Read the Passage: Daniel 1
Author and Date: The book of Daniel was written by the prophet Daniel, as this book itself notes (cf. Dan. 8:15, 27; 9:2; 10:2, 7; 12:4–5) and did Jesus (cf. Matt. 24:15, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. . . .”). Chapters 1–6 of this book are narrative, while chapters 7–12 are written in the first person. Daniel was one of the Jewish captives who was deported to Babylon from Jerusalem in 605 BC, in the first of three Israelite deportations, likely being about 15 years old. His life seems to have spanned the entire 70 year Jewish captivity, making him over 85 years old at his death. This book was written during the Babylonian exile, like around 530 BC. Note that there are four men in the Bible named Daniel (cf. 1 Chron. 3:1; Ezra 8:2; Neh. 10:6); Daniel the prophet is specifically referenced in Ezek. 14:14, 20; 28:3 as being righteous and wise. He was clearly a man of conviction and godly character, as nothing bad about him is recorded in this book. The prophet Daniel is also mentioned, by way of reference, at Heb. 11:32–33, “The prophets . . . [who] stopped the mouth of lions.” Note that Daniel’s prophetic contemporaries include Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, and Zephaniah.
Theme and Purpose: As this book details, in addition to being a prophet of God, Daniel himself becomes a statesman, ruler, adviser, and confidant to kings in the Babylonian empire, as well as in the conquering Medo-Persian empire. The book itself details events in these empires during the Jewish exile and beyond, as well as giving prophecy about the future of God’s people. Specific emphasis is given in this book to Gentile world dominion through the centuries, culminating in the arrival of the Messiah. These prophecies are meant to encourage the exiles by reminding them of God’s sovereign control over all things. As such, the theme of God’s providence is a recurring notion in this book. Additionally, miracles, dreams, and visions play a significant role in this book. Yet, it is important to remember that Daniel’s prophesies were given in order to comfort God’s people, not in order to set dates on their calendars. This book shows its readers how to remain true to God in a hostile environment. Chapters 2:4b–7:28 are written in Aramaic, while chapters 1:1–2:4a; 8:1–12:13 are written in Hebrew. The Aramaic portions of Daniel outline the history of the world, and the Hebrew portions interpret this history for God’s people.
Structure and Outline: The book of Daniel can be briefly, thematically outlined as follows:
- Daniel’s Background (1:1–21)
- Gentiles’ Dominion (2:1–7:28)
- Israel’s Destiny (8:1–12:13)
Context of Daniel (1:1–7)
Dan. 1:1–7 begins in 605 BC, recounting Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege and capture of Jerusalem, which included the plundering of the Temple and deportation of many Israelites. Nebuchadnezzar had only been king of Babylon for one year at this point. The deportees included four teenagers: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Two of their names end in “el,” which is one of the names of God, and two end in “iah,” which is shorthand for Yahweh. After being deported, these men were renamed in Babylon, after the pagan deities, including: Bel, Marduk, Venus, and Nebo. This was an attempt to obliterate the name of God, depicting the Babylonians’ triumph over the Israelites. The text records the Babylonians’ method of conquering a people, which was assimilation through enculturation. The text reports no complaining, as Daniel realized that to be in Babylon was not to be out of God’s presence.
Request of the Steward (1:8–17)
In Dan. 1:8–17 we are introduced to Daniel. Here we see that he requests that he and his friends be allowed to forego the food allotted to them by the king. The reason for this request was not due to Jewish dietary laws (cf. Lev. 11:1–47; Deut. 14:3–21). Rather, it was because food from the king’s table had been offered to idols, being consecrated by a religious rite. Be default those who ate of such food were symbolically participating in the worship of idols. Indeed, food is determinative of identity. This is seen in diets associated with ethnic identities. Observe that when Daniel’s request was denied by the chief eunuch, he gently persisted by petitioning the steward under the chief eunuch, even proposing a test whereby his requested diet could be evaluated. The reason Daniel’s diet—which was only temporary (cf. Dan. 10:3)—was successful was not because of nutrition, but due to supernatural blessing.
Blessing of God (1:18–21)
Just as God supernaturally blessed the vegetable and water diet of Daniel and his friends, so He blessed them with supernatural knowledge at their time of testing. Certainly Daniel and his friends were “gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and [were] quick to understand” (Dan. 1:4), which is why they were chosen to serve in the Babylonian court. Yet, the text inform us that their good showing when examined by the king was because “God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom” (Dan. 1:17). Of course, it is to be expected that Christians will be better equipped to process and to understand the world, for they know its Creator, have access to His revelation, and possess His mind; however, the intellectual abilities of Daniel and his friends were clearly supernatural. Indeed, the text notes at their examination Nebuchadnezzar found them to be ten times better than the other wise men.
- What do you know about the book of Daniel? What verses, passages, or teachings from this book stand out in your mind?
- How would you react if you were captured by an invading enemy army, deported to a foreign county, separated from friends and family?
- Have you given much thought to how you actions are perceived by non-believers and how your actions affect the gospel (cf. Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 8:13)?
- Why does Daniel not address the question of why Israel was in exile? Wouldn’t this have been a chief question of his readers?
- In the midst of the trials of life and the fallen-ness of the material world, do you have trust in God’s providence?