Tag Archives: The book of Enoch

Belshazzar’s Feast And The Fall Of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Belshazzar’s Feast in Honor of the Gods of Babylon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Handwriting on the Wall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Suggested as the Interpreter

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Called Before the King

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Rebuke of Belshazzar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Interpretation of the Writing

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

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

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

P T M M

R Q N N

S L ’ ’

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Reward and the Prophecy Fulfilled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride And Punishment

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction of Nebuchadnezzar’s Proclamation

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

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

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

Charles then contrasts this with the Septuagint,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wise Men Unable to Interpret Dream

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

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

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

Daniel Told the King’s Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel Interprets the Dream

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dream Fulfilled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nebuchadnezzar’s Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The 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 Text, Studies in The Book of Daniel

The Golden Image Of Nebuchadnezzar

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

The Image of Gold

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KJV

Aramaic (singular form)

Meaning

princes

áa†hashdarpan

satrap

governors

sÿgan

prefect

captains

peha‚

governor

judges

áa†darga„zar

counselor

treasurers

gÿda„bar

treasurer

counselors

dÿta„bar

law official, judge

sheriffs

tipta„y

magistrate

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Companions Accused by the Chaldeans

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Companions Refuse to Worship the Image

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Daniel’s Companions Cast into the Furnace

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

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

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

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

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

The Miraculous Deliverance from the Furnace

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Decree of Nebuchadnezzar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fundamental Beliefs

Fundamental Beliefs

We trace our origins to the Church that Jesus founded in the early first century. We follow the same teachings, doctrines and practices established then. Our commission is to proclaim the gospel of the coming Kingdom of God to all the world as a witness and teach all nations to observe what Christ commanded (Matthew:24:14; Matthew:28:19, Matthew:28:20).

God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit
We believe in one God, the Father, eternally existing, who is a Spirit, a personal Being of supreme intelligence, knowledge, love, justice, power and authority. He, through Jesus Christ, is the Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that is in them. He is the Source of life and the One for whom human life exists. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, who is the Word and has eternally existed. We believe that He is the Messiah, the Christ, the divine Son of the living God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, born in the human flesh of the virgin Mary. We believe that it is by Him that God created all things and that without Him was not anything made that was made. We believe in the Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of God and of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the power of God and the Spirit of life eternal (2 Timothy:1:7; Ephesians:4:6; 1 Corinthians:8:6; John:1:1-4; Colossians:1:16).

The Word of God
We believe that Scripture, both the Old and the New Testament, is God’s revelation, and His complete, expressed will to humanity. Scripture is inspired in thought and word, infallible in the original writings, is the supreme and final authority in faith and in life, and is the foundation of all truth (2 Timothy:3:16; 2 Peter:1:20-21; John:10:35; John:17:17).

Satan the Devil
We believe that Satan is a spirit being who is the adversary of God and the children of God. Satan has been given dominion over the world for a specific period of time. Satan has deceived humanity into rejecting God and His law. Satan has ruled by deception with the aid of a host of demons who are rebellious angels, spirit beings, who followed Satan in his rebellion (Matthew:4:1-11; Luke:8:12; 2 Timothy:2:26; John:12:31; John:16:11; Revelation:12:4, Revelation:12:9; Revelation:20:1-3, 7, 10; Leviticus:16:21-22; 2 Corinthians:4:4; 2 Corinthians:11:14; Ephesians:2:2).

Humanity
We believe that humanity was created in the image of God with the potential to become children of God, partakers of the divine nature. God formed humanity of flesh, which is material substance. Human beings live by the breath of life, are mortal, subject to corruption and decay, without eternal life, except as the gift of God under God’s terms and conditions as expressed in the Bible. We believe that God placed before Adam and Eve the choice of eternal life through obedience to God, or death through sin. Adam and Eve yielded to temptation and disobeyed God. As a result, sin entered the world, and through sin, death. Death now reigns over all humanity because all have sinned (Genesis:1:26; 2 Peter:1:4; Hebrews:9:27; 1 Corinthians:15:22; Romans:5:12; Romans:6:23).

Sin and God’s Law
We believe that sin is the transgression of the law. The law is spiritual, perfect, holy, just and good. The law defines God’s love and is based upon the two great principles of love toward God and love toward neighbor, and is immutable and binding. The Ten Commandments are the ten points of God’s law of love. We believe that breaking any one point of the law brings upon a person the penalty of sin. We believe that this fundamental spiritual law reveals the only way to true life and the only possible way of happiness, peace and joy. All unhappiness, misery, anguish and woe have come from transgressing God’s law (1 John:3:4; 1 John:5:3; Matthew:5:17-19; Matthew:19:17-19; Matthew:22:37-40; James:2:10-11; Romans:2:5-9; Romans:7:12-14; Romans:13:8-10).

The Sacrifice of Jesus Christ
We believe God so loved this world of helpless sinners that He gave His only begotten Son, who, though in all points tempted as we are, lived without sin in the human flesh. That Son, Jesus Christ, died as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. His life, because He is the Creator of all humanity, is of greater value than the sum total of all human life. His death is, therefore, sufficient to pay the penalty for every human being’s sins. In paying this penalty He has made it possible, according to God’s plan, for each person and humanity as a whole to have their sins forgiven and to be released from the death penalty (Hebrews:4:15; Hebrews:9:15; Hebrews:10:12; John:1:18; John:3:16; Colossians:1:16-17, 22; 1 John:2:2; 1 John:4:10; Ephesians:1:11; Revelation:13:8).

3 days 3 nights

Picture http://trumpetcallofgod.com/pdfs/THELAMBOFGODstudy.pdf Used with permission.

Three Days and Three Nights
We believe that the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead after His body lay three days and three nights in the grave, thus making immortality possible for mortal man. He thereafter ascended into heaven, where He now sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate (1 Peter:1:17-21; 1 Peter:3:22; Matthew:12:40; 1 Corinthians:15:53; 2 Timothy:1:10; John:20:17; Hebrews:8:1; Hebrews:12:2).

Repentance
We believe that all who truly repent of their sins in full surrender and willing obedience to God, and who by faith accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, have their sins forgiven by an act of divine grace. Such individuals are justified, pardoned from the penalty of sin, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, which literally abides within them and supplies the divine love that alone can fulfill the law and produce righteousness. They are baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ, which is the true Church of God. We believe in a true change in life and attitude. Only those who have the indwelling presence of and are being led by the Holy Spirit are Christ’s (Acts:2:38; Acts:3:19; Acts:5:29-32; 2 Corinthians:7:10; John:3:16; Ephesians:1:7; Ephesians:2:7-9; Romans:3:21-26; Romans:5:5; Romans:6:6; Romans:8:4, 9-10, 14; Romans:13:1; Jeremiah:33:8; John:14:16-17; 1 Corinthians:12:12-13; Philippians 2:3-5).

Water Baptism
We believe in the ordinance of water baptism by immersion following repentance. Through the laying on of hands, with prayer, the believer receives the Holy Spirit and becomes a part of the spiritual body of Jesus Christ (Matthew:3:13, 16; John:3:23; Acts:2:38; Acts:8:14-17; Acts:19:5-6; 1 Corinthians:12:13).

The Sabbath Day
We believe that the seventh day of the week is the Sabbath of the Lord our God. On this day we are commanded to rest from our labors and worship God, following the teachings and example of Jesus, the apostles and the New Testament Church (Genesis:2:2-3; Exodus:20:8-11; Exodus:31:13-17; Leviticus:23:3; Isaiah:58:13; Hebrews:4:4-10; Mark:1:21; Mark:2:27-28; Mark:6:2; Acts:13:42-44; Acts:17:2; Acts18:4; Luke:4:31).

The Festivals of God
We believe in the commanded observance of the seven annual Holy Days given to ancient Israel by God and kept by Jesus Christ, the apostles and the New Testament Church. These Holy Days reveal God’s plan of salvation (Colossians:2:16-17; 1 Peter:1:19-20; 1 Corinthians:5:8; 1 Corinthians:15:22-26; 1 Corinthians:16:8But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost.; James:1:18; Exodus:23:14-17; Leviticus 23; Luke:2:41-42; Luke:22:14-15; John:7:2, 8, 10, 14; Acts:2:1; Acts:18:21; Acts:20:16; Zechariah:14:16-21).

Promises to Abraham
We believe in God’s enduring righteousness. That righteousness is demonstrated by God’s faithfulness in fulfilling all of the promises He made to the father of the faithful, Abraham. As promised, God multiplied Abraham’s lineal descendants so that Abraham literally became the “father” of many nations. We believe that God, as promised, materially prospered Abraham’s lineal descendants Isaac and Jacob (whose name He later changed to Israel). We believe that God, through Abraham’s Seed, Jesus Christ, is making salvation available to all humanity regardless of their physical lineage. Salvation is not therefore a right of birth. It is freely open to all whom God calls, and those who are regarded as descendants of Abraham are those of the faith, heirs according to the promises. We believe that the knowledge that God has fulfilled and continues to fulfill the physical promises made to Abraham and his children, and is fulfilling the spiritual promise through Jesus Christ, is critical to understanding the message of the prophets and its application to the world in which we live (Psalm:111:1-10; Romans:4:16; Romans:9:7-8; Galatians:3:16; Genesis:32:28).

God’s Purpose for Mankind
We believe God’s purpose for mankind is to prepare those whom He calls, and who elect through a life of overcoming sin, developing righteous character, and growing in grace and knowledge, to possess the Kingdom and to become kings and priests reigning with Christ on this earth after His return. We believe that the reason for mankind’s existence is literally to be born as spirit beings into the family of God (Romans:6:15-16; Romans:8:14-17, 30; Acts:2:39; 2 Peter:3:18; Revelation:3:5; 5:10).

Israel and the ChurchThe Church
We believe that the Church is that body of believers who have received, and are being led by, the Holy Spirit. The true Church of God is a spiritual organism. Its biblical name is “The Church of God.” We believe that the mission of the Church is to preach the gospel (good news) of the coming Kingdom of God to all nations as a witness, and to help reconcile to God such people as are now being called. We believe that it is also the mission of the Church of God to strengthen, edify and nurture the children of God in the love and admonition of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts:2:38-39, 47; Acts:20:28; Romans:8:14; Romans:14:19; Ephesians:1:22-23; Ephesians:3:14; Ephesians:4:11-16; 1 Corinthians:1:2; 1 Corinthians:10:32; 1 Corinthians:11:16, 22; 1 Corinthians:12:27; 1 Corinthians:14:26; 1 Corinthians:15:9; 2 Corinthians:1:1-2; 2 Corinthians:5:18-20; Galatians:1:13; 1 Thessalonians:2:14; 2 Thessalonians:1:4; 1 Timothy:3:5, 15; Mark:16:15; Matthew:24:14; Matthew:28:18-20; John:6:44, 65; John:17:11, 16).

Tithing
We believe in tithing as a way of honoring God with our substance and as a means of serving Him in the preaching of the gospel, the care of the Church, attending the festivals and helping the needy (Proverbs:3:9-10; Genesis:14:17-20; 1 Corinthians:9:7-14; Numbers:18:21; Deuteronomy:14:22-29).

The Resurrections
We believe that the only hope of eternal life for mortal humans lies in the resurrection through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We believe that at the return of Jesus Christ a resurrection to spirit life will take place for all who have been God’s faithful servants. We believe that after Jesus Christ has ruled on this earth for 1,000 years, there will be a resurrection to physical life of the vast majority of all people who have ever lived. We believe that after these people have had an opportunity to live a physical life, if they become converted, they too will receive eternal life. We also believe that those who reject God’s offer of salvation will reap eternal death (1 Corinthians:15:19, 42-52; Acts:23:6; John:5:21-29; Romans:6:23; Romans:8:10-11; 1 Thessalonians:4:16; Ezekiel:37:1-14; Revelation:20:4-5, 11-15; John:3:16; Matthew:25:46).

cross2Jesus Christ’s Return
We believe in the personal, visible, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ to rule the nations on earth as King of kings and to continue His priestly office as Lord of lords. At that time, He will sit upon the throne of David. During His thousand-year reign upon the earth, He will restore all things and establish the Kingdom of God forever (Matthew:24:30, 44; Revelation:1:7; Revelation:11:15; Revelation:19:16; Revelation:20:4-6; 1 Thessalonians:4:13-16; John:14:3; Isaiah:9:7; Isaiah:40:10-12; Hebrews:7:24; Jeremiah:23:5; Luke:1:32-33; Acts:1:11; Acts:3:21; Acts:15:16; Daniel:7:14, 18, 27).

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Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision Of The Great Image

Beginning with the second chapter of Daniel, the grand outline of the program of God for the period of Gentile supremacy and chastisement of Israel is presented for the first time. Tregelles, in his introduction to chapter 2 of Daniel, observes, “The book of Daniel is that part of Scripture which especially treats of the power of the world during the time of its committal into the hands of the Gentiles, whilst the ancient people of God, the children of Israel, are under chastisement on account of their sin.”

What is true of the book in general is especially true of chapter 2. Nowhere else in Scripture, except in Daniel 7, is a more comprehensive picture given of world history as it stretched from the time of Daniel, 600 years before Christ, to the consummation at the second advent of Christ. It is most remarkable that Daniel was not only given this broad revelation of the course of what Christ called “the times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:24), but also the chronological prophecy of Israel’s history stretching from the rebuilding of Jerusalem to the second advent of Christ. These two major foci of the book of Daniel justify the general description of the book as world history in outline with special reference to the nation of Israel.

Interpretations of the book of Daniel, and especially chapter 2, divide into two broad categories. Higher critics who label the book of Daniel a second century forgery challenge the prophetic meaning of chapter 2 at every turn and assert that the writer is merely recording history. If they are right, an exposition of this chapter becomes a meaningless interpretation of a curious but unimportant document.

On the other hand, reverent scholars have consistently defended the authenticity of this book as a genuine portion of the Word of God written by Daniel in the sixth century B.C. Only if this second view is adopted, which assigns to Daniel the role of a genuine prophet and regards the book as inspired Scripture, can a sensible explanation be given of the broad prophecies which this chapter details.

Among those who regard this chapter as genuine Scripture, there is a further subdivision into two classes: (1) those who interpret the vision from the amillennial or postmillennial point of view; (2) those who interpret the vision from a premillennial perspective. The difference here resolves itself largely in differing views of how the image is destroyed, and how the revelation relates to the present age and the two advents of Christ. Few chapters of the Bible are more determinative in establishing both principle and content of prophecy than this chapter; and its study, accordingly, is crucial to any system of prophetic interpretation.

Nebuchadnezzar Dreams Dreams

2:1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.

The important event of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its interpretation is introduced by the statement that the dream occurred “in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.” The question immediately arises how this relates to the three years of the training of Daniel and his companions described in chapter 1. This time indication, standing first in the sentence for emphasis, is connected to the previous chapter by and or “now” (the conjunction waw). This implies consecutive information but not necessarily chronological succession.

Although critics have assailed this reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s second year as an inaccuracy, the explanation is relatively simple. Nebuchadnezzar had carried off Daniel and his companions immediately after his victory over the Egyptians at Carchemish, which probably took place May-June, 605 B.C. Wiseman states, “The effects of the Babylonian victory were immediate and far-reaching. ‘At that time,’ recorded the chronicler, ‘Nebuchadrezzar conquered the whole area of Hatti,’ the geographical term Hatti including, at this period, the whole of Syria and Palestine.”

According to Wiseman, “The effect on Judah was that King Jehoiakim, a vassal of Necho, submitted voluntarily to Nebuchadrezzar, and some Jews, including the prophet Daniel, were taken as captives for hostages to Babylon.” This was June-August 605 B.C. Daniel and his companions, therefore, entered their training at Babylon soon thereafter, probably after Nebuchadnezzar had been made king, September 7, 605 b.c. at the death of his father, Nabopolassar. In view of this sequence of events, Leupold concludes that “the phrase ‘in the second year’ is both harmless and unassailable.” It was actually the third year in modern reckoning. Leupold continues, “The Babylonian manner of reckoning a king’s reign did not regard the unexpired portion of the last year of the deceased monarch as the first year of the new king, but reserved that designation for the first full year of the new monarch’s rule. Since the kings did not, as a rule, die at the close of the last year of their reign, there were usually months intervening between reigns, which would allow just enough latitude to make the initial phrase of our chapter entirely proper.” In other words, the first year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign was not counted, and this gives a plausible explanation of why the dream could occur in the second year and yet conceivably follow the three school years of Daniel’s training. Edward Young, after Driver, supports the idea that the three years of Daniel’s training were not necessarily three full years by illustrations from Hebrew usage.

The chronology of the period, following Wiseman, Thiele, and Finegan, seems to require the following order of events.

May-June, 605 B.C.: Babylonian victory over the Egyptians at Carchemish

June-August, 605 B.C.: Fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar, and Daniel and companions taken captive

September 7, 605 B.C.: Nebuchadnezzar, the general of the army, made king over Babylon after the death of his father, Nabopolassar

September 7, 605 b.c to Nisan (March-April) 604 B.C.: Year of accession of Nebuchadnezzar as king, and first year of Daniel’s training

Nisan (March-April) 604 b.c to Nisan (March-April) 603 b.c: First year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, second year of training of Daniel

Nisan (March-April) 603 b.c to Nisan (March-April) 602 b.c: Second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, third year of training of Daniel, also the year of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream

The arguments of Montgomery and others that the datum of Daniel 1:20-2:1 is hopelessly contradictory were based on an obvious prejudice against the historicity of Daniel. These objections are satisfactorily answered by scholars such as Robert Dick Wilson, who show there is no evidence of a positive nature which contradicts Daniel’s statement here or elsewhere.

The important event which took place is simply expressed in the statement that “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams.” As dreams is plural, it implies that he had several dreams which were of such character that he was troubled by their significance and unable to sleep. The Hebrew for “dreamed dreams” can be understood to be the pluperfect, i.e., “had dreamed dreams.” This would imply that the dream took place somewhere in the sequence of events of chapter 1 but is only now being detailed. Hence, it allows for the conclusion that the dream was interpreted before Daniel’s graduation at the end of his three years of training. Commentators generally have been so occupied with the plural of dreams that the verb has been neglected.

The Hebrew for troubled indicates a deep disturbance inducing apprehension. Nebuchadnezzar seems to have sensed that this was more than an ordinary dream and was a response to his questioning concerning the future, mentioned later by Daniel in 2:29. The result was that “his sleep brake from him.” Literally, because of the passive form of the verb, Leupold translates it “was done for,” or as Montgomery translates it, “sleep broke from him.”

Geoffrey R. King, in an extended comment on this, observes, “As is so often the case, the cares of the day became also the cares of the night. Now Nebuchadnezzar did a thing which no believer in God should ever dream of doing: Nebuchadnezzar took his problems to bed with him.” However, Nebuchadnezzar was no Christian; and after all. the circumstances and the dream were providentially induced by God Himself. On other occasions in Scripture, dreams have been used by God to give revelation to a Gentile ruler as in the cases of Abimelech (Gen 20:3) and of Pharaoh (Gen 41:1-8), which is an interesting parallel to Nebuchadnezzar’s experience. Sleeplessness also has its purpose in divine providence as in the case of Ahasuerus in Esther 6 which started the chain of events leading to Haman’s execution and Israel’s deliverance. Nebuchadnezzar’s experience was obviously ordered by God.

