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 250 (Sept 7): Daniel’s vision of four beasts, ‘beasts’ vision explained, Daniel’s vision of a ram and goat, Gabriel explains the vision, writing on the wall, Daniel explains message

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 7-8:27

Daniel 5

Questions & Observations

O. It had been a while back since we had discussed Daniel, so I googled him to refresh my memory about his place in society.  I found this summary to be eye opening:  http://www.sharefaith.com/guide/christian-ministries/bible-heroes/daniel-the-interpreter-of-dreams-and-visions.html

Q. (Daniel 7): Wow.  This is one of those places in the Bible where it reads so fast because it’s so enthralling.  We have the vision explained, so there is only one question left for me.  Does this vision come into play in the OT or is it yet to come?  This is just a glimpse of the devastation we’ll see in Revelations, right?  (You’ll probably make me wait on that answer.)

A. Visions like this one are a bit more complicated than “has it happened” I’m afraid.  In one sense, this vision has already come to be.  It is a description of the rise and fall of four nations in the Middle East during this era: the lion is Babylon, which will soon fall to the Medo-Persian Empire (which we see with the death of the king in chapter 5 with the writing on the wall).  The leopard with four wings is the Greek empire that swiftly conquered under Alexander the Great (the four wings imply swift movement).  After Alexander’s untimely death, his empire was divided into four parts (the four heads of verse 6), none of which were as powerful as the united empire under Alexander.  The last beast is the Roman Empire, which conquered much of the known world.  The ten horns of the last beast seem to represent the coalition of the Roman provinces.  The last “horn” appears to represent the Emperor of Rome, who would stand in direct opposition to God, and therefore be seen as the great enemy of the Ancient One (similar to our vision of Gog back in Ezekiel).  We obviously know that the “final” confrontation between the powers of this world and God has not yet taken place, so you could argue in that sense that the vision is not yet complete.  This is very common in scripture: we have this tension of already but not yet, if that makes any sense.  It is the same way we understand what Christ has done for us.  His sacrifice has already won for us the victory over sin, but He has not yet claimed the final victory- already, but not yet.

One other note, the “characters” in this story (the four nations) are also seen in the vision of the statue of Daniel 2 (Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome) and to a lesser extent the vision of the ram (Persia) and goat (Greece) in chapter 8.  Note the divisions of the Greek empire into four parts.

Q. (8): Again, this vision is for then or now?  In 2300 years from then, it would have happened around 1850.

A. A little bit of history will help unravel this one: one of the four parts of the Greek Empire (called Seleucid Empire after one of Alexander’s generals) had control of the restored nation of Israel (this is in the future of our reading timeline, and between the Testaments).  One particular ruler of this nation, Antiochus Epiphanes, attempted to exterminate the Jewish faith via imposition of Greek god worship and cutting off Jewish customs such as circumcision.  He rashly desecrated the rebuilt Temple and incited a revolt — which we will talk about later — by the Jews.  After this revolt, the Jews reconsecrated the Temple.  The distance between these events was just over three years, which would give us around 1150 days (roughly).  Since sacrifices at the Temple were made to God every morning and evening (as it says in verse 14), we double that number to get the 2,300.  That’s what it means: It refers to the period of just over 3 years when the Temple was not “functional” because it was desecrated.  The reconsecration event has become known as Hanukkah, a relatively minor Jewish holiday that is celebrated to this day around December.

Q. (8:3-12): We have talked about the symbolic meaning of horns long ago.  This would be a good time to review it again.

A. The horn is a symbol of power.  I think that about covers it.

Q. (8:25): It’s awesome to see Gabriel in this text, and also does the Prince of Princes refer to Jesus?

A. It refers to God, or possibly a Prince of heaven (which might be an angel like Gabriel), but I think God is correct.

O. (5): According to Wikipedia, this story is where the saying “He didn’t see the writing on the wall” originated.

Q. (Daniel 5:8-9): Why was the writing on the wall written so that the King or his spiritual leaders could not read it?

A. They could read it (the words simply refer to currency in the ancient Near East), but they could not interpret it.  There is a lot of discussion about why DANIEL could interpret it when the other men failed, but unfortunately there’s not a lot to go by there.  Sorry.  I don’t know the answer to that one.

