From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/23:

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/23:

Today we finish the Return Era by hearing from Malachi and Joel; and we will briefly cover the Silent Era.

Malachi – Malachi addresses: 1) marriage, 2) the coming messenger and Messiah, 3) tithing and offerings, and 4) the coming judgment.

  1. Malachi calls marriage “The Lord’s holy institution which He loves.” He warns against intermarrying outside of the faith because this would lead the people away from the Lord. He also says that marriage is to be a lifetime commitment between a man and woman.
  2. Malachi speaks of the coming messenger and Messiah – “‘Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,’ says the Lord of hosts.” John the Baptist, the messenger, will come and announce the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Messiah (Luke 7:27).
  3. Malachi says the people have robbed God by not being generous with their tithing and offerings. The people should give to God willingly and with joy since all they possess is from the Lord anyway.
  4. Malachi concludes by saying,  “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.” The Lord is sending Elijah (a reference to John the Baptist) to call the people to repentance before Jesus comes on the scene with His ministry. John the Baptist will come in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) but “they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands” (Matthew 17:12). John the Baptist will be killed by man, just as Jesus will have to suffer by the hands of man. Jesus will bring salvation to the world through His death and resurrection, and He will return a second time bringing judgment upon the entire world. 

Joel – Scholars disagree on when Joel prophesied. Some place him earlier in the story, as a prophet to Judah during the Divided Kingdom Era, but Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible places him here, at the end of the Return Era.

Joel’s ministry is during a great locust plague. However, Joel says that an even more horrific time is coming. “For the day of the Lord is at hand; it shall come as destruction from the Almighty.” Joel tells the people to turn their hearts (not just an outward act) to the Lord, for there they will find hope – “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness… Then the Lord will be zealous for His land, and pity His people.” Joel says the Lord will pour out His Spirit on males and females, young and old, slave and free — “I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy… That whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Later in the story, Peter will quote Joel when this prophecy is fulfilled on Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). Fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, the Holy Spirit will be poured upon the disciples of Jesus, causing them to speak in foreign languages and enabling them to testify of Christ and the salvation only He can provide.

Joel concludes by saying that the Lord will judge all the nations. “But the Lord will be a shelter for His people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So you shall know that I am the Lord your God, dwelling in Zion My holy mountain. Then Jerusalem shall be holy, and no aliens shall ever pass through her again… But Judah shall abide forever, and Jerusalem from generation to generation. For I will acquit them of the guilt of bloodshed, whom I had not acquitted; for the Lord dwells in Zion.”

Silent Era – The overview below is from the Chronological Bible Teaching 14-Era Booklet by Iva May, excerpt written by Stan May, PhD:

The last era before the coming of the Messiah claims the title, “Silent Era,” because the Hebrew canon closed after the writing and preaching of the prophet Malachi. For over 400 years, God did not speak to His people, either through the prophets or through other Scriptures; yet His silence did not equal inactivity. God providentially worked to prepare the way for the King through various empires that ruled even as He fulfilled the words of Amos 8:11.

History of the Silent Years (430 B.C.-4 B.C.)

Just as Daniel predicted (Daniel 2, 7), four major empires rose and fell. Nebuchadnezzar conquered the known world during Daniel’s day, but his empire lasted only about a century (626-539 b.c.) before it fell to the “Medes and the Persians” (Dan 5:28). The Persian Empire spread from Egypt to India and northward toward Greece; this empire survived for about two centuries, but eventually Alexander the Great defeated the Persians as he extended the third kingdom of Daniel—the Greek empire—into the world. His early death brought about a division of his territory, but not before the process of Hellenization influenced the known world. The universal use of the Greek language, the Greek standards of weight and measurement, and Greek coinage affected even Israel.

The Seleucids, successors of Alexander who eventually ruled Israel, succeeded in alienating the Jewish people, especially when the Syrian Antiochus IV Epiphanes offered a pig to the Olympian god Zeus in the Holy of Holies. His actions ignited the Maccabean revolt that resulted in a period of independence. This freedom survived until Rome—the fourth empire—sent her armies to capture Jerusalem and to establish Roman rule through governors granted power by the Emperor.

