Thursday, May 17, 2007

Theology of Ancient Babylon

The Babylonian Creation Stories and Genesis
In Babylon, Daniel was surrounded by all the pagan religious trappings that ruled the mind and the soul of the people of Babylon. Daniel and all the godly Jews who were in captivity would certainly pay no attention to the evil religious beliefs of the pagans surrounding them. 

Myth and superstition brought the masses and the kings of Babylon wallowing in the mire of evil superstition, demonism, and the worship even of Satan. No one would seriously believe that the Genesis accounts of creation could have possibly come from this religious evil empire of falsehood. 

It can be said, however, that there are distinct similarities or echoes between the Babylonian accounts of creation and Genesis. There has to be some connections that are plausible, but what are they? And what are the great differences and how are they accounted for? 

Some of the first accounts were discovered at Nineveh between 1848 and 1876 by Austin H. Layard, and George Smith. They had discovered the first tablets and tablet fragments of the Babylonian and Assyrian creation stories from the library of Ashurbanipal (668-626 BC). The epics come from an earlier period when Babylon was moving into political ascendancy. Marduk, who had become a national god, is the hero of Enuma elish. This literary material goes back to the earlier fables of the Sumerians, the non-Semitic forefathers of the Babylonians in lower Babylonia. They had entered the Plain of Shinar (circa 4000 BC) about the time indicated in the early Genesis record. 

The covey of gods include, Apsu, Tiamat, Ea, and his offspring Marduk, who will become the city god of Babylon. Their stories include murder, deceit, and gruesome monsters. Human-like battles are fought as if they are created mortals.

In the ensuing intrigue, Tiamat is killed and from her body the cosmos is created. Half of her body is water used to construct the sky. A heavenly canopy is placed over Apsu, who represents the fresh water ocean that lies under the earth. 

Marduk creates man by using the blood from the arteries of the slain god Kingo. "Other creation fragments with various versions of creation have been found, the most important of which recounts that the gods formed mankind with the blood of certain other gods. In other accounts flesh and blood of a slain god are said to have been mixed with clay to form man."1 

These stories are full of myth, exaggeration, erroneous conclusions, and clear evidence of outright fiction. Unger helps in comparing the resemblances and the differences between these accounts and those of the book of Genesis.2
  1. Both accounts know a time when the earth was waste and void. In both there is an etymological equivalence in the names used to denote the dark, water chaos, that was later divided into heaven and earth.
  2. Both accounts have a similar order of creation events. In the Babylonian account there are primeval deities who give birth to the first ranking of gods. In Genesis thee is the one eternal God. Both accounts start with a watery chaos and end with the gods or the Lord at rest. When Marduk creates the firmament, the dry land, and the cosmic luminaries and then man, this is the same order if creation by God in Genesis.
  3. Both accounts show a predilection for the number seven. The Babylonian story is recorded on seven tablets; the Hebrew groups the creative events in seven days. There is little parallel, however, between the seven tablets and the seven days. In Genesis, the creative process took place on all the first six days, while the seventh is the day of rest for the Lord.
  4. The Babylonian is polytheistic, the other strictly monotheistic. The Babylonian myth includes many gods who procreate like humans, while in the Genesis account, there is one eternal, omnipresent God who creates and sustains His entire universe. Genesis is certainly lofty and sublime! The crude polytheism destroys logical credibility, and the other gods enter a confused picture that makes little sense to the reader. Assyrian accounts add to the contradiction and confusion. The creation order is complicated with other gods involved. The Babylonian account confuses physical matter and the divine spirit. In Genesis, matter is separate from the Eternal Spirit of God. He is not bound to His creation. Genesis stands complete above and beyond a polytheistic mold. The Babylonians make matter eternal, which is foreign to the Old Testament’s account of an infinite Creator who brings the universe into existence out of nothing except by His spoken words.
Explanation of the Parallels
Which account is the original? A comparison reveals that there are similarities, but why?3 First it must be observed that such similarities could hardly be by accident. It appears clear that there are connections between the two accounts, with four possibilities as to why. (1) The Genesis account is drawn from the Babylonian. (2) The Babylonian is drawn from the Genesis. (3) These traditions simply arose spontaneously. (4) The two stores go back to a common source.

