Friday, September 9, 2011

Daniel in the Palace Part I Overview

Daniel in the Palace Part I Overview
By Dr. Dave Johnson
Assemblies of God Missionary to the Philippines

[This blog is the first in a series of blogs that will examine the book of Daniel.  At the outset, I am uncertain as to whether I will cover the entire book or only the first six chapters.]

The book of Daniel is rich in history and cannot be understood apart from the cross currents of the events of his day.  Daniel, the statesman-prophet, the author of the book that bears his name, was born circa 622 B.C., in the latter days of the southern kingdom. Palestine lies along the major trade routes of the Middle East.  Not only did merchants travel along these routes, so did kings with their armies—and some that did so deeply affected the children of Israel. 

Not only is the book of Daniel rich in history, it comes in time in which Israel had at least four other writing prophets, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and Haggai.  On the broader world scene, Daniel was also a contemporary of three other significant religious figures Confucius, Buddha, and Zoroaster, the Persian religious reformer, although it is not likely that, with the possible exception of Zoroaster, Daniel would have been familiar with them.

The book of Daniel must also be understood within a certain theological framework.  At this point in history, the Old Testament canon was not yet complete.  Daniel was obviously familiar with the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible penned by Moses, the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel and probably I and II Kings, the Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon), and some of the prophets. Isaiah predated Daniel by about a century.  Daniel quotes from the book of Jeremiah and was probably also familiar with Lamentations.  Since Ezekiel was a contemporary who lived among the exiles in Babylon, Daniel would surely have been familiar with his work.  Among the “minor” prophets, he would have known of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk.  Since Nahum may have been written late in the 7th century B.C, he was mostly acquainted with it.  Haggai was a younger contemporary of Daniel’s and his prophecy was recorded during the second year of Darius the Mede’s reign. Since it was recorded in Judah and Daniel, by this time, was an old man, there is a small possibility that he may not have known Haggai’s work, but since there was an obvious free flow of communication between Judah and Babylon, it is more likely that he did know it.  He would not have known the books Esther, I and II Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, Zechariah, Malachi, as these were not written until after his death.  

Seismic shifts also took place in the children of Israel’s religious practices during this time.  By Nebuchadnezzar’s order, Solomon’s Temple was destroyed. Sacrifices and the Levitical priesthood were abolished.  Even the Ark of the Covenant disappeared from the pages of history, most likely destroyed along with the temple.  All of these were iconic aspects of Jewish worship.  The beginnings of the synagogue can be traced to the time of the captivity as well as the birth of the Pharisees—the evangelical preachers of the day, who appear to have been a far cry from the Pharisees of Jesus’ day in terms of their attitudes.  A positive result of the Babylonian exile was that the Israelites were forever cured of idol worship.

With this broad overview in place, we now proceed to a review a more detailed historical backdrop of Daniel’s day in the next post.

*All Scripture references are from the New King James Version unless otherwise noted.

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Copyright 2011 Dr. Dave Johnson 

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