The book of Daniel is set within the context of the sixth-century exile. The events narrated in the first six chapters date from the year Nebuchadnezzar deported Daniel and his friends (605) to the third year of Cyrus (536). This spans the entire period of the Babylonian exile. The exile was one of the key events in the history of Israel, and the book of Daniel is set in the midst of this important time of transition for the people of God. The visions found in the last six chapters of Daniel extend beyond the Babylonian exile, although how far they extend into the future is a matter of intense debate. Like Ezekiel, the book of Daniel contains a number of enigmatic prophecies. And like Ezekiel, the difficult nature of these prophecies has resulted in a wide variety of conflicting interpretations. The lack of consensus presents a challenge for the reader, but it is not necessarily an insurmountable one. An examination of the best commentaries can be helpful in sorting through the issues. The following are five of the most helpful commentaries on the book of Daniel.
1. E. J. Young — Daniel (1949).
There are a number of good conservative commentaries on the book of Daniel, but I still find the older work of E. J. Young to be one of the most helpful. When it comes to the book of Daniel, it is doubtful that any reader will agree with every conclusion of a single commentator, and I disagree with Young on a few points. Young, however, is usually the first work I look at when I turn to commentaries on Daniel. Still very highly recommended.
2. Iain M. Duguid — Daniel (Reformed Expository Commentary, 2008).
Turning from a classic Reformed commentary on Daniel to one of the newest, Iain Duguid’s work on Daniel in the Reformed Expository Commentary series is an outstanding reference. This commentary should be of use to both pastors and general readers.
3. Sinclair Ferguson — Daniel (The Preacher’s Commentary, 2002).
Students of Scripture should read anything that Sinclair Ferguson publishes, and his commentary on Daniel is no exception. Although aimed specifically at pastors, this commentary is accessible to a general readership as well. Very helpful.
4. Dale Ralph Davis — The Message of Daniel (The Bible Speaks Today, 2013).
Those who have already read my “top 5” posts on the historical books know that I think Davis’ commentaries on those books are “must-reads.” The same is true here. Even on those interpretive points where I might disagree with him, I enjoy reading Davis. Pastors should certainly not skip this volume.
5. Ernest Lucas — Daniel (Apollos Old Testament Commentary, 2002).
Although Lucas does not settle firmly on an early or late date for Daniel (he concludes that it is possible to make a reasonable case for either date), he has written a commentary that is worth consulting. This commentary is slightly more technical than the four listed above, but it is not so technical that the average reader cannot use it. All Hebrew and Aramaic is transliterated. A very good contribution to the literature on Daniel.
There are a number of other helpful commentaries on the book of Daniel. On a more introductory level are the works by Paul R. House, Joyce Baldwin, James Montgomery Boice, and Ronald Wallace. Somewhat more in depth, but still conservative, is the work by Allan Harman. Tremper Longman’s volume in the NIV Application series will be helpful for pastors.
Helpful Related Works
James Hamilton’s book With the Clouds of Heaven should be studied by anyone working on the book of Daniel. Tremper Longman has recently added a volume on Daniel to his “How to Read” series.
This article is part of the Top 5 Commentaries collection.