Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon. And King Nebuchadnezzar sent word to gather together the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces, to come to the dedication of the image which King Nebuchadnezzar had set up. So the satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces gathered together for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
This is madness. What’s Nebuchadnezzar up to with this stunt? This is the second time he’s threatened mass murder. Do his subjects live in constant fear of being put to death for whatever crazy reason he dreams up next?
We can only guess at where Nebuchadnezzar’s polytheistic mindset has taken him, but there’s one striking clue—the statue looks a lot like the statue in his dream. Recall Daniel’s description.
You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, …” — Daniel 2:31–32a
But notice the difference. This statue is all gold. Note Daniel’s interpretation.
“you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” — Daniel 2:38b–39
So, the new statue is like the one in his dream except his kingdom never gets replaced. Hmmm.
And for some strange reason, it’s now very important to Nebuchadnezzar that everyone worship this similar-but-different statue over and over. Why?
We can’t know Nebuchadnezzar mindset, but it sure looks like he’s trying to “edit” the prophesy.
It’s hard to wrap our minds around Nebuchadnezzar’s polytheism. One thing is clear though. The actions ancient polytheistic people took weren’t for entertainment value; they were to achieve a result. Whether they wanted to prevent a volcano from erupting, or to make it rain, everything they did had a purpose. Nebuchadnezzar believed that getting people to worship this statue would accomplish something.
He forgot that it’s about who is God.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.