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The book of Daniel is an interesting book of prophecy. But you may ask, what can we learn from Daniel? Besides the well-known story of Daniel and the lion’s den, there are 11 characteristics of Daniel, a man of high esteem, that both women and men can learn from him today.
Before we dive in, let’s do a quick review of the historical context of Daniel.
The book of Daniel starts in 605 BC, the 3rd year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah’s reign. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and besieged it. They brought home some vessels from God’s house and kidnapped some of the sons of Israel – royal family and nobles. These youth had no defects, were good looking, showed intelligence in every branch of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and were brought to serve in the King’s court. They were ordered to learn the language of the Chaldeans, given a daily ration of the King’s food and wine and trained for 3 years. Daniel, also known Belteshazzar, his Babylonian or Chaldean name, and his three friends, Shadrach, Meschad and Abednego were among these men.
Now onto diving in. Here are the 11 characteristics of Daniel everyone should emulate.
The first characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he was decisive and stuck to his belief in God
Do you have days like I do where it seems life is so overwhelming that I can’t make a simple decision? There have been those days where I would be gazing into the closet, picking out my clothes for work the next day, and ask outloud, ‘Oh, what should I wear?’
My husband hearing my question would answer, “Clothes.” Haha, thanks. When one is overwhelmed with the stress of work, taking care of the kids and/or the house, that little joke is not helpful. The thought of making a decision to pick out an outfit would sometimes put me over the top.
Not Daniel. He made up his mind to not defile himself with the King’s food. (Daniel 1:8) Daniel knew, deep within his heart and soul, that this was not something he should do. Being wise, even at the age of 15, Daniel knew the Jewish law and that this food was not to be eaten and would defile him (Lev 3:17 ESV).
Daniel stuck to his belief in God. He was faithful and prayed to God three times a day, every day (Dan 6:10). The satraps, governors of provinces, and commissioners in the kingdom wanted to find a way to trap Daniel. Scripture says that “No error or fault was found in him” (Dan 6:4 ESV), so they decided they could trap Daniel in how he regarded the law of God (vs 5).
They tricked the king to establish and sign a rule that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides King Darius, they should be thrown into the lion’s den.
Even when Daniel knew the document had been signed, he still went up to the roof to pray, with his windows open, toward Jerusalem, just as he had done every day.
How would you fair under those circumstances? Would you stand up for what is right? It is hard to think about being thrown into a den with bloodthirsty lions. But how could I bow to some other god besides the LORD our God??
Yet, there are times I have done that in many other ways. I have made ‘things’ in my life an idol. Food, binge-watching a tv show, reading books for hours on end or my desire to get ahead in my career are all types of an idol.
You can read my business story on my site, GodsPlanGuidedSteps. I wanted to get promoted in my department but the Lord had other plans. Even though it isn’t what I thought I’d be doing during the day, it has lessened my stress and I work mostly from home. This allows me the opportunity to write in the evening.
The second characteristic we can learn Daniel was that he trusted God
When Darius threw Daniel into the lion’s den, scripture doesn’t record Daniel’s reaction. He was just put in the lion’s den.
When he is removed the next day, Daniel is gracious and says, “O king, live forever!” (Dan 6:21). Then he tells how God sent an angel to shut the lion’s mouth as he was found innocent before God and also towards the king (vs 22).
I love what scripture records next! “So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted God” (Dan 6:23 ESV).
As a result of Daniel’s actions, King Darius sends out a degree, all people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel” (Dan 6:26).
Daniel did trust God. He knew that God is all-powerful and sovereign! God had a plan for Israel and this nation and that Daniel was a part of it. He also knew that if God wanted him to perish, God would still get the glory!Daniel did trust God. He knew that God is all-powerful and sovereign! God had a plan for Israel and this nation and that Daniel was a part of it. He also knew that if God wanted him to perish, God would still get the glory!
With my job change, I learned I had not been trusting God in the decisions of my promotion at my job. I couldn’t wait for God to put His plans into action. I took the reins myself and went to graduate school so I could possibly get ahead.
Instead, a year and a half later, I was removed from my position and given a choice of leaving my company or taking another position. However, God’s plan was far better than the one that I had for myself. Mine was stressful and affecting my health. His was relieving stress and allowing me to do His desires. And my health is so much better now too.
When Daniel didn’t want to defile himself with the King’s food during his three year training, he asked permission from the commander of the officials to have vegetables and water (Daniel 1:8). He let the commander know that they could test this out for 10 days and see if his option worked and made their appearance look fine (vs 12).
When you have someone in authority over you, do you ask questions? Do you ask permission, so to speak, to do it in a different way? Then offer an option of how it could be done with a test period to see if that solution is a better one.
When I had employees reporting to me, I would tell them I was open to their suggestions. If they didn’t like my decision, I wanted them to tell me but come with solutions and a way to determine if it was a better solution. No one wants to hear complaints but if you come with possible solutions to make it better, it shows that you are being a problem solver instead of a whiner and complainer.
