Daniel’s Second Chiasm: Part Three

Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to put an end to sin, and to atone for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal both vision and prophet, and to anoint a most holy place. -Daniel 9:24


Is the Book of Daniel truly arranged according to chiastic conventions? Scholars have largely accepted the chiastic arrangement of the first half of Daniel, but does a chiastic structure carry on into its second half? Well, let’s hazard the rails and see where they lead.

Twist and Shout

Daniel’s second chiasm opens with a chapter unlike any other. Chapter 7 is marked out by four distinct qualities that highlight its pivotal role in the Book of Daniel. First, the chapter concludes the first chiasm, closing its thematic structure and completing its Aramaic segment (Figure 1). Yet the chapter is also an introduction, opening an entirely new genre and introducing a Hebrew chiasm. Structurally, chapter 7 is an inversion, mirroring the pattern that was seen in the previous chiasm (Figure 2); however, it is also an amplification, yielding significantly more information than its chiastic counterpart, chapter 2.1 

Introduction 1: Prologue (1:1–21)Narrative BeginsHebrew
Ends
A Four Gentile kingdoms and the kingdom of God (2:1–49).NarrativeAramaic
B The King sees God’s servants rescued (3:1–30)NarrativeAramaic
C  The King is judged for blasphemy (4:1–37)NarrativeAramaic
C’ The King is judged for blasphemy (5:1–31)NarrativeAramaic
B’ The King sees God’s servant rescued (6:1–28)NarrativeAramaic
A’ Four Gentile kingdoms and the kingdom of God (7:1–28)Visions
Begin
Aramaic
Ends
D Gentile Persecution and Divine Redemption  (8:1–27)VisionHebrew
E Jerusalem restored (9:1–27)VisionHebrew
D’  Gentile Persecution and Divine Redemption (10:1–12:13)VisionHebrew
Figure 1: The Book of Daniel: A bilingual, interlocked chiasm in two genres. Note the central role of chapter 7 as the close of the first chiasm as well as the introduction of the second chiasm.

Introduction 1: Hebrew Court TaleSame genreDifferent language
Chiasm 1: Aramaic Court TalesSame genreSame language
Introduction 2: Aramaic ApocalypseDifferent genreSame language
Chiasm 2: Hebrew ApocalypsesSame genreSame language
Figure 2: Chapters 1 and 7 have distinctions that show them to be introductions of their respective chiasms and mirror images of one another.

With the close of chapter 7, the Aramaic gives place to three Hebrew segments, making up the body of the second chiasm. Much like chapter 1, chapter 7 lays the groundwork for the material that follows. We are given a rich outline of kingdoms that arise before God establishes His kingdom and entrusts it to His Anointed and the saints of the Most High. It is in the framework of this outline that the ensuing visions derive context and significance.

D & D’

Chapter 8 details a vision of gentile dominance and persecution, concluding suddenly in divine deliverance. The vision prophesies the rise of the Persian empire (Dan. 8:3–4), the empire of Alexander the Great (Dan. 8:5–8), and the four empires that would ultimately form following his death (Dan. 8:8). But these developments only guide us to the core message of the vision, that a gentile king was coming who would bring untold devastation upon the temple and the Jews (Dan. 8:8–14). The tremendous trial would come to an end when this king would “be broken—but by no human hand” (Dan. 8:25). This prophecy was literally fulfilled in the events surrounding the reign of the Seleucid king, Antiochus Epiphanes, arguably the greatest persecutor the Jews had faced up to that time.

The final segment of Daniel consists of three chapters detailing one vision. Just like its chiastic counterpart, the vision is given beside a waterway (cp. Dan. 8:2 to Dan. 10:4)—these are the only visions in Daniel to be delivered in such a setting. And like chapter 8, the vision chronologically details events in the Persian empire (Dan. 11:2), Alexander’s empire (Dan. 11:3–4), and the Hellenistic empires that derived from it, leading up to a time of untold grief for Israel at the hands of a gentile king (Dan. 11:4–31). As in chapter 8, this trial would involve nothing less than the destruction of God’s people and the desolation of the temple (Dan. 11:31–36). But Israel is redeemed from certain doom when the king comes “to his end, with none to help him” (Dan. 11:45). Content and theme clearly parallel one another in these two visions, pointing us to the chiastic climax: chapter 9.

