Monday, 27 February 2012

Prophets in the Periods of Babylon and Persia

1)    Introduction

2)    Babylonian Captivity 586 B.C.

3)    The Prophet Jeremiah
i)       Jeremiah's Background
ii)     Israel's Ingratitude
iii)  True Glory
iv)  Faith
4)    Zephaniah the Prophet
i)        The Message of Zephaniah

i)        The message of Joel

6)    The Book of Nahum

7)    The Prophet Habakkuk
i)        The Message

8)    The Prophet Obadiah
i)        The Message of Obadiah

9)    The Prophet Ezekiel
i)        The Message of Ezekiel

10)           PERSIAN PERIOD 539 to 334 BCE

11)           The Prophet Daniel
i)        The Message

i)        The Message

13)Prophet Zechariah
i)        The message


i)       The Message of Malachi

A prophet is a man who has been called of God to speak for Him and be His messenger. A prophet receives the Lord's word for mankind including revelations, prophecies, and commandments. When a prophet writes down the word of God it is called scripture.
"A prophet, then, is the authorized representative of the Lord. While the world may not recognize him, the important requirement is that God speaks through him. A prophet is a teacher. He receives revelations from the Lord. These may be new truths or explanations of truths already received"
Babylonian Captivity 586 B.C.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, spoiled Jerusalem and took treasures from Solomon’s Temple. Ten thousand of the leading men of Judah were taken into captivity to Babylon. The national leadership in Jerusalem continued to follow their wicked ways until Nebuchadnezzar laid siege of the city and a breach was made into the city wall. King Zedekiah (Mattaniah, 597-586 B.C.) attempted to escape, but was captured and taken to Babylon in chains. The Babylonians killed his sons in his sight and then blinded him. The walls of Jerusalem were destroyed and the temple burned to the ground. All of the city’s treasurers were taken to Babylon. The remaining leaders of Judah were killed and the rest of the people were carried into captivity to Babylon. Only the very poorest people remained in Judah in the hills who later fled to Egypt (2 Kings 25:23-30).[1]
It has been estimated by scholars that about 50,000 people were marched into captivity in Babylon. The important thing to note is that the Babylonians did not replace the people of Judah with other captives as the Assyrians had done in the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. The land of Judah and Jerusalem remained vacant for seventy years until the Lord brought a remnant of His people back to the Promised Land.
The Chronicler tells us in vivid terms the reason for the exile (2 Chron. 36:14-16). “They mocked the messengers of God, and despised His words, and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people until there was no remedy.” But even this captivity was a part of God’s plan.

The Prophet Jeremiah
Jeremiah's Background
The great prophet Jeremiah lived during the most crucial period of Judah's existence as a kingdom. He saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the holy Temple, after he had incessantly warned his people to mend their ways before it was too late. And when the catastrophe finally overwhelmed his people, he was the one who bitterly lamented Israel's terrible fate in the Book of Echah (Lamentations) which we read on Tisha B'Av, the anniversary of that catastrophe. At the same time, he proved to be a true friend in need, by helping his stricken people to bear the blow with courage and dignity, and by pointing out to them the path that would lead to restoration and redemption.
Jeremiah[2] was born of a priestly family, in the town of Anatoth in Benjamin. His father was the prophet and High-Priest Hilkiah. He began his prophecy during the time of the prophet Zephaniah and prophetess Huldah, in the thirteenth year of King Josiah's reign (3298).
The destruction of the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians was still fresh in the memory of the people of Judah, and we can imagine in what a state of spiritual agitation they were living at that time. Under these conditions, Jeremiah began his prophecies.
One of his first missions was to go to the exiled ten tribes of Israel, to bring them courage and hope, and to induce many of them to return to their native land.
Jeremiah witnessed[3] the fall of the Assyrian Empire and the death of King Josiah. Though the people deeply mourned the death of their beloved King Josiah, the chief mourner was the prophet Jeremiah, for he knew very well that with the untimely passing of this last pious king, the end of Judea as an independent state was unavoidable. Indeed, after Josiah's death the people soon reverted to idolatry. Jeremiah was shocked by the new relapse of his people and strove hard to stem the tide of spiritual depravity which was threatening to undermine their high moral standards.

