We’ve been journeying through the Book of Daniel, and what an amazing, spectacular trip it’s been! So far, we’ve delved into the first four chapters, with more to follow. I wanted to take a moment and share with you what I’ve been preaching at the Topsham Baptist Church over the last couple of weeks from the Book of Daniel. What a blessing this trek through Daniel has been for me! Let’s start by taking a look at the cast of characters, so to speak, in this saga, and then we’ll point out some observations we’ve made along the way.
We encounter a number of different kings in the book of Daniel; First, we meet the two kings who reigned during the 11th and final dynasty of kings in Babylon, also known as the “Neo-Babylonian” Empire (626-539 B.C.): Nebuchadnezzar II and Belshazzar. After the Achaemenid Empire came into power, we read two more names: Cyrus and Darius (the latter of which appears to be a title rather than a name); these were part of what is known as the “First Persian” Empire (539-330 B.C.).
God used these kings not only to progress His divine plan for His people, but also to display His love for even these ungodly kings.
Daniel was a young man likely around 15-16 years old when he and many of his countrymen were taken captive and and carried away at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. His name means, “God is my judge,” but he was known as Belteshazzar after the captivity, a name given to him by Neuchadnezzar which meant “Prince of Bel.” Daniel is known as a man of integrity, and is one of the few Biblical characters of whom no sins are recorded.
Daniel was characterized by wisdom, temperance, and — above all — dedication to the law of God. He was a sensitive man, and one to whom God could speak. Daniel was known not only for his personal prayer habits, but also for his prayer habits with other men of God, namely Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. God gave special favor to Daniel in the sight of kings, princes, and leaders in the kingdom of Babylon, both for Daniel’s survival and the furtherance of God’s plan for all of the characters in this beautiful record contained in the book of Daniel.
All in all, Daniel served the Babylonian and Medo-Persian governments for over 60 years, being faithful to Jehovah until the end.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
Whether these three young men were familiar with Daniel before the captivity is unknown; however, we do find them together in solidarity early on in the record of Daniel. These men were originally named Hananiah (meaning “God is gracious”), Mishael (meaning “Who is like God?”), and Azariah (meaning “God is my helper”); however, they were given new names after the similitude of Daniel. In the same order, those new names were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, names that were dedicated to various deities of Babylon such as Marduk and Nebo. These men were likely the same age as Daniel when they were captured by Nebuchadnezzar, and displayed the same sterling character as Daniel throughout the book.
The Chaldeans and Magicians
Alongside Nebuchadnezzar’s throne through all his subjugations was his team of astrologers and soothsayers, magicians and diviners. Of course, most of what they accomplished for Nebuchadnezzar was nothing more than parlor tricks; however, there could very well have been demonic influence in their doings.
Of importance is the significance of the way the word “Chaldeans” is used in the book of Daniel. When the term “Chaldean” is used, it is used both in a national sense and a vocational sense. Babylon was, in fact, a Chaldean nation by geography; however, through its assimilations and acquisitions she identified as a much more diverse nation than her own region represented. Hence, the distinction between the Chaldeans (nationals who were associated with astrology and such) and the Babylonians, as it were.
Jehovah and the False Imitators
Throughout the accounts of Daniel’s narrative (chapters 1-6) and prophecy (chapters 7-12), God takes the forefront as the One who puts up and puts down, who protects and exposes, who exalts and deposes.
There are imitators, though — Bel, Marduk, Nebo, and others all maintain a presence in Babylon, a vestige of the false religion of Nimrod, which was a rejection of the Creator and an embrace of creation-worship. In this book, however, these false gods are exposed as frauds and Jehovah is magnified.
That’s it for the introduction — I’ll be sure to get to chapter one in the next couple of days.