Understanding the Old Testament - Lesson 30


You will gain more understanding of the book of Daniel through this lesson. The book is divided into two main parts: the first six chapters focus on biographical narratives of Daniel and his friends living faithfully in exile, while chapters seven through twelve present apocalyptic visions of hope for the future. Daniel's position in the Hebrew Bible as part of the Writings rather than the Prophets indicates a different literary function. The book highlights the themes of faithfulness in exile and preparation for a new exodus. Comparisons between Daniel and Joseph underscore their similar roles in preparing for and enduring exile. The book also provides insights into apocalyptic literature and its significance for understanding New Testament texts like Revelation. Overall, the book of Daniel showcases God's sovereignty, care for His people, and the certainty of His kingdom's victory, even in times of exile.

Miles Van Pelt
Understanding the Old Testament
Lesson 30
Watching Now

I. Background and Context

A. Position in the Canon

B. Dispute over Daniel's Office

C. Location in the Hebrew Bible

II. Themes and Message

A. Life of Faith in Exile

B. Preparing for a New Exodus

C. Comparison with Joseph

III. Literary Features

A. Structural Outline

B. Use of Aramaic

IV. Significance in the New Testament

A. Influence on Revelation

B. Background for Kingdom of God

V. Chapter Summaries

A. Biographical Chapters (1-6)

B. Visionary Chapters (7-12)

1. Visions of Beasts and Ancient of Days

2. Ram and Goat Vision

3. Daniel's Prayer of Confession

4. Vision of the Jeweled Man

5. Kingdoms of God and Man

6. Daniel's Inquiry about the End

VI. Conclusion

A. Testimony to God's Sovereignty

B. Assurance in Exile

C. Victory of God's Kingdom

  • Engage with the Old Testament to grasp its Gospel-centered nature. From Genesis to Ecclesiastes and Psalms, discover foundational truths, wisdom, and insights on suffering. Strengthen your faith and find enduring hope in God's Word.
  • Gain insight into the Old Testament's theological core, centering on Jesus Christ. Explore its diverse genres, languages, and authors, unified by Jesus as its focal point. Understand how biblical evidence supports Jesus as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, shaping interpretation.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides the thematic framework for the Old Testament. The Old Testament's thematic core is the Kingdom of God. Through this lesson, you'll understand its covenantal nature, from pre-temporal arrangements to various administrations like redemption, works, and grace, unveiling God's salvation plan in Christ.
  • Discover the intricate covenantal structure of the Bible, revealing its theological depth and unity, from the division of the Hebrew Bible to its mirroring in the New Testament, all centered around Jesus Christ.
  • Gain insight into the Pentateuch's covenantal structure, Moses' authorship debate, and evidence supporting it. Understand its significance as the foundation of Israel's relationship with God and its relevance for biblical theology.
  • Through this lesson, you will understand the theological, structural, and thematic intricacies of the book of Genesis. You'll grasp its role as a foundational text in both the Old and New Testaments, exploring themes of covenant, creation, fall, redemption, and the fulfillment of promises. You'll gain insights into the genealogical structure of Genesis, its portrayal of key biblical figures like Adam, Noah, and Abraham, and its connection to the overarching narrative of the gospel.
  • Exodus reveals Yahweh's promise—"I will be with you"—unfolding divine presence and covenant. It anticipates Jesus as fulfillment—a better Moses and Tabernacle—ushering in God's eternal presence among humanity.
  • Studying Leviticus unveils the intricate system of laws and rituals at Mount Sinai. It explains sacrificial atonement, priestly consecration, purity laws, and the theme of holiness, prefiguring Jesus as the ultimate priest, sacrifice, and source of holiness.
  • Discover the Book of Numbers' insights on Israel's journey, God's faithfulness, consequences of disobedience, and parallels to Christ, cautioning against questioning God's holiness and emphasizing His desire to dwell among His people through the Holy Spirit.
  • Gain insight into Deuteronomy's covenant renewal for Israel entering Canaan, emphasizing obedience, typology, and its relevance for Christian living.
  • Gain deep insight into the former prophets, exploring themes of Yahweh's faithfulness, Israel's unfaithfulness, and the typological significance of the Mosaic covenant. Understand its relation to the Abrahamic covenant and its fulfillment in the New Covenant under Jesus, revealing God's plan for restoration.
  • Joshua unveils Joshua's leadership, divine promise fulfillment in Canaan, obedience's significance, and Jesus as the ultimate fulfiller of God's promises.
  • Discover the Book of Judges, detailing Israel's history and faith journey. Learn about judges as deliverers from oppression and idolatry, portraying parallels with Christ's ministry. Uncover a pattern of uncreation due to idolatry, emphasizing the need for an eternal judge—Jesus Christ—to save from corruption.
