Tag Archives: rapture

An Antichrist or The Antichrist

Antichrists are here today

An Antichrist or The Antichrist. The book of Revelation is an enigma to most people.  Many have heard about the antichrist.  Who is the antichrist?  Does the Bible describe the antichrist?  Does the Bible tell us who the antichrist is?  Does the Bible teach where the antichrist will come from?  How can we know who the antichrist is when they come?  What will the antichrist be like so we can realize who it is?

Two Types of Antichrists

Anti means opposed to or someone who is against whatever the prefix is attached.  Anti can also mean in place of as we will find in the book of Revelation.  Thus, to be antichrist means to be opposed to Christ or to place oneself in His place.  The Bible actually describes two different antichrists.  In fact, antichrists are here today.  We don’t have to look toward the future for the arrival of the antichrist because there are in the world today.  But the antichrist is not the same as the antichrist.

The apostle John talks about the antichrist but he differentiates the difference between the two antichrists that exist.  One is the antichrist with the small “a”.   Then, there is the Antichrist.  That is the one that is capitalized.  One is a proper noun meaning it is a specific person.  The non-capitalized antichrist speaks of several who are antichrists.

A Definition of an Antichrist

The small “a” antichrist is only recorded in the Bible three times.  The antichrist is anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh or that He was both man and God.  By denying this, they also deny the Father and the Son, as stated by the apostle John in I John 2:22, “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist denying the Father and the Son.”  As John says in I John 4:3, they were already living in his day as he testified, “but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”  Anyone who denies that Jesus is from God and did not come in the flesh is saying God is a liar (John 1:14).   John says further, “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist“(II John 1:7).

The Antichrist

The apostle Paul speaks of a specific person as the Antichrist, although not using the name specifically, it is nonetheless the same thing he wrote about in II Thessalonians verses 3 and 8, “Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming.”

Revelation chapter 13 describes a deceiving imitation of the Trinity that includes Satan, the False Prophet, and the antichrist.  The dragon is what is often referred to as Satan throughout the Bible and is clearly identified as Satan (Rev. 12:9).  The beast and the false prophet who comes next (Rev. 13:11) will be given power by Satan and they will rule the world for 42 months during the time of what is called The Great Tribulation (Rev. 13:5-7).  They will rule over the earth and place themselves in the place of God and demand to be worshipped (Rev.13:4).  The beast of Revelation 13:11 is the third person of the evil trinity that mimics the Holy Trinity of God, performing signs and wonders that will deceive the world (Rev. 13:13-14).

Safely Delivered From the Antichrist

No one that is saved today and has been born again has to worry about the antichrist who lives in the world today or the Antichrist that is to come.  God will pour out His wrath upon the unsaved world in the Great Tribulation but He has not appointed those who are His to wrath (I Thess. 5:9).  Just after Jesus raptures His church out of the world, the world will see such a time that it has never seen before (Matt 24:21).  Daniel 12:1 explains that this will be the worst time that has ever been experienced for humans on earth “At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people–everyone whose name is found written in the book will be delivered.”

The Gospel

If you are not saved, then you may have to go through the Great Tribulation and it will be, as Daniel wrote and as Jesus said, it will be the worst time in human history since there were nations that existed.  I would hope that today, if you are not a Christian, you could be born-again this very moment.  When a person believes in Jesus Christ and places their life in Him and trusts in the atoning work of the cross, they are safe from the wrath of God and will be found worthy to escape the wrath of God in the Great Tribulation.  This free gift of faith came at great cost to Jesus Christ but His blood has paved the way for anyone who wants to be saved to be sparred from eternal judgment and to spend eternity with God in heaven.

Decide today and you will never have such a worry again about your future for you will be placed under His protection.  Then you can warn others of the coming Great Tribulation and tell them of a way to escape the wrath of God and avoid having to worry about the Antichrist.  Then find a Bible-believing church where the cross of Christ is preached and the Bible is taught and join a Sunday school class where you can begin to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Are we Living in the End Times

It has been said, ‘things have always been bad haven’t they? All through history are horrible stories of man’s ability to preform evil acts against others. In this day and age we are able to hear more about these things and much quicker. Our world has been in bad times from the beginning, I would say from the time Adam took the first bite from forbidden fruit. Jesus spoke of it two thousands years or so ago and I agree, we have been in the end times since then and no one knows when that will be except, The Almighty God.’ and some have said, ‘I think the end times began as soon as they were mentioned in the New Testament. Everyone who has lived since then until now, and in the future, is living in the End Times.
We think the world is bad now, and it is going wrongful. But I believe it can and might get a lot worse. Think of what it may be like in a 100 years from now. Things are just going to keep on getting worse because the Bible says so. But what we are seeing could be mild compared to what we can’t even fathom 100 or more years from now.  So, the End Times have been going on for 2,000 years.’

