THE PROPHET DANIEL
Daniel was the third of the great prophets who prophesied at the time of the Babylonian Captivity. As we have already learned, Jeremiah was not carried into captivity but stayed in Jerusalem to preach among the Jews who were left; and Ezekiel preached among the Jews who were a part of the Captivity in Babylon. Like Ezekiel, Daniel was also taken to Babylon. But his prophetic work was not carried on among the Jews; rather he worked at the palace of various kings of Babylon and Persia. Daniel was born about 620 B.C. to a family of nobility in Judea. As a young man he was carried off in 605 B.C. to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar to serve in the king’s palace. Like the other young Jewish men taken with him, he was handsome and highly intelligent. For three years Daniel was given special training for his position. He was also given a new name, Belteshazzar. Though Daniel and his Jewish colleagues lived among heathen people and were pressured to turn away from the Lord, they still kept a firm faith. God blessed them with still greater wisdom and understanding so that the king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (1:20). God also gave to Daniel the special ability to understand the meaning of visions and dreams. When Daniel interpreted a mysterious dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the king “made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men” (2:48). Daniel’s prophecies continued during the reigns of Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus, the great Persian king. It seems that his career continued over a period of about 70 years. We perhaps remember Daniel best for his devout faith in the living God. He openly practiced his God-given faith even though at one time it meant that he was thrown to the hungry lions. God greatly rewarded his firm faith, protected him, and allowed him to live in great honor into old age.
THE BOOK OF DANIEL
Daniel himself is the author of the book that carries his name. This is clear from the testimony of Jesus in Mat. 24:14. Quoting a part of the book, Jesus says that those words were “spoken of through the prophet Daniel.” Among many Bible critics today it is popular to deny that Daniel is the author of the book. It is claimed that the real author must have lived about 400 years after the events described in the first part of the book. It is said that Daniel simply could not have written clearly about things so far into the future. It is clear that those who deny Daniel’s authorship do not believe that the Holy Spirit has the power to predict things of the future through a prophet he has chosen. Daniel’s book is written in two different languages – Hebrew and Aramaic. Chapter 2:4-7:28 is written in Aramaic. Aramaic was the “international language” spoken during the Babylonian Empire and hundreds of years later. Since Daniel served at the kings’ palace in Babylon, he would have known Aramaic well. Since he grew up in Judea, he would have known Hebrew well. Hebrew and Aramaic are very closely related languages; they come from the same family of languages known as “Western Semitic” languages. They are more closely related than many of the Bantu languages of Africa. The Book of Daniel contains a special kind of prophecy which we often call “apocalyptic prophecy.” The Book of Revelation in the New Testament is also apocalyptic. The word “apocalyptic” means a “revealing” or “uncovering.” In apocalyptic writings God’s wise plans are uncovered to people living in times of great evil. The purpose of apocalyptic prophecy is to offer comfort to the troubled by revealing God’s guiding hand and promising the eventual triumph of his Kingdom. Dreams and visions are a big part of the apocalyptic writings of the Bible.
GENERAL OUTLINE OF DANIEL
- Daniel Serves As Adviser to Kings in Babylon (1-6) Included in these six chapters is the story of Daniel’s advancement in Babylon, his interpreting the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, the account of the fiery furnace, the writing on the wall at Belshazzar’s time, and the story of Daniel in the lion’s den.
- Daniel’s Prophetic Visions About Coming Kingdoms (7-12) 9:24ff contains a special prophecy of “the Anointed One,” that is, the Messiah. Chapter 11 tells of the coming political kingdoms of the world.
NAMES FOR THE MAJOR PROPHETS TO HELP YOU REMEMBER THEM
- Isaiah – The Greatest Prophet
- Jeremiah – The Weeping Prophet
- Ezekiel – The Prophet to the Exiles
- Daniel – The Palace Prophet
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