The situation of Daniel and friends exemplifies God’s jealousy for glory in the life of the exiles (Ezra 1:1-4; 6:1-22; Nehemiah 4; Esther 7-10). Daniel, who was given the Chaldean name Belteshazzar, was one of the select young men taken from Jerusalem when the king of Babylon came against the city in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah (Dan 1:1-7; 2 Kings 24). Life for these select exiles was characterized by a constant clash of worldviews. The qualities that made Daniel and company attractive to Nebuchadnezzar were the result of devotion to the Lord. These young men were selected for the king’s court because they gave evidence of the kind of life God desired for His people under the law: self-control, discipline, and truthfulness. The Chaldean teachers had a tough task; they would have to reprogram the values and goals of those like Daniel who had been captured in Judah.
Daniel recorded for the exiles what God had done for His people and what God would do for them in the future. Events and phrases from Daniel 1-4 resound throughout the New Testament and establish the logic of the storyline of Scripture.
(1) God has established means for His people to identify with Him. From the outset of the book, it is clear that Daniel and his friends understood that while they had been removed from the Promised Land, they were yet bound to the identity markers of Judaism, like food laws. For example, “Daniel determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank” (Dan 1:8). Daniel proclaimed his Jewish identity even though he was outside of the Promised Land. Food laws, along with Sabbath observance and circumcision, enabled Jews to distinguish themselves from the surrounding nations. In time, though, many Jews saw food laws, Sabbath-keeping, and circumcision as a means of righteousness before God and people. Jesus countered the Jewish leadership by arguing that what goes into a person does not defile him but the evil that comes from the heart defiles a person (Matt 15:11//Mark 7:15). The Lord gave Peter a vision of unclean animals and told him to eat, removing the food laws that separated Jews from Gentiles (Acts 10:11-15). In Antioch, Paul confronted Peter because Peter had relapsed and begun to observe laws out of fear that some from Jerusalem would catch him fraternizing with Gentiles (Gal 2:11-14). The people of Christ identify with God by the work of the Holy Spirit in them (Gal 5:22-23).
(2) God’s people are to devote themselves to Him. The author of Hebrews praised the level of spiritual devotion exemplified by Daniel and company. In Dan 3:27, Daniel’s friends survived the fiery furnace and escaped without a hair being scorched. The author of Hebrews considered this a noteworthy example of how those who walk by faith are vindicated. He likely had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in mind when he wrote that some in the days of old “quenched the raging of fire” (Heb 11:34). The author of Hebrews argued that since his audience was partaking in the greater new covenant, faithfulness like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego exhibited was baseline behavior.
(3) Through prophets and apostles, God has revealed His activity in the affairs of men and nations. John’s visions in the book of Revelation reflect Daniel’s prophecies at several points. In Dan 2:28-29, Daniel answered the king’s request for interpretation of his dream, saying that his God in heaven had revealed the mystery and that the dream concerned “what will happen in the last days” (Dan 2:28). At the outset of Revelation, John specified that he was writing what Jesus had given him—and that Jesus had received it from God (Rev 1:1, 19).
(4) God’s kingdom has been established on earth among men. In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2, a stone broke from a mountain, crushing the king’s statue and becoming an indestructible kingdom (Dan 2:34, 44-45). The angel Gabriel spoke to Mary concerning the Child she would bear saying, “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:33). John wrote that through the shedding of His blood, Jesus has made His followers a kingdom to His God and Father (Rev 1:6, 9; 5:10; 11:15; 12:10).
(5) God reigns supreme over human rulers that oppose His people. In Dan 2:47, after Daniel told the king of his dream of the statue and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Your God is indeed God of gods, Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries.” Again, in Dan 4:34-37, after Daniel interpreted the dream of the tree and its stump, Nebuchadnezzar spoke the praise of the Lord. In 1 Tim 6:15, Paul described God as the Sovereign, the King of kings and the Lord of lords who would send His Son back to earth a second time. In Revelation, John saw a vision of Jesus returning on a white horse as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 17:14; 19:16).