|Topical Bible Study||February 1963|
The People in God’s Plan—Lesson XIX
Daniel the Prophet
DANIEL is the fourth of what have been denominated the “major” prophets, the other three of these being Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Daniel was among the Hebrews taken captive to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar, but prior to the general captivity, seemingly in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah. This was nineteen years prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, when the general captivity began.—Dan. 1:1-3: II Kings 23:36; 24:1,8,18; 25:1-8
Nebuchadnezzar saw the wisdom of using some of the outstanding of the Hebrew captives in his palace to render a special service. Among those chosen four are specially mentioned—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. (Dan. 1:6) These were their Hebrew names, but they were given Chaldean names—Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.—Dan. 1:7
All four of these young men were faithful to the God of Israel, and all rose to prominence in the Babylonian government, but only Daniel was used by Jehovah as a prophet. The principal mention of the other three is in connection with their loyalty under test, which led to their being cast into a fiery furnace, from which God delivered them alive.—Dan. 3:16-30; Heb. 11:33,34
Daniel was first brought into prominence in connection with a dream of King Nebuchadnezzar’s. Upon awakening the king could not remember his dream, but was greatly disturbed by it. (Dan. 2:1) Then Nebuchadnezzar commanded that the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be called in to tell him his dream and to interpret its meaning. These “wise” men of the realm explained to the king that if he could remember his dream and relate it to them, they would be able to interpret it for him.—Dan. 2:2-7
But the king could not give these men the help they needed, so they informed him that they would be unable to furnish him with the information he desired. Then Nebuchadnezzar commanded that all these wise men should be slain. This included Daniel and his fellows, although apparently they had not been consulted.—Dan. 2:8-13
Daniel learned of the king’s commandment, and asked for time to see what could be done. He consulted with his three Hebrew friends, asking them to make it a matter of prayer. Forthwith the secret of what the king had dreamed was revealed to Daniel, together with its interpretation. Daniel was very thankful for this, and expressed his thanks in a beautiful prayer.—Dan. 2:14-23
Then Daniel was given the opportunity to appear before Nebuchadnezzar to relate his dream to him, and to give the king its interpretation. Daniel did not claim that he was able by his own wisdom to furnish the king with the information he sought, but gave all the credit to the God of heaven whom he served.—Dan. 2:24-30
It was in this dream that Nebuchadnezzar saw a human-like image having a head of gold, breasts and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, with its feet and toes part iron and part clay. In his dream the king saw a stone cut out of the mountain without hands, and this stone smote the image on its feet. Then the image fell, was ground to powder and the wind carried it away, and the stone grew until it became a great mountain, filling the whole earth.—Dan. 2:31-35
Daniel’s interpretation of this dream was that the image represented four great kingdoms, or empires, beginning with Babylon, and that the God of heaven would grant these permission to rule. The head of gold represented Babylon, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar; the breast and arms of silver pictured the Medo-Persian Empire; the belly and thighs of brass would be the Grecian Empire, and the legs of iron the Roman.*—Dan. 2:36-40
* “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 252-256
The feet, and particularly the toes of the image, would represent the divided condition of the Roman Empire as seen in the various states of Europe prior to the first World War. Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar that the mingling of clay with the iron represented weakening influences which would cause an easy crumbling when the proper time came. This has been interpreted as the admixture of religious with civil powers.—Dan. 2:41-43
The smiting of the image on its feet by the stone cut out of the mountain without hands is stated by Daniel to mean that in the days of the kings represented particularly by the toes of the image, the God of heaven would set up his kingdom, which would fill the whole earth, even as the stone became a great mountain to fill the earth.—Dan. 2:44,45
Nebuchadnezzar was much pleased with Daniel for being able to tell him his dream, and to interpret it for him. He presented Daniel with gifts, and exalted him to a very high position in the Babylonian government. Seizing the opportunity, Daniel requested favors, and obtained them, for his three Hebrew friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.—Dan. 2:46-49
IT WOULD seem that in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream we have the human viewpoint of the four great empires which the image depicted. To man, these empires have seemed glamorous and imposing, like gold and silver and brass and iron. But God’s viewpoint of these kingdoms has been different, and is presented to us in a vision given to Daniel, a vision in which he saw four hideous beasts.
