Babylon in Biblical Context
Posted by adventbiblestudy on October 11, 2013
Following the simple rules of Bible Study within context, we can see how Daniel explained a major portion of what Babylon represents as a spiritual symbol. The first rules of context is to look at previous texts to see how the previous lesson led into current study texts. Since the study texts is the first chapter in Daniel, we have to look back at the summation of the previous book.
Ezekiel 48:29-35 NLTse “These are the allotments that will be set aside for each tribe’s exclusive possession. I, the Sovereign LORD, have spoken! (30) “These will be the exits to the city: On the north wall, which is 1 miles long, (31) there will be three gates, each one named after a tribe of Israel. The first will be named for Reuben, the second for Judah, and the third for Levi. (32) On the east wall, also 1 miles long, the gates will be named for Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan. (33) The south wall, also 1 miles long, will have gates named for Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun. (34) And on the west wall, also 1 miles long, the gates will be named for Gad, Asher, and Naphtali. (35) “The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’”
Looking at Ezekiel 48 we see how God sets out a specific order and dimensions for His Holy city. “The area set aside for the LORD’s Temple will be 8 1/3 miles long and 6 2/3 miles wide. For the priests there will be a strip of land measuring 8 1/3 miles long by 3 1/3 miles wide, with the LORD’s Temple at the center. (Ezekiel 48:9-10 NLTse). The Lord’s Temple is located in the center. When we look at the summation we see the words wall and gates are repeated. Each symbol has its own spiritual meaning. Looking at the physical aspects which will explain the context of Daniel chapter 1, walls and gates are key components protecting a city. Additional study is required to reveal the spiritual meaning of these symbols. For this study, knowing the key elements establishes the context. God’s Temple is at the center, walls and gates are on all four sides of the city and, “from that day the name of the city will be ‘The LORD Is There.’” Now that we understand God designated land for each of Israel’s tribes, provided protection, and placed His Temple and name at the center, we can examine Daniel chapter 1.
(Daniel 1:1 NLTse) During the third year of King Jehoiakim’s reign in Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it.
(Daniel 1:2 NLTse) The LORD gave him victory over King Jehoiakim of Judah and permitted him to take some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God. So Nebuchadnezzar took them back to the land of Babylonia and placed them in the treasure-house of his god.
Ezekiel ends with God’s Temple protected by four walls and twelve gates. Daniel begins with Nebuchadnezzar taking, ” some of the sacred objects from the Temple of God.” God’s Spirit often teaches lessons using contrasts. We don’t know what articles Nebuchadnezzar took from the temple, but if we look back at Israel’s history we know he did not take any of the materials Moses built for the Tabernacle. In the fifth year of King Rehoboam’s reign, King Shishak of Egypt came up and attacked Jerusalem. He ransacked the treasuries of the LORD’s Temple and the royal palace; he stole everything, including all the gold shields Solomon had made. (1 Kings 14:25-26 NLTse). Not long after Solomon moved some of the items from God’s Tabernacle into his stone temple, all of the materials went back to Egypt. Here again we have spiritual symbols which should only be explained with scripture.
(Daniel 1:3 NLTse) Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief of staff, to bring to the palace some of the young men of Judah’s royal family and other noble families, who had been brought to Babylon as captives.
(Daniel 1:4 NLTse) “Select only strong, healthy, and good-looking young men,” he said. “Make sure they are well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. Train these young men in the language and literature of Babylon.”
Articles from the Jerusalem’s temple are taken to Babylon and placed in the temple of their god. This is a physical worldly symbol showing – our god is stronger than yours. Young men are also taken to Babylon and placed in the palace. Highlighting repeated words that are the same, similar, or related bring out the key thoughts in texts. Similarities as well as contrasts are used to teach lessons. Not only did walls and gates in God’s city protect His Sanctuary, they protected His people. When Jerusalem fell, the walls and gates didn’t fail, its king and leaders tried to flee. Every detail has to be considered when contemplating the spiritual symbols. This often requires each portion of the study highlighted, prayed upon, waiting for God’s Spirit to explain the details – using words from His Bible.
(Daniel 1:5 NLTse) The king assigned them a daily ration of food and wine from his own kitchens. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
(Daniel 1:6 NLTse) Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were four of the young men chosen, all from the tribe of Judah.
