Merlin Nichols: This world is going where?


I have frequently referenced ancient words in my columns and usually end a column with a quote of wisdom from one of the Ancients. Nothing will change in that respect if the editors continue to publish me from time to time. I might even get a little more pointed and controversial – only to stir up your pure minds. Naturally.

Believe it or not as you choose, the Ancients left much wisdom in their scrolls and baked-clay tablets that we post-moderns would do well to take into our own world views.

Recently I have been reading an ancient writer, a Hebrew named Daniel by his parents but renamed Belteshazzer by his captor, the king of Babylon. Still quite young, Daniel, now an official rising in the government of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, reporting directly to king Nebuchadnezzar (605-562 BCE) its last great king, was called unexpectedly into prominence when the king had a troubling dream he could not remember.

No space here for all the fascinating details, you’ll have to read the story for yourself to get them, but the meat of the ancient chronicle goes like this:

The king’s council, of which Daniel is a junior member and thus is not included in the summons, fails to satisfy the king’s demand that it tell him his dream and its interpretation; the entire group is sentenced to death.

Daniel steps into the breach and reveals Nebuchadnezzar’s dream after having first sought wisdom from his God – and thus saves the lives of the other councillors.

The dream.

The king had dreamed of a great statue, very unusual in that it consisted of multiple metals and some potter’s clay. Very unusual.

In his dream he had watched until a rock was cut out without hands and strikes the statue on its feet of iron and clay demolishing the entire statue, turning it to dust to be blown away. The rock grows to become a great mountain filling the whole earth. It lasts forever.

Hmm. I can sympathize with the councillors.

Most unusual.

But what does this bizarre dream have to do with us post-moderns?

Perhaps more than you want to know or even think.

Stop here or keep reading.

The interpretation.

Daniel’s interpretation may point us toward an answer: Apparently the various parts of the statue, represented by different metals, depicted the succession of dominant world powers to the end of time. History books will verify the succession of nations.

Is time going to end? Read on.

Head of gold: A very fitting representation of Nebuchadnezzar’s magnificent empire, Neo-Babylonia, that existed between 626 and 539 BCE.

Chest and arms of silver: The Medo-Persian Empire that succeeded Babylon in 539 BCE and gave us the saying “handwriting on the wall.”

Belly and thighs of brass: The Greek or Hellenistic empire founded by Alexander the Great at the expense of Medo-Persia in 331 BCE.

Legs of iron: Rome, strong as iron. Roman hegemony in the Mediterranean Basin had been growing since the mid 700s BCE and would continue to grow after the Greek peninsula came under Roman rule in 146 BCE at the Battle of Corinth. The final Hellenistic holdout in the region, Egypt, fell to Rome in 31 BCE giving us Antony and Cleopatra.

Feet of iron but riddled with the fragility of potter’s clay: The Roman Empire dominated a massive territory for more than 500 years but did not end with a shout or even a whimper; it just sort of faded into the medley of succeeding powers that rolled in from the north – and occupy the territory of the ancient Roman Empire to this day.

It is astonishingly amazing that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation depict with astounding accuracy the rise and fall of nations from 600 BCE down to the present.

In fact, the accuracy is so precise that scholars have resorted to a rather feeble claim that the account must have been written after the fact.

That ploy just doesn’t work. There is too much evidence to support the ancient source – and no substantial evidence to shore up the after-the-fact attempt to explain away the prophecy.

Well, if you’ve read this far you might as well continue.

There is only one fragment of the prophecy not yet fulfilled: the stone cut out that destroys the statue, grows into a great mountain, fills the whole earth, and lasts forever.

Given the accuracy of the prediction of the rise and fall of nations over millennia, one could be forgiven for thinking that the last act of the dream will happen in due course.

In this time of COVID and social unrest with loss of security (if we ever had it), with fear and uncertainty dominating so many lives, some of us are looking with more than a little longing for that stone that, according to Daniel, ushers in the everlasting, peaceful rule of the Creator.

So this world is going where?

According to the ancient prophecy that so far has proven spot on, we are living in the toes of the statue, about to see that stone a comin’.

Merlin Nichols is the former mayor of Chetwynd.

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