Day 255 (Sept. 12): Zechariah’s vision of horses and chariots, Jeshua to serve as king and priest of Jerusalem, Tattenai and others question Temple’s reconstruction, King Darius approves rebuilding, Israelites ask to be released from fasting and mourning, God promises that Jerusalem will be a destination for surrounding nations to come to worship God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Zechariah 6:1-15

Ezra 5:3-17

Ezra 6:1-14a

Zechariah 7-8

Questions & Observations

Q. (Zechariah 6:6): What happened to the red horses stated in v. 2?

A. I’ve seen a couple of answers to this question, but honestly I don’t find them especially satisfactory.  It might be that the red horse (symbolizing war) didn’t need to go anywhere, as war was all around Israel and therefore there was no particular destination needed.  One commentary I looked at indicated that the red horses’ job might be to patrol the whole earth and therefore is not assigned a direction.  Like I said, meh: I don’t find either of those especially compelling.  So I would say that the “destination” for the red chariot is a mystery or unrevealed by Zechariah.

Q. (6:11): I thought you said that “Branch” was a name for the Messiah.  Here it’s used to say Jeshua.

A. Remember that Messiah or Christ simply means “anointed,” chosen by God.  So, in a sense, Jeshua (same name as Jesus please note, just in Aramaic instead of Greek.  Both names, along with “Joshua” in Hebrew, mean the same thing: the Lord saves) is chosen to fill the office of High Priest.  There are three offices in Judaism that were anointed, usually with olive oil: King, Priest, and Prophet.  And while Christ personifies the ultimate expression of each of these, that does not mean that others do not fill the office until His reign.  Jeshua is the High Priest before the Great High Priest (Hebrews 4:14).

Q. (Ezra 5:3-17): Why were these leaders questioning the rebuilding of the Temple so much?  Did they feel threatened?

A. I am not sure.  They may have just been concerned about the potential threat to the empire, but they clearly gave the benefit of the doubt to the Jewish workers, as they did not stop them from working while they checked up on things.

Q. (6:6-8): I guess King Darius put Tattenai and company in their place, but why should they have to pay for the reconstruction?  They are to blame for the Temple becoming defiled?

A. No, they are not to blame, but are rather officials of Darius, and they were being given orders to use treasury money to pay for the efforts, since Darius controlled the area.  So in a sense, Darius is paying for the cost himself.

Q. (Zechariah 7:4-6): I like this message because whenever I hear someone brag about things they are doing for the Lord, I just wonder if they are doing them for the Lord or to get an “A” for good deeds.  If they are bragging, I wouldn’t think they would be doing it for God.

A. Amen.

Q. (8:1-23): There is so much energy in this reading.  I would have loved to have been there.  I’m just wondering what modern-day Jerusalem is like.  Is there any holiness left to it?  Do you have any knowledge of what state it’s in?

A. Alas, I know almost nothing about its present state, other than there are holy sites of three of the great monotheistic religions in the world there.  Pilgrims of each of these faiths journey to the Holy city every year, but sadly, I don’t know much.  Honestly, I could probably tell you more about what it WAS like than what it IS like.  I would, however, love to go and find out for myself.

Day 254 (Sept. 11) God says Temple will surpass former glory, God tells Zechariah to warn Israelites not to repeat sins of ancestors, God chooses Zerubbabel, Angel of the Lord and patrols of the earth bring messages of prosperity, four sinful nations and four overthrowers, Jerusalem will prosper again, exiles called home, God encourages Jeshua the high priest, lampstands and olive trees vision shows nothing can overcome God’s protection, flying scroll contains curse to go over land, vision of flying women carrying basket of sins to Babylonia

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Haggai 2:1-9

Zechariah 1:1-6

Haggai 2:10-19

Ezra 5:2 / 520 BC

Haggai 2:20-23

Zechariah 1:7-5:11

Questions & Observations

Q. (Haggai 2:1-9): Just to clarify, the Temple has not been rebuilt since the exiles returned, right?  We have just heard of the new Temple’s gloriousness through God’s visions to his messengers?

A. They have worked on it some, but no, it is not yet complete.

Q. Can you just tell us, in a nutshell, what the Temple means to God and why rebuilding it should be important to the Israelites?

A. It is the center of their place of worship, and the place where Israel can once again be in the very presence of God.  I would say that is pretty important.