All the Wise Men Summoned

2:2-3 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

Because of the king’s agitation, he apparently immediately summoned all four classifications of wise men here described as “the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans.” The designation, wise men, which does not occur in verse 2, is found in verse 27. Numerous similar listings occur throughput Daniel (1:20; 2:10, 27; 4:7; 5:7, 11, 15). Wise men, apparently a general description of all of them, are referred to frequently alone (2:12, 13, 14, 18, 24, 48; 4:6, 18; 5:7, 8) and the Chaldeans are mentioned elsewhere also (1:4; 2:4; 3:8; 5:11). Magicians is the translation of a Hebrew word with a root meaning of stylus or a pen, according to Leupold, and hence could refer to a scholar rather than a magician in the ordinary sense. Astrologers is also translated “enchanters,” referring to the power of necromancy or communications with the dead according to Leupold but is understood as “astrologers,” by Young. This translation suggests the study of the stars to predict the future. Young, however, does not specifically define astrologer. Sorcerers are those who practice sorcery or incantations. The most significant term, however, is the Chaldeans. This is usually interpreted as a reference to a group of astrologers. But the name itself designates a people who lived in Southern Babylonia (cf. Gen 11:28) and who eventually conquered the Assyrians when Nabopolassar, father of Nebuchadnezzar, was their king. It would be only natural for the conquerors to assert themselves at the level of wise men, and there is no justification for seizing on this reference to Chaldeans as an inaccuracy. The obvious purpose of the recital of all four classes of wise men is that the king hoped, through their various contributions, to be able to interpret his dream.

With the wise men before him, the king announces that he has dreamed a dream, using the singular of dream indicating that only one of his many dreams was really significant prophetically.

Revelation of the Dream and Its Interpretation Demanded by the King

2:4-6 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack [Aramaic], O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.

The Chaldeans, acting as spokesmen for the group, then address the king. The phrase “in Aramaic” introduces the extended section written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew, beginning with verse 4 and continuing through chapter 7. Much discussion has arisen concerning this simple statement. The obvious reason for this reference is that, from this point on, Daniel uses Aramaic, which although similar to the Hebrew also differs from it. Although some critics, such as Driver, question whether Aramaic was spoken at the time of the sixth century B.C. in Babylon, it seems reasonable to assume that it was a language familiar to Daniel and was the language commonly used by the Jews in Babylon instead of Hebrew. It is not necessary to deduce from this that it was the formal court language, but there is no real evidence that the Chaldeans did not use Aramaic in addressing the king. The Aramaic section of Daniel deals with prophecy of primary interest to the Gentiles and to Daniel’s day.

In the light of recent scholarship, the dogmatic dismissal of the Aramaic of Daniel is no longer tenable. As K. A. Kitchen has written, “This subject has been closely studied by two or three generations of modern scholars— S. R. Driver, R. D. Wilson, G. R. Driver, W. Baumgartner, H. H. Rowley, J. A. Montgomery, H. H. Schaeder, F. Rosenthal, and various others. Nevertheless, there is today ample scope for reassessment. The inscriptional material for Old and Imperial Aramaic and later phases of the language is constantly growing.”

Kitchen goes on to state, concerning the “entire word-stock of Biblical Aramaic” which is largely Daniel, that “nine-tenths of the vocabulary is attested in texts of the fifth century b.c. or earlier.” Most of the findings have been fifth century, as there is a scarcity of sixth century B.C. texts; but, if Daniel’s Aramaic was used in the fifth century, it in all probability was also used in the sixth century b.c. The conclusion is quite clear that Driver and company argued from a priori assumption that Daniel is a second century forgery and on the lack of available materials. Materials are now coming to light, however, and contradict his point of view. Driver’s position is no longer tenable if recent discoveries be admitted.

The Chaldeans, eager to please the king, address him with typical elaborate oriental courtesy, “O king, live for ever” (cf. 1 Ki 1:31; Neh 2:3; Dan 3:9; 5:10; 6:21). They declare with confidence that, if the king would tell them the dream, they would give the interpretation.

In reply to the Chaldeans, the king said, “The thing is gone from me.” This translation (KJV) has been challenged by many expositors. All agree that the translation is difficult because the word used, azda, occurs only here and in verse 8. Franz Rosenthal translates the word, “publicly known, known as decided.” In the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), this word with slight alterations is considered to be a verb form meaning “is gone from me,” that is, the dream had been forgotten. The verb could, however, also mean “gone forth” in the sense of “I have decreed.” Such expositors as Keil, Leupold, and Young agree that the king actually had not forgotten the dream. Young translates the word as meaning “sure” or “certain,” a definition supported by the Syriac and based on the assumption that the word is of Persian origin. Hence the translation would be, “The thing is certain with me,” or “fully determined.”

The debate as to whether the king actually had forgotten his dream cannot, at the present state of investigation, be determined finally. In favor of the idea that the king had forgotten the dream would be the argument that he, anxious to know its interpretation, would certainly have divulged it to the wise men to see what they had to offer by way of interpretation. This would be in keeping with the translation “The thing is gone from me,” which is still a possibility.

There are, however, a number of reasons why the king might have been induced to make this extreme demand of his counselors in order to test their ability to have real contact with the gods and divulge secrets. The king was a young man who had been extraordinarily successful in his military conquests. He undoubtedly had developed a great deal of confidence in himself. It is entirely possible that the wise men were much older than the king, having served Nebuchadnezzar’s father. It would be understandable that the king might have previously been somewhat frustrated by these older counselors and may have had a real desire to be rid of them in favor of younger men whom he had chosen himself. Nebuchadnezzar might well have doubted their honesty, sincerity, and capability, and may even have wondered whether they were loyal to him. He may also have questioned some of their superstitious practices.

In his combined frustration with his counselors and his irritation stemming from the uncertainty of the meaning of the dream, it is entirely possible that Nebuchadnezzar should have suddenly hardened in his attitude toward his wise men and demanded that they should not only interpret the dream but also state the dream itself. Such a capricious action on the part of a monarch is in keeping with his character and position. It may have been a snap decision arising from the emotion of the moment, or it may have been the result of frustration with these men over a long period. It is significant that the younger wise men, such as Daniel and his companions, were not present.

To reinforce his demand for both the dream and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar declares that the wise men “shall be cut in pieces” and their houses “made a dunghill.” This was not an idle threat but was in keeping with the cruelty which could be expected from a despot such as Nebuchadnezzar. It was all too common for victims to be executed by being dismembered, and whether their houses were literally made a dunghill or simply a “ruin” as Young and Montgomery favor did not really matter. Driver states, “The violence and peremptoriness of the threatened punishment is in accordance with what might be expected at the hands of an Eastern despot; the Assyrians and Persians, especially, were notorious for the barbarity of their punishments.”

If, however, the wise men were able to respond to the king’s request, they were promised “gifts and rewards and great honour.” It was customary, when monarchs were pleased with their servants, to lavish upon them expensive gifts and great honor, a custom to which the Bible bears consistent testimony, as in the case of Joseph, Mordecai, and Daniel himself. “Rewards” is the translation of a Persian word, a singular rather than plural, and has the idea of a “present.” To receive these, they had only to tell the king the dream and its meaning. Obviously, the wise men were confronted with a supreme test of their superhuman claims. If they had genuine supernatural ability to interpret a dream, they should also have the power to reveal its content.

The Demand of the King Repeated

2:7-9 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof.

Confronted with the king’s ultimatum, the wise men repeated their request to be told the dream and again affirmed their ability to interpret it. It would seem that if the king had actually forgotten the dream, the wise men would have attempted some sort of an answer. The fact that they did not tends to support the idea that the king was willfully withholding information about the dream. Even if the king was hazy as to the details of the dream and could not recall it enough to provide a basis of interpretation, he probably would have been able to recognize complete fabrication on the part of the wise men. In any case, they did not attempt such a subterfuge.

The king, however, cuts them off abruptly, stating that he is sure that they are simply trying to gain time. The phrase “of certainty” stands first in the sentence for emphasis. He accuses the wise men of attempting to “gain the time,” literally, “to buy” time, “because ye see the thing is gone from me.” This last phrase is a duplicate of the statement in verse 5 with the same problem of interpretation and could be translated “because ye see the thing is certain with me,” or “determined by me.” Nebuchadnezzar’s accusation implies that he did remember the main facts of the dream sufficiently to detect any invented interpretation which the wise men might offer.

Keil commenting on this states,

That the king had not forgotten his dream, and that there remained only some oppressive recollection that he had dreamed, is made clear from ver. 9, where the king says to the Chaldeans, “if ye cannot declare to me the dream, ye have taken in hand to utter deceitful words before me; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that ye will give to me also the interpretation.” According to this, Nebuchadnezzar wished to hear the dream from the wise men that he might thus have a guarantee for the correctness of the interpretation which they might give. He could not thus have spoken to them if he had wholly forgotten the dream, and had only a dark apprehension remaining in his mind that he had dreamed. In this case, he would neither have offered a great reward for the announcement of the dream, nor have threatened severe punishment, or even death, for failure in announcing it. For then he would have given the Chaldeans the opportunity, at the cost of truth, of declaring any dream with an interpretation. But as threatening and promise on the part of the king in that case would have been unwise, so also in the sight of the wise men, their helplessness in complying with the demand of the king would have been incomprehensible. If the king had truly forgotten the dream, they had no reason to be afraid of their lives if they had given some self-conceived dream with an interpretation of it; for in that case, he could not have accused them of falseness and deceit, and punished them on that account. If, on the contrary, he still knew the dream which so troubled him, and the contents of which he desired to hear from the Chaldeans, so that he might put them to the proof whether he might trust in their interpretation, then neither his demand nor the severity of his proceeding was irrational.

It seems clear from the entire context that Nebuchadnezzar was not willing to accept any easy interpretation of his dream but wanted proof that his wise men had divine sources of information beyond the ordinary. He also sensed that they were attempting to gain time, hoping that his ugly mood would change. He wanted them to know that he had made up his mind.

Final Plea of the Wise Men Denied

2:10-13 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

Although the Chaldeans had confidently claimed to be able to interpret the dream, they were baffled by the demand to tell the dream itself. With as much courtesy as they could summon, they attempted to communicate to Nebuchadnezzar that his demand was unreasonable and that “no king, lord, nor ruler” would expect such a revelation from his wise men. The phrase “before the king” delicately expresses their consciousness that they were standing in the presence of an absolute ruler. They confess that the king’s demand is beyond any human knowledge, even such as they might possess. With an attempt at subtle flattery, they refer to him as king, lord, and ruler, which could be translated by combining the three terms as “great and powerful ruler,” as Young suggests. The thought is that such a great and powerful ruler as Nebuchadnezzar would be too great a man to expect such knowledge of his servants. That which the king demands is “rare” or “difficult” and is a matter which only the gods could reveal. The expression “whose dwelling is not with flesh” may distinguish gods who are above human connection and those who might appear in human form, but the probable meaning is that only god and not men could reveal a secret like the dream. This very statement, reflecting the bankruptcy of human wisdom, sets the stage for Daniel’s divine revelation.

The humility of the wise men and their protestation were of no avail. It apparently only confirmed the king’s suspicion that they were incompetent and incapable of really helping him. It only made him more angry, the word “furious” coming from a root similar to that from which came the Hebrew word for the wrath of Pharaoh (Gen 40:2; 41:10).118 Accordingly, the decree is issued “to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” By “wise men” he included not only the four classes that were before him but all others such as Daniel and his companions. Although Babylon could refer to the entire empire, it is probable that the decree was limited to the city of Babylon (2:49; 3:1).

It is not entirely clear from verse 13 whether the executioners killed the wise men right where they were when found or whether they were being collected for a public execution. The latter is probably the case as subsequent scripture reveals that Daniel has the time to ask questions. Montgomery writes, “It was not to be a Sicilian Vespers but a formal execution under the proper officials and in the appointed place, hence the first purpose of the officials was to assemble the condemned.”

The fact that Daniel and his companions were included among the wise men has given rise to the false accusation that he had become a part of the heathen religious system of Babylon. There is no support whatever for this in Scripture. His training in chapter 1 did not make him a priest but merely a counselor of the king. But as such, he was included in the broad category of wise men.

Daniel’s Request for Time to Seek Interpretation or the Dream

2:14-16 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

When Daniel is informed of the decree of the king, it is stated “Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard.” Although the wise men previously could hardly be accused of discourtesy, there seems to be an additional dignity and calmness in Daniel’s approach to the problem. As Keil expresses it, “Through Daniel’s judicious interview with Arioch, the further execution of the royal edict was interrupted.”

Arioch, as the captain of the king’s guard, had the duty also of serving as chief executioner, although he personally may not have had the responsibility of killing the wise men. Accustomed as he was to the cruelty of his day, Arioch apparently did not question the king’s decree. When Daniel, however, asked the question, “Why is the decree so hasty from the king?” a discussion followed in which Daniel is apprised of the total situation. That Arioch would take time to explain this to one already condemned to death speaks well both of Daniel’s approach and of Arioch’s regard for him. That Daniel refers to the decree as “hasty” or “severe” has been held by some to contradict his prudence. Obviously, however, a decree to execute wise men who have not had an opportunity to speak to the king was indeed harsh and severe, and occasioned Arioch’s explanation.

In verse 16, only the briefest summary is offered of what actually transpired. Undoubtedly, Daniel expressed to Arioch the possibility that he could interpret the dream and secured Arioch’s co-operation in going before the king. It would hardly have been suitable, especially with the king in the mood he was in, for Daniel to go in to the king unannounced without proper procedure. Possibly, the king by this time had cooled down a bit. In any event, Daniel was given his audience in which he asked for time and promised to show the king the interpretation. In contrast to the other wise men who were so filled with terror that they had no plans and had already been cut off from any additional time, Daniel, who had not been a part of the king’s frustration with his older counselors, was granted his request. It is possible that Daniel’s calm assurance that his God was able to help him somehow impressed the king that here was honesty and integrity quite in contrast to his fawning, older counselors.

Daniel and His Companions Pray for Wisdom

2:17-18 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

Daniel lost no time in going to his own house and informing his three companions. His purpose was an obvious one, that they might join him in prayer that God would reveal the secret. As they shared in the danger, so they could share also in the intercession. They were to seek “mercies of the God of heaven,” or “compassion” sometimes used of the mercy or compassion of men (Dan 1:9; Zee 7:9), or more commonly of the mercies of God (Neh 9:28; Is 63:7, 15; Dan 9:9, etc.).121 The mercies or compassions of God are in contrast to the decree of Nebuchadnezzar of death for the wise men without mercy.

The reference to “the God of heaven” or literally “of the heavens” is an obvious contrast to the religious superstitions of the Babylonians who worshiped the starry heaven. Daniel’s God was the God of the heavens, not heaven itself. Abraham first used this term in Genesis 24:7, and it is found frequently later in the Bible (Ezra 1:2; 6:10; 7:12, 21; Neh 1:5; 2:4; Ps 136:26). Although these four godly young men were in great extremity, one can almost visualize them on their knees before God, fully believing that their God was able to meet their need. Instead of being in a panic, they prayed. For this supreme hour of crisis they were well prepared, as their faith had been tested previously (see chap. 1). The result could be expected: “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Ja 5:16). They obviously were motivated by the desire to save their lives. That they would be willing to die if necessary is revealed in chapter 3. Their petition was to the effect that they would not be included in the decree of death which extended to all the wise men of Babylon. Verse 18 does not necessarily imply that the other wise men had already perished, although this is a possibility. The probability is that Daniel’s ultimate deliverance also extended to the other wise men.

Daniel’s Prayer Answered

2:19-23 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: he revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

Deliverance came to Daniel and his companions in the form of a night vision. This apparently was not a dream but a supernatural revelation given to Daniel in his waking hours. Possibly both he and his companions prayed on into the night, and the vision came when Daniel was awake. The nature of the revelation required both a vision and its interpretation as the image was a visual concept. Hence a vision was more proper than a dream, although frequently God revealed secrets to prophets in dreams as well as visions. There is no foundation for the critical claim that this was a low form of divine revelation. Modern criticism tends to regard a dream as a lower form of revelation than a vision and hence depreciates Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The reasoning is that a dream is a natural event, whereas a vision is a supernatural experience and therefore a better medium for revelation. Montgomery writes, for instance, in commenting on the vision of Daniel, “It comes by night, as again in c. 7, but in a ‘vision,’ not in a dream, the lower means of communication to the Pagan.” Attempting to classify the value of revelation on its medium is beside the point. The only question is whether the revelation is from God, and its importance stems from its author rather than the means of revelation.

Most significant is Daniel’s immediate response in a hymn of praise as he blessed the God of heaven who had answered his prayers. The hymn not only reveals the devout thankfulness of Daniel but also the depth and comprehension of his faith. The first phrase of his psalm, “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever,” reflects, as does the entire psalm, Daniel’s acquaintance with hymns of praise found in the Psalms and other Scriptures of the Old Testament. In praising “the name of God” Daniel is speaking of God in His revealed character. W. H. Griffith Thomas writes, “The name stands in Holy Scripture for the nature or revealed character of God, and not a mere label or title. It is found very frequently in the Old Testament as synonymous with God Himself in relation to man… In the New Testament the same usage is perfectly clear.”

Griffith Thomas cites as illustrations of usage Proverbs 18:10; Psalm 74:10; 118:10; Matthew 28:19; John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18; 5:43; 10:25; 17:6, 26; Philippians 2.10. Montgomery adds this comment, “The saint praises the Name of God, i.e., God in his self-revelation, for his omniscience and omnipotence, attributes revealed in human history, 5:21. His power is exhibited in his providence over ‘times and seasons,’ Moff. [Moffatt], ‘epochs and eras,’ and in his sovereign determination of all political changes. In this expression lies a challenge to the fatalism of the Bab. astral religion, a feature which in its influence long survived in the Graeco-Roman world.”

A parallel to this hymn can be found in Psalm 113:1-2, as well as in Psalm 103:1-2. To God, Daniel attributes wisdom and might, as in Job 12:12-13, 16-22, and God’s might is mentioned frequently as in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12. Daniel’s God also “changes the times and the seasons,” an evidence of sovereign power (cf. Dan 7:25). David the psalmist declared, “My times are in thy hand” (Ps 31:15). Here again Daniel is contrasting his God to the deities of Babylon who supposedly set the times and seasons by the movements of the sun, moon, and stars. Daniel’s God could change this.

Daniel’s faith also contemplated a God greater than the king’s, and who could, therefore, remove a king or set up a king. This was not Babylonian fatalism but a sovereign God who acts as a person with infinite power. Such a God is also able to give wisdom to those who are wise and knowledge to those able to receive it. The wise men of Babylon were not so wise, for they were not the recipients of divine wisdom. To those wise enough to trust in the God of Daniel, however, and who had sufficient insight to see through the superstitions of Babylonian religions, there was the possibility of divine understanding. God’s power over kings is hailed in Job 12:18 and Psalm 75:6-7, and His divine wisdom is a frequent theme of Scripture. From the same God, Solomon had sought an understanding heart (1 Ki 3:9-10); and the Scriptures record that “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore” (1 Ki 4:29). Such was also to be Daniel’s experience.

In Daniel’s ascription of greatness to God, he emphasizes that God not only has knowledge and wisdom but power to do what He wills. Daniel’s God is in control of history and hence can reveal the future as in the king’s dream. This description of God can be contrasted to Daniel 7:25 where the little horn, the future world ruler, shall “think to change times and laws,” that is, take the place of God who “changeth the times and the seasons” (Dan 2:21). Daniel later comments on man’s complete dependence upon God for wisdom in Daniel 2:30.

God’s capacity to reveal secrets is mentioned specifically in verse 22. This again is attested by other Scriptures such as Job 12:22 (cf. 1 Co 2:10). The darkness does not hide anything from God, as David wrote in Psalm 139:12. Although knowing what is in darkness, God characteristically dwells in light. In Psalm 36:9 it is declared, “In thy light shall we see light,” that is, God’s light is presented as the light by which men see. In the gospel of John, the Logos, Christ, is identified as the light of the world (Jn 1:9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5; 12:46).

