Wednesday, February 03, 2016

God's Man for Such a Time as This

“Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him on behalf of her people. And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law—to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.” And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:8-14 ESV)

Daniel 1:8-16


-Approximately 4,100 years ago, God made a covenant with a man named Abraham, whom He brought out of the land of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan. 500 years later, God raised up the man Moses to deliver His people from the land of Egypt, who had enslaved them for over 400 years. After God delivered them, He gave them His covenant at Mount Sinai, which defined the course for the rest of Old Testament history. In the book of Deuteronomy, God laid out the blessings for being faithful to the covenant and the curses for abandoning His Law and His covenant.
-In the year 605 B.C., the new king of Babylon captured the kingdom of Judah. This was a judgment from the Lord for hundreds of years of covenantal unfaithfulness on the part of Israel. The Lord God of Israel orchestrated all the domestic and international events in the world at that time so that He would fulfill His sovereign purpose and be faithful to every detail of His word in judging national sin.
-However, while many exiles were taken to Babylon who were sinners, four young men were not. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were the band of four friends who were taken 900 miles northeast to the land no Israelite had ever lived in before. Immediately, however, Babylon sough to fundamentally redefine their identity and their worldview.

Verse 8
But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.

-The four young men found themselves 900 miles away from their homeland, “But Daniel resolved” (וַיָּ֤שֶׂם דָּנִיֵּאל֙ עַל־לִבֹּ֔ו).
-In biblical history, biblical resolve defined many important figures. Joseph resolved to live a life of purity in a foreign land, even in the face of temptation. (Genesis 39:7-10)
-Ruth resolved to go with Naomi during the time of the judges (Ruth 1:16-18).
-The apostles Peter and John resolved to speak the name of the Lord Jesus without fear. (Acts 4:18-20).
-The apostle Paul in the time of the New Testament resolved to conduct his ministry despite the threat of death. (Acts 19:21)
-Biblical resolve begins by knowing that God sees all that is done on the earth. (2 Chronicles 16:9a, Psalm 11:4)
-Biblical resolve is fueled by a strong commitment to the glory of the Lord’s name. (Psalm 148:13; Isaiah 12:4-5)
-Biblical resolve is fueled by knowing that God is always with His people. (Deuteronomy 33:3; Proverbs 18:10)
-Biblical resolve means relying on the strength of the Lord, and not one’s own strength. (2 Chronicles 1:11; Psalm 28:8; Psalm 29:11)
-Specifically, “he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.” (
אֲשֶׁ֧ר לֹֽא־יִתְגָּאַ֛ל בְּפַתְבַּ֥ג הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וּבְיֵ֣ין)
-Part of being in a pagan land would be faced with the choice of eating unclean food that would have ceremonially defiled the faithful Israelite. (Hosea 9:3-4)
-Scholars are uncertain as to how exactly the Babylonian diet would have defiled Daniel. Many theories have been put forth, but the difficulty lies in not knowing any more details than what Daniel gives us about a time in history 2,600 years removed from our own time. One theory is that the food they were given was not in compliance with Levitical law (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14:3-20). However, wine was not defiling to the Israelites, and not all the food from the king would have been ceremonially defiling. Another theory is that Daniel rejected the Babylonian diet because the food was first offered to idols. However, the problem with this theory is that the food he requests would also have been offered to idols also. The modern-day idea of vegetarianism was entirely unknown in the ancient world, and is a very, very recent invention in modern history that mixes valid concerns over food processing with unbiblical views of ecology and the animal world. The best explanation appears to be that Daniel rejected the Babylonian diet because he resisted being completely assimilated into the pagan culture. In any event, while we do not know how it precisely would have done so, it would have indeed defiled him in some way.
-Our diets today, because we are people of the New Covenant, do not commend or defile ourselves in the sight of God (1 Corinthians 8:8). Instead, whatever we eat and drink, we are to do for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).
-We are today defiled by evil hearts (Matthew 12:18) and that which is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Timothy 1:9-10).
-Daniel’s resolution turned into action, “Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.” (
וַיְבַקֵּשׁ֙ מִשַּׂ֣ר הַסָּרִיסִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר לֹ֥א יִתְגָּאָֽל׃)
-Biblical resolve does not abandon one set of commands in Scripture for the sake of others.
-Here, Daniel recognized and honored the authority of those over him, even when they were unbelievers. Biblical faithfulness requires us to honor the authorities God has established (Romans 13:1)
-Like Daniel, Scripture instructs us to escape defilement from that which would contaminate us. (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Verse 9
And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs,

-Daniel was not successful of his own accord, but because “God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs”
וַיִּתֵּ֤ן הָֽאֱלֹהִים֙ אֶת־דָּ֣נִיֵּ֔אל לְחֶ֖סֶד וּֽלְרַחֲמִ֑ים לִפְנֵ֖י שַׂ֥ר הַסָּרִיסִֽים׃).
-God was with His man Daniel, just as He promised He would be for His people. (Psalm 46:7, 11)
-God’s sovereignty and power is again demonstrated, for He “gave” (
יִּתֵּ֤ן) Daniel favor and compassion, in contrast to how He “gave” King Jehoiakim into the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:1-2). As Yahweh declares, His purposes shall stand forever. (Isaiah 46:10)
-The Lord gives good things to those He loves every day (Psalm 68:19) and He blesses His people with every spiritual blessing that they need in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 1:3).

