27 November 2020Daniel 7:1-14
In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylon, Daniel had a dream and visions of his head as he lay in bed. (v. 1)
Daniel is very much a book of two halves. Today we enter the second half of the book, leaving the narrative section behind and entering into the dreams and visions of Daniel. Those of you who read the passage and notes from Tuesday may feel that there is some similarity. For Daniel, the person who had been able to interpret the dreams and visions of others, also had dreams and visions of his own. We go back in time a bit from yesterday’s passage, returning to the Babylonian empire and the reign of Belshazzar.
This literature is very much described as 'apocalyptic', that is, literature dealing with the end of time. Wherever we come across such literature (the main examples in the Bible are here in Daniel and in the Book of Revelation) we notice that it makes use of striking imagery. There are attempts to make sense of each element, and we will look at some of the elements of this vision tomorrow, but they are not to be taken literally. Rather, they present a tapestry of different images, and we are invited to notice the bigger picture.
This literature indicates a belief that, behind the matters of politics, empires, and history in our physical world, there are matters of the spiritual world playing out as well. This is made clear with the image of the throne room of God becoming visible in the midst of the lives of these various beasts.
This apocalyptic literature also takes a broad sweep of history. The reference to the stirring up of the winds over the sea is reminiscent of the beginning of Genesis 1 where there is chaos and the spirit (or wind, the word is the same for both) hovers over the deep. It maybe suggests the empires, good and bad alike, coming out of the creative work of God.
Rather than a precise recording or predicting of historic events, the reader is invited to enter the strange world of beasts and kingdoms, and discover something about the activity of God within their own situation.
- Take time to ponder the images of this vision. What do you think stands out, and what might it say to your life and context?
- How do you engage with people who interpret the vision differently?