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The Rise and Fall of an Immense Image

The Rise and Fall of an Immense Image

 Chapter Four

The Rise and Fall of an Immense Image

1. Why should we be interested in a situation that arose a decade after King Nebuchadnezzar took Daniel and others into captivity?

A DECADE has passed since King Nebuchadnezzar brought Daniel and other “foremost men of the land” of Judah into captivity in Babylon. (2 Kings 24:15) Young Daniel is serving in the king’s court when a life-threatening situation arises. Why should this interest us? Because the way that Jehovah God intervenes in the matter not only saves the lives of Daniel and others but also gives us a view of the march of world powers of Bible prophecy leading into our times.

A MONARCH FACES A DIFFICULT PROBLEM

2. When did Nebuchadnezzar have his first prophetic dream?

2 “In the second year of the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar,” wrote the prophet Daniel, “Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams; and his spirit began to feel agitated, and his very sleep was made to be something beyond him.” (Daniel 2:1) The dreamer was Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Babylonian Empire. He had effectively become world ruler in 607 B.C.E. when Jehovah God allowed him to destroy Jerusalem and its temple. In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign as world ruler (606/605 B.C.E.), God sent him a terrifying dream.

3. Who proved unable to interpret the king’s dream, and how did Nebuchadnezzar respond?

3 This dream distressed Nebuchadnezzar so much that he could not sleep. Naturally, he was anxious to know its meaning. But the mighty king had forgotten the dream!  So he summoned Babylon’s magicians, enchanters, and sorcerers, and he demanded that they relate the dream and interpret it. The task was beyond them. Their failure so infuriated Nebuchadnezzar that he issued a command “to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” This decree would bring the prophet Daniel face-to-face with the appointed executioner. Why? Because he and his three Hebrew companions—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—were counted among the wise men of Babylon.—Daniel 2:2-14.

DANIEL COMES TO THE RESCUE

4. (a) How did Daniel learn the content of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and its meaning? (b) What did Daniel say in appreciation to Jehovah God?

4 After learning the reason for Nebuchadnezzar’s harsh decree, “Daniel himself went in and asked from the king that he should give him time expressly to show the very interpretation to the king.” This was granted. Daniel returned to his house, and he and his three Hebrew friends prayed, asking “for mercies on the part of the God of heaven concerning this secret.” In a vision that very night, Jehovah revealed to Daniel the secret of the dream. Gratefully, Daniel said: “Let the name of God become blessed from time indefinite even to time indefinite, for wisdom and mightiness—for they belong to him. And he is changing times and seasons, removing kings and setting up kings, giving wisdom to the wise ones and knowledge to those knowing discernment. He is revealing the deep things and the concealed things, knowing what is in the darkness; and with him the light does dwell.” For such insight, Daniel praised Jehovah.—Daniel 2:15-23.

5. (a) When before the king, how did Daniel give credit to Jehovah? (b) Why is Daniel’s explanation of interest to us today?

5 The following day, Daniel approached Arioch, the  chief of the bodyguard, who had been appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. Upon learning that Daniel could interpret the dream, Arioch rushed him to the king. Taking no credit for himself, Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar: “There exists a God in the heavens who is a Revealer of secrets, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what is to occur in the final part of the days.” Daniel was ready to reveal not only the future of the Babylonian Empire but an outline of world events from Nebuchadnezzar’s day to our time and beyond.—Daniel 2:24-30.

THE DREAM—REMEMBERED

6, 7. What was the dream that Daniel recalled for the king?

6 Nebuchadnezzar listened intently as Daniel explained: “You, O king, happened to be beholding, and, look! a certain immense image. That image, which was large and the brightness of which was extraordinary, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was dreadful. As regards that image, its head was of good gold, its breasts and its arms were of silver, its belly and its thighs were of copper, its legs were of iron, its feet were partly of iron and partly of molded clay. You kept on looking until a stone was cut out not by hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and of molded clay and crushed them. At that time the iron, the molded clay, the copper, the silver and the gold were, all together, crushed and became like the chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried them away so that no trace at all was found of them. And as for the stone that struck the image, it became a large mountain and filled the whole earth.”—Daniel 2:31-35.

7 How thrilled Nebuchadnezzar must have been to hear Daniel unfold the dream! But wait! Babylon’s wise men would be spared only if Daniel also interpreted the dream. Speaking for himself and his three Hebrew friends, Daniel  declared: “This is the dream, and its interpretation we shall say before the king.”—Daniel 2:36.

A KINGDOM OF EMINENT DISTINCTION

8. (a) Who or what did Daniel interpret the head of gold to be? (b) When did the head of gold come into existence?

8 “You, O king, the king of kings, you to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the might, and the strength and the dignity, and into whose hand he has given, wherever the sons of mankind are dwelling, the beasts of the field and the winged creatures of the heavens, and whom he has made ruler over all of them, you yourself are the head of gold.” (Daniel 2:37, 38) These words applied to Nebuchadnezzar after Jehovah had used him to destroy Jerusalem, in 607 B.C.E. This is so because the kings enthroned in Jerusalem were from the line of David, Jehovah’s anointed king. Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, the typical kingdom of God representing Jehovah’s sovereignty over the earth. With that city’s destruction in 607 B.C.E., this typical kingdom of God ceased to exist. (1 Chronicles 29:23; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21) The successive world powers represented by the metallic parts of the image could now exercise world domination without interference from God’s typical kingdom. As the head of gold, the most precious metal known in ancient times, Nebuchadnezzar had had the distinction of overturning that kingdom by destroying Jerusalem.—See “A Warrior King Builds an Empire,” on page 63.

9. What was represented by the head of gold?

9 Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned for 43 years, headed a dynasty that ruled over the Babylonian Empire. It included his son-in-law Nabonidus and his oldest son, Evil-merodach. That dynasty continued for 43 more years, until the death of Nabonidus’ son Belshazzar, in  539 B.C.E. (2 Kings 25:27; Daniel 5:30) So the head of gold in the dream image represented not just Nebuchadnezzar but the entire Babylonian line of rulership.

10. (a) How did Nebuchadnezzar’s dream indicate that the Babylonian World Power would not last? (b) What did the prophet Isaiah foretell about Babylon’s conqueror? (c) In what sense was Medo-Persia inferior to Babylon?

10 Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar: “After you there will rise another kingdom inferior to you.” (Daniel 2:39) A kingdom symbolized by the image’s breasts and arms of silver would succeed Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty. Some 200 years earlier, Isaiah had foretold this kingdom, even giving the name of its victorious king—Cyrus. (Isaiah 13:1-17; 21:2-9; 44:24–45:7, 13) This was the Medo-Persian Empire. Even though Medo-Persia developed a great civilization that was not secondary to that of the Babylonian Empire, this latter kingdom is represented by silver, a metal less precious than gold. It was inferior to the Babylonian World Power in that it did not have the distinction of overturning Judah, the typical kingdom of God with its capital at Jerusalem.

11. When did Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty cease to exist?

11 Some 60 years after interpreting the dream, Daniel witnessed the end of Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty. Daniel was present on the night of October 5/6, 539 B.C.E., when the Medo-Persian army took seemingly impregnable Babylon and executed King Belshazzar. With the death of Belshazzar, the golden head of the dream image—the Babylonian Empire—ceased to exist.

EXILED PEOPLE FREED BY A KINGDOM

12. How did the decree issued by Cyrus in 537 B.C.E. benefit the exiled Jews?

12 Medo-Persia replaced the Babylonian Empire as dominant world power in 539 B.C.E. At 62 years of age, Darius  the Mede became the first ruler of the conquered city of Babylon. (Daniel 5:30, 31) For a short time, he and Cyrus the Persian reigned jointly over the Medo-Persian Empire. When Darius died, Cyrus became the sole head of the Persian Empire. For the Jews in Babylon, the reign of Cyrus meant release from captivity. In 537 B.C.E., Cyrus issued a decree that allowed Jewish exiles in Babylon to return to their homeland and rebuild Jerusalem and Jehovah’s temple. The typical kingdom of God, however, was not reestablished in Judah and Jerusalem.—2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1–2:2a.

13. What did the silver breasts and arms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image picture?

13 The silver breasts and arms of the dream image pictured the line of Persian kings beginning with Cyrus the Great. That dynasty lasted for over 200 years. Cyrus is thought to have died while on a military campaign in 530 B.C.E. Of some 12 kings that succeeded him to the throne of the Persian Empire, at least 2 dealt favorably with Jehovah’s chosen people. One was Darius I (Persian), and the other was Artaxerxes I.

