Study of the Book of Daniel
“And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” –Isaiah 39:7
“A majority of twenty-somethings – 61% of today’s young adults – had been churched at one point during their teen years but they are now spiritually disengaged (i.e., not actively attending church, reading the Bible, or praying).” – George Barna
In Lesson 1, we witnessed the rise of the Babylonian Empire and the fall of Jerusalem to King Nebuchadnezzar. In addition to destroying the City of Jerusalem and raiding the temple of many of its sacred items, Nebuchadnezzar also took for himself the cream of the crop of Israeli youth. These young men were deported to Babylon, some 500 miles away. This is there story.
Historical: Chapters 1 – 6
1 Deported as a teenager
2 Nebuchadenzzar’s Dream
3 Bow or Burn: the Furnace
4 Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride
5 The Fall of Babylon
6 The Lion’s Den
7 Daniel’s Vision
Visions Chapters 7 – 12
7 Four Beasts
8 The Ram and the He-Goat
9 The Seventy Weeks
10 A Glimpse of the Dark Side
11 The “Silent Years” (in advance)
12 The Consummation of All Things
Overview of Daniel
Ancient region in Mesopotamia and its inhabitants. The name comes from the Chaldean (or Kaldu) tribes which shared Babylonia in southeastern Mesopotamia with several other peoples, especially the Sumerians and Akkadians. After the Old Babylonian empire was absorbed by the Assyrians, the Chaldeans under Nebuchadnezzar’s leadership took control and built a Neo-Babylonian empire that dominated the Middle East for nearly a century. The region called Chaldea is also associated with the patriarch Abraham, whose Mesopotamian home was “Ur of the Chaldeans” (Gn 11:28).
Land and People.
Until the end of the 8th century b.c. Chaldea referred only to a small territory in southern Babylonia. Within 100 years, following a rapid and successful bid for power, it embraced all of Babylonia. At that time it included the territory from Baghdad on the Tigris River to the Persian Gulf and extended up the Euphrates River as far as the city of Hit. Although Chaldea is usually placed between the Tigris and Euphrates, it reached into the flatlands between the Tigris and the Zagros mountains to the east and also included some land west of the Euphrates. The Arabian desert formed its western boundary. Chaldea rarely exceeded 40 miles in width, having an area of about 8,000 square miles, approximately the size of New Jersey. On today’s map Chaldea falls inside Iraq, with its southwestern tip touching the small kingdom of Kuwait.
Productivity. Chaldea was by far the most productive region of the Fertile Crescent (a geographical arc extending from the Nile delta to the mouth of the Tigris and Euphrates). Since the productivity of the land was in direct proportion to the upkeep of irrigation canals, many kings boasted of their canal building. When irrigation was neglected, as it was under Turkish rule in modern times, Babylonia became one of the most desolate places on earth.
With proper use of dikes and canals the irrigated fields produced staggering amounts of barley, wheat, and emmer (an ancient form of wheat). Figs, pomegranates, and dates grew in abundance. The Assyrian king Sennacherib praised the gardens and fruit trees of Chaldea. The higher sections of the plain were suitable for pasture mainly in the spring. Along the rivers and lagoons were large areas of marshland where cattle and sheep could graze. Fishing was another important source of food.
Trade and Transportation. Except for food products, the only raw material native to Chaldea was bitumen (asphalt), found in deposits near the city of Hit. The Chaldeans therefore depended heavily on trade to bring in building materials and other necessary items. Food and wool were traded for lumber, metals, and precious stones.
Some products came through the Persian Gulf, others via land routes from the north and east. Major roads ran from the gulf all the way to Syria, Palestine, and Egypt, and eastward to Elam and Persia. Within Babylonia itself most transportation was handled by boat. Goods were easily sent from city to city on canals and rivers. Rafts consisting of a wooden platform with inflated skins underneath plied the Tigris River. The slower-moving current of the Euphrates permitted navigation farther upstream than on the Tigris. In the Bible the majestic Euphrates was often called “the great river” (Dt 1:7; Jos 1:4; Rv 9:14) or simply “the river” (Gn 31:21 kjv). The prosperity of Chaldea hinged on the scope of its trading interests and on the effectiveness of its transportation system.
Because of the lack of both stone and lumber, the people of Babylonia were forced to use clay from the alluvium (silt) deposits to form adobe. Clay bricks were the primary building material in the land. The same clay was used to make tablets for their wedge-shaped writing called cuneiform. When baked, they lasted for centuries and have unlocked for modern archaeology many secrets of that era.
Cities. The Chaldeans had few cities at first, when they relied primarily on fishing and hunting. But in time the Chaldean population grew, and they occupied a number of famous cities whose mounds are still visible today. Most of the cities of Mesopotamia had been built by earlier cultures in its southern sectors. Near the Persian Gulf lay Eridu, Ur, Larsa, and Uruk (the Erech of Gn 10:10). Nippur was located in the center of Babylonia, and toward the north were Borsippa, Babylon, Kutha, and Kish. Some of those cities of the Sumerian and Akkadian cultures were already well known in the 3rd and 2nd millennia b.c., when Chaldea was called “Sumer and Akkad.” Ur and Eridu were once very close to the ancient coastline, but over the centuries alluvial deposits from the rivers have filled in the northern part of the Persian Gulf.
