A Window for Death

 As I prepare for my course on Jeremiah this fall I noticed that the commentaries I was using (Brueggemann, Feinberg, Harrison, Kidner, Lalleman, Wright) were not covering the Ugaritic connection in Jeremiah 9:21 (English versions; vs. 20 in the Hebrew) which reads:

‘Death has climbed in through our windows. It has entered into our fortified houses. It has taken away our children who play in the streets. It has taken away our young men who gather in the city squares.’ (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9‬:‭21‬ NET)

In fact, only one (Fretheim p. 162) even mentions any Canaanite connection at this passage and even so draws in the connection to death overcoming Baal and leaving him “strewn across the countryside”.
The Ugaritic Baal Cycle contains a whole account of the Baal’s house (temple or palace) being built by Kothar-waHassis. As he builds the house, Kothar-waHassis is emphatic that he wants to put a window in, but Baal is concerned about having a window for fear of Mot (death) entering his house. At last he relents and the window gets installed. Mot enters and defeats Baal. At Baal’s death El and Anat weep and mourn.
This is precisely what seems to be at play in Jeremiah’s call for lament in chapter nine. In fact, verse 14 had already mentioned their commitments to Baal:

Instead they have followed the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts. They have paid allegiance to the gods called Baal, as their fathers taught them to do. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9‬:‭14‬ NET)

It would only seem fitting that their end should follow Baal who found his house also invaded via a window for death to enter and the call for mourning has been issued.
Instead they have followed the stubborn inclinations of their own hearts. They have paid allegiance to the gods called Baal, as their fathers taught them to do. (‭Jeremiah‬ ‭9‬:‭14‬ NET)
____________________________
Addendum
Having just looked over Thompson’s comments (p. 317), I note that while he gives attention to the Ugaritic account stating at the first that is has “a significant parallel in Canaanite mythology” he concludes stating, “despite the apparent closeness of the parallel it may be no more than a coincidence arising from Jeremiah’s personification of death”.
Craigie, et al, (pp. 150-1) notes that this account in Jeremiah has “occasioned much debate” because of the potential connection. They cite an article by S. Paul as having “argued persuasively that the proposed connection is not correct”. They further offer (via Paul) a connection to the Babylonian account of a demon named Lamashtu. In Paul’s article, the primary contention against any Baal myth connection (or at least the argument for direct dependence which I would also oppose) is, first, that Mot is not engaged in conflict (nor mentioned) in the window building section and, second, that there are no extant texts that Mot ever enters windows (pp. 373-6: here S. Paul also notes the development of the notion of connecting Jeremiah 9.20 to the Baal Cycle giving treatment to those who argued for it and added to the notion citing Cassuto, Pohl, Albright, Ginsberg, Singer, Lowenstamm and Hyatt).
Finally, Smith (pp. 602-10) explains at length that the function of the window in the Baal Cycle is not for Mot to enter (noting that Mot is never connected to the window in any of the extant texts), but only for Baal to exercise his kingly dominion. It becomes the means by which Baal will thunder his voice and send the rains and bring fertility to the earth. He cites a number of scholars who did not go as far as those S. Paul noted that argued for direct connection (see above), but mentions those who still see connections between the window and Mot (Caquot and Sznycer, Gordon, and Pardee; p. 604).
Upon further reflection from reading Paul and Smith, I note now that my reading of the connection owed its origin to a number of the writers each indicated. I had not read either of their work on this particular passage. While they are correct to note that Mot is not connected directly to the window in Baal’s house, it still seems that Baal had trepidation (unnamed though it is as to its cause) about the installation of the window. That the cycle continues from that point with the conflict with Mot is striking. Further, that Baal is actually named in the same poetic unit (v. 14) is also striking. My own understanding might be that there is not a direct literary connection, but a common myth (perhaps shared in the Babylonian texts noted above) of death entering via the window (though Mot is not seen to enter Baal’s window).
Bibliography
Brueggemann, Walter. A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1998.
Craigie, Peter C., Page H. Kelley, and Joel F. Drinkard. Jeremiah: 1-25. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1991.
Feinberg, Charles L. Jeremiah, a Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1982.
Fretheim, Terence E. Jeremiah. Macon, GA: Smith & Helwys Pub, 2002.
Harrison, R. K. Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1973.
Kidner, Derek. Jeremiah. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2014.
Lalleman, Hetty. Jeremiah and Lamentations. Tyndale Old Testament Commentary. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013.
O’Connor, Kathleen M. Jeremiah: Pain and Promise. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2011.
Paul, Shalom M. “Cuneiform Light on Jer 9:20.” Biblica 49, no. 3 (1968): 373-376.
Smith, Mark S. The Ugarit Baal Cycle: Volume 1: Introduction with Text, Translation and Commentary of KTU I.1-I.2. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1994.
Thompson, J. A. The Book of Jeremiah. New International Commentary of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1980.
Wright, Christopher J. H. The Message of Jeremiah: Against Wind and Tide. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014.

Esther 9-10 – The Day of Reckoning and Rejoicing

9:1-4 – The day arrives.  After all that had been done and the joy of chapter eight, the actual day for the struggle of the Jews had yet to be decided though things were increasingly in the favor of the Jews.  The Jews had been authorized to defend themselves against anyone taking aggression against them on the thirteenth of the twelfth month.  Not only could they take action against such persons, but they also had the support of the government officials and so “the tables were turned” (cf. Jer.30:16).  The rise of Mordecai lent tremendous support to the upsurge of Jewish support by the various government personnel including those who were earlier mentioned as caring for the monies that Haman would have contributed to the coffers of Persia (9:3-4; cf. 3:9). 