-God gave Daniel “favor” (
חֶ֖סֶד). This favor is in accordance with the favor God would bestow on His faithful exiles at the hands of their captors (Psalm 106:46). This was because God Himself bestowed favor to the people with whom He had made a covenant of redemption. (Psalm 106:45)
-God’s granting of favor to Daniel was a reward to Daniel for his personal integrity. (Psalm 5:12)
-God’s granting of favor to Daniel was also an answer to an ancient prayer by King Solomon (1 Kings 8:50).
-God also gave Daniel “compassion” (רַחֲמִים). “Compassion” here means “a loving disposition”.
-“God gave the Jews favour in the sight of the heathen who had led them captive; meaning, he took care that their conquerors should not rage so cruelly against them as they had done at first. For we know how the Jews were often treated harshly, roughly, and contemptuously. Since this inhumanity was here mitigated, the Prophet attributes it to God, who prepared mercies for his people.[1]
-God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the “sight of the chief of the eunuchs”, who was Ashpenaz from verse 3. God is sovereign over human hearts (Proverbs 21:1), which He would do for Israel in human history again. (Ezra 6:22)
-“It often happens that we cannot discharge everything which God requires and exacts without imminent danger to our lives. Sloth and softness naturally creep over us, and induce us to reject the cross. Daniel, therefore, gives us courage to obey God and his commands, and here states his favour with the prefect, since God granted his servant favour while faithfully performing his duty. Hence let us learn to cast our care upon God when worldly terror oppresses us, or when men forbid us with threats to obey God’s commands. Here let us acknowledge the power of God’s hand to turn the hearts of those who rage against us, and to free us from all danger.[2]

Verse 10

and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.”

-Ashpenaz, “the chief of the eunuchs” (
שַׂ֤ר הַסָּרִיסִים֙), did not agree to Daniel’s request. He told Daniel that “I fear my lord the king” (יָרֵ֤א אֲנִי֙ אֶת־אֲדֹנִ֣י), who had assigned Daniel and his three friends their food and drink.
-Ashpenaz relied upon what he saw and foresaw from his own finite perspective, for he was afraid that Nebuchadnezzar would kill him. He told Daniel, “For why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are your own age?”
אֲשֶׁ֡ר לָמָּה֩ יִרְאֶ֨ה אֶת־פְּנֵיכֶ֜ם זֹֽעֲפִ֗ים מִן־הַיְלָדִים֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר כְּגִֽילְכֶ֔ם)
-This question is a straightforward denial of Daniel’s request, in the classic Semitic style of an interrogative sentence, just as in other places in the Bible (Genesis 47:15; 2 Chronicles 32:4; Song of Songs 1:7; Ezra 7:23).
-The “worse condition” (
זֹֽעֲפִ֗ים) refers to a pitiful, bad, and dejected appearance. This could come through deprivation of food (Matthew 6:16).
-Ashpenaz was afraid of losing his life, for he told Daniel that “you would endanger my head with the king.” (
וְחִיַּבְתֶּ֥ם אֶת־רֹאשִׁ֖י לַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃)
-The unbelievers fear death more than anything else, whether for themselves or for others. (Deuteronomy 28:66; 2 Samuel 4:1)
-Unbelievers ultimately fear man, and they do not fear the Lord. (Proverbs 29:25; John 12:42-43)
-The Lord instructed His people that they were not to fear man, for doing so would lead them astray (Deuteronomy 1:17; Isaiah 57:11), and it lead to Saul’s downfall (1 Samuel 15:24).
-The fear of the Lord is a strong tower and a refuge for the faithful believer living in exile to the world (Deuteronomy 6:24; Proverbs 14:26)
-Biblical resolve, which Ashpenaz did not possess, also does not live in fear of losing one’s life or redefine clear standards for faithful living in light of the threat of death. (Acts 21:13; Philippians 1:19-21; Acts 20:24)

Verse 11
Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

-Daniel’s resolve was not deterred, for  he then turned to Ashpenaz’s inferior in rank. He turned to the “steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.”
הַמֶּלְצַ֑ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר מִנָּה֙ שַׂ֣ר הַסָּֽרִיסִ֔ים עַל־דָּנִיֵּ֣אל חֲנַנְיָ֔ה מִֽישָׁאֵ֖ל וַעֲזַרְיָֽה׃)
-The King James translators incorrectly rendered melsar as a proper name, when in reality it simply means “steward”. Further, it is prefixed by the definite article, making it a title and not a name. The steward was likely assigned over the four young men, as there were probably multiple stewards assigned to different groups of young male exiles from Judah.
-Biblical resolve exists particularly in the face of obstacles, not in spite of them. (John 16:33)
-Biblical resolve is necessary because of the many spiritual obstacles we face in the world today. (Ephesians 6:12)
-Daniel’s resolve did not become extinguished at the first sign of resistance, as biblical resolve does not immediately give up. (Galatians 6:9)
-Biblical resolve does not give in to weariness to apathy. (2 Thessalonians 3:13; Hebrews 12:3)
-Biblical resolve does not give in to despair. (2 Corinthians 4:1)
-Biblical resolve perseveres because of our hope in the promised kingdom of the Messiah. (Acts 14:21-22)

Verse 12
“Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.”

