Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reflections on Matthew 1

    Matthew 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Jesus Christ came from the family of King David and also from the family of Abraham. And this is a list of his ancestors.
  2. From Abraham to King David, his ancestors were: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and his brothers (Judah's sons were Perez and Zerah, and their mother was Tamar), Hezron; Ram, Amminadab, Nahshon, Salmon, Boaz (his mother was Rahab), Obed (his mother was Ruth), Jesse, and King David.
  3. (SEE 1:2)
  4. (SEE 1:2)
  5. (SEE 1:2)
  6. From David to the time of the exile in Babylonia, the ancestors of Jesus were: David, Solomon (his mother had been Uriah's wife), Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jehoram; Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah, and Jehoiachin and his brothers.
  7. (SEE 1:6)
  8. (SEE 1:6)
  9. (SEE 1:6)
  10. (SEE 1:6)
  11. (SEE 1:6)
  12. From the exile to the birth of Jesus, his ancestors were: Jehoiachin, Shealtiel, Zerubbabel, Abiud, Eliakim, Azor, Zadok, Achim; Eliud, Eleazar, Matthan, Jacob, and Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is called the Messiah.
  13. (SEE 1:12)
  14. (SEE 1:12)
  15. (SEE 1:12)
  16. (SEE 1:12)
  17. There were fourteen generations from Abraham to David. There were also fourteen from David to the exile in Babylonia and fourteen more to the birth of the Messiah.
  18. This is how Jesus Christ was born. A young woman named Mary was engaged to Joseph from King David's family. But before they were married, she learned that she was going to have a baby by God's Holy Spirit.
  19. Joseph was a good man and did not want to embarrass Mary in front of everyone. So he decided to quietly call off the wedding.
  20. While Joseph was thinking about this, an angel from the Lord came to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, the baby that Mary will have is from the Holy Spirit. Go ahead and marry her.
  21. Then after her baby is born, name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."
  22. So the Lord's promise came true, just as the prophet had said,
  23. "A virgin will have a baby boy, and he will be called Immanuel," which means "God is with us."
  24. After Joseph woke up, he and Mary were soon married, just as the Lord's angel had told him to do.
  25. But they did not sleep together before her baby was born. Then Joseph named him Jesus.

    If one's perception of God focuses on One who hates sin and judges sinners, this opening chapter of Matthew and of the New Testament helps to balance this perception to include One who is also merciful and who forgives sinners. Only five verses into the lineage of Jesus, God's promised Messiah, two prostitutes are found in the lineage. This might be of concern to the more legalistic among us and surely was for the legalistic generation of Jews in Matthew's day. To add to this insult of the proud Jew was also the inclusion of the Moabitess, Ruth, in the list. It is a caution to us not to become too ridgid in our theology. If we find something, such as this lineage, to violate our theology, it is our theology, and not God or scripture, we should question.

    Following the lineage comes a brief account of the delimma faced by the young parents of the Messiah. If Jesus' lineage is prone to raise eyebrows, the circumstances in which He was born certainly does the same. A questionable account for the skeptic, this story of "immaculate conception," or conception by the Holy Spirit. But it was not Mary who defended herself to Joseph, but an angel of the Lord. And Joseph was the only one to whom this defense was made. The gossips of the community could think what they will. In our reading of this account we should not miss the bravery of this young couple in doing what they were asked to do. It is never easy to go contrary to long established customs or to accept a role in which one will be accused of illicit activities. This is what the couple faced with both Mary's pregnancy prior to the couple's consummation of their marriage and their choosing to live together before the completion of their year-long engagement. Though they were legally married, custom required them to continue living separately, in their parent's homes, for the first year of their marriage arrangement. Once Joseph learned the true nature of Mary's pregnancy, he broke this custom and took her to live with him to save her the disgrace of an illegitimate pregnancy.

    If we assume this couple had no choice in accepting these circumstances into their lives, we assume wrongly, for God never forces His will on us. His confrontation of us with His will may be as dramatic as being told by an angel, but we choose nevertheless. And this couple was obedient.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 12

    Daniel 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Michael, the chief of the angels, is the protector of your people, and he will come at a time of terrible suffering, the worst in all of history. And your people who have their names written in The Book will be protected.
  2. Many of those who lie dead in the ground will rise from death. Some of them will be given eternal life, and others will receive nothing but eternal shame and disgrace.
  3. Everyone who has been wise will shine as bright as the sky above, and everyone who has led others to please God will shine like the stars.
  4. Daniel, I now command you to keep the message of this book secret until the end of time, even though many people will go everywhere, searching for the knowledge to be found in it.
  5. Daniel wrote: I looked around and saw two other people--one on this side of the river and one on the other side.
  6. The angel who had spoken to me was dressed in linen and was standing upstream from them. So one of the two beside the river asked him, "How long before these amazing things happen?"
  7. The angel then raised both hands toward heaven and said, "In the name of the God who lives forever, I solemnly promise that it will be a time, two times, and half a time. Everything will be over, when the suffering of God's holy people comes to an end."
  8. I heard what the angel said, but I didn't understand. So I asked, "Sir, how will it all end?" The angel in my vision then replied:
  9. Daniel, go about your business, because the meaning of this message will remain secret until the end of time.
  10. Many people will have their hearts and lives made pure and clean, but those who are evil will keep on being evil and never understand. Only the wise will understand.
  11. There will be one thousand two hundred ninety days from the time that the daily sacrifices are stopped, until someone sets up the "Horrible Thing" that causes destruction.
  12. God will bless everyone who patiently waits until one thousand three hundred thirty-five days have gone by.
  13. So, Daniel, be faithful until the end! You will rest, and at the end of time, you will rise from death to receive your reward.

    In previous chapters, a messenger sent to Daniel was interpreting for Daniel a vision he had, which the messenger spoke of as telling "what is recorded in the book of truth." (10:21) Chapters 11 and 12 record the messenger's interpretation. The first part of chapter 11 referred to events that were to take place between the time of Daniel and the coming of Christ. Later verses of that chapter jumped out to the distant future. Chapter 12 refers to that distant future.

    At that time (distant future), "There will be a time of distress such as never has occurred since nations came into being until that time." (12:1) This is a period referred to as the Great Tribulation. It is a tribulation aimed primarily at Israel, as verse 1 reveals. Verse 1 also reveals that the angel Michael is Israel's appointed angel "who stands watch over your people." Michael will intervene for Israel during this period. Then there will be a resurrection of those who "sleep," or are dead. The wise, those who have been obedient to the Lord, will be raised to "eternal life," and those who were wicked "to shame and eternal contempt." (12:2)

    Daniel was then instructed to "seal the book until the time of the end." (12:4) During this period of tribulation many will try to understand it. The wicked will not, but the wise will understand. Daniel was then told that he would go to his rest but will "then rise to your destiny at the end of the days." (12:13)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 11

