Rebuild & Renew: The Post-Exilic Books
Beginning the Journey (for new Christians).
1, 2, and 3 John
1 & 2 Thessalonians
1 & 2 Timothy
2 Peter, Jude
7 Last Words of Christ
Christ Powered Life (Rom 5-8)
David, Life of
Glorious Kingdom, The
Jesus and the Kingdom
Lamb of God
Names of God
Names of Jesus
Sermon on the Mount
8. Daniel's Confession on Behalf of His People (Daniel 9:1-19)
Daniel's Prayer (1865) by Sir Edward Poynter (English neoclassical painter, 1836-1919), from illustrations for Dalziel's Bible Gallery. Relief print on paper, 190 x 175 mm, Tate Collection. Larger image.
"1In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom -- 2in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. 3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes.
4I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed:
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land.
7"Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame -- the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you.
"Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him.
15"Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us.
17"Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy. 19O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name."
We want to learn prayer from someone who knows prayer -- who prays and God answers. Our mentor for this lesson is the prophet Daniel. Daniel was considered one of the most righteous men in history -- placed by God alongside Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14-20). He was punished for praying, persisted, was thrown to the lions, and conquered. One of his prayers was resisted by the "prince of Persia," but God sent the answer nonetheless (Daniel 10:12-13). For nearly 60 years he served at the top rungs of a pagan government, serving three different kings without compromising his relationship to God. And in the passage we are studying today he acts as intercessor for the entire people of Israel.
Let's start from the beginning. The Northern Kingdom had fallen to Assyria in 722 BC. Now the Southern Kingdom of Judah had ended, too, conquered in 605 BC and finally destroyed by the armies of Babylon in 587 BC. As a young man Daniel was exiled or deported in 605 BC along with many other youths from royal or noble families to be trained to serve in the king's palace in Babylon. In Babylon, Daniel was given the name Belteshazzar ("protect his life") and underwent three years of specialized education and training (1:5). Because the food supplied was offensive to Jewish dietary laws, he found favor with his superiors to change his diet and that of his comrades.
In about 602, he entered the service of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (reigned 605-562 BC, 1:19) as a "wise man" (2:12). He was not only well-educated. God had supernaturally gifted him with spiritual wisdom and insight as a prophet (1:17). When Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, "the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men" (2:48), "chief of the magicians" (4:9).
After Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 BC, Nabonidus reigned as the last of the Neo-Babylonian kings (556-539 BC). His son Belshazzar served as co-regent with him (c. 553-539 BC). Daniel interprets for Belshazzar the Dream of the Four Beasts (chapter 7) and has a Vision of a Ram and a Goat (chapter 8). Finally, Daniel delivers God's word to Belshazzar and interprets an inscription written by the hand of God: "Mene, mene, tekel, parsin." That night the city of Babylon was defeated by Darius the Mede (5:25-31), who is either (1) Gubaru, an Assyrian governor of Babylon or (2) is another name for the Persian king Cyrus II ("the Great," reigned 559-530 BC).1The world empire of Babylon had fallen and the Persian empire was on the rise.
But Daniel, now probably 80 to 85 years old, found favor in the eyes of Darius, who appointed him as one of three administrators over Babylon. He was set to become chief administrator, but to have a Jew in such a high position made the others jealous. They tricked Darius into passing a law making it illegal to pray to any god or man except Darius himself (6:7-9).
"Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help." (6:10-11)
Briton Rivière (British painter, 1840-1920), Daniel's Answer to the King (1890), oil on canvas, 74x47-7/16 inches, Manchester Art Gallery, UK. Larger image.
They reported him and as a result old, faithful Daniel is thrown into the lion's den, much to Darius' chagrin. In the morning he calls out to Daniel, hoping he is alive. Daniel answers:
"O king, live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, O king." (6:21-22)
God is glorified, Daniel's enemies became lion fodder instead of him, and "Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and [margin "that is"] the reign of Cyrus the Persian" (NIV, 6:28). In Darius' first year, Daniel prays the prayer of confession (chapter 9) that we are studying in this lesson. In Cyrus' third year he has visions of a Man (chapter 10), the Kings of the South and the North (chapter 11), the King Who Exalts Himself (11:36-45), and more visions of the end times (chapter 12). Daniel died in Babylon, never to return to his homeland. But his intercession to God made it possible for many of his people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple.
70 Years Are Completed (9:1-3)
We begin our study today with a clear historical reference point, 539 BC:
"In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom -- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation2of Jerusalem would last seventy years." (9:1-3)
As mentioned above, we're not precisely sure of the identity of this Darius -- he may have been Cyrus himself. In any case he began his reign over the Babylonian kingdom when the Medes and the Persians conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
Prior to this, Daniel has been reading and pondering the Scriptures (sēper, "writing, book"),3in this case, the prophecy of Jeremiah, who had prophesied 66 years previously in 605 BC.
