Daniel Overview + 1

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Daniel Overview

The book of Daniel is the fifth of the five books that are considered the “major prophets” in the Old Testament. This book is a unique mix of both history (the first seven chapters of the book) and prophecy (the final five chapters), including prophecy surrounding the Messiah and God’s ultimate plan for His people. Interestingly enough, it’s not written chronologically but is instead split between the two different types of literature in this book. As we read this book, you’ll encounter familiar stories that you have likely read before as well as prophetic visions that require a couple of read-throughs to understand exactly what’s happening. 

It’s important to understand who Daniel was before we dive into the book. Once Jerusalem was destroyed, the Israelites were taken captive and were forced to live in Babylon, which was a different setting, in a different culture, and under the rule of a different empire. Daniel, because of his faithfulness as a follower of God, was elevated and promoted into a position of leadership within the Babylonian empire. Throughout this book, several different rulers (and kingdoms) are referenced, so pay close attention to the names listed from story to story. 

As we read the book of Daniel as twenty-first century followers of Jesus, there are principles we can learn and apply in our own lives. We, as citizens of the Kingdom of God, are living in an exile of our own right now. We’re not home yet, so we need to figure out how to live as exiles while God has us here on earth. Pastor and commentator Chuck Swindoll says this about the book of Daniel:

“Have you ever endured the weight or consequences of sin and felt as though God had left you behind, that He had stranded you in a world far from the comforts associated with home? The book of Daniel paints a portrait of how to serve God faithfully in the middle of such a world and how to persevere in hope even with no immediate solutions to the problems that get us down.”

Over these next twelve chapters, let’s ask God to use the book of Daniel to reveal to us how He wants us to faithfully live. 

Read Daniel 1

Daniel’s Training in Babylon

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzarking of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babyloniaand put in the treasure house of his god.

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, 10 but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”

11 Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 12 “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” 14 So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.

15 At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. 16 So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.

17 To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.

18 At the end of the time set by the king to bring them into his service, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. 19 The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king’s service. 20 In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

21 And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Go Deeper

This book is aimed to encourage the Jews in exile to stand firm in what is true and to point them to God’s prophetic plan for the future. God raises up Daniel to remind God’s people of who they are and what they were called to do. In this chapter, we see Daniel taken into Babylon (v. 1-7) and his faithfulness displayed and rewarded there (v. 8-21). The king of the Babylonian Empire was a man named Nebuchadnezzar. At this point he had conquered most of the known world. He went into Jerusalem, burned down the Temple, and took captives. The first wave of these captives was taken into Babylon, which included Daniel and his three friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Nebuchadnezzar took these men who were the best of the best and trained them up for three years to be in his government. 

The Babylonian empire was known for brainwashing people and mixing them into their culture. They indoctrinated these four men and taught them the Chaldean language, gave them daily food and wine, and changed their names. Daniel, which means “God is my judge” was changed to Belteshazzar meaning “Bel protects his life”, the name of a pagan god.  Hananiah, which means “God has been gracious” changed to Shadrach meaning “commander of the moon god.” Mishael, which means “who is like God” was changed to Meshach meaning “who is like the moon god.” Azariah, which means “God has helped” was changed to Abednego meaning “servant of the god nego.” Names were an important part of Hebrew culture and were given to remind people of God. However, these exiles were expected to forget about the God of Israel, and ultimately forget their true identity. 

These captives had their world flipped upside down. But the four men had their hearts set on the Lord and remained faithful to the one true God. We read that Daniel “resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way” (v. 8). Eating this food was in direct disobedience to the Word of God. The food was considered defiled because it was not kosher, it had likely been sacrificed to idols, and it represented conformity to the Babylonian culture. Daniel requested that they test him and his friends for ten days by only giving them vegetables to eat and water to drink. At the end of the ten days, these four men looked better and healthier than the men who were eating the king’s food. 

This request to abstain from food might seem small but demonstrated that Daniel and his friends refused to compromise on God’s Word. They feared the Lord more than they feared the king. God honored their faithfulness, and He “gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds” (v. 17). There was no one like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, and the king “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (v. 20). This is a reminder for us to be faithful in the little. It can be tempting to compromise on small things, but we are called to faithful obedience even when it is costly. We are called to follow God’s ways, even when the world is going in a different direction. We are not of this world. We are called to be set apart.


  1. The Babylonian empire was known for being a place of pagan worship. These four men were set apart in Babylon. What does it look like for you to be set apart in our culture that does not always honor God? 
  2. Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself or compromise (v. 8). What can we learn from this? What does this show us about Daniel’s relationship with God?
  3. Daniel respectfully asked for permission from the eunuch not to defile himself. How do you handle situations where you disagree with someone or something that contradicts your faith?

Watch This

For a high-level overview of this book as we begin it, check out this nine minute video from The Bible Project!

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3 thoughts on “Daniel Overview + 1”

  1. Missionary leader A.T. Pierson said “History is His Story” Even when we make our own choices, God can still accomplish His purpose for this world. God rules and overrules, His will shall be done and His name glorified. If and when we are being pressured into conforming into this world beliefs we can think about Daniel here. He did not want to conform to the king’s ways but did not rebel in such a way to cause a ruckus Instead he ask God and followed His way by being gracious toward those in authority. Meek and quite in spirit, humility and honesty with wisdom from above to told them (and us) what to do and their faith is how they did it. God is still on His Throne today, right now, even in this broken world.

    God thank You for wisdom to live in this world. Thank You for words to speak to know how and what to say that will edify You. God thank You for Your love goggles to see Your people. God I desire to treasure You and Your Word above all this worldly mess. Continue to guide me as I seek You minutely in Jesus name amen

  2. Ella Snodgrass

    One major takeaway from this opening chapter of Daniel is that the 4 young, Israelite men feared God more than man. This is particularly noteworthy since their people had been captured & exiled by pagan Babylon, and they were now selected for service to the king. Their remarkable faith in the midst of a challenging culture should spur us on as well. As we will continue to discover, their faith never wavered in the midst of a perverse culture and unimaginable circumstances. Romans 8:28 reminds us “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

  3. Diane Frances Rogers

    What fortitude in faith was shown by Daniel in this challenge. (I, myself struggle with fasting in one day.) In the message on Sunday, the verse in Galatians 1: 10 ” Am I trying to win the approval of men or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ, has emphasized my commitment to structuring my walk in this same mindset. All glory to God in His word as it is alive and a well-spring to us all. My previous way of living was not in alignment, and I am grateful for HC in that the teachings here are to train us to be disciples of His word.

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