History Repeats

4 09 2009

During the time that the Zhou Dynasty ruled China, a sage called Kong Fuzi arose in 551 BC that would deeply influence Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese thought for over two thousand years and is still revered by billions today. The westernised name of that man comes down to us as Confucius. His penetrating wisdom led him to observe that one should “Study the past if you would define the future.” (The Confucian Analects, p.18). This was not a new idea since the proverbial king Solomon had set it out five centuries earlier:

“The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.” Ecc 1:9

An official from the Shang province once asked Confucius if he was a sage. “‘A sage!’ replied Confucius. ‘How could I venture to think so? I am only a man with a wide range of learning and information…’ ‘Why, who is there, then,’ cried the Minister, much astonished, ‘that is really a sage?’ The expression of Confucius’ countenance changed, and he replied after a pause: ‘Among the people of the West a true sage dwells. He governs not, yet there is no disorder. He speaks not, yet he is naturally trusted. He makes no reforms, yet right conduct is spontaneous and universal. So great and incomprehensible is he that the people can find no name to call him by. I suspect that this man is a sage, but whether in truth he is a sage or is not a sage I do not know.’” (Book of Lieh-Tzü, BOOK IV: Confucius, by Lionel Giles 1912) We ask which man lived in the west, contemporary to Confucius whose fame and wisdom was known throughout the world, whose writings defined the course of history, whose tomb in Susa in modern Iran is still revered today and whom Confucius could find no name to call him by?

The historian Josephus tells us that when Alexander the Great came to attack Jerusalem in 333BC, Juddua, the High Priest, went out to meet him and showed him a copy of the book of Daniel written two hundred years earlier where Alexander’s future defeat of Persia was described. (Ant. 11.337). This so impressed him that, instead of destroying Jerusalem as he had intended, Alexander worshipped at the temple and granted Jerusalem many favours and the freedom to live under their own laws. As a contemporary of Confucius, we can think of no other than Daniel that meets his specifications for the “true sage” that lived in the west. Even after two and a half thousand years, the writings of the prophet Daniel are as relevant today as when they so deeply impressed Alexander the Great that they turned the course of history.

Since Daniel’s time, many refusing like Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 3:1-7) to accept the description of history in regard to themselves, have denied the authenticity of the book and have attempted to obfuscate its writings, claiming they apply only to the distant past (preterism) or to the distant future (futurism) or to spiritualise (allegorize)  away its application to us today. It is little wonder that Daniel tells us “only the wise shall understand” (Dan 12:10). The articles in this blog will show is that Daniel’s description of the cycle of world history has applied throughout all history but even moreso in our day, predicting the major events of the twentieth century in detail. What many students of Daniel’s prophecies have overlooked is that, just as Confucius and Solomon recognised that history repeats, Daniel, who had studied the writings of Solomon and was acknowledged as superior by Confucius, must also have recognised the same. This is where we begin to see the true genius of Daniel. In carefully selecting which details he presented in his vision of the four kingdoms, he skilfully identified the characteristic features of a cycle that would be repeated three times in history with each repetition providing a more complete or precise fulfilment of Daniel’s prophetic vision. Interestingly the Seven Trumpets of Revelation and other prophecies also repeat three times.

Didn’t George Bernard Shaw write:

“We learn from experience that we never learn from experience.”


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