Things aren't always what they seem in ancient Israel, and is it possible that there are Babylons among us today?
In this episode, Tim and Jon cover a lot of ground on the biblical theme, Day of the Lord. As God’s chosen people, Israel is supposed to be a nation set apart, a counter-nation to Babylon. But we’ll see how God’s people make their journey from an oppressed people to the oppressors. God’s commitment is to dismantle human empires that rise to power and redefine good and evil, even if that means that God will have to defeat his own chosen nation. The story picks up with King Solomon in ancient Israel. He is considered to be one of the richest and wisest men who ever lived. But as Tim and Jon discuss, things aren't always as they seem.
In the first part of the episode (02:25-23:42), the guys unpack the rise and fall of King Solomon. Solomon had a great beginning and good intentions as Israel’s king, but he got caught up in power and no longer thought of himself as under the authority of God. The story of Solomon is about the oppressed becoming the oppressors, and to the ancient prophets, Solomon's downfall is viewed as a "Day of the Lord."
In the next part of the episode (24:07-1:01:46), the guys look at how leaders like Pharaoh and Solomon are made. Solomon is a prime example of how even good intentions can become corrupted. The guys wrap up this episode by setting the stage for the Roman empire and Christ's coming to earth.
Video: This episode is designed to accompany our video called, “Day of the Lord.” You can view it on our youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEBc2gSSW04
References: What is the Hope for Humanity? A discussion of technology, politics, and theology with N.T. Wright and Peter Thiel. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9Mlu7sHEHE
Show Music: Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Ready to Make Way by Greyflood
Podcast Date: April 21, 2017
Jon: Hi, this is Jon from The Bible Project. Today on the podcast, we're going to continue
our conversation on the Day of the Lord. This is the third episode in the series. If you
haven't listened to the first two, I'd highly recommend it. But if you don't mind
jumping in the middle, by all means, let's jump in together.
In the story so far, we've seen the city of Babylon and the ancient city of Egypt as
images of corrupt human societies that are antagonistic to God's view of justice. In
the book of Exodus, God rescues Israel from Egypt and tells them to be a nation set
apart, a counter Babylon so that the world can see what God is like.
In this episode, we're going to talk about what happens to the ancient nation of
Israel, their journey from being oppressed in Egypt to oppressing other people. And
to dig into this transition, we talked a lot about a man named Solomon, who started
out great but takes an interesting turn.
Tim: The pattern is human kingdoms rise to power, they begin to see themselves as God
and they redefined good and evil. The poor suffer as a result, and God's
commitment is to bring about the downfall of these kingdoms. And God does so
through the rise and fall of empires, raising up one Empire to take out the other one.
What the prophets at the very least want every generation to do is recognize that
any kingdom I happen to inhabit, even if it's God's covenant people, can still become
Jon: So what happened with Solomon? How did Israel become like Babylon? And what
does that mean for us today?
Also, Tim and I are going to be in Nashville, Tennessee this coming Tuesday, April
25. We are hosting a meetup. We'd love to meet you if you're in the area. It's going
to be at the Horton Building, April 25, from 7 pm to 10 pm. We're going to actually
premiere our video on the Day of the Lord. We'll have some food. we'll have some
gifts, and we'd love to just say hi.
You could RSVP on our Facebook page or you can just show up. If you have any
questions, you can email us firstname.lastname@example.org. Here's the episode. Here
This is a continuation of our conversation on the Day of the Lord. Let's do a really
quick recap. We've talked about Babylon, Tower of Babel being Babylon and that it's
the culmination of what it looks like when a civilization has rebelled against God,
created evil, what's got going to do about it.
We then see what God's going to do about it is use this guy named Abraham and
his family somehow, but then they end up enslaved and oppressed by Egypt, who's
described much like Babylon. And it's this oppressive civilization that's powerful.
Then what God does is He shows that he's more powerful and He rescues Israel and
Tim: 10 plagues, Passover.
Jon: Crossing through the Red Sea. And then Israel celebrates with the song in Exodus 15
saying, "This is awesome. God is our warrior. He is the King." It's the Passover—
going through the sea is referred to as the Day.
Tim: The day that the Lord acted for us.
Jon: The day that the warrior king came and saved the oppressed people. And so, the
seedbeds, this entire theme of the Day of the Lord is all there.
Jon: Cool. And so, now the nation of Israel can go into the promised land, they can
become a great nation and then God can bless all of the world through them and
restore the blessing.
Tim: All they have to do is not become like Babylon.
Jon: That's all they have to do is become—
Tim: Become all this alternate kingdom among the nations that follows the laws of the
Torah to become a nation that more reflects it.
Jon: And they have God's presence with them in the tabernacle, they have a set of
instructions for how to pull this off, the law and so we're rooting for them
Tim: What could go wrong?
Jon: What could go wrong?
Tim: A lot. Oh, man, a lot could go wrong.
Jon: So what happens?
Tim: We have to condense. The relevant point for this Day of the Lord theme is actually
well into Israel's history in the land. Book of Joshua, they go into the land, Book of
Judges, they end up in these cycles of rebellion and becoming slaves again, and God
keeps raising up these ambiguous characters called the judges, but eventually, Israel
becomes a kingdom in the land. King David unifies the tribes in one kingdom.
