Rebuilding the Kingdoms: From Exile to Return (Journey the Word 8)

For almost 20 years, the Babylonian Empire invaded Judah, destroyed homes, killed people, caused famine, and took survivors to distant lands to hold them as prisoners of war. We saw prophets arise during this era, such as Daniel and Ezekiel. Leaders such as Ezra and Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem to help the exiles rebuild the community.

Daniel

Daniel 1-12

Daniel was taken captive as a teenager by the Babylonian army at about 605 BC. He was then deported from Jerusalem to the capital of Babylon. Daniel was dedicated to living to God’s Standards, not the world, which caused many problems. His first test was whether he would eat foods that violated God’s Law. Most of the religions of that era were pagan and Daniel wanted no part of them. This means they ate strange foods, none of which Daniel wanted.

Zealous in lieu of God’s Law, Daniel protested the foods. But, his important time came when he interpreted a dream by Nebuchadnezzar about the statue. Later in his years, Daniel would be in prayer often to God, and when caught, Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den, only to be miraculously saved by God.

The book of Daniel recorded a story also of Daniel’s friends being saved from the furnace: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Obedience to God trumped Earthly kings… Hallelujah! Soon, we would witness many prophecies related to the end times that Daniel had given.

Ezekiel

Ezekiel 1-48

A priest named Ezekiel lived among exiles in Nippur, which was a Jewish settlement near the Kebar River around Babylon. Ezekiel was taken captive from Judah to Babylonia (the Akkadian state) around 8 eight years after Daniel was taken. Even though Ezekiel’s book is much larger than Daniel’s, we know more about Daniel than we do Ezekiel.

Ezekiel was called by God to be a prophet… “Watchman.” A watchman is in a high tower vigilantly monitoring the area of responsibility. The book of Ezekiel consists of many judgment prophecies and laments, because there were visions of Israel’s future restoration – a dream many Jews and others have had. The first 32 chapters of his book show the prophet giving God’s Warning to Judah and other nations of a suffering coming.

Judah’s suffering would be because of their idolatrous ways, sexual sins, exploitation of vulnerable people, and alliances with pagan nations. The remainder of the book occurs after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonian Empire, which was around 586 BC. Ezekiel, instead of giving stern warnings, offers messages of hope and restoration. Death is never the final judgment for God’s People. Ezekiel had a final vision in 571 BC, about fifteen years after the fall of Jerusalem. There was hope to see the end of the exile, and Ezekiel would not live to see that end.

The Kingdoms in Daniel

The StatueThe Four BeastsThe Kingdoms
Head of fine gold: Babylon was the most powerfully wealthy kingdom.Lion with Wings of an Eagle: These images were popular in Babylonian architecture and currency.Babylonian Empire: 605-539 BC (King Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar)
Chest and Arms of Silver: Media and Persia were the second great power, and they defeated Babylon.Bear with Ribs in its Mouth: This seems to illustrate Persian dominance over Media.Medo-Persian Empire: 539-332 BC (King Cyrus to Darius III). Persia is symbolized as a ram.
Belly and Thighs of Bronze: bronze is less than gold so it is inferior.Leopard with Four Wings and Four Heads: The speed of Alexander’s conquest of Persia. The heads could indicate a division of Alexander’s empire in four distinct provinces after his death.Greece: 332-63 BC (Alexander the Great and the four divisions). Greece is symbolized by a goat.
Legs of Iron; Feet of Iron and Clay: Divided kingdom was as strong as iron. Most scholars think it was the Roman Empire.Beast with Ten Horns: The horns are ten kings that would arise from this kingdom. Then little horn would speak against God’s People and persecute them. During this king’s reign, God would set up an everlasting kingdom.Divided Kingdom: The Roman Empire in 63 BC through the time of Jesus.
Rock Cut from a Mountain: A rock unmade from human hands that would strike the statue and shatter it. The rock became a mountain that filled the entire Earth. This symbolized Jesus initiating the Kingdom of God.The Son of Man: Daniel’s vision noted “One like a son of man coming from the clouds of Heaven”. He had all glory that people worshiped him.Everlasting Kingdom: Jesus was referred to as the Son of Man, and John had a vision of Jesus Christ ruling in the Heaven.

Ezra and Nehemiah

Ezra 1-10; Nehemiah 1-13

The Book of Ezra opens with the fulfilling of Jeremiah’s prophecy – After seventy years of exile, the Jews would return to their home. The Babylonian Empire fell to Persia in 539 BC. God worked on the heart of King Cyrus of Persia to allow the Jews to return to Jerusalem and even rebuild the Temple.

