Bible Study – Daniel 3

The third chapter in Daniel happens at an undetermined time after the end of chapter two. The story flows from one chapter to another, and we see the idol from the dream showing up again, but the time difference between the two chapters must be substantial (at least a few months if not years). The reason behind this is that it’s really out of character for Nebuchadnezzar to declare Daniel’s God “a God of gods, and a Lord of kings”, and then immediately thereafter resume idol worship. It’s also highly likely that Daniel wasn’t present for these events he writes about in chapter three, because he doesn’t seem to have any role in the happenings. Some historians have proposed that this chapter takes place shortly after the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and Daniel was either back in that area on official business, or mourning the loss of God’s city and dwelling place.

The chapter starts by stating that Nebuchadnezzar made an idol of gold, and set it up in the plain of Dura. The idol is not described in any detail other than its overall dimensions, which we examined in the previous study. Its height was 60 cubits (90 feet) and its width was 6 cubits (9 feet). I proposed that these dimensions are not very proportional to a human body, so the idol was probably representing something else. It could even be an obelisk, but there’s no certainty about the commonality of obelisks in Babylon at that time, though there are records of Baal worship that involve obelisks. There are certainly records of pillars being used to depict a story. A more modern example of such a pillar is Trajan’s column . In this case, the idol could have been a pillar depicting the destruction of Jerusalem, though this is only conjecture on my part. In any case, Nebuchadnezzar gathered all his officials in order to dedicate this idol.

We see in this chapter that music plays a big role in the worship of this time period, just as it does in our time. The officials are commanded to “fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up” when they hear the sound of all kinds of music. In this case, music represents a sign that worship is about to take place, the worship of an idol. After many years of conquering, Nebuchadnezzar had become proud and full of himself. He forgot about the God of Daniel who reveals dreams, and he forced other people to worship false gods and idols. The punishment for not worshiping this new idol was death by burning in a furnace.

God’s people, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the former favorites of Nebuchadnezzar, did not obey the king’s decree and did not bow down to the idol. In short order, those Chaldeans who wanted to get rid of the three friends, passed the word to the king that the Jews would not bow to the idol. Nebuchadnezzar gave Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego an ultimatum: “Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” In other words, bow down or die. It’s pretty amazing to see that Nebuchadnezzar would even give them a second chance. I think he must have remembered that these people are special.

The Jews held fast to their faith and said to the king: “O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up”. These men put their trust in God to deliver them, but even if He chose not to deliver them, they would still not bow down to the idol. God had commanded them, from the days of Moses, that “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”.

Nebuchadnezzar reacted with fury and commanded the furnace to be fired up, but to make it seven times hotter than usual. The men that put Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into the flames were slain themselves due to the heat of the fire, it was that strong. But Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not even touched by the flames, bound as they were. As soon as they were put in, Nebuchadnezzar noticed that it wasn’t only the three of them in that furnace, but also one who looked like the Son of God. Their protection and their lives were assured by God, and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego really had nothing to fear. This story is used to strengthen Christians in the face of persecution. Even if God doesn’t deliver us, we will not bow down to an idol, to an image, but to God Himself who is the only one worthy of worship and praise.

Revelation 13:15 draws a parallel with Daniel 3. In Daniel 3:4, the people, nations, and languages present in the plain of Dura were commanded to bow down and worship the image or face death by fire. In Revelation 13:15, the image of the beast has the power to kill those who would not worship the beast. The image of the beast in the book of Revelation represents an image of an incarnation of Babylon itself. In the last days before the second advent of Jesus Christ, Christians will be faced with the ancient Babylonian command once again, just as the people on the plain of Dura: “bow down, or die”. If we were to have some music to go along with the command, the parallelism would be complete. These days are coming quickly upon us, and I don’t think many people realize the urgency of the matter. If they do realize it, a lot of people are led astray by messages which have no root in the scriptures. This kind of deception is the work of Satan and his angels in the world.

Back in the plains of Dura, Nebuchadnezzar seemed to repent again of his sin, 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. 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. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon”.

God impressed upon Nebuchadnezzar that there is nothing he can do against His will. What Nebuchadnezzar would consider to be magic, God considers common. There is absolutely nothing that is not in God’s power, and we Christians better remember that. Our faith has to be strong in the face of overt and covert persecution. Satan will attempt to work through good and evil people in order to get us to “bow down” to the image that will come into the world in the last days. I hypothesize that this image will look so good to a Christian, and the deception will be so complete, that most people won’t even notice what’s happened until it is too late. We have to be like the wise virgins in Matthew 25, not like the foolish ones. Jesus commands us to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves. Being wise to the ways of Satan does not imply that we are also evil; being wise is a defense mechanism. We have to identify his ways, his tactics, and what exactly is the end-time deception that he will set up. so that we can avoid being part of it, even when faced with death as punishment.

