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Daniel 11:36-37 KJV

And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god: for he shall magnify himself above all.

Most modern scholars assert that Daniel 7-12 was written during the Maccabean Rebellion as an attempt to bring comfort to the traditional Jews at the time who faced persecution by the then emperor Antiochus IV who outlawed many of the Jewish practices. The prophecy of chapter 11, therefore, is seen as vaticinium ex eventu: prediction after the fact. Verses 36-37 is interpreted to be describing Antiochus IV, being simply referred to as “the king”.

To me the language appears to suggest that the author is being critical of the king’s disregard for his own gods. Could this suggest that the supposed author was henotheistic - worshiping one god but not denying the existence of other gods, or was the supposed author definitely monotheistic?

I’ve posted a similar question before regarding whether or not the author of Daniel 7-12 was a traditionalist. This is different as “traditionalist” may be an ambiguous term. One can be a traditionalist and not necessarily be monotheistic.

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    Modern philosophical assumption is that long-range predictive prophecy is impossible. Therefore all fulfilled predictions in Daniel, it is claimed, had to have been composed no earlier than the Maccabean period (second century B.C.), after the fulfilment had taken place. But objective evidence excludes this hypothesis on several counts... My NIV Study Bible concludes: "There is insufficient reason to deny Daniel’s authorship." Also, Christ Jesus mentions Daniel as the author (Matthew 24:15). What evidence is there to support your claim the book was written during the Maccabean rebellion?
    – Lesley
    Feb 10, 2023 at 9:40
  • I’m not claiming anything one way or the other. I’m simply saying that is what most modern scholars agree with. I personally don’t agree with the Maccabean thesis but am interested in what scholars believe about the supposed author.
    – user329957
    Feb 10, 2023 at 14:45
  • Is this the question you asked earlier? hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/81097/…
    – Lesley
    Feb 10, 2023 at 15:41
  • No. As stated in the post above
    – user329957
    Feb 10, 2023 at 16:27

4 Answers 4

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One way to approach that question might be to ask ourselves whether "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus ch20 v3) is monotheistic or not.

I suggest that it is, on the grounds that one can recognise that other people worship entities which they call "gods" without actually believing oneself that those "gods" have a real existence. We might then apply the same thought to any other Biblical references to gods. The comment in Daniel would then be just an observation on the king's character as someone who believed only in himself. The author is criticising the over-confident egocentric who accepts no restraint from anybody else.

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"...For he shall magnify himself above all" Daniel 36-37 continues: "But in his estate shall he honour the god of forces: and a god whom his fathers knew not shall he honour with gold and silver..." Thus shall he do in the most strong holds with a strange god whom he shall acknowledge and increase with glory: and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain." To me this phrase 'a god whom his fathers knew not' suggests that it was not a traditional god. i.e. a god of his tribal forebears. The second very telling phrase is: 'a strange god' which suggests that this god was not a god that was something that other people would normally identify as a god. It was a god known to himself ONLY and yet he was able to convince others that this god existed and persuade them (by means of the 'god of forces') to worship this god. The third phrase 'and he shall cause them to rule over many, and shall divide the land for gain.' CAUSE THEM indicates plural. So not only is this god monotheistic but this god exists in the plural form. Whatever can be made from this veers into the psychoanalytical. I suggest you try looking up MPD or DID to get some idea of what was going on.

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  • So was the author a henotheist?
    – user329957
    Feb 10, 2023 at 14:58
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The OP asks: "Could this suggest that the supposed author was henotheistic - worshiping one god but not denying the existence of other gods, or was the supposed author definitely monotheistic?"

I would answer that the passage does not imply that author was a henotheist personally. Rather, he is criticizing the king for being fickle, worshiping first one God and then another. However in the author's view there is only one true God, namely Yahweh, the Lord. This article examines the monotheistic outlook of the book in general as "A Guide to Judaism in Exile."

Interestingly, from a historical viewpoint, a henotheistic outlook is more characteristic of early Israelite religion, while true monotheism is thought to emerge later, in the time of leading up to and during the Babylonian exile. In that sense, a henotheistic viewpoint would be more likely if the author was the historical Daniel than if he was another person writing in Daniel's name during the Maccabean revolt. But in either case, the OP passage does not imply a henotheistic attitude on the part of the author. Even a strictly monotheistic viewpoint would not prevent him from criticizing or ridiculing the wavering attitude of the Gentile king as to which god should be worshipped.

To conclude, the passage does not imply a henotheistic outlook on the part of the author. However, it does criticize the king for not even being true to his own god, let alone the "God of gods."

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There are two factors that illustrate this question is irrelevant.

  1. Daniel 11 is a prophesy and not a commentary. The author did not have his comment to the prophesy.
  2. The prophesy was given by the angel (Daniel 11:1). The author just wrote it down.

Therefore, from the context of Daniel 11 alone, there is no evidence to examine the religion of the author. Examine verse 11:36-37 alone, the subject was the king, not the author. The author just did the scribe as he was told by the angel.

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