What is the Book of Daniel About?

Read this 3-minute introduction to help you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspire you to read Daniel!


Historical Context

Text: Daniel wrote this book in the sixth century BC. 

From Remember that the ultimate author of every book of the Bible is the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 1:21). He has written this book to equip you for life, to help you know the true God, and to give you hope (2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 15:4). The Holy Spirit wrote Daniel for your good and to lead you into joy.     

Daniel spent most of his life in Babylon. He lived through the reigns of six Babylonian kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Evil Merodach, Nergal-Sharezer, Labaši-Marduk, Nabonidus/ Belshazzar), the reign of Darius the Mede, and into at least the third year of Cyrus the Great (Dan. 10:1). He would have witnesses, first-hand, the Persian king’s declaration that the Jewish people could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Ezra 1:1-4)…While a relatively small group of Jews led by Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem, Daniel did not. Perhaps, because of his age and his position in the courts of Babylon, he chose to stay and be an advocate for God’s people where he was. One wonders whether Daniel, a wise man who prospered in the royal courts in Babylon (Daniel 6:28), had any influence in Cyrus’ decision to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem. 

—Bryan Windle  

Source: Bryan Windle, quote from his article, “Top Ten Discoveries Related to Daniel”

The book of Daniel records the events of Daniel’s life and the visions that he saw from the time of his exile in 605 BC (Daniel 1:1) until 536 BC, the third year of King Cyrus (Daniel 10:1). 


The Setting of Daniel: The Babylonian Empire 

c. 605-536 BC

Though their empire was short-lived by comparison with the Assyrians before them and the Persians after them, the Babylonians dominated the Near East during the early days of Daniel, and they were responsible for his initial exile to Babylon. Daniel himself, however, outlived the Babylonian Empire, which fell to the Persians in 538 BC.

Unless otherwise indicated, this content is adapted from the ESV Global Study Bible® (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright ©2012 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Message Series

Faithfulness in Exile by Tim Mackie

Check out this engaging message series by Tim Mackie on the book of Daniel. In each of these 5 one-hour messages, you will learn how the book of Daniel equips us to live faithful lives as followers of Jesus in our world. You will also learn some of the main themes of Daniel and how his prophecies point to Jesus.   

Daniel Dictionary

As you read through Daniel, you might come across words and ideas that are foreign to you. Here are a few definitions you will want to know!

A name for God that describes Him as the everlasting ruler of heaven and earth (see Daniel 7:13-14).

Heavenly beings created by God before he created Adam and Eve. Angels act as God’s messengers to men and women. They also worship God.

The capital city and the country that was one of the major political and cultural centers of the ancient world. The city of Babylon was located at the junction of the Euphrates River and major east-west caravan routes. For nearly 1,000 years, until the rise of Assyria in the ninth century BC, Babylon dominated much of the Middle East. Near the end of the seventh century BC, Babylon regained its independence and for nearly 100 years asserted its influence throughout the region and was a constant threat to the kingdom of Judah, finally resulting in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of Judah’s leading citizens. Babylon was captured by the Persians in 539 BC and then continued to decline, until it was destroyed by the Greek army under Alexander the Great.

Tell or agree about what is true. Confess sometimes means telling God your sins. Confess can also mean to say in front of other people that you believe that Jesus is God’s Son and that He died and rose again to forgive you for your sins.

An agreement. In the ancient Near East, sometimes covenants were made between two people or groups of people. Both sides decided what the agreement would be. However, in the Bible, the word usually refers to agreements between God and people, when God decides what will be done and the people agree to live by the covenant. The Old Covenant of law set standards of behavior in order to please God. The New Covenant of grace presents God’s forgiveness based on faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

An order or law given by a king or ruler. A decree was often read in a public place so that many people would hear the new law.

A leading cultural, political and commercial center of the ancient world. In the fourth century BC, under Alexander the Great, Greece conquered much of the Mediterranean and Middle East, resulting in the spread of Greek culture throughout the region, even after Alexander’s successors were defeated by the Romans.

(1) The sky or universe beyond earth. (2) The dwelling place of God, the angels, and those granted salvation.

Pure; set apart; belonging to God. God is holy. He is perfect and without sin. Jesus is holy too. He is without sin and dedicated to doing what God wants. Because Jesus died to take the punishment for sin and then rose again, people who believe in him have the power to be holy too. God helps them to become more and more pure and loving, like Jesus.

God’s rule in the lives of His Chosen People and His creation. In the Old Testament, the people in the kingdom of God were the Israelites. In the New Testament and today, the people in God’s kingdom are those who believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ. When Jesus comes again, then God’s kingdom will become visible to all people.

A truth that is understood because of God’s revelation. The term appears only in the New Testament (mostly in the letters of Paul) and refers to God’s plan to redeem the world through Christ.

The territory between the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea, and the last of the Middle Eastern powers before the conquest by Alexander the Great. Until the mid-sixth century BC, the Persians were controlled by their northern neighbors, the Medes. Under Cyrus, the Persians became the dominant partners of the Babylonians to their west and then conquered Babylon. Cyrus then released the foreigners, including the Jews, who had been held captive by Babylon. Esther, as queen to one of Cyrus’s successors, foiled an attempt to destroy the Jews remaining in Persia.

(1) To bring back; to establish again. (2) To bring back to a former or original condition. (3) To return something lost, stolen or taken. The return of the Jews from being captives in Babylon is referred to as their restoration.

Thinking and doing what is correct (or right) and holy. God is righteous because he does only what is perfect and holy. A person who has accepted Jesus as Savior is looked at by God as being free from the guilt of sin, so God sees that person as being righteous. People who are members of God’s family show their love for him by doing what is correct and holy, living in righteous ways.

A gift or offering given to God. A sacrifice usually involved killing an animal to pay for sin. The New Testament tells us that Jesus died as the once-for-all sacrifice for sinners, and that no further sacrifices for sin are necessary.

A small tool or ring that had a design cut into one side. The owner of each seal had his or her own special design. When the owner wanted to put his or her own special mark or brand on something, the person would press the seal into hot wax or soft clay. As the wax or clay hardened, it kept the design in it. Seals were used in many ways, including to show that two people had reached an agreement, to seal a letter, to show who owned something.

Something seen during a trance or dream. A vision was a way God showed someone a truth that would otherwise not be known. Sometimes people were asleep when God gave them visions (see Ezekiel 8:1-4; Acts 10:9-29).

Anything a person does to show love and respect. Some people worship idols. Some people worship the one true God.

This content is from What the Bible Is All About, written by Henrietta Mears. Copyright © 1953, 2011 by Gospel Light. Copyright assigned to Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions