Editorial Note: Due to the summarization of contents in this short article, it will be incumbent on the reader to refer to the biblical citations in order to have a fuller understanding of the details of the story. Additionally, it may assist the reader to be familiar with the Deuteronomy 32 worldview (Heiser).
In the first four chapters of the Book of Daniel there are three very dramatic incidents leading up to the conversion of this prophet. Students of the Bible may wonder about the reference to Nebuchadnezzar as a prophet, but I will address my reasoning for such a little later in the article. Regarding the three dramas that are recorded in these passages, for the sake of abbreviation, I will refer to them as:
- The multi-metal man (dream) – Daniel 2
- The furnace incident (event) – Daniel 3
- The animal sentence (dream) – Daniel 4
Upon review of these stories in Daniel, it seems that they are progressively addressing a common issue in the life of this King of Babylon: Pride. Some have said that of the seven deadly sins, this is the deadliest, and perhaps the original sin. Such comments are beyond the scope of this paper, but perhaps at our completion, one may be able to help substantiate such thoughts.
The scriptural validation for calling Nebuchadnezzar a prophet comes from an incident where the Lord (Yahweh) is directly conversing with Aaron and Miriam, Moses’ siblings, which reads, “And He said, ‘Hear now My words: if there be a prophet among you, I the Lord do make Myself known unto him in a vision, I do speak to him in a dream (Numbers 12:6).’” Daniel attested to the fact that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and visions of thy head were secrets being revealed to him by the God in heaven (Daniel 2:28). Hence, it seems not far fetched to refer to Nebuchadnezzar as a prophet, in that the Lord dealt with this king on more than one occasion in this fashion. In both occurrences, the king had to access Daniel for the interpretation of these secrets, but the Lord was definitely making Himself known to Nebuchadnezzar via the media of dreams and visions. Understanding was not concurrent with the advent of the dreams, but would come later for the king. As we shall see, full understanding would come at a personal cost; nevertheless, it would come.
The multi-metal man dream (Daniel 2) came to Nebuchadnezzar in the second year of his reign over the Kingdom of Babylon (Daniel 2:31-36). His spirit was troubled and he could not sleep. This resulted in him commanding all his magicians, sorcerers, enchanters – all those dealing in the metaphysical realm – to tell him his dream and interpret it for him. They implored him to tell them the dream, but he knew that they would just make up an interpretation and agree to lie to him; so, he insisted that they tell him the dream. Then he would know that their interpretation would be true. Nebuchadnezzar was a seeker of truth. When this cadre of intelligentsia argued with him, insisting that there was no man on the face of the earth who could do what the king required, he became furious and commanded that all these wise men of Babylon on his payroll should be destroyed. Daniel interceded with the king and asked for a little time so that he might declare the interpretation to the king. With the time granted, Daniel called upon his three close friends (Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah) to pray with him, seeking the God of heaven Who could reveal this secret of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. God answered their prayer and Daniel ended up saving the lives of all of the wise men of Babylon. The revealing of the dream and interpretation to the king resulted in the king worshiping Daniel, giving him gifts and making him governor over the Province of Babylon. While Daniel must have been the primary spokesperson, it seems that his three friends may have been with him at the time (Daniel 2:36). In the victory of the moment, Daniel was able to get permission from Nebuchadnezzar to appoint the triad over the affairs of the province. Daniel was bringing “his team” with him in this career change. In addition to all of this, King Nebuchadnezzar testified, “…of a truth it is, that YOUR God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou hast been able to reveal this secret (Daniel 2:47).”
