Part 13—“Your Will Be Done on Earth”
In the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon as the dominator of the ancient world Jehovah God foretold the “march of world powers,” which is the subject of Chapter 4 of our Bible study aid, “Your Will Be Done on Earth.” The prophetic dream that He sent to prefigure this was forgotten by the dreamer, King Nebuchadnezzar. Jehovah’s prophet Daniel was used to save the situation from becoming disastrous for the wise men of Babylon who were unable either to recall the dream or to provide an interpretation. Giving Jehovah God the credit for solving the mystery, Daniel described the dream in detail. The king had dreamed of a great metallic image, the head of which was of gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of bronze or copper, and the legs of iron, and the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay. The entire image, however, suffered total destruction under the blow and grinding operations of a stone cut out of a mountain without hands that struck the image. The gold head, so Daniel explained, was King Nebuchadnezzar. What, then? Did the body under the gold head represent some static organization under King Nebuchadnezzar, with only prophetic features in its lower legs and feet and toes?
17. Rather than being mostly a static symbol, what does the metallic image represent, and how is Nebuchadnezzar the symbolic head of gold?
17 No! That symbolic image is not a static picture with prophetic properties in only its lower parts. It is progressive and prophetic from head to foot, and what happens to it is also prophetic. Nebuchadnezzar personally is not represented somewhere low down in the image, somewhere in the legs of iron. He could not be down there and at the same time be the head of the image. As king of kings in the Babylonian world power by the permission of the God of heaven, who permitted him to destroy both Jerusalem and its sanctuary, Nebuchadnezzar is the golden head of the symbolic image.
18. What larger meaning does that golden head take on, and so when did that head come into existence?
18 He is the head of gold as he is the head of a dynasty of rulers over the Babylonian Empire. So the golden head in fact symbolizes the dynasty of the Babylonian world power beginning with Nebuchadnezzar. The Bible itself mentions two others in that dynasty, namely, Evil-meródach and Belshazzar. (2 Ki. 25:27; Jer. 52:31; Dan. 5:1-30, RS) Nebuchadnezzar is reported to have reigned forty-three years from his enthronement in 625 B.C., or for twenty-five years after he destroyed Jerusalem and its sanctuary in 607 B.C. Evil-meródach began to reign in 582 B.C. as immediate successor to Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar* brought to an end the dynasty of Nebuchadnezzar in 539 B.C., when he was put to death violently. (Dan. 5:30, 31, AV) Thus the golden head of the symbolic image really came into existence when Nebuchadnezzar became world ruler at Jerusalem’s destruction in 607 B.C., after which event the “seven times” began.
19. How did the metallic image show that the Babylonian world power was not to last, and how did Daniel’s interpretation state this?
19 The head of gold was not all there was to the dream image. Underneath was a body of several layers of metals. So the dynasty represented by the golden head was not to last. Secular histories list other kings in the line from Nebuchadnezzar to Belshazzar. From Jerusalem’s destruction onward the Babylonian world power lasted only till 539 B.C., or less than seventy years. Pointing to this termination of Babylonian world power, Daniel said further in interpretation: “After you [that is, your dynasty] shall arise another kingdom inferior to you.” (Dan. 2:39, RS) This kingdom was foreshadowed by the breast and arms of silver. What kingdom, then, does this part of the image symbolize?
20. In what way was this silverlike “kingdom” after, and in what way inferior to the golden head kingdom, and what was foretold about Babylon’s conqueror?
20 This was the “kingdom” or world power of the Medes and Persians. The expression “After you” refers to time, and reminds Nebuchadnezzar that another rulership will succeed his dynasty to the world’s domination. It was yet to come. The expression “inferior to you” refers to the level of the new world power or its quality as compared with the Babylonian world power. It was lower than the head of gold and was of a metal less precious, silver. This world power of the Medes and Persians developed a civilization of brilliant worldly splendor, which was not secondary to that of Babylon. But it did not have the eminent distinction before Jehovah God of overturning his typical kingdom at Jerusalem. Before Medo-Persia became a world power, the fourth world power in Bible history, King Cyrus the Persian succeeded in uniting Media and Persia, after which he conquered the powerful kingdom of Lydia in western Asia Minor. Jehovah’s prophetic Word foretold that Cyrus would come against Babylon and topple it from its heaven-high position. After that he would be used as an instrument in doing a restoration work that Jehovah purposed for this Persian conqueror to do.—Isa. 44:28.
