Daring To Be Like Daniel


Daniel  is one of the most amazing people in the Bible.   He was carried away from his native Israel by Nebuchadnezzar in  605 BC while he was still a young man.  He spent the rest of his life in Babylon  and seems to have lived to a ripe old  age.   Daniel actually  outlived  the Babylonian empire, and  he  continued  on throughout  the  duration of the seventy year  captivity  of  the Jewish  people.   It was largely do to his  prayers  that  the captivity  came  to  an end (9:1-23).  After that he lived on, advising   and rebuking kings, and serving as a  high  government official.  What a man!

This man is an outstanding example of how a person can  live a  godly  and  triumphant  life in the  midst  of  a  fallen  and perverted  society.  For instance, Daniel resolved not to  defile himself  with  the  king’s  dainties  (1:8).   These  undoubtedly included  a few items like shrimp from the Persian Gulf,  catfish from  the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and perhaps some good  ole Babylonian barbecued pork chops.  The commands of the Torah would have  forbidden  such foods and Daniel didn’t want  to  take  any chances.

We can immediately learn from Daniel that we cannot feast on the  fare  of this age and accomplish great feats  for  God.   We cannot  become “couch potatoes” and watch five or six hours  of  TV each day and expect to be victorious for God in our time.  Daniel had  commitment, and it paid off for him and for all Israel  many times over.

Daniel was not only a patriot, statesman, and  prophet,  but he  was  also  a dreamer of dreams and a seer  of  visions.   God talked  to  him, and on several occasions mighty angels  appeared  to him.   Because  of his uncanny vision and  understanding  of  the times,  he was able to interpret God’s word to the pagan  kingdoms of Babylon and Persia.  He actually became a legend in  his  own time.   Ezekiel,  who was brought to Babylon some  fifteen  years after  Daniel,  mentions  him almost with a  holy  reverence  and places him in the company of men like Noah and Job (Ez. 14:14).


Because  Daniel was close to God, the Lord gifted  him  with knowledge and understanding of all kinds (1:17).  Since he  could see into the  unseen realm, he was  called upon to interpret  King Nebuchadnezzar’s  dreams.   One night the king had a  dream  that greatly  troubled  him.   He called  his  magicians,  enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers but they could not tell him his  dream.  At last, Daniel was called and the vision was made known.

The king had dreamed of an enormous, dazzling statue with a head of gold, with a chest and arms of silver, with a belly and thighs  of bronze, with legs of iron, and with feet and  toes  of iron  mixed with baked clay.  The king watched until a  rock  was hewn  out  of the mountain.  That rock  crashed  into  the  image turning  it into dust, but the rock grew into a  great  mountain, filling the whole earth (2:36).

Daniel  quickly interpreted the meaning of the vision to  an astounded  king.   The vision was a picture of the  Gentile  Age, which  had apparently come into being at the very time that Israel had  been destroyed  by  the Babylonians in 586 BC.  There  would  be  four world  kingdoms and they would continue intact until the  present hour.  At last, these kingdoms would be destroyed together by the rock hewn out of the mountain.  In Daniel, and also in Revelation 14:1, it  becomes clear that the mountain is Mt. Zion,  and  the rock is the Messiah and his government.  The fall of Israel began the  Gentile Age, and the final restoration of Israel will  bring it to an abrupt end.

What  an unusual view of history!  It would never be  taught in  a  secular school today, yet is seems to be the  proper  and  biblical view.   Someday everyone will likely understand history in just the  way Daniel interpreted it.  The four world empires of the Gentile age are Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.   Daniel  correctly saw  that the Roman empire would divide into eastern and  western portions  like  two legs of a man.  He saw that  it  would  later divide  into ten sections like a man’s toes.  Later in  the  book (7:8),  he  saw  that  from  these ten  toes  a  king  of  fierce countenance  would  arise  and bring a brief age  of  terror  and persecution the likes of which the world has never seen before.

Daniel  saw  that the image would fall at one  time  (2:35). This is important.  The Babylonian head didn’t fall off in 539 BC when that nation was destroyed.  It is still there today.  We can know  by  this  that  the  godless  principles  of  these world governments  will continue to be in effect, although  the  nations themselves have long passed from
the scene.

We can only speculate about what principles were involved in these  nations.  Babylon  probably represented  religion  without God.  It represented a defiled and adulterated religious  system, mixed  with  sorcery. God calls his people to come  out  of  this wretched  system (Isa. 48:20; Rev. 18:4).  Media-Persia seems  to represent  a system of law and government without God.  The  laws of the Medes and Persians could not be changed even if they  were wrong  and stupid (6:8). We still have plenty of laws like  that, and  more  are  being  enacted  every  day. Greece   undoubtedly represented  knowledge without God.  It represented humanism  and rationalism,  which are very much in vogue today. Rome  probably represented  power without God – brute military force.  There  is also still enough of that around.

