THE ADDITIONS TO DANIEL
INTRODUCTION, COMMENTARY, AND REFLECTIONS
DANIEL L. SMITH-CHRISTOPHER
THE GREEK TRANSLATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
The importance of the Greek translations of the Old Testament for biblical and textual research is hard to exaggerate. Indeed, Ernst Würthwein states that the Septuagint is so significant that "apart from it both Christendom and Western Culture would be inconceivable." But how these Greek versions were produced is a controversial subject in scholarly debate.
According to the Letter of Aristeas, which scholars date from about the second century bce into the first century ce, Ptolemy II Philadelphus commissioned the translation of the Jewish Scriptures to be a part of his great library at Alexandria. The text was miraculously translated by seventy-two elders in precisely seventy-two days, thus it was named "Septuagint." The translation was read and proved to be without error by the Jewish community itself. The story gives us the impression that there was one book that was considered "the" Greek version of the Old Testament. But scholarly views of the origin of the Septuagint suggest that the production was considerably more complex than a single event or version, and furthermore had much more to do with the need of Jews in the diaspora for a version of the Bible in their newly adopted language, Greek. The need for a Greek version of the Hebrew Bible sometime after Alexander’s conquests of the ancient Near East, therefore, is a measure of cultural change and social transformation in the Jewish community.
Scholarly study of the Greek versions of Daniel focuses on two older Greek versions of the book of Daniel: the Old Greek or LXX version and the "Theodotion" version. Moore points out that in the story of Susanna, the differences between the LXX and the Theodotion versions are the greatest, while in the Song of the Three the differences are not very significant. Bel and the Dragon occupies a middle position.
Although the entire Theodotion Old Testament is usually dated to the second century ce, the book of Daniel itself presents special problems. Since the Theodotion version of Daniel is cited in the New Testament, the book of Daniel that became a part of the later Theodotion version must itself be older. This Theodotion version of Daniel, however, became the accepted version for the Christian church, over the Old Greek version. In this commentary, I will use the Theodotion text and occasionally draw attention to differing readings in the LXX.
When these Greek translations were produced, many of the books of the Hebrew Bible were expanded with material that may or may not go back to a Hebrew or Aramaic original. Although, in the case of the additions to Daniel, many scholars argue that these stories do go back to Semitic originals, no evidence of a Semitic language version of these stories has been found as yet.
Writing as a Protestant scholar, I regard it a pity that Protestants generally have little exposure to the Greek additions to Daniel because of Luther’s insistence on the Hebrew text as the acceptable canon of the Old Testament, as opposed to the traditional Christian use of the Greek canon of the Old Testament, which included these Deutero-canonical works. Apart from any theological issues of what constituted the canon (which is a doctrinal issue that quite properly has little bearing on scholarly and historical study of texts), these additions are fascinating indicators of concerns and issues in the Jewish community in the late Hellenistic period. A study of the additional Greek material about figures like Jeremiah, Daniel, Esther, and Joseph reveals further concerns with themes of intercultural contact, political occupation and exile, and the traditions of facing foreign power with faith in God’s redeeming power. Such issues were on the minds of Jews in Hellenistic and Roman occupied Near Eastern territories from the second century bce into the common era. We will see in these additions to Daniel that many of the themes of the canonical book of Daniel—sovereignty, resistance, and idolatry, for example—are developed and expanded upon. This also means that a key to understanding these additions, as much as the canonical stories of Daniel, is the experience of disenfranchisement and loss of self-determination that exile, as well as political occupation in one’s own homeland, involves.
(See the annotated bibliography for the Hebrew book of Daniel.)
Outline of the Additions to Daniel
I. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews, verses 1–68
A. Verses 1–22, The Prayer of Azariah
B. Verses 23–27, The Angelic Liberation from the Fire
C. Verses 28–68, The Song of the Three Jews
II. Susanna, verses 1–64
III. Bel and the Dragon, verses 1–42
A. Verses 1–22, The Story of Bel
B. Verses 23–42, The Story of the Dragon
THE PRAYER OF AZARIAH AND THE SONG OF THE THREE JEWS
Tradition assigns this addition to the name of one of Daniel’s three companions, Azariah. But the other two, Hananiah and Mashael, are present in the second part of the text, the Psalm of Praise, because it is an extension of chap. 3, located between vv. 23–24 of the Hebrew/Aramaic text. Notably, their Jewish names rather than their Babylonian slave names are highlighted, further emphasizing that early tradition certainly did not miss the significance of the names, even if most modern commentators attach little importance to it.
