The historical setting (Lk 3:1-3:1)

“In the fifteenth year,

Of the reign

Of Emperor Tiberius,

Pontius Pilate was

Governor of Judea.

Herod was the ruler

Of Galilee.

His brother Philip

Was the ruler

Of the region

Of Ituraea,

And Trachonitis.

Lysanias was the ruler

Of Abilene.”

 

Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου, Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας, καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος,

 

Luke tried to set the public activities of John and Jesus within a larger historical context.  Thus, here he said that it was the 15th year of the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius (Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος).  Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea (Ἐν ἔτει δὲ πεντεκαιδεκάτῳ τῆς ἡγεμονίας Τιβερίου Καίσαρος).  Herod was the tetrarch ruler of Galilee (καὶ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Γαλιλαίας Ἡρῴδου,).  Herod’s brother Philip was the tetrarch ruler of Ituraea and Trachonitis (Φιλίππου δὲ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ τετρααρχοῦντος τῆς Ἰτουραίας καὶ Τραχωνίτιδος χώρας), while Lysanias was the tetrarch ruler of Abilene (καὶ Λυσανίου τῆς Ἀβιληνῆς τετρααρχοῦντος).  Who and what is this all about?  Tiberius was the Roman Emperor from 14-37 CE.  15 years into his rule would be the year 29 CE.  Pontius Pilate was the Governor of Judea, but also Samaria to the north, and Idumea to the south, from 26-36 CE, so that this time frame is consistent.  Herod Antipas and Philip were the sons of Herod the Great (37-4 BC).  Herod Antipas ruled as tetrarch of northern Galilee and Perea that was east of the Jordan River from 4 BCE-39 CE.  His brother Philip ruled Ituraea and Trachonitis that were north of Galilee from 4 BCE-34 CE.  Finally, some unknown leader named Lysanias ruled as the tetrarch of Abilene that was north of Damascus, but included Lebanon.  Thus, these were all the rulers of the area where John and Jesus might have traveled within this time frame

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Unfulfilled prophecies about Egypt (Dan 11:42-11:43)

“He shall stretch out his hand

Against the countries.

The land of Egypt

Shall not escape.

He shall become ruler

Of the treasures

Of gold,

Of silver,

All the precious things

Of Egypt.

The Libyans.

The Ethiopians,

Shall follow in his train.”

Next Gabriel talked about another war against Egypt that King Antiochus IV would win. He would then become the ruler of all the gold, silver, and precious things in Egypt. He would then go and capture Libya and Ethiopia. In fact, nothing like this ever took place. That might indicate the date of this writing as before the end of the life of King Antiochus IV.

Darius the Mede (Dan 11:1-11:1)

“As for me,

In the first year

Of Darius the Mede,

I stood up

To support him,

To strengthen him.”

Once again, there is a reference to Darius the Mede, also mentioned in chapter 9. As far as we can tell, there was no such person. Somehow, he comes between the Babylonian King Belshazzar and the Persian Cyrus the Great. Perhaps, he was the first Persian general who entered Babylon after its fall in 539 BCE, but there are no indications of that. He appears to be a literary fiction, perhaps based on the later Persian King Darius I, the 3rd ruler after Cyrus, from 522-486 BCE, who acted very favorably towards the returning Jews to Jerusalem. This time it is the angel Gabriel referring to how he helped Darius the Mede in his first year as the ruler, by supporting and strengthening him.

The rewards for Daniel and his friends (Dan 2:48-2:49)

“Then the king

Promoted Daniel.

He gave him

Many great gifts.

He made him ruler

Over the whole province

Of Babylon.

He became

The chief prefect

Over all the wise men

Of Babylon.

Daniel made a request

Of the king.

He appointed

Shadrach,

Meshach,

With Abednego,

Over the affairs

Of the province

Of Babylon.

But Daniel remained

At the king’s court.”

Much like Joseph in Egypt in Genesis, chapters 40-41, Daniel received a reward in the government of Babylon. King Nebuchadnezzar made him the ruler over the whole province of Babylon, as well as the chief prefect in charge of all the wise men in Babylon. In other words, Daniel was running Babylon. He then had his 3 companions, named to the various Babylonian provinces. This was a complete takeover of the Babylonian government by these 4 Judeans. However, they may have lost some of their beliefs, since they now had the 3 Babylonian names of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that were given to them, not their Judean names. Notice that Daniel stayed at the king’s court.

The sign from Yahweh about the Egyptian Pharaoh (Jer 44:29-44:30)

“Says Yahweh.

‘This shall be the sign

To you,

That I am going

To punish you

In this place.

Thus you may know

That my words

Against you

Will surely be carried out.’

Thus says Yahweh.

‘I am going to give

Pharaoh Hophra,

The king of Egypt,

Into the hand of his enemies,

Those who seek his life.

Just as I gave

King Zedekiah

Of Judah

Into the hand

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon,

His enemy,

Who sought his life.’”

Yahweh, via Jeremiah, said that he was going to give these Judeans in Egypt a sign that he was going to punish them in Egypt. The sign that he gave them was the fact that Pharaoh Hophra, the king of Egypt, would be overthrown by his enemies. Pharaoh Hophra was also known as King Apries (589-570 BCE), who would have been the ruler during this Judean refugee migration to Egypt. He was favorable to the Judeans, since he had tried unsuccessfully to protect Jerusalem from King Nebuchadnezzar during the siege of that city. He was killed in 570 by the new Pharaoh Amasis, who ruled from 570-526 BCE. Yahweh had done the same to King Zedekiah of Judah. Thus Yahweh wanted to show them that he had control over all kings.

Yahweh is our judge (Isa 33:21-33:22)

“But there Yahweh

In majesty

Will be for us

Like a place of broad rivers,

Like a place of streams.

No galley with oars can go there.

No stately ship can pass.

Yahweh is our judge!

Yahweh is our ruler!

Yahweh is our king!

He will save us.”

Yahweh will rule as king in full majesty. He will be like a broad river or a place where there are many streams. However, no big ship will be able to pass through these waters. Yahweh will be the judge, the ruler, and the king. He will save all the people.

The Moabites seek refuge in Judah (Isa 16:1-16:2)

“Send lambs

To the ruler of the land,

From Sela,

By way of the desert,

To the mount

Of the daughter of Zion.

Like fluttering birds,

Like scattered nestlings,

So are the daughters of Moab

At the fords of the Arnon.”

The Moabites were going to send lambs to the ruler of Judah at Mount Zion. They were going to send these lambs from Sela, the capital of Edom, another country south of Moab that was supposedly descended from Lot’s daughters. These lambs would go via the desert. Meanwhile, the daughters or women of Moab were at the banks of the Arnon River that was on the borders between Moab and the Reuben territory. There they were like fluttering birds or young nestling birds waiting for help or a place to land. The Moabites were appealing to Judah and Jerusalem.