Under Zerubbabel’s leadership and Joshua the High Priest, a new foundation was laid to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Haggai and Zechariah called upon the people to resolve and rebuild the Temple. The rebuilding resumed in 516 BC, which was seventy years after its destruction. God was now truly with His People.

Six decades forward, Ezra is introduced as one devoted to the study and observance of the Law of the Lord. He liked to teach the decrees and laws of the Lord, and even led a large group of exiles on a four month nine-hundred mile journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Ezra instituted spiritual and social reforms to ensure that this new community in Jerusalem would obey God’s Law and avoid the sins that originally led to the exile.

Meanwhile, in Susa, the Persian capital, Nehemiah was a servant of Artaxerxes. Being a cup-bearer meant he held an influential position as a confidant to the King. He persuaded the king to let him go to Jerusalem to lead the rebuilding of the Temple. Nehemiah and the people overcame opposition in trying to rebuild the Temple and city walls. New life was brought to Jerusalem and it was amazing.

Esther

The Book of Esther, written around 460-400 BC by an anonymous author, covers a period after the exile during the reign of King Xerxes. The Book talks much about a person named Esther who was chosen to become queen, about a plan that was crafted to destroy the Jews (and how it occurred), and about the triumphant Jews.

In the beginning of the book, an exhibition of riches was displayed before the officials and citizens, which lasted for many months. The current queen, Queen Vashti, was asked by the king to display her beauty before drunken men at this banquet, but she refused. This was defiance of the king’s authority, so therefore, she was removed from power. Soon, many young and beautiful women in the land were brought together in the palace, so that the king might choose one of them to be a queen. Among those women was a Jew, whom was also an orphan, named Esther. However, she didn’t make it known she was a Jew. After all the preparations, the women were brought before the king, and then he chose Esther and crowned her.

Now, a man named Haman, the king’s chief minister, had begun to demand people to worship him. Mordecai (cousin of Esther), refused to do this, because he was a Jew and worshiping Haman was against his religion. Haman wanted revenge because of this, and therefore decided to kill all of the Jews. Haman then gained the king’s permission to do so after he spoke that killing the Jews would greatly increase the royal treasury. The king trusted him that he gave Haman his ring, so that Haman could sign legal documents and put things into order. However, Haman had to wait for eleven months before proceeding (to kill them). Haman decreed he would do it, which disturbed many of the people. Mordecai knew that Esther was a Jew and only she could help, so he asked Esther to have the king cancel the decree. God wanted His People alive, and so the urgency was great for Esther to do this, even though she’d be risking her life. However, she agreed to approach the king thusly, and attempt to get the problem resolved.

After a few days had passed, Esther invited the king and Haman to a couple of dinners, in hope to get favor from one or both of them. Haman was positive about the queen, likely flattered that he may have gotten the queen’s approval for killing the Jews. Haman then asked for a royal favor, in hopes to get Mordecai killed right away. However, when Haman made the request to the king, the king was hesitant because Mordecai had saved his life at an earlier time. The king wanted to reward Mordecai, as we see in chapter six. However, Haman didn’t know about the reward, it seems, so Haman was astonished that the honor would go to Mordecai (not execution). Haman was humiliated and felt betrayed by the royal family. Later that night, another dinner was between the king, queen, and Haman, where Esther brought the case before the king that Haman had been plotting to kill the Jews (admitting she was also Jewish) and killing her, and therefore the king was angry because of it. Haman began weeping with anguish before the king, which was interpreted by the king as rape or other form of tactic by Haman to hurt the queen. Therefore, the king wanted Haman immediately executed.

Next, we see Mordecai promoted to chief minister. However, the king’s decree (from Haman’s proposal to kill the Jews) was still intact, but the king gave Mordecai and the queen power to counteract it with a new decree. Therefore, they acted promptly, and gave the Jews permission to do anything they could to defend themselves against attacks on the day (of war against them). When the day came for the Jews to be attacked, only a few of the enemies actually attacked them. However, the Jews fought hard, it seems, and were even given an extra day to defend themselves and get revenge on the enemies. After the Jews won (and survived by the grace of God), a feast was thrown in celebration (which was done every year after that, as well). The book concluded quickly by talking about the reign of Mordecai, and how he helped the Jewish people under his leadership. Mordecai continued rule for many years.

