Daniel 1:1 begins by placing the events that are to follow within a particular point in Israel’s history.
When Israel was preparing to enter the promised land, God made clear that their occupation of the land was conditional upon their obedience (Deuteronomy 4), with the promise that if they did not obey God, they would not remain in the land. The nation of Israel divided into two kingdoms (Israel, the northern kingdom and Judah, the southern kingdom) under Solomon’s unwise son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 12).
Israel quickly descended into idolatry, turning away from the Lord. The Assyrians took over Israel in 722BC and the people went into exile. Despite witnessing this, Judah did not repent. 2 Kings 24 tells how Nebuchadnezzar, a central character in the book of Daniel, invades Judah and rules over the land. It is during this time that Daniel and his friends are taken into exile in Babylon. Successive kings put in place by Nebuchadnezzar rebel against him, leading first to Nebuchadnezzar removing all the treasures from the temple in Jerusalem to Babylon and taking more of the people into exile and leaving only the poorest in the land (2 Kings 24:13-14) before finally returning to destroy Jerusalem, setting fire to the temple, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem, and breaking down the walls of the city (2 Kings 25:9-10).
Daniel and his friends therefore live at a time when God’s people are oppressed by a foreign power. The challenge for Daniel and his friends is to remain faithful to God in a foreign land, while they experience the oppression and opposition of an empire that at times is directly opposed to God.
The book of Daniel has been a source and comfort for God’s people throughout the generations, particularly when they have experienced a sense of “exile”: that they are living in a land where the powers that be are oppressing them and at times directly opposing God.
Daniel and his friends provide us with models as to how to live for God in such a context, and challenge us to stand for God, despite the risk.
This series of studies covers the first six chapters of Daniel and uses the Conversations method.