Lesson 1 of5
In Progress

Summary of Daniel


Daniel 1-6 is set in exile. The Babylonian rulers, presuming to be in charge of the affairs of the world, challenge the faith of Daniel and his three fellow Judeans. Readers are to be encouraged because of the examples of God’s care for Daniel and his friends during their ordeals.

Daniel 7-12 depicts both the hardship to be experienced by those who will live after Daniel and the actions of rulers who reign after the Babylonians. The final scenes shift to Palestine, the violence escalates, and rulers directly assault the people of God. Each vision ends with the affirmation that God will prevail; evil will not have the last word.


The dominant tone in the book is one of encouragement rather than chastisement. The book does not have a “sinner, take heed” tone. The examples of faithful courage in the first part of the book serve to encourage the reader who may have to live in the midst of the dark times envisioned in the latter part of the book. The visions have many different twists and turns, but they all end on the encouraging note that there is a limit to even the worst forms of evil and that the kingdom of God will prevail.


In the Christian canon, Daniel is the twenty-seventh book. It follows Ezekiel and the Major Prophets and precedes Hosea and the Minor Prophets.


Traditionally the book is attributed to Daniel, a Jewish exile, who lived during the reigns of the Babylonian kings named in the book as Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and the Median and Persian kings named as Cyrus and Darius. This attribution is widely disputed. The primary alternative posits an extended period of composition with a final version emerging around 164 B.C.E.


The date of composition is intertwined with the question of authorship. Daniel 7-12 envisions history well into the future, reflecting broadly the succession of empires after the exile and specifically the rule of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.E.). The extensiveness (and general accuracy) of the depictions of the actions of Antiochus IV Epiphanes has led many to conclude that the final composition dates from late in his reign. However, the depiction of his death does not readily square with the actual events and has led to the conclusion that the book was completed shortly before his death. Such dating understands Daniel 1-6 as traditional stories cited as encouragement for enduring persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

The alternative is to regard the book as written by Daniel in the exile to report his own experience and to predict the distant future.


Daniel and three friends persist in their faith despite threats created by several foreign rulers whom they serve with dedication. They are a model of fidelity for those who must endure the future events Daniel’s visions depict. The God they confess will be the one who will deliver the faithful throughout history, no matter how evil forces rage.


A cue to reading the book can be taken from Daniel 3 and 6, in which Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, and Daniel let the future be in God’s hands. The issues associated with correlating the kingdoms in the visions to past or future rulers or nations can be set aside. From that vantage point, the visions in Daniel 7-12 are like the stories in Daniel 1-6, in that they too wish to encourage faithful persistence in the face of any kind of persecution.

It is sometimes tempting to become cynical about all the cruelty in the world’s history. We could simply accommodate ourselves to evil and only do what we have to do in order to survive in the short term. But as Christians, we have the hope of the women on Easter morning who knew, as Daniel glimpsed earlier, that everything had changed, fearful as that may be. The kingdom of God was at hand. This realization is frightening, because it brings us into the kingdom and the future God will make. In knowing that God has broken the power of evil and will transform the world, we know that such transformation will include our transformation, for we too participate in the evil of the world.