In comparison to apocalyptic literature found in Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and Zechariah, Daniel's apocalyptic
prophecies were quoted or referred to the most in the New Testament some 600 years later. And while it was the
shortest book of the Major Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel), history has shown that Daniel contained the
most fulfilled prophecies than any other book of the Bible.
The historical context of the book of Daniel is revealing. In the third and final Babylonian
deportation of God's people, Solomon's Temple was razed to the ground, many were killed, and even more were expelled
from their Promised Land condemned to captivity and enslavement in a foreign land. Outwardly it appeared that the God
of the Hebrews had been discredited, and inferior to the gods of Assyria and Babylon.
The Hebrew name "Daniel" means "God is my Judge." Tested several times by Gentiles and his faith
affirmed by God, Daniel's name and character testified to the reality and sovereignty of his personal God
(Dan 1:8-19; 2:5-18;
And despite his name change to "Beltshazzaar," so that all references of his nationality and religion were obscured
(Dan 1:5-7; 4:7-9),
Daniel and his God were well known throughout the empire (Dan 2:47;
While God displays His power through Daniel in such a way to demonstrate that He is the one true
God and Lord of human history, God uses Gentile nations from this point on as the means to discipline His covenant
Daniel stands unique among the Major Prophets for his ability to interpret the dreams of Gentiles
(Dan 1:9, 17, 19) which themselves were prophetic.
The pagan king Nebuchadnezzar has a prophetic dream of a great statue: a head made of fine gold,
its breasts and arms made of silver, its belly and thighs made of bronze, and its legs of iron and feet of iron /
clay. A stone will crush the statue and will become a great mountain and fill the whole earth
Daniel interprets the statue as four successive Gentile empires and the coming kingdom of God that
will endure forever (Dan 2:1-49), which prompts Nebuchadnezzar to
exclaim, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able
to reveal this mystery." (Dan 2:47)
Daniel's prophecy would be partially fulfilled with the subsequent historical world empires that
followed after the Neo-Babylonian (Nebuchadnezzar) empire: the Medo-Persian (Cyrus the Great) and the Greco-Macedonian
(Alexander the Great) empires. While many debate whether the prophecy of the fourth Roman like empire has been
fulfilled entirely, most believe that God’s kingdom has yet to be reestablished and endure forever.
Because Daniel was not addressed as a prophet nor perceived as one, Jews placed his book in the Writings section
during the early compilation of the Hebrew Scriptures. By the time of the Septuagint (300-200 B.C.), the Hebrew canon
placed Daniel in the Prophets section perhaps in part by the historical record showing the fulfillment of his prophecies.
However, the Talmud currently maintains that Daniel was not a prophet and his work remains in the Writings section.
Nebuchadnezzar's second prophetic dream was of a great tree that was chopped down to the stump on
orders from an angelic being, and the mind of a man would be changed to that of a beast for seven periods of time so
that the man would know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind
Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar's prophetic dream as the king's loss of mind, sovereignty and
subsequent humbling of his pride (Dan 4:4-37).
Without extra-biblical evidence, this prophecy would be difficult to confirm; however, a cuneiform
fragment in the British Museum (BM 34113 [sp 213]), translated by A. K. Grayson in 1975, suggests that Nebuchadnezzar
may have had symptoms similar to that of a very serious depressive disorder or temporary insanity.
Daniel interprets the prophetic handwriting of the wall to Belshazzar that his blasphemous use of
the Temple's confiscated gold vessels would result in his death and loss of kingdom
Daniel's prophecy would come true with the fall of Nabonidus, who had returned to Babylon, and the
death of Belshazzar to the Persians led by Cyrus the Great in 539 B.C. which was attested by both Greek historians
Herodotus (484-425 B.C) and Xenophon (430-354 B.C).
1. Brand C, Draper C, England A, Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Nashville: Holman
Bible Publishers, (2003).
2. Gaeblein FE ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 7, Grand Rapids: Zondervan
Publishing House (1992).
3. Walvoord JF, Zuck RB eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament, Wheaton: Victor
Helpmewithbiblestudy.org. All rights to this material are reserved. We encourage you to print the
material for personal and non-profit use or link to this site. Please do not distribute articles
to other web locations for retrieval or mirror at any other site. If you find this article to be
a blessing, please share the link.