God is Judge

Chapter 23

A Commentary on the book of Daniel

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The post-exilic period


Hanson correctly observes that, “the religious life of the Jews in the early postexilic period is incomprehensible if the effects of the devastating events of the first decades of the sixth century B.C.E. are not taken fully into account.”[1]  The  Judeans believed themselves to be invulnerable after the temple and city had survived the Assyrian invasion during Hezekiah’s reign, they did not heed the warnings of Jeremiah, nor the example of the devastation of the northern tribes, for God dwelt in their midst – in the temple (Jer.7:4). The destruction of the temple and exile had a profound effect on the Jews, Hanson comments; “Who was now determining the destiny of the Jewish people, now that they found themselves in a land in which Marduk rather than Yahweh was worshiped as the supreme ruler of the universe? Such questions threatened to undo the fabric of the religious system that had enabled the Jews to cope with life in a viable way. They describe the state of mind to which L. Festinger has attached the now fashionable term cognitive dissonance. …[…]…Given this frontal attack on cherished traditions of the past such as the divine election of Israel and the special status of Zion, its Temple, and its Davidic king, it was inevitable that tremendous strains would arise within the various groups seeking to preserve the religious beliefs and values of the past. And such strains would necessitate changes varying all the way from minor adjustments, to major changes, to outright abandonment of Yahwistic tradition in favor of other options” (e.g., Jer. 44:16-18).[2]


[1] Paul D. Hanson, “Israelite Religion in the Early Postexilic Period” in Ancient Israelite Religion, (eds. Patrick Miller, Paul Hanson, and S. Dean McBride, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987, 485-508).

[2] Ibid, Hanson, 492

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The Zadokites


The exile saw the Davidic monarchy demoted to the status of vassal kings and saw tensions arise between the monarchy and the priesthood. Judea became a hierocratic state ruled by priests and a wealthy aristocracy. Scholars perceive a power shift in the relationship between the monarchy and priesthood in texts such as Ezekiel chs.40-48 and posit power struggles as the basis of Zechariah ch.3. Gabriele Boccaccini states; “The earliest document in which we can read a claim for Zadokite supremacy is Ezekiel 40-48, from the time of the Babylonian exile. The text is clearly polemical and innovative. It neither expresses a nostalgic view nor describes an actual situation; it is a political and religious agenda for the future restoration of Israel. The aim is to lay the foundations of a new order that in the eyes of its opponents has to be profoundly different from that of pre-exilic Judaism.”[3] Ezekiel envisages the supremacy of the Zadokite priests with both the Levites and the Davidide prince in subordinate roles. Shemaryahu Talmon understands Zech. ch. 3 against a similar background; “Some of Zechariah’s oracles make it fully apparent that there soon developed a power struggle between the two men (Zech. 3:1-8). The contention was resolved through division of spheres of competence: Zerubbabel was to take charge of the mundane affairs of the res publica, including the rebuilding of the temple, and be in control of its courts (3:6-8). This balanced arrangement differs fundamentally from the priesthood vis-à-vis the kings in the period of the monarchy.”[4]


However, these views are probably an oversimplification. J. Gordon McConville believes that although Ezekiel is narrowly focused on the    Continued  ˃


[3] Gabriele Boccaccini, Roots of Rabbinic Judaism: an intellectual history, from Ezekiel to Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 43

[4] Shemaryahu Talmon,“Exile” and “Restoration” in the conceptual world of ancient Judaism in Restoration: Old Testament, Jewish, and Christian perspectives,(ed. James M.Scott,Brill: Leiden,2001,107-147),137

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pre-eminence of a particular priestly family[5] the prophet is essentially continuing the existent pre-exilic distinction between Levites and Aaronites. McConville presents arguments that “demand that some attempt be made to interpret Ezekiel in a way that does not depend upon the concept of a Zadokite struggle for the control of Jerusalem”.[6]  In the same way the Zadokite superiority over the “prince” may be a misreading of the situation. Daniel Block observes that, “Some have recently recognised in the Ezekielian Torah a fundamentally antimonarchic polemic. Whereas under the old order kings had built temples, appointed cult officials, assigned ritual duties, and encroached on sacred space with their private buildings (43:7-8), this ordinance assigns the civil ruler a third rank-two or three rungs below deity.” [7] Block himself does not understand Ezekiel as antimonarchic but rather as a redefinition of hierarchical structures with the “prince” still retaining an exalted, albeit non-messianic role.


