Daniel in the Eyes of His Contemporaries
October 8th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
Babylonian Captivity, Character, Compassion, Critics, Daniel, Ezekiel, Pseudepigrapha, Daniel 1967 - 1972 (early svc), 1967, Daniel
DANIEL IN THE EYES OF HIS CONTEMPORARIES
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Daniel 10: 11
10-8-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the message from the Book of Daniel. It is entitled Daniel in the Eyes of His Contemporaries, as those who lived in his day looked upon him. In the tenth chapter of Daniel and the eleventh verse he is addressed, "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved." Three times that is mentioned; in the ninth chapter of Daniel, verse 23, "For thou art greatly beloved." And in the tenth chapter, in verse 19, "O man, greatly beloved." And then this one in chapter 10, verse 11, "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved."
Now the basis of the sermon is a study of the reference to Daniel by the prophet Ezekiel. Three times Ezekiel names a Daniel. In the fourteenth chapter of Ezekiel, verse 14, Ezekiel, delivering a message to the people from the Lord, quotes the Lord as saying, "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, yet they wouldn’t deliver the land." Then he repeats that a second time in that same chapter, Ezekiel 14, [verse] 20, "’Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live,’ saith the Lord God, ‘they wouldn’t be able to save this land.’" Then he mentions Daniel, a Daniel, a third time. In Ezekiel chapter 28, verse 3, addressing the contumacious king of Tyre he says; "You think that you are wiser than Daniel?"
Now we must know who Ezekiel was and when he lived. There were three Babylonian deportations; Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, invaded Judah and besieged Jerusalem and carried away captives three different times. In 605 BC, he came the first time and at that time he chose some of the princes of the nation and carried them to Babylon because of their unusual gifts and endowments. And in that first deportation, Daniel was a young prince who was chosen. Nebuchadnezzar came back a second time in 598 BC, about seven years later. And this time he carried away captive into Babylon, the young king Jehoiachin, and a few of the other gifted among the people; of which group Ezekiel was taken captive. In the last chapter of 2 Kings, there is no mention of any priests being taken captive along with Jehoiachin. So I would suppose that though Ezekiel was a priest, that he was chosen and taken into captivity for the same reason that Daniel was; he was unusually favored and gifted young man. Then the third time Nebuchadnezzar came was eleven years later in 587 BC. And the third time the king of Babylon came with his armies he destroyed the nation. He carried the entire population except a few poor of the land into Babylonian captivity and he destroyed Jerusalem and burned the temple and that was the beginning of the destruction of the nation of Israel that we have not seen revived until our day of 1948.
Now when Ezekiel was taken captive to Babylon, he lived on the river Chebar. And in the fifth year of his deportation he saw the glorious vision recorded in the first chapter of Ezekiel. That was followed by his commission as a prophetic messenger from God; that is recorded in the second chapter of Ezekiel. In the third chapter of Ezekiel, he was asked to eat the scroll that God gave him; a symbolic way of receiving God’s Word from heaven. And he went to live with the captives on the river Chebar at Tel Abib and there he delivered those glorious prophesies that are written in the Book of Ezekiel. As Jeremiah was the prophet of God to Judah, and to Jerusalem; his younger contemporary Ezekiel was the great prophetic figure to the people of the captivity, to the exiles in Babylon.
Now the attack of the critic is this; and it is certainly a shrewd way to attack, and makes you pause before what they say. Ezekiel is a contemporary in the captivity in Babylon along with Daniel. They lived together; they are the same age, they lived at the same time, they are contemporaries. Yet, in the prophesy here in Ezekiel, Ezekiel names Daniel between Noah and Job. Noah and Job were ancient patriarchs as you know. They lived hundreds and maybe thousands of years before. So, the critic as he attacks this says that this Daniel that is mentioned here in the Book of Ezekiel, could not refer to Daniel, Ezekiel’s’ contemporary, under any conditions because Daniel was a contemporary of Ezekiel, and to mention Daniel along with Noah and Job; those ancient patriarchs, and between those two is unthinkable.
Then they say several things. One, that Daniel was too young for Ezekiel to know much less to mention in a passage like this between Noah and Job. Well, let us look at that for a moment. I haven’t time to go through these datings, but when Ezekiel uttered this prophesy, Daniel was in the prime of his life. He was at the zenith of his power and Daniel likely was toward fifty years of age when Ezekiel delivered this prophecy. At thirty four years of age, Napoleon was the emperor of the empire of France; and he was the greatest figure in Europe. At thirty three years of age, Alexandra the Great was dead, having conquered the world. And as you know at thirty three years of age, Jesus was crucified; having left behind the greatest life that is ever been lived in the world. So, for the critic to say that Daniel was too young for Ezekiel to refer to is beside the point; it is foolish to say such a thing. For Daniel was at the very zenith and height of his glory and of his power. And as I say, could have been fifty years of age and certainly was not less than about forty years of age.
Now the second thing the modern critic, the one who lives today, says about this is; that this Daniel – that is mentioned here by Ezekiel – that Daniel was a legendary Canaanite hero that we have been introduced to through the Ugaritic literature at Ras Shamra. Now we discussed that last Sunday, but I presume everybody was sound asleep and you can’t remember what was said.
