DANIEL CLASS INTRODUCTION
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We’re going to be studying the book of Daniel. He was a Jewish guy who was exiled from Judah to Babylon in 605BC, and this book about his life and adventures was probably written around 530 BC. I think we all know that, or at least we’ve heard it.
I think what lots of people don’t know is what all that means. What was Judah? A country? Is that different from Israel? What is this exile we’ve heard about? Who was exiled, and why?
If you’re going to understand the book of Daniel, you’ve got to understand the entire history of the Jewish people. To understand the Jewish people, you have to understand the entire Old Testament. To understand that, you have to go to seminary school and study for years and years, right?
No. I’ve always contented that althought he Bible is complex and very rich, you shouldn’t need any special skills or knowledge to understand it. Why would God make his word only accessable by scholars and eggheads? Even though I’m a Jew myself, that’s the problem I have with modern Judaism: They contend that the understanding of the Bible should only be left to scholars and sages. That doesn’t make sense to me, and it opens the door for too much human error.
In fact, I’m going to show you that the Old Testament is actually very easy to understand. In fact, I’m going to show you that you can learn all the basic historical facts of the OT in about 20 minutes! So, buckle up, Mary Sue, we’re all going for a ride on the Hebrew express!
Let’s start at the beginning. God creates heaven and earth, and all the things in it. He then creates man, which has been termed the “crown of his creation,” hard as that is to belive sometimes. Genesis tells us that the intent was for his creation to live in evelasting peace, while God dwelt among us. However, God also gave man the gift of free will, to choose whether or not to obey him. As it has always been before and since, God gave man a choice (Genesis 2:15) and CLEARLY told man what rewards he would get for obedience, and what punishment he would get for disobedience. We talk about that all the time in our parenting classes: God is the ultimate parent because he laid out the rules, explained rewards and consequences, and then was always true to his word, even though it caused him great pain to mete out punishment. That, in essence, is what the entire OT is all about.
After the fall of man (Genesis 3), everything goes downhill. The first murder occurs in Genesis 4. By Genesis 6, God sees that man is just inclined to evil all the time (read Gen 6:5-8). He wipes out everyone but Noah and his family. Noah’s decendants grow into many nations (Gen 10), including the descendants of Shem, which is where the term “Semites” comes from.
At this point God decides that he’s going to take a select group of people and teach them what it means to be close to him. He’d give them rules and laws and blessings; and from that people would ultimately come the Messiah, the savior of the world. He chooses Abraham to be the father of that people. From Abraham comes Issaac, and from Isaac comes Jacob (or Israel), and from Israel came 12 boys who would be the founders of the 12 tribes, or divisions of Israel. God promises to prosper these people, known as Hebrews, from the name of Eber, one of Abraham’s ancestors (Genesis 10:21).
Lots of great stories about what happens next, but we don’t have time for them. Suffice it to say that God stays true to his word and blesses the Hebrews. Two “half-tribes” are added when Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh are blessed by Jacob. They all prosper so much and grow so big that they’re interpreted as a threat to the surrounding nations. That’s why Egypt takes the initiative to enslave them. That’s what Exodus chapter 1 is all about.
My people remain slaves for 400 years. Man, did I ever hear about that in Temple! God sees their oppression and uses Moses to lead them out of Egypt. Once again, he promises to prosper them and bring them to the promised land, if only they’d obey! He even gives them 10 simple laws to follow. How long before the Hebrews became apostate? About 11 minutes. Moses doesn’t even get off the mountain before their worshipping an idol!
As punishment, everyone’s gonna wander around in the desert for 40 years, until everyone from that generation is dead (except who? Caleb and Joshua). Finally, the nation is about to cross the Jordan into the promised land: But here’s an important development: Two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad, decide that they like the land on the east side. So, they ask if they can have it, and not cross over the Jordan with everyone else. Moses says that’s fine, as long as you promise to help clear out the land on the west for the rest of the people. This is important, because it’s the start of a kind of fragmenting of the Jewish nation. This is all talked about in Numbers 32. Certain tribes, like Judah and Benjamin, become more strong and prominent, partly because of their geography and their proximity to trade routes and other coutries.
As you know, even in the promised land, the people again start doing evil and intermarrying (Judges 3). Nations beat up on them, and they call out to the Lord, who appoints various judges over them. There’s even civil war, with one tribe fighting against the other (Judges 20). Eventually, the Israelites decide that things won’t improve until they have an actual king, like the nations around them (I Samuel 8).
God warns them that this won’t turn out well, but in response to their wishes, he appoints Saul, from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul messes up, so God chooses David, from the tribe of Judah. This eventually causes another division, when after Saul’s death, the commander of his army makes one of Saul’s kids king over Israel. The tribe of Judah, however, sticks with David (2 Samuel 2). As you know, David (being a “man after God’s own heart”) wins out, becomes king, and re-unifies the nation for a time. He also moves the ark to Jerusalem, thereby making it the religious capitol of his people.
David has sons, one of whom is Solomon. You know his story. God makes him the wisest man on the planet, but like most men, he doesn’t always think with his head (if you know what I mean), and he gets involved with women. Read I Kings 11:1-13. This is the pivotal point at which the kingdom is divided in two. Solomon keeps hold of Judah in the south (my understanding is that Benjamin had kind of been absorbed into that tribe by then). The northern tribes are given to one of Solomon’s officials (read I Kings 11:26-39 if time allows, especially 34-39).
From then on, the Kingdom is divided. The 10 tribes are unified under the name of Israel in the north. The capital is Samaria. Judah is the kingdom in the south. The capital is Jerusalem. You know what happens next: Each nation goes through a succession of good kings and bad kings (books of Kings and Chronicles). Sometimes the nations fight against each other, sometimes they actually cooperate (“my chariots are your chariots…”). One thing doesn’t change: Under the leadership of the bad kings, the people repeatedly rebel against God, forget him, and worship other Gods. Repeatedly, they are warned by the prophets..guys like Ahijah, Elijah, Elisha, Miciah,
What happens? They listen for a time, but they ultimately continue to rebel. God eventually has enough. He appoints the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser III, to conquer the northern Kingdom. He totally destroys the northern kingdom through seige warfare, and in 722 he captures Samaria and exiles the survivors to distant places in the Assyrian empire.
The southern Kingdom lasts until 586, when it’s conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (who also iced the Assyrians, and with God’s help, builds a worldwide empire). Back in that time, it was the habit of these rulers to banish some of the captured people, keep the best ones and press them into service, and leave only the poorest behind. As you know, some of those left behind intermarried with people from other countries and became the “half-breed” Samaritans that are talked about in Jesus’ time.
Daniel was among those who was kept to be groomed for service to the King of Babylon. Now, all the while, God promises to restore this divided Kingdom back into one nation: Read Ezekiel 37:15-24. Who is Ezekiel talking about? Us!
By the time we’re done with this class, here’s what we should take away from the book of Daniel: God orchestrated all of this, kept all of his promises, and is always faithful to his word. He raises up faithful people, and he brings down those who put themselves over him. The prophesies we’re going to read about in Daniel all came true, and all that we read should increase our faith!!!!