Day 247 (Sept. 4): Visions of: rooms for preparing sacrifices, rooms for the priests, inner courtyard and Temple, Lord’s glory enters Temple, altar

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.

Ezekiel 40:38-43:27

Questions & Observations

Q. (Ezekiel 40:38-41:26): Why are there so many specific measurements?  This was just a vision.

A. I don’t know, honestly, but I am sure God had His reasons.  It appears that the point of the vision was for Ezekiel to share what he had been given so that the people would become inspired by the plan.  That’s all I’ve got.

Q. (40:47): I thought the altar was in the most holy place for only the priests to see, but here it’s in the courtyard?  And, I am surprised that God is giving Ezekiel this vision because he has said that animal offerings were not what he desired anymore.  Do I have this wrong?  Maybe it’s because they were empty sacrifices, animals being burned without the right spirit of the people toward the burnings.

A. You’re correct about the animal sacrifices: they were repeatedly offered in the wrong spirit.  They were used as a license to do whatever the people wanted, so the sacrifices were ultimately empty.  As to the altar, there was always an altar in the courtyard for ceremonial use.  It was where the people offered their sacrifices and the priests consumed them.  You’re thinking of the Ark of the Covenant, which was partly made of an altar.  The Ark was kept in the Most Holy Place, but was lost during the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon.  But there was always an altar (made of bronze) for both the Tabernacle and the Temple.

Q. (41:5-6): Ezekiel sees side rooms stacked.  Are they significant?

A. Only in that it allows for more people (i.e. more priests) to be involved in the sacrificial system.

Q. (43:10-12): Why would describing the temple make the people ashamed?

A. They would be most likely mourn for the loss of the great Temple that was destroyed, and would know that it was their sins that caused the loss of the great building which represented their relationship with God.

Q. (43:13-27): You know that I have had problems understanding and accepting the sacrifices.  I do understand that it’s to give your best to God.  I don’t understand how sacrifices cleanse the altar.  And, I don’t know why there are so many rules with sacrifices.  My guess it would be to show obedience?

A. God desires us to understand that there is redemption in the shedding of blood — the cost of sin is paid for in the dying creature (pay close attention to this image as we approach our Holy Week readings in a couple of months).  But outside of that level of understanding, God simply asks for our obedience, as you have said.  He decides what constitutes atonement, since He is the one who alone knows the true cost of sin.

Day 246 (Sept. 3): The lineage of King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about a tree, Daniel explains Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and his fate, Nebuchadnezzar turns to God and his reign is restored, Ezekiel has vision of Jerusalem’s new thick walls, vision shows Ezekiel “Man of whose face shone like bronze” around the 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 Chronicles 8:29-9:1

Daniel 4:1-37

Ezekiel 40:1-37

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Chronicles 8:29-9:1a): This is the lineage of King Saul?  This is a “just-for-the-record” scripture?

A. As first king of Israel (even a corrupted one), Saul takes his place among the history of his people from the tribe of Benjamin.

Q. (Daniel 4:25): What is the seven periods of time?

A. Seven years.

O. (4:30): This sounds like a dramatic play.  My majestic splendor?  Get over yourself Nebuchadnezzar.

Q. (Ezekiel 40:10): Just a note that the three guard alcoves with the same measurements reminds me of the trinity.  What do you think?  Is there any significance with any other measurements or details of the Temple?  Why all the measuring?

A. God, via an angelic character, is giving Ezekiel a vision for the new temple, but I do not know exactly why the measurements play so heavily into the description.

Q. (40:34b, 37): Are the “eight steps” significant?

A. The steps increase as you get further into the temple- moving from three to seven, eight (as seen here) and ten for the inner parts of the court.  That would appear to indicate levels of importance or degrees of holiness.  The more steps you have, the more holy the section.

