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The Blue Letter Bible

Dr. J. Vernon McGee :: Notes for Daniel

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BACKGROUND: The Book of Daniel has been the battlefield between conservative and liberal scholars for years. The heat of battle is now past— with each side claiming a major victory. However, the very fact that the Book of Daniel remains intact in Scripture and that the early dating of this book (the 6th century B.C.) has been maintained successfully by conservative scholars against the massed onslaught of arrogant liberalism, is in itself a valid argument for the original and conservative position.
Porphyry, a heretic in the 3rd century A.D., declared that the Book of Daniel was a forgery, written during the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and the Maccabees (170 B.C.) — almost 400 years after Daniel had lived. The German critics seized upon this hypothesis and, along with Dr. S. R. Driver, developed it. These critics, as well as present-day unbelievers, assume the premise that the supernatural does not exist, hence there can be no foretelling since foreknowledge is supernatural.
However, the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament written prior to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, contains the Book of Daniel! Also, Josephus records an incident during the time of Alexander the Great which supports the early authorship. When Alexander’s invasion reached the Near East, Jaddua, the high priest, went out to meet him and showed to him a copy of the Book of Daniel in which he was clearly mentioned. Alexander was so impressed by this that instead of destroying Jerusalem, he entered the city peaceably and worshiped at the temple.
It is not in the purview of these brief notes to enter into useless argument and fight again about that which has been already won. We accept the findings of conservative scholarship—that the man Daniel was not a deceiver and that his book was not a forgery. We feel that the statement of Edward B. Pusey is apropos here: “The rest which has been said is mostly mere insolent assumptions against Scripture, grounded on unbelief.” Sir Isaac Newton declared, “To reject Daniel is to reject the Christian religion.”
Our Lord called the Pharisees “hypocrites,” but He called Daniel “the prophet.” He has never reversed this arrangement, and the endorsement of the Lord Jesus Christ is valid and sufficient for every believer whether or not he has examined the arguments of the critics. It satisfies the sincere saint without his having studied the answers of conservative scholarship (see Hebrews 11:33).

WRITER: We know more of Daniel the man than we do of any other prophet. He gave us a personal account of his life from the time he was carried captive to Babylon in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, which was about 606 B.C. (Daniel 1:1), until the first year of King Cyrus, which was about 536 B.C. (Daniel 1:21 and also Daniel 9:2). Daniel’s life and ministry bridged the entire 70 years of captivity. At the beginning of the book he is a boy in his teens, and at the end he is an old man of fourscore or more years.
Here is God’s estimate of the man: “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved” (Daniel 10:11).
There are three words that characterize Daniel’s life: purpose, prayer, and prophecy.

(1) Daniel was a man of purpose (Daniel 1:8; 6:10). He determined that he would not be defiled by the immorality of paganism or be involved in the degradation of idolatry. This is the practical teaching of prophecy.
The study of prophecy should not lead to fanaticism or sensationalism. Rather, it should lead to a life of holiness and fear of the Lord.

And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure. (1 John 3:3)

(2) Daniel was a man of prayer (Daniel 2:17-23; 6:10; 9:3-19; 10). His total life and his every decision in a pagan court were paved by prayer.
The study of prophecy should not be engaged in for the satisfaction of curiosity or to be grist for polemic argumentation. Instead, it should inspire us to spiritual living and an earnest study of the Word of God.

(3) Daniel was a man of prophecy. The bulk of his book relates to prophetic themes. Our Lord labeled him, “Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15).

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. (2 Peter 1:20)

Daniel gave us the skeleton of prophecy on which all prophecy is placed. The image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (chapter 2) and the beasts (chapter 7) are the backbone of prophecy; the seventy weeks (chapter 9) are the ribs which fit into their proper place.
The study of prophecy should not lead to idle speculation or wild theories. On the contrary, it produces a practical, profitable, plenary, and purposeful life.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17)

DATE: As previously indicated, we hold to the early date of the Book of Daniel — between the third year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, about 606 B.C. and the first year of Cyrus, about 536 B.C.

HIS MESSAGE: Daniel was the prophet of “the times of the Gentiles” (see Luke 21:24). The major portion of his prophecies were directly concerned with the gentile nations. The notable exception is Daniel 9, which concerns the seventy weeks, but here the emphasis is upon the interval after the cutting off of the Messiah between the 69th week and the 70th week. It is during this period that the city and sanctuary are destroyed, and “the times of the Gentiles” are identified as the time when “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Evidently, the “wise men from the east” knew the prophecy of Daniel. A portion of the Book of Daniel was written in Aramaic, the language of the Gentiles of that day. All this does not imply that the Book of Daniel was not written for the nation Israel; on the contrary, Israel was acquainted with the prophecies of Daniel in his day. Ezekiel, who was with the captives, made reference to the character of Daniel and to his office as a prophet (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3). By the way, this reference to Daniel by Ezekiel, who was Daniel’s contemporary, is conclusive evidence against the theory that this book belongs to the Maccabean period.


And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)

Dr. G. Campbell Morgan gave this theme: “Persistent Government of God in the Government of the World.” This is the book of the universal sovereignty of God. Prophecy is interwoven with history to show that God is overruling the idolatry, blasphemy, self-will, and intolerance of the Gentiles.

But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased. (Daniel 12:4)

More specifically, Daniel 12:4 brings together “the times of the Gentiles” and “the time of the end” for the nation Israel in the Great Tribulation. This coming crisis eventuates in Christ setting up the Millennial Kingdom.
Daniel dealt with political issues apart from ecclesiastical matters. His book gives the final outcome of events and issues that are at work in the world today and answers the question, “Who will rule the world?” — not “How will the world be converted?”
Our Lord, in the Olivet Discourse, quoted only from the Book of Daniel. The Book of Revelation is largely an enigma without the Book of Daniel. Paul’s revelation concerning “the man of sin” needs Daniel’s account for amplification and clarification.

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