Category Archives: Bible history

Bricks of Babylon, Stones of God

Is God looking for his followers to be living stones created and fashioned by Him, or cutout figures of the same shape, size and substance? Here is some food for thought.

Nimrod was the first king who popped up in Bible history, and he sought to become the first king of the whole world. He wanted not only to rule, but to dominate the lives and spiritual realm of his kingdom. This topic is worth taking time to study.

This rebellion of Nimrod, came only about 150 years after the flood. Nimrod’s name itself means rebellion.

And Cush begat Nimrod: he began to be a mighty one in the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD: wherefore it is said, Even as Nimrod the mighty hunter before the LORD. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel, and Erech, and Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar. –Genesis 10:8-10

Nimrod and Babylon are the most clear example of early idolatry.


The Babylonian system was based on pride and total domination of society. Nimrod’s system threatened the faithful line of God which would come through Abraham.

What about ancient Egypt? Was it also based of the Babylonian system of bricks and toil? Technical engineers agree that the Great Pyramid – the oldest pyramid – was made of extreme precision and with a design that we could not execute today. Was this a tribute to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? Or was it the opposite?

Was even CHRISTMAS a nod to Nimrod? Honest scholars agree that Christ was not born in the winter.

Putting this all together, what does the Bible say? Is God seeking stones or bricks?

The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. –Psalm 118:22

The BUILDERS rejected the chief corner stone — who are the BUILDERS?

“Build the altar to the LORD your God with uncut stones, then offer a burnt offering to him.” –Deuteronomy 27:6 (NIV)

To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.

Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded.

Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

–I Peter 2:4-8

the stone

This final message really ties the whole of this together for me. Let’s let God’s word speak to us.

Let’s look for a minute at the Hebrews 11 “Chapter of Faith”

Here we have Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, and all the martrys mentions. Did these seem like cut-out figures to you? Where they a sea of sameness, mere cogs in a system of domination? Or were they very unique individuals, just as natural stones are unique and shaped and placed by God?

From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. –Ephesians 4:16

Here is the temple God Himself is building:

Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit. –Ephesians 2:19-22






Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Men and Women in the Service of God – Hannah’s Son and Jephthah’s Daughter

In the Bible, Hannah and Jephthah have something important in common – they both are recorded as having dedicated their child to God. What were the similarities in these events, and what was different?

Some Christian scoffers actually believe that Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but I will show that is false.


Hannah and Jephthah both uttered a vow. Hannah’s vow was specific – she vowed that if she had a son, she would dedicate him to God.

So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head. –I Samuel 1:9-11

Hannah was making a vow that should God bless her with a son, that her firstborn would be dedicated to God, presumably as a Nazirite, because he would not cut his hair.

Jepthath, in contrast, made what some people believe was a rash, non-specific prayer. But was it rash, or was he moved by God’s Spirit as the passage indicates?

Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah, and he passed over Gilead, and Manasseh, and passed over Mizpeh of Gilead, and from Mizpeh of Gilead he passed over unto the children of Ammon. And Jephthah vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou shalt without fail deliver the children of Ammon into mine hands, Then it shall be, that whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’S, and I will offer it up for a burnt offering. So Jephthah passed over unto the children of Ammon to fight against them; and the LORD delivered them into his hands. And he smote them from Aroer, even till thou come to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain of the vineyards, with a very great slaughter. Thus the children of Ammon were subdued before the children of Israel. –Judges 11:29-33

Some people erroneously believe that Jephthah offered his daughter as a burnt sacrifice, but this cannot be. Human sacrifice was never practiced by any of the saints, and the pagan practices of such were expressly condemned. See analysis further below.

An interesting thing that we can observe is that while Hannah’s husband could have voided Hannah’s vow had he chosen to — in God’s eyes Jephthah’s vow was had to be paid. This evidence is in Numbers 30 – a woman was protected if she did something unwise and her husband chose to revoke it, but a man had to fulfill his promise to the Lord. Similarly a single woman could have her vow voided by her father. When Adam and Eve sinned, Adam specifically was pinned with the finalization of the sin, since he was not deceived (Romans 5:12, I Tim. 2:14). Since Hannah’s vow stood, we can assume that her husband endorsed it.

Did any of God’s Saints Practice Human Sacrifice? Let’s explore the evidence.

Human sacrifice was associated expressly with witchcraft and heathen practices.

“And they caused their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire, and used divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.” –Kings 17:17

“Twenty years old was Ahaz when he began to reign, and reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem, and did not that which was right in the sight of the LORD his God, like David his father. But he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel.” –II Kings 16:2-3

Manasseh was known as a very wicked man in Israel, and his idolatry, witchcraft, and other transgressions are recorded below.

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem. And his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, after the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. And he built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD said, In Jerusalem will I put my name. And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. And he made his son pass through the fire, and observed times, and used enchantments, and dealt with familiar spirits and wizards: he wrought much wickedness in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. And he set a graven image of the grove that he had made in the house, of which the LORD said to David, and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: Neither will I make the feet of Israel move any more out of the land which I gave their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that my servant Moses commanded them. But they hearkened not: and Manasseh seduced them to do more evil than did the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the children of Israel. –II Kings 21:1-9

“When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee.” –Deuteronomy 18:9-12

Rebellious Hebrews sacrificed their firstborn, and God punished them.