First mention of the Chaldeans is found in the Assyrian annals of Ashurnasirpal II (885–860 b.c.), leading some authorities to suggest that they entered Babylonia about 1000 b.c. They are usually associated (though not identified) with the Semitic Aramaean tribes who were constantly pushing their way from the western deserts into Mesopotamia. They settled primarily in the southern tip of Babylonia, at the nothern end of the Persian Gulf, perhaps centuries before the Assyrian annals mentioned them.
Job 1:17 mentions three bands of Chaldeans who participated in a raid against Job’s camels and servants, probably in the vicinity of Edom or northern Arabia. Their presence in those regions does not necessarily mean they lived nearby, since armies from Babylonia (Sinar) and Elam ranged as far as Palestine centuries earlier (Gn 14:1, 2).
Under Assyrian Rule. Living by the marshes and lakes of the extreme south, the Chaldeans maintained a high degree of independence, even when Assyrian dominion extended over them. It was difficult for invading armies to maneuver in the Chaldean marshes. As a result, the Chaldeans resisted paying taxes or providing any form of service to the Assyrian government. When the Assyrians sought to limit their freedom, the Chaldeans turned to guerrilla warfare and political intrigue. They were quick to disregard treaties or to switch alliances as circumstances dictated. Under Assyrian rule, whereas the native residents of Babylonian cities were generally content, the Chaldeans became the leaders of a national independence movement. For 250 years the Assyrians had to enforce their dominion against persistent Chaldean attempts to assert their autonomy and influence.
Finally, in 721 b.c. the Chaldean leader Marduk-apla-iddina II (known as Merodachbaladan in 2 Kgs 20:12 and Is 39:1, who sent an embassy to Hezekiah, king of Judah) entered Babylon and claimed the kingship of Babylonia, a position long appointed by the Assyrian king. Crafty and resourceful, he successfully maintained his claim for 10 years before being driven back into his own southern territory by Assyria’s Sargon II. On Sargon’s death in 705 b.c. he reasserted his claim, but was defeated by the new Assyrian king, Sennacherib, who destroyed Babylon as a lesson to the Chaldeans and their allies.
Sennacherib’s son and successor, Esarhaddon, pursued a policy of conciliation with the Babylonians and rebuilt their capital city, a gesture that effectively neutralized Chaldean agitation and inaugurated a period of peace that lasted over 30 years. The last unsuccessful revolt occurred under Ashurbanipal’s reign and was actually instigated by his brother, whom the Assyrian king had appointed to the Babylonian throne. The Chaldeans gladly joined the rebellion, which was crushed in 648 b.c.
The Neo-Babylonian Empire. Two decades later, at the time of Ashurbanipal’s death, Assyrian power suddenly and dramatically slipped. Nabopolassar, a Chaldean governor, took the opportunity to drive the Assyrians out of Babylonia. He became king of Babylon in 625 b.c. Allied with the Medes, the Babylonians went on to destroy the Assyrian empire, capturing the capital cities of Asshur in 614 and Nineveh in 612. They divided the conquered lands with the Medes and annexed the Assyrian regions west and south of the Tigris, creating a new Babylonian empire. (The first Babylonian empire, with which Hammurabi is associated, had flourished over a thousand years earlier.) Throughout the Middle East, Chaldea and Babylonia became synonymous.
During the long and brilliant reign of Nabopolassar’s son, Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebuchadrezzar) II, the empire reached its zenith. As crown prince he won a decisive victory in 605 b.c. over the Egyptians at Carchemish (the battle mentioned in 2 Chr 35:20), which effectively established Babylonian supremacy in the Near East (see 2 Kgs 24:7). That same year the southern kingdom of Judah became a vassal nation to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar won the submission of King Jehoiachim, carried off the choicest articles from the temple for his own temple in Babylon, and took the outstanding leaders and youth of Judah captive (2 Kgs 24:1; 2 Chr 36:5–7; Dn 1:1–4). When Judah revolted several years later at the instigation of Egypt, the Chaldean army captured Jerusalem in 597 b.c. Judah’s new king, Jehoiachin, was deported at that time together with more of its leaders (2 Kgs 24:8–16). A second revolt in 594 b.c. by the Chaldean-appointed king (Zedekiah) resulted in a third invasion, the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 b.c., and the exile of most of Judah’s citizens (2 Kgs 24:20–25:12; 2 Chr 36:11–21). With the booty from that and other conquests Nebuchadnezzar built Babylon into one of the most dazzling cities in the ancient world. His projects included the hanging gardens (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), the Ishtar Gate, and a 17-mile outer wall designed for defense of the city. His pride in such accomplishments eventually brought the judgment of God (Dn 4:30–33).
Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk (Evil-merodach in 2 Kgs 25:27 and Jer 52:31, remembered there for his special kindness to the exiled king Jehoiachin). After two years he was killed in an armed rebellion led by his brother-in-law, Nergal-sharusur (Nergal-sharezer of Jer 39:3), who attempted to establish his own dynasty. After a 4-year reign Nergal-shar-usur was succeeded by his son, who lasted only a few months before being ousted by a usurper, Nabonidus.
The Fall of Babylon. Nabonidus was the last of the Chaldean monarchs. His installation as king was supported by many Babylonian officials who, watching their former allies the Medes gradually become a rival power, saw in Nabonidus a ruler strong enough to meet their threat. Strong or not, his attempts to reform Babylonian religion proved extremely unpopular, and his efforts to strengthen the economy were unsuccessful. Both facts made Babylon an unpleasant residence for Nabonidus; during one extended absence from the capital city he installed his son Belshazzar as co-regent. (Belshazzar’s position explains why he is described as king of Babylon in the OT Book of Daniel and why in Dn 5:7 he could make Daniel only “the third ruler in the kingdom.”)
While Belshazzar was handling government affairs, the famous incident of the “writing on the wall” occurred, ominously predicting Babylon’s downfall (Dn 5). The Elamites, in fact, were already attacking the empire’s eastern flank. Rumors of Persian power in the north brought Nabonidus back to Babylon just in time for an invasion by the Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Cyrus took Babylon without a fight, putting an end both to Chaldean power and to the Neo-Babylonian empire.
Chaldeans as Astrologers.
Long after the Chaldean empire had ceased to exist, the name “Chaldeans” lingered in Hellenistic Egypt, Greece, and Rome as a term for magicians, astrologers, and diviners. The same usage of the term appears in the Book of Daniel, where Chaldeans were linked with soothsayers, conjurers, and sorcerers (Dn 2:2, 10; 4:7; 5:7).
Babylonians had long been renowned for their advanced knowledge of astronomy and for their dependence on the stars to help them predict the future. One Babylonian text from about 700 b.c. described the zodiacal belt and named 15 constellations. Several of the names are still used by astrologers today: the Bull, the Twins (Gemini), the Scorpion, and Capricorn. In Daniel 2:2 and 4:7 one of the terms linked with the Chaldeans is related to a Babylonian word referring to a class of priests who made use of incantations. Just how important they were for society has been shown in tablets that have been excavated which describe the priests’ training. The most outstanding youths of Judah, including Daniel, were selected for a similar educational program (Dn 1:4).
Herbert M. Wolf
Daniel (God is my judge)
Belteshazzar (may Bel protect his life)
Hananiah (Yhwh is gracious)
Shadrach (command of Aku)
Mishael (who is what God is?)
Meshach (who is what Aku is?)
Azariah (Yhwh has helped)
Abednego (Servant of Nebo)
The meaning of their Babylonian names is by no means certain, but the ones listed are those favored by Walvoord and Leupold. Bel was the Chaldean equivalent of Baal, Aku was the moon-god, and Nebo was the son of Baal. It is evident that their Babylonian overlords insisted on their absolute control over even the religious lives of the princes enrolled in this royal academy. Clearly, they intended to Chaldeanize these Jews!!
Parents must first memorize Scripture before teaching it to their children.
Deuteronomy 6:6-7 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Parents must always be teaching their children
Deuteronomy 11:19 And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.
Parents must teach their children all of God’s Word
Deuteronomy 32:46 And he said unto them, Set your hearts unto all the words which I testify among you this day, which ye shall command your children to observe to do, all the words of this law.
Mothers set down laws to follow and fathers instruct.
Proverbs 1:8-9 My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: 9For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.
Fathers set down commandments
Proverbs 6:20 My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Education starts with reverence to God
Proverbs 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
Teachers give instruction in the way to go in life.
Isaiah 30:20-21 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water of affliction, yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers: 21And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.
To become Christ-like, we must become educated and well learned.
Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.
Christians face increasingly difficult choices in the education of their children. Public policy in some nations has mandated that public education be secular. As a result, Christians who want their children to learn in an environment that honors biblical beliefs and values often wonder what to do with the public schools.
There are no simple answers to this issue, but the educational experience of Daniel may offer insight. As a young noble, he was deported to Babylon and placed in a program to learn the “language and literature of the Chaldeans” (Dan. 1:4). This curriculum exposed him to a number of practical skills such as mathematics and glassmaking. However, it also involved many things that were utterly opposed to God: casting spells, sorcery, astrology, and other occult arts (compare 2:2); myths, legends, and lore from ancient Chaldea; and prayers and hymns to the numerous gods of the Babylonians. It was a system of study based on a worldview that was polytheistic and, from the standpoint of the Law, idolatrous.
The purpose of this three-year program was to develop Daniel to “serve before the king” (1:5). In other words, Daniel was being prepared for a lifetime of employment in a pagan government—a far cry from the expectations with which he must have grown up during the days of godly King Josiah.
