Sunday School lessons for Gospel Doctrine Class

Saturday, December 8, 2018

If I Perish, I Perish


Scripture references have been highlighted in red and are hyperlinked to the LDS Scriptures at LDS.org and will open in a new window. Please click to read!    Resource quotes have been highlighted in blue and are noted at the end of the blog.

Lets talk about courage. What do we really know about courage? When researched, information about the word courage begins around 1300 and comes from the old french language word ceur or corage meaning heart or innermost feelings. In latin, Italian, and European Spanish it also has a meaning of heart along with being a metaphor for inner strength. The definition of the word when googled states the following: the ability to do something that frightens one. "she called on all her courage to face the ordeal" Or, strength in the face of pain or grief. "he fought his illness with great courage"

Other words listed that compare to the word courage are: bravery, courageousness, valor, fearlessness, nerve, daring, grit, true grit, heroism, gallantry...

Dictionary.com gives the definition as: the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear, bravery. IT says that in the use of courage, one uses the heart as the source of emotion to act in accordance with one's beliefs, especially in spite of criticism.

Studies of the Old Testament books lead us to great understandings of courage; particularly the books of Daniel and Esther. In these two books, six people showed great courage in obeying the Lord, thereby teaching not only the definition of true courage, but also how one can obtain and use it for themselves. Courage, is what we need in order to persevere in these last days to be loyal to the Lord and receive the great gift of eternal life. Lets take a look at what these six people teach us that we may too be not only obedient, but obedient courageously when needed.

1. Daniel 

Who was Daniel?

 He was of the royal lineage of Judah and like many of his brethren the prophets, Daniel was prepared and raised up as a minister to kings and emperors. At the time that Nebuchadnezzar first carried the Jews captive into Babylon (about 605 B.C.), Daniel was chosen as one of the choicest Jewish youths to be taken to Babylon and trained for service in the king’s court. Because of his righteousness and sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit, he was greatly favored of God. The Lord blessed him with the gift of interpreting dreams and visions. This endowment soon made him an object of greater attention from the emperor, and he was raised to positions that enabled him to spend his life in service to the kings of the land. He became the Lord’s minister to those rulers. He was made chief of the wise men, chancellor of the equivalent of a national university, ruler of all the Hebrew captives, and, as governor of the province of Babylon, one of the chief rulers in both the Babylonian and Persian Empires. Though at times his life was endangered because of the jealousy of evil men, yet he lived so perfectly that the Lord continually protected and preserved him.

The Historical Setting of Daniel's time

Nebuchadnezzar, Babylonian prince, was in command of his father's troops in 605 B.C. when they soundly defeated the Egyptian forces at Carchemish. This marked the beginning of the end of the Egyptian empire as a world power. They were defeated further thus securing Syria and Palestine for the Babylonian empire. It was at this time that Daniel was taken captive to Babylon and shortly thereafter Nebuchadnezzar rose to the kingship.

Brother Duane Crowther: "Daniel came to Babylon eight years earlier than Ezekiel and was a younger man. He rose to prestige and power in the Babylonian court and lived in comfort there. Much of Daniel's ministry involved the receiving and interpreting of difficult dreams and visions. His ministry was primarily concerned with the affairs of state and the rise and fall of empires." (Prophets & Prophecies of the Old Testament, pp496-497)

The Book of Daniel

RICHARD D. DRAPER

Judah's perplexity and fear due to the Babylonian Exile provided the driving force leading to the content of the book of Daniel. With its focus on one of the great seers of all time, it was written to ignite faith in Israel's God and to instill courage and patience in the hearts of uprooted exiles. The society in which they lived—Babylon, also called Chaldea—was at best antagonistic to their religion and at worst outright hostile to it. The author's objective in recording Daniel's experiences seems to have been to teach his people that not only could they live their religion in this alien and spiritually inhospitable land but they could also find a close relationship with God in doing so. In other words, God had not abandoned his people and would, therefore, continue to be their God even in Babylon.

Daniel had a message that complemented and confirmed the testimony of other prophets, such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah. The Exile was not to be permanent. The present distress was only for a moment. If it were endured with faith, Judah would see the great day of deliverance. Babylon could not prevent it. No nation, not even this mighty colossus, could withstand God's designs. Indeed, Daniel bore witness to the unimaginable: the powerful nation that had taken Judah and other nations captive would in due time lose all control over its captives and pass from the scene of history.