Trends of the Silent Years

Judaism changed dramatically during the silent years. The former idolatries that had driven the nation into exile were no longer tolerated. Chasidim (“separate ones”) began to demand purity and a return to God’s word; they may have been the precursors of the Pharisees. Synagogues became the mainstay of spiritual life in the villages, though the Temple held priority in Jerusalem. Courts called Sanhedrin consisting of 23 wise men (an uneven number to guard against a tie) adjudicated in the smaller towns, and the great Sanhedrin (council of 70 plus the high priest) ruled over the nation in Jerusalem. The Jewish historian Josephus noted that the Sadducees and the Pharisees had existed since the time of the Maccabees.

The Pharisees devoted themselves to the Law, led in the synagogues, and seemed to have the support of the majority of the nation. They believed in angels (in fact, angelology—the study of angels and the resultant belief in their mediatorial work —became a major characteristic of Judaism4), resurrection, and the coming Messiah. The Sadducees allied themselves with the governing powers, ruled the Temple, accepted only the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures, believed in neither angels nor spirits, and denied a future resurrection. The controversy between these two groups occasionally spilled out into the open, but always existed as a subtext for all that transpired in the nation. The Herodians were a Jewish political party allied with the family of Herod (four generations ruled in the land), usually siding with the Sadducees to protect Rome’s interests and to preserve Rome’s peace (and their position of authority).

The Mishna and the Talmud began to develop during this era as an extended commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. These books increased the actual commands to which the people were subject; each interpreter added his accretions to the whole, and the resultant weight of the laws burdened the people with over 600 regulations for daily conduct.

Importance of the Silent Years

This tenth era prepared the way for the coming Messiah in several ways. After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews began to speak Aramaic; Hellenization brought a common language for the world, and the Jews of the Diaspora (those scattered throughout the world) spoke Greek. These linguistic changes relaxed the Jewish attitude toward the Scripture and necessitated the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into the Septuagint (LXX). The Septuagint (“Seventy”) supposedly was translated by 70 scholars in 70 days, hence the name.

Rome paved the way by building the Roman road system and establishing the Pax Romana, the Roman peace. Apostles and missionaries could travel unimpeded swiftly throughout the empire, preaching the good news in a language (Greek) that the common people could understand.

Judaism produced a “vast bulk of intertestamental literature,” but “divine guidance kept the right books within the compass of Scripture. Eventually and gradually, Judaism manifested itself in the ‘Three Pillars of Judaism’: the tripartite OT canon of Law, Prophets, and Writings; the synagogue, with its new, liturgical, and entirely nonsacrificial worship; and Rabbinism, which culminated in the Talmud and Midrash.” The religious minutiae of the law created an unbearable burden that convinced men of their failure but offered no hope for true freedom. The temple became a place of corruption and the synagogue became a place of condemnation.

These religious trends and cultural changes came not as accidents but rather under the providential hand of God to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. It is no wonder that Paul could write to the Galatians that Christ was born “in the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4).

That’s a wrap on the Old Testament. The Gospel Era starts tomorrow, so keep reading! (Malachi 2:10-4:6 Joel 1:1-3:21)

14 Eras: 

Creation Era (Gen 1:1-11:26) ✔️

Patriarch Era (Gen 11:27-50:26 and Job) ✔️

Exodus Era (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) ✔️

Conquest Era (Joshua) ✔️

Judges Era (Judges, Ruth) ✔️

Kingdom Era (1 & 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles 1-9, 1 Kings 1-11, various Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) ✔️

Divided Kingdom Era (2 Chronicles 10-36, 1 Kings 11-22, 2 Kings, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, and some of Jeremiah) ✔️

Captivity Era (the rest of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel) ✔️

Return Era (Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) ✔️

Silent Era (Inter-Testament period) ✔️

Gospel Era (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is up next!

Eras to follow: Church, Missions, and End Time/New Beginning

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/22:

Today the people celebrate the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem with a parade led by two large thanksgiving choirs. “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced, for God had made them rejoice with great joy; the women and the children also rejoiced, so that the joy of Jerusalem was heard afar off.”

