Tag Archives: Nebuchadnezzar

Daniel’s Disturbing Dream (Daniel 7:1-28)

Daniel, a godly prophet and a man of unshakable faith, has been steadfast in his daily walk of fellowship with God throughout the first six chapters of the Book of Daniel. Nothing has caused him to panic or depart from his faith and practice as a godly Jew. Neither peer opposition nor the king’s new law (chapter 6) greatly disturbed Daniel. Daniel’s first inner turmoil occurs in chapter 7. A revelation from God in his sleep discloses future events which Daniel finds most troubling. Twice in chapter 7 Daniel speaks of his distress:

“As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me” (verse 15).

“At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself” (verse 28).

We should note Daniel’s distress in chapter 7 before turning to the other prophecies in Daniel, where we will find that prophecy very often produces distress. Where it has not caused distress, it should have. Nebuchadnezzar became distressed when he received his first night vision (2:1) because he did understand some of his dream. In his vision, the statue collapsed and disappeared, because a mysterious stone struck it at its feet. His vision in chapter 4 should have produced more distress than it did. He was “at ease” when he received the vision, and then he became fearful, and his mind alarmed him (4:4-5). Upon hearing the details of the dream, Daniel too was troubled (4:19). Unfortunately, the king did not heed the dream’s warning, and his kingdom was taken away for a time. In chapter 5, King Belshazzar’s dream should have greatly alarmed him, but apparently it did not. That night his life and his kingdom came to an end. Subsequent revelations in the Book of Daniel which Daniel received were closely associated with some kind of agony or distress (see 8:17, 27; 9:20-21; 10:2-3, 7-10, 17; 12:8).

A look through the Scriptures shows that Daniel’s response to the prophecies he received was not unique. Many Old Testament prophets shared Daniel’s distress as a result of the prophecies they received and often conveyed to others. Why does the prophecy of Daniel 7 cause this godly man so much consternation? What so upset Daniel about the future? Should we be troubled as well?

Prophecies are given so that we may look at history, especially events occurring in our own lifetime, from God’s perspective. Prophecy provides men the opportunity to think and act in a way which pleases God, who determines the future and who reveals future events to men.

Chapter 7 reveals in broad terms what the future holds. Our study of this chapter will isolate what troubled Daniel about the future. If taken seriously, we will find the future sobering as well. May the Spirit of God reveal the meaning of this prophecy to us and produce in us that which God desires to His glory and our good.

Structure of the Text

Two major divisions comprise our text: (1) Daniel’s dream—verses 1-14 and (2) the interpretation—verses 15-28. In more detail, the outline would be as follows:

(1) Daniel’s Dream verses 1-14

  • The Four Beasts — verses 1-8
  • The Ancient of Days — verses 9-12
  • The Son of Man — verses 13-14

(2) The Divine Interpretation — verses 15-28

  • Daniel’s distress — verse 15
  • A General Interpretation — verses 16-18
  • A Fuller Interpretation — verses 19-27
  • Daniel’s Response — verse 28

Interpretive Guidelines

Interpretations of Daniel’s prophecies differ widely. Liberals reject all prophecies, because they require a sovereign God and a miraculous revelation of future events. While conservative, evangelical scholars believe the prophecies in Daniel are true, their interpretations differ greatly. Whether liberal or conservative, our conclusions grow out of the premises and presuppositions governing the process and the product of our interpretation. For this reason, I wish to clearly state the foundational presuppositions and principles on which this exposition of Daniel is based.

(1) The Book of Daniel is a part of the Holy Scriptures, and thus inspired, accurate, and trustworthy.

(2) The prophecies of Daniel must be understood in relationship to and in light of the other prophecies of Daniel.

(3) These prophecies must be understood in light of their historical background as provided in Daniel, in the inspired revelation provided by other portions of Scripture,and the cautious use of supplementary information by reliable historical documents or study. Other biblical prophecies bear on the prophecies of Daniel, particularly preceding or contemporary prophecies.

(4) Prophecies not completely fulfilled cannot be fully understood until after their fulfillment. At least the final portion of chapter 7 has not been fulfilled. Even those portions which we believe have been fulfilled, students of prophecy differ about the way of their fulfillment.

(5) Above all, the prophecy in this chapter means precisely what God says it means in this text, nothing more and nothing less. How easily we turn from what is revealed to speculate about what has been concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29). We should not spend a disproportionate amount of time and energy trying to fill in the blanks God has left. Our attention should be given to what is clearly and emphatically said. In our passage, Daniel asks for and receives an explanation. What God determined to reveal to Daniel should be enough for us.

Overall Observations

Note these general observations about our passage before we turn to a more detailed study.

(1) Daniel 7 is the last chapter written in Aramaic in the Book of Daniel. Daniel 1:1-2:4a was written in Hebrew. From Daniel 2:4b to the end of chapter 7, the original text was written in Aramaic (the language of Babylon in that day). After this chapter, the book returns to the Hebrew language.

(2) Chapters 7 and 8, while written in different languages, are written during the reign of Belshazzar and somehow linked by the author in Daniel 8:1.

(3) This chapter contains the major segment of Daniel, which is primarily prophetic, although it does not contain the first prophecy in the Book of Daniel.

(4) This is the first prophecy in the book revealed directly to Daniel. The other prophecies were revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar and interpreted by Daniel.

(5) While the process involves wicked kings and nations and the suffering of the saints, the culmination is the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

(6) None of the kings or the kingdoms are identified.

(7) No identification is made of the saints as “Jews” or “Gentiles.” There seems to be no Jewish nationalistic emphasis here, as there will be later.

(8) The four beasts are all different, with the last standing apart from the first three.

(9) The interpretation of Daniel’s vision comes in two parts, beginning with a general interpretation and then a more specific one based on Daniel’s questions.

(10) Daniel’s preoccupation is with the last beast, rather than the first three.

(11) A distinction is made between God the “Father”—the “Ancient of Days” and God the Son—the “Son of Man”—with both playing a part in the establishment of the kingdom.

(12) No distinction between the first coming of Christ and the second is made in the coming of the eternal kingdom of God.

(13) In some sense, the last kingdom is still on-going. Since the last kingdom and the prophecies associated with it have not yet been fulfilled, we must in some way be a part of that kingdom. The day of judgment is still future and has not yet been fulfilled. Thus, the vision is yet unfulfilled in terms of its major emphasis. No wonder interpreters differ about the details (Just my thoughts.). Quite clear, however, is the identity of the “Ancient of Days” and the “Son of Man.”

Background

Chapter 7 moves from the historical accounts of Daniel and his three friends to the prophetic revelations received by Daniel in the last half of the Book. The following chart may help us visualize the relationship of Daniel’s prophecies to the historical setting in which they were revealed:

BABYLONIAN EMPIRE

MEDO-PERSIAN EMPIRE

Nebuchadnezzar

Belshazzar

Darius

Cyrus

Daniel 1-4

Daniel 5

Daniel 6

Daniel 12

Daniel 7-8

Daniel 9

Daniel 11-12

The first prophetic revelation is found in Daniel 2. A night vision is given to king Nebuchadnezzar, apparently early in his reign as king of Babylon. Through the vision of a magnificent, awe-inspiring statue, God reveals the future for Gentile kings and their kingdoms. The head of the statue was made of gold, the chest and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze, and the legs and feet of iron and clay.

In his interpretation of the dream, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar he was the head of gold. The identity of the kingdoms represented by the other body parts and metals was not revealed. The king is told that all of these earthly kingdoms would be destroyed by the “stone not fashioned by human hands,” and that an eternal kingdom would take the place of these temporal kingdoms. The subject of the vision in chapter 2 seems to be taken up again in chapter 7. The inter-relationship between the prophecies of chapters 2 and 7 is demonstrated on the following page:

THE FOUR KINGDOMS

C H A P T E R T W O

C H A P T E R S E V E N

Head of gold

The winged lion

Breast & arms of silver

The devouring bear

Belly & thighs of bronze

The winged leopard

Legs & feet of iron & clay

The indescribable beast

SIMILARITIES

A four-part statue

Four beasts

Statue represents kingdoms

Beasts represent kingdoms

Deterioration: Gold to iron mixed with clay

Deterioration: Nearly human to blaspheming beast

Statue destroyed

Beasts destroyed

Eternal Kingdom is established

Eternal kingdom is established

CONTRASTS

Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision

Daniel’s Vision

Daniel’s interpretation

Angel’s interpretation

Glorious statue

Horrible beasts

Human statue in four parts

Four (inhumane) beasts

Destroyed mysteriously by a stone

Destroyed in judgment by God

Daniel’s Dream
(7:1-14)

1 In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel saw a dream and visions in his mind as he lay on his bed; then he wrote the dream down and related the following summary of it. 2 Daniel said, “I was looking in my vision by night, and behold, the four winds of heaven were stirring up the great sea. 3 And four great beasts were coming up from the sea, different from one another. 4 The first was like a lion and had the wings of an eagle. I kept looking until its wings were plucked, and it was lifted up from the ground and made to stand on two feet like a man; a human mind also was given to it. 5 And behold, another beast, a second one, resembling a bear. And it was raised up on one side, and three ribs were in its mouth between its teeth; and thus they said to it, ‘Arise, devour much meat!’ 6 After this I kept looking, and behold, another one, like a leopard, which had on its back four wings of a bird; the beast also had four heads, and dominion was given to it. 7 After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns. 8 “While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man, and a mouth uttering great boasts. 9 I kept looking until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow, And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. 10 A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, and the books were opened. 11 “Then I kept looking because of the sound of the boastful words which the horn was speaking; I kept looking until the beast was slain, and its body was destroyed and given to the burning fire. 12 “As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but an extension of life was granted to them for an appointed period of time. 13 “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.

The first recorded vision comes to Daniel in the form of a night vision, like those of Nebuchadnezzar (2:1; 4:5) during the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. How interesting! The vision comes to Daniel in Belshazzar’s first year. A subsequent and related vision comes to him in this king’s third year (see 8:1). The revelation of the “writing on the banquet hall wall,” already described in chapter 5, actually happened later, on the last day of Belshazzar’s life. According to verse 1, the written record of the revelation Daniel received in his first night vision is but a summary of the prophecy he received.

Belshazzar’s rise to power and ascent to the throne seems to have inaugurated a new age for Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar was the first ruler of Babylon to have contact with Daniel. Having gained an appreciation for Daniel and his three Hebrew friends, over a period he came to faith in their God. His declaration, which resulted from the deliverance of the three Hebrews, made it unlawful to hinder the worship of the Jews; his decree recorded at the end of chapter 4 went much further. It not only bore witness to the conversion of this king, but encouraged all of the subjects of Babylonian rule to worship the God of Israel.

I believe some in Babylon, like their king, came to a genuine faith in God. Many others may have reluctantly professed or actually adopted the Jewish religion. King Nebuchadnezzar died apparently nine years before Belshazzar came to power. Public sentiment was turning against this “foreign religion,” and the Babylonians, including Belshazzar, wanted a return to their “old time religion” —the pagan worship of the gods of Babylon. With the commencement of Belshazzar’s co-regency may have come not only a rejection of the Jewish faith and worship, but a new wave of persecution directed toward it. The toasting of the gods of the Babylonians with the sacred temple vessels, recorded in chapter 5, may have been Belshazzar’s final act of blasphemy. As we shall show later, the content of the prophecy of Daniel 7 is very closely related to the reign of Belshazzar. The words of verse 1 point to the relationship between the prophecy Daniel received and its historical setting and context.

In his vision, Daniel observed the sea being stirred up into a raging storm by the “four winds of heaven.” This signifies that the events which follow have been ordained by God. God stirred up the sea, and from its foaming, raging waters came forth four horrifying beasts. These beasts, each different from the other, are described in verses 4-7.

The first beast was lion-like, with wings like that of an eagle. Its wings were plucked from it; if this happened in mid-air, he must have plummeted to the ground. If not, he could never have become airborne again. The beast was lifted up and made to stand like a man. The beast also was given a man’s mind.

Generally, it is agreed that this beast represents the Babylonian empire and king Nebuchadnezzar in particular. This description certainly fits the account of Nebuchadnezzar’s plunge from power and sanity in chapter 4. While God tells neither Daniel nor us that this beast represents Nebuchadnezzar, He does reveal that the “head of gold” in the vision of the great statue was Nebuchadnezzar (2:36-38). Since the head of gold seems to describe the same king and kingdom as the first beast, it may not be too far afield to conclude that Nebuchadnezzar is the king represented by the first beast.

By far, this first beast is the best of a bad bunch. He is more beastly in the beginning and more human in the end, paralleling the character of Nebuchadnezzar. This also underscores that these four kingdoms go from reasonably good to unbelievably bad. The only human things mentioned of the fourth beast are his eyes and his mouth. His mouth is used to speak boastfully.

The second and third beasts are briefly described in verses 5 and 6. The second is bear-like. The precise meaning of the symbols of the raised side and the three ribs is illusive. Encouraged to do so, it savagely devours. The third beast is leopard-like, with four wings and four heads, and it is given dominion.

The fourth beast receives greater attention and is of the most interest to Daniel. Different from the first three, this beast seems uglier, more powerful, and much more hostile toward God and His saints. Daniel finds nothing to compare to it. With iron-like teeth, horns (some with eyes), and feet, it is utterly destructive. What it does not destroy or consume with its teeth, it crushes under foot, much like a bull in a china shop.

This fourth beast has the distinction of ten horns. As Daniel continues to watch, another horn emerges, as three of the other horns are plucked out by the roots to make room for it. Looking about with its numerous eyes, no one can escape his look or hide from him. With its mouth, the beast continues to speak boastfully.

The scene of the four beasts arising from the sea, which Daniel saw in his night vision, is strikingly similar to the account found in the 13th chapter of Revelation:

1 And he stood on the sand of the seashore, and I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names. 2 And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like those of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority. 3 And I saw one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed and followed after the beast; 4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?” 5 And there was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies; and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. 6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, that is, those who dwell in heaven. 7 And it was given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them; and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him. 8 And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, every one whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. 9 If any one has an ear, let him hear. 10 If any one is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if any one kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints (Revelation 13:1-10).

As the beast continues to boast, a second scene commences in Daniel’s vision, and for a period of time both scenes run simultaneously. The second scene portrays the establishment of the thrones on which the Ancient of Days and those holding court are to be seated to pronounce judgment.

In the first scene, heavenly winds are employed to whip up the sea from which the four beasts emerges. In the second scene, heaven calmly prepares for court, which will determine that the time for judgment has come. The beasts are a horrifying and frightening sight; the heavenly court scene is one of regal splendor and beauty. The beasts emerge out of chaos and confusion; the heavenly court is calm and dignified. This scene in Daniel is also similar to a prophecy recorded in the Book of Revelation:

4 and they worshiped the dragon, because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”

11 And I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. 12 and he exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 And he performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life. 15 And there was given to him to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast might even speak and cause as many as do not worship the image of the beast to be killed (Revelation 13:4, 11-15).

Note that the description of the beasts is written in prose, while the description of the heavenly court in verses 9-10 and of the Son of Man in verses 13-14 is written in poetry form. The beasts are hardly worthy of prose, but the court of heaven deserves a description of the finest words.

The “horn” continues to sound off while the court is being set up for judgment. Suddenly, the boasting beast is silenced by death, and his body is cast into the burning fire. Even the fate of this fourth beast is different than his three predecessors, as his life and his kingdom seem to end at the same moment. The other three are removed from power but allowed to live for some time after their removal (verse 12).

As Daniel continues to watch, someone descends with the clouds of heaven, one like a “Son of Man.” He is presented to the Ancient of Days, and to Him is given dominion, glory, and the eternal kingdom. He will rule over all nations forever.

The expression, “son of man,” is not new to Daniel nor to the Jews of his day. Up to this time, it was simply a synonym for being human, a son of man. In the first use of this expression, being a “son of man” was contrasted with being God:

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good? (Numbers 23:19)

The expression is used in the Psalms in a more pregnant way, in reference to the coming Messiah.

Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, Upon the son of man whom Thou didst make strong for Thyself (Psalm 80:17).

Daniel uses the expression “Son of man” twice. The first time in Daniel 7:13, he is referring to Messiah, who will sit on the eternal throne of His father, David. The second time, the expression is used in reference to Daniel himself, as it will be used very frequently in Ezekiel to refer to this great prophet:

So he came near to where I was standing, and when he came I was frightened and fell on my face; but he said to me, “Son of man, understand that the vision pertains to the time of the end” (Daniel 8:17).

Then He said to me, “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” (Ezekiel 2:1).

Old Testament Jews would likely regard the reference to the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7 as a reference to the Messiah, although they would probably not understand Him to be both divine and human. Before the coming of Christ, who would? When Jesus came, He embraced this expression as a designation for Himself, giving the term meaning vastly beyond that previously held by any Jew.

A Divine Interpretation
(7:15-28)

15 “As for me, Daniel, my spirit was distressed within me, and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 16 “I approached one of those who were standing by and began asking him the exact meaning of all this. So he told me and made known to me the interpretation of these things: 17 ‘These great beasts, which are four in number, are four kings who will arise from the earth. 18 ‘But the saints of the Highest One will receive the kingdom and possess the kingdom forever, for all ages to come.’ 19 “Then I desired to know the exact meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others, exceedingly dreadful, with its teeth of iron and its claws of bronze, and which devoured, crushed, and trampled down the remainder with its feet, 20 and the meaning of the ten horns that were on its head, and the other horn which came up, and before which three of them fell, namely, that horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering great boasts, and which was larger in appearance than its associates. 21 “I kept looking, and that horn was waging war with the saints and overpowering them 22 until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was passed in favor of the saints of the Highest One, and the time arrived when the saints took possession of the kingdom. 23 “Thus he said: ‘The fourth beast will be a fourth kingdom on the earth, which will be different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth and tread it down and crush it. 24 ‘As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings. 25 ‘And he will speak out against the Most High and wear down the saints of the Highest One, and he will intend to make alterations in times and in law; and they will be given into his hand for a time, times, and half a time. 26 ‘But the court will sit for judgment, and his dominion will be taken away, annihilated and destroyed forever. 27 ‘Then the sovereignty, the dominion, and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve and obey Him.’ 28 “At this point the revelation ended. As for me, Daniel, my thoughts were greatly alarming me and my face grew pale, but I kept the matter to myself.”

Daniel’s response to the vision was far from assuring or calming. Some of his alarm arose from his not yet having been given the interpretation of his vision. Yet, his emotional response was valid and changed little after the vision was explained more fully.

This vision was an “interactive vision,” as Daniel was not only present in the vision but was able to approach one standing by to ask the meaning of what he saw. It seems safe to assume the interpreter was an angelic being; at least this is the case in chapter 8 (8:15-26). The interpretation of the events Daniel witnessed in his vision is given in its most concise form in verses 17 and 18: The four beasts were four kings, who will arise from the earth. In spite of these kings, the saints of the Highest One will possess the eternal kingdom forever and ever. In spite of all these beasts do and say, in spite of their power and even their success, neither they nor their kingdoms will last. The kingdom of God will be established and the saints will possess it forever.

The emphasis of this brief interpretation falls not on the enemies of God, their power, their brutality, nor their boasting, but on the kingdom of God, its certainty and its permanence for all the saints forever. The emphasis is positive. If Daniel had been shaken by the dark side of his vision, he is reminded in the interpretation of the outcome of these events—the establishment of God’s eternal kingdom.

The vision’s explanation was not thorough enough to satisfy Daniel. Desiring a more detailed explanation, he apparently asked for one and received it. Passing over the first three beasts, his questions focus on the last beast. He wants to know more about this dreadful beast, different from the rest, especially in the destruction he wrought. The ten horns are of interest to him, but most of all that final horn which arose, surpassing and replacing three others and speaking boastfully.

The vision plays on before Daniel, almost as though in answer to his desire to know more. The boastful beast becomes even more aggressive, waging war with the saints and even overpowering them. No wonder this vision causes Daniel such distress. This takes place until the Ancient of Days comes and judgment is given to the saints, at the time the eternal kingdom becomes their possession.

These are the things Daniel sees in the vision. Now, in verse 23, the angelic interpreter explains the relationship of the boastful beast and the coming of the eternal kingdom of God. The fourth beast is a fourth king, different than the others. He distinguishes himself by his ability to overcome the whole earth, crushing it under foot.

