“From Dust You Shall Arise”: Resurrection Hope in the Old Testament

I had the honor of contributing an article to the latest edition of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology (SBJT 18.4 [2014]). The journal focused this issue on “resurrection,” and just in time for Passion Week drawing nigh.

I wrote on resurrection hope in the Old Testament: “From Dust You Shall Arise” (pp. 9-29 of the journal).


Jesus Helps Us Identify the Fourth Kingdom in Daniel 2

In Daniel 2, four successive kingdoms are given in 2:32-33.

  1. Head of Gold (2:32a)
  2. Chest and Arms of Silver (2:32b)
  3. Middle and Thighs of Bronze (2:32c)
  4. Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay (2:33)

Identifying the first kingdom is easy because Daniel specifies it: “you are the head of gold,” he told Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 2:38). The first kingdom is Babylon. But scholars disagree on whether the second kingdom (silver) is the Medes or the Medo-Persians. If it is the Medes, then the third kingdom is Persia and the fourth is Greece. But if the silver represents the Medo-Persians, then the third kingdom is Greece and the fourth is Rome. You see the dilemma: the decision you make on the second kingdom affects everything else.

But what if Jesus can help us identify the fourth kingdom? Then, with the first and fourth kingdoms identified, the second and third kingdoms would become clear as well. In order to see this, we need to know more of the vision Daniel recounted. In 2:34, a stone came during the rule of the fourth kingdom, and in 2:44-45 this stone is interpreted to be God’s kingdom that shall never be destroyed.

In Luke 20:9-18, Jesus tells a parable of wicked tenants. A man’s tenants continued to kill servants whom he sent (see 20:10-12, 15). The scribes and chief priests realized Jesus directed the parable against them (20:19), and Jesus was casting himself in the role of the final servant (the man’s “beloved son,” 20:13) who was killed by the wicked tenants (20:15a).

The last two verses of Jesus’ parable are the key: in Luke 20:17, Jesus cited Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Jesus used stone imagery again in 20:18: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” This language is not from Psalm 118:22 anymore but from Daniel 2. In Daniel 2:34 the stone “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces,” and similar language can be found in 2:44-45.

Jesus is the stone. He is the stone that the builders rejected (Ps 118:22), and he is also the stone that shatters those who fall on him and those on whom he falls (Dan 2:34, 44-45). If Jesus is the fulfillment of the stone in Daniel 2, and if the stone would come during the reign of the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2, then we can identify the fourth kingdom by simply asking who was in power during the Son’s incarnation: Rome. Not Greece. If the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2 was supposed to be Greece, then either Daniel is false prophecy or Jesus has deficient hermeneutics.

Jesus applied to himself the imagery of the stone from Daniel 2, and this confirms that Rome was the fulfillment of the fourth kingdom in Daniel 2. So if the first kingdom (head of gold) was Babylon and the fourth (legs of iron and feet of iron/clay) was Rome, then we can accurately identify the second (chest and arms of silver) and third (middle and thighs of bronze):

  1. Babylon (Head of Gold)
  2. Medo-Persia (Chest and Arms of Silver)
  3. Greece (Middle and Thighs of Bronze)
  4. Rome (Legs of Iron and Feet of Iron/Clay)

From Jechoniah to Jesus in Matthew’s Genealogy

Matthew’s genealogy has three parts (1:2-6a, 6b-11, 12-16). The third part is the most obscure because of the names after Zerubbabel. While the characters of Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel are in the Old Testament, the next nine names (Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim, Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, and Jacob) are from sources unknown to us.

Important to observe is that Matthew doesn’t draw a straight line from Joseph to Jesus (the 13th and 14th in this section of the record, cf. 1:17) but moves sideways to Mary first: “Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (Matt 1:16). The “whom” is a feminine relative pronoun here and can only refer to Mary. The implication? Mary is Jesus’ mother, but Joseph is not his father. So how did Jesus end up in Mary’s womb? That’s what the next section, Matthew 1:18-25, will narrate.

