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Nebuchadnezzar’s Gospel

The book of Daniel consists of three heptamerous cycles, each cycle becoming the first step in a greater one.1See Daniel’s Long Shadow. At the thesis (center) of the first cycle (Daniel 1), Daniel passes through a “priestly” death and resurrection (having to do with food). At the thesis of the third cycle (Daniel 9), it is Christ who passes through the process, a “prophetic” death and resurrection (regarding Israel and the nations). Between the priestly and the prophetic is the kingly “death and resurrection” of Nebuchadnezzar, and the strange details of the account reveal this king, like Daniel, to be a type of God’s future work.

Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. (Jeremiah 43:10)

The Structure of Daniel 4

TRANSCENDENCE
Creation
(Sabbath) Nebuchadnezzar’s preamble: Peace to all nations and a declaration of God’s glory (1-3).
HIERARCHY
Division
(Passover) The king calls the wise men but they cannot interpret it, so he calls for Daniel and commissions him to interpret the dream (4-9).
ETHICS
Ascension(Firstfruits) In the dream, a tree reaches to heaven but is cut down and humbled as a beast (10-18).
Testing(Pentecost) Daniel fears the king but identifies him as the subject of the dream (19-22).
Maturity(Trumpets) He then interprets the dream and its prophetic purpose: to humble the king and extend his reign (23-27).
OATH/SANCTIONS
Conquest
(Atonement/Coverings) The proud king of Babylon falls and loses his kingdom. Seven times pass over him and he lives as a beast until his eyes are opened and he testifies to God’s authority (28-35).
SUCCESSION
Glorification
(Booths) Nebuchadnezzar’s reason is restored and his kingdom becomes an even greater house for the nations (36-37).

Now that the structure is identified, we can see some interesting typological correspondences, some of which would be invisible otherwise.

  • The fivefold Covenant structure makes sense of Nebuchadnezzar’s introduction. In the preamble (Transcendence), he speaks as God’s representative. He begins as God’s man and ends as God’s man. In the greater structure of Daniel 1-7, this chapter represents the Tabernacle in the wilderness, a wandering throne in the domain of the wild things, destined for a greater inheritance.
  • Hierarchy moves us from the Ark of the Covenant to the Veil, and here it is the meaning of the dream which is hidden. Daniel is the Covenant delegate with the mind of God.
  • “Land” symbols abound at Ascension (Day 3). The field should remind us of Esau the hunter, and Nimrod the founder of the original Babylon. The king has been a predator but he must now become a shepherd. The four-cornered “Land” (not “earth”) was represented by the Bronze Altar, so here the mind of the sinful “man” will be substituted for that of a sacrificial “beast.” In the Tabernacle, the Bronze Altar corresponds to the face of the Ox. The band is made of “iron and bronze,” the lower metals in the statue in Daniel 2. Unlike gold and silver which represent heaven’s glory, these metals represent the earth, identifying the king’s humiliation with Cain, the smith.
  • The repeated references to “seven times” align with the Day 4 position of Daniel 4 in the greater Cycle. It is likely that these were lunar festivals or months, not years, meaning that the king was humbled before the destruction of Jerusalem.2See James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 248. The wicked Jews were therefore in rebellion against a godly king with an advisor at his right hand from the tribe of Judah. The seven moving “stars”  (sun, moon, and five visible planets) governed the times and seasons, and were represented in the Tabernacle by the “seven eyes” of the Lampstand which watched over Israel. This brings us to the next point.
  • I believe the repeated mention of “watchers” from heaven identify this account as the “Lampstand” in the greater structure, which was fashioned to resemble an almond or “watcher” tree. The tree references go back to Eden, where kingdom without prior priestly submission to God was denied to Adam for the purpose of making him a shepherd-king. Being the “Pentecost” of that structure, we must understand that “the Unknown God” is here being made known that ignorant nations might be enlightened.3See James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 243. The subtle references to Day 4 and Eden to describe the process indicate that this sevenfold judgment will make of the king a new Creation.

The Gospel reference comes with the description of Nebuchadnezzar’s “beasthood.” His territory was now claimed by God as a greater “Land,” so as a beast he would be driven from it. But why the reference to an Ox and an Eagle? Firstly, this is a general reference to the unclean, scavenging “birds and beasts” which would carry out the curse of the Covenant for God.4See the chapter “Birds and Beasts” in God’s Kitchen, 197. However, the Ox is not a scavenger but a clean animal. Thus the creatures here represent the Jewish servant (Ox) and Gentile king (Eagle).5From memory, Jordan sees the Eagle as the symbol of the Prophet, but I believe the Prophet is actually the “fifth” element, the “bridal” Incense Altar at the center of the four beasts, Eve coming from the center of the cruciform Man. It is the position of the elders with incense. The Jews certainly served as prophets like Daniel in the courts of the Gentiles, but the animal itself represents the “all nations” rule of the emperor. These animals represent heaven and earth not only vertically (all nations) but also horizontally (Jew and Gentile), making Nebuchadnezzar’s suffering in some sense cruciform. Nebuchadnezzar would become a hybrid, a “holy mixture” like those forbidden in Leviticus. Only the Spirit of God can integrate such hybrids, reflected in the combined beasts which guard the throne of God.

The Ox and Eagle are also two of the faces of the cherubim in Ezekiel 1, faces which represent the four stages of Israel’s history:

OX Priest enthroned in sanctuary Mosaic Covenant
LION King enthroned in land Davidic Covenant
EAGLE Emperor enthroned in world Restoration Covenant
MAN Jesus enthroned in heaven New Covenant6From James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 260.

Can we identify the Lion and the Man here? Jordan notes that Ox and Lion faces were displayed in Solomon’s Temple, since that was the era of Priest and King. I would suggest that the Lion face here is Daniel himself, a Judahite with the testimony of God (the Lion face corresponds to the Ark of the Covenant), and that the Man is Nebuchadnezzar at the end of the process with his reason restored. Through Daniel, the Lord says to him, “your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules (v. 26).” Nebuchadnezzar would become God’s servant, ruling as a new Adam just as Solomon did. The predatory Lion was humbled to eat grass like an Ox, with Eagle’s feathers, and finally became a faithful Man. With good reason, the four faces of the cherubim are traditionally aligned with the four gospels, witnesses “to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth” with a similar message: “Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me” (Daniel 4:1-2).

References   [ + ]

1. See Daniel’s Long Shadow.
2. See James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 248.
3. See James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 243.
4. See the chapter “Birds and Beasts” in God’s Kitchen, 197.
5. From memory, Jordan sees the Eagle as the symbol of the Prophet, but I believe the Prophet is actually the “fifth” element, the “bridal” Incense Altar at the center of the four beasts, Eve coming from the center of the cruciform Man. It is the position of the elders with incense. The Jews certainly served as prophets like Daniel in the courts of the Gentiles, but the animal itself represents the “all nations” rule of the emperor.
6. From James B. Jordan, The Handwriting On The Wall, 260.

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