The Book of Daniel and You
1, 2. (a) What are some of the unusual situations presented in the Bible book of Daniel? (b) In our modern times, what questions arise regarding the book of Daniel?
A POWERFUL king threatens to execute his wise men because they are not able to reveal and interpret his puzzling dream. Three young men who refuse to worship a towering image are thrown into a superheated furnace, yet they survive. In the midst of a festive celebration, hundreds behold a hand that is writing mysterious words on a palace wall. Evil conspirators have an elderly man thrown into a pit of lions, but he emerges without a scratch. A prophet of God sees four beasts in a vision, and their significance stretches millenniums into the future.
2 These are just some of the accounts found in the Bible book of Daniel. Do they merit serious consideration? What possible relevance could this age-old book have for our day? Why should we be concerned about events that occurred some 2,600 years ago?
DANIEL—AN ANCIENT BOOK FOR MODERN TIMES
3, 4. Why are many people justifiably concerned about the future of mankind?
3 Much of the book of Daniel focuses on the theme of world rulership, a subject that is of paramount concern today. Almost everyone will agree that we live in difficult times. On a daily basis, news reports bombard us with grim reminders that human society is sinking into a quagmire of perplexing problems—and this despite remarkable achievements in science and technology.
4 Consider this: Man has walked on the moon, but in many places he cannot stroll on the streets of his own planet without fear. He can furnish a home with all sorts of modern conveniences, but he cannot stem the tide of broken families. And he can bring about the information age, but he cannot teach people to live together peacefully. Hugh Thomas, a professor of history, once wrote: “The spread of knowledge and education has taught mankind little in the way of self-control and less in the art of living with other men.”
5. For the most part, what has been the result of man’s rulership?
5 In an attempt to establish a measure of order in society, men have organized themselves under a wide variety of governments. None of them, though, have been exempt from the truthfulness of King Solomon’s observation: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 4:1; 8:9) Of course, some rulers have had noble ideals. Nevertheless, no king, president, or dictator can eradicate sickness and death. No human can restore our earth to the Paradise that God purposed it to be.
6. Why does Jehovah not need the cooperation of human rulerships to accomplish his will?
6 Yet, the Creator is both willing and able to do such things. He does not need the permission of human governments to accomplish his purpose, for to him “the nations are as a drop from a bucket; and as the film of dust on the scales they have been accounted.” (Isaiah 40:15) Yes, Jehovah is Sovereign Ruler of the universe. As such, he has authority far above that of human governments. It is God’s Kingdom that will replace all human rulerships, to mankind’s eternal blessing. Perhaps nowhere is this made clearer than in the Bible book of Daniel.
DANIEL—GREATLY BELOVED BY GOD
7. Who was Daniel, and how did Jehovah view him?
7 Jehovah God had great affection for Daniel, who served as his prophet for many years. Indeed, God’s angel described Daniel as “someone very desirable.” (Daniel 9:23) The original Hebrew term translated “someone very desirable” can mean “greatly beloved,” “highly esteemed,” even “a favorite.” Daniel was especially precious in God’s sight.
8. How did Daniel come to be in Babylon?
8 Let us briefly consider the unique circumstances of this beloved prophet. In 618 B.C.E., Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. (Daniel 1:1) Shortly thereafter, certain well-educated Jewish youths were forcibly taken into exile in Babylon. Daniel was among them. At the time, he was probably in his teens.
9. What training was given to Daniel and his Hebrew companions?
9 Daniel and his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the Hebrews selected to receive three years of training in “the writing and the tongue of the Chaldeans.” (Daniel 1:3, 4) Some scholars note that this was likely more than just a language course. For instance, Professor C. F. Keil states: “Daniel and his companions were to be educated in the wisdom of the Chaldean priests and learned men, which was taught in the schools of Babylon.” So Daniel and his companions were being specially trained for government service.
10, 11. What challenges did Daniel and his companions face, and what help did Jehovah give them?