14, 15. What assistance did Darius the Great and Artaxerxes I give to the Jews?

14 Darius I was third in the line of Persian kings after Cyrus the Great. The preceding two were Cambyses II and his brother Bardiya (or perhaps a Magian pretender named Gaumata). By the time Darius I, also known as Darius the Great, ascended the throne in 521 B.C.E., the work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem was under ban. Upon uncovering the document containing Cyrus’ decree in the archives at Ecbatana, Darius did more than remove the ban in 520 B.C.E. He also provided funds from the royal treasury for rebuilding the temple.—Ezra 6:1-12.

15 The next Persian ruler to assist in Jewish restoration  efforts was Artaxerxes I, who succeeded his father Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) in 475 B.C.E. Artaxerxes was surnamed Longimanus because his right hand was longer than the left. During the 20th year of his reign, in 455 B.C.E., he commissioned his Jewish cupbearer Nehemiah to be governor of Judah and to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls. This action marked the start of the ‘seventy weeks of years’ outlined in the 9th chapter of Daniel and set the dates for the appearance and the death of the Messiah, or Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.—Daniel 9:24-27; Nehemiah 1:1; 2:1-18.

16. When and with what king did the Medo-Persian World Power end?

16 The last of the six kings to follow Artaxerxes I on the throne of the Persian Empire was Darius III. His reign ended abruptly in 331 B.C.E. when he suffered a terrible defeat by Alexander the Great at Gaugamela, near ancient Nineveh. This defeat ended the Medo-Persian World Power as symbolized by the silver part of the image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. The power to come was superior in some ways, yet inferior in others. This becomes clear as we listen to Daniel’s further interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

A KINGDOM—VAST BUT INFERIOR

17-19. (a) What world power did the belly and thighs of copper represent, and how extensive was its rulership? (b) Who was Alexander III? (c) How did Greek become an international language, and for what was it well suited?

17 Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that the belly and thighs of the immense image constituted “another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that [would] rule over the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:32, 39) This third kingdom would follow Babylonia and Medo-Persia. As copper is inferior to silver, this new world power would be inferior to Medo-Persia in that it would not be honored with any privilege like that of liberating Jehovah’s people. However, the  copperlike kingdom would “rule over the whole earth,” indicating that it would be more extensive than either Babylonia or Medo-Persia. What do the facts of history bear out about this world power?

18 Shortly after inheriting the throne of Macedonia in 336 B.C.E. at 20 years of age, ambitious Alexander III embarked upon a campaign of conquest. Because of his military successes, he came to be called Alexander the Great. Gaining one victory after another, he kept moving into the Persian domain. When he defeated Darius III in battle at Gaugamela in 331 B.C.E., the Persian Empire began to collapse and Alexander established Greece as the new world power.

19 After the victory at Gaugamela, Alexander went on to take the Persian capitals Babylon, Susa, Persepolis, and Ecbatana. Subduing the rest of the Persian Empire, he extended his conquests into western India. Greek colonies were established in the conquered lands. Thus, Greek language and culture spread throughout the realm. The Grecian Empire, in fact, became greater than any that had preceded it. As Daniel had foretold, the copper kingdom ‘ruled over the whole earth.’ One result of this was that Greek (Koine) became an international language. With its capacity for accurate expression, it proved highly suitable for writing the Christian Greek Scriptures and for spreading the good news of God’s Kingdom.

20. What became of the Grecian Empire after the death of Alexander the Great?

20 Alexander the Great lived only eight years as world ruler. Young though he was, 32-year-old Alexander fell ill after a banquet and died shortly thereafter, on June 13, 323 B.C.E. In time, his huge empire was divided into four territories, each ruled by one of his generals. Thus out of one great kingdom came four kingdoms that were eventually swallowed up by the Roman Empire. The copperlike  world power continued only until 30 B.C.E. when the last of these four kingdoms—the Ptolemaic dynasty ruling in Egypt—finally fell to Rome.

A KINGDOM THAT CRUSHES AND SHATTERS

21. How did Daniel describe “the fourth kingdom”?

21 Daniel continued his explanation of the dream image: “As for the fourth kingdom [after Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece], it will prove to be strong like iron. Forasmuch as iron is crushing and grinding everything else, so, like iron that shatters, it will crush and shatter even all these.” (Daniel 2:40) In its strength and ability to crush, this world power would be like iron—stronger than the empires represented by gold, silver, or copper. The Roman Empire was such a power.