The ten horns, Daniel is told, represent ten kings who will emerge out of the fourth kingdom. An eleventh king then rises to power, different from the others, replacing three of the previous kings. This king’s boasting turns to blasphemy. He not only speaks against the Most High, he oppresses the saints. He intends to make changes in time and in law. Just what this means is unclear, but it suggests this arrogant king not only speaks against God, but, like Satan, he aspires to change the order God has established. He surpasses those before him by speaking boastfully, then blaspheming, and finally seeking to overthrow God’s order.

The final words of verse 25 are carefully chosen to let the reader know that while this king appears to be successfully opposing God, all he does is a part of the divine plan for the last days. The eleventh horn may hope to change the time, but in God’s plan this king is granted “a time, times, and half a time” —three and a half years to oppose and oppress the saints. God grants this king success and his saints suffering, but only for an appointed time.

When the court sits for judgment, his dominion is taken from him and he is destroyed forever. At this time the kingdom of God is established. The saints of the Highest One are given all the kingdoms of the earth for an everlasting kingdom. They will serve and obey Him forever.

Daniel’s vision ends here, but its impact on him does not end. His thoughts alarm him, and his face pales. Nevertheless, Daniel tells no one, keeping the matter to himself and suffering a quiet agony over the future events God has revealed to him.

Conclusion

The message of this prophecy is really quite simple and may be summed up this way. Before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, four earthly kingdoms will rise and fall. These kingdoms go from bad to worse. Arrogant, boastful, and even blasphemous kings will reign over the nations, opposing God and oppressing His saints. All of this is by divine design. During times of oppression, it may appear the saints are being defeated and that God’s kingdom is but wishful thinking. When the sin and oppression of evil men reaches a predetermined point, God will remove them and establish His promised eternal kingdom. Then the saints will receive the kingdom which will never end.

A number of lessons from our text have broad application to our thinking and conduct as Christians. Consider these lessons as we conclude.

(1) Prophecy is necessary because God has chosen to settle His accounts with men slowly. God is eternal, and so is His plan for all creation. God is in no hurry to fulfill His promises, (even though it only encompasses 6000 years,) whether His promise of the eternal kingdom for all the saints or the promise of eternal destruction and judgment for sinners. Prophecy is necessary then so that men are reassured of divine deliverance and blessing, as well as divine judgment (see 2 Peter 2:4-9). Through the ages, the saints have learned that they must wait for the promises of God to be fulfilled and that this may not happen in their lifetime (see Hebrews 11:13-16, 39-40). God may choose to delay judgment on the wicked until their sin reaches full bloom; the possession of the land of Canaan would not happen in Abraham’s lifetime, but more than 400 years later after the suffering of the people of God (see Genesis 15:12-17). God also allows the wicked to persist and even to prosper, so that those whom He has chosen might be saved (Romans 9:22-24). God’s plan and program are carried out on His schedule, not ours (see 2 Peter 2:8-10). Prophecy becomes necessary from time to time to remind men of those things God has planned for the future which He will surely fulfill.

(2) While the timing of the fulfillment of divine prophecy may seem remote to the recipient, it still has relevance for him. According to our text, the prophecies of Daniel 7 will not be fulfilled for a considerable period of time. Four kings will establish four kingdoms, and some of these kingdoms have a number of kings. The last kingdom has at least eleven kings. Centuries must therefore pass before the prophecies of Daniel are fulfilled.

The distance in time of the fulfillment of Daniel 7 said something very important to the captive Jews of Daniel’s day. It would be but a very few years until Cyrus would come to power and assist the Jews to return to Jerusalem and the land of Israel. In the euphoria of this grand event, someone might well conclude the kingdom of God was to be established within the lifetime of those returning to Israel. Our text challenges such a conclusion, and later prophecies in Daniel further document that the coming of the King and of the kingdom will be some time further in the future. In those days, as in our own, there are always those are too quick to conclude that the kingdom of God has come (see Matthew 24:4, 6, 8, 24-28; 2 Thessalonians 2:1ff.).

The kingdom of God would not be established in Daniel’s lifetime, nor in the life of those who returned to the land of Israel from their captivity. The prophecy of Daniel 7 nevertheless had great relevance and application to those in Daniel’s day. Nebuchadnezzar may have started badly, but by the time we read of him in Daniel 4 he seems to be a true believer in God, urging the citizens of his kingdom to worship and serve Him. For the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, it seems that religion in the kingdom of Babylon was at least favorable to the worship of the God of the Jews. While most of those in this kingdom may not have had a true conversion, at least they tolerated the Jewish faith as the religion of the state.

With the death of Nebuchadnezzar comes a change in the people’s attitudes, especially their leaders toward Judaism. Belshazzar came to power several years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar and seems to have turned completely away from the God of Israel. Consequently, it is little wonder that in the events recorded in Daniel 5, Belshazzar was ignorant of Daniel and the abilities God had given him. He only called on him in a moment of sheer panic when no one else could help, and only then because of the recommendation of the queen mother.

The reign of Belshazzar was, in some measure, a foretaste of what was yet to come in full measure during the reign of the fourth beast, especially of the eleventh horn. Would this horn Daniel’s vision revealed oppose the people of God and even blaspheme God Himself? God would strike him down in the moment of His choosing to silence him once and for all and put an end to his kingdom. Would Belshazzar toast the gods of gold, silver, wood and stone with the sacred temple vessels? God would strike him down suddenly too and bring his kingdom to a swift end. The prophecies of Daniel 7 speak of a future day of reckoning, foreshadowed by the actions of Belshazzar and the judgment of God on him and his kingdom.

As I read through the statements men have made about the God of Israel in the first six chapters of Daniel, I find that what men came to know and to acknowledge through history, God declares through prophecy. I encourage you to compare the statements of Daniel 2:21-22, 44, 47; 4:3, 34-35, 37; 6:26 with the content and declarations of Daniel 7. What God declares in prophecy, He reveals as well in history. We are in harmony with God when our declarations conform to his. Those of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, and Darius all agree with the prophecy of Daniel 7. God is able to raise up kings and put them down. God will establish His kingdom, and that kingdom, unlike the kingdoms of men, is eternal.

(3) The finest commentary on the prophecy of Daniel 7 comes from our Lord Himself. In the Old Testament, the expression “son of man” was used most frequently in reference to men, who were merely (as opposed to God) human. In the Psalms and also in Daniel 7, the expression “Son of Man” begins to take on a more technical meaning, referring to the Messiah, who will sit on the throne of His father, David, to rule over men forever.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to earth, having added perfect humanity to His undiminished deity, He spoke of Himself very often as “the Son of Man.” In the Gospels, Jesus began not only to identify Himself as the Messiah, the promised “Son of Man,” but also to explain all that this involved. The Son of Man had the power to forgive sins, as well as to heal a paralytic (Matthew 9:6). The Son of Man was also “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). He would rise from the dead (12:40). He will also send forth His angels to gather those who do not belong in His kingdom (12:41). He questioned His disciples so that they could confess that He, the Son of Man, was the Messiah (16:13f.). He would, after His death, burial, and resurrection come in His glory, rewarding men according to their deeds (16:27). His disciples were promised that they would share in His reign as King (19:20). The transfiguration of our Lord was but a foretaste of His coming glorious kingdom (16:28). When He came with His kingdom, they would be sure to recognize Him (24:27). However, the Son of Man must first suffer at the hands of men (17:22; 20:18).

Those who rejected the Lord Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of Man, would mourn when they saw Him returning in the clouds:

And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30).

As the destruction of the last beast and the blaspheming horn came as a complete shock to them, so the Lord’s coming will catch unbelievers unprepared as well (24:27-39). His followers too must be alert and ready for His return (24:44).

In my opinion, the most dramatic reference of our Lord to His identity as the Son of Man comes as the Lord Jesus stands on trial before the Sanhedrin and the high priest:

59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; 60 and they did not find it, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, AND COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN” (Matthew 26:59-64).

In His response to the demand of the high priest, Jesus directly claimed to be the promised Messiah. That was bad enough, from the religious leaders’ perspective, but the way in which He answered them was the last straw. Jesus quoted the words of Daniel 7:13. They surely knew this text to be messianic, but they had always applied it to the Gentiles. They believed that the Messiah would come to establish the kingdom, to bless the Jews and to condemn the Gentiles. Jesus applied this text to them, not as those who would enter into His kingdom, but as those who would be judged at His return. No wonder His words stung and prompted them to act as they did. For the time, it was these Jewish leaders who were beastly, arrogant, and blasphemous, and because of this they would suffer divine judgment. The words of Daniel which applied to the beasts now found application to them.

(4) Suffering is to be expected by the saints, before they enter into the glorious kingdom of God. Daniel 7 indicates in the clearest way that prior to the coming of the kingdom of God the saints will suffer at the hand of the final “horn” and even be overpowered by him. Wherever I see the Scriptures speak of the coming kingdom of God, I find suffering closely associated with it. Before the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt and brought into the land of Canaan, they suffered at the hands of the Egyptians. Our deliverance from the power of sin and the penalty of death has been accomplished by our Lord, who suffered in our place. Those who will reign with Christ are those who have suffered (see Romans 8:17;Philippians 3:10-11; 2 Timothy 2:12). Suffering is an inseparable part of the process which leads to glory. So it was for our Lord (1 Peter 1:10-12), and so it will be for us.

(5) Prophecy is not written as hype but revealed to produce the hope of glory and endurance in present tribulation. Prophecy is not a pep rally, which generates a great burst of short-term enthusiasm but does little to inspire faith and endurance in the midst of suffering. Neither is prophecy written to make us happy or to feel good. Daniel’s response is testimony to this reality.

(6) Prophecy is written to sober the saints. Prophecy speaks not only of the joys and glories of God’s kingdom to come but of the suffering and tribulation preceding the eternal blessings of the kingdom of God. In the context of the coming of His kingdom and the suffering and trials which precede it, soberness is a vitally important quality which prophecy promotes:

1 Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. 2 For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. 3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like birth pangs upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. 8 But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:1-8).

Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer (1 Peter 4:7).

(7) Prophecy is revealed, not to give us the particulars of things to come, but to change our perspective. Prophecy is necessary because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, and His ways are not our ways. We could never predict the goals God has determined, nor the means He has ordained for history to reach them. Prophecy reveals that which we would not and could not expect apart from divine revelation.

In God’s economy, things are not what they appear to be. We do not walk by sight, but by faith. We do not act on what we see so much as on what God has said. Abraham and Sarah were elderly and childless. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for them to have a child. And yet God said they would. And they did! Abraham had to believe and behave on the basis of God’s promises, rather than on the basis of his perception.

As the boasting horn of Daniel 7 seems to be getting away with his blasphemies and his oppression of the saints, it seems to him he can do whatever he wishes, including the changing of times and law. As the wicked prosper in their sin, it seems as though they can continue in sin without any fear of divine judgment (see Psalm 73:1-11; 2 Peter 2:3-4). Their perception is wrong, for suddenly and without warning their day of destruction will come upon them. When that day comes for them, it is too late to repent.

As the saints suffer at the hands of the wicked, it may appear all hope is lost. It may seem to them that their defeat is certain and that their hopes of entering into the eternal kingdom are lost. Things are not as they appear to be! When we expect it least, the Lord will return, the wicked will be punished, and the kingdom of God established forevermore.

I have heard a number of attempts to explain the “gaps” in Old Testament prophecy. One of those gaps is found in Daniel 7. The coming of the Son of Man is represented as one coming, and not two. We know that Jesus came the first time to die and that He will come again to subdue His enemies and establish His kingdom. We are told the Old Testament prophet could not see the distance between the first and the second coming of our Lord, just as one cannot see the distance between two mountains, when viewed from afar.

Considering this text has changed my opinion about the “gap” in the prophecies of the Old Testament. The gap is not the prophet’s problem; it is ours. The Old Testament prophet did not see the gap because he viewed the coming of Christ as God does. From an eternal perspective, the coming of Christ and His kingdom is but one coming. Our Lord’s first coming happened over a period of more than 30 years, and yet we view this as one coming. If, in God’s eyes, a day is as 1,000 years and 1,000 years as a day (2 Peter 3:8), then the coming of our Lord has only been a few days from beginning to end.

We see a gap—an almost insurmountable gap—between suffering and glory; God does not. Suffering and glory are a part of one work. Just so, Christ’s suffering and glory is but a part of one coming. Prophecy greatly benefits the Christian because it enables him to see things from the bigger and broader perspective—from God’s perspective—so that when he suffers, he knows it is but a part of the process of getting to glory.

Consider the birth of a child, remembering that God’s deliverance and salvation is likened to birth. The process of having a baby involves the pains of childbirth. They are far from pleasant but an unavoidable part of the process. The woman endures in the view of the final outcome of the process. When the child is born, the pains of suffering are quickly lost in the joys of seeing a new life, or a couple of hours of pain compared to many years of child rearing. Child-bearing is a process which involves suffering and glory. Salvation is likewise a process involving suffering—and then glory.

Prophecy is revealed to men to change their perspective, to urge them to see things as God sees them rather than as they appear to the human eye. We are not to base our thinking and actions on circumstances, but upon the Scriptures. What God says, He will do. History has shown this to be true in the past, and prophecy assures us that it will be true in the future. Let us listen then, and be sober, enduring the sufferings and trials sent our way, looking expectantly and certainly for His kingdom to come.

Daniel’s Disturbing Dream
Questions and Answers

(1) Why does Daniel indicate the historical setting of the vision he receives in chapter 7?

In verse 1 Daniel indicates his vision came to him in the first year of the reign of Belshazzar. The vision recorded in chapter 8 took place in the third year of Belshazzar. The account of the writing on the wall and the death of Belshazzar (obviously the last year of his reign) is found in Daniel 5.

Prophecy is not revealed in a historical vacuum. While most prophecies in the Bible reveal events which will take place after the death of the recipient of the prophecy, the prophecy is revealed for impact upon those to whom it was revealed. Prophecy is always practical and relevant to the person(s) receiving it.

At the outset of the account of his vision, Daniel wants his reader to know the historical context in which this prophecy was given and to consider its interpretation and application in the light of that context. Specifically, the account of “The Bad News at Belshazzar’s Banquet” (not a bad title for that lesson) in chapter 5 was given to us so that we could better understand the prophecies of chapters 7 and 8. We will deal with the meaning and application of Daniel’s vision later on in our questions and answers.

(2) Why do you think Daniel summarized his dream when he wrote it rather than tell it in full (see verse 1)?

Editing is often evident in the Bible (see John 20:30-31; 31:25). Editing allows an author to set aside details which are not significant and focus on the essence of the message he is trying to communicate. Daniel boiled down his vision to its essence, so we would not fail to understand the message he meant to convey to us.

(3) What principles should guide and govern our attempt to interpret the prophecy of this chapter?

First, the prophecies of Daniel are divinely inspired and revealed, and thus they are true and reliable. Second, the prophecies of Daniel are to be understood in the light of the entire Book of Daniel, of the Old Testament, and of the Bible as a whole. Thirdly (and most importantly), the prophecies of Daniel mean exactly what God says they mean, nothing more and nothing less. The prophecy of this chapter is divinely interpreted. God has revealed in this interpretation what He wants us to know and has kept back that which we need not know. We dare not ignore that which is revealed nor do we dare go too far afield in speculating about what is concealed (see Deuteronomy 29:29; 1 Timothy 1:4; 2 Timothy 2:23).

(4) What is the structure of Daniel 7?

The chapter falls into two major parts. Verses 1-14 contain the vision which God gave to Daniel. Verses 15-28 contain the divine interpretation of this vision.

(5) What do the four beasts represent? How was the fourth beast different from the first three?

Each of the four beasts represent a king and thus a resulting kingdom. Each beast has its own unique characteristics. The fourth beast appears to differ from the other three in that he is more beastly, more powerful, more destructive, and more arrogant. This beast is also unique among the four in that he grows 11 horns. These horns are also kings, from whom kingdoms arise (verse 24). This fourth beast seems to regenerate in the form of subsequent kings and kingdoms. His final offspring, so to speak, is the little horn which becomes the great blasphemer, whose life and kingdom is suddenly cut off by the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.

(6) How important is it for us to identity the kings and the kingdoms mentioned in our text? Are we supposed to discover their identity?

Daniel was told that the beasts are kings, but he was not told the identity of any of the kings. There is fairly strong inferential evidence that Nebuchadnezzar was represented by the first beast, the winged lion. The point of this prophecy is not to tell us who future kings will be, but rather what they will be like. Until God’s eternal kingdom is established, kingdoms will progress from bad to worse. These kings will rise to power and dominate the earth. In the latter days, an unusually powerful and evil king will arise, who will blaspheme God and oppress the people of God. When his appointed time is over, God will destroy this king and his kingdom and establish His eternal kingdom on the earth. This is what we need to know from Daniel’s vision, rather than the identity of the beasts.

(7) Who is the Ancient of Days? Who is the Son of Man? What role do they play in relation to the four beasts?

The Ancient of Days is a designation for God, not found elsewhere in the Bible. This designation refers to God the Father in a way that stresses His eternality, dignity, and power. It is virtually the opposite of the term “beast.” The expression, “Son of man,” is not new to Daniel. In Ezekiel, and even in Daniel (8:17), it is used in reference to a prophet. Usually it refers to a person as a human being. But here in chapter 7, as in Psalm 80:17, the “son of man” is more than just a man, He is the Messiah. When the Lord Jesus came to the earth, He often referred to Himself as the Son of Man, gradually making it clear that He was the Messiah who was God incarnate.

When the iniquity of the blasphemous horn reaches full bloom and his appointed time to rule is fulfilled, God will destroy him, casting his body into the fire. It is at this time that all human kingdoms will become subject to God and to the saints in the eternal kingdom, which the Son of Man will establish when He comes to the earth to judge and to rule.

(8) Is there any relationship between Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 and Daniel’s dream in chapter 7?

There seems to be a close connection between the vision of Nebuchadnezzar, which is revealed and interpreted in chapter 2, and the vision of Daniel in chapter 7. The statue has four parts; there are four beasts. Both the statue parts (made of different metals) and the beasts represent kings and kingdoms. Both series of four kingdoms begin well and end badly. Both sets of kingdoms are brought to a sudden end and are replaced by an eternal kingdom. It therefore seems that the two prophecies speak of the same four kingdoms by means of different imagery. The latter prophecy of Daniel 7 adds many more details than were revealed in chapter 2.

(9) What is the relationship between Daniel’s vision in chapter 7 and the events described in Daniel 5?

The blasphemous horn of Daniel 7, which goes so far as to oppose the people of God, is suddenly taken by death, and his kingdom is removed. In a similar way, Belshazzar becomes blasphemous and is suddenly removed by God for his wickedness. The death of this king brings about the end of his kingdom. Daniel 5 is an illustration and a prototype of what will happen in the end times, as described in the prophecy of Daniel 7. The fulfillment of the prophecy of Belshazzar’s demise underscores the certainty of the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision in the last days.

(10) What effect did the vision have on Daniel, and why?

Daniel is greatly distressed by the vision which he sees in chapter 7. We are not told precisely what it is that troubles Daniel. From the context, it would seem that Daniel’s distress is the result of the wickedness and oppression of the world kingdoms which are represented by the beasts, and by the knowledge that the saints will be oppressed and even overcome for a period of time. The fact that wicked men will prosper and prevail and that the righteous will suffer is hardly pleasant news.

(11) What is the point of the vision? What is its message to Daniel, to the Jews, and to us?

In the latter days, before the kingdom of God is established on the earth, kings and kingdoms will become worse and worse. The wicked will prosper and appear to get away with their opposition toward God and His saints. The righteous will suffer. But in the end, God will judge the wicked and establish His kingdom for His saints.

The saints should expect to suffer because of their faith, especially as the last days for the kingdoms of men draw near. The saints should also expect the wicked to prosper, for a season. The saints should neither believe nor behave on the basis of how things appear to be (the wicked prospering and prevailing over the righteous). The saints must believe and behave according to what God has promised about the future —the righteous will possess the kingdom of God forever.

Amen! Even so Lord Jesus Come Soon!

