Paul Harvey, during his daily radio broadcasts, made famous the statement “The Rest of the Story.” He would tell the unfamiliar stories behind the familiar stories of men, feats, events and situations. Did you know the same is true of many “bible stories” found in the Old and New Testament scriptures? The following may not be quite the same as Mr. Harvey’s reviews of history, events and people, but they can be just as stunning, revealing, informative, and mind opening.
This publication will look at dozens of these surprising “aha moments” from scripture. Some will startle, some readers will find them particularly satisfying, and some will realize that history and the Bible are the same thing; a review of what was and remains an actuality. The Bible stories in scripture are space-limited and cannot publish everything surrounding, coinciding, or consequential to these stories. Some Bible time events are well-known and others not quite as well known but none the less found in scripture with a correlating “aha moment”. NOTE: The Bible and history are contemporaneous.
Included in this website are messages from others who serve our God; i.e. studied individuals such as ministers and Bible teachers.
Let’s explore some of these aha moments in scripture and have a ton of fun while doing so!!
– Dr. J
Bible Devotions or Bible Study?
Bible Devotions are like paying the minimum amount due on ones credit card debt. One seldom gains ground. Bible study is like paying the monthly balance in full plus something extra. We gain ground quickly!
How does the book of Daniel fit into the Bible and history?
The following is a rather detailed history of the O.T. leading up to the time of Daniel. It will best serve as a personal Old Testament Bible guide. Memorizing it could be daunting. Knowing where to find the answer is the best approach. Find it in THIS background to Daniel. This would be the equivalent in most universities at a graduate level study. Do not be alarmed. There are no written tests.
Three Periods of Old Testament History:
The first verse in the Bible reveals that…
…“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 NASB
We do not know exactly when creation took place, as there may be a gap between
Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2 as the additional possibility of a gap between these two verses and when God created day and night (V5). The way we currently understand the laws of Physics, including the Theory of General Relativity, secular and evangelical scientists are certain that the universe (time, space, and matter) had a beginning and has not always existed. The book of Genesis reveals that God created the universe “In the beginning…” This is also the beginning of the period we will label the Pre-Abrahamic period of Old Testament History; prehistoric per secularists.
In the Pre-Abrahamic period, the book of Genesis describes:
From where man, woman, and marriage come.
It explains from where sin and death come.
It details the first murder.
It describes a time when God destroyed the earth by a great flood.
It outlines from where the nations and the diversity of races and languages that we have on the earth came. (It is not our goal at the present time to go into detail on any of these events. This study sheet is an overview of the Old Testament and what it is about to be better understood where and how the book of Daniel fits into the Old and New Testament.)
The Patriarchal period. Abraham is a man to whom three great religions trace their origins: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Both Jews and Arabs genetically come from Abraham. Abraham left his country, Ur in Babylon (modern day Iraq), and followed God to a new country, Canaan, where modern day Israel and Palestine are located.
Abraham had two sons, Ishmael, from whom the Arabs trace their lineage, and Isaac, from whom Israel and the Jews trace their lineage. Isaac had two sons, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, who later changed his name to Israel, had twelve sons – the twelve tribes of Israel are descendants of these twelve sons. The book of Genesis (which covers a longer period of time than the rest of the Bible combined) ends up with Jacob and his twelve sons and one daughter, their wives, and their kids all moving down to Egypt to avoid starving in a famine. (By the way, the book of Job is about another man who probably lived during Abraham’s time.)
The offspring of Israel (Jacob) spent more than 400 years in Egypt, and became slaves to the Egyptians probably toward the end of this period of time. The book of Exodus takes up Israel’s history near the end of this 400 year period in Egypt. Thus begins the third period of Old Testament history, Egypt and the Exodus. Four books of the Bible – Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – cover this period of time lasting about 40 years; mostly the wilderness wandering of the Israelites.
During this period of time, God used Moses to liberate the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. Also during this time, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments and other laws for the Nation of Israel. After God gives the Ten Commandments and the other laws,
Moses sends twelve spies into Canaan. When they return, ten of the spies give a bad report which scares the Israelites. They complain to Moses and to God refusing to enter the Promised Land. God punishes Israel by making the continue living in the desert for about 40 years. The Egypt and the Exodus period begin about 1446 BC.
After the 40 years of living and wandering in the desert, the next period begins. This period, Conquering the Land, covers about 10 years. Israel conquers some of the land of Canaan in the area of the world now known as Israel and Palestine. The people of
Canaan were evil but their origin comes is based in the time of Abraham through Ishmael and Esau.
They sacrificed their own kids to a god named Molech by burning them alive. This gruesome act is one of the reasons that God ordered Israel to conquer the land of Canaan. The book of Joshua covers this period of Old Testament history. Israel conquered Canaan beginning around 1406 BC, but they never followed through per God’s instructions.
The following is some of what the Book of Daniel and other canonized biblical books prophecy will happen as we close in on end time. This is despicable verbiage designed to do one thing…discredit Daniel and the Bible as the reliable and infallible Word of God. This is what high school and college students are exposed to today and we as true believers do nothing to stop it. This makes us as weak in our stand for God and Christ as Wikipedia is now violating Christianity, the Bible, and God himself.
[Wikipedia]: “The Book of Daniel is not regarded by scholars as a reliable guide to history. The broad consensus is that Daniel never existed, and that the author appears to have taken the name from a legendary hero of the distant past mentioned in the Book of Ezekiel. The book that bears his name is an apocalypse, not a book of prophecy, and its contents form a cryptic allusion to the persecution of the Jews by the Syrian king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175–164 BCE). There is broad agreement that the stories making up chapters 1–6 are legendary in character, and that the visions of chapters 7–12 were added during the persecution of Antiochus, the book itself being completed soon after 164 BCE.
Daniel 5 and Daniel 6 belong to the folktales making up the first half of the book. The language of Daniel 5 (“Belshazzar’s Feast”), for example, follows ancient Near Eastern conventions which are in some cases precisely those used in Daniel. Daniel 6 (“Daniel in the Lions’ Den”) is based on a classic Babylonian folk-tale called “Ludlul-bel-nemeqi”, telling of a courtier who suffers disgrace at the hands of evil enemies but is eventually restored due to the intervention of a kindly god (in the story in Daniel, this is the God of Israel): in the Babylonian original the “pit of lions” is a metaphor for human adversaries at court, but the biblical tale has turned the metaphorical lions into real animals.”