Daniel could appreciate as few others could what it would take for Babylon to fall. He came personally to control a good deal of the power of that great nation and also of the Persian empire that succeeded it. These were no weak, backwater states. Babylon and Persia each in turn controlled most of the Near Eastern world (see Maps 11 and 12, LDS Bible). But through profound revelations, Daniel knew that God had begun to winnow the nations, and this process would continue beyond the time of Babylon and Persia. No matter how great any one nation would become, another nation, great and terrible, would rise to take its place, only to fall in its turn. Finally, near the end time, God would bring forth his kingdom, which would eventually encompass the whole earth and never be thrown down. Thus, each of these seemingly formidable empires was little more than a footnote to the real history of the world. They represented impotent aberrations occupying only for a moment the stage of history. None of these, Daniel testified, was the actual driving force of history. God is.

This truth rested upon another less obvious but equally important reality. Daniel's book, like much of apocalyptic literature, insists that God has preordained history. According to this view, God is both sovereign and ultimate. He has set the course of the nations and determined the final outcome of world history. 1 With this principle in mind, Daniel taught his people an important lesson: even though the people of God were in captivity, the Lord controlled their destiny. The indispensable lesson the prophet urged upon them was anchored in the reality that God was master and that his kingdom would come. Therefore, they must be faithful to the Lord's commandments and work in concert with him. God would not force their allegiance. They were agents who could choose for themselves, but they must be prepared to fall with the kingdoms of the world if they were not willing to maintain their citizenship in the kingdom of God.

But Judah was not the only people who had to learn that God ruled supreme. Daniel's book shows that the rulers of the nations who temporarily controlled the fate of Judah also had to learn an important lesson: their false gods were nothing; Israel's God was everything.


Daniel and his friends refuse to eat King Nebuchadnezzar’s food  Daniel 1 

The events in this chapter indicate that Daniel and his friends were taken captive into Babylon about twenty years before the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the eleventh year of the reign of Zedekiah. He and his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were trained in the court of King Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel who's name means "God is my judge" became Belteshazzar meaning "O protect his life".
Hananiah who's name means "Jehovah is gracious" became Shadrach the meaning of which is uncertain. Mishael who's name means "Who is what God is?" became Meshach which meaning is also uncertain and Azariah who's name means "God is my help" became Abednego meaning "a servant of Nego".

It was apparently Babylonian custom to train promising captive young men to serve in the royal court. Officials carefully screened the boys, looking for those who were "skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans" (Dan. 1:4). Daniel and some of his friends showed great promise. For this reason they came to the attention of a ranking officer. The record makes it clear this was not by chance, for "God had brought Daniel into favour" (Dan. 1:9). From the outset, Jehovah was with his servants, and the book never lets its readers forget that the omnipresent power of God was ever working with and for the faithful.  

The book shows that Daniel was determined to keep himself pure from the beginning: he "purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself" (Dan. 1:8). His first challenge came with being chosen as a potential minister within the court. During his training period he was to eat the same food as that prepared for the king.  (Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson)

Daniel 1:8–14  The first challenge for Daniel and his friends came with being chosen as a potential ministers within the court. During this training period they were to eat the same food as that prepared for the king.


8 ¶ But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 

What Was Offensive about the King’s Meat?  The term meat referred to the food that graced the king’s table (compare Genesis 1:29). The reasons for Daniel’s refusal to eat the food may have included the following: (1) some of the foods used by the Babylonians were likely among the items forbidden for consumption in the Mosaic law (see Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14); (2) Babylonians, like other heathens, ate beasts that had not been properly drained of blood (see Leviticus 3:17) and thereby violated the Mosaic law; and (3) the heathens consecrated the food of their feasts by offering up part of the food and drink as sacrifices to their gods. Consuming such food would be participating in the worship of false gods. Moreover, food was viewed as contaminated and unclean according to Jewish law when it was prepared by anyone considered unclean, such as the heathens (see Leviticus 7:19–21). Daniel was strictly loyal to the Lord and refused to be involved in any practice associated with anything unclean or idolatrous.