"'This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years. But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,' declares the LORD, 'and will make it desolate forever.'" (Jeremiah 25:11-12; see also Jeremiah 29:10; 2 Chronicles 36:20-21 and Zechariah 1:12)
Daniel realizes that this 70 years is just about completed, that the prophecy is just about to be fulfilled. This 70 years is a round figure, perhaps a normal lifespan, but probably should be figured from the fourth year of Jehoiakim (605 BC) to the start of the return under Cyrus' regime, 536 BC or thereabouts.4
Q1. (9:1-3) What encourages Daniel to seek God for the forgiveness and restoration of Israel to its homeland? What trait on Daniel's part brings this encouragement to pass?
Confession of Israel's Sins (9:3-4a)
Because Daniel believes God's promises for a return, he begins to pray in earnest for his people, that God would forgive their sin and enable this restoration to take place. He could have been a fatalist and decided that God would take care of all the details, that he needn't be concerned. Instead he takes it upon himself to pray, to intercede, and to plead with God on the basis of his character.
William Carey (1761-1834), who was to become one of the first Protestant missionaries, on day shared his passion to save the heathen of India with others at a minister's meeting. One arrogant hyper-Calvinist clergyman called out, "Young man, sit down: when God pleases to covert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine." Some predestinarians presume that God will work out his will on the earth without using human beings as his instruments or means. But that wasn't Daniel's view. Baldwin observes, "Divine decree or no, the Scriptures never support the idea that God's purpose will be accomplished irrespective of the prayers of his people."5
"3So I turned to the Lord God6and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed...." (9:3-4a)
He "turned" (NIV, NRSV), "gave attention to" (NASB), or literally "set my face" (KJV) to the Lord. This is a Hebrew idiom implying a deliberate determination towards something. We see this Hebrew idiom in the New Testament also, when it says, "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51; NRSV). The NIV translates it, "Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem." Daniel's prayer was no casual thing, but a firm heart's resolve to seek God for his people until an answer came.
The seriousness of the prayer is expressed by the phrase, "in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes." Fasting was a way to humble oneself before God. Sackcloth was a sign of mourning and with ashes "symbolized the penitence with which Daniel came to represent his people before the Lord."7
Three words describe the prayer:
Pleaded. Then he "pleaded" (NIV) "to seek" (KJV), or "to seek an answer" (NRSV). This phrase uses the verb bāqash, "to seek, require, desire," which connotes a person's earnest seeking of something or someone which exists or thought to exist."8
Prayer. In the phrase "prayer and petition," "prayer" is tepillâ (from the root pālal, which occurs in verse 4), the most common Hebrew word for prayer, occurring 76 times in the Old Testament.9
Petition. "Petition" (NIV) or "supplication" (KJV, NRSV) is taḥănûn. The verb ḥānan depicts "a heartfelt response by someone who has something to give to one who has a need," that is, a granting of mercy. The noun taḥănûn, carries the idea of "a prayer for grace, supplication," but is less a formal entreaty than the outpourings of a troubled soul (used in parallel to "weepings" in Jeremiah 3:21; 31:9).10
The phrase, "... in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes," depicts his manner of prayer -- deliberate and abject humility. Daniel doesn't come to God in boldness to plead a righteous cause. God owes him and his people nothing. He comes asking mercy for a clearly sinful people. He comes humbly.
Now the Scripture indicates that he takes two actions: "I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed..." (9:4).
"Prayed"is pālal, "to pray," the most common verb for praying, of which we saw the noun form in the previous verse.
"Confessed"(NIV) or "made confession" (NRSV, cf. KJV) is yādā, which in various contexts can mean, "confess, praise, give thanks, thank." The primary meaning of this root is "to acknowledge or confess sin, God's character and works, or man's character." It is used in David's personal confession of sin (Psalm 32:5), the confession of all the nation's sins made on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:21), and other great confessions of Israel's sins (Ezra 10:1; Nehemiah 1:6 which we'll study in a future lesson; and Nehemiah 9:2-3).11
Q2. (9:3-4a) What is Daniel's demeanor as he prays? How does he prepare? Why is this so important in this case? In what ways might you and I prepare for intercession?
Now we proceed to the content of Daniel's confession.
