The Covenant Context of the Book of Daniel

The book of Daniel is often treated as a very unique book bearing little resemblance to anything else in Scripture except for the book of Revelation. While some of the apocalyptic imagery in Daniel is unique, it is important to recognize that the major prophecies in Daniel have a biblical context. While Daniel is given unique details about what will happen, he is not given the details on why it will happen. This is because the events in the book of Daniel all occur from an understood covenant context. The events in the book of Daniel are simply a prediction of the final outworking of the covenant promises and threats in Leviticus.

This is why, in order to understand the book of Daniel, we must understand it in light of Leviticus 26. For example, Leviticus 26 predicts that desolation will come 7 times (Leviticus 26:22, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 43) and this is why the book of Daniel emphasizes that the final abomination will lead to desolation. Jesus mentions the abomination and desolation together in the Olivet Discourse because He is referencing Daniel’s predictions and the covenant context of Leviticus (Matthew 24:15; Mark 13:14; Luke 21:20). (This, of course, is yet another reason why we know that Daniel was not speaking of Antiochus because Antiochus’ abomination did not lead to desolation as described by Leviticus 26 and as illustrated by the Babylonian invasion.)

As another example, Leviticus 26:31 predicts that the desolation will affect the sanctuary and bring an end to the sacrifice and offering. This is why the abomination in Daniel is always mentioned as bringing both desolation and an end to the sacrifice.

31I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas. (Leviticus 26:31 NKJV)

13Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, “How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?” (Daniel 8:13 NKJV)

Leviticus 26:19 also predicts that God will break the “pride of your power” and this is why Daniel 12:8 predicts that these events will not end until the power of the holy people is shattered. This is a sobering predicting aimed, not at the destruction of Israel, but at breaking down resistance to calling on Jesus for salvation. Again, Daniel is simply predicting the final events that result from the covenant blessings and threats Leviticus 26.

19I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. (Leviticus 26:19 NKJV)

7Then I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand to heaven, and swore by Him who lives forever, that it shall be for a time, times, and half a time; and when the power of the holy people has been completely shattered, all these things shall be finished. (Daniel 12:7 NKJV)

Leviticus 26, and the rest of the covenant is hanging over the book of Daniel and it is the interpretive grid for Daniel’s prophecies. It is the “why” behind the “what” of Daniel’s prophecies. Daniel is predicting the ultimate end of the vengeance of the covenant (Leviticus 26:25). This is why Isaiah points us back to the law and the writings as the interpretive grid for the prophetic word. According to Isaiah, true prophets prophecy out of the law and the testimony.

20To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (Isaiah 8:20 NKJV)

The covenant in the law is the basis of the oracles of the Old Testament prophets and it is the interpretive grid for them. We also must remember that the covenant blessings and curses of Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28-30 remain in force for Israel until all of Israel is saved through Jesus and comes into the new covenant through Him.

Unless we understand the covenant context of the prophets many of their predictions seem strange and meaningless to us. However, once we understand the context of the prophets, including the book of Daniel, we see that many of these prophecies are simply a reinforcement of what was spoken to the people of Israel by Moses.

The glorious end of the story is the final prediction of Leviticus 26 and of Daniel 12:1-2. Though there are covenant curses, there is also a final end to the covenant threats of the law. God will remember the covenant He made with Israel’s ancestors. He will remember His promises to Abraham that were secured, not by Abraham’s faithfulness, but by Abraham’s trust in God’s faithfulness (Genesis 15:6) and the One who secured Abraham’s covenant promises (Galatians 3:16) will finally secure the promises of the entire nation.

44Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the Lord their God. 45But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the Lord.’ ” (Leviticus 26:44–45 NKJV)

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