The Last Days Calendar – Bible Prophecy & The Rapture

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The Last Days Calendar truly interprets end time Bible prophecy concerning the last days within the context of Jewish culture and the Hebrew calendar.

Studying Scripture in light of the historical setting and culture in which it was first proclaimed reveals fresh insight into events of the last days, the Book of Revelation, the timing of the Rapture, the identity of the Two Witnesses and the nature of the Millennium. Our web site provides detailed teachings concerning these topics.

Bible prophecies that concern the events of the last days, including the rapture, are foreshadowed in the Festivals of the LORD. The Festivals of the LORD are the ordained “Appointed Times” of God’s ceremonial calendar for Israel. These seasonal feasts are prophetic pictures of the Messiah.

The four spring Festivals of the LORD: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits and The Feast of Weeks all take place within the first three months of the Hebrew calendar. The spring cycle of biblical festivals was literally fulfilled by the First Advent: Redemption (the Passover), Sanctification (The Feast of Unleavened Bread), Resurrection (Firstfruits) and the birth of the Church (Pentecost).

The first of the fall cycle of the Festivals of the LORD is the Feast of Trumpets. Yom Teruah (the day of shofar blasts) foreshadows the Rapture when God’s elect will be translated in the blinking of an eye and gathered into His presence to be forever with the Lord. The most solemn and holy day for the Jewish people is the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), which is the day on the Hebrew calendar when Yeshua (Jesus) will return and rescue God’s chosen people. The final festival of the fall cycle of biblical festival and the final of the seven annual feasts is Sukkoth – The Feast of Tabernacles. This feast foreshadows the wedding supper of the Lamb and the Millennial reign of Christ.

To learn more about The Festivals of Yahweh (the LORD) check out the blogs in our “Feasts & Festivals” category.

A cult is a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader. Our “Cults and Religions” category (at the top of the page) includes:

  •        Christianity versus Cults and Counterfeits – Defining Cults   
  •        Church of the Latter-Day Saints, Joseph Smith & the Mormons  
  •        Is Catholicism True Orthodox Christianity or a Christian Cult?  
  •         Is this the Dawn of a New Age or just Old Fashioned Paganism?  
  •        Is Seventh-Day Adventism Christianity or is SDA Cultism?    
  •        ISLAM:  The Religion of “Peace” Bent on Conquest  
  •        The Claims of Freemasons vs. the Hidden Truth of Freemasonry  
  •        The Jehovah’s Witnesses: True Christianity or Christian Cult?  
  •        The True History and Practices of the Church of Scientology!  

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Isaiah 46:9-10

Only the one true God and Creator is omniscient and knows the end from the beginning. Our expository teachings from the book of Genesis are not only historical accounts, but are often prophetic pictures of future events. Each month a new chapter from the book of Genesis will be posted until a verse-by-verse commentary on entire book of Genesis is completed.

Daniel 9–The Desolation of Jerusalem Would Last Seventy Years

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In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom—in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. Daniel 9:1-2

In the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede, Daniel understood from the prophecy of Jeremiah that the Babylonian captivity of the people of the Southern Kingdom would last 70 years.

This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10

One of the main reasons that the city of Jerusalem was desolated and the nation of Judah taken into captivity by Babylon was the punishment meted out for disobedience of God’s chosen people to follow His decrees and therefore violate His covenant.

But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Leviticus 25:4

Not only were the people to have a seventh day Sabbath rest, but the land was to have a seventh year Sabbath when the land was to lie fallow and not be worked.

“If in spite of this you still do not listen to me but continue to be hostile toward me, then in my anger I will be hostile toward you, and I myself will punish you for your sins seven times over.”Leviticus 26:27-28

In an effort to bring His people to repentance, the LORD would punish them by causing their crops to fail, strike them with sickness and allow their enemies to defeat them in battle. But if they still did not turn from their wicked ways, He would punish them seven times over.

I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins. Then the land will enjoy its sabbath years all the time that it lies desolate and you are in the country of your enemies; then the land will rest and enjoy its sabbaths. All the time that it lies desolate, the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths you lived in it. Leviticus 26:32-35

For 490 years the people of God failed to observe the seventh year Sabbath of the land. A Sabbatical Year was to occur once every seven years. Two Sabbatical years were to be observed in 14 years; therefore, the land would experience seventy Sabbath rests after four hundred and ninety years. The land of the tribe of Judah and the city of Jerusalem were desolate for seventy years so that the land will have the rest it did not have during the sabbaths they lived in it.

So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. Daniel 9:3

Daniel was made aware that the time of the captivity of his people was nearing completion. The Babylonians had been overthrown by the Medes and the Persians and the seventy years of Jerusalem’s desolation was coming to an end. It is 539 B.C. and the Jews have been in captivity for 66 years since 605 B.C. This would mean that four years were left before they could return to their homeland.

Therefore Daniel garbed in sackcloth and ashes, (a sign of mourning and humility), pleads before the LORD (Yehovah) his God.

I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed:

“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, Daniel 9:4

Daniel begins his prayer with adoration. He recognizes that the LORD is faithful to keep His covenant.

we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:5-6

even if these three men—Noah, Daniel and Job—were in it, they could save only themselves by their righteousness, declares the Sovereign LORD. Ezekiel 14:14

Although righteous Daniel had risked his life by refusing to defile himself by eating King Nebuchadnezzar’s food, and had been thrown into a lion’s den for worshipping the God of Israel, he confesses that “we” have been wicked and rebelled. In humility, Daniel identifies himself with his people and their sinful acts.

“Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.

“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.

“Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. Daniel 9:7-15

Daniel not only confesses the sins of his people and of their leadership, but also acknowledges the righteousness of God in punishing them for their transgression of the Law of Moses.

Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.

“Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” Daniel 9:16-19

After a time of expressing his humility, offering adoration and praise, confessing his sins and the sins of his people, Daniel petitions the LORD our God to act in mercy and turn away His anger for the sake of His city and His people that bear His name.

While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill—while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. Daniel 9:20-21

Daniel had an earlier vision of a ram with two horns and a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes which shattered the ram’s horns and trampled on it. The angel Gabriel had interpreted the vision explaining that the two-horned ram Daniel saw represented the kings of Media and Persia while the shaggy goat was the king of Greece.

He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision: Daniel 9:22-23

While Daniel was still praying, he received an immediate answer to his prayer.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

Righteous Daniel was esteemed for his integrity of character and his devotion to the LORD his God.

“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place. Daniel 9:24

Seventy “sevens,” also translated as seventy “weeks,” is understood to mean seventy times “seven years” or 490 years. The Jews were in captivity in Babylon for seventy years for failing to give the land rest. They did not observe the regulation concerning the sabbatical year to take place every seven years. The desolation of their land for seventy years gave the land seventy consecutive years of rest. Had they observed this regulation, it would have taken 490 years for the land to receive seventy sabbatical years of rest.

“Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. Daniel 9:25

The seventy sevens start with the decree to rebuild Jerusalem. There would be seven “sevens” or forty-nine years until Jerusalem would be rebuilt with plazas and moat. There would be opposition to challenge the rebuilding. The second set of sevens is sixty-two, which totals to 434 years. This would make a total of 483 years until the Anointed One, the Messiah would come.

The decree to rebuild Jerusalem was granted by King Artaxerxes:

King Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign (457 B.C.), authorized Ezra the priest and scribe, and all who wished to join him, to go to Jerusalem. It was Ezra’s desire to instruct the Jews in the laws of God. Artaxerxes granted him large amounts of silver and gold to furnish the temple, and gave instruction that his treasurers on that side of the river should provide whatever was needed to beautify the Lord’s house.

In the decree, Artaxerxes commanded Ezra to, “…appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God. And you are to teach any who do not know them. Whoever does not obey the law of your God and the law of the king must surely be punished by death, banishment, confiscation of property, or imprisonment.”       Ezra 7:25-26.

Ezra left Babylon on the first day of the first month of Artaxerxes’ seventh year, and arrived in Jerusalem exactly four months later on the first day of the fifth month (Ezra 7:7-9). Three days later the gifts brought from Babylon were registered in the temple treasury, and sacrifices were offered to God (Ezra 8:32-35). Either at that time or shortly thereafter, “They also delivered the king’s orders to the royal satraps and to the governors of Trans-Euphrates, who then gave assistance to the people and to the house of God” Ezra 8:36.

Sometime later, officials from the surrounding nations wrote a letter of skepticism to Artaxerxes, saying, “The king should know that the people who came up to us from you have gone to Jerusalem and are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are restoring the walls and repairing the foundations” (Ezra 4:12). They went on to say that if the king would check the history of Jerusalem, he would find that it was a rebellious city which would not submit to Babylonian rule, and that is why it was destroyed. If it were allowed to be rebuilt, the king would have the same problems again (Ezra 4:13-16).

Artaxerxes checked the records, and discovered that old Jerusalem had indeed made insurrection, rebellion and sedition against kings. So he issued a new command that the work of building should stop until he gave further word (Ezra 4:17-22).

Further word was given by Artaxerxes Longimanus when he issued a second decree on March 5, 444 B.C. (Nehemiah 2:1-8). On that occasion Artaxerxes granted the Jews specific authorization to rebuild Jerusalem’s city walls. This decree is the one referred to in Daniel 9:25.

Using the 444 B.C. date and a prophetic year of 360 days the following calculations can be made:

483 prophetic years is equal to 173,880 days (360 days X 483 years = 173,880 days). Going forward in time (the year 0 is skipped) from March 4, 444 B.C. (Nehemiah. 2:1-8) 483 prophetic years would bring you out around March 30, A.D.33 which could easily be the date of the Jesus Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem found in Matthew 21. This would then be followed by His crucifixion on April 3rd A.D. 33.

After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. Daniel 9:26

After the reconstruction of Jerusalem in the first seven “sevens” (forty-nine years), another “sixty-two sevens” (434 years) would pass. Then two momentous events would take place. First, the “Anointed One” would come then he would be “cut off.” Apparently his coming would be immediately at the end of the sixty-nine sevens.

“The Messiah will be cut off,” is an obvious a referral to the crucifixion of Christ. Thus, it means that Jesus’ death would have taken place in the last year of the 69th week.

In the year 66 AD the Jews of Judea rebelled against their Roman masters. In response, the Emperor Nero dispatched an army under the generalship of Vespasian to restore order. By the year 68, resistance in the northern part of the province had been eradicated and the Romans turned their full attention to the subjugation of Jerusalem. That same year, the Emperor Nero died by his own hand, creating a power vacuum in Rome. In the resultant chaos, Vespasian was declared Emperor and returned to the Imperial City. It fell to his son, Titus, to lead the remaining army in the assault on Jerusalem.

The Roman legions surrounded the city and began to slowly squeeze the life out of the Jewish stronghold. By the year 70, the attackers had breached Jerusalem’s outer walls and began a systematic ransacking of the city. The assault culminated in the burning and destruction of the Temple that served as the center of Judaism.

He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27

There is a gap of time between the crucifixion and the fulfillment of the final seven years of the prophecy concerning the seventy sevens. Verse 27 of Daniel 9 says that he will confirm a covenant for one seven (seven years). Jesus instituted the New Covenant in His blood before His crucifixion. After the prophecy of the Anointed One being cut off (the death of the Messiah) and the destruction of Jerusalem, he that confirms a covenant with many is the Antichrist. The seven year period is the time of the Great Tribulation.

