The Book of Daniel is popular for so many reasons, no doubt one of the greatest and most popular books of the Bible; one of the few books of the Bible that can be dated with precision and easily validated by the history. But it appears to be just as confusing, especially with the time line and chronology. It refers to many kings and kingdoms, what happened when who was reigning, it moves forth and back and readers often get confused; thinking for example that a young Daniel went into the Lion’s Den or that a Wise-Man Daniel interpreted the King’s vision about the Statue…
So I am currently studying the Book of Daniel and I wish to share some of my “new” discoveries, how to organize the Book of Daniel chronologically, who are the kings and maybe give some “more-or-less” dating of the events that occurred in the Book of Daniel. it is so interesting and so inspirational at the same time.
First of all, a number of kings and kingdoms were mentioned in Daniel:
- Jehoiakim – King of Judah (reigned 609 – 597 BC)
- Nebuchadnezzar – King of Babylon (reined 605 – 562 BC)
- Belshazzar – King of Babylon (reigned 553 – 539 BC)
- Darius – King of Media (532 – 526 BC)
- Cyrus – King of Persia (539 – 530 BC)
- Prophecies about a King of Greece/Rome
Note that there are some gaps between Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar (because some other kings reigned in-between) and also note that Darius and Cyrus overlapped for most of the time – that’s why it’s called Medo-Persia. Also note that four great ancient (gentile) world empires at that time in succession were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome of which the Babylonians were the first. Nebuchadnezzar reigned for 43+/- years, the longest reign of any king of the Neo-Babylonian empire.
Daniel was born sometime around 620BC, being one of the Royal Princes in Israel. When one of his “Uncles” Jehoiakim became the King of Judah, in the third year of his reign, the new but ruthless Babylonian King named Nebuchadnezzar struck. He captured the royal families and some other people as the first stage of captivity. Daniel was like 15 years at that time. He and his buddies Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among those recruited for a three-years training to become some of the Wise Men in Babylon. As kids (teenagers), they dared the king’s command and ate veggies rather than the king’s meal portion. They were 10 times better than the others. Chapter 1 ended with the information about Daniel’s tenure in the public service: from first year of King Nebuchadnezzar to the first year of king Darius. That’s a whooping 70-something years of service.
The king Nebuchadnezzar had his elusive dream in the second year of his reign. The king did not remember his own dream. Note that Daniel and his friends were still training to become Wise Men at this point. So they were not consulted initially. But when things went out of hands, Daniel got involved and God revealed the dream and interpretation. It was about the Giant Statue and the Kingdoms it represented. The head of the statue was made of fine gold. Its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs were bronze,its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay.
Daniel got a promotion for this over all his seniors – as chief of Wise Men. And his friends also became administrators and started using their Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshack and Abed-nego respectively.
Chapter 3 follows chapter 2 chronologically. Some believed the events happened in 587 BC. And Nebuchadnezzar was still King. After being told he was the head of gold in chapter 2, he spent the next couple of years building a ginormous statue of pure gold! And gathered all his nobles and high officials. And demanded that all must worship it. All did except Shadrach Meshack and Abed-nego and they landed in the fiery furnace. The rest, they say is history.
Chapter 4 also follows chronologically. Written by no other but King Neb himself. Okay, truth be told, you would be proud if you were so powerful and your rule extended to more than two-thirds of the global population. Nebuchadnezzar was a very proud, ruthless and unpredictable king. And several writings apart from the Bible attested to this. He had another dream which Daniel interpreted. He was going to lose his mind. Which he did. Some believed it was for 7 years, others say 3-and-half, but for sometime later in his reign, he developed a mental disorder but later recovered. It was said that in his last years, Nebuchadnezzar seems to have begun behaving irrationally, “pay[ing] no heed to son or daughter,” and was deeply suspicious of his sons. Yeah, mental illness.
