SERIES: Integrity Is No Accident: The Book of Daniel
SCRIPTURE: Daniel 1
SPEAKER: Brad Harper
Note: This manuscript has been edited, and information has been added, by Mike Andrus.
Introduction: A couple of years ago a movie was released entitled “The Accidental Tourist.” The title was in reference to the main character who wrote a book for people forced to travel for their jobs. These people, in contrast to typical tourists, who are excited about their stay in a foreign land, despised the travel forced upon them and had no desire to be in the country which others thought so wonderful. These were accidental tourists.
Today we begin a three-month study of the book of Daniel. It is principally the story of a man who, along with thousands of his fellow Israelites, became accidental tourists (humanly speaking only) in the land of the Babylonians. It is the story of how this one man, living in a world where his faith was constantly under attack, found the courage and fortitude to live a life of integrity and public commitment to the standards of God.
But before we take a look at Daniel, the man, we need to understand the broader scenario of Daniel, the book.
Introduction to Daniel, the book:
Its historical setting. (See historical chart at end of sermon).[i] Imagine with me this historical setting. The year is 605 B.C. The two most powerful empires in the world are about to clash. To the North and East of Israel is the upstart empire of the Babylonians whose great army, under the leadership of a brilliant young commander, Nebuchadnezzar, has been making conquest after conquest. To the South and West is Egypt, the empire from which God had rescued Israel 800 years before. These two great empires clash in the battle of Carchemish, and Egypt is defeated.
Immediately after this victory, as Nebuchadnezzar proceeded back toward Babylon, he stopped on the outskirts of Jerusalem. Judah had thrown its lot in with Egypt in the war, and it was now on the losing side. Nebuchadnezzar threatened Jerusalem with a siege, and Judah’s King Jehoiakim capitulated. At this stage Judah is pretty much a non-player on the world stage. It consists of two tribes only (Judah and Benjamin), since the northern kingdom called “Israel” had been taken into captivity more than 100 years before by the Assyrians.
The complete subjugation of Judah was a process that took place in three stages over a period of about 20 years.
(1) In 605, Judah’s King Jehoiakim was captured but then released. Nebuchadnezzar pillaged the city and took captive the most promising young men of the land, separating them from their families forever. Among those captives were four men who play a major role in the book of Daniel: Daniel himself, plus his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Obednego.
(2) In 598, following the death of Jehoiakim, his son Jehoiachin took his place and reigned for about 100 days. Against the advice of God’s prophets, Jehoiachin rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. Again the city was besieged but not destroyed. This time, Nebuchadnezzar took the king and most of the royal family captive and forced them to go to Babylon, along with a larger group of captives which included the prophet Ezekiel. (Jehoiachin remained in captivity in Babylon for 37 years until Nebuchadnezzar died. Then Nebuchadnezzar’s successor released him. The end of the book of Jeremiah reads, “So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. Day by day the king of Babylon gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.”)
(3) Finally, Zedekiah, who had become king in Jehoiachin’s absence, also rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. In response, in 586 Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem and wiped out the city, leveling the temple and taking with him virtually everyone he did not kill (or who was of no use to the Babylonians). Zedekiah was captured, his sons were murdered in front of him, and then his eyes were put out so that as he went to Babylon to die, his memory would be filled with the last thing he ever saw–the slaughter of his own sons.
One of the first questions one might ask when confronted with such a barbaric destruction of the land and people of Israel is, why would God let something like this happen to those who were supposed to be His chosen people? Indeed, both the common citizens and the religious leaders were asking the same question. But the answer is clear, and they should have understood it: in spite of decades of warning, God’s people had continued in apostasy and immorality. They brought this destruction upon themselves.
Eight hundred years earlier, Moses had prophesied that if the people refused to follow God’s laws, He would cause them to be scattered and taken captive to a foreign land, where they would live in insecurity and worship pagan gods. He predicted they would run to Egypt for help but would find none. Then, in the years just preceding the invasion, Jeremiah and other prophets had urged the leaders of Israel that if they would just return to God, worship Him in integrity, and live their lives according to His ways, He would spare them from destruction. But they refused.
