Christ in All the Scriptures
by A.M. Hodgkin
- V. Christ in the Prophets
6. Daniel --
- The omnipotence of God is exhibited, as much in His power to keep Daniel pure and true and faithful to Himself amidst all the corruptions of a heathen Court, as it is in the outward deliverances which He wrought for His servant as recorded in this book. Carried captive as a youth [from Jerusalem to Babylon], Daniel found himself in this position of extreme difficulty through no choice of his own, and we may learn from this history that there is no position, however full of temptation, in which the Lord is not able to keep us from falling, if we have not placed ourselves there willfully.
Daniel's character is beautiful in its simplicity. It shows the same consistency throughout, attributing every power, every success, every deliverance to God. A chief statesman in the first empire of the world, a chief adviser of a great monarch, a great protector, doubtless, of his own people, [yet] he never introduces himself or his own actions, except as illustrations of God's power. From the first picture we have of him, as a youth of royal descent, refusing to defile himself with the heathen king's meat (no doubt as being connected with idol sacrifices), and carrying his companions with him by the power of his influence, to the aged statesman in the last days of the Captivity, we see the same undeviating faithfulness. Even his enemies confessed that they could find no fault in him, and no occasion to accuse him except they found it against him concerning the law of his God [Dan 6:5].
- A Man Greatly Beloved.
- Daniel was a man greatly beloved. We read that God had brought him into favor and tender love with the Court official Ashpenaz. The proud and despotic Nebuchadnezzar seems to have had a real affection for the man whom he honored throughout his long reign. The regard Darius felt for him is undisguised. When he found what a trap he had fallen into, he ''was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him'' [Dan 6:14]. We can well imagine that Daniel's great age added poignancy to the king's remorse at having to pass such a sentence upon him. Cyrus, no doubt, was greatly influenced by his aged statesman, who in all probability showed him the prophecy of Isaiah which led to his issuing the decree for the building of the Temple at Jerusalem. [cp. Isa 44:28 - 45:13; Jer 25:11-14; Jer 29:10; Ezra 1:1-4
But, best of all, Daniel was greatly beloved by his God. We are thrice told this. He was a man of prayer, as we see on various occasions. The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was given [to] him in answer to the united prayer of himself and his companions, and he did not fail to acknowledge publicly that it was so. Later on, in spite of the decree of Darius, he quietly pursued his usual custom, and prayed to God with his windows towards Jerusalem ''as he did aforetime.'' Again, believing Jeremiah's prophecy as to the restoration of his people, he set himself to seek the Lord by prayer and fasting, and in the memorable prayer [of chapter 9], made a full confession of sin on behalf of his people. Again, in the third year of Cyrus, after three weeks of fasting and prayer (10:1,2), another vision of the future is granted to him. In this account, we are allowed a glimpse into one of the mysteries of delayed answers to prayer. How little we realize the unseen forces of darkness which are arrayed against us! The thought of this should lead us to pray more earnestly. We cannot understand the mystery of prayer; but we have God's promise, and we know by experience that He does hear and answer prayer, and this is enough for us.
- A Contrast of Power.
- The great object of the Book of Daniel is to bring out the power of God as contrasted with the great world-power. This thought is brought out in the two sections into which the Book of Daniel is divided. The first six chapters are mainly Narration, and the last six mainly Revelation.
- Chapter 1.
- God's power is shown, as we have already seen, in the character of Daniel and his three companions, and in the wisdom and understanding which God gave them above all the wise men of Babylon. All of them had before borne names commemorative of the true God. The change of names, though in two cases (at least) they were named after idols, did not change their hearts. They were trained in all the learning of the greatest country of his time.
- Chapter 2.
- God's power is shown in His revelation to Daniel of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and the interpretation thereof, which the wise men of Babylon were unable to give.
- Chapter 3.