Israel's Ingratitude
Recalling Israel's earliest history as a nation, when, full of faith, the people had followed Moses into the desert, Jeremiah pictures Israel's loyalty to G-d as that of a newly-wedded bride to her husband, and wonders what has happened to his people that they have turned away from G-d. He sadly decries Israel's ingratitude and unfaithfulness and warns them that it spells their doom: "Thus saith the L-rd: I remember for thee the affection of thy youth, the love of thine espousals; how thou wentest after me in the wilderness, in a land that was not sown. Israel is the L-rd's hallowed portion... all that devour him shall be held guilty; evil shall come upon them, saith the L-rd. Hear ye the word of the L-rd, O House of Jacob, and all the families of the House of Israel. Thus saith the L-rd; What unrighteousness have your fathers found in Me, that they are gone far from Me and have walked after things of naught, and are become naught... And I brought you into a land of fruitful fields... but when ye entered, ye denied my land, and made My heritage an abomination... For My people have committed two evils. They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water... "Therefore... will I cause to cease from the cities of Judah, and from the streets of Jerusalem, the voice of gladness and the voice of joy, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride; for the land shall become a desert."

True Glory
One of the prophet's famous sayings is the one in which he points out that wisdom, might, and riches, are nothing compared to the happiness that man achieves through real knowledge and understanding of the ways of G-d: "Thus saith the L-rd: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the L-rd who exercises mercy, justice, and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I delight, saith the L-rd."[4]

Of the futility of trusting in man instead of in G-d, the prophet has this to say: "Thus saith the L-rd; cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the L-rd. For he shall be like a tamarisk in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh... Blessed is the man that trusteth in the L-rd... for he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out its roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but its foliage shall be luxuriant; and shall not be anxious in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit... Thou hope of Israel, the L-rd! All that forsake Thee shall be ashamed... because they have foresaken the L-rd, the fountain of living waters. Heal me, O L-rd, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved; for Thou art my praise."
Zephaniah the Prophet
The book of Zephaniah is the ninth book in the collection known as the Twelve Minor Prophets. These twelve prophets are classified as “Minor Prophets” neither because they were minor in significance nor because their message was not relevant to their society. Rather, they are called Minor Prophets because their books are not as large as the books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Zephaniah was a prophet who ministered in Judah during the reign of Josiah (640–609 B.C.). A careful study of the message of Zephaniah indicates that Zephaniah began his prophetic ministry before the religious reforms of Josiah.
A quick survey of the Minor Prophets will reveal that biographical information about the prophets is minimal. Zephaniah is the only canonical prophet with a detailed genealogy. The book of Zephaniah is the only prophetic book that provides extensive genealogical information about a prophet’s family. The four-generation genealogy found at the beginning of the book traces Zephaniah’s lineage back to Hezekiah. The genealogy introducing the ministry and message of Zephaniah says:

The Message of Zephaniah[5]
His passionate message against the social and religious evil present in Judean society developed in the young king a sense of urgency that eventually led him to call Israel to turn from their evil ways.
Zephaniah was called by God to proclaim an urgent message. The Lord placed his messenger in a strategic place and gave him a special mission: to call the king and the people of Judah back to the ancient traditions of Israel

Joel means "Jehovah is God." This name occurs frequently in the Old Testament (1 Sam. 8:2; 1 Chronicles 4:35, 5:4, 8, 12, etc.). The prophet Joel was the son of Pethuel. Numerous guesses have been made about his personality. A tradition states that he was from Bethom in the tribe of Reuben. In 1 Chronicles 24:16 a man by name of Pethahiah is mentioned. Some have connected him with the father of Joel, Pethuel, claiming upon this that Joel belonged to a priestly family; but this, as well as other claims cannot be confirmed. Jewish expositors make the statement that Pethuel was Samuel, because Samuel had a son by name of Joel; but, inasmuch as the sons of Samuel were evildoers this is incorrect. The book itself does not give even a single hint as to his personal history.Joel is the second of the twelve prophets in the Book of the Twelve. The Book of the Twelve Prophets was originally on one parchment roll because of the brevity of the text, and together formed one Book of the 24 Books of Hebrew Scripture. These twelve prophets were sometimes named the Minor Prophets, not because they are of lesser importance, but because their writings are brief. The Twelve include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. The Book of the Twelve originally preceded the writings of the four Major Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. All together the 16 prophets are called the Latter Prophets, as they began writing following the Division of the United Kingdom of Israel. The Prophets followed the Torah, the five Books of the Law of Moses beginning with Genesis, and preceded the Writings beginning with Psalms and the Wisdom Literature in Hebrew Scripture, our Old Testament of the Bible. Joel was a prophet in the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the period of the Divided Kingdom (930-722 BC).

