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Daniel, the (Un)Prophet

Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these: To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be. But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind. Daniel 2:27–30

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days. Hosea 3:4–5


Who doesn’t like “easy” when tools are involved? Speedy, simple installations and repairs are a big plus for me, but “wishes aren’t fishes,” and I find that most hardware jobs are much more difficult than they appear. Objects rust and clog, drill bits break, and kits arrive lacking the hardware they claim to contain.

Often, the easiest way to fix an object is to flip it over completely, and that seems to be what God was up to in Daniel 2. Rather than speak to stubborn Israel, God chose to speak to the king of Babylon, and although He’d selected a prophet to help the king, He opted to tell no one about it.

A surprising suddenness purveys the story—the king awoke with a dream that he needed to understand, his counselors found their lives suddenly in jeopardy, and Daniel and his friends were swept up in a situation that literally arose overnight.

Up to this point, neither Nebuchadnezzar nor Daniel had any idea if or how the dream would be interpreted. God had spoken clearly and openly through Israel’s prophets for years; this sudden change was bizarre, and God meant it to be. He was upending His work to make some needed repairs. So it isn’t all that surprising that Daniel, the prophet, would be so unlike the prophets before him. But what made him so different?

Divine Commission

A prophet’s importance didn’t rest on who he was as much as whom he represented (Jer. 26:14–15). Much like ambassadors, prophets spoke as God’s representatives—a serious business with enormous implications for both them and their hearers.

It’s no wonder then that we find that prophets were consistently commissioned by God for the service they were to do (Judg. 6:8–9; Jer. 7:25–26). Scripture lets us listen in on a number of these commissions, including God’s calls to Moses (Ex. 3–4), Samuel (1 Sam. 2), Isaiah (Isa. 6), Jeremiah (Jer. 1), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1), and Hosea (Hos. 1:2).

In other cases, we come to know of the commission through the prophet’s words (1 Ki. 17:1; Jn 1:33–34) or through a basic introduction, often supplied at the beginning of a book or chapter (Mic. 1:1; Oba. 1:1). Prophetic authority was also underscored by the famous opening, “Thus says the LORD,” an introduction that appears 417 times in the Old Testament, but nowhere in the Book of Daniel.

“Address Unknown”

There was no explicit commission for Daniel’s prophetic activity. His ministry didn’t begin with a divine appearance but rather with his own prayer for deliverance (Dan. 2:17–18). We never read of “the word of the LORD” coming to Daniel as it came to Moses, Nathan, or Isaiah (Lev. 1:1; 2 Sam. 7:4–5; Isa. 38:4). In fact, almost half of the visions that compose Daniel’s book were given with no mention of divine presence or even an angelic mediator.

The revelation was undoubtedly divine, yet from a Revealer who remained hidden. The God of Israel was vacating Solomon’s temple and choosing once more to dwell in thick darkness (compare 1 Ki. 8:12–13 with Ezek. 9:3–7; 11:23–25), no longer to be known as the God of Israel but as “a God in heaven” (Dan. 2:28).

An Unknown Prophet for an Unknown God

On the whole, Daniel 2 exhibits the might and majesty that Israel had forgotten; the sovereign Savior that had exalted Jacob (Gen. 41:38; 47;10), restored his family (Gen. 48:11), and redeemed his offspring from Egypt (Ex. 19:4).

Out of nowhere, the God of a defeated, disregarded people was again speaking to the leader of the known world, and then, out of nowhere, an unknown government trainee came along to tell the dream and explain its meaning perfectly. The parallels with Joseph and Moses are stunning and significant. The awesome God would work wonders among the nations with or without Israel, and His name would be magnified among the Gentiles (Isa. 29:13–14).

Something else is missing from Daniel’s prophecies, but we will have to leave that until next time. For now, what do you find striking about this chapter?

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