Encyclopedia Britannica joins Wikipedia is deceiving (history revisionists)
Not only has Wikipedia gone sour on Christianity in their online encyclopedia of histories, *Britannica online has now joined them dispersing false or revised historical facts. The unlearned is being greatly deceived today. It appears the “church” is simply sitting back and accepting these false histories to disseminate. Here is another example how the unlearned may not recognize something stated but is fake history. This is what the people in the churches and students in secular colleges accept as fact without even a whimper of challenge.
“The language of the book—part of which is Aramaic (2:4–7:28; [a truth]—probably indicates a date of composition later [a deception/lie] than the Babylonian Exile (6th century BC). Numerous inaccuracies connected with the exilic period (no deportation occurred in 605 BC; Darius was a successor of Cyrus, not a predecessor; etc.) tend to confirm this judgment. Because its religious ideas do not belong to the 6th century BC, numerous scholars date Daniel in the first half of the 2nd century BC and relate the visions to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164/163 BC).”
Let’s look at this above information as copied and pasted from Britannica’s online encyclopedia concerning the Book of Daniel. My goal is not to refute or add actual secular history supporting what the bible states. It is to caution believers in Christ and the bible to the fact we are already in End Times when false doctrines will fill the pages of written news, broadcasts, and deception prevails (Matthew 24:4-5).
“…probably indicates a date of composition later than the Babylonian Exile (6th century BC).”
“PROBABLY?” This word alone makes it purely a supposition or guess. Caution: many readers will see it as from the reputable encyclopedia Britannica so this word “probably” is dismissed from mind. They also state that it is written later than the Babylonian Exile of the 6th century BC. Such a statement becomes a false fact for two reasons. First, it means Daniel did not prophecy but simply recorded history after the fact…almost 300 years after the fact. In this case, written by Daniel hundreds of years after he has already died and been buried in Susa, Persia. Second, it means Daniel either did not exist or was not who the bible tells us he was because he is fiction making the bible itself a story book; i.e. a fiction story book one might say.
We must add, how does “The Language of the book – part of which is Aramaic (2:4-7:28)” translates into this “document being written at a later date?” Aramaic was like the English of today; spoken almost universally; a business language common to this world just as Aramaic was common to the then known world of nations.
“Numerous inaccuracies connected with the exilic period (no deportation occurred in 605 BC” Inaccuracies???? Stone reliefs and archeological evidence exist telling of King Nebuchadnezzar’s rule, conquests, overrunning and destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, his three exports of Judeans from Judah to Babylon, and evidence of Daniel’s burial tomb in Susa. Susa is Persian: Šuš; [ʃuʃ]; Hebrew: שׁוּשָׁןŠušān; Greek: Σοῦσα [ˈsuːsa]; Syriac: ܫܘܫ Šuš; was an ancient city of the Proto-Elamite, Elamite, First Persian Empire, Seleucid, Parthian, and Sasanianempires of Iran, and one of the most important cities of the Ancient Near East.Here is a quote from archeological records as recorded in:
https://www.haaretz.com/archaeology/.premium-exiles-life-in-babylonia-revealed-1.5367088…A little known collection of more than 100 clay tablets in Cuneiform script, dating back to the Babylon Exile some 2,500 years ago, was unveiled this week [February 2015], allowing a glimpse into the everyday life of one of the most ancient exile communities in the world. 2500 years ago? Do the math. 2019 minus 2500 years puts us back to the Daniel record, not the one recorded as “probable” fact by the encyclopedia Britannica.
“Darius was a successor to Cyrus, not the predecessor.” This is deception at its best. Tell the truth but not the whole truth. Ancient records of history tell us that there were three named or titled Darius who ruled in Babylon. Example: There was Darius the Mede who was appointed the first king of Babylon but only ruled two years; Darius the Great *4th Persian ruler of the Achaemenid Empire of Medo-Persian Babylon) (Bīsitūn inscription); Darius III (c. 380 – July 330 BC), originally named Artashata and called Codomannus by the Greeks, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia. Deception once again in 2019…there were three Kings of Persia named or title Darius. This in no way proves King Cyrus was followed by or came before Darius. There was a short time ruler (for two years as he was 62 when he took charge) named or titled Darius before and after King Cyrus. Two other kings of this area who were called or titled Darius who were successors to Cyrus.
“Because its religious ideas do not belong to the 6th century BC, numerous scholars date Daniel to the first half of the 2nd century BC. Its religious ideas? What does this mean? Perhaps its intended negative challenge to canonized scripture, evangelicals, bible believers? What numerous scholars? Were or are they scholars in languages; English; geology; lab sciences? One might suggest this information in Britannica is once again deceptive and deliberately misleading of the ignorant of facts and the under-studied, just as prophesied in the very bible this section of Britannica Encyclopedia is trying to undermine as “the word of God.”
“…and relate the visions to the persecution of the Jews under Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164/163 BC).” “Relate the visions…” can only mean Daniels recorded vision are records of fact but only AFTER THE FACT. This totally discredits the bible recordings as inaccurate or altogether false. Why limit this to Antiochus IV since there are hundreds of records of Jewish suppressions, exiles, holocausts such as Nazi Germany or the oft misreported 1492 – 1503 A.D. Spanish inquisitions. This is taught in history books but does not mention it focused upon the execution or dispersing of Jews in Spain by the Catholics. Their third choice was to change their Jewish names to ‘christian’ (Pope acceptable) names. We only know it as the inquisitions. Do history books in public schools also mention 1492 (Columbus) to 1503 AD as a time when Ferdinand and Isabella consolidated their rule tried to rid the Iber Peninsula (Spain) of all Jews?
Is our education and depth of knowledge per the WHOLE TRUTH of histories controlled by secular liberals? We can call them by their real identities: History revisionists!
