Daniel and Yoshiyahu

Spectrum Banner Image: Click for COVID-19 coverage
 

 

Written by: 
Published:
March 23, 2020

Chapter 12 of Daniel presents Seventh-day Adventists with a respite from the detailed, complex, and “stormy events”[1] of Chapter 11. Michael standing up, followed by unheard of persecution (12:1), the strongest text on resurrection in the Hebrew Bible (12:2), many running “to and fro” (12:4, KJV),[2] keeping the words secret and sealing the scroll of Daniel until the “time of the end” (12:4, 9)—familiar elements like these have influenced Adventist eschatological perspectives since the nineteenth century. At the same time, and particularly more so in recent years, unique references in the chapter to the 1,290 and 1,335 days (12:11–12) have generated much discussion and controversy.[3]

The last chapter in Daniel brings the reader not only to the end of the book but also to the end of Daniel’s long life. After being told that there would be a blessing on those who wait for and reach the end of the 1,335 days, Daniel was then told: “As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance” (12:13). By this time Daniel was well over eighty years old, and the reference to Daniel receiving an inheritance or reward after he rises indicates resurrection, with Daniel’s “rest” referring to his prior death. With this the literary unit of Chapters 10–12 and the entire book itself ends.

Such a subdued finale provides one the opportunity to look backwards over Daniel’s life. Born during the reign of King Yoshiyahu[4] (Josiah), who ruled Judah for thirty-one years from 640–609 BCE, Daniel was likely a young person in his late teens when he was forced to migrate to Babylon (“Exile”) in 605 BCE.[5] He and his three friends are described as being from the royal family and the nobles (1:3–6),[6] so they were more likely to have associated with the king and his immediate family than most other inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Three tragic events affected the prophet Daniel and illumine the book of the Bible that appears under his name.[7] I’ll refer to them in reverse chronological order. The last tragic event that traumatized Daniel was the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s temple in 586 BCE. News about the tragedy, led by the Babylonian king he served, Nebuchadnezzar II, continued to be a tragic event that contributed to his heartfelt prayer of repentance and of his intercession for the fulfillment of God’s promises in Chapter 9. While the book of Daniel refers to Jerusalem several times (1:1; 5:2, 3; 6:10), the bulk of references occur in Daniel’s great prayer (9:2, 7, 12, 16 [2x], 25). In fact, it was the desolation of Jerusalem in light of God’s promises in the book of Jeremiah that sparked Daniel’s prayer (9:2–3). The presence of the dwelling of God in Solomon’s temple contributed to Jerusalem being known in pre-Christian times as the “holy city,”[8] a term that Daniel also used in his great prayer (9:24). Daniel repeatedly refers to the city of Jerusalem in this prayer (9:16, 18, 19, 24, 26). The focal spiritual point of Jerusalem was the temple, situated on a hill, and this was called the “holy hill [or, mountain]” in 9:16, 20; and 11:45.

Prior to this had been the wave of forced migrations of the inhabitants of Judah, primarily by Babylonian forces,[9] beginning in 605 BCE, when Daniel and his friends were forcibly taken to Babylon along with other scions of Judahite royalty and noble families. Other forced migrations took place in 597 BCE, when the young King Yehoyakin (Jehoiachin), the Queen Mother Nechushta (Nehushta), and other members of the royal household, along with the prophet Ezekiel, were taken to Babylon, and in 586 BCE, the year of the desolation and destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. This series of forced migrations, coherently known as the Exile, was another great tragedy for Daniel. To him it was a judgment indicative of the sin, iniquity, wickedness, rebellion, turning away from the commandments, contempt for God’s prophets, unfaithfulness, and disobedience (9:5–7, 10) that exemplified God’s people. To Daniel such an exile was shameful and humiliating—even decades after the fact (9:7–8). He considered the Exile a catastrophe of epic proportions: “this calamity so great that what has been done against Jerusalem has never before been done under the whole heaven” (9:12; cf. 13–14). As a result, Jerusalem and God’s people had become objects of scorn and mockery all around the area of Judah and beyond (9:16). The stark realities of the Exile had made such a permanent imprint in Daniel’s heart and mind that he still deeply felt the judgment and shame of this tragedy almost fifty years after the last wave of forced migrants had left Jerusalem for Babylon.

