The book of Daniel is perhaps the most well-known of the prophetical books in the Bible. The main reason is that just about everyone who has been in Sunday School as a child grew up learning about Daniel in the lions’ den in chapter 6, which again is a very well-known Sunday School story with many lessons and things that we as Christians can appreciate. However, it is not the intention to re-iterate these stories or comment in length on them, but the intention is to give an overview of the wonderful and amazing book of Daniel, which brings before us prophecies concerning the future.
The book of Daniel can be divided into two main sections. The first section is chapters 1 to 6, and the second chapters 7 to 12.
In chapters 1 to 6 we have a historical aspect and background in the book of Daniel. These are not only historical stories that actually happened, but there are lessons for us as Christians living in the world today. Chapter 1 mainly introduces the scene with Daniel and his three friends taken captive to a place called Babylon (which is today called Iraq). The king at that time was a gentile king who did not know or acknowledge God who had ordained him as king. Why were the people subject to this king? Because the children of Israel disobeyed God, were rebellious, and God gave them up to captivity in the hands of this king, called Nebuchadnezzar, and so began what is referred to as “the times of the Gentiles”. The king had no knowledge of God and was not what we call a Christian. Enter Daniel and his three friends, and the wondrous work of God in chapters 2, 3 and 4.
Chapter 2 shows us a glimpse of the characteristics of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar and the king himself. The king had a dream and wanted his intelligent counsellors to actually tell him the dream and its interpretation, something that has never been done before. The king gave an absolute command and it had to be done. This was one of absolute rule, and no one dared to question the king. It is as if God approves of this kind of rule, but within the rules that God has provided. If a ruler oversteps the glory of God, then God deals with this harshly, as we see in the case of Belshazzar in chapter 5. Yet in all this, we see in chapters 1 and 2 that Daniel and his friends honoured God, and God honoured them (1 Sam 2:30). This is also seen in chapter 3.
Chapter 3 shows us even more of the character of the king of Babylon in his pride, wanting to exalt himself after Daniel told him about the future kings and kingdoms. By making a statue of gold, he is denying what God said, that other kingdoms must come after this one. He wanted his kingdom to last forever, but we know that the only kingdom that will last forever is the one of the Lord Jesus Christ as the King of kings (Dan 2:44-45). Daniel did tell the king that he is a king of kings (Dan 2:37) but never was Nebuchadnezzar the king of kings. This is only reserved for the Lord Jesus Christ. In chapter 3 Daniel’s friends were thrown in the fiery furnace, but did not burn, because they obeyed God rather than man, and the Lord was with them, which astonished the king (Dan 3:24-25). In this chapter, we can see a picture of Israel going through the great tribulation, but the Lord will appear after and save the faithful ones who turn to Him not as their Saviour as we do today, but as their King. We notice that Daniel is taken out of the scene in chapter 3, perhaps we can see a picture of the rapture of the church, all true believers in Christ will be with Him before the great tribulation commences. Therefore, Daniel was not with his friends in chapter 3, as there is a thought that he represents, or speaks of, true believers that will be taken up to be with the Lord at the rapture (1 Thess 4:13-18).
Chapter 4 presents to us another dream the king had, that made him troubled. He did not learn from chapter 2 to bring Daniel straight away, so he still called his wise counsellors and even told them the dream himself, but they showed that they are not able to interpret a message that God Himself gave the king. What was different about Daniel? He was in close communion and fellowship with God, and therefore understood what God has to say and God gave him the wisdom to interpret the dream for the king. However, after Daniel’s plea to the king, the powerful monarch did not repent, yet was still full of pride, so God had to bring him down, and he learned that God brings down the pride (Dan 4:37). Other passages speaking about pride and humility can be found in James 3:6, 1 Peter 5:5.
Chapter 5 brings before us another king of Babylon, Belshazzar. Having mentioned that God intends for an absolute rule of government, if any action or step touches His glory, then He steps in and judges swiftly, as is the case here. What was the glory of God in relation to this chapter? The vessels from the house of God that the king brought, drank from, and offered to his other gods. The issue here is that the glory of God was shared with other gods made by man, and this is absolutely unacceptable, so God wrote on the wall, Daniel interpreted for the king, there was no sign of repentance on the king’s side, and the king was killed. After that came the second empire, the Medes and Persians (which is today Iran).
Chapter 6 shows some characteristics of this second empire. While the head of gold in the statue (from chapter 2) represents Babylon, the silver represents the Medes and Persians. We see already the material deteriorating, and can conclude that man’s kingdom will never be perfect and will always deteriorate in value and in morals. The second empire deteriorates in the way that any writing sealed by the king’s ring cannot be changed or reversed, even by the king himself. What utter weakness! We see this when Daniel was judged by his evil co-workers and was put in the lion’s den for honouring God (Dan 6:8, 13). However, we know that God delivered his faithful servant for honouring Him. Some have said that if Daniel and his friends were alive today and refused to bow to man and instead were still faithful to God, Daniel as a Christian would have been thrown with the lions, and his friends would have been burned in the fire. Such was the custom in the early Roman Empire after the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the believers and after the church had grown immensely, and after the departure of all the apostles.
