Lesson 10: Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos


Daniel: (48 chapters; Ca. 550 B.C.)

The book of Daniel is written as taking place during the time of the exile in Babylon, 587-537 B.C. But detailed information concerning the reign of the Greek King Antiochus IV Epiphanes (173-164) about the time of the Maccabees, indicates that the book was written about 165 B.C. The author is unknown.

Through six stories about the wisdom of Daniel and his five visions the author says that God is the master of history. He further affirms that those who trust in God and avoid all forms of idol-worship will be blessed by God; and if this blessing does not happen in this life, the faithful one will be blessed in the next life.

The first part of six chapters consists of six stories about Daniel and his, three companions, Hananiah, Meshach and Azariah who are chosen for service in the household of the king of Babylon. Daniel interprets dreams for the king and so is given special favor. Daniel's friends refuse to worship a golden statue and are cast into a fiery furnace but are saved by a miracle (ch. 3). Daniel violates a law of praying to the God of Israel so he is cast into the lions' den but, by the power of God, he remains unharmed (ch. 6).

The second part (chs. 7-12) deals with the five visions of Daniel. This is a type of apocalyptic literature because it relates contemporary events of his time in the form of a revelation made to a great man long ago. In ch. 12 Daniel sees that after a period of trials the dead will rise, some to life and some to everlasting suffering. This is the first expression in the OT of belief in the resurrection of both the good and the wicked. Chapters 13 and 14 contain three stories about the innocent Susanna, Bel and the Dragon. Because of his wisdom, Daniel defeats evil in each case and is saved again from the lions' den; this leads Cyrus the king to admit that the God of Israel is the true God.

The book of Daniel is a book of resistance and of martyrdom. It is addressed to the youth in the time of the persecution under Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the 2nd century B.C.

The phrase "son of Man" in 7:13-14 is important for future development in the Bible. In the context it probably does not mean the Messiah; rather it seems to refer to the whole people of Israel who, by the power of God, will triumph over all their enemies. In the fuller sense of the Bible this is a prediction of the triumph of the Church which is the mystical Body of Christ.

The first clear assertion of the resurrection of the body in the OT is found in chapter 12. In the NT Daniel is quoted once by our Lord in reference to the "abomination of desolation" set up in the temple by the pagan conquerors (Matt. 24:15; Mark 13:14); this probably refers to setting up the image of the Roman god or emperor in the temple. The resurrection of the dead is described in Matt. 25:46 in terms influenced by Dan. 12:2. But the most important borrowing from Daniel is the expression "Son of Man" used frequently by Jesus to describe himself.

Hosea: (14 chapters; ca. 740 B.C.)

Hosea was a contemporary of Amos and lived in the Northern Kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.). He began to prophesy in the last years of Jeroboam, about 745. The theme of the book is the love and fidelity of the Lord Yahweh to his people. This love is typified in the marital situation of Hosea and his wife, Gomer. Gomer is unfaithful to her husband, so Hosea divorces her. Later he relents and takes her back, but not before disciplining her. The marital trials of Hosea are used by him as a symbol of the relationship between God and Israel. For the people in the North worshiped false gods and so violated the covenant with the Lord. They reject his love but he does not give up on them. He is about to punish them by the hands of the Assyrians and carry them off to exile, but a remnant will remain faithful and will eventually be brought back to their own land. The prophecy is also a metaphor of God's dealings with each one of us.

The second part of the prophecy, chs. 4-14, deals with Israel's crimes in detail, her infidelity, and the punishment she will receive because of it.

Gomer bears three children for Hosea and he gives them names which symbolize God's rejection of Israel because of her infidelity. The prophecy is most likely based on a true life experience of the prophet. The book ends on a note of hope and reconciliation with God after Israel has been punished for her sins and has repented. God's love is everlasting and he will never abandon his people.

Like Amos, Hosea was a prophet of doom, but he balanced his condemnation of Israel with the promise of restoration and renewal. But the key to understanding Hosea is the story of his marriage to Gomer, the separation, and finally reconciliation. Gomer's adultery and desertion of Hosea symbolize the violation of the Covenant with the Lord on the part of the people of Israel.

What God expects of Israel is "steadfast love" which involves loyalty and fidelity; he also wants them to know him in a way that includes commitment of mind and will. This is summed up in the famous quote in 6:6, "For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God, rather than burnt offerings."

