Michael, this one's for you.
One of the questions Michael (who's still off honeymooning) and I have been exploring in recent months is whether there is any Davidic imagery in the book of Daniel. In particular, we've been intrigued by connections such as the "Son of Man" imagery in the psalms of David (e.g., Psalm 8) and the famous messianic "Son of Man" in Daniel 7. There are many others which we will maybe discuss in future posts.
In the course of the conversations, Michael thought it would be very interesting support for this Davidic imagery if we could show that Daniel was perhaps a member of the royal house of David: i.e, that he may have been an heir to the throne. This was suggested to Michael by the opening verses of Daniel 1, which read:
In the third year of the riegn of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. ANd the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand... Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility, youths without blemish, handsome and skilful iin all wisdom, endowned with knowledge, understanding learngin, and competent to serve in the kings palan and to teach the the letters and langaue of the Chaldeans. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah. (Dan 1:1-6)
In light of this verse, Michael and I were speculating that perhaps Daniel was not just one of the "people of Israel," but actually a member of the royal family and as such an heir to the Davidic throne. This would be important, because it would potentially heighten the significance of any Davidic imagery in the book of Daniel.
Sure enough, while reading a fascinating first-century A.D. Jewish work known as the Lives of the Prophets, I found the following tradition:
Daniel. This man was of the tribe of Judah, of the family of those prominent in the royal service, but yet while a child he was taken from Judea to the land of the Chaldeans. He was born in Upper Beth-horon, and he was a chaste man, so that the Judeans that that he was a eunuch (Lives of the Prophets 4:1-2)
In the footnote to this text, D.R.A. Hare states that "By combining Dan 1:3, 6 with Isa 39:7, Jewish tradition maintained that Daniel was a member of the royal family" (Charlesworth, OTP, 2:389). In support of this, he refers to both Isaiah and a text from Josephus:
Then Isaiah siad to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD of hosts: Behold the days are coming, when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothings shall be left says the LORD. And some of your own sons, who are born to you, shall be taken away; and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon." (Isa 39:5-7)
Even more explicit is Josephus:
Now Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took some of the most noble of the Jews that were children, and the kinsmen of Zedekiah their king, such as were remarkably for their beauty of their bodies and comeliness of their countenances, and delivered them into the hands of tutors... He also made some of them to be eunuchs... Now among these there were four of the family of Zedekiah, of the most excellent dispositions, the one of whom was called Daniel... (Josephus, Antiquities 18.186-189)
One reason this is so significant (for those of you who may be wondering) is that if Daniel was actually a member of the family of Zedekiah--and thus an heir to the Davidic throne--then all of the "kingdom" imagery in the book of Daniel may not be simply generic "apocalyptic" imagery. It may in fact be (coded) Davidic imagery, and hence, by definition, messianic imagery.
All this plays into the debate over whether the "son of Man" in Daniel 7 is in fact the Messiah. Although the text does not explicitly say he is the "messiah" (although cf. Dan 9:24-27), if the "kingdom and dominion" that he receives is in fact the Davidic kingdom--and if it is an heir to the Davidic throne who is having this vision--then this is clearly a messianic text (which is how all the ancient Jews interpreted it, pace Joseph Fitzmyer). We'll do future posts on this, I'm sure, but let me just throw something out:
In Daniel 7, the "son of Man" comes and slays the beasts, in particular "the lion" (Babylonian empire) and "the bear" (the Medo-Persian empire), and then receives the "kingdom." Can you think of any other person who was famous for slaying "lions and bears" before he was elevated to receive a "kingdom"? I'll give you a hint... He's in the books of Samuel.
What's the poin then of Daniel 7? Eventually, the Davidic "son of Man" will triumph over the "beasts" of the pagan empires, and will reign over the universal "kingdom of God" (cf. Daniel 2) forever.
Of course, if Daniel's writing in the second century B.C., when the Davidic kingdom is long gone, none of this coded apocalyptic language makes any sense. But if he's writing during the reign of Babylon, when the Davidic empire is only freshly decimated and its heirs are captive, then all Davidic language and imagery would have to be secret. Which is exactly what we find in the book.
Just some thoughts. More to come.