Book of Daniel Introduction • Book of Daniel as Literature • Studying Daniel • 10/21/06
Introducing the Book Of Daniel
History • Tales • Prophecy • Eschatology • Apocalypse
The Book of Daniel is one of the most colorful and interesting books found among the Old Testament writings. Its history covers the greater portion of Daniel’s life from the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim in 605 B.C., through the ups and downs of the Neo-Babylonian era, and into the rise of Persia during the reign of Cyrus II. Daniel is thrown into the darkest pit of God’s judgment against the chosen people as they become a vassal of the Babylonian Empire. Consider how Daniel must have suffered witnessing the withdrawal of God’s presence from the temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 587 B.C. Did you ever contemplate the magnitude of this event? As Christians we think of God’s presence inside of each of us by His Holy Spirit. To the Jews of ancient Israel, God’s presence was in His holy temple—the temple in Jerusalem. The same temple that God allowed the Babylonians to destroy. Is it not almost incomprehensible—the apparent triumph of evil over the true God? Yet, in the face of this terrible evil, Daniel determines all the more to remain faithful.
As literature, the Book of Daniel includes intriguing features characteristic of Hebrew writing with its love of rhythmic themes and resonating chiasms. True artistry is exhibited in its assembly, no piece accidental, every block closely fitted—however its composition was knit—it was done well. Yet, exactly what kind of literature is Daniel? This vexing question has proved complex and not answered satisfactorily. Pore over the commentaries if you will, but their attempts to encapsulate Daniel, to categorize it, to pigeon-hole it are are but feeble shadows.
Perhaps Daniel is just a tale or collection of tales. Certainly a sense of high adventure and great storytelling propel these stories. Consider Daniel’s vibrant faith, inspiring courage, clarion prayers, and audacious proclamations relentlessly evincing Yahweh as the only true King of all nations and His kingdom alone as everlasting. He is a grand hero and model for all.
As moral paradigm, Daniel is a worthy hero. Daniel finds himself a hostage of the Neo–Babylonians who have stole him and some friends away from their Judean homeland to disrupt their rulers and perhaps as a pledge to control the noisy little fiefdom known as the Yehud. (Of course, Judah itself is of no great or particular importance, but has some value as a buffer between the Babylonians and their enemies, the Egyptians.) Daniel must serve in a secular occupation not of his own choosing and somehow balance the pressures of the ever engulfing culture and the yearning of his soul to serve the living and true God whose kingdom endures forever and ever.
As prophecy, while humble Daniel resolves to live under the sovereignty of his God, that same God reveals mysteries, makes known His will, topples earthly kings, and determines all must yield to heaven. God’s people are compelled to deal with the hostile people and cultures surrounding them, exercising control over them, whether in the form of the Chaldean empire or Persian bureaucracy or Greek expansionism. These foreign empires will jostle a temporal, fragile custodianship over the chosen people of the one true God. The Judean exiles will be forced to re-image their understanding of themselves and grow their knowledge of God and His promises. How can Daniel’s God, whose temple lay in ruins and whose people are disbursed, reign supreme over all the earth? Can God really pluck his own from their land, disburse them among their enemies, and then restore their children to the promised land? The Ancient of Days has plans stretching far beyond the feeble expectations of the displaced Judeans.
The Book of Daniel deals with the basic issue any follower of God does: How to live godly in an imperfect and ungodly world. Fidelity to God versus the daily pressures and burdens of everyday life. Daniel deals with this issue on the individual level and on the societal level. How do God's people maintain their corporate identity and faithful to God?
Do not our difficulties pale in comparison! What can Daniel teach us? What is God’s role in our lives…? Is our nation all powerful…really?
(For questions of Special Introduction and Critical Issues see our Authenticity page)
This site was last updated 10/20/06