Israel in the Exile
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #019
May 21, 2000
"Father, we do thank You so much that we can come together this morning to worship You through studying Your Word that our thinking might be transformed and renewed by the truth of Your Word. Scripture says that we are sanctified by truth and it is Your Word that is truth. The power is not some mystical force, but the power of absolute truth that we might know how things are as You have created them and not as they are because we think that they are that way. So Father, we pray that we might have an attitude of submission to Your authority as is expressed in Your Word. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen."
We continue our study of the Old Testament, orienting to the Old Testament. How do we look at the Old Testament? Now we are nearing the end of this study and we will probably wrap it up in the next week or two. So we need to make sure that we take the time to sort of go back and see why we are doing this and what its significance for us. There are two or three questions people ask every now and then. They are sort of a hot button for me. If you want to really see me react you just say one of these two or three statements and you are in trouble. One is, Pastor, I think these things need to be a little more relevant; you know, that is just too abstract. See this is the self-absorption of our age. Where we look at things that are in detail, which good Bible study usually is, and the reaction is from many people is, well I don't want to learn all about that or about this detail or that doctrine. I just need something I can take home and use today. Let's make sure that every message is relevant. Well, I have got a surprise for you. Every message is relevant. You may not see its relevance today or tomorrow or next month or in a couple of years, but every point of doctrine fits into a pattern, an overall structure that orients us to reality and orients us to life.
The problem that most people have today is they want the Bible to be relevant to us and that is a very man-centered approach. See the problem is not that the Bible is not relevant to us. The problem is that we are not relevant to the Bible. Not that the Bible has to be brought down to us, but that we have to change to orient to the Scriptures.
The other hot button issue; someone said this to me this last week and I have kind of been vibrating over it all week. Somebody made a comment about church. They were looking for a pastor and they said, well we want to have a balanced church. I just kind of scratched my head and said, balanced? You want to balance truth and error? How in the world do you? People think that that sounds good. We want to balance this and we want to balance that. The Bible never approaches the truth from the perspective of balance. If you are doing the truth, applying the Word consistently across the board, you are going to have a healthy church and a healthy life and advance spiritually. But this idea of balance is usually because they are incorporating a lot of human viewpoint in their system somewhere and they just want balance. Anyway, don't ever say those things to me. They really get me going.
Scripture is always relevant. Everything in the Old Testament, the more I get into the Old Testament at times, I think by the time we get to the end of this year we are going to be immersed in the Old Testament even more. We will be in Judges within the next month; before the end of the year we will be in Daniel. So you can take good notes this morning and that will prepare you for what is coming up in the Fall. But the Scripture says in the New Testament, all Scripture is breathed by God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17, "All Scripture is God-breathed." The point of that is that when Paul says "all Scripture" he is not talking about the New Testament canon, as we have seen. When he writes that to Timothy only a few books in the New Testament have been written, maybe 50% of the New Testament canon has been written. It certainly hasn't circulated very widely. So the majority of believers in roughly AD 60 did not have a New Testament canon in front of them that they could consult in order to understand how to live the Christian life. What they had was the Old Testament. So the primary point of reference, in that statement "All Scripture is God-breathed" is that Paul is thinking in terms of the Old Testament, especially in the context of that particular comment in 2 Timothy 3.
Secondly, in 1 Timothy 10:1-3 Paul makes the comment referring to all the events in the history of Israel "that these things happened as an example for us." They are there to teach us many different principles. We may have a spiritual life that is based on the unique filling and baptism, indwelling and filling of God the Holy Spirit today. But many of the principles carry over from the Old Testament and are illustrated in the real life situations of the heroes of the Old Testament as we see both their successes and their failures. So we have to look at the Old Testament as something that is very important for us to understand and to comprehend, and there are many things there that God wants us to pay attention to. As we started we saw as our first point, back in Genesis 1, that the purpose of man was to be the vice-gerent of God over the earth. This word vice-gerent is one that is unusual to you, so let me define it for you. Sometimes, I think I have used the word vice-regent. Vice-regent is not the correct word.
Look up in the dictionary the definition of vice-regent. It is someone who acts as a regent's deputy. What is a regent? A regent is someone who rules during the minority, the absence, or the disability of a monarch; one acting as a ruler or governor. In some sense that might apply, but the term vice-gerent is more precise. It refers to a person appointed by a ruler or head of state to act as an administrative deputy. That is exactly how God created Adam in the Garden. He was appointed the ruler, the administrator of planet earth to rule it in God's stead. We looked at the passage in Genesis 1: 26-27, where God establishes the original Creation Covenant, sometimes referred to as the Edenic Covenant, with Adam. Let us make man in our image and according to our likeness. We saw that those words "image and likeness" don't refer simply to immaterial make-up of man, but of course they do, but they also refer to its purpose and function. God created man in His image to function as His image, as His representative on the earth.
