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The Book of Daniel: Back to the Future
The Book of Daniel: Back to the Future
|Type: Oil |
Dimensions: Width/Height (in inches) 64/48
This painting visually translates the Book of Daniel by fusing all of its prophetic dreams and palatial intrigues into a single image. Daniel’s face is embedded within the cosmic background. His mouth forms the central galaxy’s eye which sees, speaks, and writes prophecies. It simultaneously exhales divine resurrecting breath. Emanating visual prophesies revolve around the epicenter maintaining their orbit by God’s gravitational pull.
This Book is chronologically the last composition to be included in the Hebrew Bible despite being editorially placed in front of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Thus it is almost contemporary with the Book of Maccabees (written in 100 BCE covering events from 170 through 134 BCE), occurring only slightly before it (176-170ish BCE). The original Hebrew version of the Book of Maccabees was lost, but its Greek translation survived in the Septuagint, and is hence not included in the Hebrew Bible but rather in the Hebrew Apocrypha. The Tanach takes the book of Daniel at its literary timeline face-value as occurring predominantly during the Babylonian exile (605-562 BCE) prior to the events of Ezra and Nehemiah.
Daniel at first glance appears to be a mysterious apocalyptic book. A thoughtful analysis, however, demonstrates that it is actually a splendidly picturesque anthology of consolatory parables, in the form of prophesies and moral tales, providing practical spiritual guidance to the Hasidim during their persecution by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Seleucid Greek occupier of Israel, circa 176-170 BCE (see below).
The “Hasidim”, which in Hebrew, means “The Just” were Jews who non-violently resisted the Seleucid Greeks’ attempts at forced assimilation (not to be confused with contemporary Hasidim). The Book of Daniel is addressed to them, encouraging and consoling their martyrdom, and discouraging spiritual compromise even when confronted with violence and death. The Book’s protagonist, Daniel, despite experiencing and interpreting multiple prophesies is not accorded the biblical status of Prophet. This is because a literary vehicle for parables is not a Prophet.
In all probability, Antiochus’ identity and that of the Seleucid Empire were explicitly omitted from the Book of Daniel out of fear of provoking serious political reprisals at the time of its writing. The greatest worry most likely was that the Hellenized Jews who were fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic would rat out the non-Hellenized Jews to the Seleucids. Hence, for the protection of the Hasidim, the Book’s message needed to be wrapped in a riddle, packaged in a prophecy, and crafted to deliver a knockout moral punch. In essence it is an ancient, time specific, theological- political pamphlet. Centuries and millennia after its publication, long after its original political context had been lost and forgotten, and because it was purposefully oblique to begin with, many people have scratched their heads proffering wild and colorful interpretations of this Book, losing sight of its original historical context.
Nevertheless, the Book’s carefully detailed descriptions of Antiochus’s’ military exploits outlined in the latter portion of the Book (e.g. Kings of the North –Seleucid Dynasty, Kings of the South-Ptolemaic dynasty etc.), its use of his well known Hebrew code name , “the little horn” (confirmed by Josephus), its documented placement of an idol in the Temple termed “ an abomination of desolation” (identical terminology for the Zeus idol mentioned in the Book of Maccabees), identifies Antiochus IV as the Book’s arch enemy beyond a shadow of doubt, and allows us to correctly identify the approximate date of Daniel’s writing. In addition, aramaically transliterated Greek words in the Book e.g. “symphonia” could not have been known to Jews during the Babylonian exile, and thus provides further evidence of the time period in question.
Antiochus IV wanted to destroy the Jews by culturally assimilating them in their own country. He appointed a Jewish, Hellenized, High Priest puppet, Menalus (Greek name), placed a statue of Zeus in the Temple, and forced the Jews to bow down and pray to it. He outlawed circumcision, and forced the Jews to eat pig, an anathema to them. There were many Jews who complied, were enamored with, and seduced by Greek culture, and had no difficulty assimilating. Other Jews, loyal to God and their religion, in particular the Hasidim believed in non-violent resistance, and martyrdom, over assimilation.
Thus the Hasidim were engaged in a battle against Antiochus, and even more so in a civil war against their assimilated Jewish brethren. Rather then kneel to Zeus or eat non-kosher food, they died horrible deaths having their tongues, arms and legs cut off, defending their beliefs and way of life. Only a short time later did the Maccabees arise, and with violent resistance defeated the Seleucid Greeks, won the Jewish civil war, and reclaimed the Temple, not to mention their religion and country which were both teetering on the brink of extinction. These acts of daring, and redemption were later commemorated and celebrated with the holiday of Hanukkah.
If we read the Book of Daniel within this historical context, it is evident that the purposes of this book is to console, and encourage the Hasidim to continue their struggle with all their might, and to employ martyrdom if necessary to preserve Judaism. Fanciful prophetic parables with potent visual imagery are methodologically employed transforming the Book of Daniel into a prototypical how-to anti-assimilation manual, the essentials of which have been applied by practicing Jews not only under Seleucid Greek rule, but also throughout the globe for millennia, with little variation. These details are outlined below.
