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2.7.1 - God is Sovereign in History

He Sits Above the Circle of the Earth (Isa. 40:22)

He Sits Above the Circle of the Earth (Isa. 40:22)


The dominant theme in the book concerns the sovereignty of God in history, setting up and deposing both Jewish2 and Gentile kings.3 Daniel’s book has a theme of such simplicity that the most brilliant minds in the world have been unable to grasp it. It is this: God is in charge.”4

This theme is explicitly stated in numerous passages within the book: “He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan. 2:21+a); “For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory” (Dan. 2:37+b); “The most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever he will” (Dan. 4:17+b); “He does according to His will . . . and among the inhabitants of the earth no one can restrain His hand or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’ ” (Dan. 4:35+b); “They fed him with grass like oxen, . . . till he knew that the Most High God rules in the kingdom of men, and appoints over it whomever He chooses” (Dan. 5:21+b); “Then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time and times and half a time. But the court shall be seated and they shall take away his dominion” (Dan. 7:25+b-26).

This is the book of the universal sovereignty of God. Prophecy is here interwoven with history to show that God is overruling the idolatry, blasphemy, self-will, and intolerance of the Gentiles.5

This theme is demonstrated by the linkage between the first six chapters which contain historical narrative and the remaining chapters which illustrate the sovereign control of God in the spiritual realm behind the scenes of history, especially His foreknowledge in predicting and determining the course of history.

It is one thing to see how these episodes [of chapters 1-6] are related. But how are they relevant to the prophetic sections of the book? The reiterated point of the historical episodes relates to the terrifying visions of the earthly kingdoms in an important way. Daniel’s overall purpose, obviously reflecting God’s purpose in giving him these revelations, was to strengthen the faith of the people of God against the prospects of future events. . . . The historical episodes support the thesis that whereas earthly kings are temporarily sovereign, God is supremely so and His kingdom will never end. This theme is stated explicitly in the prophetic section.6

Some attempt to find refuge from the sovereignty which pervades Scripture by holding that although God knows in advance what will happen, He doesn’t control its outcome. This impotent view of God must surrender in the face of passages such as Daniel 9:24-27+ which predicted the arrival of the Messiah based on a specific pattern of seventy sevens of years. When one considers the generations in the line leading to Messiah between the prediction by Gabriel unto the presentation of Jesus to Israel, one is faced with the realization that all the variables contributing to the “random” timing of human choices pertaining to romance, courting, and marriage (not to mention conception) were not just foreknown, but predetermined for the predicted Seventy Sevens to come to pass.

The revelation of God’s ultimate control of all affairs is intended to be a source of great comfort for those who trust in Him:

These accurate prophecies demonstrating God’s control are not intended merely to demonstrate God’s omnipotence. They are primarily designed to comfort God’s people. He is in control of all human history for their benefit. While this benefit may be seen in the short term (as when Daniel is rescued from the lions’ den or the young men from the fiery furnace), often it is not immediately evident (as in the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar or the persecution of God’s people under Antiochus IV Epiphanes). Yet Daniel emphasizes that God always has his people’s welfare in mind, so that by his mighty hand, often unseen in the course of human events, “all things work together for good for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).7


1 Using a collection of satellite-based observations, scientists and visualizers stitched together months of observations of the land surface, oceans, sea ice, and clouds into a seamless, true-color mosaic of every square kilometer (.386 square mile) of our planet. “It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in” (Isaiah 40:22). Image courtesy of NASA. Image is in the public domain.

2 The Jewish kings were deposed in the events leading up to the Babylonian captivity. See Historical Setting.

3 “Without doubt the principle theological focus of the book is the sovereignty of God. Every page reflects the author’s conviction that his God was the Lord of individuals, nations, and all of history.”—Stephen R. Miller, “Daniel,” in E. Ray Clendenen, Kenneth A. Mathews, and David S. Dockery, eds., The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 50.

4 David Jeremiah, The Handwriting on the Wall: Secrets from the Prophecies of Daniel (Dallas, TX: Word Publishing, 1992), 11.

5 J. Vernon McGee, Thru The Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1997, c1981), 3:526.

6 Les P. Bruce, “Discourse Theme and the Narratives of Daniel,” in Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. 160 no. 638 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, April-June 2003), 182.

7 Andrew E Steinmann, Daniel (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2008), 29.

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