Daniel 1:1-21 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, February 1, 2015, is from Daniel 1:1-21. Please Note: Some churches will only study Daniel 1:5, 8–17 in addition to Matthew 6:16-18, which is the commentary posting below this one.  Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Easy print International Bible Lessons Commentary versions are now available in the English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion: these hints are also available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is also posted below for you to study or read to your class. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. are also available for study and worship. 

International Bible Lesson Commentary

Daniel 1:1-21

(Daniel 1:1)  In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.

King Jehoiakim was appointed king over Judah by the king of Egypt before the Babylonians conquered Egypt and Judah. The “third year” may refer to Babylonian dating for some time between 606-605 BC. Daniel was taken to Babylon in the first captivity and remained there for the entire 70 years of captivity (see Jeremiah 25:11-13).

(Daniel 1:2)  The Lord let King Jehoiakim of Judah fall into his power, as well as some of the vessels of the house of God. These he brought to the land of Shinar, and placed the vessels in the treasury of his gods.

Because of their sins, because the Judeans had turned from worshiping and serving the true God only to also sacrificing (even sacrificing their children) to idols, they forfeited the protection of God. God would no longer hear their prayers, and God would punish them at the hands of faraway enemies who would conquer them. Shinar is another name for Babylon. The gods or idols were probably Marduk and Bel.

(Daniel 1:3)  Then the king commanded his palace master Ashpenaz to bring some of the Israelites of the royal family and of the nobility,

Perhaps three groups of people were meant in this verse: Israelites with skills that could be used by the Babylonians; descendants of the house of King David; nobles from Judah and other Israelite tribes who had homes in Jerusalem when the city fell to King Nebuchadnezzar.

(Daniel 1:4)  young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace; they were to be taught the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

The king of Babylon wanted perfect physical specimens of those he defeated in battle to beautify his court and demonstrate his power over other nations. The sons of the nobility and the descendants of King David and King Solomon would have received the best education the Judean court could have provided. Their knowledge of science, mathematics, and politics would help the Babylonian court when they learned how to speak the Babylonian language, act according to court customs, and learn Babylonian history and literature.

(Daniel 1:5)  The king assigned them a daily portion of the royal rations of food and wine. They were to be educated for three years, so that at the end of that time they could be stationed in the king’s court.

The king showed concern for their mental and physical well-being; for selfish reasons probably. God also providentially showed love and concern for the Judean captives who especially remained loyal to God but who were taken into captivity anyway.

(Daniel 1:6)  Among them were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, from the tribe of Judah.

These four young men became examples of how to act if carried into captivity or if you are under the dominion of a government that does not seek to obey the true God and the moral law. Their names probably meant: Daniel – “God is my judge.” Hananiah – “God is gracious.” Mishael – “Who is what God is.” Azariah – “God has helped.”

(Daniel 1:7)  The palace master gave them other names: Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah he called Shadrach, Mishael he called Meshach, and Azariah he called Abednego.

The palace master gave them new names because they were now under a new king and were required to learn a new language and customs. Their new names meant a new worldly authority had conquered them. Beltsehazzar means “protect his life.” Shadrach means “the command of Aku (the moon God).” Meshack may mean “who is what Aku is.” Abednego means “servant of Nebo (another Babylonian god).”

(Daniel 1:8)  But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the royal rations of food and wine; so he asked the palace master to allow him not to defile himself.

Daniel’s resolve may have influenced the other three not to defile themselves either. We should not be surprised if this was the case. There may have been others from Jerusalem who ate the king’s rations (which seems possible since the nation was exiled for her unrepentant idolatry and allegiance to foreign gods). The food and wine had probably been offered to idols first and some meats God had forbidden His people to eat.

(Daniel 1:9)  Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master.

Daniel first resolved to obey God completely. Then, he asked the official over him for permission to avoid eating the king’s rations. God intervened at that point and the palace master showed them favor, compassion, and understanding. God sustained Daniel in his resolve to remain completely loyal to Him.