After serving as governor of Judah for twelve years, Nehemiah returns to Artaxerxes king of Babylon. Nehemiah says that when he was governor he did not demand the governor’s provisions as the other governors had done in the past because he didn’t want to place any more burden on the people. Nehemiah calls upon the Lord saying, “Remember me, my God, for good, according to all that I have done for this people.”

After some time away, Nehemiah is granted permission by King Artaxerxes to return to Judah, where he discovers that the people have neglected the house of the Lord and the word of God. Nehemiah knows that the Lord gives His people instructions for their own good. So Nehemiah rebukes the rulers and the people for disobeying the word of God, and he sets the house of the Lord back in order. He forces the people to honor the Sabbath and condemns the ones who intermarried with pagan nations. Nehemiah calls the people to remember what happened to King Solomon when he took pagan wives and concubines for himself – “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, who was beloved of his God; and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless pagan women caused even him to sin. Should we then hear of your doing all this great evil, transgressing against our God by marrying pagan women?”

We end the reading meeting the prophet Malachi who proclaims God’s love for Israel to the ones who have returned to Judah from exile. He reminds them that they were God’s chosen people by reminding them of the Patriarch Era, when the Lord chose Isaac’s son Jacob over Esau to receive His covenantal blessings and to work His plan of sending our Savior. Although Israel was punished for their disobedience, the Lord is restoring Israel and is committed to them, proving His love for them. God did not make the same covenant with Esau’s descendants, Edom, and they will be judged for their wickedness and not restored like Israel.

Malachi rebukes the priests who were accepting unworthy sacrifices. He tells them the Lord is worthy of their honor because He is their Father, Master, and King! Malachi tells the priests that their lives should be an example for the others. “‘For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, and people should seek the law from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts. But you have departed from the way; you have caused many to stumble at the law. You have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Therefore I also have made you contemptible and base before all the people, because you have not kept My ways but have shown partiality in the law.’”

Tomorrow we will finish reading the Old Testament, bringing an end to the Return Era… so keep reading! (Nehemiah 12:27-13:6a, Nehemiah 5:14-19, Nehemiah 13:6b-31, Malachi 1:1-2:9)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/21:

”Now the leaders of the people dwelt at Jerusalem; the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to dwell in Jerusalem, the holy city, and nine-tenths were to dwell in other cities. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered themselves to dwell at Jerusalem.” 

Choosing to live in Jerusalem is a sacrificial move which displays a love for the Lord and His people. The ones willing to live in Jerusalem are risking their lives since the city of Jerusalem is constantly under the evil plots and attacks by their enemies. They are also giving up the opportunity to harvest land by not being in the country. 

The priests, Levites, and the Nethinim are responsible for the care of the new temple. The priests are the descendants of Aaron, and they perform the sacrifices and tend to the Holy Place in the temple. The Levites have various positions such as singers, musicians, teachers, guards, etc. The Nethinim are the temple assistants. Research suggests the Nethinim were likely non-Israelite captives that were spared but assigned to the work of the temple, just as the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:26-27) whom King David organized into a class of people to perform the work of the temple (Ezra 8:20). So the care of the second temple is structured in the same manner King David established with the first temple.

We also see once again that the Lord always keeps His word. Remember in the wilderness, as a result of the Balaam and Balak encounter, the Lord told Phinehas, Eleazar’s son, that his descendants would have a perpetual priesthood after Phinehas showed his zeal for the Lord by killing Zimri and Cozbi (Numbers 25). Today we see the Lord honored him – “And Phinehas the son of Eleazar had been the officer over them in the past; the Lord was with him.” And just as the Lord was with His people in the past, He will be the same God to them in the present. 

Tomorrow there is a dedication for the wall of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah returns to Artaxerxes king of Babylon. Will Nehemiah remain in Babylon? Keep reading to find out. (Nehemiah 11:1-12:26, 1 Chronicles 9:1-34)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/20:

Today the people observe the Feast of Tabernacles as described in the Book of the Law. “So the whole assembly of those who had returned from the captivity made booths and sat under the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun until that day the children of Israel had not done so. And there was very great gladness. Also day by day, from the first day until the last day, he read from the Book of the Law of God.”

