Daniel: A Portrait of Prayer, Power, and Prophecy

Jul 7, 2020 | Article, Christian Living, Manuscripts/Outlines, Podcast

We’re changing it up this week a little bit on the blog and podcast. Below you’ll find a detailed outline I used when I taught an overview of the Book of Daniel. The podcast will be a teaching discussion of this outline, so feel free to read the outline as if it were a blog post, but the most beneficial would undoubtedly be to hear the podcast discussion on this one. Many blessings!



The authorship and dating of Daniel are highly controversial, with folks (even Bible-believing Christians) holding various opinions. One primary reason for this is the stunning prophetic accuracy, although many argue on the basis that it appears to include linguistic details from a later time period. The early date (held by most conservative scholars) is the 6th century BC, which would place the book having been written in the time period in which it is set (a reasonable idea). The later date is in the 2nd century BC, roughly 400 years later. The latter view would also entail that Daniel himself was not the writer, but perhaps some anonymous Jew writing under the pseudonym, Daniel.


And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. (Daniel 2:44)


  • His name means “God is my judge.”
  • Daniel’s life and ministry span the entire seventy-year period of Babylonian Captivity.
  • Daniel was deported to Babylon (some 900 miles away) when he was sixteen years old.
  • He was selected for special service in Babylon, and was given three years of training in the best of Babylon’s schools.
  • He was given a Babylonian name – Belteshazzar, meaning “Bel Protect his Life.”
    • Bel was a title assigned to various Mesopotamian gods.
  • 9 out of the 12 chapters in Daniel revolve around dreams.
  • Of the 2,930 Bible characters, Daniel is one of the few well known characters about whom nothing negative is ever written. Joseph is yet another.
  • Daniel’s life was characterized by:
    • Faith
    • Prayer
    • Courage
    • Consistency
    • Lack of compromise
  • The Book of Daniel has been called the “Apocalypse of the Old Testament.” – It was written in the genre of Jewish apocalyptic literature.
  • The Book of Daniel was written to offer encouragement to the Jewish exiles by revealing God’s sovereign will for Israel after the period of Gentile domination.
  • Daniel is the only book in the Hebrew Bible that directly attests belief in bodily resurrection (Dan 12:2–3).


  • Daniel can be thought of as self-authenticating, due to its highly accurate prophetic messaging. More on this below.
  • Jesus himself affirms direct authorship by Daniel, with special respect to future prophecy (Matthew 24:15, Mark 13:14, Matthew 26:64, etc.).
  • The book’s author is named within, has features consistent with the time period it purports to be written in, and seems to accurately deal with events around the time of writing as well as events in both the near and distant future.
  • The Prophet Ezekiel, who lived contemporaneously with Daniel, mentions Daniel three times (14:14, 20; 28:3).
  • The Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament and quite literally “The Bible” for many NT writers) contains a copy of Daniel, which seems VERY unlikely on the “critical,” 2nd century view. This is because it is likely the books of the Septuagint were all translated at the same time, which would mean Daniel had been accepted as canon and carried over 300 miles away to Alexandra a mere 30 years after its writing. 
  • Because Daniel is written both in Hebrew and Aramaic, and some of the Aramaic features seem to be from the 2nd century, this leads some (even evangelical) scholars to accept the late date. However, this is a moot point. The reality is there are ways to explain the language we have present from either the critical late date or conservative early date perspective. Thus, there is no reason to reject the latter.


