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.”

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

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”?

Daniel 5 – The Writing Is On The Wall

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5:1-4 – The party that ended it all.  Daniel 5 moves the book forward in time about thirty years after the events of chapter 4.  The date can actually be fixed to October 12, 539BC (Miller 151) based upon certain historical records that give the date for the conquering of Babylon.  However, Daniel had already seen the end of the kingdom of Babylon in several visions.  He had a vision in the first year of Belshazzar’s reign (Dan.7) and again in the third year (Dan.8).  Also, the prophets of Judah – Isaiah and Jeremiah – had spoken of the fall of Babylon even naming the conqueror of Babylon and then the deliverer of Israel as Cyrus the Persian (Isa.13:17-22; 21:1-10; 44:28-45:1; Jer.51:33-58).  Belshazzar (Akkadian Bēl-šar-usur “Bel, protect the king”) is the “king” of Babylon serving while his father Nabonidus (the actual king) has remained away for the previous ten years at the city of Teima (Tayma) – perhaps due to his worship of the moon god Sin and failure to woship Marduk the chief god of Babylon, but there may have been other reasons for his absence as well including trying to keep control of the empire. 
As it turns out, Nabonidus had just been defeated on the 10th of October, 539BC at Sippar (just 50 miles north of Babylon) without battle by the Medo-Persians who had also defeated him at Opis (ANET 306).  Nabonidus fled, but would be captured after the fall of Babylon days later.  His son, Belshazzar determined for some reason to have a drunken party knowing that the Medo-Persian armies were all about Babylon and had conquered much of the empire already.  Why would he do such a thing?  Perhaps because he did not believe Babylon could fall since it was considered impregnable and had storehouses for a very long siege, or perhaps he was trying to gain bravado in the face of great adversity and wanted to demonstrate how fearless he was of the outside situation to all of his household and kingdom.  The text of Daniel, however, makes no mention at all of the defeat of Nabonidus or of the Medo-Persians at the gates until the very end of the chapter when the party has finished and all is accomplished as it was foretold – and even then it is only of the latter.  Belshazzar apparently determined to invite as many guests as possible to celebrate and the text suggests something more than that he drank wine “with” them, but that he drank wine “in front of, before” (Aram. qŏbēl) them.  This suggests the idea that he may have been making something of a spectacle of himself in front of these nobles.  It is also something quite unimaginable that he included among those invited all of his wives and concubines.  The text also seems to suggest that he was inebriated and this contributed to his failure to even recognize the social mores of superstition against desecrating sacred objects belonging to other gods – even the objects of gods from conquered nations. 
Why was Nebuchadnezzar called his “father” if in fact Nabonidus was actually his father?  All of the other records of history note that there had been several turn-overs of the kingdom since Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus himself had taken the throne, but was not a descendant of Nebuchadnezzar.  The Aramaic (as the Hebrew also) for “father” carries the meaning of “grand-father,” “ancestor,” or may even suggest “successor” in some instances.  It has been conjectured that the relation may have been through Belshazzar’s mother to Nebuchadnezzar making him a “son” and Nebuchadnezzar his “father” (on which see notes Dan.5:10ff).
Another question that suggests itself is why he should choose on such a night to drink from the sacred vessels of the temple in Jerusalem?  Why specifically use those items?  Did he also drink from the vessels of the other conquered people’s gods on that night or was it only of Israel’s God?  The Scriptures do not tell us, but they do tell us that the king made a point to do this specifically with the vessels from Jerusalem that Nebuchadnezzar had taken (Dan.1:2) and then to proceed to praise “the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone” (compare also the same phrase in the “Prayer of Nabonidus” in 4QOrNab).
5:5-9 – The writing on the wall and the fear of the king.  Just as the praises were being uttered to the gods while drinking the wine, suddenly a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster wall in a well lit place so the king could clearly see his judgment being written out.  During excavations in the late 1800s and early 1900s a large throne room (56 feet wide and 173 feet long) was found with a plastered wall behind the throne wall likely being the very place Belshazzar held his last feast and saw the writing on the wall.  The effect of the writing (it was on plaster and well lit so the king would not miss it) was immediate.  He was terrified so thoroughly that he could not even stand as it were.  He “called out” (lit. “called out with strength” or “loudly”) apparently frantic for an answer to the omen before him.  Despite the promise of the gold chain and purple robe (signs of authority and blessing) and being made “the third highest ruler” (Aram. taltî) in Babylon (that is that he would become part of a triumvir), none of his wise men could read or interpret what was written.  What would it mean to be “the third highest ruler” in this case?  It seems likely he means that this person would be after himself who was after his father Nabonidus, but why someone might want such a position when the kingdom seems to be lost seems beyond Belshazzar to grasp.  That those who were supposed to have the ability to understand and interpret such things were unable to do so only served to trouble him even more.
5:10-12 – The “queen” has an answer.  Who is this “queen” and just what is her relationship to Belshazzar?  Given that Daniel has already informed us that the wives and concubines of Belshazzar were all present at the party, it seems more likely this woman is not the “queen” of Belshazzar, but of Nabonidus.  Thus she would be the “queen-mother” (see the NIV footnote for verse 10; on the place of the “queen” in the ancient Near East, Oppenheim 104).  She may have been the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar (or the former wife as some suggest) and the wife of Nabonidus (see Josephus Ant.10.11.2; Miller 159-160).  She seems to have heard of Daniel (perhaps from the times of Nebuchadnezzar) since she uses the same description found of him earlier (Dan.4:8, 9, 18) that he “has the spirit [Aram. rûah] of the holy [Aram. qodêsh] gods in him.”  Further, she elaborates that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel (who is in his eighties by the time of Belshazzar) was known to have “insight” (Aram. nahîrû) suggests illumination form God the source of all light (Dan.2:22), “intelligence” (Aram. śākletānû) indicates that Daniel not only possesses intellect or talent, but that he actually knows how to use it, and “wisdom” (Aram. hokmâ) “denotes in Daniel the supernatural intuition of an interpreter of dreams or omens, that wisdom which also belongs supremely to God (2:20)” (Goldingay 109-110).  Daniel is actually attributed with having these attributes “like that of the gods,” something which set him above and beyond the others around him.  The queen-mother is convinced that Daniel (Belteshazzar) was the one able to interpret this riddle of an omen for Belshazzar.
