Does not correspond with Sabbath School Study Guide
The exact time of Daniel’s birth is not known, but many students of the Bible believe that it was around 622 BC during one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of Israel. The revival was prompted by the religious reform led by the young King Josiah when the scroll of Moses that had been forgotten for centuries was found in the temple in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 34:19-21 says that “When the king heard the reading of the words of the law, he tore his robes and he gave the following orders to … his servants: ‘Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the remnant in Israel and Judah about what is written in this book that has been found.'” At the order of the king, the feast of Passover was celebrated and 2 Chronicles 35:18 says that since the time of the Prophet Samuel the Passover was not “observed like this in Israel.” Peace was promised for Josiah’s time, but there was no doubt that God’s judgments were soon to come. It was in this context that Daniel’s parents named their newborn son Daniel, which means “God is my judge.” Since the word “judge” in the Bible is positive for those who are on God’s side, by giving this name the parents expressed their trust in the Lord.
When Daniel was still a teenager, the young king Josiah lost his life for a reason difficult to understand. This happened in the year 608 BC just before the battle of Haran when the Egyptian Pharaoh Neco was crossing the territory of Syro-Palestine. From the plains of Megiddo Josiah’s body was brought to Jerusalem where he died leaving the whole nation in grief. The prophet Jeremiah composed a lament for the dead king. The feeling of fear and uncertainty was felt everywhere in the kingdom: Spiritual uncertainty, because the people remembered that Amon, Josiah’s father, was an idolater. Also political, because the kingdom of Judah was sandwiched between the two great powers of the time: Egypt in the south, and Babylon in the north. People say that misery likes company, and often in life, one tragedy is followed by another. Only a few years later, in 605 BC the Babylonian army came, laid siege to Jerusalem and removed the holy vessels to carry them to Babylon. During this invasion, Daniel, who belonged to a noble family from Judah, was taken captive and led into exile.
These two tragedies, shook young Daniel and left him pondering the following questions: What will happen to my people, the people chosen by God? What will happen to this world? God didn’t leave Daniel in darkness as to what will happen to his people and the world. He intervened in his daily life as well as in the lives of his friends. He also showed him what he was planning to do in the near and in the distant future: As surely as Judah’s kingdom came to an end, so will Babylon one day come to an end, too. And as surely as the temple was emptied of God’s glory, so will the world one day become empty of its people. One end has come, another, greater end, was yet to come. But beyond the gloom and darkness there was hope. That hope is found in God and in his prophetic word. Daniel was destined to become a divine channel through whom God will communicate this prophetic message of hope to his people and to the faithful from the entire world for generations to come.
Relevant Biblical Passages:
- 2 Chronicles 33:1-6; 36:15-19. These passages give an important insight into the question of why the Jerusalem temple was destroyed and the people went into exile. Manasseh was King Josiah’s grandfather, often considered to have been the most wicked of all kings of Judah.
- Psalm 137. Among the Hebrews that were exiled to Babylon there was a group spent much time sitting and weeping as they remembered Zion. They refused to witness for their God and instead they poured out curses on their enemies.
- Jeremiah 29:1-13. Another group turned to God and to his prophets. The prophet Jeremiah wrote a letter to this group, and its message made a great impact on those who read it. For years people in Israel made pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and as they approached the city, they prayed for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122). Now in Babylon they had to learn a new prayer, one for Babylon’s peace, because if it prospers, they too will prosper. The false prophets accused Jeremiah of being a traitor. But he wasn’t. He prophesied about the fall of Babylon, and called God’s people out of it in chapters 50 and 51, while in chapter 30, Jeremiah talks about the return from Babylon. Babylon will certainly come to an end in a time ordained by God. But before she falls, there was a work for God’s people to do. Daniel trusted and followed this message given by God through Jeremiah.
- Isaiah 43:8-13. By studying the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, Daniel came to a conclusion that God had a plan for his life. Thus, Babylon was not just an enemy, but rather it was a place to witness. He prayed for that city, and he witnessed in it in three ways: (1) Personally to the people with whom he came into contact. He began with King Nebuchadnezzar himself. This king had been called by Jeremiah “Lord’s servant” (27:6), and it was Daniel’s task to cooperate with God to make Nebuchadnezzar into the Lord’s servant. This he did by becoming a wise man for God in Babylon and by learning the language that the Babylonians could understand. (2) The second way in which Daniel witnessed was by writing a short book in the international language of diplomacy and business in BabylonÑthe Aramaic language. In that book, he told stories of God’s saving power. This book is found in chapters 2-7 in Daniel and they were written in Aramaic. (3) Daniel also witnessed to God’s people. He wrote a book in their own Hebrew language. The central message of this book is that the Messiah is coming, the temple will be restored, and the saints will possess the kingdom.
Lessons for Life
Are our times similar to Daniel’s? Would you say that tragedies around us are increasing? How do we relate to them? Which group do we usually join: the weepers, the speculators, or the witness for God in the world around us? What is Babylon today? If we are living in Babylon, do we have to be of Babylon? Many people in the world are dying
Can Daniel speak to us today through his book? Do we let him do it? What would Daniel do today for his God and for the people around him? Do I dare to be like Daniel and trust in God and His word? Do I follow his example by witnessing for him both personally and publicly and also ministering to God’s people?