Is Daniel a model for how Christian young people today should prepare to live and work in a secular society? In drawing conclusions, it is important to keep a number of points in mind:
(1) Daniel grew up in a godly Jewish home. Even though the Bible does not state this outright, there can be no question that Daniel came from a family that feared God and raised its son according to the Law. Daniel had to have come by his bold, resolute, godly convictions somehow (1:8). The most plausible explanation, given what we know about ancient Jewish culture, is the nurture and influence of his parents.
The implication for today is that education in the ways of God must begin in the home. Formal education may or may not support and expand on that foundation, but it can never replace it.
(2) Daniel had God-given abilities of intelligence and discernment. The Bible makes it clear that Daniel was a bright person with a superior intellect (1:4). This does not mean that he had special, supernatural talent, only that God created him as a person of high intelligence. This skill enabled him to make the most of what was undoubtedly a superb educational opportunity in Babylon.
Perhaps this says to parents today that they should take into account the talents and God-given bent of their children as they choose among educational alternatives. The morals and values of the educational environment, important as those are, are only one consideration among many.
(3) Daniel’s Babylonian education was secondary, not elementary. In all probability, Daniel was about 15 or 16 years old when he was deported to Babylon. Thus his training in the king’s service was preparation for a specific career, not unlike many vocational, college, and graduate programs today. It was not early childhood or elementary education. Daniel was not learning his A-B-C’s and fundamental ideas about the world. These he had gained in Judah.
The point is that Daniel brought a worldview with him to Babylon, one that had been formed on the basis of the Hebrew Law. This foundation enabled him to evaluate what he learned by comparing it against God’s absolute truth.
(4) Daniel was exposed to Babylonian culture, but he did not succumb to that culture. He was able to maintain his distinctive beliefs and values. In fact, he never abandoned his core beliefs. Even after a lifetime in the service of pagan kings, his faith was as rock-steady as ever (6:4–5, 10, 22).
The challenge for Christian young people today is to remain in the world, yet not become of the world (John 17:15–16). There can be no modern-day Daniels if Christians compromise their fundamental beliefs as soon as they are exposed to competing worldviews.
(5) Daniel did not reject Babylonian culture out of hand. It is interesting to observe that while Daniel objected to eating the king’s food (Dan. 1:8), he apparently did not object to reading the king’s books, listening to the king’s instructors, or thinking about the king’s ideas. One could argue that he had little choice but to cooperate, but the incident with the food shows otherwise. It seems that Daniel was able to reject what was unworthy while retaining what was useful. Clearly he not only survived, but thrived.
(6) Daniel did not function alone. Three other youths of like-minded faith shared the disciplines and challenges of the Babylonian captivity (1:6). This suggests that going against the grain is easier to do in partnership with other believers than by oneself. Trying to go it alone may result in doing without the support, encouragement, and prayer that is vital in overcoming pressure to compromise.
These observations would seem to give permission to Christians today to actively participate in the culture, even though many aspects of it may be opposed to God. While much is worthless, much is not. Wise believers will learn to discern the difference and act accordingly.
Two other leaders in the Bible whose educations helped to shapeow God would use them were Moses and Paul. See “Paul, Apostle to the Intellectuals” at Ex. 2:11; “The Value of Learning” at Acts 7:22; and “Paul, Apostle to the Intellectuals” at Acts 17:15.
Ken Ham, known for his Answers in Genesis creation-science ministry, says a major study he commissioned by a respected researcher unveils for the first time in a scientific fashion the startling reasons behind statistics that show two-thirds of young people in evangelical churches will leave when they move into their 20s.
The study, highlighted in Ham’s new book with researcher Britt Beemer, “Already Gone: Why your kids will quit church and what you can do to stop it,” finds church youth already are “lost” in their hearts and minds in elementary, middle and high school – not in college as many assume.
“A lot of the research already done has been to find out how many believe, how many support abortion, believe in the resurrection, say they’re born again,” Ham said. “But nobody has really ever delved into why two-thirds of young people will walk away from the church.”
The first-of-its-kind study by Beemer – a former senior research analyst for the Heritage Foundation and founder in 1979 of the American Research Group – included 20,000 phone calls and detailed surveys of 1,000 20 to 29 year olds who used to attend evangelical churches on a regular basis.
The survey found, much to Ham’s surprise, a “Sunday School syndrome,” indicating children who faithfully attend Bible classes in their church over the years actually are more likely to question the authority of Scripture.
“This is a brutal wake-up call for the church, showing how our programs and our approaches to Christian education are failing dismally,” Ham writes in the book.
Among the survey findings, regular participants in Sunday School are more likely to:
· Leave the church
· Believe that the Bible is less true
· Defend the legality of abortion and same-sex marriage
· Defend premarital sex
The book explores a number of reasons for the findings, but Ham sees one overarching problem that is related to how churches and parents have taught youth to understand the Genesis account of creation.
