Overview of Daniel

The Book of Daniel is a well-structured literary work, not a collection of folk stories or random and unrelated visions. At its beginning, the key themes of the Book are presented in brief, then worked out in detail in its subsequent chapters, and each new vision builds on the preceding ones.

The historical stories in the first six chapters lay the foundation for the visions and their interpretations in the last six chapters. Even the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar about the “great image” with a “head of gold” anticipates the detailed vision of the “four beasts ascending from the sea” described in Chapter 7.

Ancient Map - Photo by Jakob Braun on Unsplash
[Photo by Jakob Braun on Unsplash]

Each vision includes one or more common subjects. For example, the 
cessation of the daily sacrifice is mentioned in the visions of the Ram and the Goat, the Seventy Weeks, and the Kings of the North and South, as well as in the conclusion to the book - (Daniel 8:10-13, 9:26-27, 11:31, 12:11).

The name ‘Daniel’ means “God is my judge.” He first appears as a young Jewish exile just arrived in Babylon from Jerusalem.  No information is provided on his family history, though he was from the nobility - “Of the seed royal and the nobles.”

At the time of his deportation, Daniel was probably in his teenage years. He received his final vision in the third year after the overthrow of Babylon by the “Medes and Persians,” approximately 536 B.C. That means his prophetic “career” was spent in the city of Babylon over seventy years. There is no record that he ever returned to Judah. Presumably, he died in Babylon at an advanced age.

Daniel was given the Babylonian name ‘Belteshazzar,’ which means “Bel protects [the king].” ‘Bel’ is the Akkadian form of ‘Ba’al’ (“lord, master”) that was applied in Mesopotamia to the patron deity of the city of Babylon, Marduk.

Daniel is classified as a prophet in Jewish and Christian tradition. In the Book, he is a “wise man” with great “discernment.” In the royal court, he was noted as a great interpreter of dreams - (Daniel 1:17, 2:13, 5:11-12).

He was a devout Jew living in a pagan culture. At times, certain members of the inner court were hostile to him, though he remained loyal to the God of Israel. His ability to interpret dreams won him high praise and an important position in the civil service of the Empire. Later, he served in the court of “Darius the Mede” after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire - (Daniel 5:31-6:1).


The Book describes the role of the prophet in affecting events in the affairs of the Babylonian and Persian empires. His visions concerned the changing World Empire and the control of the God of Israel throughout History.

Daniel epitomizes the faithful Jew who lived by Divine grace in a pagan society. He persevered despite the downfall of the Jewish nation and his vulnerability to powerful forces. Yahweh provided him with wisdom to confound his opponents. Though powerless, God used his pronouncements to kings to change history.

Daniel served in important positions in the governments of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and “Darius the Mede.” Nebuchadnezzar made him the “chief of the wise men” and governor of the province of Babylon. Belshazzar appointed him as the third ruler of his kingdom. After Babylon fell, “Darius the Mede” placed him over the provincial governors of his domain - (Daniel 2:48, 5:29, 6:1-3).

All the events in the Book occurred during the Seventy-Year Captivity of the Jewish nation, a judgment of Yahweh to punish Judah for her sins.


Nebuchadnezzar defeated the remnants of the Assyrian Empire and subjugated the nations of northern Palestine around 605 B.C., including the Kingdom of Judah. The region was known as the “Hatti-land” by the Babylonians (“All the kings of the Hatti-land came before Nebuchadnezzar and he received their heavy tribute” – from the Chaldean Chronicle, quoted from Exile and Return by Charles Pfeiffer, Baker Books, 1962, p. 12).

In the case of Judah, “heavy tribute” was imposed including the deportation of many Jews to serve in the Babylonian civil service. In the assessment of the Book of Daniel, the Seventy-Year Captivity of Judah began with the subjugation of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 B.C. - (Daniel 1:1-4).

The rise of Nabopolassar to the Babylonian throne in 626 B.C. marked the start of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. It endured until 539 B.C. when it was overthrown by the “Kingdom of the Medes and the Persians,” the Achaemenid Empire under the rule of Cyrus the Great. Daniel includes chronological references that coordinate key events with the reigns of the kings of Judah, Babylon, Persia, and Greece - (Daniel 1:1-2, 1:21, 6:28-31, 11:1-4).

The Book applies a theologically loaded term to the period it covers, the “INDIGNATION,” the divinely ordained period of correction. When Daniel speaks of the “time of the end,” he means the end of the “indignation,” not the end of History or the world. The “indignation” also provides another chronological marker that connects several of his visions - (Daniel 8:17-19, 11:36).

