Daniel - Lesson 17

Daniel's Prayer

As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

Lesson 17
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Daniel's Prayer

I. Desolation of Jerusalem

A. Jeremiah 25:11-12

B. Seventy years

II. Pattern for Penitential Prayer

A. Invocation and confession

B. Deuteronomic theology

C. Statement about God's punishments

D. Appeal for help

  • Join distinguished scholar and professor emeritus Dr. Tremper Longman for a study of the book of Daniel, a fascinating and inspiring part of the Bible. In this class, you'll explore six stories and four apocalyptic visions that all demonstrate God's control and ultimate victory, even in the face of evil and difficulty. Don't miss this opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as you study the powerful messages of the book of Daniel with Dr. Longman.

  • Daniel is written in two parts. The first six chapters is history written in the form of a story. Chapters seven through twelve are apocalyptic literature. In the English Bible, it’s with the major prophets. In the Hebrew Bible it’s in the Writings. The Apocalyptic section has similarities to the book of Revelation. One of the main messages in the book of Daniel is that even if you are living in a culture that is toxic to your faith, living by faith can help you not only survive, but thrive.

  • By the time Daniel was written, the nation of the Jewish people was divided into the tribes of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC. Babylon overthrew Assyria in 612 BC then Judah in 605 BC. Daniel. Daniel and others were taken to Babylon and chosen to be trained as royal advisors.   

  • Daniel and his friends were willing to learn the language, literature and divination practices of the Babylonians even though it was potentially toxic to their faith. They temporarily chose to eat vegetables and water rather than the food and wine that the other officials in training were eating. The performed at the top of their class.

  • Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

  • Daniel reveals the dream and the interpretation because God revealed it to him. The parts of the statue represent different worldly kingdoms. The stone that crushes the statue represents God’s rule over the kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Yahweh as being powerful.

  • Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

  • This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

  • As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

  • Belshazzar was a ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. During a banquet he hosted, he used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem for his guests to drink out of. In the middle of a banquet, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the message.

  • When Darius gave Daniel a position of authority in his government, the administrators underneath him were jealous. They devised a plan to trap Daniel and force Darius to execute him. God rescued Daniel and the administrators suffered the fate that they had planned for Daniel. The story shows that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and it’s important to live a life that is faithful to him.

  • Daniel had a vision of four beasts that were frightening in appearance. An angel explained the significance of the beasts in terms of historical kingdoms but didn’t say specifically which ones.

  • Daniel and Jeremiah both had messages from God but the way God communicated to each of them was different. The word “apocalypse” comes from the first word in Greek in the book of Revelation which means to reveal or uncover something. Some characteristics of apocalyptic literature are visions, dreams, a binary point of view, highly figurative language and the theme of hope based in confidence in God’s control over people and events that seem chaotic and overwhelming.

  • In this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the book of Daniel, focusing on its themes, historical context, and preparation for spiritual battles in a challenging cultural environment.
  • You gain a deeper understanding of the Book of Daniel, its historical context, literary features, key themes, and significance within the Old Testament, while focusing on God's warfare against evil.
  • John the Baptist described Jesus coming as a warrior but the ministry of Jesus was different than what he expected. Since we live in phase 4, God gives us the power to fight spiritual battles. The God who led the people of Israel into battle in the Old Testament is the same God described in the New Testament who came as God in human form as Jesus.

  • The vision in Daniel 8 describes animals that represent kingdoms and individuals. While Daniel was seeing the vision, Gabriel came and explained its meaning. Antiochus Epiphanes fits the description of one of the horns in the vision. His persecution of the people of Israel and his desecration of the temple is similar to the way the anti-Christ is described in Revelation.

  • As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

  • As Daniel is reading Jeremiah and praying, the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain the vision to him. The numbers in the vision are symbolic but demonstrate that God has a plan and a time frame to accomplish it.

  • The final of Daniel’s four visions described in chapters 10-12. There is an introduction to the vision, description of the vision and instructions to Daniel. The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed because of spiritual warfare.

  • This vision covers the events surrounding the Persian and Greek rulers in the 3rd and 4th century BC. They are described in such detail that some people think it was written after they took place, not as a prophecy.

