Future Reading Plans

While this may be a bit of a stretch, much of it will actually be read by the end of summer and into the fall season.  Many folks have asked what I’m doing now with all my “free time” since I graduated from Seminary.  Well…I’m doing lots of reading as well as will be doing some teaching at several schools in the region (colleges and seminary) over the next year.  Some of the following reading is for the courses I will be teaching, some is for my church and some is just for fun:
Leviticus
John E. Hartley, Leviticus (WBC 1992); Jacob Milgrom, Leviticus: A Book of Ritual and Ethics (CC 2004); Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus (NAC 2000); Allan Ross, Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus (2006); Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT 1979).
Deuteronomy
Walter Brueggemann, Deuteronomy (AOTC 2001); Duane Christensen, Deuteronomy (WBC 2 vols. 1991, 1999); Peter C. Craigie, The Book of Deuteronomy (NICOT 1976); J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy (AOT 2002).
Former Prophets (Joshua-2 Kings)
Robert B. Chisholm, Interpreting the Historical Books: An Exegetical Handbook (2006); Terence E. Fretheim, Deuteronomic History (1983); Victor P. Hamilton, Handbook on the Historical Books (2008); L. Thomas Holdcroft, The Historical Books (2000); David M. Howard Jr., An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (2007); Martin Noth, The Deuteronomistic History (JSOTSup 2nd ed.1991); Marvin E. Tate, From Promise to Exile: The Former Prophets (1999).
Psalms
Derek Kidner, Psalms (TOTC 2vols. 1981); John Goldingay, Psalms (BECOT 3vols. 2008).
Matthew
D. A. Carson, Matthew (EBC 1984); R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT 2005); Grant Osborne, Matthew (ZEC 2010); David Turner, Matthew (BECNT 2008).
Other
Marcus J. Borg and N. T. Wright, The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions (2000).

Of course, none of this includes the volumes of Barth and Bonhoeffer which I continually am wading through, but it gives a brief look at my reading schedule for the next few months.  I am thoroughly excited about reading these volumes and all the treasurers to be uncovered in the intensive study of Scripture and theology.

Esther 3-4 – A Time for Action

3:1-6 – Haman…the Agagite.  Whereas the last we read would have suggested that Mordecai should have been rewarded by the king, we find only the mention of another man who instead receives honors and acclaim from the king…and this man will seek for the destruction not only of Mordecai, but of all the Jews.  Haman is introduced by stating that he was an “Agagite” which would suggest an immediate tension for the reader who has just recently discovered that Mordecai is not only a Jew, but even a descendant of Kish the father of King Saul.  This seems intended to bring to mind the age-old conflict between the Amalekites (which used “Agag” for their royal family name) and Israel (Exo.17:8-16; Num.24:7; Deut.25:17-19) and was exemplified in Saul’s nearly destroying all of the Amalekites with the exception of king Agag in 1 Sam.15.  According to Josephus and several of the targums “Amalek” is actually given in place of “Agagite” here (though the Greek versions completely alter the name destroying any connection to this historical conflict).  The term “Agagite” in Esther functions in a nearly synonymous way with “enemy of the Jews” (Esther 3:10; 8:1, 3, 5, 10, 24; Bush 384).  This may, in fact, answer why Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman despite the command of the king.  The text does not explain a reason and there was sufficient precedence for bowing to kings, rulers and others (Gen.27:29; 1 Sam.24:8; 1 Kings 1:16).  Certainly Mordecai had bowed to the king, so why not to Haman?  The only reason suggested by the text is that Mordecai was “a Jew” and this must be read then in light of Haman being “Agagite”.  The targums and the LXX versions add several different explanations about the worship of God alone for the reason that Mordecai would not bow down, but this goes well beyond what the text actually says and tries to spiritualize his reasoning.  It seems more likely it was the ethnic identity that was the factor involved.  The questioning of Mordecai about why he would not bow and pay homage may be more to force him to do this rather than to actually discover why.  Mordecai’s actions so enraged Haman that he actually determined to destroy not only Mordecai, but all of Mordecai’s people—the Jews.  “There is a parallel between the decree against all women because of the disrespect shown by one (Vashti) and the decree against all Jews because of the disrespect shown by Mordecai” (Berlin 37-38).

3:7-15 – The Lot Cast.  The time indicated in 3:7 places these events five years after Esther’s choice as queen, sixteen years after the return to Jerusalem of Ezra and the rebuilding of the Temple, and sixty-four years after Zerubbabel and the first return from exile (Breneman 328).  In the first month of that year Haman cast the pur (an Akkadian loanword from which the celebration takes the plural form for its name – Purim) that was explained as the “lot” (Heb. goral).  He did this to determine the best time to destroy the Jews.  This was a normal manner for determining certain matters of great importance and allowing for either the fates or divine direction to lead one (cf. Josh.18:6; Ps.16:5-6; Prov.16:33).  The date selected by the lot was to be exactly eleven months later.  So Haman then went to Xerxes to convince him to make the edict and used truth (“scattered”), half-truth (“different than all others”) and outright lies (“do not obey”) to convince the king to give his approval.  He never once mentioned the people he was referring to, but only referred to them obliquely as “a certain people”.  His appeal was made primarily to the empires and king’s self-interest and greed.  The amount offered of 10000 talents of silver (or about 333-375 tons) equaled nearly the entirety of tribute collected by the Persians in a single year (Herodotus 3.89)!  Perhaps Haman thought to collect this by pillaging the Jews, but the king seems not even to care about such matters.  He simply issues the decree.  “Haman is unmitigated evil, but the king is dangerous indifference personified” (Bush 387).
The exact date that Haman of the edict being issued was the thirteenth of Nissan which was the eve of Passover when the Jews would be celebrating Israel’s deliverance by the hand of God (Exo.12:18; Lev.23:5; Num.28:16).  Would God again deliver His people?  Would the LORD be faithful to His covenant?  None of this is appealed to, but all of it remains implicit.  The edict was made available in every language throughout the empire in order to encourage people everywhere to prepare to take action against the Jews on the 13th of the twelfth month.  According to Herodotus it took approximately three months for a message to be carried across the entire empire (5.52-53).  The chapter closes with the king and Haman drinking together while the rest of the city of Susa was “bewildered” as the edict went out.
4:1-5 – Sackcloth and Ashes.  Mordecai immediately tore his clothes in mourning and put on sackcloth and ashes, publicly wailing (cf. Num.14:6; 2 Sam.1:11; 3:31; 13:31; Ezra 9:3; Isa.36:22).  These were the normal ancient cultural ways of demonstrating ones sorrow.  He would not even change his clothes to approach Esther with the news, but instead stayed outside the city gate wailing.  The effect upon the Jews everywhere else was similar as they heard the news of their impending destruction.  When Esther heard the news she tried to get Mordecai to put on fresh clothes so she could speak to him, but was forced to speak to Mordecai through her eunuch-servant Hathach.
4:6-17 – A Call for Action.  Mordecai relayed everything to Hathach who in turn relayed it all to Esther including bringing a copy of the royal edict concerning the destruction of the Jews.  Further, Mordecai pleaded with Esther to go to the king on behalf of her people.  Esther relayed that she, though the queen, could not simply go to the king for fear of losing her life unless he should choose to receive her or call for her.  She had not, for whatever reason, been invited to the king’s presence for a month and did not know when this would next happen.  Herodotus records that a message could be sent to the king requesting an audience (3.118, 140), but apparently Esther must have had her reasons for not wishing to send a message to request an audience.
Mordecai’s reply to Esther suggests that she will die if she does nothing.  She must take action if there is to be hope for her and her family (which presumably would include Mordecai).  Bush reads the first part of 4:14 as a rhetorical question with an emphatic “No!” as the answer.  This reading would then suggest that there would be no deliverance for the Jews if Esther did not do something now (395-7; but see the contrary in Breneman 336fn4).  Mordecai also questions Esther that she may have come to her position for such an opportune moment despite whatever the previous circumstances may have suggested.  These are the usual verses that are used to point to God’s providential care, but why at this moment (above all others) didn’t the author of Esther choose to refer to God explicitly in any way whatsoever?  The LXX makes God’s action very explicit both here and at other specific points, but
the Hebrew text used in our canon does not.  How should we understand this?  “One logical conclusion from God’s absence is that human action is important.  Time and again, Esther and Mordecai’s initiatives are what make the difference for the Jews; we do not see them passively waiting for signs from God or for God to perform a dramatic miracle of some type….[T]he author is intentionally vague about God’s presence in events.  He affirms on the one hand, that God is indeed involved with his people, but, on the other hand, he admits that it is sometimes difficult to perceive God’s involvement” (NIDOTTE 4:583-4).  “These unfolding events begin to show the inscrutable interplay between circumstances thrust upon us, sometimes unjustly, and those the result of our own behavior, often flawed.  God’s providence marvelously moves through both in his own good time” (Jobes 124).
Esther called for a severe fast of three days whereas normally fasting seems to have only gone from sunrise to sunset (NIDOTTE 3:781; cf. Judges 20:26; 1 Sam.14:24) and that there would be nothing to drink for the time Esther spoke of.  Esther and her maids would also do this and then she would go to the king whatever the consequences to herself.  Here we note that Mordecai does as Esther has commanded.  Why is there no object for their fasting and no spiritual explanation?  Again, this is implied in the text, but is not in any way stated.  Fasting could be carried out for very secular reasons (as it is in our own day), but this would seem to be for an entreaty to the LORD despite His not being named.  The time for action would be prepared for by a call for solemnity and fasting.  When one realizes that the Jews only had one day a year for mandatory fasting (i.e., the Day of Atonement, though there were numerous other days later added – cf. Zech.7:5) this adds to the solemnity of the occasion.  Further, when one realizes that this fasting would be occurring during the Feast of Passover (much as Daniel’s did in Daniel 10:2-4) which was a commanded feast (Num.9:13).
There are often propitious moments where we must take action despite what may appear to be the consequences to ourselves.  The following is a relevant poem by Martin Niemöller who was a leading German pastor that realized all too late that action should have been taken by the true Church of Germany to oppose Nazism and its desire to exterminate certain people including particularly the Jews:
“First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.”