21, 22. In proof that it was Jehovah who delivered Babylon into Cyrus’ hands, what did Isaiah declare long in advance?
21 In proof that it was really the Most High God that delivered the world-powerful Babylon into the hands of Cyrus the Great, the prophet Isaiah declared about two hundred years in advance:
22 “This is what Jehovah has said to his anointed one, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have taken hold of, to subdue before him nations, so that I may ungird even the hips of kings; to open before him the two-leaved doors, so that even the gates will not be shut: ‘Before you I myself shall go, and the swells of land I shall straighten out. The copper doors I shall break in pieces, and the iron bars I shall cut off. And I will give you the treasures in the darkness and the hidden treasures in the concealment places, in order that you may know that I am Jehovah, the One calling you by your name, the God of Israel. For the sake of my servant Jacob and of Israel my chosen one, I even proceeded to call you by your name; I proceeded to give you a name of honor, although you did not know me. I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. With the exception of me there is no God. I shall closely gird you, although you have not known me, in order that people may know from the rising of the sun and from its setting that there is none besides me. I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.’ ‘I myself have roused up someone in righteousness, and all his ways I shall straighten out. He is the one that will build my city, and those of mine in exile he will let go, not because of hire nor because of bribery,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Isa. 45:1-6, 13.
23. (a) How did Cyrus’ forces get inside the walls on Babylon, and who was associated with the Persians in its capture? (b) How did a message turn Belshazzar’s feasting to dismay?
23 Because the gates of Babylon were strangely left open on the night of October 6-7, 539 B.C., the conquering troops marched down the dried-up bed of the Euphrates River and over the river quays and were able to get inside the towering walls of Babylon. Jehovah’s prophecies through Isaiah foretold that warriors of Elam and Media would be associated with Cyrus in conquering Babylon. (Isa. 13:17-22; 21:2, 9) In harmony with this, Cyrus’ uncle, Darius the Mede, joined forces in this victorious action against Babylon. The prophet Daniel was in the city at the time. He was a student of God’s prophecies, including that through Jeremiah, who had likewise foretold the fall of Babylon or Sheshach. (Dan. 9:1, 2, AV; Jer. 25:12-26; 50:1 to 51:64) On the night that mighty Babylon fell and its last king, Belshazzar, was killed, Belshazzar and his many lords were feasting, feeling quite secure behind the city walls. Feasting turned to dismay when Jehovah caused the appearance of a man’s hand to write in strange alphabetic characters on the wall of Belshazzar’s dining room. Finally the prophet Daniel had to be called in to read and interpret the handwriting on the wall. Under inspiration Daniel found the miraculous message to confirm what Jehovah’s prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah had said long previous. Daniel declared that his God, the God of Israel, had written the message. He said:
24. What did Daniel read and interpret that message to say?
24 “Then from his presence the hand was sent, and this writing was inscribed. And this is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEKEL and PARSIN [the plural number of the word PERES]. This is the interpretation of the matter: MENE, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; TEKEL, you have been weighed in the balances and found wanting; PERES, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
25. How did the message come true that night, and what change of world domination took place?
25 Before that night had passed, the handwritten prophecy on the wall came true, in vindication of Jehovah’s word and of his prophet Daniel. “That very night Belshazzar the Chaldean king was slain. And Darius the Mede received the kingdom, being about sixty-two years old.” (Dan. 5:24-28, 30, 31, RS) At this death of the last king in Nebuchadnezzar’s dynasty over Babylon, the golden head of his dream image ceased to exist as a world power. Medo-Persia, as the symbolic breast and arms of silver, came into the control as the fourth world power of Bible history. That was in 539 B.C.
