Daniel's Mesopotamian Background

I have started studying the book of Daniel.  That has led me to a review of the history of the region.  I like to know the details in order to understand the big picture.  I like to know the big picture to put it all in context.  And in this case, all I wanted to know was when Daniel arrived in Babylon!



We cannot minimize Babylon's importance.  This region is known as the cradle of civilization.  The Tower of Babel was here.  And similar towers have been unearthed by archeologists.  Abraham was a resident of Babylon (Ur) until he was called out by God.  Babylon's earliest greatest ruler was Hamurrabi 1792-1750 BC)who everyone knows from his legal code and alphabet.  Babylon was a great culture whose dialect became the lingua franca.  I'm going to skip a lot of history just to keep things brief!  Around 1300 BC, everything changed and for hundreds of years there was turmoil.  Babylon was no longer on top.  Over time, things changed again and a second dynasty of Babylonians became great.  The second and greatest king in this dynasty was Nebuchadnezzer II also known as Nebuchadnezzer the Great.

  Two of the historical people mentioned at the beginning of Daniel are Kings Nebuchadnezzer of Babylon and Jehoiakim of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzer was considered the Babylonian King who brought peace to Mesopotamia.  Fighting by both the Chaldeans and the Medes subdued the Assyrians (this was when Ninevah was leveled) and an agreement was made to divide the Assyrian holdings between the Medes and the Babylonians or Chaldeans.  (Note: The Chaldeans were a distinct people group from the southern part of Babylon.)

Dynasty XI of Babylon (Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean)

Nebuchadnezzer was known for uniting Mesopotamia and for his building projects.  After he had settled things by fighting.  He settled in Babylon and began building projects such as massive gates, walls, boulevards and, of course the famous hanging gardens.  Here are two photos of the Ishtar gate (a reconstruction in Modern Day Iraq) and a detail.


To capture the beauty of the city, here is a description of the Ishtar gate. 

The famed Ishtar Gate played an important religious role in the life of the city and is fortunately the best preserved.  The surface of the entrance was covered with blue enameled bricks, which served as background for alternating red-and-white dragons (symbolic of Marduk) and bulls (symbolic of Adad).  The gate was approached by means of an impressive processional street, sixty-five feet wide in places and paved with white limestone and red breccia.  Bordering the street were walls that were found still standing as high as forty feet.  They were decorated with lions six feet in length (symbolic of Ishtar) with red or yellow manes on a blue ceramic background.  It was along this street that the king would accompany the statue of Marduk in grand procession each spring during the New Year festival.

This is red breccia (I didn't know what it was either.)  Mined in Egypt.


The source for the quote came from this book:

Jehoiakim of Judah

Background:  After the death of Solomon (around 1500 BC?), civil war broke out and Israel became a divided country.  The northern kingdom was Israel, its capitol was Samaria and the southern Kingdom was Judah, its capitol, Jerusalem.  There continued to be fighting, invasions, and the like. The whole region was in turmoil for hundreds of years starting around 1300 BC. 

Israel was destroyed by the Assyrians in 721 BC.  Descendants of David continued to rule the southern kingdom, Judah.   Judah ended up making an alliance with Egypt.  What this means is that Egypt "owned" Judah and Judah paid tribute for Egypt's protection. 

Jehoiakim (Hebrew name Eliakim) was the eldest son of King Josiah of Judah.  After Josiah died, the people named Jehoahaz (Shallum) King, but he was deposed by Pharaoh Necho II after 3 months and appointed in his place was Jehoiakim who reigned 11 years.  When Babylon defeated Egypt in 605 he was required to pay tribute to Babylon.  However, against the counsel of the Prophet Jeremiah (in 2 Kings 24:1), he revolted against Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzer took him and some of the vessels from the Temple back to Babylon.  It may be that Daniel was taken at this time. 

Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim's son, was eight years old when he began to reign.  His reign was three months and ten days.  He was succeeded by Mattaniah (one of Josiah's sons) whose name was changed to Zedekiah.  Zedekiah ruled 11 years. This would make it about 594 BC.  During this time Zedekiah conspired with Egypt to revolt against Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzer sent troops to besiege Jerusalem in January 587 and it fell in July 586, the following year.  It was an 18-month siege.  He successfully conquered the city, destroyed the Temple and removed some of the nobility to Babylon. 

Scholars indicate that Jewish people were deported from Judah to Babylon in 597, 586, and 582.  This does not rule out other deportations which were not recorded.  It was common practice for the conquering country to leave officials in the conquered city to make sure that tribute was paid and revolts were put down.  There would have been communications and supplies transported between Jerusalem and Babylon on some regular basis.  At these times, people could have been deported also.  I believe, however, that since Daniel was deported during or prior to Jehoiakim's 3rd year of ruling, it was probably early, around 597.