Having attributed to God these infinite qualities of wisdom, power, sovereignty, and knowledge, Daniel directly expresses his thanks to God for His revelation to him of the secret. Although no mention is made of his deliverance from death, obviously this is included. Although Daniel does not have the infinite wisdom and power of God, he has that which is derived by divine impartation, wisdom and might—wisdom and ability to interpret the dream.

The expression God of my fathers is a common one in the Old Testament, here Elohim being used for God, rather than Jehovah (Gen 31:42 also uses Elohim, the common name for God rather than Jehovah, the peculiar name of the God of Israel). As Leupold notes, the reference to “my Fathers” indicates that Daniel “is having an experience of God’s mercy which is analogous to that to which the fathers of old give testimony on the pages of the sacred story.” Significant also is the fact that thee stands first in verse 23 for emphasis, “Thee I thank,” and with a desire to place God first. Again, this is in contrast to the Babylonian deities whom Daniel knows to be frauds. Notice should be made of the pronouns, namely, that while the revelation was given to Daniel as an individual, it was what “we [plural] desired,” and through Daniel the king’s secret was “made known unto us,” that is, Daniel’s companions. Daniel does not attribute to his own prayers any special efficacy.

Daniel Reports Revelation of the Secret

2:24-28 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation. Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these.

Daniel, now fully in command of the situation, reports to Arioch not to destroy the wise men of Babylon. This is another confirmation of the fact that the decree had not been executed and the wise men were only in process of being rounded up. In support of his request Daniel declares, “I will show unto the king the interpretation.” The poise of Daniel, in feeling free to tell Arioch not to carry out the command of the king, reveals that Daniel fully understood that God’s hand was upon him and that he would probably be richly rewarded by the king for the information he was able to give.

Arioch also at once saw the importance of what had happened and, using his office to introduce Daniel to the king, attempted to get as much credit as he could under the circumstances for discovering a man who could reveal the secret. His statement is obviously designed to help him participate in the reward, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.” It is understandable that Arioch would not give God the credit for the interpretation but rather “a man of the captives of Judah.” The introduction of Daniel also served to disassociate him from the wise men who had previously incurred the king’s wrath. Although there is no mention of Daniel’s previous audience with the king which probably at the time had only the king’s briefest attention, now the eager king immediately addresses Daniel, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” The form of the sentence makes the knowledge of the dream the prominent part of the question. Daniel’s Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, is understandably inserted here as a means of proper identification.

Daniel’s answer is a masterpiece of setting the matter in its proper light and giving God the glory. Although the temptation to imagine supernatural powers as resident in him was possibly present, Daniel immediately declares that what has been revealed to him was a secret which no wise men of Babylonia could have discovered, “The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king” (cf. Gen 41:16). The repetition of all classes of the wise men is an indication that no branch of Babylonian religious superstition could possibly have met the king’s need. In describing the wise men, a new word is used to describe “the astrologers” with reference to the idea that astrologers consider various parts of the heavens as having particular significance or power. By using this particular word, Daniel is preparing the way to introduce his God as the God of the whole heavens. In stating that the wise men could not be expected to reveal the secret, Daniel is, in effect, defending them somewhat from the king’s wrath while at the same time affirming their impotence.

Having disposed of any possible solution of the problem on the part of the wise men, Daniel now seizes the opportunity to glorify his own God and, at the same time, disavows that the interpretation of the dream stems from any innate powers which he might have. Daniel declares, “but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” This implies that the God of Daniel is far superior to the god of the Babylonians and that He is the God who is able to reveal secrets as well as know them.

Of particular interest to all expositors is the expression, “in the latter days.” Driver is quoted by Montgomery as limiting this expression to the perspective of the alleged spurious Daniel of the second century. Driver states, “[… in the latter days] lit. in the end (closing-part) of the days. An expression which occurs fourteen times in the O. T., and which always denotes the closing period of the future so far as it falls within the range of view of the writer using it. The sense expressed by it is thus relative, not absolute, varying with the context.”

This would, in effect, regard it as stopping short of the coming of the Messiah in the New Testament. Driver, however, goes on, “Elsewhere it is used of the ideal, or Messianic age, conceived as following at the close of the existing order of things: Hos. 3:5; Is. 2:2 (Mic. 4:1); Jer. 48:47, 49:39; comp. 23:20 (30:24). Here, as the sequel shews, it is similarly the period of the establishment of the Divine Kingdom which is principally denoted by it (w. 34, 35; 44, 45); but the closing years of the fourth kingdom (vv. 40-43) may also well be included in it.” Leupold objects to any implied limitation on the Messianic content and writes, “But to stop short at this point and to deny Messianic import to the passage as such is misleading. Though the content must determine how much of the future is involved, a careful evaluation of all the passages involved shows that from the first instance of the use of the phrase (Gen. 49:1) onward the Messianic future is regularly involved. In this passage the Messianic element will be seen to be prominent.” Conservative scholars usually regard this expression as including the Messianic age in general, with some considering it especially the end of the period.

The Aramaic phrase which is translated “in the latter days” or “in the latter part of the days” is almost a transliteration of a Hebrew expression which is common in the Old Testament. Daniel is unquestionably using this Aramaic expression in the same sense as its Hebrew counterpart; and, accordingly, its definition should be based on Hebrew usage. The expression is found as early as Genesis 49:1 where Jacob predicts the future of his sons. The term is employed by Balaam in Numbers 24:14 and Moses in Deuteronomy 4:30; 31:29 in connection with the future of Israel. An examination of these prophecies indicates that the latter days include much that is now history. But with reference to the consummation in Messianic times, Jeremiah uses the expression a number of times to refer to the climax of the age relating to the second coming of Jesus Christ (Jer 23:20; 30:24; 48:47; 49:39). Ezekiel identifies the times of the invasion of Gog and Magog as “in the latter days” (38:16). The expression is also found in the minor prophets (Ho 3:5; Mic 4:1) in reference to the Messianic age.

On the basis of scriptural usage, it is clear that “the latter days” is an extended period of time regarded as the consummation of the prophetic foreview involved in each instance. Accordingly, Robert Culver’s definition is accurate that the expression “refers to the future of God’s dealings with mankind as to be consummated and concluded historically in the times of the Messiah.” He goes on to point out that the expression always has in view the ultimate establishment of the Messianic kingdom on earth, even though “the latter days” include an event now history, such as the division of Israel in the promised land. On the basis of scriptural usage in the Old Testament, it can be concluded that the expression is larger than that of Messianic times specifically, but that it always includes this element in its consummation.

In the New Testament there is allusion to the Old Testament concept in Acts 2:17-21 (cf. Joel 2:28-32), but elsewhere reference to “the last days” (Jn 6:39, 40, 44, 54; 7:37; 11:24; 12:48; Acts 2:17; 2 Ti 3:1; Heb 1:2; Ja 5:3; 2 Pe 3:3) and “last time” (1 Pe 1:5, 20; 1 Jn 2:18; Jude 18) must be interpreted contextually and is not always the same concept as “the latter days” (cf. Jn 7:37). The latter days for Israel are not precisely the same as the last days for the church, as the Old Testament characteristically spans the present age without including it in consideration.

Taking both the Old and New Testament uses together, it is clear that the latter days for Israel begin as early as the division of the land to the twelve tribes (Gen 49:1) and include the first and the second advent of Christ. The last days for the church culminate at the rapture and resurrection of the church, and are not related to the time of the end for Israel. Culver is going beyond the New Testament revelation when he writes: “Interpretation of ‘the latter days’ must allow it to include not only the first advent and the second advent with the coming of Messiah’s future kingdom, but also the age intervening between the advents in which we now live. We are now, and have been since Jesus came, in the latter days. Daniel actually does not deal with the age between the two advents except for the time of the end, and the New Testament does not clearly use it of the present church age. Culver, however, properly concludes that “the time of the end” as found in Daniel 11:35 is not identical to “the latter days.”

In the context of Daniel 2, “the latter days” include all the visions which Nebuchadnezzar received and stretches from 600 B.C. to the second coming of Christ to the earth. It is used in a similar way in Daniel 10:14, including the extensive revelation concerning the remainder of the kingdom of Medo-Persia, many details concerning Alexander’s empire as in chapter 11, and the consummation called “the time of the end” in Daniel 11:36-45. These prophecies served to give added detail not included in the revelation to Nebuchadnezzar. Having stated the general purpose, Daniel now is able to unfold what will occur “in the latter days,” namely, the majestic procession of the four great world empires, and its destruction and replacement by the fifth empire, the kingdom from heaven. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the visions he had in the dream can now be unfolded.

The Purpose of the Dream

2:29-30 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

Nebuchadnezzar had had a meteoric rise to power as one of the great conquerors and monarchs of the ancient world. He had begun his brilliant career even while his father was still alive, but after his father’s death, he had quickly consolidated his gains and established himself as absolute ruler over the Babylonian empire. All of Southwest Asia was in his power, and there was no rival worthy of consideration at the time. Under these circumstances, it was only natural that Nebuchadnezzar should wonder what was going to come next. His meditation on this subject should not be confused with the dream which followed, but rather it was the preparation for it in the providence of God.

In this context Nebuchadnezzar had his dream; and God, referred to here by Daniel as “he that revealeth secrets” (in effect a new title for God), had used the dream as a vehicle to reveal the answer to Nebuchadnezzar’s question. As Nebuchadnezzar was a remarkable man, so was the dream a remarkable revelation. While Daniel still has the attention of the king eager to learn the secret of his dream, he presses home the fact that the dream was a means of divine revelation in which God had signally honored the Babylonian monarch.

Before proceeding to the dream, however, Daniel once more emphasizes the fact that the secret had not come to him from any natural or accrued wisdom, but because God in His providence had selected Nebuchadnezzar as the recipient of the dream and Daniel as its interpreter that Nebuchadnezzar and others should receive this revelation. The expression “for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king” is better translated as a passive, i.e., “that the interpretation may be made known to the king.” The construction is actually impersonal. Daniel now is able to proceed to the dream itself.

The Dream Revealed

2:31-35 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

Daniel first declares the king saw “a great image.” This must have been immediately most fascinating to the king as it was evident to him, if he remembered the dream at all, that Daniel was on the right track. By image is not meant an idol as Hitzig holds but a statue corresponding to human form. It was “great” in the sense of being immense or large in form, and by its very size the statue must have been overwhelming in its implication of power. Even Nebuchadnezzar, the absolute ruler, recognized this as something greater than himself.

In addition to the great size of the statue, it was remarkable for its brilliant appearance. It apparently reflected light, indicated by brightness which is described as “excellent,” or unusual in its brilliance. The image apparently was not seen at a distance but as standing very close to Nebuchadnezzar, “stood before thee.” The total effect of the image was “terrible” or “terrifying.” Nebuchadnezzar, fearless man that he was, cringed before this unusual spectacle.

Having revealed the impression that the image had made on Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel quickly proceeds to describe the metallic character of the image, namely, its head of gold, its breast and arms of silver, its abdomen and thighs of brass (i.e., bronze or copper), the legs of iron, and the feet part of iron and part of clay or pottery. There is an apparent symbolism in the major metals and the form of the image. As Keil observes, quoting Kliefoth, “Only the first part, the head, constitutes in itself a united whole.” The silver is divided into the arms and breast. The brass apparently extends from the abdomen into the upper legs or thighs. The legs, of course, also constitute a division which ends in the toes of the feet with further subdivision.

The preciousness of the metal deteriorates from the top or gold to the clay of the feet, and there is a corresponding lower specific gravity; that is, the gold is much heavier than the silver, the silver than the brass, the brass than the iron, and the clay in the feet is the lightest material of all. The approximate specific gravity of gold is 19, silver 11, brass 8.5, and iron 7.8. The gold head has twice the weight of similar amounts of the other metals. The weight of brass varies according to the amount of tin or zinc which is added to the copper. While the materials decrease in weight, they increase in hardness with the notable exception of the clay in the feet. The image is obviously top heavy and weak in its feet.

As Daniel reveals, the king in his dream saw the stone described as “cut out without hands” smite the image at its feet, the weakest place in the image, with the result that the feet are broken. Then in rapid succession the disintegration of the entire image follows, and it breaks into small pieces corresponding to the chaff of a summer threshingfloor. Then a wind blows away the chaff until the pieces of the image totally disappear. The stone which destroyed the image grows into a great mountain and fills the whole earth.

The stone which is cut out without hands is stated later in Daniel 2:45 to be cut out of a mountain. There is no evidence, however, that the stone rolls downhill as Leupold infers. In the absence of an express statement, it is possible that the stone flies through the air as a missile. In any event, it smites the image with terrific force.

Daniel’s description is a masterpiece of concise and yet complete narration. As Leupold says, “There is not a superfluous word in Daniel’s entire description and account.” Nebuchadnezzar is so fascinated by the obvious accuracy of the revelation to Daniel that he does not interpose a word. This permits Daniel to proceed immediately to the interpretation.

The Interpretation: Babylon the Head of Gold

2:36-38 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.

Daniel now makes a clear transition from the dream itself to its interpretation. Considerable attention has been focused by commentators on the “we.” Did Daniel mean by “we” God and himself, or his three companions who had joined with him in prayer as Leupold suggests, following Keil, or is it merely an editorial plural which Young states is “employed with a certain humility, for the message was not Dan.’s own.” Of the various interpretations, the editorial plural, which would denote more humility than “I” seems to be the best explanation.

Nebuchadnezzars DreamNebuchadnezzar is addressed as “king of kings,” which position of power Daniel assigns as a gift from “the God of heaven”; and therefore his kingdom is one of power, strength, and glory. Critics have seized upon this as not a suitable reference to the king of Babylon. Young points out that there is not sufficient evidence to support such a criticism, especially in view of the fact that the inscription of the Persian king Ariyaramna (610-580 B.C.) is called “king of kings.” Although there is no clear evidence how such a king as Nebuchadnezzar would be addressed by his subject, there is no contrary evidence that such a title would not be fitting. As a matter of fact, it was quite accurate, for Nebuchadnezzar was actually a supreme monarch who was above all the kings of his generation. Interestingly, Ezekiel gives exactly the same title to Nebuchadnezzar in Ezekiel 26:7.

More significant than Daniel’s description of supreme authority to Nebuchadnezzar is his fearless declaration that Nebuchadnezzar owes all his power to the God of heaven who has revealed this secret to Daniel. How different this is from the subservient respect given by the other wise men. Here is a voice of truth which even Nebuchadnezzar must receive with submission.

Daniel, however, does not deprecate the role of Nebuchadnezzar and goes on in verse 38 to describe his universal rule over “the children of men, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven.” He summarizes it: God “hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.” Some have regarded this as hyperbole in that Nebuchadnezzar actually did not control the entire earth’s surface and the men, beasts, and fowls of the entire earth. What is obviously meant, however, is that he is in supreme authority insofar as any man could be.

Heaton, following the suggestion of Bentzen, considers the reference to Nebuchadnezzar’s authority over both men and nature to be a reflection of the Babylonian New Year Festival. Heaton states, “The sweeping terms in which his sovereignty over men and all living creatures is described in vv. 37 f. may well reflect elements of the Babylonian New Year festival, when the reigning king was annually enthroned as the earthly representative of the god and the Epic of Creation was recited… Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven recalls the God-given status of man as it is depicted in Gen. 1:26, which is itself closely related to the Babylonian Epic of Creation.” At one fixed element in the ceremonies, they recited the Epic of Creation in honor of the creator god, Marduk, whose representative the king was supposed to be. This and other references in the book of Daniel suggest that Daniel is the author, for the writer had a good knowledge of Babylonian and related mythologies stemming from his three years of study and other intimate contact with Babylonian life.

The identification of the head of gold with Nebuchadnezzar is a reference to the empire as personified in its ruler. As Young points out, critics have had a field day in attempting to explain this expression, but there is no solid reason for not taking it in its simplest sense, that is, that the reference is to the king as the symbol of the empire.

The Interpretation: The Second and Third Kingdom to Follow

2:39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.

Daniel mentions only in the briefest way the second and the third kingdoms represented by the upper and lower parts of the body. Brief as is the reference, critics have lost no time in taking exception to the normal interpretation that Daniel has in view here of Medo-Persia and Greece, empires which he later identifies by name (5:28; 8:20-21; 11:2). The statement that the second kingdom is “inferior” means inferior in quality but not necessarily in every respect.

Persia actually had more territory than ancient Babylon, and the Greek Empire was greater than the Persian. The Roman Empire was greatest of all in extent. To infer, however, from the larger geographic area of succeeding kingdoms that they were not “inferior” is to misread both the meaning of the dream and Daniel’s comment upon it. Daniel did not say that the head was larger in size than the body; but the nature of the metal, gold, was more precious than that of silver or brass, which were obviously inferior metals. History certainly confirms that the Medo-Persian Empire, and the empire of Alexander which followed, lacked the central authority and fine organization which characterized the Babylonian Empire. The image and Daniel’s comment upon it is most accurate. Daniel himself seems to imply that the inferiority of the succeeding empires does not prevent them from wide geographic control, for he specifically states that the “third kingdom” will “bear rule over all the earth.”

The descending scale of value of the four metals suggests the degeneration of the human race through the ages, as implied in Genesis 4. Classical writers, such as Hesiod (Works and Days, 109-201), and Ovid (Metamorphoses I, 89-150), conceive of history in this way. This concept contradicts the evolutionist’s interpretation of human history. Instead of man beginning in the dust and consummating in fine gold, God reveals man in the times of the Gentiles to begin with fine gold and end in dust.

The descending value of the metals, however, permits their ascending strength, which suggests increased military might during the times of the Gentiles, leading to the final world conflict of Revelation 16 and 19 to which Daniel refers (11:36-45).

Daniel does not make any comment on the symbolic meaning of the breast which would contain the heart or of the lower part of the body containing the abdomen. It is probably reading too much into the Scriptures to infer from this that Cyrus, the Persian, was a noble man with some compassion for Israel and to conclude, according to oriental custom, that this is supported by the fact that the abdomen is considered the seat of affection. More important and significant is the fact that the third empire ends with the upper part of the legs, or the thighs, indicating that the third empire would territorially embrace both East and West. This will be quite significant in analysis of the next world empire, unnamed in Daniel, but obviously Rome.

Interpretation: The Fourth Empire, Rome

2:40-45 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

The fourth kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream represented by the legs and feet of the image is obviously the most important. Daniel gives more attention to this fourth kingdom than to the preceding kingdoms put together. Because various schools of prophetic interpretation have differed more on the fourth kingdom than on the three preceding kingdoms, it is necessary to give particular attention to what Daniel actually says.

The first aspect of interpretation of the fourth kingdom stresses the strength of the iron legs and their power to break in pieces and subdue all that opposes. This, of course, was precisely what characterized ancient Rome. As Leupold states it, “The Roman legions were noted for their ability to crush all resistance with an iron heel. There is apparently little that is constructive in the program of this empire in spite of Roman law and Roman roads and civilization because the destructive work outweighed all else, for we have the double verb ‘crush and demolish [“break in pieces and bruise,” AV].’”

The description of Rome is so apt in verse 40 that most conservative commentaries agree that it represents the Roman Empire. Critics who accept the late date for Daniel and who proceed on the principle that prophecy of the future in detail is impossible offer a discordant note, as previously indicated, and identify the four kingdoms as Babylon, Media, Persia, and the Alexandrian kingdom. By this means they escape the admission that even a second century date for Daniel would involve considerable prophecy of the future. Those who acknowledge Daniel as a sixth century writing by the prophet Daniel, having already accepted the concept of the validity of predictive prophecy, have no real difficulty in accepting the fourth kingdom as that of Rome. Even with this agreement, however, there is serious disagreement on the identification of the feet of the image and the destruction of the whole by the stone cut out without hands.

Because of difference even among orthodox commentaries on the meaning of the feet of the image, it is all the more significant that Daniel gives special attention to this, and in fact, says as much about the feet of the image as he does about the whole image above the feet.