5:13-16 – The words of the king.  Belshazzar calls for Daniel, but seems to regard Daniel in less high esteem than the queen-mother and refers to him immediately as one of the exiles.  He also notably leaves off the “holiness” of the gods whose spirit was said to be in Daniel by the queen mother.  Has he done this intentionally?  He repeats that the others could not do for him what he needed and also repeats his promise of reward and honor if Daniel can read and interpret (Aram. peshar) the writing on the wall.  He at least confesses that he has heard that Daniel can “solve difficult problems” (lit. “loosen knots” a metaphor concerning difficulties).
5:17-24 – The words of Daniel.  Daniel does not wish the king long life as the queen-mother had done (Dan.5:10) and as he knows would be vain to do in this situation given the interpretation.  He also renounces the gifts in exchange for delivering the message knowing that no message from God can be purchased (cf. 2 Nu.22:18; Ki.5:16).  He begins with recounting the glories of Belshazzar’s “father” Nebuchadnezzar and then of Nebuchadnezzar’s fall from that status for a time because of his pride and arrogance.  He reminds Belshazzar’s of God’s sovereignty over all of the kings and kingdoms of the world.  Then he turns to Belshazzar and points to his pride and failure to humble himself and all of this in the midst of his drunken revelry with the vessels from the temple of Yahweh strewn about.  He charges Belshazzar with having set himself “against the Lord (Aram. mārē’) of heaven” by profaning the holy, having others do likewise, and praising gods that “cannot see or hear or understand” (cf. Deut.4:28; Ps.115:4-8; 135:15-17; Hab.2:19; Rev.9:20).  Above all, Belshazzar failed to honor and praise God who alone holds him and all in His hands.  This is the explanation Daniel gives for the hand that wrote on the wall.
5:25-28 – The inscription of God.  Exactly how the inscription was written is not clear.  Was it written in Aramaic (and therefore without vowels) or Cuneiform (and therefore with vowels)?  Was it written from right to left (as would have been normal) or up and down (as the rabbis propose)?  Could it really not be “read” by the others of the court of Belshazzar and only by Daniel or does this have some other explanation for why he alone could “read” and “interpret” it?  The words that were written were: mene (twice for emphasis?), tekel, parsin.  The explanations that have been given include a monetary/weight explanation where mene is the minah which was equal to 60 shekels, the tekel was the Aramaic form for shekel which was a small sum, and the parsin (Aramaic plural for halves of the shekel; the ‘u’ before parsin in some translations and in the NIV footnote is the conjunction “and” in Aramaic and so should not be included as part of what was written).  However, the most reliable answer is actually the one Daniel himself provides which is that each of these terms is the Aramaic passive participles.  Mene meaning “count, appoint, or destine,” tekel “numbering, weighing,” and parsin from the verb meaning to “broken in half, divided” but also making a play on the name of the Persians since likely this was all written in Aramaic there would have been no vowels and the Aramaic consonantal letters PRSN could work for both the verbal form and the name of the people who were at the gates.  These words that were written are explained by Daniel with Aramaic perfect verbs emphasizing the completeness of what God had determined to do that very night.
5:29-31 – The end of Babylon and the beginning of Medo-Persia.  Belshazzar still gave the command that Daniel should be rewarded and exalted despite the prophetic interpretation and denouncement that had just been given to him.  Did he think to take Daniel down with him if Babylon fell?  Or did he not think this could be fulfilled and thought to persuade his guests and family that he was still in control of everything?  It is notable that whereas Daniel began in exile as a lowly youth in training from a lowly conquered nation in the ‘mighty and vast’ empire of the Babylonians…he has been raised to the rank of third in the empire by the age of about 80 and will see the end of the Babylonians himself and will continue to be given an exalted status after the fall of Babylon and the rise of Medo-Persia.  Daniel records that it was on “that very night” Belshazzar was killed.  The prophecy was fulfilled concerning him (though Daniel would later record what had been given to him years before as written in chapters 7-8 during the reign of the wicked and unrepentant Belshazzar).  In other words, the account of Belshazzar tucked as it is in between the accounts of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4 and Darius in chapter 6 suggests a tale of three kings…their response to God and to the man of God: Daniel.  Two will give glory to God…one will not.  It creates a sort of chiasm (a poetic structure where God is exalted and praised explicitly in chapter 4 and 6 and carries out his judgment against the wicked king without explicit praise in chapter 5, but demonstrates his sovereignty over every king and kingdom).  This also prepares us for the “little horn” that will come and utter blasphemies and exalt himself and ultimately be humbled by the LORD, but not before the end.
We are informed that Darius the Mede “took over” (lit. “received”) the kingdom that night.  In what sense did he actually “receive” the kingdom and from whom did he receive it?  Also, it is still a curiosity just who “Darius the Mede” is.  Some have proposed this is just another name, or title, for Cyrus the Persian (which may be likely).  As such, we do not have enough to know beyond that Daniel has elsewhere accurately recorded thin
gs for us that have proven vindicated by archeology after being questioned for some time.  It has been recorded (though Daniel does not do so) that the Medo-Persian army diverted the Euphrates River into a marsh from entering Babylon and then waded through the lowered waters and under the walls, into the city without a fight.  All of this was recorded to have happened on a night while the city was engaged in a drunken revelry (cf. Herodotus Histories 1.188-192; Xenophon Cyropaedia 7.5.1-34).  If Babylon had not been in such a state, but had been prepared for an attack the Medo-Persians could never have taken the city in this manner, but as it was the only one said to have died that night was Belshazzar who was put to death.  John Goldingay offers an intriguing note on the mention of Darius’ age being “sixty-two”: “The years attributed to Darius ‘sum up’ another aspect of the omen’s meaning: he is the actual person who brings its fulfillment upon Belshazzar” by being the sum of 60(mene)+1(tekel)+halves(parsin)=sixty-two (Goldingay 112).  Thus the kingdom of Babylon passes to the Medo-Persians just as the LORD had told His prophets over 150 years before.  The fall of Babylon had been prophesied and foretold even that it would be accomplished by His causing them to be in a drunken state while feasting (Jer.51:39, 57).  At last, deliverance has come for Israel (though not finally for Daniel).