But is that what the Bible says? The Bible prophesies of many events that will occur in the end times. These events can be categorized as natural signs, spiritual signs, sociological signs, technological signs, and political signs. We can look to what the Bible says about these things, and if the signs are present in abundance, we can be certain that we are, in fact, living in the end times.

Luke 21:11 lists some of the natural signs that will occur before Jesus’ Second Coming: “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” In 13 years, between 1991 and 2004, the United States alone has experienced 5 of its costliest hurricanes in history, 3 of its 4 largest tornado swarms in history, and 9 of the 10 greatest disasters as determined by FEMA. We have recently seen Hurricane Sandy, which some have called the “perfect storm.” There is a huge upswing in the prevalence of sinkholes. As for great signs from heaven, we’ve seen the Chelyabinsk meteor, which exploded over Russia, emitting a powerful shock wave. All of these events seem to be a warm up to what is coming next “birth pangs,” as Jesus called them (Matthew 24:8).

The Bible lists both positive and negative spiritual signs. In 2 Timothy 4:3-4 we discover that many people will follow false teachers. We see now an increase in cultic groups, heresy, deception and occultism, with many choosing to follow new age or pagan religions. On the positive side, Joel 2:28-29 prophesies that there will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Joel’s prophecy was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16), and we are still seeing the effects of that outpouring in revivals and Spirit-led Christian movements, worldwide preaching of the gospel message, and the emergence of Messianic Judaism.

Along with the signs in the natural and spiritual realms, there are signs in society. The immorality rampant in society today is a symptom of mankind’s rebellion against God. Abortion, homosexuality, drug abuse and child molestation are proof that “evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse” (2 Timothy 3:13). We are now living in a hedonistic and materialistic society. People are lovers of themselves  “looking out for number one”  and doing what is right in their own eyes. All these things, and many more, can be seen around us every day (see 2 Timothy 3:1-4).

The fulfillment of some end time prophecies seemed impossible until the advent of modern technology. Daniel 12:4 foretold an increase in knowledge. Most are just going to answer the question the title asks without reading the post. When people ‘think’ they have ‘ultimate knowledge’ already instead of continually learning of the Mater’s heart! Some of the judgments in Revelation are more easily imagined in a nuclear age. In Revelation 13; the Antichrist will control commerce by forcing people to take the mark of the beast, and, given today’s advances in computer chip technology, the tools he will use may very well be here already. And through the internet, radio and television, the gospel can now be proclaimed to the entire world (Mark 13:10). WHATSHOTN alone reaches just about every county in the world!

And there are political signs. The restoration of Israel to her land in 1948 is the single most impressive fulfilled prophecy proving that we live in the end times. At the turn of the 20th century, no one would have dreamed that Israel would be back in her land, let alone occupying Jerusalem. Jerusalem is definitely at the center of geopolitics and stands alone against many enemies; Zechariah 12:3 confirms this: “On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” Matthew 24:6-7 predicted that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” “Wars and rumors of wars” are definitely characteristic of this present age.

Walk to Him

These are just a few of the signs that we are living in the end of the age. There are many more. God gave us these prophecies because He does not want anyone to perish, and He always gives ample warning before pouring out His wrath (2 Peter 3:9).

Are we living in the end times? The rapture could occur at any moment. God will deal with sin either by grace or by wrath. John 3:36 says, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” Those who do not accept Jesus Christ as their savior will remain under the Lord’s wrath.

The good news is that it’s not too late to choose eternal life. All that is required is acceptance, by faith, of God’s free gift of grace. There is nothing you can do to earn grace; Jesus has paid the price for you (Romans 3:24). Are you ready for the Lord’s return? Or will you experience His wrath?

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Church of Almighty God

Deceived by the Lightning

Christians in mainland China’s “underground” house churches have faced persecution from the country’s Communist government for years. They now face another threat from one of the mainland’s largest cults, which frequently uses deception and coercion to gain converts from among house churches.

The cult calls itself “The Church of Almighty God.” The Chinese government refers to it as the “Real God” cult. Chinese Christians call it “Eastern Lightning.” Its followers believe that Jesus has returned in the form of a Chinese woman, like “lightning that comes from the east,” according to the description of His second coming in Matthew 24:27.

