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Hosea 1: ‘God, you want me to do WHAT? Marry a PROSTITUTE?!’

August 3, 2010 Leave a comment

When he received his commandment from God, I have little doubt that the prophet Hosea checked his calendar to see if it was April Fool’s Day. Or whatever the ancient Israelite equivalent of it was.

“Dear God, surely you are joking?!” Hosea probably asked, reverently. Could he really be hearing God correctly?

God had instructed Hosea to do the unthinkable:

“Go and marry a prostitute.”

It must’ve been a very strange pill to swallow. Little is known of Gomer, Hosea’s wife, and I wonder if she was one of those prostitutes in the temples of the false gods. If so, it must’ve seemed especially distasteful for Hosea.

This minor prophet, we learn from the opening verse, lived during the time of King Hezekiah of Judah and of King Jeroboam of Israel. This means, of course, that the events of this book actually happened before those of Daniel.

We see in the second verse that God doesn’t call Hosea to marry Gomer for divine amusement. There’s a reason for it: “…And the LORD said to Hosea, Go, take unto thee a wife of whoredoms and children of whoredoms: for the land hath committed great whoredom, departing from the LORD.”

There’s a lesson to be learned: Hosea and Gomer’s marriage will mirror God and Israel’s marriage.

They had three children: a son named Jezreel (because God would soon avenge Jezreel upon Jehu and would bring Jehu’s rule in Israel to a close and would judge Israel); a daughter named Loruhamah (from the Hebrew phrase meaning “no mercy” to indelicate God would cease from having mercy for Israel and would take them away while having mercy on Judah through some apparent tough love); and another son named Loammi (from the Hebrew meaning “not my people” to indicate a period of separation that would take place).

According to my Bible commentary notes, some believe that Loruhamah and Loammi were not Hosea’s biological children due to the wording of the text. I’m not so sure, simply because similar wording is used to describe all the kids Leah had when she was married to Jacob, but yet the context of Jacob and Leah shows nothing to indicate Jake wasn’t the father of all those boys and the daughter.

Verses 10 and 11 indicate that Israel will have a period of separation from God as God punishes the country for its idolatry before restoring it. I suspect this refers to the Babylonian captivity and then the Jewish people’s return back to Israel.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 12: ‘All in good time’

I imagine Daniel must’ve been mentally exhausted at the end of his long life. He saw many visions, some wonderful and others horrifying. He also had to deal with royal egos, not the least among them King Nebuchadnezzar.

Chapter 12 takes place immediately after the events of Chapter 11 and is in itself a separate prophesy.

We learn in this chapter that Michael the Archangel will stand up for the righteous during a time of trouble that the world has never seen. It is possible this is a time of trouble that has taken place, but its wording suggests very strongly to me these are events that will occur in the Book of Revelation.

God’s people will be delivered, those who are found written in the book (my interpretation being the Lamb’s Book of Life) will be delivered, and that delivery is wonderful. The end times will be especially horrible; among many reasons, it’ll be the first time the world has seen what God is like when He is truly angry.

I wonder what went through Daniel’s mind in verse two when he saw the vision of dead people reanimating out of the dust of the earth for their final judgment: the righteous to everlasting life and the unrighteous to shame (their sins and wickedness on open display) and eternal damnation.

Years ago, when Dr. Jack Hyles autographed my Bible, he wrote as his life verse Daniel 12:3. It reads: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (King James Bible)

Sirius, the brightest star visible in our sky.

This tells me that those in heaven who’ve earned rich rewards by becoming godlike and by leading many to Him will not just have glorified bodies, but will shine like the stars in the universe. Our sun. Sirius (the brightest star in our sky), a.k.a., “The Dog Star”. Deneb, Rigel, among a few. Perhaps some righteous souls will even shine like all the stars combined that comprise the Andromeda galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy, one of the Milky Way Galaxy’s closest neighbors at about 2.5 million light years away (or, around 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles).

Daniel is then instructed by this heavenly being to cease writing and seal his scroll; in the end times, the prophecies would be fulfilled and people would understand. Then, things will indeed be hectic. Many will become very well-versed in the Bible as they seek out God and study what’s going on.

Daniel then saw one more vision, that of two men on different sides of a river. One wonders when things will take place. The other man, who apparently went onto the water, said it would be for a specific appointed time.

I don’t know what it means in verse seven when it says “…he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” Perhaps this will mean Israel has been made weak by the antichrist, or maybe it refers to Israel ceasing to become a nation in A.D. 70. I suspect the former.

Daniel wants to know what the end should be and, probably when. He is told, basically, “All in good time.”

In other words: you’ve done a great job, Daniel, but it’s not for you to know…yet. When the time is ready, your physical body shall be resurrected and reunited with your soul and you will know.

Many will be made righteous and will be purified, but not the wicked, who will not understand.

Daniel does learn that the time that passes between the ending of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation (when, I suspect, the antichrist will defile the Temple of God) shall be 1,290 days (about 3.5 years) while those who endure and arrive at the 1,335 days (a little longer than 3.5 years) shall be blessed. I suspect the first set of days refers to the first half called the Tribulation while the second half refers to the Great Tribulation when things really start getting ugly.

To close out this book, Daniel is told to go his way, rest and then arise again at the end. I suspect this means that Daniel died shortly after recording this twelfth and final chapter of the book.

Next, we move on to Hosea, a prophet who must’ve thought God was joking when He told Hosea to marry a prostitute.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 11: The Long Vision

April 13, 2010 1 comment

This would be an excellent chapter to read sometime if you ever have one of those days where you have a free hour or two. Daniel 11 consists of 45 verses chock full of prophecy.