  • The righteous and the wicked have different fates in the after-life. Throughout Scripture there is progress of revelation. God is in control and he will be victorious. The prophecy that God gave Daniel describes events that will happen in the future. Celestial sources give final words to Daniel that are also addressed to readers of the book of Daniel. A theme that is emphasized throughout the book of Daniel is, in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory.  This is illustrated both in the stories of Daniel and his friends and in the visions of future events that Daniel has.

  • Daniel informs the imagery and message of the book of Revelation. They are the two books of the Bible with primarily apocalyptic themes. Daniel’s encounter with God and angels is similar to what John records in Revelation. Daniel is commanded to seal his prophecy and in Revelation, the seals are opened. The references Revelation to the beasts and three and a half years is also similar to Daniel.

Living in a toxic culture can be dangerous and risky, but when you live by faith, God can give you opportunities to thrive, succeed and be a testimony to God's power and love for people. A primary message of the prophecies of Daniel is that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory. God has not provided us with a precise date on the calendar for when that will happen, but he will accomplish his plan on his timetable.

Dr. Tremper Longman III
Daniel ot666-17
Daniel's Prayer
Lesson Transcript

Tremper Longman III [00:00:00] The third vision is in Daniel chapter nine, but actually doesn't start as a vision. It actually starts as a Bible study, which is interesting in and of itself to find Daniel studying the Scripture and then coming to the realization that what he's reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be coming to bear right now, which causes him to go to prayer. But let's take a look at Daniel chapter nine, which of course, will eventually lead to the well known statement about the 77th in the first year of Darius, son of Xerxes, a Meade by descent who has made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom in the first year of his reign. I, Daniel, understood from the scriptures, according to the Word of God given to Jeremiah the Prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last 70 years. Okay, so this is kind of a rare, explicit mention of a later biblical book interacting with an earlier book, but not much earlier. Okay, So Jeremiah is a something of a older contemporary of Daniel, though by this time, Jeremiah is probably dead. But going back to 605 B.C., when the story of Daniel starts, Jeremiah's in the streets of Jerusalem preaching. But isn't that therefore fascinating that it's referred to as Scripture and the word of God? I mean, already at this early date? Daniel recognizes that this is the word of God. And so Daniel's reading about 70 years. Well, what is he reading? He must be reading Jeremiah 25 versus 1112. So let's turn there. Where we breed. In anticipation. You know, remember Jeremiah's, they're preaching, warning them about the dangers of not repenting and being carried off into exile, being defeated by the Babylonians. And he says in verse 11, This whole country will become a desolate wasteland and these nations will serve the king of Babylon 70 years. But when the 70 years are fulfilled, I will punish the King of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt, declares the Lord, and will make it desolate for ever. Okay, so and also perhaps chapter 29, verse ten. Where it says this is what the Lord says. When 70 years are completed in Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. Now, Daniel reads this, and he begins to think, Well, maybe we're at that moment, the 71st moment, though, here. It's hard to make the argument that 70 is supposed to be a literal number. If, for instance, the Cyrus decree Persians defeat a Babylon that the Cyrus decreed that allows the Israelites who choose to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple is considered the fulfillment of this 70 year prophecy that takes us back to 609 B.C., which isn't really even the time that Nebuchadnezzar appears on Jerusalem's doorstep and Daniel gets deported. So it's probably most likely a symbolic number, a combination of two numbers that denote completion seven times ten. And in any case, where we're going to come to, I'll anticipate when we come to the 70 sevens, the message is going to essentially be there's going to be clear things there and things that aren't so clear there. But the one clear thing that Gabriel is telling Daniel is, you know, the exile's not really over yet. It's going to continue. Yeah. People can return to Jerusalem. But notice the Persians are still your overlord. You're not going to be independent or anything like that. So. So. So that's probably the way to think about it, though. It's still you know, if even if it's a symbolic number and maybe especially since it's a symbolic number. It may. It may be. Triggering Daniel. Who knows? By this time that, you know, Cyrus has issued a decree probably. And and and and maybe he is thinking that maybe more is yet to come in terms of ending God's judgment. That it's a symbolic number may also be expressed by another interesting passage that talks about the 70 years of the exile, which is Second Chronicles 36. Second Chronicles 36 versus 20 and following. He carried into exile to Babylon, the remnant who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the Kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its Sabbath wrath all the time of its desolation. It rested until the seven years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah. Now, what's interesting about this is the fact that the exile, the length of the exile, was being connected to the number of years that Israel did not observe the sabbatical year. So when you do the mathematics, by the way, you realize, hey, you know, Israel rarely observed the seven year sabbatical year as it's described in Leviticus 25, because if you simply. You know, probably 70, maybe symbolic. But if you multiply a 70 by seven, that's a 490 years. And depending on when the Exodus actually happened, it shows that they were very negligent of the sabbatical year. Okay. So back to Daniel, Chapter nine. So I turn to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition and fasting and in sackcloth and ashes. This is a fascinating model, penitential prayer, by the way, that's been studied by many scholars. Similar to penitential prayers that we see in Ezra and Nehemiah. It begins with an invocation and confession in chapter nine, verses four B through ten. I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed Lord, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments. So it begins by invoking God, expressing how great and awesome he is. Mentions the covenant of Hassid. Okay, that's the Hebrew word for love there. It's a very significant word connected to the Covenant. It's translated in various ways like covenant, loyalty or loving kindness. But it's the love that Covenant partners show each other. And he goes, We have sinned and done wrong. Now, I want to pause here, too, because this is interesting. You know, Daniel's a