Day 218 (Aug. 6): God has Jeremiah use a shattered clay jar and a garbage dump to demonstrate their future to the Israelites in Judah, Priests whips Jeremiah for prophecies, Jeremiah complains of mockery, Babylon’s Nebuchadnezzar takes captives from Judah, four captives enter royal service for Babylon, Daniel refuses king’s food, God gives Daniel talent for deciphering visions and dreams, four captives gain respect

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 19-20:18

Daniel 1:1-21

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jeremiah 19:2,6): So, God uses the broken pot and a garbage dump to show the leaders what their future looks like.  But, why should these rulers follow Jeremiah there anyway?

A. I guess because they knew him to be a prophet and he asked them to follow him.

Q. (20:1): I take it that Pashhur was not a priest of God?  I didn’t know priests could order someone to be whipped.  It sounds like prophets were viewed with fear and contempt.  They knew they had a direct relationship with God, which they feared, but they didn’t acknowledge God as Lord of all for some reason.  So, they would listen to these prophets, but not like what they say.  Stubborn is a good word for it.

A. Jeremiah’s message is that the generation has become corrupted, and what better proof than the priest, who should be seeking God’s love and charity, order Jeremiah flogged because they don’t like his message.  Jesus will follow in this type of scenario, being put through a flogging and crucifixion under very similar circumstances.

Q. (20:11-13): Although this passage seems a little chaotic, going from one message to the other.  The part that says God tests the righteous and examines our deepest thoughts stood out to me.  I would like to think that God has some respect for me as I am doing many things that he has instructed me to.  So, why can’t He trust me?  Why must He keep testing me?  The best answer and I believe it is that if He didn’t keep testing me, my relationship with Him would become stagnant and it may make me farther away from Him.  But, when I am tested, I dig deeper into my dependence on Him and become a stronger Christian in my walk with Him.

A. You’ve got the idea.

O. (20:14-18): I can feel Jeremiah’s anger here.  It sounds as if his whole life he has been prophesying God’s word only to be faced with ridicule.  So, all he has ever done gets absolutely no respect.  Not a fun life.  I would think that being a prophet is almost a burden, but on the flip side, they know what’s coming.  Given the other option, I wouldn’t want it any other way.  Nevertheless, it would be a difficult, lonely life.  I know that Christians always say you are never alone because the Spirit is with you.  This is a common condolence when someone, especially a partner, dies.  But, it’s still lonely and difficult to figure out how you can let God alone fill that void.  I guess it doesn’t mean you have to fill it with all God, but maybe He will direct you to other things that will fill your life.

Q. (Daniel 1:1-2): I can see that by empowering another nation, God is demonstrating to that nation what they could have if they followed Him.  But, here Nebuchadnezzar took the treasures from the Temple of the Lord and put them in the treasure house of his god.

A. Yes, he did, but the true treasures he took were these people, especially the four men that will be at the center of the first half of the book of Daniel.

Q. (1:8-21): I don’t think that being a vegan is what this scripture is about, but this is worth mentioning.  I have been noticing that my friends who eat a lot of salads look more alert and fit.  I have been a vegan for over 20 years.  In college, I would by a ton of veggies and chop them up with my fabulous salad shooter.  Then, I would just have a salad every night.  Well, I got burned out on salads and am reluctant to think about eating them.  I eat a lot of veggies, usually steamed.  But, I know I eat too many processed things.  (Even a vegan can make unhealthy choices).  And, I feel dragged down.  I do notice when I eat fresh, uncooked produce that I feel more alive.  I am making baby steps to include more fresh veggies.  I hope God gives us more guidance with diet.