(Daniel 1:10)  The palace master said to Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king; he has appointed your food and your drink. If he should see you in poorer condition than the other young men of your own age, you would endanger my head with the king.”

The palace master did not command Daniel and his friends to eat the king’s food. He simply expressed his fear of the king to Daniel and why he feared the king – Daniel and his friends might not look as healthy as the other young men, and if the king discovered that he had disobeyed and had fed them different food he would be executed.

(Daniel 1:11)  Then Daniel asked the guard whom the palace master had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

Since the palace master did not approve or deny Daniel’s request, Daniel spoke to the palace guard who had direct responsibility for Daniel and his friends. Daniel quietly and patiently persisted in trying to receive the approval of his captors for a diet change instead of defiantly confronting anyone directly and endangering the lives of anyone needlessly.

(Daniel 1:12)  “Please test your servants for ten days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink.

Daniel showed his wisdom by proposing a test regarding the foods they would eat so as not to defile themselves. Rather than eat forbidden meats or meat that had been offered to idols, they would eat vegetables only. Rather than drink wine, and possibly so much wine that it would impair their judgment and ability to learn, they would drink only water.

(Daniel 1:13)  You can then compare our appearance with the appearance of the young men who eat the royal rations, and deal with your servants according to what you observe.”

Daniel did not want to disobey the objective moral law of God that he knew God had given for the benefit of all people. To show the guard that God’s law is better than obeying a king’s law, Daniel asked the guard to judge by appearances. Daniel believed that God would bless the appearance of those who obeyed Him when they were tested.

(Daniel 1:14)  So he agreed to this proposal and tested them for ten days.

The guard saw no harm in agreeing to a test for only 10 days. Neither the king nor the palace master would notice much change in Daniel’s appearance over 10 days, but the palace guard would be particularly attentive to any problems since his life depended on his obedience and watchful care over Daniel and his friends.

(Daniel 1:15)  At the end of ten days it was observed that they appeared better and fatter than all the young men who had been eating the royal rations.

God nourished Daniel and his friends properly when they sought to obey Him and not defile themselves by eating unclean food. Their whole godly lifestyle would give them a better appearance than those who ate unhealthy foods and/or drank too much wine.

(Daniel 1:16)  So the guard continued to withdraw their royal rations and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.

The purpose of the king’s command was to promote the mental and physical well-being of those he had chosen to beautify and serve his court. It would not do for Daniel and his friends to condemn the royal rations and declare defiant disobedience to the king; so, God gave them wisdom and showed them a diplomatic way to obey Him and achieve the purpose of the Babylonian king without disobeying God.

(Daniel 1:17)  To these four young men God gave knowledge and skill in every aspect of literature and wisdom; Daniel also had insight into all visions and dreams.

These four young men were rewarded by God for their loyalty to God and their unswerving efforts to obey God in everything – even by what they refused to eat. Their diet no doubt aided their study and promoted clear thinking. In addition, God gave all four of them knowledge, skill, and wisdom beyond human learning. As far as we know, only Daniel received from God insight into visions and dreams, which he will demonstrate in the king’s court throughout the Book of Daniel.

(Daniel 1:18)  At the end of the time that the king had set for them to be brought in, the palace master brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar,

After three years of education and eating foods approved by God, all of the young men were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar to be examined and judged personally by him. After having passed the 10 day test of the guard, they were tested again at the end of three years by the king himself.

(Daniel 1:19)  and the king spoke with them. And among them all, no one was found to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; therefore they were stationed in the king’s court.

The king questioned all those he had formally set aside for service in his court. None of the exiles from Judah or any other nation except for Daniel and his friends excelled as much as they did as they were examined. Therefore, the most godly and obedient young men from Jerusalem were stationed in the king’s court as advisors to the king, which would bring many blessings to the exiled Judeans and perhaps saved many from death. Daniel eventually became the king’s most honored and trusted advisor, especially after he faced further tests of his loyalty to God.

