The Formative Years of Daniel’s Life


The Formative Years of Daniel’s Life

December 3rd, 1967 @ 8:15 AM

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Daniel 1

12-3-67    10:30 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 morning message entitled, The Formative Years of Daniel’s Life.  This long series on the Book of Daniel brings us to a presentation of the man himself.  Not as a text, we shall begin that after one more sermon.  The next sermon that is presented in this series on Daniel will be entitled Daniel and the Revelation.  It will be a contrast, a parallel, a presentation of the prophetic message of Daniel and of the Revelation.  That will be the next sermon, but this one concerns the prophet himself, not as a text, but as an introduction. 

The book opens with the word that, "In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it."  And in this first siege of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar – into whose hands God gave the nation, and the city, and the kingdom – Nebuchadnezzar took back home with him to Babylon some of the treasures in the temple, and he chose a few of the king’s seed, members of the royal family, to grace his court and to be taught in all the science and wisdom of the Chaldeans.  And among these who belonged to the royal family, who were made eunuchs in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar to glorify his court, among these of the children of Judah was Daniel [Daniel 1:1-6]. 

Then as you follow the story of the young prince, you will find that as he loved God in Judah, he loved God in Babylonia.  As he served the Lord in the days that he lived in Jerusalem, he served the Lord in the days of his captivity in Babylon.  And that brings to our hearts the message of this morning, The Formative Years of Daniel’s Life; the boy as he grew up in the city of Jerusalem and as he lived the life of a servant of God in a faraway and a heathen land.

We begin with his birth.  Daniel was born about 625 BC.  And here again is one of those unusual coincidences, for that also is the birth date of the Neo-Babylonian empire.  It was in 625 BC that Ashurbanipal, the last mighty monarch of Assyria died.  His son, [Ashur-etil-ilani], was weak and incapable and upon the death of Ashurbanipal in 625, his viceroy in Babylon, named Nabopolassar, who is the father of Nebuchadnezzar, Nabopolassar rebelled and wrested Babylonia away from the waning power of the Assyrians.  And that is the birth date of the Babylonia kingdom, and that is the birth date of this young man Daniel.

The last verse of the first chapter of Daniel says, "And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus."  Now that’s an unusual thing because the first verse of the tenth chapter of the Book of Daniel says, "In the third year of Cyrus" Daniel saw this vision.  Yet it says here he continued not to the third year of Cyrus or however long into Median-Persian kingdom he lived, but it says he continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.  Well, I think the reason for it is this: the Holy Spirit is telling us in that verse that the life of Daniel encompassed the entire seventy year captivity, and not only that, but that the life of Daniel encompassed the entire era of the Babylonian kingdom.  He was born in 625 when the Babylonian nation was born, and he lived to 536 BC when Cyrus forever destroyed the Babylonian kingdom and incorporated it into the kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.  So this Daniel lived throughout the glittering history of that golden kingdom whose monarch was Nebuchadnezzar.

Now in the days of Daniel some of the great historical events of all time came to pass, those destiny-determining events that color all following history.  When he was a boy, about twelve years of age, Nineveh fell, one of the greatest cities and one of the mightiest of all times, the capital of the Assyrian Empire.  [Nabopolassar] with his Chaldeans and Cyaxares with his Medes stormed Nineveh.  And in 612, the city was forever destroyed.

Not only that, but Daniel, being a member of the royal family, was conversant and intimate with some of the great personalities and personages of his day.  And they had a profound effect on the life of the young man.  Chief and foremost among those mighty men who lived contemporaneously with the young prince was first and above all the king himself.  Judah never had a king, unless it was David, of the stature and godliness of good king Josiah.  I suppose with the exception of David, no king of Judah was nearer to the heart of God or nearer to the hearts of the people than good king Josiah.  And the reason that he had such a profound and indelible impression upon the young man was because of a tremendous revival, one of the great revivals in all time, because of a great revival in the days of Josiah [2 Chronicles 34 and 35]. 

Josiah had been reigning about fifteen years when Daniel was born.  And in the revival that God gave in mercy and grace upon the people in the days of Josiah, Daniel was old enough to be mightily and significantly affected by it.  King Josiah was ruler over Judah for thirty-one years [2 Chronicles 34:1].  He became king; he was crowned monarch when he was a boy eight years of age.  And the Bible says that when he had reigned eight years – that is when he was about fifteen to sixteen years of age – in the eighth year of his reign, he gave his heart to God, he sought the Lord [2 Chronicles 34:3].  We would say he was wondrously converted.  And when Josiah, the young boy king about sixteen years of age, was converted, he poured his whole life into bringing the nation back to the Lord. 

