The Book of Daniel - Introduction
The reports about Daniel in this book may contain elements about an older figure, or figures, with the same name: a king in an Ugaritic legend of the fourteenth century B.C.E.; the example, along with Noah and Job, of a righteous person in Ezek. 14.14 ; and a wise person who knows secrets in Ezek. 28.3 ; these three Daniels may reflect an ancient tradition about a single figure.
The book divides neatly into two parts. In chs. 1–6 , Daniel is a young Jew at a foreign court, who, by his ability to interpret royal dreams, and through divine revelation, becomes a vizier to kings. In chs. 8–12 , Daniel himself has the visions, and must turn to angels for interpretation. Chapter 7 , belonging with chs. 1–6 in its idea of a succession of kingdoms, but also containing the first of the visions characteristic of the second section, unites the two parts. In language, too, ch. 7 provides a bridge between the two parts: Aramaic, rather than Hebrew, is found in 2.4–7.28; see 2.4 n. In chs. 1–6 Daniel has many of the characteristics of Joseph at the Pharaoh's court in Gen. ch. 41 ; in chs. 7–12 the author builds on elements from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel to fashion the most fully developed example of apocalyptic literature in the Old Testament; see 8.17 n., 12.1 n. , and the heavenly figures of ch. 7 .
The stories and visions are set in the Babylonian and Persian periods (sixth-fourth centuries B.C.E.), but they reflect a later time, primarily that of the successors to Alexander the Great. Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–163 B.C.E.) and his wars with the Egyptians (see 7.8 n. ) are especially in view. In chs. 7–12 , Antiochus, though anonymous as befits apocalyptic literature, emerges in more and more detail as the oppressor of the Jews. In the face of his intense persecution, the book gives great encouragement to the Jews by promising God's ultimate vindication of the righteous.
Additional stories in the Daniel tradition are found in the Sept. expansion of the book, and appear in the Apocrypha in The Prayer of Azariah and The Song of the Three; Daniel and Susanna; and Daniel, Bel, and the Snake.