Introduction to Daniel
Daniel’s story unfolds in the ancient kingdom of Babylon, which is first mentioned in Genesis 10:6-10, as it was founded by Nimrod, the great-grandson of Noah.
“And the sons of Ham were Cush and Mizraim and Put and Canaan. And the sons of
Cush were Seba and Havilah and Sabtah and Raamah and Sabteca; and the sons of Raamah were Sheba and Dedan. Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, "Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD." And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.”
In time, the kingdom was ruled by Hammurabi, the last great king of the first dynasty, 1704-1662 B.C. The kingdom had expanded to include the area from the Persian Gulf to the Middle Euphrates River to the regions of the Upper Tigris River. The empire would have included Memphis in Egypt, Jerusalem, and even Nepal, the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha).
In time the kingdom fell to the Hittites in 1596 B.C. and came to be an Assyrian empire in 745 B.C. Subsequent rulers were Tiglath-Pileser III, Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon, and Ashurbanipal. In 626 B.C. Nabopolassar established the Neo-Babylon or Chaldean rule.
In 612 B.C. Babylon defeated Assyria and then seven years later Nebuchadnezzar came to the throne upon his father Nabopolassar’s death. Under his rule the kingdom reached its greatest extent. The Greek historian Herodotus claimed the city of Babylon contained 200 square miles and covered an area on both sides of the Euphrates River.
Nebuchadnezzar was victorious in the Battle of Carchemish about 605 B.C. between the allied armies of Egypt and Assyria against the armies of Babylonia, allied with the Medes, Persians, and Scythians. This was a battle that changed the course of history. Soon after the victory, he received word that his father had died, so he returned to Babylon to take the throne, but conquered Jerusalem on his way back, and took captives with him to Babylon, including the four young men of our story.
This battle was mentioned in Jeremiah 46:1-2:
“That which came as the word of the LORD to Jeremiah the prophet concerning the nations. To Egypt, concerning the army of Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt, which was by the Euphrates River at Carchemish, which Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon defeated in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah.”
The end of the Babylonian Empire came with its defeat by Cyrus in 539 B.C., and thus the rise of the Persian or Medo-Persian Empire. The Jewish captives that had been taken to Babylon in 605 B.C. were freed and allowed to return and rebuild Jerusalem. This was in accordance with the prophecy made concerning Cyrus in Isaiah 44:28: “It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd! And he will perform all My desire.' And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,' And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'" This prophecy had been written around 690 B.C., about 100 years before Cyrus was born. The temple had been built by Solomon, and then was destroyed by Babylon in 587 B.C.
Babylon was captured and destroyed in 330 B.C. by Alexander the Great, and according to prophecy, remains uninhabited and desolate even today, even though Alexander, and more recently, Saddam Hussein tried to rebuild it.
"And Babylon, the beauty of kingdoms, the glory of the Chaldean's pride, will be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah..." (Isaiah 13:19, written 732 B.C.)
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'The broad wall of Babylon will be completely razed, and her high gates will be set on fire... there will be nothing dwelling in it, whether man or beast, but it will be a perpetual desolation" (Jeremiah 51:58, 62, written 595 B.C.)
The book is a great book of prophecy, with prophecies in great detail. Because of this, critics have gone to great efforts to discredit it, as prophecy and fulfillment are powerful arguments for the existence of God, for prophecy and fulfillment can only be explained by divine power.
The book has also been misused by those holding to premillennial theories, as they try to wrest passages in the book to portray still future events.
Daniel and his three friends would have been among the captives taken when Jerusalem was captured in 605 B.C. Further attacks against Jerusalem would have destroyed the temple in 587, as the vassal king Nebuchadnezzar set up in Jerusalem rebelled, and the destruction ensued.
If we had to give a theme to the book of Daniel, a good one would be “God Rules In the Kingdoms of Men” (Daniel 2:21, 4:17, 25, 32, 34-35, 5:21) The book deal with the conflict between the kingdoms of men and the Kingdom of God.
A Chronological Outline of Daniel
- During the reign of Nebuchadnezzar – 605-561
Jews in the Babylonian court – Daniel 1:1-21
The King’s dream – Daniel 2:1-49
Three friends on trial – Daniel 3:1-30
The king’s humiliation – Daniel 4:1-37
- The Nabonidus-Belshazzar era – 556-539
The bestial nature of the kingdom – Daniel 7:1-28
Kingdoms identified -- Daniel 8:1-27
On the eve of the fall of Babylon – Daniel 5:1-31
- During the reign of Cyrus – 539-536
Daniel’s concern for Israel – Daniel 9:1-27
His devotion to God tested – Daniel 6:1-6:28
Daniel’s final revelation – Daniel 10:1-12:13