King Nebuchadnezzar II, world events and lessons for today
Those who read my blogs will know I am interested in Bible history, what is happening in the world, particularly regarding world rulers, and applying Bible teaching to how to respond to world events.
Nebuchadnezzar II brings together all of the above. He is mentioned by name 91 times in the Bible (2 Kings (8), 1 Chronicles (1), 2 Chronicles (5), Ezra (5), Nehemiah (1), Esther (1), Jeremiah (37), Ezekiel (5), Daniel (28)). There are also a good deal of secular history references. The following short written and audio-visual presentations are helpful in providing relevant background:
- Nebuchadnezzar – The Evil Babylonian King Who Destroyed Jerusalem
- The Greatest King of Babylon | Nebuchadnezzar II | Ancient Mesopotamia
- Nebuchadnezzar II: The Master of Babylon
According to Wikipedia: “Nebuchadnezzar II was the second king of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, ruling from the death of his father Nabopolassar in 605 BC to his own death in 562 BC. Historically known as Nebuchadnezzar the Great, he is typically regarded as the empire’s greatest king. Nebuchadnezzar remains famous for his military campaigns in the Levant, for his construction projects in his capital, Babylon, and for the important part he played in Jewish history. Ruling for 43 years, Nebuchadnezzar was the longest-reigning king of the Chaldean dynasty. At the time of his death, Nebuchadnezzar was among the most powerful rulers in the world … In addition to his military campaigns, Nebuchadnezzar is remembered as a great builder king. The prosperity ensured by his wars allowed Nebuchadnezzar to conduct great building projects in Babylon, and elsewhere in Mesopotamia. The modern image of Babylon is largely of the city as it was after Nebuchadnezzar’s projects, during which he, among other work, rebuilt many of the city’s religious buildings, including the Esagila and Etemenanki, repaired its current palace and constructed a brand new palace, and beautified its ceremonial centre through renovations to the city’s Processional Street and the Ishtar Gate“
Before I get back to Nebuchadnezzar, focusing on the accounts provided in the first five chapters of the Book of Daniel, I should explain why Nebuchadnezzar has been on my mind, besides being part of a great story, pertinent to my role as a watchman on the wall, observing what today’s kings are up to. Like us all, I am on a journey. I realise many good and learned Christians see things different to me. I do not claim infallibility and, while I believe I am right, it could be that I am wrong. Applying our texts (one before and one after this paragraph) we are reminded that God controls kings, even the bad ones, and we need to pray for kings, even the bad ones. When we look at King Nebuchadnezzar, through the eyes of Daniel the prophet, who had been exiled to Babylon, as a result of his land Judah being conquered by Babylon, it is clear that what was going on around him was not something to be ignored and nor was it something God was indifferent to and, while as one of the upper echelons of Judean society taken into captivity. Daniel was limited in what he could do, we see in these chapters that he did much to make a difference, so significant, it changed the course of history.
We should remind ourselves that Nebuchadnezzar was probably the most powerful man on the planet during his reign. He had conquered both Assyria and Egypt, the empires that were Israel / Judah’s greatest opposition, and also Judah (the ten tribes of Israel had earlier been conquered by Assyria). He was also responsible for some remarkable projects (discussed in our links, not least one of the seven wonders of the ancient world – the Hanging Gardens of Babylon) and, from a human perspective, could take pride in all his achievements. While often depicted as a cruel ruler, he could also show generosity and the Judean exiles in Babylon lived in relative peace. He selected four young Judeans: Daniel and his friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, whose talents were recognised, to serve in his government, and they did so with much credit. They were also God-fearing men, who would not compromise their faith.
Nebuchadnezzars dream, which Daniel alone could interpret under God’s guidance, was a remarkable one concerning the rise and fall of kingdoms, and finally one everlasting kingdom that is yet to come.
The evil side of Nebuchadnezzar could be seen in the erecting of an image in his likeness, which people were expected to bow down to, on pain of death. Not so Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who was thrown into the fiery furnace for not doing so, from which God delivered them with Nebuchadnezzar recognising He is indeed God.
In this chapter we see Nebuchadnezzar proud in his position and achievements but God revealing through a dream, which again Daniel interpreted, that He needed to humble himself, or He will experience calamity. Daniel’s warning “Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity” (4:27) was ignored and 12 months later he heard the words “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (4:31,32) and so he lived for seven years. But there was a wonderful turnabout in fortunes as Nebuchadnezzar’s mind was restored to him as he recognised the one true God was YHWH who was to be honoured, with his kingdom being restored to him.
Many years later, and Daniel was an old man, it was one of Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants, Belshazzar, who was king. He displayed the same pride and arrogance as his forefather, and his kingdom was taken from him permanently by King Cyrus of Persia.
There are many lessons we can take away, not least from the life of Daniel, discussed in “Prophets of the Bible – Daniel”. As we look upon the kings of the world today, we are reminded however dire things appear, how little we know, e.g. distinguishing good from bad, God is in control and this small extract we read of Israel’s history was exactly as God said it would be. We can follow Daniel’s example (and that of his three friends) to be faithful worshippers of God, unafraid to say things as they are. We can also take heart that God is working His purposes out. His plans and purposes cannot be thwarted and He does use, raise up, depose and change kings.
While looking upon the kings of the world can be depressing and there seems few who have had the change in heart Nebuchadnezzar experienced, we can and should do what we can to ensure righteous government but remember all are in God’s hand. We must obey kings as did Daniel, who obeyed God first. We must not use Romans 13 as a cop out for inaction (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 and Covid-19 relates). Just as God uses wicked rulers as His instrument of judgement, He raises up the unlikely as instruments of mercy (as per the Book of Judges) so none may take glory, as Paul reminded the church at Corinth. He still raises up prophets to speak into world situations. While the Hebrew prophets of the Old Testament prophesied mainly concerning Israel and its kings, God is concerned enough to raise up prophets to prophesy concerning other nations – and He does so today (further discussed in my Prophets of the Bible book). We may not be called to prophesy like Daniel (and our ability to change things may seem limited), but Daniel remained faithful to God, from the time he was a young lad until he was an old man, and is an example we can follow in these extraordinary times.