Israel in Babylon – (Daniel 1:1, 2)
Daniel is a book that testifies to God’s absolute sovereignty; specifically God’s absolute sovereignty over all the kingdoms of men.
The biblical concept of a kingdom, states Alva McClain, “envisages a total situation containing at least three essential elements: first, a ruler with adequate authority and power; second, a realm of subjects to be ruled; and third, the actual exercise of the function of rulership.” God is alone the sole and proper sovereign and ruler of the universe. He alone obtains the power and authority to rule all of men’s kingdoms here on earth. Kings are allowed to be kings because God has allowed them to be kings.
The scriptures reveal how mankind has consistently rebelled against God’s sovereignty. They do so by creating — or perhaps more accurately stated — attempting to create, their own kingdoms in place of God’s. The history of scripture reveals a battle waged against God’s sovereign kingdom. One that was began by Satan who attempted to usurp God’s rule by leading our first parents astray into rebellion. Men continue the same battle against God on an individual, personal level and ultimately on a national level.
In vain men fight against God, so they turn their attention to God’s servants, the subjects of God’s sovereign realm. And though they may wield some of the most ferocious, horrific persecutions against these subjects, they are in fact fighting against the Sovereign King of this realm. He will rise against them to defend His people.
Daniel presents the struggle of the gentile kingdoms against God’s people, Israel. The prophet reveals God’s sovereignty, not only over the gentile kingdoms, but also His people by giving them over to those kingdoms for judgment.
In the opening two verses of Daniel chapter 1, the prophet establishes the setting of his prophecy.
The Timing: God had clearly revealed that He would put Israel into bondage to other nations if they persisted in unrepentant idolatry and disobedience to the covenant they made with God at Sinai. Deuteronomy 28:64 and following state,
64 ” Then the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known — wood and stone. 65 “And among those nations you shall find no rest, nor shall the sole of your foot have a resting place; but there the LORD will give you a trembling heart, failing eyes, and anguish of soul. 66 “Your life shall hang in doubt before you; you shall fear day and night, and have no assurance of life. 67 “In the morning you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Oh, that it were morning!’ because of the fear which terrifies your heart, and because of the sight which your eyes see. 68 “And the LORD will take you back to Egypt in ships, by the way of which I said to you, ‘You shall never see it again.’ And there you shall be offered for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but no one will buy you.”
Israel had split into two kingdoms shortly after Solomon’s death (1 Kings 12). Ten tribes made up the northern kingdom of Israel and two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, made up the southern kingdom of Judah. The northern kingdom always did wickedly before God and in 722 B.C. the Assyrians took that kingdom into captivity and utterly destroyed it. Judah, on the other hand, had a mixture of ungodly kings and godly kings, but in spite of the godly kings who often brought revival under their reign, around 100 years later, due to persistent disobedience (2 Kings 23:27), God gave Judah over to the Babylonians starting in 605 B.C.
Daniel was born sometime around 620 B.C. when king Josiah would have been on the throne. Pharaoh Neco killed Josiah at Meggido when Egpyt went to battle againt the Assyrians with whom Josiah was aligned (2 Kings 23:28-30). His son, Jehoahaz, ruled in his place for 3 months (2 Kings 23:31-33) until Neco deposed him and placed him into prison. Neco put Jehoiakim, the eldest son of Josiah, upon the throne (2 Kings 23:34-24:6) and he ruled from 609-597 B.C. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians defeated Neco and Egypt at the battle of Carchemish (May-June of 605 B.C.) and then went to Jerusalem and besieged it (Daniel 1:1). It was during this first invasion that Daniel and his three friends were taken to Babylon, along with some of the articles from the temple. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah two more times: in 597 B.C. when Ezekiel, the king Jehoiachin, and 10,000 Judean citizens were taken captive (2 Kings 24:12-16), and then a third and final time in 586 B.C. when the entire nation was taken into captivity.
The Judgment: There are a few thoughts to consider in these 2 opening verses.
– First, one will note that it is The Lord, not LORD. Daniel doesn’t use God’s covenant name YHWH, but instead refers to Him as Adonai, which is to say, the supreme sovereign. Daniel wants his readers to know it was God doing this captivity. The Babylonians were merely instruments to fulfill God’s purposes.
– Next, the text says that the Lord delivered or gave the king and the people into the hands of the Babylonians. This means that God was not asleep, nor was He neglecting His people. He was in complete control over the situation. It wasn’t the Babylonian’s might nor Nebuchadnezzar’s military genius that brought Jerusalem’s downfall. No. It was God’s sovereign will.
– The text also states that God gave to the Babylonians some temple artifacts. It is not specific as to what those things were, but there are some thoughts to considered:
This was God’s temple – “The House of God.” God allowed these gentiles to violate His temple. The instruments taken were necessary for worship. By this act of the Babylonians, God is removing those items needful for proper worship. If none desired to worship Him, then He closes the means of worship.
It is also important to note that the article is affixed to the word “God” in the Hebrew. YHWH was not just one god among many, but He is the only true God. All others are illusions.
However, notice what Nebuchadnezzar does. He takes the articles back to Babylon and puts them in the temple of his false god. In a manner of speaking, Neb. was treating these articles as trophies of thanks. His act was a way of showing that Israel’s God could not defend the people, nor Himself – at least in Neb’s. mind. He was under the mistaken notion that his god, Marduk, was greater. But God will straighten him out about this in due time.
– And then one final point. See how the land of Babylon is described as Shinar. The word “Shinar” has some theological baggage. In Genesis 10:8-10 describes how the beginning of Nimrod’s kingdom Babylon was in the land of Shinar. Nimrod was a violent dictator, but it was in Babylon — in the land of Shinar — where his kingdom began. Moreover, note Genesis 11:2 and following. After the flood, men gathered in the land of Shinar and it was there that the tower of Babel was built. Daniel is identifying Israel’s enemy with the very place where treason against God started. It is also the place where God judged the nations with the confusion of languages. Israel has been given over to a foreign power who speaks a foreign language. Israel was given over to a foreign nation who spoke in a foreign tongue in the exact location where God’s judgment against the nations was the confusion of their own languages.