Acknowledgement of Sin (9:4b-6)
Remember how the Lord's Prayer begins, with a recognition of God's greatness and holiness? Daniel begins:
"O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. 6We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land." (9:4-6)
First, he acknowledges Yahweh as "the great and awesome God." "Great" is gādōl, which we've seen before, meaning here "great in importance."12"Awesome" (NIV, NRSV) or "dreadful" (KJV) is yārē, "be afraid, revere," which can refer to the emotion of fear as well as to "reverence or awe."13
Next, he acknowledges Yahweh's reputation and character, "who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands" (9:4b). A covenant (berit) is "between nations: a treaty, alliance of friendship." God made a covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, "accompanied by signs, sacrifices, and a solemn oath that sealed the relationship with promises of blessing for keeping the covenant and curses for breaking it."14
With this pair of words it is referred to as a "covenant of love" (NIV) or "covenant and steadfast love" (NRSV) or "covenant and mercy" (KJV). The second word is "love" (ḥesed), "kindness, lovingkindness, mercy," which we discussed previously. Notice that Daniel is quite aware that the people of Israel don't qualify for mercy under the covenant, since it is a covenant "with all who love him and obey his commands" (9:4b). The Israelites have not kept his commands, but broken them and committed treason by worshipping other gods. Instead of the blessings of the covenant, they face the curses of the covenant. Daniel acknowledges this openly:
"We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land." (9:5-6)
We've considered most of these words for sin in Psalm 51 and don't need to rehearse them again. Daniel uses all these synonyms for sin to make clear that he isn't trying to get mercy based on some loophole provided for under a "special definition," as we sometimes excuse ourselves. He flat out declares "We have sinned!" Nor does he hide behind the "We-didn't-know-it-was-wrong" defense. He acknowledges that "We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name..." (9:6a). God isn't at fault. He sent prophets to warn them but they didn't listen. Instead they killed the messengers of God's merciful warning.
Honest confession of our sins must be open, complete, and brutally honest, without prevarication, extenuating circumstances, or excuse. Anything less is unacceptable.
As a parent, have you ever confronted your child with a misdeed and waited for him or her to own up to it? Sometimes you'll hear a full admission, but often you hear lies and excuses. Not until the child is truly sorry will he or she fully confess with repentance and grief. But anything less is unacceptable to a parent intent on shaping the child's conscience and character. Why should we expect God to be less discerning than we?
Daniel Confesses the Sin as His Own (9:5)
One of the strongest lessons to me is the way Daniel places himself squarely in the middle of his nation's sin. He doesn't say, "They sinned..." or "Seventy years ago some wicked people sinned...." Instead, he says, "We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled" (9:5).
If we are to intercede as Daniel did (as a member of the sinning nation), we must in a sense take that sin upon ourselves. Daniel was a very righteous man who lived without compromise all his life. I am sure he committed personal sins, but by any account he would be classified as a righteous man. He is placed by God alongside Noah and Job (Ezekiel 14:14-20). Yet he prays, "We have sinned...."
It is no accident that half a millennium later, Jesus takes on himself the sins of the world in order to save it.
"... He poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12)
"Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)
"But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18a)
"... Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!" (Philippians 2:6-8)
I don't know fully what this means. But surely it means that intercession is costly. Daniel doesn't take on sin in the sense that Jesus did, bearing other's sins on his body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). But Daniel is part of a sinful nation in the same way that a member of the human race bears guilt because of Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-21).
This is not some legal fiction for Daniel. His intercession is costly. This 80- to 85-year-old man fasts, he wears sackcloth, he sprinkles ashes on his own head. This is not external. He feels the grief, is overwhelmed with the burden, is humbled before God. He, a righteous man, takes ownership, in a sense, for the sins of others so he can intercede for them. Daniel in his own person fulfills for Israel the condition and promise of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
How do you and I ask mercy for a sinful nation of which we are citizens? How do we pray for healing for a church whose spirit has been tarnished by sin and hatred? How do we pray for forgiveness and restoration for a church that has left true doctrine for false? How do we pray? Painfully. Personally. We learn from Jesus and from Daniel.
Q3. (9:5) Since Daniel is such a righteous man in his
generation, why does he identify himself with the sins of his
people? He didn't commit them. How does this compare to how Jesus sought forgiveness for his people?
