Daniel Chapter 1 - Taking a Stand

NOTE: Answers are provided for only some of the questions. Many questions are primarily to stimulate discussion and there are no right or wrong answers.

1. Who wrote the book of Daniel? When did it take place? When was it written?

There is much controversy about who wrote the book of Daniel. The traditional view is that it was written by Daniel himself at the time it took place, approximately 600 BC. Another view that has gained much credence in the last 100 years is that it was passed down from one generation to the next as oral history but not set down in writing until about 165 BC. A third view is that the last 6 chapters (the prophecy portion) was set down by Daniel but the first six chapters (the history portion) was written in 165 BC.

If, in fact, it were written in 165 BC, that would make it the last book written in the Old Testament, although it records events that took place earlier. The OT records history from the beginning of time to about 425 BC where Nehemiah talks of the return to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. So from a chronological standpoint, the end of OT times are recorded in Nehemiah 13. All of the other books took place and were written before then.

To better understand the point of view of those who believe that Daniel was set down in writing in 165 BC, one should consider the events that took place after the end of those recorded in the Old Testament, which ended about 425 BC. What happened next? By 400 BC, we begin to have some secular history plus 15 semi-Biblical books called the Apocrypha. These are books like Esdras, Judith, Baruch, Maccabees, and so on.

When Nehemiah ends in 425 BC, Artaxerses II is in power in Persia and in Egypt one of the pharaohs is ruling. About 90 years later (336 BC), Alexander the Great comes to power over much of the Mediterranean world. His fall just 13 years later in 323 BC is followed by the rule of the Ptolemys in Egypt (7 of them over 207 years) and in Persia, three families of rulers: Antiochus, Seleucus, and Demitrius.

After the fall of Alexander the Great Judah came under the control of Egypt where it remained until 200 BC, when the northern Arab nations of Syria and Persia again took it over. In 175 BC, Antiochus IV (aka Epiphanes) came into power. He was and is widely regarded as one of the cruelest and brutal rulers of all time. In Jerusalem, he sold the office of high priest to the highest bidder, build a stadium for naked athletes, confiscated huge amounts of property, looted the temple rebuilt by the returned exiles, and to top it all off, sacrificed a pig on a pagan alter in the temple courtyard.

This pig sacrifice was the last straw for a group of Jews called the Maccabeans who, under the leadership of Mattathias, began a running guerilla insurgency that lasted from 163 to 143 BC. Some people now believe that shortly before the start of this war was when the book of Daniel was written, primarily to encourage Jewish believers at a time when simply having a scroll with a portion of the Torah was a capital offense. (How would you like to be arrested and put to death for having a single page of the Bible in your house?)

Another reason to believe the book of Daniel was written in 165 (rather than between 605 and 536 BC when it took place) is that there are some rather major blunders in the historical details. Nebuchadnezzar did not capture Jerusalem in the third year of King Jehoiakim and it was his son, Jehoiachin who was taken into captivity. There are several other mistakes which indicate that the writer was looking back over four centuries of history and was a bit hazy about it. However, the primary purpose of writing down the story was to proclaim an encouraging message to his embattled fellow Jews, not to record an accurate history.

Many commentators today think of Daniel as a “tract for bad times” which brought much needed comfort and assurance to God’s faithful people in one of the most terrible periods in their long history.

More important, Daniel is also a “tract for the future” recognizing that there will always be times in every generation in which the forces of light confront the forces of darkness. Nebuchadnezzar lives today in every proud and arrogant ruler; Daniel and his companions live today in every faithful Christian; and God lives today and will deliver those who put their trust in Him.

Bottom line: who wrote it? My opinion is that this is a question for Biblical scholars to discuss and debate. No matter when it was set down on parchment or in stone, I believe that the book, like the rest of the Bible, is the word of God and carries an important message for us today.

2. Who did Nebuchadnezzar take into captivity back to Babylon and who was left in Judah? (2 Kings 24:14, Jeremiah 24:1-10)

2 Kings 24:14. King Nebuchadnezzar took ten thousand captives from Jerusalem, including all the princes and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and smiths. So only the poorest people were left in the land.

Jer 24:1-10.After King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon exiled Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, to Babylon along with the princes of Judah and all the skilled craftsmen, the Lord gave me this vision. I saw two baskets of figs placed in front of the Lord’s Temple in Jerusalem. 2One basket was filled with fresh, ripe figs, while the other was filled with figs that were spoiled and could not be eaten. 3Then the Lord said to me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”
I replied, “Figs, some very good and some very bad.”
4Then the Lord gave me this message: 5“This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: The good figs represent the exiles I sent from Judah to the land of the Babylonians. 6I have sent them into captivity for their own good. I will see that they are well treated, and I will bring them back here again. I will build them up and not tear them down. I will plant them and not uproot them. 7I will give them hearts that will recognize me as the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me wholeheartedly.
8“But the rotten figs,” the Lord said, “represent King Zedekiah of Judah, his officials, all the people left in Jerusalem, and those who live in Egypt. I will treat them like spoiled figs, too rotten to eat. 9I will make them an object of horror and evil to every nation on earth. They will be disgraced and mocked, taunted and cursed, wherever I send them. 10I will send war, famine, and disease until they have vanished from the land of Israel, which I gave to them and their ancestors.”