  1. Genesis comes from the Babylonian traditions. This is the liberal and skeptical view. But the crudity of the Babylonian stories, in contrast with the sublimity and simplicity of the Babylonian version makes this view impossible. "Moses, of course, may have been conversant with these traditions. If he was, inspiration enabled him to record them as authentic facts, purged of all their crass polytheistic incrustations and made to fit the elevated mold of truth and pure monotheism."4 It appears impossible that God’s Spirit would use the contaminated pagan stories as a source of spiritual truth.
  2. The Babylonian Comes from the Genesis Account. While the Babylonian account recorded in the Hammurabi tablets (1728-1686 BC) antedates Genesis by around four centuries. This would make it impossible for the Babylonian stories to come from the writings of Moses.
  3. The Two Traditions came about Spontaneously. This is a mindless explanation. It simply refuses to account for the facts in a logical and meaningful way.
  4. The Two Accounts Go Back to a Common Source. This makes the most sense. The account of creation in Genesis is the most simple and the one that contains the purest of reasoning. This account codified, edited, and recorded under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, goes back to a time when the race of humanity occupied a common home and held a common faith. The likenesses between the two accounts are due to a common inheritance, but the Babylonian stories became twisted and deformed by superstition, myth, and the false pride of later generations. In the Genesis accounts there is nothing to inflate the ego or nationalism of the Jews. The story is a common account that reflects a pure and simple story.
Early races of men wherever they wandered took with them these earliest traditions of mankind. … Modifications as time proceeded resulted in the corruption of the original pure tradition. The Genesis account is not only the purest, but everywhere bears the unmistakable impress of divine inspiration when compared with the extravagances and corruptions of other accounts. The Biblical narrative, we may conclude, represents the original form these traditions must have assumed.5 Other Babylonian Traditions and Genesis The Adapa Myth. There seems to be a parallel story to Genesis 3 found in the Ashurbanipal library in Nineveh (seventh century BC). Adapa was a man to whom the god Ea had imparted wisdom. Though there are similarities with Adam, the two stories reflect a divine and a pagan origin. In the Adapa account, the "food of life" corresponds to the "fruit" of the tree of life (Gen. 3:3, 22). The two stories agree in that eternal life could be obtained by eating a certain fruit or food. However, Adam forfeited eternal life because of a decision to be "like God" (v. 5), therefore, he was driven from the garden lest he should eat of the "tree of life" and live forever (v. 22). Adapa was already endowed with wisdom by the gods but failed to become immortal, not on account of disobedience like Adam, but because of his obedience to his creator, Ea, who deceived him.

In the Bible, sin, suffering, and death come about because of spiritual disobedience. In the Adapa story, man lost eternal life by the deception of one of the gods. While they are two similar accounts, the stories are poles apart.

The Babylonian Flood Story. Almost every civilization has the account of the great Flood. All are twisted and distorted by polytheism and myth.6

The Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh claims the gods and their decree was the cause of the Flood. The plan to destroy mankind was a decision of the gods Anu, Enlil, Ninurta, Ennugi the messenger of the gods, and Ea, the benefactor of humanity.

