1-2: Because of Israel’s continual disobedience as a nation, God sovereignly handed Judah over to the Babylonians. They besieged the city and stole the golden temple vessels that Belshazzar would later desecrate in Daniel 5:1-4. The primary message ofDaniel’s book is that God is sovereign and controls the nations.
3-16: The Babylonians trained the most intelligent young Jewish people to assimilate into their culture and serve the king. Daniel and his three friends were among them, and worked closely with the king. Because of this, they were forced to eat the same luxurious diet as the king. However, much of this food was “unclean” according to Jewish purity laws (such as pork), so the four men found a discreet way to stay faithful to God in the midst of a hostile, pagan system. Though a diet of vegetables would normally cause someone to lose weight, God miraculously protected them in this situation by causing them to gain weight.
17-21: God sovereignly prospered Daniel and his friends by giving them wisdom, unusual learning abilities, and favor in the sight of their captors. He also gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and performed several miracles to protect him.
1-45: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream revealed the succession of kingdoms and made it clear that God sovereignly gave the kings their power (Daniel 2:37-38). The statue is made of four different materials, each representing one of four sections. It starts with valuable materials and ends with inferior, yet stronger materials (Daniel 2:39). The gold head was Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon (Daniel 2:38), the silver chest and arms were the Medo-Persian empire who defeated Babylon (Daniel 5:26-31), and the bronze belly and thighs were Greece (We know from scripture and other historical records that this was Alexander the Great’s kingdom (Daniel 8:20-21, Daniel 10:20). The fourth kingdom could be Rome, but is probably a future kingdom. The “stone cut out by no human hand” that struck the feet is Jesus. After destroying all earthly kingdoms, He will establish an eternal kingdom (Daniel 2:44, Revelation 21-22). This dream described the same events as Daniels dream in chapter 7, which gives more detail.
46-49: Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel with gifts and made him chief prefect (governor) over Babylon. He also acknowledged that Daniel’s God was Lord over kings and God over gods. However, the king remained a pagan despite acknowledging God and seeing this miracle.
1-23: Daniel’s friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were faithful to God by choosing to die rather than bow to a false god. They knew God could save them, but accepted that they might die in order to let Nebuchadnezzar know their allegiance was to the one true God. As Christians, we should follow their example and stay faithful to God even if it costs us our lives (Matthew 10:28). It would be tempting in this situation to just grow through the motions of bowing to preserve your life, but this would be to reject God before mankind (Matthew 10:32-33).
24-30: God sent an angel to rescue them in the furnace. Many theologians believe this may be an appearance of Christ, but nothing in the text explicitly indicates that it is.
1-37: King Nebuchadnezzar wrote an account of his conversion after witnessing multiple miracles. Though he turned to God, he was still prideful and thought he built his status and kingdom by his own power. But God humbled Nebuchadnezzar by reducing him to the life of a wild animal. For a period of time he went from being the most powerful king, to living a life worse than the lowest man. When this period was over and the king’s reason returned to him, he returned to his position of authority. But now Nebuchadnezzar ruled in humility, knowing that everything he had was from God alone. Verse 17 is the core message of the book of Daniel: that God is sovereign over all mankind and chooses which nations rise and fall according to His will.
1-30: Nebuchadnezzar’s son/successor, Belshazzar, threw a party and praised pagan idols by desecrating the vessels from the Jewish temple. He knew about God’s work in the life of his father, Nebuchadnezzar, yet willfully rebelled against God by worshipping pagan idols and desecrating the temple. God judged him by taking his life and handing the kingdom over to the Medes and Persians (the chest and arms of silver in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream).
1-28: Like his friends in chapter 3, Daniel was persecuted for being faithful to God. God blessed and prospered him, so Darius made him one of the most powerful men in the kingdom. This caused jealousy among his colleagues and they found a way to have him executed. However, just as an angel saved Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego, Daniel was also saved. Darius responded by throwing the accusers and their families in the lions den and made a decree that “all should tremble in fear before the God of Daniel”. It’s worth noting that Darius’ response was never condoned by God. Darius was a pagan king who did as he saw fit.
1-28: Daniel’s vision gives the same information as Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 3 (succession of kingdoms), but with more detail. Instead of a layered statue, the kingdoms were represented as beasts. The lion was Babylon. It’s “wings being plucked off and standing like a man” was probably a reference to Nebuchadnezzar going insane then having his reason return to him (standing up like a man). The Bear was the Medo-Persian empire, and the Leopard was Greece (Alexander the Great). The leopard’s four heads might’ve been the four generals that received the kingdom after Alexandra's death. The fourth beast was a final, future kingdom that will persecute the saints (Christians). In the end, Christ will judge the earth (Daniel 7:10), and the saints will rule for all eternity with Him (Daniel 7:26-27).
1-27: The vision of the Ram and Goat foretold how the Medo-Persian empire would fall to Greece. Many commentators have offered plausible interpretations of the details, but we shouldn’t be overly dogmatic since even Daniel didn't understand the vision after the angel’s explanation.
1-2: Daniel knew from Jeremiah’s prophecy that Israel would be in captivity to Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11, Jeremiah 29:10). This passage also indicates that there were already books established in the cannon of scripture by this time (“the books” in verse 10.)
3-19: Daniel interceded for Israel with a genuine prayer of repentance, asking God to turn away his wrath. He acknowledged their guilt in breaking his commandments. They broke their covenant with God, and the Babylonian exile was a curse for their disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:16-68). In verse 18 he asked that God would hear his prayer out of mercy, rather than on the basis of their righteousness.
20-23: As Daniel was praying, the angel Gabriel was sent to give him the prophecy of the “.70 weeks”.
1-9: Daniel was fasting and mourning for 21 days over the exile. An angel came to him at the Tigris river to give Daniel a vision.
10-21: The angel explained that he was delayed in coming because he was fighting against the “prince of Persia” for 21 days, and Michael had to come help. The angle may have been speaking of a human prince, but it was probably a spiritual battle with a controlling spirit (demon) that influenced the Persian rulers. Either way, it indicates that unseen spiritual factors can have an influence on the outcome of our prayers.
1-35: These were prophecies about the near future rule of nations. It covered Greece defeating the Persians under Alexandra the Great, and the fall of the Grecian Empire. It also mentions the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (Daniel 11:21-35).
36-45: This section seems to begin describing the events of future kings since it takes place “at the time of the end”.
1-13: This closing passage seems to be speaking of the end times, the final resurrection, and final judgement.