Lord of History

The first paragraph of Daniel introduces its key theme - God reigns supreme over the kingdoms of the Earth. This proposition is presented in explicit statements and demonstrated by the accurate predictions of the Prophet to pagan rulers. The Book begins by announcing the overthrow of Judah and the removal of the golden vessels from the “House of God” to the “Land of Shinar.”

In the Hebrew text, “house” is repeated three times, and “his god” twice for emphasis. The name ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ includes the name of the Mesopotamian god Nabu, the deity associated with literature, learning, and wisdom.  From a human perspective, the Babylonian gods had triumphed over the God of Israel - (Isaiah 46:1, Daniel 1:1-2).

Greek Temple - Photo by Antonio Sessa on Unsplash
[Photo by Antonio Sessa on Unsplash]

The term “
Shinar” was the ancient name of Mesopotamia and the site of the Tower of Babel. In Genesis, men spoke a single language and attempted to unite under one political regime. Yahweh thwarted this by confounding their language and scattering humanity throughout the region - (Genesis 11:1-9).

Nebuchadnezzar, the latest “King of Babel,” was reversing the earlier decree of Yahweh against “Babel” by seizing His “house,” gathering the scattered nations to “Shinar,” and imposing the language of Babylon on one and all.  Israel’s tribute to Babel included high-ranking Jewish exiles sent for education in the wisdom, language, and laws of Babylon so they could serve the Empire.

This was a national catastrophe for the Jewish nation, yet Daniel declared it was “the Lord” who gave all this into the hands of the “King of Babylon.” The Hebrew verb translated as “gave” is applied repeatedly in the first chapter of Daniel.

In verse 9, for example, God gave Daniel “favor and sympathy with the prince of the eunuchs.” In verse 17, He gave him “knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom,” and Daniel was “given” understanding in “all visions and dreams.”

Nebuchadnezzar put Daniel and his friends to the test and “found them ten times better than all the scribes and enchanters that were in his realm”; therefore, they were promoted to serve in the royal court. Despite the disaster that had befallen Israel, God used the Jewish exiles to direct the course of history and kingdoms.


In the “second year of Nebuchadnezzar,” Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream that troubled him. He commanded the wise men of his court to reveal the contents AND the meaning of his dream, which, naturally, that they could not do – (Daniel 2:1-12).

Enraged, he ordered the destruction of the Babylonian wise men. Before that command could be executed, Daniel requested an audience with the king, and then he prayed for the revelation of “this mystery.” Yahweh revealed the dream to him for which Daniel praised Him:

  • (Daniel 2:13-23) - “Who changes times and seasons, removes kings and sets up kings… He is the One Who reveals the deep and hidden things…for the matter of the king have you made known to us.”

God showed Nebuchadnezzar “what things must come to pass in latter days.” In his dream, the king saw a large image with a golden head, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron. Its feet were part iron and part clay.

He saw a stone “cut out without hands” strike the image on its feet. It was broken into pieces until it was blown away by the wind “like the chaff.” Finally, the stone became a “great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

The golden head represented Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler to whom God gave the “kingdom,” singular. The silver breast symbolized an inferior kingdom that would succeed him, likewise, the brass belly and thighs would “rule over all the Earth.”

The stone carved “without hands” represented the final kingdom of God that would “break in pieces and consume all” the preceding realms. In this, “God had shown the king what things must come to pass after these things.”

In response, Nebuchadnezzar prostrated himself before Daniel, gave him gifts, and made him governor of the province of Babylon. He declared Yahweh to be “a God of gods, Lord of kings and revealer of mysteries.” Thus, the mighty pagan king acknowledged Yahweh as sovereign over the kingdoms of the Earth - (Daniel 2:46-49).

The God of Israel had revealed the future of the World Power, singular. He is the one Who “sets up and removes” rulers to achieve His purpose. Through Daniel, the God of Israel presented the future course of empires until the final overthrow of the World Power and its replacement by the Kingdom of God. The rise and fall of political powers remain under the firm control of the God of Daniel.

History remembers Nebuchadnezzar as a great builder of magnificent buildings and a successful conqueror who established an empire from the Persian Gulf to the gates of Egypt.

Scripture remembers him as a tool used by Yahweh to achieve His ends for His people despite the plans and whims of the pagan ruler. In Scripture, “Babylon” symbolizes the World Power that is hostile to God and His saints. It has been operating since at least the Tower of Babel incident, and it will continue to do so until its final overthrow by Jesus at the end of the age - (Revelation 18:1-5).

Roman columns - Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash
[Photo by Tom Podmore on Unsplash]

The stories recorded in the first half of the
Book of Daniel demonstrate the sovereignty of Yahweh over history, empires, and emperors. The plans, intentions, and dictates of even the most powerful rulers cannot thwart His purposes, and He uses even their most nefarious plans to establish His Kingdom and vindicate His people.

It is the “Most High who rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will, and sets up over it the basest of men.”

  • Land of Shinar - (The arrogant acts of Nebuchadnezzar in the Book of Daniel parallel the incident at the Tower of Babel in Genesis)
  • Babel Lives! - (In the Bible, Babylon becomes a symbol of the recurring rise of empires and self-appointed world leaders)
  • A Single Beast - (In Daniel and Revelation, the Beast is a single history-spanning entity that has existed since at least the dawn of human civilization)



The Living Word

The Suffering Servant