And so it was that God made a prediction through Isaiah:
“Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, ‘Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: 6 Behold, the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.’ Then said Hezekiah to Isaiah, ‘The word of the LORD that you have spoken is good.’ For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my days.’” (Isaiah 39:5-8)
God also spoke through Jeremiah and told them He would bring Nebuchadnezzar upon them to destroy the land, and they would be dragged away to serve a foreign king. Listen to the words of Jeremiah 25:8-11:
“Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Because you have not obeyed my words, behold, I will send for all the tribes of the north, declares the LORD, and for Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants, and against all these surrounding nations. I will devote them to destruction, and make them a horror, a hissing, and an everlasting desolation. Moreover, I will banish from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the grinding of the millstones and the light of the lamp. This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.’”
Daniel lived through all 70 of those years in public service to the government of Babylon.
So much for the historical setting of the book. Let’s look briefly at its authenticity.
Its authenticity. We must do this because of the intense attacks which have been leveled against this book in the modern era. Except for a 3rd century pagan named Porphyry, no serious question was raised against either the date or authorship of Daniel, or the genuineness of the book, until the rise of higher criticism in the 18th century.
The importance of Daniel to the integrity of Scripture as God’s authoritative Word is immense. Daniel contains more fulfilled prophecy than any other biblical book. But this is the key aspect of the book which brings it into such a position of criticism by liberal scholars.
Here is the issue. The first half of the book of Daniel is primarily history, though some prophecy (at least from Daniel’s point of view) is included in the dreams. It tells the story of a godly Israelite and three of his friends during their lives as captives in Babylon. The second half of the book, however, is predictive prophecy, (some of it predictive even from our point of view). It foretells the attack upon God’s people by a Greek conqueror, Antiochus Epiphanes, around 165 B.C. and by extension, the persecutions of Antichrist at the end of human history.
The problem for biblical critics is primarily a matter of presuppositions. The argument goes something like this:
God does not perform supernatural acts in human history.
Predictive prophecy would be a supernatural act.
Furthermore, the details about the campaign of Antiochus are so accurate,
that no one writing in the sixth century B.C. could possibly have
penned the account.
Therefore, Daniel must be a book written by a mid-second century author
who fabricated the story in order to comfort the Jews during their time of suffering under Antiochus.
We can see the logical fallacies of saying, “Prophecy can’t happen; therefore, prophecy hasn’t happened,” but if you are absolutely convinced that God doesn’t intervene in human history, I guess the logic doesn’t trouble you. Of course, the critics go on to document many alleged mistakes and falsehoods in the book to bolster their argument that it could not have been written by anyone during the Babylonian era.
Let me mention just a few of these to illustrate why these allegations are so flimsy. First, the critics scoff at the account in chapter 4 of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years of madness, when he lived like an animal and was unable to rule his kingdom. Such a story, they allege, is a romanticized fable written to cheer up a suffering people and make fun of their cruel oppressor. They claim there is no historical evidence to substantiate the story.
However, archaeological studies show that there is a strange absence in Babylonian records of any governmental activity on the part of Nebuchadnezzar from 582 to 575 B.C. Let’s see, that’s 7 years. I wonder what he was doing.
Next, scholars of the 19th century supposed that the reference in Daniel 5 to Belshazzar as king of Babylon when it was overrun by the Persians, was a mistake. After all, the historian Herodotus wrote in 450 B.C. that Nabonidus was the last Babylonian king before the conquest of Cyrus the Persian. Since Herodotus was a reliable historian and lived within 100 years of the events, the assumption was often made that he was right and the book of Daniel was wrong.
However, in 1881 the Nabonidus Cylinder was uncovered by archaeologists in Babylon. Wikipedia states,
The Nabonidus Cylinder is a long text in which king Nabonidus of Babylonia (556-539 BC) describes how he repaired three temples: the sanctuary of the moon god Sin in Harran, the sanctuary of the warrior goddess Anunitu in Sippar, and the temple of Samas in Sippar. The cylinder is particularly noteworthy because it mentions a son named Belshezzar who is mentioned in the Book of Daniel.
The cylinder states:
“As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a life long of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son -my offspring- instill reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.”