(Daniel 1:20)  In every matter of wisdom and understanding concerning which the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.

Magicians and enchanters (or astrologers) had occupied the king’s court from the beginning as his advisers. To these advisors, the king added four men of God: men who prayed and obeyed God no matter what the possible consequences (as the entire Book of Daniel shows). Those who listened to God and inquired of God for guidance were 10 times better advisors than those who worshiped idols and sought only worldly wisdom. This fact has been true for hundreds of years in many nations.

(Daniel 1:21)  And Daniel continued there until the first year of King Cyrus.

Daniel continued to serve in the court of the Babylonians until the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians and Babylon itself fell to King Cyrus. We have no indication that Daniel did not continue to serve for some time in the court of King Cyrus. It seems very likely that he would have served King Cyrus and have helped the Judeans return home to Jerusalem at the command of King Cyrus. God, who had blessed Daniel during 70 years of exile, would have continued to watch over him until his work on earth was done.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. What resulted when the four young men put obedience to God first in their lives?
2. Can you name two prophets whose words might have encouraged Daniel as he and his friends were taken into exile?
3. Can you think of one reason God might have wanted these four young men to serve in the king’s court?
4. Read the Romans 8:28. Did God keep this promise to Daniel and his three friends? Explain your answer.
5. What tests did Daniel and his three friends face?

Study Hints for Discussion and Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions above to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion. These hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

The Word Search Puzzle, the True and False Test, and the Crossword Puzzle below are provided from the International Bible Lessons Commentary website to help teachers provide a simple review game or quiz for their students. May you find them helpful.

Word Search Puzzle

Daniel 1:1-21
An Educational Take Home Review and Handout using Key Bible Lesson Words.

NEW —› True and False Test ‹— NEW

Daniel 1:1-21
An Easy Review Test to Help Students Remember the Bible Lesson

NEW —› Crossword Puzzle ‹— NEW

Daniel 1:1-21
An Easy Review or Handout to End Your Class

International Bible Lesson

God Rewards Faithfulness

“Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs” (Daniel 1:9—KJV).

“Now God allowed Daniel to receive favor and compassion from the palace master” (Daniel 1:9—NRSV).

After the king of Babylon commanded Daniel and his three friends to eat the royal food, comprised of ritually unclean meat and wine, they resolved to obey God and not defile themselves. However, rather than directly confront the king, God showed them a wiser way. Daniel proposed to their guard that they be tested for ten days and given only vegetables to eat and water to drink. After ten days they looked better than the other exiles that the king wanted prepared to serve in his court. After three years of training, they demonstrated to the king that they were more gifted in knowledge and wisdom that everyone, even more than all the Babylonian magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom. We do not know if King Nebuchadnezzar ever learned of their change of diet, but if they ever ate before the king there is no reason to believe that they would have eaten anything but vegetables or drank anything but water. Later, when necessary, after they had proven themselves wiser than everyone else in the king’s court, they did indeed openly refuse to obey the king. When they openly obeyed God, God saved Daniel from death in the lion’s den. God also saved Daniel’s friends from perishing in the fiery furnace after they told the king, “If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up” (Daniel 3:17-18). – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.

For the rest of this week’s lesson, go to the posting on Matthew 6:16-18


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2010-2015 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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Matthew 6:16-18 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, February 1, 2015, is from Matthew 6:16-18. Please Note: This study is to accompany Daniel 1:1-21, which is the commentary posting above this one.  Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further will be found in the International Bible Lessons Commentary on Daniel 1. The Commentary and Bible Lessons on Daniel 1 are immediately above this commentary posting, and easy print International Bible Lessons Commentary versions are also available in the English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion: these hints are also available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is also posted below for you to study or read to your class. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. are also available for study and worship. 

International Bible Lesson Commentary

Matthew 6:16-18

(Matthew 6:16) “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.

