Thursday, October 24, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 12)

Now, returning to the issue of what it was that Darius said to Daniel, it is worth asking again why it was that Darius said what he said.  It would seem to make a great deal of sense that Daniel, who was being threatened with the lion’s den, would have quoted this Psalm to Darius, with Darius quite easily able to make the connection (based on a review of the Psalm to this point) between the words of the Psalm and what it was that he knew Daniel was going to be experiencing.  After the Psalmist speaks of his horrific plight, and his being set in the dust of death amidst lions and wild dogs, while indicating that death was inescapable (the Psalmist speaking of a state of exile, in strong Israelite tradition), there comes a change of tone. 

After the Psalmist considers himself dead, which is indicated by the fact that “They were dividing up my clothes among themselves; they are rolling dice for my garments” (22:18), as dead men need no clothes, he speaks of deliverance.  The Psalmist speaks and says “But you, O Lord, do not remain far away!  You are my source of strength!  Hurry and help me!  Deliver me from the sword!  Save my life…!  Rescue me…! (using Israel’s familiar exodus language)  You have answered me!” (22:19-21) 

It is in the wake of this that the Psalmist insists that he “will declare Your Name to my countrymen!  In the middle of the assembly I will praise You!” (22:22)  Could this be why Darius says to Daniel that “Your God whom you continually serve will rescue you,” as he was somehow and in some way expecting Daniel to be preserved?  If Daniel has cast himself in the role of the Psalmist that is now experiencing this misfortune, which would not be terribly difficult considering the nature of the ordeal (den of lions), then it is not a stretch in the least little bit to presume that Daniel made this Psalm known to Darius and to all who were responsible for this attempt on his life, as did Jesus.     

Not only could Daniel have spoken the words of the Psalm in the ears of Darius, but like Jesus, he could also have offered these words to the ears of all of his accusers as well.  Darius then, could have heard and responded to what could be believed to be Daniel’s strange choice of words, which spoke of help, deliverance, rescue, and answering that would enable him to declare the Name and praises of his God following the ordeal.  Naturally, the others could have responded to the words as well.  So upon Daniel’s having been thrown into the den of lions, and subsequent to the king’s reassuring words to him (spurred by Daniel’s faithful referencing to a song of His people), “a stone was brought and placed over the opening to the den.  The king sealed it with his signet ring and with those of his nobles so that nothing could be changed with regard to Daniel” (6:17).  This should quickly put one in mind of Matthew’s reports of what followed Jesus’ death (surrounded by “dogs” and “lions,” with His allusions to Psalm 22), after Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body of Jesus and placed it in his own tomb. 

Matthew reports that “The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate and said, ‘Sir, we remember that while that deceiver was still alive He said, “After three days I will rise again.”  So give orders to secure the tomb until the third day.  Otherwise His disciples may come and steal His body and say to the people, “He has been raised from the dead,” and the last deception will be worse than the first.’  Pilate said to them, ‘Take a guard of soldiers.  Go and make it as secure as you can.’  So they went with the soldiers of the guard and made the tomb entrance secure by sealing the stone” (Matthew 27:62-66).  According to the Gospel records, Jesus had indeed spoken of rising again after three days.  Along with that, His recent reference to the twenty-second Psalm (while on the cross) in an atmosphere in which there was a great awareness of the book of Daniel, as well as a constant looking forward to a Davidic king not unlike the king that had been said to have spoken that great Psalm, would have induced this exchange between Pilate and those responsible for Jesus’ own journey into the metaphorical lion’s den that was crucifixion and death.   

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