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Bible Commentaries

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

- Daniel

by Thomas Constable



In 605 B.C., Prince Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian army of his father Nabopolassar against the allied forces of Assyria and Egypt. He defeated them at Carchemish near the top of the Fertile Crescent. This victory gave Babylon supremacy in the ancient Near East. With Babylon’s victory, Egypt’s vassals, including Judah, passed under Babylonian control. Shortly thereafter that same year Nabopolassar died, and Nebuchadnezzar succeeded him as king. Nebuchadnezzar then moved south and invaded Judah, also in 605 B.C. He took some royal and noble captives to Babylon (Dan_1:1-3), including Daniel, plus some of the vessels from Solomon’s temple (2Ch_36:7). This was the first of Judah’s three deportations in which the Babylonians took groups of Judahites to Babylon. The king of Judah at that time was Jehoiakim (2Ki_24:1-4).

Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah and Coniah) succeeded him in 598 B.C. Jehoiachin reigned only three months and 10 days (2Ch_36:9). Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah again. At the turn of the year, in 597 B.C., he took Jehoiachin to Babylon, along with most of Judah’s remaining leaders, including young Ezekiel, and the rest of the national treasures (2Ki_24:10-17; 2Ch_36:10).

A third and final deportation took place approximately 11 years later, in 586 B.C. Jehoiakim’s younger brother Mattaniah, whose name Nebuchadnezzar had changed to Zedekiah, was then Judah’s puppet king. He rebelled against Babylon’s sovereignty by secretly making a treaty with Pharaoh Hophra under pressure from Jewish nationalists (Jeremiah 37-38). After an 18-month siege, Jerusalem fell. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem, burned the temple, broke down the city walls, and took all but the poorest of the Jews captive to Babylon. He also took Zedekiah prisoner to Babylon, after he executed his sons, and put out the king’s eyes, at Riblah in Aram (modern Syria; 2Ki_24:18 to 2Ki_25:24).


Daniel, the main character from whom this book gets its name, was probably only a teenager when he arrived in Babylon in 605 B.C. The Hebrew words used to describe him, the internal evidence of chapter 1, and the length of his ministry, seem to make this clear. He continued in office as a public servant at least until 538 B.C. (Dan_1:21), and as a prophet at least until 536 B.C. (Dan_10:1). Thus the record of his ministry spans 70 years, the entire duration of the Babylonian Captivity. He probably lived to be at least 85 years old and perhaps older.


There is little doubt among conservative scholars that Daniel himself wrote this book under the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Probably he did so late in his life, which could have been about 530 B.C. or a few years later. Several Persian-derived governmental terms appear in the book. The presence of these words suggests that the book received its final polishing after Persian had become the official language of government. This would have been late in Daniel’s life. What makes Daniel’s authorship quite clear is both internal and external evidence.

Internally, the book claims in several places that Daniel was its writer (Dan_8:1; Dan_9:2; Dan_9:20; Dan_10:2). References to Daniel in the third person do not indicate that someone else wrote about him, because it was customary for ancient authors of historical memoirs to write about themselves this way (cf. Exo_20:2; Exo_20:7). [Note: Gleason L. Archer Jr., "Daniel," in Daniel-Minor Prophets, vol. 7 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, p. 4.]

"As in several other books of prophecy (e.g., Jeremiah and Hosea), the author is also the chief actor in the events recorded." [Note: Robert D. Culver, "Daniel," in The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, p. 769.]

Externally, the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of this book as the writing of Daniel (Mat_24:15; Mar_13:14). The Jews believed that Daniel was its writer from its earliest appearance. The early church father Jerome argued for Daniel’s authorship against a contemporary critic of his, Porphyry, who contended that someone composed it about 165 B.C. and claimed that he was Daniel. [Note: For a discussion of the critical views of authorship, see Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard, An Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 373-76.]


The Jews placed Daniel in the Writings section of their Bible. The first two divisions of the Hebrew Bible are the Law and the Prophets. The Writings in Hebrew are called the Kethubim, and in Greek, the Hagiographa. [Note: See Thomas J. Finley, "The Book of Daniel in the Canon of Scripture," Bibliotheca Sacra 165:658 (April-June 2008):195-208.] They did this because Daniel was not a prophet in the sense in which the other Hebrew prophets were. He functioned as a prophet and wrote inspired Scripture, but he was a government official, an administrator in a Gentile land, rather than a preaching prophet (cf. Nehemiah).

