Category Archives: Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary

June 28, 2017: Verse of the day

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18–20 The concluding doxology closes Book II. The Lord is “blessed” (bārûk; NIV, “praise be to”). He is God, the Lord (Yahweh), “the God of Israel,” who has done and will continue to do “marvelous deeds” in behalf of his people (v. 18; cf. 71:14; 86:10; 136:4). Through his “deeds” he has demonstrated his “glorious name” (v. 19; cf. 1 Ch 29:13; Ne 9:5; Isa 63:14) in all the earth (cf. Isa 6:3). Such was also the testimony of Zechariah: “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people” (Lk 1:68).

The congregational response to the doxology is a twofold “Amen” (cf. 106:48; Ne 8:6). They confess that these words are true. The final verse (v. 20) separates the psalms associated with David from those of Asaph (Pss 73–83).[1]


72:18, 19 The Psalm closes with a doxology. The glorious reign of the Lord Jesus is God’s achievement. It is He who brings about these wonderful conditions, as no one else could do. And so it is fitting that His glorious name be praised forever, and that His glory fill the whole earth.[2]


72:19 The filling of the earth with God’s glory will be fulfilled in the consummation (Rev. 21:22–27).[3]


72:19 blessed be his glorious name forever Yahweh’s name is representative of His power and character.[4]


72:18, 19 These magnificent words of benediction mark the conclusion of the psalm, as well as the conclusion of Book II of the Psalms. The repetition of the word blessed, the focus on the name (as in 89:16), and the double Amen all indicate that this psalm was used in the worship of God in His temple.[5]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 555). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 660). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1026). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 72:19). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 695). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

June 9 – Integrity Reflects Godly Wisdom

“As for [Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego], God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.”

Daniel 1:17

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Godly wisdom guards against the influences of a godless society.

From the beginning of human history Satan has tried to confuse and confound God’s purposes by corrupting man’s thinking. In the Garden of Eden he succeeded by calling God’s character into question and convincing Eve that her disobedience would have no consequences. To this day he continues to deceive entire civilizations by blinding “the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4).

Daniel and his friends were captives of a pagan king who wanted to dilute their allegiance to God by reprogramming their thinking. However, unlike Eve, they were determined not to be overcome by the evil influences around them. God honored their integrity and taught them everything they needed to know to be productive in Babylonian society and to influence it for righteousness.

Babylon was the center of learning in its day, boasting of advanced sciences, sophisticated libraries, and great scholars. God gave these young men the ability to learn and retain that level of knowledge, and the wisdom to apply it to their lives. Furthermore, He gave Daniel the ability to interpret dreams and receive visions—gifts that would prove crucial later in his life as God elevated him to a position of prominence in Babylon and revealed the plan of history to him (see chapters 7–12).

Surely Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego didn’t understand all that God had in store for them or why He would allow them to be tested so severely at such a young age. But when they chose to love and trust Him despite their circumstances, they demonstrated the kind of wisdom that protects God’s children from the influences of a godless society. As we do the same, God uses us in significant ways. Also, we find that God never calls us to a challenge that He won’t equip us to handle.

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Suggestions for Prayer: King David prayed, “Teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12). Make that your prayer as well.

For Further Study: Read Colossians 1:9–12. What are the results of being filled with “spiritual wisdom and understanding”?[1]


1:17 Daniel is like Joseph (Gen. 40:8; 41:39) and prefigures the wisdom of Christ (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 2:3).[2]


1:17 God gave to them God Himself blesses and advances the Hebrew youths in the foreign court. Their activities will display His power to the nations; through them He will be glorified (e.g., 2:47).

God’s favoring of the young men demonstrates His protection and blessing during the exile. Although the nation was removed from its land, Yahweh remained true to His covenant and protected His people. The advancement of the young men in the king’s court, particularly Daniel, gives voice to Jewish concerns during this time. As they succeed and move through the ranks, the young men evidence God’s sovereignty over the affairs of kings and kingdoms. Their ultimate success reflects back on God, to whom they give credit (see 2:27–28).

had insight into all visions and dreams Introduces a motif that will resurface throughout the book. The Hebrew words used here for visions and dreams designate divine revelation. A vision involves a divine experience that occurs while awake, as an interruption of normal consciousness, while a prophetic dream occurs while sleeping.[3]


1:17 God gave them learning. God’s blessing is not limited to physical well-being, but also includes outstanding intellectual development during their three years of Babylonian education. He thus enables them to be a blessing to their pagan neighbors and to build up the city where they have found themselves (cf. Jer. 29:5–7) while remaining true to their beliefs.

visions and dreams. With a view to what follows in the book (chs. 2; 4; 5), Daniel is distinguished from his companions in his ability to interpret dreams and visions, much as Joseph was in the court of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:8; 41:16).[4]


1:17 God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature: As Moses was educated in the knowledge of Egypt, so Daniel and his friends acquired a Chaldean education. The wisdom of the Chaldeans consisted of sciences current at the time, including the interpretation of omens communicated through astrology, the examination of livers, kidneys, and other animal entrails, and the examination of the organs and flight patterns of birds. Daniel had the additional advantage of understanding visions and dreams. In the ancient Near East dreams were considered a source of divine revelation, and thus their interpretation was highly valued. Daniel’s gift from God in this area put him far beyond the abilities of the Chaldean interpreters (4:5–9).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1587). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:17). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1465). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1009). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

JUNE 8 – ANYTHING HE WILLS TO DO

Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else.

—Deuteronomy 4:39

To say that God is sovereign is to say that He is supreme over all things, that there is no one above Him, that He is absolute Lord over creation. It is to say that His Lordship over creation means that there is nothing out of His control, nothing that God hasn’t foreseen and planned….

God’s sovereignty logically implies His absolute freedom to do all that He wills to do. God’s sovereignty does not mean that He can do anything, but it means He can do anything that He wills to do. The sovereignty of God and the will of God are bound up together. The sovereignty of God does not mean that God can lie, for God does not will to lie. God is truth and therefore God cannot lie, for He wills not to lie. God cannot break a promise, because to break a promise would be to violate His nature, and God does not will to violate His nature.

Therefore it is silly to say that God can do anything. But it is scriptural to say that God can do anything He wills to do. God is absolutely free—no one can compel Him, no one can hinder Him, no one can stop Him. God has freedom to do as He pleases—always, everywhere and forever. AOGII144-145

God in heaven above and on the earth beneath, I willingly give You my life; take it and sovereignly do whatever You will to do with it. Amen [1]


39–40 Based on all the marvelous things the Lord has done for them already, God’s children are exhorted to acknowledge his utter uniqueness and obey his commands with the result that this generation and all future generations will experience God’s abundant blessings. Moses challenges his fellow Israelites to “take to heart” or internalize the fact that Yahweh is the universal sovereign (“in heaven above and on the earth below”) and the only sovereign (“there is no other”). In the light of that theological reality, they should gladly obey his commands. Moses affirms that Israel’s genuine obedience to God’s commands will occasion long tenure in the land (and continued enjoyment of covenantal blessings).

As seen in 4:1 (see comments there), Moses is not simply holding before Israel the hope of long tenure in the Promised Land as a bribe or incentive. Granted, Israel’s obedience or disobedience to God’s covenantal expectations did affect whether they would remain in the Land of Promise. Nevertheless, Yahweh intended that Canaan would serve as a platform for his people to demonstrate his greatness to the surrounding world. God offered them the opportunity to live lives that exalt his greatness before the world around them for the undetermined future.[2]


4:37–39 Juxtaposed with God’s universal sovereignty is his love of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (see notes on 1:8; 4:31). loved. A key, and unique, theme of Deuteronomy is the love of God for the patriarchs (here and 10:15), or for his people in general (5:10; 7:9, 12–13; 23:5), and Israel’s reciprocal love for God (6:5; 7:9; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 13:3; 19:9; 30:6, 16, 20). as it is this day. See note on 2:30. know … and lay it to your heart. Deuteronomy is constantly concerned with the state of Israel’s heart (see 6:4–5; 7:17; 8:2, 17; 9:4; 10:16).[3]


4:39–40. In light of such electing grace and such unique revelation the Israelites were to acknowledge that the Lord is God alone (cf. v. 35) and to keep His decrees and commands. Only in doing these two things would the Israelites find prosperity and long life in the land (cf. 5:33; 6:2). The words so that it may go well with you occur eight times in this book, undoubtedly to emphasize this motive for obedience (4:40; 5:16; 6:3, 18; 12:25, 28; 19:13; 22:7). The idea that righteousness lengthens life and sin shortens it is common in the Old Testament (Prov. 3:1–2, 16; 10:27).[4]


4:39 God in heaven … there is no other: Since no other God was Creator, Lord of history, Teacher, and the Lover of His people, Israel had to respond to God alone. This is a major theme of Deuteronomy and of the prophets. The incomparability of Yahweh is also the heart of the basic creed of Israel, the “Shema” (6:4).[5]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 529). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 339). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Deere, J. S. (1985). Deuteronomy. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 271). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 240). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

June 8 – Integrity Passes the Test

“So [the king’s overseer] listened to [Daniel and his friends in this matter and tested them for ten days. And at the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.”

Daniel 1:14–16

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All spiritual commitment will be tested.

When God wants to prove the quality of one’s commitment, He tests it. The test may come directly from Him, as with Abraham when God asked him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1–2), or it may come through difficult circumstances, as with the Israelites during their wilderness wanderings (Deut. 8:16), or it may even come from Satan himself, as God permitted with Job (Job 1:12; 2:6). Regardless of its source, every test is designed by God to produce greater spiritual fruit in His children (1 Peter 1:6–7).

Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed–nego’s tests came at the hands of their Babylonian captors. Separation from family, friends, and homeland must have been an extremely difficult test for them, but through it all their commitment to the Lord remained unshakable. Now they faced a test to determine whether or not they could remain undefiled. For ten days they would eat only vegetables and drink only water, while their fellow captives ate the king’s special diet.

Normally such a brief period of time would make no noticeable change in one’s physiology, but God must have intervened because at the conclusion of just ten days, these four young men were clearly healthier and more vigorous than their peers. The results were so convincing that their overseer allowed them to remain on a vegetarian diet throughout their entire three–year training period. God honored their uncompromising spirit.

When you are tested, remember that God is working on your spiritual maturity and that He will never test you beyond what you are able to endure and will always provide a means of victory (1 Cor. 10:13).

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Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for wisdom and strength to meet each test in your life with courage and victory.

For Further Study: Read Psalm 26:1–3. What did King David request of God? ✧ How does he describe a person of integrity?[1]


8–17 The plotline of a story unfolds in the arrangement of events recorded in the narrative. The basic ingredient of a good story plot is conflict moving toward resolution. The opening scene of Daniel reports such conflict. The conflict for Daniel and his three friends is an ideological or moral conflict dilemma. This type of conflict usually occurs within the protagonist(s) of the story and generally focuses on issues of worldview and ultimately “good” versus “evil.” Specifically, the issue here is the royal food and wine that Daniel and his friends were required to eat and drink (v. 8). The rejection of the royal food by Daniel and his friends foreshadows further episodes of conflict as the story of the Hebrew captives progresses, conflicts with other characters (e.g., the Babylonian wise men; 3:8–12; 6:1–5), and physical danger in the form of execution by fire (3:11) and exposure to wild beasts (6:7).

