Theology and Politics from a Conservative, Biblical Perspective
In our previous third installment in this series, we began tracing the beginnings of the four empires revealed by God through Daniel to King Nebuchadnezzar. We noted that these four empires are revealed, highlighted, and discussed mainly in Daniel 2 and 7. We stated last time that we are intent to provide biblical (and confirmed secular), history of these four main empires because they will ultimately segue into the coming one-world system of governance that will still have authority over Israel under God’s design.
We noted that the problem for Israel began when they chose to consistently ignore several laws given by God through Moses. These laws were related to the avoidance at all costs of idolatry as well as the observance of land Sabbaths and Jubilee. The Bible confirms to us repeatedly that Israel had a huge problem avoiding idolatry, but just as importantly (to God), the nation also had a difficulty keeping many of the laws given to them through Moses.
For instance, they were supposed to allow the land they farmed to lie fallow every seventh year (a “seven”). This would allow for the land to replenish itself with the vital nutrients used to grow crops. Today, this is rarely done and instead farmers frequently use chemicals (fertilizers and weed killers), that are added to the soil so that planting can continue without letup. God had a better way and informed Israel of His way to allow the land a rest every seventh year. This they ignored. They also were not religiously observant when it came time to the year of Jubilee. We referenced information from Leviticus 25:8-12 for this.
Over time, all the failure to observe every seventh year Sabbath added up to quite a lot of time (490 years in total); time that God was clearly keeping track of where Israel was concerned. Please note that God was not keeping track of any other nation and whether or not they failed to observe the seventh-year land Sabbath. This was part of Israel’s required way of dealing with farm land and it will likely be so during the coming Millennial Kingdom following the Tribulation.
The first three empires of Daniel 2 and 7. Note 3rd Empire – Grecian – breaks into four parts. Under one of those generals, Antiochus Epiphanes IV creates the abomination of desolation in 168 BC.
We presented a good amount of information in our last two articles in this series and highlighted numerous portions of the book of Daniel. As indicated, the four empires that had some or a great deal of control over Israel were first discussed in Daniel 2. More information was provided in Daniel 7. Other things also occurred in other chapters, including the break up of Alexander the Great’s empire (the third kingdom revealed to Daniel), into four parts, over which one of his generals ruled.
Under one of these generals – Seleucus who grabbed Syria, Babylonia, and India as his portion from the Grecian Empire – was a man by the name of Antiochus Epiphanes IV. His hatred of the Jewish people seemed to know no bounds. It was on his way back to Syria from a failed attempt to attack Egypt (stopped by a messenger with a letter from Rome indicating that if he went ahead with his attack on Egypt, he would be inviting the wrath of the Roman Empire), Epiphanes took a slight turn and headed off to Jerusalem to vent his anger and frustration on the Jews. This was in 168 BC.
Once he arrived to Jerusalem, he sacrificed a pig on the altar inside the then standing Jewish Temple. He then sprinkled the blood of that pig around inside the Holy of Holies and also set up a statue of the pagan god, Zeus. Of course, this was not only an affront to Jewish priests and people (and God), but it caused the sacrifices to cease because the temple had been desecrated. The other result was roughly two decades of warring between zealous Jews and factions of Syria that ended in the Jews gaining their freedom from subjugation in approximately 142 BC. But of course, the next empire to rise up from the ashes of the Grecian Empire was Rome, which was already on the rise during Antiochus’ day.
As we arrive to Daniel 9, we begin to zero in on specific times and timelines decreed by God Himself, with more of an explanation provided as to the exact amount of time that the Jewish people (Israel) would be under the thumb to some extent of Gentiles. We need to recall that had Israel been faithfully observant with respect to avoiding idolatry and fulfilling her responsibility with respect to the land Sabbath as well as Jubilee, all would have been well. For Israel to have accomplished this, it would have meant having kings who took seriously their role as leader and being faithful in leading the people of Israel to keep all of God’s Law found in the Mosaic code. This was simply not the case and even though there were very likely people in Israel who had faith in God and believed His promises to them, the tone of the entire nation as determined by the corrupt and selfish kings who ruled over Israel was what God zeroed in on and the entire nation paid the price for their kings’ unfaithfulness in many things.
Daniel 9 begins with Daniel having been in Babylonian captivity for some time, a fate suffered by all of Israel, though because of His own faithfulness to Jehovah was rewarded with a very high position in service to King Nebuchadnezzar. We could go so far as to say that because of Daniel’s faithfulness, Nebuchadnezzar came to see the truth about Jehovah after being seriously humbled by God for seven years (cf. Daniel 4).
Daniel 9 tells us that Daniel had been busy reading and studying the writings of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2). If we go to the book of Jeremiah, we learn just exactly what Daniel had been reading.
9 Behold, I will send and take all the families of the north, saith the Lord, and Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will bring them against this land, and against the inhabitants thereof, and against all these nations round about, and will utterly destroy them, and make them an astonishment, and an hissing, and perpetual desolations.
10 Moreover I will take from them the voice of mirth, and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride, the sound of the millstones, and the light of the candle.
11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.
12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the Lord, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations.
Note verses 11 and 12 indicate that the specific amount of time the Jews will be held in captivity in Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar was to be a total of 70 years. When that time was up, the people would be released from their captivity and this occurred under Darius, the Mede. This is what got Daniel all excited because that time was fast approaching, so Daniel sought the Lord as we read in Daniel 9, starting with verse 3. As we learn though, this 70-year captivity really only dealt with part of the punishment against Israel for their failure. Gabriel will reveal to Daniel more specifics about the entire length of time that was/is to affect the nation of Israel (beginning with Daniel 9:24ff).
Daniel’s prayer is beautifully stated and in it, he almost acts the part of the high priest (though not officially), and please notice that Daniel included himself in the confession of his nation’s sins. He continues praying until verse 20 when he is literally interrupted by Gabriel, whom he refers to as “the man.” This does not mean that he thought Gabriel was a man, but that he appeared as a man. Certainly, Daniel knew Gabriel was an angelic messenger.
Gabriel immediately begins to speak to Daniel saying, “O Daniel, I have now come out to give you insight and understanding. At the beginning of your pleas for mercy a word went out, and I have come to tell it to you, for you are greatly loved. Therefore consider the word and understand the vision” (Daniel 9:22-23). How beautiful and wonderful is that, to be told “you are greatly loved”?
Gabriel announces the reason he arrived, which was “to give [Daniel] insight and understanding” about the length of time that would affect Israel. Following his greeting and regards to Daniel, Gabriel tells him to “consider the word and understand the vision,” that he is about to tell him (v. 23b). What follows is new information not previously revealed in Scripture. It one of the most well-known passages of the Old Testament and certainly, one of the most hotly debated.
We’ll take it up from that point next time and it is important to realize that the Bible is still providing information regarding the progression of the four empires first revealed in Daniel 2. I hope you’ll join me then.