The Great Empires of Prophecy, from Babylon to the Fall of Rome

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CHAPTER I. THE EMPIRE OF BABYLON NEBUCHADNEZZAR

Predominance of Babylon—God’s Purpose with Israel—Religious Imposture Exposed—There is a God That Revealeth Secrets—The Siege of Tyre—Egypt Given to Nebuchadnezzar—Nebuchadnezzar’s Great Golden Image—The Supremacy of Conscience—The Most High Ruleth—The City of Babylon—A Great Builder

Before the Babylonian Empire of the Bible and of Nebuchadnezzar arose to power, the empire of Assyria ruled the world, as described in Ezekiel 31:1-6, and illustrated in the map on the opposite page. GEP 1.1

2. In 625 B. C. there was a revolt of the countries of Media, Babylon, and Egypt, all at once. The king of Assyria in person subdued the revolt in Media; while he sent his trusted general, Nabopolassar, to bring Babylon into subjection again. Both were entirely successful, Nabopolassar performing his part so well as to merit and receive from his sovereign the honorable title “king of Babylon.” This Nabopolassar was the father of Nebuchadnezzar. GEP 1.2

3. Affairs in the government of Assyria want from bad to worse, so that in 612 B. C. there was another grand revolt on the part of the same three countries, led this time by Nabopolassar himself. This one was completely successful: Ninevah was made a heap of rains; and the Assyrian Empire was divided into three great divisions,—Media holding the northeast and the extreme north, Babylon holding Elam and all the plain and valleys of the Euphrates and the Tigris, and Egypt holding all the country west of the Euphrates. The sea of this alliance between Babylon and Media was the marriage of Amyitis, the daughter of the King of Media, to Nebuchadnezzar, son of Nabopolassar. GEP 1.3

4. It was in the performance of his part in the alliance against Assyria that Pharaoh-Necho, king of Egypt, went up against the king of Assyria to fight against Carchemish by Euphrates, when King Josiah of Judah went out to fight with him, and was slain at Megiddo. 1 Then, as all this western territory pertained to the king of Egypt, it was in exercise of his legitimate sovereignty, gained by conquest, that he removed Shallum, the son of Josiah, from being king of Judah; and appointed Eliakim king of Judah in his stead, changing his name to Jehoiakim; and laid a tax upon the land. 2 GEP 1.4

5. Pharaoh-Necho, however, was not left very long to enjoy his share of the vanished empire of Assyria. In the year 607 B. C., Nabopolassar associated Nebuchadnezzar with himself as king, and sent him on an expedition in invasion of the territory of Pharaoh-Necho. Thus it was that “in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim [607 B. C.] king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it;” and took part of the vessels of the house of God, and a number of captives, among whom was Daniel, and carried them to Babylon. GEP 2.1

6. This, of course, was resented by Pharaoh-Necho. Accordingly, “in the fourth year of Jehoiakim” he came out of Egypt, on an expedition against Babylon. He went no farther than to Carchemish, however; for there he was met by Nebuchadnezzar, as is related in Jeremiah 46:1-10. “Necho was overcome and put to flight; one single battle stripped him of all his conquests, and compelled him to retire into Egypt.”—Lenormant. “And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.” 3 GEP 2.2

7. Not long after the destruction of Nineveh and the Assyrian Empire, there was war between Media and Lydia; but during a great battle there occurred an eclipse of the sun, which so awed both armies that they ceased fighting. This lull was seized upon by Nabopolassar to intervene and ask both kings to come to an agreement, out of respect to the gods that had so manifestly shown their displeasure by darkening the sun. He was successful. Peace was established, and the agreement was sealed by the marriage of the daughter of the king of Lydia to the son of the king of Media. Thus Babylon, both by the prestige of her ancient and mighty name, and by the good offices of Nabopolassar, strengthened herself in the position to hold a controlling influence over the two strong kingdoms of Media and Lydia. And when, shortly after this, Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar, conquered Necho of Egypt at carchemish by the Euphrates, drove him back to Egypt, and took possession of all his territories even up to the River of Egypt itself, Babylon secured the decidedly predominant power over all. GEP 2.3

