With the Clouds of Heaven

DanielImageI just recently got my hands on this new book by my Doktorvater, Dr. Jim Hamilton, titled With the Clouds of Heaven: The book of Daniel in biblical theology. This book appears in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D. A. Carson. It is an evangelical, canonical, biblical theology (yes, each one of those modifiers is intended and needed for clarification!) of the book of Daniel. In this book, Dr. Hamilton addresses every major question that arises from a close reading of the book of Daniel using a biblical theological perspective, ultimately boiling down the theology of Daniel to bite-sized pieces. Hamilton engages the structure of the book, the four kingdoms and the four beasts, the meaning of Daniel’s seventy weeks and other obscure numbers, and the significant correspondences between the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation, among other things. Here is a quote from his second chapter to whet your appetite for this well-crafted work:

Daniel presents himself as being among that first group of exiles taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar in 605 BC (Dan. 1:1–7). He thus experienced the visitation of the curse of exile prophesied by Moses in Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 4, and Deuteronomy 28–32. He lived out the warnings announced by the Former Prophets in passages such as Joshua 24 and 1 Kings 8, as well as those of the Latter Prophets seen in texts such as Isaiah 39:6–7, Hosea 11:5 and Amos 5:27.

Daniel ties his narrative to the broader biblical storyline by asserting that ‘the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into [Nebuchadnezzar’s] hand’ (1:2), a statement that applies the perspective on the events taught by Moses and the Prophets. Daniel also uses the theologically loaded place name of ‘Shinar’ to describe Babylon—Nebuchadnezzar is identified in Daniel 1:1 as ‘king of Babylon’, but in Daniel 1:2 took his plunder not to Babylon but to ‘Shinar’. This place name evokes memories of Nimrod, the beginning of whose kingdom was ‘Babel’ (in Hebrew Babel and Babylon are spelled the same: בבל, bbl) ‘in the land of Shinar’, from which he went on to build Ninevah in Assyria (Gen. 10:8–11). Genesis 11 also presents the attempt to build a tower into heaven ‘in the land of Shinar’ (Gen. 11:2). Shinar thus comes to be associated with rebellion against God: it is the land of the seed of the serpent, where God’s enemies dwell.

Daniel 9 relates how, studying Jeremiah in the first year of Darius, 539–538 BC, Daniel perceived that with the passing of roughly seventy years since 605 BC, the prophesied time had come (Dan. 9:1–2). Daniel then relates how he began to do exactly what Moses (Lev. 26:40) and Solomon (1 Kgs 8:46–53) had said the people would do: confess sin (Dan. 9:3–19). As Daniel in 9:3–19 prayed and confessed sin, he lived out what Moses in Leviticus 26:40 and Deuteronomy 4:30–31 said Israel would do. The confession of sin is introduced in Daniel 9:2 by the words ‘I, Daniel, perceived in the books the number of years that, according to the word of Yahweh to Jeremiah the prophet, must pass before the end of the desolations of Jerusalem, namely, seventy years’ (adapted ESV). The first part of Daniel 9 thus builds an interpretive bridge between the Law and the Prophets. Jeremiah had connected Leviticus 26, Deuteronomy 4 and 1 Kings 8 (cf. Jer. 25:11–12; 29:10–14). Daniel built on these connections by adding to Jeremiah’s prophecy his own perception that Jeremiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled.

I would encourage any student of the Bible to take up this book and read!

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