Getting into Daniel: Five Notes on Daniel 1

daniel05This month our church begins a new sermon series on the book of Daniel and Daniel is also the book of the month for the Via Emmaus Bible Reading Plan. With both of those things in mind, I will begin today to post a few notes from each chapter in Daniel, starting with Daniel 1. As with the notes I wrote for Joshua, these notes will primarily be theological in orientation. Yet, because good theology depends on good grammatical and historical observations, they will also tap into various literary issues in the book of Daniel.

As we read /preach through Daniel, if there are observations or questions you have, please leave them in the comments. For now, here are five introductory notes on Daniel 1. There will be more to come.

Five Note on Daniel 1

1. Daniel highlights Israel’s captivity and release.

1In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. . . . 21And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus. (1:1, 21)

Daniel 1 begins in 605 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar first raids Jerusalem and plunders the temple and takes the leaders from the royal family (see vv. 1–3). Daniel 1 ends in 539 BC, with a mention of the first year of Cyrus (v. 21), king of Persia (6:28). Cyrus would eventually grant Israel the right to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple (see Isaiah 44:28; 45:1ff.). In Daniel 10:1, he is mentioned again in association with Daniel’s vision.

It is noteworthy that Daniel 1 includes Daniel’s entrance and exit from Babylon. The former sets the context for the whole book—God’s people in exile in Babylon. The latter flashes a light of hope, that the exiles will be released from bondage. Captivity is not the final word for Israel, and the inclusion of Cyrus in the first chapter speaks to that. The mention of Cyrus’s also indicates that the book is written after the exile and after Cyrus sends Israel back to Jerusalem. Continue reading

‘Sin Crouching at the Door’ or ‘A Sin Offering at the Gate’: Michael Morales on Genesis 4:7

morales

If you do well, will you not be accepted?
And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door.
Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”
— Genesis 4:7 —

In one of the best books I read last year—a biblical theology of Leviticus—Michael Morales (Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?offers an alternative reading to Genesis 4:7. Actually, he recalls a traditional reading found in commentators like Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Adoniram Judson (1788–1850), Young’s Literal Translation (1862), Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown (1877), and Matthew Henry (1662–1714) (p. 57n51).

Commenting on the way sin crouches at the door, he argues that the language could also be render “sin offering,” and that there is good reason for seeing the door, or gate, is the place where the sons of Adam brought their sin offerings—or, should have brought their sin offerings.

I appreciate this interpretation as it pays careful attention to the cultic themes of Genesis (i.e., temple, sacrifice, priesthood) and the way it explains in more objective terms why Cain’s offering is rejected and Abel’s is accepted. The reason? The former rejected God’s Word and Gods’ way; he brought a sacrifice of his own choosing, rather than the sin offering which God prescribed. Meanwhile, Abel brought a offering which responded to God’s Word in faith and sought atonement for his sin.

Read in the context of Moses’s five books, this seems like a superior interpretation, as Morales explains further. Continue reading