Question 38:

Who is the king in the Bible who saw a statute in his dreams: The head of the statue was pure gold, its chest and arms were silver, its belly and thighs bronze, the legs iron, its feet partly iron and partly tile. (Daniel 2:32-33), and how do you interpret the four kingdoms in Daniel? Will it come to pass as predicted in Daniel?


Answer: The Old Testament book of Daniel consists of two main parts.

(I.) The narrative part, which describes what happens to Daniel and his companions under the Babylonian kings, Nebuchadnezzar (1-4) and Belteshazzar, (5) as well as under Darius (6), the King of Medes. It includes their refusal to eat unclean meat (1), Daniel’s successful interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2), the miraculous liberation from the furnaces (3), Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity (4), the supernatural writing on the wall (Mene, Tekel, and Peres) at the Belteshazzar’s feast (5) and Daniel’s survival in the lion’s den (6).


(II) A series of visions granted Daniel during the reigns of Belteshazzar (7, 8), Darius King of the Medes (9) and Cyrus (10-12), visions which prophesy the future fate of the Jewish people. Several parts of these later chapters display all the characteristics of apocalyptic literature.


The traditional view, according to which the book of Daniel was written in the sixth century BC by Daniel, a Jewish exile in Babylon, is today largely discredited as untenable. A number of historic errors in the text renders it impossible to believe that the book could have originated in the period of exile. The doctrinal position of the text and its language (it even includes some Greek words), as well as its position in the overall canon of the Old Testament also points to a much later date. Modern critical exegetes agree that the book was written between 168 and 165 BC. Following this hypotheses, the purpose of the book was to encourage and strengthen the reader during the persecution of the Jews by Antiochus Epiphanes (King of Syria, 175-163 BC). Section 2:4-7:28 is written in Aramaic, not in Hebrew.


In the New Testament, there is only one text in which Daniel is quoted directly, i.e. the reference to "horrible abomination" (Daniel 9:27) in Mark 13:14 par. But the teachings from the book of Daniel have been taken up and developed in many other parts of the New Testament, e.g. the repeated use of the expression "Son of Man (Daniel 7:13), the belief in angels who mediate between mankind and the transcendent God, and most of all the doctrine of "the resurrection of the dead (Daniel 12:2).


Regarding Daniel 2:29-45, the following can be said briefly: This section contains the first of the allegories of the book of Daniel, the mysterious succession of the large historic kingdoms (New Babylonians, Medes and Persians, and the Greeks as the heirs of the Asian kingdom of Alexander the Great). In accordance with ancient speculations about the eras of the world, these allegories are depicted here through metals of decreasing value, concluding finally in the advent of the messianic age. All earthly kingdoms collapse to give way to a new kingdom, the eternal Kingdom of God (see Matthew 4:17). Jesus who calls himself the Son of Man (see also Daniel 7:13 and Matthew 8:20), also applies to himself the image of the cornerstone that was first rejected from Psalm 118:22 (see also Matthew 21:42-44; Luke 20:17-18), and furthermore, the image of the cornerstone from Isaiah 28:16 with its clear allusion to the stone which comes loose from the mountain and destroys all upon whom it falls. See also verses 34:44-45 in the second chapter of Daniel.

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