While there is much we do not know about Daniel, we do know he was born into the royal family in Jerusalem. As a youth, he was carried away into Babylon; there he was selected, as one of the Jewish best, to be educated in Babylon's premier educational institution in order to prepare him for government service.
Daniel, no doubt, was made a eunuch (3) and advanced to hold a prominent position in the cabinets of three different rulers: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius.
Ezekiel was taken to Babylon a few years after Daniel (Ezekiel 1:1) and was preaching at the same time Daniel was holding cabinet positions. Ezekiel and Daniel would certainly have known each other.
Daniel's name meant "God is my Judge.” He had a reputation for discerning prophetic things and writing in his book a series of divine revelations, which sketched out the prophetic timetable from his day to the coming of Messiah. Daniel's career as a prophetic voice and as a Babylonian government servant lasted about seventy years. One legend has Daniel abdicating his position upon retirement and giving it to Zerubbabel, who led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem while Daniel retired with royal blessing.
From Daniel 1:1 to 2:4a and from 8:1 to 12:13, the book is written in Hebrew; the rest of the book is written in Aramaic. Aramaic would have been the international language of the day, as the portion of the book written in Aramaic largely dealt with the future of Gentile nations.
Daniel 7 through 12 are largely filled with visions or revelations concerning the future; this is known as apocalyptic literature. In this way, Daniel and Revelation are similar—the only two inspired apocalyptic books ever written.
In some ways, Daniel is similar to Ezra, Esther, and Nehemiah, chronicling the providential intervention of God during the period of the exile and the exiles' return.
Purpose of the Book of Daniel
Two things are certain about the book: it is not autobiographical, and it is beyond historical.
a) The book is obviously seeking to demonstrate the ultimate sovereignty of Yahweh over nations and empires, teaching Yahweh's purpose. While God's Kingdom is slow in its growth, Yahweh's sovereignty will ultimately prevail.
b) The book seeks to be predictive in detailing how nations rise and fall, but the content of the book is moving the reader toward a vision of Yahweh's ultimate Kingdom, Jesus.
"And in the days of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a Kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the Kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever ..." (2:44 ESV).
Stories Illustrating Yahweh's Sovereignty (1-6)
Visions and Prophecies Illustrating Yahweh's Sovereignty (7-12)
Chronological Outline of Daniel
The Reign of Nebuchadnezzar (605–562 B.C.)
Chapter 1: The God of Intervention (604 B.C.)
Chapter 2: The God of Revelation (602 B.C.)
Chapter 3: Fiery Furnace Episode (600 B.C.)
Chapter 4: Dream About a Tree (570 B.C.)
The Reign of Belshazzar (556–539 B.C.)
Chapter 7: Vision of Four Beasts (c. 556 B.C.)
Chapter 8: Vision of the Ram and Goat (c. 554 B.C.)
Chapter 5: Handwriting on the wall (539 B.C.)
The Reign of Cyrus/Darius (539–530 B.C.)
Chapter 9: Vision of Seventy Sets of Seven (538 B.C.)
Chapter 6: Daniel's Lions’ Den (537 B.C.)
Chapter 10: The Vision of the Messenger (536 B.C.)
Chapter 11: The Conflict of Nations (536 B.C.)
Chapter 12: Discerning the Times (536 B.C.)
It should be noted that the first part of Daniel is written as an eyewitness account of genuine events. Daniel was writing in the third person; this is not the assertions of legends but the documentation of the circumstances and actual happenings. This is an accurate accounting of history from an unblemished eye.
Second, it should be understood that Daniel was obviously seeking to reveal God's providence and ultimate sovereignty in a time and space where immediate circumstances momentarily appeared to indicate the opposite. Even in relationship to world empires, God's ultimate sovereignty prevails over the immediate sovereignty of human powers.
God gave the earth to humans for them to rule willingly under the sovereign hand of Yahweh (Genesis 1:26). Those humans abandoned Yahweh and sought to trash His sovereign rule and assume sovereignty over their own lives. Humans immediately learned they were not God nor were they transcendent, so their sovereignty was just as immediately surrendered to satan.
This is why satan is known as the "prince of this world" (John 12:31). Even Jesus did not question satan's claim of sovereignty over the world (Luke 4:5-7). Jesus merely questioned where satan had gotten his sovereignty.
When God began to restore sovereignty, He began with a man, Abraham; from Abraham, God formed a nation, and through the nation, God chose to restore sovereignty and, in the process, save humanity.
In the book of Daniel, we see the nations of the world, the ones lying in the hand of the wicked one. Their character and powers are metaphorically described. In Daniel, we also see Yahweh; His magnificent providence was prophetically shaping historical events, all to save His nation and restore sovereignty.
Through the fall, Yahweh surrendered immediate sovereignty but never ultimate sovereignty. Daniel reveals the slow-moving, millennium-stretching work of God in restoring His ultimate sovereignty to immediate sovereignty in the hearts of His willing creation.