There are clear precedents for having a gap of time in the fulfillment of aspects of Bible prophecy; especially Messianic prophecies.

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. Isaiah 7:10-16

This prophecy had an immediate fulfillment concerning King Ahaz but also had an ultimate fulfillment later concerning the miraculous sign of the virgin birth. There was a gap of over 700 years between the initial fulfillment and final fulfillment of this prophecy.

…and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. Luke 4:17-20

Again, a prophecy uttered by Isaiah will have a large gap of time between an initial and an ultimate fulfillment. Jesus, who is quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2, dramatically stops in the middle of verse 2.

..and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, Isaiah 61:2b

Jesus’ First Advent fulfills the first half of the verse as the suffering servant Messiah coming lowly on the colt of a donkey bringing salvation. But it will be 2,000 years later until the Second Coming when Jesus returns as the King Messiah riding on a white horse. Again there is a clear gap of time in the midst of a verse of prophecy.

’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.” Daniel 9:27b

This passage of Scripture parallels time periods prophesied in the book of Revelation. One seven is a period of seven years or week of years. In the middle of the seven or halfway through the seven year period is three and one half (3½) years.

The one who sets up an abomination (an idol or image of himself), that causes desolation (the chosen people who refuse to bow down to an idol then flee the temple and the city of Jerusalem), will establish a covenant (an accord or pact), with the Jewish people for a period of time (seven years). This charismatic leader (the Antichrist), violates the agreement halfway through (3½ years after the signing), and sets up his own image to be worshipped (Rev 13:15). The second half of Daniel’s 70th week (the 70th seven – the week of years or 7 year period at the end of the age), is a time of great persecution (Rev 12:17; 13:7), or distress for the Elect (the church, body of Christ, the set apart people of God).

I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues—last, because with them God’s wrath is completed. Revelation 15:1

The end that is decreed upon the Antichrist and his followers is the outpouring of God’s wrath upon the earth at the 7th trumpet. At the sounding of the last trumpet the church will be raptured and taken up to heaven while the seven bowl judgments are poured out on those who have taken the mark of the beast.

Daniel 8 – Daniel Has a Vision of a Ram with Two Long Horns

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In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. Daniel 8:1

The introduction to the book of Daniel (1:1 – 2:4) and the final chapters of the book beginning at this verse (8:1 – 12: 13) were written in Hebrew with the people of Palestine as the primary audience. Daniel chapters 2:4 – 7:28 were written in Aramaic, the common commercial language of the Fertile Crescent, to bear witness of the power and sovereignty of the God of Palestine to the Gentiles.

Daniel had a subsequent vision two years after he had the vision of the four beasts which was recorded in chapter seven.

The year is now 551 B.C. and the situation in the Neo-Babylonian Kingdom is ominous. King Nabonidus has departed for Arabia, leaving Babylon in the hands of an unworthy son, Belshazzar. Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and served as co-regent with his father.

 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great. Daniel 8:2-4

Daniel was fully awake and saw himself transported 350 miles east of Babylon to the fortress of Susa, the very birthplace of the Medo-Persian Empire, the headquarters of Cyrus.

The ram, which had two horns, was a symbol of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians. The length of the horns denoted the eventual great power, authority, wealth, and riches of the Medo-Persian Empire.

One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later… The empire, we know, was built up by two races. The Medes were the dominant people at first and the kings of the Medes ruled the dual monarchy. But under Cyrus and his successors, the seat of power eventually resided with the Persians.

This vision of Daniel provides powerful confirmation that the Medes and the Persians were symbolized by the two silver arms of the dazzling statue of Nebuchadnezzar dream and by the bear that was raised up on one side in Daniel’s dream.

As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. Daniel 8:5-7

From the previous dreams and visions, as well as from the historical record, we understand that the first two empires to arise and subjugate the Jewish people were Babylon and Medo-Persia. The next emperor to arise on the world scene, and represented in Daniel’s vision as swift and unstoppable goat, was Alexander the Great. The goat crossed the face of the earth without touching the ground. The goat seemed rather to fly in the air than to walk upon the earth. This language conveys the swiftness of the conquests of Alexander. In 11 years, from 335 B.C. to 324 B.C., Alexander and his army battled their way across 22,000 miles.

Alexander III King of Macedonia conquered most of the Greek City States, Turkey, Persia, what is now Pakistan, parts of India and Afghanistan as well as Egypt, Asia Minor and Syria from his ascent to the throne at age twenty to his death at age thirty three.

The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven. Daniel 8:8

In Daniel chapter 7, Alexander is represented as a leopard with four wings and four heads. Just as the four heads of the leopard represented the four kings who succeeded Alexander, so do the four horns which grew up in four directions. The Diadochi (from the Greek word Diadokhoi, meaning “Successors”) were the rival generals, administrators, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC.

Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground. Daniel 8:9-12

I believe that this portion of Daniel’s prophetic vision concerning a small horn has had a partial fulfillment in history in the person and reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.). His reign serves as a microcosm and foreshadows the future worldwide reign of the Antichrist.

After Alexander the Great’s empire was divided among his generals (the four horns), Syria and Babylonia became the Seleucid Dynasty. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (the horn that was small but grew in power) was one of the Seleucid emperors and son of Antiochus III the Great.

While the Selucids reigned to the north of Palestine (Judea and Samaria), the Ptolemies reigned to the south of Palestine in Egypt.

Antiochus III was only 18 years old when he ascended the throne of the Seleucid Empire in 223 BC. Even though young, he was nevertheless experienced in government as he had served as Governor of the province of Babylonia under his brother Seleucus III. Antiochus the Great immediately began an effort to conquer the troublesome empire of the Ptolemies. Although he was unable to completely destroy them, yet at the Battle of Panion in the Jordan Valley (198 B.C.) he was able to gain complete control of Palestine.

The Jews were at first happy by this state of affairs. The constant warring between the two dynasties seemed finally to be at an end, and they welcomed Antiochus with open arms. Little did they realize, however, that the Seleucids would prove to be even harsher masters than the Ptolemies.

At about this same time Hannibal, who had been defeated by the Romans at Zama, fled to the court of Antiochus for protection. Still interested in stirring up trouble for Rome, however, Hannibal convinced Antiochus III to invade Greece, whereupon Rome promptly declared war on Antiochus. The Romans defeated Antiochus III in 190 BC, and made him pay dearly for his alliance with Hannibal. He was forced to pay enormous amounts of money, and to surrender his navy and his war elephants. To insure that Antiochus continued making his payments, the Romans took his youngest son to Rome where they kept him hostage for twelve years. This young boy was later to return to the Seleucid Empire and assume the throne under the name Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

Three years after his defeat by the Romans, Antiochus the Great died and was succeeded by Seleucus IV, who ruled for the next twelve years. His situation was a most precarious one — somehow he had to come up with fantastic amounts of money to send to the Romans. To raise this money he heavily taxed the people of the land, including the Jews of Palestine.

This created a moral dilemma for the Jews. Some felt it was morally allowable to give money to the government, whereas others felt it was sinful. Thus, two opposing factions formed among the Jews over this issue. The Oniads, under the leadership of the High Priest Onias, were opposed to helping the Seleucids in any way. The other group, led by a man named Jason, felt the opposite, and set about making many false, slanderous reports to the king concerning Onias, in the hopes of undermining him.

Jason, who was the brother of Onias, was only interested in one thing — becoming the High Priest in his brother’s place. He hoped to accomplish this by offering the Seleucids large amounts of money. King Seleucus IV ignored the Jewish squabble, for the most part, and refused to get that deeply involved.

In the year 175 BC, Antiochus IV, also known as Epiphanes, murdered Seleucus IV and took the throne. He immediately took advantage of Jason’s offer of money, and removed Onias from the office of High Priest, installing Jason in his place. Three years later, a man named Menelaus offered Antiochus even more money, so the king removed Jason and made Menelaus the High Priest.

Those Jews who were still trying to be faithful to their God were infuriated by this state of affairs, and their hearts were pained that the position of High Priest could be bought by the highest bidder. Those who were outspoken concerning these abuses were known as the Hasidim (“the pious ones”). It is from this group that the Hasidic Jews of today trace their roots. They renamed Epiphanes (“a manifestation of God”) – to “Epimanes” (“the madman”).

In the year 169 BC Antiochus invaded Egypt in an attempt to destroy once and for all the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Soon it was reported back in Palestine that the king had been killed in battle. When this news reached Jason, he returned from exile and threw Menelaus out of the city and once again assumed the office of High Priest. The news of Antiochus’ death was false, however, and when he returned to Jerusalem he utilized his army to forcibly remove Jason from office and reinstall Menelaus. At this time Antiochus also entered the Temple and stole a great deal of valuable treasure, an act which the pious Jews looked upon as an abomination before God.

The following year (168 BC) Antiochus renewed his campaign against the Egyptians, but he was stopped by the Roman representative Popilius Laenus, and was ordered to leave Egypt and never come back. This so infuriated Antiochus that he came back and took out his frustration on the city of Jerusalem. He tore down the city walls, slaughtered a great many of the Jews, ordered the Jewish Scriptures to be destroyed, and he and his soldiers brought prostitutes into the Temple and there had sex with them in order to defile the Temple. He also issued orders that everyone was to worship the Greek gods, and he established the death penalty for anyone who practiced circumcision, or who observed the Sabbath or any of the Jewish religious feasts and sacrifices.

The cruelty of Antiochus in enforcing these new laws against the Jews became legendary. An aged scribe by the name of Eleazar was flogged to death because he refused to eat the flesh of a swine. In another incident, a mother and her seven young children were each butchered, in the presence of the Governor, for refusing to worship an idol. In yet another incident, two mothers, who had circumcised their newborn sons, were driven through the city and then thrown to their deaths from the top of a large building.

The final outrage for the pious Jews of the land came when Antiochus sacked the Temple and erected an altar there to the pagan god Zeus and a statue of Antiochus as Zeus. Then, on December 25, 168 BC, Antiochus offered a pig to Zeus on the altar of God. This was the last straw! The Jews had taken all they were going to take from these oppressors. The stage was set for a large-scale rebellion of the Jews against the Seleucids. This famous rebellion is known in history as the Maccabean Revolt.

Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”

He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.” Daniel 8:13-14.

Antiochus’s men went from town to town and from village to village to force the inhabitants to worship pagan gods. Only one refuge area remained and that was the hills of Judea with their caves. But even there did the Syrians pursue the faithful Jews, and many a Jew died a martyr’s death.

One day the henchmen of Antiochus arrived in the village of Modin where Mattityahu, the old priest, lived. The Syrian officer built an altar in the marketplace of the village and demanded that Mattityahu offer sacrifices to the Greek gods. Mattityahu replied, “I, my sons and my brothers are determined to remain loyal to the covenant which our God made with our ancestors!”

Thereupon, a Hellenistic Jew approached the altar to offer a sacrifice. Mattityahu grabbed his sword and killed him, and his sons and friends fell upon the Syrian officers and men. They killed many of them and chased the rest away. They then destroyed the altar.

