Thursday, January 30, 2020

Daniel 3: the statue and the defiant friends

READING ACTS has two new posts in Phil Long's series on the Book of Daniel:

Daniel 3:1-7 – Worshiping the Statue
I am not persuaded by Phil's suggestion that the statue was an obelisk. First of all, there are not "many obelisks found in Babylon." There are a few stone monuments found in ancient Mespotamia that are called obelisks, but these are (large but) comparatively small stone monuments of an official nature. I know of no 90-foot obelisks in Babylon of the sort that Phil compares to the statue. All of those come from Egypt. Note that the example in his photo is from Karnak, Egypt.

Second, as far as I can tell the word "statue" (צלם) always means a worked image of something. It is the word used in chapter 2 for the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The same word appears in Hebrew with the same range of meaning. I can't find it applied to an abstract object like an obelisk. In Daniel 3 the normal usage of the word would lead us to picture an image of a human figure or, conceivable, an animal.

Third, the best parallel to the statue in chapter 3 comes from the Greek writers Herodotus (1.183) and Ctesias (F1b, Diodorus 2.9.5-7 ), who mention one or more golden statues of "Zeus" associated with temples in the city of Babylon. Herodotus says (the same, seated?) statue was 18 cubits high (= 27 feet) and Ctesias says the statue was 40 feet high. Daniel's version is even better, with a 60-cubit statue.

There was in fact a statue of Marduk in his temple, the Esagila. But it was made of stone, not gold. I don't think we know how big it was. It was taken out on parades and even plundered from city to city by Babylon's various conquerers. So I doubt it was as big as the statues of the Greek writers and Daniel.

This huge gold statue looks to me like another tradition Daniel shares with "Greek Fantasy Babylon."

Daniel 3:13-18 – Confession of the Three Exiles

I have noted previous posts in Phil's series on the Book of Daniel, sometimes with my own commentary, here and links.

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