    Daniel 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. You also need to know that I protected and helped Darius the Mede in his first year as king.
  2. What I am going to tell you is certain to happen. Four kings will rule Persia, one after the other, but the fourth one will become much richer than the others. In fact, his wealth will make him so powerful that he will turn everyone against the kingdom of Greece.
  3. Then a mighty king will come to power and will be able to do whatever he pleases.
  4. But suddenly his kingdom will be crushed and scattered to the four corners of the earth, where four more kingdoms will rise. But these won't be ruled by his descendants or be as powerful as his kingdom.
  5. The king of the south will grow powerful. Then one of his generals will rebel and take over most of the kingdom.
  6. Years later the southern kingdom and the northern kingdom will make a treaty, and the daughter of the king of the south will marry the king of the north. But she will lose her power. Then she, her husband, their child, and the servants who came with her will all be killed. After this,
  7. one of her relatives will become the ruler of the southern kingdom. He will attack the army of the northern kingdom and capture its fortresses.
  8. Then he will carry their idols to Egypt, together with their precious treasures of silver and gold, but it will be a long time before he attacks the northern kingdom again. Some years later
  9. the king of the north will invade the southern kingdom, but he will be forced back to his own country.
  10. The sons of the king of the north will gather a huge army that will sweep down like a roaring flood, reaching all the way to the fortress of the southern kingdom.
  11. But this will make the king of the south angry, and he will defeat this large army from the north.
  12. The king of the south will feel proud because of the many thousands he has killed. But his victories won't last long,
  13. because the king of the north will gather a larger and more powerful army than ever before. Then in a few years, he will start invading other countries.
  14. At this time many of your own people will try to make this vision come true by rebelling against the king of the south, but their rebellion will fail.
  15. Then the army from the north will surround and capture a fortress in the south, and not even the most experienced troops of the southern kingdom will be able to make them retreat.
  16. The king who invaded from the north will do as he pleases, and he will even capture and destroy the holy land.
  17. In fact, he will decide to invade the south with his entire army. Then he will attempt to make peace by giving the king of the south a bride from the northern kingdom, but this won't be successful.
  18. Afterwards, this proud king of the north will invade and conquer many of the nations along the coast, but a military leader will defeat him and make him lose his pride.
  19. He will retreat to his fortresses in his own country, but on the way he will be defeated and never again be seen.
  20. The next king of the north will try to collect taxes for the glory of his kingdom. However, he will come to a sudden end in some mysterious way, instead of in battle or because of someone's anger.
  21. The successor of this king of the north will be a worthless nobody, who doesn't come from a royal family. He will suddenly appear and gain control of the kingdom by treachery.
  22. Then he will destroy armies and remove God's chosen high priest.
  23. He will make a treaty, but he will be deceitful and break it, even though he has only a few followers.
  24. Without warning, he will successfully invade a wealthy province, which is something his ancestors never did. Then he will divide among his followers all of its treasures and property. But none of this will last very long.
  25. He will gather a large and powerful army, and with great courage he will attack the king of the south. The king of the south will meet him with a much stronger army, but he will lose the battle, because he will be betrayed
  26. by members of the royal court. He will be ruined, and most of his army will be slaughtered.
  27. The two kings will meet around a table and tell evil lies to each other. But their plans will fail, because God has already decided what will happen.
  28. Then the king of the north will return to his country with great treasures. But on the way, he will attack the religion of God's people and do whatever else he pleases.
  29. At the time God has decided, the king of the north will invade the southern kingdom again, but this time, things will be different.
  30. Ships from the west will come to attack him, and he will be discouraged. Then he will start back to his own country and take out his anger on the religion of God's faithful people, while showing kindness to those who are unfaithful.
  31. He will send troops to pollute the temple and the fortress, and he will stop the daily sacrifices. Then he will set up that "Horrible Thing" that causes destruction.
  32. The king will use deceit to win followers from those who are unfaithful to God, but those who remain faithful will do everything possible to oppose him.
  33. Wise leaders will instruct many of the people. But for a while, some of these leaders will either be killed with swords or burned alive, or else robbed of their possessions and thrown into prison.
  34. They will receive only a little help in their time of trouble, and many of their followers will be treacherous.
  35. Some of those who are wise will suffer, so that God will make them pure and acceptable until the end, which will still come at the time he has decided.
  36. This king will do as he pleases. He will proudly claim to be greater than any god and will insult the only true God. Indeed, he will be successful until God is no longer angry with his people.
  37. This king will reject the gods his ancestors worshiped and the god preferred by women. In fact, he will put himself above all gods
  38. and worship only the so-called god of fortresses, who was unknown to his ancestors. And he will honor it with gold, silver, precious stones, and other costly gifts.
  39. With the help of this foreign god, he will capture the strongest fortresses. Everyone who worships this god will be put in a position of power and rewarded with wealth and land.
  40. At the time of the end, the king of the south will attack the kingdom of the north. But its king will rush out like a storm with war chariots, cavalry, and many ships. Indeed, his forces will flood one country after another,
  41. and when they reach the holy land, tens of thousands will be killed. But the countries of Edom and Moab and the ruler of Ammon will escape.
  42. The king of the north will invade many countries, including Egypt,
  43. and he will take its rich treasures of gold and silver. He will also conquer Libya and Ethiopia.
  44. But he will be alarmed by news from the east and the north, and he will become furious and cause great destruction.
  45. After this, he will set up camp between the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Zion. Then he will be destroyed, and no one will be able to save him.

    Nebuchadnezzar's dream in chapter 2, Daniel's vision of the four beasts in chapter 8, and the revelation given in chapter 11 of what was written in the Book of Truth all convey the same message. The message relates coming developments regarding God's plans for Israel under Persia and Greece. These developments will foreshadow what will happen with Israel toward the end of time during the periods referred to by many as the Tribulation and the Millennium. Following the fall of Babylon to Persia, the Persian king, Cyrus, released the Israelite captives who returned to their homeland and rebuilt Jerusalem. But this was only a partial restoration of Israel and a peace that was short-lived. The full restoration of Israel to the blessings that God has promised for her is yet to come in the period known as the Millennium.

    Concerning the revelation of the Book of Truth given in this chapter, Daniel's messenger explained that in the years to come, following Daniel's time, Persia would have a succession of four kings. The last of these four would oppose Greece who's ruler at that time would be who we know as Alexander the Great. Alexander would be very effective and would wrest world power from Persia. At Alexander's death, the Grecian kingdom would be divided into four parts: Egypt, Syria, Asia Minor, and Greece. Verses 4-20 describe the warfare that will take place over the next two centuries between the four nations that split out of Greece. At times Israel was caught in the middle of these skirmishes and fell under the rule of various leaders.

    Then Antiochus IV Epiphanes comes on the scene in verse 21. He was considered the most contemptible of rulers that Israel experienced, and is thought to be a "type" or precursor of the Antichrist who will appear during the latter period known as the Tribulation. Antiochus sought to exterminate Judaism, forbidding the Jews to practice their religion. He also set up an altar of Zeus on the altar of burnt offerings outside the temple and had a pig offered on this altar. This is foretold in verse 31: "His forces will rise up and desecrate the temple fortress. They will abolish the daily sacrifice and set up the abomination of desolation." Verse 32 points out that "the people who know their God will be strong and take action." Those who remained strong experienced persecution and were martyred for their faith.

    All of this took place before the time of Christ. However, beginning with verse 38 the time period jumps to the near end of time to the Tribulation. The activities of the Antichrist told in these verses are similar to the descriptions of Antiochus IV. Under the Antichrist there will be much warfare and then he will occupy Israel which is a time known as the Tribulation which is aimed primarily at Israel. In the end, Israel will emerge from the tribulation under the Antichrist. The real Christ will appear once again, and will bring in His kingdom and Israel will be fully restored living a life of blessing as they return to their God.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 10

    Daniel 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. In the third year of Cyrus the king of Persia, a message came to Daniel from God, and it was explained in a vision. The message was about a horrible war, and it was true.
  2. Daniel wrote: For three weeks I was in sorrow.
  3. I ate no fancy food or meat, I drank no wine, and I put no olive oil on my face or hair.
  4. Then, on the twenty-fourth day of the first month, I was standing on the banks of the great Tigris River,
  5. when I looked up and saw someone dressed in linen and wearing a solid gold belt.
  6. His body was like a precious stone, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming fires, his arms and legs like polished bronze, and his voice like the roar of a crowd.
  7. Although the people who were with me did not see the vision, they became so frightened that they scattered and hid.
  8. Only I saw this great vision. I became weak and pale,
  9. and at the sound of his voice, I fell facedown in a deep sleep.
  10. He raised me to my hands and knees
  11. and then said, "Daniel, your God thinks highly of you, and he has sent me. So stand up and pay close attention." I stood trembling, while the angel said:
  12. Daniel, don't be afraid! God has listened to your prayers since the first day you humbly asked for understanding, and he has sent me here.
  13. But the guardian angel of Persia opposed me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, who is one of the strongest guardian angels, came to rescue me from the kings of Persia.
  14. Now I have come here to give you another vision about what will happen to your people in the future.
  15. While this angel was speaking to me, I stared at the ground, speechless.
  16. Then he appeared in human form and touched my lips. I said, "Sir, this vision has brought me great pain and has drained my strength.
  17. I am merely your servant. How can I possibly speak with someone so powerful, when I am almost too weak to get my breath?"
  18. The angel touched me a second time and said, "Don't be frightened! God thinks highly of you, and he intends this for your good, so be brave and strong." At this, I regained my strength and replied, "Please speak! You have already made me feel much better."
  19. (SEE 10:18)
  20. Then the angel said: Now do you understand why I have come? Soon I must leave to fight against the guardian angel of Persia. Then after I have defeated him, the guardian angel of Greece will attack me.
  21. I will tell you what is written in The Book of Truth. But first, you must realize that no one except Michael, the guardian angel of Israel, is on my side.

    Chapter 10 sets the stage for the telling of Daniel's last vision. These events took place after the Babylonian empire had fallen into the hands of Persia and was now ruled by Cyrus, king of Persia. Cyrus had released the Judean exiles to return to their homeland and rebuild. For some reason, Daniel did not return with them. In the third year of Cyrus' reign, Daniel received a message in a vision. The message was troubling to Daniel, causing him to enter into a three-week fast.

    At the conclusion of the fast Daniel was visited by an angel. Since Gabriel had been his angelic visitor in previous visitations, he may have also been the visitor on this occasion. We gain some insight into the spirit realm through this passage. Daniel's visitor revealed that although he was initially sent to Daniel on the first day of his fast he was just then, three weeks later, arriving. This was because he had been waylaid by a demon, "the prince of the kingdom of Persia." (10:13) Apparently Satan has assigned his demons positions of authority over each kingdom. Daniel's angelic visitor finally arrived after the angel Michael came to his aid and subdued the demon over Persia. When he left Daniel he would "return at once to fight against the prince of Persia." (10:20)

    This angel told Daniel that he was "treasured by God" and this was why God had sent him to Daniel. This was also why it was important enough for the angel to take a break in his spiritual warfare to go to Daniel. His mission in going to Daniel was the important mission of telling him "what is recorded in the book of truth." (10:21)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 9