When doing research I am always personally open to the possibility of what I set out to discover and validate ends up changing my mind or position in some way, major ways, or affirm my position. It is called UNDERSTANDING. I leave my doors of new knowledge open to these possibilities. This position is also steeped into reasoning out why Daniel is written in Syriac/Aramaic (non-Israelis) and in Hebrew (to the Tribes of Jacob and the Old Testament Covenant).
Much of Daniel’s chapter 8-12 prophecies are exclusive to the Israelites (12 Tribes) with particular attention given to the Tribe and Kingdom of Judah then dispersed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. to a 70 year captivity; i.e. better said not allowed to return to Judah/Jerusalem. The Kingdom of Israel meaning the Northern Ten Tribes were dispersed by Assyrians in 732 B.C. and again in 720 B.C. In 605 B.C. and again in 586 B.C. the Kingdom of Judah went into their 70 year exile. Gentiles (the church) can safely consider that we are not in the same river or current of future events as those promised to God’s chosen People. Christians; i.e. The Church of believers may NOT be the primary target in some of Daniel’s prophecies, but could be caught up in the vacuum of events in Israel as Christians if the Church is not a pre-tribulation rapture event. If the Tribulation is targeted to Israel alone, the church body of believers will already be missing due to the Rapture (the pre-tribulation, pre-millennial view).
My sources represent a mix of liberal and conservative scholarly theologians who hold diverse views. These will be listed separately at the end of this work-in-progress study of Daniel. In no-way can I conclude or offer possible insights to all of the meaningful sources until they have been added to this work-in-progress. I will attempt to weed out that which is purely speculation, one-sided denomination planks, tickling ear syndrome not supported by scripture.
In this initial commentary, it is my goal to begin the awareness and some loose understanding of the prophetic blend and practical teachings of the Book of Daniel. God the Father ultimately controls every nation, having determined the times set for them and the exact places where these events will unfold. For that reason, I have structured Decoding Daniel upon God’s Sovereignty in the Rise [and fall] of *Four Hebrew, Five World Empires, and their Princes. These men and nations are but a methodology used of God to fulfill his covenants with Old Testament Israel (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) and the Church established in the early pages of the New Testament. *Four Hebrew powers: 1) the Judges; 2) the Nation of Israel; 3) the divided Kingdoms of Israel and Judah; 4) the Covenant with His people to bring them back to a Promised Land but yet to be fulfilled; i.e. a work still in progress.
IMPORTANT JIV NOTE: We should conclude by the end of this Bible study that politics is nothing more than an earthly tool of Satan to distract, derail, confuse and hide the fact that the real issues is between Lucifer’s fall from Heaven and God’s creation giving mankind, made in HIS own image, the opportunity to share in Satan’s destiny or God’s preferred destiny.
The importance of the Book of Daniel
It is an indispensable introduction to New Testament prophecy.
It bridges the gap between Israel’s historical books and the New
It reveals details about the *comings of the Anointed One, the Antichrist and other princes.
The coming of Christ, anointed Son of God
The Rapture of the Church
Jesus on the Throne during the Millennial reign from Jerusalem
It tells of the Tribulation, followed by the Lord’s return to rule from the Throne of David in Jerusalem for 1,000 years.
It speaks about the resurrections and the judgments of God.
It covers “the Times of the Gentiles.”
It shows that God is sovereign in the affairs of man.
It provides compelling evidence that there is a God in heaven who rules history.
It uncovers a great spiritual warfare among the angelic and demonic forces.
It illustrates what true dedication to God means, and what God is willing to do through and for those who are committed to Him.
It provides a solid basis for comfort in the midst of adversity.
It discloses Godly principles for politicians and officials.
It offers hope for God’s people so they will not fall away.
It challenges God’s people to faithfulness and perseverance.
It contains an unusual amount of practical truth that is applicable to Christians today.
It predicts an everlasting kingdom ruled by the Son of Man.
During the Olivet Discourse Jesus directed our attention to the prophet Daniel (Matthew 24:15). By referring to Daniel, Jesus was drawing our attention to some of the most amazing last day prophecies of the Bible. Daniel’s prophecies were written during the sixth century BC, after the Babylonians had conquered Israel and taken them into captivity. Secular theologians state it was written in the first century BC due to its accuracy. Daniel received several visions and prophecies during this time, beginning when he was a youth under king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Olivet Discourse didn’t happen until several hundred years later; about 30 A.C.
The Apocrypha adds three additional moments to Daniels’ life in Babylon. These events are found in Bel and the Dragon found in the Vulgate as Daniel 14; Susanna found in the Vulgate as Daniel 13; *The Song of the Three Children; Vulgate, Daniel 3:24-90. The standard Evangelical Bible typically stops after chapter 12 in the Book of Daniel.
* This passage includes the sorrowful prayer of Azariah (Abednego) in Babylonian while the three youths were in the fiery furnace. It is a brief account of a figure who met them in the furnace and was unburned (an angel, or interpreted by fundamental Christians as a pre-figurement of Jesus Christ, in the same vein as Melchizedek); and the hymn of praise they sang (with the refrain, “Praise and exalt Him above all forever…”, repeated many times, each naming a feature of the world) when they realized they were delivered.
AHAMOMENT: The history of Hanania, Misheal, and Azariah (Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego) was under Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian King. The historical reference to Danial in the Lion’s Den was over 70 years later under the new Medo-Persian Ruler, Cyrus. These are NOT stories. They are history that ss to some degree mentioned on the *Black Oblisk and other written tablets of ancient Babylon and Persia.
* Black Obelisk of the Assyrian King Shalmaneser III
Rev. Dr. James Stark
original copy 3/20/2013
Revised March 2, 2019
The Book of Daniel reveals God’s sovereign control of history from 605 B.C. to the Second Advent of Christ. This prophetic writing contains hundreds of predictions that revolve around five basic themes.
1. The Rise and Fall of Four Empires
2. The Coming of the Everlasting Millennial Kingdom
3. The Coming Princes
4. The Time of Israel’s Distress
5. The End Times
My objective in Decoding Daniel is to show history revealing prophecy and prophecy revealing history. Yahweh is the Lord of time and history. They are one and the same; not one a story and the other facts of history. They are both part of the same historical facts.
