These small group studies of Daniel contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Daniel 9:1-19 Bible Study Commentary And Discussion Questions
Daniel 9:1-19 Bible Study Video
Daniel 9:1-19 Podcast
I. Background of Daniel’s Prayer (1-2)
II. Daniel’s Confession (3-15)
III. Daniel’s Plea (16-19)
I. Background of Daniel’s Prayer (1-2)
- When did this prayer occur chronologically in the book of Daniel?
- What books was Daniel looking at?
- How might he have had access to these books?
- Who wrote the books that Daniel was reading?
- What was Daniel’s conclusion about the authority of the books?
- What can we learn from this about the inspiration of Scripture?
- What did he learn from Jeremiah about God’s plans regarding Jerusalem?
- How does this passage influence your view of Scripture?
- If Daniel (a prophet) diligently studied the word, then what should we do?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. In the first year of Darius – The prayer and the vision recorded in Daniel 9 occur chronologically soon after the fall of Babylon recorded in Daniel 5.
The identity of Darius (mentioned three times in the book of Daniel) is controversial. Modern scholars (who are also critical of the Bible in general) view this figure as fictional. However, the book of Daniel has proved its historical reliability already in the case of Belshazzar. Bible critics also thought that he was a fictitious character until undeniable proof in the form of Babylonian cuneiforms showed that the Biblical account was correct.
Many Bible scholars have studied this issue in-depth. And it goes beyond the scope of this study. The below article is one solution that seems very strong. There are actually two “streams” of history regarding the rise of Persia and its early years. The generally accepted stream is from a historian named Herodotus and his account is extremely difficult to harmonize with Daniel. However, another ancient historian, Xenophon, has been found to be more reliable in many cases. And his record fits closely with Daniel’s.
You can view his article here.
He also wrote a book based on this topic for those who want to research it in depth.
The Bible has proved itself to be historically accurate over and over again. One day in the future, whether through new evidence coming to light or Jesus’ 2nd coming, this fact too will be confirmed.
Application – Faith is the conviction of things not seen. There are some aspects of the Bible that are not 100% proven. However, that doesn’t mean that our faith is blind faith. Far from it, our faith is a reasonable faith. Much evidence points to its truth and reliability. For some of this evidence, you can visit answersingenesis.org.
2. I perceived in the books the number of years according to the word of the Lord to Jeremiah –
This is an amazing verse. Firstly, we see that Daniel was a student of the Scriptures. He studied not only the Torah (9:13) but also the recent writings of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a contemporary of Daniel. His ministry was based in Jerusalem before the first Babylonian conquest of Judah and stretched into the early years of captivity when the last remnants of the land fled to Egypt.
It is likely that Daniel knew of Jeremiah the prophet before he was exiled to Babylon. After the first conquest of Jerusalem by Babylon, there were two more. In each subsequent war, more people were taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. At some point, there must have been a copy or copies of Jeremiah’s prophecies that were taken to Babylon for the exiles. It should not be surprising that copies were made since Jeremiah had a scribe, Baruch, whose job was just that.
Daniel, as a high-ranking and powerful official, was able to get access to these important scrolls.
We again see Daniel’s hunger for learning. He desired to absorb everything He could of God’s Word. Like us, he was a Bible student. Though he was a prophet, he could not just direct download anything he wanted from a dream. Though he had far more dreams and visions than the norm, his primary method of learning was still the same as us, studying Scripture.
It was not through a cursory glance that Daniel learned this important prophecy. It must have been through a careful study of Jeremiah’s writings.
Note too, that Daniel referred to Jeremiah as a prophet. And he respected his writings as the word of the Lord. Daniel viewed the seventy-year captivity prophecy of Jeremiah as divine truth, not just as speculation.
Application – If the prophet Daniel, who received direct revelation from God, was a student of the word, how much more should we study it? We have much more Scripture available to us now than he did. It is a priceless treasure. When we view Scripture in that way, we will be motivated to dig into it.
3. What did Daniel do after he made this Scriptural discovery? –
He applied it to his life. For him, the prophecy was not just theoretical knowledge. It made a difference in his life. It demanded a personal response. His entire prayer of confession is made as a response to what he had learned in his study of Scripture.
