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In the first chapter of the book of Daniel, we see that King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon has laid siege to Jerusalem. Daniel and his young friends are among the Jews who are taken captive to Babylon, which is some 500 miles east of Jerusalem as the crow flies, but closer to 800–1000 miles of travel by the normal trade routes of the day.
The gross wickedness of the Jews at this time made them weak and unable to defend themselves. Likewise, their lifestyles had separated them from the Lord and His help.
The major message of the next several verses is this: Living according to the Lord’s law of health provides both physical and spiritual blessings.
According to verse 5, the plan was to feed them the same sumptuous food eaten by the king, and to educate them for three years, at which time they would be presented to the king to enter into his service. Remember that the word “meat” in our Bible means “food.” When Old Testament writers mean beef or lamb or whatever, they usually use the word “flesh.”
5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat [had them eat the same food that the king ate], and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king [be given responsible positions in the king’s service].
It is almost certain that the “king’s meat” included the meat of several different kinds of animals, many of which would have been against the Jews’ “word of wisdom” (see Leviticus 11)—the Law of Moses regarding what a faithful Israelite could and could not eat. For example, the king’s food could have included pork and meat that had not been bled before cooking. All of these would have violated the commitments of Daniel and his friends to the Lord, just as smoking and drinking would violate our covenants with the Lord.
Daniel Chapter Two
What Happens in the Diaspora, Stays in the Diaspora. Or Does It?
Written by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media author Marilyn Green Faulkner (The User-Friendly Old Testament)
The book of Daniel is the only apocalypse in the Old Testament. An apocalypse is a book that is about the “end times,” and includes hidden knowledge that is revealed. The interesting thing about the book of Daniel is that it is really two books. The first six chapters of the book Daniel are court tales, or traditional tales about the Jew living in the court of the king. Like Joseph, Moses, and some of the other characters who end up in the court of a foreign king, Daniel shows us how a Jew ought to behave in a foreign court.
Daniel is also written in two languages—Hebrew and Aramaic—a fact that made it a little challenging for translators.1 In Daniel 2:1, it says, “And in the second year of the reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” The king ordered the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans (courtiers), to be summoned and ordered to tell the king what he had dreamed (see Daniel 2:2). They came in and stood before the king, and the king said to them, “I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream” (Daniel 2:3). The courtiers, or Chaldeans, spoke to the King in Aramaic, “O, king” (Daniel 2:4). From the words, “O, King,” the book of Daniel switches to Aramaic all the way through Daniel 8.
To me, the most interesting thing about the book of Daniel is the picture it paints of life in the Diaspora (“the settling of scattered colonies of Jews outside ancient Palestine after the Babylonian exile”2) for these young Israelites. We know that after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BCE, the best and brightest were taken to Babylon, and Daniel and his companions were among them (see Daniel 1:1, 6–7). They could have chosen to simply blend in, but they chose instead to live their dietary laws and strictly observe their religious duties. This brought them under scrutiny when they were in the court of the king, who had gathered young men from several cultures together. Though all were given a specific diet, they refused to drink the king’s wine or eat meat. They preferred to eat a nice, healthy vegan diet! And as a result they were so strong, bright-eyed, and bushy-tailed, that the king was impressed (see Daniel 1:8–19). This sets the scene.
So when the King has a troubling dream, Daniel steps up and offers to interpret it. At this point, the king has set an impossible challenge to his advisors, because he cannot remember the dream, so they must discern what the dream was and then interpret it. When Daniel hears this, he gathers his companions and they pray for help. God reveals the dream and its interpretation to Daniel in a night vision, and he uses this opportunity to bear witness of the reality of his God (see Daniel 2:16–23).
Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. (Daniel 2:27–30)
In the pagan religions of the time, one of the traditional roles of the priest was divination. The word simply refers to foretelling the future, but its use is generally connected to the occult. Using various devices, Tarot cards, tea leaves, crystal balls, the diviner foretells the future, usually for money. Jeremiah spoke of the type of divination that was practiced: “Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord (Jeremiah 23:16)."
Rather than parlor tricks, Daniel turns to prayer, with the help of his faithful friends. The lesson is obvious, but the king is a long way from understanding it. At first, for him, Daniel is just the most skillful diviner. But Daniel’s example, though faced with one frightening trial after another, eventually carves a place for himself that is like Joseph’s in Egypt—in a position of power and trust with the king and also in a position to be able to help his fellow captives.
Daniel and his friends are continually getting into trouble with the jealous advisors that have been shamed by his prophetic powers. The king keeps making rash vows, and Daniel and his friends get caught in the middle. The point of these stories is to have us ask ourselves how we are behaving in our own Diaspora. Do we choose to keep our heads down and just blend in? Or do we stand up courageously and unapologetically for our beliefs? The answer in my case is “yes.” I do both. But Daniel is telling me that I can do better.
Daniel Chapter Three
Written by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media author Alonzo L. Gaskill (Miracles of the Old Testament)
King Nebuchadnezzar commissioned the creation of a ninety-foot-tall idol, and summoned the various provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image—which they did. During the dedication, some Chaldean nobles approached the king, informing him that—though he had issued a decree that all should worship the image or be burned in the fire— Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had refused to worship the idol (see Daniel 3:1–12).
Upon hearing this news, the king was furious and ordered that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego be brought before him. When they arrived, he threatened them, saying that he would throw them in the furnace if they did not worship his idol (see Daniel 3:13–15). Rhetorically, he asked, “And who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands [if you’re burning in an oven]?” (Daniel 3:15).
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego informed the king that they didn’t have to defend their choice to not worship an idol. And if the king were to throw them into the furnace, their God would save them; and even if He didn’t, they would still not bow to Nebuchadnezzar’s false god (see Daniel 3:16 –18).
Enraged by their insolence, Nebuchadnezzar had the furnace heated to seven times its normal temperature, and commanded that the three of them be bound and thrown into the flames. The furnace was so hot that Nebuchadnezzar’s men—who tossed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in—were killed by the heat (see Daniel 3:19–22).
As the king looked into the furnace, he was shocked, and asked his advisors, “Did not we cast [only] three men bound into the midst of the fire? . . . Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God” (Daniel 3:24–25).
Therefore, the king called out to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and beckoned them to come out of the fire, which they did. None of them were harmed, nor was the hair on their heads singed. Their clothing was not scorched, nor did they smell of smoke (see Daniel 3:26–27).
