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Daniel - Prophet

In Hebrew, the name Daniel means, "God is my Judge". Daniel (7 B.C. – 6 B.C.) is the protagonist in the Book of Daniel of the Hebrew Bible. In the narrative, when Daniel was a young man, he was taken into Babylonian captivity where he was educated in Chaldean thought.

However, he never converted to Neo-Babylonian ways. By Divine Wisdom from his God, Yahweh, he interpreted dreams and visions of kings, thus becoming a prominent figure in the court of Babylon. Eventually, he had apocalyptic visions of his own that have been interpreted as the Four monarchies. Some of the most famous accounts of Daniel are: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, The writing on the wall and Daniel in the lions' den.

Hebrew Bible

Book of Daniel

Induction into Babylon

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (606 BC), Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the young Jewish nobility carried off to Babylon. The four were chosen for their intellect and beauty to be trained as advisors to the Babylonian court (Daniel 1), Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar, i.e., prince of Bel, or Bel protect the king! (not to be confused with the neo-Babylonian king, Belshazzar). Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were given the Babylonian names, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, respectively.

Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar

In the narrative of Daniel chapter 2, it is the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and the king is distressed by his dreams. Thus he summons his interpreters, however, they are unable to relay or interpret the dreams. The King acts in fury and demands the execution of all the wise men in Babylon. When Daniel discovers the King's executive order, he requests from the captain of the guard, Arioch, to see the King. Daniel prays for God's mercy to receive a revelation from the King's dream. God then reveals the mystery to Daniel in a vision that night. Daniel praises his God with a doxology. After meeting with Arioch again, Daniel is granted access to the king and relays the description of the dream, followed by its interpretation. With Daniel's successful interpretation of the dream, the king expresses homage, followed by his own doxology that affirms that Daniel's God is God of gods for revealing this mystery of his dream. Daniel is then promoted as chief governor over the whole province of Babylon. At Daniel's request, his companions are also promoted, thus they remain at the king's court.

Nebuchadnezzar's madness

Nebuchadnezzar recounts a dream of a huge tree which is suddenly cut down at the command of a heavenly messenger. Daniel is summoned and interprets the dream. The tree is Nebuchadnezzar himself, who for seven years will lose his mind and become like a wild beast. All of this comes to pass until, at the end of the specified time, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that "heaven rules" and his kingdom and sanity are restored and his kingdom is restored to him.

Daniel and Belshazzar

In Daniel's later years, king Belshazzar holds a great feast for all his nobles. In a drunken state, the king calls for the sacred vessels captured from the Jerusalem temple and blasphemously drinks from them. Suddenly, the fingers of a man's hand appear before the king and write on the wall of the palace. When none of his wise men are able to interpret the message, Daniel is called in at the suggestion of the queen-mother. After reprimanding the king for his impiety, Daniel interprets the handwriting on the wall to mean that Belzhazzar is about to lose his kingdom to the Medes and the Persians. For successfully reading the cryptic handwriting, Daniel is rewarded with a purple robe and elevated to the rank of "third ruler" of the kingdom. "That very night", we are told, "Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain" and his successor was King Darius the Mede, aged 62.

Daniel and Darius the Mede

After the Persian conquest of Babylon, Daniel is depicted as one of three senior administrators of the empire in the reign of Darius the Mede. When the king decides to set Daniel over the whole kingdom, the other officials plot his downfall. Unable to uncover any corruption, they use Daniel's religious devotion to defeat him. The officials trick the king into issuing an irrevocable decree that no god is to be worshiped for a thirty day period. When Daniel continues to pray three times a day towards Jerusalem, he is thrown into a lions den,much to the distress of Darius. After an angel shuts the lions' mouths, Daniel is delivered and the corrupt officials and their wives and children thrown into the den where they are eaten instantly.

