Exposition of Daniel 1:17-21 Yahweh causes Daniel’s rise

Daniel 1:17-21

17 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.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 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.

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

Commentary

While it was true that Nebuchadnezzar had sent Daniel and his friends into training, it was Yahweh who granted them mastery by giving them knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning (verse 17). Not least, they knew the true God and could disregard the false gods of Babylon. They also knew to steer clear of divination and sorcery, which were forbidden in the law (Deut. 18:10-12). For an example of how the Babylonians commonly used such practices to make decisions during military campaigns, see Ezekiel 21:18-24 with special attention to Ezek. 21:21.

Not only did God enable the four young men to read cuneiform tablets written in Akkadian, but he also granted to Daniel the special skill of understanding “all visions and dreams” (ESV) not “all kinds of visions and dreams” (NIV). Yahweh did not make Daniel the master of dream categories; he made Daniel the precise interpreter or any individual dream by giving him the exact interpretation when required. This will become plain in chapter 2. In effect, Daniel became the channel for God’s interpretation of any dream whose meaning was to be made known to others.

Wood supports the above interpretation of verse 17 when he says:

This gift was entirely from God. Daniel could not learn the technique of true vision and dream interpretation. There is point to noting this here, for the Babylonians believed one could do so. In fact, much of the literature in which the young men would have had to become proficient concerned such techniques. … The four Judeans would have had to reject all such thinking, as they recognized that true revelation could come only from God, and as he pleased.[1]

In time, the day of reckoning came for Nebuchadnezzar to personally interview every candidate trained for service in his government (verses 18-20). This kind of attention to detail is plainly what made him one of the most formidable rulers of ancient times. By showing the king’s meticulous care, Daniel sets the stage for the unfolding of the king’s shrewd actions in chapter 2.

Because several English versions (NIV, ESV, NET and NLT) use the word “magicians” to describe some of the king’s counselors in Dan. 1:20b, we should clarify this term. The English word “magician” leads us to think of various illusions and tricks we have seen on television. But that is not anywhere close to the function Daniel mentions. The standard Hebrew lexicon offers “soothsayer-priests”[2] and HCSB skillfully translates using “diviner-priest.” Miller further describes the role of the diviner-priests:

Supposedly in touch with the world of the spirits and the gods, these individuals were advisers to the king on virtually every matter. They employed rites and spells intended to heal, exorcise demons, or counter an evil spell placed upon the sufferer. Omens were studied in order to understand the future, and astrology played an important part in this activity.[3]

Before you sneer at the idea of a powerful ruler being guided by such arcane advice, consider that one of our most popular American presidents is known to have used the advice of an astrologer in making and executing many decisions. In Nebuchadnezzar’s time there was no reason to hide such advisers; they served in an official capacity.

Chapter 1 records the steady rise of Daniel and his companions. They began as royal captives swept up in punitive conquest (verses 2-3). By maintaining their special diet as a symbol of loyalty to Yahweh, the four are seen by their overseer to be superior in appearance to all other trainees (verse 15). When Nebuchadnezzar examines their skill, they demonstrate superiority to all the diviner-priests and enchanters in Babylon (verse 20). At the beginning of the chapter no one is paying much attention to Daniel and his friends, but by the close of their training, the king values them above all his other advisers. The king has unwittingly recognized the skills Yahweh has given to these young men, and the chapter closes with the note that Daniel’s career extended throughout the Neo-Babylonian empire and into the reign of Cyrus the Great of Persia (verse 21).

Copyright 2015 by Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. These materials were originally prepared for use at Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)43.

[2] HALOT, chartum, soothsayer-priest, q.v.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)72.

Exposition of Daniel 11:36-45 The Antichrist seeks total control

Daniel 11:36-45

36 The king will do as he pleases. He will exalt and magnify himself above every god and will say unheard-of things against the God of gods. He will be successful until the time of wrath is completed, for what has been determined must take place. 37 He will show no regard for the gods of his ancestors or for the one desired by women, nor will he regard any god, but will exalt himself above them all. 38 Instead of them, he will honor a god of fortresses; a god unknown to his ancestors he will honor with gold and silver, with precious stones and costly gifts. 39 He will attack the mightiest fortresses with the help of a foreign god and will greatly honor those who acknowledge him. He will make them rulers over many people and will distribute the land at a price.

