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Daniel Versus the Magicians of Babylon: Daniel Series #3

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Daniel Versus the Magicians of Babylon

Daniel Series #3

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Daniel Versus the Magicians of Babylon: Daniel Series #3

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The God of scripture communicates through the human instruments of His choosing, not our choosing.

Transcript

Daniel the Interpreter of Dreams

Daniel was placed, by God, into an important position within the court of the Babylonian King. He was put there to witness to God's sovereign power over all nations. The lesson for you and me is this: because God controls and directs the affairs of the earth kingdoms we should be mindful that He can and does control the events of your life.

Daniel 1:17-21 Daniel 1:17-21 [17] As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. [18] Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. [19] And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. [20] And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm. [21] And Daniel continued even to the first year of king Cyrus.
American King James Version×
 God was working with Daniel and his companions through the power of His spirit. God gave Daniel spiritual and intellectual gifts. He understood the literature, culture and wisdom of Babylon... but it would be the interpreting of dreams that would cause Daniel to rise to power in the king's court... where he would serve as God's witness.

Daniel  had proven his obedience through the simple test of not defiling himself with the royal food [either unclean or having been offered to idols]. This is why the book of Daniel begins with a test of obedience!  Acts 5:32 Acts 5:32And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God has given to them that obey him.
American King James Version×
"God gives His spirit to those who obey Him"

Dream Interpretation

Dream interpretation was an important part of Babylonian wisdom traditions. They believed "the gods" spoke to them through dreams.  But the dreams needed to be interpreted.

Initially, we find Daniel included with all the "magicians" and "enchanters".

  1. The word translated magician literally means engraver/writer/scribe. They maintained a body of Babylonian literature that was astrological and therefore occult in nature. Think of it as a library of rules, spells, omens, and dream interpretation.
  2. The word enchanter means one who used this information to establish contact with the spirit world to get guidance, insight, understanding. Supposedly, such men were in close contact with the spirits and “the gods” due to the nature of their studies. That is why they were considered important advisors to the king.

The king wanted the guidance and favor of the gods... this was a means to get it. The Babylonians would have considered these magicians benevolent, not evil and scary.  There would have been unofficial magicians out on the street who dealt in "black magic", love potions, curses, voodoo, but that was not the sort found in the king's court.

It's interesting to consider that Moses grew up learning the wisdom of Egypt which was similar in nature to that of Babylon. God used Moses to record regulations condemning the magic arts Leviticus 19:26 Leviticus 19:26You shall not eat any thing with the blood: neither shall you use enchantment, nor observe times.
American King James Version×
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; Leviticus 20:6 Leviticus 20:6And the soul that turns after such as have familiar spirits, and after wizards, to go a whoring after them, I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.
American King James Version×
; Deuteronomy 18:10-1 Deuteronomy 18:10-1
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2. God does not want humans to attempt to communicate with spirits.

However, Israel was offered a way to communicate with the spirit world, but there were strict rules and boundaries: 

  1. Communication was only allowed with YHWH
  2. Communication was facilitated through specific channels: the ordained priesthood and the written word.
  3. Coming before Him required cleanness and atonement for sin.
  4. YHWH also communicated through prophets, and visions... but these are the exception rather than the rule.

How Does God Speak to Us Today?

Hebrews 1:1-2 Hebrews 1:1-2 [1] God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, [2] Has in these last days spoken to us by his Son, whom he has appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
American King James Version×
in this age of the Church God primarily speaks to us through the written word and the understanding of it provided by the power of Christ spirit in us. God manages this through instruction and teaching from an ordained ministry Ephesians 4:11-14 Ephesians 4:11-14 [11] And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: [14] That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
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; 2 Peter 1:20 2 Peter 1:20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.
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When we go outside the channels authorized by God we open ourselves up to the forces of spiritual wickedness at work in our world. These rules are for our protection.

