Daniel – The Beloved
Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD.—Ezekiel 14:14
By David Simkin, Reprinted from “People’s Paper”, Australia
Daniel is certainly one of the great figures of the Old Testament. Like Joseph, he rose to a position of high authority in an alien land and served with great distinction. He is spoken of three times as a man really beloved of God and a review of his life, his piety, and his utter consistency of character clearly show why he was so highly esteemed and much used by God.
Outside of the book which bears his name, little is known of Daniel. Interestingly, he is mentioned by Ezekiel, an approximate contemporary, as a standard of righteousness and of wisdom, along with Noah and Job. He is not recorded by name in the illustrious band of faithful ones in Hebrews 11, but would certainly be among “the prophets, who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions” (Heb. 11:33).
His lifetime spans the whole of Jewish captivity in Babylon, where Daniel was taken, with other hostages, on the orders of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, after he had taken Jerusalem and subjugated Jehoiakim, king of Judah. Some indication of Daniel’s background is probably to be gained from Dan. 1:3, 4, where it states that Nebuchadnezzar directed that the hostages be taken from those of noble birth, skillful, well-educated and able to conduct themselves in a royal court.
Considering the long period of Daniel’s stay and service in Babylon, he must have been quite young at the time of his being taken there, and historians and scholars suggest that he would have been only about 16 or 18 years of age at that time. He was nevertheless evidently well informed not only in secular subjects but also in the religion of the true God of Israel. This appears quite early in his determination not to be defiled in the food provided for the hostages but even in this matter to serve God.
The earliest years of Daniel’s life would have been spent under the reign of Josiah, one of the good and faithful kings of Judah. The record of his reign reads, in brief— “he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand nor to the left” (2 Kings 22:2). He saw how the nobles and people of Judah had so grievously departed from God’s ways and sought earnestly to restore the true worship, so that it was said that “like unto him there was no king before him, that turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his night—neither after him rose there any like him” (2 Kings 23:2).
Despite all Josiah’s endeavors during his 31 years reign, however, the nation soon lapsed back under his son, who reigned only three months before being deposed by Pharaoh-Neccho, king of Egypt, who installed Jehoiakim as his vassal king over Jerusalem. Only three years later, Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem, as already seen. All this happened within four years of Josiah’s death in fulfillment of earlier prophecies of Isaiah to King Hezekiah, as recorded in Isa. 39:6, 7 and of Jeremiah in Jer. 25:11.
The early formative years of Daniel’s life would therefore have been spent during the latter years of the good king Josiah. If, as seems probable, Daniel was of noble birth, he would thus no doubt have become acquainted with the ideals and endeavors of Josiah. For it was during his reign that the book of the law had been re-discovered in the house of Jehovah, and in this Josiah read the warnings against the waywardness and disobedience of his people. This he sought valiantly to turn around, but alas, without any lasting success.
A Captive in Babylon
It was accordingly only a few years after Josiah’s death that Daniel and all the other hostages were taken into the Babylonian court and the account given in the book of Daniel begins to unfold. Three other young men among the captives are also brought to our attention. These were also possessed of remarkable faith in the power of their God, and their testimony under trial (Dan. 3:17, 18) stands as their monument and as a challenge to the Lord’s people of every age— “If it be so, our God is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king, but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image thou hast set up.” “Our God is able. . . . but if not!” What faith is there. In passing, the meanings of the names of the four young men are interesting and suggestive of Godly parentage:
Daniel: “God is my judge.”
Hananiah: “God is gracious.”
Mishael: “This is as God.”
Azariah: “God is a helper.”
It is no doubt significant that these names were very soon changed in the Babylonian courts. Where is the name we bear as Christians? Do we always honor it as we might, for our Lord is also able?
For us, being invited to partake of the food and drink provided in the royal court would probably not present any very great problem, though most Christians would generally prefer a simpler diet. But for a pious Jew, the law made specific provisions as to what was clean and permissible and needed to be observed carefully as an act of obedience and as a mark of separateness from other nations. To avoid partaking in Daniel’s circumstances would present a problem in the ordinary course, but we read that “God had brought Daniel into favor and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Dan. 1:9). As a result, the young Hebrews were allowed to adhere to their preferred vegetarian diet, which had proved superior.
For the Lord’s people of every age, there is a need of separateness and for great care over the nourishment we take in. In place of the world’s delicacies and delights, our Heavenly Father has provided in His dear Son the pure Water of Life and the Bread of Life for our sustenance. For the young in Christ, He has given the pure milk of His word and for the more mature the meat of his word for our growth and development. As the hymn writer puts it:
My table is furnished with bounty so free,
My soul on Thy word is well fed.
This is better fare than any earthly royal court.
Already the character of Daniel, under the hand of the Lord, was becoming evident and had made an impression on the master set over him. We are warned in the New Testament to beware when all speak well of us. This may well indicate too close identification with the worldly and failure to stand up for our faith. But at the same time our behavior, our demeanor, should always be such as to command at least the respect of reasonable people. We read of Jesus in his early years that he “increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.” This is, of course, the right order—God first.
