How fitting it is that the word understanding is highlighted in the lesson title. Understanding is a key word in Daniel. "God gave them (the four young Hebrews) knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams" Daniel 1:17.
God is with Daniel, and three times he is able to reveal what the other wise men of the realm cannot (chapters 2, 4, and 5). Daniel understands! This is because in Daniel dwells "the Spirit of the Holy God" (4:18, 5:11, 5:14). "There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the Spirit of the Holy God………an excellent spirt, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel." Daniel 5:11-12.
Daniel glorifies the God of Heaven in his life and speech, and both Nebuchadnezzar and the queen recognize the source of Daniel's understanding. Yet Daniel struggles to understand the visions and messages he receives! In chapter 7 he was "grieved and greatly troubled" (v 15, 28). At the end of his next vision Daniel reported, "I was astonished at the vision, but none understood it" Daniel 8:27. Thirteen years later Daniel is praying and struggling to understand how the 70 years of Jeremiah relate to the 2,300 years. Gabriel is sent to give Daniel understanding (Daniel 9:20-23). The angel's explanation is a turning point for Daniel.
His final vision? Daniel understands! Writing in the third person he records for us "….. The message was true, but the appointed time was long; and he understood the message, and had understanding of the vision" Daniel 10:1.
Yet, at the end of his book once more we find Daniel seeking for clarity. "And I heard, but I understood not: then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things?" He is told, "Go your way, Daniel for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" Daniel 12:8, 9.
Daniel then is for us and our time. May our hearts respond to God's amazing lovingkindness. May we be given Divine wisdom as we study the book of Daniel these next three months. "…….thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus 2 Timothy 3:15. "Many shall be purified, made white, and refined, but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand" Daniel 12:10.
It's ALL about Jesus
"All the great truths of the Scriptures center in Christ; rightly understood, all lead to Him." Evangelism, p 485. We find Jesus present all through Daniel. He directs the flow of history. (1) He is the stone cut from the mountain without hands. (2) The Son of God Who does dwell with flesh (Daniel 2:11, 3:25). (3) He is the Holy Watcher (Daniel 4:13) and the lowest, most humble of men (Daniel 4:17) Whom God has highly exalted (Philippians 2:5-11). (4) He is the Creator God, the righteous Judge Who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways (As Belshazzar realizes too late, Daniel 5:23). (5) He is the Angel of the Lord. (6) He is the Son of Man, the King Who is given an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away. (7) He is the Prince of the Host, Heavenly High Priest, Palmoni, the Wonderful Numberer. (8) He is Messiah the Prince, cut off, but not for Himself. (9) He is the Prince of the Covenant, broken for us. (10) He is the Glorious Man clothed in linen. (11) He is Michael, the Great Prince Who stands watch over His children. We will gain clearer insights into the book of Daniel as we keep Jesus and His grand work of redemption front and center. (For more on names of Jesus in Daniel see Leslie Hardinge's book, Daniel is my Judge.)
The Structure of Daniel
Can a study and appreciation of the literary structure of Daniel aid us in our study of this historical and prophetic book? Yes!
The symmetrical beauty and artistic skill of bible passages are worthy of admiration and appreciation. They point to the source of inspiration - the Creator, Himself. God's created works abound in symmetry - trees, leaves, flowers, human beings, the animal kingdom, etc. It should not surprise us that order and symmetry are displayed in God's written word. Noting the arrangement of bible authors' material is useful. A book I really appreciate and have found helpful is David A. Dorsey's, "The Literary Structure of the Old Testament". Dorsey shares in his introduction that all literary compositions have structure and that humans need and appreciate communication which is arranged and organized. It is of interest that Dorsey finds most of the units in the Old Testament to be arranged in sevens. "The frequency of sevenfold structuring is remarkable," he states (p 25). While I don't always agree with his observations and conclusions, I find this book a valuable resource tool. An awareness of patterns, chiasms, themes, repetitions, and key words, all are helpful in studying the bible. (I would like to note that his commentary on Daniel is brief and will not be especially useful as we explore Daniel from historicism, sanctuary, the great controversy, end time, and Christ-centered points of view.)
Literary structuring and chiasms are more than just for artistry. Chiasms help identify the central purpose of a passage or turning point in a narrative.
A. Kingdom prophecies (Nebuchadnezzar's vision) (2)
B. God delivers Daniel's companions (3)
C. Judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (4)
D. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of Heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down." (4:37)
C. Judgment upon Belshazzar (5)
B. God delivers Daniel (6)
A. Kingdom prophecies (Daniel's vision) (7)
We can see in this chiasm of the Aramaic portion of Daniel a central theme of judgment. (Daniel means "God is my judge.") At the very heart and center is Nebuchadnezzar's confession that everything God does is just. God is deserving of honor and praise (Daniel 4:34-37). The other central theme here is pride. Oh, how insidiously deceptive are the fig leaves of pride with which we clothe ourselves! "None but God can subdue the pride of man's heart. We cannot save ourselves. We cannot regenerate ourselves…… What is justification by faith? It is the work of God in laying the glory of man in the dust and doing for man that which it is not in his power to do for himself." TM 456.
Chapters 4 and 5 also form the center of a chiasm for the whole book.
A. God's people go into exile (1)
B. Kingdom prophecies (2)
C. Trial and deliverance of Daniel's companions (3)
D. Humbling and Judgment of Babylonian Kings (4, 5)
C. Trial and deliverance of Daniel (6)
B. Kingdom prophecies (7-11)
A. God's people delivered (12)
Chiastic and parallel patterns help in understanding matching units. Daniel 7 and Daniel 2 shed light on one another. Most will agree that Daniel 11 is a challenging passage. In the chiasm of the Hebrew section of Daniel, chapter 8 should help us unlock Daniel 11. Note the center of the chiasm is Calvary.