9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 


To Whom Does the Word Eunuchs Refer? The word eunuch is “the English form of the Greek word which means bed-keeper. In the strict and proper sense they were the persons who had charge of the bed-chambers in palaces and larger houses. But as the jealous and dissolute temperament of the East required this charge to be in the hands of persons who had been deprived of their virility, the word eunuch came naturally to denote persons in that condition. But as some of these rose to be confidential advisers of their royal masters or mistresses, the word was occasionally employed to denote persons in such a position, without indicating anything of their proper manhood.” (Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “eunuch.”) 

“This word eunuchs signifies officers about or in the palace, whether literally eunuchs or not” (Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:563).

10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.
11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,

12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 

What Is Pulse? Pulse is such seeds and grains as peas, wheat, barley, and rye. Though eating pulse surely would have contributed to the good health of the Jewish youths, they were also blessed by God for adhering to His laws and thus became more healthy than those who ate the king’s meat.

13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

What did Daniel and his friends propose when they were given the king’s meat and wine? 
12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.
13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.
14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

What blessings did they receive for obeying the Lord’s law of health?  Daniel 1:15, 17, 20 

15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

17 ¶ As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

20 And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

How are the blessings they received similar to the Lord’s promises to us if we obey the Word of Wisdom? D&C 89:18–20.

Elder Boyd K. Packer taught: “I have come to know … that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. From the time you are very little we teach you to avoid tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco, narcotics, and anything else that disturbs your health. … If someone ‘under the influence’ can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings? As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically” (Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 28–29; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 20).

What can this story teach us about how to respond when we feel pressure to do something we should not do?  Daniel 1:5, 8  Stand with faith, stand strong and true, and the Lord will see us through.  

5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
8 ¶ But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

What situations today require courage for us to obey the Lord’s commandments? 

How can we develop the courage needed to obey in such situations?


2. The Lord saves Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from death in the fiery furnace.  Daniel 3.

Chapter 3 relates how Nebuchadrezzar erected a great image of gold and required all of his subjects, upon penalty of death, to bow down and worship it. All of the people, certain Jews excepted, did bow down to the image. A number of Chaldeans brought accusation against these Jews, who happened to be Daniel's three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.

King Nebuchadnezzar decreed that anyone who would not worship his idol would be cast into a fiery furnace (Daniel 3:1–6). 

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.
3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,
5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:
6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.


How did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego respond to the decree? Daniel 3:12.

12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

What did Nebuchadnezzar do when he found out that they would not worship his idol? Daniel 3:13–15, 19–20.

13 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king.
14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
19 ¶ Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.
20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 


What did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego say when the king threatened to throw them in the furnace?  Daniel 3:16–18.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. 
17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. 
18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We will [not] always be rescued from proximate problems, but we will be rescued from everlasting death! Meanwhile, ultimate hope makes it possible to say the same three words used centuries ago by three valiant men. They knew God could rescue them from the fiery furnace if He chose. ‘But if not,’ they said, nevertheless, they would still serve Him!” (Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 45; or Ensign, Nov. 1994, 35). 

Daniel did not stand alone as an exemplary young man. His three companions demonstrated the same unswerving loyalty and devotion to God. Of them Elder Spencer W. Kimball said: “We remind ourselves of the integrity of the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who like Daniel defied men and rulers, to be true to themselves and to keep faith with their faith. They were required by decree of the emperor to kneel down and worship a monumental image of gold which the king had set up. In the face of losing caste, of losing position, of angering the king, they faced the fiery furnace rather than to fail and deny their God. The cunningly devised scheme worked as the vicious planners expected. The dedication must have been exciting with the people from far and near attending. Had there ever been such an image? such a spectacle? Ninety feet of gold in the form of a man—what could be more scintillating, more sparkling? There must have been almost countless people milling in the streets and in the area where the gigantic image stood when the herald announced the procedure and the decree that all must kneel at the sound of the music and all must worship the image. Neither the cunning of the deceivers, the conspiring, cunning tricksters, nor the fear of the king and what he could do to them, dissuaded the three courageous young men from their true path of rightness. When the prearranged sounds of the cornet, flute, harp and other instruments reverberated through the area and the masses of men and women everywhere filled their homes and the streets with kneeling worshippers of the huge golden image, three men refused to insult their true God. They prayed to God, and when confronted by the raging and furious emperor king, they courageously answered in the face of what could be certain death: [Daniel 3:17–18.]” (Integrity, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Feb. 1964], p. 18.)

What can the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego teach us about obeying the Lord’s commandments?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were willing to obey the Lord whether he protected them or not. Our obedience should not be conditioned on whether or not the Lord gives us an expected blessing at an expected time in return.