The expression Daniel “resolved” (v. 8) is an idiom expressing a deliberate act of the will motivated by a deep-seated personal conviction (Heb. śîm + lēb, “to set the heart”; cf. NASB’s “Daniel made up his mind”). The word “defile” (Heb. gāʾal) occurs fewer than a dozen times in the OT and may refer to moral or ceremonial impurity (e.g., Isa 59:3; Mal 1:7, 12). Wallace, 42–43, observes that Daniel believed “faith in God and the forgiveness of God had made him clean”—clean from the idolatry and moral pollution of the surrounding world. To eat the king’s food would compromise God’s forgiveness and draw him back into the very same “world” from which he had been cleansed.

The royal food rations posed a problem for Daniel and his friends for several possible reasons. First, the law of Moses prohibited the obedient Hebrews from eating certain types of food, and there was no assurance that such fare would be left off the menu (cf. Lev 11; Dt 12:23–25; 14). Yet the Mosaic dietary restrictions do not include wine, also rejected by Daniel and his friends.

Second, the royal food rations would have probably been associated with idol worship in some way (either by the food’s having been offered to idols or blessed by idolatrous priests). Yet Daniel and his friends do not refuse all the royal food rations (as though only meat and drink but not “vegetables” were dedicated to the Babylonian gods). On both counts the royal food would have been regarded as ritually unclean on theological grounds, and hence the eating of such food would constitute an act of disobedience against Yahweh and his commands.

Beyond this, it is possible that Daniel simply interpreted the eating of the royal food rations as a formal demonstration of allegiance to the Babylonian king. Baldwin, 83, and Felwell, 40, suggest that Daniel’s motivation for rejecting the king’s menu was political in the sense that eating the royal provisions was tantamount to accepting the lordship of the Babylonian king, whereas Daniel and his friends owed loyalty to Yahweh alone as their “king” (cf. 3:17–18; on the issue of cultural assimilation see BBCOT, 731). But again, Daniel and his friends do agree to certain provisions of royal food, thus weakening the argument of political allegiance to King Nebuchadnezzar by virtue of the “meal custom” of the biblical world. Longman, 53, suggests that the food-rations test was essentially a means by which Daniel and his friends might demonstrate that their healthy physical appearance (and hence their intellectual gifts) was the miraculous work of their God—not King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace food or the Babylonian pantheon. As J. H. Sims (“Daniel,” in A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible, ed. L. Ryken and T. Longman [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 333–34) points out, whatever the motivation for rejecting the royal food rations, the greater issue theologically is that of divine nurture versus human nurture—on whom or what will the Hebrews rely for sustenance in their captivity?

The question of conformity to the surrounding culture was of paramount concern for the Diaspora Hebrews. To what degree, if any, should the displaced Israelites make accommodation to the surrounding dominant culture? What place was there for the Hebrew distinctives of religious monotheism and ethical absolutism based on the law of Moses in the religious pluralism and moral relativism of the Gentile superpowers? Rather than react in open defiance of the king’s decree, Daniel and his friends arranged a compromise with Ashpenaz and his appointed guardian (vv. 10–14). The alternative to eating the king’s food was a “rations test,” with the Hebrew captives to be fed a diet of vegetables and water (v. 12), against the control group of those young men eating the royal provisions (v. 13). Goldingay, 20, interprets the “ten-day” testing period pragmatically as a standard round number of days that would not arouse the suspicion of Ashpenaz’s superiors and yet be long enough for the effects of the test to be observed.

The example of nonconformity by Daniel and his friends became a model for the Israelite response to Gentile culture in later Judaism. For example, the characters of both Judith and Tobit are portrayed as pious Jews who observe strict adherence to the Mosaic law in the books of the apocryphal OT literature that bear their names. Separation from Gentile culture was an important component in an emerging “Diaspora theology” for the Hebrews during the intertestamental period. By the time of the NT, the Jewish worldview was tainted with attitudes of particularism, exclusivism, and superiority in reaction to the influences of Hellenism.

This “Judaism against Gentile culture” paradigm made Jesus’ apparent laxity toward the Mosaic law and his accommodation to Gentile culture difficult to interpret and accept. The church, as the counter-culture agent of God’s kingdom in the world, has no less difficulty in discerning and practicing what Jesus meant when he instructed his followers that though they were in the world, they were not to be of the world (Jn 17:14–18; see the discussion of the Christian’s interface with culture employing Niebuhr’s classic Christ and culture paradigms in Longman, 62–69).

In the process we learn that God’s providential rule of history is not restricted to nations and kings, as God caused Ashpenaz, the chief official, “to show favor and sympathy to Daniel” (v. 9). The passage is reminiscent of Joseph, who “found favor” in Potiphar’s eyes (Ge 39:4), and Esther, who “pleased [Hegai] and won his favor” during her preparations for the royal beauty contest (Est 2:9). The repetition of the verb “gave” (Heb. nātan; GK 5989) echoes God’s deliverance of King Jehoiakim to the Babylonians (v. 2). The NIV’s “God had caused” (v. 9) fails to convey the full theological freight of the original (cf. NASB, “Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion …”). Literally, “God gave Daniel for favor and mercies before the chief official.” Even as God gave Jehoiakim to the Babylonians for judgment, God gave Daniel to Ashpenaz for grace.

This language of divine intervention is in keeping with the theme of Daniel established in the opening verses, namely God’s sovereignty. As Seow, 27, notes, “the sovereignty of God is thus affirmed; the theological paradox of judgment and grace is maintained … God is the narrator’s ‘lord’ … God is at work and ever providing.” In fact, God’s testing and providing are key themes of the OT and justify his name as “Yahweh Yirʾeh” or “Jehovah Jireh” (“The Lord Will Provide,” Ge 22:14).

The four Hebrews passed the rations test, actually emerging “healthier and better nourished” than their counterparts, whose diet consisted of the royal food (v. 15). For the third time in the chapter we read that God “gave” (Heb. nātan; v. 17). In this instance, as a result of their resolve not to defile themselves with the royal food, God granted Daniel and his friends “knowledge and understanding” (v. 17a). The term “knowledge” (Heb. maddāʿ) implies academic learning (cf. v. 4, “quick to understand”), and the word “understanding” (Heb. haśkēl) suggests both “aptitude for learning” (cf. v. 4) and insight with respect to prudence or sound judgment.

In other words, the food rations episode offers practical commentary of sorts on Proverbs 1:7a: “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (cf. Ps 111:10). Baldwin, 84, has summarized that even small acts of faith and self-discipline, when undertaken out of loyalty to godly principle, set “God’s servants in the line of his approval and blessing. In this way actions attest faith, and character is strengthened to face more difficult situations.” (But see Goldingay, 20, who denies the cause-and-effect relationship between faithfulness and reward.) The added statement in v. 17b that Daniel received a special divine endowment to understand or interpret visions and dreams foreshadows those “more difficult situations” he will face in the key role he plays as interpreter of dreams and seer of visions in the rest of the book.[2]


A Young Man Decides

Daniel 1:3–21

Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility—young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians. The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service.

Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.

At the time of the Protestant Reformation, the two greatest reformers, Martin Luther and John Calvin, each issued commentaries on Daniel. Luther produced two studies, published in 1524 and 1544. Calvin produced one, published in 1561. It is a striking fact that in spite of Luther’s great popularity, which continues to this day, Luther’s books on Daniel have never been translated into English, while Calvin’s massive work, running to a thousand pages in the original Latin, was available in English within ten years.

Why has the text of Calvin’s commentary proved so popular? There may be many reasons, but most people feel that it is because of the passionate and moving way in which the great expositor linked the times of the exiled Daniel to his own.

Calvin lived in an age of ecclesiastical and political warfare in which many thousands suffered greatly for their faith. In Germany in 1546, Charles V began a war to stamp out Lutheranism. In France, between 1540 and 1544, Francis I attempted the same thing, massacring the Waldensians as part of his misconceived program. In 1545 he burned twenty-two villages and killed three thousand men and women. Others were sent to the galleys. In 1562, the year after Calvin’s commentary appeared, the eight Wars of Religion began, the destruction of which was so great that Europe did not recover for two centuries. Thousands became exiles during this period. Many fled to Switzerland where Calvin, who was himself an exile, lived.

Calvin’s commentary breathes with compassion for these people, and as a result it has always appealed to those who consider themselves exiles in a strange land. Indeed, it appears even more broadly than this. For Daniel was a man of God in worldly Babylon, and Christians are always God’s people in the midst of those who do not honor and in fact oppose their divine King.

Calvin dedicated his book to the “pious Protestants of France” and urged Daniel upon them as a great encouragement.

I have the very best occasion of showing you, beloved brethren, in this mirror, how God proves the faith of his people in these days by various trials; and how with wonderful wisdom he has taken care to strengthen their minds by ancient examples, that they should never be weakened by the concussion of the severest storms and tempests; or at least, if they should totter at all, that they should never finally fall away. For although the servants of God are required to run in a course impeded by many obstacles, yet whoever diligently reads this book will find in it whatever is needed by a voluntary and active runner to guide him from the starting point to the goal; while good and strenuous wrestlers will experimentally acknowledge that they have been sufficiently prepared for the contest.… Here then, we observe, as in a living picture, that when God spares and even indulges the wicked for a time, he proves his servants like gold and silver; so that we ought not to consider it a grievance to be thrown into the furnace of trial, while profane men enjoy the calmness of repose.

A Secular Environment

In order to understand Daniel we must realize that the Babylon to which Daniel and his three friends were taken was a secular, worldly place, as I attempted to show in the last study, and that their initial experiences there were intended to blot out of their minds the remembrance of the true God and their homeland. We see this in several ways. For one thing, Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to choose young men who would be easily molded by their new environment. Again, he attempted to lure them with the delicacies of food the great city of Babylon could provide.

Chiefly we notice Nebuchadnezzar’s intentions in the altering of the young men’s names. The Hebrew names of these young men were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They were changed to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It should be immediately evident to anyone with even a limited knowledge of Hebrew that the Jewish names of these men each contains a name of God and has a spiritual meaning. Daniel and Mishael both contain the syllable el, which means “God” and is the basis of the frequently appearing (plural) name Elohim. Daniel means “God is my Judge.” Mishael means “Who is like God?” The other two names, Hananiah and Azariah, both contain a shortened form of the name Jehovah. Hananiah means “Jehovah is gracious.” Azariah means “Jehovah is my helper.” The very names of these men were reminders of their heritage and a challenge to them to remain faithful to the Lord. But now, deported into a strange, pagan land, their names are changed. And the names they are given all contain a reference to one of the false gods of the ancient Babylonians, Aku and Nego. It was a way of saying that these who had been servants of the Jewish God were now servants and worshipers of the gods of the pagan pantheon.

Yet the change accomplished nothing. Nebuchadnezzar changed the men’s names, but he could not change their hearts. They remained faithful to the true God of Israel, as the story shows.

I apply that to our own age. One thing the world seems always to try to do—it has happened in the past, and it is happening in our own time—is to take Christian words and rework them to convey the world’s ideas. I suppose it is one of the devil’s subtlest tricks. It happens in liberal theology. “Sin” used to mean rebellion against God and his righteous law or, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism puts it, “any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God” (A. 14). But today it means ignorance or merely the kind of oppression that is supposed to reside in social structures. “Jesus” is no longer the incarnate God who died for our salvation, but rather our example or what might even be termed an evolutionary peak of the human race. “Faith” is awareness of oppression and beginning to do something about it, and so on. Of course, in the secular world the readjustment of words is even more ridiculous and extreme, as the recent use of the term “born again” in advertising slogans shows.

This is a great danger, I admit. But although it is a danger, if the truth of what is behind these words remains strong in the minds and hearts of those who really know the truth, then the vitality of the faith will remain regardless of the world’s corruptions. Christians will persevere because God will strengthen them to stand against the culture.

Daniel’s Decision

The most important verse in the first chapter of Daniel is verse 8, which says, “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine.”

What is your reaction to that? Remember that Daniel was a young man at this time. We know from the later development of the story that he lived for a very long time beyond this—through the rule of four emperors. He was probably in his nineties when he died. So at this point he was probably between fifteen and seventeen. It was at this young age that he was taken away from his own country and culture, plunged into the strange but exciting life of the great world capital, and lured to loyalty by the best of all possible educations and by provision of the very food served to Nebuchadnezzar. Yet Daniel refused to partake of this food. As I say, what is your reaction to that? Do you find it a very little thing? Do you see Daniel’s decision as the immaturity and foolishness of youth? Would you have acted as Daniel and his friends did in these circumstances, or would you have gone along with your great benefactor’s desires? Would you have said, “After all, why should we live by Jewish dietary laws while in Babylon? Let’s eat and drink. It’s just a small thing”?

Well, it was a small thing. Yet that is just the point. For it is in the small matters that great victories are won. This is where decisions to live a holy life are made—not in the big things (though they come if the little things are neglected), but in the details of life. If Daniel had said, “I want to live for God in big ways, but I am not going to make a fool of myself in this trivial matter of eating and drinking the king’s food,” he never would have amounted to anything. But because he started out for God in small things, God used him greatly.

I have titled this chapter “A Young Man Decides” because it is particularly in youth that the most significant and life-forming decisions are made. Are you a young person? Then you should pay particularly close attention to this point. Most young people want their lives to count, and most Christian young people want their lives to count for God. Youth dreams big. That is right. You should dream big. But youth is also often impatient and undisciplined, and young people are tempted to let the little things slide. You must not do that if you are God’s young man or God’s young woman. God will make your life count, but this will not happen unless you determine to live for him in the little things now. You know what Jesus said: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10). Being wholly given over to God now is the essential and best possible preparation for future service.

Why We Must Be Holy

In the last chapter I pointed out that Daniel is a story of the struggle of the world’s people and culture against God’s people and God’s culture, and it is. But it is also a story of men who lived for God by choosing the path of personal discipleship and holiness. This is no contradiction, because it is only such persons who actually embody the spiritual standards of “the city of God.” It is only these who make any lasting difference in the world.

A great evangelical bishop of England, John Charles Ryle, wrote a classic study of holiness in which he urged holiness upon all who call themselves Christians. After some opening passages in which he describes holiness as separation to God, devotion to God, service to God, being of one mind with God and wanting God’s will—Ryle went on to show why holiness, the kind of holiness exercised by Daniel, is so necessary. He listed eight reasons.

  1. “We must be holy, because the voice of God in Scripture plainly commands it.” Peter wrote, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy’ ” (1 Peter 1:14–16). This is not optional. God did not say, “I would like you to live a holy life; but if you are not too excited about that particular lifestyle, don’t worry about it. We’ll work on something else.” God said, “Be holy, because I am holy.” We must be holy because the holy God commands it.
  2. “We must be holy, because this is the one grand end and purpose for which Christ came into the world.” You say, “But I thought Jesus came to save us from our sins.” Yes, he did come for that. But the Bible also says, “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Eph. 5:25–27). Many Christians think they would like the benefits of salvation without the obligation to live for Christ, but they cannot have them because Christ came to make them holy just as much as he came to save them from the penalty of their sins. If you are fighting against holiness, you are fighting against nothing less than the purpose of God in the Atonement.
  3. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we have a saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” How is that so? Well, James in his letter speaks of two kinds of faith: a living, saving faith and a dead faith that saves no one. The devils have a dead faith; that is, they believe there is a God and that Jesus is his Son, sent to save his people. But they do not trust him personally. They do not live for him. A living faith does live for him and therefore shows itself in good works. That is why James says, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead” (James 2:26).

Ryle used this point to comment on so-called “death-bed” conversions, judging that in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred these “conversions” are illusory. He said, “With rare exceptions, men die just as they have lived. The only safe evidence that we are one with Christ, and Christ is in us, is a holy life.”

  1. “We must be holy, because this is the only proof that we love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.” Jesus was quite plain on this point. He said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command” (John 14:15); “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me” (v. 21); “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (v. 23); “You are my friends if you do what I command” (John 15:14). How could the point be more clearly spoken? If you love Jesus, you will obey him; you will be holy. If you do not obey him, you do not love him—whatever your profession. Do you love Jesus? We have a chorus in which we sing, “Oh, how I love Jesus,” but you do not love him if you do not do what he says.
  2. “We must be holy, because this is the only sound evidence that we are true children of God.” Do you remember how Jesus made this point when he was talking with the Pharisees? They claimed to be children of Abraham and therefore in right standing before God. But Jesus said, “If you were Abraham’s children, then you would do the things Abraham did” (John 8:39–40). Paul said the same thing in Romans, noting that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). The Spirit of God does not lead you to sin. The Spirit of God does not lead to disobedience. If you are led by God’s Spirit, you will lead a holy life, and the evidence of that holy life will be sound evidence that you are God’s son or daughter.
  3. “We must be holy, because this is the most likely way to do good to others.” Many people today have some desire to do good to others, and many of our social and benevolence programs are an expression of that praiseworthy desire. But I ask, “Do you help others by advancing a low moral standard—one that is easy for them to live up to? Do you help others by whittling down the righteous standards of the Old Testament law or the New Testament precepts? Not at all! You help others by upholding the highest possible standards and above all by living according to those standards yourself. There are several places in the New Testament in which the godly conduct of a believer is said to be the best hope of doing good to someone else. For instance, Peter writes, “Wives, … be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1–2). No doubt many besides husbands have been won to Christ by the consistent, holy behavior of some Christian.
  4. “We must be holy, because our present comfort depends much upon it.” Not all suffering is directly related to a suffering person’s sin. Christ’s words about the man born blind (John 9:3) should disabuse us of attempts to make that an easy, one-to-one relationship. But although all suffering does not come directly from one’s sin, the reverse is true: All sin produces suffering.

We do not think this way naturally. In fact, we think just the opposite. We come up against one of God’s commandments, think that we would like to do something else, and immediately reason that if only we could do what we really want to do we would be happy. We think that we would be absolutely miserable obeying God. That was the devil’s argument in his temptation of Eve, but it is as diabolical now as it was then. To heed it is to forget whence our good comes. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). If we turn from this good, we do not turn to happiness but away from it.

  1. “Lastly, we must be holy, because without holiness on earth we shall never be prepared to enjoy heaven.” The author of Hebrews wrote, “Without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14). Revelation speaks of heaven, saying, “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life” (Rev. 21:27).

Can I Be Holy?

The objection I am likely to get is that these points are all very well and good but that it is just not possible for you to live a holy life in your circumstances. “If I did the right thing in my job, I’d lose it,” you say. Or, “None of my friends would speak to me.” Or, “I’d never get ahead.” Or, “I just can’t be holy; I’ve tried it and I fail.”

If you are thinking this way, let me turn back to Daniel, who was not only resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food and wine but was also willing to put the matter to the test and prove God able in his circumstances. Daniel said to the guard who had been appointed over him, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see” (Dan. 1:12–13).

The guard agreed to this test, and at the end of the ten days the young men looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. Moreover, it was not only in their appearance that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah excelled. They also excelled in knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. The text concludes by noting that at the end of the three years of training, when the king brought his young protégés in for testing, Nebuchadnezzar “found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom” (v. 20).

Do not say, “If I live for God, I’ll lose out.” You may lose out on some of the things the world offers, which are not good for you anyway, but you will experience a richness of God’s bounty. The Bible says, “Seek first [God’s] kingdom and [God’s] righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).[3]


1:8–16 Daniel and His Friends Remain Undefiled. Daniel and his three friends resisted the attempted assimilation. They retained their original names (see v. 11) and resolved not to defile themselves with the king’s food and drink (v. 8). Many have thought that the four men’s resolve came from their intent to eat only ceremonially clean food, not any “unclean” food as specified in Lev. 11:1–47 and Deut. 14:3–20—much as a group of Jewish priests later did in Rome, eating only figs and nuts (see Josephus, Life of Josephus 14; cf. Rom. 14:2). That may be part of the explanation, for the Babylonians would have eaten such things as pork, which was unclean for Jews. But wine (Dan. 1:8) would not have been prohibited by any law in Jewish Scripture, so that cannot be the entire explanation (unless the young men feared that somehow the wine had been polluted through failure to grow the grapes according to the rule of Lev. 19:25–28; cf. Deut. 20:6). Another view is that they feared the meat and wine would have been first offered to Babylonian idols. Again, this may have provided part of the reason for their reluctance to partake of the Babylonian food, but the vegetables and grains would probably also have been offered to idols, so that does not seem to be the most persuasive explanation. A third view, that they were following a vegetarian diet for health reasons, is unhelpful, because no OT laws would have taught them that (modern) idea. A fourth view combines elements of the first two, and seems the best explanation: Daniel and his friends avoided the luxurious diet of the king’s table as a way of protecting themselves from being ensnared by the temptations of the Babylonian culture. They used their distinctive diet as a way of retaining their distinctive identity as Jewish exiles and avoiding complete assimilation into Babylonian culture (which was the king’s goal with these conquered subjects). With this restricted diet they continually reminded themselves, in this time of testing, that they were the people of God in a foreign land and that they were dependent for their food, indeed for their very lives, upon God, their Creator, not King Nebuchadnezzar. (It is possible that Daniel later came to accept some of the Babylonian food; see Dan. 10:3.) The Lord gave Daniel favor (1:9) with his captors, an answer to Solomon’s prayer for the exiles (1 Kings 8:50), and the steward honored their request for a special diet. At the end of a trial period, Daniel and his friends looked fitter (fatter in flesh; Dan. 1:15) than those who had consumed a high-calorie diet. This confirmed that God’s favor was upon them.[4]


1:14–16 Better and fatter indicates that Daniel and his friends were healthier than the young men who ate … of the king’s delicacies.[5] Daniel and His Friends Refuse Unclean Food (1:8–16). Daniel regarded the food offered by the Babylonians to be defiling. The Mosaic law forbade God’s people to eat unclean animals or flesh that had not been drained of blood. Portions of the wine and meat presented by Ashpenaz may have been offered to idols.

Daniel convinced the Babylonians to allow him and his three friends to follow a different diet, consisting only of vegetables and water. After a ten-day trial period they looked even healthier than those who were following the diet prescribed by the king. Consequently they were not forced to eat the king’s food or drink his wine.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 52–54). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Boice, J. M. (2003). Daniel: an expositional commentary (pp. 19–25). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1586–1587). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1009). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Chisholm, R. B. (1998). The Major Prophets. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 333). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

June 6, 2017: Verse of the day

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10 The psalmist sings about the superiority of God’s presence. One day of fellowship with God is a thousand times better than anything else. The psalmist esteems service as a temple guard as superior to receiving public recognition and wealth.[1]


84:10 And what is it like, being in heaven? Well, a day in His courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. Which is just another way of saying that there is no comparison. We simply cannot conceive the glory, the joy, the beauty, the freedom of being where Jesus is. And it’s a good thing we can’t. Otherwise we would probably be unhappy to remain here and to get on with our work.

Better to be a doorkeeper in the house of your God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. As Spurgeon said, “God’s worst is better than the devil’s best.” And not only better but more enduring. Note the contrast between the house of our God and the tents of wickedness. One is a permanent dwelling, the other is pitched for a relatively short while.[2]


84:10 stand at the threshold. One day standing at the door of the temple, or just being near even if not inside, was better than a thousand days fellowshiping with the wicked.[3]


84:10, 11 a day … a thousand: Nothing in the pilgrim’s daily experience can be compared to a day spent in the worship of God in the holy temple. a doorkeeper … dwell in the tents: The role of a menial servant in the house of his God is more desirable than a life of luxury with those who practice wickedness. Sun and shield means “splendid shield.” Grace and glory may be rephrased as “glorious grace.” Whereas the anointed king was a “shield” (v. 9), the greater Shield is God Himself. No good thing will He withhold: This is the observation of a wise and righteous person; time after time, God gives good gifts to His people.[4]


[1] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 637). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 678). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 84:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 704). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

 

June 4 – Integrity Triumphs over Personal Loss

“Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach, and to Azariah Abed–nego.”

Daniel 1:6–7

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You can’t always prevent personal loss, but you can respond to it in ways that glorify God.

It was a quiet January morning in the San Fernando Valley of Southern California until suddenly and without warning the earth shook with such a violent force that many department stores, apartment houses, homes, and freeway overpasses crumbled under the strain. Within minutes the 1994 Northridge earthquake left scars upon lives and land that in some cases may never heal. Such catastrophic events remind us of just how difficult dealing with personal loss can be.

Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah understood personal loss. Perhaps in our day only those who have suffered as prisoners of war or as refugees from war’s ravages can fully appreciate the deep sense of loss those men must have felt after being cut off from family, friends, and homeland.

Their loss included even their own names. When taken captive, each of them had a Hebrew name that reflected his godly upbringing. But in an apparent effort to remove that influence and to exalt the pagan deities of Bel (or Baal) and Aku, Nebuchadnezzar’s commander changed their names from Daniel (which means “God is judge”) to Belteshazzar (“Bel provides” or “Bel’s prince”), from Hananiah (“the Lord is gracious”) to Shadrach (“under the command ofAku”), from Mishael (“Who is what the Lord is?”) to Meshach (“Who is what Aku is?”), and from Azariah (“the Lord is my helper”) to Abed–nego (“the servant of Nebo [the son of Baal]”).

Daniel and his friends couldn’t prevent their losses, but they could trust God and refuse to let those losses lead to despair or compromise. That’s an example you can follow when you face loss.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask the Lord for the wisdom to see your losses through His loving eyes, and for the grace to respond appropriately. ✧ Pray for those whom you know who have suffered loss recently.

For Further Study: Read Job 1:13–22. How did Job respond to his losses? ✧ What can you learn from his example?[1]


1:5–7 Nebuchadnezzar sought to assimilate the exiles into Babylonian culture by obliterating their religious and cultural identity and creating dependence upon the royal court. For this reason, the exiles were given names linked with Babylonian deities in place of Israelite names linked with their God. Daniel (“God is my Judge”), Hananiah (“Yahweh is gracious”), Mishael (“Who is what God is?”), and Azariah (“Yahweh is a helper”) became names that invoked the help of the Babylonian gods Marduk, Bel, and Nebo: Belteshazzar (“O Lady [wife of the god Bel], protect the king!”), Shadrach (“I am very fearful [of God]” or “command of Aku [the moon god]”), Meshach (“I am of little account” or “Who is like Aku?”), and Abednego (“servant of the shining one [Nebo]”). They were schooled in the language and mythological literature of the Babylonians, and their food was assigned from the king’s table, reminding them constantly of the source of their daily bread.[2]


1:6 Daniel Means “God is my judge.”

 Daniel (prophet)

Little is known of Daniel outside of the biblical book bearing his name. At some point in Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of Palestine, Daniel was taken captive to Babylon and served in the king’s court. He is renowned for his wisdom and ability to interpret dreams and omens. Portrayed as the quintessential Jewish sage, he serves as a model of covenant fidelity and righteousness (see Dan 2:14 and note).

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah These Hebrew names identify the three young men with the God of Israel: Hananiah (“Yahweh has acted graciously”); Mishael (may mean “Who is what God is”); and Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”). The changing of their names in v. 7 places them firmly in the Babylonian courts.

the Judeans The royal tribe (see Gen 49:9 and note; Rev 5:5 and note).

When Jacob blesses his sons in Gen 49, he tells Judah that the scepter and ruler’s staff shall not depart from him, which developed the belief that the Messiah would be a Judahite. During the period of Israel’s monarchy, this concept was applied to the kings. As Israel’s kings failed to realize the ideal rulership desired by God, exile ensued and the messianic interpretation resurfaced. It became prominent during the Second Temple period.

1:7 gave them names A common custom in this time period was that a king would rename foreigners who were brought to the king’s court as captives. For Daniel and Azariah, the Hebrew references to God in their names (-el for God or -iah for Yahweh) are replaced with references to Babylonian deities like Nabu or Marduk (also called Bel). Their new names symbolized serving Babylon.

Daniel’s new name, Belteshazzar, probably means “Bel protect the prince” (see Dan 4:8). Azariah’s new name, Abednego, is probably a misspelling of Abed-Nabu, meaning “servant of Nabu.” The meanings of Shadrach and Meshach are uncertain, and the deity references may be missing from their names. The purpose of renaming was to completely disassociate captives from their former way of life. Since the Jews were known for their steadfast devotion to the faith of their ancestors, a complete reidentification was required for the palace master to successfully assimilate them into the Babylonian culture. However, these four Hebrew youths never abandon their faith, despite their name changes. Rather than reflect the nature and ideals of the gods of their new names, their actions display the character of the God of their Hebrew names.[3]


1:6 Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. These Hebrew names contain the word “God” (el) or a shortened form of God’s covenant name, “Yahweh” (Ps. 50:1 note). Daniel means “my judge is God”; Hananiah, “Yahweh is gracious”; Mishael, “Who is what God is?”; and Azariah, “Yahweh has helped.”

1:7 Belteshazzar … Shadrach … Meshach … Abednego. Suggestions for the meanings of these names include: Belteshazzar, “May Bel protect his life” (Bel is another name for Marduk, the chief Babylonian god; cf. 4:8); Shadrach, “the command of Aku,” (the Sumerian moon god); Meshach, “Who is what Aku is?”; and Abednego, “servant of Nebo” (a Babylonian god). These name changes are a further step in Babylon’s attempt to reshape their religious and cultural identity.[4]


1:6 According to the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, all four of these young men were members of Zedekiah’s royal family.

1:7 The name Daniel means “God Is My Judge.” Daniel’s Babylonian name Belteshazzar means “Lady Protect the King,” referring to the goddess Sarpanitu, wife of Marduk. The name Hananiah means “The Lord Is Gracious.” Hananiah’s Babylonian name Shadrach means “I Am Fearful of the God.” The name Mishael means “Who Is What God Is?” Mishael’s Babylonian name Meshach means “I Am of Little Account.” The name Azariah means “The Lord Has Helped Me.” Azariah’s Babylonian name Abed-Nego means “Servant of (the god) Nebo.”[5]


1:6–7. No mention was made of how many captives were taken but four are mentioned here by name because of their later significant role in Babylon. Because all four bore names that honored Yahweh, the God of Israel, their names were changed. El means God and -iah (or -yah) is an abbreviation for Yahweh, thus suggesting that the young men’s parents were God-fearing people who gave them names that included references to God. Daniel, whose name means “God has judged” (or “God is my Judge”), was given the name Belteshazzar (Bēlet-šar-uṣur in Akk.), which means “Lady, protect the king.” Eight of the 10 times “Belteshazzar” occurs in the Old Testament are in the Aramaic section of the Book of Daniel (2:26; 4:8–9, 18–19 [3 times]; 5:12). The other 2 occurrences are in 1:7 and 10:1.

Hananiah (“Yahweh has been gracious”) became Shadrach probably from the Akkadian verb form šādurāku, meaning “I am fearful (of a god).”

Mishael (“Who is what God is?”) was given the name Meshach, which possibly was from the Akkadian verb mēšāku, meaning “I am despised, contemptible, humbled (before my god).”

Azariah (“Yahweh has helped”) was named Abednego, “Servant of Nebo” (Nego being a Heb. variation of the Babylonian name of the god Nebo). Nebo (cf. Isa. 46:1), son of Bel, was the Babylonian god of writing and vegetation. He was also known as Nabu (cf. comments on Dan. 1:1 on Nebuchadnezzar’s name).

Thus the chief court official (Ashpenaz, v. 3) seemed determined to obliterate any testimony to the God of Israel from the Babylonian court. The names he gave the four men signified that they were to be subject to Babylon’s gods.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1586). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:6–7). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1464). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1008). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[6] Pentecost, J. D. (1985). Daniel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1330). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

June 2 – Integrity Triumphs over Adversity

“In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god.”

Daniel 1:1–2

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Integrity shines brightest against the backdrop of adversity.

Our passage today tells of the tragic time in Israel’s history when God chastened her severely by allowing King Nebuchadnezzar and the wicked nation of Babylon to march against her and take her captive. God never coddles His people, nor does He wink at their sin. Israel’s chastening illustrates the principle that “judgment [begins] with the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). But as severe as His discipline can be, it is always aimed at producing greater righteousness and godly integrity in His children (Heb. 12:5–11).

The Babylonian captivity set the stage for a truly uncommon display of integrity from Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. In the days ahead we will examine their character in some depth. For now, however, be encouraged that adversity of any kind—even chastening for sin—is God’s way of providing the rich soil for nourishing and strengthening the spiritual fruit of integrity. Without the adversities of Babylon, Daniel’s integrity and that of his friends would not have shone as brightly as it did and would not have had the significant impact it had on King Nebuchadnezzar and his entire kingdom.

Perhaps you are currently experiencing adversities that are especially challenging, and you may not yet understand what God is accomplishing through them. But like Daniel and his friends, you can pray for the wisdom to understand His will and the faith to trust Him through the process. And you can be assured He will never fail you.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Each day your integrity is tested in many ways. Ask the Lord to help you be aware of those times and to make choices that honor Him.

For Further Study: Read 1 Kings 9:3–5. What kind of integrity did God require of Solomon? ✧ What promises did He make if Solomon obeyed?[1]


Historical Introduction (1:1–2)

Commentary

1 King Jehoiakim (609–597 BC) was installed as a “puppet king” by Pharaoh Neco of Egypt after the death of King Josiah (cf. 2 Ki 23:30, 34). The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign dates Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem and Daniel’s subsequent captivity to 605 BC. This date accords with the accession-year method characteristic of the Babylonian system for computing regnal years (i.e., reckoning a king’s first full year of kingship to commence on the New Year’s Day after his accession to the throne, or 608 BC for Jehoiakim; cf. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 16–18). Critics point to the chronological discrepancy in the biblical reporting of the date of the event in that Jeremiah synchronizes the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign with the fourth year of King Jehoiakim’s reign (Jer 25:1, 9; cf. Porteous, 25–26). Yet if one assumes that Jeremiah is based on a nonaccession-year method of reckoning regnal years (more common to Egyptian and Syro-Palestinian practice), the difficulty fades and the dates are readily harmonized (cf. Longman and Dillard, 376–77).

Beyond this, critics dispute the historical veracity of Daniel’s report of a Babylonian siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC because there is no record of such an incursion into Palestine at that time (cf. Redditt, 43). There is, however, indirect evidence for a Babylonian campaign in Palestine in 605 BC. Josephus (Ag. Ap. 1:19) cites a Babylonian priest-historian named Berossus, who recorded that Nebuchadnezzar was engaged in campaigns in Egypt, Syria, and Phoenicia at the time his father died (cf. Wiseman, Nebuchadrezzar and Babylon, 15). Further, a cuneiform tablet published in 1956 indicates that Nebuchadnezzar “conquered the whole area of the Hatti-country” shortly after the battle of Carchemish in 605 BC. The geographical term “Hatti” would have included the whole of Syria and Palestine at this time period (cf. Miller, 57; see also Donald J. Wiseman, Chronicles of the Chaldean Kings [London: Trustees of the British Museum, 1961], 69).

The siege of Jerusalem in 605 BC, then, was the first of three major invasions of Palestine by Babylonians (although there is no reference to armed conflict in vv. 1–2, and the verb “besieged” [Heb. ṣwr] may suggest more threat than substance, as evidenced in Goldingay’s [3] translation “blockaded”; cf. Wood, 30, who comments that “likely only token resistance was made, with the Judeans recognizing the wisdom of peaceful capitulation”).

The second incursion occurred at the end of Jehoiakim’s reign in 598 BC, when King Nebuchadnezzar was finally in a position to move against the disloyal Judean vassal (Jehoiakim had rebelled earlier against Babylonia ca. 603 BC; cf. 2 Ki 24:1–7). By the time Nebuchadnezzar reached Jerusalem, Jehoiakim had died and Jehoiachin his son was king of Judah (2 Ki 24:8). As a result of this invasion of Judah, King Jehoiachin was deposed and exiled along with ten thousand citizens of Jerusalem (including Ezekiel; 2 Ki 24:10–17; cf. Eze 1:1–2).

The third Babylonian invasion of Judah was swift and decisive. Nebuchadnezzar surrounded Jerusalem in 588 BC and after a lengthy siege, the city was sacked, Yahweh’s temple was plundered and destroyed, and Davidic kingship in Judah ceased (2 Ki 24:18–25:21).

Nebuchadnezzar II was the eldest son of Nabopolassar and is considered one of the greatest kings of ancient times. He ruled the Babylonian Empire from 605–562 BC—an empire that stretched across the ancient Near East from Elam in the east to Egypt in the west. Miller, 56, notes that the writer of Daniel refers proleptically to Nebuchadnezzar as “king of Babylon,” since he was actually crowned king some two or three months after the siege of Jerusalem.

The city of Babylon lay on the Euphrates River, some fifty miles south of modern Baghdad in Iraq. It reached the height of its splendor as the capital of the Chaldean or Neo-Babylonian Empire because of the extensive building activities of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar. The storied Hanging Gardens of Babylon were counted among the “wonders” of the ancient world. The prophet Jeremiah predicted the overthrow of Babylon as divine retribution for her evil deeds (Jer 25:12–14; cf. Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa 13:2–22 against the city of Babylon during the Assyrian period). In the NT, Babylon symbolizes the decadence and wickedness of Rome (cf. 1 Pe 5:13; Rev 14:8).

2 From the outset of the book, the record clearly indicates that Nebuchadnezzar’s success is not entirely his own doing. The Lord “delivered” (cf. NASB, “gave”) Jehoiakim into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar in that he permitted the Babylonian subjugation of Judah. (See NIDOTTE, 3:206, on the use of the Heb. verb nātan [“to give”] to connote “hand over in judgment.”) This introductory statement reveals the unifying theme for the whole book: God’s sovereign rule of human history. God’s judgment of the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah was not capricious or arbitrary. The threat of divine punishment, including exile from the land of the Abrahamic promise, was embedded in the blessings and curses of the Mosaic covenant (cf. Lev 18:24–30; 26; Dt 28). Owing to God’s covenantal faithfulness, he was extremely patient and longsuffering with his people Israel, warning them through his prophets over centuries of the dire consequences of habitual covenantal disobedience (cf. Ne 9:29–32). Daniel was not oblivious to all this, as attested by his prayer for his people (Da 9:4–11).

Placing objects plundered from the temples of vanquished enemies as trophies of war in the temple(s) of the gods of the victors was common practice in the biblical world (e.g., 1 Sa 5:2). The act symbolized the supremacy of the deities of the conquering nation over the gods of the peoples and nations subjugated by the imperialist armies (cf. BBCOT, 287). The articles or vessels from the Jerusalem temple confiscated by Nebuchadnezzar are not itemized. It is possible these articles were given as tribute to Nebuchadnezzar in order to lift the siege against the city (after the earlier example of the payments made by kings Ahaz and Hezekiah to the Assyrians; cf. 2 Ki 16:8; 18:15). The temple treasury cache may have included gold and silver ceremonial cups and utensils displayed to the envoy of the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan by King Hezekiah a century earlier (cf. 2 Ki 20:12–13). The prophet Isaiah rebuked Hezekiah’s pride and predicted his treasures would be plundered and carried off to Babylon (Isa 39:6; cf. the prohibition in Dt 17:17 against stockpiling wealth given to the Hebrew kings in anticipation of an Israelite monarchy).

Later, King Belshazzar paraded these gold and silver goblets before his nobles at a great feast, precipitating the episode of the writing on the wall and the demise of his kingship (Da 5:1–2, 25–31). Finally, some of these implements may have been part of the larger inventory of temple treasure plundered by the Babylonians that King Cyrus of Persia restored to the Hebrews and that were relocated in Judah when the exiles returned to the land under the leadership of Sheshbazzar (Ezr 1:7–11). All this serves as a reminder that everything under heaven belongs to God and that he providentially oversees what belongs to him—whether his people Israel or drinking bowls from his temple (cf. Job 41:11).

The historical setting laid out in the opening verses is also important to the theology of exile developed in the book of Daniel. It is clear from Daniel’s prayer in ch. 9 that he is aware of Jeremiah’s prophecies projecting a Babylonian exile lasting some seventy years (Da 9:2; cf. Jer 25:12; 29:10). The date formulas in books of subsequent prophets of the exile, such as Jeremiah (e.g., Jer 52:31) and Ezekiel (e.g., Eze 1:2), serve as “covenantal time-clocks” of sorts as they track the chronological progression of God’s judgment against his people for their sin of idolatry in anticipation of the restoration of Israel to the land of covenantal promise (Jer 44:3–6; cf. Lev 18:24–30). Elements of Daniel’s “theology of exile” developed in later sections of the commentary include: the value of prayer for Hebrews in the Diaspora, the role obedience and faithfulness to God play in the success of the Hebrews in the Diaspora, and insights into the nature and character of divine justice and human suffering in the light of the persecution experienced by Israel during and after the Babylonian exile.

More significant for the Hebrews was the crisis in theology created by the historical setting of the Babylonian exile. The Israelites, the people of Yahweh, lost possession of their land, had their temple razed, and had the office of kingship eradicated in one fell swoop to the marauding hordes of King Nebuchadnezzar and the gods of Babylonia. As Wallace, 31, observes, the Hebrews needed a new theology. God’s people needed a “Diaspora theology” addressing the problem of how to live as a minority group in an alien majority culture sometimes hostile, sometimes friendly; how were they to “fit in without being swallowed up?” The remainder of ch. 1 and the rest of the court stories take up the challenge of answering this very question.[2]


1:1–2 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim (605 b.c.), Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and took Daniel and other promising young people to Babylon to be trained in Babylonian culture and literature. This deportation was the beginning of what came to be known as the Babylonian exile, which was the result of the Lord’s judgment on his people. In Lev. 26:33, 39 the Lord threatened his people with exile if they were unfaithful to the terms of the covenant established at Mount Sinai (see also Deut. 4:27; 28:64). After a lengthy history of disobedience, this threat was carried out in several stages, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple in 586 b.c. The final destruction and exile were foreshadowed by this earlier exile in which vessels of the house of God were taken into captivity along with some of his people. Daniel calls it the “third year of the reign of Jehoiakim,” apparently using the Babylonian system for counting the length of a reign, while Jer. 25:1 calls it “the fourth year,” using the Jewish system. (Reigns could be counted from the beginning of the new year preceding a king’s ascension, or from the actual date of ascension, or from the beginning of the new year following his ascension; the third system was used in Babylon.)[3]


1:1 the third year The third year of Jehoiakim’s reign (606 bc) does not coincide with the known siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in 597 bc (compare v. 1 with 2 Kgs 24:10–12; 2 Chr 36:9–10)—a discrepancy that makes it difficult to determine when Daniel was taken to Babylon. The sources Daniel used to determine his dates no longer exist and vary with the sources we have today.

Various cultures reckoned the king’s first year of service from different starting points. For example, in the “accession year” system, the king’s first official regnal year would begin with the arrival of the New Year—regardless of when he actually became king. Daniel may have been utilizing the “non-accession year” system, where the king’s reign begins when he actually assumes the throne. However, Daniel most likely employed the “postdating system,” where the king’s reign begins following the completion of his first full year in office. Babylonian record-keeping typically uses this method. While knowing which dating system was in place helps harmonize certain conflicting passages (compare Dan 1:1 with Jer 25:1), this cannot reconcile time gaps greater than one year. In this passage, the main issue is when and how many times Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem.

The difficulty concerns the timing of Nebuchadnezzar’s attack(s) on Jerusalem. His final destruction of Jerusalem occurred in 586 bc. Daniel 1:1 claims that a siege occurred in 606 bc—during the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign (609–597 bc). The Babylonian Chronicles—which are tablets that record the history of Babylon—report a siege that occurred during the reign of Jehoiachin in 597 bc, but this was after the death of Jehoiakim (compare 2 Kgs 24:10–17). While 2 Chr 36:5–10 records that Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem twice in a brief period, other ancient documents do not mention an earlier siege. It may be that the event mentioned here was not a formal siege, or Nebuchadnezzar may have sent others to deal with Jehoiakim (compare 2 Kgs 18:13–37, where both kings are represented by others).

Daniel 1:1 Daniel (Hermeneia)

Chronology of the Monarchy BEB

Regnal Chronology

 

Accession Year System

 

Length of reign begins at New Year

 

Non-Accession Year System

 

Length of reign begins at coronation

 

Postdating System

 

Length of reign begins after first full year

 

Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon from 605 to 562 bc.

 Nebuchadnezzar

Known as a master builder and military architect, Nebuchadnezzar was the pride of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. He ruled for 43 years (605–562 bc) and gained fame by defeating the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish in 605 bc just before ascending the throne. Historical sources emphasize his vast army and warring tendencies, portraying him as a king obsessed with conquest and power. He is portrayed similarly in Daniel but is used to make a theological point: The power of earthly rulers comes from God. Nebuchadnezzar is given power to exercise a temporary judgment on Judah. But his pride will be his downfall, and his vast kingdom will eventually belong to another foreign king.

besieged it According to the Babylonian Chronicles, Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem occurred in 597 bc.

The Babylonian Chronicles are a series of tablets discovered in the late 19th century. They present a selective series of accounts about Babylonian history covering the period from around 625–225 bc. Unlike other historical documents from the ancient Near East, these texts reflect an accurate catalog of historical events and omit the self-aggrandizing qualities often found in Egyptian texts. For example, they chronicle defeats as well as victories—a practice almost without parallel in antiquity—making them one of the earliest attempts at historiography. They assist in our understanding of the biblical record, particularly the book of Daniel, and cover some of the events leading up to (and including) Judah’s exile to Babylon.

1:2 into his hand Expresses the sovereignty of God over the nations—a theme repeated throughout the book. God can direct the destinies of foreign kingdoms and rulers, as well as His own people. Judah’s exile to Babylon is also viewed within this framework.

