Archive for the ‘Belshazzar’ Tag

The Prophecy of the Seven Weeks   Leave a comment

Above:  Mina of Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IX

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Daniel 9:1-27

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As I keep writing in this series of posts, the Book of Daniel is not history.

“Darius the Mede” never existed.  Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.).  These are matters of historical record.  The Book of Daniel, though, places Darius the Mede between Belshazzar (the Crown Prince; never a king) and Cyrus II.

Another consequence of the scribal teaching that the period of inspiration had closed was a new interest in the predictions contained in existing prophecy.  If they had not been and apparently could not be literally fulfilled, then they must be explained symbolically.  The “seventy years” of Babylonian servitude in Jeremiah 25:11, 12 becomes in Daniel 9:2, 24, “seventy weeks of years,” in order to bring the “accomplishing of the desolations of Jerusalem” down approximately to the Maccabean period from which the author was writing.  Thus the calculation of times and seasons began, and with it a scheme of predetermined future history.

R. B. Y. Scott, The Relevance of the Prophets, 2nd. Ed. (1968), 6

Jeremiah 25:11-12 reads:

This whole land shall be a ruin and a waste.  Seventy years these nations shall serve the land of Babylon, but when the seventy years have elapsed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation and the land of the Chaldeans for their guilt–oracle of the LORD.  Their land I will turn into everlasting waste.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Let us consider dates and mathematics, O reader.

  1. The Fall of Jerusalem occurred in 586 B.C.E.
  2. King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E.  He permitted Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.
  3. 586 – 539 = 47.
  4. Mathematics can prove inconvenient for fundamentalism.
  5. Nevertheless, one can get to 70 by figuring other dates, such as those for the destruction of the First Temple and the dedication of the Second Temple.  Yet that is not the criterion, according to Jeremiah 25:11-12.
  6. Seventy is a symbolic number; it means a long time.

The material is not about the results of simple subtraction, O reader,  The penitential prayer, set in one context, makes more sense in the context of the Hasmonean rebellion and the oppression of King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.), about the time of the composition of the text.  Daniel 9, writing of the second century B.C.E, outwardly as a previous century, offered comfort to pious Jews in their homeland at a difficult time.

This point leads me to another one.  People can live in their homeland yet be in exile.  They can live under foreign occupation.  They can suffer from oppression.  Nevertheless, hope persists.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may abet the encouragement to hope for a better future.  The reinterpretation of prophecy may help people to continue in faith.

This practice has continued since Daniel 9 was new.  One can detect the reinterpretation of prophecies of the Second Coming of Jesus throughout the New Testament.  Christian tradition includes the reinterpretation of Jewish prophecies.  The history of Christianity includes examples of the continuing reinterpretation of prophecies regarding the Second Coming of Jesus.  Prophecy seems not always to be clear-cut, in the Bible and in the the present day.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 21, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS TALLIS AND HIS STUDENT AND COLLEAGUE, WILLIAM BYRD, ENGLISH COMPOSERS AND ORGANISTS; AND JOHN MERBECKE, ENGLISH COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF HENRY PURCELL AND HIS BROTHER, DANIEL PURCELL, ENGLISH COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF THEODORE CLAUDIUS PEASE, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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The Vision of the Ram and the He-Goat   Leave a comment

Above:  The Ram and the He-Goat

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VIII

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Daniel 8:1-27

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As I keep writing in the posts of this series, the Book of Daniel is not history.

The last monarch of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E,) while Nabonidus was away on the Arabian peninsula.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 8 has much in common with Chapters 2 and 7.  The imagery in Daniel 8 is of the Persian Empire (the two-horned ram), the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great,” and the four successor empires of Alexander’s empire.  We have a clue regarding the period of composition.

Prepare for the essential information dump, O reader.

  1. Alexander III “the Great” of Macedonia died in 323 B.C.E.  He did not name a successor.
  2. Generals fought among themselves and rendered the empire asunder.  Four empires emerged.
  3. One was the Ptolemaic Empire, based in Egypt.
  4. Another was the Seleucid Empire, based in Babylonia.
  5. Another was the rump Macedonian Empire.
  6. Another successor empire was in Asia Minor.
  7. The successors of Ptolemy I Soter (reigned 305-282 B.C.E.) and Seleucus I Nicator (reigned 305-281 B.C.E.) concerned and frequently troubled the original audience of the Book of Daniel.
  8. The king in Daniel 8:23f was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  Contrary to the text, he was not the last ruler of that empire.  Antiochus XIII Asiaticus (reigned 69-69 and 65-64 B.C.E.) was the final monarch of that empire.
  9. The reference to Antiochus IV Epiphanes does provide a clue regarding the period of composition, though.

