In preparation to write a blog post about a service I attended at Calvary Chapel, I read the Book of Daniel as it was the main focus of Pastor Bob’s sermon that day. I went into the reading with an open mind, trying to understand what was so prophetic about Daniel’s experience as an exile in Babylon. I was already generally familiar with some of Daniel’s stories, such as his interpretation of king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar II’s, dreams and his experience in the lion’s den. However, I had never read the book in its entirety and was excited about the insight I might gain into this oft quoted and prophetic book. When I finally finished it, I realized that all it was one big propaganda campaign for the Jewish deity, Yahweh.
Daniel, according to the Bible, was the one of the Judean youths chosen to be sent to Babylon after Judah had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar II. Daniel was chosen because he was “without blemish, of good appearance, and skillful in wisdom, endowed with knowledge and understanding learning [sic], and competent to stand in the king’s palace…” (Daniel 1:4 English Standard Version). Daniel is the epitome of a faithful Jew. He refuses to eat that which the king offers him, because he does not want to defile himself. Daniel convinces Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, in charge of him and the other Jewish exiles to feed them only vegetables, assuring Ashpenaz that their physical condition will not suffer and that he, Ashpenaz, would not be punished (Daniel 1:8-1). This insignificant event is our first glimpse at Daniel’s gift casuistry, a gift which the Bible euphemistically describes as God’s gift of “...an understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17). Of course, as the Bible relates, this gift is recognized by King Nebuchadnezzar II who finds Daniel and his fellow Jewish exiles better “...in every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king inquired …” (Daniel 1:20). The author of Daniel uses Chapter 1 as a scaffold, setting the scene for Yahweh’s big propaganda campaign which is to come in the form of Daniel’s wisdom and the “miracles” that set him Daniel apart from all the other “...magicians and enchanters that were in all his kingdom” (Daniel 1:21).
Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
According to the Book of Daniel in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’ reign the king had dreams which troubled him and so he commanded that all “...the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king” what his dream was and what it meant (Daniel 2:2). The king threatened the magicians, enchanters and sorcerers with death if they did not reveal the dream and its meaning. Scared, the Chaldeans responded that “...the thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with the flesh” (Daniel 2:11). The king was so angry at their inability to read his dreams and interpret them that he commanded they all be destroyed (Daniel 2:12). Daniel being one of the kingdom’s sages was the target of slaughter. But before he and the other charlatans could be destroyed he used his sophism to gain an audience with the king.
According to Daniel 2:17, God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel. Daniel, confident with the knowledge with which Yahweh has endowed him approaches the king and tells him the tallest tale ever, and of course it just so happened that Daniel revealed the dream and its interpretation perfectly! The revelation’s language however is so vague and so ambiguous you could drive a Mack truck through it. It could as easily have been uttered by the oracle of Delphi or by a drunk homeless guy on the streets. But of course, since this is a propaganda campaign, the King was in such awe of Daniel’s ability that he “fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel” (Daniel 2:46). The king then said to Daniel “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings , and a revealer of mysteries…” (Daniel 2:47). What a better plug for Yahweh could there be then one of the mightiest kings of the time, declaring his legitimacy and his greatness? Truly a masterful piece of propaganda. But the writer of Daniel was not finished there, he had other propaganda pieces in his bag of tricks, one of the most famous being Daniel’s experience in the lion’s den.
Daniel in the Lion’s Den (Daniel 6)
By this point in the story, Daniel has established himself as a wise man who enjoys great favor with the kings of Babylon and is known for being a man of unwavering faith in Yahweh. In an attempt to bring down this Jewish exile who found favor with their current king, King Darius, a group of high officials creates an intrigue with which they think they can remove Daniel from his high position. The caballers convince the king to issue an irrevocable decree which would punish any person who would worship another god or man other than King Darius for 30 days (Daniel 6:7). Daniel holds fast to his faith and is observed by the caballers worshipping Yahweh, an infraction for which he is turned over to the king and sent to the lion’s den. He survives an entire night in the lion’s den unscathed.
The next morning when this fact is revealed to King Darius, he is awestruck by Yahweh’s power and subsequently plugs Yahweh as an almighty deity. The king decrees “...that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel…” (Daniel 6:26). The caballers whose lies sent Daniel into the lion’s den are not saved by Yahweh’s mercy. Instead the caballers, and their innocent wives and children are all thrown into the lion’s den “and before they reached the bottom of the den, the lions overpowered them and broke all their bones in pieces” (Daniel 6:24). As far as Daniel is concerned, Yahweh is truly great because he saved him from the lion’s den. But I wonder, if there is even an iota of truth to the book of Daniel, how the innocent wives and children of the caballers felt about Yahweh after they were tossed into the lion’s den?
Overall Daniel is an insipid reading, laden with vague prophecies, and boring, unbelievable stories. For most Christians though it stands as proof of how being faithful will will lead you to favor with the Jewish god, Yahweh and prophecies what will come in the latter days. On the other hand, for the critical and incredulous reader, it is clear that the Book of Daniel is one big propaganda campaign in favor of Yahweh.