Lesson 5 on the Book of Daniel
Who are these two kings and how did we get here?
To answer that question, we need to start with two other rulers: King Josiah of Judah and Pharaoh Neco of Egypt.
Neco is first mentioned in 2 Kings 23:29. A statue of Neco is shown on the handout for Lesson 5.
Josiah is first mentioned by name in 1 Kings 13:2 (in a remarkable prophecy against Jeroboam given three centuries before Josiah’s birth!) and then in 2 Kings 21:24, when Josiah becomes king after his father, King Amon. 2 Kings 22 tells us how Josiah repaired the temple and found the book of the Law.
Soon after coming to power in Egypt, Pharaoh Neco began trying to gain control of Syria-Palestine.
In 609, he captured Gaza and Ashkelon. He then led his army northward to help the Assyrians in their battles with the Chaldeans, who had already captured the Assyrian capital of Nineveh in 612.
Neco sent envoys to King Josiah, assuring him that his purpose was not to fight with Judah but instead with the Chaldeans of Babylon.
2 Chronicles 35:21 — But he sent envoys to him, saying, What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.
Josiah, realizing that the independence of Judah was being threatened, tried to stop the Egyptians at the pass of Megiddo (the world’s most famous battlefield!), but he was defeated and mortally wounded.
2 Kings 23:29 — In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him, and Pharaoh Neco killed him at Megiddo, as soon as he saw him.
Neco proceeded to gain control of Syria as far as the Euphrates.
When Neco heard that the people of Judah had crowned Jehoahaz, an anti-Egyptian son of Josiah, he summoned Jehoahaz to Syria, deposed him, and took him to Egypt as a prisoner for the rest of his life.
In his place Neco put Jehoahaz’s brother and Josiah’s other son, Eliakim, and changed his name to Jehoiakim to show that he was an Egyptian vassal. Neco placed Judah under heavy tribute — 100 talents of silver and one talent (about 75 pounds) of gold.
2 Kings 23:33-34 — And Pharaoh Neco put him [Jehoahaz] in bonds at Riblah in the land of Hamath, that he might not reign in Jerusalem, and laid on the land a tribute of a hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold. And Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim the son of Josiah king in the place of Josiah his father, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But he took Jehoahaz away, and he came to Egypt and died there.
In 605, King Nabopolassar of Babylon sent his son Nebuchadnezzar against Neco’s army at Carchemish on the Euphrates. The Babylonians defeated the Egyptians and drove them out of Syria. Jeremiah describes this defeat of Egypt.
Jeremiah 46:1-2 — The word of the Lord that came to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. About Egypt. Concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco, king of Egypt, which was by the river Euphrates at Carchemish and which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah.
Jeremiah gave Pharaoh Neco one of the greatest nicknames in history. In Jeremiah 46:17 we read, “Call the name of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, ‘Noisy one who lets the hour go by.’” (RSV) (“The Man with No Power but with Plenty of Noise”) (TLB)
Jehoiakim went from being a vassal of Egypt to being a vassal of Babylon.
2 Kings 24:1a — In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years.
In 601, Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Egypt itself, but Neco withstood him in a bloody battle at Egypt’s border.
This battle may have encouraged Jehoiakim to revolt against Babylon in 601 despite Jeremiah’s warnings.
2 Kings 24:1b — Then he [Jehoiakim] turned and rebelled against him [Nebuchadnezzar].
Jeremiah 27:8-10 — But if any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord, until I have consumed it by his hand. So do not listen to your prophets, your diviners, your dreamers, your fortune-tellers, or your sorcerers, who are saying to you, “You shall not serve the king of Babylon.” For it is a lie that they are prophesying to you.
Nebuchadnezzar decided to move against rebellious Judah.
2 Chronicles 36:6-7 — Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried part of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon and put them in his palace in Babylon.
Here is where we catch up with Daniel 1:1. Although the siege began with Jehoiakim on the throne, Jehoiakim was soon taken captive and died. (This was the first of the three sieges that we mentioned in our introduction.)
2 Kings 24:6 — So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place.
As that verse tells us, Jehoiachin came to the throne next during the siege of Jerusalem, and Nebuchadnezzar took the city in 597.
