Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Nebuchadnezzar's Dreams

The young Jewish hostages whom Nebuchadnezzar had carried off in the beginning of his reign, had grown up in Babylon, where they had received their education. But although so far away from home, and completely cut off from their people, they had not forgotten that they belonged to Godís Chosen Race.

A few among them, following the example of Daniel, their young chief, ate pulse rather than defile themselves with the meat upon the kingís table, which had first been placed on the altars of the idols. One of the officers in charge, seeing the young men eat such poor food, tried to force them to partake of better fare, lest they should grow thin and weak, or starve to death.

But Daniel coaxed this man to let them go en eating pulse, and when the officer saw that the young captives were ruddier and stronger than their companions, he no longer troubled them. We are told in the Bible that God gave all these Hebrew youths much knowledge, but that to Daniel, his servant and prophet, he gave a keen insight into dreams and visions, a power which was to prove very useful.

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar was greatly worried by a dream which came every night, but which he could never remember when he awoke. He asked the wise men to describe this dream to him and to explain its meaning; but all in vain. Now, Nebuchadnezzar was in the habit of always having his own way; and when these men did not answer him he was so angry that he wanted to put them all to death. But Daniel came and begged the king not to do so, saying that he would tell and explain the vision in their stead.

After a short prayer, in which he asked the help of the Lord, Daniel came back and told the king that he had seen in his dreams a great statue, with a golden head, silver arms and breast, brazen belly and thighs, iron legs, and feet and toes that were part iron and part clay. This statue was knocked down by a stone, cut without hands from the living rock, which came rolling along with great force. Then, having broken the image into pieces, this stone grew larger and larger, until it became a great mountain which filled all the earth.

Next, Daniel told the meaning of this strange dream. He said that the different parts of the statue represented different kingdoms. The head of gold was the kingdom of Babylon. Then would come in turn other powers which would be like the silver, brass, iron, and clay.

But all these kingdoms would come to an end, when "the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed."

Like a great many of the prophecies, this was not understood until many years after, but now we are told that the golden head stood for the kingdom of the Assyrians and Babylonians, and the silver arms and breast for the Medes and Persians, who next took possession of Babylon. The brazen belly and thighs were the kingdom founded by Alexander the Great; the iron legs stood for the Roman Empire, and the iron and clay feet and toes represented the many but short-lived kingdoms which were formed from it. Finally, the Christians say that the stone, cut without hands from the living rock, was to represent the religion taught by Jesus Christ, which would in time spread all over the face of the earth.

Nebuchadnezzar was so astonished that Daniel could describe and explain his dream, that he fell down upon his face at the young prophetís feet, and did homage to him. In reward for this service, he made Daniel ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and gave important offices to his three companions.

Although the king knew that God had helped Daniel, he would not yield to the Lord, but soon afterwards set up a golden image which he bade all his subjects worship; and when the three young Jews whom he had so highly honored, refused to bow down before it, he condemned them to be cast Into a fiery furnace.

This mode of execution had already often been tried, even on the Jews, and all the victims had died. Imagine Nebuchadnezzarís surprise, therefore, when he saw the youths calmly walking about amid the flames, in company with a fourth figure, which looked like an angel.

The king at once ordered that the young men should be set free, and they came out of the fiery furnace unharmed, and even without any odor of fire about their hair or garments. But in spite of this miracle, the king did not yet believe fully in the power of the God of the Jews.

Shortly after, Nebuchadnezzar was greatly troubled by another vision, or dream, in which he saw a great tree which overshadowed all the earth. But even while he was admiring it, he heard a voice from heaven order that the tree should be cut down, and that his manís heart should be changed into that of a beast for seven years' space.

None of the wise men could explain this dream, so Daniel was again called upon. The young Hebrew prophet told Nebuchadnezzar that the mighty tree stood for him, that he would be cut down in his pride, and that for the space of seven long years his reason would forsake him, and he would eat grass like the beasts of the field.

Although Daniel warned Nebuchadnezzar that this calamity could be warded off only by repentance, the King of Babylon went on living as before. One year later the prophecy came true; the mighty king became insane, and for seven years he was like the "beasts of the field."

Nebuchadnezzar, however, recovered his reason at the end of the appointed time, and, doing honor to God, went on reigning over Babylon for many years. His career was brilliant to its end, and when he died, his son succeeded him.