He is sovereign over the world, though considerable power and freedom of will have been given to human and angelic beings. Because of this freedom, a great conflict within the physical and spiritual realms is revealed in the Book of Daniel as humans, angels, Satan and God strive to control the future. Today they are cloaked in what man calls politics. Do not be swayed, That is a farce of Satan in his attempt to confuse facts. (Recommended reading: Satan’s Confusing Counterfeits by Joe Crews)
God elects to relate to humanity in such a way that humans become a factor in His life and He becomes part of our lives. Paul is strong on this point in his Philippians letter. Because of this interaction, prayers, dreams and visions play a significant role in the events of this book (Daniel) as God reveals the rise and fall of future empires and princes.
Although biblical history shows that God changes in the way He feels, plans, and acts in response to our response to Him, there are boundaries to His change. The LORD responds to human actions without compromising His revealed, unconditional plans and purposes. In addition, He never violates His legitimacy, righteousness and holiness. The future God has mapped out in the Book of Daniel will occur. His prophecies we find in history textbooks of the secular world proving many of these prophecies have already happened.
Interesting side note… The fact that Daniels accuracy is so on-target, secularists and even some religious sophisticates claim the Book of Daniel had to be written after the fact of history itself. In other words, it was and remains too accurate to be true. Hmmmmm?
From the beginning, man’s history has been the story of rebellion against God. Instead of developing morally, humanity continues to head down the slippery slope of decadence, declension and destruction. For this reason alone, God is able to foretell the future with absolute accuracy as He overrules evil for His plans and purposes. Although in some of Daniel’s prophecies evil may appear to be victorious, God is working behind the scenes for good [Romans 8:28]. Joseph characterized God’s sovereign rule over evil for good in this same way in Genesis 50:20: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Prophetically, the Book of Daniel is the key that unlocks eschatology; the study of the last days. It is indispensable for understanding Christ’s predictions and the Book of Revelation. Many of its symbols are employed in diverse ways in the Apocalypse of Jesus Christ. [Recommended web site: http://www.biblestudyhour.net/Apocalypse.html] Below is an extract from its pages.
God’s plan for the world is unfolded in amazing detail in Daniel. *Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Great Image, Daniel’s dream and visions of the Four Beasts, and the Ram and Goat, along with Gabriel’s unveiling of the Seventy ‘Sevens’ provide the framework for prophetic history from 605 B.C. to the second coming [Advent] of Christ.
Daniel is written in prose and it differs from other prophetic books of the Bible which often have their oracles written in poetry. Consequently, it appears in the Hebrew Scriptures among “the writings” and not “the prophets.” Nevertheless, Daniel cannot be read like a narrative or novel since it contains images and symbols that need to be understood before God’s plan for the future can be understood. One cannot grasp its prophecies without first knowing a great deal about the rest of the Bible and the secular histories in which it is founded.
The kinds of predictions in the Book of Daniel are twofold:
There are “types” or “foreshadowing’s” concealed within the narratives themselves;
There are revealed dreams and visions of future events, people and places.
The prophet has deciphered the dreams and visions with the help of the Spirit of God. Herein a significant part of the outline of God’s plan for “the times of the Gentiles” has been decoded by the prophet. However, translating the details of this period is often left to the readers. My hope is to aid in this task by:
1. Connecting the symbolism decoded by Daniel to historical events, people and places.
2. Interpreting and connecting the symbolism that belongs to yet future events, people and places based on other prophecies contained in the Scriptures.
3. Discovering and interpreting the “types” in the narrative sections.
4. Explaining the words that have been closed up and sealed until the time of the end. In no way is it within my knowledge and study to open what has been sealed by God but we can possibly determine WHAT has been sealed. Someday the hidden will be revealed to all creation.
Practically, the Book of Daniel abounds with personal applications. Daniel himself models a godly life, blessed by God from teenage years through old age. A question section appears at the end of each chapter and will be discussed in our Bible Study containing a few applications gleaned from Daniel and others mentioned within that chapter. These questions can and will be an active ingredient for gaining knowledge and understanding. What we desire to do with gained understanding is an individual’s call. We will add secular historical evidence supporting Daniel’s incredible incites of wisdom and understanding of the times.
Chronological dating of Old Testament events varies slightly among church and secular scholars. Many variations arise from the Biblical writers themselves. Some count the ascension year as the first year of a king’s reign, others do not. Earlier scholars date the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. and Artaxerxes’ decree to rebuild Jerusalem in 445 B.C. I have opted (JIV) to follow the scholars who date these events as 586 B.C. and 444 B.C. Not a biggie considering it is only a give or take of one year. None the less, it is my hopes to self-explain as we progress through this great study and grasp understanding while offering convincing evidence this is the true Word of God and true history all in one.
Somewhere during our study will be a chronology of Daniel with supporting facts. We can divide Daniel three ways: 1) Take it as it is presented in most evangelical Bibles; look at it through its chronological order; 2) divide it between the two languages that it is written in: 1-2:4a (Hebrew), 2:4b – 7 (depending on how one looks at tense, voice and whether Daniel is being quoted or is his own quote) is written in Syriac/Aramaic. 3) Chapter 8 – 12 is written in Hebrew.
The Book of Daniel has been a battleground of “higher criticism.” For instance, liberals view this book as Pseudepigrapha, written to inspire the hopes of the Jewish victims during the Seleucid persecution of 170-165 B.C. I (JIV) believe it was written by a prophetic Daniel at the time of the 70 years Jewish (not Israeli) Babylonian exile, perhaps into the rule of Cyrus of Persia. One’s beliefs and interpretation of Daniel can be a litmus test of conservative or liberal orthodoxy. The interpretations of Daniel’s prophecies sharply divide pre-millennial views from a-millennial views. The reader should find that the explanation in this commentary is conservative and (JIV) pre-millennial Tribulation. Enough evidence and scripture will be provided to validate this position. My basis is that the covenant made between God (pre-Jesus’s N.T. times) is not yet fulfilled and the covenant with the Church (body of Christ) is under a New covenant… the church.