Daniel 3 – The God Who Saves

3:1-7 – The image of gold.  Theodotian and the LXX provide an interesting time note that is not included in the Aramaic text found in our Bibles.  They actually state that it was Nebuchadnezzar’s 18th year when what follows happened and that would place the incident of the fiery furnace in the very year of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (cf. Jer.52:29).  This made the trial of the three synonymous with the trial of the people of God and offered hope of salvation through the fires of Babylonian captivity. 
It is unclear whether Nebuchadnezzar made the image of himself or (more likely) of one of his gods – Marduk or Bel.  The dimensions of the image or statue are irregular.  In the Aramaic, it is sixty cubits high and six cubits wide (Walvoord pg.81 notes this as unintentionally the number of man; cf. Rev.13:18) with the NIV giving 90 feet high and 9 feet wide (appearing like an obelisk much like the Washington Monument).  In accordance with this, the Babylonians used the Sumero-Akkadian sexagesimal system of measurement which seems to be the explanation for the dimensions being in sixes (we still use this system in telling time: 24 hours, 60 minutes, 60 seconds, etc).  “To reduce [the dimensions of] the statue to something normal…[is]…to miss the point that the statue is extraordinary and monumental, even grotesque” (Goldingay 69; cf. Oppenheim 183-9).  The place for the dedication was called Dura (meaning “a walled place”) and it was likely a location six miles southeast of Babylon where a massive pedestal of bricks has been discovered. 
Why would Nebuchadnezzar set up such an image after his disturbing dreams mentioned in the second chapter?  Perhaps the dreams gave him the idea (see the comments of third century Church Father Hippolytus 2.15), but perhaps he simply did not care what the end would be and only obsessed over the present and the head of gold which represented himself.  Everyone present was commanded to worship the image at the sound of the music playing to demonstrate their loyalty to the king and to the empire and his gods (cf. Rev.13).
3:8-15 – The three Hebrews who would not bow.  Some of the “astrologers” (Aram. kaśdāyin) apparently driven by jealousy for the elevated status of the three friends of Daniel accused them before Nebuchadnezzar who otherwise would have been ignorant of their failure to bow and worship the image.  With all of the leaders of Babylon that are named as called to the dedication (Aram. hānukkah) of the image why was Daniel not mentioned specifically?  His presence at the royal court might explain his absence from this ceremony (see Dan.2:49; Miller 108) though there may be other explanations as well. 
The accusations brought against them are that they neither worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods nor the image he has set up.  They are given another chance or will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace of fire.  Could Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego have bowed on the outside and still remained true to God on the inside? (cf. 2 Kings 5:18-19; but see Deut.4:27-28; while gross idolatry occurred at that very time in the temple of Jerusalem according to Ezekiel 8, yet the three remained pure in far off Babylon where no one would have been the wiser).  Note Nebuchadnezzar’s challenge that no god could save the three from his hand (compare the similar comments by Rabshekah in 2 Ki.18:33-35; Isa.36:17-20).  In fact, in another place we discover that Nebuchadnezzar did kill two men – Zedekiah and Ahab – by throwing them into a fire (Jer.29:22).  However, this account is not really a contest between Nebuchadnezzar and the three…it is a story about the one True God and His power and presence.  This is not a “moral story” but it is a “display of a God who is faithful to His people even in captivity and is ever ready to deliver those who put their trust in Him.  The contrast of the God of Israel to the idols of Babylon is a reminder that the god of this world, behind the Gentile dominion, is doomed to judgment at the hands of the sovereign God” (Walvoord 94).
 3:16-23 – Thrown into the fire.  The three offered no defense of themselves, but left everything to their God.  “Formally, the existence of their God is expressed hypothetically; but neither they nor the reader actually question his existence as uncertain. Given that he exists, he is able to rescue…and he will rescue (that is a bold, un-evidenced wager parallel to those of 1:12-13; 2:14-16)” (Goldingay 73).  According to the fourth century writer Jerome, “They indicate that it will not be a matter of God’s inability, but rather of His sovereign will if they do perish” (Miller 120).  They would neither worship Nebuchadnezzar’s gods (which each of the three were named after) nor would they bow before the image outwardly.  They stood upon the promise that their God would be with them even through the fire (cf. Exo.3:12; Isa.7:14; 43:1-3) and so in essence they were saying, “Death is preferable to apostasy” (Goldingay 74; note the confession of Job 13:15). 
John Walvoord proposes that “the blazing furnace” following the Aramaic should be read without the definite article “the” and therefore would have “the resultant meaning that He [God] could deliver them from any fiery furnace, not just the one immediately at hand” (89).  Their denial of worship absolutely infuriated Nebuchadnezzar who had the furnace heated “seven times hotter” which suggests simply that it could not be hotter (on the use of seven times cf. Prov.24:16; 26:16).  His rage (as often is the case) moved beyond reason and instead of a slow burn which would have proven more painful to the three, he instead chose to kill them more quickly.  The heat of the fires seems to match the heat of his temper. 
He called for his strongest soldiers to throw them into the furnace, but this proved fatal to the soldiers.  It appears that the three were thrown in through some hole in the top and then later the king saw them through some hole lower in the massive furnace.  In the rush to punish the three they are not even stripped of their clothing as would have been normally done and so they were thrown into the fire with all their garments still on (though the exact translation of just what it was that the three Aramaic terms refer to remains unclear the significance is that they were thrown into the fire with clothes on and pulled out with their clothes not even singed or smelling of smoke let alone the any of their hairs singed, but the ropes were burned right off).  At this point in the LXX the “Prayer of Azariah” and the “Song of the Three Hebrew Children” is inserted between Dan.2:23 and 2:24.  The Rabbis have written that at the very moment the three were thrown into the fire Ezekiel was sent to restore the dead in the valley of dry bones…God was protecting and giving life (Sanhedrin Tractate, Rodkinson 279).
The Prayer of Azariah (and The Song of the Three Hebrew Children – NRS)
1:1 They walked around in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord. 2 Then Azariah stood still in the fire and prayed aloud: 3 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and worthy of praise; and glorious is your name forever! 4 For you are just in all you have done;
all your works are true and your ways right, and all your judgments are true. 5 You have executed true judgments in all you have brought upon us and upon Jerusalem, the holy city of our ancestors; by a true judgment you have brought all this upon us because of our sins. 6 For we have sinned and broken your law in turning away from you; in all matters we have sinned grievously. 7 We have not obeyed your commandments, we have not kept them or done what you have commanded us for our own good. 8 So all that you have brought upon us, and all that you have done to us, you have done by a true judgment. 9 You have handed us over to our enemies, lawless and hateful rebels, and to an unjust king, the most wicked in all the world. 10 And now we cannot open our mouths; we, your servants who worship you, have become a shame and a reproach. 11 For your name’s sake do not give us up forever, and do not annul your covenant. 12 Do not withdraw your mercy from us, for the sake of Abraham your beloved and for the sake of your servant Isaac and Israel your holy one, 13 to whom you promised to multiply their descendants like the stars of heaven and like the sand on the shore of the sea. 14 For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any other nation, and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins. 15 In our day we have no ruler, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before you and to find mercy.
