Intro to Daniel
Intro to Daniel
As we begin to consider this book we need to lay down some basic principles of interpretation as we study this book. These basic rules will help you as you read the Book and as we discuss it in class. Principle 1 – There are two types of prophetic formula; symbolic and simple. Symbolic interpretations can be discovered in two ways, first by the context of what is being written, or secondly from other parts of the Bible.
For example in Revelation 1:12 we are told about the seven lamp stands. The lamp stands are symbolic of something which is explained to us in the context of what we are reading. If you look at Daniel 2:20 we are told the answer that the 7 lamp stands symbolize the seven Churches of Asia Minor. In Revelation 2:12 we learn about the double edged sword. What is that? It is a reference to the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).
Paul also uses the metaphor of a sword to describe the Word (Ephesians 6:17). That the sword is two-edged depicts the Word’s potency and power in exposing and judging the innermost thoughts of the human heart. So we see that the symbolic is explained here or in other portions of Scripture. The Simple interpretations are simply to take literally what is being said like reading history in advance. An example of this is found in Revelation 2:5, if the church at Ephesus doesn’t repent God will remove their lamp stand, that is the church will cease to exist.
This in fact has happened. Principle 2 – understanding the time element, that time can be eclipsed and refer to two different time periods. A classic illustration of this principle is Luke 4:16ff which is where the Lord reads from Isaiah 61:1-2 in which Jesus ends the prophecy in the middle of a sentence because there was an over two thousand year gap in time.
A person reading it at the time or before the resurrection of Yeshua would never have known of such a split, but now we understand this. This is what Peter was getting at in 1 Peter 1:10-12. This has been described by some writers as Mt. Peaks of prophecy.
The only way to understand is to study parallel portions of Scripture and even then we can’t say we are correct with absolute certainty. Principle 3 – There is unity in diversity, this is sometimes wrongly called double fulfillment. But it should be understood that some things can be given as a unity with diverse parts. An example is the first and second comings of Messiah, there are two comings but one work. This is true of the counterfeit Antichrist as well when we consider Daniel 9:27.
A partial fulfillment is found in the defilement of the Temple by Antiochus in 164 BC which set in motion the events that are now celebrated as Hanukkah. Yeshua then speaks of time yet in the future described in Matthew 24:15. With these principles, prophecy can be interpreted by the Historical grammatical method. This means that we can read the Bible on the basis of the historical meaning of the words and according to the common rules of grammar.
This is so important because you can study all the historical, doctrinal and prophetic portions of Scripture all with the same type of exegesis and you don’t have to shift exegesis from one portion of Scripture to another. Exegesis is the careful explanation of the meaning of a given text. The term comes from a Greek term that means “explanation.” If we are not consistent in our interpretative methods than we leave ourselves open to any kind of interpretation of Scripture.
For example there are many Hindu gurus who will use Scripture allegorically or spiritually to suggest that their theology and world-view is endorsed by Scripture. It is also leaves open the door to liberal neo-orthodox “Christian” theologians. The heart of neo-orthodox theology is that the Bible gives us resources for religious experience, but that the Bible contains mistakes when history and science contradict it.
This concept now has come into evangelical and messianic circles as well. The neo-orthodox believers who will spiritualize and allegorize do so by suggesting that we can interpret the Bible differently depending on which part we are dealing with. One set of interpretive rules for the historical portions of the Bible and a different set of rules for doctrinal parts and still another for the prophetic parts. This leads to all kinds of inconsistencies and doubts.
There are four main interpretative approaches to the book. The preterist approach views Revelation and Daniel not as future, predictive prophecy, but as a historical record of events in the first-century Roman Empire. The preterist sees the words about Christ’s second coming as fulfilled in the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, even though He did not appear on that occasion. The historicist approach sees Revelation as a record of church history from apostolic times until the present.
Historicist interpreters often resort to allegorizing the text in order to find in it the various historical events they believe it fulfills. The historicist view also ignores Revelation’s own claims to speak of events of prophecy. It leaves the interpretation to allegorical and spiritualized meanings invented by each would-be interpreter. The idealist approach sees depicted in Daniel and Revelation the timeless struggle between good and evil that is played out in every age.
According to this view Daniel and Revelation are neither a historical record nor a predictive prophecy. It too denies them as being prophetic. This view suggests that the books are myth designed to convey spiritual truth. Finally the futurist approach sees predictions of people and events yet to come in the future. Only this approach allows Daniel to be interpreted in the literal, grammatical-historical method thus avoiding allegory and spiritualizing.
