Daniel was taken captive by the Babylonians. He was recognized for his giftedness and taken to be groomed for service in the king’s court. Daniel was a child of the upper class of Judah, but he was also obedient to all of his religious upbringing; he was also sensitive to the Holy Spirit and willing to follow its promptings at great risk to himself. He manifested spiritual power as a youth and exercised prophetic vision and priesthood power as an adult. The Lord blessed him with the gift of interpreting dreams and visions, which guaranteed his usefulness to the kings of the lands wherein he dwelled. Daniel lived to at least the age of eighty. He did not return from exile to Jerusalem when King Cyrus allowed the Israelites to leave Babylon, but continued as a governor and advisor to the high courts of Persia.
He was made chief of the wise men, chancellor of the equivalent of a national university, ruler of all the Hebrew captives, and, as governor of the province of Babylon, one of the chief rulers in both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. Though at times his life was endangered because of the jealousy of evil men, yet he lived so perfectly that the Lord continually protected and preserved him.
Daniel 1:3 refers to “eunuchs.” In the Bible, a eunuch was not always a castrated male. Eunuchs were honored servants, privy to the private areas of palaces where the nobility resided. In some eastern societies these men were emasculated to protect the women of the household, but not always. Thus, when the Bible speaks of eunuchs, it is impossible to tell the status of the servants’ manhood. Under Jewish law, a castrated male could not attain the same religious status as a whole male.
In Daniel 1, Daniel refuses to partake of the king’s meat. The food was probably unclean according to Jewish law. There are several reasons the food may have been unfit according to kashrut. First, it may have been the meat of an unclean animal; it may have been the meat of a clean animal, but not slaughtered according to Mosaic Law, or not drained of blood and salted; it may have been prepared improperly, for instance, with the mixing of animal meat with milk; it may have had a portion offered up to heathen gods before serving; it may have been prepared by a person who was unclean. The laws of kashrut were given by the Lord to keep the Israelites a people peculiar and apart. The kosher laws prohibited them from eating at the table of the heathen, thereby protecting them from heathen influence. Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego chose to eat “pulse” instead, a mixture of such seeds and grains as peas, wheat, barley, and rye.
There is an error in translation in Daniel 2. It appears that King Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten his dream, saying it was “gone” from him. It should probably read ‘is certain with me,’ as the Persian word azda (‘sure’) is used. This would mean that the king remembered his dream but wouldn’t tell the soothsayers, creating a real test of their abilities. Daniel could have taken credit for his ability to tell the king his dream and its interpretation, but instead he gave credit to God and taught the king about the One God and His omniscience (Daniel 2:28 ).
In Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he cites the rise and fall of various kingdoms, beginning with Babylon and ending with the coming forth of the Kingdom of God in the last days. The kingdoms were as follows:
- The kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold.
- The Medes and Persians were the arms and breast of silver.
- The Macedonian kingdom (Greek) under Alexander the Great comprised the belly and thighs of brass.
- Rome under the Caesars was the legs of iron (signifying that Rome was divided).
- Finally, the Roman empire was broken up into smaller kingdoms, represented by the feet and toes of iron and clay. One could visualize the toes as the European countries.
- The stone cut out of a mountain without hands is the gospel restoration that has burst forth in the last days. It will eventually fill the earth and become, in the millennium, the kingdom ruled by Christ Himself.
In Daniel 3 Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refuse to bow down and worship an idol. By the king’s decree, this was punishable by death. The young men engaged in humble fasting and prayer to plead for help from God. Their refusal brought them the punishment of being cast into a fiery furnace. The furnace was heated so hot, that it consumed the servants who were commissioned to cast them into it ( Daniel 3:19 ). The men were cast in, but not consumed. Nebuchadnezzar himself observed them, was astonished, and acclaimed, “Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God (Daniel 3:25). Most references to Jesus Christ were deleted from the Old Testament by Jewish sages who compiled the scriptures around 90 A.D., but this may be one that remains. The Book of Mormon prophets from the same time period referred to Christ by name.
Daniel 5:3 refers to the Babylonians’ drinking from the vessels of the Jewish temple. This act was associated with the worship of their heathen gods, and so was outright blasphemy. Daniel 5:25–29 refers to Daniel’s interpretation of the miraculous writing on the wall. The writing prophesied that Babylon would be conquered and divided. Although the prophecy was against Babylon, the king rewarded Daniel handsomely, perhaps to try to garner favor.
Babylon’s wall was 300 feet high and 100 feet thick. It was prophesied that it would fall in one day.