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

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

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 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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A Brief Historical Survey of the Powers of Mesopotamia

I. Assyrian Empire (Gen.10:11)

A. Religion and culture were greatly influenced by the Sumerian/Babylonian Empire.

B. Tentative list of rulers and approximate dates:

1. 1354-1318 — Asshur-Uballit I:
(a) conquered the Hittite city of Carchemish
(b) began to remove Hittite influence and allowed Assyria to develop
2. 1297-1266 — Adad-Nirari I (powerful king)
3. 1265-1235 — Shalmaneser I (powerful king)
4. 1234-1197 — Tukulti-Ninurta I
— first conquest of Babylonian empire to the south
5. 1118-1078 — Tiglath-Pileser I
— Assyria becomes a major power in Mesopotamia
6. 1012-972 — Ashur-Rabi II
7. 972-967 — Ashur-Resh-Isui II
8. 966-934 — Tiglath-Pileser II
9. 934-912 — Ashur-Dan II
10. 912-890 — Adad-Nirari II
11. 890-884 — Tukulti-Ninurta II
12. 883-859 — Asshur-Nasir-Apal II
13. 859-824 — Shalmaneser III
— Battle of Qarqar in 853
14. 824-811 — Shamashi-Adad V
15. 811-783 — Adad-Nirari III
16. 781-772 — Shalmaneser IV
17. 772-754 — Ashur-Dan III
18. 754-745 — Ashur-Nirari V
19. 745-727 — Tiglath-Pileser III:
a. called by his Babylonian throne name, Pul, in II Kings 15:19
b. very powerful king

c. started the policy of deporting conquered peoples

d. In 735 b.c.. there was the formation of the “Syro-Ephramatic League” which was an attempt to unify all the available military resources of the transjordan nations from the head waters of the Euphrates to Egypt for the purpose of neutralizing the rising military power of Assyria. King Ahaz of Judah refused to join and was invaded by Israel and Syria. He wrote to Tiglath-Pileser III for help against the advise of Isaiah (cf. II Kgs. 16; Isa. 7-12).

e. In 732 Tiglath-Pileser III invades and conquers Syria and Israel and places a vassal king on the throne of Israel, Hoshea (732-722). Thousands of Jews from the Northern Kingdom were exiled to Media (cf. II Kings 15).

20. 727-722 — Shalmaneser V

a. Hoshea forms an alliance with Egypt and is invaded by Assyria (cf. II Kgs.17)

b. besieged Samaria in 724 b.c.

21. 722-705 — Sargon II:

a. After a three year siege started by Shalmaneser V, his successor Sargon II conquers the capital of Israel, Samaria. Over 27,000 are deported to Media.

b. The Hittite empire is also conquered.

c. In 714-711 another coalition of transjordan nations and Egypt rebelled against Assyria. This coalition is known as “the Ashdad Rebellion.” Even Hezekiah of Judah originally was involved. Assyria invaded and destroyed several Philistine cities.

22. 705-681 — Sennacherib:

a. In 705 another coalition of transjordan nations and Egypt rebelled after the death of Sargon II. Hezekiah fully supported this rebellion. Sennacherib invaded in 701. The rebellion was crushed but Jerusalem was spared by an act of God (cf. Isa. 36-39 and II Kgs. 18-19).

b. Sennacherib also put down the rebellion in Elam and Babylon.

23. 681-669 — Esarhaddon:

a. first Assyrian ruler to attack and conquer Egypt

b. had great sympathy with Babylon and rebuilt its capital city

24. 669-633 — Ashurbanipal:

a. also called Osnappar in Ezra 4:10
b. His brother Shamash-shum-ukin was made king of Babylon (later demoted to viceroy). This brought several years of peace between Assyria and Babylon, but there was an undercurrent of independence which broke out in 652 led by his brother (who had been demoted to Viceroy).

c. fall of Thebes, 663 b.c.

d. defeated Elam, 653, 645 b.c.

25. 633-629 — Asshur-Etil-Ilani

26. 629-612 — Sin-Shar-Ishkun

27. 612-609 — Asshur-Uballit II:

a. enthroned king in exile in Haran

b. the fall of Assher in 614 b.c. and Nineveh in 612 b.c.

II. Neo-Babylon Empire:

A. 703-? — Merodach-Baladan

— Started several revolts against Assyrian rule

B. 652 Shamash-shum-ukin:

1. Esarhaddon’s son and Asshurbanipal’s brother

2. he started a revolt against Assyria but was defeated

C. 626-605 Nabopolassar:

1. was the first monarch of the Neo-Babylonian Empire

2. he attacked Assyria from the south while Cyaxares of Media attacked from the northeast

3. the old Assyrian capital of Asshur fell in 614 and the powerful new capital of Ninevah fell in 612 b.c.

4. the remnant of the Assyrian army retreated to Haran. They even installed a king.

5. In 608 Pharaoh Necho II (cf. II Kings 23:29) marched north to help the remnant of the Assyrian army for the purpose of forming a buffer zone against the rising power of Babylon. Josiah, the godly king of Judah (cf. II Kings 23), opposed the movement of the Egyptian army through Palestine. There was a minor skirmish at Megiddo. Josiah was wounded and died (II Kgs. 23:29-30). His son, Jehoakaz, was made king. Pharaoh Necho II arrived too late to stop the destruction of the Assyrian forces at Haran. He engaged the Babylonian forces commanded by the crown prince Nebuchadnezzar II and was soundly defeated in 605 b.c. at Carchemesh on the Euphrates River.

On his way back to Egypt Pharaoh Necho stopped at Jerusalem and sacked the city. He replaced and deported Jehoahaz after only three months. He put another son of Josiah, Jehoiakim, on the throne (cf. II Kings 23:31-35).

6. Nebuchadnezzar II chased the Egyptian army south through Palestine but he received word of his father’s death and returned to Babylon to be crowned. Later, in the same year, he returned to Palestine. He left Jehoiakim on the throne of Judah but exiled several thousand of the leading citizens and several members of the royal family. Daniel and his friends were part of this deportation.

D. 605-562 — Nebuchadnezzar II:

1. From 597-538 Babylon was in complete control of Palestine.

2. In 597 another deportation from Jerusalem occurred because of Jehoakim’s alliance with Egypt (II Kings 24). He died before the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar II. His son Jehoiachin was only king for three months when he was exiled to Babylon. Ten thousand citizens, including Ezekiel, were resettled close to the City of Babylon by the Canal Kebar.

3. In 586, after continued flirtation with Egypt, the City of Jerusalem was completely destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar (II Kgs. 25) and a mass deportation occurred. Zedekiah, who replaced Jehoiachin, was exiled and Gedaliah was appointed governor.

4. Gedaliah was killed by Jewish renegade military forces. These forces fled to Egypt and forced Jeremiah to go with them. Nebuchadnezzar invaded a fourth time (605, 596, 586, 582) and deported all remaining Jews that he could find.

E. 562-560 — Evil-merodach, Nebuchadnezzar’s son, was also known as Amel-Marduk (Akkadian, “Man of Marduk”)

— He released Jehoiachin from prison but he had to remain in Babylon (cf. II Kings 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31).

F. 560-556 — Neriglissar

— He assassinated Evil-merodach, who was his brother-in-law

— He was previously Nebuchadnezzar’s general who destroyed Jerusalem (cf. Jer. 39:3,13)

G. 556 — Labaski-Marduk

— He was Neriglissar’s son who assumed kingship as a boy, but was assassinated after only nine months (Berossos).

H. 556-539 — Nabonidus (Akkadian, “Nebo is exalted”):

1. Nabonidus was not related to the royal house so he possibly (Herodotus) married a daughter (Nitocris) of Nebuchadnezzar (Nitocris was one of his Egyptian wives).

2. He spent most of the time building a temple to the moon god “Sin” in Tema. He was the son of the high priestess of this goddess. This earned him the enmity of the priests of Marduk, chief god of Babylon.

3. He spent most of his time trying to put down revolts (in Syria and north Africa) and stabilize the kingdom.

4. He moved to Tema and left the affairs of state to his son, Belshazzar, in the capital, Babylon (cf. Dan.5).

I. ? – 539 — Belshazzar (co-reign)

— The city of Babylon fell very quickly to the Persian Army under Gobryas of Gutium by diverting the waters of the Euphrates and entering the city unopposed. The priests and people of the city saw the Persians as liberators and restorers of Marduk. Gobryas was made Governor of Babylon by Cyrus II. Gobryas may have been the Darius the Mede of Dan. 5:31; 6:1. “”Darius”“ means “”royal one.”“

III. Medio-Persian Empire: Survey of the Rise of Cyrus II (Isa. 41:2,25;44:28-45:7; 46:11; 48:15):

A. 625-585 — Cyaxares was the king of Media who helped Babylon defeat Assyria.

B. 585-550 — Astyages was king of Media (capital was Ecbatana). Cyrus II was his grandson by CambysesI (600-559, Persian) and Mandane (daughter of Astyages, Median).

C. 550-530 — Cyrus II of Ansham (eastern Elam) was a vassal king who revolted:

1. Nabonidus, the Babylonian king, supported Cyrus.

2. Astyages’ general, Harpagus, led his army to join Cyrus’ revolt

3. Cyrus II dethroned Astyages.

4. Nabonidus, in order to restore a balance of power, made an alliance with:

a. Egypt

b. Croesus, King of Lydia (Asia Minor)

5. 547 — Cyrus II marched against Sardis (capital of Lydia) and it fell in 546 b.c.

6. 539 — In mid-October the general Ugbaru and Gobryas, both of Gutium, with Cyrus’ army, took Babylon without resistance. Ugbaru was made governor, but died of war wounds within weeks, Gobryas was then made governor of Babylon.

7. 539 — In late October Cyrus II “the Great” personally entered as liberator. His policy of kindness to national groups reversed years of deportation as a national policy.

8. 538 — Jews and others (cf. the Cyrus Cylinder) were allowed to return home and rebuild their native temples (cf. II Chr. 36:22,23; Ezra 1:1-4). He also restored the vessels from YHWH’s temple which Nebuchadnezzar had taken to Marduk’s temple in Babylon (cf. Ezra 1:7-11; 6:5).

9. 530 — Cyrus’ son, Cambyses II, succeeded him briefly as co-regent, but later the same year Cyrus died while in a military campaign.

D. 530-522 — reign of Cambyses II

1. added Egyptian empire in 525 b.c. to the Medo-Persian Empire;

2. he had a short reign:

a. some say he committed suicide;

b. Heroditus said he cut himself with his own sword while mounting his horse and died of the resulting infection.

3. brief usurpation of the throne by Pseudo-Smerdis (Gaumata) – 522

E. 522-486 — Darius I (Hystapes) came to rule

1. He was not of the royal line but a military general.

2. He organized the Persian Empire using Cyrus’ plans for Satraps (cf. Ezra 5-6; also during Haggai’s and Zechariah’s time).

3. He set up coinage like Lydia.

4. He attempted to invade Greece, but was repulsed.

F. 486-465 — Reign of Xerxes I:

1. put down Egyptian revolt

2. intended to invade Greece and fulfill Persian dream but was defeated in the battle of Thermopoly in 480 b.c. and Salamis in 479 b.c.

3. Esther’s husband, who is called Ahasuerus in the Bible, was assassinated in 465 b.c.

G. 465-424 — Artaxerxes I (Longimanus) reigned (cf Ezra 7-10; Nehemiah; Malachi):

1. Greeks continued to advance until confronted with the Pelopanisian Civil Wars

2. Greece divides (Athenian – Pelopanisian)

3. Greek civil wars lasted about 20 years

4. during this period the Jewish community is strengthened

5. brief reign of Xerxes II and Sekydianos – 423

H. 423-404 — Darius II (Nothos) reigned

I. 404-358 — Artaxerxes II (Mnemon) reigned

J. 358-338 — Artaxerxes III (Ochos) reigned

K. 338-336 — Arses reigned

L. 336-331 — Darius III (Codomannus) reigned until the Battle of Issus 331 and was defeated by Greece

IV. Survey of Egypt:

A. Hyksos (Shepherd Kings – Semitic rulers)-1720/10-1550

B. 18th Dynasty (1570-1310):

1. 1570-1546 — Amosis

a. made Thebes the capital

b. invaded southern Canaan

2. 1546-1525 — Amenophis I (Amenhotep I)

3. 1525-1494 — Thutmosis I

4. 1494-1490 — Thutmosis II – married Thutmosis I’s daughter, Hatshepsut

5. 1490-1435 — Thutmosis III (nephew of Hatshepsut)

6. 1435-1414 — Amenophis II (Amenhotep II)

7. 1414-1406 — Thutmosis IV

8. 1406-1370 — Amenophis III (Amenhotep III)

9. 1370-1353 — Amenophis IV (Akhenaten)

a. worshiped the Sun, Aten

b. instituted a form of high-god worship (monotheism)

c. Tel-El-Amarna letters are in this period

10. ? Smenhkare

11. ? Tutankhamun (Tutankhaten)

12. ? Ay (Aye-Eye)

13. 1340-1310 — Haremhab

C. 19th Dynasty (1310-1200):

1. ? Rameses I (Ramses)

2. 1309-1290 — Seti I (Sethos)

3. 1290-1224 — Ramesses II (Ramses II)

a. from archaeological evidence most likely Pharaoh of the exodus

b. built the cities of Avaris, Pithom and Ramses by Habaru (possibly Semites or Hebrew) slaves

4. 1224-1216 — Marniptah (Merenptah)

5. ? Amenmesses

6. ? Seti II

7. ? Siptah

8. ? Tewosret

D. 20th Dynasty (1180-1065)

1. 1175-1144 — Rameses III

2. 1144-1065 — Rameses IV — XI

E. 21st Dynasty (1065-935):

1. ? Smendes

2. ? Herihor

F. 22nd Dynasty (935-725 — Libyan):

1. 935-914 — Shishak (Shosenk I or Sheshong I)

a. protected Jeroboam I until Solomon’s death

b. conquered Palestine about 925 (cf. I Kgs. 14-25; II Chr. 12)

2. 914-874 — Osorkon I

3. ? Osorkon II

4. ? Shoshnek II G. 23rd Dynasty (759-715 — Libyan)

H. 24th Dynasty (725-709)

I. 25th Dynasty (716/15-663 — Ethiopian/Nubian):

1. 710/09-696/95 — Shabako (Shabaku)

2. 696/95-685/84 — Shebteko (Shebitku)

3. 690/689, 685/84-664 — Tirhakah (Taharqa)

4. ? Tantamun

Egypt DynastiesJ. 26th Dynasty (663-525 — Saitic):

1. 663-609 — Psammetichus I (Psamtik)

2. 609-593 — Neco II (Necho)

3. 593-588 — Psammetichus II (Psamtik)

4. 588-569 — Apries (Hophra)

5. 569-525 — Amasis

6. ? — Psammetichus III (Psamtik)

K. 27th Dynasty (525-401 — Persian):

1. 530-522 — Cambyses II (Cyrus II’‘s son)

2. 522-486 — Darius I

3. 486-465 — Xerxes I

4. 465-424 — Artaxerxes I

5. 423-404 — Darius II

L. Several brief dynasties (404-332)

1. 404-359 — Artaxerxes II

2. 559/8 – 338/7 — Artaxerxes III

3. 338/7 – 336/7 — Arses

4. 336/5 – 331 — Darius III

*for a differing chronology see Zondervan’s Pictorial Bible Encyclopedia, vol. 2 p. 231.

V. Survey of Greece:

A. 359-336 — Philip II of Macedon:

1. built up Greece

2. assassinated in 336 b.c.

B. 336-323 — Alexander II “the Great” (Philip’s son):

1. routed Darius III, the Persian king, at the battle of Isus

2. died in 323 b.c. in Babylon of a fever at 32/33 yrs. of age

3. Alexander’s generals divided his empire at his death:

a. Cassender — Macedonia and Greece

b. Lysimicus — Thrace

c. Seleucus I — Syria and Babylon

d. Ptolemy — Egypt and Palestine

e. Antigonus — Asia Minor (He did not last long)

C. Seleucids vs. Ptolemies struggle for control of Palestine:

1. Syria (Seleucid Rulers):

a. 312-280 — Seleucus I

b. 280-261 — Antiochus I Soter

c. 261-246 — Antiochus II Theus

d. 246-226 — Seleucus II Callinicus

e. 226-223 — Seleucus III Ceraunus

f. 223-187 — Antiochus III the Great

g. 187-175 — Seleucus IV Philopator

h. 175-163 — Antiochus IV Epiphanes

i. 163-162 — Antiochus V

j. 162-150 — Demetrius I

2. Egyptian (Ptolemaic Rulers):

a. 327-285 — Ptolemy I Soter

b. 285-246 — Ptolemy II Philadelphus

c. 246-221 — Ptolemy III Evegetes

d. 221-203 — Ptolemy IV Philopator

e. 203-181 — Ptolemy V Epiphanes

f. 181-146 — Ptolemy VI Philometor

3. Brief Survey:

a. 301 — Palestine under Ptolemy rule for 181 years.

b. 175-163 — Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the eighth Seleucid ruler, wanted to Hellenize Jews by force, if necessary:

(1) constructed gymnasiums

(2) constructed pagan altars of Zeus Olympius in the Temple

c. 168 — December 13 — hog slain on the altar in Jerusalem by Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Some consider this to be “the abomination of desolation” in Daniel 9 & 11.

d. 167 — Mattathias, priest in Modin, and sons rebel. The best known of his sons was Judas Maccabeas, “Judas the Hammer.”

e. 165 — December 25 — Temple rededicated. This is called Hanukkah or “Festival of Lights.”

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Kings and Events of the Babylonian, Persian, and Greek Dynasties

Nebuchadnezzar

612 b.c. Nineveh falls to neo-Babylonian army (Nebuchadnezzar)
608 Pharaoh Necho II marched to Carchemesh to halt expansion of neo-Babylonian power
Josiah, King of Judah, tries to stop him
Death of Josiah and assumption of throne by his son, Jehoahaz
Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, replaced Jehoahaz on the authority of Pharaoh Necho II within 3 months
Palestine and Syria under Egyptian rule
Josiah’s reforms dissipate

605 Nabopolassar sends troops to fight remaining Assyrian army and the Egyptians at Carchemesh
Nebuchadnezzar chased them all the way to the plains of Palestine
Nebuchadnezzar got word of the death of his father (Nabopolassar) so he returned to Babylon to receive the crown
On the way back he takes Daniel and other members of the royal family into exile
605 – 538 Babylon in control of Palestine, 597; 10,000 exiled to Babylon
586 Jerusalem and the temple destroyed and large deportation
582 Because Jewish guerilla fighters killed Gedaliah another last large deportation occurred

Babylonian  DynastiesSUCCESSORS OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR

562 – 560 Evil-Merodach released Jehoiakim (true Messianic line) from custody
560 – 556 Neriglissar
556 Labaski-Marduk reigned
556 – 539 Nabonidus:
Spent most of the time building a temple to the mood god, Sin. This earned enmity of the priests of Marduk.
Spent the rest of his time trying to put down revolts and stabilize the kingdom.
He moved to Tema and left the affairs of state to his son, Belshazzar
Belshazzar:
Spent most of his time trying to restore order.
Babylonia’s great threat was Media.