If one has been paying close attention since the beginning of this series, one may have detected some patterns and motifs in the texts.  For example, consider Chapters 2, 7, and 8, O reader.  Empires and kingdoms rise and fall.  God remains forever.  God is sovereign.  In other words, relativize love of country; do not convert patriotism into idolatry.  Love that which lasts forever than which is temporary, even if long-term.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMNODIST; “THE DEAN OF AMERICAN HYMN WRITERS”

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PRISCILLA LYDIA SELLON, A RESTORER OF RELIGIOUS LIFE IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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The Vision of the Four Beasts   Leave a comment

Above:  The Vision of the Four Beasts

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VII

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Daniel 7:1-28

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The section of apocalyptic visions (Chapters 7-12) in the Book of Daniel begins here.

I remind you, O reader, what I have written in previous posts.  The last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.).  His son, Crown Prince Belshazzar, served as viceroy and regent (553-543 B.C.E.) while Nabonidus was on the Arabian peninsula for a decade.  Belshazzar was never a king.

Daniel 7 has much in common with Chapter 2.  Two competing lists of the four kingdoms mentioned in the two chapters exist.  One list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Median Empire of “Darius the Mede;”
  3. the Persian Empire; and
  4. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great.”

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the notorious King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  This identification makes sense to me, for it provides a clue regarding the period of composition.

The competing list is:

  1. the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire;
  2. the Persian Empire;
  3. the Macedonian Empire of Alexander III “the Great;” and
  4. the Roman Empire.

According to this list, the blasphemous horn is the antichrist.

The vision concludes with the descent of 

one like a human being,

or, literally,

one like a son of man.

This was originally a reference to St. Michael the Archangel.

Son of man

has more than one meaning in the Hebrew Bible.  Usually, it means a human being, as in Ezekiel 2:1 and Job 25:6.  The term also means angel, as in Daniel 8:17, a reference to St. Gabriel the Archangel.  The term clearly refers to a heavenly figure in Daniel 7:13.  Christian tradition identifies the heavenly figure as Jesus. 

Son of Man,

in relation to Jesus, is an apocalyptic label in the New Testament.  This association of the label with a future messianic figure also exists in 1 Enoch 46:1 and 48:10, as well as in 2 Esdras/4 Ezra 13.

The establishment of the Kingdom of God in its fullness on Earth at the end of the visions of Daniel 2 and 7 expresses hope for a just world.  This is the concept of the Kingdom of Heaven in the Gospel of Matthew.  (See Jonathan Pennington.)  This is the dream that remains unfulfilled thousands of years later.

I have read what many Biblical scholars have written about the Kingdom of God.  I can, for example, quote C. H. Dodd (1884-1973) on Realized Eschatology at the drop of a hat.  As logical as I find his case in The Founder of Christianity (1970) to be, I conclude that it feels like cold comfort on certain days.  On those days, I agree and sympathize with Alfred Loisy, an excommunicated Roman Catholic theologian who complained,

Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and what came was the Church.

As Bishop N. T. Wright wrote in Jesus and the Victory of God (1996), the response of many of the faithful to the Kingdom of God not arriving at the expected times has been to continue to hope for it.  Hope persists.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS OF HUNGARY, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHN STONE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Daniel in the Lions’ Den   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel in the Lions’ Den

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART VI

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Daniel 6:2-29 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Daniel 6:1-28 (Protestant and Anglican)

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I begin with history.

King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king, and Darius the Mede never existed.

Daniel 6 exists in the realms of folklore and theology yet not in the category of history.

The practice of depicting a monarch in an unflattering, satirical light is present in Daniel 6.  One may easily point out that the king, being a law unto himself, had the power to change the law again.  Instead, we read of Darius the Mede expressing regret that he could not alter the law he had decreed.

The motif of a foreign monarch glorifying YHWH at the end of a chapter also recurs.

Civil disobedience, another theme in the Book of Daniel, also recurs.  There may be no justice without peace, but neither can peace exist without justice.  The long line of nonviolent resistors to oppression casts the long line of oppressors and their enablers into stark, ignominious relief.  The moral contrast between the two sides is great.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF ALICE NEVIN, U.S. GERMAN REFORMED LITURGIST AND COMPOSER OF HYMN TEXTS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE ELIZA(BETH) LEESON, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

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Belshazzar’s Feast   Leave a comment

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART V

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Daniel 5:1-30 (Protestant and Anglican)

Daniel 5:1-6:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

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I begin with history.

Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) was the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king.  He spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  During that time, his son, Crown Prince Belshazzar governed as viceroy and regent.  King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) added Chaldea/Babylonia to his realm in 539 B.C.E.  Belshazzar was never a king.  Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:30/6:1, depending on versification) was a fictional character.