He had been preceded by fifty-seven years of shameless and wanton debauchery.  Manasseh, his grandfather, reigned fifty-five years, and he brought Judah down to degrees and abysmal depths of degradation and sin that God Himself refused to forgive.  And when Manasseh died, after reigning fifty-seven years, he was followed by his son Amon, who was so wicked that the slaves in his own household conspired and slew him [2 Chronicles 33:21-24].  That brought to the throne this boy, Josiah, and when Josiah found the Lord and was so wondrously converted, he sought to bring the nation back to God, destroying idolatry and those orgiastic ways unspeakable, untranslatable by which they served those pagan and heathen gods.  And Josiah brought to the nation a great quickening and a mighty visitation from heaven [2 Chronicles 34:1-35:19; 2 Kings 22:1-25].

In the days of Josiah, he was assisted by some mighty prophets of the Lord.  Jeremiah was called to preach in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah [Jeremiah 1:2], and the first eighteen years of the ministry of Jeremiah, he preached under the tutelage and the aegis of the good king.  What Josiah sought to do externally and politically, Jeremiah sought to do internally and spiritually.  And with Josiah on the throne, and Jeremiah in the pulpit, God did great things in the days of Judah.  Not only Jeremiah, but in those days of the reign of Josiah, Zephaniah the prophet began to preach.  And in the later days of Josiah, Nahum began to preach. 

And in that time a marvelous and a wonderful thing came to pass.  You see, Manasseh – worshiping heathen gods; and his son Amon, as vile and as villainous as his father Manasseh – in those days, and in the predecessors also, the beautiful house of God had been allowed to fall into ruins.  So God put it in the heart of Josiah to repair the house of the Lord, and in the repairing of that beautiful temple of worship erected by Solomon in 966 BC, in the repairing of that house of the Lord, a marvelous thing happened.  They found the Bible in the temple [2 Kings 22:8].  Isn’t that an amazing thing that in the very house of God, the Bible, the Word of the Lord, should have been lost?  Possibly Manasseh had done all that he could to wipe every Word of God, every written Scripture out of the land.  Possibly Amon continued that.  However it was, the Bible was lost, and in the repairing of the temple, the stonemasons and the carpenters found it.

I would think that because the story of the discovery of the Bible in the temple is connected with the activity of the carpenters and the stonemasons.  I think that it is something like this, do you remember in one of the sermons, introductory, that I delivered on Nabonidus.  Nabonidus was the last king of Babylon, and he was an antiquarian, he was an archeologist, and he loved to dig into the foundations of the temples to discover there the chronicles and the books that had been deposited when the temple was built.  That was the reason that he left Belshazzar as king in Babylon, vice-regent, while he gave himself to these antiquities.  Now from time immemorial, men have deposited documents of state and instruments of significance in the cornerstone ceremonies in the building of the building.  And I think Solomon did that when he erected the temple, when he placed the cornerstone he also placed there as our masons so often do, a copy of the Word of God.  Now in the centuries that followed, and in the ruin and the disrepair of the Lord’s house, evidently that cornerstone had cracked or in some way needed to be replaced, and when they did so, the carpenter and the stonemasons found a Book.  They carried the Book to Hilkiah, the high priest, and Hilkiah placed the Book in the hands of Shaphan the scribe, and Shaphan took the book and read it to Josiah the king.  And when Josiah heard the Word of God, he rent his clothes in dismay, in contrition, in repentance, for the nation had fallen so far away from their Lord that they had even forgotten God’s Word in God’s Book [2 Chronicles 34:18-19].  

Do you ever think about things like that?  When these ministers of the modern day preach and never open the Bible?  They speak and they never refer to the Word of God.  They deliver a message and never call the name of Jesus.  It is everywhere, everywhere – the Bible, lost in the house of God!  Then do you ever think where the Bible, the Word of the Lord, is exalted and read, there revival comes?  God blesses, the Spirit moves, so it did in the days of Josiah.  When Josiah heard the word of the Lord and humbled himself before God and repented for the sins and neglect of the nation, he called a great convocation of God’s people.  And there, in the temple area and beyond, where the people overflowed, were the priests, and the Levites, and the ministers of state, and the heads of families, and the thousands of Judah.  They stood there as Shaphan the scribe read to them God’s Word, God’s Book [2 Chronicles 34:29-30].  I can just see that, I can thrill to it as the Word of the Lord is read in the ears of all the people of Judah.  And as though the revival had not burned brightly enough or had not penetrated deeply enough, when the Word of God was read to the people, the power became a fury and a flame, and Judah had a visitation from heaven the Bible says as they had never known before. 