Rise of Cyrus

585 – 550 Astyages was king of Media (Cyrus II was his grandson by Mandane)
550 Cyrus II, a vassal king, revolted
Nabonidus, to restore balance of power, made alliances with:
1. Egypt
2. Crecus, King of Lydia
547 Cyrus marched against Sardis (capital Lydia) and captured all of Asia Minor
539 Gobiyas took Babylon without resistance (Dan. 5; Belshazzar Nabonidus’ co-regent; also Gobiyas possibly Darius the Mede, Dan. 5:31).
Oct. 11, 539 Cyrus entered as liberator from Nabonidus’ moon goddess, Zin
Cyrus’ Successors
530 Cyrus’ son succeeded him (Cambyses II)
530 – 522 Reign of Cambyses (Elephantine Papyri)
Added Egypt in 525 to the Medo-Persian Empire
522 – 486 Darius I came to rule
He organized the Persian Empire along Cyrus’ plan of satraps
He set up coinage like Lydia’s
486 – 465 Xerxes I (Esther)
Put down Egyptian revolt
Intended to invade Greece, but was defeated in the Battle of Thermopoly in 480
Xerxes I was assassinated in 465
480 Battle of Thermopoly
465 – 424 Artaxerxes I Longimanus (Ezra 7-10, Nehemiah, and Malachi)
Greeks continued to advance until confronted with Pelopanisian Wars
Wars lasted about 20 years
During this period the Jewish community is reconstructed
423 – 404 Darius II
Authorized the feast of unleavened bread in the Elephantine Temple
404 – 358 Artaxerxes II
358 – 338 Artaxerxes III
338 – 336 Arses
336 – 331 Darius III

Persian  DynastiesGREECE

359 – 336 Philip II of Macedon built up Greece
He was assassinated in 336
336 – 323 Alexander the Great (Philip’s son)
Routed Darius II at battle of ISUS
He died in 323 in Babylon of a fever after conquering the eastern Mediterranean and the Near East
Alexander’s generals divided his empire at his death:
1. Cassander – Macedonia and Greece
2. Lysimicus – Thrace
3. Selects I – Syria and Babylon
4. Ptolemy – Egypt and Palestine
5. Antigonus – small part of Asia Minor
Seleucids vs. Ptolemies
301 Palestine was under Ptolemy’s rule for 100 years
175 – 163 Antiochus Epiphanes
Wanted to Hellenize Jews, constructed gymnasium
Constructed pagan altars; priests were mistreated
Dec. 13, 168 Hog was slain on the altar by Antiochus Epiphanies. Some consider this to be the abomination of desolation.
167 Mattathias and sons rebel. Mattathias killed. Judas took control.
Judas Maccabeaus wages successful guerilla warfare
Dec. 25, 165 Temple rededicated

RULERS

BABYLON MEDIA

626 – 605 Nabopolassar dies (“Nabu, Protect the Sun”)
625 – 585
Cyrzares
605 – 562 Nebuchadnezzar II
(“Nebo, Protect the Boundary”)
585 – 550
Astyages
562 – 560 Evil Merodack 550
Cyrus II
556 Labaski Marduk
556 – 539 Nabonidus
Belshazzar
539 – Gobiyas

MEDO-PERSIAN

550 – 530 Cyrus II (538 Medo-Persian dominate power called Achaemenian Empire)
530 – 522 Cambyses II (Egypt added and Cyprus)
522 Gaumata or Pseudo, Smerdis (reign 6 months)
522 – 486 Darius I (Hystaspes)
486 – 465 Xerxes I (Esther’s husband)
465 – 424 Artaxerxes I (Ezra and Nehemiah in Palestine)
423 – Xerxes II
424 – 404 Darius II Nothus
404 – 359 Artaxerxes II Mnemon
359 – 338 Artaxerxes III Ochus
338 – 336 Arses
336 – 331 Darius III Codomannus

Greek DynastiesGREEK

359 – 336 Philip II of Macedon
336 – 323 Alexander the Great
323 – Generals divide Empire
1. Cassander – Macedonia
2. Lysimicus – Syria
3. Seleucus I – Syria and Babylon
4. Ptolemy – Egypt
5. Antigonus – Asia Minor (killed in 301 b.c.)
The Ptolemies controlled Palestine, but in 175 – 163 control passed to the Seleucids
175 – 163 Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the eighth Seleucid ruler

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The Rise And Fall Of Babylon

Early History Of Babylon

The early history of Babylon is shrouded in mystery. First mentioned in the Bible is the record of Genesis 10:8-10 which names Nimrod, the grandson of Ham, as the founder of the city in the dim prehistoric past. Its name was derived from a later experience revealed in Genesis 11 where the inhabitants of the land of Shinar, the southern portion of Mesopotamia, are recorded as building a tower designed to reach the heavens. This may have been the beginning of a practice of building towers with religious significance. Such a tower is known as a ziggurat, designating an artificial mound of brick and soil elevated above the surrounding terrain.

The Biblical description of the tower is in keeping with the characteristics of the area. Lacking stones, they made brick and used slime or bitumen native to the area in the construction of the tower. According to Scripture, the inhabitants had said,

Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth (Genesis 11:3, 4).

The Word “Babylon”

Babylon is Akkadian “babilani” which means “the Gate of God(s)” (Babylon was originally a Semitic Akkadian city dating from the period of the Akkadian Empire, and now modern day Iraq.) it became the capital of the land of Babylonia. The etymology of the babylon cityname Babel in the Bible means “confused” (Gen 11:9) and throughout the Bible, Babylon was a symbol of the confusion caused by godlessness. The name Babylon is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Babel.

The Scriptures record that the Lord judged the people and confounded their language with the result that the city and the tower were left unfinished (Genesis 11:5-8). The place according to Genesis 11:9 was “called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth.” It seems probable that the name given to the city in Genesis 10:10 actually supplanted the original name at this time, and this incident contributes to the long history of Babylon as a center of religious significance, and as a source of false religion and rebellion against the true God.

Although the city of Babylon does not rise to prominence until 1830 b.c., the area in which it is located, called Babylonia, had a long history. Early civilization near the site of ancient Ur in lower Babylonia dates from the fourth millennium b.c. and successive civilizations have been traced from 2800 b.c. The period of the early dynasties (2800-2360 b.c.) recorded an advanced civilization including great temples, canals, and other construction. The old Akkadian period (2360-2180 b.c.) included the extensive empire of Sargon from Persia to the Mediterranean. This was followed by the Neo-Sumerian period (2070-1960 b.c.), in which time Abraham was born. The land was sacked by the Elamites and Amorites in the period 1960-1830 b.c.

The history of Babylonia proper, known as the Old Babylonia period (1830-1550 b.c.), included the brilliant reign of Hammurabi (1728-1686 b.c.) whose famous Code was discovered in 1901. Babylonia was next invaded by the Kassites in the period 1550-1169 b.c. This was followed by Dynasty II of Isin (1169-1039 b.c.), whose kings were native Babylonians. In the period from 1100 to 625 b.c. the land suffered various invasions including that of Assyria. In 729 b.c. Tiglath-pileser became king of Babylon and later in 689 b.c. attacked by Sennacherib, Babylon was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt by Esarhaddon, and was finally wrested from Assyria around 625 b.c. when the Neo-Babylonian Empire was founded by Nabopolassar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar. With the help of the Medes, Nineveh was destroyed in 612 b.c. Necho of Egypt was defeated in 605 b.c. The stage was now set for the brilliant reign of Nebuchadnezzar which included the earlier conquering of Jerusalem in 606 b.c., the ultimate captivity of its inhabitants, and the destruction of the city itself.

The tremendous wealth and power of this city, along with its monumental size and appearance, were certainly considered a Biblical myth, that is, until its foundations were unearthed and its riches substantiated during the 19th century. Archaeologists stood in awe as their discoveries revealed that certain stories in the Bible were an actual situation that had happened in time.

The Prophecies Of Isaiah Concerning Babylon

Apart from a reference to a “Babylonish garment” in Joshua 7:21, there is no Biblical reference to Babylon after Genesis 11 until the great prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel unfolded God’s babylon mapplan for the ancient city. Most of the Biblical prophecies relating to Babylon are in relation to the captivity and God’s revelation to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel concerning the ultimate end of the captivity both for Israel and for Babylon. Most remarkable, however, are the prophecies of Isaiah delivered a century before Babylon had risen to power and recorded at a time when Babylon was still in obscurity with no indication of its coming greatness. Outstanding chapters in Isaiah’s predictions are 13, 14, and 47 with scattered references elsewhere (21:9, 39:1, 3, 6, 7; 43:14; 48:14, 20).

The predictions of Isaiah have to do with Babylon’s ultimate destruction in the Day of the Lord. The near and the far view are often mingled as in chapter 13. The destruction of Babylon is pictured in Isaiah 13:1-11 as part of God’s program to punish the entire world (cp. 13:11). The historic conquering of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians is mentioned specifically in Isaiah 13:17-19.

Behold, I will stir up the Medes against them, which shall not regard silver; and as for gold, they shall not delight in it. Their bows also shall dash the young men to pieces; and they shall have no pity on the fruit of the womb; their eye shall not spare children. And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency, shall be as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah.

The prophet seems to refer to the far view, that is, the destruction of Babylon in relation to the second coming of Christ in 13:20-22. Here it is declared:

It shall never be inhabited, neither shall it be dwelt in from generation to generation: neither shall the Arabian pitch tent there; neither shall the shepherds make their fold there. But wild beasts of the desert shall lie there; and their houses shall be full of doleful creatures; and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there. And the wild beasts of the islands shall cry in their desolate houses, and dragons in their pleasant palaces: and her time is near to come, and her days shall not be prolonged.

As far as the historic fulfillment is concerned, it is obvious from both Scripture and history that these verses have not been literally fulfilled. The city of Babylon continued to flourish after the Medes conquered it, and though its glory dwindled, especially after the control of the Medes and Persians ended in 323 b.c., the city continued in some form or substance until a.d. 1000 and did not experience a sudden termination such as is anticipated in this prophecy.

Interpretation has been made more difficult by the varied meanings of Babylon itself. Sometimes the term (in the Hebrew Babel) refers to the city whose history continued and was flourishing even during the Apostolic period when it became a center of Jewish learning after the destruction of Jerusalem. Sometimes the term is used in reference to the political power of Babylon which obviously fell in one night when the Medes and the Persians took control of Babylon. Sometimes it is used in a religious sense, for Babylon has been the fountain of many of the pagan religions which have competed with Judaism and Christian faith ever since. The interpretation of Isaiah 13:20-22 is inevitably determined by the meaning assigned to Revelation 17, 18.

Many interpreters agree that Babylon in its religious and political sense will be revived at the end of the age. Debated is the conclusion that the city itself will have a physical revival to become the capital of the world at the end of the age. Such a rebuilding of the ancient city would make possible a literal fulfillment of the prophecy of complete and sudden destruction as predicted in Isaiah 13:19-22.

Isaiah 14 seems to confirm that the ultimate destruction in view is one related to the second advent of Christ and the Day of the Lord. The satanic power behind Babylon addressed as “Lucifer, son of the morning” (14:12) is portrayed both in his original rebellion against God and in his ultimate judgment. The destruction of Babylon is related to the judgment upon “all the kings of the nations” (14:18).

Another massive prophecy against Babylon is found in Isaiah 47. Here a prediction of Babylon’s utter humiliation is given, and the foreview seems to relate primarily to the capture of Babylon by the Medes and the Persians [The Persian people are an Iranian people who speak the modern Persian language and closely akin Iranian dialects and languages. The Medes /midz/ (from Old Persian Māda-) were an ancient Iranian people who lived in an area known as Media (northern Iran) and who spoke a northwestern Iranian language referred to as the Median language.] The sad pronouncement is made at the conclusion of the passage, “None shall save thee” (Isaiah 47:15). The major attention given to Babylon in Isaiah’s prophecies confirm Babylon’s importance in prophecy relating to the nations.

The Prophecies Of Jeremiah Concerning Babylon

The prophet Jeremiah like Isaiah devotes two long chapters to the prediction of Babylon’s ultimate judgment and destruction (Jeremiah 50, 51). If the prophecies of Isaiah are remarkable for their anticpation of Babylon’s rise to power and the captivity of Judah a hundred years before it actually occurred, the prophecies of Jeremiah are notable because they were delivered at the peak of Babylon’s power when it seemed most unlikely that the great nation would fall. Babylon is pictured as being punished because of its cruel treatment of Israel (50:17, 18; 51:24, 49).

Practically all of the predictions of Jeremiah seem to relate to the fall of Babylon by the attack of the Medes and the Persians. Only occasionally does there seem to be a reference to a future ultimate destruction as in Jeremiah 51:62-64. The prophecies of Jeremiah predicting the fall of Babylon at the hands of the Medes and the Persians were graphically fulfilled approximately sixty-five years later, as recorded in Daniel 5.

Major attention is devoted to the captivity of Judah in the prophecies of both Jeremiah and Ezekiel. There is almost constant reference to the Babylonian captivity of Judah in Jeremiah beginning in chapter 20; numerous references are also found in Ezekiel. Much of Jeremiah’s ministry was to his own generation as he predicted the downfall of Jerusalem and the victory of the Babylonian armies. Jeremiah is seen as the true prophet of God in contrast to the false prophets who had predicted victory over Babylon (cp. Jeremiah 28:1-17). Jeremiah’s prophecies were largely ignored. The first copy of his book was destroyed by the king (36:23). Jeremiah himself suffered affliction and imprisonment (37:15-38:13). With the capture of Jerusalem, the prophecies of Jeremiah were fully vindicated.

Most important were Jeremiah’s prophecies concerning the duration of the captivity, designated as seventy years in Jeremiah 25:11 and 29:10. It was this prophecy which was read by Daniel which led to his prayer for the return of the captives to Jerusalem (Daniel 9:2).

A prominent theme of Jeremiah’s prophecies were predictions against Egypt in which he anticipated that Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt. As a traditional enemy of Israel, Egypt was thus to experience God’s judgment in the form of coming under the power of Babylon. Jeremiah devotes considerable Scripture to this theme, including 43:10-13; 44:30; 46:1-26. In chapter 44 Jeremiah sends a message to the Jews in Egypt in which he predicts that their attempt to escape the power of Babylon would only result in their own destruction.

The Prophecies Of Ezekiel Concerning Babylon

Ezekiel echoes the prophecies of Jeremiah relating to the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 17:12-24) and like Jeremiah predicts the conquering of Egypt (29:18, 19; 30:10-25; 32:1-32). Added is the prediction of the destruction of Tyre in Ezekiel 26:7- 28:19.

It is obvious from these many passages in the prophets that Babylon occupies a large place in the prophetic program of the Old Testament for the nations surrounding Israel. It is with this context that Daniel the prophet takes up the theme and relates God’s dealings with Babylon to His ultimate purpose of bringing all nations into subjection unto the Son of God.

The Prophecies Of Daniel Concerning Babylon

Daniel’s first recognition of Babylon prophetically was in his interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Babylon was represented in the great image by the head of gold, and Daniel recognized the importance of Nebuchadnezzar:

Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold (Daniel 2:37, 38).

After the death of Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel’s vision recorded in chapter 7 includes much added revelation. In his description of the first beast which represents Babylon, Daniel states, “The first was like a lion, and had eagle’s wings: I beheld till the wings thereof were plucked, and it was lifted up from the earth, and made stand upon the feet as a man, and a man’s heart was given to it” (Daniel 7:4).

Babylon was indeed like the lion, the king of beasts, and had eagle’s wings like the king of birds. That the wings would be plucked and the beast would stand as a man with a man’s heart was the divine portrayal of Nebuchadnezzar’s experience in Daniel 4 as well as an anticipation of the ultimate humiliation of the Babylonian rulers in Daniel 5. In Daniel’s interpretation of the tree vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4, he had predicted Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation in which he suffered seven years of insanity before his reason returned. Nebuchadnezzar was ready then to give praise to God as he does in Daniel 4:2, 3, 34-37. The prophecies of Daniel were meticulously fulfilled.

The Fall Of Babylon

The fall of the Babylonian Empire came suddenly when the Medes and the Persians overran the city of Babylon in a night attack in 539 b.c. Prior to this event, the Babylonian Empire had already fallen on evil days. When Nebuchadnezzar died in 562 b.c., he was succeeded by his son Amel-Marduk who was assassinated only two years later. In 560 b.c. Neriglissar took the throne. When he died in 556 B.C, after only four years of reign, he was succeeded by his son who was assassinated shortly after he came to the throne. Nabonidus then assumed power appointing his son Belshazzar as co-ruler. It was this Belshazzar who held the ungodly feast of Daniel 5 and perished at the hands of the Medes and Persians.

At the time of the downfall of the city of Babylon recorded in Daniel 5, the city was still a monument to the genius of Nebuchadnezzar. According to Herodotus, the city was approximately 14 miles square with the Euphrates River bisecting it north and south. Two sets of walls inner and outer protected the city and, according to standards of the day, rendered it safe from attack from without. If Herodotus can be believed, the walls were indeed formidable being 350 feet high and 87 feet thick. Walls also lined the river on either side and 150 gates of solid brass protected the entrances. On the wall were some 250 watchtowers, 100 feet higher than the wall itself. The outside wall had a deep water moat some 30 feet wide.

During the height of its power, provisions were stored in Babylon supposedly sufficient for twenty years of siege and designed to discourage anyone attacking it. Within the walls the city was laid out in square blocks with beautiful houses lining the streets usually three and four stories in height. The city also included great parks and gardens, some of which, such as the hanging gardens described by Diodorus, were outstanding wonders in the ancient world. The gardens were built on terraces and supported large trees. A great bridge some 660 feet long and 30 feet wide bridged the Euphrates River and connected the eastern and western halves of the city. Notable buildings were also found such as the palace of the king, the temple of Bel over eight stories in height, and many other buildings of less importance.

It was this city, proud of its supposed invulnerability, which had ignored the rapidly expanding power of the Medes and the Persians. Media as a separate kingdom had matched the rise of the Babylonian persiaEmpire. After the Medes had captured Asshur in 614 b.c. under alliance with the Chaldeans, they had also captured Nineveh. The downfall of the Assyrian Empire, marked by these events, paved the way for the rise in power of Media which was in alliance with Nebuchadnezzar during most of his reign. Persia was also, rising in power, however, and under Cyrus II Media was conquered by the Persians about 549 b.c. Media and Persia were united in a common government which lasted until Alexander the Great in 331 b.c. Their armies had proceeded to conquer much of the territory around Babylon before the fateful night in 539 b.c. (Daniel 5).

Setting siege to the large city of Babylon, the Medes had dug a canal diverting the water that flowed under the city wall. At the very time of Belshazzar’s impious feast, they were entering the city on the dry channel underneath the mighty walls. The drinking feast celebrated by the one thousand lords apparently was shared by other inhabitants so that the normal watch kept on the walls was not observed, allowing the invaders valuable time in conquering the city before their presence was fully known. At the very time the Medes were pouring into the city, the handwriting appeared on the wall (Daniel 5:5, 24-28). Daniel correctly interpreted the writing as spelling the doom of the Babylonian Empire and the beginning of the empire of the Medes and the Persians (Daniel 5:28, 31). Thus ended the fabulous reign of the Babylonian Empire, the symbol of Gentile glory and moral and religious wickedness.

Continued Influence Of Babylon

Although the fall of Babylon marked the end of political rule of Babylonian rulers, much of the Babylonian culture, its pagan religions, and its ideology were continued in the kingdoms which followed. Babylonian influence was perpetuated down through the centuries especially in ancient pagan religions. Babylon, the symbol of religious confusion, was to appear again in the apostate church of Revelation 17, and its political power was to be revived in the final form of the Roman Empire as depicted in Revelation 18. Even if literal Babylon is not rebuilt as a city in the last days and subjected to the sudden destruction described in Revelation 18, Babylon as an influence for evil politically and religiously will not be terminated until Jesus Christ comes in power and glory to reign.

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World History In Outline

The study of Daniel is an indispensable introduction to the Biblical foreview of world history. Through Daniel came the revelation of the major events which would mark the progress of what Christ referred to as “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Christ defined this as the period during which “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles,” i.e., from Nebuchadnezzar 606 b.c. until the second advent of Jesus Christ.

No system of philosophy or theology which attempts to arrive at the meaning of history can ignore this divine analysis of the progress of human events. The broad prophetic program for the nations when viewed alongside the prophetic program for Israel and the program of God in the present age for the church answers the major question of the divine purposes of God in history in which God reveals His glow.

In God’s program for Israel, He has revealed His faithfulness, His love, and His righteousness. In His program for the church, the grace of God is supremely revealed. In the program of world history as a whole, God’s dealings with the nations reveal His sovereignty, power, and wisdom. The nations may foolishly rage against God (Psalm 2:1), but God nevertheless shall triumphantly place His Son as King in Zion (Psalm 2:6).

Daniel The Prophet

Daniel the prophet was born in the ill-fated days just preceding the captivity. As a lad he was apparently separated from his parents and carried captive to far away Babylon. There, because of his unusual intelligence and promise, he was trained along with his companions for service in the court of the king. It was only after Daniel had successfully completed this course of training and had demonstrated his wisdom and understanding (Daniel 1:20) that he faced the supreme test recorded in Daniel 2.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had had a rapid rise to power, heading what is known in secular history as the Neo-Chaldean Empire. His father Nabopolassar had founded the empire in 625 b.c. His son Nebuchadnezzar had won an outstanding victory over Necho of Egypt at Carchemish in 605 b.c. and in the process of his conquest had conquered and later destroyed Jerusalem, carrying off many of the Jews as captives. According to Daniel 2:29, the king had pondered the practical question of “what should come to pass hereafter.” What would be the end result of his great victories and magnificent kingdom? It was in such a state of mind that God gave to Nebuchadnezzar a prophetic dream.

Aware of the fact that the dream had tremendous significance, but unable to recall its details, he called in his wise men and demanded that they show him the dream and its interpretation. Brushing aside their protest that this was an unreasonable request, when they were unable to comply, the king commanded that all of the wise men should be slain (Daniel 2:13). Daniel and his companions, who had not been in the king’s court, were included in the sweeping order.

When the matter was known to Daniel, he requested time of the king and promised that he would give the interpretation of the dream. Then with his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, Daniel went to prayer to God who alone could reveal the secret. When the dream was made known to Daniel, he recognized the profound character of the divine revelation. His hymn of worship and praise is recorded in Daniel 2:20-23:

Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

Daniel’s Description Of The Dream

When brought before the king, Daniel made no claim for insight or wisdom of his own, but declared plainly:

The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days (Daniel 2:27, 28).