The Feast of Tabernacles has been celebrated since the days of Joshua (1 Kings 8:2, 1 Kings 8:65-66, Ezra 3:4) but not with such zeal for God’s word. In the Conquest Era, when Joshua led the people in conquering the promised land, the people celebrated being settled into the land, much like the celebration in Jerusalem that Nehemiah is describing. The remnant has returned from captivity in Babylon and is celebrating their renewed life in their renewed homeland by worshiping the Lord, remembering His faithfulness to His people, and repenting for their unfaithfulness.

“Now on the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, in sackcloth, and with dust on their heads. Then those of Israelite lineage separated themselves from all foreigners; and they stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers.” Then the Levites tell the people to “Stand up and bless the Lord your God forever and ever!” The Levites continue to exalt the Lord in prayer by retelling His magnificent story to the children of Israel, beginning with the Creation Era and continuing through to where they are at this point in the Return Era: 

  • Creation Era – “You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and everything on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.”
  • Patriarch Era – “You are the Lord God, who chose Abram, and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans, and gave him the name Abraham; You found his heart faithful before You, and made a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, and the Girgashites— to give it to his descendants.”
  • Exodus Era – “You saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt, and heard their cry by the Red Sea. You showed signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his servants, and against all the people of his land. For You knew that they acted proudly against them. So You made a name for Yourself, as it is this day. And You divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on the dry land; and their persecutors You threw into the deep, as a stone into the mighty waters. Moreover You led them by day with a cloudy pillar, and by night with a pillar of fire, to give them light on the road which they should travel.” The Levites describe the Lord giving the people the law and providing food and water for them during their wilderness journeys. They remind the people of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord in the wilderness and how in spite of their disobedience, the Lord remained faithful – “Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness; they lacked nothing; their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.”
  • Conquest Era – “You also multiplied their children as the stars of heaven, and brought them into the land which You had told their fathers to go in and possess. So the people went in and possessed the land; You subdued before them the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites, and gave them into their hands, with their kings and the people of the land, that they might do with them as they wished.”
  • Judges Era – “Nevertheless they were disobedient and rebelled against You, cast Your law behind their backs… Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their enemies, who oppressed them; and in the time of their trouble, when they cried to You, You heard from heaven; and according to Your abundant mercies You gave them deliverers who saved them from the hand of their enemies…And many times You delivered them according to Your mercies, and testified against them, that You might bring them back to Your law.”
  • Kingdom, Divided Kingdom, and Captivity Eras – “Yet for many years You had patience with them, and testified against them by Your Spirit in Your prophets. Yet they would not listen; therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless in Your great mercy You did not utterly consume them nor forsake them; for You are God, gracious and merciful….From the days of the kings of Assyria until this day. However You are just in all that has befallen us; for You have dealt faithfully, but we have done wickedly.” Therefore, the Northern Kingdom was overthrown by the Assyrians and Southern Judah was overthrown by the Babylonians.
  • Return Era – “Here we are, servants today! And the land that You gave to our fathers, to eat its fruit and its bounty, here we are, servants in it! And it yields much increase to the kings you have set over us, because of our sins; also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle at their pleasure; and we are in great distress. And because of all this, we make a sure covenant and write it; our leaders, our Levites, and our priests seal it.”

At this time, Israel is a province of the Persian Empire, and they are under heavy taxes and oppression. Therefore, once again, they are calling out to the Lord to deliver them. This prayer is a prayer of deep repentance and deep dependence upon the Lord. The people pledge to be faithful to their God who has always been faithful to them.

Tomorrow, we will read about the Levites who will minister to the people and uphold the word of God. Keep reading. (Nehemiah 8:13-10:39)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/19:

After the wall is complete, the Lord puts in Nehemiah’s heart a desire to register the people according to genealogy. God is ensuring that the ones who left their homes in Babylon to return to do the strenuous labor of rebuilding Jerusalem would not be forgotten. God is a personal God who cares for each person and the trials they endure on this side of heaven. So Nehemiah finds a previously recorded genealogy, possibly the one made by Ezra (Ezra 2), and he records a census of the people. Currently the city of Jerusalem is large and the people are few; however, Nehemiah would like to see this newly restored city repopulated.

Now that the people are physically secure, Nehemiah and Ezra make sure that they are spiritually secure by gathering everyone in the open square and reading the Book of the Law to them – “So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law.”

