Daniel the Prophet — Gifted with the Understanding of Visions and Dreams

The traditional feast day of Daniel the Prophet is July 21.

J.B. Pratt, “Daniel in the Lions Den,” 1892
J.B. Pratt, “Daniel in the Lions Den,” 1892 (photo: Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

“The king told Ashpenaz, his chief chamberlain, to bring in some of the Israelites, some of the royal line and of the nobility. They should be young men without any defect, handsome, proficient in wisdom, well informed, and insightful … Among these were Judeans, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.” —Daniel 1:3–6

Daniel was a Jew who lived in Babylon during the exile. God blessed Daniel with wisdom and the ability to interpret dreams, which earned him a high post within the empire. Despite his privileged position, Daniel remained devoted to his Jewish beliefs, even during times of challenge.

Years after Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, “King” Belshazzar (who was actually the son of the last Babylonian king, Nabonidus) was holding a royal banquet, when suddenly a mystifying hand appeared in the room and wrote three words upon a wall: MENE, TEKEL and PERES. It was Daniel who explained to the terrified Belshazzar how the words signified the end of the Babylonian rule.

Another one of Daniel’s better-known stories occurred when the empire was under Persian rule. Daniel was appointed as a supervisor over many satraps (governors), and sadly, some individuals became jealous. These envious people tricked the ruler, King Darius, into proclaiming a law demanding that he (King Darius) alone be worshiped as divine for 30 days.

The setup worked, for the avengers craftily caught Daniel reverently worshiping the one true God and brought him before Darius. The king was horrified, for he had great admiration for Daniel. However, he was pitifully pressured to carry out the sentence and had Daniel thrown into a lion’s den. Miraculously, God sent an angel who protected Daniel from death.

Daniel also experienced a variety of mystical visions, including appearances of the archangels Gabriel and Michael. The last two chapters of the biblical book are from ancient Greek texts and hold a few additional stories on the life of Daniel. While the literature surrounding Daniel in the Bible may have some elements of embellishment, the overall message is profound: keep hope, and trust in God, for he always prevails in the end.


Bible Journaling with Daniel

Oddly, Daniel the prophet is not listed in the current Roman Martyrology. All of the other prophets are, and he has been included in previous editions, so it seems fair to bring attention to his life. Traditionally, Daniel’s memorial has been July 21. Below are nine passages to help you understand and spend time with this Old Testament character. Consider taking the time to read and pray about each of them. See how Daniel’s narratives might be meaningful to your life right now.

  • Day 1) Daniel 1:3–16
  • Day 2) Daniel 2:1–6, 13
  • Day 3) Daniel 2:31–35
  • Day 4) Daniel 2:46–49  
  • Day 5) Daniel 5:1–29
  • Day 6) Daniel 6:1–29
  • Day 7) Daniel 9:20–22
  • Day 8) Daniel 10:10–13, 21
  • Day 9) Daniel 12:1
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