Book of Daniel – In through the out door 1st Sunday after Easter
Daniel 5:5-12 1st ucc carlisle
It seems quite clear as to why the Book of Daniel follows the Book of Ezekiel in the canon of the books of the Bible. I think they are both unique when it comes to prophetic text. The Book of Daniel is considered a prophetic book, although I am not sure it is seen in the traditional setting. This book contains is interpretation of a couple of dreams, 2 miracles occurred, prophesy written on a wall, and several visions/dreams that speak of the end times.
While these events described in Daniel are unusual and not really found in other locations in the Bible, it is similar to some of the vents and acts described in the book of Ezekiel. Last month we looked through the Book of Ezekiel and found some unique aspects to this prophetic book. There are several details visions described by the prophet: Ezekiel sees God’s glory as God is riding a chariot. God is surrounded angels and heavenly beings; there is God’s glory abandoning Jerusalem; there is the vision of the valley of dry bones’ then there is the vision of the new city of Jerusalem and the new Temple. There are some strange behavior; there is the situation where Ezekiel eats a scroll to follow God’s direction. There is the relocation of Ezekiel by the the Holy Spirit two separate times, followed by a time when he was forced to be in in his own home, unable to move or speak for a period of time. 4 Ezekiel is told to act out the siege against Jerusalem in the dirt, and then to lay on the ground for a number of days to portray the length of years each of the Kingdom were sinful (390 days on one side for the Israelites kingdom, and 40 days on his other side for the kingdom of Judah). God also calls on Ezekiel to cook his food over poop for a period of time, to detail the circumstances people would find themselves in. Finally, Ezekiel is called to shave with a sword and then to tell the future using his beard hairs to depict what will happen to the Israelites people.
So while Ezekiel may have more instances of unique and possibly bizarre events described, Daniel does quite well in demonstrating different and strange actions. This is also the first time in the Bible that we encounter authentic apocalyptic literature. For those people not familiar with the term, this is a genre of prophetical writing that developed in post-Exilic Jewish culture (after the fall of the Israel and Judean communities) and in the following years. It was a form of writing was commonly found amongst millennialist early Christians. The more familiar place people have encountered apocalyptic literature would be is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the bible found in the New Testament. There are also writings in the Deuterocanonicals/Apocraypha which the Catholic Church claims to be sacred writing.
“Apocalypse” (ἀποκάλυψις) is a Greek word meaning “revelation”, “an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling”. As a genre, apocalyptic literature details the authors’ visions of the end times as revealed by an angel or other heavenly messenger. The apocalyptic literature of Judaism and Christianity if found over a considerable period, from the centuries following the Babylonian exile (587 BCE) down to the close of the Middle Ages. [Wikipedia]
So the first half of the Book of Daniel is story and accounts (ch 1-6) and the second half of the book is the location of the apocalyptic writings. The events which are told occur during the time after the Babylonians had conquered and dispersed all of the Israelites from the Judean realm. So in this first half of the book we hear about Daniel and his friends who had been exiled from their homeland and were living under a foreign military rule. The Israelites who are spoken of in the first chapter were called to serve in the king’s court.
There was Daniel and three of his friends: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah serving the king. They initially find favor with some the authorities within the king’s court for their work ethic and their faithfulness. King Nebuchandezzer than has a dream and he feels it needs to understand it. So the King then asks people serving in the court to tell him what the dream was and what it meant. No one has any success until Daniel is able to properly describe and interpret the king’s dream. After this all four of the Israelites gain more responsibility and authority.
During the king’s rule, he had a statue formed out of Gold and demanded that everyone should worship this image. Daniel’s friends follow their faith and do not follow the king’s orders. So because of their lack of following the king’s orders they suffer the punishment of being thrown into the fiery furnace. When they look in the furnace later, they see the three men and the presence of a fourth, who is described in scripture as being their God. The King recognizes the awesome power of the Israelites God and demands that people all respect the god of Israel, and these three Israelites again receive work promotions.
The king has another dream which he asks Daniel to interpret. It actually turns out to be a dream which says the King will lose his reason realm and would live in the wilderness for a year. This occurs and then The King found to be sane again, regains his throne, and after it happens the former king which happens.
Some time seems to pass between chapters four and five. We do not know how long, but we do know there is a new king, and his name is Belshazzer. The king is throwing a large party and Gods of all types are worshipped and glorified. This is when a hand appears and begins to write on the wall. Usually visions were seen only by the prophetic person. In this instance, we have to come to the conclusion that everybody witnessed the appearance of the disembodied hand. If nothing else, we can reasonably assume that all of the guests of this party saw the writing on the wall.
So this vision is unique as it is a community event and witnessed and experienced by everyone. Daniel is asked to interpret and he does, and is rewarded for his ability to interpret other people’s dreams.
Daniel continues to be successful within the King’s court, and when the King Mede is ruling, he is encouraged to make a rule that say people may only worship the king. This comes from a group of people wishing to see Daniel fail. Daniel is found to be breaking the new rule of the King and is thrown into the lion’s den. Daniel survives that experience, and the king decides to punish the accusers of David and their families by putting them into the lion’s den. Those people do not succeed.
The final half of the book of Daniel is the apocalyptic literature: with Daniel having a dream about four beast, which one of the court’s attendants interprets. Daniel has a vision about a ram and a goat, which is interpreted by Gabriel, a man sent to Daniel in a dream. Daniel offers a prayer upon behalf of the people of Israel that they may be restored to wholeness and returned to their homeland. God speaks to Daniel about a 70 week period of penance and challenges for the people of Israel. And there is more writing about the conflict between nations and heavenly beings, and the resurrection of the dead.
The first half of the book is beset with challenges Daniel and his friends are trying to figuratively get in through the out door, Daniel and his friends ultimately succeed within this community. Their faith leads them to better status within the society and political regime they find themselves in. But let us remember that they are never free. We need to be careful about we view what it means to be living as an exile under military rule. There are certainly challenges within this framework of life circumstances, even if we cannot know first hand of the actual experience.
But living in a strange land with little to no authority or power over our own lives might begin to help us understand what life may have been like for the Israelites.
The second half of the book has challenges in that it is hard to get a relevant perspective on this descriptions in the apocalyptic section. There are portions which we can readily understand, but it still requires some recognition of the context and the type of writing. A couple of other complicating factors. The book of Daniel is written in 2 different languages. Chapters 1:1-2:4 and 8-12 are written in Hebrew, 2:4b-7 written in Aramic. It is not entirely clear why this is and it does not match the story and apocalyptic segments. Another point of confusion is that one of the names of Name of king may not. King nebuchandezzer may have actually been King Nabonidus, creating some confusions as to why there was a name change
When I read this book of the Bible this week, I was reminded of an album from my youth. How many people here are familiar with the band Led Zepplin? Very popular in the 1970’s. their eighth and final album, in through the out door. Interesting title with a particular message about the life of the Band at that time.
In Through the Out Door is the eighth and final studio album by the English rock band Led Zeppelin. It was recorded over a three-week period in November and December 1978 at ABBA’s Polar Studios in Stockholm, Sweden, and released by Swan Song Records on 15 August 1979. In 1980, the band’s drummer John Bonham died, and they disbanded soon after.
The album is a reflection of the personal turmoil that the band members had been going through before and during its recording. Front man Robert Plant and his wife had gone through a serious car accident, and their young son, Karac Plant, died from a stomach illness. All four band members also felt weary of dealing with record companies and other associates. with Bonham struggling with alcoholism and Page battling heroin addiction
Background :The album was named by the group to describe its recent struggles amidst
the death of Robert Plant’s son Karac in 1977, and the taxation exile the band took from the UK. The exile resulted in the band being unable to tour on British soil for over two years, and trying to get back into the public mind was therefore like “trying to get in through the ‘out’ door”. (Wikipedia – source)
Thanks be to God and may the people of god say together amen