8. Thus matters stood when, in 604, Nabopolassar died, and was succeeded immediately by Nebuchadnezzar, who had already been associated with him in the rulership of the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar, having already so signally displayed his ability in war by the defeat of the king of Egypt and the conquest of all Palestine and Syria, easily maintained the dignity and predominance of Babylon before all nations. In addition to this, the family relationship of Babylon with Media and Lydia was now closer than before; for Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, was son-in-law to the king of Media, and brother-in-law to the heir of the throne of Media, who was son-in-law to the king of Lydia. All these influences give Babylon, at the very beginning of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, an easy predominance, which was only strengthened at every step throughout the long reign of the mighty Nebuchadnezzar. GEP 3.1

9. In 607, when Nebuchadnezzar first besieged Jerusalem, in the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, he carried to Babylon some of the vessels of the temple of God in Jerusalem, and put them in the temple of his own god in Babylon. He selected “certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes,” also to take with him to Babylon. These were carefully selected by “Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs,” by a very close examination, both physical and mental; for the king required that those who were chosen should be “children in whom was no blemish, but well favored, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them.” These were thus chosen and taken to Babylon in order that to them, in Babylon “they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans,” and this in order that they might finally be attendants upon the king. Among these were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, whom the king named, respectively, Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. These boys spent three years under Chaldean instruction, at the end of which time they were again examined personally by the king, “and in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.” 4 GEP 3.2

10. From this time to the destruction of Jerusalem, in 588, the principal events in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar were the successful sieges of that place in the reign of Jehoiakim (or Jeconiah) and Zedekiah, as related in Jeremiah, Ezekiel 1-24; 2 Kings 24; 2 Chronicles 36. During the reign of Zedekiah, Jeremiah the prophet, at the command of the Lord, had made bonds and yokes, and put them upon his own neck, and then sent them “to the king of Edom, and to the king of Moab, and to the king of the Ammonites, and to the king of Tyrus, and to the king of Zidon, by the hand of the messengers which came to Jerusalem unto Zedekiah king of Judah,” and commanded “them to say unto their masters, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Thus shall ye say unto your masters; I have made the earth, the man and the beast that are upon the ground, by my great power and by my outstretched arm, and have given it unto whom it seemed meet to me. And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant; and the beasts of the field have I given him also to serve him. And all nations shall serve him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the very time of his land come: and then many nations and great kings shall serve themselves to him. GEP 4.1

11. “And it shall come to pass, that the nation and kingdom which will not serve the same Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, and that will not put their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and that nation will I punish, saith the Lord, with the sword, and with the famine, and with the pestilence, until I have consumed them by his hand. Therefore hearken not ye to your prophets, nor to your diviners, nor to your dreamers, nor to your enchanters, nor to your sorcerers, which speak unto you, saying, Ye shall not serve the king of Babylon: for they prophesy a lie unto you, to remove you far your land: and that I should drive you out, and ye should perish. But the nations that bring their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and serve him, those will I let remain still in their own land, saith the Lord; and they shall till it, and dwell therein.” 5 GEP 4.2

12. This was a perfectly fair proposition to all those nations. The same had been made, over and over again, to the kingdom of Judah; but Judah would not believe. She would not recognize the sovereignty of Nebuchadnezzar. Accordingly, her city was destroyed, the nation was carried captive, and the land was left desolate; and when the people whom the Lord specially called His own, and who on their own part specially claimed to be the Lord’s people above all people, would not believe the word of the Lord, it is not strange that the other nations, who knew not God, should also refuse to believe, and so be obliged, themselves, to go through the like experience of Judah and Jerusalem. They would not, in obedience to God, voluntarily put their necks under the yoke of the king of Babylon, and so dwell in peace in their own land; therefore by the sword, siege, and famine they were obliged to do it, because for their good and the honor of God both then and in the ages to come, it must be done. GEP 5.1

13. God had brought Israel out of Egypt, and had planted them in the land of Canaan, “the glory of all lands,” to be the light of the world. At that time, and for ages afterward, Palestine was the pivot of the known world. At this pivot He placed His people to be a light to all the nations, that those nations might know of the true God. By having God abiding with them, He intended that His people should influence all the nations for good. But not only would they be “like all the nations;” they became even “worse than the heathen.” The land could no longer bear them; it must spew them out, as it had been compelled to do with the heathen before them. GEP 5.2

14. As Israel had frustrated God’s purpose to enlighten all the nations by them in the land where He had planted them, He would fulfil his purpose, and enlighten all the nations by them in the lands where He had scattered them. As Israel had lost the power to arrest and command the attention of all the nations, that the nations might consider God and His wonderful ways and works with the children of men, God would now use them to enlighten those who had acquired the power to arrest and command the attention of all the nations, and thus cause all nations to consider the wonderful ways and works of God with the children of men. This is the whole philosophy of the captivity of Judah; of the position of Daniel in Babylon; and of the place of Nebuchadnezzar and his successors in the world’s empires and in the Bible. For “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.” GEP 5.3

15. God had brought Nebuchadnezzar to the place of authority over all the nations. But Nebuchadnezzar did not yet know the Lord. He must be given the opportunity to know Him. And then if he would acknowledge God, he, being in the place of authority over all the nations, could call the attention of all the nations to the Lord whom he had come to know. And thus the knowledge of God, by means of His people in captivity in Babylon, would be brought to the attention of all the nations. GEP 6.1

16. By the excellency of the learning and ability of the youthful Daniel and his three companions, they were brought into immediate connection with Nebuchadnezzar: “they stood before the king.” Thus the captive people of God were the means of divine enlightenment to those who ruled the world, that this divine enlightenment might be given to the world. But Israel might have done this themselves from the pivot of the world in their own land, if only they had always honored the Lord in their own land, as these young men, and others, honored Him in their captivity. GEP 6.2

17. In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar alone, B. C. 603, he “dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him,” which very much impressed him, in which he was exceedingly interested, but which he could not possibly recall. He therefore “commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.” 6 He asked of them that they should tell him the thing that he had dreamed, and they answered by asking him to tell them the dream, and they would tell the interpretation. But the king had not asked for any interpretation. What he wanted was to know what he had dreamed. If he had himself known the dream, he could have made an interpretation for it as easily as they could. But the dream itself had gone from him when he awoke, yet the impression of the fact that he had dreamed of something remarkable so remained with him that he could not rest. He therefore said to them again, “The thing is gone from me.” Then he demanded of them that they should make known to him both the dream and the interpretation. They, in turn, repeated their request: “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it.” GEP 6.3

18. By this time the king had caught the true point in the situation, and said to them: “Tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof.” This was their test, and it was only a fair one; for if they were really able truly to interpret the dream had they known it, they were able to discover the dream when the king did not know it. And if they could not discover the dream, and tell it to the king in such a way that he would recognize it as the thing which he had dreamed, this was evidence enough that any interpretation they might give, even though they knew it, would be mere guesswork. They therefore surrendered, so far as they themselves were concerned, by declaring: “There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s matter.” GEP 7.1

19. But not content with thus clearing themselves, they cast reflection upon the king, by saying, “Therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.” More than this, they proceeded to give away their case again by declaring not only that it was “a rare thing that the king requireth,” but that “there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” GEP 7.2

20. Now the very gist of the profession of these magicians, astrologers, and Chaldeans was that they held such relationship to the gods that it was their peculiar prerogative to discover the will of the gods, and communicate it both to king and to people. GEP 7.3

21. The magicians pretended, and were supposed, to be the interpreters and expounders of divine things. They pretended to be able by their art—magic—to “control the actions of spiritual or superhuman beings.” GEP 8.1

22. The astrologers pretended, and were supposed, to be able to declare the will of the gods from the stars. The word “astrologer” is from aster, a “star,” and logos, “word,”—the word, or instruction, of the stars. And as the stars were the gods, and these astrologers were the ones who pretended to declare the word of the stars, they simply pretended to declare the word and will of the gods. GEP 8.2

23. The sorcerers were of the same order as the magicians, only that these had more peculiarly to do with evil spirits. GEP 8.3

24. The Chaldeans were the priestly caste, who had control of the books in which was contained the instruction in magic, and sorcery, and all pertaining to the gods. Thus they were the instructors in all the wisdom and knowledge of the gods. They were the chief claimants to divine knowledge; they were the very chief guardians of such knowledge. If any men could be supposed to be able to declare secret and divine things, it would have been these. GEP 8.4

