Decoding Daniel - an in depth Bible study of the book of Daniel

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Decoding Daniel

Introduction to Daniel

Daniel 1 - Daniel in Captivity

Daniel 2 - Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image

Daniel 3 - Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image and the Fiery Furnace

Daniel 4 - Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Tree

Daniel 5 - Belshazzar's Blasphemous Feast

Daniel 6 - Darius' Den of Lion and Decree

Daniel 7 - Daniel's Dream of Four Beasts

Daniel 8 - Daniel's Vision of the Ram, the Male Goat, and the Little Horn

Daniel 9 - Daniel's Prayer and Vision of Seventy Sevens

Daniel 10 - Daniel's Vision of Latter Days

Daniel 11 - Israel's Foreordained History

Daniel 12 - God's Instructions and Daniel's Inquiries Concerning the Prophecy

Decoding Daniel

An In Depth Online Bible Study

by Bob Conway

The Book of Daniel reveals God's sovereign control of history from 605 B.C. to the Second Advent of Christ. This prophetic writing contains hundreds of predictions that revolve around five overall themes.

1. The Rise and Fall of Four Empires
2. The Coming of the Everlasting Kingdom
3. The Coming Princes
4. The Time of Israel's Distress
5. The End Times

My objective in Decoding Daniel is to show history revealing prophecy and prophecy revealing history. Yahweh is the Lord of time and history.

He is sovereign over the world, though considerable power and freedom of will have been given to human and angelic beings. Because of this freedom, a great conflict within the physical and spiritual realms is revealed in the Book of Daniel as humans, angels, Satan and God strive to
control the future.

God elects to relate to humanity in such a way that humans become a factor in His life and He becomes part of their lives. Because of this interaction, prayers, dreams and visions play a significant role in the events of this book as God reveals the rise and fall of future empires and
princes.

Although biblical history shows that God changes in the way He feels, plans, and acts in response to our response to Him, there are boundaries to His change. The LORD responds to human actions without compromising His revealed, unconditional plans and purposes. In addition, He never violates His veracity, righteousness and holiness. Hence, the future God
has mapped out in the Book of Daniel will occur.

From the beginning, man’s history has been the story of rebellion against God. Instead of developing morally, humanity continues to head down the slippery slope of decadence, declension and destruction. For this reason, God is able to forecast the future with absolute accuracy as He overrules evil for His plans and purposes. Although in some of Daniel’s
prophecies evil may appear to be victorious, God is working behind the scenes for good. Joseph characterized God's sovereign rule over evil for good in this same way in Genesis 50:20: "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives."

Prophetically, the Book of Daniel is the key that unlocks eschatology, the study of the last days. It is indispensable for understanding Christ's predictions and the Book of Revelation. Many of its symbols are employed in diverse ways in the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ.

God's plan for the world is unfolded in amazing detail in Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream of the Great Image, Daniel's dream and visions of the Four Beasts, and the Ram and Goat, along with Gabriel's unveiling of the Seventy Sevens provide the framework for prophetic history from
605 B.C. to the second coming of Christ.

Daniel is written in prose and it differs from other prophetic books of the Bible, which often have their oracles written in poetry. Consequently, it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures among “the writings” and not “the prophets.” Nevertheless, Daniel cannot be read like a narrative or novel
since it contains images and symbols that need to be decoded before God's plan for the future can be understood. One cannot decode its predictions without first knowing a great deal about the rest of the Bible and history.

The kinds of predictions in the Book of Daniel are twofold. There are “types” or “foreshadowings” concealed within the narratives, and there are revealed dreams and visions of future events, people and places. The prophet has deciphered the dreams and visions with the help of the Spirit of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and angelic beings. Herein a
significant part of the outline of God's plan for “the times of the Gentiles” has been decoded by the prophet. However, decoding the details of this period is left to the readers. I have endeavored to aid in this task by

1. Connecting the symbolism decoded by Daniel to historical events, people and places.

2. Interpreting and connecting the symbolism that belongs to yet future events, people and places based on other prophecies contained in the Scriptures.

3. Discovering and interpreting the “types” in the narrative sections.

4. Explaining the words that have been closed up and sealed until the time of the end.

Practically, the Book of Daniel abounds with personal applications. Daniel himself models a godly life, blessed by God from teenage years through old age. Hence, a section appears at the end of each chapter, containing a few applications gleaned from Daniel and others mentioned within that chapter. The first six chapters include types also.

With the exception of chapter twelve, which is a continuation of the two previous chapters, each chapter begins with a time line and background material. Chronological dating of Old Testament events varies slightly among scholars. Many variations arise from the Biblical writers themselves. Some count the ascension year as the first year of a king’s reign, others do not. Earlier scholars date the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. I have followed the scholars who date these events as 586 B.C. and 444 B.C.

The Book of Daniel has been a battleground of “higher criticism.” For instance, liberals view this book as Pseudepigrapha, written to inspire the hopes of the Jewish victims during the Seleucid persecution of 170-165 B.C. I believe it was written by a historical Daniel at the time of the Babylonian exile. One's beliefs and interpretation of Daniel can be a litmus test of conservative or liberal orthodoxy. The interpretations of Daniel’s prophecies sharply divide premillennial views from amillennial outlooks. The reader should find that the exposition in this commentary is conservative and premillennial.

The bibliography contains the principal works that I utilized in the preparation of Decoding Daniel. I recommend that these sources be consulted concerning the hotly debated issues of the authorship, composition and dating of the Book of Daniel. These sources represent a mix of liberal and conservative scholarship from theologians who hold diverse views.

In this commentary, I have attempted to blend the prophetic and practical teachings of the Book of Daniel, while showing that God ultimately controls every nation, having determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. For that reason, I have structured Decoding Daniel upon God's Sovereignty in the Rise of Four Hebrews, Five World Empires, and their Princes.

The outline for the chapter headings of this commentary was modified and expanded from an outline constructed by John C. Whitcomb (Daniel, 18-19).

May God add His blessing to your study of the Book of Daniel.

Robert P. Conway

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