The Book of Daniel
Daniel was part of the first deportation of Jews by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon in the year 605 BC.
Background and Date
Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel were youths of good appearance and clever minds when all this happened (1:4). These four youths were from the tribe of Judah, so it is quite likely that Daniel was from the royal line of Judah (1:3, 6). Daniel stayed in Babylon until 538 BC when he was about 85 years old (1:21), but his ministry as a prophet continued for at least two more years (10:1). Scripture presents Daniel as a great man of faith, humble and dependent upon God (Ezekiel 14:14; Daniel 9:20; 10:11). Since several Persian-derived governmental terms appear in the book (Constable 2017:2), suggesting a time after the Babylonian Empire, Daniel must have written this book under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit sometime between 536-530 BC. Internal evidence (8:1; 9:2, 20; 10:2), external evidence (Ezekiel 14:14, 20; 28:3) and the LORD Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:15) make it very clear that Daniel is the human author of this book.
Purpose and Theme
Whereas the Levites were supposed to represent Israel before God, Israel as a kingdom of priests was to represent other nations before God (Exodus 19:5-6): ‘[Israel’s] role henceforth would be to mediate or intercede as priests between the holy God and the wayward nations of the world’ (Merrill 2008:98). The Book of Daniel, however, introduces what Jesus would later describe as the ‘times of the Gentiles’ (Luke 21:24). This period describes the time when the chosen nation — Israel — is under ‘ungodly, Gentile, world dominion’ (Rydelnik 2014:1280). Other ways to describe the times of the Gentiles is as the time between the Babylonian Empire and the Messianic kingdom, as the time between the last king of Judah, Zedekiah, and the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ when He will rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem. The first purpose of the book of Daniel is therefore to show how the godly person is to live during the times of the Gentiles — and Daniel and his friends (please learn their Jewish names) provide excellent examples of how to live in submission to the will of the sovereign God. A second purpose is to show that not only is the kingdom of the Most High God everlasting, but that God is sovereign during all times over all of mankind and over all angelic beings (4:34-35; 5:21; 7:14; 10:13, 20-21). Even though the chosen nation has thus far failed to intercede as a kingdom of priests between God and the nations of the world, by the grace of God Israel will still fulfil their destiny in God’s plans — to the glory of God (7:13-14; 9:24-27).
To understand the structural composition of Daniel, one must consider that the book was written in both Hebrew (1:1-2:3; 8:1-12:13) and Aramaic (2:4-7:28). Focusing on the Aramaic section, Lenglet (1972) proposed that chapters 2–7 be viewed as a literary unit, specifically a chiastic structure:
A Fourfold periodization of Gentile powers to rule over Israel ch. 2
B Divine deliverance of those faithful to God (from the furnace) ch. 3
C Divine humbling of the Babylonian king (Nebuchadnezzar) ch. 4
C’ Divine humbling of the Babylonian king (Belshazzar) ch. 5
B’ Divine deliverance of those faithful to God (from the lion’s den) ch. 6
A’ Fourfold periodization of Gentile powers to rule over Israel ch. 7
It is more difficult to see how the Hebrew sections of Daniel (1:1-2:3; 8:1-12:13) fit into the book’s overall structure. Tanner (2003:277) proposes an overlapping structure, with chapter 7 serving not only as the last chapter written in Aramaic, but also as the first of more visions that Daniel received (chapter 7 in Aramaic and then, written in Hebrew, chapters 8-12). While this makes sense, it still does not appear to explain the overall structure of Daniel. Regarding chapters 8-12, one may highlight that it describes the vision of two kingdoms (Persia and Greece, described as beasts) in chapter 8; the prophecy of the seventy sevens in chapter 9; and the final vision described in chapters 10-12.
The Book of Daniel will always be under attack. Critics do not want to accept that Daniel wrote the book or that it can contain predictive prophecies in such tremendous detail (ex: chapter 11). But Daniel is to the Old Testament what Revelation is to the New Testament. One cannot understand the Olivet discourse (Matthew 24-25) without Daniel and one cannot understand Revelation without Daniel also being read. Daniel provides a timetable for Christ’s first coming as well as for his second coming (9:24-27). The problem that critics want to explain away is their problem with the sovereign God who foretells the future. But Jesus specifically says we must study what the prophet Daniel wrote (Matthew 24:15) — and if that does not settle the matter for the critics, what will?
Conclusion and Application
The will of God will be done, not only in heaven, but also on earth. Even though the temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon, God is in control, just ask Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius. The same is true for the third and fourth Gentiles Empires — as will be plain for all to see when the stone cut out by no human hand strikes the final apostate ruler and his evil kingdom. At that stage, Christ will establish the Messianic kingdom and rule over all the nations of the earth (2:35; 7:13-14). We do not yet see everything in subjection to him, but soon it will become clear when God the Father makes Christ’s enemies his footstool. Even though the millennial temple has not yet been built (9:24), God is in control, just ask Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and Daniel. The will of God will be done, not only in heaven, but also on earth.
Constable, T.L., 2017, Notes on Daniel, 2017 edition.
Lenglet, A., 1972, ‘La structure littéraire de Daniel 2-7’, Biblica 53, 169-190.
Merrill, E.H., 2008, Kingdom of Priests: A History of Old Testament, Baker Academic, Grand Rapids.
Rydelnik, M. 2014, ‘Daniel’, in M. Rydelnik & M. Vanlaningham (eds.), The Moody Bible Commentary, pp. 1279-1314, Moody Publishers, Chicago.
Tanner, J.P., 2003, ‘The literary structure of the Book of Daniel’, Bibliotheca Sacra 160(639), 269-282.
Share with others:
[apss_share networks='facebook, twitter, pinterest']