9:5-17 – The defeat of the Jewish enemies and the end of Haman.  Rather than this being a Jewish killing spree, it was an organized and authorized response to aggression against the Jews.  In fact, the author of Esther repeats three times that the Jews did not take any plunder as they had been authorized to do by the edict from Mordecai (9:10, 15, 16; cf. 8:11).  It is stated that the Jews “did what they pleased” which would be a reversal of what Xerxes had told Haman he could do to the people he plotted against (cf. 3:11).  What they “pleased” was not the same level of destruction that had been plotted against them though.  However, the sons of Haman were all put to death and thus their names were listed in order to signify the complete destruction of Haman’s family line.  As an aside, the names of his ten sons are listed in the Hebrew text with the name to one side and the definite direct object marker to the other creating a clearly distinct list-type following the pattern of the list of defeated kings in Joshua 12:9-24 and cities gifted by David after defeating his enemies at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 20:27-31.  There was a clear accounting to the king of all those killed in the citadel of Susa (9:11-12), Susa proper (9:15) and throughout the empire (9:16).  After reporting to the king the initial slaughter of the Jewish enemies in the citadel of Susa he asked what more could be done for Esther giving her a sort of carte blanche to do as she desired.  So Esther requested that the enemies in Susa proper be dealt with the next day.  Were they expected to try to continue to attack the Jews?  Why should she ask for another day of killing?  The text does not answer this.  The killing that lasted an extra day in the city of Susa became the reason that the celebration of Purim was observed on two different dates by Jews in the cities and those in the country (9:18-19).  Esther also asked that Haman’s ten sons that were killed be hung on gallows for a public display of their shame (cf. 1 Sam.31:1-13 – the public display of the bodies of King Saul and his sons by hanging).  The numbers reported killed (500; 300; 75,000) have been considered nothing more than items of farcical comedy by some (Berlin 81-82), but records of factual history by others (Jobes 199) despite the excessive numbers. 
9:18-32 – The institution of Purim.  The “day of feasting and joy” was not observed on the days of killing and battle, but on the day after when things were peaceful finally.  Also, the “celebration is…different from the feasts prescribed by the Torah.  Rather than being imposed on the people from above as God’s command met, Purim began as the spontaneous response of God’s people to his omnipotent faithfulness to the promises of the covenant” (Jobes 214).  The institution of this day (though celebrated on different days in different locations) became one of celebration for having gained “rest” from enemies (contrast how Haman plotted to take “rest” from Jews by their enemies – 3:8).  It was not a celebration of battle or destruction.  It was a celebration of joy having come from sorrow and rest from enemies and thus a day for blessing others including particularly the poor (9:19, 22).  Thus, Mordecai wrote and sent letters about these events to all of the Jews throughout the empire and described what should be done concerning this celebration that it should be carried out in perpetuity (9:27-28; cf. Exo.17:14).  The Jews received this gladly (9:23, 27).  As part of the closing remarks the story was written in summary fashion (9:24-25) as an “‘official version’ of the story…simplified and sanitized” to make the king seem to be the one responsible for saving the Jews from wicked Haman and thus leading to the reversal of events (Berlin 90).  This all was used for an etiological explanation for the name “Purim” as the casting of the pur (an Akkadian term that had the Hebrew plural affixed to it for unknown reasons in naming the festival) or lot which would otherwise apparently be lost to the readers of the book since it was some time after the initial events.  Esther also wrote a letter of commendation for this celebration.  Both of their letters were sent to all of the provinces of the empire as a message of “goodwill and assurance” (Heb. shālôm wə’ĕmet “peace and truth”; cf. Isa.39:8; Jer.33:6; and the reverse order in Zech.8:19).  Not only was there to be feasting, but this appears to have been preceded by a time of fasting (likely over the days of conflict leading to the celebration with rest and feasting).  Why should Esther have written something more than what Mordecai had written and what might this have added to the credibility of that writing?  Perhaps this adds to the established authority of Esther who earliest in the story was submissive and now was one who acted the part of the queen as one with authority.
10:1-3 – The continued rise of Mordecai.  The conclusion of the book (technically 9:18-10:3) acts as a sort of appendix to summarize what happened after the events of the victory of the Jews against their enemies where the Lord had turned their “lot” from sorrow and destruction into one of joy and blessing.  The final few verses enumerate how Mordecai continued to exercise authority throughout the empire as well as to be recorded in the annals of Persia for all he did (following the identical pattern for recordings of the kings of Israel and Judah, for example: 1 Kings 14:29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:14; 1 Chron. 27:24; 2 Chron.25:26).  Mordecai was exalted among the Jews because of all he did on their behalf (cf. the celebration of “Mordecai’s Day” in 2 Macc.15:36).  Why should Mordecai be so exalted in the conclusion of a book named after Esther?

Daniel 12 – The Vision of the End

11:36-39 – The king who exalts himself.  This king does have certain levels of overlap with Antiochus IV Epiphanes (and many commentators believe that this individual is one and the same), but the description does not fit as it did in the verses prior.  The best explanation seems to be that this king is some yet future king who also exalts himself and of which Antiochus IV was only a type.  He is none other than the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the “ruler who would come” of Daniel 9:26 (cf. the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thess.2:3-12; the “Antichrist” in 1 Jn.2:18; and the “beast” in Rev.11-20).  This king does “as he pleases” and exalts himself “above every god” and even speaks blasphemies against the one true God (cf. 2 Thess.2:4; Rev.13:12, 14-15).  Note that he will have a certain leeway to do what he plans until the “time of wrath” if fulfilled or “complete”.  What would it mean for him to “show no regard for the gods [the Hebrew could also read “God”, but “gods” is most likely] of his fathers”?  It means that he breaks with those before him and does what would have not been thinkable before.  He also shows no regard for the “desire of women” which some have taken as a reference to unnatural inclinations, others as a rejection of the messianic hope of the Jewish people and still others as the god Tammuz who was likened to such (cf. Eze.8:14).  This last is the most plausible given the context of “gods” before and after.  He regards himself and a god of his own strength as his god and even a “foreign god” as his own.  In the New Testament, this “god” is described as the dragon or Satan, but here we are left to wonder at who or what this might be.  He will give great rewards to those who support him.