The literary tact that the book takes is to have the beginning of the prophetic parables take place in the known past, beginning with Babylonian exile, continuing up to and including the known present (Seleucid rule), then prophetically extrapolating further into the unknown future (i.e. how will the Seleucid Dynasty play out? i.e. what are “the end of days?”) based on the known past -future i.e. that which has already occurred in historical time, but remains in the future of the parable’s time.
Prophesying the future is not too difficult, if the future is already in the past. It becomes a very effective uplifting and encouraging psychological tool when it becomes evident to the target audience that the first portion of the prophesy which they have just heard has already come true (that which is now in the past), then by virtue of inference and extrapolation, the latter portion of the prophesy which has not yet transpired, will most likely come to be. At the time of Daniel’s writing it is highly unlikely that the Maccabean revolt had yet begun, and thus the true future outcome of Seleucid rule was not yet known. The future needed to be prophesized and optimized.
The moral theme at the crux of the Book of Daniel is that Great Empires who attempt to physically and /or spiritually annihilate the Jews either inside or outside their geographic boundaries, come and go. As surely as they will rise and persecute you, just as surely they will fall, and disappear into the cosmic dust, because God judges them (“Daniel” in Hebrew means “God judges”) to be cruel, and hence, spiritually illegitimate. Thus, Daniel counsels, continue to resist assimilation, mightily cling to your faith, because only Israel and God, the supreme Judge, will survive forever outside the boundaries of natural History and normal Time.
As another powerful tool of consolation and encouragement, for the first time in the Hebrew Bible, resurrection, the concept of global awakening of the dead is mentioned. Thus, Daniel maintains that even if you die in martyrdom defending your faith, you don’t really die permanently, you, “the Righteous” (the “Hasidim”; the “Am Kadishey Elyonim” which in Hebrew/Aramaic means “Nation of the holy elevated ones”) will awaken to glory, and the non- righteous assimilators will awaken to ignominy.
“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall wake, some to everlasting life (Hasidim), and some to reproaches and everlasting abhorrence (Hellenized Jews)”. “And they that are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn the many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever (Hasidim)”.
Afterlife makes martyrdom hopeful not hopeless, and gives the Hasidim incentive to continue in the face of impossible odds. This concept has been independently adopted by other cultures and religions over the course of history under similar dire circumstances. The Maccabees, on the other hand, after witnessing the futility of Hasidic non-violent resistance, took a more practical and ultimately victorious course.
Up to this point, the after-life in the Bible is described as “Sheol” (root meaning in Hebrew is “Sheal”- “question”, as in “who knows what happens after you die?”). The description of Sheol in Samuel is not that of a pleasant place. Samuel who is grumpily dragged up from Sheol by King Saul doesn’t seem to be having a picnic (and that’s a righteous Person). In Ecclesiastics, the death of dogs and men are deemed equal. The end of mortal flesh is the end for both species, period.
The concept of a dichotomous after-life in the Book of Daniel predicated on dichotomous behavior during this life i.e. Heaven for good guys, and Hell for bad guys, may thus have arisen historically in Judaism at this time as an eternal anodyne and reward for martyrdom, and may have been influenced by the Zoroastrian religion of the Persians in whose midst they remained for quite some time (even after the return of many Jews to Israel under Persian rule).
Prior to a resurrecting incentive for a life time of good behavior introduced in this Book, the overriding moral tenet of Tanach is that good things happen in this life only to good people, and bad things happen in this life only to bad people. Just ask Job. Job’s ultimate dues for his perceived good or bad behavior were doled out by God in the here and now, not the hereafter. Even Daniel quotes Jeremiah in saying that the only times the Jews ever suffer is when they have sinned. Thus to cease the suffering they must repent i.e. follow Jewish not Greek tradition.
Introducing the novel concept of being conditionally assigned a good or bad afterlife depending on one’s good or bad behavior, respectively, extends the moral incentive playing field beyond the grave, and for the first time has the theological potential to mitigate the hitherto uncomfortable moral disequilibrium and insurmountable paradox exposed when trying to understand why bad things happen to good people in a purportedly Just universe.
Zoroastrianism includes the beliefs of a single universal god, Ahura Mazda, of good (asha) and evil (druj), and of heaven and hell. The Zoroastrians believe that all souls will unite with God (be resurrected) at the end of time, when evil is defeated. Furthermore, Zoroastrianism believes that Ahura Mazda emanates divine sparks (a little Kabalistic, or is Kabala a little Zorastrianistic?). The sparks were later re-interpreted to represent a complex hierarchy of angels (Yazuta). Most of these concepts were well developed in Darius’ era. It is thus understandable in the book of Daniel when both Nebuchadnezzar and Darius acknowledge a single universal deity compatible with the Jewish God. This also explains Cyrus’ empathy with and magnanimity toward the Jews allowing them to return home and rebuild the second Temple.
