Not all who were carried away into Babylonian captivity by the great king Nebuchadnezzar had been condemned and rejected by the Lord. This the records very clearly show. How many innocent, faithful ones were among the captives is not known. But of the devotion and loyalty of some, we have this beautiful testimony:
By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept,
When we remembered Zion.
Upon the willows in the midst thereof
We hanged up our harps.
For there they that led us captive required of us songs,
And they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing Jehovah's song
In a foreign land? Psalm 137:1-4, A. R. V.
Although in captivity in a heathen kingdom, with small prospect of living long enough to return to their cherished land and city and sacred sanctuary, they declared their eternal loyalty to their Lord:
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem,
Let my right hand forget her skill.
Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth,
If I remember thee not; If I prefer not Jerusalem
Above my chief joy. Verses 5, 6, A. R. V.
How could love and loyalty be more ardently expressed?
We have dwelt upon the punitive purpose of the captivity. It was brought upon God's people as a punishment for their sinsIt was designed to bring them to repentance. But this was not the only reason why God permitted or ordained it.
It had been His design that Israel, with an experimental knowledge of the true God, should be a light to the world. He placed them on a national highway, that the worshipers of other gods might behold the greatness and piety of the nation whom He had chosen for Himself. But when Israel failed to act her part as a witness for Jehovah; when contrariwise she made it her ambition to become like the other nations, then God must choose some other way of extending the knowledge of His sovereign majesty.
Therefore among the captives were men and women who were true and loyal. These bore faithful witness for God during the time of their captivity. While light was thus diffused through the dispersion of the captives, there were some whom God placed as His representatives in the national metropolis, even in the very court of the king of Babylon.
Among these the records give the names of fourDaniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Dan. 1:6. The steadfast loyalty of these men to God was tested to the limit, and they were triumphant. Moreover, of them we read:
As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. Dan. 1:17.
Thus these witnesses for Jehovah demonstrated that He is the God who can impart wisdom. Those who served Him were manifestly wiser than the most learned and trained men of Babylon.
Like the king of Egypt in the days of old, Nebuchadnezzar was given an impressive dream. As the captive Joseph was called before Pharaoh to give the meaning of his dream, so Daniel was brought by a train of circumstances to relate to Nebuchadnezzar not only the interpretation, but the very dream itself. Little did he imagine, as he stood before the monarch and outlined the successive kingdoms of earth that were symbolized by the various parts of the metallic image, the far-reaching influence of that experience. Who can estimate the uncounted thousands
who have been convicted of the reliability of the prophetic word, as they have noted the exact correspondence of history with its marvelous foretelling by the prophet Daniel as he interpreted the king's dream?
The failure of the wise men of Babylon, whom Nebuchadnezzar first called, was due to the fact, as they acknowledged, that no one could interpret the dream except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. In contrast to these vain gods of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar was forced to the admission
Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret. Dan. 2:47.
This experience resulted in the appointment of Daniel and his companions to high positions in the kingdom. Daniel sat in the gate of the king. God gave him wisdom as a statesman and counselor to Nebuchadnezzar.
There were still lessons for Nebuchadnezzar to learn about the great God. In anger he called before him the three faithful Hebrews who had disobeyed a command to worship the inanimate image on the plains of Dura, and defiantly asked, Who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands? Dan. 3:15. To which these heroic witnesses replied:
We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. Verses 16, 17.
God vindicated their faith in Him. They came forth unharmed from their ordeal of fire, and the king by royal proclamation yielded homage to the God of the Hebrews, declaring, There is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Verse 29.
Jehovah had yet one more lesson for the proud king of Babylon to learn for himself, and to make known by another decree. In teaching this lesson the prophetic gift acted an important part.
Through another dream and its interpretation by the prophet Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar was warned against magnifying himself above the God of heaven. When later this spirit of pride in his own achievements led him to glorify himself, the judgment of which he had been warned came upon him. After seven years of humiliation, with a deranged mind, he was restored, and gave glory to the God of heaven. In a remarkably frank narrative of the entire experience, he concluded with the statement:
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase. Dan. 4:37.
