PROPHET TO THE NATIONS
PROPHET TO THE NATIONS
John M. Oakes, Ph.D.
Great Commission Illustrated Books
Highlands Ranch, CO
Prophet to the Nations
Copyright ? 2000 by John M. Oakes, Ph.D.
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be duplicated, copied, translated,
reproduced or stored mechanically or electronically without specific, written
permission of the author and publisher.
Published by Great Commission Illustrated Books
Printed in the United States of America
First Printing, April 2000
Cover graphics and layout by William To and Rex Geissler
The front cover photo of the lion relief is an inverted view
of a street wall in Babylonnear the Ishtar Gate.
The back cover photo is a coin depiction of Alexander the Great.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references are from the Holy Bible,
New International Version, copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible
Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Scripture references
marked NAS are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright The Lockman Foundation
1977. Used by permission.
and Ruth Oakes, my mother.
Thanks go to my wife Jan who has always supported my efforts to study and to
I owe a debt to those who have given input into the text and editing including
my mother Ruth Oakes, Andrew Lamb, and Brian Craig.
I would also thank my publisher Rex Geissler whose tireless efforts in producing
this work have been invaluable.
In addition, much deserved thanks to Gordon Ferguson and Douglas Jacoby both
of whom, as Christian writers, have been a model and an inspiration.
I – Historical Background to the Book of Daniel……………….. 17
II – Daniel, Prophet to the Nations…………………………………… 36
Part I – Daniel: A Righteous Man in an Unbelieving World
III – Conviction or Compromise?…………………………………….. 47
IV – The Fires of Persecution………………………………………….. 56
V – Party Animal Meets Man of God……………………………….. 69
VI – Thrown to the Lions………………………………………………..
Part II – Daniel: A Righteous Man in an Unbelieving World
VII – A Dream in the Night………………………………………………
VIII – A King Eats Grass……………………………………………….
IX – A Beastly Encounter………………………………………………. 117
X – Sheep vs. Goat…………………………………………………….
XI – The King Comes to Jerusalem………………………………… 149
XII – North vs. South…………………………………………………..
XIII – End Times……………………………………………………….
Appendix A – Maps and Timelines…………………………………. 200
Appendix B – Daniel and the Premillenial Doctrine…………. 207
Appendix C – Daniel and Angels……………………………………. 219
Appendix D – Daniel and the Apocrypha………………………… 224
It is a privilege to write this Foreword for John Oakes? new book on Daniel.
I have known John for many years and respect him so much as a disciple of Jesus
Christ. John and Jan were on the San Diegoministry staff for a period when Gregg
Marutzky and I were leading the church there. John was a very competent minister
and a very supportive, encouraging friend. For all of his intellectual capacity
and academic training (with a Ph.D. in Chemistry Physics), he is a very down-to-earth
practical man and a very humble one. Therefore, my first thoughts about commending
the book to you come through the avenue of being able to commend the writer
as a great brother in Christ. He is not just good at writing ? he is good at
living what he writes about and he personally sets the example that he calls
others to follow.
But now to the book I am commending. Several things stand out in reading the
book, which will make it a very valuable addition to any library. One, John
writes in a very practical and challenging way. As Daniel and his friends faced
the spiritual battles of their day, the readers find plenty of direction to
examine our hearts and lives as we face similar temptations in our day. For
example, as John wrote about the temptation of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
to bow down to the king?s idol in order to save their lives, he posed some probing
questions by which to evaluate our level of idolatry in a number of areas. Then
he added this little story from his own life.
I can vividly remember the day when, as a graduate student, my advisor called
me into his office to share a concern. He said it was really obvious that pursuing
a Ph.D. and a career as a professional scientist was not my first priority.
He said in all sincerity that if I did not intend to make the pursuit of science
my life, I might need to consider doing something else. What could I say in
response to this? In my heart I was saying, ?Yes! It is working! My boss has
noticed that my commitment to God is far more important to me that getting a
Ph.D.? I hope that my colleagues would make the same sort of comment about me
today. If not, I must ask myself if I have not begun to be at least a part-time
worshiper in the church of academia.