Esther 1-2 – Parties That Bring Change

1:1-3 – The stage is set.  According to Adele Berlin, chapter one “portrays the Persian court in all its decadent lavishness” and “sets the tone of the book” which is a “tone of excess, buffoonery, and bawdiness” (3).  This would characterize Xerxes and Haman, but does not seem to accurately describe either Mordecai or Esther.  The author of Esther lays out the pomp and “glory” of Xerxes (derived from the Persian khsyay’rsha) in all of his supposed power by establishing the extent of his domain.  He apparently reigned in Susa (cf. Dan.8:2; Neh.1:1) during this account which normally served as a winter palace among the four capitals of the Persian rulers (Susa, Ecbatana, Babylon and Persepolis).  The 127 “provinces” (compare the 120 “satrapies” of Dan.6:1; cf. Ezra 2:1) give particular emphasis to the supposed greatness of the king who threw a banquet in his third year (483BC) for all his officials.  This may have been to determine the best course of action against the Greeks that Xerxes would carry out in the upcoming years before returning in defeat in approximately 480-479BC.

1:4-9 – A Party in Persia.  Perhaps the 180 days mentioned in verse 4 refers only to these meetings with the officials as well as the demonstration of Xerxes opulence.  At the end of that time, he threw a party for seven days by inviting everyone.  The descriptions of the location for the feast are unparalleled in Scripture except by the descriptions of the construction of both the Temple (1 Kings 6-7) and the Tabernacle (Exo.26, 36).  This creates an aura of greatness concerning the scene and also suggests that at the time of the writing of Esther the glory of that scene had passed, but the Temple had been rebuilt (though all of this remains completely unspoken).  The wine flowed freely (or “as befits a king” – Bush 348) at this party and it was, according to Herodotus, customary for the Persians preferred to make important decisions when drunk (1.133).  It is important to the narrative that Queen Vashti gave her own banquet as a separate affair from King Xerxes.
1:10-22 – The King and Queen at Play.  On the final day of the party, King Xerxes  called for his Queen to be brought before him and his whole party to show her off, but Vashti refused and so Xerxes was furious.  So Xerxes sought the advice of his counselors who proposed that in order to save face Xerxes should send out an unrepealable decree (cf. Dan.6:9,13, 16) against Vashti appearing ever again before the king, so that other women will not treat their husbands like Vashti has treated Xerxes.  This is exactly what Xerxes does, but instead of this saving face it ironically reveals the very thing he wished to hide…that Vashti had scorned him.  This is part of the satirical nature of this account (Bush 355).  Further, the lists of the Persian names of the seven eunuchs sent to fetch Vashti (1:10) and the seven nobles asked for advice (1:14) all may be intended to sound “ludicrous to Hebrew ears” (Bush 350).  Whether this edict was ever even enforceable does not even seem to enter into the equation for the advisors and Xerxes, however the Hebrew may suggest that the goal of the edict was assure of husbands of their wives’ respect (1:20) and of ruling their houses (1:22) than that this should be the actual edict (Berlin 20).  Why might Vashti (who after verse 19 is never again referred to with the title “Queen”) have not appeared before Xerxes?  Should we moralize this account to either vilify her for not honoring her husband or should we honor her for not appearing?  Or should we simply recognize that whatever her reason it ultimately did not matter to the author other than to set the stage for someone else to become Queen in her place without any comment as to the wrongness or rightness of any of these actions?
2:1-14 – The Search for a Queen.  Xerxes later seemed to wish he still had his Queen, but since he had decreed that she could never return to him, he sought the advice of his counselors again.  And they advised that he should issue a decree to find among the most beautiful young women of the empire one who “pleases” him to be made queen in place of Vashti.  These women would be put into the harem of the king and would have one night to impress the king after undergoing extensive (one year according to the text of which six months were aromatic in nature) “beauty treatments.”  Suddenly a man by the name of Mordecai is introduced and his lineage is signified as being from the tribe of Benjamin with Kish (the father of Saul[?] in his family tree; cf. 1 Sam.1:9).  He is further connected as either one of the exiles from the time of Jehoiachin (cf. 2 Kings 24:6-17) in 597BC (but this would make him about 120 years old) or as a descendant of one of the exiles.  It is very significant that Mordecai is called “a Jew” (Heb. yehudi) which refers to the ethno-religious origin rather than to the tribal origin (Judah) since he was from Benjamin.  “Mordecai’s most outstanding characteristic” is not his morality, but “his Jewishness” (Berlin 24).  He had adopted his orphaned cousin Hadassah (meaning “myrtle”), daughter of Abihail (2:15; 9:29), whose notable characteristics here are her beauty and body (2:7) and whose name is everywhere else called Esther (from either Babylonian “Ishtar” the goddess of love and war or from Persian stâra for “star”).  The women chosen for the harem were all appointed to Hegai the King’s eunuch who provided for their preparations and who favored Esther.  Mordecai would regularly check on her during all of this time and in the days to come as he had also tried to protect her (knowing what might lay ahead for them?) by telling her to keep her ethnicity a secret.  Can we appropriately accept the actions of either Mordecai or Esther in her allowing herself what will become of her in the life with a gentile King? (cf. Deut.7:3; Ezra 9:12; 10)  In what sense must each of us seek to obey the Lord in a world where it is not always easy to do so?   “Regardless of their character, their motives, or their fidelity to God’s law, the decisions Esther and Mordecai make move events in some inscrutable way to fulfill the covenant promises God made to his people long ago” (Jobes 103).
2:15-18 – A Queen is Found.  Esther chose to make herself appealing by doing what she was told.  This brought favor from those she was surrounded by (cf. Gen.39:4; Dan.1:9).  She was taken to Xerxes after three more years some time in either December of 479BC or January of 478BC.   The king was particularly please with Esther though we are not told exactly why.  Certainly something about her pleased him more than all the other women he had taken to “try out” as a potential queen.  So another banquet was held and this one was in honor of Esther as the new queen.
2:19-23 – A Plot is Foiled.  Mordecai served somehow in the administration (which is what it means to sit at “the king’s gate”) and overheard an assassination attempt was going to be made on Xerxes life.  Rather than use this as an opportunity for a new king he told Esther who told the king and this will prepare for the events in chapter 6 when Mordecai will ev
entually be rewarded for this deed according to the reading of the annals of that day.  The two potential assassins were “hanged” but this more than likely does not refer to either impalement or to crucifixion, but to exposure of their bodies post-mortem (Berlin 32; Bush 373; cf. Gen.40:19; Deut.21:22; Josh.8:29; 10:26).

