The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"--
"a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.' "
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert,
and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God.
15"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"16
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.
17"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men."18
At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets.
Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
In the course of time, David inquired of the LORD. "Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?" he asked. The LORD said, "Go up." David asked, "Where shall I go?" "To Hebron," the LORD answered.
So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel.
David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns.
Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. When David was told that it was the men of Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul,
he sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead to say to them, "The LORD bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him.
May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this.
Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them."
Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul's army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim.
He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.
Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David.
The length of time David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon.
Joab son of Zeruiah and David's men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.
Then Abner said to Joab, "Let's have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us." "All right, let them do it," Joab said.
So they stood up and were counted off--twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David.
Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent's side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.
The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David's men.
The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.
He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him.
Abner looked behind him and asked, "Is that you, Asahel?" "It is," he answered.
Then Abner said to him, "Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons." But Asahel would not stop chasing him.
Again Abner warned Asahel, "Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?"
But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel's stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.
But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon.
Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.
Abner called out to Joab, "Must the sword devour forever? Don't you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?"
Joab answered, "As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued the pursuit of their brothers until morning. "
So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.
All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the whole Bithron and came to Mahanaim.
Then Joab returned from pursuing Abner and assembled all his men. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David's men were found missing.
But David's men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner.
They took Asahel and buried him in his father's tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, chief of his court officials, to bring in some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility--
young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king's palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.
The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king's table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king's service.
Among these were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.
But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way.
Now God had caused the official to show favor and sympathy to Daniel,
but the official told Daniel, "I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you."
Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah,
"Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.
Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see."
So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.
At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food.
So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.
To these four young men God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. And Daniel could understand visions and dreams of all kinds.
At the end of the time set by the king to bring them in, the chief official presented them to Nebuchadnezzar.
The king talked with them, and he found none equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's service.
In every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king questioned them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his whole kingdom.
And Daniel remained there until the first year of King Cyrus.