The book of Daniel is an unusual book. The events here take place during a most disastrous time in the history of the Kingdom of Judah. The Judeans are captives in Babylon for 70 years, and God’s Holy Land is vacant. Yet it is a story of God’s providence and protection of his chosen people, even while he is disciplining them for their disobedience.
In Babylon, God’s chosen people had to make a choice. Would they allow themselves to be assimilated into this culture with its magnificent buildings and colorful religion, a culture that had taken over almost all of the known world, or would they remain loyal to the God of Heaven, the one true God who had called Abraham out of a similar culture 1,500 years earlier.
What Is the Historical Background of the Book of Daniel?
The Babylonian Empire was huge. King Nebuchadnezzar II reigned from 605 BC to his death in 562 BC, a total of 43 years ruling the known world.
In 605 BC he came to Jerusalem, made King Jehoiakim his vassal, seized articles from the Jerusalem temple and deported some young Judeans—perhaps from the royal family—to Babylon to train as administrators. One of these was the prophet Daniel, who was about 13 years old.
Because the Judeans revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, making treaties with his enemy Egypt, he returned in 597 BC and deported King Jehoiachin, his mother, and the entire court plus all the tradesmen in Judah, most of the priests, and almost all of the wealthy landowners, leaving Zedekiah as only a puppet governor with the title of King.
Zedekiah likewise conspired with Egypt, so Nebuchadnezzar once again returned to Jerusalem in 586 BC, burning the city and the temple to the ground. He deported King Zedekiah to Babylon after killing his sons in front of him and blinding him. He also deported the remaining Judean people, leaving only a few very poor people in the country. God’s holy land was virtually vacant of its people.
Daniel rose to a high position in Babylon and continued in public office until 538 BC, one year after Cyrus the Persian captured Babylon and issued an edict saying the Judeans could return to Jerusalem (Daniel 1:21). Daniel’s ministry lasted the entire 70 years of the Judean Babylonian captivity from 605 to 535 BC.
The book of Daniel was placed in the Writings section of the Hebrew Bible because Daniel ministered to Gentiles as a government official rather than as a preaching prophet.
The Chronology & Original Languages of Daniel
The book of Daniel is not presented in chronological order. Chapters 1 and 8–12 of the book are written in Hebrew and Chapters 2–7 in Aramaic, the language of the Babylonian empire. Some say the Aramaic chapters were written for Gentiles and the Hebrew chapters for Judeans.
Reign of Nebuchadnezzar
|605–1st year of reign
|604–2nd year of reign
|Chapters 2 and 3
Reign of Belshazzar
|550–1st year of reign
|548–3rd year of reign
|539–11th year of reign
Reign of Darius/Cyrus
|539–1st year of reign
|Chapters 10, 11, and 12
Why Was the Book of Daniel Included in the Bible?
Daniel demonstrates that God controls history despite what the human rulers of the world think. God dislikes arrogance and will punish it as he punished King Nebuchadnezzar—one of the most powerful kings in world history.
The book also shows that God rewards the loyalty of his chosen people by giving them insight into God’s plans for humanity.
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