I am the LORD your God; walk in my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the LORD your God. Notwithstanding the children rebelled against me: they walked not in my statutes, neither kept my judgments to do them, which if a man do, he shall even live in them; they polluted my sabbaths: then I said, I would pour out my fury upon them, to accomplish my anger against them in the wilderness. Nevertheless I withdrew mine hand, and wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be polluted in the sight of the heathen, in whose sight I brought them forth. I lifted up mine hand unto them also in the wilderness, that I would scatter them among the heathen, and disperse them through the countries; Because they had not executed my judgments, but had despised my statutes, and had polluted my sabbaths, and their eyes were after their fathers’ idols. Wherefore I gave them also statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they should not live; And I polluted them in their own gifts, in that they caused to pass through the fire all that openeth the womb, that I might make them desolate, to the end that they might know that I am the LORD. –Ezekiel 20:19-26

’And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough? You slaughtered my children and sacrificed them to the idols.” –Ezekiel 16:20-21 (NIV)

While those that rebelled against God and God’s law were known to follow the heathen practice of human sacrifice – in conjunction with idolatry and witchcraft – God’s saints rejected it.

What does God say about the blood of innocents?

“Surely at the commandment of the LORD came this upon Judah, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he did; And also for the innocent blood that he shed: for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; which the LORD would not pardon.”  –II Kings 24:3-4

“But were mingled among the heathen, and learned their works. And they served their idols: which were a snare unto them.Yea, they sacrificed their sons and their daughters unto devils, And shed innocent blood, even the blood of their sons and of their daughters, whom they sacrificed unto the idols of Canaan: and the land was polluted with blood.” –Psalm 106:35-38

“And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three: That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.” –Deuteronomy 19:8-10

“Manasseh also shed so much innocent blood that he filled Jerusalem with it from one end to another. This was in addition to his sin that he caused Judah to commit. Consequently, they did what was evil in the LORD’s sight.” –II Kings 21:16 (Holman CSV)

“These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,” – Proverbs 6:16-17

“For if ye throughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye throughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbour; if ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, neither walk after other gods to your hurt: Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, in the land that I gave to your fathers, for ever and ever.” –Jeremiah 7:5-7

“Then spake Jeremiah unto all the princes and to all the people, saying, The LORD sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city all the words that ye have heard. Therefore now amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the LORD your God; and the LORD will repent him of the evil that he hath pronounced against you. As for me, behold, I am in your hand: do with me as seemeth good and meet unto you. But know ye for certain, that if ye put me to death, ye shall surely bring innocent blood upon yourselves, and upon this city, and upon the inhabitants thereof: for of a truth the LORD hath sent me unto you to speak all these words in your ears.” –Jeremiah 26:12-15

“Egypt shall be a desolation, and Edom shall be a desolate wilderness, for the violence against the children of Judah, because they have shed innocent blood in their land. But Judah shall dwell for ever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will cleanse their blood that I have not cleansed: for the LORD dwelleth in Zion.” –Joel 3:19-21

A Chronological Examination – stories of Abraham, Jephthah, and Hannah

Certainly the Bible gives us an example of what is good with its books of law, statutes, history, prophecy, poetry and wisdom and perhaps the most influential – the stories about God’s faithful. Some things in the Bible will not make sense to someone who is not really interested in it, and Jesus admitted that he spoke in parables partly to confuse the people with hard hearts.

There is another example of where a child was to be offered up to God – and surprisingly, God is the one who commanded it. In chapter 22 of Genesis, God commands Abraham to take his precious, promised son Isaac, and to offer him as a burnt offering. Here was Abraham – the father of the faithful – commanded to do the unthinkable. But because of the covenant relation Abraham had with God, he knew he had to do what God commanded. There was no argument. Abraham knew God’s perfect character – he just had to trust God.

Abraham had to make the three-day journey with Isaac to offer his child as God had commanded. At the very last moment, God called out to Abraham to stop him from killing his son and offering him as a burnt offering. A ram was provided instead. God had both tested Abraham in covenant obedience, and had him experience some of the anguish of both God the Father and Jesus in Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross.

Abraham was the grandfather to Jacob/Israel, who was the father of the Israelites, God’s chosen people to be a light to the rest of the world. God thought it necessary to give this very powerful example for us. Abraham was tested to the end — but ultimately, he was not asked to sacrifice his son, nor was that what God wanted.

The next story is how it came about that the mighty warrior Jephthah dedicated his only daughter to God. It should be noted that before Jephthah makes the vow in Judges 11:30-31, that the preceding verse of 11:29 says “Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah…” So we can assume this vow was under inspiration of God’s Holy Spirit.

Here is a reading of Jephthah’s vow in Young’s Literal Translation:

And Jephthah voweth a vow to Jehovah, and saith, ‘If Thou dost at all give the Bene-Ammon into my hand — then it hath been, that which at all cometh out from the doors of my house to meet me in my turning back in peace from the Bene-Ammon — it hath been to Jehovah, or I have offered up for it — a burnt-offering.’ –Judges 11:30-31.

In the above translation, it is very important to observe the conjunction “or”. If that which preceded from his house had been a lamb, it could have been a burnt sacrifice.

