ProphetDaniel01

Statue of the Prophet Daniel

There are a number of different public works of art on the grounds of the Headquarters of the Organization of American States, located at 200 17th Street (MAP) in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of northwest D.C.  And on this lunchtime bike ride I went there to see a statue entitled The Prophet Daniel, which is located north of the building and behind some trees near the corner of 17th Street and C Street.

The eight-foot statue depicts the prophet Daniel, one of four Major Prophets in Hebrew Scripture, along with Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Daniel was the hero and traditional author of the book which bears his name, and nearly all that is known about him is derived from the book ascribed to him, making the book more than a treasure of prophetic literature but also one that paints a picture of Daniel as a man of God.

Daniel was  born around the 6th century B.C.  Although there is not much known about the early years of Daniel’s life, it is thought that he came from an upper class family, perhaps even from a royal family. His lifetime spans the whole of Jewish captivity in Babylon, where as a teenager Daniel was taken, along with other hostages, on the orders of King Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel and the other hostages were taken into the Babylonian court and the account given in the book of Daniel begins to unfold.

The statue of Daniel was a gift from the Brazilian government in 1962.  The statue is made of concrete, and shows significant signs of weathering and age, with many of its details faded and cracked. It is a replica of a soapstone statue sculpted in 1804 by a prominent Brazilian sculptor named Antônio Francisco Lisboa, also known as Aleijadinho, which translates as “The Little Cripple.”

Aleijadinho was born in 1738, and for the first half of his exceptionally long life was perfectly healthy, and considered a man-about-town and a womanizer, despite his religious upbringing and beliefs. As a talented artist, he was much in demand and set up a workshop with apprentices while still a young man. But in the late 1770s, Aleijadinho’s entire life changed. He began to suffer from a progressively debilitating disease, thought to have been either leprosy, scleroderma or syphilis.

As the progressively severe effects of his disease took its toll, Aleijadinho became a recluse and would only venture out in the dark. His physical condition became so bad that he lost his fingers, toes and the use of his lower legs. It is said that at times the pain would get so unbareable that his apprentices had to stop him hacking away at the offending part of his body with a chisel.

In spite of his physical disabilities he also became increasingly obsessed with his work. In fact, working with hammer and chisel strapped to his wrists by his apprentices, who moved him about on a wooden trolley, he actually increased his productivity.  And it was under these conditions that he sculpted what is widely considered to be his masterpiece, the 12 massive figures of the prophets and the 64 life-size Passion figures for the Basílica do Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos. The Twelve Prophets are arranged around the courtyard and stairway in front of the church.  The statue here in D.C. is a replica of the figure Daniel from that series.

Unfortunately, the series of figures was his swansong, as failing eyesight finally forced him to stop working. Aleijadinho died in 1814 at the age of 76, impoverished, forgotten and a recluse. He is buried in a simple grave in the church he attended all his life, Nossa Senhora da Conceição, in Ouro Preto, the Brazilian town where he was born and spent his entire life. 

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[Click on the thumbnails above to view the full size photos]

The Story of Daniel in the Lions Den

What is perhaps the best known story about Daniel is that of him in the den of lions, which took place near the end of his life when he was in his 80’s. Through a long life of hard work and obedience to God, Daniel had risen through the political ranks as a one of the administrators of a pagan kingdom.  In fact, Daniel was so honest and hardworking that the other government officials were jealous of him and wanted to remove him from office.  So they tried to use Daniel’s faith in God against him. They tricked the king into passing a decree that during a 30-day period, anyone who prayed to another god or man besides the king would be thrown into the lions’ den.  Daniel learned of the decree but continued to pray and worship God.  So the other government officials turned him in, and at sundown they threw Daniel into the den of lions.

At dawn the king found Daniel still alive and asked him if God had protected him.  Daniel replied, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king.” (Daniel 6:22, NIV).  The king then had the men arrested who falsely accused Daniel, and along with their wives and children, they were all thrown into the lions’ den, where they were immediately killed by the beasts.   Then the king issued another decree, ordering the people to fear and show reverence to the God of Daniel.

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Comments
  1. Great post, two interesting stories for the price of one. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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