25. When all these together declared that none but the gods could tell this thing that was wanted, and that the gods were not near enough to men to allow this to be understood from them, this was nothing less than to confess that their whole profession was a fraud. And this was further to confess that all their conjurations, divinations, magic, sorcery, and “revelations” in times past were simply a fraud and an imposture upon the king and the people. GEP 8.5

26. When this truth flashed upon the mind of Nebuchadnezzar, and he clearly saw that he and his people, and their fathers before them, had been systematically and continuously duped by these men, he was so disgusted, humiliated, and outraged that he thought the only fair thing to do was to wipe from the earth at once this whole combination of impostors. He therefore instantly “commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain.” GEP 8.6

27. Daniel and his brethren had been placed in the schools of these impostors, and were, indeed, reckoned among them; therefore the executioners “sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.” When Arioch, the captain of the guard, had found them, and told them what was to be done, Daniel said to him, “Why is the decree so hasty from the king?” Arioch told him the whole story. “Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation,” both as to the dream and the meaning of it. This was granted. Then Daniel went to his house, and informed Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, and suggested that they should “desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret.” “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.” GEP 8.7

28. After giving grateful thanks to God that he had made known to them “the king’s matter,” “Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon,” and said to him, “Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation.” Arioch hurried away to the king, and said to him, “I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.” Daniel was called, and the king asked, “Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?” Then “Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded can not the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show 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. GEP 9.1

29. “Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these: 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 threshing-floors; 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. GEP 9.2

30. “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 forever. 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 .... GEP 10.1

31. “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 Abed-nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” 7 GEP 10.2

32. The first of the nations after Judah to be brought to terms and under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar was the mighty Tyre, “situate at the entry of the sea,” “a merchant of the people for many isles,” 8 “a mart of nations;” 9 and “which had never as yet submitted to any foreign empire.”—Prideaux. 11 This was rather the irony of fate, too, because when Jerusalem had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar, Tyre had exulted in view of the immense traffic that would now be turned to her. She exclaimed: “Aha, she is broken that was the gates of the people: she is turned unto me: I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste.” GEP 11.1

33. Therefore the Lord caused this message to be written: “For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will bring upon Tyrus Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, a king of kings, from the north, with horses, and with chariots, and with horsemen, and companies, and much people. He shall slay with the sword thy daughters in the field: and he shall make a fort against thee, and cast a mount against thee, and lift up the buckler against thee. And he shall set engines of war against thy walls, and with his axes he shall break down thy towers. By reason of the abundance of his horses their dust shall cover thee: thy walls shall shake at the noise of the horsemen, and of the wheels, and of the chariots, when he shall enter into thy gates, as men enter into a city wherein is made a breach. With the hoofs of his horses shall he tread down all thy streets: he shall slay thy people by the sword, and thy strong garrisons shall go down to the ground.” 12 GEP 11.2

34. Accordingly, in the year 586, Nebuchadnezzar overran Syria, invaded Phenicia, and laid siege to Tyre. It cost him, however, a thirteen-years’ siege to capture the city. Yet the siege was carried forward so regularly, and the battering-rams were applied so persistently, that “every head was made bald” by the continuous wearing of the helmets, and “every shoulder was peeled” 13 by the persistent working of the rams. At last, however, the city was taken. “But before it came to this extremity, the inhabitants had removed most of their effects into an island about half a mile distant from the shore;” and “when Nebuchadnezzar entered that which he had so long besieged, he found little there wherewith to reward his soldiers in the spoil of the place which they had so long labored to take; and therefore, wreaking his anger upon the buildings and the few inhabitants who were left in them, he razed the whole city to the ground, and slew all he found therein.”—Prideaux. 14 GEP 11.3

35. The following contract drawn up and dated at Tyre July 7, 557 B. C., is additional indisputable evidence of the dominion of King Nebuchadnezzar over Tyre:— GEP 12.1

“On the fifteenth day of the month Iyyar [April-May], Milki-idiri, Governor of Kidis, will get three cows and their young, and will give them to Abla, son of Nadin-akhi, descendant of the priest of the Sungod. If he can not get (them), Milki-idiri will give to Abla, son of Nadin-akhi, son of the priest of the Sungod, five mana of silver GEP 12.2

