Note: I recently read an excellent commentary on Daniel in the very accessible Story of God Bible Commentary series, by Wendy Widder. Widder, who got her PhD at the University of Free State, South Africa, is an author, teacher, and scholar with a passion for helping people understand the Bible better.
She is not a dispensationalist, and holds to the Greek view in the identification of the fourth kingdom (rather than the Roman view).
Rather than review the entire book, I am just reproducing below her structure, which illustrates the presence of a literary chiasm (a literary structure in which parallel sections appear in an inverted arrangement; for example, A is parallel to A’, B is parallel to B’, etc).
The structure below illustrates another oddity of Daniel, in that it was written in two languages—Hebrew and Aramaic.
The notes following the Structure will explain the purposes of the chiastic structure and the two languages.
This outline should be of help to you in reading through the book of Daniel.
After reading the commentary, I typed up outlines and notes on individual chapters 7, 8, 9, and 10-12 (together). If anyone would like copies, let me know and I will send them.
Structure of Daniel According to Its Two Languages
From Daniel, by Wendy Widder (Story of God Bible Commentary), page 12
Chapter 1—Prologue (HEBREW)
Chapters 2-7—Stories About Jews in foreign nations (ARAMAIC)
A Nebuchadnezzar dreams about 4 earthly kingdoms and a 5th eternal kingdom (ch 2)
B Faithful Jews (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego) face death for their faith (ch 3)
C Proud foreign king (Nebuchadnezzar) is humbled (ch 4)
C’ Proud foreign king (Belshazzar) is humbled (ch 5)
B’ A faithful Jew (Daniel) faces death for his faith (ch 6)
A’ Daniel dreams about 4 earthly kingdoms and a 5th eternal kingdom (ch 7)
Chapters 8-12—Prophecies about Jews back in the land (HEBREW)
- Chapters 1-6 are narrative, while chapters 7-12 are apocalyptic.
- Clear chiasmic structure indicates a clear literary purpose.
- Aramaic chapters (2-7) focus primarily on events that transpired in the royal courts of Babylon and Persia. Since Aramaic was the language of the court and broader exilic context, it was used in those chapters representing the Jews’ experiences as foreigners.
- When the book shifts to the Jews’ future back in the land in chapters 8-12, the language shifts back to Hebrew.
- The center of the chiasm is the focus of the book (C and C’). So in Daniel 2-7, the center is shared between chapters 4 and 5, both of which feature a foreign king being humbled by God. Why does God do this? To show that He alone is sovereign, and every human king is subject to a higher king.
- With these themes firmly in mind, the books move into the apocalyptic visions (chapters 7-12), which are concerned with God’s people suffering at the hands of foreign kings, and most specifically at the hands of a most horrific king in history’s parade of God-haters.
- Chapter 7 is the oddball in this structure, since its genre (apocalyptic) fits with what follows, not with the narrative of chapters 1-6. However, its language matches chapters 1-6, and it clearly closes the chiasm. So this chapter lies at the heart of the book, serving as a hinge between the sections and holding them together.
- Chapter 7 forms the heart and indivisible center of this unique book. It casts the book’s first vision of what lies beyond the suffering ahead, and it gives the hope needed to keep reading until the reward is finally realized in chapter 12.
- While Daniel and his friends were able to influence their overlords for good, God’s faithful people in the apocalyptic chapters can only endure and remain faithful, knowing that they will receive everlasting reward, while the wicked will suffer everlasting punishment.
- Technically, shift of language occurs in middle of verse 4 of chapter 2:
However, Widder has yet to see a good explanation, although several attempts have been made.