In the book of Ezekiel, God's people, the Jews, were exiles. Their enemy had forced them to go to the land of Babylon. The first group went in 597 BC (Before Christ). The second group went in 586 BC. Daniel lived in the same period. The book divides into two sections. Most of the first part is history (1-6). And most of the second part is prophecy (7-12).

The book of Daniel shows us a wonderful God. He completely controls world history (7-11). But he still takes care of people who are in danger (1-6). There may be vast nations with serious struggles. God cares about them. Or there may be one person with serious troubles. And God cares about that one person too.

God's Servants: Completely Loyal (Chapters 1-6)

Chapters 1-6 introduce a group of loyal Jews. They were exiles in an enemy country. But they refused to be like everybody else. They chose to serve God only. These four young men were heroes who loved God (1:6-8). And they were able to live honest, good lives. This was not because of any natural power. It was because of their confidence in God. They knew Yahweh.

[Note: This is a Hebrew word in the language of the Jews. It means Jehovah, or God.]

He is:

The God who Rewards Loyal People (1)

The young men refused to eat foreign food. This was because people offered it to idols first. People recognized that Daniel and his friends were special. And the king of Babylon wanted their wise advice. This happened during all the time of their exile (1:19-21).

The God who Provides Wisdom (2)

Their employer did not know God. He had a strange dream. And it upset him because he did not understand it. Daniel first told him what the dream was. Then he explained its meaning. Daniel believed in a God who shows secrets (2:28).

The God who Rescues (3)

This story is about Daniel's three friends (2:49). They refused to worship an idol (3:12-18). Notice three things:

  • What those who opposed them said. ‘They do not serve your gods’ (3:12).
  • What those who were loyal to God said. ‘The God whom we serve can save us. But even if God does not save us…we refuse to serve your gods’ (3:17-18).
  • What those who were watching them said. ‘There are four men walking around in the fire. We tied them up with ropes. But they are free. They are not hurt. And the fourth man looks like a son of the gods’ (3:25).

Our lives should show God in the same clear way. Those who oppose us should know our beliefs. They should understand them too. Our confidence in God should be as strong as the trust of the three loyal men. There are times when we have serious troubles and problems. At these times, people should be aware that Christ is with us.

The God who Hates Pride (4)

This story is about Daniel. He needed courage too. The king had had a dream. It showed God's punishment for him because of his pride. Daniel warned the king that he would have a mental illness (4:25). Daniel said, ‘Please accept my advice. Stop doing bad things and do what is right. Then you might continue to be successful’ (4:27). After one year, it happened. The king was feeling very proud (4:29-30). Then, immediately, he changed. Instead of a proud king, he became a helpless, mad man (4:33).

The God who Punishes Sin (5)

First, there was the story of a king's pride (4). His name was Nebuchadnezzar. This is the story of another king's punishment. His name was Belshazzar. He decided to have a very big feast. And he used the holy cups from the Temple in Jerusalem. There was much drinking of alcohol. And there was much wrong sex.

While this was happening, God wrote on the wall. It was a message about God's judgement. The king sent for Daniel. And Daniel told him what the dream meant. During that same night, someone killed Belshazzar.

The God who Promises Protection (6)

This is the famous story about lions. Again, it emphasises the power of God. He was the God who could deal with a proud king. And the same God could close the mouths of lions (6:22).

All these stories happened. They are events of history. They happened during the exile period. But the events were helpful at another time too. It was the time of the Maccabean revolution. That event was in the 2nd century BC.

[Note: Read chapter 1 of the Bible Guide. It explains about this time in history.]

These stories from the past encouraged the Jews. Their dangers at this time were similar. They could choose to be like the people near them. They could choose not to serve God completely. They might not be loyal. They could be cowards. Their behaviour could become evil. But these stories could help them to want the best way.

God's World: its Certain Future (Chapters 7-12)

The content of the book of Daniel changes. In these chapters, it is not about present events. It is about future fights. There are a series of extraordinary visions. Chapters 1-6 show that each person who believes is important. Chapters 7-12 show something more. That person must realize that God controls the nations.

These chapters are a special type of literature. Its name is ‘apocalyptic’, which is about the end of history. God will judge evil. Then he will establish a kingdom. It will be perfect and it will never end.

This type of literature uses signs. The signs describe the future. But It is hard to explain their meanings. Explanations can vary too. So each person with an opinion must be humble. Each one must think about the other person's ideas too.

We can divide this section into three:

The beasts (big animals) and their battles (7-8). Chapter 7 speaks about four beasts. They represent the powers that will bring trouble to the earth. Probably, the lion is a sign for Babylon. Perhaps the bear is a sign for the land of Medo-Persia. Perhaps the next beast is a sign for Greece. And perhaps the fourth beast is a sign for Rome.

Chapter 8 tells us about a fight between two animals. There is a male sheep. This is a sign for Medo-Persia (8:20). Then there is a male goat. This is a sign for the land of Greece (8:21). Greece divided into four sections (8:22-23). And this happened during the Maccabean revolution. Antiochus Epiphanes was the ruler then. And he did bad things to God's people (8:23-25). But the vision means more than this. It is speaking about future events that have still not happened. So, Antiochus is also a sign. An evil ruler will do bad things to Christians.

The penitent and his visitors (9-10).

[Note: A penitent is someone who is sorry about his sins.]

Daniel himself said, ’I was very upset about the vision. I did not understand what the vision meant’ (8:27). But he was a man who prayed. He knew that God's people had sinned (9:3-4, 20). And Daniel confessed those sins. God's people had not obeyed God (5). They had not listened to God's prophets (6). And they had refused to accept God's word (13).

God sent his angel to Daniel with help. The help:

  • was immediate (9:21: ‘while I was praying’).
  • was with sympathy (10:10: ‘a hand touched me’).
  • encouraged him (9:23: ‘I came to tell you. God loves you very much’).

Then the angel told Daniel about the future. There was something more than the present troubles. There was a battle going on. It was a fight that involved the whole world.

Chapter 9:24 speaks about ‘70 weeks’. There are various ways to explain this period. But we do know that it speaks about the future. It will be a time when many important things happen.

Chapter 9:25-27 may describe the coming of Christ. This title means Messiah. The actual words are: ‘Anointed One’.

[Note: God promised to send him. And the Jews are still waiting for him to come. They do not realize that Jesus is their Messiah.]

The words ‘cut off’ (9:26) could be about the death of Jesus Christ on the cross. Because of this, Jews do not need to sacrifice (kill) animals now. (Compare Hebrews 8:13.) But there are other opinions about this passage.

The fight and its finish (11-12). The final visions give a complete idea about events. They are like a picture of the centuries. Chapter 11 is a prophecy. It speaks about the fight between Syria and Egypt. But it also speaks about the end of world history. Chapter 12 prepares us for great future trouble (12:1).

The book ends with three important things:

  • It emphasises that our names must be in ‘the book’ (12:1. Compare Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5 and 20:12).
  • It announces the fact of the resurrection (12:2). This means that people who have died will become alive again.
  • It shows the difference between two groups of people. One group is people who are wise (12:3, 10). The other group is people who are wicked (12:4, 10).