Respecting the parentage or family of Daniel, the fourth of the great Hebrew prophets, nothing is known, though he appears to have been of noble if not of royal descent (Daniel i, 3). When, in the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim (607, 606, 605, or 604 B.C.), Jerusalem was first taken by Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, then a youth, was among the captives carried to Babylon. By the king’s orders, he, with others of the Jewish youth, was educated for three years (Daniel i, 3-7). At this time Daniel acquired the power of interpreting dreams (i, 17), which he used with such advantage in expounding a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, that he was made ruler over the whole province of Babylon (Daniel ii, 46-48). Daniel’s interpretation of Belshazzar’s famous vision having been fulfilled by the capture of Babylon by Darius, that conqueror promoted Daniel to the highest office in the kingdom (Daniel vi, 1-3). The prophet also prospered greatly during the reign of Cyrus (Daniel vi, 28).
The book of Daniel is written partly in Chaldaic or Syriac (the vernacular Aramaic language spoken by the people of Palestine), and partly in sacred Hebrew. It is manifestly divisible into two portions. The first (chapters i-vi) narrating the details of the prophet’s life, and the second (chapters vii-xii) setting forth his apocalyptic visions. Much doubt has been cast upon the authenticity of the work. The evident reference in the eleventh chapter to the conquest of Persia by Alexander the Great, which took place about 330 B.C., or more than two hundred years after Daniel flourished, has led many modern critics to believe that the work was composed in the time of the Maccabees.
Dore’s picture appears to be intended to represent the prophet meditating over one of the many visions which came to him.