For more information, I recommend this book. 


Other sources include The Bible, any translation.  2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, and of course, Daniel.  I am reading mainly from the New International Version

but also from The Message:



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Customer Support--the good and the bad

There are often 2 sides to every customer support story, maybe even 3!  Some companies will appear in both lists.  Here are some of my experiences:  (NOTE: You should know that I usually try to fix problems myself before turning to customer support.) Do you have any good or bad customer support items that you would like to post?  Click below to leave a comment.

Any links to software, companies, anything I post on my website has been evaluated not only for how it works, but also for how easy it is to work with customer service.

The good:

ATT Uverse and DSL: My email wasn't working after the DSL was installed.  I had to call and tell AT&T to open port 25.  They did so right away.  Second experience:  my DVR and other boxes weren't working.  I called and was very quickly shifted to a high level of support.  The person I spoke with found the error to be with their system in the region, told me that there was, at that time, no time he could give me when it would be fixed, but said he would personally call me when it was.   An hour or 2 later, he called and had me check the DVR and the other box to make sure both were working.  Wonderful support

Newegg: Whenever I have had any problem, they have fixed it beyond my satisfaction.  A true customer service based company.

Dell:  I have always ended up with a good result from Dell customer support, but see below for the bad.

Lowes: Again, their support people have gone beyond what I expected.

Microsoft Business Critical Support: I once spent 9 productive hours on the phone with their tech support moving sensitive files for Exchange Server.  their tech support was wonderful.  I could pretty much turn off my brain and just do as I was told with no worries.

Crucial:(note: this links to the crucial memory finder.)  Crucial never has a problem with returns.  They are easy to communicate with.

The bad:

Clintonville Electric: You can read about my experience on my blog archive:  here http://dhrknss.blogspot.com/2008_02_01_archive.html

Affordable Custom Floors: Neither affordable, nor custom.  Completely messed up our hardwood floors which we had to have redone by another company.  I should have known that they did not know what they were doing when they started considering my suggestions.  Showed no sympathy for our pain; turned us over to a collection agency.  They continue to send us flyers.

HP:  This is why I do not recommend HP personal computers.  Their business computers have a very good reputation.  On the personal computer side, however, one client had a bad keyboard on a 2-week old computer.  After about 45 minutes on the phone trying to convince them to replace it, I told the client to just buy a new keyboard.  A keyboard costs HP about $1.  How hard would it be for them just to send a new one.  This was just petty.

Gateway:  One client had a bad modem.  This is probably about $1 for gateway.  They sent her a new one in the mail, expected her to remove the old one, install the new one and mail the old one back.  This is too much to expect for a cheap but difficult to install part on a home computer!  Also petty.

Another client had a bad DVD drive.  She just got the runaround from Gateway support.  She finally contacted the president of the company and did get a new (refurbished) laptop from Gateway after that.

Dell: Like Gateway, Dell has often expected home clients to install everything from motherboards to video cards to hard drives.  This is ridiculous!  I sometimes have to argue with them if the computer is under warranty to send out a tech to do it.  And, if it's not under warranty, I do it.  Note: this never happens with Dell business support which is why I recommend clients, home and business, buy Dell's business line of desktops, the Vostro.

Westinghouse:  I bought a Westinghouse HDTV for the bedroom because they come well-rated and are cheaper.  I bought one for us and one for my mom when I saw how well ours worked.  However, when I needed tech support, it was bad.  I needed it after we had used the TV for less than a month.  I had to send the TV to the west coast ($40).  They have now had it since April 16 (over a month and a half) with no communication.  I called last week and they said they were going to ship it out and would call me Wednesday with a tracking number. I said, "Why not email it, you have our email address."  He said "We don't do that."   No call Wed or Thursday.  I call Friday and am told that it is in the final step of the process and might be shipped on Monday, Tues, or Wed,  and they would email me that tracking number.  We'll see.

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Narrative is how stories are told.  There is a place, there are characters, there is action.  And sometimes less is more.  For example, I am currently reading 2 Chronicles from The Message.  This is the story of Israel in the time of the Kings, when it was a divided kingdom and frequently subjected to external and internal forces.  More precisely, it is the story of those kings and how what they did affected the country.  There are not a lot of descriptive phrases containing adjectives and adverbs, but it isn't difficult to read between the lines.  Good narrative leads you along in the story and gives you time to think about the characters without describing everything in detail.  It leaves room for the imagination.