Although angels have been mentioned throughout the entire Bible, Daniel introduces a hierarchal angelic retinue. Not only are there an abundance of ordinary run of the mill angels who are employed as God extenders saving the faithful from hot furnaces and voracious lions, there are also specialized arch-angels (Princes) who are assigned either to go to battle against evil armies working side by side with God, or to communicate directly with God’s chosen prophets. These special angels (agents) have names, all ending with “EL” (“God” in Hebrew) e.g. “MichaEL” (in Hebrew; “who is like God?”) and “GabriEL” (in Hebrew; “God is strong”). This implies that DaniEL is also somewhat angelic.
Strands of Zoroastrian core beliefs such as Heaven and Hell, resurrection, the end of time (probably syncretic), and archangels, are seamlessly interwoven throughout the entire Book of Daniel. Based on the time-line of the evolution of these theological ideas and their geographic origins, it is unlikely that Judaism, suddenly, coincidentally and simultaneously came up with these concepts in a vacuum.
Thus, paradoxically, the Jews staunchly resisted assimilating Greek paganistic ideas which went against the grain of Judaism, but culturally absorbed and modified foreign Zoroastrian religious ideas which were not contradictory to their beliefs but rather added positively, particularly those beliefs enhancing physical and spiritual survival.
Non-violent resistance in the face of oppression is a concept foreign to most of Tanach. The Ten Plagues rather than martyrdom were applied to escape from the clutches of Egyptian slavery. Non-violent resistance was rarely used as a tool against most biblical oppressors. For good reason; it usually didn’t work. And in fact this temporary experiment by Hasidim failed as it had for millennia of powerless Jewish exile throughout Europe and elsewhere e.g. Spanish expulsion, Chelminski massacres, Holocaust, to name but a few . Freedom and Independence were achieved, fulfilling Daniel’s prophecies, by the Maccabees’ armed revolt. Nevertheless, the Hasidim must have inspired the Maccabees, and without them they may not have been mobilized into action.
The Book of Daniel begins with the conquest of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, and their exile along with the Temple vessels to Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar requests that the best and brightest of the Judean captives be brought to his palace, educated and trained for three years in the Chaldean language (Babylonian) at which point they will join the ruling elite. Among these captives were Daniel and his three protégés, Hannania, Mishael and Azaria. In order to assimilate them, and erase their Hebrew Judaic identities they are all renamed in Babylonian (Aramaic).
Half the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew and half is written in Aramaic. The Book’s beginning and end are both in Hebrew, with Aramaic sandwiched in-between. This alerts the contemporary Seleucid Jewish audience that life begins and ends in Hebrew. This literary device also conveys the bicultural life of an exiled people successfully straddling two cultures, Jewish and Babylonian, speaking two tongues, Hebrew and Aramaic, maintaining two identities (names), inwardly Jewish, and outwardly Babylonian.
This parallels the Jews’ circumstances under the Greek Seleucids, many of whom read and wrote Greek, adopted Greek names, and were on the verge of forgetting Hebrew and Judaism in their own country. Ultimately the Bible was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, because many Jews could no longer read Hebrew. They, Daniel’s captive audience, are meant to learn valuable lessons from Daniel and his friends who maintained their identities in Babylon under similar circumstances.
Daniel had two cultural identities/names; in Babylonian, he is Baltshatzar, and in Hebrew he is Daniel. In this painting these names are written on his nose in their respective languages. His three friends also had dual names/identities. Eventually, despite Daniel’s Aramaic name, the Babylonians and subsequently the Persians mostly referred to him by his Hebrew name. He never let himself or other Babylonians (or Medes and Persians for that matter) forget his Hebrew name. The moral of the story to Seleucid Jews is that you may be named Menalus, but you will always be Mosheh. Likewise, you can call yourself Clark Kent, but you’ll always be Kal-EL.
In this Babylonian tale, just like the Seleucid Greeks commanded the Jews to eat and drink non –kosher food and wine, all the Jews in Babylonia including Daniel, and his friends were asked to do the same. He and his friends refused. Other Babylonian Jewish captives did not, easily assimilating, like the Hellenized Jews.
Daniel pleads with his palace guard, and requests a trial run for ten days, to bring him, and his friends, vegetarian (kosher) meals to eat, and water (kosher beverages) to drink so that they maintain Jewish dietary laws. The guard agrees to a trial, and lo and behold Daniel and his friends who eat kosher vegetarian look stronger than the non-kosher eaters. The moral of the story to contemporary Seleucid Jews is that you should maintain your cultural identity, eat kosher, and you’ll be healthier for it. There is nothing gained by forfeiting your religion which begins with neglecting your dietary laws prescribed in the Torah.
When Daniel’s three protégés are told by Nebuchadnezzar and his guards to bow down to a golden idol, just like the Seleucid Jews are being asked to bow down to an idol of Zeus, they refuse, and are thrown into a fiery furnace which is heated up seven times above average. They survive unscathed because they are saved by an angel sent by God. This scene is illustrated in this painting within Daniel’s eye on the right. The three protégés are seen in a fiery furnace dressed in blue unscathed tunics. The angel with an illuminated yellow face is standing behind them cloaking them with his arms.
