Introduction to Daniel
By Rev. Gabriel Gan
The author of the book is Daniel, a young man taken captive by the Babylonians (1: 6). Evidence for Daniel’s authorship comes from the author’s knowledge of details, and from his use of the first-person pronoun in the narrative (e.g., 7:28; 8:1–7, 15, 27; 9:2; 10:2, 7; 12:5).
Further proof of his authorship comes from the Lord’s comments in the NT referring to “Daniel the prophet” (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14). Hebrews 11:33 does not mention Daniel by name but clearly alludes to his escape from being eaten by the lions.
The book of Daniel covers the seventy-year captivity of the Jews in Babylon. The Jews placed the book in the Writings, the third section of the Hebrew Bible. This was because of Daniel’s office as a statesman rather than serving as a priest or acting as a prophet to the nation. Nonetheless, despite its position in the OT, the NT makes it clear that Daniel was a prophet (Matt. 24:15).
Explicit statements in Daniel reveal his contemporaneity with the Jewish king Jehoiakim, the Babylonian kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, and the Persian king Cyrus. On the basis of this sequential evidence, Daniel’s life spanned the closing years of the 7th century well into the 6th century B.C. We don’t know Daniel’s exact age when he went to Babylon, but we know that he was taken captive in 605 B.C., not long after Nebuchadnezzar’s famous victory at the battle of Carchemish. If he was a teenager when exiled, his birth would have been during the administration of Josiah, about the time Jeremiah started his ministry. We don’t know exactly how long he lived, but we know that he was still alive when Cyrus defeated the Babylonians in 538 B.C. and that he continued to work for some time during the Persian administration under Darius the Mede. So most of Daniel’s life and ministry took place in the 6th century B.C., and he most likely wrote the book toward the end of his career—let’s say about 530 B.C.
We know little of Daniel’s personal background, other than that he was descended from one of the kings of Judah and thus was a descendant of David. According to 1:3, Daniel and the other captives in training had a princely heritage. The prophet Isaiah had before predicted that the king’s sons would be taken captive (2 Kings 20:18; Isa. 39:7). While we do not know that Daniel was in the direct kingly line, he was of “the king’s seed, and of the princes,” 1:3.
The name Daniel means “God is my judge.” This name likely reflects a godly heritage for the man. Because Daniel was a young man in chapter one, the godly qualities displayed throughout the book must have begun early in his life. This is a clear indication of early training in godliness by his parents.
As an individual, Daniel’s character shows his dedication to God. He is one of only a few people in the Bible about whom there is no moral weakness or inconsistency recorded. From his initial decision not to “defile himself” with the king’s rations (1:8) to his willingness to rebuke the king (5:27) and his continuing in prayer to God against the king’s command, which results in his being thrown among hungry lions (6:16), Daniel shows himself faithful to God. Daniel 10:11 refers to him as “a man greatly beloved” by God.
The outline of the book generally follows the chapter divisions.
- Personal History 1:1–6:28
- Prophetic Ministry 7:1–12:13
While the first six chapters are generally historical, they also include some significant prophecy. The last six chapters deal with the four revelations received by Daniel and introduced in 7:1; 8:1–2; 9:20–21; and 10:1. These chapters are primarily prophetic, although they include historical matter as well.
This book proves that “there is a God in heaven” (2:28) and that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men” (4:25). Daniel makes it clear that God Almighty is sovereign in the affairs of this world; “history is His story.” God can take rulers off their thrones; God can defeat the strongest nations and turn them over to their enemies.
G. The Value of Daniel
Daniel’s interpretations of the visions given in the book sketch for us the outline of world history—the kingdoms of Syria (including Babylon), Media and Persia, Greece, and Rome. These four kingdoms span the interval from Daniel’s own time to the second coming of the Lord.
John R. Walvoord describes the book as “the most comprehensive revelation of the Old Testament, giving the only total view of world history from Babylon to the second advent of Christ.… Daniel provides the key to the overall interpretation of prophecy, is a major element in premillennialism, and is essential to the interpretation of the book of Revelation.”
The emphasis of Daniel on eschatology gives the book a practical nature for believers today. 1 John 3:3 states that the Christian who looks for the appearing of Jesus Christ “purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”