Its official name is the Church of Almighty God (Chinese: 全能神教会; pinyin: Quánnéng Shén Jiàohuì), but it is known by many names, prominently also as Church of the Gospel’s Kingdom (国度福音教会; Guódù fúyīn jiàohuì). The group has been described as a cult and a terrorist organization.

Estimates of the group’s size vary. A November 2001 Time magazine article titled “Jesus is Back, and She’s Chinese” said followers numbered themselves at 300,000, although observers estimated only tens of thousands. A 2002 report produced by the Center for Religious Freedom, which contained copies of seven confidential documents from a Chinese government report on religious cults, said that the group had active organizations in more than 10 provinces and cities and was deceiving thousands. China For Jesus, a Christian mission organization, estimates that the cult has more than a million members in 20 provinces. Fear of government persecution has driven religious groups in China underground, making an accurate head count of any group’s followers virtually impossible.

According to the secret security documents, the public security minister, Jia Chunwang, called for increased action against the cult, saying, “We need to work more, talk less to smash the cult quietly.” Security officials are concerned by the cult’s declaration that China is the Great Red Dragon of the book of Revelation who faces destruction. Beijing police arrested more than 2,000 followers of the cult prior to 2002, but they were not able to destroy the group.

Scores of first-hand accounts received by Christian organizations working in China confirm the devastating effect that the Eastern Lightning cult is having on the house churches. A report titled “When China’s Christians Wish They Were in Prison,” by Paul Hattaway, director of the mission organization Asia Harvest, contains accounts of Christians being deceived, kidnapped, brainwashed, beaten, poisoned, and blackmailed by the cult. One worker in northwest China told Hattaway that the Chinese house churches that usually experience phenomenal growth had been declining due to the cult’s activities. He explained, “In the past year many of our leaders were targeted by the Eastern Lightning cult. Some were attracted by their financial inducements and joined them. Later, when they discovered what they’d joined was not biblical, they were not permitted to leave. Dozens of our believers are missing, dozens more crippled. Some who have managed to escape the cult’s clutches are in hiding, fearing for their lives. At least two of our people have been murdered. Others have simply vanished.”

In April 2002, Eastern Lightning members kidnapped 34 leaders of the China Gospel Fellowship, a network of house churches. Cult members posing as representatives of Haggai Institute, a leadership training school in China, lured the leaders to attend a seminar where they were separated and held against their will. One woman managed to escape and alert the police. By June all the others had escaped or were released, although some who were drugged while being held captive continued to suffer physically.

Invisible Lightning. There are a several versions of the cult’s history. A number of Christian organizations cite the Time magazine article and the seven secret security documents that say that the cult was founded in 1989 by a man named Zhao Weishan, a former member of a Christian sect called the Shouters. Weishan proclaimed that Jesus had returned in the form of a 30-year-old, plain-looking Chinese peasant woman named Deng from the province of Henan. This teaching is based on revelation that Weishan claims he received from God regarding Matthew 24:27. Asia Harvest reports that in 2000 Weishan was granted refugee status in the United States, where he continues to run the cult’s activities in China. The report does not cite the source of this information.

Reports from other missions organizations do not mention Weishan as the founder but say, rather, that the woman Deng set herself up as the “female Christ.” Several Chinese Christians who regularly visit the mainland and are familiar with the cult told the Christian Research Journal that although they had heard of Deng, they had not heard of Weishan. Chinese sources favor the theory that Deng hides herself, while Weishan runs the cult’s operations.

An article dated January 2004 on one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org), however, denies as “rumor” the reports that Almighty God’s Church believes in “a woman with the surname Deng who was once possessed by a demon in Zheng Zhou of Henan province.” The article explains, “Actually, the place of birth and location where God became flesh is not in Henan province at all. Furthermore, the surname is not Deng.” The article does not, however, identify someone other than Deng as the Christ; rather, it explains why “the flesh of the Almighty God” could not be demon possessed. The fact that no one has ever seen or photographed the woman they call the “female Christ” makes her identity or even her existence difficult to confirm.

The Second Incarnation. The group believes that the Bible is out-of-date and that those who limit God’s revelation to just the Bible are like the Pharisees who held on to the Old Testament and rejected Christ. Followers are told to give up the truth of the past and build their foundation on the Holy Spirit’s word for today: the writings of the “female Christ,” which are “God’s new word.”

The cult has published numerous books, including The Word Becomes Flesh and The Lightning Comes from the East, and distributed hundreds of thousands of copies in China. Two of the books that are distributed among Chinese churches in America are titled The Holy Spirit Speaks to All the Churches and God’s Work through His Secret Appearing. The content in these books is nearly identical. Much of it is written in first person, as if by their “female Christ,” and is terse and threatening.

