Wednesday, November 6, 2013


            The book of Daniel has much to offer, since it gives us favorite Bible stories from our childhood—Daniel and Lion’s Den and The Fiery Furnace as well as prophecies that are remarkably detailed and accurate.  Daniel is probably the Old Testament book that is most referred to in discussions of prophecy.  Three reasons (among others) for those references are

·         The book contains several prophecies that present much of world history from Daniel’s time down to last days of the age.

·         Jesus referred to the book in Matthew 24:15.

·         The book describes a world leader that has the characteristics of the Antichrist/Beast or Man of Lawlessness who is described in II Thessalonians 2 and Revelation 13.


Daniel is also a target of the skeptic and modern critic.  Such critics doubt the existence of Daniel the man and do not believe that a person living in the 6th Century BC could have written Daniel.  They base their conclusion on the detailed prediction of events in the region of Syria and Egypt in the 4th through the 2nd Centuries BC in Daniel 11.  The complex maneuvers and developments that are described in chapter 11 are so exact, accurate, and detailed that one must conclude that the book is an amazing example of predictive prophecy or that it was written after the fact by someone calling himself Daniel, the 6th-Century Seer.  The critics have come to the second conclusion.  They believe Daniel was written in the 2nd Century BC, about the time of the Maccabees to encourage the Jews during the time of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (Miller, 23).

Conservative scholars have answered the skeptical critics with some very strong evidence.  I am grateful to the NIV Study Bible and the ESV Study Bible for the introduction to Daniel in each of those Bibles.  I am also grateful to Stephen R. Miller, who has written a very scholarly study of Daniel and presented excellent scholarship that refutes the critics.  The following are major arguments against a late-dating of Daniel (drawn from the three sources that I have just mentioned):

·         Four world empires are predicted in Daniel 2 and 7.  From Daniel’s time forward, these would have to be the Babylonian, the Medes and the Persians, the Grecian (Alexander’s empire), and the Roman.  But if Daniel were written in the Maccabean period, the Roman period was still in the future.  Therefore, the critics maintain that the four empires were the Babylonian, the empire of the Medes, the Persian, and the Grecian.  However, it is obvious that Daniel does not separate the Medes from the Persians, since the two were intertwined. 

·         The critics point to “loan” words in Daniel that are from the Persian and Greek language as evidence that the book is influenced by cultures later than the 6th Century.  However, the linguistic evidence is the opposite.  The “loan” words are so old that the Septuagint translators were not familiar with them and mistranslated them.  Since Babylon was an international city, it is very likely that Greeks were present in the city at the time of Daniel and had some impact on the language.

·         Daniel was accepted by the Qumran community, which arose in the Maccabean period around the time when critics believe Daniel was written, perhaps even before the late date for Daniel.  It is very unlikely that these Jews would have accepted the book as a part of their canon if it had just been written and claimed to be by the Daniel of the 6th Century! 

·         Belshazzar (Daniel 5) was unknown for many years.  Eventually, archeological evidence revealed that Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus.  Nabonidus chose to live in Tema, far west of Babylon, and allow his son to act as co-regent, with his headquarters in Babylon. 

·         Darius the Mede (5:31 and 6:26) is an unknown person and critics believe that he is another historical mistake.  Two explanations have been given:

o   “Darius the Mede” is the throne name of Cyrus the Persian as he reigned in Babylon.  Then, Daniel 6:26 should read:  “…Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus…”

o   “Darius the Mede” is Gubaru, who is known to have been the governor over the Babylonian territories under Cyrus.

·         Punishment by fire under the Babylonians (Daniel 3) would not have been used under the Medes and Persians, who used the lions’ den (Daniel 6) (Miller, 26).

·         Critics had argued that, in Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus were types of Antiochus Epiphanes, and that the accounts of the fiery furnace and the lions’ den represented the persecutions of the Jews under Antiochus.  However, the pagan rulers are generally depicted as tolerant of the Jews, and Daniel even admired Nebuchadnezzar (as well as being an official in his empire).  This would not be a message against Antiochus (Miller, 27). 

·         Moreover, in chapter 11, the prophecies concerning the Syrian rulers, including Antiochus Epiphanes, are not as detailed as one would expect if they were being written at the same time as they were happening.  There is no mention of the Maccabean heroes.  So, chapter 11 is an amazing set of prophecies, if they it were written in the 6th Century BC.  If, on the other hand it was written in the 2nd Century BC, it strangely omits many details that one would expect if the persecution under Antiochus Epiphanes is the major focus of the book (Miller, 27).

·         The critics have used language in arguments to support a late date for Daniel.

o   They cite Persian loan words.  However, Daniel uses Old Persian words.  Old Persian ended around the time of Alexander, and Middle Persian became predominant.  This would argue for an early date for Daniel.

o   The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written about 130 BC, which is about 30 years after the late date for Daniel.  However, the Septuagint translates four of the Persian loan words so inaccurately that it is obvious that those ancient words were not known when the Septuagint was written (Miller, 28).

o   Three Greek words (for musical instruments) are cited by critics as evidence that Daniel was written after Hellenization during and after Alexander the Great.  Miller refers to the work of K. A. Kitchen (Miller, 28-29) which concludes that these arguments are not strong at all.  One of the three words occurs in Homer (no later than 700 BC). 

o   There is archeological and other evidence that Greeks were active throughout the Middle East in the time of the Babylonian Empire and earlier.  Greek loan words could certainly have been known by Daniel in the 6th Century BC (Miller 29).  Moreover, the paucity of Greek terms in Daniel argues against a late date, since the Middle East was thoroughly Hellenized by the 2nd Century BC (Miller, 29-30).