The setting for the book of Daniel is the deportation of Judah to Babylon, or the Babylonian exile. When Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians at the Battle of Carchemish and subsequently became king in 605 bc, Judah fell under Babylonian control. Jehoiakim, then king of Judah, was a submissive vassal for three years, then rebelled. His rebellion brought reprisals from Nebuchadnezzar, who besieged Jerusalem in 597 bc. Jehoiachin, son of Jehoiakim, was forced to yield after three months (see 2 Kgs 24:8, 10–12). As a result, he and many of the leading citizens of Judah were exiled to Babylon (see 2 Kgs 24:13–17). A second rebellion in 586 bc by Zedekiah brought about the full measure of Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath; Jerusalem was destroyed and the remaining population was brought to Babylon (see 2 Kgs 24:18–25:21). For the theological reason behind the exile, see Dan 9:2 and note.

The court tales of Daniel and his three friends (chs. 1–6) are placed within this setting of living under Babylonian domination. They function as “hope literature,” providing a sense of encouragement that God has authority over His people’s future. They are also didactic, teaching the exiles how to live righteously among their captors. The fruit of righteousness is seen in God’s continual deliverance of those who do right. The latter half of the book—chs. 7–12—deals with a later persecution. The arguments over when the book of Daniel was written involve this change of setting halfway through the book. Traditionally, Daniel is considered the author, so the book must have been written in his lifetime (sixth century bc). The stories in chs. 1–6 relate to Daniel and his friends in sixth-century Babylon. The change in style and character of chs. 7–12—with its focus on future events, especially those of the early second century bc—have led some to conclude that the book was written after Daniel’s lifetime.

the land of Shinar The ancient Hebrew name for Babylon, used here, was “Shinar” (see Gen 11:2 and note).

he brought the utensils See 2 Chronicles 36:10. In ancient Near Eastern warfare, placing the objects of a defeated enemy in the temple of one’s god was a common practice. It represented a thanksgiving offering for victory in battle and expressed superiority over the god of the defeated enemy. Israel’s God will eventually punish Babylon for this offense.

of his gods Marduk or Bel. Rather than add further shame to the captives by destroying the vessels, Nebuchadnezzar preserves them. While Nebuchadnezzar is eventually punished for his pride, Daniel presents him here in a positive light.[4]


1:1 the third year. 605 b.c. Nebuchadnezzar defeated a coalition of Assyria and Egypt at Carchemish and initiated Babylon’s rise to international power. After the battle of Carchemish, Nebuchadnezzar advanced against Jehoiakim (2 Kin. 24:1, 2; 2 Chr. 36:5–7) and took some Judeans captive, including Daniel. This was the first of three invasions of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar. The second was in 597 b.c. (2 Kin. 24:10–14), and the third in 586 b.c. (2 Kin. 25:1–24). In the book of Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar’s attack is dated to Jehoiakim’s fourth year instead of the third (Jer. 25:1; 46:2). The difference occurs because in the Babylonian chronology, which Daniel apparently used, the king’s reign was officially counted from the first day of the succeeding new year, rather than from the actual date of his accession to the throne.

Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonians to victory at Carchemish as crown prince and commander of the army. Shortly after this victory, he assumed the Babylonian throne when his father Nabopolassar died (626–605 b.c.). Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (605–562 b.c.) is the historical context for much of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.

1:2 the Lord gave … into his hand. Israel’s defeat by the Babylonians is not to be explained simply by analysis of military and political factors. God is at work in the affairs of the nations, and the message to Daniel’s original audience is that He has used the Babylonians to judge His own people for their transgressions (2 Kin. 17:15, 18–20; 21:12–15; 24:3, 4). Under the terms of the covenant made at Mount Sinai, the Lord threatened to exile His people if they were unfaithful (Lev. 26:33, 39). The length of their tenure in the land in spite of their unfaithfulness is a sign of the Lord’s mercy. Their unfaithfulness culminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of the majority of the remaining population by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 b.c.

the vessels of the house of God. These same temple vessels are brought out by Belshazzar for his feast in Dan. 5 and will be returned to Judah with the exiles in the time of Cyrus (Ezra 1:7).

the treasury of his god. Marduk (or Bel) is the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon (cf. Jer. 50:2).[5]


1:1–2 Man proposes, God disposes

The story of Daniel is introduced by two statements which provide both the historical and theological context for the entire narrative. Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. Nebuchadnezzar invaded Palestine on several occasions. The siege referred to here took place in 605 bc, the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign (by Babylonian reckoning. Je. 25:1, which refers to the same incident, uses Jewish reckoning, counting from the new year prior to a king’s accession.) Notice that this horizontal perspective on history is coupled with a vertical or theological one: the Lord delivered Jehoiakim. Immediately we are introduced to the underlying themes of the entire book:

Babylon versus Jerusalem, the city of this world against the city of God (Augustine), a conflict traced in Scripture to its climax in Revelation (see Rev. 14:8; 17:5; 18:2–24). Ultimately this conflict is rooted in the declaration of Gn. 3:15.

The sovereign reign of God, despite all appearances to the contrary. In the fall of Jerusalem prophecy was fulfilled (e.g. Is. 39:6–7; Je. 21:3–10; 25:1–11) and the judgments of God’s covenant (of which the prophets had warned) were inaugurated (i.e. Dt. 28:36–37, 47–49, 52, 58). The exile was a judgment on Jehoiakim’s reign (2 Ch. 36:5–7), but the rot had set in long before (2 Ki. 24:1–4). To outward appearances Nebuchadnezzar was triumphant, and God’s name shamed (the placing of the temple articles in the treasure-house of his god marking the triumph of the pagan deity Nabu over Yahweh). In reality, however, nothing is outside the divine rule (cf. Is. 45:7; Eph. 1:11b) as Nebuchadnezzar himself was eventually brought to recognize (4:35). In Daniel the experience of Joseph is repeated (Gn. 45:4–7; 50:20).[6]


 

Background (1:1–2). Daniel was exiled in 605 BC, the fourth year of King Jehoiakim, together with a cross section of prominent citizens and craftsmen (Jer. 25:1; 46:2). Daniel’s method of reckoning differs from that of the Palestinian system (cf. 2 Kings 23:36–24:2), as he writes “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it” (1:1). It appears that this manner of reckoning is based on the Babylonian system, according to which the first year began with the New Year.

The tragedy of that hour was that “the Lord delivered” (1:2) Jehoiakim, articles from the temple, and prominent citizens into captivity. This was the beginning of the exile of Judah, spoken of by Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk. The people had sinned, and the Lord had to discipline his rebellious children.

This was the first exile; a second followed, during which Ezekiel and King Jehoiachin were deported (597 BC). The third exile followed the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple (586 BC).[7]


1:1 Jehoiakim king of Judah reigned from 608 to 598 b.c. The third year was 605 b.c., according to the chronological system used by Daniel in which only whole years were counted. Jeremiah, on the other hand, followed a system in which any part of a year was counted as a full year. Therefore, he designated 605 b.c. as the fourth year of Jehoiakim (Jer. 25:1; 36:1; 46:2). Jehoiakim was an evil king who sided first with the Egyptians and then with the Babylonians until 602 b.c. when he rebelled. His independence was short-lived, however, and Jehoiakim remained under Babylonian domination until his death. The son of Nabopolassar, the founder of the Neo-Babylonian (Chaldean) Empire, was Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned from 605 to 562 b.c. In the summer of 605 b.c. when his father died, Nebuchadnezzar was leading the Babylonian armies. He returned to Babylon to secure the throne, but not before he besieged Jerusalem and seized loot and prisoners, including Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar greatly enlarged the empire begun by his father and revived the worship of the ancient Babylonian gods, especially Marduk.

1:2 the Lord gave: The Book of Daniel emphasizes the sovereignty of God in the affairs of nations. Jerusalem did not fall merely because Nebuchadnezzar was strong, but because God had judged the people of Judah for their disobedience and idolatry. some of the articles: The remainder of the articles were removed later when Jehoiakim surrendered (2 Kin. 24:13; 2 Chr. 36:18). Shinar—that is, Babylon—was located on the Euphrates River fifty miles south of present-day Baghdad in Iraq. into the treasure house: The articles taken from the house of God appear later, on the night of Belshazzar’s feast (ch. 5). Eventually they were returned to Zerubbabel who brought them back to Israel (Ezra 1:7).[8]


Background (1:1–2). Daniel was exiled in 605 b.c., the fourth year of King Jehoiakim, together with a cross-section of prominent citizens and craftsmen (Jer. 25:1; 46:2). Daniel’s method of reckoning differs from that of the Palestinian system, as he writes “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it” (1:1). It appears that this manner of reckoning is based on the Babylonian system, according to which the first year began with the New Year.

The tragedy of that hour was that “the Lord delivered” (1:2) Jehoiakim, articles from the temple, and prominent citizens into captivity. This was the beginning of the great exile of Judah, predicted by Isaiah, Micah, Zephaniah, and Habakkuk. The people had sinned and the Lord had to discipline his rebellious children.

This was the first exile; a second followed during which Ezekiel and King Jehoiachin were deported. The third exile followed the desolation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple (586 b.c.).[9]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 45–48). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1586). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:1–2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1464). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Ferguson, S. B. (1994). Daniel. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., pp. 748–749). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[7] Burge, G. M., & Hill, A. E. (Eds.). (2012). The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary (p. 785). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1008). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] VanGemeren, W. A. (1995). Daniel. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, pp. 591–592). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

June 1, 2017: Verse of the day

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49 Mary is in awe of the “Mighty One,” whose great power has been exercised in her life. The word “great” (megala, GK 3489) recalls “glorifies” (megalynei, GK 3486) in v. 46. God’s “name” is, according to the common ancient meaning, his whole reputation or character.[1]


1:49 the Mighty One Like Hannah, Mary praises God’s attributes by using names that reflect His character (compare 1 Sam 2:2).[2]


1:49 He who is mighty: God is One who protects and fights for His children (Pss. 45:3; 89:8; Zeph. 3:17). holy is His name: God is unique and set apart from all other beings (Lev. 11:44, 45; Ps. 99:3; Is. 57:15).[3]


[1] Liefeld, W. L., & Pao, D. W. (2007). Luke. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Luke–Acts (Revised Edition) (Vol. 10, p. 66). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Lk 1:49). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1251). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 31 – Our Ultimate Example

“And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.”

1 Peter 2:23

✧✧✧

Jesus Christ, as the sinless sufferer, is the only model we need as we endure life’s trials.

Prior to his death in 1555, the English Reformer and martyr Hugh Latimer expressed his convictions this way: “Die once we must; how and where, we know not…. Here is not our home; let us therefore accordingly consider things, having always before our eyes that heavenly Jerusalem, and the way thereto in persecution.” Latimer knew much about how to face suffering, but he knew that Jesus Himself was the final model regarding how to deal with suffering and death.

That model is summarized in today’s verse, which is a quote from the Suffering Servant passage in Isaiah 53. All the horrible physical and verbal abuse Christ endured just prior to the cross, along with the evil tearing down of His perfectly virtuous character, was unjustified, and yet He did not strike back. As the Son of God, Jesus had perfect control of His feelings and powers.

Jesus found the strength to endure such an abusive final trial when He “kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Literally, Jesus kept handing Himself and all His circumstances, climaxing with His death on Calvary (Luke 23:46), over to the Father. The Son had complete trust in God, the just and fair Judge of the entire earth (see Gen. 18:25).

We can follow His example and endure persecution and unjust suffering without answering back, whether it be in the workplace, among relatives, or in any social setting. The key is simply entrusting our lives, by faith, to a righteous God who will make everything right and bring us safely into His glory (1 Peter 5:6–10).

Stephen and Paul are notable role models for how we can triumph over life’s persecutions and hardships, even death. But those great men were themselves merely “fixing [their] eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:2). We must do the same.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: As you daily experience life’s normal difficulties and challenges, ask God to help you better remember the perfect example Jesus set in facing the worst of pain and suffering.