Susanna and Bel and the Dragon

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Neither of these two additions to the Book of Daniel has come down in a Hebrew text, but instead in the Theodotion, LXX and Latin Vulgate recensions.  They were thus never included as part of the accepted text by the wider community of Israel, but were used regularly by the early Church which used the Greek translations as their Scripture and found much in these tales that they could use for their own purposes.  They were, however, not regarded as part of the received “canon” of Scripture by all of the churches, but as that which was early on beneficial to be read in the churches.  Even in the KJV these additions were originally included (although they were found not attached to Daniel but in a section labeled “Apocrypha” meaning “hidden” with the notion that these were not considered a part of the received canon of Scripture but were still read in the churches) up until as late as 1826.  While these tales do not add anything essential to the story of Daniel, they do offer examples of wisdom in persistent faithfulness to the LORD in the face of wickedness and false worship…something which the Book of Daniel spells out again and again, and something we would do well to pay heed to in our own day.
Susanna 1:1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2 He married the daughter of Hilkiah, named Susanna, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. 3 Her parents were righteous, and had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses.
            4 Joakim was very rich, and had a fine garden adjoining his house; the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all. 5 That year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: “Wickedness came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” 6 These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had a case to be tried came to them there. 7 When the people left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk. 8 Every day the two elders used to see her, going in and walking about, and they began to lust for her. 9 They suppressed their consciences and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering their duty to administer justice. 10 Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, 11 for they were ashamed to disclose their lustful desire to seduce her. 12 Day after day they watched eagerly to see her.
 13 One day they said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is time for lunch.” So they both left and parted from each other. 14 But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. Then together they arranged for a time when they could find her alone.
 15 Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was a hot day. 16 No one was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. 17 She said to her maids, “Bring me olive oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I can bathe.” 18 They did as she told them: they shut the doors of the garden and went out by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; they did not see the elders, because they were hiding. 19 When the maids had gone out, the two elders got up and ran to her. 20 They said, “Look, the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us. We are burning with desire for you; so give your consent, and lie with us. 21 If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.” 22 Susanna groaned and said, “I am completely trapped. For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands. 23 I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.”
 24 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her. 25 And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. 26 When the people in the house heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her. 27 And when the elders told their story, the servants felt very much ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.
 28 The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death. In the presence of the people they said, 29 “Send for Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” 30 So they sent for her. And she came with her parents, her children, and all her relatives. 31 Now Susanna was a woman of great refinement and beautiful in appearance. 32 As she was veiled, the scoundrels ordered her to be unveiled, so that they might feast their eyes on her beauty. 33 Those who were with her and all who saw her were weeping.
 34 Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. 35 Through her tears she looked up toward Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. 36 The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. 37 Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. 38 We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. 39 Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we, and he opened the doors and got away. 40 We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, 41 but she would not tell us. These things we testify.” Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned her to death.
 42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O eternal God, you know what is secret and are aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that these men have given false evidence against me. And now I am to die, though I have done none of the wicked things that they have charged against me!” 44 The Lord heard her cry.
 45 Just as she was being led off to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel, 46 and he shouted with a loud voice, “I want no part in shedding this woman’s blood!” 47 All the people turned to him and asked, “What is this you are saying?” 48 Taking his stand among them he said, “Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? 49 Return to court, for these men have given false evidence against her.”
 50 So all the p
eople hurried back. And the rest of the elders said to him, “Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you the standing of an elder.” 51 Daniel said to them, “Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.” 52 When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him, “You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, 53 pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty, though the Lord said, ‘You shall not put an innocent and righteous person to death.’ 54 Now then, if you really saw this woman, tell me this: Under what tree did you see them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under a mastic tree.” 55 And Daniel said, “Very well! This lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.”
 56 Then, putting him to one side, he ordered them to bring the other. And he said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has beguiled you and lust has perverted your heart. 57 This is how you have been treating the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not tolerate your wickedness. 58 Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under an evergreen oak.” 59 Daniel said to him, “Very well! This lie has cost you also your head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to split you in two, so as to destroy you both.”
 60 Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. 61 And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbor. 62 Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day. 63 Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, and so did her husband Joakim and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of a shameful deed. 64 And from that day onward Daniel had a great reputation among the people. (Susanna 1:1-64 – NRS)
Discussion of Susanna
This particular story is usually numbered as chapter thirteen of the Book of Daniel; however, in some Greek texts it was put as the very first chapter which would be awkward as well.  This was written to account for Daniel’s standing among his own people, but nowhere else in the book of Daniel is this at issue.  The book of Daniel is presented simply as an account of Daniel’s rise among the Gentiles as one possessed of wisdom and understanding to demonstrate the sovereignty of the Lord over all the other nations.  So this particular addition becomes rather difficult to include in light of the overall scheme of Daniel.  The text included above (translated by the NRS) is largely taken from the much longer recension of Theodotion as opposed to the much briefer LXX recension.  The account notes false judges who attempt to abuse a righteous woman trying to use the Law against her by offering false testimony in order to put her to death (Lev.24:14), but instead they are put to death as false witnesses  when proven to be false by the wisdom of Daniel (Deut.19:18ff).  “Against the background of accepted theism the narrative showed that the divine will was given normative expression in the Torah of Moses, and that injustice was unequivocally condemned by the written Word.  Her experience of God led Susanna to choose death rather than sin, but in making this decision she was actually placing her entire confidence in the divine ability to answer prayer and vindicate the innocent suppliant.  By contrast, however, the deceitful wicked were unmasked and exposed, despite their hypocritical pretensions to justice and religion” (Harrison 1251).
Bel and the Dragon 1:1 When King Astyages was laid to rest with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian succeeded to his kingdom. 2 Daniel was a companion of the king, and was the most honored of all his friends.
 3 Now the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, and every day they provided for it twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep and six measures of wine. 4 The king revered it and went every day to worship it. But Daniel worshiped his own God. So the king said to him, “Why do you not worship Bel?” 5 He answered, “Because I do not revere idols made with hands, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all living creatures.” 6 The king said to him, “Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?” 7 And Daniel laughed, and said, “Do not be deceived, O king, for this thing is only clay inside and bronze outside, and it never ate or drank anything.”
 8 Then the king was angry and called the priests of Bel and said to them, “If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. 9 But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.” Daniel said to the king, “Let it be done as you have said.” 10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, besides their wives and children. So the king went with Daniel into the temple of Bel. 11 The priests of Bel said, “See, we are now going outside; you yourself, O king, set out the food and prepare the wine, and shut the door and seal it with your signet. 12 When you return in the morning, if you do not find that Bel has eaten it all, we will die; otherwise Daniel will, who is telling lies about us.” 13 They were unconcerned, for beneath the table they had made a hidden entrance, through which they used to go in regularly and consume the provisions.
 14 After they had gone out, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes, and they scattered them throughout the whole temple in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, shut the door and sealed it with the king’s signet, and departed. 15 During the night the priests came as usual, with their wives and children, and they ate and drank everything.
 16 Early in the morning the king rose and came, and Daniel with him. 17 The king said, “Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?” He answered, “They are unbroken, O king.” 18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, “You are great, O Bel, and in you there is no deceit at all!” 19 But Daniel laughed and restrained the king from going in. “Look at the floor,” he said, “and notice whose footprints these are.” 20 The king said, “I see the footprints of men and women and children.” 21 Then the king was enraged, and he arrested the priests and their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they used to enter to consume what was on the table. 22 Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.
 23 Now in that place there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered. 24 The king said to Daniel, “You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.” 25 Daniel said, “I worship t
he Lord my God, for he is the living God. 26 But give me permission, O king, and I will kill the dragon without sword or club.” The king said, “I give you permission.” 27 Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. Then Daniel said, “See what you have been worshiping!”
 28 When the Babylonians heard about it, they were very indignant and conspired against the king, saying, “The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.” 29 Going to the king, they said, “Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.”
 30 The king saw that they were pressing him hard, and under compulsion he handed Daniel over to them. 31 They threw Daniel into the lions’ den, and he was there for six days. 32 There were seven lions in the den, and every day they had been given two human bodies and two sheep; but now they were given nothing, so that they would devour Daniel.
 33 Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea; he had made a stew and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers. 34 But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the food that you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.” 35 Habakkuk said, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den.” 36 Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the den. 37 Then Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel, Daniel! Take the food that God has sent you.” 38 Daniel said, “You have remembered me, O God, and have not forsaken those who love you.” 39 So Daniel got up and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place.
 40 On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel! 41 The king shouted with a loud voice, “You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!” 42 Then he pulled Daniel out, and threw into the den those who had attempted his destruction, and they were instantly eaten before his eyes.
 (Bel and the Dragon 1:1-42 – NRS)
(NRS = New Revised Standard Version. Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America)
Discussion of Bel and the Dragon
These two accounts were placed at the conclusion of the Book of Daniel in the Greek recensions and were numbered as the fourteenth chapter in the Latin Vulgate (even though Jerome called them “fables” [Latin fabulas] in his preface to Daniel).  The first of the accounts concerns the chief deity of Babylon from about 2275BC onward known as Bel (otherwise known as Marduk).  In the neo-Babylonian period (626-538BC) his worship was particularly emphasized under the auspices of Nebuchadnezzar II with his building of the great temple known as Esagila.  Apparently after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon (according to the tale), Cyrus of Persia also worshipped Bel there and believed Bel to consume considerable amounts of food and wine every day.  Daniel, however, knew better and sets out to demonstrate to the king that it was not Bel who consumed it all, but the priests and their families which he succeeds in proving and thereby leads to the destruction of this temple of Bel and the deaths of the priests and their families.
It seems possible that the account of the “dragon” (Greek δράκων can be read as “serpent”) was added to the one of Bel because they both deal with the theme of Daniel demonstrating the falsity of worshipping gods that are not the true God (Harrison 1253).  This dragon was apparently kept as a god and worshipped, but Daniel wanted to demonstrate that it was not a god so he devised a plan to kill it by convincing it to eat tar.  When it died, the people of Babylon were distraught at all that had happened and feared that Daniel had gained influence over the king so they demanded the death of Daniel by having him kept for a week in a hungry den of lions.  However, the prophet Habakkuk was taken by the angel of the LORD (by the “hair of his head” cf. Eze.8:3) from Judah to Daniel in Babylon to feed him in the lion’s den.  When the week had ended and Daniel was shown to have been preserved (cf. Dan.6) those who had Daniel cast in were themselves thrown in and the king confessed the God of Daniel to be God.