Mattityahu knew that Antiochus would be enraged when he heard what had happened. He would certainly send an expedition to punish him and his followers. Mattityahu, therefore, left the village of Modin and fled together with his sons and friends to the hills of Judea. All loyal and courageous Jews joined them. They formed legions and from time to time they left their hiding places to fall upon enemy detachments and outposts, and to destroy the pagan altars that were built by order of Antiochus.

Before his death, Mattityahu called his sons together and urged them to continue to fight in defense of God’s Torah. He asked them to follow the counsel of their brother Shimon the Wise. In waging warfare, he said, their leader should be Judah the Strong. Judah was called “Maccabee,” a word composed of the initial letters of the four Hebrew words Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem, “Who is like You, O God.”

Antiochus sent his General Apolonius to wipe out Yehuda and his followers, the Maccabees. Maccabee means “hammer,” which describes the guerrilla warfare he and the Jews waged on the Syrians. They came out of the Judean hills with quick and successful strikes against their enemy.

Though greater in number and equipment than their adversaries, the Syrians were defeated by the Maccabees. Antiochus sent out another expedition which also was defeated. He realized that only by sending a powerful army could he hope to defeat Judah and his brave fighting men.

An army consisting of more than 40,000 men swept the land under the leadership of two commanders, Nicanor and Gorgiash. When Judah and his brothers heard of that, they exclaimed: “Let us fight unto death in defense of our souls and our Temple!” The people assembled in Mitzpah, where Samuel, the prophet of old, had offered prayers to God. After a series of battles the war was won.

Now the Maccabees returned to Jerusalem to liberate it. They entered the Temple and cleared it of the idols placed there by the Syrian vandals. Judah and his followers built a new altar, which he dedicated on the twenty-fifth of the month of Kislev, in the year 3622.

Since the golden Menorah had been stolen by the Syrians, the Maccabees now made one of cheaper metal. When they wanted to light it, they found only a small cruse of pure olive oil bearing the seal of the High Priest Yochanan. It was sufficient to light only for one day. By a miracle of God, it continued to burn for eight days, till new oil was made available. That miracle proved that God had again taken His people under His protection. In memory of this, the Jewish sages appointed these eight days for annual thanksgiving and for lighting candles.

The 2,300 “evening-mornings” is interpreted to mean 2300 individual morning and evening sacrifices, or 1150 literal days, which was fulfilled during the reign of. Antiochus IV Epiphanes. After three years of guerrilla warfare led by the Maccabees, the Jewish revolt against the Seleucid monarchy was successful. Hanukkah celebrates the victory over the Syrian army and the rededication of the Temple.

While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”

As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “Understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.” Daniel 8:15-17

There are several references in scripture where a being described as looking like a man was actually an angel. For example, in Genesis 18, Abraham welcomed three guests who appeared at first to be nothing more than some travelers. In the following chapter, two of these guests went to Sodom where they were assumed to be simply a pair of human visitors but turned out to be angels. In this instance, the one who looked like a man was the angel Gabriel who was entrusted to deliver several important messages on God’s behalf. Gabriel means “Strength of God.”

Since the one who spoke to the angel Gabriel in a man’s voice had the authority to issue a command to God’s messenger, it can be deduced that the one speaking was the pre-incarnate Son of God. At the approach of this celestial being Daniel is terrified and falls on his face in awe or respect.

Since the vision concerns activities that will take place at “the time of the end,” it is an indication that besides the initial reference to the reign of Antiochus IV, that the reign of the Antichrist will be the final and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy. The “time of the end” will be fulfilled during the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), the time of the Great Tribulation.

While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet. Daniel 8:18

Daniel’s strength had been entirely taken away by the vision and his fearful encounter with God’s angel.

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. Luke 22:42-43

Just as Jesus, who had been very stressed and troubled in the Garden of Gethsemane, was strengthened by an angel, so was Daniel strengthened by Gabriel’s touch and raised to his feet.

He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power. Daniel 8:19-22

The first king of Greece was Alexander III King of Macedonia. After Alexander’s death, in the prime of life and in the height of his conquests, his brother and two sons were all murdered; and the kingdom was divided among four of his generals. These were Seleucus, who had Syria and Babylon; Lysimachus, who had Asia Minor; Ptolemy, who had Egypt; and, Cassander, who had Greece.

“In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. Daniel 8:23-24

In the time of the end, Syria, Babylon (Iraq), Asia Minor (Turkey) and Egypt which are all Islamic, when rebels have become completely wicked (a description of the murderous jihadists) a fierce-looking king (the Antichrist) will arise. His intent is to eradicate the Jewish people. As of now, I am not sure how Greece will fit into this picture but we do know that Greece’s economy is in dire trouble and workers from all walks of life have united in massive protests around Greece.

He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power. Daniel 8:25

This prophecy is confirmed in the book of Revelation.

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:19-20

The Antichrist will be destroyed, not by human power but by the King of kings and Lord of lords.

“The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.” Daniel 8:26

In the last days, the vision was unsealed.

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It is only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions and your old men will dream dreams. Acts 2:14-17

The last days began after the crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, when the Holy Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.” Revelation 5:5

 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding. Daniel 8:27

 

Daniel 7 – Daniel Had a Dream and Saw Visions of Four Beasts

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In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream. Daniel 7:1

Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar and Coregent of Babylon. Belshazzar governed the country after his father, King Nabonidus, went into exile in 550 BC. In the first year of his reign in Babylon, Daniel had a dream.

This chapter begins the second section of the book of Daniel. All before this has been narrative; visions are introduced into the narrative, but they were not given to Daniel himself, but to others; his role was the secondary one of interpreter. With this chapter begins a series of revelations to Daniel personally. This chapter is the last chapter of the Aramaic portion of Daniel.

Daniel said: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. Daniel 7:2

There is both a natural and symbolic interpretation concerning the meaning of the churning of the great sea.

For those who dwelled in Israel, the natural understanding of the meaning of “the great sea” is a reference to the Mediterranean Sea.

But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. Isaiah 57:20

The spiritual meaning of the tossing or churning sea refers to the wicked peoples that comprised the pagan nations that bordered the Mediterranean Sea.

Note that the four winds of heaven churned up the great sea.

He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. Psalm 104:4

The four winds of heaven are angels sent by God that provoked the wicked nations to emerge from their lands around the Mediterranean Sea to prowl about and conquer. Beasts are ceremonially unclean animals, which are also symbols of pagan peoples. Beasts are fierce and deadly and represent the king and the armies of these pagan nations.

The prophet Jeremiah warned the people of Judah that God was going to bring the army of the fierce nation of Babylon to punish the people of the Southern Kingdom for their idolatry and other sins.

A lion has come out of his lair; a destroyer of nations has set out. He has left his place to lay waste your land. Your towns will lie in ruins without inhabitant. Jeremiah 4:7

Babylon was described as a lion which would destroy the towns of Judah and take the people into captivity.

“The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. Daniel 7:4

Just as the head of gold of the enormous and dazzling statue that King Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream symbolized Babylon as the first of four empires, the first of the four beasts of Daniel’s dream also represents Babylon’s king and empire.

Look! He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind, his horses are swifter than eagles. Woe to us! We are ruined! Jeremiah 4:13

King Nebuchadnezzar and his army advanced swiftly against over several kingdoms and countries, and added them to his empire. The lion had wings of an eagle until its wings were torn off.

“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Exodus 19:4

God directly involved himself in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt because it was his power and action that brought them freedom from the Egyptians. The direct action of God created the nation of Israel.

The eagles’ wings symbolize the direct involvement of God in the affairs of Egypt so as to create the nation of Israel. In a like manner in Daniel 7, eagles’ wings can symbolize God’s direct involvement in bringing about the Babylonian Empire, which God gave to Nebuchadnezzar.

I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a human being, and the mind of a human was given to it. Daniel 7:4b

The removal of the wings implies that Babylon’s conquests would cease because God’s purpose for the king of Babylon was soon to be fulfilled and another king from another empire to take the place of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar, in haughty pride, relied on his own strength, and therefore was denigrated to crawl on all four and ate grass like an ox. As he crawled on all four, as the beasts do, his eyes were fixed upon the earth looking out for his food. But at the end of his appointed time, he looked up to heaven, stood on two feet like a human being and his sanity was restored – the mind of a human being was given to the lion.

“And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, ‘Get up and eat your fill of flesh!’ Daniel 7:5

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the head of gold representing the king of Babylon and his kingdom, was more valuable a metal than the chest and arms of silver which represented the Medes and Persians. In a similar way, a bear is less majestic than a lion. Bears are bulky and weighty and the Medo-Persian army conquered by sheer force of numbers. This empire started with the union of the Medes and the Persians. However, later the Persians became the much more dominant of the two nations. Hence, the bear was raised up on one of its sides. It had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. To solidify its empire, Medo-Persia had to conquer three other kingdoms, Lydia, Babylonia and Egypt. But even beyond those three kingdoms, God had given them the power to make even more conquests outside their borders. The bear was told, “Get up and eat your fill of flesh!”

“After that, I looked, and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. Daniel 7:6

The next ruler and empire prophesied to come was represented by a leopard whose powerful legs were assisted by four wings which symbolized great swiftness. We know from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and from history that the leader was Alexander III King of Macedonia. Alexander the Great succeeded his father, Philip II, to the throne at the age of twenty. He spent most of his ruling years on an unprecedented military campaign through Asia and northeast Africa, and by the age of thirty he had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from Greece to Egypt into northwest India and modern-day Pakistan. In 11 years, from 335 B.C. to 324 B.C., Alexander and his army battled their way across 22,000 miles. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered one of history’s most successful military commanders.

The Diadochi (from the Greek word Diadokhoi, meaning “Successors”) were the rival generals, administrators, and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire after his death in 323 BC. The four heads of the leopard represented the four kings who succeeded Alexander. Geographically in relation to Judea there was: Cassander King of Macedonia (Greece) to the east, Lysimachus King of western Turkey to the west, Ptolemy King of Egypt to the south and Seleucus King in Babylonia to the north.

“After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast—terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. Daniel 7:7

The fourth kingdom was symbolized by the two legs of the enormous statue of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The legs were comprised of iron and its ten toes of iron mixed with clay. This same empire is signified in Daniel’s dream as a terrifying beast with ten horns. The Roman Empire had its western capital in Rome and ruled over the Christians while the eastern capital was located in Constantinople and ruled over the Jews.

 “While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully. Daniel 7:8

Daniel understood from Nebuchadnezzar’s dream that the kingdom represented by iron or fourth empire to come was to give rise to ten kings or rulers which were represented by the ten toes of the statue as recorded in Daniel 2:44: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever.

While Daniel was thinking about the ten horns or kings another horn arose which had eyes like that of a human being and a mouth that spoke boastfully.

 “As I looked, “thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze.

 A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. Daniel 7:9-10

Thrones are symbols of power and authority.

The descriptive title, “the Ancient of Days” indicates God’s eternal existence. This title was probably chosen to contrast God and His kingdom with the temporary limited duration of the four successive kingdoms symbolized by the four wild beasts. In those days, age was venerated.   People looked to elders for wisdom, and rulers were often older men. The term “Ancient of Days” therefore speaks of wisdom and power. His white raiment and white hair are expressions of His purity.

