26 November 2010

Daniel 7:2-14

"As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient One and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed." (vv. 13-14)


In the 21st century, he could be a superhero, this "one like a human being" who has come out of heaven and defeated the four terrible villain-beasts.

Although there is some disagreement as to who this 'Son of Man' (as the Authorised Version puts it) might be, both Hebrew and Christian traditions have taken the view that one interpretation is that he is the Messiah. It is this 'Son of Man' that is probably referred to in Mark 10:45.

Not many residents of Britain have personal experience of living in a country whose land is being fought over by global superpowers, but that is what this text is about. Chapter 7 of the book of Daniel is particularly important because it is not only laments the Jews' present situation (175-163 BC), but it unites this lament with previous oral stories of domination of the Jewish people by foreign powers.

Babylon (lion), Media (bear), ancient Persia (leopard) and Greece (dragon) represent the ancient superpowers. The ten horns are the successors to Alexander the Great and the little horn that speaks arrogantly is Antiochus Epiphanes, the king of Syria whose attempt to subjugate the Jews and destroy their religious traditions provoked the rebellion of the Maccabees.

Although perhaps not incidental to this text, Epiphanes' official title was 'God on Earth', yet in this particular telling of the tale, the Saviour of the Jews was to be "the Son of Man".

It doesn't take any great insight to see how this text from the Hebrew Scripture was linked to the promise of a Messiah. And it doesn't take much imagination to see why the early Church applied this text to Jesus.

Here is the promise of a Messiah who will save his people from a godless enemy. Here is the awesome, powerful, divinely-appointed Saviour depicted as the hero using mythic imagery that was well known to the peoples of the Middle East at that time. This is the Saviour that everyone expected to see in the first century. No wonder Jesus was such a disappointment!

To Ponder

As you read this text, what feelings does it stir up in you? How does it make you feel about God?

What kind of divine reign do you think that this text from Daniel 7 envisages? How does it compare to the divine reign that Jesus envisaged?

In what way is the concept of 'the kingdom of God' important or unimportant in your own walk of faith?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pam Garrud

Pam is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In August 2009, Pam and her London-born husband Trevor moved to Pam's native United States for family reasons.