And the cylinder goes on to reveal that Nabonidus had made his son Belshazzar his co-regent, carrying the title of “king.” So both Daniel and Herodotus were right! Nabonidus remained king, but Belshazzar was co-regent, exactly as it states in Daniel chapter 5. In fact, this is why Daniel states that Belshazzar offered him 3rd place in the kingdom. He couldn’t offer 2nd place, because that was his own place.
Third, the critics contend that the writer of Daniel made the mistake of claiming that Babylon was conquered by some unknown person named Darius, the Mede, while secular history confirms that Babylon was captured by Cyrus the Persian. But two problems arise here for the critics. First, all the major published Greek histories available to a second century B.C. writer would have told him that Cyrus captured Babylon, so a writer of that era would never have made this supposed blunder. But later records have shown that after Cyrus conquered Babylon, he went on to other conquests for a time, and apparently left a Median general named Gubaru in charge of Babylon. This general could have very naturally taken the title Darius, which simply means “the royal one,” thus confirming the account in Daniel.
I have taken the time to chronicle for you three powerful answers to attacks on the authenticity of the book of Daniel to encourage you that when people tell you that the Bible is full of errors and was not really written by the men it claims as authors, you can challenge them to produce any archaeological evidence that truly supports such an accusation. I recently attended a seminar, led by the top Jewish archaeologist in Jerusalem. This man claimed that he and his peers simply do not question the historical reliability of the Bible any further.
The main reason biblical critics believe Daniel to be a falsified document is not really because the overwhelming archaeological and historical evidence says so, but rather because they refuse to believe that God worked supernaturally through a human agent to reveal his plans for the future.
Having demonstrated the fact that there is no compelling need to doubt the authenticity of the book of Daniel as the work of an Israelite during the Babylonian captivity, I want to summarize for you briefly the major ongoing value of this book.
Its ongoing value. The primary theological value expressed in this book is the absolute sovereignty of God. He is able to accomplish his will despite the most determined opposition. He gives Daniel supernatural ability to understand the dreams of a hostile king. He preserves three of his servants through a fiery oven so that there is not even the smell of smoke on their clothes. He inscribes the forecast of the destruction of the Babylonian kingdom on a banquet hall wall. And He delivers his servant, Daniel from the mouths of hungry lions.
The book also reveals the great power of prayer. Daniel and his friends ask God to intervene in mighty ways and God responds with miracles, but only after they have been willing to lay their lives on the line in the service of the one true God.
Daniel also gives us a long-range view concerning God’s plan for human history, prophesying concerning the first advent of Christ and the tribulation period preceding the glorious second coming of our Lord.
Finally, Daniel is a showcase for the indomitable grace of God. Though He condemned them to 70 years of captivity as punishment for generations of sin, He held to His promise to bring them back to the land again. While He took them through a period of purging for their sin, He never abandoned them, but heard their cry of repentance, sending them back to the land and setting the stage for the coming of the Messiah.
Now that we have a thumbnail understanding of Daniel, the book, let’s take some time to meet Daniel, the man. Please follow along with me in your Bibles as I read through the first chapter of Daniel.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.
3Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, 4youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.
6Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. 7And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.
8But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. 9 And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, 10and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”
11Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12″Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” 14So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.
15At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. 16 So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.
17As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.
18At the end of the time, when the king had commanded that they should be brought in, the chief of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19And the king spoke with them, and among all of them none was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Therefore they stood before the king. 20And in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom.
21And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.
Introduction to Daniel, the man:
His challenging environment. First, who is this man and what is the situation in which he finds himself? Daniel is a teenager, perhaps 13-16 years old. As we discovered before, Nebuchadnezzar, in his first invasion, took with him the brightest and best of the young men of Israel in order to use them in the service of his empire. Daniel was among those initial captives.
Imagine the anguish of this young man and his parents as a cynical official of the army that has just conquered the city points to him and says, “You, get in the wagon. You’re going to Babylon. Mom and Dad, you might as well pretend he doesn’t exist, because you’ll never see him again.” After a long, hard trip through wilderness and desert, the young man finds himself in a land where people scoff at his God. Nebuchadnezzar returns from his conquest, parading the stolen articles from the temple in Jerusalem, exulting that this God of Israel is no match for Bel and Nebo, the gods of Babylon.
