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Daniel-Introduction-Historical Background of the Book of Daniel

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Daniel: Introduction to the Book of Daniel-Historical Background of the Book of Daniel-Lesson # 3


Wenstrom Bible Ministries

Pastor-Teacher Bill Wenstrom

Thursday November 10, 2011

Daniel: Introduction to the Book of Daniel-Historical Background of the Book of Daniel

Lesson # 3

Please turn in your Bibles to Genesis 10:8.

God used the prophet Daniel to declare His message to Babylon, Medo-Persia and Israel over a period of approximately seventy years.

Daniel and his three companions were of royal descent and were taken captive in 605 B.C. to Babylon for training in service to King Nebuchadnezzar.

The city of Babylon was founded by Nimrod according to Genesis 10:10 who made it his capital.

However, Babylonian religious tradition gives credit to the god Marduk.

Genesis 10:8 Now Cush became the father of Nimrod (“rebel”); he became a mighty one on the earth. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. (NASB95)

“Babel” is located in modern Iraq, about twenty miles south of Baghdad, near the modern city of Hilla, on the Euphrates River, south of where the Tigris and Euphrates approach.

Babylon had long been the commercial and pagan religious center of the entire Mesopotamian region.

The city was at its zenith when Daniel was taken captive.

Nebuchadnezzar expanded the city and made it a magnificent capital of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

The city was a square and was approximately 14 miles on each side and was surrounded by a double wall with a wide moat in between.

The inner wall was about 75 feet high and 32 feet wide and the outer wall of the city was about 344 feet high and 86 feet wide.

Four horse chariots could run on top of the wall, pass each other and turn.

The Euphrates River flowed through the city and orchards and fields were within the city walls.

The famous hanging gardens were one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

The walls, palaces, temples and homes associate with the city were built with brick.

An Artists Reconstruction of Babylon (Holman Bible Atlas)

Babylon and Its Environs, Sixty Century B.C. (Logos Deluxe Map Set)

Babylon asserted her independence in 627 B.C.

She and Media joined forces in 612 B.C. to sack the Assyrian capital, Nineveh.

Ashur-uballit led some Assyrians to flee eastward to Haran and it was at this location that they declared authority over all Assyria.

The King of Babylon at the time, Nabopolassar moved in 611 B.C. against these Assyrian forces in Haran and 610 B.C., he allied with Media and attacked Haran.

This led to the withdrawal of Assyrian forces in that city where they settled westward beyond the Euphrates River and thus left Haran to the Babylonians.

The Assyrians sought help from Pharaoh Neco II of Egypt in 609 B.C.

In Palestine, the king of Judah, Josiah attempted to attract the favor of the Babylonians by preventing the Egyptians from joining Assyria and engage the Egyptian army at Megiddo where he was defeated and killed (2 Kings 23:28-30; 2 Chronicles 35:24).

Thus, Pharaoh Neco joined forces with the Assyrians and together they assaulted Babylon at Haran but were repelled.

Assyria no longer was a major player in the ancient world from this point on but Egypt continued to engage Babylon in battle after this conflict in Haran.

All resistance was crushed with the conquest of Haran, which was occupied by the remnant of the Assyrian military in 610 B.C.

That the might of Assyria was at an end was a fulfillment of the prophecies of the Israelite prophets Zephaniah (2:13ff.) and Nahum (3:1ff.).

The Tigris river served as a boundary marker for dividing up the empire with the Babylonians taking the territory to the west and south and the Medes taking the land to the north and east.

Nebuchadnezzar II married the daughter of the Medan king which served to unite the two nations into the New Babylonian empire (612-539 B.C.) and after the downfall of Assyria Neco marched into Palestine.

He did this to assist the Assyrian forces according to the Babylonian Chronicle published in 1923 by Gadd.

Josiah did not want Neco to aid the enemies of Judah and thus sought to stop him at Megiddo.

However he was assassinated there in 609 B.C. Jehoahaz II, the son of Josiah was installed as king but after three months he was ousted by Neco in favor of his elder brother Jehoiakim.

Neco made him a tributary and demanded him to pay one hundred talents of silver and of gold (2 Kings 23:33).

As these events were transpiring the prophet Jeremiah was asserting his influence in the political arena by rebuking the Temple priests (Jeremiah 26:8ff.), false prophets (Jeremiah 23:9ff.) and government officials (Jeremiah 36:12ff.).