Jon: And things are looking good.
Tim: Things are looking good. So David passes on the unified kingdom of the tribes of
Israel to his son Solomon—one of the other famous kings of Israel
Jon: Super successful king.
Tim: Solomon story is told in the book of 1 Kings chapter 1 to 11 and it's really important
for this Babylon, Egypt Day of the Lord seem. Solomon's story in 1 Kings 1 to 11, you
can divide it into three parts. He has a really promising beginning.
His dad's on his deathbed—this classic scene—charging his son, you know, "You're
the king now." And he tells him, "Follow the commands of the Torah, be faithful." All
of that. So David passes away, Solomon has the kingdom.
In the famous story, Solomon has a dream where the God of Israel approaches him
and says, "One wish. You can have anything you want." It's a great, classic story.
Jon: It's kind of like a genie in the bottle kind of story.
Tim: Yeah, it's really interesting. And so, what does Solomon ask for? If you were a young
Jon: More wishes. Right? That's what you ask for.
Tim: Yes. And every story like that, that's what you think, like, "Why didn't they ask for just
You know, he can ask for wealth or victory over his enemy, but what he asked for is
wisdom. Specifically, this is the phrase. This is very important, linking the story back
to the overall biblical story.
He says, "Give your servant a heart that listens in order to rule your people and to
discern between good and evil."
Jon: That's legit. What a legit request.
Tim: Totally. And you can just hear Genesis chapter 2 and 3 echoing in here.
Tim: He's ruling the world, so to speak as God intended.
Jon: And he wants to do it under God authority.
Tim: And he wants to do it under God authority.
Jon: That's awesome.
Tim: He wants to rely on God's definition of good and evil, which is what that
tree...Anyway, there's a whole set of studies around the story of early chapters of
Solomon story replaying the stories of Adam and Eve in the garden. So a lot of really
cool connections happening there.
What God does is he says, "That's awesome. I'm telling you what I'm going to do. I'll
give you wisdom and I'll give you the wealth and the honor among the things that
Jon: The things you could have asked for.
Tim: Yeah, that you didn't ask for. The story goes on in chapters 1 to 3. And he starts
building this kingdom. There's a story about his wisdom to discern... there are these
two ladies that come to him.
Jon: Yeah, yeah, that's a classic. Divide the baby story.
Tim: So that's the immediate story after the dream. So it's a narrative illustration of his
wisdom does like see behind and below the surface. It's an example of his
discernment. Here's where the story goes.
All of a sudden, the story starts depicting Solomon is this Empire Builder. We first get
a long description of his executive staff team, and then insane amounts of wealth.
He makes gold as common as dust in Israel and it's crazy.
You start reading in these stories and you actually don't know how you feel about it
as you get into them, because his kingdom starts to look more and more like what
you remember Egypt being described like. For example, in chapter 5, it says,
"Solomon drafted forced laborers." Literally slave labor it's exactly the same word in
Hebrew as what Pharaoh enforced on the Israelites in Egypt.
Jon: That was translated "taskmasters"?
Tim: No, it's translated "slave labor" in the book of Exodus. Here, it's translated as "forced
labor." 30,000 men from among Israel, and then he sent them to Lebanon up north,
10,000 a month in relays. They were in Lebanon a month, and then two months at
home, and then Adoniram, he was over the forced laborers.
Now, Solomon had 70,000 transporters, 80,000 stone hewers working in the courts
besides the 3,300 taskmasters—again, same phrase is what Pharaoh put over the
Israelites slaves in Egypt- there over the project. So all of a sudden, you were like,
"Oh, my gosh, he's building a kingdom but he's doing exactly the same way Pharaoh
was building his kingdom with enslaved Israelites."
Jon: Yeah, but Pharaoh was doing it because he wanted to kind of protect—
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: You could suppose that Solomon's treating them pretty well.
Tim: You could. You could. So that's why I said it's ambiguous. The narrative just starts
telling you these things about Solomon that remind you of Egypt. And in Egypt, they
were clearly bad. And so raises the question, well, is good or is this bad? He asked
for wisdom and we know that he used that wisdom for good.
Jon: So maybe it's good.
Tim: Is this good? Again, don't underestimate the biblical narratives. They know what
they're doing. Again, this is using select rare keywords from one story and then
repeating them in this story. Solomon's being described as what Pharaoh was.
Jon: A literary genius.
Tim: Totally. Then here's what he does. With these tens of thousands of slave laborer, he
spent seven years building the temple. Two chapters describe the building the
temple and we're thinking, "Awesome that's great. It's to honor the God of Israel."
We're told seven years building the temple, and then the next line is "And 14 years
building his own palace."
Jon: So it's twice as awesome.
Tim: Last line of chapter 6 is seven years in the temple. The first line of chapter 7 is 14
years building his own palace. And you're like, "Wait, what does that mean? Is that
good?" The storyteller doesn't tell you what to think, he just leaves you with these
Then, after this is the story of Solomon marrying the king of Egypt daughter. And
what the king of Egypt does to pay the bride price or the dowry for giving his
daughter is—this is in verse 16 or chapter 7—"Pharaoh king of Egypt had gone up
and captured Gezer, he burned it with fire, he killed all the Canaanites who lived in
the city, and he gave it as a dowry to his daughter, Solomon's wife."
Jon: Inheriting a town that just got ransacked.
Tim: Yeah. He's doing a political marriage with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt and the bride
price is the lives of all these people who just got murdered in the city. And you're
just like, "What? This is power politics?" Right?
Jon: Yeah. So he just built himself a mansion twice as awesome as the temple. Guys got
stretched up. He's ruling all of Israel. He's not supposed to marry foreign women,
right? That's part of the law.
Tim: Correct. Yeah, that's correct.
Jon: So that's already you're supposed to red alert like, "Wait a second, you're marrying a
Tim: Much less the wink-wink of the narrator, it's the king of Egypt, daughter. And then
the king of Egypt does to these people of Gezer what the ancient Pharaoh did to the
people of Israel—just murdering them indiscriminately.
Jon: The lines are really getting blurred.
Tim: But now Israel's benefiting from the same type of activity. It gets even more
interesting. Then in chapter 10, we're told the number of his annual import of gold
per year is 666 talents.
Jon: What's a talent?
Tim: Oh, it's a size amount of weight.
Jon: 75 pounds?
Tim: 58 to 75 pounds. That's a really broad range.
Jon: Yeah, it is. 75 pounds of gold.
Tim: 75 pounds of gold and 666 talents.
Jon: How high is brick of gold?
Tim: 27 pounds.
Jon: 27 pounds?
Jon: So a talent of gold is like three bricks of gold?
Tim: A talent is three bricks of gold.
Jon: The two and a half, three bricks.
Jon: So basically 50,000 pounds of gold every year, that would be 1,800 bricks of gold.
Tim: Per year?
Jon: Per year.
Tim: That's a lot. I mean, in the ancient world.
Jon: Yeah. Oh, now.
Tim: Now. That much gold per year...
Jon: 1,800 bricks of gold a year.
Tim: Yeah. Out of which he just makes 500 ornamental gold shields to hang in his 14-year
in construction palace.
Jon: Every year he makes 500 gold shields?
Tim: No, he made 500 gold shields. This is all in chapter 10. Then we're told about this
long, detailed paragraph in chapter 10. We're told about the huge ivory throne that
he made for himself that you approach by the steps and every step you have
flanking you on both sides these huge carves of lions - 12 of them.
Then we're told he imported incredible amounts of gold, silver, ivory, and apes and
Jon: Wow. So he has a Zoo too?
Tim: He has an army of 1,400 chariots that are drawn by specially imported horses from
Egypt. You read that and you go, "That's impressive. The narrator must be trying to
Jon: Look how awesome. God gave him all this wisdom and now check out how ratty he
is. This is like Solomon's crib. It's like, "Check my 500 shields. It's all gold. My hallway
Tim: It was huge ivory throne. It's so crazy to me. These steps with these lions.
Jon: That I could get behind. That sounds pretty awesome.
Tim: But I think about like what kind of headspace do I need to be in to design for myself
this kind of space?
Jon: This is what I'm talking about though. This is where if you are the king of an entire
people group and you're that smart and that's successful, you're just going to make
a bunch of lions up to your ivory throne. You could kind of understand that
headspace a little bit if you try.
It almost seems inevitable to me. Like if I was that successful, I'd be that dude.
Unfortunately. I would just buy something that I just...When I was making more
money, at one point I bought this $500 jacket. Like a suit jacket.
Tim: And you don't wear a suit very often.
Jon: No. It's not even that cool. It might even like $600. It's like, "Why did I do that? What
a waste of money."
Tim: Totally. There's something that happens when a human being receives
overabundance of honor and wealth and authority.
Jon: It's like, "I deserve this. I need this."
Tim: Yeah. Who was it, the famous...British Lord Acton, power corrupts and absolute
Jon: Corrupts and absolute.
Tim: Corrupt absolutely. Think, why are we being told all this information? Why is the
storyteller of 1 Kings—?
Jon: Either it's because Solomon is awesome and he's super wise and so look at what you
could accomplish when you're awesome and super wise. That would be probably the
reading that we could come to generally.
Tim: Yeah, most people. He asked her wisdom, God honors request builds a Lexus, a Tesla
of a kingdom.
Jon: And so you can create a sermon that says, "If you just asked for wisdom, then that's
how you become healthy, wealthy and wise."
Tim: However, if you read slowly and carefully enough, you'll notice the things that I
highlighted about Israelite slaves and all these people of Gezer, the lost story of the
people of Gezer who got killed as a bride price for the daughter of Egypt. Then also
there's a passage in the Torah that the storyteller in 1st Kings is again, deliberately
connecting to through the same narrative technique. It's in Deuteronomy 17. I'll just
read it and it'll just leap off the page.
Deuteronomy 17:14, Moses is addressing Israel for how they are to live in the
promised land once they get there. "When you enter the land the LORD your God is
giving you and you take possession of it and settle in it, and say, "Let's set a king
over us like all the nations around us," be sure to appoint over yourselves a king that
the LORD your God chooses."
Tim: Check. "He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Don't place a foreigner over
you who is not an Israelite. The king, moreover, must not acquire for himself great
numbers of horses."
Jon: Well, what's great? What's a great number?
Jon: He's got an empire.
Tim: It's a small nation state.
Jon: I mean, for civilization at that point...
Tim: Sorry, just let me keep reading. "He must not acquire great numbers of horses for
himself, or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them." And what is
precisely the detail that 1 Kings told us about the source of the horses?
Jon: He got Egyptian horses.
Tim: Egyptian horses. "For the Lord told you, 'don't go back that way again.'" He must not
take many wives or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large
amounts of silver and gold. So these are all of the things that typical Ancient Near
Eastern kings do. Huge army, huge treasury.
Here's what the Israelite King is supposed to do. This is verse 18. When he takes the
throne of his kingdom, he's supposed to become a Bible nerd. He's to right out for
his own personal use, a personal scroll of this Torah taken from the Levitical priests,
and that's to be with him. He's to read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to
fear the Lord his God, and carefully follow all the words of this Torah and His
decrees, which is what his dad told him to do—what David told him to do on his
He's not to consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and he's not to turn
from the Torah to the right or the left. Then he and his descendants will rain a long
time for his kingdom in Israel. This paragraph is echoing—
Jon: So he's accumulating a lot of gold, tons of it.
Tim: It's literally what doesn't Solomon do to break the series of commands.
Jon: This story doesn't talk about how many wives he has. How many wives?
Tim: Oh, yeah. It goes on in chapter 11. 700 through political alliances and 300
Jon: Let's turn that up to 1,000. That's hard to imagine.
Tim: It is hard to imagine. I agree.
Jon: 700 wives.
Tim: For a small nation state king—
Jon: And it says there - where was that in Deuteronomy?
Tim: He's not to accumulate many wives.
Jon: What was the chapter?
Tim: Chapter 17.
Jon: And we could assume 700 might fall into the category of many.
Tim: Many. Safely. Here we go into the third part of Solomon's story, which is idolatry and
rebellion. And so, he starts following and giving his allegiance to the gods of all of
these other nations that he's allying with. His story end in 1 Kings 11 with all of these
neighboring enemies raiding and taking away different parts of his kingdom. Then
Solomon's downfall ends in this snare civil war, the split of the kingdom. Then
essentially, all the tribes just get picked off over the next 250 years until Babylon
takes them out.
So what's the story about? The story is about the oppressed has become the
oppressor and the people that God liberated from Babylon/Egypt has actually
become the new Babylon/Egypt.
Tim: But here it's like we just had the Pharaoh's portrait in Exodus of he's just a prideful
guy. But now we get inside of it, what is that pride like? What's that journey of pride
and self-exaltation? And that's what Solomon story becomes.
Jon: Hey, you don't just wake up and become Pharaoh.
Tim: Yeah. How do you become Pharaoh? And in Solomon's case, he started out well.
Jon: Yeah, really well.
Tim: It's like he wanted to do the right thing.
Jon: Best case scenario well. Son of David gets wisdom.
Tim: But in the building of his own kingdom, something turns. The narrator never says,
"And at this moment, Solomon elevated himself in his heart and says, 'I'll build a city
in a tower.'" But that's what he's building in Babylon.
I love the story because it's amazing, it's subtlety and depicting this turn of the
human heart towards self-exaltation. And then all of a sudden, things that are evil
become good. It's the same turn in the story again. And here it's the building of a
new Babylon tragically in Jerusalem.
The Solomon story ends and we move into the part of the story where the prophets
start depicting the downfall of Israel. And this is where the Day of the Lord appeared
as a phrase in the story. But it's the prophets talking about the downfall of Israel
because it's become the new Egypt, the new Babylon.
After Solomon, there enters onto the stage a group of people who really come into
the story that we haven't seen as prominently before. And that's the Israelite
Jon: So at this point in history, there are all the different tribes, it's divided between north
Tim: Well, after Solomon. David unified all the tribes, he set the groundwork for unity, he
declared that Jerusalem would be the capital city but it's his son Solomon that's the
empire builder. He goes about actually architect thing that all of the institutions.
Jon: Like what institutions?
Tim: Like the economy, a centralized economy. Think, you have tribal farming
communities, all of a sudden, they get unified and they're providing oil and wheat
and horses for the capital city. It becomes the kingdom, a proper nation-state.
Jon: And so in these communities, these are Jewish communities so they're following the
law, they're practicing the holidays and the things.
Tim: Yeah, through the priests and the Levites scattered throughout the tribes. Through
the pilgrimages, through the feasts, they're reminded of their identity.
Jon: This is all happening?
Tim: Yeah. Or at least, in theory, this is what Israel is called to.
Jon: In these communities then, are these specific guys who are prophets. I'm just trying
to picture like I'm in this community, maybe I'm just a farmer—
Tim: No, you're Amos. You're a sycamore and fig tree cultivator and a shepherd. You're
Jon: I'm Amos?
Tim: Yeah. And you live in north of Jerusalem.
Jon: Okay. I live north of Jerusalem. Like how far from Jerusalem? Like I would go there
for feast days and stuff?
Tim: Near the border. Maybe like 20-ish miles north of Jerusalem. In the hills.
Jon: So I'm up in the hills, I...figs?
Tim: Fig trees?
Jon: It's hard for me to picture an actual fig. I don't really see them. All I see is Fig
Newtons. So when you say fig tree, I literally in my mind, see Fig Newtons hanging
from a tree. That's the picture that comes to my mind.
Tim: That's funny. I grew up on those too.
Jon: So, yeah, I'm Amos.
Tim: You start hearing reports about life in Jerusalem and life up in some area, these big
important Israelite cities where the influencers live. And for one way or another, you
are really familiar. You're familiar with stories of Israel, with the stories of God giving
the laws and commandments, and you've got a passion for the ideals of the law and
the kind of life Israel was called to.
Jon: But I'm not a Levite so I don't have any control over how that goes down in the
Tim: And actually, as Amos says, "I'm not even a prophet. I'm not one of the official
representatives for the God of Israel down in Jerusalem."
Jon: Oh. What does he mean by that then? There's like a class of representatives in
Tim: Yeah. Amos chapter 7, he gets called into the king's court for his controversial
message. What Amos says, Amos 7:14 is, "Listen, I've never been a prophet, I'm not
the son of a prophet. I was a shepherd and I took care of Sycamore fig trees, but the
Lord took me from tending the flock and said to me, 'Go prophecy to my people
So he was outside of the power structures. They're called court prophets. They
appear in the biblical stories usually opposed to the prophets who ended up in the
Tim: Again, the Hebrew Bible represents the minority report from ancient Israel. It doesn't
Jon: Because the people in Jerusalem at that time, the prophets in the court, the kings
they wouldn't have been down with—
Tim: They said, "Yahweh loves us no matter what. He's going to be pro-Israel, no matter
what, and no way Assyria, Babylon is ever going to take us out because Yahweh said
he'd protect us."
Jon: So you get these prophets from the hills coming in and they're saying, "No, no
things are bad and you need to change, you need to repent of this." They have their
own prophet, and they're like, "Nah, we're good."
Tim: Yeah. "we're fine." So it raises the question then, what did the prophet see coming
and what was the problem they saw going on Israel?
At the center of this is the Day of the Lord. It's one of the most significant themes for
reading the 15 books of the Old Testament prophets. You'll never understand these
massive and difficult books without understanding the Day of the Lord, what it
means and how it works in these books. It's a huge theme. It's where the phrase is
actually explicitly used in the Old Testament in the prophets.
But they come into Israel story with all of this backstory of Babylon as the archetype
of the human problem, Egypt as a development of that portrait as self-exaltation,
not acknowledging the Creator God. And now, we see in Solomon that Israel has
become one of the nations like Babylon.
Jon: Now, what kind of writings did they have access to? Did they have the Torah?
Tim: Oh, man. It's a million-dollar question.
Tim: We don't know. This is a really debatable issue in Old Testament studies, but there's
this interesting story. Late in Israel's history, there's a king named Josiah whose
priests find some version of the Torah in the temple and they've never seen it
before. They're not familiar with it. It's 2 Kings chapter 22 and 23.
So we know that whatever the tradition and the law and the covenant represented
by Moses did not shape the majority of Israel's history. At least not after Solomon.
And even Judges has a whole moment in the story where it says, "Israel forgot about
what Yahweh did at the Exodus, and a whole generation arose that didn't even know
Yahweh." And that becomes a pattern through Israel's history.
Jon: But we know it did exist in some form?
Jon: David wrote about it a lot, how he loves the Lord and stuff in the Psalms. So he had
access to the Torah.
Tim: That's right. Which is why even though he's a murderer and adulterer, he still after
repenting finds ultimate favor with God, and becomes the one with whom God
makes the covenant.
Jon: We're talking about the law. I just want to make sure I connect this idea to the
theme of Day the Lord. So God gave Israel this covenant agreement saying, "You do
these things, and I'm going to bless you and through you, bless all the nations."
Tim: "I brought you out of Babylon, Abraham, I brought you out of the new
Babylon/Egypt in Exodus and we enter this covenant agreement, you live by these
laws, you will become a counter Babylon people living in the promised land."
Jon: "And through you, the whole earth will become the counter Babylon."
Tim: Yeah. The idea is that the witness of Israel would spread and that all nations would
see this different way of existing as human beings.
Jon: And there will be a king like David who comes and leads this—
Tim: Who will lead the people into that new kind of kingdom.
Jon: And so when the prophets like Amos, he's up in the hills picking us figs, herding the
sheep and he's hearing these reports what's going down in Jerusalem, and he's like,
"This is not what the plan was. This is not the covenant we made with God."
Tim: Amos is over 100 years after Solomon. So he's now got a century of Israelite history
of Babylonian like history among his own people. What he says is, "Listen, I was a
shepherd and taking care of my orchards and I got a holy agitation. I'm not even an
official spokesman for Yahweh down in Jerusalem, but I just had to speak my mind."
So he marches into Israelite cities, and he goes for the jugular.
Tim: It's really intense.
Jon: He'd be the equivalent of holding the John 3:16 poster at the football game kind of
Tim: Yeah. Like the sandwich board?
Jon: Yeah, the sandwich board on the street.
Tim: Actually, in chapter 9, he has this poem that talks about the end. "The end is near."
Anyhow, Amos and Hosea chronologically, they are the earliest prophet that we
have writing from or at least collections of their poetry, sermons.
Jon: So what I heard you say, what sounds really significant worth repeating is that to
understand the prophets, what they're doing is they have this minority report, this
minority viewpoint, which is, we are not following the covenant.
