Tonight we will brief each chapter that we read...they haven't pieced together just yet, so we have not been able to make complete sense of them so far.
King Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar's son) partied with the holy vessels from the temple in Jerusalem, giving honor to all of his idols. When he goes to do this, however, he sees writing on the wall and it scares the poo out of him (perhaps literally, as the reading implies!). He asks all of the wisemen, soothsayers, etc. if anyone can read the writing--no one can...except Daniel of course. Daniel interprets it and says, "Your kingdom is crumbling, God wants you out, it will be given to the Medes and Persians." Daniel points out that Belshazzar, if anyone, should know better than to blaspheme against God, after all, his father had been driven crazy in order to come to one true God. In other words, he should be able to read "the writing on the wall." He then gets killed in his sleep and the Medians overtook the kingdom.
Darius, the Median, is king now. He acknowledges Daniel's God as the one true God, but the wisemen don't like the favor that Daniel and his God are being given by Darius. The wisemen made a law to say that no law should be changed--not even by the king! Then they implemented a law that no one should worship anyone or anything besides Darius, or they will be thrown into the lion's den, and Darius signed it (evidently not thinking about Daniel). Then Daniel gets busted for praying to God and sent to Darius, who then tries to defend Daniel, but his wisemen point out that he signed the law saying none other than Darius shall be worshiped--and couldn't change it back, per previous statute. So Daniel's thrown into the lion's den and Darius tells him, "Your God will save you." Darius can't sleep that night and in the morning he goes to check on Daniel and Daniel says, "No worries. God sent his angels to keep shut the lion's mouths and I am safe." Then comes the part of the story that isn't told in any retelling of this story I've ever heard; all those who were against Daniel got thrown into the den (along with their wives and their families!) and devoured by the lions! Darius then praised God and Daniel prospered during his reign and the reign of Cyrus, king of the Persians.
Daniel has a frightening dream about four beasts, fiery steam, judgement, etc...we were a little unclear about how this was to be interpreted. It seems that during the vision he asks a person within the vision how to interpret his vision. He's told that the four beasts represent four kings, but the scary one of the four is the one that will take over all the others. Within that global kingdom there's going to be a series of kings, the last of which is speaking out against God and changing the laws and changing life as it were. This seems a bit like an anti-Christ figure, though it never really mentions any specific time frame or names, so this is why we are a little unclear. It wraps up with this final kingdom having reign until judgement day, when the most High takes power back and brings with him all of the saints and good people. Daniel then says that he was very troubled and confused by this dream, so he kept it to himself. If anyone has a clearer idea of what this dream meant, we'd like to hear your thoughts...we may just need to read a little further to understand.
Daniel has another dream that gets interpreted by Gabriel to mean that the Grecian empire would take over the Persians and the Medians and become the ruling power in the land. The vision ends with another anti-Christ-like figure taking power...but he would be "broken without hand" (broken by God, not by man). Daniel passed out and was sick for a while after this...no one else understood his vision. He was having prophetic visions, but was keeping them to himself at this point.
Daniel asks God for forgiveness of his people. Then Gabriel comes again and says, "You've been chosen by God...you are beloved, so we are going to show you things that others won't see." Gabriel tells Daniel about a period of seventy weeks that seems like it is supposed to be some sort of penance for the Jews for their transgressions. After the seventy weeks, Jerusalem will be rebuilt in preparation of the Messiah. He'll come and die for everyone's sins, but then everything is going to crumble once again... This section we found confusing. It seems that having read other books (Jeremiah was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter) first would have helped. Look for tie-ins to this particular chapter in future posts.
Daniel, in a time a weakness from fasting and prayer is given another vision...perhaps in response to his earlier prayers and visions looking for the deliverance of God's people. A man comes to give him the strength to go on. As best we can read into it, this man has come in response to Daniel's pleas: "...thy words were heard and I am come for thy words." After giving Daniel strength, this man-figure tells Daniel that he (the man-figure) will be fighting with the Prince of Persia. As best we can tell, this figure is named Michael (seemingly the archangel, God's warrior).
More reading and certainly some historical context will hopefully tie this all together. Although we are jumping around a bit, the book of Daniel seems to be fast-forwarding towards the coming of Christ. Historically the timing makes sense as well. Cyrus, the King of Persia mentioned in these readings ruled during the mid 500s BC. The next empire to come would be the Greeks (foretold in Daniel), followed by the Romans...which is right about the time of Jesus.