In Genesis, the Flood is attributed to divine intervention. The one true God acted in accordance with His infinite wisdom, holiness, and power. There is not the slightest trace of mythical confusion and contradiction by the various gods who conspired in council to bring about the Flood. However, from this we can see
  1. Both Accounts were Divinely Planned.
  2. Both Accounts Agree there was an Impending Catastrophe. In the Gilgamesh account the god Ea warns the man Utnapishtim of the coming disaster. Through a dream Ea warns the man who is sleeping in his reed hut, to tear down his house and build a ship. In Genesis Noah is warned because he found favor in the eyes of God (Gen. 6:8) because he walked with the Lord (v. 9). There was intimate fellowship and spiritual communication by which the divine purpose and plan was told to Noah.
  3. Both Accounts See the Flood as a Defection of the Human Race. Any moral element in the Epic of Gilgamesh is blurred by the capriciousness of the gods and their diabolical plans. In the Genesis story, there are moral issues, sanctification issues, and principles of fellowship between God and man. In an earlier Babylonian account, called the Atrahasis Epic, the Flood came because of the multiplication of mankind and their noisy commotions, which disturbed the god’s rest.
  4. Although the Genesis account also connects the Deluge with man’s sin, there is not the slightest evidence in the narrative of the moral ambiguity that so saliently characterizes the Babylonian tradition. The Biblical episode possess the highest didactic and spiritual value because of its complete ethical soundness. God, in accord with His infinite holiness, sends the Deluge as a just retribution for the outrageous sin of the ungodly.7
  5. Both Accounts Tell of the Deliverance of the Main Character in the Story. In the Babylonian and Sumerian account the hero Utnapishtim is pictured as finding eternal life after the Flood. He also adds to the craft Gold and Silver. In the Genesis account a much smaller number of people are saved from the waters—only eight, Noah his wife, and his three sons and their wives (Gen. 7:1, 7; 1 Pet. 3:20).
  6. Both Accounts Show the Hero as Instructed to Build a Huge Boat. In the Genesis account, the ark was the size and proper dimensions (length, width, draft) of a modern ocean liner. Utnapishtim’s boat was a cube and was seven times the size of the biblical vessel. By being a cube, the craft would be torn apart by the waves of the floodwaters. However, both accounts say the boats were sealed with bitumen.
  7. Both Accounts Describe Physical Causes of the Flood. The Gilgamesh Epic says torrential rains and winds, plus the breaking up of dikes, canals, and reservoirs brought on the Deluge. The Sumerian account simply lists wind and rain. The Genesis story is much more cataclysmic and universal in scope in its descriptions and fits with what we know of the tortured geographic evidence that scared the whole earth. "That the antediluvian era, described by Peter as ‘the world that then was,’ was obviously different climatically and geologically from the ‘heavens’ and ‘the earth … that now are’ (II Pet. 3:7) is clearly implied in the Apostle’s stern warning to naturalistic skeptics."8
  8. Both Accounts are Diametrically Opposites Theologically. The ideas about the deities are completely divergent. Genesis describes an all wise, all powerful God who is the Master of His creation. The Babylonian deities are a pack of disagreeing, quarreling, self-accusing human-like gods. In the Babylonian stories they crouch "like dogs" while the cataclysm is happening, childishly disclaiming responsibility for the destruction, and go about passing on guilt to each other. When "the Noah" of the Babylonian account offers sacrifice following the Flood, the gods are portrayed as crowding around the sacrificer like flies. They are seen as hungry because they have not been fed for a while. Because they are so famished, the gods quickly forget their grievances against Utnapishtim and gobble the food like dogs, the Babylonian manuscripts say.
Conclusion. In the Babylonian Deluge account, polytheism abounds to attempt to tell the story of what happened. The storm god thunders, the god of the wells and irrigation causes the kikes to give way, the gods of the underworld raise their torches to dispel the darkness.
In the Biblical record by striking contrast it is God alone, as Creator and Sustainer of all His creation who rules and overrules the natural phenomena of His universe to accomplish His all-wise purpose. Having punished man’s sin by the use of the natural forces of His creation, and at the same time having temporarily set aside the ordained laws He Himself placed upon the world He had made, He covenants with Himself that He will "not again curse the ground for man’s sake … neither … again smite any more every living thing" (Gen. 8:21), nor again set aside the normal ongoing of an orderly universe (Gen. 8:22).9 Not being able to conceive of an infinite transcendental Deity, who had His being when nothing else whatsoever existed, Babylonian speculation hopelessly confused spirit and matter, and made both eternal. Failure thus to differentiae between spirit and matter, and finite and infinite Spirit, moreover, inevitably resulted in ignorance of the first principles of causation. Instead of positing an Eternal Spirit who created and controls all mater and uses the natural forces of His creation to accomplish His purpose, as in Genesis, the Babylonian version naively attributes the various physical phenomena of the Deluge to separate causes in the form of deities.10 Demonology of Babylon
Daniel would have been well acquainted with the demonism of Babylon. The gods and the demons preoccupied the thinking and the activity of the people and the rulers. Daniel stood above all of the crass superstition of the nation, and gave a pristine witness to the God of the Israelites.