Q. (2:19): Why would God decide to bless them because it doesn’t appear that they are looking toward God?  (I am confused about whether the message about disobedience is being addressed to the returning exiles or their ancestors.)

A. Generally, I would say that the message was “to” the dead exiles, but it is serving as a warning to the present generation.

Q. (2:20-23): Why is God going to “shake the heavens and earth”?  Just all the sinning in these other nations?

A. It is a message of judgment against the nations, yes.  With many of these powerful nations at war with each other (Persia, Greece, etc.), it was a very unstable time, where the size of the armies could make the very ground shake.  That might be what God has in mind.

Q. (Zechariah 1:8): Is there any significance to the colors of the horses?  Any idea what the duties are of the Angel of the Lord?  We have learned that the Angel speaks for God.  Could the Angel of the Lord be any angel or a specific one?

A. The colors (red, brown, and white) would be best understood as war (bloodshed), partial peace (conflict), and peace (white).  It appears for this passage that the Angel is given the task of “gathering” information for God: why that would be necessary for God is unknown to me.  We do not know which Angel is mentioned, so we cannot tell if it is Michael or another angel we have encountered before.

Q. (1:18-2:6): There are four horns, four blacksmiths and four winds.  Significance?

A. The four horns (they are probably metal or artificial horns) are probably Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia: symbolic of the nations that subdued Israel over the last several centuries.  Since there are four of them, they are dealt with by four different smiths, who might be angels of judgment, as we will see in Revelation.

Q. (3:8-9): Who is the Branch?  Why seven facets to the stone?

A. It is a term of the Messiah.  The facets (symbolic of eyes) seem to represent the eyes of the infinite (7 being the number for God’s completeness).  We will see this image of seven eyes used again in Revelation, since Zechariah is an influential book on John the writer.

Q. (5:4): What does it mean to swear falsely?

A. To lie, usually under oath or after swearing that you are telling the truth in God’s name.

Q. (5:5-11): What does this story mean?  Is Babylonia the same as Babylon?

A. It is a summary of the process of the “purging” of the idolatry — personified as a woman named Wickedness — from the land of Israel.  The “woman” was taken from the good land to a land of idolatry (Babylonia — the region rather than the nation of Babylon), and things would not be made right back in Israel until this curse had been purged.

Day 253 (Sept. 10): Daniel’s vision of a messenger on a horse, king of south and north continually battle, Daniel’s instructions for the end, call to rebuild the temple, obedience to God’s call

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Daniel 10-12:13

Ezra 4:24-5:1

Haggai 1

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 10:3): Why no meats, wine or fragrant lotions?

A. He is fasting from the luxuries of the Persian kingdom.  It is similar to the notions from chapter 1 when Daniel and his friends forsook the rich foods of Babylon because of their defiling effect.

Q. (Daniel 10:5): Do we know who the man is at the river?  And, why do we often read about clothes made of linen?

A. We only know what Daniel tells us about him: he is not named (though the archangel Michael is), but is an angelic messenger of God who arrives to answer the prayers of Daniel who appears to be asking for more information on the events to come that we saw mentioned in the previous chapter.

Q. (10:12-14): Can you tell us why this segment is about angels and spirit princes?  Also, I looked up archangel on Wikipedia, which opens a whole set of questions about archangels, and more interesting to me about books that are in other religions but not the Christian.  As Christians, I just wonder if it’s worth our curiosity to investigate.  In an “archangel” search, Wikipedia mentions the books of Tobit (Catholic), Enoch (Jewish literature), 2 Esdras (Christian/Jewish) and are there others?  Why were they not considered Holy Scriptures to put in the Bible?  How do experts know that God didn’t consider them divine?

A. Ho boy, you’ve opened a whole big can of worms.  Let’s try to sort this all out.  First, we have seen references to angels before, and the implication of this verse is that there is some sort of hierarchy to angels — and possibly demons as well — that we only have glimpses of.  We aren’t really given details WITHIN SCRIPTURE about what it means to be an archangel (that should always be our starting point- ESPECIALLY since we’re dealing with beings beyond our understanding).  So basically, that’s as far as we can go on that side of the discussion: archangels exist, but that’s all we know for sure.  So let’s look at how we got to this point and address the materials themselves.