The “female Christ” states that Jesus was God’s first incarnation, but that He did not complete His work; therefore, God needed to come again to finish the work, this time as a woman. This “appearing” ends the previous age and begins a new age in God’s six-thousand-year plan to save all humanity.

God’s plan, she says, has three ages (creation, salvation, and destruction) and three dispensations (law, redemption, and kingdom). She claims that she comes for the kingdom dispensation and therefore her work is judgment.

Her books are filled with explicit and horrific pronouncements of damnation and judgment on unbelievers. The only sin is not to accept her as the Christ, she says, and salvation is possible only by following her. She states that “God is inhumanly cruel” and she admits that she hates humankind.

She teaches that Christ died for our sins, but denies that He rose again physically. She ardently opposes the concept of the second coming of Jesus and tells followers not to wait for a “white cloud descension.”

The “female Christ” doesn’t prove her divinity to potential believers by healing the sick, casting out demons, or performing miracles; instead, she uses threats and intimidation to persuade converts. She says that she will punish or slay those who repudiate her, and even their family members will meet with misfortune. Another of the cult’s Web sites (www.godword.org) lists 887 cases in which people allegedly died of sickness, accident, or unknown causes after rejecting the cult’s evangelistic efforts.

The cult demands complete obedience and sacrifice. Adherents must turn their material possessions over to the organization and follow orders, otherwise they will be punished. They are urged to leave their families, to live in a commune, and to spread the message of the “female Christ.”

Spying and Paving the Way. The cult is known for its deceptive evangelization practices. An article in Tianfeng, the magazine of the Chinese government–controlled Three Self Patriotic Church, says the cult entices people with money or gifts, but will turn to violence or even murder if a person accepts their gifts but fails to join.

A report from China for Jesus describes four stages of strategy that the cult has used. The first stage was simply to send books and money to Christian preachers. In the second stage they adopted aggressive tactics, including violence and coercion. In the third stage they used sexual temptation and entrapment as a means of blackmailing prospects.

The fourth stage is called “spying and paving the way,” the name the cult gives to their process of infiltrating a house church. Followers are instructed to mingle with church members in order to identify those who are strong Christians and core members of the church. Likely targets are those who arrive before a church meeting and stay after, and who can look up Bible passages efficiently. Cult members will try to befriend such people and to act like sincere truth seekers in order to gain their trust. Once the infiltrators have successfully “spied” these people, they begin to “pave the way” by asking questions to shake the Christian believer’s faith. They may invite the believer to a “Bible study,” for example, where instead of studying the Bible they badger the believer with questions such as, “Where is heaven? Is it on earth?” Or they will question the concept of the rapture of the church, a doctrine the cult ardently denies. Ultimately, they turn to preaching their message, which is the second incarnation of God. The author of the China for Jesus report predicted that they will begin to use an unknown fifth strategy now that this latest one has been exposed in recent years.

The cult denies that Almighty God’s Church kidnaps people and forces them to accept its message. An article on one of their Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) states that regulations instruct followers not to pressure those who are not willing to believe in God, because the church doesn’t want “worthless” members who do not really believe. The article claims that in 1999 alone the church dismissed 70 to 80 thousand people “who were guilty of misconduct and disobedience to the church’s regulations.”

Eastern Lightning prefers to target orthodox Christian house churches rather than fringe or heretical groups. According to the cult’s own internal instructions, they are not to evangelize those who do not worship Jesus alone and do not study the Bible, such as Buddhists, Taoists, and Muslims, as well as many Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics in China. Non-Christians and even family members of Eastern Lightning followers are also excluded from being evangelized.

Church of Almighty God

Church of Almighty God

A book about heresies in mainland China, published in Taiwan by the Christian and China Research Center, contains the testimony of a Chinese house church member who escaped the cult. He says that the cult never acts in the open, but that their activities are always covert and organized. “Wherever they go, they destroy and scatter that church with incredible speed and unmatched means.”

Even though the central Chinese government denounces the cult, some Chinese Christians view the cult’s behavior and financial strength as indications that it is being supported by individual local Communist officials who are seeking to disrupt and destroy house churches. Other Chinese Christians see the cult as satanic and believe that the Satanic church in America is behind it.