Notwithstanding these tragedies, the first tragedy that Daniel experienced may have been the most confusing. That tragedy was the unexpected death of King Yoshiyahu in 609 BCE. His death took place during the formative years of Daniel’s life, and it had to have had a deep impact on him. Yoshiyahu was one of the most famous and significant kings of Judah, crowned king at the young age of eight years, after the assassination of his father King Amon in a failed coup after ruling for only two years. Yoshiyahu has become the object of a scholarly flood of discussion and research because of several key events that took place during his reign, in particular: 1) the discovery of the scroll of the covenant (2 Kgs 23:2, 21; 2 Chron 34:30) or law (2 Kgs 22:11; 2 Chron 34:14–15) in the temple; 2) Yoshiyahu’s key role in purging Judah of the “high places, the sacred poles, and the carved and cast images” (2 Chron 34:1); 3) his centralization of worship at Jerusalem; and 4) the return of the ark to the temple (2 Chron 35:3), along with his celebration of a Passover like none other since the time of Samuel (2 Chron 35:18; cf. 2 Kgs 23:22).

The discovery of the book of the law, with its judgments against the people for their worship of idols and for their overall disobedience, shook the nation of Judah to its core. Hardly a paragon of the modern value of religious liberty, Yoshiyahu unleashed a militant campaign to root out and destroy idolatrous practices in the land (2 Kgs 23). The temple was cleansed of its defiling idols and pagan altars, and the high places were desecrated throughout the land by scattering human bones on them. He destroyed the horses and the chariot that had been dedicated to the sun. Up in Samaria he slaughtered the priests of the high places on the altars and burned human bones on them. For this and much more, he became known as the greatest reforming king Judah ever had. The Kings source used superlative language in describing him: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the LORD with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him” (2 Kgs 23:25).

Nevertheless, according to the account in 2 Kings, all of Yoshiyahu’s efforts were to no avail—all because of his grandfather, King Menasheh (Manasseh). Menasheh began to rule Judah when he was twelve years old, and he reigned for fifty-five years, longer than any king reigned over the nation. The account of Kings, however, asserts that his rule was evil from beginning to end (2 Kgs 21:1–18). Because of his wicked reign, God would not forgive, no matter how righteous Yoshiyahu had been. After praising Yoshiyahu for following the LORD with all of his heart, soul, and might, the account immediately states, “Still the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which [Menasheh] had provoked him” (2 Kgs 23:26; cf. Kgs 21:10–15; 24:3–4).

Daniel’s great prayer in Chapter 9, however, aligns him with the theological perspective of the Chronicler, who not once blamed Menasheh for the disaster that befell Judah. Instead, the Chronicler placed the blame largely on Judah’s last king, Tsidqiyahu (Zedekiah), along with the leading priests and the people (2 Chron 36:11–14).[10] Because of God’s compassion on his people, he continued to send them prophets in order to bring about spiritual change—but to no avail (36:15–16). As a result, Nebuchadnezzar came up against Jerusalem, and the Babylonians ultimately destroyed everything of value and forced the people into exile. In Daniel’s prayer, he notes, “Open shame, O LORD, falls on us, our kings, our officials, and our ancestors, because we have sinned against you” (9:8). Like the Chronicler, Daniel does not blame Menasheh alone for the disaster that came upon Judah. Similarly, as the Chronicler noted the compassion of God in warning Tsidkiyahu and all of Judah of its impending disaster unless reform took place (2 Chron 36:15), so Daniel recalled God’s great compassion in his plea for Jerusalem (9:9, 18), just as Yoshiyahu had earlier reminded his people of God’s compassion during the great Passover that took place during his reign (2 Chron 30:9).

The fact that Yoshiyahu died in battle against Pharaoh Necho II at Megiddo in 609 BCE brought his significant achievements into a seemingly unresolvable tension, for how could such a righteous king die in such a shameful way? The account in 2 Chronicles states that Pharaoh Necho warned Yoshiyahu not to fight against him and “cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you” (35:21). But Yoshiyahu ignored that message; why would God speak through Pharaoh? Instead, he disguised himself for battle and “did not listen to the words of [Necho] from the mouth of God” (35:22). Death was the ultimate result when archers shot the king. Second Chronicles 35:25 profoundly notes the mournful effect of his death: “Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments.” Yoshiyahu, once dead and buried, was not forgotten.