Because of their faithfulness God gave all four young men knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, but Daniel was also given understanding in all visions and dreams. Much of the book of Daniel, from chapter 2 on, is taken up with accounts of these means of prophecy and these reach right down to our own day and even beyond. It has been said that the book of Daniel not only preserves links in the chain of world history, but also provides vital keys to interpretation of all prophecy, including the final book of our Bible—the Revelation of Jesus Christ, given through the beloved apostle John.
We might indeed see a character link between Daniel, the man greatly beloved of Jehovah, and the beloved apostle of our Lord, whose visions recorded in the Revelation and given some seven centuries after those of Daniel are, as it were, a continuation and fuller development of them. Both men greatly loved God and were greatly loved for their faithfulness. Both were used to bring messages to God’s people, not only of immediate local significance and encouragement, but of universal and dispensational importance. Both lived to a very great age. Both were given final messages of personal assurance.
After a training period of three years, Daniel and his companions were brought to stand before the king, but very soon a test of faith was to come upon them. The king had had a most disturbing dream but could not recall it. So he asked his local wise men to tell him what it was and what it meant. Not surprisingly, none could and the king ordered all his counselors, including the four Hebrews, to be put to death. But Daniel and his companions prayed and we read that God answered; and further, that Daniel blessed the God of heaven for that answer. Thankfulness to our heavenly Father not only for specially answered prayer but for his daily care—how important it is.
The vision itself we are now familiar with—a great image of a man with head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron and feet of part iron and part clay. But even more significant for us—a stone cut out of a mountain, not by human means, smote the image on the feet and brought the whole image down and itself—that is, the stone—became a great mountain filling the whole earth. What a truly remarkable panorama of world history there is in what God made known to Daniel; bringing us right down to the final setting up of God’s kingdom.
We might thing it strange that such a far-reaching vision or dream should be given to a heathen king and, in keeping with his times, a rather despotic one. But it did have an influence on Nebuchadnezzar, even at that time, for he had to acknowledge that Daniel’s God was a God of gods and a Lord of kings. So he set Daniel and his companions over the affairs of his kingdom, with Daniel himself in the presence of the king, who was himself pictured in the image’s head of gold. But of what far greater blessing and enlightenment has the dream and its interpretation been to God’s people, particularly in these last days, when we see the signs of the nearness of the setting up of that great stone kingdom of God.
For we, who live in these last days, have as it were an unbroken link with Daniel the prophet greatly beloved of God, who lived and prophesied so long ago in that first world empire period pictured in the head of gold. We clearly are living in the days of the ten toes kingdoms, when the marvelous stone of no human devising, will shortly cast down and replace all the kingdoms that have gone before. John writes in Rev. 11:15—
The seventh angel sounded, and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.”
How sorely that everlasting kingdom of peace and righteousness is needed today.
For the revealing of the dream and the interpretation to the king Daniel took no credit to himself. “This secret is revealed to me not by any wisdom that I have more than anyone else;” rather, he gave thanks: “blessed be the name of God for ever and ever; for wisdom and might are his.” Any service that we can render for our Lord and his people is a gracious privilege and no cause for pride for “what have we that we did not receive?” “For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake” (1 Cor. 4:7; 2 Cor. 4:5). This is the true perspective of all God’s servants and was the spirit of Daniel.
Daniel and the Lion’s Den
After Nebuchadnezzar’s death, the kingdom under Belshazzar soon fell to Darius the Mede, who set over the kingdom three presidents answerable to himself. Of these, Daniel was first in rank, indicating that Darius also recognized the skills and qualities of Daniel, the testimony of him being that “an excellent spirit was in him.” This soon provoked envy among the other presidents and the 120 princes set under them and they sought to find fault or error with Daniel, but could not do so.
Their final conclusion was: “we shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God” (Dan. 6:5). Though not meant that way, what a wonderful testimony to Daniel’s conduct and consistency of life this was. It sets the standard for the people of God in every age. Daniel’s life was open for all to see, yet his detractors could find nothing to accuse him of. While evidently continuing to maintain his own religious duties, his attendance upon the king’s business was complete and loyal. Yet all the time his heart was with God’s chosen people, as we see later in this account.
The Lord’s people are always to be peaceable, law-abiding, diligent and conscientious, seeking to comply not only with the letter but also the spirit of the laws under which they live, and which in turn protect them, at least to some extent. The only limitation is that which led Peter and John to proclaim: “we ought to obey God rather than men” when they were ordered to cease preaching the gospel. So it was with Daniel who was confronted by the statute which the king had been deceived into signing— “that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee [the king himself] shall be cast into the den of lions.” No doubt the king’s vanity had been appealed to. The conspirators had well read Daniel’s character, and we are not surprised to read: “now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being opened in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. (Dan. 6:10). In those days observance of religious duties was more open and the structure of dwellings would have added to this, making Daniel’s actions very obvious.
