Nebuchadnezzar now made a huge image of gold. Assembling all the officials of his realm before it, he instructed them to prostrate themselves and worship at the first sound of the music. Anyone refusing would be cast into that very image converted into a fiery furnace. The king was informed that Daniel and his three friends had disobeyed. Sent for they are given one more opportunity to comply. They assure the king however that they will not worship him. The king in a fit of anger orders them bound and cast into the furnace heated so intensely or heated seven times more so that the soldiers selected to execute the king’s command perished by the flames. The king is astonished to see the three friends accompanied by a fourth walking in the midst of the fire unhurt. He saw the fourth form like the Son of God. Hastening to the mouth of the furnace, he called to them to come forth. They do so and it was discovered upon examination that not even a hair of their head had been singed and that not even the smell of fire was on them. Then the king blessed God and decreed that any people setting their mouth against the God of heaven would be destroyed.
Nebuchadnezzar confesses and extols God’s kingdom. His eulogy of God’s kingdom is the prologue to his narration of his vision and its interpretation by Daniel. His dream no one could interpret but Daniel, whom he calls Belteshazzar, the master of magicians.
In his vision he saw a tree in the earth of great height, reaching to heaven and visible to the ends of the earth. Its fruit was meat for all. All the beasts found shelter under its shadow and the fowls dwelt in its boughs. He hears in his dream the voice of the watchman crying that the tree should be cut off so that nothing but the stump should be left with an iron band around it binding it to the earth. Here the imagery changes. The tree is a human, for its heart is to be changed from a heart of a man to that of a beast over which was to pass seven seasons. Daniel, who receives the interpretation was astonished, mute, for one hour. The king urges him to speak irrespective of what the character of the interpretation may be. Daniel obeys.
The interpretation: As the tree, so the king, he too has grown and become strong and his greatness reaches to the end of the earth. But he shall be hewn down, humiliated to the level of the beasts among whom his dwelling shall be and with whom he shall feed upon the grass of the field and be wet with the dew of heaven. Seven times shall go over him until he is prepared to acknowledge that God rules in the kingdom of men. That the stump remained in the earth signified that his kingdom would be sure to him at the end of his humiliation.
Hereupon Daniel exhorts the king to forsake his sin and return to the Lord, that there may be a lengthening of his peace. But the king refused to repent for at the end of twelve months the vision was realized in respect to him in an hour of blasphemous boasting, when engaged in priding himself upon his own achievements.
But at the end of the specified time his understanding is restored to him and he praised God and His kingdom. As predicted, his power, majesty, and honor were returned to him and he was re-established in his kingdom. But he did not forsake his ungodliness and his son Belshazzar walked in his footsteps.
Belshazzar’s Feast: This king made a great feast to a thousand of his lords. During the progress of the banquet he had the gold and silver vessels of the temple brought in that he in a feasting company might drink out of them, which they did, and praised in deliberate defiance to Jehovah, the false gods of gold and silver and of brass, of iron, of wood and of stone. Then there appeared the fingers of a man’s hand that wrote upon the wall of the banquet hall. The king was terror-stricken; his loins were loosed and his knees smote one against the other. He shouted to bring in the soothsayers and in his great consternation assured the one able to read the writing great honor and power, to wit, a place as third ruler in his kingdom. To no one however, would the writing yield its meaning. Then the attention of the king was directed to Daniel by the queen. He could show the interpretation said she, for in him was the spirit of the holy gods. Light and wisdom were found in him in the days of his father Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was brought in. The king by his promise of the aforesaid reward induces Daniel to interpret the writing. Daniel replies that the king’s reward may be to another. He will interpret the writing. He sets out with a brief characterization of his father Nebuchadnezzar’s career. The Most High God had given him a kingdom and kingly majesty, glory and hour. But his heart was lifted up and his mind hardened in pride. As a result, he was deposed from his throne till he knew that the Most High God ruled in the kingdom of men. As to Belshazzar, though he knew all this, he refused to humble his heart, but at that very moment was engaged in a voluntary defiance of the Lord of heaven. Thereupon Daniel gives the meaning of the writing. God had numbered his kingdom and finished it. He was weighed in the balance and found wanting. His kingdom was divided and given to the Modes and Persians. Then the king instead of repenting realized his promise unto Daniel, elevating him to the lofty position of third ruler in his kingdom. That same night Belshazzar was slain and Darius the Median took the kingdom at the age of 62 years.
Darius appointed 120 princes to rule over the kingdom and placed them under the supervision of Daniel to whom they were responsible. The princes, jealous of this Hebrew’s power, began to plot his downfall. As he was faithful and accurate in the administration of his lord’s affairs, their attempt to discover in him some fault to which they could attach an accusation ended in failure. Knowing his singular and undivided devotion to his God, they now induce the king to establish, a statute to the effect that no one for thirty days shad direct a petition of any kind to any God save to the king, that he disobeying shall be cast into the den of lions. The proud and vain king, flattered by the suggestion and unaware of the real intention of the plotters, yielded and established the decree rendered the very moment the king’s seal was impressed upon it, immutably fixed by the law of the Medes and Persians. Daniel continued to retreat three times a day for his private worship. His open defiance of the king’s decree was marked and reported to the king by his adversaries. The king when he heard, was grieved, for he valued Daniel’s services. He immediately set himself to devising ways and means for delivering his esteemed servant from the unrelenting demands of the law. He labored until the going down of the sun. When the adversaries heard of his endeavor, they rushed into his presence to call his attention to the immutability of the decree. The king perceived that there was no way of escape. With a soul sorely vexed he gave command that the decree be enforced and the sentence executed. So Daniel was cast into the den of lions, the king himself sealing the mouth of the den with his own signet and with the signet of the lords of his realm. Even to this they drove him, fearing that somehow he might succeed in frustrating their designs.