The first of these beasts was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings. The second was like a bear; the third was like a leopard. This beast had four wings on its back, and it also had four heads. The fourth beast is given no specific name. Apparently it was too horrible to be compared to any beast known to man, so it is described simply as being “dreadful and terrible.” This beast had iron teeth, and ten horns. As Daniel studied this fourth beast, a little horn pushed itself up among the ten horns, displacing three of them. This beast had a mouth “speaking great things.—Dan. 7:1-8
These four beasts, like the gold, silver, brass, and iron of Nebuchadnezzar’s image, represent the four kingdoms: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. To God, and to his people, these kingdoms were beastly. They inflicted much suffering upon the people of God. This was particularly true of the Roman Empire while it was pagan, and also later when it became the papal Holy Roman Empire.
The ten horns of the Roman beast would correspond with the ten toes of the image. In God’s viewpoint of these empires a feature is shown which does not appear in the image picture. A little horn grows out of the head of the beast and replaces three of its original horns. It is evident, we think, that this little horn represents the Papacy.*
* “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” pages 256-262
As in the image picture, so in Daniel’s vision of the four beasts, the kingdom of Christ is seen to replace worldly dominion. In this vision-prophecy Jehovah is described as the Ancient of Days, and Jesus is spoken of as “one like the Son of Man.” The Ancient of Days gives the kingdom to the Son of Man. In the interpretation of the vision, “the people of the saints of the most high” are also shown as receiving the kingdom. These, evidently, are the followers of Jesus, those who will live and reign with him a thousand years.—Dan. 7:9-14,23-27; Rev. 20:6
IN ANOTHER vision Daniel was given a time prophecy of the first advent of Jesus. (Dan. 9:25-27) The setting of this prophecy is very interesting. As recorded in the 8th chapter, Daniel is given a vision which was not to have its fulfillment “for many days.” Daniel was made ill by this, perhaps because he wondered if, as expected, his people were actually to be released from their captivity in Babylon at the end of the seventy years, as had been foretold by the Prophet Jeremiah.—Dan. 8:26-9:1,2; Jer. 25:12
It is apparent that Daniel was acquainted with Jeremiah’s prophecy, and would therefore know of the lesson which the Lord taught this prophet by means of the potter. (Jer. 18:1-10) In brief, this lesson was that God reserved the right to change his mind with respect to his promises if those to whom they were made did not live up to the conditions attached to them. Perhaps Daniel wondered if this might be the case with respect to the seventy years captivity of his people, that this punishment was to be extended.
In any case, Daniel took the matter earnestly to the Lord in prayer, confessing the sins of the people, and acknowledging that his people had sinned and were being justly punished, but pleading for God’s mercy and asking that he “forgive” and “defer not.—Dan. 9:3-19
The Lord did not at that time give Daniel any assurance that the captivity would end at the close of the seventy years, but the angel Gabriel was sent to him and outlined for him a period of sixty-nine symbolic weeks until the coming of Messiah the Prince. Another symbolic week is mentioned, in the midst of which the Messiah was to be cut off in death, but not for himself.—Dan. 9:20-27
We understand that the sixty-nine weeks was a period of 483 years which, as the prophecy states, was to begin with the issuing of an order to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The seventieth week began with Jesus’ baptism, when he actually became the Messiah. He was cut off in death in the midst of this week, his ministry being three and one-half years in length. It is important in the study of this prophecy to note that the beginning of the sixty-nine weeks was not marked from the time of Cyrus’ decree to return to Palestine and rebuild the temple.*
* “The Time is at Hand,” pages 63-72
Knowledge and Trouble
THE Lord used Daniel in a number of other prophecies, a very important one being his forecast of a time when there would be an increase of knowledge, and much and rapid travel; also a “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” (Dan. 12:1-4) These events were to take place in “the time of the end.” This does not mean the end of time, nor the end of the earth. It is, rather, a transition period during which the kingdoms of this world are overthrown and are replaced by the kingdom of Christ, as shown in Daniel, chapters 2 and 7.
Sir Isaac Newton was an ardent Bible student, and he predicted upon the basis of Daniel 12:4 that the time would come when people would travel as fast as fifty miles an hour. Voltaire, the noted French infidel, and contemporary with Newton, made light of this prediction. Now, of course, Newton’s faith in the Bible has been vindicated. Fifty miles an hour travel is slow for these days. And surely there has been a tremendous increase of knowledge.