    Daniel 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Daniel wrote: Some years later, Darius the Mede, who was the son of Xerxes, had become king of Babylonia. And during his first year as king, I found out from studying the writings of the prophets that the LORD had said to Jeremiah, "Jerusalem will lie in ruins for seventy years."
  2. (SEE 9:1)
  3. Then, to show my sorrow, I went without eating and dressed in sackcloth and sat in ashes. I confessed my sins and earnestly prayed to the LORD my God: Our Lord, you are a great and fearsome God, and you faithfully keep your agreement with those who love and obey you.
  4. (SEE 9:3)
  5. But we have sinned terribly by rebelling against you and rejecting your laws and teachings.
  6. We have ignored the message your servants the prophets spoke to our kings, our leaders, our ancestors, and everyone else.
  7. Everything you do is right, our Lord. But still we suffer public disgrace because we have been unfaithful and have sinned against you. This includes all of us, both far and near--the people of Judah, Jerusalem, and Israel, as well as those you dragged away to foreign lands,
  8. and even our kings, our officials, and our ancestors.
  9. LORD God, you are merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against you
  10. and rejected your teachings that came to us from your servants the prophets.
  11. Everyone in Israel has stubbornly refused to obey your laws, and so those curses written by your servant Moses have fallen upon us.
  12. You warned us and our leaders that Jerusalem would suffer the worst disaster in human history, and you did exactly as you had threatened.
  13. We have not escaped any of the terrible curses written by Moses, and yet we have refused to beg you for mercy and to remind ourselves of how faithful you have always been.
  14. And when you finally punished us with this horrible disaster, that was also the right thing to do, because we deserved it so much.
  15. Our Lord God, with your own mighty arm you rescued us from Egypt and made yourself famous to this very day, but we have sinned terribly.
  16. In the past, you treated us with such kindness, that we now beg you to stop being so terribly angry with Jerusalem. After all, it is your chosen city built on your holy mountain, even though it has suffered public disgrace because of our sins and those of our ancestors.
  17. I am your servant, Lord God, and I beg you to answer my prayers and bring honor to yourself by having pity on your temple that lies in ruins.
  18. Please show mercy to your chosen city, not because we deserve it, but because of your great kindness.
  19. Forgive us! Hurry and do something, not only for your city and your chosen people, but to bring honor to yourself.
  20. I was still confessing my sins and those of all Israel to the LORD my God, and I was praying for the good of his holy mountain,
  21. when Gabriel suddenly came flying in at the time of the evening sacrifice. This was the same Gabriel I had seen in my vision,
  22. and he explained: Daniel, I am here to help you understand the vision.
  23. God thinks highly of you, and at the very moment you started praying, I was sent to give you the answer.
  24. God has decided that for seventy weeks, your people and your holy city must suffer as the price of their sins. Then evil will disappear, and justice will rule forever; the visions and words of the prophets will come true, and a most holy place will be dedicated.
  25. You need to realize that from the command to rebuild Jerusalem until the coming of the Chosen Leader, it will be seven weeks and another sixty-two weeks. Streets will be built in Jerusalem, and a trench will be dug around the city for protection, but these will be difficult times.
  26. At the end of the sixty-two weeks, the Chosen Leader will be killed and left with nothing. A foreign ruler and his army will sweep down like a mighty flood, leaving both the city and the temple in ruins, and war and destruction will continue until the end, just as God has decided.
  27. For one week this foreigner will make a firm agreement with many people, and halfway through this week, he will end all sacrifices and offerings. Then the "Horrible Thing" that causes destruction will be put there. And it will stay there until the time God has decided to destroy this one who destroys.

    Daniel was inspired, following the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, to search scriptures and gain understanding of what was taking place. Through his search, he came to understand that "the number of years for the desolation of Jerusalem would be 70." (9:2) Therefore, he came to realize that the end of Judah's captivity was near. Daniel also realized that this required spiritual preparation. Whether or not his people fully realized, Daniel, knew their captivity was a result of God's discipline on the sinful nation. He further knew that for the nation to be restored to blessing they would have to repent, seek God's forgiveness and return to Him. So this is what Daniel did. "So I turned my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and petitions, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes." (9:3)

    The following verses - verses 4-19 - are Daniel's prayer of confession for his sins and those of the nation of Judah and asking God's forgiveness. While he was still praying and growing weary, the angel Gabriel came to him. Gabriel's purpose for coming to Daniel was to give him understanding. What he revealed to Daniel was a prophetic message that has had a wide variety of interpretations. I am partial to an interpretation of this message that views it as addressing the history of Israel rather than world or church history. This, after all, was the context in which it was given. First, Gabriel explained that "Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city--to bring the rebellion to an end, to put a stop to sin, to wipe away injustice, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most holy place." (9:24) Again, the time period represented by the "Seventy weeks" has varied understanding. I will agree with those who consider "weeks" to represent the number 7, for the number of days in a week. Thus we have 70 times seven, or 490 years. A reference, as I understand it, to the coming Messiah and His provision for the forgiveness of sin. Though an end to sin will not come to pass until Christ's second advent, the finishing of sin was made possible by Christ's death on the cross.

    Then Gabriel said, "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince will be seven weeks and 62 weeks. It will be rebuilt with a plaza and a moat, but in difficult times." (9:25)  The clock was to start on this 490 years with the "issuing of the decree." This was likely the decree of Artaxerxes, in 444 b.c., to rebuild the city walls of Jerusalem. From this point to the coming of Christ, Gabriel said, would be "seven weeks and 62 weeks." In other words, 49 years (7 times 7 or seven weeks), which was probably the period required to rebuild the city, and then 434 years (62 times 7 or 62 weeks), the remaining period up to the coming of Christ.

    After the 62 weeks (434 years), Gabriel said, "the Messiah will be cut off and will have nothing." This can be understood as an anticipation of Israel's rejection of Christ and His offering of Himself as the atonement for her sins with His crucifixion. Following Israel's rejection of the Messiah, the city of Jerusalem and the sanctuary would again be destroyed, this time by "the people of the coming prince." This coming prince was the final ruler of the Roman Empire, or the little horn of Daniel's vision in 7:8. Christ also spoke of this destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. From there, Gabriel's prophecy jumps to the far future referring to events that will preceed Christ's second advent. This portion is even more difficult to understand. What we can be certain of, though, is that Israel will have more suffering to endure right up to Christ's return at which time she will return to the Lord and be returned to His full blessing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 8

    Daniel 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Daniel wrote: In the third year of King Belshazzar of Babylonia, I had a second vision
  2. in which I was in Susa, the chief city of Babylonia's Elam Province. I was beside the Ulai River,
  3. when I looked up and saw a ram standing there with two horns on its head--both of them were long, but the second one was longer than the first.
  4. The ram went charging toward the west, the north, and the south. No other animals were strong enough to oppose him, and nothing could save them from his power. So he did as he pleased and became even more powerful.
  5. I kept on watching and saw a goat come from the west and charge across the entire earth, without even touching the ground. Between his eyes was a powerful horn,
  6. and with tremendous anger the goat started toward the ram that I had seen beside the river.
  7. The goat was so fierce that its attack broke both horns of the ram, leaving him powerless. Then the goat stomped on the ram, and no one could do anything to help.
  8. After this, the goat became even more powerful. But at the peak of his power, his mighty horn was broken, and four other mighty horns took its place--one pointing to the north and one to the east, one to the south and one to the west.
  9. A little horn came from one of these, and its power reached to the south, the east, and even to the holy land.
  10. It became so strong that it attacked the stars in the sky, which were heaven's army. Then it threw some of them down to the earth and stomped on them.
  11. It humiliated heaven's army and dishonored its leader by keeping him from offering the daily sacrifices. In fact, it was so terrible that it even disgraced the temple and wiped out true worship. It also did everything else it wanted to do.
  12. (SEE 8:11)
  13. Then one of the holy angels asked another, "When will the daily sacrifices be offered again? What about this horrible rebellion? When will the temple and heaven's army no longer be trampled in the dust?"
  14. The other answered, "It will be two thousand three hundred evenings and mornings before the temple is dedicated and in use again."
  15. Daniel wrote: I was trying to figure out the meaning of the vision, when someone suddenly appeared there beside me.
  16. And from beside the Ulai River, a voice like that of a human said, "Gabriel, help him understand the vision."
  17. Gabriel came over, and I fell to the ground in fear. Then he said, "You are merely a human, but you need to understand that this vision is about the end of time."
  18. While he was speaking, I fell facedown in a deep sleep. But he lifted me to my feet
  19. and said: Listen, and I will tell you what will happen at the end of time, when God has chosen to show his anger.
  20. The two horns of the ram are the kings of Media and Persia,
  21. the goat is the kingdom of Greece, and the powerful horn between his eyes is the first of its kings.
  22. After this horn is broken, four other kingdoms will appear, but they won't be as strong.
  23. When these rulers have become as evil as possible, their power will end, and then a king who is dangerous and cannot be trusted will appear.
  24. He will gain strength, but not on his own, and he will cause terrible destruction. He will wipe out powerful leaders and God's people as well.
  25. His deceitful lies will make him so successful, that he will think he is really great. Suddenly he will kill many people, and he will even attack God, the Supreme Ruler. But God will crush him!
  26. This vision about the evenings and mornings is true, but these things won't happen for a long time, so don't tell it to others.
  27. After this, I was so worn out and weak that it was several days before I could get out of bed and go about my duties for the king. I was disturbed by this vision that made no sense to me.

    As explained in chapter 7, Daniel gave a historical account of his experiences in Babylon in the first six chapters of his book. Beginning with chapter 7 he relates a series of visions he had during that same historical period. The first vision, which occurred in the first year of Belshazzar's reign, is recorded in chapter 7. The second vision is told in chapter 8, and occurred two years later, in the third year of King Belshazzar's reign. The meanings of these vision have some overlap and also overlap meanings in Nebuchadnezzar's vision. As mentioned in the chapter 7 reflections, it is wise not to take our understanding of these visions too seriously. Though some parts of the meaning is provided by scripture, we must fill in the meaning of other parts through our own devices resulting in more than one conclusion of these meanings by different students of scripture.