And in those days, they observed once again the Passover and the Scriptures say that the Passover observed in the days of Josiah was greater than any Passover Israel had ever known since the days of the prophet Samuel [2 Chronicles 35:18].  Oh, what an outpouring, what a quickening, what a meeting!  Then in the midst of it, a tragedy happened.  A sorrow befell Judah like unto which sorrow they had never passed through before.  When Daniel was sixteen years of age and in the midst of that tremendous revival, Josiah was slain by the armies of Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt.  One of the strangest things you will read in the King James Version and in the American Revised Version – they’re both translated alike – one of the strangest things you will read is this; in the twenty-third chapter of 2 Kings, "In the days of Josiah, Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, went up against the king of Assyria to the River Euphrates: and King Josiah went against him; and Necho slew Josiah at Armageddon – at the hill of Megiddo [2 Kings 23:28]. 

How perplexing, for Assyria, Assyria was the bitter enemy of the Hebrew people from the beginning; it was the Assyrians that oppressed Israel.  It was the Assyrian king Sargon who destroyed Samaria and carried the ten tribes into captivity.  It was the Assyrian king Sennacherib, who twenty-one years later, in 701, shut up Judah and had it not been for the intervention of God would have destroyed the kingdom.  Yet here we have Josiah standing in the way of Pharaoh Necho, who is going up, this verse says, to fight against the Assyrians.  Why would he do that, against those enemies of Assyria?  Well, archeology has provided an answer.  This preposition here, translated "against," has – as these archeologists are able to uncover those stones and monuments – it has another meaning that had never had been seen before; and what happened was Pharaoh Necho did not rise up against the Assyrians, but what happened was Pharaoh Necho was going to the assistance of the hard-pressed Assyrians, for the Babylonian king, Nabopolassar, and the chief of this army, his son Nebuchadnezzar, were destroying Nineveh and destroying the power and the armies of Assyria.  And Pharaoh Necho saw an opportunity, if he could defeat the Babylonians, to seize the master control of the civilized world in his own hand!  So when he saw the waning power of Assyria, he came and saw the rising power of Babylon; if he could destroy Babylon, the whole world would be his.  So he was going northward with his mighty armies to the assistance of the decaying power of Assyria and to confront the rising kingdom of Babylonia. 

Now when that happened Josiah did what he could to keep Necho from going to the aid and the assistance of his old and Israel’s bitter enemies, the Assyrians, and he placed his little army in the way.  When he did that, Pharaoh Necho said to Josiah, "I have no quarrel with you.  Let my army pass."  And Josiah persisted in placing his little army before those vast hordes of Egyptians.  And in that battle fought at Megiddo – Armageddon, the Hill of Megiddo – Josiah was slain [2 Chronicles 35:20-24].

Which brings to your heart another thing: why would Josiah do such a thing as that?  This is the only misstep in the life of that great and mighty and godly king.  Why would he do it?  I think, as I study that Book, I have a clear answer.  Josiah was blessed of God beyond any other king that Judah ever had, outside of David.  And in the favor and in the blessing of God upon King Josiah, he presumptuously thought that God would give him victory over the vast armies of Necho.  Isn’t that an overwhelming thing?  His success, God’s favor upon him, led him into that colossal and misguided presumption!

Necho was on his way to confront Babylon.  And in the sovereignty of Him who rules the nations of the earth, God had already decided to break Egypt like a man would break a broken, bruised reed.  And in the battle that was subsequently fought when Necho faced Nebuchadnezzar at Carchemish on the Euphrates River, the power of Egypt was destroyed forever!  And God said it would never rise as a great nation again.  All of that was in the sovereignty of God.  Josiah did not need to help God in that.  Josiah did not need to intervene or to interfere in those political rivalries between nations that God had planned before Josiah was born.

But Josiah felt that God had so blessed him and so favored him that he could stand before the armies of Necho and annihilate those Egyptian hordes.  All of which is a reminder in the days of our despair, and our humility, and our defeats, we bow before the Lord, and we pray, and we call upon His name.  It’s in the days of our triumphs and our successes that the danger arises to leave God out of our lives, to leave the decisions of heaven in some other area but not with us, and to lift ourselves up in our pride and in our successes, and in our faulted presumptions.  As long as you are in despair and down on your knees and crushed, temptations like that will never arise, but in the days of your success watch out!  Look out!  The sin of presumption is one of the most fatal sins to attack a human soul. 

"Lord, deliver Thy servant from presumptuous sins" [Psalm19:13].  How true that ought be of a choir leader who is successful with his choir, of a pastor who is successful with his church, of a denomination who is successful with its people, of a nation who is successful with its leader.  In the days of our success,


Lord God of hosts be with us yet

Lest we forget,

Lest we forget.

