GOD promised Abraham that he and his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan forever. But Abraham's physical descendants, the children of Israel, grew increasingly wicked. GOD sent prophet after prophet to call them to repentance but they would not listen.
This was exactly what Moses prophesied would occur in the Song of Moses at the end of Deuteronomy.
Daniel was a young, righteous Israelite who unfortunately suffered due to the wickedness of his brethren. He was carried off to Babylon.
While there, however, GOD revealed multiple visions with immense importance to Daniel. In this post, we examine two of these visions and their relation to the future of the nation of Israel and GOD's people. We'll see how these things relate to our previous posts, especially the Song of Moses.
You won't want to miss this.
Welcome to the 9th post in my series of rethinking Christian eschatology. Because these posts build upon each other, if you've not already done so, I invite you to read the previous posts in this series before continuing here.
From Inheriting Canaan to Being Thrust Out
Bible students know the story well.
Israel conquered Canaan under Joshua but failed to fully annihilate the Canaanites as GOD had commanded. They began to intermarry with Canaanite women and repeatedly fell into idolatry.
After a brief period of faithfulness to GOD, Israel would embrace idolatry. GOD would raise up an enemy to punish Israel. Humbled and desperate, Israel would cry out to GOD and He would raise up a leader (aka a judge) to deliver them. And the cycle would repeat.
Finally, in the days of Samuel, Israel asked for a human king in order to be like the nations around them.
Saul rejected GOD.
Israel prospered under David.
Solomon started off strong but intermarried with pagan women and his heart was turned from GOD to idols.
GOD tore the kingdom in two. The northern ten tribes became the divided nation of Israel, while the southern two tribes were known as Judah.
The northern nation of Israel had not one righteous king.
GOD sent prophet after prophet but they refused counsel and persecuted or killed the prophets.
In the 8th century B.C., Assyria destroyed the northern tribes, scattering any survivors from their homeland to live in foreign nations.
Judah had a few righteous kings, but failed to learn from its older sister Israel’s experience. In 605 B.C., GOD sent the Babylonians to destroy Jerusalem and take most of the survivors to Babylon as slaves.
The historical account records it as follows:
7 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods 8 and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. …11 … They did wicked things that aroused the Lord’s anger. 12 They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, “You shall not do this.” 13 The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your ancestors to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets.”
14 But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. 15 They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, “Do not do as they do.”
16 They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. 17 They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
18 So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, 19 and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. 20 Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.
(2 Kings 17:7-8, 11b-20 NIV)
Daniel, the Faithful Captive
During the time period of the Babylonian captivity, we are introduced to Daniel, who was a young man at the time of the great deportation to Babylon.
Note: If you’re like me, you sometimes struggle to keep the timeline of which prophets lived when in your head. So it may be helpful for me to note that Daniel was a contemporary of Jeremiah, who remained in Jerusalem during the Babylonian captivity timeframe, and Ezekiel, who was called as a prophet while in Babylon.
Early in his stay in Babylon, Daniel was chosen as a participant in a Babylonian training program, sponsored by King Nebuchadnezzar (see Dan. 1:3-7).
Daniel faced an early test of faith by refusing to violate the Law of Moses by eating the king’s prescribed foods during the program. He convinced the chief official to conduct a test by giving Daniel and his Jewish friends Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach) and Azariah (Abednego) just vegetables and water for 10 days. After the test, these four were found healthier and more fit in appearance and so the royal diet was swapped for vegetables and water for all participants.
Seeing Daniel’s faithfulness, GOD chose to use Daniel to reveal the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams as well as visions of other future events. It is difficult to read Daniel’s account without thinking of the similarities between him and Joseph over a thousand years earlier.
Daniel’s Visions of Future Events
Daniel’s visions covered both near-term and distant-future events.
The consistent theme of Daniel’s visions was the future of GOD’s people.
Note: Interestingly, the “book” of Daniel is not written in chronological order. And it is not the only writing of the Prophets that is not compiled chronologically.
This makes studying these texts interesting, because you have the study of the writings “in order” (e.g., “studying the book of Isaiah”) and then you have the chronological study of when various portions of the writings occurred in time.
Both studies are incredibly important, but the latter tends to get neglected because it isn't how the text is arranged in our Bibles.
In my opinion, the single best way to improve retention of the details around the writings of Scripture (e.g., “When was Galatians written?”) is to study them chronologically.
