Daniel was of a noble family in Jerusalem, and was taken as a hostage to Babylon in about 605 BC, at the age of about 16. He was brought up as a young man in the palace at Babylon, and survived the fall of the Babylonian empire (ca. 539 BC) and the establishment of the Persian empire under Cyrus the Great.
Daniel 1:1-2 - see II Kings 24:1-5 and II Chronicles 36:5-8. "The land of Shinar" and "The land of the Chaldees" are old names for the region of Mesopotamia which had been taken over by the Assyrians and then by the Babylonians.
Daniel 1:7 - making people change their names was a way of showing that one had power over them: the new names often included the name of a foreign god. The original names invoked God : "El" in Daniel and Mishael, and "Yah" which became "-iah" in Hananiah and Azariah. The new names invoked "Bel", another form of Baal, "Nebo", the Babylonian god of wisdom, and probably Marduk, the chief Babylonian god.
Daniel 1:21 - the first year of king Cyrus (the Persian leader who gained control of Babylon) would be about 539BC. Daniel was probably taken to Babylon as a teenager or young man, about 605BC, so would have lived to be about 90.
Daniel 2:1 - the second year of king Nebuchadnezzar would have been about 604BC. Daniel had been a prisoner for about a year.
Daniel 2:4 - "Syriack" was the Aramaic language (still in use today) which was closely related to Hebrew, and which was used as a common language throughout the Babylonian empire. The alphabet used for Aramaic displaced the original alphabet used for Hebrew, so nowadays Hebrew is written and printed in Aramaic characters.
Daniel 2:5-6 - Nebuchadnezzar's moods and swings of personality probably presage his later bout of madness.
Daniel, chapter 4, - is based on a letter written by Nebuchadnezzar, telling of another of his dreams, its consequences, and how he suffered a lapse of reason brought on by his inordinate pride.
Daniel 5:1-2 - Belshazzar was actually the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, and son of Nabonidus. Belshazzar was regent while his father was in Arabia. Both Nabonidus and Belshazzar were conquered by the Medes and Persians.
Daniel 5:25 - "mene" is from the Hebrew "mana" to count, divide, or separate; "tekel" is from "qalal", to be despised, or "qalah", to be reviled, cursed, or insignificant; and "upharsin" is from "paras" or "parash", to divide or scatter.
Daniel, chapters 7 & 8 - these chapters appear to be out of chronological sequence, by which they should come before chapters 5 & 6. It may be that the compiler of the Book wanted to keep Daniel's dreams and prophecies together.
Daniel, chapter 7 - one possible interpretation is that the first beast represented Babylonia; the second beast represented the Persian Empire; the third beast represented the Empire of Alexander the Great, which was divided between his generals after his death; and the fourth beast represented the Roman Empire, which went through civil war and contending rulers before coming under the rule of Augustus.
Daniel, chapter 8 - one possible interpretation (borne out by verses 20-23) is that the ram represented the Persian Empire, which was conquered by the Hellenistic army of Alexander the Great (the great horn of the he-goat). Some of the coins minted by Alexander show him with a horn growing round his face - he claimed that the Egyptian sun god revealed to him that he was divine, and he claimed horns as a sign of divine descent. Alexander and his army came from Macedonia (in the west - verse 5), and when Alexander died his generals divided his empire between themselves (verse 8). The little horn (verse 9) is generally taken to represent Antiochus IV, descendant of Seleuceus (one of Alexander's generals who founded the Seleucid dynasty of the East). Antiochus IV had control of Jerusalem and Judah, and tried to enforce Greek pagan worship by desecrating the Temple in Jerusalem, forbidding Jews to circumcise their boys, and trying to force them to eat pork. If your Bible includes the Apocrypha, you can read about this persecution in I & II Maccabees.
Daniel 8:14 - 2,300 days ie. about 6 years and 4 months. Antiochus ruled from 175-163BC, but it was not until 168BC that he prohibited Judaism.
