The fearful dream of the king (Dan 4:4-4:5)

“I,

King Nebuchadnezzar,

Was living at ease

In my house.

I was prospering

In my palace.

I saw a dream

That frightened me.

My fantasies in bed

Terrified me.

The visions of my head

Alarmed me.”

This author of the Book of Daniel has the king of Babylon speaking in the first-person singular. He was living at ease in his house, prospering in his palace. Everything was all good. Then he had a dream that frightened him. These fantasies and visions terrified and alarmed him.

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The Fall of Jerusalem (Dan 1:1-1:2)

“In the third year

Of the reign

Of King Jehoiakim

In Judah,

King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon

Came to Jerusalem.

He besieged it.

The Lord let

King Jehoiakim

Of Judah

Fall into his power,

As well as some of the vessels

Of the house of God.

Then he brought them

To the land of Shinar,

He placed

The vessels

In the treasury

Of his gods.”

This Book of Daniel starts out on a dire note, the capture of Jerusalem. However, unlike the Book of Ezekiel, there is only a vague date for the siege of Jerusalem, the 3rd year of King Jehoiakim, which would have been 606 BCE.   However, there is no other indication of a siege at that time. Perhaps, this meant 598 BCE when King Jehoiakim was deposed. It is not clear who the author of this work was. However, the Judaean king fell under the power of King Nebuchadnezzar, because the Lord let it happen. Yahweh is not the term used for God in this post-exilic work. Rather the Greek Kyrios was used. The Babylonian king took some of the Temple vessels and treasures with him to Babylon, or Shinar as it is called here. He brought them to the treasury of his gods, which would have been Marduk and Nebo.

The weak idols compared to the heavenly bodies (Bar 6:66-6:67)

“These weak idols

Can neither curse

Nor bless kings.

They cannot show signs

In the heavens

For the nations.

They cannot shine

Like the sun.

They cannot give light

Like the moon.”

Once again, this shows the weakness of these false idols, since they can neither curse nor bless kings. They cannot show signs in the heavens for the various nations. They cannot shine like the sun. They cannot give light like the moon. Instead of berating the nature gods of the sun or the moon, this author praises them. His emphasis was on those weak wooden man made false idols. Notice that this author believes that the moon gives light. In fact, we often still speak of moonlight. When in fact, the light from the moon is really a reflection of the sun.

Nature obeys (Bar 6:60-6:65)

“The sun,

The moon,

The stars

Are bright.

When sent

To do a service,

They are obedient.

So also the lightning.

When it flashes,

It is widely seen.

The wind likewise blows

In every land.

When God commands

The clouds to go

Over the whole world,

They carry out

His command.

The fire sent from above

To consume mountains

Or woods

Does what it is ordered.

But these idols

Are not to be

Compared with them

In appearance

Or power.

Therefore anyone

Must not think

That they are gods.

They are not called gods.

They are not able

Either to decide a case

Or to do good to anyone.

Since you know then

That they are not gods,

Do not fear them!”

This author notes that the sun, the moon, and the stars are bright. However, they do what they are told to do. The same is true about lightning flashes and the wind. It blows wherever God commands it. The clouds go all over the whole world as they carry out God’s commands also. Fire does what it is ordered to do. How can you compare these great works of obedient nature to these false idol gods, since they have no power. They cannot solve cases or do good for any humans. How can you call them gods, since you know that they are not gods? Thus there is no need to fear them.

Comparative value of these false idols (Bar 6:59-6:59)

“So it is better

To be a king

Who shows

His courage

Than to be

These false gods.

It is better to be

A household utensil

That serves

Its owner’s need,

Than to be

These false gods.

It is better to be

Even the door

Of a house

That protects its contents,

Than to be

These false gods,

It is better to be

Also a wooden pillar

In a palace,

Than to be

These false gods.”

This author draws a sense of the comparative value of these false idol gods. He explains that it is better to be a courageous king than a false god. That is pretty simple. It is better to be a household utensil that at least serves its owner’s needs than be a false god. It was even better to be a door in a house that protects its contents than be a false god. It was also better to be a wooden pillar in a palace than be false god. You are better off being a practical wooden item than a useless impractical false wooden god.

These false gods and robbers (Bar 6:57-6:58)

“Gods made of wood,

Overlaid

With silver

Or gold,

Are unable

To save themselves

From thieves

Or robbers.

Anyone,

Who can,

Will strip them

Of their gold

Or silver.

They will strip them

Of the robes

They wear.

They will go off

With this booty.

These gods

Will not be able

To help themselves.”

This author says that these wooden gods, overlaid with silver or gold, are unable to save themselves from thieves or robbers. Anyone can strip away their gold or silver. Anyone can take the robes that these gods wear. These robbers can vandalize and take things from these gods, because they are not able to help themselves.

The powerless idols (Bar 6:53-5:56)

“These false idols cannot

Set up a king

Over a country.

They cannot

Give rain

To people.

They cannot

Judge

Their own cause.

They cannot

Deliver anyone

Who is wronged.

They have no power.

They are like crows

Between heaven and earth.

When fire breaks out

In a temple

Of wooden gods,

Overlaid with gold

Or silver,

Their priests will flee.

They will escape.

But the gods

Will be burned up

Like timbers.

Besides,

They can offer

No resistance

To a king

Or any enemies.

Why then must

Anyone admit

Or think

That they are gods?”

This author maintains that these false idols cannot set up a king over a country. They cannot give rain to anybody. They cannot judge their own cause. They cannot deliver anyone that has been wronged, since they have no power. They are like crows in the sky. If a fire breaks out in a temple of wooden gods with gold and silver, their priests will flee and escape. However, these idol gods will be burned up like timbers. These weak false idols cannot offer any resistance to a king or any enemies. How then can you think or admit that they are gods?