  • In this lesson, Dr. Miles Van Pelt provides insights into the book of Samuel, exploring its characters, themes, and the transition from judgeship to kingship in Israel. Learn of the significance of the Davidic covenant, culminating in Jesus as the ultimate King of Kings.
  • Gain insights into the Book of Kings, revealing its historical and theological significance. Discover the fulfillment of Davidic covenant, reasons for Israel's exile, and anticipation of the new covenant. Recognize Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of its promises.
  • This lesson reviews latter prophets' insights into Israel's exile for breaking the Mosaic Covenant, the prophetic office's nature, diverse prophecy genres, and the execution of covenant lawsuits, all pointing to God's judgment and hope for restoration.
  • Explore Isaiah's profound prophetic themes, from redemption to impending judgment. Unravel his life and ministry's context, review the debate around authorship, and learn essential tools for study.
  • Enjoy this lesson on Jeremiah, a second Moses figure, and his prophetic message of repentance, redemption, and a new covenant. Explore the book's chiastic structure, historical context, and theological significance, offering hope amidst Judah's fall.
  • Studying Ezekiel reveals its focus on the glory of the Lord and the temple. You learn of Ezekiel's exile, his visions, and themes like covenant theology, creation, and apocalyptic elements, offering profound insights into hope amidst crisis.
  • Discover insights into the minor prophets' diverse genres and themes, from covenant infidelity to divine restoration. Witness Jonah's repentance narrative and prophetic visions culminating in Christ's fulfillment. Embrace Yahweh's justice and compassion, urging Israel's return, leading to Jesus as the ultimate authority.
  • Understand the structure and themes of the Hebrew Bible's writings section. Explore diverse literary forms, intentional divisions mirroring prophets, and the overarching theme of exile and return, illuminating Israel's covenant journey.
  • Discover the depth of the Book of Psalms: 150 songs divided into 5 books, expressing diverse emotions and worship forms. Explore themes, structure, and practical applications for personal devotion and prayer.
  • Gain insights into human suffering and theodicy through Job's trials. Explore themes of faith, resilience, and God's sovereignty amidst adversity. Discover hope in God's incomprehensible sovereignty amid life's trials.
  • Proverbs is a book of timeless wisdom from Solomon, who was gifted by God. By studying this book, you can learn to navigate life with righteousness and discernment, rooted in the fear of the Lord.
  • Journey through Ruth, where redemption, loyalty, and divine providence intertwine. Ruth, a symbol of strength, aligns with Boaz, embodying ancient customs. Their union shapes history, reflecting the enduring legacy of faith amidst life's complexities.
  • Explore the Song of Songs for insights into marriage and intimacy. It navigates the tension between true love and temptation, advocating for unwavering commitment and passionate intimacy, reflecting God's desired relationship. Discover timeless wisdom for modern-day love and marriage.
  • Ecclesiastes reveals life's futility without God, emphasizing the necessity of fearing Him. Through Solomon's wisdom, it prompts reflection on divine purpose amid existential questions.
  • In Lamentations, mourn the fall of Jerusalem and exile, finding hope in God's sovereignty.
  • The book of Esthers contains themes of providence, hiddenness of God, and faithfulness in exile. You will uncover the intricacies of Esther and Mordecai's roles in the deliverance of the Jewish people, as well as the establishment of the festival of Purim. This study will equip you with insights into how God's providence operates amidst human events, even when His presence may seem concealed, and how faithfulness in exile can lead to unexpected outcomes of deliverance and restoration.
  • Through this lesson on the book of Daniel, you'll gain insights into its structure, themes of faithfulness in exile, comparisons with Joseph, and its significance for understanding apocalyptic literature, providing a comprehensive understanding of God's sovereignty and care for His people.
  • Explore Ezra and Nehemiah for insights into post-exilic restoration, intertwining faith, governance, and cultural renewal. These books point towards a deeper longing for true and lasting restoration and echo themes found in apocalyptic literature such as the book of Revelation.
  • The Book of Chronicles traces Israel's history, emphasizing kingship, priesthood, and divine selection. It anticipates restoration, pointing to Jesus as the ultimate priest-king who fulfills God's promises.

Understanding the Old Testament 
Dr. Miles Van Pelt
Lesson Transcript

We've now come to the book of Daniel in our lecture series. We're approaching the end of the Old Testament as we have it in the Hebrew Bible. In the English Bible, the book of Daniel appears within the prophetic literature, as you know, between Ezekiel and Hosea. And this position in the canon may be due to a couple of different factors. 