Those convictions coming from a college professor definitely gain my respect
for him and force me to take a closer look at my own temptations to compromise
in perhaps subtle ways to avoid having others think badly about me. This book
will have that kind of effect on you.
Another outstanding part of the book is in how John?s knowledge about the history,
culture, language and political situations of Daniel?s day enable him to blend
together these elements to set the stage well for us readers. Even if we are
quite uninformed in these areas, we will end up really understanding what before was
a mystery, as these things are brought to life in a manner that grabs our attention.
John knows these subjects well, and without such knowledge being passed on to
us, our intellectual grasp and appreciation of Daniel would be lessened considerably.
Yet another area that I think is outstanding is John?s willingness to address
the symbolism in the book in a straightforward, thorough manner. Writers are
sometimes tempted to skim over the harder issues of interpretation and focus
mainly on the easier ones, especially those that are more practically applicable.
John covers the practical applications well in the narrative sections of the
book, but wades right in to identify the meaning of the signs and symbols that
occupy a fair segment of Daniel. You will not put this exposition down without
knowing what the ?beast with three ribs in its mouth between its teeth? (Daniel
7:5) symbolizes or what the other key symbols represent. As the meaning of all
of these symbols is unfolded for you, your faith in the Bible and in the present
Kingdom of which we are a part will increase dramatically.
To this end I commend this new book and its author?to increase our knowledge, our
faith and our commitment to live our lives as sold-out disciples of Jesus. May
God add his blessings to accomplish these things for all who read the book,
and may it find a wide base of readership. Its potential impact on individual
s and the kingdom deserves that exposure. And to God be the glory!
April 10, 2000
Daniel occupies a place of his own among the figures in the Old Testament. Although
the book of Daniel fits neatly into the fabric of the Old Testament books, its
subject and style are unique. What other prophet had the Gentile world as his
primary sphere of ministry? What other book (except maybe Esther) focuses primarily
on happenings in the Gentile world, rather than in Israel? What other book in
the Old Testament talks about angels and the resurrection so much?or provides
such a vivid prophetic picture of the future history of the world?
Because of this unique setting, the book of Daniel is packed full of practical
examples of how to live a life for God while living in a non-believing world.
At the same time, the book can be very helpful in building the faith of those
who read it because of its amazingly accurate prophecies of the future.
The content of Daniel is readily divided into two parts. The book can be divided
between the historical accounts of the events in the life of Daniel and his
friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and those parts which are prophetic visions
of the future which Daniel received. These two types of material are interspersed
throughout the book. In order to illustrate how the prophetic and the historical
material are distributed, consider the outline of Daniel below.
Outline of the Book of Daniel
Chapter I ? Nebuchadnezzar chooses Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego and Daniel for
service. They refuse to compromise with ?the world.?
Chapter II ? Nebuchadnezzar?s first dream: A huge statue and Daniel?s interpretation
of the dream?the four world empires.
Chapter III ? Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refuse to bow down to a giant idol:
Their adventure in the fiery furnace.
Chapter IV ? Nebuchadnezzar has a dream of a great tree and Daniel?s interpretation.
The interpretation comes true and Nebuchadnezzar worships God.
Chapter V ? Daniel interprets the writing on the wall. Belshazzar, grandson
of Nebuchadnezzar, is overthrown, and the nation of Babyloncomes to an end.
Chapter VI ? Daniel in the Lion?s Den.
Chapter VII ? The vision of the four beasts, the ten horns and the little horn.
Chapter VIII ? A ram (Media/Persia) and a goat (Greece) along with the stern-faced
king (Antiochus IV Epiphanes).
Chapter IX ? Daniel?s prayer and God?s answer: 490 years until the Messiah comes.
Chapter X ? Daniel?s final vision: Daniel overcome and helped by angels.
Chapter XI ? Daniel?s final vision, continued: The kings of the South (Egypt) and
the kings of the North (Syria), then the abomination of desolation in Jerusa
Chapter XII ? The resurrection of the dead and the time of the end.
