THE BOOK OF THE PROPHET DANIEL.
Daniel, according to the testimony of this book and of various historical references, cp. Matt. 24, 15. 21; Mark 13, 19; 1 Pet. 1, 10.11; 2 Thess. 2, 3. 4, its author, was a member of one of the foremost Jewish families, possibly even of kingly descent. Having been led away into captivity at one of the conquests of Jerusalem, about in the year 606 B. C., he was taken to Babylon and there, under the name Belteshazzar, trained for special service at the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Although surrounded by temptations of every kind, Daniel remained true to the religion of his fathers. God endowed him with an extraordinary measure of wisdom, particularly with reference to the interpretation of dreams. Owing to the fact that he gave the correct explanation of a strange dream of the king, he was elevated to a high position in the kingdom, in which he was continued by some of Nebuchadnezzar's successors, such as Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, and later Darius. He was still living when Cyrus became the head of the empire, but did not return to Jerusalem with the other exiles. Cp. Ezra 1, 2. The fame of his wisdom and of his justice extended far beyond his immediate neighborhood and beyond the circle of his own people. Apparently Daniel reached an age of more than ninety years, but there is no authentic account of the time and manner of his death, although there is some apocryphal material concerning various incidents in his life.
The Book of Daniel may readily be divided into two fairly equal parts, the first of which is chiefly historical, telling of various outstanding experiences in the life of Daniel, while the second gives an account of various visions which he had concerning the kingdoms of the world and Messiah, the King, the interpretation of the strange matters being given him by angels. There is a close inner connection between the two parts, a fact which emphasizes the unity of the book, which is further substantiated by the linguistic agreement. A feature of the book is the fact that all the sections intended specifically for the Jewish people are written in Hebrew, while those pertaining to the whole world are written in Aramaie, which at that time was the language of the world.
The purpose of the book, which, with respect to its prophecies, is apocalyptic in character, is to show the Lord's people, who were at that time in the power of their enemies, that God is able to protect His children, who fear Him, even against the greatest and mightiest men of the earth, and to give them the comforting reassurance that all the machinations of the enemies of God must come to an end at His command, while the kingdom of the Lord remains forever.
As far as the character of Daniel's work is concerned, we may say: "Daniel and Ezekiel were contemporaries and lived in the same country; the kingdom of Babylon. But while Ezekiel labored among his captive countrymen on the banks of the Chebar, Daniel preached the name of God in the court of the king who had conquered the Jews. His preaching produced a profound impression. Nebuchadnezzar declared at different times that he was greatly moved by the words of Daniel (chap. 2, 47; 3, 29; 4, 33. 34). King Darius spoke in a similar vein (chap. 6, 26. 27). This does not imply, however, that these great kings became true believers of the Gospel; history shows that they did not experience a real change of heart; they continued to worship their heathen idols and died as idolaters. Due to the peculiar circumstances under which Daniel spoke, his style is also peculiar. He does not use the common prophetic expression, 'Thus saith the Lord,' nor does he, as the prophets usually do, address the people of his time. His predictions are highly symbolical. Regarding the final revelation he writes: 'And I heard, but I understood not' ( chap. 12, 8. 9)." 1)