Vol. 2 - No. 2

February, 1983

Had The King Forgotten?

by R. L. (Bob) Craig

“Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magi­cians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chal­deans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, 0 king, live forever: tell thy ser­vants the dream and we will shew the interpreta­tion. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, the thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill they answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: there-fore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.”

The above quotation is taken from the King James Version. One of the rules for understanding what the Bible is saying is, first, to take it literally as it reads. Of course, if the literal lan­guage would pit us against some other plain passage, then we must approach our study from some other viewpoint. All right, the KJV says, “this thing is gone from me” and that is the phrase in the above quotation that I am wanting to deal with in this article. That seems to be saying, “I have forgotten what the dream was.” But Nebuchadnezzar was not interested in just arbitrarily punishing these men because they didn't have the required knowledge. As they said, “There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter .............................. and it is a rare thing that the
king requireth, and there is no one other that can shew it before the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” (vss. 10-11).

Nebuchadnezzar stated his reason very plainly in verse nine: “therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.” He had not forgotten the dream --- he knew what the dream was -- but here was a test for men he knew to be deceivers. He knew that they wanted to gain time, so if he told them the dream, they could prepare “lying and corrupt words.” If their interpretation could be put way out in the future, he would not know whether their interpretation was true or false until that distant time and likely they and he would be dead by then.

Another reason to conclude that the king was not saying, “I have forgotten the dream” was that these same men pled with him even the third time to tell them the dream. If they understood the king to be telling them that he had forgotten what it was, certainly there would have been no need of insisting a second and third time that he tell them the dream.

According to Hebrew scholars, the language indicated that his word, his decree, had gone forth from him that they tell him the dream and the interpretation or else they would be cut in pieces and their houses would be made dunghills. If you have such available, check with Kell and Delitzsch. They have a rather lengthy discourse on the word and phrase as used in this setting. If you do not have K and D (or even if you do), look at the footnotes in the American Standard Version. It says, “the word is gone forth from me.” Read also the passage as stated in the New King James: “my decision is firm.” Then check your Young's Concordance. It renders the word “thing” as “word, speech, matter.” Strong's Exhaustive Concordance says basically the same thing: “word, command, discourse.”

The literal statement would be: “This word (decree or commandment) has gone forth from me that if ye will make known unto me …”

Now, suppose you are like unto me -- not a Text Box: -29‑
Hebrew scholar. And suppose you don't have access to any of those reference books mentioned. Just suppose all you have is the old King James Version. If that is the case, we'll go to another great rule for proper Bible study and understand­ing. Let's look at the context of our statement. Look at verse fifteen: “He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.” The decree Daniel was asking about at this time was the decree that all the wise men, including Daniel and the three Hebrews, were to be slain. That's why Arioch had come to Daniel. So then he tells Daniel about the thing (the decree, the word) that had gone forth from the king and why.

If the thing spoken of by Nebuchadnezzar was the dream, then Arioch knew what it was and he could have told the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, and they could have given the king some kind of interpretation. No, what Arioch made known to Daniel was the decree that had gone forth, the commandment, the word that had “gone from him.”

More -- verse seventeen -- “Then Daniel went to his home, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions.” (Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.) Was the thing the king's dream? Certainly not. He told them of the word that had gone forth from the king --”THEN -- was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.”

Of course, we all know the happy ending of the story. Because Daniel was able, with the wisdom given him of God, to tell Nebuchadnezzar his dream and the interpretation thereof, the decree was can-celled: the other so-called wise men, along with the three Hebrew companions, and Daniel all lived. Nebuchadnezzar confessed the greatness of Daniel's God and made him “a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.”