  • Prayer
    • Daniel 6:10 gives a subtle yet powerful insight into Daniel’s life: It was a life of faithful prayer.
      • Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
      • This suggests that Daniel’s life was marked by prayer. He loved God, trusted God, and relied on God for everything. 
    • God reveals the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams to him in a vision. Verse 17 strongly underscores the importance of prayer to Daniel. He and his friends urged Yahweh to give Daniel the interpretation so they would not be destroyed with Babylon’s wise men.
  • Power
    • Daniel’s integrity and faithfulness to God was without compromise. Notice his rejection of the king’s delicacies in Daniel 1:8.
      • John MacArthur notes, “Those enticing morsels and vintage wines—perks of the king’s service—had been ritually dedicated to Babylon’s false gods. What’s more, eating food prepared to Babylonian standards was likely to put the young exiles in violation of God’s laws concerning unclean foods (cf. Leviticus 7:23-27; Leviticus 11). Daniel wanted no participation in any pagan feast, even to the slightest degree. That would be a form of idolatry that would provoke the wrath of a jealous God (Exodus 20:4-5). His decision, though immediately dealing with food and wine, was ultimately a decision about who he worshiped.”
    • Daniel 3: Daniel’s cohorts, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow to the golden statue the king had set up. (Note that the king was not suggesting that the statue was his god. It was rather a kind of tangible image used for worship and veneration, most probably of the chief Babylon deity, Marduk.
      • A common misconception surrounds v. 25. The Aramaic word for “son of of God” here is bar elahin. Some interpret this to be a theophany, but the usage for this is the term malak Yahweh—”angel of the Lord.” Likely, this was a member of God’s divine angelic council. 
    • At the end of Daniel 4, we see an incredibly practical lesson on pride. In short, the Lord gives Nebudchadnezzar a vision and Daniel interprets it, having to do with what will come upon him if he remains prideful and fails to recognize that Yahweh, the One True God, has ultimate power over earthly rulers. This raises an interesting question: Did Nebuchadnezzar get saved?
      • One of the writers at GotQuestions examines this helpfully: “The exclamations of Nebuchadnezzar recorded in the book of Daniel have led some to consider the possibility that Nebuchadnezzar became a believer in the one true God. History records Nebuchadnezzar being a follower of the Babylonian gods Nabu and Marduk. Is it possible that Nebuchadnezzar renounced these false gods and instead only worshipped the one true God? Yes, it is possible. If nothing else, Nebuchadnezzar became a henotheist, believing in many gods but worshipping only one God as supreme. Based on his words recorded in Daniel, it definitely seems like Nebuchadnezzar submitted himself to the one true God. Further evidence is the fact that God refers to Nebuchadnezzar as “my servant” three times in the book of Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). Was Nebuchadnezzar saved? Ultimately, this is not a question that can be answered dogmatically. Whatever the case, the story of Nebuchadnezzar is an example of God’s sovereignty over all men and the truth that “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He will” (Proverbs 21:1).”
    • Daniel 6:1-3 – Demonstrates how power over self often leads to power over others in God’s economy—an example of great leadership. This additional authority is bestowed upon him by Darius, having already had been given a position of leadership under similar circumstances by Nebuchadnezzar (2:46-49)
    • Daniel was an example of godliness
      • Daniel 6:4-5 – Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
        • Ezekiel places him in the ranks of Noah and Job (14:14)
        • They found fault with Jesus concerning “the law of his God” too!
  • Prophecy
    • Arnold Fruchtenbaum writes, “That Daniel was indeed a prophet is well substantiated. He accurately prophesied the rise of the Medo-Persian, Greek and Roman empires even at a time when the Babylonian Empire, which preceded them all, was at its height. He accurately predicted the fortunes, conflicts, wars and conspiracies of the two kingdoms of Syria and Egypt between the fracturing of the Greek Empire and the conquest by Rome. He prophesied the role of the Maccabees during this period. It is Daniel’s detailed accuracy in his prophecies that has caused many critics to try to give a late date to the book of Daniel, although no evidence has been discovered that would negate the book’s composition at the time that it claims to have been written.”
    • Regarding Nations and Rulers
      • In Daniel 2, King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream, and Daniel’s description and interpretation laid out a comprehensive timeline involving four empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome (the fourth emerging in two successive phases, fragmenting and ultimately recombining into a final form). Later in his life, Daniel himself was given a series of four visions (recorded in Daniel 7), which, while using very different idioms, encompassed the same four empires. Just as Daniel had predicted, the Babylonian Empire was ultimately conquered by the Persians; the Persians were, in turn, conquered by the Greeks; and the Greeks were ultimately conquered by the Romans. But who conquered the Romans? No one. The Roman Empire ultimately disintegrated into pieces. Many books deal with the so-called silent years—the four hundred years between the Old and New Testaments—but what many overlook is that this period is also chronicled in Daniel in advance with such specificity that skeptics have had to insist that it was written after the fact. This is refuted by the fact that the Old Testament was translated into Greek three centuries before the New Testament period. Also, Jesus personally attributed the writing of the book to Daniel, the prophet (Matt. 24:15,Mark 13:14).1