According to Babylonian mythology, Marduk formed the world by kneading earth and spreading it over a mat of bull rushes. He then laid the earth-mat on the face of the waters. A Marduk-like god, Lugal-dul-Azuga created the Anunnaki gods. who proclaimed the sovereignty of the city of Babylon in which they delighted to dwell.11

The Anunnaki were actually spirit demons who conjured up fear for the physical life and the souls of the populace. Babylonian demonology was confusing, but it also ruled the activities of all.

Some of the demons ruled the dead, under the rule of the Queen of the Underworld, Ereshkigal, who lived with 300-600 Anunnaki who ate mud and drank dirty water. Some of these spirits were good and some evil. The people
accepted the kindly acts of the good spirits, about which they troubled little; but they passed their lives in deadly fear of the evil spirits, who were very numerous and very active. To counteract their evil doings the Babylonians had recourse to incantations and spells and magical ceremonies, and a considerable number of magicians and sorcerers and priests must have made a good living out of the fears of their … neighbors.12 Some thirty Babylonian tablets were filled with incantations directed against demons and devils, who brought on diseases on people. Directions for such spells filled some 1,550 lines of text. Through the priests, the Babylonians appealed to the gods to intervene with the good spirits to drive off the evil spirits. The priest would say,
When I lay my hand on his head, may a kindly Spirit, a kindly Guardian, stand at my side! Whether thou art evil Ghost, or evil Devil, or evil God, or evil Fiend, or sickness, or death, or a Phantom of Night, or a Wrath of the Night, or fever, or deadly pestilence, get thee gone from before me.13 Sometimes a figure of the demon was burned slowly in the fire while the incantation was spoken.

There were said to be seven evil spirits who were behind all of the evil powers that plagued the Babylonians. These spirits created all evil that manifested itself in the hot south winds, the hiss of the dragon, the bite of the leopard, the venom of the snake, the raging of a wild animal, the whirlwind and hurricane. These spirits were created by the god Anu, and as Plague-gods they rent people in two, tortured and killed children, could pass through walls and floors, move from house to house, enter locked doors, and could glide through rooms like snakes. These were terrible spirits who could also bring on all kinds of sickness and disease.

There were physically deformed warlocks and witches, who used their homes as places for the working of the devils. They worked the Evil Eye, and the Evil Spell to exorcise the demons. Apparently Nebuchadnezzar had some priestly power to draw upon when coming against Jerusalem. In order to determine which invasion road to take, he began a ritual of divination. Ezekiel records, "For the king of Babylon … use[d] divination; he shakes the arrows, he consults the household idols, he looks at the liver [of a sheep]," and he called out "Jerusalem" (Ezek. 21:21-22).

Daniel and his friends would certainly have known this historical account of the king’s plea to his gods when coming against Judah with invasion. Nebuchadnezzar’s gods are mentioned again when the king constructs his great idol. The charge against some of the Jewish captives was that they did not worship the gods whom the king honored. The accusation against Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego was, "they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up" (Dan. 3:12b). And, they do not "serve or worship any god except their own God" (v. 28).

