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Daniel (דניאל, meaning God is my judge) was a Jew prophet who lived during the last years of the Kingdom of Judah and of the Babylonian Empire, and during the early years of the Achaemenid Empire. He was among the first batch Jews who were carried off into captivity in Babylon about 2600 years ago, at the end of the reign of King Jehoiakim. He was given a great deal of wisdom by God and at one point served as Nebuchadnezzar's Chief Advisor.

Daniel later rose to a high position in the Persian government after the Persians conquered Babylon. Because of his faith in God, he was persecuted by Darius's other counselors. At one point, he was thrown into a den of lions, but God commanded the mouths of the lions shut, and Daniel survived. Daniel held his position as adviser until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus.

Biography

Captivity

Daniel was likely born sometime during the last years of Josiah, King of Judah. In his youth, Daniel was probably both well-taught and physically fit [1].

In the eleventh year of Jehoiakim's reign on Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked him and bound him. Along with the king, the Babylonians took many treasures from Solomon's Temple, as well as a group of young upper-class men to be trained for serving the King. Daniel was one of the young men chosen, along with his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. They were then forced to travel a long way to Mesopotamia.

Ashpenaz, the Babylonian chief official, gave the Jew captives new names. Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar.  

Daniel and his friends were then subjected to a three-year training period before being ready to serve the King. There, they learned Babylonian literature, history, and language. They were also allowed to eat from the King's own table, but Daniel was concerned with being served food that was considered unclean to Jews. Daniel, having earned the chief official's favor, asked him for permission to not eat that food. [2]

The chief official expressed his concern regarding Daniel's health and fitness. Then Daniel approached a guard and suggested being only given vegetables to eat and water to drink during a ten-day period. After the ten days had passed, the guard would compare their health condition with that of the other trainees. The guard agreed, and Daniel and his three closest friends were tested for ten days. Their health was then checked, and they turned out to be better nourished and healthier than those men who ate the royal food. Since then, Daniel and his friends subsisted only on a vegetarian diet. [3]

Daniel was not only getting stronger and fitter, he and his friends were also gifted with knowledge and understanding. Thanks to his faithfulness, Daniel could also interpret dreams and visions as a gift from God. [4]

Entering Royal Service

After the three years of training ended, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar and found the fittest for serving him. They acted as the King's counselors, and their advice surpassed that of Babylonian magicians and astrologers. [5]

In one occasion, Nebuchadnezzar was disturbed by a recurrent dream, and he turned to the sorcerers and fortune tellers to translate it. However, they were incapable of even knowing what the dream was about, let alone interpreting it. Nebuchadnezzar grew furious and ordered all of the wise men and counselors in Babylon to be executed.

Daniel pleaded for the life of the counselors with Commander Arioc. Daniel was then allowed to go before the King and ask for time so the dream could be revealed. The King agreed, and that night, God revealed both the dream and its meaning to Daniel in a vision. Daniel then thanked and praised God in a prayer. [6]

Arioc brought Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar. Then, the King asked again for the meaning of his dream. Not before giving full credit to God for the revelation and interpretation of the mystery, Daniel proceeded to explain the dream: the King had seen a huge statue made of diverse materials, being destroyed by a great rock which then turned into a mountain which covered all of the Earth. The statue represented Babylon and a diminishing sequence of empires and world powers that succeeded each other. The great rock represented God's might and the establishment of His never-ending kingdom. [7]

Nebuchadnezzar thanked Daniel and presented him with many gifts as he recognized God's power. Daniel was made the head of the King's counselors and was granted a high-ranking place in the government, becoming provincial ruler of Babylon. His friends were also appointed as local administrators. [8]

Sometime later, his three closest friends were miraculously saved after being thrown into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden statue as ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar. [9] Daniel is not mentioned in the account of this events. It is possible that, as a ruler over the whole province of Babylon, Daniel was not present at the city when the King gave the order of bowing to the idol, due to a previous assignment that required him to go away. It might even be plausible that Daniel was exempted of forcefully worshipping the idol, being one of Nebuchadnezzar's most trusted men.