Daniel then recited the details of Nebuchadnezzar’s great dream (Daniel 2:31-35):

1Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

Four Great World Empires

Having declared the dream, Daniel then gave the interpretation. Four great world empires were to succeed each other, to be climaxed by a kingdom which comes from heaven. Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the head of gold, the supreme ruler of the civilized world of his day. Two other kingdoms are mentioned briefly by Daniel in Daniel 2:39, “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.” These two kingdoms are represented in the body of the image.

Major attention, however, is directed to the fourth empire as being of supreme, prophetic importance, preceding as it does the final kingdom which comes from God. The fourth kingdom is represented by the legs and feet of the image:

And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay (Daniel 2:40-43).

The Fourth Empire

Although the first three kingdoms are clearly identified in Daniel in subsequent chapters, namely, Babylon, Medo-Persia (chapter 5), and Greece (8:21), the fourth kingdom is not named. There can be little doubt, however, that it refers to the Roman Empire, the greatest of all the world empires of history and one which had a larger effect upon subsequent posterity than any of the preceding empires. Even to modern times, there has never been an empire equal to that of the ancient Roman Empire.

The description given of it is typical of the Roman Empire. It is described as “strong as iron” (Daniel 2:40) and as an empire which breaks in pieces all that opposes it. This is, of course, precisely what the Roman armies did as they swept almost irresistibly into country after country, first of all conquering the western portion of the empire and then later the eastern portion. Although the division of the Roman Empire into western and eastern portions did not come until late in its history, it is anticipated in the fact that the image has two legs.

Major attention, however, is directed to the weakness in the feet and the toes described in verses 41-43. It is obvious that this is a matter of major importance. The feet and toes of the image are described as being part of pottery or clay and part of iron. This is interpreted as revealing in part its strength and at the same time its weakness in that the pottery was brittle and easily and quickly broken. Further, in verse 43 attention is called to the fact that iron and clay do not adhere one to the other and do not properly bond.

Whether this difference in material reflects differences in political ideology such as democracy versus absolute rule, differences in culture or race, or differences in economic situations, it is clear that the feet of the image are an area of weakness which leads to its complete downfall. In the light of the prophecy which follows, the feet stage of the image is best understood to refer to a form of the Roman Empire which is yet future, namely, the time just before “the God of heaven” shall “set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed” (2:44).

Many attempts have been made to find in the history of the Roman Empire a stage which corresponds to the toes of the image which may be presumed to be ten in number corresponding to the ten horns of the later vision in Daniel 7:7. It should be observed, first, that this situation demands a period in which the Roman Empire is divided into precisely ten kingdoms. There is no such period in the history of the Roman Empire. Although in its latter stages it was divided up into separate kingdoms, there never was a time when there were precisely ten such kingdoms, and no event followed such as is depicted in Daniel 2:44, 45. For the prophetic vision, therefore, to be completely fulfilled, there must be a future fulfillment.

The Fifth Kingdom From Heaven

The prophecy of the destruction of the image is embraced in Daniel 2: 44, 45:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

It is clear that the stone cut out of the mountain without hands smites the image on the feet—that is, its last stage—with the result that the entire image is completely destroyed. The destruction cannot be properly compared to the advance of Christianity within the bounds of the ancient Roman Empire; that action was a gradual permeation which never assumed catastrophic character and never vitally changed the political aspect of the Roman Empire. History is clear that the Roman Empire was destroyed not by Christianity, but by its own inherent weaknesses and immorality, Besides the whole of Christianity is so divided it cannot overcome at this present stage.

What is demanded in fulfillment of this prophetic interpretation is a sudden catastrophic event which destroys all vestige of Gentile power and replaces it with the kingdom which God Himself establishes. The stone represents a divine agency rather than human, indicated in the fact that it is cut out without hands and is a proper representation of Jesus Christ as the crushing stone of judgment at His second advent. The Christian Gospel to the present hour has never had power to destroy Gentile government in the world and replace it with spiritual government, and there is no prospect that it will. Only divine intervention in the human scene and a display of the omnipotence of God could possibly break up the power of this world and convert it into the kingdom of heaven.

Prophecy Fulfilled In History

The prophetic foreview of world history afforded in the dream of Nebuchadnezzar was remarkably fulfilled except for the consummation. The kingdom of Babylon was indeed the first of the great world empires. Although not the most extensive or powerful in many respects, it was the most glorious. This is anticipated in the gold which represents the Babylonian Empire. After the death of Nebuchadnezzar in 562 b.c., it rapidly deteriorated until on the fateful night described in Daniel 5 on October 13, 539 b.c., Babylon was conquered and the decline of the great city began. The rule of the Medes and the Persians, though less glorious than that of Babylon, was much longer in duration and continued for over two hundred years to 332 b.c. when Alexander the Great conquered Babylon without a battle.

After Alexander’s death, the Seleucidae controlled Babylon from 312 to 171 b.c. and were succeeded by the Parthian Empire which successfully resisted Rome and controlled Babylon from 171 b.c. to a.d. 226. Babylon continued to be inhabited in some form or other as late as a.d. 1000. In control of the Holy Land, however, Alexander was succeeded by the Roman Empire. The deterioration in the value of the metals depicted in the image had the compensation of increase in strength, and Rome until the time of the Barbarian invasion was truly characterized by the strength of iron.

As is frequently the case in the Old Testament, the prophecy of Daniel takes no notice of the many years separating the first and second advent of Christ. It anticipates a future empire in the Mediterranean area which will correspond to the ancient Roman Empire and which, from the divine viewpoint, will be a continuation of it. This fourth empire will be succeeded by the kingdom of heaven, begun with a sudden judgment upon Gentile power.

The final world power described in Daniel 2:44, 45 is obviously different in character than the preceding four empires. It is subsequent to these four empires and cannot be brought in until their total destruction. It is a kingdom which is established by the God of heaven rather than by human agency. In contrast to the other empires which had their rise and fall, the kingdom which God establishes will never be destroyed. It shall break in pieces and consume all other powers and shall stand forever.

That the dream was interpreted properly and that the interpretation should be considered factual is brought out in Daniel 2:45 where it is stated: “The great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” In the light of the literal and graphic fulfillment of prophecy relating to the first four kingdoms, except for the portion of the fourth which is yet future, it is natural to conclude that the fifth kingdom is also to be literally and factually fulfilled in God’s future program.

2The grandeur of this panorama of human history and the important place that it assigned the kingdom of Babylon as the first of the succession of world empires so impressed King Nebuchadnezzar that in spite of his high office and absolute rule it is recorded in Daniel 2:46, “Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.” King Nebuchadnezzar also gave testimony that the God of Daniel is “a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.” The elevation of Daniel to a prominent place in the government of the Babylonian Empire testifies to the profound impression made upon King Nebuchadnezzar. The experience of Nebuchadnezzar ultimately resulted in his turning to the God of Israel in faith (Daniel 4).

The revelation given in Daniel 2 of world history in its panoramic form constitutes the essential framework for all prophecy related to the nations. Subsequent details in Daniel and elsewhere in Scripture are amplification and added details and explanations. The Scriptures give special emphasis to the latter stage of the fourth empire and concerning this a great body of prophetic Scripture fills in the total picture.

The guidelines, however, for future fulfillment are found in the past. A study of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece, as prophecies relating to them have been fulfilled, provides an important background for that which is yet future. The geographic area of these kingdoms is involved in the final chapters of world history. Babylon has perpetuated itself religiously and to some extent is reproduced politically in the last stage of the fourth kingdom. A study of prophecy relating to these kingdoms as well as historic fulfillment is, then, the Biblical introduction to the nations in the end of the age.

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Daniel 1-3

Daniel 1-3

The Book of Daniel was written during the lifetime of the prophet in the sixth century B.C., while the Kings Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Cyrus ruled Babylon. It presents a divine philosophy of history and the LORD God is represented as the Sovereign over it all. Daniel provides a prophetic framework for the “the time of the Gentiles” and is a major work of prophesy that is needed to fully understand the Book of Revelation. The “seventieth week” in Dan. 9:27 is prophesy that most evangelical and fundamental Christians are watching for expectantly, to reveal the near completion of the prophesied things that will lead to Christ’s second coming.

Daniel 1

1:1-21 The education of Belteshazzar and his friends

1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring [certain] of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes; 4 Children in whom [was] no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as [had] ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 5 And the king appointed them a

Belteshazzar, i.e. prince of Bel or Bel protect the king, not to be confused with the neo-Babylonian king Belshazzar

Belteshazzar, i.e. prince of Bel or Bel protect the king, not to be confused with the neo-Babylonian king Belshazzar

daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king. 6 Now

The King also gave positions of leadership to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

The King also gave positions of leadership to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego

among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel [the name] of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself. 9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which [are] of your sort? then shall ye make [me] endanger my head to the king. 11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants. 14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat. 16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. 18 Now at the end

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat

of the days that the king had said he should bring them in, then the prince of the eunuchs brought them in before Nebuchadnezzar. 19 And the king communed with them; and among them all was found none like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: therefore stood they before the king. 20 And in all matters of wisdom [and] understanding, that the king enquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians [and] astrologers that [were] in all his realm. 21 And Daniel continued [even] unto the first year of king Cyrus. (Daniel 1:1-21 AV)

Daniel 2

2:1-11 Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams

1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. 9 But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, [there is but] one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof. 10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore [there is] no king, lord, nor ruler, [that] asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 And [it is] a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

2:12-25 Volunteers to interpret the king’s dream

12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise [men] of Babylon. 13 And the decree went forth that the wise [men] should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise [men] of Babylon: 15 He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why [is] the decree [so] hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise [men] of Babylon. 19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what [is] in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast [now] made known unto us the king’s matter.

24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise [men] of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise [men] of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. 25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

2:26-45 The dream and it’s interpretation

26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name [was] Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? 27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise [men], the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; 28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; 29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came [into thy mind] upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. 30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for [any] wisdom that I have more than any living, but for [their] sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness [was] excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof [was] terrible. 32 This image’s head [was] of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou

The Dream

The Dream

sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet [that were] of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 36 This [is] the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37 Thou, O king, [art] a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou [art] this head of gold. 39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all [things]: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. 41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 42 And [as] the toes of the feet [were] part of iron, and part of clay, [so] the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with

Book of Daniel

Book of Daniel

the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, [but] it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream [is] certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

2:46-49 Nebuchadnezzar gives reward

46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth [it is], that your God [is] a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this

Nebuchadnezzar gives reward

Nebuchadnezzar gives reward

secret. 48 Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise [men] of Babylon. 49 Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel [sat] in the gate of the king. (Daniel 2:1-49 AV)

Daniel 3

3:1-7 Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height [was] threescore cubits, [and] the breadth thereof six cubits: he set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. 2 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. 3 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. 4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is

Nebuchadnezzar's Golden Image

Nebuchadnezzar’s Golden Image

commanded, O people, nations, and languages, 5 [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: 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 7 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.

3:8-30 The deliverance from the fiery furnace

8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews. 9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever. 10 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: 11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, [that] he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. 12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up. 13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in [his] rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. 14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, [Is it] true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up? 15 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? 16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we [are] not careful to answer thee in this matter. 17 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. 18 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.

19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: [therefore] he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. 20 And he commanded the most mighty men that [were] in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, [and] to cast [them] into the burning fiery furnace. 21 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. 22 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 Abednego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 24 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, [and] spake, and said unto his

The deliverance from the fiery furnace

The deliverance from the fiery furnace

counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. 25 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. 26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, [and] spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come [hither]. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. 27 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.

28 [Then] Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed [be] the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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. 29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, 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. 30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon. (Daniel 3:1-30 AV)

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Judith Chapters 1:1-16:25

Israel hung on Judith's Charm and Beauty!

Israel hung on Judith’s Charm and Beauty!

Judith

Judith, which is part of the Apocrypha and details the heroic deeds of Judith of Bethulia.

Authorship and Date
Most scholars think this book was written around 100 BCE by a Palestinian Jew. This would have been during
the Hasmonean period. Scholars argue whether it was intended to support or criticize that regime. It was
probably written in Hebrew, though no Hebrew text has ever been discovered.

Historical Questions
The events described in the book of Judith supposedly took place in Assyria, some time during the reign of
Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon. Since both Assyria and Babylon were renowned enemies of Israel, it is
highly doubtful this conflation was accidental.

There are, however, several historical inaccuracies in the setting as it is presented. For
instance,Nebuchadnezzar wasKing of Babylon, but never ruled from Nineveh as the book says he did. (In
fact, his father was among those who led the charge that defeated the Assyrians many years before the
events in the book take place. Nineveh was destroyed in that campaign, never to be rebuilt again.)

So, like the Book of Tobit, this book is probably of the genre of a historical novel. Its function would have been
to instruct, encourage, and entertain.

Structure
The book of Judith is basically divided into two parts. The first half of the book is all about military
maneuverings. It seems tedious but reveals a lot about the characters of Nebuchadnezzar and his general,
Holofernes. The whole point of these early chapters is to illustrate the might of the Assyrian nation – they
were unstoppable and moved like a dark shadow across the land. These early chapters suggest that the
Assyrians were intent on world domination. It also introduces Achior, an Ammonite, who has the real insight
on God’s relationship with His people and what might be at stake. By the time Judith arrives on the scene and
takes action, the tension has been heightened.

The second half of the book describes how Judith saved Israel from Holofernes and the Babylonian empire.

Summary of Contents

Nebuchadnezzar’s Military Exploits
The first half of the book sets up the story wherein King Nebuchadnezzar intends to do battle with the king of
the Medes , who is named Arphaxad in the book although there was never a Median king by this name.
Nebuchadnezzar hoped that many of the surrounding nations would join in his endeavors. In fact, he explicitly
invited them to do so.

Unfortunately, most of them declined. But not to worry – Nebuchadnezzar easily defeated Arphaxad anyway.
(There is, however, a bit of irony at work here. According to historical documents, the Medes and the
Babylonians actually defeated the Assyrians in 612 BCE.) After he had been successful in defeating
Arphaxad, Nebuchadnezzar turned his sights towards those nations to the west that had rebuffed his request.
Among these nations were the areas of Judea and Samaria.

In order to accomplish his mission, Nebuchadnezzar commissioned Holofernes, the general of his army, to
gather a huge force and methodically “visit” each nation that had refused to help him. He was also to eliminate
their religious sites, so they would only worship Nebuchadnezzar. Holofernes easily destroyed many small
towns at will. So, it did not take long for many of the coastal nations to capitulate to his demands. They
offered to Holofernes all their dwellings, their fields, their cities and their citizens to do with as he pleased – as
long as he “let there be peace.”

Holofernes accepted their offer, and destroyed all their high places, which were places of worship. He was
loyal to his commission to destroy all other gods so the nations would only worship Nebuchadnezzar. (This,
too, does not square with history. Nebuchadnezzar was not worshiped as a god, but this would be the one
deal-killer with the Israelites, who only worshiped one God.)

News of Holofernes’ victories surely preceded him to the borders of Judea. Rather than push forward, however,
Holofernes camped below the mountain village of Bethulia. There the army would rest for a month while they
replenished their supplies and their spirits.

Preparing to Attack Israel
In order to move through the mountain pass and press onwards to Jerusalem, the Assyrians would have to
take Bethulia (though this is another historical inaccuracy). The first order of battle, then, was to establish a
siege and to cut off the water supply to the city. It also provided a psychological impact in that it gave the
inhabitants of the city plenty of time to ponder their presumed fate. Their only recourse at this point was to
pray and to prepare for war.

In chapter five, the action pauses in order to allow Holofernes to interview the local nations to garner more
information about the Israelites, who had, by then, managed to fortify the passes through the mountain.
Achior, the leader of the Ammonites, offered to tell Holofernes the whole truth, and nothing less. He gave a
short history on the Israelites, highlighting the mighty acts of God on their behalf. He propounded a concise
version of Deuteronomic history that stated: God will bless them if they have been faithful to his laws and
judge them if they have not.

The character of Achior does several things for the story. First, he sets up Judith’s later claim that she
abandoned her people precisely because they had been unfaithful. It also placed him in the presence of
Holofernes, which enabled him to positively identify his severed head later.

Achior’s counsel, however, did not sit well with Holofernes. Achior said if the Israelites had been sinning,
Holofernes would be successful; on the other hand, if they had been obedient to God’s laws, God would be on
their side and no force would be strong enough to conquer them. Obviously, this enraged the man who
intended to conquer the world for King Nebuchadnezzar. Holofernes then expelled Achior to the Israelites to
suffer whatever fate awaited them. The Israelites welcomed Achior and showed him great hospitality.

Judith Enters the Scene
By the time Judith is introduced in the eighth chapter, the Israelites’ water had been cut off and their courage
had failed them. They were crying out to God and complaining to the elders and Uzziah, of the tribe of
Simeon. (There are echoes of the wilderness at this point – people cry out to God for lack of water and rail
against their leaders!) Uzziah tried to encourage them, but finally offered a compromise that only made sense
to him. They should wait for five more days. If God had not sent water within that time, they would surrender
without condition. The people accepted this and went back to their homes.

Judith was a wealthy widow who spent most of her days in solitude, prayer, and fasting. Despite her
seclusion, she heard about the events that had transpired in the town square and sent her maid to invite
Uzziah and the elders to her home posthaste. When they arrive, she first upbraided them for their lack of
faith. She thought they were trying to put God to the test and that was never a good idea. God was free to
choose to help them or not. Then she tells them that they should all know that God would come to their aid
because they had been obedient to his laws. They were not worshiping idols, which essentially confirmed the
Deuteronomic theology as stated by Achior.

The citizens all knew that Bethulia was the last fortress standing between the Assyrian army and Jerusalem,
the capital of Israel. It was inconceivable to Judith that God would allow such destruction at a time when they
had been faithful. So even though she accepted that God was free to choose, she also believed that God
would, indeed, answer those who had been faithful – and God would do this through them! So, in a deep
sense this was not a test of God, but of them. Uzziah and the leaders were persuaded by her wisdom and
wanted Judith to pray with them. She, however, had no intentions of praying for rain; she had a much bolder
plan and told them to “stand by.”

Judith’s Plan
After purifying herself and praying diligently, Judith was ready to go forth. She put aside her garments of
mourning (which she had worn for three and a half years since the death of her husband). She adorned
herself with perfume, fine clothes, and jewelry. She took on the identity of a beautiful seductress. Along with
her maid, she left through the gates of the city. Any men that saw her were immediately awestruck by her
beauty.

It was not long before they approached the Assyrian outpost. The men took her into custody and asked what
in the world she was doing there. She replied that she was fleeing her people because they were about to be
conquered for violating the laws of God (see, how nicely this fits in with Achior’s prophecy!). She asked to see
Holofernes and promised to give him a trustworthy report on how he could take the city without any cost to his
army.

Upon seeing her, Holofernes marveled at the beauty of her face and was only too anxious to be gracious to
her. Despite her promise to give a “trustworthy report,” Judith equivocated with the truth. She said, “I will say
nothing false to my lord.”

Of course Holofernes, thought she was talking about him, but Judith had only one Lord – God. Everything she
said to Holofernes was completely deceptive.She could swear by Nebuchadnezzar because he meant nothing
to her. Swearing by the God of the Israelites was the only swearing that counted. So Judith cunningly wove
words and expounded more Deuteronomic theology – all the while knowing that the Israelites had been a
faithful people. She ended by saying, “God has sent me to accomplish with you things that will astonish the
world.” Again, this is very ironic. Holofernes was thinking along one line, Judith another.

Tricking the Assyrians
For three days, Judith lived in the Assyrian camp, establishing a pattern and gaining their confidence. Early
each morning, she and her maid went out of the camp to pray, which showed her to be in complete control of
the situation. The men continued to be smitten with her beauty to the extent that no one questioned any of
her movements.

On the fourth day, Holofernes planned a huge banquet for his servants that did not include any of his soldiers.
He intended to seduce Judith, yet held her in such high esteem that he was very deferential towards her. She
accepted the invitation to attend, and again dressed up in all her finery. She hinted that Holofernes would have
his way with her, which only heightened his desire for her.

After drinking way too much wine, Holofernes passed out and his servant gently closed the tent leaving Judith
alone with him. She took advantage of the situation and beheaded him, much in the same fashion that Jael
killed Sisera with the tent peg or stake (See Judges 4:17-22). Early in the morning, she and the maid left as
usual to pray, only this time they had his head in their bag. Again, no one stopped or questioned them.

Israel is Saved
Judith and her servant made their way to Bethulia and shouted for the guards to open the gates letting them
in. When all saw the head of Holofernes, there was much rejoicing and praising of God. Achior attested to the
identity of Holofernes and converted to Judaism right on the spot.

