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DANIEL (dăn'yĕl, Heb. dāniyē’l or dāni’ēl, God is my judge)

1. David’s second son (1Chr.3.1; Kileab, 2Sam.3.3).

2. A postexilic priest (Ezra.8.2; Neh.10.6).

3. The exilic seer of the Book of Daniel. The prophet was born into an unidentified family of Judean nobility at the time of Josiah’s reformation (621 b.c.); he was among the select, youthful hostages of the first Jewish deportation, taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605, the third year of King Jehoiakim (Dan.1.1, Dan.1.3). The reliability of this date and indeed, of the whole account has been questioned by some critics. However, the method of dating used in the Book of Daniel simply follows the customary Babylonian practice of numbering the years of a king’s reign after his accession year (contrast Jer.46.2, which speaks of this date as Jehoiakim’s fourth year). The publication, moreover, of D. J. Wiseman’s Nebuchadnezzar tablets demonstrates that after the Babylonian defeat of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 Nebuchadnezzar did “conquer the whole area of Hatti” (Syria and Palestine) and “took away the heavy tribute of Hatti to Babylon” just as claimed in Dan.1.2 (cf. 2Chr.36.6-2Chr.36.7).

For three years Daniel was trained in all the wisdom of the Babylonians (Dan.1.4-Dan.1.5) and was assigned the Babylonian name Belteshazzar, “Protect his life!”—thereby invoking a pagan deity (Dan.4.8). Daniel and his companions, however, remained true to their ancestral faith, courteously refusing “the royal food and wine” (Dan.1.8, tainted with idolatry and contrary to the Levitical purity laws). God rewarded them with unsurpassed learning (Dan.1.20, qualifying them as official “wise men”; cf. Dan.2.13). On Daniel, moreover, he bestowed the gift of visions and of interpreting dreams (Dan.1.17; cf. Daniel’s wisdom in the apocryphal stories of Susanna and Bel and the Dragon).

In the latter years of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (604-562 b.c.), Daniel’s courage was demonstrated (Dan.4.19; cf. Dan.4.7) when he interpreted the king’s dream of the fallen tree (Dan.4.13-Dan.4.27). He tactfully informed his despotic master that for seven “times” pride would reduce him to beast-like madness, and reiterated that “the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men” (Dan.4.24-Dan.4.25; cf. its historical fulfillment twelve months later, Dan.4.28-Dan.4.33).

In 552 b.c. after the retirement of King Nabonidus to Arabian Teima and the accession of his son Belshazzar, Daniel was granted his vision of the four great beasts (Dan.7.1-Dan.7.28) that parallels Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dream of the composite image. Then in 550, at the time of Cyrus’s amalgamation of the Median and Persian states and of the growing eclipse of Babylon, Daniel received the prophecy of the ram and the goat concerning Persia and Greece (Dan.8.20-Dan.8.21) down to Antiochus IV (Dan.8.25). On October 12, 539, Cyrus’s general, Gobryas, after having routed the Babylonian armies, occupied the city of Babylon. During the profane revelries of Belshazzar’s court that immediately preceded the end, Daniel was summoned to interpret God’s handwriting on the wall, and the prophet fearlessly condemned the desperate prince (Dan.5.22-Dan.5.23). He predicted Medo-Persian victory (Dan.5.28), and that very night the citadel fell and Belshazzar was slain.

The last-known event in the life of Daniel took place in the third year of Cyrus (536 b.c.), when he was granted an overpowering vision of the archangel Michael contending with the demonic powers of pagan society (Dan.10.10-Dan.11.1); of the course of world history, through the persecutions of Antiochus IV (Dan.11.2-Dan.11.39); and of the eschatological Antichrist, the resurrections, and God’s final judgment (Dan.11.40-Dan.12.4). The vision concluded with the assurance that though Daniel would go to his grave prior to these events he would yet receive his appointed reward in the consummation (Dan.12.13). Thus in his mid-eighties, after completing his inspired autobiography and apocalyptic oracles, he finished his honored course.

