BOOK OF DANIEL – Time Keeping

Posted by on Aug 21, 2018 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on BOOK OF DANIEL – Time Keeping

Time Keeping

As we move to Daniel 4:8 the text tells us, “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him.” (NASB)

There are several things to note about this verse. First, as I mentioned a few weeks ago in our last blog, Daniel did not enter into the presence of King Nebuchadnezzar along with all of the other officials of the court. Why? We are not told specifically. But it follows that if he was late there had to be a reason. If the king saw Daniel entering after everyone else during or after his appeal for those already in attendance to interpret this latest dream, notice the king does not chastise him for being late. We could presume two things here. Either the king was aware that Daniel would arrive late or he was so pleased to see Daniel, due to the other officials letting him down again, he immediately appealed to Daniel the way he did. We do not know if either presumption is correct if any, but, given the nature of Nebuchadnezzar’s previous outbursts, it is an interesting observation as to how he reacted upon seeing Daniel.

We should also note that Daniel held high office. You will recall Nebuchadnezzar promoted him after the successful interpretation of the king’s first dream in Daniel 2:48. The Aramaic word used there is shelet which means to bear rule or ruler. This word is typically used for one who was a governor. Given Daniel’s authoritative rule over the whole province of Babylon it may be that he was not summoned along with the other officials but would arrive should no resolution be found. Equally, we as Christians should be fully aware that whatever the circumstances, Daniel’s late arrival was designed by God Himself in order to show that Daniel’s God was the only source of power.

Again, as mentioned before, remember to keep in mind as we read chapter four that all that we are reading is a record of what had already happened in Nebuchadnezzar’s own words. You can see this narrative has already occurred by Nebuchadnezzar using both Daniel’s Judean name along with the Babylonian one. Some scholars suggest that when Nebuchadnezzar wrote of Daniel finally arriving in the court he was acknowledging his real and true name. That, for the most part, is true. I say this because Nebuchadnezzar wrote these words after all that happened to him in chapter four. As a result of everything that occurred, he was finally humbled by God. You have already read that confirmation in Daniel 4:1-3 where Nebuchadnezzar confirms the Lord as the Most High God whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion is from generation to generation. He repeats this same statement at the end of chapter four. Where I believe some scholars have gone off course is to say that Nebuchadnezzar was still in rebellion by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar then addresses Daniel as Belteshazzar according to the name of his god. It is easy to conclude that by him still acknowledging that his god is the pagan god Bel or Marduk. However, what I think Nebuchadnezzar is saying here is a statement of identification. Chapter four of Daniel is a decree to all the peoples, nations and men of every language that live in the earth. Or, in other words, the decree went to all those nations under the Babylonian rule, many of which probably knew nothing of a man named Daniel but certainly would have heard of Belteshazzar. Any Babylonian official documents would have had that name written on their decrees rather than the name Daniel. I believe Nebuchadnezzar is stating Daniel’s Babylonian name to identify him with his wider audience. Daniel was inspired to write Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to be contained in the Holy Scriptures. Nebuchadnezzar had no desire or intent to write to the Jews nor Christians. This record is God’s record of how He would humble Nebuchadnezzar and establish the fact that He was, is, and always will be in control of the events that will lead to His eternal kingdom.

After acknowledging Daniel, the king then says of him, “in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him.” Again, take note that, despite Nebuchadnezzar being humbled by God, his belief system had always been polytheistic (a belief in many gods). Again, many scholars have debated whether or not this statement is singular rather than plural. Would it surprise you to learn it is both? The Aramaic word used in the verse is elahh meaning god which corresponds to the Hebrew word eloah also meaning God or god. Elahh is a general term for “God” in the Aramaic passages in the Bible. It is the designation for deity used by Arabs who refer to God as allah. Ezra used the word elahh frequently in specifying the God of the Jews (see Ezra 5:1; 5:12; 5:17; 6:3; 6:9; 6:14; 7:12, 19, 21). In the only verse in the book of Jeremiah that contains Aramaic the word is used in Jeremiah 10:11 in the plural form. It is clear that this Aramaic word was used interchangeably both in singular and plural applications. The fact that all three prophets of God had no problem mentioning or utilizing this word to refer to God Himself should pose no problem to the Christian in understanding the meaning of the word or phrase in the context of the verse.

Again, if we look at Nebuchadnezzar’s words (whom we have said held a polytheistic belief all of his life) rather than him denouncing God he is actually acknowledging that the Spirit of the true God was in Daniel and, as such, he knew he could safely relate the dream to Daniel for God to interpret it through his messenger.

We will develop this thought further in our next blog.