God Has A Message For Nebuchadnezzar

God has a message for Nebuchadnezzar and all who would follow. Through the bible we have a written record of that message. Its a foretelling of the great Gentile kingdoms to come. Kingdoms which would dominate the people of Israel from that time, until the return of Christ. Here’s what they need to know:

  1. I YHWH am in charge of human history, you can do nothing outside what I decree
  2. there is a predetermined end to your dominance
  3. I speak to you through the messengers of my choosing... not yours

Daniel 2:1-4 Daniel 2:1-4 [1] And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, with which his spirit was troubled, and his sleep broke from him. [2] Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. [3] And the king said to them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. [4] Then spoke the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.
American King James Version×
 these men were not being tricky or deceitful, this was just the way it was done. First, you tell us the dream, then we get out the appropriate books, Then, we apply the standardized rules of interpretation from the manuals that explained the various dream symbols. Kind of like modern psychoanalysis. Note: samples of such manual have been uncovered by archaeologists digging in Babylon.

The king is skeptical of the Babylonian manuals. He wants some sort of proof that they really are allowing him to communicate with "the gods". So he has a test for them... if they could tell him the contents of the dream, that supernatural demonstration would validate their interpretation Daniel 2:5-8 Daniel 2:5-8 [5] The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if you will not make known to me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. [6] But if you show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, you shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. [7] They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. [8] The king answered and said, I know of certainty that you would gain the time, because you see the thing is gone from me.
American King James Version×
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These verses indicate the king knew and remembered the contents of this dream. He did not withhold it because he had forgotten. He knew the magicians would just provide some standardized explanation from the manuals, but how could he trust that it were correct? This had been a recurring dream so the king knew it was important!

He threatens to execute the whole lot of them.

Daniel Intervenes

Daniel 2:10-16 Daniel 2:10-16 [10] The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man on the earth that can show the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. [11] And it is a rare thing that the king requires, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. [12] For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. [13] And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. [14] Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: [15] He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. [16] Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation.
American King James Version×
 the magicians and enchanters knew they were not "in touch" with "the gods" and they say as much.

This sets up the introduction of Daniel... a man who would be able to tell the king the content of the dream and provide a reliable interpretation... because Daniel was in touch with the spirit world... he was in touch with YHWH the true/living God. Through Daniel YHWH would prove a point to Babylon, to all the great kingdoms, to all readers of this section of scripture, throughout time. I am, I rule, I communicate with you in the manner I choose, I work with and through those who obey me.

Isaiah 47:12-13 Isaiah 47:12-13 [12] Stand now with your enchantments, and with the multitude of your sorceries, wherein you have labored from your youth; if so be you shall be able to profit, if so be you may prevail. [13] You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save you from these things that shall come on you.
American King James Version×
 God was not a fan of Babylon’s approach

The Power of Prayer

Daniel 2:17-19 Daniel 2:17-19 [17] Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: [18] That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. [19] Then was the secret revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
American King James Version×
 Daniel's life in the kings court was perilous, for the second time he faced punishment and death. In this time of trouble his response is prayer, and he asks his friends to to pray with him. In contrast to the magicians of Babylon, Daniel seeks answers not from the library of human wisdom but from the personal, living God, who is sovereign over all. And the God of Israel answers Daniel.

Daniel's Offers Praise and Thanks

The bible could have simply said "and Daniel praised God", but it does not. Daniel's prayer of thanks is recorded for all who read the scriptures so that we do not miss the importance of what God is accomplishing through Daniel. YHWH is declaring [and proving] Himself to be ruler over all human history and communicating through those He chooses.

Nebuchadnezzar will get his supernatural proof when Daniel tells him the content of the dream. Readers of scripture will get their proof when they see the prophecies of this dream play out in actual human history.

Daniel 2:20 Daniel 2:20Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
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 YHWH alone is worthy of praise.

Daniel 2:21 Daniel 2:21And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
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a
 YHWH rules over human history in all eras. All human governments derive their authority from Him. He changes them at will.

