Intro to Daniel
The Old Testament book of Daniel is like no other book of the Old Testament. It contains unique stories of fidelity to God, and there are numerous prophecies in the book as well. The prophetic revelations God gave to Daniel are quite distinct. So distinct, in fact, that an entire genre of literature has emerged from them. It is called “apocalyptic literature.” Apocalyptic literature can also be found in the book of Revelation, which is one of the reasons why the messages of Daniel and Revelation are so connected.
Flowchart and Parallel Themes in Daniel
In order to understand the book’s main message, we must start by looking at “the forest”, the bird’s eye view of the book. Doing this allows us to see the way in which Daniel laid out the book. He was very diligent in recording specific parallel concepts in a rather organized fashion! Once we see the flow of chapters and their parallel themes, we can better understand the book’s main message.
Each of the multiple stories found in the book of Daniel correlates with another. For example, the following chapters correspond with each other:
- Chapters 1 and 12
- Chapters 2,7,8,11
- Chapters 3 & 6
- Chapters 4 & 5
- Chapters 9 & 10
(You can see this visually in the flowchart below. Download available.)
Chapter 1 shows the captivity of God’s people in history (Babylon) while chapter 12 shows the great liberation of God’s people into His kingdom at the end of the age.
Chapters 2, 7, 8, 11 reveal four great beasts (the earthly kingdoms of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome) that will be set against God’s people. A final beast will be destroyed and God’s kingdom will be ushered in.
Chapters 3 & 6 explain the false worship that Daniel was confronted with and his faith to withstand. He keeps his allegiance to the only true and living God, revealed in Scripture, who was to be worshiped. (Revelation 13 gives a future glimpse of a coming false worship that will be similar and will try the patience and faithfulness of God’s people.)
Chapters 4 & 5 tell the story of two rulers, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar, whom a sovereign God brought under His judgments. This is a clear foreshadowing of the reality that all will be judged by God’s sovereign hand. There is no hiding from Him who sees all.
Chapters 9 & 10 comfort Daniel when he is reassured of God’s provision and protection of His people. He first is visited by the angel Gabriel who reveals the “70 weeks of Daniel.” Then there is the appearance of a man who reveals to Daniel that God and His angels are in the battle for His people and against the powers of this evil world.
(You can see this visually in the Parallel Themes chart below. Download available.)
Chronology of Daniel
At this point, we should also note that the events of Daniel are not in chronological order. The actual chronology is: chapters 1-4, 7-8, 5-6, 9-12. Notice that chapters 5-6 and chapters 7-8 are flip-flopped with each other. Why did Daniel arrange the book this way? It is possible he was simply using a literary device. You can see the full timeline with known dates and events on our Chronology of Daniel page.
Daniel’s Main Message
Now that we have seen the major themes of each chapter, we can conclude that the main message of Daniel is that God is sovereign over everything! He does and will continue to work all things toward the establishing of His kingdom over all and specifically for His people.
This sovereignty of God can be seen from the very onset of the book. Daniel 1:1 says “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.” Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem – but it was God who was sovereignly at work because it then immediately states: “And the Lord handed Jehoiakim king of Judah over to him…” Daniel 1:2 (See 2 Chronicles 36:5-8). This should give us confidence and reassurance that God is sovereign over each of us even when it seems like He’s not working to our benefit! Like Psalm 103:19 says, “The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, And His sovereignty rules over all.”
We also see God’s sovereignty clearly in chapters 2, 7, 8, 11 when Daniel relates his dreams and visions, and they so carefully predict how the kingdoms of this world will unfold. These prophecies, which were written during the sixth century b.c., find incredibly accurate fulfillment in past history. Some are yet to be fulfilled and God will perfectly carry them out according to Scripture!
Next, we see God’s sovereignty in His judgments of Kings Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar in chapters 4 & 5. We see His sovereign protection over His own people in chapters 3 & 6 during two different kingdoms: Babylonian (Nebuchadnezzar) and Medo-Persian (Darius).
So even in the midst of trouble, God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose! (Romans 8:28) Does the book of Daniel reassure you of this? It should.
Further, in chapters 9 & 10, Daniel steps out in faith to inquire of God and His provisions for the future of His people. He not only was told of God’s provisions, but also God’s protections. God had/has a sovereign plan for Israel as seen in the 70 weeks of Daniel, and God is present and sends help for His own, even via angels, in the midst of every battle that is waged. Can the people of God bring glory to Him in trusting that the provisions and the battle are really His? Can you?
And of course, Daniel 12 ends with the perseverance of God’s own people at the end of this present evil age and the reality that – God will win in the end! Are you ready?
For More on Daniel and End Time Events
To consider the identity of Belshazzar: Belshazzar on Bible Hub
To consider the identity of Darius the Mede: Darius in the Bible – Got Questions
To further research the historical complexities of Belshazzar and Darius the Mede:
Historical Evidence of Belshazzar & Darius the Mede – BibleHistory.net
Or reference: Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Ezekiel & Daniel, Volume 9, p. 597-606 & 617-622 – Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, March 2006.
The Chronology of Daniel – By David Sheldon
Prophecies Concerning the Final World Kingdom – By David Sheldon
End Time Events: A Brief Overview – By David Sheldon
The Church’s New Agenda – By David Sheldon
The Beast From the Sea – By David Sheldon
Babylon in Revelation – By David Sheldon