Category Archives: Reformation Study Bible

June 18, 2017: Verse of the day

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11 Isaiah (Isa 66:15–16) utilizes the figure of fire and chariots like a whirlwind to depict God’s coming in judicial anger against sinful humanity. Much of that imagery was probably drawn from texts portraying God as present in intense thunderstorms (e.g., Pss 18:9–15; 29:3–9).[1]


2:10–12a Elijah said that it was not in his power to grant the request, then added a condition that was also beyond his control: If Elisha would see him depart, then his request would be granted. As they walked on and talked, they were separated by a chariot of fire … with horses of fire. Then a whirlwind caught Elijah … up … into heaven in full view of Elisha. Elisha … cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” This may indicate that Elijah was the strongest weapon of God’s power and the best defense of Israel.[2]


2:11 chariot of fire and horses of fire. The horse-drawn chariot was the fastest means of transport and the mightiest means of warfare in that day. Thus, the chariot and horses symbolized God’s powerful protection, which was the true safety of Israel (v. 12). As earthly kingdoms are dependent for their defense on such military force as represented by horses and chariots, one single prophet had done more by God’s power to preserve his nation than all their military preparations.[3]


2:11 Elijah’s ascent prefigures the triumph of Christ over death and his ascension (Luke 24:51; Acts 1:9).[4]


2:11 a fiery chariot with horses of fire Fire in the ot is associated with God’s presence (compare 2 Kgs 1:10, 12). The chariots and horses belong to Yahweh (Hab 3:8).[5]


2:11 chariots of fire and horses of fire. God’s heavenly attendants escort Elijah to heaven “by a whirlwind.” Fire appears several times in Elijah’s ministry as a sign of God’s all-consuming power (1:10, 12, 14; 1 Kin. 18:38; cf. 1 Kin. 19:12).[6]


[1] Patterson, R. D., & Austel, H. J. (2009). 1, 2 Kings. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: 1 Samuel–2 Kings (Revised Edition) (Vol. 3, p. 814). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 392). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2 Ki 2:11). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 648). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (2 Ki 2:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 516). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

JUNE 13 – HIS ETERNAL PURPOSE

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

—Psalm 23:1-2

God’s sovereignty means that if there’s anybody in this wide world of sinful men that should be restful and peaceful in an hour like this, it should be Christians. We should not be under the burden of apprehension and worry because we are the children of a God who is always free to do as He pleases. There is not one rope or chain or hindrance upon Him, because He is absolutely sovereign.

God is free to carry out His eternal purposes to their conclusions. I have believed this since I first became a Christian. I had good teachers who taught me this and I have believed it with increasing joy ever since. God does not play by ear, or doodle, or follow whatever happens to come into His mind or let one idea suggest another. God works according to the plans which He purposed in Christ Jesus before Adam walked in the garden, before the sun, moon and stars were made. God, who has lived all our tomorrows and carries time in His bosom, is carrying out His eternal purposes. AOGII145

Forgive me for my worry, Father. I know I can be at peace when I have such a calm Shepherd, a sovereign God working out His eternal purpose in my life. Amen. [1]


23:1 Despite its worldwide popularity, the Psalm is not for everyone. It is applicable only to those who are entitled to say, “The Lord is my Shepherd.” It is true that the Good Shepherd died for all, but only those who actually receive Him by a definite act of faith are His sheep. His saving work is sufficient for all, but it is effective only for those who actually believe on Him. Everything therefore hinges on the personal pronoun my. Unless He is my Shepherd, then the rest of the Psalm does not belong to me. On the other hand, if He is really mine and I am really His, then I have everything in Him!

23:2 I shall not lack food for my soul or body because He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

I shall not lack refreshment either because He leads me beside the still waters.[2]


The Lord Is My Shepherd (23:1–4)

1 The first word of the psalm, “The Lord” (Yahweh), evokes rich images of the provision and protection of the covenantal God. He promised to take care of his people and revealed himself to be full of love, compassion, patience, fidelity, and forgiveness (Ex 34:6–7). The psalmist exclaims, “Yahweh is my shepherd,” with emphasis on “my.” The temptation in ancient Israel was to speak only about “our” God (cf. Dt 6:4) in forgetfulness that the God of Israel is also the God of individuals. The contribution of this psalm lies, therefore, in the personal, subjective expression of ancient piety. For this reason, Psalm 23 is such a popular psalm. It permits individual believers to take its words on their lips and express in gratitude and confidence that all the demonstrations of God’s covenantal love can be claimed not only corporately by the group but also personally by each of its members.

The metaphor of the shepherd has a colorful history, as it was applied to kings and gods. King Hammurabi called himself “shepherd” (ANET, 164b). The Babylonian god of justice, Shamash, is also called “shepherd”—“Shepherd of the lower world, guardian of the upper” (ANET, 388). The metaphor is not only a designation or name of the Lord, but it also points toward the relationship between God and his covenantal children (cf. 74:1–4; 77:20; 78:52, 70–72; 79:13; 80:1; Isa 40:11; Mic 7:14). The people of God were well acquainted with shepherds. David himself was a shepherd (1 Sa 16:11), as the hills around Bethlehem were suitable for shepherding (cf. Lk 2:8).

The psalmist moves quickly from “my shepherd” to a description: “I shall not be in want.” Dahood, 1:146, may stretch its meaning when he writes, “Implying neither in this life nor in the next”; but so do those commentators who find allusions to the Lord’s provisions, guidance, and protection of Israel in the wilderness (cf. A. A. Anderson, 1:196–97; Craigie, 206–7). The conclusion of the psalm (v. 6) gives at least some support to Dahood’s contention; however, the psalm should not be narrowly interpreted in terms of “the eternal bliss of Paradise” (Dahood, 1:145).