22. How was the Roman Empire ironlike?

22 Rome crushed and shattered the Grecian Empire and swallowed up remnants of the Medo-Persian and Babylonian world powers. Showing no respect for God’s Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus Christ, it put him to death on a torture stake in 33 C.E. In an effort to shatter true Christianity, Rome persecuted Jesus’ disciples. Moreover, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its temple in 70 C.E.

23, 24. In addition to the Roman Empire, what do the legs of the image picture?

23 The iron legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image pictured not only the Roman Empire but also its political outgrowth. Consider these words recorded at Revelation 17:10: “There are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived, but when he does arrive he must remain a short while.” When the apostle John penned these words, he was being held in exile by the Romans, on the isle of Patmos. The five fallen kings, or world powers, were Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece. The sixth—the Roman Empire—was still in power. But it  also was to fall, and the seventh king would arise from one of Rome’s captured territories. What world power would that be?

24 Britain was once a northwestern part of the Roman Empire. But by the year 1763, it had become the British Empire—the Britannia that ruled the seven seas. By 1776 its 13 American colonies had declared their independence in order to set up the United States of America. In later years, however, Britain and the United States became partners in both war and peace. Thus, the Anglo-American combination came into existence as the seventh world power of Bible prophecy. Like the Roman Empire, it has proved to be “strong like iron,” exercising ironlike authority. The iron legs of the dream image thus include both the Roman Empire and the Anglo-American dual world power.

A FRAGILE AMALGAM

25. What did Daniel say about the feet and the toes of the image?

25 Daniel next told Nebuchadnezzar: “Whereas you beheld the feet and the toes to be partly of molded clay of a potter and partly of iron, the kingdom itself will prove to be divided, but somewhat of the hardness of iron will prove to be in it, forasmuch as you beheld the iron mixed with moist clay. And as for the toes of the feet being partly of iron and partly of molded clay, the kingdom will partly prove to be strong and will partly prove to be fragile. Whereas you beheld iron mixed with moist clay, they will come to be mixed with the offspring of mankind; but they will not prove to be sticking together, this one to that one, just as iron is not mixing with molded clay.”—Daniel 2:41-43.

26. When does the rulership pictured by the feet and the toes manifest itself?

26 The succession of world powers represented by the  various parts of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream began with the head and extended down to the feet. Logically, the feet and toes of “iron mixed with moist clay” would symbolize the final manifestation of human rule that would exist during “the time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.

27. (a) What state of affairs do the feet and the toes of iron mixed with clay picture? (b) What is pictured by the ten toes of the image?

27 At the dawn of the 20th century, the British Empire ruled over every fourth person on earth. Other European empires controlled millions more. But World War I resulted in the emergence of groups of nations in place of empires. After World War II, this trend accelerated. As nationalism developed further, the number of nations in the world grew dramatically. The ten toes of the image represent all such coexisting powers and governments, for in the Bible the number ten at times signifies earthly completeness.—Compare Exodus 34:28; Matthew 25:1; Revelation 2:10.

28, 29. (a) According to Daniel, what did the clay represent? (b) What can be said about the mixture of iron and clay?

28 Now that we are in “the time of the end,” we have reached the feet of the image. Some of the governments pictured by the image’s feet and toes of iron mixed with clay are ironlike—authoritarian or tyrannical. Others are claylike. In what way? Daniel associated the clay with “the offspring of mankind.” (Daniel 2:43) Despite the fragile nature of clay, of which the offspring of mankind are made, traditional ironlike rulerships have been obliged to listen more and more to the common people, who want their say in the governments ruling over them. (Job 10:9) But there is no sticking together of authoritarian rule and the common people—no more than there could be a uniting of iron with clay. At the time of the image’s demise, the world will indeed be politically fragmented!

 29 Will the divided condition of the feet and toes cause the entire image to collapse? What will happen to the image?

A DRAMATIC CLIMAX!

30. Describe the climax of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.

30 Consider the climax of the dream. Daniel told the king: “You kept on looking until a stone was cut out not by hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and of molded clay and crushed them. At that time the iron, the molded clay, the copper, the silver and the gold were, all together, crushed and became like the chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried them away so that no trace at all was found of them. And as for the stone that struck the image, it became a large mountain and filled the whole earth.”—Daniel 2:34, 35.