The next step in Judith’s plan required that the army prepare to go out later that morning. When the Assyrians
went to awaken their commanders, they would find Holofernes dead. She said they would panic and only then
should the Israelites attack them. Everything worked like clockwork, and just as Judith prophesied. When the
eunuch went to awaken Holofernes, he exclaimed, “One Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of
King Nebuchadnezzar.”

That pretty much summed it up. The Israelites plundered the Assyrian camp for a month. The story ended
with dancing and a song praising God, which echoes the song of Moses at the Red Sea. The elders blessed
Judith, who resumed her solitary life on her estate.

But it is hard to imagine that her life was the same as before this incident. She continued to live on her
husband’s estate and was buried in his tomb. Throughout her story there are echoes of Sarah, Moses (as an
intermediary), and the many judges that God raised up to save his people. Because of Judith, the land had
peace for many years. There is no doubt that she is the idealized person. Her piety is unquestionable, yet
she doesn’t hesitate to lie or use her beauty in the interest of saving the Israelites. She remains a complex
character and one of the esteemed heroines of Judah.

Canonical Status
Like many of the books of the Apocrypha, Judith was part of the early canon in the Christian Bible, but is not
part of the Protestant canon. There are several possible reasons it was not included in the Protestant canon.

The first is perhaps the most disquieting aspect of this book – the role of deceit and the violation of hospitality.
Another is how Judith used the episode of Simeon and Levi in Genesis 34 (the violation of Dinah and the
subsequent killing of the Shechemites) as part of her prayer in 9:2-4. Judith saw them as models to be
emulated for what she was about to do. All these examples, of course, are culturally bound and tied to the
sense of honor and shame.

Also, Nebuchadnezzar’s revenge was occasioned by the refusal of the western nations to join his campaign
against Arphaxad. Holofernes claimed divine status for Nebuchadnezzar, saying “What god is there except
Nebuchadnezzar?” (6:2) Judith intended to decisively answer that question. She understood that it was God’s
honor that was at stake and that the people had a responsibility to safeguard His honor. In that context, deceit
and empty oaths were a necessary means to an end. She also transformed herself as one who was about to
betray her people. Holofernes was so awed by her beauty that he never questioned any of her motives.

Last, of course, is the fact that Judith was a woman during the intertestamental period. She was not the
stereotypical widow – poor and without a place in that society. Indeed, when she invited Uzziah and the elders
to her home, they went. She upbraided them for their poor decisions and lectured them on theological
points. She used her sexuality to deliver an entire town. This hardly fits with what scholars think they know
about the role of women in the first century.

These may be the reasons why the book never became canonical. The book certainly shows a lot of piety and
relies heavily on God (unlike Esther, which never mentions God). Other scholars, however, think it might have
been ignored because of Achior’s conversion. Deuteronomy 23:3 specifically states that an Ammonite or
Moabite should never enter the congregation of the Lord. It is possible that first century rabbis could not
reconcile the two. The simplest suggestion, of course, is that it was written too late to be included.

Outline
There are roughly eight sections to this letter: 1:1-16 – War Between the Kings; 2:1-3:10 –
Nebuchadnezzar’s Revenge; 4:1-7:32 – The Jews Refused to Surrender; 8:1-9:14 – Judith and Her Plan; 10:1
-13:10 – Judith’s Encounter with Holofernes; 13:11-15:7 – The Impact of Holofernes’ Death; 15:8-16:20 –
Victory and Praise; 16:21-25 – Death of Judith

Here’s a quick outline of the entire book.

I – 1:1-16 – War Between the Kings
1:1
Introductory verses
Nebuchadnezzar rules from Nineveh
(In history, however, he ruled from Babylon. His father and the king of Medes combined forces to destroy
Nineveh in 612 BCE. Nebuchadnezzar’s twelfth year would have been 593 BCE. Nineveh was long destroyed
by that time.)
Arphaxad rules over the Medes in Ecbatana
(Ecbatana would have been 300 miles NE of Babylon and 325 miles SE of Nineveh. Arphaxad is unknown as
a Median king.)
1:2-4
Description of the city’s defenses
Ecbatana’s city walls were over 100 feet tall and 75 feet thick (!)
(These dimensions indicate how amazing was Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest of it.)
Their towers were 150 feet tall; the gates were 60 feet wide
1:5-6
Nebuchadnezzar makes war against Ecbatana
Many nations from the hill country join forces with him
1:7-10
Message goes out to all the nations
Nations, both east and south, are enjoined to unite with Nebuchadnezzar
1:11
These nations refused him
They think he is just an ordinary person who thought too big
1:12
Filled with rage, Nebuchadnezzar vows to take revenge on this whole area
Judea part of this region
1:13-16
Defeat of Arphaxad
In the 17th year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar defeat Arphaxad
He and his men return to Nineveh and feast for four months
II – 2:1-3:10 – Nebuchadnezzar’s Revenge
2:1-4
Introduction of Holofernes
The following year, Nebuchadnezzar plans to make good on his promise
He summons Holofernes, the general in command of his army
2:5-13
Instructions to Holofernes
He is to take up to 120,000 soldiers and 12,000 cavalry and march against the region to the west
(The west had refused his call for help)
If the territory surrenders, Holofernes is to wait for Nebuchadnezzar to come
If they did not surrender, Holofernes was to show them no mercy
2:14-28
The first campaign
Holofernes leads the campaign, from Nineveh to Damascus
He ravages all the cities and kills all those who resist him
Fear and dread soon come upon all the cities
Then they sent messengers to him promising peace
3:1-10
Message from the cities to Holofernes
All the cities offer themselves as slaves
They welcome him with garlands and dances
Holofernes demolishes all their shrines and make them worship Nebuchadnezzar
Finally, he makes his way to the edge of Judea
III – 4:1-7:32 – The Jews Refused to Surrender
4:1-15
Judea’s initial reaction
Needless to say, upon hearing of Holofernes’ successes, the Jews were terrified
They alert all the cities near Jerusalem and fortify them as best they can
Joakim, the High Priest, writes to Bethulia telling them to occupy the passes up into the hill country (the idea
was to hold back the army)
Their main concern is to safeguard the Temple in Jerusalem
Mostly, the entire nation cries out to God, fasts, and prostrates themselves
Even the High Priest wears sackcloth in the sanctuary of the Lord
5:1-21
The role of Achior, the Ammonite
When Holofernes hears that the Jews are building their defenses, he is angry
He summons all the generals to gain information about this rebel nation
Achior, the Ammonite, gives him the information he requested
He basically recites Israelite history going back to the time of Abraham, including the Exodus, and their exile
The exile was attributed to their many sins
But now, he continues, they have stopped sinning
He summed it up by saying the Assyrians’ only shot at defeating them would be if the Israelites have been
disobedient towards their God
But if they are innocent, then Holofernes will be unable to conquer them and he will become a laughing stock
to the nations
5:22-6:21 Achior’s reward

5:22-24 Upon hearing Achior’s report, Holofernes’ army blew
off what he had said

6:1-4 Holofernes shared his men’s views
He, too, boasts that he is invincible;
Nebuchadnezzar is the only god

6:5-13 Achior was sent to the Israelites
Since Achior thinks the Jews might prevail, Holofernes sends him over to their side
If they lose, he will be killed with them for saying such treasonous things

6:14-21 The Jews find Achior
The Israelites find him and take him to Bethulia
Achior tells them all about Holofernes’ plans
The Israelites pray day and night for deliverance
7:1-32
The siege against Bethulia
By now Holofernes’ army has increased to 170,000
He brings his men in full strength to camp just outside Bethulia
The following day, they captured their water source
The Ammonites and Moabites joined forces with Holofernes
The Israelites cried out to God even more
They were surrounded on all sides with no possible means of escape
After 34 days, the Isarelites had lost heart
They gathered around Uzziah, from the tribe of Simeon, and all the leaders
They were ready to surrender, to become slaves in order to spare their children
They cried out with a bitter and long lamentation
Uzziah countered with the notion that they should wait for five days
If nothing had happened by then, the city could surrender
With that, the people were sent to their houses, but they were very dejected
IV – 8:1-9:14 – Judith and Her Plan
8:1-8
Introduction of Judith
Judith’s family is noted
She had been a widow for 3 years, 4 months
She had mourned every day since the death of her husband
He had left her plenty of money and servants and fields
No one spoke evil of her
8:9-36
Judith and the Elders
She summoned Uzziah and the Elders to her home for a meeting
She admonished them for testing the Lord
She understood the siege not as abandonment by God but as a test from Him
She didn’t want the people to be idle for five days – waiting for the Lord to act
Instead they should be praying mightily that the Lord would act through them
Uzziah was chastened, but felt he could not alter his agreement
He would wait for five days – and pray for rain to fill the cisterns(!)
Judith said she was under no such restraints
She promised that she would go out with her maid that very evening and that the Lord would deliver Israel
through her hands
She refused to give them any more details
Uzziah and the rulers approved of her proposal (but did not offer to go with her)
9:1-14
Judith’s prayer
Judith prayed that God would hear her
She also prayed that God would defeat the army
Twice, she prayed for deceitful lips – she knew what she intended to do
Basically, she was asking God to help her use deceitful tactics against the enemy
V – 10:1-13:10 – Judith’s Encounter with Holofernes

10:1-17
Preparing to meet Holofernes
After she finished praying, Judith ended her mourning and put on her finest clothes
She also adorned herself with jewelry
She went to the gate where Uzziah and the elders were waiting
They could not believe how amazing she looked
They opened the gate for her and even the guards were smitten with her
Outside the gate, an Assyrian patrol soon stopped her
She told them she was running away from the city because it was about to be destroyed
She offered to give them inside information so they could easily capture Bethulia
The patrol was also smitten by her beauty and hurried to take her to Holofernes
10:18-11:23
Judith and her “inside” information
Word of her arrival in the Assyrian camp spread quickly and all were struck by her beauty
Finally, the guards took her in to see Holofernes
Again, they were all struck by her beauty
She bowed to Holofernes, who immediately asked her to rise
He did not want her to be fearful; indeed, she would be treated as a loyal subject
Judith offered to talk with him in private and tell him the secrets to success
She remembered the advice Achior gave to them
His advice was true, but because of the siege, the Israelites were about to slay and eat unclean food
That was precisely the sin Achior had been alluding to
They were also about to eat the firstfruits of the grain and all the tithes
This, too, would be a grievous sin
Men from Bethulia had gone to Jerusalem to get permission for all this
The minute they returned, the judgment would begin
She offered to go out in the valley each night and wait for the messengers to return
Then she would know when they had started sinning, and he could attack
Once the sinning started, they would have no defense because God would not protect them
Holofernes would be famous for his easy victory
Needless to say, Holofernes and his men were delighted with all she had to say
Again, the author repeated how beautiful she really was
12:1-9
Judith and Holofernes
Holofernes invited her to dinner
She demurred by saying she had brought her own food to eat
Later that evening, she asked to be allowed to leave to pray
Holofernes instructed the guards to let her pass
She went out to the valley of Bethulia where she bathed at the spring
Purified, she returned to the camp
She followed this routine for three days in a row
12:10-20
The banquet
On the fourth day, Holofernes had a banquet for his personal attendants
He told his eunuch to persuade the Hebrew woman to join them so he could have sex with her
In his mind, if he didn’t at least try to seduce her, he thought she would laugh at him
Judith accepted the invitation and proceeded to dress up
She went to the banquet and sat next to Holofernes
He was consumed with desire
He offered her food and a drink
She accepted both, which made him so happy he drank more than ever
13:1-10
Judith killed Holofernes
After the banquet, his attendants closed his tent and left them alone
By this time, Holofernes was passed out from drinking too much
Judith prayed silently for strength
Then she took Holofernes’ sword and beheaded him
She put his head in her sack, then went out “to pray” as was her custom
This time, however, she and her maid went to Bethulia
VI – 13:11-15:7 – The Impact of Holofernes’ Death
13:11-20
Judith arrives at Bethulia
When Judith approached, she called out to the gate keepers to let her in
Everyone came running to welcome her, including all the elders
Judith showed everyone the head of Holofernes
She said that the Lord struck him down by the hand of a female
Yet that same Lord had kept her safe and undefiled
Uzziah said she was more blessed than all other women on earth
He commended her for risking her life and going out boldly to meet disaster
All the people agreed
14:1-10
Judith’s plan
She told the townspeople to hang the head from the parapet of the wall
In the morning, they should march out as though they were ready for war
The Assyrians would go wake their officers and they would find Holofernes
Then they would panic and the Israelites should pursue them
Then Judith asked them to bring Achior to her
Achior had been “banished” to the Israelites by Holofernes for suggesting their God might protect them if they
remained innocent
When Achior saw the head of Holofernes, he fainted
When he rose up, he fell at the feet of Judith and praised her
When Judith told him all that had happened, he believed in the Lord
He was circumcised that very day and joined himself to the house of Israel
14:11-15:7
Panic in the camp
The Israelites did just as Judith suggested and so did the Assyrians
They went to their commanders and told Holofernes’ attendant to wake him up
When the attendant discovered his headless body, he cried out with a loud voice
He shouted to all that “one Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of king Nebuchadnezzar”
When the leaders heard this, they tore their tunics and panic ensued
Upon hearing all the commotion, the men in the tents tried to flee
The Israelites fell upon the enemy and routed them
Then they looted the whole camp, acquiring great riches
VII – 15:8-16:20 – Victory and Praise
15:8-13
Celebration of victory
The High Priest and the elders came to Judith and blessed her
The army gave Judith the tent of Holofernes and all his valuables
All the women of Israel blessed her and danced in her honor
She then led the dance that included all the women and the army
15:14-16:17
Judith’s hymn of praise
This resembles the Song of Moses sung by the Red Sea
She called on the people to proclaim God as the victor and savior
The body of the hymn reviews the events as they happened
She summed up by praising God and inviting all to join in these praises
16:18-20
Celebrations in Jerusalem
The people went to Jerusalem to purify themselves and offer sacrifices
Judith dedicated to God all of Holofernes’ possessions
The people stayed in Jerusalem for three months
VII – 16:21-25 – Death of Judith
Judith returned home to Bethulia and remained on her husband’s estate
Throughout her life, she was honored by the whole country
Many men wished to marry her, but she refused them all
She lived to be 105
Before she passed on, she freed her slaves and distributed all her property to her husband’s next of kin
No one ever again spread terror in the land as long as she was alive

At the end of the book, Judith returned to her life in Bethulia, and yet it is hard to imagine that life was just the
same. She continued to live on her husband’s estate and was buried in his tomb. Throughout her story are
echoes of Sarah, Moses as an intermediary, and the many judges that God raised up to save his people.
Because of Judith, the land had peace for many years. There is no doubt that she is the idealized person.
Her piety is unquestionable, yet she doesn’t hesitate to lie or use her beauty in the interest of saving the
Israelites. She remains a complex character and one of the esteemed heroines of Judah.

Judith Chapter 1:1-16

1 In the twelfth year of the reign of Nabuchodonosor, who reigned in Nineve, the great city; in the days of Arphaxad, which reigned over the Medes in Ecbatane,

2 And built in Ecbatane walls round about of stones hewn three cubits broad and six cubits long, and made the height of the wall seventy cubits, and the breadth thereof fifty cubits:

3 And set the towers thereof upon the gates of it an hundred cubits high, and the breadth thereof in the foundation threescore cubits:

4 And he made the gates thereof, even gates that were raised to the height of seventy cubits, and the breadth of them was forty cubits, for the going forth of his mighty armies, and for the setting in array of his footmen:

5 Even in those days king Nabuchodonosor made war with king Arphaxad in the great plain, which is the plain in the borders of Ragau.

6 And there came unto him all they that dwelt in the hill country, and all that dwelt by Euphrates, and Tigris and Hydaspes, and the plain of Arioch the king of the Elymeans, and very many nations of the sons of Chelod, assembled themselves to the battle.

7 Then Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians sent unto all that dwelt in Persia, and to all that dwelt westward, and to those that dwelt in Cilicia, and Damascus, and Libanus, and Antilibanus, and to all that dwelt upon the sea coast,

8 And to those among the nations that were of Carmel, and Galaad, and the higher Galilee, and the great plain of Esdrelom,

9 And to all that were in Samaria and the cities thereof, and beyond Jordan unto Jerusalem, and Betane, and Chelus, and Kades, and the river of Egypt, and Taphnes, and Ramesse, and all the land of Gesem,

10 Until ye come beyond Tanis and Memphis, and to all the inhabitants of Egypt, until ye come to the borders of Ethiopia.

11 But all the inhabitants of the land made light of the commandment of Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians, neither went they with him to the battle; for they were not afraid of him: yea, he was before them as one man, and they sent away his ambassadors from them without effect, and with disgrace.

12 Therefore Nabuchodonosor was very angry with all this country, and sware by his throne and kingdom, that he would surely be avenged upon all those coasts of Cilicia, and Damascus, and Syria, and that he would slay with the sword all the inhabitants of the land of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and all Judea, and all that were in Egypt, till ye come to the borders of the two seas.

13 Then he marched in battle array with his power against king Arphaxad in the seventeenth year, and he prevailed in his battle: for he overthrew all the power of Arphaxad, and all his horsemen, and all his chariots,

14 And became lord of his cities, and came unto Ecbatane, and took the towers, and spoiled the streets thereof, and turned the beauty thereof into shame.

15 He took also Arphaxad in the mountains of Ragau, and smote him through with his darts, and destroyed him utterly that day.

16 So he returned afterward to Nineve, both he and all his company of sundry nations being a very great multitude of men of war, and there he took his ease, and banqueted, both he and his army, an hundred and twenty days.
Judith Chapter 2:1-28

1 And in the eighteenth year, the two and twentieth day of the first month, there was talk in the house of Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians that he should, as he said, avenge himself on all the earth.

2 So he called unto him all his officers, and all his nobles, and communicated with them his secret counsel, and concluded the afflicting of the whole earth out of his own mouth.

3 Then they decreed to destroy all flesh, that did not obey the commandment of his mouth.

4 And when he had ended his counsel, Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians called Holofernes the chief captain of his army, which was next unto him, and said unto him.

5 Thus saith the great king, the lord of the whole earth, Behold, thou shalt go forth from my presence, and take with thee men that trust in their own strength, of footmen an hundred and twenty thousand; and the number of horses with their riders twelve thousand.

6 And thou shalt go against all the west country, because they disobeyed my commandment.

7 And thou shalt declare unto that they prepare for me earth and water: for I will go forth in my wrath against them and will cover the whole face of the earth with the feet of mine army, and I will give them for a spoil unto them:

8 So that their slain shall fill their valleys and brooks and the river shall be filled with their dead, till it overflow:

9 And I will lead them captives to the utmost parts of all the earth.

10 Thou therefore shalt go forth. and take beforehand for me all their coasts: and if they will yield themselves unto thee, thou shalt reserve them for me till the day of their punishment.

11 But concerning them that rebel, let not thine eye spare them; but put them to the slaughter, and spoil them wheresoever thou goest.

12 For as I live, and by the power of my kingdom, whatsoever I have spoken, that will I do by mine hand.

13 And take thou heed that thou transgress none of the commandments of thy lord, but accomplish them fully, as I have commanded thee, and defer not to do them.

14 Then Holofernes went forth from the presence of his lord, and called all the governors and captains, and the officers of the army of Assur;

15 And he mustered the chosen men for the battle, as his lord had commanded him, unto an hundred and twenty thousand, and twelve thousand archers on horseback;

16 And he ranged them, as a great army is ordered for the war.

17 And he took camels and asses for their carriages, a very great number; and sheep and oxen and goats without number for their provision:

18 And plenty of victual for every man of the army, and very much gold and silver out of the king’s house.

19 Then he went forth and all his power to go before king Nabuchodonosor in the voyage, and to cover all the face of the earth westward with their chariots, and horsemen, and their chosen footmen.

20 A great number also sundry countries came with them like locusts, and like the sand of the earth: for the multitude was without number.

21 And they went forth of Nineve three days’ journey toward the plain of Bectileth, and pitched from Bectileth near the mountain which is at the left hand of the upper Cilicia.

22 Then he took all his army, his footmen, and horsemen and chariots, and went from thence into the hill country;

23 And destroyed Phud and Lud, and spoiled all the children of Rasses, and the children of Israel, which were toward the wilderness at the south of the land of the Chellians.

24 Then he went over Euphrates, and went through Mesopotamia, and destroyed all the high cities that were upon the river Arbonai, till ye come to the sea.

