Jehovah’s Word Is Alive

Highlights From the Book of Daniel

“THE book of Daniel is one of the most intriguing works in the Bible,” states the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. “Timeless truths fill its pages.” Daniel’s account begins in 618 B.C.E. when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon comes to Jerusalem and lays siege to the city, and he takes “some of the sons of Israel” into captivity in Babylon. (Daniel 1:1-3) Among them is young Daniel, probably only in his teens. The book concludes with Daniel still in Babylon. Now almost 100 years old, Daniel receives God’s promise: “You will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days.”—Daniel 12:13.

While the first part of the book of Daniel is presented chronologically in the third person, the last part is written in the first person. Penned by Daniel, the book contains prophecies regarding the rise and fall of world powers, the time of the Messiah’s arrival, and events that take place in our day.* The aged prophet also looks back on his long life and narrates episodes that encourage us to be godly men and women of integrity. The message of Daniel is alive and exerts power.—Hebrews 4:12.

WHAT DOES THE CHRONOLOGICAL ACCOUNT TEACH US?

The year is 617 B.C.E. Daniel and three young friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, are in the Babylonian court. During their three years of training in court life, the youths maintain their integrity to God. About eight years later, King Nebuchadnezzar has a mysterious dream. Daniel makes known the dream and then interprets it. The king acknowledges that Jehovah is “a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a Revealer of secrets.” (Daniel 2:47) Before long, though, Nebuchadnezzar seems to forget this lesson. When Daniel’s three friends refuse to worship a giant image, the king has them thrown into a fiery furnace. The true God rescues the three, and Nebuchadnezzar is forced to recognize that “there does not exist another god that is able to deliver like this one.”—Daniel 3:29.

Nebuchadnezzar has another significant dream. He sees an immense tree, which is chopped down and restrained from growing. Daniel makes known the interpretation of that dream. The dream is fulfilled in part when Nebuchadnezzar becomes insane and then recovers. Many decades later, King Belshazzar holds a big feast for his grandees and disrespectfully uses vessels that were taken from Jehovah’s temple. That very night, Belshazzar is killed and Darius the Mede receives the kingdom. (Daniel 5:30, 31) In the days of Darius, when Daniel is more than 90 years old, the aged prophet becomes the target of a murderous scheme by jealous officials. But Jehovah rescues him “from the paw of the lions.”—Daniel 6:27.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

1:11-15—Was a vegetarian diet responsible for the better countenance of the four Judean youths? It was not. No diet can produce such changes in a mere ten days. The credit for the change in countenance of the young Hebrews goes to Jehovah, who blessed them for trusting in him.—Proverbs 10:22.

2:1—When did Nebuchadnezzar have the dream about the immense image? The account states that this was “in the second year of the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar.” He became king in 624 B.C.E. The second year of his reign would thus have begun in 623 B.C.E.—years before he invaded Judah. At that early date, Daniel would not have been in Babylon to interpret the dream. “The second year” is evidently counted from 607 B.C.E., when the Babylonian king destroyed Jerusalem and became a world ruler.

2:32, 39—In what way was the kingdom of silver inferior to the head of gold, and how was the kingdom of copper inferior to that of silver? The Medo-Persian Empire, represented by the silver part of the image, was inferior to Babylon, the head of gold, in that it did not have the distinction of toppling Judah. The power that followed was Greece, represented by the copper. Greece was inferior still, even as copper is inferior to silver. Though the Grecian Empire covered a vaster area, it did not have the privilege of releasing God’s people from exile as did Medo-Persia.

4:8, 9—Did Daniel himself become a magic-practicing priest? No. The expression “the chief of the magic-practicing priests” merely refers to Daniel’s position as “the chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.”—Daniel 2:48.

4:10, 11, 20-22—What was represented, or symbolized, by the immense tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream? The tree initially represented Nebuchadnezzar as the ruler of a world power. Since the rulership extended “to the extremity of the earth,” however, the tree must signify something far grander. Daniel 4:17 connects the dream to the rulership of “the Most High” over mankind. The tree, then, also symbolized Jehovah’s universal sovereignty, especially with respect to the earth. Therefore, the dream has two fulfillments—in Nebuchadnezzar’s rulership and in Jehovah’s sovereignty.

4:16, 23, 25, 32, 33—How long were the “seven times”? All the changes that took place in the appearance of King Nebuchadnezzar required that the “seven times” be of a far longer duration than seven literal days. In his case, these times meant seven years of 360 days each, or 2,520 days. In the greater fulfillment, the “seven times” are 2,520 years. (Ezekiel 4:6, 7) They began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and ended with the enthronement of Jesus as heavenly King in 1914 C.E.—Luke 21:24.

6:6-10—Since praying to Jehovah does not require any particular posture, would it not have been prudent on Daniel’s part to pray in secret for the period of 30 days? The matter of Daniel’s praying three times a day was public knowledge. That is why the conspirators came up with the idea of an edict restricting prayer. Any change in Daniel’s routine with regard to prayer might have seemed to others to be a compromise and could have indicated a failure in his rendering exclusive devotion to Jehovah.

Lessons for Us:

1:3-8. The determination of Daniel and his companions to remain loyal to Jehovah speaks volumes about the value of the parental training they must have received. When God-fearing parents put spiritual interests first in their lives and teach their offspring to do the same, their children are very likely to resist whatever temptations and pressures that may arise at school or elsewhere.