First, Ezekiel and Daniel were contemporaries, though Daniel preceded Ezekiel in Babylon by about a decade. So they're contemporaries together, both in Babylon.

Secondly, both Ezekiel and Daniel contain high levels of apocalyptic literature. That is, that literature about crazy fantastical beasts with horns and eyes all over them, that ancient Near Eastern comfort literature. So there's an association there.

There's also been some dispute regarding the office of Daniel, held in the administration of the kingdom of God. Some consider Daniel to be a prophet, and others consider Daniel to be a wise and righteous statesman. Thus, the position in the English canon demonstrates that side of the argument that wants to see Daniel as a prophet. And we know from the New Testament that Daniel was considered a prophet. However, if you think about the book of Daniel and the prophets, the writing prophets that we talked about earlier, you remember that Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the Twelve, were prophets, but they had a specific literary function. And they were only around for 300 years from 760 to 460 BC. And those guys were Yahweh's prosecuting attorneys. They were, in some sense, executing the lawsuit of Yahweh on Israel for their unfaithfulness. 

The book of Daniel, on the other hand, is not doing that. There is no lawsuit or legal material in the book of Daniel. It's simply recording the life of an individual in exile and the hope that he had of returning from exile. So it doesn't have the same literary function. So I think the Hebrew Bible position is better. Yes, he was a prophet in some way, but he was not a prophet executing the lawsuit of God against God's people like the other prophets. 

So in the Hebrew Bible, then, the book of Daniel is located in the third section or the writings. Within the writings, it appears in the second half, the second six books that deal with life in exile, as we've said. The following observations are based upon the position of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible that you can think about as you read this book. And we've said some of this before, but some will be new.

Both Esther and Daniel represent examples of the life of faith in exile. You have exposition illustrations and lamentations. Jerusalem is dead. The temple is dead. We're mourning their loss in funeral songs. Therefore, what does it look like to live in exile? First, Esther, the life of a godly woman in exile, then Daniel, the life of a godly man in exile. 

The following observations are based on the position of Daniel in the Hebrew canon. Both Esther and Daniel represent examples of the life of faith in exile. Both books contain accounts of individuals who are good-looking and advance in a foreign royal court. They both become second in by nature of being the queen and Nebuchadnezzar's first in command. Both Esther and Daniel are faithful unto death, though their lives are mercifully and miraculously preserved by Yahweh each time. It is therefore a viable exemplary imperative to dare to be an Esther or dare to be a Daniel. Be someone who lives a life of faith in exile. And we talked about that earlier in our lectures about how you can dare to be some people, not dare to be others based upon their position in the canon. Just want to remind you, you can't dare to be a Moses. You can't dare to be a Joshua. You can't dare to be a David. They are types of Christ. But you can be a Job. You can be a Ruth. You can be a Daniel or Esther. Those people who contribute largely to the writings are people that you can imitate and emulate. It's important to know how that works. It can be argued that Daniel through Chronicles theologically prepares the people of God, both then and now, for a new or second exodus.

So part of the role of Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles is going to be getting ready for this kind of new return from exile, this new exodus. How? The book of Daniel covers the entire 70-year period of exile predicted by Jeremiah. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah that follow Daniel record the return from exile beginning with the decree of Cyrus in Ezra 1:1. Chronicles characterizes the return from exile described in Ezra and Nehemiah as not meeting the fullness of the prophetic expectation before, or better than before, and the need for a new exodus, a need for someone now again to go up and return. So Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles are preparing us at some level for a new exodus, a return from exile. That's part of the overarching themes of these books. That is, as people who wait in exile as aliens and strangers, how do you think about and how do you long to go home?

Interestingly, this is one of my favorite points here, is that Daniel prepares us for this reality just as Joseph prepared the way for the first exodus. That is, Daniel and Joseph have many things in common, or to put it this way, the author of the book of Daniel portrays Daniel as a type of Joseph. Do you remember in our lectures on Lamentations where we said the man of sorrows in Lamentations 3 is built off of the life of Job and there are many parallels there and you're kind of provoked to study those two in light of that and to see what kind of wise thinking comes out of it? Well, Daniel and Joseph have the same corresponding feature together and I'm going to give you 10 points of comparison between Daniel and Joseph because remember, Joseph is sent into exile, and by that, he delivers God's people and the whole world. But also prepares God's people to go home by Joseph saying, when I'm buried, my bones must go back. That's at the end of the book of Genesis as we talked about it. 