This vision takes place around the time of Chapter 9, during the reign of King Darius the Mede. From the vision, we see that being a king in the ancient world was very much different from being a ceremonial king today in places like England and Spain. These days, monarchs get up, dress nice, eat the best food and spent their day engaging in their favorite activities and listening to professional sycophants telling them how marvelous they are.

Even as recent as a few centuries ago, being a monarch was far different. Sure, you lived in luxury and had the best of food, clothes and shelter, but you also had to keep a sharp eye for those who would like to overthrow you. Those advisors you have? Are you certain they’re giving you the best advice or advice that will ultimately benefit them? Kings also kept a close eye on other countries and no doubt secretly made plans to conquer them. King Edward I “Longshanks” of England (popularly fictionalized in the Mel Gibson historical-fiction epic Braveheart) negotiated a treaty to have his son Edward II marry Margaret, Maid of Norway and heir to the Scottish throne, ostensibly because eventually Longshanks wanted England to conquer Scotland. Alas, Margaret died before she could marry Eddie 2.

Braveheart wasn’t a historically-accurate film, but I did like Patrick Magoohan’s portrayal of Edward I “Longshanks”.

Daniel in his vision learned of three kings in Persia with a fourth king would would be far richer than them. The king would then use his wealth to make the first three kings war against Greece.

As the vision continued, Daniel saw that the kings from four parts (I presume north, south, east and west) would be involved. The southern king sent his daugher to the north for an “agreement”, which seems odd considering how many women were treated in those days. Daniel wrote that she was “given up” by her father and was without authority.

Verse seven states her offspring would grow strong and would successfully attack the north and ransack the land of people, idols and valuables and would transport some items or people to Egypt.

Back and forth the kingdoms went against each other and that in one kingdom, the temple would be desecrated with the wicked prevailing before hte godly overcame them. Lots and lots of bloodshed and horrible deaths.

Then, in verse 36, a king exalted himself above God and committed many blasphemies until finally, God decided enough was enough.

This king, verse 37 suggested, would become morally and rationally bankrupt and would be defeated. Eventually he would face an unceremonial end and would see his kingdom end without anyone trying to help him.

What era does this cover? Has it already taken place? And if so, was it shortly thereafter or did it refer to the Romans? Does it refer to the future antichrist? I think it applied to both near-future kings as well as the antichrist. I know from reading Left Behind and finishing with Kingdom Come that many Bible scholars feel that aspects of the rapture, antichrist and the millennial reign of Jesus can be found in Daniel.

Next, we’ll finish with Daniel 12.

Richard Zowie is a Christian blogger. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Thoughts on Acts, Daniel, Christian writing

I was very flattered but even more encouraged to hear from a high school friend that she reads this blog. Sometimes, when you blog, you post and have no clue who’s reading it. Sunshine’s (her real name, by the way) words are an encouragement to me to overcome my natural inclinations toward procrastination and be faithful by posting on a daily or semi-daily basis. We have only so much time on earth and then it’s over. For those of us who are Christians, we have only a finite amount of time to make a difference in our lives and make the most of the talents that God has given us.

God has not given me the gift to pastor a church, nor to be a traveling evangelist nor to be a missionary like my friends, Ross and Ellen Ligon, but he has given me the gift of writing. My job is to use that gift to write about things I encounter as a Christian.

My background? I have a bachelor of arts degree in history from Pensacola Christian College in 1995. I minored in English and took a Bible class every semester. I’m not a Bible scholar, but what I do is pray, read, consider the context, consult commentaries and concordances and wise friends over passages I don’t grasp and then write about what I understand and how it applies to me.

That being said, if you are a young Christian who’d likes to listen to the radio, I highly recommend J. Vernon McGee, Chuck Swindoll and Chip Ingram. All three are excellent Bible teachers.

Regarding Daniel, people think of it as a book of Daniel and his pals Shadrach (real name: Hananiah), Meshach (Mishael) and Abednego (Azariah). It’s also a book of prophecy, and as I read it, I see at least two visions Daniel saw that troubled him greatly. One even made him physically ill. One he doesn’t even write about what he saw, which makes you wonder if he saw something very horrible or something so futuristic that he simply couldn’t grasp it.

After Daniel, I’ll be venturing into a part of the Old Testament I haven’t explored in well over a decade: the Minor Prophets. No, they weren’t called the minor prophets because they were all under 18 years old.

As for Acts, how fascinating it is to read about the church in its infancy and about Saul’s conversion into the Apostle Paul. Soon we’ll be reading and blogging about his trials and his climactic trial before King Agrippa.

My prayer and goal is to step things up and within 2 to 4 years, to have blogged my entire way through the Bible. We’ll see how that goes.

For those of you who struggle daily with various temptations (I know I certainly do) and hear those whispers of past things you’ve done and deeply regret, I leave you with this: Whenever Satan reminds you of your past, remind him of his future.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and is currently searching for a solid Bible-teaching church to attend in or near Vassar, Michigan (one church in Frankenmuth was very nice, but it wasn’t a good fit). Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 10: A vision that troubles Daniel

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

I read this on Thursday and planned to blog about it last night, but I decided to wait for two reasons: this is one of those chapters that must be read carefully (preferably several times) and I was a little too tired. Blogging about the Bible’s something I prefer to do on a fresh mind. You never know who will stumble upon this blog, and I want them to get something out of it rather than read the ramblings of someone who’s a little too sleepy to make sense.

Since I’m still shaking off rust as I read parts of the Bible that–sadly–I haven’t read in years, it’s very possible the next few times I go through this area of the Bible and as I grow more as a Christian, I may have a more elaborate analysis. Or, perhaps I’ll sound a little less dumb than I do now.

