Christian Churches of God
(Edition 1.0 20090524-20090524)
Daniel had reminded Nebuchadnezzar that his power and possessions had come only through God's hand, and that God could take them back at any time. However, the king of Babylon could only conclude that he must be a very special person in God's sight to be given such special things. This paper has been adapted from chapters 153-154, Volume VI of The Bible Story by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press.
The Fall of Babylon
We continue here from the paper Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream (No. CB153).
Nebuchadnezzar had much to learn about how insignificant he really was compared to God, even though he was the head of the most powerful nation on earth. He had such a consuming awareness of his power and possessions that his mind was obsessed with it.
Little was he aware of what was soon to happen to him because of his overconfidence. One night he dreamed an unusual dream that terrified and troubled him so much that he decided to call before him those who were supposed to have special knowledge in such matters, so that he could determine the meaning of the dream from them. Thus, on a certain day, the king's throne room was packed with magicians, astrologers, enchanters and diviners and he told them the dream. However, they could not interpret it.
Finally, Daniel (Belteshazzar) soon arrived before Nebuchadnezzar. "Belteshazzar" was the pagan name the Babylonian chief eunuch in charge of the young men had given to Daniel. The king then recounted to him all he had told his former audience.
The king said to Daniel, “I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream.”
"I dreamed that I was standing in a wide expanse of open country, where there was a great tree. The tree grew swiftly until its side branches filled the sky and its top branches went up past the clouds. Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant. Flocks of birds came to live in its branches and beasts and birds alike fed well on the tree's unbelievable abundance.
"Then down from the sky came a messenger, a holy one, who called out in a loud voice that the tree should be cut down, and that its
branches should be removed, the leaves shaken
off, the fruit scattered and that the beasts and birds should flee for their lives. The stump of the tree was to be left and encircled by a protecting band of iron and brass, but exposed to the elements.
Let him be drenched with the dew and live with the animals and let his mind be changed from that of a man to that of an animal until seven times pass for him.”
Daniel was troubled. The meaning of the dream terrified him.
"Don’t let the dream or its meaning alarm you”, Nebuchadnezzar said.
"I'm afraid that only your enemies would be pleased to hear what I have to say," Daniel answered.
"Here is the meaning of your dream," Daniel began. "The colossal tree you saw in your sleep is you. You have grown in such power in the world that many rely on you for protection and sustenance, just as did the animals in your dream that fed off the tree's fruits.
"The one you saw in your dream who came out of the sky and decreed that the tree should be cut down was a messenger from God. God has decided that you need to be taught humility and to be shown how insignificant you really are when compared to the God who made the heavens and earth."
"The cutting down of the tree means you will lose your position as king of Babylon." Daniel explained. "You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with dew. For seven years you will have no power over Babylon or any other nation, but God will protect your kingdom for you. It will be restored to you when you acknowledge that the Most High rules the kingdom of men. Repent of your sins and be kind to the oppressed" (Dan. 4:21-27).
A year after his dream, Nebuchadnezzar was walking in his palace, particularly pleased at the sight of the lavish surroundings.
He said, "There's no place like Babylon, the city I have built through my great power for the honour and glory of my majesty!"
Just as the king finished uttering this extremely vain remark a voice came from heaven.
"Nebuchadnezzar, you are to lose your kingdom. You will be an outcast from this city. Instead of living with men, you will be forced out into the fields and forests to live with animals! For the next seven years you will even act and look like a wild beast until you fully realize that God decides every man's state, and gives to and takes from whomever He chooses!"
Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar came true. He was driven away from the people and ate grass like cattle. His body was wet with dew and his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws (Dan. 4:28-33).
Fall of Babylon the Great
When Nebuchadnezzar had spent seven years in his miserable state of mental derangement, the former king's sanity suddenly returned to him (Dan. 4:33-34). It was as though he abruptly became conscious of himself after seven years of being only conscious like an animal.
Nebuchadnezzar had tried to exalt himself to God's level, and God had made him drop to the level of animals. He now had a clearer picture of God, and realised that God had mercifully corrected and humbled him, and he praised and glorified God. When that happened, God saw to it that Nebuchadnezzar was firmly re-established on the throne of Babylonia. He was a much wiser ruler the rest of his days, during which he was honored more than ever by many peoples of all nations. (Dan. 4:34-37).
Nebuchadnezzar wrote the decree found in the fourth chapter of Daniel's book to teach others the lessons he had learned.
Nebuchadnezzar died after forty-three years of ruling Babylonia. He was succeeded by his son Evil-Merodach, under whom conditions in the kingdom began to worsen. However, one of the new king's acts was to free Jehoiachin, the king of Judah who had been brought by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon and imprisoned nearly thirty-seven years previously.