Jesus took it as a matter of religious practice that the Jews would fast from time to time. Jesus indicated that fasting and some other religious practices should be a private matter between the one who is fasting and God. If you want people to notice that you are religious and that is why you do religious activities, Jesus said that the notice other people give you will be your reward.

(Matthew 6:17) But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,

Daniel and his friends did not want to defile themselves in the eyes of God. Their change of diet was between God, themselves, and the one guard that they asked to help them. Daniel and his friends sought to honor and obey their holy God, and God rewarded them in the royal Babylonian court. What God wants done in private, others do not need to know.

(Matthew 6:18) so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

All of our religious practices should be done to honor God supremely and not to draw attention to ourselves. Our public expressions of piety, prayer, service, and worship – which sometimes must be done in the presence of others because we are to gather ourselves together in fellowship and worship – should be done to point people to God and His Word, to Jesus, and the way of salvation – not to ourselves. Then, God will give us the reward we really seek – the assurance of His approval and presence with us as we seek to serve Him and lead others to saving faith in Christ.

Go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary on Daniel 1:1-21 to complete this Bible Lesson Study for Sunday, February 1, 2015.

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James 5:13-20 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, January 25, 2015, is from James 5:13-20. Please Note: Some churches will only study James 5:13-18.  Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Easy print International Bible Lessons Commentary versions are now available in the English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion: these hints are also available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is also posted below for you to study or read to your class. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. are also available for study and worship. 

Challenge Yourself and Your Bible Study Group! Read Through the Bible in only 30 Weeks!

International Bible Lesson Commentary

James 5:13-20

(James 5:13) Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise.

The first action to take when suffering begins is to turn to God in prayer. God will sometimes work a direct miracle and remove the cause of the suffering. God may not choose to work a direct miracle and remove our suffering, but in answer to our prayers He may show us what to do, who to go to, or what to stop doing, so we can find relief and perhaps remove the cause of our suffering. When we are cheerful, we can thank and praise God for the attitude and circumstances that bring us joy. Praise and prayer should always go together no matter what our circumstances.

(James 5:14) Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.

The Bible does not direct us to quietly bear our suffering alone. The Bible encourages us to ask the elders or spiritual leaders in our church to pray for us and help us. Anointing with oil may be the application of oil or an ointment known for its healing properties that might be too expensive for one family alone to own so it is shared by the church. In Jesus’ parable, the good Samaritan brought healing to the man he found on the road by applying oil and wine to his wounds. The anointing with oil may also represent an act of obedience that the elders perform and the sick person requests and receives in the name of the Lord. Whenever oil or medicine is used to help someone, Jesus deserves our thanks for their provision.

(James 5:15) The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

The prayer of faith in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ will save the sick: sometimes God will heal them in this life; at other times, He will heal them in heaven. After He raises His followers from the dead, He will give them healed and glorified human bodies. However God chooses, He will demonstrate His faithfulness to the sick in answer to their prayers and the prayers of others. Perhaps more importantly, since Jesus Christ came to save us from our sins, believers have the assurance that if they sin they can repent and pray in faith to Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and God will forgive them.

(James 5:16) Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

The church knows that not everyone can be trusted with the secrets of others when people ask for prayer or make confession of their sins; so, we do not share with one another the sins and secrets of others, which is gossip, unless the secrets and sins are such that others need to be protected and warned, which is a part of church discipline that is conducted by responsible church leaders. If we sin against someone in the church, we need to repent and confess to them and ask the one we have wronged to forgive us (and make amends to them, if possible). Sometimes our sins against another have resulted in many people being hurt or misinformed; in that case, confession and efforts to right our wrongs are required in relation to all concerned. Some will not be healed until they deal rightly with their sins through faith in Jesus Christ. Right living makes right praying possible for believers. Right praying is powerful and effective for believers, especially with the help of the Holy Spirit, who prays for us from within us, and the help of Jesus, who prays for us from heaven as our High Priest.

