DANIEL, BOOK OF
A prophetic book placed in the English Bible among the major prophets, immediately after Ezekiel. This is the order followed in the Greek Septuagint and in the Latin Vulgate. In the Hebrew canon, Daniel is placed in the “Writings” or “Hagiographa.”
Writer. That Daniel was the writer is made evident by the book itself. It reports: “In the first year of Belshazzar the king of Babylon, Daniel himself beheld a dream and visions of his head upon his bed. At that time he wrote down the dream itself. The complete account of the matters he told.” (Da 7:1) His being the writer is also apparent from the fact that chapters 7 through 12 are written in the first person.
Chapters 1 through 6 are written in the third person, but this does not argue against Daniel’s writership. He took the position of an observer who was reporting what was happening to himself and others. Another Bible writer, Jeremiah, does this frequently. (See Jer 20:1-6; 21:1-3; and chaps 26, 36.) Again, Jeremiah writes in the first person.
Setting and Time of Writing. The setting of the book is in Babylon, with one of its visions in Shushan by the river Ulai. Whether Daniel was in Shushan in reality or in a visionary way is not clear. The writing was completed in about 536 B.C.E., and the book covers the period from 618 to about 536 B.C.E.
Authenticity. Some critics question the authenticity of Daniel, assuming the position taken by a third-century heathen philosopher and enemy of Christianity, Porphyry, who contended that the book of Daniel was forged by a Palestinian Jew of the time of Antiochus Epiphanes. This forger, he theorized, took past events and made them appear to be prophecies. The genuineness of the book of Daniel was not seriously questioned, however, from that day until the early part of the 18th century. Jesus Christ’s own acceptance of Daniel’s prophecy is an even more significant evidence of its authenticity.
Historical. Several manuscripts of parts of the book of Daniel were found in the Dead Sea caves. The earliest manuscript dates from the first half of the first century B.C.E.; the book of Daniel was an accepted part of the Scriptures in that time and was so well known to the Jews that many copies had already been made of it. That it was recognized as a canonical book of that time is supported by the writer of the Apocryphal, but historical, book of First Maccabees (2:59, 60), who made reference to Daniel’s deliverance from the den of lions, and that of the three Hebrews from the fiery furnace.
We have also the testimony of the Jewish historian Josephus, who states that the prophecies of Daniel were shown to Alexander the Great when he entered Jerusalem. This occurred in about 332 B.C.E., more than 150 years before the Maccabean period. Josephus says of the event: “When the book of Daniel was shown to him, in which he had declared that one of the Greeks would destroy the empire of the Persians, he believed himself to be the one indicated.” (Jewish Antiquities, XI, 337 [viii, 5]) History also recounts that Alexander bestowed great favors on the Jews, and this is believed to have been because of what Daniel said about him in prophecy.
Language. Daniel 1:1–2:4a and 8:1–12:13 are written in Hebrew, while Daniel 2:4b–7:28 is written in Aramaic. Regarding the vocabulary used in the Aramaic portion of Daniel, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Vol. 1, p. 860) says: “When the Aramaic vocabulary of Daniel is examined, nine-tenths of it can be attested immediately from West Semitic inscriptions, or papyri from the 5th cent. B.C. or earlier. The remaining words have been found in sources such as Nabatean or Palmyrene Aramaic, which are later than the 5th cent. B.C. While it is at least theoretically possible that this small balance of vocabulary suddenly originated after the 5th cent. B.C., it is equally possible to argue from a fifth-century B.C. written form to an earlier oral one. By far the most probable explanation, however, is that the missing tenth represents nothing more serious than a gap in our current knowledge of the linguistic situation, which we may confidently expect to be filled in process of time.”
There are some so-called Persian words in Daniel, but in view of the frequent dealings that the Jews had with Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and others, this is not unusual. Furthermore, most of the foreign names used by Daniel are names of officials, articles of clothing, legal terms, and such, for which the Hebrew or Aramaic of the time apparently had no equally suitable terms. Daniel was writing for his people who were for the most part in Babylonia, and many were scattered in other places at this time. Therefore, he wrote in language that would be understandable to them.
Doctrinal. Some critics object because Daniel alludes to the resurrection. (Da 12:13) They assume that this is a doctrine that was developed later or was taken from a pagan belief, but the reference in Daniel is in agreement with the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures, which contains statements of belief in a resurrection. (Job 14:13, 15; Ps 16:10) Also, there are actual instances of resurrection. (1Ki 17:21, 22; 2Ki 4:22-37; 13:20, 21) And on no less authority than the apostle Paul we have the statement that Abraham had faith in the raising up of the dead (Heb 11:17-19) and also that other faithful servants of God of ancient times looked forward to the resurrection. (Heb 11:13, 35-40; Ro 4:16, 17) Jesus himself said: “But that the dead are raised up even Moses disclosed, in the account about the thornbush, when he calls Jehovah ‘the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob.’”
