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THEOLOGY.

The whole piece makes a mock at idolatry7676“More withering sarcasm could scarcely be poured on heathenism than in the apocryphal story of Bel and the Dragon” (Edersheim, Life and Times of Messiah, 1886, I. 31). Daniel’s laugh in v. 7 accords with Jeremiah’s view of idols (x. 15). Other coincidences with Jeremiah may be noted in l. 2, li. 44 of that prophet. with a view of turning men from false worships to that of the living God. Indeed the end of v. 5 seems an echo of Gen. i. 1. Jehovah’s power to vindicate Himself and His servants is of course also exhibited, and this in contrast to the idols, who make no resistance to their overthrow.

He is represented as Sole Sovereign, the only God worthy of worship, with full power to deliver by wonderful providence His faithful people, who make their acknowledgments to Him. However far they may be scattered, His eye is still upon them; He forsakes not those who seek and love Him (v. 38).

vv. 3, 4, 14 are quoted by Irenaeus (IV. ix. 1) 220to prove that the one living God was the God worshipped by the prophets, as “the God of the living.” Even the heathen king is forced to confess that He is great and unique, and (in Vulg. only, v. 42) calls Him Saviour, and desires the whole world to worship Him.

It is noteworthy that the king is represented as the party complaining in the first instance; it is his question (v. 4) which draws forth from Daniel his practical proof of the vanity of idols, inanimate or animate, culminating in the triumphant exclamation at the end of v. 27. And thus the imposture of idol-worship is revealed, as well as the value of devotion to the true Lord of all, by a process commenced in the opposite interest.

Daniel resists the king’s invitation to worship Bel, which might have led him under the ban of Deut. xviii. 20 (end) as “speaking in the name of other gods.” False theological opinions are corrected by Daniel, who not only dissuades from idol-worship, but persuades to that of the true deity. Hence the beautiful appropriateness of τοὺς ἀγαπῶντάς σε (v. 38) instead of τοὺς ἐλπίζοντας ἐπ᾿ αὐτόν in the corresponding point of delivery in Sus. 60 Θ . For Daniel was fighting for God, while Susanna was defending herself. The one was an active plaintiff for God, 221the other a passive defendant of herself. Thus Love in Daniel’s case, Hope in Susanna’s, has its own special appropriateness.

In v. 5 Daniel claims God to be τὸν ζῶντα θεόν, but Cyrus claims for Bel to be only ζῶν θεός; in v. 24 Cyrus makes the same claim for the Dragon, and then in v. 25 Daniel makes only a like claim for God (anarthrous), for Daniel takes here the words out of Cyrus’ mouth; in the former instance it was vice versâ. The same phrases are used by Darius in vi. 20, 26 Θ. Thus the prophet makes a more exclusive claim for the divinity of his God. In v. 6 a contrast is afforded with what is said of God in Ps. xvi. 2 (P. B. aft. Vulg. and LXX), as the Creator who still retains power over living beings.

As in the canonical Dan. vi. 22 (and in the other additions thereto), so here an angel intervenes on behalf of the right, rescuing God’s persecuted prophet. A man is employed in each case also to carry out the miraculous purposes of God. Further, compare the angel helping Daniel, after conflict with the Dragon, with Rev. xii. 7, 8.

The sudden transportation of Habakkuk (v. 36) is parallelled by that of St. Philip in Acts viii. 39 by the “Spirit of the Lord:” Ezek. viii. 3, which is printed as a parallel in the margin of A. V. at 222iii. 12, 14 of that book, may also be compared,7777Ezekiel is transported in the opposite direction, and both prophets went unwillingly (Trapp). Both, too, were concerned in suppression of idolatry. as well as I. Kings xviii. 12 and St. Matt. iv. 1. For the latter part of this verse (36), barely intelligible in the Greek, Gaster’s Aramaic gives an excellent sense.

There does not seem to be any undue love of the marvellous or straining to bring it into prominence. Both the statue and the Dragon are destroyed by ordinary means; and their false position in the imagination of the people is unmasked without any resort to the miraculous.7878The destruction of the Dragon, by means which in A. V. and the Greek appear inadequate, does not come under this head, since the Aramaic explains it by iron teeth concealed in the ball (v. 27), an intelligible and practical device. This element does not enter into the story till the rescue of the persecuted Daniel, who has been so zealous for the honour of his God.

Though, with its two companion pieces, it has been cavilled at (not to reckon Africanus’ enquiries) from the time of the Jewish teacher whom Jerome tells us of in his preface to Daniel, yet even the most contemptuous deprecators of the ‘Additions’ can find little seriously to condemn in the theology 223of this story.7979Of general condemnations, Alb. Barnes’ may be taken as a sample: “This foolish story . . . is wholly unworthy a place in any volume claiming Divine origin, or any volume of respectable authorship whatever” (Comment. on Dan. Vol. I. pp. 79, 81). Considering the strong desire which has existed in some quarters to charge these apocryphal books with grievous doctrinal error, this fact says much. The knowledge of God and of divine things is what would be probable at the time it represents, and is not incongruous with the book to which it is appended, nor with its fellow-appendices. This speaks well for its excellence and its consistency.


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