In ch. 2 the theme of discipline through suffering is developed at some length. Israel is to be brought out into the desert again, as she was after the Exodus from Egypt; this will take place in the coming exile in 721 B.C.

The marriage symbol introduced by Hosea to describe the relationship between the Lord and his people was developed by the later prophets and was used in the NT. Thus, Jesus referred to Himself as the Bridegroom (Mark 2:19-20) and performed his first miracle at a wedding feast in Cana (John 2:1-11). St. Paul describes Christian marriage as a symbol of Christ's eternal love for the Church in Eph. 5:21-33.

Joel: (4 chapters; ca. 400 B.C.)

Joel seems to have been written after Ezra-Nehemiah and before the world conquest of the Greeks in the 4th century B.C. So a probable date is about 400 B.C. Nothing is known about the author.

The dominant theme of the book is the coming of the Day of the Lord. The phrase, "The Day of the Lord" first occurs in Amos 5:18-20 and it has meaning on two levels. Its fundamental meaning is that God is the Lord of history and that he can, and will intervene in history in favor of his people Israel. In the second sense it means the end of the world when God will destroy all human pride and will punish the wicked and reward the just.

The book of Joel is divided into two parts. The first two chapters deal with a severe plague of locusts. Chapters 3 and 4 describe the messianic Day of the Lord which is understood by the prophet as the end of history, the triumph of Judah and the punishment of her enemies. Joel sees the plague of locusts as a type or figure or foreshadowing of the eschatological or final intervention of God into human history at the end of the world.

What makes the prophecy of Joel stand out in the Bible is the graphic description of the Day of the Lord. And an outstanding aspect of the prophet's description of the new era is the pouring out of the Spirit (2:28-29). The Spirit will be given to all the members of the community, but Joel understands this only with regard to Israel. His vision is not yet broad enough to include all the nations of the world.

Like Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, Joel tends to stress the importance of the liturgy of the Temple in Jerusalem. Joel is quoted in two places in the NT. In the first Christian sermon ever given, by St. Peter in Acts 2, he quotes Joel 3:1-5 about the gift of the Spirit. A second quote occurs in Romans 10:13 where St. Paul quotes Joel 3:5 to the effect that "all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

Amos: (9 chapters, 760-750 B.C.)

The prophecies of Amos were delivered during the reign of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.) at Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Amos was a shepherd from Tekoa in the Southern Kingdom of Judah who cared for sheep and sycamore trees. He was not a professional prophet (7:14), but received a call from God to go to the North and proclaim the word of the Lord.

In very strong and poetic language, Amos condemns external religious ceremony and practice that camouflages social corruption and is not accompanied by internal conversion of heart to the Lord. He is the OT prophet of social justice par excellence. Because of their empty worship and toleration of injustice, Amos prophesies that the Israelites in the North will be conquered and carried off into exile. That is what happened 30 years later in 721 B.C.

In the first two chapters Amos utters condemnations of the surrounding nations, and also Judea and Israel. In chapters 3-6 he strongly attacks the corruption in Israel. He warns them about the "Day of Yahweh" and the coming doom. In chapters 7-9 the prophet describes five symbolic visions (locusts, fire, plumb-line, basket of ripe fruit, sanctuary) given to him by the Lord which signal the coming destruction of Israel and Samaria for their sins. The conclusion promises a restoration of Israel from exile, so the book ends on a note of hope.

Amos is the first prophet in the OT to have a whole book named after him. He emphasizes the threatening dimension of God's word rather than the aspect of love, mercy and forgiveness. Because of their sins and their neglect of the Law of Moses, Amos saw their impending doom. God was about to punish them for sins. He introduces the concept of the "Day of Yahweh." The people of Samaria have deceived themselves into thinking that the "Day" would be a time of reward; Amos says that it will be a time of divine judgment and terror for the unjust.

All is not gloom. Amos knew that the Lord would preserve "a remnant of Joseph" that would continue the practice of justice. This remnant will be the basis of hope for the future restoration. God's action in history, therefore, is to save and not to destroy. The book ends on a note of hope.

Reading Assignment

Read the four prophets covered in this lesson. Read two articles in a biblical dictionary on prophets and the nature of prophecy in the OT.

Writing Assignment

Write an essay of about 1000 words on one of the following topics: apocalyptic literature as exemplified in Daniel and Joel; or, Hosea's use of marriage as a type of God's relations to man; or, the nature of prophecy in the OT.

Suggestion

Research the influence of Daniel, Hosea and Joel on the NT.

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