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Life and Death is in the Power of the Tongue

The Power of the Tongue

Proverbs 18:21 says the tongue “has the power of life and death.” This holds true whether we’re speaking of spiritual, physical, or emotional “life and death.” The tongue is used throughout Scripture in both literal and metaphorical ways, especially in Psalms, Proverbs, and James. The tongue is a “small part of the body” (James 3:5).

First, we should keep in mind that the word tongue is often a reference to the spoken word. This is a special kind of figure of speech called metonymy, in which one word stands in for another, closely related word. A common example of metonymy is seen in this sentence: “The White House issued a statement.” Of course, the White House, as a building, cannot issue statements; however, in this instance, White House refers to the President, who lives there. In the same way, when Proverbs 15:4 states, “A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit,” tongue is a metonymy. Obviously, a literal, fleshly tongue cannot crush the human spirit, but the words the tongue produces can.

Spiritual:
What our tongue produces has eternal implications, for it reveals what is in our heart. Jesus said that “the good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” (Matthew 12:35). Isaiah places words on par with actions for displaying a sinful heart (Isaiah 59:2-3). “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36). In and of ourselves, we are utterly unable to “tame the tongue” because “it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). A tongue under control is a mark of the Spirit’s power. Apart from accepting Jesus’ atonement on the cross, we will be judged according to our words: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

Physical:
In order to take Proverbs 18:21 literally – that the tongue can cause physical life and death – we do not need to tax our imagination. Words create actions, good and bad. A judge or jury, by simply saying a word, can cause a person to be killed or to live. Words often save lives: a doctor advises surgery, a weatherman issues a tornado warning, a counselor gives hope to a suicidal person. Conversely, words can also kill: murders are often initiated because of arguments or verbalized hatred. In the sense of causing action, then, the tongue does indeed have the power of life and death.

Emotional:
Emotions are powerfully affecting, yet they are vulnerable to injury. James describes the tongue as “a fire” (James 3:6) – and who has not been burned by it? Proverbs 15:4 describes a “healing” tongue as “a tree of life.” As much as love is an action, what would romance be without words? Encouragement often comes through spoken words. So does discouragement. “Reckless words pierce like a sword” (Proverbs 12:18). The wound is emotional, and it is deep. What we say can have a profound effect on others.

I cant say it in WordsConclusion:
God made us expressive beings, so we are nearly lost without communication. That is why we have audio recordings and Braille for the blind, sign language for the deaf, and writing for anyone who has something to say from afar. Indeed, speech has enormous implications, especially as a vehicle for sharing the gospel (Romans 10:14). Therefore, we are commanded to control the tongue, to “keep [it] from evil and your lips from speaking lies” (Psalm 34:13). A Christian’s speech should consistently honor the Lord: with the tongue “we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be” (James 3:9-10).

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Are There Modern Day Apostles

The incredible diversity of viewpoint that exists in religion today is startling and disconcerting. We are witnessing a breakdown of respect for authority in American culture, as well as a tremendous increase in personal opinion and feelings as the standard of authority. Consequently, we now have a veritable smorgasbord of doctrinal variety in religion. Such is the nature of pluralism. One is likely to see anything and everything perpetrated in the name of religion and/or Christianity. The only solution to such a situation is to reaffirm the inspiration and authority of the Bible. The Bible is the only written document on this planet that is the standard of authority in life and in religion (see Miller, 1996, pp. 430-446,462-471).

THE DEFINITION OF AN APOSTLE

Such being the case, we must go to the Bible to determine God’s will with regard to modern-day apostles. When we do so, we first learn that the word “apostle” comes from the Greek word apostolos, which means “one sent from or forth, a messenger, delegate” (Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 99; Thayer, 1901, p. 68). The term is used in the New Testament in two distinct senses. It can refer to an individual who is sent by other humans to accomplish a particular mission or task. The term is so used to refer, for example, to Barnabas (Acts 14:14). He was an “apostle” in the sense that he accompanied Paul on an evangelistic trip. Jesus is said to be our “Apostle” in the sense that He was sent to atone for our sins (Hebrews 3:1).

The term “apostle” also is used in a second sense—what we might call an official sense. That is, “apostle” can refer to individuals who were officially and divinely selected to serve as Jesus’ original representatives—“ambassadors” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Jesus handpicked the original twelve apostles (Matthew 10:1-5; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16; 9:1-2). Of these original twelve, Judas betrayed the Lord as predicted by the Old Testament (Psalm 41:9; John 13:18-19; 18:1-5). Instead of repenting, he cinched his apostasy by committing suicide (Matthew 27:3-5; John 17:12). Consequently, a successor to Judas was selected by divine decree (Acts 1:16-26).

Only one other apostle in the official sense is alluded to in the New Testament—Paul. His appointment to apostleship was unique and unparalleled in that he was chosen for a specific first century task (Acts 9:15; 22:14-15; 26:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:8-9; Galatians 1:11-12,15-16). Christ selected him to introduce the message of Christianity to the Gentile world (Romans 11:13; 15:16; Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 3:8). Paul was careful to document the fact that his apostleship was by divine appointment (e.g., Romans 1:5; 1 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1,16).

THE QUALIFICATIONS OF AN APOSTLE

When one assembles all the relevant New Testament data, at least three qualifications emerge as prerequisite to one becoming an apostle in the official sense (Hayden, 1894, p. 33, expands these credentials to seven in number). First, an apostle had to have seen the Lord and been an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 1:22; 22:14; 1 Corinthians 9:1). Second, an apostle had to be specifically selected by the Lord or the Holy Spirit (Matthew 10:5; Mark 3:13-14; Luke 6:13; Acts 1:26; 9:15; 22:14-15,21; 26:16). Third, an apostle was invested with miraculous power to the extent that he could perform miracles. The power to perform miracles included the capability to confer the ability to work miracles to other individuals through the laying on of his hands (Mark 3:15; 16:17-20; Luke 9:1-2; John 14:12,26; 15:24-27; 16:13; Acts 2:43; 4:29-31,33; 5:12,15-16; 6:6; 8:14-18; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6; Romans 1:11; Hebrews 2:3-4). Jesus referred to His bestowal of miraculous capability upon the apostles when He promised they would be “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

THE WORK OF AN APOSTLE

The apostolic office was unquestionably a temporary office for the early church (though apostolic appointment was for life). Its essential purpose was twofold. First, apostles were commissioned by Jesus to launch the Christian religion (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-48). This purpose was achieved by means of the initial presentation of the Gospel to the whole world (Colossians 1:23), and the establishment of the church of Christ (Acts 2). Second, apostles were largely responsible for making the New Testament available—first in oral form and, more specifically, in written form (1 Corinthians 14:37; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 5:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:14; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:12-21; 3:15-16).

These two central tasks are set forth clearly in the New Testament. In Matthew 16, Jesus declared that He would build His church after His resurrection from hades (vs. 18). He then explained that it would be the apostles who would instigate initial entrance into Christ’s church (hence the significance of “keys”—vs. 19). This commencement of the Christian religion and the church of Christ would be achieved by means of the apostles “binding” and “loosing” the doctrinal tenets and principles of Christianity that Heaven had previously bound or loosed [the Greek uses the perfect passive and should be translated “will have been bound/loosed in Heaven” as in the NASB (cf. Matthew 18:18-20; John 20:22-23)]. Peter and the apostles articulated the terms of entrance into the kingdom of Christ for the first time on the Pentecost that followed Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2:14ff.).

In Ephesians 4, after summarizing Christianity in terms of seven core concepts (vss. 1-6), Paul described the initial sequence of events that recounted the advent of Christianity (vss. 7-16). Paul noted that: (1) after His crucifixion, Jesus descended into the Hadean realm; (2) He then was resurrected; (3) He ascended back to Heaven; (4) upon His ascension, He dispensed gifts; (5) the apostolic office was included in the reception of these miraculous capabilities; (6) the purpose of these gifts was to equip and edify the church; (7) the preparation provided to the infant church by these gifts was temporary (“till” is an adverb of time connoting when the miraculous gifts were to terminate), in that the same preparation soon would be available through the completed revelation, i.e., “the faith.” [By “completed revelation” we do not mean completed canon. We mean that all of God’s communication to humanity would have been revealed. See the New Testament discussion contrasting “mystery” with “made known” (Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 2:7-10; Ephesians 3:1-11). In the meantime, the process of producing copies of the various New Testament documents and circulating them far and wide would have been occurring rapidly and extensively from the very moment of their production by the inspired writers (cf. Colossians 4:16, 1 Timothy 5:18, where Luke 10:7 is already known and classified as “Scripture,” and 2 Peter 3:15-16, where Paul’s epistles are already circulated and recognized as “Scriptures”). Further, the reference to “the faith” in Ephesians 4:13 cannot refer to a time when all people or all Christians will achieve unity in faith. Such a circumstance will never occur. Paul was referring to the time when all people would have access to all of God’s communication to man, thus giving them the potential for attaining spiritual maturity (“a perfect man” vs. “children“). SeeMiller, 2003].

Once all of the information necessary to the promotion of the Christian religion was revealed to the early church (through oral means made possible by the distribution of the gifts), the church would have the means available to grow and mature in Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). While prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers [the words “pastors and teachers” share the same article in the Greek, and so should likely be construed to mean “pastor-teachers,” i.e., a single function in which pastors (those selected by the local congregation to serve as elders or shepherds) were endowed with the miraculous ability to teach inspired information not yet made available in written form] were part of this early development of Christianity (Ephesians 4:11), the office of an apostle was the primary means by which Christ accomplished the inauguration of His religion.

The apostles had the sole responsibility of executing the will of the Son of God in founding, organizing, and fully equipping the church of Christ on Earth, that she might fulfill her heaven-borne mission, until Jesus comes again (Hayden, p. 22). That is why Paul could say two chapters earlier that the household of God (i.e., the church) was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20; cf. 3:5; Revelation 21:14). That is why he informed the Corinthian Christians:

God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? (1 Corinthians 12:28-30).

The apostles are said to be “first” in the significance and criticality of their divinely appointed role. The apostles specifically described their unique role in the early church as entailing giving themselves to “the word of God” and “the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2,4).

THE DURATION OF AN APOSTLE

Once the church of Christ was established and Christianity was given its initial presentation (cf. Colossians 1:23), the apostolic office faded from the scene along with the age of miracles. As an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection, Paul referred to himself in relation to the other apostles as “last of all” (1 Corinthians 15:8). Neither apostles nor miraculous gifts was needed any longer. They had served their temporary purpose (Mark 16:20; Acts 4:29-31; 13:12; 14:3; Romans 15:18-19; Hebrews 2:3-4; cf. Exodus 4:30). Miraculous gifts functioned as scaffolding while the church was under initial construction, and were removed once the structure had been completed (1 Corinthians 3:10; 13:11; Ephesians 4:13-14). The book we call the Bible is the totality of God’s written revelation to the human race. Consequently, people now have access to everything they need (2 Peter 1:3) to enter into a right relationship with God via Christianity and the church of Christ. The apostles “had no official successors. From the nature of their duties, there could be no succession” (Hayden, pp. 20-21). Apostles, quite simply, are no longer needed!

NO APOSTLES TODAY

Unfortunately, several groups that claim affiliation with the Christian religion allege to have apostles among them, including Catholicism, Mormonism, and some pentecostal groups. This claim is unbiblical. No person living today can meet the qualifications given in Scripture for being an apostle. No one living today has been an eyewitness of Christ’s resurrection. Christ has selected no one living today for the apostolic role. No one living today possesses the miraculous capabilities of an apostle. We should not be surprised that people would falsely claim to be apostles. Jesus warned that false prophets would come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they would be ravening wolves (Matthew 7:15). Paul described some of his opponents in these words:

For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Further warning was issued to the Galatian churches: “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Anyone claiming to be an apostle today who teaches anything in addition to the New Testament is clearly not an apostle of Christ!

Peter added his voice on the same subject: “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). No wonder John admonished: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1; cf. Matthew 24:11,24). In the Revelation, the church at Ephesus was commended because they “tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars” (Revelation 2:2).

Catholicism maintains that Peter was the supreme bishop, even over the other apostles, and that every pope since Peter is an apostolic successor to Peter. The pope is selected after literally hours and days of deliberation by cardinals in the Vatican. The only apostle in the Bible that was not handpicked by Christ in person was Matthias. Yet he was not selected by mere men deliberating and debating his potential. He was selected by the casting of lots—which was simply another way for Jesus to do the selecting (Acts 1:26; cf. Proverbs 16:33).

It is incredible to think that any human beings living today would presume to appoint apostles. In pinpointing the credentials of an apostle, Luke (Acts 1) made it abundantly evident that to qualify as an apostle a person would have to have seen the Lord and been aneyewitness of His resurrection. That is why Paul was careful to state: “Am I not an apostle? …Have I not seen the Lord?” (1 Corinthians 9:1, emp. added). In recounting his conversion, he quoted Ananias as having said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-15, emp. added). What alleged modern-day apostle could make such a claim?

The New Testament also makes clear the fact that an essential characteristic of an apostle was that he had been selected by Deity. When Jesus was on Earth, He handpicked the first twelve apostles. After His departure from Earth, the disciples cast lots to select a successor to Judas. Their method allowed no input from mere humans—except in the recognition that two men possessed all the qualifications necessary to be an apostle. Casting lots allowedGod to do the selecting. Divine control in the selection process by casting lots was common in Old Testament history (see Leviticus 16:8; Numbers 26:55; 33:54; 34:13; Joshua 14:2; 18:6,10; 19:51; cf. Acts 13:19; 1 Samuel 14:42; Nehemiah 10:34; Psalm 16:5). Solomon claimed: “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord” (Proverbs 16:33). Indeed, Peter’s prayer on the occasion shows that the decision already had been made by the Lord before the actual casting of lots: “…show which of these two You have chosen” (Acts 1:24, emp. added). The summary statement regarding Matthias—“he was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26; cf. Matthew 28:16; Mark 16:14; Luke 24:33)—gives way to a return to the expression “the twelve” (Acts 6:2; cf. Acts 2:14). The text states: “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship” (Acts 1:24-25). Paul also was handpicked by Jesus—to be a “chosen vessel” (Acts 9:15). No human being on Earth today can claim he has been personally singled out and chosen by Jesus to be an apostle.

A third proof that no apostles exist on Earth today is the fact that New Testament apostles were empowered by God—not only to perform miracles—but also to convey miraculous power to other people who then could work miracles themselves. This characteristic is demonstrated in detailed fashion in Acts: “Now when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money” (Acts 8:18). The issue of modern-day apostles may be settled very quickly! To authenticate their claim to be apostles, they must be able both to perform miracles as well as confer miraculous power to others. The apostles of Jesus in the New Testament demonstrated their apostolic status without hesitation. Anyone today who claims to be an apostle should be willing to do the same. No such ability exists today.

ORIGINAL APOSTLES WERE SUFFICIENT

A fascinating passage in the New Testament sheds further light upon this notion of modern-day apostles. That passage is Matthew 19:28. There Jesus informed Peter and the other apostles: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” A related passage is Luke 22:29-30 which says, “And I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as my Father bestowed one upon Me, that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

These verses are Christ’s figurative declarations describing the role of the twelve apostles in the establishment of the church and the dissemination of the gospel proclamation (cf. Bales, 1957, pp. 187-223). The “regeneration” refers to the Christian era, which began at Pentecost, during which time spiritual regeneration became possible through the blood of Christ (Titus 3:5). It is an equivalent expression with the “time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10). The throne of Christ’s glory refers to His present location at the right hand of God (Acts 2:34-36; Ephesians 1:20; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:13; 8:1; 10:12-13). The “judging” done by the apostles refers to the rule that the apostles exerted while they were on Earth, setting in place the features of New Testament Christianity (Matthew 16:19; John 20:22-23). The “twelve thrones” refers to their complete authority from Christ to implement Christ’s will until the end of time—which they presently do today through their authoritative writings—found only in the New Testament. The “twelve tribes” is a figurative way to refer to the church—the spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16; James 1:1; cf. Romans 2:28-30; Galatians 3:29).

You Make All Things NewNeither Christ nor the original apostles needs successors or representatives on Earth today. They continue to rule and reign over the kingdom through the work that they achieved in the first century, and that is preserved for all in the New Testament. Christ is now on His throne ruling and reigning. The apostles also are on the thrones assigned to them by Christ. To suggest that the apostles have modern-day successors is to discount and discredit the current rule of the apostles. Neither Christ nor the apostles has abdicated their authority or their current rule to any humans on Earth.

Additionally, the fact that Jesus declared that all twelve apostles would occupy thrones in the kingdom proves that Peter had no greater authority than the other apostles. The apostles were equal in their reception and wielding of the authority delegated to them by Christ. Yet the Catholic Church claims that the immediate successors to Peter were Linus (from A.D. 67 to 79), Cletus (from A.D. 79 to 91) and Clement (from A.D. 91 to 100). They agree that the apostle John would have still been alive throughout this period (see G.C. Brewer’s discussion as quoted in Bales, pp. 208-210). The doctrine of the primacy of Peter means that the first three of the alleged successors of Peter would have exercised authority over the still-living apostle John—who had been handpicked by Christ Himself! The very John whom Jesus placed on one of the twelve thrones would have been under the authority, knowledge, and power of three popes who had not been selected to be among the original Twelve! (see also Hayden, pp. 22-33). Hayden aptly summarized the New Testament position regarding modern-day apostles:

The thirteen apostles chosen, ordained and endowed by the newly crowned Messiah faithfully and fully executed their commission. When they entered into everlasting rest, the church was established, with all needful ministries to edify, extend and perpetuate it throughout all coming centuries. Then the extraordinary, which was necessary to found a new institution, was succeeded by the ordinary, which is sufficient to teach, regulate and govern the subjects of Christ’s kingdom according to the laws that went forth from Jerusalem. The revelation of God was completed. The word of faith is henceforth nigh every believer, even in his mouth and in his heart. The apostolic office ceased, and evangelists and pastors became the permanent teachers and superintendents of the church (pp. 33-34).

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We Can Learn from the Life of Job

The life of Job is proof that man usually has no idea what God is doing behind the scenes in the life of each believer. All humans ask the question “Why do bad things happen to good people?” It is the age-old question, and difficult to answer, but believers know that God is always in control, and, no matter what happens, there are no coincidences-nothing happens by chance. Job was a believer; he knew that God was on the throne and in total control, though he had no way of knowing why so many terrible tragedies were occurring in his life.

Job never lost his faith in God, even under the most heartbreaking circumstances that tested him to his core. It’s hard to imagine losing everything we own in one day-property, possessions, and even children. Most men would sink into depression and even become suicidal after such a nightmare; however, Job never wavered in his understanding that God was still in control. Job’s three friends, on the other hand, instead of comforting him, gave him bad advice and even accused him of committing sins so grievous that God was punishing him with misery. Job knew God well enough to know that He did not work that way; in fact, he had such an intimate, personal relationship with Him that he was able to say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15).

Job’s plight, from the death of his children and loss of his property to the physical torment he endured, plus the harangue of his so-called friends, never caused his faith to waver. He knew who his Redeemer was, he knew that He was a living Savior, and he knew that someday He would physically stand on the earth (Job 19:25). He understood that man’s days are ordained (numbered) and they cannot be changed (Job 14:5). The spiritual depth of Job shows throughout the book.

There are also several scientific and historical facts in the book of Job. The book implied the earth is round long before the advent of modern science (Job 22:14). The book mentions dinosaurs-not by that name, but the description of the behemoth is certainly dinosaur-like-living side by side with man (Job 40:15-24).

The book of Job gives us a glimpse behind the veil that separates earthly life from the heavenly. In the beginning of the book, we see that Satan and his fallen angels are still allowed access to heaven, going in and out to the prescribed meetings that take place there. What is obvious from these accounts is that Satan is busy working his evil on earth, as recorded in Job 1:6-7. Also, this account shows how Satan is “the accuser of the brethren,” which corresponds to Revelation 12:10, and it shows his arrogance and pride, as written in Isaiah 14:13-14. It is amazing to see how Satan challenges God; he has no scruples about confronting the Most High. The account in Job shows Satan as he truly is-haughty and evil to the core.

Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn from the book of Job is that God does not have to answer to anyone for what He does or does not do. Job’s experience teaches us that we may never know the specific reason for suffering, but we must trust in our sovereign, holy, righteous God. His ways are perfect (Psalm 18:30). Since God’s ways are perfect, we can trust that whatever He does-and whatever He allows-is also perfect. We can’t expect to understand God’s mind perfectly, as He reminds us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways. . . . For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Our responsibility to God is to obey Him, to trust Him, and to submit to His will, whether we understand it or not. When we do, we will find God in the midst of our trials-possibly even because of our trials. We will see more clearly the magnificence of our God, and we will say, with Job, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (Job 42:5).

Job’s experience teaches us that God’s grace is enough to sustain the believer who trusts in God. If Job could wade through the affliction that befell him, there is no difficulty that any believer who leans on this grace will not overcome. The sufficiency of God’s grace is well assured in 2 Cor 12:9.

It also points to the limitation of our adversary. Satan is not always every where though he keeps moving to and fro. He is not all powerful since he must obtain permission to touch certain parts of God’s people. Satan himself acknowledged that the hedge around Job was posing serious difficulty to him. We should not magnify his power. Since he is limited, his affliction against the believer is also limited and in fact controlled. But our God is unlimited, infinite, omnipotent and almighty.

Life of JobJob’ s experience shows how unreliable and feeble our fellow mortals can be. The most serious weakness relates to our dear ones like job’s wife and friends. His wife who should have stood with him to comfort and encourage him was rather prompting him to curse God. Job’s response shows that we cannot compromise God’s standard with the excuse of any weak character around us. Rather we should demonstrate the knowledge we have gained from our walk with God. This means that the excuse of Adam that the wife God gave him made him to eat the forbidden fruit is untenable and cannot justify our compromise.

