His name means “God is my judge.”
Two main sections
Stories of Daniel (1:1–6:28)
Visions of Daniel (7:1–12:13)
Portions written in Aramaic
Daniel 1:1–2:3, in Hebrew
Daniel 2:4–7:28, in Aramaic
Daniel 8:1–12:13, in Hebrew
Babylonian Empire (1:1–5:29)
Media-Persian Empire (5:30–8:4)
Greek Empire under Alexander the Great (8:5-21)
Greek Empires under Seleucid and Ptolemaic Rule (8:22–11:45)
Final Messianic Empire (12:1-13)
Exiled to Babylon (1:1-7)
The book of Daniel begins with the exile of King Jehoiakim and all of the nobles and members of the royal family in Jerusalem to Babylon.
This took place before the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
King Nebuchadnezzar ordered that the very young men among the exiles be examined to see if any were fit to serve in his royal court.
Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among those chosen.
Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar, and the other three were renamed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
The King’s Food (1:8-21)
Daniel did not want to “defile” himself by eating the unclean foods from the King’s table that had been offered to Babylonian deities.
Daniel went to Ashpenaz, the man in charge of these honored exiles, and asked for water and vegetables instead.
Ashpenaz was afraid Nebuchadnezzar would be angry, so Daniel proposed a test to see which food was better.
At the end of the week, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier after eating only water and vegetables than the other men did who had eaten the King’s food.
They were given permission to eat whatever they wanted to.
This story ends by saying that Daniel remained in courtly service of the Babylonians until King Cyrus of the Persians came to power.
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (2:1-49)
Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream.
He wanted his wise men to interpret it without hearing it, but they could not.
Nebuchadnezzar ordered their execution.
Daniel and his three friends asked for time to pray to God.
God revealed the King’s dream to Daniel and Daniel explained its meaning to the King.
He had dreamed of a great metallic statue that had been destroyed by a rock “not cut with human hands.”
The rock later became a mountain that “filled the whole earth.”
Gold head = Babylonians
Silver chest and arms = Medes and Persians
Bronze belly and thighs = Greeks under Alexander the Great
Iron legs = Greeks under Seleucid and Ptolemaic control
Feet partly of iron and baked clay = reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes
The rock that becomes a mountain = reign of the Messiah
The Fiery Furnace (3:1-30)
At Daniel’s suggestion, King Nebuchadnezzar appointed his three friends to positions of high authority.
Later, the King built a huge gold statue in honor of himself.
The statue was 60 cubits tall, and 6 by 6 cubits wide.
Death to anyone who refused to bow to it.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow.
The King gave them a second chance, but they still refused.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
The King was enraged and ordered the furnace to be heated up seven times hotter than normal.
They were thrown in, clothes and all, by soldiers who died from the heat while following orders.
Suddenly, the King said, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire? Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
The King commanded them to come out.
They were unharmed and didn’t even smell like smoke.
The King promoted them and praised their God.
“Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
Nebuchadnezzar Goes Insane (4:1-37)
Chapter 4 is presented as a letter by Nebuchadnezzar to all the nations of the world.
The letter details the account of his absence from the kingdom.
Around 30 years are missing from the historical record of Nebuchadnezzar, so we do not know what happened to him during that time apart from the biblical text.
One theory is that this story is actually about Nabonidus, Nebuchadnezzar’s successor, who according to historical records fled his kingdom and went on an odd pilgrimage for roughly a decade.
In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that terrified him.
No one could interpret the dream except for Daniel.
The dream was about a tree that touched the sky, was seen throughout the world, and provided shelter for all animals.
A messenger from heaven ordered the tree to be cut down.
All the animals fled, and the stump that remained in the ground was shackled with iron and bronze.
“Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him.”
Daniel was disturbed by the dream.
Tree = Nebuchadnezzar
Tree stump = Nebuchadnezzar losing his mind
A year later, the King was walking around on his roof, admiring his kingdom and wealth, when a voice came from heaven and repeated the words of the dream.