 16 Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, 17 as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls, or with tens of thousands of fat lambs; such may our sacrifice be in your sight today, and may we unreservedly follow you, for no shame will come to those who trust in you. 18 And now with all our heart we follow you; we fear you and seek your presence. 19 Do not put us to shame, but deal with us in your patience and in your abundant mercy. 20 Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works, and bring glory to your name, O Lord.21 Let all who do harm to your servants be put to shame; let them be disgraced and deprived of all power, and let their strength be broken. 22 Let them know that you alone are the Lord God, glorious over the whole world.” 23 Now the king’s servants who threw them in kept stoking the furnace with naphtha, pitch, tow, and brushwood. 24 And the flames poured out above the furnace forty-nine cubits, 25 and spread out and burned those Chaldeans who were caught near the furnace. 26 But the angel of the Lord came down into the furnace to be with Azariah and his companions, and drove the fiery flame out of the furnace, 27 and made the inside of the furnace as though a moist wind were whistling through it. The fire did not touch them at all and caused them no pain or distress.
 28 Then the three with one voice praised and glorified and blessed God in the furnace: 29 “Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our ancestors, and to be praised and highly exalted forever;30 And blessed is your glorious, holy name, and to be highly praised and highly exalted forever.31 Blessed are you in the temple of your holy glory, and to be extolled and highly glorified forever.32 Blessed are you who look into the depths from your throne on the cherubim, and to be praised and highly exalted forever.33 Blessed are you on the throne of your kingdom, and to be extolled and highly exalted forever.34 Blessed are you in the firmament of heaven, and to be sung and glorified forever.35 “Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.36 Bless the Lord, you heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.37 Bless the Lord, you angels of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.38 Bless the Lord, all you waters above the heavens; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.39 Bless the Lord, all you powers of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.40 Bless the Lord, sun and moon; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.41 Bless the Lord, stars of heaven; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.42 “Bless the Lord, all rain and dew; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.43 Bless the Lord, all you winds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.44 Bless the Lord, fire and heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.45 Bless the Lord, winter cold and summer heat; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.46 Bless the Lord, dews and falling snow; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.47 Bless the Lord, nights and days; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.48 Bless the Lord, light and darkness; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.49 Bless the Lord, ice and cold; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.50 Bless the Lord, frosts and snows; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.51 Bless the Lord, lightnings and clouds; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.52 “Let the earth bless the Lord; let it sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.53 Bless the Lord, mountains and hills; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.54 Bless the Lord, all that grows in the ground; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.55 Bless the Lord, seas and rivers; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.56 Bless the Lord, you springs; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.57 Bless the Lord, you whales and all that swim in the waters; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.58 Bless the Lord, all birds of the air; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.59 Bless the Lord, all wild animals and cattle; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.60 “Bless the Lord, all people on earth; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.61 Bless the Lord, O Israel; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.62 Bless the Lord, you priests of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.63 Bless the Lord, you servants of the Lord; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.64 Bless the Lord, spirits and souls of the righteous; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.65 Bless the Lord, you who are holy and humble in heart; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever.66 “Bless the Lord, Hananiah, Azariah, and Mishael; sing praise to him and highly exalt him forever. For he has rescued us from Hades and saved us from the power of death, and delivered us from the midst of the burning fiery furnace; from the midst of the fire he has delivered us.67 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.68 All who worship the Lord, bless the God of gods, sing praise to him and give thanks to him, for his mercy endures forever.”
(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)
3:24-30 – The God who walks in the fire.  Why might the Lord have allowed Nebuchadnezzar to be the first one to see the three walking in the fire and also a fourth in the fire?  They were tied and he noted they were unbound…they were thrown into a fire so hot it killed his strongest soldiers for just getting to close and he noted they were unha
rmed and walking around (and in the LXX they are actually singing!).  Who exactly is the fourth one seen by Nebuchadnezzar in the fire who never emerges from the flames?  Note the reference in Isaiah 43:1-3 about the LORD being with His people even through the fire.  One who looks like “a son of the gods” (Aram. bar ’elāhin) or even “a divine being” is a far more likely rendering in English than the KJV’s “Son of God”.  Nebuchadnezzar also refered to this fourth being as God’s “angel” (Aram. mal’ak) sent to care for His servants.  
What sort of transformation should this have made in him or did this make in him?  His use of “the Most High God” is really not significant as it is other times spoken by those who were not of the faith of Israel (cf. Gen.14:19; Num.24:16; Isa.14:14).  It is not that the king abandons his gods, but that he demanded that none blaspheme the God of the Jews under punishment of the very things he had declared he would do to those who failed to tell him his dreams and then interpret them (Dan.2:5).  They were willing to give up their very lives or literally “yielded up their bodies” (and Theodotian adds “to the fire” which Paul adds to his letter to the Corinthians in 1 Cor.13:3) rather than deny their God total worship and trust.  It was not a matter of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego knowing how their lives would end.  They simply knew that to trust the LORD meant that whatever happened He would be faithful and they must also be faithful because He was faithful.  This story later was taken up by Mattathias to encourage his sons in revolt against the tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century (1 Maccabees 2:59) and also by the writer of the Hebrews concerning those who “quenched the fury of the flames” in their walk of faith without having yet received the reward they sought (Heb.11:34).  Contrast the command of Deut.7:25 concerning what supposed to be done to idols with what was done to the three in this account.  The conclusion of Nebuchadnezzar is indeed the conclusion of the book of Daniel: no other god can save in the way that the God of Israel saves.