A. The major issue at play in this story is not vegetarianism/veganism, though there is a diet plan based upon this story called the Daniel Diet Plan (read about it here: http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/what-is-the-daniel-diet-plan, and note that Rick Warren of all people is behind it.  I’m in no way endorsing the diet, just passing along the information).  The major issue here is clean and unclean foods.  It is likely that the Babylonians ate rich foods and stews, and wine that was not good for their health, and contained many unclean ingredients.  It is this, and not the meat itself, that is the thing Daniel is avoiding.  We know from modern dietetics that people can survive and even thrive on vegetables (properly balanced of course). So it is likely that Daniel and the other men benefitted from the nutrition in the vegetables in a way that even they would not have fully understood.  God used this situation and Daniel’s plan to gain influence in the king’s court, and we will see the way that this plays out in the next few chapters of Daniel’s book.

Day 173 (June 22): Amos tells of his visions, Amos tells Jeroboam of upcoming destruction, Amos details Israel’s future, God tells of Israel’s repair, Jeroboam II, Zechariah and Shallum have short reigns in Israel, Menahem ruled for 10 years, Pekah killed Pekahiah, King Uziah of Judah died, Isaiah has vision of his redemption and destruction of Israel

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.

Amos 7-9

2 Kings 14:28-29

2 Kings 15:8-29

2 Kings 15:6-7

2 Chronicles 26:22-23

Isaiah 6:1-13

Questions & Observations

O. (Amos 7:1-3): Just a dream, but we do see God rewarding Israel since Amos was calling out to Him to spare the nation from locusts.

Q. (Amos 7:10): We are talking about Jeroboam II here, right?  If it’s the first Jeroboam, then we are not in chronological order.

A. Yes.

Q. (Amos 7:17): Is Amos speaking of this judgment day again for Israel?

A. All of the prophets from this section of Israel’s history will be talking about this upcoming day of judgment for Israel.

Q. (8:10): Amos is still speaking to Jeroboam II?

A. He is speaking the nation of Israel, though the king is usually thought of as the nation’s representative.

Q. (9:1): He is speaking here of the Temple of the Lord?  He must see it as a place of blasphemy since it is supposed to be used as a place where the Israelites praise their sovereign Lord.  It has been plundered for other gods.  What a slap in the face to God.

A. If we examine the record of what God has done for these people, it does indeed appear that way.  Wait until we get to Hosea.  He has some very colorful language for this insult.

Q. (9:7): What is the meaning of this line of questioning?  I did think the Israelites were the most important people to God.  Is he putting the Israelites in their place because they have not obeyed God’s laws, saying that they may as well be any other nation?

A.  Israel was chosen by God for the purpose of being a light to the nations, at which they have failed miserably.  Just because they were His chosen does not mean He cares for these nations (some of which have ties to Israel such as Edom) any less.

Q. (9:11-15): This prophecy sounds similar to the Flood.  I don’t know why in v. 15 God says that the Israelites will never be uprooted again because we have seen time and time again where no matter if a group starts out with good apples, some will turn bad or new ones will show up who are bad.  Is this because God is similar to a parent in this regard: After the punishment is over, we want to restore harmony and enjoy the rewards of getting rid of bad behavior?

A. I’m not trying to dodge this question, but I’d like to let the story unfold so you and our dear readers can see more clearly what God is up to and the ways that He goes about restoring Israel.

Q. (2 Kings 15:16): This is at least the second time where it is mentioned that pregnant women were cut open.  This is so detestable.  Why this practice?

A. It demonstrates brutality against the vulnerable and in doing so causes intimidation.  There is also the added “bonus” of killing the next generation of ones’ enemies.

Q. (Isaiah 6:1-13): Is Isaiah having a vision here?  Isaiah is a prophet?  What is going on in this passage?

A. This is probably the most well known passage for Isaiah’s book, one of the largest of the OT.  He is indeed having a vision, in which he is called into God’s service as a prophet, so this vision is basically the commissioning ceremony of a royal messenger.  Isaiah is being selected to proclaim a message that will be ignored by his people — hearing but not understanding — but that he will also cast a vision for the way that God will restore his people.  The last section of Isaiah (chapters 40-66) contains some of the most beautiful words ever composed in their descriptions of God and His ability to restore and make all things new.