The message of Joel
The prophecy of Joel is one which extends from his own time to the time of Israel’s restoration and blessing in the day of the Lord. The style of the brief prophecy is sublime. To show its beauty we give a corrected metric version. It must be read through several times to grasp its vivid descriptions, the terse and solemn utterances, the full, smooth phrases, and above all the revelation it contains. His utterances are distinguished by the soaring flight of imagination, the originality, beauty and variety of the similes. The conceptions are simple enough, but they are at the same time bold and grand. The perfect order in which they are arranged, the even flow, the well compacted structure of the prophecy is all remarkable.[6]
He may well be called "The Prophet of the Lord's Day." Five times he mentions this day. Chapters 1:15, 2:1-2, 10-11, 30-31, and 3:14-16. The great theme then is "The Day of the Lord," that coming day, when the Lord is manifested, when the enemies of Israel are judged, when the Lord restores and redeems Israel.
The occasion of the book and prophecy of Joel was a dreadful scourge which swept over the land of Israel. Locust’s swarms had fallen upon the land and stripped it of everything green. There was also a great drought. All was a chastisement from the Lord. Hence we see in the first chapter the penitential lamentations of old and young, priests and people. Then the vision widens in the second chapter. The locusts appear no longer as a scourge of literal insects; they become typical of an invading army. This hostile army invades the land from the North and makes the land a wilderness. The alarm is sounded in Zion; the repentance of the people follows. Then comes the great change in this picture of desolation and despair. The day of the Lord is announced. He acts in behalf of His people. He delivers them from the northern Army; He restores what the locusts had devoured; the land is restored and the latter rain is given. At the close of the second chapter stands the prophecy which predicts spiritual blessings through the outpouring of the Spirit of God upon all flesh, a prophecy which has not yet been completely fulfilled, which is not now in process of fulfillment, but which will be accomplished in the day of the Lord. The last chapter is the great finale of this symphony of prophecy. Here the judgment of the nations is vividly portrayed; what the day of the Lord will bring, and what will follow in blessing is the final theme.
But few Christians have ever given much heed to this prophetic book. There are many important truths in this book. A great deal of confusion might have been avoided if more attention had been given to the setting in which the prediction of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all flesh is found. The Pentecostal delusion is built up mostly upon the wrong interpretations of this prophecy.

The Book of Nahum[7]
Nahum was a minor prophet whose prophecy is recorded in the Hebrew Bible. His book comes in order between Micah and Habakkuk in the Bible. He wrote about the end of the Assyrian Empire, and its capital city, Nineveh, in a vivid poetic style.
Little is known about Nahum’s personal history. His name means "comforter," and he was from the town of Alqosh, (Nah 1:1) which scholars have attempted to identify with several cities, including the modern `Alqush of Assyria and Capharnaum of northern Galilee. He was a very nationalistic Hebrew however and lived amongst the Elkoshites in peace. His writings could be taken as prophecy or as history. One account suggests that his writings are a prophecy written in about 615 BC, just before the downfall of Assyria, while another account suggests that he wrote this passage as liturgy just after its downfall in 612 B.C

The people of Nineveh had quickly reverted to their cruel and heathen practices. "They had not transmitted their knowledge of the true God to their children"  They had repented of their repentance! Therefore, God, through Nahum, foretold the complete destruction of this kingdom. He had spared them once (during the time of Jonah), He would not do so again. Unlike Jonah, Nahum does not actually go to the city of Nineveh, rather he declares his oracle from afar. There is no hope of any repentance taking place, thus no need to go to the city.
Although this book is concerned with the downfall of Assyria, it is nevertheless written for the benefit of Judah. God has demonstrated His patience and long-suffering; now He will demonstrate His wrath! The message of this book is that although God may be slow to wrath, He nevertheless always "settles His accounts in full!" "Though God is slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness (as His action toward Nineveh in the book of Jonah shows), His long-suffering is not to be interpreted as indifference or as lack of power --- Nahum 1:1-6"
This is also a message of consolation for the people of Judah who are being oppressed by Assyria. Regardless of how things may seem, God does not forget His people. The book of Revelation is a perfect example of this message. "When the forces opposing God are so firmly ensconced and the flickering lamp of God's people is at the point of extinction, however, it is easy for the remnant to forget. Nahum reminds us, as do the ruins of ancient Nineveh, that God Himself is the ultimate Ruler. HE WILL HAVE THE FINAL WORD!!
"Some have objected to the joyous attitude with which Nahum greets the prospect of the fall of Assyria's capital, and regard it as an exhibition of nationalistic fanaticism and vengeful malice. This, however, is a misunderstanding of the ground which the prophet occupies. Because he is a man of God, he speaks as one who is wholly preoccupied with the Lord's cause on earth. His earnest desire is to see Jehovah vindicate His holiness in the eyes of the heathen, as over against the inhumane and ruthless tyranny of that God-defying empire which had for such a long time trampled upon all the subject nations with heartless brutality"
J.M.P. Smith describes him as an "enthusiastic, optimistic patriot," but "his book is not the recording of personal glee over the fall of Nineveh, expressing the narrow hatred and prejudice of a single individual; but it is the fervent expression of the outraged conscience of mankind"  "It is one great 'At Last'"
"His cry is not only the cry of jubilation at the fall of an oppressive foe, but is also the cry of faith in the sovereign rule of Jehovah and a vindication of confidence that He will avenge His elect when the time is ripe. The lesson of his beautifully worded yet dreadful prophecy is one to which the world could well give heed today. The prophet reveals the eternal principle of the omnipotent God that for a nation to survive it must be established upon and directed by principles of righteousness and truth. Wickedness will eventually turn a nation back to Sheol, the oblivion of the unseen, when it makes cruelty and wickedness the standard by which it lives"