The history of Daniel the prophet is confirmed both by the words of Christ (Matt.24.15) and by references to his righteousness and wisdom by his prophetic contemporary Ezekiel (Matt.14.14, Matt.14.20; Matt.28.3, in 591 and 586 b.c., respectively, though some scholars relate the latter passages to the Daniel of the Ugaritic epic material). The name is spelled differently in Ezekiel from the way it is spelled in Daniel. The Book of Daniel presents a timeless demonstration of separation from impurity, of courage against compromise, of efficaciousness in prayer, and of dedication to him whose “kingdom endures from generation to generation” (Dan.4.34).——JBP

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(daniye’l, dani’-el, "God is my judge"; Daniel):

(1) One of the sons of David (1Ch 3:1).

(2) A Levite of the family of Ithamar (Ezr 8:2; Ne 10:6).

(3) A prophet of the time of Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus, the hero and author of the Book of Daniel.

1. Early Life:

We know nothing of the early life of Daniel, except what is recorded in the book bearing his name. Here it is said that he was one of the youths of royal or noble seed, who were carried captive by Nebuchadnezzar in the third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah. These youths were without blemish, well-favored, skillful in all wisdom, endued with knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability to stand in the king’s palace. The king commanded to teach them the knowledge and tongue of the Chaldeans; and appointed for them a daily portion of the king’s food and of the wine which he drank. After having been thus nourished for three years, they were to stand before the king. Ashpenaz, the master or chief of the eunuchs, into whose hands they had been entrusted, following a custom of the time, gave to each of these youths a new and Babylonian name. To Daniel, he gave the name Belteshazzar.

In Babylonian this name was probably Belu-lita-sharri-usur, which means "O Bel, protect thou the hostage of the king," a most appropriate name for one in the place which Daniel occupied as a hostage of Jehoiakim at the court of the king of Babylon. The youths were probably from 12 to 15 years of age at the time when they were carried captive. (For changes of names, compare Joseph changed to Zaphenath-paneah (Ge 41:45); Eliakim, to Jehoiakim (2Ki 23:34); Mattaniah, to Zedekiah (2Ki 24:17); and the two names of the high priest Johanan’s brother in the Sachau Papyri, i.e. Ostan and Anani.)

Having purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the food and drink of the king, Daniel requested of Ashpenaz permission to eat vegetables and drink water. Through the favor of God, this request was granted, notwithstanding the fear of Ashpenaz that his head would be endangered to the king on account of the probably resulting poor appearance of the youths living upon this blood-diluting diet, in comparison with the expected healthy appearance of the others of their class. However, ten days’ trial having been first granted, and at the end of that time their countenances having been found fairer and their flesh fatter than the other youths’, the permission was made permanent; and God gave to Daniel and his companions knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom, and to Daniel understanding in all visions and dreams; so that at the end of the three years when the king communed with them, he found them much superior to all the magicians and enchanters in every matter of wisdom and understanding.

2. Dream-Interpreter:

Daniel’s public activities were in harmony with his education. His first appearance was as an interpreter of the dream recorded in Da 2. Nebuchadnezzar having seen in his dream a vision of a great image, excellent in brightness and terrible in appearance, its head of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass, its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay, beheld a stone cut out without hands smiting the image and breaking it in pieces, until it became like chaff and was carried away by the wind; while the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. When the king awoke from his troubled sleep, he forgot, or reigned that he had forgotten, the dream, and summoned the wise men of Babylon both to tell him the dream and to give the interpretation thereof. The wise men having said that they could not tell the dream, nor interpret it as long as it was untold, the king threatened them with death. Daniel, who seems not to have been present when the other wise men were before the king, when he was informed of the threat of the king, and that preparations were being made to slay all of the wise men of Babylon, himself and his three companions included, boldly went in to the king and requested that he would appoint a time for him to appear to show the interpretation, Then he went to his house, and he and his companions prayed, and the dream and its interpretation were made known unto Daniel. At the appointed time, the dream was explained and the four Hebrews were loaded with wealth and given high positions in the service of the king. In the 4th chapter, we have recorded Daniel’s interpretation of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar about the great tree that was hewn at the command of an angel, thus prefiguring the insanity of the king.

