Thursday, January 27, 2011

Daniel 7 - Visions in the Night

This chapter is considered by most to be the most significant chapter of Daniel and also a key chapter of the Old Testament.  There are some who have proposed that Daniel has borrowed from the ancient Near Eastern mythologies around him in this composition (such as the account of Adapa, Enuma Elish, or the Ugaritic Baal Cycle; see Goldingay 150-151), but Daniels dream and its explanation seem just far more likely to belong to the literature of the prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel) and to Genesis and Psalms where there has been anything expounded upon, but he seems to simply have his own visions and explanations apart from these others as well as in addition to these others.

Chapter seven closes out the chiastic structure of chapters two through seven (see Goldingay 158) as well as concluding the Aramaic portion of Daniel:
            Ch. 2 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Nebuchadnezzar)
                        Ch. 3 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (three friends)
                                    Ch. 4 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Nebuchadnezzar)
                                    Ch. 5 – Judgment presaged and experienced (Belshazzar)
                        Ch. 6 – Faithfulness and miraculous rescue (Daniel)
            Ch. 7 – A vision of four kingdoms and their end (Daniel)
“Dan 2 offered world rulers a vision of their position as a God-given calling.  Dan 3-6 has portrayed them inclined to make themselves into God; they are thus also inclined to put mortal pressure on those who are committed to God (chaps. 3; 6), but are themselves on the way to catastrophe (chaps. 4; 5).  These motifs are taken up and taken further in chap. 7.  The tension between the human and the bestial that appeared in chaps. 4 and 6 becomes a key motif: bestiality is now turned on God himself (Barr), but he puts an end to the reign of the beast and gives authority to a humanlike figure (Lacocque).  As the real statue of chap. 3 follows on the dream statue of chap. 2, the dream animals of chap. 7 follow on the real animals of chap. 6.  As people of all races, nations, and languages were called to bow before the statue (3:4; cf. 5:19), so now they honor the human figure of Daniel’s vision (7:14).  Once Nebuchadnezzar testified to God’s lasting power (3:33; 4:31; cf. 6:27); now Daniel’s human figure has this power (7:14).  Once Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation was limited to seven periods of time (4:13); now the humiliation of the heavenly ones will be limited to 3 ½ such periods (7:25).  Once God demonstrated in history that as ruler in the earthly realm he could give royal authority to the most ordinary of human beings (4:14); now he gives it to a humanlike being at the end of the story of earthly kingdoms (7:13-14).  Once Darius took hold of power (6:1); now the heavenly ones do so (7:18).  Once Darius acknowledged that God’s rule would persist until the end (סופא עד) (6:27); now the king symbolized by the small horn has his authority destroyed permanently (סופא עד) (7:26).  Dan 2-6 have affirmed that God controlled times and epochs, his decree being victorious over the decrees of kings (2:9, 13, 15, 21; 6:6, 9, 13, 16); now a king who think to control times set by decree will lose all power (7:25-26).  Chaps. 3-6 indicate why the sequence of earthly regimes is destined to be brought to an end in the way chap. 2 describes.  Chap. 7 combines the thrust of the preceding chapters as a whole, and puts them in a new perspective” (Goldingay 158-159).
7:1 – Daniel had a dream.  The date indicated by Daniel places this dream between chapters four and five.  Daniel states that it was the first year of Belshazzar’s reign: 550-549BC (Goldingay 157), or 553BC (Miller 194; Walvoord 149) or 552-551BC (Baldwin 153).  Chapter eight then follows just two years later (8:1) and chapter nine is dated to between chapters five and six (9:1) with chapters ten to twelve concerning messages that were given sometime around or after the events of chapters six (10:1).  Whereas in chapter two it was king Nebuchadnezzar who dreamed of four kings/kingdoms, here it is Daniel and it was still during the days of the Babylonian empire.  Daniel proceeded to record what he saw and the interpretations he received.
7:2-3 – Four beasts from the great sea.  What might the “four winds” refer to?  Is this a sort of reference to the Spirit of God come from all directions?  Also, what and where is this “great sea”?  While some have proposed that it refers to the Mediterranean (which is the normal meaning of “great sea” in the Old Testament), it seems more likely to refer to the earth…that is to the nations and peoples of the earth according to the interpretation Daniel receives (Dan.7:17; cf. Isa.17:12-13; 57:20; Rev.13:1, 11; 17:1, 15).  Who or what are the “four beasts” of Daniel’s visions?  They are kings and kingdom—there is often overlap between the two where one may indicate the other (Dan.7:17; cf. Rev.13:1-7; 17:8).  They were to be distinguished from one another and to arise in succession.  Further, they would rule in ways not like lesser kingdoms, but as world powers who would act beastly in their rule though called by God to their places.
7:4 – The first beast was like a lion, but with wings like an eagle (or vulture?) until the wings were torn from it.  It was made to be human-like after the wings were torn from it.  What might this refer to?  (Jer.4:7; 49:19, 22; 50:17, 44; Lam.4:19; Eze.17:3; Hab.1:8) Many suggest it refers to the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling in Daniel 4.  There is little question, but that this kingdom is Babylon.  It is beastly: majestic and swift, powerful, but God determined to give it glory as a “man” and to raise it up in a manner that others would not be raised.
7:5 – The second beast was like a bear, but in some manner uneven.  It would be less majestic than the lion-like creature, but still powerful and terrible.  It is unclear what it means for a bear-like creature to be “raised up on one of its sides,” but it appears to refer to Medo-Persia and the unevenness of the dual empire with Persia as predominant.  Also, it remains unclear just what the three “ribs” in its mouth refers to.  Some have proposed the three primary kingdoms Medo-Persia conquered: Babylon (539BC), Lydia (546BC) and Egypt (525BC), but this is really nothing more than conjecture.  It was further given instructions to eat more despite already eating.  The idea would be that it would not be satisfied and look for more to conquer with a voracious appetite.
7:6 – The third beast was like a leopard, but with four wings and four heads.  That it was like a leopard suggests speed and that it included four wings suggests that this speed was increased.  The four heads suggests four kings or kingdoms in some way composing this empire.  This is apparently the Greek empire as under Alexander the Great the empire grew in rapid succession beginning in 334BC until his early death (323BC) whereupon it was divided between his four generals: Antipater over Greece and Macedonia; Lysimachus over Thrace and much of Asia Minor; Seleucus I Nicanor over Syria, Babylon and much of Asia except Palestine that part of Asia Minor controlled by Lysimachus; and Ptolemy I Soter over Egypt and Palestine.