Israel's Shame (9:7-11a)
Let's continue considering Daniel's prayer of confession:
"7Lord, you are righteous, but this day we are covered with shame -- the men of Judah and people of Jerusalem and all Israel, both near and far, in all the countries where you have scattered us because of our unfaithfulness to you. 8O Lord, we and our kings, our princes and our fathers are covered with shame because we have sinned against you. 9The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; 10we have not obeyed the Lord our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets. 11All Israel has transgressed your law and turned away, refusing to obey you." (9:7-11a)
Daniel contrasts God's righteousness (ṣedāqā) with Israel's shame (boshnâ). The word comes from a root that means "to fall into disgrace, normally through failure, either of self or of an object of trust." It contains nuances of "confusion, disillusionment, humiliation, and brokenness."15
Daniel acknowledges that God has righteously scattered the peoples among the nations due to their "trespass" (KJV), "unfaithfulness" (NIV), and "treachery" (NRSV). The word is ma‘al, "trespass," used to designate "the breaking or violation of religious law as a conscious act of treachery."16
Note the hint of mercy in verse 9: "The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him...." God's character of mercy doesn't change even though his children rebel against him. This reminds me of a New Testament passage of Paul to Timothy: "Here is a trustworthy saying:
'If we died with him,
we will also live with him;
if we endure,
we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
he will also disown us;
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.'" (2 Timothy 2:11-13)
God's Punishment for Israel's Sins (9:11b-14)
Daniel's prayer continues, noting the justice of God's punishment:
"11Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. 12You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. 13Just as it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth. 14The Lord did not hesitate to bring the disaster upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in everything he does; yet we have not obeyed him." (9:11b-14)
Three times in this passage (verses 12, 13, and 14) Daniel speaks of the "disaster" (NIV), "evil" (KJV), and "calamity" (NRSV) that has come upon Israel. The word is rā‘ā, "evil, misery, distress,"17referring here to the utter destruction of the nation, Jerusalem, and the scattering of its people. He is referring to the curses that God promised to send upon his people if they didn't remain faithful (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Daniel 9:13 is interesting:
"All this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth."
"Sought the favor of" (NIV), is ḥālā, "mollify, pacify, appease, entreat the favor of ... induce him to show favor in place of wrath and chastisement."18Sinners must seek the mercy of God.
What the nation has failed to do, Daniel does for it. He is not a high priest or a king or an official representative of the nation. He is a layman who has served for years as a high official in the government of Israel's conqueror. But yet he takes on this intercession. Intercessors need not be officially designated for their task. God is the one that lays the burden of prayer on them and God is the one who answers the Spirit-inspired prayers of faithful intercessors.
But I expect that others besides Daniel were also feeling the need for confession and repentance. Before the exile, love for Yahweh was sparse, but during the exile God brought about a renewal of faith. The synagogue and scribal movements began in exile and were brought back to Jerusalem with the returnees. Ezra was a godly scribe who returned to help lead the Israelites who had returned to their homeland. Probably those who felt the strongest love for Yahweh returned when they were able -- the "remnant." Those who had been assimilated into the Babylonian culture and religion did not feel a need to return. Thus the exile provided a sifting and refinement of the Israelites who ultimately returned to their homeland.
A Plea for Mercy (9:15-18)
Having acknowledged Israel's sins and God's just punishment, Daniel makes his appeal. Let's analyze it so we can learn to pray prayers that God answers.
15"Now, O Lord our God, who brought your people out of Egypt with a mighty hand and who made for yourself a name that endures to this day, we have sinned, we have done wrong. 16O Lord, in keeping with all your righteous acts, turn away your anger and your wrath from Jerusalem, your city, your holy hill. Our sins and the iniquities of our fathers have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us." (9:15-16)
- God's Precedent . God delivering Israel from Egypt provides a precedent for delivering them from Babylon (verse 15a). Neither time were they delivered for their own righteousness (Deuteronomy 9:4-5).
- God's Glory . Just as God's glory was known through the deliverance from Egypt, so the deliverance from Babylon will bring him glory (verse 15b).
- God's Righteousness . Deliverance of God's people shows God's righteousness as an act of mercy (verse 16a).
- God's Personal Identification with Jerusalem . God has identified himself with Jerusalem, the City of God ("your city") and the temple mount ("your holy hill"). While Israel's sins have brought scorn to Jerusalem and Israel -- and to God, by association -- deliverance will erase that scorn (verse 16b).
17"Now, our God, hear the prayers and petitions of your servant. For your sake, O Lord, look with favor on your desolate sanctuary. 18Give ear, O God, and hear; open your eyes and see the desolation of the city that bears your Name. We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy." (9:17-18)
- Worship in God's Temple ("your desolate sanctuary") will be filled with worshippers again. Notice that Daniel points out that this is "for your sake" (verse 17).
- God's Personal Identification with Jerusalem (again). Daniel reminds God that the desolate city "bears your Name" (verse 18a).
- God's Mercy. Daniel's appeal is not on the basis of Israel's righteousness, which has been destroyed by sin and rebellion. He appeals solely on the basis of God's known character of mercy (verse 18b).