2 Kings 24:11 — And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon.
At some point during these events, Crown Prince Nebuchadnezzar became King Nebuchadnezzar with the death of his father, Nabopolassar.
Nebuchadnezzar chronicled that in his seventh year, the month of Kislev:
The Babylonian king mustered his troops and marched to the Hatti-land. He encamped against the city of Judah [Jerusalem] and on the second day of the month of Adar he seized the city and captured the king [Jehoiachin]. He appointed there a king of his own choice, received its heavy tribute and sent it to Babylon.
This text gives the exact date for this capture of Jerusalem and for the beginning of the exile as 16 March 597 — in “the spring of the year” (2 Chronicles 36:10) (This was the second of the three sieges that we mentioned in our introduction.)
Jehoiachin and his family were carried off to Babylon.
2 Kings 24:15 — And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
2 Kings 25:27-30 tells us that Jehoiachin was later released from prison by the next king, Amel-Marduk.
2 Kings 25:28-30 — And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.
The handout shows a clay tablet on which the rations provided to the king and his family were recorded by the Babylonians.
The king that replaced Jehoiachin was his uncle, Mattaniah, whom Nebuchadnezzar renamed Zedekiah. Zedekiah also ignored Jeremiah and rebelled against Babylon, hoping for help from Egypt.
2 Kings 24:17 — And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
2 Kings 24:20b — And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
In 586 Jerusalem fell, the walls were torn down, and the temple was demolished. Some of the Jewish leaders were executed and others were deported. Zedekiah tried to escape, but was captured, blinded, and taken to Babylon. Only the poor were left to till the soil. (This was the third of the three sieges that we mentioned in our introduction.)
2 Kings 25:7-12 — They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon. In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the Lord and the king’s house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.
The Babylonians appointed a Jew, Gedaliah, to govern Judah, but he was soon murdered. (The Middle East hasn’t changed much!)
2 Kings 25:2 — And over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, governor.
A stone seal used by Gedaliah during this time is shown on the handout for Lesson 5.
2 Kings 25:25 — But in the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck down Gedaliah and put him to death along with the Jews and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.
Fearing a reprisal, some of the Jews fled to Egypt.
2 Kings 25:26 — Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose and went to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.
Jeremiah 43:5-7 tells us that they took Jeremiah with them when they fled to Egypt.
So that is how we arrived at Daniel 1:1!
In the introduction, I mentioned that, of the two kings in verse 1, one of them is one of the most detestable figures in the Bible — and it is not Nebuchadnezzar!
Remember what Jehoiakim did:
Jeremiah 36:2-3— Take a scroll and write on it all the words I have spoken to you concerning Israel, Judah and all the other nations from the time I began speaking to you in the reign of Josiah till now. 3 Perhaps when the people of Judah hear about every disaster I plan to inflict on them, each of them will turn from his wicked way; then I will forgive their wickedness and their sin.
Jeremiah 36:23-24— Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. 24 The king and all his attendants who heard all these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.
Yes, King Jehoiakim actually took a knife to the word of God, cut it in pieces, and threw it in the fire.
He certainly had no regard for the word of God, but before we are too harsh on Jehoiakim, are we ever guilty of the same thing? Do we ever pick and choose parts of the Bible the way he did? What difference is there if instead of cutting out something from our Bible, we simply choose to ignore it?
There are a lot of Jehoiakim’s in the religious world today. They may not literally cut out and burn parts of the word of God — but they effectively do that when they reject or ignore the parts of the word with which they disagree.
Why had all of this occurred? Why were the people taken captive?
One reason was their failure to trust in God.
Judah had made alliances with Babylon, Assyria, and Egypt and in doing so had involved themselves in their power struggles — an involvement that eventually led to their destruction. These alliances were NOT according to God’s will.
A second reason was their idolatry.
God had tried everything to get them to give up their idols, but they refused. When he sent them to Babylon, he sent them to the world capital of idolatry!