The historical/practical parts of Daniel are found in chapters one, three, five
and six, while the prophetic visions are contained in chapters two, four and
seven through twelve. When Daniel wrote the book (or when the editor who collected
his writings put them into their final form), the material was arranged chronologically,
rather than thematically. However in this book, Daniel will be studied thematically,
rather than chronologically. In other words, after some introductory material, this
book will cover the historical/practical parts first, followed by the visions
and their interpretations.
Whether in its historical aspects or in its prophetic writings, the book of
Daniel has one overriding theme, which is: GOD RULES THE NATIONS: DO NOT FEAR.
Given this Biblical truth, the primary lesson to be learned by the readers of
Daniel is that they must be faithful to their commitment to the Lord God, regardless
of the circumstances in their lives. Whatever the outward appearance at the
moment, if the man of God will put his faith in the unseen but all-powerful
God of heaven, he will be God?s righteous person, and will be rewarded on that great
Day in the future. Through Daniel, God is telling his people that no matter
what is happening in the economic world, in the religious world, in the political
world, or in the social world, God is in control. God knows his people. He is
watching over his righteous servants. Anyone who puts his or her trust in God
will ultimately be vindicated. The reader will see this theme developed throughout
the book again and again in various ways.
The Book of Daniel is a varied collection of accounts, visions, interpretations
of those visions, letters, and prayers taken from the different stages in Daniel?s
long life. However, God is the ultimate author of the book of Daniel (2 Timothy 3:16)
, so it is not surprising that the book has a unitary theme and purpose running
through this potpourri of material. The original purpose of the book of Daniel
was to prepare God?s people for the times of great tribulation and persecution
which lay ahead. God wanted his people both then and now to remain righteous no matter
what the world throws at them. More specifically, the book was written to help
the nation of Israelremain faithful through the terrible persecutions under
the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (more on that in the historical overview
in chapter one).
In Daniel one finds a great number of parallels with the New Testament book
of Revelation. The implicit purpose of Revelation was to prepare disciples of
Jesus Christ for the great persecutions under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Hadrian,
Marcus Aurelius, Diocletian and other Roman emperors. The early church was encouraged with
the knowledge that God is in control, not only of the nations in the physical
world, but also in the heavenly realms. It is easy to see the parallel to the theme
Readers of the New Testament are typically more familiar with the historical
background of the persecutions of the early church under Romethan they are with
the persecutions of the Jews in the period between the Old and New Testaments.
The Jewish persecutions under the Greek kingdoms are the primary subject of
the prophetic parts of the book of Daniel. It is one of the goals of this book
to remedy the lack of familiarity with Jewish history most Bible readers have
and to therefore make the book of Daniel more accessible.
It would be impossible to reach a complete understanding of the message of Daniel
without a fairly good background in the history of the Jews starting with the
Babylonian period, following through until the time of Jesus Christ. The first
chapter provides an historical overview to this period which will set the stage for
both the practical lessons and for understanding the prophetic visions of Daniel.
Part I of this book will cover the parts of the book of Daniel which involve
events in the lives of Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
One will find a recurring theme in these chapters. Through many difficult and
challenging situations, Daniel and his friends must learn how to deal in a godly way with
a decidedly ungodly society and political system. Perhaps the reader can relate
to this problem. When the Jews suffered under intense persecution, especially
during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes?an event the book of Daniel was preparing
them for?they were able to look back to Daniel?s example. They could see Daniel
remain powerfully faithful despite the fact that he did not have a lot of support
from other godly men and women. They could see clear and practical examples of
the fact that God rules the nations. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego
serve as dramatic examples for us of how to live for Jesus. It is God?s desire
for us that ?Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens,
and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever? (Daniel
Part II of the book will cover those parts of Daniel which are primarily prophetic
in nature. Where the lives of Daniel and his friends (Part I) provide the practical
example of how to live a righteous life in the midst of an ungodly world, the
prophecies of Daniel (Part II) will describe to the readers of the book the actual future
events which Israel and the church will have to endure in order to remain faithful
to God. For a reader in the twenty-first century who is able to look back and
see how these amazingly specific prophecies were in fact realized, the validity
of the message of Daniel will be nailed down in a most dramatic way. The deep
conviction thus gained will hopefully help the student of Daniel to put the
great practical examples of righteous living contained in the book to work in their
To summarize, the reader should bear in mind the theme of Daniel which is GOD
RULES THE NATIONS: DO NOT FEAR, as well as the purpose of Daniel which is to
prepare God?s people to remain faithful and righteous in times of great trouble.