11:40-45 – The end of that king.  “At the time of the end” points to the time that was to be completed for this king and thus in some sense to the end of all the kingdoms of this world.  The “king of the South” once again may be referring to Egypt though it may also refer to some alliance considered “south” of Israel while the “north” (rather than only to Syria) may refer to some alliance primarily to the north of Israel.  How these are to be conceived is less important than to consider that this is simply the continuing struggle between kings and kingdoms that fight for control over and in the “Beautiful Land” (the land of Israel; cf. Jer.3:19; Eze.20:6; Dan.8:9; 11:16; Mal.3:12).  Many nations and peoples will fall, but apparently the traditional enemies of Israel (Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon – these tribal groups would be in what is now modern Jordan) will not fall to him (contrast Isa.11:14; Mal.1:2-5).  Though he will succeed in his assault against the “king of the south” and many others he will be distraught by news of an impending attack from the east and north and he himself will be at “the beautiful holy mountain” (Jerusalem), but this does not exclude the notion of his forces making their final stand at the valley of Megiddo in what has come to be known as the battle of Armageddon (Rev.16:16).  The end of the king will come and he will not find any help from anywhere – whether his gods or otherwise.  Though he set out to destroy many, he will be destroyed.
12:1-4 – The time of the end.  “At that time” refers to the raging of the last portion of chapter 11 and the raging of the king of the north.  Michael (“Who is like God?”; cf. Dan.10:18, 21; Jude 9; Rev.12:7) the “great prince” is again named and here declared to defend against Israel’s complete annihilation, but not against many being martyred.  The promise of the “time of distress” (Heb. ‘ēt sārâ) is such that there will no other equal for Israel (cf. Matt.24:21 where it appears that Jesus uses the language of the LXX and thus speaks of thlipsis).  According to Zechariah 13:8, only one third of Israel will survive, but it will lead to the ultimate salvation of Israel (cf. Zech.12:10; Rom.11:25-27).  The “deliverance” is not from the first death, but the second death (Rev.2:11; 20:6; 21:8) though this is not at all laid out in Daniel with clarity.  It is notable that only those whose names are “found written in the book” are spared this.  What is this “book”?  According to Goldingay, it would be the citizenry of the “true Jerusalem” (306; cf. Ezra 2; Neh.7; Ps.87:6; Isa.4:3; Eze.13:9); though we might assume this to later be the “book of life” (Ps.69:28; Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 20:12, 15; 21:27).  The “multitudes” (Heb. rabbîm) can sometimes mean “all” (cf. Deut.7:1; Isa.2:2), but the typical all inclusive word in Hebrew is kol.  “The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather on the numbers involved” (Baldwin 226).  Why are these many said to be sleeping?  The very notion of “sleep” for death implies the reality of the resurrection.  “The words…do not exclude the general resurrection, but rather imply it.  Their emphasis, however, is upon the resurrection of those who died during the period of great distress” (Young 256).  The state of those who “awake”, that is are raised to life, is to either everlasting life or “shame and everlasting contempt”.  Why should these be contrasted and in this manner?  Also, are we to think of a time difference between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked mentioned here?  (cf. Rev.20:5, 12-13 where it is described in terms as separated by the millennium)
Note the blessing that is given to those who are “wise” (or see the footnote in the NIV “who impart wisdom” which may be the likelier reading).  They are described as shining “like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars forever and ever”.  How might this blessing be understood?  It was common to consider celestial beings with the notion of the “stars” (Jud.5:20; Job 38:7; Dan.8:10; 1 Enoch 104), but Paul would later take this up as the promise concerning those who were pure and blameless in a wicked and perverse world (Phil.2:15).  John Goldingay makes note that the angelic beings of Daniel have all been described in very human-like terms and as such he notes the contrast as follows: “As chapter 10 speaks of celestial figures who are the embodiments of earthly institutions, so chap. 11 speaks of earthly figures who are the embodiments of spiritual principles” (317).  What does it mean for Daniel to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end”?  It does not pertain to making it a secret since he has already written it down, but instead means that it was to be preserved and protected for the appointed time and the appropriate readership (i.e., the “wise”; see Young 257).  The idea is that only those who are fit to understand this message will do so.  “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” but they will not discern the times nor the message which was to the wise and discerning (Amos 8:2).  It is notable that Daniel is not included among the prophets in the Hebrew canon, but among the writings and it may very likely be because of his emphasis upon wisdom.  As such this suggests Daniel as a form of wisdom literature, albeit unlike the traditional proverbs or the likes of Ecclesiastes and Job.  Yet, Daniel is intended as wisdom for the future generations who will grapple with hopelessness and despair, but must know that if they will remain faithful they will be raised
at the last day and receive their reward despite the terrorizing of the kings of this age and the ages to come.  The end will yet come and the wise know this and live accordingly.
12:5-13 – The end of all these things and of Daniel.  There were two beings, one on either side of the river and one other who hovered over the middle and wore linen and was likely the one from before (Dan.10:5).  Again, Daniel is meant to overhear the conversation.  The question of “How long?” was put to the one hovering over the water who raised both hands which gives special solemnity to the swearing by God (normally only one hand was raised – cf. Gen.14:22; Deut.32:40; Rev.10:5-6) and declares that it will be for “a time, times and half a time” (cf. Dan.7:25; that is for approximately three and a half years).  The time designated was to bring to an end the one who would be destroying the “holy people” (see the NET).  Daniel was still concerned about the outcome of this time that was yet future, but was assured and told that it would be accomplished and would have the effect that was necessary for the wise and the wicked (cf. Rev.22:11).  What should this tell us about applying ourselves to the wisdom of the book of Daniel? 
The final notes about the number of days from the time of the ceasing of daily sacrifices and the abomination of desolation offers a problem to the more simple approximate three and a half years of verse 7.  Instead, 1290 days are first mentioned which would give forty-three months of thirty days each which gives one extra month and also requires thirty day months for the three and half years.  Then the 1335 days for holding out to the end is given which makes for an extra forty-five more days on top of that.  According to John Walvoord, these numbers are necessary for adequate time to deal out judgment and for the establishment of Christ’s millennial kingdom (295-6).  However, it remains rather obscure as to why and without further elaboration elsewhere in Scripture one is left wondering just what was meant (whereas other such issues have had some clarity brought to bear on them by other Scripture).  The best explanation for the days beyond what would be expected seems to be that of Joyce Baldwin: “As in the teaching of Jesus, the emphasis is on endurance to the end (Mark 13:13).  A particular blessing awaits one who goes on expectantly even after the time for the fulfillment of the prophecy is apparently passed, as in the parable of Jesus there is a special blessing for the servant who continues to be faithful even when his master does not come home at the stated time (Matt.24:45-51)” (232).