For Further Study: Read Hebrews 1:1–2 and 4:14–16. Compare and contrast what these passages tell us about Christ’s deity and humanity. ✧ What do they reveal about the superiority of His example?[1]


2:23 He was patient under provocation. When He was reviled, He did not pay back in kind. When blamed He did not answer back. When accused He did not defend Himself. He was wondrously free from the lust of self-vindication.

An unknown author has written:

It is a mark of deepest and truest humility to see ourselves condemned without cause, and to be silent under it. To be silent under insult and wrong is a very noble imitation of our Lord. When we remember in how many ways He suffered, who in no way deserved it, where are our senses when we feel called to defend and excuse ourselves?

When He suffered, He did not threaten. “No ungentle, threatening word escaped His silent tongue.” Perhaps His assailants mistook His silence for weakness. If they had tried it they would have found it was not weakness but supernatural strength!

What was His hidden resource in bearing up under such unprovoked abuse? He trusted God who judges righteously. And we are called to do the same:

Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “if your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:19–21).[2]


  1. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

As a disciple of Jesus, Peter personally can testify to the suffering of Jesus. He was present in the courtyard of the high priest when Jesus was tried by the Sanhedrin (see Matt. 26:57–75; Mark 14:53–72; Luke 22:54–62). Peter was fully acquainted with the trial before Pontius Pilate; the chief priests and elders accused Jesus of many things but he made no reply (refer to Matt. 27:12–14). And Peter knew that when Jesus hung on the cross he suffered without complaint (Matt. 27:34–44). The content of verse 23 is such “as we might have expected to be written by an eyewitness” who reflected on the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7–9 (also see 5:1).

Peter depicts the patience and endurance of Jesus and suggests that we follow Jesus’ example. However, the tendency to retaliate when we are insulted is always present. For instance, Paul reacted instantaneously to the command of the high priest Ananias, who ordered “those standing near Paul to strike him on the mouth” (Acts 23:2). Paul invoked the judgment of God: “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall” (v. 3). By contrast, Jesus prayed for his enemies: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34; and see Acts 7:60).

In the last part of verse 23 Peter states the reason for Jesus’ meekness. Writes Peter, “Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” That is, Jesus did not invoke God’s wrath upon his persecutors and demand retaliation. Jesus knew that his suffering was divinely ordained. He had to take upon himself the curse that was resting on the human race in consequence of man’s sin. Jesus was fully aware of God’s righteous judgment against sin (see 2 Cor. 5:21). For this reason, Jesus entrusted himself and his cause to God, the righteous judge.[3]


2:23 reviled. To “revile” is to pile up abusive and vile language against someone. Though verbally abused, Christ never retaliated with vicious words and threats (3:9; cf. Mt 26:57–65; 27:12–14; Lk 23:7–11). entrusting Himself. “To entrust” was “to hand over to someone to keep.” Christ was “delivered” to Pilate (Jn 19:11); Pilate “handed Him over” to the Jews (Jn 19:16); Christ “handed over” Himself to God, suffering in surprising silence, because of His perfect confidence in the sovereignty and righteousness of His Father (cf. Is 53:7).[4]


2:23 when he suffered, he did not threaten. It is common to long for retaliation in the face of unjust criticism or suffering, but Jesus behaved like the meek lamb of Isa. 53:7. He could do so because he continued entrusting both himself and those who mistreated him entirely to God, knowing that God is just and will make all things right in the end. Likewise believers, knowing that God judges justly, are able to forgive others and to entrust all judgment and vengeance to God (cf. Rom. 12:19). Every wrong deed in the universe will be either covered by the blood of Christ or repaid justly by God at the final judgment.[5]


2:23 entrusted himself Peter uses Isa 53:7 to highlight Jesus’ exemplary behavior in the face of threats and physical suffering. As the faithful Suffering Servant, Jesus illustrates how God’s people—both slaves and freepersons—should endure hardship.

the one who judges justly Peter likely draws this from Isa 53:10, which notes that the Suffering Servant’s anguish pleases Yahweh because of its results. God, who observes that the righteous are suffering, will ultimately reward their endurance and punish those who are afflicting them (see Rev 6:9 and note).[6]


2:23 reviled: Although He was insulted and abused, Jesus remained in control of His words and did not utter slanderous remarks in return. threaten: Although He suffered physical pain, Jesus did not cry out that He would get even or even that He desired to inflict pain on those who were causing Him agony. committed Himself: The Greek does not have Himself, and thus does not say whom or what Jesus kept giving over to God. Most likely, He constantly entrusted both Himself and His revilers to the power of God in order to let God deal with both as a righteous judge. When we pray, we are to forgive (i.e. release to God) any offenses. It is not ours to “get even” (Mark 11:25, 26).[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2265). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Kistemaker, S. J., & Hendriksen, W. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Epistles of Peter and the Epistle of Jude (Vol. 16, p. 110). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 2:23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 2409). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (1 Pe 2:23). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 1682–1683). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

May 30, 2017: Verse of the day

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31:34 No more shall every man teach: No longer would intermediaries like priests or prophets be needed to show the people how to know the Lord. From youngest to oldest, from peasant farmer to kings and princes, all would know God. Knowledge of God is a major theme of Jeremiah (2:8; 4:22; 5:4; 8:7) as well as of other prophets (Hos. 5:4). This knowledge is an intimate relationship with God evidenced by faith, obedience, and devotion. God will forgive and will purposefully not remember the sin and iniquity of His people who come to Him in repentance and faith. Jesus the Messiah fulfilled this promised New Covenant through His work on the Cross (Matt. 26:26–28; Mark 14:22–24; 1 Cor. 11:25).

31:35 sun … moon … stars: God, the Creator of all things, entered into covenant with His people. sea … waves: The Hebrew people learned from their Canaanite neighbors to fear the sea (Ps. 93). But God is Master of the sea, as He is Master of all things (Is. 51:15).[1]


31:34 The word translated “forgive” (salah, Heb.) can mean “send away” or “let go,” and is one of several O.T. words for forgiveness (v. 34; 36:3; cf. Is. 55:7, note). Another term is kaphar (Heb.), basically meaning “to cover” (Prov. 17:9; Is. 1:18) and most often associated with the various aspects of the atonement, which is impossible without God’s forgiveness. A third word is nasa˒ (Heb.), meaning “lift up or away” (Gen. 50:17; Ex. 10:17). In the N.T. there are four Greek words rendered “forgive”: (1) aphiēgmi, meaning “send away” or “let off” (Mark 3:29; Acts 5:31; 13:38; 26:18; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14) and also rendered “liberty” (Luke 4:18) or “remission,” which indicates a permanent removal of deserved punishment and condemnation (Matt. 26:28; Mark 1:4; Luke 1:77; 3:3; 24:47; Acts 2:38; 10:43; Heb. 9:22; 10:18); (2) paresis, meaning “remission” (Rom. 3:25); (3) apoluōg, literally “to loose away from” or “away from destruction” (Luke 6:37); and (4) charizomai, meaning literally “be gracious to” (Luke 7:43; 2 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). The latter word is enhanced by its relation to the noun charis, meaning “grace.” Forgiveness is the demonstration of God’s mercy and grace (Ps. 86:5; 103:10, 11), the sovereign act of God which reflects His very nature. Sin breaks the fellowship between God and man just as it breaks the harmony among men. Fellowship is restored only through forgiveness. If God is willing to forgive man, how much more should man forgive man (cf. Matt. 6:12). Those who have been forgiven should then become the forgiving (Luke 7:40–47; 17:3, 4). Divine forgiveness is marked by its unlimited scope (cf. Ps. 78:38; Luke 17:3, 4), its absolute erasure of sins (cf. Ps. 103:12; Mic. 7:19; Heb. 10:17), its abundant and gracious pardon (cf. Is. 55:7), and its automatic forgetting simultaneous with forgiveness (cf. Is. 43:25; 44:22). Though human forgiveness is inferior to divine forgiveness, the pattern is available and worthy of imitation (Eph. 5:1). The fruits of forgiveness include (1) peace (Gal. 5:22), (2) healing (2 Chr. 30:18–20), (3) restoration (2 Cor. 2:7–10), and (4) cleansing (James 5:15, 16). The forgiveness of their sin will assure a personal relationship with Yahweh. Likewise the law will not be relegated to written material only, but also will be known by the indwelling of the living Word in individual believers. In the new covenant it is God Himself that initiates and executes His blessings toward Israel. The people of God have hope in: (1) a coming day of restoration (v. 31); (2) personal fellowship with the living God (vv. 32, 33); and (3) the forgiveness of their sins (v. 34).[2]


31:34 There will be no need for a faithful remnant within the covenant people to teach the unfaithful majority to know God, for all covenant partners will know him. This covenant will include only those who know him, and he will remember their sin no more.[3]


31:31–34 a new covenant. In contrast to the Mosaic Covenant under which Israel failed, God promised a New Covenant with a spiritual, divine dynamic by which those who know Him would participate in the blessings of salvation. The fulfillment was to individuals, yet also to Israel as a nation (v. 36; Ro 11:16–27). It is set 1) in the framework of a reestablishment in their land (e.g., chaps. 30–33 and in vv. 38–40) and 2) in the time after the ultimate difficulty (30:7). In principle, this covenant, also announced by Jesus Christ (Lk 22:20), begins to be exercised with spiritual aspects realized for Jewish and Gentile believers in the church era (1Co 11:25; Heb 8:7–13; 9:15; 10:14–17; 12:24; 13:20). It has already begun to take effect with “a remnant according to God’s gracious choice” (Ro 11:5). It will be also realized by the people of Israel in the last days, including the regathering to their ancient land, Palestine (chaps. 30–33). The streams of the Abrahamic, Davidic, and New Covenants find their confluence in the millennial kingdom ruled over by the Messiah.[4]

A new covenant (31:31–34)

Commentary

31–32 It is only fitting that the weeping prophet from Anathoth, who spoke of death and destruction for more than forty years, would be the one entrusted with the glorious new covenant oracle—an oracle whose words were surely in Yeshua’s mind at the Last Supper (cf. Lk 22:20), an oracle repeated in Hebrews 8:8–13; 9:15–22; 10:16–17, and an oracle whose theme ultimately became the primary name given to the Greek Scriptures as a whole. (Though Lundbom, 2:474, claims that “it comes as somewhat of a surprise … to find so little said in the NT about a new covenant,” it cannot be denied that the entire NT is permeated with the understanding of the new realities of the new covenant God has made with his people.) The significance of these verses cannot be overstated. (According to Carson, “Matthew,” EBC, 8:538, “It appears, then, that Jesus understands the covenant he is introducing to be the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecies and the antitype of the Sinai covenant,” with earlier reference to Ex 24:8. As to the word “new” in this context in some NT manuscripts, cf. Luke 22:20.)

As in v. 27, both the houses of Israel and Judah are addressed in v. 31, and the divine announcement to them is momentous: Yahweh will make a new covenant with his people! It was Jeremiah who witnessed the valiant efforts of Josiah to renew the Sinaitic covenant—efforts that ultimately failed and the last such efforts of a Judean king—and it was Jeremiah whose calling as a prophet received undeniable confirmation by the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah (cf., similarly, Eze 33:21–33). It will receive even more confirmation with the return of the exiles after seventy years.