The furnace incident (Daniel 3) may have been somewhat generated by the multi-metal man dream interpretation. Daniel mentioned that Nebuchadnezzar was the “head of gold”. The next thing we know is that the king made a huge image of gold. Who do you suppose that was meant to represent? It is as though the king forgot all the rest of the interpretation, thus forging forward to promote his own golden head. One should take note that the edict to worship the image was heralded to all the peoples, the nations and the languages and the media used to announce the exact time to worship were musical instruments (Daniel 3:4-7). This brings to remembrance another event that took place in this exact geographical location hundreds of years earlier. The founders of Babylon were building the city and a tower in order to build a name for themselves (Genesis 11:1-9). Pride was the driving force in their efforts to reach up to heaven by their own devices rather than acknowledging the God of heaven who came down to investigate their motivations. In this furnace incident, Nebuchadnezzar found the three Jewish province administrators unwilling to yield to the king who was following in his ancestor’s steps in making a name for himself. Instead, these three would only bow to the God of heaven who came down to scatter the people, creating nations by confounding them with multiple languages. Was Nebuchadnezzar trying to reassemble all the peoples, nations and languages as they had been at the tower? Instead of them being gathered by one language as in the beginning, these would be assembled by one sound – that sound was the power of music. Nebuchadnezzar pronounced the sentence of fire, hot fire, really hot fire…just as hot as his kindled anger. Deliverance from the king’s death sentence shocked this lord of Babylon into acknowledging that these signs and wonders emanated from the God Most High. Yet, the declaration of his blessing was framed in terms of “….the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego…” This Gentile prophet has now been confronted with the extraordinary greatness of this foreign God which is starting to get his attention. Nebuchadnezzar really has no reference for this God who reveals secrets of a man’s heart and can overcome the furnace.
The animal sentence dream (Daniel 4) is the weirdest of the three dramas. This King of Babylon was at rest and flourishing in his house when all that peace was interrupted by another dream which filled him with fear. Once again, he has to call on Daniel whom he had previously made to be chief prefect over all the wise men because none of those could determine the interpretation. Why Nebuchadnezzar wasted his time calling in the (so-called) wise men before calling in Daniel is a mystery to me. Was this an effort to give his gods a chance at the interpretation? Was this a continuance of his loyalty and fealty to the lesser gods – gods with whom he could preserve his pride and authority? Nebuchadnezzar had already declared that he knew that the “…spirit of the holy gods…”(Daniel 4:15) was in Daniel. Was this an acknowledgement that his gods were not holy? As Daniel explained the dream, he implored the king to “…break off thy sins by alms-giving, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor…” (Daniel 4:24). A year passed where the king, evidently, did not act on Daniel’s advice; but rather, his own pride imploded in his spirit. As he was congratulating himself for all his accomplishments and achievements, the vision’s sentence was enforced. While the words of pride were still in his mouth, ‘…there fell a voice from heaven…” (Daniel 4:28). In the dream, at the pinnacle of the king’s greatness, the king saw a watcher and a holy one coming down from heaven pronouncing the judgment (Daniel 4:20). One definition of “watchers” provided by scholars is that they were a class of angels that is compared with archangels (holy ones of heaven) and might also function as intercessors for mankind (Wright 100-102). It is interesting that the dream used the watcher and holy one descending with the message of the sentence, while the actual enactment was described as a “voice” falling from heaven. Notice the parallel thought of these messengers coming down in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision and the descriptive plural verbiage (“let us go down”) in the tower of Babel account (Genesis 11:7). The Lord’s stated intent for this sentence was to save Nebuchadnezzar from his pride which had a historical connection with the motivating pride at the building of the tower. This judgment sentence would last until this man would know that the Most High rules over the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He wills (Daniel 4:20). Nevertheless, the judgment came to pass while “seven times” passed over this animal without understanding. When the sentence came to an end, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his eyes to heaven, to the Most High who resides there, and from where the voice of his sentence came.
The conversion of the prophet is now at hand. His understanding returned to him. Of his own free will, the king reported, “I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honoured Him…” (Daniel 4:31). He reiterates the platitudes offered at the end of furnace incident, but in addition to those acknowledgements, Nebuchadnezzar now understands Yahweh’s rulership over all of heaven AND earth. His kingdom extends to the earth, over mankind whose willful self-determination is futile in the face of His will in the host of heaven. None in heaven and earth can withstand Him. In fact, the Lord of heaven does give kingdoms and dominion to whomever He wills. Nebuchadnezzar now understands that the only reason that he was King of Babylon was because it was given him by the King of kings. Yielded now to the King of heaven, Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom was restored to him, but with MORE. This theme sounds very similar to the story of Job’s restoration after he gained understanding about this Lord who answered Job out of the whirlwind (Job 42:12). In conclusion, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven; for all His works of truth, and His ways justice; and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.”
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Heiser, Michael S. “The Deuteronomy 32 Worldview.” Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015. 113-115. Print.
Job. The Holy Scriptures – Masoretic Text. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1955. Print.
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Wright, Archie T. “Bene haelohim as the Watchers.” Wright, Archie T. The Origin of Evil Spirits. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press , 2015. 100-102. Print.