Moore divides this section along the following lines: vv. 1–22, prayer; vv. 23–28, prose; vv. 29–34, ode; vv. 35–68, psalm. However, Moore himself notes that not many scholars make a clear distinction between the ode and the psalm. There is little linguistic basis for such a differentiation. But the three general sections—prayer, prose, and psalm—are helpful divisions for a reading of this text.
VERSES 1–22, THE PRAYER OF AZARIAH
Verses 1–2, Facing the Threat with Singing. The first section, the Prayer of Azariah (or The Three), is a prayer of confession and forgiveness, very much on the same model as Daniel 9. See the Commentary on Daniel 9 for extensive comparisons, but suffice it to say that here we find many of the same themes that were obviously typical of this form of penitential prayer of communal confession. What is significant here is the context of mortal danger that once again accompanies such prayers of confession. The obvious intention of such prayers was to call on the power of God’s deliverance.
Part of the context is the importance of the danger itself. Twice, in vv. 1–2, it is emphasized that Azariah stood "in the midst of" the flames. It is not the case that there was no danger; they actually faced a true threat, and thus the earlier comments recorded in Daniel 3 that they would not bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s statue "even if God does not deliver them" ought to be fresh in mind.
The text records that the three "sang hymns" while in the furnace. The very term "hymn" comes from the Greek, and the call to sing to the Lord is often found in circumstances of great celebration (see Judg 16:24, where the Philistines sing to their gods; see also 1 Chr 16:9; 2 Chr 23:13; Jdt 15:13; 16:13). Such celebration is found elsewhere besides this instance in the fiery furnace. Note the striking similarity to Acts 16, where Paul and Silas sing hymns in prison (see below). The obvious theme is one of remembering God’s liberating power, even in the midst of apparent defeat.
Verses 3–22, The Penitential Prayer in the Furnace. Although the Theodition text has only Azariah praying, in the LXX tradition, all three men pray. This is a minor point, however, since it is clear that it is meant to be a communal prayer in any case. Moore finds this prayer "glaringly inappropriate"4 because these three are praying a prayer of confession, even though they are being punished precisely for their obedience to God. However, as indicated in the Commentary on Daniel 9, this formulaic confession is appropriate as a preparation for calling on God’s deliverance. Thus it is no more out of place than moderns who begin a prayer of request with a word of repentance and was clearly the set form in any case. Moore’s criticism takes the setting of a story a bit too literally. The story is meant to teach—i.e., when in trouble, pray in this fashion.
Verses 3:8. Many of the phrases found in this confessional prayer are worthy of comment. For example, the phrase "God of our ancestors," found in vv. 3 and 29, is significant (note the late occurences of the first-person plural form in 1 Kings 8; Ezra 7:27; Dan 2:23; 1 Esdr 1:50; 4:60; Tob 8:5). The phrase is particularly significant in late biblical use. The second-person form "your ancestors" is more common in the deuteronomic materials. But the change to first person as the more typical form may not be an insignificant detail, given its prominent setting in prayers of confession, which emphasize the sins of "our" fathers as well. The speaker, then, is included in these prayers, and the reader/hearer of the story is equally drawn in. (Note also that Jerusalem is called the holy city of "our" ancestors in v. 5. Similarly, the phrase "ways of truth" [v. 4] is notable in Dan 4:37; 1 Esdr 4:40; Tob 3:2.)
Furthermore, the legal language of God as judge appears in the use of the expression "true judgments" in vv. 5 and 8. However, the term carries significant implications for God’s assurance of social justice for the oppressed as well (cf. Zech 7:9–10: "Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another"; Zech 8:16 adds, significantly, that true judgments "make peace").
