Daniel is the last of the great prophets to be covered in this section. He was one of the three most righteous men in the Bible (Ezek. 14:13-14). His name means “God is Judge.” He was one of the Jewish exiles taken to Babylon in 640 BC, and as a member of the royal seed he was selected for special training in the Babylonian court (Dan. 1:1, 3-4, 6). Daniel was trained as an advisor to the king of Babylon and rose to such eminence that he became second in command under the king. Numerous candidates were chosen for this special training, but four were particularly qualified. These were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The latter three are also known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Of the four, Daniel was the most gifted. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (v. 17). Three years of training took place before they were assigned to be advisors to the king.
Not too long after that, the king first really noticed Daniel. King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. This is recorded in Daniel, chapter two. In spite of the fact that the king could not remember the dream, it was frightening. The king not only wanted to know what the dream was, but he also wanted the interpretation. He called upon various counselors-magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and Chaldeans (a special class of priests). Humanly speaking this could not be done. When these advisors failed, Nebuchadnezzar sentenced all them all to death, including Daniel and his three friends.
Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven (Dan. 2:16-19).
Notice Daniel’s appreciation:
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter (Dan. 2:20-23).
Daniel then presented himself before the king and told him the dream and the interpretation. This dream was a long-range prophecy for the distant future. It revealed the rise of four world-ruling empires culminating in events that are to take place in the “latter days.” Nebuchadnezzar was so impressed and relieved that he made Daniel ruler over the province of Babylon, and at Daniel’s request Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were placed over the affairs of the province. Daniel and his friends were men of faith. They knew where to go for help. Daniel and his friends served many years in this capacity, and their faith in God is seen over and over again in the book of Daniel.
Daniel knew that his ability to interpret dreams had come from God. By giving him the answer to the riddle, God had spared his life and the life of his friends. Daniel did not hesitate to acknowledge God. He told Nebuchadnezzar that his ability to interpret dreams had come from God, and that God alone had given him this power. The dream revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that God alone sets up rulers and the length of their rule. What became clear to the Babylonian court was that Daniel was a man who could assist the king in ways no other man could. This dream, preserved in the Scriptures, was a witness to the entire world for all times that God rules in the heavens. Nebuchadnezzar was so awestruck by the miracle Daniel performed that he fell upon his face and worshipped him (Dan. 2:46).
Chapter three relates the details of an ugly event that occurred about 19 years after the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream-an incident that involved Daniel’s three friends. Daniel is not mentioned in the chapter, and it has been assumed he was located at some province outside the area. The reader will find Daniel, chapter three, to contain one of the most amazing miracles found in the Old Testament. Daniel’s three friends refused to commit idolatry and were thrown into a fiery furnace. God delivered them from the fire, and they were not the least bit harmed. The reader will find this chapter to be very inspirational. It is a wonderful example of living faith, and is mentioned in the faith chapter-chapter 11 of the book of Hebrews (Heb. 11: 34).
But human beings are forgetful, even kings. Nebuchadnezzar became arrogant and puffed up because of his accomplishments and power. Some years later, he had another dream. The dream was foreboding, and the king asked Daniel to interpret it. The dream foretold the removal of Nebuchadnezzar as king. Daniel interpreted the dream and told the king:
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies . . . . This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule (Dan. 4:19, 24-26).
Daniel then urged the king: “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility” (Dan. 4:27). Daniel was telling the king that this punishment could be averted if he would repent. The king, of course, refused to do so, and what the dream revealed came upon him.
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws (Dan. 4:29-33).
In due time Nebuchadnezzar learned his lesson.
And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase (Dan. 4:34-37).
In 540 BC the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medes and Persians. On that very night Daniel was called upon to interpret an ominous sign. Belshazzar, the king, had blasphemed God by drinking from the sacred vessels taken from the Temple in Jerusalem.
Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein . . . . They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote (Dan. 5:1-2, 4-5).
The king and his guests were terrified. Belshazzar demanded to know the meaning of this sign immediately. Daniel was summoned to the king’s presence. After reminding Belshazzar how his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar was punished for his arrogance, Daniel told him:
And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this; But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians (Dan. 5:22-28).
In God’s eyes this arrogance and sacrilege was the last straw. “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Dan. 5:30-31).
Daniel was given a high office in the Persian government, but not long after, jealous officials conspired to have him removed, even killed. “Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him” (Dan. 6:4). They knew he was a religious man, so they sought some pretext that would turn the king against him. “All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions” (Dan. 6:7). The king did not know what the real reason for the decree was, so he approved it. The trap had now been set. “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime” (Dan. 6:10).
This was the excuse these men had been anticipating.
Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel (Dan. 6:15-17).
When the king realized what had been done, he was angry with himself for falling into the trap, but there was nothing he could do. He was very concerned for Daniel because he knew how valuable Daniel was, and admired him greatly.
Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God (Dan. 6:19-23).
The fate of those who plotted Daniel’s death was not pleasant. They were cast into the lion’s den and quickly devoured (Dan. 6:24).
Daniel was completely dedicated to God and sought His will continually. An example of this is found in Daniel, chapter nine. “And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes: And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments;” (Dan. 9:3-4). During this confession, the angel Gabriel appeared to him. He revealed to Daniel the 70 weeks prophecy. He told Daniel: “And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling. Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words” (Dan. 10:11-12). This great prophecy and others were not given to just anyone. Daniel was one of the three most righteous men in the Bible. An important long-ranged prophecy was given Daniel and is recorded in chapter 11. It is the longest prophecy in the Bible, portions of it yet to be fulfilled.
We will recall that Daniel was especially gifted in interpreting dreams (Dan. 1:17). This is one of the ways God communicates to men. King Nebuchadnezzar readily admitted this. “O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof” (Dan. 4:9). Daniel was especially chosen at this time period in the history of Judah to convey God’s will and plans for the future. God has not left the world without a witness, and though men have rejected God’s word and authority over their lives, the fulfillment of these future prophecies will be a witness against them. Daniel was a great man, and the prophecies he gave will play an extremely important role in the years ahead.