Job shows us that our God is a God of restoration. There is no amount of damage, pain or loss that he cannot repay/repair. He promised that all that the cankerworms have eaten shall be restored. Again He assures us us that for our shame we shall receive double. When the enemy has done his worst we should look out for the best of God in view.

There is no point wishing to die because of difficult times. We should be strong in the strength of God’s might so that after the storm we shall be there to tell of the goodness of The Lord.

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We get 5 Crowns for doing what we Should be Anyway

First was is the meaning of 5 in the Bible?

The Number 5

The number 5 symbolizes God’s grace, goodness and favor toward humans and is mentioned 318 times in Scripture. Five is the number of grace, and multiplied by itself, which is 25, is ‘grace upon grace’ (John 1:16). The Ten Commandments contains two sets of 5 commandments. The first five commandments are related to our treatment and relationship with God, and the last five concern our relationship with others humans.

Appearances of the number five

There are five primary types of offerings God commanded Israel to bring to him. They are the Burnt Offering (Leviticus 1; 8:18 – 21; 16:24), Sin (Leviticus 4; 16:3 – 22), Trespass (Leviticus 5:14 – 19; 6:1 – 7; 7:1 – 6), Grain (Leviticus 2) and Peace Offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11- 34).

The Book of Psalms is divided into five major sections. Section 1 (Psalm 1 to 41) refers to the Passover, Israel’s beginning, and the start of the God’s plan of salvation that centers around Christ. Section 2 (42 to 72) sings about a unified Israel in the land and pictures the creation of the New Testament Church. Section 3 (73 to 89) bemoans the destruction of both God’s Temple and Jerusalem. This section also hints at prophecies regarding the End Time Great Tribulation. Section 4 (90 to 106) rejoices over the 1,000 reign of Jesus and shows Israel gathered again. Section 5 (107 to 150) pictures a time when Judah (representing all Israel) shall again be delivered.

There are five books of God’s Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) commonly referred to as the Pentateuch (‘Penta’ means five).

Oh and Jesus received 5 wounds on His body when He was on the Cross!

There are five crowns that are mentioned in the New Testament that will be given to Believers. All crowns will be given after Jesus judgement, but do we wear crowns in Heaven or we will give the crowns back to the only worthy one, Jesus Christ?

There are five heavenly crowns mentioned in the New Testament that will be awarded to believers. They are the imperishable crown, the crown of rejoicing, the crown of righteousness, the crown of glory, and the crown of life. The Greek word translated “crown” is stephanos (the source for the name Stephen the martyr) and means “a badge of royalty, a prize in the public games or a symbol of honor generally.” Used during the ancient Greek games, it referred to a wreath or garland of leaves placed on a victor’s head as a reward for winning an athletic contest. As such, this word is used figuratively in the New Testament of the rewards of heaven God promises those who are faithful. Paul’s passage in 1 Corinthians 9:24-25 best defines for us how these crowns are awarded.

1) The Imperishable Crown – (1 Corinthians 9:24-25) “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate [disciplined] in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (NKJV). All things on this earth are subject to decay and will perish. Jesus urges us to not store our treasures on earth “where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). This is analogous to what Paul was saying about that wreath of leaves that was soon to turn brittle and fall apart. But not so the heavenly crown; faithful endurance wins a heavenly reward which is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-5).

The Five Christian Crowns2) The Crown of Rejoicing – (1 Thessalonians 2:19) “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?” The apostle Paul tells us in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice always in the Lord” for all the bountiful blessings our gracious God has showered upon us. As Christians we have more in this life to rejoice about than anyone else. Luke tells us there is rejoicing even now in heaven (Luke 15:7). The crown of rejoicing will be our reward where “God will wipe away every tear… there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).

3) The Crown of Righteousness – (2 Timothy 4:8) “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” We inherit this crown through the righteousness of Christ which is what gives us a right to it, and without which it cannot be obtained. Because it is obtained and possessed in a righteous way, and not by force and deceit as earthly crowns sometimes are, it is an everlasting crown, promised to all who love the Lord and eagerly wait for His return. Through our enduring the discouragements, persecutions, sufferings, or even death, we know assuredly our reward is with Christ in eternity (Philippians 3:20). This crown is not for those who depend upon their own sense of righteousness or of their own works. Such an attitude breeds only arrogance and pride, not a longing, a fervent desire to be with the Lord.

4) The Crown of Glory – (1 Peter 5:4) “And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.” Though Peter is addressing the elders, we must also remember that the crown will be awarded to all those who long for or love His appearing. This word “glory” is an interesting word referring to the very nature of God and His actions. It entails His great splendor and brightness. Recall Stephen who, while being stoned to death, was able to look into the heavens and see the glory of God (Acts 7:55-56). This word also means that the praise and honor we bestow to God alone is due Him because of who He is (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11; Galatians 1:5). It also recognizes that believers are incredibly blessed to enter into the kingdom, into the very likeness of Christ Himself. For as Paul so eloquently put it, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 NKJV).

5) The Crown of Life – (Revelation 2:10) “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” This crown is for all believers, but is especially dear to those who endure sufferings, who bravely confront persecution for Jesus, even to the point of death. In Scripture the word “life” is often used to show a relationship that is right with God. It was Jesus who said, “I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Just as things such as air, food, and water are vital for our physical lives, Jesus provides us what is required for our spiritual lives. He is the One who provides “living water.” He is the “bread of life” (John 4:10; 6:35). We know that our earthly lives will end. But we have the amazing promise that comes only to those who come to God through Jesus: “And this is the promise that He has promised us-eternal life” (1 John 2:25).

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James tells us that this crown of life is for all those who love God (James 1:12). The question then is how do we demonstrate our love for God? The apostle John answers this for us: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3). As His children we must keep His commandments, obeying Him, always remaining faithful. So, as we endure the inevitable trials, pains, heartaches, and tribulations-as long as we live-may we ever move forward, always “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and receive the crown of life that awaits us.

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35 HabakkuK chapter 1-3

HabakkuK-whatshotn

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January 14, 2016 · 11:19 am

A Bible Believer Asks The Question ‘When Does Life Begin’

What is life. In essence, mankind has only three designations. In his physical state, he is either born or unborn. And, in his spiritual state, he is either regenerated or lost

We all know that life begins at conception.  But, is that the end of the matter.  Should we stop there and ask no more questions?   Of course not!  Shouldn’t Bible Believing Christians who claim the Bible as their standard of truth and science, at the very least, look in the BIBLE for the answers to their questions?  Yes, we should!  We should look in the Bible for the answers AND we should look in the Bible for the QUESTIONS, too.  We should ask ourselves, “Is that question even a Bible question?”  The truth is, before someone can get to the right answer they must first get to the right question.  For example, when someone asks the question, “When does life begin?” it should send up for us red flags right away because that question falls short of a far bigger question someone should be asking – a better question – a more biblical question.  And, since God has the right answers and more importantly the right questions, this study will seek to answer this subject from the very beginning with the right question, “When does man become a living soul?”

Keeping in mind that God is The Author of lifeall life – both physical and spiritual; the purpose of the following chart is to present the biblical  view of the controversial subject, “When does man become a living soul?  Being a man becomes a living soul at birthwhatever your present view, we do NOT advocate abortion of any kind.  We advocate life!  And, unless God deems fit to take that life away, no one has any warrant to interrupt it in any stage.  Jesus said, “I am come that they might have life.”  (John 10:10)  We advocate birth for the unborn and a new birth for Adam’s fallen race.  (John 3:1-8)  Of the three natures of man, none stand alone.  The fact is, prenatal life is needed for physical birth, physical life is needed for the new birth, and Eternal life is needed for the Believer’s glorification.  Hence, life is needed in every stage of man.

Man: A Living Soul

In essence, mankind has only three designations.  In his physical state, he is either born or unborn.  And, in his spiritual state, he is either regenerated or lost.  Jesus gave us the key to understanding all this, when He said,

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.  …Except a man be born of water [the first birth] and of the Spirit [the second birth], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh [the first birth] is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit [the second birth] is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”  (John 3:3-7)

This study will deal specifically with the three conditions of man:

  1. Physically UNBORN, in darkness, in his mother’s womb.
  2. Physically BORN, in light physically, in darkness spiritually.
  3. Physically BORN, in light physically and spiritually.

In a three minute conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus mentioned the first condition of man…

“How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?”  (John 3:4)    The first condition of man is inside his mother’s womb.

Jesus added the other two conditions…

Born of water” (womb) – natural birth and “born of the Spirit” –spiritual birth (John 3:5-6)

That translates to three natures:

  1. UNBORN nature
  2. UNREGENERATED nature
  3. REGENERATED nature

Just as physical conception, with natural seed, generates physical life, a spiritual conception, with spiritual seed (I Peter 1:23), generates spiritual life.

According to Jesus, if there is no natural life without a natural birth, there will be no spiritual life, without a spiritual birth.  (See note below.)

So, the question still remains, what determines when a man becomes a living soul?  Jesus answered that in the next verse of our main text…

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”  (John 3:8)

Jesus likened spiritual birth to wind – blowing air.  If “every one that is born of the Spirit” breathes spiritually for the first time at their new birth, then it stands to reason, that everyone who breathes naturally for the first time, does so at their physical birth.

May-God-bless-You-today-always-WHATSHOTNAdam became a “living soul” when, “the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), and the soul of the widow’s son of First Kings seventeen came “into him again” after he received “breath” (vs. 17).

As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul; All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils….”  (Job 27:2-3)

“The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.”  (Job 33:4)

“And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.  Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind [Remember; Jesus likened wind to being born of the Spirit – John 3:8], Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” (Ezekiel 37:8-10)

Here is the KEY to understanding this subject.  Remember, the question is, When does man become a living soul?”

Like a man’s spirit and soul leave a man at death (which leaves a FULLY DEVELOPED BODY), so too, at this stage (see first chart below – “Begins Birth”) you have a FULLY DEVELOPED BODY THAT IS LIVING (totally dependent on its mother for life), in anticipation of birth where it receives a spirit, and becomes a living soul.

Therefore…                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

PHYSICAL LIFE is generated at CONCEPTION, and completed at BIRTH – where man becomes a LIVING SOUL* that breathes on his own, for the first time ever.  And, SPIRITUAL LIFE begins at CONCEPTION** and completed at BIRTH – The NEW BIRTH – where a living soul has been regenerated into a SAVED SOUL that is breathing spiritually, for the first time ever.


 

* When God created man, He created him as a COMPLETE being.  God, as a triune being, made man in His own image.  In that sense, man looked like God, with a “spirit and soul and body.”  (I Thessalonians 5:23)                                                                                             

** See I PETER 1:23 and Mark 4:8a, 20a – The seed of the word of God implanted in “good ground.”

** When God created man, He created him as a COMPLETE being.   

Note:  Spiritually speaking, a man might conceive the seed of the word of God, but he is not breathing (spiritually), according to the Lord Jesus, UNTIL he is born again.  It is no different in the physical realm.  A woman receives corruptible seed that produces a corruptible body that has to grow to maturity, in order to be born and breath on his own.

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Belshazzar’s Feast And The Fall Of Babylon

Almost seventy years have passed since the events of chapter 1 of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar himself had died in 562 B.C. Daniel does not record his immediate successors, and extrabiblical literature is somewhat confused. A plausible account of Berosus, in his third book, found in a fragment preserved by Josephus summarizes the history between Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C. and the fall of Babylon 539 B.C.

According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar died after a reign of 43 years and was followed by his son Evil-Merodach. Because his rule was arbitrary and licentious, he was assassinated by Neriglisar after he had reigned only two years. The next four years Neriglisar occupied the throne. At his death his son Laborosoarchod, who was only a child, reigned for nine months until a conspiracy resulted in his being beaten to death. The conspirators appointed Nabonidus, one of their number, who reigned for seventeen years before being defeated by Cyrus the Persian. Nabonidus fleeing Babylon went to Borsippa but was forced to surrender to Cyrus. Nabonidus was allowed to live in Carmania until the time of his death, but he was not allowed to come to Babylonia.

The account of Berosus preserved by Josephus is supported by other evidence such as the short fragment of Abydenus preserved by Eusebius.

Until the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder, no mention of Belshazzar, whom Daniel declares to be king of Babylon, had been found in extrabiblical literature. Critics of the authenticity and historicity of Daniel accordingly were free to question whether any such person as Belshazzar existed. Since the publication of Raymond Dougherty’s scholarly research on Nabonidus and Belshazzar, based on the Nabonidus Cylinder and other sources, there is no ground for questioning the general historicity of Belshazzar; and only the details of the scriptural account unverified by extrabiblical sources can be challenged by the critics. Montgomery states that the story is “un-historical” but “nevertheless contains indubitable reminiscences of actual history.”

On the other hand, such a careful scholar as Edward J. Young states, “The identity of Belshazzar has long caused difficulty to commentators. Some have denied his historicity… The king’s name, however, has now appeared upon the cuneiform documents, so that there can be no question as to his historicity. This is the first point at which this ch. exhibits its remarkable accuracy.” The controversy over Belshazzar, because of the extensive investigation and great variety of findings, has become one of the most complicated problems in the entire book, but the problem itself is comparatively simple. Was Belshazzar actually king of Babylon and was he murdered on the night that Babylon was conquered?

A solution of the problem has depended largely on the premises of the scholars dealing with it. Those critical of the authenticity and accuracy of Daniel, especially those zealous to prove second-century authorship, proceed on the premise that Daniel must be in error until he is proved otherwise. Here the discussion is lost in a maze of conflicting facts in extrabiblical literature concerning which the critics themselves are not agreed. Although such ancient records are notoriously inaccurate and at best are fragmentary, the argument of the critics was that Belshazzar never existed because his name did not appear in any of the ancient records. This omission, however, was later remedied, as mentioned above, by the discovery of the name of Bel-shar-usur (Belshazzar) on cylinders in which he is called the son of Nabonidus. Critics, having to recede from their former position that no such person existed, have since centered their attack on the fact that the word king does not occur in connection with Belshazzar on any extant Babylonian records. The establishment of Nabonidus as the father of Belshazzar, or at least his stepfather, nullifies most of the critical objections, although Rowley in an extensive discussion maintains stoutly that to call Belshazzar a king “must still be pronounced a grave historical error.”

Since Rowley, however, even liberal scholars have tended to accept the explanation that Belshazzar acted as a regent under his father, Nabonidus. Norman Porteous, for instance, writes, “On the other hand it is known that Belshazzar was a historical person, the son of the last Babylonian king Nabonidus, who acted as regent of Babylon for several years before its fall, while his father was absent at the oasis of Teima in Arabia.” This would begin Belshazzar’s regency about 553 B.C., when Nabonidus went to Teima. Not only the record in Daniel but also the external evidence is now sufficient to support the conclusion that Belshazzar’s coregency is almost beyond question. This is another illustration of how critical objections based on lack of external evidence are frequently overthrown when the evidence is uncovered.

Additional evidence that Nabonidus was away from Babylon on the night of Daniel 5 is given in the fragment from Berosus, previously cited, which indicates that Nabonidus had left Babylon only to be vanquished in battle and flee to Borsippa. This would involve the premise that Nabonidus, although usually living at Teima, had returned to Babylon for a visit just prior to the siege of Babylon, had gone out to battle before Babylon was actually surrounded, and then was defeated, thereby permitting the Persians to besiege Babylon itself. Under these circumstances, Belshazzar would indeed be king of Babylon in the absence of his father. Problems of his relationship will be considered at the proper place in the exposition, including the possibility that Belshazzar’s mother was a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thus in the royal line, whereas Nabonidus was not. There are actually so many plausible possibilities in Daniel’s account, supported by the evidence cited, that the storm of objections can hardly be taken seriously.

Belshazzar’s Feast in Honor of the Gods of Babylon

5:1-4 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand. Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them. They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

About seventy years had elapsed since the capture of Jerusalem recorded in Daniel 1. In the interpretation of the image in chapter 2, Daniel had predicted to Nebuchadnezzar, “After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee” (Dan 2:39). Now, in chapter 5, this prophecy is about to be fulfilled. Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliating experience in chapter 4 had been followed by his death in 562 b.c. Approximately twenty-three years elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5. In this period, a number of monarchs had succeeded Nebuchadnezzar. According to Berosus, Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by his son, Evil-Merodach, also known as Amel-Marduk, who was killed in 560 b.c. He was followed by Neriglissar, also spelled Nergal-shar-usur, a son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar who died in 556 b.c. of natural causes. He was succeeded by Laborosoarchad, also known as Labashi-Marduk, a grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, who was assassinated after less than a year. Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 b.c. and reigned until 539 b.c. when conquered by the Medes. Belshazzar is best identified as his son, whose mother was either a wife or a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and thereby strengthened the claim of Nabonidus to the throne. This explains why Belshazzar in the lineal descent from Nebuchadnezzar was honored as a coruler under Nabonidus. Although there are alternative explanations and some dates vary, this succession of kings and identification of characters seems to have reasonable justification. Most expositors disagree with Keil, who identifies Belshazzar with Evil-Merodach, preferring the identification of a son of Nabonidus, based on later evidence not available to Keil. The identifications of Leupold are more satisfactory.

Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu

Marduk, sun god of Babylon, with his thunderbolts pursues Anzu

In the quarter of a century which elapsed between chapter 4 and chapter 5, the further revelations given to Daniel in chapters 7 and 8 occurred. Chapter 7 was revealed to Daniel “in the first year of Belshazzar, king of Babylon” (Dan 7:1) and the vision of the ram and he-goat in chapter 8 occurred “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (Dan 8:1). The information embodied in these two visions, insofar as Daniel understood it, therefore was known to Daniel before the event of chapter 5 which chronologically came after chapters 7 and 8. If Belshazzar began his reign in 553 b.c, when Nabonidus went to Teima, the visions of chapters 7 and 8 actually occurred about twelve years before the events of chapter 5.

Verse 1 of chapter 5 introduces the fact that Belshazzar as king of Babylon had made a great feast to which a thousand of his lords had been invited with their wives. That such a large feast should be held by a monarch like Belshazzar is not at all strange. Leupold cites the ancient historian Ktesias to the effect that Persian monarchs frequently were known to dine daily with 15,000 people. M. E. 50:Mallowan mentions the great feast that Ashusnasirpal II gave to 69,574 guests when he dedicated his new capital city of Calah (Nimrud) in 879 b.c.

Although the size of the banquet is not amazing, the situation was most unusual. If the setting can be reconstructed, Nabonidus previously had gone forth from Babylon to fight the Medes and the Persians and had already been captured. The whole surrounding territory of the city of Babylon and the related provinces already had been conquered. Only Babylon with its massive walls and fortifications remained intact. Possibly to reassert their faith in their Babylonian gods and to bolster their own courage, this feast in the form of a festival had been ordered. The storehouses of Babylon were still abundant with food and wine, and there is evidence that there was plenty of both at this feast. The expression “drunk wine before the thousand” indicates that Belshazzar was probably on a platform at a higher level than other guests and led them in drinking toasts to their deities. Under the stimulus of wine, the thought occurred to Belshazzar to bring in the gold and silver vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar almost seventy years before. The implication in the clause “whiles he tasted the wine” is that Belshazzar in his right mind probably would not have committed this sacrilegious act.

Drinking bouts such as characterized Babylon were also common among other peoples, such as the Persians. Athenaeus quotes Heracleides of Cumae, the author of Persian History, in describing in detail the custom of drinking to excess after dinner. The luxury of both the drinking and the eating is also illustrated in Athenaeus in describing dinners among the Persians of high station as follows: “For one thousand animals are slaughtered daily for the king; these comprise horses, camels, oxen, asses, deer, and most of the smaller animals; many birds also are consumed, including Arabian ostriches—and the creature is large—geese, and cocks.”

Much has been made of the reference of Belshazzar’s relationship to Nebuchadnezzar, who is described as “his father” in verse 2; and even Keil is influenced by this to consider Belshazzar a literal son of Nebuchadnezzar. This is not entirely impossible, of course, for as Leupold shows, Nabonidus could have married a widow of Nebuchadnezzar who had a son by Nebuchadnezzar who then could be adopted by Nabonidus by way of strengthening his own hold upon the throne. As Nabonidus assumed the throne in 556 B.C., only six years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, and Belshazzar was probably at least a teenager when Nebuchadnezzar died—if he was old enough to be coregent with Nabonidus in 553 B.C.— it is possible that he was a genuine son of Nebuchadnezzar and that his mother, after Nebuchadnezzar’s death, was married to Nabonidus. This, however, is conjecture; and probably it is more natural to consider Belshazzar a son of Nabonidus himself.

Although the precise identity of Belshazzar may continue to be debated, available facts support accepting Daniel’s designation of Belshazzar as king. The reference to father may be construed as “grandfather.” As Pusey states, “Neither in Hebrew, nor in Chaldee, is there any-word for ‘grandfather,’ ‘grandson.’ Forefathers are called ‘fathers’ or ‘fathers’ fathers.’ But a single grandfather, or forefather, is never called ‘father’s father’ but always ‘father’ only.”

The sacred vessels taken from Jerusalem had apparently been kept in storage without sacrilegious use from Nebuchadnezzar’s day until the occasion of this feast. Now these holy vessels are distributed among the crowd and used as vessels from which to drink wine. Verse 2 cites that “the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines” drink from them; and this fact is restated in the actual act in verse 3 where only the golden vessels are mentioned. The Revised Standard Version, following the Vulgate, adds in verse 3 “and silver vessels.” This act of sacrilege was an intentioned religious gesture in praise of the gods of Babylon mentioned in descending order of importance as “gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.” That Belshazzar well knew the blasphemous character of his act is evident from Daniel 5:13, 22. He knew Daniel and knew the history of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience with God’s chastening. Some have found, in the six materials mentioned, a typical reference to “the number of the world amenable to judgment because of its hostility to God.” In the original, the gods of gold and silver are separated by the conjunction “and,” not true of the listing of the gods of brass, iron, wood, and stone, as if there were two classes of deities. This distinction is supported by Keil.