40 At the time of the end the king of the South will engage him in battle, and the king of the North will storm out against him with chariots and cavalry and a great fleet of ships. He will invade many countries and sweep through them like a flood. 41 He will also invade the Beautiful Land. Many countries will fall, but Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon will be delivered from his hand. 42 He will extend his power over many countries; Egypt will not escape. 43 He will gain control of the treasures of gold and silver and all the riches of Egypt, with the Libyans and Cushites in submission. 44 But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.

Commentary

As has happened with every vision in Daniel, the angel’s prophecy leaps ahead without warning to the seventieth seven-of-years and its cunning, proud, powerful, Satan-inspired ruler. We recall that this entire prophecy came in response to Daniel’s prayer about the Jews and the desolation of Jerusalem (Dan. 9:24). The story is not directly about us, but it is not impossible that some of us may live to see this day, and our Lord has commanded all of us to be ready for his unexpected return (Matt. 24:44).

Many things can be said about why verses 36-45 do not apply the Antiochus IV. For full discussion of those reasons, see Chisholm[1], Wood[2] and Miller.[3] Here, let it suffice to say that the resurrection of the righteous occurs right after God brings the rule of the evil king described in this passage to an end (Dan. 12:2). As Wood notes, “Since the Antichrist has been presented in the three prior revelational times of Daniel, one should not be surprised to have him set forth in this fourth time as well.”[4]

Miller explains the structure of this section: “Now the most notorious tyrant who will ever live is introduced into the narrative. First, Antichrist’s evil character is related (11:36-39); then his wars are described (11:40-45).”[5] Though any comparison of any modern figure to the Antichrist will fail to match his evil actions, Adolph Hitler probably gives the best hint of what the Antichrist will be like because of the twin goals of conquering the world and exterminating the Jews.

You might say that the Antichrist takes everything Antiochus IV did and scales those things up. Antiochus stamped his coins “god manifest,” meaning he was a god or like a god. The Antichrist will exalt and magnify himself above every god (verse 36). The verbal forms make clear that he will do this personally; it will not exclusively be done by having others praise him. To properly exalt himself, he must cut down rivals, and he will do so by speaking against Yahweh with: “unheard-of things” (NIV), “presumptuous things” (NET), “outrageous things” (HCSB). No one has ever heard the monstrous blasphemies that the Antichrist will use against the God of gods (verse 36).

Remember that in all these things God is showing his people where their rebellion has led them. Whether knowingly or not, they have aspired to be princes in hell, and he will show them the true face of what they will find there. As horrible as this process will be, it will finish transgression (Dan. 9:24), the rebellion of Abraham’s children against Yahweh and his Messiah. Accordingly, the Antichrist will be successful until the time of wrath is completed (verse 36b). The seventieth seven-of-years is like Belshazzar’s feast (Daniel 5) in that the Antichrist will have his way until the party comes to an abrupt, crushing end.

While directing the devotion of all toward himself, the Antichrist himself will worship military power (“a god of fortresses”), apparently in hope of subjugating those parts of the world not yet under his control (verse 39). Miller says: “The peoples of the world will be so impressed by his might that they will say: ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ (Rev. 13:4).”[6]

Certain world powers will see what is coming and fight! The terms king of the South and king of the North describe two such opponents, with the directions North and South being defined in relation to Israel (the Beautiful Land of verse 41). It is unclear just who these kings will be, but we take the king of the North to be the person called Gog in Ezekiel 38:2, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, kingdoms located (during Daniels and Ezekiel’s time) in the area of modern Turkey.[7] In taking this view, we follow the outline of events defined by Bible scholar Dwight Pentecost[8], who takes this combined northern invasion and southern attack (verse 40) as the trigger-events forcing the Antichrist to break his covenant with Israel (Dan. 9:27) and invade Israel himself (verse 41).

Yahweh will tear apart the invading king of the North, Gog, and his allies, in a terrifying display of might (Ezek. 38:18-23) that lets many nations clearly see his power and identity. The Antichrist will then invade Israel and also seize territory toward the south, into Egypt and beyond (verses 41-43).