The magnitude of the work of Daniel cannot be measured by the few recorded narratives of his long life, remarkable as these are. Much that is unrecorded is implied in the testimony borne by the queen mother, who said of him to Belshazzar:
There is a man in thy kingdom, in whom is the spirit of the holy gods; and in the days of thy father light and understanding and wisdom, like the wisdom of the gods, was found in him; forasmuch as an excellent spirit, and knowledge, and understanding, interpreting of dreams and showing of hard sentences, and dissolving of doubts, were found in the same Daniel. Dan. 5:11, 12.
Daniel received his call to the prophetic office soon after his exile to Babylon, following the first siege and capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. During the entire seventy years of captivity, he bore witness for his God, influencing the affairs of the Babylonian Empire, and he continued even unto the first year of King Cyrus. Chapter 1:21. Of his later life, further mention will be made in the next chapter, dealing with the times of the restoration.
We can only mention the well-known prophecies of this remarkable prophet, to whom the angel Gabriel brought the message from the courts of glory, Thou art greatly beloved. Chapter 9:23. Their interpretation or exposition is outside the province of this book. But they throw light upon the times in
which we are living, the time of the end and they look forward to the happy day when the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High. Chapter 7:27.
Some nine years after Daniel and his companions had been carried to Babylon, Ezekiel, a priest of Judah, was carried away to the land of Chaldea. When he was thirty years of age, he was called to the prophetic office. Like Isaiah, he was first given a vision of the glory of God, and bidden to bear testimony against the rebellious house of Israel. In words of most solemn import the fearful responsibilities of the prophetic call were set forth:
Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at My mouth, and give them warning from Me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Ezek. 3:17, 18.
Ezekiel was bidden not only to bear testimony to the captives in Chaldea, but to send messages to his fellow countrymen in Judah. In vision he seemed to be in the city of Jerusalem beholding the iniquities of the inhabitants, particularly of the priests and princes. Some of these were called by name. Chapter 11:1.
Of the prince, Zedekiah, he declared that he would be brought to Babylon, yet should not behold the city. Chapter 12:13. This was later fulfilled; for his eyes were put out by the king before he left his native land.
Messages of stern rebuke were sent to the prophets who were falsely predicting peace, also to those who were saying, The days are prolonged, and every vision faileth. Verse 22. They were assured that the judgments spoken of by the prophets were imminent.
It shall be no more prolonged: for in your days, O rebellious house, will I say the word, and will perform it, saith the Lord God. Chapter 12:25.
In the book of Ezekiel are found many very striking passages. Here a message is addressed to the prince of Tyre; but it is couched in such language as to give a graphic description of the glories of Lucifer in the courts of heaven, of his fall through pride, and of his final destruction.
Naming seven nations of his day, the prophet describes the future judgments that are to come upon them, not in general or ambiguous terms, but distinctive and detailed. These foretellings, compared with the fate of the city or country described, constitute remarkable examples of the accuracy of the divine prophecy. Much of the prophecy was fulfilled in the lifetime of those then living; but the fulfillment of some of it was not realized for Centuries.
There are also mysteries connected with the latter chapters of this remarkable prophecy. It may be reasonably maintained that in harmony with the principles of conditional prophecy (see Jer. 18:7-10) the prophet was bidden to write out a picture of the future history of Israel as it might have been, had they wholeheartedly accepted the opportunity granted them of returning to their land and re-establishing their kingdom and worship, and had they then continued in faithfully serving the Lord.
The closing chapters, speaking of the broad river, the great temple, and the city with its walls and twelve gates, are shown by the prophecy of John in Revelation (chapters 21 and 22) to find their fulfillment in the new earth, with its capital city, New Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven to supplant the ancient city that was destroyed.