Daniel was of noble birth, born in Jerusalem around 623 BC during the reign of King Josiah. Although we are not given his genealogy, he was one of the royal family of Judah, a close relative of the king. As a youth, Daniel marched as a captive to Babylon in the fourth year of Jehoiachin, 606 BC, along with the elite of Judah. An apt student, he learned the lore of the Chaldeans and held high offices, during both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. Despite persecution for his faith in the one true God, Daniel experienced miraculous deliverances and lived to a great age. He would have been almost 90-years-old at the time of the last of his visions in 535 BC (Matthew Henry’s Commentary).
Daniel’s nation fell to God’s enemies because they refused to live by God’s Law. The people of Judah continually compromised their culture into a state of spiritual whoredom. The pagan Chaldeans began using the holy instruments, stolen from the Temple at Jerusalem, in their blasphemous worship. King Nebuchadnezzar sought out the best and brightest of the Hebrew youth – Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah – to convert to paganism. They were renamed – Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego – after the gods of Chaldea.
In Daniel’s day, there arose a generation of young people called out by God who resisted state-sanctioned evil. They were not seduced into the spiritual mediocrity and compromise that had led the nation of Judah captive. No matter the challenges dictated by pagan society, Daniel intended to be true to God. The Daniel group refused to join the party. Instead of feasting at the king’s table and joining the social elite, they learned to fast and pray so that deliverance could come to the nation of Israel.
The Daniel group faced the fiery furnace and refused to compromise. They looked to God to be their deliverer. They would not bow down and worship the false gods of Nebuchadnezzar even if it cost them their lives. Jesus Christ himself appeared as the fourth man in the fire and supernaturally delivered them. In spite of the king’s attempts to kill Daniel’s friends, their testimony could not be destroyed. Instead the king’s own men were destroyed by that same fire. They kept telling the truth no matter what the cost.
In the next generation, Daniel continued to prophesy and speak the truth to the king’s grandson, Belshazzar, when he assumed the throne. Daniel did not waver from his declaration or apologize for the judgment which had fallen on the king’s grandfather, Nebuchadnezzar, when God gave him over to a seven-year bout of insanity. Then one night, the fingers of a man’s hand wrote a flaming message on the wall. Belshazzar discovered that he needed Daniel’s wisdom. He got what he asked for, unpleasant news indeed. True to his word, though, Belshazzar bestowed high office on Daniel, then returned to his drink and awaited his doom.
Daniel quickly rose in official favor with Darius the Mede, the new regent of Babylon. Rival governors, jealous of Daniel’s longevity and favor, set a trap for him. They knew that whenever God’s Law and man’s law conflicted, Daniel would choose God’s Law. So they manipulated Darius into issuing an injunction that forced Daniel to either violate the king’s law or God’s supreme Law. When Daniel obeyed God rather than the ultimatum, he was cast into the lion’s den. Daniel survived only because of God’s sovereign intervention. His rivals were not as fortunate.
Although he was not personally guilty of his nation’s sins, Daniel took on the role of intercessor. He assumed spiritual responsibility. Through fasting and prayer, he birthed revival for the nation of Judah. Daniel understood that Judah had transgressed the Law and God would not be mocked. However, God had also promised restoration through the prophet Jeremiah.
Daniel’s prophecies were given to the Jews while they were in captivity in Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, his grandson Belshazzar, and later under Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, when the Jews started filtering back into Jerusalem. This book of prophecy was meant to prove the time of the coming of the Messiah. The Lord gave specific guideposts to mark the following centuries that would show He had not forsaken His people. The tumultuous events described in the prophecies are meant to show the Jews that the word of the Lord is a sure promise that cannot fail to come to pass. As each detail of this prophecy fell into place by the first century, the Jews realized that the time of the Messiah had come. Later, Jesus in the Gospels, and the Apostle John in Revelation, quoted Daniel directly to show that the time was at hand.