Daniel dwells at length upon the fact that the feet and the toes are part of potters’ clay and part of iron. On the basis of this, Daniel observes, “The kingdom shall be divided.” There has been much discussion on the meaning of the word divided. Young feels that this is simply a reference to composite material. Here it seems that too much is being made of too little. What Daniel implies is simply that the material which forms the feet portion of the image is not all one kind but is composed of iron and pottery, which do not adhere well one to the other. This is what Daniel himself brings out in subsequent explanation.

The presence of the iron in the feet, however, is an element of strength as Daniel states, “but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron.” The clay is obviously not still in its soft state but has been hardened into tile as Montgomery holds. Montgomery comments on clay, as follows: “The one stumbling-block in the description of this fine work of artifice is the word translated ‘clay.’ The word ( h¬asap) which appears with phonetic modifications in all Sem. stocks exc. Heb., invariably means a formed pottery object, whether a complete vessel or its fragments, i.e., potsherds. And so the ancient VSS universally render the word.”

Montgomery goes on to explain that an entirely different word is used for raw clay. On the use of the tile in Babylon, he continues, “There is no question about the use of tile work in ancient Babylonian architecture; we have the terracotta reliefs in Greek art, the tiling of Saracenic art, while the tile-covered towers of modern Persia are witness to this ancient mode of construction.” The intrusion of tile in an essentially metal construction, while perhaps decorative, has the symbolic meaning of weakness. Keil expresses it, “As the iron denotes the firmness of the kingdom, so the clay denotes its brittleness. The mixing of iron with clay represents the attempt to bind the two distinct and separate materials into one combined whole as fruitless, and altogether in vain.” This weakness extends to both feet of the image; and, accordingly, the division indicating that the kingdom was divided is not only reflected in the division of the two legs and feet but in the further subdivisions of the feet into toes, where the weakness of the iron and clay mixture becomes more evident.

This is brought out in verse 42 where the toes expressly are said to be part of iron and part of clay which Daniel interprets as indicating that the kingdom is partly strong, because of the presence of iron, and partly breakable, because of the brittleness of the pottery. Daniel’s description of the image and the dream has been quite sparing of words and is a masterpiece of condensation. In describing the feet, however, he goes over the same point several times to the extent that critics have called this redundant.

A clear interpretation of the meaning of iron and clay, apart from the inherent weakness, is not given except as indicated in verse 43. Here the statement is made that the mingling of the two materials means that “they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Because this description is not entirely clear, it has given commentators a good deal of latitude in using their imagination. As Keil points out, “The mixing of themselves with the seed of men (ver. 43), most interpreters refer to the marriage politics of the princes.”

Another common interpretation of the meaning of the mixture of clay and iron is that it refers to diverse forms of government, such as democracy as opposed to dictatorship.

In view of the fact that the text actually does not tell us, probably the safest procedure is to follow the argument of Keil and gain the interpretation from the meaning of the metals in the three preceding kingdoms. Keil accordingly writes, “As, in the three preceding kingdoms, gold, silver, and brass represent the material of these kingdoms, i.e. their peoples and their culture, so also in the fourth kingdom iron and clay represent the material of the kingdoms arising out of the division of this kingdom, i.e. the national elements out of which they are constituted, and which will and must mingle together in them.” While intermarriage may form an element of it, it is not necessarily the main idea. Keil concludes, “The figure of mixing by seed is derived from the sowing of the field with mingled seed, and denotes all the means employed by the rulers to combine the different nationalities, among which the connubium [intermarriage] is only spoken of as the most important and successful means.” The final form of the kingdom will include diverse elements whether this refers to race, political idealism, or sectional interests; and this will prevent the final form of the kingdom from having a real unity. This is, of course, borne out by the fact that the world empire at the end of the age breaks up into a gigantic civil war in which forces from the south, east, and north contend with the ruler of the Mediterranean for supremacy, as Daniel himself portrays in Daniel 11:36-45.

An important aspect of the fourth kingdom which is portrayed in the two legs is often overlooked by expositors, partly because of difficulty of fitting it into history precisely and partly because some do not feel that this aspect has a particular meaning. Because of the problem some have questioned whether the fourth empire is really Rome after all. The dilemma of the interpreter is illustrated in the comment of Geoffrey R. King, who claims the first three kingdoms or empires “proved by history” but finds it difficult to trace this proof of the fourth empire. King writes,

This is where I find I have to join issue with the commonly accepted interpretation. I have heard it said more than once or twice that the two legs of the image represent the Roman Empire, because in A.D. 364 the Roman Empire split into two. There was the Eastern Empire, with its capital at Constantinople and the Western Empire, with its capital at Rome. Two legs, you see. All right. But wait a minute! To begin with, the division occurs before you get to the iron! The two legs begin under the copper, unless this image was a freak. Nebuchadnezzar knew nothing about our modern sculptury, futuristic and grotesque, where a man’s legs may begin and end anywhere! But this was a plain, straightforward, honest-to-goodness figure with his feet in the right place! So you see, you cannot do anything with these two legs. After all it is a man and a man cannot help having two legs anymore than he can help having two arms. Why don’t they make something of the two arms of silver? I don’t think there is any significance in the two legs at all. And, of course, if you want to make two parts of the Roman Empire to be represented by the two legs, you are in difficulty because the Western Empire only lasted for a few hundred years, but the Eastern Empire lasted until 1453. You have to make this image stand on one leg for most of the time!”

King goes on to question the interpretation that the feet portion of the image is the revived Roman Empire of the future and concludes, “But now, having come to study it carefully, I wash my hands of the whole of it.” King then identifies the foot stage of the image as being Muslim governments we know today and identifies the Antichrist as a Muslim.

Probably the best solution to the problem is the familiar teaching that Daniel’s prophecy actually passes over the present age, the period between the first and second coming of Christ or, more specifically, the period between Pentecost and the rapture of the church. There is nothing unusual about such a solution, as Old Testament prophecies often lump together predictions concerning the first and second coming of Christ without regard for the millennia that lay between (Lk 4:17-19; cf. Is 61:1-2).

This interpretation depends first of all upon the evidence leading to the conclusion that the ten-toe stage of the image has not been fulfilled in history and is still prophetic. The familiar attempts in many commentaries to find a ten-toe stage of the image in the fifth and sixth centuries a.d. do not correspond to the actual facts of history and do not fulfill the ten-toe stage. According to Daniel’s prophecy, the ten-toe stage is simultaneous, that is, the kingdoms existed side by side and were destroyed by one sudden catastrophic blow. Nothing like this has yet occurred in history.

If the leg stage of the image has been fulfilled in history, it obviously does not correspond to the period of more than a thousand years stretching from the time of Christ to when the Roman Empire finally gasped its last. As King has rightly pointed out, during most of this period it would have had to stand upon one leg.

The solution, therefore, is a simple and yet effective means of understanding this image. The upper part of the legs represented the twofold stage of the last period of the Alexandrian Empire, which especially concerned the Jews, namely, Syria and Egypt. This was two-legged because it embraced two continents, or two major geographic areas, the East and the West. The Roman Empire continued this twofold division and extended its sway over the entire Mediterranean area as well as western Asia.

In ordinary history Egypt was usually grouped with Syria as belonging to the East because of the long relationship politically and commercially which tied Egypt to western Asia. By contrast Macedonia in Europe was considered the West. From the divine viewpoint and especially the prophetic outlook which is symbolized in the image of Daniel, both Egypt on the continent of Africa as well as the European nations, including Macedonia, could well be considered the Western division, which eventually expanded to include the whole Mediterranean area west of Asia. The image portrays the divine viewpoint, which anticipated the rise of the Roman Empire and its geographic inclusion of the East and the West. This was recognized ultimately in the political division of the East and West by Emperor Valentinian I in a.d. 364. Although Daniel does not deal with the interadvent age as such, it still is true that at the time of the first advent of Christ Rome already was geographically spread over the East and the West. Prophetically it indicates that at the time of the end Rome again will involve both the East and the West.

The meaning of the two legs, therefore, is geographic rather than a matter of nationalities. A comparison of the extension of the various empires will reveal that the Babylonian Empire and the Medo-Persian Empire extended principally over western Asia, although Egypt was also conquered. In the Alexandrian Empire, the Western division began to take real form and power was divided between Syria and Egypt. The Roman Empire embraced a much wider territory in which the Western division became fully as strong as the Eastern, and this seems to be portrayed by the two legs.

This political and geographic situation continued to the time of Christ; and if Daniel’s vision ended here only to pick up the situation again at the end of the age, it would be understandable that the two legs would be seen as equal. The feet portion of the image representing the final stage will also include on an equal basis the Eastern and Western areas once possessed by ancient Rome. In view of the fact that there is nothing whatever in the image of Daniel to portray events from the time of Christ to the present time, if the feet stage be considered future, this interpretation makes sense out of a symbol which must at least in its major elements correspond to the facts of history.

The crux of the interpretation of the entire symbolic vision is found in the prediction of a kingdom which the God of heaven will set up. According to verse 44, this is a kingdom which will never be destroyed, will never be left to other people, shall destroy and break in pieces the preceding kingdom, and will stand forever. There is general agreement among all classes of expositors that the kingdom which shall not be destroyed is indeed the kingdom of God. Having agreed on this important point, however, expositors are widely divided concerning the nature of the kingdom, the nature of the destruction of the preceding empires, and the time element which is provided.

In general, expositors may be divided into premillennial and amillennial interpretation, with the postmillennial view being included as a variation of amillennialism. According to both amillenarians and some postmillenarians, the kingdom of God which is here mentioned is that which was introduced by Christ at His first coming. This, of course, presupposes the destruction of the image by the church in succeeding centuries. This view is confidently offered as if it were supported by history. Leupold, for instance, while conceding that there were many factors in the destruction of Rome, states, “All students of history are ready to grant that the Christian Church was able to salvage out of the wreckage of the Roman Empire all elements that were worth conserving. But it is just as true that the Christian Church broke the power of pagan Rome. The disintegrating and corrupt empire crumbled through decay from within as well as through the impact of the sound morals and the healthy life of Christianity that condemned lascivious Rome… Christianity was in a sense God’s judgment upon sinful Rome.”

The principal difficulty is that as a matter of fact Christianity was not the decisive force that broke the Roman Empire. The main reason was its internal decay and the political conditions which surrounded it. Further, the decay of the Roman Empire extended for more than a thousand years after the first coming of Christ. In other words, the time factor was greater than the period from Nebuchadnezzar to Christ. To have such a long period of time described in the symbolism of a stone striking the feet of the image and the chaff being swept away by wind simply does not correspond to the facts of history. In view of the very accurate portrayal of preceding history by the image, it is a reasonable and natural conclusion that the feet stage of the image including destruction by the stone is still future and unfulfilled. There is certainly no evidence, nineteen hundred years after Christ, that the kingdom of God has conquered the entire world.

Not only is there no scriptural evidence whatever that the first coming of Christ caused the downfall of Gentile world power which is still very much with us today, but express prophecies relating to the second advent of Christ picture just such a devastating defeat of Gentile power. Revelation 19:11-21, which all agree is a picture of the second coming of Christ, is expressly the time when Jesus Christ assumes command as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is declared that at that time “He should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev 19:15). If it were not necessary to make Daniel’s image conform somehow to the amillennial and postmillennial concept of the gradual conquering of the world by the gospel, no one would ever have dreamed that the smiting by the stone of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream described a long process now more than nineteen hundred years underway and still far from completion.

Young states extensively some of his objections to considering the destruction of the image as being fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. He objects that this interpretation “makes too much of the symbolism.” He objects that Daniel 2 does not state that there are ten toes on the image although he admits that Daniel 7:24-27 speaks of ten kings as being the last stage of Gentile power. He further holds that the image is smitten on the feet, not on the toes. Such minor criticisms, of course, are irrelevant to the main question, because the feet and the toes are obviously all part of the same period. The fact is that his interpretation does not give any reasonable explanation of the catastrophic character of the stone smiting the image.

The only rule on which prophetic interpretation can be judged is whether the interpretation corresponds to the fulfillment. Nothing is more evident after nineteen hundred years of Christianity than that the stone, if it reflects the church or the spiritual kingdom which Christ formed at His first coming, is not in any sense of the term occupying the center of the stage in which Gentile power has been destroyed. As a matter of fact, in the twentieth century the church has been an ebbing tide in the affairs of the world; and there has been no progress whatever in the church’s gaining control of the world politically. If the image represents the political power of the Gentiles, it is very much still standing.

Accordingly, the interpretation is much preferred that the expression “in the days of these kings” refers to the kings who rule during the last generation of Gentile power. While it is true that this is not specifically related to the toes of the image, in the nature of the case the destruction will come for the last generation of rulers. Inasmuch as other passages speak specifically of ten kings in the end times (Dan 7:24; Rev 17:12), it is not unreasonable to hold that this is a reference to the final state of the kingdom and the final rulers.

The description of the stone as being cut out “of the mountain without hands” has sometimes been referred to Mount Zion specifically, but it is better to consider this as a symbolic picture of political sovereignty. The stone is part and parcel of the sovereignty of God of which it is an effective expression. The symbolism clearly makes this originate in God rather than in men. The effect is that the fifth kingdom, the kingdom of God, replaces completely all vestiges of the preceding kingdoms, which prophecy can only be fulfilled in any literal sense by a reign of Christ over the earth. The fact is that the amillennial interpretation, attempting to find fulfillment of the destruction of the image in history, does not provide a reasonable explanation of this passage. Only the premillennial position, which assigns this event as coinciding with the second advent of Christ, gives literal fulfillment to the symbolism involved in the destruction of the image.

In concluding his interpretation, Daniel reaffirms the absolute certainty of the fulfillment of the dream, stating again that its interpretation comes from God, that the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Taken as a whole, it assures the ultimate rule of God over the earth to be fulfilled, not only in the millennial kingdom but in the continued display of the sovereignty of God in the new heaven and the new earth.

Nebuchadnezzar Worships and Promotes Daniel

2:46-49 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

Nebuchadnezzar, overwhelmed by the tremendous significance of the image and the demonstration that Daniel’s God was greater than any god whom he worshiped, fell upon his face and worshiped Daniel, commanding an oblation and sweet odors be offered to him. Critics have lost no time criticizing Daniel for accepting this as equating him with deity. It is quite clear, however, from the resulting conversation of the king with Daniel, that Nebuchadnezzar merely regarded Daniel as a worthy priest or representative of his God and was honoring him in this category. This is brought out in the king’s statement to Daniel, “Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.” In other words, even the king understood that Daniel was the ambassador and representative of God but not deity himself. It is probably for this reason that Daniel permitted the king to do what he did. In any case, it hardly would have been proper for Daniel under these circumstances to have interrupted the king with a protest.

An interesting parallel is found in Josephus, recording the instance where Alexander the Great bowed before the high priest of the Jews. When Parmenion, one of his generals, asked him why, when ordinarily all men would prostrate themselves before Alexander the Great, he had prostrated himself before the high priest of the Jews, Alexander replied, “It was not before him that I prostrated myself, but the God of whom he has the honour to be high priest.” In view of the previous statements of Daniel repeated several times and Nebuchadnezzar’s own statement of verse 47, the record leaves no doubt that Daniel was not claiming deity or any of the powers of deity. It is clear that Nebuchadnezzar did not worship Daniel again.

In the process of offering worship to Daniel’s God, Nebuchadnezzar actually pays a great tribute to the God of Daniel. It is most significant that he does not even mention his own gods which had failed to produce a suitable revelation, except in the statement that Daniel’s God is “a God of gods,” that is, Daniel’s God is supreme over any other gods commonly worshiped in a polytheistic system. Although Nebuchadnezzar was short of true faith in Daniel’s God at this point in his life, the evidence that Daniel’s God could reveal a secret and may indeed have been the author of his dream impressed Nebuchadnezzar with the fact that no other god could be greater.

In keeping with the king’s desire to honor Daniel and also according to his promise, Daniel is now exalted and immediately becomes a great man. Many valuable gifts are given to him, and he is installed in the exalted position of ruler over the whole province of Babylon as well as chief of the governors over the wise men. Although critics reprobate this position as objectionable for a Jew, no doubt Daniel found a way to avoid involvement in the usual practices of divination, heathen rites, and other things that might normally fall to this office. As Young points out, however, if Daniel had lived in the second century during a period of strict legalism among the Jews, it would be doubtful that Daniel would have been pictured as receiving such honors from a heathen king.

Having been thus signally honored by the king, Daniel, in fairness to his three companions who had joined him in prayer that the secret might be revealed, requested that they too might have a position of power and influence in the province of Babylon. Apparently, although Daniel had great authority, it did not include appointing such officials without the king’s permission. Granting Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to positions of trust in the government of the province of Babylon. Daniel himself apparently had a position of honor “in the gate of the king,” by which is meant that he served in the court itself. Thus Daniel, the obscure Jewish captive who could have been lost to history like many others if he had compromised in chapter 1, is now exalted to a place of great honor and power. Like Joseph in Egypt, he was destined to play an important part in the subsequent history of his generation.

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The Rapture VS. Second Coming of Christ

Let’s agree on one thing first, Christ WILL take us, We the ones who have believed on the saving grace of Jesus shed blood for the remission of sins, through His blood has bought us, redeemed us and through Christ we WILL go to Heaven, Right? OK? were good? Alright the rest we can sort out of when that will be.

According to some Bible scholars, prophetic Scriptures seem to speak of two separate events—the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. Let me explain.

The Rapture will occur when Jesus Christ returns for his church. This is when all true believers in Christ will be taken from the earth by God into heaven (1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

The Second Coming is when Jesus Christ returns with the church to defeat the antichrist, overthrow evil and then establish His thousand year reign (Revelation 19:11-16).

Many Christian faiths believe and teach about a future, end-times event when all true believers who are still alive before the end of the world will be taken from the earth by God into heaven. The term describing this event is “the Rapture.”

Although the term “rapture” is not found in the Bible, the theory is based on Scripture. Those who accept the Rapture theory believe that all non-believers on the earth at the time will be left behind for the tribulation period. Most Bible scholars agree the tribulation period will last for seven years, the final seven years of this age, until Christ returns to set up his earthly kingdom during the Millennium.

The English word “rapture” is derived from the Latin verb “Rapere or Rapio” meaning “to carry off,” or “to catch up.” and ” To snatch, take away, rob, steal.”

And in the The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon it’s “Harpazo” meaning to “seize, carry off by force”, “to seize on, claim for one’s self eagerly” or “to snatch out or away” and is mentioned in the Bible 13 times.

KJV Verse Count
Matthew 2
John 4
Acts 2
2 Corinthians 2
1 Thessalonians 1
Jude 1
Revelation 1

When will the Rapture occur?

There are three main beliefs regarding the time frame of the Rapture:

Pre-Tribulation Rapture:

The most popularly taught view among Christian faiths is known as the Pre-Tribulation Rapture, or “Pre-Trib” theory. Those who accept this perspective believe the Rapture will happen just before the tribulation period, at the beginning of the seventieth week of Daniel. The Rapture will usher in the final seven years of this age. True followers of Jesus Christ will be transformed into their spiritual bodies in the Rapture and taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God. Non-believers will be left behind to face severe tribulation as the antichrist prepares to take his place as the Beast half way through the seven year period. According to this view, non-believers will still come to accept Christ, in spite of the Church’s absence during this time, however, these new Christians will endure extreme persecution , to the point of death by beheading.

Post-Tribulation Rapture:

Another popular view is known as the Post-Tribulation Rapture, or “Post-Trib” theory. Those who accept this perspective believe that Christians will remain on the Earth as witnesses during the seven year tribulation period, until the very end of this age. According to this view, believers will be either removed or protected from the terrible wrath of God predicted toward the end of the seven years in the book of Revelation .