Tim: "We've become Babylon."
Jon: "We've become Babylon and we know what happens to Babylon."
Tim: The Day of the Lord happens to Babylon.
Jon: The Day of the Lord happens. We saw it happen when God scattered people from
Babylon, we saw it happen when God showed up and saved Israel from Egypt on
that day, the warrior king came and freed the oppressed. So we know what happens
to Babylon and we're becoming Babylon. And so this is going to happen to us—and
that's the day of the Lord.
Tim: Yeah, that's the day of the Lord.
Jon: Not the capital D day of the Lord, but that's—
Tim: Yeah. It's again in the mountain analogy for use.
Jon: I want to make sure I understand. So if the capital D Day of the Lord is the day that
God comes and just takes down all institutions and empires and—
Tim: Confronts evil on a universal scale.
Jon: That's capital D Day of the Lord. The small d day of the Lord are coming and
confronting specific people groups.
Tim: The moments where nations, cities, rulers, kingdoms fall, they're crushed under the
weight of their own selfishness, greed, evil. They're taking over, and the prophets
would say, "That's the Day of the Lord."
Jon: And Israel's story up to this point is that they're the ones that got the benefit from
the Day of the Lord. They get rescued by the Lord coming on that day and throwing
down, opening up a can. And now it's this massive, shocking reversal when the
Prophet says, "No, the Day of the Lord's coming to us because we've become like
Tim: Correct. Yeah, that's the shot. We know that, for the most part, nobody listened to
them. They were persecuted minority, chased up into the hills, and whose books
were burned when they were found. It was only after the great fulfillment of their
warnings came true, which was that they predicted that Israel would fall to its
enemies in the Day of the Lord.
And that happened in two waves in 722 BC. The Assyrian Empire came through and
just took out all the northern tribes.
Jon: They did a serious start.
Tim: Oh, Nineveh is the capital city.
Jon: Oh, Nineveh. Okay.
Tim: Which is in kind of Northern Central Iraq today. The Assyrians and the Babylonians
are two different cities, different kingdoms, different empires, and they were both—
Jon: But they're both on the Euphrates, it looks like.
Tim: Yeah, they are both.
Tim: The Euphrates, the Tigris come together. Babylon is where they both meet.
Jon: And Nineveh is up on - is it Tigris?
Tim: On the Tigris. Nineveh, again, really ancient Empire, but rose to power specifically in
the 900. It was the first full-scale world empire in human history.
Jon: Say that again, because it cut out.
Tim: Oh. The Assyrians were the first full-scale human empire in human history where—
Jon: Where one people group—
Tim: Yeah. The main way of organization was called city states. So large, influential cities
would be kingdoms under themselves, and then they would have networks of
smaller cities around them. That's what Babylon was. That's what Nineveh was. That's
what the Ammonites were, the Assyrians up north.
But Nineveh, the people of Assyria they developed military technology, siege warfare
like no one had ever done before, and they just went for it.
Jon: So they occupied Babylon?
Tim: They occupied Babylon, all the way down into modern-day Iran, all the way up to the
Black Sea, half of Turkey, down into Saudi Arabia. And then down they were a huge
threat, a dominant force over Egypt. So they had rivals and battles and so on. The
Syrians become the new Babylon.
After Israel hit Babylon. The prophets warned and say, "Listen, God's going to let the
way bigger, badder Babylon, that is Assyria, come take you down."
Jon: And Assyria is way bigger and badder than Babylon ever was. Babylon was just a city
with a tower.
Tim: That's right. Up to this point, and was this city state kingdom. But Nineveh falls in the
late 600 BC to Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. That's what the whole book of Nahum is
dedicated to talking about—the downfall of Assyria to Babylon. And then Babylon
inherits the Empire.
Jon: Wow. Did they get some new technology to be able to do that, or they just brute
force just kick them back?
Tim: There were a number of events. Assyria, the Empire collapsed under its own weight.
Its main policy of annexing nations was to deport the majority of the indigenous
population into scattered cities that they had already taken captive. It basically just
was trying to erase all other people group through these massive deportation
programs, and trying to rule millions of people that way.
Jon: They are the first one to ever try this.
Tim: Yeah, that's right.
Jon: It's crazy.
Tim: Yeah. So it literally collapses under its own weight.
Jon: And so Babylon saw the opportunity.
Tim: Babylon was in the waiting and was able to take—
Jon: And they're like, "Hey, that was kind of cool they had that much power. Let's go do
Tim: And the Babylonians adopted the same basic policy. Their empire was from the late
600 and it didn't even last a century. Then in 539 BC, the Persians sought their way
out to the east in Modern Iran, the Persians—the book of Daniel talks about this
transition—they takeover and inherit the Babylonian Empire and topple it.
Jon: That's all pretty quick succession?
Jon: Assyria, Babylon, Persia?
Tim: Yeah, Assyria, Babylon, Persian empires, that's at the core of Israel's history. It was
affected by all those changes. And that all took place within a couple centuries, the
rise and fall of three worlds empires.
Jon: What's interesting is you can look at that and you can say, "Yeah Israel got taken
over because everyone did by three really big empires."
Tim: Yeah, totally.