Their pride in their deities may have been bolstered by the magnificence of the city of Babylon itself, interpreted as an evidence of the power of their gods. Herodotus gives a glowing account of Babylon as a monument to the genius of Nebuchadnezzar and undoubtedly a source of much pride to all the Babylonians. According to Herodotus, Babylon was about fourteen miles square, with great outer walls 87 feet thick and 350 feet high, with a hundred great bronze gates in the walls. A system of inner and outer walls with a water moat between the walls made the city very secure. So broad and strong were the walls that chariots four abreast could parade around its top. Herodotus pictures hundreds of towers at appropriate intervals reaching another 100 feet into the air above the top of the wall.

Modern interpreters view Herodotus’ figures as greatly exaggerated, with the real dimensions only about one-fourth of what Herodotus claimed. The outer wall seems to have been only seventeen miles in circumference, instead of about fifty-six as Herodotus claimed, with much fewer towers and gates; and probably even the towers were not more than 100 feet tall. While the dimensions may be questioned, the magnificence of the city was not seriously exaggerated.

The great Euphrates River flowed through the middle of the city in a general north-south direction and was bordered by walls on each side to protect the city from attack from the river. Within these walls were beautiful avenues, parks, and palaces. Many of the streets were lined with buildings three and four stories high. Among these buildings were the Temple of Bel, an eight-story structure, and the magnificent palace of the king, actually a complex of buildings, which have now been excavated. A great bridge spanned the Euphrates River, connecting the eastern section and the western or new section of the city. The bridge was later supplemented by a tunnel mentioned by Diodorus. The famed “hanging gardens” of Babylon were large enough to support trees.

babylon-represents-mans-efforts-to-replace-god-with-himselfAlthough Babylon has been only partially excavated with but a small part of the original city recovered, the system of mounds which mark the city today more or less indicate its boundaries. Archeological research is complicated by a change in the course of the Euphrates River and a higher water level, but more than 10,000 inscribed texts have been discovered.

In many respects, Babylon was the most fabulous city of the ancient world both for the beauty of its architecture and for the safety of its huge walls and fortifications. It was hard for the Babylonians to believe that even the Medes and the Persians who had surrounded their beloved city could possibly breach the fortifications or exhaust their supplies which were intended to be ample for a siege of many years. Their confidence in their gods was bolstered by their confidence in their city.

The Handwriting on the Wall

5:5-9 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. The king cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom. Then came in all the king’s wise men; but they could not read the writing, nor make known to the king the interpretation thereof. Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

While the feast was in progress with its drinking of wine and shouting of praises to the gods of Babylon, suddenly there appeared the fingers of a man’s hand which wrote on the plastered wall of the palace. With only the fingers of the hand visible and producing writing upon the wall, the spectacle immediately attracted attention.

In the ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace archeologists have uncovered a large throne room 56 feet wide and 173 feet long which probably was the scene of this banquet. Midway in the long wall opposite the entrance there was a niche in front of which the king may well have been seated. Interestingly, the wall behind the niche was covered with white plaster as described by Daniel, which would make an excellent background for such a writing.

If the scene can be reconstructed, it is probable that the banquet was illuminated by torches which not only produced smoke but fitful light that would only partially illuminate the great hall. As the writing according to Daniel was written “over against the candlestick upon the plaister of the wall of the king’s palace,” it may have appeared in an area of greater illumination than the rest of the room and thus also have attracted more attention.

The effect upon the king and his associates was immediate. According to Daniel, his countenance changed, that is, changed color and became pale. His thin courage, bolstered by wine drunk from vessels which Nebuchadnezzar had plundered and were seemingly a symbol of the power of the gods of Babylon, now deserted him. He was instead filled with terror to the point that “the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.” In his excitement, he no longer could sit down but hardly had the strength to stand. Probably before the babble of conversation in the banquet room had subsided, the king began to cry aloud “to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers.” Only three classes of wise men are mentioned, but it is doubtful whether any class was intentionally omitted as verse 8 refers to “all the king’s wise men.” The astrologers were actually the magicians; the Chaldeans were a broad class of scholars and learned men in the lore of the Babylonians; and the soothsayers corresponded more closely to the modern concept of astrologers, although they may have also practiced sorcery. It is possible in the decline of the Babylonian Empire that the number of the wise men was far more limited at this point in history than it was under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. In any event, there is no proof for the suggestion discussed by Keil that the classification of wise men mentioned purposely excluded Daniel. As Keil points out, the king was ready to listen to anyone who could interpret the writing.

As soon as a suitable number of the wise men had assembled, the king addressed them offering the reward that, if one of them could read the writing and show the interpretation, he would be clothed with scarlet and have a chain of gold about his neck and become third ruler in the kingdom. To be clothed in scarlet and to wear a chain of gold about the neck were special tokens of the king’s favor and certainly would have been coveted by any of the wise men.

Much speculation has arisen concerning the expression that he offered them the position of being “the third ruler in the kingdom.” There is some question as to whether the Aramaic indicates specifically “the third ruler.” The ordinal numeral would be tÿli‚ta„y (as in Dan 2:39) whereas the Aramaic here is actually talti‚. Scholars are not agreed as to the precise meaning of this term, but the suggestion is made that it may be a title for an office of honor which did not necessarily correspond precisely to the meaning of the word. As Keil expresses it, “It is not quite certain what the princely situation is which was promised to the interpreter of the writing… That it is not the ordinale of the number third, is, since Havernick, now generally acknowledged.” However, recent scholarship has tended to confirm the translation “the third ruler.” Franz Rosenthal, for instance, confidently translates the term “one-third (ruler), triumvir.”

In spite of the problem in the word, it is probable that the offer of honor was that of being the third ruler. Belshazzar under Nabonidus was considered the second ruler, and the position of a third ruler would be the highest that he could offer. Belshazzar was evidently in no mood to bargain but was terrified and desperately desired to know the meaning of the writing.

The large reward that was offered, however, was to no avail, for the wise men who assembled could not read the writing nor interpret it. This implies a twofold difficulty. Some have claimed that the text does not plainly indicate the language. Charles, for instance, suggests that the writing was in unfamiliar ideograms. This, however, is mere conjecture. The probability is that the writing was in Aramaic and therefore not entirely unknown to the wise men.

In any case Daniel read the writing as Aramaic, and the suggestion of puns in the language depends upon the Aramaic. The difficulty of the wise men in reading the writing may have been that it was written in Aramaic script without the vowels being supplied; but if written in cuneiform, the vowels would have been included. Daniel does not explain the difficulty in reading the writing on the wall, but the problem apparently was not that it was a strange language but rather what the words signified prophetically.

The inability of the wise men to decipher the writing only increased the concern of Belshazzar. Perhaps the full force of his wickedness in using the vessels taken from the temple in Jerusalem had begun to dawn upon him, or the fears suppressed concerning the presence of the armies which surrounded Babylon may have now emerged. His concern was shared by the entire assembly.

Belshazzar’s predicament is another illustration of the insecurity and powerlessness of the rulers of this world when confronted by the power and wisdom of God. How God holds in derision the rulers of the world who take counsel against Him (Ps 2:1-4)! Like Nebuchadnezzar before him, Belshazzar was soon to experience divine judgment but without the happy ending.

Daniel Suggested as the Interpreter

5:10-12 Now the queen by reason of the words of the king and his lords came into the banquet house: and the queen spake and said, O king live for ever: let not thy thoughts trouble thee, nor let thy countenance be changed. There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; whom the king Nebuchadnezzar thy father, the king, I say, thy father, made master of the magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers; Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and shewing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar: now let Daniel be called, and he will show the interpretation.

The crisis produced by the inability of the wise men to interpret the handwriting on the wall is met by the entrance of one described as “the queen.” Much speculation surrounds the identity of this person as it is related to the larger question of Belshazzar’s lineage. Keil and Leupold both consider her to be a wife of Nebuchadnezzar and the mother of Belshazzar. As the wives of the lords and the king himself had earlier been declared to be at the banquet (v. 3) one who had the role of “queen” would most probably be Belshazzar’s mother. She had not attended the banquet. This would be understandable if she was elderly and the widow of Nebuchadnezzar. If she were the wife of Nabonidus who was in captivity she probably would not have desired to come alone. Hearing the unusual clamor at the banquet and learning of the distress of her son, because of her position she was able to enter the banquet hall freely and speak to the king. Her address is courteous, “O king, live for ever,” but directly to the point. Like a mother, she told her son in effect to pull himself together because there must be some solution to his problem. As one holding her position was normally highly regarded and treated with respect, she could speak out in a way that no other could do. Honoring of parents was characteristic of the Israelites (Ex 20:12; 1 Ki 2:13-20; 2 Ki 24:12-15). The same was true in the Gentile world, and the dowager queen was able to enter the banquet hall without an invitation.

Montgomery, opposing the idea that the queen is Belshazzar’s wife, comments, “Also the lady’s masterful appearance on the scene betokens rather the queen-mother than the consort.” Jeffery, likewise, writes, “…she speaks to him of his father in a way that suggests a mother speaking to a son rather than a wife to a husband.”

The solution to the problem which the queen suggested was that they invite Daniel the prophet, who had been discovered as a man of wisdom by Nebuchadnezzar, to interpret the writing. The queen uses the very words which presumably she had heard Nebuchadnezzar express (Dan 4:8, 9, 18). According to the queen, Daniel had “the spirit of the holy gods.” In the time of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom she refers as “thy father,” Daniel had been found to have the wisdom of gods and possessing “light,” that is, enlightenment, “understanding” or insight, and in general wisdom comparable to the wisdom of the gods. So great was his genius that Nebuchadnezzar had made him “master” or chief of his wise men, which in itself was a remarkable position for one who was not a Chaldean; and this honor placed upon him testified to the confidence of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel’s abilities. The reference to Nebuchadnezzar as the father of Belshazzar, as previously indicated, should probably be either grandfather or greatgrandfather as the same term would be used for any of these designations. It does imply, however, that Belshazzar was in descent from Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel’s excellent qualities manifested themselves in “an excellent spirit,” unusual knowledge and understanding, and the ability to interpret dreams, difficult sentences, and “dissolving of doubts,” that is, solutions to problems. The word for doubts ( qitÿri‚n) is actually knots, joints, difficult problems. Daniel had not been assembled with the other wise men because he probably was in semiretirement and was no longer chief of the wise men. The queen urged, however, that now he be brought in to solve the present problem.

Daniel Called Before the King

5:13-16 Then was Daniel brought in before the king. And the king spake and said unto Daniel, Art thou that Daniel, which art of the children of the captivity of Judah, whom the king my father brought out of Jewry? I have even heard of thee, that the spirit of the gods is in thee, and that light and understanding and excellent wisdom is found in thee. And now the wise men, the astrologers, have been brought in before me, that they should read this writing, and make known unto me the interpretation thereof: but they could not show the interpretation of the thing: And I have heard of thee, that thou canst make interpretations, and dissolve doubts: now if thou canst read the writing, and make known to me the interpretation thereof, thou shalt be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about thy neck, and shalt be the third ruler in the kingdom.

When Daniel was brought before the king, he addressed a natural question to reassure himself of the identity of Daniel. It seems clear that Belshazzar knew something of Daniel, for his form of address in verse 13 goes beyond the information supplied by his mother. He knew for instance that Daniel was of the captivity of Judah and that he was one of the captives which Nebuchadnezzar had brought out of Jerusalem. It may well be that because of awareness of his ancestry and religious convictions that Daniel had been demoted by Belshazzar himself. Now Belshazzar was all too eager to have the gifts of this man exercised to interpret the writing. Belshazzar goes on in verse 14 to repeat what his mother had said concerning Daniel’s wisdom.

Belshazzar informs Daniel of the inability of all the wise men either to read or to interpret the writing. Belshazzar then offers Daniel the same promise he made to the others of being clothed with scarlet and having a chain of gold and the privilege of being “the third ruler in the kingdom,” that is, the triumvir. As in the previous instances in Daniel 2 and 4, the wisdom of the world is demonstrated to be totally unable to solve its major problems and to understand either the present or the future. Daniel as the prophet of God is the channel through which divine revelation would come, and Belshazzar in his extremity was willing to listen.

Too often the world, like Belshazzar, is not willing to seek the wisdom of God until its own bankruptcy becomes evident. Then help is sought too late, as in the case of Belshazzar, and the cumulative sin and unbelief which precipitated the crisis in the first place becomes the occasion of downfall.

The situation before Belshazzar had all the elements of a great drama. Here was Daniel, an old man well in his eighties, with the marks of godly living evident in his bearing—in sharp contrast to the wine-flushed faces of the crowd. In the midst of this atmosphere of consternation, apprehension, and fear, Daniel’s countenance alone reflected the deep peace of God founded on confidence in God and His divine revelation.

Daniel’s Rebuke of Belshazzar

5:17-23 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another; yet I will read the writing unto the king, and make known to him the interpretation. O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour: And for the majesty that he gave him, all people, nations, and languages, trembled and feared before him: whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down. But when his heart was lifted up, and his mind hardened in pride, he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him: And he was driven from the sons of men; and his heart was made like the beasts, and his dwelling was with the wild asses: they fed him with grass like oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven; till he knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will. And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this: But hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of his house before thee, and thou, and thy lords, thy wives, and thy concubines, have drunk wine in them; and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified:

Daniel’s reply to the king is properly called a sermon, and as King says, “What a great sermon it is!” Daniel begins by disavowing any interest in the gifts or rewards which the king offered. This was not prompted by disrespect nor by the evident fact that they would be short-lived. What Daniel is saying is that he will give an unprejudiced interpretation with no attempt to seek favor from the king. He promises both to read and to make known the interpretation.

In addressing the king, Daniel does not begin with a formal salutation as he does for instance in connection with Darius in Daniel 6:21 where he says, “O king, live for ever.” No doubt Daniel holds Belshazzar in contempt for his desecration of the sacred vessels. However, the narration here must be considered in the form of a condensation; and probably Daniel addressed the king in a formal way. A parallel is found in Daniel 2:27, where Daniel addresses Nebuchadnezzar without formal greeting, and in Daniel 4:19, where Daniel replies to Nebuchadnezzar simply with the expression, “My lord.” This was hardly a time in any case for Daniel to greet Belshazzar with such an expression as he gave to Darius, “O king, live for ever,” when as a matter of fact, Belshazzar’s hours were numbered. Instead, in verse 18 he recognizes him as king but then immediately delivers his prophetic message of condemnation.

Daniel first reminds Belshazzar that God gave Nebuchadnezzar his great kingdom and the honor that went with it. Daniel describes graphically in verse 19 how Nebuchadnezzar was feared and had absolute authority of life and death over his people and, accordingly, was an absolute sovereign. As Young points out, however, the very character of this absolute authority delegated to Nebuchadnezzar by God also made Nebuchadnezzar responsible. This is demonstrated and supported by Nebuchadnezzar’s experience of insanity in Daniel 4 when, as Daniel expresses it, “he was deposed from his kingly throne, and they took his glory from him.” Daniel then itemizes in detail the characteristics of Nebuchadnezzar’s insanity, how he lived with the wild beasts, ate grass like the ox, and was wet with the dew of heaven. All of this proved that God was greater than Nebuchadnezzar and held him responsible for his authority. Only when Nebuchadnezzar was properly humbled did God restore him to his” glory and kingdom.

These facts are pertinent to Belshazzar’s situation as they were well known by everyone as Daniel expresses it in verse 22, “And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this.” The contrast between the supreme power of Nebuchadnezzar and the very limited power of Belshazzar is also evident. Belshazzar was not even the first ruler in the kingdom and was humiliated by the fact that Babylon was besieged and had already lost its power over the provinces surrounding the city.

Belshazzar’s situation and his knowledge of Nebuchadnezzar’s humbling made all the more blasphemous his taking of the vessels captured in Jerusalem from the house of the Lord and using them to drink wine in praising the gods of Babylon. With what eloquent scorn Daniel declares that Belshazzar, his lords, wives and concubines had drunk wine from these sacred vessels and had “praised gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified.”

Although the Scriptures do not state so expressly, it is probable that the message of Daniel to the king was heard by the entire company. It would have been quite improper for the entire company to keep on talking, especially in these dramatic circumstances, when Daniel was reporting to the king. They would naturally want to hear what he had to say. One can well imagine the tense moment as these ringing words reached every ear in the vast hail in the deathlike silence that greeted Daniel’s prophetic utterance. Here was a man who did not fear man and feared only God. Daniel spoke in measured tones the condemnation of that which was blasphemous in the sight of the holy God. There was, however, nothing insolent or discourteous in Daniel’s address to the king; and the charges were stated in a factual and objective way. In any case, the king was in no position to dispute with Daniel, even though Daniel’s words brought even greater fear and apprehension to his heart.

Daniel’s Interpretation of the Writing

me5:24-28 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written. And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

In beginning his explanation of the handwriting on the wall, Daniel first of all reads the writing; and for the first time, the words are introduced into the text of this chapter. Transliterated into English, they are given as “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” There has been almost endless critical discussion as to what the meaning of this inscription is, and the interpretation is complicated by a number of factors. In the book of Daniel the words are given in Aramaic, but some have questioned this. If it was written in Aramaic script, however, only the consonants may have appeared. If in cuneiform, the vowels would be included. While in ordinary discourse the lack of vowels could normally be supplied rather easily, in a cryptic statement such as this the addition of vowels is a problem. The inscription on the wall may have appeared like this, “MN’ MN’ TQL UPRSN.” The order of the letters in the Aramaic, of course, would be the reverse of this, that is, from right to left.

Young suggests, after some of the rabbis, that the characters may have been written vertically, and in that case in the Aramaic order they would have appeared as follows:

P T M M

R Q N N

S L ’ ’

If, in addition to the complications of the Aramaic, a language which was known, some unfamiliar form of their characters was used, it would indeed have required divine revelation to give a suitable explanation and interpretation, and may account for the difficulty in reading the writing.

Because of the variety of words that could be identified merely by the consonants, another suggestion has been made. MENE could be considered equivalent to the maneh of Ezekiel 45:12; Ezra 2:69. TEQEL could be considered as representing the Hebrew shekel PERES could be read as PERAS, or a half-maneh, although this identification is questionable. Under this interpretation, the writing would read, “A maneh, a maneh, a shekel, and a half-maneh.” Having arrived at this conclusion, however, it still remains to be determined what it means. Young in his discussion on this point gives J. Dymeley Prince the credit for the suggestion that the maneh refers to Nebuchadnezzar, the shekel (of much less value) to Belshazzar, and the half-minas refers to the Medes and the Persians. Daniel’s explanation, however, is far more cogent and reasonable, and does not give any indication that the words mean other than he indicates.

The word MENE means “numbered,” and Daniel interprets this in verse 26 as indicating “God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.” It is in keeping with the idea that man’s days are numbered, and the repetition of the word twice is probably for emphasis. Like the other words, it is a passive participle.

TEQEL means “weighed,” with the thought that Belshazzar has been put into the balances and found wanting, that is, short of true weight.

PERES means “divided,” and is merely another form for UPHARSIN as in verse 25 having the u, which is equivalent to the English and, with PHARSIN being the plural of PERES. Leupold suggests that PHARSIN could be understood by changing the vowels to be “Persians” and might have a double meaning as indicated by Daniel’s explanation “given to the Medes and Persians.” A pun may be intended on this third word. Having been interpreted to mean “divided,” it is also understood as a reference to the Aramaic word for Persian, thereby hinting a Persian victory over Babylon.

The interpretation of Daniel is clear and much more satisfactory than the alternatives offered by some expositors. Belshazzar is made to understand that Babylon will be given to the Medes and the Persians. Even while Daniel was interpreting the writing on the wall, the prophecy was being fulfilled as the Medes and the Persians poured into the city.

Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy Fulfilled

5:29-31 Then commanded Belshazzar, and they clothed Daniel with scarlet, and put a chain of gold about his neck, and made a proclamation concerning him, that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

The drama of the writing on the wall and its interpretation is now brought to its fulfillment as Belshazzar keeps his promise. Daniel is clothed with scarlet, a chain of gold put about his neck, and a proclamation issued that he should be the third ruler in the kingdom. All of these honors, however, were short-lived and useless, as Daniel well knew, and typical of the honors of this world. In its rise to power the Babylonian Empire had conquered Jerusalem, taken its inhabitants into captivity, looted its beautiful temple, and completely destroyed the city. Yet this empire was to have as its last official act the honoring of one of these captives who by divine revelation predicted not only the downfall of Babylon but the course of the times of the Gentiles until the Son of man should come from heaven. Man may have the first word, but God will have the last word.

