2 Captives in Babylon

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There were, as we know, some good kings of Judah in the later days of the Kingdom, but most of the kings and the people disobeyed the Lord, and the end of the kingdom had long been foretold by the prophets. At last it came. The people were carried captive to Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar as the people of the northern kingdom had been taken away by the Assyrians.

You can find Babylon on the map, far away to to the east, on the Euphrates River. It was a wonderful city, at that time perhaps the greatest in the world. It overlooked the broad rich plains watered by canals from the Euphrates. The river ran by the city, perhaps through it, and boats from the country above and from the Persian Gulf brought produce to its markets. Enormous walls were built around the city, with many gates.

There was little stone to be had in that country, and the walls were built of sun-dried brick with layers of rushes and bitumen. Many of the bricks found in the great mounds of ruins are stamped with the name of Nebuchadnezzar, for he was the proud king who did most to make Babylon the great rich city that it was. Besides the city walls Nebuchadnezzar with his thousands of workmen built enormous palaces, with great courts and halls and walls covered with bright-colored pictures. We are told of wonderful “hanging gardens” which Nebuchadnezzar made to please his wife, who was a princess from the mountains of Media, and perhaps was homesick in this flat country. Arches upon arches were built up till a hill was made, and it was covered with shrubs and waving trees, and water pumped from the river ran down the hill-side in cool streams.

Nebuchadnezzar also dug canals and a great reservoir. He built many temples in different places and repaired the great temple of Bel in Babylon, which was one of the wonders of the city. As was usual in that country, the temple included a great tower which rose by stages, one above another, each perhaps of a different bright color. On the top was the shrine, which was also a treasure house for precious things. The vessels of gold from the Lord’s temple, the Bible says, were put in the temple of the idol.

We follow the captives on their long, sad journey from Jerusalem up to the north, around the Syrian desert, and then down the Euphrates to this great strange city.

Psalm CXXXVII. 1-6.

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept,
When we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps
Upon the willows in the midst thereof.
For they that carried us away captive required of us a song;
And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
How shall we sing the LORD’S song
In a strange land?
If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem,
Lei. my right hand forget her cunning.
If I do not remember thee,
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth;
If I prefer not Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.

We are going to read about Daniel and his three friends, who were among those who were taken as young men from Jerusalem. They were kindly treated in Babylon, and they were taught by learned teachers that they might become attendants in the king’s palace. Their names were changed: Daniel, which means ”God’s judge,” was changed to Belteshazzar, which means “Bel’s prince,” Bel being the chief god of Babylon. But Daniel and ‘his three friends remembered the Lord in their strange home, and would not eat the food consecrated to idols. They had brave, true hearts, and the Lord was with them.

We shall learn in the story how Daniel and the others were raised to great honor. It is something like the story of Joseph in Egypt. Nebuchadnezzar, like Pharaoh, was troubled by a dream, but even what the dream was he could not remember. There were here in Babylon “the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans,” much the same as in Egypt. The name Chaldeans is from Chaldea, the country about Babylon, between the lower Euphrates and Tigris. Signs and dreams had been much studied there, and the name of the country came to mean skill in such things.

The dream was of a great image. There were many in that country, of the gods or of the kings. We read in the next chapter of a great image of gold. Daniel was honored as if he were himself a god. That he was in the gate of the king means that he lived in the palace.

Now shall we read a part of the story?

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof. The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter. Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.—Daniel II.

Author: William L. Worcester 1904

Spiritual Correspondences

Nebuchadnezzar’ dream >> States of the Church of Babylon (from beginning to end)

Spiritual Meaning

From the interpretation of this dream by Daniel, it is clear that it describes the state of the church that becomes Babylon, from its beginning to its end. It is Babylon that is described, for these things were seen by the king of Babylon in a dream, and he saw a statue opposite to him; also Daniel said plainly to the king: Thou art its head which is gold (Dan. 2:38).