The moral of the story to Seleucid Jews is that no one can force you to bow down to Zeus or any other idol. They will try to kill you. They will even turn up the heat. Do not let this deter you. God will rescue you. Nebuchadnezzar as a result acknowledges and praises God, and promotes the three furnace survivors to a high position in the Empire. The moral of the story to Seleucid Jews is that if you stand your religious ground, you will not only survive, you will also thrive materially.
Under the reign of Darius, King of Persia, Daniel, because of his wisdom gets a big Court promotion. Jealous ministers get Darius to sign an edict that during a certain time period no subject is allowed to pray to any deity other than to him. In defiance, Daniel openly and proudly genuflects and prays to God three times a day in the direction of the Jerusalem, in accordance with Jewish tradition. As a punishment, Darius must throw him into a den of Lions as instructed in the edict he signed, even though he is terribly saddened by this. Daniel gets thrown into a den of lions. In this painting, the Lions den is illustrated in Daniel’s eye on the left.
However the lions don’t touch him, because an angel comes and shuts their mouths. But his accusers, their wives and children who are thrown in afterwards get mauled and killed right away. Cyrus, as a result, acknowledges Daniel’s God as “the living God, steadfast forever”. The moral of the story to Seleucid Jews is at the threat of death you should continue to pray to God three times a day in the direction of Jerusalem. If you do so, they can’t kill you, God and his angels will always save you. Not only that, in the end they will agree that your beliefs are true.
You can have a Babylonian name, or a Greek name, so long as you keep your Hebrew name, eat kosher, don’t bow to idols, and pray to God three times a day, facing Jerusalem, in Babylon or in Hellenized Israel, wherever you go, God will protect and save you. Don’t give in, because these foreign interlopers are only transient in the scheme of the cosmos. This concept is driven home even more forcefully by all of Daniel’s own visions, and those of his regal captors.
The first prophesy in the Book which conveys this concept is foretold via Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Just like Pharaoh’s prophetic dreams in ancient Egypt could only be interpreted by the Hebrew, Joseph, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream can only be interpreted by the Judean, Daniel. In this painting, quotations in Hebrew and Aramaic referring to Daniel’s dream interpretive abilities are written on the bridge and tip of his nose, respectively. The Hebrew quotation reads: “And Daniel understood all the visions and dreams”. The Aramaic quotation reads: “Daniel interprets visions of the night”.
Nebuchadnezzar, in addition, adds his own personal little cruel twist. Not only does he want his dream interpreted, he wants someone to tell him what his dream is before he reveals it to them. Any wise man that is incapable of both describing and interpreting his dream will be put to death. Daniel, like Joseph comes to the rescue, fulfilling Nebuchadnezzar’s preposterous criteria. Like Joseph, he channels God for its interpretation.
In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar sees a very bright statue. Its head is made of fine gold, its chest and arms are made of silver, its belly and thighs are made of brass, its legs are made of iron, and its feet are made of a combination of iron and clay. He then sees a stone cut without hands, which is thrown down upon the statue’s feet smashing them. Then the other portions of the statue simultaneously break into pieces, becoming like chaff. The wind blows away the broken shards. Then the stone becomes a great mountain, and fills the entire earth.
Daniel’s interpretation is that each of the five different statue body parts made out of different elements represents five successive Empires. The uncut stone represents God/Israel who outlives these empires, and will fill the world, and exist forever.
In this painting, these five successive statue body parts are illustrated swirling around Daniel’s cosmic mouth. The golden head in the upper relative middle of the painting represents Nebuchadnezzar (Babylon). The silver torso and extended arms (on the right of the painting) represents the second Empire (Mede). It is made of silver, a less expensive metal, and hence it is inferior to Babylon. The brass torso and thighs (bottom right of painting) represents the third Empire (Persia) who will temporarily rule the world. The iron legs (bottom and middle left of painting) represent the fourth Empire (Greece) who is as strong as iron, and breaks everything into pieces. The iron and clay feet (upper left of painting) represent the fifth empire (Seleucid and Ptolemaic), offshoots of the fourth Empire (Greece) and is a mixture of iron and clay. Part of the kingdom will be strong like Iron, and part will be easily broken like clay. They will attempt to mingle with one another, but they can’t stay together because, after all, they are made of different substances which can’t mix.
“And in those days (of the Seleucid Empire) God (the stone) will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. It will break all the other kingdoms, and will stand forever”.
Nebuchadnezzar is really impressed, praises Daniel and recognizes God as the true God.
In this painting, the center of the cosmos, Daniel’s mouth, represents God and Israel. The stone which is cut without hands represents the stone which God had hewn himself (without human hands), and with his very own finger inscribed upon it the Ten Commandments. He then presented it to Moses on Mount Sinai (the mountain which fills the earth). In this painting the stones perched on Mount Sinai are illustrated in Daniel’s central mouth. The laws inscribed on these stone tablets, and the people who accepted them shall survive successive generations of Empires, each of which are made of successively cheaper materials; gold, silver, brass, iron, iron and clay. Quite pointedly, the last Empire, the contemporary evil Seleucid Empire, is made of the cheapest material. It also occupies the lowest and least prestigious part of the body; the feet, as opposed to the head.