Daniel 12 – The Vision of the End

11:36-39 – The king who exalts himself.  This king does have certain levels of overlap with Antiochus IV Epiphanes (and many commentators believe that this individual is one and the same), but the description does not fit as it did in the verses prior.  The best explanation seems to be that this king is some yet future king who also exalts himself and of which Antiochus IV was only a type.  He is none other than the “little horn” of Daniel 7 and the “ruler who would come” of Daniel 9:26 (cf. the “man of lawlessness” in 2 Thess.2:3-12; the “Antichrist” in 1 Jn.2:18; and the “beast” in Rev.11-20).  This king does “as he pleases” and exalts himself “above every god” and even speaks blasphemies against the one true God (cf. 2 Thess.2:4; Rev.13:12, 14-15).  Note that he will have a certain leeway to do what he plans until the “time of wrath” if fulfilled or “complete”.  What would it mean for him to “show no regard for the gods [the Hebrew could also read “God”, but “gods” is most likely] of his fathers”?  It means that he breaks with those before him and does what would have not been thinkable before.  He also shows no regard for the “desire of women” which some have taken as a reference to unnatural inclinations, others as a rejection of the messianic hope of the Jewish people and still others as the god Tammuz who was likened to such (cf. Eze.8:14).  This last is the most plausible given the context of “gods” before and after.  He regards himself and a god of his own strength as his god and even a “foreign god” as his own.  In the New Testament, this “god” is described as the dragon or Satan, but here we are left to wonder at who or what this might be.  He will give great rewards to those who support him.

