Daniel was a prominent Jewish personality during the Babylonian exile who attained prestigious positions in the Babylonian and Median courts. He is famous for interpreting royal dreams, surviving the lions’ den, and setting cryptic dates for Moshiach’s arrival. Read on for 14 facts about this remarkable Biblical figure.

1. He Was Exiled to Babylonia

During a preliminary incursion into Judea in 3319 (442 BCE), Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylonia defeated the Jewish king Joiakim and exiled him to Babylonia along with many elite members of Judean society. (Later Babylonian invasions would culminate with the destruction of the first Holy Temple in 3338 [423 BCE].) Among those exiled were Daniel and his three colleagues, Chananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.1

Read: Daniel, the Prophet of the Bible

2. He Ate Seeds to Keep Kosher

Daniel and his three companions were selected to serve as chamberlains in the king’s court. Although an array of delicacies and wine was made available for their consumption, they abstained from the non-kosher food and relied instead on a meager diet of seeds and water.

Miraculously, their appearance was even healthier than those who partook of the royal dishes.2

Read: What Is Kosher?

3. He Interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s Dreams

When describing Daniel’s great wisdom, Scripture states: “Daniel understood every type of vision and dream.”3 Indeed, in two separate instances Daniel was called to interpret a dream witnessed by Nebuchadnezzar—although the interpretation was not always what the evil monarch wanted to hear.

Read: Nebuchadnezzar, the Evil King Who Destroyed Jerusalem

4. He Foretold the Fortunes of Future Empires

On the first occasion, Nebuchadnezzar did not remember the dream. He demanded—under threat of death—that his astrologers reveal both the dream and its interpretation, something they were unable to do. Based on a nocturnal vision granted to him by G‑d, Daniel proceeded to successfully satisfy both demands.

In the dream, he divulged, the king had seen a statue whose parts were fashioned of various materials—gold, silver, copper, iron, and earthenware. These segments, Daniel explained, represented Babylonia and three subsequent empires—identified by the commentaries as Persia, Greece, and Rome, all of whom would ultimately be destroyed.4

Read: The Four Exiles of the Jewish People

5. He Was Appointed Governor of Babylonia

The recollection of the dream and its accompanying interpretation so impressed the king that he began to treat Daniel as though he were a deity. When Daniel spurned these efforts, Nebuchadnezzar instead promoted Daniel to the position of governor of Babylonia and head of all the wise men of the country.5

6. He Advised Nebuchadnezzar to Give Charity

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream, he envisioned a majestic tree cut down by an angel, with only the roots remaining. The implications of the dream, as interpreted by Daniel, were alarming: As punishment for his arrogance, the king would be struck with insanity for seven years and appear and behave like an animal. To delay the fulfillment of the dream, Daniel advised that Nebuchadnezzar redeem his sins by giving charity to the poor.6

Read: The Myth of Charity

7. He Read the Writing on the Wall

Many years later, Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson Belshazzar threw a feast in which he desecrated the vessels of the Holy Temple plundered by his grandfather. During the festivities, a hand suddenly appeared and inscribed four cryptic words on the palace wall. Once again, the wise men of the kingdom were unsuccessful in deciphering them, and it was only Daniel who was able to interpret the foreboding Divine message—that Belshazzar and his kingdom would shortly fall prey to the Median and Persian conquerors.7

Read: Under Babylonian and Persian Rule

8. He Was Thrown Into the Lions’ Den

Like Nebuchadnezzar before him, Darius king of Media recognized Daniel’s superior wisdom and appointed him as one of the leading officials of the land. Jealous and intent on incriminating him, Daniel’s fellow ministers convinced the king to establish a law forbidding requests to be made of any god or man other than the king for the next 30 days.

Unfazed by the decree, Daniel continued his practice of praying to G‑d three times a day while facing Jerusalem. His enemies immediately slandered him to the king, who had no choice but to execute the prescribed punishment—throwing the offender into a pit of lions. Miraculously, Daniel survived unharmed, and the king had the slanderers thrown into the pit instead.8

Read: Why Do Jews Pray Three Times a Day?

9. He Was Among the Men of the Great Assembly

At the onset of the Second Temple era, the leading Jewish scholars convened to form the most prestigious assembly of Jewish scholarship in recorded history, the Anshei Knesset Hagedolah (“Men of the Great Assembly”). One of the members of this great body of Jewish scholarship was Daniel.9

Read: The Men of the Great Assembly

10. He Experienced Divine Visions

In addition to interpreting the visions of others, Daniel experienced several of his own. For the most part, Daniel’s visions dealt with the future kingdoms that would dominate civilization and the time of Moshiach’s coming.10 His cryptic allusions to the latter have been the subject of much exegesis by the classical commentaries, such as Rabbi Saadia Gaon, Ibn Ezra, Abarbanel, and many others.

Read: Date of Moshiach’s Coming

11. His Book is Part of Scripture

The story and visions of Daniel are recorded in the Book of Daniel, authored collectively by the Men of the Great Assembly.11 This book is one of the 24 books of Scripture and is included in the section of the Bible known as Ketuvim, Writings.

Read: Why Isn’t the Book of Daniel Part of the Prophets?

12. He Is Also Called Belteshazzar and Ish Chamudot

In the Babylonian and Median courts, Daniel was known by the Chaldean name Belteshazzar, a moniker given to him by Nebuchadnezzar’s chief officer.12 Scripture also refers to him as Ish Chamudot, translated either as “man of purity” or “man of enviable qualities.”13

13. Some Say He Is Featured in the Purim Story

According to one tradition, Daniel is identified as Hatach,14 mentioned in the Purim story as the individual who transmitted critical messages between Mordechai and Esther.15 According to another tradition, Daniel was Memuchan, the advisor who prompted Ahasuerus to depose the evil Queen Vashti.16

Read: The Purim Story

14. He Shone Despite the Challenges

Daniel was exiled to a faraway land where he confronted daunting obstacles. Yet, not only did he uphold his principles and traditions, but he was admired and respected for doing so. Remarkably, he succeeded in imparting Divine awareness to the highest echelons of Babylonian and Median society.

His very name hints at this accomplishment—a fusion of the Hebrew words “din,” signifying severity and restraint, and “E-l,” the Divine name associated with kindness and benevolence. This implies that Daniel succeeded in transforming the negative experience of exile into an opportunity where G‑dliness can shine.17