To show honour to the vassal king, Evil-Merodach allowed Jehoiachin the privileges of sharing the royal food in the palace. Thus Jehoiachin ate regularly at the king’s table for the rest of his life (2Kgs. 25:27-30). We don’t know how long this lasted because after only a very short reign Evil-Merodach was assassinated and another took his place.
During similar sudden changes for the next few years, the kingdom's power steadily waned. [An idolatrous man named Belshazzar had become co-ruler with his father, Nabonidus, yet termed Crown Prince in the chronicles. Nabonidus (555-539 BCE) was an Assyrian devotee of the moon god Sin in its ancient form and made his daughter the entu or the (newly reinstated) high priestess of the god Sin at Ur. This work asserts he might have been a possible son-in-law of Nebuchadnezzar based on the fact that the text in Daniel states that Nebuchadnezzar was his father and this term is also used of grandfather. The scholars take it to mean predecessor (cf. Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. Art. Nabonidus) as there were three kings that ruled between Nebuchadnezzar and Nabonidus. By 539 BCE the empire was in serious trouble split by disaffection and the ten year absence of Nabonidus in the West (ed.)] Media and Persia, two nations to the north and east, had sent their armies heading toward high-walled Babylon, whose fall could mean the fall of all Babylonia.
Even under such ominous circumstances, Babylon seemed impregnable. Belshazzar held a great feast for a thousand of his officials. While Belshazzar was drinking his wine, he gave orders to bring the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem so that the king and his company could drink from them.
As they drank from the goblets they praised their many and varied pagan gods (Dan. 5:1-4).
Suddenly the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the wall.
As the king saw it, his face turned pale and he was so frightened that his knees knocked against each other, and his legs gave way.
The king called all the astrologers, diviners and magicians to come and he said to them, "Tell me what that writing means!" he demanded. "To any one of you who can do this, I promise magnificent clothing, a golden chain necklace and that he shall become the third one in power in the Babylonian empire!"
These "wise" men, as they were called, studied the writing, but not a one could tell the king what it was. Belshazzar became even more frightened and his face grew even paler (Dan. 5:5-9).
At this point the queen entered the room and walked toward Belshazzar.
"O king, live forever!" she respectfully said. Don't be alarmed or shocked. Here in this city is a man who used to be chief of the wise men. Nebuchadnezzar gave him that rank when this man showed unusual knowledge and understanding. This man Daniel, whom the king called Belteshazzar [the name was given on behalf of the king by the chief Eunuch as we see in Daniel 1:7], has the spirit of the gods in him. He had the ability to interpret dreams and reveal hidden meanings. Call for Daniel and he will tell you what the writing means.”
After a while a soldier brought in Daniel, who was now an aging man. Daniel had lost his high rank in the kingdom soon after King Nebuchadnezzar's death.
"I have heard of you and your unique abilities," Belshazzar said. "I have already asked many men to tell me the meaning of these letters on the wall, but they have failed. If you succeed, you shall receive the reward of being third man in power in this kingdom. Besides, you will be given fine clothing and a splendid necklace of gold!" (Dan. 5:10-16).
"I don't have any desire for your rewards," Daniel told the king. "I prefer that you keep them or turn them over to someone else after I've given you the meaning of what is written on the wall. First, though, there are some other things you should know. Years ago your grandfather King Nebuchadnezzar gained great possessions, majesty, glory and honour. All that made him a proud, vain man who took or spared lives according to his whims. He wouldn't admit that it was the God of Israel who had allowed him to have his wealth and power. Therefore, God took his kingdom away from him and cast him out to live with animals until he could learn that God's will prevails above that of any man. Even though you knew all this, you, too, Belshazzar, have tried to elevate yourself. This very evening you ventured to show others your disdain for your Creator by using the vessels from God's holy temple for the profane purpose of drinking to the lifeless gods you foolishly worship. Because you have refused to humble yourself and praise the God who has given you the breath of life, God sent a hand to write you a warning!
"The words you see on the wall mean that your kingdom is at an end, that you have proved yourself to be an unwise ruler, and that the enemies at your gates have already begun to take your empire!" (Dan. 5:17-28).
[The words written on the wall were Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin which are the names of weights as Babylonian money. The word mene is repeated, representing two mina, but the word itself is repeated to signify two entities. Tekel means a shekel which is less than a mina. The parsin is a divided mina. The concepts of the names relate to the previous kings after Nebuchadnezzar. Evil-Merodach and Neriglissar each weigh a mina. The third successor Labashi-Marduk is represented as weighing only a shekel. Parsin has the meaning of a divided mina or half mina. They thus carry also the concepts of numbering, of weighing, and dividing. In that way they were presented as prophecy in accordance with the prophecy of Daniel Chapter 2, which he gave to Nebuchadnezzar signifying the end of the Babylonian head of gold and the concept of reducing in value with each successive rule. That was to continue now until the time of the end and the final empire of the ten toes of iron and miry clay. This prophecy can only be properly understood again in the last days as these facts become known once more from archaeology and history. This concept is dealt with in the New Moon message at: http://www.ccg.org/Sabbath/2009/NM_11_17_09.html (ed.)].