The Prophet Habakkuk[8]
Habakkuk lived at the time of the "Exile of Jehoiakim," which took place eleven years before the destruction of the First Holy Temple in the year 3338. Habakkuk succeeded the prophet Nahum, and was a direct link in the Torah's "Chain of Tradition" (masorah), which goes right back to our leader Moshe. So the story of Habakkuk took place roughly about 2400 years ago.
Habakkuk lived in the Land of Israel where he owned some land. One evening when he and his fellow workers had finished their work in the fields and were eating their supper together, a spirit of prophecy suddenly descended upon Habakkuk. He saw an angel before him who told him that G-d desired that Habakkuk should bring a part of the meal he was eating to the Prophet Daniel, who was at that moment, in a lions' den in Babylon.
This is a mission that would not appeal very much to any of us! Imagine being asked to go down into a lions' den! But all that Habakkuk wondered about was how could he, who was at that moment in the Land of Israel; manage to take a meal to someone who was hundreds of miles away in Babylon?

The Message
Habakkuk's chief message was a sad prophecy of the triumph of the Chaldeans (Babylonians) over Israel. He warns his people of the Divine retribution that would come swiftly and overwhelmingly: Most of Habakkuk's prophecies relate to the future kingdoms of Babylon, Persia and Media which would expand and eventually become so great that they would conquer the Land of Israel and the rest of the world. Seeing how the wicked and arrogant Chaldeans will trample upon Israel, Habakkuk cries out to God with pain: But the prophet receives the answer that justice and righteousness shall triumph and that Israel shall survive.

The Prophet Obadiah[9]
The book of the prophet Obadiah is the shortest book of the OT with 21 verses only. We do not know anything of the book’s author but his name (Obadiah = servant or worshipper of Jehovah). More than ten persons of the OT bear the same name but none of them is identical with the prophet. This fact makes it difficult to date the time of writing. This is why the scientists’ opinions regarding the time of writing vary greatly.
Many would place Obadiah into the time of king Jehoram of Judah (848 – 841 BC) under whose reign the Edomites revolted from under the dominion of Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10). In this case Obadiah would have been the first writing prophet in the history of Israel. Other scientists, however, think that Obadiah lived and ministered at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 586 BC or even later as he obviously must have known this event. Be it as it may the place of the book of Obadiah in the canon of the Hebrew OT and of the Scriptures has been secured and undisputed for ages.

The Message of Obadiah[10]
The only subject of this short prophetical book is the nation of Edom whose hatred for Israel will eventually lead to their total destruction. Edom is the name of Esau’s descendants. The nation of Edom lived in the mountains of Seir south of the Dead Sea down to the Gulf of Akaba (Gen. 36:8-9). Esau was Jacob’s twin brother. Already before their actual birth God announced that the older son Esau would serve the younger son Jacob (Gen. 25:23). Out of despising his birthright rose Esau’s hatred against Jacob (Gen. 27). In a future day however Edom will appear again. The nation characterized by un-judged brotherly hatred for God-given blessings will flee from the coming king of the north (Dan. 11:41). But God Himself will punish them afterwards (Is. 34:5-8; Jer. 49:7-22). The means of God’s punishment will be His people Israel (Is. 11:13-14; Ez. 25:12-14) and this at the beginning of the millennium when the Lord Jesus will have appeared as Messiah already (Is. 63:1-5; Ez. 35:1-15).
Obadiah in his short prophecy over Edom describes the threat of this final judgment and the reasons for it. But at the same time he informs that the day of Jehovah will be a day of general judgment over the nations and a time of restoration for the people of Israel.