Here is commentary on the text from The Defender’s Study Bible, compiled by Dr. Henry M. Morris:

offer it up. Some competent Hebrew scholars say this clasue could as well be translated, “and I will offer to Him a burnt-offering.” In any case, Jepthah was a true man of faith (Hebrews 11:32) and surely knew God’s prohibitions against human sacrifices (Leviticus 18:21). He would hardly make such a rash vow as to offer a human sacrifice or carry it out if he had. Jepthah’s daughter was his only child. Although he knew about God’s right to the firstborn (Exodus 13:2), he knew also that she could be redeemed (Exodus 13:15; Leviticus 27:1-4) with a payment of 30 shekels.

Here also is exerpted commentary from the Companion Bible (Kregel Publications, 1990):

and = or. The Heb. (Vav) is a connective Particle, and is rendered in many different ways. It is also used as a disjuntive, and is often rendered “or” (or, with a negative, “nor”). …. Here, Jephthat’s vow consisted of two parts: (1) He would either dedicated it to Jehovah (according to Lev. 27); or (2) if unsuitable for this, he would offer it as a burnt offering. He performed his vow, and dedicated his daughter to Jehovah by a perpetual virginity (vv. 36,39,40); but he did not offer her as a burnt offering, because it was forbidden by Jehovah, and could not be accepted by Him (Lev. 18.21; 20.2-5).

Jephthah was very upset that his only daughter (his only offspring) would be dedicated so that she would serve God in a virgin state and not have children, and Jepthah would not have grandchildren (Judges 11:34-40). However, Jephthah’s daughter was very willing to perform her part of this vow. She was left alone to be with her friends for two months and made no attempt to run away. Instead of any record of any killing sacrifice, it says in Judges 11:39: “… and she knew no man.”

God had respect that Jephthah would not try to go back on his vow to the LORD (Judges 11:35) and Jephthah received a special mention in the “chapter of faith” – Hebrews 11:32. Paul, the writer of Hebrews was mentored by Christ in the wilderness for 3 years before he was activated as an apostle (Galatians 1:17-18), and would have known the truth about this “difficult” passage of scripture.

Hannah’s dedication of Samuel came next. Samuel was a remarkable man, as he became a prophet (I Samuel 3:19-20), priest (Psalm 99:6, Jeremiah 15:1, I Samuel 2:18) and civil authority – a judge (I Samuel 7:15). Samuel was genetically a Levite (I Samuel 1:1 with I Chronicles 6), the tribe designated for prieshood, although he grew up in a location within the tribe of Ephraim (I Samuel 1:1). Being part of the priestly tribe of Levi which kept knowledge and taught the law (Malachi 2:4-7, Ezra 7:10), Hannah would likely know the story of Jephthah’s dedication of his daughter perhaps a couple hundred years before in the book of Judges. God honored Hannah’s dedication by making possible Samuel’s great ministry and service to God, and God blessed her with more children after Samuel.

The beautiful story is recorded below:

But Samuel ministered before the LORD, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. Moreover his mother made him a little coat, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, The LORD give thee seed of this woman for the loan which is lent to the LORD. And they went unto their own home. And the LORD visited Hannah, so that she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before the LORD. –I Samuel 2:18-21

Hannah’s prayer of thanksgiving is also recorded in I Samuel 2:1-10.

There was something very different about Samuel’s dedication and Jepthah’s daugthers dedication. Samuel fully dedicated to God, but was married and had children. Jephthah’s daughter’s dedication required her to remain a virgin. God willing, I will explore this difference in a later post.



Posted by on October 4, 2015 in *TOP POSTS, Bible history, Faith, Old Testament, The Bible


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Would we have listened to John the Baptist?

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.

–Mark 1:1-8

Do we get all our information from traditional, respectable sources? We should ask ourselves, would we have heard the voice of someone such as John the Baptist? How would John the Baptist have come across to us? Here are a few point of interest.

1. He had been miraculously conceived and was blessed with the Holy Spirit even before he was born. –Luke 1

2. Other than his righteous parents, he had no human teachers that we know of. –Luke 1:6

3. His early life was one of solitude in the desert where he grew spiritually. –Luke 1:80

4. He wore coarse camel hair, and ate locusts and honey. –Mark 1:6; Matthew 3:4

5. He didn’t consume alcohol. –Luke 1:15

6. He was likely a Nazirite who had never had a haircut. Godly men in the Bible were normally expected to have short hair as they were the “head” of their family and the express image of God (I Corinthians 11). The exception to that would have been men who had taken a Nazirite vow. The vow did not prohibit marriage, but it prohibited fermented products like alcohol and ritual defilement, and it involved not cutting the hair. We know he didn’t consume alcohol from Luke 1:15.

7. He knew scripture and he came on to the scene quoting it. — John 1:23

8. John’s ministry was one of repentance, and strong warning. — Acts 13:24; Matthew 3:1-3; Matthew 3:11-12; Mark 1:1-5; Luke 3:1-20

9. While John gave glory to Jesus as Lord and Savior, Jesus testified of John’s greatness as a prophet of God. –John 3:25-30; Matthew 3:3; John 1:6-8; John 1:24-28  Acts 13:25; Mark 1:7-8; Luke 7:28; Matthew 11:11-15

10. John’s ministry served as a complement, comparison and contrast to Christ’s ministry. –Matthew 21:23-32; Mark 2:18-20; Matthew 11:18-19; Luke 7:33-35

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 8, 2015 in Bible history, Faith, Prophecy, The Bible


Tags: , , , ,

A young Jewish woman, 300 Spartan fighting men, and God’s preservation of His People

Not only does the Bible contain the words of life, but it is a reliable historical document spanning the entire period from creation through much of the first century AD. The Bible is a very useful tool to compare with secular history – and its very accuracy is bolstered by harsh penalties to any who would falsify it (Rev. 22:18-19). And God’s Word contains predictive prophecy as well. One of the most referred to prophecies in the Bible is King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream found in Daniel 2 that is about a statue with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, waist and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet and toes of iron and clay.