Daniel 10 – Prepared for the Final Vision

10:1 – The Time and General Content of the Vision.  The third year of Cyrus king of Persia would place this vision in approximately 536-535BC.  This would also suggest that the recently begun work on rebuilding the Temple of the LORD by the returning exiles under the supervision of Ezra had been stopped temporarily by Samaritan opposition (Ezra 4:5, 24).  Why would Daniel suddenly at this point refer to himself as “Belteshazzar” and in the third person?  This would seem to tie in the contents of the first chapter with the contents of the last vision (chapters 10-12) by referring to King Cyrus (Dan.1:21; although this refers to his first year) and to Daniel’s Babylonian name (Dan.1:7).  Why should the “message” be affirmed as “true” (Heb. ĕmet)?  Is this not always the case of messages from the LORD?  This serves to mark the vision apart as truly a vision given concerning the future and accurately speaking to matters that will occur.  It also suggests that what will occur has already been written in the “Book of Truth” (Heb. kətāb ĕmet in Dan.10:21).  There is considered to be some ambiguity about a “great war” (Heb. sābā’ gādōl) that is referred to here as is noted by the NIV footnote that reads “true and burdensome”, but the former seems the most likely in light of the conflicts that ensue in the following in the vision of the future.  The vision concerns a message of peace, rest and blessedness it also concerns the great conflicts leading to the final conflict of the ages.

10:2-4 – Fasting by the Tigris.  Daniel was apparently so perturbed in his spirit before even receiving this vision likely because of the setbacks of the Temple project in Jerusalem that he gave himself to fasting and did so outside of Babylon itself.  That he gave up eating “choice food” and then speaks of “meat and wine” means that he had taken these up again some time after his initial training upon arriving at Babylon and proving his faithfulness to the LORD at that time.  In other words, he did not consider such things to be a rule or law for all time, but only something that called for the obedience of that appointed time to demonstrate faithfulness.  The date of his fasting is important to note because if he had been fasting for three weeks and does not end it until the twenty-fourth day of the first month that means that he fasted for right through the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) that was to occur every year from the 15th of Nissan, sometimes also called Abib (the first month of the year), to the 21st which was required to be observed.  Granted that he would not make the journey back to Jerusalem, still, why would Daniel intentionally not observe one of the three Feasts that were required by the LORD (Exo.12:2; 23:15; 34:18; Deut.16:1)?  Why should Daniel give himself to fasting at all since he was well into his eighties by this time?  It is a little strange that he calls the Tigris river the “great river” since that is the normal name of the Euphrates, but it is not completely out of the question that he should have done so.  This would place him anywhere within 20 miles to a couple hundred miles of Babylon depending on where exactly along the Tigris he was.  It would seem the most likely that he was somewhere fairly nearby Babylon.
10:5-9 – The Appearance of a Man.  The description that Daniel gives of the one he sees and describes as a “man dressed in linen” suggests one who is perhaps prepared for a priestly sort of ministry (cf. Exo.28:42; Lev.6:10; 16:4), but this is also the sort of clothing of the angelic-like “men” that Ezekiel describes (Eze.9:2-3, 11; 10:2, 6-7).  He wore a golden belt and his body and face glowed.  His eyes were “like flaming torches” and arms and legs “burnished bronze” with a mighty voice of a great crowd.  This description fits very closely with that of Ezekiel 1:26-28 and Revelation 1:12-16 and this individual is so imposing that he may in fact be a theophany (that is, the appearing of God Himself) with later messengers giving the explanations to the revelation (Dan.10:10-14) in much the manner that John in the Revelation would later receive.  Why was Daniel the only one who could see the vision of this “man”?  Obviously there was something tangible about the whole experience because those who were with him became terrified and ran to hide.  Even Daniel described himself as overwhelmed by the vision.
10:10-14 – Affirmation of Daniel.  It may be that the one who touched him and speaks in verses 10-14 is not the same as the one in verses 5-6 because if the first one was in fact a theophany then there would have been no need for the help of another (Michael) and he would not have come to only explain.  Further, the Hebrew does not designate that there was only one individual there and seems to suggest as in previous visionary visits that there may have been more than one present (cf. Dan.8:13).  Daniel is made to tremble on his hands and knees by the touch of this messenger who affirms him as “highly esteemed”.  This touch accompanied by the command to consider what he would be instructed and to stand was sufficient to bring him to his feet even though he was still in a trembling state.  Though Daniel was “highly esteemed” by the LORD this not only did not exclude him from suffering but seems to have necessitated it at some level, just as it did for Mary the mother of Jesus (cf. Luke 1:30; 2:35) and Jesus himself who was the beloved of the Father.  As it was for Daniel, so for us, it should never be taken for-granted that understanding comes natural without applying ourselves to intentionally seek to understand and humble ourselves before God. 
The messenger assures Daniel that he came in response to the prayers of Daniel, but was held back by the “prince of the Persian kingdom” for twenty one days apparently the whole time Daniel was praying.  However, he was assisted by “Michael” who is here called “one of the chief princes,” who enabled him to be released from the struggle and bring the message to Daniel.  Michael is mentioned here and Daniel 12:1, Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7.  In each account, he is one who engages in conflict and particularly in Daniel 12:1 defends the people of Israel.  He is called an “archangel” or “chief (first) angel” in Jude 9 and as such is the only one named in the Protestant canon of Scripture.  It is unclear just who the “prince of the Persians” and the “king (lit. ‘kings’) of Persia” are, but the likeliest explanation at least for the former is some sort of wicked spiritual power.  The latter may be a reference to the actual king (or kings) of Persia or to some other form of these spiritual powers. 
Certainly there is nothing clear here concerning a structure of authorities by which one can (or should) build a highly structured doctrine of spiritual powers and authorities beyond this very basic teaching that there are actual spiritual beings and realities at work throughout the kingdoms of this world.  We cannot (nor should not) simply assume that the kingdoms of this world are all that there is because this is all we may be used to through our own experience
s (cf. Eph.6:10-18).  There are other references to some sort of gods of the nations that may represent some reality behind them (even when a prophet like Isaiah will confess that they are really “nothing”; cf. Isa.46:2; Jer.46:25; 49:3; see also Deut.32:8 in the LXX and Qumran; Ps.96:4).  Since it is not revealed in Scripture how these conflicts among these “princes” actually took place…it would be mere conjecture to make suppositions about how this was and is carried out.  The message that was so necessary for him to bring to Daniel was a message about the future and not even about the present.  This was something which Daniel seemed more concerned about.  What might this say about our present struggles and reality?
10:15-11:1 – The Strengthening of Daniel.  Once again Daniel was overwhelmed and bowed over and once again was touched, but this time on the lips.  Why would he be touched on the lips?  To affirm the message he was being given and his ability to speak it and to allow him to confess his own sense of helplessness and humility.  Again he was touched and this time given strength and reaffirmed concerning the LORD’s estimation of him.  In what sense does the word of the LORD to Daniel to “Peace!  Be strong now!  Be strong.” become the strengthening of Daniel joined to the touch?  The message and the touch are not simply passive work, but active and empowering in the life of Daniel as in us.  Why would the messenger return to the fight against the “prince of Persia”?  The engagement will be taken up until the “prince of Greece” would come.  We can only surmise that this would entail a further conflict among the “princes”, but this refers to a time in our own history that would not happen until about 331BC with the rise of the Greeks under Alexander (or perhaps slightly sooner). 
Before he left he assured Daniel that what he would share with him was already written down in the “Book of Truth” which is apparently a way of referring to what has been determined to be by the LORD.  He notes that only Michael supports him against the princes of Persia and Greece.  The messenger had taken his stand with Michael two years before against the “prince of Persia” and it would appear that this was to protect “Darius” (though this is less than certain).  Why should these struggles among beings that are not human require long term conflict when the LORD could easily resolve them?  For the same reason that this world could quickly be redeemed and all wickedness be dealt with in a moment without the conflict of the righteous struggling against sin and principalities and powers until the last Day.  The reason is that it all works for the ultimate glory of God as demonstrated in the cross, resurrection and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead.  It is that in the end, he might be demonstrated to be supreme over all (Col.1:15-20).

