Golden Image of the King

Nebuchadnezzar implemented his dream by “setting up” a great golden image to glorify his majesty and sovereignty - Daniel 3:1-30

Augustus - Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash
In chapter 3, the King expended great effort to make 
his dream a reality. He “set up” an enormous golden image that conformed to his vision of an everlasting kingdom. However, just as He did with the “tower of Babel” in the “Land of Shinar,” the “Most-High God” used a most unexpected “tool” to thwart the imperial designs of Nebuchadnezzar – His attempt to execute the lowly exiles from Judah - [Augustus - Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash].

The story the sequel to the dream and interpretation recorded in chapter 2, which is borne out by the verbal and conceptual links between the two stories, and by the omission of any chronological reference at the start of chapter 3:
  • (Daniel 3:1-2) – “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height thereof sixty cubits, the breadth thereof six cubits; he set it up in the valley of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather together the satraps, the nobles and the pashas, the chief judges, the treasurers, the judges, the lawyers, and all the rulers of the province, to come to the dedication of the image, which Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up.”
The image with the “head of gold” from the king’s earlier dream set the stage for what follows, the king’s attempt to implement the image in his way. This he did by setting up an enormous image covered entirely with gold to symbolize his glorious realm.

The king “set up” the image in the “plain of Dura.” Its location remains uncertain. “Dura” means “wall” or “rampart,” which suggests a site within one of the series of great outer walls that surrounded the city.

Plain” points to a broad and level area able to accommodate large numbers of people. That is how the translators of the Greek Septuagint understood the clause when they translated it as the “plain of the wall” - (en pediō tou peribolou). The “plain” echoes the story of the Tower of Babel when humanity settled in Mesopotamia and all men spoke “one tongue.” Men and women journeyed east to find a “PLAIN in the land of Shinar and dwelt there” - (Genesis 11:1-9, Daniel 1:2).

There is a deliberate contrast with the preceding story.  In chapter 3, the king “set up” his image. However, in chapter 2, Daniel declared that Yahweh “SETS UP kings and removes kings.”

Nebuchadnezzar's Image of Gold
The image “SET UP” by Nebuchadnezzar was sixty cubits high by six cubits wide, or hexékonta hex in the Greek text in the Septuagint, approximately ninety feet by nine feet. The dimensions reflect the Babylonian 
sexagesimal or 60-base number system, further evidence that the author of Daniel was familiar with the ancient Babylonian culture. Nothing is said about the shape of the image. The dimensions could suggest an obelisk. The passage does not identify what god or human, it any, the image represented.

Nebuchadnezzar became famous for restoring the temples of Babylon dedicated to her many gods. The addition of an image inside a temple would not have been unusual; however, the placement of an idol in an open space for all men and women to see and venerate was unique.

In the previous interpretation of the king’s dream, the “stone” that destroyed the four kingdoms represented by the “great image with the head of gold” was “cut without hands.” In contrast, Nebuchadnezzar “SET UP” his image, a rendering of the Aramaic verb qum. The verb is repeated nine times in chapter 3 to stress the point: Nebuchadnezzar “SET UP” his image - (Daniel 3:1, 3:2, 3:3 [twice], 3:5, 3:7, 3:12, 3:14, 3:18).

In contrast, the God of Heaven “sets up” (qum) kings. He “set up” the image with the golden head in the king’s dream, and He “set up” the everlasting kingdom that would destroy all opposing realms - (Daniel 2:21-31, 2:44).

The king commanded all the “satraps, nobles, pashas, chief judges, treasurers, judges, lawyers and governors to assemble to the dedication of his image.” All peoples, nations, and tongues were commanded to render homage to it. Anyone who refused was summarily executed. The officials summoned by Nebuchadnezzar represented all the “peoples, races, and tongues” of his realm. By proxy, therefore, all nations rendered homage to the image - (Daniel 3:2-6).

The great golden image represented the absolute power and majesty of the king. He did not demand worship for himself, but instead, required homage to his image, a show of total allegiance to his sovereignty. Wittingly or not, by this act he defied the sovereignty of the “God of Heaven” - (Daniel 2:20-22).

In chapter 2, the “Chaldeans,” the wise men, the astrologers, and the soothsayers of the Babylonian court had been demoted following their failure to reveal the king’s dream. In chapter 3, they exploited an opportunity to inflict vengeance on the companions of Daniel for their earlier loss of face. Although loyal to the king, the three Jewish men could not render homage to his image - (Daniel 2:4-132:48-49).

The “Chaldeans” informed Nebuchadnezzar that ShadrachMeshach, and Abed-Nego had refused to pay homage to his image, so he gave them a stark choice - “Fall down and worship the image…or be cast into the fiery furnace.” His rage directed previously at the “Chaldeans” was redirected against the Jewish exiles - (Daniel 3:13-18).

The king ranted, “Who is the god able to deliver you out of my hand?” This was a challenge to the God of Israel, who earlier “gave the king of Judah and the vessels of the Temple into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar.” But the Babylonian monarch would soon discover his inability to do anything to thwart the purposes of God - (Daniel 1:1-2).

The Judean exiles were cast into the super-heated furnace, where Nebuchadnezzar saw them walking while accompanied by a fourth figure he described “like a son of the gods,” possibly an angel - (Daniel 3:20-25, 8:15-179:20-2310:13, 10:21).

With trepidation, the king summoned the three men to exit the furnace.  He addressed them respectfully as “servants of the Most-High God.” He had witnessed how the fire did not harm them, and therefore, Nebuchadnezzar “blessed the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego.” Yahweh had “changed the king’s word” by delivering His servants “out of his hand.” In his fury, Nebuchadnezzar had raged, “Who is able to deliver out of my hand?”  God has answered his challenge.

Next, Nebuchadnezzar issued a decree to “all peoples, nations, and tongues.” Anyone who disparaged the God of the Judean exiles would be “cut in pieces and his house turned into a dunghill.” This is a verbal link to the preceding chapter. Nebuchadnezzar had warned the Chaldean “wise men” that if they failed to make known his dream, that he would “cut you in pieces and turn your houses into a dunghill.”

Once again, the highest praise for Yahweh is heard on the lips of the mighty pagan king. The presumptive ruler over the World-Power had acknowledged the supremacy of the “God of Heaven.” The machinations, purposes, and even the rage of the most powerful king on the earth were no impediment to the plans of God.

Dollar Sign - Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

. Language and imagery from Daniel 3:1-7 is employed in the portrait of the “beast from the earth,” the “false prophet” who caused all the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the image of the “beast from the sea.” All who refused were killed, whether “the small and the great, the rich and the poor, or the free and the bond.” All segments of society received its “number” or “name.” -(Revelation 13:1-18).

The “number of the Beast,” ‘666’ (hexakosioi hexékonta hex), parallels the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar’s image - sixty cubits by six cubits (hexékonta hex). Revelation adds six hundred to the number to produce the fuller “number of the beast.” The passages in Daniel and Revelation concern the pressure placed on men to participate in the idolatrous worship of the World-Power.

In Revelation, the burning fiery furnace” becomes the model for the “lake of fire burning with brimstone.” The followers of the “Lamb” are preserved from the “second death, the Lake of Fire,” but the “beast and the False Prophet” that attempted to destroy the “saints” are themselves “cast into the Lake of Fire” - (Revelation 13:7-10, 19:17-21, 20:11-15).



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