2–4 The image of “shepherd” aroused emotions of care, provision, and protection. A good shepherd was personally concerned with the welfare of his sheep. Because of this, the designation “my shepherd” is described by the result of God’s care—“I shall not be in want” (v. 1); by the acts of God—“he makes me lie down … he leads … he restores … he guides” (vv. 2–3); and by the resulting tranquillity—“I will fear no evil” (v. 4).

The shepherd’s care is symbolized by the “rod” and the “staff” (v. 4c). A shepherd carried a “rod” to club down wild animals (cf. 1 Sa 17:43; 2 Sa 23:21) and a “staff” to keep the sheep in control. The rod and staff represent God’s constant vigilance over his own and bring “comfort” because of his personal presence and involvement with his sheep.

Verses 1 and 4, taken as an inclusio, read:

The Lord is my shepherd.…

Your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

2 The nature of the care lies in God’s royal provision of all the necessities for his people (see Richard S. Tomback, “Psalm 23:2 Reconsidered,” JNSL 10 [1982]: 93–96, for the background in the ancient Near East). The “green pastures” are the rich and verdant pastures, where the sheep need not move from place to place to be satisfied (cf. Eze 34:14; Jn 10:9). These “green pastures” were a seasonal phenomenon. The fields—even parts of the desert—would turn green during the winter and spring; but in summer and fall the sheep would be led to many places in search of food. God’s care is not seasonal but constant and abundant. The sheep have time to rest, as the shepherd makes them “lie down.” The “quiet waters” are the wells and springs where the sheep can drink without being rushed (cf. Isa 32:18). The combination of “green pastures” and “quiet waters” portrays God’s refreshing care for his own.

3a As the good shepherd provides his sheep with rest, verdant pastures, and quiet waters, so the Lord takes care of his people in a most plentiful way. He thereby renews them so that they feel that life in the presence of God is good and worth living. He “restores,” i.e., gives the enjoyment of life, to his own (cf. 19:7; Pr 25:13). The word “soul” is not here the spiritual dimension of humankind but denotes the same as “me,” repeated twice in v. 2, i.e., “he restores me.”

3b–4 The nature of the shepherd’s care also lies in guidance (vv. 3b–4b). In v. 2, the psalmist spoke of God as leading (“he leads me”). He develops the shepherd’s role as a guide, only to conclude with another aspect of his shepherdly care—protection (v. 4c). He leads his own in “paths of righteousness.” These paths do not lead one to obtain righteousness. “Righteousness” (ṣedeq) here signifies in the most basic sense “right,” namely, the paths that bring the sheep most directly to their destination (in contrast to “crooked paths”; cf. 125:5; Pr 2:15; 5:6; 10:9). The shepherd’s paths are straight (cf. Aubrey R. Johnson, “Psalm 23 and the Household of Faith,” in Proclamation and Presence, ed. John I. Durham and J. R. Porter [Richmond, Va.: Knox, 1970], 258). He does not unnecessarily tire out his sheep. He knows what lies ahead. Even when the “right paths” bring the sheep “through the valley of the shadow of death” (v. 4), there is no need to fear.

The idiom “the shadow of death” has stirred discussion. Briggs, 1:211–12, spoke of the MT’s punctuation (ṣalmāwet, “shadow of death”) as “a rabbinical conceit” and preferred, instead of a compound phrase, one word (ṣalmût, “darkness”). D. Winton Thomas (“צַלְמָוֶת in the Old Testament,” JSS 7 [1962]: 191–200) has argued persuasively that the MT may be correct, with “death” being a superlative image for “very deep shadow” or “deep darkness.” This imagery is consistent with the shepherd metaphor because the shepherd leads the flock through ravines and wadis where the steep and narrow slopes keep out the light. The darkness of the wadis represents the uncertainty of life. The “straight paths” at times need to go through the wadis, but God is still present.

The shepherd who guides is always with the sheep. The presence and guidance of the Lord go together. He is bound by his name (“for his name’s sake,” v. 3b), “Yahweh,” to be present with his people. Underlying the etymology of “Yahweh” is the promise “I will be with you” (Ex 3:12). For the sake of his name, he keeps all the promises to his covenantal children (cf. 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21; 143:11; Isa 48:9; Eze 20:44). He is loyal to his people, for his honor and reputation are at stake (see Reflections, p. 135, The Name of Yahweh).

The nature of the shepherd’s care lies further in the protection he gives (v. 4c). The “rod” and the “staff” symbolize Yahweh’s presence, protection, and guidance. They summarize his role as shepherd. The effects of his care are expressed in the first person—“I shall not be in want … I will fear no evil” (vv. 1, 4)—as an inclusionary motif together with “shepherd” and “rod/staff” (vv. 1, 4). Thus the psalmist rejoices that Yahweh is like a shepherd in his provision, guidance, and protection, so that the psalmist lacks nothing and fears not.[3]


23:1 The Lord is my shepherd. Cf. Ge 48:15; 49:24; Dt 32:6–12; Pss 28:9; 74:1; 77:20; 78:52; 79:13; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; Is 40:11; Jer 23:3; Eze 34; Hos 4:16; Mic 5:4; 7:14; Zec 9:16 on the image of the Lord as a Shepherd. This imagery was used commonly in kingly applications and is frequently applied to Jesus in the NT (e.g., Jn 10; Heb 13:20; 1Pe 2:25; 5:4).