7:7-8 – The fourth beast was beyond description with iron teeth it destroyed everything and crushed underfoot all (for the proposal of what empire this is see below).  This creature was truly terrifying and had ten horns which bothered Daniel enough to make him wonder about them.  As Daniel watched he saw a “little horn” grow up and displace three of the ten previous horns and this little one had eyes like a man and a boastful mouth (cf. Dan.11:36-37; 2 Th.2:3-12; Rev.13:5-6).  The eyes suggest intelligence and the mouth pride.  The horns refer to kings specifically as will be explained later (Dan.7:24). 
7:9-10 – The blazing court in heaven.  While Daniel was bothered deeply by the turbulence of his visions and even the boastfulness and terribleness of this last beast, suddenly he sees the court of heaven convening in the midst of fire and thousands upon thousands standing before the throne.  What are the plural “thrones” referring to?  (cf. Luke 22:30; 1 Cor.6:2; Rev.3:21; 20:4)  How should we understand the name and description of the “Ancient of Days”?  Also, what does it mean for a throne to have “wheels” on it? (Eze.1:15; 10:6)  What are the “books” that were opened?  (Exo.32:32; Isa.65:6; Dan.12:1; Mal.3:16; cf. Luke 10:20; Rev.20:12)
7:11-12 – The judgment.  Daniel is immediately wondering what will happen to the boastful horn given the scene he has just witnessed in heaven.  Note that not only is the “horn” dealt with, but the fourth beast is “slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire” (cf. Rev.19:20).  Why should the whole of the fourth beast be destroyed and thrown into the fire when it was the “horn” itself that was so boastful?  In what sense can the kingdom and the king truly be separated from one another?  What does this say about those who profess Christ as their king?  What might Daniel mean by his comments about the other three beasts being stripped of their authority but being allowed “to live for a period of time”?
7:13-14 – The vision of the “son of man”.  John Goldingay seems correct when he writes that Daniel 7 “invites us to focus on the humanlike figure’s role rather than on its identity” (172).  However, this should not exclude our asking who is this one “like a son of man” (Aram. kĕbar ’enāš)?  Jesus certainly takes up the language of Daniel here and applies it to himself in the Gospels (Mark 14:64), but the term itself had not been unknown and had before really only referred to being truly “human” (cf. Ezekiel’s regular usage of the term in just this fashion), but did take on great significance in other places in the OT (Eze.1:26; 8:2; and even somewhat in the human significance of the “son” in Psalm 2 and 8:4 among other places in the Psalms).  In what sense is the one only “like” a son of man?  This one is described in divine terms by “coming with clouds of heaven” and receiving worship in the very presence of God.  This one could be none other than God himself…the Son of God as he revealed Himself in the New Testament.  Though Daniel was far from such an explanation in his visions.  Daniel notes that the kingdom and dominion of this one is forever and ever in comparison to those beasts and that whereas they came from below this one was from above.
7:15-28 – The interpretation of the dream.  Daniel was actually bothered by his visions and inquired of one of those (an angel?) who was nearby.  The explanation he received was that the four beasts were four kingdoms though he was not told just who the four kingdoms were.  He was also told that the “saints” would actually receive the “kingdom” forever despite the ferocity of the kingdoms (and particularly the fourth kingdom and the little horn) that would come and go and all they would try to do against the saints.  The only kingdom which Daniel receives explanation of is the fourth one.  This one also receives a further description as having bronze claws.  The “little horn” (one of the ten kings) would destroy and replace three others and make war against the saints of God until the very end of days when the final judgment would commence and the saints receive their reward.  This fourth kingdom was declared to be very different from the others before it and be truly global and utterly destructive.  Part of his agenda will be to “try to change the set times and the laws”.  What does that mean?  Some believe this refers to his abolition of the Jewish calendar and therefore the setting himself in the place of the LORD, but another likely explanation is that he will try to rule history and determine the course of events against the plan and purpose of God’s will (see Dan.2:9, 21).  Daniel is informed that the persecution of the saints will be successful for “a time, times and half a time” which is later connected with approximately 3 ½ years (the 1290 days of Dan.12:11 and the 1335 days of 12:12; the 42 months of the beasts authority in Rev.13:5; the trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles for 42 months in Rev.11:2 and1260 days in Rev.12:14; and the breaking of a covenant in the middle of the seventieth “seven” which points to the mid-point of a seven year period in Dan.9:27; see Miller 215).   In other words, there is a definite limit set to the time for this king and his kingdom and to the suffering of the saints and their endurance. 
One should compare this fourth beast with the beast of the Revelation (Dan.7:7, 11, 19, 23; Rev.13:1-2; 17:3).  They are both opposed to God and blasphemers (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:1, 5-6); both have ten horns (Dan.7:7, 20, 24; Rev.13:1; 17:3, 12, 16); both persecute the saints (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); both have power for three and a half years (Dan.7:25; Rev.13:5); and both are destroyed at the coming and kingdom of Christ (Dan.7:26-27; 2 Th.2:8; Rev.19:19-20).  So just what empire is this?  Some have proposed it was the Seleucids and the “little horn” was fully fulfilled in Antiochus Epiphanes, but this would be excluded by the NT parallels to this beast and final ruler.  Some have proposed an Islamic Caliphate or a revived Rome (with the latter being the more popular view) – as the first Rome has since passed away and the end has not come.  Certainly Rome fulfilled some of what constituted this final world power according to certain elements in the NT, yet John in the Revelation speaks of what is still future.  Is there a sense in which this kingdom will be Roman-esque in its severity, but not actually Rome?  That seems likely.  In fact, it seems likely that Rome was only a type pointing ahead to a final world power and ruler that would exalt himself beyond all others and would make all other kingdoms and powers before him seem rather mild in comparison which is why Daniel describes it as peculiarly “different” than all the others he saw (Dan.7:7).
Judgment is certain and the end of that kingdom will be forever.  But better than just the end of all earthly (and beastly kingdoms) is the rule and reign of the Most High and His saints forever and ever.  Why might Daniel be so bothered by his thoughts rather than comforted by the ultimate victory of the LORD?  “The chapter’s ending on this note of perplexity encourages us as we find ourselves in some perplexity over key aspects of it.  If we thought we had a clear and certain understanding of it that would be a sign that we had misunderstood it” (Goldingay 182).

