The Structure of Daniel

Monday ↥ January 30

The arrangement of the Aramaic section of Daniel, chapters 2-7 (parts of Daniel were written in Hebrew and other parts in Aramaic), reveals the following structure, which helps reinforce a central message of that section, and of the book:

      A. Nebuchadnezzar’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 2)
         B. God delivers Daniel’s companions from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
            C. Judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4)
            C'. Judgment upon Belshazzar (Daniel 5)
         B'. God delivers Daniel from the den of lions (Daniel 6)
      A'. Daniel’s vision of four kingdoms (Daniel 7)

This kind of literary arrangement serves to highlight the main point by placing it at the center of the structure, which in this case consists of C and C’ (Daniel 4 and 5): God removes the kingdom from Nebuchadnezzar (temporarily) and from Belshazzar (permanently). Therefore, the emphasis of chapters 2-7 is on God’s sovereignty over the kings of the earth as He establishes and removes them.

One of the most effective ways of conveying a message and making a point clear is by repetition. For example, God gives Pharaoh two dreams about the immediate future of Egypt (Gen. 41:1-7). In the first dream, seven fat cows are devoured by seven thin cows. In the second dream, seven ears of healthy grain are devoured by seven thin and blighted ears. Both dreams make the same point: seven years of prosperity will be followed by seven years of scarcity.

In the book of Daniel, God also uses repetition. There are four prophetic cycles, which are repetitions of an overall basic structure. In the end, this structure shows us the ultimate sovereignty of God. Although each major prophetic outline conveys a distinct perspective, together they cover the same historical period, extending from the time of the prophet to the end, as the following diagram shows:

Daniel 2Daniel 7Daniel 8, 9Daniel 10-12
God’s Kingdom
is Established
Heavenly Judgment
that Leads to New Earth
of the Sanctuary
Michael Stands Up

What great hope do these texts present regarding our long-term prospects? Dan. 2:44Ps. 9:7-122 Pet. 3:11-13.

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