Survival: Zedekiah, Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel, Jews return to Jerusalem
400 years later, and the Jewish Kingdom has fallen. Under the leadership of the lowly King Zedekiah, who has refused to listen to the warnings of the prophet Jeremiah, the city of Jerusalem is taken by the ruthless and powerful leader of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar. The Jews lose their city and are led on a forced exile back to Babylon where they are enslaved. Here their faith is tested when they are forced to worship an enormous statue of the Babylonian king – to them an act of idolatry. And when Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow down they are thrown into the fire, but are saved by the Angel of the Lord. Nebuchadnezzar at first comes to faith, but his arrogance later leads to a time of insanity, leaving the empire vulnerable to defeat by the great Cyrus of Persia. But Cyrus will again test the Jews’ faith by ordering them not to worship God for a whole month. Nobleman and Jewish leader Daniel, a man of tenable faith, cannot abide, and when he is thrown into the lions’ den as punishment he has nothing but his belief to save him. But his faith endures, and God spares him. Cyrus, now understanding the power of Daniel’s God, allows the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. They have survived the Babylonian exile, and learned the importance of keeping God in their hearts.
The Bible Series has brought to us in Episode 5 a people whose homeland has fallen under the powerful leadership of Babylon's leader, King Nebuchadnezzar. We place anticipated hope or dreaded fear in those who hold power over us. Forced away from home to live in a threatening environment challenges values, safety and convictions. In this case Jewish exiles are seen to be overly religious at the cost of civil obedience.
To be exiled in today's world could be redefined as human trafficking. There are approximately 29 million people who have been uprooted from home to live as slaves. The are trafficked as commodities where their "power brokers" sell them into sexual slavery, labour slavery, organ slavery and any other activity that makes a profit. Like Daniel and his friends their lives are ironically viewed as cheap if they fail to submit to idols.
As we view Daniel in Episode 5 initially he falls under the favour of a powerful king. He lives in the royal household and appears to be respected. However, Daniel's refusal to throw away his singular allegiance to honour his God becomes problematic. His friends also get into the act. Acts of disobedience in refusing to bow down to a belief system compromises their faith. Today's victims of human trafficking are lured into false economies of livelihoods, royal households you could say. Sexual and labour trafficking becomes the outcome of what was viewed as a legitimate job offer. Kindly power is now becoming slave traders who force victims to bow down to despicable engagements.
When I watched Daniel's punishment on screen I was surprised by the nature of the lions' den. My childhood image of the story saw a modern day zoo where lions were seen by curious passers by. An open place you might say where lions and humans alike stared at each other but felt relatively safe. Yet, the Bible Series portrays the den off site, hidden from view where Daniel's bravery and God's intervention were not rolled out for all to see.
Evil is often characterized by its secretive nature. We do not see 29 million human trafficked captives in plain view. Exposing their captors with truth of their deeds would also expose our silence. We are challenged by Daniel's tenacity to speak up for truth at personal cost.
What would it take for us to ask the question: What's human about trafficking? Too many live in exile away from their dreams of waking up to respect, peace and love. With Daniel we can explore truth that brings light with courage and hope. Idols which rob others are not God's intention. He enters our brave steps with a boldness that captures both truth and victims with new freedom.
Zedekiah enters the room to greet two Egyptian agents with Jarib whilst Jeremiah crashes through the door. © Joe Alblas
The prophet Jeremiah. © Joe Alblas
Nebuchadnezzar marches on Jerusalem. © Joe Alblas
Nebuchadnezzar marches into the city. © Joe Alblas
Exterior night Nebuchadnezzar's camp. Soldiers fire burning arrows on Jerusalem. © Joe Alblas
The Babylonion bow to Cyrus as he rides into the city with his men. © Joe Alblas
Cyrus, King of Persia. © Joe Alblas
Daniel's room. © Joe Alblas
Daniel's prayer. © Joe Alblas
Daniel in the lion's den. © Joe Alblas
Azariah and Daniel. © Joe Alblas
Behind the Scenes - Mark Burnett with the cast and crew on set with the chariots of Nebuchadnezzar. © Joe Alblas
Behind the Scenes - Mark & Roma Burnett and cast and crew on set at the 'Syrian Village'. © Joe Alblas
"My Lord," Daniel tells him. "They are only moved by God. They will not bow to any but Him."
Even as Daniel speaks, the guards seize his friends. Daniel follows close behind as Nebuchadnezzar bolts from his throne and makes his way out from his shades awning. The crowd parts instantly as the king strides toward the miscreants. Daniel hurries alongside. Ahead of him, he sees his friends' hands being bound.
"They will serve you faithfully all their lives, as I will," Daniel reasures Nebuchadnezzar, searching for the soothing words that will calm the king. "But-"
"But what?" Nebuchadnezzar replies.
So Daniel continues. "Please understand, Majesty, that only God can be worshipped."