In  chapter  7,  Daniel saw the very same  view  of  history again,  but with the symbols of beasts, emphasizing for  us  that the worldwide religious-economic-political system is  essentially beastly in its nature.  In the end of days one who is described as a wild beast (Rev. 13:1) will rule over the whole world for a very brief period until Messiah’s government overcomes him.  Then the whole system will collapse.


Because  of their strong faith in God, Daniel and his  three friends,  Shadrach,  Meshach  and  Abednego,  had  many   trials.  Daniel’s  friends  were thrown into the fiery furnace  for  their refusal to join in Babylon’s idolatrous worship (3:18).  God came, walked with  them  in the furnace, and delivered them  because  of  their devotion  to him (3:25).  Later, Daniel spent the night in a  den of  hungry lions, because he insisted on praying to the  true  God rather  than joining in the idolatry of Persia  (6:13).   Someone jokingly said that the lions could not eat Daniel because he  was all backbone.  God delivered Daniel and when morning came, he was lifted from the den intact and unharmed (6:22).

But Daniel realized that there would be difficult trials for  all those who would live godly lives.  Daniel saw in his vision  that a  “little horn” or the beastly king would someday rise  up  from the  fragmented  remnants of the Roman Empire.  The  prophet  saw that  this end-time person would wage war with the saints of  God and  partially defeat them (7:21).  He would wield authority  for three  and  one half years, speaking against the Most  High,  and touching  the land of Israel.  This king would greatly  interfere with  the  worship in  Israel (8:11), and would  destroy  many  of God’s  people (8:24).  Finally he would be broken, but  not  with human hands (8:25).  Daniel, like the author of Revelation  (Rev. 5:4), was deeply troubled by his view into the future (8:27).


During the reign of Darius, Daniel realized from the scripture that Israel would soon be restored.  Upon this realization, he prayed one  of the most beautiful prayers  for  Israel  recorded anywhere  in the Bible (9:1-19).  Daniel literally prayed in  the restoration  of  God’s  people. He prayed the  Bible,  using  the prophecies  of Jeremiah as the basis of his request.   God  heard Daniel’s  prayer and in a few short years, Zerubbabel was  leading almost 50,000 Israelites back home to Jerusalem.  In Daniel 9:20-27,  the prophet is given a capsulized view of  Israel’s  history from the time of the decree to restore Jerusalem until the end of the world.  His view includes the precise time for the coming  of Israel’s  Messiah (before the Temple’s destruction),  until the last turbulent three and  one  half years of this present evil age.  Daniel’s prophecy is so accurate and  detailed  that it reads like a  historical  account.   Some scoffers  have  even  insisted  that the  book  of  Daniel  is  a “vaticinium  ex  eventu”  (prophecy  after  the  event).   Modern scholarship however has vouched for the authenticity of the  Book of Daniel.


It seems clear that in chapter eight, Daniel even foresaw the events leading up to the first Hanukkah celebration.  He saw that a king of fierce countenance would rise up out of the  fragmented Greek  empire and would mightily persecute Israel  (8:23-24).  He would  be a pattern for the evil king of the last days.  Daniel’s vision came to pass in the years 168-165 BC.  The king of  fierce countenance was Antiochus IV (Epiphanes).

In  that bleak period of time when many were being  overcome and were falling from the faith, the Maccabee family arose to  do great  exploits (11:32). They assembled and inspired  a  guerrilla force.  By their heroic faith and dogged  determination  they finally overcame the whole Seleucid army.  The Temple, which  had been  polluted with the offering of swine’s flesh,  was  cleansed and  the menorah lit once again.  Reportedly the  menorah  burned for the whole eight day period of Hanukkah, even though there was only  enough  undefiled  oil to last for  a  single  day.   These valiant  men stood apart, just like Daniel had done, and even  in the  darkest  hours of Israel’s history they kept  the  light  of faith burning.


How  can we summarize this exciting book?  Daniel  shows  us that  if he could live for the Lord in the very heart of  ancient Babylon,  then  we  can live for the Lord in the  very  heart  of modern  Babylon.  God has called us to be overcomers,  especially as we see the end days closing in upon us (Rev. 2:11; 2:17; 2:26; 3:12;  3:21;  etc.)   We too can be overcomers in  a  wicked  and perverse  society.   We too can be wise like Daniel  (12:3),  and shine  as the brightness of the firmament – even in the midst  of the darkest hours of human history.

                                                                                                                     -Jim Gerrish


This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem.  Original publication date, 1991.

Portrait:  The Prophet Daniel from Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling, 1508-12, Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.