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Daniel 6 - Delivered From Lions

Cyrus the Great Cylinder
6:1-5 – The kingdom of Darius the Mede.  Joyce Baldwin argues rather persuasively that “Darius” may have been Cyrus’ enthronement name used only in his first year (29-31; 141fn107; cf. Dan.5:31; 9:1; 11:1).  At the very least, it seems very probable that the two names “Darius the Mede” and “Cyrus the Persian” refer to the same individual (without further evidence forthcoming to demonstrate just who this “Darius” might otherwise be…since the conjectures of Gobryas, Ugbaru or even a mythical composite character seem untenable at best).  The “and” in the NIV and other translations (Aram. conjunctive waw) can in fact be read as “even” or “that is” in Dan.6:26 (see the NIV footnote) reading “during the reign of Darius, that is, the reign of Cyrus the Persian”.  This proposal seems more probable than that this individual was only a king of Babylon and not the ruler of the empire whose decision would be irrevocable. 

Darius is said to have appointed 120 satraps to give oversight to the kingdom.  A satrap was a sort of governor and over these he chose three individuals to give specific oversight…Daniel being one of the three.  The 120 would not necessarily each oversee one satrapy, but may have simply shared duties over various regions.  The numbers listed for satrapies elsewhere range in the twenties (though Esther 1:1 lists 127 during the later reign of Xerxes).  The special appointment of Daniel due to his exceptional qualities made him a target for those who were jealous of his position.  This does not necessarily mean that all 122 men were involved in the conspiracy against Daniel, but only that there was a significant group that was leading the way against him.  They were forced to admit that any accusations against him would not be successful unless it pertained to the “law of his God” because Daniel was above any sort of reproach, and was a faithful Jew.