". . . though Christ spoke of Daniel’s function as prophetic (Mat_24:15), his position was that of governmental official and inspired writer, rather than ministering prophet (cf. Act_2:29-30)." [Note: Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary, s.v. "Book of Daniel," by J. Barton Payne.]

In contrast to Ezekiel, his contemporary in Babylon, Daniel lived and worked among Gentiles primarily, whereas Ezekiel live and ministered among the Israelites. Only Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi follow Daniel chronologically among the prophetic books of the Old Testament, but Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, and Chronicles also do among the historical books.

The Greek and Latin translators of Daniel placed this book among the other Major Prophets in the Septuagint and Vulgate versions because of its prophetic content. That tradition influenced the scholars who produced our English versions.


The dating of this book is one of the most controversial subjects in the field of Old Testament Introduction. [Note: See Longman and Dillard, pp. 373-76.] The controversy is not due to the obscurity of evidence but to the presuppositions of critics.

It is quite easy to determine when Daniel lived and ministered because of the many historical references in this book. His fellow prophet Ezekiel also referred to him (cf. Eze_14:14; Eze_14:20; Eze_28:3). However, because the book contains prophecies that Antiochus Epiphanies fulfilled in the second century B.C., many rationalistic critics who deny that the Bible contains predictive prophecy have said that Daniel could not have written it. They contend that it must have been written after Antiochus, namely, about 165 B.C. Modern criticism follows Porphyry’s view. However, there are many evidences within the book itself that point to its origin in the sixth century B.C. [Note: See Bruce K. Waltke, "The Date of the Book of Daniel," Bibliotheca Sacra 133:532 (October-December 1976):319-29.]

"Human inventiveness in things spiritual or unspiritual is very limited. It would be difficult probably to invent a new heresy. Objectors of old were as acute or more acute than those now; so that the ground was well-nigh exhausted." [Note: Edward B. Pusey, Daniel the Prophet, p. iii.]

No significant writer espoused a late date for the book after Jerome refuted Porphyry until the eighteenth century A.D. J. D. Michaelis revived Porphyry’s theory in 1771, and it took root in the rationalistic intellectual soil of the Enlightenment. Since then many scholars who disbelieve in predictive prophecy have insisted that this book must have been the product of the Maccabean revolt (168-165 B.C.). Liberal critics still consider the late dating of Daniel to be one of the most assured results of modern scholarship. Nevertheless there is ample evidence in the book itself that Daniel wrote it and that it dates from the sixth century B.C. [Note: For more information, see R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, pp. 1110-26; Gleason L. Archer Jr., Survey of Old Testament Introduction, pp. 380-403; idem, "Old Testament History and Recent Archeology From the Exile to Malachi," Bibliotheca Sacra 127:508 (October-December 1970):291-98, or any of the better commentaries on Daniel, such as John F. Walvoord, Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation, pp. 16-25; C. F. Keil, Biblical Commentary on the Book of Daniel, pp. 19-57; Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary, pp. 35-46; or H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel, pp. 8-14, 18-27. J. Dwight Pentecost, "Daniel," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, pp. 1324-25, wrote a good brief discussion of the major objections.]

"One who claims that the book of Daniel is a product of the Maccabean age thereby denies that it is a work of true predictive prophecy as it purports to be. Furthermore, if the book of Daniel comes from the age of the Maccabees, I do not see how it is possible to escape the conclusion that the book is also a forgery, for it claims to be a revelation from God to the Daniel who lived in Babylon during the exile." [Note: Edward J. Young, The Prophecy of Daniel: A Commentary, p. 5. See also pp. 19-20 and 23-26 for evidence that Daniel wrote the book himself.]


Daniel is one of the few books in the Old Testament that was originally written in two different languages. One was Aramaic (also known as Chaldee or Syriac), the common language of the ancient Near East, and the other was Hebrew. The other Aramaic passages are Ezr_4:8 to Ezr_6:18; Ezr_7:12-26; and Jer_10:11. The compound name Jegar-Sahadutha in Gen_31:47 is also Aramaic. The Aramaic portions in Daniel deal with matters pertaining to all the citizens of the Babylonian and Persian empires, whereas the Hebrew sections describe predominantly Jewish concerns and God’s plans for Israel. Probably Daniel wrote the Aramaic sections for the benefit of his Gentile neighbors, and he wrote the whole book for the Jews who could read both languages.


To the interested observer of Israel’s fortunes in Daniel’s time, it seemed that Yahweh had either become impotent or had abandoned His chosen people. The gods of Assyria and Babylon had apparently triumphed over Him. His temple lay in ruins, His capital had been ravaged and stood empty and vulnerable, and His people were living as unhappy captives in a foreign land.