The Levites help the people understand what was written in the Book of the Law. “And Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, ‘This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn nor weep.’” The Levites encourage the people who are weeping over their sin to be joyful because of the renewed relationship with the Lord. “And all the people went their way to eat and drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that were declared to them.”

The people rejoice because they finally understand what was written in the Book of the Law. It’s one thing to read or hear God’s word, but reading or hearing God’s word with understanding brings great joy and blessings! So keep reading! (Nehemiah 7:4-8:12)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/18:

The rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem is underway. “Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiath, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.”

Nehemiah positions men around the wall to guard and protect the new construction and the people. “And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, ‘Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.’”

“And it happened, when our enemies heard that it was known to us, and that God had brought their plot to nothing, that all of us returned to the wall, everyone to his work. So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah.”

However, there is another interruption in the rebuilding of the wall due to unrest among the weary people of Judah. Nehemiah hears the cries of the poor, hungry, enslaved, and oppressed, and he calls on the leaders to free their debts and release the people. “And I said to them, ‘According to our ability we have redeemed our Jewish brethren who were sold to the nations. Now indeed, will you even sell your brethren? Or should they be sold to us?’” The leaders respond saying they will release the burdens and restore the people. “And all the assembly said, ‘Amen!’ and praised the Lord. Then the people did according to this promise.”

After Nehemiah addresses the internal issues hindering the rebuilding, he once again faces external opposition. “Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’”

Although the opposition continues and Nehemiah’s life is threatened, Nehemiah refuses to be distracted from the work given to him by the Lord. Nehemiah trusts God will complete the work He began, and we see that the Lord is faithful – “So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of Elul, in fifty-two days. And it happened, when all our enemies heard of it, and all the nations around us saw these things, that they were very disheartened in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was done by our God.” 

The wall was rebuilt in a miraculously short time, which can not be explained by the efforts of man — this wall must have been rebuilt by the hand of God! Keep reading because tomorrow Ezra is going to read the Book of the Law to all of Judah, ensuring that the people know and understand their mighty God as He reveals Himself through His word. (Nehemiah 3:1-7:3)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/17:

When Ezra returns to Jerusalem, he learns that some of the people of Judah, including priests and Levites, have intermarried with the women of the nations around them. Since history has proven that intermarriage with someone who practices pagan worship leads the people away from the Lord, this news is very upsetting to Ezra. Ezra has a heart for the Lord and for the people to follow Him and His ways. The Lord instructed the Israelites, during the Exodus Era while the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness before entering the promised land, not to intermarry with the people of the nations around them. God said if they did, their hearts would turn from the Lord to the false gods of their pagan spouses and ultimately to their destruction (Deuteronomy 7:1-6). 

In deep mourning, Ezra tears his clothes and falls to his knees in prayer over the remnant that was saved by grace from bondage in Babylon but continued to walk in disobedience to the Lord. Ezra cries out, “O Lord God of Israel, You are righteous, for we are left as a remnant, as it is this day. Here we are before You, in our guilt, though no one can stand before You because of this!” 

“Now while Ezra was praying, and while he was confessing, weeping, and bowing down before the house of God, a very large assembly of men, women, and children gathered to him from Israel; for the people wept very bitterly. And Shechaniah the son of Jehiel, one of the sons of Elam, spoke up and said to Ezra, ‘We have trespassed against our God, and have taken pagan wives from the peoples of the land; yet now there is hope in Israel in spite of this. Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law. Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.’” So over a period of time, Ezra helps the people dissolve these ungodly marriages and return to the Lord.

Next we meet Nehemiah, a Jew in exile who has risen to power in the Persian Empire. He hears that the people in Judah are in distress and that the wall of Jerusalem is broken down. “So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, ‘If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.’” 

The king grants Nehemiah permission to return to Judah to rebuild Jerusalem for a set period of time. He sends letters with him to the governors of the region allowing him to pass through their land, and he sends a letter to the keeper of the king’s forest requesting that he give Nehemiah timber for the rebuilding. 

When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he inspects the walls of the city and says to the officials, “‘You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.’ And I told them of the hand of my God which had been good upon me, and also of the king’s words that he had spoken to me. So they said, ‘Let us rise up and build.’ Then they set their hands to this good work.”

