Important People in the Old Testament – Daniel

Daniel is a very interesting, as well as a very important Old Testament Bible character. His writings are contained in the book that bears his name. Not only are his writings interesting from a historical perspective, but there are prophecies contained within the book of Daniel that continue to be relevant today and inform the last book of the Bible, Revelation. The language of the book of Daniel abounds with symbolic and figuarative language and is referred to or referenced in the New Testament.

Daniel, whose name means, “God is my judge”, was born around the time of King Josiah’s (King of Judah) reformation about 621 B.C. The nation of Babylon had become a major world empire, and Nebuchadnezzar was its King. In 605 B.C., Nebuchadnezar took Daniel, as well as other nobility from Judah, into Babylonian captivity. In Babylon, Daniel was trained in the knowledge, wisdom and language of the Chaldeans and he was given the Chaldean name of Belteshazzar.

The book of Daniel, shows some of the culture and practices of pagan Babylonian society and the character of some of its kings, the empires that would succeed the Babylonian empire and the general conditions of the world at the final coming of the Messiah. In addition to prophecies of Christ’s Kingdom removing and replacing the governments of this world at his return to the earth (Daniel 2), there are prophecies of a combined Median and Persian empire that would succeed the Babylonian empire and the empire of Greece would succeed the Medo-Persian empire (Daniel 7, 8). The prophecies tell of a fourth kingdom that would would succeed the Grecian empire, be different from all other kingdoms and continue in various forms until the coming of the Messiah (Daniel 7, 11). These are some of the aspects of the book of Daniel that relate to and inform the book of Revelation. The last chapter of Daniel (Daniel 12) speaks of the return of the Messiah to the earth, the troublous times that will face the people of Israel and the everlasting life that will be given to the faithful.

The book is also a testament to the strong faith that Daniel demonstrated under extreme circumstances. The trials of Daniel begin when he refused to defile himself with the food that the king had prepared for him. Daniel’s resolve proved that his reliance on God would sustain him and this set the stage for further trials that would come upon him. God blessed him with wisdom and understanding of visions and dreams. When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that disturbed him, but he could not remember it no know what it meant, Daniel told the king the dream and interpreted it correctly, ascribing the ability to God (Daniel 2). The result was the king honouring Daniel and God and promoting Daniel. Daniel interpreted other dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. One of the dreams was that Nebuchadnezzar would become like the beasts of the field until he honoured the God of Daniel (Daniel 4). Furthermore, Daniel’s faith was seen in the story of the “Lion’s Den”. At this time Darius was the king. Daniel continued to pray to God, despite a decree from the King to cease from prayer. As a punishment, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, but God protected him and he was preserved. The king promoted him and decreed that all people were to reverence the God of Daniel (Daniel 6).

The story of Daniel shows the importance of maintaining faith in God, despite extremely difficult circumstances. As a young Jewish noble in the court of pagan Gentile rulers, Daniel faced very difficult trials, but God was with him. These kings recognized the value of this Daniel’s dedication, knowledge and wisdom. Furthermore, they recognized that it was Daniel’s God that preserved him and made him wise and prosperous. Although we may find the trials of life hard to overcome and feel that no one is watching, caring or responding, the book of Daniel teaches us that God is with those who trust in Him and God can turn the hearts of people toward him.

Illustration by John Paul Stanley ( CCA-4.0

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