In this painting each of the five statue body parts are fused with each of their respective Empire parable zoomorphic images found in other visions described later in the Book (see below). In addition, other images of God/Israel described later in the Book are fused within the central mouth/eye image (see below).
The golden head of Babylon/Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed as a lion’s head with Babylonian styled hair and beard. This fuses and incorporates Daniel’s own later dream where he dreams of four beasts representing four empires, and Babylon is presented as a Lion with clipped wings, plucked up to stand on two feet, and given a man’s heart. In this painting, underneath the lion’s head is a miniaturized body with a centralized human heart, and seared wings. Written in Hebrew in the lion’s skirt is “Babylon”. Written circularly, in Babylonian, on the contours of his face, is Nebuchadnezzar’s self referential inscription, discovered on one of his archeologically excavated coins.
The Babylonian lion head is also portrayed with a tree growing out of the top of his head. This fuses another prophetic dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s. In that dream Nebuchadnezzar sees a large fruit –filled tree which shelters animals and birds. The tall strong tree represents Nebuchadnezzar’s fruitful, and munificent great Empire. He then hears a voice from the Kedoshim (Holy Ones) declaring that the tree should be cut down, leaving the stump and its roots;
“Let him be wet with dew, and let his portion be with the beasts of the grass. Let the heart of the tree be changed from man to a beast’s and let seven times pass over him”.
According to Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar will go insane for seven years and be like an ox in the field that eats grass with other animals. This painting portrays his seven year long, red bugsy eyes. Then he will recognize God’s greatness, and only then his empire will be returned to him, his roots remaining in the earth waiting for him to return as monarch. The future occurs as prophesied, and Nebuchadnezzar once again acknowledges the greatness of Daniel’s and Israel’s God.
Nebuchadnezzar’s son (not historically confirmed), Belshazzar (almost identical name to Daniel’s Aramaic name, Baltshazzar, absent the Hebrew letter “Tet”) does not acknowledge the true God. One day he has a feast and invites all his cronies and concubines to the palace where they drink from the temple holy vessels, and simultaneously praise their pagan gods made of gold, silver brass and iron (sounds like a statue could be made of that).
“In the same hour, came forth fingers of a man’s hand and wrote over against a candle stick upon the plaster of the wall of the kings palace; and the king saw the palm of the hand that wrote”.
The frightened king promises to reward anyone who can read this mysterious writing, and interpret it for him. Daniel comes to the rescue. He reads and explains the handwriting on the wall.
It says in Hebrew transliterated Aramaic: “Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin.” Because it was written in Hebraic Babylonian it was indecipherable to Belshazzar and his people who can read Babylonian in it original hieroglyphic –styled alphabet. The words mean; MENE MENE, “God NUMBERED (twice for emphasis) your kingdom and brought it to an end”, TEKEL, “you are WEIGHED in the balance (JUDGED) and found wanting”, UPHARSIN, “your kingdom is DIVIDED and given to the Medes and Persians”.
Daniel explicitly states that God meted out this punishment because Belshazzar not only praised idols, not acknowledging God; he also defiled God’s holy Temple vessels. On that night Balthazar was murdered and the kingdom was passed on to Darius the Mede. This confirms the Mede identity of the second empire (silver torso and arms) which succeeded Babylon.
Illustrated at the center of the painting is the mysterious divine arm and hand whose finger is completing the handwriting on the cosmic wall in Hebrew - Aramaic; “Mene, Mene, Tekel Upharsin”. The arm is emanating from Daniel’s mouth wherein God and Israel safely reside.
These enlarged Hebrew -Aramaic words in the painting capture the moral essence of the entire book of Daniel, and indeed summarize it. The words not only apply to Balthazar, they not only apply to each successive Empire mentioned in Daniel, particularly to the Seleucid Greeks, who were then currently persecuting the Jews, but have not thus far bitten the dust, but to all Empires in space and time, in the past, present and future. Every Empire’s days are numbered, are weighed (judged) and found wanting, and will be divided and destroyed. Only God’s loyal adherents, Israel, escape the dictum of his judgmental writing. Thus “God’s Judgment”, the essence of this book, is encapsulated and translated bilingually in Hebrew, “Daniel” (God JUDGES), and in Aramaic, “you have been numbered, JUDGED, and you will be destroyed”.
Portrayed in this painting within Daniel’s mouth is an inwardly pointing writing hand; a miniaturized mirror image of the larger externally pointing writing hand. This hand’s finger is writing on the Ten Commandment tablets which are perched on Mount Sinai. Thus this image fuses the only two references in the Bible referring to God’s metaphysical finger inscribing words on a physical slate; in one case stone tablets, in another case a plaster wall. In this painting the Hebrew letters “Aleph” and “Samech” standing for “Ein Sof” are written on these stone tablets. “Ein Sof” means “Without End”, infinity… God.