A chief priest has joined them. He knows that Daniel gained prestige by interpreting the king's dream, and is eager to reassert his own authority. "Is that some nonsense you foreigners believe? That your God has more power than our glorious king?" Daniel says nothing. This is not the time to argue with a priest.
It's Nebuchadnezzar who breaks the silence. "Your friends will bow- or I will make them bow."
But even when the guards try to force the three Israelites to their knees, they do not utter a word of worship to king Nebuchadnezzar. They seem fearless, which unleashes the king's legendary temper. "King nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter," they tell him. "If we are thrown into a blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and He will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."
"What do we do with something that won't bend?" Nebuchadnezzar screams, whirling around in anger. "We throw it into a fire." The words are like a dagger into Daniel's heart. Nebuchadnezzar stares straight at him as he addresses his guards: "Burn them." A soldier immediately douses them with oil. A secound soldier runs toward the prisoners, carrying a torch. Nebuchadnezzar grabs his arm, taking ahold of the torch himself. In one swift moment, he throws the torch at the three Israelites.
A fireball erupts as each man is set aflame.
Nebuchadnezzar smiles in satisfaction and turns to his priests so that they may share in his joy. All the while, Daniel is praying as hard and fervently as he possibly can: "The Lord hears my weeping. The Lord hears my cries for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayers."
As Daniel prays, his voice grows more steady and sure. He does not fear for his friends any longer, for he knows that God is near. In the midst of the flames and billowing smoke he sees the silhouette of a fourth figure standing guard over Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah. The fiery silhouette offers a blessing to the three men.
"The Lord hears my weeping. The Lord hears my cries for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayers," Daniel says softly.
This is not an apparition that only Daniel can see. Nebuchadnezzar's face has grown white as he sees this mysterious presence. His chief priests are mumbling incantations, summoning their own gods to protect them. These men have claimed to be spiritual their whole lives, and yet this is the first time they've actually seen and felt the presence of God.
"The Lord hears my weeping. The Lord hears my cries for mercy. The Lord accepts my prayers," Daniel countinues praying.
The flames go out. The three kneeling figures of Hananiah, Mischael, and Azariah are wreathed in smoke. As the smoke billows away, the three men rise. They are completely unharmed and do not even smell of smoke. Tears in his eyes, Daniel gives a humble thanks to God.
As his chief priests turn and leave, desperate to escape any wrath that this God of Daniel's might want to inflict, Nebuchadnezzar sinks to his knees. He graps Daniel's leg in an act of supplication and something else. Something that Daniel has prayed for for many, many years.
That something is faith. Nebuchadnezzar is deeply impressed by the power of God.
In the grandstand of Nebuchadnezzar's folly, God showed up. His power is there for the entire world to see. Guided by Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar soon allows the captive Jews to worship their God in peace.
A Story of God and All of us
Daniel - Jake Caruso
Nebuchadnezzar - Peter Cuiness
Cyrus - Gerald Kyd
The Fall of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 39)
39 In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army and laid siege to it. 2 And on the ninth day of the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, the city wall was broken through. 3 Then all the officials of the king of Babylon came and took seats in the Middle Gate: Nergal-Sharezer of Samgar, Nebo-Sarsekim a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officials of the king of Babylon. 4 When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled; they left the city at night by way of the king’s garden, through the gate between the two walls, and headed toward the Arabah.
5 But the Babylonian army pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. They captured him and took him to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him. 6 There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. 7 Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon.
8 The Babylonians set fire to the royal palace and the houses of the people and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. 9 Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard carried into exile to Babylon the people who remained in the city, along with those who had gone over to him, and the rest of the people. 10 But Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard left behind in the land of Judah some of the poor people, who owned nothing; and at that time he gave them vineyards and fields.
11 Now Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had given these orders about Jeremiah through Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard: 12 “Take him and look after him; don’t harm him but do for him whatever he asks.” 13 So Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard, Nebushazban a chief officer, Nergal-Sharezer a high official and all the other officers of the king of Babylon 14 sent and had Jeremiah taken out of the courtyard of the guard. They turned him over to Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to take him back to his home. So he remained among his own people.
15 While Jeremiah had been confined in the courtyard of the guard, the word of the Lord came to him: 16 “Go and tell Ebed-Melek the Cushite, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I am about to fulfill my words against this city—words concerning disaster, not prosperity. At that time they will be fulfilled before your eyes. 17 But I will rescue you on that day, declares the Lord; you will not be given into the hands of those you fear. 18 I will save you; you will not fall by the sword but will escape with your life, because you trust in me, declares the Lord.’”
© New International Version (NIV)
The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace (Daniel 3)
The Image of Gold and the Blazing Furnace
3 King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold, sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. 2 He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. 3 So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it.
4 Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “Nations and peoples of every language, this is what you are commanded to do: 5 As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up. 6 Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”
7 Therefore, as soon as they heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp and all kinds of music, all the nations and peoples of every language fell down and worshiped the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up.
