“In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon, Daniel had a dream, and visions passed through his mind as he was lying in bed. He wrote down the substance of his dream.” Daniel 7:1
I am back from hiatus, and ready to wrap up this blog series. I have been suggesting some warning signs, to guard against misunderstanding Daniel’s visions.
One way we can guard against misinterpreting the images in Daniel is to imagine ourselves as one of the original hearers (or readers). For example, in 7:13 Daniel sees the son of man riding in the clouds. This may confuse modern readers, or some may see this as a literal event. The original audience would have a clearer understanding of this ‘cloud rider.’
‘Cloud riding’ can be found throughout the Old Testament. God led Israel through the wilderness as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21). God appeared to Israel in a cloud many times (Exodus 13:21 19:16; Leviticus 16:2). God is described as a cloud rider in Psalms 68 and 104. The prophets Isaiah and Nahum also describe God this way. In fact, many surrounding cultures described their gods as cloud riders.
The point here is that while certain images may at first confuse us, they often made sense to the original hearers.
The lesson here is that Bible interpretation often requires some homework. There are resources to help us understand Scripture in its original context: commentaries, study Bibles, pastors and teachers. Still, the basic message of Daniel’s visions can be understood by all modern readers: Even when it looks like evil controls the world, God is in control and will win the struggle.
Outlandish speculations and predictions are all too common. To prevent these, it helps to remember that these images and language come from ancient history.