I will conclude this study by saying that I cannot impart any oil onto you, my dear readers. You must be wise enough to bring enough oil to the wedding so that your lamps will not run out. It’s extremely important to heed this warning, because the foolish virgins were not allowed into the wedding even after procuring oil. Waiting until the last minute to gain understanding and knowledge of the true character of God will not be enough. Just as the officials of Babylon saw nothing wrong in worshiping the image, so will the majority of Christians not see anything wrong in worshiping the image in the last days. Our eternal lives are at stake and we must dedicate ourselves to understanding God’s character and His prophecies so that we may not be deceived.

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Bible Study – Daniel 2

Previous study on Daniel 1 can be found here.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s second year as king, he started having strange dreams, so much so that he could no longer sleep at night. He gathered all his magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, in order to get some peace from these dreams, and gain understanding about their meaning. Remember that the Chaldeans were those who learned the magic arts of ancient Babylonia (Sumeria/Akkadia).

The really strange thing about Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams was that he could not remember the details. His request of the wise men of Babylon was for them to tell him what it was the he dreamt. This goes beyond a simple interpretation, and I’m sure that these men would have been able to interpret the king’s dreams, had he remembered what they were about. In reply to the king, the Chaldeans said that “there is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.”

This statement got Nebuchadnezzar really angry. Here were his most educated men, the ones who claimed to have all the answers in the palms of their hands, or in the stars, or other magical devices. Yet, they were worthless when he actually needed them to alleviate his sleepless nights. Not only that, but they had the gall to tell him that no king, lord, nor ruler existed who would ask such things. How could that be when he, Nebuchadnezzar, was asking such things, and he surely existed. It must have seemed like such a cop out on their part.

The second part of their answer is that “it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh”. Well, aren’t these people supposed to be able to communicate with the gods? If they couldn’t do that, nor show him his dreams, then what good were they? So Nebuchadnezzar did what any sane person would do, and convicted them to death. I say that in jest, but to an extent what else was there to do with them? They had leeched off the kingdom of Babylon for years and with nothing to show for it, except insults to the king.

Unfortunately for Daniel and his friends, he was considered to be part of this group of learned men. When he heard about the decree, he asked the king to give him some time and he would show the king his dream and its interpretation. The king agreed and Daniel went back to his friends to tell them about this issue. I imagine they prayed fervently at that time, and the result was that Daniel was given a vision in the night, showing the dream and its interpretation.

When Daniel was brought before Nebuchadnezzar, the king asked him “art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” Daniel could have fallen in this trap quite easily, and I’m sure his memory would have been wiped. He answered Nebuchadnezzar correctly stating “there is a God in heaven that reveleath secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.” Daniel remembered to credit God for the vision that was granted him, as only God can make such things known to man.

It is interesting here that Daniel should say “in the latter days” when speaking of this vision. The meaning of this phrase seems to point to a time in the future, but not only that, to a time of the last days. The future visions of Daniel shed more light onto this concept, but he already knew that this vision did not pertain to the present time, that it was a prophecy, and it was going to be very relevant in the days of the end.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was actually quite simple in its structure. He saw a great idol, whose form was terrible. I’m not sure what this idol looked like, but many sources seem to think it kind of looked like a man, a king even. I tend to disagree with that interpretation. In chapter 3 (which we will address in detail in a later study), Nebuchadnezzar made an idol that is assumed to be similar to the one he dreamt. This idol was 60 cubits tall and six cubits wide. In imperial terms, this is about 1080 inches high (about 90 feet), and 108 inches wide (9 feet). This idol measures 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. I’m no mathematician, nor a biologist, but that’s not very proportional to a man. It’s more proportional to a snake, or a lizard, or even a dragon. I’m really not sure what this idol looked like, I’m just thinking that it wasn’t a man, maybe only part man (lower half). In any case, this is more of an aside than a real doctrinal point, it’s just interesting to think about.

As to the parts of the idol, the head was of gold, the arms and chest of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of iron, and the feet of iron mixed with clay. Each body section gets stronger as we travel down from the head, yet at the same time the metal representing the body part gets less and less valuable. The end of the dream is that stone is cut out, but not by any hands, and it hit the idol “upon its feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces”. At this point, all the other materials of this idol broke to pieces as well, and the pieces were so small that the wind carried them away like chaff, so that no part of the idol remained. The stone that broke the idol became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

Daniel goes on to say that “this is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king”. I’m not sure who else was there with him in that moment, but I’m sure he wasn’t talking about his friends. I believe he was saying that the Holy Spirit was there as well, imparting the interpretation to the king through Daniel.

The interpretation of the dream has the head of gold representing Nebuchadnezzar, “a king of kings”, whom God has given “a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory”. Nebuchadnezzar had so much power that he was able to conquer Assyria and Egypt within a few short years. His kingdom had so much splendor that we today refer to Babylon as one of the ancient wonders of the world. God truly blessed Nebuchadnezzar and his empire.

After Nebuchadnezzar will come a kingdom which is inferior (silver), and then yet another kingdom (brass), which shall rule over all the earth (at least the known portion of it). The fourth kingdom follows, and it is strong as iron. As iron breaks all things, it shall break and subdue the world as well.

The last kingdom is going to be the feet, part of iron and part of clay. In the interpretation of the dream, Daniel says that this kingdom will be divided, just as iron and clay don’t mix. However, the strength of the iron will remain in it. This kingdom will be “partly strong, but partly broken”. The people in this last kingdom will mingle, but they will not “cleave one to another”.