Ham – who believes in a literal six-day creation that happened 6,000 to 10,000 years ago – says the church opened a door for the exodus of youth, beginning in the 19th century, when it began teaching that “the age of the Earth is not an issue as long as you trust in Jesus and believe in the resurrection and the Gospel accounts.”
“What you see in the Bible is that when there is compromise in one generation, and it’s not dealt with, you usually notice it to a greater extent in the next generation,” Ham said.
In previous generations, young people could live with this inconsistency, he said, but with an increasingly secular and atheistic public education system – where some 90 percent of church-going youth are trained – today’s youth find it hard to see a connection between what they are taught in church and what they learn at school.
“Because of the way in which they’ve been educated,” Ham said, teens come to believe “that what they are taught in school is reality, but the church teaches stories and morality and relationship. Bible teaching is not real in the sense of real history.”
Now, as parents or leaders tell youth they can “continue to believe in evolution, millions of years,” Ham said, young people are starting to see, ‘Well, I can then believe what I’m taught at school – but school has nothing to do with God.’”
The key issue is that this doubt about the Bible’s account of origins causes youth to doubt the authority of Scripture, he said.
“Salvation is not conditioned on what you believe about the age of the Earth and the six days of creation,” Ham said. “There are many who believe in millions of years and are Christians.”
But the Genesis issue does matter, he contends, “because salvation does rise or fall on the authority of Scripture. The message of the Gospel comes from these words of Scripture.”
When that Bible is undermined, he explained, everything it teaches is in doubt.
Ham’s new book shows how young people can be given “answers to help them understand you can really believe God’s word, that it “connects to reality and it’s really a book of history.”
Helping young people make sense of reports such as the claim last month of the discovery of a “missing link” proving Darwin’s theory of evolution is Ham’s specialty.
In a May 19 interview, he pointed to a line in the scientific report about the discovery that countered the researchers’ bold claims to media.
The fossil’s species “could represent a stem group from which later anthropoid primates evolved [the line leading to humans],” states the report, published in the online journal Public Library of Science, “but we are not advocating this here.”
The London Guardian newspaper also reported that scientific reviewers of the research asked that others “tone down” claims that the fossil was on the human evolutionary line.
“The reviewers said we don’t know this is a missing link, and they asked the people who wrote [the newspaper reports] to tone it down,” Ham said, “and yet we have this media hype claiming this is it, this is the missing link.”
By David Jeremiah
Grandparents take on mythical proportions in the eyes of small grandchildren—they have time, they have money for ice cream, and they have great stories. This platform provides powerful leverage for influencing a new and upcoming generation toward godly, biblical values.
How would you define a grandparent? The dictionary isn’t that much help. It says a grandparent is the parent of one’s mother or father. That’s true, but it leaves us wanting more. A grandparent is a grand parent, and here’s how the dictionary defines “grand:” “having more importance than others; foremost; having higher rank; large and striking in size, scope, extent; lavish, marked by regal form and dignity; and intended to impress; very good, wonderful.” That gives us a better idea of what it means to be a grandparent.
Given the fact that there are 60 million grandparents in America, we ought to take a moment and get more familiar with what it means to be one. First of all, not all grandparents are old! The average age at which a woman in America becomes a grandparent today is 46.
Second, being a grandparent is not as clearly defined as it used to be. The number of “blended” families in society today makes it much more complicated to figure out who is the grandparent of whom, and who has primary or secondary “rights” to visit which grandchildren. It takes legal counsel today to be a grandparent in the know.
Third, the mobility and geographical separations in our society mean that many children grow up without getting to know their grandparents very well at all. In previous generations, when families tended to live closer to one another, grandchildren were like a second set of parents and provided a strong influence in the raising of their grandchildren. Today, many grandchildren are living with their grandparents, but it’s more often due to the breakup of the middle generation family. Grandparents have had to take in their children and grandchildren when marriages fail and families break up.
In Scripture we have examples of godly grandparents in both the Old and New Testaments. For this lesson I’ve chosen Jacob from the Old Testament and Lois from the New. In both cases we have a record of their influence in the lives of their grandchildren.
Grandparents Are Important in God’s Eyes
Hebrews 11:21 recounts an important event in the lives of the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh: “Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph.” Jacob was important in God’s eyes, passing on a blessing to two of his grandsons.
The older we get, the easier it is to think we have lost our significance. We think God has no need for us anymore since we have completed the rearing of our children. That is just a modern-day myth. In Scripture, the patriarch of the family was the most powerful and respected person in any clan or tribe. They were the elders, those with the gray hair, those with the wisdom of God. Grandfathers and great-grandfathers held positions of great esteem in the community. Jacob was just such a man.
Jacob had many children and grandchildren, and one of the most poignant scenes from his life is the snapshot of him blessing the two sons of his son, Joseph. The story begins in Genesis 48 when Jacob was growing weak and nearing the end of his life. Joseph certainly didn’t consider his father Jacob to be irrelevant in the lives of his sons, for he took Manasseh and Ephraim in to see Jacob before he died.
