In the 357 verses of the book of Daniel, there are more than 300 occurrences of words pertaining to civil authority: king (150); king’s (20); kings (12); kings’ (1) ; kingly (1); kingdom (54); kingdoms (3) ; prince(17); princes (18) ; reign (6); rule (4); ruler (6); ruled (2); rulers (2); ruleth (3) ; lord (4); and, lords (6) . Noting much of this content, especially verses like Daniel 4:35, people often come away from the book thinking and saying that it is about God’s sovereignty.
The meaning of the word, “Daniel,” however, is not, ‘God is my Sovereign’; it means, ‘God is my judge.’ In keeping with the meaning of the title of the book, Daniel 7, the key chapter of the book, sets forth the Ancient of Days as the Judge who renders judgment (7:10, 22, and 26). His judgment brings about the rise and fall of the successive major kingdoms of the world and will one day bring in the kingdom of God and of His Christ.
Appreciation of the work of God as judge in the book of Daniel and in Scripture in general is not infrequently obscured by the overuse of the terms, “sovereign” and “sovereignty,” because God’s work as judge does not seem to be readily in view in such statements about His sovereignty. It seems that at least some people often think of sovereignty mostly in terms of an administrator or an executive and thereby lose sight of God’s work as judge.
Psalm 75 supports regarding Daniel as emphasizing the work of God as judge by declaring that promotion comes from God the Judge (75:6-7; see also 1 Sam. 15:3, 17-18; 1 Kings 19:16-17 [raising up kings] and 1 Sam. 15:23, 26; 2 Chron. 24:24 [removing kings in connection with His judging]). As the Judge, God is the One who puts down one and sets up another (75:7). Nearly the entire book of Daniel manifests the judicial activity of God in connection with the rise and fall of kings and their kingdoms.
It is important for us to have a scriptural understanding of the work of God as judge. His judging is not just His condemning, destroying, punishing, etc. His judgment is multifaceted and includes His promoting people and rewarding those who are upright. For example, God as the Judge of all manifests Himself gloriously in the book of Daniel by repeatedly exalting Daniel and his friends in spite of others’ attempts to destroy them (2:46-49; 3:28-30; 6:23-24).
Let us praise our God, the Judge who both exalts and abases!