4.9.2 Daniel As A Bible Student
Reading through Daniel it is evident that we are being invited to try
to enter into his character. Our fascination with the prophecies can result
in us failing to realize that a lot of information is being given about
his character. Daniel as a Bible student always seems to me to be portrayed
as actually part of the prophecies he gave; he was no fax machine
just relaying God's words. He seems to be presented as representative
of all those of later times who would hear the word of prophecy. It is
for this reason that we are given so much insight into his character.
For example, Daniel's spirit of " How long...?" is so exactly
reflective of the attitude of all God's children down the years that it
is hard to deny that Daniel is being framed as the representative of all
the saints. Indeed, these very words are quoted in Rev. 6:10 concerning
the attitude of the slain saints of the last days. Daniel's representative
role is most clearly shown in the figurative death, resurrection and judgment
which he receives in Dan. 10. In this Daniel is acting out the experience
of each of the approved. His refusal to obey the command to worship Babylon's
King is alluded to in Rev. 13:5; 14:9, which prophesy how the saints of
the last days will be tested just as Daniel was, with a like miraculous
deliverance. Thus Daniel seems to especially symbolize the latter day
believers. The comforting " Fear not Daniel" (Dan. 10:12,19)
slots in to many other instances of Angels saying these words to frightened
men. This makes it appropriate to speculate that the latter day believers
will hear the same words from the Angel who comes to gather them (and
cp. Is. 35:4, which gives the same " fear not" message to the
generation which sees the second coming). Again, Daniel's relationship
with the Angel appears to be representative of that enjoyed by all the
So there seems little doubt that Daniel as a Bible student is
representative of us. And yet this makes the following observation hard
to come to terms with: Daniel is without doubt portrayed as depressed,
at odds with his surrounding world, earnestly desiring an understanding
and relationship with God which seemed denied him, desperately lonely,
disappointed that he was not seeing God's purpose reaching its climax.
The New Testament message of joy, hope and peace must be balanced against
the typology of Daniel. It seems that our Christian thinking and perception
goes in cycles; we started in the nineteenth century with the grim, hard
almost Puritan attitude of British Protestantism; now we seem to have
gone the other way, towards a view of God and Christian life that focuses
solely on positive experience. It may be significant that both these attitudes
are related to those seen in the contemporary religious world. I'm not
suggesting that we swing back to the nineteenth century; instead, what
we need is a truly balanced approach.
Yet in Daniel as a Bible student we see not only the grim gritting of
teeth of the true servant of Yahweh; we sense (rather than learn explicitly)
his exaltation of spirit at the prophecies of the Kingdom. This balance
of attitude is brought out by a series of allusions to Daniel which show
him to be representative of all those in Christ:
1 Peter 1 (re. the saints)
" An inheritance...reserved...for
" Thou shalt... stand in thy lot
(inheritance) at the end of the days" (12:13)
In heaviness of spirit (v.6)
Daniel's heaviness of spirit
" The proof of your faith...is proved
by fire...unto praise and honour and glory" (v.7 RV)
The experience of Daniel's friends
Daniel praised, honoured and glorified (2:6 cp. 4:37)
" Whom having not seen ye love...now
ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice" (v.8)
The spirit of Daniel?
" Receiving the end of your faith,
even the salvation of your souls" (v.9)
Cp. Daniel's assurance of salvation (12:13)
" The prophets have enquired
and searched diligently...searching
what manner of time the spirit...did signify" (v.10,11)
Peter was certainly writing here with
his eye on Daniel's enquiring and diligent searching " what
manner of time" his prophecies referred to (8:15,27; 9:2;
" Unto whom it was revealed (in
response to their enquiries) that not unto themselves, but unto
us they did minister...
which things the Angels desire to look into" (v.12)
This is definitely alluding to Dan. 12:4,
where Daniel is told that he cannot understand his own prophecies,
but they will be understood by latter day believers to whom they
will be relevant.
Angelic interest in prophecy is mainly demonstrated in Daniel.
Enthusiasm For Prophecy
There is an impressive intensity in Daniel's desire to understand the
prophetic word. By all means this needs to be contrasted with our latter
day community growing sadly indifferent to the study of latter day prophecy.
That prophecy is difficult to interpret and apparently confusing should
inspire us to study it more rather than de-motivate us; Daniel as a Bible
student was in an even worse expositional dilemma than we are, and yet
this very dilemma inspired him even more to want to understand. We need
to really soberly consider the force of the descriptions of Daniel's yearning
to understand: " My thoughts much troubled me, and my countenance
was changed in me: but (i.e. despite the trouble it gave) I kept the matter
in my heart" (7:28). This suggests that it would have been easy to
allow his inner turmoil to be visibly expressed in his appearance; but
he kept the intellectual pain within him. Such deep pain
at not being able to fully understand the word of prophecy needs to be
contrasted with our easy indifference to finding prophecy a closed book.
