The city of Babylon had some of the most impressive buildings of the ancient Near East. It was home to the famous Hanging Gardens, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Its outer walls were wide enough for chariots driven by four horses to pass each other.
Lions’ dens (Daniel 6:17) were built to house captured lions, which would be later released and hunted for sport. Ancient writings other than the Bible also include stories of people being placed in cages with predatory animals.
Opening the books. Scribes recorded the daily events and activities of royal courts. These writings served as records for the archives and also could provide testimony for court hearings. Daniel’s first readers would have understood quite well his vision of God opening the books (Daniel 7:10).
Gabriel is the first angel mentioned by name in the Bible (Daniel 8:16; 9:21). Michael, the only other angel named in Scripture, also appears in Daniel (10:13, 21; 12:1). In the NT, Gabriel was the angel who announced the births of John the Baptist and Jesus (Luke 1:19, 26). Michael appears again in Rev. 12:7.
Daniel’s prayer. Jeremiah prophesied that God would restore his people after 70 years in Babylon (Jer. 25:11–14; 29:10). With this in mind, Daniel prays for Israel’s restoration (Dan. 9:1–19).
The mighty king mentioned in Daniel 11:3 is Alexander the Great, who reigned from 336 to 323 b.c. Alexander created one of the largest empires in ancient history, stretching from Greece to India. He brought the Greek language and culture to the Middle East, which is why the NT was originally written in Greek.
The reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175–164 b.c.) was disastrous for the Jews (Daniel 11:21–35; see 8:9–14, 23–25). He banned circumcision, ended the sacrifices, and defiled the temple. Judas Maccabeus led a revolt against him in 167 b.c.
In Daniel 12:10, “white” symbolizes purity, as in clothing that is clean rather than dirty (see Daniel 7:9). “Refined” means purified or cleansed. Revelation similarly pictures saints wearing white clothes (Rev. 4:4; 7:13–14; 19:8).
Hosea comes from the same verb as “Joshua” and “Jesus,” meaning “to save" or "to deliver.” The message of the Bible is one of salvation for people of all different ethnicities and backgrounds all around the globe.
Public humiliation was a standard punishment for adultery in the ancient world (Hosea 2:3). Rather than follow that custom, however, Hosea sought to reclaim his wife. This is a picture of the Lord, who seeks to reclaim his people even when they forsake him.
The piece of wood mentioned in Hosea 4:12 refers to the wooden idols worshiped by Canaanites. God’s people had sunk so low that they would even “inquire of a piece of wood” rather than seek guidance from the Lord.
To describe the Israelites as a treacherous bow (Hosea 7:16) means that they were undependable and even dangerous to those who relied on them. If a bow was improperly stored when not in use, the dry Mediterranean heat would make it brittle, causing it to snap and injure its user.
Worship God alone! Worship of the calf idol (Hosea 8:6) violated the First and Second Commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me,” and “You shall not make . . . a carved image . . .” (Ex. 20:3–6). Believers are to worship the Creator God, rather than created things.
Admah and Zeboiim were destroyed along with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18–19; see Deut. 29:23). Though God’s rebellious people often deserve the same fate, his compassion restrains him from destroying them (Hos. 11:8).
The leopards found in Israel (Hosea 13:7) were probably Arabian leopards, which weighed only 50 to 60 pounds (23 to 27 kg). They were solitary hunters, eating mostly rabbits, lizards, and occasionally gazelles. Today, there are probably only a few dozen leopards inhabiting the desert regions of Israel.
The desert locust has been a destructive force that has plagued agricultural production for thousands of years. Winds from the Sahara have been known to carry them across oceans. Their devastation of crops often leads to famine. Joel compares them to a great army.
The sun shall be turned to darkness could be describing a solar eclipse, but more broadly this refers to the disintegration of the cosmos, which was understood by Jews to be a sign of God’s judgment. Note that when Jesus was on the cross, the earth became dark for three hours, indicating God’s judgment (see Mark 15:33).
Slave trading (Joel 3:3) was a big business during wartime. Prisoners of war were regularly sold to slave dealers, who often took them far from their native lands. Most likely they would then be sold to the highest bidder.
Earthquakes were a very real danger in ancient Palestine, as is true around much of the earth today. The Jordan River Valley runs along the northern end of the famous Great Rift Valley, which extends all the way to the southernmost part of Africa. Earthquakes occur all along this valley. The findings of archaeologists suggest that the earthquake mentioned in Amos 1:1 was one that the Israelites would not have soon forgotten.
Amos begins with judgments from the Lord on Israel’s neighboring nations: Damascus (Syria), Gaza (Philistia), Tyre (Phoenicia), Edom, Ammon, and Moab (Amos 1:2–2:5). God holds all nations accountable for their actions.