1:10-12. Daniel understood why “the principal court official” feared the king and did not press matters with him. However, Daniel later approached “the guardian,” who may have been in a position to be more lenient. When dealing with difficult situations, we should act with similar insight, understanding, and wisdom.

2:29, 30. Like Daniel, we should give full credit to Jehovah for whatever knowledge, qualities, and abilities we may have acquired as a result of taking advantage of his spiritual provisions.

3:16-18. It is unlikely that the three Hebrews would have responded with such firm conviction if they had earlier shown themselves ready to compromise in connection with their diet. We too should strive to be “faithful in all things.”—1 Timothy 3:11.

4:24-27. Proclaiming the Kingdom message, which includes God’s adverse judgments, requires the same kind of faith and courage that Daniel displayed in making known what was to befall Nebuchadnezzar and what the king should do so that ‘his prosperity might be lengthened.’

5:30, 31. The “proverbial saying against the king of Babylon” came true. (Isaiah 14:3, 4, 12-15) Satan the Devil, whose pride is similar to that of the Babylonian dynasty, will also meet an ignoble end.—Daniel 4:30; 5:2-4, 23.

WHAT DO DANIEL’S VISIONS REVEAL?

When Daniel receives his first dream vision in 553 B.C.E., he is in his 70’s. Daniel beholds four huge beasts that portray a succession of world powers from his day to ours. In a vision of a scene in heaven, he sees “someone like a son of man” given “indefinitely lasting rulership.” (Daniel 7:13, 14) Two years later, Daniel has a vision that involves Medo-Persia, Greece, and an entity that becomes “a king fierce in countenance.”—Daniel 8:23.

The year is now 539 B.C.E. Babylon has fallen, and Darius the Mede has become ruler over the kingdom of the Chaldeans. Daniel prays to Jehovah about the restoration of his homeland. While he is still praying, Jehovah sends the angel Gabriel to make Daniel “have insight with understanding” about the coming of the Messiah. (Daniel 9:20-25) Time moves on to 536/535 B.C.E. A remnant has returned to Jerusalem. But there is opposition to the temple-building work. This becomes a source of anxiety to Daniel. He makes it a matter of prayer, and Jehovah sends an angel of high rank to Daniel. After strengthening and encouraging Daniel, the angel relates the prophecy that outlines a struggle for supremacy between the king of the north and the king of the south. The conflict between the two kings stretches from the time when the kingdom of Alexander the Great is divided among his four generals to the time when the Great Prince, Michael, “will stand up.”—Daniel 12:1.

Scriptural Questions Answered:

8:9—What is pictured by “the Decoration”? In this instance, “the Decoration” symbolizes the earthly condition of the anointed Christians during the time of the Anglo-American World Power.

8:25—Who is “the Prince of princes”? The Hebrew word sar, translated “prince,” basically means “chief,” or “head one.” The title “Prince of princes” applies only to Jehovah God—the Chief of all angelic princes, including “Michael, one of the foremost princes.”—Daniel 10:13.

9:21—Why does Daniel refer to the angel Gabriel as “the man”? This is because Gabriel came to him in humanlike form, as he had appeared to Daniel in an earlier vision.—Daniel 8:15-17.

9:27—What covenant was ‘kept in force for the many’ until the end of the 70th week of years, or 36 C.E.? The Law covenant was removed in 33 C.E. when Jesus was impaled. But by keeping the Abrahamic covenant in force toward fleshly Israel until 36 C.E., Jehovah extended the period of special favor to the Jews on the basis of their being descendants of Abraham. The Abrahamic covenant continues in force with regard to “the Israel of God.”—Galatians 3:7-9, 14-18, 29; 6:16.

Lessons for Us:

9:1-23; 10:11. Because of his humility, godly devotion, studiousness, and persistence in prayer, Daniel was “someone very desirable.” These very traits also helped him to remain faithful to God to the end of his life. Let us be determined to follow Daniel’s example.

9:17-19. Even when we pray for the coming of God’s new world, in which “righteousness is to dwell,” should not our primary concern be the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and the vindication of his sovereignty rather than an end to our personal suffering and difficulties?—2 Peter 3:13.

10:9-11, 18, 19. In imitation of the angel who came to Daniel, we should encourage and strengthen one another with helping hands and consoling words.

12:3. During the last days, “the ones having insight”—anointed Christians—have been “shining as illuminators” and have brought “many to righteousness,” including the “great crowd” of “other sheep.” (Philippians 2:15; Revelation 7:9; John 10:16) The anointed will ‘shine like the stars’ in the fullest sense during the Millennial Rule of Christ, when they share with him in applying the full benefits of the ransom to obedient mankind on earth. The “other sheep” should loyally stick to the anointed, wholeheartedly supporting them in every way.

Jehovah ‘Blesses Those Fearing Him’

What does the book of Daniel teach us about the God we worship? Consider the prophecies contained therein—those already fulfilled and those yet to be fulfilled. How vividly they paint Jehovah as the Fulfiller of his word!—Isaiah 55:11.

What does the narrative part of the book of Daniel show about our God? The four Hebrew youths who refused to be assimilated into Babylonian court life received ‘knowledge, insight, and wisdom.’ (Daniel 1:17) The true God sent his angel and rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego out of the fiery furnace. Daniel was delivered from the lions’ pit. Jehovah ‘helps and shields those trusting in him’ and ‘blesses those fearing him.’—Psalm 115:9, 13.

[Footnote]

For a verse-by-verse consideration of the book of Daniel, see Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[Picture on page 18]

Why was Daniel “someone very desirable”?