A Plea for Forgiveness (9:19)
Daniel concludes with what might seem an impertinent call to action as if to hurry God.
"O Lord, listen! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, hear and act! For your sake, O my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name." (9:19)
Daniel's prayer is urgent and impassioned. But God honors Daniel's intercession for his people.
Q4. (9:15-19) What was Daniel's essential prayer? What are the various grounds of Daniel's appeal? How did God answer the prayer (see Daniel 9:20-23)?
God did hear and answer Daniel's prayer -- both by the personal messenger of the Angel Gabriel (9:20-21) and historical events that unfolded.
The Return from Exile
Daniel was 80 to 85 years old by this time and did not return to Jerusalem, so far as we know. But others did. The book of Ezra records the amazing decree of Cyrus that freed the Israelites to return.
"2The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3Anyone of his people among you--may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. 4And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:2-4)
The new Persian rulers wanted the prayers of their conquered peoples, and so cooperated with the return and rebuilding process. You may find that a chronology of this period will help you make sense out of some unfamiliar history.
Now available as an e-book and paperbook
What We Learn About Intercession
There are many lessons in this passage. Humility, repentance, asking for mercy, appealing to God's own interests, reputation, and glory. But the one that strikes me especially from this passage is that, as an intercessor, I cannot just pray for another. When praying for my own nation, people, or church, I must identify with their sins and confess them as mine. Taking on the sins of another as a mediator -- that is the role of an intercessor, and of Christ our Lord.
Lord Jesus, too often I take for granted what you did for us. You took on our
sins -- my sins. I can't do that in exactly the same way you have done it for
me, but teach me to be an intercessor for my own family, church, people, and
nation. Teach me to identify so that I might be a vehicle of your salvation.
Teach me to intercede. In your holy name, I pray. Amen.
"3So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. 4I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed: 'O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, 5we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws.'" (Daniel 9:3-5)
Standard Abbreviations http://www.jesuswalk.com/greatprayers/refs.htm
- David J.A. Clines, "Darius," ISBE 1:867-868. David J.A. Clines, "Cyrus," ISBE 1:845-849. Joyce G. Baldwin, Daniel: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1978), pp. 23-28, 163. This Darius is to be distinguished from Darius Hystaspes who came to the throne in 522.
- "Desolation" (NIV, KJV) or "devastation" (NRSV) is ḥorbâ, "waste or desolate places, ruins" from the verb ḥārēb "to be desolate, be dry, be in ruins, lay waste" (Edwin Yamauchi, ḥārēb, TWOT #731d).
- R.D. Patterson, sāpar, TWOT #540a.
- Baldwin, Daniel, p. 164. R.K. Harrison, Jeremiah and Lamentations: An Introduction and Commentary (Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries; InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 126. John Bright (Jeremiah (Anchor Bible 21; Doubleday, 1965, second edition), p. 160, fn. 11) notes that in Zechariah 1:12 this 70 years seems to refer to the interval between the destruction of the temple in 587 and its rebuilding in 520-515. In 2 Chronicles 36:20-23 it is made to refer to the period between 587 and Cyrus' edit in 538.
- Baldwin, Daniel, p. 165.
- In verse 3, Daniel refers to Yahweh here by a pair of words ’ādōn, "lord, master, owner," and ’ĕlōhīm, the generic word for God. In verse 4 he refers to God as "the LORD my God," literally "Yahweh my God." Yahweh is the name by which God revealed himself to Abraham (Genesis 12) and later Moses (Exodus 3:15), God's specific, unique, given name. I don't find any particular significance here of using one expression or the other, only that Daniel feels free to use them interchangeably.
- Baldwin, Daniel, p. 165.
- A noun from this root, baqqāshā, "petition," which occurs seven times in the Old Testament, is a technical term "denoting a petition or request by a subject to a king that he grant a specific desire" (Leonard J. Coppes, bāqash, TWOT #276).
- Victor P. Hamilton, pālal, TWOT #1776a.
- Edwin Yamauchi, ḥānan, TWOT #694g.
- Ralph H. Alexander, yādā, TWOT #847.
- Elmer B. Smick, gādal, TWOT #315c.
- Andrew Bowling, yārē’, TWOT #907.
- Elmer B. Smick, brh, TWOT #282a.
- John N. Oswalt, bôsh, TWOT #222b.
- Victor P. Hamilton, mā‘al, TWOT #1230a.
- G. Herbert Livingston, rā‘a‘, TWOT #2191c.
- BDB; cf. TWOT #656.
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