Organizing the book of Daniel chronologically

August 8, 2013

book-of-danielOne of the challenges in understanding the story line of Daniel is the chronology of the book. Because the chapters are not laid out in a chronological order it’s difficult to understand the flow of events. The book is actually put together thematically, in two distinct parts: 1) Life in Babylon 2) Prophetic Visions. The time frame of these sections overlap  one another. For instance Chapter 6 takes places near the end of Daniel’s life, whereas Chapter 7 takes place nearly 20 years earlier.

Another challenge is the mention of multiple kings whom Daniel served. If you don’t know the times these kings reigned it can be very difficult to understand the order of events since all the time frames in the book reference the reign of one of these kings. But, if you understand who these kings are and when they reigned you can fairly easily identify the timeline of the book. In this blog I’m going to give a very simple overview of the book of Daniel and help you organize it chronologically so that you can understand it a little more clearly.

As we look at the time line, it’s important to note that Daniel began his time in Babylon serving in Nebuchadnezzar’s court but ends up serving under Darius the Mede. The Medo-Persians took over Babylon in 539 BC, which is only explicitly mentioned in Daniel 5:30-31. Here is a simple key of the kings in Daniel:

  1. Nebuchadnezzar – King of Babylon (605–562 BC)
  2. Belshazzar – Grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, Co-Regent of Babylon with his father Nabonidus (553-539 BC)
  3. Darius – Governor of Babylon under Cyrus (~559 – 530 BC)
  4. Cyrus – King of Persia (559 – 530 BC)

Now that we recognize the times of these kings we can put together a chronology of the book. Here’s a simple outline that will help you organize the book chronologically. The dates are approximate as most historians and scholars differ over the exact dates of the respective reigns of the kings.

I. SECTION 1 – Chapter 1-6, Life in Babylon from 606BC – 534BC

A. Three Dramatic Character displays

  1. Chapter 1 – Refuses King’s Delicacies, 605 BC under Nebuchadnezzar
  2. Chapter 3 – Golden Statue/Fiery Furnace, 587 BC under Nebuchadnezzar
  3. Chapter 6 – Prays/Lion’s Den, 538~534 BC under Darius

B. Two Dream Interpretations for Nebuchadnezzar

  1. Chapter 2 – Great Golden Image, 603 BC
  2. Chapter 4 – Nebuchadnezzar’s Judgment, 571 – 562 BC

C. One Vision Interpretation for Belshazzar

  1. Chapter 5 – Writing on the Wall, 539 BC

II. SECTION 2 – Chapter 7-12, Prophetic Visions from 553BC-533BC

A. Two Prophetic Visions w/Angelic Interpretations

  1. Chapter 7 – 4 Beasts, Little Horn, Ancient of Days, 553 BC
  2. Chapter 8 – Ram and the Goat, 551 BC

B. Two Angelic Visitations

  1. Chapter 9 – Seventy Weeks, 539 BC
  2. Chapter 10 – 12 – King of the North and King of the South to 1335 days, ~534 BC

Now, if we take the outline above and organize it chronologically, the chapters of the book of Daniel unfold in the following way:

  1. Chapter 1 – Refuses King’s Delicacies, 605 BC under Nebuchadnezzar
  2. Chapter 2 – Great Golden Image, 603 BC
  3. Chapter 3 – Golden Stature/Fiery Furnace, 587 BC under Nebuchadnezzar
  4. Chapter 4 – Nebuchadnezzar’s Judgment, 571 – 562 BC
  5. Chapter 7 – Four Beasts, Little Horn, Ancient of Days, 553 BC
  6. Chapter 8 – Ram and the Goat, 551 BC
  7. Chapter 5 – Writing on the Wall, 539 BC
  8. Chapter 9 – Seventy Weeks, 539 BC
  9. Chapter 6 – Lion’s Den, 538~534 BC under Darius
  10. Chapter 10 – 12 – King of the North and King of the South to 1335 days, ~534 BC

In my owns studies I found that as I organized the book chronologically it became easier for me to understand the story line. Hopefully this will serve as a helpful tool for you as you study the Book of Daniel.

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13 responses to Organizing the book of Daniel chronologically

  1. 

    So helpful! Thank you for taking the time to write it out.

  2. 

    Good stuff, Billy. Thanks! I was going to read thru Daniel chronologically today. (BTW, in the list of chapters in chronological order at the end of your blog, looks like you forgot to include chapter 9.)

  3. 

    Hey, I feel like this is kinda a dumb question but didn’t Judah go into captivity in 586 B.C.? So wouldn’t Daniel have been there sooner then 606? Or am i just totally off? Or did he go to Babylon in the the first deportation or.. Just wondering. Thanks!

    Blessings,

    Kody

    • 

      @Kody, That’s not a dumb question. Daniel went in the first deportation in the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, 606/605BC.

      • 

        Dude! Thanks man! That totally makes sense now! So if i could ask another question. In chapter 11 would you say that most scholars agree that the first half points to Antiochus epiphanies and the second half speaks of the ani-christ..?

        Blessings,

        Kody

      • 

        @Kody

        The way I see it as of now is Daniel 11:21-31 are about Antiochus and point to Antichrist. I see verses 32-35 as overlap, pertaining to both. And verses 36-45 as pertaining to Antichrist.

        Sent from my iPhone

        On Aug 8, 2013, at 10:23 PM, “billyhumphrey.com”

  4. 

    Gracias por esto Billy esta increíble, ahora podre entender mucho mejor el libro de Daniel!!
    saludos desde México…

    Thanks for this Billy is amazing, Now I understand much better the book of Daniel!!
    Saludos desde México…

  5. 

    Brilliant! thank you

  6. 

    Billy,
    Shouldn’t Daniel Chapter’s 9 & 5 be reversed in your order. Darius does not take the Chaldean kingdom until the end of Chapter 5 ?

    Daniel 5:31
    And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

    Yours in Him. E.J.Silva

  7. 

    This is a wonderful help. Thank you.