Biblical Research & Education Resources
Richard Blaine Robison, M.A., M.R.E.
Introduction to the Book of Daniel
Scripture: Although the verses of Daniel are not quoted in the chapter notes, the New American Standard Bible (Updated Edition 1995) is the foundational text for these notes. Unless otherwise indicated Scripture quotations are taken from the NASB.
Sources: Major research sources are listed at the end of this page and each chapter notes page contains a Works Cited list at the end.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Hebraic-Jewish nature of the Bible and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
About the Book
What the book is about
God outlined His prophetic program for Israel and the nations.
Jewish and Christian tradition ascribes authorship to Daniel (Heb. Dani'el, "God is my judge.") and there is no good reason to dispute this conclusion. Jewish authors of history and prophecy did not attach their names to their works out of modesty or because their words brought unwelcome news. It is also possible that Daniel had his own scribe, such as Baruch who wrote prophecies given to Jeremiah on a scroll (Jer 36:18). In any event, their contemporaries would know who produced their literature.
In the Hebrew Bible the book of Daniel is included in the K’tuvim (Writings), not the Nevi’im (Prophets). The reason is a mystery. Yet, Yeshua clearly regarded Daniel as a prophet (Matt 24:15).
• Captivity narratives, Chaps 1–6
• Dreams & visions of the future, Chaps 7–12
• Hebrew => 157 verses, 1:1–2:3; 8:1–12:13; Imperial Aramaic => 200 verses, 2:4–7:28. Total 357 verses.
• Very few portions of Scripture are written in Aramaic, about 1% of the Tanakh. Ezra 4:8-6:19; 7:12-27 and Jeremiah 10:11 are written in Aramaic.
• Prime example of visionary predictions
• Describes future kingdoms that precede Messiah’s kingdom
The Man Daniel
• Civil servant for the Babylonians & Persians, 1:4; 2:48; 6:2
• Man of singular piety, 1:8-16 (Ezek 14:14, 20).
• Interpreter of dreams and visions, 1:17
• Did not perform any symbolic actions as required of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel
• Man of prayer, 2:17; 6:10; 9:3-21
• Man of courage, 6:18-24
The book of Daniel, especially Chapters Seven through Twelve, is considered "apocalyptic" material by many commentators. Apocalyptic comes from the Greek word apokalupsis, meaning revelation or disclosure. Various early Jewish writings that appeared after the close of the Old Covenant Scriptures have been classified as apocalyptic because they include vivid imagery and symbolism to communicate that there is no hope in this present age, but at some point in the future history will end in a cosmic catastrophe, the wicked will be punished and the persecuted righteous rewarded. Often an angel provides interpretation of what is revealed. Parts of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Zechariah are also considered apocalyptic material, as well as the book of Revelation.
Unfortunately, some scholars treat Daniel (as well as Ezekiel and Revelation) as being no different than The Assumption of Moses, 1 Enoch, 4th Ezra and The Apocalypse of Baruch, but as David Stern points out, there are significant differences between the canonical books and non-canonical Jewish apocalyptic works:
First, most of the Jewish apocalypses were written under pseudonyms, in the names of heroes long dead. Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation were written by godly men who actually experienced what they wrote about.
Second, Jewish apocalypses are pseudo-predictive – that is, the author writes from a viewpoint in the past and "predicts" history that has already taken place. Daniel, Ezekiel and John prophesy about history that had not yet occurred (and a significant portion of it still hasn’t).
Third, the Jewish apocalypses are entirely pessimistic about the past and present. Biblical prophecy is optimistic in the extreme, depicting the Lord’s victory over all enemies and the establishment of His eternal kingdom." (785)
In reality many scholars use "apocalyptic" as a literary label to diminish the authority and relevance of the prophecy contained in these Bible books.
Commentators typically use one of four approaches for interpreting the visionary prophecy of the Bible: (1) idealism, or the spiritual approach, views the prophecy as an allegory of the conflict between good and evil and a dramatic method of teaching timeless truths; (2) historicism looks for fulfillment in the continuous history from the time of the prophet until the end, usually to the lifetime of the commentator; (3) futurism believes the fulfillment of the prophecy is accomplished in the distant future at the end of history; and (4) preterism (meaning “past”) finds the fulfillment of prophecies primarily in the time of the writer. Some commentators may combine these approaches, depending on the passage.
Historicism was used primarily by Protestants from the Reformation until the 19th century and has little appeal now. The idealist approach avoids controversy common to debates over biblical prophecy but can have the effect of casting doubt on the inspiration of Scripture. Similarly, preterism tends to ignore grammar and historical facts to develop interpretations that only fit contemporary events of the prophets.
Preterism tends to treat the great Hebrew men of God as mere journalists of their time. These methods can substitute an unnatural meaning for what is plain and obvious. The futurist approach may sometimes suffer from an over active imagination in interpreting symbolic language and result in predictions with little basis in Scripture.
Another consideration in interpreting visionary prophecy is the dual character of the narrative. While prophesying of the distant future there was often a contemporary fulfillment. For example, John prophesied that the Anti-Messiah is coming, but observed that there were already many Messianic pretenders (1Jn 2:18). Yeshua affirmed Malachi’s prophecy that Elijah would come before the Day of Judgment but had already come in John’s day (Mark 9:12-13). So it is reasonable to ask how the prophecy fit the times of the prophet and how it might be fulfilled in the last days that usher in the establishment of God’s kingdom on earth.
These dates are generally accepted, but approximate.
Destruction of Israel, 722 B.C.
Decline of Judah, 722–586 B.C.
Jeremiah prophesies, 627-585 B.C.
Reign of Nebuchadnezzar, 606-562 B.C.
Babylonian invasion, 606 B.C.
Daniel + friends taken as hostages
Daniel in Babylon, c. 606-535 B.C.
Babylonian second invasion, 597 B.C.
Ezekiel + 10,000 taken captive
Babylonian third invasion, 586 B.C.
Political changes in Babylon
Reign of Nabonidas, 556-539 B.C.
Reign of Belshazzar, d. 539 B.C.
Reign of Cyrus the Great, King of Persia, 559-529 B.C.
Persians capture Babylon, 539 B.C.
Return of Jews, 539 B.C.
Principal Research Sources
Gleason L. Archer, Daniel, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 7. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Holy Bible (1826). Ralph Earle, ed. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
Henry Morris, The Defender’s Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995.
C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Ezekiel-Daniel. Commentary on the Old Testament (1866-1891), Vol. 9. Hendrickson Publishers, 2006.
Stephen R. Miller, Daniel. The New American Commentary, Vol. 18. Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1994.
Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1992.
Harold A. Sevener, God’s Man in Babylon. Chosen People Ministries, 1994.
Copyright © 2009-2015 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.