How to Study Daniel
What the skeleton is to the body, Daniel is to prophecy. All the other prophecies in the Old and New Testaments add flesh to Daniel's bones. If you carefully and thoroughly observe Daniel and discover exactly what the text says, you will find that Daniel's prophecies become increasingly clear and more exciting with every new observation.
Read through Daniel one chapter at a time. Don't hurry. Simply do the following assignment on each chapter. Record all your notes in the margin of the chapter. As you read, answer the following questions and record the answers in the margin of the text:
When do the events of this chapter occur? Mark every reference to time with a clock ¹, using a distinctive color so you can see it immediately.
What king/kingdom is ruling at the the time? record this in the margin along with a notation of the "When" of the chapter. For instance, in the margin of chapter 1 you would put the following:
Third year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah
Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon
Who are the main characters in the chapter?
What, in general, is the chapter about?
Record the theme or event of the chapter on the Structure of Daniel chart and in your Bible. Then in the margin list key points or happenings connected with the main event of the chapter.
Is a vision or dream is recorded, note in the margin who had the vision or dream and what the vision or dream was about. Also, if y sketch or draw the vision or dream. you will better remember and understand it.
Read Daniel 1 through 6 again chapter by chapter. This time do the following:
Color code every reference to God. Watch for the repeated reference to God as the "Most High" and color this also. When you gain a new insight into God's character, power, ways, or sovereignty, put a ∆ in the margin and record what you learned. Then meditate on how you can apply each truth to your own life.
In your notebook, list everything you learn about Daniel: his character, his relationship to God and to others, and how he handles and responds to various situations.
Mark in a distinctive way the following key repeated words: kingdom (dominion), rules (ruler), dream, mystery (mysteries), and Nebuchadnezzar (including pronouns). Put these on a index card and use it as a bookmark. Also watch for and mark key repeated words that appear in individual chapters. If there is room, you may want to summarize in your notebook what you learn about Nebuchadnezzar.
As you prepare to go through these final chapters of Daniel, review what you have observed in chapters 7 through 12 and what you recorded on Structure of Daniel. Do you see any difference between the first six chapters of Daniel and the last six?
Are the last six chapters chronological?
Who had the dreams/visions in each of these major segments?
Record your insights to these two questions on Structure of Daniel under "Segment Divisions." Show the chronology or lack of it on one line, and then on the other write the main theme or emphasis of these two major divisions of Daniel.
Read Daniel 7 through 12 again chapter by chapter. Do the following:
As you read each chapter mark the following key words: vision, kingdom (empire, authority, power, dominion), horn (s), saints, man of high esteem, end (end time, appointed time, time of the end), covenant, Michael, Gabriel, and God. Mark every reference to the fourth beast in Daniel 9.
List everything you learn about Daniel from observing the text.
Understanding the Visions and Dreams in Daniel
When you come to a vision, observe the details of the vision carefully. Watch the reference to numbers. See if the text interprets the vision. In chapter 7, list the margin or your notebook all that you learn about the little horn.
After you observe chapter 7, compare it with chapter 2.
If you didn't do a sketch of the vision in chapter 2, stop and do it. Then do a sketch of the vision in chapter 7. What parallels do you see? Which chapter gives more details of the events encompassed in the vision? Pay attention to those details when you sketch out the vision.
Mark any references to time with a clock. In biblical reckoning "time, times, and half time" is the equivalent of 3 1/2 years. Note what precedes a period of time and what brings it to an end.
When you observe chapter 8, list everything you learn about the ram and the goat. In a distinctive way mark every pronoun which refers to the small horn of 8:9. Then list everything you observe from the text about this horn. Ask the "5W's and an H": Where did it com from? What doe it do and where? When does it happen? How long does it last?
When you observe Daniel 9:24-27, follow those verses chronologically.
Number from 1 to 6 in the text the six things in Daniel 9:24 that will be accomplished in 70 weeks (sevens).
Observe who the 70 weeks pertain to. Then in your notebook draw a line and put in the sequence of events. For Example:
/Seven weeks/________________________________________(you complete the drawing)
Note when the prophecy begins (what stars it) and what happens at each interval of time. Note what happens after the seven weeks and 62 weeks and what happens during the last week (the seventieth week) mentioned in 9:27.
Observe who destroys the city and the sanctuary, and their relationship to the prince who is to come in 9:27. A historical fact that might help is that Jerusalem was destroyed in A.D. 70 by Titus, a Roman general.
Read chapters 10-12 as one unit and then concentrate on the message and vision of chapters 11-12.
Mark every reference to time, including the word then, which shows the sequence of events.
Chapter 11 is not an easy chapter to understand apart from a grasp of history. It was written years before the fact, but many people are not familiar with this period of time. When you read about the kings of the south and the north, keep in mind that they are so named because of their geographical relationship to Israel, the Beautiful Land.
As you read through the chapter, consult the chart History of Israel's Relationship to the Kings of Daniel 11. In 11:1-35 there are approximately 135 prophetic statements which have all been fulfilled. The accuracy of Daniel's prophecies regarding the Gentile nations and their relationship to Israel has staggered the minds of some theologians. Many even say that because if its historical accuracy, Daniel had to be written sometime after the Maccabean period in the second century B.C.. However, the book of Daniel clearly refers to Daniel as the author, and so does our Lord Jesus Christ (see Matthew 24:15)
If you have not done so, make a list of everything you learned about the despicable person in Daniel 11:22-35. Many scholars link this description to Antiochus IV Epiphanes. To date, no person in history has yet fulfilled the description given in 11:36-45.
Reading Josephus, the Essential Writings (Kregel, 1988) will help you understand the intertestament period, the 400 silent years from Malachi to Matthew. It also gives insight into Rome's role in Israel's history and tells more about the various kings mentioned in Daniel 11:1-35, especially Antiochus IV Epiphanes.
Observe the transition from 11:45 to 12:1 chronologically. Mark all references to time and the events connected with them. Observe this chapter very carefully.
When you study the dreams and visions in Daniel, remember that Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2 gives a broad overview and that every vision that follows begins to fill in the details.
Finally, determine how the book of Daniel can be segmented. Note these under "Segment Divisions" on Structure of Daniel. Then complete the chart.
Key Words in the NIV and KJV
Key doctrines in Daniel
God’s sovereign control (2:20–22, 44; 1 Kin. 3:9, 10; 4:29; Ps. 31:15; Esther 1:13; Job 12:18, 22; Heb. 4:13; James 1:5)
Miracles of God (6:16–23; Ex. 4:3, 4; 14:21, 22; Josh. 6:6–20; 1 Kin. 18:36, 38; Matt. 9:5–13; Luke 17:14; John 2:6–10; 3:2; Acts 14:13; 19:11)
The promised Messiah (2:35, 45; 7:13, 14, 27; 9:26; Is. 28:16; Ezek. 1:26; Matt. 16:16–20; 24:30; Luke 20:18; John 3:35, 36; 1 Cor. 15:27; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9–11)