E

Daniel’s Hebrew chiasm is half the size of its Aramaic counterpart, so its three segments call for a different arrangement than is seen in the six court tales of the first chiasm. Where chapters 4 and 5 stand together as the climax of the first chiasm, chapter 9 stands alone. Therefore, three features are provided to emphasize this chapter’s climactic position.

First, the vision is famous for its exceptional timeline, a detailed schedule of prophetic events provided over a series of seventy weeks. Daniel’s other visions provide historical outlines made traceable through historical events, but chapter 9 gives us a focused timeline, ordered according to designated periods of time, a new development that provides the reader with a key means of understanding all of the visions of the Hebrew chiasm.

This vision also stands apart in its intense focus on Jerusalem and the temple. In contrast to the visions of chapter 8 and chapters 10–12, chapter 9 centers entirely on Jerusalem with almost no reference to the gentile superpowers described in every other vision of the book. Notice how Israel is mentioned by name three times in this chapter, the only explicit references to the covenant people other than one given in the book’s introduction (cp. Dan. 9:20 to Dan. 8:24 and Dan. 11:32). The chapter allows the reader to zoom in on Jerusalem and learn what is happening there during the timeline provided by the corresponding visions. Therefore, this pivotal segment provides invaluable information, filling in what is not provided by the other visions of the Hebrew chiasm.

Finally, the chapter is highlighted by the singular prayer that precedes the vision. Not only is it the longest prayer of the Book of Daniel, but it is also the only prayer of confession and the only prayer in the visions (cp. Dan. 2:20–23 to Dan. 4:34–35).2  It is in response to this prayer that God grants Daniel clear revelation as to the redemption and reestablishment of Israel, making this vision a capstone of all the visions provided in the book, the word of hope that the remnant of Israel needs in this dark time. In form, content, and theme, chapter 9 completes the chiastic structure; this remarkable chapter concludes a beautifully balanced chiasm of three visions that testify of the coming redemption and restoration of Israel (Figure 3).

A’ Four Gentile kingdoms and the kingdom of God (7:1–28)Visions BeginAramaic Ends
D Gentile Persecution and Divine Redemption  (8:1–27)VisionHebrew
E Jerusalem restored (9:1–27)VisionHebrew
D’  Gentile Persecution and Divine Redemption (10:1–12:13)VisionHebrew
Introduction 1: Prologue (1:1–21)Narrative BeginsHebrew Ends
Figure 3: Daniel’s second chiasm (7:1–12:13). Notice how its structure circles us back to Daniel chapter 1, the introduction of Daniel’s first chiasm.

Form and Function

It is clear that a chiastic outline structures the Book of Daniel from beginning to end. But what was the benefit of arranging the Book of Daniel this way? Does this actually inform our understanding of its message today? Over the coming posts, we will learn how Daniel’s chiastic outline empowers us to both rightly interpret the book and ascertain its core message.

Have a question or comment? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your response in the box below.

Footnotes

1.  My treatment of Daniel’s chiastic structure is indebted to Andrew Steinmann’s work, provided in Daniel (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House: 2008), pp. 20–25.

2.  Steinmann, p. 25.

By Brian Warren

Brian Warren is a regular teacher at Grace and Truth Gathering in Portland, Oregon where he has been faithfully attending since 2014. He has served as a full-time preacher and teacher of the Scriptures since 2009, frequently speaking at camps, conferences, and Christian gatherings throughout the United States and Canada. Brian and his wife Jennifer have been married fourteen years and enjoy an active life with their six children.

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