Timeline of events between the exile and return

  • 605 BC – Daniel is taken captive to Babylon (Daniel 1).

  • Daniel interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue (Daniel 2). The powerful rock that destroys the statue represents the establishment of God’s Eternal Kingdom. The angel Gabriel told Mary that Jesus would rule over this Kingdom forever (Daniel 2:34-35; Luke 1:31-32).

  • God protected Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fiery furnace (Daniel 3).

  • 597 BC – Ezekiel is taken captive into exile.

  • 593 BC – Ezekiel is called by God to be a prophet/watchman (Ezekiel 1-3).

  • Ezekiel prophesies God’s judgment upon Judah (Ezekiel 4-24).

  • Ezekiel prophesied God’s Judgment on the nations (Ezekiel 25-32).

  • 586 BC – Fall of Judah: Babylon conquered Judah and destroyed the Temple (2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36).

  • 585 BC – Ezekiel received news that Jerusalem had fallen (Ezekiel 33).

  • Ezekiel prophesies God’s restoration of Israel (Ezekiel 34-39).

  • Ezekiel has a vision of a glorious future Temple (Ezekiel 40-48).

  • 571 BC – Ezekiel recorded his last prophecy (Ezekiel 29:17-21).

  • Nebuchadnezzar ends up insane, but soon sanity would return and he worships God (Daniel 4).

  • Daniel has a vision of four beasts, especially “one like a son of man” (Daniel 7). Jesus answered affirmatively in being the Messiah, referring to Daniel’s prophecy of being the “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13; Mark 14:62; Revelation 1:7; 1:13).

  • Daniel has a vision of a ram and goat (Daniel 8).

  • 539 BC – Daniel interprets the writing on the wall as King Belshazzar’s downfall (Daniel 5).

  • Daniel’s vision of an “abomination” and “seventy sevens” (Daniel 9). Jesus spoke that the abomination of desolation would be a sign of the end times (Daniel 9:27; Matthew 24:15).

  • 538 BC – King Cyrus of Persia allowed exiled Jews to return to Judah (Ezra 1).

  • First Return: Zerubbabel and the High Priest Joshua led the exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 2).

  • God protected Daniel in the lion’s den (Daniel 6).

  • 535 BC – Daniel recorded the last prophecy of a vision of a man (Daniel 10-12).

  • The Temple foundation was laid, but not as glorious as the first Temple (Ezra 3). Temple construction stalled (Ezra 4).

  • Haggai and Zechariah convince people to continue rebuilding the Temple (Ezra 5:1; 6:14). Zechariah prophesied in his book many things about Jesus Christ that were fulfilled by Him.

  • 516 BC – Temple reconstruction is completed (Ezra 6).

  • Queen Esther saves her people from being annihilated (Esther 1-8).

  • Purim (Feast of Lots) is established (Esther 9-10).

  • 457 BC – Second Return: Ezra led the exiles to Jerusalem (Ezra 7-8).

  • Ezra institutes social and spiritual reforms (Ezra 9-10).

  • Nehemiah heard that Jerusalem’s walls were torn down (Nehemiah 1).

  • 444 BC – Third Return: Nehemiah led the exiles to Jerusalem this time (Nehemiah 2).

  • Under the governance of Nehemiah, the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt (Nehemiah 3-7).

  • Ezra read the Law and the people confessed their sins (Nehemiah 8-12).

  • Nehemiah went to Persia for a short time and then returned to Jerusalem (Nehemiah 13).

  • Malachi called for a spiritual renewal in Judah. Malachi prophesied that a special prophet would prepare the way for the Messiah, which was fulfilled in John the Baptist (Malachi 3:1; 4:5; Matthew 11:10; Luke 7:26-28).

  • Joel prophesied about the coming Day of the Lord. When the Holy Spirit would come in power upon the disciples, Peter identified this as Joel’s prophecy on pouring out His Spirit upon all people (Joel 2:29; Acts 2:16-21).

“God is my judge” – The prophet named Daniel

OVERALL:

  • Daniel was a statesman Prophet as the others were.
  • His name means, “God is my Judge.”
  • He mainly wrote to “The Gentile Rulers in Babylon” – which included the Chaldean, Mede, and Persian.
  • He was a “kingdom” man, because he seemed to always have knowledge of the political realm, but also was given visions of the future coming of the Kingdom of God!
  • He seemed to be the only Prophet who didn’t just picture Christ as just a shepherd, but he pictured Christ as a coming ruler of the world! The other Prophets seemed to picture Christ as being around for a temporary era or some other kind of symbolic form.