Next Week- Decoding Daniel Part 2
Rev. Dr. James Stark
original copy 3/20/2013
Revised March 2, 2019
The book of Daniel is one of the best-loved books of the Bible; it gives us the events of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego and the fiery furnace, Daniel in the lion’s den, Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams of a great nation (statue), and is the setting for the Book of Esther – stories that many of us learned and loved at Sunday school. However the years have come and gone and we so often tend to just skip over those quaint little histories without them having any real impact on our lives. I believe that once we have completed a serious chapter by chapter, topic by topic putting all into a historical context and the study of this amazing book, we will never be the same. This book gives us real perspective, it helps us to see things the way that God sees them – the way Daniel saw them AND the way we will see them as we near total social and political correctness per global opinions but all without God.
Daniel, whose name means ‘God is my judge’, was just a teenager, perhaps about 14, when the Babylonian army, led by king Nebuchadnezzar, came and took him, his friends and about 10,000 others of the brightest and royalty of Judah away from all they knew. They were carried them away into a distant land to a culture and language they did not know. It’s hard for us to imagine the feelings and emotions of a 14 (or so) year old young teenager being taken from the security of a family, not knowing if he would ever see them again.
Although we are told that there was not a righteous man in Jerusalem at that time (Jer 5:1; Jer 8:5-6), (hence the reason for God bringing His judgment), it would seem that there were still some God-fearing mothers, for Daniel and three of his teenage friends were brought up to know and fear God and even their names were a continual reminder of the God of Israel. But would that be enough? After all, how many young people today, after seeing all that Daniel saw, and enduring all he endured, would make a stand for God in the midst of a pagan culture?
How many of our young people leave home and go to the University of ‘Babylon’, where secular humanism rules, and find their once and hope filled faith destroyed as they become ‘free’ to do what they want? The moral constraints and stability of a home family (church and/or home) become just memories? And how many of us can truly say, as we back into the world every Monday morning, that we desire purity more than worldly pleasure?
Do we really fear God and shun evil as did Job? (Job 1:8). Do we run from temptation like Joseph? (Gen 39:12). Do we find ourselves dropping the odd expletive (Col 3:8), telling a ‘funny’ course joke to our colleagues so that we will fit into the crowd (Eph 5:4), maybe telling the occasional little ‘white’ lie (Col 3:9). “Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?” (James 3:10-11). Were you in church praising God this past Sunday then blending right back into the world on Monday? (Romans 12:1) I heard of a man who went up to a Christian once and asked: “You’re a Christian aren’t you?” The Christian replied “What makes you think that” It should be obvious to all around us. Too many Christians act as secret agents, never wanting to blow their cover.
Daniel wasn’t in Babylon long before the Babylonians could tell what was the most important thing in his life. It is my earnest prayer and desire that by the time we reach the end of this study, we too can say along with Daniel that we have ‘purposed in our hearts that we will not defile ourselves’ – no matter what the cost. No this is not the Nike-Colin Kaepernick “no matter what the cost” appeal. Their purpose is just another example of a degenerating America and profiteering. What Kaepernick, a multi-million dollar man is protesting is against the very institution that allowed him opportunity to become a wealthy man with the right to protest.
Our Christian stance at “no matter the cost” is talking about eternal things, not check book balances, TV spotlight time or fifteen minutes of camera attention. It does suggest that within Mark 8:36…”to gain the whole world but lose one’s soul” there is a deep meaning most today wish to ignore or deny…perhaps never had a clue.
Well over 200 [Acts 28:37] passengers, sailors, prisoners and travelers swim, float, ride the storm waves or a piece of ship timber to the shores of Malta. As we read in Acts 27, they are on their way to Rome. They as in meaning, at minimum, Paul and Luke. Luke continues to us the plural “WE.” Paul is a prisoner but there is no reason to suggest Luke is anything but a passenger, close ally, friend of Paul and his secretary or scribe.
In comparison to significant islands, Malta sits north of Africa and south of the toe of Italy; 122 square miles of occupied island. Like most storms, rain is a major factor. Finding dry wood for fires to keep the stranded warm would be difficult. Luke puts it clearly…(v2) “The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.Unusual kindness? Welcomed them (strangers)? Started the fires for them? Yes, Luke is correct per their unusual kindness. (Historical note since the Noah flood. Do we know who these people are?)J
JVI insider note: Malta was settled according to historians around the same time as the Northern Kingdom of Israel including Phoenicia were being invaded and dispersed by the Assyrians; 750 to 700 B.C. We know that there were tight bonds between the northern Tribes of Israel and the Phoenicians. So much so we also have of a name given to this mix of people – Phoenician Hebrews. History attributes the settling of Malta to Phoenicians. We also know from previous studies that the Tribe of Dan, the Merchant Marines of Egypt during the time of Israeli captivity in Egypt, settled trading posts throughout the Mediterranean including Malta. A very tight bond existed over the centuries between Phoenicians, Danites, and the Tribe of Zebulon; all seafaring people known for centuries as the “sea-people.”
Acts 28:3 is a rather startling passage. Paul, as one of the prisoners, was gathering wood for the fire(s) the Malta natives had started for them. While doing so, he is bitten by a viper sometimes known as the three-step snake. It is called that because it’s venom is very quick to paralyze the body including lungs, heart, and physical functions. But, the natives noticed in short order that Paul continued with his work after shaking the viper off his hand or wrist back into the fire.
When the viper bit Paul, the natives immediately blamed or perceived Paul as a murderer. These people believed that bad things happened as a justice system from the gods. The viper hanging from Paul’s hand was this perceived justice. But….!
shook the viper off by hanging his hand and arm over the fire. The
viper let loose now being concerned for its own life. TOO LATE.
While the natives waited for Paul to show the effects of the venom
, Paul simply continued his work. Now instead of being perceived as a murderer he is elevated to the status of a god by the natives. Word spread quickly of this miracle over their three months stranded on Malta. Paul during this time healed a wealthy man on this island; one that had great property ownership [Acts 28:8]. Soon and over the three months they wintered on Malta, many other islanders brought their sick to Paul. The bible states that “ANY” who were brought to him were healed.
