Daniel is one of the central prophetic books in the Tanak. It is foundational to much of Christian understanding of the end times. It is also a compelling case study in Israelite circumstances in exile.
Daniel 1-2, Hostages in Babylon
Daniel and his companions were Jewish hostages to Babylon before and during the destruction of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar. In this first vignette involving adherence to the dietary laws and the interpretation of dreams, Daniels character and favor with God are established.
Daniel 3-4, Trial by Furnace
When Daniel's friends remained true to character and to God by refusing to worship the state idol, they were thrown into a furnace. Their salvation from that trial was a witness to Nebuchadnezzar who gave glory to God. Nebuchadnezzar's conversion was later complete when God humbled him for a season, by giving him the mind of a beast.
Daniel 5-6, The End of Babylon
The final two chapters of the historical narrative sees the end of Babylon as an independent kingdom and the rise of the Medes and the Persians. As a major figure in both Babylon and Persia, Daniel interprets the writing on the wall for Belshazzar and survives an attempted assassination via the lion's den.
Daniel 7, The Four Beasts
With the first 6 chapters of historical background complete, the topic turns to prophecy. This first prophetic chapter describes the four empires that are of interest to Israel and her people.
Daniel 8, The Ram and the Goat
Daniel's vision of the ram and the goat are prophetic symbols of the Persian and Greek empires. Daniel did not understand the vision until it was explained to him by Gabriel. For us the prophecy of 2,300 evenings and mornings are of particular interest.
Daniel 9, The 70 Weeks
The bulk of chapter 9 is Daniel's prayer of confession and intercession for his people because he knows the time of exile is drawing to a close. In this he is a model for us as we pray for our own people. At the end of the chapter, Gabriel gives him a vision which stretches from his own time to the end of days.
Daniel 10, Persistence in Prayer
Daniel had been fasting and praying for three weeks without apparent result. In this vision, the curtain is pulled back a bit and he learns that the manifestation of answers to prayer may involve conflict among spiritual beings.
Daniel 11, The Soap Opera
After his death, Alexander's empire was divided among his four top generals. The Selucids and the Ptolemys were above and below Israel respectively. Chapter 11, describing their competition over a span of three centuries, reads like an ancient 'Game of Thrones.'
Daniel 11-12, The Time of the End
The angel speaking to Daniel gives him a prophecy that extends to the end of days and covers the events of Revelation. It includes some very specific events and time spans.