The third section of the genealogy covers key events like “the deportation to Babylon” (1:12), the end of the exile and the return to Jerusalem for the temple’s reconstruction (see the Old Testament accounts involving “Zerubbabel”), and then approximately five hundred years (from “Abiud to Jacob,” 1:13-15). Much happens during those five centuries, such as the Babylonians being conquered by the Persians, who were conquered by the Greeks, who were conquered by the Romans. To put it another way, the third section of Matthew’s genealogy takes you through the time period represented by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (in Dan 2).

Peter Leithart on Multiple Structures of Biblical Texts

I deeply enjoyed Deep Exegesis: The Mystery of Reading Scripture by Peter Leithart.  Chapter 5 is called “Texts Are Music” and it speaks to the literary structure of biblical texts.

Essentially Leithart argues that there may be more than one valid way to arrange a biblical passage.  Furthermore, multiple structural possibilities do not muddle the text but enhance and enrich it.

Leithart says, “Like intertextuality, multiple structure is virtually inescapable, especially in narratives and poetry” (143).  And, “Biblical writers are sensibly complicated, happy to tell several stories simultaneously and arrange their texts in three or four ways at once, just like normal people” (144).

Lately I’ve been preaching through the Book of Daniel, so I want to apply Leithart’s point to the whole work.  There are multiple ways scholars arrange Daniel’s twelve chapters.

First, here’s a simple arrangement into two parts:

  • Chapter 1-6:  Primarily Court Narratives
  • Chapter 7-12: Primarily Apocalyptic Visions

Second, there’s a well-established chiastic arrangement of the Aramaic section (which comprises Daniel 2-7):

  • Chapter 2: A Vision of Empires as 4 Metals
  •      Chapter 3: The Deliverance of Three Faithful Jews
  •           Chapter 4: The Arrogance of King Nebuchadnezzar
  •           Chapter 5: The Arrogance of King Belshazzar
  •      Chapter 6: The Deliverance of Daniel
  • Chapter 7: A Vision of Empires as 4 Beasts

Third, from p. 325 of God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, Jim Hamilton develops the chiasm even more, including chapters 1 and 8-12:

  • Chapter 1: Daniel Exiled
  •      Chapter 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision
  •           Chapter 3: Deliverance from the Fiery Furnace
  •                Chapter 4: Nebuchadnezzar Humbled
  •                Chapter 5: Belshazzar Humbled
  •           Chapter 6: Deliverance from the Lion’s Den
  •      Chapters 7-9: Daniel’s Visions
  • Chapters 10-12: Daniel’s Vision of the End of the Exile

Fourth, on p. 27 of his article “Daniel’s Seventy Weeks and the New Exodus,” Peter Gentry offers two chiastic structures between the book’s prologue and epilogue:

  • Chapter 1: Prologue
  •      Chapter 2: Image of Four Metals: Triumph of God’s Kingdom
  •           Chapter 3: Persecution of Daniel’s Friends
  •                Chapter 4: Humbling of Nebuchadnezzar Before God
  •                Chapter 5: Humbling of Belshazzar Before God
  •           Chapter 6: Persecution of Daniel
  •      Chapter 7: Vision of Four Beasts: Triumph of God’s Kingdom
  •      Chapter 8: Vision of Future History
  •           Chapter 9: Daniel’s Prayer and God’s Response
  •           Chapter 10: Daniel’s Grief and God’s Response
  •      Chapter 11:1-12:4: Vision of Future History
  • Chapter 12:5-13: Epilogue

Now to summarize.  If readers simply divide the Book of Daniel in half, the transition from court narratives (1-6) to apocalyptic visions (7-12) is highlighted.  If the Aramaic section (2-7) has its own structure, then the chiastic arrangement makes this section distinct.  But perhaps the Hebrew section (1, 8-12) should also be incorporated, so Hamilton and Gentry present two ways on how to do it.

The Book of Daniel demonstrates that multiple legitimate literary structures can exist within one work.