"You can't say that I don't at least keep my promises to you!" the king exclaimed.
In spite of his alarm at what he had just heard, Belshazzar ordered his servants to bring a fine coat and a gold chain to put on Daniel at once, and directed one of his officers to proclaim that Daniel would be elevated to the third-ranking man in power in Babylonia. When Daniel left the palace, he was attired the way the king said he would be and was shown the courtesies extended to royalty.
That very night Belshazzar, king of Babylon was slain and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom at the age of 62 (Dan. 5:29-31). [This king of the Medes was almost certainly regent for Cyrus king of Persia as the dates of Nabonidus and Cyrus overlap by two months and the Bible is definite on the rule of Cyrus in succession of Nabonidus and Belshazzar. Darius was not the name the king of the Medes was known by to history. The tablets prove that Astyarges was the last known king of the Medes. Darius is a Persian name but the meaning may have been applied to Astyarges whom Cyrus subjugated and whose daughter he probably took for a wife. Thus he may have been Cyrus’ father-in-law. Cyrus’ general Gobryas took military command of Babylon before Cyrus arrived, but he was neither a Mede nor 62 years of age. Darius the Mede was 62, as the text of Daniel 5:31 tells us]. King Belshazzar didn't live long enough to see his city overrun by the besiegers he had scorned.
First of Exiles Return
[Cyrus then ruled over the Babylonians as foretold by prophecy (Jer. 29:10-11) and in his first year of rule over Persia and Babylonia (328-327 BCE) issued a decree to rebuild the temple and for the exiles to return (2Chr. 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-2)]
The first of the Jewish exiles to start back for their homeland after being captives of the Babylonians were led by Zerubbabel, prince of Judah. Their long caravan of about fifty thousand people also included over 736 horses, 245 mules, 435 camels and 6720 donkeys.
As soon as the people were established in fair comfort, the men were summoned to Jerusalem by Zerubbabel and Jeshua to rebuild the main altar at the temple site so that they could begin as soon as possible to make burnt offerings in the mornings and evenings. The altar was set up even before a new temple floor had been laid because they feared the people who lived nearby, and believed that this hurried act of obedience would give them greater protection from God.
When it came time for the Feast of Tabernacles in the seventh month, the Jews obediently observed it. There was such a great amount of riches taken in that it was possible, with permission from King Cyrus, who still held Judah as a vassal nation, to purchase lumber for building a second temple from the nearby cities of Tyre and Sidon. Arrangements were also made to hire skilled craftsmen from these places to come the next year to carry out the intricate work the Jews weren't trained to do.
By the time the foundations of the temple were completed, Jeshua had appointed men from the Levites for various functions. These assistant priests and priests were attired in the proper vestments for a dedication ceremony. Blowing trumpets and striking cymbals, these men led the people in happy songs of gratitude. This was followed by a loud chorus of joyous shouts. At the same time there was loud wailing, in the far eastern fashion of showing sadness, by older men who had seen the original temple. They wept openly because they regretted that the new one would lack the size, beauty, majesty and furnishings of the first one.
Meanwhile, when the enemies of Judah heard they were building the temple they went and asked if they could help. Zerubbabel, Jeshua and the other heads of the families refused them. Then the people around them began to discourage the people of Judah to make them afraid to go on building. Their efforts were such that they frustrated the plans to build the temple during the entire reign of Cyrus and down to the reign of Darius king of Persia (cf. Ezra chs. 1-4).
[However, this return to Jerusalem did not result in the Temple being rebuilt. That did not occur for many decades. It did not occur under Cyrus and it did not occur under Cambyses his son as there was war with Egypt after the revolt in 565 BCE and Cambyses occupied it in 525 BCE (see the paper The Fall of Egypt: Prophecy of Pharaoh’s Broken Arms (No. 36)).
Cyrus gave the Temple artefacts to Sheshbazzar prince of Judah for the return and they remained in his charge and that of Zerubbabel for years. In the seventh month of the return they managed to lay the altar and the foundation stone and that is where construction stopped for over a hundred years. The land of Israel had been filled with Gentile tribes and they frustrated the building by letters to Cyrus and obstructed the building all the way through the reign of Cyrus and Cambyses down to that of Darius the Persian (Ezra 3:1-13 and 4:1-4).]
