There have probably always been people who have claimed the power of clairvoyance and ability to foretell future events. A well-known example would be Michael de Notredame (1503-66) who wrote under the assumed name of Nostradamus. His predictions were characteristic of such writings, having a vagueness or generality that could well fit many situations. The reliability of the predictions are not held in great regard.
From even earlier times we have the writings of such a person as Daniel, whose book forms part of the Old Testament in the Bible. How can we know if his prophecies have any greater reliability? One evidence would be the accuracy of their fulfilment. Indeed, this very question was asked of Daniel.
“Then I, Daniel, looked, and there before me stood two others, one on this bank of the river and one on the opposite bank. One of them said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, ‘How long will it be before these astonishing things are fulfilled?’ ” Daniel 12:5–6
This is the question that we too must ask, for if Daniel had a genuine ability for predicting the future, then his message would have very much relevance for us today. In fact, the importance would be weighty, for he claimed to foretell events quite beyond even today’s times!
Background to Daniel
Daniel was born into an unidentified family in Judea somewhat prior to B.C.620. At that time their king, Josiah, was attempting a spiritual reformation of the people. But a few years later, Nebuchadnezzar—who became king of Babylon the following year—came against the nation, captured it, and took many of the people back to Babylon. Daniel was amongst the first selection that he took back in B.C.606.
“Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.” Daniel 1:3–6
It was after this three-year period that the opportunity came for Daniel to demonstrate his special ability (see Daniel 1:17; Daniel 5:11, 14). It was in B.C.603 that the king of Babylon had a dream one night that greatly troubled him.
“In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, ‘I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.’” Daniel 2:1–3
Realising the crucial implication the dream had for his future, the king was desperate to gain a proper understanding of it.
“Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, ‘O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.’
“The king replied to the astrologers, ‘This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.’” Daniel 2:4–6