(That was supposed to be a joke, in case you were wondering).

With that…

During the third year of King Cyrus of Persia, Daniel experienced yet another vision. What he saw bothered him. Greatly. For three full weeks, he mourned and fasted and even refrained from personal hygiene. It sounds like the activity one would normally associate with extreme distress and mourning.

Why the anguish?

Daniel, during the 24th day of the first month, walked by the great river Hiddekel (or the Tigris River) when he saw a man in a glorified body: clothed in linen, wearing a gold belt, his body bright, his eyes as “the lamps of fire”, his skin like polished brass and his voice “…of a multitude”.

Was this a pre-incarnation of Jesus? No, it was an angel. Daniel wrote that he alone saw the vision; those with him saw only a shaking of the earth that caused them to flee.

This experience left Daniel physically and emotionally weak, but he was assured by this angel there was nothing to fear. He learned he was greatly loved by God and that he was in excellent favor. I assume that due to Daniel’s spiritual and perhaps even social conduct, a man who behaved himself wisely, that he was chosen to receive this vision.

The angel told Daniel he came to meet with him, but that he (the angel) was delayed for 21 days by a demon of Persia. The conflict became such that Michael the Archangel came to help.

The angel’s message to Daniel? To help Daniel understand what would happen to the Jewish people in the “latter days”; the vision to be shared was for many days.

As the angel spoke to Daniel, he experienced the “simultitude” of many people and described as it as a vision where “my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.”

Further, Daniel asked something else that tells how distressful the vision was for him in verse 17: “For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me.”

Daniel was then strengthened by the angel and was encouraged to be of courage. The angel then returned to fight the demon in Persia and then, after that, against the demon of Greece.

The chapter ended with the angel telling Daniel: “But I will shew thee that which is noted in the scripture of truth: and [there is] none that holdeth with me in these things, but Michael your prince.”

What exactly happened in the vision? It’s possible Daniel saw the persecution the Jewish people would face in a distant future. Perhaps during the Great Tribulation, and perhaps even the Holocaust. Whatever it was broke Daniel’s heart. Instead of being ill for a few days, he was ill for a few weeks.

Richard Zowie plans to read about the Minor Prophets once done with Daniel. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 9: Humble prayer and explanation of 70 weeks

March 23, 2010 2 comments

After far too many days, I spent time this morning getting back into reading God’s Word. It was a glass of ice-cold, freshly-brewed tea. When I think of my own struggles walking with God and why it seems so hard for Christians to stay on the path of righteousness, the answer to “why?” is simple: they either neglected or misinterpreted the Bible and got out of fellowship with God. From there, the many other problems surfaced.

This chapter covers events that took place during the reign of Darius, meaning we can close the door on Belshazzar and his Reign of Error. During his study time, Daniel studied the Hebrew prophets. Troubled by the mention of 70 weeks God had previously spoken about to the prophet Jeremiah, Daniel prayed for understanding. He wanted to understand what Jeremiah meant when he wrote “Seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.”

There are two things I find interesting: One, that Daniel would have access to the writings of the prophets (for some odd reason, I’d always assumed they’d been left behind in Jerusalem). I suspect it was either smuggled or Daniel was able to use his influence to have a copy brought from back home. Or perhaps he’d built up such a stellar reputation that he was able to study the sacred writings without interference.

Second, his prayer. Here’s a prophet who had lots of political power and had no doubt become a respected person with his ability to understand and interpret dreams. As we learned earlier in this book, Daniel’s reputation, both personal and professional, was impeccable. Yet his prayer suggested great humility on his part. His prayer was somewhat of a historical record of Israel’s continued disobedience towards God. He recalled all the blessings and mercies and how God brought the Israelites out of Egypt and gave them their own home.

And so, he prayed for God to help him understand the 70 weeks. God sent the angel Gabriel to reveal the interpretation.

In verse 24, Gabriel told Daniel the 70 weeks are meant to complete the transgression of the people, end the sins and to “make reconciliation for iniquity” along with ushering in eternal righteousness, “seal[ing] up the vision and prophecy” and bringing honor to God.

Here’s one chart that “explains” the 70 weeks.

Again, my understanding is from a lay perspective, but it looks like the 70 weeks apply to several future times. One, the return to and the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple. Two, Jesus’ crucifixion and, three, the end times. Gabriel said the end would be with a flood, and that the Messiah would cause sacrifices and oblation to discontinue. This sounds like something that has not happened yet.

Some say 70 weeks could actually represent hundreds of years. Who knows for sure.

Here’s another chart. Same basic idea, different layout.

Perhaps the next time I read Daniel 9 in a year or so, I’ll have more to add.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981. He had a reassurance of salvation in 1984 and has actually been baptized twice–first in 1981 and then in 1990 for his reassurance of salvation. Whenever Satan tries to remind Richard of his past, Richard gladly likes to tell Satan, “Hey, Satan, don’t you have an eternity in the lake of fire to get ready for?”. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 8: A vision that troubles Daniel

March 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Things have been hectic lately, and I’m trying to develop better time management skills. I read this passage late last week. Forgive me for just now getting around to posting this.

We’re continuing on into the next phase of Daniel, where he sees visions of both the near future and not-so-near future. Forgive my redundancy, but it must’ve been terrifying seeing visions. Imagine seeing images based millennia into the future and seeing people, cities, styles, machines that make no sense because they’re too far technologically advanced.