(James 5:17)  Elijah was a human being like us, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

Elijah prayed for people to recognize that they were sinning. He wanted people to repent, confess their sins, turn back from idolatry to the true God, and seek forgiveness from God. For the sake of unrepentant sinners who needed God, Elijah prayed fervently that there would be no rain; perhaps if they suffered without rain they would turn back to God.

(James 5:18) Then he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain and the earth yielded its harvest.

When the people repented and turned back to God, Elijah prayed for them and God heard his prayer. God forgave His people and sent the rain they needed for their crops and fresh water to drink. Both Elijah and God had good reasons for Elijah to pray as He did and for God to answer Elijah’s prayer as He did (see 1 Kings 17 and 18).

(James 5:19) My brothers and sisters, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and is brought back by another,

It is possible for a believer or member of a church to be misled or wander away from the truth. Such “wandering” can be the result of sin, and such “wandering” can lead to sin or more sins. Prayer for the wanderer and teaching or reminding the wanderer of the truth can influence them (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to turn back to the true God and the truth. The Bible encourages us to pray and do what we can to lead people back to God and to trust in the truth of His word.

(James 5:20) you should know that whoever brings back a sinner from wandering will save the sinner’s soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

The wanderer may remain on the path that leads away from God and the truth; the Bible calls this path the broad road that leads to destruction, or he can be led to turn around and go back to God and the narrow way that leads to life (See Matthew 7:13-20). The soul that persists in walking away from God will walk away from God forever, and that is eternal death, eternal separation from God: the person will receive what they have wanted in this life – a life away from God, but this will bring them eternal sorrow. Whenever someone returns to the Lord in repentance and faith, and whenever someone leads a sinner to saving faith in Jesus Christ, a multitude of sins will not be committed and a multitude of sins will be forgiven. A multitude of sins and their deserved punishment will be covered and the sinner will be cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. Compare James 5:13, Philippians 4:4, and 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18.
2. Read James 5:14-15. In what other ways do Christians do this today?
3. When we pray for those who have committed sins, what can we pray for them?
4. Is sickness always the result of sin? Can some sickness be the result of sin? Give reasons for your answer.
5. Is there a relationship between the way we live daily and the way God hears and answers our prayers?

Study Hints for Discussion and Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions above to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion. These hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

Word Search International Bible Lesson Puzzle

James 5:13–20
An Educational Take Home Review and Handout using Key Bible Lesson Words.

International Bible Lesson

God Hears our Prayers and Praises

“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13, 14—KJV).

“Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord” (James 5:13, 14—NRSV).

No matter what happens to us or others, we can go to God in prayer. When believers suffer, prayer comes spontaneously to their minds and often to their lips. When believers experience reasons to rejoice and feel cheerful, they may need to remind themselves to “praise God from whom all blessings flow.” Those who follow Jesus Christ may suffer in a variety of ways for their loyalty to their Lord and their confession of faith in Him. In some places, Christians literally die daily at the hands of their persecutors. But believers do not, or need not, suffer alone. When they are sick, they can ask the church to pray for them. They can call their pastor, their elders, and other church leaders to come to their sick bed, anoint them with oil, pray for them, and give them counsel. In the early church, elders sometimes served as doctors and gave medical treatment as they prayed. With mass communication today, believers can pray for the oppressed and persecuted around the world the moment they hear of their plight. In this life, we may never learn how many the Lord has healed, delivered, and sustained in faraway lands because believers have prayed the moment they have heard about devastating diseases or disasters. Whatever terrors or tragedies beset us or others, we can still sing with confidence these words of Joseph Scriven: “Precious Savior, still our refuge; take it to the Lord in prayer.”