When faced with opposition from outsiders, Nehemiah responds, “The God of heaven Himself will prosper us; therefore we His servants will arise and build, but you have no heritage or right or memorial in Jerusalem.”

Tomorrow, Nehemiah and the Jews will face more opposition regarding the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem, and Nehemiah is going to take a stand against the oppressors. Keep reading to see what happens. (Ezra 9:1-10:44, Nehemiah 1:1-2:20)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/16:

Artaxerxes, the son of Ahasuerus, is now the king of Persia, and he receives a letter from some men opposing Jerusalem. The letter says the Jews “are building the rebellious and evil city, and are finishing its walls and repairing the foundations. Let it now be known to the king that, if this city is built and the walls completed, they will not pay tax, tribute, or custom, and the king’s treasury will be diminished. Now because we receive support from the palace, it was not proper for us to see the king’s dishonor; therefore we have sent and informed the king, that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. And you will find in the book of the records and know that this city is a rebellious city, harmful to kings and provinces, and that they have incited sedition within the city in former times, for which cause this city was destroyed.” 

King Artaxerxes responds by sending a letter telling the Jews to cease the rebuilding of Jerusalem. “Now when the copy of King Artaxerxes’ letter was read before Rehum, Shimshai the scribe, and their companions, they went up in haste to Jerusalem against the Jews, and by force of arms made them cease.”

In the seventh year of King Artaxerxes’ reign, Ezra, a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses and a descendant of Aaron (Moses’s brother), is given permission to lead a second wave of captives back to Jerusalem. “For Ezra has prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances in Israel.”

Not only does King Artaxerxes allow the people to return, but he also sends silver, gold, and anything else they need for the rebuilding of the house of God. In addition, he now makes a new decree that says it is unlawful to impose a tax on the servants of the house of God and “whoever will not observe the law of your God and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily on him.”

Ezra praises God for King Artaxerxes’ change of heart – “Blessed be the Lord God of our fathers, who has put such a thing as this in the king’s heart, to beautify the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.” Therefore, with the hand of the Lord upon him, Ezra leads the second wave of captives back to Judah. When they arrive in Jerusalem, they give all the gold, silver, and articles brought from Babylon to the house of the Lord, and they offer sacrifices to the God of Israel. “And they delivered the king’s orders to the king’s satraps and the governors in the region beyond the River. So they gave support to the people and the house of God.”

Tomorrow Ezra addresses intermarriage between the Jews and the people of the surrounding nations. Also, the third and final wave of people return to Jerusalem with Nehemiah to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall. Keep reading. (Ezra 4:7-23, Ezra 7:1-8:36)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/15:

Today Esther risks her life by entering the king’s chambers without being requested. “So it was, when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, that she found favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther went near and touched the top of the scepter. And the king said to her, ‘What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!’” 

Esther requests for the king and Haman to come to a banquet that she prepared for them that day. After the feast, she asks them to join her again the next night for a banquet where she will present her petition and request to the king.

Haman is elated that he has been asked to dine twice with the king and Esther, so he goes home and brags to his wife and friends about his riches, his promotion, and his position in the kingdom. However, Haman can’t enjoy all of his success because his eye is still on that one person, Mordecai, who refuses to bow down to him. So although Haman is the second most successful man in the Persian empire, he says, “Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”

“Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, ‘Let a gallows be made, fifty cubits high, and in the morning suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it; then go merrily with the king to the banquet.’ And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made.”

However, Haman is unaware of the fact that King Ahasuerus is up late that same night reviewing the book of the records. This is when the king realizes that Mordecai was never rewarded for the time he saved his life. So the next day when Haman approaches the king to suggest that the king hang Mordecai on the gallows that he prepared for him, the king first asks Haman, “What shall be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Haman, thinking the king was talking about him, suggests letting the man to be honored wear the royal robe and parade him around the city on the king’s horse. And as Haman suggested, Mordecai is paraded around the city in the king’s robe and on the king’s horse by…guess who??…yep, Haman! So instead of hanging Mordecai as planned, Haman is forced to publicly glorify Mordecai for his loyalty to the king.