The king instantly knew that they had been preserved by God and cried out, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him!” (Daniel 3:28). Nebuchadnezzar issued a new decree, stating that any who spoke against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego would be cut into pieces, and their house would be turned into a pile of rubble. Then the king pro- moted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the province of Babylon (see Daniel 3:29–30).
In Daniel 2:47, King Nebuchadnezzar had declared to Daniel, “Your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings.” However, his behavior here— forcing all, including the Jews, to worship the patron god of the Chaldean government—might suggest that his confession of Jehovah was more superficial than real.
He may have felt, like many pagans, that multiple loyalties were permissible in worshiping the gods. He may have seen no more conflict between worshiping several different deities than between serving a local government and the central [or national] government. In any event, he laid down no requirement for his subjects to renounce or to cease private worship of their own personal gods; he simply demanded complete loyalty to the state, as represented by this public ceremony of prostration before his patron god (presumably Nabu). Failure to do this would not only amount to impiety and irreligion, it would also be treason1.
In support of the idea that Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t ever seem to be fully con- verted to the God of Israel, notice how—when he makes his new decree that no one speak a word against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (see Daniel 3:29)—he doesn’t order people to worship Jehovah; only that they not speak badly regarding Him. One commentator wrote, “The edict [of Nebuchadnezzar] does no more than declare legal in the empire the religion of the Jews.”2 Just as the king forced the worship of Nabu’s image upon his people, one would think (if he was truly converted to Jehovah) that he would now force the worship of Him; but he does not.3
Nebuchadnezzar’s name actually contains the name of the god Nabu (nabu-kudurri-usur), and means literally “O god Nabu, protect my frontier-markers.”4
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are Babylonian names. The Hebrew names of these three faithful souls were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (see Daniel 1:6). Like King Nebuchadnezzar, Abed-nego also has a Babylonian theophoric name, meaning “servant of Nebo” or “Nabu.”5
The men who brought to the attention of Nebuchadnezzar that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had not prostrated themselves before the idol of the state are called, in the King James Version, “Chaldeans” (see Daniel 3:8). Of their identity, one commentary suggested the following:
This term [Chaldeans] designated originally an Aramaic-speaking people who infiltrated into Babylonia in the first half of the first millennium B.C. and gradually gained ascendancy there. But in Hellenistic times, when itinerant astrologers and fortune-tellers from Babylonia were well- known throughout the Mediterranean world, the term “Chaldean” was often used, not in its original, political sense (as in Dan 5:30; Ezra 5:12), but in the derived sense of “astrologers, fortune-tellers” (as certainly in Dan 2:2–5, 10; 4:4; 5:7, 11, and probably also in 3:8).6
It is commonly suggested that the reason these Chaldean fortune-tellers accuse Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was because they resented the king’s promotion of foreigners to political office, and, thus, they sought to get back at the three of them.7
It is traditionally understood that the furnace in this episode was the equivalent of a limekiln, which would have a vertical shaft with an opening at the top, and then an opening at the bottom for extracting the fused lime. Thus, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown in from the top of the furnace (Daniel 3:20–22), but the king saw them through the opening on the lower part of the kiln (Daniel 3:24–26).8
While the narrative does not give the identity of the fourth person in the oven, the Talmud suggests that it was the angel Gabriel.9 On the other hand, D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew Skinner, among others, have suggested that the fourth person was actually none other than Jehovah.10 Ellis T. Rasmussen pointed out,
The phrase “the Son of God” is used to translate the Aramaic bar ’elahin, which means, literally, “a son of the gods.” Naturally the king had no acquaintance with the Son of God whom we worship, and he would certainly not have been qualified to see Him. . . . The Aramaic word means “a divine being”; later the king called him an “angel” of the God of the Hebrews (Dan. 3:13–28).11
It has been suggested that the reason Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were not harmed in the fire was that God transfigured them. (Cf. Helaman 5:23; 3 Nephi 28:19–22)12
In the Septuagint (or Greek version) of this narrative, there is an additional lengthy twenty-two verse section (not found in the Hebrew version) in which Abed-nego (aka Azariah) offers a prayer to the Lord. In that additional portion (present today in the Apocrypha and translations like the Latin Vulgate), we learn that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego “walked about in the heart of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.”13
The number seven appears once again, still carrying its traditional connotation of “full” or “complete.” Thus, Nebuchadnezzar’s order that the furnace be heated up “‘seven times’ hotter than ordinarily” has been seen as “an idiomatic way of saying ‘as hot as possible.’”14
Fire has a number of symbolic meanings, potentially applicable here, including the glory of God, sanctification, judgment, God’s eschatological fire, etc.15
The cords with which Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were bound are standard symbols for anything that places us in bondage. Thus, freedom from those bindings symbolizes emancipation, escape, redemption, and the like.16
Application and Allegorization
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego said to King Nebuchadnezzar,
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. . . .
But even if he does not, . . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold. (NIV Daniel 3:17–18)
Of this, one commentator wrote, “Scripture contains few more heroic words than ‘But even if he does not.’”17 Similarly, John Chrysostom wrote, “It is the greatest punishment to commit sin, though we may remain unpun- ished; it is the greatest honor and repose to live virtuously, though we may be punished.”18
Those who sign up as disciples are expected to be faithful, even if the odds are not in their favor. A person can hardly be considered a true disciple if they are only faithful when things look like they are going to turn out their way. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s example of faith under daunting circumstances is remarkable and inspiring. In some ways, their trial is every person’s trial. Robert Anderson explained, “We may assume that the point of this part of the story is that if the faithful Jew is to demonstrate his loyalty to the one true God he must be prepared to see it through step by step with ever increasing risk to his own life. From the initial act of confession . . . there is an ascending scare of temptations, of opportunities to recant.”19 And so it is. The more faithful we are, the more trials and tempta- tions we can expect, as God seeks to develop us. Thus, the prophet Joseph taught, “When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure.”20 Tried and developed we must be! Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego appear to have passed the test.
