6 Insights You Didn’t Notice in the Book of Daniel
- Hope Bolinger SEO Editor
- 2020 15 Dec
Even if we haven’t attended church for a long time, many of us know about the story of Daniel. But beyond lions’ dens (Daniel 6) and fiery furnaces (Daniel 3) what all do we know about this Old Testament prophet? This article will endeavor to show you insights you likely didn’t pick up when perusing the 12 chapters of the Book of Daniel.
Who Was Daniel the Prophet?
Daniel started off his journey in his early years when the Babylonians sacked Jerusalem and took a great majority of its inhabitants into captivity (Daniel 1). Some theologians have surmised that the latter half of Daniel (Daniel 7-12) when he received a number of apocalyptic visions, happened during some of those initial years.
Daniel’s name means “may God be my judge” and he often served as a judgment figure, much like many of the prophets. His story expands from his teenage years all the way to his 70s or 80s when he takes a quick trip to the lions’ den. Daniel spends the majority of his life in Babylon and never returns to Jerusalem with its inhabitants after the 70-year captivity ends.
Who Wrote the Book of Daniel?
For the majority of the book, Daniel authors its contents. We do have a chapter that seems to be written by King of Babylon Nebuchadnezzar himself after he spends some time acting like a literal animal (Daniel 4). Many biblical skeptics have said that the Book of Daniel was written by a pseudepigraphical writer who wanted to encourage the Israelites during the Maccabean revolt, an event that happened hundreds of years after the events of the Book of Daniel. But those who align with orthodox Christian beliefs assert that Daniel wrote the majority of the Book of Daniel.
When Was the Book of Daniel Written?
Because Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem a number of times, the final sacking in 586, we can easily date the Book of Daniel as being written in the sixth century BC. Daniel likely traveled in the first wave of captives (three waves total) where Nebuchadnezzar chose the wisest, richest, and best-looking men from Jerusalem. Daniel likely wrote the book throughout the course of his life, as some of the events happen in his teen years and some happen toward the end of his life. We don’t know when the Book of Daniel ended but we can assume close to the fifth century. Daniel probably didn’t make it beyond the 530s or 520s due to his old age. We can say he likely wrote it before the Israelite captives returned to Jerusalem, as he would’ve made note otherwise in the book.
What Is the Book of Daniel About?
The Book of Daniel is odd in the fact that it’s split into two sections. The first contains Babylonian narratives of Daniel and his friends standing strong in their beliefs. The second section shows visions of historical events to come (already fulfilled) and End Times events (not already fulfilled). This is why we have reason to believe that Daniel wrote the book throughout his life, when he received visions and when he experienced the events from Daniel 1-6.
The book has a couple of purposes. First, it shows us how to stand firm in our beliefs in a hostile culture.Babylon would’ve been everything antithetical to Judaism. And yet, Daniel and his friends would not back down. Secondly, the book hints at events to come, that have happened in history and that have yet to take place.
6 Insights You Didn’t Notice in the Book of Daniel
Now that we’ve established the historical context and meaning of the Book of Daniel, let’s explore some insights you may not know about this book.
Daniel Was 14 or 15 When Taken into Captivity
Possibly younger or older, but we can solidly place Daniel in his teens (Daniel 1). Nebuchadnezzar enrolls Daniel into a three-year school program (sound like high school, anyone?) where he and his friends must learn the Babylonian language, ways, and religion. More impressive is when Daniel refuses to eat the King’s food in Daniel 1. Many theologians have guessed the food went against the kosher diet, but no matter what the reason, Daniel risked death for his defiance of the King's orders.
The Book of Daniel Was Written in Two Languages
Part of the reason why skeptics think someone else wrote the book is that this book contains two languages: Hebrew and Aramaic. We do have to keep in mind, however, that people in the Bible spoke multiple languages. Jesus, for instance, would’ve had to know Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and probably some Latin to get by in Roman circles.
No One Knows Where Daniel Was during the Fiery Furnace
Some people have thought that perhaps Daniel, too, bowed to the statue Nebuchadnezzar set up for himself in Daniel 3. But that doesn’t align with Daniel’s character. After all, Daniel risks death at least twice (Daniel 1, Daniel 6) by standing strong for his beliefs. We don’t know what happened to Daniel during this chapter, but some have assumed he was away during the events. Otherwise, he would have stood in the fiery furnace with his friends, the penalty for not bowing down.
Daniel Hails from the Line of David
According to Overview Bible, Daniel comes from the line of David. This makes sense given the narrative in Daniel 1.
Nebuchadnezzar purposely chooses royal men of Israel to groom them. We see this pattern with Nebuchadnezzar when he originally makes Jehoiakim a puppet king for him, prior to the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem. Nebuchadnezzar has a habit of liking to keep everything underneath his thumb. A control freak, if you will.
In addition to that, the King of Babylon chose good-looking men to enroll in his education program. Sadly, they likely became eunuchs, so anyone swooning over them probably missed out on marriage with them.
The Nicknames King Nebuchadnezzar Gives Them Aren’t Just for Funzies
Names in the Bible mean something entirely different than nicknames now. If someone names you, in Scripture, they essentially claim ownership over you. Nebuchadnezzar changed Daniel’s name from “God is my judge” to Belteshazzar “Bel’s Prince.” Bel was a Babylonian deity. In essence, the King of Babylon flaunts in Yahweh’s face that he has captured Israel’s best and brightest and that he intends to sway Daniel under the influence of Bel. Thankfully, Daniel does not succumb to Babylon.
Daniel Cares about His Enemies
Let’s set the scene. Daniel probably watched Nebuchadnezzar, or some Babylonian soldier, kill his family (under Nebuchadnezzar’s orders). He witnessed friends die at the hands of the Babylonians. He received word they’d destroyed their temple, Jerusalem. And he never gets to see either rebuilt. He dies without having a clue if Jerusalem would ever be restored to its former glory.
Then Nebuchadnezzar puts him in a three-year education where they drill him with pagan ideas. They try to feed him food that goes against his diet and to top it all off, the King not only threatens death on multiple occasions (Daniel 1, Daniel 2, Daniel 3), but he also has the audacity to throw his three best friends into a blazing furnace.
And yet, when Nebuchadnezzar receives a disturbing dream about his future, Daniel worries for him. He cares about what will happen to him. In fact, he says, “My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!” (Daniel 4:19).
Although I wish the article could dive into more ways to peeling back the layers of the prophet Daniel, I hope this helped to give more insight into the life of this prophet and how he exemplifies grace and righteous living when placed under pressure.
Photo credit: ©Unsplash/Prince David
Hope Bolinger is an editor at Salem, a multi-published novelist, and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 1,100 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her modern-day Daniel trilogy released its first two installments with IlluminateYA, and the final one, Vision, releases in August of 2021. She is also the co-author of the Dear Hero duology, which was published by INtense Publications. And her inspirational adult romance Picture Imperfect releases in November of 2021. Find out more about her at her website.
This article is part of our Books of the Bible Series featuring lessons, prayers, and facts about each book. We have compiled these articles to help you study the writings inspired by the Holy Spirit. May the information you learn strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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