sinner. Okay? But I mean, he's the type of person who could say, my poor father said or the my people have said, you know, me, I work pretty hard to be like you. In other words, Daniel is confessing the sense that led to the exile that he did not personally commit. But he's identifying with his people. We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled. We have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants, the prophets who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land. So we broke the Torah. We didn't listen to the Never in the prophets. Lord, you are righteous. But this day we are covered with shame. The people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, and all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame. Lord, because we have sinned against you. The Lord, our God is merciful and forgiving. Even though we have rebelled against Him, we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws He gave us through His servants, the prophets. So all Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you. All right, so it's often been commented on the fact that Daniel's prayer is filled with. Due to a nomadic kind of theology that that he's being informed by. The book of Deuteronomy is was called by one scholar, Gordon Wenham, the lynchpin of the Old Testament, in that it summarizes the Torah and then casts its long shadow on much of the rest of the Old Testament, including Jeremiah and here Daniel. And in particular we might think of First Kings 833 234 and 46 251 as kind of informing Daniel's action here in Kings as related to Deuteronomy by virtue of the fact that it too is a Tudor gnomic telling of the history of Israel. So first Kings eight. 33 to 34. When your people, Israel, have been defeated by an enemy because they've sinned against you. And the background of that we might find in Deuteronomy 28, 64 to 68, which is the covenant curse, that if they don't obey the law of God, that they will be exiled. When your people in Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you, and when they turn back to you and give praise to your name, praying and making supplication to you in this temple, then hear from heaven and forgive the sin of your people, Israel, and bring them back to the land you gave to their ancestors. And then 46 and following. When they sinned against you, for there is no one who does not sin and you become angry with them and give them over to their enemies who take them captive to their own lands far away or near. And if they have a change of heart in the land where they are held captive and repent and plead with you in the land of their captors and say, we have sinned, we've done wrong, we have acted wickedly. And if they turn back to you with all their heart and soul in the land of their enemies, who took them captive and prayed to you toward the land you gave their ancestors, toward the city you have chosen, and the temple I have built for your name then from heaven, your dwelling place here, their prayer and their plea and uphold their cause and forgive. Your people have sinned against you, forgive all the offenses they have committed against you and caused their captors to show you that mercy, for they are your people and your inheritance from whom you brought out of Egypt out of that iron smelting furnace. So it's these Tudor gnomic texts that I think are informing Daniel to pray and the way that he does in Daniel. Chapter nine. Now, the next section after the invocation and confession, we have a statement about God's punishment. Therefore, the curses and sworn judgments written in the law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven, nothing has ever been done like what has just been done to Jerusalem. Just as it was justice, as it is written in the law of Moses. Read Deuteronomy 28, 64 and following and other curses. All this disaster has come on us. Yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. The Lord did not hesitate to bring disaster on us. For the Lord, our God is righteous in everything He does. Yet we have not obeyed Him. So notice the acknowledgment of the justice of the punishment that has come on them because of their sin. And now we read in the following. Now, Lord, our God. Now there going to be appeal for help. Now, Lord, our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand? And who made for yourself a name that endures to this day? We have sinned. We have done wrong. Lord, in keeping with all your righteous act, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hell. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all around us. Notice how he appeals to the exodus from Egypt? Lord, our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand? And I think that part of the motivation, they are part of the background there, is that the prophets have spoken about a second exodus, that after the judgment will come, a second exodus, that the judgment itself is seen as casting back into back into the wilderness, but that there will be a return. So passages like Hosea 214 and following, I think are relevant, say A to 14 and following says, Therefore I am now going to alert her. I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. So the previous verses in Joseph one and the beginning of chapter two are talking about God's coming judgment. There. I will give her bin back her vineyards and will make the Valley of Acre a door of hope. There she will respond, as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. So the restoration is being likened as a second Exodus as Isaiah does and Isaiah chapter 40. Comfort. Comfort my people, says your God, speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord's hand double for her sin. A voice of one calling in the wilderness. Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up. Every mountain and hill made low. The rough ground shall become level. The rugged places are plain and the glory of the Lord will be revealed. And all the people will see it together. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Now, you may be saying, at this point, I wouldn't blame you, because it's true. Wait a minute. Doesn't that refer to Jesus's later? Coming? Isn't Jesus the fulfillment of the second Exodus expectations? My answer to that is yes. But there's also an anticipatory fulfillment in the return from the exile, which I think explains some of the language, say, in the early chapters of Israel, where after Cyrus says, go and return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. And then he says to everybody and everybody, give them gifts of gold and silver, just like as the Israelites are leaving Egypt. The Egyptians give them such gifts with which they build the tabernacle. And so. So, yeah, prophecies often do that, right? They have a near term and then a further term of fulfillment. So I think that may well be what's in Daniel's mind at this point. Now our God here. The prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. Give here our God in here. Open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. Lord, listen. Lord, forgive Lord here in act for your sake. My God, do not delay because your city and your people bear your name. What a powerful penitential prayer to which God responds by sending Gabriel with a message. 