In spite of his victories, the Antichrist will face new threats from the east and north described in verse 44. In response, the Antichrist will set up his headquarters between the seas at the beautiful holy mountain (verse 45). The seas in question are the Mediterranean Sea and the Dead Sea, with the beautiful holy mountain being Mount Zion in Jerusalem. Wood explains somberly, According to Zechariah 13:8-9, he will by this time have brought either death or captivity to two-thirds of the inhabitants of the land, indicating an appalling destruction.[9]

Given the nature of these events, the angels mention of the Antichrist’s end is very restrained (verse 45b). Centuries will pass before another angel reveals to the Apostle John the sudden opening of another front in the great campaign of Armageddon when heaven opens (Rev. 19:11) and the stunning splendor of the King of kings and Lord of lords rides forth at the head of heaven’s armies to stomp the winepress of the furious wrath of God, the All-Powerful (Rev. 19:15b NET). The so-called battle likely takes just seconds as the Antichrist is hurled alive into the lake of fire and the gathered kings and armies are slain by a word from Jesus the Messiah (Rev. 19:19-21).

Truly I am God, I have no peer;

I am God, and there is none like me,

who announces the end from the beginning

and reveals beforehand what has not yet occurred,

who says, My plan will be realized,

I will accomplish what I desire,

Isaiah 46:9b-10 NET

Copyright 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1]Robert B. Chisholm, Handbook on the Prophets (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2002) 324-5.

[2] Leon Wood, A Commentary on Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1973)304-5.

[3] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)305-6.

[4] Wood, Daniel, 305.

[5] Miller, Daniel, 306.

[6] Miller, Daniel, 308.

[7] Daniel I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, Chapters 2548, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998) 436.

[8] Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1964) 356.

[9] Wood, Daniel, 314.

Exposition of Daniel 11:29-35 Daniel’s final vision — Part 2

Daniel 11: 29-35

29 At the appointed time he will invade the South again, but this time the outcome will be different from what it was before. 30 Ships of the western coastlands will oppose him, and he will lose heart. Then he will turn back and vent his fury against the holy covenant. He will return and show favor to those who forsake the holy covenant.

31 His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. 32 With flattery he will corrupt those who have violated the covenant, but the people who know their God will firmly resist him.

33 Those who are wise will instruct many, though for a time they will fall by the sword or be burned or captured or plundered. 34 When they fall, they will receive a little help, and many who are not sincere will join them. 35 Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.

We have been studying the amazingly accurate prophecy that the angel is sharing with Daniel regarding the future of Israel. Although by this time the Jews were being allowed to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, the vision Daniel is receiving indicates that there will not be an end to conflict for some time. In fact, things will eventually get much worse.

Once again, the Bible passage will be divided into sections so that it will be easier to understand the commentary that follows. Recall that we left off with the introduction of a mighty, but contemptible king who persecutes the Jews.

The further desolation caused by Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Though Antiochus brought back great plunder from his first invasion of Egypt (verse 28) in 169 B.C., things did not go so well in his return invasion in 168 B.C. (verse 29). This time a Roman fleet came to support the Ptolemies at Alexandria and sent him into a frightened retreat (verse 30a). Upon returning from the invasion attempt, the deeply humiliated Antiochus took out his anger (verse 30b) on the holy covenant (the Law of Moses).

Antiochus soon banned all forms of Jewish religious observance including circumcision, possessing the Scriptures, sacrifices and feast days; the penalty for violation was death.[1] Miller adds, Desecration of the Jewish religion reached its climax on 15 Chislev (December) 167 B.C. when an altar or idol-statue devoted to Olympian Zeus (Jupiter) was erected in the temple.[2] It is probable that swine were also sacrificed there, an abomination to the Jews.

While some Jews (those who violated the covenant) participated in the Greek religion of their oppressor, others (the people who know their God) joined the armed rebellion led by the sons of a priest named Mattathias, a force called the Maccabees (verse 32). The Maccabees fought using guerrilla warfare tactics, won many encounters, and eventually rededicated the temple in December, 164 B.C. Verses 33-35 describe the sorting of loyalties, for or against God, that took place during this terrible time. But God brought down Antiochus IV at the time of his choosing. Chapter 9 of 2 Maccabees describes a horrible death for Antiochus in 163 B.C.

Aside from showing Gods power to dictate events centuries beforehand, verses 29-35 likely show how Jews suffering under the terrible Antichrist-to-come will react. They also reveal an idea of how the Antichrist will again desolate Jerusalem, desecrating it near the end. But he, too, will not prevail.

Copyright 2015 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

[1] Stephen R. Miller, Daniel, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 1994)301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:50, 63.

[2] Miller, Daniel, 301, citing 1 Maccabees 1:54, 59.