Dave’s Devo: The Oral Exam
It was the hardest exam I had in my doctoral program at Dallas Seminary. This oral took place right at the conclusion of my classwork, and I needed to pass it before Dr. Harold Hoehner, the head of our program, would admit me to candidacy. Now my course of study had been creatively laid out by Dr. Bruce Waltke. I was under his Old Testament Department, but the unique program focused on the biblical theology of both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
This was what I wanted, but it meant that my examining committee could ask me anything from the invasions of Sennacherib in the time of Hezekiah, to the Hasmonean line of priests ruling in Jerusalem after the Maccabees, to the synoptic problem in the Gospels, to questions about the millennial kingdom in Revelation. Hoehner chaired the exam and professors from both the Old and New Testament, and the Bible Department sat around the table. They asked me questions for over two hours. Just remembering it still makes me nervous.
Oral exams are hard. If it’s clear you have the answer to one question, the examiner can quickly move to another. When they find an area of study you don’t have down, they can camp on it, and if they want to, they can make you look foolish and ignorant.
In 602 BC after the completion of their three years of study in all the learning of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar called the Judean students into his presence. My professors at Dallas Seminary could simply tell me I needed to study more and come before them again. Nebuchadnezzar could send them to the fire furnace.
“At the end of the days that the King had set it was time—time for the king’s chief official to bring the Judean students before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them and he didn’t find anyone who compared to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they stood in the presence of the king. In every matter of wisdom and discernment that he covered with them, he found them ten times better than all the scribes and sorcerers in his whole kingdom.” Daniel 1:18-20
In ancient Babylon there wasn’t a division between legal experts who carefully pressed their cuneiform styluses into wet clay to record observations on the movement of the stars and planets to financial records and spiritists who tried to use the liver of a sheep to predict the outcome of a coming battle. Daniel will go head to head with these elite Babylonian court counselors in coming episodes, and we will get to decide who actually can predict the future.
LORD, thanks for humbling me in that comprehensive doctoral exam and for helping me realize again that you are the one who decides who excels and who doesn’t. Thanks that you are still coming through on the promise that if any of us lack wisdom we can ask you, and you will abundantly provide.
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