Herodotus gives an interesting account of the circumstances surrounding the capture of Babylon:

“Cyrus… then advanced against Babylon. But the Babylonians, having taken the field, awaited his coming; and when he had advanced near the city, the Babylonians gave battle, and, being defeated, were shut up in the city. But as they had been long aware of the restless spirit of Cyrus, and saw that he attacked all nations alike, they had laid up provisions for many years, and therefore were under no apprehensions about a siege. On the other hand, Cyrus found himself in difficulty, since much time had elapsed, and his affairs were not at all advanced. Whether, therefore, someone else made the suggestion to him in his perplexity, or whether he himself devised the plan, he had recourse to the following stratagem. Having stationed the bulk of his army near the passage of the river where it enters Babylon, and again having stationed another division beyond the city, where the river makes its exit, he gave order to his forces to enter the city as soon as they should see the stream fordable. Having stationed his forces and given these directions, he himself marched away with the ineffective part of his army; and having come to the lake, Cyrus did the same with respect to the river and the lake as the queen of the Babylonians had done; for having diverted the river, by means of a canal, into the lake, which was before a swamp, he made the ancient channel fordable by the sinking of the river. When this took place, the Persians who were appointed to that purpose close to the stream of the river, which had now subsided to about the middle of a man’s thigh, entered Babylon by this passage. If, however, the Babylonians had been aware of it beforehand, or had known what Cyrus was about, they would not have suffered the Persians to enter the city, but would have utterly destroyed them; for, having shut all the little gates that lead to the river, and mounting the walls that extend along the banks of the river, they would have caught them as in a net; whereas the Persians came upon them by surprise. It is related by the people who inhabited this city, that, by reason of its great extent, when they who were at the extremities were taken, those of the Babylonians who inhabited the centre knew nothing of the capture (for it happened to be a festival); but they were dancing at the time, and enjoying themselves, till they received certain information of the truth. And thus Babylon was taken for the first time.”

Keil discusses at length both Herodotus’ account and that of Xenophon in his Cyropaedia,which is similar, and summarizes the arguments of Kranichfeld discounting these records. Discoveries since Keil tend to support Herodotus and Xenophon, although not accounting for Darius the Mede. The battle probably took place much as Herodotus records it.

Prophecy anticipating the fall of Babylon is found in both Isaiah and Jeremiah, written many years before. Isaiah and Jeremiah had prophesied that Babylon would fall to the Medes on just such a night of revelry as Daniel records (Is 13:17-22; 21:1-10; Jer 51:33-58). Some of these prophecies may have their ultimate fulfillment in the future (Rev 17-18). More specifically of the invasion of the Medes, Isaiah writes, “Go up, O Elam: besiege, O Media” (Is 21:2), and continues, after describing their dismay, “My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise, ye princes, and anoint the shield” (Is 21:4-5). Finally, the tidings come, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground” (Is 21:9). Jeremiah is explicit, “And I will make drunk her princes, and her wise men, her captains, and her rulers, and her mighty men: and they shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is the Lord of hosts. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The broad walls of Babylon shall be utterly broken, and her high gates shall be burned with fire” (Jer 51:57-58).

The account of Cyrus, himself, of the fall of Babylon has now been recovered in an inscription on a clay barrel:

Marduk, the great lord, a protector of his people/worshipers, beheld with pleasure his (i.e., Cyrus’) good deeds and his upright mind (lit.: heart) (and therefore) ordered him to march against his city Babylon… He made him set out on the road to Babylon… going at his side like a real friend. His widespread troops—their number, like that of the water of a river, could not be established—strolled along, their weapons packed away. Without any battle, he made him enter his town Babylon,… sparing Babylon… any calamity. He delivered into his (1:e., Cyrus’) hands Nabonidus, the king who did not worship him (i.e., Marduk).

Daniel himself records with graphic simplicity the fulfillment of his prophecy in the words, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.” The concluding verse of the chapter in English versification records how Darius the Median became ruler of Babylon at the age of 62 years. The identity of this conqueror, unknown outside the Bible by this name, has touched off endless controversy and discussion which will be considered in the next chapter.

The long chapter devoted to this incident which brought the Babylonian Empire to its close is undoubtedly recorded in the Word of God not only for its historic fulfillment of the prophecies relative to the Babylonian Empire but also as an illustration of divine dealing with a wicked world. The downfall of Babylon is in type the downfall of the unbelieving world. In many respects, modern civilization is much like ancient Babylon, resplendent with its monuments of architectural triumph, as secure as human hands and ingenuity could make it, and yet defenseless against the judgment of God at the proper hour. Contemporary civilization is similar to ancient Babylon in that it has much to foster human pride but little to provide human security. Much as Babylon fell on that sixteenth day of Tishri (Oct. 11 or 12) 539 B.C., as indicated in the Nabonidus Chronicle, so the world will be overtaken by disaster when the day of the Lord comes (1 Th 5:1-3). The disaster of the world, however, does not overtake the child of God; Daniel survives the purge and emerges triumphant as one of the presidents of the new kingdom in chapter 6.

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Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride And Punishment

This chapter which occupies such a large portion of the book of Daniel is more than a profound story of how God can bring a proud man low. Undoubtedly, it is the climax of Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual biography which began with his recognition of the excellence of Daniel and his companions, continued with the interpretation of the dream of the image in chapter 2, and was advanced further by his experience with Daniel’s three companions.

In the background of this account is the obvious concern of Daniel the prophet for the man whom he had served for so many years. Daniel, a man of prayer, undoubtedly prayed for Nebuchadnezzar and eagerly sought some evidence of God’s working in his heart. While the experience of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4 was not what Daniel had anticipated, the outcome must have approximated Daniel’s fondest hope. Although some like Leupold, after Calvin, “doubt whether the king’s experience led to his conversion,” it may well be that this chapter brings Nebuchadnezzar to the place where he puts his trust in the God of Daniel. Even merely as a lesson in the spiritual progress of a man in the hands of God, this chapter is a literary gem.

In the light of Daniel’s revelation of the broad scope of Gentile power beginning in chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar’s experience seems to take on the larger meaning of the humbling of Gentile power by God and the bringing of the world into submission to Himself. In the light of other passages in the Bible speaking prophetically of Babylon and its ultimate overthrow, of which Isaiah 13 and 14 may be taken as an example, it becomes clear that the contest between God and Nebuchadnezzar is a broad illustration of God’s dealings with the entire human race and especially the Gentile world in its creaturely pride and failure to recognize the sovereignty of God. The theme of the chapter, as given by Daniel himself in the interpretation of the king’s dream, is God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar “till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan 4:25). Not only is the sovereignty of God demonstrated, but the bankruptcy of Babylonian wisdom forms another motif. It is obviously by design that this chapter precedes the downfall of Babylon itself which follows in chapter 5. To push this to the extreme of making it a particular application to Antiochus Epiphanes in the effort to support a late date of Daniel is, however, without justification. There is nothing whatever to link this passage to the second century B.C. In fact, it is far more applicable to that fateful night in October 539 b.c. when Babylon fell as recorded in Daniel 5.

The content of the chapter is in the form of a decree recording his dream, Daniel’s interpretation, and Nebuchadnezzar’s subsequent experience. Whether written by Nebuchadnezzar himself, or more probably by one of his scribes at his dictation, or possibly by Daniel himself at the king’s direction, the inclusion of it here in Daniel is by divine inspiration. Although critics have imagined a series of incredible objections to accepting this chapter as authentic and reasonably accurate, the narrative actually reads very sensibly and the objections seem trivial and unsupported.

Those who reject chapter 4 of Daniel without exception assume that the account is not inspired of the Holy Spirit, that an experience like Nebuchadnezzar’s is essentially incredible, and that it is a myth rather than an authentic historical record. Such objections obviously assume that higher criticism is right in declaring Daniel a forgery of the second century B.C. This conclusion is now subject to question not only because of the fallacious reasoning which supports it, but because it is now challenged by the documentary evidence in the Qumran text of Daniel, which on the basis of the critics’ own criteria would require Daniel to be much older than the second century b.c. (see Introduction). Conservative scholarship has united in declaring this chapter a genuine portion of the Word of God, equally inspired with other sections of Daniel.

Introduction of Nebuchadnezzar’s Proclamation

4:1-3 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

Although it is clear that the opening verses are an introduction to the decree of Nebuchadnezzar, various versions differ in their versification, with the Massoretic beginning the decree at the close of chapter 3. The Septuagint rendering of chapter 4 also differs considerably from the Hebrew-Aramaic text, used for the King James Version translation. Charles summarizes the differences in these words,

In the Massoretic text, which is followed by Theodotion, the Vulgate, and the Peshitto, the entire narrative is given in the form of an edict or letter of Nebuchadnezzar to all his subjects. It begins with a greeting to ‘all the peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth,’ and proceeds to state the king’s desire to make known to them the signs and wonders that the Most High had wrought upon him (1-3). He then recounts a dream which troubled him, and tells how he summoned the magicians, Chaldeans, and soothsayers to make known its interpretation.

Charles then contrasts this with the Septuagint,

Turning now to the LXX we observe first of all that there is nothing in it corresponding to the first three verses in the Massoretic, which transform the next thirty-four verses into an edict. The chapter begins simply, in the LXX, with the words: ‘And in the eighteenth year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar said: I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house’: then follows in the same narrative form the next thirty-three verses. At their close comes the edict as a result of the king’s spiritual and psychical experiences, in which are embodied very many of the phrases in iv.1-3. A close study of the texts and versions has forced me to the conclusion that the older order of the text is preserved in the LXX and not in the Aramaic.

Although liberal critics generally unite in a low view of this chapter, not only assigning it to a pseudo-Daniel of the second century but finding the text itself suspect, there is insufficient evidence in favor of the Greek translation of the Septuagint. Even Montgomery, who does not regard this as authentic Scripture, rejects the view that the Septuagint is the older text than the present Aramaic text, although he considers the Aramaic also a revision of an earlier text. There is actually little justification for all these variations of unbelief. The chapter on the face of it is credible, albeit a record of supernatural revelation. Generally, those who accept the sixth century date for Daniel also accept this chapter more or less as it is.

The first verse of chapter 4 is the natural form for such a decree, beginning with the name of the sender, the people to whom it is sent, and a general greeting. That it should be sent “unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth” is not out of keeping with the extensive character of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, although he was well aware of the fact that all of the earth’s geography was not under his power. It is similar to the extensive decree ofDaniel 3:29 which is addressed to “every people, nation, and language.” Montgomery is obviously prejudiced in his judgment, “As an edict the document is historically absurd; it has no similar in the history of royal conversions nor in ancient imperial edicts.” The folly of this kind of objection is evident in that if Montgomery had found one example in any other literature his criticism would become invalid, but he feels perfectly free to ignore the parallels in chapter 3 and chapter 6 of Daniel. In this case, as is so often true, the critics argue from alleged silence in the records, although admittedly we possess only fragments of ancient literature. This chapter is no more difficult to believe than any other unusual divine revelation.

Although the benediction, “Peace be multiplied unto you,” is strikingly similar to some of Paul’s greetings in his epistles, it was a common form of expression in the ancient world. A greeting very much like 4:1 is found in Daniel 6:25 where Darius wrote a similar decree with almost the same wording. It is possible that Daniel himself affected the form even if he did not write it as in both places he is in a position of high authority, and the edicts in both cases may have been issued under his particular direction. The decree in any case actually begins with the word peace as that which preceded it was the address.

Nebuchadnezzar then sets the stage for the presentation of his experience by declaring that it was his judgment that the amazing signs and wonders wrought in his life by “the high God” were of such unusual significance that he should share them with his entire realm. The expression signs and wonders is a familiar idiom of Scripture occurring, as Leupold notes, in many passages (Deu 6:22; 7:19; 13:1, 2; 26:8; Neh 9:10; Is 8:18, etc.). Because it is so biblical, it has led to questions by higher critics; but actually there is a great deal of similarity between Babylonian psalms and biblical psalms, and there is nothing technical about this phrase. The expression “the high God” is another evidence that Nebuchadnezzar regards the God of Israel as exalted; but it is not in itself proof that he is a monotheist, trusting only in the true God.

Nebuchadnezzar’s exclamation of the greatness of God and His signs and wonders is quite accurate and in keeping with his experience. The signs wrought in his life were indeed great, and God’s wonders were indeed mighty. His conclusion that the kingdom is an everlasting kingdom extending from generation to generation is a logical one based on his experience and reveals God in a true light (cf. Ps 145:13).

Wise Men Unable to Interpret Dream

4:4-7 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.

Nebuchadnezzar’s account of his experience describes his secure and flourishing situation in his palace prior to the dream. In his early reign he was active in military conquest. Now his vast domains had been made secure, and Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilling his heart’s desire by making Babylon one of the most fabulous cities of the ancient world. He was already enjoying his beautiful palace; and at the time of the dream itself he was in bed in his house as indicated in verses 5 and 10. In describing himself as “flourishing in my palace” he used a word meaning “to be green” such as the growth of green leaves on a tree, an evident anticipation of the dream which followed. In this context of security and prosperity surrounded by the monuments of his wealth and power, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which made him afraid. The sequence in verse 5 that he “saw a dream” and had “thoughts upon my bed” as well as “visions of my head” seems to imply that the dream came first, and then upon awakening from the dream which was also a vision his thoughts troubled him. The expression made me afraid is actually much stronger in the original and indicates extreme terror or fright.

As he contemplated the meaning of his experience, he issued a decree to bring all the wise men of Babylon before him to make known its interpretation. As illustrated in chapter 2 this was a standard procedure, and the wise men of Babylon were supposed to be able to interpret mystical experiences. Upon being told the dream, the wise men, described here in their various categories, as also in Daniel 2:2, did not make known to the king the interpretation. It seems that they not only did not make known the interpretation but were unable to do so, as Leupold translates this expression, “but they could not make known to me the interpretation.” Even though the dream was adverse and might present a problem in telling Nebuchadnezzar, they probably would have made some attempt to explain it to him, if they had understood it.

Daniel Told the King’s Dream

4:8-18 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; he cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men. This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.

For some unexplained reason Daniel was not with the other wise men when the king told his dream. Coming in late, he was immediately addressed personally by Nebuchadnezzar in attempt to have his dream interpreted. Questions have been raised why verse 8 not only calls him Daniel but adds the expression “whose name was Belteshazzar.” In view of the fact that this is part of a record where Daniel is prominent, why the double name?

The answer, however, is quite simple. This decree was going throughout the kingdom where most people would know Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar. The king, in recognition of the fact that Daniel’s God is the interpreter of his dream, calls Daniel by his Hebrew name, the last syllable of which refers to Elohim, the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar explains that his name Belteshazzar was given “according to the name of my god,” that is, the god Bel. The double name is not unnatural in view of the context and the explanation.

Of Daniel it is said “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods.” It is debatable whether gods is singular or plural, as it could be translated either way. Young, with a wealth of evidence from Montgomery, considers it a singular noun and thus a recognition by the king “that the God of Dan. was different from his own gods.” This distinction is borne out by the adjective “holy” (4:8, 18; 5:11). The philological evidence supports the singular, although Leupold agrees with Driver that the noun and its adjective are plural and a reflection of the king’s polytheism. Driver notes, “The same expression occurs in the Phoenician inscription of Eshmunazar, king of Sidon (3—4 cent. B.C.), lines 9 and 22.” The word holy, according to Young, refers to gods who are divine, rather than specifically having moral purity. The ultimate judgment of the expression depends on how well Nebuchadnezzar comprehended the nature of Daniel’s God. He obviously had high respect for the God of Daniel and may have had a true faith in the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar, having justified his singling out Daniel of all the wise men, now records in his decree his conversation with Daniel which includes a restatement of his dream.

Daniel, addressed by his heathen name, is further described as the “master of the magicians.” This was intended by Nebuchadnezzar to be a compliment in recognition of the genius of Daniel. Having already spoken of his intimate contact with God and the indwelling of the Spirit of God in him, he refers to Daniel’s thorough knowledge of the whole field of Babylonian astrology and religion. Leupold suggests that magicians should be translated “scholars” to give the true meaning and avoid the implication of mere magic.

Nebuchadnezzar, on the basis of his previous experience, restates that the Spirit of God is in Daniel and that secrets do not trouble him, that is, he is able to declare their meaning. Of interest is the statement concerning the prince of Tyrus, “Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee” (Eze 28:3). This statement, which the critics work hard to explain, as it confirms a sixth century Daniel, also supports the idea that Daniel’s fame had spread far and wide. By the expression, “tell me the visions of my dream,” Nebuchadnezzar obviously meant that Daniel should interpret the dream which the king was now to relate. Verses 10-12 have been regarded as in poetic form if some alteration of the text were permitted, and verses 14-17 are considered free verse also, but with no metrical evenness. Most conservatives ignore this as requiring too much alteration of the text to conform to the poetic pattern. The ideas are poetic, if the form is not.

In his vision, Nebuchadnezzar saw a tree apparently standing somewhat by itself and dominating the view because of its great height. Porteous notes that Bentzen “refers to a building inscription of Nebuchadnezzar in which Babylon is compared to a spreading tree.” The use of trees in the Bible for symbolic purposes as well as in extrascriptural narratives is found frequently (cf. 2 Ki 14:9; Ps 1:3; 37:35; 52:8; 92:12; Eze 17). An obvious parallel to Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is recorded in Ezekiel 31, where the Assyrian as well as the Egyptian Pharaoh are compared to a cedar of Lebanon. Young states, “Among the commentators Haevernick particularly has illustrated the fondness with which the Orientals depicted the rise and fall of human power by means of the symbol of a tree.” In extrabiblical literature, there is the account of Astyages the Mede who had a dream in which a vine grew out of the womb of Mandane his daughter and subsequently covered all Asia. Herodotus interpreted this as referring to Cyrus. Another famous illustration is that of Xerxes, who in a dream was crowned with a branch of an olive tree which extended over the world. According to Haevernick, there are similar allusions in Arabic and Turkish sources. Nebuchadnezzar probably anticipated that the tree represented himself, and this added to his concern.

As Nebuchadnezzar described his dream, the tree was pictured as growing, becoming very strong and very high until it was visible all over the earth, obviously exceeding the possibilities of any ordinary tree. Abundant foliage characterized the tree, and it bore much fruit so that it provided for both beast and fowl and “all flesh fed of it.” This obviously included all beasts and fowls. Whether or not it was intended to apply literally to men is open to question, but symbolically it included mankind as under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.

As Nebuchadnezzar observed the scene, an actor appears in the form of “a watcher and an holy one” who is described as coming “down from heaven.” This expression has generated a great deal of comment, especially by liberal critics who consider this a vestige of polytheism. Even Keil says, “The conception… is not biblical, but Babylonian heathen.” In the religion of the Babylonians, it was customary to recognize “council deities” who were charged with the special task of watching over the world. The question raised on this passage is whether Nebuchadnezzar uses this heathen concept.

In his detailed note on the subject of watchers, Montgomery refers to the considerable role played by the “watchers” in the intertestamental literature and to a possible occurrence in the Zadokite fragment. He quotes Meinhold as drawing attention in this connection to “the eyes of the Cherubs,” in Ezekiel 1:18, and “‘the seven, which are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth,’ Zech. 4:10,” and goes on to trace the still closer parallel with “‘the Watchers’” ( sho„mÿri‚m) and “‘the Remembrancers of the Lord’” ( hammazkiri‚m áeth-Yahweh) of Isaiah 62:6.

In the light of the full revelation of the Word of God, the most natural conclusion is that this person described as “a watcher and an holy one” is an angel sent from God even though the word angel is not used. That angels are watchers, or better translated “vigilant, making a sleepless watch,” is not foreign to the concept of angels in Scripture. The expressions “watchers” and “the holy ones” are mentioned in verse 17 by the messenger himself. Nebuchadnezzar seems to use the term in its heathen connotation as he understood it. He probably would not have understood what was meant by using the term angel in this connection, although he used angel himself in 3:28. The extended discussion of Keil on this point does not clarify the issue too much but probably says all that can be said, even though his conclusions are not entirely satisfactory.

The heavenly messenger cries aloud, literally cries “with might.” To the unnamed listeners, he calls for the tree to be cut down, its branches cut off, its leaves to be shaken off, and its fruit to be scattered. The beasts under it and the fowls in its branches were instructed to get away. The record does not say that the command is carried out, but this is implied.

Special instructions, however, are given regarding the stump; and these indicate that the tree will be revived later. The stump is to be bound with a band of iron and brass. The purpose of this is not clear unless in some way it helps preserve it. However, in real life, such a band would not prevent the stump from rotting; and it is probable here that it is symbolic of the madness which would afflict Nebuchadnezzar and hold him symbolically, if not in reality, in chains. The stump is to be surrounded by the tender grass of the field, to be wet with the dew of heaven, and to have its portion with the beasts of the earth. It seems evident that the description goes beyond the symbol of a stump to the actual fulfillment in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. This becomes more clear in verse 16 where the person in view is given a beast’s heart instead of a man’s heart. This, of course, has no relationship to the characteristics of the stump. The prophecy is concluded with the expression, “let seven times pass over him.” This may refer to seven years or merely to a long period of time. Probably the most common interpretation is to consider it seven years as in the Septuagint. It is certain that the period is specific and not more than seven years.

The messenger then concludes that his decree proceeds from “the watchers” and from “the holy ones.” The purpose is that people living in the world may recognize the true God described as “the most High” and acknowledge Him as the true ruler of men, who has the power to place “the basest of men” over earthly kingdoms. That God can set up in a position of power the lowliest of men is a common truth of Scripture (see 1 Sa 2:7-8; Job 5:11; Ps 113:7-8; Lk 1:52; and the story of Joseph). This statement is a direct confrontation of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride in his own attainments and power.

The major problem of verse 17 is the reference to the watchers and the holy ones who seem to originate the decree. If these are understood as agencies of God, who actually is the source, the problem is alleviated. The verse itself calls our attention to the fact that God as “the most High” is the ultimate sovereign and certainly does not imply that the messengers are in any sense independent of God. The problems created by this text, therefore, are greatly overdrawn by those who see this in conflict with the scriptural doctrine of God.

In concluding his statement concerning the dream, Nebuchadnezzar appeals to Daniel to provide the interpretation. He explains to Daniel that the wise men of Babylon were not able to do this, but he expresses confidence in Daniel, “for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee” (cf. 4:8). The stage is now set for Daniel’s interpretation.

