Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daniel and the Lion's Den

We did a little research before leaving for Uzbekistan back in March. One of the most curious bits of history that we stumbled across was an article claiming a tomb in Samarqand as the burial place of the prophet Daniel; as in “and the lion’s den?”

We instantly dismiss so many things in life. I walked away from the above claim thinking that are too many wack-jobs in academia.

But then we mentioned it to a very knowledgeable lady in our church and she said “That makes sense; I remember reading that Daniel was from Uz.” Uz, Uzbekistan. Ok. Maybe there’s something to it.

I read the Old Testament chapter named for him, but it only lists the places he had been prior to going, against his will, to Babylon, near Baghdad today.

As a prophet, Daniel and his cohorts interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams, rising in social and court status with each accurate foretelling, culminating in today’s oft repeated (irritating and hackneyed) cliché “the writings on the wall.” The lion’s den thing and getting chucked in the furnace didn’t hurt his reputation, either.

But his tomb in Samarqand? What the heck? A glance at our wall map reveals the distance between Susa, Iran, where he probably died, and Samarqand, as only 1,500 miles, with no major obstacles in between. Remember: even from our apartment here in Almaty, Jerusalem is only 3,000 miles away. Baghdad, 2500, Kabul, Afghanistan 900, and the Swat Valley, Pakistan, where a million people have been displaced since the middle of April, 2009, is only 700 miles distant.

Wikipedia asserts that there are, indeed, six sites that maintain tombs in Daniel’s memory: Susa, Iran; Kirkuk, Iraq; Babylon, (not clear on the State); Egypt; Tarsus; and Samarqand, the only place that has an above ground coffin and a 700 year old, constant vigil. Emir Timur, a “unifying” leader for this entire region in the 1300’s, brought Daniel’s remains here from Iran while he was out checking to see how flexible the borders in Central Asia were at that time.

The pictures above were taken at the mausoleum we visited. The coffin has a green and gold silk or velvet covering that has been replaced countless times in the past 7 centuries. You’re encouraged to walk around it several times, meditating or praying. There were mullahs and men and young boys praying and chanting right behind the beautiful entry.

Don’t know if it is really true, but it’s interesting to reflect upon.

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