The increase of knowledge has, by means of rapid travel and modern methods of communication, brought the far-flung nations of earth close together; and being ruled largely by selfishness, this has led to trouble, Daniel’s foretold “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.” Jesus referred to Daniel’s prophecy as one of the signs of his second presence and the end of the age, mistranslated “world.” Jesus explained that this trouble, or tribulation, would be so severe that unless it was shortened all flesh would be destroyed.—Matt. 24:3,21,22
Jesus also gave us the assurance that there would be divine intervention in the affairs of men in time to prevent the human race from destroying itself. This intervention will come through God’s elect, which consists of Jesus and his faithful followers, who will be the spiritual rulers during the messianic kingdom age. This will lead to the deliverance of God’s people from the trials and persecutions they have experienced in “this present evil world,” and also deliverance from death in the resurrection.—Dan. 12:1-3; Gal. 1:4
In the resurrection both “the just and unjust” shall be brought forth. (Acts 24:15) Daniel divides the faithful ones into two general classes, which apparently is a reference to the church of this Gospel Age, and to the Ancient Worthies, who will be the earthly rulers in the kingdom.*
* “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” page 291, paragraph 1, to 292, paragraph 1
The Lord used Daniel in connection with a number of other prophecies, all of which are discussed in “Studies in the Scriptures.” However, Daniel himself understood but little of the many things which were outlined to him in vision. Daniel realized this lack of understanding and asked for more information, but was told that the “words” were sealed up until “the time of the end.”—Dan. 12:8,9
He was also told that he would rest in death “till the end be,” and that at the “end of the days” he would stand in his lot, or class. (Dan. 12:13) Daniel’s lot, or position, will be among the earthly representatives of the kingdom, those “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) Surely his loyalty to God under great tests proved that he was worthy of this high position in the messianic kingdom.
Who was Daniel, and under what circumstances was he used by the Lord as a prophet?
Who were Daniel’s three special friends in Babylon, and what was he able to do for them?
Explain the circumstances which led to Daniel’s first recorded prophecy.
Explain the details of Daniel’s prophecy based on the human-like image which Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.
Explain in detail what was represented by Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
What was represented by the smiting of the image on its feet by a stone cut out of the mountain without hands?
What is represented by the fact that ultimately this stone filled the whole earth?
What reward did Nebuchadnezzar give Daniel for his service in interpreting his dream?
How did the Lord identify the four great empires—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome—in a vision he gave to Daniel?
What contrasting viewpoints are represented in the image picture of worldly dominion, and in the lesson taught by the four beasts of Daniel’s vision?
Describe, briefly, the four beasts of Daniel’s vision.
What is represented by the “little horn” on the head of the fourth beast?
What was represented by the ten horns of the fourth beast?
In Daniel’s vision what is seen to replace the rulership represented by the four beasts? Does this harmonize with the prophecy based on Nebuchadnezzar’s image?
Who are “the people of the saints of the most high”?
Explain the setting of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the time of Jesus’ first advent.
What lesson was taught to Jeremiah by his visit to the potter’s house?
Mention some of the high points in Daniel’s prayer for mercy upon the Israelites, and what is possibly meant by his request to “defer not”?
Explain the time prophecy of the first advent as given to Daniel in response to this prayer.
What important prophecy is given to us in the 12th chapter of the Book of Daniel? What is “the time of the end”?
What has been the effect, internationally, of the foretold increase of knowledge and the much and rapid travel?
How did Jesus describe the “time of trouble” mentioned in Daniel’s prophecy, and in what period did Daniel indicate the prophecy would be fulfilled?
When will God’s people be delivered from persecution and from death?
Explain Daniel’s prophecy of the resurrection, and who are the two classes of the just which he mentions?
Did Daniel understand his own prophecies?
What is meant by the promise that he would stand in his “lot” at the end of the days?
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
Daniel was a Hebrew captive in Babylon, where he was used by the Lord as one of his major prophets. Prophecies noted in this study are those pertaining to world dominion succeeded by Christ’s kingdom; a time prophecy of the first advent; and his prophecy pertaining to the “time of the end.”