Grandparents Introduce Us to the Past
When Joseph and his two sons went in to meet with Jacob, they received a brief history lesson from their father and grandfather. Jacob wanted to make sure one last time that his grandsons knew the story of how God had blessed him with the continued blessing which had come to his grandfather, Abraham (Genesis 48:3–4; Genesis 12:1–3). The promise was for a multitude of descendants and for the land of Canaan as a perpetual inheritance.
I find it interesting that the first thing Jacob did was to tell his son and grandsons the story line of his life, how God had blessed him. Our grandparents are a message to us from a generation we did not have the chance to see, or at least to know well. They are our link to the past. I believe Jacob’s point in reciting the history of his relationship with God was to build faith in Joseph and his sons. The same God who had been faithful to Jacob would be faithful to them.
Grandparents are the oral historians of the family, aren’t they? Everything I know about my roots and the people from whom I am descended came from my parents telling me. Even today, in an age when everything is written down, there are some things which reside only in the memories of society’s oldest members. Think how much more true that was in Jacob’s day.
Grandparents hold a special mystique in the eyes of grandchildren. Little children think their grandparents dress differently and smell different and have strange mannerisms, and I guess that’s probably true. Grandchildren think their grandparents are from a different world and a different time—and they are. When they’re really young, children don’t have a proper conception of time, so they think their grandparents lived thousands of years ago—“Did you grow up in a house, Grandpa, or like a cave or something?” It’s a great thing that grandchildren view their grandparents, and especially great-grandparents, with such awe. It provides a platform for grandparents to speak to the hearts of their grandchildren.
The Bible gives several examples of one generation passing on the truth to the next, and the next, and the next. In Psalms 71:17–18 and 78:5–7 we have examples of the elders passing on the record of God’s power, strength, and great works in behalf of that generation. God’s greatest vehicle for transferring faith from one generation to the next is faithful men and women telling those who come after them. Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”
We aren’t saved because our grandparents or parents were saved, but at least we inherit the knowledge of God which is the starting point of our own salvation. The best thing you can do is to become a Christian, lead your children to Christ, and then provide a godly example and environment for your grandchildren and great-grandchildren to be saved as well. You may not be from a long line of believers but you can begin a long line by being faithful to Christ yourself.
Grandparents Influence Us by Their Love
In Genesis 48:5 Jacob refers to Joseph’s two sons as his own: “Ephraim and Manasseh, who were born to you . . . are mine.” That’s a tender and precious thought for Jacob to express. And then in verse 10, “Joseph brought [Ephraim and Manasseh] near [Jacob], and he kissed them and embraced them.”
If, when those two boys were grown men, you had asked them what they remembered about their grandfather Jacob, I believe that the experience of being embraced and kissed by their grandfather would have been a bright memory. The dying love of a grandfather must be a powerful thing.
I remember when my first grandson was born, I didn’t think I’d ever have enough love for any other grandchildren. I felt such love for that first one. And then twin grandchildren came along. Donna and I held them just moments after they were born, and brand new love welled up for both of them. And then when the next granddaughter came, love overflowed for her as well. God just seems to give more love the more grandchildren we have. And I know it is the same for some I’ve talked to with ten grandchildren and just as many great-grandchildren. God gives a special capacity to grandparents to love their grandchildren.
There are probably lots of reasons why the grandparent-grandchild bond is so strong. The normal tensions between parent and child are missing; grandparents often have more time, especially if they’re retired; grandparents bring “new stuff” to the relationship—skills, possessions, and other unique things that fall into the category of surprises; grandparents are more mellow and relaxed than parents (it comes with aging!); and there’s the mystique factor I mentioned earlier. Whatever the reasons, grandparents love the role they play as influencers and friends.
Grandparents Include Us in Their Lives
In verse 7 of Genesis 48, Jacob recounts the story of his wife’s death. Why would he tell his grandson’s about the death of Rachel? I believe he is just pulling his grandsons in closer to him by revealing a very painful moment in his life.
With age comes an appreciation for the painful moments in life, and grandparents are usually willing to recount those as a form of instruction and intimacy. The recounting of these events is like listening to ancient tales of valor—children are usually very receptive to them.
My grandfather on my father’s side did not become a Christian until just before he died. He was quite a character and was more than willing to include me in his life when the opportunity presented itself. One of my fondest memories was how he made it possible for me to play basketball. He was the head custodian of the Johnson City, New York, public schools, so he had keys to all the buildings. When we visited at Christmas time, when the schools were empty, we would go to a school where he had something to take care of. He would open the gym and let me shoot baskets while he worked. I’m convinced part of my love for basketball was birthed through those experiences with my grandfather. I thought I was the most special kid in the world having a whole gym and lots of basketballs all to myself. We would usually stop and get a bite to eat on the way home. It sounds simple, but it was very meaningful to a little guy like myself.