But as Daniel settles in, he learns that his fate is perhaps not as bad as he had feared. He is not destined to be some hard labor slave; rather, he is to be trained to be a member of the palace staff. But as soon as his hopes for the future have been brightened, he realizes there is a catch. It is a catch that will confront him again and again in his life in Babylon. It is a catch that also confronts you and me on a regular basis wherever we are.
Daniel is faced with a decision. The worldly authority in his life presents him with one option, while his faith presents him with another, and they are mutually exclusive. When Daniel arrives in Babylon and begins his college education, he is faced with several unpleasant realities. First, his name is changed, as are the names of his friends, reflecting the names of the gods of Babylon, rather than the God of Israel.
Hebrew names: Babylonian names:
Daniel: God is my judge. Belteshazzar: Bel
Hananiah: The Lord is gracious. Shadrach: Marduk
Mishael: Who is what God is? Meshach: unknown
Azariah: The Lord is a helper Abednego: Nebo
He has to learn a new language. He is required to immerse himself in the literature and cultural heritage of these pagan idol worshipers, so that its myths and legends would take the place of Scripture as the source of his worldview. This is the world’s strategy of spiritual reprogramming. We see it today when young people enter the university and are immediately bombarded with evolution, identity politics, and tolerance gone to seed (except there is little tolerance of the things they were taught at home and in church).
Furthermore, Daniel is undoubtedly castrated. This was predicted in Isaiah 39:7 and was undoubtedly done. It was standard procedure for young men tapped for work in the King’s palace. That way the King didn’t have to worry about them taking advantage of his harem.
Daniel can handle all of that. He knows who he is, no matter what anyone calls him. And he can handle exposure to a pagan culture, as long as he continues to immerse himself in God’s law. But the issue which tests his commitment to God is that which may seem to us the most innocuous. It is a matter of diet.
Nebuchadnezzar wants these young men to be strong and sharp, so he provides them with the choicest of food and drink from his private stock. The problem is that some of this food is simply off limits to Jews, according to the law. It is what we might refer to today as non-kosher. A second problem is that much of this food was first sacrificed to pagan idols as a ritual, ensuring great benefits to whoever ate it. For Daniel, to eat these foods would break God’s law and amount to acknowledgement of the existence and power of false gods. (He didn’t have the benefit of NT teaching on the fact that no food is inherently evil).
Daniel has a bright future ahead of him, if he can just overlook this minor food issue. Certainly, God will understand if he chooses to indulge. The issue in Daniel’s situation is compromise. Isn’t this how Satan still operates today? He may violently persecute believers in some parts of the world, yet more often he seems to work by seducing and deceiving us into forgetting God and His standards. How often are we asked to compromise God’s law? If out in the work world, you are perhaps faced with such compromises almost daily.
His authentic faith. Daniel was unwilling for his commitment to God to be watered down. Scripture tells us that he resolved not to defile himself. At this early age, and at this initial phase in his training and exposure to a worldly setting, Daniel establishes the principle by which he will measure all his actions for the rest of his life: he will make decisions based on the law of God. He makes an irrevocable decision early on that neither his personal desires, nor his career, nor even his personal safety would turn him from that path.
Do you think this was easy? Think of the factors that could have made Daniel’s decision, and that of his three friends, extremely difficult:
1. The emperor himself had ordered the menu.
2. To disobey would incur punishment, quite possibly execution.
3. To refuse the food was a sure way to spoil all chance of advancement.
4. The quality of the food must have been very attractive. (Just imagine! A
12-ounce serving of prime rib with horsey sauce, asparagus spears, baked potato with sour cream, rhubarb pie, and the best wine money can buy. Instead, they chose vegetables and water!
5. They were a long way from home; no one would never know.
6. Since God had not protected them from this captivity, He had no right to
expect them to obey His commands.