The Prophet Ezekiel
Ezekiel was God's chosen man and messenger. Ezekiel proclaimed the Words of God to the children of God, the Israelites. Ezekiel was both a prophet and a priest. Ezekiel went into exile with the Israelites as decreed by King Nebuchadnezzar to the city of Babylon. Historians and scholars agree that Ezekiel was a highly intelligent man.
Ezekiel denotes a couple different meanings - God is strong, God strengthens or God makes hard. These namesakes explain a significant amount about Ezekiel because of the calling, anointing, and purpose God had for Ezekiel. Ezekiel needed the Lord's strength throughout all his endeavors.
Ezekiel for the most part did his priestly duties to the best of his abilities. Because the Temple was in Jerusalem, he was not able to perform many of the customary rituals as required by a priest because Ezekiel was far removed from the Temple during the exile.
Ezekiel was also a married man. He did indeed proclaim many things of the Lord to the children of Israel. God gave Ezekiel visions which he would act out that were symbolic, providing different meanings to the people of Israel. They were specifically meaningful to the great city of Jerusalem.

The Message of Ezekiel[11]
Ezekiel proclaimed judgments of the Lord to the Israelites because of various sin related issues and the abominable condition of Jerusalem. Ezekiel also proclaimed hope to those Israelites who were in exile. One hard part for Ezekiel involved the passing away of his wife. He could not mourn for her; God did not want him to. God's point in doing this was to be an example of not mourning because of the state of Jerusalem.
God had Ezekiel proclaim judgments on the cities that surrounded Jerusalem because of sin related issues. Ezekiel and his book end with hope, restoration, and redemption of the Israelites and of God's promised city, Jerusalem.
Ezekiel was God's chosen man. He was obedient to the Lord, and no task was too difficult for him. The Lord was his strength and He carried him through the hard times. Ezekiel had a relationship with the Lord. Ezekiel the prophet faithfully prophesied or foretold the things of the Lord. He faithfully served the Lord, pointing the way to Christ, the redeemer of humanity.

PERSIAN PERIOD 539 to 334 BCE[12]
For nearly all of their history, the Jewish people were not the political masters of their own destiny, but instead were subject to the control of foreign empires.  In this wiki, we examine the history of Second Temple and pre-Rabbinic Judaism and we start with the Persian period, when the Jewish people were allowed to return to the land of Israel.  Our story begins with the Babylonian exile, where, around 600 BCE, the Babylonian Empire assumed military control over the land of Syria-Palestine, and after the native Jews, under the rule of Zedikiah, organized a brief revolt, which was quickly crushed.  At this time (circa 586-587 BCE) the city of Jerusalem, and the Temple, was destroyed, and the Jews (or at least several thousand of them, it is unclear the full amount) were exiled, mostly to Persia and other geographic areas to the east of Palestine.  Under standby, the exile, and the destruction of the Temple which preceded it were incredibly traumatic to the Jewish population; and while several prophets expected a return to their homeland, and the Jewish population tried to maintain a decree of cultural cohesion (especially though the continued usage of Hebrew names), the loss of the holiest site in their religious constellation caused enormous mental grief and angst within the population.  However, within a generation (such that some people who had witnessed the destruction of the Temple were still alive), the political winds had changed, and the Persian Empire, led by Cyrus the Great, re-took the Palestinian lands thus beginning the Persian Period in Jewish history.
 King Cyrus the Great was persuaded by several Jewish members of his court to allow the Jews to both return to Israel and to re-build the Temple.  This was done in his Declaration of Cyrus (c538 BCE), which officially allowed Temples to be rebuilt in his newly conquered lands.  This act of religious toleration was probably not directed exclusively at the Jews, but was broadly targeted at all minority groups within the empire, as an olive branch proposal.  Of the Jewish population, many (although probably not most) returned, although a significant proportion chose to remain outside the land of Israel, forming what would later be known as the Diaspora.  Information on this group is sketchy at best, although there was at least a relatively well-established community in Elephantine Egypt. The Jewish people quickly re-established many of their traditions, including sacrafices at the Temple (after they could establish who was properly a Priest), and rebuilt the Temple.  At the same time, Cyrus and some of his descendents began an expansionary program to conquer Greece, which would eventually fail, and cause their eventual retreat from the Palestinian region.
However, the Jews did not appear to have an extremely strong linkage to the Persian authorities, although some, such as Ezra, were confidants (to a degree) of Kings, especially Artaxerxes, and others had relatively senior positions within the Imperial authority.  The High Priests, especially, were considered to have benefitted from the Persian period, as their authority was both re-established and confirmed by external actors, (or at least they wrote as if it did, and they were the main scribes of the period--a potential historiography issue).  Other scholars also note that the Persian empire was not concerned with interfering in the internal affairs of the Jewish people, and some, including Ezra and Nehemiah, had a very favorable impression of the Persians.  The Persians probably did not care very much about the Palestinian portion of their Empire; it was a small adjunct, and they soon had a far more relevant threat in the form of the Greeks.
The Jewish people used this period as a time to rebuild their political and religious institutions.  The Temple, destroyed, was rebuilt into the arguably more impressive Second Temple, and the Priests assumed their ascendency as the main political and religious leaders of the Jewish Community.  This was, however, done within the broad context of Persian authority, and there were not the outright revolts which were found in later Hellenistic and Roman eras.  In essence, Jews were content to be autonomous, if not independent. The Persian Period continued until the invasion of Alexander the Great in 334 BCE, and the start of the Hellenistic Period

