Thoughts on Daniel and Hosea, Day 29, Lent 2013

Today's reading plan is relatively easy compared to the recent trip though the major prophets. Daniel is the story of Jews in exile, not unlike Esther.In the latter book, God hides in the background, but in the former heaven spills onto earth repeatedly. The first chapter is about God's protection of Daniel and his friends in their attempt to remain kosher in Babylon's court. They ask to only have vegetables and water for 10 days, Daniel 1:12. I'm actually trying this as a vegan fast for Lent (except for Sundays which are feast days). In Daniel 2, he gets a revelation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and an interpretation of it, which leads to a big promotion for him. Daniel 3 does not involve Daniel but his three friends. They get busted for not worshiping an idol. Where's Daniel? Did he go along? Probably not. But this Daniel-less story makes the book seem like   a collection of Jewish hero stories, which brings up the two apocyrphal stories, not found in the Protestant Bibles I grew up with, Susanna and Bel and the Dragon. Susanna foreshadows John 8 and the story of the men caught throwing rocks and Peter's investigation of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 7. The story of the idol Bel is very similar to Daniel 3, but Daniel is the hero in it. He also kills a dragon with poison that the pagan king worshipped. That got him thrown into another lion's den, which he also survived, with the help of angels and a teleporting prophet Habbakuk (a foreshadow of the teleporting apostle Philip in Acts 8:39). In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar has another dream, Daniel has the interpretation, then Neb. fulfills it by going crazy for 7 years, after which he becomes a one God believer. The weird thing is how a king could maintain his regency while insane for that long is a stretch of story telling, unless the seven years is symbolic. The wiki article lists a couple theories about this. Daniel 5 jumps forward many years to the end of Belshazzar's reign. Belshazzar physically sees the "writing on the wall" and Daniel has to come in and interpret it - "your time is up." In Daniel 6, he's working for king Darius now, and he gets tossed in the Lion's Den for praying to the God of the Jews. But he is helped by angels, who keep the lions' mouths shut. The next morning, the relieved king frees Daniel and tosses his enemies to the hungry lions. In Daniel 7, he tells his dreams about the future. One important figure is the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13) who will reign over the entire earth. Jesus refers to himself with this highly charged title throughout the gospels. In Daniel 8, there are more symbolic dreams of the future, and an encounter with the angel Gabriel. In Daniel 9, while praying for Israel he is visited again by Gabriel. In Daniel 10-12, he has a daytime vision of an angelic being telling him about the future, more prophecy, and an appearance of Michael the archangel.
Hosea is a rough story. Just as Ezekiel was full of graphic metaphors comparing the nation of Israel to a prostitute, Hosea is about a prophet instructed by God to marry one, who had a difficult time with the concept of fidelity. It's a brutal story. Just as God remains faithful to his adulterous nation, so Hosea has to keep bringing his wife back to stay with him. The book ends with God's promise to continue to take the initiative.
Hosea 14:4 I will heal their disloyalty; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them.
5 I will be like the dew to Israel; he shall blossom like the lily, he shall strike root like the forests of Lebanon. 6 His shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive tree, and his fragrance like that of Lebanon.
7 They shall again live beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom like the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon.
8 O Ephraim, what have I to do with idols? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like an evergreen cypress; your faithfulness comes from me.
9 Those who are wise understand these things; those who are discerning know them. For the ways of the Lord are right, and the upright walk in them, but transgressors stumble in them.
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