White still a mere youth, Daniel was kidnaped from his noble family in Judah and deported to Babylon to be brainwashed into Babylonian culture for the task of assisting with the imported Jews. He lived during the whole period of the Babylonian exile, at times occupying high office in the Babylonian and Persian empires.
Nine of the twelve chapters relate revelation through dreams and visions. What Revelation is to the NT prophetically and apocalyptically, Daniel is to the OT.
The book covers the entire seventy years of the Babylonian captivity (1:1;9:1-3). It begins in 605 BC when Babylon conquered Jerusalem (1:1) and exiled Daniel, his friends and others (1:6). It continues on to the eventual demise of Babylonian supremacy in 539 BC, when Medo-Persian besiegers conquered Babylon (5:30-31), and goes even beyond that to 536 BC (10:1).
Judah was in sins without national repentance, eventually led to God’s judgement for which Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah had given fair warning. Earlier prophets like Isaiah had also sounded the alarm.
Assyrian’s power declined since 625 BC, its capital Nineveh was conquered by Babylon in 612 BC. Babylon conquered Egypt and then Judah in 605 BC for the first time, followed by two more attacks in 597 BC and 586 BC. Daniel was captured on the first exile, followed by Ezekiel on the second exile (597BC).
Daniel passionately remembered his home, particularly the temple at Jerusalem, almost seventy years after having been taken away from it (6:10).
Daniel is the author of this book. From chapter 7 to 12, he frequently used the first person singular pronoun “I, Daniel” in this book (7:1, 28; 8:2; 15, 27; 9:2 10:1-2; 12:4-5).
The meaning of Daniel is “God is my judge”.
There was three other Daniels in OT (1 Chr 3:1; Ezra 8:2; Neh 10:6), they are not the same person as the prophet Daniel.
Daniel successfully exalting God by his character and service. He quickly rose to the role of statesman by royal appointment and served as a confidant of kings (5:29), as well as a prophet of God, in two world empires: the Babylonian (2:48) and the Medo-Persian (6:1-2).
Daniel is very devoted following of God. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to God (6:10).
The contemporaries of Daniel are Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah.
Daniel was mentioned by God as a righteous man, together with Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14).
Reference in NT
The Lord Jesus referenced Daniel in Matthew 24:15, a proved of the authority of Daniel as a prophet of God. “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand” (Matt 24:15). Abomination that causes desolation is a special word used only by Daniel (9:27; 11:31; 12:11).
Daniel was alluded in Hebrew when the author mentioned the list of men of faith as someone who shut the mouths of lions (Heb 11:32).
This book is written in Hebrew, except 2:4 – 7:28, which is in Aramaic (what used to be called Chaldee). Aramaic was the commercial and diplomatic language of the time. This is not unusual since this book was written for Jews living among Babylonians.
- Background of Daniel (1:1-21)
- Conquest of Jerusalem (1:1-2)
- Conscription of Jews for Training (1:3-7)
- Courage of Four Men in Trial (1:8-16)
- Choice of Four Men for Royal Positions (1:17-21)
- The prophetic Course of Gentile Dominion (2:1-7:28)
- Dilemmas of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1-4:37)
- Debauchery and Demise of Belshazzar (5:1-31)
- Deliverance of Daniel (6:1-28)
- Dream of Daniel (7:1-28)
- The Prophetic Course of Israel’s Destiny (8:1-12-13)
- Prophecy of the Ram and Male Goat (8:1-27)
- Prophecy of the Seventy Weeks (9:1-27)
- Prophecy of Israel’s Humiliation and Restoration (10:1-12:13)
Daniel was written to encourage the exiled Jews by revealing God’s plans for them, both during and after the time of Gentile power in the world. The prominent theme of the book is God’s sovereign control over the affairs of all rulers and nations, and their final replacement with the true King.
The key verses are 2:20-22:
Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are His.
He changes times and seasons;
He deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
He reveals deep and hidden things;
He knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
God sovereignly allowed Gentiles to dominate Israel:
Babylon (605BC – 539 BC)
Medo-Pesia (539BC – 331 BC)
Greece (331BC – 146 BC)
Rome (146BC – 476 AD)
These stages of Gentile power are set forth in chapters 2 to 7. The same them is repeated in chapters 8-12.
Messiah future coming to rule the world in glory over all people is prophesied throughout this book:
2:35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.
2:45 This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.
7:13-14 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
7:27 Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be handed over to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey him.
Chapter 9 provides the chronological framework from Daniel’s time to Christ’s kingdom. The death of Christ, the Anointed One, the Messiah was prophesied in 9:26:
9:26 After the sixty-two ‘sevens,’ the Anointed One will be put to death and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed.
Miracles in Daniel
The book of Daniel is filled by miracles. God performed these miracles to reveal He is the Creator and Ruler of His creations. These miracles includes:
- dreams and their interpretation (chapter 2; 4; 7)
- His protection of the three men in a blazing furnace (chapter 3)
- His writing on the wall and Daniel’s interpretation of it (chapter 5)
- His provision of safety for Daniel in a lions’ den (chapter 6)
- supernatural prophecies (chapter 2; 7; 8; 9:24-12:13)
- Babylon – the head of gold (2:36-38) and winged lion (7:4)
- Media-Persia – the arms and chest of silver (2:32,39) and the bear (7:5)
- Greece – the thighs of brass (2:32, 39) and the leopard (7:6)
- Rome – the legs of iron (2:33,40) and the “dreadful beast” (7:7)
- the kingdom of antichrist – the ten toes (2:41-43) and the little horn (7:8)
- the kingdom of Christ – the smiting stone that fills the earth (2:34-35, 44-45) and the Ancient of Days (7:9-14)
Other Online Resources
I found the following resources to be very useful in understanding the book of Daniel: