Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Nebuchadnezzar Accepts God

Daniel 4:19-37

“Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. 

The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. 

Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.” (Daniel 4:19) 

When Nebuchadnezzar described his dream to Daniel, he just set there in shock for about an hour, worried about how to break the news to Nebuchadnezzar.  Nebuchadnezzar saw his distress and told him not to be worried because he wouldn’t blame him for it.  Daniel told him that the dream would be good news to Nebuchadnezzar’s enemies, and that they would be glad to learn it’s meaning.  

“The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.” (Daniel 4:20-22) 

The huge tree that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream was Nebuchadnezzar himself.  He was a king who was widely known as a good and tolerant ruler, and many other nations and ethnic groups had come to Babylon for protection and to conduct business, making him one of the most powerful kings on earth, known everywhere.

“And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:23-25)

Although he was such a great king, Nebuchadnezzar did not recognize God’s power and authority, worshipping other gods, and doing as he pleased.  God had decreed that he would be cut down, losing his prestige and power for seven years.  He would go insane and people drive him away in fear, forcing him to live like a wild animal until he recognized that God was the one who controlled his destiny and gave him his power.

“And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.  Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.” (Daniel 4:26-27) 

The one bright spot in the interpretation was that the stump was to be left in the ground stong like iron or brass.  When Nebuchadnezzar finally recognized Gods authority over his own life, he would be restored to power,  Daniel’s advice was that he put away his pride by focusing on doing what was right, and being considerate of the poor instead of just enforcing what he wanted.  Daniel could only hope doing so would delay the judgment, but he knew it would not prevent it.

“All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.  At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.  The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:28-30)

A year later, What he had dreamed about began.  Nebuchadnezzar was walking around the palace thinking about what all he had accomplished, taking the credit for those accomplishments.  He believed it was his own wisdom and power that had produced those things.

“While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.  And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:31-32)

While he was still talking about what he had accomplished, God spoke to him telling him theat the prophecy was being fulfilled and that he had lost the kingdom.  He would be driven out and unable to exercise that power until he learned that he was subject to God just like everyone else.

“The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.” (Daniel 4:33)

Within the hour, Nebuchadnezzar had lost his mind, and was driven out into the wilds where he lived like a wild animal, eating whatever he could find and exposed to the elements, with his hair long and straggly like an eagles feathers in a rainstorm, and his finger and toe nails as long as a bird’s talons.

“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 honored him that liveth forever, 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?” (Daniel 4:34-35)

After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar recovered his sanity, and recognized who God really is.  He realized that God has the final authority and that no mere person can prevent him from having his way,  He began to praise God for giving him back his sanity, acknowledging that he is the eternal God and creator, and that no one has the right to challenge his decisions.

“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.” (Daniel 4:36)

As soon as it was demonstrated that he was able to make intelligent decisions, his advisors and leaders restored him to leadership, gladly relinquishing they responsibility, and giving him even greater respect and prestige than before, because they understood what his job entailed.

“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.” (Daniel 4:37)

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego had influenced Nebuchadnezzar, but it wasn’t until God got a hold of him that he believed in God himself.   While we can influence people, only God can cause them to believe in him.  John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…”  Ephesians 2:8 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:”

Gedaliah’s murder and the Jew’s flight to Egypt appears to have occurred during the period of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, and in 568 BC, Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt to punish them.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Vision

Daniel 4:1-18

“Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.   I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.  How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:1-3) 

When Nebuchadnezzar became king he had rebuilt and improved the city of Babylon, building a bridge over the Euphrates river and building the hanging gardens for which the city was famous.  He also rebuilt the Ziggurat or stepped pyramid referred to as the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 as a temple for a god known as both “Bel” and “Marduk.”   They also worshipped various other gods and goddesses, including Ishtar, the mother goddess.  He was initially so involved in their religion he had named his son Awil-Marduk.

Daniel 2 describes how Nebuchadnezzar came to recognize God as being as great as any of the various Babylonian gods.  In Daniel 3, he recognized God as more powerful than any of the Babylonian gods and forbid the people to make light of him.  Daniel 4 is Nebuchadnezzar’s own story of how he personally came to believe in God.  The story appears to have taken place around 575 BC, about thirty years after he became king.
“I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.  Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. 

Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof. “ (Daniel 4:4-7)

Nebuchadnezzar was near the peak of his power when he had another dream that troubled him like the his dream in Daniel 2. Unlike that dream, he was able to remember this dream and called all the educated men and those who purported to have special powers to tell him what it meant.  They had no idea, and did not attempt to make something up, probably remembering his actions twenty years before.

“But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. “ (Daniel 4:8-9)

When the captives had been brought from Judah, all those whose names had referred to God were renamed with names focusing on the gods of the Babylonians, in an effort to make them forget God and fit more easily into the Babylonian culture.  Daniel’s Babylonian name was Belteshazzar, and related to the god “Bel.”  Because of his experience in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar knew Daniel had the spirit of God in him and would be able to find out what his vision meant.  He described his vision to Daniel.

“Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.  The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. 

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him. 

This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. 

This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.” (Daniel 4:10-18) 

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream had been of a huge tree that was noticed throughout the world.  Because it was a good tree and very strong, the birds and wild animals made it their home, depending on it for protection and food.

At the height of its glory, a holy one from heaven ordered that the tree be cut down and its leaves and fruit be scattered around, forcing the birds and animals to seek shelter elsewhere.  The stump was to be left behind protected as if by brass and iron, while the tree would be like the animals of the field, no longer living as a man but like some kind of animal for a seven periods of time.

It was made very clear that the command to destroy the tree was from the most high god and would certainly come to pass, to make it clear that that god was the one who had control of men’s lives.

Because he knew Daniel had power with God, and none of the other gods or educated men had been able to tell him what it meant, Nebuchadnezzar had called on Daniel.  He was counting on God to make Daniel able to interpret it.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Nebuchadnezzar Recognizes God’s Power

Daniel 3:1-30

“Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:1) 

Throughout history people have built monuments to call attention to themselves.  These monuments tend to be scaled according to one’s financial resources, and have ranged from the tower of Babel and the pyramids to religious statues and tiny shrines and pictures.   He had it overlaid with gold to make it really spectacular.  After all, Daniel’s dream had shown him and the Babylonian kingdom as gold, and his dream may have been his inspiration.

Nebuchadnezzar built a statue that was about ninety feet tall and nine or ten feet wide, probably somewhat like some of the gigantic statues representing Christ found in many major cities.  Tradition holds that the statue was to represent Nebuchadnezzar himself.

"Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. 

Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.” (Daniel 3:2-3) 

A monument doesn’t accomplish much if no one knows who built it or why.  Nebuchadnezzar called all his leaders from all over the empire together to dedicate it.   The bigger and more impressive the ceremony, the more people are likely to be impressed, and no political leader can afford to miss an opportunity to impress people.

“Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 

Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.” (Daniel 3:4-7) 

Fire is one of  the most important tools man has, preventing freezing, providing light, cooking food, enabling him to use metals and produce other forms of power. Unfortunately, it is also extremely dangerous if not handled carefully,  Even a small spark can burn an entire home or forest.  One of the ways of controlling a fire is by controlling the amount of fuel available to it because the fire will always burn all the fuel available and try to find more.  Even in a furnace or stove designed to safely use fire, too much fuel makes the fire dangerous, overheating and damaging the fire box and venting system.

Without a certain amount of encouragement from others, a person will be reluctant to try things.  Like the fire seeking all the fuel it can get, people tend to seek all the encouragement and approval they can get, and like the fire, if it receives too much encouragement and prestige, the ego grows and exceeds safe limits.  It is why rulers and celebrities become obsessed with their own importance.  Constitutions and legal systems are intended to provide a mechanism for regulating the amount of power and prestige a person gets to safe limits.

As the ruler of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar‘s success in conquering other countries and the people‘s adulation had built his ego to a dangerous point.  Instead of recognizing his limitations, he decided to act as a god to the people, making them do what he wanted.

They were all to bow down before statue and worship it on his command.  Failure to do so would result in ones being executed by being burned to death.  The people were afraid to resist the royal command, including most of the Jews who had been brought from Judah, even though they knew they were violating God’s command.      

“Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.  They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.  Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 

There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:8-12) 

Out of all the thousands present, just three men dared oppose the king’s order.  These were the three young men who had decided to follow Daniel’s example and obey God, even though it meant almost certain death.  Their opposition would be viewed as an act of treason or terrorism,  Sure enough some who were looking to curry favor with the king were quick to capitalize on the opportunity they refusal offered.  They went straight to the king to report the three for their failure to bow.

“Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?  Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3;14-15)

Like any out of control ego, Nebuchadnezzar never questioned his right to make such demands, or even to ask why they didn’t comply.  He considered himself as quite magnanimous in giving them a second chance and warning that not even God could protect them if they disobeyed.

“Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn’t hesitate to make one of the greatest statements of faith found in the entire Bible.  They told Nebuchadnezzar they believed God was able and would save them if he chose to.  However, they were going to commit themselves to God, and obey him whether he chose to save them or not.  They trusted God to do what was best, even if it wasn’t what they hoped for.  Far too often people act in an attempt to make God do what they want.

“Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.  And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 

Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.  Therefore because the king's commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.   And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” (Daniel 3:19-23) 

Angered at their rejection of his offer of a second chance, Nebuchadnezzar decided to show them he wasn’t kidding.  He ordered that the fire in the furnace be increased to seven times it’s usual size and the three to be thrown in alive.  They were tied up and thrown in fully clothed, and the fire was so hot it killed the men who threw them in.  Unable to save themselves, they fell in the furnace like a sack of garbage.  Nebuchadnezzar stayed to make sure they died.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? 

They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 

He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” ( 3:24-25)

While the soldiers had died from just getting close to the fire, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were up walking around in the fire with the ropes burned off.  Even more troubling, there was a fourth man in the fire with them, and he reminded Nebuchadnezzar of God.  Obviously, the fire wasn’t worrying them.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.

Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.  And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king's counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.” (Daniel 3:26-27)

Convinced God wouldn’t allow the fire to hurt them, Nebuchadnezzar got as close to the fire as he dared and called the three out.   While the fire had gotten close enough to burn off their ropes, there were no scorch marks on their clothes, their hair was not singed, and there wasn’t even a smell of smoke on them.  Clearly, God was more powerful than Nebuchadnezzar.

“Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. 

Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.” (Daniel 3:28-29) 

In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar had recognized God as a God of gods.  Now he recognizes him as far more powerful than himself, and a God who cares for his people.  He then decreed that no one was to speak disparagingly of God, because he was more powerful than any so called god.

Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:30)

That Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego would hold so staunchly to their moral standard impressed Nebuchadnezzar, because everyone else caved.  He promoted them as men who could be trusted even when everything was against them.  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prophecy Of World History, Part 2

Daniel 2:44-49

Daniel described the final part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2:34-35.  “Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.  Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”

As the first part of the prophecy explains, Each of the various materials comprising the statue in the dream represent different world empires, presenting a brief picture of the path world history would take.  The feet of chunks of iron held together with clay portrays the Holy Roman Empire, with the toes representing it separating into several countries that retain much of the characteristics of the old empire.

Over fifty years after that first prophecy in Daniel 2, and shortly before the Babylonians were conquered by Daniel made his prophecy of Daniel 7.  With the Babylonian Empire ending, the prophecy starts with the Persian empire, and ignores the Holy Roman empire as not one of the really great empires.  The fourth kingdom described in that prophecy is a joint effort of ten kings, seemingly the ten toes from Nebuchadnezzar’s vision, uniting to form a world government or empire.

“Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.  And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.  And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.  But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end.” (Daniel 7:23-26)

As Daniel points out, that kingdom will be different than ay previous empire, and will be antagonistic to God.  It is during these kings reign that God will establish his kingdom on earth.  As Daniel 2:37 points out, His kingdom will be set up by God’s power, not by man’s efforts.

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” (Daniel 2:44)

From Ezekiel 37, we learn that the kingdom is to be a re-established Israel.  Unfortunately the Jews would interpret it to refer to Israel reclaiming their land under Ezra and Nehemiah, as so often happens, ignoring the details of Daniel’s prophecy about the kingdom not being re-established until after that fourth kingdom was broken up.

Judah continued to exist as a group under the Babylonians and were given permission to return During Cyrus the Great’s reign.  In 60 AD, Jerusalem was destroyed and the jews dispersed.  They never got together as a single group again until the modern nation of Israel was established in 1948 AD, and they still have not fulfilled much of that prophecy.

Revelation 12 and 13 describe a Satanically inspired beast that attempts to destroy God’s people during the last days.  Revelation 17:10-12 describes this beast and kingdom.  “And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.  And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.  And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.”

Revelation starts with the Assyrian Empire which had already been destroyed when Daniel made his prophecy.  The eighth kingdom is the final one referred to in Daniel 7:23-26.  When Revelation was written, the Holy Roman Empire, the seventh Empire had not yet come into existence.  Each of these Empires was built on the previous ones, and that final empire is to be a continuation of that pattern.  Other empires have arisen and fallen over the years, but are not directly involved in these prophecies.

Revelation 19:19-21 describes the final destruction of that final rebellion against God, after an initial defeat in Revelation 16.  “And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army.  And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.  And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh.”  

That evil kingdom will be utterly destroyed, as well as all vestiges of the various empires upon which it will be founded.  Not only the remnants of the Holy Roman empire, but that of the Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires as well will be ground to powder and blown away.

“Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. “ (Daniel 2:45)

Six hundred years before Christ, God gave a general outline of future history, which we are still seeing come to pass.  The prophecies of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, coupled with the study of history provide valuable insights into the meaning of the the prophecies in the New Testament, and especially of Revelation.  Unfortunately many have not spent the time to adequately compare these prophecies, which has led to incorrect and sometimes dangerous misinterpretation, particularly of Revelations.

“Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 

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.  Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:46-48) 

Because Daniel had been able to tell Nebuchadnezzar the dream and its interpretation when none of the “experts” had been able to, He was promoted to one of the highest positions of authority, even though he had not yet finished his education.  Nebuchadnezzar here recognizes that God is the greatest of gods as a result of Daniel’s testimony.  Daniel will have a major influence on The Babylonian and Persian empires for seventy years.

“Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” (Daniel 2:49)

Daniel did not forget those who had helped and encouraged him is staying true to God.  His friends were promoted as well,  with Daniel being a member of the king’s cabinet of advisors.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Prophecy of World History, Part 1

Daniel 2:24-43

“Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation. 

Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.” (Daniel 2:24-25) 

Having sought and been granted time to pray for information about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel had prayed and his request granted.  After thanking God, Daniel confidently went to the man in charge of executing the educated people of Babylon, and told him not to proceed with the execution because he knew the meaning of the dream.  Arioch promptly reported Daniel’s statement to the king, stressing that he was one of the Jewish captives.

“The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? 

Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. 

Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. 

But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.” (Daniel 2:26-30) 

When Nebuchadnezzar queried him, Daniel was careful to explain that it was not possible for any man to know whether using ordinary human knowledge or some supposedly supernatural knowledge such as  astrology, palm reading, consulting with the dead through a medium, or any other such secret art.

On the other hand, there is a God who does know the future, and sometimes reveals things to people.  Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was in fact such an event.  That Daniel would be able to interpret the dream had nothing to do with Daniel’s ability, because he had no more special information  than anyone else.   Dreams are usually the result of our subconscious mind struggling with the things we have dealt with during the day.  God was revealing some things about the future to Nebuchadnezzar in his dreams to help him clarify his own thoughts, and would use Daniel to interpret them for his sake and that of the others who had been involved in obtaining the interpretation.

“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.  This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 

Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.  Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.  This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.” (Daniel 2:31-36) 

The scientists, historians, and Shamans had been sure that if they knew the dream, they could provide a plausible explanation that would satisfy Nebuchadnezzar.  The problem was that he couldn’t remember the dream and they were afraid he would remember enough to know they were lying if they started making things up.

God had revealed the entire dream to Daniel.  Undoubtedly, as Daniel described various details, Nebuchadnezzar remembered them vividly.  That Daniel could know those details clearly implied he had inside information and was not just making up a plausible explanation.

“Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.  And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.” (Daniel 2:37-38)

In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar had seen a great statue made of various materials.  The Head was made of gold and represented Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire.   Because they gave their people a great deal of freedom , even allowing the various provinces to keep their individual customs and governments, other peoples sought to become part of the empire and enjoy the benefits it provided, as demonstrated by the birds and animals coming to him.

“And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.  And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.” (Daniel 2:39-40)

The chest and arms of the statue were of silver and represented another empire that would be similar to the Babylonian Empire but less focused on the good of the people and more on the empire itself.  Babylon would be conquered and replaced by the Persian Empire, under Cyrus the Great, about 539 BC.  They were less considerate of other group’s customs, but still fairly forgiving.

About 359 BC, Philip of Macedon organized the Greek city states into an empire and by 331 BC, his son Alexander the Great had conquered all of the Persian Empire From Egypt to Babylon.  He had invaded India and Central Asia, making Babylon his capital, when he died of a fever in 323 BC.  After his death, the empire would be divided between Alexander’s generals.  The Greek empire was represented by the brass belly and thighs of the statue.  Under the Greek empire, groups of Greeks were relocated into each conquered area to promulgate Greek language and customs.

Rome had been founded in 753 BC, and the Roman Republic in 509 BC, about fifteen years after Cyrus the great took over the Persian Empire.  Fighting between Alexander’s successors and the decline of the Greek Empire led to the Punic wars and finally to Rome defeating Hannibal at Carthage in 202 BC.  This led to Rome establishing an Empire that included all of the old Persian and Greek Empire, the rest of northern Africa and most of Europe.

The Roman Empire had a strong Government that forcibly imposed Roman laws and customs on all their subjects.  It was strong enough it continued in power until 475 AD.  It was represented by the iron legs of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

“And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.  And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 

And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” (Daniel 2:41-43) 

By 330 AD, Constantine had take control of most of the churches, forming the Catholic church and making Catholicism the official state religion, In 476 AD the Goths deposed the last Roman emperor, leading to a period of unrest, and about 800 AD, Charlemagne became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, an empire built on some of the old practices of the Roman empire but with serious divisions  among them.  About 1254 AD, it’s power would be largely lost, although the title of Emperor would continue to be used until 1806 AD by some of the Hapsburgs.

After the breakup of the Holy Roman Empire, nationalism resulted in the separation of the countries in separate entities, the toes, all of which retained the characteristics of the Holy Roman Empire.

This prophecy was given about 603 or 604 BC, and had been translated into Greek before the time of Christ.  None of these things had happened when the prophecy was given.  That it was so accurate in those past events implies that we should believe the part which has not yet happened.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nebuchadnezzar Had A Dream

Daniel 2:1-23

“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.  Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. 

So they came and stood before the king.  And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.” (Daniel 2:1-3)

About a year and a half after Daniel had been taken captive, and even before he had completed his college course, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams that woke him up.  They left him upset and unable to get back to sleep.   Since he didn’t like missing his sleep, he called for everyone who seemed to have any kind of knowledge beyond what everybody knew to tell him why he was having the dreams.

Magicians are people who know how to do things that seem impossible, usually through some kind of deception, but it appears real.  Their efforts to understand and apply mechanical and chemical properties laid a foundation for modern day science.

Astrologers are people who believe the stars control what happens on earth, and attempt to explain them by observing the stars.  The present day sciences of Astronomy and navigation are products of their observations.

Sorcerers claim to have access to supernatural knowledge from spirit beings, often using drugs or trances to access the information.  Frequently they have books of information other sorcerers have supposedly learned.  Much of modern day medicine is an outgrowth of their efforts to learn the effects of different plants and concoctions on the human body.

The Chaldeans were culture that had developed shortly after the flood and were one of the first groups to develop a system of writing.  They had historical records dating back to the flood.  They could compare the current events to what had happened in the past to get a feel for what was happening and would happen at the present time.  In essence they were the earliest historians and philosophers.

In calling for these four groups, Nebuchadnezzar was seeking the advice of the best  scientific, historical and medical advice available for an explanation as to why he was having the dreams.  Unfortunately, because they wanted to profit from their knowledge, most of them tried to conceal the source of their information by claiming they had received it through some supernatural process.

“Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation. 

The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.  But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.” (Daniel 2:4-6) 

Before they could compare it to other historical events to make a prediction, the Chaldeans needed to know what the dream consisted of.  They asked in the ancient Syriack language to make the question seem more impressive.

Part of what made it so troubling was that Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t remember the dream, but he wasn’t stupid.  If their knowledge really came through supernatural knowledge, surely one of them would know what the dream was without his having to tell them.   When they described it, he was sure he would remember enough to know if they were telling the truth, and the fact they were right would indicate they probably were giving a valid translation.  The inability to tell the dream would indicate their supernatural powers were fraudulent.  While he was willing to pay for valid information, Nebuchadnezzar would not stand for being lied to.  It is too bad more leaders don't insist on verifying their advisors qualifications before taking their advice.

“They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. 

The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.  But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof.” (Daniel 2:7-9)

Like Nebuchadnezzar, the wise men were sure he would remember the dream and know if they were making it up, so they insisted he had to tell them.  This convinced Nebuchadnezzar they didn’t really have supernatural powers and were just looking for time to make up a good enough story to fool him.  He would execute them if they couldn’t tell him the dream.

“The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.  And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (Daniel 2:10-11)

The Chaldeans rarely claimed supernatural powers, although they were held to be smarter than most people because of their knowledge of history.  They insisted that it was unfair to ask anyone, even those who claimed supernatural powers to tell what one had dreamed.  Even lesser spirits than a god would be unable to answer such a question.

“For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.  And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.” (Daniel 2:12-13)

Concluding they were all a bunch of frauds, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that every educated person be executed, including the students.  As students, Daniel and the other captives were to slain also.

“Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? 

Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 

Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation.” (Daniel 2:14-16)

When they came to execute him, Daniel did not accuse them of being unfair or threaten them.  Instead he asked why there was such a r ush to kill them when he wasn‘t even aware of a problem.  Upon learning the reason, Daniel asked to speak to the king.  He then asked Nebuchadnezzar for time to pray and see what God would say.  Recognizing it was a reasonable request, Nebuchadnezzar gave him permission.

“Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” (Daniel 2:17-18) 

Daniel enlisted his friends in praying that God would give the answer so they didn’t have to be killed even if all the others were.

“Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.  Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.  Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 

I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.” (Daniel 2:19-23)

When God answered their prayers, Daniel took time to thank God for his answer, acknowledging his power to establish or destroy kings and his great knowledge and wisdom, and that hw allows man to know some of what he knows. .

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Daniel Commits To Serve God

Daniel 1:1-21

“ In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.  And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.” (Daniel 1:1-2) 

Nebuchadnezzar first besieged and captured Jerusalem about 605 BC, as a result of their refusal to obey God. Jehoiakim was initially crried into Babylon, but later returned to reign in Jerusalem.  Three years later he rebelled and the Babylonians again invaded.  At that time Nebuchadnezzar carried of many of the gold vessels from the temple, as well as a large number of the more educated leaders in Judah.

“And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king's seed, and of the princes; Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans.  And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.” (Daniel 1:3-5)

Where the Assyrians had tried to disperse conquered peoples and thus prevent any possibility of rebellion by destroying their culture, Nebuchadnezzar tried to assimilate them into the nation while still retaining their culture.  It was only after repeated rebellion by the Jews that he destroyed Jerusalem and carried the main group away captive.

In his effort to assimilate the Jews, Nebuchadnezzar had the brightest and most promising brought to Babylon where they were given the best education Babylon had to offer, at the best universities in the world.   They were provided a three year scholarship, including room and board, at the kings expense.

“Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” (Daniel 1:6-7)

Daniel, and his three friends were among this first group of captives and were enrolled in the program.  All of their names were Jewish and related to the worship of God.  To prevent discrimination because of their names, they were renamed with Babylonian names.  While it was probably unintentional on Nebuchadnezzar’s part, this also took away the reminders of God that their Jewish names would evoke,thus weakening their traditions..

“But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.” (Daniel 1:8)

The Levitical law specified certain dietary requirements the Jews were to fulfill.  The Jews were already in trouble because they had not met God’s requirements.  There was no way to be sure the food the king would provide would meet those requirements and Daniel did not want to further antagonize God by disobeying his dietary laws.

Daniel did not make an issue of his decision, simply asking permission to follow whatr he believed was right.  While he believed God wanted him to follow the law, he was not going to try to force the Babylonians to give what he wanted.  

“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.  And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.” (Daniel 1:9-10) 

Daniel’s cooperative spirit had earned him the respect and trust of the administrator of the program.  As a result, his request was considered, but as the administrator told him, it was initially turned down because of fear of the consequences if the results were not satisfactory.  Melzar’s concerns were legitimate.

“Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.  Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king's meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.” (Daniel 1:11-13)

Rather than getting angry and causing trouble or threatening a lawsuit over the refusal, Daniel made a reasonable request to make a short test of his proposal.  In just ten days, things could not go so far as to be irreversible, yet it would demonstrate whether the idea had merit or not.  Daniel would abide by the decision that resulted.

“So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.  And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.  Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.” (Daniel 1:14-16)

Because Daniel’s request was so reasonable, and he had earned Melzar’s respect and trust, he was allowed to conduct the experiment.  Ten days later it was apparent that the more basic diet was in fact healthier than what the government had specified.  Melzar agreed to allow them to choose what they wanted, and not insist they ate the same as the others.  Had Daniel demanded his way human nature would have caused Melzar ro refuse and Daniel would never have been allowed to do what he believed God wanted.  Our approach naturally makes a great deal of difference in our results.

“As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” (Daniel 1:17) 

Because they obeyed God, Daniel, and the three friends who went along with him were given special intellectual abilities, and Daniel most of all because of his commitment to God.

“Now at the end of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar.  And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king.  And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” (Daniel 1:18-20)

As a result of God’s blessing, all four of the young men scored higher on their finals than any of their classmates.  In practical applications, they scored ten times better than their professors and the kings advisors.

“And Daniel continued even unto the first year of king Cyrus.” (Daniel 1:21)

Though he was a captive, Daniel would remain in positions of influence for almost seventy years, from about 605 BC until 539 BC, when Cyrus the Great, of Persia conquered Babylon.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Prophecy Of The Decline Of Egypt

Ezekiel 29:2-20

After his first invasion of Judah during Jehoiakim’s  reign, in about 602 BC. Nebuchadnezzar had established a large colony of Jewish trades people at Telabib, located on the Khabar(Chebar) river, a tributary of the Euphrates in present day Syria.  The Jews blended in well with their Chaldean neighbors and the city became quite prosperous.

God placed Ezekiel in the colony as a prophet.  Because the colony accepted where
God had placed them and worked with their captors, Ezekiel was not often called on to warn them against their own actions, and most of his prophecies relate to the groups around them rather than to the people of the colony.

Besides backing up Jeremiah’s prophecy warning Jerusalem to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, Ezekiel warned those who were left in Jerusalem not to go to Egypt.  About the time they decided to go, twenty seven years after Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem, he gave the prophecy in Ezekiel 29.

“Son of man, set thy face against Pharaoh king of Egypt, and prophesy against him, and against all Egypt: Eze 29:3 Speak, and say, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. 

But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales.  And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven. 

And all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD, because they have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel.  When they took hold of thee by thy hand, thou didst break, and rend all their shoulder: and when they leaned upon thee, thou brakest, and madest all their loins to be at a stand. 

Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will bring a sword upon thee, and cut off man and beast out of thee.  And the land of Egypt shall be desolate and waste; and they shall know that I am the LORD: because he hath said, The river is mine, and I have made it.  Behold, therefore I am against thee, and against thy rivers, and I will make the land of Egypt utterly waste and desolate, from the tower of Syene even unto the border of Ethiopia. 

No foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, neither shall it be inhabited forty years.  And I will make the land of Egypt desolate in the midst of the countries that are desolate, and her cities among the cities that are laid waste shall be desolate forty years: and I will scatter the Egyptians among the nations, and will disperse them through the countries.” (Ezekiel 29:2-12)

The Early dynastic period of Egypt started about 2925 BC., about three or four hundred years after the flood.  They started building dams and irrigation systems, developing a civilization that had lasted for two thousand three hundred years with only three significant disruptions.  They were pretty proud of their accomplishments, taking credit for their wise planning to make the kingdom last so long compared to those around them.

Because of their pride God would destroy their civilization and drive the people out, using the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar to do so.  The land would lie desolate for forty years.  Ezekiel’s prophecy was specifically to Egypt.  Like the Assyrians in Nineveh when Jonah prophesied, the Egyptians listened to the Prophecy.

In Jeremiah 44:30 God said, “Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.” 

Had Zedekiah yielded to the Babylonians, Jeremiah had told them that God promised that the Babylonians would allow them to remain in the land and prosper.  Zedekiah refused and Jerusalem was razed.  In 568 BC, when Nebuchadnezzar invaded Egypt, they yielded and worked with him.  As a result the people were never driven out and Egypt continued under their own rulers, and cooperating with Babylon as the forces of the Medo-Persian Emprie began to grow.

“Yet thus saith the Lord GOD; At the end of forty years will I gather the Egyptians from the people whither they were scattered: And I will bring again the captivity of Egypt, and will cause them to return into the land of Pathros, into the land of their habitation; and they shall be there a base kingdom. 

It shall be the basest of the kingdoms; neither shall it exalt itself any more above the nations: for I will diminish them, that they shall no more rule over the nations.  And it shall be no more the confidence of the house of Israel, which bringeth their iniquity to remembrance, when they shall look after them: but they shall know that I am the Lord GOD.” (Ezekiel 29:13-16)

Because the Egyptians did not rebel against God in refusing to let the Babylonians take over, God was merciful and they were allowed to continue as a separate country.  Nevertheless, about forty years later, as described in the prophecy, Egypt was invaded by the Persian Empire, falling to them in 525 BC.  Egypt would never again have the prominence she had enjoyed up until that time.  They would be conquered by and ruled by various empires including the Greek, Roman, Seleucid, Ottoman, French, British and German empires.

The date of Ezekiel’s prophecy can be fairly established from Ezekiel 29:17-20.  “And it came to pass in the seven and twentieth year, in the first month, in the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it: Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army.  I have given him the land of Egypt for his labour wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord GOD.”

The rest of Ezekiel’s prophecy against Egypt, and her various allies, such as Ethiopia and Libya, all came to pass when Persia conquered Egypt, as described in Ezekiel 30.  That God allowed part of the prophecy to be unfulfilled only demonstrates the mercy of God.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Deliberate Disobedience

Jeremiah 42:19-43:13

“The LORD hath said concerning you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day.  For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.  And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.   Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn.” (Jeremiah 42:19-21)

Both God and Jeremiah knew that the people had no intention of obeying his command and that they were only pretending to care what God wanted.  They had refused to listen to every prophecy Jeremiah had made, but like every other time, the prophecies would be fulfilled.

“And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words, Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.” (Jeremiah 43:1-3)

When Jeremiah continued to resist the leader’s plans they accused him of being a traitor again, much like the attitude we saw when the Tea party opposed lifting the debt limit.  By vilifying him they could distract the people from considering the validity of his message.

“So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to dwell in the land of Judah.  But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; Even men, and women, and children, and the king's daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah.  So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.” (Jeremiah 43:4-7)

Even Jeremiah and the people who had come back to Judah because Nebuchadnezzar had made Gedaliah governor were forced to go to Egypt by their leaders.  They settled in Tahpenes, Noph, and Pathos.

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Jer 43:9 Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brickkiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.  And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword. 

And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace.  He shall break also the images of Bethshemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” (Jeremiah 43:8-13)

Even in Tahpenes, Jeremiah continued to warn them that they were wrong in going to Egypt, hoping they would repent and turn to God and reminding them of their past history.  Many of the people had become involved in worshiping the Egyptian gods, offering incense and sacrifices.

“Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?  They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.  And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.  

For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.” (Jeremiah 44:9-14)

“Behold, I will watch over them for evil, and not for good: and all the men of Judah that are in the land of Egypt shall be consumed by the sword and by the famine, until there be an end of them.  Yet a small number that escape the sword shall return out of the land of Egypt into the land of Judah, and all the remnant of Judah, that are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall know whose words shall stand, mine, or theirs. 

And this shall be a sign unto you, saith the LORD, that I will punish you in this place, that ye may know that my words shall surely stand against you for evil: Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give Pharaohhophra king of Egypt into the hand of his enemies, and into the hand of them that seek his life; as I gave Zedekiah king of Judah into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, his enemy, and that sought his life.” (Jeremiah 44:27-30) 

The prophecy was fulfilled when Nebuchadnezzar sent his forces to punish them, invading Egypt in 568 BC., about thirty years after the fall of Jerusalem.  While Egypt was never fully subjected as a province of the Babylonian Empire, it’s power and reputation were severely damaged by the invasion, with large groups of the population fleeing to Libya or Ethiopia.

In fleeing to Egypt, the Jews were disobeying God’s command in Deuteronomy 17:16b, when Moses reminded them, “…the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.”   The only survivors of this move to Egypt were those who had opposed the move and escaped as soon as the leaders got them settled and stopped guarding them..

God’s anger at their disobedience is not hard to understand when we consider how angry people became over Congress, who are supposed to work for the people ramming through Obamacare despite the people’s opposition.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Forbidden To Go To Egypt

II Kings 25:26, Jeremiah 42:1-43:18

“Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us unto the LORD thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:) That the LORD thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.” (Jeremiah 42:1-3)

Fearing Babylonian retribution for the murder of the governor and Chaldean official, the Jews who had been left in Jerusalem had assembled in Chimham, planning  to flee to Egypt for safety.  Like most people, they had not consulted God before deciding what they were going to do, but having made the decision, they wanted God’s approval on it.  It was very similar to what congress so often does, deciding to pass a bill before finding out what the people want.  Having already decided, they asked Jeremiah to find out what God wanted.  

“Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you. 

Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.  Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.” (Jeremiah 43:4-6)

Jeremiah agreed to tell them exactly what God said and keep nothing back and the people promised they would do whatever God wanted, even if it was not what they had planned, so every would be happy and God would bless.

“And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.  Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you. 

Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.  And I will show mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land. “ (Jeremiah 42:7-12)

Ten days later, God answered the question.  Several years ago, a book titled The Tyranny Of The Urgent was written.  It’s thesis was that the things that are presented as most urgent are rarely of real importance.  The sense of urgency is and attempt to stampede us into action without considering what matters.  There used to be as saying to effect that decisions made in a hurry would be repented of at leisure. Frequently God doesn’t respond as quickly as we hope in an effort to get us to stop and think about what matters.

God’s response was that they should stay in Jerusalem and trust God to take care of them.  If they would, Nebuchadnezzar would accept their explanation, only punishing those who had been guilty of the murders, and God would show his mercy.  They would actually prosper under the Babylonian rule, growing and recovering their strength.

“But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, Saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them.

For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more." (Jeremiah 43:13-18)

If, instead of trusting God and staying in Jerusalem as he told them, they continued with their plans to go to Egypt, believing they would escape fighting or starvation, God said the very army they were afraid of would come and destroy them in Egypt.

It was just like what God had promised for their refusal to go into the land of Canaan in Numbers 14:26-35.  “And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,  How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.

 Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me, Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun. 

But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness.  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness.  After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach of promise. 

I the LORD have said, I will surely do it unto all this evil congregation, that are gathered together against me: in this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.”

Unfortunately, they listened to Jeremiah about like they listened to Moses.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Gedaliah Murdered

II Kings 25:25, Jeremiah 40:13-41:18

“Moreover Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were in the fields, came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, And said unto him, Dost thou certainly know that Baalis the king of the Ammonites hath sent Ishmael the son of Nethaniah to slay thee? But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam believed them not.” (Jeremiah 40:13-!$)

The people who had been hiding out among the other countries knew the attitudes of the neighboring rulers.  They tried to warn Gedaliah that some of the people who were coming asking to dwell among the Jews had been recruited as agents by their enemies.  They knew that Ishmael had made some kind of an agreement with the Ammonite king.  Gedaliah did not believe a Jew would ever betray other Jews and ignored the warning refusing to even follow up on the warning.

“Then Johanan the son of Kareah spake to Gedaliah in Mizpah secretly, saying, Let me go, I pray thee, and I will slay Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and no man shall know it: wherefore should he slay thee, that all the Jews which are gathered unto thee should be scattered, and the remnant in Judah perish? 

But Gedaliah the son of Ahikam said unto Johanan the son of Kareah, Thou shalt not do this thing: for thou speakest falsely of Ishmael.” (Jeremiah 40:15-16)

Executing opponents had been common under the last few Jewish kings and was generally accepted as normal.  Johanan offered to kill Ishmael in order to ensure that the suspected plot could not be carried out.  He would do it secretly so that Gedaliah would mot be suspected.  Once again we are reminded how far they had departed from God’s standard, that they would be willing to execute a man solely on suspicion, without even a hearing.

An honorable man himself, Gedaliah found it hard to believe others could not be trusted and accused Johanan of making up stories about Ishmael.  It is normal to ascribe the same attitudes and beliefs to others as we hold, but it frequently leads to serious misjudgments.

“Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah. 

Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.  Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.” (Jeremiah 41-1-3)

Ishmael the son of Nethaniah was in line to inherit the throne.  He and ten of the leaders and officials of Judah set up an official dinner with Gedaliah to talk business.  Resentful that Gedeliah had been placed as governor and wanting to make Ishmael king, they killed Gedaliah and all the Babylonian and Chaldean officials that were at the dinner, catching them all off guard.

“And it came to pass the second day after he had slain Gedaliah, and no man knew it, That there came certain from Shechem, from Shiloh, and from Samaria, even fourscore men, having their beards shaven, and their clothes rent, and having cut themselves, with offerings and incense in their hand, to bring them to the house of the LORD.

 And Ishmael the son of Nethaniah went forth from Mizpah to meet them, weeping all along as he went: and it came to pass, as he met them, he said unto them, Come to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam.  And it was so, when they came into the midst of the city, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah slew them, and cast them into the midst of the pit, he, and the men that were with him. 

But ten men were found among them that said unto Ishmael, Slay us not: for we have treasures in the field, of wheat, and of barley, and of oil, and of honey. 

So he forbare, and slew them not among their brethren. 

Now the pit wherein Ishmael had cast all the dead bodies of the men, whom he had slain because of Gedaliah, was it which Asa the king had made for fear of Baasha king of Israel: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah filled it with them that were slain.” (Jeremiah 41:4-9)

A day and a half after Gedaliah had been murdered, eighty men came to Jerusalem to worship God with their beards shaven and their clothes torn as a sign of their sorrow for Judah’s destruction.  Pretending to be from Gedaliah, Ishmael met them and led them to a place where he had them murdered and their bodies thrown into a pit in an effort to keep Babylon from learning who had killed the their governor and officials.

Ten of the men offered to pay a ransom from their crops if he would allow them to live to harvest them, and were spared.  The pit where the bodies were buried was a part of the defenses Asa had set up more than two hundred years before when threatened by Baasha, king of Israel.

 “Then Ishmael carried away captive all the residue of the people that were in Mizpah, even the king's daughters, and all the people that remained in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had committed to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam: and Ishmael the son of Nethaniah carried them away captive, and departed to go over to the Ammonites.” (Jeremiah 41:10)

Based on his agreement with The Ammonite king, Baalis, Ishmael forced all the people that Nebuchadnezzar had left in Jerusalem to move into some of the land the Ammonites had claimed after Israel was destroyed to set up his own little kingdom.  Power hungry people are only interested in increasing their power and will do anything to get more.

“But when Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, heard of all the evil that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had done, Then they took all the men, and went to fight with Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and found him by the great waters that are in Gibeon. 

Now it came to pass, that when all the people which were with Ishmael saw Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, then they were glad.  So all the people that Ishmael had carried away captive from Mizpah cast about and returned, and went unto Johanan the son of Kareah.

But Ishmael the son of Nethaniah escaped from Johanan with eight men, and went to the Ammonites.” (Jeremiah 41:11-15)

The leaders that had escaped united under Johanan and pursued Ishmael and his captives, overtaking them at Gibeon and recovering the captives.  The captives were glad to be rescued and went eagerly with Johanan.  Ishmael and eight of his men survived to go back to the Ammonites.

 “Then took Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces that were with him, all the remnant of the people whom he had recovered from Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, from Mizpah, after that he had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, even mighty men of war, and the women, and the children, and the eunuchs, whom he had brought again from Gibeon: And they departed, and dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt, Because of the Chaldeans: for they were afraid of them, because Ishmael the son of Nethaniah had slain Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon made governor in the land.” (Jeremiah 41:16-18)

Fearing Babylonian retribution for the slaying of their governor and officials, the people assembled at Chimham, preparing to flee to Egypt for protection.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gedaliah Becomes Governor

II Kings 25:22-24, Jeremiah 39:11-40:12

“And as for the people that remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, even over them he made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, ruler.” (II Kings 25:22) 

After the second revolt, Nebuchadnezzar carried away all the leaders, military, businessmen and trades people as well to prevent any further rebellion.  However, he left the poor behind to care for the farms and orchards and produce crops for the Babylonians, unlike the Assyrians who carried away everybody.  He put Gedaliah, a jewish man in charge as governor.
“Now Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon gave charge concerning Jeremiah to Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard, saying, Take him, and look well to him, and do him no harm; but do unto him even as he shall say unto thee.  So Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard sent, and Nebushasban, Rabsaris, and Nergalsharezer, Rabmag, and all the king of Babylon's princes; Even they sent, and took Jeremiah out of the court of the prison, and committed him unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, that he should carry him home: so he dwelt among the people.” (Jeremiah 39:11-14)

Jeremiah had been considered a traitor because he told Judah God was judging Judah by bringing the Babylonians against them and that they should just surrender.  He had been thrown into a flooded dungeon in hopes he would drown but was rescued by Ebedmelech the Ethiopian.  Subsequently he was held in chains in the court of the prison until Jerusalem fell.

Nebuchadnezzar ordered the man he placed in charge of sacking and razing Jerusalem to set him free and protect him, providing anything Jeremiah asked for.

“The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, after that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had let him go from Ramah, when he had taken him being bound in chains among all that were carried away captive of Jerusalem and Judah, which were carried away captive unto Babylon. 

And the captain of the guard took Jeremiah, and said unto him, The LORD thy God hath pronounced this evil upon this place.  Now the LORD hath brought it, and done according as he hath said: because ye have sinned against the LORD, and have not obeyed his voice, therefore this thing is come upon you.  And now, behold, I loose thee this day from the chains which were upon thine hand. If it seem good unto thee to come with me into Babylon, come; and I will look well unto thee: but if it seem ill unto thee to come with me into Babylon, forbear: behold, all the land is before thee: whither it seemeth good and convenient for thee to go, thither go.

 Now while he was not yet gone back, he said, Go back also to Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, whom the king of Babylon hath made governor over the cities of Judah, and dwell with him among the people: or go wheresoever it seemeth convenient unto thee to go. So the captain of the guard gave him victuals and a reward, and let him go. 

Then went Jeremiah unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land.” (Jeremiah 40:1-6)

Upon freeing Jeremiah, Nebuzaradan offered to take him to Babylon if that was where he wanted to go and Jeremiah agreed.  Nebuzaradan recommended he go and stay with the Jews under Gedeliah until he was ready to go to Babylon, providing food and money for him to get what he needed.  Jeremiah then went to Mizpeh where Gedeliah had his base.

“Now when all the captains of the forces which were in the fields, even they and their men, heard that the king of Babylon had made Gedaliah the son of Ahikam governor in the land, and had committed unto him men, and women, and children, and of the poor of the land, of them that were not carried away captive to Babylon; Then they came to Gedaliah to Mizpah, even Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan and Jonathan the sons of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth, and the sons of Ephai the Netophathite, and Jezaniah the son of a Maachathite, they and their men.” (Jeremiah 40:7-8)

When Jerusalem fell, many of the troops escaped and went into hiding in the surrounding area.  Learning that Nebuchadnezzar was allowing some of the people to remain and farm the land, they contacted Gedaliah to see if they would be allowed to stay as well.

