Daniel overview

It’s about scale, about the kingdoms and evil of this world having more grip, for a longer period, and with more power, than we could imagine. But also it’s point is to emphasise the larger scale of hope. That God’s presence and his plan, the now and the future, are stronger.

It’s set when things were about as bad as they could be for Israel. Daniel is a talented Israelite marked for success in Babylon, who have destroyed and pillaged Jerusalem’s temple. The assumption is that he will lose his Jewish identity and faith, as a symbol of it being vanquished in general.

So he and his other Jewish friends don’t, a model of encouragement and God’s protection. In three stories the theme recurs in the book: his refusal to eat unclean food in the palace, the fiery furnace and the lions den. God is present honouring those choices. In the fiery furnace, God walks around in human form, a striking incarnation.

There is also the battle of earthly Kings and God. Nebuchadnezzar is depicted as a gleefully impossible narcissist until the fiery furnace experience, and then a dream and it’s fulfillment of his complete madness so he became like a beast. He accepts God’s dominion and praises God.

His son sees the writing on the wall (“your days are numbered”) at a feast devoted to desecrating the artefacts plundered from the temple, but will not acknowledge God and is assassinated that night.

So there are concrete stories of God’s presence and dominion despite Israel’s low state in the book. But dreams and visions weave through too. And they are bleak as well as exalting. The hard times of evil kingdoms will last much longer than the exile, and be far worse than Babylon.

BUT God’s victory will be total, and a “son of man” will be present with us, and then prove to be God, leading the way to glorious resurrection of the dead for all God’s people to be with God of forever.

God promises to be present now and in the future and forever, as he has been in the past; despite things seeming impossible and getting dramatically worse.

This prophetic book is not at all about Israel’s sin. It has inspiring examples of people trusting in God, and of kingly pride being broken. It’s full of promises that the oppressive rule of powerful nations and men are no match for God. It’s one of the most deeply weird, in the reading, but the most optimistic of the prophets.

I’m summarising it a long time after I read it. The are no biographical notes at all, it records simply my impressions of what the book tells me about God without relating it to my life at all. It was 2016, second year of working at Fredon constructions. Good money, secure job. Boring 9-5.

2020, two redundancies, drought, fires and global pandemic since then, I’m feeling it a lot more. I liked how I summarised it in chapter 12. Daniel just wanted Jerusalem and the temple back, but has to struggle with how inadequate that dream was andhow much worse the world could be even if it came true. But also how much bigger God’s plans and love are. I clinging to that promise right now.

God is stronger.

Events in Daniels life

1 During exile, Daniel is a jew in Babylon, in service of the King. He refuses the food on religious grounds, living on water and veggies
2. Daniel interprets the king’s dream, a career masterstroke on many levels by God
3  The burning fiery furnace – the Jewish men didn’t know God would save them, they just knew bowing to another God was wrong
4 written by the King, about his madness and hearing God’s voice.
5 the next King has words from God written on a wall at a feast, aging Daniel is bought in to read them: “your days are numbered”
6 Another King, another salvation, from the lions den

Daniel’s dreams and visions

7 Daniel has a stunning dream of the son of man and the final destruction of the evil one. He finds it disturbing
8 A vision of empires rising and falling, a long term thing that still teaches us to trust that God is in control
9 Daniel reads Jeremiah and prays movingly for return from exile, but is disturbed by a larger, confusing vision of God’s plans
10 Daniel has a gleaming vision of God in the form of a man, again talk of future politics
11 a vision of the future persecution of the Jews by two rival Kings.
12 A truly stunning conclusion to the vision of these three chapters, predicting the return from exile but also the larger heavenly plan of God to resurrect the dead to be with him forever. A revolutionary concept in old testament writing.

Daniel 12

The climax of 3 chapters of visions is the mindblowing vision of Michael, will has been likened to Christ or an archangel, some agent of God, announcing the end of the worst of tribulations for the people of God. We have the book with names written in it, the book of those who are God’s people. And we have the dramatic resurrection of the dead, the earth shaking and erupting. They are delivered and the shine bright like the stars of heaven for ever and ever.  The Jews are in mourning, the premise seems to be dead. Their lands taken and the temple gone.