Here is how Daniel breaks down chronologically (source: The Daily Bible):
1.) 1:3-20 – Daniel & friends chosen, obey Law's dietary rules
2.) 2:1-49 – Nebuchadnezzar's dream: statue & future kingdoms
3.) 1:1-2 – Nebuchadnezzar besieges Jerusalem
4.) 3:1-30 – Shadrach, Meshach & Abednego & fiery furnace
5.) 4:1-37 – Nebuchadnezzar's temporary insanity
6.) 7:1-28 – Daniel's vision of the four beasts
7.) 8:1-27 – Daniel's vision of the ram & goat (Medo-Persia & Greece)
8.) 5:1-31 – Daniel interprets writing on the wall, Babylon falls
9.) 9:1-27 – Daniel's vision of the 'seventy sevens'
10.) 6:1-27 – Daniel in the lion's den
11.) 1:21 – Daniel's government role ends
12.) 6:28 – Daniel prospers under Kings Darius & Cyrus
13.) 10:1-12:13 – Daniel's final vision—wars, turmoil, the end & resurrection
Three of Daniel’s visions regarding future events affecting GOD’s people and Israel describe events during a time period called “the end.” How we understand these visions significantly impacts our understanding of other related Scriptures, which we will address in future posts.
In this post, I want to examine the first two of these visions.
Daniel's Vision of the Ram and Goat
Here is the text:
1 In the third year of King Belshazzar’s reign, I, Daniel, had a vision, after the one that had already appeared to me. 2 In my vision I saw myself in the citadel of Susa in the province of Elam; in the vision I was beside the Ulai Canal. 3 I looked up, and there before me was a ram with two horns, standing beside the canal, and the horns were long. One of the horns was longer than the other but grew up later. 4 I watched the ram as it charged toward the west and the north and the south. No animal could stand against it, and none could rescue from its power. It did as it pleased and became great.
5 As I was thinking about this, suddenly a goat with a prominent horn between its eyes came from the west, crossing the whole earth without touching the ground. 6 It came toward the two-horned ram I had seen standing beside the canal and charged at it in great rage. 7 I saw it attack the ram furiously, striking the ram and shattering its two horns. The ram was powerless to stand against it; the goat knocked it to the ground and trampled on it, and none could rescue the ram from its power. 8 The goat became very great, but at the height of its power the large horn was broken off, and in its place four prominent horns grew up toward the four winds of heaven.
9 Out of one of them came another horn, which started small but grew in power to the south and to the east and toward the Beautiful Land. 10 It grew until it reached the host of the heavens, and it threw some of the starry host down to the earth and trampled on them. 11 It set itself up to be as great as the commander of the army of the Lord; it took away the daily sacrifice from the Lord, and his sanctuary was thrown down. 12 Because of rebellion, the Lord’s people and the daily sacrifice were given over to it. It prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground.
13 Then I heard a holy one speaking, and another holy one said to him, “How long will it take for the vision to be fulfilled—the vision concerning the daily sacrifice, the rebellion that causes desolation, the surrender of the sanctuary and the trampling underfoot of the Lord’s people?”
14 He said to me, “It will take 2,300 evenings and mornings; then the sanctuary will be reconsecrated.”
15 While I, Daniel, was watching the vision and trying to understand it, there before me stood one who looked like a man. 16 And I heard a man’s voice from the Ulai calling, “Gabriel, tell this man the meaning of the vision.”
17 As he came near the place where I was standing, I was terrified and fell prostrate. “Son of man,” he said to me, “understand that the vision concerns the time of the end.”
18 While he was speaking to me, I was in a deep sleep, with my face to the ground. Then he touched me and raised me to my feet.
19 He said: “I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.
23 “In the latter part of their reign, when rebels have become completely wicked, a fierce-looking king, a master of intrigue, will arise. 24 He will become very strong, but not by his own power. He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in whatever he does. He will destroy those who are mighty, the holy people. 25 He will cause deceit to prosper, and he will consider himself superior. When they feel secure, he will destroy many and take his stand against the Prince of princes. Yet he will be destroyed, but not by human power.
26 “The vision of the evenings and mornings that has been given you is true, but seal up the vision, for it concerns the distant future.”
27 I, Daniel, was worn out. I lay exhausted for several days. Then I got up and went about the king’s business. I was appalled by the vision; it was beyond understanding.
