Historical Setting

The stories included in the Book of Daniel took place between 605-537 BC. Israel had divided into two nations after the death of King Solomon. His son, Rehoboam, was the leader of the Southern Kingdom (Judah – 2 southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin) and Jereboam ruled the Northern Kingdom (Israel – the remaining 10 tribes to the north).

The Northern Kingdom was defeated by the Assyrians in 721 BC and ceased to exist as a nation. All that remained was the nation of Judah with Jerusalem as its capitol. After King Josiah died, Jehoiakim became King of Judah (now also popularly called “Israel” since the Northern Kingdom had disappeared) (see 2 Chronicles 36:5-8).

During Jehoiakim’s reign, Babylon began to overthrow the nation of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, led his army through Judah on three occasions. In other words, he took over Judah in stages. The first onslaught was in 605 BC – and is mentioned only in Daniel 1. Nebuchadnezzar would complete his assault of Judah in 586 BC when he destroyed the city and burned the Temple to the ground. He also destroyed the wall around the Holy City.

In the first stage of his military conquest, the King of Babylon decided to capture some of the finest young leaders in Judah and transport them back to his country (Daniel 1:3-5). These young Israelites were to be trained in the ways of the Babylonians and serve the court of the king. Daniel was one of the Jewish young men captured and exiled. Nebuchadnezzar also pillaged the Temple in 605 BC and took some of the gold back to Babylon.

These events serve as the backdrop to the Book of Daniel. It was a tumultuous time, to say the least. Daniel would live in Babylon long enough to see the Persians come to power and the Jews released to return home. He served in the courts of several pagan kings while he was in captivity. He distinguished himself as a leader and a trusted servant of both God and man.

As noted in the quotation above from Dr. Joyce Baldwin, the Book of Daniel is a bit unusual. It is not a pure prophecy. It is also not a pure historical account. It is some kind of hybrid that contains some very interesting sections of material. Further, it is written in two languages. Daniel 1:1-2:4a and 8:1-12:13 are written in Hebrew. Daniel 2:4b-7:28 is written in Aramaic. These two languages are very close in terms of typical language comparisons.