Daniel’s example reminds us of the importance of both studying and obeying the word. His model is one of the pillars that the theme for this ministry, studyandobey.com, is built on.
Application – Every part of Scripture is relevant to our lives. Our job is to first find out its meaning and then apply it to our lives. Do you regularly make changes to your life based on what you learn in the Bible? If not, how can you start?
4. Seventy years must pass before the end of the desolations to Jerusalem –
The prophecy that Daniel references is found in these two passages.
Jeremiah 25:11-12 – This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the Lord, making the land an everlasting waste.
Jeremiah 29:10-11 – For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
The prophecies are clear. After seventy years, Babylon would be punished and the exiled remnant would be brought back to the Promised Land again. These prophecies were fulfilled historically after the edict of Cyrus the Great, seen in Ezra 1:2-4.
And it fits with secular accounts of Cyrus’ disposition toward conquered enemies.
This inscription was found on the famous Cyrus Cylinder, unearthed by an explorer in 1870. The artifact can now be seen at the British Museum and says,
“I returned to these sacred cities on the other side of the Tigris, the sanctuaries of which have been ruins for a long time, the images which [used] to live therein and established for them permanent sanctuaries. I [also] gathered all their [former] inhabitants and returned [to them] their habitations.”
Application – Trust in God’s promises. Throughout history, He has been faithful to fulfill what He said He would do, no matter how impossible it looked at the time. Let the example of God’s fulfilled promise to restore His people encourage you to trust in His power and goodness today.
II. Daniel’s Confession (3-15)
- What do you observe about Daniel’s attitude in this passage?
- How does fasting connect with prayer?
- What is the significance of sackcloth and ashes?
- How does Daniel view God?
- How does Daniel view himself?
- Why does Daniel frequently use the term “we” while talking with God? What does this show you about his attitude?
- What is the key theme of his prayer?
- What do you learn about confession?
- What sins had the nation committed?
- What had happened to the nation as a result of their disobedience?
- Why is recognizing the consequences of our actions an important aspect of confession?
- Where was this “curse” written in the law of Moses (13)?
- Why is confession so difficult?
- Why is confession so important?
- What do you learn from Daniel’s prayer that you can apply to your own prayer life?
Matthew 6:16-18 – And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Proverbs 28:13 – Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Ezra 9:6-7 – O my God, I am ashamed and blush to lift my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens. From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today.
Galatians 6:7-8 – Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Then I turned my face to the Lord, seeking Him by prayer – Daniel’s response to the prophecy was prayer. It drove him to his knees. God had already said He was going to do this. Daniel could have thought, “There is no need to pray. This is a foregone conclusion.”
However, he did not view himself (or his people) as a passive observer in God’s processes. Instead, he viewed his role as a humble and willing tool to be used by God.
How could God restore Judah if it still didn’t repent? Even if He did, how could the Jews survive if they didn’t change?
Daniel seemed to believe that confession was necessary before restoration. Or, at the very least, it was a critical part of the means by which God brought about this desired end.
Application – We are also waiting for a number of God’s promises to be fulfilled, most notably Jesus’ second coming. There are other prophecies connected to this one, such as the fact that the gospel will be preached to all the nations before Jesus returns (Matthew 24:14). We should not be totally passive spectators simply waiting for whenever. Instead, we should actively pray for his return. And while we are praying, we should seek to win the world for Christ and preach the gospel to all nations. In addition, we should live humble, holy, repentant lives so that we will be ready.
2. With fasting, sackcloth, and ashes – These actions showed Daniel’s sincerity and his humble attitude. Sackcloth was a very uncomfortable and coarse fabric that was worn by people who were poor or grieving. In Biblical times, sackcloth and ashes together symbolized extreme mourning, often over sin.
In addition to these visible signs, Daniel withheld himself from food. Fasting allowed him to distance himself from the temporal cares of the world and focus completely on God.
3. And made confession – The key theme in Daniel’s prayer is confession. His prayer is quite similar to Ezra’s in Ezra 9, and from both we can learn several key ingredients of confession.
A. Daniel starts with praise –
Daniel 9:4 – I prayed to the Lord my God and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments.