It doesn’t take much to impress a grandkid. When we invite grandchildren into our lives in some way, it makes them think we trust them, that they’ve come into the inner circle. It’s a powerful experience.
Grandparents Intercede for Us in Prayer
The last thing we’ll note in the life of Jacob was how he interceded in prayer for his grandchildren. In Genesis 48:8–9, he requests that Joseph bring his sons near that Jacob might bless them. That blessing comes in verses 15–16, and it is powerful:
And he blessed Joseph, and said:
“God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,
The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
Let my name be named upon them,
And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Proverbs 13:22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Our first thought is, of course, finances. But there are even better things to leave our grandchildren than material goods, and that would be an inheritance of prayer and blessing. That inheritance would have the potential for impacting the lives of future generations more than any amount of money. I pray regularly for my grandchildren, that God would protect them and help them to grow up to know Jesus Christ in a saving way. I remember the day my oldest grandchild called to tell me he had accepted Jesus into his heart—what an answer to prayer!
Grandparents can pray intelligently because we know our grandchildren’s parents so well. We know the environment where they are being raised; we know their parents’ needs; we can pray better than anyone. What a meaningful inheritance to pass on to our grandchildren!
Grandparents Impact Us by Their Faith
We turn now to a godly grandmother in the New Testament named Lois; we find her mentioned in II Timothy 1:5. Paul is writing to Timothy and makes mention of the inheritance of faith which Lois, Timothy’s grandmother, bequeathed to him: “I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.”
This is all we have in the Bible about Timothy’s grandmother, Lois. But in just this brief mention, we see faith that spanned three generations. Paul calls her faith “genuine” faith, meaning it was sincere and without hypocrisy. It doesn’t mean Lois was perfect, but it means she had a real faith which made a difference in her life, and the lives of her daughter Eunice and her grandson Timothy. It is important that Paul says he sees in Timothy the same genuineness of faith that had been in Lois. She apparently had the real thing, a faith that stayed alive over the course of three generations.
I have noticed a real difference in my generation and my father’s generation. When I was growing up, there was a seriousness about life and the faith that is missing today. I would no more have asked if I could stay home from church . . . it would have been like committing a cardinal sin. Today we say we’re relaxed, not legalistic. But I wonder if something has been lost. And if that’s true, then what will my children’s and grandchildren’s generations be like with regard to keeping the faith?
It’s something we as parents and grandparents need to consider, and see if our faith is as genuine as the faith of those who came before us. Apparently Timothy’s was as genuine as his grandmother’s. I want that to be true in my family as well.
Grandparents Instill in Us a Love for God’s Word
Paul makes reference a second time to the powerful spiritual influences in Timothy’s life while growing up: “. . . from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Timothy 3:14–15).
This is no doubt a reference to the faith Timothy was taught at the knee of his mother Eunice and grandmother Lois. Lois was the beginning of the chain of three generations. She passed on the faith in such an effective way that it was plainly evident to the Apostle Paul. As a pastor, I love to discover families in which my teaching and preaching are not the main spiritual lifeline in the family. The parents and grandparents have assumed the responsibility for training their children in the Word, and my preaching is just a corollary to their own efforts.
Grandparents can buy many great Scripture music videos and cassette tapes and all kinds of things that are available today to help their grandchildren learn the Word of God—as well as the time-tested method of reading Bible stories over and over and over.
Grandparents have a high and holy calling from God to reach back into the past and influence the future. May God help each of us to fulfill our role in that regard when our time comes.
1. Are the following references to “children’s children” positive or negative? What implications for family life do you see in these references from biblical culture?
a. Genesis 45:10
b. Exodus 34:7
c. II Kings 17:41
d. Psalm 103:17–18
e. Psalm 128:6
f. Proverbs 13:22
g. Proverbs 17:6
h. Jeremiah 2:9
i. Ezekiel 37:25
2. What memories do you have of your experiences with your own grandparents? Record them below and identify things you could imitate with your grandchildren now or in the future:
a. In the spiritual realm:
b. In the realm of family and married life:
c. In the intellectual realm (reading, music, etc.):
d. In the realm of character traits (generosity, love, patience, etc.):
e. In the vocational realm (hard work, etc.):
f. In the realm of values (truth-telling, honesty, etc.):
g. In the realm of social life (community service, etc.):
h. What impact did your grandparents have on your becoming a Christian, if any?
3. List the descendants of King Solomon as recorded in I Chronicles 3:10:
a. What kind of king was Rehoboam? (II Chronicles 12:13–14)
b. And what kind of king was Abijah, his son? (I Kings 15:1–3)
c. And what kind of king was Asa, Abijah’s son? (I Kings 15:9–11)
d. How do you account for Asa’s righteousness following two generations of wickedness?
e. What unusual action did Asa take toward his grandmother, Maachah? (I Kings 15:13)
f. What lessons can you draw about the spiritual heritage one inherits through family, and the changes that can occur in spite of spiritual backgrounds?
Did You Know?