His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him. Daniel 7:9b – 10a

Fire was often used in Hebrew Scriptures to speak of God’s presence. God appeared to Abram as “a smoking furnace, and a flaming torch” (Genesis 15:17).   Yehovah spoke to Moses from a burning bush (Exodus 3:2). The LORD descended upon Mount Sinai in fire (Exodus 19:18). Yehovah led the Israelites with a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21).

The Ancient of Days took his seat to preside over the heavenly court to judge in righteousness before an innumerable audience. In Hebrew Scriptures, the term, “one thousand,” is used to represent a very large number (Deuteronomy 5:10; 32:30; Judges 15:15; Psalm 84:10).   “thousands of thousands” (millions) would be an extremely large number. “Ten thousand times ten thousand” (one hundred million) would be a number beyond the ability of Daniel or John the Revelator to count. Millions of servants are attending to the Ancient One––giving tribute to the Ancient One’s grandeur and glory.

“Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority, but were allowed to live for a period of time.) Daniel 7:11-12

The Book of Revelation also speaks of ten horns:

“The ten horns you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but who for one hour will receive authority as kings along with the beast. They have one purpose and will give their power and authority to the beast.” Revelation 17:12–13

The final world empire to come will be comprised of a ten nation confederacy or ten region alliance whose rulers (the ten kings) will lend their support to an eleventh leader—the Antichrist who is symbolized as a little horn who speaks boastfully.

The true Messiah did not speak on His own but only what God the Father commanded Him to say. The true Messiah humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross.

While the little horn, the Antichrist, is empowered by Satan and speaks boastfully like “The Father of Lies”.

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!

For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. Isaiah 14:12-15

Satan’s sin was pride and rebellion against God.   Satan wanted to put himself in the place of God as he said, “I will be like the most High”.

“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 nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. Daniel 7:13-14

The One, who was like a son of man, came with the clouds of heaven and approached God the Father. He was like a son of man in appearance but also radiated divine glory. The glory clouds denote the majesty, visibility, and swiftness, with which the Messiah came to take possession of his eternal kingdom. By virtue of His authority as Creator of the heavens and the earth, our Lord Jesus the Messiah deserves to receive the kingdom from the Father. In addition to His role as Creator, He paid the full price of our redemption upon the cross and defeated the enemy of our souls. By right of both creation and redemption Messiah alone is worthy to receive the eternal kingdom.

 “I, Daniel, was troubled in spirit, and the visions that passed through my mind disturbed me. I approached one of those standing there and asked him the meaning of all this. Daniel 7:15-16a

Daniel’s visions of four terrifying beasts emerging from the sea, a boastful horn with eyes likes a man, and the Ancient of Days sitting on a throne flowing with fire troubled his spirit and disturbed his mind.

“So he told me and gave me the interpretation of these things: ‘The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. But the holy people of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.’ Daniel 7:16b-18

Each of the four great beasts represented a king and their successive empires which would dominate Israel. The first king was Nebuchadnezzar who was the first ruler of the Babylonian Empire. The second king was Cyrus who ruled the Persian Empire. The third king was Alexander the Great who ruled over the Greek Empire. Roman Emperor Augustus founded the fourth kingdom in 27 BC.

Although these rulers and their kingdoms were the most powerful and influential for a time in history, the interpretation of the vision to Daniel confirms the covenant promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob:

On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, From the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates: Genesis 15:18

“I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” Genesis 17:7-8

The holy people of the Most High will receive the eternal kingdom. Those Gentiles who place their trust in the finished work of Messiah on the cross are grafted into the covenants of Israel. They are the spiritual seed of Abraham and Israel by faith and will be among those receive the eternal kingdom.

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God. Romans 8:28-29

Not all of the natural descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will receive the eternal kingdom but only those who have a circumcised heart.

“Then I wanted to know the meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws—the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell—the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. Daniel 7:19-21a

The fourth kingdom is still in power today through the continued influence (political, religious, cultural, etc.) of the Roman Empire. For the most part, Americans and Europeans do not use the Hebrew calendar nor observe the Festivals of the LORD. Instead, we follow a Roman calendar whose days and months are named after pagan gods and the Caesars. We observe non-biblical holidays such as Easter, Halloween and Christmas whose origins are rooted in pagan and occult practices.

The fourth kingdom has two divisions. In the west, the Vatican has great wealth and influence and is situated in Rome. While in the east, Turkey has claimed to be the caliphate with its capital in Istanbul. I believe that the ten horns’ stage is still yet to be fulfilled.

As I watched, this horn was waging war against the holy people and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the holy people of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom. Daniel 7:21b-22

There is a parallel passage of Scripture in the Book of Revelation which clearly defines who this horn is:

It was given power to wage war against God’s holy people and to conquer them. And it was given authority over every tribe, people, language and nation. All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the Lamb’s book of life, the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. Revelation 13:7-8

The little horn is the beast or Antichrist who will persecute and martyr God’s holy people because they refuse to worship him or his image.

“He gave me this explanation: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones; he will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress his holy people and try to change the set times and the laws. The holy people will be delivered into his hands for a time, times and half a time. Daniel 7:23-25

Emerging from the “Revived Roman Empire,” will be a ten nation confederacy or ten regional alliances which will give its financial, political and military support to the Antichrist. He will subdue three of the rulers or kings of this alliance. He will persecute and wage war against both Jews and Christians for a period of 3 ½ years during the second half of the Great Tribulation until the church is raptured and God pours out His bowls of wrath upon the earth.

“‘But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.’ Daniel 7:26-27

Again, this portion of Daniel’s vision is delineated in passages of the Book of Revelation:

Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who had performed the signs on its behalf. With these signs he had deluded those who had received the mark of the beast and worshiped its image. The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur. Revelation 19:19-20

I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony about Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. Revelation 20:4

After the rule of the Antichrist, the “King of kings” and “Lord of lords” will return to wage war, mete out punishment, and establish His kingdom on earth.

 “This is the end of the matter. I, Daniel, was deeply troubled by my thoughts, and my face turned pale, but I kept the matter to myself.” Daniel 7:28

When Daniel thought of these powerful monarchies, and especially the final empire of the little horn or the Antichrist, their strength and cruelty, and what the people of God would suffer, he was deeply troubled.

But the people of God are to take heart.

For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Daniel 6 – The Scheme of the Administrators and the Satraps

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It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. Daniel 6:1-2

In 607 B.C., Daniel was among the captives taken during the first Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. He became a chief minister at Nebuchadnezzar’s royal court. Daniel was known as a man who could interpret dreams and visions. Daniel was summoned by Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, King Belshazzar to interpret the handwriting on the wall. Daniel pronounced judgment on Belshazzar telling him that his kingdom was divided and given to the Medes and Persians.

The Achaemenid Empire, also called the First Persian Empire, was an empire based in Western Asia. It was founded by Cyrus the Great after he united the Medes and the Persians. The Medo-Persians invaded Babylonia from the east in June of 539 B.C. and captured its capital, Babylon. Cyrus the Great (also Cyrus II or Cyrus the Elder) reigned over Persia between 559 –529 B.C.

The Persian Empire was noted for embracing various civilizations and becoming the largest empire of ancient history, spanning at its maximum extent from the Balkans and Eastern Europe in the west, to the Indus Valley in the east.

A satrap was a provincial governor appointed by the king of Persia. Darius the Mede, also known as Darius the Great, ruled Persia from 522–486 B.C. He completed the organization of the empire into satrapies, initiated by his predecessor Cyrus the Great. King Darius fixed the annual tribute due from each province. He also organized a new uniform monetary system, along with making Aramaic the official language of the empire.

Including Daniel, Darius appointed three administrators to oversee the 120 provincial governors that he had appointed.

 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” Daniel 6:3-5

Daniel was taken captive to Babylon in 607 B.C. Forty-eight years later in 539 B.C., Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. For nearly half a century, Daniel had faithfully served his captors. His exceptional and trustworthy character was beyond reproach. King Darius was planning to place Daniel in the position of prime minister over all the empire to root out waste and corruption. The other administrators and the satraps were so concerned about having an honest man in a position of power and authority over them that they sought to discredit Daniel.

Realizing that they could not bring charges of misconduct against Daniel because he was a diligent worker and a man of integrity; the other government officials sought to make it illegal for Daniel to follow his religious practices.

So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. Daniel 6:6-7

The political leadership of Darius’ kingdom devised a scheme to entrap Daniel. They knew that Daniel was faithful to the God of Israel. Even as a young captive in Babylon, Daniel refused to defile himself with unclean food from Nebuchadnezzar’s table.

Using flattery, these administrators and satraps sought to persuade Darius into issuing a royal decree forbidding anyone to petition any god or man except the king for the following thirty days. The penalty for disobeying this edict would be a horrible death – being mauled and devoured by lions. The intent of these greedy officials was to ensure that Daniel would not live to oversee their corrupt practices.

Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” So King Darius put the decree in writing. Daniel 6:8-9

There was a law in this monarchy, that no ordinance or edict, made with the necessary formalities, and with the consent of the king’s counselors, could be revoked by the king. While King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was a supreme unrestricted ruler, the Medo-Persian Empire which followed was a limited monarchy where the ruling kings were bound by the laws they enacted.

Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Daniel 6:10

Daniel, having learned that the decree forbidding prayer to anyone but the king was now officially enacted, went home and prayed to God. He did not pray in secret in a closet, but went upstairs where the windows opened towards Jerusalem and prayed as he had been doing previously.

Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” Daniel 6:11-12

The group of officials went immediately from Daniel’s house to the king’s palace, and into the king’s presence. The conspirators, who convinced King Darius to issue the prohibition against prayer to any god or person except the king, now confront the king by asking him a question that he must affirm.

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” Daniel 6:12

The king had no choice but to uphold the law of the land. Once he had issued the decree, it could not be repealed according to the law of the Medes and Persians.

Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him. Daniel 6:13-14

Daniel’s accusers, who had plotted against him because they were corrupt and feared that Daniel would expose their incompetence and dishonesty to the king, now bringing charges against Daniel saying that he pays no attention to the king or his decrees.

Daniel had so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his integrity and honesty that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. Therefore, the king was greatly distressed that Daniel faced an almost certain death sentence and made every effort to save him.

Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”

So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” Daniel 6:15-16

After the sun had set, the administrators and the satraps came to Darius to make sure that not another day would pass before Daniel was thrown to the lions. Darius was grieved as he gave the order to cast Daniel into a den of hungry lions. The king did not call upon his gods to rescue Daniel but said, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”

A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep. Daniel 6:17-18

And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den. Not a heap of stones, but a single one, a very large one, sufficient to stop up the mouth of the den. This act ensured that Daniel could not escape unassisted. For a king or governmental ruler, their seal signified all the authority and power of their realm. When King Darius placed his seal on the stone, it meant that anyone tampering with the stone would break the seal and be subject to death for challenging the authority of the king. Therefore, no one or group would dare free Daniel or attempt to throw anything into the pit to kill Daniel.

The tomb of Jesus Christ also had a large single stone which shut up the entrance. When the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pontius Pilate following Jesus’ crucifixion, they enlisted aid in securing the tomb where Jesus was placed. Pilate replied to their request by sending a guard of Roman soldiers to the tomb (Matthew 27:65). In order to make the tomb as secure as possible, an official seal was placed on the stone blocking entrance to the tomb. The tomb’s seal in addition to the fierce Roman guard notified the people that all the power and authority of Rome protected its precious contents.