During Balthazar’s reign, Daniel himself has a dream which essentially recapitulates Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of successive empires rising and falling, but with different imagery. He sees four winds of the heavens break forth from the sea, and four beasts coming up from the sea. The number four is repeatedly employed and represents the four lettered Tetragrammaton name of God.
The first beast is a lion with eagle’s wings which are plucked off. The lion is made to stand on two feet like a man, and is given a man’s heart. As mentioned above, this beast represents Babylon, and is incorporated into this painting’s Babylon imagery. This is almost a reverse mirror image of how Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed in his own dream as a man who is demoted to crawling on all fours like a beast, and his human heart is replaced with that of a beast’s.
Here Babylon starts off as a beast - lion, whose animal heart is replaced by a human heart. He gets promoted from walking on all fours to standing on two feet. Illustrated in this painting is a miniaturized, standing, golden Babylonian lion’s body with plucked wings and a man’s heart. This image is incorporated within the Lion’s Babylonian-styled beard.
The second beast in Daniel’s vision representing the Mede Empire is a voracious, tan bear chomping on three bloody ribs (not unlike the zoomorphic symbolism later used to describe the Soviet Empire). In this painting this bear is illustrated and fused with the statue’s silver torso /arms on the right. The bear is wearing an oval Mede helmet (archeologically confirmed). The Hebrew name Daryavesh (Darius), the conquering King of the Medes, who succeeds the Babylonians is written on the Bear. His appellation, “Darius, King of Kings”, is written in Ancient Persian on the statue’s silver arm on the bottom right of the painting.
The third successive beast in Daniel’s vision is a four headed, four winged leopard. In this painting this image is fused with the statue’s brass torso on the lower left. Each of the four leopard heads has the feathered head-dressing of the Persian helmet (archeologically confirmed). These four feathered helmets represent their four wings described by Daniel which were probably the inspiration for this symbolism. In this painting, written in purple Hebrew on this beast’s torso are the words Cyrus, and Persia.
The fourth successive beast in Daniel’s vision is “dreadful and terrible”. It has ten horns; it has iron teeth, and is exceedingly strong. This beast represents Greece. In this painting (mid-left), this terrible green beast with ten horns is fused with one of the statue’s iron legs. This image is inspired by an archeologically excavated Babylonian gargoyle with multiple head protrusions which look like horns. In the painting the word “Greece” is written in pink Hebrew adjacent to this beast.
Then Daniel envisages a subdivision of this terrible beast (a fifth Empire).
“I beheld the horns and behold, there came up among them a little horn before which three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots. Behold in this horn were eyes like a man, and a mouth speaking”.
In this painting this speaking horn with a face and mouth is fused with one of the statue’s iron-clay feet on the upper left. The little horn is portrayed as the visage of Antiochus Epiphanes (archeological based rendering). His name is written in black Greek adjacent to his image. The three other horns are illustrated as three of the foot’s toenails.
“Behold, thrones were placed, and one which was ancient of days did sit, his raiment was white as snow, his hair like pure wool, his throne was fiery flames, and the wheels burning fire, a fiery stream issued, the JUDGEMENT was set, the books were opened… the beast was slain…the body destroyed…. it was burned with fire…. the rest of the beasts ….their dominion was taken away… And behold there came with the cloud of heavens, one like unto a son of man (Israel) and he came to the ancient of days (God) and he was brought near before him, and was given dominion, and his kingdom shall not be destroyed”.
Daniel himself does not understand his own vision, so he asks a mysterious celestial being (an arch-angel, no doubt) who interprets it for him. He is told that the four beasts of his dream represent four successive kings, and in the end, the nation of the “kadishey elyonim” (Hasidim) shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever and ever. It is clarified that the “son of man” explicitly refers to “the Holy Nation of elevated souls”, not an individual person.
Daniel then sees that the talking horn made war with the “kadeshey elyonim” (Hasidim), and prevailed against them, until the ancient of days (God) came, and the “kadishey elyonim” (Hasidim) possessed the kingdom.
It is explained to Daniel that the fourth beast represents the fourth successive kingdom (Greece) which shall devour the whole earth. The beast’s ten horns represent ten kings arising from it. “One horn (King Antiochus IV) shall arise, and shall put down three other horns (post- Alexander Greek Empire subdivision kings) and shall speak words against the most high (Hasidim), and shall think to change the seasons (Jewish calendar) and the law (Torah)…but the JUDGEMENT shall sit… and his dominion taken away and destroyed… and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven will be given to the “kadishey elyonim” (Hasidim), in an everlasting kingdom. And all dominions shall serve and obey them.”
The visual interpretation of the characters in Daniel’s dream is relatively clear. The “ancient of days” sitting on a throne with fiery chariot wheels, and flames streaming forth, is extremely similar to God’s portrayal in Ezekiel’s theophany. In this painting, illustrated in Daniel’s central mouth are four fiery throne wheels, two on each side of the fiery mountain, representing the four wheels of God’s chariot.