The scene in this reading is vivid.  The excesses of the powerful, conquering empire stand in contrast to the justice of God.  The hubris of the powerful, dominant Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian culture contrasts with the realities of the peoples it oppressed.  The mighty empire falling, by the hand of God, to another, relatively benevolent empire should serve as a sobering reminder to many people across the world.

The end of this reading reminds me of Revelation 18–the fall of Babylon, code for the Roman Empire.  Daniel 5:1-30/5:1-6:1 and Revelation 18 ought to prompt us to ask ourselves if we identify with the oppressive, violent powers or with the oppressed. For whom do we grieve?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT HENRIETTE DELILLE, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF ISABEL ALICE HARTLEY, BAPTIST MISSIONARY TO THE KIOWA NATION

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The Madness of King Nebuchadnezzar II   Leave a comment

Above:  King Nebuchadnezzar II as a Wild Animal

Image in the Public Domain

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READING DANIEL

PART IV

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Daniel 4:1-34

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My graduate school training is in history.  I, therefore, recognize and accept that Daniel 4 is ahistorical.  According to ancient historical sources, King Nebuchadnezzar II was never away from office for any extended period of time.  We do know, however, that King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian monarch, spent a decade (553-543 B.C.E.) on the Arabian peninsula.  We also know that Crown Prince Belshazzar exercised power in his father’s stead during those years.  When we read Daniel 4, we read folklore and theology, not history.

As I keep writing in this series, the Book of Daniel includes elements of satire.  The depiction of King Nebuchadnezzar II as a blustery, dangerous fool in Chapters 2 and 3 fits into this theme.  The image of him insane, naked, and animalistic in a field (Chapter 4) takes the satire one more step.

The sovereignty of God is a prominent theme in the Book of Daniel, as we have seen in Chapters 1-3.  That theme is evident in Chapter 4.  Once more, we read of King Nebuchadnezzar II acknowledging the sovereignty of God.

The sovereignty of God pertains to another theme I have also addressed in the previous post.  To quote Daniel L. Smith-Christopher, corrected for the standards of The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) to remove “the fact that” and create a gerund to make the sentence make sense:

The book of Daniel suggests that…Christians finding themselves under the rule of an oppressive state (whether over or more subtle) does mean that they need to bow to its authority.

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1996), 76

God is in charge.  Even potentates are subject to divine judgments and standards.  When the laws of God and the laws of governments conflict, one still has a moral duty to obey the laws of God.  One also retains the moral duty to do so by proper methods.

This point–civil disobedience–can easily lead into difficult territory.  I am neither an anarchist nor a right-wing law-and-order, my-country, right-or-wrong partisan.  My moral compass is the Golden Rule, with Jesus as the exemplar.  Therefore, I applaud the conductors of the Underground Railroad–criminals, according to federal law–as moral giants.  I also regard the U.S. federal policy of separating families at the border with moral outrage.  Nobody who supports that policy has any moral standing to lecture me on being pro-life, having family values, and/or keeping the Golden Rule.

One mistake many who seek to follow divine law commit is obnoxiousness.  One ought to act courageously, boldly, and sincerely.  And one should proceed from love.  God is love, after all.  At the end, all must stand before God.  May we, by grace, acquit ourselves as well as possible until then.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN, HUMANITARIAN, AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN

THE FEAST OF IGNACIO ELLACURIA AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS IN EL SALVADOR, NOVEMBER 15, 1989

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES KEPLER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ASTRONOMER AND MATHEMATICIAN

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Humility Before God, Part V   3 comments

Above:  Belshazzar’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 5:1-7, 17-30

Psalm 22:23-31

2 Timothy 2:1-15

Mark 14:1-11

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Before I address my main point, I write about two historical problems with Daniel 5 and 6.  Belshazzar was never a king, for example.  His father was Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.), the last king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  In 539 B.C.E. Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire .  Darius the Mede (6:1), a supposed predecessor of Cyrus II, was fictitious.  At best Belshazzar was the regent or viceroy his father when his father was away.  The chronology within the Book of Daniel makes no sense, regardless of whether one restricts oneself to the Hebrew version or the version with Greek additions. The Book of Daniel is not history; its chronology contradicts other portions of the Hebrew Bible.  That fact does not mean, of course, that we cannot read it in a spiritually profitable manner.

Humility before God is a theme running through the assigned readings.  Belshazzar was far from humble before God.  The author of Psalm 22 preached the virtues of being in the awe of God, a term we usually read or hear translated as “fear of God.”  St. Paul the Apostle, who knew much about ego, obeyed God and suffered for his obedience.  The unnamed woman who anointed Jesus at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany demonstrated extravagant love and humility; she did not care about how she looked.

To be humble is to be down to earth, literally.  In the context of God each of us should recognize his or her relative insignificance.  Yet we bear the image of God, as Cyrus II was.  Divine grace can flow through us to others.  That should be sufficient status for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/21/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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