Book of Daniel Discussion Lesson 2

I. Introduction and Re-cap

II. Chapter 6 This folk tale closes out the first half of the book. The officials don’t want Daniel to become their head, so they set a trap.

A. Read 6:6:8, 10-12.

What’s happening here? What did the viziers do? How did Daniel respond? Did he show signs of trying to be respectful of the king’s prerogatives?

A Jew is not required to be a martyr in such circumstances? How did Daniel act to pray and yet not violate the order?

(He prays in private because he doesn’t want visibly to affront the king, yet it’s his practice to appear before and pray to his God. Prayer is a part of the life of the faithful who are bound to love and serve God. He appears to be simply thanking God and praying generally, rather than making a request. Yet, that say he was “supplicating.”)

B. Read 6:17, 21-23, and 26.

1. How/why does the king think God will save Daniel? How does this comport with our faith?

(There’s a sense that if a person serves God (as sages credit Daniel, for doing such things as acts of loving-kindness), God will respond with loving-kindness and saving. There’s a sense here of God’s love for us and our love of God, wrapped around our love of others.

Does it sometimes happen that we lose our lives but are saved? Think Bonheoffer.)

2. How did the miracle occur?

(Some say it’s because God, in response to prayers, sent an angel in the form of a very fearsome lion that frightened the other lions. Some say Habakkuk then came with his workers and celebrated the miracle with Daniel.)

3. Note the conclusion. There’s a Midrash that when the king showed the viziers that Daniel was unharmed they claimed it was because the lions weren’t hungry. This, then, is why the king put them and their families in the pit! There’s also a sense in which the unjust accusers get what they sought and, as unjust as it might seem, that since their families were likely complicit, they were part of the sentence.

The real miracle is the king’s declaration for the whole world that all should fear the God of Daniel, who is the everlasting God, Who saves and rescues.

III. Chapter 7 The accounts in chapters 7-12 are from Daniel’s perspective. And these in chapter 7 occurred before the events in chapter 5. It bears resemblance to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2. This is Daniel’s dream of the four beasts. (This is likely written at time of Antiochus Epiphanes, though the debate about the timing of the writing of Daniel, especially the latter chapters, has been lengthy and fierce. Most scholars and some religious writers believe in this later writing. But others, especially religious writers and some scholars argue forcefully that the book is of whole cloth - imagined and constructed at the time of the exile.)

A. Read 7:3-8. Here are descriptions of the 4 beasts. Who do they represent, and what does the dream mean?

(The first, like a lion with wings, refers to Nebuchadnezzar from references in Jeremiah, Isaiah, and the Torah. It is arrogant, swoops down, speedy and energetic, and very powerful. Its wings are plucked, referring to its takedown by the Persians and Medes, and wiped from the earth. It became as common as just a man.

It could refer as well to his decline after his madness.

The second was like a bear or wolf. This is Persia, associated with the Medes. Corpulent, not fast or agile like the eagle. We see its defeat treated in Esther. The 3 ribs suggest the 3 kings – Cyrus, Ahasuerus, and Darius. Persia included 3 areas – Assyria, Media, and Persia.

The Persians destroyed Babylon but were relatively benevolent rulers over others. They fell when the Greeks came.

The third, the leopard with 4 bird’s wings on its back, is likely Greece. The leopard is ferocious, impudent, and agile. The wings are like the speed of Alexander’s movements in all directions.

The fourth, terrifying, awesome, and strong, with iron teeth and ten horns (emperors) and another horn (Titus), eating and crumbling (those it conquers), is, to most observers, Rome. BUT, others see the Hellenistic successors to Alexander, including the Seleucids, who vexed the Jews at the time of the book’s prominence. Others see a variety of nations and even religions in some of the images.

This goes to show how powerful this literature is and how its images can be seen and understood, even in later times.