The narrative speaks of a fourth figure in the fire—a divine being. One commentator suggested, “The point of the story is that the man of faith, who holds fast to what God requires of him, will not be left alone [in his trials].”21 Similarly, Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, “When we have that kind of courage, neither will we walk alone in our own ‘fiery furnace,’ for, as is recorded in Daniel, there was a fourth Form in that fiery furnace with the valiant threesome, and the Form was ‘like the Son of God’! (Daniel 3:25.)”22
One commentary on this miracle suggested, “The persecution of the three Jews because of their religious convictions . . . was written to show that martyrdom is to be preferred to apostasy.”23 While this may sound like a bold assertion, commitment to God is more important than physical pres- ervation. Why? Well, as Jesus rhetorically asked, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36). Clinging to the gospel, even over our own lives, is important because the gospel of Jesus Christ is the thing which offers us eternal life. Though it is unlikely that we will ever have to choose between God and our mortal lives; nevertheless, if we were ever confronted with this devastating dichotomy, may we—in that very hour—remember the choice and the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Of Nebuchadnezzar’s role in this narrative, one commentator wrote, “In the story he is representative of ungodly power, of a human pride that cannot tolerate the exclusive claim of a monotheistic faith. . . . The attrac- tion of polytheism is that it widens every choice; it imposes no limita- tion.”24 Like Nebuchadnezzar, so much of the world today moves more and more toward relativism. Just as polytheism requires less commitment and imposes no limitations, in a world that argues that everything is relative (e.g., morals, truth, right and wrong, etc.), what possible limitations could there be? However, when we insist on no limitations in earth life, God must then insist on limitations in eternal life; not because He is punitive, but because those who have rejected His invitation to curtail sin and worldliness will not have become like Him—and thus will not be prepared to do what He does and to live as He lives. “Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve” (Alma 30:8). The creature? Or the Creator?
If it was His intent to save them—which it clearly was—God could have prevented Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from being cast into the fur- nace.25 However, He chose instead to take them down that fear-filled road in order to fulfill His higher purposes—and in order to develop in them the faith required for all who would become like God. There is a lesson in this for you and me. God will ask us to do hard things. One cannot develop faith in any other way. If the way is always easy and the path is always obvious, what need is there for faith in God and Christ? As in the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, God will save those who exercise full faith in Him. Yet, we must be given that opportunity to trust and believe when there is reason to doubt and lose faith. As Chrysostom put it, “If they had foreknown” that God would definitely save them, “there would have been nothing wonderful in their doing what they did. For what marvel is it if, when they had a guarantee of safety, they defied all terror?”26 Again, we must be given that opportunity to trust and believe when there is reason to doubt and lose faith. If we endure those experiences in faith, then God will exalt us on high (see D&C 121:8).
It may well be that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego’s endurance of the flames in the oven is a typological foreshadowing of the Second Coming of Christ. Just as they were transfigured, God will transfigure all the righ- teous at His Second Coming, allowing them to endure the fire of His pres- ence just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego endured the fire of the furnace.27 And just as the wicked servants of Nebuchadnezzar were con- sumed by the fire (while the righteous were preserved), so also, at Christ’s Coming the wicked shall be consumed while the faithful are protected. Elder Orson Hyde taught,
We are to be operated upon by the Holy Ghost, and undergo such a material change by its power that we can abide the day of burning in which the Son of God will be revealed with the same comfort that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego did in the fiery furnace. They were cast into that devouring element and moved as pleasantly and as agreeably as the fish moves in the sea, its native element. When that day comes, it will be made [clear] who is pure; for it will bear upon every individual; and those who are not right and pure will be devoured and destroyed. If we are faithful, we can abide that day and feel that we are wrapped in nothing more than in a blaze of glory, because we shall be prepared for it. But if we do not live our religion, we shall be consumed in that day; and it will be a day that no creature can dodge. Hypocrisy and deceit will then be no shield. Pure and unadulterated goodness alone will enable us to stand in that day. We shall then know who possesses the qualifications of Saints, and who does not.28
One early Christian source suggested that this miracle reminds us of our need to be obedient to our earthly rulers, but only to the degree that such obedience does not require us to turn our backs on God. There we must draw the line.29 Richard Trench likewise stated, “There is a limit to the obe- dience which God requires us to render to the civil magistrate.”30 This is not to suggest that we should act as anarchists; only that “no human authority can be allowed to come in competition with the authority of God.”31 In the millennial day, this truth with be proven when God establishes His theoc- racy, and all earthly governments are done away with.32
It has been suggested that, in this miracle, we have a symbol for the Atonement of Christ. “The salvation of God wrought therein is typified; the Son of God walking in the furnace of God’s wrath [caused] by our sins; . . . yet bringing us forth without so much as ‘the smell of fire’ passing on us.”33 In other words, you and I—through our sinfulness—deserve the fire, but Christ walks with us through the afflictions caused by our sins, and brings us out unscathed, and without a hint of evidence that we have sinned. How marvelous is God’s plan! How gracious is Christ’s unfailing love!
Scroll to the bottom of the article to see Daniel chapter 3 notes.
Daniel Chapter Four
In this chapter, among other things, King Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, and Daniel interprets it. In verses 1–5, the king writes a letter in which he describes the dream, which terrified him.
1 NEBUCHADNEZZAR the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought [done] toward me.
3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
4 ¶ I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:
5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
He called his wise men to interpret the dream but they could not.
6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.
7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.
8 ¶ But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods [the king knew that Daniel was an inspired man]: and be- fore him I told the dream, saying,
9 O Belteshazzar [another name for Daniel], master of the magicians, be- cause I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.
Next, in verses 10–17, the king re- tells his dream to Daniel.
10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:
12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.
13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;
14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:
15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:
16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.
17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
This dream I king Nebuchad- nezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the inter- pretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.
In verse 19, next, we are told that Daniel was very concerned, because the dream was not a good one for the king and it was a problem to know how to go about telling him.
19 ¶ Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astounded [very concerned; bewildered] for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee [don’t worry, just tell me straight]. Belt- eshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies [may the dream refer to your enemies].
The basic content of the dream was that the judgments of God were going to come upon Nebuchadnezzar, the king.
20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;
21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat [provided food] for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him;
24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:
Next, in the dream, the king is told that he will be severely humbled.
25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
26 And whereas they command- ed to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
Next, Daniel tells the king that he should repent, and, among other things, be merciful to the poor.
27 Wherefore, O king, let my coun- sel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteous- ness, and thine iniquities by shew- ing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
28 ¶ All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar [all this eventually happened to King Nebuchadnezzar].
