The Use of the expressions God or God(s) in Daniel 11:36-39 and their theological and interpretative implications
Payet, Edwin Sully
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The goal of this present research is (1) to understand the meaning of the 7 expressions that contains a name for ‘God/god(s)’, particularly 3) אֵל x) and 4) אֱלוֹהַּ x), in Dan 11:36-39 and (2) to seek the most probable explanation of the author’s purpose in his particular usage for these words/expressions for ‘God/god(s)’ in the prophetic context of Dan 11:36-39. It has been found that Daniel makes use of these expressions through poetry as to highpoint the haughtiness of an earthly king against God and His prerogatives. The expressions show the successful, but temporary attempt of an arrogant usurpation. Besides, while some of them are synonymous, these phrases do have a specific meaning. Each of them enriches their synonymous counterpart and contributes to the understanding and the interpretation of Dan 11:36-39. Based on the word study אֵל is used to allude in many ANE nations to the supreme god. In Dan 11:36, ‘the king’ will exalt and magnify himself over any supreme god(s) that could be found. The superlative expression 11:36 ) אֵל אֵלִ ים ) as other superlatives expressions for God in Daniel (cf. 2:47; 6:20, 26; 8:25; 9:4) refers to the true God, as the ultimate supreme One over any other gods. הֵי # אֱ cannot be understood and interpreted separated from the expression הֵי אֲבתָֹיו # אֱ, which the OT utilizes to mean Yahweh, the God of covenant of Israel. אֱלוֹ הּ relates in the OT God metaphorically to the notion of strength and/or of protection, with a few times to the notion of salvation. It is associated twice in the OT with צוּר , “rock,” which is another metaphor for God as place of refuge. In using אֱלוֹהַּ intentionally to refer to a false god, Daniel refers indirectly to the true God, as a way to point out to the idea of usurpation, or at least of replacement of God’s prerogatives in the king’s character and leadership. Two expressions referring to God were found— 11:36 ) אֵל אֵלִים ); and הֵי אֲבתָֹיו # אֱ (11:37). In prophetical passages, Daniel never uses the most common names for God אֲדנָֹי ,יהוה) , or הִים # אֱ), or god(s) ( הִים # אֱ). In writing Dan 11:36-39 Daniel deliberately selects his vocabulary (1) by choosing to use names of God that are most of the time used in poetry, and (2) to also highlight the main theme of the book of Daniel: the sovereignty of God over all things ( אֵל ), who does not forget His people (and not only Israel, but also the ‘spiritual Israel’ of all nations). He will come and rescue them ( אֱלוֹהַּ ; cf. 12:1-3). As for the presence of the phrase הֵי אֲבתָֹיו # אֱ, which relates to the covenant and true God, it is used to replace the common name for God, .יהוה In using these 7 words/expressions for ‘God/god(s)’ in Dan 11:36-39, the prophet wants to insist on the distinctly negative religious character of ‘the king’. To insist the unbelievably awful personage of ‘the king’, the seer employs poetry. Daniel chooses to not be succinct in his exposition. Such haughtiness is too important to just be simply mentioned. Besides, it should be detailed enough as to underscore the reason why God would finally come to judge the earth and to bring retribution against ‘the king’. The use of poetic features (i.e., parallelisms, word pairs) permits the prophet to repeat his ideas in a condensed manner.