Global Vision. The message of the “female Christ” of Eastern Lightning resembles that of Rev. Sun Myung Moon of the Unification Church. Moon came to America in 1971 claiming that Christ had not completed His mission, and in 1992 he declared he and his wife to be the Messiah, the True Parents, who would usher in a “Completed Testament” age of world peace.

The “female Christ” declares that her appearance as the new Messiah ushers in the last stage of God’s plan. On one of the cult’s Web sites (www.hidden-advent.org) she confirms that its work has already expanded beyond the borders of China: “At the present time, the work is one of conquering the deeply corrupt people in the nations. Moreover, it is not merely a work of guiding people in China, but one of guiding the entire universe. You now only see the work being done in China, but actually it has already started to extend overseas.”

In a 2001 article titled “Lightning from the East” in the China Insight Newsletter, researcher Tony Lambert reported that the cult now has centers in New York and Toronto. The Journal has received reports from Christians in Paris and Amsterdam that the cult has reached Europe as well. Sources in the West have reported that the cult has been distributing books, tracts, and CDs through the Internet and in the parking lots of Chinese churches. It has also advertised a paid position to translate their books into English.

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The Greatest Event In The Entire Bible Just Might Surprise You

In that day, God will be glorified in all the earth, and it will usher in 1,000 years of perfect peace and perfect rule on our earth.

“Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.” Daniel 7:22 (KJV)

Just for fun, I decided to Google the phrase “greatest event in the Bible”, and got some interesting results. John MacArthur says that the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest event in the Bible, and he makes a compelling case. For the Christian, this is certainly true. But the Bible deals with a whole lot more than just Christians and Christianity. The Catholics say, predictably, that the ‘annunciation of Mary’ is the greatest event. (rolling my eyes). If you were Jewish, you might say the greatest event in the Bible was the giving of the Law to Moses, or maybe the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt at Passover. The Bible is a big Book with lots of big events.

Now if we could ask God what He viewed as the ‘greatest event in the Bible’, what do you think He would say?

For starters, since God wrote the Bible, we might want to look and see if there is a single event mentioned more times than any other. If God did have a ‘greatest event’ would it be possible to figure it out by the sheer number of times it was mentioned? As it turns out, there is a single event in the Bible mentioned more times, by more people, than any other event from cover to cover. Care to take a wild guess at what it might be?

“Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.” Zechariah 8:3 (KJV)

The greatest event in the entire Bible is the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. All through the Bible, in book after book, there is a Day and an event that happens on that Day so important that it is referred to as “in that day”112 times. The prophet Zechariah mentions the phrase 20 times, and is one of the most descriptive and informative books in the Bible on the Second Coming.

“And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.” Zechariah 14:4 (KJV)

Christians look at Jesus on the cross, and His rising from the dead 3 days later, as the greatest event because that is where we “get in”. But look at it from God’s perspective, it was the day His only begotten Son was executed between common criminals. Why would that be God’s favorite day? But at the Second Coming, God’s Son will receive the Kingdom He rightly deserves, and will reign from Jerusalem as the King over the whole world. That’s the Day that interests God the most.

Turning CrossIn that day, God will be glorified in all the earth, and it will usher in 1,000 years of perfect peace and perfect rule on our earth. The Devil will be bound in chains, and the curse will be removed from off the earth and all it’s inhabitants. The Lord Jesus Christ will rule with “a rod of iron” in perfect righteousness.

“For thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream: then shall ye suck, ye shall be borne upon her sides, and be dandled upon her knees. As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. And when ye see this, your heart shall rejoice, and your bones shall flourish like an herb: and the hand of the LORD shall be known toward his servants, and his indignation toward his enemies. For, behold, the LORD will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will the LORD plead with all flesh: and the slain of the LORD shall be many. For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the LORD, so shall your seed and your name remain. And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the LORD.” Isaiah 66:12-16,22,23 (KJV)

For born again Christians, the Bible says that after we are taken out in the Rapture of the Church, we will return again with the Lord on white horses at the Battle of Armageddon that takes place at the Second Coming. It’s the greatest day in human history, and we get better than a ringside seat. We get to be part of it.

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” Revelation 19:11-16 (KJV)

Now you know what the greatest day in the Bible is, and why God looks forward to it so much. This could be your Greatest day, the day You find Salvation!

Even so, Come Lord Jesus!

Are you ready for what comes next?

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10 More Amazing Proofs For The Pretribulation Rapture Of The Church Of Jesus Christ

Matthew 24:29-31 is the hands down favorite passage of Pretribulation Rapture deniers, yet contained in those passages is the very proof that the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming are two separate events

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)

The Bible gives Christians in the Church Age a clear command to study the word of God. Not only that, we are also commanded to Rightly Divide what we read there. There are 3 groups in the Bible that God can be talking to any any given time, they are not the same. First you have the Jews and Israel as one group, the redeemed Church as the second group, and the unsaved gentiles which make up the rest of the world population at any given time.