23:2, 3 Four characterizing activities of the Lord as Shepherd (i.e., emphasizing His grace and guidance) are followed by the ultimate basis for His goodness, i.e., “His name’s sake” (cf. Pss 25:11; 31:3; 106:8; Is 43:25; 48:9; Eze 36:22–32).[4]


23:1 shepherd. The deity-as-shepherd motif is common in the Bible (e.g., Gen. 48:15; 49:24; Ps. 28:9; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3; Rev. 7:17; cf. Ps. 49:14). The Lord is the Shepherd of the people as a whole, as well as individual members; and in this psalm the particular member is in view. want. That is, to lack what one needs.

23:1 Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11–18, 27–29) who embodies God’s care for his people.

23:2 Green pastures and still waters are peaceful places for rest and feeding.[5]


23:1 shepherd. The image of God as shepherd is inexhaustibly rich. The shepherd stays with the flock (Is. 40:11; 63:9–12). His sheep are totally dependent upon him for food, water, and protection from wild animals. The image of shepherd also evoked the image of king in the ancient world. David was tending sheep when he was anointed to be king. In the NT Jesus is revealed as the shepherd of His church (John 10:11, 14), fulfilling the prophecy that God will come to shepherd His people (Ezek. 34:7–16, 23).

23:2 green pastures. Where the sheep get necessary food.

still waters. Lit. “Waters of resting places” (text note), referring to the place where sheep get both the water and rest that they need.[6]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 580). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, pp. 252–254). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 966). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 854). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

June 11, 2017: Verse of the day

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13 The “two evils” (so, correctly, the NASB; see comment on 1:14) go hand in hand, since whenever there is a turning away from (in this case, the Lord), there is also a turning toward (here, idols), as noted by Feinberg, 391: “Judah’s sin was compounded by rejection of truth and reception of error.” Or, as put quaintly by Matthew Henry, “Cleaving to sin is leaving God.” Once again, with prophetic penetration, the people’s utter folly is graphically exposed. This also underlies Jeremiah’s message of repentance (see comment on 3:6–7 with reference to the root šwb, GK 8740); God’s people must turn away from their idols to turn back to him. As obvious, however, as this polemic against idolatry is to most Western readers, the great majority of whom are life-long monotheists, the subtle lure and overt power of idolatry was such that these charges from the lips of Jeremiah would have been greeted by scorn and disdain, hence the constant use of analogy and metaphor to drive home the point.

The Lord was Israel’s “spring of living water” (again in 17:13), meaning their natural source of freely flowing, fresh (= nonstagnant) water, in contrast to water kept in jars or wells (cf. Ge 26:19; Lev 14:5–6, 50–52; 15:13; Nu 19:17). Here, however, there is a first step in the transition to the wholly spiritual meaning put on the words by Jesus in the NT (see John 4:10–11, where, of course, the ambiguity in meaning opened up the conversation between the Lord and the Samaritan woman; 7:38; cf. also Rev 7:17). In place of this Source of life, God’s people have hewed out for themselves useless replacements. (The NASB is to be preferred here, recognizing the emphasis on their own effort; see 1:16, containing the stereotypical indictment that idolatry is worshiping the work of one’s own hands.)

The repetition of “cisterns” in the Hebrew (bōʾrôt bōʾrōt) conveys shock: They have hewn out for themselves cisterns—cisterns broken!—which cannot hold any water. What they previously had, supplied by the Lord himself, was perfectly good; they abandoned it for a defective human replacement. Such is the self-destructive nature of Israel’s idolatry! (For archaeological background on cisterns, cf. King, 154–57.)[1]


2:13 two evils. First, Israel had abandoned the Lord, the source of spiritual salvation and sustenance (cf. 17:8; Ps 36:9; Jn 4:14). Second, Israel turned to idolatrous objects of trust; Jeremiah compared these with underground water storage devices for rainwater, which were broken and let water seep out, thus proving useless.[2]


2:13 Living water is found in Christ (John 4:10–14).[3]


2:13 the source of living water In Deuteronomy 32:40, Yahweh describes Himself as the eternally living God, contrasted against lifeless idols (compare Jer 17:7–8, 17:13; Psa 1:3).

for themselves A metaphor for a people no longer reliant on the living God. See Jer 2:27–28.

that can hold no water Foreign gods are broken containers; they cannot produce water, and they cannot hold the water poured into them.[4]


2:13 two evils. Jeremiah stresses the seriousness of Judah’s sin.

waters. God alone provides life-giving water (Is. 55:1; John 4:10, 7:37–39).

broken cisterns. The gods they took for themselves were useless, empty.[5]


2:13 Ancient landowners would dig cisterns to collect the rainwater. To insure that the cistern would hold water, the landowner plastered it inside with lime. Often cracks would develop and the water would leak out. In like manner Israel had abandoned Yahweh, the “fountain of life” or “fountain of living waters” (cf. Ps. 36:9; Prov. 13:14; 16:22; Is. 55:1; John 4:10–14; 7:37–39) for man-made powerless gods. They had committed two “evils”: they had forsaken Yahweh, and they had tried to improve upon Him.[6]


[1] Brown, M. L. (2010). Jeremiah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah–Ezekiel (Revised Edition) (Vol. 7, p. 90). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Je 2:13). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1372). 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 (Je 2:13). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1052). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[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., Je 2:13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

June 10, 2017: Verse of the day

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10–12 The text of the NIV gives the word “yet” twice in this chapter, the previous occurrence being in v. 4. Both verses present reassessment that means the balancing of one partial truth with another, thus giving a full picture. In v. 4 penal suffering is balanced—and so interpreted—by substitution; here humanity’s unjust treatment of the Servant is balanced—and also interpreted—by God’s saving purpose in the Servant’s sufferings. Verse 10a is almost shocking in its apparent presentation of arbitrary disregard for personal righteousness, but the reader may recall the substitutionary nature of those sufferings, already declared in vv. 4–6 and referred to again later in this stanza. At once God is seen not to be harsh but astonishingly gracious.