We looked at that and then we saw in our development of the Old Testament that man failed. The human race failed. They failed at the Fall; they failed again in the antediluvian civilization and there was the judgment of the worldwide flood; and then after the flood they failed again to disperse, fill, and multiply the earth and carry out the terms of the Noahic Covenant. They were judged at the Tower of Babel. In light of the failure of the human race, then the Gentiles as a whole, God chose one man, Abram that through him He would work out His divine purposes and plans to bring about the reinstitution of the original Edenic state. See, once Adam fell, everything that comes after that is a process whereby God is going to redeem mankind in order to restore him to the position of ruling and reigning over the planet. That is ultimately fulfilled in the Person of the God-man Jesus Christ. This is why the second Person of the Trinity takes on flesh not only to redeem man, but to redeem him for the purpose of ultimate restoration of all things and that takes place in the Millennial Kingdom. Then we go on into the new heavens and new earth.
So, in the initial stage of this plan of restoration, God is going to work through one man and his descendants, Israel. Israel is to be the missionary agent. But Israel fails and fails miserably. They are brought out, we have see, that they are brought out of Egypt and God says that He is adopted Israel as His firstborn. They are given the responsibility to be a blessing to the Gentiles. That is because of their walk with the LORD. And as they do that they will carry out the evangelism and witness to the LORD. We have seen their failure time and time again during the period of the Judges, during the period of the divided monarchy. We have seen that the northern kingdom was taken out under divine discipline, the ten tribes in the north taken out under divine discipline in 722 BC through the use of the Assyrian Empire. We have seen that in the southern kingdom there is further and continued failure. As we go through that we see the breakdown like this chronologically.
586 BC the southern kingdom of Judah goes out under divine discipline when they are finally conquered by the Babylonians. Preceding that you have the reign of the last four kings of Judah: Josiah the good king from 640-609 BC; then there is the short reign of just a couple of months of Jehoahaz, who is an evil king. He reigns briefly in 609 BC. He is succeeded by Jehoiakim, who reigns from 609-597 BC, when he is finally taken off into captivity and presumably killed by Nebuchadnezzar and he is replaced on the throne by Jehoiachin, who lasts for all of three months before he tries to set up an alliance with the Egyptians and Nebuchadnezzar doesn't look kindly upon that, so he rips him off the throne and blinds him and hauls him off into captivity and he remains in captivity for 37 years until he is finally released by Nebuchadnezzar's successor, Evil Merodach. So Jehoiachin is on the throne for a brief three months and then he is followed by the last king in the south, Zedekiah, who is on the throne from 607-586 BC.
Then in 586 BC Nebuchadnezzar has his third assault on Judah, wipes them out, invades the land, conquers Jerusalem, destroys the temple, deports the upper classes and middle classes from Judah, and the Davidic monarchy is left in ruins, the land is conquered, the people are taken from the land, and they are left in a depressed and discouraged state. You can imagine the question on their mind at this time is what has happened to God? Is He not on the throne anymore? Is He somehow taking a nap or just not paying attention? What about all of the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? What about the promises in the real estate covenant to Moses, that we would have this land in perpetuity forever and ever? What about the promises to David that there would be a seed of David on the throne forever and ever? What about our position and our future and all the glorious things God has promised us? Have we been misled or deceived? Is God just not powerful? Are the gods of Babylon more powerful then Yahweh? What are we to do?
Now the people were not left without a witness. At the time of the Babylonian captivity, in fact, there were three Jewish communities that survived and to understand that is to understand some stuff that prepares us for the New Testament period. There is a group that leaves Israel and goes down to Egypt. The prophet who goes with them is Jeremiah. There is a tremendous colony of Jews that survives for the next several centuries into the first century period in Egypt. Then there is another small group, mostly lower class peasants who have no skills, not training, who are left in the land and they have no hope of success or doing anything. There are just a few that are left. Then there are the middle and upper class artisans, craftsmen, scholars, the aristocracy has all been hauled off into captivity in Babylon. So those are the three groups. You have a community left in Judah that is very small. You have a community in Egypt, and a community in Babylon. Those are the three groups.