The theme and purpose of Daniel will be revealed in the outline: practical historical
accounts and prophetic visions. Prepare yourself to be challenged to live a
righteous life for God ?in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine
like stars in the universe? (Philippians 2:15). Also, prepare yourself to be greatly inspired
as Daniel proves through its amazing and specific prophecies that truly the
Bible is the inspired word of God.
John M. Oakes
Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, April 2000
Historical Background to the Book of Daniel
The historical/political background to the book of Daniel is extremely important
both to understanding the message of the book and to interpreting the visions
and prophecies of Daniel. This is perhaps more true for Daniel than any other
book in the Bible. There are several reasons for this fact.
First, Daniel lived in a gentile world. The entire background of his life is
different from that of all other major Old Testament figures, with the exceptions
of Esther and Ezekiel. Daniel had to deal with a radically different culture
and political climate from that of other characters in the Bible. Most Bible readers
are at least somewhat familiar with the customs and politics of the Jews both
in the Old and in the New Testament times. Attempting to interpret and understand
Daniel looking through these glasses will lead to confusion. Therefore, understanding
the historical and the cultural setting of the book will prove very helpful
to the reader of Daniel.
Another reason that understanding the historical and political setting of Daniel
is crucial is that Daniel himself was an important political figure. He rose
to a very high advisory position in the Babylonian Empire, the greatest world
empire in its time. In fact, he was ?chief of the magicians, enchanters, astrologers
and diviners? (Daniel 5:11). In Babylon, which was famous for being controlled
to a great extent by its ?Magi,? this was a very high post for Daniel to hold
When the Medes and Persians took control under Cyrus, rather than losing his
political influence when they destroyed the Babylonian Empire, Daniel was actually
raised to an even higher position. Darius the Mede planned ?to set him (Daniel)
over the whole Kingdom? (Daniel 6:3). In fact, ?Daniel prospered during the reign
of Darius and the reign of Cyrus? (Daniel 6:28). Cyrus ruled an empire of greater
extent than any previous ruler in the history of mankind up to that time, and
Daniel was a chief administrator in his empire. Surely then knowledge of the
political and historical setting will help one to understand what Daniel did and
Of even greater importance than these, one must understand the historical setting
of the book of Daniel because of the predictive prophecies it contains. It will
be shown that Daniel contains in outline form the history of the ?known world?
of the Jews over a period of about six hundred years. This would not be so spectacular
if it were not for the fact that Daniel tells the history of the world before
it happens. He wrote a history book of the future! Talk about turning things
upside down! Many of the visions (such as that of the ram with two different
horns, or the goat with the prominent horn, or the bear with three ribs in its
mouth) can only be understood in light of the historical background of Daniel.
As you read this book, you will gain sufficient historical background information to
be able to understand these very strange-seeming visions of Daniel.
In order to describe the historical background of the book of Daniel, it will
be helpful to begin by rolling the tape backward about four hundred years to
the beginning of the nation of Israelunder Saul and David. But before doing
this, it will be helpful as well to describe the geography of the neighboring
regions of Israel, an area known as the Near East, or a nearly synonymous term,
the Middle East.
The nation of Israellies in a narrow fertile belt aligned in a north-to-south
line along the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea(see maps in the first appendix). Isra
elwas then (and throughout its history) at the crossroads between much greater
empires and nations which surrounded it. To the southwest lay the fertile and
heavily populated Nilevalley?home of the great empire and culture of Egypt.
?To the west, of course, was the Mediterranean Sea; but to the northwest of Palestine/Israel
were Asia Minor, modern day Turkey, and home to the Hittites, the Lydian Empire and
later to the Greek and Ottoman Empires. To the east and south of Palestinew
as a desert region, home to the primarily Bedouin peoples known in the Bible
as the ?Arabs,? the ?Sabeans? (i.e. Sheba), the ?Edomites,? the ?Nabateans?