6:6-9 – The decree.  The plan was to convince the king that there was agreement among all of his officials that he should issue a 30-day decree demanding that all prayers be offered to (through?) him for that time period.  The Medo-Persian (Achaemenid dynasty) were Zoroastrians more clearly under the later named Darius I though possibly as early as our king Cyrus (here called “Darius”).  Under Zoroastrianism, there was a single god that was worshipped, Ahura Mazda, whom the king was the earthly representative of and so it would not be a far stretch for Darius in Dan.6 to receive prayers or be a mediator of prayers.  Besides it would be supposed that this may serve to unite a newly gathered empire in their whole-hearted service of their new king.  They further clarify that this decree should be put in writing so that, according to Medo-Persian law, it will be unalterable (cf. Esther 1:19). 

The punishment that they surmised would be appropriate was to be “thrown into the lions’ den.”  This “den” would have been some sort of pit where lions would have been kept for just such punishments.  There likely would have been two compartments to this pit with a divider between them.  The lions would be in one part for attacking their victims and that portion would also have an opening for throwing in the victims from the top and sealing it with a stone.  The other portion perhaps would also have some hole for enticing the lions into it in order to move them and replace the divider so that any scraps, feces and bones could be removed as needed from the pit where the lions would be kept.

6:10-15 – Daniel’s prayers.  It was not a matter of Daniel’s ignorance of the law that led to his violating it, but with his full knowledge of it he went home and did as he had always done…he prayed three times a day (cf. Ps.55:17, 18; Didache 8; though Psalm 119:164 mentions seven times a day).  “It is not, as with his three companions [in chapter 3], a question of a positive sin which he will not commit, but of a positive duty which he will not omit” (Miller 182, citing Driver).  Daniel apparently had a room on top of his home built with a window specifically facing towards Jerusalem so that he could pray facing in that direction (cf. 1 Ki.8:35, 38, 44, 48; 2 Chron.6:34).  Not only was Daniel praying as was his custom, but he was “asking God for help.”  What kind of help?  Was he asking for help for himself or for the king or for Jerusalem?  “To Daniel…this was subterfuge, and he did not swerve whatever from his usual customs in prayer….What a testimony Daniel had that even his enemies knew he would be faithful to God although it would cost him his life” (Walvoord 138).  Daniel’s enemies went out of their way to spy on Daniel and report as a group to the king what Daniel had done and make sure the king would enforce his edict.  They made sure to mention that he was one of the “exiles from Judah” perhaps in order to emphasize that even though he had been brought as an exile over 70 years prior, he still remained Jewish in his religious practices of prayer (among other things) and was not integrated into the society as they were.

6:16-24 – Daniel in the lion’s den.  The king begrudgingly followed through with his edict and had Daniel thrown into the lions den even at his old age and even though he was among those most reliable in his new kingdom.  Darius stated “May your God…rescue you” (an imperfect verb and not a jussive as the RSV translated it) meaning that this was not simply a wish, but that Darius was committing Daniel to the hands of Daniel’s God knowing that only Daniel’s would have to be the one to rescue Daniel.  The KJV translation suggests too strongly that it certainly will happen which Darius does not seem so convinced about and so he called to Daniel in “an anguished voice” the next morning.  Darius is convinced that if anyone will rescue Daniel it must be Daniel’s God, because Daniel has given himself so completely to his God that there could be no other outcome that could be positive and perhaps Darius had heard the stories of deliverance that Daniel recounted for him.  The king was so distressed about having Daniel thrown into the lion’s den that he could not even do what he would normally do – whether eating or entertainment (whatever the Aramaic dahăwān seems to signify—which is difficult to define), or even to sleep.

It was a custom that once the sun began to dawn a sentence had been served if the individual had survived the night and so the king rushed to the lions’ den even if not fully convinced that he would find Daniel alive or well.  Did he call out to Daniel expecting a reply or was this more rhetorical?  Note Darius’ use of “the living God” in reference to the God of Daniel (cf. Deut.5:26; Josh.3:10; 1 Sam.17:26; 2 Ki.19:4; Jer.10:10; 23:36; Hos.2:1; Ps.42:3; 84:3).  “This rich OT title for God suggests not merely that God is alive rather than dead, but that he is active and powerful, awesome and almighty, involved in bringing judgment and blessing” (Goldingay 133).  At any rate, he received the reply of Daniel wishing him long life. 

