There are many characters in the bible we know little to nothing of; Melchizedek, the high priest is a good example of this. We know somewhat about several others, such as Moses and Joseph, and the apostle Paul of the New Testament, but Daniel, we know quite a bit about the legendary Daniel, who survived a night in the lion’s den.
Of course, much of what we know about Daniel comes directly from the bible itself. On the other hand, the bible leaves us with a myriad of questions as well. Scholars are unable to inscribe his birth and death years in stone, but educated guesses are made based both on what we are given in the bible as well as external sources.
Ostensibly, based upon the 605 B.C. date given for the taking of Jerusalem and after the battle of Carchemish by Nebuchadnezzar, several scholars are comfortable putting Daniel’s year of birth around 620B.C. Noted author, Hezekiah Butterworth, wrote a paper in the late 1800s, giving Daniel a likely birth year of 623 B.C. but I struggle to learn how he arrived at this date.
According to several sources, the Jewish faith does not consider Daniel a prophet. According to “the Jewish definition, a Biblical prophet is one who had direct communication with God. Daniel, on the other hand, received divine inspiration from the Holy Spirit (Ruach HaKodesh). He never actually saw or heard God,” (Messianic Bible, n.d.).
So then, why do Christians refer to him as a prophet? The simple answer comes from none other than Christ Himself. Jesus names Daniel a prophet in the Gospel of Matthew, (Mat. 24:15). I believe Daniel is rightly placed among the prophets because he is given the ability of dream interpretation by God through the Holy Spirit.
Because Daniel was among the first apparently taken away to Babylon as a young man, perhaps merely an older teenager, gives rise to the premise that he was born into a ruling family of Jerusalem. He would be taken as a “hostage,” which would allow Babylon to exert some control over local leaders of the city, which were left behind.
The bible does not indicate Daniel’s early childhood education, but if we are going to commit to the fact that he was from a wealthy, ruling family, he would have received the finest education anyone could receive in such times. As a captive in Babylon, we know that he and his three friends were given the highest level of education possible by order of the king, so that they may serve him among his court.
Reading the book of Daniel, one might come away with the sense that Daniel was some sort of priest. This is not the case, however. His story puts his vocation at the heart of the highest of Babylonian leadership throughout his entire adulthood, much the same as we see Joseph in Egypt. For some time, he was said to even be the third ruler in Babylon, (Dan. 5:7, 5:29).
Daniel, as gifted by God, was of great service to king Nebuchadnezzar, and was able to spectacularly interpret the dreams had by the king. It was during the reign of Cyrus that Daniel served greatly as a government administrator, and he served in this role as well into the reign of Darius. A few scholars put Daniel somewhere in his eighties during the reign of Darius, as well as for his unfortunate experience in the lion’s den.
An interesting fact here in the life of Daniel, among many other things, is that he gives us the first mention of God’s angels, Gabriel and Michael. Daniel is greatly fortunate to encounter the one who will announce the birth of Christ to Mary (Gabriel), and the one who will arise on behalf of Israel, (Dan. 8:15-19, 12:1).
Daniel’s ministry is not one of preaching. It is not one akin to Isaiah or his contemporary Ezekiel. Daniel is a great example that shows us what different roles of ministry can look like. Not everyone is called to preach, to teach, or prophecy, as the apostle Paul will later tell us, (Rom. 12:1-8).
Most readers should find that Daniel is called to minister and prophecy to the ruling kings of Babylon, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar on through to king Darius, and later to the Jewish exiles. Daniel’s message is set around five distinct revelations which are about four Gentile kingdoms, followed by the establishment of Christ’s glorious kingdom (Ch. 2), the world-famous battle of Arbela, between the Greeks and Persians and its outcome, (8:1-8), a prophecy concerning God’s timetable for Israel, (9:24-27), and the number of days between the Rapture and the Millennium, (11:11-12), not to mention over 100 predictions throughout chapter 11 concerning some historical events.
Most of Daniel’s prophecies were relative foretelling of events; some near, some off in the distant future. However, one verse rises to the level of receiving a command from God, is written, “He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so, give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision,” (Dan. 9:22-23).
In the absence of biblical revelation concerning the actual passing of Daniel, one can surmise by the book’s final verse, where the Angel Michael says to him, “But as for you, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age,” (Dan. 12:13), is to live in peace until he enters rest. I believe most take this as meaning he would later pass away due to natural causes.
Bergstein, A. (n.d.) Daniel the Prophet of the Bible, His Life and His Accomplishments. Chabad. Retrieved from
Butterworth, H. (1897) The Education of the Young Prophet Daniel. Retrieved from https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdf/10.1086/472179
McGee, J. (n.d.) Bible Commentary. E-sword electronic Bible software, (2017).
Meadowcroft, T. (2016) ‘Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians’ (NRSV Daniel 4:9): Explorations in Identity and Context from the Career of Daniel. Mission Studies, 33 no 1 2016, p 26-48. OCU Library.
Messianicbible.com (n.d.) Daniel, the Prophet Who Was Not a Prophet. Retrieved from https://free.messianicbible.com/feature/daniel-the-prophet-who-was-not-a-prophet/
Oaks, J. (2005) What was the birthplace of the prophet Daniel? Evidence for Christianity. Retrieved from
Ron, Z. (2017) Daniel as the Embodiment of Exile and Redemption. Jewish Bible Quarterly. OCU Library. Retrieved from
Tabor, J. (2014) Apocalypticism Explained: The Book of Daniel. PBS. Retrieved from
Wilmington, H. (2009) What You Need to Know About the Book of Daniel. Scholars Crossing. Liberty University. Retrieved from
©2023 Clayton Moore for Old Testament History and Interpretation.
(As was previously submitted towards requirement for MA. Min.)