DANIEL’S DIPLOMATIC SKILL: WHAT IT IS NOT

old village lifeWe may perhaps first learn something about Daniel’s diplomatic skill by way of contrast to something we may be more familiar with. His attitude and manner of speech is quite unlike the way the biblical prophets typically communicated to rulers and policymakers. The prophetic literature of the Bible shows us prophets who are frequently confrontative and who often go for the jugular. The prophets aggressively publicly declare unjust policies, and it is not unusual for them to use scornful or inflammatory rhetoric to indict the leaders and decision makers who implemented the policies, as well as the populations who accept them.

Examples abound. Here is just one. Having first ridiculed the gods of Babylonia (chapter 46), Isaiah then turns his sights on the nation itself and its policies. This is about two centuries before  the time of Daniel. Toward one of the regions great powers, who apparently prided herself an empress, Isaiah’s language drips with sarcasm. To summarize Isaiah 47:1-10:

Come down off your throne; sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. Take millstones and grind flour. Sit in silence and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans. No more will you be called queen of kingdoms, even though you said I will be a queen forever. Yet you are a wanton creature, lounging in your security. But widowhood and loss of children will overtake you on a single day. You have trusted in your wickedness; your wisdom and knowledge have misled you.

That is a pretty invidious comparison. It is difficult for us moderns to imagine how humiliatingly disgraceful the image would have been to Babylonian rulers. To feel its sting, imagine something like the Archbishop of Canterbury prophesying that England is to end in ruins and her queen will not only be sent from the palace but forced to live the rest of her life as the poorest of commoners, reduced to the condition of a slave grinding flour.

In short, the prophets do not seem to care about what diplomats care about, negotiations. Abusive speech, sarcasm, scorn, aggressively confrontational public rhetoric, and suchlike are not the diplomatic way. Diplomacy is the art of negotiations and wisdom is an agency of judicious speech (Proverbs 16:23). This befits diplomats and it is a skill we see in Daniel early on, during a risky piece of negotiations. We’ll explore this next time.

©2014 by Charles Strohmer

2 thoughts on “DANIEL’S DIPLOMATIC SKILL: WHAT IT IS NOT

    • Welcome to the house again, Daegmund. You’re right. And I’ll go a step further. I don’t think many Evangelicals are mindful of some huge problems that come with trying to take a lead from the prophets. Some of these I have been discussing in these posts on Daniel as prophet or diplomat, starting with this one: https://wagingwisdom.com/2014/04/02/daniel-prophet-or-diplomat/. Another issue is that the prophets typically address a _nation_ and Evangelicals typically seek to apply that collective address to themselves individualistically pietistically. You know: What is Isaiah or Amos saying to me, as an individual today, about my personal sin? Fair enough. I would never say don’t do that. I do it myself. But it entails a trickier form of insight and application than is often suspected, and I think it misses the main point of the prophets, which was to speak to nations. (I realize they occasionally speak to individuals such as ruler and political officials, but that is usually done in the context of addressing a nation.)

      And for those who say, Right, it’s about nations, so what are the prophets saying to our nation today?, there is the equally tricky problem of extrapolating from 2-3 millennia ago to today. Worse still, there is no nation today, not even America(!), that was founded with the clear mandate-revelation of and from God that ancient Israel was. That is NOT how American — with, what, its mix of Puritan Calvinism, Enlightenment rationalism, and Virginia Deism? — was founded. As a result, when the prophets did their thing in the long ago to Israel, Israel as a nation got it. They did not have to guess what the prophets meant. They may not have liked what they were hearing, but it was clear as a bell to them. Nations today, as we all know, do not have that kind of divine revelation, so, again, it is tricky to update their very specific prophetic remarks to Israel to today.

      Gone on too long here. But just this too. The NT book of Hebrews opens this way: “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” I wonder if we would not become wiser by spending our time with Jesus on, say, the Sermon on the Mount, rather than on trying to puzzle out prophecy and become God’s great end times prophets? Perhaps we don’t do that precisely because it is hugely personally challenging. There is not a piece of literature that is more timely and relevant to today for the individual than that Sermon.

      Nuff said. And thx for the stimulation.

      Like

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