The King left his palace and lived in the wilderness and ate grass and let his hair and nails grow long.
After seven years, he looked up towards heaven and finally acknowledged God, and his right mind was restored.
The letter ends with the King praising God for humbling the proud.
The Writing on the Wall (5:1-31)
Chapter 5 takes place under Belshazzar’s reign.
According to historical records, Belshazzar served as co-regent with his father Nabonidus (perhaps because his dad was a little crazy).
Belshazzar held a great feast for 1,000 of his nobles and it turned into a great drunken orgy.
Belshazzar had the golden cups that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem used to serve the wine at the party.
Suddenly, “the fingers of a human hand appeared” and wrote on the wall near the lamp stand.
The King turned pale and could hardly stand.
None of the King’s enchanters, astrologers, or diviners could interpret the writing on the wall.
Daniel interpreted the writing:
Mene --> “mina” (form of money/counting, numbers) --> “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end”
Tekel --> “shekel” (form of money/weights, measures) --> “You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”
Parsin --> “peres” (Persians/form of money/half-mina or half-shekel) --> “Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians”
Belshazzar gave Daniel a purple robe and a gold necklace.
That night, King Belshazzar was killed and Babylon was conquered by the Medes and the Persians.
The text says that Darius the Mede took over the throne of Babylon.
Historical details about Darius the Mede are fuzzy, but he is associated somehow with Cyrus the Persian through the Median-Persian alliance.
Daniel and the Lions’ Den (6:1-28)
King Darius appoints rulers over his kingdom.
120 “satraps” overseen by three administrators
Daniel was an administrator.
Darius plans to make him second-in-command
Daniel in trouble
The other rulers were jealous
Try to catch Daniel doing wrong but fail
Use Daniel’s religion against him
Petitioned the king to sign a law
30 days of no prayer except prayer to Darius
Death by lions as punishment for breaking law
Signed with the “seal of the Medes and Persians”
Daniel continues to pray 3 times a day and gets caught.
Daniel cast to lions and stone placed over mouth of den.
“May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
Refused to eat, sleep, or be entertained.
At dawn, Darius rushed to the lions’ den and called out, “Has your God been able to rescue you?”
“My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
Darius sets Daniel free, and throws the schemers to the lions – they are “killed before touching the ground.”
Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and Cyrus.
Daniel’s Dream of Four Beasts (7:1-28)
This vision was apparently given to Daniel during the first year of the reign of King Belshazzar of the Babylonians, but Daniel kept it to himself at the time.
Lion = Babylon
Bear = Medes and Persians
Raised on one side = dominance of Persia
Three ribs in mouth = perhaps the three conquered kingdoms of Babylon, Egypt, and Lidia
Leopard = Greece
Four heads = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great
Four wings = four divisions of Greek Empire after death of Alexander the Great
Beast with ten horns = Succession of leaders after Alexander
The “boastful” little horn = Antiochus IV Epiphanes
At the end of all of this, the Ancient of Days took His place and God’s Kingdom was given to His faithful people.
Daniel’s Vision of a Ram and a Goat (8:1-27)
Daniel apparently received this vision in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar of Babylon, but kept it to himself at the time.
The angel Gabriel assisted Daniel in interpreting the vision.
Powerful ram with two horns = The Empire of the Medes and Persians
Goat with one large horn = Kingdom of Greece led by Alexander the Great
Goat attacked ram and broke its horns = Alexander attacked Media-Persia and conquered it
Four smaller horns replaced the large horn of the goat = four generals who replaced Alexander the Great
Smaller horn that appears later = another leader with apparently supernatural abilities and a particular hate for God’s people, possibly Antiochus IV Epiphanes
Gabriel also said that this vision concerned “the time of the end.”
The end of what?
End of Greek rule?
End of the wait for the Messiah?
End of the world?
Daniel’s Prayer (9:1-27)
This chapter is set during the first year of the reign of Darius.
