Daniel was a celebrated prophet and minister at the Babylonian court at Jehoiakim. He was in the first deportation of people of Judah (604 BCE). There is little known of his parentage, but seems to have been of royal decent. He was taken (forced) into the royal court and according to eastern custom* given the Chaldean name of Belteshazzar. Like Joseph, Daniel secured favor of his guardian which allowed him to abstain from unclean foods and idolatrous ceremonies (Dan. 1:8-16). Such prudent conduct are said to produce important results in God’s plan.
His opportunity came three years with the exercising of his unique gift of interpreting dreams. The king Nebuchadnezzar had previously called before him all of the wise men, magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers, to interpret a dream or vision that he had, but they failed (5:11). Daniel was able to recall the king’s vision and interpret it. For this Daniel was rewarded by being made the ruler of the province of Babylon and the chief of governors over all wise men of Babylon. Later he lost his throne when interpreting another dream for Nebuchadnezzar but regained it back after his period of humiliation.
After Nebuchadnezzar he was transferred to inferior positions, no longer being the ‘master of magicians.’ He then foresaw the decline of Babylon which both comforted and disturbed him. After the fall of Babylon, Darius took the throne making Daniel the first of three presidents of the empire (6:2). He took this position with deep humiliation praying to God on behalf of his people, asking for forgiveness of their sins and for Divine mercy. The answer to his prayer would far exceed his expectations: for his visions as a seer extended to the end of Judaism (ch. 9).
The same as others rising to power Daniel experienced envy and jealousy of his colleagues who conspired against him. They persuaded the monarch to pass a decree forbidding anyone for thirty days to offer prayer to anyone except the king. For his disobedience Daniel was thrown in a den of ferocious lions but miraculously was saved and again raised to the highest positions of honor (ch. 6).
Daniel never forgot his people and lived to enjoy seeing them return to their land, but his exceeding age prohibited him from returning to Palestine with them although he was considered among the Jewish remnant. In the third year of Cyrus he experience detailed visions of the Israeli nation to the end of the world (chs. 10-12) which are in the Book of Daniel. This is why the Book of Daniel usually accompanies the Book of Revelation, although there exists much debate concerning the prophetic interpretations of both books. A.G.H.
Unger, Merrill F., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Chicago, Moody Press, 1966, pp. 237-239
* Such a change of name occurred whenever the conditions within a person’s life, especially his liberty, changed.