The NRSV translation of v. 7 unfortunately misses an interesting progression in responding to the law. The first phrase contains the Greek term for "listening" (rendered in the NRSV as "obeyed"), which can be compared to Dan 7:28, where it is often translated "kept in mind." But if the term is read more as "heard," then we have the interesting progression:
Your commandments, we have not heard
we have not considered
we have not obeyed
Verse 9. The circumstances of exile and political oppression come to mind powerfully in this verse. The suggestion is that the Jews face "enemies" and the "wicked," virtually embodied in a king who is called "unjust" and "the most wicked in the world." The same term for "wicked" (πονηρός ponēros) is used as a noun to refer to Satan in the New Testament (Matt 13:19). Forms of the same term occur in powerful pieces of sage advice in Sir: "Never trust your enemy, for like corrosion in copper, so is his wickedness" (12:10); "The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom" (19:22); and, provocatively, "There is a cleverness that is detestable!" (19:23).
Verse 10. This verse laments the condition of "shame and reproach." Once again, the writer has used terms that often appear together in wisdom literature. Note Prov 19:26, which refers to "children who cause shame and bring reproach," and Sir 6:1, "a bad name incurs shame and reproach." The emphasis here, as is also found in some deuteronomic phrases, is on the public nature of Jewish life in a cosmopolitan world. They are very aware that their status as members of a defeated nation presents a challenge to the credibility of their faith claims. Clearly, the call to sing hymns in prison is either a bold belief that this prison does not represent ultimate realities, or it is a very public display of hopelessness that borders on insanity. Much of the post-exilic materials display a very keen awareness of the fact that for a people living under occupation, every aspect of life is circumspect, including the exercise of faith. The faith of occupied people is a faith that is daily examined by the eyes and ears of their oppressors, and thus the fear of shame and reproach is quite real. It is important to note the awareness of others’ watching and controlling, which is an aspect of political occupation as well as other similar situations of what Erving Goffman called "institutions of total control":
Total institutions disrupt or defile precisely those actions that in civil society have the role of attesting to the actor and those in his presence that he has some command over his world—that he is a person with "adult" self-determination, autonomy, and freedom of action.
Verse 11. This sense of being in the midst of foreigners who are watching is also clear in the deuteronomic phrase in v. 11: "for your name’s sake." The danger is that the people’s circumstances will be such that the covenant with God will appear to be annulled (v. 11b; cf. the deuteronomic fear of abrogating the covenant in Deut 31:16, 20; Judg 2:1; 1 Kgs 15:19; and in the prophetic literature in Isa 24:5; Jer 11:10; 14:21; Zech 11:10, 14).
Verses 12–14. The contingency of the covenant, alluded to in v. 11, is then compared to the unilateral promise to Abraham referred to in vv. 12–13. Note the reference to the "stars of heaven," clearly referring to God’s promise to Abraham in Gen 15:5. Here we see the significance of the constant emphasis on "our ancestors," for they represent both the consistency of God’s saving action in the past and the promise of God’s saving presence in the future.
The reality of the present state of the people, however, is that they are not as numerous as the stars in the heavens or the sands on the shore. The threat is that they will diminish. Verse 14 refers to their being fewer than any other nation; the same worry is expressed in Bar 2:34, where the discussion is once again in the context of mentioning the promise to the patriarchs. The advice to encourage marriage and procreation was advised in the letter to the exiles in Jer 29:6, where Jeremiah commands: "Do not decrease!" Finally, note the importance of the hymn of praise in 1 Chr 16:19–22a, where the issue of being few in number is directly associated with the conditions of the post-exilic community:
When they were few in number,
of little account, and strangers in the land,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, "Do not touch my anointed ones." (NRSV)
Verses 15–18. The list of offices that are missing among the people in v. 15 is an interesting reference to the lack of complete independence in post-exilic, occupied Palestine. The first two terms, "ruler" (ἄρχων archōn) and "prophet" (προφήτης prophētēs), are clear in the Greek, but the third term (ἡγούμενος hēgoumenos), translated simply as "leader" in the NRSV, is indeed an ambiguous word that often is used to translate quite different terms in Hebrew that delineate distinct and fairly specific levels of authority, whether political or military ("governor," "officer," etc.). But the generality of having no such leaders seems appropriate here—in essence a representation of not being master of one’s own fate. Moore, however, protests that part of this is not accurate for a setting in the exile, since prophets like Ezekiel were active.8 He argues, therefore, for a later historical setting for this writing, presumably when prophecy really was considered to have ended.