25 And he took the borders of Cilicia, and killed all that resisted him, and came to the borders of Japheth, which were toward the south, over against Arabia.

26 He compassed also all the children of Madian, and burned up their tabernacles, and spoiled their sheepcotes.

27 Then he went down into the plain of Damascus in the time of wheat harvest, and burnt up all their fields, and destroyed their flocks and herds, also he spoiled their cities, and utterly wasted their countries, and smote all their young men with the edge of the sword.

28 Therefore the fear and dread of him fell upon all the inhabitants of the sea coasts, which were in Sidon and Tyrus, and them that dwelt in Sur and Ocina, and all that dwelt in Jemnaan; and they that dwelt in Azotus and Ascalon feared him greatly.
Judith Chapter 3:1-10

1 So they sent ambassadors unto him to treat of peace, saying,

2 Behold, we the servants of Nabuchodonosor the great king lie before thee; use us as shall be good in thy sight.

3 Behold, our houses, and all our places, and all our fields of wheat, and flocks, and herds, and all the lodges of our tents lie before thy face; use them as it pleaseth thee.

4 Behold, even our cities and the inhabitants thereof are thy servants; come and deal with them as seemeth good unto thee.

5 So the men came to Holofernes, and declared unto him after this manner.

6 Then came he down toward the sea coast, both he and his army, and set garrisons in the high cities, and took out of them chosen men for aid.

7 So they and all the country round about received them with garlands, with dances, and with timbrels.

8 Yet he did cast down their frontiers, and cut down their groves: for he had decreed to destroy all the gods of the land, that all nations should worship Nabuchodonosor only, and that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as god.

9 Also he came over against Esdraelon near unto Judea, over against the great strait of Judea.

10 And he pitched between Geba and Scythopolis, and there he tarried a whole month, that he might gather together all the carriages of his army.
Judith Chapter 4:1-15

1 Now the children of Israel, that dwelt in Judea, heard all that Holofernes the chief captain of Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians had done to the nations, and after what manner he had spoiled all their temples, and brought them to nought.

2 Therefore they were exceedingly afraid of him, and were troubled for Jerusalem, and for the temple of the Lord their God:

3 For they were newly returned from the captivity, and all the people of Judea were lately gathered together: and the vessels, and the altar, and the house, were sanctified after the profanation.

4 Therefore they sent into all the coasts of Samaria, and the villages and to Bethoron, and Belmen, and Jericho, and to Choba, and Esora, and to the valley of Salem:

5 And possessed themselves beforehand of all the tops of the high mountains, and fortified the villages that were in them, and laid up victuals for the provision of war: for their fields were of late reaped.

6 Also Joacim the high priest, which was in those days in Jerusalem, wrote to them that dwelt in Bethulia, and Betomestham, which is over against Esdraelon toward the open country, near to Dothaim,

7 Charging them to keep the passages of the hill country: for by them there was an entrance into Judea, and it was easy to stop them that would come up, because the passage was straight, for two men at the most.

8 And the children of Israel did as Joacim the high priest had commanded them, with the ancients of all the people of Israel, which dwelt at Jerusalem.

9 Then every man of Israel cried to God with great fervency, and with great vehemency did they humble their souls:

10 Both they, and their wives and their children, and their cattle, and every stranger and hireling, and their servants bought with money, put sackcloth upon their loins.

11 Thus every man and women, and the little children, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, fell before the temple, and cast ashes upon their heads, and spread out their sackcloth before the face of the Lord: also they put sackcloth about the altar,

12 And cried to the God of Israel all with one consent earnestly, that he would not give their children for a prey, and their wives for a spoil, and the cities of their inheritance to destruction, and the sanctuary to profanation and reproach, and for the nations to rejoice at.

13 So God heard their prayers, and looked upon their afflictions: for the people fasted many days in all Judea and Jerusalem before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty.

14 And Joacim the high priest, and all the priests that stood before the Lord, and they which ministered unto the Lord, had their loins girt with sackcloth, and offered the daily burnt offerings, with the vows and free gifts of the people,

15 And had ashes on their mitres, and cried unto the Lord with all their power, that he would look upon all the house of Israel graciously.
Judith Chapter 5:1-24

1 Then was it declared to Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, that the children of Israel had prepared for war, and had shut up the passages of the hill country, and had fortified all the tops of the high hills and had laid impediments in the champaign countries:

2 Wherewith he was very angry, and called all the princes of Moab, and the captains of Ammon, and all the governors of the sea coast,

3 And he said unto them, Tell me now, ye sons of Chanaan, who this people is, that dwelleth in the hill country, and what are the cities that they inhabit, and what is the multitude of their army, and wherein is their power and strength, and what king is set over them, or captain of their army;

4 And why have they determined not to come and meet me, more than all the inhabitants of the west.

5 Then said Achior, the captain of all the sons of Ammon, Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of thy servant, and I will declare unto thee the truth concerning this people, which dwelleth near thee, and inhabiteth the hill countries: and there shall no lie come out of the mouth of thy servant.

6 This people are descended of the Chaldeans:

7 And they sojourned heretofore in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers, which were in the land of Chaldea.

8 For they left the way of their ancestors, and worshipped the God of heaven, the God whom they knew: so they cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fled into Mesopotamia, and sojourned there many days.

9 Then their God commanded them to depart from the place where they sojourned, and to go into the land of Chanaan: where they dwelt, and were increased with gold and silver, and with very much cattle.

10 But when a famine covered all the land of Chanaan, they went down into Egypt, and sojourned there, while they were nourished, and became there a great multitude, so that one could not number their nation.

11 Therefore the king of Egypt rose up against them, and dealt subtilly with them, and brought them low with labouring in brick, and made them slaves.

12 Then they cried unto their God, and he smote all the land of Egypt with incurable plagues: so the Egyptians cast them out of their sight.

13 And God dried the Red sea before them,

14 And brought them to mount Sina, and Cades-Barne, and cast forth all that dwelt in the wilderness.

15 So they dwelt in the land of the Amorites, and they destroyed by their strength all them of Esebon, and passing over Jordan they possessed all the hill country.

16 And they cast forth before them the Chanaanite, the Pherezite, the Jebusite, and the Sychemite, and all the Gergesites, and they dwelt in that country many days.

17 And whilst they sinned not before their God, they prospered, because the God that hateth iniquity was with them.

18 But when they departed from the way which he appointed them, they were destroyed in many battles very sore, and were led captives into a land that was not their’s, and the temple of their God was cast to the ground, and their cities were taken by the enemies.

19 But now are they returned to their God, and are come up from the places where they were scattered, and have possessed Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is, and are seated in the hill country; for it was desolate.

20 Now therefore, my lord and governor, if there be any error against this people, and they sin against their God, let us consider that this shall be their ruin, and let us go up, and we shall overcome them.

21 But if there be no iniquity in their nation, let my lord now pass by, lest their Lord defend them, and their God be for them, and we become a reproach before all the world.

22 And when Achior had finished these sayings, all the people standing round about the tent murmured, and the chief men of Holofernes, and all that dwelt by the sea side, and in Moab, spake that he should kill him.

23 For, say they, we will not be afraid of the face of the children of Israel: for, lo, it is a people that have no strength nor power for a strong battle

24 Now therefore, lord Holofernes, we will go up, and they shall be a prey to be devoured of all thine army.
Judith Chapter 6:1-21

1 And when the tumult of men that were about the council was ceased, Holofernes the chief captain of the army of Assur said unto Achior and all the Moabites before all the company of other nations,

2 And who art thou, Achior, and the hirelings of Ephraim, that thou hast prophesied against us as to day, and hast said, that we should not make war with the people of Israel, because their God will defend them? and who is God but Nabuchodonosor?

3 He will send his power, and will destroy them from the face of the earth, and their God shall not deliver them: but we his servants will destroy them as one man; for they are not able to sustain the power of our horses.

4 For with them we will tread them under foot, and their mountains shall be drunken with their blood, and their fields shall be filled with their dead bodies, and their footsteps shall not be able to stand before us, for they shall utterly perish, saith king Nabuchodonosor, lord of all the earth: for he said, None of my words shall be in vain.

5 And thou, Achior, an hireling of Ammon, which hast spoken these words in the day of thine iniquity, shalt see my face no more from this day, until I take vengeance of this nation that came out of Egypt.

6 And then shall the sword of mine army, and the multitude of them that serve me, pass through thy sides, and thou shalt fall among their slain, when I return.

7 Now therefore my servants shall bring thee back into the hill country, and shall set thee in one of the cities of the passages:

8 And thou shalt not perish, till thou be destroyed with them.

9 And if thou persuade thyself in thy mind that they shall be taken, let not thy countenance fall: I have spoken it, and none of my words shall be in vain.

10 Then Holofernes commanded his servants, that waited in his tent, to take Achior, and bring him to Bethulia, and deliver him into the hands of the children of Israel.

11 So his servants took him, and brought him out of the camp into the plain, and they went from the midst of the plain into the hill country, and came unto the fountains that were under Bethulia.

12 And when the men of the city saw them, they took up their weapons, and went out of the city to the top of the hill: and every man that used a sling kept them from coming up by casting of stones against them.

13 Nevertheless having gotten privily under the hill, they bound Achior, and cast him down, and left him at the foot of the hill, and returned to their lord.

14 But the Israelites descended from their city, and came unto him, and loosed him, and brought him to Bethulia, and presented him to the governors of the city:

15 Which were in those days Ozias the son of Micha, of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris the son of Gothoniel, and Charmis the son of Melchiel.

16 And they called together all the ancients of the city, and all their youth ran together, and their women, to the assembly, and they set Achior in the midst of all their people. Then Ozias asked him of that which was done.

17 And he answered and declared unto them the words of the council of Holofernes, and all the words that he had spoken in the midst of the princes of Assur, and whatsoever Holofernes had spoken proudly against the house of Israel.

18 Then the people fell down and worshipped God, and cried unto God. saying,

19 O Lord God of heaven, behold their pride, and pity the low estate of our nation, and look upon the face of those that are sanctified unto thee this day.

20 Then they comforted Achior, and praised him greatly.

21 And Ozias took him out of the assembly unto his house, and made a feast to the elders; and they called on the God of Israel all that night for help.
Judith Chapter 7:1-32

1 The next day Holofernes commanded all his army, and all his people which were come to take his part, that they should remove their camp against Bethulia, to take aforehand the ascents of the hill country, and to make war against the children of Israel.

2 Then their strong men removed their camps in that day, and the army of the men of war was an hundred and seventy thousand footmen, and twelve thousand horsemen, beside the baggage, and other men that were afoot among them, a very great multitude.

3 And they camped in the valley near unto Bethulia, by the fountain, and they spread themselves in breadth over Dothaim even to Belmaim, and in length from Bethulia unto Cynamon, which is over against Esdraelon.

4 Now the children of Israel, when they saw the multitude of them, were greatly troubled, and said every one to his neighbour, Now will these men lick up the face of the earth; for neither the high mountains, nor the valleys, nor the hills, are able to bear their weight.

5 Then every man took up his weapons of war, and when they had kindled fires upon their towers, they remained and watched all that night.

6 But in the second day Holofernes brought forth all his horsemen in the sight of the children of Israel which were in Bethulia,

7 And viewed the passages up to the city, and came to the fountains of their waters, and took them, and set garrisons of men of war over them, and he himself removed toward his people.

8 Then came unto him all the chief of the children of Esau, and all the governors of the people of Moab, and the captains of the sea coast, and said,

9 Let our lord now hear a word, that there be not an overthrow in thine army.

10 For this people of the children of Israel do not trust in their spears, but in the height of the mountains wherein they dwell, because it is not easy to come up to the tops of their mountains.

11 Now therefore, my lord, fight not against them in battle array, and there shall not so much as one man of thy people perish.

12 Remain in thy camp, and keep all the men of thine army, and let thy servants get into their hands the fountain of water, which issueth forth of the foot of the mountain:

13 For all the inhabitants of Bethulia have their water thence; so shall thirst kill them, and they shall give up their city, and we and our people shall go up to the tops of the mountains that are near, and will camp upon them, to watch that none go out of the city.

14 So they and their wives and their children shall be consumed with fire, and before the sword come against them, they shall be overthrown in the streets where they dwell.

15 Thus shalt thou render them an evil reward; because they rebelled, and met not thy person peaceably.

16 And these words pleased Holofernes and all his servants, and he appointed to do as they had spoken.

17 So the camp of the children of Ammon departed, and with them five thousand of the Assyrians, and they pitched in the valley, and took the waters, and the fountains of the waters of the children of Israel.

18 Then the children of Esau went up with the children of Ammon, and camped in the hill country over against Dothaim: and they sent some of them toward the south, and toward the east over against Ekrebel, which is near unto Chusi, that is upon the brook Mochmur; and the rest of the army of the Assyrians camped in the plain, and covered the face of the whole land; and their tents and carriages were pitched to a very great multitude.

19 Then the children of Israel cried unto the Lord their God, because their heart failed, for all their enemies had compassed them round about, and there was no way to escape out from among them.

20 Thus all the company of Assur remained about them, both their footmen, chariots, and horsemen, four and thirty days, so that all their vessels of water failed all the inhibitants of Bethulia.

21 And the cisterns were emptied, and they had not water to drink their fill for one day; for they gave them drink by measure.

22 Therefore their young children were out of heart, and their women and young men fainted for thirst, and fell down in the streets of the city, and by the passages of the gates, and there was no longer any strength in them.

23 Then all the people assembled to Ozias, and to the chief of the city, both young men, and women, and children, and cried with a loud voice, and said before all the elders,

24 God be judge between us and you: for ye have done us great injury, in that ye have not required peace of the children of Assur.

25 For now we have no helper: but God hath sold us into their hands, that we should be thrown down before them with thirst and great destruction.

26 Now therefore call them unto you, and deliver the whole city for a spoil to the people of Holofernes, and to all his army.

27 For it is better for us to be made a spoil unto them, than to die for thirst: for we will be his servants, that our souls may live, and not see the death of our infants before our eyes, nor our wives nor our children to die.

28 We take to witness against you the heaven and the earth, and our God and Lord of our fathers, which punisheth us according to our sins and the sins of our fathers, that he do not according as we have said this day.

29 Then there was great weeping with one consent in the midst of the assembly; and they cried unto the Lord God with a loud voice.

30 Then said Ozias to them, Brethren, be of good courage, let us yet endure five days, in the which space the Lord our God may turn his mercy toward us; for he will not forsake us utterly.

31 And if these days pass, and there come no help unto us, I will do according to your word.

32 And he dispersed the people, every one to their own charge; and they went unto the walls and towers of their city, and sent the women and children into their houses: and they were very low brought in the city.
Judith Chapter 8:1-36

1 Now at that time Judith heard thereof, which was the daughter of Merari, the son of Ox, the son of Joseph, the son of Ozel, the son of Elcia, the son of Ananias, the son of Gedeon, the son of Raphaim, the son of Acitho, the son of Eliu, the son of Eliab, the son of Nathanael, the son of Samael, the son of Salasadal, the son of Israel.

2 And Manasses was her husband, of her tribe and kindred, who died in the barley harvest.

3 For as he stood overseeing them that bound sheaves in the field, the heat came upon his head, and he fell on his bed, and died in the city of Bethulia: and they buried him with his fathers in the field between Dothaim and Balamo.

4 So Judith was a widow in her house three years and four months.

5 And she made her a tent upon the top of her house, and put on sackcloth upon her loins and ware her widow’s apparel.

6 And she fasted all the days of her widowhood, save the eves of the sabbaths, and the sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons, and the new moons and the feasts and solemn days of the house of Israel.

7 She was also of a goodly countenance, and very beautiful to behold: and her husband Manasses had left her gold, and silver, and menservants and maidservants, and cattle, and lands; and she remained upon them.

8 And there was none that gave her an ill word; ar she feared God greatly.

9 Now when she heard the evil words of the people against the governor, that they fainted for lack of water; for Judith had heard all the words that Ozias had spoken unto them, and that he had sworn to deliver the city unto the Assyrians after five days;

10 Then she sent her waitingwoman, that had the government of all things that she had, to call Ozias and Chabris and Charmis, the ancients of the city.

11 And they came unto her, and she said unto them, Hear me now, O ye governors of the inhabitants of Bethulia: for your words that ye have spoken before the people this day are not right, touching this oath which ye made and pronounced between God and you, and have promised to deliver the city to our enemies, unless within these days the Lord turn to help you.

12 And now who are ye that have tempted God this day, and stand instead of God among the children of men?

13 And now try the Lord Almighty, but ye shall never know any thing.

14 For ye cannot find the depth of the heart of man, neither can ye perceive the things that he thinketh: then how can ye search out God, that hath made all these things, and know his mind, or comprehend his purpose? Nay, my brethren, provoke not the Lord our God to anger.

15 For if he will not help us within these five days, he hath power to defend us when he will, even every day, or to destroy us before our enemies.

16 Do not bind the counsels of the Lord our God: for God is not as man, that he may be threatened; neither is he as the son of man, that he should be wavering.

17 Therefore let us wait for salvation of him, and call upon him to help us, and he will hear our voice, if it please him.

18 For there arose none in our age, neither is there any now in these days neither tribe, nor family, nor people, nor city among us, which worship gods made with hands, as hath been aforetime.

19 For the which cause our fathers were given to the sword, and for a spoil, and had a great fall before our enemies.

20 But we know none other god, therefore we trust that he will not dispise us, nor any of our nation.

21 For if we be taken so, all Judea shall lie waste, and our sanctuary shall be spoiled; and he will require the profanation thereof at our mouth.

22 And the slaughter of our brethren, and the captivity of the country, and the desolation of our inheritance, will he turn upon our heads among the Gentiles, wheresoever we shall be in bondage; and we shall be an offence and a reproach to all them that possess us.

23 For our servitude shall not be directed to favour: but the Lord our God shall turn it to dishonour.

24 Now therefore, O brethren, let us shew an example to our brethren, because their hearts depend upon us, and the sanctuary, and the house, and the altar, rest upon us.

25 Moreover let us give thanks to the Lord our God, which trieth us, even as he did our fathers.

26 Remember what things he did to Abraham, and how he tried Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Mesopotamia of Syria, when he kept the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother.

27 For he hath not tried us in the fire, as he did them, for the examination of their hearts, neither hath he taken vengeance on us: but the Lord doth scourge them that come near unto him, to admonish them.

28 Then said Ozias to her, All that thou hast spoken hast thou spoken with a good heart, and there is none that may gainsay thy words.

29 For this is not the first day wherein thy wisdom is manifested; but from the beginning of thy days all the people have known thy understanding, because the disposition of thine heart is good.

30 But the people were very thirsty, and compelled us to do unto them as we have spoken, and to bring an oath upon ourselves, which we will not break.

31 Therefore now pray thou for us, because thou art a godly woman, and the Lord will send us rain to fill our cisterns, and we shall faint no more.

32 Then said Judith unto them, Hear me, and I will do a thing, which shall go throughout all generations to the children of our nation.

33 Ye shall stand this night in the gate, and I will go forth with my waitingwoman: and within the days that ye have promised to deliver the city to our enemies the Lord will visit Israel by mine hand.

34 But enquire not ye of mine act: for I will not declare it unto you, till the things be finished that I do.

35 Then said Ozias and the princes unto her, Go in peace, and the Lord God be before thee, to take vengeance on our enemies.

36 So they returned from the tent, and went to their wards.
Judith Chapter 9:1-14

1 Judith fell upon her face, and put ashes upon her head, and uncovered the sackcloth wherewith she was clothed; and about the time that the incense of that evening was offered in Jerusalem in the house of the Lord Judith cried with a loud voice, and said,

2 O Lord God of my father Simeon, to whom thou gavest a sword to take vengeance of the strangers, who loosened the girdle of a maid to defile her, and discovered the thigh to her shame, and polluted her virginity to her reproach; for thou saidst, It shall not be so; and yet they did so:

3 Wherefore thou gavest their rulers to be slain, so that they dyed their bed in blood, being deceived, and smotest the servants with their lords, and the lords upon their thrones;

4 And hast given their wives for a prey, and their daughters to be captives, and all their spoils to be divided among thy dear children; which were moved with thy zeal, and abhorred the pollution of their blood, and called upon thee for aid: O God, O my God, hear me also a widow.

5 For thou hast wrought not only those things, but also the things which fell out before, and which ensued after; thou hast thought upon the things which are now, and which are to come.

6 Yea, what things thou didst determine were ready at hand, and said, Lo, we are here: for all thy ways are prepared, and thy judgments are in thy foreknowledge.