Then that evening, at the banquet of wine, Esther tells the king of Haman’s evil plot to kill her and her people. When King Ahasuerus hears this, he has Haman hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, and Mordecai is given Haman’s position in the kingdom. This is quite the turn of events in the lives of Haman and Mordecai. Haman, who had it all, destroyed his life by focusing on the one person who wouldn’t bow down to him. And Mordecai, who remained faithful and focused on the One who could save his life, the Lord, is honored and elevated.

Now that Mordecai is in power, he orchestrates a new decree that goes out permitting the Jews “to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the forces of any people or province that would assault them… And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.”

“Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the time came for the king’s command and his decree to be executed. On the day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, the opposite occurred, in that the Jews themselves overpowered those who hated them. The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people.”

Esther requests that the Jews have another day to fight against their enemies. With the king’s permission, the Jews are victorious over their enemies again. “Therefore the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.”

“And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar, as the days on which the Jews had rest from their enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor… So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur.”

Pur is the Persian name for “lot”. Casting lots was a traditional way to seek divine guidance. Remember when Haman sought to destroy the Jews because Mordecai refused to bow down to him so “they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar” (Esther 3:7). But we see that the Lord took what man intended for evil and turned it into good for His people by giving them victory and peace, as He always does! 

Tomorrow the rebuilding of Jerusalem is once again interrupted and Ezra leads the second wave of captives home to Jerusalem, so keep reading. (Esther 5:1-10:3)

From today’s reading in Tyndale’s One Year Chronological Bible dated 9/14:

The reconstruction of the temple is complete. The people celebrate joyfully by offering sacrifices to the Lord and re-establishing the Levitical system as written in the Book of the Law. The people also observe the Passover and “they kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with joy; for the Lord made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of Assyria toward them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God, the God of Israel.”

Over in Persia, King Ahasuerus is having a massive seven day drunken party. On the seventh day of the festivities, when King Ahasuerus is all liquored up, he asks for the beautiful Queen Vashti to come to him so he can show her off to everyone. However, Queen Vashti refuses to come and partake in that nonsense, which infuriates King Ahasuerus. Therefore, he has her removed from the position of queen.

Now the hunt for a new queen is on! This is when we meet Mordecai, a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin, who was born in captivity in Babylon. Mordecai raised his uncle’s beautiful daughter, Esther, who was an orphan. Because of Esther’s beauty, she is taken to the king’s palace where she becomes the new queen. However, Mordecai asks her to keep her heritage a secret and she complies.

Mordecai is faithful to the king; so when he hears of a plot against the king’s life, he tells Esther “and Esther informed the king in Mordecai’s name,” resulting in the king being spared and the men plotting against him being killed.

Mordecai is also faithful to the Lord. Therefore, Mordecai refuses to bow down to Haman, King Ahasuerus’ number one man, which fills proud Haman with wrath. For retaliation, Haman has the king sign a decree to completely annihilate all of the Jews — Mordecai’s and Esther’s people. 

Haman is a descendant of Agag, the Amalek. Remember that during the Exodus Era the Amalekites were the ones who first attacked the Israelites when God brought them out of Egypt. Then the Lord said the day would come when He would blot the Amalekites off the face of the earth (Exodus 17:8-16 & Deuteronomy 25:17-19). However, in the Kingdom Era Saul disobeyed the Lord’s command and spared King Agag and the best of the spoils for himself and the people. As a result of his disobedience, the Lord rejected Saul as king and gave the kingdom to David, a man after His own heart.  The Amalekites later attack David and his men while he is on the run from Saul (1 Samuel 30). The last mention of the Amalekites is here in the book of Esther with Haman being a descendant of the Amalekites who is seeking to totally destroy the Jews. This just shows how disobedience can have long lasting consequences. 

At the news of the decree, the Jews mourn and Mordecai sends a request to Esther to intercede for her people. Esther is hesitant because she could be killed if she approaches the king without the king requesting her. However, Mordecai responds saying, “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

“Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: ‘Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!’”

The Lord is never mentioned in the Book of Esther. However, He is clearly active. Keep reading to see how God works behind the scenes for the good of His people. (Ezra 6:14-22, Ezra 4:6, Esther 1:1-4:17)