7. The official claimed his own head was at stake; this could give Daniel an
When the official objects to their decision, Daniel suggests a ten-day test. This in itself shows remarkable faith, because ten days is a very short time to produce the results he hints at. By the way, this is not an indication that vegetarianism is the diet a believer should follow. Besides it may not have been entirely vegetarian. The Hebrew term is from the root “to sow seed,” and means “that which grows from sown seed.” This includes vegetables and grains. It simply allows Daniel to eat a variety of foods without defiling himself with meat offered to idols. And God vindicates Daniel because at the end of the ten days he and his three friends look healthier and better nourished than those who ate the royal food. As a result, the diet was made permanent.
I want you to notice something else here. Daniel and his three friends are not the only ones faced with this dilemma. All of these young Hebrew men, surely a large group, perhaps hundreds, have the same choice. But only four choose to put their commitments to God on the line.
Never underestimate the cost of godly living in an ungodly world. Do you think these young men understood what the risk was in refusing to eat this food? This was not a day of legal challenges and court appointed public defenders. Even the king’s top man knew that his own life was at stake for even considering giving these guys a different diet than that commanded by Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel and his three friends know full well that no one is taking bets on their surviving the afternoon.
What is the price we might have to pay for making godly decisions in an ungodly world? You know the price. Some of you have paid it. The loss of a friend, career advancement, money, a job?
One of the beautiful things about Daniel’s scenario here is that it illustrates what I believe to be true about most of us. The stumbling points we face are more often the small things, rather than the big ones. I remember when I was in high school, my Christian friends and I used to talk about what we would do if the Antichrist himself put a gun to our heads and told us to deny Christ. We all bravely asserted how we would stand strong in the face of death. And perhaps we would.
But the fact is that most challenges to the integrity of our faith occur in much more subtle ways. And it’s the loss of those little battles for honesty, integrity, and purity that cripple us in our faith.
Finally, Daniel’s determination to risk his career and perhaps even his life, rather than to compromise God’s standards, results in God’s blessing in his life so as to give him ongoing value and influence in the ungodly world around him.
His ongoing value. We are told here that God gives Daniel and his friends knowledge, understanding, and wisdom far beyond that of their contemporaries so that pagan kings trusted these foreigners on crucial matters even more than their own wise countrymen.
I doubt that much of Daniel’s great intelligence and wisdom was the result of sticking to a vegetarian diet. God simply blessed him and gave him influence as a result of his decision to live according to God’s ways. What we see here in the life of Daniel and his three friends reflects a pattern visible throughout Scripture. If we honor God by living according to His ways in an ungodly world, He will honor us, surely with spiritual blessings, and most likely by allowing us influence in the world around us.
There are plenty of godly men and women who have gained great influence in this country over the years. But there is perhaps no Christian who has received the kind of universal respect and influence in America that Billy Graham has. Surely many reasons could be cited: his powerful preaching style, his charismatic personality, his influential friends. All those play a part. But over the past couple of years, I have come to believe that the greatest source of Billy’s influence has been the way that God has blessed him because of his integrity.
A number of years ago, in an extended interview with David Frost, Graham was talking to Frost about the kinds of sin that he had been guilty of in his life. He said, however, that there are two areas in his life where he has been faithful to live in integrity before God. First, he has never been interested in money. Unlike many other evangelists, early in his career Billy set up his organization to pay him a salary so that his earnings would never be based on the size of the offering basket. Second, he has kept himself to one woman, and one woman only, even noting that many unethical individuals had tried to put him in compromising positions with other women.
A Catholic priest at St. Louis University was asked what he and his peers thought of Billy Graham. He responded, “Most of us don’t think very highly of televangelists and their kind. But Billy is different. He’s the real thing.”
Daniel was the real thing. As we will see later, when somebody held him over a pit full of hungry lions and told him to forego his faith, he refused. But even more important, when asked to do nothing more than eat a meal that did not fit God’s diet guidelines, Daniel refused. To do so would not only dishonor God but would water down the power of God in his life so as to make him barely noticeable to a watching world.
Would the people around us say that we are the real deal? Or have we defiled ourselves by compromising God’s standards in any number of little ways that happen to be fully acceptable to our culture? The cost of living our faith with authenticity and integrity can be significant–job, position, social acceptance. Even the risk of appearing prudish or legalistic. But the cost of compromise is far greater. Except for Daniel and his three friends, all these bright young men of Israel are never mentioned again. So it is that the believer who practices compromise will ultimately fade into obscurity. The salt will lose its saltiness and thus, its influence.