What are the dangers of obeying the Lord only because we expect him to give us a certain blessing in return? 

What happened when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were cast into the furnace?  Daniel 3:21–27.

21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 
22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.
To heat the furnace “seven times more than it was wont to be” (Daniel 3:19) is presumed to be an idiomatic way of saying that the furnace was to be heated much hotter than usual—to be heated as hot as it could be heated. “If the three were brought up to the furnace, it must have had a mouth above, through which the victims could be cast into it. When heated to an ordinary degree, this could be done without danger to the men who performed this service; but in the present case the heat of the fire was so great, that the servants themselves perished by it.  (C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 9:3:130.)
The king apparently viewed the events in the furnace through an opening at the bottom ( D. Guthrie and J. A. Motyer, eds., The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 692).

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 
24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. 
26 ¶ Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 
27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Who was in the furnace with them? Daniel 3:25.
25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

How does the Savior help us when we turn to him during our trials? 

What effect did the courage of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego have on Nebuchadnezzar?  Daniel 3:28–30.

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.
29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king: 'O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer thee in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, He will deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and out of thy hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image thou hast set up.' (3:16-18)

The fury of the king knew no bounds, and he commanded that the furnaces be heated seven times more than usual. The three men bound in their cloaks, tunics, robes, and other garments, were then cast into the roaring flames. So hot was the furnace that the men who threw the recalcitrant Jews into it were slain by the heat thereof. Suddenly Nebuchadrezzar rose up alarmed:

Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was alarmed, and rose up in haste; he spoke and said unto his ministers: 'Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?' They answered and said unto the king: 'True, O king.' He answered and said: 'Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.' Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace; he spoke and said: 'Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of God Most High, come forth, and come hither.' Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth out of the midst of the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, and the governors, and the king's ministers, being gathered together, saw these men, that the fire had no power upon their bodies, nor was the hair of their head singed, neither were there cloaks changed, nor had the smell of fire passed on them. (3:24-27)

The king then blessed the God of the three companions, and issued a decree that nothing should be said amiss against Him in the whole kingdom on pain of death. (3:29) Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were then promoted in the province of Babylon.

This faith-promoting narrative is one of the most famous in the Book of Daniel. It is celebrated throughout the Christian world, because it tells of the faith, courage, and valor of men whose trust was in the God of Israel.  (Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson) 


 How do our actions affect our neighbors’ attitudes toward the Church?  It can make or break the gospel being spread to those whom would reverence or even receive.  


3. Daniel prays in spite of the king’s decree and is thrown into a den of lions. The Lord sends an angel to protect Daniel.  Daniel 6.

In this chapter King Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son Belshazzar. When Belshazzar was slain, Darius, the Median, received the kingdom of Babylon as viceroy from Cyrus of Persia. This however, is not the same Darius that ruled after Cyrus in Persia and to whom the Jews appealed while rebuilding the temple

When Belshazzar was slain, “Darius the Median took the kingdom”(Daniel 5:31), and Daniel rose to a position of great prominence. Darius set Daniel as one of the three presidents who ruled over 120 princes of the kingdom. He was chosen because of his faithfulness and spiritual gifts.

Vicious men, the king’s other presidents and princes want to find fault with Daniel and conspired to destroy him.  Knowing the faith and the habits of Daniel, they could not fail. Preying upon the pride and vanity of the emperor, his conceit, his egotism, they persuaded him to sign an unbreakable law; a law which forbade anyone in the ensuing thirty days asking any petition of anyone but Belshazzar. The penalty was to be consigned to the den of lions. Belshazzar signed the decree, not knowing it was leveled at his friend. This unalterable law of the Medes and Persians would have been terrifying to any man, but the faithful Daniel did not flinch. Was there any question what he should do? He could save his life by abandoning his prayers to the Living God. What was he to do? A man of integrity could not fail. Daniel was the soul of integrity(Companion of Your Study to the Old Testament Daniel Ludlow)

Why did the king’s presidents and princes want to find fault with Daniel?  Daniel 6:1–5
They were jealous that the king preferred Daniel, and they were worried that the king might give him more power.

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom;
2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.
3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.
4 ¶ Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. 

5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

What decree did these men convince the king to sign?  Daniel 6:6–9
Knowing that Daniel prayed regularly, they persuaded King Darius to sign a decree that for 30 days all petitions must be directed to him rather than to any other man or to God. Those who disobeyed the decree would be thrown into a den of lions.