“Witnessing: Bunduti, son of Nabu-ukin, descendant of Nabutu; Musezib-Marduk, son of Abla, descendant of the fisherman; Marduksakin-sumi, son of Marduk-edhir, descendant of Edheru; and the scribe, Pir’u, son of Sula. Tyre, month Tammuz [June-July], day 22nd, year 40th [557 B. C.], Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.” 15 GEP 12.3

36. “Tyre once taken, Nebuchadnezzar, before returning to Babylon, attacked the people of Idumaea, and Ammon, who had associated themselves with the last Jewish attempt at revolt, and compelled them to submit. He made also a campaign in Arabia, passed victoriously through Hedjaz and Nedjid, and penetrated as far as the Sabean kingdom of Yemen. These wars, predicted by the prophets, terminated the series of Chaldean conquests in Western Asia.”—Lenormant. 16 GEP 12.4

37. As we have seen, when Nebuchadnezzar, after so long a siege, had finally captured the city of Tyre, he found himself defrauded of the expected spoil by the fact that great numbers of the people had taken refuge in an island a short distance from the city. The Lord noticed this disappointment, and said, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon caused his army to serve a great service against Tyrus: every head was made bald, and every shoulder was peeled: yet had he no wages, nor his army, for Tyrus, for the service that he had served against it: therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will give the land of Egypt unto Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and he shall take her multitude, and take her spoil, and take her prey; and it shall be the wages for his army. I have given him the land of Egypt for his labor wherewith he served against it, because they wrought for me, saith the Lord God.” 17 GEP 12.5

38. At the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, 588 B. C., he gave directions to Nebuzar-adan, the captain of the guard, to let Jeremiah go wheresoever he would. Jeremiah went “unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and dwelt with him among the people that were left in the land,” for Gedaliah was made governor of the land, and “Nebuzar-adan the captain of the guard” left certain of the poor of the land for vinedressers and for husbandmen. And when “all the Jews that were in Moab, and among the Ammonites, and in Edom, and that were in all the countries, heard that the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Judah, and that he had set over them Gedaliah; ... even all the Jews returned out of all places whither they were driven, and came to the land of Judah, to Gedaliah, unto Mizpah, and gathered wine and summer fruits very much.” 18 GEP 13.1

39. Shortly afterward Gedaliah was murdered by a certain apostate Jew named Ishmael, who was the servant of Baalis, king of the Ammonites. Then all the people who had been left in the land, and who had returned from the surrounding countries to dwell in the land, fearing that they would be held responsible for the murder of the governor, departed from the land, and went into Egypt. This wad done, however, against the earnest protest of the Lord by the prophet Jeremiah. “So they came into the land of Egypt; for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: thus came they even to Tahpanhes.” 19 Yet when, against all protest, all the people of the land, “every person,” determined to go to Egypt, Jeremiah and Baruch went with them rather than stay alone in the desolate land. GEP 13.2

40. “Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brick-kiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh’s house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them. And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword. And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace. He shall break also the images of Beth-shemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” 20 GEP 14.1

41. Accordingly, about the year 572, “Nebuchadnezzar, taking the advantage of the intestine divisions which were then in that country by reason of the revolt of Amasis, marched with his army thither, and overrunning the whole land from Migdol, or Magdolum (which is at the first entering into Egypt), even to Syene (which is at the farthest end of it toward the borders of Ethiopia), he made a miserable ravage and devastation therein, slaying multitudes of the inhabitants, and reducing a great part of the country to such a desolation as it did not recover from in forty years after. After this, Nebuchadnezzar having loading himself and his army with the rich spoils of this country, and brought it all in subjection to him, he came to terms with Amasis; and having confirmed him in the kingdom as his deputy, returned to Babylon.”—Prideaux. 21 GEP 14.2

42. With the conquest of Egypt, the wars of Nebuchadnezzar ended, for his power was now firmly established, and was recognized, over all the nations between Central Asia and the AEgean Sea and Ethiopia,—Persia, Susiana, Elam, Media, Lydia, Syria of Damascus, Phenicia, Palestine, Moab, Ammon, Edom, Arabia, and Egypt,—and even beyond this; because when Tyre was captured and made tributary, “the colonies which Tyre then possessed on the northern coast of Africa and in Spain, such as Carthage (not yet independent) and Gades (now Cadiz), recognized the suzerainty of the conqueror of the mother country.”—Lenormant. 22 GEP 14.3