B. Read 7:9-10.

This is a fantastic account of the Divine Tribunal. Note the description of the Ancient One, presumably God. This is new in the Hebrew Bible. The fire is akin to that described in Ezekiel. The beasts face downfall.

C. Read 7:13-22.

1.One in a human likeness seems to be anointed. Is this the Messiah? Is this a foretelling of Jesus?

For Christian thinkers, chapters 7-9 are the core of the book, for in their mind, the verses here are seen as a prophecy of Jesus, his coming, his death, and the coming Messianic kingdom. Rashi, the Jewish sage, sees this as a representation of a coming Messiah.

Or, as indicated by the angel who instructs Daniel in the meaning of his dream, it might not be a human being but rather the “high holy ones” who receive the kingship after the fall of the beasts, as mentioned in verse 18 and verses 21-22. Who are they? Most Jewish commentators, based on Deuteronomy 26:19, Psalms 16:3 and 34:10, et. al., believe this is the community of Israel.

Some Christian commentators say these are rather “saints of the Most High.”

Let’s explore these perspectives.


(The Anchor scholars (L. Hartman and A. Di Lella) say there’s no messianic meaning specifically in this image, either for Jews or Christians, though later sources clearly extend it to be about either Israel metaphorically or a real person, specifically Elijah or the Messiah and then, for Christians, Jesus.

The high holy ones, the angel says, are the right understanding of what Daniel saw, thinking he saw a man. This is a common way of referring to the people, Israel. It is a holy people. Exodus 19:6, Deuteronomy 26:19)

Christian translations see these as saints.)

2. We seem to see a battle between the 4th beast and the holy ones in verses 21-22. Much has been read into this battle, of course. Jewish sages think the holy high ones who prevail are Israel (Malbim).

We see a continuing account of this 4th beast in the next verses, 23-27. And further battle takes place, in which the beast appears in control. But, then, after “a time, and times, and half a time,” they will overcome the beast and take final dominion.

This is considered to be the end of days. There’s been considerable discussion about what this involves, and when this is, as well. Virtually all the dates imagined by Jewish sages have passed, and sages generally strongly warn against trying to foretell the end out of a fear of its effect on faith. Yet, many try!

There is a great emphasis here and throughout the remainder of the book (as well as in most apocalyptic literature on the end time and when, what, how, where of it) on these matters.

Why do you think this literature emerged? And what are we to make of it, especially the parts that had predictions or forecasts of times that have long since passed?


IV. Chapter 8 Daniel has a vision of a ram (Persia here) that comes across a he-goat (Greece) with a conspicuous horn (Alexander) that smote the ram. It grew exceedingly, and the mightiest horn (Alexander) was broken, and a semblance of four came on, one of which was a little horn (likely Epiphanes of the Seleucids or then possibly early Rome).

This was likely written after Epiphanes’ desecration of the Temple in December, 167 BCE, though as discussed above, there is considerable argument for a holistic single writing in the exile period.

A. It (Rome) grows greatly. “It grew up to the host of heaven: and it threw to the earth some of the host and some of the stars, and trampled them. It exalted itself even up to the Prince of the legion.” 8:10-11, and follows.

What does this mean?

(Whether this is the Seleucids or the Romans, they are seen as dominating the people of God and suppressing them, defying God Himself. The verses go on to describe the destruction of sacred space, including the Temple itself.)

B. In verses 13-16, we see Gabriel (who’s named the first time an angel is named in the Hebrew Bible), speaking to Daniel, and Daniel asking about the future, perhaps of Michael. He gets a vision of how long this exile/devastation will last.

He is told of the animals – the succession of powers of those that dominate. There will be a brazen faced king who arises. (Likely Epiphanes or perhaps Vespasian or Titus, or Rome.) He will succeed against the “holy ones” in many ways, out of cunning, deceit, and grow proud. He will stand up to the Prince. But, when pagan kingdoms come to an end, he’ll be beaten and broken by God.

Alternatively, this could be Antiochus, and what is seen or forecast is what occurs in the Chanukah story.