-Daniel wanted the steward to “test your servants for ten days”
נַס־נָ֥א אֶת־עֲבָדֶ֖יךָ יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֑ה).
-Daniel asked the steward to “test” (נָסָה) the four of them.
-God always brings tests in the lives of those He raises up to accomplish His redemptive purposes. He tested Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Israel (Exodus 15:25; Exodus 16:4), the tribe of Levi (Deuteronomy 33:8), Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:31), and the Psalmist (Psalm 26:2).
-Testing will come to every Christian so that it will yield results for the glory of God. (James 1:2-4)

-Daniel asked to be tested for “ten days” (
יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֑ה). Ten days was a long-enough period of time for their experiment to be proven true.
-Daniel asked, “Let us be given vegetables to eat” (
וְיִתְּנוּ־לָ֜נוּ מִן־הַזֵּרֹעִ֛ים) in contrast to the rich food that the king provided. He also asked for “water to drink” (וּמַ֥יִם וְנִשְׁתֶּֽה׃).
-“Vegetables”, as it is translated by all modern English translations, is the Hebrew
זֵרֹעִים (zeroa) and the Greek σπέρματα (spermata). In Daniel 1:16, it occurs in the plural form. This word only occurs in Daniel 1:12 and Daniel 1:16. It would include vegetables, but specifically means “that which is sown from seed”, and would include grain, fruit, and vegetable products. The diet of grain, fruit, and vegetables was the diet of the common man in Babylon; Daniel does not want to eat the royal diet, but rather eat the common diet.
-Many throughout the centuries have taken this verse as a guideline for diets; in older eras, when the vegetarian and vegan movements did not exist, some people interpreted this verse as saying that Christians should eat the food of the common people and not eat food that the nobility or royalty ate. John Calvin stated in his commentary, “Sobriety and abstinence are not simply praised here, since many twist this passage to the praise of fasting, and say Daniel's chief virtue consisted in preferring pulse to the delicacies of a palace.”
-Today, with the modern-day movements of vegetarianism and veganism, people use this verse to support a vegetarian or vegan diet. This idea misses the point of the passage, as well as failing to ignore the historical background of what Daniel would have actually eaten. While detoxification has value, and while a vegetarian or vegan diet has value for those who need them for medical reasons, this passage does not support these diets as better than others.

Verse 13
“Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.”
-Daniel reasonably stated that the results of the test would demonstrate the validity of his request. He said, “Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you”.
וְיֵרָא֤וּ לְפָנֶ֙יךָ֙ מַרְאֵ֔ינוּ וּמַרְאֵה֙ הַיְלָדִ֔ים הָאֹ֣כְלִ֔ים אֵ֖ת פַּתְבַּ֣ג הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ).
-The requirements for the youths who were to be brought to Babylon were that they A) had to be without blemish, B) be of good appearance, C) intelligent and quick learners, and D) able to serve in the king’s royal court. In the ancient Mesopotamian world, good looks indicated good health, and hence an attractive appearance and good physical health were required to be in the king’s presence.
-Daniel asked that the steward “deal with your servants according to what you see.” (
וְכַאֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּרְאֵ֔ה עֲשֵׂ֖ה עִם־עֲבָדֶֽיךָ׃). The four young men were to be judged in conjunction with the remainder of the young men who ate the king’s food and drank the king’s wine.
-Biblical resolve will produce results distinctive from the world. (Matthew 6:19-20)
-Biblical resolve will produce results given to us by God Himself (Galatians 6:8).
-Biblical resolve will produce results in keeping with the righteousness of God. (James 3:18)

Verse 14
So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days.

-Whereas Ashpenaz had denied Daniel’s request, the steward “listened to them in this matter.” (
וַיִּשְׁמַ֥ע לָהֶ֖ם לַדָּבָ֣ר הַזֶּ֑ה) This was remarkable, for Daniel and his friends, while better off than many of those who would be exiled, were still foreign prisoners of war in the magnificent Babylonian Empire.
-God affirmed His sovereignty over the hearts of men once again in order to preserve His people for His glory, just as He would do later in biblical history. (Ezra 6:22; Ezra 7:22)
-God granted favor that led to a favorable decision for Daniel was because He is gracious and compassionate and a God who does not forsake His people (2 Chronicles 30:9).
-The steward “tested them for ten days.”
(וַיְנַסֵּ֖ם יָמִ֥ים עֲשָׂרָֽה׃)
-The church in Revelation 2:10 was also tested for ten days.
-The world’s system will put us to the test (2 Corinthians 6:4).

Verse 15
At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.

-The testing was over “at the end of ten days” (וּמִקְצָת֙ יָמִ֣ים עֲשָׂרָ֔ה).
-We will only be tested as long as the Lord determines, and no longer (1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 5:10).
-God knows the end from the beginning, and He knows precisely how long we will endure trials in this life (Isaiah 46:10).
-God in His mercy has cut short the time of suffering we could experience living in this fallen world (Matthew 24:22).
-The moment of truth arrived, and “it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh” (נִרְאָ֤ה מַרְאֵיהֶם֙ טֹ֔וב וּבְרִיאֵ֖י בָּשָׂ֑ר) than before.
-Biblical resolve will always result in a reward, whether it be visible or spiritual or in this lifetime or in the next. (Proverbs 11:18)
-The Lord will reward the righteous (Proverbs 13:21) and those who possess integrity (Psalm 18:20)
-Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were “better in appearance”
נִרְאָ֤ה מַרְאֵיהֶם֙ טֹ֔וב) and “fatter in flesh” (וּבְרִיאֵ֖י בָּשָׂ֑ר). To be better in appearance and “fatter in flesh” meant they looked physically healthy and not malnourished as Ashpenaz had feared in verse 10.
-They surpassed “all the youths who ate the king’s food.”
מִן־כָּל־הַיְלָדִ֔ים הָאֹ֣כְלִ֔ים אֵ֖ת פַּתְבַּ֥ג הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃).
-When the righteous are tested, they are distinguished from the rest of the world (Proverbs 4:18; Philippians 2:15).