(Dan. 8:1-27 NIV)
- This vision is said to concern “the time of the end,” “the time of wrath,” and “the appointed time of the end.” Furthermore, the context informs us the vision concerns the timeframe of the Greek Empire, which succeeded the Medo-Persian Empire.
- Animals are used to represent kingdoms. The ram represented the Medo-Persian Empire and the goat represented Greece. Horns are used to represent individual rulers of these kingdoms. The casting down of the starry host has to do with the defeat of other nations. This same metaphoric language is used elsewhere in Scripture, so the divine explanation here is incredibly helpful later.
- During this timeframe, a certain king would attack Jerusalem and pollute the temple, temporarily suspending the offering of the daily sacrifice. History tells us this king was Antiochus Epiphanes (see 2 Maccabees 5-6) in 167 B.C.
- The unfortunate events of this vision occurred because the Israelites had become “completely wicked” “rebels.”
- The timeframe of these events forms the beginning of “the end” of physical Israel and GOD’s covenant with them. These things directly relate to the Song of Moses in Deut. 32, as we discussed here.
- There were approximately 380 years between Daniel receiving this vision (550 B.C.) and its fulfillment (170 B.C.). This is a crucial observation when studying Revelation because it shows the length of time that GOD considered man’s “distant future” (per Dan. 8:26).
Daniel’s Vision of the Seventy ‘Sevens’
Here is the text:
1 In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom— 2 in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the Lord given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3 So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
4 I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
“Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 5 we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our ancestors, and to all the people of the land.
7 “Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame—the people of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8 We and our kings, our princes and our ancestors are covered with shame, Lord, because we have sinned against you. 9 The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10 we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11 All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
“Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12 You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come on us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14 The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster on us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15 “Now, Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16 Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17 “Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18 Give ear, our God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19 Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.”
20 While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel and making my request to the Lord my God for his holy hill— 21 while I was still in prayer, Gabriel, the man I had seen in the earlier vision, came to me in swift flight about the time of the evening sacrifice. 22 He instructed me and said to me, “Daniel, I have now come to give you insight and understanding. 23 As soon as you began to pray, a word went out, which I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed. Therefore, consider the word and understand the vision:
24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.
25 “Know and understand this: From the time the word goes out to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven ‘sevens,’ and sixty-two ‘sevens.’ It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. 26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. 27 He will confirm a covenant with many for one ‘seven.’ In the middle of the ‘seven’ he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And at the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.”
(Dan. 9:1-27 NIV)
In this vision, which the introduction subtly tells us was given to Daniel after the fall of Babylon into Medo-Persian hands, it is super important that we observe the difference between what Daniel asks in his prayer and what GOD says in answer.
Daniel’s prayer was initiated by the realization from reading the prophet Jeremiah (see Jer. 25:11) that the Babylonian exile of 70 years was near its close. (This means Daniel was probably in his mid-to-late 80s at the time.)
So Daniel prayed. In his prayer, he confessed the sins of his people and he asked GOD if it could be enough—if the suffering could be over now. He said, “You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing on us great disaster.”
In other words, it’s as if Daniel is saying, “Okay, GOD, You’ve done all that awful stuff You said You’d do to us. Can this be over now? Can we get back to how things used to be?”
And what does GOD say?
In essence, “No, Daniel, it’s not over yet, son.”
“Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.”
In other words, “Nope. There is still more sinning your people will do.”
Now, look at the timing of the fulfillment of the vision.
Seventy ‘sevens’ (or ‘weeks’ in some translations) remained from the time the command was given to rebuild Jerusalem.
After 69 ‘sevens’ Jesus would be crucified.
In the final ‘seven,’ Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed and war would continue until the end.
Again, we see that “the end” here refers to the end of the old covenant and the physical descendents of Abraham as GOD’s chosen people—just as GOD foretold in the Song of Moses.
20 “I will hide my face from them,” he said,
“and see what their end will be;
for they are a perverse generation,
children who are unfaithful.
28 They are a nation without sense,
there is no discernment in them.
29 If only they were wise and would understand this
and discern what their end will be!
(Deut. 32:20, 28-29 NIV)
These two visions of Daniel are incredibly insightful.
Their context helps us understand the timeframe of “the end” and “the time of wrath.”
Their meaning is amplified and clarified when viewed in light of the “end” discussed in the Song of Moses, which we saw is repeatedly applied to the first century A.D. timeframe by the NT writers. The combination of secular history and the observable remains of the temple site place the bow on this package.
Got comments or questions? Drop them below.