Let’s deal with the books you mentioned: In the canon of the Protestant Christian Bible (more on why in a sec, but bare with me), there are only two named angels: Gabriel (which means God is my strength) and Michael (Who is like God?).  But in the tradition of the Jews (its non-canonical for them as well), there is an inter-testament writing called Enoch (which you caught onto) that describes SEVEN archangels (7 being our number for completion or perfection): Gabriel, Michael, Raphael (God heals), Uriel (God is my light), Raguel (Friend of God), Ramiel (Thunder of God), and Sariel (Command of God).  These are powerful angelic beings that watch over Israel in the midst of the difficult persecutions that they faced between the OT and the NT (more on that later).

Enoch (or Enoch I) was a compilation work of various stories, including about angels.  Jews and Christians do not generally consider it be canonical: Jews exclude it because it was not written in Hebrew (it was written in Aramaic), but the writing was extremely influential on Jewish thought in the time of Jesus and the early Church.  A number of early Church fathers refer to the work in their writings (not part of the NT) and there are a few vague references to it in scripture (such as the very short letter of Jude).  Because it was a part of the tradition of the early Church, Roman Catholics and the Orthodox Church accept it as part of what we call the Apocrypha, but it is NOT considered it be on the same level as the OT and NT.  Still, they nonetheless consider it worth studying, and it is found between the Testaments in a Catholic (or Orthodox) Bible.  So to Catholics and Jews, it is an influential work, but not on the same level as inspired Scripture.  And before you get all over the “how do they know?” angle, that’s mostly because it really doesn’t say anything new about God: it mostly repeats and expands upon other well known stories of the OT, which is part of the reason that it doesn’t have that much influence today, even if it did back then.  The men who compiled the canon put a lot of thought into which books to include and exclude, and they ALWAYS have good reasons for exclusion, so don’t lose any sleep over that.

As to the other books you mentioned, in a Catholic Bible you will ALSO find Tobit and 2 Esdras, whose content you can read about online but I won’t bother going into here to keep us on topic.  So no worries about writings about archangels in OTHER religions, all the books you mentioned can be found within any Catholic Bible.  (Just FYI, you can find any of the writings online through Biblegateway.com or any number of Catholic sites.  They are very interesting reads.)

As to why Protestants do not include the Apocrypha, you can thank none other than Mr. Martin Luther.  Luther is credited with creating the list of canonical Scriptures for his newly created Lutheran church back around 1520.  The list he generated is still used by Protestants around the world today.  Luther’s reasoning is that since the Jews rejected it, it probably wasn’t worth including, and anything that reeked of Catholicism at that point (the beginnings of the Reformation) had to go, so…out it went.  So I think you can see that none of the source material you mentioned has even been considered part of the canon for either Jews or Christians, and even the ones who include it (Catholics and Orthodox) do so in it’s own section of the Bible.

Q. (11:2-45): This vision seems to go at quadruple speed to make an account of all the changes in power and rifts between the kings of the south and north.  What do we need to take from it, if anything?

A. As I mentioned yesterday, it refers to the power struggle between two of the nations that form after Alexander the Great died and his empire was chopped up.  It is the King of the North (Antiochus Epiphanes) who will desecrated the Temple in his attempt to dismantle Jewish worship and will incite the rebellion I mentioned yesterday (the Times, Time, and half Time refers to the three and a half years (2, 1, ½) of revolt before the Temple is restored.  That’s the basic understanding of the reading, and when we move to the NT, we will skip over these events and move into the modern era.

Q. (12:1-4, 9): So is Revelation being described here or is it about the fall of Israel?  And, why would God want Daniel to know about this, especially since it’s not happening for a while (right?) and tell him to keep it secret.

A. The angel is describing an apocalyptic event, that is, an event where the world ends.  The Bible casts multiple visions for what this looks like (Jesus Himself will provide one), but this is one of the oldest, and John, who wrote Revelation, will refer back to it.  As to why God told Daniel to keep it a secret, I have no good answer for that.

