I love having the time on Saturday to do a long read of scripture. Picking a book and reading it all the way through, jotting down a few notes and perhaps chasing down a rabbit trail. It is amazing how much clarity a confusing piece of scripture might have when it is read as part of the whole book.
This month I am doing a pretty deep study of Daniel. Today I wanted to read Daniel again and try to get a grip on the timeline. Daniel jumps all over the place and I wanted to get in for myself and sketch out the chronology.
Daniel is a real booger.
Even conservative scholars are comfortable dating it outside of the time most classicists place for the Old Testament (sometime around 200BC..smack in the middle of those 400 years between the Old and New Testament). They have interesting arguments, but my reading today wasn’t focusing on that.
Most people know I am fascinated with the apocalyptic. Daniel is the best Old Testament representation of the genre. It has fantastic stories set inside the context of a group of people struggling to maintain their distinction as the people of God. Plus it has really crazy stuff!
So in just 1 hour or so of reading I came up for breath. I had read the book through and taken a few notes. I will say I accomplished my goal but also found a bit of serendipitous information. Once placed inside the chronological framework of Daniel, this tidbit was even more interesting.
We are all familiar with Daniel and his mad skills of dream interpreting. That makes up the bulk of chapters 2-6. We got all that down in VBS as kids. The new little bit I came across today was how Daniel himself had to get some help interpreting dreams/visions he had!! In chapters 7 one of his servants assists him. In chapters 8 and 9 Gabriel, an angel, tells him and comforts him.
What makes this even more interesting is if we place these chapters in their proper chronological order. Chapter 7 and 8 are dreams daniel had during Belshazzar’s reign. Chapter 5 gives us the great story we are all familar with regarding the writing on the wall. Reading these dreams and then reading chapter 5 is real interesting.
Chapters 6 and 9 can go hand in hand. They both identify pretty early on during the reign of Darius (9 uses the term ‘in the first year’) so it is hard to exactly time them out. I chose to read 9->6.
We think of Daniel as this sort of superman, with creepy powers to interpret anything. I remember a Sunday School drawing of him in which he looked like a combo of Ironman and Captain America! But now we see Daniel himself could get frightened and needed help. But no matter, he always relied on God. The power of the Spirit kept him strong when he was in situations that could easily get him killed. Daniel was a type of the ideal Christian leader in a world that would love to kill him. Daniel was a person to be emulated not because of his great strength, but on how he depended, leaned and looked to God for everything.
Oddly enough, this reading is probably the most accurate anyway!
Todays reading was great. I wasn’t expecting anything half this serious or good to happen. The frame of mind I was in had me noticing things I might not otherwise. This is the biggest reason I try to get people to read large pieces of scripture fairly often. Write in your Bible. You might not know when a note you made 2 years before could jump start an amazing time of personal study.