It has been suggested that Daniel may have been able to comply with some lesser requirement, such as praying less openly, but there could be no compromise for Daniel nor can there be for any of the Lord’s people in the matter of the One they are to worship. Unlike other nations, Israel’s law was very clear— “the Lord our God is one Lord,” and “thou shalt have no other gods before me [Jehovah]. . . . though shalt not bow thyself down to them or serve them.” So Daniel continued his habit and patter of prayer “as he did aforetime.” While he did nothing extra to provoke trouble, his loyalty to the one true God of his people did not falter.
It is unfortunately possible for Christian people to bring trouble upon themselves needlessly and there is no credit with God for suffering for folly or wrongdoing. The Christian standard, as it no doubt was for Daniel too, is “as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all;” “be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good;” “render to all their dues.” To suffer for righteousness’ sake is praiseworthy in God’s sight and Daniel’s faithfulness and steadfastness were wonderfully rewarded by God, as we read in Dan. 6:19-23.
Even Darius, who quickly realized that he had been deceived, sought by every means to save Daniel from the lions, and when he could not, he spent a sleepless night, concerned for this man whose noble qualities of character, so different from those of his other counselors, he had come to appreciate.
Prophecies of Deliverance
But God still had further work for Daniel, and of this we read: “so this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian” (Dan. 6:28). Daniel indeed lived on to a great age, his final vision being received when he would have been nearly 90 years of age. But before this, further visions were given to him concerning the four great world empires that would ultimately be overcome by the all-consuming kingdom of God, and of events that would occur during those periods. Through it all, we cannot fail to note his deep love and concern for his own people. Though a faithful servant of the powers that be in Babylon, his heart at all times was with his people in their captivity, and we read in Dan. 9:2. “In the first year of his [Darius’] reign, I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the destruction of Jerusalem.”
As a true patriot, and as a worshiper of Jehovah, Daniel felt great sorrow over the nation’s punishment at his hands and he besought God that, now that the seventy years foretold had come to an end, the nation’s return might be no longer deferred. What a wonderful response Daniel received through the angel Gabriel: “at the beginning of thy supplications, the commandment came forth and I am come to show thee, for thou art greatly beloved” (Dan. 9:23). Still today our Heavenly Father knows before we ask the desires and intents of our hearts and waits ready to answer and bless the prayer of faith that first and foremost seeks to know his will.
As well as the assurance of his prayer being answered, Daniel was also given a remarkable prophecy of events that would effect his people right down to the time of Messiah the Prince. Students of the Bible are agreed on the accuracy of the prediction of Messiah’s advent at the end of the 69th week, or 483 years, taking a week to represent seven year, and the further prophecy of the nation and the temple being left desolate. But this grim picture, as far as Israel was concerned, was not left as God’s last word to the greatly beloved Daniel. He was assured that at the time of the end and after great trouble, Michael (Who is as God), the great prince who “standeth for the children of my people” would come and that “at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).
God’s closing words to Daniel furthermore speak of the resurrection to everlasting life being given to those found worthy, of the “wise” shining as the stars and leading many to turn to righteousness. How these assurances of Daniel remind us of our Lord’s words in Matt. 13:43— “then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of the Father”—and of the grand times of restoration or restitution spoken of by Peter. Though no doubt much comforted by the assurances given to him, Daniel was not granted full understanding of them; rather he was told to “shut up the words and seal the book even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased.”
The personal promise to this man beloved of God concludes the record: “go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days” (Dan. 12:13). Daniel heard the words of the Lord but was not given to fully understand, as was the case with all the prophets of old, who wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit prophesying of the grace that should come upon the gospel age heirs of salvation and testifying of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Meantime, Daniel was to rest in the sleep of death, awaiting that “better resurrection” which the faithful ones of old all looked forward to.
In many ways the prophecies of Daniel provide the key to the understanding of Bible prophecy in general. How all-embracing they are! They cover an outline of world history, the first and second advents of Jesus, his rejection and the casting off of Israel, later their restoration under Michael their Prince, and the resurrection and restoration of the “many” of mankind. How wonderfully was this saint of God used! Over 2500 years later we rejoice to see what he heard in secret becoming plain and the signs of the soon fulfillment of the glorious things foretold.
One commentator has said that “Daniel’s undeviating integrity as a worshipper of the one God in an alien, dissolute society, as first minister in the first of the world empires, gives him a place among the highest and holiest the world has ever seen.”
To be used by God, even in smaller ways, requires that the child of God be separate from the world, single-minded in faith and devotion to his service, of humble mind, diligent in searching the scriptures, instant in prayer. In all these ways Daniel stands out as a shining example. When he stands in his lot at the end of the days what a wonderful guide and standard he will be to the world of mankind, along with all the faithful of old times! These were not offered a heavenly reward, but we are told that they looked for a city which has foundations whose maker and builder is God. How well Daniel will be equipped for service in that everlasting kingdom!
The same faithfulness as that of Daniel is required of us who have been blessed with a heavenly calling. May each of us in our day stand as Daniel did for truth and righteousness.
Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose true,
Dare to make it known.