Daniel: A Quick Overview

by Ted Weathers

Understanding Daniel is key to interpreting other prophetic scripture. When interpreted from a “literal” point of view, it is neither particularly complicated nor confusing. As Christian readers, among our major concerns should be to rightly divide the Word of truth (II Timothy 2:15), recognizing that all scripture is given by inspiration of God (II Timothy 3:16). As one reads the Bible, including Biblical prophecy, it is best to take passages “literally” except where the context clearly indicates differently. In Daniel it is clear that many of the images are symbolic; however, the numbers and the interpretations are to be taken at face value. Most Biblical scholars, both liberal and conservative, acknowledge the precision with which the prophetic descriptions in Daniel parallel the actual history. [Though the following is my interpretation, it is neither complete nor in any sense infallible.]

The large statue in Daniel 2 and the beasts of Daniel 7 represent the four major kingdoms of the Age of the Gentiles from Nebuchadnezzar until the Divine Kingdom:

Kingdom                          Image Part                  Material                  “Beast”  Time Period

Babylonian                      Head                               Gold                           Lion             606 BC – 539 BC

Medo-Persian                 Chest, Arms                  Silver                      Bear/Ram       539 BC – 331 BC

Grecian                            Belly, thighs               Bronze        Leopard/He-goat   331 BC – 146 BC

Roman                    Legs/feet/toes       Iron/Iron-Clay   Terrifying/Frightful 146 BC – AD 476

Divine                         Boulder                     Stone                         Court      Christ’s 2nd Coming ->

In chapters 2 and 7-12 God reveals through Daniel an outline of the world’s major Gentile kingdoms from Israel’s captivity under Nebuchadnezzar until the end of the fourth of the Gentile kingdoms, when Christ, “the stone that was set apart,” “the Ancient of Days,” “the Son of David” returns in authority and power. Chapters 2 and 7 seem to indicate that the closing of the Time of the Gentiles coincides with the return of Christ. Completely destroying the Gentile power structure and society, He, with His saints, will establish His Divine Kingdom.

Within the context of the Times of the Gentiles come the activities of the “Greek” (four heads) [chapter 7], four horns and little horn (He-goat), and the “Roman” (ten toes) ten horns and little horn (Terrifying beast) [chapter 8]. Then Gabriel introduces the Seventy Sevens [chapter 9]: “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy.”

Notice that there are two different little horns from different backgrounds. The little horn from the He-goat comes out of one of the four horns of the Greek kingdoms after the death of Alexander the Great (the one horn). Then emerges the little horn from among the ten horns of the ferocious Roman beast.

The first of these, the little horn from the He-goat, is Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.), king of Syria, a successor of Seleucus, one of the four generals who replaced Alexander the Great and established Syria. Antiochus IV was very harsh with the Jews — he ransacked the Temple, installed foreign idols, and sacrificed a pig on the altar. Antiochus, the subject of Daniel 8:9‑12, 23-25; and 11:21-35, is different from the little horn in Daniel 7, but is clearly a type of and fore-shadowing of the Roman little horn, the Antichrist.

The second little horn, coming out of the Roman tradition, rises up in the midst of ten horns and then uproots three of the ten. This little horn, the Antichrist, is a yet future ruler who will dominate the affairs of the Seventieth Seven, the last seven years of the fourth kingdom.

Given the precision of prophecies given though Daniel up to the time of Christ it is difficult to believe that the rest will not be fulfilled in like fashion. Therefore, many scholars believe that when Christ was “cut off,” the prophetic Seventy weeks calendar was put on hold. In the interval between the Sixty-ninth week and the Seventieth we have an indefinite period of which the Old Testament prophets knew nothing—the age of the church. This age is referred to in the New Testament as the mystery ( Colossians 1:25-27, et.al.).

A CHRONOLOGY OF DANIEL:                                                                               (Most time periods represent years of reign)

605-562 BC Nebuchadnezzar’s reign

606-603 BC Daniel 1: Military action in the Holy Land; examination of                 trainees.