Daniel Interprets the Dream

4:19-27 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: it is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.

Keil summarizes the situation facing Daniel with these words, “As Daniel at once understood the interpretation of the dream, he was for a moment so astonished that he could not speak for terror at the thoughts which moved his soul. This amazement seized him because he wished well to the king, and yet he must now announce to him a weighty judgment from God.” No doubt, Daniel was not only troubled by the content of the dream but by the need to tell Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation in an appropriate way.

Verse 19 introduces both names of Daniel again, the Hebrew name in recognition that he is acting as a servant of the God of Israel and his Babylonian name by which he was known officially. Daniel’s consternation at the interpretation of the dream is indicated in that he “was astonied for one hour,” to be understood as being in a state of perplexity for a period of time. An accurate translation would be “was stricken dumb for a while” (ASV), or “was perplexed for a moment.” The Revised Standard Version translation, “for a long time,” is probably inaccurate. Probably a full sixty minutes would have been too long for him to have remained silent in these circumstances.

Nebuchadnezzar comes to his rescue in this situation and urges him not to let the dream trouble him. The comment reflects his respect for Daniel as a person as well as an interpreter of the dream, and indirectly this is an assurance that Daniel himself need not fear the king regardless of what he reveals.

With this encouragement, Daniel replies with typical oriental courtesy that the dream be to them that hate Nebuchadnezzar and the interpretation to his enemies. Leupold believes that there is an ethical objection to Daniel’s sinking to mere flattery in this case and avoiding the real import of the dream. He interprets the statement as meaning that the dream would please the king’s enemies. It would seem more natural, however, to have the expression refer to Daniel’s wishes in the matter. It is hard to see how the expression in any sense would be flattery. Daniel had a high regard for Nebuchadnezzar and undoubtedly wished the interpretation of the dream could be otherwise than it was.

Having begun his interpretation, he now describes Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in detail, restating what the king had already told him. With the facts of the dream before him, he then proceeds to the interpretation in verse 22. Daniel immediately identifies the tree as representing Nebuchadnezzar. Just like the tree in the dream, the king had grown and become strong, had grown great and reached unto heaven with his dominion to the end of the earth. After recapitulating the announced destruction of the tree and the other details which the king already had recited, Daniel proceeds to the detailed interpretation in verse 24. It is significant that he mentions here, “this is the decree of the most High,” which is Daniel’s interpretation of the expression in verse 17 “the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones.” Although Nebuchadnezzar’s description did not immediately specify divine agency, it is clear that this is the interpretation according to Daniel in verse 24.

The meaning of the tree being cut down and the attendant circumstances is then defined. Nebuchadnezzar is to be driven from ordinary association with men and will dwell with the beasts of the field. In this condition he will eat grass as the ox and suffer the dew of heaven until he understands that God gives to men the power to rule as He wills. The interpretation of the stump with its bands of iron and brass is that Nebuchadnezzar will retain control of his kingdom and that it will be restored to him after he comes back to his senses. To have had his mind restored without the kingdom would have been a hollow victory. In spite of his pride, Nebuchadnezzar was to know the graciousness of God to him.

The expression, that the heavens do rule, is of particular interest for it is the only time in the Old Testament where the word heaven is substituted for God. This usage became prominent in later literature as in 1 Maccabees and in the New Testament in Matthew where the term kingdom of heaven is similar to kingdom of God. Daniel, in using the expression the heavens do rule, is not accepting the Babylonian deification of heavenly bodies, as he makes clear in 4:25 that “the most High” is a person. He is probably only contrasting divine or heavenly rule to earthly rule such as Nebuchadnezzar exercised, with the implication that Nebuchadnezzar’s sovereignty was much less than that of “the heavens.”

With the interpretation of the dream now clearly presented to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, as a prophet of God, gives a word of solemn exhortation to the king. With utmost courtesy, he urges the king to replace his sins with righteousness and his iniquities with showing mercy to the poor, if perchance God would lengthen the period of his tranquillity. Nebuchadnezzar undoubtedly had been morally wicked and cruel to those whom he ruled. His concern had been to build a magnificent city as a monument to his name rather than to alleviating the suffering of the poor. All of this was quite clear to Daniel as it was to God, and the exhortation is faithfully reproduced in this decree going to Nebuchadnezzar’s entire realm.

This passage has created some controversy because of a mistranslation in the Vulgate which reads in translation, “Cancel thy sins by deeds of charity and thine iniquities by deeds of kindness to the poor.” This, of course, is not what is recorded in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar is not promised forgiveness on the ground of good works or alms to the poor; but rather the issue is that, if he is a wise and benevolent king, he would alleviate the necessity of God’s intervening with immediate judgment because of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.

The Dream Fulfilled

4:28-33 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.

Although fulfillment of the dream was not immediate, the decree sums it up concisely, “All this came upon king Nebuchadnezzar.” Twelve months later as he walked in the palace in Babylon, one of his crowning architectural triumphs, and looked out upon the great city of Babylon, his pride reached a new peak as he asked the question “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” From the flat roof of the palace, he undoubtedly had a great perspective. This statement contradicts any notion of some critics that he was not actually in Babylon at that time. Everything points to the contrary. What he surveyed was indeed impressive. There are frequent mentions of the great buildings of Babylon in ancient literature.

Montgomery finds this description of Nebuchadnezzar precisely fitting the historical context: “The setting of the scene and the king’s self-complaisance in his glorious Babylon are strikingly true to history. Every student of Babylonia recalls these proud words in reading Neb.’s own records of his creation of the new Babylon; for instance (Grotefend Cylinder, KB iii, 2, p. 39): ‘Then built I the palace the seat of my royalty ( e‚kallu mu‚sŒa‚b sŒarru‚ti‚a), the bond of the race of men, the dwelling of joy and rejoicing’; and (East India House Inscr., vii, 34, KB ib., p. 25): In Babylon, my dear city, which I love was the palace, the house of wonder of the people, the bond of the land, the brilliant place, the abode of majesty in Babylon.’ The very language of the story is reminiscent of the Akkadian. The glory of Babylon, ‘that great city’ (Rev. 18), remained long to conjure the imagination of raconteurs. For the city’s grandeur as revealed to the eye of the archaeologist we may refer to R. Koldewey, Das wieder erstehende Babylon,1913 (Eng. tr. Excavations at Babylon, 1915), with its revelation of Neb.’s palace, the temples, etc.”

beastThe building of Babylon was one of Nebuchadnezzar’s principal occupations. Inscriptions for about fifty building projects have been found, usually made of brick and sometimes of stone. Among the wonders of Nebuchadnezzar’s creation were the gardens of Semiramis, the famous “hanging gardens” regarded as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The gardens were planted on top of a building and served both to beautify and to keep the building cool from the heat of summer. They probably were in view of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. Although his palaces which he constructed were all in Babylon, there were numerous temples built in other cities. The city of Babylon itself, however, was regarded as the symbol of his power and majesty; and he spared no expense or effort to make it the most beautiful city of the world. If the construction of a great city, magnificent in size, architecture, parks, and armaments, was a proper basis for pride, Nebuchadnezzar was justified. What he had forgotten was that none of this would be possible apart from God’s sovereign will.

No sooner were the words expressing his pride out of his mouth than he heard a voice from heaven, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.” The voice goes on to state how Nebuchadnezzar will be driven from men and fulfill the prophecy of living the life of a beast until the proper time had been fulfilled and he was willing to recognize the most high God. His transition from sanity to insanity was immediate, and so was the reaction as he was driven from the palace to begin his period of trial. Added in verse 33 is that which had not been previously mentioned—that his hair would grow like the feathers of an eagle, completely neglected and matted, and his nails would grow like birds’ claws. How quickly God can reduce a man at the acme of power and majesty to the level of a beast. The brilliant mind of Nebuchadnezzar, like the kingdom which he ruled, was his only by the sovereign will of God.

Scripture draws a veil over most of the details of Nebuchadnezzar’s period of trial. It is probable that Nebuchadnezzar was kept in the palace gardens away from abuse by common people. Although given no care, he was protected; and in his absence his counsellors, possibly led by Daniel himself, continued to operate the kingdom efficiently. Although Scripture does not tell us, it is reasonable to assume that Daniel himself had much to do with the kind treatment and protection of Nebuchadnezzar. He, no doubt, informed the counsellors of what the outcome of the dream would be and that Nebuchadnezzar would return to sanity. In this, God must have inclined the hearts of Nebuchadnezzar’s counsellors to cooperate, quite in contrast to what is often the case in ancient governments when at the slightest sign of weakness rulers were cruelly murdered. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been highly respected as a brilliant king by those who worked with him, and this helped set the stage for his recovery.

Although his insanity was supernaturally imposed, it is not to be regarded as much different in its result from what might be expected if it had been produced by natural causes. The form of insanity in which men think of themselves as beasts and imitate the behavior of a beast is not without precedent. Keil designates the malady as insania zoanthropica.

Young in his treatment of this designates the disease as Boanthropy, i.e., he thought himself to be an ox, and cites Pusey as having collected considerable data on the subject. A person in this stage of insanity in his inner consciousness remains somewhat unchanged, but his outer behavior is irrational. Young states, “Pusey adduces the remarkable case of Pere Surin, who believed himself to be possessed, yet maintained communion with God. It is true to fact, then, that Neb., although under the influence of this strange malady, could lift up his eyes unto heaven.” In any case, the malady supernaturally imposed by God was supernaturally relieved at the proper time.

Raymond Harrison recites a personal experience with a modern case similar to that of Nebuchadnezzar, which he observed in a British mental institution in 1946. Harrison writes,

A great many doctors spend an entire, busy professional career without once encountering an instance of the kind of monomania described in the book of Daniel. The present writer, therefore, considers himself particularly fortunate to have actually observed a clinical case of boanthropy in a British mental institution in 1946. The patient was in his early 20’s, who reportedly had been hospitalized for about five years. His symptoms were well-developed on admission, and diagnosis was immediate and conclusive. He was of average height and weight with good physique, and was in excellent bodily health. His mental symptoms included pronounced anti-social tendencies, and because of this he spent the entire day from dawn to dusk outdoors, in the grounds of the institution … His daily routine consisted of wandering around the magnificent lawns with which the otherwise dingy hospital situation was graced, and it was his custom to pluck up and eat handfuls of the grass as he went along. On observation he was seen to discriminate carefully between grass and weeds, and on inquiry from the attendant the writer was told the diet of this patient consisted exclusively of grass from hospital lawns. He never ate institutional food with the other inmates, and his only drink was water… The writer was able to examine him cursorily, and the only physical abnormality noted consisted of a lengthening of the hair and a coarse, thickened condition of the finger-nails. Without institutional care, the patient would have manifested precisely the same physical conditions as those mentioned in Daniel 4:33… From the foregoing it seems evident that the author of the fourth chapter of Daniel was describing accurately an attestable, if rather rare, mental affliction.

The experience of Nebuchadnezzar has been compared by liberal critics to the “Prayer of Nabonidus,” in Cave IV Document of the Qumran literature. The prayer is introduced as, “The words of the prayer which Nabonidus, King of Assyria and Babylon, the great king, prayed…” The prayer describes Nabonidus as being afflicted with a “dread disease by the decree of the Most High God,” which required his segregation at the Arabian oasis of Teima for a period of seven years. An unnamed Jewish seer is said to have advised Nabonidus to repent and give glory to God instead of the idols he formerly worshiped. Because of the parallelism between this account and that of Nebuchadnezzar, liberal scholars who consider the book of Daniel as written in the second century have concluded that the account of Nabonidus is the original account, and that what we have in Daniel 4 is a tradition about it which substituted the name of Nebuchadnezzar for that of Nabonidus. As Frank M. Cross has expressed it,

There is every reason to believe that the new document [the Prayer of Nabonidus] preserves a more primitive form of the tale [Daniel 4]. It is well known that Nabonidus gave over the regency of his realm to his son Belshazzar in order to spend long periods of time in Teima; while Nebuchadnezzar, to judge from extrabiblical data, did not give up his throne. Moreover, in the following legend of Belshazzar’s feast, the substitution of Nebuchadnezzar for Nabonidus as the father of Belshazzar (Dan. 5:2) is most suggestive. Evidently in an older stage of tradition, the cycle included the stories of Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan. 1-3), Nabonidus (Dan. 4), and Belshazzar (Dan. 5).

Conservative scholars, who recognize the genuineness of the book of Daniel as a sixth century b.c. writing, see no conflict in accepting both Daniel 4 as it is written and the “Prayer of Nabonidus” as having some elements of truth, although apocryphal. In fact, as the discussion of Daniel 5 brings out, the fact that Nabonidus lived at Teima for extended periods, well attested in tradition, gives a plausible explanation as to why Belshazzar was in charge in Babylon in Daniel 5. It is not necessary to impugn the record of Daniel in order to recognize the uninspired story relating to Nabonidus.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Restoration

4:34-37 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Although the previous narrative had been couched in the third person, Nebuchadnezzar now returns to first person narrative. He records how he lifted up his eyes to heaven and his understanding returned. Whether this was simultaneous or causal is not stated, but looking to the heavens possibly was the first step in his recognition of the God of heaven and gaining sane perspective on the total situation. Nebuchadnezzar’s immediate reaction was to express praise to God, whom he recognizes as “the most High.” What effect this had on his belief in other deities is not stated, but it at least opens the door to the possibility that Nebuchadnezzar had placed true faith in the God of Israel.

In praising and honoring God, he attributes to Him the quality of living forever, of having an everlasting dominion, and of directing a kingdom which is from generation to generation. These qualities of eternity and sovereignty are far greater than those attributed to Babylonian deities. Because of His sovereignty, God can consider all the inhabitants of the earth as nothing. He is able to do as He wills whether in heaven or in earth, and no one can stay his hand or ask, “What doest thou?” Even as these words of praise were uttered to God, his reason returned to him. No doubt his counsellors had maintained some sort of a watch upon him, and upon the sudden change the report was given. They immediately sought his return to his former position of honor. Apparently the transition was almost immediate, and Nebuchadnezzar was once more established in his kingdom. It is in this role that he is able to issue the decree and make the public confession that is involved.

Nebuchadnezzar concludes with praise and worship for the “King of heaven,” whom he describes in conclusion, “all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.” Nebuchadnezzar’s experience brings the obvious spiritual lesson that even the greatest of earthly sovereigns is completely subject to the sovereign power of God. Montgomery summarizes the chapter concisely, “Neb. holds his fief from Him who is King in heaven and in the kingdom of man.”

The debate as to whether Nebuchadnezzar was actually saved in a spiritual sense remains unsettled. Such worthies as Calvin, Hengstenberg, Pusey, and Keil believe the evidence is insufficient. As Young and others point out, however, there is considerable evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual progress of which chapter 4 is the climax (cf. 2:47; 3:28; 4:34-35). There can be little question that he acknowledges Daniel’s God as the omnipotent eternal sovereign of the universe (4:34, 35, 37). His issuance of a decree somewhat humiliating to his pride and an abject recognition of the power of God whom he identifies as “King of heaven” (4:37) would give us some basis for believing that Nebuchadnezzar had a true conversion. Inasmuch as in all ages some men are saved without gaining completely the perspective of faith or being entirely correct in the content of their beliefs, it is entirely possible that Nebuchadnezzar will be numbered among the saints.

In chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar reaches a new spiritual perspicacity. Prior to his experience of insanity, his confessions were those of a pagan whose polytheism permitted the addition of new gods, as illustrated in Daniel 2:47 and 3:28-29. Now Nebuchadnezzar apparently worships the King of heaven only. For this reason, his autobiography is truly remarkable and reflects the fruitfulness of Daniel’s influence upon him and probably of Daniel’s daily prayers for him. Certainly God is no respecter of persons and can save the high and mighty in this world as well as the lowly.

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The Deliverance of Daniel and Darius (Daniel 6:1-28)

A friend of mine once remarked, “A lot of crimes are not sins, and a lot of sins are not crimes.” Our text indicates he was absolutely right. In the sixth chapter of Daniel, this righteous man is convicted of a crime which is not a sin. Daniel purposefully committed this crime because he did not wish to commit a sin, which was not a crime.

Daniel’s deliverance from the lion’s den, one of the most popular and well-known Bible stories, is not the first great deliverance in the Book of Daniel, but it is the best loved. Daniel and his three friends are divinely delivered in chapter 1 from a confrontation with the Babylonian government and Nebuchadnezzar its king. While these four godly Hebrews were willing to be called by Babylonian names, attend Babylonian schools, and even work for a Babylonian government, they were not willing to eat the food served at the king’s table.

God granted these men favor in the eyes of their foreign superiors, and they were allowed to eat vegetables, rather than the food set aside for them by their king. Because of their faithfulness, God gave these men an extra measure of wisdom, greatly impressing king Nebuchadnezzar, who gave them positions of influence and responsibility in his kingdom.

In chapter 2, once again God delivered Daniel and his three friends. King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream he could not understand; neither could his counselors and wise men reveal or interpret the dream. In anger, the king commanded the execution of all the wise men of the land, including Daniel and his friends. In the providence of God, Daniel learned of the king’s dilemma and was able to reveal to the king his dream and its meaning, sparing his own life and the lives of the other Babylonian wise men.

In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar created a great golden image, before which the people of all nations were to bow in worship. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down. Again in anger, Nebuchadnezzar threatened them with death if they did not obey his decree. Refusing to obey, they were thrown into a fiery furnace. God was present with them there and preserved them from death, injury, and even the smell of fire. The king was so impressed he issued a decree guaranteeing the Jews freedom to worship their God without hindrance.

Chapter 4 speaks of Nebuchadnezzar’s deliverance. He is delivered from his pride and oppression when, for a period, his sanity and kingdom are removed from him, and he must live like a beast of the field. From his own testimony, it appears he came to genuine repentance and saving faith as a result of God’s working in his life.

Chapter 5 witnesses Belshazzar’s condemnation in contrast to Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion in chapter 4. Because of his rejection of the truth, and his blasphemy against the God of Israel, only one day in the life of Belshazzar is recorded in Scripture, only to announce his condemnation and death.

Now, in chapter 6, Daniel’s life is in danger, and he will experience God’s deliverance. Daniel 1reveals what set Daniel apart from the rest of his Jewish peers and brought him to a position of prominence and power in king Nebuchadnezzar’s administration. But chapter 6 identifies what sustained Daniel over the many years of his ministry and enabled him to survive the crises of his life.

While Daniel deservedly commands center stage of our text, much can be learned from King Darius and even Daniel’s peers, who seek to arrange his downfall and destruction. Once again in the Book of Daniel, we are reminded that God is able to deliver His people, even in a distant land. The inspired and inspiring words of our text have much to teach us.

Daniel in the Critics Den

Two books which share the same title are entitled Daniel in the Critics Den. Correctly, two Christian authors have compared Daniel’s experience in the lion’s den to the critics’ attack on the Book of Daniel itself. Chapter 6 is one of the portions under heaviest attack. A message as important and encouraging as that found in our text could be expected to come under attack.

The primary issue of chapter 6 is the identity of Darius. Secular history has no record of a king named Darius. We need no outside confirmation of reliability if we believe the Bible to be divinely inspired, accurate, and authoritative. If we reject the Bible’s authority, historical confirmation of its teachings will certainly be insufficient to change minds.

One explanation suggests Darius is simply another name for Cyrus, a view some respected evangelical scholars hold. Our previous text in chapter 5 indicated that until recent years, nothing was known of Belshazzar. In twenty or forty years, we may know as much about Darius as we now know about Belshazzar. We must not be distracted from the richness and the blessings of this chapter by the clamoring of the skeptics, who would not take this chapter seriously even if Darius were a well-known king. What truly offends the unbelieving mind is the claim of a miraculous divine deliverance, not the lack of historical evidence. God’s miracles and moral standards are both offensive to fallen man.

The Conspiracy
(6:1-9)

1 It seemed good to Darius to appoint 120 satraps over the kingdom, that they should be in charge of the whole kingdom, 2 and over them three commissioners (of whom Daniel was one), that these satraps might be accountable to them, and that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Then this Daniel began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps because he possessed an extraordinary spirit, and the king planned to appoint him over the entire kingdom. 4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him. 5 Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground of accusation against this Daniel unless we find it against him with regard to the law of his God.” 6 Then these commissioners and satraps came by agreement to the king and spoke to him as follows: “King Darius, live forever! 7 “All the commissioners of the kingdom, the prefects and the satraps, the high officials and the governors have consulted together that the king should establish a statute and enforce an injunction that anyone who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, shall be cast into the lions’ den. 8 “Now, O king, establish the injunction and sign the document so that it may not be changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 9 Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.

Daniel 5 informs the reader of Belshazzar’s defeat and the end of the Babylonian kingdom, the “head of gold” of Daniel 2. The kingdom of the “Medes and the Persians” commences at the end of chapter 5, when Darius becomes the first king of this new empire at approximately 62 years of age (Daniel 5:31).

Chapter 6 accounts Daniel’s rapid rise to power, the threat it posed to his peers, and ultimately to his own life. Verses 1-9 depict a sequence of events which give birth to a conspiracy against Daniel, leading to a law which makes Daniel a criminal and sentences him to the death penalty.

Darius may have been new at the task of ruling an empire, but he was far from naive. To establish himself and his rule over the territory formerly ruled by Babylon, he appoints 120 satraps, each responsible for a certain geographical region. The king’s major concern was corruption. He knew that political power afforded the opportunity not only for oppression but for corruption. Darius feared he would not be able to adequately supervise the satraps with such a large kingdom, and they would enrich themselves at his expense. For this reason, the king appointed three governors over the one-hundred and twenty satraps. He wanted to create a system of accountability which would prevent him from suffering loss.