It was also said that sometimes, the gods were turned into demons and spirits. Nebuchadnezzar may have thought this when recalling his frightening dream about the great tree. He recounted, "Finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods …" (4:8, 18). 

Demons are not simply the figment of the imagination of the ancient peoples of the earth. They are genuine evil spirits who lurk in the darkest corners of populations. They do indeed inflict their wicked intentions upon human beings. Daniel was well award of all the teachings of Babylonian demonism.

The Prominent Gods of Babylon
While all of the ancient Babylonian-world was teeming with a multitude of gods, there were certain deities who were most well known during the time of Daniel. Below is only a partial list of those deities:

  • Anu. The Father and King of the Gods. However, he was not popular in Babylon.
  • Ninzalli. The wife of Anu.
  • Ninursalla. The concubine of Anu.
  • Enlil. The Bel of the Semites and god of the wind and floods.
  • Ninlil. Was known as the World-Mother.
  • Nusku. The Fire and Light god.
  • Ea. The lord of the rivers, lakes, and seas of the world.
  • Marduk. The son of Ea, who represented the morning sun. He was the chief god
  • of Babylon and had been made king over all the gods. His star was Jupiter. His
  • shrine was in Eagila, and was made of pure gold and precious stones.
  • Nabu. The scribe of the gods.
  • Sin. The Moon god, who goes into the Underworld when not seen in the sky.
  • Shamash. The Sun god.
  • Mer. The god of storms.
  • Tammuz. The Water god and Vegetation god.
  • Ishtar. The Moon god and daughter of Sin.
  • Gula. The goddess of healing.
  • Nergal. The Plague god and later also became a god of the Underworld.
  • Ashur. The War god.
  • Irra. The Pestilence god.
  • Dagon (Dagan). Mainly worshipped in Assyria, but know in Babylon.
The Babylonian and Assyrian Gods and Goddesses Mentioned in Scripture

Ishtar. She was part of the pantheon of Assyria who was localized and claimed for worship in many cities in Assyria and Babylon. Asshurnazirpal (cira 1800 BC) prayed to her as the queen of the gods, in whose hands are delivered the commands of the great gods. She was called the lady of Ninevah. Shalmanesser II called her the princess of heaven and earth, and Esarhaddon labeled her "queen of all." She was identified with the planet Venus.

Another name for her was Ashtart, a goddess of the Sidonians and Phoenicians. The word Ashtoreth, a plural form, indicated the places where she was worshipped. One well- known temple site for her honor was at Ashkelon, located on the coast of Canaan (1 Sam. 31:10). The unspiritual Israelites fell under her spell (Judges 2:13, 10:6; 1 Sam. 7:3, 4; 12:10). During the ministry of Jeremiah, Jews living in Egypt began burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven (Jer. 44:17-19, 25). Almost all scholars believe this was to Ishtar, who was sometimes not only called the Queen of Heaven, but the Sovereign of Heaven.14 

Is this Ishtar the same who represents Babylon the harlot in Revelation 17-18? This seems to be extremely plausible, for there are too many direct connections that give such evidence.

For example, the ancient prophets labeled both Nineveh (Nah. 3:1, 4), and Babylon (Jer. 23:17) with harlotry. Babylon led the world in the search for false worship, either in outright paganism or diabolical religions. Babylon became the symbol of false religion all the way back to the tower of Babel (Gen. 10:9, 10; 11:1-9). Her influence will go all the way forward into the future with he alliances with the Beast of Revelation. Here, she is called the "great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality" (Rev. 17:1-2). According to 17:15, the "many waters" represent "peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues." Ancient Babylon was a land of canals, irrigation trenches, dikes, and marshes, that helped promote and protect the wealth of the land.15 Jeremiah also addressed Babylon as "you who dwell beside many waters" (Jer. 51:13).

The harlot in Revelation also says of herself, "I sit as a queen and I am not a widow, and will never see mourning" (18:7b).

