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Daniel: Prophet of the Ages - Book 1

This is a commentary covering the first six chapters of Daniel, which are the historical chapters.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 8

The Fulfillment of the Dream

King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream told him that he would be over-thrown for a period of “seven times” (Dan. 4:23, 32 KJV). Daniel boldly told him that he should “break away now from your sins… and from your iniquities” (Dan. 4:27). It is likely that no Babylonian king had ever received such bold advice from anyone.

The period of seven times applied (as a short-term fulfillment) to a seven-year period in the life of the king himself, where God drove him from his throne. In its long-term fulfillment, it referred to a period of 2,520 years (7 x 360 years) in which he was “eating grass” (Dan. 4:33) like one of the cattle.

In that Daniel’s advice specified that the king should show mercy to the poor in order to postpone or even cancel this judgment, it is plain that God’s sentence was according to the law of equal weights and measures. The king received the same treatment that he had meted out to others. Isaiah 40:6, 7 says, “all flesh is grass… surely the people are grass.” The king had been acting like a bull eating grass—that is, he had been treating his subjects with no mercy, much like a bull believes it is his right to eat grass. So God turned him into a bull to manifest his heart for all to see.

In long-term prophecy, then, we see that the beast empires were to be ruled by men who had as little consideration for the people as a bull has for grass. Such is the mindset of carnal men, and it stands in stark contrast to King Jesus, who was born in Bethlehem, “house of bread,” and placed in a manger to be the Bread of Life to feed the world.

Twelve Months

Dan. 4:28-30 says,

28 All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, “Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself had built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”

When the king referred to Babylon, it is not clear if he was speaking of the city or of the empire itself. The distinction is only important if we believe that the king was looking at his famous “hanging gardens,” one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Many have speculated that these gardens never existed, because they were never found in the excavations of Babylon. However, it seems that they were located in Nineveh, which was the capital of Assyria prior to its capture and incorporation into the Babylonian empire.

Nineveh was 300 miles north of Babylon near the modern city of Mosul in Iraq. Though King Nebuchadnezzar probably enhanced the beauty of those hanging gardens, Dr. Stephanie Dalley claims that he did not build them.

For centuries, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylonia, has been credited with the birth of a lavishly watered paradise in the fertile crescent of what is now central Iraq in the 6th century BC.

But there is one problem: no remains of the Hanging Garden have ever been found in Babylon. When a German team spent 19 years excavating the site during the last century, Dr. Dalley writes that they “expected to find inscriptions of Nebuchadnezzar confirming that he built the garden.”

She adds: “To their dismay, they could not find any possible location with enough space in the vicinity of the palaces, nor did they dig out any written confirmation from the many texts they unearthed….”

Dr. Dalley argues that the garden was never at Babylon at all and Nebuchadnezzar has been wrongly credited with its birth. The true authors of this wonder were the Assyrians at their capital, Nineveh, found near today's city of Mosul in northern Iraq.

If the king was looking at Hanging Gardens, then it is clear that he was at his royal palace in Nineveh. But the record in Daniel 4 makes no mention of the Hanging Gardens, so it may be that he was actually at the royal palace in the city of Babylon itself.

Wherever he was when he proudly made his statement, it was spoken twelve months after his dream. In other words, God gave the king a grace period of twelve months in which to repent of his mistreatment of his subjects. Such grace periods reflect God’s normal practice, which is to give people time to repent before executing judgment. Even the Babylonian king was given a grace period.

In this we also see that the kings of the world system are directly accountable to God, for they received the Dominion Mandate that had once belonged to the kings of Judah. With that authority came an equal level of responsibility to bring forth the fruits of the Kingdom. This, of course, was not possible, simply because they did not have the calling to succeed in this. Nonetheless, they were held legally accountable, and for this reason, judgment came upon each of those empires in turn.

The twelve month grace period itself, then, represents in long-term prophecy the whole of the 2,520-year period leading to the fall of the last beast system (the little horn). If we break this down into twelve periods, each “month” is 210 years long, for 12 x 210 = 2,520 years.

Likewise, since a prophetic month is thirty days, we can say that each “day” in this twelve-month period is actually a week of years, or one Sabbath land-rest period.

The Twelve Tribes in Captivity

Not only Judah but also the other tribes of Israel were put under these beast empires when Babylon conquered Assyria, for the ten tribes had been deported to Assyria and were under their authority when the power shifted to Babylon. So this twelve-month grace period given to King Nebuchadnezzar—which represents the entire 2,520-year time that the beast nations possessed the Dominion Mandate—represents 210 years of dominion for each of the twelve tribes of Israel.