Daniel himself interpreted to King Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom of Babylon was the head of gold, and we commonly recognize the other successive kingdoms to be those dominated by Media-Persia, Greece, Rome and an end-time kingdom. A topic that we will examine concerns the kingdom that followed Babylon – identified by the breast and arms of silver – which is widely recognized to be the Medo-Persian empire which spanned the period from approximately 539 – 331 BC. And the Biblical book to be analyzed is the book of Esther.

Persepolis, Apadana, Northern Stairs, Central Relief, Prince

Xerxes I (from

Xerxes on a relief of Darius I the Great. Originally at the north stairs of the apadana of Persepolis, now in the National Archaelogical Museum, Tehran (Iran).

The Book of Esther

We should first observe that in the book of Esther, words for ‘God’ and ‘prayer’ are notably absent. There are many theories about this – including that the words are chosen carefully because of the power structure in place. Appendix 60 of the “The Companion Bible” based on the authorized King James Version Bible explains how God’s name is found five times in acrostic in the book and put there with such precision and symmetry that it could only be intentional.

The story of Esther is set in the city of Susa (or Shushan), the site of the throne of the Media-Persian Empire shortly following the Babylonian captivity. Cyrus the Great had conquered Babylon and had liberated the Jews and allowed many of them to return to their homeland, but only about one-third of the population had done so. ( Even though the Jews had more freedom than before, the empire itself still wielded much power over all of the people within it.

The book of Esther begins this way:

This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.” —Esther 1:1-3 (NIV)

The Greek historian Herodotus corroborated this grand feast and conference held by Xerxes in the 3rd year of his reign preceding his military campaigns into mainland Greece. The banquet –  featuring much wine and excess  – celebrated the splendor of the kingdom and rallied the military leaders for a future campaign. The party lasted for a startling180 days – or about six months. (Esther 1:4)

The famous story of Esther continues with the Persian Queen Vashti refusing a request of King Xerxes [his name is interchangeable in different Bible versions as Ahasuerus and Xerxes] to appear in the great assembly mentioned above. This affront to the powerful Xerxes resulted in her being deposed as queen.

The reach of the Persian Empire

Chapter 2 begins with the words “After these things….” In the “Defender’s Study Bible” compiled by Dr. Henry M. Morris, he has a note about Esther 2:1 that the time passage referred to between the two chapters was after the military invasions into Greece including the military naval battles of Thermopylae and Salamis. While Xerxes had won some of the battles into Greece, he had been unsuccessful in trying to overthrow the nation because of the tactical resistance and fierce opposition that he found from the most powerful city-states of Athens and Sparta. The first attempt of Persia to subdue Greece had been about ten years prior in 490BC, in which Xerxes’ father Darius had his force defeated in the Battle of Marathon when the Athenians chose the moment to attack before the superior Persian cavalry could arrive. Chapter 2 of Esther is the aftermath of the mixed results of Xerxes’ land and naval engagements in 480 – 479BC.

The book of Esther centers on the Jewish family of Mordecai and Hadassah (Esther). As her cousin, Mordecai was the guardian of Esther, whose mother and father had died. When king Xerxes sought a wife and queen to replace the dismissive Vashti, Esther was one of those unmarried women in the contest for the king’s favor.

Mordecai is an interesting figure and may well have been the writer of the book. The book of Esther itself is considered to be very sophisticated in its language and literary value for the time period. Mordecai was someone with a leadership position – sitting in the king’s gate (Esther 2:19). We get the impression that he is not someone who just casually goes through life, but one who sees the wider picture and looks for true meaning and the hand of God. His listening ability (audibly, intuitively and spiritually) was probably the attribute that enabled him to foil a plot to assassinate the king (Esther 2:21-22).

When Esther was in the contest to be queen and wife to the king and emperor Xerxes, Mordecai did not want her to reveal her Jewish identity. Mordecai must have palpably felt the murderous hatred of the Jews from certain groups within the empire. His encouragement of Esther to aspire to such a position was not part of a social climbing agenda – the motivation to encourage her seemed to come more from his deep nature and ability to discern the will of God and his own place in it.

Mordecai and Esther – Discerning God’s Will When He is Silent

“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.” —Proverbs 16:33

Architectural detail from the Persian capital in Susa

Because of the encoded treasure of the book of Esther, this book is worth some extra time to study. In Old Testament writings, we typically expect overt pronunciations, direct commands and miraculous events like the parting of the Red Sea or God providing water out of a rock in the desert. Instead in Esther, we have to look for the hidden hand of God. There is no indication that God ever appeared to Mordecai or Esther, Old Testament style, telling them what to do like when he instructed and gave the specs for Noah and his sons to build an ark or when he appeared to Abraham, telling him to “walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). But this is the intriguing and beautiful aspect of the story.