11:40-45 – The end of that king.  “At the time of the end” points to the time that was to be completed for this king and thus in some sense to the end of all the kingdoms of this world.  The “king of the South” once again may be referring to Egypt though it may also refer to some alliance considered “south” of Israel while the “north” (rather than only to Syria) may refer to some alliance primarily to the north of Israel.  How these are to be conceived is less important than to consider that this is simply the continuing struggle between kings and kingdoms that fight for control over and in the “Beautiful Land” (the land of Israel; cf. Jer.3:19; Eze.20:6; Dan.8:9; 11:16; Mal.3:12).  Many nations and peoples will fall, but apparently the traditional enemies of Israel (Edom, Moab and the leaders of Ammon – these tribal groups would be in what is now modern Jordan) will not fall to him (contrast Isa.11:14; Mal.1:2-5).  Though he will succeed in his assault against the “king of the south” and many others he will be distraught by news of an impending attack from the east and north and he himself will be at “the beautiful holy mountain” (Jerusalem), but this does not exclude the notion of his forces making their final stand at the valley of Megiddo in what has come to be known as the battle of Armageddon (Rev.16:16).  The end of the king will come and he will not find any help from anywhere – whether his gods or otherwise.  Though he set out to destroy many, he will be destroyed.
12:1-4 – The time of the end.  “At that time” refers to the raging of the last portion of chapter 11 and the raging of the king of the north.  Michael (“Who is like God?”; cf. Dan.10:18, 21; Jude 9; Rev.12:7) the “great prince” is again named and here declared to defend against Israel’s complete annihilation, but not against many being martyred.  The promise of the “time of distress” (Heb. ‘ēt sārâ) is such that there will no other equal for Israel (cf. Matt.24:21 where it appears that Jesus uses the language of the LXX and thus speaks of thlipsis).  According to Zechariah 13:8, only one third of Israel will survive, but it will lead to the ultimate salvation of Israel (cf. Zech.12:10; Rom.11:25-27).  The “deliverance” is not from the first death, but the second death (Rev.2:11; 20:6; 21:8) though this is not at all laid out in Daniel with clarity.  It is notable that only those whose names are “found written in the book” are spared this.  What is this “book”?  According to Goldingay, it would be the citizenry of the “true Jerusalem” (306; cf. Ezra 2; Neh.7; Ps.87:6; Isa.4:3; Eze.13:9); though we might assume this to later be the “book of life” (Ps.69:28; Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 20:12, 15; 21:27).  The “multitudes” (Heb. rabbîm) can sometimes mean “all” (cf. Deut.7:1; Isa.2:2), but the typical all inclusive word in Hebrew is kol.  “The emphasis is not upon many as opposed to all, but rather on the numbers involved” (Baldwin 226).  Why are these many said to be sleeping?  The very notion of “sleep” for death implies the reality of the resurrection.  “The words…do not exclude the general resurrection, but rather imply it.  Their emphasis, however, is upon the resurrection of those who died during the period of great distress” (Young 256).  The state of those who “awake”, that is are raised to life, is to either everlasting life or “shame and everlasting contempt”.  Why should these be contrasted and in this manner?  Also, are we to think of a time difference between the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked mentioned here?  (cf. Rev.20:5, 12-13 where it is described in terms as separated by the millennium)
Note the blessing that is given to those who are “wise” (or see the footnote in the NIV “who impart wisdom” which may be the likelier reading).  They are described as shining “like the brightness of the heavens” and “like the stars forever and ever”.  How might this blessing be understood?  It was common to consider celestial beings with the notion of the “stars” (Jud.5:20; Job 38:7; Dan.8:10; 1 Enoch 104), but Paul would later take this up as the promise concerning those who were pure and blameless in a wicked and perverse world (Phil.2:15).  John Goldingay makes note that the angelic beings of Daniel have all been described in very human-like terms and as such he notes the contrast as follows: “As chapter 10 speaks of celestial figures who are the embodiments of earthly institutions, so chap. 11 speaks of earthly figures who are the embodiments of spiritual principles” (317).  What does it mean for Daniel to “close up and seal the words of the scroll until the time of the end”?  It does not pertain to making it a secret since he has already written it down, but instead means that it was to be preserved and protected for the appointed time and the appropriate readership (i.e., the “wise”; see Young 257).  The idea is that only those who are fit to understand this message will do so.  “Many will go here and there to increase knowledge” but they will not discern the times nor the message which was to the wise and discerning (Amos 8:2).  It is notable that Daniel is not included among the prophets in the Hebrew canon, but among the writings and it may very likely be because of his emphasis upon wisdom.  As such this suggests Daniel as a form of wisdom literature, albeit unlike the traditional proverbs or the likes of Ecclesiastes and Job.  Yet, Daniel is intended as wisdom for the future generations who will grapple with hopelessness and despair, but must know that if they will remain faithful they will be raised
at the last day and receive their reward despite the terrorizing of the kings of this age and the ages to come.  The end will yet come and the wise know this and live accordingly.
12:5-13 – The end of all these things and of Daniel.  There were two beings, one on either side of the river and one other who hovered over the middle and wore linen and was likely the one from before (Dan.10:5).  Again, Daniel is meant to overhear the conversation.  The question of “How long?” was put to the one hovering over the water who raised both hands which gives special solemnity to the swearing by God (normally only one hand was raised – cf. Gen.14:22; Deut.32:40; Rev.10:5-6) and declares that it will be for “a time, times and half a time” (cf. Dan.7:25; that is for approximately three and a half years).  The time designated was to bring to an end the one who would be destroying the “holy people” (see the NET).  Daniel was still concerned about the outcome of this time that was yet future, but was assured and told that it would be accomplished and would have the effect that was necessary for the wise and the wicked (cf. Rev.22:11).  What should this tell us about applying ourselves to the wisdom of the book of Daniel? 
The final notes about the number of days from the time of the ceasing of daily sacrifices and the abomination of desolation offers a problem to the more simple approximate three and a half years of verse 7.  Instead, 1290 days are first mentioned which would give forty-three months of thirty days each which gives one extra month and also requires thirty day months for the three and half years.  Then the 1335 days for holding out to the end is given which makes for an extra forty-five more days on top of that.  According to John Walvoord, these numbers are necessary for adequate time to deal out judgment and for the establishment of Christ’s millennial kingdom (295-6).  However, it remains rather obscure as to why and without further elaboration elsewhere in Scripture one is left wondering just what was meant (whereas other such issues have had some clarity brought to bear on them by other Scripture).  The best explanation for the days beyond what would be expected seems to be that of Joyce Baldwin: “As in the teaching of Jesus, the emphasis is on endurance to the end (Mark 13:13).  A particular blessing awaits one who goes on expectantly even after the time for the fulfillment of the prophecy is apparently passed, as in the parable of Jesus there is a special blessing for the servant who continues to be faithful even when his master does not come home at the stated time (Matt.24:45-51)” (232).

Daniel 10 – Prepared for the Final Vision

10:1 – The Time and General Content of the Vision.  The third year of Cyrus king of Persia would place this vision in approximately 536-535BC.  This would also suggest that the recently begun work on rebuilding the Temple of the LORD by the returning exiles under the supervision of Ezra had been stopped temporarily by Samaritan opposition (Ezra 4:5, 24).  Why would Daniel suddenly at this point refer to himself as “Belteshazzar” and in the third person?  This would seem to tie in the contents of the first chapter with the contents of the last vision (chapters 10-12) by referring to King Cyrus (Dan.1:21; although this refers to his first year) and to Daniel’s Babylonian name (Dan.1:7).  Why should the “message” be affirmed as “true” (Heb. ĕmet)?  Is this not always the case of messages from the LORD?  This serves to mark the vision apart as truly a vision given concerning the future and accurately speaking to matters that will occur.  It also suggests that what will occur has already been written in the “Book of Truth” (Heb. kətāb ĕmet in Dan.10:21).  There is considered to be some ambiguity about a “great war” (Heb. sābā’ gādōl) that is referred to here as is noted by the NIV footnote that reads “true and burdensome”, but the former seems the most likely in light of the conflicts that ensue in the following in the vision of the future.  The vision concerns a message of peace, rest and blessedness it also concerns the great conflicts leading to the final conflict of the ages.