At such a time as this, God revealed His supernatural power. He did so to demonstrate that He is the one true God, and that He is still sovereign over the affairs of humanity and history. He manifested His power to the supreme rulers of Babylon and Persia, so that they might know that He governs over everyone from heaven-that He alone is God. This was a time in Israel’s history similar to the time just before the Exodus. Israel was in captivity, and Israel’s God was in disgrace. Daniel contains proof of God’s sovereignty, which the plagues and the crossing of the Red Sea demonstrated to Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Daniel, as Exodus, relates several "contests" between false gods and Yahweh in which Israel’s God proves to be the only true and living God. Like Daniel, Esther also shows God working for His people during a period of their divine discipline.

"The predominant message is that God’s people will experience suffering and be threatened with extinction, but that will not be the end of the story because their God is the living and all-powerful God who will get glory by vindicating His name and who will save them." [Note: Baldwin, p. 66.]

"Daniel’s purpose in writing blended the two themes of prophecy and piety. He wrote first to show God’s future program for the nation of Israel (in light of her fall) during and after ’the times of the Gentiles.’ Second, he wrote to show what the believers’ present response should be as they await the coming kingdom of God. Daniel encouraged his readers to remain faithful to God in a hostile society while they waited for God’s promised kingdom." [Note: Charles H. Dyer, in The Old Testament Explorer, p. 701.]


Theologically, the book stresses the sovereignty of God.

"The absolute sovereignty and transcendence of God above all angels and men literally permeates the book." [Note: John C. Whitcomb, Daniel, p. 17.]

"The theme running through the whole book is that the fortunes of kings and the affairs of men are subject to God’s decrees, and that he is able to accomplish his will despite the most determined opposition of the mightiest potentates on earth." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 8.]

"The collapse and fall of both Israel and Judah notwithstanding, the book of Daniel makes crystal clear that the Lord God remains absolutely sovereign over human affairs. This is apparent in the present, despite political and religious conditions that might suggest otherwise, and in the future, when there would be no doubt in anyone’s mind." [Note: Eugene H. Merrill, "A Theology of Ezekiel and Daniel," in A Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, p. 388.]

Merrill highlighted three aspects of Yahweh’s sovereignty that Daniel reveals: His sovereignty over all, the sovereignty of fallen man, and the restoration of God’s universal dominion. [Note: Ibid., pp. 388-95.]

The powerful miracles recorded in chapters 1-6 show God’s sovereignty at work for His people. The prophecies in chapters 7-12 show His sovereignty over the Gentile nations and Israel by unveiling what He will do with them far into the future. Daniel’s name means "God is my judge" or "God is judging" or "God will judge," and this was the burden of his message. Especially the period that Jesus Christ referred to as "the times of the Gentiles" (Luk_21:24) is the focus of this revelation.

"The times of the Gentiles is that extended period of time in which the land given in covenant by God to Abraham and his descendants is occupied by Gentile powers and the Davidic throne is empty of any rightful heir in the Davidic line. The times of the Gentiles, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s invasion of Jerusalem in 605 B.C., will continue till the Messiah returns. Then Christ will subdue nations, deliver the land of Israel from its Gentile occupants, and bring the nation Israel into her covenanted blessings in the millennial kingdom." [Note: Pentecost, p. 1329.]

Second, Daniel’s prophecies also reveal the fulfillment of God’s great redemptive plan that began at the Fall and will culminate in the return and reign of the Son of Man on the earth. One writer stated the theme of the book as: "Only God is truly sovereign and He will establish His eternal kingdom." [Note: Les P. Bruce, "Discourse Theme and the Narratives of Daniel," Bibliotheca Sacra 160:638 (April-June 2003):175.]

A third theological emphasis is the power of prayer. God’s working in response to His people’s prayers is evident everywhere in this book, particularly in the first six chapters and in chapters 9 and 10.

Another theological theme is the indomitable grace of God. Even though the Jews had failed Him miserably, God revealed that He had not cast off His people Israel. He was disciplining them presently, but He has a future for them as a nation (cf. Rom_11:25-27; Rom_11:29). Furthermore, He will fulfill His promises to the patriarchs regarding Gentile blessing, too.


Daniel is a book of narrative history. Historical narrative is its primary genre (literary type). The first six chapters all contain narratives of the life of Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. The last six chapters are set in a narrative context even though they contain several prophecies that God gave Daniel.

Since so much of the book contains prophecy, this is also one of its primary genres.

