During week three of “The Bible” which aired on Sunday, March 17 on the History Channel, we see the Jews enslaved in Babylon, Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den, the birth of Jesus, and the gathering of his first disciple.
“Hope” begins with the prophet Jeremiah warning King Zedekiah that he must repent and surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, or die, that God is bringing disaster to Babylon. Babylonian soldiers advance on Jerusalem and use flaming arrows and a battering ram to gain entrance and overtake the city. Zedekiah and his son escape while Jerusalem is looted and the temple burned to the ground. Young Daniel also flees, but is found by soldiers, who decide to take him alive.
Soldiers pursue Zedekiah then kill his children before gouging his eyes out, making that horrible vision the last he will see. The Jews are then forced into exile, making the 500 mile journey into Babylon.
In Babylon, Daniel is known to be able to interpret dreams, and is called to work for Nebuchadnezzar. He tells the king that his dream of a giant gold statue that is smashed is God destroying his empire.
When the people are told to bow and worship the gold statue, Azariah refuses, and with his friends, prays instead. Nebuchadnezzar commands that they be thrown into the fire and as Daniel pleads and prays for their deliverance, a vision of God replaces their burning bodies, and they walk out unscathed. The king is spellbound, and reaches his hand into the fire and is burned.
The miracle in the fire unites the Jews but they are still prisoners, until years after Nebuchadnezzar’s death when King Cyrus of Persia approaches Babylon with his massive army. The Babylonians don’t resist, and Cyrus takes control. While at first trusting Daniel, Cyrus later decrees that the Jews must go one month without prayer, in a test of their loyalty to him. Daniel continues to pray, is arrested, and thrown into the lion’s den.
Praying for God’s mercy, Daniel is spared. King Cyrus realizes what he’s done to a friend and goes to the dungeon, praying he’s not too late to save Daniel. Amazed to find that the lions have not harmed him, he pronounces judgment that the Israelites may return to Jerusalem.
Over the next 500 years, Israel is attacked again and again, finally succumbing to the Romans, who crucify many as a means of punishment. In defiance, some rise to destroy the giant gold eagle that adorns the holy temple. Brought before King Herod, he stabs one of them in the neck.
Jews in Nazareth take comfort in their faith, and Joseph and Mary are in the temple when soldiers enter and take people and possessions in the name of Herod, saying they owe taxes. Both Mary and Joseph escape, and Gabriel appears as God’s messenger, telling Mary that she will soon give birth to a child, who will be the son of the Most High. Mary is soon seen pregnant and Joseph is distraught, believing she’s been with another man. Mary tries to convince him of her virginity, but he doesn’t believe that God would do what she claimed. He leaves her, then prays that if it is indeed God’s work, that He help them, as Mary is being attacked and ridiculed by her people.
Gabriel then appears to Joseph, telling him to be at peace, that Mary is pure and the child she carries is from God. Joseph awakens from the vision and goes to Mary, fending off those who mock her, and says that he will take Mary as his wife.
After they marry, Joseph and Mary travel to Bethlehem to comply with Herod’s order that all men return to the town of their birth for the census. They travel over treacherous terrain with Mary due to give birth any day. They rush to find shelter from the rain when she announces that the baby is coming.
Balthazar sees the star and realizes he is witnessing prophecy and tells Herod of the new king being born. Herod insists that he is the king of the Jews, and Balthazar leaves to follow the star while Herod’s staff looks for mention of this prophecy in the scrolls.
While Mary gives birth to Jesus in a stable, Herod refuses to give in to prophecy and commands that all male children in Bethlehem be killed. Joseph learns of this in a dream, so takes Mary and Jesus away before soldiers arrive.
When Herod dies, the Jews try again for their freedom, with the Romans crushing the uprising. As many as 2,000 men are crucified in Galilee alone. Mary, Joseph and Jesus as a young boy travel towards Galilee, where they witness some of carnage.
We miss all of his childhood and next see Jesus 25 years later, when Herod’s son Antipas is in control and awaits Pontius Pilate. John the Baptist is at the River Jordan performing baptisms when Jesus comes upon them and asks John to baptize him. John is humbled, saying it is Jesus who should baptize John, but Jesus insists. After his baptism, Jesus enters the wilderness where his spirit is tested for 40 days, preparing him for the challenges to come. A snake crawls over his body, then the serpent turns into Satan, who challenges Jesus to turn a rock into bread, and throw himself off a cliff so that angels may save him. Jesus refuses, saying God will not be challenged or put to a test. Satan says if Jesus will bow down and worship him, he will give him the world. The scene changes from Jesus wearing a bejeweled crown, to a crown of thorns and a vision of the crucifixion. Jesus commands Satan to get away from him, and the devil disappears, with the serpent crawling away.
Thinking he is the one claiming to be the Messiah, Antipas has John beheaded, so Jesus prepares his mission without him.
Jesus approaches the Sea of Galilee where he notices several fishing boats and approaches a fisherman, offering to help him. Jesus wades to the boat and says they are going fishing, while Peter continues to insist that there are no fish. Jesus asks for an hour of his time, saying he’ll give him a whole new life. Jesus reaches down to touch the water as Peter throws then hauls in a net full of fish again and again.
Week three of “The Bible” ends with Jesus asking Peter to follow him, to give up fishing, and become a fisher of men.