Daniel Bible Study Lessons
A contemporary of Jeremiah and his fellow exile Ezekiel, Daniel (lit. “God is my Judge”) is unquestionably the author of the book which bears his name. Ezekiel refers to Daniel (cf. Ezek. 14:14, 20; 28:3; attempts to identify the Daniel referred to in Ezekiel with an Ugaritic “Dnil” have been unconvincing), establishing Daniel’s historicity. Furthermore, Jesus quotes Daniel, calling him a prophet and clearly demonstrating His knowledge that this prophecy came from Daniel (cf. Matt. 24:15). Those who have represented the prophecy as a second-century B.C. forgery have been guided by their own presuppositions rather than by fact. Daniel and his three compatriots, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, were forced into exile in 605 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar descended for the first time upon Jehoiakim’s kingdom of Judah. Daniel was of the royal seed, and there is some evidence that he, together with his friends, was made a eunuch at the time of his deportation (cf. 2 Kin. 20:18). This may be gleaned from the following: (1) the mention of the master of the eunuchs (1:3) and the chief of the eunuchs (1:7–11, 18), to whom the four Hebrews were committed for preparation for service in the courts; (2) the absence of any mention of family life or offspring for Daniel; and (3) the prophecy of Is. 39:6, 7 (admitting, however, that the term here translated “eunuch,” saris, Heb., may sometimes mean simply “official,” as in Gen. 37:36; 39:1; 40:2, 7; 1 Kin. 22:9; 1 Chr. 28:1; Jer. 52:25). Conceivably Daniel was in his late teens or early twenties when this calamity befell him. The Jewish canon listed Daniel in the Hagiographa (i.e., “the holy writings”) rather than among the prophets (although Josephus considered him a prophet). Daniel’s principal role as statesman rather than prophet is thereby acknowledged. This in no way reduces the importance of his prophetic utterances, but it does bear testimony to the mixture in Daniel’s book of biography, history, and prophecy. Since Daniel survived the demise of the Babylonian Empire, his prophecy also encompasses segments of the Persian period of dominance. Consequently, the statesman-prophet Daniel must have lived from 90 to 100 years.
DATE: c. 530 B.C.
The events which culminated in the fall of Jerusalem and Judah in 586 B.C. were neither sudden nor unannounced. Judah was threatened repeatedly by the Assyrians, and escaped these oppressors only to fall to the burgeoning Babylonian Empire. In 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, descended upon Jerusalem. Daniel and a few others of noble extraction were taken to Babylon to serve in the king’s court. In 597 B.C., King Jehoiachin, the royal family, and the young priest Ezekiel, together with the treasures of the temple, were deported. Finally, 586 B.C. marked the awesome destruction of the temple and nation. Events contained in Daniel’s prophecy span the time period from 605 B.C. to the third year of the reign of Cyrus, 536 B.C. While portions of the book may have been committed to writing at earlier times, Daniel’s final writing of the treatise was probably done about 530 B.C.
THEME: The Providence of God and the Last Days
The book features the providence of God among His faithful people, even in exile. It also contains a series of apocalyptic (prophetic) visions, through which future events are revealed to the statesman-prophet. The theme of God’s providence is shown in Daniel’s rise to prominence in Nebuchadnezzar’s court (cf. ch. 2), in the dramatic intervention of one “like the Son of God” in the fiery-furnace trial (cf. 3:25), in Nebuchadnezzar’s temporary insanity (cf. ch. 4), in Daniel’s role as interpreter during Babylon’s “last night of glory” (cf. ch. 5), and in the marvelous delivery of Daniel from the ravenous lions under Darius (cf. ch. 6). The apocalyptic segment is devoted to a series of visions concerning the four great empires of antiquity (cf. chs. 7; 8), the prophecy of Israel’s Seventy Weeks (cf. ch. 9), more visions concerning world governments (cf. ch. 10), visions depicting the course of events in the kingdoms of the Ptolemies and the Seleucids (cf. ch. 11), and a prophecy of Israel’s ultimate deliverance from tribulations (cf. ch. 12).
W. A. Criswell et al., eds., Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), Da 1:1.