The Life of Daniel/Language of God
November 24th, 1997
THE LIFE OF DANIEL/THE LANGUAGE OF GOD (LECTURE)
Dr. W. A. Criswell
I asked Dr. Allen how many more lectures I would have the opportunity to deliver here. And he said two more besides today then, we have a final class meeting. Isn’t that what you said? All right, I especially and particularly want to encourage you to be here with heart and soul for this next lecture. I am going to lecture next time on the second coming of Christ: the seven marvelous miracles that characterize the reign of our Lord when He comes and seven wonderful signs of His return. So, you all be sure to be here next time.
Last time we were here, I spoke of the preaching in the times of Ezra. And I wanted to take one more section out of the Bible and speak of Daniel. First, The Life of Daniel; he had a noble birth and was born about 625 BC. That’s in Daniel 1:3. In Daniel 1:4, he was most learned. In Daniel 1:1-11, in 605 BC, he was carried away captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. At that time, he was about twenty years of age.
In Daniel 1:20 and following and in Ezekiel 14 and 28, he was trained in the learning and language of the Chaldeans. In Daniel 2:48, Nebuchadnezzar made him a ruler over all the provinces of Babylon and he was the chief governor over all the wise men of Babylon. During the intervening reigns of Amel-Marduk and Neriglissar and Nabonidus, he drops out of sight. But, at the feast of Belshazzar, the son of Nabonidus, the queen mother remembers him and he’s called into public fame.
The rise of Mede under Cyrus made Daniel despite Daniel’s great age; he was over 90 years of age, Darius made Daniel chief of a ward of three presidents. And he thought to set him over the whole realm. That’s in Daniel 6:1-2.
Daniel was faithful unto death, even through the lion’s den. He lived to the third year of Cyrus – Daniel 10:1 – in 534 BC. And he died at the age of about 91 years.
Now, the prophet Daniel is referred to Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14. He was a man in the court of princes, in the highest place in Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar and King Belshazzar and under the great Persian Cyrus and Darius the Mede, who were world rulers. Yet, he was faithful to God.
He was a man of tremendous spiritual courage. Look at Daniel 5 and the judgment upon Belshazzar. Look at Daniel 6:10, where he is praying before an open window toward Jerusalem. You know, that is one of the most amazing stories to me to be read in the Bible. All he had to do was close the window and nobody would know what he was doing. But, he prayed with the window open toward Jerusalem and, of course, anybody could see and hear him or watch him as he prayed.
In Daniel 5, he was a man whom money and power could not corrupt. In Daniel 9, he was a man of prayer. And in Daniel 9 and 10, he was a man greatly beloved by God and by man. In Daniel 2, 6 and 12, he was a man of great personal hope, optimism and confidence in the future. You have to remember he was a slave in the Babylonian capital. And yet, he had great confidence in the future.
In Matthew 24:15, he was a man used of God to color all the prophetic history with his prophecies. And that is the Lord’s truth. When you read those prophecies of Daniel, you can hardly believe that such a thing could have been revealed.
He was a eunuch – Isaiah 39:7; Daniel 1:7, Daniel 1:9; Daniel 10:11 and 18. Yet, he was looked upon as one of the greatest before God Himself. You see that in Ezekiel 14:14, 14 and 16, and18 and 20.
All right, we look at chapter 1: the introduction to Daniel, the man. He was one of the most wonderful servants of the Lord the world has ever known. He is one of the few men of whom God writes only good, such as Joseph and Jonathan. That’s the Lord’s testament of Daniel. He was a commanding figure. He had great intellectual capacity and executive ability. He had, and possessed, moral excellence. In Daniel 10:11 and 19, he was spoken of as a man "greatly beloved."
He was the author of one of the two great apocalyptic books of the Bible. Daniel the man, I say, was greatly beloved like John the apostle, "the beloved disciple."
A mere lad was brought from Jerusalem to Babylon. In a short time, he rose to the highest governmental position in the Empire. He outlived the Captivity of 70 years – Jeremiah 25:11-12. In 605, he was carried as a slave by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon. And in 536 BC, Cyrus, 70 years later brought Daniel to the time of the return of Israel to their homeland.
The Babylonian attempt to assimilate him into heathen culture, practice and worship was absolutely vain. The Babylonian attempt to wipe out the memory of Jerusalem – but that also was not successful. Look at Psalm 137:5 and 6.
