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Books authored by Andrew C. Phiri

Fourth Beast – Dreadful and Terrible

The winds continued striving over the great sea as the fourth beast, that blood-thirsty empire – Rome, began to rise. Its tenacity and ruthless reign was incomparable to any known predator beast and hence this beast was only depicted as a dreadful and terrible beast in the vision of Daniel:

7 After this I saw in the night visions, and behold a fourth beast, dreadful and terrible, and strong exceedingly; and it had great iron teeth: it devoured and brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with the feet of it: and it was diverse from all the beasts that were before it; and it had ten horns.

Notice this description of the beast –  “diverse from all the beasts.” The word for “diverse” in Chaldean, the language Daniel used to write this vision, is shena and means to alter or change. This was exactly the case with the fourth empire: Rome unlike other kingdoms evolved into different forms over time. From a monarch system, to a republic, and then an empire. From a pagan empire to a Christian one! As Daniel looked at the terrible beast, its ten horns got his attention. Something was happening to three of the ten horns:

8 I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn, before whom there were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots: and, behold, in this horn were eyes like the eyes of man, and a mouth speaking great things.

A strange vision it was, but thankfully, we don’t have to wonder about its meaning because the interpretation was already given to Daniel (see  verses 23-25 below). Events in the vision of Daniel took a different turn after he saw the little horn plucking up three horns. Daniel saw “thrones” (i.e. the political powers or kingdoms of the world) being cast down.

9 I beheld till the thrones were cast down…

This had been shown to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream as “the stone” breaking in pieces “the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold”, metals which Daniel had interpreted to represent the four world empires.

All the empires of the world felt great in their time. The kings of the empires had established their thrones. However, as Nebuchadnezzar had later come to learn, there has always been the greater ‘throne’ (power) above, where the true king ‘sits’ – “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment, and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan.4:37).

Unlike earthly thrones which come and go, the throne of the “King of heaven” is established forever. The judgments of this “King” are righteous and wise.

On earth we esteem men who have lived longer to be wiser – “Days should speak, and multitude of years should teach wisdom” (Job 32:7, cf. Pro.16:31). But there is One who inhabits eternity and hence the source of all wisdom (Isa.57:15); He is God and was rightly called “the Ancient of Days” in Daniel’s vision. Although no one can or has ever seen God (Joh. 1:18), and although He dwells “in the light which no man can approach unto;  whom  no man hath seen, nor can see” (1 Tim.6:16), Daniel had to be shown a symbol of something that he could write for you and I to be able to read it. Thus he saw:

9…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.

The vision next showed the setting of the day of judgment of nations:

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.

The judgment mentioned in verse 10 above will not be done directly by the invisible God (Yahweh), and neither will it occur in heaven. The judgment will be executed through a human vessel (see verse 13 notes below).

In verse 11 Daniel’s attention is taken back to the little horn he had seen earlier. He is shown the judgment that would occur to the beast on which the little horn was because of the blasphemous words it had uttered. Daniel also notices that although the previous beasts had their dominion taken away (at the time when they fell and gave way to other empires in history), their “lives” ­ – spirit or influence – had prolonged  for a season:

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.

What we see in the following two verses (13 and 14) is a human vessel that God would manifest through to judge the nations and to establish  a new kingdom on earth. This human vessel already came to earth, ascended to heaven and we await his return. He was not an ordinary human being but the visible manifestation of the invisible God in human flesh (1 Tim.3:16), a God-man!  That was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ (Joh.1:14).

Jesus is not another God; He is not one-third of the so-called Trinity  for “in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col.2:9). He will one day return to come and establish the Kingdom of God on earth. This kingdom shall never fall to another empire for nations will not war against another; the earth shall be full of the knowledge of God, and in righteousness and peace Christ shall rule the world (Isa.11:5,9):

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.

As Daniel saw these visions, he got so troubled about the meaning of the details of the fourth diverse beast and its little horn which had plucked three other horns. He narrated his grief and perplexity in verse 15 through 22:

15I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me.

16I came near unto one of them that stood by, and asked him the truth of all this. So he told me, and made me know the interpretation of the things.

17These great beasts, which are four, are four kings, which shall arise out of the earth.

18But the saints of the most High shall take the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, even for ever and ever.

19Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth were of iron, and his nails of brass; which devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;

20And of the ten horns that were in his head, and of the other which came up, and before whom three fell; even of that horn that had eyes, and a mouth that spake very great things, whose look was more stout than his fellows.

21I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;

22Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom.

The Lord was gracious and revealed to Daniel more details about the fourth beast and its little horn:

23Thus he said, The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon earth, which shall be diverse from all kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, and shall tread it down, and break it in pieces.

24And the ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them; and he shall be diverse from the first, and he shall subdue three kings.

25And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.

The feature of being “diverse” was so prominent about this beast that it is was again stated in the interpretation of the vision by the angel. To appreciate the diverse nature of the Roman Empire let us look into its history.

History of Rome

Alexander’s conquests had progressed eastwards. He never took interest in the region that lay west. It is important to know that at the time of Alexander’s exploits, the western region only consisted of a few Greek colonies and was clustered with  wooded peninsulas which were populated with peasants.

The peasant tribes were stubborn, unruly, and ready to defend themselves in case of any invasion. One such tribe were the Romans who occupied a peninsula called Italy.

Rome has had a diverse history which can be categorized as follows:

  • The period of kings
  • The period of the Republic when two Consuls were voted into office by the Senate.
  • The period of emperors, which can be further divided into two epochs as Pagan Roman Empire and Holy Roman Empire.

Before we look at the above diverse nature of Roman history, it is important to know that roman society was generally characterized by two kinds of people – the patricians and the plebeians.

Plebeians (or plebs in short) were the common or poor people that formed much of the citizenry of roman society. Patricians comprised families which owned vast estates and meadows; they were the noblemen of society. It was out of the patricians that men entrusted with the task of appointing a leader came. This council of leaders was called the senate.

1. Roman Monarch  – Period of Kings

Like many ancient tribes Romans had myths and legendary stories about their origins. The Romans traced their origins to the renowned twin brothers, Romulus and Remus. The twins were believed to be sons of Mars, suckled and raised by a wolf!

The planet Mars was worshipped as a god of war by Romans. They believed that in time of war Mars would come to their aid and so it became a practice during war to offer prayers to Mars.[1] So, how greatly to be revered were the sons of Mars!

Romulus later killed Remus and established himself as the first king of Rome in 753 BC. There were six other kings who rose after Romulus. There are interesting details in the histories of these kings that will be important to understanding certain details of the prophecy of Daniel. So let us briefly go through what happened during this early history of Rome.

I. Romulus

As earlier mentioned, the rise of Romulus to power as a king is believed to have been in 753 BC. The reign of Romulus was not characterized by peace. It was full of conflict and war with other tribes in the region. Romulus is believed to have died in 648 BC. He was succeeded by Numa Pompilius.

II. Numa Pompilius

The new king, Numa Pompilius, compared to Romulus, was very different in character and in the manner he ruled Rome. He was peaceful and very religious. He built religious institutions (colleges and the famous Temple of Janus).

It is Numa Pompilius who added January and February (two more months) to the calendar so that a year now consisted of 12 months![2] Note that previously, during the time of Romulus, a year consisted of 360 days. The calendar system had different number of days. Some months had more or less days than others. Numa “estimated the solar year at 365 days and the lunar year at 354 days. He doubled the difference of eleven days and instituted a leap month of 22 days to come between February and March …[He] put January as the first month, and may indeed have added the months of January and February to the calendar” (Bingley, 2017).

Numa died in 673 BC. A new king ascended to power.

III. Tullus Hostilius

This was the third king of Rome. Tullus was very unlike his predecessor – he was warlike and not religious.

Tullus was much like Romulus: “Both Tullus and Romulus supposedly carried on war with the neighbouring cities of Fidenae and Veii, doubled the number of Roman citizens, organized the army, and disappeared from earth in a storm” (Britannica Encyclopaedia, 2017). Concerning his ‘disappearance’, Tullus is said to have been struck by a lightning and reduced to ashes. The year was 642 BC.

IV. Ancus Marcius

Ancus is said to have been the fourth king of Rome. In trying to avoid  problems of the previous king (which resulted from  his earlier neglect of religion but for which he later tried to amend his ways by giving heed to the desires of the gods by giving reverence to them), after becoming king he focused on ensuring that religious rites were given their important place in society and were done correctly. To this end he ordered Pontifex Maximus[3] to publicly publish words which provided guidelines on how public religious festivals were to be performed.

At this juncture it is important to point out that in the early history of Rome ascendancy to the throne was not through ancestry. Rather, a popular or influential person would be acclaimed to the throne. Thus, although Ancus had sons at the time of his death,  a popular man by the name Lucius Tarquinius Priscus, had managed to influence people to let him become the next king.

V. Lucius Tarquinius Priscus

Lucius Tarquinius Priscus or Tarquin the Elder is said to have been the fifth king of Rome, and scholars estimate that he must have reigned from 616 to 578 BC.

Tarquin had much interest in sport and he gave it much importance in Roman society. He is said to  have built the  the first and largest stadium at Rome.

The stadium was constructed and organized in style: there was a raised seating platform for political leaders and other prominent people. There were also other sections reserved for other  private citizens.

Tarquin also introduced forms of insignia that distinguished officials and military authorities. The different forms of insignia introduced includeed  the sceptre of the king; a purple garment or mantle called the trabea;  a special chair (curule chair ) on which rulers, magistrates, and other men of authority would seat (the chair became a symbol of power); and the rings worn by senators. It is interesting to note that these carnal Roman practices later found themselves in the Christian Church system where leaders of the clergy would wear special kinds of clothing with sceptres that distinguished them from members of the laity! A true church of God consists of brothers and sisters whose only clothing is that of humility, and their sceptre of authority is the Word of God!

Tarquin the elder is believed to have been assassinated by children of Ancus Marcius (his predecessor) in 579 BC.  The children believed that they were the ones to succeed their father.

VI. Servius Tullius

Servious Tullius ruled from 575-535 BC.  He was very popular with people and  is said to have been the first king of Rome to accede without election by the senate. During his reign he improved the living standards of many plebeians.

Servius was a religious man who is known to have built temples to the god Fortuna and goddess Diana. Fortuna in Rome was the god of luck or fortune, and Diana was a goddess over hunting and nature. The goodness Diana was believed to give power to control and speak to animals.

