“Daniel’s Answer to the King” (detail), by Briton Rivière
Worldly power, no matter how impressive or intimidating, is always subordinate to God’s power. That is the main theme of the book of Daniel. Through a series of miraculous experiences, Daniel and his friends demonstrate that faithfulness to God is a surer source of stability and security than trying to appease worldly authorities.
The name Daniel (דָנִיֵּאל) means “God is my judge,” a fitting name for a prophet who continually prioritized his allegiance to God above his allegiance to the king. He and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (better known by their Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) had been taken captive when the Babylonian Empire conquered the kingdom of Judah. By all appearances, King Nebuchadnezzar had total power over them, which is why each of the following stories is so dramatic:
- Chapter 1 – They refuse to eat the king’s meat and drink the king’s wine. As a result, they are blessed with great knowledge and wisdom.
- Chapter 2 – Daniel interprets a dream the king could no longer remember, a feat beyond the power of his wise men.
- Chapter 3 – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are cast into a fiery furnace for refusing to worship an idol. Their lives are miraculously preserved.
- Chapter 4 – Daniel interprets another of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, and the king acknowledges the supremacy of God.
- Chapter 5 – Nebechadnezzar’s son, Belshazzar, sees a hand writing a message on the wall during a feast. Daniel interprets the writing: Belshazzar’s reign is over. That night, Belshazzar is slain, and his empire is conquered by the Persians.
- Chapter 6 – Darius, king of the Persians, throws Daniel into a den of lions, because he has prayed to God contrary to the law. Daniel is miraculously preserved.
Here are some lessons I’ve learned from these chapters:
- Suboptimal circumstances can create glorious opportunities: “With Everlasting Kindness”
- Faith in God can help us avoid being paralyzed by the challenging experiences we face: Every Man’s Heart Shall Melt – 2 Nephi 23:6-8.
- We can trust that all of God’s prophecies will be fulfilled: “That He May Prophesy” – Moroni 10:13.
The other six chapters contain revelations received by Daniel, as well as a prayer of contrition offered by Daniel (in chapter 9).
Daniel’s dreams and visions contain a lot of similar imagery to the visions recorded by John in the book of Revelation. For example, Daniel dreamed that books would be opened at the Final Judgment (Daniel 7:9-10; see also Revelation 20:12). This same imagery also appears in the Book of Mormon. For example, during His ministry on the American continent, Jesus said, “Out of the books which shall be written shall the world be judged” (3 Nephi 27:25-26; see also 2 Nephi 29:11).