Mid-Tribulation Rapture:

A less popular view is known as the Mid-Tribulation Rapture, or “Mid-Trib” theory. Those who accept this perspective believe that Christians will be taken from the Earth to be in Heaven with God at some point during the middle of the seven year period of tribulation .

horses, clothed in fine linen, white and cleanHow will the Rapture Occur?

According to several verses in the Bible, believers will suddenly, without warning, disappear from Earth in the “twinkling of an eye.”

In the study of Eschatology, (Eschatology is the branch of Christian theology that deals with the biblical study of end times prophecies and the events of the last days. Some of these events include the Rapture, the Second Coming of Christ, the Tribulation, the Millennial Kingdom and the Future Judgments. The primary books of the Bible pertaining to end times prophecy are the book of Daniel, the book of Ezekiel and the book of Revelation. Though a challenging area of study, Eschatology helps believers understand the prophetic passages of Scripture and how to live the Christian life in preparation for the end times.) these two events appear to be similar but separate. Both happen during the end times and both describe a return of Christ. Yet there are key differences. The following is a comparison of the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ, highlighting the key common differences noted in Scripture.

1) Meeting in the Air – Versus – Returning with Him

In the Rapture , believers meet the Lord in the air.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (NIV)

In the Second Coming, believers return with the Lord.

Revelation 19:14

The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. (NIV)

2) Before Tribulation – Versus – After Tribulation

The Rapture will happen before the Tribulation.

1 Thessalonians 5:9
Revelation 3:10

The Second Coming will happen at the end of the Tribulation.

Revelation 6-19

3) Deliverance – Versus – Judgment

In the Rapture believers are taken from the earth by God as an act of deliverance.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17
1 Thessalonians 5:9

In the Second Coming unbelievers are removed from the earth by God as an act of judgment.

Revelation 3:10
Revelation 19:11-21

4) Hidden – Versus – Seen by All

The Rapture, according to Scripture, will be an instantaneous, hidden event.

1 Corinthians 15:50-54

The Second Coming, according to Scripture, will be seen by everyone.

Revelation 1:7

5) At Any Moment – Verses – Only After Certain Events

The Rapture could happen at any moment.

1 Corinthians 15:50-54
Titus 2:13
1 Thessalonians 4:14-18

The Second Coming won’t happen until certain events take place.

2 Thessalonians 2:4
Matthew 24:15-30
Revelation 6-18

Of course, as is common in Christian theology, there are conflicting views regarding the Rapture and the Second Coming. One source of confusion over these two end times events comes from the verses found in Matthew chapter 24. While speaking of the end of the age, I believe this chapter references both the Rapture and the Second Coming.

However, it’s important to note, the purpose of Christ’s teaching here is for believers to be watchful and live each day as though Christ’s return is imminent. The message is simply, Be Ready.

Now let’s get a little more in depth, Jesus Coming in the Clouds: What the Rapture Really is According to Scripture.

Most Christians today believe the rapture described in 1 Thess 4:16-17 is a literal event that will take place in the future. After all, Acts 1:9-11 shows that Jesus literally ascended into a cloud that “received him”. And the angels indicated that Jesus will return “in like manner”.

Here are the verses:

Acts 1: 9-11 Jesus ascends into a cloud:
9) And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.
10) And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;
11) Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

1 Thess 4:16-17 Jesus returns:
16) 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:
17) 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.

Are these LITERAL events or are they somehow metaphoric or symbolic? As always, we must approach Bible study using the proper methods of Biblical interpretation. All scripture will interpret its meaning:

In the Verse.
In its Context through Narrative Development; that which is written immediately before of after the verse.
Where it is Was Used Before. Verses must be in harmony with other verses on the same subject.
The Time in Which it Was Written. This can also include figures of speech common during the time but either not in use now or misunderstood. There are 7 different administrations spanning over 6,000 years each having a unique set of rules.
To Whom it Was Written. (Closely related to the time it was written.)
Let’s take a closer look at the use of the word “clouds” In this word study we’ll be looking for where it has been used before, figures of speech and translational errors.

Old Testament Scriptures on Clouds
Accepted by Jews in Jesus’ Time

Clouds are for Guidance
Concerning the Hebrews exodus from Egypt, Exodus 13
21) And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night:
22) He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Clouds are for Protection
Exodus 14
19) And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:
20) And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night.

Clouds are for Divine Communication via the “Glory of the Lord”
Exodus 16
10) “And it came to pass, as Aaron spake unto the whole congregation of the children of Israel, that they looked toward the wilderness, and, behold, the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.
11) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying…”

Numbers 14
10) “…And the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of the congregation before all the children of Israel.
11) And the LORD said unto Moses…”

Glory of the Lord accepts Worthy Sacrifice
Leviticus 9
23) And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people.
24) And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.

The Glory of the Lord in Judgment and Punishment
Numbers 16 – Korah rebels against Moses’ authority
19) “And Korah gathered all the congregation against them unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the congregation.
20) And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
21) Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. [skipping down to verse 35]
35) And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.”

Numbers 16:42
41) “But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.
42) And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared.
43) And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
44) And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
45) Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.
46) And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun. [skipping down to verse 49]
49) Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah.”

And there are many, many more verses we could study on this subject but the point should be quite clear. Essentially, clouds indicate the presence and the power of God carried out by His angels.

Let’s See where “Clouds” are Used
in the New Testament

Matt 26: 57-68
57) Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.
58) But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.
59) Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death.
60) They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward,
61) and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”
62) The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?”
63) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”
64) Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
65) Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy;
66) What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
67) Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,
68) Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?”

Remember how God dealt with the usurper Korah and his wicked followers in Numbers 16? It was well known by the Jews what happens to the unrighteous who attempt to slay a righteous man, the penalty is death. Jesus is talking about judgment through the power of God AKA the Glory of the Lord via angles and that they will be put to death for their crimes against Jesus.

Jesus gave Caiaphas the answer he wanted: “…hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (v. 64).

To some, this may not seem like a very direct response. However it was VERY clear to those attending the trial; they knew exactly what Jesus meant. Caiaphas knew what clouds meant from scripture, that’s why he went on a tirade tearing his clothes and had Jesus beat to a pulp.

Then they all mocked him saying, “Prophesy to us, You Christ” (v. 68). They knew he was claiming to be the Messiah because he was identifying himself as “the Son of Man” who will return in judgment in the Glory of the Lord.

Jesus was probably referring to the prophecy concerning him in Daniel 7:
1) In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters. [skipping down to verse 9]
9) I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool: his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.
10) A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him: thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.
11) I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake: I beheld even till the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame.
12) As concerning the rest of the beasts, they had their dominion taken away: yet their lives were prolonged for a season and time.
13) I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.
14) And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.

Christ’s answer was “blasphemy” to the Jews because they knew that only God or the Messiah could be coming on clouds. But Jesus was not suggesting they would actually see him coming in the clouds literally; rather, he was simply prophetically identifying himself as the Messiah: the “Son of God”, and that after his death they will perceive him as such. This was the purpose of his slightly cryptic reply.

Some More New Testament References to Clouds:

Matthew 24:30 “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.”

Mark 13:26 “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the CLOUDS with great power and glory.”

Mark 14:62 “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the CLOUDS of heaven.”

Luke 21:27 “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a CLOUD with power and great glory.”

Revelation 1:7“Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.”

Tribes refer to the 12 tribes of Israel. Earth is better translated “land”, especially in context of the tribes.

Jesus used “eyes” as a metaphor for the mind, and by “see” he meant “perceive, to understand”. Because what of the physically blind people who can’t see? What about the dark side of the planet? If Christ returns on one side of the planet during the day, how can the other half of the world see him if its night and they’re sleeping?

When he told those present at his trial they would “see” him coming with clouds, he meant they would finally understand he was the Messiah. He meant the same thing in Rev. 1:7 and even mentioned “those who pierced Him,” a clear reference to his accusers known as a “time statement”. To stay on point, we’ll cover that in a separate article.

They and the mob who demanded his crucifixion were the ones ultimately guilty of his brutal murder (brutality that more than pierced his skin but completely shredded it) and not simply the Roman soldier who pierced his side to confirm he was dead.

Rev 1:7 more accurately translated: “Behold, he is coming with angels in the glory of the Lord, and everyone will perceive that Jesus is the Christ, even those guilty of his murder; and all the tribes of the land of Israel will mourn over Him.”

So now we have a decent understanding of the Biblical meaning of clouds. To reiterate, clouds indicate the presence and the power of God as conveyed though His angels in a multitude of ways: Judgment, acceptance, protection, guidance and communication.

In light of everything we’ve just learned, let’s revisit Acts 1: 9-11 where Jesus ascends into a cloud.
9) “And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.”

This cloud is quite possibly the same type of cloud that sits in the tabernacle and accepts, or “receives” worthy sacrifices; this is probably not a cumulus nimbus cloud. Remember that clouds conceal God but reveal His glory. The whole ascension event was a symbolic gesture done specifically to drive the point home to the disciples. They totally understood what it all meant.

10) “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven [not, up in the air, but “toward heaven” Greek word “ouranos” meaning heaven, the visible heavens: the atmosphere, the sky, the starry heavens, the spiritual heavens.] as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; [obviously angels, as angels are frequently known to be present around the Glory of the Lord]
11) Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

“In like manner”. Interesting phrase.

Let’s see if Christ’s return in 1 Thess 4:16 is “in like manner” of his departure in Acts 1:9

1 Thess 4:16-17
16) 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:
17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up [Greek better translation: caught away] together with them in the clouds [the Glory of the Lord as performed by angels; one cloud=one angel, clouds=angels], to meet the Lord in the air: [Greek word “aer”; the lower air we breathe on the ground at head level, not above the ground where birds fly or up in the literal clouds, that would be “ouranos” heaven, contrast with Acts 1:10] and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

This doesn’t seem to be “in like manner” to me. Sounds like a very different manner. Christ left in peace, he returns in judgment and wrath. He left quietly as a small group of men watched, he returns with great fanfare, in the Glory of the Lord (clouds), with angels. A shout, AKA a battle cry from the Archangel, and a trumpet blast signifying troops attacking in war.

Is this an apparent contradiction? Nope. “In like manner” refers to the cloud that received Jesus. And remember that the cloud conceals the messenger, only the glory is shown.

mount of olives splitAnd the Dead in Christ Shall Rise First

The Apostle Paul explains this quite well in 1 Corinthians 15: 35-54 (NIV)
35) But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
36) How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.
37) When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
38) But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body.
39) All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another.
40) There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another.
41) The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.
42) So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
43) it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power;
44) it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
45) So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
46) The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
47) The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
48) As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven.
49) And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
50) I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
51) Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—
52) in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
53) For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.
54) When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

The corruptible meat sack you’re living in right now will die, and immediately, “in the twinkling of an eye”, you’ll be raised into a new incorruptible body just like Christ. If you have already died, and are “sleeping” waiting for his return, then you will be raised spiritually like Christ.

Conclusion

“…and so shall we ever be with the Lord”: Both in the spirit with a new flesh like Christ, living simultaneously in the spiritual Kingdom of God with all the believers in Christ who went before us, and physically here on earth on the ground in the air that we breathe with angels ready for battle against evil and wickedness. In the “cloud” that is the Glory of God, the presence and power of the Lord, in all the ways in which God works: In judgment, in acceptance of worthy sacrifice, in protection, guidance and divine communication.

That is the true meaning of this passage according to the accuracy of scripture in the way in which it was intended to be understood. To whom it was written, in the time in which it was written. Like the apostle Paul concludes in 1 Thess 4:18, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

Now you have the intel. Study to show thyself approved and God bless you!

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The Hand of God in History

Have you ever seen a tragedy coming and could do nothing to stop it? One evening as my family and I returned from a school outing, a car passed us at incredible speed, losing control as it sped by. Careening out of control, the car bounced along the center median, rupturing the gas tank and spewing a trail of gas down the highway. Sparks flew as the underside of the car scraped the concrete curb.

Instantly, the sparks ignited, and flames followed the car to its final halt. We watched helplessly while the flames caught up with the car, ignited the gas tank, and engulfed the car in flames. A wall of fire between us and the automobile prevented our rendering aid. Thankfully, those on the other side of the flames were able to rescue the passenger.

Reading Daniel 5 gives me that same feeling of helplessness and distress. From our distance in time, our knowledge of history, and the account of Daniel, we know the king, and likely those dining with him at his royal banquet, are destined for destruction. Yet we can do nothing to prevent it. Helplessly, we look on as judgment day comes for king Belshazzar.

Announcement of the king’s coming judgment begins by a mysterious hand writing on the wall of the banquet hall. Crying aloud, the king summons the wise men of Babylon. Their inability to fulfill his instructions only adds to his frustration. When his ability to interpret such matters is made known to the king, Daniel enters the scene.

It was in chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel that king Nebuchadnezzar had a distressing dream, which he demanded that his wise men reveal and interpret; they could not do so. Daniel revealed the dream and its meaning to king Nebuchadnezzar, and in so doing spared the lives of the wise men. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar had yet another dream. Once again, the king first sought the meaning from the other wise men of Babylon. When all others failed to explain the king’s dream, Daniel revealed its meaning and called on the king to repent, so that the threatened outcome might be delayed or prevented.

Another king now sits on the throne in Babylon. His name is Belshazzar, and Nebuchadnezzar was his “father.” For years, the skeptics pointed to this chapter as yet another evidence of the late date and fictitious character of the Book of Daniel. More recent findings have led many Bible scholars, even some of the more liberal ones, to agree with the facts presented in this chapter.

Recent archaeological findings have named Belshazzar and identified him as the son of Nabonidus. Now, conservative scholars generally agree that Belshazzar shared a co-regency with his father, especially in his father’s absence from Babylon. This could explain how Belshazzar offered the man who could interpret the writing on the wall the position of third ruler of the kingdom (Daniel 5:16).

Nearly 25 years have passed since the events of chapter 4 and over 70 years since chapter 1. Now advanced in years, Daniel is a senior statesman in Babylon. He has outlasted a number of kings and in his time Belshazzar, the last of the Chaldean kings of Babylon, will be killed and Babylon will pass from Chaldean rule to rule by Darius the Mede.

In chapters 1-4, we have an account of the life of Nebuchadnezzar, the first Babylonian king to rule over the captive Jews. The account looks at several events in the life of this great king, which eventually bring him to his knees in worship and praise of the God of Israel. Daniel then passes over several kings, giving us this brief account of the last day in the reign of Belshazzar, the last of the Chaldean kings.

The death of Belshazzar at the hand of Darius is a partial fulfillment of the prophecy revealed to king Nebuchadnezzar by his dream in chapter 2. There, Daniel informed Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom was the first of four kingdoms to precede the coming of Messiah. His was the kingdom of gold, to be followed by a lesser kingdom of silver (Daniel 2:39). The kingdom of silver is introduced in Daniel 5, when Darius captures Babylon, and Belshazzar is put to death. The Medo-Persian kingdom is born, fulfilling the first part of the prophecy revealed through Daniel.

Belshazzar’s Blasphemous Banquet
(5:1-4)

1 Belshazzar the king held a great feast for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in the presence of the thousand. 2 When Belshazzar tasted the wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver vessels which Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem, in order that the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines might drink from them. 3 Then they brought the gold vessels that had been taken out of the temple, the house of God which was in Jerusalem; and the king and his nobles, his wives, and his concubines drank from them. 4 They drank the wine and praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

Understanding how things went from bad to worse in these verses is not difficult. As a college student, I worked several months for a caterer. One night we catered a banquet for a group of socialites in the city of Seattle. As the night wore on and the alcohol flowed freely, I saw and heard things I never would have expected or believed from people normally very proper and dignified.

Such seems to have been the scene at Belshazzar’s banquet.52 One thousand of the king’s nobles were invited, along with their wives or other women. The king was responsible for what happened, and too much wine seems to have contributed to his poor judgment. A false sense of pride and self-sufficiency seems to have dominated the dinner party. The king remembered the expensive vessels which Nebuchadnezzar, his father,53 had taken when he defeated and captured Jerusalem. How much more impressive the evening would be if they drank their wine from the gold and silver vessels from the temple in Jerusalem.54

And so the vessels were brought in. The wine continued to flow freely, and toasts began to be offered. That these pagans were engaged in a kind of drinking bout with the sacred temple vessels was bad enough, but the ultimate blasphemy was toasting the gods of gold, silver, brass, iron, wood, and stone.55

God has a limit to how far He will allow men to go in their sin. In His longsuffering and mercy, God may allow men to continue in their sin for a time. But there is a time for judgment.56 The king and his Babylonian dinner guests crossed the line that fateful night in the banquet hall of Babylon. Judgment day had come, and the writing on the wall announced its arrival.

The Handwriting on the Wall
(5:5-9)

5 Suddenly the fingers of a man’s hand emerged and began writing opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace, and the king saw the back of the hand that did the writing. 6 Then the king’s face grew pale, and his thoughts alarmed him; and his hip joints went slack, and his knees began knocking together. 7 The king called aloud to bring in the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners. The king spoke and said to the wise men of Babylon, “Any man who can read this inscription and explain its interpretation to me will be clothed with purple, and have a necklace of gold around his neck, and have authority as third ruler in the kingdom.” 8 Then all the king’s wise men came in, but they could not read the inscription or make known its interpretation to the king. 9 Then King Belshazzar was greatly alarmed, his face grew even paler, and his nobles were perplexed.

Knowing the power of the Babylonian kings,57 Belshazzar must have seen many men stand in fear and trembling before him. Now it was his turn to tremble. In that torch-lit banquet hall, the revelry had reached its peak, doubtlessly with loud boasting and toasting, laughter and celebration. Likely, the king was the life of the party. Perhaps he was closest to the sudden emerging of the mysterious hand in the light of the nearby lamp.

One might have thought the king was having a heart attack. Barely able to stand, his face was ashen and seized with terror. The raucous laughter turned to deafening silence with all eyes on the king. The king’s eyes were fixed upon the hand as it wrote. As a sense of foreboding and panic fell on the crowd, all eyes turned to the mysterious writing on the wall. The king’s actions alarmed all who were present.

One can only imagine the scene. Already affected by too much wine, the king’s terror robbed his legs of all strength. The lower part of his body seems to have lost control. Crying aloud in fear, his speech probably slurred, the king immediately summoned his wise men to the banquet hall. What did these words on the wall mean? He must know. A tempting reward was offered to anyone who could interpret the meaning of the handwriting on the wall.

Some think the king did not recognize the words, while others believe he only failed to understand their meaning. Since the words seem to be written in Aramaic, and there are only three, it may be that he recognized the words but did not understand their meaning. Unable to decipher their meaning, the wise men come and go. The king’s fear and distress intensifies while the others remain terror stricken.

The Recommendation of Daniel
(5:10-12)

10 The queen entered the banquet hall because of the words of the king and his nobles; the queen spoke and said, “O king, live forever! Do not let your thoughts alarm you or your face be pale. 11 “There is a man in your kingdom in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of your father, illumination, insight, and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him. And King Nebuchadnezzar, your father, your father the king, appointed him chief of the magicians, conjurers, Chaldeans, and diviners. 12 “This was because an extraordinary spirit, knowledge and insight, interpretation of dreams, explanation of enigmas, and solving of difficult problems were found in this Daniel, whom the king named Belteshazzar. Let Daniel now be summoned, and he will declare the interpretation.”

The queen mother58 does not seem to have attended the banquet, but eventually the cries of those in the banquet hall reach her ears, and she arrives on the scene. Taking note of Belshazzar’s appearance and demeanor, she tries to calm him. She informs the king that in the past a man named Daniel had successfully dealt for many years with such difficult matters. Daniel could decipher the words and their meaning.

