I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing a crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!”
Summing It Up
We have nearly completed our study of Daniel’s second riddle. Over the past thirteen posts we have sought to understand why Daniel’s book was written in two different genres. Our series began by considering the debacle that faces modern Daniel scholarship, placing them between the rock of unworkable theories and the hard place of repentance. Recently, we have found that the problems troubling these scholars are no trouble at all if we risk reading the Book of Daniel as sacred Scripture.
Proper interpretation untangles Daniel’s genre knot, exposing a clear chiastic structure. Daniel’s chiastic outline consists of two chiasms promoting two key themes. But those two chiasms and their two themes build up to a central theme: the core message of the Book of Daniel.
The Book of Daniel is full of so many facts and figures, and it is easy to miss the forest for the trees. But when we look at the book as a whole, we begin to see that chapter 7 is actually the key to the entire book. This isn’t all that surprising when we recall that it was chapter 7 that got this whole quest started. The sudden switch from free-and-easy court tales to strange and somber visions caught our attention and caused us to notice that Daniel’s two halves were as different as can be. Chapter 7 posed the question, and now that same chapter yields the answer. Daniel’s chapter of chapters practically screams for attention in two ways.
A Structural Climax
First, chapter 7 is absolutely unavoidable. You probably noticed this fact as we worked our way through Daniel’s chiastic outline. Introduction but also conclusion, inversion but also expansion, one cannot understand the chiastic outline without taking full account of this chapter’s exceptional nature. Moreover, the segment is not only the nexus of the two chiasms but, as such, it is framed by the two climaxes. That is, Daniel’s two chiasms appear to build into an overarching chiasm that climaxes at its core: chapter 7.
So the chapter’s placement within the Book of Daniel doesn’t merely make it the connector of two chiasms but the climax of the chiastic structure overlaying the whole of the book. Two chiasms with parallel themes form two climaxes which, in turn, frame a chapter of unequaled beauty and brilliance. All of these qualities mark chapter 7 as the climax of climaxes, Daniel’s ultra-climax.
But, as we have seen before, the structure exists to underline themes. Do the themes of the two chiasms build up to chapter 7 as well?
A Thematic Climax
In our last post, we noted that Daniel’s two chiasms were intended for two different audiences. The first chiasm is addressed to Gentiles and teaches that though the Gentiles rule they will eventually be judged. The second chiasm was penned for the remnant of Israel and gives the inverse of its counterpart: the Jews are judged but will eventually rule. Notably, these two peoples come together around one man in one place: chapter 7.
Two Questions: One Man
When we read the entirety of the first chiasm one question repeatedly stands out: Who? Who is this “revealer of mysteries” (Dan. 2:47)? Who is this God who saves unlike any other (Dan. 3:29; Dan. 6:27)? Who is this King whose “works are right and his ways are just,” who is able to humble all those who walk in pride (Dan. 4:37; Dan. 5:23)? Most of all, who is this man who walks in the fire, One who resembles “a son of the gods” (Dan. 3:25)? These questions are completely applicable to the gentile nations, the intended audience of the Aramaic chiasm. Yet the question remains unanswered, awaiting the debut provided in chapter 7.
By contrast, the Hebrew chiasm asks not who but how? A jarring dissonance characterizes these visions; in each one, a flood of information suddenly jolts to a stop, leaving us waiting for resolution. We are left asking how will this gentile king “be broken—but by no human hand” (Dan. 8:25)? How will the wicked king “come to his end, with none to help him” (Dan. 11:45)? More than that, how can the desolation of Jerusalem result in its redemption (cp. Dan. 9:24 to Dan. 9:26–27). Above all, how can “an anointed one” suffer public execution, and how would His seemingly pointless death be of any use to His overwhelmed, oppressed people (Dan. 9:26–27)?
The question relates to the remnant of Israel, a captive covenant people awaiting a redemption foretold by their prophets (Deut. 32:36–43; Isa. 61:1–6). But again, the question goes unanswered, the means of redemption awaiting the man of redemption, the King of kings revealed in chapter 7.
Describing chapter 7 as a debut is no exaggeration; in fact, it may be an understatement. Take a moment to do a word study of the title son of man. This title of humanity consistently speaks of the weakness, sinfulness, and transience of the human condition (Nu. 23:19; Job 25:6). Yet the vision reveals “one like the son of man” through whom “the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms of the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:13–14; Dan. 7:21–22; Dan. 7:7:26–27). Previous prophecies had provided faint outlines of such a ruler (Ps. 80:17; Gen. 49:10), but this new revelation brought His silhouette out in crisp detail. No longer could there be any doubt: the mighty messiah would be a son of man. We can almost hear John preach “Look! The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
The Message and the Man
The chiasms of Daniel point to one message and one Man. Structure and theme raise up chapter 7 as a platform on which the Christ is revealed, the Son of Man who will judge the world and restore His brethren (Jn. 5:27; Lk. 4:16–21). The passage may be the clearest depiction of the Christ before the incarnation.