This text is especially interesting as it is the first mention in the Bible of time being divided into smaller segments: namely hours.
From Herodotus: "The Chaldeans, known for their
and scholarly abilities, were the first to divide the day into 12 equal parts. They introduced it to the Babylonians, who then passed it on to the Greeks. " (Lib. ii., c. 109.)
The Greeks disagree. They believe that they were the first to divide the day into segments and offer as proof Anzsimander's invention of the sundial, an actual demonstration of the dividing of a day. However, this proof doesn't take into consideration that as early as Isaiah (8th century BC) the Hebrews had some method of telling the time by use of the sun's shadow. Such mention is made in the story of Hezekiah and the miracle granted to him of having the shadow move backwards ten steps on the 'Dial of Ahaz' (or more correctly on the stairway leading to Ahaz's chamber. (2 Kings 20:11)
Most likely, the Jews learned the idea of regular hour divisions from the Babylonians during their captivity as there is no indication that they had an understanding of the idea before, only afterwards.
The fiery furnace of Daniel is believed to have been either a 'brick kiln' or a lime oven. Such furnaces were numerous in Babylon, especially on the Plain of Dura. They were cone shaped, constructed out of bricks, had an opening in one side wall and most often fueled with a mixture of chaff and crude oil. Such a fuel produces a tremendous heat.
Under normal circumstances, the unbaked bricks or limestone rocks were stacked around the inner solid walls of the oven. Then a fire was set in the middle. In no time, the bricks or clay would turn white hot. As the baking continued, more fuel could be added through the opening.
The furnace or "kaminos" (Greek) mentioned in Rev. 9:2 is probably a brick kiln of this same type.
Burning alive is a very ancient punishment. Some scholars believe that it was a popular method for executing criminals, prisoners of wars, and enemies of the state. Although there are not many ancient examples of this kind of death penalty, a few are recorded.
There are only a few recorded examples of this practice.
1. In the 2nd. millennium B.C., a Babylonian cuneiform text records that servants were threatened with this kind of punishment. The same Aramaic word found in Daniel for furnace (attun) is also found in the Babylonian in this cuneiform text (utunum).
2. Nebuchadnezzar's son-in-law, Nergal-sharusur, in one of his royal inscription claimed to have burned to death adversaries and disobedient ones.
3. In Jeremiah 29:22, two false prophets were put to death in the manner of burning.
From John Chardin: "I saw ovens in Ispajan (Persia) that were heated up at royal command to scare dishonest bakers into obedience. It was not unusual for these men to overcharge for bread during scarce times. He mentions that cooks were roasted on the spit and bakers thrown into their own ovens. ("Travels into Persia and the East Indies", Published 1668)
In the introductory text, the word for hour is from the Chaldee "shaah" . But it is not the sixty-minute period that we recognize today as one hour. Rather it is more accurately translated “to look”, with the meaning of "a glance of the eye".
In this instance, "shaah" probably means at the "specific time of the looking at".
In other words, at the moment that the people were commanded to look up at the idol, if they did not immediately look, then at that same moment they would be burned alive.
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