43. At a period of his reign not clearly defined, King Nebuchadnezzar began again to think upon the problem of the kingdoms of the world. In the interpretation of the remarkable dream that was given to King Nebuchadnezzar, the Lord had said to him that the head of gold of the great image represented the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar himself; and that after him should arise another kingdom inferior to his, and a third kingdom inferior to this, and yet another, a fourth kingdom, inferior even to this, and after that a condition of things yet further inferior. First there was gold, then silver, next brass, after that iron, and last of all, “iron mixed with miry clay.” This dream was given to the king because that while upon his bed, thoughts had come into his mind as to “what should come to pass hereafter.” From what came to pass afterward with him, it is evident that his thoughts as to “what should come to pass hereafter,” were to the effect that the mighty kingdom which he ruled, this “lady of kingdoms,” “Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,” would in its greatness and glory continue on and on indefinitely. GEP 15.1

44. To correct this view, and show him the truth of the matter, the dream of the great image was shown to him. This told him that the golden glory of his kingdom would continue but a little while, and then another would arise, and another, and another, and then there would be division, with all these descending in a regular scale of inferiority, and then at last “the God of heaven” would “set up a kingdom,” and this alone would be the kingdom that should stand forever, and not be given to other people. But the king could not accept this view of the subject; and after thinking upon if for a long time, he formulated his own idea in a great image about a hundred feet tall and ten feet broad, all of gold from head to feet; and “set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon,” to be worshiped. This was a positive setting up of his own idea against that of God. This was to declare to all people that his golden kingdom was to endure forever, that there was to be no such thing as another kingdom arising separate from his and inferior to his,—a kingdom of silver and another of brass, and then one of iron, and after that even descend so low as iron mixed with miry clay. NO! there should be only his golden kingdom of Babylon, and that should never be broken nor interrupted. GEP 15.2

45. He therefore set up, to be worshiped by all, his great golden image as the just representation of what his great kingdom should continue to be. A great day was appointed for the dedication of the image; and “the princes, the governors, and the captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces” were gathered to do honor to the occasion and the image. Then the royal herald proclaimed: “To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.” 23 GEP 16.1

46. In a number of points all this was an open challenge to the Lord. It was the assertion that Nebuchadnezzar’s idea of the kingdoms of men should be accepted as the true and divine idea instead of that of God. It was the assertion that the embodiment of this idea should be worshiped as God. And all this was indeed the putting of Nebuchadnezzar himself in the place of God as the ruler in the kingdom of men, the head of all religion and the director of all worship. Yet the Lord employed it all, not only to instruct the king, but to instruct all nations at that time and forever after. The situation created by Nebuchadnezzar for his own glory, the Lord would use in accomplishing His great purpose of giving to all nations the knowledge of the glory of God. GEP 16.2

47. In the great crowd that was assembled, there were the three faithful servants of God—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. And when, at the voice of the royal herald, and the sound of harp, flute, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, the great crowd of princes, governors, counselors, sheriffs, and all the people “fell down and worshiped the golden image,” these three young men stood bolt upright, and gave no notice whatever to the image. Then “certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.” They said to the king: “There are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” GEP 17.1

48. “Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury” commanded that the three men should be brought before him. He said to them, “Is it of purpose, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?” He then in person repeated his command that they should worship the image, and the penalty upon disobedience, that “if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” GEP 17.2

49. The furnace was heated to sevenfold its usual strength, and the men were cast into it, and “fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.” But suddenly the king, fairly petrified with astonishment, rose up in haste from his throne, and cried to his counselors: “Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.” The king called them forth, and said: “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent His angel, and delivered His servants that trusted in Him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.” 24 GEP 17.3

