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.

Day 219 (Aug. 7): Nebuchadnezzar asks for ‘wise’ men to interpret his disturbing dream, ‘wise’ men said it was impossible and faced execution, Daniel interpreted dream from a vision from God, Daniel rewarded with position of ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar ordered everyone to bow to gold statue, but Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused and thrown into furnace, they were safe and accompanied by a mysterious fourth in furnace, Judeans cannot use temple to shelter them from destruction, God urges Jeremiah to stop praying for Israelites, time is coming for Jerusalem to be ‘Valley of Slaughter’

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 2-3:30

Jeremiah 7-8:3

Questions & Observations

Q. (Daniel 2:12): I don’t understand why men were ordered to kill Daniel and his friends because wise men — not Daniel and his friends — told the king his dreams were impossible to interpret.

A. The previous chapter has established that Daniel and his friends are wise men/advisors to the king (1:20), and therefore subject to the penalty of the king’s decree.

Q. (2:30): Here Daniel is saying that dreams tell you what is in your heart.  Does God say that our dreams are supposed to mean anything?  Maybe just to some people?  I would think people would know if God was trying to speak to them through dreams.  Mine are either normal stuff, but sometimes I feel the devil enters them and makes me question my awake life.  I still have fears that I woke up late and missed a test or did a poor job at work like I totally slacked off.  That’s not me.  I studied hard in college, putting ice cubes on my eyelids to stay awake, not to mention the amount of caffeine I used to consume.

A. Dreams are a potential way for God to get our attention, but that doesn’t mean that all dreams are directly from God.  Part of the backdrop for this story is the story of Joseph and Pharaoh from way back in Genesis 41: the pattern is repeated — and perhaps God chose to use the same method to gain the attention and trust of a great king — the king has a dream about future events, which only a man of the true God can reveal.  The men (Joseph then, Daniel now) is handsomely rewarded for his efforts.

Q. (2:47, 3:1): Why on earth did King Nebuchadnezzar say that “your God is the greatest of gods” and then go make a 90-foot tall gold statue?

A. Probably because the statue was of himself.  He was seeking to be worshipped as a god — he was incredibly powerful, one of the most powerful kings in history — and probably had no idea why the Jews would have any objection to worshipping him.

Q. (3:18): This verse brings up a subject that I feel “gray” on.  Here Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are the subjects of this wonderful story of faith.  They have faith in God that He will save them from the blazing hot furnace.  Yet, they put a disclaimer in there that if God does not save them, they still believe in Him and will not worship any idol.  This mirrors thoughts I have.  I trust God, but when I proclaim Him, I’m not sure He’s going to come through at that moment when I am asking for His help.  It’s like when I ask Him to heal a sick person or help me through a rough time, I don’t know if he’ll answer the situation, so you always have to put in the “God willing” tagline.  Then, those critics can say that we have to say He will come through when He wants to.  Then, we have to say that it’s all part of His plan and we have to trust in Him that He knows what’s best for us.  That’s a hard sell to non-Christians.  I would love to do an apologetics study.  Do you know of any good, easy-to-follow ones?

A. There’s an old saying that goes “faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” that I think addresses the sentiment you are describing.  It is that type of faith that these three men powerfully display in the midst of their trials: they have nothing left to trust in but God’s deliverance, but they even say “it doesn’t matter if God saves us or not, we’re not worshipping your idol.”  Their powerful faith has served as an example throughout the ages to both Christians and Jews who have gone through times of persecution, and especially in times what God did not deliver the people from suffering and death (as God did not spare Jesus).

Apologetics can be a very helpful resource for bolstering the faith that we already have, though I would caution against using it too strongly to try to CONVERT non-Christians.  It is useful to help us answer the tough questions about faith — and I believe that they are good answers to those questions — but be careful about using them as a bludgeon against others who do not share your faith.  Conversion of the sort you are describing comes much more from relationship and love than argument.  Very few people are “argued” into the Kingdom of God.  Three resources I would recommend are the Case for Christ and Case for Faith by Lee Strobel, and Mere Christianity (which is British and can be a bit hard to read, so you’ve been warned) by C.S. Lewis.

Q. (Jeremiah 7:3-7): Before we have read where God said good deeds at this point would not erase the evil that has been done, thus the destruction of Jerusalem is unavoidable.  Here, God says He will give them another chance if they abandon their evil ways.  Isn’t this contradicting or am I missing something?

A. I think God is talking about repentance that comes from the heart of the people.  He is saying that if they truly change their hearts, not just their actions, He will relent.  The problem?  They won’t change their hearts.

Q. (7:8-11): Here God is saying that just because the temple is in their city, the citizens of Jerusalem cannot think that they get a pass from punishment if they sin.  Right?

A. Yes.  It appears Jeremiah is telling us that the false prophets of his day trusted\ the building itself rather than the God who it represented.  This will be costly.

