Daniel in the Eyes of His Contemporaries
October 8th, 1967 @ 10:50 AM
DANIEL IN THE EYES OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-08-67 10:50 a.m.
On the radio and on television you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the noonday message entitled Daniel in the Eyes Of His Contemporaries. These days, and for many of them, we are spending studying the Book of Daniel. These first and initial sermons concern whether or not we can accept the truth, the inspiration, the authenticity of this prophetic volume.
The whole liberal world has rejected the Book of Daniel as being a forgery. It is a piece of pseudepigraphic literature, they say. It is false in its name. It’s history garbed in prophecy. It is spurious. It has no part in it of the message of God. It is a fabrication. And this persuasion has been accepted by the liberal academic world throughout its part, its pieces. There’s not a liberal in the world, not one, either in the pulpit, or in the school, or in the seminary who accepts the authenticity of the Book of Daniel.
Now, we read out of the Book of Ezekiel, who three times names Daniel. In Ezekiel 14:14, he quotes the Lord as saying: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in the land, yet, would I deliver it to captivity." Then in the twentieth [verse] of the same volume – of the same chapter, the prophet Ezekiel quotes God again as saying: "Though Noah, and Daniel, and Job, were in it, yet, says the Lord God, would I deliver it into destruction and captivity" [Ezekiel 14:13-14].
Then once again, Ezekiel names Daniel in the twenty-eighth chapter of his prophecy, in the third verse, speaking to the prince of Tyre, he says, "You think you are wiser than Daniel" [Ezekiel 28:3]. And this, to the liberal critic, is a certain indication that Daniel did not live when he purports to have lived, a contemporary of the prophet Ezekiel himself, because Daniel here is named between the two great patriarchs of the ages past, Noah and Job, who lived hundreds, maybe thousands of years before. And the liberal critics avow that to place Daniel – a contemporary, supposedly, of Ezekiel – as a name, as a character, as a legendary hero between Noah and Job is unimaginable and unthinkable. Now, that is their avowal. So we’re going to look at Daniel in the eyes of the men who lived in his day and in his time: Daniel in the eyes of his contemporaries.
There were three deportations of the Jewish people out of Judah and Jerusalem into the Babylonian Empire: the first was in 605 BC when Nebuchadnezzar came the initial time, and took away out of the nation a few brilliant young men, one of whom was Daniel [Daniel 1:3-6].
The second deportation was in 598 BC, about six or seven years later. And in that second deportation, Nebuchadnezzar took away the young king, Jehoiachin, his mother, all of his family, and a few others of the princely and gifted among the people – in that second deportation; Ezekiel was one. As the deportation is described in the last chapter of 2 Kings, no priests are named, and Ezekiel was a priest [2 Kings 25:11-12]. Therefore, I would suppose that Ezekiel was chosen in this second deportation in the same way that Daniel was. He was a gifted, and brilliant, and endowed young man, and Nebuchadnezzar took him to add to the brilliance of his kingdom.
The third deportation, of course, was in 587 BC; eleven years later, when Nebuchadnezzar came with his armies the third and the last time and destroyed the nation, and destroyed the city, and destroyed the holy temple [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-34; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21].
As Ezekiel was exiled into the Mesopotamian Valley, his age – there is no hint in the Scriptures; Josephus says he was a boy – that was a guess, he could have been thirty years old. As Ezekiel was deported into the Mesopotamian Valley, he made his home on the river Chebar. In the Babylonian cuneiform language, the same word for "river," is also the word for "canal." And we now know that the Chebar was a large canal carrying barge traffic from Babylonia southeast about sixty miles to the city of Nippur. And there, Ezekiel made his home with the Jewish captives.
In the fifth year of his captivity, according to the first chapter of his prophecy, after he had been a captive five years, he saw the glorious vision recorded in the first chapter of his prophecy [Ezekiel 1:1-28]. In the second chapter of his prophecy, God commissions him to be a prophet and to be a messenger from the Lord [Ezekiel 2:1-10]. In the third chapter of his prophecy, God gave him a scroll to eat – God gave him the words from heaven to deliver [Ezekiel 3:1-3]. And in the third chapter, he went to the community of captives at Tel Abib [Ezekiel 3:15]. Tel Abib is a place now identified – it means "the mount of the deluge." And on the River Chebar, on that great canal, in a large Jewish community there, Ezekiel delivered God’s message. As Jeremiah was the great prophetic figure in Jerusalem and Judea during these tragic times of invasion and captivity, so Ezekiel was the great prophetic figure to the people of the Lord in Babylonian exile [Ezekiel 3:16-21].