Daniel's visions

Daniel's ministry as a prophet began late in life. Whereas his early exploits were a matter of common knowledge within his community, these same events, with his pious reputation, serve as the basis for his prophetic ministry. The recognition for his prophetic message is that of other prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel whose backgrounds are the basis for their revelations.

From Chapter 7 to the end of the book of Daniel, an apocalyptic vision is being described, supposedly from the perspective of Daniel. This marks a change in the narrative from Daniel interpreting to messengers of God interpreting for Daniel. Daniel dreams of four beasts that come out of the sea: a lion with eagles wings, a bear with three tusks, a leopard with four wings and four heads, and a beast with iron teeth, ten horns and one little horn and human eyes.(Daniel 7:4-8) These beasts are all present at a convening of the divine counsel. Presiding over the counsel is the Ancient of Days, which may, in fact, be the Israelite God. The Ancient One proceeds to put to death the beast with the one little horn. (Daniel 7:9-11) Daniel also describes the fates of the other beasts saying that while their dominion was taken away, their lives were prolonged. (Daniel 7:12) This introduction leads into a series of dreams and visions where these events are expressed in greater detail.

Scholars argue that each of these beasts represent an emperor or kingdom that ruled over the Israelites. The vast majority of scholars accept the first as Babylon, the second as Media/Persia, the third as Greece and the 4th as Rome. The feet and toes represent the modern age which will be destroyed at the return of Christ when Christ is set up as head. A small group believes the first being Babylon, then Media, then Persia, and finally the Greeks. The horns of the last beast may be symbolic of the rulers that replaced Alexander the Great upon his death, culminating with the little horn, or Antiochus IV. There are additional details in the text that allude to Antiochus IV, including some form of desecration to the temple (Daniel 11:31) and persecution (Daniel 11:23). The final message of the second half of Daniel is that God will deliver the people from oppression, the latest of which is Antiochus IV.

Daniel's final days

The time and circumstances of Daniel's death have not been recorded. However, tradition maintains that Daniel was still alive in the third year of Cyrus according to the Tanakh (Daniel 10:1). He would have been almost 101 years old at that point, having been brought to Babylon when he was in his teens, more than 80 years previously. Rabbinic sources indicate that he was sill alive during the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Babylonian Talmud, Megillah 15a based on Book of Esther 4, 5). Some say he was killed by Haman, the prime minister of Ahasuerus (Targum Sheini on Esther, 4, 11). Many posit that he possibly died at Susa in Iran. Tradition holds that his tomb is located in Susa at a site known as Shush-e Daniyal. Other locations have been claimed as the site of his burial, including Daniel's Tomb in Kirkuk, Iraq, as well as Babylon, Egypt, Tarsus and, notably, Samarkand, which claims a tomb of Daniel (see "The Ruins of Afrasiab" in the Samarkand article), with some traditions suggesting that his remains were removed, perhaps by Tamerlane, from Susa to Samarkand (see, for instance, Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela, section 153).

Book of Ezekiel

The prophet Ezekiel, with whom Daniel was a contemporary, describes a Daniel as a "pattern of righteousness" in the Book of Ezekiel 14:14, 20 and "wisdom" (28:3). In the Hebrew sections of the Book of Daniel the name is spelled Danie'l whereas in the Book of Ezekiel that name is spelled Daniye'l. However it would be unwarranted to assume that Ezekiel has a different Daniel in mind, since the same spelling is used in the Aramaic sections of the Book of Daniel. Vowel-points were not added to the consonantal Hebrew text before well into the Common Era, and the scribes may then have slipped in a vowel-point for "i" as a middle syllable.)

A number of scholars have proposed that Ezekiel is referring to another Daniel, possibly the "Danel" ("Judgement of God") known from Caananite Ugaritic literature (such as the Epic of Aqhat and Anat. However Danel is never called "wise" or "righteous"; since Danel was a worshipper of Baal and other pagan gods, it would be unusual if was considered a paradigm of Jewish righteousness by Ezekiel. In contrast, the hero of the Book of Daniel is both wise and righteous.


