The overthrow of Babylon by Medo-Persia was a momentous
event. The handwriting on the wall, the first part of the
dream of dreams, and the predictions that Daniel had conveyed
to the first and last kings of Babylon have been fulfilled
before his own eyes. The liberation of the exiled Jews was
next on God’s calendar. When would it occur?
In the first year of his reign, I, Daniel,
understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of
the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the
desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.
Jeremiah 25:1-14 predicted that the desolation and
exile would last seventy years. The prophet had sent a
letter (Jeremiah 29:1-14) to the exiles with seven
instructions for living in Babylon, telling them:
1. To build houses and settle down
2. To plant
gardens and eat what they produce
3. To marry and have
families—increase in numbers
4. To seek the peace and
prosperity of Babylon
5. To pray to Yahweh for Babylon
so they would prosper
6. To not be deceived by the
prophets and diviners among them
7. To wait for the
completion of the seventy years
Nebuchadnezzar’s first invasion of Jerusalem occurred
in 605 B.C., when he took to Babylon some exiles and
articles from the Temple. The desolation of Jerusalem
began at that time. Daniel’s heart must have started
beating faster as he read the words of the prophet
This whole country will become a desolate wasteland,
and these nations will serve the king of Babylon for
seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I
will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land
of the Babylonians, for their guilt,“ declares the LORD,
“and will make it desolate for ever. I will bring upon
that land all the things I have spoken against it, all
that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah
against all the nations (Jeremiah 25:11-13).
Less than fifty years had elapsed since the fall of
Jerusalem in 586 B.C. However, the earliest terminus a quo
for the seventy years could be the time of Daniel’s own
captivity. Jews often counted part of a day or a year as
whole days or years. Hence, the length of time from the
first exile of 605 B.C. to Cyrus’ decree issued in his
first official year (spring of 538 to spring 537 B.C.)
could be rounded to seventy years. Daniel understood the
prophecy. He knew that the end of the seventy years and
the return of his people to their land were fast
approaching if God marked the exile from 605 B.C.
Note that Daniel recognized the writings of Jeremiah as
being inspired by God, long before they would become part
of the Hebrew canon. Interestingly, Daniel does not
mention Cyrus even though he knew all about him, for
Yahweh had revealed his name through the prophet Isaiah in
the seventh century B.C.
Who says of Cyrus, “He is my shepherd and will
accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem,
“Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its
foundations be laid” (Isaiah 44:28).
I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make
all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my
exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD
Almighty (Isaiah 45:13).
Daniel’s heart must have been stirred when he first
heard reports of the young King Cyrus of Ashan, Persia.
Cyrus had brilliantly overthrown his uncle Astyages in
battle and had made himself ruler of the entire Medo-Persian
There are two significant hermeneutical lessons about
prophecy here. First, Daniel believed in the literal
fulfillment of prophecy—should not also the modern
interpreter? Second, the closer the fulfillment of
prophetic events become, the more the student of the Bible
is able to discern the times. Those who are lazy when
studying the Scriptures have a tendency to brush prophecy
aside and say, “In the end it will all pan out.” Not with
Daniel, he wanted to understand what God was doing in his
time! He wanted to make a difference.
Like Daniel, a diligent student of the Bible builds his
prayer life on the Word of God. The Scriptures and prayer
go hand in hand. Serious prayer always begins with God’s
will, not man’s will. We are to submit ourselves to God’s
plans, not vice versa. Twice Jesus taught a model prayer
to His disciples on how to pray; according to His
teaching, our attitude should be that of subordinate
(child, subject) to Superior (parent, sovereign), desiring
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your
kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in
heaven (Matthew 6:9-10; cf. Luke 11:2).
Jesus echoed His model prayer in the Garden of
Gethsemane as the Son yielded to the Father’s will.
Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet
not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42).
The apostle John reinforces this manner of praying.
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that
if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us (1
Once Daniel understood the will of God, knowledge and
understanding of the prophecy did not puff up the prophet,
but humbled him. He turned to the Lord God and pleaded
with Him in prayer, while fasting in sackcloth and ashes.
Fasting is a sign of mourning and distress. Sackcloth and
ashes show outwardly the inward reality of being a
penitent sinner. Prayer has
been described as ACTS:
Supplication is to ask humbly and earnestly. Daniel’s
prayer moves back and forth between adoration, confession
and supplication. The giving of thanks is missing from it.