Daniel 9 – The Vision of the Seventy Sevens

9:1-2 – Understanding the date.  This chapter occurs some time after chapter five and perhaps after chapter six.  If this “Darius” the Mede (which seems likely) is “Cyrus” as explained in earlier notes (6:28) then the year would be 538BC and Daniel would be approximately 82 years old.  The NIV has curiously followed the LXX reading for Darius’ father’s name “Xerxes” instead of the Hebrew reading “Ahasuerus” (both of which appear to be titles rather than proper names according to Miller 240 and Goldingay 239) as most of the English translations do (but see NIV footnote).  In what sense was he “made ruler” over the Babylonian (lit. “Chaldean”) kingdom?  Who might have made him ruler?  The Hebrew is pointed as a Hophal which is passive (he was “made ruler”), but Theodotian, the Syriac and the Vulgate all suppose an active (Hiphil) verb meaning “became ruler” perhaps in order to smooth out the reading. 

Note that Daniel refers to Jeremiah’s book as among the other “Scriptures” (lit. “books” but implying “sacred books”) even though Jeremiah was a near contemporary who wrote his prophecy during Daniel’s youth.  The text Daniel was reading seems to refer to Jeremiah 25:11-12 written in 605BC which was the year Daniel was taken to Babylon and also the Jeremiah 29:10 written in 597BC the year Ezekiel was taken to Babylon (cf. 2 Chron.36:21; and compare Lev.25:8; 26:18).  Daniel read how the desolation of Jerusalem would last only seventy years according to Jeremiah and knew that meant the time was nearing for it to be complete, but he also understood that this did not simply mean that God would accomplish the restoration apart from His people.  How should we understand Daniel taking time to reflect upon the Scriptures in light of his own circumstances and what he felt it required of him?  What might this suggest about the process of the formation of the Scriptures and their early acceptance as authoritative by (at least some of) the community?
9:3-19 – The Prayer of Daniel.  Daniel fully commits himself to humility and sincerity before the Lord as he prays concerning what he has read in Jeremiah about the restoration of Jerusalem.  This prayer finds parallel in the prayer of 1 Kings 8; Ezra 9:6-15; Neh.1:5-11; 9:5-38; Baruch 1:15-38; 1QS 1.22-2.1; 4QWords of the Luminaries.  That he fasted implies this did not happen immediately.  Further, he put on “sackcloth” which was non-traditional clothing that was irritable and was a sign that one was in mourning.  This was also the purpose of the ashes. This is the only chapter in Daniel where LORD (the Hebrew Yahweh) occurs.  There are also many Hebrew manuscripts that read LORD in place of Lord (Heb. ’adōnāy) in verses 3, 15, 16, 17 and 19.  Daniel pleads with the LORD not only as the God of his people, but as his own God.
It is important to note that Daniel begins his prayer with praise and adoration of who God is as well as acclaiming the covenant and the faithful-love (Heb. hesed ; the two should not be read as “covenant of love” like the NIV since they are differentiated in the Hebrew) of God for those who love Him and keep the covenant.  However, Daniel then immediately moves to confession of the failure to live up to the covenant on the part of God’s people and he includes himself in this with the “we”.  He lists six things as confessions: “sin” (Heb. hāttā’) as a general category of disobedience, “wrong” (Heb. ‘āwôn) or crooked, “wicked” (Heb. rāsa‘), “rebelled” (Heb. mārad), turned away from the LORD’s commands and laws and not listened to the LORD’s servants the prophets.  This is quite a litany of charges that Daniel lays out against all of the leadership of his people and, indeed, all of the people themselves including himself.
He ascribes righteousness (Heb. sədāqâ) to the LORD, but justified shame to all of the people who are exiled including the ten tribes of Israel, the people of Judah and specifically His city Jerusalem because of unfaithfulness.  It is because of sin that shame covers them and this is not only shame for themselves but in some sense it is a shame for the LORD whose name they bear.  Daniel moves at times between the second person and third person in his address to the LORD as if to call himself and his people to this joint confession and to faithfulness to the LORD having pleaded with the LORD for his mercy and forgiveness.  Daniel is emphatic about the personal failure of the LORD’s people despite the LORD’s unfailing goodness and despite the clarity of the promise of the covenant concerning the judgment for disobedience (Deut.28:15-68).  In what sense could the disaster brought on Jerusalem be considered worse than that brought on other cities that also were destroyed and/or exiled?  Because Jerusalem was especially chosen of the LORD for His dwelling and personal revelation as opposed to all other cities.  Yet, despite the judgment against their sins there was still no repentance and turning to the truth according to Daniel.  This is not to suggest that there were none who did this, but that the people by and large did not and so as a nation they suffered together under the justified judgment of the LORD.
Daniel reminds the LORD of His deliverance of His people from Egypt which serves as THE sign of the LORD’s faithfulness to His people and of His self-revelation.  He calls on the LORD to hear his prayer for the people, “your city, your holy hill” knowing that the LORD cares and will act according to His own Name.  He prays that the LORD would restore all of this for the sake of the LORD’s name and glory, because the LORD is righteous and merciful and this is the revelation of His very character to the whole world and not because of anything inherently worthy about the people of Israel or the place of Israel or Jerusalem.
9:20-27 – The Vision of the Seventy Sevens.  In the very middle of Daniel’s praying, confessing of sins and concern for the restoration of Jerusalem Gabriel arrives with a message.  The statement about coming to him “in swift flight” in the English suggests that Gabriel flew to him and follows the popular notion of angels with wings despite that this messenger is never described as having wings.  The Hebrew actually may suggest “in my extreme weariness” (Heb. mu‘āp bî‘āp ; see the NASB, NET; Goldingay 228; Miller 250-1) which would fit the context better of one who has been fasting and in intense prayer and given his earlier weariness over revelations from the Lord (cf. Dan.7:28; 8:27; 10:8-9, 16-17). The time of the arrival was the time of the evening sacrifice which places it about 3-4PM even though there would not have been any sacrifices because there was not as yet any rebuilt temple to sacrifice in, but this was a normal time of prayer (Ezra 9:5; Ps.141:2).
The message was released for Daniel as soon as he had begun praying even though he was just now receiving it.  He would receive special insight into what he had been pra
ying about because the LORD considered him “highly esteemed”.  What might constitute this estimation by the LORD?  Whereas Daniel understood correctly that the seventy years were upon him for the end of the exile, yet there were to be seventy ‘sevens’ (that is: 490 years broken into three groups…see the notes below) in order to deal with the sins of Israel completely (“finish…”, “put an end…” and “atone…”) and to fulfill all righteousness (“to bring in…”, “to seal up…” and “to anoint…”).
The decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” could either be the one to Ezra in 458BC (Ezra 7:11-26) or to Nehemiah in 445BC (Neh.2:1ff) and would then be the first seven sevens (49 years) to approximately 409BC or 396BC when the project was completed, but in “times of trouble” (cf. Neh.4:1ff; 9:36-37).  The sixty-two sevens to the “Anointed one, the ruler” would be 434 years or approximately (Jesus baptism in) 26AD or (Palm Sunday) 32/33AD.  Though precision of dating the latter in such matters depends upon the highly questionable 360 day Jewish prophetic calendar with a thirteenth month included occasionally to offset for the lack of days that results.  Just who is the “anointed one” which lacks the definite article in the Hebrew as does the “ruler”?  While this could just as easily refer to any king or priest it seems most likely to refer to Jesus as our dating suggests.  Especially since this “anointed one” will be “cut off” that is to say that he will be killed or die and be left with nothing some time after the allotted years noted above.  So who are the “people of the ruler who will come” that destroys the city and the sanctuary?  The antecedent would almost seem to be whomever this “anointed one” was and his “people”, but rather than taking this “ruler” with the “anointed one” that precedes it would seem best to take it with the individual that follows who makes a seven year covenant with Israel and breaks it midway and sets up abominations of desolation until his end.  Between these two rulers there appears to be wars and desolations. 
While it was not readily apparent in Daniel’s day that there would be a gap of time between the last ‘seven’ and the other sixty-nine sevens history suggests otherwise and Jesus own interpretation of the abomination causing desolation suggests otherwise (Matt.24:15; Mark 13:14).  In other words, there appears to still be a future date where the last ‘seven’ years will be accomplished by one who makes and breaks covenant with Israel, putting an end to the sacrifices and offerings three and half years into the covenant and setting up abominations that causes desolation (“on a wing of the temple” should not be read with the NIV, but should read “on the wing of abominations”) until his end.  This means that the temple must still be rebuilt at some time in the future and the sacrifices be reinstituted and Israel will wrongfully make covenant with one who will not be faithful just as they were unfaithful and who will be abominable just as they were abominable.  But the LORD is faithful and merciful and He will use this to bring Israel back to Himself and bring an end to sin as has already now been done through our Lord Jesus Christ, but shall be fulfilled at his glorious appearing from heaven.

