The Measure of a City

I encountered a statement about the proper manner by which we might measure the success or failure of our cities:

“Too often men are apt to measure a city’s significance by its business, professions, and industry, its buildings, its wealth, its art and culture.  Zechariah [8:4-5] suggests that we measure the significance of our cities by their effect upon two groups easily overlooked–the old and the young.” — T. C. Speers, Zechariah (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1956), 1085.

Sadly, we do not understand the power of this image, but for those who live in a world of fear, lack and destruction such images are profound and may seem far-fetched.  The poignant passage to which Speers was speaking dramatically portrays the blessing of the young and old alike in the idyllic eschatological age:

“This is what the LORD of Heaven’s Armies says: Once again old men and women will walk Jerusalem’s streets with their canes and will sit together in the city squares. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls at play.” (Zech. 8:4-5 NLT)

Esther 9-10 – The Day of Reckoning and Rejoicing

9:1-4 – The day arrives.  After all that had been done and the joy of chapter eight, the actual day for the struggle of the Jews had yet to be decided though things were increasingly in the favor of the Jews.  The Jews had been authorized to defend themselves against anyone taking aggression against them on the thirteenth of the twelfth month.  Not only could they take action against such persons, but they also had the support of the government officials and so “the tables were turned” (cf. Jer.30:16).  The rise of Mordecai lent tremendous support to the upsurge of Jewish support by the various government personnel including those who were earlier mentioned as caring for the monies that Haman would have contributed to the coffers of Persia (9:3-4; cf. 3:9). 

9:5-17 – The defeat of the Jewish enemies and the end of Haman.  Rather than this being a Jewish killing spree, it was an organized and authorized response to aggression against the Jews.  In fact, the author of Esther repeats three times that the Jews did not take any plunder as they had been authorized to do by the edict from Mordecai (9:10, 15, 16; cf. 8:11).  It is stated that the Jews “did what they pleased” which would be a reversal of what Xerxes had told Haman he could do to the people he plotted against (cf. 3:11).  What they “pleased” was not the same level of destruction that had been plotted against them though.  However, the sons of Haman were all put to death and thus their names were listed in order to signify the complete destruction of Haman’s family line.  As an aside, the names of his ten sons are listed in the Hebrew text with the name to one side and the definite direct object marker to the other creating a clearly distinct list-type following the pattern of the list of defeated kings in Joshua 12:9-24 and cities gifted by David after defeating his enemies at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 20:27-31.  There was a clear accounting to the king of all those killed in the citadel of Susa (9:11-12), Susa proper (9:15) and throughout the empire (9:16).  After reporting to the king the initial slaughter of the Jewish enemies in the citadel of Susa he asked what more could be done for Esther giving her a sort of carte blanche to do as she desired.  So Esther requested that the enemies in Susa proper be dealt with the next day.  Were they expected to try to continue to attack the Jews?  Why should she ask for another day of killing?  The text does not answer this.  The killing that lasted an extra day in the city of Susa became the reason that the celebration of Purim was observed on two different dates by Jews in the cities and those in the country (9:18-19).  Esther also asked that Haman’s ten sons that were killed be hung on gallows for a public display of their shame (cf. 1 Sam.31:1-13 – the public display of the bodies of King Saul and his sons by hanging).  The numbers reported killed (500; 300; 75,000) have been considered nothing more than items of farcical comedy by some (Berlin 81-82), but records of factual history by others (Jobes 199) despite the excessive numbers. 
9:18-32 – The institution of Purim.  The “day of feasting and joy” was not observed on the days of killing and battle, but on the day after when things were peaceful finally.  Also, the “celebration is…different from the feasts prescribed by the Torah.  Rather than being imposed on the people from above as God’s command met, Purim began as the spontaneous response of God’s people to his omnipotent faithfulness to the promises of the covenant” (Jobes 214).  The institution of this day (though celebrated on different days in different locations) became one of celebration for having gained “rest” from enemies (contrast how Haman plotted to take “rest” from Jews by their enemies – 3:8).  It was not a celebration of battle or destruction.  It was a celebration of joy having come from sorrow and rest from enemies and thus a day for blessing others including particularly the poor (9:19, 22).  Thus, Mordecai wrote and sent letters about these events to all of the Jews throughout the empire and described what should be done concerning this celebration that it should be carried out in perpetuity (9:27-28; cf. Exo.17:14).  The Jews received this gladly (9:23, 27).  As part of the closing remarks the story was written in summary fashion (9:24-25) as an “‘official version’ of the story…simplified and sanitized” to make the king seem to be the one responsible for saving the Jews from wicked Haman and thus leading to the reversal of events (Berlin 90).  This all was used for an etiological explanation for the name “Purim” as the casting of the pur (an Akkadian term that had the Hebrew plural affixed to it for unknown reasons in naming the festival) or lot which would otherwise apparently be lost to the readers of the book since it was some time after the initial events.  Esther also wrote a letter of commendation for this celebration.  Both of their letters were sent to all of the provinces of the empire as a message of “goodwill and assurance” (Heb. shālôm wə’ĕmet “peace and truth”; cf. Isa.39:8; Jer.33:6; and the reverse order in Zech.8:19).  Not only was there to be feasting, but this appears to have been preceded by a time of fasting (likely over the days of conflict leading to the celebration with rest and feasting).  Why should Esther have written something more than what Mordecai had written and what might this have added to the credibility of that writing?  Perhaps this adds to the established authority of Esther who earliest in the story was submissive and now was one who acted the part of the queen as one with authority.
10:1-3 – The continued rise of Mordecai.  The conclusion of the book (technically 9:18-10:3) acts as a sort of appendix to summarize what happened after the events of the victory of the Jews against their enemies where the Lord had turned their “lot” from sorrow and destruction into one of joy and blessing.  The final few verses enumerate how Mordecai continued to exercise authority throughout the empire as well as to be recorded in the annals of Persia for all he did (following the identical pattern for recordings of the kings of Israel and Judah, for example: 1 Kings 14:29; 15:7, 23, 31; 16:14; 1 Chron. 27:24; 2 Chron.25:26).  Mordecai was exalted among the Jews because of all he did on their behalf (cf. the celebration of “Mordecai’s Day” in 2 Macc.15:36).  Why should Mordecai be so exalted in the conclusion of a book named after Esther?