Verses 10b–11, as rendered in the NIV, remind us of 52:14–15; for after suffering comes vindication, suggesting perhaps at the same time the completion of the Servant’s atoning work in his death and the opening of a new life beyond that death. The guilt offering may have special overtones of completeness, for it involved restitution as well as an offering to God (cf. Lev 5). Nothing then remains to be done; the work is complete.

Verse 11a (cf. Notes), with its contrast of “suffering” and “light,” certainly makes us think of the resurrection, which is still more clearly suggested by the earlier words “prolong his days.” In fact, the words “he will see his offspring and prolong his days” seem to stand in intended contrast with the second and third lines of v. 8. There is a parallel here with Psalm 22, which has so much in common with this passage, where a sufferer now vindicated declares, “Posterity will serve him” (22:30).

Some commentators take the words “by his knowledge” with the preceding clause; but, as Young points out, the Masoretic accentuation, representing of course the Jewish traditional understanding, links it with the words that follow it. If this is so, are we to take the pronominal suffix to be subjective, as the NIV does (“by his knowledge”), or objective, as in the NIV’s margin (“by knowledge of him”)? Young (in loc.) well expresses the contextual argument for the latter: “In this context the servant appears, not as a teacher, but as a saviour. Not by his knowledge does he justify men, but by bearing their iniquities.” We are saved not simply by revelation but by redemptive suffering, the latter being the teaching of the context of this verse. In this case, then, it is the experiential knowledge of faith that is in view; and we have here an important background for the Pauline doctrine of justification through the blood of Christ, appropriated by faith.

The adjective “righteous” and the verb “will justify,” coming from the same Hebrew root (ṣdq), are placed next to each other in the Hebrew, as though to stress their relationship. Calvin stressed that the obedience of Christ is the chief circumstance of his death. His righteousness and therefore his innocence of sin furnish a basis for his substitution. The final clause of v. 11, with its reminder of v. 6 (see comments there), states the objective grounds of this justification, which is of course a new position before God, the righteous Judge, on the basis of what the Servant has achieved in his sufferings and not of what we have ourselves done or will do. Strikingly, the emphatic “he” is used again in this clause (see comment on vv. 4–6). Here, then, is One who is both God and God’s Servant dealing with human sin!

The opening statement of v. 12, reminding many commentators of Philippians 2:9, shows how God honors the Servant for his faithful work and the Servant in turn distributes the spoils of battle to others. In fact it introduces a new note into the passage; for 52:13, to which in other ways it answers, contains no military language. The NT, however, does, and Christ’s work there is presented as a victory over spiritual foes, resulting in a distribution of the spoil to those made strong in him (cf., e.g., Eph 4:8; 6:10–17).

J. Jeremias (Servant of God [W. Zimmerli and J. Jeremias, eds.; London: SCM, 1957], 97), L. S. Thornton (The Dominion of Christ [Westminster: Darce, 1952], 91–95), and others have argued that the words heauton ekenōsen (“made himself nothing”) in Philippians 2:7 are a translation from a Semitic original meaning “he poured himself out” and are based on this verse. Thornton further points out that the clause can in fact be completed by the words “to death” from v. 8. Here, in both passages, is the ultimate in self-abnegation in dedication to the will of God.

The last three clauses of v. 12 sum up the matter. The Servant was numbered with the transgressors not only in the outward circumstances of his death (Mk 15:27 [NIV mg.]), but also as a general description of the meaning of his sufferings (Lk 22:37). Innocent, he was charged with human sins and so bears their penalty. Beyond this, as the letter to the Hebrews proclaims, he now has an intercessory ministry based on the finality of his sufferings. This means that even when vindicated by God, he is still concerned to minister to his people.

In 44:28 the name “Cyrus” is solemnly and dramatically revealed long before his coming. Our present passage speaks so eloquently of the work of Christ that even the inclusion of his name could add but little more to the extent of its disclosure of him.[1]


53:10, 11a Yet the Lord saw fit to bruise Him, to put Him to grief. When His soul has been made an offering for sin, He will see His posterity, that is, all those who believe on Him, He shall prolong His days, living in the power of an endless life. All God’s purposes shall be realized through Him. Seeing the multitudes of those who have been redeemed by His blood He will be amply satisfied.

53:11b “By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many.” This may mean that His knowledge of the Father’s will led Him to the cross, and it is by His death and resurrection that He can reckon believers to be righteous. Or it may mean “by the knowledge of Him,” that is, it is by coming to know Him that men are justified (John 17:3). In either case, it is through His bearing their iniquities that justification is possible for the “many.”

The last stanza of Thomas Chisholm’s hymn, quoted above, reads triumphantly:

Who can number His generation?

Who shall declare all the triumphs of His Cross?

Millions, dead, now live again,

Myriads follow in His train!