The description of the ancient one wearing a white raiment (pure) linen, with hair pure as wool is a reference to the wool’s hair of a little lamb that represents Jacob/ Israel who is described as “Gdee eze”, a male sheep in Genesis (refer to description of Labor Day: Jacob and Esau at this website). This pure innocent, white lamb is illustrated in the center of Daniel’s mouth in this painting.
This visual symbol of Israel is also found in the Passover Haggada’s final song, “Chad Gadya” (“A single kid”), which is chanted at the end of the Passover Seder nights. “Chad Gadya” is written and sung in Aramaic. The only other Aramaic portion of the entire Hebrew Haggada is the first paragraph “Huh Lachma Anya”… “This is the bread of affliction we ate in Egypt… Now we are slaves, next year we will be free men in Jerusalem”.
In this way the Haggada is highly analogous to the Book of Daniel incorporating Hebrew and Aramaic. The Haggada is a linguistic mirror image of Daniel in that the story portion begins and ends in Aramaic, with Hebrew sandwiched in the center. Daniel, on the other hand, begins and ends in Hebrew, and Aramaic is sandwiched in between.
The beginning Aramaic paragraph of the Haggada (Huh lachma anya”) deals with going from slavery to freedom, from exile to Israel. “Chad Gad Ya”, the final Aramaic portion of the Haggada deals with a succession of attacking and defeating zoomorphic creatures, and natural elements, representing the succession of empires, with God finally destroying the last creature, the Angel of Death (which of course leads to resurrection). Thus the Haggada’s Aramaic bookends essentially mirror the major concepts of the book of Daniel down to its angelic evocation.
The “Chad Gadya” song, like the Book of Daniel, is superficially childlike in its zoomorphism, belying its profound symbolism. It is about a single lamb (Israel) that is bought by a father (God) for two zuzzim (the two stone tablets) which subsequently gets eaten by a cat which gets eaten by a dog, etc., each animal or element representing successive empires succeeding each other. Finally the Angel of Death appears, and is then destroyed by God, ending the song, the Seder, natural history and mortality, all simultaneously.
Thus this song was very likely inspired by the Book of Daniel. It echoes the central redemptive themes of both the Haggada and Daniel. Essentially it is the musical story of Jewish survival in hostile lands throughout the millennia, recounting how in every generation, a new nation (a beast) arises to destroy the Jews, and God saves them from annihilation.
This song was introduced into the Haggada by German Jews in the 1400’s. Undoubtedly they empathized with the stories told in the Book of Daniel which must have resonated with them during their time of medieval persecution. In this painting, surrounding Daniel’s mouth, written in yellow Hebrew repeatedly are the words “Chad Gad Ya, Chad Gad Ya”; “one single kid” (hair of wool), representing one single nation, protected by one single God. Portrayed in the painting are umbilical cords emanating from Daniel’s central mouth nourishing and resuscitating male and female corpses. Parts of their skeletons are seen through their transparent skin. Arteries and vessels are beginning to sprout, resurrecting their cold bodies.
During Balthazar’s reign, Daniel has yet another dream reinforcing his and Nebuchadnezzar’s earlier dreams. This dream again recapitulates the concept of succeeding rising and falling evil empires, only with different zoomorphic imagery and symbolism.
Daniel first sees a Ram with two horns. One horn is higher then the other. The two horns represent Mede and Persia respectively. In this painting an image of a purple Ram wearing a Mede Helmet with a single left-sided horn is fused with the statue’s silver torso /arm representing Mede. Mede is written in orange Aramaic on his body. A separate Ram with the larger horn is fused with the left most head of four-headed leopard representing Persia on the bottom right of this painting. That Leopard head is illustrated with an additional goat ear being a fused Ram-leopard.
Daniel then sees the Ram magnifying himself and doing according to his will. Then a he-Goat comes, with a conspicuous horn between his eyes. This animal is illustrated in the bottom middle of this painting. Its blue image is fused with one of the statue’s iron legs representing Greece. The he-Goat’s face is that of Alexander the Great (inspired by the archeologically excavated Greek coin bearing Alexander’s visage) whose name is written in yellow Greek underneath his image.
Daniel watches the Greek he-Goat running at the two- horned Ram with fury and power, smiting the ram and breaking his two horns. Now Daniel watches as the He -Goat magnifies himself. When he gains strength the great horn breaks, and then four horns appear. In this painting, the illustration of this red four-horned animal is fused with the statue’s iron-clay foot on the upper left.
Then Daniel sees a little horn coming forth “waxing great, even to the host of heaven, casting down and trampling upon some of them (Hasidim)”. This little horn outlined in red is illustrated in this painting adjacent to the image of the red four horned beast fused with one of the statue’s iron-clay feet at the upper left. Its miniaturized face is that of Antiochus whose name is written in black Hebrew beneath it.
Daniel sees him taking away the continual burnt offering. Then Daniel hears a holy voice bellow: “for how long will the burnt offering be trampled upon? Unto two thousand and three hundred evenings (approximately six and a half years), then shall the holy ones be justified (Hasidim)”.