AFTER CHAPTER 4, THINGS GOT INTERESTING
I will try to arrange it chronologically. King “Neb” died. And after a few other kings, his son Belshazzar became the king. Note that at this time, Daniel was now in his middle age, say in his late 50s-60s, having spent his youthful years in far away Babylon, serving King Nebuchadnezzar and the kings that came after him.
Belshazzar eventually became the King of Babylon, but not quite as powerful as his Father “THE NEB!”. Daniel was like 65 years when Belshazzar became king. By this time, Daniel’s vision and focus have changed. He was thinking more about his home country in Judah, and Jerusalem. It was such shame that King Neb conquered his country and carried everyone as captives. His contemporaries who were great prophets and voices of the God to the people: Jeremiah and Ezekiel have both died. And Daniel spent more time studying their books and their revelations.
Then The Visions Started Coming.
Those were his own visions, and he needed the their interpretations because they were truly scary. They were bigger than him. They spoke of succession of kings, violent take overs, and wait for it… what would happen in REVELATIONS, including things that have not even happened.
In this chapter, during the first year of Belshazzar, which was 553 BC, Daniel had a vision. A vision of 4 Beasts. While Belshazzar was still the reigning king, God showed him a vision of 4 kingdoms in forms of animals, just like Nebuchadnezzar’s vision in chapter 2. The Lion, Bear, Tiger and a Monster of unknown origin. And these like the statue were to represent the four kingdoms as explained by an Angel. “These four huge beasts represent four kingdoms that will arise from the earth.” (vs17). Well, such dreams could be considered treasonable. Daniel was so scared, but he never shared it with anyone.
Chapter 8 followed Chapter 7 chronologically. in the third year of Belshazzar; +/- 550 BC. The visions came again, but this time, closer home – Daniel was at the fortress of Susa, in the province of Elam, standing beside the Ulai River (Daniel 8:2). Of course, it appeared that Babylon’s time was up. So the vision was in the setting of “Medo-Persia and Greece”, the next two “kingdoms”, kingdoms that are yet to be, and portrayed in form of Ram and Goat. So the RAM with two giant horns would become the split kingdoms of Media and Persia which would run concurrently. Then one shaggy He-Goat, representing Greece (Alexander the Great) would come and attack the ram, break it’s horn and render it powerless. Daniel did not understand, but Gabriel “who looked like a man” (of course and Angel), was there to support and interpret to Daniel – “The two-horned ram represents the kings of Media and Persia. The shaggy male goat represents the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes represents the first king of the Greek Empire” (vs 20-21)
Daniel still could not handle the vision. He wrote: “Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it (vs 27).
Daniel was about 69 years old here.
OKAY, THINGS GOT MORE INTERESTING.
What? Yes. This is where chapter 5 came in. The Writing on the Wall, remember? 539 BC. In the midst of Daniel’s deep Spiritual engagements, one King was engaging in ridiculous activities. Yes, one and only Belshazzar! He organized a party for his 1,000 nobles; they all brought their wives and concubines and were very drunk. Then the king ordered for utensils that were taken from the Jerusalem Temples be brought to serve them. While they drank from them they praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone. Then the HAND appeared and wrote on the Wall. Then summoned the “retired” Daniel who read it as MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. Which simply meant: “Your time is up, your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (vs 28). Finally Daniel said it. That same night, Belshazzar was executed and Darius of Mede became the King.
Darius or Media ruled concurrently with Cyrus of Persia, although historically less popular than Cyrus. The remaining chapters of Daniel all happened in the early years of these kings – namely chapter 9, then Chapter 6 in the first year while the rest, chapters 10-12 occurred in their third year.
Okay, chapter 9 happened just before chapter 6, after which Daniel finally finally retired from the King’s service. Daniel was tired. Very tired. Tired of captivity. Not for himself for he had lived a privileged life in captivity, but for his country. He found from the Book of The Prophet Jeremiah that 70 years of captivity were prophesied. Well, 70 years had almost gone and he knew he had to intercede! He sought God in prayer, and supplication, and fasting!