Victorious Lord, victorious Lord,

Victorious Lord and coming King![2]


11–12 Other aspects of his saving work are shown in terms of justification, sin-bearing, identification (numbered with the transgressors; cf. Lk. 22:37) and intercession, i.e. intervention. He is presented as priest and sacrifice, patriarch (10b) and king. Finally, the manymany in vs 11–12 (the same word is translated great in v 12) for whom the one suffered, reappear in fulfilment of the opening promise (cf. 52:14–15, ‘many … many’).[3]


53:11 He will … be satisfied. The one sacrifice of the Servant will provide complete satisfaction in settling the sin issue (1Jn 2:2; cf. 1:11). By His knowledge. The Servant knew exactly what needed to be done to solve the sin problem. justify the many. Through the divine “knowledge” of how to justify sinners, the plan was accomplished that by His one sacrifice He declared many righteous before God (Ro 5:19; 2Co 5:21).[4]


53:11 he shall see and be satisfied. The outcome of the servant’s sufferings is not regret but the satisfaction of obvious accomplishment. by his knowledge. His experiential knowledge of grief (v. 3, see ESV footnote). many. His triumph, which does not secure the salvation of every individual without exception (universalism), spreads out beyond the remnant of Israel to “a great multitude that no one could number” (Rev. 7:9; cf. Rom. 5:15). to be accounted righteous. See Rom. 4:11–12.

53:11 Christ’s death and resurrection results in our justification (Rom. 3:23–26; 4:25; 5:19).[5]


53:11 he will see All intact Dead Sea Scrolls manuscripts and the Septuagint (the ancient Greek translation of the Bible) contain the word “light”; the Masoretic Text simply reads “he will see.” The most probable original text is “he will see light” (Dead Sea Scrolls) or “he will show him light” (Septuagint). The word “light” is required for the text to make sense poetically. This variant is a sign that the Servant experiences postmortem life, though it is not the only sign.

he will be satisfied The Servant may be satisfied by the fact that he has fulfilled Yahweh’s will (Isa 53:10). It is also possible that he is satisfied because he has suffered for the transgressions of God’s people (vv. 5–7). Or, the Servant could be satisfied in his resurrected life.

In his knowledge An elaboration on the previous line. The Servant knows that he has borne the iniquities of many and will make many righteous. He has learned this through his anguish (his suffering).

my servant Yahweh begins speaking again.

shall declare many righteous Like Israel—as Yahweh’s servant—was commanded to bring forth justice to the nations, the Servant makes many righteous.

will bear their iniquities The iniquities of the people are placed upon the Servant (similar to the goat on the Day of Atonement in Lev 16:22).[6]


53:11 knowledge. This is a reference to His insight into the divine plan (52:13 note).

righteous. See Rom. 5:19.

accounted righteous. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to His people (53:6 note), and in return He accepted their guilt so as to “bear their iniquities.” See “Justification and Merit” at Gal. 3:11.[7]


[1] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 802–803). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] 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. 663). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:11). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1339). 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 (Is 53:11). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1029). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

JUNE 10 – FREEWILL VERSUS SOVEREIGNTY

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve… but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

—Joshua 24:15

The matter of man’s free will versus God’s sovereignty can be explained in this way: God’s sovereignty means that He is in control of everything, that He planned everything from the beginning. Man’s free will means that he can, anytime he wants, make most any choice he pleases (within his human limitations, of course). Man’s free will can apparently defy the purposes of God and will against the will of God. Now how do we resolve this seeming contradiction?…

Here is what I see: God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please. And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.

Even if the choice I make is not the one God would have made for me, His sovereignty is fulfilled in my making the choice. And I can make the choice because the great sovereign God, who is completely free, said to me, “In my sovereign freedom I bestow a little bit of freedom on you. Now ‘choose you this day whom ye will serve’ (Joshua 24:15).” AOGII149-150

May I use my free will wisely, Lord, and choose wisely whom I will serve. May I be in complete submission to Your will. Amen. [1]


24:15 The choice here was not between the Lord and idols: Joshua assumed that the people had already decided against serving God. So he challenged them to choose between the gods which their ancestors had served in Mesopotamia and the gods of the Amorites that they had found in Canaan. Joshua’s noble decision for himself and his household has been an inspiration to succeeding generations of believers: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”[2]


14–15 Joshua instructs them to “serve him with all faithfulness [with integrity and truth] … serve the Lord … [and] choose … whom they will serve” (vv. 14–15). The choices are few—Israel will either serve Yahweh or the gods of the nations. Joshua links his discourse with the first portion of the historical prologue. He commands the Israelites to throw away the gods of their forefathers (Terah and Abraham) as well as the gods of the Egyptians. There is no direct textual evidence that Israel brought Mesopotamian and Egyptian gods with them. The “gods of their forefathers” may foreshadow the “gods of the Canaanites” Israel will soon encounter in the land.[3]


24:15 choose … today whom you will serve. Joshua’s fatherly model (reminiscent of Abraham’s, Ge 18:19) was for himself and his family to serve the Lord, not false gods. He called others in Israel to this, and they committed themselves to serve the Lord also (vv. 21, 24).[4]


24:15 choose this day whom you will serve. Joshua has urged the people to serve the Lord alone, and to put away the false gods (v. 14). Now he makes his admonition even sharper: if it is evil in their eyes to serve the Lord (i.e., if they prefer not to be loyal to the one true God, the Lord alone), then they must choose between two different categories of false gods: (1) their ancestral gods from Mesopotamia, or (2) the gods worshiped by the peoples they have dispossessed in Canaan. Joshua exercises leadership by example, committing himself and his household to serving the Lord. The people’s response was to decisively reject false gods and to serve “the Lord our God” (vv. 16–17)—which Israel did “all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua” (v. 31), but which Israel failed to do in subsequent generations, as is tragically evidenced in the book of Judges.

