Part 3 - A Gospel Story-arc Approach to Daniel 1

For many preachers, Roman numeral outlines with three or four points are go-to tools for analyzing and telling Bible stories. These types of outlines can be clever, and even memorable, though they rarely provide the richest insight into the actual stories told in the text. 

One reason why is because Roman numeral outlines are not what Bible writers used to compose their texts in the first place.

I don't mean to imply that Bible writers sat down instead with the 7-point story-structure I wrote about in my last post. I'm simply advocating story-structure strategies to analyze and then tell/teach Bible stories.

One such strategy involves discerning what rhetorical tools a Bible writer uses to compose his text. A second is to employ those same tools to analyze the text, and then ultimately to tell/teach what the text says. The result should be a fuller sense of the richness of meaning available to us, and to our hearers, as we rightly divide the word of truth.

In my last post, I identified a breakdown of Daniel chapter 1, using seven elements of story structure: exposition, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and untying. If needed, this would be a good time to review that post (although I'll tag the end of this post with a copy of the summary statements I wrote for each element in Daniel chapter 1).

Each of the seven elements in Daniel chapter 1 provide useful insight into the text. Each could also serve as a major point of emphasis for telling or teaching your way through the story.

For example, take the last of the seven statements, the untying: "Daniel’s influence extend for nearly 80 years through the reigns of two other Babylonia kings, and after they were overthrown, into the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia."

My guess is, there aren't too many Roman numeral outline approaches to Daniel 1 that include and give emphasis to this verse (Dan. 1:21), one that gives rise to the untying statement. And yet it's contribution to the story is both significant and powerful. 

Here's how...

Daniel 1:21 simply reads: "And Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus." 

This statement recalls the connection between Daniel's experience in Babylon and God's plan of a 70-year captivity for Judah. This connection is significant, knowing the intended reference in the exposition of the story (Dan. 1:1-7) to the way of Babel as an alternative to God's plan through Abraham, and eventually through Judah, to restore all things with the blessings that come from the heavens. The exposition offers the possibility that God and his plan have been defeated, and that Babel has won. The rest of the story, however, shows that Babel did not win, that what happened when Judah was defeated happened entirely under the providence  of God. God "gave"Jehoiakim and Judah into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar; it was part of his plan, and he was supervising everything that happened. 

Furthermore, Daniel's resolve not to defile himself shows Daniel modeling the obedience to God, and respect for him, that was lacking in Judah, and that led to the captivity. Consequently, God blessed Daniel. He made Daniel an example of the kind of "heavenly" resources that are available to someone to obeys and honors him.

And to cap it off, the "untying" makes a point of telling us that Daniel, this person who obeys and honors God, outlasts the kingdom that had defeated Judah. 

So the way of Babel doesn't win in the end after all. God is still working his plan. And it is his plan that prevails in the end.


From last week's post:

In the case of Daniel chapter 1, here is the structure I discerned using the seven elements, summarized in seven statements:

1.  Exposition

The King of Babylon conquers the King of Judah, overrunning Judah’s capital, plundering religious artifacts from her Temple, and taking into captivity certain youths from the royal family, stripping them of their identity, cultivating their dependency, and re-educating them, to leverage their gifts in support of his own political and religious system. 

2. Inciting Incident

Among the youths was one named Daniel, who resolved not to defile himself with the King’s food and drink, a resolve that represented his obedience to God, and his faith and participation in God’s plan.

3. Rising Action

Daniel’s resolve led him to propose a test, a test whereby he and three others would follow dietary rules consistent with their covenant relationship with God.

4. Climax

Daniel and the others passed the test with flying colors.

5. Falling Action

Consequently the rest of the youths that Nebuchadnezzar had taken captive were shifted to follow the same diet as Daniel and his three friends. 

6. Resolution

Daniel and the three others completed their training, though their wisdom and skill was obviously sourced in God, not in the language and literature of the Babylonians.

7. Untying

Daniel’s influence extend for nearly 80 years through the reigns of two other Babylonia kings, and after they were overthrown, into the reign of Cyrus, King of Persia.

 

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Randal Gilmore