29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
At this point, he is anything but humble.
30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebu- chadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High [the true God, the Lord] ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.
Finally, after a long time, Nebu- chadnezzar humbles himself and repents and acknowledges the Lord (verses 34–37).
34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the in- habitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
36 At the same time my reason re- turned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent maj- esty was added unto me.
37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase [humble].
Daniel Chapter Five
Written by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media author Alonzo L. Gaskill (Miracles of the Old Testament)
A Hand Miraculously Appears and Writes on the King’s Wall Daniel 5:1–9
King Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand nobles. He ordered that the gold and silver goblets that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple at Jerusalem be brought in so that the king, his wives and concubines, and his nobles could drink from them. As they did, they praised the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone (see Daniel 5:1–4).
Suddenly, the fingers of a human hand appeared, and began to write a message on the plastered wall. As the king watched this miracle unfold, his face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees began to knock and his legs gave way (see Daniel 5:5–6).
The king called for the astrologers and diviners in his kingdom and promised them that whoever could tell him the meaning of the writing would be clothed in purple, have a gold chain placed around their neck, and be made the third-highest ruler in the kingdom (see Daniel 5:7).
The various wise men of the kingdom tried, but none could interpret the meaning of the writing on the wall. Thus, the king became even more distraught, and his face grew paler. His nobles were all baffled (see Daniel 5:8–9).
The Aramaic name “Belshazzar” is a corruption of a theophoric Akkadian name, which means “O Bel, protect the king!”1 Technically speaking,
Belshazzar was never king of Babylon. Rather, he was crown prince, and in the third year of his father’s seventeen-year reign, he was appointed co- regent with his father. One commentary points out that “during the many long periods when his father was absent from the capital, Belshazzar was, for all practical purposes, ruler of the Neo-Babylonian empire.”2
The book of Daniel calls Belshazzar the son of Nebuchadnezzar (see Daniel 5:2). However, he was actually the son of Nabonidus, not Nebuchadnezzar. The Anchor Bible Dictionary points out that Nabonidus “ruled as king of Babylon for seventeen years (556–539 BC ), and . . . was on the throne when Cyrus took Babylon in 539 BC. Nabonidus, the father of Belshazzar, appears only in the book of Daniel, but was confused with the infamous Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.”3 At best, Belshazzar may have been a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar on his mother’s side; but Nabonidus was not a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, and was simply a usurper of his throne.4
In explaining the setting and motivations behind Belshazzar’s behavior, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary offers this description:
Belshazzar the king was presiding over the state banquet for a thousand of his nobles (v. 1). The time had come for offering toasts and pouring out libations to the gods of Babylon. In his drunken bravado he thought of a novel way of entertaining his guests. What about those beautiful golden goblets and bowls from Solomon’s temple (v. 2)? Why not use them? After all, they had been fashioned for a defeated god named Yahweh, worshiped by the captive people of Judah. No sooner said than it was done (v. 3). The sacred vessels, laid away for forty-seven years, were brought to the banquet hall. Belshazzar began to regale his guests by taunting Yahweh, whose reputation Nebuchadnezzar’s decrees had established a few decades before, and by praising Marduk, Bel, Nebo, Ishtar, and other gods (v. 4). He drank from the holy vessels and his guests followed suit. Once again an arrogant Babylonian monarch defied the Lord God of Israel. . . . The stage was set for the one true God to intervene.5
Though we will not be discussing in detail Daniel’s interpretation of the handwriting upon the wall, verses 25–28 offer Daniel’s interpretation of what the finger wrote:
And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.
This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.
TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.
Belshazzar’s fate was sealed, and the end of the Babylonian kingdom assured. One commentary on this miracle points out that “Sheshbazzar6 was given custody of the vessels [from Solomon’s temple], which according to Ezra 1:10 included ‘thirty bowls of gold, two thousand four hundred and ten bowls of silver’. If this were so, then each of Belshazzar’s guests, his thou- sand lords plus his wives and concubines, had no difficulty in acquiring a handsome vessel with which to continue the bacchanalian festival.”7
The Aramaic word translated as “hand,” here carries the connotation of “palm of the hand,” and “designates the hand from the wrist to the tips of the fingers.” In other words, no part of the body of the being doing the writing was present other than the hand.8
It doesn’t appear that the characters in which the message was written were of an unknown script. As one commentator pointed out, “Daniel read them off as Aramaic, the lingua franca of the capital.”9 Rather, it appears that the four words were recognized, but their meaning was too cryptic for those present to decipher.10 Literally translated, the phrase on the wall would have potentially been rendered by those trying to interpret it as, “Counted, counted, shekel [to] divide”11—or, as one commentary on the Hebrew rendered it, “A maneh, a maneh, a shekel and half shekels.”12 For obvious reasons, the “wise men” of Belshazzar’s court were stumped by this stunted sentence.
Belshazzar was offering the interpreter of the cryptic phrase the third- highest position in the government. He could not offer anything else higher than this, as he was viceroy under his father, Nabonidus.13
Belshazzar offers the interpreter of the four-word phrase to “Be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck” (Daniel 5:7). “The royal purple (really crimson) and the gold torque or collar (of solid metal, rather than in the form of a chain) were symbols of high nobility.”14
The king sees a divine finger write upon the wall. “A finger can often be an image that brings with it mercy/grace [as in the case of the brother of Jared—Ether 3] or judgment [as in the case of King Belshazzar].”15 In the Bible, fingers are often associated with the concepts of “power and influence.” The phrase “the finger of God” is often used to symbolize the authority of God (see Exodus 31:18), His trademark or signature (see Exodus 8:19), God’s work (see Psalm 8:3), or the power of God (see Exodus 8:19).16 In this miracle, the divine finger represents—at the very least—God revealing the acts He is about to bring to pass. Thus, the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery states, “The most customary way God reveals his presence and purpose is through appearances to human beings. We can scarcely think of the OT without remembering a host of such appearance scenes—divine appear- ances [to men like] . . . Belshazzar in the form of a hand writing a message of judgment on the wall (Dan 5:5–9).”17
Application and Allegorization
One important theme in this narrative is God’s displeasure with sac- rilege. The king mocks the true and living God and defiles the things of the temple.18 God’s displeasure is depicted in stripping from Belshazzar the kingdom he hoped to one day be king over—just as He will strip from those who do not keep their temple covenants the kingdom they hope to one day be kings or queens over—namely the celestial kingdom.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once rhetorically asked, “Can’t you buy any- thing in this world for money?”19 Belshazzar certainly believed that one could; and thus, acting on the principle that wealth will buy anything, he offers his reward of royal fame, golden baubles, and power (see Daniel 5:7). However, contrary to Satan’s seductive promises, Belshazzar learns that rev- elation cannot be bought with money. Divinely sought answers require a divinely ordered life. He would eventually get his answer, but it would be to his utter condemnation.