Zechariah ch. 3 records the investiture of the high priest Joshua and the text in Zechariah 6:10-15, particularly v.13, suggests tensions between the priesthood and monarchy (“…the counsel of peace shall be between them both”). The passage is confusing because the MT has the plural “crowns” placed on Joshua’s head, whereas in the Peshitta, the Lucianic and the Targum have the singular “crown”. Lisbeth S. Fried suggests that a simple revocalization would render the MT in the    Continued  ˃


[5] “The division between priests and Levites is there or already well-known (the priestly right having as matter of historical fact narrowed from Aaronites in general to Zadokites in particular; cf. 1 Sa. 2:27-36; 1 Ki. 2:35).” J. Gordon McConville, Priests and Levites in Ezekiel: A Crux in the Interpretation of  Israel’s History, Tyndale Bulletin 34 (1983) 3-31.29

[6] McConville, Ibid,25

[7] Daniel Isaac Block ,The Book of Ezekiel: chapters 25-48, Volume 2,(Wm. B. Eerdmans publishing,1998), 743-744

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singular as well.[8]  The first crown is placed on the head of Joshua the high priest and the second crown is kept in the temple as a reminder (memorial) to the returned exiles (Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen). Some scholars propose that the spare crown was reserved for the Messiah[9], however, the ‘memorial’ of the crown probably served in the same way as the incorruptible manna, Aaron’s rod that budded and the rewritten copy of the Torah that were preserved in the Temple before the captivity. They were all tokens of resurrection and renewal. The spare priestly crown was a permanent reminder that after the cultic contamination of the exile God had cleansed and renewed the priesthood (Zech. 3:4-5). The vision of the two “sons of oil” in Zech. ch. 4 serves as instruction to the anointed priest and anointed monarch that restoration was a shared project invigorated by the Spirit. The coronation in Zech. ch. 6 followed by the prophecy of the Branch is only typologically relevant to Zerubbabel and is fully realized in the Messiah. The LXX is probably clearer in this respect, for instead of the MT - “he shall grow up out of his place” (v.12) the LXX has; “Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall spring up from his stem (Zerubbabel’s stem), and build the house of the Lord”.


While the supremacy of the priesthood in the immediate aftermath of the exile should not be exaggerated, it is undeniable that tensions existed with the monarchy. The Babylonian exile had undermined the position of the Davidides as independent kings (melek) – they became vassal kings or ‘princes’ (nasi’) subject to Persian authority. The experiment in Diarchism (governance by two rulers) ended. The polity that eventually emerged was that of a temple state of the oligarchic, or aristocratic, type, not that of monarchy.


[8] Lisbeth S. Fried, The priest and the great king: temple-palace relations in the Persian Empire: Biblical and Judaic Studies Vol 10,(Eisenbrauns, Winona Lake:Indiana,2004),204

[9] Now to you, O profane, wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose iniquity shall end, thus says the Lord GOD: “Remove the turban, and take off the crown; nothing shall remain the same. Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted. Overthrown, overthrown, I will make it overthrown! It shall be no longer, Until He comes whose right it is, and I will give it to Him.” (Ezek.21:25-26).

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The main strands of Judaism that scholarship has identified are; Sapiental, Zadokite and Enochic Judaism. The delineation of Judaism into different strands and the search into origins is a complex field of studies open to methodological abuses, particularly if textual evidence is employed to obtain sociohistorical information. For example, if we had the literature of the branch Davidian cult we might reach certain generic conclusions regarding Christian messianic Apocalypticism that are completely invalid for main stream Christianity. Care must be exercised when employing theodicy to write social history, or in extrapolating sociohistorical data from textual evidence. The relationship between different sectarian movements is probably more diffuse and complex than scholarship recognizes; for example, it is inevitable that literary traditions crossed the boundaries of different groups and influenced different streams of tradition in different ways. Dogmatism in this field of scholarship is to be avoided but a simplified working model might look something like this:




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The three main streams of Judaism that have been identified are Sapiental Judaism, Zadokite Judaism and Enochic Judaism. Sapiental Judaism is concerned with theodicy, or a legitimating of the divine purpose in the face of human suffering and evil. This is expressed in Wisdom Literature such as the pre-exilic book of Job or post-exilic Philonic literature. Zadokite theology permeates the Levitical laws on purity and impurity but is predominately concerned with the establishing of boundaries. This is particularly characteristic of Ezekiel chs. 40-48 where geography and topography is used to delineate the sacred and the profane. The Zadokites believed that the present world was one of divine order that had developed from chaos. Enochic Judaism on the other hand believed that the present world was a corrupted one (caused by the sin of fallen angels) from what was perfect in the beginning. Boccaccini understands Daniel as a third way between Zadokite and Enochic Judaism, “In its very structure, the book is an invitation to a journey that from the tenets of Zadokite Judaism moves towards the principles of Enochic Judaism, to a land midway, in a new, unexplored land between and beyond the two traditions”.[10]