      • After failing to learn the lesson God taught Nebuchadnezzar, his replacement, Belshazzar, found himself caught in the same tangled web of pride and self-aggrandizement. After he saw the “writing on the wall,” we read that his “his loins were loosed” (6:6). He was scared! But this is actually a prophetic moment (see Isaiah 44:24-45:1). Isaiah had written about Cyrus by name, who would come on the scene just a few years after Belshazzar, 150 years prior to these events. Daniel delivered the letter, and Cyrus was friendly to the Jews.
    • Regarding the Messiah and the End Times
      • “Son of Man” – Daniel 7:13
        • In Jewish thought, the “Son of man” was a messianic figure who would play a major role in the coming apocalypse.
        • The Lexham Bible Dictionary explains, “In the early to mid-20th century, scholarship posited that texts referred to an apocalyptic figure—a divine heavenly being—who would appear at the end of time to complete the work of judgment and bring final salvation to God’s people (Boussett, Kyrios Christos, 31–55; Mowinckel, He That Cometh, 348–53; Tödt, Son of Man, 22–31). This apocalyptic figure seems to feature in Jewish texts such as 1 Enoch 46–71 and 4 Ezra 13. In both of these texts, an authoritative heavenly figure appears at God’s side to judge the world and bring salvation. Both 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra play a major role in the Jewish concept of the Messiah.”
        • Multiple times, Jesus adorns this title in response to challenges of his authority.
        • In Mark 2:10-11 Jesus says, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.”
          • This was a huge claim. For the Jews, only Yahweh could forgive sins. This was Jesus claiming equality with the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and grounding his identity in prior special revelation.
        • Similarly, in John 5:26-27 Jesus claims, “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”
          • Again, we see Jesus as the Son of man, claiming direct authority from Yahweh to execute judgment.
      • The Seventy Weeks of Daniel (Read Daniel 9:24-27)
          • The term weeks is not to be taken literally here. The genre is highly poetic, and the actual word here (shabu’im) means “seventy.” In this context, it has the idea “weeks of years.” 
          • This prophecy is unanimously understood by conservative Bible scholars to represent an abridged timeline of events leading up to the arrival of the Messiah (Week 69), at which time a break in the sequence happens.
          • Week 70 represents the “week” (7-year period) of tribulation, preceding the millennial reign of Christ.
          • There’s lots of AWESOME stuff in this prophecy, but to understand the force of it, let’s look at just one series of events, regarding the exact date of the pronunciation of Jesus as King. 
            • 173,880 days would occur between the command to rebuild Jerusalem (and its walls, specifically) and the presentation of the Messiah as King.
            • On March 14, 445BC, the decree to rebuild the city and its walls went out from Artaxerxes Longimanus.
            • Jesus denounced every attempt to regard himself as “king”—except the one he arranged at the triumphal entry, in fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy (9:9). 
            • Per Missler: “This occurred on the tenth of Nisan, or April 6, 32 AD.19 When you convert the Hebrew text into the terms of our calendar, you discover that there were exactly 173,880 days between the decree of Artaxerxes and the presentation of the “Messiah the King” to Israel. Gabriel’s prophecy, given to Daniel five centuries earlier—and translated into Greek three centuries before the fact—was fulfilled to the exact day!”2


While there are many, I’d like to highlight three important, practical takeaways from the Book of Daniel:

  1. God is the Ruler of rulers.
    1. Despite the attempts of prideful kings to usurp him, God powerfully demonstrates his supreme authority by exacting judgment on the most powerful of earthly men.
      God will reward the faithful.
  2. Daniel lived a life marked by faithfulness and devotion.
    1. Despite all of the theological and prophetic significance of this book, Daniel is personally known for his faithfulness (6:4) and his prayer life (6:10).
  3. God controls the future.
    1. Again, we’ve seen only a fraction of the prophetic and eschatological detail available for the student of Daniel to discover. What’s clear is that God knows and sovereignly arranges the future to suit his good purposes. And with that assurance comes comfort, hope, and peace in the midst of trouble.


  1. Missler, Chuck. Prophecy 20/20 (p. 38). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
  2. Ibid.

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