    Whereas there were four beasts in Daniel's first vision, there are two beasts in this second one - a ram and a goat. Both of these beasts represented nations, and both had horns that represented rulers. The angel Gabriel was instructed to interpret the vision to Daniel, so we are provided some information. The ram represented Persia, and its two horns represented the kings of Media and Persia. The Persian king, who came to power after the king of Media, became the more powerful one, setting out on a rampage of conquest that was seemingly irresistible.

    Then the goat appeared out of the west with speed and power and defeated the ram, then went on to tremendous conquests. The goat was Greece, and its one conspicuous horn was Alexander the Great. When Alexander died, his kingdom was split into four with four different rulers. This was depicted in the vision by the four horns that came up in place of the one. Then a little horn emerged out of one of these four horns. This ruler, thought to be Antiochus Epiphanes, took his military conquests into Palestine where he stopped the daily sacrifices and desecrated the temple. This desecration was limited to "2,300 evenings and mornings" after which the sanctuary was to be restored. (8:14) Some think this refers to 2,300 days, and others that it refers to 2,300 evening and morning sacrifices, or 1,150 days.

    Gabriel told Daniel that "the vision refers to the time of the end." (8:17) He also told him, "I am here to tell you what will happen at the conclusion of the time of wrath." (8:19) It is thought that there is a dual reference in this vision. One to Israel's history under Antiochus during the time of Greek domination, and the other to Israel's experiences in the far future under Antichrist, of whom Antiochus is thought to foreshadow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 7

    Daniel 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Daniel wrote: In the first year of King Belshazzar of Babylonia, I had some dreams and visions while I was asleep one night, and I wrote them down. The four winds were stirring up the mighty sea,
  2. (SEE 7:1)
  3. when suddenly four powerful beasts came out of the sea. Each beast was different.
  4. The first was like a lion with the wings of an eagle. As I watched, its wings were pulled off. Then it was lifted to an upright position and made to stand on two feet, just like a human, and it was given a human mind.
  5. The second beast looked like a bear standing on its hind legs. It held three ribs in its teeth, and it was told, "Attack! Eat all the flesh you want."
  6. The third beast was like a leopard--except that it had four wings and four heads. It was given authority to rule.
  7. The fourth beast was stronger and more terrifying than the others. Its huge teeth were made of iron, and what it didn't grind with its teeth, it smashed with its feet. It was different from the others, and it had horns on its head--ten of them.
  8. Just as I was thinking about these horns, a smaller horn appeared, and three of the other horns were pulled up by the roots to make room for it. This horn had the eyes of a human and a mouth that spoke with great pride.
  9. Thrones were set up while I was watching, and the Eternal God took his place. His clothing and his hair were white as snow. His throne was a blazing fire with fiery wheels,
  10. and flames were dashing out from all around him. Countless thousands were standing there to serve him. The time of judgment began, and the books were opened.
  11. I watched closely to see what would happen to this smaller horn because of the arrogant things it was saying. Then before my very eyes, the fourth beast was killed and its body destroyed by fire.
  12. The other three beasts had their authority taken from them, but they were allowed to live a while longer.
  13. As I continued to watch the vision that night, I saw what looked like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven, and he was presented to the Eternal God.
  14. He was crowned king and given power and glory, so that all people of every nation and race would serve him. He will rule forever, and his kingdom is eternal, never to be destroyed.
  15. Daniel wrote: I was terrified by these visions, and I didn't know what to think.
  16. So I asked one of those standing there, and he explained,
  17. "The four beasts are four earthly kingdoms.
  18. But God Most High will give his kingdom to his chosen ones, and it will be theirs forever and ever."
  19. I wanted to know more about the fourth beast, because it was so different and much more terrifying than the others. What was the meaning of its iron teeth and bronze claws and of its feet that smashed what the teeth and claws had not ground and crushed?
  20. I also wanted to know more about all ten of those horns on its head. I especially wanted to know more about the one that took the place of three of the others--the horn that had eyes and spoke with arrogance and seemed greater than the others.
  21. While I was looking, this horn attacked God's chosen ones and was winning the battle.
  22. Then God Most High, the Eternal God, came and judged in favor of his chosen ones, because the time had arrived for them to be given the kingdom.
  23. Then I was told by the one standing there: "The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom to appear on earth. It will be different from all the others-- it will trample the earth and crush it to pieces.
  24. All ten of those horns are kings who will come from this kingdom, and one more will follow. This horn will be different from the others, and it will conquer three other kings.
  25. "This king will speak evil of God Most High, and he will be cruel to God's chosen ones. He will try to change God's Law and the sacred seasons. And he will be able to do this for a time, two times, and half a time.
  26. But he will finally be judged, and his kingdom completely destroyed.
  27. "Then the greatest kingdom of all will be given to the chosen ones of God Most High. His kingdom will be eternal, and all others will serve and obey him."
  28. That was what I saw and heard. I turned pale with fear and kept it all to myself.

    The first six chapters of Daniel give a historical account of Daniel's experiences in Babylon. Beginning with chapter seven, Daniel recorded accounts of visions he had within that historical period described in the first six chapters. The vision outlined in chapter seven closely parallels Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the huge statue (chapter 2) which Daniel interpreted for him. According to many Bible scholars, both Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's dream in this chapter relate to the "Time of the Gentiles" - a period in which Israel's rule was taken from her and given to Gentile rulers.

    Prophecy is not something about which one should be too dogmatic. Meanings are often difficult to grasp and without a definitive explanation in scripture might be understood from different perspectives. Therefore, my understanding of Daniel 7 given in this reflection is only one perspective. In this account, Daniel had a series of visions while asleep and dreaming. In them the waters of the Mediterranean Sea became disturbed and out of the disturbance emerged four beasts. The first beast appeared initially as a lion and represented Babylon. A second beast, appearing as a bear, represented Medo-Persia. Then came a winged leopard with four heads that represented Greece, followed by an indescribable beast which represented Rome.

    The fourth beast had ten horns. These horns represent the emergence of different rulers, the last one overpowering three of the others and grasping great power - even a worldwide rule. The present period of time is thought by many to be the era of the ten horns of this fourth beast. The little horn which rises up and overpowers three others to take over worldwide reign is thought to be during a period of tribulation prior to Christ's second advent and millennial reign. Though all other rulers represented by the four beasts have been overthrown by other earthly rulers, this last one is to be overthrown and destroyed by divine intervention.

    As we consider the implications of these visions, it is difficult to ignore that national powers are given power and significant roles in history only by God's bidding and not their own.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 6

    Daniel 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Darius divided his kingdom into a hundred and twenty states and placed a governor in charge of each one.
  2. In order to make sure that his government was run properly, Darius put three other officials in charge of the governors. One of these officials was Daniel.
  3. And he did his work so much better than the other governors and officials that the king decided to let him govern the whole kingdom.
  4. The other men tried to find something wrong with the way Daniel did his work for the king. But they could not accuse him of anything wrong, because he was honest and faithful and did everything he was supposed to do.
  5. Finally, they said to one another, "We will never be able to bring any charge against Daniel, unless it has to do with his religion."
  6. They all went to the king and said: Your Majesty, we hope you live forever!
  7. All of your officials, leaders, advisors, and governors agree that you should make a law forbidding anyone to pray to any god or human except you for the next thirty days. Everyone who disobeys this law must be thrown into a pit of lions.
  8. Order this to be written and then sign it, so it cannot be changed, just as no written law of the Medes and Persians can be changed."
  9. So King Darius made the law and had it written down.
  10. Daniel heard about the law, but when he returned home, he went upstairs and prayed in front of the window that faced Jerusalem. In the same way that he had always done, he knelt down in prayer three times a day, giving thanks to God.
  11. The men who had spoken to the king watched Daniel and saw him praying to his God for help.
  12. They went back to the king and said, "Didn't you make a law that forbids anyone to pray to any god or human except you for the next thirty days? And doesn't the law say that everyone who disobeys it will be thrown into a pit of lions?" "Yes, that's the law I made," the king agreed. "And just like all written laws of the Medes and Persians, it cannot be changed."
  13. The men then told the king, "That Jew named Daniel, who was brought here as a captive, refuses to obey you or the law that you ordered to be written. And he still prays to his god three times a day."
  14. The king was really upset to hear about this, and for the rest of the day he tried to think how he could save Daniel.
  15. At sunset the men returned and said, "Your Majesty, remember that no written law of the Medes and Persians can be changed, not even by the king."
  16. So Darius ordered Daniel to be brought out and thrown into a pit of lions. But he said to Daniel, "You have been faithful to your God, and I pray that he will rescue you."
  17. A stone was rolled over the pit, and it was sealed. Then Darius and his officials stamped the seal to show that no one should let Daniel out.
  18. All night long the king could not sleep. He did not eat anything, and he would not let anyone come in to entertain him.
  19. At daybreak the king got up and ran to the pit.
  20. He was anxious and shouted, "Daniel, you were faithful and served your God. Was he able to save you from the lions?"
  21. Daniel answered, "Your Majesty, I hope you live forever!
  22. My God knew that I was innocent, and he sent an angel to keep the lions from eating me. Your Majesty, I have never done anything to hurt you."
  23. The king was relieved to hear Daniel's voice, and he gave orders for him to be taken out of the pit. Daniel's faith in his God had kept him from being harmed.
  24. And the king ordered the men who had brought charges against Daniel to be thrown into the pit, together with their wives and children. But before they even reached the bottom, the lions ripped them to pieces.
  25. King Darius then sent this message to all people of every nation and race in the world: "Greetings to all of you!
  26. I command everyone in my kingdom to worship and honor the God of Daniel. He is the living God, the one who lives forever. His power and his kingdom will never end.
  27. He rescues people and sets them free by working great miracles. Daniel's God has rescued him from the power of the lions."
  28. All went well for Daniel while Darius was king, and even when Cyrus the Persian ruled.

