Induction into Babylon
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (606 BC), Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off to Babylon. The 4 were chosen for their intellect and appearance, and were to be trained as advisers to the Babylonian court (Dan. 1). Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar (“prince of Bel” or “Bel protect the king”). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, the king was distressed by his dreams, so he summoned his interpreters. But, they were unable to relay or interpret the dreams. The king was furious, and demanded the execution of all the wise men in Babylon. When Daniel learned of the king’s order, he asked the captain of the guard, Arioch, to let him see the king. Daniel prayed for God’s mercy to receive a revelation from the king’s dream. God then revealed the mystery to Daniel in a vision that same night. Daniel praised God with a doxology. After meeting with Arioch again, Daniel was granted access to the king, and relayed the description of the dream, followed by its interpretation. With Daniel’s successful interpretation of the dream, the king expressed homage, followed by his own doxology that affirmed that Daniel’s God is God of gods for revealing this mystery of his dream. Daniel was then promoted to chief governor over the whole province of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, his companions were also promoted, so that they remained at the king’s court. See Dan. 2.
Daniel lived faithfully in an environment opposed to faith. Do people ridicule your faith? Daniel felt it as much. Yet he won respect from those around him and never flinched from his duty to obey God first and foremost. Daniel’s obedience in a hostile environment began with something as simple as his diet, extended through his education, and finished with his constant practice of prayer.
If you wonder where to start witnessing for God, Daniel’s example is a great place to start.
* Honor God by living faithfully in an environment opposed to faith in God.
Nebuchadnezzar recounted his dream of a huge tree that was suddenly cut down at the command of a heavenly messenger. Daniel was summoned and interpreted the dream. The tree was Nebuchadnezzar himself, who for 7 years, lost his mind and became like a wild beast. All of this came to pass until, at the end of the specified time, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that “the most High rules in the kingdom of men” and his sanity and kingdom were restored to him. See Dan.4.
In Daniel’s later years, King Belshazzar held a great feast for all his nobles. In a drunken state, the king called for the sacred vessels captured from the Jerusalem temple and profanely drank from them. Suddenly, the fingers of a man’s hand appeared before the king and wrote on the wall of the palace (Dan. 5:1-5) When none of his wise men were able to interpret the message, Daniel was called in at the suggestion of the queen (Dan. 5:10-15) After reprimanding the king for his impiety, Daniel interpreted the words “MENE MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN” (Dan. 5:25) to mean that Belshazzar was about to lose his kingdom to the Medes and the Persians. For successfully reading the cryptic handwriting, Daniel was rewarded with a purple robe and proclaimed that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom (Dan. 5:17-29)
Darius the Mede
After the Persian conquest of Babylon, Daniel was the first of three presidents over parts of the kingdom during the reign of Darius the Mede (Dan. 6:1,2). When the king decided to set Daniel over the whole kingdom, the other officials plotted his downfall. Unable to uncover any corruption, they used Daniel’s religious devotion to try to defeat him. The officials tricked the king into issuing an irrevocable decree that “whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for 30 days, save of you, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions” (Dan. 6:3-7) When Daniel continued to pray 3 times a day toward Jerusalem, he was thrown into a lions’ den, much to the distress of Darius (Dan. 6:8-17) After an angel shut the lions’ mouths, Daniel was delivered, and Daniel’s accusers, with their wives and children, were thrown into the den and they were devoured (Daniel 6:18–24).
Visions and dreams
Daniel’s ministry as a prophet began late in life. Whereas his early exploits were a matter of common knowledge within his community, these same events, with his pious reputation, served as the basis for his prophetic ministry. The recognition for his prophetic message was that of other prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel whose backgrounds were the basis for their revelations.
From ch.7 to the end of the book of Daniel, an apocalyptic vision is being described, supposedly from the perspective of Daniel. This marks a change in the narrative from Daniel interpreting, to messengers of God interpreting for Daniel. Daniel dreamed of 4 beasts that came out of the sea: a lion with eagle’s wings, a bear with 3 tusks, a leopard with 4 wings and 4 heads, and a beast with iron teeth, 10 horns and 1 little horn and human eyes (Dan. 7:4-8). These beasts are all present at a convening of the divine counsel. Presiding over the counsel is the Ancient of Days, which seems to be God. The Ancient One proceeds to put to death the beast with the 1 little horn (Dan. 7:9-11). Daniel also describes the fates of the other beasts saying that, while their dominion was taken away, their lives were prolonged (Dan. 7:12). This introduction leads into a series of dreams and visions where these events are expressed in greater detail.
Scholars argue that each of these beasts represent an emperor or kingdom that ruled over the Israelites. Most scholars accept the first as Babylon, the second as Media/Persia, the third as Greece, and the fourth as Rome. The feet and toes represent the modern age which will be destroyed at the return of Christ when Christ is set up as head. The horns of the last beast may be symbolic of the rulers that replaced Alexander the Great upon his death, culminating with the little horn, or Antiochus IV. There are additional details in the text that allude to Antiochus IV, including some form of desecration to the temple (Dan. 11:31) and persecution (Dan. 11:23). The final message of the second half of Daniel is that God will deliver the people from oppression, the latest of which is Antiochus IV.
Daniel’s Final Days
The time and circumstances of Daniel’s death are not been recorded. However, tradition maintains that Daniel was still alive in the 3rd year of Cyrus according to the Tanakh (Dan. 10:1). He would have been almost 101 years old at that point, having been brought to Babylon when he was in his teens, more than 80 years previously. Rabbinic sources indicate that he was still alive during the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus. Some say he was killed by Haman, the prime minister of Ahasuerus.
Tradition holds that his tomb is located in Susa at a site known as Shush-e Daniyal. Other locations have been claimed as the site of his burial, including Daniel’s Tomb in Kirkuk, Iraq, as well as Babylon, Egypt, Tarsus and, notably, Samarkand, which claims a tomb of Daniel.
You can read Daniel’s story in the book of Daniel; Ezekiel 14:14,20; 28:3; & Matthew 24:15.