The name Daniel means “God Is My Judge,” and Daniel truly appears to be one who can stand before God in confidence. The events of the book of Daniel take place during the Jewish captivity in Babylon (in present-day Iraq); Daniel being among the first group of Jews taken to Babylon in about 605 BC. He was one of 70 young men of royalty taken away—along with some of the temple treasures—before Jerusalem was fully besieged and conquered. Chapters 1-6 recount the powerful experiences of Daniel and his faithful associates, followed by Daniel’s visions in chapters 7-12.
Daniel 1 “Daniel Purposed in His Heart”
Read verses 1-7 to learn the background of this first story:
- Note that verse 2 says that “the Lord gave” the kingdom of Judah into the hands of the Babylonians; of which they had been warned by a succession of prophets.
- What does verse 4 say were the special qualities and qualifications of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego? (Verse 7 tells us the original Hebrew names of these last three.)
- According to verses 5-6, the king of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar), had put these four children of Israel and others through three years of instructional and dietary training in order to prepare them to “stand before the king” as special servants.
- However, the king’s “daily provision” of food and wine was unacceptable to Daniel. The reason is not given, but verse 8 states that “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.”
- Find in verses 9-13 the things Daniel did to resolve this dilemma. What were the results, according to verses 14-20?
How was Daniel like Joseph of Egypt? (see Genesis, chapters 39 and 41). What gospel lessons can you derive from this story?
Daniel 2 Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
Again, Daniel finds himself in circumstances similar to Joseph of Egypt (see Genesis, chapters 40-41):
- Read the prelude to Daniel’s experience with the king, in verses 1-6, 10-12.
- The Chaldean (Babylonian) wise men—referred to as “magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers” in verse 2—failed to recount the king’s dream. Their subsequent death sentence would also have applied to the rest of the wise men of Babylon, including Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego (verse 13).
- What did Daniel do in reaction to this extreme threat? (verses 14-18). What happened next? (verses 19-20, 23-28, 30).
- Note Daniel’s process: 1) a problem arises; 2) he takes initiative; 3) he sought help from faithful friends; 4) he prayed earnestly to God; 5) he received an answer from the Lord; 6) he gave thanks to God; 7) he acted upon the inspiration he received.
Verses 31-35 contain Daniel’s recitation to Nebuchadnezzar of his dream, followed by his interpretation of the dream in verses 36-45. Scholars have proposed various views regarding the meanings of the image’s body parts and material makeup. One reasonable conclusion is:
—the image’s head of gold represents Babylon (about 677-538 BC; verses 31-32, 36-38).
—the breast and arms of silver likely represent the kingdom of Persia (about 538-331 BC; verses 32, 39).
—the belly and thighs of brass may represent the kingdom of Greece (about 331-161 BC; verses 32, 39).
—the legs of iron are perhaps the kingdom of Rome (about 161 BC to 431 AD; verses 33, 40).
—the toes are thought to represent the kingdoms of Europe that replaced the Roman Empire (verses 41-43).
—the stone represents the Lord’s kingdom and church of the latter days (verses 34-35, 44-45).
- Most importantly for us, Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream includes prophecies of the latter days, which have been cited with great frequency by our Church leaders. Read verses 44-45 and consider ways in which these things have come to pass or are coming to pass.
- Read verses 46-49 to see the astonishing aftermath of Daniel’s success in revealing and interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Daniel 3 The Fiery Furnace
Despite the king’s actions in Daniel 2:46-49, he follows up by nearly killing Daniel’s associates, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Read Daniel 3:1-8, 12-19, 22-30.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Twelve taught, “Sometimes the cross must be taken up decisively. There is no time for an agonizing appraisal. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not know if God would spare them from the fiery furnace. They simply said: If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. [Daniel 3:17–18]. Note the words ‘but if not’—these are words of unconditional commitment…. When we have that kind of courage, neither will we walk alone in our own ‘fiery furnace,’ for as is recorded in Daniel, there was a fourth form in that fiery furnace with the valiant threesome, and the form was ‘like the Son of God.’ [Daniel 3:25]” (BYU, January 4, 1976).
What opportunities have you had to demonstrate your trust in the Lord?
Daniel 5 The Writing on the Wall
In chapter 5 we advance to about 538 BC, and Belshazzar has replaced his father (Nebuchadnezzar) as king of Babylon. Unfortunately, he has failed to learn the lessons of his father’s experiences with Daniel and with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
Read Daniel 5:1-30. What lessons do you think can be drawn from this story? As you consider your own life, is there something “found wanting” before God? (verse 27; “wanting” in this case means “lacking”).
Daniel 6 The Lion’s Den
This is perhaps the best-known and best-loved story from the book and life of Daniel. In Daniel 5:30-31 we learn that king Belshazzar was slain and Babylon was overtaken by the Persians (also called “Medians”). The new ruler in Babylon is now Darius, king of the Persians:
- Read Daniel 6:1-3. What happened in Daniel’s life after the Persian takeover of Babylon?
- According to verses 4-9, what circumstances came about? How did Daniel respond? (verse 10). These circumstances did not persuade Daniel to change his religious beliefs and practices.
- Read verses 11-15. Satan and his accomplices never give up.
- In verse 16 we see that the gentile king Darius had faith in Daniel’s faith. We can inspire such confidence in others who do not yet have a true faith in God.
- In verses 18-20, what else did Darius do to show his concern and support for Daniel?
- What was the ultimate outcome, according to verses 25-28? Have there been times in your life when you were protected from danger?
The prophet Daniel served, prospered, and rose up from every trial during some 70 years, under the rule of at least four “heathen” kings—Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. What attributes do you see in Daniel that most inspire you?
Daniel 7-12 Daniel’s Visions
Chapters 7-12 are not part of the Come, Follow Me curriculum, and they lack sufficient clarity to allow our interpretations to rise above the level of speculation. However, some verses to consider include:
- Daniel 7:9, 13-14, 18, 22, 25 Daniel sees the troubles of the last days; he also sees the gathering at Adam-ondi-Ahman, wherein the Lord and His people begin to reign and replace evil.
- Daniel 8:11-12, 23-25 A vision of latter-day wickedness and power, eventually “broken” by the Lord (verse 25).
- Daniel 9:25-26 The only two occurrences of the word Messiah in the Old Testament.
- Daniel 10:5-12 The Lord appears to Daniel.
- Daniel 11:28, 30, 32, 36 A vision of wicked, powerful latter-day political leaders; “but the people that do know their God shall be strong” (verse 32).
- Daniel 12:1-3, 10, 12 More on the wickedness of the last days; yet Daniel declares, “they that be wise shall shine” (verse 3) and “the wise shall understand” (verse 10). Daniel concludes: “Blessed is he that waiteth” (verse 12).