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by Wayne Blank
Daniel, from the Hebrew word meaning God is my Judge, is one of the major prophets of the Old Testament (see Old Testament Fact File), and of the New Testament (see New Testament Fact File) since much of the prophecy given to him corresponds to that given to the apostle John in the Book of Revelation, and for our time now - Jesus Christ Himself specifically referred to events recorded in The Book of Daniel (Matthew 24:15) that would occur just prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ.
Daniel was of royal lineage (Daniel 1:3), probably born in or near Jerusalem about 622 B.C. during the reign of Josiah (see Kings of Israel and Judah). In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, about 605 B.C., the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, besieged Jerusalem, looted the original Temple that had been built by Solomon (the complete devastation would come later, about 586 B.C.), and took a number of the people of Judah away into exile in Babylon. Among them was the teenage Daniel (Daniel 1:1-3).
Despite being a prisoner-exile, Daniel's living conditions in Babylon were likely at least as good as they had been back home. He was selected, along with a number of others, to be trained for service in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:3-7). There, he distinguished himself with wisdom and ability (Daniel 1:19).
Daniel's first great test came when he was required not only to interpret the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, but to do so without the king even telling him what the dream was (Daniel 2:1-23). With the help of God, Daniel successfully interpreted the dream (see Daniel's Statue) which represented the great future empires of history, from the time then of Babylonian supremacy (Daniel 2:37), to the Persians who conquered them (see Ancient Empires - Persia), to the Greeks who in turn conquered them (see Ancient Empires - Greece), to the successive revivals of the Roman Empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome) that will lead right to the Return of Jesus Christ (Daniel 2:34,44).
The Babylonian king's response to Daniel's God-given abilities was to actually bow down to his prisoner:
"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure."
Daniel thereafter held a very high position in the government for about 70 years, right until his famous "handwriting on the wall" interpretation on the night before the fall of the Babylonian kingdom to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:1-29). The then elderly Daniel's position was not diminished however, despite an attempt by political rivals to have him discredited - his survival in the well-known "lions den" incident actually increased his position even more, in the reigns of both Darius and Cyrus (Daniel 6:1-28).
Daniel's remaining years produced more incredible prophecies, including the "four beasts" (Daniel 7:1-28), the "ram and goat" (Daniel 8:1-27), the "seventy sevens" (Daniel 9:20-27), and the "kings of the north and south" (Daniel 11:1-45). He died in his late eighties or nineties, a faithful and obedient servant of God, and one of the greatest prophets that has ever lived.
Fact Finder: Did Daniel himself understand all of the prophecies that God gave to him, or were some "sealed until the time of the end"?