A Little Help With Daniel 11:1–12:4: Three Aids for Reading This Challenging Chapter

bible 2Daniel 11 is a challenging passage of Scripture. Primarily, its difficulty rests in the fact that modern, Western readers do not know the history that stands between Daniel and Jesus. Such historical ignorance of about 550 years makes a crucial difference in knowing how to understand this long and complex passage. This is especially true with respect to Antiochus IV, who defiled the Jerusalem in 167 BC by offering unclean sacrifices on the altar, producing what Daniel calls the abomination of desolation. Both Daniel and Jesus speak of this event, and only when we understand how Daniel 11 points to this historical event, based upon God’s heavenly decrees (i.e., the book of truth in Dan. 10:21) can we rightly interpret this passage.

Indeed, Daniel’s prophecies are so precise, many scholars believe that Daniel must have been written after the fact.[1] Such a reading stands, however, on a commitment to explain away elements of predictive prophecy. By contrast, those who believe God inspired the Word of God have no little trouble letting the text speak. Scripture teaches us that God has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:10) and that nothing occurs by accident. Rather, God has decreed in eternity what will take place in time. In fact, Daniel 10:21 speaks to this very thing, when the angel of the Lord states, “But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth . . .”

As stated, Daniel 11 is a small portion or reflection of God’s eternal and immutable decree. In answer to Daniel’s prayers and his longing to see the temple of God rebuilt, God sends a fourth and final vision in Daniel to strengthen him and show him what will come next. Daniel 11, therefore, is a history that begins in the days of Daniel (535 BC) and runs until the days of Christ and his resurrection. In fact, as I preached two Sundays ago, I believe that Daniel 12:1–3 is fulfilled (better: has begun to be fulfilled) in the resurrection of Christ. And thus, Daniel 11 gives us a vision of history that runs for more than 500 years and that has implications even to our own day, as the resurrected Christ continues to raise people from the dead.

Still, to understand Daniel 11 in context, we might need a little help. In what follows, I offer three such ‘helps.’ First, I offer a link to the sermon I preached on Daniel 11. Second, I share below an account of a make-believe prophet of America that might provide insight into how we should read Daniell 11. Third and last, I’ve included a PDF of the notes I gave to our church when I preached on Daniel 11. They give a play-by-play of the historical turns in Daniel 11:2–35. Then, drawing on the work of Mitchell Chase, they offer an attempt to read Daniel 11:21–35 as parallel to Daniel 11:36–12:3. I believe Mitch has found a number of key connections in the text which confirms this approach to the chapter. I outline these in the PDF as well. May these resources be a help to you. Continue reading

An Invitation to the Book of Daniel: Neither Diet Plans, Nor Date-Setting, Nor Dares to Be Like Daniel, But Dreams, Dominion, and Resurrection from the Dead

daniel05What is Daniel about?

There are lots of answers to this question, but not all of them are equal. Like so many books of the Bible, Daniel is often “used” more than “read.” And when readers “use” Daniel they come up with diet plans, end-times dating schemes, and moralistic teachings devoid of gospel power. To be sure, Daniel does talk about food, future events, and bold faithfulness, but until we understand that Daniel is a book about God and the arrival of his eternal kingdom, we will miss much of the message.

So again, what is Daniel about? Let me answer that in six ways—three negative, three positive. Continue reading

Finding the Structure of Daniel 1: Two Complementary Approaches

technology lens laboratory medical

Whenever I preach, the first thing I do is outline the text. Or better, I seek to find the author’s intended organization of his passage. Believing Scripture to be divinely-inspired and deftly-written, I assume every passage in Scripture has a Sprit-given shape. This doesn’t mean I will be able to discern perfectly the author’s literary structure, but in order to hear what the author is saying and to see what he is stressing, I begin by looking for literary clues (e.g., key words, repeated words, clausal connections, etc.).

Sometimes this is easy; sometimes this is hard. And sometimes a passage can be organized in different ways, especially when we look at it from different heights. This doesn’t mean that the author has multiple messages in mind—although sometimes we find the overlapping of literary devices. It means, that like differing microscope lens might reveal different details, so various readers (or one reader) may see multiple organizations to a singular passage. Such is the case with Daniel 1.

In what follows, I offer two approaches to reading Daniel 1. These are not two competing ways to see this chapter. Rather, they provide two complementary lens to see how this chapter works. The first compares the offer of food, education, and title (or Table, Teaching, and Title) to Daniel and his friends. The second provides a literary arc to the chapter, with Daniel’s faithfulness centered in the middle. Let’s look at each. Continue reading