– Presented on 19 Oct 03 by Adult N Class (Teacher: Tan SK)
1. Date and Authorship
1. Date and Authorship
Author: The book of Daniel records the life and prophetic revelations given to Daniel, a captive Jew carried off to Babylon after the first conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC. Although Daniel does not speak of himself in the first person until chapter 7, there is little question that the book present Daniel as its author. Chapter 8 begins with an affirmation of Daniel’s authorship: “I Daniel”. Earlier chapters refer to Daniel in the third person except where he is directly quoted. But careful examination shows that the author usually writes about himself in the third person, as was the custom among ancient authors of historical memoirs.
Date: Two main views prevail. The first is that the book was written in the second Century BC in Judea in order to encourage the people of Israel undergoing persecution by the Seleucids under Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Writing after the event the writer cast his work as a prediction of the future and urged his fellow Jews to remain faithful to their God. The other is that it was written in the 6th Century BC in Babylon by a Jewish exile named Daniel who served in the royal court and accurately predicted events that were not fulfilled until the Second Century.
a) 2nd Century BC
2nd century BC Theory Refuted
b) 6th Century BC
2. Purpose and Theme
Purpose and Recipients: The book of Daniel is not intended to give an account of the life of Daniel. It gives neither his lineage nor his age, and recounts but a few of the events of his long career. Nor is it meant to give a record of the history of Israel during the Exile, nor even of the captivity in Babylon. Its purpose is to show how by His providential guidance, His miraculous interventions, His foreknowledge and almighty power, the God of heaven controls and directs the forces of nature and the history of nations, the lives of Hebrews captives and of the mightiest of the kings of the earth, for the accomplishment of His divine and beneficent plans for His servants and people. It encouraged the exiled Jews by revealing God’s program for them, both during and after the time of Gentile power in the world. Prominent above every other theme in the book is God’s sovereign control over the affairs of all rulers and nations, and their final replacement with the True King. It also shows that God continuingly works in His people Israel even in the time of their chastening, giving hope to the Jews who returned to restore the temple and the city.
a. The Covenant-Keeping God. The opening verses of the book make clear that Nebuchadnezzar was able to conquer Jerusalem because the Lord allowed him to (Dan. 1:2), recalling the covenant curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. In his prayer of repentance (directed toward the site of the Temple – Dan. 6:10) Daniel specifically refers to Israel’s sin and failure to live up to her covenant obligations (9:4-11a). The EXILE, he acknowledges, was God’s judgement on the people which they fully deserved (9:11b-15; cf. Lev. 26:37-39: Deut. 4:27-28; 28:63). However, Daniel knew that that was not the end of the story, for after judgement the Lord promised both forgiveness and restoration (Dan. 9:15-16; cf. Lev. 26:40-45; Deut. 4:29-31; 2 Chron. 7:14).
b. Universal Rule of Yahweh. Although the narrative of the book centers around a group of Hebrews in Babylon the book’s perspective is not simply concerned either with their fate, or even that of their people; it is universal in scope. God is shown to be working at the very heart of a pagan empire and its rulers are forced to acknowledge that he is Lord is King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he who raises up and puts down rulers and it is he alone who directs the course of history (as the visions and dreams demonstrate). Although they might have taken the sacred objects from the temple with impunity when they are used in a sacrilegious manner Yahweh proves himself more than capable of defending his honour (5:1-30).
c. God’s Rule is Not Unopposed. God’s will is opposed both on the heavens and on earth. When Daniel prayed and fasted for 21 days for insight God’s answer was given on the first day he prayed. However, we are told that the Prince of Persia opposed God’s messenger until another angel (Michael) was sent to help. Throughout that time Daniel continued to fast, unaware why he had not had an answer to his request (10:1, 12-14). On earth God’s will is opposed by kings and rulers, some of whom can be turned to repentance (4:34-35), some of whom cannot (5:1-4, 30; 11:36-38).
d. Suffering. Being a believer in Yahweh does not guarantee a life free from suffering. Israel suffered because of military conquest, but Daniel and his friends had to choose between their faith and an easy life (3:8-23; 6:3-12). Further defeats are foretold for Israel, but God will ultimately vindicate them (7:21-25; 8:23-25; 9:26; 11:36-45; 12:7b) and bring every deed to judgement (5:2-6, 22-30; 6:24; 7:9-10; 12:1-3).
