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Daniel 11:36 KJV

[36] And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done.

The author of Daniel is stating that the wilful king will exalt and magnify himself וְיִתְרוֹמֵ֤ם וְיִתְגַּדֵּל֙ above every god. Does this include YHWH? Can one exalt and magnify themselves above YHWH? Or can a Bible author believe one can exalt themselves above YHWH? Wouldn’t such a thing be challenging God’s omnipotence? I don’t see anywhere in scripture where the author describes someone exalting themselves above God.

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The highlighted expression is explained in the next clause; "He shall speak marvellous things against the God of Gods". He is exalting himself above God in his own mind and in his conversation. Anybody can do that. The meaning of "exalting" here is "to consider oneself to be above God", so the state of being above God doesn't become a reality.

The general theme of Daniel is that this is exactly what human authority tends to do. The images in ch3 is being exalted above God in Nebuchadnezzar's mind. Nebuchadnezzar is made like a beast in ch4 because in his mind he has been exalting himself above God (ch4 vv28-32). Belshazzar in ch5 is exalting himself above God when he mocks what belongs to God. The king in ch11 is just the climax of the sequence.

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  • I thought that maybe the author was implying monotheistic tendencies by stating only every other god can be exalted over by humans whereas God can only be claimed to have been exalted over. Lots of critical essayists are stating this passage indicates the author may have been a henothiest. This theory is based on the belief that Daniel 7-12 was written during the Maccabean period
    – user329957
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 13:48
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    @user329957 In fact, I agree that nothing in the reference to other gods actually conflicts with monotheism. He is exalting himself in his mind over gods which exist only in people's minds, and that exaltation helps to emphasise his self-centred character Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 13:57
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    Good examples of what Stephen is talking about is the are the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, who self-identified as gods and dismissed the idea that there were any gods not them. Considering some of the Pharaohs were contemporaries of Daniel the Prophet, along with some middle-eastern kings who were a bit full of themselves, it's no wonder Daniel wrote about people who saw themselves as greater than all, especially the God of a poorer people, like the Hebrews.
    – JBH
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 5:11
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Certain ones have certainly tried to exalt themselves above the God of heaven. Consider the people who tried to build a tower reaching up into heaven, to make a name for themselves by disobeying God's command to spread out over the Earth. This was surely an attempt to thwart God, to defeat God and elevate themselves above him. God simply had to confound the one language of the people so that a myriad of languages came about, they could not understand one another's speech, and so God scattered them (Genesis 11:1-9).

Consider Herod Antipas, who accepted the worship of the people who declared him to be a god, and not a man. God struck him down for not giving the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:21-23).

The Daniel 11 passage you point to is linked to other prophecies, as Jesus showed in his prophecy in Matthew 24:15. That, in turn is linked to the risen Christ's further prophetic words on the subject in Revelation 13 with visionary language about a symbolic beast with features very similar to those in Daniel. This applies to shortly before Christ returns:

"And all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshipped the dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him? And there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months. And he opened his mouth to blaspheme against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them; and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb..." Revelation 13:1-8 A.V.

That rather puts Herod's arrogant acceptance of divine exaltation in the shade. Still, even this infinitely more awful would-be-usurper suffers everlasting worms, amongst other things, once Christ gives him eternal judgment. And it is because Christ is King of Kings, and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16) that all who would exalt themselves against God, and his anointed one, shall be broken by them. Psalm 2.

Oh, they can try, and throughout history some have tried, but where are they today, and where will the ultimate would-be-usurper be at Christ's return? See Revelation 20:9-10.

"Can one exalt and magnify themselves above YHWH?" you ask. Of course not, though several writers of various books of the Bible state that some have tried, and that Satan the devil, the dragon of Revelation, will make the final attempt, only to be smashed by the only true, living God.

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  • (Referring mainly to your final paragraphs;) I think you mistake the meaning of "exalt and magnify", which involves making a claim [to be above God]. Certainly one cannot actually be above God, but as seen in the quote from Danial, humans can certainly make that claim. Daniel doesn't say the king tried to exalt himself, it says he did exalt himself.
    – Matthew
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 16:51
  • @Matthew The Bible commands exalting God. Last time I looked, that was a claim, not actually instituting Him being higher than us. Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 17:14
  • Up-voted +1. Good examples of attempts and their consequences.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 17:43
  • @Matthew I do agree that in Daniel it says the king exalted himself in that blasphemous way, and in his own opinion and in the view of many others, that's what they believed had happened. Many would-be-usurpers suppose they have proven their position to now be exalted above the only God - until he brings them crashing down Such as in Isaiah 14:12-15. As you say, "one cannot actually be above God", so we are agreed.
    – Anne
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 17:55
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    @user329957, yes? And that's my point; to exalt one's self is to make a claim (which can be subsequently falsified, as Anne correctly notes). I'm objecting to the sentence "Of course [one can] not [exalt and magnify themselves above YHWH]". One can certainly make a false claim to be above YHWH. I can absolutely exalt Hitler as the most compassionate man to ever live (not that I would, of course!), but doing so doesn't impart that attribute.
    – Matthew
    Commented Feb 14, 2023 at 18:20

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