The fourth characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he used discretion and discernment
In 603 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar had a disturbing dream. The King asked the conjurers (enchanters), sorcerers and Chaldeans (astrologers) to tell him the dream first so they could declare the interpretation (Daniel 2:9). The king was smart in asking this. If they could tell him the dream first, then he’d know that their interpretation was true.
However, the Chaldeans said not a man on earth could do this so the King was mad and gave an order to kill all wise men of Babylon (vs 12).
The captain of the guard, Arioch, went out to begin slaying all the wise men, which would include Daniel and his three friends. Daniel replied to him with discretion and discernment wondering why the King’s decree was so urgent. Then Daniel proceeded to go into the king and to request time to declare the interpretation of the king’s dream to him (vs 14).
How often are we the brunt of someone’s anger and we respond inappropriately? Daniel’s response was such a conviction to me! If someone is mad and yelling at me, it is hard to respond with discretion and discernment. The next time it happens to me, I pray that I will reply with discernment and respond in a calm and respectful manner. How about you?
The fifth characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he enlisted prayer warriors
After Daniel obtained some time from the king to give him the interpretation of the dream, he went home, explained the situation to his friends, Hananiah, Mischael and Azariah and asked for their help. You may know their Babylonian or Chaldean names as Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego. Daniel asked them to pray that God would have mercy on them and reveal the mystery of this dream. Understanding the mystery would prevent Daniel, his friends and all the other wise men from being killed (Dan 2:17-18 ESV).
Daniel knew that he needed God’s divine intervention to help understand this dream. So, he asked his friends for prayer help.
Do you ask your friends for prayer help? I do. God’s power is so miraculous. We can call on the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. With that same power within us, we can do more than we could ever ask or imagine (Eph 3:20-21 ESV). I have some friends that I can text and they will begin praying right away. They know that they can ask the same of me. They text me and if I can look at my phone right away, I will be praying at that moment while I am going about my day. It is so comforting to know that these sisters in Christ pray for me when I ask.
The sixth characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that praised God when He answered
That night, the mystery of the dream was revealed to Daniel. He blessed the God of heaven and said a prayer full of praise and thankfulness for how God is sovereign overall all the kings and reveals these hidden secrets (Dan. 2:19-23 ESV).
It is so great to hear when God has answered a believer’s prayers! We learn from this that the moment we have an answer, we need to stop and thank God for His answer and provision. We have such a loving and caring Father. When He takes a moment to hear our prayer, the least we can do is thank Him.It is so great to hear when God has answered a believer’s prayers! We learn from this that the moment we have an answer, we need to stop and thank God for His answer and provision. We have such a loving and caring Father. When He takes a moment to hear our prayer, the least we can do is thank Him.
The seventh characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he humbly gave God the Glory publicly
When Daniel appears before the king who asks him if he is ready to tell him about the dream and what it means. Daniel begins by telling the king that no wise man can answer this but there is a God in heaven who can. This God is not one of the man-made idols that Nebuchadnezzar served. He reveals mysteries and it wasn’t wisdom that Daniel had from within him that made it possible to know it. God allowed Daniel to know the mystery so that he could tell the king the dream and its purpose (Dan. 2:27-30 ESV).
Daniel was humble and told the King that it wasn’t his doing or any knowledge that he had on his own. God gave him the answer so that the king could know it. It isn’t recorded that servants left the King’s presence. Whether they were there or not, Daniel told the king it wasn’t me but God. It is definitely said in a public place that others could have heard him humbly declaring God was the one who gave him the answers the king needed.
Giving God the glory in small ways or in front of people at church is easy. But to say that publicly in front of a lot of people would be hard to do. I have heard athletes who have received a trophic or won a championship give God the glory. Honestly, I marvel at that because I don’t know if I have the guts to do that in front of a crowded stadium, let alone millions of people watching on TV. Hopefully, God will give me the strength to do that when the time is right.
After Daniel had interpreted King Nebuchadnezzer’s dream, the king fell on his face to worship him and ordered incense and offerings to be made to him. Then he gave Daniel gifts and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon. He also made him in charge over all the wise men of Babylon.
At this point, Daniel made a request of the king. While Daniel was in the king’s court, he wanted Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego to be appointed administrators over the province of Babylon (Dan 2:46-49 ESV). Not only was this great for Daniel to share the accolades that were given to him by the king, but it also allowed Daniel to focus on his work in the king’s court while the affairs of the province were being cared for.
When someone gives me thanks for something that was a shared responsibility or totally the idea of another person, I will speak up and say, “I can’t take credit for this. This person over here helped me.” Without this person’s help, I could not have done the best job I could do. They deserve to have the accolades or credit given to them too. Do you share accolades when it is due to others?
The ninth characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he delivered bad news with compassion and respect
King Nebuchadnezzar had a second dream. He asks for all the magicians, conjurers and Chaldeans to come and interpret it to him. None of them can interpret it so Daniel comes in to see him (Dan. 4:7-8 ESV).