One must wonder what the Roman guards, sailors, passengers and other prisoners thought about this miracle stuff. A prisoner was doing nothing but good and demonstrating his connection with God. Interesting that in Acts 28:11, Luke decides to mention some of the gods of Rome such as Jupiter and the sons of Jupiter, that is, the twins Dioscuri: – Castor and Pollux. In this we may find our answer to what the Roman guards and sailors thought about Paul performing such miracles. Rome had many gods including one to their unknown god. Here is a god that heals the sick and lame; Paul’s God.
After wintering on Malta, they find another ship. Their route to Rome includes stops at Syracuse, Rhegium, Puteoli, *Appi, then by foot to Rome.
*The Appian [Appi] Way was famous for several reasons. It was a straight road that went to Rome up the Italian coast line. Hand constructed and extending well over 200 miles it was the super highway of that day. In fact the Appian Way divided at Beneventum into two parallel roads both leading to and from Brundisium, Italy. It may have been the first divided highway of record (humor intended but factual).
Fellow believers from Rome and surrounding areas somehow learned of Paul and his journey toward them. They came south to meet up with him. This tells us that there already existed believers (The Way) in Rome and Italy. We find in Acts 28:16 of another unusual event. All prisoners were then delivered to the Roman Captain of the guard, but Paul was allowed to dwell in his own place with but one guard. This put that guard under Paul’s constant witnessing and possibly healings.
Now Paul does something rather unusual but not so unusual for him. He is the guy who continually darkened the doorway to any synagogue he passed even at the threat of his life. Acts 28:17 says he called together leaders of the Jews The Way. “Men and brethren, though I have committed nothing wrong against the people and the customs of our fathers…” I am here as a prisoner. He identifies both Jews and members of The Way by calling them “men” and “brethren.” He distinguishes between them because they are different groups but at the same gathering.
though Paul had continually been persecuted or harassed by Jewish
accusers in Asia, Macedonia, Palestine, Antioch and Jerusalem, these
folks in Rome claim to have heard nothing about him being accused or
on trial, but they knew of him. Paul does distinguish between the two
groups but here in v21, 22 we discover that the Jews of Rome thought
of The Way as a sect…
a group from within Judaism itself.
“We have received no letters from Judea about you, and none of the brothers coming here has reported or spoken any evil about you. But we desire to hear from you what your views are, for with regard to this *sect we know that everywhere it is spoken against.”
A *sect? The Jews of Rome knew of but did not understand The Way as some type of violation of Jewish Law but a schism within Judaism. It was similar to another denomination similar to evangelicals of today; Methodists, Baptists, Brethren, Presbyterians, etc. The Jews saw The Way as coming from within Judaism; Jewish at its roots…not to include Gentiles. Paul set out to change all of that. He is called to the Gentiles [Romans 1:13].
JIV HISTORICAL NOTATION: The Appian (high)Way is very famous and was significant to the survival of the Roman Empire itself. Plus as a very strong message to all entering the capital of the Roman Empire, there was a constant line of crucified men, woman, and children along the Appian Way. There was nothing subtle about it. Be a problem to Rome and hang for it. The practice of crucifixion is not exclusive to Mt. Calvary, that is Golgotha. This method of death was a common practice of the Roman Empire. They were brutal conquerors. Something secular history fails to point out
From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them [understand] about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.
Act 28:24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved [Acts 28:23 & 24].
“‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see [become aware] with their eyes and hear with their ears [gain knowledge] and understand with their heart and turn [desire], and I would heal them.’ Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; that they will listen.”
Sounds a bit like too many churches of today. People come to hear but do not seek understanding then desire to change and take action in his or her personal life to make the change.
We begin this article with a quote from Coffman’s Commentary…
PAUL’S VOYAGE TO ROME:
This great chapter is an immortal work of the inspired Luke, worthy in every way as one of the great narrations in all literature, giving, as Dummelow said, “The most detailed account of an ancient voyage which we possess, and is our principal source of knowledge of the ancient art of navigation.” Even scholars inclined to be critical here confess that “Luke’s whole account may be assumed to be accurate and entirely trustworthy.”
Throughout this chapter to the very end, chapter 28, Luke continues to us the plural “we.” This means he was present although there is no indication Luke was ever on trial, a prisoner, or the center of attraction subject to Sanhedrin scorn. It helps to remember that Luke was NOT a Jew or from any of the other eleven Tribes of Israel. He was a doctor and a Gentile who scribes for and traveled with Paul. He was the only non-Israeli to write any of the books of the Bible. Any person who is anti-Semite yet claims to believe in the entirety of the Bible is quite conflicted.
Paul was not the only prisoner aboard this ship… “they delivered Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort named Julius” (Acts 27:1).
Not too amusing but of historical significance, it was not uncommon for prisoners in other provinces of Rome to be shipped to Rome for the “entertainment” of Roman audiences in the arena. This could be for the famous Lions of prey or for Roman Gladiators to practice their art for the audiences. What a sad and Satanic cruelness. People play with or make light the realities of Satan but do not understand his application throughout history.
They board ship in Acts 27:1 with other prisoners and possibly passengers. After all, Luke was with Paul and went to Rome with Paul. Prisoners at the time were sometimes used as rowers chained to their job at the oars. Every good reason to maintain a stable voyage, but this chapter points out the significance of this comment.
Paul, although a prisoner in the sense of pending trial in Rome, is allowed to disembark and visit friends at ports of call. 27:3 states…”we put in [their ship]at Sidon. And Julius treated Paul kindly and gave him leave to go to his friends and be cared for. Julias was the prisoner charge officer aboard ship; a centurion of the Augustan Cohort or duty soldiers. At verse 6 the prisoners are transferred to a ship already bound for Italy.
Several times Luke mentions that the winds [verses 4, 7, 8, 9, & 10] are an issue to the ship. It is a prelude to pending disaster. Paul warns the ship’s masters and helmsman of the seas eerie waters. Paul states in Acts 27:10…“Sirs, I perceive that the voyage will be with injury and much loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.“
But the ship’s Centurion paid no attention to Paul’s warning. Due to the many delays and traveling against the cautioning winds, they sought a winter harbor other than Fair Havens. It was not a suitable harbor to port up in for the winter winds and weather.