The next sentence (Daniel 2:44) is interesting: “in the days of these kings shall God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed”. So, while talking of the feet and toes, made of iron and clay, Daniel implies that the feet and toes represent kings: “in the days of these kings…”. What’s interesting is that the implication is that there will be many nations (these kings), attempting to unite (will mingle), but are unable to form a coherent group (will not cleave one to another).

If you thought that sentence in v.44 is interesting, what follows is even better: “and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever”. The kingdom which God sets up, in the latter days, in a time when nations are trying to form alliances and confederacies, this Kingdom will not be left to other people. The way I read that part is that the Kingdom of God is God’s not man’s, yet it shall be for some people because it will not be left for the others. Who are the “other people” and who are the exemptions? I propose that the “other people” refers to everyone whom does not wish, for whatever reason, to be part of the Kingdom of God. Do you know people like that today? I have certainly met my fair share.

The better part of the interpretation of the dream is spent explaining the feet and toes, so we can certainly assume that this body section of the idol is most important in the prophecy. It is, after all, the section that is struck by the stone. I believe the significance of the feet and toes can be readily seen in our present day. We live in a world that wishes to unite and live in peace and harmony. Yet there are so many forces that seem to desire the exact opposite. We see hatred and bigotry every day on the news, even in our daily lives. How can we unite the nations when we seem to hate each other. I believe the explanation given by the Holy Spirit to Daniel that kings of the latter days will attempt to mingle, but will not cleave to one another is extremely important in our era.

Daniel and the Holy Spirit finish up the interpretation by saying in v.45 “the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure”. The king then testified that Daniel’s God “is a God of gods and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets”. Nebuchadnezzar “made Daniel a great man”, “a chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon” and a “ruler over the whole province of Babylon”.

This concludes our study of Daniel ch. 2, but please tune in for a study of the remainder of the book. The next chapters will get even more exciting, and much more truth will be revealed. Thank God for His word and for His guidance in these times.

Bible Study – Daniel 1

The book of Daniel has been studied over the centuries by people much smarter than me. I only understood it while watching the sermons of Dr. Walter Veith and even then, I had to watch and listen multiple times to truly understand the essence of the scripture. Once I understood the symbolism, the rest was quite easy, and I thank God for granting me understanding of His word. The book is the abridged story of the life of Daniel, a prisoner taken from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar after the first siege of Jerusalem.

Nebuchadnezzar was the son of Nabopolassar, the first of the Chaldean Dynasty of the Neo-Babylonian empire. Under the rule of Nabopolassar, who reigned from circa 626BC to 605BC, Babylon started to regain its former glory, first by defeating the Assyrian empire, then the Egyptian empire, and the states that were friendly to these powers. Nabopolassar only started the work, which was finished in great majesty by his son, Nebuchadnezzar.

The rise of the Babylonian empire coincided with the start of prophet Jeremiah’s ministry. It is no coincidence that the prophet started warning the people about Babylon, when Babylon was just starting to become a world power. God was warning His people that He will allow Babylon to conquer even the holy city, and destroy the nation of Israel, unless they turn back from their apostasy.

We pick up with Daniel after Jeremiah’s prophecies start to come true. Nebuchadnezzar, in pursuit of the Egyptian armies after the battle of Carchemish, comes across Jerusalem and lays siege to the city. King Jehoiakim finally surrenders the city, but Nebuchadnezzar only takes the vessels from the temple and some captives, from the noble families of Israel. Daniel was among these captives.

In the first chapter of the book, we get a short account of this story, and what happened to Daniel and his friends after they were taken captive. Seeing as they were of noble birth, and quite knowledgeable in the ways of kings and court proceedings, the boys were given to the master of eunuchs to be trained as Chaldeans. This meant learning the old knowledge being revived by the Neo-Babylonians, that of the Sumerians and Akkadians. This culture dates back to the days of Hammurabi, in the 3rd millenium BC.

Needless to say, the ancient culture being literally unearthed by the Neo-Babylonians was highly steeped in rites and rituals related to the sun and the moon, amongst other “deities”. Daniel and his friends were forced to study all these things, but God was with them, and they never forgot Him. When asked to partake of the meat of the king, they refused, saying that they did not want to be defiled by the meat and wine. These boys were pure, not only in spirit, but also in flesh. They never forgot the commands of God, and were righteous in His eyes.

Throughout their studies, “God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom”. God even gave Daniel the gift of understanding visions and dreams. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, was extremely impressed by these young men, and “he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm”, in all matters of wisdom and understanding.

The magicians and astrologers did not have the advantage of the everlasting God of the universe whispering the answers in their ears. Daniel and his friends were close to God, and God allowed them to know secrets that the magicians could only dream of knowing. Daniel and his friends never forgot who was the source of their knowledge and always testified the eternal God, and His great and mighty power.

In chapter 2, we will see how Daniel starts to be used by God to start the conversion of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. Thank you for reading thus far and may God keep you and bless you until next time.