["Recessional," by Rudyard Kipling]


And Josiah was slain.  And there was never any sorrow that ever happened that brought lamentations to Judah as the death of good king Josiah, and all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah, and Jeremiah lamented for Josiah, and all the singing men and the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day and made it an ordinance in Israel, and behold, they are written in the Book of Lamentations [2 Chronicles 35:24-25].  And so deep and so sorrowful was that lamentation over Josiah, that years and years and years later it is referred to by Zechariah the prophet in the twelfth chapter of his book when he says as the Lord should come back and reveal Himself to Israel,


I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication: and they shall look upon Him whom they pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one who is in bitterness when he has lost his firstborn.  And in that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.  And the land shall mourn, and the house of David shall mourn, and the house of Nathan shall mourn, and the Levites shall mourn, and the whole nation shall be in great mourning

[Zechariah 12:10-14]


"As it was in the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo" –

Hadad Rimmon is the place where Josiah was mortally wounded.  And in that place, all Judah gathered together to lament over the death of their good and great and righteous king.

We must hasten.  The revival of Josiah, what became of it?  First: it had no effect upon his own family, none at all.  It had no effect upon his own children, none at all.  For his children did not take up the mantel of their father Josiah to carry on the glorious outpouring of the Spirit of grace and mercy from heaven; but his sons, three of whom were king, and his grandson a fourth, they took up the mantle of their evil predecessors – their great-grandfather Manasseh, and their grandfather Amon.  And the first son, Jehoahaz, the son of Josiah, so vile and wicked was he that God destroyed him, and he died a captive in the land of Egypt.  And the second son of Josiah, Jehoiakim – he’s the one that when Jeremiah wrote out the Word of God and sent it to him because Jehoiakim had imprisoned the prophet – Jehoiakim read God’s Word and cut it with a penknife and burned it on a fire in the winter palace.  And it was of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, that Jeremiah sent the word of the Lord saying, "And you shall die and be buried like an ass thrown outside of the city of Jerusalem."  His third son, Zedekiah, was so vile and wicked in his day that God delivered him and the nation into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, and Nebuchadnezzar slew his sons before his very eyes, and with hot irons put out his eyes, and carried him in fetters to Babylon where he died.  And the grandson, Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, served in a dungeon in Babylon for thirty-seven years.  The revival under Josiah had no repercussions in the lives of his own family and of his own children.

But God never lets revival fall to the ground.  There are always some who are saved, and among those who were saved and who turned to God in that mighty time was one, Daniel, and another, Hananiah, and another, Mishael, and another, Azariah.  And in the city of Jerusalem, in the days of that mighty revival under Josiah, Daniel gave himself to the Lord.  And he was brought up in a godly home that loved God’s Word and that obeyed God’s commands.  And when that striking and unbelievable contrast came to pass between the days of the revival under Josiah and those evil days under the sons of Josiah, Daniel gird himself to be true to the Lord in Jerusalem.  And in the days when the young man was taken a captive to the land of Shinar, so far away, and was a made a eunuch to serve in the court of a heathen king – as he had loved God in Jerusalem, he loved God in Babylon.  As he served the Lord in Jerusalem, he served the Lord in Babylon.  As he was faithful to God in the days of his youth, he was faithful to God in the days of his manhood.

I think of those things so often in my own life – revival!  I remember a revival in our little church, and I saw and I can see these things and remember them better than things I have seen yesterday.  I saw and can remember strong men who said "No" to God in that revival, but I said "Yes."  And I was converted as a boy in that revival.  I remember a tent revival in our little town, and I saw strong men say "No" to God, but I went down the aisle and gave my life to the Lord to be a preacher of the gospel of the Son of God.  And in the years of my beginning ministry, as I would preach the best a young man could, I would see men saying "No" to God but always there would be somebody who would say "Yes."  And that’s been the story of God’s grace through all the years that I’ve been preaching – forty now. 

There are men who won’t come, there are families who won’t respond, there are souls who won’t yield, but always God gives us some.  There will be a Daniel, there will be a Hananiah, there will be a Mishael, there will be an Azariah, and that is the incomparable promise and comfort, and blessing, and assurance of God.  We may not win them all, but God will give us some, and in that some will be a young man named Daniel.  Ah, my brethren and my people, look up!  God has His sovereign grace in ways sometimes we don’t understand and can’t see.  But He doesn’t forget, and He blesses forever.

We must sing our song, and while we sing it, a family you, to come and put your lives with us in the church.  A couple you, to come; a one somebody you, to give yourself to the Lord, would you make it this morning?  Would you make it now?  Down one of these stairways at the front, at the back, on the left, on the right, the throng on this first floor, into the aisle, and down to the front, "Here I am, preacher, and here I come.  I take the Lord as my Savior today" or "I am putting my life in the circle of this dear church."  Do it now.  Come now.  Make that decision now.  And on the first note of the first stanza, come.  When we sing, stand up coming, and may the angels God attend you in the way.  Do it now.  Make it now.  Come now, while we stand and we sing.