Q. (7:3-15): So, in this scripture, Jeremiah says God will excuse the Israelites if they shape up, then He says that being a citizen of Jerusalem does not shade them from being punished for sins and in the last paragraph God is talking about exiling them.  I’m just commenting that God goes through a big change in His attitude of the Israelites.

A. I wouldn’t agree.  I think this is a continuation of the sentiment I described in the previous question, God is after a change of heart, and the people will not yield their hearts to Him.  So He is warning them that just because they have this incredible building, they will not be spared what is to come.  The only thing that will spare them is repentance.  If they don’t repent, being in God’s city will not save them, and exile is coming.

Day 145 (May 25): Solomon builds towns and ships, Sheba impressed with Solomon’s wisdom and success, Solomon lavishes in wealth, Solomon acquires horses and chariots

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.

2 Chronicles 8:1-18

1 Kings 9:15-10:29

2 Chronicles 9:13-28

2 Chronicles 1:14-17

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 9:27): Hiram certainly did a lot of work for Solomon.  Why is he so loyal to Solomon?

A. Two options: one is that he is really being loyal to God’s chosen leader, so he is really being faithful to God not Solomon.  The other is that he desired the favor of the king who clearly made him wealthy, even if they had some disagreements over HOW good the properties were.  As we have mentioned, it was not a good idea to be on the king’s bad side.

Q. (1 Kings 10:1-13, 2 Chronicles 9:1-12): After reading this once, I thought this is a great story, but nothing I don’t already know.  But, on a second read, I thought about the lavish gifts exchanged between Solomon, Sheba and Hiram.  Rob, you were right when you said that Solomon was a diplomat.  But, with his wisdom, I would think that it would not be just for his gain, but for mutual gain of the one’s he’s befriending and also, just because he’s a god-loving person and wants to give them the mutual respect that friends give one another.

A. Yes indeed.  And Solomon’s gain is the gain of his nation.  What an image of saying that Solomon’s influence made gold and silver as worthless as stone!

Q. (1 Kings 10:19): Why lions?  Because they are king of the land?  With all of this adornment on his throne, I hope he doesn’t forget that there is a much bigger king above him.

A. Alas, he will in a way.  The lion, is, naturally king of the land.  In those days lions could still be found in the Middle East, so seeing one wasn’t out of the question.  The lion is also the symbol of Judah’s house (Judah was the lion’s cub of Jacob back in Genesis 49).

Q. (1 Kings 10:22): Apes and peacocks?  My footnote says baboons and peacocks.  Why would Solomon want them?

A. We’re not exactly sure what the Hebrew means here, either monkeys or peacocks, because it’s the only place in the Bible where it is used.  I presume they were used for pets or perhaps Solomon had a zoo or something like it to entertain guests.  People still keep all of those things as pets today — sadly for the apes and monkeys — and VERY sadly for the people who live near a person with a peacock.  I’ve been near one and they are incredibly noisy and annoying!

Q. (1 Kings 10:23): Did Israel have a commodity to trade or are they just making their fortune from all of these gifts.  The nation is recognized because it’s where the Lord resides in the temple and for Solomon’s wisdom?

A. It is, but clearly there were things that the people were trading as well, probably woodcraft, metal workings/jewelry, foodstuffs (remember the fertile soil in the land), and aquaculture (since part of the land is by the sea).  But what is making all of these things desirable is Solomon himself.

Q. (2 Chronicles 1:14-17): Why is Solomon building such a big army right now?  Is it the size of the force helps intimidate the enemy?

A. Most likely.  Solomon’s about to have some enemies.  It’s down hill from here.

Day 142 (May 22): Solomon builds his palace, Great and grand is the interior and furnishings for the Lord’s temple

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.

1 Kings 7:1-51

2 Chronicles 3:15-4:22

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Kings 7:1-12): It sounds like Solomon is building his ego with a palace larger than the temple he’s building for God.  It took him almost twice as long to build his palace than the Lord’s temple.

A. Yes, I would say so.  This is not Solomon’s, uh, wisest move, is it?

Q. (7:13-51): This description of the Lord’s temple is so detailed that it sounds as if it came from God himself.  I think Solomon has certainly honored God with such a lavish place!  Does God comment on the temple later?  I wonder if it’s pleasing to Him.

A. You will find out very soon.  The next step will be to dedicate it.

Q. Is there any of these designer details of the Temple that we should take note of?

A. Other than the objects in question are absolutely massive?  I would say that’s the only thing that needs to be made clear.  This is a massive building — even by modern standards — in every way recognizing, but being superior to, the design of the Wilderness Tabernacle.  Solomon intended his Temple to be eternal (1 Kings 9:13), so he used his father’s fortune in resources to do the best that he could to make it that way.