The Old Testament is a wealth of treasure for the Christian if he or she is willing to explore it. We do well to understand how to best handle the Old Testament and its interpretation.
Israel had its choice: would they follow the Messiah God had sent them and seek after God’s purposes? Or would they raise up for themselves a “messiah” of their own desires and seek after what they expected the Messiah to do? In 30, and again in 66-70, and finally again in 132, Israel rejected Jesus the Christ and His way and raised up for themselves messiahs in their own image. The Day of YHWH came for Israel yet again; all was destroyed; Judaism would never be the same. Jesus, the Son of Man, was vindicated.
And Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people, and said unto them, “Ye brought unto me this man, as one that perverteth the people: and behold, I, having examined him before you, found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod: for he sent him back unto us; and behold, nothing worthy of death hath been done by him. I will therefore chastise him, and release him.”
Now he must needs release unto them at the feast one prisoner.
But they cried out all together, saying, “Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas”:– one who for a certain insurrection made in the city, and for murder, was cast into prison.
And Pilate spake unto them again, desiring to release Jesus; but they shouted, saying, “Crucify, crucify him.”
And he said unto them the third time, “Why, what evil hath this man done? I have found no cause of death in him: I will therefore chastise him and release him.”
But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. And their voices prevailed. And Pilate gave sentence that what they asked for should be done. And he released him that for insurrection and murder had been cast into prison, whom they asked for; but Jesus he delivered up to their will.
And when they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon of Cyrene, coming from the country, and laid on him the cross, to bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great multitude of the people, and of women who bewailed and lamented him.
But Jesus turning unto them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts that never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us.’ For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:13-31)
In 753 BCE, all seemed well in the northern Kingdom of Israel: the integrity of their territory was restored, the land was at peace, the people prospered.
Forty years later it was all gone.
What happened? The Day of YHWH in 722. How did it go down, and what can we as Christians learn from it?
A deceived king; a blasphemous decree. Daniel proved faithful; Daniel was vindicated. But what is the story of Daniel and the lion’s den all about? What ought the people of God learn from the experience?
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom a hundred and twenty satraps, who should be throughout the whole kingdom; and over them three presidents, of whom Daniel was one; that these satraps might give account unto them, and that the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was distinguished above the presidents and the satraps, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. Then the presidents and the satraps sought to find occasion against Daniel as touching the kingdom; but they could find no occasion nor fault, forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. Then these presidents and satraps assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever. All the presidents of the kingdom, the deputies and the satraps, the counsellors and the governors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a strong interdict, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. Now, O king, establish the interdict, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the interdict. And when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house (now his windows were open in his chamber toward Jerusalem); and he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime. Then these men assembled together, and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s interdict: Hast thou not signed an interdict, that every man that shall make petition unto any god or man within thirty days, save unto thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, who is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the interdict that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day. Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to rescue him. Then these men assembled together unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians, that no interdict nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed. Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that nothing might be changed concerning Daniel. Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep fled from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions. And when he came near unto the den to Daniel, he cried with a lamentable voice; the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not hurt me; forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt. Then was the king exceeding glad, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he had trusted in his God. And the king commanded, and they brought those men that had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces, before they came to the bottom of the den. Then king Darius wrote unto all the peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in all the dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel; for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, And his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed; and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian (Daniel 6:1-28).
In the middle of many anxieties and trials, Jacob was called upon to wrestle all night. He would be then known as Israel, for he strove with man and God and prevailed. Ever since the people of God have been known as those who wrestle with God.
And [Jacob] rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven children, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. And he took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled with him.
And he said, “Let me go, for the day breaketh.”
And he said, “I will not let thee go, except thou bless me.”
And he said unto him, “What is thy name?”
And he said, “Jacob.”
And he said, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for thou hast striven with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”
And Jacob asked him, and said, “Tell me, I pray thee, thy name.”
And he said, “Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name?” And he blessed him there.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, said he, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.”
And the sun rose upon him as he passed over Penuel, and he limped upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip (Genesis 32:22-32).
Judges 7:5 and 1 Samuel 20:19 speak of “a mother in Israel.” Deborah’s administration provided benefits to the people, but it is the image of a city as a mother that persists. Jerusalem of old nourished and sustained its inhabitants in community; new Jerusalem, the church, ought to serve the same function!
The Psalmist spoke of Moses as one who “stood in the breach” before YHWH on behalf of Israel (Psalm 106:23); YHWH sought a man who would stand in the breach before Him in the days of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 22:30). Why is it so important to have one stand in the breach?
YHWH’s indictment was strong, as was His plea for His people to repent. They refused; they were destroyed or exiled. YHWH would nevertheless restore. The message was recorded for our encouragement to not fall according to the same pattern of disobedience.
When Ephraim spake, there was trembling; he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died. And now they sin more and more, and have made them molten images of their silver, even idols according to their own understanding, all of them the work of the craftsmen: they say of them, “Let the men that sacrifice kiss the calves.” Therefore they shall be as the morning cloud, and as the dew that passeth early away, as the chaff that is driven with the whirlwind out of the threshing-floor, and as the smoke out of the chimney.
