#11 Book of Daniel

  • The book of Daniel was written by the prophet Daniel about his own life between 586 BC and sometime after 486 BC.  Daniel was aged about 20 when he was deported from Judea to Babylon so he must have lived a very long life to about age 120.
  • Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon has dreams, but no one can interpret them.  Daniel is given a vision explaining the dream that he tells to the king.  Daniel is recompensed by being made governer over Babylon.
  • Daniel’s three fellow Jewish administrators Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are put in a fiery furnace but they come out unsinged.
  • Nebuchadnezzar finally goes insane and his son Belshazzar takes over.  However, Belshazzar is no more after the writing on the wall episode. 
  • Nebuchadnezzar II reigned from 605 BC until 562 BC when he died aged 80 in Babylon.  King Belshazzar ruled in Babylon from 556 to 539 BC. Then the Mede Darius from Persia takes the throne.  Darius I or Darius the Great reigned the Achaemenid (Persian) Empire from 522 to 486 BC.
  • Daniel becomes one of King Darius’ administrators.
  • Darius makes an unwise decree for everyone to worship himself which leads to Daniel being thrown into a lion’s den but Daniel is unharmed.
  • The book of Daniel has the theme of God’s sovereignty over the kingdoms of men.  The visions of Daniel speak not only of his own time, but also of the end times with prophecies referring to events far in the future.
  • Daniel has a vision and identifies four empires.  These empires could be those of the ancient world: Assyria, Babylon, Persia and Ancient Greece.  Or they could be the four empires of modern industrial society that bring the end times to an end.  It is possible that both interpretations are true – this is because symbolic things can refer to an actual thing and a metaphorical thing as well.
Apocryphal chapters of the book of Daniel
  • Daniel chapters 1-6 are about the court of Nebuchadnezzar and then King Darius written in Aramaic and chapters 7-12 are Daniel’s prophetic visions concerning empires written in Hebrew. Chapters 13 and 14 are Apocryphal chapters mainly about Daniel at the court of Cyrus the Great in Persia written in Greek.
  • Cyrus the Great ruled from 559 to 530 BC from the capital city he built at Pasargadae in Iran where his tomb is still found amongst the ruins of the ancient city.
  • The dates of the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar II, the Akkadian king, of Cyrus II or Cyrus the Great, and Darius I of Persia  indicate that:
  • Daniel was first of all an advisor for King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon until King Belshazzar took over – Daniel chapters 1 to 5.  This covers the time period from the exile in 586 BC to 539 BC.
    • It appears that Daniel then goes to be an advisor for King Cyrus II at his court at Pasargadae in Persia from 539 to the death of King Cyrus in 530 BC.  During this time the Apocryphal chapters 13 and 14 of the book of Daniel are lived and written. After a gap of 8 years Daniel becomes an advisor to King Darius whose reign started in 522 BC.  This is covered by Daniel chapter 6 when he is thrown into a den of lions.  The Apocryphal chapter Bel and the Dragon also has Daniel thrown into a den of lions.
    • Darius I was king of the whole Achaemenid Empire including what is now Iran and Iraq so Daniel is likely to have travelled with him from Pasargadae to Babylon and to other places in Persia.

In Daniel 6:3 King Darius wanted to put Daniel as chief administrator over the whole kingdom but other administrators who are jealous of Daniel cause him to be thrown to the lions.  King Darius frets in his palace.  Nothing in this chapter says that these events took place in Babylon.  In fact, they are unlikely to have taken place in Babylon and much more likely took place in Pasargadae.

  • Daniel’s visions occur during the reign of King Belshazzar (this name means the idol ‘Bel protect the king’) between 556 to 539 BC.
  • Therefore, it would appear that after serving King Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, Daniel served King Cyrus II in the Persian court and then King Darius also in the Persian court.  Thus, the Apocryphal chapters 13 and 14 should precede chapter 6.
  • Daniel’s influence in Persia was long-lasting as it brought monotheism to the empire during the 6th century BC.
  • The rabbinic Babylonian Talmud claims that Daniel was killed by Haman who was a royal official in the court of King Ahasueras / Xerxes I.  Haman is in the Book of Esther as the man who hated Jews and plotted to destroy them in Persia.  Daniel’s body is reported by the Jewish historian Josephus to have lain in the tower of Ecbatana with the bodies of the kings of the Medes and Persians.  It is said he was later buried at Susa.
  • Genre: Daniel and other Jewish administrator’s service at the courts of Babylonian and Persian kings. Prophecies concerning empires.

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