July 21 – Prophets Ezekiel and Daniel

Ezekiel the Prophet (VI Cent. BC(E)) was taken into captivity in Babylon when the Babylonians took the ancient Israelites into captivity in Babylon, a time known as the Babylonian Captivity. One day he saw a great cloud full of fire, surrounded by brightness (unlike, say, your normal fire). He also saw four creatures, manlike except for having three more than the average human allotment of faces, and four more than the usual allotment of wings. Their faces were human, leonine, bullish, and eagleoid (presumably in that order) (widdershins). They came with wheels of beryl (an elfstone, you’ll recall) filled with eyes (unlike most elfstones) (or indeed most wheels). Above them was a firmament of crystal, under which was a throne of lapis lazuli, upon which sat a man-like figure (whom the church fathers identify as a pre-incarnational manifestation of Christ). He was like glowing metal from the waist up and fire from the waist down (unlike the incarnational manifestation of Christ, who was like flesh in both directions), and gave Ezekiel a scroll to eat, which (thankfully) was as sweet as honey.

This is followed by forty-some chapters of prophecy—disaster for Jerusalem, judgment for Israel’s neighbors, denouncement of various evils, and some of the best Biblical poetry outside of the Psalms (and Jeremiah, if you like that sort of thing).

He also prophesied the restoration of Israel, in a vision of a valley of dry bones. Ezekiel is told to tell them to reassemble, whereupon they lift up and fit to each other. They are then covered with sinews and tendons and muscles and skin and at this point if Zeke didn’t lose his lunch he is a far stouter fellow than I am. Then he is told to prophecy to the wind, which comes and fills the bodies with life. None of this surprised him in the least, of course—after his earlier vision, he was prepared to see just about anything. The entirety of this chapter (37) is read at the vesperal liturgy of Holy Saturday, and the guy who does it at our former parish is killer.

Ezekiel was finally torn to pieces for denouncing the wrong guy’s idolatry (an occupational hazard of prophetizing), but his words live on. Obviously.

Daniel the Prophet (V Cent. BC(E)), another captivity-era prophet, was appointed with three other youths (who later sang in a burning fiery furnace, but this isn’t their story) by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar to work in the civil service. As the story goes, Nebby had a dream that scared the willies out of him (not about a giant chocolate bunny, as some suggest), and demanded his wise men tell him what the dream was, and its interpretation. Daniel of course did both, and was made head wise man and given a province to rule for good measure. Another time a mysterious disembodied hand was seen writing on a wall the famous words which every child knows, “Mene mene tekel upharsin,” which Daniel glossed as, “Your end is near, King baby.” This of course proved to be the correct interpretation.

He is most famous, however, for a night spent at the zoo. The next king, Darius, issued a decree that Daniel broke by worshiping the wrong god (well, “wrong” according to Darius). Darius didn’t want to kill him, but his satraps (love that word) forced his hand. “Sorry about this,” Dar said as he tossed Daniel into the lions’ den and sealed the door. After a sleepless night, Darius came to the door and called out, “I hope that God of yours saved you!” “Never slept better,” said Daniel. The obnoxious satraps (great word) were tossed in instead, and met an unpleasant end—unpleasant for them, at any rate; it was presumably pleasant for the lions, who were hungry after fasting with Daniel the night before (Beatles reference).

Daniel died in old age, and his relics may have made it all the way to Venice, which is a beautiful city, so you can see how they might want to.