That the Jews are not able to offer sacrifice is an interesting reference to the exilic period specifically, despite the fact that this work was clearly written during the time of the Second Temple (515 bce?–70 ce). But the inability to offer sacrifice sets up an important mention of a "humble spirit and a contrite heart" (v. 16), which is deemed superior to temple sacrifice. Indeed, references to humbleness of spirit and contrition of heart are often seen in contexts of severe doubt about the efficacy of the sacrificial system:
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Ps 51:16–17 NRSV)
I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. (Isa 57:15 NRSV)
But this is the one to whom I will look,
to the humble and contrite in spirit,
who trembles at my word. (Isa 66:2 NRSV)
The final passage quoted, Isa 66:2, is perhaps most noted for its rejection of a narrow definition not only of the efficacy of sacrifice, but also of who is acceptable to God, and it suggests that foreigners will be added to the number of the people of God. Thus humble contrition becomes almost the very definition of faith.
Trust in contrition and humbleness is thus contrasted with outward expressions of religious observance. When it is said that no shame will come to those who trust in God (v. 17b), we are reminded of Ezra’s faith in God when he rejected a military guard offered by the king, so as to avoid the shame of appearing faithless (Ezra 8:22).
Verses 19–22. In vv. 19–20, shame is contrasted with God’s very public deliverance of the people. Once again, we are reminded of the public and, therefore, confessional and apologetic nature of shame and trust for Israelites under political occupation. The constant reference to mercy (ἐλέους eleoys; חסד ḥesed) is a reminder that God’s mercy was often seen as God’s liberating power against the overwhelming enemies of God’s people.
Those who watch, assess, judge, and evaluate the occupied peoples (vv. 21–22) are referred to most powerfully in the final sentence, "Let them know …" with a reference to God’s power to bring about the end of "their" power. (See Reflections at vv. 28–68).
VERSES 23–27, THE ANGELIC LIBERATION FROM THE FIRE
Similar to Daniel 7–12, immediately following the penitential prayer an angelic messenger appears, representing God’s assistance to humble servants. This passage takes its cue from an expansion of the Aramaic text in Daniel 3:22. Moore notes that many scholars have considered this prose section about angelic liberation to belong to the original Semitic version of Daniel 3, since there appears to be a gap between verses 23 and 24 of that chapter. Further, the prayer should be set before the deliverance. But note that in the Theodotion version of these events, the early death of the officers who threw the three into the fire is omitted, only to be mentioned here; therefore, no contradiction is evident. This prose section provides further details missing from the canonical version.
In typical fashion for Daniel, a list is provided to emphasize the way that the fire was made even hotter—so hot that it burned those who forced the Jews into the flames. Thus verses 23–25 serve as further clarification of the brief summary statement made in the Hebrew text.
Verses 26–27. The one who had the appearance of a "son of the gods" in the Aramaic text (Dan 3:25) and who caused Nebuchadnezzar such alarm is here explicitly identified as an angelic messenger of God. The agent of God’s deliverance is the "angel of the Lord," or "messenger of the Lord" as seen in such important passages as Genesis 16 (saving Hagar in the wilderness), Exod 3:2 (the presence in the burning bush in the call of Moses), Exod 14:19 (the protective presence of God with the people in the wilderness), and, in a more secular setting, in 2 Sam 2:5 (messengers sent by David). Thus, while this passage is typical of late post-exilic and apocalyptic literature in its detailed interest in angelic couriers of God’s will, it is certainly also in line with much older textual representations of God’s deliverance of the weak.
The text further explains exactly how the three Jews were spared by God. The heat of the flame was transformed by a "wind of dew" or "moist wind" that blew through the furnace. The term "dew" (δρόσος drosos) is used in a number of places throughout Scripture where it is related to God’s saving grace. In the context of God’s healing of rebellious Israel, Hos 14:5 has God saying, "I shall be like the dew to Israel." Micah 5:7 states that the remnant of Jacob "shall be like dew from the Lord." When God sows peace, the "skies shall give their dew" (Zech 8:12). Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, note Isa 26:19 (NRSV):
Your dead shall live, their corpses shall rise.
O dwellers in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a radiant dew,
and the earth will give birth to those long dead.
So it is not merely that a "dew" from heaven contrasts markedly with the flames, but that this dew is frequently associated with God’s grace and power in comforting God’s people (see also Sir 18:16; 43:22). (See Reflections at vv. 28–68.)