We should be careful what we attach ourselves to. God may give us our fill of it! The phrase “God gave them up” appears three times in Romans 1. In Revelation the Romans wanted blood so God gave them a river of blood 200 miles long! And remember what happened in the wilderness:
Numbers 11:18-20 — And say thou unto the people, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow, and ye shall eat flesh: for ye have wept in the ears of the Lord, saying, Who shall give us flesh to eat? for it was well with us in Egypt: therefore the Lord will give you flesh, and ye shall eat. 19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days; 20 But even a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you: because that ye have despised the Lord which is among you, and have wept before him, saying, Why came we forth out of Egypt?
Interestingly, idolatry was never quite the problem for Israel after their captivity in Babylon as it was before. God’s plan worked!
As we mentioned in our introductory comments, the first few verses of Chapter 1 do not seem to be speaking of a single incident, but instead appear to be a summary of the events we just reviewed that led to Daniel’s deportation.
Also, recall our introductory comments about “Shinar” in verse 2. It was the site of the Tower of Babel and was a very early term for Babylon. It points toward an early date for the book.
The Babylonians had many different false gods (Marduk, Nebo, Ishtar). The singular word “god” in verse 2 likely refers to Marduk.
In this verse we meet a third king — the Lord in verse 2 is the true king!
Nebuchadnezzar thought he was in charge, but God was in charge. He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to take Judah captive, and when the time was right he removed Nebuchadnezzar from power.
Just about all that is left of the mighty Nebuchadnezzar is a pile of bricks. When Nebuchadnezzar built the city, he had his name and picture imprinted on every brick that was used. One in the British museum shows the clear imprint of dog’s foot over the name of the mighty king!
Nebuchadnezzar thought he was building an empire for himself, but he was really building a school for the Jews. God sent them there for a 70 year lesson they would never forget. When the 70 years were over, God removed the Chaldeans through Cyrus the Persian.
“And the Lord gave” in verse 2 is the first indication of a major theme of this book: the absolute sovereignty of God. God is in charge.
Babylon was victorious only because God allowed it to be. Later we will see the other side of the coin. Babylon will be defeated when it has finished serving God’s purposes. Jeremiah 50-51 records the prophetic judgments against Babylon.
Was Jehoiakim (not Jehoiachin) taken back to Babylon?
We can’t tell just from verse 2. The phrase “which he carried” in verse 2 may just refer to the vessels from the temple, which we know went back to Babylon.
But what about 2 Chronicles 36?
2 Chronicles 36:6-7 — Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.
Again, this does not actually say that Jehoiakim returned to Babylon, only that Nebuchadnezzar planned to take him there.
Why does it matter? Jeremiah seems to suggest that Jehoiakim would die in Judah.
Jeremiah 22:18-19 — Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah: They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah my brother!’ or Ah sister!’ They shall not lament for him, saying, Ah lord!’ or Ah his majesty!’ 19 With the burial of an ass he shall be buried, dragged and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem.
It seems most likely that Nebuchadnezzar planned to take Jehoiakim back but that after being captured, Jehoiakim died and his body was simply thrown down outside the city, fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy.
Removing the vessels from the temple was a terrible insult to the Jews. They were taken back to Babylon and placed in the treasury of the Babylonian gods.
The mention of these vessels in verse 2 is an example of the unity of this book. They will play an important role later.
Belshazzar is going to live to regret this theft in Chapter 5!
There is a very interesting back story about the temple vessels.
Hezekiah had displayed the temple articles one century earlier to Babylonian emissaries.
2 Kings 20:12-13 — At that time Merodach-baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent envoys with letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that Hezekiah had been sick. And Hezekiah welcomed them, and he showed them all his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.
Before we read further, does this seem like a smart thing for Hezekiah to have done? No, and Isaiah is quick to tell him so.
2 Kings 20:14-19 — Then Isaiah the prophet came to King Hezekiah, and said to him, “What did these men say? And from where did they come to you?” And Hezekiah said, “They have come from a far country, from Babylon.” He said, “What have they seen in your house?” And Hezekiah answered, “They have seen all that is in my house; there is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord: Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who shall be born to you, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” Then Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “The word of the Lord that you have spoken is good.” For he thought, “Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days.”
That last verse is a classic! Who cares if I have brought calamity to the land if that calamity occurs long after I’m gone! Hezekiah should run for Congress!
God's Plan of Salvation
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)