Ezekiel 14:12–23

Read the passage.

The message from the Lord turns back to the fate of Jerusalem, and the surety of its destruction. He declares that if the three righteous men Noah, Daniel, and Job had been living in it, their presence would not have kept the Lord from wiping out the city, though their own lives would have been spared. Not even their sons or daughters would be saved, presumably because they would not have been righteous in Jerusalem like their fathers.

These three names should be instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with the Bible, and each of them was famously righteous in the midst of God’s judgement. However, the one who studies the history of the Bible will see a problem. Daniel the prophet is one of the few individuals in a Biblical narrative with no sins or shortcomings recorded in it, so he qualifies for this list in that respect. But he wasn’t famous yet. He was exiled in the first deportation like Ezekiel was, but after six years Nebuchadnezzar may or may not have had the dream recorded in Daniel 2, and Daniel may or may not have been second in the kingdom. Even if he had, most of the empire would only have known him as Belteshazzar, and he would not have been famous for being righteous, per se. Also, the spelling is different in Hebrew. A better transliteration might be Danel.

So who is this Danel mentioned by the Lord? He is mentioned again in Ezekiel 28 when the prince of Tyre is compared to him because of his wisdom. Modern scholarship believes Danel to be an Ugaritic king famed for his wisdom and righteousness, though the tablet fragments mention him in connection with Caananite gods. It’s not conclusive, but it is the best lead we have. If this is the same person, all three righteous men in our passage are non-Israelites who were righteous in the midst of destruction.

The point God is making is the same one He made with Sodom and Gomorrah: a few righteous people are not enough to spare the entire wicked community. Sword, famine, wild beasts, and pestilence are all coming to ravage the city of Jerusalem. However, a few people will be saved from these disasters, and these few will become a consolation to the exiles, because they will be the righteous remnant who did not follow in the ways of their peers. Thus will everyone know that God has dealt righteously with Jerusalem.

Again and again You have shown Yourself to be just and righteous.

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