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God’s Presence in Adversity

The Book of Daniel

Daniel is not strictly speaking a historical work; most commentators consider it an allegory referring to events that took place centuries later. But for symbolic reasons it is well placed in this part of the canon.

When the Babylonians invade, Daniel and his friends are taken into exile, and they serve in the Babylonian court. Not surprisingly the court is a place of deep political intrigue, where they make many enemies. These enemies conspire to have Daniel’s friends thrown into a “fiery furnace” for refusing to worship the Babylonian gods. Not only do the three friends survive the hot flames, but walking among them is a fourth figure, a mysterious presence - perhaps an angel, but surely a symbol of God’s presence with those who adhere to the Covenant.

Daniel gains further notoriety by foretelling the fall of Babylon, interpreting the “handwriting on the wall” announcing Babylon’s doom. Babylon was indeed conquered by the Persians, who under the Emperor Cyprus give the Jews permission to return to their land and to rebuild Jerusalem - the subject of the books to follow.

Intrigue and plotting follow Daniel into the Persian court, and again the charge is religious disloyalty. Daniel is thrown into a den of lions - but they do not harm him. The Persian king takes this as a sign of divine protection, and Daniel is vindicated.

Although the book of Daniel contains some discrepancies with the known historical record, it belongs here for two reasons: its story takes place at the time of the Persian conquest and so forms part of the historical narrative, and it illustrates the idea that God is literally present with those who are true to the Coveannt established through Abraham’s legacy.

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