On February 28, 2018, I published a post “Introduction to the Prophets as Masterpieces of Literature.” It was the start and an announcement of a series. That post started with Isaiah, which was broken down into three parts with the first part examined in the introduction. The next post was “Isaiah’s Interlude,”(March 9) and “Isaiah’s Conclusion: Poetry and Grace,” (March 20). After Isaiah the next prophet was ” Jeremiah ‘The Weeping Prophet’,” ( March 28) followed by “Ezekiel ‘The Weird Prophet,” (March 29). The fourth major prophet, as presented in the bible book by book, is Daniel. Due to the magnitude of Daniel’s vision’s effect on other books, especially Christ’s quotes from Daniel in the New Testament and John’s parallel visions in Revelation, the historical and literary accounts will be broken down into parts, as well, starting with this article about the final major prophet, Daniel.
As I stated when I started the series: I do not take a philosophical stance when dealing with the written works of the bible. To do so would be a dissection of and blurring of the messages contained within each book in my point of view. However this is no condemnation on any other’s point of view. I am better suited to accept all writings as the word of God and to accept the bible on its own terms. So historical facts and literary content are preserved even if they present controversy to some readers. Often when dealing with the prophets we find that their prophecies are about more than one era. As stated in Deuteronomy 18:22, in order for a prophet to be discerned as a true prophet and not a false prophet, events of his prophecies must take place during his own time proving his visions are true. Paradoxically the same visions may apply to the future at the same time. For example a prophecy about the decline and fall of a kingdom during the time of a prophet may also relate to future kingdoms.
Daniel’s writings cover his life, history of the Jewish people, and prophecy. God’s covenant with Abraham was to promise to develop his offspring into a great nation through which he would reveal himself and his plans to all nations. His writings in historical context take place between 605 BC and 539 BC. In a literary since, his prophecies are historical (prophecies to the people of that time), and apocalyptic literature revealing warnings of events which will take place at the end of times on earth as we know it.
Daniel makes it easy to know the specific dates he is referring to starting with Chapter 1:1: ” In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah…” This date according to the calendar is the year 605 BC in history. At that time Daniel was captured by the Babylonians during the first attack by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon on Judah (the southern division of the original Israel).
Along with him Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were captured. In Babylon the foods served were not kosher and were forbidden by Jewish law to eat. They refused the food and asked that they be served only vegetables for ten days and test to see if they were as fit as the young men who eat the royal food. The result was they were healthier. At the end of Chapter 1 we are told that Daniel remains in Babylon until 539 BC which tells us the historical setting of the book. Again in the beginning of Chapter 2, Daniel give us the date of 604 BC by using the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s (king of Babylon’s) reign.
Most know the story of what happens to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they are put into the fiery furnace for not kneeling down to the image of gold king Nebuchadnezzar had set up in Chapter 3. Another fascinating event took place in Chapter 6, under the reign of king Darius of Babylon, when all the advisors of the king set out to destroy Daniel by advising the king to make a decree that no one was to pray to any god for 30 days except to pray to the king. Of course Daniel continued to pray to his Lord three times a day and was put in the lion’s den. These things happen to prove the power of the one and only God and help destroy polytheistic culture. And to let the king know God valued His people.
The book of Daniel is made up of outstanding characteristics:
- It is the shortest of the major prophets books and the most read and studied of all the Old Testament prophets.
- It is quoted in the New Testament more often than any other Old Testament book.
- It is reveals major themes of prophecy that are important to the church in the end times.
- It reveals (in prophecy) the most detailed summary of history (prophetically) including being the only Old Testament prophecy to set the time of the Messiah’s first arrival (Chapter 9:24-27).
- It tells more about Daniel as a person and prophet than any other prophetic writing except perhaps Jeremiah.
- The prayer of Daniel is meant to intercede on behalf of his people for restoration while reminding God of His promises to the Jews.
- The powerful stories of what happens to Daniel in the lion’s den, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace are among the most remembered of Old Testament stories.
- The dramatic “handwriting on the wall” at Belshazzar’s banquet has made the phrase a commonly used figure of speech throughout time including today.
Book of Daniel (NIV) study guide.
Teachings of Dr Bill Creasey– (Logos bible study)
© Phyllis Weeks Rogers 4/9/18
Below is a short film by The Bible Project which condenses the book to a very simplified form.