In his great pride king Nebuchadnezzar had convinced himself that he and he alone had built Babylon. He disregarded the warning of the most high God in chapter 4. He was slow to learn that the God of Daniel stands outside the world of time and space, and no human is equal to Him. Because Nebuchadnezzar failed to heed God’s warning, His decree of judgement fell on him. God did not allow the king to remain in comfort and prosperity in his palace while injustice and oppression ran rampant through his city. The king was full of pride, and the dream God gave him disrupts his false sense of peace and security. Nebuchadnezzar was living a misguided life. None of Nebuchadnezzar’s professionals could interpret his dream even though he told it to them this time. Daniel, an exiled Jew was Nebuchadnezzar’s last resort choice even though he ranked third in the land. However, Nebuchadnezzar did admit Daniel had the spirit of the holy gods within him. Nebuchadnezzar had already had several encounters with the Lord but he still believed in many gods. This is very reminiscent of Joseph and pharaoh.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream involved a tree, a very tall tree that reached high into the heavens. The whole world could see this tree and it was amazing. The leaves were green and there was plenty of fresh fruit on this tree, enough for all to eat. It had wonderful shade and many birds and animals took shelter in and under the branches. But the tree was not to last Long. A messenger came down from heaven and ordered the tree to be stripped of its branches, its fruit scattered, and all the living creatures who were making a home there were to be chased away. It would be cut down but the stump would be left. Ezekiel moves from speaking of a mighty tree by saying let him be drenched with the dew, live with wild animals and among the plants of the field. He will have the mind of a wild animal instead of that of a man. This will last for seven times. Seven signifies completeness and times can be a reference to several things. It refers to years, months, weeks, days, or hours. Most believe this seven refers to years. For seven years the king of Babylon will live like a wild animal. The point of this dream is that the Most High God rules supreme. The meaning of the dream was so shocking Daniel was hesitant to reveal its meaning. Daniel somehow wished the dream was meant for the kings enemies but it wasn’t. Nebuchadnezzar spoke, telling Daniel not to let the dream or it’s interpretation trouble Daniel. The tree, representing the king must be cut down because of pride, and Nebuchadnezzar would go around like a wild animal until he learned that the most high God rules. Nebuchadnezzar was proud. The city of Babylon was beautiful. The city walls were covered with royal blue ceramic tiles, gold colored lions and dragons. The hanging gardens of Babylon were also part of the city’s splendor. Daniel begged the king to stop sinning and do what is right. Both righteousness and justice will prolong a kings reign but Nebuchadnezzar was doing neither. Instead he was abusing the poor. Daniel was sure that if the king would repent, God would reconsider and Nebuchadnezzar would not be punished. The fact that twelve months went by before God carried out His judgement on Nebuchadnezzar may have been a grace period, giving the king time to do things right. Daniel’s warning went unheeded and the dream became a reality. It is interesting that the king who took Israel into exile for 70 years experienced his own exile for seven years, until he purified his pride.
There is actually a disease called boanthropy that causes a person to behave like an ox. Several ancient sources lend support to this account and the kings annuals are notably empty from 582-575 B.C. After the seven years, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged and submitted to the higher authority of the Most High, the King of Heaven. He acknowledged that God does as He pleases, that He has absolute power in heaven and on earth, and that human pride has no place before the Lord, even from the greatest of human kings.
Every earthly kingdom will pass away, even mighty Babylon. After Nebuchadnezzar’s death in 562 B.C. violence and debauchery increased in the palaces of Babylon until, during Belshazzar’s feast in 539 B.C. even God’s holy vessels were polluted and defiled. God’s judgement came with lightening swiftness that’s night and the next kingdom took over. Belshazzar means bel protects the king. Bel was a Babylonian god. The gold and silver cups from the Jerusalem temple had been taken into captivity along with the exiles and they were eventually returned to Jerusalem when Cyrus the Persian allowed the exiles to return home. At the banquet, Belshazzar and many others drank out of the Lords vessels and while they drank they praised their gods. In the middle of their debauchery the supernatural hand of the Lord shocked and terrified the drinking party. However, Belshazzar remained unrepentant. No one could interpret the writings and the partyers where growing increasingly terrified. There was quite an uproar, enough that the queen mother made an appearance, chastised Belshazzar, and reminded him that a Jewish exile named Daniel used to interpret dreams for his father. Before he interpreted the writing, Daniel reminded Belshazzar his father Nebuchadnezzar had made a huge mistake in exalting himself and dishonoring the Most High God. Belshazzar was following right along in his footsteps even though he knew what had happened to his father.