It is hard for many Christians to grapple with the subjects in the book. A heathen king with a large harem. The possibility of compromised values on the part of the heroine. The distressing threat of genocide. A holiday to celebrate not only survival but getting back at your enemies. Lack of direct mention of the name of God in the entire book. Some even question if it should be a canonical book. But we really need to compare scripture with scripture and look at the whole book.

As a very beautiful young unmarried woman in the empire, Esther became one of the candidates to be queen and wife to the king after Vashti was deposed. Indeed it would seem that all of the women were “prepared” to become at least a concubine (essentially a wife of much lower status) to the king. It was only a matter of who would be selected queen out of the many women. In modern times we might find aspects of this very revolting and demeaning. However at the time and culture, the women in the harem were probably envied. Esther obeyed the word of her guardian cousin Mordecai, and did not reveal that she was Jewish. This probably enabled her to not face discrimination in the prospect to become queen.

Chapter 2 of the book concludes with Esther being celebrated as the new queen, while at the same time Mordecai found out and prevented a plot to kill King Xerxes. The conspirators were hanged and the event was recorded and forgotten about.

In similar fashion with verse one of chapter 2 in which there was a recognized elapse of time, chapter 3 of the book again begins with the phrase “After these things…” We get the sense of another passage of time. The man Haman “the Agagite” was promoted to be over all of the leaders in the empire except Xerxes himself.  This is interesting, as Haman was recognized by this term as an Amalekite –  historical enemies and attackers of the Jewish people. Together with the Midianites, the Amalekites are the ones who waged a resource siege on the people of Israel much earlier – eating up all of their increase. In the book of Judges, Gideon and his worthy 300 men had responded to this earlier threat to God’s people.

Part of Haman’s elevation in the kingdom was that he was given the right to receive worship. If Xerxes’ second in command was allowed such reverence, it lends credence to the common belief that Xerxes may have believed that he himself was a “God-King”. Haman was informed by others that Mordecai the Jew would not reverence him and this greatly angered Haman. Haman then conceived a plan, not only to kill Mordecai, but to wipe out all of the Jewish people. Since this is now referenced to be the twelfth year of Xerxes reign (Esther 3:7), Haman’s plot and the planned date to exterminate the Jews can be traced to 474/473 BC. This would have also been nine years after the drunken party in chapter 1. Haman’s devious plan affected upwards of 120,000 Jews within the empire – both the ones who had remained in Babylon, and the approximately one-third who had returned to Jerusalem.

In Haman’s plan, the lot was first cast to give the date for his desired sentence to be carried out. The lot returned a date far in advance – drawn in the first month, the sentence would be carried out in the twelfth month. Then Haman convinced King Xerxes to sign a law that the unnamed people whose “laws are diverse from all people” would be destroyed and Haman offered a contribution to the king’s treasures of a large sum of silver (Esther 3:9 and 4:7).  The would-be attackers were only directly promised the spoils of their prey (Esther 3:13). We get the sense of Xerxes’ naiveté in giving a rubber stamp to an extreme law in which he did not know all of the critical details. We do know that Xerxes may have received such accusations before, and that a derogatory climate had been created to last generations (Ezra 4:6-16).

The phrase in Esther 3:15 is interesting: “… And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Shushan was perplexed.” This would imply that most of the people in the city did not hate the Jews. Also, it would imply that this was out of the ordinary action for King Xerxes. In modern terms, he would have been thought of as a playboy and a party king, and he reportedly had intrigues with his harem – we don’t know how much of which can be substantiated. The prophecy in Daniel 11:1-2 showed that Xerxes, the “fourth” King, would enjoy riches much greater than his predecessors. He was one who had crushed revolts within the empire and engaged in war conflicts including a major part in the Greco-Persian wars.  It would seem however, that an order of genocide within the empire would be a shocking turn of events in idyllic Shushan – which is translated “lily”.

Chapter 4 shows a time of mourning when all of the Jews learn of the evil law and death sentence from the Persians’ efficient message delivery system within the empire. Mordecai mourned in sackcloth, abandoning his seat at the gates. When contacted by a messenger from Esther he told her to make a supplication to the king to contravene the law. Esther responded that she could not and that it was a death sentence to appear before the king uninvited, unless he held out his golden scepter. Mordecai somewhat harshly sent a message back that it was her duty to do so, and that she may have been brought into the kingdom “for such a time as this”. Mordecai believed there was a providential hand at work. Esther then sent another message to Mordecai:

Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. (Esther 4:16)

Mordecai, after laying down the law with her in an earlier message about her duty, readily agrees to accomplish Esther’s wishes. The scripture simply said: “So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.” (Esther 4:17)

In chapters 5-10, we see that Haman’s plan crumbles. Esther gains an audience with a king, and knowing his social nature, wisely invited him to a dinner event that also included Haman. When the king again asked Esther what she wished for, she invited him to dinner the following night with Haman as well. The night before the second meal, the king was sleepless and had the chronicles of events read to him, and the memory came again of how Mordecai had saved the king’s life. When he woke up, he caused a special honor to brought about to celebrate Mordecai, involving Haman parading him around in the royal robes. On the evening of the second dinner, when Esther reveals Haman’s character and intents, the king gives the order to have him hanged. Indeed he was hanged on the very gallows that he built especially for Mordecai.

