Daniel's book deals with world powers of his past and present and the future. (our present) It is a wonderful prophecy that dealt with the world power of Daniel's day, but had a future fulfillment also. The future spoken of in this book receives support and clarification in the book of Revelation. We will be investigating the book of Revelation next. But for now lets delve into the book of Daniel.
LET us now take a look at a world map and locate the lands of Iraq, Asiatic Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Israel. If the rulers of those lands had been living near the beginning of the sixth century before our Common Era, they would have been under the domination of the Third World Power and here is the message that they would have officially received from Babylon: "Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all the peoples, national groups and languages that are dwelling in all the earth: May your peace grow great. The signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed with me, it has seemed good to me to declare. How grand his signs are, and how mighty his wonders are! His kingdom is a kingdom to time indefinite, and his rulership is for generation after generation."—Daniel 4:1-3.
With those far-reaching words the then king of Babylon called attention, not to his own Babylonian Empire, the Third World Power of Bible history, but to the kingdom and rulership of the Most High God. Counted from King Nebuchadnezzar's share in the destruction of the Assyrian capital Nineveh in 632 B.C.E. down to the overthrow of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian in 539 B.C.E., the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar and his dynasty lasted for ninety-three years or so, less than a century. But the kingdom and rulership of the Most High God are to time indefinite, from generation to generation, that is to say, forever, to time without end. Jehovah's kingdom and rulership are more extensive, not only in point of time, but also in the area under control. Nebuchadnezzar's empire embraced only a part of southwest Asia, the Middle East and finally Egypt, but the area under control of the Most High God is universal, taking in both heaven and earth. The Most High God is the Universal Sovereign, and forever so!
India and other modern nations and tribes have their national or tribal gods, and ancient Babylon had its gods. But Nebuchadnezzar, a worshiper of the Babylonian god Marduk, was obliged to proclaim world wide that there is a Most High God, who performs signs and wonders that are great and wonderful, in proof of his real existence. Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation tells about this.
THE EMPEROR'S OWN ACCOUNT AS PRESERVED
Let us first find out how this tree stump came under the notice of the ruler of the Babylonian Empire, the Third World Power of Bible prophecy. In his imperial proclamation we are told: "I, Nebuchadnezzar, happened to be at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. There was a dream that I beheld, and it began to make me afraid. And there were mental images upon my bed and visions of my head that began to frighten me. And from me an order was being put through to bring in before me all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the very interpretation of the dream." What was the response?
"At that time the magic-practicing priests, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the astrologers were entering; and I was saying before them what the dream was, but its interpretation they were not making known to me. And at last there came in before me Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god and in whom there is the spirit of the holy gods; and before him I said what the dream was."—Daniel 4:4-8.
Nebuchadnezzar's experience shows how vain and futile it is for national rulers and politicians in general to resort to astrologers and clairvoyants and other occultists to try to find out accurately what the future holds. Rulers do not have with them today the prophet Daniel to whom to go, but we do have the prophetic book of Daniel. From it we can learn about things that have already marked our twentieth century and what the impending future holds for this generation. Nebuchadnezzar's dream and Daniel's interpretation of it and how it was fulfilled in an illustrative way as a seal or guarantee of its prophetic value, all of this holds an interest for us now. So let us now listen as Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel his dream of world importance.
He said: "Now the visions of my head upon my bed I happened to be beholding, and, look! a tree in the midst of the earth, the height of which was immense. The tree grew up and became strong, and its very height finally reached the heavens, and it was visible to the extremity of the whole earth. Its foliage was fair, and its fruit was abundant, and there was food for all on it. Under it the beast of the field would seek shade, and on its boughs the birds of the heavens would dwell, and from it all flesh would feed itself. "I [King Nebuchadnezzar] continued beholding in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, look! a watcher, even a holy one, coming down from the heavens themselves. He was calling out loudly, and this is what he was saying: "Chop the tree down, and cut off its boughs. Shake off its foliage, and scatter its fruitage. Let the beast flee from under it, and the birds from its boughs. However, leave its rootstock itself in the earth, even with a banding of iron and of copper, among the grass of the field; and with the dew of the heavens let it be wet, and with the beast let its portion be among the vegetation of the earth. Let its heart be changed from that of mankind, and let the heart of a beast be given to it, and let seven times pass over it. By the decree of watchers the thing is, and by the saying of holy ones the request is, to the intent that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind.'"—Daniel 4:10-17.
