February 2, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XIII: Contexts, Parallels & Spirit of the Text

[Thus begins the specific interpretation of the text of Daniel. You are free to differ in opinion and  I imagine many will do so.]

The Historical, Theological and Geographical Settings  (Daniel 1:1-2)

Daniel 1:1-2 ~ In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with some of the vessels of the house of God. And he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his god.


It has been errantly stated that the opening statements in (v.1-2) supposedly create a chronological/historical problem that troubles people/commentators. Some have stated (including John Calvin) that Nebuchadnezzar is called king here in a proleptic manner (existing before his proper historical time). This is based on the comparison or dissimilarity between Daniel and Jeremiah, this though can be chalked up to the possible usage of the Babylonian dating system used by Daniel and the Egyptian used in Jeremiah when referring to Jehoiakim's reign (Lucas 50-51). Regardless, the stories are set during the Babylonian Exile. We see God's plan of unfolding events unfolding in the real world in real history (Lucas 52).


It is theologically asserted or implied throughout Daniel that the Babylonian exile is not due to the inability of God to defend Jerusalem but it is actually due to a deliberate act by God to make it happen. So much for assumptions about God's plans and ability to do things...eh? In this case, God is working through Nebuchadnezzar and smashes Jerusalem in judgment. This is similar to God working to  harden Pharaoh's heart centuries earlier during the time of the Exodus of the Hebrew slaves from captivity. We see this theological understanding of God: He allows or has events transpire in human lives that are not only historical but firmly based in God's sovereign control.


The setting geographically and geopolitically...we see Babylonian incursion by siege warfare courtesy of Nebuchadnezzar into Jerusalem ruled by Jehoiakim. And God delivers Jerusalem to the Babylonians. From this point forward as the text says, the narrative will be based in Shinar and olden name for Babylonia.

Synopsis: God is a God of time and place therefore over Creation. He is also a God of Spirit and He is sovereign over all of them.

Daniel 2:1-49 Similarities to Genesis 41

The account of a slave or subservient brought before a ruler because his own, magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, astrologers or prognosticators cannot interpret the rulers dreams in Daniel 2:1-49 clearly parallels and is reminiscent of Joseph's interpretation of Pharaoh's dream in Genesis 41 and then is given position of second only to Pharaoh, although this should not just be considered a retelling of the same type of tale. Specifically the the parallels zero in on Genesis 41:8 verb usage being the same as Daniel 2:1 when used in reference to Pharaoh's and Nebuchadnezzar's  "spirit[s] were/was troubled" . The subject similarities are basically (1) A king is worried by his dreams ad gets irate when his wise men cannot decipher it (2) A young Israelite exile is found who can (3) The young Israelites insists this ability is from God who is really the One worth of the king's praise (4) The dream(s) concern a future event. (5) the king promotes the young man to a position of honor. A noted difference though is that Daniel only interprets the dream, he does not offer advise as Joseph did.

We see the categorization of "court tales" acted out here. We should more properly see this as a court contest centering around interpretation of a dream as the mitigating factor. The following syllogism (loosely) outlines the court tale: (1) Sage acts as primary entertainer for king but sometimes must solve more vexing problem for ruler (2) Supposed wise courtiers shown to be bumbling idiots. (3) Sage on deathbed may impart words of wisdom (4) Sage may act as savior delivering King from vexation (5) Sage may experience disgrace followed by restoration.

What's Important? The Dream or The Story Itself?

The main point of the story is carried in the narrative...the dream is secondary to the narrative. The "mystery" it reveals is not the details of the course of events of history but the fact that history is under the control of God and that it has a purpose which will be achieved.

The narrative is a story of six acts. (1) Sages failure to interpret dream (v1-13), Daniel seeks and obtains dreams content from God (v14-23) (3) Daniel witnesses to the God who reveals mysteries (v24-28a), (4) Daniel recounts dream (v28b-35) (5) Daniel interprets dream (v36-45) (6) Nebuchadnezzar honors Daniel and his God (v.46-49). The irony in the whole storyline appears to be that Daniel essentially concurs with the court sages (v.27) conclusion that no man could possibly know what the king asks of them (v10-11) and this is exactly the point of entry and the statement about a God who can. A divine, sovereign and omniscient God who can reveal knowledge / wisdom / answers to mysteries unknown to men because He is sovereign and omniscient. The reason this happens is to ultimately bring glory to God because it shows nothing is hidden to Daniel's God and there is nothing He does not understand. Ultimate sovereignty and omniscience is in God's hands. This is great comfort to those who are about to or are currently undergoing persecution or suffering because they/we know that God is aware of what we are going through and what is happening to us and if He knows this and is sovereign... then He is allowing it for a reason (Andy's Note: this concept would then underlie some of the explanation for Theodicy).

Daniel's God: 1
Chaldean's god(s): 0

Winner: Daniel's God hands down.

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