At the end of the seventy years of Babylonian captivity they do return to the land, but they don't know that. In 586 BC as they are being taken off in chains to Babylon it seems that everything they had hoped for, everything they have desired, and everything they have relied upon in terms of God's Word had been lost. But they do have a document in their hands and that is the prophecy of Isaiah. Isaiah wrote some 150 years before this, but Isaiah had prophesied this very captivity. He prophesied their attitude in Isaiah 40:27 Isaiah says, "Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'?" Notice the despair that is there. They are saying, God, how can you be just and let this happen. These are evil, wicked people. That is the same theme of Habakkuk. Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets and he starts off his prophesy, LORD, how long will you let this nation come under the control of these false teachers? And the LORD answers Habakkuk and He says, well, I have discipline on the way. It is on the horizon. It is the Chaldeans.
Wait a minute, LORD! How can you bring those evil people on us? That is the whole purpose of Habakkuk is to show that God can use whomever God wants to. He is the Sovereign LORD of history and He can use whomever He wants to discipline His people because they have been in failure. So now in Isaiah 40:27 there is the picture of the Jews in captivity whining and crying about their captivity. That somehow God is not paying attention to their plight; that they are going through this misery and this suffering and God's Justice has somehow escaped them. This is the solution that Isaiah has for them. Whenever we get into this situation we fill like God is not paying attention to us, that He is concerned with somebody else and somehow forgot about us, this is the passage we should go to (in Isaiah 40).
Isaiah 40:28-31, "Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth Does not become weary or tired." He hasn't turned His back on you. He hasn't fallen asleep. He is not paying attention to someone else and temporarily forgot about you. He is neither weary nor tired. "His understanding is inscrutable." He is omniscient. He has always known all the knowable. He knows every single problem, every adversity, every difficulty in our lives and He is in control of the situation. "He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power." It reminds us of the passage in 2 Corinthians 11, where Paul has the thorn in the flesh adversity and God says to him, "My Grace is sufficient for you." "He gives strength to the weary, And to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, And vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the LORD Will renew their strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not grow weary." I just like the poetry and the imagery of the King James much better than the sort of pusillanimous translation of the New American Standard. "They will run and not get tired" just does not have the majesty of "they will run and not grow weary" "or walk and not faint."
The problem with the Jews is that they are now weary and tired and discouraged and depressed and they looked at their circumstances and they see the tremendous power of the Babylonian Empire. They see its wealth and its majesty and it is spread out over most of the known world. They see the rise of the Persian Empire as well during this period, as the Media-Persian Empire comes on the scene and conquers and defeats the Babylonians. They ask the question, how in the world are we ever going to get home? How can God conquer the might of man? It just seems like man's power and our circumstances are just overwhelming. There is no way that we will ever get back into the land. The Davidic promises are defeated; the Davidic seed has disappeared and God has abandoned and forsaken us. But they can turn in the scroll of Isaiah to Isaiah 48:20 where Isaiah prophesies that there is a return from Babylon. He says, "Go forth from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldeans! Declare with the sound of joyful shouting, proclaim this, Send it out to the end of the earth; Say, 'The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob'." So they have the scroll of Isaiah in their hands, they know that there is a future and can take comfort from the Word of God to handle their adversity.
Now in order to understand the background of what takes place during the exile two major books deal with the exile: Daniel and Ezekiel. I am primarily going to look at Daniel for us this morning. Daniel deals with the question, is God still Sovereign over the world? Is God still Sovereign over the human kingdoms? Or have we somehow lost and God has been defeated? You have to understand something about what has taken place, that this discipline is related to the five cycles of discipline outlined in Deuteronomy 28, and because Israel has been involved in idolatry, gross idolatry, God had removed them from the land as He promised. We saw that under Manasseh, Manasseh was the father of Josiah, the good king. Our chart earlier started with Josiah. His father Manasseh was the most evil king of all the kings of Israel and Judah. He led them back into rank paganism, such that the horrible deeds and the perversions of the Canaanites at the time of Moses were almost nothing compared to the perversions under Manasseh. There was a restoration of child sacrifice. There was the full blown restoration of fertility worship and the phallic cult in Israel. There was an outbreak in increase, as there always is in times of perversion, of homosexuality because that is part of the way God judges civilizations; is to pull back the restraint on evil and to turn man over to the depravity of his heart. That is outlined in Romans 1.
So God is going to punish and discipline Judah to teach them a lesson that He indeed is God. So He raises up a new empire in the east of Babylon. The first major ruler of Babylon was Nabopolassar who unified the empire; and he died in 605 BC. We will put a timeline up here on the overhead. Here is 600 BC and in 604 BC Nabopolassar dies. In 605 BC his son Nebuchadnezzar is the commander of the armies and he comes down out of Babylon and attacks and has a major battle with the Egyptians north of Israel and Syria at a place called Carchemish. In 605 BC one of the most significant battles in the ancient world takes place and Nebuchadnezzar defeats Pharaoh Necho of Egypt at Carchemish and that opens the door, once the Egyptian army is out of the way, for Nebuchadnezzar to invade down into Assyria and along the Mediterranean as he advances toward Egypt. It is at that time that he first invades Judah and leads the initial group of captives to Babylon. It is in that group of captives a young aristocrat in 605 BC, Daniel, and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, go back to Babylon.
