What is the Book of Daniel About?

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


Historical Context

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 (2 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 (Daniel 10:1). He would have witnessed, 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: Windle, Bryan. “Top Ten Discoveries Related to the Book of Daniel.” Bible Archaeology Report (August 18, 2022).

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! Note that this dictionary was created for the New International Version (NIV) Bible.

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.

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.

Dictionary Source

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, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Tough Questions

We have found answers to some tough questions that we anticipate may arise as you read this book of the Bible. We know we can’t answer every question you will have; therefore, we have written this article, so you know how to find answers for your kids: How Do I Answer Tough Questions About the Bible?


The following insights are from pastors and scholars who have spent significant time studying the book of Daniel.

Daniel predicts the precise year of the appearance of Jesus Christ (cf. Daniel 9:25-26). He foretells the history of his portion of the world from the time of Nebuchadnezzar up to the beginning of the Christian era, accurately forecasting the rise and fall of the Medes and Persians, the Greek kingdom of Alexander the Great and his successors, and Rome. He speaks of some things yet to come.

Although these predictions are important, they are not necessarily the most important themes in Daniel… the great and most important theme of Daniel is that there is but one God, who is Jehovah, and that he is sovereign over the events of history.

—James Montgomery Boice

Source: Boyce, James M. Daniel. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1989.

Unlike the other prophets, Daniel dealt more fully with the Gentile nations than with his own Jewish nation. The other prophets only mention the Gentiles as incidental to something concerning Israel. But Daniel gave us the history of the Gentile powers from Babylon to the end. The prophecies are considered among the most remarkable in all the Scriptures.  

—Henrietta Mears

Source: 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, 2015. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Oh, what an unanswerable argument is a believer’s life! Oh, what an epistle of Christ is the daily conduct of a child of God! Men cannot see your hearts, nor understand your principles—but they can see your lives! And if they find that pious masters, servants, brothers, friends, sisters, husbands, wives, do far exceed all others in their several positions, then you are bringing glory to God and honor to your Redeemer. Think not that your profession is worth anything, if it is not known of others by its godly fruit; without this it is little better than sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal.  

We do not find that Daniel blew his trumpet before him, and talked everywhere about his own experience, but he walked close to God, and his life spoke for him, and his character became known in Babylon, and even his enemies were obliged to confess—The hand of God is here, the Lord is truly with this man! 

—J.C. Ryle  

Source: Ryle, J.C. “Daniel Found Faithful.” Grace Gems. Accessed May 25, 2023.

The book of Daniel is unusual in that it is written in two languages: 1:1-2:4a and chapters 8-12 are in Hebrew, and 2:4a-7:28 is in Aramaic, the lingua franca of the prophet’s day. Hebrew was the language of God’s covenant people Israel, and Aramaic was the language of the Gentile world. Though the Book of Daniel is a single literary work, it has two major emphases. One has to do with God’s program for the Gentile nations. This is contained in 2:4a-7:28. It was fitting that this prophecy concerning the Gentiles should be in their language. Hence the prophet used Aramaic in that portion of the book. The second major emphasis is on the nation Israel and the influence or effect of the Gentiles on Israel. This theme is developed in 1:1-2:4a and chapters 8-12. Therefore it was fitting that Daniel wrote those portions in Hebrew, that language of the Jews.  

—Dwight Pentecost

Source: Dwight Pentecost. The Bible Knowledge Commentary (Chicago: Victor Books, 1987), 1324. Quote retrieved from Dr. Tim White’s article, “The Aramaic of Daniel,” published at Dr. Tim White (January 15, 2020).

Remember how Daniel is placed in the Bible. If you’re reading in the Jewish Bible, it’s placed in the history books, but if you’re reading the Christian Bible it’s placed in the prophetic books. Why? Well because in Daniel we have two distinct kinds of literature. You have this narrative literature that carries [chapters] 1-6 and really what we have learned there is that you can be at home in Babylon and be productive and fruitful. But the second half—everything is different. You’re not at home in Babylon, you’re trying to get home from Babylon, and the genre shifts to this apocalyptic visionary literature. So when you look at chapter 7 the first thing that strikes you is that now Daniel is receiving words from God through a vision. That hasn’t happened yet in the sense that earlier, God had a word for the world. He was always talking to the pagan kings, and Daniel was there to interpret. But now God has something to say to his own people, and Daniel himself is in need of an interpreter… so everything has changed in [chapters] 7-12.… [In chapters 1-6] God has a salvation word for the world. He’s desperate to say something to the world. He keeps talking to the world’s leaders, but in [chapters] 7-12, he’s got something very important to say to his own people, and the shift then begins to take place. So you don’t want to quit after chapter 6.

—David Helm

Source: Helm, David. Interview with Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible. Podcast Audio. August 6, 2015. This podcast originally appeared here at The Gospel Coalition.

Understanding Bible prophecy encourages in two unique ways. First, it serves as a reminder that God controls history. When you read from the pages of Scripture how He keeps His promises, your faith is strengthened…By reflecting on the fulfilled promises of the past, you can find great comfort as you look toward the future. Second, understanding God’s promises for the future provides a solid foundation to which you can anchor your hope—a sturdy shield with which you can deflect your doubts and fears about tomorrow…When you reflect on God’s plans and promises for you and for the world, you can face the future without fear. 

—John MacArthur  

Source: MacArthur, John. Quote retrieved here from Grace Quotes at

Today’s society is a good deal like the one Daniel lived in centuries ago. The world still wants God’s people to conform to its standards and follow its practices. “Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold” is the way J.B. Phillips translates Romans 12:2, and Daniel and his friends obeyed that admonition. We should obey it today. We need Christians who have the faith and courage to be resolute—not odd, but resolute. As we study the book Daniel wrote for us, we’ll meet Daniel’s God, the Sovereign Lord who rules in the kingdom of men (4:32) and who confidently announces things to come. In Daniel’s life and ministry we will see how true believers live in the light of biblical prophecy—how they relate to the Sovereign Lord and accomplish his good, acceptable, and perfect will. In a world in which people find it easy to do what is right in their own eyes, the Lord is searching for men and women who will do what’s right in his eyes and dare to be resolute. Will you be among them?  

—Warren Wiersbe  

Source: Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Resolute: Determining to Go God’s Direction. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook, 2000.

Daniel Playlist

Discover music inspired by the message and content of the book of Daniel.

Give Us Clean Hands
by Chris Tomlin | Contemporary 
Another in the Fire
by Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
He's Never Failed Me Yet
by CeCe Winans | Gospel 
Ancient of Days
by Shane & Shane | Praise & Worship
My King Forever
by Josh Baldwin | Praise & Worship
Where The Glory Is
by Josh Baldwin | Praise & Worship
More Songs