Daniel now crisply hears the voice of God commanding: “Gabriel make this man understand this vision”. Gabriel, an angel, mysteriously appears and explains to Daniel that this vision belongs to the end of time (i.e. when the Hasidim will be victorious). According to Gabriel, the Ram with two horns represents Media and Persia, and the he-Goat with the single great horn represents the king of Greece (Alexander the Great).
“Then four kingdoms will stand up not with his power… Then there shall stand up a fierce King (Antiochus), and he shall destroy them that are mighty, and destroy the holy nation… he shall destroy many (by no means all)… but he shall be broken (so hang tight)… But keep this vision to yourself (please do not broadcast this and get into political hot water), for it belongs to many days to come (then broadcast all you like, and light a Menorah)…”
Daniel is overwhelmed by the power and complexity of Gabriel’s and God’s voices, and collapses from sickness.
“I wondered at the vision and I didn’t understand it (But the contemporary Seleucid Jewish captive audience did)”.
In the first year of Darius’ rule, Daniel meditates and prays concluding that all of Israel’s troubles are due to their moral transgressions just like Jeremiah surmised. In the midst of his prayers, from out of nowhere Gabriel literally flies over and explains to him that seventy weeks are given to Israel to make an end of sin. In other words, he is appealing to the Seleucid Jews to stop practicing Greek customs and rituals. At the very least, the Jews should form a unified front against the Seleucids.
“And the people of a Prince that shall come shall destroy the sanctuary, but his end shall be with a flood. And for half of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the offering to cease. He will get fat on the wings of “shekutzim” (an abomination) until he is destroyed”.
In other words, Antiochus who orders the cessation of the Jewish Temple sacrifices will ultimately be destroyed. Hence Daniel counsels: hang in there, do not give in, and come back to your roots. In this painting Gabriel is portrayed in the upper right flying around the cosmos as imagined in Daniel’s dream. His name is written in red Hebrew on his torso.
During the reign of Cyrus, Daniel has another vision at the banks of the Tigris. Upon lifting his eyes he sees a man clothed in linen whose loins are girded with gold.
“His face has the appearance of lightening, his eyes have torches of fire, his arms and legs are like brass, and the voices of his words are like the voice of a multitude.” Again, this description of God is almost straight out of Ezekiel‘s and/or King David’s theophanies.
Daniel becomes frightened and weak, and then suddenly, a mysterious hand touches him.
“Stand upright for I am sent unto you”, the voice proclaims. “The Prince of Persia withstood me for twenty one days. Michael one of the first Princes came to help me… I came to make you understand what will befall your people at the end of days… do you know why I have come to speak to you? I will now return to fight with the King of Persia, and when I will go out, the King of Greece will come... There is only one person who strongly goes out with me, and that is Michael, your Prince”.
The voice speaking as mentioned above is God’s. And Michael, Israel’s Prince, is apparently an Archangel. Michael is portrayed at the bottom left of this painting flying around the cosmos in parallel with Gabriel. They are both defying gravity.
The voice then goes into great detail quite accurately describing the battles which will occur between the Kings of the South and the North (Ptolemaic and Seleucids), which have already occurred. He then describes Antiochus’ actions, but does not name him.
“Ships of Kittim shall come against him… he shall have indignation against the Holy Covenant, and they shall profane the holy Temple, and shall take away the continual burnt offerings, and they shall set up the detestable abomination. But then the people that know their God shall show strength and prevail, and they that are wise among the people shall cause the many to understand (Hasidim)… He shall stretch forth his hand upon the countries, and the land of Egypt shall not escape, and the Libyans and the Ethiopians shall be at his steps. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the holy mountain, and he shall come to his end and none shall help him. And at that that time shall Michael stand up, the great Prince that stands for your nation and there shall be a time of great trouble, and at that time the people shall be delivered… and many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to everlasting abhorrence”.
This new, but really redundant vision again hammers in the point that Antiochus shall be defeated. Thus Daniel instructs: do not fall prey to he who shall soon sail off the cliff of history. Resist to the death. No matter, you will awake to everlasting life for your efforts.
Daniel replies to the inner voice of his dreams, “I heard but I don’t understand…Lord what will happen in the end?” And he said “Go Daniel… the words are hidden and sealed until the end of time. The wicked shall be wicked, and none of the wicked will understand (hopefully they won’t rat you out), but the wise ones will understand… There will be a thousand and two hundred and ninety days (a little over three years) from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away. Happy is he who waits…”
The Book’s prophecies did indeed come true. The Hasidim harkened to Daniel’s instructions. They hung in until the Maccabees came to their rescue. Ultimately, in the end of days, Antiochus was defeated, and the Temple cleansed and rededicated. Judaism survived the Seleucid Greeks intact, not to mention all the other successive rising and falling evil empires to this very day, and neither a whimper nor a whisper were ever heard from Zeus. “Chad Gad Ya, Chad Gad Ya”.
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