I would just like for the congregation to come up here one by one and tell me what I said last Sunday about that Daniel of Ugaritic literature, just to see how much our people remember. Yet I slave and I study over these things and I have the feeling that not a soul listens or much less remembers. Yet these things are the most important things I know of in religious life, because they sweep before them the entire liberal world, and practically all of the academic world. Our children are taught these things, and a young minister believes these things. And it’s a rare exception where they are refuted or disbelieved.
Now the modern critic says that this Daniel, mentioned by Ezekiel, was a legendary hero introduced to us through those cuneiform tablets that have been discovered at a mound at a town in northern Syria named Ras Shamra. The old Ugarit, and that’s where they get the word Ugaritic literature – Ras Shamra literature.
Now in that literature, in those tablets, about fourteen hundred years before Christ, there lived a Dan–el, and he was famous for justice and for wisdom. And the critic says that that is the "Daniel" mentioned by Ezekiel here and that it has no reference to the contemporary Daniel at all, that there wasn’t, of course to them, any contemporary Daniel, that he’s a figurative character in a romance – our Book of Daniel. Then last Sunday you remember, we looked at that Ugaritic literature, we looked at it closely and we found what kind of a man that Dan-el is, in that epic of Aqhat. Dan-el was the father of Aqhat and we looked at that figure and we found that he was an idol-worshiper of the grossest kind; that to be drunk was his way of life, and that he was vengeful and full of cursing against his enemies.
Now whatever the critic and the liberal may say, I would say and you would say that for Ezekiel to use an idolatrous drunkard as a great example of holy Jehovah righteousness is more unthinkable. So to us there is no possibility that the Daniel referred to by Ezekiel could have been the legendary Canaanite Baal-worshiper, drunken hero of the Ugaritic literature. Now the only Daniel that anybody knows anywhere anytime; of great stature and moment is the Daniel of the exile.
So we come to the third and last attack of the critic; when he says, "It is not possible that a contemporary, a man who lived in the same day and time with the prophet Ezekiel – it is not possible psychologically or any other way for that contemporary to be named in the same breath and to be bracketed between those two great patriarchs, Noah and Job, who lived thousands of years before. So we shall look at that.
We are going to talk about Daniel as he appeared in the eyes of his contemporaries, and in the eyes of the prophet Ezekiel. First, the captivity was of all things sad, tragic, grievous – the people uprooted and taken into a strange land. And in that land most of them, according to the prophet Jeremiah, most of them expected to die. In the twenty ninth chapter of Jeremiah, Jeremiah addressed the captives in Babylon, and he says:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives. Whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon;
Build ye houses and dwell in them. And plant gardens and eat the fruit in them;
For thus saith the Lord; that after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good Word toward you in causing you to return to this place.
[Jeremiah 29:4, 5, 10]
Jeremiah sends word to the captives in Babylon and tells them that they will be captive there for seventy years. That meant of course that with the exception of a very few, no one of them would ever be able to return home to Judah and to Jerusalem. It was a sentence of death; they would be buried there in that strange and far-away land.
You can sense the sadness of the captivity in the one hundredth thirty seventh Psalm:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Ye we wept when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our hearts upon the willow trees in the midst thereof.
For they that carried us captive required of us a song. And they that wasted us required of us mirth saying; sing unto us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall I 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 prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Cannot you see in that Psalm, and sense in that Psalm, the infinite sadness of the people? As they were carried captive into that strange land and Jeremiah sent them word that they would be there for seventy years, which meant most of them would die there and be buried in that foreign soil. As sad as that captivity was to God’s people, it was compounded in tears and agony as the people looked upon what their sins had done to their own children.
First, Jehoiachin, Jehoiachin their young king was but eighteen years of age. And Jehoiachin, along with his mother – the queen mother – and with all the royal household and with all the princes was carried away captive into Babylon. Then 11 years after Jehoiachin, and Ezekiel, and the young princes, and the royal household was carried captive into Babylon, the whole nation was destroyed. And the captives began to pour in by the thousands and the thousands. I can just so easily imagine the Jewish communities as they listened to the stories of sorrow and heartache as the captives poured from the destroyed nation and told them of the death of their children and the murder of their young people and the ravaging of their women and the destruction of their nation.
Oh, it was a time of infinite sorrow and the flowing of tears! Then to compound that infinite sadness, can you imagine? Can you imagine how those captives in Babylon looked upon what their sins had done to the flower and fruit of their finest sons? "Look, then," said Isaiah to Hezekiah, "Hear the Word of the Lord, behold the days come" – two hundred years later years later:
Behold the days come that all that is in thine house and that which thy father’s hath laid up in store unto this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left, saith the Lord.
And of thy sons which shall issue from thee which thou shall beget, they shall take away and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.
That prophesy uttered by Isaiah two hundred years before came to pass as those Babylonian captives looked upon what their sins has done. For Daniel, of the seed royal, of the prince of the house of Israel; Daniel was an emasculated man. He was a dry tree, without hope of issue or family or son or daughter. And Daniel was a eunuch in the palace of the king of Babylon according to the word of Isaiah the prophet of God. Can you imagine therefore, the feeling of compassion and sorrow that moved in the souls of the people as they looked upon what their sins had done?
