Prophets, Pride, and Pay-Up Chocolate

DSCN2178On Friday afternoon the FedEx man showed up at my door, bearing gifts of chocolate from a far-away friend admitting he was wrong. Jeff hadn’t done anything hurtful to me or anyone else, but his pound and half of chocolate was acknowledgment that (at least this time) my interpretation of Daniel was better than his. (See here for our interpretative differences. 🙂 )

It takes a humble man to admit he’s wrong. And it takes a generous man to send such abundant sweetness all the way across the country. Jeff is both.

Nebuchadnezzar was neither, at least not yet in the book of Daniel. The Babylonian king has shown himself to be a proud man with little regard for the welfare of those around him. And yet, our man Daniel cared a lot about him. In spite of who Nebuchadnezzar was and what he represented, Daniel served him faithfully and cared for him deeply.

Before my November hiatus, I suggested that Daniel demonstrated his care by what he didn’t say to the king in the aftermath of the tree dream. In his retelling and interpretation of the dream, Daniel left out the part about the king going crazy. He spared Nebuchadnezzar his dignity.

But Daniel also showed how much he cared by what he did say. The king had summoned Daniel to interpret the dream, but Daniel gave the king more than he asked for. Daniel’s interpretation ends in Dan 4:26, but he keeps talking: “Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue” (Dan 4:27).

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t ask for advice, but Daniel gave it anyway in the form a mini-sermon. This is one of the few places in the book where “the prophet Daniel” actually sounds like one. A prophet’s primary task was to call people to repentance and obedience, and Daniel begs the king to do both. Then maybe, just maybe, this horrible fate can be avoided.

We can’t be sure, but it looks like the king took Daniel’s counsel to heart. His prosperity continues for another twelve months (Dan 4:29), when, in spite of Daniel’s best efforts, the king falls off the wagon. Everything in the dream comes true. Sometimes all the care in the world can’t spare people we love pain.

3 responses to “Prophets, Pride, and Pay-Up Chocolate”

  1. jeffrey askanazi Avatar
    jeffrey askanazi

    As Alan Abelson, the financial journalist once said “if your predictions don’t pan out the only thing to do is…predict again”. So readers, another prophetic analysis is coming. Get your blog ready, this deserves public display!
    Not to try to lessen your recent triumph (or change the image of myself as a once arrogant Jewish guy, now humble Christian) BUT, let’s look out events in detail. There really was a quantitative difference between the recent Hamas battle and all previous ones. This one was a victory of sorts for Hamas, celebrated y them as a new holiday, Nov 22. The current events began with a Hamas attack on November 10 and an Israeli retaliation Nov 14. That forms a chiasm around Nov 12. So the basic idea that we are in the second half of Daniels final week may not be off all that much. More to come, same wager: chocolate vs. I get to post my entire analysis?

    1. Ah, Jeff. 🙂 Wager accepted – but you haven’t made a prediction yet. Also, disclaimer for the rest of my ten readers: this blog is not a forum for theories on the prophetic value of Daniel. I don’t post comments that promulgate such theories, because I happen to think the real value of Daniel lies elsewhere. Jeff is the one and only exception to this rule, because he’s a former student who sat through my entire course on the book of Daniel. Also, he sends me chocolate. 🙂

  2. […] them. (He does this to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4 after the king’s received the bad news; Daniel implores him to change his ways and perhaps the punishment can be put […]

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