It is interesting to note that the guards claimed to have fallen asleep and the body of Jesus stolen. If that were truly the case, the guards would have been put to death for dereliction of their duty. While the Roman guards were paid off to claim they fell asleep in front of the tomb that was covered by a large stone and a royal seal; King Darius, thinking of Daniel in a lion’s den unable to escape because it was covered by a large stone and sealed by his own signet ring, was unable to sleep.

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?” Daniel 6:19-20

Darius’ concern for Daniel’s well being is obvious in that at the first light of dawn he hurried to the lion’s den and called to Daniel in an anguished voice. Distressed, and with only a glimmer of hope, the king asked Daniel,”…has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” Daniel 6:21-22

God had sent His angel, the angel of the LORD, to shut the mouths of the lions. A Christophany is an appearance of the incarnate Christ in the Old Testament. The visible appearances of God in human or angelic form in the Old Testament, is actually the Son of God manifesting Himself prior to His incarnation. Old Testament accounts of the appearance of the angel of the LORD are the manifestations of God in human form and were appearances of the second person of the Trinity.

When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into a blazing furnace, King Nebuchadnezzar said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods” (Daniel 3:25). Just as Daniel’s companions were protected from harm in a blazing furnace by the pre-incarnate Son of God, so was Daniel protected from a den full of lions by God’s Son.

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. Daniel 6:23

When Daniel’s three companions emerged from out of the furnace, the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them (Daniel 3:27). Likewise, when Daniel was lifted out of the lion’s den he was completely unharmed. Whereas, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had refused to worship the image Nebuchadnezzar had erected and were protected by God because they trusted in Him; Daniel had refused to stop worshipping the God of Israel and was protected by God because Daniel placed his trust in the LORD.

Daniel testified to Darius that he was innocent in the sight of his God and had never done any wrong to the king.

At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones. Daniel 6:24

It was obvious that the lions did not refrain from attacking Daniel because they were docile or because they had full stomachs. The ferocity, power and appetites of these beasts were demonstrated as Daniel’s accusers and their families were savagely attacked even before they reached the floor of the lion’s den. Psalm 91:14-16 declares:

“Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation.”

Daniel had placed his trust in God. Daniel loved the LORD so much that he continued to worship his God though it may have cost him his life.

Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:

“May you prosper greatly!

“I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.

“For he is the living God and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves; he performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.” Daniel 6:25-27

King Nebuchadnezzar had issued a similar proclamation and declaration of the power of the God of Israel after he had been restored to sanity and to his throne.

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:2-3

Darius wished to make known God’s supremacy, not only to the neighboring people, but to promulgate it far and wide. The phrase, the whole earth does not refer to the whole habitable world, but to the large territory of his monarchy. Darius declared that Daniel’s God performs miracles far above all human power. He rescues and saves. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions.

So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian. Daniel 6:28

Daniel was faithful to God all his life. He lived before, during, and beyond the seventy years of the Babylonian Captivity. He must have been about one hundred years old when he died. During his long life, Daniel served as an advisor to the kings of Babylon and Medo-Persia. While Jeremiah prophesied to the Jews in Judah, and Ezekiel was God’s spokesman to the Jewish captives in Babylon, Daniel prophesied in the courts of the pagan kings who ruled the world.

Daniel 5 – King Belshazzar Quakes at the Writing on the Wall

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King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles and drank wine with them. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem, so that the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines might drink from them. Daniel 5:1-2

Daniel 5 begins with this statement: “King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles….” This banquet turned out to be perhaps the most famous party in all of history, but not for the reasons that King Belshazzar was hoping. The story that has become known as “Belshazzar’s Feast” has been set to classical music, referred to in great works of literature, and depicted in one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings. This account is memorable, powerful, and a reminder to those who would presumptuously sin in defiance of the God of Israel.

Belshazzar and his officials assumed that the city of Babylon could never be taken. It had been built as an impregnable fortress with massive walls, and with vast stores of food, water, and other supplies to withstand a siege. Though the Babylonians were in a weakened state militarily and the Persian army was advancing, they assumed that their fortress would protect them.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.

Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.

In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” Proverbs 23:29–35

In the first two verses of Daniel chapter 5 there are three references to drinking. Since it was a great banquet we can already safely assume they would be drinking wine. The repeated references to drinking therefore tell us something about this man and his nobles.

So they brought in the gold goblets that had been taken from the temple of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, his wives and his concubines drank from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone. Daniel 5:3-4

Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. Sadly, he didn’t choose to follow the God of Israel even despite all that his grandfather had gone through. Rather, he indulged in pagan practices and gave honor to the deities of Babylon. He held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles. He ordered that the vessels of silver and gold that Nebuchadnezzar had plundered from Jerusalem be used to drink wine at his feast with his many wives and concubines. As they drank from the vessels from the temple of Yehovah, they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. They did not praise the Creator of heaven and earth, but they profaned the holy vessels of the temple and blasphemed the Holy One of Israel.

Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the wall, near the lampstand in the royal palace. The king watched the hand as it wrote. His face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking. Daniel 5:5-6

What was usually written in cuneiform letters on slabs on the walls and on the very bricks of buildings in the royal cities of ancient empires, were the records of the titles, victories, and exploits of the monarchs of the kingdom. They were to remind the king’s subjects as well as his defeated enemies of the royal greatness and power. It is significant, that on the same wall on which the king was accustomed to read the flattering legends of his own magnificence, he beholds the mysterious inscription which foretells his impending fall.

God admonishes Belshazzar, not by a dream (as Nebuchadnezzar had been warned), or by a voice, but by the fingers of a human hand appearing and writing on the plaster of the wall which was illuminated by the nearby lampstand. The invisibility of Him who moved the fingers of the hand heightened the dreadful impressiveness of the scene. The hand of the Unseen One attested to the king’s doom before the eyes of himself and his guilty fellow revelers.

The spectacle achieved its intended purpose. Belshazzar’s face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking.

The king summoned the enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Then he said to these wise men of Babylon, “Whoever reads this writing and tells me what it means will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around his neck, and he will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.”

Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the writing or tell the king what it meant. So King Belshazzar became even more terrified and his face grew more pale. His nobles were baffled. Daniel 5:7-9

When the wise men of Babylon were unable to interpret the handwriting on the wall, King Belshazzar was even more horrified. But this occasion was not the first time that the wise men of Babylon fell short.

In the days of Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed and they were unable to do so. This had made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon.

The queen, hearing the voices of the king and his nobles, came into the banquet hall. “May the king live forever!” she said. “Don’t be alarmed! Don’t look so pale! There is a man in your kingdom who has the spirit of the holy gods in him. In the time of your father he was found to have insight and intelligence and wisdom like that of the gods. Your father, King Nebuchadnezzar, appointed him chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners. Daniel 5:10-11

Nabonidus probably married Nitocris, a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Nabonidus was the last king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reigning from 556–539 B.C. When the Scripture refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as King Belshazzar’s father, it means in his lineage. Nebuchadnezzar was actually Belshazzar’s grandfather, while Nabonidus was Belshazzar’s father. The queen most likely was to have been the wife of Nabonidus and mother of Belshazzar.

He did this because Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar, was found to have a keen mind and knowledge and understanding, and also the ability to interpret dreams, explain riddles and solve difficult problems. Call for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.” Daniel 5:12

Daniel was used by God to reveal and interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.

Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Daniel 2:26-28a

Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, Queen Nitocris knew first hand of Daniel’s abilities and integrity.

So Daniel was brought before the king, and the king said to him, “Are you Daniel, one of the exiles my father the king brought from Judah? I have heard that the spirit of the gods is in you and that you have insight, intelligence and outstanding wisdom. The wise men and enchanters were brought before me to read this writing and tell me what it means, but they could not explain it. Now I have heard that you are able to give interpretations and to solve difficult problems. If you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will be clothed in purple and have a gold chain placed around your neck, and you will be made the third highest ruler in the kingdom.” Daniel 5:13-16

According to a well-known and longstanding practice, in legal deeds from the sixth century B.C. the parties swear oaths by the gods and the king. In some of these deeds from the reign of Nabonidus, we find that the parties swear by Nabonidus and by Belshazzar, the king’s son. This formula, swearing by the king and his son, is unattested in any other reign in any documents yet uncovered. This suggests that Belshazzar may have had a special status. We know that during part of his father’s reign, Belshazzar was the effective authority in Babylon. The Babylonian texts reveal that Nabonidus was an eccentric ruler. While he did not ignore the gods of Babylon, he did not treat them in the approved way, and gave very considerable attention to the moon god at two other cities, Ur and Harran. For several years of his reign, Nabonidus did not even live in Babylon; instead he stayed at the distant oasis of Teima in northern Arabia. During that time, Belshazzar ruled in Babylon. According to one account, Nabonidus “entrusted the kingship” to Belshazzar.

Belshazzar was already second in the kingdom, serving as a co-regent with his absent father. He could offer Daniel nothing greater than “third ruler in the kingdom.”

Then Daniel answered the king, “You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else. Nevertheless, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means. Daniel 5:17

When Daniel was much younger and knew that he and his companions were destined to spend and extended time in captivity, Daniel accepted the gifts and high position afforded to him by King Nebuchadnezzar for interpreting his dream. But now, knowing both that the time of the Babylonian Empire was coming to an end and out of disdain for wretched Belshazzar, Daniel refused the rewards he offered.

“Your Majesty, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the nations and peoples of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. Daniel 5:18-19

Before Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall, he reminds Belshazzar that it was the God of Daniel who, according to His divine dominion and purpose, gave King Nebuchadnezzar his authority, power, and high position.

But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like the ox; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and sets over them anyone he wishes. Daniel 5:20-12

Daniel also reminds Belshazzar of the severe consequences that Nebuchadnezzar endured for his pride and arrogance until his grandfather humbled himself and acknowledged the sovereignty of the Most High God.

“But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways. Therefore he sent the hand that wrote the inscription. Daniel 5:22-24

First Daniel delineates the charges against Belshazzar before he pronounces the judgment against him for his presumptuous sin against the Lord of heaven.

“This is the inscription that was written: mene, mene, tekel, parsin Daniel 5:25

Mene is taken from the verb menah (Hebrew manah; Babylonian manu) indicated that God had numbered (the days of) Belshazzar’s kingdom and finished it (or delivered it up)

Tekel is interpreted as coming from two roots: the first, teqal, “to weigh,” and the second, qal, “to be light or wanting” (Hebrew qalal; Babylonian qalalu).

Parsin also is interpreted as coming from two roots: first, perac, “to divide” (Hebrew paras or parash; Babylonian parasu), and the second as denoting the proper name Parac, “Persia.”

“Here is what these words mean:

Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end.

Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting.

Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” Daniel 5:26-28

Then at Belshazzar’s command, Daniel was clothed in purple, a gold chain was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed the third highest ruler in the kingdom. Daniel 5:29

The king, having promised to reward Daniel, was ashamed before his courtiers to break his word and commanded that Daniel be robed as royalty. Perhaps he also hoped that Daniel would be able to appeal to his God to alter this prophecy of his doom.