Daniel 9:1 - Darius the son of Ahasuerus (not the Ahasuerus who married Esther) is apparently the same as Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:31) and may have had a short-lived reign in the time of disturbances as the Medes and Persians took over Babylon, or he may have been a local ruler appointed by Cyrus. The text says he "was made king" rather than that he became king.
Daniel 9:2 - for Jeremiah's prophecy, see Jeremiah 29:10.
Daniel 9:24-27 - the "70 weeks of years" works out to 490 years. The 69 weeks of verse 25 works out to 483 years. The Decree of Cyrus, allowing the Jews to return and rebuild the Temple, was in 538BC; there were later edicts allowing for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem, for about the next centuary. Some scholars believe that the seventy "weeks" end with the death of Christ, others believe that Christ's death is to be after the 62 "weeks" of verse 26, followed by the period after Pentecost when the disciples preached to the Gentiles. The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD70 seems to be what is foretold in verses 26-27.
Other scholars think that this prophecy points to the Maccabean revolt, the desecration of the Temple in 168BC, and its rededication in 165BC.
Daniel 10:1 - in the third year of Cyrus : Cyrus had already decreed that any of the Jews who wished to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple might do so. Daniel stayed in Persia - he would have been about 90 years old by this time.
Daniel 10:13 - the Prince of the Kingdom of Persia may refer to Cyrus' son Cambyses, who ruled ca. 530-522BC, and who refused permission for the building of the Temple to procede.
Daniel 10:13 & 21 - The Archangel Michael was charged with watching over Israel.
Daniel 10:20 - the Prince of Grecia refers to Alexander the Great.
Daniel 11:4 - none of Alexander the Great's family survived to rule after him - his wife and posthumous baby son were murdered, as were his mother and other close relations.
Daniel 11:5-6 - the king of the south - Ptolemy, one of Alexander's generals, made himself king of Egypt and Palestine, and established the Ptolemaic dynasty, which ended with the death of Cleopatra VII in 31BC. The king of the north - Seleucis, another of Alexander's generals took Persia and Syria, and tried to take Palestine from Ptolemy; he founded the Seleucid dynasty. Ptolemy II's daughter, Berenice, married Antiochus II, but they were both murdered, along with their child. This caused a war between Ptolemy III, Berenice's brother, and Seleucis II.
Daniel 11:17 - Antiochus III seized Palestine and the Sinai from Ptolemy V in 200BC. He then made his daughter, Cleopatra I, marry Ptolemy V.
Daniel 11:30 - the ships of Chittim : Kittim was one of Noah's great-grandsons (Genesis 10:1-5), whose descendents settled in "the Isles of the Gentiles" - probably the islands of the Aegean. Their descendents became the Hellenic peoples, some of whom travelled westward and became ancestors of the Romans. The Romans joined in the war between Ptolemy V and Antiochus III in 198BC, and declared that Egypt was under their "protection".
Daniel 12:7 - "time, times, and a half" - besides Singular (for one person or thing) and Plural (for multiple persons or things) Hebrew has a special form, called the Dual which is used for two, a pair, of persons or things. The dual is used for the word usually translated here as "times", so the sum of the "times" comes to three and a half. This is sometimes interpreted as referring to the three and a half years between the desecration of the Temple in 168BC and its rededication in 165BC. Another interpretation is that the three and a half, being half of seven (the "perfect number"), represents some point in the middle of time.
Daniel 12:11 - the abomination that maketh desolate refers to an event which desecrated the Temple. This occurred in 168BC, when Antiochus IV had a statue of Zeus put in the Temple at Jerusalem, and in AD70, when the Romans did likewise.
Daniel 12:11-12 - 1,290 days corresponds to 3 years and about 6-7 months. 1,335 days corresponds to 3 years and about 8 months.
Copyright © 1999 Shirley J. Rollinson, all Rights Reserved
Department of Religion
Portales, NM 88130
Last Updated: April 9, 2008