    The events of this chapter motivated a pagan king to praise the true God whom Daniel worshiped. Chapter 5 tells of the capture of Babylon by the Medes and Persians, thus the country was at this time ruled by king Darius, who was a Mede. Following his takeover of the Babylonians, he reorganized his newly conquered kingdom, appointing, as described in verses 1 & 2, 120 satraps over the kingdom, and three administrators over the satraps. One of these three administrators was Daniel, who distinguished himself in his leadership and so the king was planning to "set him over the whole realm." (6:3)

    Daniel's leadership role and popularity with the king was troubling to the other administrators and satraps. Jealousy no doubt motivated their concern a great deal, but also, Daniel was not one of them. He was a Judean and an exile. Prejudice may have been the greater motivator. Whatever the motivation, a group of administrators and satraps devised a plan to get rid of Daniel. Knowing they would not find a flaw in his character or integrity, they chose to attack him through his religion. They went to king Darius under the guise of exalting the king. They suggested that all of the satraps and administrators were in agreement that the newly appointed king should make an edict requiring everyone to petition only the king for 30 days. No worship should be given any god or man except the king. Failure to obey this edict would result in being "thrown into the lions' den." (6:7) This gesture by his subordinates no doubt stroked the king's ego, and so, following their suggestion, he signed the edict. Having done so, he was then at the mercy of his own ruling according to the "law of the Medes and Persians."

    Daniel was not influenced by this ruling. Motivated by devotion to God and not disrespect to the king, Daniel went to his room to worship God at his usual times of the day. Knowing that he would, those who devised this scheme were on hand to witness his act of worship to One other than the king. With their eye witness account of Daniel's disobedience, they went to the king with a report. Once the king heard their report he was troubled, not wanting to harm Daniel. The bearers of this news, and perpetrators of the scheme, reminded him that his edict could not be reversed. Their scheme was then evident. For the remainder of the day, the king tried to avoid carrying out this sentence on Daniel, but could not escape it. So he gave the order and Daniel was thrown in the lions' den. But the king said to Daniel, "May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!"

    After a sleepless night the king returned to the lions' den at "the first light of dawn" to check on Daniel. He was elated to find that Daniel was unharmed. "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths." (6:22) Then the king turned the schemer's scheme back upon them. He ordered that they and their families be thrown into the lions' den. No god delivered them. Before they even reached the bottom of the den, "the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones." (6:24) Then the king published a decree to "those of every people, nation, and language who live in all the earth." It read: "I issue a decree that in all my royal dominion, people must tremble in fear before the God of Daniel: For He is the living God, and He endures forever; His kingdom will never be destroyed, and His dominion has no end." (6:26) An amazing decree coming from a pagan!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 5

    Daniel 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One evening, King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for a thousand of his highest officials, and he drank wine with them.
  2. He got drunk and ordered his servants to bring in the gold and silver cups his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem. Belshazzar wanted the cups, so that he and all his wives and officials could drink from them.
  3. When the gold cups were brought in, everyone at the banquet drank from them and praised their idols made of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
  4. (SEE 5:3)
  5. Suddenly a human hand was seen writing on the plaster wall of the palace. The hand was just behind the lampstand, and the king could see it writing.
  6. He was so frightened that his face turned pale, his knees started shaking, and his legs became weak.
  7. The king called in his advisors, who claimed they could talk with the spirits of the dead and understand the meanings found in the stars. He told them, "The man who can read this writing and tell me what it means will become the third most powerful man in my kingdom. He will wear robes of royal purple and a gold chain around his neck."
  8. All of King Belshazzar's highest officials came in, but not one of them could read the writing or tell what it meant,
  9. and they were completely puzzled. Now the king was more afraid than ever before, and his face turned white as a ghost.
  10. When the queen heard the king and his officials talking, she came in and said: Your Majesty, I hope you live forever! Don't be afraid or look so pale.
  11. In your kingdom there is a man who has been given special powers by the holy gods. When your father Nebuchadnezzar was king, this man was known to be as smart, intelligent, and wise as the gods themselves. Your father put him in charge of all who claimed they could talk with the spirits or understand the meanings in the stars or tell about the future.
  12. He also changed the man's name from Daniel to Belteshazzar. Not only is he wise and intelligent, but he can explain dreams and riddles and solve difficult problems. Send for Daniel, and he will tell you what the writing means.
  13. When Daniel was brought in, the king said: So you are Daniel, one of the captives my father brought back from Judah!
  14. I was told that the gods have given you special powers and that you are intelligent and very wise.
  15. Neither my advisors nor the men who talk with the spirits of the dead could read this writing or tell me what it means.
  16. But I have been told that you understand everything and that you can solve difficult problems. Now then, if you can read this writing and tell me what it means, you will become the third most powerful man in my kingdom. You will wear royal purple robes and have a gold chain around your neck.
  17. Daniel answered: Your Majesty, I will read the writing and tell you what it means. But you may keep your gifts or give them to someone else.
  18. Sir, the Most High God made your father a great and powerful man and brought him much honor and glory.
  19. God did such great things for him that people of all nations and races shook with fear. Your father had the power of life or death over everyone, and he could honor or ruin anyone he chose.
  20. But when he became proud and stubborn, his glorious kingdom was taken from him.
  21. His mind became like that of an animal, and he was forced to stay away from people and live with wild donkeys. Your father ate grass like an ox, and he slept outside where his body was soaked with dew. He was forced to do this until he learned that the Most High God rules all kingdoms on earth and chooses their kings.
  22. King Belshazzar, you knew all of this, but you still refused to honor the Lord who rules from heaven.
  23. Instead, you turned against him and ordered the cups from his temple to be brought here, so that you and your wives and officials could drink wine from them. You praised idols made of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone, even though they cannot see or hear or think. You refused to worship the God who gives you breath and controls everything you do.
  24. That's why he sent the hand to write this message on the wall.
  25. The words written there are mene, which means "numbered," tekel, which means "weighed," and parsin, which means "divided." God has numbered the days of your kingdom and has brought it to an end. He has weighed you on his balance scales, and you fall short of what it takes to be king. So God has divided your kingdom between the Medes and the Persians.
  26. (SEE 5:25)
  27. (SEE 5:25)
  28. (SEE 5:25)
  29. Belshazzar gave a command for Daniel to be made the third most powerful man in his kingdom and to be given a purple robe and a gold chain.
  30. That same night, the king was killed.
  31. Then Darius the Mede, who was sixty-two years old, took over his kingdom.

    More than 23 years passed between the ending of chapter 4 and beginning of chapter 5.  During the period following Nebuchadnezzar's death Babylon experienced considerable instability of leadership due to the assassinations of its kings. Belshazzar, the subject of the events in chapter 5, was the son of Nabonidus, the fourth king to reign in this period of time. His was the longest reign, lasting 17 years. The shortest reign during this time was two months. Though Belshazzar is referred to in this chapter as king, he was actually appointed by his father as his coregent, thus sharing the role as king.

    While Belshazzar held the enormous feast recorded in chapter 5, the Persians were outside the city walls laying siege to the city. However, Belshazzar had a false sense of security depending on what he considered to be impenetrable walls to keep out the enemy and 20 years of supply within the city to outlast them. But any security not based in God is a false security. At this feast, Belshazzar showed his contempt for the true God of the Judeans by bringing in the silver goblets taken from the temple in Jerusalem and using them at the feast from which to drink wine and get drunk. As they drank from the temple goblets, the people honored the gods of Babylon made of gold, silver, and other materials.

    In all this, they had crossed the line with God. It is one thing to conclude there is no God, thus crediting God's creative work and life itself to chance occurances. It is another thing to credit God's work to inanimate objects. In either case, though, man is attempting to control life himself whether by eliminating God from the equation or by interjecting inanimate objects as gods which he controls through his imaginary religion. But any attempt at controlling life is futile. All of life is in God's hands. Although He allows us the freedom to make choices about life and thus determine the course our lives will take, the ultimate control is His. He can choose to interrupt our lives at any point. And this is what He did at Belshazzar's feast. In the midst of the reveling, a hand appeared which wrote four words on the wall - "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN." This apparition effected Belshazzar as it would any of us - it terrified him. Though he sent for his mediums and astrologers to interpreting the writing for him, they were helpless to do so. Then the queen, hearing the commotion, came into the banquet and told Belshazzar about Daniel. The king sent for Daniel and he was able to interpret the writing: "MENE means that God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end. TEKEL means that you have been weighed in the balance and found deficient. PERES means that your kingdom has been divided and given to the Medes and Persians." (5:26-28)

    That very night, the Persian army marched into the city of Babylon. In his arrogance, Belshazzar did not even have his army defending the wall. When the Persian army marched in, they found no opposition. Upon entering the city they killed Belshazzar and "Darius the Mede received the kingdom." (5:31)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 4