Those who claim that the book is not really prophetic but was written after the events occurred would have to move up the time of writing of the book beyond the days of Jesus’ ministry on earth, for the ninth chapter admittedly contains a prophecy concerning the Messiah’s appearance and sacrifice. (Da 9:25-27) Also, the prophecy continues on and recounts the history of the kingdoms that would rule right down to “the time of the end,” when they will be destroyed by the Kingdom of God in the hands of his Messiah.
Value of the Book. Daniel is outstanding in his recording of prophetic time periods: The 69 weeks (of years) from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem to the coming of the Messiah; the events to take place within the 70th week, and the destruction of Jerusalem to follow soon afterward (Da 9:24-27); the “seven times,” which Jesus called “the appointed times of the nations” and indicated were still running at the time that he was on earth, with their conclusion at a much later date (Da 4:25; Lu 21:24); the periods of 1,290, 1,335, and 2,300 days; and “an appointed time, appointed times and a half.” All of these time prophecies are vital to an understanding of God’s dealings with his people.
Daniel also gives details concerning the rise and fall of world powers from the time of ancient Babylon right on down till the time when the Kingdom of God crushes them out of existence forever. The prophecy directs attention to the Kingdom of God, in the hands of his appointed King and his associate “holy ones,” as the government that will endure forever, for the blessing of all who serve God.
The angel’s inspired interpretation of the prophecy regarding the beasts as representing world powers (Da 7:3-7, 17, 23; 8:20, 21) is of great assistance in understanding the symbolism of the beasts in Revelation.
Daniel’s record of the deliverance of his three companions from the fiery furnace for refusing to bow down before Nebuchadnezzar’s great golden image (Da 3) is an account of the legal establishment of the right of Jehovah’s worshipers to give Him exclusive devotion, in the realm of the first world power during the “Gentile times.” It also helps Christians to discern that their subjection to the superior authorities, as mentioned at Romans 13:1, is relative, in harmony also with the actions of the apostles in Acts 4:19, 20 and 5:29. It strengthens Christians as to their position of neutrality as regards the affairs of the nations, revealing that their neutrality may bring them into difficulty, but whether God delivers them at the time, or even permits them to be killed for their integrity, the Christian position is that they will worship and serve Jehovah God alone.
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HIGHLIGHTS OF DANIEL
Prophecies concerning the rise and fall of human governments from ancient Babylon until God’s Kingdom crushes all of them and takes over world rulership
Written by Daniel, who was in Babylon from 617 B.C.E. until after the Jewish exiles returned to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E.
Daniel and three companions when exiles in Babylon demonstrate integrity to Jehovah
While being prepared for service in Nebuchadnezzar’s court, they abstain from his wine and delicacies; God favors them with knowledge and insight (1:1-21)
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to join in worshiping Nebuchadnezzar’s giant image; they firmly tell the angry king that they will not worship his gods; he has them bound and thrown into superheated furnace; angel delivers them without injury (3:1-30)
Jealous officials scheme against Daniel; despite an interdict forbidding it, he continues to pray to his God and does not try to conceal that fact; is thrown into lions’ pit; angel delivers him uninjured (6:1-28)
Prophetic dreams and visions point to God’s Kingdom in the hands of his Messiah
Immense image that is crushed by stone cut without hands out of a mountain; the image depicts the succession of world powers starting with Babylon and ending with all of them being crushed and replaced by the Kingdom of God (2:1-49)
Immense tree that is cut down and banded for seven times; initially fulfilled when the king goes insane and lives like a beast for seven years, until he recognizes that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that He gives rulership to the one He chooses (4:1-37)
Handwriting appears on the wall when Belshazzar uses vessels from Jehovah’s temple to toast his idol gods; Daniel is called, fearlessly rebukes the king, explains the writing, telling him that his kingdom has been given to the Medes and the Persians (5:1-31)
March of world powers depicted by lion, bear, leopard, fearsome beast with ten horns, as well as a small horn from the head of the latter beast; then the Ancient of Days gives rulership over all peoples to one like a son of man (7:1-28)
Ram, male goat, and small horn represent world powers to succeed Babylon; small horn defies Prince of the army of the heavens, then is broken without a hand (8:1-27)
Seventy weeks (of years); after 7 + 62 weeks Messiah is to appear and thereafter be cut off; covenant (Abrahamic) to be kept in force for Jews exclusively for one week (9:1-27)
Struggle between king of the north and king of the south, the standing up of Michael as deliverer, and events that follow this (10:1–12:13)