10 What a drastic change of circumstance this was for Daniel and his associates! In Judah they had lived among worshipers of Jehovah. Now they were surrounded by a people who worshiped mythological gods and goddesses. Nevertheless, young Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were not intimidated. They were determined—despite this faith-challenging situation—to hold fast to true worship.
11 This would not be easy. King Nebuchadnezzar was a zealous devotee of Marduk, the chief deity of Babylon. The king’s demands were at times totally unacceptable to a worshiper of Jehovah. (For example, see Daniel 3:1-7.) Yet, Daniel and his companions had Jehovah’s unfailing guidance. During their three years of training, they were blessed by God with “knowledge and insight in all writing and wisdom.” In addition, Daniel was given the ability to understand the meaning of visions and dreams. Later when the king made an examination of these four young men, he found them to be “ten times better than all the magic-practicing priests and the conjurers that were in all his royal realm.”—Daniel 1:17, 20.
PROCLAIMING GOD’S MESSAGES
12. What special assignment did Daniel have?
12 Throughout the many years he spent in Babylon, Daniel served as God’s messenger to such men as Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. Daniel’s assignment was a crucial one. Jehovah had allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem, using him as His instrument. In time, Babylon too would be destroyed. Truly, the book of Daniel magnifies Jehovah God as the Most High and as Ruler in “the kingdom of mankind.”—Daniel 4:17.
13, 14. What happened to Daniel after Babylon’s fall?
13 Daniel continued in court service some seven decades, until the fall of Babylon. He lived to see many Jews returning to their homeland in 537 B.C.E., though the Bible does not state that he accompanied them. He was very active until at least the third year of the reign of King Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire. By that time, Daniel must have been close to 100 years of age!
14 After the fall of Babylon, Daniel put the most significant events of his life down in writing. His document is now a remarkable part of the Holy Bible and is known as the book of Daniel. But why should we pay attention to this ancient book?
TWO THREADS, ONE MESSAGE
15. (a) What two threads are contained in the Bible book of Daniel? (b) How can the narrative portion of Daniel benefit us?
15 The unique book of Daniel contains two very different threads—one is narrative, the other is prophetic. Both aspects of Daniel’s book can build our faith. How? The narrative portions—among the most vivid in the Bible—show us that Jehovah God will bless and care for those who keep their integrity to him. Daniel and his three companions remained steadfast in the face of life-threatening trials. Today, all who want to remain loyal to Jehovah will be strengthened by a close consideration of their example.
16. What lesson do we learn from the prophetic portions of Daniel?
16 The prophetic portions of Daniel build faith by showing that Jehovah knows the course of history centuries—even millenniums—in advance. For example, Daniel provides details concerning the rise and fall of world powers from the time of ancient Babylon right down to “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) Daniel directs our attention to the Kingdom of God in the hands of His appointed King and associate “holy ones,” pointing to it as the government that will endure forever. This government will fully accomplish Jehovah’s purpose for our earth and will result in the blessing of all those who want to serve God.—Daniel 2:44; 7:13, 14, 22.
17, 18. (a) How will our faith be strengthened by a close examination of the book of Daniel? (b) What matter needs to be addressed before we embark on a study of this prophetic Bible book?
17 Thankfully, Jehovah does not keep knowledge of future events to himself. Rather, he is the “Revealer of secrets.” (Daniel 2:28) As we consider the fulfillment of the prophecies recorded in the book of Daniel, our faith in God’s promises will be strengthened. We will come to feel ever more sure that God will accomplish his purpose at the exact time and in the precise manner that he chooses.
18 All who study the Bible book of Daniel with a receptive heart will grow in faith. Before embarking on an in-depth examination of this book, however, we need to consider evidence as to whether this book is truly authentic. Some critics have attacked the book of Daniel, saying that its prophecies were actually written after their fulfillment. Are the claims of skeptics justified? The next chapter will address this matter.
WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?
• Why is Daniel a book for modern times?
• How did Daniel and his companions come to enter Babylonian governmental service?
• What was Daniel’s special assignment in Babylon?
• Why should we pay attention to Daniel’s prophecy?
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