Sunday School Lesson 46

December 5, 2006 | 10 comments
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Lesson 46: Daniel 2

Verses 4-5: Why does the king make this demand on his wise men?

Verses 10-12: What did it mean to be a wise man in Babylon? Why was the king angry? Why do you think that the gods of Babylon are never mentioned in this story, not even negatively?

Verse 24: Why does Daniel save the other wise men of Babylon?

Verse 28: Why would a king living hundreds of years before Christ’s birth be interested in what would happen at the age when the end of the world would come? (“Latter days” is probably better translated “at the end of days.”) Why should anyone but those who live in the latter days care about them?

Verse 32: The Greek poet Hesiod uses the image of world history as having four parts, each less happy than the last, and each designated by a metal of decreasing value: gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Persians had a similar understanding of the ages of human existence: gold, silver, steel, and iron mixed with clay. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is a mixture of the two traditions. Why would a revelation to the Lord come to Nebuchadnezzar in those terms?

Verse 34: What is the stone cut from the mountain without hands? Why do you think that? How does your identification of that stone fit with your identification with the parts of the image in the next verses?

Verses 36-45: It appears that the Jews before Christ’s time understood world history to be encapsulated in the reigns of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks. So, it was probably in those terms that the prophecy was understood up to the time of Christ. The traditional Catholic interpretation was that the four parts of the image represent the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, culminating in the birth of Christ. Joseph Smith didn’t seem particularly interested in discussing those kingdoms. (See Dean Jessee (comp.), Personal Writings of Joseph Smith 77.)

Verses 41-44: Joseph Smith was, however, interested in the feet and toes:

The feet of the Image, is the government of these united States, other Nations & Kingdoms are looking up to her, for an example, of union fredom and equal rights, and therefore worship her, like as Daniel saw in the vision, although they are begining to loose confidence in her, seeing the broils and discord that distract, her political & religious hor=izon; this Image is characteristic of all governmen=ts and institutions or most of them; as they begin with a head of gold and terminate in the contemp=[t]ible feet of Iron & clay: making a splendid app=earance at first, proposing to do much more than the[y] can pefform, and finally end in degradation and sink, in infamy; we should not only start to com[e] out of Babylon but leav[e] it entirely lest we are overthrown in her ruins, (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith 78)

How did Joseph Smith understand the prophecy of Daniel? What import does it have for us today? How did Joseph Smith understand what it meant to come out of Babylon? How ought we to understand it?

Verse 44: What kingdom will consume all other kingdoms? What is the relation of the Church to that kingdom? Given these biblical and prophetic teachings, why does the Church require our obedience to earthly governments?

10 Responses to Sunday School Lesson 46

  1. BrianJ on December 5, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    “How did Joseph Smith understand what it meant to come out of Babylon?”

    One of the things that stood out to me this year—I don’t know why it never did before—is how short-lived Babylon was. We meet several mighty empires in the Old Testament, including Egypt, Assyria, Media/Persia, and—in way—Greece. And yet, when it comes to illustrating the World, Babylon is the kingdom of choice. Of course I understand why Babylon stands out to the Jews who wrote the Old Testament (it was Babylon that destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple), but I still find it interesting.

  2. Kelly MAC on December 9, 2006 at 4:28 am

    I found it interesting that the Lord REVEALED the dream to \”us\” which was Daniel, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego and not just to Daniel. It was Daniel that was sent to reveal the dream to the King, but its meaning was obtained through the faith and prayers of all four of these faithful servants. Much like it was the fasting and prayers of all Ester\’s family that saved the nation in last weeks lesson. So we learn that joining faith can have much greater influence on the Lord.

  3. Robert C. on December 9, 2006 at 3:44 pm

    I’ve wondered a fair bit about the purpose of prophecy and eschatological passages of scripture, so I’d be very interested in hearing others’ thoughts about the following question:

    Verse 28: Why would a king living hundreds of years before Christ’s birth be interested in what would happen at the age when the end of the world would come? (”Latter days” is probably better translated “at the end of days.”) Why should anyone but those who live in the latter days care about them?

