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 222 (Aug. 10): God tells Jeremiah to not marry or have kids, no mourning for the dead, Israelites will be forced to other lands because of their sins and their ancestors’ sins, God promises to bring them back to Canaan, God to hand over Judah’s treasures to enemy, cursed are those who put trust in humans and not God, Jeremiah asks God to follow through with his promises so he will avoid shame, God reminds Judeans to keep the Sabbath holy, Jeremiah tells God that enemies are plotting against him, Recabites escape to Judah, Recabites obey and Judah still refuses

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.

Jeremiah 16-18:23

Jeremiah 35:1-19

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 17:3): I can think of several reasons that God would hand over Judah’s possessions: they have been defiled, to give the people of God no rewards for their bad behavior, to leave Judah a ghost town with nothing to offer, and to allow the Israelites to start fresh when they return.

A. I like your list.  I would only add that they took pride in their possessions, and that likely added to their problems.

Q. (17:4b): Is their any long-term meaning to the last two lines of this verse, like alluding to hell?

A. I don’t believe so, God is alluding to temporal, not eternal, punishment.

O. (17:5-10): What a profound passage.  This pretty much says the main fall of humans, I believe.

Q. (35:19): First, what is the purpose of having the Recabites in this story?  Why have a group that does obey God come to Judah?  Does the last sentence mean that the Recabites will be royalty under God?

A. The Recabites are NOT obeying God in this example; they are obeying the command of their forefathers (there is some degree of debate as to whether this is a Jewish or non-Jewish group).  God is using them as an example to rebuke the people of Judah by saying, “look if these people can keep a human rule within a family, why can’t you citizens of Judah do the same for My laws?”  There is some Jewish tradition that states that the Recabites will have a role in the post-exile Temple, though there are no more specific scriptures that mention this role, so we can’t be certain.

Day 68 (March 9): Vows to God are serious, victory over Midianites, dividing the spoils

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.  Take the challenge.  You won’t regret it.

Numbers 30-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Numbers 30:1-16): So the Lord expected the Israelites to keep their promises to the Lord.  What kind of vows were they talking about?  The first verses say that men must always keep their word.  However, women and girls are subject to their father or husband’s acceptance of the vow.  Why the difference between men and women?  And, boys are not mentioned.  Do they follow under the first verses of men?

A. Basically, the rule here is that vows, of any sort, were not to be made rashly, and each person was responsible for vows they made.  The only two exceptions were both for women, who were subject to the authority of their fathers (if not married) or their husbands (if they were).  These men had the authority to overturn any vow that they, as the authority over the woman, would have a hand in fulfilling.  So basically, if you were a man, a boy, or a divorced woman, you had no one to blame for your foolish vows but yourself!  No one else would be able to take responsibility for them.

Q. (31:6): Phinehas, son of Eleazar has been mentioned several times.  Should we discuss him at all?

A. Eleazar was Aaron’s son, who took over the role of High Priest when Aaron died back in chapter 20.  This makes Phinehas Aaron’s grandson, and the priest who was responsible for the killing of the man and woman who flaunted their sin in front of the Tabernacle in 25:7.  He thus becomes a person who has a great zeal for God’s holiness, and God rewards Him for this zeal.  He is mentioned again in Joshua, but this is his most prominent role.

Q. (31:9): Any idea where or when the gentleman’s rule started — the rule of fighting men, but leaving women and children unharmed?  31:17 does not make for a nice visual.

A. As far as I know, the idea of warfare being only among the men who are fighting it goes back for thousands of years.  Its the understood difference between soldiers and civilians.  Now sometimes this gets blurry, as in instances of a siege, where the entire intent is to starve out people who have blockaded themselves for protection, but generally the “rule” in question is the way that warfare has been conducted for some time.

Verse 17 is indeed pretty brutal, but there were two important reasons for Moses’ command, though they don’t soften the blow much.  The women, rather than the male soldiers, were indeed the ones who brought about the plague at Peor, and therefore it would have been risky to let them live.  The death of the boys was done in order to prevent issues with inheritance in future generations of Israelites.  Moses is attempting to prevent non-Israelites from inheriting the Promised Land in future generations.

Q. (31:32): I know it’s not important, but I have no idea how they would have accurately counted that much livestock, and girls.

A. I have no idea how they did it either.  You should always consider numbers of this sort to be rough estimates.  Keep in mind, prior to these volumes being written down, they would have been passed down generation to generation orally.  That means that having rough numbers is a more manageable system then going into specifics.  It is also possible that the number became more “rough” as the story was handed down (i.e. originally the count was 36,588 cattle, but it became 36,000 over time).