Now as the people of the captivity looked upon Daniel in great compassion, there was something else. Oh, how tremendous that welled up in the hearts of those fellow captives as they beheld the prince in the palace! Daniel of the Hebrew children, Daniel the Jew. The text that I read, "O Daniel, a man greatly beloved." Look at him; first, he was true to the faith of their fathers.
Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine that he drank, a prince in the court of the king, faithful to his fathers. Look again: this Daniel, in the palace of the king, remembering his country and loving his people, and Daniel down upon his knees three times a day, and prayed with his windows open toward Jerusalem; faithful to his fathers and loving his country and his people. Think of what an effect that had upon his fellow captives.
Look again; he lived all of his life in the white light of public gaze. He lived throughout the seventy years of the captivity in the court of the king. And the verdict after he had been in public life for over seventy years was this; they could find none occasion or fault. He was faithful in all of his service and there was no error or fault found in him. Can you imagine a politician living in the white light of publicity – and seeking occasion against him is here, in the sixth chapter of Daniel: "Then the presidents and the princes sought to find occasion against Daniel, but they could find none occasion nor fault. For as much as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault to be found in him." [Daniel 6:4]
Here is a foreigner and a Jew, high in the court of the king of Babylon over seventy years there and in the court of the king of Persia. Yet they could find no fault in him. What a flawless character was Daniel, like Joseph, like Jonathan! Not only that, but can you imagine – now you think with me – can you imagine in your heart how those enslaved and beaten captives must have looked upon the dazzling splendor of Daniel in the court of the king? And however his greatness may have loomed in the empire, think how much still greater did his greatness loom in the hearts of those downtrodden captives. He was their hope against excessive oppression. And he was their hope that someday they could return to the father land. Think of it, am I not correct in that? As those captives those Jewish communities lived in slavery under the iron heel of a foreign king.
Think how they must have looked with hope and appreciation upon their representative in the court of Nebuchadnezzar, then last, think of the stories that were told about the wisdom of Daniel. The most famous Chaldeans in the world – I’m using the word Chaldeans, wise men – the most famous wise men, magi, in the world were in the courts of Nebuchadnezzar. And so great was the reputation of the wisdom of those men, that their very name, Chaldean, came to be associated with men who are wise; they were called the magi. And that marvelous reputation for wisdom continued through the centuries and the centuries down to the day when you have the story of the birth of Jesus Christ. And in the second chapter of the Book of Matthew it says, "and when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, behold there came magi – there came Chaldean wise men – from the East saying; where is He that is born king of the Jews?" The tremendous wisdom of those Chaldeans continued through the centuries and the centuries and the centuries. And the presiding leader of those Chaldeans was Daniel, the humble and beloved servant of God. And for more than a score of years, when Ezekiel wrote this passage, Daniel had been presiding over the wise men of the court of the king.
Therefore, I say that when Ezekiel wrote this passage, they mean Noah and Daniel and Job; however much Noah may have meant to the people, and however Job may have meant to the people, in the eyes of his fellow captives Daniel was as great and as marvelous and as exalted and as revered as Noah or Job or any of the great patriarchs of the past. And I am saying that for Noah and Job to be mentioned by Ezekiel was all together in order. And I am saying for Ezekiel to name Daniel in the same breath and in the same category carried with it in the eyes and the judgment of the people, a like reverence and thanksgiving to God.
And that example of Daniel has followed through the centuries and down to us. Then in the days of Ezekiel, in the days of the Maccabean revolt; remember my reference to Mattathias, the priest of Modin? When he laid, dying, charging his sons, Judas Maccabeus, and Simon, and Jonathan to continue the fight for freedom; and in that dying charge of Mattathias, he made appeal to the example of Daniel. And in the passage of Scripture that I had you read in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews; there in the roll call of the heroes of faith is Daniel, who stopped the mouths of lions. And I have a book in my library of our day entitled Dare to be a Daniel. And for Ezekiel to name him as a man of wisdom and righteousness and for him to be, in the eyes of his people, a man beloved, revered, for whom daily they thanked God, was all together appropriate and in order.
It just puts together the spirit and the message of the whole Word of God, this glorious prophet, Daniel. And as the days pass we shall more and more see why God loved him, and why man loved him, and why God chose him to be His instrument; that we might have assurance for the days, and the generations, and the future, and the glories that are yet to be revealed for us who place our trust in the living Lord. I tell you truly, my dear people; this is the hardest study I ever made in my life. But I’ve never been so blessed and I’ve never been so encouraged as I have been in these days, studying this Book of the prophet Daniel.
Now we must close and while we sing our song and while we make this appeal, somebody you come into the fellowship of the church. A family you, a couple you, or a one somebody you, give himself to the Lord. Take the Savior as your own, while we sing this song and while we make this appeal. Would you come and stand by me? On the first note of the first stanza, would you come and make it now? Do it now, decide now; and when we stand up in a moment, stand up coming. Do it for God, bring your heart and your life to the blessed Savior, while we stand and while we sing.