605 BC is the first attack and defeat of Judah and it is just the next year in 604 BC that Nabopolassar dies and Nebuchadnezzar had to make a fast move to get back to Babylon in order to secure his succession and to secure the throne. It is at roughly that time that Daniel and these other young men are taken back to Babylon in order to be trained to serve the king Nebuchadnezzar. Now, if you were among that group of captives that were taken to Babylon, as you walked into Babylon, as you came up from the south on the Euphrates River, what you would see is a massive city. The walls of Babylon were 85 feet high. Every 65 feet along that wall there was a massive tower that helped support the wall. The circumference of the wall was 11 miles. So it is eleven miles across to the city of Babylon and the wall itself is 65 feet wide. Now I don't know how long this building is from one end to the other, but I think it is less than 65 feet. So it is 65 feet, which means that four chariots can ride abreast all the way around. The reason they built it that way is that it is roughly a highway up there. They have an interstate on top of the wall so that they can move their troops from one point to another very rapidly in the defense of the city.
Around the base of the wall is a mote that is fed by the Euphrates. The Euphrates River comes into Babylon on one side. There is a gate there and it flows through the city and goes out the other side; and then they have a couple of canals that run off of that to establish a mote around the outside of the wall. The gates were designed to be shut during times of war so that they could close up the city completely and be protected. So it was a tremendous defensive posture. There are seven gates in the city. If you come down from the north there are two gates. The gate of Ishtar and the moon god Sin; on the west there is the gate of Marduk and the gate of Nembutal, who was the goddess of hunting and warfare. On the south there are the gates of Raman, Enlil, Shamash, and then the gate of Adad on the east. Now all of these are the names of the gods, the pantheon of the Babylonian gods.
Now if you are a Jew, as Daniel and the others are, and you are devoted to the Word of God and against Idolatry, what is hitting you as you are coming into this city is this overwhelming presence of paganism. As you came in the gate; let's say coming in from the south as you entered in at the gate of Enlil, you would come in and you would go down the great broad boulevard that Nebuchadnezzar constructed, which was the Boulevard of Marduk. This boulevard was about 65 feet wide, so that you could have the same number of chariots, four chariots going abreast, and it was built with a variety of blue enamel bricks and on every brick was stamped the name of the god Marduk. So you are once again overwhelmed with the presence of idolatry. This 65 foot boulevard extends all the way through the city and on each side of the boulevard there is a walkway of orange brick and then there are walls on the side of that that go up 85 feet. Nothing in the city is higher than 85 feet except for the ziggurat, the big tower to the heavens; where God comes down to meet man in the center of the city.
The first building you would see would be the palace of Nebuchadnezzar. The walls were 135 feet thick. There was an impregnable fortress inside of an impregnable fortress. It was 85 feet high and his name, the name of Nebuchadnezzar is stamped on every brick for the first 24 feet into the wall. The one thing that stands out is his power and his presence. Throughout the palace and throughout the city all along the boulevard are temples to all of the gods and goddess, to Marduk, Nabu, Shamash, Chumash, Sin, Raman, and all of the other gods in the pantheon. At the center of the city there is a ziggurat that is a stair step pyramid that goes up 300 feet and towers over the city. Each step is 300 feet square at the base and then it begins to stair step up. Each step is a different color. The first is white and then black then yellow then silver and then gold and it is up those stairs that the priests and priestesses of their pantheon worship and sacrifice at the top. So if you are a Jew coming into Babylon you are overwhelmed with the paganism, with the idolatry, with everything that is going on in this culture just drips with their pagan religion. The one thing that keeps them together is the prophecies of Jeremiah, the prophecies of Ezekiel, and the prophecies of Isaiah.
Now the last part of Isaiah, from Isaiah 40 to Isaiah 66, in these twenty seven chapters there is tremendous comfort for them (the Jews). Now if we look at Isaiah, just briefly to summarize. This is the Book that is in their hand that gives them comfort. There are three divisions at the end of Isaiah. In Isaiah 40-48 there is the promise of deliverance; there is the promise that there will be everlasting punishment and judgment for the wicked, and that God will eventually give His victory. In the midst of this is the Cyrus oracle. Two hundred years prior to his coming Cyrus unites the Media-Persian empire in roughly 540 BC. In Isaiah 44:28 we have the specific promise, "It is I who says of Cyrus," notice this is two hundred years earlier. 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built….'" It was Cyrus who when the Media-Persian empire conquered the Babylonian empire restored Israel to their land; he passes a decree and sends them back home. "She will be built," talking of the temple. 'Your foundation will be laid.'", Isaiah 44:28. Cyrus was also known as Darius the Mede in Daniel chapter six. So in Isaiah 40-48 there is the promise of God's coming deliverance and judgment upon the wicked.