    Daniel 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. King Nebuchadnezzar sent the following letter to the people of all nations and races on the earth: Greetings to all of you!
  2. I am glad to tell about the wonderful miracles God Most High has done for me.
  3. His miracles are mighty and marvelous. He will rule forever, and his kingdom will never end.
  4. I was enjoying a time of peace and prosperity,
  5. when suddenly I had some horrifying dreams and visions.
  6. Then I commanded every wise man in Babylonia to appear in my court, so they could explain the meaning of my dream.
  7. After they arrived, I told them my dream, but they were not able to say what it meant.
  8. Finally, a young man named Daniel came in, and I told him the dream. The holy gods had given him special powers, and I had renamed him Belteshazzar after my own god.
  9. I said, "Belteshazzar, not only are you the wisest of all advisors and counselors, but the holy gods have given you special powers to solve the most difficult mysteries. So listen to what I dreamed and tell me what it means:
  10. In my sleep I saw a very tall tree in the center of the world.
  11. It grew stronger and higher, until it reached to heaven and could be seen from anywhere on earth.
  12. It was covered with leaves and heavy with fruit-- enough for all nations. Wild animals enjoyed its shade, birds nested in its branches, and all creatures on earth lived on its fruit.
  13. "While I was in bed, having this vision, a holy angel came down from heaven
  14. and shouted: 'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Make the animals leave its shade and send the birds flying from its branches.
  15. But leave its stump and roots in the ground, surrounded by grass and held by chains of iron and bronze. 'Make sure that this ruler lives like the animals out in the open fields, unprotected from the dew.
  16. Give him the mind of a wild animal for seven long years.
  17. This punishment is given at the command of the holy angels. It will show to all who live that God Most High controls all kingdoms and chooses for their rulers persons of humble birth.'
  18. "Daniel, that was the dream that none of the wise men in my kingdom were able to understand. But I am sure that you will understand what it means, because the holy gods have given you some special powers."
  19. For a while, Daniel was terribly confused and worried by what he was thinking. But I said, "Don't be bothered either by the dream or by what it means." Daniel replied: Your Majesty, I wish the dream had been against your enemies.
  20. You saw a tree that grew so big and strong that it reached up to heaven and could be seen from anywhere on earth.
  21. Its leaves were beautiful, and it produced enough fruit for all living creatures; animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches.
  22. Your Majesty, that tree is you. Your glorious reputation has reached heaven, and your kingdom covers the earth.
  23. Then you saw a holy angel come down from heaven and say, "Chop down the tree and destroy it! But leave its stump and roots in the ground, fastened there by a chain of iron and bronze. Let it stay for seven years out in the field with the wild animals, unprotected from the dew."
  24. Your Majesty, God Most High has sent you this message, and it means
  25. that you will be forced to live with the wild animals, far away from humans. You will eat grass like a wild animal and live outdoors for seven years, until you learn that God Most High controls all earthly kingdoms and chooses their rulers.
  26. But he gave orders not to disturb the stump and roots. This is to show that you will be king once again, after you learn that the God who rules from heaven is in control.
  27. Your Majesty, please be willing to do what I say. Turn from your sins and start living right; have mercy on those who are mistreated. Then all will go well with you for a long time.
  28. About twelve months later, I was walking on the flat roof of my royal palace and admiring the beautiful city of Babylon, when these things started happening to me. I was saying to myself, "Just look at this wonderful capital city that I have built by my own power and for my own glory!"
  29. (SEE 4:28)
  30. (SEE 4:28)
  31. But before I could finish speaking, a voice from heaven interrupted: King Nebuchadnezzar, this kingdom is no longer yours.
  32. You will be forced to live with the wild animals, away from people. For seven years you will eat grass, as though you were an ox, until you learn that God Most High is in control of all earthly kingdoms and that he is the one who chooses their rulers.
  33. This was no sooner said than done--I was forced to live like a wild animal; I ate grass and was unprotected from the dew. As time went by, my hair grew longer than eagle feathers, and my fingernails looked like the claws of a bird.
  34. Finally, I prayed to God in heaven, and my mind was healed. Then I said: "I praise and honor God Most High. He lives forever, and his kingdom will never end.
  35. To him the nations are far less than nothing; God controls the stars in the sky and everyone on this earth. When God does something, we cannot change it or even ask why."
  36. At that time my mind was healed, and once again I became the ruler of my glorious kingdom. My advisors and officials returned to me, and I had greater power than ever before.
  37. That's why I say: "Praise and honor the King who rules from heaven! Everything he does is honest and fair, and he can shatter the power of those who are proud."

    God used Nebuchadnezzar for His purposes in bringing judgment on Judah even though Nebuchadnezzar worshipped other gods. But as with anyone, God desired a relationship with Nebuchadnezzar which was only possible if the king acknowledged God's hand in his own life. Therefore, God intervened in some very special ways in Nebuchadnezzar's life.

    Chapter 2 tells of a dream the king had in the early years of Daniel's exile in Babylon. Miraculously God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel who related it to the king. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God of heaven had revealed this to Daniel and made a decree that none should criticize Daniel's God. But the king did not become a follower of God. He merely added God to his list of gods. Meanwhile his kingdom prospered and he took full credit for this prosperity which came from God.  Some thirty years passed and he had another dream which troubled him. The one recorded in this chapter. Again he called for his wisemen, and again they were unable to interpret his dream - except for Daniel. While the first dream was good news, exalting Nebuchadnezzar, this dream was not so good.

    God intended for the king to "acknowledge that the Most High is ruler over the kingdom of men, and He gives it to anyone He wants." In essence, He wanted Nebuchadnezzar to acknowledge that his kingdom and the prosperity it had known was from God and not his own doing. The dream explained how God intended to bring him to this acknowledgment. As the tree in his dream was to be cut down, Nebuchadnezzar was to be brought down. For seven years he would be insane and would live among the animals as they lived. When he acknowledged God's sovereignty, his sanity would return. That was God's "sentence" for him, but Nebuchadnezzar could avoid the sentence if he so chose. Daniel encouraged him to repent of his sin: "Separate yourself from your sins by doing what is right, and from your injustices by showing mercy to the needy. Perhaps there will be an extension of your prosperity." (4:27)

    God withheld His judgment on Nebuchadnezzar, giving him a year to repent and turn to Him, but the king remained prideful. After a year had passed, Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of his palace one day reflecting on the greatness of his kingdom thinking, "Is this not Babylon the Great that I have built by my vast power to be a royal residence and to display my majestic glory?" (4:30) As soon as the words were out of his mouth, a voice came to him from heaven stating that the kingdom "has departed from you." (4:31) Nebuchadnezzar immediately became insane and fled from people, becoming like an animal. This lasted seven years until he acknowledged God's sovereignty. Finally he acknowledged that God "does what He wants with the army of heaven and the inhabitants of the earth. There is no one who can hold back His hand or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" When he did this, he was reinstated to his position as king and prospered even more than before.

    In the closing verse of the chapter, Nebuchadnezzar proclaims, "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of heaven, because all His works are true and His ways are just. And He is able to humble those who walk in pride." (4:37)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 3

    Daniel 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. King Nebuchadnezzar ordered a gold statue to be built ninety feet high and nine feet wide. He had it set up in Dura Valley near the city of Babylon,
  2. and he commanded his governors, advisors, treasurers, judges, and his other officials to come from everywhere in his kingdom to the dedication of the statue.
  3. So all of them came and stood in front of it.
  4. Then an official stood up and announced: People of every nation and race, now listen to the king's command!
  5. Trumpets, flutes, harps, and all other kinds of musical instruments will soon start playing. When you hear the music, you must bow down and worship the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up.
  6. Anyone who refuses will at once be thrown into a flaming furnace.
  7. As soon as the people heard the music, they bowed down and worshiped the gold statue that the king had set up.
  8. Some Babylonians used this as a chance to accuse the Jews to King Nebuchadnezzar.
  9. They said, "Your Majesty, we hope you live forever!
  10. You commanded everyone to bow down and worship the gold statue when the music played.
  11. And you said that anyone who did not bow down and worship it would be thrown into a flaming furnace.
  12. Sir, you appointed three men to high positions in Babylon Province, but they have disobeyed you. Those Jews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refuse to worship your gods and the statue you have set up."
  13. King Nebuchadnezzar was furious. So he sent for the three young men and said,
  14. "I hear that you refuse to worship my gods and the gold statue I have set up.
  15. Now I am going to give you one more chance. If you bow down and worship the statue when you hear the music, everything will be all right. But if you don't, you will at once be thrown into a flaming furnace. No god can save you from me."
  16. The three men replied, "Your Majesty, we don't need to defend ourselves.
  17. The God we worship can save us from you and your flaming furnace.
  18. But even if he doesn't, we still won't worship your gods and the gold statue you have set up."
  19. Nebuchadnezzar's face twisted with anger at the three men. And he ordered the furnace to be heated seven times hotter than usual.
  20. Next, he commanded some of his strongest soldiers to tie up the men and throw them into the flaming furnace.
  21. The king wanted it done at that very moment. So the soldiers tied up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and threw them into the flaming furnace with all of their clothes still on, including their turbans. The fire was so hot that flames leaped out and killed the soldiers.
  22. (SEE 3:21)
  23. (SEE 3:21)
  24. Suddenly the king jumped up and shouted, "Weren't only three men tied up and thrown into the fire?" "Yes, Your Majesty," the people answered.
  25. "But I see four men walking around in the fire," the king replied. "None of them is tied up or harmed, and the fourth one looks like a god."
  26. Nebuchadnezzar went closer to the flaming furnace and said to the three young men, "You servants of the Most High God, come out at once!" They came out,
  27. and the king's high officials, governors, and advisors all crowded around them. The men were not burned, their hair wasn't scorched, and their clothes didn't even smell like smoke.
  28. King Nebuchadnezzar said: Praise their God for sending an angel to rescue his servants! They trusted their God and refused to obey my commands. Yes, they chose to die rather than to worship or serve any god except their own.
  29. And I won't allow people of any nation or race to say anything against their God. Anyone who does will be chopped up and their houses will be torn down, because no other god has such great power to save.
  30. After this happened, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to even higher positions in Babylon Province.