VERSES 28–68, THE SONG OF THE THREE JEWS
In contrast to the first section, which singles out Azariah specifically and highlights his leadership of the three (in the Theodotion text), the psalm in vv. 30–65 emphasizes the equal participation of the three, who praise with "one voice." Significantly, the opening praise (v. 29) is to the God of "our" ancestors (see above).
These praises, which typically are accompanied by the refrain "praise to him and exalt him forever," are divided into rough subject areas in terms of their specific content:
vv. 30–34, blessings of God as Ruler/Enthroned
vv. 35–41, blessings from the "works of the Lord"
vv. 42–51, blessings from astronomical/meteorological creations
vv. 52–59, blessings from the earth and geological creations
vv. 60–65, blessings from selected leaders (e.g., priests)
Verses 30–34, God Enthroned. The first set of blessings emphasizes God, God’s Temple, and the glory of God’s enthroned place over against those who rule in the world. This is in keeping with an important general emphasis in the Hebrew text of Daniel, where the oppressive rulers of the world are contrasted with the true and liberating rulership of God. It is the hope of the rule of God that gives hope to those who suffer from human rulers.
Verse 32 specifically mentions the "cherubim." Collins notes that the cherubim are hybrid winged creatures who often have been pictured as upholding or serving the throne of God, protecting God’s holy garden (Genesis 3), or bearing God up in epiphanies (1 Chr 13:6). Note that wind and cherubim are related in Ps 18:10; winds are often listed among the arsenal of God as divine warrior (clearly alluding to comparisons with Baal, the Canaanite storm god).
Verses 35–41, Works of the Lord. Included in this clearly differentiated list, interestingly, are heavens, angels, waters, and powers (cf. Psalm 148, where powers are seen in the context of the "host of heaven"), the sun/moon, and the stars of heaven. Indeed, as Collins notes, Psalm 148 is a very similar list of aspects of God’s control over heavenly bodies, including angels.
Verses 42–51, Astronomical Phenomena. It is not difficult to see in this list a reference to the ancient comparisons between the God of the Bible, Yahweh, and the ascendant god of the Canaanites, Baal. The Canaanite storm god and thus the "rider of the clouds," Baal ruled over meteorological phenomena such as this list represents, particularly those that begin and end the list, winds and lightning (cf. Psalm 29, which many scholars consider to be an ancient hymn to Baal, simply converted for Israelite use through changing the referent names of the god).
Verses 52–59, From the Earth and Geological Creations. This series emphasizes God as creator. It was often noted in Hebrew texts that God’s qualifications to challenge the reality of idols is precisely God’s authority as Creator of all creation, an authority that gives God power over the gods represented by idols of mere wood and stone (Isaiah 18–19 celebrates the creator: "The Lord … who formed the earth and made it." The recognition of the true God is then contrasted to the making of idols in Isaiah 20–22).
Verses 60–65, Blessings from Leaders. What is notable by their absence from this list of the people of Israel is military or royal figures. Indeed, the series presents what Joel Weinberg calls the "Citizen-Temple-Community," an ethnopolitical enclave of occupied Palestine in which authority is vested in the Temple and temple personnel: people and priests. Furthermore, once again the "humble in heart" are honored (Isa 57:15; 66:2; Sir 35:21; cf. Matt 11:29) among the people of God.
Verses 66–68, The Conclusion. In v. 66, the Jewish names of the prisoners of Babylonian imperialism are used, in contrast to their slave names. To be rescued from "Hades" is an interesting thematic association with the rescue from the fiery furnace—a comparison that can be seen in other texts as well. The chiastic form of v. 66b reads as follows:
A He delivered us
B from the midst of the burning furnace
B′ from the midst of the flame
A′ He delivered us
The deliverance is celebrated, as we would expect, in the context of God’s delivering power, God’s "steadfast love," translated often as "mercy"—a mercy that will "endure forever."
Mercy is often called for in the context of overwhelming fear of an enemy. Thus, given the context of the fiery furnace, to emphasize the themes of mercy, of God’s creator authority over idolatry, and of God’s rulership over the powers of this world is to place this material firmly in the context of political occupation and possibly a context of persecution. The very fact that this particular episode, is the context for an extension of the tradition in Greek suggests that persecution is the preferred context for this hymn and that it remained an important context for later editors and readers in the Hellenistic period.
