Daniel 1: 2 Nebuchadnezzar Raids God’s Temple


In verse 2 of chapter 1, God allows Nebuchadnezzar to defeat Judah because Judah disobeyed God and worshiped pagan gods. Nebuchadnezzar takes sacred item from God’s temple and takes them back to Marduk’s temple in Babylon.

In verse 1, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came to Jerusalem in 605 BC and made Jehoiakim, king of Judah, a vassal of Babylon. In verse 2, we get some more information. We learn that God allows Nebuchadnezzar to overcome Judah and Nebuchadnezzar robbed the temple of sacred items.

The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar to the house of his god: and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Daniel 1:2

The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand

This first part of this verse introduces an important concept in Daniel: God is ultimately in control. All rulers are allowed to rule by God. Some rulers are good, and do God’s work, but many rulers are bad and oppose God. But all rulers serve God’s purpose. This concept is especially true for Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian kingdom.

In 605 BC, Nebuchadnezzar came to Jerusalem for the first of three times. According to Daniel, it was God who allowed Nebuchadnezzar to subjugate Judah. This is because Jehoiakim and most of the rulers before him had disobeyed God, despite multiple warnings to change their behavior. 

Deuteronomy 27-28: God’s Blessing and Curses for Israel

On the eve of Israel’s entry into the promised land, Moses laid out the conditions that Israel must meet to remain in the land. God, through Moses, told Israel they would be blessed if they were obedient but would be punished if they were disobedient. To emphasize these conditions, Moses also Israel to set up two altars in the promised land, one on Mount Gerizim and one on Mount Ebal. The altar on Gerizim would represent the blessings and the altar on Ebal would represent the curses.

One of the conditions God placed on Israel was they should not worship idols

“You shall make for yourselves no idols, and you shall not raise up an engraved image of a pillar, and you shall not place any figures stone in your hand, to bow down to it; for I am Yahweh your God.’”

Leviticus 26:1

Unfortunately, pagan worship of idols was a chronic problem in both the northern kingdom of Israel and in the southern kingdom of Judah. This was a problem because idols were physical representations of false gods, so worshipping an idol was the same as turning away from God and worshipping a false god, but also the worship of pagan gods could involve ritual prostitution and child sacrifice. Among the curses God promised Israel would happen if they disobeyed was they would be conquered by a foreign nation and removed from the land.

Yahweh will bring a nation against you from far, from the end of the earth, as far as the eagle flies; a nation whose language you will not understand; a nation of fierce facial expressions, that doesn’t respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young, and they will eat the fruit of your livestock, and the fruit of your ground, until you are destroyed. (Deuteronomy 28:49-50).

This curse was fulfilled in 721 BC when Assyria conquered and scattered the northern kingdom of Israel and again starting in 605 BC when Babylon conquered the southern kingdom of Judah and began the first of three deportations.

Getting back to Jehoiakim, the rulers of Judah were, for the most part, evil and disobeyed god. God sent multiple prophets to Judah, as well as the northern Kingdom, Israel, to warn the nation to repent and return to God, but very few of the rulers listened. Habakkuk, a prophet who was active around 612 BC, warned Judah that the Chaldeans, another name for the Babylonians, would be used to judge Jerusalem. 

Jehoiakim was no exception in his disobedience to God. 2 Kings tells us that Jehoiakim “did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, according to all that his father had done (2Kings 23:37).” Consequently, God used the Babylonians to punish Jerusalem.

The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God; and he carried them into the land of Shinar to the house of his god: and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god.

Nebuchadnezzar seized some of the valuables from the Temple and took them back to Babylon. Shinar is a Biblical term for Mesopotamia, which is a Greek term for the land between the Euphrates and Tigris rivers (mesopotamia means between the rivers). In this passage, the land of Shinar is used as a reference to the Neo-Babylonian kingdom.

It was common in the days of Babylon for conquering armies to rob temples to fund their campaigns, since temples were frequently where valuables were kept. The victor would also often take idols from the conquered temples and bring them back to their home city. The conquered idol was placed in the home temple of the conqueror’s patron god. The message was, “Your god is so much weaker than our god that you can’t keep us from stealing him. In fact, he’s going to serve our god ow.”

Robbing temples therefore served two purposes, it funded future military campaigns and served as a sign of theological superiority. The Temple in Jerusalem did not have an idol to seize, so Nebuchadnezzar instead took some of the sacred items used in the sacrifices. These sacred items played an important role in the fate of Belshazzar, a successor and descendant of Nebuchadnezzar, as we will see in chapter 5.

There were two temples in Babylon at the time of Nebuchadnezzar: Esagalia and Etemenanki. Esagalia was a temple to the patron god of Babylon, Marduk, and Etemenanki was a ziggurat, a stepped structure similar to a pyramid that may have been as tall as 91 meters (298 feet). On the top platform of the ziggurat was another temple dedicated to Marduk. Etemenanki, at least in an earlier form, has been equated by some scholars to the tower of Babel in Genesis 11. It was to these two temples that Nebuchadnezzar probably took the sacred items from God’s temple.

Marduk, Patron God of Babylon

The patron god of Nebuchadnezzar was Marduk, whom many scholars equate with the Canaanite god, Baal. Baal means lord, and since Marduk’s name was not supposed to be pronounced, often he was called “baal” or lord in cuneiform documents. While the worship of Baal and the worship of Marduk may not have been identical in every city, Marduk and Baal at least shared the same divine responsibilities: rain and storm. Baal is an important pagan god in the Bible, often cited as a rival for God’s worship. He is also an important figure in the theme of spiritual warfare, so we will certainly hear more about Baal in the future!

Three Deportations

Another theme of the Bible is God is merciful and patient, but judgment inevitably comes if there is no repentance. For Judah, God gave the nation two opportunities to repent before it was ultimately destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Verse one and two of Daniel describe the first time Nebuchadnezzar came to Babylon in 605 BC. During this visit, Nebuchadnezzar made Jehoiakim a vassal, took some of the wealth of the temple, and brought some prisoners back to Babylon. One of those prisoners was a teenage Daniel. 

As recorded in Kings and Chronicles, Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem for the second time in 597 BC. Jehoiakim rebelled against Babylonian rule, so Nebuchadnezzar laide siege to Jerusalem, captured Jehoiachin, the son of Jehoiakim, and took him back to Babylon as a prisoner. He also seized more valuables from both the temple and the palace as well as several thousand prisoners. Before he left, Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah, the brother of Jehoiakim on the throne.

Zedekiah ruled for eleven years, but also ebelled against Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar returned to Jerusalem for the third and final time in 588 BC. After a 3-year siege, the Babylonian army sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Jerusalem would remain deserted for 70 years, until the Persians gave the order for the city to be rebuilt, as prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah. In the end, Judah was destroyed, the people were exiled, and God’s promise of a curse was fulfilled.

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