This vision occurred in the third year of the reign of Belshazzar before the fifth chapter of this book. Daniel, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, chose to group his dealings as a government official in one part of the book and all the visions in the rest of the book.

In this vision, he saw a ram (the Media-Persia empire) and a goat (Greece). The goat, Greece, prevailed over the ram, telling Daniel that the MP empire that’ll soon overthrow Belshazzar will itself eventually collapse. The vision also foretold the death of the great Greek emperor Alexander and, eventually, Antiochus IV Epiphanes. The vision told Daniel that A-IV eventually would try to set up pagan worship in Israel and would try to exalt himself above God.

Verse 12 says he was successful awhile and then finally, as all men with overinflated egoes who exalt themselves above God, he was defeated and the Temple was rededicated. History tells us A-IV was defeated by an army led by Judas Maccabeus. Verse 25 says he was “broken without hand”, indicating that he was probably humiliated in his quest to become godlike.

The vision troubled Daniel, and at the end of this chapter he mentioned being ill several days and even taking a few days off from work. This is probably not unusual, even in the days before people filled themselves with caffeine, processed foods and other things not good for them. What Daniel saw, no doubt, made him sick to his stomach.

What made him ill? Maybe the sickness of seeing what would happen to this current kingdom, or the sickness of seeing what God’s people would endure a few hundred years into the future. It’s hard to tell for sure.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for 28 years and likes to write about the Bible. Post comments here or contact him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

My plans for Lent

February 17, 2010 Leave a comment

No, I’m not Catholic and I didn’t throw beads at topless women during Mardi Gras, but I look at Lent as a time of spiritual growth. So, for Lent, with the exception of a belated birthday dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant, I will be giving up second helpings. I may also blog about it so that readers can track my progress.

Yes, meanwhile I still will blog about Daniel and Acts as part of my Bible reading.

Daniel 7: the visions begin

February 15, 2010 Leave a comment

I read this passage of Scripture this afternoon after finishing work at the gas station and after going with my wife and two youngest sons to a park where the boys could sled down a hill (an activity I passed on this time). It was around 30 outside, but for some reason I felt very cold. Took a long, very hot shower when I got home and settled down to read the Word.

It’s been a long time–too long, in fact–since I last visited Daniel 7.

I must admit I struggled with this passage. Not that I disagreed with it (I didn’t), but because I’m not an eschatologist, some references will take some research to grasp.

We notice that this passage chronologically took place earlier than Daniel 6, when Babylonian second-in-command Belshazzar was terrified as he saw hands spelling out his doom on the wall. We presume that Daniel, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, felt it was best to keep the prophetic visions grouped together later in the book.

Daniel also apparently felt it was better to keep these visions to himself, writing them down for later generations to read. What he saw, no doubt, troubled him. I suspect he saw visions of events happening in the distant future, and he, like John would in Revelation, described the best he could things he had limited understanding of. Imagine William Shakespeare describing someone talking on a cell phone or updating their Twitter account.

In this vision, he (Daniel, not Bill Shakespeare) saw four beasts arising from the sea. They looked very creepy and surreal: a lion with birdlike wings that looked plucked, a bear with three ribs in its teeth, a leopard with four heads and wings like a bird, and a terrible-looking creature with iron teeth. Daniel also reported seeing a little horn that many believe is a reference to the antichrist. He also reported seeing the “Son of God”.

Reading the passage, I think it’s possible Daniel saw visions of the the antichrist’s rise to power, the Great Tribulation, the battle of Armageddon, Glorious Appearing and the Millennial Reign of Jesus. I could be wrong; further study, reading and maturing in the faith will tell for sure.

All I know for sure is that the dream troubled Daniel greatly. It makes you think: while Jesus will win at the end, the earth has yet to see what God is really like when He’s really angry.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and a blogger since 2007. He regrets not having discovered blogging sooner. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 6: Lions, dens and Daniel, oh my!

February 11, 2010 1 comment

Yes, I must admit, that’s probably the most cheesiest, recycled title imaginable, borrowed from Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. (A special “thank you” goes out to the late Judy Garland, also affectionately known as Liza Minnelli’s Mom).

I read this passage last night, right before I went to bed around 10 p.m. to get ready for my 4:45 a.m. wake up to go to work at the gas station. As I read, I noticed some new things. Reading from my Zondervan King James Study Bible, I consulted with some of the footnotes. I know some Christians detest Bibles with extensive footnotes, but it really helps in learning the background of the passage. Otherwise, you’re almost helpless to understand the historical and cultural backgrounds of the ancient Biblical cultures. What you read will either go straight over our head or will become misunderstood and misapplied.

At the beginning of Daniel 6, King Darius the Persian has set up his new kingdom. He has 120 princes and three presidents to whom the princes are all accountable. Who’s the head president?

Daniel.

So, after being given the consolation of third-highest ruler in Babylon shortly before Belshazzar’s death, Daniel actually receives a promotion. Good help is so hard to find, and I’m sure that Darius was very familiar with Daniel and his wisdom. Perhaps Belshazzar, when asked if he had any final words before being executed, said, “Daniel…is a smart…guy…should’ve…listened to him sooner…put…him…in charge…(gurgle! gasp!)”

While Daniel was the head president and accountable to Darius, the decision to promote Daniel was obviously a very sore one for the other presidents and many of the princes. “Why should this filthy foreigner–a JEW!–be put in charge of us?” They no doubt reasoned among themselves. “Didn’t Nebuchadnezzar unceremoniously wrench these slaves out of their homeland? And now one of them’s ruling over us again?”

So, they try to find dirt on Daniel. They called on all their spies, private investigators, everybody, to see what Daniel did that was embarrassing enough to be relieved of his position in the kingdom. Mind you, this had nothing to do with the good of the kingdom. It was about power.