10:2-4 – Fasting by the Tigris.  Daniel was apparently so perturbed in his spirit before even receiving this vision likely because of the setbacks of the Temple project in Jerusalem that he gave himself to fasting and did so outside of Babylon itself.  That he gave up eating “choice food” and then speaks of “meat and wine” means that he had taken these up again some time after his initial training upon arriving at Babylon and proving his faithfulness to the LORD at that time.  In other words, he did not consider such things to be a rule or law for all time, but only something that called for the obedience of that appointed time to demonstrate faithfulness.  The date of his fasting is important to note because if he had been fasting for three weeks and does not end it until the twenty-fourth day of the first month that means that he fasted for right through the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Passover) that was to occur every year from the 15th of Nissan, sometimes also called Abib (the first month of the year), to the 21st which was required to be observed.  Granted that he would not make the journey back to Jerusalem, still, why would Daniel intentionally not observe one of the three Feasts that were required by the LORD (Exo.12:2; 23:15; 34:18; Deut.16:1)?  Why should Daniel give himself to fasting at all since he was well into his eighties by this time?  It is a little strange that he calls the Tigris river the “great river” since that is the normal name of the Euphrates, but it is not completely out of the question that he should have done so.  This would place him anywhere within 20 miles to a couple hundred miles of Babylon depending on where exactly along the Tigris he was.  It would seem the most likely that he was somewhere fairly nearby Babylon.
10:5-9 – The Appearance of a Man.  The description that Daniel gives of the one he sees and describes as a “man dressed in linen” suggests one who is perhaps prepared for a priestly sort of ministry (cf. Exo.28:42; Lev.6:10; 16:4), but this is also the sort of clothing of the angelic-like “men” that Ezekiel describes (Eze.9:2-3, 11; 10:2, 6-7).  He wore a golden belt and his body and face glowed.  His eyes were “like flaming torches” and arms and legs “burnished bronze” with a mighty voice of a great crowd.  This description fits very closely with that of Ezekiel 1:26-28 and Revelation 1:12-16 and this individual is so imposing that he may in fact be a theophany (that is, the appearing of God Himself) with later messengers giving the explanations to the revelation (Dan.10:10-14) in much the manner that John in the Revelation would later receive.  Why was Daniel the only one who could see the vision of this “man”?  Obviously there was something tangible about the whole experience because those who were with him became terrified and ran to hide.  Even Daniel described himself as overwhelmed by the vision.
10:10-14 – Affirmation of Daniel.  It may be that the one who touched him and speaks in verses 10-14 is not the same as the one in verses 5-6 because if the first one was in fact a theophany then there would have been no need for the help of another (Michael) and he would not have come to only explain.  Further, the Hebrew does not designate that there was only one individual there and seems to suggest as in previous visionary visits that there may have been more than one present (cf. Dan.8:13).  Daniel is made to tremble on his hands and knees by the touch of this messenger who affirms him as “highly esteemed”.  This touch accompanied by the command to consider what he would be instructed and to stand was sufficient to bring him to his feet even though he was still in a trembling state.  Though Daniel was “highly esteemed” by the LORD this not only did not exclude him from suffering but seems to have necessitated it at some level, just as it did for Mary the mother of Jesus (cf. Luke 1:30; 2:35) and Jesus himself who was the beloved of the Father.  As it was for Daniel, so for us, it should never be taken for-granted that understanding comes natural without applying ourselves to intentionally seek to understand and humble ourselves before God. 
The messenger assures Daniel that he came in response to the prayers of Daniel, but was held back by the “prince of the Persian kingdom” for twenty one days apparently the whole time Daniel was praying.  However, he was assisted by “Michael” who is here called “one of the chief princes,” who enabled him to be released from the struggle and bring the message to Daniel.  Michael is mentioned here and Daniel 12:1, Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7.  In each account, he is one who engages in conflict and particularly in Daniel 12:1 defends the people of Israel.  He is called an “archangel” or “chief (first) angel” in Jude 9 and as such is the only one named in the Protestant canon of Scripture.  It is unclear just who the “prince of the Persians” and the “king (lit. ‘kings’) of Persia” are, but the likeliest explanation at least for the former is some sort of wicked spiritual power.  The latter may be a reference to the actual king (or kings) of Persia or to some other form of these spiritual powers. 
Certainly there is nothing clear here concerning a structure of authorities by which one can (or should) build a highly structured doctrine of spiritual powers and authorities beyond this very basic teaching that there are actual spiritual beings and realities at work throughout the kingdoms of this world.  We cannot (nor should not) simply assume that the kingdoms of this world are all that there is because this is all we may be used to through our own experience
s (cf. Eph.6:10-18).  There are other references to some sort of gods of the nations that may represent some reality behind them (even when a prophet like Isaiah will confess that they are really “nothing”; cf. Isa.46:2; Jer.46:25; 49:3; see also Deut.32:8 in the LXX and Qumran; Ps.96:4).  Since it is not revealed in Scripture how these conflicts among these “princes” actually took place…it would be mere conjecture to make suppositions about how this was and is carried out.  The message that was so necessary for him to bring to Daniel was a message about the future and not even about the present.  This was something which Daniel seemed more concerned about.  What might this say about our present struggles and reality?
10:15-11:1 – The Strengthening of Daniel.  Once again Daniel was overwhelmed and bowed over and once again was touched, but this time on the lips.  Why would he be touched on the lips?  To affirm the message he was being given and his ability to speak it and to allow him to confess his own sense of helplessness and humility.  Again he was touched and this time given strength and reaffirmed concerning the LORD’s estimation of him.  In what sense does the word of the LORD to Daniel to “Peace!  Be strong now!  Be strong.” become the strengthening of Daniel joined to the touch?  The message and the touch are not simply passive work, but active and empowering in the life of Daniel as in us.  Why would the messenger return to the fight against the “prince of Persia”?  The engagement will be taken up until the “prince of Greece” would come.  We can only surmise that this would entail a further conflict among the “princes”, but this refers to a time in our own history that would not happen until about 331BC with the rise of the Greeks under Alexander (or perhaps slightly sooner). 
Before he left he assured Daniel that what he would share with him was already written down in the “Book of Truth” which is apparently a way of referring to what has been determined to be by the LORD.  He notes that only Michael supports him against the princes of Persia and Greece.  The messenger had taken his stand with Michael two years before against the “prince of Persia” and it would appear that this was to protect “Darius” (though this is less than certain).  Why should these struggles among beings that are not human require long term conflict when the LORD could easily resolve them?  For the same reason that this world could quickly be redeemed and all wickedness be dealt with in a moment without the conflict of the righteous struggling against sin and principalities and powers until the last Day.  The reason is that it all works for the ultimate glory of God as demonstrated in the cross, resurrection and coming again of the Lord Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead.  It is that in the end, he might be demonstrated to be supreme over all (Col.1:15-20).

Daniel 9 – The Vision of the Seventy Sevens

9:1-2 – Understanding the date.  This chapter occurs some time after chapter five and perhaps after chapter six.  If this “Darius” the Mede (which seems likely) is “Cyrus” as explained in earlier notes (6:28) then the year would be 538BC and Daniel would be approximately 82 years old.  The NIV has curiously followed the LXX reading for Darius’ father’s name “Xerxes” instead of the Hebrew reading “Ahasuerus” (both of which appear to be titles rather than proper names according to Miller 240 and Goldingay 239) as most of the English translations do (but see NIV footnote).  In what sense was he “made ruler” over the Babylonian (lit. “Chaldean”) kingdom?  Who might have made him ruler?  The Hebrew is pointed as a Hophal which is passive (he was “made ruler”), but Theodotian, the Syriac and the Vulgate all suppose an active (Hiphil) verb meaning “became ruler” perhaps in order to smooth out the reading. 