" I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and
the visions of my head troubled me" (Dan. 7:15) expresses the deep
physiological effects of Daniel's lack of understanding. This grief of
spirit can be connected with the words of Is. 54:6, describing a
woman " forsaken and grieved in spirit , and a wife
of youth, when thou wast refused" . The same level of spiritual and
emotional pain was seen in Daniel. It may be that Daniel felt his lack
of understanding was somehow related to his own moral weakness (or that
of his people).
" The wise shall understand"
The same deep frustration is found in 8:27: " I Daniel fainted,
and was sick certain days; then I rose up, and did the King's business:
and I was astonished at the vision, but there was none to make it
understood" (RVmg.). We are invited to imagine Daniel earnestly
explaining the vision to the other priests in Babylon, and finding
no one to explain it. Daniel was doing a high-flying, executive
job; a job where you didn't take days off. Yet his frustration at
not being able to crack open Bible prophecy made him so intellectually
frustrated that he just had to take some sick leave. None of his
contemporaries would ever have understood why, if he told
them: 'I'm so upset that I can't understand something in God's word.
You see, I've therefore had some kind of breakdown'. " Then
I rose up" suggests he was bed ridden for those few days, his
physical energy sapped by his vast expenditure of mental effort.
Do any of us come anywhere near to this kind of zeal? There
is reason to think that the believers of the last days will need
special strength to overcome the special temptations they face;
part of that strength will be given through being able to accurately
understand the prophecies of the last days, so accurately that everything
will just be mapped out before us (1).
" Knowledge shall be increased...the wise shall understand...Understand,
O Son of man: for at the time of the end shall be the (understanding
of the) vision" (12:4,10; 8:17). Note that " the vision"
seems to be used by metonymy for " the understanding of the
vision" (as in 8:26; 9:23,24; 10:14,16; 11:14; 10:1 cp. 7).
Most of us, including the present writer, have fallen into the trap
of thinking that we can't expect to accurately understand the pattern
of events in the last days. Yet perhaps we are only finding excuse
for our own lack of spiritual effort in searching the word.
It is significant that all Daniel's recorded petitions are asking God
to either explain or fulfil His word. In 6:10-12 we read of Daniel as
a Bible student making some unspecified request to Yahweh, praying facing
Jerusalem; it seems fair to assume that he was asking to see the fulfilment
and explanation of God's purpose with Zion. Yet there can be no doubt
that Daniel was going out of his way to put his life on the line in doing
this. He was fully aware of the King's decree that anyone caught praying
like this was for the lions; and even more aware that he was being constantly
watched to see if he toed the line or not. Most of us (and presumably
most of the others in the Jewish ecclesia in Babylon) would have prayed
silently, to ourselves, without opening the window to advertise the fact.
Yet it seems that in Daniel's conscience, prayer to God was something
which was so important that it was worth dying for. In this we see a cameo
of how earnest was Daniel's desire for the understanding and fulfilment
of God's word. And let's remember what we said at the outset; we really
are intended to see Daniel as a Bible student as our example and representative.
Do we really long for Messiah's coming as he did? For the restoration
of Israel's kingdom, for the coming of Zion's King? The more clearly we
understand the basic doctrines of the Hope of Israel, the more we daily
delight in God's Law, the more we will capture the spirit
In the last days, " the wise shall understand" (12:10). Wisdom
and Daniel are clearly associated, at least eight times (Dan. 1:17;
2:13,14,18,24,27,48; Ez. 28:3); as are Daniel and a desire to understand.
Yet Daniel did not fully understand his latter day prophecies; "
the wise shall understand" in the last days, Daniel was comforted.
In other words, there will be a 'Daniel' category in the last days
who will share his wisdom, and who will be given the understanding
he so earnestly sought. We showed earlier that Rev. 6:10; 13:15;
14:9 describe the persecuted Christian remnant of the last days
in the language of Daniel (2). The
conclusion is that they (we?) will find strength to endure through
the understanding of prophecy. Those who can't find time to do their
daily Bible readings in this era of ease will either go under- or
abruptly wake up to the vital power of the word.
We each have our reasons for not having the spirit of Daniel in our Bible
searching. 'Too much else on my plate' , or some such related excuse,
will be the response of most. Yet Daniel was one of the highest flying
Christians of all time; Prime Minister of Babylon was analogous to being
President of the USA in the Middle Eastern world of those days. In the
face of almost every conceivable spiritual distraction, Daniel fought
hard to maintain his fine spiritual conscience through devoting himself
to a love of God's word. The importance of constantly maintaining
a clear conscience is demonstrated throughout Daniel's life. The book
begins with Bible student Daniel refusing to eat the meat offered to idols;
it must surely be intentional that the Spirit in Paul declares that there
was nothing wrong with eating this- it was purely a matter of conscience,
seeing that the pagan associations of the meat are meaningless to the
true believer. Yet at sweet seventeen, the young Daniel dug his toes in,
at whatever cost, to maintain his conscience; and, by implication, is
commended for it.
