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Daniel 1-3

08.09.2010

Our first foray into Daniel covers some of the historical stories about Daniel and his buddies coping with life in Babylon.

1 | One of the cool things I learned from the MacCulloch book was the rationale for the exile.  When a large empire like Babylon would conquer another country (such as Judah) they would take the social and political elite and bring them back to the imperial capital.  This removed the movers and shakers from the conquered people, reducing their capacity to revolt and regain their freedom.  Also, it coopted the elite into the culture of the conquering empire, giving them a vested interest in the survival of their new rulers.  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were among the elite of Judah, and their story is told in the context of their being brought to Babylon to serve the Babylonian kings and become loyal and motivated subjects thereof.

This is why their faithfulness to their Mosaic dietary restrictions is as important as it is.  They are, in effect, saying that they will respect their new rulers and be loyal subjects, but they will not forget their cultural heritage and identity as God’s chosen people, nor will they abandon trusting in God.

2 | I’ve always enjoyed and remembered the imagery of Nebuchadnezzar (hereafter Ned)’s dream.  Not only does it meet me on my preferred intellectual playground (history & international relations), but it gently reminds me of the importance of my passion relative to God’s power and plan. 

The gold of Babylon, the silver of Persia, the bronze of Alexander’s Greek empire, the lead of Rome, and the mixed lead and clay of Rome’s eastern split (or the Ottomans — depending on the interpretation) are all fragile and vulnerable to a good smashing by the rock of truth.  The same rock that when struck poured out water for the wandering Hebrews, the one that serves as a solid foundation for a house in a storm, this rock smashes the grand dreams of men and reminds them of their sinfulness and folly.  Only the rock of truth is everlasting. 

No matter how cool or important the fate of nations may appear to my particular sub-tribe of geek, it’s all shadows and dust in the scheme of God’s plan for eternity.  This helps me put into perspective both my interest in history as well as my anxieties about modern political trends.  It’s a much smaller deal that it seems.

3 | At the risk of pulling a Pastor Ray again, this (as well as the story of Ned’s dream) is one of my favorite Bible stories.  Daniel’s entourage refuses to worship at Ned’s idol and is thrown in the furnace, only to dance around with one who appears “like the son of the gods” (Jesus? an angel?) and return unscathed. 

I find it ironic that Ned sets up statues of himself for worship (under pain of death by burning for refusal) when he has just declared God to be “God of gods and Lord of kings” after Daniel’s interpretation of his dream. 

Incidentally, this story played an instrumental role in my coming to faith during high school.  As I found myself with actively Christian friends for the first time, it embarassed me that they knew more about the Bible than I did, despite the fact that I called myself a Christian and had gone to church all my life.  Specifically, I was trying to reference this story (probably in a bad joke — gotta love Bible humor), and I only knew the main characters as “those three guys.”  That my friends knew them both as Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah as well as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednago (their given Babylonian names, respectively) was humbling.  I felt left out and like a laggard.  I resolved to learn more about “those kinds of Bible stories” so that I could fit in.  It was in this “catching up” that I came to know God and see that I was missing more than just answers to trivia or the right to feel included.

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From → [ir], [minor]

2 Comments
  1. griffinriot permalink

    I find it refreshing to see your veiws on Daniel and I shall take a look at other posts of yours. I must say that Shadrach, Meshach and Abednago are some of the best names in the bible! Their faith is inspiring and something to live by.

    • Thanks, griffinriot, and welcome. I can’t promise that I write these with an audience in mind, so please forgive me if some of them seem based on incomplete information or overly personal in scope. Let me know if you have further thoughts or questions as you read on.

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