(Danʹi·el) [God is (my) judge]
1. David’s second son, born to him at Hebron by Abigail. (1 Chron. 3:1) He is called Chileab at 2 Samuel 3:3. With the slaying of the firstborn Amnon, he could feel in line for the kingship after David, but no mention is made of a usurpation, suggesting either that he respected the God-given appointment of Solomon or that he died before his father.
2. An outstanding prophet of Jehovah of the tribe of Judah. The writer of the book bearing his name. Very little is known of his early life, but he tells of being taken to Babylon, likely as a teen-age prince, along with other royal offspring and nobles. (Dan. 1:3-6) This was in Jehoiakim’s third year (as tributary king), which third year started in the spring of 618 B.C.E. (Dan. 1:1) With Jehoiakim’s inglorious death, Jehoiachin, his son, ruled for a few months before surrendering. Still within Jehoiakim’s third year, but by now early in 617 B.C.E., Jehoiachin and other “foremost men,” also young Daniel (2 Ki. 24:15), were taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar.
UNDER BABYLONIAN RULE
While many of the exiles were located by the river Chebar outside the city of Babylon, Daniel and his three companions were selected to receive special training in Babylonian learning for three years to equip them for governmental service. In accord with custom, they were given Babylonian names, Daniel’s being Belteshazzar, meaning “Protect his life.” Not wishing to pollute himself with the foods allotted, which might include some prohibited by the Mosaic law or defiled by pagan rituals, he made request that their diet be limited to vegetables and water. They were taught in all the Babylonian wisdom, but it was Jehovah God who gave them “knowledge and insight in all writing and wisdom; and Daniel himself had understanding in all sorts of visions and dreams.” (Dan. 1:17) Examined by the king at the end of three years, they were found to be “ten times better than all the magic-practicing priests and the conjurers that were in all his royal realm.”—Dan. 1:20.
Daniel continued in court service until the fall of Babylon. At chapter 1, verse 19, it is stated that his three companions also “continued to stand before the king” (of Babylon). Whether they lived to hold this position until Babylon’s fall is not stated, but Daniel did, and also after this he was in the Persian court until at least the third year of Cyrus.—Dan. 10:1.
In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year (probably dating from Jerusalem’s overthrow in 607 B.C.E.), he has a dream that ‘agitates his spirit.’ All the wise men being unable to reveal it, Daniel comes before the king and not only tells him the dream, by divine revelation, but interprets it, thereby saving himself and the other wise men from execution. This prompts Nebuchadnezzar to make Daniel “ruler over all the jurisdictional district of Babylon and the chief prefect over all the wise men.” (Dan. 2:48) His three companions receive high positions outside the court, while Daniel serves in the court of the king.
Just why Daniel was not also involved in the issue of integrity encountered by his companions, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when commanded to worship the golden image set up in the plain of Dura, is not certain. (Dan. chap. 3) Many conjectures have been made, but since the Bible is silent on the matter, these would be speculation. Daniel’s previous course as well as his later loyalty to God even in danger of death, as described in chapter 6, provides full assurance that, if present, and whatever the circumstances, Daniel did not compromise by bowing before the image. Also Jehovah’s Word expresses his approval of Daniel as wholly devoted, listing him alongside Noah and Job.—Ezek. 14:14, 20; Matt. 24:15; Heb. 11:32, 33.
Later Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the immense tree that was cut down and then allowed to sprout again as representing the great Babylonian monarch himself (in the prophecy’s simplest meaning). (Dan. 4:20-22) Nebuchadnezzar would be insane for seven years and then would regain his sanity and his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar testifies to this actually having happened to him at God’s hand by seeing fit to publicize the occurrence throughout the realm.—Dan. 4:1, 2.