In Numbers 7 we see that it took twelve days for the twelve tribes to dedicate the altar of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. The head of each tribe, on his specified day, gave an offering that weighed 210 shekels, for a total of 2,520 shekels. Each offered one silver dish weighing 130 shekels of silver, one silver bowl of 70 shekels, and a golden pan weighing 10 shekels (Num. 7:13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, etc.).

The number 210 is prophetically significant, because it represents “the time of Jacob’s distress” (Jer. 30:7), that is, the time of Israel’s 2,520-year tribulation. Recall that Jacob himself had experienced two times of distress (“trouble” KJV), each being 21 years long. First he was a virtual slave in exile for 21 years after fleeing from his brother Esau. Later, he was separated from his beloved son, Joseph, for 21 years.

These two 21-year periods formed the foundational pattern of 21 x 10 years of distress for the Israel nation itself. Jacob and his family moved to Egypt, where they were virtual slaves in exile for 210 years. (The 400 years mentioned in Gen. 15:13 actually begins with the birth of Isaac 190 years before Jacob moved to Egypt. It begins with Abram's seed, Isaac, being born in a land that was not his—that is, in Canaan.)

Years later, the tribes of Joseph were separated from their brethren in Judah for 210 years (931-721 B.C.), until the tribes of Israel (and Joseph) were taken to Assyria. These two times of Israel’s national distress followed the personal pattern set by Jacob himself. The 21 year cycles were short-term patterns, while the 210 year cycles were long-term cycles.

The long-term cycles were then multiplied by twelve, one for each of the tribes separated and exiled for 2,520 years (210 x 12). This was to last until the Dominion Mandate should be given to “the saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:22, 27, KJV).

That time of tribulation came as a result of divine judgment upon Israel for its misuse of the Birthright and upon Judah for its misuse of the Dominion Mandate. So even in the dedication of the altar in Numbers 7, we see the 210-shekel offerings being subdivided into 130 + 70 + 10. These numbers set forth a picture of rebellion (13) of the nations (70) and the law (10) which brings divine judgment and correction upon them. The number 70 is also the number of restoration of the nations.

Hence, the dedication of the altar in Numbers 7, which served them during their wilderness period prior to entering the Kingdom, foreshadowed a greater wilderness period in Israel’s history. The purpose of the wilderness was to prepare them for the Kingdom. It was to mature them through Pentecost to inherit the Kingdom under the anointing of the Feast of Tabernacles.

We see, then, that the time that the tribes of Israel spent in captivity to the beast empires was not wasted. God was building a new altar and preparing the hearts of the people to minister to God and to the world. He was teaching them the principles of divine government (12) during their time of distress (210).

This is what God was doing during the 12-month grace period granted to the beast empires before divine judgment ended their rule. He was preparing the saints of the Most High to receive the Dominion Mandate and was teaching them to rule with mercy and grace to the people of the earth. In other words, the same advice Daniel gave to King Nebuchadnezzar applies also to the saints of the Most High. Those who do not learn how to rule as servants, taking Jesus as their example, are not qualified to rule in the Kingdom that is now emerging.

The Sentence Carried Out

While King Nebuchadnezzar was speaking with pride about his accomplishments, while continuing his oppressive policies toward the people, God spoke to him. Dan. 4:31, 32 tells us,

31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared; sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”

Keep in mind that this was Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony in an official Babylonian document, written after his sanity returned. Having been humbled for seven years, it is an unusual document, one which his successors later wished to expunge or hide from the official record. In fact, it would have been lost, had it not been for Daniel’s copy and his inclusion of it in his prophetic book.

The Dew of Heaven

Dan. 4:33 continues,

33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.

Although this was a time of divine judgment, we are told that its purpose was for correction. The result of this judgment was to cause the king to “recognize that the most High is ruler over the realm of mankind” (Dan. 4:32). So also will it be at the end of the seven times in long-term prophecy. While Babylon as an institution will be terminated, God’s purpose is not to destroy the kings or the people but to humble them and to cause them to recognize Christ’s divine right to rule the nations.

Therefore, “the dew of heaven” during this time should not be considered to be a bad thing, but a blessing. In fact, Joseph was blessed with the dew of heaven (Deut. 33:13). Dew may be inconvenient for one who sleeps in the field at night, but it is a blessing to the earth as a whole. And so, Dan. 4:34, 35 says,

34 But at the end of that period I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, “What hast Thou done?”

The king had thus learned the sovereignty of God and the futility of men’s attempts to usurp His power. He acknowledged that the Most High God had the right to dictate His laws to all of the kings on earth. He recognized that God too had a Kingdom that had the highest authority in heaven and in earth.

Nebuchadnezzar, in effect, declared Babylon to be under the dominion of Jesus Christ, the Son of the Most High God. God had asserted Himself to make this point, although in the long run Babylon could not fulfill the prophecies of establishing the Kingdom. That honor was given to another people, and so Nebuchadnezzar soon died, and his decree was overruled, lost, and forgotten in the sands of time.