50. God had commanded all nations to serve King Nebuchadnezzar, and had said that whatsoever nation would not serve that same king, the Lord would punish. 25 Yet here he wrought a wonderful miracle to deliver these men who had openly and directly refused to obey a positive command of the king. Why was this? Did God contradict himself?—Not at all. This command of the king was wrong. He was requiring a service which he had no right to require. He had given a command which he had no right to give. In making him king of the nations, the Lord had not made him king in the religion of the nations. In making him the head of all the nations, God had not made him the head of religion. But being an idolater, and having grown up amid idolatrous systems, Nebuchadnezzar did not know this. With idolaters, religion always has been, and still is, a part of the government; in heathen systems, religion and the government are always united: while in the true system—the divine, the Christian, system—they are always separate. GEP 18.1

51. And this was the instruction which the Lord gave to King Nebuchadnezzar in this great transaction. In a way in which it was impossible not to understand, the Lord showed him that he had nothing whatever to do with the religion, nor in directing the worship, of the people. The Lord had brought all nations under this king’s yoke as to their bodily service; but now, by an unmistakable evidence, this same Lord showed to King Nebuchadnezzar that He had given him no power nor jurisdiction whatever in their souls’ service. The Lord thus showed the king that while in all things between nation and nation or man and man, all people, nations, and languages had been given to him to serve him, and he had been made ruler over them all; yet in things between men and God, he was given plainly and forcibly to understand that he had nothing whatever to do. The God of heaven there taught to the king and to all nations forever, that in the presence of the rights of conscience of the individual, the word of the king must change, the decree of the king is naught. And this was all written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. GEP 18.2

52. And there being present and beholding it all, “the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces” of all his realm, this great truth, with the knowledge of the power and glory of the true God, was by this one mighty impulse spread among all the peoples, nations, and languages throughout the whole mighty and wide-spread empire. GEP 19.1

53. Nor did this great thought end here. A few years afterward, when Nebuchadnezzar’s conquests were accomplished, and his great city of Babylon had been finished and decorated with the wonderful buildings, gardens, etc., and he was proudly exulting in it all, as that which he had built by the might of his power and for the honor of his majesty, he had another remarkable dream. In his dream he saw a great tree standing alone in the earth, so high that it “reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth.” “The beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.” Then he saw in his dream, “and, behold, a Watcher and an Holy One came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches: nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” 26 GEP 19.2

54. Daniel was called, and interpreted for the king his dream thus: “This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will.—And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; they kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.” 27 GEP 19.3

55. A year afterward, as he was walking in his beautiful palace and grounds, exulting in the glory of great Babylon which he had built by the might of his power and for the honor of his majesty, even “while the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.” 28 Then there came upon him that which he had seen foreshadowed in his dream, and which had been told him in the interpretation of it; and at the end of the time he was restored to his kingdom. Then he issued the following decree: “Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to show the signs and wonders that the high God had wrought toward me. How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation.” Here follows in the decree the full account of the dream, the interpretation, and the fact, and it closes thus: “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase.” 29 GEP 20.1

56. And thus was again made known to all people, nations, and languages of all the earth the honor and glory of the Most High God; with the great truth that He rules in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will. GEP 20.2

57. Nebuchadnezzar was not only a wise ruler and a mighty conqueror, but was one of the greatest builders of any age. To him alone more than all others put together, Babylon owed her greatness of every kind, and still owes her fame. Even in Holy Writ Babylon is described as “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency,” “the golden city,” and “the lady of kingdoms.” 30 Her great buildings, her wonderful hanging gardens, and her “artificial mountains” of walls, made her the wonder of the world, even to this day. This great city was “enriched with the spoils of foreign conquest. It owed as much to Nebuchadnezzar as Rome owed to Augustus. The buildings and walls with which it was adorned, were worthy of the metropolis of the world.”—Sayce. 31 GEP 21.1

58. Of the building of the walls and fortresses of the city, and the length of the wall, Nebuchadnezzar himself wrote, “Imgur-bel and Nivit-bel, the great walls of Babylon, I built them square .... I repaired, with bitumen and bricks, the sides of the ditches that had been dug. I caused to be put in order the double doors of bronze, and the railings and the gratings, in the great gateways. I enlarged the streets of Babylon so as to make them wonderful. I applied myself to the protection of Babylon and Vale Saggatu (the pyramid), and on the most elevated lands, close to the great gate of Ishtar, I constructed strong fortresses of bitumen and bricks, from the banks of the Euphrates down to the great gate, the whole extent of the streets. I established their foundations below the level of the waters. I fortified these walls with art. I caused Imgur-bel, the great wall of Babylon, the impregnable, such as no king before me had made, to be measured, four thousand mahargagar.” “This measurement corresponds exactly with the four hundred and eighty stades [sixty miles] given by Herodotus as the circuit.”—Lenormant. 32 GEP 21.2