3. Interpreter of Signs: Daniel’s third great appearance in the book is in chapter 5, where he is called upon to explain the extraordinary writing upon the wall of Belshazzar’s palace, which foretold the end of the Babylonian empire and the incoming of the Medes and Persians. For this service Daniel was clothed with purple, a chain of gold put around his neck, and he was made the third ruler in the kingdom.

4. Seer of Visions:

Daniel, however, was not merely an interpreter of other men’s visions. In the last six chapters we have recorded four or five of his own visions, all of which are taken up with revelations concerning the future history of the great world empires, especially in their relation to the people of God, and predictions of the final triumph of the Messiah’s kingdom.

5. Official of the Kings:

In addition to his duties as seer and as interpreter of signs and dreams, Daniel also stood high in the governmental service of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede, and perhaps also of Cyrus. The Book of Dnl, our only reliable source of information on this subject, does not tell us much about his civil duties and performances. It does say, however, that he was chief of the wise men, that he was in the gate of the king, and that he was governor over the whole province of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar; that Belshazzar made him the third ruler in his kingdom; and that Darius made him one of the three presidents to whom his hundred and twenty satraps were to give account; and that he even thought to set him over his whole kingdom. In all of these positions he seems to have conducted himself with faithfulness and judgment.

While in the service of Darius the Mede, he aroused the antipathy of the other presidents and of the satraps. Unable to find any fault with his official acts, they induced the king to make a decree, apparently general in form and purpose, but really aimed at Daniel alone. They saw that they could find no valid accusation against him, unless they found it in connection with something concerning the law of his God. They therefore caused the king to make a decree that no one should make a request of anyone for the space of thirty days, save of the king. Daniel, having publicly prayed three times a day as he was in the habit of doing, was caught in the act, accused, and on account of the irrevocability of a law of the Medes and Persians, was condemned in accordance with the decree to be cast into a den of lions. The king was much troubled at this, but was unable to withhold the punishment. However, he expressed to Daniel his belief that his God in whom he trusted continually would deliver him; and so indeed it came to pass. For in the morning, when the king drew near to the mouth of the den, and called to him, Daniel said that God had sent His angel and shut the mouths of the lions. So Daniel was taken up unharmed, and at the command of the king his accusers, having been cast into tile den, were destroyed before they reached the bottom.


Besides the commentaries and other works mentioned in the article on the Book of Daniel, valuable information may be found in Josephus and in Payne Smith’s Lectures on Daniel.

Additional Material

DANIEL (MAN) (דָּֽנִיֵּ֜אל, God is my judge, LXX Δανιήλ, G1248, Daniēl).

1. The second son of David (1 Chron 3:1, the Chileab of 2 Sam 3:3).

2. A priest of the postexilic period (Ezra 8:2; Neh 10:6).

3. The exilic seer traditionally credited with authorship of the Book of Daniel. This man is commonly accorded the status of a prophet, but this is technically incorrect. His life experiences show that he was more of a statesman in a foreign court than a mediator of divine revelation to a theocratic community. Yet it is also true that his outlook contains elements which are in full accord with the highest spiritual traditions of Heb. prophecy generally.

The Ugaritic Legend of Aqht referred to an ancient Phoenician king named Dnil (vocalized as Dan’el or Dani’el) who was reputedly wise and upright. The reference to “Daniel” in Ezekiel 14:14 may point to some such antediluvian person, and not a contemporary of Ezekiel. So also in Ezekiel 28:3 where the prophet also mocked Tyre sarcastically because she was “wiser than Daniel.”


E. J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel (1949); E. W. Heaton, The Book of Daniel (1956).