Daniel 2:21 Daniel 2:21And he changes the times and the seasons: he removes kings, and sets up kings: he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
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b - 22
 The interpretation is not a matter of human reason, logic, or rationalization. The interpretation is revealed by God and could never be figured out using only the power of the human mind. Only in YHWH, the God of scripture, can such things be found.

Daniel 2:23 Daniel 2:23I thank you, and praise you, O you God of my fathers, who have given me wisdom and might, and have made known to me now what we desired of you: for you have now made known to us the king's matter.
American King James Version×
 here Daniel's thanks is very personal: I, Me, My, Us, We. God's answer is given in response to Daniel's personal heartfelt request. Also, shows the importance of collective prayer.

Takeaway: when God answers prayer be sure to say thank you!

Daniel Gives the Content of the Dream

Daniel 2:24-28 Daniel 2:24-28 [24] Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus to him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show to the king the interpretation. [25] Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus to him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known to the king the interpretation. [26] The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? [27] Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king has demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show to the king; [28] But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and makes known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these;
American King James Version×
 Daniel sets the matter in proper perspective: telling you the content of your dream and what went on in your mind is not something any human being can know. It is a demonstration of God's greatness. This is not about Daniel's great power. Key phrases:

"There is a God in heaven" - one of the repeated themes of this book and its prophecies [some fulfilled, some yet to come]. There is a true God, as opposed to man-made Gods, exalted political leaders, and false spiritual teachers. The living God is the one in charge.

"in days to come" - literally, in "latter part of days". This message and these prophecies will be important until the end of the age and the return of Christ.

Daniel 2:29-35 Daniel 2:29-35 [29] As for you, O king, your thoughts came into your mind on your bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that reveals secrets makes known to you what shall come to pass. [30] 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 you might know the thoughts of your heart. [31] You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible. [32] This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, [33] His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. [34] You saw till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image on his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. [35] Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
American King James Version×
 features of the statue: 1) it is "awesome" literally to be feared because it has authority and power... 2) each successive stage is of less value BUT stronger except for the clay... 3) "feet and toes of mixed clay"- the entire dazzling and awesome  structure is built on a foundation that was weak, brittle, and of little lasting value.

Features of the rock: 1) it is of God - not cut of human hands 2) it had greater power 3) it annihilates the statue  4) it is a system of government [holy mountain] 5) its scope was worldwide.

Daniel Interprets the Meaning of the Dream

I am not going to make many comments about the giant metal statue. I plan to cover that later by comparing it to Daniel's own vision of the 4 beasts from the sea.

Daniel 2:36-45 Daniel 2:36-45 [36] This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. [37] You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. [38] And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold. [39] And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. [40] And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. [41] And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay. [42] And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. [43] And whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not join one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. [44] And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. [45] For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
American King James Version×
 the dream is about kingdoms, [ie. governments/empires]. It begins with Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, then Rome. Most agree these identities are clearly spelled out in scripture and history. These are the kingdoms that dominate Israel until the time of the end. All these will be replaced by a government which is of God and which will cover the whole earth.

Nebuchadnezzar's Response

Since Daniel had told the contents of the dream before interpreting it Nebuchadnezzar had his proof that this was truly of "the gods". The king does not acknowledge YHWH as the only god, rather as the chief god. He is profoundly impressed with Daniel's God but not converted to the biblical faith. The practical outcome is that Daniel is put in a position to continue his witness to the true living God throughout the entirety of Babylon's remaining time.

Your Response

God wanted some important understanding to be written down and embedded in human history. He would prove its truthfulness through prophecies made and fulfilled. This witness was to Babylon and all successive kingdoms... but it is also a witness to you and me:

  • YHWH communicates with humanity in a manner of His own choosing. He is not summoned by our religious rites. We come before God as HE dictates.
  • YHWH gives understanding through human instruments of His own choosing, not ours. He gives the spirit of understanding to those who obey Him.
  • YHWH is in control of world history - therefore He is also in control of your personal life
  • YHWH is all knowing about people and kingdoms - therefore He knows everything about you

Knowing these truths let us obey Him in matters great and small, and present ourselves to Him in fear and trembling at His word.