Daniel also testified that God had sent an angel to shut the mouths of the lions (Heb.11:33), because of his innocence before God and the king.  As Daniel’s three friends has bodily testified to their deliverance in the fire, here Daniel’s body gave testimony once it was lifted out of the den that it was in no way harmed (Ps.91:9-16).  Is this intended to be a universal promise of deliverance for all of God’s people?  Certainly not.  Many have paid with their lives as Hebrews testifies and as our Lord Jesus Himself testified.  But our God is able and no law of man can over-rule the obedience that is due the Lord.  How might we understand his deliverance?  (cf. Isa.11:6; 65:25; Hos.2:18)  “In the man of God the powers of the world to come have broken in, in anticipation of what will be when the king comes to reign” (Baldwin 145).

The king then commanded all those who had conspired against Daniel to be thrown into the lion’s den.  Was it all of the 120 or considerably less?  The LXX states it was the two other administrators, but this seems a gross re-adjustment to try to downplay how many were involved.  While this punishment may be understandable (Gen.12:3; Deut.19:18-19; Esther 7:9-10) for those specifically involved, how should we understand throwing the wives and children of the conspirators in as well? (cf. Num.16:27-33; Deut.24:16; Josh.7:24-25; Esther 9:25; Isa.13:15-16)  There is not really any condoning of this practice by mentioning it, but only a record that it was carried out (on this being something carried out elsewhere among the Medo-Persians, see Herodotus Histories 3.119).  The account also notes that those who were thrown in did not even reach the floor of the den before the lions killed them and “crushed all their bones” thus demonstrating the miraculous nature of Daniel’s deliverance and the judgment against those who tried to harm Daniel.

6:25-28 – The decree of Darius to all peoples concerning the God of Daniel.  Whereas Nebuchadnezzar had issued a decree against anyone who should speak a word against the God of the three in Dan.3:29, Darius actually commands people everywhere to “fear and reverence the God of Daniel”.  This is not a command against, but a command for.  Does this command exclude the worship of other Gods?  By no means, though it does make clear that Daniel’s God endures when other’s do not and that Daniel’s God performs the miraculous and delivers.  This will be poignant for those who face what is revealed in the chapters that lay ahead in Daniel…particularly as other kingdoms and kings are named that are off in the future who will seem to have authority and power that are unlimited.  However, God is sovereign and able to deliver His people through whatever they will suffer if they will endure and remain faithful.  This chapter closes with the note that Daniel then prospered under the Medo-Persians in an era when God would restore Jerusalem, return the captives and rebuild the Temple.  It could be said of Daniel that in his old age as he “prospered” in Babylon that he had indeed become a light to the Gentiles by the mouth of Darius (cf. Isa.42:1-12; 49:1-7; Zech.2:11; 8:20-23).

John Goldingay notes the similarity and contrast between Jesus final days and Daniel 6, when he writes how Jesus, “too, is the victim of conspiracy and betrayal from people whose position is threatened by him and who seek occasion to manipulate higher authorities into executing him, professing that they have no king but Caesar.  They, too, will eventually pay for their hostility, along with their children.  He, too, is arrested at his customary place of prayer.  These higher authorities, too, find no fault in him and labor to free him, but are reminded that the law forbids it.  He, too, has to rely on God to deliver him as his tomb is sealed.  Indeed, he actually dies, and injury can be found on him after he comes back from the dead: more extraordinary is it, then, that very early, at sunrise, he, too, is discovered to be alive after all” (136).

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Daniel 5 - The Writing Is On The Wall