What did these gentlemen find? Absolutely nothing. Daniel was squeaky clean. No crazy secret sex life, no love children, no strange habits, no embarrassing personal problems.

Not unless you count his praying towards Jerusalem thrice daily.

So, these men approach Darius with the usual apple-polishing “O king, live forever” rhetoric and trick him into signing a law stating for the next 30 days all petitions must be directed to the king: anyone who asks a petition of God or man shall be thrown into a lion’s den.

Everyone agrees this is a great idea, Your Majesty!, the men tell the king. This is an outright lie, of course: Daniel knew nothing about it and certainly would not have given it his support. In those days, lying to the king was pretty much grounds to have your head permanently separated from your body.

When the men then make accusations against Daniel’s violating this law, the king realizes he’s been had, but it’s too late. the laws of the Medes-Persians were ironclad and could not be revoked.

As Daniel is put into the lions’ den, Darius in verse 16 tells the sage prophet that perhaps God will save him from this injustice.

Nice kitties!

The whole night, Darius doesn’t sleep, eat or have any entertainment. He is worried, thinking that a wonderful man and a great advisor may die because of a stupid law that he no doubt signed after the princes and presidents tickled his ears and tricked him. Morning can’t come quickly enough.

And when it does, Darius rushes to the den and calls down to Daniel asking if his God was able to save him.

It must’ve been a gargantuan relief to Darius to hear Daniel answer back in verses 21-22:

“…O king, live for ever.

“My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.”

Furthermore, when Daniel came out of the den, the king saw he had no marks of physical activity of any kind. This reminds me of how Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were pulled from the fire a few chapters earlier and were found to have no burns or singes.

Darius, we read in verses 25-27, made a new law decreeing that Daniel’s God was to be revered and respected throughout the kingdom. His is a kingdom that is eternal with infinite power, and he delivered Daniel from the lions.

What about the men who tricked Darius into signing that bad law? Verse 24 tells us that they, their wives and children were thrown into the lions’ den. The lions were no doubt hungry and had a big breakfast.

This may seem like a bitter pill to swallow for modern readers: how could God let women and children be eaten by lions?

There are a few things to consider. First, a lot of distasteful activities occur in the Bible. This doesn’t mean that God condones it, it’s just reporting on things that happened in the ancient world. Their cultures, their perceptions on the world and their ideas of justice no doubt differ much from ours. I also understand that executing a man and his family was a Persian custom at the time, presumably to prevent the man’s wife or kids from plotting revenge down the road. This is right there with other gross practices, such as David collecting 200 foreskins of the Philistines (to prove to the circumcised King Saul that David [who was also circumcised] had killed 200 enemy soldiers).

Second, it’s entirely possible that these men’s wives and children were just as wicked and ungodly as they were. After all, they’d tried to murder an innocent man. Perhaps their wives and kids encouraged it. We don’t know for certain, except that Darius possibly wanted to give the others in his kingdom incentive to leave Daniel alone.

Richard Zowie is an active blogger. Post comments here or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 5: Belshazzar, the wall, handwriting

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

I actually read this passage of Scripture on Sunday, but Mondays tend to be hectic at work with little time to get other things done. Reading this chapter makes me think of how contradictory our culture has become. The Bible is often very taboo among many, but yet we often hear the phrase “handwriting on the wall.” Well, that phrase comes from the fifth chapter of Daniel.

Daniel 5 introduces us to Belshazzar (whose Babylonian name means “Bel, protect the king”) as the “son” of Nebuchadnezzar. Many skeptics, no doubt, will jump on this and say “Ah HA! I knew it! This is a contradiction! Belshazzar was actually the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar!”

That’s probably true about Bel being Nebie’s grandson, but we also notice how in the New Testament Jesus (and others) often referred to Himself as the “Son of David”. The term “son” in Biblical literature can also mean descendant. It would be like me saying I’m the “son” of Paul Zowie (my grandfather), the son of Sebastian Zahnweh (my great-grandfather and Paul’s father) or the “son” of George Goade (my maternal grandfather).

My understanding is that Belshazzar was actually a viceroy and was the actual son of Nabonius (who was the biological son of Nebuchadnezzar). But since King Nabonius was in Tema, Arabia, Belshazzar in his absence acted as king over Babylon.

And, yes, Belshazzar loved to party. His parties were no doubt debaucheries that would’ve made Caligula jealous. As I read the passage, I got this distinct impression that whereas Nebuchadnezzar was a man who tried to never let his guard down, Belshazzar seemed to love to party too much.

Belshazzar then ordered the golden vessels brought from God’s Temple in Israel to be used in a toast to various gods. As he drank, he saw large fingers writing a strange language on the wall. From his knees shaking together, we gather he was terrified.

“Yikes!” he probably said in Chaldean. “I must’ve really angered one of the gods!”

Some, no doubt, will dismiss this as a product of alcohol impairment, but the passage is clear that others saw it also, including servers who were most likely not inebriated.

As usual, none of the intellectuals could interpret it despite Bel’s offer of being the third in command of the kingdom.

Finally, the queen (whom I think was either Nebuchadnezzar’s wife, or daughter), then stepped forward and told Bel about the seasoned old prophet who could understand the ways of the “gods”. Nebuchadnezzar had been dead for 23 years, and it’s amazing of how soon people forgot about what had happened to him and how he acknowledged the true God during his trip to Humble Haven. Despite the reputation Daniel had, once again he’s not called upon until everyone else fails miserably.