According to this description of the dream as given by King Nebuchadnezzar to Daniel the tree towered over all other trees. It was visible to all the inhabitants of the earth, so that nobody was able to ignore it. It was a good tree. Although it was not called "the tree of life," it was a life-sustaining tree, for it bore fruit in abundance, enough to feed all flesh on earth. Why, then, was it to be like the prominent tree described in Ezekiel's prophecy, chapter thirty-one, verses three through fourteen, in being cut down? How could the chopped-down tree trunk have had the "heart" of mankind and this be changed to the "heart of a beast"? How could the chopping down of the tree and the letting of its fallen trunk lie on the grassy earth for "seven times" prove that "the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind"? According to the angelic "watcher" or sentinel or guardian, that was the purpose of the action portrayed in the king's dream.
Can the Most High as Supreme Ruler issue orders for a kingdom, an empire, a world power, to be chopped down like a heaven-high tree, and can he set up another king and give that one the kingship, even though he comes from the lowliest estate of mankind? These were the main questions that were really set before Daniel to answer, as King Nebuchadnezzar now asked him for the interpretation of the tree dream. (Daniel 4:18) But why did Daniel get disturbed when the Most High God revealed to him the meaning of the king's dream, and why did Nebuchadnezzar have to reassure Daniel so as not to be afraid in explaining the dream? It was because, in the first place, the chopping down of the immense tree had a direct application to Nebuchadnezzar himself. Hence Daniel wished that this portentous dream could be fulfilled just as well upon someone else, upon adversaries who hated the king. (Daniel 4:19)
Daniel answers our own questions as we hear him say:"The tree that you beheld, that grew great and became strong and the height of which finally reached the heavens and which was visible to all the earth, . . . it is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong, and your grandeur has grown great and reached to the heavens, and your rulership to the extremity of the earth."—Daniel 4:20-22. So that heaven-high tree stood for rulership, a worldwide rulership as invested in someone as ruler. It was this ruler that had a "heart" that could be changed from that of mankind to that of a beast. Such a change would mean a fall, a debasement, would it not?
This debasement was according to the will and purpose of the Most High God, the "Ruler in the kingdom of mankind," for Daniel went on to say to Nebuchadnezzar: "And because the king beheld a watcher, even a holy one, coming down from the heavens, who was also saying: 'Chop the tree down, and ruin it. However, leave its rootstock itself in the earth, but with a banding of iron and of copper, among the grass of the field, and with the dew of the heavens let it become wet, and with the beasts of the field let its portion be until seven times themselves pass over it,' this is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the Most High is that which must befall my lord the king. And you they will be driving away from men, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will come to be, and the vegetation is what they will give even to you to eat just like bulls; and with the dew of the heavens you yourself will be getting wet, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it."—Daniel 4:23-25.
However, after the "seven times" pass over the king in that debased condition, what? Nebuchadnezzar's dream did not directly answer this question, but Daniel's interpretation did. Showing the bright side of the dream, Daniel said to the king: "And because they said to leave the rootstock of the tree, your kingdom will be sure to you after you know that the heavens are ruling. Therefore, O king, may my counsel seem good to you, and remove your own sins by righteousness, and your iniquity by showing mercy to the poor ones. Maybe there will occur a lengthening of your prosperity."—Daniel 4:26, 27.
Despite Daniel's courageous counsel, Nebuchadnezzar continued to be proud because of being the absolute monarch of the Babylonian World Power, the Third World Power of Bible prophecy. So, a lunar year later found him walking upon the roof of the royal palace at Babylon. Then, as Daniel himself tells us, "the king was answering and saying: 'Is not this Babylon the Great, that I myself have built for the royal house with the strength of my might and for the dignity of my majesty?' While the word was yet in the king's mouth, there was a voice that fell from the heavens: 'To you it is being said, O Nebuchadnezzar the king, "The kingdom itself has gone away from you, and from mankind they are driving even you away, and with the beasts of the field your dwelling will be. Vegetation they will give even to you to eat just like bulls, and seven times themselves will pass over you, until you know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind, and that to the one whom he wants to he gives it."'"—Daniel 4:28-32.
