"Shinar" in Daniel 1
As we read from the opening verses, I noticed that the names "Babylon," "Chaldea," and "Shinar" seemed to be used interchangeably in reference to the same place. But Mitch pointed out something that I did not know: apparently "Shinar" was already an archaic term when the Book of Daniel was written. On the basis of this fact, Mitch argued that the name "Shinar" was purposefully used in order to connect readers' thoughts to a previous misadventure in the same region; the plain of Shinar was the site where the undivided tribes had infamously erected the Tower of Babel. Nebuchadnezzar's social experiment in taking the choice youths from the Hebrews (and other surrounding peoples)-- educating them in the language and customs of the Chaldeans-- had the ring of Babel about it. Through conquest, the Babylonian Empire was seeking to bring the world under its umbrella, thereby making everyone Babylonian. That this was an anti-god enterprise is demonstrated in the pervasive references to paganism found throughout these opening verses.
At the very least (as we touched on in the church discussion after Mitch's teaching), reflection on Babel and Babylon should make Christians cautious about:
1. Any efforts of trans-national unity as imposed by government. (The Church has a unity that incorporates every tribe, language, and nation, but this unity is from within-- through faith in the gospel-- as we join together in worship of the Lamb of God, who was slain for our sins yet lives forever.)
2. Systems of education. (Christian parents must take responsibility for the education of our children; whatever type of school our children attend, we must make sure that our children are given a Christian worldview, so that they see their education as a means of glorifying God and enjoying Him forever, and they are therefore equipped to hold fast to those things that are good, rejecting ungodliness.)