- Cross of Glory home page for The Story – Get All Weekly Reading Guides Here
- Enter the Bible from Luther Seminary – A Lutheran Perspective
- Map of Ancient Israel – Map from Inside Front Cover of The Story
- The Story – Full Timeline
- The Story – Publishers Web Site
- Map – Tribes
- Audio for Chapter 18: Daniel in Exile – YouTube Post from Publisher
- Audio for Chapter 19: The Return Home – YouTube Post from Publisher
- Timeline for Chapters 18 and 19
- Sermon on Chapters 18 and 19
The Story – Chapters 18 and 19
This week, we look at Chapters 18 and 19 in The Story, which cover both the exile as seen through Daniel’s eyes and the return to Judah seventy years later.
Once again, these stories are also found in the Bible, but in lots of different places. If you don’t have The Story book, you can read Daniel 1-3, and 6; Jeremiah 29-31; Ezra 1-6; Haggai 1-2; and Zechariah 1 and 8.
Summary of Chapters 18 and 19 – Daniel in Exile and The Return Home
When Nebuchadnezzar’s armies conquered Judah, many of Jerusalem’s elite were captured and taken to Babylon. The book of Daniel recites stories of Daniel and his trio of friends included in that group taken to Babylon. Although they were taught all about the Babylonian culture, they graciously resisted anything that was inconsistent with their Jewish heritage. (For example, they asked for vegetarian meals so they could stay faithful to Jewish dietary laws. While some were worried that this dies might leave them weakened, God so blessed their endeavors that even King Nebuchadnezzar took notice. )
And when the king had a dream one night, Daniel was able to interpret it. In response, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to ruler over Babylon and made his three friends high-level officials. Nebuchadnezzar even paid homage to Daniel’s God.
Nebuchadnezzar later made a gold statue in his own honor and commanded everyone to worship it. Daniel’s three friends refused, and were thrown into a fiery furnace. The astonished king watched as a fourth figure, looking like a god, appeared in the furnace to protect the other three. The king praised the Jewish God for delivering Daniel’s three friends who refused to worship anyone else.
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by Belshazzar, who ignored Daniel and dishonored God. His reign was ended when the Persian army conquered Babylon. Later, Daniel’s enemies deceived the Persian king into signing an irrevocable decree forbidding prayer to anyone except the king. Daniel responded by doing as he had always done; he knelt and prayed to God, and the king was forced to throw his trusted servant to the lions. However, Daniel was not harmed and the King of Persia worshipped Daniel’s God.
Persian rulers were far more benevolent than their Babylonian and Assyrian predecessors. The Persians were sympathetic to the religious needs of the people they ruled. So Persia’s King Cyrus issued a decree to repatriate all aliens to their homelands while allowing them some degree of self-rule. And thus the people of Israel began their journey home in 539.
Under the guidance of the Hebrew leader, Zerubbabel, nearly 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem. They were intent on rebuilding, and the temple was the first priority. They rebuilt the altar and prepared sacrifices in accordance with the Law of Moses. However, the locals didn’t welcome the repatriated Judeans. They intimidated the Jews and construction halted.
Sixteen years later the prophet, Haggai, spoke on God’s behalf, and encouraged the people to return to rebuilding the temple. They did and in 516 B.C., the second temple was completed. Although the new temple would not have the splendor of the old one, God promised to shower Jerusalem and Judah with His goodness and make Israel a blessing to the world.
As you read, remember there are discussion questions for each chapter beginning on page 473 of the book and also questions that can be found on The Story bookmark (which is also on our website). Also, feel free to consider some of the questions below:
- Jerusalem and God’s Temple were in ruins, and most of the Jews were living in exile during the time of Daniel. It is easy to see how one could lose faith. What helped them hold on to faith? What helps you hold on to faith when you experience difficulties?
- Daniel’s integrity was so consistent and above reproach that even his enemies could find no grounds to accuse him (The Story, pp. 257-258). Think about your own life. Do any inconsistencies exist between your public life and your private life? Between what you say you believe and how you act?
Daniel and his friends had a pretty amazing prayer life. What does your prayer life look like right now? Are there things you could learn from Daniel’s witness? What might you commit to trying in the week ahead to increase your habit of prayer? Have you ever experienced at a time you joined with others to pray through a difficult situation. How did having group prayer support help?
- Compare the story of Daniel with the story of Joseph (in Chapter 3 of The Story). Do you view difficulties the way they did? Why or why not? When have your grown stronger in faith during a time of trial?
- When permission to return was given by the Persian king, many of the Israelite exiles chose to stay in Babylon instead of returning home to the Promised Land? If you had been an Israelite exile in Babylon when King Cyrus permitted your return, would you have returned to the Promised Land or would you have remained in Babylon? Why?
- What did Israel’s enemies do to undermine their efforts to rebuild their temple (The Story, p. 265)? Have you ever experienced a similar situation, in which someone tried to undermine something important to you? How did you respond?
- Haggai, the prophet, encouraged the people to get back to work on the temple building project that had stalled for 16 years (The Story, p. 266). Are there areas of your spiritual growth that have stalled out? Is there someone you could partner with to hold yourself accountable in this area?
- When the temple reconstruction was completed, some Israelites were overjoyed and some were heartbroken because the new temple was no match to the glory of Solomon’s temple. According to Haggai’s second message (The Story, p. 267-68), how can we miss God’s call in the present when we linger on the past? Have you ever seen this happen in your life or in the life of someone you know? What helped to move forward?
This week, think about the places you spend most of your time. Then consider what it would mean for you to actually “inhabit” those places (like Daniel and his friends inhabited Babylon); in other words, what it would mean for you to actually know and love your neighbors in the various places of your life. For God has placed you somewhere particular to fulfill his hopes for your life.