The Bolshevik Revolution took place in Russia in 1917, resulting in what became the Communist Soviet Union. Until that rule imploded in the late 1980’s, the faith of Russian Christians was severely tested by the atheistic Communist government. It is said that during the 70 years of Soviet rule, it was the grandmothers of Russia, the babushkas, who kept the faith alive. They were the ones who kept faith and hope alive in the darkest days of repression. Many of them obviously died before the Soviet empire collapsed, but their faith did not die with them. They taught their children and grandchildren so that, when conditions allowed, a vibrant church emerged from the ruins of Soviet atheism.
In their book, Grandparenting by Grace, Irene M. Endicott and C. Ferris Jordan suggest that grandparents are the “central core of the family.”
- We are teachers of God’s plan of salvation to our children and grandchildren. (see Isaiah 12:2–6)
- We are witnesses of how God has proven faithful to His people and to our family specifically. (see Deuteronomy 3:9)
- We are the family historian, holding the keys to learning about family roots and experiences for the generations to come.
- We have fun with our grandchildren and shape their self-esteem.
- We are a safe refuge for our grandchildren in times of trouble.
- We are a soft shoulder in sorrow and encourager of new beginnings.
- We are wise, non-judgmental counselors to our grandchildren.
- We bless our grandchildren by honoring their achievements and showing compassion for their losses.
- We represent stability to young families in dealing with change.
- We undergird our grandchildren with faithful prayer (see Matthew 21:22).
Lord, I lift my children/grandchildren to You today and pray, according to Your Word, that:
- they will know Christ as Savior early in life and desire a close relationship with You throughout their childhood, teen, and adult years (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:15) .
- they will develop the discipline of prayer and time in Your Word (Joshua 1:8; Daniel 6:10; Matthew 4:4; Philippians 4:6-7) .
- You will bring into their lives godly adults and friends who will help them grow in godly living (Psalm 1:1-3; Philippians 1:27; Proverbs 27: 17; I Corinthians 4: 15).
- You will keep them pure and strengthen them against temptation (Job 17:9; Psalm 24:3-4; 1 Corinthians 6: 18-20).
- they would develop discernment, wisdom, responsibility, and a strong conscience (1 Kings 3:11-12; 1 Timothy 1:5; Daniel 6:3).
- they will be caught if they wander into cheating, lies, or mischief (Psalm 119:71; Proverbs 20:30).
- they will see other people as You do, treating them with love and kindness (Matthew 25:35-40; Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:1-4).
- You will protect them from emotional, physical, and spiritual danger (Psalm 28:7-9; Psalm 41; John 17:15; 2 Thessalonians 3:3)
- You will prepare them to be a godly, loving, and faithful spouse or prepare them to glorify You in their singleness (1 Corinthians 7:7-8); and that You also prepare their future spouse (2 Corinthians 6:14-15; Ephesians 5:21-33).
- They would leave home with an eternal perspective and Christ-like values (Matthew 28:18-20; Galatians 2:20; Philippians 1:21).
- They would sense Your calling on their lives and their lives will count for Your kingdom (Psalm 78:1-8; 103:12-18; 2 Timothy 1:9).
Here is a prayer you might use as you commit yourself to the task of being a praying mom or dad or grandparent:
“Help me today, Lord, to be observant of them and sensitive to them. Give me unusual insight into their lives. Help me to secure in Your love and care, Father, … for I need Your help as much as they do.
“Help me give attention to children and be available to them to give guidance in the decisions they face. Help me provide a moral foundation for them. Help me give them emotional health by valuing and caring for them.
“Help me provide for their needs and prepare them for the world they face as they grow. Help me share my relationship with You, Father.
“And today, Lord, remind me to take the time to understand my children’s perspectives before I speak. Remind me to be more playful with them.
“Give me the grace, Lord to model for my children what it means to be a good and godly person. Amen.”
Prayer is the Greatest Shield of Protection We Can Provide for Our Children
As you spend time with your children, use the opportunity to listen for specific prayer needs. Then tell your children you will pray for them that day and ask what they would like you to pray about on their behalf.
 Hillard, Todd; Britt Beemer; Ken Ham (2009-05-01). Already Gone (Kindle Locations 175-177). Master Books. Kindle Edition.
 Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (422–425). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House.
 Mills, M. (1999). Daniel : A study guide to the book of Daniel (Da 1:1). Dallas: 3E Ministries.
 Macomber, C. A. (2005; 2005). What Really Matters (15–16). Pleasant Places Press.
 Word in life study Bible . 1997 (electronic ed.) (Da 1:4). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Why Are Young People Leaving the Church? Groundbreaking study says Sunday School makes exit more likely. WorldNet Daily, June 14, 2009.
 Jeremiah, D. (2003). Family factor : Study guide (115–125). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson’s complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (390). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Taylor, Fran (2000). Lifting My Children/Grandchildren Through Prayer. Little Rock, AR: FamilyLife Ministries.
 Yates, John (1996). How a Man Prays for His Family. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, p. 112.