The record reveals that Daniel went through a yo-yo pattern of being
promoted into the limelight, and then (in an unrecorded manner)
slipping out of the limelight into relative obscurity, from which
he was promoted again. Thus in 2:48 Daniel is made Prime Minister,
in the events of Chapter 3 he seems to be strangely absent, in 4:8
Daniel is brought in to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's second dream
almost as an afterthought, implying he was out of the limelight;
by 5:11 King Belshazzar was unaware of Daniel, but promoted him
to " third ruler in the Kingdom" (5:29). Why did Daniel
slip out of the limelight? Was it not for the sake of his conscience?
As a member of the Jewish community, it would have been so easy
for Daniel to stay where he was, reasoning that holding down a job
like that would enable him to do so much for the Truth. But he realized
that his personal conscience and devotion to the spiritual life
must be given number one priority if he was to help his people.
There is an exact correspondence between the mind of Daniel here
and the fervent believer who refuses promotion, jumps out of a career
that is rubbing too strongly against the conscience... would our
community featured more examples of men and women like this (3).
Loving The Word
The book of Daniel gives the exact dates when Daniel had both his promotions
and his visions. Careful analysis of the record shows how his exaltations
in this life occurred at the same time as major steps forward in his own
personal Bible study and spiritual growth. When Darius came to power,
Daniel was made chief of the three presidents of the Kingdom, promoted
from being the third ruler of the Kingdom, i.e. the least
senior of the three (5:29-6:2). Yet in that very same first year of Darius,
" I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the
word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet... and (at that time) I
set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications,
with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes...and whiles I was speaking..."
Gabriel came to give him the prophecy of the 70 weeks (9:2-4,20). It doesn't
take much imagination to picture the pressure on Daniel as Prime Minister
in a new Government with a new King; probably he was the only survivor
from the previous Government. Yet in the midst of this, he took time off
to fast and wear sackcloth. His real enthusiasm was not for that high
flying career he found himself in; rather it was for prayer, and coming
to understand Jeremiah's prophecies. 'I've started a new job, I can't
do my readings every day....I've got exams on at the moment,
I can only pray briefly before meals... I've got to build up my new business,
I'll just have to glance at the readings for the next 6 months or so...I've
got problems, real problems, no one else would understand, but I just
need to take a break, a complete break, say for a few months, and then
sure, I'll come back to the daily reading of the Bible'. These are all
common Christian attitudes. I have wandered close to each. The example
of Daniel as a Bible student mocks each of them. "
I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22).
We have suggested that Daniel chose to slip out of the limelight in the
changeover from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar. Thus he was exalted under
Nebuchadnezzar, but appears insignificant at the time Belshazzar sees
his vision (5:11). Significantly, Daniel was blessed with a vision in
the first year of Belshazzar (7:1), presumably in response to his desire
for further understanding. This could imply that Daniel was blessed for
his resignation by more spiritual insight. Do we see things in those terms?
Do we not suspect God may compensate us materially if we resign the things
of this life? Do we dream of deeper spiritual knowledge as a response
to our separation from the world? Or do we write such things off as unnecessary
intellectualism, fascinating for those who are into Bible study but unnecessary
for our personal relationship with God?
Daniel as a Bible student lead a double life in this world; and he was
all too painfully aware of it. No doubt this had a part to play in his
depressions. He was at one stage official interpreter of the King's dreams;
yet he had his own dreams, which he could not understand. He went through
deep depression because of this, and then struggled up off his bed to
" do the king's business" , i.e. interpret his dreams (8:16
cp. 27). This neatly highlights the duality of Daniel's life. The book
of Daniel is not written in chronological order. One reason for this may
be to give the sense that his visions of God's word increasingly dominated
Daniel's thinking. We start off reading much information about his worldly
life, interspersed with the visions; but increasingly, the emphasis is
on the visions. This is not because Daniel got older, retired from political
life and then had more time for visions. He seems to have had a 'career'
all his life, but the implication from the way the record is put together
is that the word of God progressively dominated his thinking and sense
The word of God so dominated the Lord Jesus that He became " the
word...made flesh" . He died as soon as He reached the necessary
level of spiritual maturity; as soon as the word of God achieved the desired
effect. On the cross we see him spiritually perfected, at the ultimate,
highest level of spiritual maturity a human being could reach (Heb. 5:7-9).
Daniel as the " Son of man" , innocently thrown to the lions
in a sealed den, and then miraculously delivered from death, is an evident
type of the Lord Jesus. The spirit of Christ was certainly in him as a
prophet (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Christ too ran the gauntlet of this worldly
life, day by day, He too fought for his conscience every moment. He too,
He too, He too....
(1) These reasons are
presented in The Last Days pp. 192,281.
(2) In no spirit of glib
suggestion do I conclude from many Scriptures that the ecclesia
will almost certainly go through a period of persecution in the
last days. See The Last Days pp. 144-182.
(3) Real life examples
of this will be found chronicled in Robert Roberts, My Days
And My Ways,