Daniel 1 – When In Exile….

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Brief Introduction to the Book – Daniel was taken into captivity in the summer of 605BC while Jehoiachim son of Josiah was king of Judah some time after the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians at Carchemish.  Jehoiachim had actually been placed upon the throne by Egypt and thus it seemed only fitting that the defeat of the Egyptians spelled the defeat of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar, was officially made king of Babylon later that summer upon the death of his father (Miller 56).  Daniel and his friends were among those initially taken and he survived until some time after the Babylonian captivity ended with the defeat of the Babylonians by the Perians in 539BC.  The book of Daniel was included in the Hebrew canon among the writings because he does not belong particularly to the prophets (as in the LXX canon and our own), but this does not mean the book was regarded as non-prophetic.  Daniel contains several additions in the Catholic canon (Song of the Three, Susanna, Bel and the Dragon; and in the original KJV[!]), but this was not received into the Protestant canon of Scripture (these will be briefly discussed at the conclusion of this series).  Many reject Daniel as being written in the 6th century and instead date it to the Maccabean period (250-167BC), but Archer (421-448) Baldwin (14-80), Walvoord (11-25), and Miller (22-41) have argued rather persuasively for a 6th century date of authorship perhaps shortly after the date of the Babylonian exile in 539BC.  The book has been variously divided between the Hebrew sections (Dan.1:1-2:4a; 8:1-12:13) and Aramaic section (Dan.2:4b-7:28), but the most helpful distinction is between the stories (Dan.1-6) and the visions (Dan.7-12).  “This biblical witness challenges the faithful to be awake for the unexpected intervention of God in wrapping up all of human history.  The stories of Daniel and his friends picture men who bear eloquent testimony is both word and deed to an unswerving hope in God’s rule.  As a consequence, they were made free to hang loosely on the world because they knew their hope rested elsewhere” (Childs 622).
1:1-2 – The beginning of captivity.  The time note that Daniel provides refers to the year 605BC and though there are no records of any actual siege of Jerusalem, it is not necessary that Jerusalem was laid siege so much as taken captive in that year.  Nebuchadnezzar is called “king” because either it refers to his functioning role in the very end of his father’s reign or because it refers to him this way as one who later was king of Babylon.  Who is emphasized as responsible for the victory of Nebuchadnezzar over Jerusalem and what is the significance in relation to the book of Daniel?  The Lord rules all the nations…great and small.  The “temple articles” were promised to be taken to Babylon because of the sin of Hezekiah in showing the Babylonians his treasures (cf. 2 Chron.36:7, 10, 18, 20-23; Isa.39:2, 4, 6; Ezra 1:7-11 and comes into play later in Daniel 5:2-4).  Literally, the articles were carried off to “Shinar” (cf. Gen.10:10) which was an ancient name of a city recognized to be a place of opposition to God (Gen.11:1-9; Zech.5:11).  What is the significance of putting the articles of the temple of God into the temple of Nebuchadnezzar’s gods? (cf. 1 Sam.4-5)  “To all appearances, the God of Jerusalem has been defeated by the gods of Babylon” (Goldingay 21), but Daniel will point in a radically different direction.
1:3-7 – The training of the best of the young exiles.  The descriptions of those who were to be trained were that they were taken from the best families (royal and/or nobility; cf. Isa.39:7) and of fine appearance and high aptitude.  The terms used are those of the wisdom literature (cf. Prov.1:1-6) with regard to the acumen of these young men (Heb. yělādîm which “covers men from birth to marriage” – Goldingay 5).  The literature and language of the “Babylonians” (lit. “Chaldeans” Heb. kaśdîm, Aram. kaśdāy) included magical, astrological, medicinal, temple, wisdom, and legal texts among others.  How could Daniel and his friends spend three years of intensive training in such things and yet remain true to the LORD?  John Goldingay astutely notes that the “wise person knows how to learn from the wisdom of other peoples without being overcome by it” (24).  The food and wine they were assigned came directly from the king’s table and thus was luxurious but would also have been offered to the god/s of the king (cf. Oppenheim 188-92) before they received it.  Four of the chosen young men are named as particularly faithful and deserving of mention: Daniel (“God is my judge”; became Belteshazzar “Bel, protect his life!”), Hananiah (“The LORD has been gracious”; became Shadrach “Command of Aku” the moon god), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”; became Meshach “Who is what Aku is?”), and Azariah (“The LORD has helped”; became Abednego “Servant of Nebo” the god of Nebuchadnezzar’s namesake) – on name changes see Gen. 41:45; Esther 2:7.  Why were their names changed and why did they not protest this and the learning of the Chaldeans, but did protest the diet that follows?
1:8-16 – The ten day test of food and faith.  What might have been Daniel and his friend’s motivation for refusing the food and wine of Nebuchadnezzar and choosing to have “vegetables” (technically refers to “vegetables, grain, and non-mean products generally” Goldingay 6) and water instead?  One suggestion has been that they were not “kosher” (cf. Lev.11, 17) and thus would “defile” them, but this would only pertain to meats and not to wine. As was previously mentioned it had been offered to the god/s (cf. 1 Cor.8-10; Rom.14), but so would the “vegetables” have been (cf. Bel and the Dragon 3; Oppenheim 192; those who denied consuming e
ven the “vegetables” for this reason: cf. Judith 10:5; 12:2; Add. Esther 14:17; Tobit 1:10-11).  It is also notable that Jehoiachin was recorded to have eaten daily at the kings table according to 2 Kings 25:29.  Goldingay proposes that they refused as symbols of “avoiding assimilation” (19).  They had taken the names, learned the wisdom, worn the clothes and by outward appearances become “Babylonians”, but they would hold this one thing as to the LORD.  Though Daniel’s request found favor with the chief official, the official was too afraid to grant it directly so the “guard” (or more properly the one given direct responsibility over them) exchanged portions with them thus relieving the chief official of responsibility.  This act of Daniel and his friends was an outright act of faith on their part.  At the end of the ten days they were found to be in much better appearance than the rest of those who ate the royal food so they were permitted to continue with their diet of faith.  This is not in any way offered as a vegetarian command since the Law specifically commanded certain sacrifices of meat to be made and eaten every year (though the temple was destroyed at this time and thus the sacrifices could not be made then).  “Even a small act of self-discipline, taken out of loyalty to principle, sets God’s servants in the line of his approval and blessing.  In this way actions attest faith, and character is strengthened to face more difficult situations in the future” (Baldwin 92-3).
1:17-21 – An insight into the end before getting to the end.  It is stated the God Himself gave the four young men understanding of all the things they were studying during their three years of Babylonian tutelage.  How might this be understood in light of the contents of what they studied?  What relation does God’s wisdom and knowledge have to the world’s?  It is specifically noted that Daniel was blessed with being able to understand and interpret dreams (cf. Num.12:6) which comes into play later in the book (though it is not something inherent to him, but something he still prays and seeks).  When they finally made their appearance before the king it was noticeable that these four far surpassed all the others, but they would still have opportunities to demonstrate the superiority of their God.  The note in verse 21 concerning King Cyrus (see the prophecy in Isa.44:24-45:7) maintains that while Daniel when into captivity he lived to see the end of it under the Persians (cf. Deut.30:3-5; the “seventy years” of Jer.25:12).
Bibliography
Archer, Gleason.  “Daniel,” A Survey of Old Testament Introduction.  Chicago,
IL: Moody Press, 1994.  pp. 421-448.
Baldwin, Joyce G. Daniel. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries vol. 23,
Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1978.
Childs, Brevard S.  “Daniel,” An Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture.  
            Philadelphia, PA: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1979.  pp. 608-623.
Goldingay, John. Daniel. Word Biblical Commentary vol. 30, Nashville, TN:
            Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.
Miller, Stephen R. Daniel. The New American Commentary vol. 18, Nashville,
TN: B&H Publishing, 1994.
Oppenheim, A. Leo.  Ancient Mesopotamia: Portrait of a Dead Civilization. 
Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1977.
Walvoord, John F.  Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation. Chicago, IL: Moody
Press, 1971.