31, 32. What was foretold with regard to the final part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?

31 By way of explanation, the prophecy continued: “In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite; forasmuch as you beheld that out of the mountain a stone was cut not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the copper, the molded clay, the silver and the gold. The grand God himself has made known to the king what is to occur after this. And the dream is reliable, and the interpretation of it is trustworthy.”—Daniel 2:44, 45.

32 Appreciating that his dream had been called to mind and explained, Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that only Daniel’s God was “a Lord of kings and a Revealer of secrets.” The king also gave Daniel and his three Hebrew  companions positions of great responsibility. (Daniel 2:46-49) What, though, is the modern-day significance of Daniel’s ‘trustworthy interpretation’?

‘A MOUNTAIN FILLS THE EARTH’

33. Out of what “mountain” was the “stone” cut, and when and how did this occur?

33 When “the appointed times of the nations” ended in October 1914, “the God of heaven” established the heavenly Kingdom by enthroning his anointed Son, Jesus Christ, as the “King of kings and Lord of lords.” * (Luke 21:24; Revelation 12:1-5; 19:16) So it was that by divine power, not by human hands, the Messianic Kingdom “stone” was cut out of the “mountain” of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty. This heavenly government is in the hands of Jesus Christ, upon whom God has conferred immortality. (Romans 6:9; 1 Timothy 6:15, 16) Hence, this “kingdom of our Lord [God] and of his Christ”—an expression of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty—will not be passed on to anyone else. It will stand forever.—Revelation 11:15.

34. How was it that God’s Kingdom was born “in the days of those kings”?

34 The birth of the Kingdom took place “in the days of those kings.” (Daniel 2:44) These were not only the kings pictured by the ten toes of the image but also those symbolized by its iron, copper, silver, and gold parts. Although the Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman empires had passed away as world powers, their remnants still existed in 1914. The Turkish Ottoman Empire then occupied the territory of Babylonia, and national governments were functioning in Persia (Iran) and Greece and Rome, Italy.

35. When will the “stone” strike the image, and how thoroughly will the image be disposed of?

 35 God’s heavenly Kingdom will soon strike the symbolic image on its feet. As a result, all the kingdoms pictured by it will be broken to pieces, bringing them to an end. Indeed, at “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” that “stone” will strike with such crushing impact that the image will be ground to powder and the wind of God’s storm will sweep it away like the chaff of a threshing floor. (Revelation 16:14, 16) Then, like the stone that grew to mountainous size and filled the earth, God’s Kingdom will become the governmental mountain that will affect “the whole earth.”—Daniel 2:35.

36. Why can the Messianic Kingdom be called a stable government?

36 Though the Messianic Kingdom is heavenly, it will extend its power toward our globe for the blessing of all obedient inhabitants of the earth. This stable government “will never be brought to ruin” or be “passed on to any other people.” Unlike the kingdoms of dying human rulers, “it itself will stand to times indefinite,” forever. (Daniel 2:44) May you have the privilege of being one of its subjects eternally.

[Footnote]

^ par. 33 See Chapter 6 of this book.

WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?

• What world powers are represented by the various parts of the immense image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream?

• What world situation do the feet and ten toes of iron mixed with clay represent?

• When and out of what “mountain” was the “stone” cut?

• When will the “stone” strike the image?

[Study Questions]

 [Box/Pictures on page 63-67]

A WARRIOR KING BUILDS AN EMPIRE

BABYLON’S crown prince and his army shatter the Egyptian forces of Pharaoh Necho at Carchemish, in Syria. The defeated Egyptians flee south toward Egypt, and the Babylonians pursue them. But a message from Babylon compels the victorious prince to abandon his pursuit. The news is that his father, Nabopolassar, has died. Charging his generals with the responsibility of bringing back the captives and the plunder, Nebuchadnezzar quickly returns home and takes the throne vacated by his father.

Nebuchadnezzar thus ascended the throne of Babylon in the year 624 B.C.E. and became the second ruler of the Neo-Babylonian Empire. During his reign of 43 years, he took possession of the territories once occupied by the  Assyrian World Power and extended his domain, taking in Syria to the north and Palestine to the west down to the border of Egypt.—See map.