5:1-4 – The party that ended it all.  Daniel 5 moves the book forward in time about thirty years after the events of chapter 4.  The date can actually be fixed to October 12, 539BC (Miller 151) based upon certain historical records that give the date for the conquering of Babylon.  However, Daniel had already seen the end of the kingdom of Babylon in several visions.  He had a vision in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign (Dan.7) and again in the third year (Dan.8).  Also, the prophets of Judah – Isaiah and Jeremiah – had spoken of the fall of Babylon even naming the conqueror of Babylon and then the deliverer of Israel as Cyrus the Persian (Isa.13:17-22; 21:1-10; 44:28-45:1; Jer.51:33-58).  Belshazzar (Akkadian Bēl-šar-usur “Bel, protect the king”) is the “king” of Babylon serving while his father Nabonidus (the actual king) has remained away for the previous ten years at the city of Teima (Tayma) – perhaps due to his worship of the moon god Sin and failure to woship Marduk the chief god of Babylon, but there may have been other reasons for his absence as well including trying to keep control of the empire. 
As it turns out, Nabonidus had just been defeated on the 10th of October, 539BC at Sippar (just 50 miles north of Babylon) without battle by the Medo-Persians who had also defeated him at Opis (ANET 306).  Nabonidus fled, but would be captured after the fall of Babylon days later.  His son, Belshazzar determined for some reason to have a drunken party knowing that the Medo-Persian armies were all about Babylon and had conquered much of the empire already.  Why would he do such a thing?  Perhaps because he did not believe Babylon could fall since it was considered impregnable and had storehouses for a very long siege, or perhaps he was trying to gain bravado in the face of great adversity and wanted to demonstrate how fearless he was of the outside situation to all of his household and kingdom.  The text of Daniel, however, makes no mention at all of the defeat of Nabonidus or of the Medo-Persians at the gates until the very end of the chapter when the party has finished and all is accomplished as it was foretold – and even then it is only of the latter.  Belshazzar apparently determined to invite as many guests as possible to celebrate and the text suggests something more than that he drank wine “with” them, but that he drank wine “in front of, before” (Aram. qŏbēl) them.  This suggests the idea that he may have been making something of a spectacle of himself in front of these nobles.  It is also something quite unimaginable that he included among those invited all of his wives and concubines.  The text also seems to suggest that he was inebriated and this contributed to his failure to even recognize the social mores of superstition against desecrating sacred objects belonging to other gods – even the objects of gods from conquered nations. 
Why was Nebuchadnezzar called his “father” if in fact Nabonidus was actually his father?  All of the other records of history note that there had been several turn-overs of the kingdom since Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus himself had taken the throne, but was not a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar.  The Aramaic (as the Hebrew also) for “father” carries the meaning of “grand-father,” “ancestor,” or may even suggest “successor” in some instances.  It has been conjectured that the relation may have been through Belshazzar’s mother to Nebuchadnezzar making him a “son” and Nebuchadnezzar his “father” (on which see notes Dan.5:10ff).
Another question that suggests itself is why he should choose on such a night to drink from the sacred vessels of the temple in Jerusalem?  Why specifically use those items?  Did he also drink from the vessels of the other conquered people’s gods on that night or was it only of Israel’s God?  The Scriptures do not tell us, but they do tell us that the king made a point to do this specifically with the vessels from Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar had taken (Dan.1:2) and then to proceed to praise “the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (compare also the same phrase in the “Prayer of Nabonidus” in 4QOrNab).
5:5-9 – The writing on the wall and the fear of the king.  Just as the praises were being uttered to the gods while drinking the wine, suddenly a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster wall in a well lit place so the king could clearly see his judgment being written out.  During excavations in the late 1800s and early 1900s a large throne room (56 feet wide and 173 feet long) was found with a plastered wall behind the throne wall likely being the very place Belshazzar held his last feast and saw the writing on the wall.  The effect of the writing (it was on plaster and well lit so the king would not miss it) was immediate.  He was terrified so thoroughly that he could not even stand as it were.  He “called out” (lit. “called out with strength” or “loudly”) apparently frantic for an answer to the omen before him.  Despite the promise of the gold chain and purple robe (signs of authority and blessing) and being made “the third highest ruler” (Aram. taltî) in Babylon (that is that he would become part of a triumvir), none of his wise men could read or interpret what was written.  What would it mean to be “the third highest ruler” in this case?  It seems likely he means that this person would be after himself who was after his father Nabonidus, but why someone might want such a position when the kingdom seems to be lost seems beyond Belshazzar to grasp.  That those who were supposed to have the ability to understand and interpret such things were unable to do so only served to trouble him even more.
5:10-12 – The “queen” has an answer.  Who is this “queen” and just what is her relationship to Belshazzar?  Given that Daniel has already informed us that the wives and concubines of Belshazzar were all present at the party, it seems more likely this woman is not the “queen” of Belshazzar, but of Nabonidus.  Thus she would be the “queen-mother” (see the NIV footnote for verse 10; on the place of the “queen” in the ancient Near East, Oppenheim 104).  She may have been the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar (or the former wife as some suggest) and the wife of Nabonidus (see Josephus Ant.10.11.2; Miller 159-160).  She seems to have heard of Daniel (perhaps from the times of Nebuchadnezzar) since she uses the same description found of him earlier (Dan.4:8, 9, 18) that he “has the spirit [Aram. rûah] of the holy [Aram. qodêsh] gods in him.”  Further, she elaborates that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel (who is in his eighties by the time of Belshazzar) was known to have “insight” (Aram. nahîrû) suggests illumination form God the source of all light (Dan.2:22), “intelligence” (Aram. śākletānû) indicates that Daniel not only possesses intellect or talent, but that he actually knows how to use it, and “wisdom” (Aram. hokmâ) “denotes in Daniel the supernatural intuition of an interpreter of dreams or omens, that wisdom which also belongs supremely to God (2:20)” (Goldingay 109-110).  Daniel is actually attributed with having these attributes “like that of the gods,” something which set him above and beyond the others around him.  The queen-mother is convinced that Daniel (Belteshazzar) was the one able to interpret this riddle of an omen for Belshazzar.