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!) 4

Life Under the Covenant – Joshua-Malachi
Story: Living in the Land (Joshua-2 Chronicles) – Israel entered the land of eternal promise, but once they were in the land they failed to live according to the covenant.  The LORD rescued them again and again even though they always managed to rebel again and again. (Joshua 23:16; Judges 21:25; 1 Kings 9:3-9) SCROLL   
Prophets: The Word of the LORD (Isaiah-Malachi) – The LORD always sent his messengers with a word to his people to do what was right because he loved them enough to call them back to the covenant and to remind them of the consequences of disobedience.  The word of the LORD was for the whole world, but what would people do? (Hosea 1:2; Jeremiah 1:9-10; 7:25; Amos 3:7; Jonah 3:2, 10) HORN 
Exile: Judgment Days (Daniel, Esther) – Because Israel would not listen to the LORD they were sent into exile among the nations, the temple was destroyed and the kingship that was promised forever was done.  At every turn it seemed like Israel would be completely destroyed, but the LORD continued to preserve His people even in exile.  (Daniel 9:4-19) SWORD
Wisdom: Two Paths (Job-Song of Songs) – The reflections of people concerned with life, suffering, blessings, judgment and obedience became sharpened by the time spent in exile even while most of the works belonged to persons of ages long before the exile.  Songs and sayings of wisdom where one considers what really matters serve to remind Israel that they must choose the right path.  (Psalm 1; Proverbs 4:20-27) FORK-IN-THEROAD
Return: A New Day? (Ezra-Nehemiah) – The LORD brought Israel back again to the land and restored the temple with promises for the future, but the question remained, “For how long?”  Would Israel be able to remain faithful or again be disobedient and undo it all?  (Zechariah 8:1-8; Malachi 4) SUNRISE
For the other installments: 1, 2, 3

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 1 – When In Exile….

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>
<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

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

<!–[if !mso]> st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } <![endif]–>

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 38-39 – Gog and Magog

38:1-9 – Who is Gog and what will he do?  It is believed that this is a reference to the recent figure Gyges of Lydia (reigned in approximately the first half of the seventh century BC according to certain Assyrian records) who was a usurper of the Lydian throne and reputed to have first printed coins.  He is recorded here in Ezekiel as being of the land of “Magog” (which may be possibly taken as “land of Gog”) and the “chief prince of Meshech and Tubal” (cf. Eze.27:13; 32:26 for their presence in the grave; also Ps.120:5-7).  The names Magog, Meshech and Tubal are all listed in Genesis 10:2 as sons of Japheth.  They appear here to refer to locations in the western Anatolia and thus to be representing those at the fringe of the north for Israelite concerns.  Who is actually bringing Gog and his horde against Israel?  Allied with them are the combined forces of Persia (?), Cush (upper Egypt) and Put (Libya) representing the southern hordes.  From still further north than Lydia (and east), the armies of Gomer and Beth Togarmah (likely the Cimmerians) are gathered as well.  These would serve as representatives of the most wild and vast armies of the world.  They are called to gather at some distantly future time in order to invade a regathered Israel that is finally at peace.