Ezekiel 47-48 – The River And The Land

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47:1-6 – A trickle from the temple becomes a great river.  The location that Ezekiel is shown may indicate where the “sea” was once kept in Solomon’s temple, but there is no mention of such a thing in this temple (1 Kings 7:23-26).  While the directional descriptions are difficult it seems that the trickle flowed through the temple and out the eastern gate that was closed (Ezekiel even uses a Hebrew term that sounds like gurgling from a jug for it coming out the gate).  Again, the man has his measuring rods and begins taking notes.  At 1000 cubits (1500ft.) it was ankle deep, at 3000ft. it was knee-deep, 4500ft. it was waist-deep and at 6000ft from the temple it was already so deep that Ezekiel was forced to swim…and all of this without tributaries and from a trickle!
47:7-12 – The river from the temple brings miraculous life wherever it flows (cf. Gen.2:10-14; Ps.36:8-9; 46:4; Joel 3:17-18; Zech.14:5-11; John 7:38; Rev.22:1-2).  “The scene calls for a miraculous act, the converse of that experienced by the Israelites at the Red Sea.  Instead of creating a dry path through the sea, this holy stream produces a water course through the desert” (Block NICOT II:694).  On the banks are many trees whose leaves will not whither providing “healing” and whose seasons have become months because of the life they receive from the river (cf. Ps.1:1-3;  Rev.22:2).  The river will flow to the Arabah (or the Jordan valley) and into the Salt Sea (the aptly named “Dead” Sea because it sits at 1400 feet below sea level and cannot sustain life) where it will not only turn its waters to fresh water (cf. Exo.15:25; 2 Kings 2:19-22), but will cause its waters to have more life than even the Mediterranean (the Great) Sea.  In fact the whole (“from En Gedi to En Eglaim” refers to the western and eastern shores respectively) of the Sea will be changed to give life, with the exception that the low areas will still produce salt.  Why should they be left?  “It is necessary that salt should be available as an element of covenant consummation” (Duguid NIVAC 533).  It will also serve as a blessing to those who fish and those who harvest. 
47:13-23 – The boundaries of the land of Israel (cf. Num.34:1-15; Josh.15-21).  Why does Joseph get two portions?  Because there must still be twelve (this was also the counting of the tribes) and Levi receives his portion as a priestly portion and because Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manasseh as his own (Gen.48:8-20).  Of particular significance are four things: first that they receive their portions as “inheritance” in the form of gift from a sovereign and not by right, and second that they “are to divide it equally among them”.  This is significant, because this had never been done before.  There was a greater equilibrium to be accomplished in Israel by this act.  As part of this they each had a portion that ran from the Mediterranean inland and was exactly the same distance north-to-south.  Third, all twelve of the tribes were to be reunited into one land again which had not been possible for several hundred years.  Fourth, their boundaries were to exceed anything in their previous history.  It is also notable that Ezekiel mentions the “aliens” (Heb. gēr) as being permitted to receive an inheritance if they settle and have children (cf. Lev.19:33-34; or the “foreigner” in Isa.56:3-8).  In other words, this was not only a promised blessing for ethnic Israel, but for all who would identify themselves with the covenant community.
48:1-29 – The tribal, princely, sacred and city allotments.  The tribes are largely rearranged from their earlier portions and there is no longer any mention of the territories possessed in the Trans-Jordan.  Dan Block notes that in the allotment Bilhah and Ziphah’s sons are furthest out with Benjamin and Judah on both sides of the sacred precinct (cf. Josh.18:28; 1 Sam.9; 2 Sam.5:5-6)—though Judah is on the north and Benjamin the south—and Rachel and Leah’s sons are closest with Ephraim and Manasseh by each other (NICOT II:723-724; for the matronage see Gen.35:22-26).  In the midst of verses 1-8 and 22-29 describing the tribal allotments is the focus of the chapter—the special allotment that is for the prince, the city and the sacred precincts.  We have previously discussed this area in chapter 45 (for more detail see the notes there).  Some of the new things emphasized here pertain to the workers that would be necessary for maintaining the city and the supply of food for all of the tribes as they take their turns in coming to the temple and the city.
48:30-35 – The exits of the city.  There are twelve gates to this city which is considerably more than any normal city not to mention that it would be exceptional that any city should be square to begin with which has sacred connotations.  The city is approximately one mile by one mile (contrast this to the New Jerusalem that is described as a cube-like structure approximately 1400 miles by 1400 miles by 1400 miles! Rev.21:16).  Interestingly, Levi has a gate and so Joseph has a gate (which would be for both Ephraim and Manasseh). 

