B i b l e S t u d y
Lesson: Introduction to the Book of Daniel
The City of Babylon
Babylon, scene of Daniel's ministry, was the wonder city of the ancient world. Situated near the Garden of Eden region, built around the Tower of Babel, first seat of empire, a favorite residence of Babylonian, Assyrian and Persian kings, even of Alexander the Great, a commanding city through the whole pre-Christian era, Babylon was brought to the zenith of its power and glory in the days of DANIEL, by Nebuchadnezzar, who was Daniel's friend, and who, during his 45 years reign, never wearied of building and beautifying its palaces and temples.
The Size of Babylon
Ancient historians said that its wall was 60 miles around, 15 miles on each side, 300 feet high, 80 feet thick, extending 35 feet below the ground so that enemies could not tunnel under; built of brick 1 foot square and 3 or 4 inches thick; 1/4 mile of clear space between the city and the wall all the way around; the wall protected by wide and deep moats (canals) filled with water; 250 towers on the wall, guard rooms for soldiers; 100 gates of brass. The city was divided by the Euphrates into two almost equal parts; both banks guarded by brick walls all the way, with 25 gates connecting streets, and ferry boats; one bridge, on stone piers, 1/2 mile long, 30 feet wide, with drawbridges which were removed at night. A tunnel under the river, 15 feet wide, 12 feet high. Excavations of recent years have, to large extent, verified the seemingly fabulous accounts of ancient historians.
The Great Temple of Marduk (Bel), adjoining the Tower of Babylon (Babel?), was the most renowned sanctuary in all the Euphrates valley. It contained a golden image of Bel and a golden table which together weighed not less than 50,000 pounds. At the top were golden images of Bel and Ishtar, 2 golden lions, a golden table 40 feet long and 15 feet wide, and a human figure of solid gold 18 feet high. Truly Babylon was a "city of gold," (Isaiah 14:4). The city was very religious: It had 53 temples; and 180 altars to Ishtar.
"Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldeans pride, shall become a wilderness, a dry land, a desert wholly desolate. It shall no more be inhabited. Neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation. The wild beasts of the desert shall lie there. Their houses shall be full of doleful creatures. Wolves shall cry in their castles, and jackals in their pleasant palaces. And Babylon shall be desolate forever. They shall sleep a perpetual sleep and not wake" (Isaiah 13:17-22; Jeremiah 51:37-43).
It remained an important city through the Persian period. Alexander the Great would have restored its glory, but his plans were cut short by death. After him, it declined. By the time of Christ its political and commercial supremacy had gone, and in the first century A.D. the greater part was in ruins. Its bricks have been used in building Baghdad and repairing canals. For centuries it has been a desolate heap of mounds, a place for the beasts of the desert; a remarkable fulfillment of prophecy; still uninhabited except for a little village at the Southwest corner.
The Babylonian Empire
In Daniel's day, the city of Babylon not only was the premier city of the pre-Christian world, but it ruled the most powerful empire that had up to that time existed. The Empire lasted 70 years. Daniel was there from its rise to its fall.
The kings under whom Daniel lived were: Nabopolassar (625-604 B.C.); Nebuchadnezzar (606-561 B.C.); Evil-Merodach (561-560 B.C.); Neriglissar (559-556 B.C.); Labash-Marduk (556 B.C.); Nabonidas (555-536 B.C.), and his son Belshazzar.
Daniel's life in Babylon, thus, extended from the first year of Nebuchadnezzar, through the reigns of the succeeding five kings, past the Fall of Babylon, into the Persian Empire through the reign of Darius the Mede, even unto the third year of Cyrus the Persian (10:1); in all, from 606 B.C. to 534 B.C., 72 years, from the first year of the Jews' Captivity till 2 years after their Return from the Captivity-God's witness in the palace of the empire that ruled the world.
Daniel was friend and adviser to Nebuchadnezzar, who was the genius and real builder of the Babylonian Empire. Of its 70 years' existence, he ruled 45 years.
Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, viceroy of Babylon, threw off Assyrian yoke (625 B.C.) and ruled city (625-604 B.C.).
In 609 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar was placed at the head of his father's armies. Invading the Western countries, he wrested control of Palestine from Egypt (606 B.C.), and took some Jewish captives to Babylon, among them DANIEL. That same year (606 B.C.), he became co-regent with his father; and sole ruler (604 B.C.). He proved to be one of the mightiest monarchs of all time.
The following year (605 B.C.), he broke the power of Egypt, in the famous battle of Carchemish. In 597 B.C. he crushed a new rebellion in Palestine, and took king Jehoiachin and many captives to Babylon, among them EZEKIEL. In 586 B.C. he burned Jerusalem, and took more captives. Then for 13 years his army besieged Tyre (585-573 B.C.). In 582 B.C. he invaded and plundered Moab, Ammon, Edom and Lebanon; and in 581 B.C. he again took captives from Judah. In 572 B.C. he invaded and plundered Egypt. Died 561 B.C.
Daniel exerted a powerful influence over him; and three times he called the God of Daniel God (2:47; 3:29; 4:34).
The Book of Daniel
The book itself represents Daniel as its author (7:1, 28; 8:2; 9:2; 10:1 2; 12:4, 5). Its genuineness was sanctioned by Christ (Matthew 24:15).
The language of the book is Aramaic, or Chaldee, from 2:4 to 7:28, which was the commercial and diplomatic language of the time. The rest is in Hebrew. This is what might be expected in a book written for Jews living among Babylonians, containing copies of official Babylonian documents in their original Babylonian language.
(Information from Halley’s Bible Handbook, Zondervan, 1959, p. 336-342).