Note that Daniel refers to Jeremiah’s book as among the other “Scriptures” (lit. “books” but implying “sacred books”) even though Jeremiah was a near contemporary who wrote his prophecy during Daniel’s youth.  The text Daniel was reading seems to refer to Jeremiah 25:11-12 written in 605BC which was the year Daniel was taken to Babylon and also the Jeremiah 29:10 written in 597BC the year Ezekiel was taken to Babylon (cf. 2 Chron.36:21; and compare Lev.25:8; 26:18).  Daniel read how the desolation of Jerusalem would last only seventy years according to Jeremiah and knew that meant the time was nearing for it to be complete, but he also understood that this did not simply mean that God would accomplish the restoration apart from His people.  How should we understand Daniel taking time to reflect upon the Scriptures in light of his own circumstances and what he felt it required of him?  What might this suggest about the process of the formation of the Scriptures and their early acceptance as authoritative by (at least some of) the community?
9:3-19 – The Prayer of Daniel.  Daniel fully commits himself to humility and sincerity before the Lord as he prays concerning what he has read in Jeremiah about the restoration of Jerusalem.  This prayer finds parallel in the prayer of 1 Kings 8; Ezra 9:6-15; Neh.1:5-11; 9:5-38; Baruch 1:15-38; 1QS 1.22-2.1; 4QWords of the Luminaries.  That he fasted implies this did not happen immediately.  Further, he put on “sackcloth” which was non-traditional clothing that was irritable and was a sign that one was in mourning.  This was also the purpose of the ashes. This is the only chapter in Daniel where LORD (the Hebrew Yahweh) occurs.  There are also many Hebrew manuscripts that read LORD in place of Lord (Heb. ’adōnāy) in verses 3, 15, 16, 17 and 19.  Daniel pleads with the LORD not only as the God of his people, but as his own God.
It is important to note that Daniel begins his prayer with praise and adoration of who God is as well as acclaiming the covenant and the faithful-love (Heb. hesed ; the two should not be read as “covenant of love” like the NIV since they are differentiated in the Hebrew) of God for those who love Him and keep the covenant.  However, Daniel then immediately moves to confession of the failure to live up to the covenant on the part of God’s people and he includes himself in this with the “we”.  He lists six things as confessions: “sin” (Heb. hāttā’) as a general category of disobedience, “wrong” (Heb. ‘āwôn) or crooked, “wicked” (Heb. rāsa‘), “rebelled” (Heb. mārad), turned away from the LORD’s commands and laws and not listened to the LORD’s servants the prophets.  This is quite a litany of charges that Daniel lays out against all of the leadership of his people and, indeed, all of the people themselves including himself.
He ascribes righteousness (Heb. sədāqâ) to the LORD, but justified shame to all of the people who are exiled including the ten tribes of Israel, the people of Judah and specifically His city Jerusalem because of unfaithfulness.  It is because of sin that shame covers them and this is not only shame for themselves but in some sense it is a shame for the LORD whose name they bear.  Daniel moves at times between the second person and third person in his address to the LORD as if to call himself and his people to this joint confession and to faithfulness to the LORD having pleaded with the LORD for his mercy and forgiveness.  Daniel is emphatic about the personal failure of the LORD’s people despite the LORD’s unfailing goodness and despite the clarity of the promise of the covenant concerning the judgment for disobedience (Deut.28:15-68).  In what sense could the disaster brought on Jerusalem be considered worse than that brought on other cities that also were destroyed and/or exiled?  Because Jerusalem was especially chosen of the LORD for His dwelling and personal revelation as opposed to all other cities.  Yet, despite the judgment against their sins there was still no repentance and turning to the truth according to Daniel.  This is not to suggest that there were none who did this, but that the people by and large did not and so as a nation they suffered together under the justified judgment of the LORD.
Daniel reminds the LORD of His deliverance of His people from Egypt which serves as THE sign of the LORD’s faithfulness to His people and of His self-revelation.  He calls on the LORD to hear his prayer for the people, “your city, your holy hill” knowing that the LORD cares and will act according to His own Name.  He prays that the LORD would restore all of this for the sake of the LORD’s name and glory, because the LORD is righteous and merciful and this is the revelation of His very character to the whole world and not because of anything inherently worthy about the people of Israel or the place of Israel or Jerusalem.
9:20-27 – The Vision of the Seventy Sevens.  In the very middle of Daniel’s praying, confessing of sins and concern for the restoration of Jerusalem Gabriel arrives with a message.  The statement about coming to him “in swift flight” in the English suggests that Gabriel flew to him and follows the popular notion of angels with wings despite that this messenger is never described as having wings.  The Hebrew actually may suggest “in my extreme weariness” (Heb. mu‘āp bî‘āp ; see the NASB, NET; Goldingay 228; Miller 250-1) which would fit the context better of one who has been fasting and in intense prayer and given his earlier weariness over revelations from the Lord (cf. Dan.7:28; 8:27; 10:8-9, 16-17). The time of the arrival was the time of the evening sacrifice which places it about 3-4PM even though there would not have been any sacrifices because there was not as yet any rebuilt temple to sacrifice in, but this was a normal time of prayer (Ezra 9:5; Ps.141:2).
The message was released for Daniel as soon as he had begun praying even though he was just now receiving it.  He would receive special insight into what he had been pra
ying about because the LORD considered him “highly esteemed”.  What might constitute this estimation by the LORD?  Whereas Daniel understood correctly that the seventy years were upon him for the end of the exile, yet there were to be seventy ‘sevens’ (that is: 490 years broken into three groups…see the notes below) in order to deal with the sins of Israel completely (“finish…”, “put an end…” and “atone…”) and to fulfill all righteousness (“to bring in…”, “to seal up…” and “to anoint…”).
The decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” could either be the one to Ezra in 458BC (Ezra 7:11-26) or to Nehemiah in 445BC (Neh.2:1ff) and would then be the first seven sevens (49 years) to approximately 409BC or 396BC when the project was completed, but in “times of trouble” (cf. Neh.4:1ff; 9:36-37).  The sixty-two sevens to the “Anointed one, the ruler” would be 434 years or approximately (Jesus baptism in) 26AD or (Palm Sunday) 32/33AD.  Though precision of dating the latter in such matters depends upon the highly questionable 360 day Jewish prophetic calendar with a thirteenth month included occasionally to offset for the lack of days that results.  Just who is the “anointed one” which lacks the definite article in the Hebrew as does the “ruler”?  While this could just as easily refer to any king or priest it seems most likely to refer to Jesus as our dating suggests.  Especially since this “anointed one” will be “cut off” that is to say that he will be killed or die and be left with nothing some time after the allotted years noted above.  So who are the “people of the ruler who will come” that destroys the city and the sanctuary?  The antecedent would almost seem to be whomever this “anointed one” was and his “people”, but rather than taking this “ruler” with the “anointed one” that precedes it would seem best to take it with the individual that follows who makes a seven year covenant with Israel and breaks it midway and sets up abominations of desolation until his end.  Between these two rulers there appears to be wars and desolations. 
While it was not readily apparent in Daniel’s day that there would be a gap of time between the last ‘seven’ and the other sixty-nine sevens history suggests otherwise and Jesus own interpretation of the abomination causing desolation suggests otherwise (Matt.24:15; Mark 13:14).  In other words, there appears to still be a future date where the last ‘seven’ years will be accomplished by one who makes and breaks covenant with Israel, putting an end to the sacrifices and offerings three and half years into the covenant and setting up abominations that causes desolation (“on a wing of the temple” should not be read with the NIV, but should read “on the wing of abominations”) until his end.  This means that the temple must still be rebuilt at some time in the future and the sacrifices be reinstituted and Israel will wrongfully make covenant with one who will not be faithful just as they were unfaithful and who will be abominable just as they were abominable.  But the LORD is faithful and merciful and He will use this to bring Israel back to Himself and bring an end to sin as has already now been done through our Lord Jesus Christ, but shall be fulfilled at his glorious appearing from heaven.

The Old Testament for Seventh Graders (in Four Weeks!) 3

The Covenant With Israel – Exodus-Deuteronomy
Exodus: God with His People – Israel grew up as slaves in Egypt and Moses was raised up by the LORD to deliver God’s people from Egypt.  God makes His presence known in the midst of His people in the desert and makes an everlasting covenant with them. (Exodus 33) MOUNTAIN   
Leviticus: The Holiness of God and His People – The LORD God made His people holy, because He is holy.  (Holiness means they are separate from uncleaness and disobedience and separated to God Himself and love for others). (Leviticus 16; 19:1; 26:46) GOAT 
Numbers: Judgment and Hope for Israel – Israel was judged for constantly not trusting God as they should have and so they would not receive the promises they had been given, but their children would.  The next generation would also be tested so the hope is held out for those who settled in the land.  Would they be like their parents?  Or would they trust the LORD?  (Numbers 14:26-45) SNAKE-ON-A-STICK
Deuteronomy: Renewal of the Covenant – Israel needed to know exactly how they were to live once they had actually entered the land of the covenant. (Deuteronomy 6) ONE
For the first and second installments: 1, 2

Kids and the Bible

Every morning (when I’m not already gone for a meeting or class) I read a small portion of Scripture to my children (from the NLT) and we each pray in turn before I send them off on the bus to school.  This is our daily routine.  I realized that during these times we end up discussing all sorts of things we might not otherwise discuss.

For instance, my daughter Abbi (8), after I read about Jesus delivering a man from an “unclean spirit”, she asked where demons come from.  I was able to tell her that the Scriptures don’t actually talk about that (even though lots of folks talk like the Bible clearly answers this sort of question — I did assure her that they were not simply the ghosts of dead people…which was her thought), but simply stated that the Bible is clear that they are disobedient and try to hurt people…but Jesus has power and authority over them.  Jesus had come to set people free and that is what He still does!  And when we give our lives to Jesus we have power and authority over them from Jesus as well to help see people set free.

This just drove home to me the truth of Deuteronomy 6:6-7 (NLT): “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today. Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” 

In other words…our children were not meant to simply “catch” what the truth of Scripture.  NO!  We are to daily and repeatedly every day…to instruct them…and talk about them intentionally.  This creates an atmosphere where we actually train up our children in the Scriptures instead of just expecting them to “get it” from Sunday School and Church.  I must admit I haven’t always done this…but I have been reminded through the questions of my children about trouble with friends, miracle-stories in the Bible, forgiveness, and where demons come from that I know that we must be intentional about the formal spiritual instruction of our families…to even create proper space for the informal instruction of our families.