In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught the disciples how to pray. He taught them to start, “Hallowed by your name.” It wasn’t the exact words that were important. Rather, it was the attitude behind the words. God’s people are to come before Him with the right mindset, realizing that He is on the throne. He is sovereign over all. We are not to come to Him with demands but instead humbly come to the throne of grace.
Hebrews 4:16 – Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
B. Daniel uses personal pronouns “we” and “our” (verses 5, 6, etc.) –
Daniel uses many personal pronouns. He uses “we,” “our,” and “us.” He uses these pronouns even though he wasn’t involved in his people’s idolatry.
The obvious question is why? Simply put, he is one of the people. He is identifying himself as linked to the group. The prayer would also not seem nearly as genuine if he kept saying how evil the other Israelites were. While he had not committed the sin that led to the exile, he had committed many others, so it was true that the entire nation was guilty in God’s sight.
When one wants to confess to God, there should be no blaming or pointing fingers. When people first sinned, Adam pointed to Eve and blamed her, and Eve pointed to the snake and blamed it, but in fact, they were both culpable for the sin they had done (although it was true that they had been influenced by others. The sin of one person or a group can affect the larger body.
Now from God’s viewpoint, He clearly does not hold one person responsible for the sin of others. A father should not be punished for his son and vice-versa.
Yet when we come to God in prayer, we should come as the representative of our group (be it America, France, our Bible study group, or our family) and seek God’s forgiveness and blessing for the entire group. So here we learn another lesson about confession.
Key principle – True confession takes personal responsibility and doesn’t blame others.
C. Daniel had the right view of himself and the right view of God –
We see Daniel’s high view of God and accurate view of man throughout this prayer. One example is in verse 7.
Daniel 9:7 – To you, O Lord, belongs righteousness, but to us open shame.
There was not a hint of complaint by Daniel. He knew that God was just. Every discipline that they had endured was fair and right. All righteousness was ascribed to God.
Meanwhile, he realized that his people deserved the blame. Their own sinful had led them there.
Application – When confessing sin, humbly come to the throne of grace to receive mercy. Have an exalted view of God and an accurate view of yourself.
D. Daniel realized that their exile was deserved, a just consequence for their sin –
Daniel 9:7 – To the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to all Israel, those who are near and those who are far away, in all the lands to which you have driven them, because of the treachery that they have committed against you. To us, O Lord, belongs open shame, to our kings, to our princes, and to our fathers, because we have sinned against you. To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, for we have rebelled against him and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God by walking in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.
Daniel realized that their exile was a direct result of their sin in God’s sight. This doesn’t mean that all trials are the result of sin. As we learn in the story of the blind man in John 9, not every affliction is the result of sin. There are many possible reasons for them. But in the case of Israel, God had already told them that He was disciplining them because of their sin. Many times (not always), people’s difficulties are the result of poor life choices.
Marriages fail because of sin (of one or other or both sides). A son or daughter won’t speak to his parent many times because of the mistakes of that parent. A student fails an exam and misses a chance to enter college because he didn’t study hard. A family loses their home and everything they own because of poor financial decisions and getting into too much debt. A person goes to jail because of a lapse of judgment in which he drank too much, drove, and ran over someone. The list goes on and on.
Reflect – Can you think of any examples where your own sin/mistakes caused you a trial or hardship?
Many times, in these types of situations people would grow bitter. They would complain, get depressed, grow angry at other people, or even lash out at God. This is the wrong response. Instead of blaming others for our problems, we should realize that our own sin has brought us to this low, confess and seek to make right what we have done wrong.
Daniel 9:11 – And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him.
The curse he refers to is most likely a reference to the following from Deuteronomy.
Deuteronomy 28:15 – But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you.
God had warned the Israelites what would happen if they forsook Him. It couldn’t have been plainer than what He said in Deuteronomy 28. After that, he warned them repeatedly through the prophets. But they didn’t listen. Daniel rightly recognizes it was their disobedience that led to their defeat to the Babylonians.
Application – True confession realizes that sin comes with consequences. Instead of seeking to shift blame, seek to understand if your own choices are the reason for the trial that you are in.
E. He has confirmed His words which He spoke against us –
The discipline that the Jews faced was not happening within a vacuum. God had clearly warned them ahead of time about what would happen if they rebelled. And they did.