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2010-2015 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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Hebrews 4:14—5:14 International Bible Lessons Commentary and Lesson

The International Bible Lesson (Uniform Sunday School Lessons Series) for Sunday, January 18, 2015, is from Hebrews 4:14—5:14. Please Note: Some churches will only study Hebrews 4:14—5:10.  Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further follow the verse-by-verse International Bible Lesson Commentary below. Easy print International Bible Lessons Commentary versions are now available in the English Standard Version, King James Version, New American Standard Bible, and the New Revised Standard Version on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. Study Hints for Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions below to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion: these hints are also available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website. The weekly International Bible Lesson is also posted below for you to study or read to your class. Additional publications and resources by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. are also available for study and worship. Challenge Yourself and Your Bible Study Group! Read Through the Bible Next Year in only 30 Weeks!

International Bible Lesson Commentary

Hebrews 4:14—5:14

(Hebrews 4:14) Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.

The Law of God and the sacrificial system of the Old Testament point to the need of the human race for a Savior from sin. The work of the high priests as described in the Old Testament was to be temporary until the Great High Priest, Jesus, the Son of God, came from heaven to earth. After His death as the final and ultimate sacrifice for our sins, Jesus rose from the dead and passed back into the heavens where He sits as our High Priest on the throne of God. Let us keep believing and reminding ourselves of these facts.

(Hebrews 4:15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

Jesus Christ is able to understand and show us compassion because He experienced life on earth in the same terms as we do. We may be tested and tempted in a vast variety of ways, but these ways could be categorized into different types of temptations and tests. Jesus was tested and tempted in all of the categories that human beings have been and are tested in, but Jesus never failed a test and He never committed sins. Therefore He became a perfect sacrifice for our sins, and a perfect High Priest who understands us.

(Hebrews 4:16) Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Since Jesus understands us and our situations in life perfectly, and since He understands and feels compassion for us and our weaknesses, and since Jesus rules the world from a throne of grace and mercy as our High Priest, we can come boldly with reverence into His presence to ask for and find the help we need – especially the help we need to do right, to distinguish good from evil, to practice doing God’s will in God’s power (see Hebrews 5:14). When we confess our sins, Jesus will show us mercy and forgive us, and He will give us grace to do better in the future, to more successfully pass our tests, to overcome our temptations, and to bring glory to Him as our Lord.

(Hebrews 5:1) Every high priest chosen from among mortals is put in charge of things pertaining to God on their behalf, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.

Every high priest is chosen from members of the human race to work in behalf of the human race, and they are charged to do those things that relate to our maintaining a right relationship with God in spite of the fact that we sometimes sin: we sometimes fail our tests and yield to temptations. These priests offer the sacrifices God’s people need, and God charged them to rightly offer our gifts to God: gifts of thanks and other offerings.

(Hebrews 5:2) He is able to deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is subject to weakness;

The high priest, since he is a fellow human being, should deal gently with sinners. Some sinners do not know the Law of God as they should or they do not understand the full consequences to themselves and others when they are ignorant and disobey God or do what is unwise and sinful. The high priest should know that he too is susceptible to doing wrong, so he should show mercy and forgiveness and offer sacrifices to help sinners repent and restore their relationship with God.

(Hebrews 5:3) and because of this he must offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people.

Because the high priest is also a human being, he has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God; furthermore, he too sometimes yields to temptations, fails tests, and commits sins. Therefore, he offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the sins of the people. Jesus, of course, did not need to offer a sacrifice for himself, because He never committed a sin.

(Hebrews 5:4) And one does not presume to take this honor, but takes it only when called by God, just as Aaron was.

No one can say of themselves, “I am going to be a high priest,” and then take that office without being called by God to take that office. King Saul stepped out of God’s will and Samuel’s favor when he offered sacrifices that he was not called by God to offer even though he was a king over all Israel. He suffered God’s just judgment for his disobedience. Aaron, the brother of Moses, was called by God to be a high priest; therefore, Moses anointed him as a high priest according to the command of God. In times of spiritual decline, some high priests were too often appointed by political authorities or for political reasons instead of being called by God.