A. Kingdom Prophecies (sacrificial animals) (8)
B. Daniel's prayer and Heaven's response (9)
C. Decree to rebuild Jerusalem (9:25)
D. Messiah is cut off, but not for Himself (9:26)
C. Decree to destroy Jerusalem (9:27)
B. Daniel mourning/fasting and Heaven's response (10)
A. Kingdom Prophecies (Kings of North and South) (11-12a)
In his book "Daniel", William Shea explains why Jesus is portrayed in the order of king, priest, and sacrifice. "We can see the effect of these thematic relations as we read Daniel's book from the beginning. By the time we reach chapter 7 and encounter the picture of the messianic king, the natural questions are: Who is this Being? Where does He come from? Daniel 8 answers by saying, "The King becomes king, in part, because previously He has been the priest. He is the one Who has ministered on behalf of the saints of the Most High; now He can accept them into His kingdom." But that response simply raises another question: How did He qualify as priest? In order to become a priest, one has to have something to offer, a sacrifice (see Hebrews 8:3). Where do we find the answer to that question? In Daniel 9. The sacrifice of Daniel 9 enabled the priest of Daniel 8 to become priest, and the priesthood of the Prince enabled the Prince of chapter 8 to become the king of chapter 7." "Daniel" by William Shea, p 226
Another way of looking at Shea's observations would be to see that the Sanctuary focus of Daniel 7 is on Christ's most holy place ministry, Daniel 8 on Christ's holy place ministry, and Daniel 9 on Christ's courtyard ministry. This should be helpful in understanding Daniel 11 where the flow of the prophecy moves from the courtyard to the holy place to the most holy place. Thus, we have a chiasm of chapters 7 through 12. The Little Horn of 7 and 8 and the kings of the North and the South attack God, His Sanctuary, and His people.
The center of this arrangement is Daniel 10. Here the aged prophet beholds our glorious Savior. Here Daniel is given a window into the great controversy between the powers of light and darkness. The book of Daniel is better understood and appreciated in light of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. (Recommended reading - Desire of Ages, chapter 79, "It is Finished")
An understanding and appreciation of the Sanctuary truth is key to understanding Daniel. "As a people, we should be earnest students of prophecy; we should not rest until we become intelligent in regard to the subject of the sanctuary, which is brought out in the visions of Daniel and John". Evangelism, p. 222.
When it comes to prophecy there is abundant biblical evidence that supports historicism. Sometimes though, we examine the kingdom prophecies of Daniel primarily through the lens of secular world history. Understanding these world powers in relationship to God and His people is most important. Because Israel and Judah were unfaithful, both went into exile. Although the Jews were allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple after the 70 year Babylonian captivity, they never regained independence. Never again would a king sit upon the throne of David until "He comes whose right it is." Ezekiel 21:16-27 The Jews lived under the rule of the Medes and Persians, then Greece, and finally Rome who destroyed their city and temple.
There is no need to be in the dark about these four kingdoms. The bible names them all. The first three are named in the book of Daniel. Rome, the fourth is named in the New Testament. Both Christ's first and second coming occur during the fourth kingdom, although it is a divided one when the stone strikes the feet of iron and clay. The end of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9 marked the end of the probationary period of the Jews. The prophetic focus forward is on Jesus' priestly work in the Heavenly Sanctuary, the powers that oppose God, and spiritual Israel - not literal Israel and an earthly temple. All of this is most helpful to keep in mind when we study and share the prophecies of Daniel.
There Is Always More
Just as precious gems can be multifaceted once one begins to detect patterns, more patterns are uncovered. For example, in Daniel we behold a God Who saves. He delivers!
1. God delivers Daniel and his friends from the king's food and drink. (1)
2. God delivers Daniel and his friends from the king's death decree. (2)
3. God delivers the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace. (3)
4. God delivers Nebuchadnezzar from his insanity. (4)
5. God delivers Daniel from the lions' den. (6)
6. God delivers humanity from sin and death. (9)
7. God delivers His living and sleeping saints at the end of the age. (12)
Worship and prayer play vital roles in Daniel. The sovereignty of God is a major theme. In spite of outward appearances God is in control! "He removes kings and raises up kings" (Daniel 2:20-22). He overrules evil for good and directs the flow of human history. At the end of the book there is a beautiful metaphor for this. The man clothed in linen is depicted above the waters of the river.
There is intricacy and beauty in God's word. I'm reminded of Ezekiel's vision of a wheel within a wheel. As we dig deep, we should find ourselves humbled. We, who sometimes think we know so much, begin to discover how little we know and how much more we have to learn! God's plan of redemption is an exhaustless topic! Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, and may we always be prayerful and careful in our approach to Scripture. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned and without the aid of the Holy Spirit we are easily led astray.
Jesus is coming soon. His kingdom will endure forever because it is based on other-centered love and genuine humility. The Godhead paid the ultimate price for our redemption. Oh, don't we desire to have understanding and be "among the wise who shall shine like the brightness of the firmament and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever"? (Daniel 12:3)
TRIBUTE: Our dear brother, Dr. Fred Bischoff, went to his rest, November 28, 2019. So many of us were exceedingly blessed by his abundant store of knowledge, his understanding of the bible and Adventist history, and by his example. The richness of his legacy endures. We look forward to the resurrection foretold in Daniel 12. We look forward to being reunited with Fred very soon.