The Prophet Daniel
Daniel, from the Hebrew word meaning God is my Judge, is one of the major prophets of the Old Testament (see Old Testament Fact File), and of the New Testament (see New Testament Fact File) since much of the prophecy given to him corresponds to that given to the apostle John in the Book of Revelation, and for our time now - Jesus Christ Himself specifically referred to events recorded in The Book of Daniel (Matthew 24:15) that would occur just prior to The Return Of Jesus Christ.
Daniel was of royal lineage (Daniel 1:3), probably born in or near Jerusalem about 622 B.C. during the reign of Josiah (see Kings of Israel and Judah). In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim, about 605 B.C., the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar, besieged Jerusalem, looted the original Temple that had been built by Solomon (the complete devastation would come later, about 586 B.C.), and took a number of the people of Judah away into exile in Babylon. Among them was the teenage Daniel (Daniel 1:1-3).
Despite being a prisoner-exile, Daniel's living conditions in Babylon were likely at least as good as they had been back home. He was selected, along with a number of others, to be trained for service in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 1:3-7). There, he distinguished himself with wisdom and ability (Daniel 1:19).
Daniel's remaining years produced more incredible prophecies, including the "four beasts" (Daniel 7:1-28), the "ram and goat" (Daniel 8:1-27), the "seventy sevens" (Daniel 9:20-27), and the "kings of the north and south" (Daniel 11:1-45). He died in his late eighties or nineties, a faithful and obedient servant of God, and one of the greatest prophets that has ever lived.[13]

The Message
Daniel's first great test came when he was required not only to interpret the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar's dream, but to do so without the king even telling him what the dream was (Daniel 2:1-23). With the help of God, Daniel successfully interpreted the dream (see Daniel's Statue) which represented the great future empires of history, from the time then of Babylonian supremacy (Daniel 2:37), to the Persians who conquered them (see Ancient Empires - Persia), to the Greeks who in turn conquered them (see Ancient Empires - Greece), to the successive revivals of the Roman Empire (see Ancient Empires - Rome) that will lead right to the Return of Jesus Christ (Daniel 2:34,44).
The Babylonian king's response to Daniel's God-given abilities was to actually bow down to his prisoner:
"And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure."
Daniel thereafter held a very high position in the government for about 70 years, right until his famous "handwriting on the wall" interpretation on the night before the fall of the Babylonian kingdom to Darius the Mede (Daniel 5:1-29). The then elderly Daniel's position was not diminished however, despite an attempt by political rivals to have him discredited - his survival in the well-known "lion’s den" incident actually increased his position even more, in the reigns of both Darius and Cyrus (Daniel 6:1-28).

The prophet Haggai, as well as the prophet Zechariah, played an important role in encouraging the people of Israel and their leaders Zerubbabel and the high priest Joshua to rebuild the Temple and return to their homeland following the Babylonian Exile. The Books of Ezra and Nehemiah are also key literary sources on the Restoration.
The Diaspora or major dispersion of the Jewish people occurred during the period known as the Babylonian Exile, when the Jews were deported following the invasion by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The first deportation occurred in 597 BC following his first invasion, and the second major deportation to Babylon occurred following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 586 BC.
King Cyrus of Persia in 538 BC decided upon a policy of local identity and self-rule, and allowed the Jewish people to return to Jerusalem. The rebuilding of the Jerusalem Temple, also known as the Second Temple, began in 520 BC and was completed in 516 BC.
The seventy-year period (586-516 BC) known as the Babylonian Captivity or Exile marked an epochal point in Old Testament history, a period which serves as the point of division between the pre-exilic and post-exilic eras.

