NBS – Daniel

Read the book of Daniel.  It is only 12 chapters and it is very easy to read.  It is a collection of familiar stories that are very interesting and meaningful.

Below is a background prepared by Jeff Williams.  Thanks Jeff.

Daniel Background Material

In 606-605 BC, the two rival powers for the region were Egypt, under Pharaoh Necho, and Babylon, under King Nebuchadnezzar. The King of Judah had been paying tribute to Pharaoh, but was under pressure to switch alliance to Babylon, and ended up with his counselors and administrators split between which to choose. Necho and Nebuchadnezzar were bound to have a showdown, and this occurred in 606 when they led their great armies to near the city of Carchemish. Necho went up the coast and Nebuchadnezzar went across the Fertile Crescent; crossing the Arabian Desert would have been impossible for either group due to the harsh conditions. So, they clashed at Carchemish in a spectacular battle, and Nebuchadnezzar not only defeated Necho, but his army chased Necho’s Army all the way back to Egypt, insuring that all the lands they passed along the way knew that the Babylonians were now the rulers of those lands. Since the King of Judah had insulted Nebuchadnezzar by not sending enough tribute, he besieged Jerusalem and the Babylonian Army plundered the city after it surrendered. It is here that the book of Daniel begins, where Nebuchadnezzar orders that the best and brightest young relatives of the king be brought as hostages back to the city of Babylon. There, they would be taught to serve as specialists for the king, knowing both their native culture, history, and religion, as well as Babylonian culture and language. In this way, Nebuchadnezzar not only had trophies of his exploits, but smart people with a unique ambition to excel and please him. It was an ingenious strategy that paid off by keeping down rebellions in the conquered lands through giving the people from those lands authority and responsibility in their new home. It was in
Babylon that the Hebrews began to build places to worship and study and sing on the Sabbath day, since they could not go to the temple and the Levitical priesthood and daily sacrifices were impossible to continue. These buildings were called synagogues. 

The former Mesopotamian power, the Assyrians, had been much more barbaric and ruthless in their policy of subduing new territories, which ultimately led to their downfall. The Assyrians preferred sheer terror as a tool of control. Their writings and artwork show us image after image of mass mutilations and executions of nations they invaded. These writings and illustrations were posted throughout their domain to frighten people into submission. They also began the policy of removing the most able-bodied and intelligent people, those who might resist, from their native lands and transporting them to a different place that did not have the same language or customs. By thus breaking up the population, there was no sense of unity or national pride that could result in a rebellion. That is what happened to the northern 10 tribes of Israel. They were led into far away lands, and others were brought in to Israeli lands to live. This is why the people in Jesus’ time despised their neighbors to the north; because they were not pure Hebrew, but had intermingled and married into the foreign people who had been put there by the Assyrians. They were called Samaritans.

When the Assyrians led away captives, they often stuck metal hooks through the noses or cheeks of the prisoners and tied them all together in a line to prevent escape. Every so often they would stop to impale a captive on a long pole, or behead someone and hoist the head atop a tall spear, so that everyone around could see what would happen if they fought back. One ancient illustration shows a great heap of hands that had been chopped off of captives, both to prevent their resistance and be seen as a warning to others. Other mutilations, such as cutting off a prisoner’s nose or ears or blinding them was very common. Such brutality was their eventual downfall, because everyone hated the Assyrians exceedingly.

The Babylonians lived among the Assyrians as a distinct ethnic group, much like the Kurds, Iranians, and Iraqis of today; other races see them as very similar (and they were all Semitic people, the descendents of Shem, like the Hebrews), but they saw themselves as a completely different race. Many Babylonians held positions of authority in the Assyrian government, but there was also a group that wanted independence from Assyrian rule. After an uprising and some display of opposition from some Babylonian dissidents, the Assyrian king overreacted and brutally killed hundreds of Babylonians to teach them a lesson. This infuriated one powerful General of the Assyrian army who just happened to be Babylonian. His name was Nabopolasser, and he organized a resistance force among Babylonians and Medes and led a rebellion against the Assyrians. They conquered the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and burned it to the ground, thus ending Assyrian dominance forever. 

Nabopolasser’s son was Nebuchadnezzar, who made the Babylonian
Kingdom a true empire from Egypt to Asia Minor (Turkey) to the
Far East. He was a brilliant military strategist and leader of men, very clever in his new policies, choosing smartness over brute force. He was much more interested in education, architecture, and cultural advancement than were the Assyrian kings in general. His rule was bloody and harsh at times, but much kinder and gentler by comparison to the vile Assyrians. He is responsible for one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the hanging gardens of Babylon, an ingenious project incorporating manmade lakes and rivers surrounding a tall structure thought to resemble a step-pyramid, from which waterfalls, beautiful vegetation, trees, vines, and flowers from all over the world cascaded over the sides of each layer of the building. It is commonly thought among most scholars that he built this for the enjoyment of his queen, who had come from a mountainous region and missed her native hills, rivers and greenery.

Nebuchadnezzar had weaknesses for being hot-tempered, vain and thinking highly of himself for his accomplishments instead of realizing that God had used him to destroy Assyria and allowed him to become great. He believed in God, but it took him many years and many lessons to finally humble himself in realization that Jehovah was the only real and almighty power over the entire world and universe. Daniel chapter 4 is King Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony to Jehovah God’s power and glory, after God punished him by causing to be temporarily insane and live outside eating grass like an animal till his finger and toenails looked like animal claws and his beard and hair were a matted mess of dread-locks.  

Nebuchadnezzar elevated Daniel, Hananiah, and Mishael to such powerful positions in his kingdom that they continued to be important rulers in the Babylonian empire after Nebuchadnezzar died, his son became king, and even after the Persians and Medes overthrew the Babylonians and became the new world power. It was under a Persian king, Cyrus the great, when Daniel was at least in his eighties, that the people of Judean lineage were allowed to return and rebuild their homeland and home city, Jerusalem. 

Many of these Judeans (and this is where the distinction between an Israelite and a Jew came about; to be a Jew meant you were from Judah, or had lived in the land of Judah. Not all Israelites were Jews, but all Jews were Israelites or Hebrews) had never even seen the land of Judah or Jerusalem, such as Nehemiah, who was born in Babylon. Daniel knew from reading his fellow prophet, Jeremiah, that the stay in
Babylon was supposed to be for 70 years, and that time had elapsed. That is why he prayed the great confessional, pleading prayer of Daniel chapter 9.

Daniel was quite a character, capable of endearing himself to Kings and rulers of the foreign country in which he lived. He was well known for his wisdom, humility, fearlessness, honesty, integrity, and relentless devotion and faith to his Great God, to whom he always gave the glory and thanks for his success. More than that, he endeared himself to God, who enabled him with miraculous powers of understanding visions, signs and dreams concerning the immediate and distant future, and allowed him to speak with Angels. 

Published in: on March 7, 2007 at 1:24 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Jeff, if you read this – FANTASTIC outline/backgrounder. I appreciate your readability. Hmmm, you should open a blog! I will continue praying for you brother – DOOG, thanks for posting this, bro. Great job.

  2. I am just trying a little experiment. I am posting the outlines and background information on the characters that we are studying this NBS to expand the depth of our discussions. It also helps me to make sure that I am not waiting until last minute to prepare. At the end of this NBS I will ask our group what they thought about it the post, if they read them, and if they think it was beneficial. However, on the same principal of my daily readings, I am already getting the blessing of the exercise and if anyone finds it beneficial that is just icing on top!

  3. […] Get more information about this from the author here […]

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