The prophet Daniel was a member of the tribe of Judah, and was descended from one of the most prominent families of that tribe (Daniel 1:3 suggests that he was actually a member of the royal family). His name means “God is my Judge.” We meet Daniel when he is taken to Babylon as a captive/ hostage after king Nebuchadnezzar first conquered Judah, around 606 B.C. It is clear that he was thoroughly educated in the scriptures, and in Babylon he became highly educated in secular studies as well. Daniel was probably between twelve and eighteen years old when he was taken to Babylon, and because of his outstanding character and abilities, he and three Jewish companions (Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) were selected for training as servants or advisors in the Babylonian court. There, the four young men distinguished themselves by their determination to maintain their purity and faithfulness to God.
Daniel lived through the entire period of captivity, becoming God’s spokesman in Babylon. He probably died there at about ninety years of age, after serving several Babylonian and Persian monarchs in various high offices. Daniel lived and prophesied at the same time as Ezekiel, although in a much more “influential” setting (the palace). There is no record of his “call” to serve as a prophet, but there is no doubt that he served God in this way.
The theme of Daniel appears in chapter 4:25 – “…the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will.” Daniel constantly emphasizes God’s universal rulership over the affairs of both individuals and nations, throughout all ages. (In OUR time, that rulership is exercised through the Christ, as Ephesians 1:20-22 shows). A key word that appears about fifteen times in Daniel is “dominion,” and it emphasizes that God rules over ALL human affairs. Daniel’s “job” was to reassure his people that their ultimate victory rested on God’s sovereignty (not king Nebuchadnezzar’s – note Daniel 12:3 and Revelation 2:26 & 3:21 in this regard).
In Daniel chapter 1 we learn the “back-ground” for the rest of the book; how Daniel was captured and taken from Jerusalem to Babylon along with king Jehoiakim (and others) because of the king’s rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. Keeping a conquered king alive as a hostage testified to the power and generosity of his captor, and putting the vessels from the Solomon’s temple in a pagan temple (supposed) demonstrated that idol’s power over Israel’s God. In reality this was an object lesson to the ISRAELITES; they had betrayed and dishonored God, and He is showing them that He could even use hostile, PAGAN nations to punish them for it.
Apparently it was because Daniel was a member of Israel’s royal family that he was taken to Babylon and singled out for training as a royal counselor (along with Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Daniel 1:4-7). Verses 8-16 emphasize Daniel’s determination to do right, and show us that he and his fellow-captives had already been well-trained in the faith of Israel. In providing “rich” food for his captives, the KING’S intentions were surely benevolent, but the Babylonians’ diet would have violated the dietary laws of the Jews; therefore Daniel proposed a comparison test to avoid partaking of the unclean food; he and his fellow Hebrews would eat a very plain (and religiously acceptable) diet, while the other captives ate what was set before them. After ten days, if the Hebrews showed any ill effects, or were less healthy than the other captives, they were to be dealt with accordingly. (Since they fared BETTER than their fellow-captives, they came to be held in high esteem even by the king.)…