The queen has great confidence in Daniel’s ability based upon his track record in the history of Babylonian affairs. Her summary of Daniel’s accomplishments in verse 12 suggests that Daniel performed other amazing tasks throughout the lifetime of king Nebuchadnezzar. Those recorded in the Book of Daniel are but a sampling of Daniel’s ministry to the king.

Sadly, we must observe that the queen mother’s confidence in Daniel does not seem to have been related to any personal faith in his God. She refers to Daniel and his great wisdom in pagan terms and makes no reference to Daniel’s God as the God of the Jews. She simply refers to his wisdom as having its source in “the gods.” His wisdom was extraordinary, but not the wisdom of a sovereign God. Her knowledge of Daniel and his God is superior to that of Belshazzar, but inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar’s final assessment (see Daniel 4:2-3, 34-37). Her confidence does seem to produce a calming effect on the king and his guests. The king summons Daniel to appear before the king and his guests that very night.

Daniel is Summoned
(5:13-16)

13 Then Daniel was brought in before the king. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the exiles from Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? 14 “Now I have heard about you that a spirit of the gods is in you, and that illumination, insight, and extraordinary wisdom have been found in you. 15 “Just now the wise men and the conjurers were brought in before me that they might read this inscription and make its interpretation known to me, but they could not declare the interpretation of the message. 16 “But I personally have heard about you, that you are able to give interpretations and solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read the inscription and make its interpretation known to me, you will be clothed with purple and wear a necklace of gold around your neck, and you will have authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.”

When Daniel arrived, the king was eager to assure himself that this was the man the queen mother had recommended with the credentials to perform the task at hand. His questions all pertain to Daniel’s ministry during the reign of his “father” Nebuchadnezzar. They will, to some degree, become the basis for Daniel’s indictment of the king’s sin in the verses which follow. The question then will not be whether Daniel demonstrated divine wisdom, but what this king did with the knowledge of such wisdom.

The failure of all the other wise men in the kingdom is reported to Daniel in the words of verse 15. Daniel was being asked to do what no other wise man in Babylon could do, all having failed before Daniel was summoned. If Daniel was able to fulfill the king’s request, there would be a reward. The king promised royal clothing, a gold necklace, and a position of power directly under him. Obviously, the king was eager to know what those words on the wall meant.

Daniel’s Indictment
(5:17-24)

17 Then Daniel answered and said before the king, “Keep your gifts for yourself, or give your rewards to someone else; however, I will read the inscription to the king and make the interpretation known to him. 18 “O king, the Most High God granted sovereignty, grandeur, glory, and majesty to Nebuchadnezzar your father. 19 “And because of the grandeur which He bestowed on him, all the peoples, nations, and men of every language feared and trembled before him; whomever he wished he killed, and whomever he wished he spared alive; and whomever he wished he elevated, and whomever he wished he humbled. 20 “But when his heart was lifted up and his spirit became so proud that he behaved arrogantly, he was deposed from his royal throne, and his glory was taken away from him. 21 “He was also driven away from mankind, and his heart was made like that of beasts, and his dwelling place was with the wild donkeys. He was given grass to eat like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he recognized that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes. 22 “Yet you, his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, even though you knew all this, 23 but you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven; and they have brought the vessels of His house before you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines have been drinking wine from them; and you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified. 24 “Then the hand was sent from Him, and this inscription was written out.

Daniel begins by turning down Belshazzar’s reward. Let the king keep his gifts or give them to someone else. Why would he decline Belshazzar’s offer? Daniel knows that the king’s gifts are virtually useless. What good would it do Daniel to be given the third highest office in the administration of Belshazzar when his reign would end that very night? Daniel was God’s servant, divinely gifted to interpret dreams. He would not prostitute his gift by using it for his own gain. His was a gift of grace, and he would use it that way. Finally, Daniel was not “for hire.” As God’s prophet, Daniel spoke to men for God. He was not like Balaam, whose ministry could be bought. When the king pressed Daniel to take the gifts, Daniel did so, knowing he had faithfully carried out his task as God’s servant.

Verses 18-24 are fascinating. In these verses Daniel explains the guilt of king Belshazzar. The writing on the wall, explained in verses 25-28, speak of the imminent judgment of God which will fall upon Belshazzar and his kingdom, due to sin. Daniel spends more time on the king’s guilt than on his punishment, as he devotes more time to explaining the reason for the writing than the meaning of the writing.

Verses 18-24 are intriguing also because they focus on Belshazzar’s father, Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar’s sin is attributed to his failure to learn from history. The great head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar, the one into whose hand God gave king Jehoiakim, the king of Judah. He was the one who had brought the vessels from the temple in Jerusalem to Babylon (1:1-2; 5:2). Under his reign, Daniel’s divinely bestowed wisdom became evident and was displayed on various occasions. The queen mother’s words in 5:10-12 focus on Daniel’s wisdom during the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Now, when Daniel rebukes this king, he does so because he ignored the lessons he should have learned from the past, through his father’s experiences with Daniel and his God.

The events of Daniel 4 are now repeated, as a lesson which not only Nebuchadnezzar learned but which Belshazzar his son should have learned as well. God sovereignly granted Nebuchadnezzar power, glory, and majesty, and he exercised that power and authority over mankind. But his heart became proud, and he acted arrogantly. God temporarily took away his power and his kingdom, and he became like the beasts of the field, eating grass and living in the elements without shelter. All this happened so that he might recognize God as the ruler over mankind and recognize that all human authority is delegated to men by God, from whom all authority is derived.

Belshazzar knew these things, and yet he had not learned from them. His heart was now proud and haughty like that of his forefather Nebuchadnezzar. He exalted himself against the God of heaven, as evidenced in his profaning the holy vessels taken from the temple. His sin was shared by those who ate and drank toasts with him that night. Rather than glorifying the God of heaven, whom he had heard about in relationship to his forefather, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar blasphemed the name of God by profaning the temple vessels. This was the reason for the writing on the wall. The blasphemous use of the vessels and the writing on the wall were inseparably related. Judgment day had arrived.

Daniel’s Interpretation
(5:25-28)

25 “Now this is the inscription that was written out: ‘MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.’ 26 “This is the interpretation of the message: ‘MENE’— God has numbered your kingdom and put an end to it. 27 “‘TEKEL’— you have been weighed on the scales and found deficient. 28 “‘PERES’— your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”

Three little words compose the message, one of which was repeated. They seem to be Aramaic words. While these words may have been familiar to the king, the message in writing was so terse he could not understand it. Now, Daniel is about to interpret the meaning of the words on the wall.

Scholars have spent considerable effort to explore the origin and meaning of each of these three terms.59 We need not rely on such efforts to determine the meaning of the writing on the wall. The king did not need a dictionary; he needed the interpretation of the meaning of these three words as written, in the context of that moment of history. In effect, it would seem that the message on the wall was a kind of abbreviation, summed up in three words. Imagine a three point message!

Daniel explained that the twice-used term ‘MENE’ informed the king that God had numbered his kingdom and was putting an end to it (verse 26). In effect, God seems to be saying to Belshazzar, “Time’s up.” ‘TEKEL’ meant the king had been weighed on the scales of divine justice and found deficient. The king had given God short measure. ‘PERES’60 is the divine notification that the Babylonian kingdom was to be divided and handed over to the Medes and the Persians (verse 28).

Daniel’s Reward
(5:29)

29 Then Belshazzar gave orders, and they clothed Daniel with purple and put a necklace of gold around his neck, and issued a proclamation concerning him that he now had authority as the third ruler in the kingdom.

Verse 29 describes the king’s response, which, like his life and administration, was found wanting. Belshazzar’s response to Daniel imply two sad realities. First, the king’s response indicates he believed Daniel had given him the true interpretation of the writing on the wall. He rewarded Daniel as he had promised to anyone who could interpret the writing on the wall. When he rewarded Daniel, he gave testimony to the truth of the interpretation Daniel had given. Surely he would never have rewarded Daniel for an interpretation he believed to be inaccurate.

Second, the king’s response is sadly deficient. While Daniel is not said to have urged the king to repent, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar (4:27), prophecy affords sinners the opportunity to repent.61 Daniel does not indicate how much time is left for the king. We know from the final verses of the passage that the night would not pass before the king was put to death. For him, there were only minutes—at the most hours—to repent, and he did not do so.

Is this one final act of pride described in verse 29? Did the king take such pride that his word would be carried out that he spent his last moments bestowing the promised reward upon Daniel, a reward Daniel had already turned down? Or did the king think that putting Daniel in a position of power might change things? I believe Daniel turned down the reward before he interpreted the writing on the wall because he wanted the king to know his was a ministry of grace. The king’s insistence on rewarding Daniel, even in the last moments of his own life, was to be understood as a rejection of grace. The king’s promise was fulfilled, but at the same time, his doom was sealed. How tragic to be preoccupied with purple clothing, a gold necklace, and the promotion of men, rather than with eternal destiny.

Mene Mene Tekel UpharsinBelshazzar’s Reward
(5:30-31)

30 That same night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. 31 So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two.

While Daniel had not given a time frame for when his kingdom would end, the inference of Daniel’s words was that time had run out for the king. Did the king even have time to sober up enough to understand what Daniel had told him? That very night the writing on the wall was fulfilled. Belshazzar was killed, and Darius the Mede came to power.

Secular history fills in much detail here showing how the Babylonian king felt secure within the walls of that great city and how Darius managed to lower the level of the River Euphrates which flowed through the city so that his army could enter the city unhindered. Daniel omits these details, perhaps because they diminish the impact of the swift and devastating fulfillment of prophecy.

Daniel intends for us to grasp this one thing: the Word of God is sure. God brought about the downfall of Babylon and Belshazzar, its king, just as He said. The history books provide details of this defeat, but Daniel underscores the one thing they will all omit: the death of Belshazzar and the defeat of Babylon was the judgment of God on a city and a people who profaned the name of the God of Israel. God will not be mocked.

Conclusion

We see from our passage that the events of that fateful final night in Belshazzar’s banquet hall did not profit him at all. We may conclude then that Daniel 5 was written more for our edification than for Belshazzar. Let us conclude our study by highlighting some of the lessons we should learn from the writing on the wall.

(1) The deadly nature of the sin of pride. Pride is the evil response of sinful men to the grace of God. It is taking personal credit for what God has given or accomplished. Pride was the root sin necessitating the disciplining of Nebuchadnezzar, as we learn both from Daniel 4 and our text in chapter 5. Pride was also the sin of Belshazzar. It led to his blasphemous acts with the temple vessels and, ultimately, to his death.

The Bible views pride as a dreaded and deadly sin. In our culture today, pride is seen more as a virtue. In our culture, it is not something men have too much of, but something men believe they lack and need more of. Why does the Bible condemn men for thinking too highly of themselves and command them to do otherwise (see Philippians 2:1-11), while our culture tells us the great evil, the source of many social ills, is the lack of self-esteem? If self-esteem is not another name for pride, then what is it, and when is it ever described, defended, or advocated in the Scriptures?

Like his father, Belshazzar did not see God for who He is. He had no adequate grasp of the greatness of God, which always results in humility—a realistic view of ourselves. Only when we esteem God rightly do we see ourselves correctly. Pride swells men’s ego to the point that God is small, and He can be controlled by men. True worship sees God as “high and lifted up,” infinitely wise and all-powerful. True worship causes men to fall before God in humble praise and adoration. To fail to acknowledge the glory of God and pursue and promote one’s own glory is to pursue death. We must not fail to learn this from the death of Belshazzar.

(2) The inadequacy of secular wisdom. Three times in the first five chapters of Daniel, the wisest men in the land were summoned by the king to tell him the truth which had been divinely revealed. Each time, the wise men were forced to acknowledge their inability to do so. Secular wisdom can never provide the answers for the all-important, spiritual and eternal issues of life:

8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 FOR WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? 35 OR WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:33-36; see also 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 2:6-16).

A popular phrase frequently heard in Christian circles today says something like this: “All truth is God’s truth.” On the face of it, this is surely true. The problem is in placing secularly derived truth on the same level as divinely revealed truth. God’s truth, as revealed in His Word, is the only truth we need to be saved and to live godly lives in this world (see 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12-13; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 2:1-3; 2 Peter 1:2-4, 16-21; 3:14-18).

Why are Christians turning more and more to the secular wisdom of men (sometimes Christian men) for that which is essential for life and godliness? Are the Scriptures not sufficient? Is the cross of Christ not the solution for sin? What does the world offer that is better than the Bible has to offer? Christians are turning to secular wisdom for truth, guidance, and direction, when the Book of Daniel turns us to divine revelation. It is time to get back to the Book!

(3) Seeing the hand of God in history. The spiritual, divinely inspired account of the fall of Babylon differs greatly from that of secular accounts. I must admit it was tempting for me to “fill in” some details of the fall of Babylon from sources outside the Scriptures. But then it struck me: Daniel’s account includes all that God felt it necessary for us to know. It is not wrong to know more, but all we need to know, God has revealed in the Bible.

Daniel’s account differs greatly from the secular accounts of the historians. How and why Daniel differs is significant and instructive. Secular accounts focus on the political and administrative blunders of Belshazzar and Babylon. Daniel focuses on the moral failures of Belshazzar and the nobility of Babylon. Secular history would look at the death of Belshazzar and his kingdom from a political point of view. The Bible describes the same incidents from a spiritual viewpoint. The moral failure was that of pride. The sin was that of blasphemy and failing to give God the glory which is His. Secular accounts would focus on diverting of the river which passed under or through the walls of Babylon, while the Bible focuses on divine judgment. The city fell because this was God’s judgment on a wicked nation and a wicked king.

Daniel 5 describes the hand of God in the writing on the wall, but it also describes the hand of God in the history of Babylon and of Israel. To Belshazzar the “hand of God” was a bizarre and frightening thing. To the Christian, seeing “the hand of God” in history should be a constant mindset. Allow me illustrate this mindset.

In the past, we have seen the division of the USSR, the downfall of the Communist party, and the Communist domination of the Soviet Union. As we have watched the news, people have even had opportunity to ask questions of Soviet leaders Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin. In all of the explanations, the simplest, ultimate reason for the fall of Communism has been overlooked: Communism rule in Russia has toppled because God has divinely judged it. Communism was allowed to rule for a time. Communism denies the existence of God and resists the church of Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the gospel. Communism was given its day in the sun to achieve those purposes which God had for it. Now, judgment day has come for Communism. The cause of the events which have taken place in Russia are not found in the political realm but in the spiritual realm. We must see the hand of God in the history of the USSR.

(4) Learning from history. I am impressed that while Belshazzar’s punishment was revealed by the writing on the wall, this king’s sin was the result of his failure to heed the lessons which his father, Nebuchadnezzar, had learned. The basis for Belshazzar’s judgment was his failure to heed history and the lessons of his father. All the king needed to know in order to honor God and be spared from divine judgment, he did know. But he failed to act on what he knew from history. Even when the day of judgment was revealed through the writing on the wall, he still did not repent.

When you and I stand before God, all of the Bible will be the basis for divine judgment. We cannot say we did not know better nor can we plead ignorance. No one, in all of time, has been given so much revelation as we. I must ask: “What have you done with the revelation you have received through the Bible?” As God held Belshazzar responsible for what had happened to Nebuchadnezzar, so he will hold you and I responsible for what has happened to men through history, as revealed in His Holy Word. We must learn to heed the lessons of history.

(5) The judgment of God. Daniel 5 is the inspired account of the judgment of God, falling upon the kingdom of Babylon and upon its king, Belshazzar. How sad to read of a king who parties while his kingdom crumbles, and who fails to repent even when the day of judgment is divinely revealed to him. Refusing to heed the “hand-writing on the wall,” he was judged for it. The final minutes of life were spent in matters pertaining to his earthly kingdom, rather than in seeking entrance into the eternal kingdom.

The judgment of Babylon and of Belshazzar were certain. They were also imminent. Yet the king never seemed to grasp this and act accordingly. His actions are typical of all who are blinded by sin. For this reason, our Lord warned of the dullness of men’s hearts and minds, even as the day of judgment approaches:

32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 even so you, too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. 38 For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, they were marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that NOAH ENTERED THE ARK, 39 and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away, so shall the coming of the Son of Man be. 40 Then there shall be two men in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left. Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming, 43 But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will (Matthew 24:32-44).

Only two letters are different in the names Belshazzar (the king) and Belteshazzar (Daniel). The life of the king was cut short, while the life of the prophet was extended, so that he outlived several Babylonian kings and served in the Medio-Persian court as well as the Babylonian court. But the difference between Belshazzar and Belteshazzar is not in the spelling of their names; the difference is in their relationship to God. Belshazzar resisted and rejected the grace of God and the revelation which he was given through history and the prophet Daniel. Belshazzar reaped the wrath of God. Belteshazzar, Daniel, trusted in God and served Him faithfully. Daniel believed, obeyed, and proclaimed God’s Word, and lived on. Not only did Daniel live long in this world, but he will live forever in the kingdom of God. May you not be like Belshazzar but like Belteshazzar.

1 “Come down and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon; Sit on the ground without a throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans. For you shall no longer be called tender and delicate, 2 Take the millstones and grind meal, Remove your veil, strip off the skirt, Uncover the legs, cross the rivers. 3 Your nakedness will be uncovered, Your shame also will be exposed; I will take vengeance and will not spare a man.” 4 Our Redeemer, the LORD of hosts is His name, The Holy One of israel. 5 “Sit silently, and go into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans; For you will no more be called the queen of the Chaldeans; 6 I was angry with My people, I profaned My heritage, And gave them into your hand. You did not show mercy to them, On the aged you made your yoke very heavy. 7 Yet you said, ‘I shall be a queen forever.’ These things you did not consider, Nor remember the outcome of them. 8 Now, then, hear this, you sensual one, Who dwells securely, Who says in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me. I shall not sit as a widow, Nor shall I know loss of children.’ 9 But these two things shall come on you suddenly in one day; Loss of children and widowhood. They shall come on you in full measure In spite of your many sorceries, In spite of the great power of your spells. 10 And you felt secure in your wickedness and said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deluded you; For you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’ 11 “But evil will come on you Which you will not know how to charm away; And disaster will fall on you For which you cannot atone, And destruction about which you do not know Will come on you suddenly” (Isaiah 47:1-11).

6 Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the LORD, And He will have compassion on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:6-11).

Chapter 5:
Questions and Answers

(1) What do we know about king Belshazzar and the “queen” of Daniel 5?

For some time, no record existed of any king Belshazzar among the archaeological records known to scholars. Liberal scholars used this to prove that Daniel was mistaken in his information, showing that the Book of Daniel was not written in the 6th century B.C. but considerably later. Later findings have proven there was a Belshazzar, who was the son of Nabonidus and who ruled as vice-regent under him. In his father’s absence, he functioned as the king. So it was that Belshazzar offered the man who could interpret the writing on the wall the third place of power in the kingdom, after Nabonidus and himself.

The “queen” referred to in verses 10-12 seems not to have been Belshazzar’s wife, but his mother. This conclusion is based on her words to Belshazzar which sound more “mother-like” than “wife-like” . She speaks with more authority than a wife would in those times. Further, since this was a banquet for the nobles and their wives, it seems unlikely that the wife of Belshazzar would have been absent from the banquet. The “queen” was absent, which would be understandable if this woman were the king’s mother. Finally, the “queen” seems to have a better recollection of Daniel’s ministry to Nebuchadnezzar in the past, which would indicate that she was older than Belshazzar.

(2) Compare king Belshazzar with Nebuchadnezzar.

Nebuchadnezzar was the first king of Babylon; Belshazzar was its last. Nebuchadnezzar’s victories, including the defeat of Jehoiakim of Judah, brought Babylon to world power status. Belshazzar’s defeat spelled the end of the Babylonian empire. Four chapters are devoted to Nebuchadnezzar, during which God used Daniel to bring this man to faith. One chapter is devoted to Belshazzar. Daniel is summoned to the king on the last day of the king’s life, on which he dies, is judged, and removed by the God of Israel because of his sin. Nebuchadnezzar had a long, forty three year reign; Belshazzar’s reign is much shorter.