(Hebrews 5:5) So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”;

Jesus Christ did not choose to become our High Priest because He wanted the glory and honor of that position for selfish reasons. Jesus was appointed our High Priest by His heavenly Father. His Father also appointed Jesus King and Lawgiver. God the Father appointed His only begotten Son, begotten within the Virgin Mary, to be our High Priest. Jesus did not just “take a high priest position” by or for himself. He became our High Priest to serve humanity; especially all who would receive Him as Lord and Savior. (See Hebrews 1:5 and Psalms 2:7 and Hebrews 7:17).

(Hebrews 5:6) as he says also in another place, “You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.”

God the Father did not appoint Jesus a high priest in the priestly order of Levi. Jesus was born to be King in the tribe of Judah, not a priest in the tribe of Levi. God the Father appointed Jesus a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Since Levi was a descendant of Abraham, and Abraham gave a tithe to Melchizedek, Melchizedek is greater than Levi and Levitical priests (See Hebrews 7 and Psalms 110:4). Jesus is a greater High Priest than any other high priest.

(Hebrews 5:7) In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

Jesus is the Son of God and a high priest, actually the Great High Priest, in the order of Melchizedek. When He was on earth, fully human and in human flesh, Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father with loud cries and tears, just as we do in times of stress and suffering. He prayed to His Father, who could save Him from dying on the cross (see Matthew 26:36-46). Because Jesus submitted to the will of God, God heard His prayers and He died as our substitute to save us from our sins. Jesus’ body died on the cross, but Jesus’ Spirit did not die and He rose bodily from the grave on Resurrection Sunday.

(Hebrews 5:8) Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered;

God made Jesus our perfect High Priest and Savior from sin through suffering. Jesus suffered more than just one time; He suffered throughout His ministry; however, His supreme suffering was when He died sacrificially on the cross for our sins. Even though Jesus is the Son of God, when on this earth His Father did not so protect Him that He never suffered. Instead, He suffered as we do and often far worse. Human beings learn obedience in both “good times” and “bad times;” as fully human, Jesus learned what it meant to obey God in both “good times” and “bad times;” but He never disobeyed God.

(Hebrews 5:9) and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him,

The perfect Son of God was made perfectly ready to be our perfect sacrifice and High Priest by suffering as we have suffered and by being tempted and tested as all human beings experience. Jesus became “the source of eternal salvation” by the perfect way He lived, obeyed, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven. He is the Savior of all who follow Him in obedient faith; which is more than just believing some historical or theological facts about Him. (See Hebrews 6:1-12).

(Hebrews 5:10) having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Salvation is possible for all who believe in and obey Jesus Christ, for all who are justified and sanctified in His name. Since we do not perfectly obey God our Father or our Lord Jesus Christ, we can thank the Father and Jesus that God the Father designated His Son as our High Priest and that Jesus prays for us and will forgive us when we repent of our sins and return to faithfully following Him. We are not saved by our obedience but by the grace and mercy of our Savior, who does enable us to follow and obey Him in faith through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

(Hebrews 5:11) About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding.

The writer wanted to say more about eternal salvation. He wanted to teach more about Jesus and describe in greater detail how Christians could follow Jesus more effectively on earth; however, he acknowledged that truths in these and more complex areas are hard to explain and only those who have persistently and prayerfully been obeying and following Jesus would be capable of understanding deeper truths about God the Father and Jesus. They had become dull of understanding through neglect and not living up to the meaning of faith in Jesus Christ and their earlier understanding of the gospel.

(Hebrews 5:12) For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;

If Jesus’ followers, or those who claimed to be Jesus’ followers, had been obeying Him they would have been growing in their faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. Instead, because of their disobedience, they had become “dull in understanding.” Those who obey Jesus and follow His teachings ought to be able to teach others, by example if not also by words. Instead, the disobedient must be taught the same basic truths repeatedly, until they began to obey Jesus and grow in faith and understanding or choose to live apart from God and grace in Christ. Teachings of and about Jesus in the Bible are the words and teachings of God that contain spiritual milk and meat for the new believer and the mature Christian. The Bible teaches truths for every level of understanding, and the Bible’s teachings will make people wise: “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the decrees of the LORD are sure, making wise the simple” (Psalms 19:7).