Nebuchadnezzar's Madness

After these events, King Nebuchadnezzar again became tormented by a disturbing dream. As none of his magicians and diviners could interpret it, the King then called Daniel and told him the dream. He had seen a mighty and tall tree being cut down and trimmed off, and what remained of its stump underwent humiliation. [10] Daniel was temporarily stunned by what he had been revealed and didn't share anything until the King insisted. [11]

Daniel revealed the tree represented King Nebuchadnezzar himself. Daniel predicted the King would become a castaway, losing his mind and acting like a beast, before being restored once he recognized God as the only true sovereign over all kingdoms of the earth. Daniel urged the King to repent of his sins and ease his authoritarian regime. [12]

However, what Daniel prophesied came true only one year later. Having grown arrogant and proud of Babylon's beauty, King Nebuchadnezzar was struck by a voice of heaven, which condemned him to adopt the lifestyle of a mindless animal. After a lengthy state of madness, Nebuchadnezzar finally looked up to heaven, repented, and his sanity was restored. At least for a time, the King praised and worshipped God, followed closely by Daniel. [13]

Persian Conquest of Babylon

After Nebuchadnezzar's death, Daniel continued serving his successors in the throne, and he was blessed with a long, prosperous life. Almost seventy years after being taken captive by the Babylonians, Daniel served Belshazzar, descendant of Nebuchadnezzar. During this time, Daniel experienced prophetic visions. In the first year Belshazzar ruled Babylon, Daniel dreamed of four beasts. [14] Two years later, he had a vision of a ram and a goat. [15]

The night before Babylon fell to the Persians, Belshazzar hosted a massive feast at his palace in honor of the Babylonian gods. The banquet was interrupted by the sudden appearance of a hand which drew a mysterious writing on a wall. Frightened, Belshazzar summoned astrologers to read the writing but they all failed. The queen mother remembered Daniel and advised Belshazzar to call for the chief counselor so he could solve the writing and explain it. [16]

Daniel was brought before Belshazzar, who asked him to translate the writing in exchange for gifts and a promotion in authority. Daniel politely rejected such gifts, but he still explained the message for him, not before confronting Belshazzar for not humbling before God's authority as his ancestor, the late King Nebuchadnezzar, had done. Daniel then read and translated the words on the wall, which told about Belshazzar's failure as a ruler and the coming of his judgment. It also predicted Babylon's fall to the Medes and Persians.

Belshazzar still showed his gratitude by clothing Daniel in purple, giving him a gold necklace and making him the third highest ruler in the country. However, that very night, the Achaemenid Empire breached into the city, conquering the Babylonians once and for all. Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede received the kingdom.

Daniel In The Lions' Den

Daniel was raised to high office by Darius the Mede, becoming one of three administrators who in turn oversaw 120 satraps appointed to rule throughout the newly conquered kingdom. Despite being very old (at least 82 years of age) Daniel distinguished himself among the ruling class, and Darius planned to trust him with the government of the entire kingdom. The satraps and Daniel's fellow administrators grew jealous of him and sought ways to dispose of him by falsely accusing him of irregularities in his duty, but Daniel remained incorruptible.

The local rulers and governors convinced Darius of issuing a decree that pursued anyone who worshipped any god or person other than Darius for a period of thirty days. Darius signed and published the decree (which, in accordance with Persian tradition, couldn't be revoked), but Daniel, even after learning of the edict, continued reaching for God, praying three times a day towards Jerusalem as usual. The government officers then denounced Daniel to Darius, who, according to his decree, had to throw Daniel into a den inhabited by lions as punishment. Darius was deeply distressed, tried to find ways to save Daniel, but he couldn't retract from his public announcement. Daniel was arrested and thrown to the lions, though Darius expressed his wishes to see him protected by the God he praised. The entrance to the den was covered by a great stone and sealed by Darius with his ring.

Miraculously, God never abandoned Daniel and sent an angel who stayed beside him an entire night, preventing the lions from even harming Daniel. The next morning, the disquiet Darius got up early and hurried to the den. Daniel was lifted out of the den, and Darius was very relieved and pleased to see he had survived, untouched by the felids. Then, he ordered all of the men who tried to sabotage Daniel's career to be thrown to the lions instead, along with their families.

Darius recognized the God of Daniel as the one responsible for protecting him and shutting the mouths of the lions. He announced to the kingdom that everyone had to fear and reverence God. Daniel remained on good terms with Darius during his rule.

Rule of Cyrus

Daniel remained in his high position among the government until the first year of king Cyrus the Great, conqueror of the Babylonians and founder of the Achaemenid or Persian Empire.
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Verses

  1. Daniel 1:4 (Link)
  2. Daniel 1:8 (Link)
  3. Daniel 1:11-16 (Link)
  4. Daniel 1:17 (Link)
  5. Daniel 1:18-20 (Link)
  6. Daniel 2:14-23 (Link)
  7. Daniel 2:24-44 (Link)
  8. Daniel 2:46-49 (Link)
  9. Daniel 3:1-30 (Link)
  10. Daniel 4:4-18 (Link)
  11. Daniel 4:19 (Link)
  12. Daniel 4:20-27 (Link)
  13. Daniel 4:28-37 (Link)
  14. Daniel 7:1-14 (Link)
  15. Daniel 8 (Link)
  16. Daniel 5:1-12 (Link)