Historical background of Daniel

Daniel was carried captive to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar at the time of the first invasion, which was in the third year of Jehoiakim. Ezekiel was then taken to Babylon in the second invasion, to which, was eight years later than Daniel and eleven years before the complete destruction of Jerusalem. Ezekiel and Daniel had ministered entirely outside of Palestine, however, Daniel’s Ministry was to powerful Gentile rulers, whereas Ezekiel’s Ministry was to poor Jewish exiles. It was established that Ezekiel and Daniel were Prophets at the same time. Though they did not work hand-in-hand, they still carried out God’s Will.

In Jerusalem overall, the people are in constant turmoil. Jehoiakim is succeed by his son, who reigned only three months before going to captivity in Babylon along with many others in Judah. Daniel was taken in a group along with other captives to Babylon. Zedekiah was left on the throne in Jerusalem as the agent of the Babylonian government, and Jeremiah was the preacher still in the Holy City of Jerusalem to carry God’s message to the people.

Around 587 BC, Nebuchadnezzar returned to put down the rebellion of Zedekiah and take the rest of the people to join the exiles by the river Chebar. Many things were destroyed in Jerusalem, and others were taken away to captivity, to which, Jeremiah’s prophecy had happened. In Babylon, conditions were just as horrible. We see Daniel and a few other Jewish boys come in 605 BC, and Ezekiel and the upper class brought in 598 BC.

It is believed that he belonged to a family of high ranking and possibly of the royal house. He was taken, then, in the first group when the aristocracy was deported. He was taken into captivity in Babylon at age 16, and the remainder of his life (which was 69 years) was spent in Babylon, where he lived a saintly life in a sinful court. Ezekiel referred to Daniel as a pattern of piety, a ruler of righteousness. Daniel was of a despised servile people, and yet, he never deviated in his devotion to Jehovah.

Daniel rose to positions of highest power under four absolute monarchs of three different nations – Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar of Chaldea; Darius of Media; and Cyrus of Persia.

He compares with Revelation and Ezekiel as an Apocalyptic Prophet – which would be a writer concerning the end times. It says in Daniel 7:15, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.” He had many visions, especially of the end times, and it took a toll on his mindset (good and bad). He was faithful to God, even in a foreign land to the point of disobeying the King. He was pious, and wanted to keep his piety and was willing to risk his life for it. He also refused to sinfully bow down to the idols they had offered. He ministered to the Gentile rulers by interpreting dreams and visions, to which, he was a true prophet and discerner of things. His warning to those in the future was about the Second Coming of Christ, which involved end-time events people needed to be aware.

The Monarchs ruling in Daniel’s day

  • Nebuchadnezzar of Chaldea – He was the second king of Babylon; succeeding his father on the throne in 604 BC and reigned until 561 BC. Daniel 1:1 says this, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.” Appears Nebuchadnezzar came to besiege Jerusalem, and he seemed to be a power hungry leader – who cared very little for the captives.
  • Belshazzar of Chaldea – A free drinker (he seemed to like the bottle very much as we see in the fifth chapter of Daniel); he was the Chaldean king under whom Babylon was taken by Darius of Median.
  • Darius of Mede/Median – The son of Xerxes (9:1) was reigning now over the Chaldeans. In 6:1, we see that he was placed over the kingdom of a hundred and twenty princes. Daniel was the first (an important figure).
  • Cyrus of Persia – He led Persia in its conquest of Babylon in 539 BC, and was important for bringing God’s purposes in Israel to fulfillment, as we see in Isaiah 45:1. He gave the Jews that were held captive the permission to return to their homeland and rebuild their life and religion (as we see in Ezra 1:1-4).

Jesus sealed this book

Jesus set His seal upon this book as “inspired of God” in Matthew 24:15 – to which, was quoted previously, and His own title, “Son of Man,” was based on Daniel 7:13. Both the Lord Jesus and Daniel prophesy the “coming in the clouds with power and glory” – as we see in Daniel 7:13-14 and Matthew 24:30.