Here are 10 comparisons between Joseph and Daniel where you are required at the end of the day to think of the life of Daniel in light of the life of Joseph. Both Joseph and Daniel were deported as young boys to a foreign enemy land. Joseph to Egypt, Daniel to Babylon, the quintessential enemies of the people of God. Number two, both Joseph and Daniel prosper as state officials based on their God-given abilities. Three, both Joseph and Daniel are observed as being good-looking. It gets Joseph into trouble. Number four, both Joseph and Daniel advance to second in command over the state based upon their God-given abilities to interpret the dreams of the kings of the land. Very specific. Both confess that the interpretation of the dream comes from God and that the dream is given to the king to make known what will happen in the future. Very explicit. Number five, both Joseph and Daniel have their dreams and visions that deal with future events. Number six, both Joseph and Daniel are entrapped by their integrity and subject to the punishment of the state. Remember Joseph with Potiphar's wife, Daniel with his desire to pray. Both men escape the fate of death and are promoted to higher stations after the trap. Number seven, both Joseph and Daniel provide us with examples of what it means to live a life of faith when it seems like God is no longer in control of the situation. Think about Joseph just being sold by his brothers into slavery never again to see his family. Think of that, just the terror that would be. Or Daniel being taken out of his land as a young boy to spend the rest of his life not at home. Number eight, Joseph prepares the way for all of Israel to move into Egypt.Daniel prepares the way for the remaining Judean exiles to come to Babylon later in the 6th century B.C. with the fall of Jerusalem. Number nine, both Joseph and Daniel look forward to returning to Canaan as the promised land. Joseph in Genesis 50:24 to 25, then Joseph said to his brothers, I am about to die, but God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So he's going to come deliver him. Daniel in Daniel 12:13 says, "But as for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and at the end of the day, you will rise and receive your allotted inheritance." So they have that hope of going home. But in light that they both have that hope of going home, both Daniel and Joseph die in exile. Both Daniel and Joseph end up dying in exile.

So there are 10 points of comparison, and both are conceived of as wisdom instruction, like how do you live wisely amid exile in a way that is faithful, and ironically exalting you to the highest positions of the kingdom. It's very interesting how they do that. 

What is the basic outline of the book? Two basic outlines are commonly observed for the book of Daniel, and the first is commonly called a bifid because it just has two parts. So you have, as you see on your screen, the book of Daniel has 12 chapters and 357 verses, and it's divided into two parts. The first part is chapters 1 through 6, the life of faith in exile, the life of faith in exile, where you have biographical material written in third-person narrative. Then you have in chapters 7 through 12, the hope of faith in exile, and this is where you have apocalyptic material written in first-person narrative style. So you have in the first section, biography, the life of Daniel and his friends, it's written in the third person, he did this, he did that, and then the second section, it shifts both in terms of genre and person. You've got apocalyptic literature, crazy visions, written in the first person, I, Daniel, saw this, that kind of thing. So there's that particular structure. 

The other outline of Daniel is one based on the language used for the composition of the book. The book of Daniel is rare in the fact that it's one of the only two books in the Hebrew Bible that use Aramaic as well as Hebrew in its source. Aramaic was a dialect of Hebrew, it's related to it, but it's not exactly like. It was the lingua franca or the international language of the day, much like Greek became in the days of Alexander the Great and following, or even now English serves as a kind of international language. Wherever you go, someone speaks a little bit of English. Back then, wherever you go, someone spoke a little bit of Aramaic.And so you can see in chapters 1:1 through 2:4a, you have Hebrew. Then in 2:4b through 7:28, you have Aramaic. And then in chapters 8 through 12, you have Hebrew right there.

And so the question is, why is this the case? No one has come up with a completely satisfactory explanation, but one of the better ones is this, is that the first and the third sections are written directly to God's people for their instruction. But the middle section, chapters 2:4b through 7:28, was written for the whole world to take witness to. And this is where you have, for example, Nebuchadnezzar confessing that there is no God like Yahweh, Daniel's God, that he is higher than any other God. He's the one true God. So in fact, in the book of Daniel in Aramaic, you have Nebuchadnezzar, the king of basically the world at that time, confessing that Yahweh is superior to all other gods. So you've got this, it's a tremendous book. It's like Ecclesiastes. You could use it for evangelism. Here you have the pagan king of the world saying there's no other God like Yahweh.And so that's part of it.  Now, I don't think you have to choose between the two outlines. One is based on content, one is based on language. Like the book, you can lay those two on top of each other and there's no contradiction. So Aramaic.