Daniel is to see but likely not fully understand the exact duration of the persecution or “the End.” We do see numbers of days, however, that doesn’t seem exactly accurate to any point in history.

As in Habakkuk, while the prophet might not live to see it, God’s justice will be done in the end. We live in faith.

In 18-19, after the “wrath” of God that responds as a culmination of the people’s sinful ways, a time will come naturally (that we can accelerate) that ends the exile and represents redemption.

After the vision, which may have occurred in Susa (?), Daniel arises to serve the king and watches and sees all this, through times and kings, and then help re-build the Temple (in the time of Persia?).

V. Chapter 9 Daniel’s prayer for redemption (perhaps for earlier than the 70 years Jeremiah Prophesied) a beautifully structured prayer: 1) request to be granted prayer, 2) praise of God, 3) confession, 4) w/ fasting, 5) recognition that God has kept AND WILL ALWAYS KEEP the covenant and loving-kindness to those who live in covenant w/ Him (which the people had not), 6) declaration of shamefacedness, 7) acknowledgement that people theretofore had not repented, 8) statement of sin, 9) plea for compassion, & 10) statement of understanding/hope that there would be time to end sin & restore righteousness during 70 years after destruction, followed by re-building/restoration (and 490 years between the destruction of the 1st and 2nd,  & a repeat, destruction, and the Messiah).

This could be about the end of persecution by the Seleucids. Prayer could be a later insertion, perhaps of a much earlier prayer.

Let’s focus on this beautiful prayer in verses 3-19 and analyze some of the elements of the prayer and how it helps us understand prayer to God.

1. Verse 3 forms the basis for certain Jewish prayers, especially when a person seeks to repent – approach to God, fasting to show remorse where it fits, and then a turning or repentance.

2. Verse 5 is like the vidui, a confession.

3. Verses 7-8 set up a system and the basis to deal with God’s justice. God certainly would be right to punish, based on language in the Torah related to curses or consequences (verses 11-12).

4. Verses 13 and 15-19: Yet, we hope for God’s compassion and mercy. And we have the responsibility and autonomy and free will to turn and repent and receive God’s mercy.


(Much ado about the matter of 70 years, 70 weeks, 490 years – when did it begin; when did it end; why; and what happened? Is it about the end of Seleucid reign? Or is it about the period between Babylonian conquest and restoration/reconstruction? And/or it extended to Rome?

Is it about the destruction of the first Temple, the restoration of the second Temple, and then its duration? Is it about the 70 years of exile as a punishment for the desecration of 70 sabbatical years?

Recall in our early study that there was a period of 7 years for the “punishment” of the king.

Then we see in verse 25 from the time the word goes out to return and build Jerusalem to “anointing the prince,” there will be “seven weeks,” more time for it to be “re-built,” & yet more time until “the anointed one” is cut off.

Who is the anointed one, and what is happening here?

There are many complicated accounts within Christian thought and commentaries that explain how these verses express Jesus and his times and work.

Jewish accounts abound, too. Is the anointed one who is cut off King Agrippa II? Or is it the High Priest?  The prince who was first anointed may be someone else, perhaps Cyrus, or the High Priest, or a descendant of the King, Zerubabel ben Shealtiel, or the governor of Judah, Nechemiah ben Chachliah.

It depends greatly on how you interpret the word, “weeks?” Is it years, or other periods? And when do you start, stop, continue, etc.?

This is not something we’re likely to resolve here. Nor perhaps was it meant to be resolvable. See the final discussion in this lesson plan.)

VI. Chapters 10 and 11 – Daniel’s Fast and a Vision

A. Daniel sees Gabriel again in a vision (5-6) and tells him he’s been heard, even ahead of his fast. Again Michael helps Gabriel. Here is a preview of the End of Days, beyond the Greeks and the Romans presumably.

This was frightful, but the angel strengthened Daniel.

