Category Archive: Bible – OT – Daniel

February 19, 2008

Handwriting on the Wall 2

Category: Bible - OT - Daniel :: Link :: Print

Back in January, I wrote about the introduction to James B. Jordan’s new commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall.  Now here are some thoughts on the first two chapters of the book.

In chapter 1, Jordan sets Daniel in its covenant-historical context.  He shows, following Isaiah 48:3, how Israel’s history is divided into “former days” (basically from Moses to the prophets) and “latter days” (from the prophets to Christ). Then he traces how each of these broad periods goes through an opening prophetic period, an “Egypt” period, a priestly period, an interim period, and then a kingly period, which leads in turn to a new prophetic period.

I’m still mulling over some of what he said, but I appreciated his emphasis on a typological reading of Scripture and how what God does with Israel is a miniature portrait of what He is going to do now in the world in and through Christ.

Chapter 2 is a continuation of the material in chapter 1, setting the book of Daniel in its context in the history of God’s revelation. Most of the material in this chapter was already familiar to me from other things I’ve read, but I thought the presentation here was particularly helpful.

While we often speak of “prophet, priest, and king” in that order (and there’s some biblical support for that, as chapter 1 indicates), the progress in man‘s history is from priest to king to prophet.  Adam started out in God’s Garden sanctuary as a priest, serving and keeping the Garden (“serving and keeping” are terms later associated with priests in the tabernacle and temple).  Eventually, Adam would have gone out into the world to serve as a king.

Likewise, Israel starts out with priests but no king for several hundred years. Then there’s a kingly period, starting with Saul. And then the focus shifts to prophets like Elijah, Elisha, and so forth, and eventually there are no kings in Israel, but there are prophets.

Here’s a crucial paragraph:

God is revealing Himself to humanity in history. Also, since human beings are images of God Himself, it follows that as God reveals Himself to us, He is also revealing us to ourselves. Thus, human history can be seen as a course of instruction in who God is and in who we are. Since God is One and Three, history is unified, but history also spirals through three phases over and over again, as God progressively reveals more and more about His Tri-Personhood. There is an Age of the Father, followed by an Age of the Son, followed by an Age of the Spirit. Roughly speaking, these are priestly, kingly, and then prophetic ages (p. 31).

The rest of the chapter spells out this theme and this progression in Scripture in a way that helps us understand where Daniel fits in the history of God’s revelation of Himself and of us.

Jordan doesn’t work out the implications of all that he’s saying here.  For more of that, see his little booklet Crisis, Opportunity, and the Christian Future, as well as his monograph entitled From Bread to Wine.

I’ve found that this material also preaches well. In Advent 2006, I took my congregation through the themes of priest, king, and prophet in Scripture, showing what each office entailed, how Christ fulfilled those offices, and how we share in those offices.

In particular, in dealing with ourselves, I talked about God’s process of maturation, how we start out as “priests” (servants to hear and obey), mature into “kings” (who rule), and then mature further into “prophets” (who shape worlds with our words).

Yes, they were topical sermons in some sense (but no more than, say, a catechism sermon), but I thought it was important to show the congregation what God was doing with these offices in history and how they shed light on what God is doing in our lives.

This chapter was very helpful for understanding the flow of Scripture and how redemptive and revelational history “works.”  It’s also an aid to our understanding of the Trinity.  All too often, we treat the Trinity as if it were grounded on a verse here and a verse there, whereas it is actually grounded, not on scattered verses, but on the whole flow of Scripture and the way God reveals Himself in history.  Furthermore, this chapter lays a good foundation for understanding what God is doing, not just in the Bible, but in history in general and in our own lives.

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Posted by John Barach @ 2:04 pm | Discuss (0)
January 14, 2008

Handwriting on the Wall 1

Category: Bible - OT - Daniel :: Link :: Print

For Christmas, my in-laws gave me a copy of James Jordan’s new commentary on Daniel, The Handwriting on the Wall.  (Thanks again!)  Jordan has been working on this commentary for the past seven years (how very symbolical!), and it’s finally here.

I usually end up reading only commentaries that directly relate to the sermons I’m preaching, and I wouldn’t want to read most commentaries straight through, dry and technical as they often are.  This commentary is an exception on both counts.  I’m preaching Mark’s Gospel, not Daniel, and yet I’m reading this commentary and reading it from start to finish.  I’ll likely end up sharing chunks of it with you.

I finished the introduction about ten days ago. Here are a few things I appreciated:

* Jordan’s discussion of Daniel as a second Joseph (pp. 1-2).  It’s very helpful when we see that what God did earlier through Joseph is being recapitulated in many ways, but on an even larger scale, in Daniel.  History, after all, is not one thing after another; it’s a unified story by one author, and like a great symphony it repeats certain themes again and again.

* Jordan’s observation that Belshazzar must have been pretending not to know Daniel (in Daniel 5), since Daniel would have been ruling under Nebuchadnezzar when Belshazzar was growing up (p. 2n2).

* Jordan’s rejection of the idea that the book of Daniel (and in particular the parts that say “I” and claim to be by Daniel) might have been written by someone pretending to be Daniel:

By baptism and by faith, Christians are settled in union with Jesus Christ. They are to think what He thought. If Jesus was wrong about who wrote Daniel and when, then I am happy (indeed, compelled) to be wrong right along with Him. But certainly it is an abomination to suggest that the Father and the Spirit left Jesus Christ in the dark about the very Word of God that He believed He had come to fulfil! … It is not acceptable to suggest that Jesus, as the very Incarnate Word, did not understand the Written Word (pp. 6-7).

* Jordan’s discussion of the various parts of the book of Daniel and their historical context, and in particular his observation that Jeremiah and the Jews in Jerusalem ought to have known that Daniel was in a position of authority in Babylon and that Nebuchadnezzar was acknowledging Yahweh, the God of Israel, as the true and only God.

After all, Nebuchadnezzar sent out the declaration which is Daniel 4 to his entire empire (“To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth”: Daniel 4:1). That would certainly have included Judea, which means that when Jeremiah was telling the king and the people to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, they should have known that Nebuchadnezzar was a professing believer with Daniel at his right hand. Surrendering to him was surrendering to someone God had prepared in order to help them. But their refusal to surrender was sheer rebellion (pp. 11-12).

More on this theme later.

* Jordan’s brief treatment of the statement in Daniel 5:32 that Darius the Mede was “about” 62 years old when he conquered Babylon, 62 being a number that’s significant when Daniel talks about the seventy weeks (7 weeks + *** 62 weeks *** + 1 week: Daniel 9:25ff.) (p. 17).   I’m sure he’ll discuss the significance of this echo between Daniel’s weeks and Darius’s age at the appropriate place in the commentary.

* Jordan’s discussion of how the various events in Daniel 1-6 should have instructed God’s people about what they ought to do during the seventy weeks (p. 17).  After all, Daniel 1-6 isn’t just some history (“This happened and then that happened”).  It is preached history, history with a point, an application for Israel and, by extension, for us as well.

All of that struck me as particularly helpful stuff, and that was only in the introduction. I haven’t read any other commentaries on Daniel, so maybe this is all common knowledge, but it was news to me.

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Posted by John Barach @ 3:31 pm | Discuss (3)