Act 27:13 Now when the south wind blew gently, supposing that they had obtained their purpose, they weighed anchor and sailed along Crete, close to the shore.
Act 27:14But soon a tempestuous wind, called the *northeaster, struck down from the land.
Act 27:15And when the ship was caught and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and were driven along.
*Northeasters are dangerous winds even in the Americas including by land and by sea.
The next several verses explains our opening quote as to the travels and dangers so vividly described by Luke in writing the Book of Acts. The Believers Bible Commentary puts it this way.
“They tied cables around the hull of the ship to keep it from being torn apart by the heavy seas. They greatly feared they would be driven south to Syrtis, a gulf on the coast of Africa noted for its dangerous shoals. To prevent this, they struck sail and so were driven.A very real concern as to the known nautical facts of the Mediterranean Sea.
By the third a day of this leg of the journey, they began throwing things overboard to lighten their load; cargo, ship’s tackle, anything but people. Finally Paul after a long struggle to keep his tongue in check and watching the foolishness of this ship’s crew, he lets loose. I warned you in Crete not to venture out this late in the season. You refused my insight (via God). Why do we say via God? In Acts 27:23 Paul proclaims: “For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship…”
There is a sense of humor, if one would call it that, when Paul assures the crew that all will be well because he is assured by God he will stand trial before Caesar, they will be ship wrecked, the ship will be torn timber from deck and all will need to swim ashore. Other than that and being stranded for awhile, all will be just fine.
On the fourteenth night of battling winter winds on the Adriatic Sea, they sense that they are being blown toward land. They drop the four drag anchors and pray for daylight since it was midnight at this time. Then the old trick of “going for help” but intending to save their own skins alone, they set out the rescue boats under the pretense of “laying out the anchors from the bow.” Apparently it was just the ship’s sailor who were trying to escape in the ONE lifeboat. Paul tells the Centurion guard what is going on and that unless the sailors stay with the boat, they would die in the storm seas [Acts 27:31]. The soldiers cut away the ropes to the lifeboat so all will be forced to stay aboard…now finally following Paul’s directions.
They had all been so busy trying to survive the Mediterranean Sea storm, none had eaten. Paul tells them to “take bread” as they will need it shortly after being washed ashore… “for not a h air will be lost or perish.”
What happens next is amazing. All 276 people on board, believed Paul, stopped worrying, ate food, and in the presence of all, gave thanks to God and ate. They quickly followed suit, all but their own thanksgiving prayers that is. “Now after they had eaten, they tossed the ship’s load of wheat overboard.” The next move of the ship’s crew is normal protocol for any ship in a similar situation. They cut anchors, loosed the tied rudder, set sail with the wind and tried for the shoreline they could now see. Beaching the ship was their intent.
Not to happen! With the assurance Paul had given them a few verses earlier, they could have set back, let the band play on, and still be safe to the last person. They came upon a shoal or offshore reef. The ship started being torn apart plank by plank. Next move, kill the prisoners if at all possible just in case one or more escapes. What a call to duty the Roman soldiers were. Paul was now in charge. First he ordered the soldiers not to kill anyone. The word used by Luke to command or order in Greek is keleuō. It means to give instructions to “do it now.”
First the swimmers dove in and swam to shore. Then those who could not swim grabbed hold of a floating board from the ship’s hull. Next those who hesitated had to take hold of any floating part of the ship that no longer remained below their feet. The ship was totally destroy. This may have been the first surf board race recorded in history. Everyone’s goal was to ride the surf to shore. According to the ESV: and the rest on planks or on pieces of the ship. And so it was that all were brought safely to land.
As we near the end of this study on Acts, it is time to remind the reader that this IS the original church. It has morphed into what we call “church” today. Acts does not give us a bulletin of the how a service should go, but then, a personal relationship with Christ is just that; not a routine. When it becomes a routine, we better understand the statement “morphed.”
The first 26 verses in Acts 26 is Paul’s defense:
The complimentary “honor” to be in front of King Agrippa
Paul’s credentials as a Pharisee, Roman, Jew, and now a believer in The Way
His past as a Sanhedrin zealot persecuting members of The Way
His transformation and encounter with Jesus on the Road to Damascus
His call to bear witness of God and his unfailing efforts to so do.
[T]his arrest for doing what? Following God?
The thankfulness to be standing and presenting his case in front of King Agrippa was in contrast to the flattery presented by the Sanhedrin hired lawyer (Tertullus; Acts 24). Paul realized that he did not have to explain to an outsider (Gentile) Jewish laws. Agrippa was the son of Herod the Great therefore an Idumaean; a descendant in the line of Esau. This too makes him a direct relative of Abraham and one familiar with Jewish customs. In a real sense, a distant cousin to Paul himself.
Act 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass.
Paul sets his defense upon doing nothing outside the laws of Rome, laws of Moses, and teachings of Judaism SINCE the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah. Paul once again sides with the Pharisees in supporting the “first to rise from the dead” that person being Jesus. Remember that the Pharisees believed in an after-life and a resurrection. This was not so of the Sadducee. Since there is no objection or discord mentioned at this trial like it was in Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin must have been less than by-partisan. Perhaps they did not bring along any Pharisees to this trial in Caesarea. The lack of disagreement among Paul’s accusers suggests this to be the case…no Pharisee present when Paul stated the resurrection of Jesus.
It is of particular interest per the exchange between Paul and the interruption of *Governor Festus in versus 24 & 25. Paul had just stated in 23b that the Messiah (Jesus) must suffer and, that by being the first to rise from the dead, HE [Jesus] would proclaim [the gospel] salvation to both OUR PEOPLE and the Gentiles.” Governor Festus, a Roman Gentile, probably reacted to OUR PEOPLE as explained in the above, reacted to the fact that Gentiles were included in Paul’s mission and vision. He said that Paul is out of his mind; too educated.
*During his administration (56 – 61 C.E.), Jewish hostility to Rome was greatly inflamed by the civic privileges issue. Feelings were aroused which played an important part in Governor Festus decision-making.