Verse 16
So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

-Because the experiment was successful, the “steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
וַיְהִ֣י הַמֶּלְצַ֗ר נֹשֵׂא֙ אֶת־פַּתְבָּגָ֔ם וְיֵ֖ין מִשְׁתֵּיהֶ֑ם וְנֹתֵ֥ן לָהֶ֖ם זֵרְעֹנִֽים׃).
-Daniel resolved not to defile himself, because his identity was in the Lord his God. Despite what the world and culture around him might do to redefine his identity and purpose, he resolved not to fall prey to cultural defilements that would erase his identity as one of the people of God. His resolve was fueled by the passion God gave him, and it was guarded by the protection God bestowed upon him. Daniel’s resolve did not waver and did not falter in the face of obstacles and apparent roadblocks; rather, he persevered until he accomplished his objective to be faithful to the Lord. Because of this, the Lord demonstrated that Daniel’s resolve was not fruitless, but rather faithful. Daniel and his three friends were distinguished from all the other youths, because they were unwaveringly faithful in a foreign land 900 miles away from their home. They stood out from the rest of the surrounding pagan culture, because they were sons of God.
-Approximately 600 years later, God raised up another Man for the time of eternity. The Son of Man that Daniel foresaw would come to earth and resolve to accomplish His Father’s will (John 6:40), and to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He resolved to march towards a bloody, horrible death on a cross (Luke 9:510. His faithfulness and his resolve brought us salvation (Hebrews 12:1-2), and His death and resurrection has brought us everlasting salvation (Luke 24:7; John 20:31).

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5)

Download the Study Here


[1] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 1, p. 101). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 1, p. 101). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Godly Exiles in a Godless Empire

“They shall besiege all you in all your towns, until your high and fortified walls, in which you trusted, come down throughout all your land. And they shall besiege you in all your towns throughout all your land, which the Lord your God has given you. And the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known.” (Deuteronomy 28:52, 64)

Daniel 1:3-7


-King Josiah was the last godly king of the nation of Judah. However, he died when he became embroiled with a battle with Pharaoh Neco of Egypt, who warned him not to come up against him. The people of Judah appointed Josiah’s son Jehoahaz to be king, but Neco deposed him and appointed Jehoiakim to be king instead. Jehoiakim reigned 11 years, but he did not walk in the ways of his father David. God warned the southern kingdom through many prophets that judgment was coming, but the nation did not turn back to the Lord.
-Meanwhile, King Nabopolassar of Babylon and his son Nebuchadnezzar successfully conquered the feared Assyrian empire, and after his father’s death, Nebuchadnezzar moved to conquer the Egyptian kingdom. Having done this, Nebuchadnezzar needed to secure his territories by ensuring the nation of Judah was under his domain. He defeated Jehoiakim in 605 B.C., carrying some exiles to Babylon and taking vessels from the Jerusalem temple to put in the temple of his god back in Babylon.

Verse 3
Then the king commanded Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring some of the people of Israel, both of the royal family and of the nobility,

-Nebuchadnezzar had just become the new Babylon “king” (מֶּ֔לֶךְ) after the death of Nabopolassar in 605 B.C. He lived from 634-562 B.C. and reigned from 605-562 B.C., beginning his reign at 29 years old. Higher critics doubted that Nebuchadnezzar ever captured Jerusalem, but a cuneiform tablet was unearthed in 1956 that after the Battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar captured all the land of Syria and Palestine. Jeremiah 46:2 declares that this took place immediately after the Battle of Carchemish, just as archeology demonstrates.
-The king “then commanded” (
וַיֹּ֣אמֶר) his officials to take action. “Ashpenaz” (אַשְׁפְּנַז) was his “chief eunuch.” (רַ֣בסָרִיסָ֑י) Eunuch comes from the Hebrew word saris, which was sometimes used to refer to men who had been made impotent (Isaiah 56:3), but also more generally to a government official (Genesis 37:36). Ashpenaz was his highest ranking official.
-Nebuchadnezzar wanted Ashpenez to “bring some of the people of Israel”
לְהָבִ֞יא מִבְּנֵ֧י יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל). He intended to ensure that the southern kingdom would be crippled and the Babylonian kingdom strengthened with choice exiles.
-God, however, was using Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to bring covenant curses upon His people for their disobedience. (Jeremiah 15:14; Ezekiel 36:19)
-The people of Israel, who were the people of promise (Deuteronomy 4:20; Deuteronomy 7:6), were now taken captive by the people from Shinar. God was exalting the Babylonians for a season, just as He forewarned His people through Moses. (Deuteronomy 28:43-44)
-Specifically from the people of Israel, Nebuchadnezzar wanted selections from two groups. He wanted them “both of the royal family and of the nobility”
וּמִזֶּ֥רַע הַמְּלוּכָ֖ה וּמִן־הַֽפַּרְתְּמִֽים׃). This was a pattern he would follow in 597 B.C. during the second invasion of Jerusalem during the time of Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin (2 Kings 24:15).
-The “royal family” referred to the Davidic dynasty that was alive in 605 B.C. The royal family had already been weakened with the unexpected death of Josiah and the deportation of Jehoahaz. Now, it was further weakened with the exile of some of its members. Specifically, the term “royal family” refers to “the seed of the kingship”, referring to direct descendants from the kings.
-The “nobility” (
פַּרְתְּמִים), or partemim, would be the foremost leaders of the land, and as Josephus suggested, the exiles were likely from both groups. “Partemim” is a Persian word, leading some higher critics to assume this book was written much later than to be written by Daniel. Daniel, however, lived in the time of the Medo-Persian Empire, and hence the use of this Persian word is likely an older Daniel writing about his early days back in Judah. In any event, Nebuchadnezzar thought he was weakening the southern kingdom’s royal family, but in reality God was doing what He had promised to do 100 years earlier (Isaiah 39:7).
-The Messianic seed was now in danger, for if Nebuchadnezzar had killed all the royal family, the Messianic line would have been extinguished from history. But instead, God directed his heart to take some of the Messianic line into exile instead (Proverbs 21:1).

