In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god. Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility,youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. Daniel 1:1–3
Daniel’s book does not begin with Daniel! Tremendous events were shaking the ancient world and bringing changes that would forever impact not only Israel but every nation on earth. It began three generations before Daniel in the days of Uzziah, King of Judah (Isa. 6:1). For centuries, God had erated the rebellion and idolatry of Israel, special possession and earthly testimony (Ex. 19:3-6). He had repeatedly disciplined them with afflictions and warned them through His servants, the prophets. But the time had come.
In the days of Uzziah, the I AM appeared to Isaiah, Judah’s royal prophet, with a serious proclamation: time was up. Israel had repeatedly violated the covenant and had resolutely refused to return, in spite of God’s compassion and correction. Now the curses of the covenant would be fully enacted upon this rebellious people (Isa. 1:1–7; 6:8–13). Over the ensuing decades, God took up His rod, the Assyrian Empire, and judged the world. The Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Syria were destroyed; their surrounding kingdoms were overcome and deported. The Kingdom of Judah—the home of Isaiah, and future home of Daniel—was desolated but finally delivered by divine intervention. Even the mighty Kingdom of Egypt and the faraway kingdoms of Cush and Elam would feel God’s wrath through Assyrian invasions. Finally, the I AM dealt with Assyria itself, destroying it through a combination of civil strife and foreign invasion.
Daniel was born into a kingdom and a world wasted and wearied but still determined to hold to its own evil imaginations. Therefore, the I AM announced the coming of a new power: Babylon (Jer. 25:1–9). The Book of Daniel opens with the execution of this prophecy. Its opening verses describe the first of what would be a total of four deportations by which the I AM would destroy the Kingdom of Judah and, in doing so, end Israel’s role as His testimony among the nations. Yet this was only the beginning of a much larger, far-reaching story. Eternal purposes were at work and soon to be exhibited in the one place we would least expect to find them: the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.
Illustrations by Kitti Touzeau