Here, the text says that Darius was the son of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes I (the king in the Esther story).
In this chapter, Daniel recalls that Jeremiah had prophesied that the “desolation” of Jerusalem would last for 70 years.
Daniel prays to God and confesses the sins of the people of Judah.
He admits that they had broken covenant with God and so the curses of the covenant had come upon them.
Daniel prayed that God would rescue His people from captivity and bring them to the Promised Land, just as He had done through Moses.
The angel Gabriel shows up and confirms that Jeremiah was right when he said that Judah’s punishment would last 70 years, but then he multiplies that number by seven in order to say that though the exile has ended after seventy years, the current era of trial and testing will continue for 490 years.
He refers to this period as “seventy sevens” or seventy periods of Sabbath years (490 years).
When this era ended, several things would happen:
Time to finish transgression and put an end to sin
Time to atone for wickedness
Time to bring in wisdom and righteousness
Time to seal up vision and prophesy
Time to anoint the Most Holy Place
He then goes on to divide this era into periods of “seven sevens and sixty-two sevens” or 49 years and 434 years before “the end” would come in the final seven years.
At the beginning of this era of 490 years, an order would given to rebuild Jerusalem and its Temple. This took place when the Persians took control of the world under Cyrus.
After the first 49 years, the "Anointed One" would take his place in Jerusalem. This is probably referring the anointing of the High Priest Joshua and/or Governor Zerubbabel during the time of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.
434 later, a ruler would arise who would put the “Anointed One” to death. This happened when Antiochus came to power and murdered the High Priest Onias.
This ruler would conquer Jerusalem and desecrate the Temple.
He would make a “covenant” with the people for seven years, but halfway through it, he would put an end to the Jewish sacrifices and set up the “abomination of desolation.”
At the very end of the 490 year era of trial and testing, Gabriel says that the Most Holy Place in the Temple will be anointed once again. This took place after the Maccabees retook Jerusalem from Antiochus and rededicated the Temple to Yahweh.
Daniel’s Vision of a Man (10:1–11:1)
Daniel had this vision during the third year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia.
Daniel saw a shiny man standing on the bank of the Tigris River.
The people with Daniel didn’t see anything, but were suddenly filled with fear and ran away.
Daniel fainted, but the man helped him up and gave him strength.
He said that he had come in response to Daniel’s prayer, but that he had been detained for 21 days by the “prince of Persia” until Michael, one of the “chief princes,” showed up to help him.
The shiny man said he was there to tell Daniel what would happen to his people in the future, saying that he would soon go off to fight against the prince of Persia, and then after him the prince of Greece would come.
He also indicated that Michael was his only ally in this struggle, and that they had been allies since the first year of Darius the Mede.
The Kings of the South and the North (11:2-20)
The shiny man continued talking…
He said that Persia and Greece would eventually go to war with each other and Persia would lose.
After the time of this great ruler of Greece (Alexander the Great), Greece would be divided up into four different kingdoms.
Over many years, two of these kingdoms would continually go to war against each other.
Kings of the North = Seleucid Greek rulers over Syrian lands
Kings of the South = Ptolemaic Greek rulers over Egyptian lands
The Time of the End (11:21-45)
The last King of the North = Antiochus IV Epiphanes
|Antiochus IV Epiphanes|
He set up the “Abomination of Desolation” in the Temple of the LORD.
This period of time would see a lot of trouble and persecution, especially during the last three-and-a-half years of the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
The apocryphal books of 1st and 2nd Maccabees deal with the history of Judah during this time.
The popular Jewish festival of Hanukkah also originated because of the events that took place during this time.
Help from the puppets in connecting Daniel’s vision to the Maccabees…and Hanukkah…
The Resurrection of the Dead (12:1-13)
“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”
“But you, Daniel, roll up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end. Many will go here and there to increase knowledge.”
“Go your way, Daniel, because the words are rolled up and sealed until the time of the end. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.”
“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”