One reason likely added to the impossibility of forgetfulness: the natural tendency of humans to compare and contrast. King Yoshiyahu had four sons, among whom three sons and a grandson succeeded him on the throne of Judah[11]: Yehoakhaz (Jehoahaz),[12] Yehoyaqim (Jehoiakim),[13] Yehoyaqim’s son Yehoiakin (Jehoiachin),[14] and Tsidqiyahu (Zedekiah).[15] But “like father, like son” was not to be. In the eyes of the biblical authors and editors, the reign of Yoshiyahu’s sons and grandson who succeeded him was ultimately nothing but catastrophic and an unmitigated disaster. Despite glimmers of hope glinting in the sunset of Judah’s royal history, Yoshiyahu’s reformation of Judah’s religion quickly collapsed and never again reached its acclaimed height before the ignominious series of forced migrations to Babylon.

The death of Yoshiyahu reverberated in the history and hearts of the people of Judah for years. Daniel could not have forgotten King Yoshiyahu, either. The vision and audition found in Daniel 10–12 took place on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, after Daniel had broken a three-week mournful fast on account of the interruption of the Temple’s construction in Jerusalem (10:1–4). He consequently would have fasted on Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, since they took place during the twenty-one days of his fast.[16] This would have been a serious breach of religious devotion, but the serious nature of Daniel’s concern apparently superseded such prescriptions. As such, it is likely that Daniel, in the midst of his unusual and lengthy fast, would have remembered stories of the glorious and greatest Passover in hundreds of years—that undertaken during the reign of Yoshiyahu.[17]

At least three other terms and concepts in Chapter 12 of Daniel recall, in contrast or comparison, the reign of Yoshiyahu. In 12:4 and 9, Daniel is told to shut up the words and seal up the scroll until the time of the end. In contrast, the high priest Khilqiyahu (Hilkiah) found the scroll of the law/covenant and caused its contents to be revealed and read to Yoshiyahu (2 Kgs 22:8–10). Daniel closes and seals up his scroll, while Khilqiyahu earlier had found a different scroll and had read it to Yoshiyahu. In one account, Daniel was to stop up the words like a fountain in order to prevent the words from flowing into the ears of listeners, for the words were for a later time. He was to seal the scroll in order to preserve it for posterity. On the other hand, in the story of Yoshiyahu, the words were read aloud to the king and then by the king to the people so that all could understand. What had been miraculously preserved in the face of neglect and abandonment was revealed to all, for it was time to take action.

Second, Dan 12:11 states that the “abomination of desolation” will be set up in the future from Daniel’s time (cf. 9:27; 11:31). During Yoshiyahu’s purging of idolatrous practices in Judah and beyond, the account in 2 Kings states that he defiled the high places that King Shelomoh (Solomon) had set up for Astarte, the “abomination” of the Sidonians, for Chemosh, the “abomination” of Moab, and for Milcom, the “abomination” of the Ammonites (2 Kgs 23:13; cf. v. 24). While Yoshiyahu had destroyed these idolatrous “abominations,” which had resulted in the land becoming “desolate” (2 Chron 36:21), Daniel foresaw that a greater and more ominous “abomination of desolation” would be set up in the future.

Finally, both stories end in stories of or references to death. When Yoshiyahu commanded the high priest Khilqiyahu and others to inquire of the LORD about the scroll of the law, they went to the prophetess Khuldah (Huldah), who prophesied, in part, that Yoshiyahu would not see the disaster that would come upon Judah but instead would be “buried in peace” (2 Kgs 22:20). The account in 2 Kings states that when Pharaoh Necho II “met him at Megiddo, he killed him” (23:29), and his servants brought his body back to Jerusalem, where he was buried (23:30). Second Chronicles, on the other hand, states that he was wounded in battle, removed to another chariot, and brought back to Jerusalem, where he died and was buried (35:23–24). While it is clear that he died from his battle wounds, he was buried “in peace” in the city of Jerusalem, not on the battlefield. While Yoshiayahu died in peace, not having seen the disaster that overtook Judah, Daniel died in the hope of the resurrection and the deliverance of his people (Dan 12:1–2, 13).