Anyway, back to 2 Chronicles.  In chapters 22-23, an unusual thing happens (at least unusual in a patriarchal society like that).  The king dies, and instead of being succeeded by a son, his mother, Athaliah, takes the throne and massacres all of the dead king's sons and takes the throne herself.  She rules by terror and supports the evil god Baal.  All would be lost except for one young son of the dead king, who was secreted away by his aunt (aren't aunts wonderful!) and kept hidden along with his nanny for 6 years.  The aunt was also married to one of the priests, Johoida--the priests were the educators of the day.  So, the nanny, the aunt and the priest educated the boy, until he was 7 years old when the priest went to some of the military leaders who spread out over the countryside and gathered other people for a secret meeting in the Temple.  Here the priest presented the young prince and presented his strategy for a coup and a public transfer of power.  His idea was to use 3 battalions to closely guard the Temple, the Palace, and the prince.  And then make the power transfer.  Here's how it happened.

Then the priest armed the officers with spears and the large and small shields originally belonging to King David that were stored in The Temple of God.  Well-armed, the guards took up their assigned positions for protecting the king, from one end of The Temple to the other.  Then the priest brought the prince into view, crowned him, handed him the scroll of God's covenant and made him king.  As Johoida and his sons anointed him they shouted, "Long live the king!"  Athaliah, hearing all the commotion, the people running around and praising the king, came to The Temple to see what was going on.  Astonished, she saw the young king standing at the entrance flanked by the captains and heralds, and everybody beside themselves with joy, trumpets blaring, the choir and orchestra leading the praise.  Athaliah ripped her robes in dismay and shouted, "Treason! Treason!"  Jehoida the priest ordered the military officers, "Drag her outside--and kill anyone who tries to follow her."  (The priest had said, "Don't kill her inside the Temple of God.")  So they dragged her out to the palace's horse corral and there they killed her. . . The people  poured into the temple of Baal and tore it down, smashing altar and images to smithereens.  They killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altar. 

Jehoida turned the care of God's Temple over to the priests and Levites, the way David had directed originally. . . He also assigned security guards at the gates of God's Temple so that no one who was unprepared could enter.  Then he got everyone together--officers, nobles, governors, and the people themselves--and escorted the king down from The Temple of God, through the Upper Gate, and placed him on the royal throne.  Everybody celebrated the event.  And the city was safe and undisturbed--Athaliah had been killed, no more Athaliah terror.

You can read more about King Joash and his reign, here. . .

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Current Reading: The Shack

I just finished reading The Shack.  It was highly recommended by a friend.  I found it difficult to read the first few chapters because the author was trying so hard to use descriptive adjectives that it felt forced.  It is a type of literature that I normally prefer to read--fiction with something more than a plot.  This novelist created a fiction situation in which we start with a flawed protagonist who has a perfect wife, (Something I could not relate to!), and normal children.  When the family suffers a trauma, the protagonist cannot deal with it.  When a mysterious note appears, he sets out on a journey and everything is resolved in the end. 

What I liked:  I liked the conversation with God.  It was thought-provoking and reminded me of times when I've wrestled with God and stories others have told me about their God-encounters in remote places.  I like nature and the author did a good job describing its beauty.  I want to visit that area but I do want to avoid the place where the tragedy happened.


What I did not like: 

  1. The characters were undeveloped.  I could not identify with them because they remained undeveloped.  If you would like to read an author who has dealt with similar situations with better character development--people you can identify with, like or dislike, here are books I would recommend.


  • There did not seem to be much of a plot.  There was crisis, interlude, resolution.  Just too neat and easy. I prefer books that are heavily plot-driven, especially if there is little character development.  One author I like with excellent plot lines is Ted Dekker.  Here is his most similar series for adults.  Reading this will leave you with mental pictures of God's love and sacrifice.  This is action-fantasy so people who do not like that genre might want to read some of his psychological thrillers. 
  1. There are other "emergent church" books that are fictional, thought-provoking, challenging, and really make you want to like the characters (or author, in the case of non-fiction.) 

For "emergent fiction" with dialogue (like The Shack):  This is a fictional relationship between two men, one in a crisis of faith, both exploring what it means to follow Jesus.

For non-fiction on some of the themes found in The Shack: 

I am currently reading this.  The author uses examples of persecution he suffered to discuss forgiveness and how we do it well.  I am only on the 2nd chapter.

A book I have not read but come recommended by others: 

A book I found helpful about 10 years ago?

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One of my favorite authors. . . and his new book for the summer

Mark Steele's first book, Flashbang, was the funniest book of true stories I'd read in a long time.  Quick, short stories about life which will make you laugh or cry--and you'll be glad some of the situations are happening to someone else.

Now, he has a second book out and I'm betting it's as good as the first!  Actually, I know it is because he had a chapter on his blog site that I read this morning and it made me laugh, then cry.  So, I'm buying the book to read later.

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