The Message
Haggai delivers four messages to these people -- all within the space of about a year and a half, all concerning the building of the temple. But their deeper message, as I have already suggested, applies to us, the temple or the great house of God that he has been building for 20 centuries now. So we will read this prophecy not only as a message of the prophet to the people of his day about building the temple, but also as a message to the people of God everywhere concerning their responsibility in building the great house of God, the temple that the Holy Spirit has been building out of human hearts.
In this prophecy there are four messages dated by the calendar. Each one reveals an excuse given by the people for not working on the temple -- both their excuse and the real reason behind that excuse. The first message includes all of chapter 1. We read (verses 1 and 2):[14]
Prophet Zechariah
The prophet is portrayed on the entrance wall as an old bearded man, with his bust shown in profile, in the act of reading a book. Zechariah, who lived around 500 BC worked on sustaining the Israelites on their return from exile in Babylon with the word of God. They were disappointed due to a lack of signs of divine blessing for the hardships suffered. In the first part of his book (Zechariah ch.1-6), eight visions are described that foretell the coming of the Messiah. With these the prophet tries to infuse courage into the disheartened souls of his people. In the following chapters the prophet promises the coming of the day of reward (Zechariah, 8, 1-23) and the future restoration of Israel, which will be preceded by wars and calamities (Zechariah , ch. 9-14) due to the failure to recognize the Messiah (Zechariah 9, 9-10). The words of Zechariah, foretelling the coming of the Messiah, are repeated in the Gospel according to Matthew to demonstrate the Messianic coming of Christ (Matthew 21, 4-7).

The message
Zechariah gave to the Jews? He said to them, "The Lord was very angry with your forefathers! Do not be like your forefathers!" Why was God angry with the Jews' forefathers? God was angry with them because they did not heed the words of the prophets that He had sent to them. That was why they ended up as captives in Babylon. Their forefathers were religious, but God was not happy with them because they ignored the words of the prophets. The Jews of that time were like people of today who say, "Of course we believe all the prophets!" However, it is obvious that they do not really believe God's prophets, because they do not heed what the prophets have written in the Holy Scriptures. They have a religion, but they have no personal relationship with God Himself. That is what most of the Jewish ancestors were like. They did not appreciate the words of the prophets. They honored God with their lips but they did not receive His Word into their hearts. Therefore, God sent His servant Zechariah to the Jews, to warn them so that they would not follow the example of their ancestors who had "God, God, God!" on their lips, but ignored the Word which God had sent to them through His prophets.
After Zechariah warned the Jews, he began to tell them about the Redeemer who was to come. We do not have time today to read everything that the prophet Zechariah wrote concerning the Messiah, but we can read a few excerpts.
In the book of Zechariah, chapter nine, the prophet Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem, riding on a donkey. He said, "Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey." (Zech. 9:9)
In chapter eleven, Zechariah penned a remarkable prophecy which we do not have time to explain in detail. One of the events Zechariah predicted was that the Messiah would be sold for thirty pieces of silver. The prophet Zechariah wrote: "I told them, 'If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.' So they paid me thirty pieces of silver…So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them in to the house of the Lord…" (Zech. 11:12,13)
In chapter twelve, Zechariah prophesied that the Jews would not only sell the Messiah, but would even kill Him! He said: The Lord says,
"And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.…If someone asks him, 'What are these wounds on your [hands]?' he will answer, 'The wounds I was given at the house of my friends.'" (Zech. 12:10; 13:6)
With those words Zechariah predicted that the Messiah would have wounds (scars) in His hands. Where would He get these wounds? His fellow Jews would persuade the Romans to crucify Him. The Romans would then nail His hands and feet to a cross and later pierce His side with a spear. Everything happened exactly as Zechariah predicted. What the prophet Zechariah wrote is in perfect harmony with what the prophet David prophesied hundreds of years earlier in the Psalms, when He wrote concerning the Messiah: "They have pierced my hands and my feet." (Psa. 22:16)
Friends, God wants us to know that the death of the Messiah on the cross is the most important part of the plan that He had designed long ago to save the children of Adam from the penalty of their sin. The righteous Messiah had to suffer and die for the unrighteous! That is the message of all of God's prophets. Is all of this clear to you? Do you understand what Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah some five hundred years before the Messiah was born? Do you really believe the message of the prophets--that the Messiah would suffer and die and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim forgiveness of sins and a place in Paradise to all who believe in His name?  (See Acts 26:18-27) Or are you like the Jews, who honored God's prophets with their lips, but did not believe their message?[15]
The book titled "Malachi" is the last in the prophetic collection known as "The Twelve," or Dodecapropheton. Despite the opening words, the author is unknown, and the superscription was appended by an editor who believed the words "my messenger" (mal’akhi) in 3:1 were a clue to the personal name of the prophet. The term translated "burden" or "oracle" ( massa') in 1:1 appears also in Zechariah 9-14 and it has been suggested that the four chapters of Malachi which are a unity, were at one time gathered in a larger collection incorporating the chapters now appended to the work of Zechariah.
There are indications within Malachi that suggest it was a product of the first half of the fifth century, possibly from the time of Artaxerxes I. The temple had been rebuilt (3:1, 10) and Judah was under a governor (1:8). Complaints about poverty, poor harvests and locust plagues (3:6 ff.) which, according to Haggai, ought to have ceased with the completion of the temple, and inferences of disappointment because of the delay in the coming of the ideal kingdom (2:17 ff.), point to a period after 515. The discussion of "mixed marriages," which were ultimately forbidden by Ezra, suggests that his legislation had not yet been passed.