Things progressed just as the voice that fell from the heavens had said to the boastful world ruler: "At that moment the word itself was fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar, and from mankind he was being driven away, and vegetation he began to eat just like bulls, and with the dew of the heavens his own body got to be wet, until his very hair grew long just like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws."—Daniel 4:33; compare Acts 12:21-23.
Did this degradation of King Nebuchadnezzar mean the downfall of the Babylonian Empire? Not by any means! According to the decree of the Most High God this empire was to continue on for some decades yet as the Third World Power, which now corresponded to the banded rootstock of the immense tree seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The prophet Daniel continued on as servant of the demented king, he serving as "the ruler over all the jurisdictional district of Babylon and the chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon." Also, Daniel's three Hebrew companions, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, continued having a part in the administration of the affairs of that jurisdictional district. (Daniel 1:11-19; 2:48, 49; 3:30) Certainly these four prominent Jewish exiles in Babylon were measuring the time of the king's illness and were awaiting the time to receive him back in sanity to his imperial throne as a Gentile monarch who had learned well the lesson that "the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it." At the end of the "seven times" this occurred.
The king himself tells us what happened: "And at the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up to the heavens my eyes, and my own understanding began to return to me; and I blessed the Most High himself, and the One living to time indefinite I praised and glorified, because his rulership is a rulership to time indefinite and his kingdom is for generation after generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are being considered as merely nothing, and he is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, 'What have you been doing?'"—Daniel 4:34, 35.
At that time, as far as the prophetic dream is applied to Nebuchadnezzar himself, the iron and copper bands around the rootstock of the immense tree were snapped and removed. The literal "seven times" were up, and there was due a restoration of the sane king to power. Nebuchadnezzar makes record of this, as he goes on to say: "At the same time my understanding itself began to return to me, and for the dignity of my kingdom my majesty and my brightness themselves began to return to me; and for me even my high royal officers and my grandees began eagerly searching, and I was reestablished upon my own kingdom, and greatness extraordinary was added to me." (Daniel 4:36) What a "sign of healing" was thus performed by the Most High God!—Daniel 4:2; Acts 4:22.
It would seem highly appropriate that Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah as "high royal officers" should be among those who searched for the restored king as a sign of their loyalty to him and of their having safeguarded his imperial interests during his mental illness. (Compare 2 Samuel 19:11-15.) These four worshipers of Jehovah God would particularly be interested in the effect of the king's humiliating experience upon him at the hands of their God. More than all others in the king's royal service, they appreciated Nebuchadnezzar's confession of the Universal Sovereignty of the Most High "Ruler," whom Nebuchadnezzar called "the King of the heavens," reigning forever. They saw how this heavenly King gave back kingship to a man who for "seven times" was "even the lowliest one of mankind" in being degraded below the human level to that of a beast of the field. (Daniel 4:17) They understood what Jehovah had been doing!
Just how long were those "seven times" during which Nebuchadnezzar was mentally deranged and incapacitated for royal rulership? In the historical work entitled "Antiquities of the Jews," produced in first-century Greek by the Jew Flavius Josephus, he treats these "seven times" as "seven years." (Book X, Chapter X, paragraph 6) In the following century the Greek translator of the book of Daniel, namely, Theodotion, of Pontus, Asia Minor, between the years 180 and 182 C.E., translated the Hebrew expression as "seven years" (heptŕ étç). Other Jewish commentators understand "times" here to mean "years." In fact, a number of modern translators render it this way. The New American Bible (Roman Catholic) reads: "Till seven years pass over him [you]." (Daniel 4:13, 20, 22, 29, NA) Similarly, A New Translation by James Moffatt and The Complete Bible—An American Translation read "seven years." (Also the Good News Bible, of 1976)
So, seven Biblical lunar years would be meant, since the time decreed was from the Author of the Holy Bible, Jehovah God. Ancient inscriptions are reported as showing that there were several years in which Nebuchadnezzar did nothing. These years might well coincide with the "seven times" of his incapacitation as a mentally deranged man.
