The Message of Daniel: His Kingdom Cannot Fail, by Dale Ralph Davis, Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 2013. Paperback, 169 pp. [Reviewed by Rev. Martyn McGeown.]
I enjoy the Old Testament commentaries of Dale Ralph Davis. He has written quite a number, mostly on Old Testament narrative texts (Joshua, Judges, I-II Samuel and I-II Kings). He has also written on the prophets Micah and Daniel, all of which commentaries I have read.
This new commentary on Daniel does not disappoint. It is vintage Davis.
Davis interacts—only when necessary—with the higher critics in order to defend the inspiration and authority of the Word of God. As he writes in the introduction, “we have to face it because others have made a big deal of it” (15). The fundamental problem with critics is not their scholarly acumen. It is their unbelief:
The main problem with predictive prophecy is not theological or practical but presuppositional, a built-in antipathy to the very possibility of predictive prophecy. The last thing people—including some biblical scholars—want is a real God running around loose and having the chutzpah to order history ahead of time (22).
Davis’ style is quite “quirky,” which sometimes makes for humorous reading. That comes out in some of the chapter headings: “Saints in the hands of a saving God” (chapter 3); “The strut stops here” (chapter 5); “The case of Mr Hyde and Mr Hyde” (chapter 13). A quirky writing style also makes a writer quotable. And I like quotes for the bulletin.
The book expounds the prophecy of Daniel—both its historical narrative and apocalyptic prophecy—very skillfully. Davis has the knack of making the history come alive by throwing in intriguing and searching illustrations, while he carefully (but without becoming too technical) analyses the Hebrew and the structure of the passages. Davis excels at literary analysis without ever becoming boring.
Of interest to Reformed readers is the fact that Davis is Presbyterian and amillennial.
The main theme of Daniel is the triumph of God’s kingdom over all the kingdoms of men. Davis develops, illustrates, and applies that theme to the comfort of God’s people. “What has not changed even though we have been carted off to Babylon? And the text of Daniel 1 answers: God. God has not changed” (27). “Babylon, the hairy-chested macho brute of the world, has dropped with a thud into the mausoleum of history…. Remember that the servants of God will simply out-endure the kingdoms of this age” (37). “He rules the kingdom of men: smelly, sinful, selfish, scheming men. There’s nothing more ‘down to dirt’ than that. In our darker moments, we may lose sight of this comforting assurance” (65).
Many other quotes could be offered, but read the book for yourself.
As Davis says, “You can walk into the future with a God like that” (45).