The next section of the book of Daniel is chapters 7 to 12. This section is mainly visions that God gives to Daniel, where Daniel himself cannot understand these visions, and they had to be explained to him, for our benefit. God wants to share with us what He will do in the future. God does not want to hide from us His plans (see Gen 18:17). It is striking that Daniel is able, with the help of God, to interpret dreams and visions that the kings had, but he is troubled by the visions that he has, and these visions were also during the reign of these kings in the book of Daniel.
Chapters 7 and 8 presents Daniel’s visions of the kingdoms in the form of animals. In chapter 2, the kingdoms were in the form of a statue, in which the kings are seen as men. However, God sees them as beasts, since He gave to Daniel these visions of animals attacking each other, and who attacks each other, other than beasts themselves?
Chapter 9 brings before us Daniel’s prayer to the Lord, to intervene for His people. Daniel identifies with the people that he sinned with them and rebelled against God. What led to his prayer? He read the prophecy of Jeremiah, that said that God will visit His people in captivity after 70 years (Jeremiah 25:12). Note that this chapter of Daniel’s prayer was during the reign of Darius the king, and it may be at that time where the evil co-workers conspired against him and had him thrown in the lions’ den because he prayed to God continually. There is no mention of fault in Daniel, but we can be sure that he too realised his guilt before God (please read Romans 3:22-23). Daniel mentions that he also sinned (Daniel 9:5ff), and asked God to intervene because they were still His people. This chapter is also where God reveals to Daniel a vital timeline in the history of Israel – the seventy weeks (verses 24-27). These are seventy weeks of years in the history of Israel and have nothing to do with the church today (true believers in Christ; those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Saviour). All this description is about Israel and their future, because the angel Gabriel tells Daniel, by the word of God, that Israel and the people are his (Daniel’s) people, and the holy city mentioned is his (Daniel’s) city (verse 24). This sequence of events happen after Cyrus makes the decree to build Jerusalem again, up to when the Lord Jesus came to earth as a Man, died on the cross, rose again the third day and ascended to heaven. Then verses 26 and 27 will occur just before the Lord Jesus appears on the earth again in glory and power. I do not wish to expound on this section, but the aim of this article is only to provide an overview of the book of Daniel.
Chapters 10 and 11 again presents visions that Daniel has, this time about events that lead up to the first coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, during the 400 silent years after the prophecy of Malachi that is recorded in the Bible.
Chapter 12 is a conclusion, and presents the fact that there will be a great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning (Dan 12:1). The Lord Jesus Himself also spoke of this in Matthew 24:21. We can thank and praise our God and Father that we will not be here during this terrible time. Please read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 and Revelation 3:10, along with John 14:1-3.
On a side note, there are similarities between John and Daniel. Both interacted with angels, and both were beloved of the Lord. Daniel is mentioned as a man greatly beloved three times in the book of Daniel – chapter 9:23, 10:11, and verse 19. It was a blessing for Daniel to be called a man greatly beloved in his old age, because as a young man he was faithful to God and obeyed Him above the kings and their commandments.
John was also called the disciple whom Jesus loved three times – John 13:23, 21:7 and 21:20. The other instance in chapter 20:2 while in some translations it records him as the disciple whom Jesus loved, but in the original it is translated “attached”. John referred to himself as the “other disciple” six times. The number six is the imperfect number of man, and these were instances where John felt his own imperfection when he was in the wrong place or felt his own weakness. See John 18:15 and 16, chapter 20:2, 3, 4 and 8.
Having set before us an overview of Daniel, may we have a thirst for a closer study of this wonderful book, not just to read and enjoy the stories, but to learn from the characters of Daniel, his friends, and also from the foolishness of the kings, whether it is their pride or any other faults. May we acknowledge that, even in these visions that Daniel had and in light of the future of the nation of Israel that have nothing to do with us as true believers, that God wants us to learn about His mercy and goodness to a nation that was historically and morally rebellious against Him. He did not consume them all, and we thank Him that even though we sin and disobey God, He does not consume us on the spot (Lamentations 3:22-23). He is merciful, loving and gracious, and even though we change, He does not (Hebrews 13:8).
POEM ABOUT DANIEL – Sunday School song we sometimes sing with the kids in our local church. Enjoy!
The famous king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was his name,
Chose four strong, handsome Jewish men to serve him in his fame,
An order came down from the king to eat his meat and wine,
But Daniel knew God’s laws said NO, on vegies they would dine.
Daniel was a man of God and knew Him as a friend,
He made His mind up to obey and trust Him to the end.
The old king built a statue all covered up with gold,
“Bow down and worship or be thrown in the fire,” they were told.
But Daniel’s friends refused and said, “It’s God alone we trust.
We’re not afraid of burning flames, our God can rescue us!”
The old king held a feast one day, great men filled up the hall
They laughed and drank until they saw the writing on the wall.
The king was scared but Daniel said, “Our God you did not choose,
The words are sent by Him to say your kingdom you will lose.”
Daniel was the king’s best friend, a most important man,
Others wished they had his job and so they made a plan,
They threw him in the lions’ den because he prayed each day,
But God closed up the lions’ mouths and saved him in that way.