Audience Member [00:18:55] I just want to go quickly back to the thing on 70, because I'm trying to do the math. If you work backwards from Cyrus's Decree to the Fall of Jerusalem. How many years actually was that with the dating that we have? 

Tremper Longman III [00:19:08] Yeah, that's good at calling upon my superior math skills here, but 586 to 539 is about 54 years. So 54 years. So 70 really is it. Yeah. Doesn't really close is it. No. Unless you know, I mean to get closer you'd have to say it starts whenever Nasr takes Jerusalem as a vassal state. And what's the date on 605. So it's four years off at that point. So then it's a round number rather than strictly symbolic. 605 to 535 would be seven years. Yeah, but it's 539 that the Cyrus decree happens. But I think the I think. The point is on all these numbers is when does it start? Yeah. And and there are always multiple possibilities. And so you can make them work, I think. But it's it's difficult to do so. And I as I'll say in my little speech about numbers that I'll give toward the end. I don't think they're intended to be used to plot a kind of apocalyptic timetable. I don't think Daniel's Dana noticed that. Dana, then pray simply, God, 70 years are up, you know, time to act. I mean, he's not presuming that God's going to end the exile. And actually, the message of Gabriel is that he's not going to end the exile yet. So. So what does it mean to end the exile? Does it mean that people can return voluntarily? Does it mean rebuilding the temple? Now, that's another possibility, I guess, that you know, but that doesn't work real well either. The temples completed in 515 B.C. that put it at five. That that might get you back. But you see, you can manipulate all these numbers to make them work. So I think that within the genre of apocalyptic, which is highly figurative, first of all, you would expect to get symbolic numbers. And then secondly, you can communicate true things, real things, important things without having them be sort of precise calendar types of numbers. Like there is a determined end. God knows there will be an end. You can't figure it out from these numbers, but you can be assured that that. So I so I think all the I think all the numbers are intentionally difficult and ambiguous and not because they're not intended to be put into a calendar. And that includes the numbers in the Book of Revelation as well.