Author and His Times
Daniel is also a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, prophesying in Babylon after being taken in the 598 BC exile. Daniel also ministers briefly under the Persian Empire after they dominated the world scene in539 BC. Daniel had a unique ministry by being promoted to a province leadership position for two world empires, sharing direct access to the mighty kings of history.
Daniel’s apocalyptic visions of world empires (7-12) tell of the rising and falling of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Uniquely prophesied is a tyrannical ruler (11.21-32), presumably Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), 175-164 BC, who becomes the first of a series of antichrist figures in Jewish/Christian Literature. Antiochus IV sought to crush Jewish culture and religion by forbidding the keeping of their law and offering special favors to those who Hellenized. In a rage after Rome hindered him from conquering Egypt, Antiochus IV returns through Jerusalem in 167 BC and desecrates the temple by erecting a statue of Zeus. The Maccabean revolt recorded in I and II Maccabees (non-canonized) was subsequent response from the Jews.
I. (1-6) Court Stories of Four Faithful Hebrews (emphasize their loyalty and God’s miraculous deliverance). See How to Read the Bible Book by Book, 205, for chiastic construction.
II. (7-12) Apocalyptic Visions of World Empires
Daniel is unlike any other prophet, if he should even be considered a prophet. The Hebrew Bible places Daniel among the Writings. Daniel’s genre is half narrative and half apocalyptic. He sees and interprets dreams, but he does not serve the prophetic role of calling for repentance or giving commentary on covenant faithfulness.
Chapters 2-7 are in Aramaic; the most widely used language of the Near East. This presumably indicates that the narrative was to be for all people, yet the introduction and apocalyptic visions were just for Hebrews. The depth of Daniel’s apocalyptic visions is only paralleled by the book of Revelation.
How to Read It
Read 1-6 like you would Narrative genre, and 7-12 like you would Apocalyptic genre. This book is a great warm-up to Apocalyptic literature before tackling Revelations. The narrative material would also be well used to promote integrity when under strain.