Darius may have become familiar with Daniel in a number of ways. It certainly appears unusual for this Hebrew, who had been so intimately associated with the Babylonian kingdom Darius had just overthrown, to rise so quickly to a position of power under this Mede. While the text does not say, we would hardly be wrong to conclude that, as before, God gave Daniel favor in the sight of this king.

Daniel’s rise to power under Darius did not rest upon his remarkable accomplishments of the past. We are told Daniel “began distinguishing himself among the commissioners and satraps” because of the “extraordinary spirit” he possessed. I believe Darius recognized not only Daniel’s wisdom but his integrity and faithfulness. Here was a man he could trust in a leadership position who would not cause him to “suffer loss.” Recognizing his unique abilities, Darius planned to promote Daniel, placing him in charge of all the commissioners and the satraps.

The king’s plan to promote Daniel seems to have become public knowledge; at least the commissioners and satraps knew. The thought of Daniel’s promotion created much consternation. This crisis must be taken most seriously. Why? What distressed them so greatly? The common view is that Daniel’s peers were jealous. Perhaps so, but the matter seems more serious to them.

The context supplies the reason for their distress. His ability threatened them, but more so his honesty. The king was delighted to find a man of ability and honesty. To the corrupt leaders of the kingdom, Daniel’s ability and honesty seriously threatened their corruption. They could neither corrupt Daniel nor deceive him. If he were to rise above them, they could not continue.

Daniel’s testimony is awesome, his character and ability unsurpassed. His work is such that not even his enemies can bring a charge against him. His flawless faithfulness to the king and his obedience to the laws of the land forces his enemies to pass a new law aimed directly at him and his destruction. The only fault to be found with Daniel is that he is too godly. What Christian would not want to be regarded as highly as Daniel?

Somewhere a conspiracy is born. First, Daniel’s opponents began to talk about Daniel. Eventually, they conspired to keep Daniel from the promotion the king planned to carry out in the near future. Although Daniel’s enemies were of one heart and purpose, they have a most difficult task ahead of them. Daniel surpassed them in his wisdom, his character, and his standing with the king. Keeping Daniel from rising above them and ruling over them would be no easy task.

Two contemporary political events may help us understand the mindset and motivation of these politicians against Daniel.

First is the opposition to Supreme Court nominee, Clarence Thomas. The Senate Judiciary Committee members most definitely would not wish to be under the same scrutiny they are giving Judge Thomas. The committee’s concern stems essentially from their desire to be re-elected. Concern over Judge Thomas’ views on abortion has nothing to do with the rights of the unborn, but with the votes they will lose should they fail to convince their constituencies they are pro-abortion, doing all they can to prevent a pro-life nominee from becoming a Supreme Court justice.

The Supreme Court’s task is not only to judge the laws of Congress according to the standard of the constitution but to to maintain a balance of power. The Senate Judiciary Committee understands all too well that a conservative and pro-life justice may not only change the balance of power on the Supreme Court, but it may also lead to the overturning of a number of the laws passed by the Congress as unconstitutional. No wonder they are seeking to turn the tide of congressional opinion against Judge Thomas.

The second contemporary illustration is the unsuccessful coup in Russia. Conservative communist political leaders saw, with great apprehension, the tide in the USSR turning away from communism and toward democracy. They saw the transition reaching a critical point of no return and sought to forcibly regain control. They were willing to risk their lives to remove Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin from power. They knew that allowing these men to grow in power and popularity would be the end of communist domination of the USSR.

We may now better understand Daniel’s situation. These politicians, skilled in corruption, saw an end to their positions and profits should Daniel be appointed over them. Yet, as hard as they tried to find some basis for accusing Daniel to the king, they could not do so. To achieve their purpose of doing away with Daniel, they must achieve three goals:

(1) They must discredit Daniel in relationship to his religion and the Law of Moses by which he lived.

(2) They must discredit Daniel by passing a new law, which was purposely designed to lead to Daniel’s death.

(3) They must do away with Daniel against the king’s will. They would have to do away with Daniel in a way that forced the king to eliminate Daniel, a way which he could not escape.

To do this, the conspirators found it necessary to deceive the king. A group seems to have come before the king as a delegation, representing themselves as the spokesmen for the entire number of prefects, satraps, officials, and governors. Their deception led the king to conclude that Daniel too agreed with their proposal.

They urged Darius to pass a law requiring no petition be made in all the land unless it were made to the king. Their proposal seemed to be in the king’s best interest, helping to establish his rule over the former kingdom of Babylon. The proposal is similar in some respects to Nebuchadnezzar’s described in chapter 3. By fashioning a golden image and requiring every citizen to bow down to it, king Nebuchadnezzar thought he would give unity and cohesiveness to his kingdom. By requiring all men to make their petitions to Darius, they would acknowledge him as the source of their every blessing. The difference between Nebuchadnezzar’s plan in chapter 3 and this plan in chapter 6 is that this was not Darius’ idea. This proposal originated with the conspirators.

The law was for a limited time 30 days, a short enough period that the king might not scrutinize the plan carefully. It would be temporary, setting a precedent. The conspirators insisted the decree be a law of the Medes and the Persians so it could not be revoked. This would prevent the king from reversing the law once he realized Daniel was the victim of this proposed legislation.

The king should have known better. No doubt he reminded himself of this many times the night Daniel spent in the den of lions. Nevertheless, he signed the law, little realizing where it would lead, just as the conspirators failed to realize where their deceit would lead. The death planned for Daniel in the lion’s den would be their own. It is a dangerous thing to oppose those who serve the living God.

Daniel Accused and the King Aghast
(6:10-15)

10 Now when Daniel knew that the document was signed, he entered his house (now in his roof chamber he had windows open toward Jerusalem); and he continued kneeling on his knees three times a day, praying and giving thanks before his God, as he had been doing previously. 11 Then these men came by agreement and found Daniel making petition and supplication before his God. 12 Then they approached and spoke before the king about the king’s injunction, “Did you not sign an injunction that any man who makes a petition to any god or man besides you, O king, for thirty days, is to be cast into the lions’ den?” The king answered and said, “The statement is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which may not be revoked.” 13 Then they answered and spoke before the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the injunction which you signed, but keeps making his petition three times a day.” 14 Then, as soon as the king heard this statement, he was deeply distressed and set his mind on delivering Daniel; and even until sunset he kept exerting himself to rescue him. 15 Then these men came by agreement to the king and said to the king, “Recognize, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no injunction or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”

From our text, it may seem this new law affected only Daniel. Had Daniel not disobeyed the law and been divinely delivered, things would have been quite different for the Jews held captive in Babylon. This law aimed directly at Daniel also affected every Jew. If the law had not been nullified, every Jew would have been prevented from praying legally to the God of Israel. Every faithful Jew could have been charged, convicted, and put to death. The potential evil of this law may have gone farther than even its authors ever conceived.

Daniel learned about the legislation the king had foolishly signed and executed. What options did he have? Several must have come to mind, all of which he rejected:

(1) Obey the new law, making his petitions to the king.

(2) Appeal to the king to change or repeal the law.

(3) Cease praying altogether, making no petitions for 30 days.

(4) Limit his prayers to thanksgiving and praise, simply setting aside his petitions for 30 days.

(5) Simply continue to pray, privately.

Daniel chose none of these options. He could not redirect his prayers to the king. It would do him no good to appeal to the king. The king himself wanted to change the law, but as a law of the Medes and the Persians, it could not be revoked. Daniel knew his needs were daily needs and that he should petition God daily for those needs. Petitions could not be delayed. If Daniel ceased to pray, Daniel would have sinned against his God. He would have broken God’s law in order to obey man’s laws.

The last option seems to be the most tempting, at least to me. Why did Daniel simply not pray out of sight? After all, is not prayer a private matter? Does not our Lord later advocate private prayer and express disdain for public prayer?

1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. 5 … And when you pray, you are not to be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you” (Matthew 6:1, 5-6).

We know our Lord was not condemning all public prayer, but rather teaching His disciples not to pray in order to appear pious and gain the praise of men. Daniel’s “public prayer” would surely not bring him praise, but it would result in his prosecution as a law-breaker.

Why then does Daniel pray publicly? What compelled him to pray publicly, knowing it would bring him to the lion’s den? There seem to be several reasons.

(1) Unlike chapter 1, Daniel seems to have had no opportunity to protest the law signed by the king and no way to avoid obedience to the law without compromise.

(2) The issue was a matter of law and of public policy and practice; thus its violation must be public.

(3) Private disobedience would have been hypocritical and hindered his testimony. His opponents expected Daniel to disobey the law, publicly.

(4) It was necessary in order for Daniel to persevere in his normal disciplines of godliness. Daniel had a life-long habit of praying toward Jerusalem three times a day. His enemies knew this and were confident he would continue. Daniel would not set aside those regimens that were normal in pursuing godliness (2 Peter 1:3,4).

(5) This particular law implied something utterly inconsistent with and contrary to God’s law. To make that point, he had to publicly violate that law.

The last reason seems to me the primary basis for Daniel’s decision to disobey the laws of the land. Consider the following texts in light of the king’s injunction:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you; and I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing; and I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Then Jacob departed from Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set, and he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head, and lay down in that place. And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set on the earth with its top reaching to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie, I will give it to you and to your descendants. Your descendants shall also be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread out to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And behold, I am with you, and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:10-17).

“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain Thee, how much less this house which I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of Thy servant and to his supplication, O Lord my God, to listen to the cry and to the prayer which Thy servant prays before Thee today; that Thine eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which Thou hast said, ‘My name shall be there,’ to listen to the prayer which Thy servant shall pray toward this place. And listen to the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel, when they pray toward this place; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place; hear and forgive … When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin) and Thou art angry with them and dost deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to Thee in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly’, if they return to Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to Thee toward their land which Thou hast given to their fathers, the city which Thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for Thy name; then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause, and forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee, and make them {objects of} compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them (for they are Thy people and Thine inheritance which Thou hast brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace), that Thine eyes may be open to the supplication of Thy servant and to the supplication of Thy people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to Thee. For Thou hast separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Thine inheritance, as Thou didst speak through Moses Thy servant, when Thou didst bring our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord God” (1 Kings 8:27-30, 46-53; cf. also 2 Chronicles 6:20-40).

There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion. Upon the willows in the midst of it We hung our harps. For there our captors demanded of us songs, And our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How can we sing the LORD’S song In a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, May my right hand forget her skill. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I do not remember you, If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy. Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, “Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation.” O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one, How blessed will be the one who repays you With the recompense with which you have repaid us, How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock (Psalm 137:1-9).

God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 known as the Abrahamic covenant. In this covenant, God promised Abraham a land, a seed, and a blessing. Through Abraham, his seed, and his blessing, the nations too would be blessed. When Jacob left the promised land to flee from his brother and to seek a wife among his relatives, he had a vision of a ladder on which angels were ascending and descending. For the first time in his life, he was awe-struck that this land of Canaan was a “holy place.” Even more, somehow it was a place of mediation, a place where heaven and earth met.

The same truth is later affirmed by Solomon at the time of the dedication of the temple in Jerusalem. God’s dwelling place was not the temple, Solomon confessed. Even the heavens were not able to contain God, much less a temple in Jerusalem. But Jerusalem was the place where God chose to meet with men and to bless them. Solomon spoke in his prayer of men praying toward Jerusalem, the place where God would meet with men to bless them. He specifically spoke of God’s people praying toward Jerusalem from the lands where they were captives.

One such prayer recorded for us is Psalm 137. There, from Babylon, the psalmist cries out to the God of Israel. The eyes of the psalmist look toward Jerusalem and long to return there to worship God. Jerusalem is in ruins, but the psalmist is not deterred from looking toward that city. It did motivate him to petition God to judge those who brought about the destruction of this city.

I believe Daniel consistently prayed toward Jerusalem three times a day for the more than seventy years of his sojourn in Babylon. Ironically, we can confidently assume that many of those prayers of petition were for the blessing of the king and kingdom of Babylon (see Jeremiah 7:13-17; 11:1-14; 14:11; 29:4-7). The conspirators passed a law intended to prevent the very prayers which brought God’s blessings on this nation and its people.

The Jewish captives brought the blessings of God on the kingdom of their captors. The city of Jerusalem not only symbolized the hopes of the Jews, but it is the place their God met with them and heard their prayers. God chose to mediate His blessings through His chosen people, the Jews, and through His chosen place (Jerusalem).

While the king may not have thought through the implications of the injunction which he made law, Daniel did. The law passed by the conspirators, in effect, made Darius the mediator between all “gods” and men. I do not believe the king was declaring himself to be a “god.” Neither do I believe he put himself above all “gods.” But his injunction did make him the link between all those in his kingdom and any “god.”

Here the conflict between Daniel’s faith as a Jew and the injunction of Darius became irresolvable. According to the new law, the king was “mediator for 30 days.” According to Daniel’s Law, the Old Testament Scriptures, the God of Israel is God alone, and those who would be blessed will be blessed through His people, Israel. Their petitions must be directed to God, but through the place of His blessing, Jerusalem. There was no way Daniel could redirect his petitions to the king, rather than to God, by facing Jerusalem.

It does not seem possible for Daniel to pray to God, toward Jerusalem, other than by literally looking in that direction. This meant his window would be open and he would be visible when he prayed. He prayed publicly, in defiance of the law of the Medes and the Persians, because he believed there was no other choice.

I can almost see the conspirators deciding how they will catch Daniel breaking their law. His prayer life was so consistent they could literally pick the time to gather outside his window to catch him in prayer.

Although, it was no great accomplishment to catch Daniel in prayer, the conspirators approached the king very carefully with this news. Accusing a man of the king’s favor was dangerous. They began by asking the king about the law which had just gone into effect. He reiterated that he had indeed passed the law forbidding any petition be made except to him. He further acknowledged that the penalty for breaking this law was to be cast into the lion’s den. Only at this point did the conspirators shock the king with the announcement that Daniel has been found violating this very law. Their accusation was meant to impress upon the king that Daniel had not merely broken the law once, he was persisting in violating this law, showing in their minds complete disregard for the king and his authority.

King Darius responds to this report very differently than his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. When told of the refusal of the three Hebrews to bow down to his image (see Daniel 3:13-18), Nebuchadnezzar became furious and intent on putting them to death. Darius was greatly distressed and spent the remaining daylight hours trying to find a way to deliver Daniel from the lion’s den.

The conspirators refused to be put off by the king’s resistance. After spending the day seeking to arrange Daniel’s release, they returned and reminded the king the law Daniel had broken was a “law of the Medes and the Persians” and thus irrevocable. Essentially, they told the king he had no choice. He was bound by the law he had signed and subject to the plot of the conspirators who had convinced him to sign it.

Daniel in the
Den, And Darius in Distress
(6:16-18)

16 Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.” 17 And a stone was brought and laid over the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the signet rings of his nobles, so that nothing might be changed in regard to Daniel. v18 Then the king went off to his palace and spent the night fasting, and no entertainment was brought before him; and his sleep fled from him.

Reluctantly, the king gave the order for Daniel to be brought in and thrown into the lion’s den. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, who defied any god to deliver the three Hebrews from death in the fiery furnace, Darius speaks words of encouragement to Daniel. He assures Daniel that His God would most certainly deliver him. Is it possible that this king, unlike Belshazzar, had read the historical records of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and come to believe in the God of the Hebrews? It certainly seems so. The king’s final words to Daniel are a commendation of this man’s faithful and constant obedience to his God. Having spoken words of faith and hope to Daniel, he had Daniel lowered into the lion’s den, the stone cover put in place and sealed. No man dared tamper with the stone to deliver Daniel.

Something very interesting and significant strikes me about this paragraph. Can you see it? Although Daniel is the one wrongly accused and in the process of his own execution, the entire paragraph is about the king. The king orders Daniel lowered into the lion’s den; the king speaks words of encouragement to Daniel; the king abstains from entertainment that night and sleep eludes him.

It appears the king suffered more than Daniel. I believe Daniel had a great night’s sleep. The angel of the Lord was there with him, much as He was present with the three Hebrews in the furnace. The mouths of the lions were stopped, preventing any harm to Daniel. I wonder if Daniel had a lion for a pillow that night. It could easily have been so.

Daniel’s Deliverance
and His Enemies Destruction
(6:19-24)

19 Then the king arose with the dawn, at the break of day, and went in haste to the lions’ den. 20 And when he had come near the den to Daniel, he cried out with a troubled voice. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, and they have not harmed me, inasmuch as I was found innocent before Him; and also toward you, O king, I have committed no crime.” 23 Then the king was very pleased and gave orders for Daniel to be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. 24 The king then gave orders, and they brought those men who had maliciously accused Daniel, and they cast them, their children, and their wives into the lions’ den; and they had not reached the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.

The king had not slept well that night, if at all. He had been deceived by his ministers, and his most trusted servant had been set up, falsely accused, and cast into the lion’s den. As powerful as this ruler of the greatest kingdom on earth was, he was powerless to deliver Daniel. Dawn must have welcomed the end of a fitful night. Quickly, he made his way to the lion’s den, calling out to Daniel. I am convinced this king had every hope that Daniel was divinely delivered.

The king shouted very specific words into the lion’s den. Just as he had not wished Daniel “good luck” as he left him the previous evening, his first words to Daniel were pointed: “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you constantly serve, been able to deliver you from the lions?”

What joy must have filled the king’s heart when Daniel responded to his call. Daniel gave glory to God for delivering him through His angel. He also reiterated his innocence of any wrong doing, linking this to his deliverance.

With much pleasure, the king gave orders to remove Daniel from the lion’s den. With great indignation, the king also gave orders to arrest those who had maliciously accused Daniel, along with their families, and had them cast into the den of lions. Lest some skeptic explains Daniel’s miraculous deliverance by suggesting all the lions had the flu, the account is given of the devouring of Daniel’s enemies and their families. While they could not harm Daniel, they would perform as expected with anyone else. God not only delivers His people from their enemies, He also delivers their enemies to the judgment they deserve for oppressing His people.

The King’s Decree
(6:25-27)

25 Then Darius the king wrote to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language who were living in all the land: “May your peace abound! 26 “I make a decree that in all the dominion of my kingdom men are to fear and tremble before the God of Daniel; For He is the living God and enduring forever, And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed, And His dominion will be forever. 27 “He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders In heaven and on earth, Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

The king’s decree is similar to that of his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar. It sounds something like the Hallelujah chorus to me. I cannot imagine these words coming from anyone other than a true believer in the God of the Jews. The decree, like that of Nebuchadnezzar, is addressed to all the people of his kingdom, and perhaps anyone else who would hear and heed it.

It acknowledges the God of Daniel as sovereign. Darius declares that Daniel’s God is a far greater king than he, and that God’s kingdom is much greater than his earthly kingdom. He is the one who delivered Daniel. By inference, He is also the One to whom men should rightly address their petitions. Since God had done what the king could not do in delivering Daniel, God is the One whom men should worship and the One to whom their petitions in prayer should be made.

Epilogue
(6:28)

28 So this Daniel enjoyed success in the reign of Darius and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

These closing words in chapter 6 inform us that while the careers of Daniel’s enemies came to an abrupt halt, Daniel’s life was preserved. His effective ministry continued, not only throughout the administration of Darius, but also into the reign of Cyrus, through whom God would deliver the captive Jews back to their land to rebuild the temple.

Conclusion

Daniel’s deliverance from the lion’s den is a great story which wears well, even with repetition. What can we learn from this text as we conclude?

(1) This text suggests that Christians who would live holy lives should expect persecution; it also explains why. Daniel was persecuted by his peers because he was godly. Daniel’s godliness posed a serious threat to his peers, who used their positions corruptly to benefit at the expense of both their king and those under their authority. Whenever holy living threatens the sinful lifestyle of others, persecution may be expected. The New Testament confirms the lesson we learn from Daniel.

But you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord delivered me! And indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Timothy 3:10-13).

Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousals, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. And in all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excess of dissipation, and they malign you; but they shall give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.… Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. By no means let any of you suffer as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; but if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not feel ashamed, but in that name let him glorify God. For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner? Therefore, let those also who suffer according to the will of God entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right (1 Peter 4:1-5, 12-19).

The Scriptures instruct us to expect persecution for living in a way that pleases God. Beyond this, the Scriptures also indicate there have been and will be times of official persecution, when human governments and the laws of the land will be used to oppose and oppress the saints. So it was, for a short time, in Daniel’s life. So it will also be as the last days draw near. The Book of Revelation especially speaks of such times of persecution and oppression, but so do the latter chapters of the Book of Daniel. Americans have never known official opposition and persecution to the gospel and to the practice of our faith, but we may very well see the beginnings of it, especially as the end times appear to be coming upon us.

American Christians have always thought of themselves as “law-abiding Christians,” and so we would hope to be. But when official opposition to our faith and service to God come about, we must be prepared, like Daniel, to disobey those laws which directly conflict with God’s law, and we must be willing to suffer the consequences. Saints in other parts of the world know what this is like. In time, we may be able to better identify with Daniel and his three Hebrew friends. May God give us the grace to respond in the way Daniel did, to His glory.

(2) Our text assures us of divine deliverance when we serve God faithfully and are persecuted for doing so. It also assures us that God will judge those who persecute us. In the closing chapters of Deuteronomy (and in the life of Moses), God told the Jews they would be unfaithful to Him, and He would discipline them by giving them over to those nations which would take them into captivity in foreign lands. He also promised to bring them to repentance, to rescue them, and to restore their nation. In addition, God promised to punish their enemies, who so cruelly oppressed them as His chastening rod. The deliverance of Daniel in chapter 6 is an example of divine deliverance and retribution on the enemies of God and His people.