“And Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan sware unto them and to their men, saying, Fear not to serve the Chaldeans: dwell in the land, and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.  As for me, behold, I will dwell at Mizpah, to serve the Chaldeans, which will come unto us: but ye, gather ye wine, and summer fruits, and oil, and put them in your vessels, and dwell in your cities that ye have taken.” (Jeremiah 40:9-10)

Gedaliah assured them that if they would cooperate, they would be free to live pretty much as they had for centuries on their own land.  There would be minimal interference from Gedeliah as governor.

“Likewise when all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan; Even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.” (Jeremiah 40:11-12)

Jews that had lived among the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites for years to escape the Assyrian  and Babylonian, began to return to Mizpeh and rally around Gedaliah.  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Jerusalem Destroyed

II Kings 25:1-21, II Chronicles 36:15-21, Jeremiah 38:1-6

“And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.” (II Chronicles 36:15-16)

About half the book of Ezekiel and a third of Jeremiah are devoted to warning Judah of their sin and their impending destruction by Babylon if they would not repent.  Their warnings were considered unpatriotic and they were mocked and imprisoned.  Ezekiel was warned, “But thou, O son of man, behold, they shall put bands upon thee, and shall bind thee with them, and thou shalt not go out among them,” in Ezekiel 3:25.  He was forced to make his base among some of the captives Nebuchadnezzar had relocated to the  Chebar or Khabar river, a tributary of the Euphrates in present day Syria.  Jeremiah was stuck in Judah.

“Then Shephatiah the son of Mattan, and Gedaliah the son of Pashur, and Jucal the son of Shelemiah, and Pashur the son of Malchiah, heard the words that Jeremiah had spoken unto all the people, saying, Thus saith the LORD, He that remaineth in this city shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth forth to the Chaldeans shall live; for he shall have his life for a prey, and shall live.  Thus saith the LORD, This city shall surely be given into the hand of the king of Babylon's army, which shall take it.

Therefore the princes said unto the king, We beseech thee, let this man be put to death: for thus he weakeneth the hands of the men of war that remain in this city, and the hands of all the people, in speaking such words unto them: for this man seeketh not the welfare of this people, but the hurt.  Then Zedekiah the king said, Behold, he is in your hand: for the king is not he that can do any thing against you.  Then took they Jeremiah, and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the son of Hammelech, that was in the court of the prison: and they let down Jeremiah with cords. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire: so Jeremiah sunk in the mire.” (Jeremiah 38:1-6)

Because they considered Jeremiah’s message unpatriotic, the Jewish leaders demanded Jeremiah be executed.  Fearing their power, Zedekiah turned him over to them, and Jeremiah was cast into a dungeon or pit that had flooded and the water had soaked in, leaving a deep layer of very soft mud that Jeremiah sank in.  Fearing he would drown, he was rescued by an Ethiopian slave.

“And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he, and all his host, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it: and they built forts against it round about.  And the city was besieged unto the eleventh year of king Zedekiah. 
 And on the ninth day of the fourth month the famine prevailed in the city, and there was no bread for the people of the land.” (II Kings 25:1-3) 

Almost nine years after making Zedekiah king, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to quell another rebellion, besieging the city of Jerusalem for the fourth time.   Clearly they were not to be trusted, and he intended to make sure they couldn’t rebel again.  No quarter was given.

“Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.” (II Chronicles 36:17)

The seige lasted a year and a half, with the Babylonians blockading all supply sources, and preventing any humanitarian efforts.  Everyone suffered, and Ezekiel’s prophecy in Ezekiel 5:12, “A third part of thee shall die with the pestilence, and with famine shall they be consumed in the midst of thee: and a third part shall fall by the sword round about thee; and I will scatter a third part into all the winds, and I will draw out a sword after them.”

“And the city was broken up, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between two walls, which is by the king's garden: (now the Chaldees were against the city round about:) and the king went the way toward the plain. 

And the army of the Chaldees pursued after the king, and overtook him in the plains of Jericho: and all his army were scattered from him.  So they took the king, and brought him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah; and they gave judgment upon him.  And they slew the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah, and bound him with fetters of brass, and carried him to Babylon.” (II Kings 25:4-7)

When the walls were breached, the army fled in various directions.  Zedekiah was captured but most of the army escaped with many of them eventually joining the refugees at Telebib on the Chebar and others fleeing to the Ammonites, the Moabites, or other neighboring areas.  Zedekiah’s children were killed in front of him and then his eyes put out so he would never forget what his rebellion had caused.   Finally he was taken to Babylon as a prisoner.

“And in the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month, which is the nineteenth year of king Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, a servant of the king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem: And he burnt the house of the LORD, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem, and every great man's house burnt he with fire.  And all the army of the Chaldees, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down the walls of Jerusalem round about. 

Now the rest of the people that were left in the city, and the fugitives that fell away to the king of Babylon, with the remnant of the multitude, did Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carry away.  But the captain of the guard left of the poor of the land to be vinedressers and husbandmen.” (II Kings 25:8-10) 

All the people were taken into captivity except the poorest, who were left behind to care for the farms and orchards for the Babylonians.

“And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia: To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.” (II Chronicles 36:20-21) 

God had commanded Israel to let the land lie fallow every seventh year.  They had not kept that command since the time of the judges.  God had overlooked it as long as they kept most of the law, but now they would have to give the land it’s rest for seventy years to make up for all the ones they owed God.

“And the pillars of brass that were in the house of the LORD, and the bases, and the brazen sea that was in the house of the LORD, did the Chaldees break in pieces, and carried the brass of them to Babylon.  And the pots, and the shovels, and the snuffers, and the spoons, and all the vessels of brass wherewith they ministered, took they away.  And the firepans, and the bowls, and such things as were of gold, in gold, and of silver, in silver, the captain of the guard took away. 

The two pillars, one sea, and the bases which Solomon had made for the house of the LORD; the brass of all these vessels was without weight.  The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits, and the chapiter upon it was brass: and the height of the chapiter three cubits; and the wreathen work, and pomegranates upon the chapiter round about, all of brass: and like unto these had the second pillar with wreathen work. 

And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest, and Zephaniah the second priest, and the three keepers of the door: And out of the city he took an officer that was set over the men of war, and five men of them that were in the king's presence, which were found in the city, and the principal scribe of the host, which mustered the people of the land, and threescore men of the people of the land that were found in the city: And Nebuzaradan captain of the guard took these, and brought them to the king of Babylon to Riblah: And the king of Babylon smote them, and slew them at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was carried away out of their land.” (II Kings 25:13-21)

In the process of destroying the city, several prominent men were discovered who had refused to surrender and gone into hiding.  They were taken to Babylon by the forces responsible for cleaning up after the battle, where they were executed.