6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.

How did Daniel respond to the king’s decree? Daniel 6:10


10 ¶ Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.


What can we learn from Daniel about the importance of prayer?  Prayer was so important to Daniel that he continued to pray even when his life was threatened for doing so. 

Those who are righteous do not fear other people. Their only desire is to serve and honor God. With the same faith that his brethren Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had shown in refusing to bow down to the idol, Daniel refused to follow the decree that condemned petitions to any god but the king. “This unalterable law of the Medes and Persians would have been terrifying to any man, but the faithful Daniel did not flinch. Was there any question what he should do? He could save his life by abandoning his prayers to the Living God. What was he to do? A man of integrity could not fail. Daniel was the soul of integrity.” (Quoted in Old Testament Student Manual Kimball, Integrity, p. 17)

Ponder the value we place on the privilege of praying to our Heavenly Father. Where does your heart stand, would you be as Daniel?  

How did King Darius feel when his men reported that they had seen Daniel praying? Daniel 6:12–15.

12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.
13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.
15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.


How did the king demonstrate his belief in God?  Daniel 6:16, 18

16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.
17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
18 ¶ Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of musick brought before him: and his sleep went from him


How did the Lord bless Daniel in the lions’ den? Daniel 6:19–23.

19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?
21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.
22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.


What effect did Daniel’s faith and courage have on King Darius and the people of the kingdom? Daniel 6:24–28.

24 ¶ And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den. 


The term or ever, as used in Daniel 6:24, means “before.” Some have attacked the cruelty of condemning the women and children, too. To an absolute monarch, however, it probably seemed the logical thing to do, for out of these families might come insurrection in the future. The lesson must be severe enough to warn any others who might be jealous of the king’s favorite and most valuable servant. An absolute monarch would likely feel that any other course would slowly cause him to lose power.

25 ¶ Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian. 

“He had served five kings: Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-merodach, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Few courtiers have had so long a reign, served so many masters without flattering any, been more successful in their management of public affairs, been so useful to the states where they were in office, or have been more owned of God, or have left such an example to posterity.”
(Clarke, Commentary, 4:590 Old Testament Student Manual.)

Elder L. Tom Perry said: “Not only did Daniel’s service benefit the king, but because of the faith that Daniel had in the Lord, it affected an entire land. The king sent forth a proclamation that all the people of the kingdom should worship the true and living God, the God that Daniel worshiped. How mighty was the power of the service of one righteous man, affecting so many, as he served ‘in the world’ in which he lived! How effective will be the results of our service if we will continue to serve in our own personal way ‘in the world’ in which we live!” (Conference Report, Apr. 1988, 16; or Ensign, May 1988, 15).

4. The Story of Esther

During the Babylonian captivity of the kingdom of Judah (587–538 B.C.), things looked bleak for the covenant people. Their temple was gone; their capital city lay in ruins; their God had seemed to abandon them. But after the Babylonians were overthrown by the Persians under the leadership of Cyrus the Great, the imperial centers where the deported peoples were living became acceptable, even desirable, places for the Jews to reside—so much so that when the captives were free to return to their homeland, a great number of them chose to remain in the Persian east, under direct control of the Persian king. After a time, however, during the reign of King Ahasuerus, known in historical records as Xerxes (486–465 B.C.), a crisis of gargantuan proportions threatened to destroy the Jewish people. The story is recorded in the book of Esther, whose heroine not only gave the text its name but also delivered her people in a way that also foreshadowed and paralleled, on a lesser scale, the future deliverance provided by Jesus of Nazareth. (Prophets Priests and Kings Andrew C Skinner)

Esther was a Jewish woman who lived shortly after the time of Daniel. After her parents died, she was raised by her cousin Mordecai.  

Little is known for sure of the background of Mordecai. He was from the tribe of Benjamin, and his great-grandfather was apparently carried into captivity in the first Jewish deportation into Babylon. Some Jewish writers believe that he held a high office in the Persian hierarchy that gave him access to the court. It is apparent from the biblical narrative that He was a devout Hebrew with great faith in Jehovah. He was also courageous, forthright, and practical. 

To his father’s brother was born a daughter who was given the name Hadassah, meaning “myrtle” in Hebrew. Throughout the sacred record, however, she is referred to by her Persian name, Esther, which means “star.” When her parents died, Mordecai adopted her and raised her in his home.

