Introduction to Daniel
The book of Daniel has been subject to more criticism and rejection by critics than any book of the Bible except Genesis. This is essentially because of one reason only: the many remarkably fulfilled prophecies in the book. Critics who refuse to believe in God’s ability to reveal future events through His prophets have gone to great lengths to impugn the traditional authorship. They have charged historical errors and linguistic anomalies, but the real reason is its prophecies.
The other supposed arguments have been well refuted. Its main historical “errors” were references to Belshazzar and Darius the Mede, who were unknown to secular history—at least until they finally were identified as real rulers in the annals of Babylon and Persia. Its supposed linguistic problems have been turned back on the critics by identification of foreign words in Daniel which would have been obsolete at the late date critics would like to ascribe to Daniel.
Daniel was recognized as a great, wise, and righteous man of God by his contemporary prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 14:14,20; 28:3), and almost all the ancient authorities, both Jewish and Christian, accepted the authentic Danielic authorship. The question is conclusively settled, however, by the fact that Jesus Himself attributed the authorship of one of the book’s most important prophecies to “Daniel the prophet” (Matthew 24:15).
There is every reason, therefore, to accept the authenticity of the book of Daniel. Its histories are valid histories and its prophecies are genuine prophecies, many of them fulfilled already and the others awaiting the closing days of the Gentile age.
As far as Daniel himself is concerned, he was among the “king’s seed” (Daniel 1:3,6)—that is, of royal blood—who were carried away from Judah into Babylonian captivity, with king Jehoiakim in the first wave of exiles. Daniel, with his three friends (Daniel 1:6), took a strong and uncompromising stand for God in this pagan environment, and God greatly used and honored him as a result.
Daniel served as a high official in Babylon under several kings, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:48,49), followed by Evil-Merodach, Nergal-sharezer, Labashi-marduk (none of whom are mentioned in Daniel) then under Nabonidus and Belshazzar, who was son of Nabonidus and co-regent with him in Babylon, at the time of the fall of Babylon to Persia (Daniel 5:29-31). He then continued under Darius the Mede and finally under Cyrus of Persia (Daniel 6:28). All of this seems to have occupied a total of almost seventy years (compare Daniel 9:2).
The book is written in the first person, Daniel asserting several times that he was the author (Daniel 8:1; 9:2,3). A substantial part of the book, from Daniel 2:4–7:28, was written in Aramaic, presumably because that was the court language in Babylon and because those portions of his book dealt mostly with events centering in the Gentile kingdoms of the world, as distinct from those portions focusing especially on the nation of Israel and therefore written in Hebrew. Among the latter is the great prophecy of the seventy “weeks” (Daniel 9:24-27), giving a prophetic chronology anticipating the coming of Messiah, and then for the climactic events coming at the end of the age. The seventieth week is essential to the understanding of the book of Revelation in particular.
1:2 into his hand. This event marked the beginning of Judah’s seventy year captivity, prophesied by Jeremiah (II Chronicles 36:6, 21; Jeremiah 25:1,11).
1:2 land of Shinar. Shinar is confirmed here by Daniel as the name of the country of Babylon. Babel was founded by Nimrod in the land of Shinar at least 1500 years earlier. The land of Shinar is known to secular archaeologists as Sumer.
1:2 his god. The chief “god” of the Babylonians was Bel, also known as Marduk, or Merodach, possibly originally the deified Nimrod.
1:3 children of Israel. Evidently, if these men were to “stand in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4) and were placed under “the master of the eunuchs,” the four Hebrew children must have consented to be made eunuchs in order to have a testimony for God in the Babylonian capital, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 39:5-7. These may well have been in the mind of Christ when He said that some “have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake” (Matthew 19:12).
1:6 Azariah. All four of these chosen men of Judah must also have had godly parents, for they selected names for their sons that expressed their faith in God. Thus Daniel means “God is my Judge;” Hananiah means “The Lord’s Beloved;” Mishael is “Who is as God?” and Azariah is “The Lord is my help.”
1:7 Abed-nego. The prince of the eunuchs evidently thought their names were inappropriate, so renamed them in honor of the gods of Babylon. Thus, Daniel became Belteshazzar (“Favored by Bel”); Hananiah became Shadrach (“Illumined by Rak,” the sun god); Mishael was renamed Meshach (“Belonging to Shak,” the wine goddess); and Azariah was changed to Abednego (“Servant of Nego,” considered to be equivalent to Lucifer). One can imagine that this was deeply resented by these godly young men, who resolved more firmly than ever to stay true to the true God of creation, at all costs.
1:8 defile himself. The king’s gourmet food would have been defiling to godly Jews in at least three ways: (1) it would have contained blood, contrary to Leviticus 17:10-14; (2) it would have included the meat of swine, forbidden in Leviticus 11:7-8; and, most seriously, (3) it would have been consecrated to the pagan gods of Babylon. Nevertheless, Daniel was gracious and respectful in making his request to be excused.
1:16 pulse. The term “pulse” means any seed vegetable.
1:17 wisdom. In Christ “are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). To those who sincerely study, believe, and obey God’s Word and who are determined to stand for His truth in an ungodly society, God will provide the necessary wisdom and knowledge to accomplish the work He calls them to do.
1:18 end of the days. Daniel and his friends were in Nebuchadnezzar’s training program (actually, it was God’s program, as a result of His overruling providence) for three years (Daniel 1:5). Significantly, this was also the length of time used by Christ in training His twelve disciples, as well as the time Paul spent with the Lord in the desert after his conversion (Galatians 1:15-18).
1:19 stood they before the king. That is, they were accepted as accredited wise men to serve among the king’s counselors. See Daniel 1:4-5,20; also 2:13.
1:21 continued. Thus Daniel survived in Babylon throughout the entire seventy year period of the Babylonian captivity (Ezra 1:1; Daniel 9:1-2).