- [God's power] is shown again in His deliverance of the three companions of Daniel from the fiery furnace, when they had refused to worship the golden image. It was no uncommon thing for sovereigns of vast empires to claim Divine honors; and it may have been with some idea of this kind that Nebuchadnezzar set up this huge golden image, probably representing himself, and sent for all the officials of his kingdom to come and worship it. History has no finer picture than that of these three young men standing alone against a nation with the calm faith that God would deliver them, yet adding, ''but if not-- be it known to thee, O King, that we will not worship the golden image.'' According to His promise (Isa 43:2), the Lord was with them in the fire, ''and the form of the fourth was like the Son of God.'' Here is the first sight of Christ in this book; and He is still with His own when they pass through the fire, and many a saint has proved since then, as they did, that the only effect of the fire is to burn the bonds. ''Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt.''
- Chapter 4.
- Again, we see God's power in His dealings with Nebuchadnezzar. First, He warned him in a dream of his coming madness, and revealed to Daniel the interpretation of it. Daniel's respectful regard for his monarch comes out in his reluctance to tell him the interpretation: ''He sat astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him.'' The king had to encourage him to speak, and then with what mingled tenderness and boldness [Daniel] exhorted him to repentance. At the end of twelve months, as the proud monarch was boasting of his power on the roof of his magnificent palace, the stroke of God fell, and he was driven far from among men, and had his dwelling among the beasts of the field. There he repented, and God restored him according to His promise. This whole chapter is of special interest as being, not a record by Daniel, but a State Paper sent out by Nebuchadnezzar to his people.
- Chapter 5.
- God's power is shown again in the awful handwriting on the wall, when Belshazzar's sacrilege received God's retribution. The prophet, who had pleaded so deferentially with Nebuchadnezzar, had only words of fearless condemnation for the foolish and sensual young king [who was] his grandson. A bad reign came to a sudden termination. ''In that night was Belshazzar king of the Chaldeans slain'' --we are not told how; ''and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.'' The Medo-Persian army took the city in all likelihood without fighting. Darius probably received the kingdom from Cyrus as his viceregent over some portion of it. His identity is still, to some extent, a puzzle to historians, but so was Belshazzar's until recently. ''For history testifies that the last king of Babylon was Nabonidus; that he was absent from the capital when Cyrus entered it, and that he lived many years after the Persian conquest. The contradiction between history and Scripture was complete. But the since-deciphered inscriptions have disclosed that Belshazzar was eldest son and heir to Nabonidus, that he was regent in Babylon during his father's absence, and that he was killed the night the Persian army entered the inner city'' (Sir R. Anderson).
- Chapter 6.
- Once more, God's power was shown in the deliverance of Daniel from the lion's den, when the incorruptibility of his conduct had made enemies for the aged statesman, and they had successfully intrigued against him.
- Manifestation of Power.
- The time of the captivity in Babylon was a special occasion for God to manifest His power. When His chosen people were captives in Egypt, He wrought wonders for them by the hand of Moses, and showed, both to them and to the great Egyptian nation, that He was Lord over all. So now, once more when His people were in captivity, He made bare His arm, and showed forth His mighty power, so that even these great world emperors were brought to confess that He is the Living God, the Most High, the King of Heaven, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion. In this very center of Pagan world-power, Jehovah visits His exiles by miracle and prophecy, to show His power and comfort them by glimpses of the future. ''Fulfilled prophecy is miracle in the highest sphere, that of mind. It is the ever-growing proof of Divine prescience in the authors of sacred Scripture'' (H. Grattan Guinness).
This revelation of the future became an added confirmation to God's people, as they saw it gradually fulfilled before their eyes. But how far more is it a confirmation to our faith, to us who can look back on the wide sweep of revelation already fulfilled in the world's history. God makes a special appeal to fulfilled prophecy as the seal of the truth of His Word (Jer 28:9; 2Pet 1:19-21).
- Universal Dominion.
