This book speaks about the end time, that is, the time immediately before the coming of the Lord Jesus to reign on earth. It is an important book. This is also evident from the fact that the enemy attacks it again and again. It is perhaps the most attacked book of all Old Testament books. This is because the book contains many prophecies that were already fulfilled in the time when the Lord Jesus was on earth.
An example of this we see in the rise of the four consecutive world realms over which Daniel prophesied. Unbelief cannot accept that a prophet has predicted this so accurately. Therefore, Bible critics have dated the book much later. According to these people, the book was written after the fulfilment of the prophecies and so, they claim, cannot have been from Daniel.
But we have to do with a God who indicates in advance how history will go and how events will take place (Isa 46:10). In the book we also see things that took place later and things that also still have to happen. Above all, we have the clear testimony of the Lord Jesus Himself. He speaks emphatically of “Daniel the prophet” (Mt 24:15). His testimony is the end of all contradictions.
There is also a testimony about the Lord Jesus in the book of Daniel and that is His title ‘Son of Man’. In the Gospels the Lord speaks several times about Himself as “the Son of man”. This name appears three times in the Old Testament: twice in Psalms (Psa 8:4; 80:17) and once in Daniel (Dan 7:13). Every time He calls Himself by this name, it is a confirmation of the historical accuracy of the book of Daniel, for He is the Son of man Who Daniel describes, Who will come once to establish His kingdom of peace (Dan 7:13).
In the book of Ezekiel, we also find evidence of Daniel. Ezekiel is a prophet in exile and speaks of Daniel (Eze 14:14,20). Daniel is already known then. This is an extra argument that the book of Daniel can only be dated in that time and not later.
It is still important to know something about the historical background of this book. The last God-fearing king in Judah is Josiah. Josiah dies in the war against the king of Egypt, Neco, a war he should not have waged for Neco is on his way to Assyria and not to Judah (2Chr 35:21-24). Of the four sons that Josiah has, the people take the youngest son and make him king (2Chr 36:1). He rules only three months. The king of Egypt has power in Israel and takes him to Egypt. He makes the second son of Josiah, Eliakim, king, and gives him the name Jehoiakim. Jehoiakim is a godless king (2Chr 36:5-8). This king Jehoiakim is the one mentioned in Daniel 1 (Dan 1:1).
Babylon became a world empire in the year 612 BC with power over Assyria and Israel. Nebuchadnezzar is given authority over these countries by his father. In the book of Daniel we are in the year 606 BC. From that time on, the seventy years of exile are counted (Dan 9:2). Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem in the third year of Jehoiakim. This siege is not mentioned in non-biblical history, but here the Scripture writes history. Only later, in the eleventh year of Jehoiakim, does Nebuchadnezzar take Jerusalem. Then the second deportation takes place. The first deportation takes place during the first siege, here in Daniel 1. The third deportation is under Zedekiah. Daniel and his friends are also taken away on the first deportation and end up in Babylon.
There is another aspect that is important to remember and that is the division of God’s people into ten tribes and two tribes. That division is caused by the sin of the people and their kings, beginning with Solomon (1Kgs 11:11-13). By persevering in their sins, God finally had to remove the ten tribes from the land first. He used the Assyrians, who deported the population of the ten tribes from their area and scattered them over other countries over which the king of Assyria ruled (2Kgs 17:3-6). The ten tribes are still in the ‘scattering’.
The two tribes have not been warned by this, but have continued to sin and have sinned even worse than the ten tribes (Eze 23:11). God carries out the judgment on them by giving them into the hand of the king of Babylon (2Chr 36:11-21; Jer 52:28-30) for a seventy-year exile: “For thus says the LORD, ‘When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place’” (Jer 29:10).
The book of Daniel is set in Babylon. Babel means ‘confusion’ and represents the religious confusion so characteristic of Christianity. In this book God shows in the attitude of Daniel and his friends what the attitude of His own should be in such circumstances. Daniel and his friends have not chosen their stay in Babylon and the career they have been given.
Daniel means ‘God is my Judge’. That is an encouragement for him and it is an encouragement for us too. If we are in circumstances comparable to those of Daniel and his friends, we may be assured that only the judgment of God counts.
There are many prophetic books in the Old Testament, but Daniel is special. In all other prophetic books, Israel is still God’s people, the people are still in God’s land, and there is still the throne of God. God still recognizes the people. There are also prophecies in those books concerning the coming of the Messiah. In the book of Daniel, it is different. Israel is no longer God’s people in this book, but it is “Lo-ammi”, which means “not My people” (Hos 1:9). The people are no longer in the land either, but they have been taken to Babylon.
Here begins what the Lord Jesus calls “the times of Gentiles” (Lk 21:24). From now on, time is counted according to the kings of the world empires. The throne of God is no longer in Jerusalem. The glory of God has gone away from the earth. This happened in phases (Eze 9:3a; 10:18-19; 11:22-23). God is no longer the God of the earth, but of heaven (Dan 2:28,37), to which He has withdrawn. His government is no longer connected with Jerusalem.
Division of the book
We can divide the book into two parts:
1. Daniel 1-6: In this part we have the fates of Daniel and his friends;
2. Daniel 7-12: This part shows us future events through visions that Daniel has received.
Not only the second part of the book is prophecy, but the whole book, including the first part. We will see that what happens to Daniel and his friends, also has an application to the future.
The first part contains visions and dreams that are given to gentiles, but they must be explained by Daniel. Daniel represents the believing and faithful remnant of Israel in the end times. He is one of the wise men about whom we hear in this book and who have insight into the thoughts of God. The first part also describes the circumstances of the gentile rulers in connection with their behavior.
In the second part the announcements are made to the faithful prophet. These are events that are more directly related to the people of God.