Today we present for your consideration a second installment of our Bible Believers Guide To Understanding The Differences Between The Rapture And The Second Coming. Enjoy!

#1. The 24 elders are wearing their crowns before the start of the time of Jacob’s trouble

Paul says in 2 Timothy that believers will receive crowns in ‘that day’ that takes place at the time of the Rapture of the Church. John, in Revelation 4, is taken up in type in the Rapture and when he gets there he witnesses elders with crowns 2 chapters before the start of the time of Jacob’s trouble in Revelation 6.

  • “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:8 (KJV)
  • “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.” Revelation 4:4 (KJV)

#2. The Bible doesn’t mention a resurrection at the Second Coming but it does for the Rapture

In Revelation 19:11-21, we clearly see the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon. Church saints mount up on white horses and return with Him. Nowhere in the passage does it mention a resurrection will take place at this time, in stark contrast to the resurrection of Church saints Paul talks about in 1 Thessalonians 4.

  • “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16,17 (KJV)

#3. Matthew 24 says at the Second Coming the world will mourn, but Paul says at the Rapture it’s a time of rejoicing

Matthew 24:29-31 is the hands down favorite passage of Pretrib Rapture deniers, yet contained in those passages is the very proof that the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming are two separate events. Matthew paints a picture of stark terror and physical judgments falling upon the Earth, and then people shall see the ‘Son of man’ coming down from Heaven. Paul on the other hand, talks about none of these things being connected with the Rapture of the Church. Furthermore, Paul says in the Rapture that Jesus comes for us personally and pulls us up into the clouds with Him, but Matthew says Jesus sends His angels for His elect at the Second Coming.

  • “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” Matthew 24:29-31 (KJV) – Second Coming
  • “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 (KJV) – The Pretribulation Rapture

#4. The very name given to the time of great tribulation is a direct reference to national Israel and the Jews

In Matthew 24, Jesus says that there will be a time of ‘great tribulation’, but He does not call it so. The actual name for this 7 year period of time is found in Jeremiah 30, where the prophet tells us clearly who this time of trial and testing is for. It’s for Israel. Jacob’s name was changed from Jacob, his name when he was lost and in rebellion to God, to Israel, the name God gave him after he ‘wrestled with God’ and got right. The Bible says that after the physical regathering of Israel, which took place in 1948, the Jews and Israel would be in the land but far from God in their hearts and minds. This is the exact condition we see today in places like Tel Aviv, which is the Sodomite capital of the world.

  • “Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.” Jeremiah 30:7 (KJV)

#5. At the time of the Second Coming, Jesus returns from a wedding

Luke says that when Jesus returns for His people Israel at the Second Coming, He has already been to a wedding. Paul tells us that after the Rapture of the Church we meet the Lord for the great Marriage of the Lamb wedding supper. This event has nothing to do with Israel and is for the Church only. At the Second Coming this event has already taken place.

  • “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. And this know, that if the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” Luke 12:35-40 (KJV) – Second Coming
  • “For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2 (KJV) – The Pretribulation Rapture
  • “And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.”Revelation 19:9 (KJV)

#6. The two openings of the door in Heaven

In the book of Revelation, Heaven is opened two times, and both of them are connected with the Church. In the first one, John, who is a type of the Church, is taken up to Heaven in a type of the Rapture. The second time occurs in Revelation 19 where the redeemed saints already in Heaven mount up on white horses and return with Jesus at the Second Coming.

  • “After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” Revelation 4:1 (KJV)
  • “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”Revelation 19:11 (KJV)

#7. The day of the Rapture of the Church is unknown while the day the Lord returns at the Second Coming is mentioned specifically

Nowhere in Paul’s writings does he mention the date that the Rapture of the Church will take place. He gives us time clues in 2 Thessalonians, but no actual day. John, on the other hand, tells us in Revelation precisely when the Day of the Lord will occur. He says that the Second Coming happens 1,260 days (three and a half years) after the Jews flee to the Red Rock City of Selah Petra to hide from the Antichrist.