In the Hebrew Bible, “indignation” refers to the indignation of God with Israel for her sins and the resultant punishment. In Daniel, it began with the overthrow and captivity of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, the period the Book calls the “desolations of Jerusalem.” It was during this period that the “Little Horn” waged war against the “saints” for “time, times, and part of a time,” and desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem with the “Abomination that Desolates” - (Daniel 7:24-28, 9:1-3, 9:18-27, 12:1-7).

Based on the internal evidence, the Book was composed after the start of the Captivity and completed by the early years of the Persian Empire. The range provided is from the “third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim” (606 B.C.) to the “third year of Cyrus king of Persia” or 536 B.C. - (Daniel 1:1-2, 1:21, 5:31-6:1, 10:1).

The Babylonian Captivity developed over several stages, beginning in 605 B.C. with the subjugation of Jerusalem. It culminated in the destruction of the city and Temple in 587-586 B.C., and there were at least three deportations of Jewish exiles to Babylon - (606, 598, 587 B.C.).

The historical sections describe events in the lives of Daniel and three of his companions. The dream visions in the second half of the Book were received between the first year of Belshazzar’s reign and the third year of Cyrus the Great.


The visions are built on a framework of FOUR SUCCESSIVE KINGDOMS that would precede the inauguration of the Kingdom of God. Three of the four kingdoms are identified by name - Babylon, the “Medes and Persians”, and Greece. Though not named, the fourth kingdom was one of the four divisions of the Greek Empire that arose after the death of its first king, Alexander the Great - (Daniel 2:24-45, 8:20-25, 11:1-4).

The theme of the Book is that God rules over the kingdoms of this world and gives rulership to whomever He pleases, “even to the lowest of men.” Despite appearances and human machinations, His purposes are not thwarted by even the mightiest of empires.

Chapters 1, and 8 through 12, were written in the Hebrew Language. The section in Chapters 2 through 7 was composed in the Aramaic dialect of the Persian Empire. The switch to Aramaic occurs in Daniel 2:4 when the “Chaldeans spoke to the king in the Syrian language,” meaning Aramaic. The change back to Hebrew occurs in Daniel 8:1. The change is too specific to be accidental or the product of later copyists.

The Hebrew and Aramaic sections point to a date of composition during the Babylonian Captivity. The man who wrote the book was familiar with both languages and used grammatical and idiomatic features peculiar to the Mesopotamian region.

The several stories in the Aramaic section of the Book show how God gave Daniel “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,” and enabled him to use the language and learning of the Chaldeans to prove that Yahweh rules over the political realms of the world.

The use of the Aramaic language fits the historical setting. By the time of Nebuchadnezzar, it was the de facto language of diplomacy and commerce among the nations of the Near East, and it became the common tongue of many Jews by the end of Judah’s Captivity - (2 Kings 18:17-37, Ezra 4:11-22, 5:7-17, 6:6-12, 7:11-26, Nehemiah 8:8).

The contents of the Aramaic section concern events that occurred during the Babylonian Empire, and in the first years of the “Kingdom of the Medes and the Persians.” In contrast, the visions described in the Hebrew section of Daniel were about events that would transpire after the fall of the Neo-Babylonian Empire.

Ziggarut - Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash
[Ziggarut by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash]


Verbal allusions from Daniel are used repeatedly in the Book of Revelation, and that source material often sheds light on the symbolism of Revelation. For example, the “Little Horn” that “made war with the saints and prevailed against them” is echoed in the visions of the “Beast from the Sea” that waged war “against the saints.” John’s single “Beast” combined the characteristics of all four of Daniel’s “Beasts from the Sea” - (Daniel 7:1-8, Revelation 11:7, 13:1-2).

However, Revelation does not simply quote verses from Daniel. It reinterprets them in consideration of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus. Events predicted in Daniel for “latter days” become “what things much come to pass SOON” in Revelation.

Daniel was told to “seal” the Book “until the time of the end,” whereas, John was commanded NOT “to seal the scroll, for the season is at hand” - (Daniel 2:27-28, 12:4, Revelation 1:1-3, 22:10).

Thus, the events Daniel foresaw that would occur in the future, John witnessed unfolding in his day. In Revelation, descriptions of visions are often accompanied by explicit and more detailed explanations than those provided in Daniel.

  • Babel Lives! - (In the Bible, Babylon becomes a symbol of the recurring rise of empires and self-appointed world leaders)
  • Empires Rise and Fall - (Imperial arrogance is the legacy of the Tower of Babel, humanity’s first but certainly not last attempt to establish the World Empire)
  • God Grants Sovereignty - (Yahweh, the God of Israel, changes the times and seasons, removes kings, and sets up kings to achieve His purposes)



Absent Church?

He Nullified Death