Verse 4
youths without blemish, of good appearance and skillful in all wisdom, endowed with knowledge, understanding learning, and competent to stand in the king’s palace, and to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

-Verse 4 lists the fourth qualifications of the exiles Nebuchadnezzar wanted Ashpenaz to take to Babylon. First, they were to be “youths” (יְלָדִ֣ים) and not grown adults or aged individuals.  
-A youth here referred to a young man, not a young boy. (Ecclesiastes 4:13-15). According to the traditional education of the ancient Near East, these youths would be around the ages of 14-18. Most likely, Daniel would have been about 15 when he was carried away into Babylonian captivity.
-They had to be youths “without blemish”, which is rendered by the NASB as “without any physical defect.” This means that they were to be in good physical health, and we see in Leviticus 21:17-21 that many types of physical infirmities would have disqualified someone as healthy.
-Thirdly, they had to be “of good appearance” (
וְטֹובֵ֨י מַרְאֶ֜ה). Ugly individuals could not serve in the royal court or in the presence of the Babylonian king. A focus on appearance could be deceiving, for a good appearance did not always mean a good heart (2 Samuel 14:25). God does not look on the outward appearance, but on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
-Fourth, they had to be “skillful in all wisdom” (
וּמַשְׂכִּילִ֣ים בְּכָל־חָכְמָ֗ה). To be “skillful” meant to successfully understand “wisdom”, which was Babylonian intellectual achievement. God’s idea of wisdom, however, would shortly conflict with Nebuchadnezzar’s idea of wisdom. God is the source of all wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-30), and Nebuchadnezzar and the royal court would soon learn that in a dramatic way.
-Daniel restates the fourth qualification secondly as being “endowed with knowledge”, which meant that the royal exiles had to be able to observe and understand “knowledge”. Nebuchadnezzar’s idea of “knowledge” (
דַּ֫עַת) would not be God’s idea of knowledge. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 9:10).
-The young men needed to understanding of
“learning” (מַדָּע). Babylon was the academic center of the ancient Near East before the time of the Greek Empire. All three phrases state the same thing: the young men from the royal family and court of Judah needed to be quick learners and intelligent people.
-Their purpose was that they would be
“competent to stand in the king’s palace.”
וַאֲשֶׁר֙ כֹּ֣חַ בָּהֶ֔ם לַעֲמֹ֖ד בְּהֵיכַ֣ל הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ). To be “competent” (כֹּחַ) means to have strength or power, and refers to physical and mental strength. To “stand” (עמד) in the king’s palace meant to be servants in the king’s palace in his presence.
-God’s people may stand before kings, but they realize they stand before a much greater king (2 Kings 3:14).
-In order to learn the academics and religious instruction of Babylon, Babylon needed to “teach them the language and literature of the Chaldeans” (
וּֽלֲלַמְּדָ֥ם סֵ֖פֶר וּלְשֹׁ֥ון כַּשְׂדִּֽים׃). They would be fully grafted into Babylonian culture and religious, political, social, and academic life.
-The “literature” (
סֵ֫פֶר) of Babylon has been unearthed through archaeology. There were love poems, economic records, histories, and most importantly, reference books for divination. The “language” (לְשׁ֥וֹן) of Babylon would have included Akkadian, which was a Semitic language with cuneiform script. However, in order to learn Akkadian, one also needed to know the ancient language of Babylon, which was Sumerian. Furthermore, Aramaic was becoming more and more common, and the book of Daniel contains a large portion in Aramaic. Therefore, the exiles had to likely learn three languages at once: Akkadian, Sumerian, and Aramaic.
-The “Chaldeans” (
כַּשְׂדִּים) were the people group that inhabited the region of Babylon and were a synonym for the Babylonians. The Chaldeans were the descendants of Noah’s son Japheth. Abraham had been called out of the land of the Chaldeans (Genesis 15:7), but now the Israelites returned to a land they had not ever lived in before.

Verse 5
The king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank. They were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time they were to stand before the king.

-Daniel states that “the king assigned them a daily portion of the food that the king ate, and of the wine that he drank.”
(וַיְמַן֩ לָהֶ֨ם הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ דְּבַר־יֹ֣ום בְּיֹומֹ֗ו מִפַּת־בַּ֤ג הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ וּמִיֵּ֣ין מִשְׁתָּ֔יו).  Nebuchadnezzar was not cruel to his captives, unlike the Assyrians. Babylon did not treat their captives as had the former Assyrian Empire; for example, Nebuchadnezzar’s son later released Jehoiachin from prison and elevated him in Babylon. (Jeremiah 52:31-34). The Oriental custom was such that nobility, courtiers, and servants would eat from the king’s provision of food. This was also true of the Jerusalem court, such as in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 5:2-3).
-“They were to be educated for three years”, which literally means “to make great”. Mesopotamian kings highly valued skilled and intelligent counselors, advisors, and magicians in their royal courts. Plato stated in Alcibiades 1:121 that education started at age 14 in the Persian empire and lasted three years, and Xenophon stated the latest a young man would begin his education was age 17.
-Students in the Babylonian educational system would write with a stylus in wet clay and memorize many different literary passages. The school, known as the “tablet house”, was taught by the man known as “the expert”, and senior students would be appointed as helpers to other students. However, the education of the young exiles was far beyond the normal type, as they were being trained to be magicians and government officials. They would have been educated at the two major schools of Babylon: Borsippa and Hipparene.
-When they “graduated” from their three years of education, “they were to stand before the king.” (
וּמִ֨קְצָתָ֔ם יַֽעַמְד֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃)
-Ordinary men could never stand before the king. Only highly skilled men with superior giftings could stand before a royal ruler. (Proverbs 22:29)

