Week 5 - The Statue of Idolatry
Babylonian astronomy had no geometric model or theory, such as the Greeks had.
They divided the circle into 360 degrees, and described location in the sky in
terms of bearing (compass direction) and azimuth (angle from the ground).
These observations were carefully recorded along with time of day, measured
by water clock. They then constructed arithmetic models which predicted
phases of the moon, eclipses, period of wandering stars (e.g. Venus), and
more. These arithmetic models were effective, yielding precise predictions
(given the precision of water clocks).
The Legend of Daniel - Susanna and the Elders
The Septuagint book of Daniel has several stories appended that do not
appear in the Hebrew and Aramaic. Their tone is quite different (Daniel
acts more like a super hero), making it clear that Daniel was not the author.
For Protestants and Jews, they are Apocryphal, for Catholics, Canonical.
The first is about
beautiful Jewish wife in Babylon. Two lecherous Jewish elders spy on her while
bathing, and after she has sent her attendents away, they spring out and demand
that she commit adultery with them - or they will accuse her of adultery.
She refuses, they accuse her, as she is led to be stoned, young Daniel speaks
up and demands that the two witnesses be questioned separately. Their
stories conflict, and they are stoned as false witnesses, and Daniel is
The bathing scene from Susanna is a popular subject of Medieval art.
Daniel 2:46 - 3:30
3:23½ The Septuagint adds another appendix to Daniel, which occurs
between verse 23 and 24:
The Prayer of
Azariah, and the "Song of the Three Hebrew Children".
After their prayer, "the flame mounted up above the furnace nine
and fourth cubits: And it broke forth, and burnt such of the Chaldeans as it
found near the furnace. But the angel of the Lord went down with Azarias and
his companions into the furnace: and he drove the flame of the fire out of the
furnace." Then they break into a song reminiscent of Psalm 148.
Dramatic speculation: the jealous courtiers who ratted them out were "found
near the furnace".
- 2:46 The absolute monarch of the known world bows down to Daniel, who
he sees as the representative of the God of the gods - the revealer of secrets.
- 2:47 "Verily your God is the God of gods". Not just the Lord (Bel) of
the gods. The title Bel - LORD, originally for the God Enu, was applied to
Marduk, god of Babylon with the ascent of Babylon. Now, Nebuchadnezar sees
the God of Daniel as the God of gods and lord of Kings.
- 2:48 "Rewards, gifts, and great honour", as promised in 2:6.
- 3:1 Nebuchadnezar makes a statue. Most scholars put this 15 years later.
- 3:5,7,10,15 Babylonian, Greek, and Persian instruments. All peoples,
nations, languages. Nebuchadnezar attempts to correct the weakness of the
image in his dream, the iron and clay that do not mix, by creating a one world
religion. His image is all gold, rather than increasingly inferior metals.
He has not come to grips with the stone.
- 3:8 The Chaldeans are the native Babylonian wise men, resentful of
the kings policy of collecting wise men from around the world, and still feeling
humiliated at being made to serve under young upstart jewish captives.
- 3:9-12 The accusers are just too happy at this turn of events.
- 3:15 "What god is there who can deliver you out of my hand?"
"Revealer of Secrets" is one thing. Physical intervention is another.
There is a lot to chew on with this question/statement. What are these
Babylonian gods good for anyway?
- 3:19 Nebuchadnezar "changed his visage" in fury.
- 3:22 In case there was any question of a liberal "miracle" (e.g.
the higher temperature causes a downdraft in the center) the furnace slays
the soldiers throwing them in.
- 3:25 A fourth like the Son of God. Nebuchadnezar was likely thinking
of one of the sons of Babylonian dieties, like Nebo son of Marduk. But
he is drawn yet closer to the living God.
- 3:26 "Servants of the most high god." Last week, the God of Israel was a
"high god". Now He is the greatest of the high gods. But Nebuchadnezar has
still not renounced other gods.
- 3:27 No smell of smoke, or any other sign of even passing through fire.
So no liberal "miracle".
- 3:29 "There is no other god than can deliver in this way." The God
of the Jews is now not only "the Revealer of Secrets", but has physically
intervened on behalf of his followers. This decree of Nebuchadnezar (which
cannot be changed) guarrantees freedom of religion for the Jews throughout
the Babylonian and Medo-Persian empire. In God's providence, the accusers
in verse 12 linked Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego with all the Jews, so that
the King's decree protects all the Jews.