God Grants Sovereignty

The Book of Daniel presents insights into the future with an emphasis on the rise and fall of empires. This includes times of “tribulation” when the people of God endure persecution at the hands of despotic pagan rulers. However, before doing so, the Book declares that the downfall of the Jewish kingdom was according to the will of Yahweh. It was the God of Israel who “gave” the Babylonian king sovereignty over Judah.

This theme occurs several times in Daniel. God “gives the nations to whomsoever He pleases” despite outward appearances or human expectations. He uses good and bad kings to accomplish His will on behalf of His people. All this is part of an age-old controversy between Yahweh and His cosmic enemies.

Mountain Range - Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash
[Photo by Jerry Zhang on Unsplash]

In its opening paragraph, Babylon is called the “
land of Shinar,” a verbal link to the “Tower of Babel” incident. The Neo-Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar had an ancient pedigree. Like his Sumerian forbears, he was determined to unite humanity under one language and ruler so all men might acknowledge his sovereignty.

Unwittingly, the Babylonian ruler was working to reverse the judgment of Yahweh on “Shinar” by gathering all nations under his rule. Representatives from conquered peoples were taken to Babylon where they would be educated in the Chaldean “language” and wisdom, including Daniel and his three companions.

Despite the efforts of the king, events moved according to God’s plan. He was sovereign, and He ruled over the kingdoms of men. It was Yahweh who “gave” Nebuchadnezzar the Babylonian throne and dominion over the Kingdom of Judah.

  • (Daniel 1:1-2) – “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon to Jerusalem and laid siege against it; and the Lord gave into his hand Jehoiakim king of Judah and a part of the vessels of the house of God, and he brought them into the land of Shinar into the house of his gods, and the vessels he brought into the treasure-house of his gods.”

The first verse of Daniel sets the stage: In the “third year of the reign of Jehoiakim,” approximately 605 B.C. The career of Daniel would continue until the “first year of King Cyrus” when the “Kingdom of the Medes and Persians” overthrew Babylon, also according to Yahweh’s decree.

In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem after defeating Egypt at the Battle of Carchemish. At that time, he removed the “vessels” from the Temple and selected men from the royal house to be educated in Babylon for service in his government. Thus, the political independence of Judah ceased. The city and Temple were ransacked, and the upper echelons of Judean society were sent to Mesopotamia.

This was in accord with the purposes of Yahweh. The Hebrew verb rendered “GAVE” or nathan in the passage is applied several times in Chapter 1 whenever Yahweh arranges events and persons. This is a theme reiterated several times in Daniel - God gives political power to whomever He pleases - (e.g., Daniel 2:20-21, 4:17).

Nebuchadnezzar removed the vessels to the Land of “Shinar.” Like the “Tower of Babel” incident, he attempted to unite all people under one language and government. However, God used the situation to accomplish His purposes.


Nebuchadnezzar planned to educate the Jewish exiles in the wisdom, literature, and language of the “Chaldeans” so they would be equipped to serve in his administration. On their arrival, the “king appointed the exiles a daily provision of his food and of the wine that he drank to nourish them three years.” This was a great honor, one not to be rejected without paying serious consequences.

Daniel was concerned that partaking of the royal provisions would put his ritual purity at risk. Most probably, the issue was eating food offered to idols. In Babylonian rituals, food consumed in the royal court was offered first to the Mesopotamian gods in their sanctuaries before being served at the royal table.

However, God “GAVE” Daniel favor before the “prince of the eunuchs” who granted his request to abstain from the royal provisions for ten days. His positive response to Daniel was due to the intervention of Yahweh - it was God who “GAVE” Daniel “kindness and compassion in the sight of the prince of the eunuchs.” God also “GAVE” the exiles “knowledge and prudence in all learning and wisdom,” and He also gave Daniel “understanding in all visions and dreams” - (Daniel 1:9-16).

Nebuchadnezzar examined the youths and found they excelled in “every matter of wisdom and understanding… And Daniel continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus.” That is, until 538 B.C.  This establishes the length of his career - from the third year of King Jehoiakim to the first year of Cyrus the Great – 605 to 538 B.C.


In the Book of Revelation, the story of Daniel’s “test” is alluded to in the letters to Pergamos, Thyatira, and Smyrna. In the cities of Asia, believers were being encouraged by false teachers to “EAT MEAT OFFERED TO IDOLS.”

Doing so would compromise the Testimony of the Asian churches. However, refusing to participate in the idolatrous practices of their society would expose them to ridicule and persecution - (“The Devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that you MAY BE TRIED; and you shall have TRIBULATION TEN DAYS”).

Storm Clouds - Photo by Nahil Naseer on Unsplash
[Photo by Nahil Naseer on Unsplash]

In the passage, the Greek verb translated as “
try” is the same one used in the Septuagint version of Daniel when the Jewish exiles asked the Eunuch to “try” them for “ten days.” The verbal link is deliberate. Daniel’s exemplary example is the model of perseverance for the “Seven Assemblies of Asia” - (Daniel 1:12-14, Revelation 2:8-10).

Like Daniel, John found himself exiled on the Isle of Patmos for the “Testimony of Jesus.” He was a “fellow participant in the tribulation and the kingdom and the perseverance in Jesus” with the beleaguered congregations of Asia.

Like the Prophet Daniel, God used John to “prophesy to nations and kings,” pronouncing their rise and fall, and the great victory of the Kingdom of God and the absolute sovereignty of Jesus Christ over all things - (Revelation 1:9, 10:11).

  • Land of Shinar - (The arrogant acts of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel parallel the incident at the Tower of Babel in Genesis)
  • Empires Rise and Fall - (Imperial hubris is the legacy of the Tower of Babel, humanity’s first but certainly not attempt to establish the World Empire)
  • Food Offered to Idols - (Daniel and his three companions refused to participate in the religious rituals of the Babylonian Empire – Daniel 1:14)



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