Now, as the critic reads this, he says to begin with that Daniel was too young for Ezekiel, at that time, even to have known him, much less to have referred to him between these two ancient patriarchs. Is that true? Could Ezekiel have known Daniel in that day and in that time and they were contemporaries, according to the Book of Daniel? Could Ezekiel have known him?
The critic says he was too young. Well, at that time Daniel was at the very zenith of his fame and his power. Daniel could have been at least fifty years of age when Ezekiel uttered that prophecy [Ezekiel 14:14, 20]. And certainly, Daniel was at least forty years of age.
At thirty-four years of age, Napoleon was the emperor of the French empire and the greatest figure in Europe. At thirty-three years of age, Alexander the Great died, having conquered the world. At thirty-three years of age, Jesus was crucified having left to us the legacy of the greatest life the world has ever known. So Ezekiel could have well have known Daniel. I could not imagine his not have knowing him – a fellow Jew in the highest place of governmental brilliance and authority. It was natural to me, for Ezekiel to have looked up to, and to have revered, his great contemporary and compatriot, Daniel.
All right, a second thing; today, in these last few years, there have been unearthed those Ugaritic tablets at Ras Shamra, in northern Syria and those cuneiform tablets, written in "cuneiform" – wedge-shaped language – describe the Aqhat epic and the father of Aqhat was a Dan-el. And this Dan-el, who lived about fourteen hundred years before Christ, this Dan-el was famous for wisdom and for justice as he judged the fatherless and the orphan, as he judged the fatherless and the widow. So the critic says that this Daniel that is named here in the prophecy between Noah and between Job [Ezekiel 14:14], that this Daniel, is that legendary hero, Dan-el, in that Canaanite literature discovered at Ras Shamra.
Now last Sunday we discussed that. We went further into that Ugaritic literature and the legend of that Dan-el. And we learned that that legendary figure, Dan-el, was a gross idolater, and that he lived the life of a drunkard; and that he was filled with cursing and vengeance. And to us, to put a legendary Canaanite idol worshiper as a symbol of holy righteousness in the prophecy of Ezekiel is, to us, unthinkable and unimaginable.
Then the other thing the critic says about the use of Daniel in this prophecy [Ezekiel 14:14] is that under no conditions could a contemporary, a man who lived at the same time – could a contemporary ever be exalted in the eyes of his fellow men, to be named as the great worthies of the past and in the same breath as with Noah and with Job.
So the sermon this morning, as God shall give us a few moments to speak it, the sermon this morning is how Daniel looked in the eyes of his fellow slaves, his fellow captives, his fellow exiles, as the people were ruthlessly and mercilessly uprooted and carried to a foreign land.
First, to take our hearts back to that day, we must realize that the Babylonian captivity was of all things the saddest, the incomparable tragedy. It was the saddest of all of the historical, epocal tragedies that had ever overtaken God’s people. They saw with their own eyes, their children dashed to the ground. They saw with their own eyes, their women ravaged. The prince – the princeliest and the flower of their nation – destroyed, and the people carried into slavery. They saw the Holy City burn to the ground. And they saw the beautiful Solomon temple completely destroyed. It was a time of infinite sadness to these exiles. And not only that, but those who had been carried away captive into Babylon had no possibility or hope of returning to their native land. For Jeremiah sent them word and said:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom God has carried away from Jerusalem, unto Babylon: Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens and eat the fruit of them,For thus saith the Lord, It will be seventy years in Babylon that you will be exiled before you can return to this place.
[Jeremiah 29:4, 5, 10]
And those Jewish exiles listened to the prophet Jeremiah as he spoke to them the word of the Lord and prepared to remain in that foreign and heathen country seventy years. That meant that most of them, practically all of them would die in that foreign land. They would never have opportunity to return back home. The sadness of those exiles can be felt, seen, in the one hundred thirty-seventh Psalm as they sang it:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
But how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I do not prefer Jerusalem above my chief joy.
In that land they lived in sorrow, in tears, in agony. That sorrow was infinitely compounded as they looked upon the fruit of their sins. God visits the sins of the father upon the children [Exodus 20:5]. The tragedy of war and of battle is its sweep into agony of the poor and the innocent. And as those Jewish exiles looked upon the fruit of their sin, their young king Jehoiachin – eighteen years of age with his mother and with the family – now slaves of the king of Babylon [2 Kings 24:8-16]. And the princeliest of all the kingdom, taken out of Jerusalem, taken out of their native country, the land of their forefathers, and now made eunuchs in the palace of a heathen monarch [2 Kings 25:1-12, 19-21].