Daniel gives a short term and long term answer, and is careful to be clear that the two are not the same by giving impossibly long time frames. The short term answer is yes, this will end and you will go back to Jerusalem. The long term answer is that god has a much bigger plan. Suffering will continue and be much worse than this, but salvation will be cosmic and eternal, much better than just getting the land and the temple back. God has a plan to save us for eternal life in his presence. The extra-earthly nature of God’s salvation is shown in the acts of power in the early chapters (fire can’t burn them and lions won’t tear them apart) sandwiched with visions and dreams of the impermanence of earthly kingdoms.

Daniel 11

Daniel 11 is a very detailed prophesy about the rise evils and fights between two kings… Neither of whom was the king who was persecuting Jews when Daniel was writing, which must have been depressing.

Looked for help in the internet and got a lot of crazy talk. I’ll leave any commentary on it until I have read chapter 12 as well.

Daniel 10

This vision takes two chapters. We’ve seen in the last chapter how Daniel, despite his outward success as a top administrator for the king, is miserable about being displaced. Here he mourns for three weeks before the vision appears.

An angel gleaming in light comes first. It’s so vivid. I read the wikipedia article about Daniel yesterday and it took such an agnostic tone, saying Daniel didn’t actually exist, the book was a compilation of folk tales. But the event describes like a moment in someone’s life. If it wasn’t Daniel, it was someone with some name. It has a documentary feeling.

This time Daniel was walking near the Tigris with an entourage. I’d love to list mundane things the bible says people were doing when God intervenes in their lives. Abraham was with some sheep. The disciples were fishing.

The angel introduces God who is a man. The angels appearance has been extraordinary. This is just “a man”. Christ bells start ringing.

Daniel exhausted and weak as ever when the vision happens, is given time and the touch of God to recover.

But then for so exalted a vision the content starts out very ephemeral… We’re straight into local politics.

Daniel 9

Daniel reads the scriptures. Here he is reading Jeremiah. He concludes that the exile will last 70 years.

He is moved to great penitence. He sees the exile as punishment for Israel’s unfaithfulness. He pleads in prayer, beautifully confessing his individual and corporate sin. He asks God to act and reminds god of the offence of the desolation of the temple.

The answer, the prophesy of the seventy times seven, has apparently driven everyone crazy for years. But suffice to say the angel Gabriel says it will be much more complicated and take much longer and involve far worse than has already happened to the Israelites.

It’s a paradigm shift and not a comfortable one, as the whole book has been. On the one hand is comfort that God is in control. On the other hand it’s a warning that God is not tame and that what Israel had will never be again.

Daniel 8

What does an average Joe like me draw from such passages?

It is a vision of the near and distant future. In the near future the power of the Italian enmore will give way to the Greek empire, that meaning of the vision of a goat and ran in conflict is given very clearly.

But there is a longer vision, 2300 nights, where worse powers will reign and atrocities will occur. The meaning of that is sealed up and hidden. Naturally this has not stopped various commentators going crazy adding up dates and so forth.

But the message I think is that god stays in control even though his plans may seem to take a very long time. He is in control during our lifetime and after it.

We know from a young age that life pre exists us and carries on after people die. But equally everything we know is defined by the span of years of our existence.

Overriding our concern about climate change, the direction of society, the rise of extreme Islam should be the sense of the fathers control.

Daniel 7

All human power, no matter how great, has a season. This is a huge theme of Daniel, God’s encouragement to a people in exile.

The Kings dream in the 2nd chapter, an idol with feet of clay that was smashed, was about the fall of kingdoms over time.

Now in Daniels dream the kingdoms are beasts the last of which is the most threatening and profane. But the appearance of the ancient of days, god the father brings their flesh-eating destruction to an end.

This is where those God cliches come from. White robes and hair, sitting on a throne throwing the beasts into a lake of fire. Temporal gone, eternal victorious for those who wait.

Human power is temporal and at god’s discretion. God’s power is and was forever.

Then the man appears, who is given dominion for ever. Daniel interprets the person as the holy people of god, but it is stunningly like Christ and Jesus will claim the name son of man for himself. From the clouds, worshipped by everyone, everywhere. We aren’t talking just about a return of the Israelites from exile, but a whole new kingdom.