Servius is also credited for the introduction of silver and bronze coins in Rome. However, there are no facts to support this.

Servius ruled for 44 years and was assassinated by his daughter in connivance with her husband, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus.

VII. Lucius Tarquinius Superbus

The reign of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus  is dated from 534 to 509 BC. Tarquinius was an extremely proud and arrogant ruler and hence his nickname “Superbus” which means “proud”; he is actually usually referred to as Tarquin the Proud. Later on people could not bear his rule of tyranny and one, a noble man called Brutus, assassinated him. After Tarquin the Proud power was never to be in the hands of a king but two elected officials from the senate. Thus ended the period of the kings, giving way to the birth of the Roman Republic.

2. Roman Republic – Rule by Consuls

During the period of kings the Senate had only worked as an advisory council to the king, but with the founding of the republic by Lucius Junius Brutus, the man who killed Rome’s last king, it gradually grew into a powerful institution.

During the republic two officials, called Consuls, were elected by the Senate to rule Rome. As was stated earlier, the people with the privilege to voice opinion and to vote for a consul were the rich patricians. Plebeians were poor and not recognized in matters of governance. However, they were greater in number, strong-willed, and very stubborn. They increasingly became dissatisfied with the unjust system. They began to struggle for recognition. This was occurring during the time of Alexander the Great. The struggle of plebeians persisted for centuries until they prevailed to have one of the two consuls a plebeian.

During the early years of the republic, Rome only used to war with its small neighboring towns. But after the time of Alexander the Great, there was a growing desire to overcome and subdue the entire Italian peninsula. But this would not be an easy task as Grecian forces were still a power to reckon with.

One day a squadron of Roman ships  arrived at the coast of Tarentum, a wealthy Greek colony (see Fig.2 for map). This violated a treaty with the Tarentines which forbade Rome to sail on the coast. The Tarentines sunk five of the ten ships of Romans. Rome was infuriated and declared war on the Greek colony. Tarentum called for assistance from a Greek prince called Pyrrhus. In 280 BC the Pyrrhic War began.

Pyrrhic War

Pyrrhus was a skillful commander. His armies fought the Romans using elephants. They had learned using elephants from Indians. The Romans had no experience fighting warfare. They lost the initial war. However, the victory of Pyrrhus was at such a great cost (it is from this that a phrase ‘Pyrrhic victory’ was coined – a victory won at great cost).  In the course of the war he was fast running out the much needed man-power to replenish and augment his army. The Romans on the other hand had readily available manpower which always quickly replaced depleted forces.

Tired of fighting the ever-persistent Romans, Pyrrhus withdrew his forces.

The withdrawal of Pyrrhus’ army gave the Romans a leeway to take over the whole southern Italy! But the Romans were not satisfied, they also wanted Sicily, an island which yielded good crops because of its rich fertile soil (see location of Sicily on map below). However, there was a great stumbling block to acquiring this productive city – a nearby mighty city of Phoenicians called Carthage which controlled Sicily.

sicilyyy.png

Fig.2 Tarentum, Sicily, and Carthage

Rome decided to take the risk of fighting the Punics. But again, like they suffered losses in the Pyrrhic war because of their unfamiliarity with warring elephants, in the war with Punics they encountered an enemy skilled with what they were almost totally ignorant about –  sea warfare (facilitated by ships).

Punic Wars – Sicily and Carthage “stamped”!

The ships of Punics were many and well built. Romans were unaccustomed to voyages and didn’t have a well-established ship-building industry. But Rome had the persistent iron strength (as shown in Daniel’s vision) which would soon stamp (not only Sicily but) Carthage itself under its feet! And once under its feet, a people’s autonomy and identity would be crashed underneath the brazen claws of Rome.

The first war between Romans and Carthagians, often referred to as the First Punic War, occurred between 264 and 241 BC. The Romans emerged victorious and managed to annex Sicily. With the loss of Sicily Carthagians sought to occupy Spain. In Spain was a skilled Carthagian commander called Hannibal who was so angry at the humiliation Carthage had suffered by the Romans. He desired to destroy Rome at whatever cost!

Hannibal’s anger against Rome led to the  Second Punic War between 218 and 202 BC, rated as one of the deadliest in history! Hannibal decided to march from Spain and fight the Roman Republic on their homeland in Italy. But how would such a feat be accomplished when Rome controlled the Sea and had impregnable defense forces across coastal roads? He ordered his army to do the undoable  – to march through southern France, moving over the rivers, wild mountains and over to the Alps, and finally into Italy! Romans never thought an army commander would take such an extreme risk.

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Fig. 3 Hannibal’s route of Invasion

Enroute to Italy Hannibal’s troops crushed with Roman armies at Trebia in 218 BC. The following year in 217 BC he again defeated the Romans at Lake Trasimene. As his troops marched southwards in Italy, in 216, he crashed with Romans at Cannae and there he annihilated their largest army ever assembled! Rome was on the verge of destruction as most of its allies defected to fight with Hannibal. Despite this remarkable victory, however, when Rome was within his grasp, Hannibal surprisingly hesitated to move on and take over Rome. He waited for more reinforcements from Carthage and that was his undoing! In the meantime Rome restrategised.

The Roman general Quintus Fabius Maximus, avoided to engage with Hannibal in war. Instead Rome would take on Hannibal’s allies. A troop sent from Carthage to reinforce Hannibal was intercepted and defeated in 207 BC. Rome recaptured all cities that had defected to Carthage. Publius Cornelius Scipio, a Roman general led his army into a series of victorious battles against Carthagians. In 206 BC he destroyed a Carthagian army at Ilipa. In 204 BC he defeated Carthage  and her allies in Utica. In 202 BC at Zama, Scipio and Hannibal engaged in the final battle. Carthage lost to Rome.

In 146 BC, during the Third Punic War, even when Carthage was already hopeless, Rome crushed it without mercy. A once mighty and wealthy city was reduced to a plain. The terrible beast had “devoured and brocken in pieces”! and now established itself as the mightiest power in the world.

ROME continued to conquer more territories. It moved about subduing more territories. However, unlike Greece which respected people they had conquered by treating them equally, “all lands the Roman legions conquered…became Roman provinces, their towns occupied by Roman troops and Roman officials. These occupiers looked down on the native inhabitants, even when they were Phoenicians, Jews and Greeks…In the eyes of the Romans they were good for just one thing: paying up. They were subject to crushing taxes and had to keep sending grain to Rome – as much and as often as possible.”[4] However, a Roman citizen was treated with such respect wherever they were – whether at home in Rome or abroad in one of its provinces. “Wherever he happened to be in that vast empire , he could turn to a Roman official  and say, ‘I am a citizen of Rome!’ [and] these words had the effect of a magic formula.”[5] This can be seen in the manner Paul was treated by his arresters when he revealed that he was a Roman citizen:

And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. And as they cried out, and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air. The chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging; that he might know wherefore they cried so against him. And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned? When the centurion heard that, he went and told the chief captain, saying, Take heed what thou doest: for this man is a Roman. Then the chief captain came, and said unto him, Tell me, art thou a Roman? He said, Yea. And the chief captain answered, With a great sum obtained I this freedom. And Paul said, But I was free born. Then straightway they departed from him which should have examined him: and the chief captain also was afraid, after he knew that he was a Roman, and because he had bound him” (Act.22:22-29).

Roman citizens had so many privileges. The grain that was collected from defeated territories (provinces) was for Roman citizens.

As the population of Roman citizens grew there was increasing overbearing demand for more taxes on the provinces. The provinces did not always meet up these demands, much to the chagrin of the roman rulers who ever became more repressive. Back in Rome people enjoyed festivals and sport. These were not activities enjoyed by everyone – like modern football, Christmas, or Diwali.  War prisoners and slaves were made to play bloody-sport. They would be released in an arena where they would fight unto death, wrestling with dangerous wild animals or with one another. The crowds cheered, laughed and celebrated as fellow human beings fought with the sword and fangs of rapacious predators. These fighters were called gladiators.

A man who would sponsor roman sports, festivities and hand out grain to people became so much loved. This became a source of contention for influence and power as the wealthy and corrupt sought to sway public opinion to their favor.

In the course of time there arose a man who was master at pleasing people; he organized festivals and gave out gifts of grain to the people – Gaius Julius Caesar. Apart from festivities, people liked him because of his victories as an army general. He conquered more territories, including those which for a long time proved hostile and difficult like the Gauls (who lived in the region we now call France). The marching of his troops across Gaul, Britannia, and land of the Helvetii (now Switzerland) signaled a commanding presence of Rome in the world.

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Fig. 4 Sculpture of Julius Caesar by Nicolas Coustou

Gaius Julius Caeser was not only a skilled general; he was very intelligent. He had interest in matters of time and the calendar the world used. He revised the calendar so that it now had twelve months and leap years. That became to be known as the Julian Calendar. The month July came to be named after him.

With all the influence and power he wielded, Caesar would have become the emperor of Rome. But jealousy brewed in the senate. He was brutally murdered by being stabbed with daggers during a meeting in the Senate. This happened some 44 years before the birth of Jesus Christ.

Augustus Caesar was the new ruler of Rome. He is known to have been a wise and fair ruler. People so much loved Augustus. The month of August was named after him. He managed to become the sole ruler and authority of Rome as an emperor. This first emperor – August Caesar – was the one who ruled Rome during the time of Jesus Christ That was the beginning of the period of the emperors. Would the succeeding emperors be as calm and prudent as the first one? History was about to make a turn, to be so devastating to Christians.

….To be continued in next posting


[1] “Romans worshiped a pantheon, also thought of as a council, of 12 major gods. These 12 major gods were called the Dii Consentes. This group included six gods and six goddesses. The gods included: Jupiter, Neptune, Mars, Apollo, Vulcan and Mercury. The goddesses were Juno, Minerva, Venus, Diana, Vesta and Ceres. Jupiter ruled over the Pantheon… In Roman religion, Mars was a very important god. His role was second only to Jupiter, the leader of the pantheon. … Jupiter was considered the chief, or central, guardian of Rome and was often considered to be witness to solemn oaths such as those undertaken by government officials or soldiers…Mars himself was the god of war and was, himself, seen as protector of the Roman Army. He was thought to be difficult, argumentative and unpopular among the gods, but was revered by men; especially soldiers.” (Greek Gods and Godesses, 2017).