The prophet Isaiah had said to King Hezekiah, almost two hundred years before:
Thus saith the Lord to Hezekiah:
Behold, the days come, that all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store for this day, shall be carried into Babylon: nothing shall be left, saith the Lord.
And of thy sons that shall issue from thee, which thou shall begat, they shall take away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
And the Book of Daniel begins, "And Nebuchadnezzar took to his palace in Babylon the seed of the royal family," one of whom was Daniel [Daniel 1:3-6]. And Daniel was an emasculated man [Isaiah 39:7]. He was a dry branch, without hope of issue, or family, or child, or son, or daughter. Daniel was a eunuch in the palace of a heathen king [Daniel 1:3].
And as the community of exiles in Babylon looked upon Daniel, and the princeliest and the flower of their royal family, I cannot help but sense, feel that among the people of those Jewish captives, there was an infinite feeling of compassion, of sorrow, that this should be the fruit of their sins. Their finest, their best, their most endowed and gifted, now serving as eunuchs in the palace of a heathen king.
With that background of the feeling of sympathy and love and understanding, and compassion, for this child of the royal family, Daniel, let us see how these captives must have looked upon him as he served in the royal court. Three times as I open my Bible here, in the ninth chapter in the Book of Daniel and the twenty-third verse [Daniel 9:23]; in the tenth chapter of the Book of Daniel and the eleventh verse [Daniel 10:11]; in the tenth chapter of the Book of Daniel and the nineteenth verse [Daniel 10:19], these words are addressed: "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved"; beloved by the Lord, and loved by his contemporaries, his fellow men; and by Ezekiel, the prophet himself.
Daniel was faithful to the religion of his fathers. The story begins in the first chapter of the Book of Daniel: "But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s meat or with the wine that he drank" [Daniel 1:8]. He was faithful to the God of his fathers, and he kept faithfully all of those distinctions that the Jewish ceremonial law made between clean and unclean. In a foreign land, he was as true to the religion of God as he had been as a youth at home.
Second: Daniel never forgot his country, and his city, and his people. In the sixth chapter of the book and the tenth verse, he says that he bowed upon his knees three times a day, and prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem [Daniel 6:10]. I cannot help but feel and think as those slaves from Judah and those captives from Jerusalem – as they saw this princely young man serving in the court of the king, faithful to the religion of his fathers, and loving his country and his people; and praying openly, publicly with his window open toward Jerusalem – I cannot help but feel that he was exalted in the hearts, and in the love, and in the devotion of his people.
Not only that, but Daniel was a glittering example of virtue, and purity, and superlative character in the political life of the nation to which he had been carried as a captive. Do you realize that for more than seventy years, Daniel lived in the burning white light of public gaze? He was supreme under the king in the court for over seventy years; and yet his character was flawless, his virtue unassailable. In the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel, when these who hated him because he was a despised Jew placed above them, and the book says the presidents and the princes of the court in Babylon sought to find occasion against Daniel. And they could find none occasion nor fault [Daniel 6:4].
Think of that! Can you imagine a man in political life in America – can you imagine a man in political life in England – can you imagine a man in political life in any nation you ever heard of, living in public gaze more than seventy years? And yet, at the end of those seventy years – for Daniel was almost ninety years of age when this story is told in the sixth chapter of the Book of Daniel – over seventy years, live in the political light of a nation – and yet his enemies could find no fault in him! "Forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him" [Daniel 6:4]. What a superlative, glorious man, this Daniel, a contemporary of Ezekiel.
Now, come with me in your thinking. Look, if Daniel loomed great – a mountain – if Daniel loomed great in the political, and in the sophisticated, and in the philosophical, and in the Chaldean life of the court where he served, if Daniel was great in Babylon and in the court of the king, think, think, how much greater did he loom, still, in the eyes, and in the love, and in the devotion of those despised and enslaved captives. Can’t you sense that? These men and their families have been carried away into a foreign land to serve as slaves. And, in their slavery, their degradation, their humiliation, their defeat and agony, think of how they must have looked upon their representative, there in the court of the king! He stood between them and a worse oppression.
