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2.7.2 - The Superiority of Israel’s God

Because it was necessary for God to judge Israel, He permitted Babylon to destroy Jerusalem and cart Israel off to captivity (see Historical Setting). Whenever God uses other nations to judge His elect, there is always the risk that the Gentile nations, which are generally biblically illiterate, will interpret the judgment of Israel as an indication that the God of Israel has a vindictive character or is incapable of protecting His chosen nation, being inferior to the gods of the Gentile nations. So, for example, when God threatens to destroy Israel after the sin of making the golden calf, Moses intercedes: “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’?” (Ex. 32:12). Similarly, Ezekiel declares concerning Israel in judgment:

And I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the nations, where they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and have gone forth out of his land. But I had pity because of my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, where they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD; I do this not for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations, where you went. (Ezekiel 36:19-22)

The events of the captivity and associated destruction of Jerusalem might appear to the natural eye as if to indicate that God was incapable or unwilling to defend Israel or that He had reneged upon His promises:

To the interested observer of Israel’s fortunes in Daniel’s time, it seemed that Yahweh had either become impotent or had abandoned His chosen people. The gods of Assyria and Babylon had apparently triumphed over Him. His temple lay in ruins, His capital had been ravaged and stood empty and vulnerable, and His people were living as unhappy captives in a foreign land. At such a time as this, God revealed His supernatural power. He did so to demonstrate that He is the one true God and that He is still sovereign over the affairs of humanity and history.1

The superiority of Israel’s God over the Gentile gods is seen in the passages where God receives worship through the witness of Gentile kings. Nebuchadnezzar makes numerous pronouncements glorifying Israel’s God (Dan. 2:47+; 3:28-29+; 4:2-3+, 34-35+, 37+).2 Darius the Mede also testifies concerning the abilities and character of the God of Israel (Dan. 6:16+, 25-27+).

Nebuchadnezzar captures the temple vessels and places them in the temple of his god (Dan. 1:2+) seemingly demonstrating the superiority of Marduk over the God of Israel. However, subsequent abuse of the vessels by Belshazzar (Dan. 5:2-4+) results in the ultimate overthrow of Babylonia at the hands of the Medes and Persians as instigated by Israel’s God (Dan. 5:5+, 22-28+).

Although Babylonian rulers appeal to various wise men—who revere Babylon’s gods—for understanding (Dan. 2:10-11+; 4:7+; 5:7-8+), only Daniel’s God is capable of providing the sought after information (Dan. 2:19+, 27-28+; 4:19+; 5:15-17+).

When Babylonian rulers require veneration and worship under the threat of death (Dan. 3:4-6+, 10-11+; 6:7+) those who refuse to worship idols while exhibiting their trust in the God of Israel are preserved (Dan. 3:17-27+; 6:22+).

Notes

1 Thomas Constable, Notes on Daniel (Garland, TX: Sonic Light, 2009), 4.

2 Contrast Nebuchadnezzar’s response to God’s revelation with that of Belshazzar who has no record of being humbled or glorifying God.


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