Yet I am YHWH thy God from the land of Egypt; and thou shalt know no god but me, and besides me there is no saviour. I did know thee in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. According to their pasture, so were they filled; they were filled, and their heart was exalted: therefore have they forgotten me. Therefore am I unto them as a lion; as a leopard will I watch by the way; I will meet them as a bear that is bereaved of her whelps, and will rend the caul of their heart; and there will I devour them like a lioness; the wild beast shall tear them. It is thy destruction, O Israel, that thou art against me, against thy help.
Where now is thy king, that he may save thee in all thy cities? and thy judges, of whom thou saidst, “Give me a king and princes?” I have given thee a king in mine anger, and have taken him away in my wrath.
The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is laid up in store. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him: he is an unwise son; for it is time he should not tarry in the place of the breaking forth of children. I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death: O death, where are thy plagues? O Sheol, where is thy destruction? Repentance shall be hid from mine eyes. Though he be fruitful among his brethren, an east wind shall come, the breath of YHWH coming up from the wilderness; and his spring shall become dry, and his fountain shall be dried up: he shall make spoil of the treasure of all goodly vessels. Samaria shall bear her guilt; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword; their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up.
O Israel, return unto YHWH thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and return unto YHWH: say unto him, “Take away all iniquity, and accept that which is good: so will we render as bullocks the offering of our lips. Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride upon horses; neither will we say any more to the work of our hands, ‘Ye are our gods’; for in thee the fatherless findeth mercy.”
I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely; for mine anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread, and his beauty shall be as the olive-tree, and his smell as Lebanon. They that dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the grain, and blossom as the vine: the scent thereof shall be as the wine of Lebanon. Ephraim shall say, What have I to do any more with idols? I have answered, and will regard him: I am like a green fir tree; from me is thy fruit found.
Who is wise, that he may understand these things? Prudent, that he may know them? For the ways of YHWH are right, and the just shall walk in them; but transgressors shall fall therein (Hosea 13:1-14:9).
Through Hosea YHWH lamented the apostasy of Israel as a father mourns for a wayward child. A Son who upheld all God desired out of Israel, and who embodied Israel’s story, would one day come for Israel. We all do well to follow Him and embody His life and practice.
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. The more the prophets called them, the more they went from them: they sacrificed unto the Baalim, and burned incense to graven images. Yet I taught Ephraim to walk; I took them on my arms; but they knew not that I healed them. I drew them with cords of a man, with bands of love; and I was to them as they that lift up the yoke on their jaws; and I laid food before them.
They shall not return into the land of Egypt; but the Assyrian shall be their king, because they refused to return to me. And the sword shall fall upon their cities, and shall consume their bars, and devour them, because of their own counsels. And my people are bent on backsliding from me: though they call them to him that is on high, none at all will exalt him.
How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I cast thee off, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboiim? My heart is turned within me, my compassions are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man; the Holy One in the midst of thee; and I will not come in wrath.
They shall walk after YHWH, who will roar like a lion; for he will roar, and the children shall come trembling from the west. They shall come trembling as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria; and I will make them to dwell in their houses, saith YHWH.
Ephraim compasseth me about with falsehood, and the house of Israel with deceit; but Judah yet ruleth with God, and is faithful with the Holy One. Ephraim feedeth on wind, and followeth after the east wind: he continually multiplieth lies and desolation; and they make a covenant with Assyria, and oil is carried into Egypt.
YHWH hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him. In the womb he took his brother by the heel; and in his manhood he had power with God: yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him at Beth-el, and there he spake with us, even YHWH, the God of hosts; YHWH is his memorial name. Therefore turn thou to thy God: keep kindness and justice, and wait for thy God continually.
He is a trafficker, the balances of deceit are in his hand: he loveth to oppress. And Ephraim said, Surely I am become rich, I have found me wealth: in all my labors they shall find in me no iniquity that were sin.
But I am YHWH thy God from the land of Egypt; I will yet again make thee to dwell in tents, as in the days of the solemn feast.
I have also spoken unto the prophets, and I have multiplied visions; and by the ministry of the prophets have I used similitudes.
Is Gilead iniquity? they are altogether false; in Gilgal they sacrifice bullocks; yea, their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the field.
And Jacob fled into the field of Aram, and Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep. And by a prophet YHWH brought Israel up out of Egypt, and by a prophet was he preserved. Ephraim hath provoked to anger most bitterly: therefore shall his blood be left upon him, and his reproach shall his Lord return unto him (Hosea 11:1-12:14).
Israel had served idols and trusted in the military for some time. Yet the consequences would come severely and catastrophically. Israel had sown iniquity and violence; they would reap the whirlwind of the Assyrian menace.
Set the trumpet to thy mouth. As an eagle he cometh against the house of YHWH, because they have transgressed my covenant, and trespassed against my law. They shall cry unto me, “My God, we Israel know thee.” Israel hath cast off that which is good: the enemy shall pursue him.
