The decline of Israel’s southern kingdom was slower than that of the northern kingdom which fell to Assyria in 721 BC. Judah took the fall of the northern kingdom to heart and amended her ways for a while and the southern kingdom survived for another 150 years. But they too turned away from their God and eventually experienced the same fate at the hands of the Babylonians. Before Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, he humiliated her. The last few kings of Judah, Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah were all forced to do homage to him before he got tired of them and wiped out the city. Nebuchadnezzar’s first move on the city involved the demeaning of Jewish worship by looting the temple. Daniel opens with that. He says, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And 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.”

If my bible chronology is correct (and I think it is!), the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign would have put Daniel at about 16 years of age. That means that Daniel was born around 622 BC. Josiah had become king of Judah then. He was only eight years old. He was one of the most faithful kings of either the northern or southern kingdoms. His grandfather, Manasseh, had closed the doors of the temple and had them sealed shut. Josiah had them reopened when he was only 18 years old. Inside the temple, the word of God was rediscovered, and the priests and leaders of Jerusalem began teaching the Word of God that had been lost. This brought a spiritual revival to the nation. Daniel grew up in Jerusalem under that spiritual revival. In passing, please note that the hero of this book, Daniel had an upbringing strongly influenced by the Scriptures. Daniel is the one who is going to speak for God in a pagan community. But before he could speak for God, he had to hear God. Daniel knew his scriptures well and was able to live by them and proclaim them in a world that was at war. That same war is waging.

There has always been a battle between Jerusalem and Babylon. Augustine’s book “The City of God” contrasts these two as the city of God, Jerusalem, and the city of the world, Babylon. They stand opposed to each other. Boice says recognizing this struggle “Reminds us that the struggle between Nebuchadnezzar and God, recorded in Daniel, is actually only one example of that greater struggle between the world’s way of doing things and God’s way of doing things, which has prevailed at all times and prevails today. It is this that makes Daniel a contemporary book.”[1]

[1] Boice, James Montgomery. 2003. Daniel: An Expositional Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.