The book has two divisions: Dan. 1–6 contains narratives regarding Daniel and his three companions; Dan. 7–12 contains prophetic visions seen by Daniel and reported in his own name. Dan. 2:4–7:28 is written in Aramaic and the rest in Hebrew. The book of Daniel teaches its readers the important duty of being true to the God of Israel at all cost and illustrates the blessings of the Lord upon the faithful.
A major contribution of the book is the interpretation of the king’s dream in which the kingdom of God in the last days is depicted as a little stone that is cut out of a mountain and that will roll forth until it fills the whole earth (Dan. 2).
Other significant items include: the spirit of wisdom that was given to Daniel and his companions in consequence of their abstinence from wine (Dan. 1); the dramatic story of the three persons being delivered from the fiery furnace by the power of God (Dan. 3); the account of Daniel interpreting the handwriting on the wall (Dan. 5); Daniel being cast into the den of lions (Dan. 6). In every case, the deliverance of Daniel and his three friends is shown to be brought about by the blessing of God because of their faithfulness.
The prophetic visions present a succession of world-monarchies, the last of which will severely persecute the saints but will be brought to an end by the judgment of God. Dan. 7, under the symbolism of beasts, shows how, at the end, the world-kingdoms give place to the kingdom of God. This chapter also contains the vision of “One like unto a Son of Man” standing before the Ancient of Days to receive power and glory. The “Son of Man” is Jesus Christ. Latter-day revelation identifies the Ancient of Days as Adam (D&C 116), who is also known as Michael (D&C 128:21; see also Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1). A testimony of mankind’s resurrection is given in Dan. 12.
Daniel, like Joseph, is given ability to interpret dreams and to reveal the future. Also, like Joseph, he is careful to point out that he is not able to do this by his own wisdom but because of the wisdom given him by the God of heaven (Gen. 40:18; 41:16; Dan. 2:19–20, 27–30, 47).
The book of Daniel, the earliest example of apocalyptic literature currently in the Bible, corresponds in the Old Testament to the Revelation of John in the New Testament. There are, however, examples of apocalyptic literature in Moses 7 and 1 Ne. 8; 11, which are of earlier date.
There are various additions to the book of Daniel not included in the present canon, some of which are found in the Apocrypha, that is, the Song of the Three Children, the History of Susanna, and Bel and the Dragon. (See Apocrypha.)