[2] Note that originally a calendar had ten months. This can still be seen in the names of  months of our modern calender. September used to be the seventh month as the prefix of “Sept” in its name suggests. Likewise October (“Oct”) used to be the eighth month and December (“Dec”) used to be the tenth and last month.

[3] Pontifex Maximus is a title which means “greatest priest” in Latin. A person holding this office was the highest priest in Pagan Rome.

[4] and [5] Gombrich, E.H. (1985). A little History of the World. London: Yale University Presss.

 

Second Beast: Bear with three ribs in its teeth

Babylon fell that night following the strange handwriting on the wall, when Belshazzar was killed in the raid and “Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old” (Dan.5:30-31). A new empire had emerged. The Medo-Persian empire reigned from about 454 BC to 333 BC. The voraciousness of the Medo-Persian empire was likened unto  a bear:

5 And behold another beast, a second, like to a bear, and it raised up itself on one side, and it had three ribs in the mouth of it between the teeth of it: and they said thus unto it, Arise, devour much flesh.

Although the Medes were first to rise in power, they were later superseded by the Persians, under the leadership of King Cyrus II. However, the two kingdoms united becoming a dual empire under the oversight of the Persian king. Thus, one king was more superior than the other. It is this that was being depicted as a bear raised on one side in Daniel 7:5.

An important thing to note about King Cyrus is that he is the one who proclaimed the liberation of the Jews for them to return to their homeland and rebuild their city. This proclamation can be found in Ezra 1:1-11. Now, a more astounding thing about the rise of Cyrus and his proclamation to rebuild Jerusalem is that the events  had already been foretold by Isaiah some 150 years before. This was way before Cyrus existed! The Persian empire had also not yet been established. Isaiah had proclaimed, “That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid” (Isa.44:28). God’s prophetic Word never fails. It had been spoken in the 7th century BC and got fulfilled another century later.

Now, what about the three ribs in the mouth of the bear? Clearly this was a picture of a bear coming from devouring prey. The “ribs” are held in firm grip “between the teeth of it” as they were subdued under its rule. “The three ribs”, notes Ellicott’s Commentary, “have been understood from the time of St. Hippolytus to mean three nations: the Babylonians, the Lydians, and the Egyptians.”

We shall look at more of what entailed the Medo-Persian empire in chapter 8 where Daniel experienced a detailed vision concerning the empire.

Notes on Daniel Chapter 7

Part 1: The Tide of Winds

The various prophetic visions recorded in the book of Daniel all spoke about the same thing, each vision only added more details to the previous one. As sir Isaac Newton correctly noted: “The Prophecies of Daniel are all of them related to one another, as if they were but several parts of one general prophecy, given at several times. The first is the easiest to be understood, and every following prophecy adds something new to the former.[1]

In Chapter 7 we read about a strange vision given to the prophet Daniel. The vision spoke about the rise and fall of four empires. This had been earlier shown to Nebuchadnezzar in form of a great composite image (see Daniel Chapter 2). To Nebuchadnezzar it was told that the head of gold symbolised his mighty empire but which would later be succeeded by another one, depicted by arms and breasts of silver.

Nebuchadnezzar lived to witness and experience the power of Yahweh, the God of the Jews. After him rose other Babylonian kings during whose reign Babylon continued to enjoy supremacy over the kingdoms of the world. At the time of the reign of Belshazzar it was almost 70 years since Jerusalem had been besieged by Babylon. Daniel was so greatly concerned about the future of his people and Jerusalem that he often prayed and supplicated over the matter (cf. Dan.9:2-3).When a person is sincerely concerned about a matter and consistently seeks the face of God over it, God hears and speaks (2 Chr.7:14). To Daniel, who had endured the many years of living in Babylon and waiting in faith for the deliverance of his people, was given a vision which gave details of how soon Babylon would give way to a new empire. The vision revealed details of the other empires to rise after Babylon, until the coming of the kingdom of God.

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.

Now notice what Daniel saw first before the appearance of the beasts:

2 Daniel spake and said, I saw in my vision by night, and, behold, the four winds of the heaven strove upon the great sea.

3 And four great beasts came up from the sea, diverse one from another.

The “four winds of the heaven” are spirits (principalities or evil forces) that were behind the rise of the “four beasts”. In the world the principalities affect the economic, political, military and religious forces of the world, the “four winds of the earth” (Rev.7:1). It is the tide of these winds of the earth that causes tension between kingdoms, leading to the fall of one empire and the rise of another.

Different scriptures emphasise that political systems of the world are controlled by evil forces. Believers who are spiritual (like Daniel) are aware that it is in the spiritual realm where real warfare begins before it manifests in the material world – “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph.6:12).

When one notices the madness of egos and selfishness which stirred and precipitated disastrous wars on a global scale – World War I and World War II – he or she should see that the events were influenced by spiritual wickedness in high places. It would actually be worthwhile at this juncture to illustrate how economic, political, military, and religious tides manifest and cause tension. This knowledge will help us understand how the “winds of the earth” can manifest.

Economic, Political, Military, and Religious tides in Modern history

The world witnessed the gruesome tempests of the winds during World War I and World War II. The first war should have been a mistake and the second a lesson never to be forgotten, but as of today, international politics seem to be quickly skewing towards another world war. Armed with nuclear weapons, it would only be prudent for the world to heed Albert Einstein’s words: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” It is said that man is the only animal that trips twice over the same stone. But just how did the world get here? Incontinency!

In order to have a better understanding of how the four winds affect events of the world, let’s look at events which characterised the twentieth century

Incontinency and wars: reflecting on modern history

Incontinency is responsible for much of the trouble in the world. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing”, King Solomon said (Ecc.1:8). Commenting about World War I, a twentieth century historian remarked that the war was “the well-spring of our discontents.”

In the 1900s, although being already a great industrialised country, Germany became so obsessed with wanting to become a global power. One country stood in its way – Britain. Being aware of Germany’s manoeuvres, Britain began to fortify its naval forces. At that time industries relied on coal-fuel for transportation. But an alternative of oil slowly started becoming appealing. In the 1800s oil had mainly been used as kerosene for lighting lamps. But with the invention and continual development of aircrafts and motor cars in the 1900s, there was new and increased demand for oil.

In the United States of America John D. Rockefeller’s oil company – Standard Oil – had dominated the industry. Any competitor who would rise would either be bought and brought under Standard Oil or, if it resisted the offer, thrown out of business when Standard cut down its prices in regions where the competitor operated. Standard became such a formidable combination dominating the world market. However, with time other powerful companies began to rise and merge giving considerable competition against Standard Oil. In Russia Mr Ludwig Nobel was the ‘Oil King’ who established the Nobel Brothers Petroleum Producing Company. This company dominated the Russian oil trade.  In France there were the Rothschilds, a Jewish family, which invested heavily in oil. In Britain, Mr Marcus Samuel, also a Jew, ran Shell, a company which later combined with Mr Henri Deterding’s Royal Dutch. The fierce competitions that ensued among these companies were in every description war except bullets were not used! It is little wonder they became known as the Oil Wars. Daniel Yergin, in his book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power gives a description of the tensions which well befits the term ‘wars’:

The rapid rise of Russian production, the towering position of Standard Oil, the struggle for established and new markets at a time of increasing supplies – all were factors in what became known as the Oil Wars. In the 1980s, there was a continuing struggle involving four rivals – Standard, the Rothschilds, the Nobels, and the other Russian producers. At one moment, they would be battling fiercely for markets, cutting prices, trying to undersell one another; at the next they would be courting one another, trying to make an arrangement to apportion the world’s markets among themselves; at still the next, they would be exploring mergers and acquisitions. On many occasions, they would be doing all three at the same time, in an atmosphere of great suspicion and mistrust, no matter how great the cordiality at any given moment (Yergin, 2008, p.55).

Now, whenever a commodity becomes a significant force in the economy it soon becomes a political factor. This was exactly so for oil. Oil had begun as a mere economic commodity but which soon started influencing international politics.

The growing demand for oil led companies to start looking outside the borders of their countries to secure sufficient supplies for their markets. This quest for more, that bottomless hole which never gets filled, combined with inventions of oil-propelled vehicles was stirring the world into a dangerous direction. The thirst for more speed (from slow moving coal-powered vehicles to faster oil-fuelled ones, for example) was no longer for the mere need to do business quickly,  but to satisfy strategic requirements for war in case it broke out.

After WWI broke out, the victory of Britain and allied forces was quite influenced by oil propelled vehicles.  Thus, following WWII the quest to secure oil supplies was no longer a game only for businessmen; politicians were now heavily involved and were soon at the epicentre of oil conflicts. It was realised that oil was now a crucial strategic commodity, for the economy of a country as well as its military security.

No longer would the competition for new oil lands be primarily restricted to a battle among risk-taking entrepreneurs and aggressive businessmen. The Great War had made abundantly clear that petroleum had become an essential element in the strategy of nations; and the politicians and bureaucrats, though they had hardly been absent before, would now rush headlong into the centre of the struggle, drawn into the competition by a common perception – that the postwar would require ever-greater quantities of oil for economic prosperity and national power (ibid, p.168-169).

It was out of this quest that some European powers began to seek to control the Middle East, a region rich with oil.

In the early 1900s in Iran, a British by the name William Knox D’Arcy had been given a concession by the king of Persia (later named Iran) to explore, obtain, and market oil found in south-western Iran. That led to the formation of the Anglo Persian Oil Company (APOC). Mr D’Arcy became just the right contact Britain needed to get into Iran. By the year 1914 the British government managed to own 53% of the company shares to enable it take ownership of APOC. This gave Britain the opportunity to get into Iranian affairs and that was to change the country’s course of political history. Kazemi (2012) in Encyclopaedia Iranica notes:

British government involvement in the oil concession was intimately connected with the imminent conversion of the Royal Navy to oil fuel. The British provided indirect financial assistance and political backing to D’Arcy’s company, and in 1909, through complicated financial arrangements and intricate political maneuvers, the original D’Arcy concession became the Anglo-Persian Oil Company…The company also acquired the rights and shares of the First Exploitation Company and later, of the British-created Bakhtiari Oil Company. D’Arcy became a director of the new conglomerate, a post which he held until his death in 1917. The British government foothold in Iranian affairs was solidified by a 1914 Act of Parliament which effectively gave the government control over APOC through ownership of fifty-three percent of the shares and the privilege of appointing two ex officio directors with veto powers over all acts of the company and its subsidiaries. A thirty-year contract between the Admiralty and the company ensured a steady supply of oil to the Royal Navy at substantially reduced prices.