From these words in Revelation, one cannot but help think of the extended worship of Ishtar as pictured in Babylonian worship!

Marduk. Daniel would certainly have known this god. In fact, he may have been very prominent in Daniel’s account of Nebuchadnezzar building the ninety-foot image on the plain of Dura (Dan. 3).

Early on, Marduk was seen as part of the pantheon of Old Babylon. He was exalted as the son of Ea, and was one of the local gods and the patron of Babylon. As the nation flourished and grew, his attributes were overlaid on the city, and he was incorporated and identified as the leading god. Because of his prominence, his powers were extended and this brought about the pre-eminence of the nation of Babylon.

As Babylon grew, so did the prestige of Marduk. He became the master of the nation of the Babylonian state and nation. He was the supreme god and absolute ruler over the entire universe. In his later history, he became lord of the land and also king of the gods.
By the time of Daniel, the Babylonian nation-state seems to have been created around Marduk. It was said at the new year festivals, the gods gathered around Marduk in Babylon where he declared the destinies for all in the coming new seasons.

Apparently, the events of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar I—especially the return of the statue of Marduk—occasioned the composition of literary works revolving around Marduk, his experiences and deeds, and his new exalted position of power and rank.16 What is the relation of Marduk to Nebuchadnezzar’s great statue (Dan. 3)?
It may be that the king, while pretending the statue represented Marduk, was proclaiming himself as the embodiment of the great national god. Unger notes that the statue’s
composition of gold, … suggests that it was an image of Nebuchadnezzar himself … as the personification and representation of the Babylonian Empire, but specifically under the guise of Marduk, its tutelary deity.17 Walvoord writes that the statue
may have been in honor of the god of Babylon, either Bel or Marduk, but in this case it would have been natural to mention the name of the god. Nebuchadnezzar may have regarded the image as representing himself as the embodiment of divine power, and the worship of the image would then be a recognition of his personal power.18 Commentators hold a variety of opinions about the statue. Some hold it honors Marduk, others say it points to Nebuchadnezzar himself, or it signifies Babylon and its world power.19 The rabbinical commentaries argue that the statue represented a deity.20 Leupold also mentions the three prominent views: "Suppositions range from Nebuchadnezzar himself or one of his gods, particularly Bel or Marduk, to the symbol of the world power or ‘the symbol of allegiance to the empire.’"21

Another possible view is that Nebuchadnezzar saw himself as a god, born of Marduk. On one inscription Nebuchadnezzar calls himself "the begotten of Marduk." Therefore when the statue was put up,
it was not merely to seduce the Jews again into idolatry. From the way Marduk (Merodach) is glorified in the inscriptions of Nebucahdnezzar, the probability is that it was erected in his honour. … In saying he was begotten of Marduk, it is not as claiming the personal possession of the characteristics of divinity that Nebuchadnezzar made this statement, but as regarding himself to be the special instrument and favourite of the gods.22 This view seems to be most plausible because the image was constructed so that all the people of Nebuchandezzar’s kingdom would fall down and worship it (Dan. 3:7, 12). The three Hebrew young men refused saying that would not serve the king’s gods or worship the image he had set up (v. 18). This seems to point to the fact that the statue was built to honor either Bel or Marduk.

Marduk is only mentioned by name in Jeremiah 50:2. This chapter predicts the invasion of the Medes, the nation coming "out of the north" (v. 3). They will sweep over the land in B. C. 539 and Babylon will be absorbed into an even larger kingdom. When this happens,
Babylon [will be] captured, Bel [will be] put to shame, Marduk [will be] shattered; her images [will have] been put to shame, her idols [will have] been shattered. For a nation [will] come against her out of the north; it will make her land an object of horror, and there will be no inhabitant. (Jer. 50:2-3) Tammuz. One myth says that Tammuz was killed by the fiery love if Ishtar, or by a boar’s tusk. Ishtar went down to the Underworld and brought him back to earth. While he was gone all kinds of evil struck the world. Annually, he visits the Underworld. Ezekiel was given a vision of all of the paganism practiced at the temple of the Lord. Ezekiel says, the Lord "brought me to the entrance of the gate of the Lord’s house which was toward the north; and behold, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz" because he was visiting the dark places below (Ezek. 8:14).