Ezekiel 45-46 – Sacred Land and Days

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By Clarence Larkin (click to enlarge)
45:1-6 – The sacred district.  The full sacred area would cover an area seven miles wide and seven miles long.  One section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the priests and would be for the “Most Holy Place”.  Another section stretching seven miles long and three miles wide would be for the Levites who serve on behalf of the people of Israel in the temple.  They would no longer have towns scattered among the tribes (as in Josh. 21), but would live with all of the rest of Israel focused upon the center: the temple as the presence of the LORD in the midst of His people.  The “city” would take up a section about one mile wide and seven miles long for the whole of Israel.
45:7-12 – The prince(s) of Israel.  No longer would the princes be allowed to abuse Israel as had occurred throughout Israel’s history, but would receive a portion of the land surrounding the sides of the sacred districts.  What is the importance of fair measurements? (cf. Lev. 19:36; Deut. 25:13-16; Prov.11:1; Amos 8:5-6; Hos.12:7)  One shekel would be approximately 4 oz. and therefore one minah about 24 oz.  The ephah (for dry measurements) and bath (for liquid measurements) would be about 5.8 gallons and so the homer would be about 58 gallons total.
45:13-20 – Offerings for atonement.  Why would the LORD be so specific about the offerings Israel was to offer?  The offerings made of wheat and barley were nearly 2% of the total, the oil 1% and the sheep .5%.  These sacrifices were specifically for atonement.  What need would Israel have for atonement?  Also, note that the prince plays a particular role in making provision for the sacrifices as well.  There was to be an atonement made on the first day of the year and the seventh (were these to be repeated?) for atonement of the temple.  Why would the temple need atonement?  What sorts of sins were said to be covered by this sacrifice?
45:21-25 – The feasts.  The requirements here are notably different than those found in the Torah concerning the Passover celebration (cf. Exo.12:1-28; Num.9:1-14; Deut.16:1-8).  However, it is also notable that whereas there was never a repetition of the smearing of blood on the doorposts after the exodus from Egypt, yet in verses 19-20 the posts of the temple were to be smeared in sacrificial blood prior to the actual celebration of Passover that would begin a week later.  The other feast day is unnamed but is said to occur at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles on the fifteenth day of the seventh month (cf. Deut. 16:13).
46:1-12 – The Sabbath and New Moon feasts.  The eastern outer court gate was perpetually kept shut, but the inner courts eastern gate was opened every Sabbath and New Moon when the prince was to come and offer sacrifices and stand at the entrance of the gate giving worship to the LORD.  The people were also to worship the LORD at that gate.  The prince must come and go at the same gateway, but the people were to leave at the opposite (if they entered north they left south and vice-versa).  What is the point of the control at the gates?  The prince was to act as just another person and would not stay longer than the rest of the people though he was the only one permitted use of the eastern inner court gate which would be shut at evening after he had gone.  There was a marked difference between what Ezekiel was instructed and what had happened throughout Israel’s history in regard to the ruler’s relations to the temple.
46:13-15 – The command to make daily offerings.  Why might the language have shifted from the third person to the second person (“you”) for these few verses?  Was Ezekiel expected to participate in this?  Also, how does the nature of the sacrifices being a “lasting ordinance” relate to what is written in Hebrews 7:27; 9:25-10:18?
46:16-18 – The prince and his land.  What is the importance of the inheritance being kept within the prince’s family and of the prince not being able to take any property from the rest of the house of Israel?  (on acquisition of Israelite territories and inheritance issues see Deut.17:14-20; 2 Sam.9:7; 16:4; 24:24; 1 Kings 9:16; 16:24; 21:1-29)  Many have often confused the notion of this “prince” with the Messiah, but Iain Duguid astutely notes, “It is the temple that points us to Jesus, not the prince” (NIVAC 524).
46:19-24 – The importance of the kitchens.  Why should Ezekiel be shown the kitchens in the temple and why should these be mentioned for us?  It is significant because temples of the ancient Near East were places for the gods to feast, but not for the general population, but in the temple of the LORD He prepares a table before His people and shares it with them (cf. Ps. 23:5; Matt.
22:1-14; Rev.3:20; 19:9).

Ezekiel 43-44 – The Glory of the LORD and the Temple Torah

43:1-5 – The glory returns.  Why does the glory of the LORD approach from the east? (cf. Eze.11:23)  There is no ignoring the approaching glory which radiates the land and comes with a great tumult of sound.  This vision is likened to the appearing of the glory in chapters 8-11, but also to the appearing in the very beginning of the book.  Note that the reference is to the vision by the Kebar River when the glory had first come to destroy Jerusalem.  Ezekiel’s posture is as it was before when the glory appeared: prostrate.  And just as the Spirit had previously lifted Ezekiel up for action, here the same thing occurs.  Note what the glory of the LORD does. (cf. Isa.6:4)

43:6-12 – The temple torah is given.  Ezekiel hears an undisclosed person’s voice that gives him the temple instructions (torah).  Contrast the presence of the LORD in this temple to the one which Solomon built (1 Kings 8:48-49; Isa.66:1).  It was always the LORD’s design to live with His people Israel.  However, His continuing presence depends upon the holiness with which His people live.  The LORD promises that Israel and her kings will no longer do what they had done before in defiling the temple and rejecting Him.  In particular are the sins of the kings against the sanctity of the temple of the LORD when they set up idols for themselves (NIV’s “their high places” Heb. bāmôtām should likely read Heb. bemôtām “at their death”; see Duguid NIVAC 490fn5) and fornicated themselves.  It is notable that the glory of the God of Israel no longer is enthroned upon the ark of the covenant, but upon Jerusalem itself and His temple (Jer.3:16-17; Block NICOT II:581).  How might the plan of this temple cause Israel to feel shame for their sinfulness?  It would appear that the whole of this temple area is designed for guarding the holiness of the LORD.  The torah of Ezekiel and his function in the process of sanctifying the temple likens him to a second Moses (cf. Exo.29; Block NICOT II:606-7).
43:13-27 – The altars design and sanctifying.  Why might the dimensions of the altar be of significance to Ezekiel’s audience?  This altar area was approximately 1100 sq. ft. while the alter itself was nearly 600 sq. ft. and stood some 15 feet high.  The trench on the outside of the altar could handle nearly 3800 gallons! (see Block NICOT II:601).  This made it actually smaller than the one in Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 1:50-53; 2:28-29; 8 ½H x 17W x 17L) and much smaller than the one in Herod’s temple (Josephus JW 5.5.6§§222-226; 15H x 50W x 50L).  The steps (against Mosaic instruction in Exo.20:26) to the altar notably face east when traditionally all of the altars had the officiating priest facing east.  The altar still needed dedication through purifying (Heb. hattā’t traditionally read as “sin offering”; see Duguid NIVAC 491fn10) sacrifices and burnt offerings that were supposed to last the course of a week for atonement and then on the eighth day the priests would begin making regular offerings upon it.  The animals were to be salted (cf. Lev.2:13; the “covenant of salt” in Num.18:19; 2 Chron.13:5; and see Mark 9:49-50) and their bodies disposed of outside the sanctity of the temple.  How will the LORD treat this sanctifying work and what will be His response?
44:1-4 – The eastern gate was shut permanently once the glory of the LORD had entered through it.  The prince (Heb. nāsî’) was the only one permitted into the gate to eat a fellowship offering before the LORD, but not through the gate.  While this would offer some special blessing to the prince, he was still excluded (as the rest of Israel) from entering the temple itself and could not enter through the gate which the LORD had entered.  Again, note Ezekiel’s response to seeing the glory of the LORD as the glory fills the temple.
44:5-9 – The entrances and exits of the temple.  It was not only the priests and the kings of Israel that were responsible for the defiling of the temple, but the whole of the house of Israel.  They were responsible for bringing foreigners into the temple (cf. 2 Kings 11:14-19) when the Levitical priests were supposed to have guarded the sanctity of it (Num.18:7, 21-23).  It was not that foreigners weren’t allowed, it was that these foreigners were not a part of the covenant people of God and had not purified themselves.
44:10-14 – The restoration of the Levites.  While the Levites had sinned they were promised to receive restoration as those responsible for the gates and certain of the sacrifices on behalf of the people of Israel.  However, their idolatry was not without repercussions.  They would not be given responsibility to actually approach the LORD, but instead would represent the people’s presence in the temple itself.
44:15-31 – The Zadokites priest’s blessings and responsibilities.  It was not because the Zadokites were sinless, but they were more faithful than the Levites in general (cf. 1 Sam.3:11-14; 1 Kings 1:5-8; 2:26-27, 35).  Therefore, they would be given the particular blessing and responsibility of serving directly before the LORD and making the necessary sacrifices.  Their clothing was regulated in order to avoid both contaminating it with sweat (i.e. body fluids; see Deut.23:11-13) and to not “consecrate” the people when they leave the inner court before the LORD.  On holiness as a dangerous contagion see Lev.10:1-3; Num.4:15; 1 Sam.6:19; 2 Sam.6:6-9.  Their hair was never to be either unkempt or shaved off (cf. Lev.21:5, 10; 19:27), they were never to have alcohol when ministering (Lev.10:9), nor were they to marry any woman that might allow for the common Israelites to share in their inheritance.  They were to teach the people, to serve as judges and to celebrate all that the LORD had commanded.  They were to be kept from that which was dead (Lev.21:1-3) and to receive their inheritance in the LORD (Num.18:20) enjoying the sacrifices given by Israel (Exo.22:31; Lev.22:8; Num.15:20-21; 18:8-20).

