Daniel the Prophet – Life, Hope & Truth

by Bill Swanson

Who was Daniel the prophet? What can we learn about his personal life and the prophecies God revealed to him about the end times ahead of us now?

The biblical account of Daniel the prophet begins as he and other young men from Judah were taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.<br /> 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the articles of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the articles into the treasure house of his god.<br /> 3 Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles,<br /> 4 young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 1:1-4) in approximately 604 B.C. This captivity of citizens of Judah in Babylon lasted for 70 years, as God had foretold through the prophet Jeremiah (11 And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Jeremiah 25:11).

During this time, Daniel served in prominent positions in the governments of several Babylonian and Medo-Persian rulers, including Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius and Cyrus. In the first year of the reign of Darius, Daniel came to understand, or simply reproved to himself, the prophecy of Jeremiah that predicted a 70-year captivity of his people (1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans<br /> 2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 9:1-2).

A faithful man of God

The book of Daniel shows him to be a faithful man of God. When King Nebuchadnezzar threatened to destroy all the wise men if one of them didn’t tell him his dream and interpret it, Daniel and his friends asked for time so he and his three friends could beseech God in prayer to reveal this information (18 that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 2:18). When God answered his prayer, Daniel remembered to praise and thank God for giving them what they had requested (20 Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His.<br /> 21 And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding.<br /> 22 He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.<br /> 23 “I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, And have now made known to me what we asked of You, For You have made known to us the king’s demand.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>verses 20-23).

Later, Daniel again demonstrated his faith by praying to God even though he knew that doing so would endanger his life! “Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed [that no one could petition any god or man except the king for 30 days], he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10).

Daniel’s faithfulness to God landed him in a lion’s den, where his detractors were sure he would be devoured. But God sent an angel that “shut the lions’ mouths” (22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 6:22), and Daniel was miraculously spared.

On another occasion the record shows Daniel praying and fasting for his people’s sins and asking for God’s mercy on himself, his fellow captives and the inhabitants of Jerusalem (Daniel 9).

The record of Daniel’s righteous conduct is not confined to the book he authored. God, through the prophet Ezekiel, stated: “‘Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,’ says the Lord GOD” (Ezekiel 14:14, emphasis added).

Knowledge, skill and understanding from God

God saw these fruits of Daniel and his three friends and gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom. To Daniel, God also gave understanding in all visions and dreams (17 As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 1:17). As a result of God’s blessings upon Daniel and his three friends, the king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm” (20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding about which the king examined them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers who were in all his realm.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>verse 20).

When King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream that troubled him in the second year of his reign, God revealed the meaning of the dream to Daniel in a night vision (19 Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 2:19). “Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48).

At times, God sent an angel to deliver prophetic messages to Daniel, who then copied them down.

“Then it happened, when I, Daniel, had seen the vision and was seeking the meaning, that suddenly there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, who called, and said, ‘Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.’ So he came near where I stood, and when he came I was afraid and fell on my face; but he said to me, ‘Understand, son of man, that the vision refers to the time of the end’” (Daniel 8:15-17).

Additional accounts of an angel coming to Daniel are found in 20 Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the Lord my God for the holy mountain of my God,<br /> 21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.<br /> 22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand.<br /> 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 9:20-23 and 5 I lifted my eyes and looked, and behold, a certain man clothed in linen, whose waist was girded with gold of Uphaz!<br /> 6 His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightning, his eyes like torches of fire, his arms and feet like burnished bronze in color, and the sound of his words like the voice of a multitude.<br /> 7 And I, Daniel, alone saw the vision, for the men who were with me did not see the vision; but a great terror fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.<br /> 8 Therefore I was left alone when I saw this great vision, and no strength remained in me; for my vigor was turned to frailty in me, and I retained no strength.<br /> 9 Yet I heard the sound of his words; and while I heard the sound of his words I was in a deep sleep on my face, with my face to the ground.<br /> 10 Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands.<br /> 11 And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling.<br /> 12 Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words.<br /> 13 But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia.<br /> 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 10:5-14.

Daniel’s prophecies

Beloved and chosen by God to foretell future events, Daniel the prophet prophesied as moved by God through visions and dreams about what was going to happen throughout history, including what would happen to Daniel’s people in the “latter days” (14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 10:14) and to the whole world.

Here are a few of the prominent prophecies given by God through Daniel:

  • Four world-ruling empires. In a dream given to King Nebuchadnezzar, God revealed through Daniel that there would be four world-ruling empires (Daniel 2:1-43). Historically, these have proven to be the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greco-Macedonian and Roman Empires. Emphasizing the surety of this prophecy, God also gave Daniel a vision in which these empires were represented by four great beasts (1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head while on his bed. Then he wrote down the dream, telling the main facts.<br /> 2 Daniel spoke, saying, “I saw in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the Great Sea.<br /> 3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, each different from the other.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 7:1-3).
  • The Kingdom of God. After telling King Nebuchadnezzar that there would be four world-ruling kingdoms, Daniel further prophesied: “And in the days of these kings [during the time of human government] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).

