Introduction to Daniel, part 2

Click here to listen to this sermon.

Daniel is an exile. He and his companions are taken from their home in Jerusalem and hauled away to a strange and alien land. They live among people who follow different customs and religions. As people who resisted “graven images” they would have been stunned by the prevalence of bizarre sculptures and strange animals depicted everywhere. For them Babylon was a strange world.

Daniel’s experience in a strange world with different ways is not unlike our experience with the strange world of apocalyptic literature. We are familiar with the straightforward stories, but the odd material in chapters 7 through 12 can become confusing and daunting. However, if we understand the rules and expectations of apocalyptic literature, and also gain some familiarity with the concerns of the 6th and 2nd centuries B.C., then maybe we will feel more welcome in Daniel’s world.

Where In The World Is Daniel?
Geographically, Daniel takes place in the Middle East in the area which now contains Iran and Iraq. Daniel’s story and his visions involve a scope of four centuries. In that time, this region changes politically more than once. Political change in the ancient world is fluid and sudden. The fate of millions and many nations may change because of a single lost battle or the death of a monarch with an unworthy heir.

Before the Babylonian Empire, the Assyrians were the super-power in this region. The Babylonians conquered Judah, which was untouched by the Assyrian Empire. Their rule over Jerusalem and Judah began approximately with the start of the sixth century and ended in 539 B.C.

In 539 B.C., Cyrus marched on Babylonia and took the country without a struggle. Babylon opened its gates to the Persians. The Persians left the native religious institutions intact and appointed a governor to rule the territory of the Babylonian Empire. The Persians were also accepting of the Jews asserting their own religious institutions and returning to Judah and Jerusalem.

In 331 B.C., the Persian king, Darius III, faced Alexander the Great at the Battle of Gaugamela. Darius III escaped the battle but the Persian forces were defeated. Darius III was assassinated by his own people and the Persian Empire was absorbed into Alexander’s empire.

Alexander ruled the area of the Persian Empire, including Jerusalem and Judah, from 332 until his death in Babylon in 323. After Alexander’s death, the empire was divided up among Alexander’s generals after the wars of succession. Two of those generals, Ptolemy and Seleucus, would rise to prominence and establish the two largest powers within the Macedonian empire – the Ptolemaic dynasty centered in Egypt and the Seleucid dynasty centered in Syria and Babylonia.

In addition to surveying the geographical and political terrain, let’s also survey the literary terrain.

Rightly Dividing Daniel
Part 1 is Daniel 1–6
Stories collected into two triads
Part 2 is Daniel 7-12
Apocalyptic visions
Part 1 Triad 1 - Threats
Part 1 Triad 2 - Dreams
Chapters 1, 3, and 6

The faithful are threatened by outsiders
who do not follow God’s ways.

Their faithfulness is tested by
external circumstances.

Chapters 2, 4, and 5

Dreams and signs are interpreted
by God’s wise man.

The interpretation shows God’s
sovereignty over all rulers.

Part 2 – Apocalyptic Visions
  1. Apocalyptic literature is the account of a selected visionary who is given a view of history on cosmic scale, or from heaven’s perspective
  2. Apocalyptic literature uses symbolism: animals, numbers, and colors do not function with strict literal meaning. They engage mystical and metaphorical meanings.
  3. Apocalyptic literature reveals God’s involvement in history. Suffering and persecution are re-interpreted in light of what is taking place unseen in heaven.
  4. Apocalyptic literature gives hope to the faithful by promising that God will intervene at a designated time.
  5. Apocalyptic literature is a revelation of heavenly secrets; as such it always has an air of mystery.

Timeline for the Book of Daniel

Significant Events
608–597 End of Kingdom of Judah [Removal of nobility]  
597 First deportation from Jerusalem 2 Kings 24:10-17
587 Second deportation and destruction
of temple and Jerusalem
2 Kings 25:1-21; Jer. 39:1-10;
Jer. 52:4-27
539 Persian Empire conquers Babylonian Empire Dan. 5:30
538-537 Return to Jerusalem Ezra 1:1-4
516 Rebuilding of Temple Ezra 6:1-18
459 Ezra leads second return to Jerusalem  
445 Nehemiah rebuilds city of Jerusalem  
332 Alexander conquers Palestine  
331 Alexander defeats Darius III  
323 Alexander dies in Babylon  
313 Ptolemy I controls Jerusalem  
312 Seleucid Empire established in Babylon  
301 Macedonian Empire divided four ways,
Jerusalem and Palestine controlled by
Ptolemaic Empire of Egypt
Dan. 8:8-22, 11:4
252 Antiochus II Theos marries Berenice,
daughter of Ptolemy II
Dan. 11:6
198 Antiochus III wins Jerusalem from
Ptolemaic control; Seleucid rule of
Palestine and Jerusalem begins
193 Ptolemy V marries Cleopatra I Syra,
daughter of Antiochus III
Dan. 11:17
170-168 Antiochus IV Epiphanes initiates
two wars with Egypt
Dan. 11:25-38; 7:21-25;
8:24-25; 12:7-11
167 Antiochus IV Epiphanes desecrates temple
in Jerusalem; bans Jewish religion
2 Maccabees 6:3-6
166–162 Maccabean Revolt  
163 Death of Antiochus IV Epiphanes  

Rulers of the Babylonian Empire
605–562NebuchadnezzarDan. 1 – 2; 5:24-28
549–539Belshazzar[Co-regent in Babylon]Dan. 5:1-28, 7:1, 8:1
539Babylon conquered by Cyrus of PersiaDan. 5:30

Rulers of the Persian Empire
550–530CyrusDan. 6:28; 10:1
522–486Darius I (Darius the Mede?)Dan. 5:31; 6:1; 9:1; 11:1
486–465Xerxes I (Esther’s King Ahasuerus?)Dan. 9:1
465–424Artaxerxes I 
423Xerxes II 
423–404Darius II 
404–358Artaxerxes II 
358–338Artaxerxes III 
336–331Darius III [Codomannus] 

Macedonian Empire
336–323Alexander the GreatDan. 7:7, 8:5-8, 10:20, 11:3
323Wars of Sucession begin 

 Egypt (Ptolemaic)    Syria (Seleucid) 
323–285Ptolemy I312–280Seleucus IDan. 11:5
285–246Ptolemy II280–261Antiochus I Soter 
246–221Ptolemy III261–246Antiochus II Theos 
221–203Ptolemy IV246–226Seleucus IIDan. 11:7-9
203–181Ptolemy V226–223Seleucus IIIDan. 11:10
181–146Ptolemy VI223–187Antiochus III the GreatDan. 11:11-19
 Ptolemy VII
187–175Seleucus IVDan. 11:20
  175-163Antiochus IV
Dan. 7:8, 11, 20-22,
24-25; 8:9-11, 23-25;
9:26-27, 11:21-39

Chris Benjamin

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Evening Sermon, 13 May 2007

 Link to next sermon

 Link to other sermons of Chris Benjamin