in, Daniel and his friends abstained from food (1:8), but when it came to idolatry they were willing to die (chapters 3 and 6). Is there ever a place for Christians to be aggressive, such as the bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic in the USA and the shooting of a doctor in Pensacola (‘Wrath of angels: The American Abortion War’ by J. Risen and J. Thomas)?
     

    Comment:

    Absolutely NOT! Disciples of Jesus must follow Jesus to the cross. He renounced retaliation. In the same way, Paul repeatedly preaches a cruciform life (Philippians 2:5).

     

     

    QQQ             

    Daniel is repeatedly described as being distinguished and gifted with wisdom. Wisdom begins with ‘the fear of the Lord’ (Proverbs 1:7), that is, it begins with a relationship with God and it grows and develops when we learn to see the world from God’s perspective. Which women and men do you know who are wise in the way Daniel was wise?

     

     

    QQQ             

    In April 2014 a British High Court judge dismissed an appeal from a man who had been dismissed by his employer because he refused to do something on the grounds of his Christian faith. The judge said it was ‘irrational’ that Christianity deserves special protection from the law. If ‘heaven rules’, is this right?

    Comment:

    Yes.

     

     

    QQQ

    Despite the horrors of captivity, a deep theme of praise and worship run through these chapters. How can we fix our eyes on the returning Saviour and live a life of worship?

     

    Main Course Questions:

     

    QQQ             

    Six times in chapter 2, Daniel states that God reveals mysteries. Compare this with Matthew 13:11. How can disciples of Jesus learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God?

    Comment:

    It is quite possible for every disciple of Jesus to learn the secrets of the Kingdom of God. This will happen when a disciple sets their mind and heart to learn everything they can about the Kingdom and learn the lifestyle of the Kingdom (Matthew 6:33).

     

     

    QQQ             

    In the light of Daniel 1:8, should a Christian footballer play a world cup game on a Sunday?

    Comment:

    While it is always impressive to hear of those who have forfeited their opportunity to participate in such sporting occasions, nevertheless, in my opinion Christians are perfectly free to do so. Jesus himself had a very relaxed and liberal view of the Sabbath, which of course is a Saturday not a Sunday, and Paul rebukes the Galatians for ‘observing special days’ (Galatians 4:9-10).

     

     

    QQQ             

    God humbled Nebuchadnezzar (chapter 4) until in some profound sense he realised that, despite his greatness and power, he was actually completely dependent on God! This shame brought Nebuchadnezzar to the point of redemption. Have you seen God humble a man or women so they come to the point of publicly acknowledging their dependence on him? This often happens just before a person dies.

     

     

    QQQ             

    Daniel refused to obey Darius’ law (6:10) because of God’s command not to commit idolatry (see Acts 5:29). While there are examples of Christians refusing to obey the state authorities in countries like North Korea, the more widespread tests of discipleship often come in the home when parents refuse to let their children meet with other Christians (because ‘Christianity is stupid superstition, and when you grow up you’ll get over it’), or the school yard (where other pupils manipulate and sometimes bully Christians by excluding them and using social media to tyrannise their lives). Has this happened to you, or those you know? What can we do to strengthen those who are isolated in this way?

    Comment:

    One of the hardest places to be a Christian today is in school. We must stand by and befriend those children we know who are trying to stand for Christ. They need encouragement and support and the appropriate settings to discuss what they are facing with others – both of their own age, and older.

     

     

    QQQ             

    In the 1970s, Hal Lindsey made a great deal of money by publishing “The late great planet earth”. This book was a sensationalised interpretation of various Biblical passages, including Daniel, in which he ‘predicted’ the end of the world through a strongly American perspective. The book was widely read, but years later Lindsey admitted he was wrong. More recently, ‘The Left Behind Series’, has had a similar following. Why is it so very dangerous for Christians to (uncritically) read this sort of literature? Why are the authors wrong?

    Comment:

    Problems and dangerous outcomes arise when this sort of literature is the ONLY literature on this subject that is read. As a young Christian I read my full share of this sort of literature, but as I grew older I realised the dangers far more clearly. Now I only read Jesus’ own teaching about the end times in chapters such as Mark 13, Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

     

     

    QQQ             

    Read Daniel 3:18. An idol is anything that takes the place of God. What are today’s idols in the 21st Century?

    Comment:

    One of the podcasts is on this subject.

     

     

     

    Dessert Course:

     

    QQQ             

    Chapter 5 tells the story of God’s judgement on Belshazzar. As disciples of Jesus we will be very cautious of interpreting events in other people’s lives as evidence of God’s judgement, not least because of Luke 6:37 and Romans 2:1. Nevertheless, scripture does state that God intervenes to warn people of the consequences of their sin. Can you think of examples of God doing this?

     

     

    QQQ             

    Daniel’s decision in 1:8 takes the apprentice of Jesus into the complicated discussion about how we should relate to the contemporary culture around us. H Niebuhr’s book ‘Christ and culture’ is a very helpful entry into this discussion. Niebuhr identifies five approaches: 1) Christ against culture (where disciples separate themselves from culture), 2) The Christ of culture (where all culture is embraced), 3) Christ above culture, 4) Christ and culture in paradox (where disciples obey Christ in church and obey the government in the world), and 5) Christ the transformer of culture. Can you identify different contemporary situations where you will need to adopt each of these approaches?

     

      Coaching Questions -

    Coaching Questions for the Daniel Pod Sessions

                                                                                    

    Podder:

     

    Sections Point to be noted
    Opening: What’s the main thing happening with you at the moment?

     

    At the end of our last pod you said you would be happy for me to ask you this question …How have you got on?

     

    How did you go about engaging with Daniel?

    Are there specific things you want to talk about today from your study of Daniel?

                …any questions,

                …or things you don’t understand?

     

    Which verses made the greatest impression on you?

     

    Substance – Message and Theology:

     

    QQQ Use the questions for 21st Century.    

     

    QQQ    ‘The Most High is sovereign over the Kingdoms of men and he sets over them anyone he wishes’ (4:17, 25, 32 and 5:21). How should we understand this in the light of the fact that about 75% of the world’s population live in countries that deny essential human rights?

     

    QQQ     Explore the significance for Jesus of the prophetic revelation in chapter 7 that after a succession of four ‘earthly’ kingdoms, God will set up his own Kingdom.

     

    QQQ     What idols demand our worship in the 21st Century?

     

    QQQ     Since God reveals mysteries (2:22, 28, 29, 47), what principles should guide our discernment of what is ‘revealed’?

     

    Your insights:

     

    Application:

     

    Holy Habit:

    QQQ – What uestion shall I ask you when we next meet in the light of the application that you have made from our study today?

     

    QQQ – Prayer seems to have been the most prominent of all Daniel’s “Holy Habits”. On a scale of 1-10, how effective is your intercession, and what practices would strengthen your praying?