The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, recorded that “Cyrus had previously caused the Pallacopas, a canal which ran west of the city, and carried off the superfluous water of the Euphrates into the lake of Nitocris, to be cleared out, in order to turn the river into it; which, by this means, was rendered so shallow that his soldiers were able to penetrate along its bed into the city.” (In Samuel Fallows, ed., The Popular and Critical Bible Encyclopedia and Scriptural Dictionary, s.v. “Babylon,” p. 207.)
So the Persians, under Cyrus’ command, entered Babylon under the wall. Cyrus did not intend to conquer by force, but bestowed all sorts of rights upon the people of Babylon. They surrendered peacefully, because they were so well-treated. “Cyrus personally took the role of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, in the New Year Festival, thereby claiming for himself and his heirs the right to rule the Babylonian Empire by divine designation.” ( Discovering the Biblical World, p. 140.)
Darius of Persia set up 120 princes with 3 presidents to manage them. Daniel was the first president chosen (Daniel 6). He was so wise and talented, that Darius wanted him to run the entire realm. The others, out of jealousy, could not think of any charge they could mount against Daniel, except one that would reflect his religious standards, which would always take precedence over his loyalties to the king. They convinced Darius to issue an edict forbidding the citizens to petition anyone but him. Daniel, of course was accustomed to praying to the One God. Thus, he was to be cast into a den of lions for disobedience. The king had tried to find a way to prevent the event, and he was extremely troubled that he had not succeeded. He hoped Daniel’s God would deliver him, and he went to the den to see whether Daniel’s God had come through. Daniel was still alive, the lions pacified. Daniel was delivered from the lion’s den, and the entire families of his accusers took his place.
In Persia Daniel had a vision of four beasts, who represented the same earthly kingdoms as had the statue destroyed by the stoned cut out of the mountain without hands.
The little horn represented a notable anti-Christ power that was to be raised up after the time of the Roman Empire, and it was to be different from the other ten kingdoms mentioned after the Roman kingdom. Daniel said that this horn would have power to make war with and hinder the Saints until the time of Christ’s Second Coming (see Daniel 7:20–27 ).
Daniel saw the thrones of earthly kingdoms cast down ( Daniel 7:9 ). He then saw the establishment of the kingdom of Christ on earth. Daniel also refers to the “Ancient of Days.” This is a reference to father Adam. Adam will, at a great gathering of the righteous, turn the keys of all dispensations of time over to Jesus Christ at the beginning of the millennial reign. This is described in Doctrine and Covenants, section 27.
Daniel also had a vision of a ram and a he-goat, representing kingdoms that rose mostly before the time of Christ. And yet it also reflects into the last days:
That this prophecy refers to more than just the time up through the Maccabean period is also indicated by two phrases in Daniel 8:19 . The phrase “in the last end of the indignation” means “in the latter period of indignation, or in the last days” ( Daniel 8:19 a ). The phrase in verse 26 , “it shall be for many days,” means “pertains to many days hereafter” ( Daniel 8:26 a ).
Mormons understand that the angels in heaven have had a role during their lives on earth. The archangel Michael was Adam during his earthly life. The angel Gabriel was Noah. Gabriel/Noah was the messenger sent to Daniel. Daniel 9 speaks of seventy sevens, perhaps not referring to weeks, a time period when the Messiah would show Himself to Israel. As recorded in Daniel 10, the Lord appeared to Daniel. In Daniel 11 is portrayed the wars and contentions of dynasties into the future. Daniel was not prophesying of exact kingdoms or events, but the types of greed and behavior manifested by these kingdoms. Some of these prophecies are dualistic; in other words, they have two fulfillments.
“These conditions of desolation, born of abomination and wickedness, were to occur twice in fulfilment of Daniel’s words. The first was to be when the Roman legions under Titus, in 70 A.D. laid siege to Jerusalem, destroying and scattering the people, leaving not one stone upon another in the desecrated temple, and spreading such terror and devastation as has seldom if ever been equalled on earth. . . .
“Then, speaking of the last days, . . . our Lord said: ‘And again shall the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, be fulfilled.’ ( [JS—M] 1:31–32 .) That is: Jerusalem again will be under siege. . . . It will be during this siege that Christ will come, the wicked will be destroyed, and the millennial era commenced.” ( Mormon Doctrine, p. 12.)
The Savior specifically applied Daniel 12:1 to the fall of Judah in A.D. 70. Daniel 12:7-13 is problematic. The interpretation of the time periods mentioned in these verses has not been revealed by the Lord as yet. Numerous calculations and formulas have been put forward, each in their turn to be proven wrong.
*Parts of this article have been adapted from the LDS Institute Old Testament Manual.