In the repetition of the prophecy about human world-ruling empires, Daniel further noted: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).

For further study, see our article “What Is the Kingdom of God?”

  • A little horn. In God’s vision to Daniel of four beasts, representing four world-ruling kingdoms, the fourth beast “had ten horns” (7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, exceedingly strong. It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 7:7), which we have traditionally understood to represent 10 appearances of this fourth kingdom. Explaining what he had seen, Daniel wrote: “I was considering the horns, and there was another horn, a little one, coming up among them, before whom three of the first horns were plucked out by the roots. And there, in this horn, were eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth speaking pompous words” (verse 8).

This little horn that Daniel in vision saw “making war against the saints, and prevailing against them” (21 I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them,<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>verse 21) is a religious power that will persecute God’s people at the end of this age (24 The ten horns are ten kings Who shall arise from this kingdom. And another shall rise after them; He shall be different from the first ones, And shall subdue three kings.<br /> 25 He shall speak pompous words against the Most High, Shall persecute[d] the saints of the Most High, And shall intend to change times and law. Then the saints shall be given into his hand For a time and times and half a time.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>verses 24-25). Known by multiple names—the antichrist, the man of sin and the false prophet—this religious power will play a prominent role in the deception of mankind prior to Christ’s return. Additional references to this little horn are found in 9 And out of one of them came a little horn which grew exceedingly great toward the south, toward the east, and toward the Glorious Land.<br /> 10 And it grew up to the host of heaven; and it cast down some of the host and some of the stars to the ground, and trampled them.<br /> 11 He even exalted himself as high as the Prince of the host; and by him the daily sacrifices were taken away, and the place of His sanctuary was cast down.<br /> 12 Because of transgression, an army was given over to the horn to oppose the daily sacrifices; and he cast truth down to the ground. He did all this and prospered.<br /> <br /> 23 “And in the latter time of their kingdom, When the transgressors have reached their fullness, A king shall arise, Having fierce features, Who understands sinister schemes.<br /> 24 His power shall be mighty, but not by his own power; He shall destroy fearfully, And shall prosper and thrive; He shall destroy the mighty, and also the holy people.<br /> 25 “Through his cunning He shall cause deceit to prosper under his rule; And he shall exalt himself in his heart. He shall destroy many in their prosperity. He shall even rise against the Prince of princes; But he shall be broken without human means.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 8:9-12, 23-25.

For further study, see the article “Antichrist.”

  • The seventy-weeks prophecy. In 24 “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.<br /> 25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.<br /> 26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself; And the people of the prince who is to come Shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, And till the end of the war desolations are determined.<br /> 27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, Even until the consummation, which is determined, Is poured out on the desolate.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 9:24-27 we find a prophecy that predicted the year—A.D. 27—that Jesus would begin His ministry. The prophecy also predicted that Jesus’ ministry to “confirm the covenant” would be cut off “in the middle” of the 70th prophetic week. The biblical record shows that this occurred after 3½ years, just as Daniel had prophesied.

For further study, see “70 Weeks of Daniel: What Does the Prophecy Mean?”

  • Abomination of desolation. Chapter 11 covers prophecies that would be fulfilled from the time of the Medo-Persian Empire through the end time. After providing specific details regarding the successive kingdoms, we come to 31 And forces shall be mustered by him, and they shall defile the sanctuary fortress; then they shall take away the daily sacrifices, and place there the abomination of desolation.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>verse 31, where we read of daily sacrifices being taken away and of an “abomination of desolation” that would be placed in the temple. These events, which included a suppression of the truth and a defilement of the temple, took place during the time of the Maccabees and were a type of a future fulfillment that will occur before the return of Christ (14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.<br /> 15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand),<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Matthew 24:14-15).

For further study, see the article “Abomination of Desolation: What Is It?”

  • The time of the end. Beginning in 40 At the time of the end the king of the South shall attack him; and the king of the North shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter the countries, overwhelm them, and pass through.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 11:40, we read of events that will transpire “at the time of the end.” This includes conflict around Jerusalem between “the king of the North” and “the king of the South.” Before concluding his book, Daniel also refers to a severe “time of trouble” (1 At that time Michael shall stand up, The great prince who stands watch over the sons of your people; And there shall be a time of trouble, Such as never was since there was a nation, Even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, Every one who is found written in the book.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 12:1), which is referred to as “great tribulation” in 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be.<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Matthew 24:21.

Daniel’s prophecies sealed

Even though Daniel prophesied during the early part of the sixth century B.C., his prophecies were sealed until the end time. Similar to the instruction he had received to “seal up” a vision he had been given earlier (26 “And the vision of the evenings and mornings Which was told is true; Therefore seal up the vision, For it refers to many days in the future.”<br> <hr><span style=’font-size:.8em’>New King James Version (NKJV) <em>The Holy Bible, New King James Version ©1982 by Thomas Nelson</em></span>”>Daniel 8:26), Daniel was again told, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (Daniel 12:4).

To study more about the end times, read the articles in the “End Times” section, the articles in the section on the book of “Revelation,” and the articles in the section on the book of “Daniel.”

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