One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TOMS: Daniel 5-6

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Oct. 23, 2006

These chapters contain two of the most familiar stories of the Bible.

In chapter 5 we have the story of King Belshazzar and the handwriting on the wall. Any scholarly discussion of this story will immediately point out that, according to the best archaeological evidence we have (which we can never be sure of anyway because new things are found all the time), Belshazzar was not a son and not an immediate heir of Nebuchadnezzar. The sources I have read either say he was a grandson or a nephew. There was another king (I cannot remember his name, I'm sure it was a long one with lots of "z's") who was N's son, but apparently he was either leading a war somewhere or did not like politics, so he let B run the capital. The notes in my Bible (these are marginal notes and not study notes- if somebody writes and asks I can explain the difference: I think most of you already know) give an alternate reading of "predecessor" or "successor" for "father" or "son" in this chapter. I would like to know if these notes are based on variances or vague words in the actual text or if they are based on the archaeological background. 

Anyway, the fact that Belshazzar offers the person who interprets the writing third place in the kingdom instead of second clearly indicates either that Belshazzar was first and that someone else was already permanently in place in second or that Belshazzar was second and that first place was not his to give. Obviously the archaeological evidence supports the second option, so that is the one I would hold to. It does not contradict the Biblical text, and it is consistent with what we know from the Scripture. Even though the Bible is not primarily a history book, it has never been proven inaccurate, even though this is one of the passages that was pointed to by critics in the past as a historical error.
I didn't want to spend that much time on that, so let's go on. 

The fact that Daniel was not immediately called to interpret the writing demonstrates how much different Belshazzar was than Nebuchadnezzar. King B (I hate typing those Chaldean names) called for his advisers and wise men, but Daniel was not among them. Apparently, he was a lot like Rehoboam, who rejected the wise counsel of his father Solomon's advisers and instead listened to his buddies. We all need someone wiser than us to point out when we are heading in a wrong direction. Taking time to listen to other people's advice is always time well spent, even if you end up disagreeing with them. If B had kept Daniel around instead of apparently sending him off into early retirement, he might not have ended up "weighed in the balances and found wanting."

Chapter 6 is the childhood favorite of Daniel in the lion's den. Why did Darius have a den of lions? We do not know. He might have had show lions, but there certainly is no evidence that the Persians used lions for public spectacles like the Romans did. Maybe he did it because he could, which is why a lot of those ancient kings did a lot of things. Anyway, it was there. Darius was not a fool like Belshazzar. Even though he conquered Babylon, he knew that there were people in Babylon who could help him rule, and Daniel was one of those people. He did allow himself to be flattered beyond all reason, but that was a weakness of all kings of that era, and sadly, not all that uncommon among people today.

Of course, the main point of this story is Daniel's faithfulness. He did not change his way just because the king made worship illegal. Just remember that the Lord could have just as easily allowed the lions to eat Daniel, and that would not have changed things on Daniel's end. That's what makes this story so amazing. I personally think Darius already planned to throw those other leaders in the den before he went to find Daniel at daybreak. I'm drifting, and this is getting too long; thanks for reading.

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