An Overview of Daniel

“The Book of Daniel makes it clear that the true God is the supreme ruler over heaven and earth, even when all seems lost.”—Charles Swindoll

Did you ever watch Sesame Street? Do you remember the game they’d play called “One of These Things is Not Like the Other?” Essentially, they’d show you four things and then ask you to pick out which one was out of place.

Have you ever felt like that? Have you ever felt out of place? Like you stuck out in a group of people because you were different? I know I’ve felt that way many times. I’ve felt out of place at times for something as silly as being the only person who likes sports in a group of friends. I’ve felt out of place because of the way I dress or the way I speak. Growing up a Cuban American in Miami, you’d think I would have felt like I fit right in, but that wasn’t the case. You see, I’m a pretty fair skinned person, which is not generally the norm for Cubans or Latinos in general. So, for most of my youth, I was too fair skinned for my Hispanic friends, but too Hispanic for my white friends. And both groups made this clear to me quite often.

I’ve felt out of place in a lot of places, for a lot of reasons. But one of the most common for me, especially today, is feeling out of place everywhere I go for believing in Jesus, for building my life and worldview on biblical truth, for having a Christian mindset, Christian values, and defining myself by who Jesus says I am.

More and more, this is becoming a bigger problem for Christians. Every day, the world gets worse and worse. Every day we’re falling deeper and deeper away from God and into darkness. Everywhere you look, all you see is sin.

And the worst part is that the world doesn’t see it as sin. Every day, the world continues to exchange God's truth for a lie. In Isaiah 5:20 (NIV), the prophet tells us, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil.” And this is exactly what is happening all around us.

And because of this, Christians are increasingly outcast by the world. Believing in Jesus, believing in what the Bible says makes us the thing that’s not like the others. It makes us stand out, it makes us different.

But while this is becoming a bigger problem every day, it’s not a new problem. Since the days of Cain and Abel, those who honor God have stood out and have been attacked for it.

Now, the first thing many would ask here is “WHY?” Why have we, believers, people who love God and others, why are we attacked and hated?

But “WHY?” isn’t the question we should be asking. The question we SHOULD be asking is “How should we respond?”

This is one of the many reasons the Book of Daniel is so valuable, as it provides us with an excellent answer. You see, Daniel was a man of conviction in an age of compromise, and this book gives us a blueprint for how we can do the same. It shows us how we can have hope in a hostile world, how we can live above reproach in a sinful society.

 

So, as we get ready to start our study of Daniel, this article provide you with some context for this powerful Old Testament book. Why was it written? Who is the audience? What are some of the key themes in this book? These are all questions we’ll address here to help you get a full picture of one of the most famous and harrowing stories in the Bible. So, let’s dive right in!


A Brief Overview

The Book of Daniel spans the 70 years of the Babylonian captivity (ca. 605–536 B.C.; cf. 1:1 and 9:1–3) for the people of Israel. This book is unique in that it is one of the only books of the Bible that weaves prophecy through dreams and visions with a narrative account of what was happening at the time. Nine of the 12 chapters share revelation through some manner of dreams or visions. Daniel was God’s mouthpiece to the Gentile and Jewish world, declaring God’s glory as well as His current and future plans.


Author and Date

Named after its writer, the Book of Daniel was a written account of Daniel’s service to the Babylonian and Medo-Persian Empires during the period of Jewish captivity. In this unique book, Daniel recorded both his—and his friend’s—experiences as well as prophecies for the Jewish exiles during his time in the Babylonian capital, where his service to the king gave him access to the highest levels of society. His faithful service to the Lord in a foreign and hostile land and culture makes him unique among almost all the people of Scripture. How so? Because Daniel stands as one of the only major figures in the Bible to produce a completely positive record of his actions.

The writing of this book is believed to have take place during the span of time between 605 and 530 B.C. as Daniel chronicled the events he and his friends witnessed and experienced as well as the prophecies and visions the Lord showed him.


Who Was the Audience?

The Book of Daniel was written to his fellow Jewish exiles in Babylon to remind them of God’s sovereign control not only over their lives during a period of upheaval and uncertainty, but also to demonstrate His power and sovereignty over all of history. This is made evident in the later chapters with the prophetic vision that were given to Daniel. It was a reminder to the Jews of the exile and Diaspora to remain faithful in the face of a prolonged period in which the people of Israel would operate as an obscure, subservient nation under the thumbs of Gentile world powers, much like their ancestors did under the rule of Egypt. Some of these rulers would be oppressive and cruel while others would be tolerant or even supportive. But through it all, through the seemingly endless years of captivity and servitude to foreign nations, generations of God’s children could look to the story of Daniel and take heart knowing that God’s marvelous promises of restoration and redemption was being worked out . . . that it wasn’t far off. God had seen their trouble and the trouble of all mankind and He was going to redeem it all!


Why It’s Important

Daniel is one of the few Bible books that takes place during a period of judgment—many books foretell the judgment period and a few look back on it—and in a foreign nation. Whether it’s in the contrast between the idolatry of the Babylonians and Medo-Persians and Daniel’s faithful purity or in the account of the Nebuchadnezzar going from extreme arrogance to being completely humbled in his encounter with God, the pagan backdrop in Daniel makes the Lord’s power shine through in a profound and powerful way that stands out in Scripture.


Of Note

Prophetically and apocalyptically, the Book of Daniel is to the Old Testament what the Book of Revelation is to the New Testament.


Did You Know?

Despite being part of the initial deportation to Babylon in 605 B.C., Daniel was still alive and kicking in 539 B.C. when the first exiles returned to Jerusalem.


Major Themes

God’s Sovereignty: The narratives in Daniel emphasize God’s faithfulness and absolute control over both the individual lives of people and over all of world history (2:47, 3:16–18, 4:17 & 28, 5:18–31). Despite appearances, God is in control over global events, kingdoms and governments (5:21), and He is in control of and has a plan for your life.

Faithfulness to God: God blesses and lifts up those who are sincerely devoted to Him (compare 1:8 with 1:15–20, 2:17–18 with 2:19, 2:27–28 with 2:48–49, 3:12, 16–18 with 3:26–30, 5:16–18 with 5:29, 6:6–12 with 6:19–24). This book reveals that it is possible for God’s people to be oppressed and persecuted and still survive and even thrive in a culture hostile to their faith. It also reveals that it is possible for believers to live in a sinful culture and still remain above reproach and shows us what God can do in the lives of non-believers when we live in such a way (2:48–49, 3:1–30, 6:1–28).

Prophecies of Future Events: Daniel’s four visions contain predictions of future periods of persecution as well as the return of the triumphant Christ (7:11–14, 25–27; 8:23–25, 9:25–27, 12:11–13). Daniel’s visions encourage God’s faithful people who may be living under oppression and persecution by offering a glimpse into His perspective on reality that is completely different from the purely visible: God will ultimately win the victory, so believers of any era can live their lives in the expectation and confidence of final and ultimate victory (2:44, 7:27; Revelation 11:15).