e. God is in Control of Human History. Behind the scenes of history the Lord is working out his purposes (2:44). The kings of the earth rule by his will (2:37-38, 47; 4:28-35; 5:18-21; 6:26) and their end is already known (2:31-35, 44-45)
3. Place in Scriptures
In the English Bible, Daniel is placed among the Major Prophets immediately after Ezekiel, following the order of the Septuagint. However, in the Hebrew Bible, it is placed in the third division of the canon, called the Kethubhim or “writings” by the Hebrews, and the hagiographa or “holy writings” by the LXX. The third division of the canon is composed of works written by men who were inspired of God and yet did not themselves occupy the office of prophet. In ancient Israel the prophet was primarily a mediator between God and the nation, speaking to the people on behalf of God. He was in effect a spokesman for the Lord. None but the works of the nebhi’im (“prophet”) were put in the second part of the Jewish canon, the third belong reserved for the heterogeneous works of seers, wise men, and priests, or for those that do not mention the name or work of a prophet, or that are poetical in form.
An unusual feature of the book of Daniel is the fact that it was written in 2 languages, the central portion (2:4 – 7:28) is written in biblical Aramaic, while the rest was written in Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament.
1. Hebrew: Hebrew, one of the North Western group of the Semitic family of languages, was adopted by Abraham and his descendents when they settled in the land. There were about 70 distinct forms of Semitic languages and dialects, which were spoken in an area extending from the Caspian Sea to the Horn of Africa, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Tigris Valley.
The earliest reference to spoken Hebrew is recorded in Gen 31:47 (18th century BC), where Laban and Jacob refer to a heap of stones in their own native tongue. Laban calls it Jegarsahadutha (Aramaic) while Jacob calls it Galeed and a nearby pillar Mizpah, 2 Hebrew words. A thousand years later, Hebrew was called “the language of Judah” (2 Ki 18:26) and the language of Canaan (Isa 19:18). The earliest Hebrew script was the Pentateuch, written by Moses at the command of God. Subsequently, the court records of the kings and the words of the prophets were also written in this language, which became the official language of the Old Testament. Although the literature of the Old Testament covers over a period of 1000 years, there is very little development and changes in the grammar and vocabulary. This is probably because the books of Moses became the pattern for all Hebrew composition due to their dominant influence on Hebrew life and culture. However, the Aramaic influence of post-Exilic times brought changes in style and form. Much of the literature of this period was written in a less figurative and more vernacular Hebrew than the Old Testament. Hebrew ceased to be a spoken language about 3rd century AD but survived until modern times as a literary language. Aramaic, Arabic and various European tongues replaced Hebrew as the spoken tongue of the Jews until the Haskalah or enlightenment period between 1784 – 1881 brought about a renaissance of the language. The resettlement of the Jews in the land of Israel since 1882 made imperative the revival of a common language. The tremendous vocabulary needs of modern society made updating Hebrew necessary, a task that was undertaken successfully with the aid of the Hebrew Language Council, founded in 1890 and reorganised in 1953 as the Academy of Hebrew Language. Hebrew is now the official tongue of the modern state of Israel.
2. Aramaic: Aramaic first appeared among the Aramaeans about the late 11th century BC. By the 8th century BC it was accepted by the Assyrians as a second language. The mass deportations of people by the Assyrians and the use of Aramaic as a lingua franca by Babylonian merchants served to spread the language, so that in the 7th and 6th centuries BC it gradually supplanted Akkadian as the lingua franca of the Middle East. It subsequently became the official language of the Achaemenian Persian dynasty (559-330 BC), though after the conquests of Alexander the Great, Greek displaced it as the official language throughout the former Persian empire.
5. Structure and Overview
The book is divided into two parts; the historical, 1-6, and the prophetic, 7-12. In the former part Daniel is spoken of in the third person; in the latter, he himself is the narrator.
Historical Section: Daniel and his friends are taken captive (chap 1); Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image (chap 2); Nebuchadnezzar’s making of a gold image and his decree that it be worshiped (chap 3); Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an enormous tree (chap 4); Belshazzar’s and Babylon’s downfall (chap 5); Daniel’s deliverance (chap 6).
Apocalyptic Section: Daniel’s vision of the four beasts (chap 7); Daniel’s vision of a ram and a goat (chap 8); Daniel’s prayer and his vision of the 70 ‘Sevens’ (chap 9); the preparation of Daniel (chap 10); Prophecies concerning Persia, Greece, Egypt, Syria and the antichrist (chap 11); conclusion (chap 12).