- The first revelation in this book occurs in the historic portion of it, in Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great image with its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of brass, and its legs of iron, its feet and toes of iron and clay, brought to nothing by a stone cut out without hands which smote the image, and broke it to pieces; and the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. [Dan 2:31-45]
No human ingenuity could have hit upon the interpretation. The image symbolizes the world-kingdoms in their historic succession. God makes known to Nebuchadnezzar ''what shall come to pass hereafter,'' in the glorious future Kingdom of Christ. He reveals first the Gentile dominion. Four great empires, and only four, were to succeed each other in the government of the world from the Chaldeans to the end. The first was the Babylonian with Nebuchadnezzar at its head: ''Thou art this head of gold.'' The grant of Empire was made to him by God Himself (2:37,38; Jer 27:5-7).
The breast and the arms of silver denote the Medo-Persian Empire which overthrew the Chaldean, and became its successor in the government of the world. The brass, or rather copper, is the Grecian [Empire], which overturned the Persian; and the iron is the Roman, which succeeded the Greek. From the Book of Daniel itself, we learn which are the world-kingdoms symbolized. Chapter 2:38 shows us that the head of gold is Babylon. In 8:20, we see that the Medo-Persian empire was to succeed the Chaldean; and 8:21 declares that Grecia follows Persian, while 9:26 plainly indicates that Rome is the fourth. [ie., Viewing history, from our perspective, we understand that the Romans destroyed Jerusalem shortly after the Messiah was cut-off.] After that, the power is divided.
In the stone cut out without hands, we see the Kingdom of Christ, whose kingdom shall never be destroyed; it shall break in pieces and destroy all these kingdoms and it shall stand for ever.
- The Four Beasts.
- Chapter 7. In Daniel's vision of the four beasts, we have these four kingdoms under another symbol. In the great image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, we have the magnificence of these kingdoms in man's view. In Daniel's vision, we have the same in God's view. He sees them as a set of devouring wild beasts. The first, or Babylonian, was like a lion with eagle's wings. Jeremiah had likened Nebuchadnezzar both to the lion and eagle (Jer 49:19,22). Persia was the cruel bear, the animal who delights to kill for the sake of killing, and to tear for the sake of tearing-- a heavy beast, well portraying the ponderous Persian armies. The third is the leopard or panther, an animal insatiable above every other beast of prey, gifted with swiftness which scarce any prey can escape, represented yet further with four wings. Here we see the rapid marches of Alexander's army and his insatiable love of conquest. In thirteen brief years, he had subdued the world.
The fourth beast was ''dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly, and had great iron teeth.'' This is the Roman Empire.
- The Son of God.
- With the close of the vision of the four beasts, we have a further revelation of Christ in Daniel. We see the throne of God, and the Ancient of Days sitting there in judgment, and the books opened. And there, on the right hand of God the Father, Daniel sees God the Son. ''One like the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven,'' and everlasting dominion and glory given to Him [Dan 7:9-14]. We see in act what was said in words in David's Psalm, which Jesus quoted as written of Himself, ''The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on My right hand until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool'' [Psa 110]. When the High Priest said to our Lord, ''I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell me whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God,'' Jesus saith unto him, ''Thou hast said: nevertheless, I say unto thee, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.'' Then the High Priest rent his clothes, saying, ''He hath spoken blasphemy.'' Our Lord applied these words of Daniel to Himself, and the High Priest immediately recognized in them His claim to deity. [Mat 26:63-65]
- Chapter 8.
- Next we have a vision of the ram and the he-goat, the kingdom of Medo-Persia overthrown by the kingdom of Grecia. It contains the prophecy of the division of the latter kingdom, on the death of Alexander, between his four generals. Daniel had this vision at Shushan, the capital of Persia, where, seventy years later, the events recorded in the Book of Esther took place.
- Seventy Weeks - Chapter 9.
- This chapter contains, as we have already seen, Daniel's discovery, from the prophecy of Jeremiah, that the Captivity was nearing its close. This shows the great importance of the study of the Holy Scriptures; and the eleventh verse of this chapter contains a testimony both to the antiquity and to the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Daniel's prayer was followed by the vision of the seventy weeks. The angel Gabriel tells Daniel that seventy weeks are determined or measured off, upon his people and the holy city; within which period of time, God will perform His whole work, promised and predicted throughout all Scripture.