Bel then promises Daniel that he’ll give him fancy clothes, fancy bling and the title of third highest ruler in the kingdom if he interprets the writing on the wall. Ever the modest one, Daniel tells the king to keep his gifts–presumably because Dan knows those honors and titles will soon be worthless. Daniel then reminds Bel of what Nebuchadnezzar had gone through and how soon Bel’d forgotten about that. Not only had he hardened his heart, he’d also desecrated the sacred drinking vessels.

With that: Daniel tells Bel the writing means “Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin”.

 

While the words were probably in Hebrew, some believe the top-to-bottom script is what confused Belshazzar’s “scholars”.

Mene refers to the Babylonian kingdom being numbered and finished; Tekel refers to Belshazzar having been weighed in the balances and having been found wanting; Peres (a different form of Upharsin) meaning that Bel’s kingdom would be divided amongst the Medes and Persians.

Daniel is bestowed with a scarlet robe, a gold chain around his neck and is made third ruler, and Belshazzar dies later that night when the invasion begins. Whether Belshazzar believed Daniel and repented or whether he chose to succomb to the inevitable is anyone’s guess.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and counts the handwriting on the wall as one Biblical even he would’ve loved to have witnessed firsthand. Post comments or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 4: Nebuchadnezzar humbly acknowledges God

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I read this passage of Scripture this morning and realized something new: much of this chapter was probably dictated by Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel. I always thought the final verses were, but also the opening verses were as well.

We can see very clear parallels between Daniel 4 and the Book of Jonah. In this chapter of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar endured the humiliation of humiliations by being driven out of his kingdom and living as an animal for seven years before being restored as king. He then humbled himself and acknowledged the Hebrew God as the true divinity. This happened because God wants all people to come to Him, not just select people and not just His chosen people. This is exactly what happened in Nineveh: God wanted Jonah to preach there. He disobeyed God before finally going back. Jonah became angry at God for Nineveh’s repentance, and God made it clear to The Grumpy Prophet that He cares for all people–not just the nice ones.

So, in Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar again dreamed a dream. This one he was able to remember. Old habits, though, die hard as he consulted his wise men, astrologers and soothsayers. We can also speculate that if Miss Cleo, Shirley MacLaine and Sylvia Browne were alive then, Nebie probably would’ve called on them also.

Once again, none of the learned scholars were able to interpret the king’s dream. Perhaps it was stubbornness on the king’s part, or perhaps he just didn’t quite grasp the true God yet.

Finally, he brought in Daniel and told him what he dreamed: There was a mighty tree that provided shelter and food. Then, someone tore it down and reduced it to a stump. Let him become as a beast and let “seven times” pass over him.

Daniel was then silent for an entire hour, according to verse 19, as he presumably worried how to tell the king of the somber interpretation. Some kings in those days reacted very unfavorably towards bad news. However, because of how much Nebuchadnezzar obviously cherished Daniel’s wisdom and intellectual abilities, I don’t think he had anything to worry about. After some encouragement from the king to tell the dream, Daniel spoke.

I like what he said in verse 19c: “My lord, the dream [be] to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.”

Then Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he, the king, was the tree and that by his arrogance and pride would be humbled and torn down and would spend seven years mentally incapacitated. But he added in verse 27 that Nebuchadnezzar could avoid this fate by humbling himself and showing mercy to the poor.

The king didn’t listen and exactly as what Daniel had predicted did happen. Nebuchadnezzar walked in his palace and marveled at his architecture and said aloud that this was the kingdom he built of his own power and for his own majesty.

 

Nebuchadnezzar’s Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

Immediately a voice came down from heaven and told Nebie that his kingdom was departed from him. He was then driven out of the palace and lived as a beast for seven years, ate grass like oxen, his hair and finger and toenails no doubt grew very long. I can’t even begin to imagine what went through his mind.

The look of shock on Nebuchadnezzar’s face says it all.

And at the end, when his sanity returned to him, Nebuchadnezzar had this to say in verses 34-37:

“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [is] from generation to generation:

“And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

“At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.

“Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”

With the possibly exception of identical twins, no two people are exactly alike, and we can conclude God uses many ways to try to draw people to Him. For many, it doesn’t work, For some, it does. God used His servants Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah and humility to reveal Himself to Nebuchadnezzar, and as we see, the king finally saw the light. I think there’s an excellent possibility that when I get to heaven someday, I’ll see Nebuchadnezzar there also.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and has been a professional writer since 2000. He runs three other blogs and also blogs about the Dallas Cowboys and Houston Astros. Post comments here or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 2:24-49; Daniel introduces Nebuchadnezzar to God, interprets dream

January 31, 2010 Leave a comment

About the reading: I read this passage of Scripture around 12:30 a.m. this morning. After reading it, I thought briefly about continuing reading a few more passages of Scripture but decided instead to get some sleep. In my experience, I don’t get much from the Bible when I’m reading it while nodding off. Doing this results in reading the same sentence over and over again without comprehension. It’s about as useful to me as trying to read 10 chapters in five minutes.At this stage, I’m reading the Bible in small sips in hopes of focusing on quality instead of quantity.

So, with the second part of Daniel 2, Daniel was quite relieved to know what King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed and how to interpret it. He went before Nebuchadnezzar and made it abundantly clear, in what we’ll see as Daniel’s trademark humility, that the interpretation of the dream came from God and not from Daniel; Daniel was merely the messenger.

Daniel then proceeded to tell the king that in his dream he  (the king, not Daniel) saw a huge image: gold head, silver chest and arms, brass stomach and thighs, iron legs and feet mixed with iron and clay. Nebuchadnezzar’s the gold head and would be followed by subsequent, weaker kingdoms. Much debate has arisen regarding which kingdoms these represent, but at the end Daniel made it clear: eventually God will establish a permanent, eternal kingdom that will rule over all and will dominate these.