"Among the great prophetic books of Scripture, none provides a more comprehensive and chronological prophetic view of the broad movement of history than the book of Daniel. Of the three prophetic programs revealed in Scripture, outlining the course of the nations, Israel, and the church, Daniel alone reveals the details of God’s plan for both the nations and Israel. Although other prophets like Jeremiah had much to say to the nations and Israel, Daniel brings together and interrelates these great themes of prophecy as does no other portion of Scripture. For this reason, the book of Daniel is essential to the structure of prophecy and is the key to the entire Old Testament prophetic revelation. A study of this book is, therefore, not only important from the standpoint of determining the revelation of one of the great books of the Old Testament but is an indispensable preliminary investigation to any complete eschatological system." [Note: Walvoord, p. 7.]

"In NT prophecy Daniel is referred to more than any other OT book. Moreover, it contains more fulfilled prophecies than any other book in the Bible." [Note: Archer, "Daniel," p. 3.]

"In many respects, the book of Daniel is the most comprehensive prophetic revelation of the Old Testament, giving the only total view of world history from Babylon to the second advent of Christ and interrelating Gentile history and prophecy with that which concerns Israel. Daniel provides the key to the overall interpretation of prophecy, is a major element in premillennialism, and is essential to the interpretation of the book of Revelation. Its revelation of the sovereignty and power of God has brought assurance to Jew and Gentile alike that God will fulfill His sovereign purposes in time and eternity." [Note: Walvoord, p. 27.]

Daniel is also one of three Old Testament books that is apocalyptic. The apocalyptic sections are chapters 2, 7, 8, and 10-12. The other two books are Ezekiel (Eze_37:1-14; Eze_40:1 to Eze_48:35) and Zechariah (Zec_1:7 to Zec_6:8). Some writers considered only Daniel and Revelation complete apocalypses. [Note: E.g., Culver, p. 772, and Young, p. 22.] In the New Testament, Revelation is the only apocalyptic book. Extrabiblical pseudepigraphical apocalyptic books include 1 Enoch, 2 Esdras , 2 Baruch. Apocalyptic literature (or apocalyptic) is a particular genre.

"Apocalyptic literature is symbolic visionary prophetic literature, composed during oppressive conditions, consisting of visions whose events are recorded exactly as they were seen by the author and explained through a divine interpreter, and whose theological content is primarily eschatological." [Note: Ralph H. Alexander, "Hermeneutics of Old Testament Apocalyptic Literature" (Th.D. dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968), p. 1.]

"Whereas in the prophetic literature the eschatological kingom [sic] of God arises out of history through a son of David, in apocalyptic literature it comes in an apocalyptic, transcendent breaking in from heaven. Whereas the prophets looked for a son of David to rule Israel in the eschatological kingdom, the apocalyptic thinkers looked for a Son of Man who rides the clouds to bring in the eschatological kingdom. Jesus identified himself as both the son of David and as the Son of Man, especially the latter." [Note: Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology, pp. 158-59. See also the discussion of apocalyptic in Longman and Dillard, pp. 386-89.]

"The book of Daniel is unquestionably the key to all biblical prophecy. It is the great apocalyptic book of the Old Testament, whereas Revelation is that of the New Testament. Passages such as Matthew 24-25, Mark 13, Luke 21, and the book of Revelation are unintelligible without a knowledge of the book of Daniel." [Note: Charles L. Feinberg, Daniel: The Kingdom of the Lord, p. 13.]

"No one who has reverently studied the book of Daniel in the context of the completed Scriptures can deny the crucial contribution of this book to God’s complete prophetic revelation. Our Lord spoke often of ’the kingdom of heaven’ (Mat_5:3; Dan_2:44) and of Himself as ’the son of man’ (Mat_26:64; Dan_7:13-14). Looking toward His second coming to the earth, He referred to ’a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now’ (Mat_24:21; cf. Dan_12:1), and to ’the abomination of desolation’ that will stand in the Temple (Mat_24:15; Dan_9:27; Dan_12:11). The apostle Paul also referred to this work of ’the man of lawlessness’ (2Th_2:3-4; cf. Dan_7:25; Dan_11:36-39) but rejoiced that someday ’the saints will judge the world’ (1Co_6:2; Dan_7:18; Dan_7:22; Dan_7:27)." [Note: Whitcomb, p. 16.]


