31 October 2022

Great Golden Image


Nebuchadnezzar implemented his dream by “setting up” the great golden image as he imagined it to glorify his majesty and realm - Daniel 3:1-7.

Obelisk - Photo by peter bucks on Unsplash
The King invested great effort to make 
his dream into reality.  He “set up” an enormous image covered in gold to represent his majesty and the power of the Empire, and he commanded all the “peoples and nations and tongues” of his realm to pay homage to his image or face a horrific death in the “burning fiery furnace” - [Obelisk - Photo by peter bucks on Unsplash].

The story is the sequel to the dream and interpretation recorded in chapter 2, and this is borne out by the several verbal and conceptual links between them, 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, its height sixty cubits, its width thereof six cubits. And he set it up in the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. And Nebuchadnezzar the king sent to gather 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 dream has set the stage for what now follows as Nebuchadnezzar arrogantly implements the image revealed to him by “the God of heaven” but in his own self-serving way.

And the Babylonian ruler does this by setting up an enormous image covered entirely with gold to symbolize his glorious realm and absolute power, an act of conceit and state idolatry.

IN THE PLAIN


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, which is how the translators of the Greek Septuagint understood the clause by translating it as the “plain of the wall” - (en pediō tou peribolou).

More importantly, the “plain” echoes the story of the Tower of Babel when humanity settled in Mesopotamia, all men spoke “one tongue,” and they journeyed east to find a “PLAIN in the land of Shinar and dwelt there.”

So, also, Nebuchadnezzar intends for his empire to speak the “tongue” of Babylon, and now he will gather representatives of all “peoples” to this vast “plain” in Babylon to bow before the great image that he has “set up”- (Genesis 11:1-9, Daniel 1:2).

HE SET UP


  • (Daniel 3:3-7) – “Then the satraps, the deputies, and the governors, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces were gathered to the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the KING HAD SET UP; and they stood before the image that NEBUCHADNEZZAR HAD SET UP. Then the herald cried aloud, To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, that at what time you hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, you fall down and render homage to the golden image that NEBUCHADNEZZAR THE KING HAS SET UP; and whoever falls not down to render homage will the same hour be CAST INTO THE BURNING FIERY FURNACE. Therefore, at that time, when all the peoples heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, the nations, and the tongues fell down and worshipped the golden image that NEBUCHADNEZZAR THE KING HAD SET UP

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

The image that Nebuchadnezzar “SETS UP” is sixty cubits high by six cubits wide, approximately ninety feet by nine feet. The dimensions reflect the Babylonian sexagesimal or 60-base number system, further evidence that the author of Daniel is familiar with the culture of Ancient Babylon.

Nothing is said about the shape of the image, though the dimensions suggest an obelisk. The passage does not identify what god or human was represented by it.

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

In the interpretation of the king’s dream, the “stone” that destroyed the four kingdoms represented by the “great image” was “cut without hands.”

In contrast, Nebuchadnezzar “SETS UP” his image, a rendering of the Aramaic verb qum, which is repeated nine times in the story to stress the point. It is Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who “SETS UP” his image - (Daniel 3:1, 3:2, 3:3 [twice], 3:5, 3:7, 3:12, 3:14, 3:18).

But the God of Heaven “SETS UP” (qum) kings, just as He “set up” the image with the golden head in the king’s dream, and the everlasting kingdom “cut without hands” that will destroy all the empires that precede it, including Nebuchadnezzar’s own domain - (Daniel 2:21-31, 2:44).


Augustus - Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash
[Augustus photo by tommao wang on Unsplash]


The king then orders all the “satraps, nobles, pashas, chief judges, treasurers, judges, lawyers and governors to assemble to the dedication of his image.” Anyone who refuses to do so will be summarily executed.

The officials that he summons represent all the “peoples, races, and tongues” under his dominion. By proxy, therefore, all nations are gathered to pay homage to his great golden image - (Daniel 3:2-6).

The image represents the absolute power of the king. He does not demand worship for himself, but instead, requires homage to his image, a show of total allegiance to the Empire. Wittingly or not, by this act, he defies the sovereignty of the “God of Heaven” - (Daniel 2:20-22).

IN REVELATION


Language and imagery from this passage are used in the portrait of the “Beast from the earth,” the “false prophet” who causes all the “inhabitants of the earth” to render homage to the image of the “Beast from the sea.”

All men who refuse to bow before the idolatrous image are killed, whether “the small and the great, the rich and the poor, or the free and the bond.” And all segments of society receive its “number” or “name.”

The “number of the Beast” is ‘666,’ which echoes the dimensions of Nebuchadnezzar’s image - sixty cubits by six cubits; only the book of Revelation adds six hundred to the number to produce the fuller “number of the Beast.”

The passages in Daniel and Revelation both concern the pressure placed on men to participate in the idolatrous worship of the World Empire, but especially on the saints of God who will pay a heavy price for their refusal to do so.



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