This man had the credibility to deliver such an oracle and declare (v. 31): This covenant will not be like the covenant made at Sinai! The new exodus—also combining a demonstration of the Lord’s power and his tender care—will have a new covenant (compare the description of the first exodus here, “when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt,” with descriptions of the second exodus [31:7–9]), since God’s people broke the Sinaitic covenant (prr, “break, annul,” occurring with berît, “covenant,” as early as Ge 17:14; see also Lev 26:15, 44; Dt 31:16, 20; Isa 24:5; Eze 16:59; 17:16, 18; 44:7; in Jeremiah, see esp. 11:10, “Both the house of Israel and the house of Judah have broken the covenant I made with their forefathers”). They did this despite the fact that Yahweh had been a husband to them (bāʿaltî bām; cf. 3:14; for other renderings, see Notes).

On his end, Yahweh did everything he could; yet the people violated the covenant to the point of making it null and void (cf. Clemens; Brueggemann states, “The old covenant from Sinai was resisted until it was broken and abrogated”). Without a new covenant the same pattern of disobedience, judgment, and transitory repentance followed again by disobedience and judgment would be endlessly repeated. God’s only redemptive recourse, then, was to change the nature of the covenant and thereby change the nature of his people.

33 The character of this new covenant is described as one that will be made “after those days” (NASB), referring back to v. 31a and possibly back to v. 27 or even earlier and apparently meaning after they have been planted again in the land (cf. Metsudat David, “after they return from exile”). Interestingly, reference is made here only to the house of Israel, but this must certainly be understood inclusively as referring to both Israel and Judah (mentioned in vv. 29, 31); it may also reflect the fact that the Sinaitic covenant was made with one people, Israel, before there was such a thing as the northern and southern kingdoms. In the same way this new covenant will be made with one people, Israel (cf. esp. 1 Ki 18:31; see also Holladay with reference to Eze 39:15–17).

In this new covenant God’s tôrâ (“teaching, law”) will be put within his people (beqirbām, lit., “in their midst/interior”; the NIV’s “in their minds” is too interpretive) and will be written on their hearts, in obvious contradistinction to the Sinaitic covenant, which was written on tablets of stone (Ex 24:12; 34:1, 4, 28; Dt 4:13; 5:22; 9:9–11; 10:1, 3; see Eze 36:26–27; 2 Co 3:3; cf. further Pss 40:8[9]; 51:6, 10; note Dt 10:16; Jer 4:3–4). Thus it will become Israel’s very nature to keep the commandments of the Lord as their automatic, natural response; this is expressed more fully in the (clearly parallel) new heart passage in Ezekiel 36:26–27, as well as in Jeremiah 32:37–42 (see discussion there; cf. also Eze 11:17–20).

On a practical level, this means that what the psalmist experienced on a temporary and individual level in Psalm 40—delighting in God’s will and having the Torah in his heart before being overwhelmed by the consciousness of his still-present sins—will become Israel’s experience on a corporate and permanent level. Because there will be harmony between Yahweh and his people, the covenantal promise expressed first in Jeremiah in 7:23 and repeated again in 11:1–4 will finally become the reality. As Keil notes, “the essential element of the new covenant, ‘I will be their God, and they shall be my people,’ was set forth as the object of the old; cf. Lev 26:12 with Ex 29:45,” but it is only through the new covenant that it will be realized. As Heschel, 1:128–29, observes, “Prophecy is not God’s only instrument. What prophecy fails to bring about, the new covenant will accomplish: the complete transformation of every individual.” For a thorough interpretive study, see Fẹmi Adeyẹmi, The New Covenant Torah in Jeremiah and the Law of Christ in Paul (Studies in Biblical Literature 94; New York: Peter Lang, 2008).

34 The impact of all of this will be so great that the knowledge of God will become completely pervasive (cf. esp. Isa 11:9), eliminating the need for ongoing instruction and exhortation to know Yahweh—the foundation for obedience, worship, and blessing (cf., e.g., 9:24; contrast 2:8; 4:22)—since everyone will know him (according to Metsudat David with reference to 22:16b, to know the Lord means “to fear him and to walk in his ways”). In contrast with Judah’s preexilic state, as expressed in 6:13; 8:10 (“from the least of them to the greatest all are greedy for gain”), in the new state of things “they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.”

This will come about because Yahweh will utterly and completely forgive and forget his people’s sins and wickedness—an unprecedented gesture on his part toward his chronically disobedient people (cf. 33:8; 50:20, for a reiteration of this; contrast 5:1, 7). This, of course, does not mean that he will forgive them so that they can continue to sin; rather, it speaks of: (1) a cleaning of the slate and a complete removal of the guilt of the past; and (2) the internalized nature of the new covenant, in which Israel will no longer seek to disobey—the byproduct of being forgiven (cf. Lk 7:47). As Brueggemann notes, “All the newness is possible because Yahweh has forgiven.” Compare also Radak, who explains that God will forgive them for the sins “they committed while still in exile,” adding, “and I will give them a new heart so that they will know me.”

While these verses do not state categorically that God’s people will never sin again (though Malbim says the possibility of sinning will not even exist), they do strongly imply that they will no longer be characterized by disobedience and wickedness but rather by obedience and righteousness. For further discussion of what is “new” in the new covenant, compare Bertrand Pinçon, Du nouveau dans l’ancien: Essai sur la notion d’alliance nouvelle dans le livre Jérémie et dans quelques relectures au cours d’exil (Lyons: Profac, 2000; conveniently summarized in OTA 23 [2000]: 2084). For the usage of tôrâ in this passage, compare Untermann, 98–102, who renders tôrâ as “divine legal instruction.” Huey lists Isaiah 41:18–20; 42:6–13; 43:18–21, 25; 44:3–5, 21–23; 45:14–17; 49:8–13; 51:3–8; 54:9–10; 55:3; 60:15–22; 61:1–9; 65:17–25; Jeremiah 50:4–5; Ezekiel 16:60–63; 34:11–31; 36:8–15, 22–38; 37:11–14, 21–28; Joel 2:18–32 as containing new covenant ideas, with reference to Walter C. Kaiser, “The Old Promise and the New Covenant: Jeremiah 31:31–34,” JETS 15 (1972): 11–23. For additional references, see http://www.askdrbrown.org/bibliography/jeremiah.[5]


[1] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (pp. 923–924). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 31:34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1431). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Je 31:31–34). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, pp. 395–398). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

May 24, 2017: Verse of the day

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55:10, 11 God’s word is just as irresistible and effective as the rain and snow. All the armies in the world cannot stop them, and they accomplish their intended purpose. God’s Word never fails to achieve its aims:

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.[1]


55:10, 11 rain … snow … My word. Moisture from heaven invariably accomplishes its intended purpose in helping meet human physical needs. The Word of God will likewise produce its intended results in fulfilling God’s spiritual purposes, especially the establishment of the Davidic kingdom on earth (vv. 1–5).[2]


55:10–11 As the rain and the snow cannot fail to nourish the earth, so God’s word of promise cannot fail to bring his people into the richness and fullness of eternal life. Human good intentions fail, but God’s promises succeed (cf. 40:6–8). The word of God not only describes a glorious future, it is God’s appointed means to create that future (cf. Ezek. 37:1–14).[3]


55:11 It shall not return to me without success Yahweh’s word cannot fail to bring about the desired results (compare 40:8). The word of God contains very real power to accomplish His will. Creation happened through divine speech in Gen 1 (compare Psa 33:6, 9), and Yahweh brought life back into lifeless bones through the prophetic words of Ezekiel (Ezek 37:1–14).[4]


55:10, 11 rain. The rain falls abundantly and of its own accord, and in a familiar but mysterious way produces plants and useful crops, evidently for the purpose of supplying people’s needs. The divine purpose in this is applied figuratively to the word of God in order to distinguish it from fallible human thoughts and plans. It also speaks of the Lord’s word as His decree by which He governs history. It never returns without accomplishing God’s sovereign purposes. Cf. 40:8.[5]

55:11 It is the divine origin (or character) of God’s word, and not some magical power, which causes it to accomplish the purpose for which it is sent (cf. Heb. 4:12).[6]

10–11 The declaration of vs 8–9 not only looks back to v 7 but on to vs 10–13, to shame us out of our small expectations. God’s thoughts are more far-reaching and more fertile, as well as higher, than ours. The comparison of his word with rain andsnow suggests a slow and silent work, transforming the face of the earth in due time. The reference is to his decree (cf. e.g. 44:26; 45:23) rather than his invitation or instruction, which can be refused (48:18–19; cf. the similar imagery to that of v 10 in Heb. 6:4–8).[7]

55:10, 11 bring forth: For a similar reference, see 2 Cor. 9:10. God’s word is similar to rainfall; it produces fruit (Ps. 147:15–20). Just as water enlivens and strengthens a withering rose, God’s word produces life in the hearts of sinners.[8]

55:10–11. Having spoken of the future time of blessing (the Millennium) and the salvation which leads to it, the Lord then assured believers that His Word … will accomplish what He says it will. His word is like rain and snow that water the earth and help give it abundant vegetation. In the Near East dry hard ground can seemingly overnight sprout with vegetation after the first rains of the rainy season. Similarly when God speaks His Word, it brings forth spiritual life, thus accomplishing His purpose.[9]


[1] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 982). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 55:10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1342). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 55:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1228). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Is 55:11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] Kidner, F. D. (1994). Isaiah. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 664). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 865). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[9] Martin, J. A. (1985). Isaiah. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1111). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

MAY 24 – THE SOURCE OF ALL POWER

O Lord GOD, thou hast begun to shew thy servant thy greatness, and thy mighty hand: for what God is there in heaven or in earth, that can do according to thy works, and according to thy might?

—Deuteronomy 3:24

God is the source of all the power there is. There isn’t any power anywhere that doesn’t have God as its source, whether it be the power of the intellect, of the spirit, of the soul, of dynamite, of the storm or of magnetic attraction. Wherever there is any power at all, God is the author of it. And the source of anything has to be greater than that which flows out of it.

If you pour a quart of milk out of a can, that can has to be equal to or greater than a quart. The can has to be as big as or bigger than that which comes out of it. The can may contain several gallons, though you may pour out only a quart. The source has to be as big or bigger than that which comes out of it. So if all the power there is came from God—all the power—therefore, God’s power must be equal to or greater than all the power there is. AOGII074-075

Lord, why do we worry and fear so much when we are the dear children of the One who has such power? Strengthen me today with the promise of Your power. Amen. [1]


23–25 Although Moses was the great lawgiver and the ruler of Israel, he addresses his God as the “Sovereign Lord” and regards himself as his “servant.” Moses realized that he had only begun to comprehend his great God’s majesty because God had only begun to manifest himself to Moses and his people. The phrase “your greatness and your strong hand” refers to Yahweh’s awe-inspiring character and his impressive interventions in Israel’s behalf.

Moses breaks out in praise of his incomparable God because there were no gods like him. His question, “For what god is there in heaven or on earth …,” is a rhetorical question asked for emphasis. Moses was addressing the “marketplace of ideas” that existed in his day. He was referring to the conception of pagans (and certain Israelites) for the sake of argument. He was not granting the existence of other powerful gods and concluding that Yahweh is the winner out of many; rather, he was emphasizing that Yahweh is unique and unparalleled, the one and only true God (cf. 4:32–39). Moses pleaded (3:23) for God to allow him to witness personally the fulfillment of God’s promise to provide Israel with a land (Ge 12:1; 13:14–17; 15:18–21; 17:8; 26:3–4; 48:3–4).[2]


3:24 O Lord God: The Hebrew has the word for “Lord” or “Master” followed by the personal name of God, Yahweh. This phrase indicates the depth of Moses’ relationship with the Lord (9:26). what god is there … mighty deeds: Moses began his prayer with praise for God’s holiness and power (Ex. 15:11). God is incomparable; there was none like Him (Is. 40:25, 26).[3]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Grisanti, M. A. (2012). Deuteronomy. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, pp. 513–514). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 238). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.