7 For, behold, the Assyrians are multiplied in their power; they are exalted with horse and man; they glory in the strength of their footmen; they trust in shield, and spear, and bow, and sling; and know not that thou art the Lord that breakest the battles: the Lord is thy name.

8 Throw down their strength in thy power, and bring down their force in thy wrath: for they have purposed to defile thy sanctuary, and to pollute the tabernacle where thy glorious name resteth and to cast down with sword the horn of thy altar.

9 Behold their pride, and send thy wrath upon their heads: give into mine hand, which am a widow, the power that I have conceived.

10 Smite by the deceit of my lips the servant with the prince, and the prince with the servant: break down their stateliness by the hand of a woman.

11 For thy power standeth not in multitude nor thy might in strong men: for thou art a God of the afflicted, an helper of the oppressed, an upholder of the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a saviour of them that are without hope.

12 I pray thee, I pray thee, O God of my father, and God of the inheritance of Israel, Lord of the heavens and earth, Creator of the waters, king of every creature, hear thou my prayer:

13 And make my speech and deceit to be their wound and stripe, who have purposed cruel things against thy covenant, and thy hallowed house, and against the top of Sion, and against the house of the possession of thy children.

14 And make every nation and tribe to acknowledge that thou art the God of all power and might, and that there is none other that protecteth the people of Israel but thou.
Judith Chapter 10:1-23

1 Now after that she had ceased to cry unto the God of Israel, and bad made an end of all these words.

2 She rose where she had fallen down, and called her maid, and went down into the house in the which she abode in the sabbath days, and in her feast days,

3 And pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and put off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it, and put on her garments of gladness, wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband.

4 And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her earrings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely, to allure the eyes of all men that should see her.

5 Then she gave her maid a bottle of wine, and a cruse of oil, and filled a bag with parched corn, and lumps of figs, and with fine bread; so she folded all these things together, and laid them upon her.

6 Thus they went forth to the gate of the city of Bethulia, and found standing there Ozias and the ancients of the city, Chabris and Charmis.

7 And when they saw her, that her countenance was altered, and her apparel was changed, they wondered at her beauty very greatly, and said unto her.

8 The God, the God of our fathers give thee favour, and accomplish thine enterprizes to the glory of the children of Israel, and to the exaltation of Jerusalem. Then they worshipped God.

9 And she said unto them, Command the gates of the city to be opened unto me, that I may go forth to accomplish the things whereof ye have spoken with me. So they commanded the young men to open unto her, as she had spoken.

10 And when they had done so, Judith went out, she, and her maid with her; and the men of the city looked after her, until she was gone down the mountain, and till she had passed the valley, and could see her no more.

11 Thus they went straight forth in the valley: and the first watch of the Assyrians met her,

12 And took her, and asked her, Of what people art thou? and whence comest thou? and whither goest thou? And she said, I am a woman of the Hebrews, and am fled from them: for they shall be given you to be consumed:

13 And I am coming before Holofernes the chief captain of your army, to declare words of truth; and I will shew him a way, whereby he shall go, and win all the hill country, without losing the body or life of any one of his men.

14 Now when the men heard her words, and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty, and said unto her,

15 Thou hast saved thy life, in that thou hast hasted to come down to the presence of our lord: now therefore come to his tent, and some of us shall conduct thee, until they have delivered thee to his hands.

16 And when thou standest before him, be not afraid in thine heart, but shew unto him according to thy word; and he will entreat thee well.

17 Then they chose out of them an hundred men to accompany her and her maid; and they brought her to the tent of Holofernes.

18 Then was there a concourse throughout all the camp: for her coming was noised among the tents, and they came about her, as she stood without the tent of Holofernes, till they told him of her.

19 And they wondered at her beauty, and admired the children of Israel because of her, and every one said to his neighbour, Who would despise this people, that have among them such women? surely it is not good that one man of them be left who being let go might deceive the whole earth.

20 And they that lay near Holofernes went out, and all his servants and they brought her into the tent.

21 Now Holofernes rested upon his bed under a canopy, which was woven with purple, and gold, and emeralds, and precious stones.

22 So they shewed him of her; and he came out before his tent with silver lamps going before him.

23 And when Judith was come before him and his servants they all marvelled at the beauty of her countenance; and she fell down upon her face, and did reverence unto him: and his servants took her up.
Judith Chapter 11:1-23

1 Then said Holofernes unto her, Woman, be of good comfort, fear not in thine heart: for I never hurt any that was willing to serve Nabuchodonosor, the king of all the earth.

2 Now therefore, if thy people that dwelleth in the mountains had not set light by me, I would not have lifted up my spear against them: but they have done these things to themselves.

3 But now tell me wherefore thou art fled from them, and art come unto us: for thou art come for safeguard; be of good comfort, thou shalt live this night, and hereafter:

4 For none shall hurt thee, but entreat thee well, as they do the servants of king Nabuchodonosor my lord.

5 Then Judith said unto him, Receive the words of thy servant, and suffer thine handmaid to speak in thy presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord this night.

6 And if thou wilt follow the words of thine handmaid, God will bring the thing perfectly to pass by thee; and my lord shall not fail of his purposes.

7 As Nabuchodonosor king of all the earth liveth, and as his power liveth, who hath sent thee for the upholding of every living thing: for not only men shall serve him by thee, but also the beasts of the field, and the cattle, and the fowls of the air, shall live by thy power under Nabuchodonosor and all his house.

8 For we have heard of thy wisdom and thy policies, and it is reported in all the earth, that thou only art excellent in all the kingdom, and mighty in knowledge, and wonderful in feats of war.

9 Now as concerning the matter, which Achior did speak in thy council, we have heard his words; for the men of Bethulia saved him, and he declared unto them all that he had spoken unto thee.

10 Therefore, O lord and governor, respect not his word; but lay it up in thine heart, for it is true: for our nation shall not be punished, neither can sword prevail against them, except they sin against their God.

11 And now, that my lord be not defeated and frustrate of his purpose, even death is now fallen upon them, and their sin hath overtaken them, wherewith they will provoke their God to anger whensoever they shall do that which is not fit to be done:

12 For their victuals fail them, and all their water is scant, and they have determined to lay hands upon their cattle, and purposed to consume all those things, that God hath forbidden them to eat by his laws:

13 And are resolved to spend the firstfruits of the the tenths of wine and oil, which they had sanctified, and reserved for the priests that serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God; the which things it is not lawful for any of the people so much as to touch with their hands.

14 For they have sent some to Jerusalem, because they also that dwell there have done the like, to bring them a licence from the senate.

15 Now when they shall bring them word, they will forthwith do it, and they shall be given to thee to be destroyed the same day.

16 Wherefore I thine handmaid, knowing all this, am fled from their presence; and God hath sent me to work things with thee, whereat all the earth shall be astonished, and whosoever shall hear it.

17 For thy servant is religious, and serveth the God of heaven day and night: now therefore, my lord, I will remain with thee, and thy servant will go out by night into the valley, and I will pray unto God, and he will tell me when they have committed their sins:

18 And I will come and shew it unto thee: then thou shalt go forth with all thine army, and there shall be none of them that shall resist thee.

19 And I will lead thee through the midst of Judea, until thou come before Jerusalem; and I will set thy throne in the midst thereof; and thou shalt drive them as sheep that have no shepherd, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth at thee: for these things were told me according to my foreknowledge, and they were declared unto me, and I am sent to tell thee.

20 Then her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; and they marvelled at her wisdom, and said,

21 There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face, and wisdom of words.

22 Likewise Holofernes said unto her. God hath done well to send thee before the people, that strength might be in our hands and destruction upon them that lightly regard my lord.

23 And now thou art both beautiful in thy countenance, and witty in thy words: surely if thou do as thou hast spoken thy God shall be my God, and thou shalt dwell in the house of king Nabuchodonosor, and shalt be renowned through the whole earth.
Judith Chapter 12:1-20

1 Then he commanded to bring her in where his plate was set; and bade that they should prepare for her of his own meats, and that she should drink of his own wine.

2 And Judith said, I will not eat thereof, lest there be an offence: but provision shall be made for me of the things that I have brought.

3 Then Holofernes said unto her, If thy provision should fail, how should we give thee the like? for there be none with us of thy nation.

4 Then said Judith unto him As thy soul liveth, my lord, thine handmaid shall not spend those things that I have, before the Lord work by mine hand the things that he hath determined.

5 Then the servants of Holofernes brought her into the tent, and she slept till midnight, and she arose when it was toward the morning watch,

6 And sent to Holofernes, saying, Let my lord now command that thine handmaid may go forth unto prayer.

7 Then Holofernes commanded his guard that they should not stay her: thus she abode in the camp three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia, and washed herself in a fountain of water by the camp.

8 And when she came out, she besought the Lord God of Israel to direct her way to the raising up of the children of her people.

9 So she came in clean, and remained in the tent, until she did eat her meat at evening.

10 And in the fourth day Holofernes made a feast to his own servants only, and called none of the officers to the banquet.

11 Then said he to Bagoas the eunuch, who had charge over all that he had, Go now, and persuade this Hebrew woman which is with thee, that she come unto us, and eat and drink with us.

12 For, lo, it will be a shame for our person, if we shall let such a woman go, not having had her company; for if we draw her not unto us, she will laugh us to scorn.

13 Then went Bagoas from the presence of Holofernes, and came to her, and he said, Let not this fair damsel fear to come to my lord, and to be honoured in his presence, and drink wine, and be merry with us and be made this day as one of the daughters of the Assyrians, which serve in the house of Nabuchodonosor.

14 Then said Judith unto him, Who am I now, that I should gainsay my lord? surely whatsoever pleaseth him I will do speedily, and it shall be my joy unto the day of my death.

15 So she arose, and decked herself with her apparel and all her woman’s attire, and her maid went and laid soft skins on the ground for her over against Holofernes, which she had received of Bagoas for her daily use, that she might sit and eat upon them.

16 Now when Judith came in and sat down, Holofernes his heart was ravished with her, and his mind was moved, and he desired greatly her company; for he waited a time to deceive her, from the day that he had seen her.

17 Then said Holofernes unto her, Drink now, and be merry with us.

18 So Judith said, I will drink now, my lord, because my life is magnified in me this day more than all the days since I was born.

19 Then she took and ate and drank before him what her maid had prepared.

20 And Holofernes took great delight in her, and drank more wine than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born.
Judith Chapter 13:1-20

1 Now when the evening was come, his servants made haste to depart, and Bagoas shut his tent without, and dismissed the waiters from the presence of his lord; and they went to their beds: for they were all weary, because the feast had been long.

2 And Judith was left along in the tent, and Holofernes lying along upon his bed: for he was filled with wine.

3 Now Judith had commanded her maid to stand without her bedchamber, and to wait for her. coming forth, as she did daily: for she said she would go forth to her prayers, and she spake to Bagoas according to the same purpose.

4 So all went forth and none was left in the bedchamber, neither little nor great. Then Judith, standing by his bed, said in her heart, O Lord God of all power, look at this present upon the works of mine hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem.

5 For now is the time to help thine inheritance, and to execute thine enterprizes to the destruction of the enemies which are risen against us.

6 Then she came to the pillar of the bed, which was at Holofernes’ head, and took down his fauchion from thence,

7 And approached to his bed, and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, this day.

8 And she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him.

9 And tumbled his body down from the bed, and pulled down the canopy from the pillars; and anon after she went forth, and gave Holofernes his head to her maid;

10 And she put it in her bag of meat: so they twain went together according to their custom unto prayer: and when they passed the camp, they compassed the valley, and went up the mountain of Bethulia, and came to the gates thereof.

11 Then said Judith afar off, to the watchmen at the gate, Open, open now the gate: God, even our God, is with us, to shew his power yet in Jerusalem, and his forces against the enemy, as he hath even done this day.

12 Now when the men of her city heard her voice, they made haste to go down to the gate of their city, and they called the elders of the city.

13 And then they ran all together, both small and great, for it was strange unto them that she was come: so they opened the gate, and received them, and made a fire for a light, and stood round about them.

14 Then she said to them with a loud voice, Praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he hath not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but hath destroyed our enemies by mine hands this night.

15 So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman.

16 As the Lord liveth, who hath kept me in my way that I went, my countenance hath deceived him to his destruction, and yet hath he not committed sin with me, to defile and shame me.

17 Then all the people were wonderfully astonished, and bowed themselves and worshipped God, and said with one accord, Blessed be thou, O our God, which hast this day brought to nought the enemies of thy people.

18 Then said Ozias unto her, O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies.

19 For this thy confidence shall not depart from the heart of men, which remember the power of God for ever.

Judith and Holofernes

Judith and Holofernes

20 And God turn these things to thee for a perpetual praise, to visit thee in good things because thou hast not spared thy life for the affliction of our nation, but hast revenged our ruin, walking a straight way before our God. And all the people said; So be it, so be it.
Judith Chapter 14:1-19

1 Then said Judith unto them, Hear me now, my brethren, and take this head, and hang it upon the highest place of your walls.

2 And so soon as the morning shall appear, and the sun shall come forth upon the earth, take ye every one his weapons, and go forth every valiant man out of the city, and set ye a captain over them, as though ye would go down into the field toward the watch of the Assyrians; but go not down.

3 Then they shall take their armour, and shall go into their camp, and raise up the captains of the army of Assur, and shall run to the tent of Holofernes, but shall not find him: then fear shall fall upon them, and they shall flee before your face.

4 So ye, and all that inhabit the coast of Israel, shall pursue them, and overthrow them as they go.

5 But before ye do these things, call me Achior the Ammonite, that he may see and know him that despised the house of Israel, and that sent him to us as it were to his death.

6 Then they called Achior out of the house of Ozias; and when he was come, and saw the head of Holofernes in a man’s hand in the assembly of the people, he fell down on his face, and his spirit failed.

7 But when they had recovered him, he fell at Judith’s feet, and reverenced her, and said, Blessed art thou in all the tabernacles of Juda, and in all nations, which hearing thy name shall be astonished.

8 Now therefore tell me all the things that thou hast done in these days. Then Judith declared unto him in the midst of the people all that she had done, from the day that she went forth until that hour she spake unto them.

9 And when she had left off speaking, the people shouted with a loud voice, and made a joyful noise in their city.

10 And when Achior had seen all that the God of Israel had done, he believed in God greatly, and circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined unto the house of Israel unto this day.

11 And as soon as the morning arose, they hanged the head of Holofernes upon the wall, and every man took his weapons, and they went forth by bands unto the straits of the mountain.

12 But when the Assyrians saw them, they sent to their leaders, which came to their captains and tribunes, and to every one of their rulers.

13 So they came to Holofernes’ tent, and said to him that had the charge of all his things, Waken now our lord: for the slaves have been bold to come down against us to battle, that they may be utterly destroyed.

14 Then went in Bagoas, and knocked at the door of the tent; for he thought that he had slept with Judith.

15 But because none answered, he opened it, and went into the bedchamber, and found him cast upon the floor dead, and his head was taken from him.

16 Therefore he cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and sighing, and a mighty cry, and rent his garments.

17 After he went into the tent where Judith lodged: and when he found her not, he leaped out to the people, and cried,

18 These slaves have dealt treacherously; one woman of the Hebrews hath brought shame upon the house of king Nabuchodonosor: for, behold, Holofernes lieth upon the ground without a head.

19 When the captains of the Assyrians’ army heard these words, they rent their coats and their minds were wonderfully troubled, and there was a cry and a very great noise throughout the camp.
Judith Chapter 15:1-13

1 And when they that were in the tents heard, they were astonished at the thing that was done.

2 And fear and trembling fell upon them, so that there was no man that durst abide in the sight of his neighbour, but rushing out all together, they fled into every way of the plain, and of the hill country.

3 They also that had camped in the mountains round about Bethulia fled away. Then the children of Israel, every one that was a warrior among them, rushed out upon them.

4 Then sent Ozias to Betomasthem, and to Bebai, and Chobai, and Cola and to all the coasts of Israel, such as should tell the things that were done, and that all should rush forth upon their enemies to destroy them.

5 Now when the children of Israel heard it, they all fell upon them with one consent, and slew them unto Chobai: likewise also they that came from Jerusalem, and from all the hill country, (for men had told them what things were done in the camp of their enemies) and they that were in Galaad, and in Galilee, chased them with a great slaughter, until they were past Damascus and the borders thereof.

6 And the residue that dwelt at Bethulia, fell upon the camp of Assur, and spoiled them, and were greatly enriched.

7 And the children of Israel that returned from the slaughter had that which remained; and the villages and the cities, that were in the mountains and in the plain, gat many spoils: for the multitude was very great.

8 Then Joacim the high priest, and the ancients of the children of Israel that dwelt in Jerusalem, came to behold the good things that God had shewed to Israel, and to see Judith, and to salute her.

9 And when they came unto her, they blessed her with one accord, and said unto her, Thou art the exaltation of Jerusalem, thou art the great glory of Israel, thou art the great rejoicing of our nation:

10 Thou hast done all these things by thine hand: thou hast done much good to Israel, and God is pleased therewith: blessed be thou of the Almighty Lord for evermore. And all the people said, So be it.

11 And the people spoiled the camp the space of thirty days: and they gave unto Judith Holofernes his tent, and all his plate, and beds, and vessels, and all his stuff: and she took it and laid it on her mule; and made ready her carts, and laid them thereon.

12 Then all the women of Israel ran together to see her, and blessed her, and made a dance among them for her: and she took branches in her hand, and gave also to the women that were with her.

13 And they put a garland of olive upon her and her maid that was with her, and she went before all the people in the dance, leading all the women: and all the men of Israel followed in their armour with garlands, and with songs in their mouths.
Judith Chapter 16:1-25

1 Then Judith began to sing this thanksgiving in all Israel, and all the people sang after her this song of praise.

2 And Judith said, Begin unto my God with timbrels, sing unto my Lord with cymbals: tune unto him a new psalm: exalt him, and call upon his name.

3 For God breaketh the battles: for among the camps in the midst of the people he hath delivered me out of the hands of them that persecuted me.

4 Assur came out of the mountains from the north, he came with ten thousands of his army, the multitude whereof stopped the torrents, and their horsemen have covered the hills.

5 He bragged that he would burn up my borders, and kill my young men with the sword, and dash the sucking children against the ground, and make mine infants as a prey, and my virgins as a spoil.

6 But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman.

7 For the mighty one did not fall by the young men, neither did the sons of the Titans smite him, nor high giants set upon him: but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her countenance.

8 For she put off the garment of her widowhood for the exaltation of those that were oppressed in Israel, and anointed her face with ointment, and bound her hair in a tire, and took a linen garment to deceive him.

9 Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty took his mind prisoner, and the fauchion passed through his neck.

10 The Persians quaked at her boldness, and the Medes were daunted at her hardiness.

11 Then my afflicted shouted for joy, and my weak ones cried aloud; but they were astonished: these lifted up their voices, but they were overthrown.

12 The sons of the damsels have pierced them through, and wounded them as fugatives’ children: they perished by the battle of the Lord.

13 I will sing unto the Lord a new song: O Lord, thou art great and glorious, wonderful in strength, and invincible.

14 Let all creatures serve thee: for thou spakest, and they were made, thou didst send forth thy spirit, and it created them, and there is none that can resist thy voice.

15 For the mountains shall be moved from their foundations with the waters, the rocks shall melt as wax at thy presence: yet thou art merciful to them that fear thee.

16 For all sacrifice is too little for a sweet savour unto thee, and all the fat is not sufficient for thy burnt offering: but he that feareth the Lord is great at all times.

17 Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! the Lord Almighty will take vengeance of them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh; and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.

18 Now as soon as they entered into Jerusalem, they worshipped the Lord; and as soon as the people were purified, they offered their burnt offerings, and their free offerings, and their gifts.

19 Judith also dedicated all the stuff of Holofernes, which the people had given her, and gave the canopy, which she had taken out of his bedchamber, for a gift unto the Lord.

20 So the people continued feasting in Jerusalem before the sanctuary for the space of three months and Judith remained with them.

21 After this time every one returned to his own inheritance, and Judith went to Bethulia, and remained in her own possession, and was in her time honourable in all the country.

22 And many desired her, but none knew her all the days of her life, after that Manasses her husband was dead, and was gathered to his people.

23 But she increased more and more in honour, and waxed old in her husband’s house, being an hundred and five years old, and made her maid free; so she died in Bethulia: and they buried her in the cave of her husband Manasses.

24 And the house of Israel lamented her seven days: and before she died, she did distribute her goods to all them that were nearest of kindred to Manasses her husband, and to them that were the nearest of her kindred.

25 And there was none that made the children of Israel any more afraid in the days of Judith, nor a long time after her death.

This is the end of Judith.

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