(Daniel 1:7 NLTse) The chief of staff renamed them with these Babylonian names: Daniel was called Belteshazzar. Hananiah was called Shadrach. Mishael was called Meshach. Azariah was called Abednego.
(Daniel 1:8 NLTse) But Daniel was determined not to defile himself by eating the food and wine given to them by the king. He asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat these unacceptable foods.
This section of the chapter deals with a test Daniel and the other captives faced involving physical food. Out of all the young men taken from Judah to serve in Babylon, only four protested and requested an alternative. It’s not often people look at this food issue in spiritual terms. It’s usually easier for people to segregate a few verses and ignore context to teach their own lesson. Of course the issue over food has a spiritual meaning as well as the articles in the temple and people taken from Jerusalem to serve in Babylon. This study has to stick to one issue, Babylon in context. Otherwise a study will become too complex to understand. There are also other points to consider – changing names and why they were taken to Babylon. They were to be trained for three years, and then they would enter the royal service.
(Daniel 1:9 NLTse) Now God had given the chief of staff both respect and affection for Daniel.
(Daniel 1:10 NLTse) But he responded, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has ordered that you eat this food and wine. If you become pale and thin compared to the other youths your age, I am afraid the king will have me beheaded.”
(Daniel 1:11 NLTse) Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
(Daniel 1:12 NLTse) “Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water,” Daniel said.
(Daniel 1:13 NLTse) “At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king’s food. Then make your decision in light of what you see.”
(Daniel 1:14 NLTse) The attendant agreed to Daniel’s suggestion and tested them for ten days.
(Daniel 1:15 NLTse) At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the foodassigned by the king.
(Daniel 1:16 NLTse) So after that, the attendant fed them only vegetables instead of the food and wine provided for the others.
When repeated words and terms are highlighted, we can see the theme forming. King, attendant, and chief of staff stand out. Food and wine take a backseat to the fact, Daniel had to be tested before the king’s chief of staff had enough confidence to approach the king with another, better idea. We’re shown the chain of command in Babylon.
(Daniel 1:17 NLTse) God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the specialability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams.
(Daniel 1:18 NLTse) When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar.
(Daniel 1:19 NLTse) The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service.
(Daniel 1:20 NLTse) Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom.
(Daniel 1:21 NLTse) Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus.
The summation of Daniel chapter 1 ends with the same key words it began with. Learning, wisdom. Knowledge, and other related words are the main theme running throughout the chapter. Along that theme, king Nebuchadnezzar exercises control over every matter. He ordered his men to carry articles out of Jerusalem’s temple. He ordered young men to be taken from Jerusalem to Babylon. He ordered their diet. The king’s chief of staff changed the names of all the captured men. The king wanted young men well versed in every branch of learning, are gifted with knowledge and good judgment, and are suited to serve in the royal palace. He wanted people with knowledge, but wanted to tell them how to use it. Nebuchadnezzar had the men trained for three years. When we look at food on the spiritual level, we see how Daniel and his friends refused the food given to everyone else represents how they also refused the reeducation process. They physically looked much better than the other men on the outside. On the inside, God blessed them because they stayed true to their values– beyond diet. Notice the order of the texts. God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom, before the training period ordered by the king was completed. Another lesson on the spiritual side.
Looking back at the previous lesson in Ezekiel, we see God’s Sanctuary in the center with His walls and gates protecting it and His people. Daniel refused to forget what God’s Sanctuary represented. Daniel refused to forget God’s promises. Where do you think Daniel’s wisdom came from? God gave these four young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams. All of Daniel’s knowledge came from God. Babylon represents the worldly influence on knowledge. God placed His Sanctuary at the center of the spiritual lesson for a reason. His Sanctuary is at the center of the message Jesus came to teach – God’s plan of salvation. An entire book in the Bible is dedicated to teaching the relationship between God’s Heavenly Sanctuary and salvation. One important lesson tells us Jesus died to open a direct path between us and God’s throne. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:20-22 NLTse).
Once again God’s Spirit uses contrasts to teach a lesson. Babylon represents control on a spiritual and physical level. Jesus died to free us from that control. It’s as simple as that. The key words in Daniel chapter one are, learning, knowledge, judgment, understanding, wisdom, and ability. We can never gain any of these through the world. We can only receive these from God. When Daniel refused the king’s food, he also refused the kings training and control. Babylon is the control this world has on people. Also note, the 12 gates in God’s city also provide access to His Sanctuary.