8 At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews. 9 They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “May the king live forever! 10 Your Majesty has issued a decree that everyone who hears the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music must fall down and worship the image of gold, 11 and that whoever does not fall down and worship will be thrown into a blazing furnace. 12 But there are some Jews whom you have set over the affairs of the province of Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego—who pay no attention to you, Your Majesty. They neither serve your gods nor worship the image of gold you have set up.”
13 Furious with rage, Nebuchadnezzar summoned Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. So these men were brought before the king, 14 and Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the image of gold I have set up? 15 Now when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipe and all kinds of music, if you are ready to fall down and worship the image I made, very good. But if you do not worship it, you will be thrown immediately into a blazing furnace. Then what god will be able to rescue you from my hand?”
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20 and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace. 21 So these men, wearing their robes, trousers, turbans and other clothes, were bound and thrown into the blazing furnace. 22 The king’s command was so urgent and the furnace so hot that the flames of the fire killed the soldiers who took up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, 23 and these three men, firmly tied, fell into the blazing furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar leaped to his feet in amazement and asked his advisers, “Weren’t there three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?”
They replied, “Certainly, Your Majesty.”
25 He said, “Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.”
26 Nebuchadnezzar then approached the opening of the blazing furnace and shouted, “Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!”
So Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego came out of the fire, 27 and the satraps, prefects, governors and royal advisers crowded around them. They saw that the fire had not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them.
28 Then Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. 29 Therefore I decree that the people of any nation or language who say anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego be cut into pieces and their houses be turned into piles of rubble, for no other god can save in this way.”
30 Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
© New International Version (NIV)
Daniel in the Den of Lions (Daniel 6)
Daniel in the Den of Lions
6 It pleased Darius to appoint 120 satraps to rule throughout the kingdom, 2 with three administrators over them, one of whom was Daniel. The satraps were made accountable to them so that the king might not suffer loss. 3 Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. 4 At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. 5 Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.”
6 So these administrators and satraps went as a group to the king and said: “May King Darius live forever! 7 The royal administrators, prefects, satraps, advisers and governors have all agreed that the king should issue an edict and enforce the decree that anyone who prays to any god or human being during the next thirty days, except to you, Your Majesty, shall be thrown into the lions’ den. 8 Now, Your Majesty, issue the decree and put it in writing so that it cannot be altered—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.” 9 So King Darius put the decree in writing.
10 Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. 11 Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. 12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”
The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.”
13 Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the exiles from Judah, pays no attention to you, Your Majesty, or to the decree you put in writing. He still prays three times a day.” 14 When the king heard this, he was greatly distressed; he was determined to rescue Daniel and made every effort until sundown to save him.
15 Then the men went as a group to King Darius and said to him, “Remember, Your Majesty, that according to the law of the Medes and Persians no decree or edict that the king issues can be changed.”
16 So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions’ den. The king said to Daniel, “May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!”
17 A stone was brought and placed over the mouth of the den, and the king sealed it with his own signet ring and with the rings of his nobles, so that Daniel’s situation might not be changed. 18 Then the king returned to his palace and spent the night without eating and without any entertainment being brought to him. And he could not sleep.
19 At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. 20 When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”
21 Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! 22 My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”
23 The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.
24 At the king’s command, the men who had falsely accused Daniel were brought in and thrown into the lions’ den, along with their wives and children. And before they reached the floor of the den, the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
25 Then King Darius wrote to all the nations and peoples of every language in all the earth:
“May you prosper greatly!
26 “I issue a decree that in every part of my kingdom people must fear and reverence the God of Daniel.
“For he is the living God
and he endures forever;
his kingdom will not be destroyed,
his dominion will never end.
27 He rescues and he saves;
he performs signs and wonders
in the heavens and on the earth.
He has rescued Daniel
from the power of the lions.”
28 So Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.
© New International Version (NIV)
SMALL GROUP GUIDE
Below is sample list of small-group study and discussion questions for small groups that use this guidebook in conjunction with The Bible 30-Day Experience DVD Study.
- Open in prayer.
- Introduce video: "Today we study an incident in the life of Daniel, who served numerous kings of Babylon and the Medo-Persian Empire. This video depicts some of those changes."
- Watch video: "Daniel in the Lions' Den"
- Question: "How do you think you would have acted similarly or differently from Daniel's reaction in the lions' den?"
- Read Daniel 6:1-24.
- Question: "By the time of the incidents depicted in the video and Scripture reading, Daniel would have been an exile in Babylon for decades. Yet verse 10 says that when he prayed, he opened the windows that faced Jerusalem. What do you think that indicated about Daniel?"
- Question: "When Daniel learned of the king's order to pray to no one but him for thirty days, verse 10 days, 'He got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.' How else could he have responded to the king's decree?"
- Question: "Who did Daniel credit for his deliverance in verse 22?"
- Question: "Do you see any parallels between your salvation and Daniel's deliverance? If so, describe them."
- Question: "Is there any obstacle or threat you face right now? If so, how can you apply Daniel's story to your circumstance?"
- Close in prayer.
The Bible 30-Day Experience Guidebook © 2013 by Outreach, Inc.