5:13-16 – The words of the king.  Belshazzar calls for Daniel, but seems to regard Daniel in less high esteem than the queen-mother and refers to him immediately as one of the exiles.  He also notably leaves off the “holiness” of the gods whose spirit was said to be in Daniel by the queen mother.  Has he done this intentionally?  He repeats that the others could not do for him what he needed and also repeats his promise of reward and honor if Daniel can read and interpret (Aram. peshar) the writing on the wall.  He at least confesses that he has heard that Daniel can “solve difficult problems” (lit. “loosen knots” a metaphor concerning difficulties).
5:17-24 – The words of Daniel.  Daniel does not wish the king long life as the queen-mother had done (Dan.5:10) and as he knows would be vain to do in this situation given the interpretation.  He also renounces the gifts in exchange for delivering the message knowing that no message from God can be purchased (cf. 2 Nu.22:18; Ki.5:16).  He begins with recounting the glories of Belshazzar’s “father” Nebuchadnezzar and then of Nebuchadnezzar’s fall from that status for a time because of his pride and arrogance.  He reminds Belshazzar’s of God’s sovereignty over all of the kings and kingdoms of the world.  Then he turns to Belshazzar and points to his pride and failure to humble himself and all of this in the midst of his drunken revelry with the vessels from the temple of Yahweh strewn about.  He charges Belshazzar with having set himself “against the Lord (Aram. mārē’) of heaven” by profaning the holy, having others do likewise, and praising gods that “cannot see or hear or understand” (cf. Deut.4:28; Ps.115:4-8; 135:15-17; Hab.2:19; Rev.9:20).  Above all, Belshazzar failed to honor and praise God who alone holds him and all in His hands.  This is the explanation Daniel gives for the hand that wrote on the wall.
5:25-28 – The inscription of God.  Exactly how the inscription was written is not clear.  Was it written in Aramaic (and therefore without vowels) or Cuneiform (and therefore with vowels)?  Was it written from right to left (as would have been normal) or up and down (as the rabbis propose)?  Could it really not be “read” by the others of the court of Belshazzar and only by Daniel or does this have some other explanation for why he alone could “read” and “interpret” it?  The words that were written were: mene (twice for emphasis?), tekel, parsin.  The explanations that have been given include a monetary/weight explanation where mene is the minah which was equal to 60 shekels, the tekel was the Aramaic form for shekel which was a small sum, and the parsin (Aramaic plural for halves of the shekel; the ‘u’ before parsin in some translations and in the NIV footnote is the conjunction “and” in Aramaic and so should not be included as part of what was written).  However, the most reliable answer is actually the one Daniel himself provides which is that each of these terms is the Aramaic passive participles.  Mene meaning “count, appoint, or destine,” tekel “numbering, weighing,” and parsin from the verb meaning to “broken in half, divided” but also making a play on the name of the Persians since likely this was all written in Aramaic there would have been no vowels and the Aramaic consonantal letters PRSN could work for both the verbal form and the name of the people who were at the gates.  These words that were written are explained by Daniel with Aramaic perfect verbs emphasizing the completeness of what God had determined to do that very night.
5:29-31 – The end of Babylon and the beginning of Medo-Persia.  Belshazzar still gave the command that Daniel should be rewarded and exalted despite the prophetic interpretation and denouncement that had just been given to him.  Did he think to take Daniel down with him if Babylon fell?  Or did he not think this could be fulfilled and thought to persuade his guests and family that he was still in control of everything?  It is notable that whereas Daniel began in exile as a lowly youth in training from a lowly conquered nation in the ‘mighty and vast’ empire of the Babylonians…he has been raised to the rank of third in the empire by the age of about 80 and will see the end of the Babylonians himself and will continue to be given an exalted status after the fall of Babylon and the rise of Medo-Persia.  Daniel records that it was on “that very night” Belshazzar was killed.  The prophecy was fulfilled concerning him (though Daniel would later record what had been given to him years before as written in chapters 7-8 during the reign of the wicked and unrepentant Belshazzar).  In other words, the account of Belshazzar tucked as it is in between the accounts of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4 and Darius in chapter 6 suggests a tale of three kings…their response to God and to the man of God: Daniel.  Two will give glory to God…one will not.  It creates a sort of chiasm (a poetic structure where God is exalted and praised explicitly in chapter 4 and 6 and carries out his judgment against the wicked king without explicit praise in chapter 5, but demonstrates his sovereignty over every king and kingdom).  This also prepares us for the “little horn” that will come and utter blasphemies and exalt himself and ultimately be humbled by the LORD, but not before the end.
We are informed that Darius the Mede “took over” (lit. “received”) the kingdom that night.  In what sense did he actually “receive” the kingdom and from whom did he receive it?  Also, it is still a curiosity just who “Darius the Mede” is.  Some have proposed this is just another name, or title, for Cyrus the Persian (which may be likely).  As such, we do not have enough to know beyond that Daniel has elsewhere accurately recorded things for us that have proven vindicated by archeology after being questioned for some time.  It has been recorded (though Daniel does not do so) that the Medo-Persian army diverted the Euphrates River into a marsh from entering Babylon and then waded through the lowered waters and under the walls, into the city without a fight.  All of this was recorded to have happened on a night while the city was engaged in a drunken revelry (cf. Herodotus Histories 1.188-192; Xenophon Cyropaedia 7.5.1-34).  If Babylon had not been in such a state, but had been prepared for an attack the Medo-Persians could never have taken the city in this manner, but as it was the only one said to have died that night was Belshazzar who was put to death.  John Goldingay offers an intriguing note on the mention of Darius’ age being “sixty-two”: “The years attributed to Darius ‘sum up’ another aspect of the omen’s meaning: he is the actual person who brings its fulfillment upon Belshazzar” by being the sum of 60(mene)+1(tekel)+halves(parsin)=sixty-two (Goldingay 112).  Thus the kingdom of Babylon passes to the Medo-Persians just as the LORD had told His prophets over 150 years before.  The fall of Babylon had been prophesied and foretold even that it would be accomplished by His causing them to be in a drunken state while feasting (Jer.51:39, 57).  At last, deliverance has come for Israel (though not finally for Daniel).