Consequently, his ministry was rejected and was marked by constant opposition and persecution.

Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be overtaken by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9ff.).

He attempted to influence the political policies of his country so that Judah would become a vassal of Babylon and thus escape destruction (Jeremiah 27:6ff.).

In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar attacked Egypt in the Battle of Carchemish which resulted in the defeat of Egypt.

The Babylonian king pursued the Egyptians and thus expanded his area of authority by going into Syria and toward Palestine.

Upon learning of the death of his father Nabopolassar, Nebuchadnezzar returned from Riblah to Babylon in August 605 B.C. where he was crowned king.

After this he returned to Palestine and attacked Jerusalem in September 605 B.C.

This conquest of Jerusalem resulted in Daniel and his companions being taken back to Babylon as captives.

Nebuchadnezzar returned to Judah again a second time in 597 B.C. where he laid siege to Jerusalem in response to Jehoiachim’s ill advised rebellion.

At this point, Jerusalem was now subjugated to Babylon.

Ten thousand captives were taken to Babylon, one of whom was the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1:1-3; 2 Kings 23:8-20; 2 Chronicles 36:6-10).

Jehoiakim died that year and was succeeded by his son Jehoiachin who was also known as Jeconiah or Coniah.

He surrendered to the Babylonians after only three months in power.

He was taken as a prisoner to Babylon along with the royal family, the court, the upper classes and the artisans.

The Temple was looted and its articles taken as booty to Babylon.

After the attack in 597 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar established Zedekiah (Mattaniah) who was the uncle of Jehoiachin, as a puppet ruler in Judah.

He was urged to rebel and ally with Egypt against the protestations of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 37:6ff.; 38:14ff.).

Zedekiah did not pay heed to Jeremiah and allied himself with Egypt and revolted against Nebuchadnezzar.

The Chaldean armies invaded Judah in 587 B.C. and Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem after destroying the small Syrian states and laying siege to Lachish and Azekah as predicted by Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:9).

Jeremiah repeatedly predicted the destruction of the city of David by the Chaldeans and urged Zedekiah to capitulate but his counsel was rejected.

The prophet was accused of being a traitor and was thrown into prison but Zedekiah spared his life but he remained imprisoned throughout the siege.

In 588 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar returned a third time where he again laid siege to the city of David, breaching the walls and destroying the city and burned the temple of Solomon in 586 B.C.

The majority of Jews who were not killed in this offensive were also taken captive to Babylon (2 Kings 25;1-7; Jeremiah 34:1-7; 39:1-7; 52:2-11).

Nebuchadnezzar was one of the giants of the ancient world and was not only a magnificent military commander but also a great builder restoring many temples in Babylon and constructing a raised processional street from the Ishtar gate and built a colossal, ornate palace.

He was also known as a great lawgiver and judge since archaeologists have found his code of laws and his regulations for Babylon and for his court.

He was also involved in pagan idolatry and was considered very religious.

His records also show that he made an image to himself which appears to be the one mentioned in Daniel 3:1.

An archaeologist by the name of J. Oppert found remains of a forty-six foot square and twenty-foot-high brick platform that might have been used as the platform for the gold image mentioned in Daniel 3:1.

Like the Assyrian and Babylonian kings, his archives do not make mention of any of his defeats.

However, an inscription from the latter half of his reign indicates he was deposed from power for approximately four years.

This could be a reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s seven year exile mentioned in Daniel chapter four in which he acted like a wild animal which was the result of his failure to acknowledge Daniel’s God as sovereign over him.

The Jews returned from their exile in Babylon in 539 B.C when Cyrus overthrew Babylon and established the Medo-Persian Empire.

He issued a decree in 538 B.C. that permitted Jews to return to Jerusalem if they wanted to (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-4).

Fifty thousand Jewish exiles returned and began to rebuild the temple, which was an answer to Daniel’s prayer (Daniel 9:4-19).

The temple was completed in 515 B.C. (Ezra 6:15).

Seventy years had elapsed from the first deportation of Jews in 605 B.C. to the rebuilt foundation of the temple in 536 B.C.

This fulfilled Jeremiah’s prophecy as well (Jeremiah 25:11-12).

Chart No. 14

Deportations of the Israelites and Returns

Jewish Exiles in Babylonia (Holman Bible Atlas)

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