In the first half of this book Daniel is shown as a prophet who can interpret the visions of others. In the second half, he receives his own visions, some of which greatly alarm him. Today’s visions occur during the last few decades of the Babylonian empire and during the early days of Persia’s rule.
I need to address a number of markers that cause difficulty in aligning Daniel with history. Belshazzar, who is described as king in chapter 5, is never more than a crown prince for his father. This doesn’t cause as many problems as his successor, though. The Persian king who took Babylon and reigned for almost a decade was Cyrus, not Darius. “Ahasuerus” – or Xerxes – who is listed as Darius’s father, does not yet exist either. A king named Darius takes the throne in 522 B.C., when Daniel would have been 100 years old.
It’s possible that we’re looking at titles, rather than names, in certain instances. It’s possible that “Daniel” is a descriptor for multiple prophets who lived over the course of two centuries. After all, except for a few mentions in Ezekiel nothing is known about him outside of the book that bears his name. It’s also possible that the “Darius” in Daniel is a title or code name for Cyrus, and that Ahasuerus is likewise a title.
In a book that seems to take other details seriously, it would be odd for the author to make significant historical mistakes. You’re allowed to research Babylonian and Persian history and draw your own conclusions, but the emphasis throughout is that a Hebrew prophet named Daniel had significant influence in the Babylonian and Persian courts. This is enough to astound author and reader alike.
What astounds Daniel – even troubles him at times – is a series of visions he receives from the LORD. Within each vision, an interpretation is provided. Much is said about the future of Babylon and Persia, and promise surrounds the children of Israel. Listen intently, but don’t be surprised if you come away feeling like Daniel, who reflects “As for me, Daniel, my thoughts greatly alarmed me, and my color changed. But I kept the matter in my heart.”
Our verses for this week are Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.
Daniel 7 through 9. Now let’s read it!
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.