38:10-16 – The thoughts and conversations of Gog.  Who will be responsible for Gog’s plans to conquer Israel?  Also, who intends to benefit from Gog’s plans?  The representative nations are from east (Sheba and Dedan) to west (Tarshish).  This would then entail the peoples from every direction in the plot to destroy the nation that lies at the center of the LORD’s plan for the ages.  “Why would Yahweh bring Gog against his own people after the covenant relationship had been fully restored?  Because an element in the divine agenda, the universal recognition of his person, remains unfulfilled” (Block NICOT II:451).  Is there a distinction between the self-revelation of the LORD and the revelation of the holiness of the LORD?
38:17-23 – The battle between Gog and the LORD.  How should we understand the question in verse seventeen?  Where would such prophecies possibly be found?  Some have suggested a radical changing of Isaiah 14:24-25 and Jeremiah 6:22, however it may be that the question was rhetorical and should receive the answer of “No”.  Gog was not called as the hand of judgment against Israel (as the Assyrians and Babylonians before him had been), but instead is brought against Israel for the judgment of the nations.  At some undefined moment in the future the battle would be engaged, but instead of Israel taking up the fight the LORD Himself would fight on their behalf.  The world will be shaken and made to tremble and radically altered (cf. Isa.24:17-20; Joel 2:10; 3:3-4, 15-16; Hag.2:6-7; Zech.14:4-5; Matt.24:29-30; Rev.16:17-21).  Not only will the LORD bear the sword against the hordes, but they will fight against one another (as at other pivotal moments in Israel’s history).  Divine judgment (as plague, bloodshed, torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur) will be poured out on that great host in order to demonstrate the greatness and holiness of the LORD.
39:1-8 – The slaughtering of Gog and his allies.  Notice that once again the LORD says He will be the one bringing Gog against Israel, but He will also be the one to defeat Gog (particular emphasis upon the weapons of archers for which the northern kingdoms were renowned).  Those who gathered for the battle will be destroyed as well as those who supported the invasion.  Note the reason the LORD gives for this: both for the nations and for Israel.  Though the day is far off from Ezekiel’s pronouncement does this mean that it will not happen?
39:9-16 – Israel must be cleansed.  Those who were living in safety now leave their homes to pick up all of the weaponry (seven types listed) that remains (which is said to last seven years) to use as fuel for their home-fires and to bury all of the dead (which is said to take seven months).  The use of seven seems to suggest completeness as to the destruction and cleansing.  There will be so many to bury that there won’t even be room for travelers through that portion of Israel which is then to be called the Valley of Hamon (“horde of”) Gog – sounding rather like a play on the Valley of Hinnom outside of Jerusalem.  What does Ezekiel mean by stating that the cities name will be “Hamonah”?  It may likely be a symbolic name for Jerusalem which had earlier in his prophecies been described as being filled with hāmôn (cf. 5:7; 7:12-14; 23:40-42; and Block NICOT II:471-2).  This would serve as a memorial of what Jerusalem had once been and how the LORD Himself had delivered her.
39:17-21 – The sacrificial feast of the nations.  Ezekiel is told to call all of the carrion creatures of the land and air to gather for a gluttonous and macabre feast upon the armies that were slaughtered (cf. Isa.34:6-8; Zeph.1:7; Rev.19:17-21).  The rulers and great men are referred to by names of animals for divine sacrifice and the parts usually reserved for God are consumed by the creatures of the earth.  What is the point of including such a grotesque description? 
39:22-29 – Israel is returned.  Will Israel be able to take credit for returning from exile?  What significance is given by the LORD’s face having been turned from Israel and what might be the difference between that and His face being turned against Israel?  Is Israel’s blessing (and was their judgment) for themselves or for the nations?  Does the LORD leave any of His people behind?  It is a wonderful thing to know that whereas the LORD had once poured out His wrath (Eze.7:8; 9:8; 30:15; 36:18) in that day He will pour out His Spirit (cf. Joel 2:28-32).