Most important of all to Daniel, was the fertile Mesopotamian valley which lay
to the northeast of Israel. Actually, if one looks at the map, the valley of
the Tigrisand Euphratesrivers lies more to the east than to the northeast, but
in order for travelers or invading armies to reach Israelfrom Mesopotamia, th
ey had to travel up the river valleys and descend into Israelthrough Syriat
o avoid traveling through the desert. So to the Jews, Mesopotamiais to the northeast.
 Daniel spent his entire adult life in Mesopotamia, living in Babylonand
?Susa(one of the capitals of Persia). Mesopotamia, in the northeast, was home
to the ancient Babylonian Empire (famous for Hammurabi and his first recorded
system of laws), the Akkadian Empire, the Assyrians, the neo-Babylonians, the
Persians and Medes.
Figure 1. Assyrian King Ashurnasirpal II killing lions in relief from Nimr
ud 850 BC now in the British Museum.
Israelitself was constantly caught in a squeeze play between the empires to
the southwest (Egypt), to the northwest (the Hittites and the Greek Empires),
and to the northeast (Assyriaand Babylonfor example). One can readily see, then,
why the geography and the history of Israelare intimately connected.
The historical sketch will begin with the foundation of the kingdomof Israe
lunder Saul the Benjamite (about 1050-1010 BC). Saul established the Israelite
monarchy, but because of his pride, the kingdom was taken from him (1 Samuel 13:13,14).
?Saul?s successor was David (about 1010-970 BC), from the tribe of Judah. Dav
id was a man ?after God?s own heart? (1 Samuel 13:14). David was the greatest
political figure in the history of Israel. He defeated all the traditional enemies
of Israel: the Philistines, Ammonites, Amorites, Edomites and Moabites to name
a few. His son Solomon (about 970-930 BC) increased the territoryof Israels
omewhat, and established Jerusalemwas one of the great economic, political and
cultural capitals of the world. These were the glory days of Israel. When Daniel
points forward to the reestablishment of God?s kingdom (Daniel 2:44-45 and
7:18), surely his readers assumed it would be in a form along the lines of the
kingdom of David and Solomon.
Figure 2. Akkadian bronze head of Sargon c. 2300-2200 BC in IraqMuseumin Baghdad.
The period of the United Kingdom of Israel ended with the reign
Figure 3. Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser III which discusses the King of Isra
elc. 841 BC.
of Solomon?s son Rehoboam. After a coup attempt by Jeroboam, Israelwas irrevers
ibly turned into a divided kingdom. Israelin the north (the ?Northern Kingdom?) had
as its capital Samariawhile Judahin the south (?Southern Kingdom?) had Jeru
salemas its capital.
The Northern Kingdomwas much more deeply involved in pagan worship, such as the cults
of Baal and Ashtoreth. For this reason, God brought Israelinto judgment. The No
rthern Kingdomwas attacked and
Figure 4. Assyrian Nineveh Royal Palace Relief showing King Ashurbanipal c
. 669 to c. 630 BC on his Royal Chariot with Parasol.
destroyed by the Assyrian Empire under Sennacherib. Samariawas defeated, sacked
and leveled in 722 BC. Here one sees for the first time kings ?from the north?
coming down in judgment of Israel. At this time, Judahwas almost destroyed as
well, but thanks to the faith of Hezekiah, Jerusalemwas saved, at least for
The Assyrians, with their capital in Nineveh, were well known for their fierceness
and ruthlessness. When they conquered a nation, they killed a large proportion
of the inhabitants. In order to prevent the subjugated nation from reforming
and later rebelling, they had the practice of deporting en masse the remaining
population and dispersing them throughout other parts of their empire. This
is exactly the fate the occupants of the Northern Kingdomsuffered. Thus the ?ten tribes?[
4] were scattered in various eastern provinces of Assyria. The small remnant population
of Hebrews left behind intermixed with other peoples similarly brought into
northern Israelas exiles from their own countries. This intermixing eventually
led to the nation/culture/religion called the Samaritans in Jesus? day, who
were considered unfaithful by the Jews for marrying into the other races.