Daniel’s story takes place during the exile, though some of the Israelites have returned to Jerusalem by the end. For so short a book, he does have two pretty infamous Old Testament stories that I’ve heard a few times. But there’s also some crazy prophecy in here too.
This chapter introduces the story of Daniel and his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. This is one of the few Old Testament stories I’ve heard at church, but I didn’t know some of these details about their beginnings together. The four are among the Israelite nobility that are to be taught “the literature and language of the Chaldeans”. They are brought in and renamed. They become Beltshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.
During this time they are to be given “the king’s food” but Daniel refuses it and asks the guard to test which is better for them. In the end, the guard acquiesces to the new food when they are healthier than the others.
At this point, Nebuchadnezzer has a dream and is trying to get someone to interpret it. After some issue finding someone, Daniel finally volunteers, having received a vision from God about it. The dream is about the times to come and are represented in different metals and clay. Each differing substance represents a kingdom to come there after Nebuchadnezzer and it’s relative strength to his. Since none of his other “wise” men would dare attempt the interpretation, the king puts Daniel in charge of them with a bunch of other honors.
Here is the familiar part of the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Nebuchadnezzer wants everyone to worship his golden image and these three don’t and are reported against. There are probably others who don’t, but these three would have been working with and among the Babylonians, so it would have been apparent to the locals. Also, the locals had an interest in making sure these exiles, no matter how highly placed, listened to their king. I feel like there were probably others in Israelite enclaves that didn’t do it too but weren’t reported.
These three were brought before the king and he threatened them with the “burning fiery furnace” and they still refuse, sure that their God will save them. They get thrown in the furnace and the guys who throw them in are consumed with by the fire, but they stand in the furnace and not a hair on their heads is singed. They’re let out and Nebuchadnezzer decrees that no one should ever talk poorly of their God and issues a pretty steep punishment for those who do.
This chapter is a reckoning for King Nebuchadnezzer, who had never had any reason to think that he hadn’t conquered all those lands by his own greatness. God gives him another dream to warn him that he didn’t do all that on his own and that he will be humbled. Daniel is brought out to interpret the dream and is hesitant to do so. Finally he interprets it and the king is understandably upset. Daniel gives him some advice that maybe he could extend his prosperous time by being righteous but it’s to no avail.
Eventually the king is lamenting his fate when God speaks to him directly and says everything that Daniel had said, and then it all immediately befalls him. Still, it’s not all bad because Nebuchadnezzer eventually returns to power, having been humbled and praised God.
The new king is Belshazzar, not to be confused with Daniel’s new name, Beltshazzar. This guy decides to have everyone at what seems to be a feast drink their wine out of the “golden vessels” that had come out of the temple. He’s there with all his “wives and concubines” but wasn’t there until later. In a terrifying turn of events for this banquet, a hand appears by the wall and begins to write with it’s fingers on it something.
I don’t care what the writing says, a hand appeared out of nowhere and started writing. That’s terrifying enough. But of course, I would also have to know what it wrote. The queen comes in and tells the king of Daniel and his abilities, so he’s brought in. The prophecy written on the wall isn’t great, but he’s rewarded for his ability and honesty anyway. And then the king is overthrown, as mentioned in the writing. I suppose that’s where that saying comes from.
At this point we have king Darius the Mede. Like most of the other prophets, there comes a point when others begin to plot against them. As usual, this doesn’t work. They arrange a decree that they know Daniel won’t follow and then have him punished for not following it by being put into a lion’s den. At the end of the day, the king goes to check in on him and finds him not only alive, but with not a mark on him. The king realizes that Daniel’s God is great and will protect him, so he brings him out and Daniel is allowed to carry on as usual. The guys who sold him out, on the other hand, are thrown in with their wives and children and everyone is promptly eaten.
These are both creepy visions from times already passed about kingdoms that will come and go.
Daniel checks up on how much time has passed since the exile began and how much is yet to come according to the prophecy by Jeremiah. He goes on to pray for his people and earns himself a visit by Gabriel who explains things to him. Unfortunately, the explanation still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to most people and scholars are still arguing about the timing and what it means. Rather than jump into all that, suffice it for me to say that it has nothing to do with the status or view of women during this time and I’m going to move on.
These chapters are all one complete vision where Daniel begins standing around with some friends and then he sees a strange looking man. His friends don’t see the man, but are totally weirded out and seem to feel a presence. The man tells him about some kings and takeovers and wars that are to come. I got lost in the king of the north did this and then the king of south does that without knowing which kingdom is which. I did manage to find a Wikipedia page dedicated to giving historical context to it and therefore explain it in a way that makes sense.
Within these chapters, there are a few mentions of women. The first is in 11:17 when one king tries to set the other up by having him marry his daughter, hoping that she will be more loyal to her father than her husband. That’s not how it goes though and she ends up being an advantage to her husband. Still the verse is written in an interesting way:
17He shall set his face to come with the strength of his whole kingdom, and he shall bring terms of an agreement and perform them. He shall give him the daughter of women to destroy the kingdom,c but it shall not stand or be to his advantage.
Not sure what “daughter of women” means that wouldn’t be evident from just “daughter” but whatever. Some other translations omit that part all together and some even say “in marriage” so that the point is more evident. A bit later there’s this one:
37He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.
I’m also not sure who “the one beloved by women” is. Since the study section of my Bible does appear to have about the same breakdown as the linked Wikipedia page, it appears that they are Greek and the god might be Adonis or Dionysius. Other translations also call this god as being “desired” or “longed for” by women. I guess ESV is just being gentle with “beloved”.
And that’s all of Daniel.