In the fourth year of his reign (620 B.C.E.), Nebuchadnezzar made Judah his vassal kingdom. (2 Kings 24:1) Three years later, a Judean rebellion brought Jerusalem under Babylonian siege. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin, Daniel, and others captive to Babylon. The king also carried along some of the utensils of Jehovah’s temple. He made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Zedekiah, vassal king of Judah.—2 Kings 24:2-17; Daniel 1:6, 7.

  Sometime later, Zedekiah too rebelled, allying himself with Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem again, and in 607 B.C.E., he breached its wall, burned the temple, and destroyed the city. He slaughtered all of Zedekiah’s sons and then blinded Zedekiah and bound him, in order to take him as prisoner to Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar took most of the people captive and transported the remaining temple utensils to Babylon. “Thus Judah went into exile from off its soil.”—2 Kings 24:18–25:21.

Nebuchadnezzar also conquered Tyre by laying siege to the city—a siege that lasted 13 years. In the course of the siege, the heads of his soldiers were “made bald” from the chafing of their helmets, and their shoulders were “rubbed bare” from carrying materials used in the construction of the siegeworks. (Ezekiel 29:18) Finally, Tyre capitulated to Babylonian forces.

The Babylonian king evidently was a brilliant military strategist. Some literary references, particularly of Babylonian origin, also describe him as a just king. While the Scriptures do not specifically say that Nebuchadnezzar was just, the prophet Jeremiah said that even though Zedekiah had rebelled, he would be treated fairly ‘if he would go out to the princes of the king of Babylon.’ (Jeremiah 38:17, 18) And after the destruction of Jerusalem, Nebuchadnezzar treated Jeremiah respectfully. Concerning Jeremiah, the king commanded: “Take him and keep your own eyes set upon him, and do not do to him anything bad at all. But just as he may speak to you, so do with him.”—Jeremiah 39:11, 12; 40:1-4.

As an administrator, Nebuchadnezzar was quick to recognize the qualities and abilities of Daniel and his three  companions—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—whose Hebrew names were Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The king therefore used them in responsible positions in his kingdom.—Daniel 1:6, 7, 19-21; 2:49.

Nebuchadnezzar’s religious devotion went particularly to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon. The king credited Marduk with all his conquests. In Babylon, he built and beautified the temples of Marduk and numerous other Babylonian deities. The image of gold set up on the plain of Dura may have been dedicated to Marduk. And Nebuchadnezzar appears to have relied heavily on divination in planning his military moves.

Nebuchadnezzar also took pride in restoring Babylon, the greatest walled city of the time. By completing the city’s massive double walls that his father had started to build, Nebuchadnezzar made the capital seemingly impregnable. The king repaired an old palace in the heart of the city and built a summer palace one-and-a-half miles [about two km] to the north. To satisfy his Median queen, who longed for the  hills and forests of her homeland, Nebuchadnezzar reportedly built the hanging gardens—rated as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

“Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built for the royal house with the strength of my might and for the dignity of my majesty?” boasted the king one day as he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. “While the word was yet in the king’s mouth,” insanity struck him. Unfit to rule for seven years, he ate vegetation, just as Daniel had foretold. At the end of that period, the kingdom was restored to Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned until his death in 582 B.C.E.—Daniel 4:30-36.

WHAT DID YOU DISCERN?

What can be said about Nebuchadnezzar as

• a military strategist?

• an administrator?

• a worshiper of Marduk?

• a builder?

[Map]

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BABYLONIAN EMPIRE

RED SEA

Jerusalem

Euphrates River

Tigris River

Nineveh

Susa

Babylon

Ur

[Picture]

Babylon, the greatest walled city of its time

[Picture]

The dragon was a symbol of Marduk

[Picture]

Babylon’s famous hanging gardens

 [Diagram/Picture on page 56]

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WORLD POWERS OF DANIEL’S PROPHECY

The immense image (Daniel 2:31-45)

BABYLONIA from 607 B.C.E.

MEDO-PERSIA from 539 B.C.E.

GREECE from 331 B.C.E.

ROME from 30 B.C.E.

ANGLO-AMERICAN WORLD POWER from 1763 C.E.

POLITICALLY DIVIDED WORLD in the time of the end

 [Full-page picture on page 47]

 [Full-page picture on page 58]