Friday, January 07, 2011

On Being A False Teacher

Carl Trueman has written a wonderful piece on "being a false teacher" (over at Reformation 21) and the benefits of ordination as a guard against such (not as an absolute guard, but as a guard to be sure).  What is wonderful about this piece is his notion of responsibility to and for the Church that is something which the electronic age has simply continued to facilitate more and more folks being utterly 'free' of such notions.  In our context, most would rather 'do' church on their own rather than choose to submit to any authority.  Ordination is one form of submission (albeit one with many of its own dangers) which is intended as a guard against becoming a false teacher.  It allows for recourse and action to call teachers to account for the actions and their instruction.  This is something which the electronic age, in particular, seems short on.  Good words Carl...good words indeed.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

N. T. Wright's Justification and the Cry of the Spirit

I finally finished my paper for the Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting in March on N. T. Wright's view of justification.  If you are interested in reading it you can do so over on my Scribd page HERE or following the link through my "Writings" page (the footnotes are a bit goofy due to Scribd's manner of formatting, but can be followed despite this).  This paper is supposed to eventually go to print (sometime this year) as part of an edited volume of the five papers that will be presented as a part of the N T Wright panel on justification (though I still don't know the details of this edited volume).  Here's the lineup for Memphis's presentations and the title/s:

Pentecostal Responses to N.T. Wright

Jenny Everts, Hope College, Chair

Glen Menzies, North Central University, Presenter
"Vocations of Israel and Israel‘s Messiah"

Joonho Yoon, Drew University, Presenter 
 "By Faith in Work or by Work in Faith?: Rahab‘s Justification from the Perspective of Neither New or Old"

Christopher Green, Oral Roberts University, Presenter
"Who Do I Say I Am?: A Pentecostal Response to N.T. Wright‘s Proposals on Jesus‘ Messianic Self-Understanding"

Rick Wadholm, Providence Theological Seminary, Presenter
"N.T. Wright's Justification and the Cry of the Spirit"

Frank D. Macchia, Vanguard University, Presenter
"The Church and the Economy of Salvation: An Interaction with N.T. Wright‘s Theology of Justification by Faith"

I'd love to know what anyone thinks of my paper.  :-).

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The Best of the Best at W. W. of W.

So running the stats for the W.onderful W.orld of W.adholms blog its fascinating to see just which posts have received the most hits, which countries follow my posts the most closely and other such totally irrelevant data (but fun new year type stuff).  So here it is:

The top 4 posts from my readership of 2010 according to Blogger stats (as far as hits and not necessarily as far as what was posted in 2010):
#4 - The Church and Same Sex Attraction (always bound to be a winner with search engines ;-).
#3 - Ezekiel 37-Sticks and Bones (who doesn't like dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones).
#2 - 2 Kings 13-14:22-Grace and Peace for Israel and Judah? (the first of my blogging the Bible study series)
#1 - Maacah the "mother" of Abijah and Asa (now doesn't that sound like an exciting read :-).

I was fascinated to find that after the U.S. and Canada (#1 and 2 for readership) that Russia was ahead of the UK for reading this blog.  Apparently the Russkies like me (?) with a tight following for fifth between the Aussies and French (I'm cheering for my friends down-under).

If I was to actually name my favorite blog posts of 2010 they might be as follows (is there something inherently wrong with naming your own favorites???):

#4 -  Why I'm Done With the Christian Life
#3 -  10 Reasons I Shouldn't Embrace Jesus (But Still Do)
#2 -  Shadow and Light
#1 -  Ode to Artie (2010 has been a year of deaths of many that I've loved.  This ode was to my wife's grandfather early in the year before the many others who would follow him including his own beloved wife and my own grandmother just this last I include this one as an ode to others as well whom I've loved and lost for now).