Near the end of last week blogging was interrupted by events. I suddenly had to deal with a death and officiate at a funeral. Our congregation is between pastors now. Families like funerals to be handled by someone who knew their loved one. So I may be in for some more of these. Let us just pray that the angel of death stays away for a while.
Now back to G. K. Beale’s The Temple and the Mission of the Church.
The story of Daniel 2 is about a dream the king of Babylon had. His wise men, astrologers, and magicians tell him they can’t interpret it. He sentences this whole elite group to death including the Israelite, Daniel. Daniel, however gets an audience with the king and interprets the dream.
The dream was of a big statue made of different metals. The feet, though, were metal and clay. A huge rock strikes the feet of the statue, and seemingly expands to fill the whole world like a cosmic mountain.
G.K. Beale interprets this as confirmation of his idea that the mission of God for his people is to fill the earth. The rock/mountain fills the earth echoing the Genesis 1:28 commission for humans to “fill the earth.” Beale also interprets the mountain as a reference to Mount Zion. Thus Mount Zion, Israel’s Temple, stands for the expansion of God’s kingdom throughout the earth.
He says that this image of an expanding mountain fits in with Ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies. Myths had creation beginning with a small hillock that eventually expanded to represent the full creation. Beale says that the Egyptian Pyramids modeled the primeval mountain. Babylonian ziggurats may have originally signified the same thing. He also shows a Sumerian text, the Cylinders of Gudea, which associates a mountain with a temple that grows representing the expansion of the king’s realm.
This idea seems to be behind some Hebrew Bible passages. Eden was on a mountain, according to Ezekiel (28:13-16). In Beale’s interpretation Eden is the channel through which God’s dominion begins to get expressed to the cosmos. And Beale also points to Noah’s ark landing on a mountain, which then became the starting point for repopulating and filling the earth.
One thing I noticed is that when Beale refers to language from Daniel matching other texts, this refers to late writings like 1st and 2nd Chronicles and even to the Septuagint translation. This would seem in accord with the more critical view of Daniel as coming, at least in its final version, from the Hellenistic period.
As I have come to expect from Beale, he brings in the New Testament. He talks about Luke 20:18:
Everyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls will be crushed (NET Bible)
This language may allude to the stone in Daniel 2.
But more impressive to me is that Daniel 2:34 and 45 speak of the stone as not cut out by human hands. There are a bunch of New Testament passages that reflect that language. Among them are Mark 14:58, 2 Corinthians 5:1 and Acts 17:24. Although I had missed that the rock in Daniel represents the Temple, all the New Testament uses of this not-by-human-hands language are about either earthly or heavenly temples.
So Beale, has a valid point, I think. The rock/mountain that expands to fill the world represents God’s kingdom which eventually reveals his universal sovereignty.