The book of Daniel
Daniel's life. Overview of the book.
Daniel's life, according to the biblical account:
In 605 BCE, as a teenager, Daniel was captured by the Babylonian army, during its first
attack on Jerusalem. He had been a member of the royal house or of the nobility. Daniel
survived a castration operation and spent the rest of his long life in the city of
Babylon, in the service of the royal court. He went by two names: Daniel and
That city was generally regarded as the most beautiful in the known world. Ancient
authorities, not known for accuracy, claimed that its walls were 60 miles long, 300 feet
high and 80 feet thick. The Euphrates river divided the city in to two roughly equal
Isaiah 13:17-22 described it as "Babylon, fairest of
kingdoms, proud beauty of the Chaldeans" It contained one of the seven
wonders of the world: the hanging gardens of Babylon, which Nebuchadnezzar build for his
Queen. Both a passage in Isaiah and Jeremiah 51:37-43 prophesized that
Babylon would be destroyed and never occupied again. The prophecy was partly correct and partly in error: the
city was destroyed. But part of it has been inhabited in recent years. It is now being
rebuilt by the Government of Iraq.
Daniel is described as living in Babylon for the entire duration of the Babylonian
empire, a period of 72 years. He arrived during the last year in the reign of
Nabopolassar, stayed through the entire 45 year reign of Nebuchadnezzar, assisted 5
succeeding kings, survived through the occupation by the Medes and into the occupation of
the Persians. He was present as Israel was taken into captivity; he died two years after a
fragment of the Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem.
Overview of the Book of Daniel:
The first part of the book, chapters 1 to 6, contains five well known stories:
Daniel's interpretation of King Nebuchadnezzar's dream: The king demanded that
his magicians, exorcists, sorcerers, etc. describe the dream to him, and to interpret its
meaning. He might have withheld information about the dream from them in order to test
their psychic abilities. Alternatively, he may not have been able to recall the details of
the dream. (Many people are unable to recollect dreams after wakening.) Understandably,
they failed. Daniel then described the dream, and explained that the metals that the king
dreamed of (gold, silver, bronze and iron) each represented one earthly kingdom: his own and three
to come in the future.
The attempted execution of Daniel's three friends in the fiery furnace: The
king had made a gold image, some 90 feet tall and ordered the people to prostrate
themselves and worship the image whenever certain music was played. Any who refused was to
be thrown into a blazing furnace. Three Jewish friends of Daniel: Shadrach, Meschach and
Aben-nego, refused to worship the statue and were thrown into a fiery furnace that had
been heated "to seven times its normal heat." Not only were they
unharmed, but they were accompanied by a fourth figure who "looks like a god"
and was later identified by Nebuchadnezzar as an angel.
Nebuchadnezzar's madness: He has a dream in which he is overcome by a mental
illness and roamed like an animal through the parks surrounding the palace for 42 months.
Daniel interprets the dream, which comes to pass a year later. The king was restored to
his right mind after 42 months of living with wild beasts and feeding on grass like oxen.
At the end of that time, he acknowledged the sovereignty of Jehovah and was made whole.
The handwriting on the wall of King Belshazzar's banquet hall: Nebuchadnezzar
had stolen the gold and silver vessels from the temple at Jerusalem. When his son,
Belshazzar, became king, he ordered that the vessels be brought out and used at a party by
the nobility, himself and his concubines and courtesans. Suddenly, the fingers of a hand
appeared, and wrote a message on the wall of the palace. The king's magicians, sorcerers,
etc. were unable to decode the words. Daniel translated the message as saying that God has
brought his kingdom to a close. That night, Belshazzar was killed and "Darius the
Mede" took over. The Babylonian empire ended and the Medes occupied the land.
Daniel surviving in the den of lions: "Darius" appointed Daniel as
one of three chief ministers of the new kingdom of the Medes. Some jealous ministers and
satraps conspired to kill Daniel. They persuaded the king to write an edict stating that
anyone who petitions any god or human being other than the king during the following 30
days would be thrown into the lions' den. The conspirators caught Daniel praying to God,
and presented him to the king for execution. The king tried to think of a way to avoid
executing Daniel, but was unsuccessful. (He probably didn't think too hard, because there
was a simple solution to the problem. If the lions were over-feed, they would have lost
interest in munching on Daniel). Daniel was thrown in to the pit, but survived. He
credited an angel with shutting the lions' mouths.
The remainder of the book deals mainly with Daniel's visions:
||A dream of 4 beasts (lion with eagles' wings, bear, leopard with four wings like a bird,
and a terrible beast with 10 horns, which later became 8 horns). Again, these four animals
each symbolized an earthly kingdom.
||The vision of a powerful ram and a male goat who fight each other. The goat conquers the
||A prayer of confession to, and trust in, God.
A momentous vision of Israel's future, leading to the end of the age some 1,335 days
later. Some of the dead will awake "to everlasting life and some to the reproach
of eternal abhorrence. The wise leaders will shine like the bright vault of heaven, and
those who have guarded the people in the true path will be like the stars for ever and
ever." This implies a resurrection of the dead, a judgement and transfer of the
resurrected Jews to heaven or hell.
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
J.D. Douglas, Ed., "New Commentary on the Whole Bible, Old Testament Volume,"
Tyndale, Wheaton, IL, (1990), Pages 1165 to 1204.
Copyright © 1998 to 2016 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update 2016-JAN-25
Author: B.A. Robinson