(3) How did Belshazzar obtain possession of the temple vessels? What occasion prompted Belshazzar to use the temple vessels? What use did Belshazzar make of the temple vessels? Why was God offended by their use?

Nebuchadnezzar took possession of the temple vessels when he defeated Jerusalem (see Daniel 1:2; 2 Kings 24:13). He took the vessels back to Babylon, where he placed them in the house of his god. Belshazzar knew this and decided to mock Israel and her God by using the temple vessels in a blasphemous way. It almost seems this was an act of protest and rebellion against the favor shown to the God of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar. Had king Nebuchadnezzar issued decrees giving glory to the God of Israel? Had he put aside the pagan religion of Babylon? Then Belshazzar, it seems, would restore the old religion by mocking the God of Israel. It was his final and fatal act. God did not allow this blasphemy to go unchallenged, for that very day He judged Babylon and Belshazzar.

(4) What is the relationship between verses 1-4 and 5-9?

Verses 1-4 are the last straw, the final act of blasphemy which brings upon Belshazzar and the banquet nobles the judgment of God, foretold by the writing on the wall in verses 5-9.

(5) What do we learn about Daniel, the queen, and Belshazzar from verses 10-12?

These verses record the recommendation of Daniel by the queen mother. He was the one, she assured Belshazzar, who could interpret the writing on the wall. These verses indicate that Daniel’s ministry during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar was extensive and well-known. Belshazzar was aware of the experiences of his father. He both could and should have known about Daniel, but he seems to be ignorant of those truths which could have saved him from God’s judgment. The queen mother, while confident of Daniel’s abilities, views him not in terms of his relationship to the one all-powerful, sovereign God of Israel, but as only one among many wise men who served the “gods.” She does not reflect the knowledge of, or faith in, God that we can see in Nebuchadnezzar.

(6) What is different about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 4 and the writing on the wall in chapter 5?

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 4 was interpreted by Daniel, but his interpretation gave the king hope of avoiding God’s discipline if he repented (4:27). In addition, the discipline of Nebuchadnezzar was for a period of seven years after which he would be restored. Belshazzar was given no such hope or encouragement. His blasphemous act would result in his death. His judgment is declared shortly before it occurred, not so this king could repent as much as that the reader might recognize the fall of Babylon and the death of Belshazzar as the fulfillment of God’s purpose of judging this king and his kingdom.

(7) How does Daniel become involved in the matter of Belshazzar’s dream? Why was it especially appropriate for Daniel to interpret the king’s dream?

Daniel was called upon because no other wise man in Babylon could interpret the writing on the wall and because the queen mother recommended him so highly. Daniel had interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream in chapter 2, which told of the passing of this kingdom of gold to be replaced by the kingdom of silver, that of Medio-Persia. It was likely for Daniel to be summoned, because he was a prophet of the God of Israel, to whom Belshazzar refused to give glory and honor, choosing rather to blaspheme His name. It was also fitting for Daniel to be called because he was so prominent during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, from whose experiences Belshazzar should have learned humility. But he did not.

(8) According to Daniel’s words in our text, what was the sin of Belshazzar for which he was being judged by God?

Belshazzar was judged for his pride and for not learning humility from history. He did not learn the lessons God had given Babylon through the experiences of king Nebuchadnezzar. Specifically, the king evidenced his pride through his blasphemous act of using the temple vessels to toast the gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.

(9) Why was the king told of his destruction only hours before his death? How did the king respond? How did his response differ from that of his father, Nebuchadnezzar?

The purpose for revealing king Belshazzar’s judgment does not seem to be to call him to repentance but to demonstrate to the reader that the fall of Babylon and its king was an act of divine judgment, due to sin. Nebuchadnezzar repented when the wisdom and power of the God of Israel was demonstrated. Belshazzar does not repent. Nebuchadnezzar died in faith; Belshazzar died in unbelief. Nebuchadnezzar came to know the salvation of God; Belshazzar came to experience the wrath of God.

(10) What purpose does chapter 5 fulfill in the argument of Daniel?

Among other things, Daniel 5 is a picture of the coming judgment of God upon sinful men and nations. In the Book of Daniel, chapter 5 demonstrates that while God raises up heathen nations and uses them to accomplish His plans and purposes for Israel, He will also judge them for their sins.

(11) What lessons are being taught in Daniel 5?

Daniel 5 reminds us of the awesome reality of the coming day of judgment, when our Lord will judge those men and nations who have rejected His revelation and who have refused to give glory to Him. It is a reminder of the certainty and the swiftness of God’s judgment and of the way in which sinners remain oblivious to their judgment, even within moments of their own destruction.

This chapter testifies that God’s hand is always present in human history, an awareness which Christians should keep uppermost in their minds. History is the outworking of God’s purposes through men and nations, whether they believe in Him or not.

This chapter represents the third occasion in the first five chapters of Daniel in which human wisdom is inadequate and unable to solve the deepest and most urgent matters of life. Only God’s wisdom, as revealed through His servants the prophets, has the words of life by which men may be saved and spared from God’s eternal wrath.

Nebuchadnezzar’s discipline, of which Belshazzar is reminded in this chapter, and the judgment of God brought upon Belshazzar and Babylon, are due to the pride of men. Pride takes credit for what God has done and does not give God the glory He alone deserves. Daniel exposes the damning sin of pride.

Footnotes:

52 For similar events, recorded in the Bible, see Esther 1 and Mark 6:14-29.

53 It is generally understood and accepted that the term “father” was used more loosely in the Old Testament of one’s forefather, who may have been a grandfather or even a more distant “father.”

54 See Daniel 1:2; 2 Kings 24:13; 25:15; Ezra 1:7, 11.

55 It is interesting that the descending order of these metals is the same as that found in Daniel 2 for the metals which represented the various kingdoms. See Daniel 2:32.

56 See Genesis 15:12-16; 18:16-33.

57 See Daniel 5:19.

58 Various theories attempt to identity the “queen” in this text. The best seems to be that this was not the king’s wife but rather his mother. Her words sound more like that of a mother than a wife, and she seems to have a better knowledge of previous history than Belshazzar. Furthermore, she was not present at the banquet, which would not have been unusual if this were the king’s mother (who wants his mother to see him drunk and disorderly?). It would have been a social blunder if it were his wife; it was, after all, a banquet at which the king, his nobles, wives and concubines were present (see verse 2).

59 It seems to be fairly conclusively proven, for example, that all three terms are units for the measurement of weight. Various theories also show how the letters and words were arranged. There even seem to be puns or word plays here.

60 The “U” of the term ‘UPHARSIN’ is equivalent to “and.” ‘PHARSIN’ is the plural of ‘PERES.’

61 See Jeremiah 18:5-8; Jonah 3.

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

Nebuchadnezzar Learns About the Birds and the Beasts

Current world events have resulted in the radical reshaping of the USSR. The recent Russian coup was the desperate effort of a dying political regime to regain power over millions of people. The failed attempt gave those nations which were once a part of the Soviet Union an opportunity to declare their independence and throw off the shackles of communism. Never in my lifetime has such a dramatic change happened so quickly and with so little bloodshed.

President Mikhail Gorbechev of the USSR was deposed for several days before it became evident that the coup had failed. For those few days, he was removed from his position and power. Although he was later released and returned to office as President of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev has not been the same man since. Quickly, others, especially Boris Yeltsin, rose to a power and prominence even greater than Gorbechev. Formerly, nations which recognized the authority of the USSR submitted themselves to the rule of President Gorbachev now we have President Putin. Not so today. These nations now are declaring themselves free from communist party domination and the USSR. A few days’ loss of power produced a radical transformation in the USSR and the rule of its president.

Centuries ago, another powerful leader was temporarily set aside. Daniel 4 records the events of at least eight years when Nebuchadnezzar was the powerful king of Babylon. During this time, the king was warned in a dream of divine discipline. Choosing to disregard the warning, Nebuchadnezzar became insane for seven years, and his position and power were removed while he lived like an animal.

Following the seven years of divine discipline, Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity was restored. His kingdom was also restored, and his majesty and splendor were given back and even increased. But Nebuchadnezzar was never the same again. On the surface, our text describes the way God dealt personally and individually with Nebuchadnezzar. The lessons learned by this king have a much broader application than just to Gentile kings. That which God taught Nebuchadnezzar, He was also seeking to teach His people, Israel. Beyond this, as we explore our text, we should see that these lesssons are of vital importance to every Christian and every non-Christian.

Rhema WordOur Text in Context

Daniel 4 is the last of four chapters which depicts the way God used Daniel and his three friends to impact Nebuchadnezzar, the king who not only defeated Jerusalem and Judea, but who carried them into Babylonia. As the prophets had long warned, and as Daniel informs us (see Daniel 1:1-2; 9:1-19), this was from the hand of God, who was chastening His people for their persistent sin and rebellion.

Progressively king Nebuchadnezzar came to learn about the God of Israel and to acknowledge His superiority over the gods of Babylon. In chapter 1, we see the faithfulness of Daniel and his friends to God and to His law. The king seems ignorant of Daniel’s God but recognizes the superior wisdom of Daniel and his three friends. He even appoints them to sit among his wise men. In chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar learns that Daniel’s God is all-wise and able to reveal the future to men. In chapter 3, he learns that Israel’s God is not only all-wise, but all-powerful. Daniel’s God is able to deliver those who trust in Him, even from a powerful king. But in chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar comes to grips with Israel’s God in a very personal way. Somewhere in the events of this chapter, the king is radically changed. We would say he was saved. The God whom Nebuchadnezzar once knew only intellectually, he now comes to trust and worship in a very personal way. Chapter 4 is the high point of Nebuchadnezzar’s life, a point he reached by being brought to an all-time low.

The Nature of Our Text

Chapter 4 is a continuation of chapters 1-3 in that Nebuchadnezzar is the central character.49 Chapters 1-4 may be viewed as a unit, with chapter 4 as the conclusion of this first section in Daniel. This chapter could, and did, stand alone, and its uniqueness should be recognized and appreciated.

Although chapter 4 originally stood by itself as a letter from the king of Babylon, it has been neatly integrated into the Book of Daniel. The letter was written to all the peoples, of every language (4:1). Verses 1-18 are written in the first person (“I”) and verses 19-33 in the second and third person (“you,” “the king”). This is necessary in part because someone of sound mind must describe the king’s insanity. Finally, in verses 34-37, the text returns to a narration in the first person (“I”), where the king once again publicly praises the God of Israel, while humbly acknowledging his own humiliation and restoration.

Some dispute that Nebuchadnezzar became a true believer in these verses. Their reluctance to acknowledge his conversion is understandable, for the text focuses not on Nebuchadnezzar’s salvation but on his removal and restoration from office. I do not know of any unbeliever who could write as Nebuchadnezzar has in these verses. His introductory words and conclusion sound similar to those written centuries later, penned by the apostle Paul, words which do not exalt men, but God.

The Structure of Our Text

The structure of Daniel 4 may be outlined as follows:

(1) Verses 1-3 — Nebuchadnezzar’s Greeting

(2) Verses 4-12 — Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Part I

(3) Verses 13-18 — Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream: Part II

(4) Verses 19-27 — Daniel’s Interpretation and Exhortation

(5) Verses 28-33 — Nebuchadnezzar Put Out to Pasture

(6) Verses 34-37 — Nebuchadnezzar’s Praise

Nebuchadnezzar’s Greeting
(4:1-3)

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. 3 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.”

Flattering though it may not be, Daniel 4 is more than a biographical sketch of events in the life of king Nebuchadnezzar. It is more than an authorized account of the fall and rise of this Gentile king. This is a personal testimony, directed to all peoples, of every language, not just one nation or race. The focus is not on man, but on the one true God, the God of Israel. One would hardly expect such a testimony in light of these words from the king in the previous chapter:

14 “… Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready, at the moment you hear the sound of the horn, flute, lyre, trigon, psaltery, and bagpipe, and all kinds of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, very well. But if you will not worship, you will immediately be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:14b-15).

This king, mighty in battle, the instrument through whom the king of Judah was defeated and taken captive, now sends forth a greeting of peace and not war. He who once worshipped his own heathen deities now publicly praises the God of Israel! Introducing his account of what this God has personally done in his life through mighty signs and wonders, this earthly king speaks of God and of His eternal kingdom. If these are not the words of a convert, I do not know what more could be asked as proof of conversion. The verses that follow describe the events which convinced and converted this once heathen king.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream—Part I
(4:4-12)

4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 6 So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans, and the diviners came in, and I related the dream to them; but they could not make its interpretation known to me. 8 But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, 9 ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation. 10 Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11 The tree grew large and became strong, and its height reached to the sky, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12 Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, and all living creatures fed themselves from it.

Verses 4 and 5 set the scene. The king is about to describe the dream which caused him such distress. But first he informs us that the dream came to him in the ease and luxury of his earthly kingdom when, in his own words, he was “at ease” and “flourishing” (verse 4). There was nothing intrinsically evil about his success, his power, or his wealth. But something was drastically wrong with his attitude toward his prosperity and his use of his position and power. His prosperity played a part in his problem, as Daniel will soon indicate to the king.

Once again, God revealed future events to the king in a night dream (see 2:1-3, 28-29). What he saw greatly troubled the king (verse 5). Calling for his wise men, this time he did not demand that they first declare his dream to him; he knew this was too much to ask. He told them his dream and then asked for their interpretation. As before, none of the king’s heathen wise men could declare the meaning of the dream.

At last, Daniel appears before the king. We are not told that the king summoned Daniel specifically, but he does seem confident that Daniel would be able to interpret his dream. He refers to Daniel by his Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, rather than his Hebrew name. No mention is made of Daniel’s God, but only of the “spirit of the holy gods” (verse 8).

Why did the king not summon Daniel first? Why does he not mention Daniel’s God? Why the more general reference to the “gods” ? It is not difficult to theorize the answers. At the pinnacle of success, pride and arrogance have swollen the king’s ego. How could he retain his pride if he admitted the futility of his own religion? How could he keep his image and honor, and praise the God of one of the nations subject to him?

Doubtless, Nebuchadnezzar believed Daniel could interpret his dream, but he wanted to give his wise men an opportunity first. Today we hear the expression, “Buy American.” If possible, Nebuchadnezzar wanted to “Buy Babylonian.” He wanted one of his heathen wise men to interpret the dream. Likely it would be more flattering than what Daniel would reveal. And he would not be forced to face the superiority of Daniel’s God. Daniel was Nebuchadnezzar’s last chance. Only when all else failed did he call upon this Hebrew to interpret his dream, (Who of us can say we Always pray first? no one.) Even when Daniel stood before the king, the king dealt with him only as a man in touch with the gods like the rest of his wise men. He seems to hope Daniel will deal with him as a heathen rather than as a Hebrew.

The king begins by telling Daniel the first part of his dream in verses 10-12, the “good news” portion, which did not trouble him. But this was the way the dream began; a great and mighty tree reached high into the sky, prominent for all the world to behold. Its boughs and fruit provided both food and shelter for the birds and the beasts of the earth.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream—Part II
(4:13-18)

13 ‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven. 14 He shouted out and spoke as follows: “Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; let the beasts flee from under it, and the birds from its branches. 15 Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field; and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16 Let his mind be changed from that of a man, and let a beast’s mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time pass over him. 17 This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men.” 18 ‘This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’

Most distressing to the king was the second act of his dream. An “angelic watcher” enters the scene, calling for the tree to be cut down. Its branches were to be removed and its fruit scattered. A metal band was to be put around the stump, prohibiting its growth. The “tree” was now to become a creature, living in the open field among the beasts and having the mind of a beast.

The king may not have understood the symbolism, but the words spoken by the watcher clearly spelled trouble for Nebuchadnezzar. The words struck terror into the heart of this proud, arrogant ruler:

“This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, and the decision is a command of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes, and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Daniel 4:17).

The king implores Daniel to inform him of the dream’s meaning.

Daniel’s Interpretation and Exhortation
(4:19-27)

19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar answered and said, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you, and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth, 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 and in that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him” ; 24 ‘this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’”

Fully grasping the dream and its interpretation must have dramatically changed Daniel’s facial expression. From Daniel’s body language, the king must have read that the revelation he had received from the dream was bad news. Nevertheless, the king was intent on knowing the meaning of the dream. He encouraged Daniel not to be distressed by what the dream meant. In truth, it seems that Daniel was more deeply affected by the dream than the king.

Daniel prefaced his interpretation with a sincere expression of his love and concern for the king. He wished that the dream applied to the king’s enemies and not the king himself. Daniel is truly committed to serve his king and to contribute to his well-being. In Daniel, we see a man who not only understands biblical submission, but one who practices it. He now reveals to Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of his dream, concluding with a course of action which might avert or delay the adversity of which the king is warned.

On the one hand, the tree depicts things as they were. The increasing height and beauty of the tree depicts the rapidly increasing majesty and splendor of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. On the other hand, the tree reveals the ideal, or the standard, by which Nebuchadnezzar’s reign is evaluated. It is on the basis of the failure of Nebuchadnezzar to live up to this standard that he is brought low, as indicated in the second portion of his dream.

Nebuchadnezzar judged himself and his kingdom according to the standard of greatness, power, and glory. By this standard, the king had done well. The “tree” was not created primarily for its own greatness or glory. It was to provide shelter and food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, providing for and protecting the earthly animals.50

The text’s inference is that Nebuchadnezzar failed to grasp the purpose for his kingdom in the divine economy. He looked at his kingdom in terms of how well it promoted and displayed his own power and glory, not in terms of the purpose for which God had ordained it. For example, while God had raised up Nebuchadnezzar to defeat, capture, and preserve the Jews of Jerusalem and Judah, Nebuchadnezzar had set himself on a course of action which would have destroyed the Jews (see chapter 3). Rather than look upon wealth and power as a divinely bestowed stewardship, to be used to benefit the weak and the poor, Nebuchadnezzar seems to have used his power to oppress the powerless. For this reason, Nebuchadnezzar will be brought low, or, in the figure of the tree, he will be cut down and his stump banded for a period of seven years.

Reluctantly, Daniel reveals to king Nebuchadnezzar that a time of divine discipline lies ahead. Instead of being a great tree, from which the earthly creatures may find food and shelter, the tree will be cut down and join the earthly creatures. Rather than remain as a tree, the king is about to become bird-like and beast-like. His hair will become like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws (verse 33). His food will be that of the beasts of the field. He will graze like a beast and live in the field without shelter, so that the dew of heaven will drench him (verse 25). Even his thinking will be beast-like (verse 16).

All that happens to the king will be done not for his ultimate destruction, but for his deliverance and restoration. The time of his humiliation is seven years. The basis for his restoration will be his acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Almighty God, who rules in heaven, and who both raises up kings and puts them down. His restoration to sanity and power will come when he acknowledges that he is God’s unworthy servant, who has been given power to benefit and bless others rather than exalt and glorify himself.

Verse 27 must be recognized as a key verse. Daniel goes beyond the dream and its meaning to urge the king to take preventative measures, forestalling if possible this divine discipline and prolonging his prosperity. Daniel exhorts the king to “break away from his sins” and to “do righteousness,” to cease his “iniquities” and to “show mercy to the poor.”

It is here that the king’s sins are more specifically exposed and the nature and manifestation of true repentance is made known to the king. His pride and arrogance are exposed as the root of his sin. The fruit of his sin seems to be self-promotion and the oppression of the poor.

It is imperative that we see Daniel linking pride and oppression in this text. The king’s pride has resulted in the oppression of the poor. The king’s humiliation is to be the cure, resulting in justice and mercy. What is the connection between pride and oppression?