  • “That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” 2 Thessalonians 2:2,3 (KJV) – The Pretribulation Rapture
  • “And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”Revelation 12:6 (KJV) – Second Coming

#8. The Lord returns to the Earth with His Church not for His Church

Jude talks about Enoch who is a type of a Christian living in the days before the Law of Moses. Enoch walks with God and then one day God takes him up and out of here in a type of the Rapture. Enoch was not Jewish and had no connection to Israel of any kind. That same Enoch prophesied that at the Second Coming, Jesus Christ will return with His redeemed saints already in tow.

  • “And Enoch also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints,” Jude 1:14 (KJV)

This Is Deep#9. The Marriage Supper of the Lamb happens in Heaven before the Second Coming

A spectacular event happens in Heaven right before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ at the Battle of Armageddon, the great Wedding Supper of Jesus and his Bride, the blood-washed redeemed Church. You will take careful note that if the Wedding Supper happens before the Second Coming, then it must be that the Church is already up in Heaven with Jesus. Where do we go on our ‘honeymoon’? We take a Joy ride on white horse and return to the Earth in the triumphal Second Coming. Revelation 19:11 starts the ‘honeymoon’ in amazing fashion! These passages alone show proof positive that the Church is already in heaven prior to the Second Coming, there is no other way the marriage could take place.

  • “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready. And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints. And he saith unto me, Write, Blessed are they which are called unto the marriage supper of the Lamb. And he saith unto me, These are the true sayings of God.” Revelation 19:9 (KJV) – first the wedding
  • “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” Revelation 19:11,14 (KJV) – then the honeymoon

#10. As it was in the days of Noah and Lot so shall it be in the end times

Jesus in the gospels says this time period will be like the days of Noah, and like the days of Lot. Wow, talk about conflicting events! In the days of Noah, a very small group of people are told to ‘get in the ark’, and are saved when the Door closes to shut them in. Jesus in John 10 says that He is the door, thus we see that being in the ark is a type picture of the born again believer being ‘in Christ Jesus’. Not only that, before the judgment falls, the people in the ark are taken ‘up and out’ as they rise above what rages below. So we see that this is a type picture of the Church, redeemed in Jesus the Door, being removed prior to judgement.

In Lot’s day, the opposite happens. Lot is not taken out, he is told to run away! And where does he flee to? Why, he is told to ‘flee to the mountain’. Where do the Jews in the time of Jacob’s trouble flee to? They run and hide to the Selah Petra, where they wait 3.5 years, 1,260 days, for the Lord to come get them at the Revelation 19:14 Second Coming. Who does the Lord come with? Us, the Church.

  • “But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:37 (KJV)
  • “Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all.” Luke 17:28,29 (KJV)

Noah and Lot represent two very different events that have two very different conclusions. So it is with the Rapture of the Church and the Second Coming. They are two remarkably distinct and different events with two polar opposite conclusions.

We hope this Bible study has been a blessing to you, please pray over it and be a ‘workman’ as we are commanded to be and run all the references listed here. If you allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you, it will become apparent that the Rapture of the Church  and the Second Coming represent two different groups of people that cannot be mashed together without massive contradictions.

Keep looking up, For Jesus is coming to get us soon! If your not right with God, Get right with Him Now!

“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13 (KJV)

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The Song Of Solomon Predicts The Timing Of The Pretribulation Rapture Of The Church

The Song of Solomon says that when the Rapture of the Church takes place, Israel will already have been regathered back into their land (May 14, 1948)

“The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice. My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Song Of Solomon 2:8-10 (KJV)

All through the Bible, God uses many things to paint pictures of coming events, this is known as ‘typology’. Merriam-Webster defines typology as “a doctrine of theological types; especially :  one holding that things in Christian belief are prefigured or symbolized by things in the Old Testament”. For example, when Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, it was a type of the suffering of Jesus and His payment at Calvary on the Cross.

“For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew 12:40 (KJV)

Yes, the actual Jonah was really in the belly of an actual whale for 72 hours, but at the same time it was a type picture of a future event of prophecy. This is one of the things that Jesus is confirming in the above passage. God uses typology to a very high degree in the Old Testament to illustrate future, prophetical events.

Another great Old Testament type in the Bible is found in Genesis. The Bible tells us of a man called Enoch, a gentile who was the great grandfather to Noah. Enoch lived for 365 years, which just coincidentally matches the 365 days of the gentile calendar (the Hebrew calendar has 360 days). The Bible says that Enoch began walking with God after the birth of his son Methuselah, the oldest living man in the Bible. And then something amazing happened, here it is:

“And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.” Genesis 5:22-24 (KJV)

Song of SolomonSee what we have here? It’s a type picture of the Rapture of the Church. Enoch was a gentile believer in God, had fellowship with Him and ‘walked with Him’. Then, at some point in that walk, God took him home to Heaven literally and physically without ever having to die first. But that’s not all. Enoch’s rapture happens shortly before the tribulation of the flood of Noah destroys the Earth. Do you get that? Enoch is raptured out before the flood which destroyed the world. The apostle Paul teaches in the New Testament that the Church will be raptured out before the time of Jacob’s trouble which will cause global death, misery and destruction.