That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two. Daniel 5:30-31

According to historical records a man named Gubaru, a Mede, was appointed by King Cyrus to be ruler in Babylon at this time. Gubaru (Darius the Mede) was born in 601 B.C. which would make him 62 years old when he invaded Babylon. Exactly the age found Daniel 5:31.

King Belshazzar and his officials believed that Babylon with its enormous walls was impregnable. But the historians Herodotus and Xenophon confirm Daniel’s account as to the suddenness of the event and how the Babylonians successfully invaded the city without much opposition. Cyrus diverted the Euphrates river which through the middle of the city, into a new channel. Cyrus and his troops guided by two deserters, marched along the river bed into the city, while the Babylonians were carousing at an annual feast to the gods. There was no large-scale attack upon the city. In fact, many within the city were not even aware for quite some time afterwards that the city had been taken. Because the city was taken by diverting the waters of the Euphrates, the invading armed forces were able to wade under her defenses without much of a fight.

 

Daniel Chapter 4 – King Nebuchadnezzar Has a Fearful Dream!

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King Nebuchadnezzar,

To the nations and peoples of every language, who live in all the earth:

May you prosper greatly! Daniel 4:1

This entire chapter is written in Aramaic. The Aramaic language was the common language or lingua franca, used in Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian communication. It was the bridge language or trade language used to make communication possible between people who didn’t share a native language or dialect.

It was expeditious that a letter addressed to all the nations and peoples of every language that composed King Nebuchadnezzar’s Empire would be written in Aramaic as opposed to having his letter translated into many languages and dialects. But the scope of his letter is meant to reach far beyond the borders of his empire to peoples and nations of all the earth.

It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.

How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation. Daniel 4:2-3

The purpose of Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation is to tell the world of the mighty wonders that the Most High God who rules eternally had performed in the king’s behalf.

I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Daniel 4:4-7

As in the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. Once again, the wise men of Babylon were incapable of interpreting the king’s dream.

Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.)

I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. Daniel 4:8-9

Daniel was trained in the language and traditions of the Chaldeans. He was made the leader of the Babylonian wise men. Daniel’s abilities were from Yehovah and not from Babylonian magic.

In chapter two, after Daniel had given King Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation of his dream of an enormous, dazzling statue, the king proclaimed to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Yet, the king states that Daniel is called Belteshazzar, after the name of his god, Bel.

Marduk, in Mesopotamian religion was the chief god of the city of Babylon and the national god of Babylonia. He was eventually called simply Bel, or Lord. Originally, he seems to have been a god of thunderstorms but gradually came to be thought of as the god of order and destiny.

Clearly the king did not worship Daniel’s God. Since the Babylonians had many gods, the king attributed Daniel’s abilities to the spirit of the holy gods in him.

These are the visions I saw while lying in bed: I looked, and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the wild animals found shelter, and the birds lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. Daniel 4:10-12

The first part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was of an impressive tree that was so large and its fruit so bountiful that it could shelter and feed all of the earth’s creatures.

“In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked, and there before me was a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: ‘Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. Daniel 4:13-14

The king’s dream then takes an awful turn. An angel is dispatched from heaven and announces that the tree is to be cut down and stripped bare.

 But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze; remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. “‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. Daniel 4:15-16

Finally the stump is not uprooted but bound with strong metals. The symbolism of the tree representing a man becomes evident when the angel declares, “‘Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.”

“‘The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.’ Daniel 4:17

When the king’s dream is interpreted and comes to pass, it will serve to demonstrate the sovereignty, authority and power of the Most High God.

 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.” Daniel 4:18

King Nebuchadnezzar is confident that Daniel can once again do what none of the Babylonian wise men were capable of doing – interpret his dream.

Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”

Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries! Daniel 4:18-19

Daniel alerts the king to be prepared for what he is about to hear because the interpretation of the dream directly concerns the king and it is quite unpleasant.

The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds—Your Majesty, you are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. Daniel 4:20-22

The first part of the dream symbolizes the king in his lofty position and the vastness and wealth of his empire.

“Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live with the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him.’

 “This is the interpretation, Your Majesty, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Daniel 4:23-26

The Most High God’s decree was that King Nebuchadnezzar would live like a wild animal. The king was told by Daniel in chapter two that the God of heaven had given him dominion and power and might and glory. But prideful Nebuchadnezzar believed that he had become ruler over Babylon because of his own ability and wisdom and not because of the sovereignty of God.

Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” Daniel 4:27

Nebuchadnezzar exalted himself, and in his self-centered pride, became a tyrant by oppressing the poor and weak. Although Daniel’s royal family was killed by the Babylonians during their siege and destruction of Jerusalem, and Daniel was taken captive by the king, Daniel is not vindictive but urges the king to repent of his sins.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; Matthew 5:43-45

Daniel not only loved the Most High God but even loved his captor.

All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 4:28

All that was decreed to happen in the interpretation of his dream came to pass.

Twelve months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Daniel 4:29-30

Babylon was built in the form of a square, 14 miles on each side, and of enormous magnitude. The brick wall was 56 miles long, 300 feet high, 25 feet thick with another wall 75 feet behind the first wall, and the wall descended 35 feet below the ground. It contained 250 towers that were 450 feet high. A wide and deep moat encircled the city.

Babylon’s vast double wall stood on both sides of the Euphrates River with 8 gates. The Ishtar Gate in the wall of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was claimed by some to be greater than any of the listed Wonders of the Ancient World.

From the Ishtar Gate ran the Processional Way – a wide paved road flanked by walls decorated with glazed and gilded bricks showing lions and dragons, which led to the Temple of Marduk and the adjacent Tower of Babel ziggurat which reached to 300 feet high. There were 4 other temples, and west of the Ishtar Gate stood 2 palace complexes.

The Euphrates River also flowed through the middle of the city. It contained ferry boats and a 1/2 mile long bridge with drawbridges that closed at night

The famous “Hanging Gardens” (one of the wonders of the ancient world) received its water from the river by hydraulic pumps. The gardens were planted on top of a building and served both to beautify and to keep the building cool from the heat of summer. They probably were in view of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.

Yes, Babylon was a great city that contained the king’s royal residence. The city of Babylon was regarded as the symbol of his power and majesty; and he spared no expense or effort to make it the most beautiful city of the world. If the construction of a great city, magnificent in size, architecture, parks, and armaments, was a proper basis for pride, Nebuchadnezzar was justified. What he had forgotten was that none of this would be possible apart from God’s sovereign will. The king’s prideful boasting was heard from above. He had not heeded the warning dream and one year later the decree pronounced on him was fulfilled.

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. Daniel 4:31-33

Seven times will pass either is a reference to seven years or seven seasons. In Mesopotamia, the solar year was divided into two seasons, the “summer,” which included the barley harvest in the second half of May or in the beginning of June, and the “winter,” which roughly corresponded to today’s fall-winter. The decree lasted either seven years or three and a half years.

Pride and self-conceit are sins that beset so-called self-made successful men. They are likely to glorify themselves instead of honor and thank God. While the proud word was in the king’s mouth, God pronounced His verdict. One minute the king was strutting on the roof of his palace boastfully like a peacock, and the next minute he became irrational and fell to all fours like a dumb ox.

Boanthropy means ox-man. Boanthropy is a rare psychological disorder in which a human believes himself or herself to be a bovine – a cow or an ox. They prefer to live outside, crawl on all fours, and eat grass or vegetables only.

The king’s body was drenched with the dew of heaven. The temperature range in this part of the world is 120 degrees in summer to below freezing in winter. One can imagine the physical stresses Nebuchadnezzar’s body endured as he lived outdoors the year round.

Logically it would have been Daniel, who the king had made ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men, who directed the affairs of the government until the king emerged from his insanity. It is probable that Nebuchadnezzar was hidden away from view and kept in the palace gardens.

At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever.

His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”
Daniel 4:34-35

During the duration of the decree, Nebuchadnezzar ate grass like an ox. As he crawled on all four, as the beasts do, his eyes were fixed upon the earth looking out for his food. But at the end of that time, he looked up to heaven and his sanity was restored.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6b

After his very humbling experience, the king praises and gives glory to the Most High who is sovereign over the affairs of men and of angels.

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. Daniel 4:36-37

The king acknowledged that God did not deal unjustly or too severely with him. God does what is right and His ways are just. Not only was God just, but gracious towards the king by restoring him to his throne and making him even greater than he was before.

Nebuchadnezzar’s confession echoes what the great psalmist and former king of Israel penned when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Psalm 51:4

As King David, being convinced of his sin poured out his soul to God in prayer for mercy and grace; so can anyone who turns to God in repentance receive forgiveness. Our Creator and Redeemer is not only righteous and just, but gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love.

Daniel Chapter 3 – King Nebuchadnezzar Made an Image of Gold Sixty Cubits High!

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King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:1

King Nebuchadnezzar set up a huge image in the plain of Dura so that so it would be visible from afar off and there would be room for a vast number of worshippers to gather. The image was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. It was most likely not made of solid gold, but either of gold plate over a wooded frame, or it was hollow. The ratio of height to width may indicate that this was   either a stylized slender image or an obelisk.

In Hebrew, seven is shevah. It is from the root word savah, which means to be full, satisfied, or have enough of. Hence the meaning of the word “seven” is dominated by this root, for on the seventh day God rested from the work of Creation. It was full, complete, good and perfect. Seven is the number of spiritual perfection.

The spiritual significance of the number six, which is the number of man who was created on the sixth day, is that man comes short of spiritual perfection.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23

Six is the number of imperfection. It is the human number; the number of man without God, without Christ.

Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold was sixty cubits high and six cubits wide. This idolatrous statue was ten times six cubits in height and six cubits wide. These sixes are connected to Nebuchadnezzar’s godless imperfection of human pride which was the result of his unchallenged dominion over his empire.

This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666. Revelation 13:18

To compute the number of the Antichrist, his name must be written out in Hebrew so that the value of each letter of his name is determined and then added together. The total sum will be 666. The son of perdition will fall short body, soul and spirit. He will be carnal, soulish and devilish.

 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. Daniel 3:2-3

Although Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a statue in which only the gold head represented him and his Babylonian kingdom, he now summons all of his provincial officials to assemble before a statue that was overlaid with gold from head to toes.

Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.” Daniel 3:4-6

Nebuchadnezzar had assembled musicians from all over the civilized world to form his orchestra. As soon as the sound of six instruments was heard, the provincial rulers and administrators from all the nations that comprised the Babylonian Empire were to bow down and worship the image of gold or be thrown into a fiery furnace. Furnaces in Babylon were associated with the firing of bricks which were widely used in construction of buildings in the absence of stone.

Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Daniel 3:7

When the music played, all of the men of importance and ruling authority of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom fell facedown before a lifeless idol. Through the love of music, the fear of the furnace, in regard to pagan idolatry, and to the king’s command, men of all nations and languages gave it homage and worship.

At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.” Daniel 3:8-12

The astrologers came to criticize the Jews and suggest to the king that he had made a grievous error by promoting Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to a place of authority in Babylon. According to the astrologers, these Jews, who by way of their birth, by nation, and religion are despicable foreigners, exiles, and captives, were improper persons to be put in places of honor and trust. This is evident since they neither serve the king’s gods nor worship the image of gold that the king erected.

Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up?  Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Daniel 3:13-15

The three Hebrew young men who refuse to bow down to the king’s giant image–suddenly find themselves being offered a second chance from the king himself. But the king’s offer is heavily laced with threats.