As he interceded, Gabriel came visited him again, to give him “insight and understanding”. And just like that, we got the 70 weeks of Daniel. Daniel chapter 9 rose to become one of the most important chapters in the history of mankind.
539 BC. Daniel in the Lion’s Den. King Darius was 62 years old when he took over. And Daniel was officially an old man – in his early 80s. But for some reasons, Darius loved Daniel so much and made him one of the three inner forces of his kingdom and was even planning on making him his Number 2 person. Daniel was a genius, and Darius could use a man with so much experience. Anyways, the other top officials were not happy. They set the King up by tricking him to sign an Executive Order to enforce everyone to pray to him only, for the next 30 days. Of course, Daniel had bigger fishes to fry. Jerusalem was topmost on his mind. He had been reading the prophecies like the Book of Jeremiah and he was busy interceding for Jerusalem. He had no time for petty jealousy. Long story short, Daniel Landed in the lion’s Den. The rest, again, they say is HISTORY!
Chapters 10 – 12
After the Lion’s Den, Daniel rested from public appearance, it was long overdue anyway. He thereafter he went into deep conversation with God and received lots of revelations and prophecies. They dealt mostly with Kings, Kingdoms and successions; and they chart the course for the political atmosphere that would prevail over the next centuries, even till date. Most of the prophecies in Daniel have been fulfilled. And they were fulfilled with so much accuracy that Bible critics believed Daniel must have lived in the “AD” era (say around 200 AD) and claimed he lived in the 500s BC. Such ridiculous thoughts!
These chapters occurred in the third year of Cyrus King of Persia. 536 BC +/-. The first month of that year, Daniel still troubled by his constant revelations went into fasting and praying for three entire weeks. He was outside by the Beach of the Tigris River when a Man in Linen appeared to him. Of course his companions saw the light and hid themselves, but only Daniel saw the man. The Man came to tell Daniel about the future; He set out on the day Daniel started his prayers but for the past 21 days, he was withstood in the spirit realm by the Prince of Persia! In fact, Michael “one of the Chief Princes (or Archangels)” had to come and help him. He spoke very quickly to Daniel, and in verse 20 he said: “Do you understand why I came to you? But I shall now return to fight against the prince of Persia; so I am going forth, and behold, the prince of Greece is about to come.” There is something so urgent about this Greece which was coming to topple the Medo-Persia empire; But Michael has been fighting along with this Linen-Man for the past three years. Anyways, in chapter 11 we read a detailed prophecy that begins with Persian rulers and then moves on to Alexander the Great, one of the most significant figures in ancient history. According to history, Daniel died about 200 years before Alexander appeared on the world scene, and when Alexander arrived in Jerusalem, the priests showed him the book of Daniel and its statements about a Greek ruler who would conquer the Persians, and he saw himself as the person intended, and took it up! However, his rule of terror would later be crushed by none else but the Roman Commander Julius Caesar himself (100 BC-44 BC). Daniel wrote all these visions, but the Angels kept telling him to “seal”all these information they were giving him, because they were meant for appointed times – in the future. Most of which already came to pass, with great precision.
However, beyond the events that related directly to these kingdoms that have come and gone, this final vision of Daniel, in Chapters 10-12, in addition to it’s preceding vision in chapter 9, all combined together to form one of the most important in history, because they not only described the past, they focused on Jesus, the end times, the anti-Christ, and the Eternal kingdom of Christ.
Jesus Christ Himself mentioned the Book of Daniel, not only confirming that it is true, but most importantly admonishing everyone who reads it to UNDERSTAND.
The Visions in the Book of Daniel (chapters 2&7) both mean the same things:
- The Head of Gold (The Lion) is The Babylonian Empire
- The Chest and Arms of Silver (The Bear) is the Medo-Persia Empire
- The Belly and Thighs of Bronze (The Leopard) is the Grecian Empire
- The Legs of Iron (The Dragon) is The Roman Empire.
Daniel 12: 4 (NLT): But you, Daniel, keep this prophecy a secret; seal up the book until the time of the end, when many will rush here and there, and knowledge will increase.”