He was born in the reign of the good King Josiah. In childhood, he remembered the finding of the lost Book of Moses. His youth was passed in a great revival. And in the reformation that followed under Josiah, hearing the prophet Jeremiah brought with him to Babylon his book of prophecy – Daniel 9 and 2.
Nebuchadnezzar came three against Jerusalem. In 605 BC, he took away many of the chief men of Israel. One was a prince, Daniel. In 598 BC, he took away ten thousand other people. And that included Ezekiel. And in 587, the third time he came, he destroyed Jerusalem; no need to come back. The entire nation was removed to Babylonia.
In 605 BC, Daniel was taken captive, I say. He was a youth, about 14 years of age. These friends also were taken captive with him. His name, Daniel, means "God is my judge." Those three men who were taken captive with him were Hananiah – "beloved of the Lord;" Mishael, whose name means "Who is God;" Azariah: "the Lord is my help."
The first one was renamed Shadrach: "illuminated by the sun god Ba." The second one was Meshach, which means "servant of the god Shach." And the third one was Abednego, meaning "the servant of Nego." They really were introduced to the culture and religion of ancient Babylon.
Now, when we read Acts 20:28-30 and 2 Timothy 3:1 and 13 to 17 and Revelation 2:4, we read of the attack on Daniel and the destruction of a city. And of course, it is a picture of the church.
In the Bible, the city itself is so important. And that is true of our present day. The city is the center of culture: music, art, literature, theater, opera, ballet – everything else that you can name. The city is the center of commerce, merchandizing, banking and insurance. The city is the center of communication: the press, the magazines, the wire services, the radio, the television. The city is the center of education: schools, universities, colleges and seminaries – so much so that the city is almost the nation itself.
It controls the cultural and political and economic life of a nation. Rome is Italy. Cairo is Egypt. Moscow is Russia. Paris is France. London is England. So, the missionary journeys of Paul were characterized by the planting of the gospel in the heart of the great cities, like Antioch, Ephesus, Thessalonica, Athens, Corinth and Rome.
So there is a ceaseless warfare of Satan to destroy the message of God in the great cities. He sends false teachers. He destroys the work. And the church loses its heart of devotion. Satan seeks to liberalize the church and turns people to leave it. The destructions are all alike; the attack of smallpox, polio, diphtheria, AIDS, all the other things that he can do destroy the city.
We have a little mustard seed that grows into a grown tree and every unclean bird nests in it. That is a picture of the city. And it is like leaven. It works until it permeates the entire mass.
An example of the attack of liberalism is found in the repudiation of the Book of Daniel. Modern criticism overwhelmingly denies the authenticity of the Book of Daniel. The reason is simple. Prophecy is an impossibility to the liberal. There is no such thing as foretelling events to come. Therefore, a book which contains predictions must have been written after events predicted. It is a forged manuscript. It is a fraud. It is written years later but as though it had been written years earlier.
For example, about AD 275, Porphry, the Neo-Platonist of Alexandria, who was a bitter assailant of Christianity, categorically refudiated the possibility of Daniel’s miraculous predictions. The Book of Porphry was written about 150 BC, in the days of the Maccabees.
This verdict of one of Christianity’s bitterest enemies is the verdict of the liberal world and is the reasoning of destructive criticism. So, the liberal world looks upon Daniel as a forgery. There is no exception to that. If a man is a liberal, he looks upon Daniel as a fraud – as a deception – as a deceptive piece of fiction. The whole world out there – the liberal repudiates the Book of Daniel.
But, for us – you and I – Matthew 24:15, Jesus called him a prophet. In the book of the Jewish Bible; canon of Old Testament Scriptures, you will find Daniel there. In the Septuagint, the most famous translation of the Bible in the world, Daniel is an influential part of it. Alexandria, under the Ptolemies in 300 BC, you will find Daniel there. Genesis, Psalms and Daniel you will find them under the Ptolemies in 300 BC.
Yet the liberal said it wasn’t written until about 150 BC in the days of the Macabbees. The y say it was written in the days of the Maccabees. In 1 Maccabees, there is an allusion from Daniel. And in 1 Maccabees 8:14, you will find the lament of Daniel. They say there is no prophet but in Ezekiel 28:14, 20 and 28:3, you’ve got that before you.
