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The Book of Daniel is one of the most thrilling books in the Bible, and it is, of course, a book on prophecy. Because prophecy bulks large in the Bible, I would like to say a word about it before we look at the Book of Daniel specifically. One fourth of the books in the Bible are of prophetic nature; the subject and statement of the books are eschatological, that is, they deal with prophecy. One fifth of the content of Scripture was predictive at the time of its writing; a large segment of that has been fulfilled. Therefore, the prophecy in Scripture can be divided into fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecy. We will find a great deal of fulfilled prophecy in Daniel.
There are certain great subjects of prophecy. They are like planes flying into an airport from all sections of the world, and you can go to the Book of Revelation and see all these great subjects brought to a final fruition. The main subject of prophecy is the Lord Jesus Christ. Other topics include Israel, the gentile nations, evil, Satan, the Man of Sin, the Great Tribulation period, and how this age will end. The church is also a subject of prophecy; however, the church is never mentioned in the Old Testament, and therefore there will be no reference to it in the Book of Daniel. Then, of course, there are the subjects of the Kingdom, the Millennium, and eternity future. These are the great subjects of prophecy.
I do not believe that one can have a full–orbed view of the Bible or be a well–rounded student of Scripture without a knowledge of eschatology, or prophecy. The neglect of the study of prophecy has produced certain harmful results which I think are quite evident today. Many of the cults have gone off the track in prophetic areas. This is largely because the teaching of prophecy has been neglected by the great denominations. For example, Dr. Charles Hodge, a great theologian at Princeton in the past, made this statement: “The subject [prophecy] cannot be adequately discussed without taking a survey of all the prophetic teachings of Scripture both of the Old Testament and of the New. This task cannot be satisfactorily accomplished by anyone who has not made a study of the prophecies a specialty. The author [that is, Dr. Hodge], knowing that he has not such qualifications for the work, purposes to confine himself in a great measure to a historical survey of the different schemes of interpreting the Scriptures prophetically.” That certainly was a startling and sad admission on the part of Dr. Hodge. As a result, we find men in a great many of our denominations today who are ill–equipped to speak on prophecy. They dismiss it with a wave of the hand as being unimportant. And those who do go into the study of prophecy often come up with that which is sensational and fanatical. The Book of Daniel, particularly, is the subject of many such sensational writers on prophecy.
The Book of Daniel is a very important one, and it has therefore been the object of special attack by Satan in the same way that the Book of Isaiah has been. Isaiah has been called the prince of the prophets, and I would like to say that Daniel, then, is the king of the prophets. Both of these prophecies are very important in Scripture and have been especially attacked by unbelievers.
The Book of Daniel has been a battlefield between conservative and liberal scholars for years, and much of the controversy has had to do with the dating of the writing of the book. Porphyry, a heretic in the third century A.D. declared that the Book of Daniel was a forgery written during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees. That would place its writing around 170 B.C., almost four hundred years after Daniel lived. The German critics seized upon this hypothesis and, along with Dr. S. R. Driver, developed this type of criticism of the book. These critics, as well as present–day unbelievers, assume the premise that the supernatural does not exist. Since foreknowledge is supernatural, there can, therefore, be no foretelling, no prophesying.
However, the very interesting thing is that the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, was translated before the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and it contains the Book of Daniel! The liberal scholars have ignored similar very clear testimony from the Dead Sea Scrolls. Those scrolls confirm the fact that there was only one author of the Book of Isaiah. The liberal has wanted to argue that there was a duet or even a trio of “Isaiahs” who wrote that book. The Dead Sea Scrolls are very much alive, and they refute the liberal critic on that point.
It is interesting how these questions which are raised concerning the Bible are always answered in time. The heretic, the critic, and the cultist always move in an area of the Bible where we do not have full knowledge at the time. Everyone can speculate, and you can speculate any way you want to—generally the speculation goes the wrong way. However, in time, the Word of God is proven accurate.
Flavius Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, Vol. 1, p. 388) also records an incident during the time of Alexander the Great which supports the early authorship of Daniel. When Alexander’s invasion reached the Near East, Jaddua, the high priest, went out to meet him and showed him a copy of the Book of Daniel in which Alexander was clearly mentioned. Alexander was so impressed by this that, instead of destroying Jerusalem, he entered the city peaceably and worshiped at the temple.