Daniel received two visions (chaps. 7 and 8), during the first and third years of Belshazzar, in which various animals represented successive world powers, leading to the time when these would be forcefully broken up and the heavenly rulership would be given to “someone like a son of man.” (Dan. 7:11-14) Whether Daniel was actually in Shushan when he received the vision recorded in chapter 8, or saw himself there in vision, is not certain. It appears, sometime after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, that Daniel was used little, if at all, as counselor for many years, so that the queen (likely the queen mother Nitocris) had to recall him to Belshazzar when none of the wise men were able to interpret the ominous handwriting on the palace wall at the time of Belshazzar’s riotous and blasphemous feast. As promised, Daniel received the honor of being third ruler in the kingdom, Nabonidus being first ruler and his son, Belshazzar, being second. That same night the city fell to the Medes and Persians and Belshazzar was slain.—Dan. 5:1, 10-31.
UNDER MEDO-PERSIAN RULE
During the short reign of Darius the Mede, Daniel was one of the three high officials appointed over the 120 satraps who were to rule the kingdom. Excelling greatly in governmental service because of divine favor, Daniel was about to be elevated over all the kingdom when envy and jealousy caused the other officials to scheme for his execution. The law that they induced the king to enact would have to be in connection with Daniel’s worship of God, as they could find no fault with him otherwise. The king acted reluctantly to carry out the law, which, according to custom, could not be changed, and cast Daniel into the pit of the lions. For Daniel’s firm integrity and faith, Jehovah sent his angel to deliver him from the lions’ mouths Darius then executed justice on the conspirators, having them destroyed by the same lions.—Dan. chap. 6.
In the first year of Darius Daniel discerned the nearness of the end of the seventy years of desolation of Jerusalem, according to the writings of Jeremiah. (Jer. 25:11, 12) Humbly Daniel acknowledged the sins of his people and prayed that Jehovah would cause his face to shine upon the desolated sanctuary in Jerusalem. (Dan. 9:1, 2, 17) He was favored with a revelation from Gabriel, who gave him the prophecy of the seventy weeks, pinpointing the year of Messiah’s arrival. In his old age and toward the close of his long career, during the third year of Cyrus (c. 536 B.C.E.), Daniel was given a vision by an angel who, in his mission to visit Daniel, had to contend with the prince of Persia. The angel spoke to reveal what was to “befall [Daniel’s] people in the final part of the days, because it is a vision yet for the days to come.” (Dan. 10:14) Starting with the kings of Persia, he recorded history in advance. The prophecy revealed that the world scene would come to be dominated by two main opposing political powers, named “the king of the north” and “the king of the south,” which situation would prevail until the standing up of Michael, with a great time of distress to follow.—Dan. chaps. 11, 12.
Daniel happily lived to see the return of the Jews under Zerubbabel in 537 B.C.E., but it is not stated that he accompanied them. He may not have lived much beyond that date. If he was a teen-ager at the time of being brought to Babylon, in 617 B.C.E., he would be almost a hundred years old when he received his last vision, in Cyrus’ third year. The angel’s statement to Daniel, “As for you yourself, go toward the end; and you will rest, but you will stand up for your lot at the end of the days,” seems to imply that his life was nearing its close, with assurance of a resurrection for him.—Dan. 12:13.
Daniel is referred to by Christ (Matt. 24:15) and alluded to at Hebrews 11:33. It cannot be demonstrated successfully by the critics that one or more later writers of Maccabean times had to do with the writing of all or parts of the canonical book of Daniel. However, three additions called the “Song of the Three Holy Children,” “Susanna and the Elders” and “Destruction of Bel and the Dragon” are apocryphal and are by a later hand. These and other writings claiming Daniel as the writer or setting forth unusual feats or teachings by him are more in the realm of fable revolving around the great fame of Daniel and are not reliable.—See APOCRYPHA; also DANIEL, BOOK OF.
3. A priest of the Levite house of Ithamar who accompanied Ezra to Jerusalem in 468 B.C.E. (Ezra 8:2) Possibly the same priest, or his descendant, signed the confession contract during Nehemiah’s governorship (Neh. 10:6), but not the same person as the prophet Daniel, who was of the tribe of Judah.—Dan. 1:6.