The Decree of King Darius (Ezra 6:1 – 12)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 6:1 – 12

 

1. What might be the oldest document in your family archives? Your birth certificate? Grandpa’s journal? Someone’s high school yearbook? Why has it been kept so long?

2. What court order, parents’ ruling or umpire’s decision recently went your way in some contested case? How did you feel about that?

3. Compare this Aramaic memo of Cyrus’ decree with the Hebrew version in chapter 1:2 – 4. What additional details do you see here? Why would they have been added?

4. How does Darius’ decree (verses 6 – 12) expand on that earlier memo? What is his “punch line”? Why might this rub Tattenai the wrong way?

5. When have you invoked God’s authority as your own? Where do you draw the line and dare someone to cross over or defy your authority? What defiance (by your children, partners or subordinates) would trip your trigger and bring them into conflict with you?

6.What sacrifices and prayers are you offering on behalf of those in authority over you (verse 10; see 1 Timothy 2:1ff)?

7. Persian kings made a policy of restoring the religious institutions of native peoples (chapter 6:1 – 12). If this policy were practiced where you live, what native religions might flourish?

8. What restoration projects are you, like Darius, supporting with your money, as well as your mouth?

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Tattenai’s Letter To Darius (Ezra 5)

Scripture Text:

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Ezra 5

1. Are you a “pack-rat” selective saver or a toss-it-all person? How far back do you keep letters? Christmas cards? Email? Bills? Taxes?

2. In what way do the events of verses 1 and 2 represent a new start (see chapter 4:24; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1)?

3. Why does the author retrace the rebuilding effort to Shealtiel (verse 2; see 1 Chronicles 3:17 – 19)?

4. “At that time” (verse 3) can be dated to the period from August 29 to December 18, 520 BC, one year after the Babylonians failed in their revolt against Persia (November, 521 BC). How does that help account for what’s going on in verses 3 – 5?

5. What about this episode is seen as a blessing from God? Why?

6. How is God’s hand of blessing evident in Tattenai’s letter to Darius (verses 6 – 17)? What human instruments has God evidently been using to bless and discipline His people?

7. What is the status of this re-building project to date? Who is to be credited (or blamed) for the “rapid progress” (verse 8)? How about for the “unfinished task” (verse 16)?

8. In 536 BC Sheshbezzar presided over laying the temple foundation (verses 14 – 16), and in 520 BC Zerubbabel presided over laying a second foundation (see Haggai 1:14, 15). How do you account for that 16-year delay (see Zechariah 4:6 – 10)? Explain your answer. (Note: Some believe Sheshbezzar [verse 14] was the Babylonian name for Zerubbabel, meaning the two were the same person.)

  • Israel suffers from strong opposition?
  • From lack of legal authority?
  • From lack of spiritual power?
  • From internal lethargy?
  • Good things, done right, take time?

9. In your life, what has taken many years to get right? How do you account for the delay?

10. In the work God has given you to do, when is His hand of blessing obvious to you?

  • In warding off opponents, as in chapter 5:5?
  • In “making rapid progress,” as in chapter 5:8?
  • Often in construction delays?
  • Only in the project’s completion, as in chapter 6:15 – 17?

Daniel In The Den of Lions (Daniel 6)

Scripture Text:

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Daniel 6

1. Share a time when you were done-in by having the rug pulled out from under you? How were you set up, betrayed or falsely accused?

2. When have you felt really good about something you did, only to have someone else be jealous or unhappy?

3. What stirs up the jealousy of the administrators and satraps? When their jealous fault-finding campaign (or special investigative unit) runs free of any ethical guidelines, where does it stop (verses 1 – 5)?

4. What trap do the satraps set for Daniel? Why has Daniel’s private life become an issue for public policy and the public’s right to know?

5. How would you describe Daniel’s response to the edict?

  • rebellion
  • perseverance
  • a plea for help
  • faithfulness
  • disregard

6. How did the satraps manage to get their way with the king (verses 6, 7, 12, 13, 15)? Why are appeals to vanity so powerful?

7. Why is the king so distressed (verses 14 – 18)? Is he just favoring whoever he happens to be with at the moment? Or is he sincerely siding with Daniel and his God? Why do you think so?

8. What do you think really happened in the lion’s den to Daniel? To the lions? To the satraps and their families? What about this do you have a problem with?

9. What role does the “laws of the Medes and the Persians” play here (verses 8, 12, 15, 17, 24)? The law of God (verses 5, 10; see 2 Chronicles 6:38, 39; Psalm 55:17)? The faith of Daniel (verses 4, 11, 16, 20 – 23; see Hebrews 11:33)?

10. As part of Daniel’s complete vindication, his accusers receive the same punishment they had demanded that the accused receive (verse 24). Is this Persian custom of vindication and limited (“eye for eye”, “life for life”) retribution supported anywhere in the Bible (see Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 21: Matthew 5:8)? But when, if ever, might it be okay to punish innocent family members of false accusers?

11. How does King Darius respond to all this? Has he become a believer? Why do you think so?

12. Besides jealousy, what might cause people to be interested in the private lives of public figures, especially incorruptible ones?

13. What stirs up your jealousy?

  • the success of others?
  • the desire for material things?
  • the devil?
  • when someone gets whats coming to you?
  • other?

14. Does having strong principles and values cause you to be more or less vulnerable to others? Why?

15. Daniel shows us that the law of God supersedes the law of the land. How do you reconcile what Daniel did with Romans 13:1? How does this square with your view of church and state issues? (see also Matthew 22:1;  Luke 20:25; Acts 5:29)?

16. What parallels do you see between Daniel’s betrayal (verses 3 – 18) and Jesus’ betrayal? Between Daniel’s vindication (verses 19 – 28) and Jesus’ vindication? What do you make of those obvious parallels?

17. When in your life have you experienced God in the midst of a “lion’s den” of skeptics, critics, etc.? How has God alone been your life line?

18. What often keeps you from standing up for something you believe in? Apathy? Consequences? Time? Fear? Peer Pressure? Ignorance?

19. If you were on trial for being a Christian, what verdict would the evidence most likely require?

  • not guilty
  • guilty in the second degree
  • guilty in the first degree
  • deserving of capital punishment

20. Where is the most difficult place for you to maintain your identity as a Christian?

  • at home?
  • at work?
  • at school?
  • at play (ball games, etc.)?
  • among my non-Christian friends?
  • other?

Additional Comment:

Darius’ enthusiasm for the “God of Daniel” is evidently not long-lived. There is no evidence that Babylon did in fact turn to God. On the contrary, it seems that Darius’ character is so unaffected that he betrays his own nation. Realizing Babylonia’s now-weakened condition against the power of Persia, Darius deserts to Cyrus and helps bring about the final overthrow of the very nation he has ruled. Since Nadonidus has gotten into such a drunken state while in exile that he cannot raise a defense, Cyrus walks into Babylon without any opposition and is hailed as King of Babylonia. So ends the power of the great Babylonian Empire, just as the prophets had foretold. Never again will it rise to a position of great power.

Concurrent with the change of rule in Babylon, Daniel leaves the palace and his position of government prominence (Daniel 1:21).. Yet, as indicated in chapter 6:28, he finds favor under the new Persian government. What he does from this point on is unknown, but presumably he remains in Babylon. He will be heard from once again after a period of two or three years.

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