I.    The character of Daniel ch. 1

A.    Historical background Dan_1:1-2

B.    Nebuchadnezzar’s training program for promising youths Dan_1:3-7

C.    Daniel’s resolve to please Yahweh Dan_1:8-13

D.    The success of the test Dan_1:14-16

E.    God’s blessing of Daniel and his friends Dan_1:17-21

II.    The Times of the Gentiles: God’s program for the world chs. 2-7

A.    Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream: the big picture ch. 2

1.    The king’s dream Dan_2:1-3

2.    The failure of the king’s wise men Dan_2:4-13

3.    Daniel’s request for time Dan_2:14-16

4.    Daniel’s reception of a revelation and his thanksgiving Dan_2:17-23

5.    Daniel’s appearance before Nebuchadnezzar Dan_2:24-30

6.    What Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream Dan_2:31-35

7.    The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream Dan_2:36-45

8.    The consequences of Daniel’s interpretation Dan_2:46-49

B.    Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image ch. 3

1.    The worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue Dan_3:1-7

2.    The charge against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego Dan_3:8-12

3.    The response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego Dan_3:13-18

4.    The execution of the king’s command Dan_3:19-23

5.    God’s deliverance of His servants Dan_3:24-27

6.    The consequences of God’s deliverance Dan_3:28-30

C.    Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and humbling ch. 4

1.    Nebuchadnezzar’s introductory doxology Dan_4:1-3

2.    The king’s frustration over his second dream Dan_4:4-9

3.    Nebuchadnezzar’s account of his dream Dan_4:10-18

4.    Daniel’s interpretation Dan_4:19-27

5.    The fulfillment of threatened discipline Dan_4:28-33

6.    Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration Dan_4:34-37

D.    Belshazzar’s feast ch. 5

1.    Belshazzar’s dishonoring of Yahweh Dan_5:1-4

2.    God’s revelation to Belshazzar Dan_5:5-9

3.    The queen’s counsel Dan_5:10-12

4.    Belshazzar’s request of Daniel Dan_5:13-16

5.    Daniel’s rebuke of Belshazzar Dan_5:17-24

6.    Daniel’s interpretation of the writing Dan_5:25-28

7.    Daniel’s rise and Belshazzar’s fall Dan_5:29-31

E.    Darius’ pride and Daniel’s preservation ch. 6

1.    Daniel’s promotion in the Persian government Dan_6:1-3

2.    The conspiracy against Daniel Dan_6:4-9

3.    Daniel’s faithfulness and Darius’ predicament Dan_6:10-15

4.    Daniel in the lions’ den Dan_6:16-18

5.    Daniel’s deliverance and his enemies’ destruction Dan_6:19-24

6.    Darius’ decree and praise of Yahweh Dan_6:25-28

F.    Daniel’s vision of future world history ch. 7

1.    The four beasts Dan_7:1-8

2.    The Ancient of Days and the destruction of the fourth beast Dan_7:9-12

3.    The Son of Man’s kingdom Dan_7:13-14

4.    The interpretation of the four beasts Dan_7:15-18

5.    Daniel’s request for interpretation of the fourth beast Dan_7:19-22

6.    The interpretation of the fourth beast Dan_7:23-25

7.    The end of the fourth beast and the beginning of the everlasting kingdom Dan_7:26-28

III.    Israel in relation to the Gentiles: God’s program for Israel chs. 8-12

A.    Daniel’s vision of the ram and the goat ch. 8

1.    The setting of the vision Dan_8:1

2.    The ram Dan_8:2-4

3.    The goat Dan_8:5-8

4.    The little horn on the goat Dan_8:9-14

5.    The interpretation of this vision Dan_8:15-26

6.    The result of this vision Dan_8:27

B.    Daniel’s vision of the 70 sevens ch. 9

1.    Jeremiah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s restoration and Daniel’s response Dan_9:1-3

2.    Daniel’s prayer of confession Dan_9:4-14

3.    Daniel’s petition for restoration Dan_9:15-19

4.    God’s response to Daniel’s prayer Dan_9:20-23

5.    The revelation of Israel’s future in 70 sevens Dan_9:24-27

C.    Daniel’s most detailed vision of the future chs. 10-12

1.    Daniel’s preparation to receive the vision Dan_10:1 to Dan_11:1

2.    The near future Dan_11:2-35

3.    The distant future Dan_11:36 to Dan_12:4

4.    The end of Israel’s trials Dan_12:5-13


This outline reflects the linguistic divisions of the book, chapters 1 and 8-12 having been written in Hebrew, and chapters 2-7 in Aramaic.

Many students of the book simply divide it into two parts.

I.    The history of Daniel chs. 1-6

II.    The prophecies of Daniel chs. 7-12


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