Monday, October 17, 2011

God of Heaven

Queen of Heaven is known to prophet Jeremiah.

Bible refers only once to a corresponding male sky god, when the utterly humiliated and then fully restored Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar mentions King of Heaven.

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. 
Dan 4:37

Bible has several references to the God of heaven but from the Persian period only:
First by Cyros, the king of Persia

Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.
2 Chr 36:23 (also Ezra 1:2)

In the Book of Ezra the expression is used also by the Jews living in diaspora in Iran

This is the answer they gave us:
 “We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.
Ezra 5:11-12

This is a copy of the letter King Artaxerxes had given to Ezra the priest, a teacher of the Law, a man learned in matters concerning the commands and decrees of the LORD for Israel:
   Artaxerxes, king of kings,
   To Ezra the priest, teacher of the Law of the God of heaven:
Ezra 7:11-12 

The expression occurs once in the Book of Nehemia:

The king said to me, “What is it you want?”
   Then I prayed to the God of heaven,
 Neh 2:4 

The title "God of heaven" is found in the Book of Daniel twice in the explanation of the dream of king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon:

Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
Dan  2:37-38

And at a given time in the history of mankind this God of heaven is going to establish an eternal kingdom upon earth:

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever."
Dan 2:44

We get an idea about the royal theology contained in the title God of Heaven

 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High;
  I honored and glorified him who lives forever.
   His dominion is an eternal dominion;
   his kingdom endures from generation to generation.
 All the peoples of the earth
   are regarded as nothing.
He does as he pleases
   with the powers of heaven
   and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand
   or say to him: “What have you done?”
 Dan 4:34-35

There is no sign of worshipping the Hosts of heaven, Sun and Moon and stars, in this celestial context that looks nothing like the physical space, the sky and heavens above us:

As I looked,
   “thrones were set in place,
   and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
   the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
   and its wheels were all ablaze.
 A river of fire was flowing,
   coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
   ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
   and the books were opened.
Dan 7:9-10

Although the title is not used, there is a heavenly crowning in Daniel

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed."
Dan 7:13-14

Jesus of Nazareth was condemned to death after a difficult trial in the Sanhedrin when He implied in front of the High Priest Caiaphas that He is the man in the clouds of heaven in the prophecy of Daniel 7.

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
   The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
   64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
   “He is worthy of death,” they answered.
Matthew 26:62-66 NISV

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