Verse 6
Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the tribe of Judah

-Daniel now draws attention to the only four faithful exiles that were transported to Babylon. There was firstly “Daniel” (דָּנִיֵּאל).
-Daniel’s name means, “God is my judge”. Dan means “judge”, and the suffix “El” means “God”.
-The Lord God is our judge and our king. (Isaiah 33:22)
-The heavens declare that God Almighty righteously judges the earth. (Psalm 50:6)
-The Lord will righteously judge between the innocent and those who have done wrong to His people. (Judges 11:27)
-Men in the Bible appealed to the Lord God as Judge over all the earth to settle disputes and rectify wrongdoing (Genesis 31:53; 1 Samuel 24:15).
-The Lord judges amidst the rulers of the earth. (Psalm 82:1)
-Men will see that when the Lord judges, He will reward the righteous for their integrity. (Psalm 58:11)
-The Messiah will judge righteously and with equity in all the earth. (Isaiah 2:4; Isaiah 11:4)
-Jesus will judge all the nations of the earth at the Great White Throne judgment at the end of the age. (Revelation 20:11-15)
-There was next “Hananiah” (
חֲנַנְיָה), which means “Yahweh has been gracious.”
-When the Lord appeared to Moses, He declared Himself to be the gracious and compassionate God. (Exodus 34:5-6)
-Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God who deeply and faithfully loves His children. (Psalm 86:5; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 145:8).
-God’s mighty wonders cause us to proclaim His graciousness. (Psalm 111:4)
-There was next “Mishael” (
מִישָׁאֵל), which means “Who is what God is?”
-To the Israelites, God revealed Himself to be the unique God over all the earth. (Deuteronomy 4:35)
-God acts so that the entire world will know that He alone is God. (1 Kings 8:60; Psalm 83:16)
-Only God Almighty does wonderful deeds as the only God among all the earth. (Psalm 86:10)
-There is only one God who is our Savior and our Creator. (Isaiah 43:10-11; Isaiah 45:18)
-There was lastly “Azariah” (
עֲזַרְיָֽה), which means “Yahweh has helped.”
-In the days of Samuel, the Israelites publicly erected a monument to declare that the Lord had helped them. (1 Samuel 7:12)
-The Psalmist cries out for Yahweh to be his all-powerful help. (Psalm 30:10)
-The Psalmist declares resolutely that Adonai is his all-powerful help (Psalm 54:4).
-God’s people take refuge in the Lord when surrounded by the wicked, and He helps them. (Psalm 37:40)
-Yahweh’s help gives us victories over our enemies. (Psalm 118:7)
-The Lord declares to the frightened and timid in Isaiah 41:10 that He is the strength and the help for us.
-These four young men were all “of the tribe of Judah” (
בָהֶ֖ם מִבְּנֵ֣י יְהוּדָ֑ה).
-The tribe of Judah was the line from which the promised ruler would come (Genesis 49:9-10).

Verse 7
And the chief of the eunuchs gave them names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

-Ashpenaz, who was “the chief of the eunuchs”, “gave them names.”
וַיָּ֧שֶׂם לָהֶ֛ם שַׂ֥ר הַסָּרִיסִ֖ים שֵׁמֹ֑ות וַיָּ֨שֶׂם). To rename someone in the ancient Near East was to attempt to fundamentally redefine their very identity, as names were supremely important in defining an individual and that individual’s life.
-Daniel was renamed to be “Belteshazzar” (בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּר), which means “Bel, protect him”.
-The word “Bel” is a title rather than a proper noun; it designates the type of god rather than being a name for an actual god. However, the title is masculine, designating a male deity.
-Marduk was the chief god of Babylon. Marduk was the creator god, and after he defeated the monstrous god Tiamat, he become the supreme god of gods of heaven and earth. Babylon believed him to be the king of kings and the lord of lords. Over time, he was gradually referred to a “Bel”, which comes from the Semitic word “Baal”, meaning “Lord”.
-The world seeks protection from idols rather than from the true Creator and King over the cosmos (Psalm 135:15-18).
-Hananiah was known as “Shadrach” (
שַׁדְרַךְ), which means “The command of Aku”.
-Aku was the moon god, and the moon was significant in Babylonian astrology. Worship of the sun and moon was common among the pagans in ancient Mesopotamia.
-The Lord commanded that His people were not to worship the sun, moon, and stars, but rather worship Him alone (Deuteronomy 4:19).
-Mishael was renamed as “Meschach” (
מֵישַׁךְ), which means “Who is what Aku is?”
-The boost of pagans is that their idols are superior to the God of Israel. However, the God of Israel always demonstrates Himself to be the only God in all the earth. (1 Kings 20:28)
-Azariah is renamed as “Abednego” (
עֲבֵד נְגוֹ), which means, “Servant of Nebo [Nabu]”.
-Nabu was the scribe for Marduk, and he was Nebuchadnezzar’s patron god. He was the god of writing and was the god of Babylonian scribes. Nabu was also the god of wisdom, and
-The Lord declared that there would be a day in which these gods would be shown as figments of false worship, and that He alone would be declared to be the only true God among all the earth (Isaiah 46:1-2, 8-10).
-Despite the world’s attempts to completely redefine us based on education or political leadership or the attempts to accept cultural idolatry, our identity will always be that of the people redeemed from every tribe, tongue, and nation by the blood of Daniel’s Son of Man. (Revelation 7:9-19).