Bel and the Dragon

In the Deuterocanonical portion of Daniel known as Bel and the Dragon, the prophet Habakkuk is supernaturally transported by an angel to take a meal to Daniel while he is in the lions' den. In response, Daniel prays, "Thou hast remembered me, O God; neither hast thou forsaken them that seek Thee and love Thee".

Views of Daniel


According to Rabbinical tradition, Daniel was of royal descent; and his fate, together with that of his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, was foretold by the prophet Isaiah to King Hezekiah in these words, "and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon".Isaiah 39:7

According to this view, Daniel and his friends were eunuchs, and were consequently able to prove the groundlessness of charges of immorality brought against them, which had almost caused their death at the hands of the king.


The prophet is commemorated in the Coptic Church on the 23rd day of the Coptic month of Baramhat.

On the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar, the feast days celebrating St. Daniel the Prophet together with the Three Young Men, falls on December 17 (during the Nativity Fast), on the Sunday of the Holy Forefathers (the Sunday which falls between 11 and 17 December), and on the Sunday before Nativity. Daniel's prophesy regarding the stone which smashed the idol (Daniel 2:34-35) is often used in Orthodox hymns as a metaphor for the Incarnation: the "stone cut out" being symbolic of the Logos (Christ), and the fact that it was cut "without hands" being symbolic of the virgin birth. Thus the hymns will refer to the Theotokos (Virgin Mary) as the "uncut mountain"

Daniel is commemorated as a prophet in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod together with the Three Young Men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego), on December 17.

The Roman Catholic Church commemorates St. Daniel in the Roman Martyrology on July 21. However, his commemoration at Mass occurs only on local calendars of particular dioceses, sometimes on July 21 and sometimes on another day. For example, the archdiocese of Gorizia celebrates the feast of St. Daniel, prophet and confessor, on September 11. The reading of the Mass is taken from the Book of Daniel, chapter 14; the Gradual from Psalm 91; the Alleluia verse from the Epistle of James 1; and the Gospel from Matthew 24.


Muslims traditionally consider Daniel (Arabic: دانيال, Danyal) as an Islamic prophet, alongside the other major prophets of the Old Testament. Although Daniel is not mentioned in the Qur'an, there are accounts of Daniel's life which feature in later Muslim literature. Daniel is listed as a prophet in all major versions of Stories of the Prophets. When the Muslims conquered Alexandria in AD 641, a mosque was immediately built dedicated to Daniel.

Muslim exegesis, including Tabari's History of the Prophets and Kings narrates that Daniel was carried off to Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar's attack on Jerusalem. It goes onto state that there he was thrown into the den of the lions, but was later rescued. In one such account, Daniel is aided by Jeremiah, who comes to Babylon to help Daniel in the lions den. In the apocryphal Bel and the Dragon, however, there is a very similar tale which states that the Hebrew prophet Habbakuk was miraculously transported to the den of the lions, to give a meal to Daniel.

All sources, classical and modern, describe Daniel as a saintly and spiritual man. Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his Qur'anic commentary says:

Daniel was a righteous man of princely lineage and lived about 506-538 B.C. He was carried off to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar, the Assyrian, but was still living when Assyria was overthrown by the Medes and Persians. In spite of the "captivity" of the Jews, Daniel enjoyed the highest offices of state at Babylon, but he was ever true to Jerusalem. His enemies (under the Persian monarch) got a penal law passed against any one who "asked a petition of any god or man for 30 days" except the Persian King. But Daniel continued true to Jerusalem. "His windows being open in his chambers towards Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime."

—Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary

Six tombs of Daniel

There are six different locations claiming to be the site of the tomb of the biblical figure Daniel: Babylon, Kirkuk and Muqdadiyah in Iraq, Susa and Malamir in Iran, and Samarkand in Uzbekistan.

The text in this box was generated from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the CC-BY-SA.

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