Shamash. The Lord told Ezekiel there was something more abominable than worshipping Tammuz (v. 15). The greater evil was that Jewish men were in the temple with "there faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun" (v. 16b). More than likely they were paying homage to Shamash, the god of the sun. 

In older times, it was said that Shamash walked across the heavens by foot. In later days, he was supposed to ride a fiery chariot drawn by animals. He was pictured as the old man in the heavenlies, with the long white beard (the old man upstairs) and rays of light shinning around his shoulders. This was a similar picture of the Egyptian god Horus. Shamash was also supposed to be the god of kindness, helping people out of their troubles. No wonder the Lord God was furious because Israel had replaced Shamash for the gracious care of the Lord. God told Ezekiel, "I indeed shall deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor shall I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I shall not listen to them" (v. 18).

Another reason the Jews had turned away from the Lord was because they loved to practice their sins in the dark. God told Ezekiel that the elders were worshipping their carved images in the blakness of their rooms at night. They said, "The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land" (v. 12).

Conclusion. The book of Daniel is a record of the clash of the God of Israel, with the gods of the pagan Babylonian world. Through Daniel, and other Jewish captives, there is a witness of the true God given forth to Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Cyrus, and Darius, and to many other Babylonians who came in contact with such a witness.

The testimony to Belshazzar is an outstanding example of how God used Daniel. He said to the king that his father Nebuchadnezzar recognized "that the Most High God is ruler over the realm of mankind, and that He sets over it whomever He wishes" (Dan. 5:21b). Further, Daniel added, "you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which do not see, hear or understand. But the God in whose hand are your life-breath and your ways, you have not glorified" (v. 23b).

This testimony itself gives to us one of the major themes of the book of Daniel. Boyce adds:

The chief characteristic of Babylon in Nebuchadnezzar’s time was what we would call its radical secular humanism. I say this because of a statement Nebuchadnezzar makes later on in Daniel, in the fourth chapter: "Is not this the great Babylon I have build as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30). This is a true statement in one sense. Nebuchadezzar had built Babylon, and he had undoubtedly done it for his own glory. But in forgetting God, who had given him the opportunity to create such magnificence, Nebuchadnezzar was actually taking God’s glory to himself. Like all secular humanists, he was saying that all that exists is of man, by man and for man’s glory.23  
  1. Merrill F. Unger, Archeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956), 30-31.
  2. Ibid., 31-35.
  3. Ibid., 35-37.
  4. Ibid., 35.
  5. Ibid., 37.
  6. Ibid., 55-71.
  7. Ibid., 58.
  8. Ibid., 62.
  9. Ibid., 68.
  10. Ibid., 67-68.
  11. E. A. Wallis Budge, Babylonian Life and History (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1993), 78.
  12. Ibid., 144-45.
  13. Ibid., 148.
  14. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, Pieter W. van der Horst, eds., Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999), 678-79.
  15. Robert L. Thomas, An Exegetical Commentary, 2 Vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1999), 2:283.
  16. Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, 546.
  17. Merrill F. Unger, Unger’s Commentary on the Old Testament, 2 Vols. (Chicago: Moody, 1981), 2:1621.
  18. John F. Walvoord, Daniel (Chicago: Moody, 1971), 81.
  19. C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, 10 Vols. (Peabody, MS: Hendrickson, 1989), 9:120.
  20. A. Cohen, ed., Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, by Judah J. Slotki (London: Soncino, 1968), 21.
  21. H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1990), 135.
  22. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, eds., The Pulpit Commentary, 18 Vols. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 13:96.
  23. James Montgomery Boice, Daniel (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989), 16-17.