Drawing from her own study of Daniel, the knowledge gained while serving as a teaching assistant for Prof. Iain Provan’s Regent College course on Daniel, and the insights gained through talks Carl Ellis gave at an InterVarsity conference, Kathy Cooper has compiled study notes for InterVarsity groups exploring Daniel. These notes are designed to be “plug and play.” While we’ll make some further study suggestions for those with extra time, these notes are designed to provide the basis for leading a thoughtful discussion about how Daniel applies to graduate student or faculty life even if a group has little extra prep time. These notes were designed for leading an inductive bible study discussion, but can be adapted for various bible study contexts. For the first entry in the series, click here.
ESN is glad to share material by experienced InterVarsity staffers for campus groups this year; for more on what we’re sharing on the blog and why, see our fall blog lineup preview post.
Daniel Chapter 2
Review: King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians conquered Judah and deported the Jews to Babylon around 597/8 BCE. Last week we talked about how scary and confusing it must have been for the Jews to be in exile. We learned that the best and the brightest of the Jews were taken into the King’s youth government training program, and that Daniel and his three friends were among them.
They were given new names and taught the language and literature of the Babylonians, most likely because the Babylonians looked down on their culture and wanted to “civilize” them. They were being wined and dined into paganism and were also invited to switch allegiances from the King of heaven (Yahweh) to the king of the land (Nebuchadnezzar).
Last week we talked about this cultural assimilation process—especially the giving of new names. We discovered that if you let someone label you, if you don’t watch out, they’ll start to identify you (or mold your identity). While Daniel and his friends didn’t have a choice about these name changes, they could make choices to resist assimilation. For example, they chose to eat vegetables rather than food from the king’s table. God honored their risky choice to maintain integrity as the people of God, and gave them greater influence and position in the king’s court.
Read Daniel 2 out loud (it’s a long chapter, so feel free to assign different parts to different readers, almost as if you’re reading a play)
Discuss in small groups of 2-3 (you could have each small group work on a different character):
- What do you notice about Nebuchadnezzar?
- What do you notice about Daniel?
- What do you notice about God?
- Question for all groups: What is the point of the dream in the passage?
Textual Discussion Questions:
What do you notice about Nebuchadnezzar? Let’s do a character sketch. How would you describe him?
- This is early in his reign. He’s powerful. He has conquered neighboring nations/peoples.
- He’s shrewd. He assimilates foreigners in his cultural program, consolidating his power.
- He’s fearful. He is disturbed by his dream. He also has a belief in dreams, in the supernatural.
- The king is abusive of his power and of those who work for him (verses 5-13). He is unreasonable in his expectations of his magicians, etc. He’s also distrustful of their intent to help. He doesn’t value their lives. They are dispensable to him, as if they exist to cater to his needs.
- Nebuchadnezzar is easily angered. He doesn’t like to hear the word “no.”
Sometimes as believers we will encounter and have to work under people like Nebuchadnezzar.
What do you notice about Daniel and his response? What can we learn from Daniel here?
- Daniel 2:14: He spoke to Arioch with wisdom and tact. Daniel said something; he didn’t remain silent. He spoke to someone high up who could do something.
- Daniel spoke in another language with wisdom and tact. Both qualities are often underrated—but incredibly important gifts and skills, especially in cross-cultural situations.
- Daniel 2:15-16: Daniel asked questions. He got more information before he acted or proposed a solution.
- He asked the king for more time. There’s no harm in asking. Questions and requests can sometimes open doors where statements and demands and defensiveness cannot.
- Daniel 2:17: Daniel gets help and shares the problem with friends. He solicits prayer: he and his friends plead/beg for mercy from God. Daniel knows that only God can reveal this mystery. If God does not help, they will die.
- Daniel 2:19: Daniel has a vision during the night—this detail suggests that Daniel prayed all night.
- Daniel 2:20-23, 27-28: Daniel gives credit and thanks/praise to God, even in front of Nebuchadnezzar. He doesn’t take the credit himself for his own wisdom when in the king’s presence. Daniel 2:24-28: Daniel believes God gave him the correct dream and interpretation.
- Daniel was ready to respond faithfully in a crisis. He had already chosen to live with integrity and allegiance to God in his daily living and working under King Nebuchadnezzar. This daily faithfulness helped prepare him to respond faithfully in the midst of crisis. There will be times when all else will fail, and only the believer who is prepared and has lived with integrity will remain standing. All mouths may be silenced, but you will have an opportunity to speak.
What do you see and learn about God?
- wisdom and power are God’s. God sets up kings and deposes them . . .
- God reveals mysteries—including the king’s dream and its interpretation
- God will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed
The dream: How would you paraphrase it, briefly? What’s the point?
Verse 44: there is a kingdom coming that is not of human hands—that will never be destroyed. This kingdom will bring all human kingdoms to an end. (We’ll explore this theme in the rest of the book; it’s at the heart of the book’s message and gives hope to the Jews in exile. Messianic hope is embedded in it).
Questions for application/reflection on our lives:
- How does this story connect with our lives today? What is God’s word to you from Daniel?
- Do you feel ready/prepared for this sort of crisis? (You never know when it will happen. The magicians weren’t prepared.) How could you set patterns of faithfulness to God in your daily living/working?
- Do you know of a situation of potential violence or power abuse, where you have a choice to speak and get involved instead of remaining silent? How do you need prayer in this situation?
- Are you facing anything that seems impossible to solve, where prayer could bring God’s wisdom?
- How will you use your gifts and talents to serve God and people?
- Do you feel the need for wisdom and tact—especially in another language and culture? Ask God to give these gifts to you.
For Further Study
The source for most of the background history in this series is:
- Daniel: Living With Beastly Empires, course by Dr. Iain Provan at Regent College, Vancouver, BC, May 9-20, 2005. This course is available at the Regent College Bookstore Audio Site: https://www.regentaudio.com/products/daniel-living-with-beastly-empires
Kathy Cooper is the Director of Staff Training & Leadership Development for InterVarsity’s Graduate & Faculty Ministries, and serves as GFM staff at Brown University Graduate & Medical Schools. She has a B.A. from Yale in American Studies (Literature) and a Masters of Divinity from Regent College (Vancouver). Kathy and her husband Keith live in Providence, RI. All 3 of their daughters are in college this year. She enjoys cooking, reading, walks with the family dog, conversation over a cup of good coffee, and gardening.