    It seems that Nebuchadnezzar was affected by his dream of the statue and its interpretation that placed him as the head of gold. Rather than being drawn to the One who enabled Daniel to miraculously tell the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar became prideful about his position at the head of the statue. He obviously paid little heed to Daniel's words stating that his own power was given him by "The God of heaven." (2:37) Nor did he seem to have paid attention to the part about the powers represented in the statue being crushed by the kingdom set up by God. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, not because of his greatness, but because of the great God.

    Nevertheless, chapter 3 tells us that Nebuchadnezzar made a huge statue of gold and commanded that everyone under his jurisdiction was to bow down and worship this statue. Evidently the king was establishing a new religion, constituting himself as head, not only of state, but also of religion, requiring those who served him to recognize his religious authority as well as his political authority. Though he was not the object of worship he was not far from it. Nebuchadnezzar had witnessed an impressive demonstration of God's power with the telling and interpretation of his dream. He was about to witness an even greater demonstration of God's power.

    The king's order stated that death in a fiery furnace was the punishment for those who did not bow down to the statue. Daniel's three friends were singled out as being disobedient to this order. They refused to worship any but the God they served. Why Daniel was not included in this charge is not mentioned. Even though given opportunity by the king to demonstrate their obedience to the order, they were adamant in their refusal to worship the statue. They would face the furnace instead. The God they served was capable of rescuing them from the furnace, but even if He chose not to, they would serve him with their lives. Miraculously, God delivered them from the intense heat of the furnace. No hair was singed nor even the smell of fire was on them or their clothing, despite the fact that the furnace was heated seven times hotter than usual.

    This demonstration of God's power got the king's attention but not his worship. He respected these Jewish young men and their God and thus decreed that no one was to say anything offensive against their God, but did not proclaim their God as his God.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 2

    Daniel 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. During the second year that Nebuchadnezzar was king, he had such horrible nightmares that he could not sleep.
  2. So he called in his counselors, advisors, magicians, and wise men,
  3. and said, "I am disturbed by a dream that I don't understand, and I want you to explain it."
  4. They answered in Aramaic, "Your Majesty, we hope you live forever! We are your servants. Please tell us your dream, and we will explain what it means."
  5. But the king replied, "No! I have made up my mind. If you don't tell me both the dream and its meaning, you will be chopped to pieces and your houses will be torn down.
  6. However, if you do tell me both the dream and its meaning, you will be greatly rewarded and highly honored. Now tell me the dream and explain what it means."
  7. "Your Majesty," they said, "if you will only tell us your dream, we will interpret it for you."
  8. The king replied, "You're just stalling for time,
  9. because you know what's going to happen if you don't come up with the answer. You've decided to make up a bunch of lies, hoping I might change my mind. Now tell me the dream, and that will prove that you can interpret it."
  10. His advisors explained, "Your Majesty, you are demanding the impossible! No king, not even the most famous and powerful, has ever ordered his advisors, magicians, or wise men to do such a thing.
  11. It can't be done, except by the gods, and they don't live here on earth."
  12. This made the king so angry that he gave orders for every wise man in Babylonia to be put to death, including Daniel and his three friends.
  13. (SEE 2:12)
  14. Arioch was the king's official in charge of putting the wise men to death. He was on his way to have it done, when Daniel very wisely went to him
  15. and asked, "Why did the king give such cruel orders?" After Arioch explained what had happened,
  16. Daniel rushed off and said to the king, "If you will just give me some time, I'll explain your dream."
  17. Daniel returned home and told his three friends.
  18. Then he said, "Pray that the God who rules from heaven will be merciful and explain this mystery, so that we and the others won't be put to death."
  19. In a vision one night, Daniel was shown the dream and its meaning. Then he praised the God who rules from heaven:
  20. "Our God, your name will be praised forever and forever. You are all-powerful, and you know everything.
  21. You control human events-- you give rulers their power and take it away, and you are the source of wisdom and knowledge.
  22. "You explain deep mysteries, because even the dark is light to you.
  23. You are the God who was worshiped by my ancestors. Now I thank you and praise you for making me wise and telling me the king's dream, together with its meaning."
  24. Daniel went back to Arioch, the official in charge of executing the wise men. Daniel said, "Don't kill those men! Take me to the king, and I will explain the meaning of his dream."
  25. Arioch rushed Daniel to the king and announced, "Your Majesty, I have found out that one of the men brought here from Judah can explain your dream."
  26. The king asked Daniel, "Can you tell me my dream and what it means?"
  27. Daniel answered: Your Majesty, not even the smartest person in all the world can do what you are demanding.
  28. But the God who rules from heaven can explain mysteries. And while you were sleeping, he showed you what will happen in the future.
  29. (SEE 2:28)
  30. However, you must realize that these mysteries weren't explained to me because I am smarter than everyone else. Instead, it was done so that you would understand what you have seen.
  31. Your Majesty, what you saw standing in front of you was a huge and terrifying statue, shining brightly.
  32. Its head was made of gold, its chest and arms were silver, and from its waist down to its knees, it was bronze.
  33. From there to its ankles it was iron, and its feet were a mixture of iron and clay.
  34. As you watched, a stone was cut from a mountain--but not by human hands. The stone struck the feet, completely shattering the iron and clay.
  35. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed and blown away without a trace, like husks of wheat at threshing time. But the stone became a tremendous mountain that covered the entire earth.
  36. That was the dream, and now I'll tell you what it means.
  37. Your Majesty, you are the greatest of kings, and God has highly honored you with power
  38. over all humans, animals, and birds. You are the head of gold.
  39. After you are gone, another kingdom will rule, but it won't be as strong. Then it will be followed by a kingdom of bronze that will rule the whole world.
  40. Next, a kingdom of iron will come to power, crushing and shattering everything.
  41. This fourth kingdom will be divided--it will be both strong and brittle, just as you saw that the feet and toes were a mixture of iron and clay.
  42. (SEE 2:41)
  43. This kingdom will be the result of a marriage between kingdoms, but it will crumble, just as iron and clay don't stick together.
  44. During the time of those kings, the God who rules from heaven will set up an eternal kingdom that will never fall. It will be like the stone that was cut from the mountain, but not by human hands--the stone that crushed the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold. Your Majesty, in your dream the great God has told you what is going to happen, and you can trust this interpretation.
  45. (SEE 2:44)
  46. King Nebuchadnezzar bowed low to the ground and worshiped Daniel. Then he gave orders for incense to be burned and a sacrifice of grain to be offered in honor of Daniel.
  47. The king said, "Now I know that your God is above all other gods and kings, because he gave you the power to explain this mystery."
  48. The king then presented Daniel with a lot of gifts; he promoted him to governor of Babylon Province and put him in charge of the other wise men.
  49. At Daniel's request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to high positions in Babylon Province, and he let Daniel stay on as a palace official.

    Daniel, a mere exile in Babylon, brought as a captive of war, was suddenly thrust into power as a Babylonian authority, as outlined in the events of this chapter. As was true of Jeremiah, the book preceding Daniel, it is also true of Daniel that no event was mere coincidence nor were they the workings of men. Though the men involved likely thought themselves to be the cause of the events, it was God who worked behind the scenes orchestrating it all. Such was the case with Daniel in this second chapter.

    King Nebuchadnezzar had a recurring dream that troubled him, so he "gave orders to summon the diviner-priests, mediums, sorcerers, and Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams." (2:2) Though this may not have been the first time the king had requested an interpretation of his dreams by these so-called wisemen, in this instance he made the first-time request that they not only interpret the dream but that they reveal the dream itself. Failure to reveal the dream and its interpretation was punishable by death. Upon the failure of those wisemen summoned to fulfill Nebuchadnezzar's request, the king ordered that all wisemen in the country be executed. This included Daniel and his friends who had risen to the status of wisemen through the accounts of chapter one.