After a kingdom-wide search, Esther was chosen as queen to replace the previous queen Vashti. Her beauty was unsurpassed, and she won the favor of everyone, including King Ahasuerus.  But Esther had a secret. She had not told anyone in the government that she was Jewish and the adopted daughter of Mordecai.  

The story of Esther is sacred to the Jews and compelling to all because of her dauntless defense of her convictions and her people.  Esther’s beauty was such that it could catch and hold the eye of an oriental emperor accustomed to being surrounded by loveliness. Combined with physical charms were qualities of spirit that revealed that she had inward beauty as well. The qualities were loyalty, love, and dedication. Submissive yet courageous, yielding yet faithful, she was able to avert the intent of evil individuals determined to destroy her people. Indeed, she saved God’s covenant people from an intended extinction.

Numerous commentaries are available on the book of Esther; it has been the subject of much criticism as well as much commendation. There are more differing versions of it, than on any other book in the Bible. Yet it is the only Old Testament book not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.


Esther risks her life to save her people.  Esther 3–5; 7–8.

Beginning in Esther 3:1 King Ahasuerus promoted Haman to be his highest-ranking prince
.
1 After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.

Mordecai and others of the court were ordered to bow to Haman.  Esther 3:2–4.  

2 And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. 

3 Then the king’s servants, which were in the king’s gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king’s commandment?
4 Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai’s matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.

How did Mordecai show courage when the king commanded him and other servants to bow to Haman?  There probably was nothing personal in Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman. “The only explanation offered is that Mordecai claimed exemption on the ground that he was a Jew. Probably the inference is justified that Haman was demanding not mere allegiance but worship, and Mordecai would not break the first commandment. … If fear of idolatry lay behind the refusal to bow down then no Jew would bow down. 

What was Haman’s reaction?  Esther 3:5–14  He was angry and persuaded the king to order the destruction of “a certain people”, or all the Jews in the kingdom.

5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
6 And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
7 ¶ In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
8 ¶ And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them.
9 If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king’s treasuries.
10 And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews’ enemy.
11 And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
12 Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king’s lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king’s ring.
13 And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey. 

14 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.

Haman’s decision to take vengeance on the whole people becomes understandable. Similar acts of revenge involving wholesale slaughter are recorded by Herodotus (i. 106; iii. 79). … In Esther, however, anti-semitism proper makes its appearance with Haman’s express intention of wiping out the Jewish race. It might well seem incredible that one man’s injured pride should lead to such an irrational conclusion if it were not that history has produced an equally irrational attack on the Jews in the 20th century.” (Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, pp. 416–17.)

When Esther learned of the mourning among the Jews, she sent a messenger to ask Mordecai what was wrong.  Esther 4:1–6

1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;
2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.
3 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 ¶ So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not.
5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. 

6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate.

What did Mordecai ask of Esther? Esther 4:7–9.

7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the Jews, to destroy them.
8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him, and to make request before him for her people. 

9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

Why was it dangerous for Esther to go in and speak with the king?  Esther 4:10–11  The law allowed the king to kill anyone who approached him uninvited.  

10 ¶ Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 

11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

“The Jewish people of the empire suffered deep shock when the terrible news was spread. And upon Esther there came a double burden: first the saddening news of the proclamation of death for her people; then the challenge to risk death herself to try to avert the general calamity.  (Ellis T. Rasmussen, An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings, 2:116.)

What message did Mordecai send Esther when he learned of her concerns about approaching the king? Esther 4:13–14

12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.
13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 

14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

“One of the hints of religiousness in the major characters of this story is given in Mordecai’s challenging statement to Esther, ‘… Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? It appears that an overseeing Providence and purpose are implied, even though God is not explicitly mentioned here or elsewhere in this book.” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings, 2:116.)

In other words, Mordecai told Esther that she was, perhaps, raised up at that time for that very purpose. It is also implied that Esther’s beauty was a gift from God to put her into the position where she could gain the favor of the king and save her people.

How can we receive the assurance that our lives have purpose?

How can this assurance help us?

What did Esther ask of her maidens and the local Jews as she prepared to approach the king? Esther 4:16.

16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish.

