We have been looking at the Book of Daniel. The Book is made up of two styles of literature. The first six chapters deal with the heroics of Daniel and the three Hebrew children (as they are often referred to). The remaining seven chapters are what we refer to as apocalyptic literature. The Book of Revelation is also apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is what could be described as that which deals with "end times," but in reality it is "an unveiling." Daniel does contain literature that correlates with Revelation. But, does any of it relate to the time period of Daniel? The same question could be asked of Revelation. Were the two books written just for our time period? Or did they have any significance to the time period in which they were written? The answer is no and yes. I know, all those who make a very good living "interpreting" these books in order to write books would disagree with me. And that's ok. But, can't they speak to every time period? Yes. Just like any other part of the Bible can speak to any time and to any person. The Book of Revelation was written for the people who were living in the days in which Revelation was written. Yes, the book still speaks loud and clear today, but it had the persecuted Christians of the late first century in mind. But, what about the Book of Daniel?
I apologize for the lack of scripture in this post. I encourage you to read the remainder of the book. In order to understand Daniel as a Book, we must understand the historical setting of the entire book. Remember, the first chapters dealt with the Hebrews in exile. They were exalted in their positions, in spite of many attempts to kill them. But, there is more to it all. The Maccabean conflict was the historical setting for the apocalypses and the final compilation of the book as a whole. In 333 B.C.E. Alexander the Great began his conquest of the Eastern Mediterranean world. After his death control of the empire was divided among four generals. During this time the Greek way of life became a temptation to the Jewish population. Judaism was still very accepted and was actually thriving. Christianity was not always a persecuted faith, even during the time it was outlawed. If Christians simply did not ruffled feathers, they were often ignored. (With exceptions depending upon the ruler). Then Antiochus IV gained control of Palestine. Jewish practices were then outlawed. The Jews could no longer practice circumcision, dietary restrictions, and Sabbath observances. Ownership of a Torah scroll was a capital offence.
"His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation." (Daniel 11:31)
I know that many associate all this with the anti-Christ and the false prophet, but for Daniel and his audience this was referring to Antiochus IV who did the unthinkable by sacrificing a pig on the altar in the temple complex in Jerusalem. This is all supported by various sources including the Books of the Maccabees. This does not mean that this will not happen in some new capacity, but I'm just giving you history. Antiochus also set up a statue of Zeus in the most holy place of the temple.
During this time many Jews assimilated to Greek culture. Some did not. Of course, the book of Daniel shows us those who would not conform, but remained faithful to their Jewish identity. The Book of Daniel of the Book of Revelation serve to remind the believers to remain faithful regardless of their surroundings. The message of both books, regardless of the imagery, is very simple; keep the faith, God will prevail and the believers will rise victorious. Regardless of all the books that have been written and sermons preached that try to make these books hard to understand (yet, making the writer and the preacher look good because they can "supposedly" interpret them.) these books are simple. The message is simple.
Monday we will look at the little book of Hosea. I look forward to our continued work together. If you do not have a home church I would like to invite you to join us this coming Sunday morning for worship beginning at 10:50am. After the service the United Methodist Men will host a bar-b-q rib fundraiser. I promise you they are delicious ribs. God Bless! -Pastor Rick