Another prominent theme in this miracle story is the superiority of the wisdom of the servants of Jehovah, when compared to the thinking and “wisdom” of the “wise men” of this fallen world.20 With the added companionship of the Holy Ghost—and if we live lives in harmony with God’s commandments and our covenants—we can expect to have wisdom and direction beyond our own native capabilities. In this story, the approxi- mately eighty-one-year-old21 Daniel has intellectual (spiritually discerning) gifts far superior to his younger Babylonian counterparts—because righ- teous Daniel has the added help of God’s Spirit.22
On a related note, God’s hand is often manifest and yet it goes unno- ticed. Too often He intervenes in our lives, but out of a spirit of ingratitude or inattentiveness, we don’t notice God’s day-to-day dealings. In the case of this narrative, the king saw God’s hand manifest in his life, but couldn’t understand the meaning of it. Whereas ingratitude may cause us to miss God’s activity in our lives, sinfulness can make us incapable of understand- ing the meaning of the divine encounters we have. Living a Spirit-filled life allows us to discern both God’s presence, but also His meaning.
Daniel Chapter Six
Written by Cedar Fort Publishing & Media author Alonzo L. Gaskill (Miracles of the Old Testament)
Daniel Is Preserved in t he Lions’ Den Daniel 6:1–24
Darius, king of Babylon, positioned 120 local leaders to rule through- out his kingdom—and over them he placed three administrators, one of which was Daniel. To these three all of the local leaders were accountable (see Daniel 6:1).
Daniel so distinguished himself that the king sought to place him over the whole kingdom. However, this angered the local leaders and the other two national administrators. They were so angry at Daniel’s pending pro- motion that they tried to find grounds for charges against him for his con- duct in government affairs. Because of Daniel’s trustworthiness, they were unable to do so. Consequently, they sought to find fault with him regarding his religion (see Daniel 6:2–5).
The 122 local and national leaders went as a group to King Darius, and, having praised him, said that he should issue an edict that anyone who prays (during the next thirty days) to any god or man—other than the king—will be thrown into the lions’ den. They urged the king to put the decree in writ- ing, so that, in accordance with the laws of the Medes and Persians, it could not be repealed. Heeding their advice, the king did so (see Daniel 6:6–9).
When Daniel learned of the decree, he did not change his prayer habits. Three times each day, he went into the upper room of his home—where the windows opened toward Jerusalem—and he prayed on his knees to the God of Israel, giving Him thanks. The 122 leaders then spied on Daniel; and, finding him praying, they went as a group to the king and told him that Daniel was praying to the God of Israel. Then they pushed the king, reminding him that such was against the law, and pointed out to him that his decree was not retractable (see Daniel 6:10–13).
Loving Daniel as he did, the king was overwhelmed by the news. He sought to do all that he could to save his friend; however, the various lead- ers would not allow Darius to negate his own law, and so the king gave the order that Daniel be thrown into the lions’ den (see Daniel 6:14–16). Before the den was sealed, the king said to Daniel, “Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee” (see Daniel 6:16). Then the stone was place over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his signet—as did the other nobles—to ensure that no one allowed Daniel to escape (see Daniel 6:17).
The king returned to his palace, and spent a sleepless night, not eating or drinking, nor being entertained; but worrying continually about Daniel. At the first light of dawn, the king hurried to the lions’ den and called out to Daniel in an anguished voice, “O Daniel, servant of the living God, [was] thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?” (Daniel 6:20). Daniel shouted back, “O king, live forever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me” (Daniel 6:21–22). Daniel indicated to the king that the God of Israel had found him innocent, and, therefore, protected him through the night. Daniel also proclaimed his faithfulness toward the king, in spite of the things the other leaders had claimed (see Daniel 6:18–22).
The king was overwhelmed with joy, and ordered that Daniel be lifted out of the den. Upon inspection, it was evident that Daniel—because of his trust in God—had not a wound upon him (see Daniel 6:23).
Darius then commanded that the men who had falsely accused Daniel be thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children: “And the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces” (Daniel 6:24).
One source calculates that Daniel would have been about eighty-three years of age at the time of this miracle.1
Elsewhere we are told that “Darius the Mede [is] none other than Cyrus the Persian, using what may well have been his enthronement name.”2 Though the theory is definitely not widely embraced, if it is true, it would explain Darius’s love for Daniel and his trust in the God of Israel who had mentioned Cyrus by name years before the monarch’s birth (see Isaiah 4 4 : 2 8 – 45 :1)
Miracles of the Old Testament
Though neither a Mede nor a Persian, Daniel’s long experience with Babylonian government made him an obvious choice as one of the three “commissioners” or “presidents” to preside (under the king) over the 120 “princes” or “satraps.”3 “But after he had assumed office and turned in a record of exceptional performance, it became obvious that he had superhu- man knowledge and skill; and he became a likely choice for prime minister.”4
Daniel is described as “[going] into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (Daniel 6:10). Of this, one commentary suggests,
The Jewish custom of facing, while at prayer, toward the Temple of Jerusalem or its ruined site began during the Babylonian exile (cf. I Kings 8:44, 48 . . . ) and continued thereafter throughout the Diaspora (cf. 1 Ezd 4:58). The first Muslims, following Jewish custom, faced Jerusalem in prayer; but the direction (qiblah) was soon changed toward the Kaaba in Mecca. When a Jew prayed in a room, he did so at an open window (cf. Tobit 3:11) facing Jerusalem. Daniel prayed three times a day, at dawn, at midday, and toward evening—a custom already referred to in Ps 60:18 and later prescribed in the Talmud.5
The king knew that Daniel was a Jew; and, thus, one wonders why Darius would have passed a law that would potentially harm one whom he was so fond of. One commentator explained,
As an official delegation, they presented their proposal, falsely implying that Daniel had concurred in their legislation. “The royal administrators [of whom Daniel was chief], prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed” (v. 7)—i.e., in drawing up the decree. Darius should have noticed that Daniel was not there to speak for himself. Yet Darius had no reason to suspect that the other two royal administrators would misrepresent Daniel’s position in this matter, and certainly the reported unanimity of all the lower echelons of government must have stilled any doubts Darius had about the decree. The suggested mode of compelling every subject in the former Babylonian domain to acknowledge the authority of Persia seemed a statesmanlike measure that would contribute to the unification of the Middle and Near East. The time limit of one month [also] seemed reasonable.6
The statement that Darius “laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver” (Daniel 6:14) has been interpreted to mean that the king “thought of ways of protecting him from the lions, perhaps by overfeeding them or by covering Daniel with armor.”7 Elsewhere we read, “Behind the informative note in v. 14 . . . we are invited to imagine the fevered activity of the court lawyers looking for that never-to-be-found loophole.”8 In other words, the king did what he could to come up with an ingenious plan to save his dear friend, though to no avail.