26. When and how was the prophecy of the Jewish restoration fulfilled, and did Babylon’s desolation begin at once?
26 Evidently at the death of his uncle, Darius the Mede, Cyrus the Persian became the sole head of the Persian Empire. He did the work of restoration foretold by Isaiah. In 537 B.C.* Cyrus’ decree went into effect toward the captive Jews then exiles in Babylon, and the faithful Jewish remnant were released to go back to their homeland and rebuild the sanctuary of Jehovah and the holy city of Jerusalem. The conquered city of Babylon did not at once go to ruin in fulfillment of Jehovah’s prophecy concerning its lasting desolation, but King Cyrus ruled from this city.
27, 28. (a) What did the silver breast and arms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image picture? (b) How did Cambyses enlarge the Persian Empire, and what connection did Xerxes I and Artaxerxes I have with two noted Bible characters?
27 The silver breast and arms about which Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed pictured a “kingdom,” the line of kings beginning with Cyrus the Great, who reigned jointly for a time with his uncle, Darius the Mede, and continuing for more than two hundred years. In this line of Persian kings there were more than the few whom the Bible names. Cyrus was the first Aryan or the first of the Japhetic branch of the human family to become world ruler. As world ruler, Cyrus the Great reigned for nine years and was succeeded in 529 B.C. by King Cambyses, who extended the Persian Empire by conquering Egypt in 525 B.C. A usurper followed him, in 522 B.C., a Magian named Gaumata who pretended to be Smerdis. He reigned for less than eight months, and was put to death by the first Persian king named Darius, who thus became king in 521 B.C.
28 This Persian Darius I launched a campaign against Greece but met a signal defeat at the battle of Marathon. He was followed, in 486/485 B.C., by Xerxes I or Ahasuerus, the husband of the Biblical Queen Esther. (Esther 1:1-3; 3:7) He too set out to conquer Greece but failed, meeting with military disaster at Thermopylae and with a naval disaster in the battle of Salamis in 480 B.C. He was succeeded by Artaxerxes I, surnamed Longimanus because his right hand was longer than the left. It was in the twentieth year of this Artaxerxes, or in 455 B.C., that he commissioned his Jewish cupbearer Nehemiah to be governor of the province of Judea and to go to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls. At Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls the count began of the “seventy weeks” of years, of Daniel 9:24-27, which set the dates for the appearance and the death of the Messiah or Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.—Neh. 1:1; 2:1-18.
29. With the reign of what king did the Persian world power end, and by whom was the next world power established?
29 Then, in order, came King Xerxes II; Darius II (the Persian); Artaxerxes II, surnamed Mnemon; Artaxerxes III, surnamed Ochus; Arses, who reigned two years (338-336 B.C.); and finally Darius III, surnamed Codomannus, whose reign was abruptly terminated in 331 B.C. With him the Persian world power, symbolized by the silver breast and arms of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image, ended. This was by his defeat that year in the battle of Gaugamela, near where Nineveh, capital of the Assyrian Empire, had once stood. By whom was he defeated? By the Macedonian who established the next world power, the Macedonian or Grecian Empire, the fifth world power, namely, by Alexander the Great.
FIFTH, SIXTH AND SEVENTH WORLD POWERS
30. How did Daniel in his interpretation foretell this Macedonian or Grecian Empire, and how did it become one to “rule over all the earth”?
30 Now in our study of the metallic image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream we come to “its belly and thighs of bronze [or copper].” The prophet Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that this part of the image represented a kingdom or line of kings. Said Daniel: “After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” (Dan. 2:39, RS) Alexander was the son of King Philip II of Macedon, who imposed his power upon all Greece to the south and put an end to the city-state system of the Greeks. Alexander carried out the ambition of his father and proceeded to the conquest of the Persian Empire to the east, in Asia. This Alexander the Great was therefore foretold in the prophecy of Daniel, as we shall see. He gained one victory after the other over the Persian king, Darius III, and in 331 B.C. took from him the city of Babylon and defeated him at the Battle of Gaugamela. With that the Persian world power collapsed, and Alexander of Macedon became world ruler, establishing the fifth world power of Bible history. In 327 B.C. he extended his conquests into the western parts of India. His empire was greater than any of those that preceded his. From this standpoint this bronze or copper kingdom was one “which shall rule over all the earth.”