All you have to do is to read the story of Haman, and Mordecai, and Esther at the court of the Persian king to know how helpless those slaves were before the whims of a heathen monarch and how they must have looked with hope and with reverence upon their representative in the court of the king. And, if they had hope of return to their fatherland, to Judah and to Jerusalem, think of how they must have found that hope in Daniel and his intercession.
Dear people, I am just trying to say that when Ezekiel, the prophet of God, said to the exiles, when Ezekiel spoke to his people and mentioned Noah and mentioned Job, whatever Noah and whatever Job may have meant to those poor and enslaved exiles, I am just saying that I think Daniel meant more, even though he was a contemporary and lived in their day and in their age. And to name Noah and Job, and put Daniel in the midst [Daniel 14:14, 20], was altogether appropriate, apropos, understandable.
I think I can see it, for to those enslaved captives, Daniel was a light; he was a hope; he was an assurance. Daniel, to them, meant more than any other figure in living history. And I am not untrue to the thought when I bring it down through the centuries. Daniel was a great and a world-famed man of wisdom in his day.
In the twenty-eighth chapter of Ezekiel, speaking to the prince of Tyre, the Lord said: "You think you are wiser than Daniel" [Ezekiel 28:3]. You must remember that the Chaldeans – the Babylonians – the Chaldeans had the reputation of being the wisest men in the world. And those Chaldeans placed, and left their name with what it means to be wise in statecraft, in science, in astrology, in astronomy, in knowledge and wisdom. A "Chaldean," the reference, the name, the word, came to refer to wise men.
And through these centuries, that name for wisdom never faded. For example, in the second chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, the story begins like this: "And when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, behold, there came Chaldeans" – behold, there came magi, "Behold, there came," and the King James Version out of which I always preach, translated, "there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews?" [Matthew 2:1-2].
These men, the magi – and Daniel presided over that concourse of magi, those Chaldeans, for more than twenty years when Ezekiel wrote that prophecy. And to use Daniel as an example of God’s wisdom and highest statesmanship was altogether appropriate and in order; and I say that has continued through the centuries. It was then, Daniel, God’s great, good, beloved man, wise and gifted. In the days of the Maccabees, in the story of Mattathias who rose up with his sons against the heathen monarch, Antiochus Epiphanes – when the aged priest of Modin, Mattathias, lay dying, he called his sons around him and charged them to carry on in the faith of their fathers. And, in that dying address, he used the example of Daniel, in his devotion and faithfulness to God.
And the reason I had you read the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, those last verses, as that author named the heroes of faith, he refers to Daniel: "Whom by faith stopped the mouths of lions" [Hebrews 11:33]. And to this very day, the name of Daniel stands for all that is courageous, and good, and holy, and wise. The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare – Daniel is the epitome of wisdom and justice. And I have in my library a modern book entitled Dare To Be A Daniel.
I’m just saying that whatever the liberal and whatever the critic says about the impossibility, psychologically, every other way, of Ezekiel naming a contemporary with the greats of the ancient past – I’m just saying that for Ezekiel to have named Daniel alongside Noah and Job [Ezekiel 14:14, 20], and the other of the ancient worthies, is altogether in order. It is explicable! It is appropriate! It honored God!
Just one other evidence, to me, of the marvelous truth that binds together all of this Holy Book: from first to last, from the beginning to the end, and shall be unto us the truth of God until the blessed and Holy Lord Jesus comes again. This is our faith, and our commitment, and our persuasion, and our thanksgiving to the Lord who laid in our hands this holy and blessed Book.
Now we must sing our song of appeal. And to you, a family you, to give himself to Jesus: "Pastor, this is my wife and these are our children. All of us are coming today." On the first note of this first stanza, come and stand by me. Or a couple you, or one somebody you; while we sing our song, while we make this appeal, come now. Decide now where you are, right where you are seated. Decide now, "I’m going to give my life to the Lord. I’m going to put my life in the fellowship of this dear church. Here with these precious people I shall pray, and come, and work, and serve, and listen to God’s voice to me and to my home and family."
And when we start to sing, as you stand up, stand up coming. In the balcony round, "Here I am, pastor, here I come." On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front, "Here I am, preacher; I’m making it this morning." Come, do it now. Do it now. On the first note of the first stanza, come now, while we stand and while we sing.
DANIEL IN THE EYES OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 10: 11
The prophet Ezekiel and Daniel
A. Ezekiel, a priest
B. The attack of the
Daniel and his fellow exiles-how he could have appeared in their eyes
A. Their life of infinite
B. Sadness compounded
C. "Greatly beloved"
D. Reputation for wisdom