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Daniel 1-3     Listen Podcast

How'd we get here, anyway? (Daniel 1:1-7)

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.
3 ¶ Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles,
4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.
5 And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king.
6 Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
7 To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-nego.

We get our exact bearings in Daniel from the first seven verses, leaving no doubt whatsoever regarding time or place. There were three major invasions by the Babylonians of the Palestine area. The first was the one here in which Daniel was taken in 605 B.C. That invasion took place during the reign of Judah's King Jehoiakim. The second was 597 B.C. when King Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim surrendered to the Babylonians and was deported along with all the other influential people in Jerusalem/Judah; Zedekiah became the puppet king (by Babylonian appointment) of Jerusalem/Judah at that time. After Zedekiah got too big for his breeches and rebelled against the Babylonian rule, Jerusalem fell under its final siege in 587/586 B.C. and was destroyed by the Babylonians - THE END. Those last years are recorded in II Kings 24-25 (see notes).

In Jeremiah 25:11 (see notes), Jeremiah prophesied that the exiles would serve the Babylonians for 70 years. Then again in Jeremiah 29:10 (see notes) the prophet prophesied that the captivity would last 70 years. It is true that the Jews began returning to Jerusalem under Persian King Cyrus in 536/535 B.C. following the defeat of the Babylonians, 70 years after the initial captivity in 605 B.C. It is also worth noting that the temple was ravaged in 586 B.C. and rebuilt in 516 B.C. - again, 70 years. These historical fulfillments validate the prophesies of Jeremiah seventy years before.

Once in Babylon, Daniel and his friends underwent name changes. For future reference, let's take note of the Babylonian aliases of Daniel and his friends:

It is interesting that the Book of Daniel continues to refer to Daniel with his Jewish name throughout, but the Babylonian names are commonly used for the other three. There's one more point of interest regarding the Book of Daniel; it is written in two different languages. Chapters 1, 8-12 are written in Hebrew; chapters 2-7 are written in Aramaic. As a captive of the Babylonians, Daniel was fluent in both languages. And why would Daniel write this manuscript in two different languages?

Following is an excerpt from the Expositor's Bible Commentary on this issue:

A careful study of the subject matter yields fairly obvious answers: The Aramaic chapters deal with matters pertaining to the entire citizenry of the Babylonian and the Persian empires, whereas the other six chapters relate to peculiarly Jewish concerns and God’s special plans for the future of his covenant people. It would seem to follow that the Aramaic chapters (2-7) were in some sense made available to the Gentile public, since Aramaic was the lingua franca of the period of the Babylonian and Persian empires during the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.

Incidentally, with regard to Aramaic, it was the common language of the Assyrian Empire and was used in both the Babylonian and Persian empires that followed as a diplomatic and commercial language. In the entire Old Testament, only Ezra 4:8-6:18; 7:12-26; Jeremiah 10:11; and Daniel 2:4-7:28 were written in Aramaic.

By the way, you will notice that these four boys were taken by Nebuchadnezzar because they were gifted children (verse 4). These children were to be trained for some future role in the service of Nebuchadnezzar.

Come on up! (Daniel 1:8-21)

8 ¶ But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank; therefore he requested of the chief of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
9 Now God had brought Daniel into the favor and goodwill of the chief of the eunuchs.
10 And the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who has appointed your food and drink. For why should he see your faces looking worse than the young men who are your age? Then you would endanger my head before the king.”
11 ¶ So Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let them give us vegetables to eat and water to drink.
13 Then let our appearance be examined before you, and the appearance of the young men who eat the portion of the king’s delicacies; and as you see fit, so deal with your servants.”
14 So he consented with them in this matter, and tested them ten days.
15 ¶ And at the end of ten days their features appeared better and fatter in flesh than all the young men who ate the portion of the king’s delicacies.
16 Thus the steward took away their portion of delicacies and the wine that they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17 ¶ As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18 ¶ Now at the end of the days, when the king had said that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.
19 Then the king interviewed them, and among them all none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they served before the king.
20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.
21 Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.

Daniel and his three fellow royal captives didn't like the king's cuisine. They determined not to defile themselves with the royal food - probably food that violated Jewish-preparation guidelines and/or had been offered to pagan gods before arriving in the kings's kitchen. The servant in charge of nourishing them panicked. "If those boys get scrawny, it'll be my head," he conjectured. However, Daniel reasons with him and challenges him to a test: let us eat a vegetarian diet with water, and then compare us to your other diners in 10 days. After 10 days, they were permanently allowed to stay on their modest diet. At the end of their training, When Nebuchadnezzar inspects the royal captives, he finds Daniel and his three friends to be significantly sharper than the others - more so than even his home-grown wise guys. Furthermore, verse 17 says that "Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams."

You will notice in verses 19-21 that Daniel found favor with the Babylonian king and remained prominent in Babylon throughout the remaining Babylonian rule - over 60 years of public service (minus a short retirement under Belshazzar).

Sometimes a dream is more than a dream (Daniel 2:1-16)

1 Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.
2 Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.”
4 ¶ Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.”
5 ¶ The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap.
6 However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.”
7 ¶ They answered again and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.”
8 ¶ The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm:
9 if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”
10 ¶ The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean.
11 It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
12 ¶ For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
13 So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
14 ¶ Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon;
15 he answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, “Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel.
16 ¶ So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.