All right again in the Qumran; the Dead Sea Scrolls, you will find fragments of Daniel. The scrolls date to the time when the book was written. Fraudulent corruption is commonly claimed by the liberals when it comes to the Book of Daniel. But, you will see Daniel in those Dead Sea Scrolls that have been comparatively recently been dug up.
It’s like John’s gospel. The critics said it was written two hundred years after John. Then, while they were avowing that, they dug up papyri in Egypt from 90 AD in which were quotations from John’s gospel. However these liberals avow that kind of infidelity, give it time and archaeology will make it sound ridiculous. And of course, Josephus in his Antiquities, speaks and quotes from Daniel 8 verses 1 to 8 and 15 to 22. Josephus again quotes Daniel in his tenth chapter in paragraphs 7 and 11.
Verily today the world view of history is exactly as Daniel prophesied it. You’ve got 2,000 years since Christ and you’ve got 2,500 years since Daniel prophesied it so all you’ve got to do is look at it. Daniel prophesied a worldview of history. So, it is exactly like Daniel prophesied. All we’ve got to do is just look at it.
That head up there is the Babylonian Empire. The breast and the two arms are the Medo-Persian Empire. The thighs are the Greeks. The legs – two of them – are the Roman Empire: East and West. And the feet and the toes are broken up. There is no such thing as a world empire any more. All you’ve got to do is just look at it. Read it for yourself. The whole sweep of history is exactly as Daniel prophesied it.
The head is the Babylonian Empire. The breast and the two arms are the Medo-Persian Empire. The thighs are the Greek Empire. And the two legs are the Roman Empire: East and West. Then, the statue is broken up into feet and toes and that’s the world ever since.
There are two different things. The Babylonian Empire found its heart in ancient Babylon. The Medo-Persian Empire was with Cyrus and Darius and their arm is the conquest.
If you read the paper – the newspaper – all over this world you will find conflict and that is exactly the prophecy of Daniel 9:26: "And unto the end war and desolations are determined." We live at a moment when you would think the whole world is at peace around us. Yet, every time you turn on a television and every time you read a magazine and every time you read a newspaper, even the United States is preparing for war. They’re sending in these big, big ships with those bombs and airplanes – they’re sending them over there into the Persian Gulf, and sending thousands of soldiers over there even today. And I think with everything being so quiet and peaceful but it’s not going to be that way, ever; quiet and peaceful. There is going to be wars and rumors of wars all around us, just as Daniel prophesied.
In February, in 1914, there was a prophetic conference in Los Angeles. Attention was called to predictive Scripture: "Nation shall raise against nation, kingdoms against kingdoms" and all of those tragedies will be followed by famine and pestilence, like you read in the six seals in the Book of the Revelation. Now, when that prophetic conference had its meeting, and they avowed these things in the Bible, the editor of the Christian Advocate said it was not a prophetic conference, but a "pathetic conference."
Do you remember reading in history – now, I was alive when this happened – in less than six months after that prophetic conference in Los Angeles; in less than six months the Archduke of Austria was killed in Serbia. And the great First War began.
And yet the liberals looked upon what they said at that conference quoting the Bible as being pathetic. You will never get away, I don’t care who you are or how brilliant you are, you will never get away from the truth of the Scriptures that are in your hand.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote of the personal suffering of the children of England, toiling in the sweatshops of the factories of England:
Do you hear the children weeping, O my brother?
Ere the sorrow comes with years.
They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,
But that cannot stop their tears.
The young lambs are bleeting in the meadows.
The young birds are chirping in the nests.
The young fawns are playing with their shadows.
The young flowers are bending toward the west.
But the young, young children, O my brother.
They are weeping bitterly in the playtime of the others.
In the country of the free.
This is a sad world in which we live.
Well, that’s that part. I’m going to speak now on the language of God – the language God uses. Before I do that, does anyone want to make a comment or ask any kind of question?
Well, I have a discussion here on the language of God. And the reason I do this is because of the phenomenon of language we find in the Bible. It is often said for example the Old Testament is in Hebrew and the New Testament is in Greek. But, there is another language in the Old Testament: Aramaic.
For example, in Genesis 31:47 are two words in Aramaic. In Jeremiah 10:11 there is a sentence in Aramaic. And – listen to this – Ezra 4:8-6:18 and Ezra 7:12 through 26; about one-third of the Book of Ezra is in Aramaic. This includes the official documents concerning the rebuilding of the Temple but one-third of Ezra is in Aramaic.