Local tribes in Iran were not happy with the operations of APOC. They began to oppose its operations. APOC then began to allocate 3% of some company shares to the chiefs. The company, later renamed Anglo Iranian Oil Company (following the change of the name of the country from Persia to Iran in 1935) continued to prosper, expand, and establish itself until the time of one brave democrat who had just become the Prime Minister of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddeq. This was in 1951.

Mosaddeq believed it was time for Iran to be in control of its oil. It was time for the country to receive the economic benefits of its commodity. He nationalised AIOC and then all hell broke loose! Political tension between Iran and Britain ensued. Attempts by president Truman of USA and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Britain, to persuade Mossadeq to reach a compromise solution failed and eventually diplomatic ties were severed. Next, the Western powers did what they know best – sanctions.

With looming economic difficulties, Mosaddeq had serious problems in leading his government. A coup d’état was organised and Mossadeq was ousted from power. At least that’s what every common person watching or reading the news knew. But reading the narration of events by Christopher Montague Woodhouse, a senior British secret agent in the operation that overthrew Mossadeq, reveals appalling details. As though a fiction Hollywood movie or alleged revelations of a conspiracy theorist, but actually details of the coup that the CIA officially admitted was carried out under its direction “as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government” (Merica and Hanna, 2013), Robert Fisk presents the discussion he had with Woodson:

‘One of the first things I had to do was fly a planeload of guns into Iran’ Woodhouse said. He travelled on the aircraft from the Iraqi airbase …and then bought millions of Iranian riyals[2], handing them over at a secret location to the Rashidian brothers. They were to be the organisers of the mobs who would stage the coup (Fisk, 2006, p.116).

So Mossadeq was overthrown and replaced by the Shah, a puppet for the West. Diplomatic ties which had been severed now resumed. AIOC was granted 40% share of Iranian oil, and American oil companies were also given 40%. The remainder was to be given to other European oil concerns (Kazemi, 2012). The name of AIOC was changed to British Petroleum. A honeymoon it was between the West and the Shah. “Over the next quarter-century, the international oil industry exported 24 billion barrels of oil out of Iran” (Fisk, 2006, p.121). However, the honeymoon was to be only for a season.

A critical voice against the Shah was gaining momentum. The voice denounced the Shah as a puppet for the West; he lived a luxurious life and not having the future of his country at heart. This was not a mere voice of a politician. It was a religious voice of one, Ayatollah Khomeini. He won the support of Iranians and that was the beginning of the Islamic Revolution of Iran. Armed with ‘faith in Allah’, the people fought the Shah until his power was no more. Khomeini became the supreme leader of Iran.

These events of the world were not haphazard. It is important to know that although the Earth belongs to the Lord and the fullness thereof, the world does not. The world’s economic, political, religious, and military affairs are in the hands of Satan. Kingdoms and empires are controlled by principalities. It is for this reason that one can never receive true love or care in this world. Political powers of the world are at war for selfish interests. That is what Daniel was seeing in the vision as he saw the winds of heaven striving upon the sea as kingdoms, depicted as animals, rose one after another.

Citations

[1] Newton, I (1733).Observations upon the prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John. London: J. Darby and T. Browne.

[2] Riyal is the currency of Iran.

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The written Word is like a seed of a plant. A seed conceals the stem, leaves, and the fruits of a plant. However, when planted in the ground and with the right conditions around, what seemed absent to our eyes manifests! When the Spirit of the Word manifests (through revelation or prophetic fulfilment) carnal eyes will still never be able to discern it. In this age God sent a message of restoration which has been understood by few people only. Are you one of them? Do you have ears to hear the speaking of God? Through the pages of this book may you find inspiration that will stir your heart to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

Daniel Chapter 6

The Median kingdom had successfully overthrown mighty Babylon and now began to enforce a new administration in the region which consisted of 120 men working as princes to manage the various business affairs of the kingdom.

1 It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom.

Concerning Darius it has been said by a historian that “nothing happened anywhere that he himself had not decreed”. To this effect “he built roads so that his orders might be carried without delay to the furthest parts of his kingdom.”[1] Darius also had an intelligence service consisting of men who spied on people working for him, including highest officials. These were known as “the king’s eyes and ears”. This information should help us understand the fearful situation Daniel found himself in when he was appointed a senior satrap to whom all other princes reported.

2 And over these three presidents; of whom Daniel was first: that the princes might give accounts unto them, and the king should have no damage.

The “damage” stated in the verse above refers to loss, as in what can result from financial mismanagement, dishonesty, or theft. Clearly the Median administration was astute at accountability in their business affairs. To know that Daniel was the man most trusted with this task of ensuring accountability is an important lesson for believers: Whether one is about spiritual work or otherwise; honesty, integrity, and sincerity should be the hallmark of their character. Whether one works for a righeteous or sinful man, he should be faithful – “Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (Eph.6:5-8).

3 Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm.

Modern presidents are addressed with the words ‘Your Excellency’ upon their attainment of the political office, not as a result of their virtuous lifestyle. Similarly a lawmaker or parliamentarian in a Commonwealth country is often referred to as ‘Honourable’, whether he or she is morally bankrupt or not. But as of Daniel, favour followed him, even in the lands of heathens, by virtue of his “excellent spirit”! His excellency did not begin from outside by virtue of what people conferred on him but was from within a heart full of integrity and sincerity.

The enemy from within

With the immense responsibility of presiding over 120 princes, Daniel must have had a busy life of always attending to different queries and reports. This required working closely with the other two presidents. We need to be aware that these people were not believers and their work was certainly never easy being led by a man of high integrity. Although Daniel had an excellent spirit, having a gentle demeanour but yet being firm in matters of accountability, his personality must have altercated with his workmates. Jealousy was aroused in them. They worked closely with him but with a bad attitude of always trying to find where he would err, and thence raise an accusation against him. This is how the world always works, and for one to try to impress people around him in order to achieve happiness is simply a futile exercise. Carnal man will always be carnal and will only appreciate what satisfies his egoistic inclinations.

The wicked men conspired against Daniel. As they could not find fault in him they resorted to manipulating aspects of the empire’s legal system that bordered on religious freedom. All this was done to implicate Daniel, a man faithful and devout to Yahweh.

4 Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him.

5 Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

6 Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.

7 All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.

This was another test for Daniel. The king Darius had so much respect for Daniel but wicked men plotted a scenario which would make Daniel look disloyal to the Median king. The wicked men took advantage of the strong and uncompromising legal system of the kingdom which required that no decree which had been signed into law could be altered!

 8 Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

 9 Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.

King Darius did not know the trap at play. But, he would discover it later when it was too late.

Mizrah

Daniel was steadfast in faith; he defied the command and continued making his supplications before God. Like he had always done, he prayed facing toward Jerusalem, the land from where he was taken captive.

10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

11 Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God.

In praying whilst facing toward Jerusalem, Daniel, a captive in a foreign land, was fulfilling Mizrah. This is a practice by Jews living in diaspora to face the east (where Jerusalem is) when praying. This is in accordance to the prayer of Solomon when he dedicated the newly built temple: “And hearken thou to the supplication of thy servant, and of thy people Israel, when they shall pray toward this place: and hear thou in heaven thy dwelling place: and when thou hearest, forgive… If they sin against thee, (for there is no man that sinneth not,) and thou be angry with them, and deliver them to the enemy, so that they carry them away captives unto the land of the enemy, far or near. Yet if they shall bethink themselves in the land whither they were carried captives, and repent, and make supplication unto thee in the land of them that carried them captives… and pray unto thee toward their land… Then hear thou their prayer and their supplication in heaven thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause” (1 Kin.8:30, 46-49). This became the practice of faithful people wherever they were. Even Jonah, whilst in the belly of the great fish that swallowed him, made effort to pray towards the east: “I am cast out of thy sight, yet I will look again toward thy holy temple” (Jon.2:4).

Daniel, from his teen years and now in his eighties, faithfully held on to the promises of God and continued to pray for the deliverance of the Jews. A lot of people had known of his devoutness to Yahweh. The wicked men knew that their conspiracy would work because this man would never give up on his faith. They did all this to an innocent and harmless man.

Evil men fall in their Trap

Men conspired and passed judgement on Daniel:

12 Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree; Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? The king answered and said, The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.

13 Then answered they and said before the king, That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.

14 Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he laboured till the going down of the sun to deliver him.

15 Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king, Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, That no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.

16 Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel, Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee.

17 And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.

Yes, “the king sealed it with his own signet …that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel”, but, there was a higher judge, God, who was about to over-turn what man had purposed.

This incident so distressed the king that he fasted that night. The king had found himself a victim of a conspiracy. Things had to be done according to the decree. Words had been decreed and had to be obeyed. To all other onlookers and hearers Daniel had defied the words of the king and hence was condemned. But God does not judge after sight or facts of men – “he shall not judge  after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears” (Isa.11:3).

18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him.

19 Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.

20 And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel, O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions?

21 Then said Daniel unto the king, O king, live for ever.

22 My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths, that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.

23 Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God.

God was the judge of Daniel and His judgement requires that “Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession” (Pro.28:10), and that is what happened to the people who conspired against Daniel:

24 And the king commanded, and they brought those men which had accused Daniel, and they cast them into the den of lions, them, their children, and their wives; and the lions had the mastery of them, and brake all their bones in pieces or ever they came at the bottom of the den.

25 Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.

27 He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.

28 So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.

This ends the first half of the book of Daniel which had considerable detail of historical accounts. In the next half (from Chapter 7 through 12) Daniel narrates various visions he had.


[1] Gombrich, E.H. (1985). A little history of the World. London: Yale University Press

Daniel Chapter 5

Daniel Chapter 5 begins with the name Belshazzar:

1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.

Critics found a case against the mention of this name. It was in 1850 when a German scholar by the name Ferdinand Hitzig confidently argued that the name appeared nowhere in secular history and therefore was a figment of the writer’s imagination; whilst the Bible shows Belshazzar as the last king of Babylon, all known ancient historical records showed Nabonidus! Now, if the Bible is truly inspired as it claims – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim.3:16) – then here its integrity was at great stake! However, it was merely after four years when a rebuttal came, not from theologians but elsewhere quite unexpected.