B. The vision continues in Chapter 11:

1) Alexander’s rule – 1:3-4

2) Ptolemy I – 11:5

3) Through Seleucus II -10:10

4) Antiochus III comes on and prevails after time – 10:13

5) Antiochus IV arises and is leader during Chanukah story – 10:16-18, and then in 21 and beyond, with great largesse, riches, booty, scheming to conquer Egypt. He returns to put down domestic dispute. He cowers and loses ground but tramples Jews.

See verses 31-32 as reflective of Chanukah story.

Later verses suggest of the applicability of other exile/persecution/return stories. (There’s some commentary on hinted-at infusion of Roman influence perhaps in the future. Is the king in 36 Constantine?)

Some actually see in the verses that close out 11 a premonition of the development of Christianity, its battles with the Arabs, and Christian persecution of Jews.  (Ah, the ways of apocalyptic literature!)

This suggests that faithful Jews’ plight was alleviated somewhat by the Maccabees. 11:34. But this book is about a broader pacific approach.

 VII. Chapter 12

A. 1. Michael, the greatly heavenly prince, “stands in support of your people.”  Thus, the Jews will be protected ultimately against all these kingdoms.

1-3. There will be a time of trouble “such as never was.” This may be a battle with Satan before God and the Heavenly tribune, as well as lawlessness, and perhaps “pangs of the Messiah.” All in the book will occur.

Maybe Rome will be destroyed, and Israel will be saved.

B. But, mainly, there’s the final victory of God’s chosen ones. (12:1-4) This is about the dramatic intervention of God of history in the believing community. It’s directed to the Jews who suffered so badly under Antiochus IV – who would be vindicated by God, rewarded for fidelity here and beyond the grave.

1. Read 12:2. Many who sleep in the dust will awaken – some for everlasting life, some for shame. (This is the sharpest description of resurrection of the dead in the Hebrew Bible)

Who are the many? Is it all or many or some, Jews and Christians? It’s not altogether clear.

(This author says the many are likely the good/righteous Jews who suffered martyrdom under Antiochus. The others may be those who abandoned their faith and were renegades.

Resurrection becomes individual on basis of his/her response to God. Thus, we may see here for the first time the idea of resurrection being a prerogative bestowed by God as a free gift only on the faithful Jew. And this might not be derived as often thought from Persian belief, but rather from the OT writer.

This is a huge change from the idea of living by the mitzvoth to have a good life, with length of days for the individual and the nation)

2. Read 12:3. “The wise will shine like the radiance of the firmament, and those who make the many righteous, like the stars, forever and ever.”

a. Who are the wise?

(Perhaps it is those who brought peaceful, effective opposition to Antiochus.

More broadly, it could be people who live in God’s ways – people who live, as anticipated in Proverbs, in the manner of Lady Wisdom or the woman of valor, in accord with the requirements of chokmah.

The wise, as in Proverbs, are those who know and live in tune with God’s direction, especially toward justice, fairness, and equity.)

b) Who are the makers of the righteous, and what do they do?

 (The makers of the righteous are like charity collectors and teachers of children. These shine all the time, though they may not be seen by the beneficiaries or later in life when the pupils blossom out.

Those who lead others to righteousness are special.)

4. In the Epilogue, in 4-13, Daniel is told (in 12:4), “to obscure the matters and seal the book until the time of the End, and let many muse and let knowledge increase.”

Yet, Daniel (like we and commentators and sages since) remains curious, when he sees two men toward the end, with one asking, “How long to the hidden End?”

While discussing yet another specific number of years that raises his (and our) interest, one says to Daniel in verse 9, “Go, Daniel! For the matters are obscured and sealed till the time of the End.”

Then, after yet additional speculation on the time until the End, Daniel is told in the very final verse of the Book, “And as for you, go to the end; you will rest and arise to your lot at the End of the Days.”

What do you think is meant to be learned by Daniel and by us in these final verses of the Book?


Book of Daniel Discussion Lesson 2

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