The book of Daniel is also a very important book for understanding the rest of the Bible, especially in the New Testament.For example, the apocalyptic sections of Daniel 7 through 12 are vital for understanding the book of Revelation. So the apocalypse of John, the book of Revelation uses or imports significant amounts of material from Daniel 7 through 12. So to understand Daniel 7 through 12 well will allow you to understand the book of Revelation even better. The book of Daniel also provides some of the most significant background for the kingdom of God language used extensively in the New Testament. So for example, the book of Daniel provides the most significant Old Testament background for understanding the son of man designation employed by Jesus about himself. What does Jesus mean when he's calling himself the son of man? Well, he's referring back to Daniel 7:13 through 14, where it says this, So when Jesus identifies himself as the son of man, he's identifying that this person to whom kingdom and dominion and authority has been given and he'll have a kingdom that will not pass away. It's amazing.

About explicit references to the person Daniel in the rest of Scripture, there are only four. Three of them are in Ezekiel due to his kind of unsurpassed righteousness, and then one in the book of Matthew. Let's look at one of them in the book of Ezekiel so you can get a sense of what the Old Testament thought about Daniel. It says this in Ezekiel 14:12 to 14, So Daniel's put on kind of on par with Noah and Job. So men who suffered in their time because of their righteousness but also became exemplary in their service to God. The last one is in the New Testament with Matthew 24:15, where it says, And this gospel of the kingdom, think about that the kingdom in Daniel 7, will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. Now think about that in terms of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar."And then the end will come. So when you see standing in the holy place the abomination that causes desolation spoken of through Daniel the prophet, let the reader understand." So notice here that the New Testament calls Daniel a prophet and certainly he is and David was a prophet and Abraham was a prophet but that doesn't mean necessarily they're to be put in the writing of prophets.

Well finally we have just a couple of minutes left and I want to just go over some of the basic content of Daniel. There are 12 chapters and I just want to briefly kind of give you the flow of that. Remember the first six chapters deal with kind of the biographical material and then the last six chapters deal with apocalyptic visions and their interpretation. So as you can see on your screen, number one, Daniel and his three friends excel at Babylon Theological Seminary. Here's what happens. Daniel and his three friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are sent into exile and the Babylonians take the best of the best of the group and put them in their school for three years, seminaries for three years, to train them in all of their scribal and religious practices. So they would have learned Akkadian and Aramaic, how to do all of the different statesman crafts that they would do, and they were using like you know importing the best resources to help run the country. Daniel and his three friends exceed them all and they become major players in the kingdom. That's what happens there. So you can see in some sense the faithfulness of God in exile to put the right people in the right places to promote the of God's people. 

In chapter two, Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's dream and then you have Nebuchadnezzar's confession that Yahweh is a great God. So this is very much like the Joseph figure and where he's going to interpret someone's dream and be exalted in the kingdom.

Chapter three contains the erected golden idol in the plains of Shinar and the fiery furnace where Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into the fiery furnace. They aren't burned. There are not three people in there but a fourth person. You can imagine that would be something like a Christophany or the person of Christ in there with them. Think about Isaiah 43, when you pass through the fire you will not be burned. That's a great text to think about in light of that. 

Number four, Nebuchadnezzar's pride causes him to be humiliated. He becomes like an animal and then he's restored when he confesses Yahweh's greatness. Chapter five is the famous Belteshazzar and the writing on the wall, his death, and the end of his kingdom. Again, Daniel is exalted for interpreting this vision.

Chapter six is the last biographical chapter. It's the famous text Daniel and the lion's den where Daniel's faith and his steadfastness to pray ends him in trouble but again he's saved and exalted in the kingdom. 

Chapters seven through twelve deal with the vision. So first you have the vision of the beasts and the ancient of days. Now you remember the big statue earlier in chapter two had four parts to it. There was the gold, the silver, the bronze, and the bronze mixed with clay. Those four parts are connected to the four beasts here with the ancient of days. So keep that in mind that Daniel's two and seven go together. You have the vision of the ram and the goat, these marauding kingdoms that are at war with each other and trampling all the people of God and how God will overcome them.

Chapter nine is Daniel's prayer of confession for his people's sinfulness and they're deserving of the 70 years of exile but now it's over and God says hey the 70 years of exile is just a symbolic number. Now it's 70 weeks of years. And then there's all that business going on there.

Chapter 10 is the vision of the jeweled man. Chapter 11 is the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man, the North, and the South contrasted in this great vision.

Then chapter 12 Daniel asks the angel when the end will come and when he can go home and he says, go your way to the end Daniel, and at the end, I will raise you up. The Book of Daniel is amazing. It testifies to the sovereignty of God, the care of his people in exile, and the sure certainty that even in exile God's kingdom is winning even on earth when it seems like it's faltering.