Ezekiel 40-42 – A New House for the LORD

40:1-4 – A new vision.  The date given in verse one marks the twenty-fifth year of the exile of Jehoiachin and the fourteenth year since the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem (April 28, 573BC).  The twenty-five year mark may be given in particular to suggest the turning point towards the fifty year Jubilee (Block NICOT II:512).  The tenth day of the first month (likely Nissan for the religious calendar and not Tishri of the civil calendar) would be the commencement of the Passover festival (Exo.12:3) though Ezekiel curiously does not mention this.  It has been proposed that Ezekiel may be giving a counter to the Babylonian New Year’s celebration (Akk. akītu) which was celebrated on the same day and wherein Marduk their chief deity was annually re-enthroned (see Block NICOT II:513).  Where might “the very high mountain” be located and what does this mountain represent? (cf. Eze.17:22; 20:40; Isa. 2:2-3; Mic.4:1; Rev.21:10)  What does Ezekiel see from the south side of the mountain?  The man who appears to Ezekiel acts as a guide and will reveal to Ezekiel particular dimensions of the visionary temple in order for Ezekiel to share this with Israel.

40:5-27 – The outer gates and the outer court.  What is the purpose of the wall surrounding the temple?  The measurement tool of the visionary guide follows the royal cubit instead of the common cubit and measures approximately 1 and ¾ feet long and so his “rod” is approximately 3 ½ yards (or 10 ½ feet) long.  This would make the wall about 10 feet thick and 10 feet tall (though almost no other height measurements are listed anywhere else).  Why did Ezekiel approach from the east first?  Note the many rooms for guards in the massive gate.  Why would there need to be so many guards and security?  Take note of the many measurements that are multiples of 25 throughout this visionary temple and the very simple carvings.  Who accessed the “outer court”?    Note the dimensions of the gates and the outer court.  Also, the steps from to the gates are seven.
By A. Gaebelein “The Prophet Ezekiel” (1918)
A. The Temple House
B. Altar of Burnt Offering
C. Inner Court
D. Gates to Inner Court
E. Separate Place
F. Hinder Building
G. Priest’s Kitchens
H. Chambers for Priests
I. Chambers
K. People’s Kitchen
L. Gates into Outer Court
M. Pavement
N. Chambers in Outer Court (30)
O. Outer Court

40:28-47 – The inner gates and the inner court.  Note the dimensions and decorations of the inner court and the eight steps which led up into it.  Each of the gates are identical (both outer with each other and the inner with each other respectively).  The furniture of the inner court is specifically only for the various sacrifices – burnt (Heb. ‘ōlâh; cf. Lev.1:3), sin (Heb. hāttā’t; cf. Lev.4:2-3, 13) and guilt (Heb. ’āŝam; cf. Lev.5:6; 6:6; 7:1-2) – whether tables, hooks (?), or utensils.  The guards were apparently Zadokite Levites responsible for all of the temple precincts security and priestly ministry (Block NICOT II:537-9; cf. Num.18:1-7; 2 Sam.8:17; 2 Kings 11:4-7).  Note the place of the altar in relation to the temple proper.

40:48-41:26 – The temple proper.  The temple was again located higher (10 steps up) than the inner court (eight steps up) which had been higher than the outer court (seven steps up) – leading to a total of twenty-five steps.  It is also set up higher so as to protect the holy from the profane and the profane from the holy.  While Ezekiel is taken through much of the wider building(s), he is only informed about the dimensions of the “Most Holy Place” of the temple.  The doors of each level also get progressively smaller and there are fewer and fewer that are permitted beyond each.  The decorations of the temple itself are cherubim and palm trees, which is considerably less ornate than Solomon’s temple or even the tabernacle of Moses.  The wooden table in the holy place just in front of the most holy place was likely for showbread (though there is not specific mention of its purpose here).
42:1-20 – Rooms for the priests of the temple.  Rooms stacked three stories high were built along the north and south sides of the temple proper in order to provide sacred space for the priests to eat the special offerings and to change out of their priestly garments.  Why should they change their clothes or eat in the sacred areas?  What are the dimensions of the whole complex as shown to Ezekiel? 
Some Questions and Comments Concerning This Temple – What does a comparison and contrast of this temple demonstrate with regard to the tabernacle of Moses, the temple of Solomon and the “New Jerusalem” of Revelation 21-22?  Note that while many dimensions are given for this temple of Ezekiel there are no materials mentioned other than with regard to the altars and tables.  Also, while there is great detail provided for dimensions there is no instruction to Ezekiel (or even through Ezekiel to Israel) to build such a temple.  The temple that was constructed under Ezra’s leadership nev
er did fit the description of Ezekiel’s vision, nor does there appear to have been any attempt to even try.  Why is this?  What might this temple point to?  Is this temple representative of something or will it (as according to typical Dispensational beliefs) be built in a millennial reign of Christ?  If it would be built in such a time, why should there be continued sacrifices offered and what does this make of the once-for-all sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ?  Perhaps the best way forward is not to view this temple as prescribed to be built at some future time, but simply as indicative of the utter holiness with which God dwells.  Also, how might we understand this temple in light of Jesus claim of being the “temple” (John
2:19-21) and of Paul’s later comments regarding the individuals of the Church (1 Cor.3:16-17; 6:19) as well as the Church corporately being the “temple” (2 Cor.6:16)?