One cannot separate the future from the past. Present understandings and perceptions are often founded on past experiences, and the future is often imaged in light of both the present and the past. The arc of Daniel’s history at the end of Chapter 12 stretched back through the desolation of Jerusalem and the forced migrations to Babylon all the way to the life and death of Yoshiyahu. The impact of his life and death on Daniel was spiritually formative and influential. And out of the trauma of a royal tragedy, without easy theological answers, Daniel was able to survive and thrive, ultimately given the hope of blessing and renewed life in the resurrection from the dust.

_____________________________________

 

[1] Jacques B. Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel: Wisdom and Dreams of a Jewish Prince in Exile (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2000), 166.

[2] Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical quotations are taken from the NRSV. Some have used this particular text to suggest that certain transportation innovations in the history of the United States fulfilled the prophecy.

[3] See, e.g., Marian G. Berry, A Warning in Daniel 12, rev. ed. (Brushton, NY: TEACH Services, 2015); Frank W. Hardy, “The 1,290 & 1,335 Days of Daniel 12: Past or Future?” in Prophetic Principles: Crucial Exegetical, Theological, Historical, & Practical Insights, ed. Ron du Preez, Scripture Symposium 1 (Lansing, MI: Michigan Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2007), 271-98; idem, “A Context for the Time Periods of Dan 12:11-12,” unpublished mss., modified ed. (August 15, 2015), accessed March 22, 2020 at http://historicism.org/Documents/Dan12_Symposium.pdf; Abner Hernandez, “Adventist Eschatological Identity and the Interpretations of the Time Periods of Daniel 12:11-12,” Andrews University Seminary Student Journal 1 (Spring 2015): 65-84; Gerhard Pfandl, Time Prophecies in Daniel 12, Biblical Research Institute Release 5 (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 2005); William H. Shea, “The Time Prophecies of Daniel 12 and Revelation 12-13,” in Symposium on Revelation, Book I, Daniel and Revelation Committee Series 6 (Silver Spring, MD: Biblical Research Institute, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, 1992), 327-60, particularly 330-42; and Alberto R. Timm, “The 1,290 and 1,335 Days of Daniel 12,” unpublished mss. (June 5, 2002), accessed March 22, 2020 at https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/daniel12_0.pdf.

[4] I have transliterated the Hebrew names of King Josiah and his three sons and grandson differently than typical English Bible translations in order to: 1) more closely align with the Hebrew text; 2) perhaps startle the reader; and 3) refocus attention on their often too-familiar narrative histories and the theological conclusions associated with them.

[5] Dan 1:4 indicates that the ones King Nebuchadnezzar II wanted to serve in his court were “youths” (ESV, NASB) or “young men” (NIV, NKJV, NRSV). These youths or young men were the same age as Daniel and his friends (1:10; cf. 1:17).

[6] Isaiah had prophesied that some of the descendants of King Khizqiyah (Hezekiah) would be eunuchs (ESV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV) or officials (NASB) in the palace of the king of Babylon (Isa 39:7).

[7] While the book of Daniel is about Daniel’s experiences (as well as that of his three friends), the third person narratives in Daniel 1-3, 5-6, indicate that they were written by someone else. Compare what appears to be archival information in Daniel 4 and the vision account in Daniel chaps. 7 (one the narrator indicates in 7:1-2 that Daniel wrote down) through 12 (notice the interspersed narrative elements, e.g., 10:1-2).

[8] See Isa 48:2; 52:1; Neh 11:1, 18; Tob 13:9; Pr Azar 1:5; 1 Macc 2:7; 2 Macc 1:12; 3:1; 9:14; 15:14. For references to the “holy city” in the NT, see Matt 4:5; 27:53; Rev 11:2; 21:2; 22:19. Whether or not its use in 3 Macc 6:5 is pre-Christian or not is not conclusive.

[9] Young King Yehoakhaz (Jehoahaz), forcibly removed from Jerusalem earlier in 609 by Pharaoh Necho II, was nevermore to return to Jerusalem.