The futurist approach allows for the claims of the Book concerning prophecy. As we said if allegory and spiritualizing is accepted as a valid means of interpretation than anything can mean anything that the interpreter believes it to mean. So when we consider the prophetic book of Daniel we are to interpret according to the historical grammatical method of interpretation. We will follow normal rules of English grammar and how it is historically interpreted. Prophecy and the Book of Revelation is one part of the entire message of God’s Word and must be considered as part of the entire fabric of Scripture, which is a seamless garment.
Rule 1 – Nothing is to be taken in the Book of Daniel such as a figure of speech unless it is clearly marked as a figure of speech or known as a figure of speech in other parts of the Bible. This corresponds to our first principle. This means that God expects us to understand what is written in this Book. For example in the Book of Revelation the seven stars which is a figure of speech in Daniel 1:16 are revealed in the chapter to be the seven angels of the seven churches in Daniel 1:20.
The same is true of the seven golden lampstands which in the same verse is interpreted as a picture of the seven churches. So in Daniel 1 we are told that the angels and the lampstands are figures of speech. In comparison we read of “seven thunders” in Daniel 10:4. John understood the meaning of what was said because he was told not to reveal it. But that which is to be revealed should be able to be understood by the reader of the letter otherwise what would be the point in revealing anything in this letter to the church.
Daniel was told not to reveal certain things in his prophecy in Daniel 12:4. Paul also was told not to reveal certain things as well in 2 Corinthians 12:2-3. But the rest was to be revealed. In Mark 1:10 we have a figure of speech in an historical section of Scripture, the Spirit of God descending like a dove. We see another illustration of this in Acts 2:10 and we know that this is not literal but a figure of speech by the modifier “like”. These are the rules concerning figures of speech. Rule 2 – Tempo sequences are shown, this is dealing with time concerning events. Rule 3 – Whether the action is in heaven or on the earth is clearly shown. This rule deals with where this action takes place.
Daniel 2:1 Nebuchadnezzar is said to have dreamed dreams but only one is mentioned. The belief that God or the gods communicated to men by means of dreams, was prevalent throughout the world in ancient times. This was the case of Pharaoh, Abimelech, the butler and baker in Egypt, and so on. In every instance it was necessary, as in this chapter, to call in the aid of a prophet or seer to interpret the dream.
The anxiety caused by these dreams by God prepared them to receive the interpretation by Joseph and Daniel as to take the appropriate action that God wanted them to. God knew that this was the best way for them to respond to His sovereign will. God moves the hearts of kings like rivers of water the Scriptures tells us (Proverbs 21:1).
This was certainly the case with Joseph and Pharaoh as well as with Abimelech (Genesis 20:3,6;Genesis 41:7,25). His spirit was troubled by the dream, and by the impression that it referred to some important truths related to his kingdom and the future. The Hebrew word here (פָעַם) means to “strike, to be agitated, or troubled). “And his sleep left him.” Literally, “His sleep was upon him.” The meaning is that he was “in” a reflective sleep when he “was” sound asleep.
Daniel 2:2-3 Then the king gave orders. When he awoke, his mind was disturbed but he could not recall the dream clearly so he called his magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers The Hebrew word is כָשַׁף to practice magic and to use magic formulas, or incantations. The word is found in 2 Chronicles 33:6, and translated “used witchcraft”. The Chaldeans were one of the tribes or nations that made up the kingdom of Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar wanted all those who had the skill and knowledge to interpret his dream. The Chaldeans were so devoted to these secret arts and became celebrated for them, that the name came to be used to refer all those who laid claim to these powers. He called them to show him what the dream was, and to explain its meaning. Dutifully they came before him. And the king said to them that he dreamed a dream, and I am anxious to know its meaning.
Daniel 2:4-5 “The Chaldeans spoke in Aramaic” From here through chapter 7 the text was written in Aramaic which was an international language in the time of Daniel. A likely reason for this is that Daniel 2-7 deals with the purposes of God in history. The figures and symbols in these chapters point to the rise, decline, and fall of the great empires of the ancient world and deal with information applicable to the nations, while chapters 1 and 8-12, deal with Israel.
The message of Daniel 2 is that the kingdom of God will be established, grow, and ultimately subdue the whole earth. They said tell the dream to us, and we will interpret it. This was the normal way that all astrologers and soothsayers in ancient times operated. When the king required that they should recall the dream it was not something done in their profession, and regarded by them as an unreasonable request.
The king responded that his command was firm, what I have said is ratified, and will not be recalled. What he is saying is that if they did not provide both the dream and an interpretation they would be tortured and executed. Nebuchadnezzar was known as a cruel and severe ruler, and his words here are consistent with his character.
The demand though was not unreasonable in the sense that if they really had the ability to communicate with the gods, and were qualified to explain future events, they should be able to retell what the dream was. If the gods gave them power to explain what was to “come,” they could as easily enable them to recall “the past.” The punishment of being cut in pieces was common to many ancient nations (1 Samuel 15:33).