Saturday, November 3, 2012

Daniel 11 & 12 - The Kings of the South and North

LINK: Daniel 11 & 12


BACKGROUND

The angelic messenger began to reveal Israel's future at the end of the last chapter. In this chapter he informed Daniel that the Persian Empire would have four rulers:
  1. Cambyses, Cyrus' son (530-522)
  2. Pseudo-Smerdis (522-521)
  3. Darius I Hystapes (521-486)
  4. Xerxes, Ahasuerus (486-465) - the same king as the Book of Esther
Xerxes was the most powerful and fought against Greece.

The "mighty king" of Greece (11:3) is Alexander the Great (2:32, 39b; 7:6; 8:5-8). He conquered Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and all the land in the Medo-Persian Empire between 334 and 330 B.C. (busy guy). The map below shows his path:

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(www.wikipedia.org)
(Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, p. 1367) 

No wonder he died at the age of 32! I'm tired just looking at that map.

After Alexander's death, his kingdom was divided between four generals: Seleucus, Ptolemy, Lysimacus (over Thrace and portions of Asia Minor), and Cassander (over Macedonia and Greece). These are the four heads of the leopard mentioned in 7:6 and the four prominent horns on the goat mentioned in 8:8.

The conflict between the Ptolemies and Seleucids is the main thrust of Daniel 11:5-35 (see chart). 

Israel, the "Beautiful Land," was invaded first by one power and then the other. Antiochus IV would even desecrate the temple and stop the daily sacrifices of the Jews. He sacrificed pigs on the altar erected in honor of Zeus on December 16,167 B.C. This would have been a huge insult since pigs were considered unclean by the Jews. This set up the "abomination of desolation" (11:31).

This desecration led to the revolt of the Maccabees (perhaps these are the "people who know their God" in 11:32) and is the historical background behind the celebration of Hanukkah (from the Hebrew word "to dedicate") which marks the rededication of the temple and the "miracle of the container of oil." Jewish tradition says that there was only enough oil to keep the eternal flame in the temple burning for one day, but it burned for the eight days it takes to crush olives to make new oil.

What is so amazing about Daniel 11:1-35 is that this was all predicted, and it all came to pass!

Daniel 11:36-12:3 becomes more dicey. Some scholars believe Daniel 11:36-45 describe Antiochus IV Ephipanes or Titus (the Roman general). Others believe that Antiochus IV was a foreshadowing of a king who will come (the little "horn" of 7:8 and "the ruler" of 9:26) as the final ruler of the Roman world. He will rise to power through satanic means and is described in Revelation 13:1-8 where he is called a "beast." He will gain authority by consent of the 10 kings who will submit to him and give him political and religious power (Revelation 17:12-13), and the world will be persuaded to worship him as god by the miracles the false prophet will perform in his name (Revelation 13:11-15). 

Many believe that the "abomination" mentioned in 12:11 is not only the desecration of the temple by Anitochus IV Epiphanes but also the horrible acts of evil fulfilled by the Antichrist (Matthew 24:15). There is much speculation about the numbers in Daniel 12:11-12, but the main point is that God is in control of all events, and the time of persecution has an end and "many will be purified, made spotless and refined" and eventually the "wise will understand" (12:10). We can certainly "go our way" just as Daniel was instructed to do when he did not understand the exact meaning of the times and events (12:8-9).

There is much more from this book to come as we study the New Testament. The book of Daniel is quoted or alluded to seventy-one times in sixteen New Testament books, most of them in the book of Revelation. Let's wait until we get to the end of the book (and after Matthew 23:37-24:31) to tie this all together. It is helpful to understand the whole "Book of Truth" (10:21) first!

REFLECTION

Whew! Prophecy is tough for me. I am fine with the prophecies that have already been fulfilled because they point to the omniscient (all-knowing) God who knows the end from the beginning and has a plan much larger than we can even comprehend (2:22); but it gets tough when you do not know if they have been fulfilled or not; and we, in our puny human understanding, start filling in the blanks.

In our reading and study of Daniel, it is not so much about how settled your End Times theology is in your mind as it is about how settled God is in your heart. It is about the wisdom, understanding, and insight (5:12, 12:3) that come because of His position there. In that, we can learn so much from Daniel's life and example.

The book of Daniel is about the Kingdom of God that will endure forever (2:44; 4:34, 35) where God will receive all our worship, glory, praise, and exultation as God of all gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries (2:47). It is about a remnant of God-fearing wise men of Babylon called Magi (2:48) who knew the prophecy of Daniel and followed a star in order to worship at the manger of a baby born in Bethlehem. This is the part that had me in tears this morning: Daniel's example led Gentiles to the Messiah hundreds of years later!
And those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3)

APPLICATION

Reflect on and journal about what you have learned from your study of Daniel.

Can you "Dare to be a Daniel"?

If you are reading according to the Bible Book Club schedule, Hanukkah is right around the corner. It starts on these days in the next few years:


2015:December 6-14

2016: December 24-January 1
2017: December 12-20
The first candle of the menorah is lit at nightfall of the first date listed above. When our "Celebrate the Feasts" group did this in the early 90's, we had different people take on the characters in the story. It was great fun and would have been perfect to do with children (I was the only one with a baby at the time). Years later, I made paper puppets for my kids to tell them the story of the "miracle of the container of oil" that brought light for so many nights! It is perfect to celebrate right before we celebrate the birth of Christ, the Light of the World, and I heartily recommend celebrating it! 
PRAYER

You are the Most High God who is sovereign over the kingdoms of men. We honor and glorify You who lives forever. Your dominion is an eternal dominion. Your kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth will come and worship at Your feet. We adore You Most High God. Amen.


CHARACTERISTICS OF DANIEL 
He lived up to his name
Daniel means “God is my judge.” Daniel lived his life before the all-seeing eyes of the Lord and did the things that pleased Him. He didn’t worry about what the king thought of him or his interpretations; he simply delivered the message God gave him and left the results with the Lord. What difference did it make that the other counselors despised him and tried to have him killed? His life and reputation were in the hands of the Lord, and the will of the Lord was always best. Is it any wonder that the Lord greatly loved Daniel?
D.L. Moody often preached on Daniel, and here’s an excerpt from the message:
Daniel thought more of his principles than he did of earthly honor or the esteem of men. Right was right with him. He was going to do right today and let the morrows take care of themselves. That firmness of purpose, in the strength of God, was the secret of his success.1
One of Mr. Moody’s associates, musician Philip P. Bliss, expressed this truth in a song that’s not used much today, but the message is certainly needed. The chorus says:
Dare to be a Daniel!
Dare to stand alone!
Dare to have a purpose firm! 
Dare to make it known!
Be resolute!
1D.L. Moody, Bible Characters (Fleming H. Revell, 1888), 9.Wiersbe, W. W. (2000). Be resolute (156). Colorado Springs, Colo.: Victor.
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