Daniel feeds the dragon (Dan 14:27-14:27)

“Then Daniel took

Pitch,

Fat,

With hair.

He boiled them together.

He made cakes.

Then he fed them

To the dragon.

The dragon ate them.

The dragon

Burst open.

Then Daniel said.

‘See!

What you have been worshiping!’”

Once again, the theme of food appeared. First, Daniel would not eat the royal food in chapter 1. Then there was the great feast where they drank out of sacred vessels in chapter 5. Earlier in this chapter, there was the problem of the idol god Bel or his priests eating the sacrificial food. Now here, Daniel prepares a meal for the dragon that will make him burst open. Once again, Daniel put down and destroyed an object of pagan worship. This time, it was this mysterious dragon.

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Darius the Mede takes over (Dan 5:31-5:31)

“Darius,

The Mede,

Received

The kingdom.

He was about

Sixty-two years old.”

There is a lot of conjecture about this Darius, the Mede. The Medes joined with the Babylonians to overthrow the Assyrians. They came under Persian power around 550 BCE. Cyrus of Persia was the real power that conquered Babylon in 539 BCE. This Darius appears to be based on Darius I (522-486 BCE), the third Persian Emperor, not a contemporary of Cyrus or Daniel. Nevertheless, this was the end of the great Babylonian empire. Thus, ends the story of the great dinner party that finished in a disaster for the king, because he had dared to drink wine from the sacred vessels of the Jerusalem Temple.

The fingers writing on the wall (Dan 5:5-5:5)

“Immediately,

The fingers

Of a human hand

Appeared.

These fingers

Began writing

On the plaster

Of the wall

Of the king’s palace,

Next to the lampstand.

The king

Was watching

The hand

As it wrote.”

Immediately, as they began to drink from the sacred vessels from the Jerusalem Temple, praising the various Babylonian gods, the fingers of a human hand appeared. These fingers of this strange hand started writing on the plaster wall of the king’s palace, next to the lampstand. The king watched as this mysterious hand wrote on the wall.

The king wants the sacred cups from the Jerusalem Temple (Dan 5:2-5:2)

“Under the influence

Of the wine,

King Belshazzar

Commanded

That they bring

In the vessels

Of gold,

The vessels

Of silver,

That his father,

King Nebuchadnezzar,

Had taken out

Of the temple

In Jerusalem.

Thus,

The king,

His lords,

His wives,

His concubines,

Might drink

From them.”

This King Belshazzar commanded his servants to bring the sacred gold and silver vessels that King Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the Temple in Jerusalem. Here the author calls Nebuchadnezzar his father, but he was his grandfather. Thus, the king, these invited lords, his wives, and his concubines might drink wine from these sacred silver and gold cups. I am not sure if there were that many sacred vessels to accommodate a 1,000 people.

The other vessels are going to Babylon (Jer 27:21-27:22)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts,

The God of Israel,

Concerning the vessels

Left in the house

Of Yahweh,

In the house

Of the king of Judah,

As well as in Jerusalem.

‘They shall be carried

To Babylon.

There they shall stay

Until the day

When I give attention to them.

Then I will bring them up.

I will restore them to this place.’

Says Yahweh.”

Now Yahweh seems to indicate that there will be a second captivity when the rest of the sacred vessels will be brought to Babylon. They would stay there until Yahweh wanted to restore or bring them back to Jerusalem. Thus the vessels in Babylon were going to stay there, until Yahweh brought them back. In the meantime, the other sacred vessels from Jerusalem would be brought there also.

Remembering the first captivity (Jer 27:19-27:20)

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts

Concerning the pillars,

The sea,

The stands,

With the rest of the vessels

That are left in this city,

That King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Did not take away,

When he took into exile

From Jerusalem

To Babylon

King Jeconiah,

The son of King Jehoiakim,

Of Judah,

With all the nobles

Of Judah

As well as Jerusalem.”

Yahweh talked about the other holy vessels still in Jerusalem, including the Temple pillars, the sea structure outside the Temple, the various lamp stands in the Temple, as well as the other sacred vessels in the Temple. These were all left behind when the first captivity took place in 598 BCE, when King Zedekiah or King Mattaniah (598-587 BCE) was put on the throne by King Nebuchadnezzar. King Jeconiah or King Coniah or King Jehoiachin (598 BCE) was only on the throne for a few months before he was taken into exile. His father, King Jehoiakim or King Eliakim (609-598 BCE) had been favored by the Egyptians. King Zedekiah was the brother of King Jehoiakim and the uncle of King Jeconiah. In other words, there was a dispute between Egypt and Babylon and the kings of Judah changed on who was in charge, Egypt or Babylon. Clearly Jeremiah and Yahweh favored Babylon.

The alert in Judea (Jdt 4:1-4:3)

“The Israelites living in Judea heard of everything that Holofernes, the general of King Nebuchadnezzar of the Assyrians, had done to the nations. They heard that he had plundered and destroyed all their temples. Thus they were therefore greatly terrified at his approach. They were alarmed both for Jerusalem and for the temple of the Lord their God. They had only recently returned from exile. All the people of Judea had just now gathered together. The sacred vessels, the altar, and the temple had been consecrated after their profanation.”

This is where the history is anachronistic and confusing, as if it was simple already. This text says that they had recently returned from exile, but it was King Nebuchadnezzar who led them into exile. These would be the remaining poor or not important people, if historically correct. This author is probably referring to his own experiences here. If this was before the exile as it historically seems to be, they may be referring to the refurbishing and renewal of the Temple worship by King Josiah of Judah (640-609 BCE), about 30 years earlier. Notice that here the land is called Judea, a post-exilic expression, and not Judah, as was common before the exile.