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” (1 Peter 2:9-11) 


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Monday, January 18, 2016

Fear God and Hope in the Lord

Isaiah 8:11-22

My normal intake of Scripture consists of daily personal devotions, but also reading through the Scriptures with my immediate family, as I continue to live at home after graduating college for the time being. Therefore, while I have yet to write a devotional from my family’s personal Scripture reading, I will now do so. As a family, we’ve been reading through the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who prophesied during the downfall of the northern kingdom of Israel and approximately a century before the downfall of Judah. Isaiah was a man who saw the Lord high and lifted up on His heavenly throne, and from there the Lord commissioned him to preach a message that would announce impending judgment upon the unrepentant people in the southern kingdom of Judah.

Therefore, in the immediate context of Isaiah 8:11-22, we find ourselves in the midst of a tumultuous period of history for the southern kingdom. The northern kingdom of Israel had banded together against the king of Syria, and the southern kingdom of Judah faced international threat to their existence and security. Ahaz, the father of the not-yet-king Hezekiah, was greatly disturbed and anxious about the combined assault against his kingdom. Isaiah the prophet, however, went to Ahaz after the Lord spoke to him. A “sign child” would be born, who would be born of a virgin and would be known as Immanuel, or “God with us.” Before the boy grew to be cognizant, the land of Israel and Syria would be deserted because the Lord would use Assyria to destroy them both.

Therefore, chapter 8 begins with the birth of Isaiah’s sign, who served as a prefigurement to the ultimate “sign child” who would be none other than the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem. Isaiah’s son Maher-shalal-hash-baz, whose name means “The prey hastens”, was a clear sign to the nation of Judah that the coming Assyrian attack was imminent. Judah had not feared his Lord, and therefore Judah would face whom he feared instead. But Judah would also learn that He whom they did not fear was the sovereign instrument behind the ones of whom they were indeed afraid.

This message of coming judgment, however, was not well received. Isaiah tells them directly that all the counsel that stood against the Word of the Lord would not stand, and that the peoples who resisted the Lord’s righteousness would face their own end and be shattered. But in explaining this message of judgment to his readers, Isaiah says that “the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me.” Even in the midst of international uncertainty and domestic hostility, Isaiah continued to faithfully proclaim the Word of God, because God’s strong hand was upon His chosen prophet. Indeed, God Himself tells Isaiah, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” For the few faithful (like Isaiah) that were prone to be afraid of the unbelieving conspiracy-theories of the general masses, the Lord tells them to be afraid of no mortal man, but to live in holy fear of the Lord God of angelic armies and heavenly hosts. As Christians, we are called to live in fear of our great and holy God who commands the armies of heaven. We need not live in fear of the unbelieving systems of the world or the secular machinations of pagan societies. Rather, we need to live instead as faithful people of Yahweh of heavenly hosts.

Whereas the Lord would be the holy fear of His people, verse 14 states that He would become a sanctuary for the faithful and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel. He would entrap the schemers in their own devices, for He would be a “trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” Those who did not fear the Lord, but instead feared the foreign nations around them, would stumble and fall and be broken, and they would be trapped and captured by foreign armies.

Isaiah then says in verse 16 that the testimony was to be bound up and sealed among his disciples. To bind up a testimony meant that all that would be written on a scroll had been completed, and to seal it meant that it was to be preserved for posterity and future generations yet to come. Had this not been done, we would not be reading his words approximately 2,700 years later. In the midst of increasing opposition, Isaiah declares, “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope for him.” Even in the midst of increasing cultural darkness and the increase of falsehood, we wait patiently for our Lord God to act just as He has promised He would act, and we hope in Him. Our hope in Him is no mere positive illusion, for our hope in Him is such that we know and trust in advance that God will do exactly as He has promised: He will redeem His people through the judgment of the ungodly in the land.

Isaiah then says in verse 18 that he himself and the children born to him were signs to the kingdom of Judah that what he uttered in his prophetic ministry was none other than the very voice of the Lord of hosts, who dwelt in Mount Zion. However, Isaiah anticipated the response of the people when his disciples told the southern kingdom that Isaiah was indeed prophesying God’s words. “And when they say to you, ‘Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter.” (Isaiah 8:19) Rather than seeking the Lord God, Judah by and large resorted to witchcraft and communicating with the dead (necromancy) for counsel. These occult sins were sins the Lord had strongly condemned in Scripture, and Isaiah counters with, “Should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” Not only would inquiry of the dead for the sake of the living be wicked, it also would be senseless.

Isaiah then declares that all men are to turn to the written Scriptures for light and guidance, as he strongly declares, “To the Law and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” Isaiah firmly declares that men who will not turn to the written Scriptures are not filled with light, but rather filled with darkness. And the fate of those filled with darkness would be rage and blasphemy, for the darkness which filled them would be their doom. They would seek escape, but they would find none, for they would be thrust into “thick darkness.”