Then in Isaiah 49-57 Isaiah begins to look down the corridor of time to how God will deliver them through the Messiah. It is in this section that we have the great themes of the suffering servant, and especially the key chapters, Isaiah 52-53, which focus on the coming of the Messiah who will die as a substitute for the sins of the world and for Israel and provide redemption. Then in chapters Isaiah 58-66 the theme focuses on not only their future deliverance but also the ultimate victory of God over all the kingdoms of man and the establishment of the Messianic kingdom. So with this in their hands they have a sense of what the future holds; that despite their despair, despite their suffering and everything that they have lost God is still in control of history. Now that is a prophecy that is two hundred years old, but God is not silent during this period. Not only does He continue to reveal Himself through Ezekiel, and in Ezekiel you have the great promise of the future millennial temple, which is not to be confused with the old temple. We will look at this a little more next time.
The future temple of Ezekiel is one mile square and there will be a restoration of sacrifice. In fact, this causes a great deal of consternation amongst people. If you look at Ezekiel, you look at the prophecy, it is clear that he is articulating a sacrificial system in the temple. You say, wait a minute, Christ has come and paid the price for sins; why would there be a reinstitution of sacrifices? That can't be right; this must be allegory. So immediately you start trying to spiritualize prophecy. This has always been a problem and in the early Middle Ages there was a Rabbi who locked himself up in a room for several months so that he could try to reconcile Ezekiel with the Mosaic Law. They thought that Ezekiel should be included in the Canon, but they couldn't figure out why there were so many discrepancies between his description of the sacrificial system and the Levitical description of the sacrificial system. And so he finally developed an extreme mystical allegorical interpretation to try to reconcile everything; and they included Ezekiel in the Canon. But the point is that it is different.
They recognized the fact that it was a different sacrificial system. There are many sacrifices that are mentioned. There are many offerings that are mentioned; and the purpose is that just as the church and the Church Age has a memorial supper, where we look back and we remember what Christ did on the Cross; Israel and the millennial kingdom will have memorial sacrifices that look back on what Christ did on the Cross. So there is a restoration of the priesthood in the millennial kingdom and a restoration of a temple and a restoration of temple sacrifices. The temple is one mile square. It is an enormous edifice that is constructed in the center of Israel; and in the middle of that temple is where the Shekinah Glory will reside in the Messianic kingdom.
Daniel focuses on God's sovereignty over the nations. Daniel was written specifically to show to the Jews that God is sovereign and that He is in control despite the overwhelming power of the present human kingdoms. Isaiah ends with the statement, in fact each of these sections that I outlined, Isaiah 40-48, 49-57, and 58-66, if you notice those are each nine chapters, twenty seven chapters in all and each one ends with the refrain, "There is no peace for the wicked." "There is no peace for the wicked." "There is no peace for the wicked." Then the final verse of Isaiah is: "Then they will go forth and look on the corpses of the men who have transgressed against Me. For their worm will not die and their fire will not be quenched; And they will be an abhorrence to all mankind." This is a description of eternal judgment in the lake of fire. So there is assurance that God is still on the throne and that His justice will eventually win out.
Now when we come to Daniel there are a number of things that I want to discuss about Daniel. One of the issues revolves around the date of Daniel. The reason we focus on Daniel in this way is because Daniel has some of the most detailed predictive prophecy in the Old Testament. Because of that Daniel is one of the Books in the Old Testament that is most attacked by the liberals. Now I have used the term "liberal" every now and then; and we are so use to thinking politically that I don't want you to be confused. When I talk about liberals I am not talking about political liberals. I am talking about religious liberals. Religious liberalism came in the 19th century as the result of the excessive dependence on rationalism in the late 18th century and early 19th century. At the very core of religious liberalism is the assumption that God really doesn't act in human history; that God has not revealed Himself in history; there is no such thing as real supernaturalism in history. So that is their assumption. They have an anti-supernatural assumption and they are basing everything on human reason. They have never seen the Red Sea part; they have never seen the leper healed; they have never seen an ear put back on someone who has just been cut off, so obviously these things are just mythological inventions in order to somehow give credence to religious beliefs. That is their assumption and on the basis of that assumption they begin to attack the veracity of the Scriptures; and one of the favorite places to start is Daniel.