[10] In another contrast to the account in 2 Kings, the Chronicler tells the story of how the Assyrians took King Menasheh (Manasseh) with hooks as a captive to Assyria and how he subsequently repented of his wickedness and, upon his return, attempted to undo all of the evil he had done in Judah (2 Chron 33:10-19).

[11] 1 Chron 3:15 is the only biblical text that lists all four of Yoshiyahu’s sons. His eldest son was “the firstborn” Yochanan (Johanan), of whom we know virtually nothing. Yochanan did not succeed Yoshiyahu, and he may have died young.

[12] Elyaqim (Eliakim) was the next eldest after Yochanan, but he was not the first to succeed Yoshiyahu. The next oldest son was Shallum, who, when he ascended the throne, apparently took the regnal name Yehoakhaz (Jehoahaz). After Yoshiyahu’s tragic death, the “people of the land” made Yehoakhaz king at the age of 23, just as they had made Yoshiyahu king after his father Amon was assassinated (2 Kgs 21:24; 23:30). But Yehoakhaz ruled only three months before Pharaoh Necho II deposed him and imprisoned him at Syrian city of Riblah and imposed a heavy tribute on the nation. Second Kings laconically notes that after Necho forced Yehoakhaz into exile in Egypt, “he died there” (23:34).

[13] In place of Yehoakhaz, Pharaoh Necho made Yehoakhaz’s elder half-brother Elyaqim king and changed his name to Yehoyaqim (Jehoiakim). Yehoyaqim began his rule at the age of 25 and ruled for eleven years. Among his wicked deeds, he is the king notorious for murdering the prophet Uriah (Jer 26:20-23) and for cutting Jeremiah’s scroll with a knife and burning it (Jer 36:23).

[14] Yehoiakin (Jehoiachin) was also known as Yekonyah / Yekoneyah / Yekonyahu (Jeconiah), and Konyahu (Coniah). Similar to his uncle Yehoakhaz, he ruled for only three months and ten days before his forced migration to Babylon. There Nebuchadnezzar kept him, known as “the prisoner” (1 Chron 3:17), imprisoned throughout his decades-long reign over Babylon. It was only when Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor Evil-Merodach (typically known as Amel-Marduk; despite his name’s transliteration in various translations, it does not indicate any kind of evil quality) became king in 562 BCE that the latter released Yehoiakin, still recognized as king of Judah (2 Kgs 25:27), from prison and allowed him to eat at the king’s table. The Bible indicates that Evil-Merodach “spoke kindly and gave him a seat above all of the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon” (2 Kgs 25:28). It is likely that Daniel was familiar with him.

[15]When Nebuchadnezzar took Yehoiakin into forced migration to Babylon in 597 BCE, he then made Yoshiyahu’s fourth son, Mattanyah (Mattaniah), full brother of exiled Yehoakhaz, ruler over Judah and gave him the regnal name Tsidqiyahu (Zedekiah). Tsidqiyahu began his reign at the age of 21, and by this time, Daniel would have been older than him. The famous first-century CE Jewish priest and historian Josephus asserts that Daniel and his three friends were of the family of Tsidqiyahu (Ant. 10.188), but they could not have been his sons. Tsidqiyahu was the last Jewish king in Jerusalem, ruling for eleven years before the destruction of Jerusalem and the final forced migration in 586 BCE.

[16] Cf. Doukhan, Secrets of Daniel, 158-59; John Goldingay, Daniel, rev. ed., Word Biblical Commentary 30 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2019), 526.

[17] It is unknown whether Daniel could have remembered it. It took place about thirteen years before Yoshiyahu’s death in 609 BCE (cf. 2 Chron 34:1; 35:19), which would have been approximately 622 BCE. If Daniel had been no older than seventeen years old when he was exiled to Babylon in 605 BCE, he would have been born around the time of the Passover. In any case, people would have told stories about that great Passover for years.

 

Ross E. Winkle, PhD, is professor of New Testament and chair of the Theology Department at Pacific Union College.

Illustration: King Josiah by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

 

Spectrum Magazine Donation Page: Help Support Independent Adventist Journalism