The placement of the seal of the king and the lords upon the rock cover- ing the mouth of the pit, in which Daniel had been thrown, was to ensure that neither party—independent of the other—had the ability to surrepti- tiously intervene in the terrible process that was about to take place.9 The king would have reason to rescue Daniel, and the lords would have reason to hasten his death.10 With the double seal, the next morning, each could attest that no mortal had played a role in the events of the night.
One scholar offered the following assessment of the overarching sym- bolism in this passage. “In the present story, Daniel is really a figure of the Jewish people; and the pagan king, therefore, is a symbol of paganism.”11 Another text suggested that Daniel is an ideal type for Christ—as are all prophets.12 As a typological symbol for the Savior, there are a number of parallels between Daniel’s experience and Jesus’s. Here are a few commonly noted ones.
He was a child of no blemish (Daniel 1:4).
He had more wisdom than all the wise at a young age (Daniel 1:20).
He was preferred above all because an excellent spirit was in him (Daniel 6:3).
Jesus was the “lamb without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
“And all that heard [Jesus] were astonished at his understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47).
“And the Lord said unto me: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19).
No error or fault was found in him (Daniel 6:4).
Those jealous of his power sought occasion under the law against him, but could find none (Daniel 6:4).
Leaders sought to entrap him (Daniel 6:5–9).
He continued in righteousness, notwithstanding the threat (Daniel 6:10 –11).
He was condemned to death (Daniel 6:12–13).
The ruler sought to have him released (Daniel 6:14).
The people would not allow his release (Daniel 6:15).
The den of death was sealed with a stone (Daniel 6:17).
Jesus “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).
Those jealous of Jesus’s power sought occasion under the law to convict him, but could find no legitimate crime (John 18:28–38; Matthew 27:18).
“Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15).
Because of unfailing obedience and faithfulness, the scriptures refer to the Savior as “Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1).
“And they were instant with loud voices, requiring that he might be crucified. . . . And Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they required. And he . . . delivered Jesus to their will” (Luke 23:23–25).
“And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him” (John 19:12).
“The Jews cried out, saying, If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar” (John 19:12).
“And [Joseph of Arimathea] rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre” (Matthew 27:60).
Rising early in the morning, believer(s) came to the place to see him (Daniel 6:19).
Those who believed in him assumed he was dead (Daniel 6:20).
Being delivered from death, his message to those who sought him is “live for ever” (Daniel 6:21).
He was delivered from death because “before [God] innocency was found in [him]” (Daniel 6:22).
He came forth in perfect condition (Daniel 6:23).
Those who fight against him shall die (Daniel 6:24).
As a result of his miraculous deliverance, the gospel of the Lord’s deliverance was published throughout all the earth (Daniel 6:25–27).
“The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre” (John 20:1).
After Jesus’s death, and not understanding that Jesus would rise from the dead, His disciples when back to their former trades (John 21).
Jesus taught His disciples that by partaking of the symbols of His death they could “live for ever” (John 6:51).
“For the Messiah also suffered for sins once for all, an innocent person for the guilty, so that he could bring you to God” (ISV 1 Peter 3:18).
“And they shall see me in the clouds of heaven, clothed with power and great glory” (D&C 45:44).
“Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish” (Isaiah 41:11).
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
For ancient Israelites, lions were vicious, almost unstoppable killers who would take from their flocks at will. Lions, in the Hebrew Bible, evoke images of “ferocity, destructive power, and irresistible strength.” The sym- bolic “mouth of the lion is a predicament from which escape seems hopeless (Dan 6:22; 2 Tim 4:17; cf. Ps 22:21; Heb 11:33).”13 This standard symbolic meaning seems to apply well to the setting and situation described in this miracle.
Pits are common symbols for “prison”—the metaphor being drawn from actual use, where a dry cistern often functioned as a jail (see Zechariah 9:11). They also symbolize an “inescapable predicament” and the “grave”— death being inescapable.14 Daniel’s incarceration in the pit-like den of the lions seems to capture each of these images; he is imprisoned, it seems ines- capable, and death seems certain.