Esther, and in turn Mordecai, were able to persuade the king to have a new law written, since the first could not be voided, with the following effect:

Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and the province that would assault them… (Esther 8:11)

The message went throughout the kingdom giving the Jews a right to defend themselves. The fall of the lot gave them nearly a year to fortify and prepare themselves to receive the attack of their enemies. Ultimately, 75,000 attackers with hearts set upon murder and profit were killed, as the Jews “stood for their lives”, fighting in self-defense (Esther 9:16). The interesting thing is that no Jews are recorded as casualties. When Esther and Mordecai instituted a fast, they were engaging in spiritual warfare – humbling themselves and presumably praying to God – and this would set the course for the coming year. God allowed the Jewish people, through the actions of individuals like Esther and Mordecai, to escape completely unscathed from the attack.

The result prompted several affects. The Jews received converts as well as outside aid in the attack (Esther 8:17 and 9:3). The city of Susa, that was previously perplexed, now “held a joyous celebration” (Esther 8:15, NIV). The Jews had much joy and a great celebration. Mordecai became second to King Xerxes and was well accepted by the Jews. This was after he had basically caused the death sentence by his non-compliance which had provoked Haman’s wrath. Mordecai had helped achieve a greater peace – and freedom of worship. And the legacy holiday of Purim was instituted to celebrate the preservation of the Jews at this time –  a holiday which has now lasted for over two millennia.

A Bible Mystery between the Exodus and the Promised Land

The Spartan culture has long been a fascination to modern societies. But the fascination goes even deeper. Where did the Spartans come from? At times they were at war with their Greek brethren, and at times they were allied with them. At about 650BC, Sparta – also known as Lacedaemon – had become the dominant military land force in Ancient Greece. “Sparta was unique in ancient Greece for its social system and constitution, which completely focused on military training and excellence.” Along with Athens, Sparta was a dominant city-state in ancient Greece.

The Bible and other sources give some clues to who these Spartans might be. We have to turn our view elsewhere and to the context of the children of Israel – and the twelve tribes who are the descendants of Jacob’s twelve sons. In the period of the Israelites wandering in the wilderness because of their lack of faith in God’s promises, there were two notable rebellions in the ranks. The first came with the rebellion of Korah, who was of the tribe of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram from the tribe of Reuben (Numbers 16). The second notable rebellion came in Numbers 25:

“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab. And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods. And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.” (Numbers 25:1-3)

This second rebellion might have seemed the low point for the Israelites in their wilderness wandering. Many of the Israelites had begun to worship Baal, forgetting and flaunting the providence of God, who provided for them the entire time they were in the wilderness. God had brought a subsequent punishment and plague following this in which 24,000 died. (Numbers 25:9) At this time there was also a well-known member of the tribe of Simeon who had brought a pagan Midianite woman into the camp for illicit purposes “in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation” (Numbers 25:6). The Levite Phineas put an end to this brazen sin and outrage by spearing the man and the woman together, and he was lauded as having brought to an end the plague the sin had precipitated.

Although it seems members from most or all of the tribes had participated in the worship of Baal, the symbolism of one of their chief tribal members in connection to this low point may have precipitated a mini-exodus of a large part of the tribe of Simeon. Although the Bible doesn’t give explanations about it, an interesting thing occurs in the census figures of the tribes given in Numbers 1 & Numbers 26. The population of Simeon decreased from having 59,300 males ready for war to 22,200 males ready for war, a drop of 37,100 males, not including their wives and children.

While the plague following the sin of Baal worship (Numbers 25:9) would have had an impact, it would have been spread across the tribes and cannot explain the total decreases. Other than the huge drop of two-thirds of the tribe of Simeon, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, Ephraim and Naphtali also had net decreases in the number of males during the approximately forty years between the two censuses. Wherever the missing Simeonites went, they likely brought some from the other tribes with them. While it is understandable that this tribe known for their impulsive nature might have been tired of their sojourn in the wilderness, their defection during this time may have resulted in the tribe of Simeon being omitted from mention in the blessing of Moses prior to his death (Deuteronomy 33).

This Bible mystery of the missing Simeonites does not by itself connect Simeon with Sparta – but other sources and references do seem to tie the Spartans with the Israelite people.

In the book of I Maccabees14:16-23 also records this correspondence, which includes this statement: “And this is the copy of the letter which the Spartans sent: The Chief magistrates and the city of the Spartans send greeting to Simon, the chief priest, and to the elders and the priests and the rest of the Jewish people, our kinsmen.”(Emphasis added.). It is revealed by the Spartans themselves in their own writings that they are related to the Jews. In Ancient Mythology, Bryant relates that Stephanus Byzantium shows that Alexander Polyhistor and Claudius Jolaus also speak of a direct relationship or kinship between the Spartan Greeks and the people of Judaea (vol.5, p.51-52, 60). Are the Spartans these missing Simeonites? —

The book of Maccabees referred to above was part of the ancient scripture versions discovered in the Quamran caves known as the Dead Sea scrolls. With some similarity to the Jews, the Spartans observed new moons, and the “seventh day” of the month, according to Herodotus. The Spartans greatly respected their legendary lawgiver Lycurgus, who had tremendous parallels to the Bible figure Moses.