    Curious as to why he was sentenced to be executed, Daniel inquired as to the reason for this sentence. When he learned what had transpired he sought, and gained, entry to the king and asked that he be given time "so that he could give the king the interpretation." (2:16)  It should be noted in verse 14 that Daniel continued to respond toward his captors with "tact and discretion." Though anger and belligerence would be the natural response, even a justifiable response, under such circumstances, it is not the most productive response. It is certainly not the response that will allow one to be best used by God. So, with the king's permission, Daniel went to his friends and urged them to pray with him for God to give understanding of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its meaning.  God granted their request. When Daniel returned to the king ready to reveal the dream and its meaning, he gave full credit to God saying, "this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but in order that the interpretation might be made known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind." (2:30)

    God was revealing to Nebuchadnezzar, through this dream, his role, and that of other rulers, in the scheme of things. Nebuchadnezzar had just destroyed Judah leaving no Israelite rule in Palestine. Israel's time as a world-wide leader had ended. World events were emerging into a period sometimes referred to as “the times of the Gentiles.” As many Bible students understand it, this time of the Gentiles, which began with the defeat of the Israelites by Nebuchadnezzar, will last until Christ's second advent in which He will become the world-wide ruler and usher in the Millennial period. This was the overarching meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The huge statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented various world rulers, including Nebuchadnezzar, who will have power for a period of time. But they are all eventually crushed, not by human intervention, but by a stone, thought to represent Christ at His second advent. It will be God who intervenes to crush these world powers to establish His own reign.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Reflections on Daniel 1

    Daniel 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. In the third year that Jehoiakim was king of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia attacked Jerusalem.
  2. The Lord let Nebuchadnezzar capture Jehoiakim and take away some of the things used in God's temple. And when the king returned to Babylonia, he put these things in the temple of his own god.
  3. One day the king ordered Ashpenaz, his highest palace official, to choose some young men from the royal family of Judah and from other leading Jewish families.
  4. The king said, "They must be healthy, handsome, smart, wise, educated, and fit to serve in the royal palace. Teach them how to speak and write our language
  5. and give them the same food and wine that I am served. Train them for three years, and then they can become court officials."
  6. Four of the young Jews chosen were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, all from the tribe of Judah.
  7. But the king's chief official gave them Babylonian names: Daniel became Belteshazzar, Hananiah became Shadrach, Mishael became Meshach, and Azariah became Abednego.
  8. Daniel made up his mind to eat and drink only what God had approved for his people to eat. And he asked the king's chief official for permission not to eat the food and wine served in the royal palace.
  9. God had made the official friendly and kind to Daniel.
  10. But the man still told him, "The king has decided what you must eat and drink. And I am afraid he will kill me, if you eat something else and end up looking worse than the other young men."
  11. The king's official had put a guard in charge of Daniel and his three friends. So Daniel said to the guard,
  12. "For the next ten days, let us have only vegetables and water at mealtime.
  13. When the ten days are up, compare how we look with the other young men, and decide what to do with us."
  14. The guard agreed to do what Daniel had asked.
  15. Ten days later, Daniel and his friends looked healthier and better than the young men who had been served food from the royal palace.
  16. After this, the guard let them eat vegetables instead of the rich food and wine.
  17. God made the four young men smart and wise. They read a lot of books and became well educated. Daniel could also tell the meaning of dreams and visions.
  18. At the end of the three-year period set by King Nebuchadnezzar, his chief palace official brought all the young men to him.
  19. The king interviewed them and discovered that none of the others were as outstanding as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they were given positions in the royal court.
  20. From then on, whenever the king asked for advice, he found their wisdom was ten times better than that of any of his other advisors and magicians.
  21. Daniel served there until the first year of King Cyrus.

    This account of Daniel and his friends, Jewish young men who were taken captive from their home in Jerusalem and exiled in Babylon, gives a perspective that might be lost in one's reading of Jeremiah. Idolatry and wickedness had become so prevalent in Judah that it led to her destruction by the Babylonians. This is a focus of Jeremiah. And in this focus one might overlook the fact that there were still righteous people in Judah. Daniel and his friends are good examples of this. In addition, the examples of Daniel and his friends served as reminders to other Jews exiled in Babylon (and to us) of how God blesses those who are obedient to His instructions.

    Daniel was placed in a culture that not only worshipped false gods but was even hostile to the true God of Israel. Yet in this environment he chose to be faithful in his worship of the true God. How he did this is an inspiration to all as he showed respect to his captors while remaining faithful to his God. While some of his own countrymen might have been critical of his respectful actions toward the captor, it was these very actions in conjunction with his loyalty to God that enabled him to be used so powerfully by God.

    Respectfully, Daniel requested that he and his friends be allowed to eat a diet that was true to the dietary laws God had given them. God did the rest. He gave them favor with the Babylonian officials, He gave them excellent health under the special diet, and He gave them the ability to excell in their Babylonian culture studies. Plus, God gave Daniel the ability to understand "visions and dreams of every kind." (1:17) At the end of their training period they were interviewed by the king and found to have no equals among the trainees. This propelled them to serving in the king's court. In the king's court they were consulted by the king and found to be far better "In every matter of wisdom and understanding . . . than all the diviner-priests and mediums in his entire kingdom." (1:20)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Reflections on Ezekiel 48

    Ezekiel 48 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Each tribe will receive a section of land that runs from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. The northern border of Israel will run along the towns of Hethlon and Lebo-Hamath, and will end at Hazar-Enon, which is on the border between the kingdoms of Damascus and Hamath. The tribes will receive their share of land in the following order, from north to south: Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah.
  2. (SEE 48:1)
  3. (SEE 48:1)
  4. (SEE 48:1)
  5. (SEE 48:1)
  6. (SEE 48:1)
  7. (SEE 48:1)
  8. South of Judah's territory will be a special section of land. Its length will be eight miles, and its width will run from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. My temple will be located in this section of land.
  9. An area in the center of this land will belong to me. It will be eight miles long and six miles wide.
  10. I, the LORD, will give half of my sacred land to the priests. Their share will be eight miles long and three miles wide, and my temple will be right in the middle.
  11. Only priests who are descendants of Zadok will receive a share of this sacred land, because they remained faithful to me when the Levites and the rest of the Israelites started sinning.
  12. The land belonging to the priests will be the most sacred area and will lie south of the area that belongs to the Levites.
  13. I will give the other half of my sacred land to the Levites. Their share will also be eight miles long and three miles wide,
  14. and they must never sell or trade any of this land--it is the best land and belongs to me.
  15. South of my sacred land will be a section eight miles long and two miles wide. It will not be sacred, but will belong to the people of Israel and will include the city of Jerusalem, together with its houses and pastureland.
  16. The city will be a square: Each side will be a mile and a half long,
  17. and an open area four hundred twenty feet wide will surround the city.
  18. The land on the east and west sides of the city limits will be farmland for the people of Jerusalem; both sections will be three miles long and two miles wide.
  19. People from the city will farm the land, no matter which tribe they belong to.
  20. And so the center of this special section of land will be for my sacred land, as well as for the city and its property. The land will be a square, eight miles on each side.
  21. The regions east and west of this square of land will belong to the ruler of Israel. His property will run east to the Jordan River and west to the Mediterranean Sea. In the very center of his property will be my sacred land, as well as the temple,
  22. together with the share belonging to the Levites and the city of Jerusalem. The northern border of the ruler's property will be the land that belongs to Judah, and the southern border will be the land that belongs to Benjamin.
  23. South of this special section will be the land that belongs to the rest of Israel's tribes. Each tribe will receive a section of land that runs from the eastern border of Israel west to the Mediterranean Sea. The tribes will receive their share of land in the following order, from north to south: Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad.
  24. (SEE 48:23)
  25. (SEE 48:23)
  26. (SEE 48:23)
  27. (SEE 48:23)
  28. Gad's southern border is also the southern border of Israel. It will begin at the town of Tamar, then run southwest to the springs near Meribath-Kadesh. It will continue along the Egyptian Gorge and end at the Mediterranean Sea.
  29. That's how the land of Israel will be divided among the twelve tribes. I, the LORD God, have spoken.
  30. The city of Jerusalem will have twelve gates, three on each of the four sides of the city wall. These gates will be named after the twelve tribes of Israel. The gates of Reuben, Judah, and Levi will be in the north; Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan will be in the east; Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun will be in the south; Gad, Asher, and Naphtali will be in the west. Each side of the city wall will be a mile and a half long,
  31. (SEE 48:30)
  32. (SEE 48:30)
  33. (SEE 48:30)
  34. (SEE 48:30)
  35. and so the total length of the wall will be six miles. The new name of the city will be "The-LORD-Is-Here!"

    This final chapter of Ezekiel addresses the re-apportionment of the land to the tribes of Israel. An earlier chapter described the Lord's portion which is to be allotted for the priests, levites, temple, and city of Jerusalem. Now we have those portions that go to the various tribes. These are different than the first allotments during the time of Joshua. They are in horizontal strips that stretch from the Mediterranean on the west to the eastern boundary, and are alloted from north to south. Starting from the north and moving downward are the tribes of Dan, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, Reuben, and Judah.

    Between the tribes in the north and those in the south is the Lord's portion as mentioned above. This whole area will form a square and will be divided into three horizontal strips. The northern strip will belong to the priests and the temple, the middle strip will be for the levites, and the southern strip will be for the common people with Jerusalem in the center. This Lord's portion forms a square that is centered between the western and eastern boundaries, rather than stretching the total distance from the western boundary to the eastern boundary. Thus, the land remaining on both the west and east of the square will belong to the prince.  Moving below the Lord's allotment, the southern portion of the land will belong to the tribes of of Benjamin, Simeon, Issachar, Zebulun, and Gad.

    After completing the allotment of land to the last 5 tribes in the south, Ezekiel returns to the city of Jerusalem to name the twelve gates entering the city. There will be three gates on each side of the city, each named after a tribe of Israel. Each side of the city will be 1 1/2 miles in length, making the perimeter of the city six miles around. The final words of the book of Ezekiel and its climax, give the new name of the city - "The Lord is There."

    A good conclusion to Ezekiel is this quote from the Hebrew Christian OT scholar, Charles L. Feinberg:  "This incomparable prophecy began with a vision of the glory of God and concludes with a description of the glory of the Lord in the glorified city of Jerusalem. Ezekiel concluded, as John in the Revelation, with God dwelling with man in holiness and glory. Beyond this there is no greater goal of history and God's dealings with man."