The stones cry out

The book of Daniel has been a marvel. Critics have wondered how its prophecies could be so precise and accurate as though the seer was actually reporting what had already fulfilled. To the so-called rational mind, the supernatural doesn’t exist and so there had to be a trick at play around what we know as prophecies. At least that’s what the materialist or atheist would presume.

The beginning of attacks on the book of Daniel can be found in that famous Roman philosopher, Porphyry. He lived from around 234 to 305 AD. During that time there was a fierce persecution against Christians by Romans. The Christians held to the book of Daniel for their consolation, believing that the Roman Empire was the fulfilment of Daniel’s vision of the fourth empire which persecuted the saints but would ultimately be destroyed by God. Looking at how the prophecies for the previous three empires had accurately fulfilled, these believers had a good reason to hope in what the book foretold further. However, Porphyry rose to denounce the book as a forgery.

Porphyry’s criticisms are found in his work titled, Against the Christians, where he explained that the book of Daniel must have been written at the time of Antiochus Epiphanes of the Seleucid dynasty.[1] At the time of Antiochus three of the four foretold empires had already fulfilled. Thus, when Daniel prophesies, with astounding precision, the rise and demise of Babylon, Medo-Persia and Greece, he is actually describing what already occurred in history.

Porphyry had also attacked various narratives and doctrinal aspects and interpretations of Scripture. For example, he picked on Genesis and argued:

The world, according to Moses, was created at a certain time, and has from its commencement existed from a period far short of ten thousand years. The world, however, is without a beginning, in consequence of which there have been from all eternity, many configurations…[2]

But just as modern science has revealed that the Universe did have a beginning, so archaeology has disapproved assertions raised against the book of Daniel. We will deal with the other issues raised by Porphyry in latter chapters but for now let us look at the case against the name “Belshazzar.” The criticism of Hitzig, strong and loud as it was, was silenced by writings on a Babylonian clay tablet which was unearthed in 1854 in the ancient city of Babylon, Ur, which is in southern Iraq today. The words written on the stone are a prayer of King Nabonidus for his son Belshazzar. Thus, the discovered clay tablet was named Nabonidus Cylinder. It has been put in the British Museum.

Nabonidus_cylinder_sippar_bm1.jpg

The Nabonidus Cylinder on display in the British Museum

Part of the words on the cylinder read:

As for me, Nabonidus, king of Babylon, save me from sinning against your great godhead and grant me as a present a lifelong of days, and as for Belshazzar, the eldest son – my offspring – instil reverence for your great godhead in his heart and may he not commit any cultic mistake, may he be sated with a life of plenitude.

Well, just like the Lord had one time said, if people be quiet, the stones will cry out – “if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luk.19:40), and indeed, great was the cry of the Nabonidus Cylinder, declaring the existence of the name Belshazzar! One important thing the event teaches us is this: there are so many other things that could be silent before the eyes and ears of a critic but that doesn’t mean the “things” don’t exist. Even so, no matter how loud an evidence can proclaim itself, if an ear is set to hear what it wants to hear, it won’t hear. Likewise, no matter how much visible, if an eye doesn’t want to see it won’t see! This is exactly what happened after the discovery of the Nabonidus Cylinder: critics contrived rebuttals, quite ridiculous rebuttals which clearly only served to save face.

After the discovery of the Nabonidus cylinder, a British scientist, inventor and photography pioneer, William Henry Fox Talbot, argued that the name Belshazzar on the cylinder proved nothing. According to Talbot, the Belshazzar mentioned on the cylinder was likely just a child and not a king as stated by Daniel. Interestingly however, more stones discovered in Iraq revealed that Belshazzar was actually a coregent king at a time when Nabonidus had gone away from Babylon for some time. Would the critic now concede with all these evidences? Not so. Some critics argued further that the clay cylinders stated that Belshazzar was the son of Nabonidus, and not Nebuchadnezzar as the record of Daniel shows. Strangely, as though history and the stones were conspiring against the critics it turned out that Nabonidus actually married Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter, and his son Belshazzar was thus a grandson to Nebuchadnezzar! Another important to be aware of here is that Aramaic and Hebrew languages do not have the words “grandson” or “grandfather” and hence the reason why Daniel wrote Belshazzar as a son (instead of grandson) of Nebuchadnezzar.[3]

Testimony of other Scriptures

It is interesting to note the ridiculous inconsistency of critics who accept other books of the Bible to be authentic historical records and yet reject the book of Daniel which is acknowledged by the writers of those accepted books! For example the book of Ezekiel and the Gospels are accepted to be genuine historical records. These books of the Bible speak about the prophet Daniel. So, how can we denounce the book of Daniel as a forgery and yet accept the books which accept him as authentic? Furthermore, it is very important to know that when Ezekiel wrote about Daniel he was not referring to an ancient historical figure but a man who was his contemporary. Ezekiel and Daniel lived about the same time!

Let us now look at Ezekiel’s words on Daniel.

Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD” (Eze.14:14, 20). An argument against this verse alleges that “Noah” and “Job” were ancient historical figures which could not be placed in the same time context with Daniel, a relatively recent figure! This is a worst case of straw men. It should be clearly seen that the subject of the verse is not about when the men lived but about their life of righteousness which could not be emulated by the people living in Jerusalem.[4] This matter (of the Daniel mentioned by Ezekiel being the usual Biblical one) is immediately settled elsewhere in Ezekiel when he prophesied about a King of Tyre saying to him, “Behold, thou art wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that they can hide from thee” (Eze.28:3). This is clearly Daniel the prophet who is repeatedly said to have been wise and able to interpret secrets in Scripture! (Read Dan.1:17, 2:47, 5:12).

Another important historical reference about the authenticity of Daniel comes from the Gospel of Matthew, a well-respected historical record. Matthew writes about what Jesus said about Daniel: “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains” (Mat.24:15). Here we see the Lord Jesus Christ not only acknowledging the existence of Daniel but reaffirming his prophecies.

Belshazzar desecrates vessels of God’s temple

During the time of Jehoiachin king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. He “carried out thence all the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold which Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the LORD” (2 Kin.24:13). Jeremiah had prophesied, “gather the shields: the LORD hath raised up the spirit of the kings of the Medes: for his device is against Babylon, to destroy it; because it is the vengeance of the LORD, the vengeance of his temple” (Jer.51:11).

Nebuchadnezzar had kept the vessels of the temple aside in the treasure house of his god. With time he learnt to revere the God of the Jews. It was not so with Belshazzar. He despised Yahweh and desecrated the vessels of His temple. By this act He provoked God to take vengeance over his temple as had been prophesied by Jeremiah.

It all began when Belshazzar became drunk with that thing which is not meant for kings – “It is not for kings…it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink: Lest they drink, and …pervert the judgment” (Pro.31:4). In his drunken stupor he ordered for the golden and silver vessels of the Jewish temple to be brought out so that together with his wives and concubines he could drink in them.

2 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.

3 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.

4 They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold, and of silver, of brass, of iron, of wood, and of stone.

An important thing to observe here is that although the children of Israel had been in the wrong and God punished them by bringing them into the hands of the Babylonians, that didn’t give the right to the Babylonians to abuse them or to misuse their temple vessels. There is an important lesson here: when someone is being chastised by God for a wrong they committed, it is not our portion to take pleasure in their chastisement. Like the Scripture says, “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him” (Pro.24:17-18). As for Belshazzar, he not only despised the Jews; he went further to desecrate the vessels of their temple, and it was that incident that brought judgement on him.

Sitting on the throne, every man revered him as a king. But then he glimpsed into the supernatural and his heart could not hold itself as his body vigorously shivered. Despite having all the great protection of his body guards, the simple experience made the king feel as vulnerable as any other mortal. He saw fingers of a man’s hand writing something on the wall!

5 In the same hour came forth fingers of a man’s hand, and wrote over against the candlestick upon the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace: and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote.

Note that the fingers did not just write anywhere, but…

Over against the Candlestick

Where there is a flame of a “candlestick” there is light to illuminate, and being written on the “plaster of the wall” words should be visible enough to be read and understood. However, it was not so with Belshazzar. He could not understand the strange language of the writing. Even so, the strange appearance of the hand terrified the king and he became aware that the writing carried a message which he urgently needed to know. It had to take a spiritual man to interpret the message to him. Isn’t this what has happened to humanity today: so much has gone wrong morally, politically, socially, and climate-wise. Scientists are presenting a terrifying picture of the future of the planet Earth due to the destructive works of mankind. This, with the ever unstable political situations of the world, has made people become fearful and anxious, but yet being so unable to perceive the handwriting of judgement on the wall! Many look at the events of the world but fail to see the warning writing of God. However, from the time of the early church to this day, God has had seven golden candlesticks, to give light in every age. The purpose of the Light from the candlestick has been to give illumination for eyes which can see to read the handwriting on the wall for their age.

It is important to note that although other people saw the writing, only Belshazzar had seen the vision of a man’s hand writing.  When God wants to speak to (or judge) a man He will direct the message to him. This may be through a circumstance or situation which will get the person’s attention but yet to other people may go unnoticed or appear irrelevant.[5]

The incidence of seeing a man’s hand writing on the wall so terrified the Babylonian king that his jovial mood immediately disappeared.

6 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.

This was great fear. But,  fear of what?

The King cries

What happened to the king was unbecoming of a mighty ruler of a great nation.

7 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 show 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.

8 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.

9 Then was king Belshazzar greatly troubled, and his countenance was changed in him, and his lords were astonied.

The mighty king cried? The man had his bodyguards in place. The man had an invincible army – horses and mighty chariots which left a story of conquests on pages of our history books. Babylon subdued and conquered, becoming a mighty empire over the world. Being a king of such an empire one enjoyed the glamour and splendour of coveted greatness. But how could such power fear an appearance, not of a sword or noise of chariots of enemies but, of a hand?

Blessed are the poor in spirit

Kingdoms of the world thrive and triumph on the basis of possessions called wealth. The more one possesses the greater his power over others. This also happens in people’s personal and social lives. There are those who have accumulated so much and thus have increased their power.