Now if you can handle these attacks on Daniel, you can handle these attacks on anything else in the Scripture. They basically come against Daniel on four issues:
1. The first is the date of Daniel.
2. The second is the language of the book; they would say that it can't really be 6th century language. There are some words in Daniel that come from much later. So this can't be a Book that was written as it purports to be written between 536 BC and 600 BC.
3. The liberals also say there are a number of historical blunders or mistakes in Daniel.
4. And then they late date Daniel.
What they do is they say it can't be prophecy; it must be history. They suppose that the person who wrote Daniel is really sort of what they call a pious forger. He is a Jew and he is devoted to Judaism and he wants to give tremendous credence to Judaism, so somewhere around 165 BC, during the time of the Macabean Empire, this guy writes Daniel. He already knows what has happened; it is really history; it is not prophecy. It wasn't written before the events; it was written after the events. Now what we know for sure is that Daniel certainly was a historic person who went into captivity in Babylon in 605 BC as a young man, 15-16 years of age at that time; and he lived another 70 plus years and eventually died in approximately 530 BC. So he spends 75 years in captivity, plus 15 years as he was close to 90 years of age when he finally went to be with the LORD.
The book covers much history in the first section, but it also covers prophecy. Now when we come to the first issue, why the date of Daniel is important? The issue is, was it written in 586-539 BC or 165 BC? Now somebody might say, well, so what. Why is that really significant? I will tell you why it is significant:
1. First of all the Sovereignty of God is at stake. The Sovereignty of God is at stake. When we look at Daniel we see that it is a book that portrays God as a God who is in control of history and because He is in control of history the past, the present, and the future He can accurately predict the future. You can't accurately predict what you can't control. So we see that the Sovereignty of God is at stake and just as Jesus Christ controls history, He is the One who is able to prophesy exactly what will come about. Now if this book is not prophecy but history, then we can't really be sure that God is in control. He may be in control, but He may not be in control. He may not be a very powerful God, so the date of Daniel is important because it relates to the Sovereignty of God.
2. Secondly, it relates to the nature of the Bible, the nature of the Bible. It comes under attack here because if the Bible gives real prophecy as we believe, then we can be sure that it comes from God. If there is real predictive prophesy 200 or 300 years in advance given in detail, then we can be sure that God is in control. On the other hand, if it is simply history and not only history, but one that has mistakes in it, then we can't really trust the Bible. You see, everything in the Bible, all the great doctrines from redemption to the spiritual life are all based on historical events. That is why when we come to 1 Corinthians 15 Paul says if Christ has not physically and bodily come out of the grave in resurrection then are the most deceived, the most to be pitied of all people, because then Christianity is false. Christianity is based on history, on the fact that on a certain date and a certain time the tomb was empty and Jesus Christ rose from the dead. It is historical; it is not just some fuzzy idea that Jesus is alive in our hearts and minds and this is some great idea that goes on forever and ever.
There has to be historical reality or it is meaningless. That is why when you hear people say that they believe that the Bible is accurate in all matters of faith and practice. That it is not want they said was wrong; it is what they haven't said. This was the great debate that came along back in the 1970s, when the Southern Baptist denomination was having a tremendous conflagration over the inherency of Scripture, and also, I think it was the Missouri Synod in the Lutheran Church was fighting the issue of inherency. And what you would find in some seminaries and some churches, is that you will find that in their doctrinal statement; that we believe that the Bible is the Word of God and authoritative in all matters of faith and practice. And boy, doesn't that just sound good. It is what is there, but what is not there. Always think about what is not said. If the Bible is not true in every detail of history; then it is not true at all. And the doctrine that is based on that is irrelevant. So, the nature of the Bible is under attack
And then, finally, the person of Jesus Christ is challenged. In Matthew 23 Jesus assumes the validity of the traditional viewpoint that Daniel lived and wrote in the 6th century BC. And if Jesus is wrong about Daniel, then Jesus is fallible; and if Jesus is fallible then He is not impeccable; and if He is not impeccable then He is not the God-Man and He can't die on the cross for our sins. So if Daniel wasn't written when Daniel claims to be, then Jesus made mistakes and we have no salvation. So this is a crucial issue.
So the first thing that we will look at in our discussion is the date of the earliest manuscript of Daniel. At Qumran at the Dead Sea seventeen different manuscripts of Daniel were discovered and we know that there are seventeen different manuscripts because the handwriting in each of these is different in each one of these, indicating different scribes. And one of the more significant fragments covers the section in the end of chapter one and beginning of chapter two where the language shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic. And by looking at that what we can see is that based on the paleography, in other words, based on how the letters were written, how they were formed, you can look at it. Go back and look at how your parents made their 'Rs' in cursive writing and how you were taught. You will see a difference because from decade to decade we are taught how to make certain letters a little differently; so you can look at how people write and you can date based on the paleography. So we can date this early manuscript that we have from the Dead Sea Scrolls somewhere between 125 BC and 200 BC.