Is that, however, all there is to the matter? There is no basis for doubt that Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the heaven-high tree was prophetic, it being inspired by Jehovah God. But is the dream's fulfillment limited to that ancient fulfillment on the person of one man, King Nebuchadnezzar, for him to learn a lesson regarding rulership? Is it through his personal experience that the purport of Jehovah's dealing with him is achieved, namely, "that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it and he sets up over it even the lowliest one of mankind"? (Daniel 4:17) By setting up over the kingdom of mankind "even the lowliest one of mankind" does the Most High God set up over mankind the lowest grade of rulership over mankind? Evidently not! (Daniel 4:36, 37) For the "people living" in our momentous twentieth century, Nebuchadnezzar's dream must have a further and more far-reaching fulfillment. It does!
Ancient facts certify the first fulfillment of the dream of the king of Babylon. How do the later facts establish the larger and complete fulfillment of that same dream? Well, Nebuchadnezzar, who for the time being back there was pictured by the massive tree, was ruler of the Babylonian Empire. So he symbolized rulership on a world scale, having worldwide recognition. Likewise, the "tree" that was illustrated by him stood for rulership on a scale grander than that held by the king of Babylon. At that time, what rulership or dominion was greater than that of Emperor Nebuchadnezzar, which stood without a rival on earth? Only the rulership of the one whom Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged to be "the Most High," "the King of the heavens." (Daniel 4:34, 37) For that reason, the heaven-high, life-sustaining tree of the dream symbolized the UNIVERSAL SOVEREIGNTY of the Most High, Jehovah God, particularly in its relationship with our earth. This Universal Sovereignty is eternal, "to time indefinite," for all generations.
Such a meaning attached to the "tree" raises questions in our minds, does it not? Yes. For example, how could such a "tree" ever be chopped down? And this at the command of the Universal Sovereign, the Most High God himself? How is it set up again? God's own written Word, the Holy Bible, explains. For a long period of time Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty was represented here on earth. How? Where? When? This was by means of the kingdom that he established over his chosen people, the twelve tribes of Israel. Particularly was this so when Jehovah's anointed one, King David, was made king over all twelve tribes of Israel, after which he moved his capital city to Jerusalem, which he had captured from the pagan Jebusites. That was in 1070 B.C.E.
In that same year King David had the sacred Ark of the Covenant of Jehovah brought into the city and placed in a tent pitched near his royal palace. Thus, as it were, Jehovah began to reign in Israel's capital Jerusalem, and the Israelite king was said to sit upon "Jehovah's throne." (1 Chronicles 29:23; 16:1-31) Repeatedly King David acknowledged Jehovah to be his heavenly King, the real Ruler of Israel. (Psalms 5:2; 24:7-10; 68:24; 145:1) Certainly, then, the kingdom centered at Jerusalem with David and his royal descendants sitting there on "Jehovah's throne" represented Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty with reference to our earth.—2 Chronicles 13:5, 8.
Logically that expression of Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty as exercised through King David and his royal successors at Jerusalem was what was pictured by the immense tree seen in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In the dream, that all-dominating tree was chopped down. True to that dream, Divine Sovereignty as exercised through the line of Davidic kings at Jerusalem was chopped down, toppled, put out of operation. When? In 607 B.C.E., when Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon brought destruction upon Jerusalem and its temple and carried off its last enthroned king, Zedekiah of David's family, into exile to die there. Jehovah himself had the symbolic tree of sovereignty chopped down, for he himself used Nebuchadnezzar as his "servant" to bring about this overthrow. Jehovah himself took the responsibility for overturning this visible expression of his sovereignty toward our earth.—Jeremiah 25:8-11, 17-29; Ezekiel 21:22-27.