When a person is born he comes into this world with nothing but simply as single as the letter “I”. Then a name is given so that one says “I am John Phiri.” After years of schooling John becomes “the accountant” or “pharmacist” or “doctor”. Later on his name gets a string of more letters following it – John Phiri, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. These accumulations in life are surely useful and good for society. However, when they begin to shroud a person so much that his true identity  (“I”)   gets lost, an illusion is created in a person’s mind so that he thinks, walks, and lives as though there is literally more weight of luggage to his beingness than what actually is. The illusion of power and greatness may so much obsess a person that he thinks he is more than other people around him. The person may forget that he is also a mere pint of blood. Beneath his skin are piles of flesh beneath which are bones common with every mortal.

But blessed are those who despite whatever they can accumulate in life still don’t lose their true identity. Like Job they know that they came naked into this world and they shall leave it the same way (Job 1:21). The confidence of believers is not of the flesh; they “worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh” (Phi.3:3). They realise that their spirit, concealed by the flesh, is their true identity. In that spiritual state they are not identified as accountant or doctor. In that spiritual state everything physical is nothing but a momental piece of matter that will soon or later decay into oblivion. As far as physical possessions are concerned, although believers may have them, they are actually poor! Poor, not because of their lack of them but,  because they don’t get attached to them.

Let thy gifts be to thyself

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” the Lord Jesus taught (Mat.5:3). The richness of a believer is in his or her connection to the great Fount of Life, the father of all spirits – God!  It is for this reason that Daniel, even after being promised gifts and riches if he would interpret the dream, could say to the king, “Let thy gifts be to thyself, and give thy rewards to another” (Dan.5:17). This was not so with Belshazzar. What he said after seeing the vision of the hand shows a man whose mind was completely obsessed with carnal identity, wealth, and power. These are three things carnal people of the world pursue. And they are things Belshazzar promised Daniel –  “Whosoever shall read this writing, and show 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” (v.7). But Daniel being a true believer could not be deceived by covetousness or desire for power. He looked at Belshazzar and could see the fear in him.

Belshazzar had only glimpsed into reality for a little moment and his identity, wealth, and power could not offer him the strength and protection he now needed. Chariots could not protect him from that fear. Power and possessions could not give him the confidence. There was a large crowd around him but only him saw what had happened. At that moment he felt alone as the dreadful fear gripped his soul. In the presence of the supernatural one no longer feels the crowd. The power of the supernatural is all searching and penetrating. One realises that his breath is dependent on that power!

Daniel brought before the King

During the time of Belshazzar, Daniel was no longer a prominent figure in the administration of the Babylonian government. However, his testimonies still lingered on in the minds of some people, including the then queen of the land. When Belshazzar panicked to find a man with divine powers to decipher the handwriting on the wall the queen advised for Daniel to be brought in.

10  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:

11 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;

12 Forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams, and showing 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.

13 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?

14 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.

15 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.

The king then promised a reward to Daniel if he managed to interpret the writing:

16 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.

Clearly, modern ‘Men of Gold’ would have been quick to receive the rewards of the king. Furthermore, they would not even have truly understood the message of the writing. Prophecies of  blessings upon Belshazzar and other lies would have been spoken. But Daniel was a true servant of God. He could only speak what God had declared, no matter how unpleasant the message was.

17 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.

Daniel began by first admonishing Belshazzar of how he could not learn from Nebuchadnezzar’s life.

Though thou knewest all this

It is important to note that the fundamental sin of Belshazzar was not learning from the life and events of his father’s life!

18 O thou king, the most high God gave Nebuchadnezzar thy father a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour:

19 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.

20 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:

21 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.

22 And thou his son, O Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this.

This man Belshazzar was aware of the decree of King Nebuchadnezzar – “I make a decree, that every people, nation, and language, which speak anything against the God of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver  after this sort” (Dan.3:29). At another time again, after recovering from his mental illness, Nebuchadnezzar declared, “I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgement, and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan.4:37). Belshazzar should have learned something from all these things which happened to Nebuchadnezzar but he did not.

In life God speaks to us through many ways: through what happens to us, what happens to other people, and also what happens in our environments. One ought to have eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to him or her.  Remember Peter and how the Lord Jesus called him. He was only told to cast his net into the water and when he saw the unusual catch of fish, that event was enough to convict his heart as he confessed “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” (Luk.5:8). If it was another person or a modern so-called Christian, he would have rejoiced for God’s blessing upon the business. But as for Peter, the strange occurrence pierced to his heart and spoke a message to him which made him realise his unworthiness to stand in the presence of that holy man. Notice that Peter only saw and was able to discern God’s voice in what happened that day.

On the Pages of Time, Our breath is in His hand!

Notice what Daniel said just before he explained the meaning of the mysterious writing:

23  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.

24 Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.

We are on a journey through time. On this journey we have found ourselves equipped with the ink of blood and pen of life and are to write a story on the pages of time.

This moment you are reading these words, think about how far you have come in life. How old are you? What story have you been writing this far? What’s been the theme of your story? How many pages do you think are remaining before your covers close? If today your covers close, what will the owner of the ink and pages say about your story – “a waste”, “meaningless”, or “well done, my good and faithful servant”?

One thing is certain, one day you will put a final stroke on your last page, the covers will close and you will be shelved away from the land of the living. But…“the books were opened”… the eyes of Saint John saw the vision: “and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Rev.20:12-13).

Surely a day of reckoning is coming when you will have to account for how you used the ‘ink’ of life and ‘pages’ of your earthly days. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” prayed the Psalmist. (Psa.90:12). The ink of blood and pages of time are not our resources and it isn’t just a wise thing to get started with a life story for which we don’t know the purpose or destination. Prudence requires that we ask ourselves, Why am I here? What story am I supposed to write?

“Thou art weighed in the Balances and art found wanting”

Daniel read and interpreted the writing succinctly:

25 And this is the writing that was written, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.

26 This is the interpretation of the thing: MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it.

27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.

28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

It is one thing to read about Belshazzar and how he was found wanting by the scales of God’s justice, but quiet another when we look into the mirror of God’s word and reflect about our lives. Just how far are we from living a life that He desires of us? Are we given to His perfect will or are still laden with cares of this life like that young rich man who approached the Lord.

In Mark 10:17-23 we read that the rich young ruler came “running”. This tells us of  his zeal  in meeting the Lord. Then he “kneeled” before the Lord. This was supposed to be a show of humility. And he “asked” his question to the Lord. That was prayer, so to speak: “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Like this rich young man, we often have zeal, a show of humility, and are full of prayers to God but yet lacking the revelation of God’s will. Did this young man understand what eternal life was? What was his motivation to want life without death? Well, he had accumulated so much wealth in life, and was he troubled by the thought of “so when I die, I shall lose all this?” He needed eternal life but with a carnal motivation. He wasn’t a spiritual man to discern spiritual things. He was an earthly man bound by carnal things. He had the zeal to keep the commandments but without revelation. When he explained to the Lord that he had kept all the commandments, the Lord looked at him, discerned his condition and said to him, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” The young man could not stand to this test. “He was sad at that saying, and went away grieved, for he had great possessions.” Now, that was his true identity, not the physical show of humility of kneeling down he had portrayed. He was a believer in word and prayer but not in deed. But to those who have been enlightened by the Word of Truth, they are dead to the carnal things of this world –  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Col.3:1-4).

Every person should know that possessions of this life are only temporal. We own nothing in this world. Our very breath is not under our control. Whatever God has allowed to come in the control of our hands should be handled with a sober mind. A sober mind is one which acknowledges the sovereignty of God, and thereby lives wisely. Belshazzar, upon hearing the words of Daniel realised the danger that awaited him. After hearing the piercing words of the prophet Daniel, he commanded  for him to be clothed in scarlet, with a golden chain around his neck and proclaimed him the third ruler in the kingdom. However, that very night he was killed by the Medes and thus was the end of Babylon.

29 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.

30 In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain.

31 And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.

It was the end of an era and the beginning of a new one, that of the Medes and Persians. It may have been a sudden and unexpected change of events where the once mighty Babylon was no longer the almighty empire. However, Daniel had already seen all these events right from the first year of Belshazzar. In the first year of Belshazzar he had a vision of four beasts (Daniel Chapter 7), and in the third year, he had seen the vision of the Ram and Goat which detailed how the Medo-Persian empire would become great but would later be overcome by another kingdom with a notable and great ruler but who would later die and four new rulers arise in his place (see Daniel Chapter 8).


[1] There are more interesting things to be explained about Antiochus Epiphanes and how he fulfilled prophecy in the latter chapters of this book.

[2] Arguments of Celsus, Porphyry, and the Emperor Julian against the Christians. Available online: http://www.universaltheosophy.com

[3] To explore this subject further read Defending Old Testament Authorship by Edward D. Andrews.

[4] The prophecy was proclaiming that the righteousness of Noah, Daniel or Job would not save the people. The people had to work out their own salvation, so to speak, by not depending on another person’s or a forefather’s righteousness – “they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD” (Eze.14:14).

[5] A similar thing happened to Daniel one day when he was seated with some people: a quaking took place and other people ran away to hide. To them it was an earth quake, but to Daniel his eyes could see an angel coming down to give him a message!

 

Daniel Chapter 4

Remember that the dream of the colossal image was ultimately about the coming of the kingdom which shall not be overthrown by man but will abide forever and ever. This would be the kingdom of God. However, when Nebuchadnezzar was given the interpretation of the dream his attention focused on “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” (2:37-38). Nebuchadnezzar had only heard a message of the dream but did not grasp the message! He erected an image of gold, unto which “people, nations, and languages” (3:4) were to bow. This was clearly meant to be a symbol of his power over the nations and languages.

Notice the king’s words after he heard Daniel’s explanation of the dream – “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” (2:47). Nebuchadnezzar’s words should not be mistaken for a testimony of converting to the true faith and revelation of the one true God, Yahweh. The king worshipped the God of Daniel as a “God of gods” seeing that Daniel could “reveal this secret” which other gods had failed.

Now, the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar had erected put in trouble Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego. They were sentenced to death by burning. All this harshness was simply a result of the pride of the king who didn’t want his decree disobeyed. He had summoned different dignitaries to the ceremony where he could reaffirm his power over them, and what an inappropriate place and occasion for the three men to have defied his authority! Bound, into the fire they were thrown. But instead of hearing the groaning and wailing of a burning people, the men were seen loosed, walking in the midst of the fire. When they came out of the furnace unscathed, Nebuchadnezzar had again experienced something unusual about the power of Yahweh. But that was not enough! Pride still reigned in the heart of the king of Babylon. However, it was time for him to grasp the message that he wasn’t great by his might, but by the power of Him who knows the end from the beginning. He is the one who raises and also deposes kings. The Babylonian king was made to go through a most humiliating experience. In Chapter 4 he narrates this experience. He wrote the testimony which began with words of praising God.