Nebuchadnezzar has a dream…

For a man who was in a dangerous rage earlier in this chapter, the king was now a happy man. He fell to his feet and worshipped Daniel, which, for a modest man like Daniel, must’ve been extremely awkward. Um, Your Majesty, live forever. This really isn’t necessary. However, the king’s behavior was almost to be expected considering he was a polytheistic ruler. Be that as it may, verse 47 tells us: “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth [it is], that your God [is] a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”

The king then gave Daniel gifts and power and one of the highest rulers in the land, similar to what Joseph was in Egypt. Not too bad for a Hebrew kid.

Verse 49 tells us that Daniel requested that his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (we presume they’re referred to this now to avoid the confusion of jumping back and forth) to be in positions of leadership also. Interestingly enough, despite all that he attained, Daniel chose to sit in the gate of the king. Sounds pretty modest, doesn’t it? It is a lesson, though: being in a position of authority and power does not require an ego.

Richard Zowie blogs at several places, including three other WordPress blogs. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Daniel 2:1-23; Daniel works to cool Nebuchadnezzar’s very short temper

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

As I read this passage of Scripture this afternoon after finishing up Acts 2, I smiled and thought of memories. Years ago, I had a hard-cover Bible book that was almost like a comic book. It had the Old Testament stories, including Daniel. You should’ve seen the look on Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s face when he realized his wise men weren’t wise enough to tell him what he dreamed and successfully interpret it.

An artist’s conception of what Nebuchadnezzar looked like.

Very angry. As I studied his face, I thought for sure he’d either explode from spontaneous combustion or turn into the Incredible Hulk.

Nebuchadnezzar (“Nebie”, for short) had a decent-sized reign, and with that temper it amazes me he did: anger can make you do stupid things, and when you’re the king, there’s always a contingency of people who want your job sooner rather than later. Killing people needlessly is almost certain to create even more enemies.

Daniel 2 tells the story about now Nebie had a very disturbing dream, but one that he couldn’t remember. So, he summoned all the wise men in his kingdom to tell him what he dreamed and the interpretation.

You can tell immediately that the wise men were worried about the king’s irrational request to tell him what he dreamed. They began by using that ancient world apple-polishing phrase of “O King, live forever.” Nebie proceeded to tell them two things: If you tell me what I dreamed and interpret it, you’ll receive great honors and great riches. If you don’t, you’ll be killed and your homes will be torn down.

This did no good for the wise men as they, as gently as possible, trid to tell Nebie they needed to know what he dreamed so they could interpret it.

“Stop this! You’re stalling and wasting my time!,” he told them. “Tell me what I dreamed and what it means so I can get back to sleep! I have a big day tomorrow and I need to get some sleep!”

Then his wise men told him what he almost certainly didn’t want to hear: no king or ruler has ever requested such a thing, your majesty! Your request is unusual, and only the gods could know it. And since they’re not easily accessible, we can’t help you!

(If only the Babylonian gods had e-mail or cell phones).

This, of course, made Nebuchadnezzar extremely furious. One has to wonder if this was how angry he became when a messenger from Israel said, “Y-y-your majesty, I have b-b-bad news. King Zedekiah of Israel has rebelled and refuses to s-s-s-serve you anymore.” The king then decreed all wise men to be executed.

Word soon reached Daniel as the king’s captain of the guard, Arioch, explained it to him. Daniel answered Arioch with wisdom and asked for time to be able to seek in prayer the dream and its interpretation.

Nebuchadnezzar must’ve remembered Daniel from when he and his three friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah stood before him, because he apparently gave him and the others a stay of execution. Daniel and the three prayed, and as we finish the first half of the second chapter, we see that Daniel had the dream and its interpretation from God.

In giving thanks to God, Daniel reminds us that wisdom and power are God’s and that according to His choosing, He gives power to whomever He desires. God is also able to reveal the secret things of life.

Richard Zowie blogs at several sites, including three others on WordPress. Post comments below or e-mail richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Reading the first chapters of Daniel, Acts

January 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I spent about half an hour today actually reading three passages of scripture: the 19th chapter of II Chronicles along with the first chapters of Daniel and Acts. I’m using the King James Version Zondervan Study Bible. I also like to use the New Open Study Bible, King James Version, but my old one wore out. One of these days I’ll purchase a large print from Ebay or someplace. Story of my life, really: everytime I find a Bible or pen that I really like, the powers-that-be in their wisdom choose to discontinue it.

What a joy it was to return to reading Scripture. I know some may scoff at that children’s church song “Read your Bible, pray every day and you will grow; neglect your Bible, forget to pray and you will shrink”, but I’ll tell you from personal experience–it is absolutely true.

Daniel 1: This prophet, whose name in Hebrew means “God is (my) judge”, is the first of the Minor Prophets. I’ve always been intrigued by Daniel for a few reasons: there’s nothing negative about him recorded in the book (unlike Jonah, whom we’ll be talking about a month or so down the road), and he had practically no ego. When we as Christians look for a Biblical example to follow, Daniel comes to mind. We’ll later learn about how his enemies searched vigorously for dirt to use against him, and found absolutely nothing; Daniel was squeaky clean.

On his legal documents, I wonder if Daniel had to list himself as Daniel or as Beltashazzar

In the first chapter, we learn that God punished Judah and Israel by allowing the country to be ransacked with most of the people deported to Babylon. The smartest and most useful are for use by King Nebuchadnezzar.