There is no doubt that contrasting theologies existed during this era but whether we can speak of different strands of Judaism is debatable. Lester L. Grabbe finds the concept of different kinds of Judaism problematic and critiques the idea of a distinct “Zadokite” Judaism.[11] The priests were not a sect and their concern was orthopraxis not theological speculation besides which it is unlikely that the views held by the group were homogenous. In the same way Enochic Judaism can be challenged - the original purpose of the literature may have been polemical rather than theological. Fletcher-Louis understands the story of the “Fallen angels” as a mythological satire against the Samaritan schismatic’s - who (joined by some of the Jerusalem priests) established    Continued  ˃


[10] Ibid, Roots,172

[11] Lester L. Grabbe, A history of the Jews and Judaism in the second temple period: The coming of the Greeks: The early Hellenistic Period (335-175 BCE) Vol.2, (T&T Clark, London: New York,2008),238-244

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their own priesthood and form of worship.[12] The Seleucid era saw the corruption of the priestly office[13] which was purchased, the murder of priests, the introduction of Hellenistic practices, the establishment of an alternative temple in Egypt and a period of seven years referred to as the Inter-Sacerdotium where there was no high priest, or possibly no legitimate high priest.[14] The innovative development in this period is the institution of the synagogue which is probably concurrent with the emergence of sectarian movements that opposed the corrupt priestly establishment in Jerusalem.  However, (as noted by Boccaccini[15]) for    Continued  ˃


[12] Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis, “The High Priest as Divine Mediator in the Hebrew Bible: Dan 7:13 as a Test Case”, (SBL Seminary Paper: Oxford, England, 1997),180

[13] See Appendix 1 Chapter 23: Post Exilic Priestly List (515BC-36BC)

[14] It has been argued that the founder of the Qumran community, the Teacher of Righteousness (Moreh Zedek), was high priest (but not necessarily the sole occupant) during the inter-sacerdotium and was driven off by Jonathan. Stephen Hultgren speculates; “If we assume that the appointment of Jonathan the Hasmonean, who is probably the Wicked Priest of 1QpHab VIII, 8-13 (and perhaps also XI, 4-8), as high priest in 152 BC was experienced as the usurpation of the high priesthood from the legitimate Onaid high priest, then it is likely that this Onaid high priest is to be identified with the Teacher of Righteousness. This high priest found refuge in the covenant group that had already boycotted the temple”. Elsewhere (p.305) Hultgren notes, “In a parallel way, although at a much later date, rabbinic tradition would trace the Sadducees back to the influence of a certain Zadok, whom the rabbinic tradition viewed as a heretic for denying the doctrine of the resurrection”. Stephen Hultgren, From the Damascus Covenant to the Covenant of the Community: Literary, Historical, and Theological Studies in the Dead Sea Scrolls,(Brill, Leiden: The Netherlands,2007),537

[15] Boccaccini assumes a late Date for Daniel, nevertheless, he states (Roots, 190); “What distinguishes Daniel from Dream Visions, too, is a contrasting attitude toward the temple. In the eyes of Daniel, the cult in the temple of Jerusalem is absolutely legitimate and no religious or political event seems to have tarnished this legitimacy, either the crisis of the Zadokite priesthood, or the philo-Hellenistic politics of the high priests Jason and Menelaus”.

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Daniel the temple cult was still legitimate despite abuses and corruption.




Of particular interest is the emergence of the Sadducees and Pharisees who play such a prominent role in the NT. The theology of the Pharisees was similar to that of early Christians, Paul was a Pharisee and while the Lord reprimanded them for hypocrisy and unbelief they were not reproved for wrong doctrine. The Sadducees (Zadokites?) formed a small but influential party within the temple aristocracy. Their descent from Zadok is debated. They denied the resurrection and had reservations about angels/spirits (Matt.22:23-33; Acts 23:8; Jos. Antiq.18.1.4; War 2.8.14). Similar to the Samaritans, they only accepted the Pentateuch as authoritative which explains why Jesus used the Pentateuch to argue the doctrine of the resurrection. The Sadducees also rejected the notion of ‘fate’[16] which should probably be understood as historical determinism. These doctrines are fundamental to the book of Daniel, especially historical determinism[17] and the resurrection.


