I attended the class of Graduate Biblical Seminar at LSTC today because one of the students presented his term paper on Daniel 7. At the begining of the class, Dr. Ralph Klein invited us to think about two intersting questions: What do we know about the divine council? What does this vision really tell us?
Chapter 7 recounts Daniel’s vision (7:1-14) and its interpretation (7:15-28). The contents of Daniel 7 can be summarized as follows:
Daniel sees four beasts arise from the sea. The beasts are then described. Thrones are set and an Ancient of Days takes his place, the books are opened and the judgment begins. The fourth beast is killed and his body burnt with fire, while the rest are allowed to live for a time although their dominion is taken away. Then “one like a Son of Man” comes with the clouds of heaven and is given everlasting dominion and all peoples are to serve him (Gardner 2001, 244).
The most intriguing element of Daniel 7 is the use of imagery: Four Beasts; the Ancient of Days; Holy Ones; the Son of Man; and the People of Holy Ones of the Most High. The imagery of Daniel 7 takes place in the idea of a heavenly court which was widespread in the ancient Near East. Thus, many scholars have attempted to explain the imagery of Daniel 7 in relation to its ancient Near Eastern background. John J. Collins, for example, discusses two major backgrounds of the imagery: a Babylonian background and a Canaanite background.
During the class period, we heavily discussed the parallels of the imagery of Daniel 7 and the Baal cycle, which accounts the story of the conflict between Baal and Yamm (CTA 2). The following chart shows how both texts are compared:
The first imagery is common in both texts. El is called ‘ab šnm, which is most frequently taken as “Father of Days” in plural form. This is similar in sense to “Ancient of Days” (עַתִּיק יוֹמִין) of Daniel 7 (Collins 1993, 290). Baal is subordinatd to El while Son of Man (בַר אֱנָשׁ) is subordinated to the Ancient of Days. El is losing power and passing his power to Baal in the Baal cycle. The Son of Man was given power and dominion by the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7. But the second imagery clearly shows the differences of both texts. The Ancient of Days takes power and dominion away from the four beasts and gives them to the Son of Man and the people of Holy Ones of the Most High in Daniel 7 (מַלְכוּתָה וְשָׁלְטָנָא וּרְבוּתָא דִּי מַלְכְוָת תְּחוֹת כָּל־שְׁמַיָּא יְהִיבַת לְעַם קַדִּישֵׁי עֶלְיוֹנִין, v. 27). The description of the individual beasts cannot be explained from the Baal cycle.
The Baal cycle is a possible source. But the imagery of the Baal cycle is not what Daniel 7 exactly describes. The main theme of Daniel 7 is the divine response or the divine judgment to the earthly imperial kingdoms. As an apocalpytic, Daniel 7 reveals the divine decision that God judged the kingdoms and decided to give the kingdom and dominion to the Son of Man. Regarding the divine decision, there are similar passages in the Old Testament. 1 Sam 15:26-28 is not a divine council, but it is a divine decision. In Psalm 82:1-2, as a heavenly council, God assigns the punishment against all nations. As a result, Daniel 7 declares not to rely upon the human power because the power of the earthly kingdoms has taken from them to the Son of Man. Daniel says, “Now, be faithful! Why are you worring about beasts?” This is an exciting theological discourse.
Collins, John J. 1993. Daniel. Hermeneia. Minneapolis: Fortress Press.
Gardner, Anne E. 2001. “Another Look at Its Mythic Pattern.” Biblica 82: 244-52.
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