Seventy weeks [lit., seventy ''sevens'']. The word ''week'' is retained, because there is no English word which exactly expresses the idea of the original. It is seventy times seven years that is meant, 490 years in all. It was a form of reckoning familiar to the Jews from earliest times.
The seventy weeks are divided into three groups, viz. seven weeks, sixty-two weeks, one week. The seventy weeks began with the edict of Artaxerxes to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, in the Jewish month Nisan of the year 445 B.C. [Neh 2:1-8]. ''The language of the prophecy is clear: 'From the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto Messiah the Prince, shall be seven weeks and threescore and two weeks.' '' Sir Robert Anderson, with the assistance of astronomical calculations supplied by the Astronomer-Royal, Sir G. B. Airy, has calculated that this interval (173,880 days, or seventy times sixty-nine prophetic years of 360 days) brings us to the very day of Christ's triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the climax of His ministry, when the prophecy of Zechariah was fulfilled, ''Behold thy King cometh unto thee'' [Zech 9:9], and the day of Zion's irrevocable choice. The correct translation of our Lord's words is: ''If thou hadst known, even on this day, the things that belong unto thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes'' [Luke 19:42]. The prophecy continues: ''And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for Himself.'' [Dan 9:26].
Then follows the prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem. In A.D. 70, the Roman eagles swooped down on the devoted city and destroyed both city and temple. But the prophecy points onward to a time yet to come. The last week is rent off [ie., separated] from the other sixty-nine [weeks] and stands by itself. There is a mighty break between the sixty-ninth and the seventieth in the series. The death of Christ broke the chain for the weeks; for that event sundered the relation then existing between God and the chosen people.
Verses 24-27 refer plainly to the manifestation of Jesus Christ to fulfill all righteousness and to make full atonement for the sins of His people (compare 1John 3:8 and 2Cor 5:19).
- ''The Time of the End.''
- The last three chapters of Daniel contain one vision. Chapter 10 reveals the influence of supernatural beings in the affairs of earth. Chapters 11 and 12 point to the ''Time of the end,'' and the appearance of anti-Christ. Daniel, Paul, John (eg., 2The 2; [Rev 13]; Rev 19), prophesy of the mighty scenes and events of this time, the Day of the Lord. They severally declare that the great adversary will be destroyed by the coming of Jesus Christ Himself. Our Lord's own testimony is identical with theirs (Mat 24 and 25; Mark 13 and Luke 21). Our Lord quotes the words of Daniel about the daily sacrifice being taken away, and the abomination that maketh desolate being set up.
- Chapter 12:1,2 predicts a time of unparalleled trouble. Our Lord speaks of the same (Mat 24:21). It is the Great Tribulation. Here the resurrection of the dead is more plainly foretold than anywhere else in the Old Testament: ''Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.'' The future joy of those that turn many to righteousness is revealed.
The vision closes with a word of personal comfort to the faithful prophet: ''Go thy way till the end be: for thou shalt rest, and stand in thy lot at the end of the days.''
- A book which contains such exact predictions is one which is likely to be assailed. ''The Book of Daniel is especially fitted to be a battle-field between faith and unbelief. It admits of no half measures. It is either Divine or an imposture.'' With these words, Dr. Pusey begins his most valuable volume on Daniel. He shows that to write any book under the name of another, and to give it out as his, is in any case a forgery. But in this case, if the writer were not Daniel, the book would be one continued lie in the name of God; for, as we have seen, the book ascribes everything to God.
The proofs of the authenticity of the book can barely be touched upon here.
- Witness of Daniel. The book claims Daniel for its author (8:1,2, etc., etc.)
- Witness of Ezekiel. Ezekiel testified both to the existence and character of Daniel (Eze 14:14,20; 28:3).
- Witness of the Monuments. The records of the monuments testify with ever-increasing clearness, as more of them are deciphered, to the absolute accuracy of the details of Daniel's description. The local coloring is true to life, such as could not have been invented by a forger in Palestine of later date.