(Hebrews 5:13) for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness.

A spiritual baby will try to live on the basic truths about Jesus – about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and Jesus’ coming back to earth – but he will not be skilled in living the Christian life rightly according to the Bible, “the word of righteousness.” He will usually remain self-centered, as most babies do, instead of Christ-centered. However, God intends for spiritual infants to grow into spiritual adults, which happens when believers choose to do the will of God, to do what is right, to do what Jesus has commanded in the Bible, to obey “the word of righteousness” (which is Jesus Christ in the flesh and the word of God written in the Bible).

(Hebrews 5:14) But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.

God expects the followers of Jesus Christ to distinguish between good and evil; and once discovered, God expects us to do what is good and practice doing what is good. True Christian faith should lead to exemplary Christian and ethical behavior and show how true Christian faith leads to a good way of life. A mature Christian life and way of living requires practice. God trains our faculties (such as our intellectual, emotional, and volitional faculties) through our resolve to obey and our prayerful efforts to obey God’s word of righteousness with reliance on the indwelling Holy Spirit and His interpretation and application of the Bible in our daily circumstances, purposes, and pursuits.

Questions for Discussion and Thinking Further

1. When you think about Jesus, how often do you think about Him as your High Priest? Give a reason for your answer.
2. Why is Jesus an understanding high priest who knows our needs?
3. How do these verses encourage us to pray to Jesus?
4. How does someone rise to the honorable position of a high priest?
5. Why do some people remain spiritual babies?

Study Hints for Discussion and Thinking Further, a study guide for teachers, discusses the questions above to help with class preparation and in conducting class discussion. These hints are available on the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

Word Search International Bible Lesson Puzzle

Hebrews 4:14—5:10
An Educational Take Home Review and Handout using Key Bible Lesson Words.

International Bible Lesson

Jesus Suffered and Sympathizes with Us

“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9—KJV).

“Although Jesus was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9—NRSV).

By the way He lived in the world, Jesus became the perfect sacrifice for our sins and the perfect high priest in heaven for us. In human flesh and with a real human nature, the Son of God passed through tests, trials, and temptations that challenge people daily; therefore, Jesus understands and sympathizes with us in every trouble we experience. Though we have failed many tests and have sinned, Jesus never failed and He knows how to help us through everything we face in this life. Moreover, because Jesus never sinned, He qualified himself to take upon himself the punishment we deserve for our sins in order to give us eternal life. His heavenly Father did not spare Jesus the suffering we endure in this world, nor did He spare Him from temptations during His suffering. Our trials and temptations to sin feel more severe when we are also suffering from sickness, slander, bereavement, or persecution. By passing through earthly trials mentally and physically in the worst of times, Jesus learned obedience as we do; but He joyfully passed through all of His sufferings and trials perfectly so He could qualify as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. His experiences also gave Him a perfect understanding of what people go through on earth; so, after Jesus rose from the dead He became our perfect high priest in heaven. Today, Jesus still hears our prayers, helps us in our troubles, shows us the way through our trials and temptations, and opens the gates of heaven so we can follow Him throughout eternity. – L.G. Parkhurst, Jr.


Begin or close your class by reading the short weekly International Bible Lesson. To print the International Bible Lesson in three different sizes (including large print size and bulletin size) and for the Teacher’s Study Hints for Five Discussion Questions andThinking Further, go to the International Bible Lessons Commentary website.

See the recommended Bible study, Recovery, and Worship Resources at SmallChurchResources.com.

— © All Contents of this website are copyright 2014 by L.G. Parkhurst, Jr. Permission Granted for Not for Profit Use.

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