Now that you have a good grasp of what typology in the Bible is, let’s look at an amazing type picture in the Song of Solomon on the timing of the Rapture of the Church

In the second chapter of the Song of Solomon, God paints us a picture of the Rapture of the Church. Not only that, He tells us what time of the year that the Rapture will likely take place. In verses 8 and 9, we see Jesus looking down from the windows of Heaven at His beloved.

“The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills. My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.” Solomon 2:8,9 (KJV)

In the New Testament, when the apostle Stephen was being stoned to death, he looked up and what did he see? He saw the ‘windows of Heaven opened’ and Jesus getting ready to return in the Second Coming.

“But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55,56 (KJV)

In the book of Revelation, the ‘window of Heaven’ opens two times. Once in a type picture of the Rapture of the Church in chapter 4:1,2, and again in chapter 19:11-14 at the Second Coming where we return with Him at the Battle of Armageddon. In Song of Solomon 2, we see Jesus ‘looking through the lattice’ at His beloved Bride the Church. But notice that He calls for Her to ‘rise up’ to where He is and to ‘come away’ with Him. Now where in the New Testament do we hear anything resembling that? Right here:

“After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.” Revelation 4:1 (KJV)

The Pretribulation Rapture is connected with the Feast of Firstfruits which takes place in the Spring

Her beloved is calling for her to rise up and out to be with Him. Not only that, we see the likely timing of the Rapture as given in the context. It happens after the Winter is gone, and glorious Spring has come where new life once again fills the Earth.

“For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land;” Song of Solomon 2:11,12 (KJV)

Many Bible scholars have tried to set the timing of the Rapture of the Church with the Feast of Trumpets because a trumpet-like Voice heralds the Rapture. But it is much more likely and seems to be indicated in the passage that the Rapture will align with the Feast of Firstfruits which takes place in the Spring. Clearly that is what’s happening in Song of Solomon 2.

Lastly, the Song of Solomon says that when the Rapture of the Church takes place, Israel will already have been regathered back into their land (May 14, 1948). Compare the passage with what Jesus in Matthew 24 said would take place, and we have harmony.

“The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.” Song of Solomon 2:13 (KJV)

“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” Matthew 24:32,33 (KJV)

Remember that the Day of the Lord, while being an actual Day of His return, is also a period of time covering just over 1,000 years. The time period of the Day of the Lord starts with the Rapture of the Church first, then kicks off the time of Jacob’s trouble, leads into the Battle of Armageddon where we return with Jesus on white horses (that’s the singular Day), starts the 1,000 Reign of Jesus Christ from Jerusalem, then the Battle of Gog and Magog, the Great White Throne Judgment, and then….Eternity!

I hope you have enjoyed this brief snapshot of types in the Bible. The Pretribulation Rapture is shown in Song of Solomon, but it’s hidden, it’s a ‘mystery’, which would not be made known until the apostle Paul was called out.

“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” 1 Corinthians 15:51,52 (KJV)

God paints us a beautiful type picture in the love song of Solomon, of the coming glorious future of the blood-washed, born again believers in the matchless Bridegroom Jesus Christ when we will be called to ‘come away’ with Him. So Now is the time to find Salvation!

Are you ready for what comes next? I am.

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Belshazzar’s Feast And The Fall Of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belshazzar’s Feast in Honor of the Gods of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Handwriting on the Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Suggested as the Interpreter

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Called Before the King

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Rebuke of Belshazzar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Interpretation of the Writing

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

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

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

P T M M

R Q N N

S L ’ ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy Fulfilled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Filed under Daily Biblical Studies for the Soul, 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 Deliverance of Daniel and Darius (Daniel 6:1-28)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel in the Critics Den

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

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

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

The Conspiracy
(6:1-9)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(5) Simply continue to pray, privately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The King’s Decree
(6:25-27)

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

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

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

Epilogue
(6:28)

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 6:
Questions and Answers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(6) What happened to Daniel?

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

(7) What happened to Daniel’s enemies?

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

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

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

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

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

(10) Compare Darius with Nebuchadnezzar.

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

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

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

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

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

(13) What can we learn from this chapter?

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

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