Year of the Bible – Daniel 3:1-5:30

Daniel 3:1

 

 

The Lord we serve is able to save us . . . and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. – Daniel 3:17

Only a remnant of people survived and went into captivity in Babylon (modern day Iraq). It was often the case that after a nation was destroyed, the nobility of the vanquished country would be deported and raised to learn (and love) the ways and customs of their conquering masters. The young Jewish nobles were deported to be schooled in the literature and learning of the Babylonians. Four of them rose to prominence. Each was given a new Babylonian name: Daniel was renamed Belteshazzar; Hananiah became Shadrach; Mishael became Meshach; Azariah became Abednego. These four were devout and faithful to their God, the God of Israel. For their uncompromisingly faithful service and integrity, God richly blessed them. In a series of stunning events throughout the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, the four Jewish wise men came to be elevated to the highest positions of authority in the land of Babylon.

The first major event began with a dream of Nebuchadnezzar. The King wanted the wise men of Babylon to tell him what he dreamt one night — without telling them the content of his dream first. In other words, to prove their wisdom, they had to tell him something that only he knew. As Joseph had done many years before in the land of Egypt, God used Daniel to interpret the dream of the king, so in gratitude and respect, Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel as his chief seer and wise man.

In a second test of faithfulness, the proud king decided to have an image of gold made of himself and to require that all his subjects bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, as worshippers of God, refused, choosing death rather than to worship an image of the king. God used their faithfulness to prove that He could not only deliver His servants from the wrath of those who opposed their faith, but that in the process He could also convert the very king who was doing the persecuting. Each time, Nebuchadnezzar found himself praising the God of Israel as the true God of heaven and earth.

In a third test (chapter 4), Nebuchadnezzar has another dream. The dream revealed what God was going to do to humble Nebuchadnezzar. The Babylonian King had become the greatest and most powerful king of the entire civilized world. Daniel warned the king of the verdict of condemnation that stood against him, and prescribed a way for God’s judgment not to fall upon him and his people: “Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.” (4:27) But the king did not listen and instead found himself in a state of insanity, out of which God later restored him, and through the humility that the king learned from God, he was able to become the greatest king in the world, the first in what was about to be a succession of kingdoms leading to the Messianic Kingdom. In the visions of Nebuchadnezzar, God pointed out the future kingdoms that were to come.

After the Babylonian kingdom would come the kingdom of the Persians and Medes. They would fall to the kingdom of Alexander the Great. After the Kingdom of the Greeks would come the Kingdom of the Romans, and out of the Roman Empire would come the Messianic Kingdom, a Kingdom that would be eternal. As Belshazzar succeeded his father, Nebuchadnezzar, he gave orders to have the gold and silver goblets, taken from the holy temple in Jerusalem, and he used them to drink and praise the pagan gods of gold, silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone. As he spoke, a hand appeared and wrote an inscription upon the wall. Daniel was called to interpret the words. MENE TEKEL PERES. “Mene: God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. Tekel: You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Peres: Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.” (5:26-28) That same night King Belshazzar was murdered and his kingdom was given over to Darius the Mede – either the regional ruler or the regional name of King Cyrus, liberator of the Jews.

 Questions – Daniel 3:1 – 5:30

  1. What did the Babylonians do for the young men of Israel taken into the service of the king?
  2. What do you see in the character of these young men that was so great?
  3. How did God demonstrate that He was with and protecting the three men who would not bow down to the idol?
  4. What lesson did Nebuchadnezzar have to learn from God?
  5. What kingdoms followed the Kingdom of the Babylonians?
  6. Explain the meaning of the words “Mene Tekel Peres.”

© John W. Fiene | Artwork by Brian McFarland