Application and Allegorization
Daniel’s choice to continue to pray to the God of Israel, rather than holding off for a month (as commanded), was not an act of belligerence toward the king or the laws of the land.15 Certainly, his regular prayers to God had “safeguarded” him from the “corrupting influences of Babylonian culture.”16 However, he may also have felt that to hold off for a month was to offend the very Being who had placed him in—and sustained him in—his position of power in the government. Dare he try to succeed in his government post alone? “Daniel could not compromise. For him the issue was whether he was going to please man or obey God. Daniel had to choose between loyalty to his Lord and obedience to a sinful govern- ment commanding him to perform idolatry. So he was willing to risk his life for the Lord, trusting him for deliverance even as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been delivered years before.”17 As a modern example of this same approach to faith, leadership, and the risks posed, consider the experience of President Ronald Reagan. As governor of California, Reagan had a spiritual experience in which he believed he was told by God that he would become President of the United States.18 Consequently, Reagan felt like his election was a calling from God; and, thus, he felt he had a duty to testify of God in his position. For example, after securing his party’s nomi- nation on July 17, 1980, Reagan said to those gathered in the convention center, “I’ll confess that I’ve been a little afraid to suggest what I’m going to suggest—I’m more afraid not to: that we begin our crusade joined together in a moment of silent prayer.”19 Reagan lamented, “Not enough of us use our talents and our positions in testimony of God’s goodness.” He added, “My own prayer is that I can . . . perform the duties of this position so as to serve God.”20 Because he believed that he had been called to the presi- dency by God, Reagan frequently and openly spoke of God when he gave speeches. One source noted that “The Presidential Handwriting File at the Reagan Library . . . is filled with examples of religious phrases and verses handwritten into speechwriters’ texts by Reagan.”21 When he would review drafts of speeches that his speechwriters had composed, the president was known to heavily edit them—inserting statements about God and Christ.22 Reagan was frequently and aggressively criticized for his openness about his belief in God. For example, one Soviet news analyst condescendingly noted, “Whenever Mr. Reagan delivers a speech, he always mentions his religious feelings.”23 The New York Times and the Washington Post were particularly critical of the president’s tendency to use “religious statements [in] his public discourse.”24 For instance, the Times said that the “only appropriate venue for [the types of remarks that Reagan regularly made was] in church.” “You don’t have to be a secular humanist to take offense at [the] display of what, in America, should be private piety. It is an offense to Americans . . . when a President speaks that way.”25 Similarly, on February 13, 1984, a reporter from Knight Ridder (the second-largest newspaper publisher at the time) took Reagan to task for his outspoken Christianity, and his “divisive” preaching of “the Gospel of Christ” from the Oval Office. To this, Reagan responded that he felt, “There is a responsibility in this position . . . to do those things.”26 Reagan wore the criticisms by the press as “a badge of honor.”27 There is a lesson to be learned from men like Daniel and Reagan; both knew that God had blessed them and positioned them, and both felt a duty to live faithful to the God who had—that they might receive the divine support they knew they needed. Both faced serious risks for their choices; Daniel thrown into the lions’ den, and Reagan into the den of media lions. Both felt that God blessed and sustained them for their efforts to stand up for their God—and for openly living their faith. Are we as committed to Christ? Do we live our religion openly and faithfully? Are we missing the blessings that God has in store for us—or our families—because we are ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? (see Romans 1:16).
We read that “Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God” (Daniel 6:23). By way of application, it is worth noting that we have no promise that we will always be spared from the hurt our enemies seek to bring upon us. However, in the end, we—like Daniel—shall be elevated out of the hands of our ene- mies, without mar or scar. Similarly, like Daniel’s enemies, those who fight against God and His anointed servants shall ultimately be destroyed. Thus, there may be difficult days when we face the lions. However, the end result of the faithful will ever be the same; they shall be raised up and all earthly scars—whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual—will be removed. What a glorious promise!
One commentator on this story offers an interesting insight regarding the prayers of the pagan king, Darius, on behalf of Daniel—a member of the household of faith. “It is this prayer above all that makes this chapter different from all that has gone before, because an ‘outsider,’ a king of the nations, is exercising faith, however dimly, in Daniel’s God, and it is in the interests of fostering that faith that evidence of God’s power can be expected.”28 It may be the case that some within the Church may ques- tion the efficacy of the prayers of those not of our tradition. Such would be wrongheaded. (Nevertheless, I have run into such a view on occasion.) This miracle extolls the prayer of the “nonmember”—the nonbeliever. It paints them as instrumental to the accomplishment of God’s work and will. I’m reminded of the experience of a colleague of mine, who had been hospi- talized with a life-threatening illness. A dear friend of his—a Protestant pastor—visited the hospital, and, as they sat together, asked his LDS friend if he could pray over him. The Mormon graciously accepted this great act of faith by his non-LDS friend. And, in the end, my colleague recovered. The point is that God hears and answers the prayers of all who are sincere— regardless of what their religious tradition is. And, in our hours of need, we would do well to enlist the aid (in fasting and prayer) of our non-LDS, as well as our LDS, friends. God heard Darius, and He will surely hear the prayers and petitions of each of His faith-filled children, regardless of their denomination.
While there are a number of applications that can be drawn from this miracle, an important one is embracing the present circumstances while awaiting God’s promises for the future. For this story reminds us:
Hope does not reside in any human, however powerful, but in God alone. The story of Daniel offers hope, not a remedy. The reader is asked to grasp hold of that hope not as the sure and certain means of deliverance but as an attitude to life. Any finely constructed doctrine would have foundered on the rock of present experience. Only the belief in resurrection ([Daniel] 12:2–3) could give the imprecision of life a more satisfying reply.29
In other words, this story leaves us—and each of the participants in the nar- rative—wondering, how will this turn out? There are no guarantees. Daniel is fortunate, and things seem to work to his advantage; but often that’s not the case. And, in the story at hand, no promise was made of redemp- tion. Thus, the king had reason to doubt, and Daniel had reason to doubt.
During the mortal experience, God will save whom He will save. While we can’t be very certain about the here and now, we can trust in His promises regarding eternity.
I like John Chrysostom’s simple assessment of the meaning of the story, “When things are turning out adversely, then we ought to believe nothing adverse is done but all things in due order.”30 While during our trials, our natural tendency may be to panic, we would do wise to embrace Chrysostom’s philosophy and trust that God is in charge and what should happen will happen—provided we are faithful.
The other two presidents, and many of the princes, were jealous of Daniel’s gifts and how the king acknowledged them.
The penalty of greatness is the envy of inferiors. Those who have good eyesight do not feel pain when the light of the sun shines upon them. But the man whose vision is weak feels distressed when the rays of the “ruler of the day” fall upon him. The pain tells him that he had diseased eyes. But God cannot remove the sun from the heavens on that account. Daniel was the sun in the Persian kingdom, showing to all who came under his influence what a good ruler really was. But the intense light of his character was too strong for men whose conduct he thus condemned and who were thus made painfully conscious of their own shortcomings. “Who is able to stand before envy?” (Prov. xxvii. 4).31
Daniel fell prey to what all great leaders do: the envy and wrath of lesser men. During the Spanish Inquisition, it was the practice—before taking one to the stake to be martyred—to clothe him in garments covered with painted devils in order to shame them in the eyes of their fellow citizens. And so the envious often do to their victims; just as the princes and presi- dents clothed Daniel in the garments of a rebel in order to bring shame upon him before the king. The envious often know no bounds—going to any length to destroy those that they are envious of. Such encounters are inevitably painful and, in the midst of them, one can only do as Daniel did—place all trust in God to see you through.