The Old Testament for Seventh Graders (in Four Weeks!) 4

Life Under the Covenant – Joshua-Malachi
Story: Living in the Land (Joshua-2 Chronicles) – Israel entered the land of eternal promise, but once they were in the land they failed to live according to the covenant.  The LORD rescued them again and again even though they always managed to rebel again and again. (Joshua 23:16; Judges 21:25; 1 Kings 9:3-9) SCROLL   
Prophets: The Word of the LORD (Isaiah-Malachi) – The LORD always sent his messengers with a word to his people to do what was right because he loved them enough to call them back to the covenant and to remind them of the consequences of disobedience.  The word of the LORD was for the whole world, but what would people do? (Hosea 1:2; Jeremiah 1:9-10; 7:25; Amos 3:7; Jonah 3:2, 10) HORN 
Exile: Judgment Days (Daniel, Esther) – Because Israel would not listen to the LORD they were sent into exile among the nations, the temple was destroyed and the kingship that was promised forever was done.  At every turn it seemed like Israel would be completely destroyed, but the LORD continued to preserve His people even in exile.  (Daniel 9:4-19) SWORD
Wisdom: Two Paths (Job-Song of Songs) – The reflections of people concerned with life, suffering, blessings, judgment and obedience became sharpened by the time spent in exile even while most of the works belonged to persons of ages long before the exile.  Songs and sayings of wisdom where one considers what really matters serve to remind Israel that they must choose the right path.  (Psalm 1; Proverbs 4:20-27) FORK-IN-THEROAD
Return: A New Day? (Ezra-Nehemiah) – The LORD brought Israel back again to the land and restored the temple with promises for the future, but the question remained, “For how long?”  Would Israel be able to remain faithful or again be disobedient and undo it all?  (Zechariah 8:1-8; Malachi 4) SUNRISE
For the other installments: 1, 2, 3

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 wh
at 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).

Daniel 5 – The Writing Is On The Wall

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

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 thin
gs 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).