24:15 God must be served with exclusive loyalty (Deut. 5:7), prefiguring the exclusivity of commitment to Christ as the one way of salvation (Matt. 6:24; 10:34–39; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Cor. 10:21–22).[5]


24:15 the gods that your ancestors served Shechem was the place at which Jacob had earlier buried the gods that his wives and concubines had brought from Haran (Gen 35:2–4). See Josh 24:14.

the Amorites Here “Amorites” refers generally to the Canaanites. Often refers to the Transjordan region (the territory of Og and Sihon; see vv. 12; Num 21; Deut 2–3).

as for me and my household Joshua and his extended family.[6]


24:15 choose this day whom you will serve. With irony Joshua presents the alternatives that are available if the Israelites reject the Lord. The choice is between the gods Abraham left behind (vv. 2, 3) and the gods of the dispossessed Amorites (vv. 12; 2:10 note).

me and my house. See 6:25; 7:24; Acts 16:15.[7]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 256–257). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Dallaire, H. M. (2012). Joshua. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Numbers–Ruth (Revised Edition) (Vol. 2, p. 1039). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Jos 24:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 430). 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 (Jos 24:15). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 346–347). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

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 6 – GOD’S WISDOM OR YOURS

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.

—Isaiah 53:6

The crux of your life lies right there. It doesn’t matter whether you know this little wisp of systematic theology or not; that isn’t the point. The point is that it’s either got to be God’s wisdom or yours. It’s either God’s way or yours. All that you and I have lived for, hoped for and dreamed over in our heart of hearts—life, safety, happiness, heaven, immortality, the presence of God—hinges on whether you’re going to accept the ultimate wisdom of the Triune God, as revealed in the Scriptures and in His providential working in mankind. Or are you going to go your own way?

The most perfect definition of sin that I know of is given by Isaiah in 53:6: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.” Turning to our own way is the essence of sin. I turn to my way because I think it is wiser than God’s way….

This is the crux of our life. This is the difference between revival and a dead church. This is the difference between a Spirit-filled life and a self-filled life. Who’s running it? Who’s the boss? Whose wisdom is prevailing—the wisdom of God or the wisdom of man? AOGII135-136

Lord, how foolish I am when I trust in my own limited knowledge instead of Your infinite wisdom. Take over and be the Boss today. Amen. [1]


53:4–6 The remnant now knows and acknowledges the truth about Him. They confess: “It was our griefs He bore, our sorrows He carried, yet as we saw Him on the cross, we thought He was being punished by God for His own sins. But no! It was for our transgressions, for our iniquities, and in order that we might have peace, in order that we might be healed. The truth is that we were the ones who went astray and who walked in self-will, and Jehovah placed our iniquity on Him, the sinless Substitute.”

Until that time when the remnant acknowledges Him, we who are Christians can confess:

He was wounded for our transgressions,

He bore our sins in His body on the tree;

For our guilt He gave us peace,

From our bondage gave release,

And with His stripes, and with His stripes,

And with His stripes our souls are healed.

He was numbered among transgressors,

We did esteem Him forsaken by His God;

As our sacrifice He died,

That the law be satisfied,

And all our sin, and all our sin,

And all our sin was laid on Him.

We had wandered, we all had wandered,

Far from the fold of “the Shepherd of the sheep”;

But He sought us where we were,

On the mountains bleak and bare,

And brought us home, and brought us home,

And brought us safely home to God.

Thomas O. Chisholm

Our Lord Jesus suffered all five kinds of wounds known to medical science: contusions—blows by a rod; lacerations—scourging; penetrating wounds—crown of thorns; perforating wounds—nails; incised wounds—the spear.[2]


4–6 This central stanza of the fourth Servant Song has a number of general characteristics. The first is the frequency of the first person plural. This occurs of course several times in vv. 1–3 as well. Who are the speakers here? Probably the amazed onlookers of the first stanza, who appear from 52:15 to be predominantly, if not exclusively, Gentiles. Then there is in vv. 4 and 5 the use of the emphatic pronoun “he,” normally reserved in chs. 40–55 for God, again strongly suggestive of the incarnation (see comment on 52:13). Note also the frequency of nouns and verbs suggesting both pain and punishment.

The passage also emphasizes the sins of the onlookers, with one of the most vivid analogies—even in this illustration-saturated book—given in v. 6. Here is a picture of the willful and yet purposeless waywardness of sin, with probably a suggestion that this is an offense against love as well as holiness, for the divine shepherd is a tender, loving image in the Bible (cf. esp. 40:11). This aimless yet determined wandering is marvelously conveyed in the music of Handel’s Messiah, with its jerkily wandering melody, and likewise, in total contrast, the deeply moving affirmation of atonement at great cost with which the verse ends.

It is that costly atonement that provides the dominant theme of this stanza. Verse 4a views our punishment figuratively in terms of the visitation of disease (see comments at v. 3), while v. 4b shows the onlookers coming to the grievously wrong conclusion that the Servant is suffering for his own sins at the hand of God. Verse 5 shows that they have now accepted for themselves the objective fact declared in v. 4a. Piercing and crushing are both appropriate terms for the crucifixion, the first literal and the second figurative; and both are aptly summed up as “wounds” later in the verse.

Oswalt (in loc.) points out the significant fact that the metaphors of vv. 4 and 5 are precisely those of 1:5 and 6. Peace and healing view sin in terms of the estrangement from God and the marring of the sinner that it causes. Verse 6 may well derive its language from the Day of Atonement ritual (cf. Lev 16:21–22); for as God was the author of the ritual (cf. Lev 17:11), the high priest was simply his agent for transferring the sins of the people symbolically to the scapegoat. So there is a divine smiting of the Servant (cf. v. 4) but this is for our sins, not his.