Malachi's oracles are given in response to a series of questions, perhaps representing the give-and-take situation of the street orator. It appears that there were those who questioned current theological dogma, and in a manner similar to that employed by the wisdom school, argued from experience that prophetic utterances had been inaccurate.

The Message of Malachi

The book appears to begin in the middle of a discussion. The prophet has been asked, "What evidence is there that Yahweh loves his people?" His response drew upon history, past and present. In the choice of Jacob and the rejection of Esau, Yahweh had expressed his love (election). When the Babylonians came, Edom had escaped the devastation that came to Judah by quietly submitting to Nebuchadnezzar and rejoicing in the fall of Jerusalem (cf. Ps. 137:7; Lam. 4:21 f.). Now Edom was tinder pressure from the Nabataea’s, a people that had formerly lived by preying on caravans and was now moving toward a settled mode of life.8 The Edomites, forced out of their homeland, migrated into the territory south of the Persian province of Judah, becoming the people known in later times as Idumeans. The Edomites were, according to Malachi, confident that they would recover, just as the Jews were recovering, but the prophet declares that their efforts would fail. The immediate and future problems confronting the Edomites were, for the prophet, evidence that Yahweh hated the descendants of Esau, just as the reestablishment of the Jews demonstrated divine love.[17]

Russell Jones, Survey of Old and New Testaments,

Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-582-05383-0.)

Jeremiah, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.

Joseph M. Henderson, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 52, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 2002)

Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1964), ISBN 0-8407-5636-5

Leslie, C. Allen, the Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976),

Hauer, C.E. & Young, W. A., an Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994

Brownlow, Leroy (1961). "Habakkuk". The Old Testament Books and their Messages in the Christian Age.  Fort Worth: The Manney Company.

New Bible Dictionary, second edition. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, USA.

Tract Sanhedrin, Volume VIII, XVI, Part II (Haggada), Chapter XI", The Babylonian Talmud, Boston: The Talmud Society, Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson
Gottwald, Norman K. (1985). The Hebrew Bible: a socio-literary introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. ISBN 0800608534.

Encyclopedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 6. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. 22 vols

Dixon, Henry Lancelot (1903). "Saying Grace" Historically Considered and Numerous
Forms of Grace: Taken from Ancient and Modern Sources; With Appendices. Oxford and London:
James Parker and Co Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009,

Brady, 1999, Targum Lamentations’ Reading of the Book of Lamentations (1MB pdf),

Article on "Petra" in the Biblical World, C. F. Pfeiffer (ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), pp. 443 ff

[1] (Russell Jones, Survey of Old and New Testaments, p. 154).
[2] Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 383. ISBN 978-0-582-05383-0.)
[3] Jeremiah, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL, USA 1987.
[4] Joseph M. Henderson, Vetus Testamentum, Vol. 52, Fasc. 2 (Apr., 2002), pp. 191-206
[5] Nelson's Compact Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pp. 283, 283, Thomas Nelson Publishers (1964), ISBN 0-8407-5636-5
[6] Leslie, C. Allen, The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah and Micah (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976), p.31
[7] Hauer, C.E. & Young, W. A., An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey into Three Worlds, p.123, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1994
[8] Brownlow, Leroy (1961). "Habakkuk". The Old Testament Books and their Messages in the Christian Age.  Fort Worth: The Manney Company. pp. 439–453.
[9] New Bible Dictionary, second edition. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, IL, USA.
[10] Tract Sanhedrin, Volume VIII, XVI, Part II (Haggada), Chapter XI", The Babylonian Talmud, Boston: The Talmud Society, p. 376 Translated by Michael L. Rodkinson
[11] Gottwald, Norman K. (1985). The Hebrew Bible: a socio-literary introduction. Philadelphia: Fortress Press. ISBN 0800608534.
[12] Encyclopedia Judaica. Eds. Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik. Vol. 6. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. P608-611. 22 vols
[13] Dixon, Henry Lancelot (1903). "Saying Grace" Historically Considered and Numerous Forms of Grace:Taken from Ancient and Modern Sources; With Appendices. Oxford and London: James Parker and Co.. p. 11.
[14] Coogan, Michael. A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, p. 346
[16] article on "Petra" in The Biblical World, C. F. Pfeiffer (ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), pp. 443 ff.

[17] article on "Petra" in The Biblical World, C. F. Pfeiffer (ed.) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1966), pp. 443 ff.

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