Blessed be the One Who Grabs Babylon's Babies and Smashes Them on a Rock: A Psalm

By the rivers of Babylon we sit down and weep when we remember Zion.
On the poplars in her midst we hang our harps,
for there our captors ask us to compose songs;
those who mock us demand that we be happy, saying: “Sing for us a song about Zion!”
How can we sing a song to the LORD in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand be crippled!
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you,
and do not give Jerusalem priority over whatever gives me the most joy.
Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.
They said, “Tear it down, tear it down, right to its very foundation!”
O daughter Babylon, soon to be devastated!
How blessed will be the one who repays you for what you dished out to us!
How blessed will be the one who grabs your babies and smashes them on a rock!
(Psalm 137:1-9 – NET)

Another psalm of weeping.  But this psalm (unlike my post on Psalm 88) is not about an individual struggle of abandonment.  This is a psalm of retribution while in captivity.  One can almost hear the rhythms of this melancholy tune, cried without instrumentation in low groans, beckoning for the God of the covenant to pay back those who have rejoiced at and participated in the judgment of Israel.  It a psalm of remembrance (zākar).  Remembrance of all that Zion was and all it was meant to be.  A call for the LORD to remember the unrelenting and unmerciful cry of victory from Esau over his brother Jacob (Obadiah 10-14).  It is a reminder of the Deuteronomic filial lex talionis (Deut.19:19; Prov.24:29).  It is a remembrance and call for the blessing of one who will destroy Babylon in the same manner that Babylon destroyed Jerusalem and kill her babies by smashing “them on a rock”.  In the manner which Babylon has treated the LORD’s people…the cry of remembrance goes up in the very heart of the empire…”Blessed (‘ašrê) will be the one…”.  But alas…who will repay Babylon (and Edom) for the actual slaying and destruction of Jerusalem’s children? (2 Kings 25:7; Lam.5:11-15)  Where will he come from?  Who could this one be who is called “happy” in doing the ‘dirty deed’?

It seems only appropriate to ask how we who are in Christ can ever pray such prayers?  Can we not just skip this psalm as belonging to a bygone era of legalistic retribution?  No…never.  We must pray it more sincerely than ever those exiled in Babylon knew how to pray it.  They prayed for justice and retribution according to the very will of the covenant keeping LORD.  We also pray this, but with the knowledge of the very embodiment of the LORD…that is of Christ Jesus.  We know for a certainty that our LORD will repay (Deut.7:10; 32:35; Isa.65:6; Jer.51:56; Rom.12:19; Heb.10:30).  We pray for the destruction of all who will not ultimately yield to the Lordship of Christ…but we also pray that all who would yield will yield before that great and terrible Day of His Coming again! In that Day everyone will receive their reward…whether to everlasting punishment or everlasting blessedness.

We do not consider only the judgment of the now, but that which is eternal.  Will we be found hidden in Christ in that Day where our deeds are found to be Spirit-empowered and lasting, or our faith is wanting and we ourselves are among those who are not even acknowledged by Him?  The dashing of children against the stones would be but a small thing in the light of that ultimate assize that awaits us all if have not trusted ourselves to the Lordship of Christ Jesus.  It is the judgment he bore for us…it is the righteousness he now bears for and in us.  If indeed we are rewarded with life (and we know this because we have received the Spirit of son-ship), we say “Blessed is the one who repays…not according to what we have done…but according to the great riches of his mercy and grace which are in glory!”   Blessed be His Name forever!