And in Daniel 2, beginning at verse 4, to Daniel 7 verse 28; all of that is written in Aramaic. One-half of the Book of Daniel is written in Aramaic. And to recapitulate, one-third of the Book of Ezra is in Aramaic and one-half of the Book of Daniel was written in Aramaic.
Ezra was born and brought up in Babylon. Daniel was taken there as a youth. Both speak and write in Aramaic at the slightest suggestion. For example, in the Greek New Testament: Abba, "Father." Abba is Aramaic. Talitha cumi, "Maiden, arise," in Mark 6:41, is Aramaic. Lama sabachthani, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" in Matthew 27:46, is Aramaic. Aramaic was the language of Palestine. And Christ and His disciples spoke in Aramaic.
Now, what is this Aramaic language and where did it come from? Who are these Aramenians and their language? In Genesis 10:, Aram, the son of Shem – their language name comes from him, the son of Shem, so the word "Semitic." The Greeks called these people "Syrians," an abbreviation of Assyria. They were scattered throughout the Middle East. They were traders, as well as shepherds.
Their language became the language of commerce. They controlled the commerce of western Asia. Theirs was the speech of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persian and finally Palestine. So, the change in the language of the Jews: they spoke Aramaic.
After the conquest by Nebuchadnezzar and seventy years of the Babylonian captivity a change took place in the speech of the Hebrews. They began to speak Aramaic. They still also continued to speak Hebrew; witness the Books of Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi but the language of the people was Aramaic. And when they returned home to Palestine, they spoke Aramaic.
For example, one of the most unusual chapters in all of the Bible, the Word of God is Nehemiah chapter 8, where Ezra read the Law in the Book of God in Hebrew but it was necessary to give the translation in Aramaic. That is what happened. In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah all those people gathered there in Jerusalem but the Book he read out of was Hebrew and the people couldn’t understand it. So, Ezra had to give the meaning in Aramaic. It is a remarkable thing. Aramaic actually, altogether displaced Hebrew as the language of the people. Hebrew was a lost language in Palestine.
The Old Testament Scriptures, therefore, had to be translated and explained in Aramaic. And they’re called the Targums. There is a Targum, Lord only knows how many of them. And that’s where they came from. The Targum was an explanation of the Hebrew and the Targums were written in Aramaic. Aramaic was the spoken language of Christ. He spoke Aramaic.
It is a remarkable thing from 605 BC to 1900, Hebrew was a lost language; about two thousand five hundred years. Only out of necessity, the State of Israel in Palestine made it the law and the custom that Hebrew was to be spoken again. They settled from so many lands, they had to change to a common language. And that language was Hebrew.
And I tell you, there is no prophecy in the Bible that is more meaningful to me than the one that came to pass in my lifetime. Jeremiah 31:23 says that this Hebrew language will be spoken again. For 2,500 years it was not spoken. But, Jeremiah 31:23 says that this Hebrew language will be spoken again. And that came to pass in my lifetime when the State of Israel was put together Hebrew was the official language of the state and of the people.
Now, we’re going to speak of the Aramaic of the Book of Daniel. These critics say that the Book of Daniel was written by two different authors. That’s not true. There is the same use of words in the presentation of both sections; 2:4 through 7 written in Aramaic; and the rest in Hebrew. They say there was a gap in the manuscript which was filled in by the Aramaic. If the original was Aramaic, filled in by Hebrew or the original was Hebrew, filled in by Aramaic. That is what they say.
But, from the beginning, the book was written that way; half of it in Aramaic and half of it in Hebrew. And ancient fragments recovered are always that way. The two languages were used in reference to the two great divisions of people. What concerns the Jews is written in Hebrew – chapter 1: 1 and 2. What concerns the Gentiles was written in Aramaic. The Aramaic portion is a revelation of "the times of the Gentiles."
I quote: "The explanation which I wish to offer is that the author of Daniel had two related but distinct kinds of messages to deliver. One was a message of judgment and final defeat to the Gentile world, of whom the chief representatives at the time were Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and, Cyrus. The other was a message of hope and deliverance for God’s oppressed: the precious holy people, the Hebrews. The appropriate language for the first was Aramaic, the Gentile. The appropriate language for the second was Hebrew." That is a wonderful comment.