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

2 I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.

What did the Babylonian king mean by “signs and wonders”?

Signs and Wonders

A sign is a portent. It is something God gives to warn of something to come. It may come in form of a symbol, in a dream or vision, or through a prophetic utterance. However, note that God does not give a sign to imprison a person’s will so that he or she says “God said the bad thing will happen and so there is nothing I can do about it!” Not so. Was it not Hezekiah who had been told, “Thus saith the LORD… thou shalt die, and not live” but he pleaded his case and was healed and made to live 15 years longer?

A sign is given to withdraw man from falling into a pit. As the Scripture says, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.  In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword” (Job 33:14-18).

As for Nebuchadnezzar, he had his warnings. The dream of the colossus and the experience of seeing the fourth man in the fire. Remember that the three men had been thrown into the fire as a result of Nebuchadnezzar’s ego against those who could not obey his order to worship his golden image. Well, God had spoken once, and twice, and on this third time Nebuchadnezzar had a dream with a “sign” with an unpleasant message. After its fulfilment the Babylonian king was amazed. For a dream to be very detailed and its fulfilment precise to the letter, is an experience to wonder at!

All dreams of Nebuchadnezzar indicated that worldly politics, from generation to generation, are not merely results of the intelligence of man but that there are supernatural powers that influence what goes on in the affairs of men. It is for this reason that the king:

3 How mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

What experience did Nebuchadnezzar go through for him to make this confession? It was quite an unpleasant and humiliating experience. The following is his testimony:

4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace.

Resting and flourishing, and then a bad dream

Nebuchadnezzar’s rest was not one of merely retiring to sit down after a day of hard work. This was a rest of achievement and self-satisfaction. It was a rest of knowing that he is in need of nothing – “I have conquered, I have the wealth, and the whole world reveres my name! I have accomplished my desires through my might and wisdom!” But one day a bad dream came upon him.

5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.

6 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.

7 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.

The tradition of believing in magicians and sorcerers was so deeply engraved in the Babylonian culture that despite their previous failure to interpret the dreams, Nebuchadnezzar still summoned them to interpret this new one he had. But they failed again and the God of Daniel was again vindicated to be the only one from whom true wisdom and revelation could come. To the Babylonians Daniel was a “master of magicians”, a man in whom the “spirit of holy gods” dwelt:

8 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,

9 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[1] that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.

And this was the dream:

10 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.

11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:

12 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.

13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;

14 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:

15 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:

16 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.

17 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.

18 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.

A strange dream it was. The dream had bad news for the king and this greatly troubled Daniel. How would he break the message that the king was to become insane for seven years? So stressed was Daniel that the king noticed it on his face. It became conspicuous that he had something to say but for which he was uneasy:

19 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.

Daniel went on to interpret the dream telling the king that like the huge tall tree which had grown to become great, reaching unto heaven[2], his dominion had become so great:

20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;

21 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:

22 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.

The greatness made Nebuchadnezzar become proud. But, whatever power he had was actually a result of the working of God (Jer.25:9). In this dream God shows Nebuchadnezzar that the power of men on earth is simply a manifestation of supernatural forces in the heavens. Like was shown in the dream, there are “watchers” (angels) in the heavens who look into the works of man on earth.

23 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;

So there were to be “seven times” to pass over the huge cut-down tree. What did this mean? Well, this was explained by Daniel in simple words:

24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:

25 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.

26 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.

So Daniel explained that the tree represented Nebuchadnezzar who was to be driven from among men to live with animals. As later events showed, this unfortunate situation would happen when the king loses his mind, becoming so violently insane that men would drive (i.e. expel) him to live away from human beings.[3] He would be in this situation until “seven times” pass over him. Like other Bible versions have stated, seven times referred to seven years.[4]

Now it is important to note that the impending judgement on Nebuchadnezzar would not just result from pride only concealed in the heart. Out of the pride came deeds that displeased God. As common with many people with pride, Nebuchadnezzar may have become sinful, and despised the poor, as can be seen in Daniel’s words of admonishment:

27 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.

Sadly, the king did not give diligence to follow this counsel. Pride still reigned in his heart. One day it happened that as he looked over the city of Babylon and noticed its beautiful infrastructure, he praised himself and his words were caught by a ‘watcher.’

Idle words then the fulfilment of the dream

The following is a narration of what happened to the king of Babylon on that fateful day and the seven terrible years that followed:

28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.

29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

30 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?

There is much historical evidence of Nebuchadnezzar’s architectural works. Saggs (2017)[5] notes in the Britannica Encyclopaedia that “Nebuchadrezzar’s main activity, other than as military commander, was the rebuilding of Babylon. He completed and extended fortifications begun by his father, built a great moat and a new outer defense wall, paved the ceremonial Processional Way with limestone, rebuilt and embellished the principal temples, and cut canals. This he did not only for his own glorification but also in honour of the gods.” Scholars have suggested that the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, may have been built by Nebuchadnezzar.

31 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.

Words are not mere propulsions of pressure coming through vocal words. By words we speak we shall be judged. Is it not the Lord Jesus who admonished saying by “every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment” (Mat.12:36). The word “idle” in this verse in Greek is argos and refers to a state of being “useless” or “barren.” Surely any word that is void of truth is barren and useless. By words one can sin and that is why we are further cautioned in the Scripture to “study to be quiet” (1 The.4:11).

The angel continued speaking to Nebuchadnezzar:

32 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 dream was fulfilled exactly as had been spoken. Nebuchadnezzar lost all his glory and respect due unto a king. God reduced him to a mere animal to show him that everything he had, including the power to reason and think belonged to God:

33 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.

After the seven years were accomplished reasoning returned to the king. When he realised what had happened to him, he became aware that human beings have no reputation in the eyes of God. He became aware that the heavens do rule!

Restoration and worship to God

Nebuchadnezzar became humble and worshipped God.

34 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:

35 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?

36 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.

37 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.

So learned the king of Babylon humility. But would his successors follow in his footsteps?


[1] A dream occurs when a person is asleep. In this state one’s consciousness is not active. A vision occurs when a person is conscious of what is going on. Usually we are conscious when we are awake. However, it is possible for someone to see a vision whilst asleep. However, for it to be properly called a vision, it will be a kind of spiritual dream for which one is conscious that, “I am here lying on the bed whilst am seeing this.” That can be called a “vision of a dream” or simply “vision of the night.” On the converse a pure dream is one which has the observer unaware that he is asleep, that is, his or her consciousness is completely not active.

[2] A dubious interpretation has been given to “reached unto heaven” (Dan.4:20) by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whilst Daniel in no uncertain terms interpreted the tree to refer to Nebuchadnezzar, the Witnesses have given an explicitly contradictory explanation stating that “the tree stands for rulership and sovereignty far grander than that of Babylon’s king. It symbolizes the universal sovereignty of Jehovah, ‘the King of the heavens’, especially with respect to the earth” (p.94-95 in Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy, 1999 publication). One error leads to another: next it is said that Jehovah’s kingdom was centred (or represented) in Jerusalem. Thus, to know when the tree was chopped down, we look for a period of time in history when Jerusalem fell: “God himself had such sovereignty chopped down and banded in 607 B.C.E. when he used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem” (p.95). Then we come to the “seven times.7 years is expressed in days as 2,520 days, taking a so-called prophetic year to consist of 360 days. Then another conversion: days are converted back to ‘prophetic years’ (Eze.4:6-7) so that 2,520 days = 2,520 years. Counting from 607 BC the 2,520 years brings you to the famous 1914. In that year, the Witnesses teach, “‘the appointed times of the nations’ were fulfilled, and God gave rulership to ‘the lowliest one of mankind’—Jesus Christ” (p.97). Ofcourse the prediction of Charles T. Russel, the founder of Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation, that Christ would come in 1914 had failed. This should have been enough to desert the erroneous interpretation but, as with the failure of Adventist’s 1844 and as always happens, the interpretation evolved and was cleverly put into another context. Jesus was crowned to start ruling in 1914! This author has on three occasions engaged with senior Jehovah’s Witnesses elders, asking them, “What authority or exegetical criteria allows one to change an interpretation already plainly given in Scripture, in this case Daniel said the tree was Nebuchadnezzar,  to another completely different interpretation, in this case that the tree actually referred to Jehovah’s kingdom in Jerusalem?” On all three occasions the cold response has been that the topic will be dealt with next time. Unfortunately “next time” has been as long as 15 years, at the time of writing this article. Is it so difficult to see that the simple expression of “reached unto heaven” simply meant that Nebuchadnezzar had risen so high in power over the then world? With regards to power and authority we use the term “rise” to express the extent of greatness. Like Daniel explained to Nebuchadnezzar, “It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown and reacheth unto heaven” (Dan.4:22). “Rise” in power conceptually can only be illustrated vertically, i.e. heavenwards. To take the phrase “reacheth unto heaven” literally would be no different from inferring that Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation to “all people…that dwell in all the earth” (Dan.4:1) had reached every human being alive on the planet. Or that Cyrus’ proclamation that God had given him “all the kingdoms of the earth” (Ezr.1:2) literally meant all existing kingdoms, including those of the far east in China. Again, the phrase that on the day of Pentecost there were “devout men, out of every nation under heaven” (Act 2:4) would literally mean every country in the world!

[3] Some scholars have suggested that Nebuchadnezzar’s disease was Lycanthropy, a form of madness where the patient becomes deluded to think he or she is a wolf or some other animal.

[4] Clearly the unfortunate events that would befall the king being described in Daniel 4:25 would not have fulfilled in “times” of week-days but years!

[5] Saggs, H.W.F (2017). Nebuchadnezzar II. In Encyclopedia Britannica [Online]. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Nebuchadrezzar-II [October 24, 2017].

Daniel Chapter 3

Daniel had revealed the meaning of the dream of the “great image” and the interpretation that the “head of gold” referred to the Babylonian king excited the ego of Nebuchadnezzar. He had been told that he was a king of kings and was made ruler over people and the nations of the world by God. He felt important and powerful. Next he ordered the people to make a large “image of gold”, which “people, nations” were supposed to worship. Clearly the image was to be the symbol of his power, and the supremacy of the kingdom of Babylon, over the nations.

