As far as God condoning killing, I understand that he hates sin and so
seeks to establish justice on the earth; however, it’s not that he
condones killing that bothers me, but that he used Israel to do it! Israel
was as sinful (if not more so) than the nations surrounding them. Sinful
people killing sinful people in the name of God; such killing has set a
precedent for history. Such thinking now permeates the Middle East . The
Israelis can justify murder, the Palestinians can justify murder, the
Arabs can justify murder, the US can justify murder–all in the name of
God. In light of history, such actions as those committed by Israel laid a
foundation of murder in the name of God. It seems inevitable. Would not
God in his wisdom have foreseen this? the question continues…. As far as
the Bible being 100% in agreement with history…Daniel is at odds with
the historical record (the details are not minor). According to Daniel,
Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon , the Belshazar his son, the Cyrus, the
Darius the Mede. However, according to the historical record (the Behistun
Inscription, Chronicle and Letter of Nabonidus, accounts of Cyrus’ reign,
etc.), Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon , then Amel-Marduk his son, the
Nabonidus his general (after a vie for power), then Belshazar HIS SON,
then Cyrus, then Cambyses I, then Darius I, etc. The account of
Nebuchadnezzar given in Daniel is in line with what’s known about
Nabonidus’ reign, not Nebuchadnezzar’s (not much is known about his reign
during the 40 years or so). How do I reconcile what’s known in the
historical record with what’s written in Daniel? (By the way Darius was
not a Mede, but a Persian). the question continues…. In Jeremiah 31:37f
it is written: This is what the LORD says: “Only if the heavens above can
be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I
reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,”
declares the LORD. I’m a physics grad student at UC Berkeley. From my
studies it seems that we HAVE measured the heavens. We know (very
accurately) the distances to the visible objects in the sky (Andromeda!).
We’ve placed men on the moon. We routinely measure the distance from the
earth to the moon using a laser because WE’VE PUT A MIRROR ON THE MOON.
We’ve taken pictures of the Jovian planets, and OUR SATELLITES HAVE
PENETRATED (slightly) THE ATMOSPHERE OF JUPITER. I have a picture of the
Martian landscape ON MY DESKSTOP AS WE SPEAK! We’ve measured the CMB power
spectrum with astonishing accuracy and have determined cosmological
parameters, such as: the Hubble constant, Einstein’s cosmological
constant, baryonic density, etc. We’ve calculated that our universe is
essentially flat (in 3-d, not 4-d). From my vantage point, we have
(essentially) measured the heavens. What can I conclude and where is my
thinking wrong, if it is.

The answer….

I definitely do not agree that Israel in approx 1430 BC was as sinful, or
even nearly as sinful, as a whole, as their neighbors. Granted that one
sees some major problems in Exodus and Numbers, including stubbornness,
unwillingness to trust in God, desire to return to a life of sin, and so
forth. What I do not see in Israel is use of sex and prostitution in their
worship of supposed gods which are only idols. Another thing I do not see
Israel doing while in the wilderness is sacrificing their babies to pagan
gods. I could go on almost indefinitely with this list. Although Israel
was often unfaithful (aren’t we as well at times?) they continued to
follow the ark and Moses (with some major glitches, of course) throughout
the forty years. Deuteronomy 6-8 reminds us of this. Yes, the Israelites
were very sinful, to the point that at more than one occasion in Numbers
one finds God considering wiping them out and starting over.

This brings me to a second point about why God was willing to use Israel .
This was because of a few very righteous men and women, the likes of whom
were not found amongst the Ammonites, Hittites, Hivites and so forth, at
least as far as we know. God did for Israel what he did at least in part
of his promises to Abraham. Consider Romans 4 as well as the multiple
promises made to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-7, 15:4 and so forth. God saw the
amazing faithfulness and righteousness of Abraham and decided on that
alone to create a people of his own through him. In addition, consider the
righteousness (not perfection) of Joseph and Moses. God chose to continue
to use and lead his people because of the righteousness of these
individuals. I certainly see a very hopeful message in this. If only God
had found ten righteous individuals in Soddom, he would not have destroyed
that city.