Ezekiel 4-5 – Playing God Against Jerusalem

4:1-3 – Why the illustrated sermon? Or is it far more than an illustrated sermon? Does this prophetic play act (“sign-acts” Block NICOT 164-167) effect what is dramatized? Why does Ezekiel make a model of Jerusalem and then lay siege to it?

4:3 – What is the reason for the sign (Heb. ‘ot)? (Eze.12:6, 11; 24:24; cf. Ex.7:5; 9:13-17; Deut.4:32-39) ‘That they may know that I am Yahweh’ (LORD).

4:3-4 – To whom does “House of Israel” refer? To the northern ten tribes or to the whole united kingdom of Israel? It seems most likely it refers (in this section’s context) to refer to the whole with Jerusalem as the only rightful center of the nation (see Eze.4:13; 5:4).

4:4-5 – What does the 390 (LXX “190”) days per year refer to? Likely to the time since Solomon built the Temple of the LORD, the Glory filled it, and shortly thereafter he led the nation into idolatry (1 Ki.11:1-8, 33; 14:21-24; Eze.20:27-29). This would place the beginning at about 976 BC. Did Ezekiel really lay on his side for 390 days or was it only portions of each day? Also, what does it mean that he was to “bear the sins” of Israel and Judah? (see Ex.28:38; Num.18:1) What then does the 40 days refer to? Likely it refers to an exilic generation.

4:6 – For each day being in the place of a year see Num.14:33-35.

4:7 – Why does Ezekiel “bare his arm” against Jerusalem? It was “a military gesture of a warrior preparing for battle” (Block NICOT 180; see a similar statement where the LORD bares His arm in Isa.52:10).

4:8 – Again, what does it mean that the LORD tells Ezekiel to do all these things and yet also tells he will bind him with ropes so he cannot get up? Is Ezekiel responsible or the LORD?

4:9 – What do we make of the strange mixture (grains and legumes) for the bread Ezekiel was supposed to eat for 390 days? “The strange mixture symbolizes a situation where the scarcity was such that no one kind of grain was plentiful enough on its own to make a whole loaf” (Duguid NIVAC 89).

4:10-11 – What is our measurement of how much Ezekiel was allowed to eat and drink each day and what did it signify?

4:12 – Why was the cake “like a barley cake”? It seems this was because the bread of the poor was barley.

4:13-15 – “Use human excrement for fuel”? For the meaning of this (see Eze.4:14; cf. Deut.23:11-13); for Ezekiel’s plea for purity in himself (see Lev.7:18; 19:7; Deut.26:13-15). How should we understand Ezekiel’s plea (intercession?) and the LORD’s relenting? Is he representative of the few among the remnant that would yet remain pure? Why did he not ask for a relenting of the other commands?

4:16-17 – Scarcity is the judgment of the LORD against Israel for unfaithfulness to the covenant (Lev.26).

5:1 – Using a sword as a barber’s razor? For priestly laws concerning shaving (see Num.6:5; 8:7); for examples of shaving in certain circumstances being wrong and a sign of judgment (see Lev.21:5; Deut.14:1; Isa.7:20; Eze.44:20). Why was Ezekiel to use a scale to weigh the hair? This would seem to be because the LORD was going to be very exacting and deliberate in His judgments of Israel.

5:2-4 – What happened to each portion of hair and what is the significance? (5:12) Who will pursue Israel in judgment? Why were “a few strands of hair” to be kept in the fold of Ezekiel’s garments? Note that 5:4 speaks of removing even some of these kept hairs and also burning them? (Lev.26:36-39)

5:5-7 – Is the LORD’s election of Israel unqualified? (Eze.5:6; cf Luke 12:48; Heb.6:4-12; 10:26-31). According to 5:7, what is the LORD’s charge against Israel?

5:8-10 – What a fearful thing to hear the LORD say, “I myself am against you” (contrast this with “I am with you” in Gen.28:15; 26:3, 24, ; 31:3). What does 5:9 teach us about the LORD’s judgment? In 5:10 we are horrified by a judgment of family cannibalism, but this is the zonsequence of covenantal disobedience (see Lev.26:29; Deut.28:53-57; 2 Ki.6:24-31; Isa.9:19-21; 49:26; Jer.19:9; Zech.11:9; Lam.4:10).

5:11-13 – Is the LORD’s judgment “fair”? How should we understand the LORD swearing by his own life and what does it mean when He says, “I will not look on you with pity”? (see Deut.7:16; 13:8; 19:13, 21; 25:12; but also see the hope of Lev.26:44-45)

5:14-15 – Note the response of the nations around Israel and the judgments comparison to the promised judgments of the Song of Moses (Deut.32:23-25).