Divine Subversion of Political Hubris in Daniel

The book of Daniel is an example of “survivalist literature” in our Bible. As such, it is a tale for our own time. In it we hear voices of the community of faith who struggle to cling to faith and to life itself in a society aggressively inimical to both.  Opposing voices are official, authoritative, and ubiquitous. These voices prohibit allegiances other than those which perpetuate the continuation and the extension of human institutions and power structures given over to “the Beasts which come up out of the Sea.” In such a society, the specter of the power of the “Empire” and the “Emperor” generates gag orders, carries out sanctions, and executes death warrants.

In the book of Daniel, maniacal human power structures are indicted and put on trial. Monarchs are satirized and their kingdoms are shown to be ephemeral. Despite the trappings of worldly wealth, power, and glory which are the propaganda machine of the institutions of this world, the writer repeatedly insists on the nakedness of the “king” and the vapidness of his “empire.” The book of Daniel through subversion, satire, parody, and irony proclaims the true King and the true Kingdom which call for a completely different  allegiance which is also exclusive.

The golden images of the “emperors” of our time are indeed staggeringly high and intimidating. Preaching theology about the true King and the true Kingdom from the book of Daniel might very well will land one in “the fiery furnace” or in “the lions’ den.” Gag orders, sanctions, and warrants roam the land. Nevertheless, in the words of another biblical piece of survivalist literature:
“Who knows but that you have come to the Kingdom for such a time as this?”


About johnandjanet

Our research and writing interests include biblical exegesis and theology, Old and New Testament backgrounds, hermeneutics, biblical and philosophical ethics, the history of Christian thought, and cultural critique.
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