Now this is not a substantive argument in the sense of disproving what the critics say because the liberals want to date Daniel at 165 BC. But of course if this were written in 200 BC at one end that does away with the 165 BC argument. And if it is written in 125 BC of course that would make 165 BC possible. But the point I want to make is that the liberal is inconsistent at this point because the liberal has manuscripts from Chronicles, Psalms, and Ecclesiastes that are all dated in this 140-170 BC period. And the older liberal view was that was when they were originally written, but once they discovered at the Dead Sea that they had documents and manuscripts with that date on it, that they had to say that that couldn't be the original, so those manuscripts had to be at least 100 years older. But when it comes to Daniel they don't want to. In fact, one archeologist tried to argue that this fragment from the Dead Sea was the original scroll of Daniel, but it just doesn't fit with any of their other methodologies. It is just bad form. It shows how it can't be consistent.
The second issue the liberals always bring up is the language of the Book; and they base this on the fact that there are certain Persian words that are used in the book. So what they basically argue is that if Persian words were present in a book that was written before the Persian period, then that would indicate a Persian influence so it should have been much later. But Daniel lived at least five years into the Persian period when he was cast into the lion's den by Darius that is during the Persian period. Daniel probably wrote this at the later part of his life and it just stands to reason that he would use a few Persian words. Not only that, but the Persian words that are used are technical words for official administration in the kingdom. So he is using the technical verbiage that he would use. He was the second in command; he was the Prime Minister of the land during his last ten years under the Persian period. So it just stands to reason that he would be familiar with this vocabulary.
Another argument that is brought out is that there are Greek words used in the original manuscripts; that there are Greek words and since Greece doesn't become a major player for another 200 years, obviously that had to be written after that period. Well the problem with that is, and this is the kind of specious arguments liberals usually come up with, is that they are really only talking about three Greek words and they are names for three of the musical instruments used in Daniel 2, when Nebuchadnezzar wants everybody to bow down to his image; and so he gets a little orchestra together and they all play. Well, three of the instruments have Greek names. Now we have evidence from archaeology that from 450 BC; now we are talking about 550 BC to 530 BC, so we have evidence from a little later on, 450 BC, from Egyptian documents of the use of Greek words for money and other things. We also know from archeological discoveries in Babylon that Nebuchadnezzar used Greek architecture to build his palace. He had ionic columns. This is still 100 years before the Golden Age had happened, which doesn't occur until about 450 BC. So this is 100 years before that. But Nebuchadnezzar is using ionic columns and various other features of Greek architecture in building his castle.
Obviously there was trade between Greece and Babylon and there was trade of ideas. So this shows that it would not be odd or strange for musical instruments from Greece to find their way into Babylon.
Now they, the liberals, also argue that there are historical blunders in the text. Open your Bible with me to Jeremiah 46:2. Hold your place there and flip over a couple of books to Daniel 1. Jeremiah 46:2 says, "To Egypt, concerning the army of Pharaoh Necho king of Egypt, which was by the Euphrates River at Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah." Remember that Nebuchadnezzar defeated Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish and then went down and invaded Judah. So this happened according to Jeremiah 46:2 "in the fourth year of Jehoiakim." Now turn back over to Daniel 1:1 and we read, "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it."
Jeremiah says it was in the fourth year of Jehoiakim; Daniel says it was in the third year of Jehoiakim. Oh, well, maybe New Years came in-between. No, that is not the answer. There appears to be a real conflict here and so the liberal comes along and says it is a pious forgery and the forger couldn't even get the date right. You would think that if somebody was going to be really working to create a decent forgery that they would at least be able to get the date right on something that obvious.
Now what happened to this and how this is explained, which is not only a solid explanation, but it also substantiates the historicity of the text; is that in the calendar for us. Let's put January right up here, this is when we mark our new year. But in the ancient world they marked the calendar at the New Year at the coming of the autumn rains, which is roughly equivalent to our October, and that was the month Tishri. Now what would happen is that if somebody came to the throne in Babylon, and let's say in March of 509 BC, then 509 BC, 508 BC, 507 BC and 506 BC would be considered his first four years. His first year, no matter whether it was a month, six months or twelve months, is called his accession year and that is the year he comes to the throne and that is his first year of reigning. That is how things were handled in Judah. Judah used accession year dating. But in Babylon they did not use accession year dating, so this period from March to October is not considered the first year. The first year does not begin until October of 508 BC.