31. Because of Alexander’s empire-building expeditions, what became the international language, and for what good news did this become the proper medium to spread the news to all parts?
31 As world ruler, Alexander the Great lived only eight years, dying in Babylon in 323 B.C. During his military expeditions the so-called koiné or common Greek was developed, in which language the Christian Greek Scriptures of the Holy Bible were written. Because of the great sweep of Alexander’s empire and the Grecian colonies that he established, the koiné Greek became the international language. Hence it was the proper language medium by which to spread the good news of God’s kingdom under Christ to all parts of the then known world in the days of Christ’s apostles.
32. Why did the kingdom pictured by the belly and thighs of bronze not come to an end at Alexander’s death, and by whom was there a gradual swallowing up of his empire?
32 When Alexander died in 323 B.C. the “kingdom” pictured by the belly and thighs of bronze (copper) did not come to an end and give way to the iron part of the symbolic image. Alexander’s two sons and his brother, who were in line to succeed him, were murdered within fourteen years. Alexander’s empire became broken up, four of his generals taking power, each one over a section of Alexander’s empire. Within less than half a century after Alexander’s death three distinct Hellenic or Grecian empires had established themselves, each one with its own line of kings. One of these Hellenic empires was based in Macedon, another in Syria and the third in Egypt. The latter two made it their effort to Hellenize or Grecize Egypt and the Middle East and Asia as far east as India. It was during this period that the Hebrew Scriptures of Jehovah’s prophets were translated into the common Greek of that time, to form what is called the Greek Septuagint used by the early Christians. In the course of time the rising power of Rome, Italy, swallowed up these Hellenic empires, first that of Macedonia, then that of Syria, and finally that of Egypt in 30 B.C.
33. How was this next world power foretold by Daniel in interpretation, and why should not the two iron legs suggest division?
33 In that year the Hellenic empire of Egypt was subjected to Rome, and Egypt became a Roman province ruled by a Roman governor. By that year (30 B.C.) at the latest, Rome became the dominant world power, the sixth world power. The march of world powers, as marked out by the metallic image of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, had now descended to the legs of iron. Daniel, interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, foretold this to him, saying: “And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these.” (Dan. 2:40, RS) The fact that there were two legs of iron did not mean that the world power symbolized by the legs was divided into an East and a West or a North and a South, any more than the fact that there were two silver arms meant that the Persian world power was divided politically into two opposite parts. The Roman world power, the sixth world power in Biblical history, went through changes and proved stronger than the golden, silver and bronze (copper) empires prior to it. For strength and ability to crush, it was indeed like iron.
(To be continued)
It is Daniel who has introduced Belshazzar to this modern world long before modern archaeology routed the “higher critics” of the Bible and gave worldly proof of his historicalness. For example, in 1929 the Yale Oriental Series . Researches . Volume XV, said:
“Cuneiform allusions to Belshazzar have thrown so much light upon the role which he played that his place in history stands clearly revealed. There are many texts which indicate that Belshazzar almost equalled Nabonidus in position and prestige. Dual rulership during most of the last Neo-Babylonian reign is an established fact. Nabonidus exercised supreme authority from his court at Têmâ in Arabia, while Belshazzar acted as co-regent in the homeland with Babylon as his center of influence. It is evident that Belshazzar was not a feeble viceroy; he was entrusted with ‘the kingship.’”—See page 186 of Chapter XIV, entitled “The Meaning of Non-Cuneiform Allusions to Belshazzar,” of Volume XV of the above series under the title “Nabonidus and Belshazzar—A Study of the Closing Events of the Neo-Babylonian Empire,” by Raymond Philip Dougherty, William M. Laffan Professor of Assyriology and Babylonian Literature and Curator of the Babylonian Collection, Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut, U.S.A.
See The Bible as History, by Werner Keller (1956), page 300, London edition; page 313, New York edition.