Paying close attention to how the Spirit has chosen to depict people and empires in Scripture provides important insights that can easily be overlooked. This post examines key insights from Daniel 1 and 3 that illumine vital aspects of the lives of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians.
Profound Participation in Idolatry
The Spirit chose to begin the book by speaking of Nebuchadnezzar as a royal agent of God’s judgment on His own people (Dan. 1:1-2a-b). Immediately after saying that, He speaks of how the king brought vessels from God’s temple and put them in his idolatrous temple in Babylon (Dan. 1:2c).
Daniel 1:1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it. 2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.
The positioning of this statement at the beginning of the book communicates divine emphasis on Nebuchadnezzar as a royal idolater and the Babylonians as idolaters. Furthermore, it provides many insights about the king’s profound participation in idolatry.
Participation in Idolatry Prior to Any Influence from Daniel and His Friends
Because Daniel 1:2 reveals that he brought the vessels of God’s house into the house of his god, we know that his idol temple had already been built prior to that point and had been in operation prior to that point. Daniel 1:2 thus signifies that Nebuchadnezzar had been a devoted patron of false gods and had routinely participated in all key aspects of Babylonian pagan idolatry for at least three years (“three years” [Daniel 1:5]; “at the end of the days” [Dan. 1:18a]) before Daniel and his friends ever influenced him in any of the ways revealed in Daniel 1:18b-20.
Whenever he had participated in that idolatrous worship in the temple, he had placed himself under the direct influence of the most important and most wicked idolatrous priests in the empire. His perspectives about idolatry, therefore, had already been profoundly shaped by his participation in and patronage of the false worship in the temple of his god before Daniel and his friends ever influenced him in any way.
Moreover, as an idolater worshiping one or more gods in his temple, he had routinely participated in worship that sacrificed things to idols. Explicit NT revelation teaches us that all such sacrifices to idols were sacrifices to demons (1 Cor. 10:20a).
Furthermore, whenever they had thus sacrificed to demons, the king routinely had come into fellowship with demons by eating and drinking in a worship context what had been offered to idols in a worship context (1 Cor. 10:20b). In fact, based on Daniel’s not wanting to defile himself daily by eating and drinking what the king ate and drank (Dan. 1:5-8), we know that the king had been defiled on a daily basis by eating and drinking such things.
Participation in Idolatry After Influence from Daniel and His Friends
Daniel 1:2-17 shows us that king Nebuchadnezzar profoundly participated in all important aspects of Babylonian idolatrous worship prior to Daniel and his friends having any influence on him at all. Because there is no evidence that the king ever allowed them to influence him in any way concerning his idolatrous worship even after they began serving him in his court, we can be certain that none of Nebuchadnezzar’s idolatrous activities were ever shaped by any counsel from Daniel and his friends.
When, therefore, we read of a preeminently important idolatrous event commanded by the king in Daniel 3, we can be certain that what he directed to be done on that occasion fully reflected his prior experiences and understanding of what idolatrous practices pleased his gods. Because the king had been in fellowship with demons routinely for at least 3 years prior to the idolatry in Daniel 3, we can also be certain that idolatry was idolatry that had a profoundly demonic character to it.
Because the idolatry in Daniel 3 did not involve any effort to deceive anyone in any way about what was done, the demonic influences on him that directed him about what to do on that occasion would not have directed him to include any elements designed to deceive people into worshiping the idol. Because there were no human constraints on what could or could not be done on that occasion, we can be certain the demonic influences on him acted on him to make that event unrighteous in every possible way.
Because the Spirit features the playing of a vast array of musical instruments on that occasion (Dan. 3:5, 7, 10, 15), we can know with certainty that unrighteous music was played on those instruments as part of that worship. Regardless of whether that playing only served as a signal for the worship or continued as part of the worship after it had begun, that playing was the unrighteous playing of unrighteous music.
A detailed analysis of Daniel 1:1-2 in connection with other revelation in Daniel 1 shows that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were profoundly idolatrous prior to any influence from Daniel and his friends. Daniel 3 reveals that Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians were also profoundly idolatrous after he had received influence from them.
Moreover, a detailed analysis of Daniel 1:1-2 in connection with the other revelation provided about Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians shows that the playing of music in the idolatrous worship in Daniel 3 was the unrighteous playing of music that was itself unrighteous music. Daniel 3 is a biblical record of unrighteous music used in false worship.