604 BC Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the four-plus part image

c.589 BC Daniel 3: Golden image and the fiery furnace

c.570 BC Daniel 4: Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and punishment

Babylonian rulers after Nebuchadnezzar’s reign:
Evilmerodach: 561-559 BC
Nergal-sharezer: 559-556 BC
Nabonadus: 555-538 BC
Belshazzar: c.548-538 BC

c.548 BC Daniel 7: Vision of four beasts

c.538 BC Daniel 8: Ram and he-goat (see fulfillment of prophecy below)

538 BC Daniel 5: Handwriting on the wall                                                          Darius the Mede: 538-536 BC

538 BC Daniel 9: Seventy weeks — the desolations of Jerusalem (to return the rests of the seventy Sabbath years to the land) 606 BC to 536 BC (9:2)  Return to the land: 538 BC  (see fulfillment of prophecy below)

c.536 BC Daniel 6: Lions’ den

534 BC Daniel 10: God of Glory
Note: Daniel 10-12 are actually a unit. The last sentence of Daniel 10 and the first sentence of 11 flow together and probably should be treated as parenthetical. They refer to Gabriel’s actions in Daniel 8 and have nothing to do with the dating of Daniel 11. Apparently the prince of Persia and the prince of Greece are not human rulers but angels with power and authority to aid and/or direct affairs on Earth (Daniel 10:13, 20; 12:1). Daniel 12:1-4 is the conclusion of the narrative at the end of chapter 11.

534 BC Daniel 11: Darius to end times (see fulfillment of prophecy below)

534 BC Daniel 12: End of days


(Chapter 8) Prophecy, and how it was fulfilled:

Medo- Persian Empire (8:3, 20)
Alexander the Great: 336-323 B.C. (8:5-8, 21)
Ptolemy: 323-284 BC (Ptolemies) of Egypt
Cassander: 319-297 BC (Antigonids) of Macedonia
Seleucus (sə `lu kəs): 323-281 BC (Seleucids) of Syria, Mesopotamia
Lysimachus (ly `sǐm ə kəs): 323-281 BC (Attalids) of Pergamum, Thrace, Bithynia (now western Turkey) (8:22)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes: 175-164 BC: 2300 days 171 BC (desecration)-164 BC (death–cleansing) (8:9-14, 23-25)

(Chapter 9) Prophecy and how it was fulfilled:

Cyrus: 550-536-530 BC (550 became King of Media-Persia; 536 replaced his deceased governor, King Darius and reigned until 530 BC)
1st decree for rebuilding the Temple made by Cyrus 536 BC
King Artaxerxes: 464-425 BC
2nd decree for rebuilding the Temple made by King Artaxerxes 458 BC (Ezra 6-7)
3rd decree to rebuild Jerusalem city walls was issued by Artaxerxes circa March 16, 445 BC (Nehemiah 2)

(Chapter 11)  Prophecy and how it was fulfilled:

Amazingly detailed prophecies: the first thirty-five verses of chapter 11 contain approximately one hundred and thirty-five prophetic statements, now fulfilled (information from John Walvoord on Daniel).

Alexander the Great: 336-323 BC (11:3-4)
Ptolemy I Soter: 323-285 BC (King of the South- Egypt) (11:5)
Seleucus I Nicator: 312-281 BC (King of the North- Babylonia, Media, and Syria) (11:6)
Seleucus I divorced Laodiceia to marry Berenice (11:6); Laodiceia murdered Ptolemy I, Berenice, and child.
Seleucus Callinicus: 247-226 BC
counter-attacked Egypt: 240 BC (11: 9)
Ptolemy III Euergetes: 246-221 BC
defeated Seleucus Callinicus and took captives to Egypt (11:7-8)
gave Cilicia to Antiochus (the Great) 223-187 BC
Seleucus III: 226-223 BC
Antiochus III the Great: 223-187 BC
restored Syrian territory (11:10)
took the fortified city Sidon: 199-198 BC (11:15)
betrothed his daughter, Cleopatra, to 7-year old Ptolemy V Epiphanes (she sided with her husband, not her father): 192 BC (11:17)
died at Elam on his way home in 187 BC (11:18-19)
Ptolemy IV Philopator: 221-203 BC
a sluggard, failed to properly protect his kingdom. Humiliated, he pursued Antiochus III with 70,000 troops: 217 BC (11:11-12)
The indolent king failed to press his advantage, leaving his successor to unsuccessfully resist a counter offensive: 201 BC (11:13-16)
Seleucus IV Philopator: 187-175 BC
raised taxes to pay tribute to Rome (11:20)
Antiochus IV Epiphanes: 175-164 BC (11:21-35)
a vile person; a flatterer desecrated the sanctuary and stopped regular sacrifice; set up the abomination of desolation (put Greek idols in the Temple and slaughtered a hog on the altar) (11:31)

An impressive introduction to events yet future (11:36-44)