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Daniel 1:1–7

“The king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, . . . among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah” (vv. 3–6).

Returning to the Old Testament prophets, we come to the book of Daniel, which records the ministry and visions of the next prophet in our chronological study. Daniel 1 establishes a time frame for the prophet’s ministry. Based on the historical events described in verses 1 and 21, Daniel ministered from 605–539/538 BC. This makes him a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, though Daniel’s ministry ended after theirs. Daniel has endured more criticism than just about any other prophetic book. Although the events of the book and the way they are described indicate that it was written in the sixth century BC, Bible critics often date the book nearly four hundred years later. Antisupernaturalism tends to drive this conclusion. Since the nineteenth century, many “scholars” have denied either God’s existence or that He would intervene in history even if He did exist. Since Daniel 7–12 predicts with uncanny accuracy the rise of world powers such as Greece, which occurred long after Daniel’s ministry, many scholars dismiss the book as vaticinium ex eventu—prophecy written after the events it allegedly predicts. Relating some of Daniel’s material to what other not-always-reliable sources of ancient history describe is not always easy. Still, there is no real reason to date the book later than the sixth century BC apart from the unwarranted presupposition that God either does not exist or does not reveal His future plans. Though the book of Daniel was written in the sixth century BC, the prophet’s ministry began with his exile to Babylon in 605 BC after Nebuchadnezzar’s first incursion into Palestine (2 Kings 24:1a). At first, Nebuchadnezzar’s success against Jerusalem left even the godliest person wondering whether Yahweh, the covenant Lord of Israel, had suffered a defeat. Daniel 1:2 answers that question, explaining that “the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand.” Jerusalem was not captured because God was too weak to protect it; rather, the enemy of Judah—Nebuchadnezzar—was himself a tool in the Lord’s hands to discipline His people. Falling prey to Babylon was not God’s fault but was due to the sin of the Judahites. John Calvin comments, “King Nebuchadnezzar did not possess Jerusalem, and was not the conqueror of the nation by his own valor, or counsel, or good luck, but because God wished to humble his people.” Again and again we will see the Lord revealed as the sovereign determiner of history in our study of Daniel.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God is the sovereign Lord of history who causes kingdoms to rise and fall according to His decree. Nothing happens apart from His having ordained it in eternity past, and this is a comforting truth. It tells us that everything in history has a purpose even if we cannot now discern what that purpose happens to be. All events great and small are being used of the Lord to advance His glory and our good, and His control over all things is the only way we can be confident of that precious truth.

For Further Study
  • Jeremiah 43
  • Habakkuk 1:5–11
  • Zechariah 11:15–17
  • 1 Timothy 6:13–16
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From the October 2013 Issue
Oct 2013 Issue