This system forced the best people to work directly for Nebuchadnezzar under close supervision because these were the people who could contribute the most and also the most likely to revolt. The poor people (or rotten figs according to Jeremiah) were left behind and, as a result, were very loyal to Nebuchadnezzar and willing to pay tribute (taxes) since they still had their homes and land. But not forever. Interestingly, God promised to protect and help those taken into captivity but not the ones left behind.

3. What advice did Jeremiah have for the Jews that were taken into exile? (Jer 29:4-7) Would this advice be easy to follow? (Acts 5:29)

4The Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, sends this message to all the captives he has exiled to Babylon from Jerusalem: 5“Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food you produce. 6Marry, and have children. Then find spouses for them, and have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! 7And work for the peace and prosperity of Babylon. Pray to the Lord for that city where you are held captive, for if Babylon has peace, so will you.”

This is difficult. Unlike immigrants to the U.S. who successfully blend and commingle in our society, the Jews were to be involved in the affairs of their nation and open to its culture, yet they were not to be conformed to its ways. In their witness they were to be distinctive, not only in what they said, but in what they did and what they were.

Even today this relationship between Christianity and culture remains an extremely difficult one, not only for missionaries abroad, but also for the church at home. Have you ever found it difficult to do as the apostles said in Acts 5:29 when Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than human authority.”

4. Why did Nebuchadnezzar especially want young men for training? (Verse 1:4)

The spoken language of Babylonia was Aramaic, but the written language of scholarship was a very complicated Babylonia language. The academic program would have included mathematics, astronomy, history, science, and magic. So Nebuchadnezzar didn’t want old men set in their ways, but rather young men who were able and eager to learn.

5. Why three years of training?

First of all, there was a lot to learn. Second, Nebuchadnezzar was much more interested in indoctrination than in education. In a sense, this is no different from college today. Colleges and universities are all too often used to shape and bend the minds of young people to particular ideological views. Except for Christian colleges, most state and private schools are opposed to Christianity and it seems that three to four years is about the time needed to flush out Christianity and give a young person a new point of view. It’s also the right age to do it; college age kids are still in the parental rebellion stage and if their parent’s views are replaced with something that sounds just as good, they’ll glom onto it.

6. Why did Ashpenaz change the names of Daniel and his three friends? (To intimidate them, brand them, frighten them, anger them, assimilate them?)

Several reasons. Primarily, new names would help them assimilate into the culture. But also the new names were an attempt to change their religious loyalty from their old God to Babylonia’s gods.
Old Name     New Name
Daniel: God is my judgeBelteshazzar: Bel (Marduk), protect his life.
Hananiah: The Lord shows graceShadrach: under the command of Aku (moon god)
Misahel: who is like God?Meshach: who is like Aku?
Azariah: the Lord helpsAbednego: servant of Nago (god of learning)

7. Do religions today ever use a similar type of indoctrination? How about the Christian church; has it ever used these methods?

Islam is the best example today of a religion that indoctrinates young people and actively promotes intolerance of other religions and cultures. But this also happens in the Christian church. In fact, back in the early days of the OT, God changed names (Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, etc.). Over the years, there are many examples of bigotry and intolerance to safeguard doctrine at the expense of freedom and truth. Don’t think that it’s just others that indoctrinate people.

8. Why did Daniel ask for special food? (Religious reasons, cultural reasons, distrusted King’s food, wanted to feel separate, didn’t like its taste)

Verse 8 says he did not want to become ritually unclean (other translations say he didn’t want to defile himself). So basically, he was being faithful to the dietary restrictions of the Jewish Torah.

9. Does these verses promote being a vegetarian and teetotaler? If not, what do they promote?

Although there may well be benefits in being a vegetarian and teetotaler, Daniel’s request had only to do with the rights and wrongs of obeying God and the Jewish dietary laws. You might ask that since the Torah only prohibits eating pork (pig), why wouldn’t they eat other meat like beef and lamb? The reason is that some portion of the King’s food might first have been offered to idols.

Most important, these are acts (not words) that testify to their Jewish faith and respect of the Lord their God. These young men had been loyal to God in Jerusalem; they would be loyal to him here also. And acting as they did, their deeds spoke louder than words. Men of principle find greater favor with God than men of property.

But they also depended upon God. They willingly submitted to a test of ten days living on vegetables and water, which would certainly need the hand of God in determining the outcome.

10. To Daniel and his friends, what was it like to maintain their diet (easy, traumatic, frightening, spiritual, risky)?

Probably most of the above, except easy. On the other hand, it certainly helped that there were four of them. It’s a lot easier to follow an unpopular course of action if you have friends and supporters. One of the main tenets of Promise Keepers is the importance of having an accountability partner. War prisoners kept in isolation do unbelievable things to establish contact with other prisoners.

11. If you were Daniel, what resource would you have appreciated the most? (The helpful official, my three friends, God’s sustaining power, Jewish dietary laws, knowledge and understanding from God)

It’s tempting to say God’s power and understanding from God, but have you ever been in a difficult situation and felt like asking, “where is God?” Certainly belief in God is extremely important, but in a very practical sense, Daniel’s three friends were equally important.

12. What do you feel when you stand up for something you believe in (confidence, power, peace, elation, fear, freedom)?

13. What often keeps you from taking a stand (lack of confidence, apathy, ignorance, time, fear, possible bad consequences)?

14. What is your greatest resource for taking a stand (God’s power, my family support, financial resources, others who share the same interest, prayers of myt small group, encouragement from Scripture, other)?

Bible study courtesy of www.SwapMeetDave.com

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