Daniel 8 – The Vision of the Ram and the Goat

Vision de Daniel à Suze
By: Stephanus Garsia (11th Century)

8:1-2 – Daniel has a vision three years after the dream of chapter seven (approximately 550BC) while Belshazzar was still in Babylon (and his father, Nabonidus, still king of all Babylon)Perhaps the reason he repeats the “vision” three times is because it was so disturbing to him (8:27).  Daniel was taken (much like Ezekiel) in this vision to the “citadel of Susa” (another name for the “city”) located 220 miles east of Babylon and 150 miles north of the Persian Gulf.  This city was later to become one of the royal cities of Medo-Persia acting as a winter palace (cf. Est.1:2; Neh.1:1; 2:1).  The location is important as it had not yet become a location of prominence again having been destroyed some years before and the Medo-Persians having not yet rebuilt it for full use yet at the time of Daniel’s vision.

8:3-4 – A Ram Appears.  The ram has two horns, one longer than the other, but the shorter growing longer than the former.  According to one fourth century AD writer (Ammianus Marcellinus 10:1 – see Goldingay 208) the Medo-Persians always carried a golden head of a ram into battle with them as their symbol.  More importantly this ram is later interpreted as Medo-Persia and it can be surmised that the initially longer horn was Media which was the initially predominant power of the two, until Persia became the more powerful.  The charging of the ram is to the west, north and south following essentially the path of Medo-Persia in her conquests of Babylon, Lydia, Asia Minor, and Egypt.  There appeared to be none that could stop this empire.  In what sense might the kingdoms of this world all be understood as “animals” in light of the implications of verse 4?  What does this suggest about all worldly kingdoms even though they be ordained of the LORD?
8:5-8 – A Goat Appears.  This goat is described with a “prominent horn between his eyes” suggesting a single ruler and kingdom (Alexander the Great of Macedon as the interpretation of Dan.8:21 declares).  The ram notably charges across the earth “without touching the ground” in a similar manner to the four-headed leapord-like creature of Dan.7:6 that suggested Greece as well.  The enraged goat destroyed the ram and the two horns.  However, the “large horn” before it could become even greater than it had already become was “broken off” and replaced by “four” (again the connection to Dan.7:6).  Alexander’s untimely death off in Babylon (323BC) left his empire shattered and ten years later it was divided among four of his generals.
8:9-12 – A Small Horn.  From among one of the four horns of the goat there appeared a small horn initially that grew in the south, east and toward the “Beautiful Land” (Heb. sebî : that is toward “Jerusalem”; cf. Dan.11: 16, 41; Jer.3:19; Eze.20:6, 15)  On this occurring see 1 Macc.1 and 2 Macc.5-6.  Who is this “small horn” that grew?  History now tells us it was Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175BC-163BC) of Syria who assassinated the high priest Onias III in 170BC replacing him with another priest, ended the sacrifices and desecrated the temples setting up an altar to Zeus and sacrificing a swine on the altar in 167BC, that the temple was restored and dedicated December 14, 164BC (Hanukkah), while he died shortly thereafter in 163BC.  But who are the “host of heaven” that he threw down to the earth and trampled?  Certainly not angels.  More likely this refers to the faithful of Israel (cf. Dan.12:3; see also Gen.15:5; 22:17; Deut.17:3; Enoch 46:7; Mt.13:43; Phil.2:15; Rev.12:4).  Further, he set himself up against the “Prince” of the host…which suggests God Himself.  This is done by his taking away the “daily sacrifice” (Heb. tāmîd “continually”; cf. Exo.29:38-42; Num.28:3-8) and desecrating the temple.  Why would the LORD allow it to prosper in everything it did and truth to be “thrown to the ground”?  Does the LORD have a greater purpose than the immediate or temporary?
8:13-14 – The Conversation.  Daniel is meant to overhear a conversation among some of the “holy ones” (angels?).  It seems that even they are concerned with the question of humanity, “How long?” (cf. Ps.6:3; Isa.6:11; Zech.1:12)  The two speaking are concerned with how long it will take for all of the declared to happen to actually occur.  The answer is declared to Daniel (though the LXX and Syriac read that the answer was given to the other holy one) that it will take “2300 evenings and mornings”.  How should we understand this?  As 1500 days or as 2300 days?  The latter seems preferable given the manner in which Hebrew chooses to express the form for the numbers with mornings and evenings.  Thus this would be about seven years time from beginning to end.  In other words, there is a definite limit set to the wickedness of this king and his kingdom.  There is no reason to automatically assume that this “horn” is to be identified with the “horn” of chapter seven since that one belonged to the fourth beast (rather than the third which was Greece) and came from one of the four horns as opposed to that fourth beasts little horn that came up among the ten horns and displaced three.  While both chapters speak of little horns, they are distinguished considerably even while both being arrogant and prideful and opposing the LORD and the saints.
8:15-18 – Gabriel Arrives.  While Daniel was contemplating all that he had seen and heard he received a messenger like “a man” (Heb. gāber) who would explain the vision.  There are only two angels ever named in Scripture and this is the first occasion where one is named.  “Gabriel” appears again at the announcement of John the Baptist’s birth (Luke 1:19) and Jesus birth (Luke 1:26).  “Michael” is the other angel named in Scripture (Dan.10:13, 21; 12:1; Jude 9; Rev.12:7); though in the approximately second-third century BC apocryphal work of 1 Enoch there are several others named as well: Raphael, Uriel, Raguel, Saraqqel and Remiel (1 Enoch 9:1; 20:1-8).  Gabriel task appears always to be that of messenger in the Scripture (thus “angel” is a fitting name though he is not called that here in Daniel).  Daniel kept falling in fear before Gabriel and actually may have passed out, but Gabriel lifted him up.  The message Gabriel had for Daniel was that these things pertained to “the time of the end”, but the “end” of what?  The end of that era or the end of all things?  The former seem
s more likely if one postulates the historical interpretation at all, but if one still holds to any future sense then there must be also something remaining of the actual “end” of this world and the reign of the LORD. 
There are actually four main views for interpreting Daniel 8: (1) Historical – All of Daniel 8 was historical and has been fulfilled; (2) Futuristic – All is still in the future; (3) Dual Fulfillment – The chapter referred both to what happened historically now and what will happen at the Second Coming; (4) Typological – The chapter refers to historical fulfillment but also things typical of that which points to the end of the age (see Walvoord 192-196).
8:19-27 – The Interpretation.  Gabriel interprets the vision for Daniel (who earlier in the book had been the interpreter for others) and explains that the ram was Medo-Persia and the goat was Greece and specifically the horn was the first king of Greece.  What Daniel has seen up to this point is over two hundred years in the future from his time.  He is told that the kingdom of Greece will be divided into four kingdoms none of which will come close to the power of Greece and from one of those will be raised up a particular king (this actually foretells what will occur 350 years in the future).  It is noteworthy that this king is raised up when wickedness is complete (cf. Gen.15:16; 1 Th.2:16).  The king is noted for his appearance, intelligence, and unknown source of power; and though everything he does even against the LORD and the saints seems to succeed it will only be temporary until the LORD Himself destroys him.  What does it mean for Daniel to “seal up” (Heb. sātam) the vision?  This term when “applied to a book is not strictly ‘seal’ but rather ‘guard from use’ and therefore from misuse (cf. 12:3)” (Baldwin 179).  Why should the LORD have told Daniel any of this and not saved such matters for another more near to the time of the incidents?  What was the purpose of revealing this in the third year of Belshazzar?  Also, does this not point ahead beyond Antiochus IV Epiphanes to one who like him will do much the same even as it would appear that almost similar sorts of calamity overtook Judea in the latter part of the first century (cf. Matt.24; Mark 13; Luke 21:5ff), but still point ahead to “the end”?