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits[1]: he set it up in the plain of Dura[2], in the province of Babylon.

2 Then Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

3 Then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up.

After the image was built, completed, and the ceremony was convened, attended by high ranking dignitaries of different nations, it was time for the decree to go in effect.

4 Then an herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages,

5 That at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up:

 6 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

This image was so important to the Babylonian king that disrespecting it amounted to disrespecting his person. But in reality the image was mere dead matter but to which the Babylonian king had attached his personality. Such odd behaviour manifests daily in people’s lives.

Revering images

Just like Nebuchadnezzar, there are men and women today who have erected adorable public images of themselves. Their opulent image may be a display of “success”, “achievement”, “peace”, and “wealth”, however, often a different reality exists within their personal lives. Away from the image, there is a real person. Inside him or her is the same perishable flesh and blood. Yes, inside him or her is the fragile life that pulsates with emotions of fear, anxiety, and all such tendencies of mortals. When the fate of sickness and death falls upon the person then the people look and behold the vanity. But the lesson only lasts for a few seconds of staring at the beautiful framed picture of the deceased. One sobs and bids farewell as the casket is lowered to the ground. Afterwards the routine cycle of vanity continues!

Very few people in this world live above the insanity of the masses. Like it was on that fateful day when the decree was issued to bow to the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar, only three men resisted the command. They were determined to devout their faith only to Yahweh! As happens to any man who takes a stand for what he believes in, this got them into trouble.

Daniel’s friends charged with Treason

The cordial relation Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego enjoyed with the king was at stake. Rumours of the Jewish men’s doctrine not to worship any god besides Yahweh of the Hebrews had gone round. People were displeased with the attitude, and an occasion was found to accuse them. The information finally reached the king.

7 Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshipped the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.

8 Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.

9 They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar, O king, live for ever.

10 Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image:

11 And whoso falleth not down and worshippeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.

12 There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Nebuchadnezzar was not happy with the news. He knew how respectful, prudent, and wise these men were, and so, despite his fury, he still decided to have an audience with them to give them another chance to reconsider.

13 Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king.

14 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?

15 Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, 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?

It is important to remember here that the nation of Jews had previously revolted against the Babylonian king. It was this revolt that led to the captivity of Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego in Babylon. After this sad incident King Nebuchadnezzar had devoted resources towards a strategy that would train and give royal-treatment to some selected young captives. These were to later be appointed leaders to preside over nations under Babylonian rule.

Clearly, apart from imparting skills into the students, Nebuchadnezzar’s strategy worked to instil loyalty in the learners. However, in the case of Daniel, Shadrack, Meshack and Abednego, despite having been young, passing through all the years of training and favourable royal treatment, and ultimately receiving the promotion to serve as rulers, they remained faithful to their Jewish faith. Even so, everything had remained calm and peaceful as long as their conduct never altercated with the king or his administration. But the incidence in Dura seemed to have squandered all the dividends of loyalty they had accumulated in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar! Of great importance to note here is that the ceremony in Dura wasn’t merely a religious one; it had much to do with displaying, reaffirming and consolidating Nebuchadnezzar’s influence and political power over the nations. The various leaders and dignitaries from the nations had been summoned to show their allegiance and reverence to the king of Babylon. What an unfortunate time and place then to have exhibited insubordination! The three men were immediately charged with treason and they were to be executed.

Where was Daniel?

At this point of events, one strange thing cannot go unobserved – the silence of Daniel in the whole ordeal of the three men! Just where was he?

It is ofcourse quite absurd to suggest that Daniel had complied to bow to the image. The record of Daniel’s life lets us know that he was a fearless and devout man who had never compromised his faith in the face of grave danger.

The answer to this question seems to express itself in the event that had happened previously, after Daniel had been greatly honoured and promoted by the Babylonian king after interpreting the dream of the great image. He had requested for his three friends to be also considered. The end of Chapter 2 ends with stating that whilst the three men worked elsewhere, Daniel remained in the gate of the king – “Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” (Dan.2:49). It is immediately after these words that the figure of Daniel becomes silent in the narration of the ordeal of the three men.

The question to ask is, why is Chapter 2 ending with the emphasis of “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king”? This sentence strongly indicates the reason why Daniel was a silent figure in the events that followed. He had remained (“sat”) in the gate of the king.[3] We may not know all the details about how the political administration of Babylon operated, but various descriptions in the book of Daniel – such as “the whole province of Babylon”, “sat in the gate of the king”, “the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, …the counsellors, the sheriffs”, and “all the provinces” – suggest a huge, complex, and multi-levelled structured administration. It goes without saying that whilst Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were positioned to preside over provincial affairs of Babylon, the statement “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” indicates that he enjoyed the privilege of being stationed in the vicinity of the king (whether at a residence, administration office, or as part of an entourage of dignitaries during an important function) to attend to his important matters.

“We are not careful to answer thee in this matter”

The danger was quite imminent, but the men were bold.

16 Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.

What a defiant response to the mighty king of Babylon! A Babylonian would not have had the courage to speak to Nebuchadnezzar in that manner. The three Jews did not mince their words in order to sound diplomatic and try to save themselves from death. The faith of Hannania, Mishael and Azariah was far greater than man’s threats. These were men of conviction, willing to die for what they believed. Such is the way of people who know their stand in God.

Whether God delivers us or not…

The next words the men spoke were even more astounding:

17 If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.

18 But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.

Clearly the faith of the three men never depended on what God could do for them. This was not a ‘faith’ of wanting to serve God because of the material reward that comes with that. Sadly, there are many people who desire to go to heaven, not because they love God but simply because they don’t want to be in hell. But heaven is not some kind of fire insurance. Heaven entails experiencing the revelation of the Word and Love of God, for Christ will come only unto “them …that love his appearing” (2 Tim.4:8, Heb.9:28).

When Hannania, Mishael and Azariah stood their ground, the king was furious and had them thrown into an intensely heated furnace.

19 Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated.

20 And he commanded the most mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace.

21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

22 Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.

The fire of the furnace was so hot that the “most mighty men” who had bound them to throw them into the furnace got burned and killed by its fire. But out of this persecution came a great testimony of the living God of the Jews.

Faith triumphed!

When Nebuchadnezzar looked into the flames of the fire, he beheld an amazing thing:

24 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.

25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God[4].

A shocked Nebuchadnezzar, realising that there was a supernatural phenomenon of the mighty God whom the men served and had protected them, approached the mouth of the furnace calling out to the men. This was not a mere calling out; it is something that came out of fear and trembling, beholding the power of the supernatural!

26 Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire.

27 And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together, saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.

What had started as a persecution ended into a great testimony which made the Babylonian king acknowledge the power of Yahweh. This is an important lesson for believers: never allow bad circumstances to crash or wound your spirit. No matter the test, no matter the temptation, rest your heart in God! He “will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.  The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Psa.121:3-8).When life throws you into a fiery furnace be able to say, like the three men, that your faith will never be shaken even to the point of death. Welcome tests as stepping stones to greater heights with God, knowing that “the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jam.1:2-4).

You are in a school

Your life in this world is like a school in which challenges are tests. Each student is uniquely called and equipped for his or her tests. The good thing to remember is that no test or temptation can come but that for which you have been measured up to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13). Greater is He that is in you than he which is in the world (1 Joh. 4:4). In the end you will triumph. In the end you will be lifted up by the Lord! That is what happened to Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego:

28 Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

29 Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort.

30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.

Endurance overcame the fiery furnace. In the end the three men were promoted to serve in higher capacities of authority. And although it is the king who promoted the three men, it is actually God who made the way. As in the words of the psalmist, “promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another” (Psa. 75:6). Nebuchadnezzar was merely a tool in the hands of God. He was a mere mortal, and not God. Sadly, despite the strange experience he had on this day of seeing the fourth man in the fire, there was still pride that was deeply rooted in his heart. God now would let him learn the hard way to know that he was only a mere mortal.


Notes

[1] A cubit  is  0.457 metres. So, 60 cubits = 27.432 metres, and 6 cubits is about 2.743 metres. Thus the golden image was about 27.4 metres high and 2.7 metres wide.

[2] The word “Dura” means “circle.” This was the name of the place where Nebuchadnezzar built the golden image. Some researchers believe this place is located somewhere on the left bank of the River Tigris where the name Dur has been found. Julius Oppert (1825-1905), a French Assyriologist, places Dura in the south east of Babylon where a mound of Duair and a pedestal of a huge statue were found. Oppert’s view carries greater evidence of both the name and remains of the statue.

[3] Please note that in the original Hebrew manuscripts there are no chapters (Chapters were added by editors for referencing pruposes). Thus, Daniel Chapter 2 runs continuously with Chapter 3, thus making the “but Daniel sat in the gate of the king” a good background to why the prophet is silent in the events of Chapter 3, he sat in the gate of the king.

[4] “The Son of God” is a mistranslation which has had some theologians conjecture that this was Jesus the Son of God. This interpretation  implies that Jesus had pre-existed as the Son of God before being born in Bethlehem in 4 BC. This doctrine, although widely held by Trinitarians is not consistent with Scriptures. For details on this subject read LOGOS: The Beginning of God’s Creation by Richard Gan (available on www.propheticrevelation.net).

What is his name?

“Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? Who hath gathered the wind in his fists? Who hath bound the waters in a garment? Who hath established the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his sons name, if thou canst tell?”

Proverbs 30:4

Science speaks and now viral in the news: “Neanderthals bled with Humans”

This news item about scientists saying Neanderthals  bled with humans keeps making news headlines. People will believe when they see it on BBC, CBS News or when a scientist speaks, but yet the Bible actually already said something about the subject.

The Bible does reveal that the Original Sin committed in the Garden of Eden involved mankind (Eve) mating with animal kind (an upright talking-beast called Serpent, not snake!). I discuss this subject in detail in the book Forbidden Theology: Making sense of the Genesis story” (available on Amazon).

FT

I titled the “Forbidden Theology” because it is one subject theologians would not want to hear or teach. But if they could give even one minute of their attention to the exposition they would soon realise and be thankful of the rational explanation of why Jesus was not born through Sex. They will realise why there is something wrong with human blood and the real reason Jesus said we must be BORN AGAIN!