With today’s post, I’m concluding the overview of the deuterocanonical books of the Bible. If you’ve read this far through the series, thank you and I hope that you’ve found something to mull over. If you’ve stumbled upon this post, you can find a complete list of blog posts in the Journey Through The Word series here.
Where Am I?
The book of Daniel comes after the book of Ezekiel, and before the book of Hosea.
If you ever went to Sunday School, then you probably know the story of Daniel and the lion’s den. This is the same Daniel. What stands out as immediately different in this book from any of the Protestant translations that I grew up with, is the Appendix, adding an additional two chapters to the initial twelve, the story of “Susanna’s Virtue” and the story of “Bel and the Dragon”.
Beginning with the second of those stories, “Bel and the Dragon” is the story of why Daniel was thrown into the lion’s den. Bel is an idol that looked like a dragon that the people of Babylon worshipped, and which regularly consumed “six barrels of fine flour, forty sheep, and six measures of wine”(Daniel 14:3). After Daniel disproves that the idol is a living being, with some chicannery of his own I might add, the people of Babylon threaten the king’s life and the king places Daniel in the lion’s den. Curiously, this makes Daniel a sort of forerunner of Christ and King Cyrus a type of Pilate figure, turning Daniel over to the mob demanding his death. Daniel spends seven days in the lair of the lions, whereas Jesus spent part of three days in the tomb. But God provides! (See more under my ‘Favorite Passages’ section).
In “Susanna’s Virtue”, we have an early story of Daniel showing wisdom in discerning the false testimony of two elders against a pious woman, Susanna, who they tried to seduce, blackmail, and failing that, put to death to preserve their own reputations. Susanna is a beautiful example of a virtuous woman who would rather face death at the hands of evil men than sin against her Lord.
My favorite passage of the appendix is probably Habakkuk’s involvement of Daniel’s story, in which God (via an angel) ordered Habukkuk to deliver his lunch some (roughly guesstimating) 500 miles away to Daniel, who is starving in the lion’s den. The whole episode has a fairy tale-like quality that is charming and humorous all at once. For those who don’t remember the story, the king releases Daniel when he discovers he’s been unharmed.
While both of these stories have happy(ish) endings, there is a lot of death, torture, and sorrow throughout the deuteronomical books that I’ve been reviewing over the past several weeks, a stern reminder that although God can and does occasionally do the supernatural, we who follow Him are not exempt from suffering or the trials that may even end in death. We are only called to be faithful, even if it means the salvation of our souls, and not our bodies, from the inferno, or the sword, or the lair of those who would wish to devour us.
As this present storm engulfs us, may we find our ‘deep roots are not reached by the frost’**. Amen.
*The Bible version I am studying is the New American Bible, Fireside Personal Study Edition, (2006-2007 edition) by Fireside Catholic Publishing. Some of my paraphrases are based on the NIV and NASB versions which I grew up with. Links provided to Bible chapters are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, which has an online edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).
** A reference from The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.