Monday, November 25, 2019

READ IT! - Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Readings for this week

Monday: Daniel 5
Tuesday: Daniel 6
Wednesday: Daniel 7
Thursday: Daniel 8
Friday: Daniel 9
Saturday: Daniel 10
Sunday: Daniel 11

Introduction to Daniel 5-12

Chapter 5 

Chapter 5 takes place under Belshazzar’s reign. According to historical records, Belshazzar served as co-regent with his father Nabonidus (perhaps because his dad was a little crazy). Belshazzar held a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles and it turned into a great drunken orgy. Belshazzar had the golden cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem used to serve the wine at the party. Suddenly, “the fingers of a human hand appeared” and wrote on the wall near the lamp stand. The King turned pale and could hardly stand. None of the King’s enchanters, astrologers, or diviners could interpret the writing on the wall.

Daniel interpreted the writing:

Mene --> “mina” (form of money/counting, numbers) --> “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end”

Tekel --> “shekel” (form of money/weights, measures) --> “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”

Parsin --> “peres” (Persians/form of money/half-mina or half-shekel) --> “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians”

Belshazzar gave Daniel a purple robe and a gold necklace. That night, King Belshazzar was killed and Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians. The text says that Darius the Mede took over the throne of Babylon. Historical details about Darius the Mede are fuzzy, but he is associated somehow with Cyrus the Persian through the Median-Persian alliance. 

Chapter 6 

King Darius appointed rulers over his kingdom. He appointed 120 “satraps” who were overseen by three administrators. Daniel was an administrator. He was successful in his work, and Darius planned to make him second-in-command. The other rulers were jealous, and they tried to catch Daniel doing wrong but failed, so they used Daniel’s religion against him. They petitioned the king to sign a law decreeing that there would be 30 days of no prayer except prayer to Darius with death by lions as punishment for breaking law. The law was signed with the “seal of the Medes and Persians.” Daniel continued to pray 3 times a day and got caught. Daniel was cast to the lions and a stone was placed over the mouth of the den. Darius was greatly distressed, and said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!” And he refused to eat, sleep, or be entertained. At dawn, Darius rushed to the lions’ den and called out, “Has your God been able to rescue you?” Daniel answered, “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.” Darius set Daniel free, and threw the schemers to the lions – they were “killed before touching the ground.” Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and Cyrus. 

Chapter 7 

Daniel had a dream about four beasts. This vision was apparently given to Daniel during the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of the Babylonians, but Daniel kept it to himself at the time. The beasts are symbolic of different kingdoms.

Lion = Babylon 
Bear = Medes and Persians
Bear raised on one side = dominance of Persia 
Bear has three ribs in mouth = perhaps the three conquered kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Lidia 
Leopard = Greece under Alexander the Great 
Leopard has four heads = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great
Leopard has four wings = four divisions of Greek Empire after death of Alexander the Great 
Beast with ten horns = Succession of leaders after Alexander 
The “boastful” little horn = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Daniel says that at the end of all of this, the Ancient of Days took His place and God’s Kingdom was given to His faithful people. 

Chapter 8 

Daniel had a vision of a ram and a goat. Daniel apparently received this vision in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar of Babylon, but kept it to himself at the time. The angel Gabriel assisted Daniel in interpreting the vision.

Powerful ram with two horns = The Empire of the Medes and Persians 
Goat with one large horn = Kingdom of Greece led by Alexander the Great 
Goat attacked ram and broke its horns = Alexander attacked Media-Persia and conquered it 
Four smaller horns replaced the large horn of the goat = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great 
Smaller horn that appears later = another leader with apparently supernatural abilities and a particular hate for God’s people, possibly Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Gabriel also said that this vision concerned “the time of the end.” The end of what? End of Greek rule? End of the wait for the Messiah? End of the world? He is not clear. 

Chapter 9 

This chapter is set during the first year of the reign of Darius. Here, the text says that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I (the king in the Esther story). In this chapter, Daniel recalls that Jeremiah had prophesied that the “desolation” of Jerusalem would last for 70 years. Daniel prays to God and confesses the sins of the people of Judah. He admits that they had broken covenant with God and so the curses of the covenant had come upon them. Daniel prayed that God would rescue His people from captivity and bring them to the Promised Land, just as He had done through Moses.

The angel Gabriel shows up and confirms that Jeremiah was right when he said that Judah’s punishment would last 70 years, but then he multiplies that number by seven in order to say that though the exile has ended after seventy years, the current era of trial and testing will continue for 490 years. He refers to this period as “seventy sevens” or seventy periods of Sabbath years (490 years). When this era ended, several things would happen: 

Time to finish transgression and put an end to sin 
Time to atone for wickedness 
Time to bring in wisdom and righteousness 
Time to seal up vision and prophecy 
Time to anoint the Most Holy Place

He then goes on to divide this era into periods of “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” or 49 years and 434 years before “the end” would come in the final seven years. At the beginning of this era of 490 years, an order would given to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. This took place when the Persians took control of the world under Cyrus. After the first 49 years, the "Anointed One" would take his place in Jerusalem. This is probably referring the anointing of the High Priest Joshua and/or Governor Zerubbabel during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. 434 later, a ruler would arise who would put the “Anointed One” to death. This happened when Antiochus came to power and murdered the High Priest Onias. This ruler would conquer Jerusalem and desecrate the Temple. He would make a “covenant” with the people for seven years, but halfway through it, he would put an end to the Jewish sacrifices and set up the “abomination of desolation.” At the very end of the 490 year era of trial and testing, Gabriel says that the Most Holy Place in the Temple will be anointed once again. This took place after the Maccabees retook Jerusalem from Antiochus and rededicated the Temple to Yahweh. 

Chapter 10 

Daniel had a vision of a man during the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia. Daniel saw a shiny man standing on the bank of the Tigris River. The people with Daniel didn’t see anything, but were suddenly filled with fear and ran away. Daniel fainted, but the man helped him up and gave him strength. He said that he had come in response to Daniel’s prayer, but that he had been detained for 21 days by the “prince of Persia” until Michael, one of the “chief princes,” showed up to help him. The shiny man said he was there to tell Daniel what would happen to his people in the future, saying that he would soon go off to fight against the prince of Persia, and then after him the prince of Greece would come. He also indicated that Michael was his only ally in this struggle, and that they had been allies since the first year of Darius the Mede. 

Chapter 11 

The shiny man continued talking. He said that Persia and Greece would eventually go to war with each other and Persia would lose. After the time of this great ruler of Greece (Alexander the Great), Greece would be divided up into four different kingdoms. Over many years, two of these kingdoms would continually go to war against each other. 

Kings of the North = Seleucid Greek rulers over Syrian lands 
Kings of the South = Ptolemaic Greek rulers over Egyptian lands 
The last King of the North = Antiochus IV Epiphanes 

Antiochus IV Epiphanes set up the “Abomination of Desolation” in the Temple of the LORD. This period of time would see a lot of trouble and persecution, especially during the last three-and-a-half years of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees deal with the history of Judah during this time. The popular Jewish festival of Hanukkah also originated because of the events that took place during this time. We learn from John’s Gospel that Jesus later celebrated Hanukkah (the Feast of Dedication).

Chapter 12 

The shiny man says to Daniel:

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” 

“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.” 

“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” 

“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”

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