Daniel was a minister in the court of the king. Aramaic was the language of diplomacy and commerce. God has a message for the whole world. Here, in our country, we speak English. Over there in Australia, they speak English. And when they go to Germany, they talk German. When you go to China, they talk Chinese. It doesn’t matter. God has a message for the whole world. And you see that in the Book of Daniel.
The wisdom of God and the wisdom of the world is my next comment. The wisdom of God is delivered to us in sharp contrast to the wisdom of the world, 1 Corinthians 2:6. The wisdom of the world dissolves and changes so rapidly a textbook that is more than ten years old is totally outdated. In sharp contrast, the Word of God remains unchanged and unchangeable. The truth of God’s wisdom is unique and unrivaled,  Corinthians 2:7. The truth about us we could never learn in any secular college or graduate school. We impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God which God decreed before the ages for our glorification, 1 Corinthians 2:7.
The paramount glory of the gospel is that there is nothing like it anywhere else. It is without rival, either in the scientific laboratory, in the psychologist’s office or philosopher’s study. It is this factor that constitutes the supreme value of preaching. It simply does what nothing else can do. Paul calls this truth "the deep things of God;" the thoughts of God: spiritual truth and the mind of Christ and we preach in the wisdom of God.
The wisdom of God is in sharp contrast to the world’s wisdom. The wisdom of the world swings from one extreme to another, going in cycles of acceptance like fads and fashions. Everyone knows that any science textbook more than ten years of age is totally outdated. In contrast to that, the Word of God remains unchanged and unchangeable, always relevant, always up-to-date, always perceptive and penetrating and eternally accurate.
The supreme motive of the preacher is that the hearer should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God in the multiple task of the preacher. His identity as expositor of the Word of God is the one discipline by which God can make him an effective master of the faith.
As a preacher, I have the privilege of offering to the scientist, the physicist, the high tech engineers, the doctors, the lawyers, bankers, the champions and captains of industry, as well as artisans, secretaries, plumbers and many others essential knowledge about themselves and about life where they could never learn in any secular college or graduate school. I am privileged to give them an understanding of reality unavailable from any other source.
Now, this is the tragedy of much modern preaching. Preachers have come to believe that the average person no longer has any religious interest and so they appeal to knowledge of science or philosophy. If this life of religious interest appears to be true, it is because preaching has failed to clarify that what men eagerly want to find: namely, the secret of human fulfillment. That is what God lovingly offers to give us in the Bible. True preaching – the preaching of the secret and hidden wisdom of God – will result in human glorification, the actual fulfillment of our deepest desires. This hidden wisdom as Paul claims it, declares is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, 1 Corinthians 2:2.
Well, I am done. I cannot emphasize as you have heard me in these lectures, I cannot emphasize how marvelous and wonderful a cost the Lord has given to you.
And to take that Book and declare its message is pertinent in every life and in every factor of human living: for the home, for the family, for America, for the children, for the business for it impacts in every area of human life. You have a marvelous message how the human being is to be. And all you have to do is just read it, and proclaim it and expound it. O preacher, what a marvelous, marvelous ministry you can have, if you base it on the infallible Word of God.
And no matter where you are, you have a message. You see me dressed so formally. I have a funeral service this morning. It’s why I am dressed this way. What do you think I’m going to do at that funeral service? Do you think I’m going to read a passage from philosophy or speak of some scientific equation concerning this body that is decaying in the grave? What do you think I’m going to do? I’m going to take my Bible. And I’m going open that Book and I’m going to preach out of that Bible. That’s what I’m going to do this morning at a funeral service.
No matter where or what, no matter what the circumstance, the Bible is pertinent and has a living message for any of the fortunes and providences of human life. And you have the privilege of taking that Book and declaring it; the infallible, inerrant, inspired Word of the living God.
The Lord bless you young men as you listen to my voice and as you go out there and do exactly as I have said. Any comment anyone wants to make? Any words, any questions you’d like to ask?
Well, thank you, son, bless your heart.
You all be sure, be sure to be here next lesson. I’m going to speak of the second coming of Christ and the biblical revelations of what precedes His coming. And I tell you, they are in the world today. Oh, dear. It just amazes me how what God has said will come to pass before the return of the Lord and how every one of those predictions are coming true right now. And then of course what the Bible reveals about the miraculous, marvelous things when Jesus comes.
Well, I love you. May the Lord be good to you. Thank you for putting the Book right there.