O. (Haggai 1): If you are wondering who Haggai was, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haggai

Day 251 (Sept. 8): Daniel earns honor among Darius’s court, other members of the court are jealous and form scheme, Daniel thrown in with lions, God closes mouths of lions, Darius has Daniel’s accusers arrested and thrown to lions, Daniel prays to God for mercy on the Israelites, King Cyrus of Persia proclaims for Israel’s exiles to return, Cyrus orders the plunder from Jerusalem be returned with the exiles, Jehoiachin’s descendants

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Daniel 6

Daniel 9

2 Chronicles 36:22-23

Ezra 1:1-11

1 Chronicles 3:17-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 6:1-28): We all probably know this story very well and admire Daniel for his loyalty to God.  Some may say that it would be ridiculous to apply this story to today.  If someone were thrown in a lion’s den, would God save him or her, if asked?  Should anyone be crazy enough to go into a lion’s den anyway?  This reminds me of a story in a sermon I heard several months ago where prayer was the subject.  Someone had just arrived in California (I don’t remember all the details) to speak or maybe he was a pastor at this church.  Anyway, he was being driven to his destination and was notified that there were wild fires all around this place he was going.  Instead of rushing off to the place of the fire, he had the driver pull over and he prayed for 20 minutes or so.  The fire burned everything around this building, but spared the building.

A. God may do as He pleases, as we have often discussed.  I sometimes wonder if we do not vastly UNDERESTIMATE the impact of prayer: too often we assume that circumstances are beyond our control (or even beyond God’s control) when we might find our situation different if we would but pray, as is the case in the story you mentioned.  Now having said that, let’s look at the story a bit more closely.

Daniel does NOT pray for God to rescue Him; he simply prays as he always has, and has faith that God will meet his dire need.  Daniel knew he was being punished unjustly, so he counted on God to be his avenger, and God obviously delivers him.

One of the central themes of Daniel is faithfulness through times of persecution, with this story and the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from chapter 3 being the primary examples of this.  It appears that God was sending His people a message (and a message to future generations who would read it): don’t compromise your faith, even when it appears foolish to not do so.  And while most Americans do not face REAL persecution for our beliefs (unlike many parts of the world), the pressure to compromise what we hold most dear is real in our society.  The book of Daniel still has much to teach us, even if we are not at risk to be thrown to hungry lions anytime soon.  Keeping the faith is easy when times are good, but the true test of the power of our faith is what effect it has on us when the chips are down.  To those in difficult times Daniel reminds us: it is always worth it to keep the faith.

Q. (9:1-19): I am surprised that Daniel pleads with God since God said that the land lay fallow for 70 years.  As a follower of God, why would Daniel plead for God to change His heart?  I would think that would be disrespectful.

A. He’s not asking for God to change His mind, he’s asking God to keep His promise to restore His people by confessing on His people’s behalf.

Q. (9:20-27): I’m not really following what’s all going on here.  Can you clarify this passage?  I don’t know what a “set of seven” (didn’t we talk about this with another vision) is?

A. Daniel is being given a prophecy about the coming of the Messiah (the Anointed One) along with the decree from Cyrus to rebuild Jerusalem, which will be narrated in Ezra and Nehemiah.  A set of sevens is most likely 7 years.  What that means is that according to verse 26, the Messiah will appear (what “appear” means we don’t exactly know) approximately 483 years after the decree from Cyrus (7×7=49, 62×7= 434, giving a total of 483), though it is possible Gabriel means the actual restoration of the Temple, which will come a few decades later.  In other words, we don’t know exactly HOW to do the “math” on the coming of the Messiah, and obviously Jewish and Christian sources disagree on how it should be interpreted.  You can read about the various interpretations here, but I will warn you, it gets a bit technical, and frankly cumbersome to me: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prophecy_of_Seventy_Weeks.  A lot of Christians have gotten taken in by many attempts to “force” the math to show that Jesus is “proven” Messiah by these verses, but I am jut not convinced that you can make it “work” without stretching the numbers.  To me, Jesus is proven Messiah by what He does on the cross and His resurrection, not because some vague prophecy says that was coming at a set time.  But I would not stop anyone from looking into the math, I would only warn them that they will need to dig deep.  It is not an easy passage to interpret.

Q. (2 Chronicles 32:22-23): Is this the same Cyrus who was well, ugly?  He just seems to come out of nowhere.

A. I do not know exactly what you’re talking about, but Cyrus II was a major ruler of the Persian Empire who would have been well known to Jews of this era because of his role in restoring the Jews to their land.  We will see that process unfold over the next few weeks.

Q. (1 Chronicles 3:17-19a): I just assumed we were all done reading anything about Jehoiachin.  Do any of his descendants rise to be known?

A. His son Shenazzar might be the person that Ezra mentions as the “treasurer” of the people, but there’s not much here other than that.