Two things in this verse make it of particular importance: Esther’s admonition to fast for three days and three nights, and her determination to endanger her life if need be to save her people. She had not been called to go in to the king for thirty days (see v. 11) and had most likely concluded that she did not please him and would be unwelcome if she went to him unbidden. Her words are an expression not of despair but of resignation in light of what she had determined she had to do
(Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:3:352–54). 

Oriental kings usually had numerous wives, who usually appeared only when summoned and did not take it upon themselves to see him. Going into the king’s presence without permission was a capital offense. Esther’s life was in jeopardy.

How can the united fasting and prayers of many people help us?


Stating her intent to approach the king, Esther said, “If I perish, I perish” (Esther 4:16). 

How was this declaration like the statement of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before they were thrown into the furnace?  Daniel 3:17–18.    Religious faith and commitment in the characters of both Mordecai and Esther are implicit.   

How did this declaration show Esther’s devotion to her people and to God?


When Esther approached the king, he received her and said he would grant anything she requested Esther 5:1–3

1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.
2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.
3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.


She requested that the king and Haman come to a banquet (Esther 5:4–8). 

4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.
5 Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
6 ¶ And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.
7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; 

8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.

Esther seized advantage in her first favorable reception to enhance her good standing with the king and to bring about a strategic announcement of her request. But the first delay was not enough. She offered a second banquet the next night. What happened in those twenty-four hours was of the greatest importance (chap. 6). The sudden desire of the king to read the records was obviously inspired from the Lord. The fasting and faithfulness of Esther and her people was productive and brought the Lord into the situation. With Haman’s powerful position and favor in the eyes of the king ( Esther 3:1–2), a direct accusation by Esther might well have been rejected had the king not been prepared beforehand.

On the second day of the banquet, what did Esther ask of the king? (Esther 7:3–4.) 

3 Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:
4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.


What did the king do when he learned that the people Haman was plotting to destroy were the Jews? Esther 7:5–10.

5 ¶ Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?
6 And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
7 ¶ And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
8 Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.


Haman was hanged, but the decree to kill all Jews had already been circulated throughout the kingdom. 

What did Esther ask the king to do? Esther 8:5–6.

5 And said, If it please the king, and if I have found favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces:
6 For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?


What blessings did the Jews receive because of Esther’s courage and faith?  Esther 8:16–17.

16 The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.
17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.


What blessings have you received because of the courage and faith of others? 

What challenges do we face today that require courage like Esther’s? 

What blessings will we receive as we strive to do what is right even when we are faced with difficult consequences?


Conclusion

What did Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, Esther, and Mordecai have in common?  They all had the courage to do what was right, even when doing so put their lives at risk.  As we strive to keep the commandments, the Lord will bless us. However, the blessings we receive are not always immediately evident.  For example:  Sarah was unable to have children until she was 90 years old (Genesis 17:15–17; 21:1–2).   Joseph was sold by his brothers and later imprisoned for a crime he did not commit (Genesis 37:27–28; 39:7–20).  The Savior was betrayed by a friend, illegally tried, and crucified (John 18–19).  Nephi was beaten and later bound with cords by his brothers (1 Nephi 3:28; 18:10–11).  Alma and Amulek were forced to watch as women and children were burned for their beliefs (Alma 14:8–11).   Joseph Smith was imprisoned and martyred (D&C 135).

Why do you think the Lord allowed these people to suffer such trials? Because he knew they would be able to follow through with not only the commands of the Lord but his will.  It not only changed and strengthened them personally but left great messages to teach the people they need not be afraid to stand up for God.  And that message carries through to today.  As we follow through with commandments, as we show courage to continue to follow through even in the face of trial, tribulation or tragedy; and as we are courageous in our discipleship, he will carry us, through anything...

Resources 
Old Testament Student Manual
Studies in Scripture Vol 4 Kent P Jackson
Prophets & Prophecies of the Old Testament, pp496-497
Smith, Dictionary of the Bible, s.v. “eunuch.”
Adam Clarke, The Holy Bible … with a Commentary and Critical Notes, 4:563
Companion of Your Study to the Old Testament Daniel Ludlow
Prophets Priests and Kings Andrew C Skinner
Guthrie and Motyer, New Bible Commentary, pp. 416–17
Keil and Delitzsch, Commentary, 3:3:352–54
Ellis T. Rasmussen, An Introduction to the Old Testament and Its Teachings
Conference Reports
Ensign
Doctrine and Covenants
Book of Mormon

































The Fall of Adam and Eve

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