Once Daniel hears this dream, it is alarming to him. The king reassures Daniel to not let himself be alarmed (vs 19).
Daniel replies, “My, lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!” (vs 19). Daniel is so alarmed that he wished that the dream would apply to anyone else but the king he was standing in front of. What compassion he had for this man in knowing the outcome of the dream was not a good one!
He gives King the interpretation that he is to be removed from his office and would dwell among the beasts of the field until he recognizes that God is the Most High is ruler over earth and He is the one who gives it to whom he wills (vs 20-25)
Daniel then asks that his advice be pleasing to him and that the king would repent from his sins and be merciful to the poor. Perhaps in doing so, the king will still have a time of prosperity (vs 27). In addition to having compassion, Daniel respectfully gives him advice on how he could respond to this dream.
During these trying times of the COVID virus, we have been hearing at work that there will be furloughs. Our boss has been so full of compassion as she helps us wade through this time of uncertainty. When I read her email the other day, I thought of how she was being an example of how to deliver news with compassion and respect. She knows that her employees need to care for their families and households.
The tenth characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he spoke boldly with respect
King Belshazzar, who reigned from 553-539 BC, had a feast with over 1000 nobles. He commanded that they use the gold and silver that the exiles took from the temple when the siege happened of Jerusalem under Nebuchadnezzar. During this party, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall (Dan. 5:1-5 ESV).
The king is alarmed and wants an interpretation. He will make whomever can do it the 3rd ruler in the kingdom. Of course, none of the magicians or astrologers can interpret it. The Queen hears what is going on and tells the king about Daniel who can explain these difficult things (vs. 6-12).
When Daniel is brought into the king, he tells Daniel about all he has heard of his talents of interpreting dreams. He offers Daniel royal purple clothing, a gold necklace and having a place of prominence (vs.13-16). Daniel humbly refuses the gifts and tells him to give them to someone else.
Daniel speaks respectfully and tells King Belshazzar about how God bestowed honor on his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar. Then he shares how the king’s pride had resulted in his throne being taken away. Daniel tells Belshazzar, point-blank, how his heart was not humble and that bringing God’s sacred vessels, originally from the temple, out to drink from exalted himself against the God of heaven. He then Interprets the handwriting on the wall for King Belshazzar (Dan. 5:18-29 ESV). As a result, the King immediately gave him the gifts he mentioned above. Later that night, the king was killed.
Daniel could have told Belshazzar to take a flying leap after he read the inscription on the wall. However, he was a man of integrity, and respectfully told the king what he requested. I like his approach of giving the king a history lesson about his grandfather King Nebuchadnezzar who learned his lesson about pride and humility. Then he respectfully let him have it by telling him how his lack of humility was his downfall.
The eleventh characteristic we can learn from Daniel was that he prayed for the sins of the people and included himself
In Chapter 9:2, Daniel was reading the Scriptures and realized that the number of years that they were being held captive in Babylon all these years was because of their sin. The Jews had not given the land a Sabbath rest for 490 years. Every seven years, the land had a Sabbath and was not plowed and crops were not grown. So, 70 sabbath rest years were missed and that accounted for the 70 years that they were being held in captivity! See these scriptures about this for more study (Jeremiah 29:1-14, 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 and Leviticus 25:1-7 ESV).*
After studying this, Daniel fasted, prayed and asked for forgiveness. For the people AND for himself. With every phrase of his prayer, he said we and not they. He took responsibility for his part in the sins of the people.
I have always appreciated the humility of the prophets when they pray for the people and include them in the prayers of repentance. Moses often did this when he prayed for the people in the wilderness. In this past year, the Lord has taught me so much about pride and humility. That pride and humility is at the root of my business story.
I hope you have learned a lot from Daniel. While teaching our women’s Bible study at church earlier this year, these are 11 characteristics of Daniel that I learned. My hope is that as you have read this and do further study on Daniel, you will see why Daniel was called a man of high esteem (Dan 10:11,19).
Even though this study focused on Daniel, I also hope that you’ve come to know God’s sovereignty over history. God is always at work in the history of mankind. He is also working in your life and working out your plan for His Glory as well.
*Arthur, Kay. Daniel: God’s Blueprint for BIble Prophecy. Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR.:1995, pp 71-72.
For deeper study, consider one of these recommended resources on Daniel in the Bible.
Bio of Guest Writer Cindy Schwerdtfeger
Cindy is a writer from Minneapolis, Minnesota. She is a wife to Dave for 33 years, a mother of two grown kids who serve the Lord, one son-in-love, one daughter-in-love, 3 wonderful grandchildren and one on the way. She is a full-time Information Services manager by day and a writer at night. She teaches a women’s Bible study at her church and runs the sound for worship.
Her focus is helping women understand God’s Plan for their life and knowing their true identity in Christ. Her website is GodsPlanGuidedSteps or you can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.