Friday, 7 December 2007

Daniel's beasts

I have been intrigued by Daniel's visions all this week. They are amazing things. In Dan 7 we have this apocalyptic vision of four beasts, all representing different human empires. I noted down a few things I was struck by.

1. The empires are presented as beasts (v.3). Really, they are mutants - oversized, combining different body parts and violent. It is wonderfully fitting that Daniel represents arrogant human imperial power as distended animal mutants. Our craze for power does not make us greater but turns us into something worse than an ordinary animal. It erases the image of God from us. Note as well, that the beasts arise from the sea - a symbol of disorder and chaos all through the Bible. In a sense, these empires, though powerful (they are "great"), reveal a distorted, disordered creation.

2. These beasts are said to be "different" from one another, and yet they are actually the same kind of thing - they are all mutant beasts. They all reveal the same principles of violence and seeking after dominion. They all rise and fall. there are different arrogant human empires, but at heart they are all the same. They all reveal the same principles and they all have their endpoint. There is nothing new under the sun.

3. The great contrast in the passage is the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. Here we have a picture of beauty, purity, perfect power and calm - everything that is unbeast-like.. The boasting of the last beast looks pathetic in the light of this vision. And suddenly we understand that the beasts only have dominion as they are given it - it is taken from them in a second. The Son of Man, however, has everlasting dominion and a kingdom that cannot be destroyed.