Daniel [Dăn'iel]—god is my judge.
Nothing is known of the ancestry and early life of this celebrated Jewish prophet who exercised tremendous influence in the Babylonian court, and whose name can mean: “Who in the name of God does Justice.” Daniel was not a priest like Jeremiah or Ezekiel but like Isaiah he was descended from the time of Judah and was probably of royal blood (Dan. 1:3-6). A comparison of 2 Kings 20:17, 18 with Isaiah 29:6, 7 seems to indicate that Daniel was descended from king Hezekiah.
As a youth of the age of fifteen or thereabouts, Daniel was carried captive to Babylon (Dan. 1:1-4) in the third year of Jehoiakim. From then on his whole life was spent in exile. What Daniel was like we are not expressly told but the details given in the first chapter of his book suggest he must have been a handsome youth. There is a tradition to the effect that “he had a spare, dry, tall figure with a beautiful expression.” Dr. Alexander Whyte says of Daniel: “There is always a singular lustre and nobility and stately distinction about him. There is a note of birth and breeding and aristocracy about his whole name and character.” As we study his character we cannot but be impressed with his refinement, his reserve and the high sculpture of his life.
Daniel comes before us as an interpreter of dreams and of signs, a conspicuous seer, an official of kings. He lived a long and active life in the courts and councils of some of the greatest monarchs the world has known, like Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus and Darius. Close intimacy with heaven made Daniel the courtier, statesman, man of business and prophet he was. Bishop Ken reminds us that “Daniel was one that kept his station in the greatest of revolutions, reconciling politics and religion, business and devotion, magnanimity with humility, authority with affability, conversation with retirement, Heaven and the Court, the favour of God and of the King.”
The significant meaning of Daniel’s name accords with the character and contents of the Book of Daniel, written by the prophet himself—the first six chapters in the third person, the last six in the first person.
As the distinguished historian of some of the most important dispensational teaching given in the Bible, Daniel’s book sets forth:
A statement of God’s judgment on history.
The purpose of God until the final consummation.
The vindication of righteousness.
It would take a whole book to deal with Daniel’s prophetic visions of Gentile dominion and defeat. Profitable homiletical material can be used showing Daniel’s self-control (Dan. 1:8; 10:3), undaunted courage (5:22, 23), constant integrity (6:4), unceasing prayerfulness (2:17, 18; 6:16), native humility (10:17) and spiritual vision (7:9, 12; 10:5, 6).