The fact that Daniel, serving as the equivalent of a prime minister, would take time out of his busy schedule to pray is, itself, a lesson. “Nobody is in greater haste than the driver of an express train, yet he never grudges the time consumed in oiling the wheels of his engine.”32 Regardless of our job, calling, or assignment, we should take time out of each day to keep our- selves spiritually healthy. None of us is gifted enough to do our divine call- ing—whether that be ecclesiastical leader, employee, spouse, or parent— without the help of God.
Daniel Chapter 7
Selection: verses 9–10, 13–14
In chapter 7, Daniel sees in vision the meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman, to be held in the last days before the Second Coming of the Savior.
We will take a minute to discuss background to this vision that Daniel was given. About seventy miles, northeast of Independence, Missouri, is a sacred place called Adam-ondi-Ahman. “It is the place where Adam shall come to visit his people, or the Ancient of Days [Adam] shall sit, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet” (D&C 116:1).
In the Doctrine and Covenants we are taught that a great conference of Adam and Eve’s righteous poster- ity was held at Adam-ondi-Ahman three years prior to Adam’s death. We read:
Doctrine & Covenants 107:53–56
53 Three years previous to the death of Adam, he called Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, and Methuselah, who were all high priests, with the residue of his posterity who were righteous, into the valley of Adam-ondi-Ah- man, and there bestowed upon them his last blessing.
54 And the Lord appeared unto them, and they rose up and blessed Adam, and called him Michael, the prince, the archangel.
55 And the Lord administered comfort unto Adam, and said unto him: I have set thee to be at the head; a multitude of nations shall come of thee, and thou art a prince over them forever.
56 And Adam stood up in the midst of the congregation; and, notwith- standing he was bowed down with age, being full of the Holy Ghost, predicted whatsoever should befall his posterity unto the latest generation.
Shortly before the Second Coming of Christ, another great council will be held at Adam-ondi-Ahman. We read of this in Daniel. He had a vi- sion in which he saw that millions of righteous people will attend this great meeting.
9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down [Daniel saw the future, includ- ing the downfall of governments in the last days, as spoken of in D&C 87:6], and the Ancient of days [Adam] did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool [see Isaiah 1:18, where “white as snow” and “pure wool” are as- sociated with one’s being completely cleansed by the Atonement of Christ]: his throne [Adam is in a position of great power and authority] was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10 A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands [millions] ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand [a hundred million] stood before him [this will be a large meeting]: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
13 I [Daniel] saw in the night vi- sions, and, behold, one like the Son of man [a biblically respectful way of saying Jehovah—in other words, Christ] came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days [Adam], and they brought him [Christ] near before him [Adam—see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, page 157].
Next, we see in Daniel’s vision that the keys of leadership are given back to Christ during this grand council in preparation for His ruling and reigning as “Lord of lords, and King of kings” (Revelation 17:14) during the Millennium.
14 And there was given him [Christ] dominion, and glory, and a king- dom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him [dur- ing the Millennium]: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Joseph Fielding Smith taught about this meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman before the Second Coming. He said that “all who have held keys will make their reports and deliver their stewardships, as they shall be re- quired. Adam will . . . then . . . make his report, as the one holding the keys for this earth, to his Superior Officer, Jesus Christ. Our Lord will then assume the reins of govern- ment; directions will be given to the Priesthood; and He, whose right it is to rule, will be installed officially by the voice of the Priesthood there assembled. This grand council of Priesthood will be composed, not only of those who are faithful who now dwell on this earth, but also of the prophets and apostles of old, who have had directing authority. Others may also be there, but if so they will be there by appointment, for this is to be an official council called to attend to the most momen- tous matters concerning the destiny of this earth” (Way to Perfection, pages 290–91).
Among other things, Bruce R. Mc- Conkie taught the following about this council at Adam-ondi-Ahman (bold added for emphasis):
“But Daniel has yet more to say about the great events soon to tran- spire at Adam-ondi-Ahman. And we need not suppose that all these things shall happen in one single meeting or at one single hour in time. It is proper to hold numerous meetings at a general conference, some for the instruction of lead- ers, others for edification of all the Saints. In some, business is trans- acted; others are for worship and spiritual refreshment. And so Daniel says: ‘I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.’ Christ comes to Adam, who is sit- ting in glory. He comes to conform to his own priestal order. He comes to hear the report of Adam for his stewardship. He comes to take back the keys of the earthly kingdom. He comes to be invested with glory and dominion so that he can reign per- sonally upon the earth” (The Millen- nial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, page 585).
You may wish to read more about this meeting at Adam-ondi-Ahman in Millennial Messiah, pages 578– 88.
Elder McConkie also taught:
“At this council, all who have held keys of authority will give an ac- counting of their stewardship to Adam. Christ will then come, re- ceive back the keys, and thus take one of the final steps preparatory to reigning personally upon the earth. (Dan. 7:9–14; Teachings, p. 157.)” (Mormon Doctrine, page 21).
Before we leave Daniel, we will con- sider one other insight. It is interest- ing to note that the Garden of Eden was located in what is now Jackson County, Missouri. Joseph Fielding Smith taught this:
“In accord with the revelations giv- en to the Prophet Joseph Smith, we teach that the Garden of Eden was on the American continent lo- cated where the City Zion [in Jack- son County, Missouri], or the New Jerusalem, will be built. . . . When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden, they eventually dwelt at a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman, situated in what is now Daviess County, Missouri” (Doctrines of Sal- vation, vol. 3, page 74).
Thus, when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, they went to the area of Adam-ondi-Ah- man to dwell. In other words, things got started in Missouri, in the Gar- den of Eden, as far as mortal life on this earth is concerned, and things will have gone full circle back to Missouri and the council at Adam- ondi-Ahman as the time for the Millennium nears.
Daniel Chapter Two Notes
Miracles of the Old Testament Notes
Daniel Chapter Six Notes
International Theological Commentary, 70.
Miracles of the Old Testament
Daniel Chapter Notes
Miracles of the Old Testament
International Theological Commentary, 33.
in Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture, 178.
Daniel Chapter Five Notes
International Theological Commentary, 54.