Whybray’s view that the Servant does not suffer vicariously for the sins of others is dependent in large part on his identification of the Servant with Deutero-Isaiah. Certainly on the basis of such an identification the idea that he is punished instead of his fellow exiles seems quite ridiculous. Once this identification is challenged, however, much of Whybray’s argument loses its force.

Finally, we should note the element of conversion conveyed in vv. 4–5. The onlookers put aside their premature judgment on the matter and accept that the sufferings of the Servant are not only penal but also substitutionary. Kidner (in loc.) notes “the expressions, all we … we all, which give the verse an identical beginning and end in the Hebrew; grace wholly answering sin” (emphasis his).[3]


53:6 All of us … Each of us … us all. Every person has sinned (Ro 3:9, 23), but the Servant has sufficiently shouldered the consequences of sin and the righteous wrath deserved by sinners (cf. 1Ti 2:5, 6; 4:10; 1Jn 2:2). The manner in which God laid our iniquity on Him was that God treated Him as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe, though He was perfectly innocent of any sin. God did so to Him, so that wrath being spent and justice satisfied, God could then give to the account of sinners who believe, the righteousness of Christ, treating them as if they had done only the righteous acts of Christ. In both cases, this is substitution. See notes on 2Co 5:21.[4]


53:6 All we … every one. The servant, who alone was sinless, was uniquely qualified to bear the sins of others, and all people contributed to his pain. like sheep. Stupid and helpless. the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. See Lev. 16:21–22; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:25.[5]


53:6 All of us have wandered about like sheep The metaphor of wayward Israel as a flock of sheep without a shepherd is a common motif used in prophetic literature (see Isa 56:11; Jer 13:20; 23:1; 49:20; Ezek 34:1–10; Zech 10:2).

This imagery emphasizes Israel’s willful wandering from Yahweh, their punishment of scattering through exile, and the future hope of the ingathering under a new divinely appointed shepherd (see Isa 40:11 and note, and note on Ezek 34:11).

 

have wandered about Sheep tend to get lost and be unaware of the consequences of their actions. Israel (and by extension all humanity) have wandered away from God.

let fall on him the iniquity of Rather than people suffering the consequences for their own sinful actions, their iniquities are placed upon the Servant. He bears the punishment for their mistakes.[6]


53:6 All we. Even as we sinned, so He died for us (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). See theological note “Definite Atonement” on p. 1875

sheep … astray. See 1 Pet. 2:25.

laid. The guilt of our sins was transferred to Jesus, and He offered Himself as a sacrifice in our place. As Paul wrote, God “made him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21).[7]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 979–980). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, pp. 800–801). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 53:6). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1338). 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 (Is 53:6). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1224). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

June 6 – Integrity Enjoys God’s Favor

“Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials.”

Daniel 1:9

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God’s favor is the rich reward of obedience.

God delights in granting special grace and favor to those whose hearts are set on pleasing Him. For example, “Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord” and was spared the ravages of the Flood (Gen. 6:8). Joseph found favor in His sight and was elevated to prominence in Egypt (Gen. 39–41). God granted Moses and the children of Israel favor in the sight of the Egyptians, and they were able to plunder Egypt in the Exodus (Ex. 11:3; 12:36).

When Daniel chose to obey God by not defiling himself with the king’s special diet (Dan. 1:8), he demonstrated great courage and integrity. God responded by granting him favor and compassion in the sight of Ashpenaz, the commander of the king’s officials. The Hebrew word translated “favor” speaks of goodness or kindness. It can also include a strong affection from deep within. “Compassion” means a tender, unfailing love. Together these words tell us that God established a special relationship between Ashpenaz and Daniel that not only protected Daniel from harm in this instance, but also helped prepare him for his future role as a man of enormous influence in Babylon.

Today God’s favor is the special grace He grants His children in times of need. It is especially evident when their obedience brings persecution. The apostle Peter wrote, “This finds favor [grace], if for the sake of conscience toward God a man bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly…. If when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor [grace] with God” (1 Peter 2:19–20).

Daniel knew that refusing the king’s special diet could lead to serious consequences, but he was more interested in obeying God’s Word than avoiding man’s punishment. He had the right priorities, and God honored his obedience, just as He will honor yours.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Let the prayer of Moses be yours today: “Let me know Thy ways, that I may know Thee, so that I may find favor in Thy sight” (Ex. 33:13).

For Further Study: Read Genesis 39. What were the results of God’s favor upon Joseph?[1]


1:9 God honored Daniel’s trust and allegiance by sovereignly working favorably for him among the heathen leaders. In this instance, it prevented persecution and led to respect, whereas later on God permitted opposition against Daniel which also elevated him (Da 3, 6). One way or another, God honors those who honor Him (1Sa 2:30; 2Ch 16:9).[2]


1:9 God gave Daniel favor God influences the disposition of foreign palace officials[3]


1:9 God gave Daniel favor. This is a specific answer to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple in 1 Kin. 8:50.[4]


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

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 1:9). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 1:9). 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.

JUNE 5 – BELIEVE THAT GOD IS INFINITELY GENEROUS

Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.

PSALM 107:43

To think rightly of God we must conceive of Him as being altogether boundless in His goodness, mercy, love, grace, and in whatever else we may properly attribute to the Deity.

Since God is infinite, whatever He is must be infinite, also; that is, it must be without any actual or conceivable limits. The moment we allow ourselves to think of God as having limits, the one of whom we are thinking is not God but someone or something less than and different from Him.

It is not enough that we acknowledge God’s infinite resources; we must believe also that He is infinitely generous to bestow them!