They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not: of their silver and their gold have they made them idols, that they may be cut off. He hath cast off thy calf, O Samaria; mine anger is kindled against them: how long will it be ere they attain to innocency? For from Israel is even this; the workman made it, and it is no God; yea, the calf of Samaria shall be broken in pieces. For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: he hath no standing grain; the blade shall yield no meal; if so be it yield, strangers shall swallow it up.
Israel is swallowed up: now are they among the nations as a vessel wherein none delighteth. For they are gone up to Assyria, like a wild ass alone by himself: Ephraim hath hired lovers. Yea, though they hire among the nations, now will I gather them; and they begin to be diminished by reason of the burden of the king of princes. Because Ephraim hath multiplied altars for sinning, altars have been unto him for sinning. I wrote for him the ten thousand things of my law; but they are counted as a strange thing. As for the sacrifices of mine offerings, they sacrifice flesh and eat it; but YHWH accepteth them not: now will he remember their iniquity, and visit their sins; they shall return to Egypt. For Israel hath forgotten his Maker, and builded palaces; and Judah hath multiplied fortified cities: but I will send a fire upon his cities, and it shall devour the castles thereof.
Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, like the peoples; for thou hast played the harlot, departing from thy God; thou hast loved hire upon every grain-floor. The threshing-floor and the winepress shall not feed them, and the new wine shall fail her. They shall not dwell in YHWH’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean food in Assyria. They shall not pour out wine-offerings to YHWH, neither shall they be pleasing unto him: their sacrifices shall be unto them as the bread of mourners; all that eat thereof shall be polluted; for their bread shall be for their appetite; it shall not come into the house of YHWH. What will ye do in the day of solemn assembly, and in the day of the feast of YHWH?
For, lo, they are gone away from destruction; yet Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them; their pleasant things of silver, nettles shall possess them; thorns shall be in their tents. The days of visitation are come, the days of recompense are come; Israel shall know it: the prophet is a fool, the man that hath the spirit is mad, for the abundance of thine iniquity, and because the enmity is great. Ephraim was a watchman with my God: as for the prophet, a fowler’s snare is in all his ways, and enmity in the house of his God. They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in the days of Gibeah: he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.
I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at its first season: but they came to Baal-peor, and consecrated themselves unto the shameful thing, and became abominable like that which they loved. As for Ephraim, their glory shall fly away like a bird: there shall be no birth, and none with child, and no conception. Though they bring up their children, yet will I bereave them, so that not a man shall be left: yea, woe also to them when I depart from them! Ephraim, like as I have seen Tyre, is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring out his children to the slayer. Give them, O YHWH–what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts.
All their wickedness is in Gilgal; for there I hated them: because of the wickedness of their doings I will drive them out of my house; I will love them no more; all their princes are revolters. Ephraim is smitten, their root is dried up, they shall bear no fruit: yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay the beloved fruit of their womb. My God will cast them away, because they did not hearken unto him; and they shall be wanderers among the nations.
Israel is a luxuriant vine, that putteth forth his fruit: according to the abundance of his fruit he hath multiplied his altars; according to the goodness of their land they have made goodly pillars. Their heart is divided; now shall they be found guilty: he will smite their altars, he will destroy their pillars. Surely now shall they say, “We have no king; for we fear not YHWH; and the king, what can he do for us?” They speak vain words, swearing falsely in making covenants: therefore judgment springeth up as hemlock in the furrows of the field.
The inhabitants of Samaria shall be in terror for the calves of Beth-aven; for the people thereof shall mourn over it, and the priests thereof that rejoiced over it, for the glory thereof, because it is departed from it. It also, shall be carried unto Assyria for a present to king Jareb: Ephraim shall receive shame, and Israel shall be ashamed of his own counsel. As for Samaria, her king is cut off, as foam upon the water. The high places also of Aven, the sin of Israel, shall be destroyed: the thorn and the thistle shall come up on their altars; and they shall say to the mountains, “Cover us”; and to the hills, “Fall on us.” O Israel, thou hast sinned from the days of Gibeah: there they stood; the battle against the children of iniquity doth not overtake them in Gibeah. When it is my desire, I will chastise them; and the peoples shall be gathered against them, when they are bound to their two transgressions.
And Ephraim is a heifer that is taught, that loveth to tread out the grain; but I have passed over upon her fair neck: I will set a rider on Ephraim; Judah shall plow, Jacob shall break his clods. Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap according to kindness; break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek YHWH, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. Ye have plowed wickedness, ye have reaped iniquity; ye have eaten the fruit of lies; for thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men.
Therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people, and all thy fortresses shall be destroyed, as Shalman destroyed Beth-arbel in the day of battle: the mother was dashed in pieces with her children. So shall Beth-el do unto you because of your great wickedness: at daybreak shall the king of Israel be utterly cut off (Hosea 8:1-10:15).