Jon: The prophets look at it and go, "No, we shouldn't have been taken over even by big
empire unless we had become corrupt ourselves because God promised that we
Tim: "If we were faithful to the covenant, he would do to our enemies what he did to
Jon: "We should have been spared from even these empires, but we weren't because it
became a Day of the Lord us because we became like them"
Tim: Israel has become just like them.
Tim: And so it becomes the cycle where they predict Assyria is going to come. Amos and
Hosea, they predict Assyria is going to come, take out Israel and that's the Day of
the Lord. But Jerusalem escapes. Jerusalem, they were able to defend themselves.
Tim: Against Assyria. Jerusalem survived. Isaiah chapter 1 calls Jerusalem like a little
watchman's hat standing in the middle of a cucumber field.
Jon: So, if you are anywhere else in Israel, you're under Assyrian control? But if you get it
within the walls of Jerusalem, you're—
Tim: Yes. Like a little loan tower in the middle of the field with nothing outstanding up,
that's how Isaiah describes Jerusalem.
Jon: Got it.
Tim: And so that gave the Jerusalemites a ton of confidence.
Tim: They're like, "Oh, God is with us." And then Isaiah comes along and he says, "No,
Babylon is on the horizon and Assyria will get what's coming to it by Babylon taking
it over. He warned that Babylon would take out Jerusalem, which happened after his
lifetime. Anyway, it's the cycle.
It's actually a very important thing going on in the prophets. Why they talk about so
much warning of violence and downfall and war, this was an extremely violent
period and area in world history. I mean, enormous numbers of casualties and wars.
Jon: Actually, I remember when we were there in Israel and we went to Armageddon—
Tim: Oh, we're driving through the Plains of Megiddo.
Jon: And that military guy he was talking about how the role of human history, this
specific place, there's been more battles.
Tim: Yeah, strategic history shaping.
Jon: Because something about that terrain, if you take that area, then you can take the
whole region. Something like that. And that's Megiddo.
Tim: Yeah. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Israel, Ancient Syria, they were all vying for control of
this narrow corridor and valley.
Jon: Yes. if you control that, you control the whole area.
Tim: You control basically the link between Asia and Africa and Eastern Europe has to go
through the Plain of Megiddo and the coastal highway getting to it. And that was
right smack in the middle of Israel's territory.
Jon: And so the amount of battles happening right there.
Tim: Yeah. Over centuries, the Israelites won and lost battles there. We would just look at
that as a tumultuous period of human history. The prophets look at it and see God's
hand at work, guiding His covenant people and purposes towards their goal.
As the best Israel story develops, the prophets discern a pattern, a way of God
working in history, that behind the rise and fall of these world empires, we can see
the small d day of the Lord.
Jon: So when God allows Babylon to take over Assyria, that's the day of the Lord?
Tim: That's the day of the Lord.
Jon: But when Babylon takes over Jerusalem, that's also the day of the Lord?
Tim: It's also the Day of the Lord. And when Babylon falls to the Persians, that's the Day of
the Lord. The Day of the Lord gets applied to all of these.
Jon: And then what happens to the Romans after the Persians?
Tim: After the Persians, Alexander the Great took over the Persian Empire and then and
his blitzkrieg went all the way to India. Then he died at a young age at the extent of
his empire, and then his huge empire got parceled up into all these pieces, all these
rival generals of Alexander called Diadochi, which means successors or inheritors.
They basically divide up the ancient known world into all these rival territories. It's
both the Greeks and then a number of Syrian rulers. And so, this whole period
becomes rival small kingdoms between the Greeks, the Syrians to the north of Israel,
and then the Egyptians. Israel's constantly changing hands, but the Israelites are not
in charge. And now we're into post-biblical history, and then the Romans come in to
town and take over Israel in 40 BC. And then they are in control of everything for
Jon: So it goes Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece—
Tim: Greece and then the Diadochi, which is—
Jon: Which kind of like Greece and—
Tim: Yes, smaller kingdoms constantly fighting over.
Jon: There's a bunch of smaller kingdom?
Tim: Yeah, yeah. And then the Romans command and they start building their empire.
Tim: For nearly half a millennium they are—
Jon: There's glass so long time. Finally, someone sticks around.
Tim: In comparison to all these other ancient empires, Rome lasted the longest of them
Jon: They got to learn from a lot of people's mistakes.
Jon: It's not always good to be first to market. Assyria proved that.
Tim: Again, just to make the point this is a point at which a lot of Bible readers really
struggle because it's a lot of ancient history. For the biblical authors, this isn't just
mere history. They've used this as a unique point in human history where if you can
see the pattern, you'll see how God's at work.
Jon: And the pattern is?
Tim: The pattern is human kingdoms rise to power, they began to see themselves as God,
and they redefine good and evil, the poor suffer as a result. And God's commitment
is to bring about the downfall of these kingdoms. And God does so through the rise
and fall of empires and raising up one Empire to take out the other one. And then
the next one after that next one and next one. In that pattern, the prophets of Israel
see the Day of the Lord.
Jon: And then when Jesus talks about...We're jumping ahead, but when she talks about
the downfall of Rome he calls is the Day of the Lord.
Tim: He talks about the downfall of Jerusalem.
Jon: Jerusalem, yeah. sorry.