The inscriptions show that there was a school in connection with the palace of Babylon, where youths, including captive princes, were trained in the learning of Chaldea, which embraced a wide circle of subjects.
The monuments vouch, either directly or indirectly, for each one of the classes into which Daniel divides the wise men of Babylon; also for the articles of dress worn by his companions: they are such as would have been worn by nobles on a great festive occasion.
Casting into a fiery furnace and into a den of lions were punishments well known in Babylon.
On the plains of Dura, there stands today a rectilinear mound, about twenty feet high, an exact square of about forty-six feet at the base, resembling the pedestal of a colossal statue. Everything leads to the belief that Nebuchadnezzar's golden image was set up in this place.
Nebuchadnezzar's proud and imperious personality has been stamped upon our imaginations from childhood. The monuments bear abundant testimony to the same. ''To astonish mankind, I reconstructed and renewed the wonder of Borsippa, the temple of the seven spheres of the world.'' The Arabs still use the ruins of Babylon as a large quarry, and carry off its bricks. Nine out of every ten of these bricks is stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar, a silent answer to the truth of his question, ''Is not this great Babylon which I have built?''
- Witness of Language. Another proof of the date of this book is the languages in which it is written. From chapter 2:4 to the end of chapter 7, it is in Aramaic or Syriac, the common language of the Gentile nations, the language of commerce and diplomacy over the then known world. The rest is in Hebrew. The part written in Aramaic relates to the Gentile supremacy over Israel. The use of this language signifies that God had, for a time, set aside the Jew. During the Captivity, just at the time that Daniel wrote, both languages, the Aramaic and the Hebrew, were understood by the Jewish people, and they would be able to follow the whole book. The Jews did not understand Aramaic in the reign of Hezekiah (2Kings 18:26), and they had ceased, as a nation, to understand Hebrew by the time of Ezra, for when he read to them the Law, he had to give the sense or translate as he went [Neh 8:8]. If the book had been written, as is alleged, during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, or immediately before it, in order to console the Jews under their persecutions, is it likely that the writer would have wrapped up his words of comfort in a language they could not understand?
The presence of certain Greek words in the Book of Daniel is supposed [by critics] to point to the book having been written after the conquests of Alexander. Most of these supposed Greek words have been found to be really Aramaic, their actual number has been reduced to two, and these are the names of two musical instruments.
Modern discovery has revealed the widespread interchange of thought and commerce between the most ancient nations of the earth. A busy commercial intercourse existed between Greece and Babylonia, about a century before the time of Daniel. The harp with seven strings was invented by Terpander, a Greek poet and musician in the year 650 B.C. This seven-stringed harp was introduced into Babylon within twenty-five years of that date, for we find it sculptured then on the monuments. This kitharis is one of the two remaining words in Daniel!
[For additional proofs of Daniel's authenticity, see
- Lectures on Daniel the Prophet, Dr. Pusey;
- The Coming Prince and Daniel in the Critic's Den, Sir R. Anderson;
- The Biblical Guide, and The Inspiration and Accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, Rev. J. Urquhart.]
- Witness of Christ.
- There remains yet one more proof which can hardly be put alongside the foregoing, as it transcends them all. It is the testimony of our Lord Himself. He quoted from this book as recorded in Matthew 24:14,15,30; Luke 21:24; and again in Matthew 26:63,64, when, as we have seen, He applied the prophecy of Daniel about the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven as a proof of His Messiahship and His deity. He speaks expressly of the ''Prophet Daniel'' by name, with the words added, ''whoso readeth let him understand.'' It is a remarkable fact that our Lord thus commends to our study this Book of Daniel, and also the Book of Revelation, both full of unfulfilled prophecy, both difficult to understand; and the Book of Revelation, which is the most difficult of all, opens with a blessing on him that readeth, and those that hear and keep this word of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and it closes with a solemn warning to those who shall either add or take away from the words of the prophecy of this book (Rev 1:1-3; 22:16,18,19).