Daniel 3 – The God Who Saves

3:1-7 – The image of gold.  Theodotian and the LXX provide an interesting time note that is not included in the Aramaic text found in our Bibles.  They actually state that it was Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year when what follows happened and that would place the incident of the fiery furnace in the very year of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Jer.52:29).  This made the trial of the three synonymous with the trial of the people of God and offered hope of salvation through the fires of Babylonian captivity. 
It is unclear whether Nebuchadnezzar made the image of himself or (more likely) of one of his gods – Marduk or Bel.  The dimensions of the image or statue are irregular.  In the Aramaic, it is sixty cubits high and six cubits wide (Walvoord pg.81 notes this as unintentionally the number of man; cf. Rev.13:18) with the NIV giving 90 feet high and 9 feet wide (appearing like an obelisk much like the Washington Monument).  In accordance with this, the Babylonians used the Sumero-Akkadian sexagesimal system of measurement which seems to be the explanation for the dimensions being in sixes (we still use this system in telling time: 24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds, etc).  “To reduce [the dimensions of] the statue to something normal…[is]…to miss the point that the statue is extraordinary and monumental, even grotesque” (Goldingay 69; cf. Oppenheim 183-9).  The place for the dedication was called Dura (meaning “a walled place”) and it was likely a location six miles southeast of Babylon where a massive pedestal of bricks has been discovered. 
Why would Nebuchadnezzar set up such an image after his disturbing dreams mentioned in the second chapter?  Perhaps the dreams gave him the idea (see the comments of third century Church Father Hippolytus 2.15), but perhaps he simply did not care what the end would be and only obsessed over the present and the head of gold which represented himself.  Everyone present was commanded to worship the image at the sound of the music playing to demonstrate their loyalty to the king and to the empire and his gods (cf. Rev.13).
3:8-15 – The three Hebrews who would not bow.  Some of the “astrologers” (Aram. kaśdāyin) apparently driven by jealousy for the elevated status of the three friends of Daniel accused them before Nebuchadnezzar who otherwise would have been ignorant of their failure to bow and worship the image.  With all of the leaders of Babylon that are named as called to the dedication (Aram. hānukkah) of the image why was Daniel not mentioned specifically?  His presence at the royal court might explain his absence from this ceremony (see Dan.2:49; Miller 108) though there may be other explanations as well. 
The accusations brought against them are that they neither worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods nor the image he has set up.  They are given another chance or will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace of fire.  Could Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have bowed on the outside and still remained true to God on the inside? (cf. 2 Kings 5:18-19; but see Deut.4:27-28; while gross idolatry occurred at that very time in the temple of Jerusalem according to Ezekiel 8, yet the three remained pure in far off Babylon where no one would have been the wiser).  Note Nebuchadnezzar’s challenge that no god could save the three from his hand (compare the similar comments by Rabshekah in 2 Ki.18:33-35; Isa.36:17-20).  In fact, in another place we discover that Nebuchadnezzar did kill two men – Zedekiah and Ahab – by throwing them into a fire (Jer.29:22).  However, this account is not really a contest between Nebuchadnezzar and the three…it is a story about the one True God and His power and presence.  This is not a “moral story” but it is a “display of a God who is faithful to His people even in captivity and is ever ready to deliver those who put their trust in Him.  The contrast of the God of Israel to the idols of Babylon is a reminder that the god of this world, behind the Gentile dominion, is doomed to judgment at the hands of the sovereign God” (Walvoord 94).
 3:16-23 – Thrown into the fire.  The three offered no defense of themselves, but left everything to their God.  “Formally, the existence of their God is expressed hypothetically; but neither they nor the reader actually question his existence as uncertain. Given that he exists, he is able to rescue…and he will rescue (that is a bold, un-evidenced wager parallel to those of 1:12-13; 2:14-16)” (Goldingay 73).  According to the fourth century writer Jerome, “They indicate that it will not be a matter of God’s inability, but rather of His sovereign will if they do perish” (Miller 120).  They would neither worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods (which each of the three were named after) nor would they bow before the image outwardly.  They stood upon the promise that their God would be with them even through the fire (cf. Exo.3:12; Isa.7:14; 43:1-3) and so in essence they were saying, “Death is preferable to apostasy” (Goldingay 74; note the confession of Job 13:15). 
John Walvoord proposes that “the blazing furnace” following the Aramaic should be read without the definite article “the” and therefore would have “the resultant meaning that He [God] could deliver them from any fiery furnace, not just the one immediately at hand” (89).  Their denial of worship absolutely infuriated Nebuchadnezzar who had the furnace heated “seven times hotter” which suggests simply that it could not be hotter (on the use of seven times cf. Prov.24:16; 26:16).  His rage (as often is the case) moved beyond reason and instead of a slow burn which would have proven more painful to the three, he instead chose to kill them more quickly.  The heat of the fires seems to match the heat of his temper. 
He called for his strongest soldiers to throw them into the furnace, but this proved fatal to the soldiers.  It appears that the three were thrown in through some hole in the top and then later the king saw them through some hole lower in the massive furnace.  In the rush to punish the three they are not even stripped of their clothing as would have been normally done and so they were thrown into the fire with all their garments still on (though the exact translation of just what it was that the three Aramaic terms refer to remains unclear the significance is that they were thrown into the fire with clothes on and pulled out with their clothes not even singed or smelling of smoke let alone the any of their hairs singed, but the ropes were burned right off).  At this point in the LXX the “Prayer of Azariah” and the “Song of the Three Hebrew Children” is inserted between Dan.2:23 and 2:24.  The Rabbis have written that at the very moment the three were thrown into the fire Ezekiel was sent to restore the dead in the valley of dry bones…God was protecting and giving life (Sanhedrin Tractate, Rodkinson 279).
The Prayer of Azariah (and The Song of the Three Hebrew Children – NRS)
1:1 They walked around in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord. 2 Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud: 3 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever! 4 For you are just in all you have done;
all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgments are true. 5 You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors; by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins. 6 For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously. 7 We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good. 8 So all that you have brought upon us, and all that you have done to us, you have done by a true judgment. 9 You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world. 10 And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach. 11 For your name’s sake do not give us up forever, and do not annul your covenant. 12 Do not withdraw your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham your beloved and for the sake of your servant Isaac and Israel your holy one, 13 to whom you promised to multiply their descendants like the stars of heaven and like the sand on the shore of the sea. 14 For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any other nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins. 15 In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.
 16 Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, 17 as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or with tens of thousands of fat lambs; such may our sacrifice be in your sight today, and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you. 18 And now with all our heart we follow you; we fear you and seek your presence. 19 Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy. 20 Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.21 Let all who do harm to your servants be put to shame; let them be disgraced and deprived of all power, and let their strength be broken. 22 Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.” 23 Now the king’s servants who threw them in kept stoking the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood. 24 And the flames poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits, 25 and spread out and burned those Chaldeans who were caught near the furnace. 26 But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions, and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace, 27 and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it. The fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress.
 28 Then the three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace: 29 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted forever;30 And blessed is your glorious, holy name, and to be highly praised and highly exalted forever.31 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, and to be extolled and highly glorified forever.32 Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim, and to be praised and highly exalted forever.33 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, and to be extolled and highly exalted forever.34 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, and to be sung and glorified forever.35 “Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.36 Bless the Lord, you heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.37 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.38 Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.39 Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.40 Bless the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.41 Bless the Lord, stars of heaven; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.42 “Bless the Lord, all rain and dew; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.43 Bless the Lord, all you winds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.44 Bless the Lord, fire and heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.45 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.46 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.47 Bless the Lord, nights and days; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.48 Bless the Lord, light and darkness; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.49 Bless the Lord, ice and cold; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.50 Bless the Lord, frosts and snows; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.51 Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.52 “Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.53 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.54 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.55 Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.56 Bless the Lord, you springs; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.57 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.58 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.59 Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.60 “Bless the Lord, all people on earth; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.61 Bless the Lord, O Israel; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.62 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.63 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.64 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.65 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.66 “Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire he has delivered us.67 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.68 All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures forever.”
(NRS = New Revised Standard Version. Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America)
3:24-30 – The God who walks in the fire.  Why might the Lord have allowed Nebuchadnezzar to be the first one to see the three walking in the fire and also a fourth in the fire?  They were tied and he noted they were unbound…they were thrown into a fire so hot it killed his strongest soldiers for just getting to close and he noted they were unha
rmed and walking around (and in the LXX they are actually singing!).  Who exactly is the fourth one seen by Nebuchadnezzar in the fire who never emerges from the flames?  Note the reference in Isaiah 43:1-3 about the LORD being with His people even through the fire.  One who looks like “a son of the gods” (Aram. bar ’elāhin) or even “a divine being” is a far more likely rendering in English than the KJV’s “Son of God”.  Nebuchadnezzar also refered to this fourth being as God’s “angel” (Aram. mal’ak) sent to care for His servants.  
What sort of transformation should this have made in him or did this make in him?  His use of “the Most High God” is really not significant as it is other times spoken by those who were not of the faith of Israel (cf. Gen.14:19; Num.24:16; Isa.14:14).  It is not that the king abandons his gods, but that he demanded that none blaspheme the God of the Jews under punishment of the very things he had declared he would do to those who failed to tell him his dreams and then interpret them (Dan.2:5).  They were willing to give up their very lives or literally “yielded up their bodies” (and Theodotian adds “to the fire” which Paul adds to his letter to the Corinthians in 1 Cor.13:3) rather than deny their God total worship and trust.  It was not a matter of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knowing how their lives would end.  They simply knew that to trust the LORD meant that whatever happened He would be faithful and they must also be faithful because He was faithful.  This story later was taken up by Mattathias to encourage his sons in revolt against the tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century (1 Maccabees 2:59) and also by the writer of the Hebrews concerning those who “quenched the fury of the flames” in their walk of faith without having yet received the reward they sought (Heb.11:34).  Contrast the command of Deut.7:25 concerning what supposed to be done to idols with what was done to the three in this account.  The conclusion of Nebuchadnezzar is indeed the conclusion of the book of Daniel: no other god can save in the way that the God of Israel saves.