As Christians living 2,700 years later, we face similar cultural situations like Isaiah. We are to be a prophetic voice in a secular culture, calling all men everywhere to the authority of the written Word of the Lord of hosts. This message will not be well received, but we are called to do so because the Lord of hosts has commanded all men everywhere to repent of their sin and turn to the “sign child” for salvation. For the virgin did conceive and bring forth a son, and He is indeed Immanuel. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is not only the Word, but also the Light that the world so desperately needs. He is the light of the world, but those filled with darkness do not receive him, for darkness cannot stand the light. Yet our fear is not the secular forces in our world and our standard is not demonically-inspired “wisdom.” Rather, our standard is the written Scriptures, and our fear is our Lord Jesus Christ. Regardless of cultural pressure or increasing hostility, our hope always will be found in Jesus Christ our Lord, who is the rock over which men stumble. Yet to those who fear His great name, we will find the Lord Jesus, who is God with us and the Lord of heavenly hosts, to be our great salvation and our mighty deliverance from the principalities and powers of darkness. He will deliver us safe into His heavenly kingdom, and we will reign with Him forever.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

And God Said

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Perhaps there is no sentence in the Bible so familiar to us outside of John 3:16. Yet this sentence is one of the most definitional sentences in all the Bible as the foundation for the Christian worldview. There was a definable beginning moment to space and time. And in that moment, we learn that there was a God, and that God created the entire cosmos. But while we readily affirm this, and while thinking about how the doctrine of creationism impacts our worldview is often intuitive for Bible-believing Christians, how often do we consider the means whereby God created the heavens and the earth?

We read in Genesis 1:2, after the summary statement in Genesis 1:1, that the world was without form and void, and that darkness was over the face of the deep. The Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters—which indicates to us that water was created first before anything else. We see that the “Spirit”, or ruach (
ר֫וּחַ) was hovering over primeval creation, when nothing except raw matter existed at this point in time. There were no animals, the dry land had not yet appeared (still being underwater), there were no sea creatures, and most importantly, God’s crowning glory of creation did not yet exist. There was no human thought and no human communication. Only space, time, and raw matter existed at the beginning moment of primeval creation. Had this continued, there would have been an eternity in which the world was formless and void and nothing but darkness consumed the universe.

Verse 3 shatters the silence with the first words ever uttered in the history of the world. “And God said, ‘Let there be light’”. God, Elohim Himself, now speaks audibly in words and human language. This moment forever changed the course of cosmic history. The very beginning of language and communication is found right in Genesis 1:3. Indeed, the very reason this post is transmitted through writing and understood through reading is because God said. God communicated the cosmos not through His unspoken thoughts, although He certainly could have done so. He did not create the process through billions of years of an evolutionary process. He did not create the world by winning a cosmic struggle against other gods, as the Ancient Near Eastern accounts believed regarding the creation of the universe. He created because He spoke. His creation sprang into existence from nothing because God transmitted audible information through spoken words.

Yet this first spoken statement is not ineffective. If any one of us spoke about something which did not yet exist, we could not bring it into being simply by speaking. Yet God chose to communicate through words, and His words were powerful enough to make that which did not yet exist spring into existence. He chose to create light out of darkness. And there was indeed light. He not only created with these words, but He also defined His creation with these words. God called the light “Day”, and the darkness He called “night”. And through this creative act, now time itself is defined by God’s spoken act of creation, for the night and the day combined to make up the very first day in the cosmos.

Verse 6 begins the same way, “And God said”. Nine times does Genesis 1 record this simple, cosmos-defining statement. Nine times, God opens His mouth and speaks with words. In the second day, His word created a separation between waters under the expanse and waters above the expanse. The waters above the expanse were called “Heaven”, and there was evening and morning, the second day. Each of God’s successive acts begins in this exact same way: God utters His voice, and creation is further refined to the final state of perfection. In each and every day of creation, it begins by God speaking. Once God has spoken, God speaks once more in each day by “calling” it by how He so chose to define what He had made.

In day 3, God speaks twice in the same verse to create the “earth”. He first creates the “earth” by gathering up the waters under heaven to one place, so that dry land could appear. Previously, land had already been created, yet it had been submerged for two days underwater. Now, however, God makes dry land to appear. Then He speaks again, and there was vegetation, plants, fruit trees, and the flora of the planet. Day 4 returns once again to the general universe, for He speaks and the sun is created, the moon is created, and the stars also. We see that astronomy and cosmology sprang into existence for the very reason that God spoke. Every star and every planet in the universe sprang into existence because God used words to create them.

Day 5 returns to planet earth with God speaking and the waters swarming with living creatures, and birds flying above the earth in the expanse of the heavens. He blessed the living creatures of sky and sea, telling them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” Day 6 in very similar fashion sees the earth bringing forth living creatures both domestic and wild. The livestock, referring to the domesticated animals, spring forth out of nothing. The wild beasts and creeping things according to their kinds also spring forth ex nihilo, or “out of nothing.” Finally, the crowning glory of God’s creation is made in the triune image of Elohim, for God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Man is thusly created, and receives the dominion mandate to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it for the glory of his Creator.

All this came into being, because God said that it would be so, and it was so. We, known as “Christians”, or “little Christs”, are people not of impressions or visions or self-actualized revelations or meditations, but people of a far different order. We are the people created by the God who spoke 6,000 years ago. The God who created and defined all of His creation did so through His words, and He chose to preserve those words as they existed and were revealed in time through written form. Therefore, as we study the Scriptures and heed and teach the Word of God, let us remember that we do so because our God is the Creator who spoke through words, and He sent the incarnated Word to redeem the lost from their sins. His Word created us. His Word defined us. And the printed book that we hold in our hands is none other than the preserved voice of God first uttered at the dawning moments of creation. We are the people of the Book, because God used words to perform His will and reveal Himself to man, beginning in Genesis 1. May we all continue to be faithful to hearing the voice of our Creator when we read the sacred Scriptures throughout this year and all the remaining years of our lives.