Ol' Neb (aka Nebuchadnezzar) had a dream and wanted someone to interpret it. His resident wise guys (counselors/astrologers) said they'd be happy to, so...what's the dream? Not so fast! Neb conjectured that if they really could supernaturally interpret the dream, they should be able to tell him what the dream was in the first place. Hey, this Babylonian king is no chump! That way he'd know they had the power to interpret the dream. You gotta love the two choices Neb gives these would-be prophets: (1) Reveal the dream and it's interpretation, get honor and riches; (2) fail to do so, receive a horrible execution along with your houses razed to the ground (verse 5). After being told that this was an impossible task, Neb decides to have all the wise men in his kingdom killed. That's when Daniel tells his prospective executioner, "I can do it!" A bit of scheduling with the king takes place, and Daniel's set for his big debut.

Let's give credit where credit is due (Daniel 2:17-30)

17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,
18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20 ¶ Daniel answered and said:
“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
For wisdom and might are His.
21 And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
22 He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.
23 “I thank You and praise You,
O God of my fathers;
You have given me wisdom and might,
And have now made known to me what we asked of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”
24 ¶ Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.”
25 ¶ Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
26 ¶ The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?”
27 ¶ Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king.
28 But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:
29 As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.
30 But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

Daniel asks his three friends to pray with him for a revelation from God; he needs to know that dream. Bingo! God gives it to him. Verses 19-23 contain the prayer of thanksgiving from Daniel after he receives the revelation. He goes before Neb (verses 24-30) and specifically gives the one true God credit for revealing the dream.

Nebuchadnezzar's Image

Now for the dream (Daniel 2:31-45)

31 ¶ “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome.
32 This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,
33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
36 ¶ “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king.
37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory;
38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.
39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.
41 Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay.
42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile.
43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.
44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.
45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”

Now for the crucial part - revealing the dream. Daniel nails it - describes a big image of a man and a stone that crushes it (Verses 31-36). Ok, but what does it mean? Daniel tells him. Here's the dream and interpretation:

The image represents four great empires:

Nebuchadnezzar is impressed (Daniel 2:46-49)

46 ¶ Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him.
47 The king answered Daniel, and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.”
48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon.
49 Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

Nebuchadnezzar likes what he hears, and the other wise men in the kingdom are relieved as well. Daniel gets a huge promotion as Nebuchadnezzar pays his respects to the one true God. Daniel also gets his three associates promoted. All in all, it was a great dream day. From nobody to the king's right-hand man in one day - the mother of all promotions I'd say. And he did it all without forsaking the one true God - even caused Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge God. No question...a good day!

Nebuchadnezzar goes public with Daniel's image (Daniel 3:1-7)

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
3 So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages,
5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up;
6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
7 ¶ So at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the horn, flute, harp, and lyre, in symphony with all kinds of music, all the people, nations, and languages fell down and worshiped the gold image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

Ol' Neb is so impressed with the dream and the interpretation Daniel had given concerning the image in chapter 2, he decides to have his people build a huge replica of this image; this thing is 90 feet tall! Now for the bad news: Everyone must fall down and worship it (verse 5) or be thrown into the furnace (verse 6). Neb obviously missed the point somewhere.

No way we're doing that! (Daniel 3:8-30)

8 ¶ Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and accused the Jews.
9 They spoke and said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever!
10 You, O king, have made a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the gold image;
11 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.
12 There are certain Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not paid due regard to you. They do not serve your gods or worship the gold image which you have set up.”
13 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar, in rage and fury, gave the command to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. So they brought these men before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up?
15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”
16 ¶ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter.
17 If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king.
18 But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.”
19 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated.
20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace.
21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 ¶ Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” ¶ They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.”
25 ¶ “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
26 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.” Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came from the midst of the fire.
27 And the satraps, administrators, governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together, and they saw these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.
28 ¶ Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who sent His Angel and delivered His servants who trusted in Him, and they have frustrated the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they should not serve nor worship any god except their own God!
29 Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap; because there is no other God who can deliver like this.”
30 ¶ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon.

Great story! Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego become victims of professional jealousy by the locals - a bunch of anti-Semites. Those three are not going to bow down to the image...PERIOD! Neb looks them up and gives them another chance (verse 15) - NO WAY! They insist that their God can deliver them from Nebuchadnezzar's furnace. Enough is enough; the king is furious and commands that they be bound and the furnace be heated to seven times it's normal intensity. Hmmm. tie them up before you throw them into the fire - I wonder who thought of that!

It's into the furnace they go; the men that cast them in are killed by the heat. But then...the king sees "four men loose" in the furnace - "the form of the fourth is like the Son of God." I love verse 26, "Then Nebuchadnezzar went near the mouth of the burning fiery furnace and spoke, saying, 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here.' Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego came from the midst of the fire." Whoa! The ropes that bound them burned off, but their clothing remained intact - REMARKABLE! Out they come, without even the smell of smoke, but with a promotion and a decree that they can worship whomever they want with immunity. Well, not only that, but Nebuchadnezzar issues a further decree in verse 29 regarding their God, "that any people, nation, or language which speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made an ash heap." Hey, isn't that the exact decree issued back in 2:5 (see above)? Obviously, it was Neb's favorite. What else can you conclude? It was another good Jewish day in Babylon! If you're keeping score, that's Semites, 2; Heathen, 0.