King Nebuchadnezzar in his pride and arrogance declared, “Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?” Had he forgotten his very own words in response to Daniel’s interpretation of his dream of an enormous statue?

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” Daniel 2:45-47

The King was humbled when the Babylonian wise men and their gods were unable to reveal his dream and interpret it, but only the God of Israel was proven to be the revealer of mysteries. Now in his pride, Nebuchadnezzar forgot that it was the God of heaven that gave him his dominion and power and could rescue these Jews from his hand.

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”Daniel 3:16-18

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.” Luke 12:4-5

Even with the prospect of being thrown alive into a blazing furnace, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not hesitate whether or not they should comply with the king’s command. They knew that must obey God rather than man. They believed that God would deliver them, either from death or in death.

Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. Daniel 3:19-20

Nebuchadnezzar burst into an uncontrollable rage at the reply of the three Hebrews. He would not be defied and ordered that the furnace be heated seven times hotter than usual (meaning as hot as possible).

So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace. Daniel 3:21-23

The furnace was so hot that in fact, that the guards whom he detailed to bind the prisoners and throw them into the furnace, themselves perished in the flames. But that did not stop the three from falling in.

 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”

They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”

He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

It seems that the brick kiln was a domed structure with a place at the bottom for the removal of ashes. Apparently, he looked through the hole in the bottom and saw the young men walking about.

A Christophany is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ in the Old Testament, or after his ascension. A Christophany is thus a special case of a theophany. The word, “Theophany” is derived from the Ancient Greek, meaning “appearance of God.” Whenever someone received a visit from “the angel of the LORD,” this was in fact the pre-incarnate Christ. The visible appearances of God in human or angelic form in the Old Testament, is actually the Son of God manifesting Himself prior to His incarnation. The fourth man in the fire was the Son of God. He most probably had a radiant appearance since the king said that the fourth man looked supernatural.

Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, Daniel 3:26

Note that the king calls the three Hebrew men by name but makes no mention of the fourth man. The king gives glory to the God that he had just mocked and calls Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego servants of the Most High God. Although Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged Yehovah to be supreme above other gods, he still did not cease to believe in these other gods.

and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them. Daniel 3:27

Whether or not these officials had seen the supernatural companion of the three Jewish men, they were now able to bear testimony to the fact that the three friends had escaped a fiery death. This event was all the more important to the Babylonians since Iz-bar, the Babylonian god of fire, was a god high in the pantheon of the many gods they worshipped.

The God of Israel was thus manifested as so much greater than Iz-bar, that he could deliver his servants even in the very element in which Iz-bar had his power. The fact that their “robes” were not burned, and not even a hair singed, while the cords that had been used to bind them were consumed, emphasizes their supernatural deliverance. Although the cords were consumed, the garments of these servants of Yehovah were preserved even from the smell of fire.

The Babylonians had conquered the city of Yehovah, had burned his temple, and had done this through the power of Marduk or so they thought. But here Bel-Marduk had been openly defied by three worshippers of Yehovah. They had been hurled into the very element of Iz-bar, the servant and ally of Marduk, yet the fire had been unable to harm them or vindicate the honor of Bel-Marduk. What emphasized this was that the fire that spared the servants of Yehovah slew the followers of Bel-Marduk who were eager to show their reverence for Marduk by throwing these Jehovah-worshippers into the furnace. Such a miracle, witnessed before all the high dignitaries of the Babylonian Empire, would go far to diminish the scorn and ridicule of the God of Israel who allowed the destruction of Jerusalem.

Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Daniel 3:28-29

The Jews had been exiled for seventy years because of their failure to observe the seventh year as a year of rest for the land. This act as well as, intermarriage, idol worship and other sins of the nation, resulted in the people being taken into captivity. The mighty miracle of God that delivered Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would serve to both encourage the Jews to observe the Torah during their captivity and cured them from idolatry. After the return to the Promised Land from Babylon, the Jews never practiced idolatry again.

The king commends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s defiance of his decree.

Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon. Daniel 3:29-30

The king who threatened anyone who did not worship the image he erected with being thrown into a blazing furnace now threatens anyone who says anything against the God of Israel with being cut into pieces. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to save face amongst his subjects and wanted to insure that no one in his empire would ridicule him or attempt to defy his decrees as did Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

The Jews that Nebuchadnezzar meant to destroy were now elevated into even higher positions of authority and influence in Babylon.

If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. Deuteronomy 28:1

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Dazzling Statue

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In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” Daniel 2:1-3

Daniel and his companions were taken into captivity in 605 B.C. The second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was in the spring of 603 B.C. The first three and a half verses of chapter two of the Book of Daniel were written in Hebrew. According to Hebrew understanding, any part of the year is reckoned as a full year. Although Daniel and the three other Hebrew captives had completed their three years of training and were in the service of the king, they weren’t present at this meeting.

Over 900 years earlier in 1532 B.C., God gave another pagan emperor troubling dreams as well.

In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him. Genesis 41:8

God is sovereign. It is his absolute right to do all things according to his own good pleasure. God is supreme in power and authority,

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1

Although Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar ruled mighty empires, had vast wealth, and held supreme authority over many people, they were still subject to the sovereign will of the LORD. God gave both of these kings troubling dreams to fulfill His divine purposes.

Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” Daniel 2:4

With the reply of the Chaldeans, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it,” there is a language change in this verse from Hebrew to Aramaic that continues to the end of chapter 7.

Hebrew is used in Daniel 1:1-2:4a; 8:1-12:13, while Aramaic is found in 2:4b-7:28. I propose that the reason for this peculiarity would seem to stem from the fact that Daniel had two distinct, although related, messages to deliver.

One was a message of judgment concerning the defeat and final overthrow of the Gentile world powers of whom Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus at that time were the chief representatives. The other was a message of consolation and hope concerning the future deliverance for God’s people, the nation of Israel. The first passage Aramaic, the lingua franca of the Near East, was appropriate for the prophet’s message concerning the future history of the Gentile kingdoms.

The second message, which is exclusively directed to the Hebrew people, is appropriately in Hebrew. What concerned the Gentiles was written Aramaic, the commercial and diplomatic language of the time. That which concerned the people of Israel was written in Hebrew, although on the basis of chapter 1, which is an introduction to the book, the entire prophecy would, when written down by Daniel, be addressed to the Jewish people.

The Egyptians and Babylonians were two ancient cultures that analyzed dreams and recorded them in “Dream Books,” texts that we now are able to study in translation. Dreams were classified into several types. Those of rulers and leaders such as priests were seen as one type, and those of common people of another. There was also a division between good dreams and bad dreams. Babylonian dream beliefs were so prevalent in the ancient society that it was from Babylon that some of the first dream dictionaries sporting beliefs and observations of dreamers were compiled.

The astrologers wanted the king to tell them his dream so that they could consult their dream books and interpret his dreams according to the established rules and guidelines of dream interpretation.

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” Daniel 2:5-6

Nebuchadnezzar made it clear to the astrologers that interpreting his dream would bring great rewards but failure to interpret his dream would cost them their lives.

Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” Daniel 2:7-9

It is obvious that the king doubts the sincerity and abilities of these wise men of Babylon. They had served Nebuchadnezzar’s father and were much older than the young king. He may have been frustrated by his father’s former counselors and had a desire to get rid of them in favor of the younger men that he had chosen for himself.

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” Daniel 2:10-11

The astrologers desperately appealed to the king hoping that he would demonstrate royal respect for their time-honored position in the court and sympathize with their impossible situation.

 This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. Daniel 2:12-13

The king is convinced that the wise men are being untruthful or that they are traitors and deceivers. They are either concealing from him the knowledge they have, and are, therefore, traitors to him; or the gods have withdrawn from them, and therefore they must have been untrue to the gods. On both these grounds Nebuchadnezzar thinks them worthy of death.

When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. Daniel 2:14-16

It is unusual that someone would question a royal decree delivered by a court official. This decree would have condemned Daniel to death without his having an opportunity to defend himself. Since Daniel approached Arioch with discretion and wisdom, and Daniel was not part of the group that had infuriated the king, Arioch told Daniel of what had transpired. Understanding the situation, Daniel approached the king and was granted time to discover the dream and its interpretation.

 Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Daniel 2:17-18

Daniel, facing the possibility that he and his companions may be put to death, urges them to pray to God, plead for mercy, and have God reveal the king’s dream and its interpretation.

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said:

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” Daniel 2:19-23

Visions occur frequently in the Bible as instruments of supernatural revelation. They are audiovisual means of communication between a heavenly being and an earthly recipient. Revelatory visions portray scenery or dramatic circumstances to the human recipient while the person is awake, while dreams occur when the person is asleep.

He said, “Listen to my words: When a prophet is among you I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.” Numbers 12:6

The prophet Daniel was from the tribe of Judah. The God of his ancestors was Yehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of heaven had answered the prayers of Daniel and his companions. Daniel’s response was to offer up thanksgiving and praise.

Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.”

Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” Daniel 2:24-25

Arioch did not execute the wise men of Babylon, but immediately took Daniel before the king.

The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?”

Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Daniel 2:26-28a

No nation in ancient times was so obsessed with the study of the stars of heaven and to the prediction of the future as were the Chaldeans. Daniel gives all the glory to God who has revealed the future to King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream.

Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you were lying in bed are these:

“As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. Daniel 2:28b-30

Daniel’s righteous character is evidenced as he explains that, it is not because of his wisdom that he knows and can interpret the king’s dream, but because God the revealer of mysteries wants the king to know the interpretation.

“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue—an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,  its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. Daniel 2:31-35

The enormous and dazzling statue that the king saw in his dream was made of four metals from its gold head to its feet of mingled iron and clay. The head of gold was the most valuable of the metals followed by silver, bronze and iron which decreased in value. A rock that was cut out supernaturally (not by human hands) broke the statue into pieces that were swept away by the wind. The rock that struck the statue became a mountain that filled the entire earth.

“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.After you, another kingdom will arise, inferior to yours Daniel 2:36-39a

The head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom the Babylonian Empire. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar the only reason he had been successful in conquering people and nations was that they were given to him by the God of heaven as prophesied by Jeremiah.

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will put an iron yoke on the necks of all these nations to make them serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and they will serve him. I will even give him control over the wild animals.’” Jeremiah 28:14

While King Nebuchadnezzar was a supreme unrestricted ruler, the Medo-Persian Empire which followed was inferior in the fact that it was a limited monarchy where the ruling kings were bound by the laws they enacted.

Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Daniel 2:39b

The third kingdom, the Greek Empire, did begin an absolute monarchy with Alexander the Great, but upon his death his kingdom was divided. The Diadochi (from Greek: Διάδοχοι, Diadokhoi, meaning “Successors”) were the rival generals, families and friends of Alexander the Great who fought for control over his empire.

The Greek Empire split into four main kingdoms. In relation to Israel, Seleucus ruled in the north in Syria and Iran, while Ptolemy ruled to the south in Egypt. Lysimachus ruled in Thrace, which was the land that bridged Macedonia and Asia, while Cassander ruled in the west in Macedonia including Greece.