As believers, we are strangers in a strange and hostile land and, as such, there will be a cost to living our faith with integrity. But the battle belongs to the Lord and He is a shield about us. Let us allow Him to worry about our jobs, our social acceptance, our finances, and our reputations as we resolve in our hearts not to defile ourselves, whatever the potential cost.
One other thought as we close. The good news of the gospel is not simply that God is faithful to those who are faithful to Him. It is that a Savior has come to deliver faithless and compromised saints like us. Our salvation rests not on our ability to remain undefiled by the world, but rather on the pure and undefiled offering that Jesus has provided in our place.
DATE: July 3, 1994
Authenticity of Scripture
[i] HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO THE BOOK OF DANIEL
722 B.C. The Northern ten tribes of Israel were taken into captivity by the Assyrians. Hezekiah, a godly king for the most part, was king of Judah until 686 B.C.
695 B.C. Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son, became co-regent with his father, then king from 686-642. A wicked king and loyal vassal of Assyria, he repented briefly late in life.
642 B.C. Amon, son of Manasseh, a wicked king, was slain by his own family in 640.
640 B.C. Josiah, another son of Masasseh, began to reign at age of 8. At 16 he began to seek after God, at 20 he purged the country of idolatry, at 26 the Law was discovered and true revival set in.
612 B.C. The Babylonians under Nabopolassar sacked Ninevah, the Assyrian capital, and the Egyptians allied themselves with the Assyrians to halt the Babylonians.
609 B.C. Josiah was killed at Megiddo trying to stop the Egyptians from marching through Judah on their way to help the Assyrians. Josiah’s 3rd son, Jehoahaz, became king, but within three months the Egyptians deposed him and put Jehoiakim, Josiah’s 2nd son on the throne.
605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, son of the Babylonian emperor Nabopolassar, brought his army west and defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish on the Euphrates River. Nebuchadnezzar decided to punish Judah for supporting the Egyptians. He laid siege on Jerusalem and deposed Jehoiakim, but Jehoiakim switched his allegiance to Babylon, giving Nebuchadnezzar temple treasures and hostages, including Daniel, \ Shadrach, Meshach and Obednego. A few months later Nabopolassar died and Nebuchadnezzar became emperor of Babylon.
598 B.C. Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem again. Jehoiakim died during the siege (of unknown causes) and his son Jehoiachin (Coniah) became king. A wicked king, as was his father, Coniah lasted only 100 days, when he and 10,000 others were taken captive to Babylon (he remained a prisoner for 37 years until Nebuchadnezzar died in 561 B.C. See Jeremiah 52:31-34).
597 B.C. Zedekiah, the 4th son of Josiah, was put on the throne of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. He was wicked and fickle and made an alliance with Egypt to throw off the yoke of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar decided he had had enough and he ravaged the whole country of Judah, laying seige to Jerusalem from 588 to 586.
586 B.C. Zedekiah fled but Nebuchadnezzar captured him, killed his sons before his eyes, then his eyes were put out. Jerusalem was captured and burned, including the temple. Those Jews who weren’t taken as hostages to Babylon went to Egypt, including Jeremiah.
561 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar died and was succeeded by three minor kings of brief reigns–Evil-Merodach, his son; Neriglissar, his son-in-law; and Labashi-Marduk, son of Neriglissar.
556 B.C. Nabonidus, son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar became emperor of Babylon.
553 B.C. Nabonidus decided to go sun himself in Arabia, leaving the administration of the realm to his son Belshazzar. This arrangement lasted 14 years.
539 B.C. The Medes and Persians, under Cyrus the Great began to seriously threaten the Babylonian empire. Nabonidus returned from Arabia in April to seek divine protection for Babylon from Cyrus. On October 12, 539 B.C. Belshazzar saw the handwriting on the wall and that night Babylon fell to Cyrus. Daniel remembered the prophecy that the captivity would last only 70 years and he gave hope to the captives that they would soon be able to return to the land
536 B.C. Cyrus decreed that the Jews could return to Palestine and re-establish their own nation.