Tim: He describes the out the temple leaders in Jerusalem. He uses the language that
Isaiah used to talk about Babylon, to talk about Jerusalem, and says, "It's going to
Jon: And then later, John talks about the fall of Rome, the fall of Babylon and the Day of
the Lord. So this is all connecting.
Tim: It continues on. In other words, I think the hang up that many Westerners have
about n time stuff is we think that this biblical language only refers to one set of
events at the far end of history rewrite up before Jesus' return. That tradition teaches
us to read these prophecies as a code to be deciphered and that's referring to
The biblical authors view it differently. They view it as a set of lenses that you put on
to interpret any and every period of human history. Babylon is an archetype and it's
encouraging you, the reader to look out and say, "Who are the Babylon on the plain
field right now?"
Jon: "And am I a part of Babylon?"
Tim: "And am I a part of Babylon? And if so I need to repent—in the language of the
prophets—and seek justice and respond to the prophetic message.
Jon: So practically what does that mean for patriotism?
Tim: Great question.
Jon: I mean, you almost start to feel like this is getting really down on any sort of
organized human political structure.
Tim: Yeah correct.
Jon: And there's a lot of truth to that. Like corruption becomes a very normal thing but
can also do good. And we live in a time of human history where there are nation
states. You know, people are very proud of where they're from and care a lot about
their people. But it seems like if you take this seriously you should consider how is
my organized political structure, how might it be like Babylon? And what does that
mean for me as a Christian living here?
Tim: The Day of the Lord forces you to start thinking through your theology of politics
and what it means to have an ethnic identity, a national or some kind of nation
identity, and then what it means to be a part of God's covenant people and a
follower of Jesus. How did those identities relate to each other?
This is where the stories of Israel in exile are really important. We talked a bit about
this already. But also why it is that the apostles adopt the prophets view of Israel in
exile as a way of talking about the Jesus movement and Jesus' followers' relationship
to the kingdoms of this world.
Peter in his first letter says we're exiles, so our identity actually isn't first and
foremost ever defined by our national citizenship. But Peter believes we also have an
obligation to whatever nation we happen to find ourselves in to seek good, seek the
common good, but to do it out of allegiance to the one true God, not out of
allegiance to whatever ruler.
Jon: So, someone who was seeking the kingdom of God but also wanted to be in politics
in their own country, they're kind of in this weird position. They're straddling two
lines where they're seeking the good of their people, but then they're also seeking
the kingdom of God at the same time. And where they're in conflict, they will try to
steer the nation towards being more the kingdom of God. But where there's conflict
Tim: There's a whole spectrum of Christian tradition about this whole set of questions.
And so, some people really seize upon the anti-institution and anti-imperial parts of
the Bible, like the prophet or the revelation, and then some people really seize upon
the Jeremiah 29, "seek the peace of Babylon," Paul, "submit to every human ruler,
they're God's servant for good," and then everything in between.
So you get separatism or more full assimilation and everything. So long conversation
to be had just about that topic. That's really important. What the prophets at the
very least want every generation to do is recognize that any Kingdom I happened to
inhabit, even if it's God's own covenant people, can still become Babylon.
Jon: Even God's own covenant people?
Tim: Even God's own covenant people. And should, therefore, expect to face the Day of
the Lord both within history and ultimately be accountable before God. This is
Michael Gorman. He's is a New Testament scholar. He wrote one of the best
introductions to the book of Revelation called "Reading Revelation Responsibly."
Best title on book of Revelation ever.
It helped give me the shorthand biblical prophecy is not a code to be deciphered
about a secret prophecy about some singular future event. It's a set of lenses that
allow me to view my surroundings that's all leading up to the culmination of history
in the fall of every Babylon before God.
And what those future events will be like, I don't think the prophets are trying to
predict because they're using the language of the past to talk about the future.
They're using the language of the fall of Egypt and the 10 plagues and the fall of
Babylon to describe what's yet to come in the future.
Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Bible Project podcast as we talked about
the Day of the Lord. It turns out this is a pretty meaty subject. It's taken us a while to
wade through it. I hope you're enjoying that process.
As we do that, if you have questions that arise, we'd love to hear them. You can
email us at email@example.com or you could send it to us on Twitter at
@JoinBibleProj. We're going to do another Q&R episode after this series is over
where will answer your questions. We'd love to have your questions in audio form.
So if you can record yourself on your phone or on your computer and send that
audio question to us, we'll use that audio and will interact with it on that episode.
Also, Tim and I are going to be in Nashville, Tennessee for the Q Conference. If you
happen to be there at Q Conference as well, we'd love to say hi. We're going to do a
meetup on the Tuesday night before the conference starts. And that's going to be at
7 pm to 10 pm at the Horton Building in downtown Nashville. We'd love to see you.
We're going to actually premiere our video on the Day of the Lord. And we got
some gifts for you if you show up. We'll have some food there, but mostly we just
want to hang out and say hi and connect. So that is Tuesday, April 25 at 7 pm, the
Horton Building at Nashville, Tennessee. It's free. We have a foundation who's
paying for it so just show up.
You can watch our videos on our YouTube channel, youtube.com/thebibleproject
and you can be a part of helping us make more by joining our growing number of
monthly supporters and one time supporters. Thank you so much for being a part of
this with us.