It’s hard to remember how startling this is. Up to now so much of the blessing of God has been described in concrete terms. The lost garden of Eden is described as a geographical location in earth. Then the promised land is lost and found, god is in the portable tent until a temple is built.

Then that becomes his physical location on earth. The literal sacrifice system wins god’s favor, but the Israelites have little concept of heaven, just a shadowy notion of the afterlife.

It all must be smashed for this message. This vision of God’s kingdom is other worldly, and the promises persist even though the temple has been lost to Daniel. This god of justice is on a scale of the creator God from the start and from psalm 8.

The vision ought to be encouraging, since it says that the oppressive kingdoms will be replaced by God’s eternal kingdom. But Daniel finds it deeply disturbing.

Perhaps a problem is that it includes a slow time scale… Lots of kings before the triumph of God. When the Jews returned from exile they would have thought it was the fulfillment of this vision, but God is saying it will take more than a few years.

Daniel 6

God’s salvation literally on view, saved from the lions den the way the early Christian martyrs were not. This is a stage in the bibles slow reveal of salvation of souls. This shows it can happen without sacrifices in the temple.

I was struck by Daniels religion in exile reminding me of Muslim worship, praying 3 times a day facing Jerusalem. And indeed there are those who feel about as ill disposed to them in our society.

Daniel is the perfect example of the life Christians are called to live, saved by grace, but blameless in personal witness.

Again the shocking brutality of a god fearing foreign king. Darius is on Daniels side throughout the plot to destroy him, and having written a song of praise to God after the rescue, he throws the plotters to the lions, and their wives and children.

Give me bravery god who saves, to live uncompromisingly for you.

Daniel 5

Parts of our society love to think culture has moved beyond the judeo-Christian phase. But it is more a case of building on despised foundations than moving somewhere else. So it is with the phrase and the meaning of the writing on the wall.

Save us from hubris, lord.

Belteshazar, Nebuchadnezzar’s son doesn’t get the chances his father did. Or rather, he’s already used his chances by witnessing the event that bought his father to a knowledge of God and not learning from it. He only worships good you can see, gold silver bronze iron wood and stone, but he has seen the power of the invisible good and should know better.

He’s having a grand feast, and making a particular point of defiling the plundered temple holy goblets and paraphernalia. So the writing on the wall predicts his personal and political doom and it all happens straight after Daniel is bought to make the prediction.

I like how Daniel seems to have sunk into obscurity like his message, and he prefers to stay there, rejecting the prizes and power offered for interpreting the wall writing (maybe god already sent belteshazar a dream but he just d it?)

What does it all mean? God is in charge. The exiles should be reassured and challenged by knowing the God gets revenge for the desecration if the temple artifacts. Daniel should not be cried as a traitor by being the Chris astrologer and magician to the king. But god is god of the foreign kings, some know his grace some do not, but god is not exclusively for the Jews.

God blessed Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The old queen thinks belteshazar is in dread because he doesnt know what it means and commends Daniel as clever. But he obviously has a strong inkling.

Daniel has a certain tired dryness to the way he plays pooper to belteshazar life long party. He sounds world weary. He speaks when God’s moment arrives but seems to have spent long years in obscurity, perhaps frustrated at the way the son lost the fathers insight. It’s one picture of a godly man in a secular society. These chapters do have a pattern to them. We’ve had three interpretations and about to have the third saving…

Your days are numbered. You’ve squandered them, been found wanting. You will be destroyed.

Mene mene tekel parsin

Daniel 4

I had forgotten this story, I used to have it as an arch book “the braggy king of Babylon”

We’ve now had four chapters of God speaking to the king. What it takes for people to hear God!  This time god takes his identity, sending him mad. Then returned it.

Startlingly the first part of the chapter is written by the king, and full of praise to God. He has heard gods voice.

I understand why the dream Daniel interpreted in chapter 2 was so bland. He has the credentials now to tell the king his identity will be stripped and not have the king kill him.

God’s messages to the king have been ever more dramatic… You would think any one would be changed by the furnace miracle in the last chapter. But god has to personally show him who is boss.

And for the Jews in exile it is schadenfreude with a kick back. If they are tempted to cheer god’s demonstration of power over the conquering king, they should be realising that they are being spoken to through adversity as well.