These arguments clearly contradict the liberal critics; yet there are those who blindly ignore them. It is not in the purview of these brief comments to enter into useless argument and fight about that which has already been settled. I simply want to say that I accept the findings of conservative scholarship that the man Daniel was not a deceiver and that his book was not a forgery. I feel the statement of Pusey is apropos here: “The rest which has been said is mostly mere insolent assumptions against Scripture, grounded on unbelief.” Sir Isaac Newton declared, “To reject Daniel is to reject the Christian religion.”
Furthermore, our Lord Jesus called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” but He called Daniel “the prophet” (see Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). Very frankly, I go along with the Lord Jesus who, by the way, never reversed His statement. The endorsement of the Lord Jesus Christ is valid and sufficient for every believer, whether or not he has examined the arguments of the critics, and it satisfies the sincere saint without his having to study the answers of conservative scholarship.
We know more about Daniel the man than we do of any other prophet. He gives us a personal account of his life from the time he was carried captive to Babylon in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (about 606 B.C.) until the first year of King Cyrus (about 536 B.C.). Daniel’s life and ministry bridge the entire seventy years of captivity. At the beginning of the book he is a boy in his teens. At the end he is an old man of fourscore and more years.
Here is God’s estimate of the man Daniel: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” (Dan. 10:11). I would not want to be one of those critics who have called the Book of Daniel a forgery. Someday I am going to face Daniel in heaven and find that he has a pretty good reputation—“a man greatly beloved.”
There are three words which characterize Daniel’s life: purpose, prayer, and prophecy.
1. Daniel was a man of purpose (Dan. 1:8; 6:10). When the king made a decree that everyone had to eat the same thing, Daniel and his friends decided they would abide by the law of Moses—and they did. Daniel was a man of purpose, and we can see this all the way through his book. Here was a man who stood on his own two feet and had the intestinal fortitude to speak God’s Word.
God have pity today on men who claim to be His messengers to the world but haven’t got the courage to declare the Word of God. I also thank God that there are many who are declaring the whole Word of God, including prophecy, in our day. You see, the proper study of prophecy will not lead us to sensationalism and fanaticism, but it will lead us to a life of holiness and fear of God. John said in 1 John 3:3, “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” The study of prophecy will purify our lives, my friend.
2. Daniel was a man of prayer (Dan. 2:17–23; 6:10; 9:3–19; 10). There are several incidents recorded in this book about Daniel’s prayer life. By the way, prayer got Daniel into the lion’s den. How about that for answered prayer? Well, God also miraculously saved him from the lions. Daniel was a man of prayer.
3. Daniel was a man of prophecy. The Book of Daniel divides itself equally: the first half is history, and the last half is prophecy. Daniel gives us the skeleton of prophecy on which all prophecy is placed. The image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Dan. 2) and the beasts (Dan. 7) are the backbone of prophecy; the Seventy Weeks (Dan. 9) are the ribs which fit into their proper place.
The key verse to the Book of Daniel is Daniel 2:44: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
Dr. G. Campbell Morgan gave this theme for the Book of Daniel: “Persistent Government of God in the Government of the World.” This is the book of the universal sovereignty of God. Prophecy is here interwoven with history to show that God is overruling the idolatry, blasphemy, self–will, and intolerance of the Gentiles.
More especially, Daniel 12:4 brings together “… the times of the Gentiles …” (Luke 21:24) and “the time of the end” (see also Dan. 8:17; 11:35, 40) for the nation Israel in the Great Tribulation period. This coming crisis eventuates in Christ’s setting up the millennial Kingdom. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased” (Dan. 12:4).
The Book of Daniel deals with political issues apart from ecclesiastical matters, giving the final outcome of events and issues which are at work in the world today. He answers the question—Who will rule the world?—not, How will the world be converted?
The Book of Daniel is the key to understanding other Scriptures. Our Lord, in the Olivet Discourse, quoted only from the Book of Daniel. The Book of Revelation is largely an enigma without the Book of Daniel. Paul’s revelation concerning the “… man of sin …” (2 Thess. 2:3) needs Daniel’s account for amplification and clarification.
(McGee, J. Vernon. Thru the Bible Commentary, Vol. 26: Daniel. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991.)