The first is not too great a strain on our faith. Even the deist will admit that the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, must be rich beyond the power of man to conceive. But to believe that God is a giver as well as a possessor takes an advanced faith and presupposes that there has been a divine revelation to that effect which gives validity to our expectations. Which indeed there has been—we call this revelation the Bible!

Believing all this, why are we Christians so poverty-stricken? I think it is because we have not learned that God’s gifts are meted out according to the taker, not according to the giver!

Though almighty and all-wise, God yet cannot pour a great gift into a small receptacle![1]


43 The conclusion to this psalm transforms the hymn of thanksgiving and praise to a wisdom psalm. The righteous will become wise by studying the acts of the Lord in human affairs. Even in adversity, the righteous person learns to know God better and to trust that he will make all things well. His acts of love (NIV, “the great love”) are constant. The fool rages against God, but the wise will keep these things in the heart.[2]


107:43 Perhaps the psalmist has Pr 8:1–36, Ecc 12:13, 14, or Hos 14:9 in mind as he pens these concluding words.[3]


107:43 Let the Wise Attend to These Things. The final verse closes by inviting whoever is wise (i.e., those who genuinely seek to be skillful in godly living; see Introduction to Proverbs: Character Types in Proverbs) to attend to these things, specifically, to the many ways in which God has displayed his steadfast love. Such a meditation will increase one’s wisdom.[4]


107:43 wise Wisdom in the ot refers to knowing and observing God’s commands with reverence. See note on Ps 104:24.

let them consider The psalmist implies that the key to wisdom is a steady focus on Yahweh’s steadfast love. God is just, but also merciful, so loyalty to Him and His law is truly wise.[5]


107:43 Whoever is wise. The retelling of the history of Israel is for a purpose: to learn from it the steadfast love of God [6]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] VanGemeren, W. A. (2008). Psalms. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Psalms (Revised Edition) (Vol. 5, p. 802). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ps 107:43). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1081). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 107:43). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 961). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

JUNE 5 – WISDOM AND GOODNESS

The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.

—Proverbs 3:19

It tells us in Proverbs 3:19 and Jeremiah 10:12 that the Lord founded the earth, established and stretched out the heavens by wisdom, understanding and discretion. Those are two of many verses in the Bible that tell us about the wisdom of God….

It is necessary to our humanity that we grant God two things at least: wisdom and goodness. The God who sits on high, who made the heaven and the earth, has got to be wise, or else you and I cannot be sure of anything. He’s got to be good, or earth would be a hell and heaven a hell, and hell a heaven. We have to grant goodness and wisdom to God, or we have no place to go, no rock to stand on, no way to do any thinking or reasoning or believing. We must believe in the goodness and in the wisdom of God, or we betray that in us which differentiates us from the beasts—the image of God Himself.

So we begin with the assumption—not a guess, not a hope, but a knowledge—that God is wise. AOGII124-125

Lord, I do believe and will place my confidence in the fact that You are both infinitely wise and infinitely good. What need I fear? Amen. [1]


3:19, 20 These two verses describe the wisdom of God in creation, in judgment, and in providence. In creation He founded the earth and established the heavens. With understanding, He opened up the fountains of the great deep at the time of the Flood. By providence, He lifts the water from the ocean into the clouds, then distributes it again as rain upon the earth.

And who is the active agent of the Godhead in doing all this? It is Christ, the Wisdom of God (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2).[2]


19–20 Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are also valuable to God, for by them he created the universe. How wisdom was used in creation and how it pictures Christ, the Wisdom of God, is discussed in the comments on 8:22–23 (see also J. Emerton, “Spring and Torrent in Ps. 74:15,” VTSup 15 [1965]: 125). This section shows that the wisdom that directs life is the same wisdom that created the universe; to surrender to God’s wisdom is to put oneself in harmony with creation, the world around one (Fritsch, IB, 4:804). The two verses concentrate first on the foundation of heaven and earth.[3]


3:19, 20 Solomon is indicating that wisdom is basic to all of life, for by it God created everything. Since God used it to create the universe, how eager must we be to use it to live in this universe.[4]


3:19–20 For an extended description of wisdom as the means by which the Lord worked in creation, see the speech of personified Wisdom in 8:4–36. The essential point is that God has built the principles of wisdom into the structure of the world itself; wisdom is the ordering principle by which everything functions and does not devolve into chaos. Thus, when one lives without integrity, one violates the very rules whereby everything is held together. One cannot do this and thrive. This idea is developed at length in 8:22–31.[5]


3:19, 20 These verses are linked to vv. 13–18 by the repetition of “wisdom” and “understanding” in vv. 13 and 19 and focus on the effectiveness of wisdom.

3:19 by wisdom … by understanding. God’s wisdom is so effective that it was used to create earth and heaven.

earth … heavens. God’s wisdom produced the well-ordered world of earth beneath and heaven above, implying also all creation between earth and heaven.

3:20 deeps broke open … clouds drop the dew. The word translated “broke open” is the same word used in Gen. 7:11 for God’s opening the terrestrial source of water. Since “dew” does not drop from clouds, the Hb. word refers here, as in a few other places, to rain. Thus God provides water from the terrestrial and celestial sources. The point of vv. 19, 20 is that since God’s wisdom created such a well-ordered world for Him, God’s wisdom can surely create a well-ordered world in our lives.[6]


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

[2] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 799–800). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Ross, A. P. (2008). Proverbs. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 67). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Pr 3:19). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1140). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (pp. 1019–1020). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

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.

✧✧✧

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

✧✧✧

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.

✧✧✧

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.