Daniel’s persecution did not come about due to his sin, but rather because of his righteousness. He suffered because he was godly. When Daniel was found guilty under the law of the Medes and the Persians, the king was unable to save him. But God’s hand was not hindered. Darius believed God would deliver Daniel; he assured him of God’s protection as he went to the lion’s den. God sent His angel and shut the lion’s mouths. He also brought about the destruction of Daniel’s enemies.

The account of Daniel’s deliverance was written to assure the saints of every age that God is able to deliver His people, even when men are unable to do so. What the king of the most powerful kingdom on earth could not do, God did. God knows how to deliver his own from judgment and how to deliver His enemies to judgment:

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly thereafter; and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment (2 Peter 2:4-9).

While we may be confident that God will deliver the righteous and destroy the wicked, we may not be certain how and when He will do so. There are many times when God allows the wicked to prosper in this life, leaving their day of judgment for eternity (see Psalm 73). There are many times when God allows His saints to suffer persecution and death, to deliver them through death, rather than from it. While Paul was assured of his ultimate deliverance, he was ready and willing to be delivered either from death or through it, as we can see in the first chapter of his Epistle to the Philippians (especially verses 12-26).

In the “Old Testament hall of faith,” recorded in the 11th chapter of the Book of Hebrews, some of the heroes of the faith were delivered from death, among whom Daniel seems to have been numbered (see Hebrews 11:32-34). Others, however, were delivered through death (see Hebrews 11:35-40). We dare not presume that God will always keep the righteous from persecution and death. We can always be certain that God will deliver us, whether in life or in death. Since our hope is not for earthly pleasure or success, but rather on that heavenly city and God’s eternal blessings, we can face either life or death with joy and confidence. God will deliver His people, and He will also deliver the wicked to judgment.

The same God who delivered Daniel from the lion’s mouths will also deliver us, in His way, and in His time.

16 At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

(3) This account of Daniel and the lion’s den is a lesson in dealing with the crises of life.You may have read that excellent little pamphlet entitled, “Thy Tyranny of the Urgent.” Its essence is that we fail to concentrate on the important things when confronted by the crises which appear urgent. The “urgent” matters of life keep us from the “important” things. Daniel is an example of a man who knew the difference between the “urgent” and the “important.” When times of “crisis” confronted him, he refused to panic and to change his priorities and practices. He persisted in seeking first God’s kingdom, trusting Him to provide the rest. The king and the conspirators could agree on one thing: Daniel was consistent and persistent.

The way to deal with the crises of life is to establish godly disciplines in the routine times of life, and then to refuse to depart from them in times of crisis. We know little of the godly discipline evident in the life of Daniel. It takes as little as a touch of fatigue or a football game on television to set aside our spiritual disciplines. Daniel would not forsake his regimen even when men passed a law against it.

Some believe men do extraordinary things at times of crises. There may be some truth in this perspective, but I suggest times of crisis are those times when great men continue to persist in the good things they have practiced all along, when it was easier to do so.

(4) Daniel’s prayer life should serve as both a rebuke and an encouragement to Christians today. Daniel had a life-long pattern of praying toward Jerusalem three times a day. Anyone who knew anything about Daniel seemed to realize this. How many of us could claim to be as faithful in our prayer life as Daniel was? What a rebuke!

What missing ingredient explains the difference between Daniel’s consistency and our lackadaisical attitude toward prayer? There are probably many answers, but I call your attention to one. According to our text, Daniel’s prayers consisted of thanksgiving and petition (6:10; see also 9:4-19). Daniel was aware that every provision, every circumstance, every event (including those which came from his enemies), came from the hand of His sovereign God, for his good, and for God’s glory. God’s blessings were so full, so frequent, and so gracious Daniel could not possibly cease praying for 30 days. He would get too far behind in his praise and thanksgiving and never catch up.

Daniel also saw himself as continually dependent upon God for his every need. He saw himself as powerless, without the provisions God gave to him daily. He saw himself as unable to please God and his earthly superiors, apart from God’s grace. He prayed because he was aware of how great his needs were, and because he knew that only God could meet them.

This is why our prayer life (mine included) is so weak, so anemic, so sporadic and undisciplined. We don’t fail to go to bed at night, because we know we need to, and our body reminds us by being tired. We don’t fail to eat, because we know we must. But we really do not sense the desperate need to pray. We fail to grasp our daily dependence on God and His provisions. All too often we forget it is only God who can meet our fundamental needs. When we do sense the need for help, we usually begin by going to others first, and God last. Daniel knew he had needs; he knew only God could meet them, and thus he made daily prayer a priority in his life.

(5) The story of Daniel’s deliverance from the lion’s den in our text is an illustration of the gospel. This chapter illustrates what men dislike about God which causes them to oppose Him. What bothered Daniel’s peers and turned them against him was precisely the same thing which bothered the Jewish religious leaders about Jesus. They were petrified at the thought of our Lord’s authority because of His holiness.

For fallen, sinful, men, power and authority is the opportunity to use people for our own selfish gain. The satraps and governors used their position and power for personal gain. They sought to enhance themselves through the abuse of their power at the expense of their king who was in authority over them, and at the expense of those under their authority. This is why the king appointed the three commissioners over the satraps. He knew that they were causing him to suffer loss as they sought to add to their gain.

When word got out that the king planned to promote Daniel over all of them, they were petrified. A godly man in authority is a threat to every ungodly man under his authority (seeProverbs 20:8). This explains why the men about to be placed under Daniel’s authority were willing to take risks to keep Daniel from being promoted. It is also the reason the scribes and Pharisees were terrified at the thought of Jesus being in authority over them. They wished to persist in their sins and to profit from them. They devised a scheme to put Jesus to death, even as Daniel’s enemies formed a conspiracy to bring about his death.

The lordship of our God is not a threat to those who want to be forgiven and delivered from their sins. It is only dreaded by those who wish to remain in their sins. Instead of using His power and authority to profit at man’s expense, Jesus gave Himself sacrificially, dying for our sins, so that we might gain at His expense. Here is the Christian perspective on leadership and authority. Here is the model for Christian leaders, in marriage, in the home, and in the workplace.

Daniel’s enemies sought to use the law to bring about Daniel’s demise. They abused the irreversible law of the Medes and the Persians to bring Daniel under condemnation. No one, they thought, including the king, could rescue Daniel from the law and its condemnation.

What the king could not do, God did, not by keeping Daniel from death or by casting the law aside. Daniel was condemned according to the law, but the mouths of the lions were shut. Daniel paid the penalty of the law, and now he was free to serve God. In New Testament terms, Daniel “died to the law.”

This is what the gospel is all about. God gave us His law. It is a perfect standard of holiness. It too is unchangeable and irreversible. Because we are sinners, we have violated the law, fallen short of God’s standard of holiness, and come under the sentence of death. Jesus took on human flesh and died in the sinner’s place. He died to sin and the law, and then rose from the dead. Those who are in Christ by faith have been set free from the condemnation of the law and are free to serve the living God.

Have you experienced the freedom from the condemnation of the law which God has provided in Jesus Christ? All you need do is admit you are a sinner, condemned by God’s law, and to trust in the Lord Jesus as the One whom God sent to die in your place. He not only died to sin and the law’s condemnation, He also rose from the dead in newness of life. If you have never received God’s gift of salvation in Christ, I urge you to trust in Him today.

Chapter 6:
Questions and Answers

(1) How did the king feel about Daniel and why? How does this explain his rise to power under this Median king, when he had formerly served the Babylonian kings?

The king held Daniel in very high regard. It seems likely that the king learned of Daniel through past dealings with him, or by means of some of the historical records of Babylon. Daniel did not rise to power solely on the basis of his past accomplishments, however. Because of the extraordinary spirit (“Spirit” ?) within him, he continued to distinguish himself above all of his associates. Both in character (honesty, trustworthiness, and loyalty) and in practical skill and wisdom, Daniel overshadowed his peers and thus gained the king’s respect and trust. While this cannot be proven, it would almost seem as though Daniel had become a friend to the king and not just an employee.

Daniel was submissive to the government under whose authority God placed him. Thus, he could as easily be a loyal supporter of Darius as he had been of Nebuchadnezzar.

(2) How did Daniel’s peers feel about him, and why?

Daniel’s peers may have respected him at first. They could also have looked down on him because he was a Jew. But once Daniel rose to power, they quickly began to fear him and regard him as their enemy. This was because Daniel was not only more capable, and about to be put in authority over them, but also because he was a man of honesty and integrity. For this reason, they knew that Daniel would not tolerate the corruption which had become their practice. Their corrupt administration would end soon after Daniel’s promotion, and they knew it.

(3) How were Daniel’s enemies able to get him in trouble?

To their dismay, Daniel’s enemies learned there was no basis for any accusation against Daniel. He was diligent and faithful in the execution of his duties—far more than they! He was also free from corruption. They concluded the only way they could accuse Daniel would be to pass a law which contradicted the Old Testament law Daniel observed faithfully. They knew that if Daniel had to choose between God’s law and the law of the land, Daniel would disobey human law.

They proposed this new law to the king as though all of the officials, including Daniel, had been consulted and approved. They persuaded the king to think the law would serve his best interests, without revealing to him their true motivation. Because it was proposed as a “law of the Medes and the Persians,” it could not be revoked or reversed. Since it was a law in effect for only 30 days, the king may not have considered this legislation very carefully.

(4) How did the king respond to the news that Daniel had broken the new law he had just signed? Why?

The king was surprised and greatly upset. He seems to have known he was deceived and used by his officials, and that he made a foolish decision in signing the proposed law. He appears convinced that Daniel was innocent of any real crime. He probably recognizes by this time that the whole matter was a scheme cooked up by some of his other officials, so that Daniel’s promotion could be aborted. The one man in whom the king had complete confidence was now charged with a crime. Perhaps worst of all was the king’s growing realization that there was nothing he could do to stop Daniel’s execution.

(5) Why was the king unable to help save Daniel?

The king was bound by the law of the Medes and the Persians. It would seem that the Medo-Persian empire, like our own nation, was a government of laws, and not of men. Signing this injunction into law as one of the “laws of the Medes and the Persians” was to make the law irrevocable. The king was powerless to save Daniel, in spite of his strong desire to do so.

(6) What happened to Daniel?

Daniel was cast into the den of lions, just as the law required. But God sent His angel, who not only shut the lions’ mouths but kept them from hurting him in any way. Daniel was kept safe through the night. Having paid the penalty of the law, he was released.

(7) What happened to Daniel’s enemies?

The destruction Daniel’s enemies had planned for him became their destiny. By the king’s orders, those who falsely accused Daniel of wrong-doing were cast into the lions’ den, along with their families. They were immediately destroyed, which only underscores the miracle God performed on Daniel’s behalf.

Daniel and the Lion's Den(8) Why was Daniel spared from death, when many Old Testament saints were not? Does God spare everyone who is godly and has faith from danger or death?

We are not told why God chose to deliver Daniel, while He allows others to suffer persecution and death and their oppressors to apparently prosper. In Hebrews 11 we find two kinds of saints: (1) those who were delivered from danger or death, and (2) those who were delivered through danger or death (see Hebrews 11:32-40). We should remember that our Lord was without sin, and yet God did not spare Him, but delivered Him up to suffer and to die. We can at best say that God purposes for some to suffer and even die to accomplish His purposes, and others He delivers for His purposes. It would seem in Daniel’s case that God delivered him as a reminder to the Jews that as He delivered Daniel, so He would deliver Israel from her captivity. Furthermore, Daniel’s life may also have been prolonged because God still had prophecies to reveal to him and through him (see Daniel 10:1ff.).

(9) What was the king’s response to Daniel’s deliverance?

The king believed that God not only could but would deliver Daniel, and so he encouraged him before unwillingly casting him into the den of lions. When the king came out to the den of lions, he called to Daniel, asking him if his God had delivered him. He most happily ordered Daniel removed from the lion’s den and his enemies thrown inside.

(10) Compare Darius with Nebuchadnezzar.

Both kings, in my opinion, came to a genuine faith in the God of Israel. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been more stubborn in his resistance, while Darius seems to have believed more quickly. Nebuchadnezzar set up his golden image on his own initiative; Darius passed his law at the initiative of his officials. Nebuchadnezzar was fiercely angered when the three Hebrews refused to bow down to his image, defying any god to deliver them from the death he threatened. Darius was greatly distressed to find Daniel accused of disregarding his new law, taking every possible measure to deliver him from the lions’ den. Unlike Nebuchadnezzar, Darius assured Daniel that his God would deliver him. The decrees which both kings sent throughout their kingdoms after coming to faith are very similar.

(11) What is the meaning and significance of Darius’ decree?

The decree was the king’s public testimony that God had delivered Daniel from the “curse of the law” which he had passed. It was a witness to his personal faith. It was also an implied warning to anyone in his kingdom who would be tempted to resist Daniel, to persecute the Jews, or to try to accuse anyone else of breaking the 30 day injunction he had wrongly signed.

(12) Do you think king Darius was a true believer? What evidence is there for your conclusion?

I believe Darius was a true believer, like Nebuchadnezzar. This is consistent with the prophetic significance of the Book of Daniel and other prophecies that Israel’s disobedience would not only result in the discipline of God’s people but also in the salvation of the Gentiles. Darius not only regretted signing the 30 day law, he sought to reverse it or at least to arrange for Daniel’s release. He encouraged Daniel that his God would deliver him. He fasted and perhaps prayed for Daniel’s release the night Daniel was in the lion’s den. He came to the lion’s den early the next morning, expecting Daniel to have been delivered. He sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, praising the God of Israel as the sovereign God. Such praise does not come from the lips of an unbeliever.

(13) What can we learn from this chapter?

This chapter helps us understand why Christians will be persecuted for their faith, and how such persecution can even become a part of public policy, forcing saints to break those laws which oppose the law of God. It also teaches us that God is able to deliver His people, even when men are powerless to do so. He may deliver them from death, or through it. It is a reminder of the importance of prayer, and of a disciplined life, making the pursuit of godliness a habit, which will not be broken, especially by danger or panic. It is also an illustration of sin and temptation, as the self-seeking, self-serving officials oppose Daniel and deceive the king into passing an evil law. As well, it is an illustration of the gospel, for it was by being delivered through the curse of the law of the Medes and the Persians that Daniel was saved. He bore the penalty and came out alive, so that he no longer was subject to the law or its penalty.

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, Studies in The Book of Daniel

The Golden Image Of Nebuchadnezzar

The account of the golden image which was erected on the plain of Dura records Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction to the revelation of chapter 2 in which he was symbolized by the head of gold. The astounding courage and deliverance of Daniel’s companions, who refused to worship the image, has inspired the people of God in similar times of trial. The chapter as a whole, however, is often regarded as merely providing historical insight into the characteristics of this period. Works devoted to study of the prophecies of Daniel often omit consideration of chapter 3 entirely as do S. P. Tregelles and Robert D. Culver. Others, such as Geoffrey R. King, interpret the chapter as not only history but parable and prophecy. The introduction of the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 3 immediately following Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the great image depicting Gentile times, even if its parabolic implications are ignored, obviously is intended to convey not only spiritual truth in general, but characteristics of the times of the Gentiles. Its study, accordingly, not only provides spiritual insights but contributes to the overall presentation of prophecy in Daniel.

The Image of Gold

3:1-7 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits (90 feet), and the breadth thereof six cubits (9 feet.) he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of musick, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up. (Emphasis mine.)

The erection of the golden image by Nebuchadnezzar is clearly subsequent to the events of chapter 2 since Daniel 3:12, referring to the appointment of Daniel’s companions over the affairs of the province of Babylon, and Daniel 3:30 imply that the event was subsequent to Daniel 2:49. The exact date of the erection of the image, however, is debated. The Septuagint and Theodotion connect the event with the destruction of Jerusalem, which, according to 2 Kings 25:8-10 and Jeremiah 52:12, places this event in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. There is no certainty, however, that there is a relationship between the destruction of Jerusalem and the erection of the image, although the general narrative and the fact that Daniel apparently is away would imply considerable passage of time. It may well be, however, that twenty years elapsed between chapter 2 and chapter 3.

The image of gold is described as being sixty cubits (90 ft.) high and six cubits (9 ft.) broad, a very impressive sight erected in the plain of Dura. The Hebrew word for image implies, as Leupold says, “An image in the very broadest sense,” probably in human form although the proportions are far too narrow for a normal figure. Scripture does not solve this problem, but most commentators agree that images of this kind in antiquity frequently varied from ordinary human proportions. The image may have been on a pedestal with only the upper part of the image resembling human form. The obvious intent was to impress by the size of the image rather than by its particular features. Leupold cites numerous ancient images such as that of Zeus in a temple at Babylon; the golden images on the top of the Belus temple, one of which was forty cubits high; and the Colossus at Rhodes which was seventy cubits high. While an image of this size was unusual, it was by no means unique; and there is no reason to question the historical accuracy of its dimensions.

Although Nebuchadnezzar had tremendous wealth and could conceivably have erected this image of solid gold, it is probable that it was made of wood overlaid with gold as was customary. Montgomery observes, “Its construction of gold has also given rise to extensive argument, with charge of absurdity on one side, e. g., JDMich [J. D. Michaelis], with defence based on the fabulous riches of the East on the other. But Herodotus’ statements about the golden idols in Babylon afford sufficient background. (Cf. Pliny’s account of an all-gold image of Anaitis, which was looted by Antony, Hist, nat., xxxiii, 24.) The gold consisted in overlaid plates, for which we possess not only abundant Classical evidence … but also that of the Bible.” The “golden altar” (Ex 39:38) was actually wood overlaid with gold (Ex 37:25-26). Idols overlaid with gold are mentioned in Isaiah 40:19 and Isaiah 41:7. Jeremiah describes the same process (Jer 10:3-9). The appearance of the image, however, was much the same as if it were solid gold.

The use of the golden metal for the image may have been derived from Nebuchadnezzar’s previous experience with the image of chapter 2 where Daniel informed him that he, Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold. Although Nebuchadnezzar did not do this intentionally, the dimensions of six cubits wide and sixty cubits high introduces the number six which is prominent in the Bible as the number of man (cf. Rev 13:18). The intended significance of the image from Nebuchadnezzar’s point of view is, however, debatable. It may have been in honor of the god of Babylon, either Bel or Marduk, but in this case it would have been natural to mention the name of the god. Nebuchadnezzar may have regarded the image as representing himself as the embodiment of divine power, and the worship of the image would then be a recognition of his personal power. In view of his pride as dealt with in chapter 4, this becomes a plausible explanation.

The image was set up “in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.” The expression Dura, as Leupold states, “is a rather common name in Mesopotamia, being a name that is applicable to any place which is enclosed by a wall,” and a number of locations bear this title as Keil points out. Both Keil and Young mention two possible locations which seem to be eliminated by being too far from Babylon. As Young states, “The name Dura has occurred in classical sources; Polybius 5:48, Amm. Mar. 23:5, 8; 24:1, 5 mention a Dura at the mouth of the Chaboras where it empties into the Euphrates, but this can hardly be reckoned as being in the province of Babylon, and another Dura is mentioned as being beyond the Tigris not far from Appollonia, Polybius 5:52 and Amm. Mar. 25:6, 9. This also would be too distant.”

The consensus of conservative scholarship is that the most probable location is a mound located six miles southeast of Babylon consisting of a large square of brick construction which would have ideally served as a base for such an image as Nebuchadnezzar erected. Montgomery earlier had come to the same conclusion based on the findings of Oppert Its proximity to Babylon would make it convenient and yet its location in a valley plain would make its height impressive. The fact that a specific name is given to the location, which implies an intimate knowledge of Babylon in the sixth century B.C., as Young points out, “is in reality an evidence of genuineness in that it seems to presuppose some knowledge of Babylonian geography.”

The image having been erected, Nebuchadnezzar, according to the Scripture record, gathered the principal officials of his empire for its dedication. As there are parallels in similar situations in the ancient world, such as Sargon’s feast upon the completion of a palace erected at Dur Sharrukin, scholars, both liberal and conservative, have agreed that this ceremony is in keeping with the times. Such a display of officials was on the one hand a gratifying demonstration of the power of Nebuchadnezzar’s empire and on the other hand was significant as recognizing the deities who in their thinking were responsible for their victories. The worship of the image was intended to be an expression of political solidarity and loyalty to Nebuchadnezzar rather than an intended act of religious persecution. It was in effect a saluting of the flag, although, because of the interrelationship of religious with national loyalties, it may also have had religious connotation.

The list of the officials gathered for the event has occasioned comment because some of them are Persian rather than Babylonian terms. The speculation as to why Persian terms should be used is much ado about nothing. It would be natural for Daniel, who may have written or at least edited this passage after the Persian government had come to power, to bring the various offices up-to-date by using current expressions. The fact that Daniel was so familiar with these offices is another evidence that he lived in the sixth century B.C.. The official titles used in Daniel 3:2-3 help to date the book in the sixth century and refute the second century date given by the critics. The Septuagint versions (Old Greek and The-odotion) are hopelessly inexact and are merely guesswork in their rendering of ‘drgzr, “counsellor”; gdbr, “treasurer”;dtbr, “law-officer”; t(y)pt, “magistrate, police chief.” Kitchen points out,

If the first important Greek translation of Daniel was made some time within c. 100 BC-AD 100, roughly speaking, and the translator could not (or took no trouble to) reproduce the proper meanings of these terms, then one conclusion imposes itself: their meaning was already lost and forgotten or, at least, drastically changed long before he set to work. Now if Daniel (in particular, the Aramaic chapters 2-7) was wholly a product of c. 165 BC, then a century or so in a continuous tradition is surely embarrassingly inadequate as a sufficient interval for that loss (or change) of meaning to occur, by Near Eastern standards. Therefore, it is desirable on this ground to seek the original of such verses (and hence of the narratives of which they are an integral part) much earlier than this date, preferably within memory of the Persian rule—i. e. c. 539 (max.) to c. 280 BC (allowing about fifty years’ lapse from the fall of Persia to Macedon).