The message was shot and to the point: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN. These words are Aramaic units of measure and they are used on a balance to weigh quantities of goods being bought and sold. Belshazzar knew the words but Daniel explained what they meant in this context. The God of Israel measures kings and kingdoms in the balances of justices and righteousness. MENE means numbered, as in your days are numbered. In this context it also means reckoned or scrutinized. TEKEL means weighed. In other words you have not measured up. Babylon’s king would be destroyed because he did not measure up to God’s demand for righteousness and mercy. PARSIN means divided. The Babylonian empire would be divided and given to two peoples, the Persians and the Medes. Instead of responding to the message, Belshazzar honored Daniel’s leadership by proclaiming him the third highest ruler in the land. It was not an honor Daniel sought and it would be meaningless in a few hours. Daniel knew God would reward him in God’s time. The conquest of Babylon by the Medes and Persians ushered in a new era of Persian dominance.
Chapter six brings a very familiar story, one many of us learned in Sunday school. Not only is Daniel a very high ranking official in the Persian government, he is also a faithful servant of the Most High God. Darius the Mede set up his government using three administrators who were placed over the whole territory. The lower officials reported to the three administrators and these three in turn reported to the king. These three served to protect the kings interests, meaning they had to be trustworthy. Daniel’s integrity was impeccable and he made the other two administrators envious; so much so they plotted a way to find fault. They recognized that the only way might be in the way Daniel worshiped the Lord. By this time Daniel was somewhere between 80-85 years old. He had led an exemplary life in Babylon. Because of that the king was making plans to place him over the entire empire. The plan the other two administrators hatched was to have the king sign an irrevocable edict stating that everyone must worship the king and only the king for the following 30 days. Anyone who failed to comply would be tossed into a den full of lions. The request was couched as an appeal to truth and justice but it was reality an appeal to the kings pride with ulterior motives. We know that Daniel would not break God’s law to obey a human law. The men knew that as well. They finally had Daniel right where they wanted him.
Daniel’s regular prayer time established him in the daily worship of God. Jerusalem was God’s chosen city and though the temple was gone it was unthinkable to forget the city. Some day the temple would be rebuilt. Clearly king Darius had not thought through the consequences of signing the law and we see him angry for being tricked. He did not want to execute his best servant but he was caught in the officials trap and he had no choice. Daniel had disobeyed the edict and must be thrown into the lions den. However, the king respected Daniel’s integrity in continuing to worship his God. Once Daniel was in the lions den, a stone was rolled over the opening and the king sealed the stone with his own royal seal. Several of the nobles also put their seal on the stone. The multiple sealing of the lions den made a covert rescue impossible. Neither king or officials could open the den without breaking the other seals. The king had a very long night. He liked Daniel and did not want any harm to come his way. The king did not eat. He did not call for any entertainment. He did not sleep. He mourned over what he had done and hoped that Daniel’s God would rescue him. The king knew Daniel was both a noble man and he was innocent. At the first light of day he hurried out to the lions den to check on Daniel.
We see that the king did not believe in the power the Lord has simply because he called out to Daniel asking if his God was able to save him. There was no question that Daniel had been faithful to his God, so if God did not rescue him that would have told the king God was not able to. It is possible the king knew what Daniel’s God had done during the reigns of both Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar. When Daniel answered that’s God had indeed kept him safe, Darius the king rejoiced. Daniel was lifted out of the lions den and the men who had plotted against Daniel were thrown in along with their families. With that, Darius sent a message to everyone in his kingdom. The current ruler of the civilized world testified to all of his subjects that the God of Daniel is the living God. He has real power and a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Daniel’s God rescues and saves. He performs miraculous signs and wonders both in heaven and on earth and He continues to act on behalf of His people, just like He had always done.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W