Tuesday, March 13, 2018

God's flying chariot

The "Son of Man" is a favorite self-designation of Jesus. The Bible is based on the famous vision in Daniel:

9 “As I looked,

thrones were placed,
    and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
    and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
    its wheels were burning fire.
10 A stream of fire issued
    and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
    and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
    and the books were opened.
11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

13 “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.
14 And to him was given dominion
    and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
    will worship him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
    which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
    that shall not be destroyed.
(Dan 7:9-14)

A few observations:

1. This is one of many passages depicting messiah as the heir of God's kingdom. 

2. As one commentator notes:

The Aramaic word for "worship" (pelach) used here [v14] always has reference to deities (apart from Dan 7:14,27, it is also used in Dan 3:28; 6:16[17],20[21]). I. Duguid, Daniel (P&R 2008), 117. 

3. The symbolism of the nubilous entourage is multilayered:

i) At a generic level, clouds can signify the abode of celestial beings (cf. Ps 97:2). They live above the clouds. 

ii) In theophanic settings, clouds are associated with the Shekinah. 

iii) Finally, Scripture sometimes represents Yahweh as a storm god. His "chariot" is a thunderstorm. That's emblematic for Yahweh's identity as a warrior God, avenger and judge, viz. 

2 Clouds and thick darkness are all around him;
    righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
3 Fire goes before him
    and burns up his adversaries all around.
4 His lightnings light up the world;
    the earth sees and trembles.
(Ps 97:2-4)

He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
    he rides on the wings of the wind;
(Ps 104:3)

Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
    and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
    and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.
(Isa 19:1)

The Lord is slow to anger and great in power,
    and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty.
His way is in whirlwind and storm,
    and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
(Nahum 1:3)

9 He bowed the heavens and came down;
    thick darkness was under his feet.
10 He rode on a cherub and flew;
    he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11 He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
    thick clouds dark with water.
12 Out of the brightness before him
    hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.
13 The Lord also thundered in the heavens,
    and the Most High uttered his voice,
    hailstones and coals of fire.
14 And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
    he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
(Ps 18:9-14)

Dan 7:9-10 is reminiscent of Ezk 1, where the theophany resembles a lightning storm at a distance. God's flying chariot. And that blends into the nubilous symbolism of v13. Dan 7 presents messiah as God's successor or coregent, with divine insignia. 

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