o   Early critics had made inferences regarding the Aramaic in Daniel (about half of Daniel is Aramaic) along two lines.  First, the Aramaic was thought to be a western dialect, typical of Palestine.  Second, the Aramaic was believed to be a late version of the language.  However, scholars have disproved both of these arguments.  The Aramaic is the “Imperial” variety, which was used throughout the Near East.  Also, the Aramaic is consistent with an early date.  In fact, Daniel and Ezra contain Aramaic that is very similar to that found in papyrus documents that date to the fifth and sixth century BC.  (Miller, 30-31)

o   Study of the Hebrew that is used in Daniel has confirmed that it is consistent with Hebrew in other books of the Bible of the same or earlier dates.  It is also noticeably different from Hebrew that is used in some of the Dead Sea Scrolls by writers in the Qumran community in the first or second century BC.  (Miller, 31-32)    


            Daniel is written in two languages—Hebrew and Aramaic.  The languages are used in the following way:

·         Hebrew in 1:1-2:4a and chapters 8-12

·         Aramaic in 2:4b-7:28

The Aramaic portion is especially pertinent to Gentile nations.  It includes the statue formed from a series of metals (succession of empires), the image of gold and the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar’s fall because of his pride, the fall of Babylon to the Medes and Persians, Daniel and the lion’s den, the four beasts (succession of empires).  The Hebrew portion is pertinent to the Hebrews.  It includes the success of Daniel and his friends when they refused the king’s meat, the ram and the goat (rise of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Antichrist), the Seventy Weeks, the complex destiny of the successors to Alexander the Great, the future destiny of the righteous. 



609 (3 months)
(= Eliakim)
In 605 Neb. conquered Judah and took many captives to Babylon, including Daniel.
597 (3 months)
Siege of Jerusalem, many exiles taken to Babylon, ended Jehoiachin’s reign
A second siege resulted in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.


            The accompanying table, based on material in the NIV Study Bible, lists the five last kings of Judah.  During this time, the dominating foreign power changed from Egypt to Babylon.  In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the crown prince, became king after his father’s death.  (Some scholars use a different basis for dating.  Their dates would be about a year different from the ones followed by the NIV Study Bible.)  During that year he defeated the Egyptians and invaded Judah.  He took a number of the nobility from Judah back to Babylon.  Among these captives was Daniel.  The last date that is given in Daniel is 537 BC (Daniel 10:1), so the narrative covers a period of about 68 years.  Thus, Daniel was probably a teenager when he arrived in Babylon.  He remained there throughout the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, and his son, Belshazzar, as well during the defeat of Babylon by the Medes and Persians and the early part of the reign of Cyrus. 

            We do not have to have much imagination to picture the psychological shock experienced by a young man from Judah, uprooted from his homeland and spending (probably) the rest of his life in Babylon and the nearby area.  He no longer had a king, a Temple, or the strong cultural environment that had nurtured his people for 900 years.  He was now living in a world dominated by a pagan empire.  The question for him was:  How do I remain a faithful Jew?

            We recognize that Daniel’s experience was a close parallel to the experience of the Hebrew nation.  Many had been uprooted from their homeland and taken into Babylonian captivity.  The nation no longer had a king, a Temple, or many of the elements of its culture.  The nation—whether living in the Babylon area or remaining behind in Judah—was now living in a world dominated by a pagan empire.  The question for the entire nation was:  How do we remain faithful Jews?

            The book of Daniel provides some of the answers to these questions.  In the biographical sections, Daniel and his friends demonstrated that they could live faithful lives in this new situation.  They could eat kosher (chapter 1).  They could resist idolatry (chapters 3 and 6).  At the same time, they were able to be contributing members of the society in which they lived.  The implication is that the Jews of that era could continue to be faithful Jews.

            Not only does Daniel point to the answer of how to live faithfully, it also provides some answers to unasked questions that may have been in the hearts of Jews of that time.  What is God up to?  Has God abandoned Israel?  What does the future hold?  Daniel and his friends provided examples of what it is to be faithful Jews.  God provided answers that demonstrate His faithfulness.  Even though Israel had seemingly been stripped of all that was precious to her, she still served a living God.  Their God could see beyond the glory and power of any one empire.  In fact, God showed Daniel that there would be a whole series of empires that would rise and fall.  He also showed Daniel that there would someday be a Kingdom that would never fall, a Kingdom that would destroy all the pagan empires and would fill the world.  Although at the present the nation was an insignificant province in the vast Babylonian Empire, it someday would play a role in God’s great future.

            I think that, not only does Daniel speak to the Hebrew nation, but it also speaks to the Christian today.  We, also, live in a world dominated by godless culture.  Though we once lived in a “Christian” western culture, we no longer are under any illusions that we have been stripped of the prerogatives of power.  The question for us is:  How do we remain faithful Christians?  Just as Daniel and his friends were able to live faithfully (but with considerable risk), we also have that same calling.  Moreover, God has given us visions of the future, in even greater clarity than Daniel’s visions.  We can be assured that God has not abandoned us and that God has a great future that we will be a part of.   

Crossway Bibles (2009-04-09). ESV Study Bible. Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Miller, Stephen R.  The New American Commentary.  Vol. 18.  Daniel.  Nashville:  Broadman &

            Holman Publ., 1994.

Zondervan Publishing.  The NIV Study Bible.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publ., 2002.

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