Daniel realized that the consequences were clearly laid out and were 100% fair. The discipline, rather than being a surprise, was actually a confirmation of God’s faithfulness. He did what He said He would do.
4. And gained insight by your truth (13) – Daniel views the goal of God’s chastening as teaching them an important lesson, one which they hadn’t yet learned. It was a very humble attitude to take. If every believer looked at discipline in that light, the church would grow rapidly!
Application – When you face the chastening hand of the Lord, seek to gain insight into His truth in the middle of that situation. God’s plans for you have a purpose. If you are in a trial, it is for a reason (Romans 8:28). Never put a good trial to waste! Make sure to learn from it the lessons that God has for you.
III. Daniel’s Plea (16-19)
- What character qualities of God does Daniel base his plea on?
- What is Daniel’s prayer request?
- What quality do you see in Daniel in these verses?
- When does He ask God to do these things?
- What lessons can we learn from Daniel in this passage about prayer?
- Based on what we have learned in this passage, how can you improve your prayer life?
Romans 10:10 – For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
Psalm 32:5-6 – I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.
Titus 3:5 – He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. According to your righteous acts – Daniel asks God to act in accordance with His own character. It is hard to argue with that!
Throughout this passage, Daniel acknowledges God’s justice in disciplining them the way He did. He knows they deserved it. At the same time, he believes that God is merciful.
A plea for mercy
In verse 17, Daniel says, “listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy.” Daniel does not say that he or the nation deserves God’s mercy. The definition of mercy is “not getting the punishment that you deserve.” He believes God is gracious.
This is the way we are to approach God in prayer. We should not come with demands. We do not come as equals.
Hebrews 4:16 says that we should “approach the throne of grace.” And Jesus praised the unworthy sinner who humbly acknowledged his own failings to God.
Luke 18:13-14 – But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
This is the type of prayer that God is pleased with.
Application – How are you approaching the Lord in prayer? Are you coming before Him in humility, recognizing that He is almighty and sovereign over all? God is merciful, but we should ask for His mercy instead of taking it for granted.
For your own sake, O Lord
Two times Daniel asks that God grant his pleas for His own sake (17, 19). He also reminds God that they are His people and called by His name (19).
It is similar to the prayer of Moses in Exodus.
Exodus 32:12 – Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people.
Moses argues that being harsh with the Israelites would hurt God’s own reputation. Punishing them would invite accusations from His enemies.
Daniel is making a similar appeal. They are His people. They bear His name. By acting mercifully toward the nation, God would in essence be magnifying His own name. People would see His kindness and glorify Him.
This is, in fact, what is happening. Even today, we study how God restored the Jews to their land after the exile and we praise God for His lovingkindness and faithfulness. And it reminds us that He is also faithful toward us, even when we sin.
2 Timothy 2:13 – If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.
Application – Our prayers should reflect a proper understanding of God’s nature. If we ask God to go against His own nature or His revealed Word, they are doomed to fail. Therefore we should pray in accordance with His character.
2. Daniel’s pleas –
After his confession on behalf of the nation, Daniel makes his request to the Lord.
“Let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem.”
“Make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate.”
“Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name.”
“O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act.”
In short, he asks for forgiveness and restoration. The seventy-years of prophesied exile are nearly over. Daniel pleads with the Lord to restore His people to their land. He asks for God’s blessing. And He asks for a blessing on the city of Jerusalem and the “sanctuary” there, which is likely a reference to the destroyed temple.
Daniel’s prayers were answered. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record how God answered this prayer (and surely many more like it) and restored the people. The city was rebuilt. A new temple was erected. And walls were laid.
The story of the exile and return to the land is one of the most amazing in Scripture. Perhaps never before had a people been dispersed like the Jews were and then restored. But as astounding as that was, God would still beat it. After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, the Jews were scattered for nearly 1900 years across the face of the earth. And He restored them again. Time and distance are nothing to God. His promises will always be fulfilled, no matter how impossible it seems.
Application – Believe in God’s promises. And don’t be afraid to ask big things of God. He is a big God.
3. Delay not – Daniel also pleads with the Lord to act quickly. He knew God would move on their behalf, and he hoped this would happen soon.
Application – Based on this passage, what is one practical way you can cultivate a healthy lifestyle of prayer this week?
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