Three major divisions of his writings

  1. The Prologue of Daniel (1-2:45) – Daniel as he grew up, and the hard times that he faced were explained, especially under Nebuchadnezzar. Also, we see Nebuchadnezzar’s dream unfold, and Daniel wanted to help interpret it.
  2. The Promotion of Daniel (2:46-6:28) – Because of Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, he was promoted to Chief Administrator of the Kingdom and Head over his Council of Advisers. Daniel revealed another dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s and urged him to repent, to which, he finally submitted humbly to God. Later, new leaders over his region not knowing his record with Nebuchadnezzar, he was accused of different things. He also rejected bowing down or attending to the new religious law they made, so he was punished into the lion’s den – to which, God miraculously saved him and it was a sign unto the people that God was great.
  3. The Previews of Daniel (7-12:13) – Daniel has several different apocalyptic visions of Jesus and the end times, to which, he describes in incredible detail.

Dream of the “image” interpreted

What Nebuchadnezzar saw was a huge statue made of a variety of substances, from head to toe, decreased in value but increased in strength. The fee, however, which supported the statue were brittle. A huge stone, which was supernaturally formed, struck the statue at its feet so that the whole thing would crumble to dust and be blown away. The stone, however, grew into a mountain, which covered the whole earth.

The dream concerned the future of the King’s Kingdom, to which, the climax of the coming events would lead. Its main purpose was to show Nebuchadnezzar that God is the sovereign ruler of the world – and that He sets up kingdoms and destroys the same with His Own Will.

Therefore, the Medo-Persian Empire (which was the chest and arms of silver) would soon replace the mighty Babylonian Empire headed by Nebuchadnezzar (the head of gold) as the ruling power. The Medo-Persian Empire would be replced by the Greek Empire (which is typified by the belly and thighs of bronze).

Finally, the Roman Empire will take it last (legs of iron) and also take in more scattered states. However, it wouldn’t be able to holds its empire together in a stable union (symbolized by the feet that were part iron, part clay and brittle).

During such time in the Roman Empire then, God would intervene and the might empires would crumble before the coming of the supernatural king, Jesus Christ. How incredible! The supernatural stone coming to smash the feet typified this. The Kingdom of God introduced by Jesus Christ would overspread the world and last eternally (to which, is finally symbolized by the great mountain that filled the earth).

The values Daniel taught all people

  • The Lord should be glorified, because He is our deliverer. ·        We should encourage each other and build each other up as well.
  • We should resist the forces and enemies of our faith.
  • We should learn and attend to the vision and Prophecies of the end times, so we can get a more glorious picture of Christ.
  • We are to be a witness of the end time revelation, based on how God leads us to acknowledge His glory!
  • Though we face hard times and trial, we must always stand up for what we believe in – because in the end: God works everything out for the good.
  • We don’t have to worry, because God is our provider.
  • He is excellent in every way and will give us opportunities to minister unto people – where He will reveal His glory to that person being ministered to.

The value of chapter 6

Chapter 6 is a favorite chapter, because it shows the most intense fear anyone can face is when they fear for their life – but, ultimately, it shows that Daniel’s uncompromising belief in God, especially His Salvation, would free Him from it and He would be glorified in the end. Even through potentially intense fear, Daniel instead chose to believe in God’s Salvation and knew He would be there in the end!

  • When Daniel returned to his high office, he had troubles because Babylon has just fallen the night he was reinstated to office. The new rulers were aware of his record under Nebuchadnezzar, so they made him one of the three presidents that would help administrate.
  • He had great abilities, and the other two presidents became jealous of him, so they wanted him out. However, they didn’t find any kind of mismanagement or offense to bring against him, so they crafted a strategy to cause him to stumble.
    • The object of their plunder was to bring in a new religious law that Daniel would not obey, because of “religious” or “pious” beliefs.
    • They weaseled their way right into the king’s hand by making him believe that the three presidents came up with the idea together, and therefore, King Darius agreed to the order. o   When Daniel heard of the new law, it was already approved and sealed from the King, to which, he could do nothing. He made no effort to obey it, because of his piety.
    • The other two presidents worked out a way to catch him in the act so they could accuse him to the King. They had him condemned finally and then thrown into the den of lions – even if the King didn’t want it to happen like that.
    • God, however, had a different plan, and decided to deliver Daniel – which showed that God was glad that Daniel did not sin. This also showed that Daniel did not do anything against the King, and that God would be made known to them as merciful and good – therefore, they had believed that the God of David was good and that they approve!
  • Daniel continued to prosper in the administration!