However, Paul responds by deferring his reply not to Festus, but to King Agrippa, an Edomite and one familiar with Jewish customs (Acts 26:26). Paul immediately turns to King Agrippa asking him if he believes in the prophets of which he had full knowledge and as Governor Festus did not. This was probably very *embarrassing to Agrippa. If he replied that he did believe in the prophets, which he most likely did, his Gentile counterpart in Governor Festus may have reacted as skeptical per the King who was also appointed by Rome
.*Sadly this is true of many “almost believers.” Sitting or standing among others and to say I want to believe would be drawing attention, pro and con, to one’s actions or response to the gospel message of salvation. How eternal to desire not to be a spectacle in an-other’s eyes only to exchange it for eternal destiny to hell.
Paul realizes his hesitance. He points out that his question is to all present and not present in verse 29. In a sense he takes the burden of the question off Agrippa’s back or shoulders and qualifies it as a question for all to answer.
Then comes the famous reply by Agrippa in the next verse (v28): “Would you in such a short time think you have convinced me?” The convincing had nothing to do with Paul’s guilt or innocence, but his appeal to Agrippa’s Jewish background and Jesus the Messiah; becoming a Christian or member of The Way. There is a well known psychological probability that when cornered or trying to hide something from an-other’s question, s/he avoids answering by ask a counter-question in reply. This is how Agrippa responded.
Agrippa and Festus go into a private conference and conclude that Paul is guilty of breaking no law be it Roman or Jewish. These two rulers represent both the Gentiles (Festus) of that time and the Jews (Agrippa). They both avoid having to deal with it during a time of tensions between the Romans and Jews by deferring to Paul’s appeal to the Emperor in Rome. They excuse their inaction by say…”If it were not for Paul’s appeal to Caesar (Emperor in Rome) he could be set free.”
From here to the end of the Book of Acts we see the captivity and trials of Paul to its final end in Rome. Governor Festus, unnamed chief priests, King Agrippa II with his sister*Bernice, Caesarea, all additional background leading up to Paul’s execution and the concurring Jewish revolt against Rome plus the Roman orator hired by the Sanhedrin to present their case against Paul all rolled into chapters 24 – 26. It is no wonder that there is so much tentativeness to actually conclude a trial with Paul. Roman authorities keep pushing it up the ladder finding reasons to delay sentencing an innocent man but holding him for Geo-political reasons.
The Living Word of GOD -Connecting the dots of the history of mankind
*A student of the bible should understand that when a first person, place, or thing is identified in the bible, it isn’t an accident or something to fill a page. Emperoris one of those aha-moments in scripture. She is from Cilicia just as is Paul. She was part of the Herodian dynasty that ruled the Roman province of Judea from 55 to 93 C.E. Her father was King Herod Agrippa I. She was sister to Herod Agrippa II. She had a number of failed marriages not to make her the victim. During the First Jewish-Roman War (67 C.E.) she began a love affair with the future (Emperor) Titus Flavius Vespasian.
Acts 25:3 once again points out the deviant and abhorrent actions of the Jewish leadership. The Romans knew Jewish leadership and these people spelled trouble. Their continual trouble-making is but one reason they have been expelled from so many countries over the centuries. They continued to kick the dead horse and held grudges for years. Look at the middle east today…what has changed? Now they wanted Paul to be brought to Jerusalem so he could be killed while in route. A plan derailed by Governor Felix. Probably because Paul appealed to Caesar.
Governor Festus being the new guy on the block denied permission to take Paul to Jerusalem for additional prosecution (perhaps persecution) by the Jewish courts. He kept this under his thumb and said he would judge, not the Jews of the Jerusalem Sanhedrin. At the same time as history records, the Romans knew that the Jews were a force with which they must be aware. He listened to the charges against Paul none of which they could prove. Acts 25:8 is the beginning of Paul’s defense and from his own mouth…
Paul argued in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar have I committed any offense.”
Governor Festus wanting to placate the Jews asked Paul if he would go to Jerusalem to be tried. Paul responds that he is already standing in front of the “authority” of this area. Why go there only to stand in front of the same man? Paul is very forthright. He states in v11 that if he committed a crime worth death, he would not resist the executioner. At this point [Acts 25:11] Paul assures his trip to Rome by “appealing to Caesar;” i.e. Emperor Nero. There is great turmoil in the Roman Empire at this time; Emperor Nero the firebug and the pending Jewish revolt.
Acts 25:13 is interesting. Look back at the aster-ix on page one describing the shifty Bernice and her brother King Agrippa II. They show up at Caesarea; a brother and a sister. She was obviously of some influence over her brother. In v14 Governor Felix explains to King Agrippa that Paul is a left over case from the former governor Felix. Governor Felix had already tried Paul and found him innocent but to gain some favor with the insistent and persistent Jews he left Paul in prison. Now it is Governor Felix’s problem. He is very befuddled.
(v14) Festus laid Paul’s case before the king, saying, “There is a man left prisoner by Felix, and when I was at Jerusalem, the chief priests and the elders of the Jews laid out their case against him, asking for a sentence of condemnation against him.
Felix explains to King Agrippa II (and) Bernice that the problem with Paul is Jewish religion, attitude, and some guy named Jesus. This would lead us to believe they did NOT KNOW about the crucifixion of Jesus only 20 years earlier. Since these Roman leaders were supposedly “in the know” due to their authority, political position and knowledge, we can deduce that the gospel message was still limited in its scope, reach, and frequency. Felix points out part of the argument between Paul and the Jews was that this Jesus was supposed to be dead per the Jews but yet he was very much alive per Paul.
King Agrippa II states that he would like to hear from this man named Paul. [v22]. Whether it was to see and hear from Paul or the pomp and circumstances provided him at this meeting Agrippa wanted (see verse 23) is unknown. However the bible includes “Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city”. Sounds very ceremonial. Not an uncommon aspect of the Herods; Idumean by blood; that is offspring of Esau, twin of Jacob.
“...but I found nothing deserving of death” explains Felix to Agrippa. What Governor Felix is searching for is an accusation worthy of “appealing to Caesar.” He would need to or to the Emperor with some degree of criminality for even sending Paul to Rome. As we close chapter 25 Felix states it in his own words: “For it seems to me unreasonable, in sending a prisoner (to Rome), not to indicate the charges against him.”