The exact functions of each office are not given, but seven classes of officials are designated. The official titles and their modern meanings are as follows:

KJV

Aramaic (singular form)

Meaning

princes

áa†hashdarpan

satrap

governors

sÿgan

prefect

captains

peha‚

governor

judges

áa†darga„zar

counselor

treasurers

gÿda„bar

treasurer

counselors

dÿta„bar

law official, judge

sheriffs

tipta„y

magistrate

 

Keil probably gives the best explanation of the various terms. The princes are administrators, guardians or watchers, and the chief representatives of the king, corresponding to the Greek expression satrap, The division of the empire into provinces (satrapies.) The governors were commanders or military chiefs. The captains seemed to refer to presidents or governors of civil government. The judges were counsellors of the government or chief arbitrators. The treasurers were superintendents of the public treasury. The counsellors were lawyers or guardians of the law. The sheriffs were judges in a stricter sense of the term, that is, magistrates who gave a just sentence. The rulers were lesser officials who were governors of the provinces subordinate to the chief governor. The list of officers stated in verse 2 is repeated in verse 3 and some of them are repeated in verse 27. They had been summoned by messengers sent by Nebuchadnezzar to participate in this important event.

According to verse 3, they were assembled before the image awaiting the call to universal worship signalled by the cry of the herald. The word for herald ( ka„ro‚z), because it closely resembles the Greek word ke„rux, introduces the interesting problem of Greek words in Daniel. Several of the instruments listed in verse 5 also seem to be of Greek origin. This has been claimed as confirmation that Daniel wrote during the period of Greek dominance of Western Asia.

Archer and others have challenged whether these words are actually Greek words, pointing out that karoz (herald, classified as a Greek word by Brown, Driver, and Briggs Lexicon, has in recent works like Koehler-Baumgartner’s Hebrew Lexicon been traced to the old Persian khrausa, meaning “caller.”

Conservative biblical scholarship has fully answered the objection of critics which would tend to reflect upon the accuracy and historicity of the book of Daniel. Robert Dick Wilson, for instance, has pointed out that the argument actually boomerangs as, if Daniel was written in a Greek period, there would be many more Greek words than the few that occur here and there. The fact is that there is nothing strange about some amount of Greek influence in Babylonian culture in view of the contacts between them and the Greeks. Greek traders were common in Egypt and western Asia from the seventh century B.C. onward. The Greek mercenaries, who served as soldiers for various countries, are found more than one hundred years before Daniel, as for instance in the Assyrian army of Esarhaddon (682 b.c.) and even in the Babylonian army of Nebuchadnezzar. Not only did the Greeks affect the Semitic world but also influences of Assyria and Babylonia appear in the Greek language as well.

Recent studies on the musical instruments mentioned in Daniel 3 conducted by T. C. Mitchell and R. Joyce have given support to the authenticity of these instruments in the sixth century b.c. Further studies by Yamauchi support the conclusion that Greek words in Daniel are not to be unexpected and in fact refer to the interchange of cultures in the ancient world.

Not much help is given by attempting to find synonyms for these instruments as actually we do not have any information as to their precise character. T. C. Mitchell and R. Joyce provide a table for all six instruments with their corresponding translations in nine different translations. Actually, none of the alternate terms improve much on that which is provided in Daniel 3:5 and repeated in verses 7, 10, and 15. These instruments probably provided as full an orchestra as could be arranged in Babylon.

The cornet was obviously a horn instrument, the word coming originally from the horn of a beast which was sometimes used to make a musical instrument. The flute was probably made of reeds with a sound similar to a fife. The harp was some sort of a stringed instrument. The sackbut may have been a triangular board to which strings were attached. The psaltery, sometimes also considered a harp, was another stringed instrument with twenty strings. The dulcimer is a wind instrument. To these were added other instruments described as “all kinds of music.”

At the sound of the music, all those gathered were to “fall down and worship the golden image,” that is, they were to fall prostrate to the ground and do homage. This has been taken by some to prove that the image was a deity or idol. But Keil and others are probably correct that they were simply recognizing a symbol of the power of the empire which included recognition of heathen gods but was not the specific object of their homage. As Keil puts it, “A refusal to yield homage to the gods of the kingdom, they regarded as an act of hostility against the kingdom and its monarch, while every one might at the same time honour his own national god. This acknowledgment, that the gods of the kingdom were the more powerful, every heathen could grant; and thus, Nebuchadnezzar demanded nothing in a religious point of view which every one of his subjects could not yield. To him, therefore, the refusal of the Jews could not but appear as opposition to the greatness of his kingdom.” There is, therefore, no direct parallel between this and the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes which liberals cite as the background for this story in Daniel. Antiochus was attempting to destroy the Jewish religion, but this was not Nebuchadnezzar’s objective. A fair analysis of the situation in Daniel 3 is that the issue was more political than religious, but it was obnoxious religiously to Daniel’s three companions.

tannurThe herald made plain that anyone who did not obey the command to fall down and worship would be cast immediately into the burning fiery furnace. Montgomery suggests that the furnace “must have been similar to our common lime-kiln, with a perpendicular shaft from the top and an opening at the bottom for extracting the fused lime; cf. illustration of such an Oriental tannur or ta‚bu‚n in Benzinger, Hebr. Archaologie, 65, and Haupt’s description, AJSL 23, 245. Hav. notes Chardin’s remarks on the existence of similar ovens in Persia for execution of criminals (Voyage en Perse, ed. Langles, 6, c. 18, end, p. 303).” This would explain both the way in which the victims were put into the furnace and the circumstances which permitted the king to see what was happening inside the furnace.

The expression the same hour has in it the thought of “immediately” but cannot be pushed to the extent of concluding that the furnace was already burning. The threat of being executed by being burned alive was sufficient to cause the entire group to fall down and worship when the music sounded. Apparently, the only exceptions were the three companions of Daniel. It is useless to speculate how this related to Daniel himself. Either Daniel considered this a political act which did not violate his conscience, or Daniel did not worship and his high office prevented his enemies from accusing him, or more probably, Daniel for some reason was absent. The stage was now set for the trial of the three faithful Jews.

Daniel’s Companions Accused by the Chaldeans

3:8-12 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, shall fall down and worship the golden image: And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Although the historic account previously given by Daniel does not include that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had not bowed down to the golden image, the Chaldeans, who were the court astrologers, approach the king and bring their accusation. Undoubtedly there was resentment against these Jews who had been placed by Nebuchadnezzar in charge of the province of Babylon because they were of another race and of a captive people. It was quite clear to the Chaldeans also that the Jews did not worship the gods of Babylon and were actually a foreign element in the government. They saw in the fact that the Jews had not worshiped the image an occasion to bring accusation against them. The expression accused is a translation of an Aramaic expression common to Semitic languages which literally means, “they ate their pieces,” hence, to devour piecemeal. This connotes slander or malicious accusation which devours the accused piece by piece.

The Chaldeans approached the king with the customary courtesies addressing Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live for ever.” They remind the king of the details of his decree and the penalty for disobedience. With the stage thus set for the accusation, the Chaldeans make three charges against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. First, they show no regard for the king. Second, they do not serve the gods of the king. Third, they do not worship the golden image which Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

The form of the accusation is almost a rebuke to the king himself. It is clear that the Chaldeans had deep-seated resentment against the Jews and felt the king had made a serious mistake in trusting these foreigners with such high offices. They remind the king that these men are Jews, different in race and culture from the Babylonians. The king had set them over the affairs of the province of Babylon, the most important province in the empire and the key to political security for the entire realm. The personal loyalty of such officers should be beyond question; but, as the Chaldeans point out, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had not shown any regard for the king himself.

The second accusation that they do not serve Nebuchadnezzar’s gods is more than merely a religious difference. The whole concept of political loyalty, of which the worship of the image was an expression, is bound up in the idea that Nebuchadnezzar’s gods have favored him and given him victory. To challenge Nebuchadnezzar’s gods, therefore, is to challenge Nebuchadnezzar himself and to raise a question as to the political integrity of the three men accused. As proof of their suspicions, they charge Daniel’s three companions with not worshiping the golden image. The arguments were calculated to arouse the anger of Nebuchadnezzar and to bring about the downfall of these three men with the possibility that the Chaldeans themselves might be given greater authority in political affairs.

Daniel’s Companions Refuse to Worship the Image

3:13-18 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

The argument and accusation of the Chaldeans had a telling effect upon Nebuchadnezzar, who regarded the disobedience of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego not only a threat to his political security but also a personal affront. However, in view of the fact that they probably had held their offices for some years and had evidently been efficient in the conduct of their duties, Nebuchadnezzar in spite of his anger gave them a second chance which lesser men might not have been offered. Highly enraged, he commanded to bring the men before him. He asked them two questions: first, “Do not ye serve my gods?” and second, “Do not ye… worship the golden image which I have set up?” The fact that he distinguished between serving his gods and worshiping the image, though they are interrelated, seems to confirm the idea that the worship is primarily political, although the fact that they do not worship his gods is a condemning circumstance. He gives them the opportunity to obey the command to worship, restating in full the description of the music and the obligation to fall down and worship. He makes clear the alternative that they “shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” The repetition of the entire edict no doubt was done with a flourish; and, although he was probably well aware of the jealousy of the Chaldeans and took this into account, he makes it clear that there is no alternative but to worship the image.

Golden Image Of NebuchadnezzarThe question Nebuchadnezzar asked in verse 14, translated “Is it true” in the King James Version and Revised Standard Version, is translated “Is it of purpose?” in the American Standard Version. Scholars differ on the proper reading here and resulting translation, but Montgomery and Rosenthal support the King James Version translation, “Is it true.”

It is an amazing fact that Nebuchadnezzar adds the challenging question, “Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” He is quite conscious of the demonstration of the superiority of the God of the Hebrews over Babylonian gods in interpreting his dream in chapter 2, but he cannot bring himself to believe that the God of the Jews would be able in these circumstances to deliver these three men from his hand. The fact is that Nebuchadnezzar feels supreme in his power and does not expect any god to interfere. Rabshakeh made the same arrogant and blasphemous claim when threatening King Hezekiah (Is 36:13-20)—the claim to the possession of a human power so great that there is no divine power to which the victim can turn for help.

The reply of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to the king might ordinarily call for a long discourse explaining why they could not worship the image. They seem to recognize, however, that all this would be of no avail and that the issue is clearly whether their God is able to deliver them or not. Accordingly, they confront the king with their confidence in God to such an extent that they say, “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.” Such an answer by itself might be considered arrogant and disrespectful to the king; but coupled with the explanation, it is clear that they feel their case is not in their hands anyway. The Aramaic word hashhin translated “careful,” may be considered a technical word for “need.” Hence, the statement may be translated, “there is no need for us to answer thee in this matter.” A further difficulty is occasioned by the expression O Nebuchadnezzar which in the Massoretic is in the vocative. Young translates the entire sentence as omitting whatever formal address they made with the record here simply saying that they “said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need with respect to this matter to make defense before thee.” Montgomery holds that no discourtesy was intended, “The discourteous vocative of the Mass. pointing was not only impossible in etiquette but also in the spirit of the writer.”

Although the full salutation to Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been omitted, Daniel gives the gist of their reply and in so doing answered the question raised by the king in verse 14 when he asked, “Is it true?” Actually there was no doubt about what they had done, but their purpose in not conforming was in question. Was it really true that their purpose in nonconformity was to dishonor the gods of Babylon and to disobey Nebuchadnezzar. Their explanation leaves no question as to the answer. They state positively that their God is able to deliver them from a fiery furnace. The article should be omitted before “burning fiery furnace” in verse 17, with the resultant meaning that He could deliver them from any fiery furnace, not just the one immediately at hand. They not only affirm that their God is able but that He will deliver them.

The three men, however, also face the alternative that God might not deliver them. The expression, “But if not,” should be understood as referring to the deliverance not to the ability of God. They take into consideration that sometimes it is not in the purpose of God to deliver faithful ones from martyrdom. Even if God does not deliver them, however, this will not change their decision in which they refuse to worship the gods of Babylon as well as the golden image. Leupold aptly says, “The quiet, modest, yet withal very positive attitude of faith that these three men display is one of the noblest examples in the Scriptures of faith fully resigned to the will of God. These men ask for no miracle; they expect none. Theirs is the faith that says: ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,’ Job 13:15.”

Daniel’s Companions Cast into the Furnace

3:19-23 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

burning fiery furnaceThe answer of the three men to Nebuchadnezzar left no doubt as to their determined purpose not to serve the gods of Babylon and worship the image. After all, this was forbidden in Exodus 20:4-6. Nebuchadnezzar takes their determination not only as proof of the full accusation made by the Chaldeans but also as evidence of disloyalty to him personally. His anger knows no bounds as stated in the expression “full of fury” or “filled with anger.” He is as angry as he possibly could be under any circumstance, his face is distorted, his pride has been severely punctured, and he gives the foolish order to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual, as if this would increase the torment. Actually, a slow fire would have been far more torture as Geoffrey King puts it, “And then he lost his temper! That is always the mark of a little man. His furnace was hot, but he himself got hotter! And when a man gets full of fury, he gets full of folly. There is no fool on earth like a man who has lost his temper. And Nebuchadnezzar did a stupid thing. He ought to have cooled the furnace seven times less if he had wanted to hurt them; but instead of that in his fury he heated it seven times more.”

Instead of giving Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego another opportunity to refuse to bow before the image as Nebuchadnezzar had originally proposed, he now immediately commands their execution. The strongest men in the army are selected, who bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego as a preliminary to casting them in the burning fiery furnace. The Scriptures relate that they are bound in their coats, hose, and hats as well as other garments. Normally criminals are stripped before execution; but in view of the form of the execution and the haste of the whole operation, there was no particular point in stripping off their clothes. This later becomes a further testimony to the delivering power of God.

While the men were prepared for execution, the furnace is heated until it is extremely hot. This would not necessarily take very long, but it must have added a high note of tension to the entire situation as the multitude waited probably in dead silence. When the furnace, reached its proper heat, the king demanded immediate execution of his orders. In casting the three men into the furnace, the strong men who did it were killed by the flame which reached out to take their lives. As the decree had indicated that they should be thrown into the midst of the furnace, so it was executed.

The Septuagint inserts the “Prayer of Azariah” and the “Song of the Three Youths” with some additional explanation. Conservative scholarship is agreed that this is not part of the scriptural text, although it is possible that these men, godly as they were, might have expressed prayer in a similar way if time permitted. Verse 23 of the text has also been challenged by Charles who claims it is an interpolation and needless duplication of verse 21, and that part of the passage has been lost. Actually the narrative reads very well as it is, and the objections are without proper ground. Even in ordinary narrative important facts are sometimes repeated more than once. Nebuchadnezzar had now accomplished his purpose, his decree had been fulfilled, and he could leave to the furnace the task of consuming these men who had challenged his authority and his gods.

The Miraculous Deliverance from the Furnace

3:24-27 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God. Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

Nebuchadnezzar apparently was seated in such a way as to be able to observe the interior of the furnace from a safe distance. What he saw, however, brought him to complete astonishment. He could not believe his eyes and in his excitement stood up and asked his counsellors whether the three men had not been cast bound into the midst of the fire. The occasion of his question was what he saw. Instead of three men, he saw four; instead of being bound, they were free; instead of writhing in anguish in the flames, they were walking about in the fire and making no attempt to come out; further, it was quite apparent that they were not hurt; most astounding of all, he had the impression that “the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” It is probable that, at these pronouncements, Nebuchadnezzar’s counsellors also rose to look into the furnace; and led by Nebuchadnezzar, they came as close as they could to see the miraculous deliverance.

Most contemporary scholars translate the phrase the Son of God, as “a son of the gods.” While it is entirely possible that the fourth person in the fiery furnace was indeed the Son of God, it would be doubtful whether Nebuchadnezzar would comprehend this, unless he had prophetic insight. The Aramaic form elahin is plural and whenever used in the Aramaic section of Daniel seems to be a plural in number, as the singular is used when the true God is meant. The textual problem of Daniel 6:20 where Darius refers to the true God is decided in favor of the singular by Kittel rather than the plural. On the basis of this consistent use, the translation “a son of the gods” is preferable and in keeping with Nebuchadnezzar’s comprehension at this point in his experience. The presence of a fourth person in the furnace nevertheless added to Nebuchadnezzar’s astonishment at the miracle he was witnessing.

Addressing the three faithful men in the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither.” It was immediately apparent to Nebuchadnezzar, as well as the others who watched, that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was greater than the gods of Babylon. In using the expression “the most high God,” Nebuchadnezzar was not disavowing his own deities but merely recognizing on the basis of the tremendous miracle which had been performed that the God of Israel was higher, hence “the most high God.”

At the command of Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who could not obey the king in the matter of worshiping the image, do not hesitate to fulfill his command in this instance. The assembled multitude led by the king’s most important officials acted as witnesses of the delivering power of God. Although obviously all the great throng could not get close enough to see precisely what had happened, Scripture records that “the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors” witnessed the event. There could be little question that a mighty miracle had been performed. The hair of the three Hebrews had not been singed, their garments in which they had been bound had not changed, and not even the smell of fire was retained. Leupold translates coats as “shoes” which would be most remarkable as they had walked on the hot ashes. The fire had damaged their garments in no way; only the ropes which bound them, the symbols of Nebuchadnezzar’s unbelief and wrath, were destroyed in the flames.

Just as the reign of Nebuchadnezzar is symbolic of the entire period of the times of the Gentiles, so the deliverance of Daniel’s three companions is typical of the deliverance of Israel during the period of Gentile domination. Particularly at the end of the Gentile period Israel will be in fiery affliction, but as Isaiah prophesied, “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Is 43:1-2).

The Decree of Nebuchadnezzar

3:28-30 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, in the province of Babylon.

Just as Nebuchadnezzar had acknowledged Daniel’s God at the conclusion of chapter 2, so here Nebuchadnezzar admitting the power of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego issues a decree in oriental style commemorating the event. First, he recognizes the delivering power of their God “who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him.” That the heathen gods used messengers to accomplish their purpose was generally believed, and Nebuchadnezzar analyzes the event in this way. Although there is no clear proof that the fourth person in the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was actually deity or an angel—as all we have is Nebuchadnezzar’s conclusion on the basis of what he saw—it may well be that the protector of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego was Christ Himself appearing in the form of an angel. The expression the Son of God (3:25) is a translation of the Aramaic bar áela„hin, which means “a divine being.” Nebuchadnezzar interprets this in verse 28 as a maláak, meaning, “an angel.” The alternative that God sent a mighty angel to protect them is, of course, also plausible and in keeping with other Scripture.

golden image which was erected on the plain of DuraNebuchadnezzar not only recognizes the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego but now belatedly commends them for their trust in God even though it resulted in changing his word. He recognizes the superior obligation of the men not to worship any deity except their own. This was a remarkable admission for a king in Nebuchadnezzar’s situation.

Having given this preamble, Nebuchadnezzar now makes his decree. In it, he does not deprecate his own gods but recognizes the fact of the power of the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. He calls upon all the people in his realm not to say anything amiss concerning this God at the threat of being cut to pieces and their houses made a dunghill. That the king has the power to do this was obvious to everyone. The basis of his decree is the simple statement, “because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.” It is clear at this point that though Nebuchadnezzar is greatly impressed, he has not yet been brought to the place where he is willing to put his trust in the God of Israel.

The chain of events which had brought about this miracle also consolidated the position of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego as principal officials in the province of Babylon. Whatever their former rank and authority, they are now promoted.. Although probably in the same office, they were relieved of any opposition and had the special favor of the king in what they did.

As pointed out in an extended discussion by Leupold, the nature of this trial and persecution was quite different from that of Antiochus Epiphanes in the second century B.C.; and scholars who attempt to draw parallels to support the idea of a pseudo-Daniel writing the book of Daniel in the second century have no real basis in fact. Nebuchadnezzar at least respected the God of Israel, something which was quite untrue in the case of Antiochus Epiphanes. As recorded in the Word of God, it is characteristic of Gentile times that there will be tensions between obedience to God and obedience to men. This will reach its peak in the future great tribulation when once again the tension between obeying an earthly ruler and obeying God will result in many martyrs.

Taken as a whole, chapter 3 is a thrilling account of young men who remained true to God under severe trial. The common excuses for moral and spiritual compromise, especially the blaming of contemporary influences, are contradicted by the faithfulness of these men. In spite of separation from parents and of the corrupting influences of Babylonian religion, political pressure, and immorality, they did not waver in their hour of testing. Critics are probably right that Daniel intended this chapter to remind Israel of the evils of idolatry and the necessity of obeying God rather than men. But the main thrust of the passage is not an invented moral story which actually never happened, as critics infer, but rather a display of a God who is faithful to His people even in captivity and is ever ready to deliver those who put their trust in Him. The contrast of the God of Israel to the idols of Babylon is a reminder that the god of this world, behind Gentile dominion, is doomed to judgment at the hands of the sovereign God. This is illustrated in the fall of Babylon and of the succeeding empires of Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. The downfall of these nations is a foreshadowing of the end of the times of the Gentiles when the Lion of the tribe of Judah returns to reign.

Chapter 3, the first of four chapters dealing with individuals, is an obvious preparation for chapter 4, which relates Nebuchadnezzar’s conversion. In the deliverance of the three faithful companions of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar is confronted by the superior power of God which can nullify Nebuchadnezzar’s commandment to execute the three men. This is a preparation for the lesson he was to learn in chapter 4 that all of his power was delegated by God and could be withdrawn at His will. In this chapter we see for the last time Daniel’s three companions, and no further reference is made to their subsequent experiences.

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