Yes, it is true that in the wars under Joshua, sinful people were killing
sinful people, but to say that the two groups were in the same place is to
not appreciate the full picture.

There is nothing in the Bible to justify murder, but there are statements
that the civil government does not hold the sword in vain (Romans 13 for
example). I would say that, for example, the nation of Israel has a right
to defend itself against murderous terrorist attacks. I am not defending
all their tactics. There are some which I absolutely abhor, especially
politically motivated assassinations which are stock in trade for Israeli
policy today, but I would be careful to condemn in a blanket way all that
the nation of Israel does. It is absolutely impossible to defend from any
conceivable biblical perspective the “suicide” bombings of innocent
civilians which are so common in Israel . If anyone seeks to justify
blatant acts of sadistic murder in the name of Allah, how can we possibly
blame God for such a rebellious and hateful act. Yes, God foresees some of
these things. He gives us free choice, and unfortunately, some of us abuse
these freedoms in the most heart-rending ways. If we hate these things,
God does more than we. Do you blame God for these attacks? I do not. I
blame Satan.

You bring up so many issues with the book of Daniel, that it would take
many pages to answer them. Fortunately, I have answered every single one
of the questions you raise concerning the book of Daniel in my book,
“Daniel, Prophet to the Nations”, available at
Please consider buying a copy and reading it. To give an almost
ridiculously brief summary, all the claims of historical error in Daniel
are unfounded–not just some–all. I understand I am not dealing here
specifically with the issues you raise. Please read the book. Let me give
just a couple of extremely brief suggestions regarding some of your

1. Nebuchadnezzar, Abel-Marduk, Nabonidus and Belshazzar were all related,
either by direct line of descent or by marriage, although Nabonidus did it
through the back door by marriage after coming to power. The statement
that there is very little history behind Nebuchadnezzar is very far from
the truth. There is far more material from Herodotus and others on
Nebuchadnezzar than any of the others. Besides, the Bible, the most
accurate and reliable history book of the ancient Near East we have,
mentions him more than the others as well. (I realize this is circular
reasoning, but it just so happens that the Bible agrees with the external

2. There was more than one Darius, one was a Mede and was governor of the
province of Babylon immediately after the accession of Cyrus to the throne
(this is the Darius of Daniel), the other was the grandson of Cyrus, and
was therefore by birth Persian.

As to your third question, you should bear in mind that the passage you
quote in Jeremiah is clearly poetic, and is not to
be taken literally. One
does not interpret every part of the Bible the same. One interprets the
clearly symbolic/apocalyptic language of parts of Daniel and Revelation
differently from the straight forward history of the Samuels or Acts,
which is also interpreted differently from doctrinal passages such as
Colossians, which is interpreted quite differently from such
emotional/poetic passages as the Psalms, Song of Songs, and the passage
you quote from Jeremiah.

Having said that, the statements of Jeremiah just so happen to be
literally true. The universe remains to this day unmeasureable. The
universe does not end in the sense that a road could end or the Milky Way
galaxy could end. I would say that based on current physics theory, one
could conjecture that the “size” of the universe will never be measured,
despite the fact that we can measure the distance to the moon to within
one meter (that was a really cool experiment). As with you, I am impressed
at the amount we have learned about how God set up this amazing universe
we live in, but I do not believe we will ever “measure the heavens.” In
the final analysis, I would concede that it is debatable whether the size
of the heavens have been measured, but that is my conclusion. Perhaps we
will one day be able to literally drill to the center of the earth, but
thus far, our knowledge of the “foundations of the earth” (a clearly
poetic phrase) is based on conjecture, theory and indirect evidence from
such data as earthquake waves. In my opinion, God, through Jeremiah, is
not trying to literally say that the universe in not capable of being
measured by a yardstick, or that one cannot go to the center of the earth.
I believe Jeremiah is delivering a spiritual message through this
beautiful poetry. Has God ever rejected all his people? No! Will he ever?
No! That is the message of Jeremiah 31:37. Please do not take emotional
poetry as literal fact unless the context demands such a thing. This is a
basic rule of biblical interpretation.

Thank-you for the excellent questions and please write if my book on
Daniel leaves some significant questions unanswered.

John Oakes, PhD

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