Lycurgus, legendary lawgiver of Sparta

As seen in several examples in the Bible, there is no disputing the militant warrior nature of the tribe of Simeon. Levi and Simeon had fallen out to a great extent with their father Jacob following a vengeful and bloody action taken on behalf of their sister Leah. When Jacob blessed his sons and the tribes they represented at the end of life, he said that the two tribes would be “scattered in Israel” (Gen 49:5-7).

As for the Simeonites that remained with Israel, they are closely associated with the tribe of Judah. Their land inheritance that was determined by lot was within the land area given to Judah (Joshua 19:1,9). It was almost as if God wanted the tribe with impulsive tendencies to be surrounded by the tribe named for Jacob’s (Israel’s) son Judah who showed great judgment and mercy. Judah made an impassioned speech before Joseph in Egypt that displayed these attributes (Genesis 44:16-34). In armed conflicts, the tribe of Judah preferred to have his brother tribe Simeon to be at their side (Judges 1:1-4, 1:16-17). In I Chronicles 12:25 the Simeonite warriors are described as a triple threat: “mighty men of valour for the war”.

The Spartan 300 – A Portrayal of Courage for the Ages

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, with which you shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” –Ephesians 6:16 (King James 2000 Bible)

Sparta-Leonidas-Monument-624x832The story of the events at the Battle of Thermopylae is an inspiring one. In 480 BC, the Spartans and their allies bravely took on a mission in which defeat was virtually assured. The legendary story takes place during the second Persian invasion of Greece in which Spartan King Leonidas and his trained elite bodyguard of 300 Spartans – along with approximately 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans who stayed through the whole battle – took on the vast Persian empire force sent by King Xerxes. According to Wikipedia, modern estimates of the Persian forces were between 70,000-300,000, while Herodotus claims the wildly large number of 2.5 million.

As the third son of Spartan King Anaxandridas, Leonidas was not originally expected to be heir to the throne. Therefore unlike other Spartan kings, as a youth he had been subjected to the rigorous military training that young Spartan males received. This made him a formidable leader prepared for the threat imposed by Persia. The elite Spartan hoplite warriors who accompanied Leonidas were selected not only for their military skills, but also that they all had living sons back home.

The Spartans and Greeks successfully held off the Persian army for two days, their united phalanx formation effectively protecting the group. On the second day of battle, Xerxes put forth his 10,000 elite Persian soldiers known as The Immortals – but even these were cut down by the Spartans. On the second day of the battle, a man from Sparta named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks and showed the Persians a path in which they could box the Spartan force from the back. During the third day, the Spartans and their companions were all killed, and King Leonidas was brought down by Persian arrows. Even in losing the battle, the relatively few Spartans and Greeks had dealt a devastating loss of about 20,000 to the Persians.

Hearing the defeat at Thermopylae, the remaining Greek forces strategically withdrew to the island of Salamis. The Persians were able to win the battles of Thermopylae and Artemisium, conquering also Thessaly, Boetia, Euboea and Attica. The Greeks achieved a critical victory in the naval battle of Salamis in late 480, devastating the Persian fleet and causing Xerxes to withdraw much of his army to Asia, under the threat of starvation and disease. In August of 479 – a year following Thermopylae – the Greeks won a decisive victory at the Battle of Plataea, exercising tactics to difuse the strengths of the Persian army and cavalry.

The story of Thermopylae involved the hubris of an empire. The below quote is from an article from Irene Brown from History Today

Greece was the only obstacle to the Persian conquest of the known world. If it were once permanently subjugated, no other city or nation would dare to oppose the might of Persia and ‘by this course then we shall bring all mankind under our yoke…’. Xerxes was assured that he was certain to be victorious and that he had nothing to fear from the Greeks as they had neither men nor money, and the other Persians were silent, as Herodotus points out, because in the Persian despotism they were all afraid to raise their voices against any plan of the Emperor.

Again, from the same article:

…the great Greek naval victory at Salamis on September 20th, 480, one month after Thermopylae, showed, said Herodotus, that the gods did not want one man to be the ruler of Asia and of Europe.

The last stand of the Spartans at Thermopylae most certainly had a lasting effect on human history. It would indeed seem that God did not want both Asia and Europe under the control of one man. It could have been fateful to build the pride of the one man Xerxes – what was needed was to lessen and temper his pride. Xerxes had to realize that he was just a man – a man who could make wrong decisions and judgments. We know that Xerxes was extremely disturbed and angry at several points regarding the results of Thermopylae – the victory he gained there being tremendously costly. When his notorious temper cooled however and his grudge died down over a few years time, he probably had become a different man than the one at the beginning of the book of Esther. Through their fighting zeal and their willingness to give their lives to protect each other and give a better life to their descendants, the Spartans unwittingly gave an assist to the Jews in peril in the Persian empire only about 6 years later. The spirit of the Spartans also undoubtedly inspired the Jews when it was their time to band together and defend each others’ lives.

A Biblical Understanding of Divine Intervention and Just War

It is interesting to analyze how war is regarded in the Bible and to take note of the occasions when divine intervention has seemed to occur. During most times, we humans are allowed to live out our earthly existence unhindered, but then there are other times when God seems to take special notice or even intervene in the course of events.A few examples where God has either personally intervened or has sanctioned war are shown below.