[16] The historian Flavius Josephus states; “Now for the Pharisees, they say that some actions, but not all, are the work of Fate, and some of them are in our own power, and that they are liable to Fate, but are not caused by Fate. But the sect of the Essenes affirms that Fate governs all things, and that nothing befalls men but what is according to its determination. And for the Sadducees, they take away Fate, and say that there is no such thing, and that the events of human affairs are not at its disposal; but they suppose that all our actions are in our own power, so that we are ourselves the causes of what is good, and receive what is evil from our own folly”. (Antiq. 13.5.9)

[17] The book of Daniel understands the times of history as fixed with deliverance occurring at the end of 70 weeks of punishment. As Boccaccini points out (Roots, 193); “Historical determinism makes the individual powerless”. However, individual destiny is not necessarily the same as collective destiny. The individual is free to choose and will experience individual judgement or condemnation in the resurrection, thus maintaining the fundamental freedom which forms the basis of covenant theology.   

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The post-exilic situation which gave rise to sectarian groups such as the Pharisees and Sadducees elucidates Jesus’ trial allusion to Daniel. The accusation that he sought to destroy the temple was probably instigated by the Pharisees (who accepted the prophecy of Daniel) in an attempt to identify Christ with Antiochus or with the ruler who was predicted to destroy the sanctuary at the end of the 70 weeks. On the other hand the Sadducees rejected Daniel and any notion of historical determinism or resurrection. Jesus’ reply (which alludes to Daniel 7:13 in Matt.26:64) to his judges in the Sanhedrin highlighted the tensions that existed between the Pharisees and Sadducees (a tactic later employed by Paul in Acts 23:6) and answered the charges of blasphemy and temple destruction, Jesus was no Antiochus – Jesus represented the true Israel (the one like a son of man) whose destiny was to rule the nations and judge the judges.

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Appendix 1 Chapter 23: Post Exilic Priestly List (515BC-36BC)


Flavius Josephus lists the names of 14 post-exilic priests but the accuracy is still a matter of scholarly debate.[18]  A provisional list is provided below:


After the Babylonian Exile

Joshua, son of Jehozadak[19]



Joiakim, son of Joshua



Eliashib, son of Joiakim



Joiada, son of Eliashib

A son married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite for which he was driven out of the Temple by Nehemiah


Johanan, son of Joiada



Jaddua, son of Johanan

During the reign of Alexander the Great. Some have identified him as Simeon the Just.



The Onaids

Onias I, son of Jaddua



Simon I, son of Onias



Eleazar, son of Onias



Manasseh, son of Jaddua



Onias II, son of Simon



Simon II, son of Onias



Onias III, son of Simon

murdered 170 BC


Jason, son of Simon




Onias IV, son of Onias III, fled to Egypt and built a Jewish Temple at Leontopolis (closed in AD 66)









Hasmonean dynasty

Jonathan Apphus



Simeon Tassi

brother of Jonathan Apphus


John Hyrcanus I

son of Simeon Tassi


Aristobulus I

son of John Hyrcanus


Alexander Jannaeus

son of John Hyrcanus


John Hyrcanus II

son of Alexander Jannaeus


Aristobulus II

son of Alexander Jannaeus


John Hyrcanus II




son of Aristobulos II


Aristobulus III

Last of the Hasmoneans; paternal grandson of Aristobulus II and

brother of Herod’s wife Mariamne (second wife of Herod)



[18] James C. VanderKam, “Jewish High Priests of the Persian Period: Is the list complete?” In Priesthood and Cult in Ancient Israel, ed. Gary A. Anderson and Saul M. Olyan, JSOTSup 125 (Sheffield:JSOT,1991),67-91;Menahem Mor, “The High Priests in Judah in the Persian Period,” Bet Miqra 23 (1977):57-67(Hebrew);Frank Moore Cross, “A Reconstruction of the Judean Restoration,” JBL 94(1975):4-18;Alice Hun, Missing priests: the Zadokites in tradition and history,(T&T Clark International, New York:London,2006)

[19]The five descendants of Joshua are mentioned in Nehemiah, chapter 12, 10f. The chronology given above, based on Josephus, however is not undisputed, with some alternatively placing Jaddua during the time of Darius II and some supposing one more Johanan and one more Jaddua in the following time, the latter Jaddua being a contemporary of Alexander the Great.