This passage represents a significant development of the exilic theme and particularly the theme of persecution by foreigners. The theme of resistance, represented in Daniel 3 of the Hebrew text, is lengthened here. Thus the focus shifts from Nebuchadnezzar’s mad megalomania to the successful resistance of the Jews. However, both themes must be held together for a full appreciation of what is accomplished by the editor, who skillfully placed this section into the earlier text. The presence of this tradition is ample proof of the significance of this theme of persecution and endurance for late (post 150 bce?) occupied Palestine. The placement of a passage can often reveal what was on the redactor’s mind in expanding the text.
God as Creator—that is, not God as a specific national deity, but the one God of all people—is celebrated as the one who controls ultimate authority over claims by human rulers to be universal rulers of the "four corners of the earth." Only God as Creator ultimately trumps the claims of rulership of Cyrus, Alexander, Nebuchadnezzar, or Tiglath-pileser III. God as Creator (and thus the emphasis on the God of "our" ancestors) becomes a universalist polemic for God’s ultimate authority. This subversive theology of God’s control contains great power in an age when empires extended throughout the known world. In short, naming the true God is a call to resist the false powers of the world.
For the Jews of occupied Palestine, as well as in the diaspora, resistance was fired by an appeal to the God not merely of a nation that once existed, but of all creation. Albert Memmi writes that the colonizer must always show strength as in "flashy symbols, the most striking demonstrations of the power of his country," which include "all military parades." Memmi says that it is a "deep necessity of colonial life; to impress the colonized is just as important as to reassure oneself." But in the face of this, Memmi writes about the reinvestment of religion with new political meaning, particularly in Muslim countries:
Now, the young intellectual who had broken with religions, internally at least, and ate during Ramadan, begins to fast with ostentation. He who considered the rites as inevitable family drudgery, reintroduces them into his social life, gives them a place in his conception of the world. To use them better, he reexplains the forgotten messages and adapts them to present-day needs. He then discovers that religion is not simply an attempt to communicate with the invisible, but also an extraordinary place of communion for the whole group. The colonized, his leaders and intellectuals, his traditionalists and liberals, all classes of society, can meet there, reinforce their bonds, verify and re-create their unity.
Fanon writes that the native is "treated as an inferior but he is not convinced of his inferiority." Memmi agrees: "In order for that legitimacy to be complete, it is not enough for the colonized to be a slave, he must also accept his role."21 It is in the flame of religious resistance that we can see the beginnings of the fires of revolt. Just as Mary sang of the defeat of Roman occupation with the birth of the Messiah in the Gospel of Luke ("He has brought down the powerful from their thrones"), so also sang Paul and Silas, in the book of Acts, serenading their jailers with songs about the greatness of their liberator, who was once again about to send a "messenger" to liberate the chosen ones. Singing to the jailers, like singing in the flames of Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace, represents a powerful refusal to be bowed by the power of the state, which is always preeminently represented in its power to do violence to those who disobey.
A similar theme occurs in the Testament of Joseph 8:5 (second century bce). After Joseph resists the temptation to commit adultery, he is falsely accused and thrown into prison:
When I was in fetters, the Egyptian woman was overtaken with grief. She came and heard the report how I gave thanks to the Lord and sang praise in the house of darkness, and how I rejoiced with cheerful voice, glorifying my God, because through her trumped up charge I was set free from this Egyptian woman.
This example of ancient Jewish resistance raises an important question for Christians today: If the power of violence merely brings forth songs from the defiant, where then, is their power? The Jews of exile and occupation faced their more powerful conquerors with cries to God and songs of God’s mastery over all creation. Would the cries of today’s oppressed peoples in the slums of Cairo, the refugee camps of Lebanon and Jordan and Ethiopia, the poor sections of multiple cities sound any different to Babylonian, Persian, Greek, or Roman ears?
Christendom long ago sold itself to the modern nation-state and would not think of challenging the power and authority of that rule with radically alternative values or alternative ways of living. But Westerners can hardly believe that they still hear the defiant call, "God is great!" in the face of the West’s overwhelming military might. Perhaps in reading about Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Joseph, and Paul and Silas, we should remember that there was once a faith that burned brightly in Christian hearts and souls as they confronted Roman power with a persistent faith that declared, "Jesus is Lord!"
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