Pride is a kind of plagiarism. It attempts to grasp for ourselves the glory which belongs to another. Nebuchadnezzar took all the glory for the greatness of his kingdom; he did not give glory to God. In effect, he began to set himself in the seat of God, reminiscent of other glory-seeking creatures, including Satan himself (see Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28). Taking glory which does not belong to us causes us to see ourselves as better than others. Pride ignores and denies the truth that prosperity comes from God, as a gift of His grace, and not the reward for our greatness. Pride also interprets others’ poverty as proof of inferiority and the penalty for inferiority. Sooner or later, pride justifies the use of power as rightly taking advantage of the poor to gain from their weakness.

The Christian’s perception of wealth and poverty is the opposite—the strong are to help the weak. The pagan perception of wealth and poverty assumes the strong have the right to gain at the expense of the weak. Pride then has led to oppression.

Jonah’s life is an example of this. As a Jew, Jonah believed he was better than the Gentiles. He neither wanted nor needed grace; indeed, he despised it. Nor did he want the Ninevites to experience the grace of God. Jonah did all he could to hinder the salvation of these heathens and even desired to watch them perish. The pride of the self-righteous always reject grace and charity.

The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day were proud and self-righteous. Like Nebuchadnezzar, they regarded their position, power, and prestige as a reward for their superiority. The poverty and affliction of others was regarded as divine punishment for their sins. The pride of those in positions of power led to oppression, and later our Lord accused the scribes and Pharisees of “stealing widow’s houses” (Matthew 23:14).

If Nebuchadnezzar was to be “saved” from divine chastening, he must recognize that his position and power were not a reward for his merits, but a gift of divine grace. He must cease using his power to further his personal “kingdom” and begin using his position and power to benefit the weak and the oppressed. This would be true repentance, and it might prolong his prosperity.

Nebuchadnezzar Put Out to Pasture
(4:28-33)

28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 “While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.”

Note the difference here and what is described in Daniel 2. In chapter 2, after Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar his dream and its interpretation, the king honored and promoted Daniel. Here we find no expression of appreciation from the king, nor a promotion or advancement of Daniel. From the silence of the text, the king only politely thanked Daniel at best, choosing not to take his interpretation seriously. The dream itself seems to have had no great impact on the king’s attitude or actions.

An entire year passes in silence. Twelve months later, the warning of this dream seems entirely forgotten. The king, in his palace enjoying the fruits of his power and prosperity, looks about him and sees only the splendor of the works of his own hands. It seems to be only in his own reasonings that the king revelled in the glory of this kingdom as the result of his greatness:

‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ (verse 30).

The thought had no more than passed through his mind when the announcement of the commencement of his humiliation came to the king. His sovereignty was to be removed. His sanity was to be taken away. He who thought himself better than other men was now to be considered unworthy to dwell among men. Henceforth, he would dwell among the cattle, eating grass like the beast of the field. This would take place for seven years, until that time when the king recognized the sovereignty of God over men and kings and kingdoms, and his sanity returned.

Immediately, the pronouncement was fulfilled. In one brief verse, the king’s humiliation is described, showing that the dream and its interpretation were precisely fulfilled. Daniel summarizes in one verse what our morbid curiosity would have taken chapters to describe. There is never edification in muddling in man’s sin and depravity. How high this king had come in power and glory; how low he fell in humiliation and dishonor.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Praise and Promotion
(4:34-37)

34 “But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 and all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’ 36 “At that time my reason returned to me. and my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

At the end of the appointed time, the king did the only thing he, in his beastly state, could do. He merely lifted his eyes toward heaven. It was his way of acknowledging that God in Heaven is sovereign, and that He reigns over the affairs of men and of nations. His sanity returned, and then with his whole heart and mind he worshipped the Most High God. Unlike mortal men, God lives forever. His kingdom, unlike the passing kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, endures from generation to generation. Nebuchadnezzar was acknowledging in every possible way the infinite superiority and supremacy of God. Unlike the king of Babylon, God is able to act according to His will, in heaven and on earth. In His sight, those who inhabit the earth are as nothing. How paltry and pathetic the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar now appears in contrast to the glorious kingdom of the eternal, all-wise and all-powerful God.

Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance brought about his restoration. Not only did he regain his sanity, he regained his kingdom. He was sought out by his counselors and nobles. His power and greatness increased above that he possessed before his downfall. His final words are those of testimony and worship, addressed to the King of heaven, praising Him for His truth, His ways, His justice and compassion in the lives of mortal men.

Conclusion

This lesson was a very personal and private intervention of God in the life of king Nebuchadnezzar, bringing him to his knees first in humiliation and then in praise. But it is a lesson for all, and thus the king makes his testimony a matter of public record, even though it does not flatter him. What lessons can we learn from this text? Along with your own thoughts, consider these:

(1) Pride is a form of insanity. Nebuchadnezzar’s experience highlights and illustrates an important principle in the relationship between pride and insanity. Pride is actually a form of insanity. Insanity is a condition in which one loses touch with reality, living in an unreal world. Sanity is seeing things as they are and then living appropriately.

I believe our text indicates that Nebuchadnezzar’s pride was insane. His chastening allowed his insanity to ripen and come into full bloom. Holding too high an opinion of oneself and lightly regarding the glory of God is insane. When one fails to live up to his or her capacity and calling as created by God, we are no better than the beasts of the field. The king’s sin made a beast of him. And so does all sin in each of us (see Psalm 73:22; Romans 1:18-32).

(2) Worship is man’s highest calling, setting him apart from the beasts of the field and giving him the basis for sanity. If the king’s self-congratulations were the cause of his humiliation, his worship was the turning point for the return of his sanity and his restoration to power. Worship is man’s highest calling. It sets men apart from the beasts. Worship sees God for who He is and man for who he is, and thus life as it truly is. Worship is the foundation for sanity. When men failed to worship God, they began their fall and became no better and little different from the beasts (Romans 1:18-32). Worship turns men to God in humility, gratitude, and worship, based upon the wonder of His grace. Worship is the way to wisdom, because it humbles us and exalts God.

(3) Our worship is directly related to our witness. Daniel chapter 4 is actually king Nebuchadnezzar’s personal testimony. He endeavors to share with others what God has taught him. Witnessing should be to the praise and glory of God. It should be an act of worship. Whether those who hear our witness turn to faith in God, God has been publicly praised in and by our witness. Too many people share their faith only as a duty and not as a delight. Their witness is not the overflow of a grateful heart, done as to the Lord, but a painful duty. We should learn how to worship and witness from this Babylonian king.

(4) Salvation should not be separated from the sovereignty of God. Recently, growing debate has surfaced over the issue of “lordship salvation.” I do not wish to reopen the debate or to take sides with the major spokesmen. I do believe that salvation is by grace, apart from works. But I also believe that our passage teaches the importance of the lordship (sovereignty) of God to the doctrine of salvation. The doctrine of God’s sovereignty was king Nebuchadnezzar’s principle obstacle. In our fallen state, we are proud, arrogant, and self-sufficient. We neither want nor accept grace. Grace is that which is extended to the helpless and the needy. Pride admits no needs, and oppresses the needy.

When the king praised God for His sovereignty, he was restored to his sanity and power. I believe it was also at this time that he was saved. While the point of the passage is not the conversion of this king, I do not think we can avoid acknowledging the radical change in this man’s life. How can an unsaved man utter the praises which come from the lips of Nebuchadnezzar? How many unbelieving kings would share the testimony of their pride and subsequent downfall as Nebuchadnezzar has done? This man seems to have come to faith in God through the events of chapter 4, and the crucial issue seems to be the sovereignty of God.

How then can we think that the sovereignty of God is not vital to evangelism and the conversion of the lost? Is the sovereignty of God something of such minor import that it can be put off until a later time, after the unbeliever has come to faith? I think not. The fall of man occurred because men failed to acknowledge and abide by the authority of God. The crucial issue which divided Jesus and the Jewish religious leaders was His authority. One cannot knowingly reject the sovereignty of God and come to Him for salvation. To come to Jesus for salvation is to come to Him as Lord. Those who have rejected Him in life will, before the throne, acknowledge Him as Lord. Jesus is Lord! Salvation is based upon this vital truth, for the Lord is the one who died and rose again, for our deliverance. The One who has all power is the One who has the power to save men from their sins.

(5) Authority is not a position of status but a place of service. There has always been an unbiblical, ungodly view of power. Jesus referred to this mindset as typical of the Gentiles. Unfortunately, it also characterized the Jews, and even the disciples of our Lord:

35 And James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Him, saying to Him, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” 36 And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” 37 And they said to Him, “Grant that we may sit in Your glory, one on Your right, and one on Your left.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking for. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized. 40 “But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant toward James and John. 42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. 43 But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:35-45).

The Gentiles view power and authority as the basis for being served. Men seek to rise to positions of power and authority so that others under them might serve them. So it was with Nebuchadnezzar. But God places men in authority so that they may serve those under them. Leadership is not characterized by status but by service and self-sacrifice. Our Lord exercised authority in this way, and it should be the way of his followers:

1 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow-elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock, 4 and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time … (1 Peter 5:1-6)

Power is a gift of grace, not a reward for merit. It is given to make men strong so they may serve the weak. Power is never given to bolster the ego of one who is divinely strengthened or enabled. These truths apply to those in leadership, but also to every Christian. Every Christian is divinely empowered with a spiritual gift or gifts to serve others, ultimately serving our Lord. None should be prideful and glory in his gift because of the abilities God has given. Rather, we should be grateful, humble, and alert for opportunities to use our strengths to minister to those who are weak.

(6) The lesson God had for Nebuchadnezzar also applied to the Jews. God raised up Nebuchadnezzar to power and position. God gave king Jehoiakim and the other captive kings into Nebuchadnezzar’s hands (see Daniel 1:1). Nebuchadnezzar was successful and rose to power by the grace of God, not due to his own merit (see Daniel 4:17). When he became proud and took credit for divine grace, God humbled him—not to destroy him but to deliver him, to make of him a humble and grateful worshipper. Humiliation was ultimately God means of exalting the king. What appeared to be his destruction became the means of his deliverance. To be restored, the king must repent, acknowledge the sovereignty of God, and demonstrate his repentance by showing forth righteousness in being merciful to the poor.

Nebuchadnezzar’s rise and fall almost exactly mirrors the rise, fall, and restoration of the nation Israel. Israel was not chosen because of her greatness or potential. She was chosen in spite of her weakness and insignificance, to serve God and bring glory to Him. When God made this people a great nation in Egypt and was about to bring them into the blessings of Canaan, He warned them of the danger of pride, cautioning them about taking credit for His grace (see Deuteronomy 6-8). He warned them of His chastening if they failed to obey His laws, to worship Him alone, and to care for the poor and the oppressed (see Deuteronomy 28).

Israel failed to heed these warnings and those of later prophets, just as Nebuchadnezzar failed to heed the warning of his dream from Daniel. And so this nation was humbled by defeat and captivity. This nation, which was to exercise authority in the name of God, was removed from authority. They were scattered among the nations, as Nebuchadnezzar was put among the beasts of the field. Just as Nebuchadnezzar was delivered by acknowledging God’s sovereignty and grace, and by worshipping Him, so the Israelites would be delivered and restored.

The story of Nebuchadnezzar’s elevation, humiliation, and restoration should have given hope to the nation Israel, for just as he was put down and later restored, so would they be. The restoration of this Gentile king was recorded to give hope to the humbled, captives of Judah, who would also be restored to their position of leadership in God’s economy.

(7) Sooner or later, all mankind will be humbled before God and acknowledge His sovereignty. Nebuchadnezzar bowed before God after seven years of humiliation. He became a worshipper of the One true God. He will continue to worship and serve God for all eternity. What Nebuchadnezzar did many years ago, every man and woman will do in the future. All mankind will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord. Some Jews and Gentiles will do so by professing faith in Him as Savior and Lord:

34 “For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says: ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, 35 UNTIL I MAKE THINE ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR THY FEET” ‘ 36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:34-36).

8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART” — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; 10 for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation, 11 For the Scriptures says, “WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.” (Romans 10:8-11).

After death, those who reject Jesus as Savior and Lord will not be given another chance to choose Him as Savior. But they will be required to acknowledge Him as LORD:

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

I must now ask you the most important question you will ever answer: “What have you done with Jesus Christ?” Have you trusted in Him as Savior and Lord? I am not speaking about mere intellectual assent. Years before the events of Daniel chapter 4 Nebuchadnezzar had recognized the wisdom and the power of the God of Israel. But he had not placed his trust in Him. I am not asking if you know about God. I am asking if you have come personally to trust in Him, to love Him, and to worship Him. Your response to the Lord Jesus Christ is the most important issue of your life.

Chapter 4:
Questions and Answers

(1) How does chapter 4 of Daniel fit into the context of the book?

Chapters 1-4 of Daniel all take place during the reign of king Nebuchadnezzar. In chapter 1, Nebuchadnezzar is the king who defeated Jehoiakim, king of Judah, and who took captives back to Babylon, including Daniel and his three friends. While the king did not seem to be aware of the faith of Daniel and his friends, he did recognize the superior wisdom God had given them, and thus he appointed them as his advisors. In chapter 2, through Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar came to understand the superiority of the God of the Jews as the God who knows the future and reveals future events to men. In chapter 3, through Daniel’s three friends, Nebuchadnezzar came to understand that the God of the Jews is able to deliver His people from the hands of those who would seek to destroy them. Now, in chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar not only learns about God, but he seems to come to know God personally, through his dream and its fulfillment. In chapter 5, we leave king Nebuchadnezzar and move to the times of king Belshazzar. Thus, chapter 4 is the conclusion to the narrative of God’s working in the life of king Nebuchadnezzar.

(2) What is unique about this chapter?

Chapter 4 fits very nicely into the context of chapters 1-4, serving as the conclusion to the account of Nebuchadnezzar. But as one looks more carefully at chapter 4, it becomes evident that this chapter is a separate work included in the Book of Daniel. Chapter 4 is the personal testimony of king Nebuchadnezzar, who writes of his pride, his humiliation, and his restoration. The first and final sections of this chapter are written in the first person (“I”).

(3) Why did Nebuchadnezzar not call for Daniel first, rather than after all the other wise men? Why did Nebuchadnezzar refer to Daniel by his Babylonian name?

It would seem that the king had every confidence that Daniel would be able to interpret his dream (see verses 8 and 9). He may have delayed calling for Daniel because he preferred to give his own counselors first chance. It may also be that Nebuchadnezzar sensed that Daniel’s God would not be so easy on him as his own “gods” would have been. Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s first dream, recorded in Daniel 2, was not altogether flattering, for he told the king the days of his kingdom were numbered, and that the reign of the Gentile kings was to be cut off by the coming Messiah. Nebuchadnezzar’s reference to Daniel by his Babylonian name, and in terms of the “gods” more generally, may have been his conscious or unconscious effort to avoid any comparison between the God of Israel and the gods of the Babylonians. While the king had previously given testimony to the superiority of the God of Israel, he did not really prefer to do this. Far better that Daniel’s God be seen as one among the many (gods), than as the One who is God over all (Lord of lords), or so Nebuchadnezzar seems to have thought.

(4) For what evil was Nebuchadnezzar being chastened?

Nebuchadnezzar was being rebuked and exhorted concerning his attitude of pride and arrogance. He was also informed indirectly of his sin with regard to the poor. In his arrogance, Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been oppressing the poor, rather than protecting and providing for them. As the “tree” was to provide food and lodging for the birds and the beasts, so Nebuchadnezzar was to provide for his people, particularly for the poor.

(5) How was Nebuchadnezzar’s pride related to his oppression of the poor?

Pride takes the credit (glory) for that which we have not accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar took pride in his rise to power, in his mighty kingdom, and in his defeat of the Jews. All this was God-given, apart from any merit on the king’s part. The king thought his prosperity proved him to be better than others. He seems also to have concluded that the poverty of others proved them to be inferior. Thus, the powerful and prosperous begin to reason that they have the right to gain at the expense of the poor. One can use his strength to take from the weak. The Bible teaches the opposite. God makes men strong so that they can minister to the weak (see Romans 15:1-3; Ephesians 4:28). This same tendency of the strong to prey upon the weak is evident among the Jews (see Jeremiah 7:1-7; 22:13-23; Ezekiel 34:1-6; Matthew 23:14).

(6) How is Nebuchadnezzar’s discipline and restoration a lesson to the Jews and to every Christian?

Nebuchadnezzar was raised up to power and prosperity by God. Rather than give God the glory and use his power to serve others, Nebuchadnezzar became proud, arrogant, and an oppressor. God first warned him by means of his dream. Then God humbled Nebuchadnezzar for a time. All this was to bring the king to his senses, so that he would acknowledge, serve, and worship God.

Israel too was elevated to a position of power, preeminence, and prosperity by God. He made this insignificant people into a great nation, a nation through whom He would rule the earth. Israel became proud and arrogant, taking credit for the prominence and prosperity God had given them by grace. God warned His people of coming judgment through the law and the prophets. They, like Nebuchadnezzar, did not heed God’s warnings. Also, like Nebuchadnezzar, Israel would be humbled, stripped of her power, prominence, and prosperity. The Jews would be scattered and humbled, until they once again turned to their God in humility and in grateful worship. Just as the king’s humiliation was God-given, to bring him to faith, so Israel’s humiliation would turn their hearts to God, so that He might forgive and restore them to a place of blessing. Thus, the king’s humiliation, repentance, and restoration was intended to give hope to Israel, that, through their humiliation, they might be brought to repentance and restoration.

(7) What are the evidences that Nebuchadnezzar became a true believer in this chapter?

In Daniel 2 and 3, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged the greatness of Israel’s God, to reveal and to deliver His people. The king took steps to guarantee the Jews the freedom to worship their God without interference. In chapter 4, Nebuchadnezzar himself becomes a worshipper of God. He moves from a kind of intellectual awareness of God’s character and attributes to a personal response to them, that of worship and of witness. No heathen could say the things which Nebuchadnezzar has said of God.

2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed” ; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:2-3).

(8) What is the relationship between salvation and the sovereignty of God?

The so-called “lordship salvation” controversy has become a heated and divisive debate. I wish to simply point out here that Nebuchadnezzar appears to have come to a personal faith in God in our text, and that the sovereignty of God seems to be the crucial issue. Up to this point, Nebuchadnezzar had been willing and able to acknowledge that God knows all and that He is all-powerful. Here, he confesses that He is Lord.

In Satan’s fall, Lucifer rebelled against God’s sovereignty. So too Adam and Eve rebelled against the authority of God in the Garden of Eden. When our Lord introduced and presented Himself as Israel’s Messiah, the crucial issue was that of His authority. When the apostles called upon men to be saved, they urged them to acknowledge Him as Lord. I do not see how anyone can turn to a God for salvation who is not Lord. And I do not see how the fall can be reversed apart from submission to the authority of God. Trusting in Jesus Christ for salvation delivers a death blow to pride, because it requires an acknowledgment of our sin and inability to save ourselves, and a confession that Jesus is both Lord and Savior.

Related Passages For Your Consideration

Psalm 1; 145:8-13
Isaiah 6; 10:15-19, 33-34; 11:1-5
Jeremiah 17:7-8
Ezekiel 17; 31

49 There is, of course, a sense in which Daniel and his three friends are the central characters, which I would not dispute. But notice that while Nebuchadnezzar is prominent in every chapter (1-4), Daniel is not referred to in chapter 3, and his three friends are unnamed after chapter 3. Only Nebuchadnezzar is present in all four of the first chapters of Daniel.

50 The accuracy of this imagery is interesting. Today, in the Pacific Northwest, environmentalists are seeking to prevent the cutting down of those trees which provide a habitat for the spotted owl.

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