So, in Babylon 508 BC is the first year, 507 BC and 506 BC is the third year. The point is, if you were writing in Judah in the 2nd century BC, in roughly 165 BC, you are not going to know anything about how the Babylonians counted time. So you would use a Judean basis of measurement and you are going to say that this occurred in the fourth year. But if you were living in Babylon and you have been in Babylon for sixty or seventy years as Daniel was; and you speak the language and were the Prime Minister of the land, you totally have gotten into most of the culture, not the religious aspects, but everything else, you are going to be telling time according to the Babylonian method and so you are going to say it is the third year. So what happens is or the explanation is that this is not really a contrast or a conflict between the two, but what we have here is a real explanation that the writer of Daniel was indeed in Babylon and understood all of their systems.
Now another conflict that is brought up sometimes is that in Daniel 5 we learn and have the scene of the great banquet, the great party. Herodotus tells us all about this fantastic party that they are having when Cyrus is outside the gates and he takes his army and he dams up the Euphrates River and diverts its flow so that his army can invade the city underneath the gate. They weren't expecting it. That is when Daniel is called in because they have had the handwriting on the wall. They are having this tremendous orgy up there and when that is taking place; and that is under the last king Belshazzar. And all the classical historians, Herodotus, Viscidities, all the ancients, never mention Belshazzar. Well, how do we know that he existed historically? And for years the liberals said this was somebody who had just been made up. Nobody knows who this Belshazzar is. He is not listed anywhere. None of the ancients recognize him. And it wasn't until excavations at Babylon ion the early part of the 20th century revealed that Belshazzar was the son of Nabonitus. And everybody said that Nabonitus, all of these historians mentioned Nabonitus as the last king, but what they discovered through archaeology was that Nabonitus* had a co-regency with his son Belshazzar, and Belshazzar was left to rule while Nabonitus took early retirement and built a villa on the northern coast of Egypt on the Mediterranean and had retired to his summer palace there and no longer functioned as the king and Belshazzar was indeed the king. But of course we did not discover that and have that substantiation until well into the 20th century. So the liberals just assumed that they were right and the Bible was wrong.
This is consistently what happens when there are attacks on the veracity of the Bible; eventually archeology substantiates the Bible. It is just that we may not know enough right now. And then another thing that they usually attack is the idea of the fourth king. In Daniel the fourth king is Rome and that would truly be predictive prophecy; even if it was written in 165 BC that would be a prediction. And so what the liberals do is they come along and they says that the second kingdom in the huge figure that Nebuchadnezzar sees in his dream in Daniel 2; this would be the arms of silver, which represent two different kingdoms in Daniel 7. Daniel has a dream and the bear is the second kingdom. And what the liberals do is that they come along and say that the second kingdom is the Medes and the third kingdom is the Persians instead of as the conservatives see the second kingdom as the Media-Persona kingdom. But what we see is everywhere in the book, especially later when Daniel runs afoul of Darius, Darius says well it is the laws of the Medes and the Persians and it can’t be broken. Darius defeated the Medes in 540 BC before he defeated the Persians. First he defeats the Medes and they merge as one empire and it becomes the Media-Persian Empire; and it is the Media-Persian Empire that defeats the Babylonians, not the Medes that defeats the Babylonians. So the liberals have to play fast and loose with history in order to substantiate their contention that there is no real prophecy here.
So what we see in Daniel is that there is real prophesy and we don't have any more time this morning, so next time we'll come back and look at the most dramatic prophesy in the Old Testament, which is in Daniel 9, which specifies down to the very week when the Messiah will be crucified. So we will come back and look at that next time. That along with Ezekiel and then we will be prepared, be within a week of wrapping things up and looking at the Post-exilic history of Israel.
"Father, we thank You so much that Your Word is historically valid; that there is substantive evidence to show that there is predictive prophesy and all of this is not our proof, but it just gives substantiation to our faith. That You are the God Who rules the heavens and the earth. You are the God in control of history and just as You control all things past, present, and future, You can predict all things, and this gives us great comfort knowing that You are in control. That even when the circumstances overwhelm us and adversity seems as if it is too much, that You are still in control and that You still provide the only solution. Father, we thank You for the greatest solution that we have, which is Jesus Christ, Who paid the penalty for our sins on the cross. Father, we pray that You would, if there is anyone here this morning uncertain of their salvation, unsure of their eternal life that right now would take the opportunity to make that certain in their life. All they have to do is accept Christ as Savior. Scripture says believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. You need to believe that Jesus died on the Cross for your sins as your substitute and that by His death you have eternal life. Father, we pray that You would help us to remember the things we study and be challenged by them and to remember that Your Word is true and You can solve any problem in our life. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen."