God Grants Sovereignty

The Book of Daniel presents insights into the future with an emphasis on the rise and fall of empires that will impact Israel. This includes coming times of “tribulation” when the people of God endure persecution and even martyrdom at the hands of despotic pagan kings. But before doing so, it declared that the downfall of the Kingdom of Judah was according to the will of Yahweh. It was the God of Israel who “gave” the Babylonian king sovereignty over the Jewish nation.

This theme occurs several times in the Book. It is God who “gives the nations to whomsoever He pleases” despite how things appear. He uses the aspirations, arrogance, and deeds of good and bad kings and emperors to accomplish His will on behalf of His people. All this is part of an age-old controversy between Yahweh and His cosmic enemies.

Mountain Range - Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash
[Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash]

In its opening paragraph, the Book labels Babylon the “
land of Shinar,” a verbal link to the “Tower of Babel” incident. The Neo-Babylonian Empire had an ancient pedigree. Like his Sumerian forbears, Nebuchadnezzar was determined to unite humanity under one language and a single government so that all men might render homage to his great golden image and acknowledge his sovereignty.

Unwittingly, the Babylonian ruler was working to reverse the judgment of Yahweh against “Shinar” by gathering all nations under his rule. Representatives from conquered peoples were taken to Babylon where they would be educated in the Chaldean “language” and wisdom, including Daniel and his three companions.

Despite the efforts and intentions of the king, events moved according to God’s plan. He was and is sovereign, and He rules over the kingdoms of this age, including the mighty Neo-Babylonian Empire. In fact, it was Yahweh who “gave” Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian throne and dominion over the kingdom of Judah.

  • (Daniel 1:1-2) – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon to Jerusalem and laid siege against it; and the Lord gave into his hand Jehoiakim king of Judah and a part of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them into the land of Shinar into the house of his gods, and the vessels he brought into the treasure-house of his gods.”

GOD GIVES POLITICAL POWER


The God of Israel is active in the affairs of nations, and He “GAVE” the Kingdom of Judah into the king’s “hand.” Moreover, in doing so, He also placed the four powerless Jewish captives in influential positions in the imperial court in Mesopotamia where they would help advance His redemptive plans for Israel and the nations.

The first verse of Daniel sets the stage: In the “third year of the reign of Jehoiakim,” approximately 605 B.C. The career of Daniel continued from this point until the “first year of King Cyrus” when the “Kingdom of the Medes and Persians” overthrew Babylon, also according to Yahweh’s decree. However, this clause is more than a chronological marker. It establishes the commencement of the seventy-year captivity of the Jewish nation, an important milestone in Daniel – (Daniel 9:1-2).

In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem after defeating Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish when he also removed the “vessels” from the Temple and selected men from the royal house to be educated in Babylon for service in his government.

With the conquest of Jerusalem, the political independence of Judah ceased. The city and Temple were ransacked, and the upper echelons of Judean society were sent to Mesopotamia. Thus, Daniel found himself a powerless exile working in the civil service of the World Empire.

This was in accord with the purposes of Yahweh. The Hebrew verb rendered “GAVE” or nathan is applied several times in Chapter 1 whenever Yahweh arranges events. This becomes a key theme reiterated several times in Daniel - God gives political power to whomever He pleases - (e.g., Daniel 2:20-21, 4:17).

Nebuchadnezzar removed the vessels to the Land of “Shinar.” Like the “Tower of Babel” incident, he attempted to unite all people under one language and government. However, God used the situation to accomplish His purposes.

IN THE IMPERIAL COURT


As was his custom, Nebuchadnezzar planned to educate the Jewish exiles in the wisdom, literature, and language of the “Chaldeans” so they would be equipped to serve in the administration of his empire. On their arrival in Babylon, the “king appointed the exiles a daily provision of his food and of the wine that he drank to nourish them three years.” This was a great honor, one not to be rejected without suffering serious consequences.

But Daniel was concerned that partaking of the royal provisions would put his ritual purity at risk, and most probably, the issue was eating food offered to (Babylonian) idols. In Babylonian rituals, food consumed in the royal court was offered first to the Babylonian gods in their sanctuaries before being served at the royal table.

But God “GAVE” Daniel favor before the “prince of the eunuchs” who, then, granted his request to abstain from the royal provisions for ten days. His positive response to Daniel was due to the intervention of Yahweh - it was God who “GAVE” Daniel “kindness and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs.”

Furthermore, God also “GAVE” the exiles “knowledge and prudence in all learning and wisdom,” and He also gave Daniel “understanding in all visions and dreams,” which, through the prophet, became the primary means by which God announced and influenced the direction of empires - (Daniel 1:9-16).

Nebuchadnezzar examined the youths and found they excelled in “every matter of wisdom and understanding… And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” That is, until 538 B.C.  This establishes the length of his career - from the third year of King Jehoiakim to the first year of Cyrus the Great – 605 to 538 B.C.

BOOK OF REVELATION


In Revelation, the story of Daniel’s “test” is alluded to in its letters to Pergamos, Thyatira, and Smyrna. In the cities of Asia, believers were being encouraged by false teachers to “EAT MEAT OFFERED TO IDOLS.”

Doing so would compromise the faith and testimony of the Asian churches. However, refusing to participate in the idolatrous practices of their society would expose them to persecution - (“The Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you MAY BE TRIED; and you shall have TRIBULATION TEN DAYS”).

In the passage in Revelation, the Greek verb rendered “try” is the same one used in the Septuagint version of Daniel when the Jewish exiles asked the Eunuch to “try” them by having them abstain from meat and wine for “ten days.” The verbal link is deliberate. Daniel’s exemplary example becomes the model for perseverance for the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” - (Daniel 1:12-14, Revelation 2:8-10).

Like Daniel, John found himself sent into exile on the Isle of Patmos for the “testimony of Jesus.” He became a “fellow participant in the tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance in Jesus” with the beleaguered and marginalized congregations of Asia.

And like Daniel, God used John to “prophesy to nations and kings,” pronouncing their rise and fall, and in the end, the victory of the Kingdom of God and the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ over the Cosmos - (Revelation 1:9, 10:11).



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