59. “The city stands on a broad plain, and is an exact square, one hundred and twenty furlongs in length each way, so that the entire circuit is four hundred and eighty furlongs. While such is its size, in magnificence there is no other city that approaches to it. It is surrounded, in the first place, by a broad and deep moat, full of water, behind which rises a wall fifty royal cubits in width, and two hundred in height. (The royal cubit is longer by three fingers’ breadth than the common cubit.)” It was surrounded by a wall three hundred and fifty feet high and about eighty-five feet thick at the top. 33 On the top of the wall at irregular intervals were built towers to guard the most accessible parts. Of these towers there were two hundred and fifty. The open space on the wall, within the line of these towers, was of sufficient breadth to allow a four-horse chariot to turn with safety. Twenty-five gates pierced the wall on each side, making one hundred gates in all in the outer wall. These were double gates of solid brass, with brazen lintels and posts, and fastened with bars of iron. Around the wall on the outside ran a moat, corresponding in width and depth to the greatness of the wall. Under the wall and diagonally through the city, from corner to corner, so as to obtain the greatest length of water, ran the river Euphrates. On each side of the river, inside of the city, was built a strong wall, each wall being pierced with twenty-five gates opening into the streets that ran from the outer gates. These were also brazen gates like those in the outer wall. The banks of the river were lined throughout with brick laid in bitumen, with sloping landing-places at the gates. Boats were always ready at these landing-places by which to pass from side to side of the river. Over the river about the middle of the city was a drawbridge thirty feet wide, supported on stone piers. At the two ends of the bridge were the two grand palaces of the city. Of course the vast area within the city was not built up solidly with houses, as is a modern city. There were gardens, orchards, and fields interspersed among the houses, and about the palaces and temples. It was expected that if ever the city should be besieged, they could grow sufficient provisions within the walls to support the population, so that they might shut their gates, man the towers, and dwell securely, with no fears of ever being overcome by any besieging force. Such, briefly outlined, was the Babylon of the days of Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel, and largely as it was when Herodotus visited it about a hundred years later. It is safe to say that no city on earth has ever equaled it is greatness and grandeur. GEP 21.3

60. “Throughout the empire, at Borsippa, Sippara, Cutha, Chilmad, Duraba, Teredon, and a multitude of other places, he built or rebuilt cities, repaired temples, constructed quays, reservoirs, canals, and aqueducts, on a scale of grandeur and magnificence surpassing everything of the kind recorded in history, unless it be the constructions of one or two of the greatest Egyptian monarchs. It is enough to note in this place that he was great both in peace and in war, but greater in the former .... It was as the adorner and beautifier of his native land—as the builder and restorer of almost all her cities and temples—that this monarch obtained that great reputation which has handed down his name traditionally in the East on a par with those of Nimrod, Solomon, and Alexander, and made it still a familiar term in the mouths of the people. Probably no single man ever left behind him as his memorial upon the earth one half the amount of building that was erected by this king.”—McClintock and Strong. 34 GEP 23.1

61. “Nebuchadnezzar is the great monarch of the Babylonian Empire, which, lasting only eighty-eight years,—from B. C. 625 to B. C. 538,—was for nearly half the time under his sway. Its military glory is due chiefly to him, while the constructive energy, which constitutes its especial characteristic, belongs to it still more markedly through his character and genius. It is scarcely too much to say that but for Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonians would have had no place in history. At any rate, their actual place is owing almost entirely to this prince, who to the military talents of an able general added a grandeur of artistic conception and skill in construction which place him on a par with the greatest builders of antiquity.”—Rawlinson. 35 GEP 23.2

62. “His last days were as brilliant as his first; his sun set in an unclouded sky, shorn of none of the rays that had given splendor to its noonday. Nebuchadnezzar expired at Babylon in the forty-fourth year of his reign, B. C. 561, after an illness of no long duration. He was probably little short of eighty years old at his death.”—Rawlinson. 36--- GEP 24.1