Through my continuing studies in the book of Daniel, I have found several significant ways that comparing Scripture with Scripture provides important illumination about passages. Looking closely at Daniel 5 compared to Daniel 3 reveals a valuable insight about the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar made.
The Spirit begins Daniel 5 by telling us that Belshazzar made a great feast in which a large number of people participated:
Daniel 5:1 Belshazzar the king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords, and drank wine before the thousand.
A thousand lords were present at this feast! Beyond the king and the 1000 lords, others were also participants:
Daniel 5:2 Belshazzar, whiles he tasted the wine, commanded to bring the golden and silver vessels which his father Nebuchadnezzar had taken out of the temple which was in Jerusalem; that the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, might drink therein. 3 Then they brought the golden vessels that were taken out of the temple of the house of God which was at Jerusalem; and the king, and his princes, his wives, and his concubines, drank in them.
From Daniel 5:1-3, we learn that there were considerably more than a 1000 participants in this feast.
Daniel 5 versus Daniel 3
Strikingly, the Spirit has chosen to give us a large specified number for how many people participated in Belshazzar’s feast, but He has not done so for how many people worshiped the image that Nebuchadnezzar made! Why did the Spirit want us to know numerical information about the former but not about the latter?
Although we cannot know the answer to this intriguing question, Daniel 5 illumines Daniel 3 in an important way, as follows.
We know that there were more than 1000 participants in Belshazzar’s feast. Given the greater importance of the event in Daniel 3, we should therefore hold that there were more people at the dedication of the image than at Belshazzar’s feast.
This comparison thus teaches us that there surely were well over a thousand people at the dedication of the image in Daniel 3.
Because at least some of the king’s army also seems to have been present at the dedication (cf. Dan. 3:20), and a well-armed presence of a sufficient number of trusted soldiers would have been necessary for ensuring the safety of the king and his guests, we should expect that there would have been more armed soldiers present than there were present officials in Nebuchadnezzar’s government. Reasoning in this way teaches us that there were at least more than 2000 people present at the dedication of the image.
Even if one says that Nebuchadnezzar may have had only half as many lords in his government as Belshazzar did in his, the presence of the army would still mean that there were more than 1000 people at the dedication of the image.