The successive states of this church even to the last are depicted by the head, breast, arms, belly, thighs, legs, and feet of that statue; likewise by the gold, silver, brass, iron and clay, of which the statue consisted from top to bottom. All this makes clear that this church in its beginning was full of wisdom from the good of love to the Lord. For its “head,” which is the highest part, signifies wisdom, and “gold” signifies the good of love to the Lord. That the toes of its feet were “part of iron and part of clay” signifies that the last state of that church would be without any good of love and without any wisdom; for this is thus interpreted by Daniel:

Whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of man; but they shall not cohere one with the other, even as iron doth not mingle with clay (Dan. 2:43).

“The seed of man” signifies the Divine truth, thus the truth of the Word; and by this no coherence is effected, because at the end of the church it is falsified by application to the worship of men. The destruction of this church is described by “the stone brake in pieces all parts of the statue.” “Stone” signifies the Divine truth; and the “rock” which the stone became signifies the Lord as to the Divine truth. Its destruction is the Last Judgment. The New Church that will then be established by the Lord is described by these words:

The God of the heavens shall make a kingdom to arise which shall not perish for ages, and His kingdom shall not be committed to another people. It shall break in pieces and consume all those kingdoms, but itself shall stand for ages (Dan. 2:44).

Here and elsewhere in the Word “kingdom” signifies the church; so, too, does a “man,” in the form of which the statue was.

The church that afterwards became Babylon is also described by the “tree” seen by King Nebuchadnezzar in a dream, in Daniel:

I was looking, when behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great; the tree grew and became strong, and the height thereof reached even unto heaven, and the sight thereof even unto the end of all the earth; the leaf thereof was beautiful, and the flower thereof much; the beast of the field had shadow under it, and the birds of heaven dwelt in the branches of it, and all flesh was nourished by it. But behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven, crying with all might, saying thus, Hew down the tree and cut off his branches, and scatter his flower, let the beast flee from under him, and the birds from his branches; but leave the stump of his root in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the herb of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of the heavens, and let his portion be with the beast in the grass of the earth; they shall change his heart from man’s, and the heart of a beast shall be given to him, until seven times shall pass over him, until the living shall know that the Lord is the Most High in the kingdom of man (Dan. 4:10-17).

That King Nebuchadnezzar, consequently Babylon itself, is meant by that tree and all things of it, is plainly declared in verses 20-22; and that the things that were heard happened to the king, namely, that he was driven out from man, dwelt with the beast of the field, ate the herb like oxen, until seven times had passed over him, is evident from verses 32-34, of the same chapter. That these things came upon him because of the love of self and the pride of his own dominion is evident from these words of his:

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power and for the glory of mine honor? (Dan. 2:30.)

And afterwards when he was restored:

I, Nebuchadnezzar, honor the King of the heavens, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment; and those that walk in pride He is able to humble (Dan. 2:37).

This state of Nebuchadnezzar depicts the state of those after death who exalt themselves as gods over all things of the church, namely, “they are driven out from man,” which means that as to the understanding they are no longer like men; “they become beasts and eat grass like oxen,” and “their hairs grow like eagles’ feathers and their nails like birds’ claws” signifies that they are wholly sensual, that in place of intelligence they have foolishness and in place of wisdom insanity; “to eat grass, to have hair like eagles’ feathers, and nails like birds’ claws” signifies to become sensual. [ AE 1029] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG

It was Daniel who prophesied that this church would take the place of those which had come into existence since the world began, and would last for ever and ever. It would thus be the crown of all the preceding churches. He made this prophecy first when he recounted and explained to Nebuchadnezzar his dream of the four kingdoms, which mean the four churches, represented by the statue he saw:

In the days of those kings the God of the heavens will cause a kingdom to arise which shall not perish for ever; and it will consume all those kingdoms, but itself will stand for ever. Dan. 2:44.

This was to be brought about by a stone becoming a mighty rock filling the whole earth (Dan. 2:35). Rock in the Word means the Lord in respect of Divine Truth. [TCR 788] EMANUEL SWEDENBORG