In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babyloniaand put in the treasure house of his god. Daniel 1:1-2 (NIV).
Daniel. Even if you aren’t too well-versed in the Bible, you’ve probably heard about Daniel in the lion’s den. That’s in this book. So is the story of the three men in the furnace. And the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. And the statue that foretold the world’s empires. And the finger that wrote on the wall. In the book of Daniel there is history and prophecy, famous stories and obscure meanings. There are stories about the exile of Israel in Babylon, and prophecies about the end of the world: all this in a book that is likely 2500 years old. It was written over 500 years before the birth of Jesus, yet Daniel talks about someone like a “son of man, coming in the clouds of heaven” in a time that hasn’t even happened yet today.
Knowing all that, let’s agree that history is fascinating. God starts out the book of Daniel with a short history reference. This isn’t just to give you an introduction: it’s to ground His fantastic prophecies in the real, factual timeline of human history. It lends credence to the supernatural. In these first two verses, the author (Daniel, we presume) says that the Hebrew exile to Babylon happened at a certain time with verifiable events.
This exile continues the stories that finished 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, which conclude with the fall of Jerusalem, ending the kingdoms that started way back with Saul. Israel had been captured and deported to Assyria in the 700s BC, yet Judah persevered in the land. Then, between 605 and 580 BC, Babylon invaded Judah and deported all the people to be slaves in Babylon. Daniel was one of those who were deported. The Jews would later return to Judea and live there for several hundred years under occupied rule before being scattered again in the permanent diaspora that began in AD 70 when Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Second Temple.
Here in this book, we’ll get some insight into how events during the Babylonian exile shaped the Jewish (and later Christian) faith, and what faith and courage in the face of adversity really looks like. That’s a lesson we could all use today. Get ready: Daniel will be a great ride.
For further reading: 2 Kings 24:1-4, 2 Chronicles 36:6, Jeremiah 46:2, Zechariah 5:5-11, Daniel 1:3
Lord Jesus, thank You for Daniel and the things he recorded in this book. Open my mind to learn them.
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