    In context of this chapter, I think at least part of the main point is that the heavenly king is superior to earthly kings (and I think chapter 3 reinforces this). Applied to ourselves, I think the point is that our secular lives are temporary and we should live in such a way that we are preparing for a more permanent type of existence.

    I think other motivations for eschatological study often rub me wrong, when discussion turns into either scare tactics to get ready our food storage, camp stoves, machine guns (?!), etc., or speculation about and check-listing what prophecies have been fulfilled and which haven’t, or how wicked the world is and how wonderful the church is by contrast (which I think is a possibly interesting/productive topic, but risks devolving into a pat-each-other-on-the-back approach).

    I’m not feeling very inspired to teach the last half of Daniel 2, so any ideas will truly be appreciated. (We had a very good lesson just on Esther last week, thanks largely to Jim’s excellent notes, so I may just discuss the lion’s den and Shadrack et al–but I’ll feel a bit guilty if I avoid Daniel 2 just b/c I’m struggling to know how to teach it….)

  4. Robert C. on December 9, 2006 at 4:07 pm

    By the way, I think the first half of Daniel 2 is very interesting and rich in study and teaching possibilities. In particular, the contrast between Nebuchadnezzar’s scared sages and Daniel’s confidence seems a great place to explore issues like: secular knowledge vs. inspiration (vv. 10ff); fear vs. confidence, in God’s presence and man’s prescence (vv. 15ff; cf. D&C D&C 121:45); mysteries and revelation (v. 18); godly wisdom and mysteries (vv. 20-23); etc.

  5. BrianJ on December 10, 2006 at 1:26 am

    Robert C: I am focusing my lesson almost entirely on the last half of Daniel 2. (I teach Gospel Doctrine.) I plan to discuss the prophecy that the Church will “grow to fill all the earth,” show some membership numbers (very briefly; we’ve all seen them before), then switch over to 2 Nephi 28:21 (“All is well in Zion….”). I’ve invited our bishop to share his concerns and lead a discussion about “missing” converts and other members. The remainder of the lesson will be talking about why the Church is growing (i.e. what are individuals doing that makes this Church grow as opposed to sitting back and watching it grow).

    I doubt if any of that would be interesting to your class, but what you have planned sounds great!

  6. Robert C. on December 10, 2006 at 5:11 pm

    BrianJ #5: Thanks, I like that spin–in gernal, we study prophecies in order to give us a sense of direction, something to work toward….

  7. Y Stephenson on December 14, 2006 at 12:30 pm

    Isn’t it always the last days? The interest in prophecies about the end time is thus, every present because it might not be some distant future but our own more immediate reality. John A. Widstow in Evidences and Reconciliations says that identifiying the countries is not necessary as the prophecy is to be a broad outline of kingdoms or countries coming into existance and then declining rather than a specific road map of the future. Prophecy is after all the key to the past not the key to the future.

  8. The Wiz on December 17, 2006 at 2:02 am

    Ok, Joseph Smith saw the feet as the government of the U.S. but the manual says that Spencer w Kimball saw the feet as a group of European nations. I’m confused. Do they somehow represent both?

  9. Jim F. on December 17, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    The Wiz: Why should prophecies have only one interpretation? If they do, why didn’t the Lord just give that interpretation in the first place? What do you learn from the prophecy if you read it Joseph Smith’s way? If you read it Spencer W. Kimball’s way?

  10. Evaine on April 14, 2008 at 12:09 pm

    Good post. You make some great points that most people do not fully understand.

    “The feet of the Image, is the government of these united States, other Nations & Kingdoms are looking up to her, for an example, of union fredom and equal rights, and therefore worship her, like as Daniel saw in the vision, although they are begining to loose confidence in her, seeing the broils and discord that distract, her political & religious hor=izon; this Image is characteristic of all governmen=ts and institutions or most of them; as they begin with a head of gold and terminate in the contemp=[t]ible feet of Iron & clay: making a splendid app=earance at first, proposing to do much more than the[y] can pefform, and finally end in degradation and sink, in infamy; we should not only start to com[e] out of Babylon but leav[e] it entirely lest we are overthrown in her ruins, (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith 78)”

    I like that part. Very helpful. Thanks.

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