Worthy opponents – Greek hoplite and Persian warrior depicted fighting, on an ancient drinking cup, 5th century BC

1. When a civilization had become so sinful it was antithetical to life. Examples are the condition of the earth’s inhabitants right before the flood and in Sodom and Gomorrah before those cities were destroyed.  Jesus also promised there would be intervention in the end-time as he said “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.” (Matthew 24:22, NIV)

2. Self-defense. Jesus himself instructed his disciples to have swords in the group for self-defense. (Luke 22:36-38) There are many instances of this throughout the whole Bible, including the story of David taking on the giant Goliath, who threatened and mocked Israel.

3. God allowed the people of Israel, the stock from whom our Redeemer would come, to acquire territory in war when it was faithful and obedient to God, but then also he allowed people of Israel to lose blood, treasure, freedom and land when they strayed from him. (Deuteronomy 3:22, 7:18, 20:1, I Chronicles 9:1, II Chronicles 18, II Chronicles 20:15)

In the Bible we see instances of admiration for warriors. David and his mighty men are referred to in several passages. David seemed to inspire a great deal of loyalty with the men whose company he kept. During the time David was to become king for the first time, he had contingents from all of the tribes escorting and supporting him. This glorious time is described below:

All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king. (I Chronicles 12:38)

The soldiers described above are said as being of “one heart” and men “that could keep rank”. It is said that no one can really understand the bond of those who have fought together and protected each other on the battlefield.

Another thing vital to being a good soldier is faith, just as the Spartans believed their sacrifice could provide something better as their families lived after them. Jesus himself called attention to the faith of a Roman Centurion in a short passage in the gospels:

And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. And Jesus said unto the centurion, Go thy way; and as thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee. And his servant was healed in the selfsame hour. (Matthew 8:5-13)

The book of Ecclesiastes gives us sound wisdom on there being a time for everything: “A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:8). Some people think of God being a harsh, Old Testament figure. Is that how we should view Him? God is a “consuming fire” in Hebrews 12:29, but “God is love” in I John 4:8. The “Lion of the tribe of Judah” in Revelation 5:5 is the same person as the “Prince of Peace” in Isaiah 9:6. Although David was a man after God’s own heart, the Lord chose to have his temple built by his son Solomon, who was a man of peace.

Comparative and Foreshadowing Aspects of These Stories in History and Prophecy

“Let the lost be found and the dead be raised – In the here and now, let love invade               Let the church live loud, Our God we’ll say – We believe, we believe!                                       And the gates of hell will not prevail – For the power of God has torn the veil                        Now we know your love will never fail – We believe, we believe!”                                  (Newsboys – “We Believe”)

Lion on a decorative panel made of molded bricks, Persian King Darius’s palace at Susa. Terracotta, ca. 510 BC.

The battle of Thermopylae was three days of fierce fighting at the site translated as the Hot Gates. Esther, Mordecai and their friends fasted for three days after the lot had already been cast and the law had been sealed that allowed the genocide of her people. Three days of physical battle at Thermopylae. Three days of spiritual battle in Susa a few years later. The battle of Thermopylae was technically a loss for the Spartans and Greeks, but it would make a King and his subjects wonder and reinforce both the human rights of self-defense and freedom of worship. The result of the spiritual battle in Esther was undiluted victory.

Like many other stories in the Bible, the book of Esther especially shows us that God uses individuals. There are many times that God will not act unless he sees faith exhibited by individuals. Just like when Abraham asked God to save the cities of the plain if there were enough righteous individuals. Mordecai and Esther didn’t wait for a divine command or an invitation. They only did what they knew to be right.

We can draw some interesting parallels between the Spartans, their leader Leonidas and Christ.  A few of them are: 1. Jesus, King of Kings, is known as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev.5:5) and the Spartan King’s name was Leonidas, meaning “Lion-like”. 2. Both Christ and the Spartans were on a sacrificial mission. 3. Both Christ and the Spartans were betrayed by one of their own. 4. Jesus Christ was crucified on a cross and history records that in his anger, Xerxes wanted King Leonidas’ dead body to be crucified. 5. Christ rose from the grave to immortal life and the Spartan hoplite warriors had a story that lived long after them and soldiers and sons who would carry on after them. In an interesting way, the descendants of the wayward tribe from the book of Numbers may have foreshadowed the coming of Christ.

Faith is fundamental in Christian thinking. Paul said in Hebrews 11:6 – “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). One of the Spartans named Dieneces heard that the Persian arrows would be so numerous that they would obscure the sun. This brave Spartan responded he wasn’t bothered as they would fight them in the shade. For a modern application, we do not need favorable conditions or even the light of day to oppose evil or tyranny. As is seen in these stories, this is done through faith.

The cast lot and the immutable law signed by the King would not doom the Jewish people, and the onslaught of tens of thousands at the hot gates of Thermopylae would not defeat the spirit of the Spartans. These stories weave together as instances where God took a direct interest in the affairs of men, and of His people Israel.

 ~While drawing from many sources, the views and opinions expressed in the discussion of historical events and related Biblical passages are solely those of the author.~


Posted by on June 25, 2014 in *TOP POSTS, Bible history, Culture, Faith, History, The Bible


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,