Restoring Sanity in Government

The notion that governments have the right to treat the people as cattle treat grass is evidence of the insanity of human thinking, according to biblical revelation. If governments were to acknowledge the Most High God, they would treat the people as Jesus did. They would be willing to die for the people, instead of expecting the people to give their lives for the expansion of men’s power, the increase of national wealth, and for the vanity of kings.

Nebuchadnezzar learned this lesson the hard way—as will the kings of the earth in our own time. But God has a way of turning the hearts of even the worst of kings, for He has never given up His sovereignty over His creation. So the king says in Dan. 4:36,

36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.

Because the records were destroyed by later kings (or perhaps the priests of other gods in Babylon), we do not know precisely when Nebuchadnezzar’s seven-year ordeal occurred, nor when his reason returned to him. It is presumed that this occurred toward the end of his reign in 560, for he reigned to his 43rd year, having begun in 602 B.C. Later we will say more about the reigns of the Babylonian kings, because, as Adam Rutherford has pointed out, most historians have made a two-year error in their calculations.

Correcting this error is important, because it affects the date of the fall of Babylon in 537 (instead of 539). It also affects the prophetic cycles of time leading to the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

Ex-King Jehoiachin Released

After the king’s reason was restored, he then made a decree, which, if he had lived longer, might have overthrown the many gods of Babylon and might have established the Kingdom of God in Babylon. Dan. 4:37 says,

37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.

Since Nebuchadnezzar died in 560 B.C., which was the 43rd year of his reign, it is likely that he was driven from the throne in 568, was reinstated in 561, and then died a year later in 560. During the time of his insanity, it is likely that his son, Evil-Merodach (or Amel-Marduk) ruled in his place. When Nebuchadnezzar died in 560, his son freed Jehoiachin from prison. We read of this in 2 Kings 25:27,

27 Now it came about in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he became king, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison.

Jehoiachin had been deposed in 597 B.C. and imprisoned in Babylon at the same time that the vessels of the temple were taken to Babylon (2 Kings 24:13, 15). He remained in prison until the 37th year of his exile (561-560). When Nebuchadnezzar died, his son Evil-Merodoch ruled for just two years, and in his first year he released Jehoiachin from prison and treated him kindly.

Perhaps he had taken his father’s decree seriously, having seen first-hand how God had humbled him for seven years for not being merciful to the people. Evil-Merodach treated Jehoiachin kindly.

Unfortunately, he reigned only two years and was then murdered by Neriglissar, his brother-in-law, in 558. Neriglissar, or Nergal-sarezer, is mentioned in Jer. 39:13 and is said to be a high-ranking officer in Nebuchadnezzar’s army. He then took the throne and ruled for four years from 558-554. When he died, his young son, Labashi-Marduk came to the throne, but was too young to secure his position. He was overthrown and killed after just nine months.

Nabonidus, the Last King of Babylon

Neriglissar was succeeded by Nabonidus in 554, and according to normal practice, the first year of his reign started with the first month of the next year in April of 553. Nabonidus had married a daughter of King Nebuchadnezzar and was one of the powerful men in the Babylonian military. He reigned 17 years, according to the king lists, but because he followed the moon-god of Harran (known by the name of Sin), he found himself at odds with the powerful priests of Marduk in Babylon. For this reason, he spent most of his years away from Babylon.

In his third year he conquered Edom in order to gain control of the trade route between Babylon and the Gulf of Aqaba. From year seven until year sixteen, Nabonidus spent ten years in the oasis of Temâ in the Arabian desert, controlling the trade route to the oasis Iatribu (modern Medina). At the same time (his sixth year, 548), Astyages, King of the Medes, marched to war against Cyrus, but the Medean army revolted and delivered its king in chains to Cyrus. Cyrus then took Ecbatana, the capital of Medea, and made the Median kings vassals of Persia.

During the ten years that King Nabonidus was away from Babylon, his son Belshazzar ruled in his place. Nabonidus’ absence meant that some key yearly celebrations of the Babylonian gods could not be celebrated, which angered many of the priests of Marduk. They knew that Nabonidus favored Sin, the moon god, and this ultimately caused them to leave open the gates of the city leading to the Euphrates River, allowing Cyrus’ troops to take Babylon in 537. Cyrus drained the river upstream and walked into the city through the riverbed.

A month before Babylon was taken, Nabonidus was defeated in a battle against Cyrus in Opis on the Tigris River. Nabonidus fled into hiding, but after Babylon was taken, he came to Babylon as a king without a kingdom and surrendered on October 12, 537.