In time the Greek Empire developed into a democracy and there was no longer a monarchy. Therefore in terms of rulership, the third kingdom of Greece was inferior to that of the Medes and the Persians, whose empire was inferior to that of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron—for iron breaks and smashes everything—and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.  And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. Daniel 2:40-43

The fourth kingdom is symbolized by iron. History tells us that this is the Roman Empire which conquered Greece. The first three kingdoms existed in Daniel’s day, but Rome did not. So Daniel did not identify it directly by name. Rome was known as the “Iron Monarchy.” The Latin word “Rome” means strength and iron is the strongest of the metals.

The two legs have a prophetic meaning. Rome was always a nation of two divisions. When Jerusalem was captured, Rome was ruled by the dominant two triumvirates. The two legs of iron represent the northern and southern divisions of Rome as it conquered each Greek division. Politically, Israel was ruled by two ruling dynasties, the Caesars and the Herodians who were appointed by Rome. Geographically, it later became the Western and Eastern (Byzantine) empire as it declined. The western leg ruled the Christians and the eastern leg ruled the Jews. Religiously, it had two phases: these are Pagan Rome and Papal Rome.

The dream specified that the fourth kingdom would be a divided kingdom. This took place in 395 A.D. after the death of the Emperor Theodosius 1 (379-395). The western division headquartered in Rome fell in 476 when Romulus Agustus was forced to abdicate to the Germanic warlord Odoacer. The eastern division (Byzantine Empire) headquartered in Constantinople, Turkey ended in 1453 with the death of Constantine XI and the capture of Constantinople by Mehmed II, the leader of the Ottoman Turks.

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.

“The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” Daniel 2:44-45

The clay/iron empire of the ten toes is yet to come. The kingdom of the Antichrist will be a “revived Roman Empire.” The Antichrist will lead a coalition of ten nations according to the Revelation 17:12-13. This prophecy corresponds to the statue’s ten toes. Remember that the statue had five toes on each foot and the Roman Empire had two capitals. There will be support for the Antichrist from both groups in Europe as well as in the Middle East and Western Asia.

And we know that Christ will defeat the forces of the Antichrist (Revelation 17:14). After that, Jesus will set up His kingdom—the rock smashes the image—and the kingdoms of this world will “become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”

Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. 

Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. Daniel 2:46-49

The king fell before Daniel and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. Nebuchadnezzar was not worshipping Daniel but probably believed that there was a divine presence in him that enabled Daniel to both tell him his dream and interpret it.

Just as Joseph was raised to a royal position of governor over Egypt and given many gifts for interpreting Pharaoh’s two dreams, Daniel was made ruler over the province of Babylon and was placed in charge of all its wise men for interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The LORD exalted two Hebrew captives to positions of influence in world empires because of their devotion to Him. The LORD worked their terrible circumstances for their good and His glory.

 

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah are Captive in Babylon

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In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god. Daniel 1:1-2

The third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah marks the first of three sieges of the holy city by the Babylonians. After the Battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C., in which the allied armies of Egypt and Assyria were soundly destroyed by the Babylon forces, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem, resulting in tribute being paid by King Jehoiakim.

Note that it was the Lord (Adonai) that delivered the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

But in the seventh year the land is to have a Sabbath of rest, a Sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards. Leviticus 25:4

Israel never observed this regulation. This act of disobedience, as well as, intermarriage, idol worship and other sins of the nation, resulted in the people being taken into captivity. The Lord used the sword of Babylon to punish the rebellious acts of his disobedient people.

Some of the articles from the temple of the LORD in Jerusalem were carried off to the treasure house in the temple of Nebuchadnezzar’s god in Babylon. The treasures of kingdoms were often deposited in a temple, to be under the protection of its god. It is also a statement by the conquering king that his god or gods are superior over the one worshipped by the defeated monarch.

The temple of Bel-Merodach in Babylon was a structure of great magnificence. Herodotus gives us a description of this temple: “In the midst of the sacred area is a strong tower built a stadium in length and breadth; upon this tower is another raised, and another upon it, till there are eight towers. There is a winding ascent made about all the towers. In the middle of the ascent there is a resting-place, where are seats on which those ascending may sit and rest. In the last tower is a spacious shrine, and in it a huge couch beautifully bespread, and by its side is placed a table of gold. No statue has been set up here, nor does any mortal pass the night here.”

It wasn’t that the gods of Babylon were superior to Yehovah the God of Israel, but because the people of Judah failed to listen to the prophets of Yehovah and repent, that the LORD delivered the king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. Daniel 1:3-5

Ashpenaz was the chief of King Nebuchadnezzar’s eunuchs. His orders were to select young men from among the royal family and the nobles of Israel who were to be trained for three years in order to serve in King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace.

To qualify for service to the king, these young men had to be physically attractive, knowledgeable in many subject areas, and perceptive. They had to excel as students and have keen retentive minds. Not only did they have to become fluent in speaking the Chaldean language, but educated in Babylonian literature, history, and philosophy, mathematics, the knowledge of the stars as well as learn architecture and military skills.

They would be fed the same rich food and wine that the king himself was served, so that their bodies as well as their minds were well nourished.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego. Daniel 1:6-7

The Hebrew name Daniel means, “God is my judge.” The Hebrew names of Daniel’s friends were Hananiah (חֲנַנְיָה), “Yah (Yahweh or Yehovah) is gracious”, Mishael (מִישָׁאֵל), “Who is like God?” and Azariah (עֲזַרְיָה), “Yah has helped”, but by the king’s decree they assigned Chaldean names, so that Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach and Azariah became Abednego.

The heathen names given to Daniel and his companions are not as easily interpreted as their Hebrew names, but probably they were given in a gesture to credit to the heathen gods of Babylon the victory over Israel and to further divorce these young men from their Hebrew background. Daniel is given the name of Belteshazzar, identical to Belshazzar and meaning “protect his life,”or preferably “May Bel protect his life” Bel was a god of Babylon.

Hananiah was given the name of Shadrach. This name may be a reference to the compound of Sudur, meaning “command,” and Aku, the moon-god. Therefore the name would mean “command of Aku.” Other translators believe the name Shadrach may be a perversion of Marduk, a principal god of Babylon.

Mishael is given the name of Meshach. This probably was a contraction of Mi-sha-aku meaning, “who is what Aku (the moon-god) is?”

Babylon is modern day Iraq. Ancient Babylonians worshipped the moon-god. Modern day Iraqis worship Allah who is the moon-god.

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 this way. Daniel 1:8

There may have been more than one reason that eating from the king’s table would have caused a Jew to be defiled. Leviticus 17:10-12 makes it clear that the Israelites were prohibited from eating blood:

“‘I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

In Deuteronomy 12:23-24 the LORD commands the Israelites to drain the blood from the meat they will eat:

But be sure you do not eat the blood, because the blood is the life, and you must not eat the life with the meat. You must not eat the blood; pour it out on the ground like water.

The pagans not only failed to drain the blood from the meat they were going to consume but also ate animals that were declared unclean for Israelites.

The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Of all the animals that live on land, these are the ones you may eat: You may eat any animal that has a divided hoof and that chews the cud. Leviticus 11:1-3

The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a divided hoof; it is unclean for you. And the pig, though it has a divided hoof, does not chew the cud; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their carcasses; they are unclean for you. Leviticus 11:6-8

If Daniel ate what was served to King Nebuchadnezzar, both eating unclean animals and meat that was not drained of its blood would have defiled him.

In addition, a portion of the meat as well as a portion of the wine would have first been offered to their idol “Bel.” If Daniel ate and drank this meat and wine he would be giving his tacit approval to the practice of idolatry.

Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.” Daniel 1:9-10

Ashpenaz was ordered to teach the language and literature of the Babylonians to the young Israelite men that he had chosen for service to his king. They were selected for their physical attractiveness and mental acuity. He was concerned that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah would look undernourished and be hampered mentally by not eating their assigned food and drink. If they looked worse than the other captives, the chief official could be put to death for failing to perform his duties.

Although Ashpenaz feared for his life, God caused him to show favor and compassion to Daniel. When Daniel asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself with the royal food, Ashpenaz could have flatly refused Daniel’s request. Instead, he shared his concerns and the possible consequence for granting his permission to Daniel.

Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days. Daniel 1:11-14

In an effort to obey the Torah and not defile themselves; this ten day period was a time of testing for these Jewish young men and could have been a matter of life and death. They denied themselves by not eating meat and drinking wine and were content with nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.

For those who follow the Torah, there is a ten day period that is observed annually in which it is commanded that a person denies oneself, and according to tradition, is a matter of life and death.

The LORD said to Moses, “The tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. Hold a sacred assembly and deny yourselves, and present an offering made to the LORD by fire. Do no work on that day, because it is the Day of Atonement, when atonement is made for you before the LORD your God. Anyone who does not deny himself on that day must be cut off from his people. I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work on that day. You shall do no work at all. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live. It is a Sabbath of rest for you, and you must deny yourselves. From the evening of the ninth day of the month until the following evening you are to observe your Sabbath.” Leviticus 23:26-32

Rosh Hashanah (Yom Teruah – The Day of Trumpets) is held on the first day of the seventh month. Ten days later, on Tishri 10, the Day of Atonement is observed.

The ten days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are commonly known as the Ten Days of Awe. During the Ten Days of Penitence (in Hebrew, Asseret Yemey Tshuva, which, literally translated, means ten days of return),

Yom Kippur is the most holy, most solemn day for the Jewish people. It is the last day of the High Holy Days which began on Rosh Hashanah. Many Jewish people spend the entire day in the synagogue, praying and fasting in the hope that their sins will be forgiven and that they will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life for the coming year.

At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead. Daniel 1:15-16

In Deuteronomy 28, the first fourteen verses speak of blessings for fully obeying the LORD God and obeying all His commands. Daniel and his three companions were captives in a foreign land, yet at great personal risk, were willing to be obedient to the LORD their God. At the end of the time of testing, they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. As Joseph prospered in the Land of Egypt because the LORD was with him, so shall Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah prosper in the Land of Babylon.

To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds. Daniel 1:17

Again we see a parallel in Daniel’s life to Joseph in Egypt. Joseph was taken captive and sold as a slave. Joseph had been given dreams by God and God gave him the interpretation of his dreams as well as the dreams of the Pharaoh. The purpose of Joseph’s ability was to place him in a position of authority and influence and for the saving of many lives. Daniel’s gift of understanding visions and dreams of all kinds would eventually elevate him to a position of authority and influence as well.

At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom. Daniel 1:18-20

After a period of three years of training, Ashpenaz presented Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to Nebuchadnezzar. His chief official would have had to have made arrangements with the king beforehand, and not only obtained Nebuchadnezzar’s permission to bring his charges into the king’s court, but have a pre-arranged appointed day and time for this meeting.

Imagine the dread with which those young captives must have anticipated knowing that they must stand before the terrible conqueror who had destroyed the allied armies of Egypt and Assyria and had overthrown all who ventured to oppose him. Failing the emperor’s oral examination could have resulted in being sold in the slave market or even death for the young men. But because of their obedience to God, His favor upon them, and their diligence in their studies, they excelled in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them.

And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus. Daniel 1:21

And Daniel continued serving in the court of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar and his successors until the monarchy passed from the Chaldeans to the Persians under the rule of Cyrus. Due to Daniel’s integrity and abilities, he continued in his position of authority after the fall of the Babylonian Empire and during the days of the Persian Empire.