In retrospect, as we read this account, God’s plans are very clear; however, with the current crisis going on in Haiti, it is very unwise to rubber stamp the earthquake and the endless tragedies as God’s judgment for sin since we don’t have the whole picture yet and may not have the whole picture until many years down the road. There are godly Christians serving in Haiti, and it is stereotypical to believe that all Haitians practice voodoo.

Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah were among those slated for special service. Their names were also changed. Daniel became Beltashazzar (which apparently meant “Bel, protect him”), Hananiah (“The Lord shows grace”) became Shadrach (apparently “Command of Aku”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) became Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”) and Azariah (“Lord help us”) became Abednego (“Servant of Nego”).

As I read, I thought to myself, most of us know that Daniel’s friends’ Babylonian names were, but how many know what their original Hebrew names were?

When I see Daniel, I see a tremendous leap of faith. He and his friends were to eat the king’s food and drink the king’s wine, but Daniel saw it as ceremonially unclean. The food and wine, ostensibly, had initially been offered to idols while some of it probably wasn’t kosher. Despite how delicious the food must’ve smelled, to consume such food and drink was forbidden by Mosaic Law. Refusing it, though, would create massive problems. Melzar, who was in charge of Daniel and his friends, explained to Daniel that if Daniel and his friends ate pulse (the Hebrew word זֵרְֽעֹן, zeroa, according to Strong’s Concordance, means “vegetables”) and water, they would look physically undernourished and Nebuchadnezzar would literally call for Melzar’s head.

So, Daniel compromised: give us pulse and water for 10 days, and if we look less healthy than the others, we’ll eat the king’s food. And indeed, after 10 days, Daniel and his friends looked even healthier. So, they continued eating the food acceptable to them.

Nebuchadnezzar then found that these Jewish kids were 10 times smarter and wiser than their counterparts. Being the “end justifies the means” pragmatist that he probably was at the time, he then promoted Daniel and his friends into higher positions. Looking at this, we can really see something that Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 50:20: What man intends for evil, God can use for harm. One has to think that with Jews in positions of authority, it would make it far less likely for these exiled Israelites to be exterminated.

Acts 1: This first chapter of Acts reminds me of that debate among Christians (primarily Baptists): did the Church begin in Luke 6, when Jesus gathered/assembled His disciples together, or did it begin in Acts 2, when Pentecost took place? One Baptist minister I remember said this: “I believe Pentecost was the birthday of the church, but I believe it was the third birthday.” On this issue, while I believe the church began in Luke 6, I would add that godly Christian men and women will study this issue and will differ.

Acts marks a transition for the early church as Jesus prepared to ascend up into heaven while assuring the disciples that the Holy Spirit would come. The disciples, like so many love to do now, asked if it was time for Jesus to set up His kingdom. They were told this: the time will come when it comes. Meanwhile, all of you are to go out and evangelize the world.

Including–GASP!–Samaria!

(We remember, of course, that the Jews didn’t care for the Samaritans and vice versa). I suppose this would be like telling a newly-minted Israeli Christian to share the Gospel with a pro-Ahmadinejad Iranian.

A vote is taken to replace Judas, and we find from this chapter that the details of Judas’ death were pretty gruesome. It is indeed a pity: Judas spent three years with Jesus and probably got to know Our Savior on an intimate level, but the Bible suggests very strongly that Judas never knew the Lord. It reminds me of a story a residence hall manager (one of my Facebook friends) told at Pensacola Christian College. He spoke of some students leaving PCC and how they told him flatly that they were not saved and didn’t want to be.

With Judas deceased, a vote was taken to replace him. It came down to Joseph Barsabas Justus and Matthias. Lots were cast, and Matthias was elected. I imagine the confusion since Matthew the disciple’s name meant “Gift of Jehovah” and Matthias’ name meant “Gift of God”. Perhaps if the other disciples referred to them as M1 and M2.

Since lots had to be cast to decide between Joseph and Matthias, I wonder if perhaps some disciples thought, “Oh no! Isn’t one Matt among us enough?!”

Interestingly enough, Acts 1 is the very last time in Scripture that two things are mentioned: Mary the mother of Jesus and the tradition of casting lots. It’s also the only time in Scripture (at least in the King James Version) that we see the term bishoprick.  This word, which comes from the Greek word ἐπισκοπή (episkopē), which probably means overseer or the office of a bishop. It has to do with allowing someone worthy to take over Judas’ position with the disciples.

Richard Zowie is an active blogger. Post comments below or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

How does God view what we'd call "time"?

I understand that time does not exist to God the way it does for us, the analogy given in the Bible of a thousand years being as a day to God and a day being a thousand years.

Still, while I’m eons from understanding God’s mind, I wonder how He sees the events that transpire on earth…

We look at a timeline of the past, present and future. Is it possible that God sees our world and, in his “timeline”, everything is happening at once?

Right now, I type at my computer in May 2009; perhaps as God sees me typing he’s also seeing Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, David fighting Goliath, Jeremiah begging King Zedekiah to heed common sense and obey King Nebuchadnezzar, Malachi penning the last of the Old Testament, Jesus being born, working miracles, crucified, risen, Paul writing the New Testament, Christians being eaten by lions, Martin Luther hammering his 95 Theses at Wittenberg, and so forth?

In God’s economy of “time”, is human history all happening at the same time?

Sometimes I picture God viewing a giant matrix of images with the very first one being the creation of the world and the very last one being Satan’s defeat at the end of the millennial reign.

I could be wrong, but it’s always a pleasure to take a break from life and use the mind God gave me to imagine.