In which the exiles are called to bless even those who would curse them
Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the beasts of the field that the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Though God said, you shall not eat from any tree of the garden—” And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the garden’s trees we may eat, but from the fruit of the tree in the midst of the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it and you shall not touch it, lest you die.”
Then was this Daniel preeminent among the overseers and the satraps, for there was exceptional spirit in him, and the king thought to raise him up over the whole kingdom, Then the overlords and the satraps were seeking to find some pretext against Daniel in regard to the kingdom, but no pretext nor corruption could they find, for he was faithful, and no fault nor corruption was found in him. Then these men said that “no pretext was found against this Daniel, but we have found one against him in the law of his god.” Then did these overseers and satraps come in a crowd to the king and thus said to him, “King Darius, live forever!...”
The god of Babylon had a sidekick who was a talking dragon. The exiles are planted in Babylon as the tree of knowledge, civil servants such as Daniel of exceptional discernment, sustained by the life-giving presence of the god of the exiles right at the heart of the garden. Indeed, through the presence of the exiles, this God was Life to their conquering hosts. This god may have a chosen people but is not partisan. Nonetheless, the presence of Daniel is a threat that must be devoured one way or another. But each time men of evil intent lay hands on the fruit of the tree of knowledge, though the fruit is not eaten, those men and their families—their seed—are put to death at the order of a king who is brought to acknowledge the Most High.
To set oneself against the plans of God to form a people through whom all peoples shall be blessed is to choose death, to trade fleeting glory for no immortal memory. Even so, God raises up a people to bless even those who would seek them harm. That is at times an unwelcome calling. Advent calls us back to it again.
Biblical texts: Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible: A Translation with Commentary
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