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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Dan´iel (judge of God), a celebrated prophet in the Chaldean and Persian period. There are in the Bible two other persons of the same name: a son of David (), and a Levite of the race of Ithamar (; ).

Daniel was descended from one of the highest families in Judah, if not even of royal blood (). Jerusalem was thus probably his birth-place.

We find him at the age of twelve or sixteen years, already in Babylon, whither he had been carried together with three other Hebrew youths of rank, Ananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, at the first deportation of the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim. He and his companions were obliged to enter the service of the royal court of Babylon, on which occasion he received the Chaldean name of Belshatzar, according to Eastern custom when a change takes place in one's condition of life, and more especially if his personal liberty is thereby affected (comp.;;; ).

In this his new career, Daniel received that thorough polish of education which Oriental etiquette renders indispensable in a courtier, and was more especially instructed 'in the writing and speaking Chaldean' (). Already at an early period he had acquired renown for high wisdom, piety, and strict observance of the Mosaic law (comp.;;; ). A proper opportunity of evincing both the acuteness of his mind, and his religious notions, soon presented itself in the custom of the Eastern courts to entertain the officers attached to them from the royal table. Daniel was thus exposed to the temptation of partaking of unclean food, and of participating in the idolatrous ceremonies attendant on heathen banquets. His prudent proceedings, wise bearing, and absolute refusal to comply with such customs, were crowned with the Divine blessing, and had the most splendid results.

After the lapse of the three years fixed for his education, Daniel was attached to the court of Nebuchadnezzar, where, by the Divine aid, he succeeded in interpreting a dream of that prince to his satisfaction, by which means—as Joseph of old in Egypt—he rose into high favor with the king, and was entrusted with two important offices—the governorship of the province of Babylon, and the head-inspectorship of the sacerdotal caste (Daniel 2)

Considerably later, in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, we find Daniel interpreting another dream of the king's, to the effect that, in punishment of his pride, he was to lose, for a time, his throne, but to be again restored to it after his humiliation had been completed (Daniel 4). Here he displays not only the most touching anxiety, love, loyalty, and concern for his princely benefactor, but also the energy and solemnity becoming his position, pointing out with vigor and power the only course left for the monarch to pursue for his peace and welfare.

Under the unworthy successors of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and his deservings seem to have been forgotten, and he was removed from his high posts. His situation at court appears to have been confined to a very inferior office (comp. ); neither is it likely that he should have retained his rank as head inspector of the order of the Magians in a country where these were the principal actors in effecting changes in the administration whenever a new succession to the throne took place.

We thus lose sight of Daniel until the first and third year of king Belshazzar (), generally understood to have been the last king of Babylon (called by profane writers Nebonnedus), but who—to judge from;;; —was, more probably, the son and successor of Nebuchadnezzar, usually called Evil-Merodach, though passing in Daniel by his Chaldean title and rank. After a reign of two years, this monarch was assassinated by his brother-in-law Neriglissar. Shortly before this event Daniel was again restored to the royal favor, and became moral preacher to the king, who overwhelmed him with honors and titles in consequence of his being able to read and solve the meaning of a sentence miraculously displayed, which tended to rouse the conscience of the wicked prince.

Under the same king we see Daniel both alarmed and comforted by two remarkable visions (Daniel 7-8), which disclosed to him the future course of events, and the ultimate fate of the most powerful empires of the world, but in particular their relations to the kingdom of God, and its development to the great consummation.

After the conquest of Babylon by the united powers of Media and Persia, Daniel seriously busied himself under the short reign (two years) of Darius the Mede or Cyaxares II with the affairs of his people and their possible return from exile, the term of which was fast approaching, according to the prophecies of Jeremiah. In deep humility and prostration of spirit, he then prayed to the Almighty, in the name of his people, for forgiveness of their sins, and for the Divine mercy in their behalf: and the answering promises he received far exceeded the tenor of his prayer, for the visions of the Seer were extended to the end of time (Daniel 9).

In a practical point of view also Daniel appeared at that time a highly-favored instrument of Jehovah. Occupying, as he did, one of the highest posts of honor in the state, the strictness and scrupulousness with which he fulfilled his official duties could not fail to rouse envy and jealousy in the breasts of his colleagues, who well knew how to win the weak monarch, whom they at last induced to issue a decree imposing certain acts, the performance of which, they well knew, was altogether at variance with the creed of which Daniel was a zealous professor. For his disobedience the prophet suffered the penalty specified in the decree: he was thrown into a den of lions, but was miraculously saved by the mercy of God—a circumstance which enhanced his reputation, and again raised him to the highest posts of honor under Darius and Cyrus (Daniel 6).

He had, at last, the happiness to see his most ardent wishes accomplished—to behold his people restored to their own land. Though his advanced age would not allow him to be among those who returned to Palestine, yet did he never for a moment cease to occupy his mind and heart with his people and their concerns ().

In the third year of Cyrus, he had a series of visions, in which he was informed of the minutest details respecting the future history and sufferings of his nation, to the period of their true redemption through Christ, as also a consolatory notice to himself to proceed calmly and peaceably to the end of his days, and then await patiently the resurrection of the dead at the end of time.

From that period the accounts respecting him are vague, sometimes confused, and even strange; and we hardly need mention the various fables which report his death to have taken place in Palestine, Babylon, or Susa.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Daniel'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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