Our readings for Lent begin tomorrow, Wednesday 2nd March and continue right round to Easter. Our theme surrounds the time of EXILE when the Jews were transported by the Assyrians and Babylonians from the land God had given them. Keep the following notes in mind for reference as we progress through the Old Testament story.
Many nations have significant dates in history, marking events that shaped their nation for a long period of time. Both France and Russia celebrate Revolutions, the USA remembers the Declaration of Independence, while here in the UK we perhaps recall 1066, the Norman Conquest, or 1215 the signing of the Magna Carta. The Jewish nation, at the time of Christ, looked back to two main events. The first was the Exodus; the story of the escape from slavery in Egypt recalled annually in the Passover. The second event, less well remembered by us today, was the Exile. It is a significant element of Jewish history, and the events surrounding it re-shaped the nation and its way of thinking about God. Whilst the Exodus was a rescue and nation-building event, the Exile had a destructive aspect to it through which the Jews learned that Jehovah, their God, was the Universal God for all people throughout all ages.
During Lent this year we shall therefore be reading about the Exile, reflecting on the causes and outcomes of this dramatic period in Jewish history. Some bits of the story will be familiar to you, but for the coming weeks we shall try to see this period of history in its context and how the Jews responded to it.
Some parts of the Bible seem really hard to grasp and are very rarely read or preached about. The Book of Daniel, written during the Exile in Babylon, contains Daniel’s visions – and I have never heard anyone preach about them! (With good reason I suspect!)
The first part of the book is fairly straightforward narrative.
Chapter 1 Daniel and his friends in exile become senior civil servants.
Chapter 2 Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
Chapter 3 The fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.
Chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar’s madness.
Chapter 5 The writing on the wall during Belshazzar’s feast.
Chapter 6 Daniel in the Lion’s Den.
Then come chapters 7–12 Daniel’s visions – the tough bits to read!
So I am challenging you to read these 6 chapters on the Saturdays during Lent this year. See what you make of them – and the suggested historical fulfilment of them.
TIME LINE Dates BC.
1446 The Exodus from Egypt
1406 After the Desert wanderings, the Jews enter the Promised Land.
1010 David becomes King.
959 The first Temple completed in Jerusalem.
930 The land divided, Israel (north) and Judah, with Jerusalem. (south)
743 Israel invaded by Assyrians
740 Isaiah becomes Prophet
722 Israel falls to the Assyrians
715 Hezekiah becomes king of Judah
701 Jerusalem delivered Assyrians besiege Jerusalem – and fail to capture it.
627 Jeremiah becomes a prophet
612 Assyrian capital – Nineveh – captured by Babylonians
605 Some Jews transported to Babylon (Daniel)
593 Ezekiel becomes a prophet.
586 Jerusalem destroyed. Babylonians capture and destroy Jerusalem.
562 Death of Nebuchadnezzar.
550 Cyrus founds the Persian Empire
539 Babylon overthrown by Cyrus. Persian Empire.
538 First exiles return to Jerusalem and begin to rebuild the Temple.
520 Prophets Haggai and Zechariah encourage people to finish the Temple.
516 Jerusalem – new Temple completed.
474 Esther as Queen to the Persian Emperor Xerxes.
445 Jerusalem defended Nehemiah in Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls.
165 Antiochus IV desecrated the Temple by sacrificing pigs there.
(Greek Hellenistic king of the Seleucid Empire from 175 BC until his death in 164)