At that time the bands of divine restraint as pictured by the bands of iron and copper were put around the remaining rootstock of the divine sovereignty as exercised through a royal descendant of King David. No royal sprout could come forth from this rootstock for the growing again of the divine sovereignty exercised through a Davidic king. For how long was this debased appearance of Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty to continue? For "seven times," which were prophetically illustrated by the "seven years" of Nebuchadnezzar's dethronement for him to live like a beast of the field. So, how much time do "seven times" cover?
A "time" or lunar "year" used in connection with Bible prophecy averaged 360 days, that is, twelve lunar months averaging 30 days each. (Compare Genesis 7:11 through 8:4.) The "seven times" or "seven years" would therefore amount to 7 times 360 days, or 2,520 days. Are those 2,520 days to be understood literally in this case? Well, seven lunar years or 2,520 days after Jerusalem's destruction in 607 B.C.E. and the leaving of her domain in the land of Judah desolate, Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty with respect to our earth was not reestablished, was it? No! In the year 600 B.C.E. the surviving Israelites were still exiles in Babylon, Jerusalem and the land of Judah still lay desolate, and the Babylonian Empire was still the world power of the day. It was not till sixty-three years later, or in 537 B.C.E., that the exiled Israelites were given freedom by Babylon's conqueror to leave, and reoccupy their beloved homeland. But, even then, the theocratic kingdom of the house of David was not set up again at Jerusalem.
The Medo-Persian Empire had now taken over world control as the Fourth World Power of Bible prophecy, and Cyrus the Great, the Persian, was emperor. So Zerubbabel, a legal and natural heir to David's throne, was made merely the governor of the Persian province of Judah. Medo-Persia corresponded with the silver breasts and arms of the metallic image seen in the inspired dream that the prophet Daniel had to recall to Nebuchadnezzar's mind and to interpret to him. (Daniel 2:31, 32, 39) According to that same dream and its interpretation, Gentile world control was to be exercised next by the copper-like Grecian World Power and then by the ironlike Roman Empire with an outgrowth therefrom in the form of the British-American Dual World Power of modern centuries. First after that, would Jehovah's Universal Sovereignty (as pictured by the mountain) and the kingdom (pictured by the cut-out stone) interfere with the line of Gentile world powers. (Daniel 2:32-35, 44, 45) This brings us into our own twentieth century!
It is very evident, therefore, that the "seven times" of 2,520 days, as measured against the world-power "image," from head to foot, must stand for something longer than the seven literal years of Nebuchadnezzar's beastlike conduct, out in the field. So each of these 2,520 days must be treated according to the Bible rule: "A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you." (Ezekiel 4:6; compare Numbers 14:34.) This would mean that the "seven times" of domination of the earth by Gentile world powers without interference from God's kingdom would extend for 2,520 years from the desolating of the land of Judah (including Jerusalem) by the Babylonians. That number of years from the middle of the seventh lunar month (or Tishri 15) of 607 B.C.E. leads up to when? To Tishri 15, or October 4/5, of 1914 C.E.
At that time Jehovah God the Almighty would loosen the iron and copper bands around the symbolic rootstock of Universal Sovereignty. Thus he would permit a royal "sprout" to grow up from it for the reestablishment of His Universal Sovereignty toward all the earth. (Job 14:7-9; Isaiah 11:1, 2) This took place in the birth of the "man child" government, foretold in Revelation 12:5-10 (AV; NW), which government was to "shepherd all the nations with an iron rod." In Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the world-power "image," this event was pictured by the cutting of the "stone" out of the mountain with a view to its destroying the world-power "image." (Daniel 2:34, 35) What a meaningful way that was of marking the end of the "appointed times of the nations," the end of the "times of the Gentiles," as foretold by Jesus Christ in Luke 21:24!—NW; AV.
From then on, the royal government that was represented by ancient Jerusalem under the kingship of David's royal family was no longer to be "trampled on," "trodden down," by Gentile world powers. It was to trample them!
In view of all the foregoing, the Universal Governor, who knows the end from the beginning, foretold more than just Nebuchadnezzar's time for being restored to the throne of the Babylonian World Power. Jehovah God foretold, simultaneously, the time for enforcing his own world rulership by a reasserting of his rightful Universal Sovereignty toward our earth.
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