[In the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) they wrote an accusation to him against the Jews and also in the reign of Artaxerxes I they stopped construction by letters of accusation (Ezra 4:7-16). Artaxerxes replied to the Gentiles (Ezra 17-22) and the reply was read out to the Gentiles. They went in power and, by force, made the Jews cease construction, and work on the Temple ceased until the second year of Darius the Persian (who is Darius II based on the letters from the Jews at the Temple at Elephantine). The details are covered in the paper The Sign of Jonah and the History of the Reconstruction of the Temple (No. 13).
In the second year of the reign of Darius (II 423-404 CE) king of Persia (Ezra 4:24) the construction was ordered recommenced after the raising of the prophets of God for that purpose.
In the second year of the reign of King Darius, two Jewish prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, were inspired by God to stir up their countrymen into continuing work on the Temple in spite of the threats of their enemies.
Having lived many years close to God, they more clearly realised the importance of getting on with the temple. [Inspired by God they began to inspire the Jews to recommence construction.] Besides, they had more faith than did most Jews that God would protect those who would try to carry out the work God expected them to do.
Encouraged, Zerubbabel and Jeshua then set about rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem with the prophets of God helping them.
When Governor Tatnai was told what was taking place, he and his associates went to Zerubbabel and asked who authorised the rebuilding of the temple and who was in charge.
[However “the eye of God was upon them” and the men did not cease work and kept on until they received a reply from Persia as to the proper authorisation of the building.]
They said: “Years ago a great king of Israel was instructed by our God to build a temple here. Long after it was built, our forefathers angered God, causing Him to bring King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon against them. Nebuchadnezzar destroyed the temple and took our people as prisoners to Babylon. Some of those people are here with us. Others and their descendants still live in or near Babylon. In the first year of the reign of King Cyrus of Persia, Cyrus decreed, according to the desire of God, that the temple should be rebuilt by our people. Many thousands of us returned to Jerusalem with permission from the king, who gave us back the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the house of God. These we have here ready to be put back in use in the temple, which we haven't been able to finish even in the last sixteen years. That is because our enemies have constantly tried to prevent our work."
Tatnai then made a report to send to King Darius, describing in detail his visit to Jerusalem.
"If it pleases the king let the Persian records at Babylon be searched to learn what was written about King Cyrus in this matter," Tatnai concluded. "Please let us know if the Jews should be allowed to continue their construction. Your decision will be carried out as soon as we receive word from you" (Ezra ch. 5).
On reading Tatnai's report, King Darius ordered the royal records to be searched. There a scroll was found which clearly described what King Cyrus had done concerning another proposed temple at Jerusalem.
In his reply King Darius ordered that Tatnai and his fellow officials should stay away and not interfere with the work on the temple at Jerusalem. The tribute that usually came to Babylon from vassal nations was to go to the Jews in any amount they needed to continue building the temple, and the priests there were to be given bullocks, rams, lambs, wine, wheat, salt and oil so they could offer sacrifices pleasing to God and pray for the king and his sons.
Darius continued, "Furthermore, I hereby declare that anyone who defies or ignores my wishes in this affair will have a beam pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it. As for his house, it will be made a pile of rubble. May the God of Israel destroy any who would harm the temple of God at Jerusalem! Let this decree be carried out speedily."
Darius' decree was carried out with diligence. The Jews continued to build and prosper under the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. For the next four years work on the temple progressed so well that the building was finished in the sixth year of the reign of Darius. Because of the former harassment from their enemies and their periods of lack of dedication to their work, the Jews were twenty years in carrying out their project.
The dedication ceremonies marked the most eventful day since the Jews had arrived. It was a time of triumph, joy and thankfulness. Everything was set in careful order for the functions of the priests and their assistants. Offerings included a hundred bullocks, two hundred rams, four hundred lambs; and a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel.
On the fourteenth day of the First month, the exiles celebrated the Passover. The priests and Levites purified themselves, the Passover lambs were slaughtered and for seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with joy. The Lord God had filled them with joy because King Darius had assisted them in building the house of the God of Israel (Ezra ch. 6).
[The Jews at the Temple at Elephantine on the Nile in Egypt are recorded as sending contributions to the refurbishment of the rebuilt Temple in the year 419 BCE. Also the Passover recorded as being kept (Ezra 6:19) is recorded by decree of the Satrap Arsames ruler of Egypt by order of Darius II in 419 BCE in his sixth year of reign as recorded by Ezra. (ed) (See the paper The Sign of Jonah etc. above)].
This account brings us up to the restoration of Judah under the Persians, a type of the future restoration of all twelve tribes to the Promised Land.
Let us remember that the book of Daniel with the story of the handwriting on the wall prefigures the state of the world now. The handwriting is on the wall of world civilization today. We will deal with those aspects in other messages.
We have now concluded the adaptation of Volume VI of The Bible Story by Basil Wolverton, published by Ambassador College Press, which marks the end of this particular work.
From this point onward, we will continue with the Bible stories from the paper Ezra and Nehemiah (No. CB155).