3. The book is generally divided into two nearly equal parts. The first of these (1-6) contains chiefly historical incidents, while the second (7-12) is entirely apocalyptic. This division is further supported by the fact that the details of the two sections are arranged in order of time, and that the commencement of the second section falls earlier than the close of the first, as if the writer himself wished to mark the division of suject. But on the other hand this division takes no account of the difference of language, nor of the change of person at the beginning of chapter 8. And though the first section is mainly historical, yet the vision of chapter 7 finds its true foundation and counterpart in chapter 2.
From these circumstances it seems better to divide the book (Auberlen, p. 36 ff.) into three parts. The first chapter forms an introduction. The next six chapters (2-7) give a general view of the progressive history of the powers of the world, and of the principles of the divine government as seen in events of the life of Daniel. The remainder of the book (8-12) traces in minuter detail the fortunes of the people of God, as typical of the fortunes of the Church in all ages.
The second section (2, 7) is distinguished by a remarkable symmetry. It opens (in chapter 2) with a view of the great kingdoms of the earth revealed to a heathen sovereign, to whom they appeared in their outward unity and splendor, and yet devoid of any true life (a metal colossus); it closes (in chapter 7) with a view of the same powers as seen by a prophet of God, to whom they were displayed in their distinct characters, as instinct with life, though of a lower nature, and displaying it with a terrible energy of action (thuria, four beasts). The image under which the manifestation of God’s kingdom is foreshown corresponds exactly with this twofold exhibition of the worldly powers. “A stone cut without hands,” “becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth” (Dan. 2:34, 35)–a rock and not a metal–is contrasted with the finite proportions of a statue moulded by man’s art, as “the Son of man,” the representative of humanity, is the true Lord of that lower creation (Gen. 1:30) which symbolizes the spirit of mere earthly dominions (Dan. 7:13, 14).
The intermediate chapters (3-6) exhibit a similar correspondence, while setting forth the action of God among men. The deliverance of the friends of Daniel from the punishment to which they were condemned for refusing to perform an idolatrous act at the command of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 3), answers to the deliverance of Daniel from that to which he was exposed by continuing to serve his God in spite of the edict of Darius (ch. 6); and in the same way the degradation, the repentance, and the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar (ch. 4), forms a striking contrast to the sacrilegious pride and death of Belshazzar (ch. 5:23-31).
The arrangement of the last section (8-12) is not equally distinct, though it offers traces of a similar disposition. The description of the progress of the Grecian power in ch. 8 is further developed in the last vision (10-12), while the last chapter appears to carry on the revelation to the first coming of Messiah in answer to the prayer of Daniel.
In summary, in this portion of the entry on the Book of Daniel from Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, Bishop Westcott has suggested two ways to outline the material in the Book of Daniel. The first, and simpler, outline is something like as follows:
1. Historical Narratives of Daniel (1-6)
2. Apocalyptic Visions of Daniel (7-12)
In terms of chronology, according to Westcott, this two point outline works (see first paragraph above), but in terms of language and author, a more sophisticated outline seems in order. In this effort, Westcott follows the lead of Dr. Karl August Auberlen (I’ve linked to an online text of Auberlen’s book which seems to be the very one Westcott cites above) in dividing the book into a three point outline with several subpoints as follows:
1. Introduction (1:1-21)
2. Progressive History of World Powers and Principles of Divine Government (2-7)
A. Great Kingdoms of the Earth Revealed to a Heathen Sovereign (2)
B. Daniel’s Friends Delivered from Fiery Furnace (3)
C. Degredation, Repentance and Restoration of Nebuchadnezzar (4)
D. Handwriting on the Wall for Belshazzar (5)
E. Daniel Delivered from Lion’s Den (6)
3. Fortunes of the People of God, as Typical of the Fortunes of the Church in All Ages (8-12)
A. ( See paragraph 5 above for topical breakdown)
Also, don’t miss Pastor Kyle Oliphint’s exposition of Daniel Chapter 2 entitled, “A Bad Dream for a King, and Wisdom Sought from the King“