This article originally appeared in the 2022 Spring Edition of “The BABQ” available for free download here.
Q Was the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar a believer? If so, does this mean he will be in the kingdom promised to Israel?
ANSWER: Nebuchadnezzer certainly believed in God many times during his reign. In his second year as king (Dan. 2:1), after Daniel had accredited God with giving him the ability to interpret the king’s dream when Nebuchadnezzer’s own counsel could not decipher the dream’s meaning, King Nebuchadnezzer “fell upon his face and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer oblation and sweet odours unto him” (Dan. 2:46).
While we see some glaring problems with these actions, especially his worship being misplaced, the next verse (v. 47) goes on to record Nebuchadnezzer saying, “Of a truth, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets.” The king certainly seemed to acknowledge the superior power and knowledge of God.
Yet, in the next chapter, the king is making an idol that everyone is required to bow down and worship. You probably know the story. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to follow the decree to bow to the image and were thrown into a fiery furnace, but the Lord preserved their lives so they walked out of the furnace unharmed.
As King Nebuchadnezzer called the three Jewish men out of the fire, he refers to them as “servants of the most high God” (Dan. 3:26).
“Then Nebuchadnezzer spake, and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God. Therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” (Dan. 3:28-29).
The king went from being extremely angry with these men to being humbled that these men’s God preserved them in the punishment inflicted upon them. We love a good conversion story, but is this a true conviction or just being impressed by the God of these men?
In the very next chapter, Nebuchadnezzer believes again. Chapter 4 is a report from the mouth of Nebuchadnezzer. He begins with a glowing report of God (vv. 2-3). Yet, when he begins to tell his story, we learn that he called Daniel Belteshazzar “according to the name of my god” and refers to “the holy gods” (v. 8). He also calls for his counselors to interpret his dream before he calls for Daniel. What happened to his admiration of God from Chapter 2 to Chapter 3, and then from Chapter 3 to the accounts in Chapter 4? It would seem that, thus far, King Nebuchadnezzer had only adopted the one true God as another powerful God, perhaps even the most powerful.
The account in chapter 4 continues with Nebuchadnezzer being humbled by being driven into the wilderness to live like a wild beast. After “seven times pass over him” (vv. 16, 23), King Nebuchadnezzer returns to his senses and is given back his kingdom after he lifted his eyes up to heaven and “blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand or say unto him, What doest thou?” (vv. 34-35).
This chapter ends with what seems to be a change of heart by King Nebuchadnezzer. He admits, “Now I Nebuchadnezzer praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
King Nebuchadnezzer certainly seems to have learned several lessons about God throughout his reign. Yet, was his belief in God to the salvation of his soul? Remembering that a belief in God is not enough (even the demons believe in God and tremble before Him; James 2:19) but under the Kingdom program a Gentile would have to convert to Israel’s law, there is not enough information to form a solid opinion on Nebuchadnezzer.
The only information we have casts some serious doubt that the king had anything more than a humbling before the Sovereign. During his son Belshazzar’s reign, nothing is said of Nebuchadnezzer’s faith in God, only that he “knew that the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whomsoever he will” (Dan. 5:21b). It would be best for us to leave the matters of the heart to the Lord and not try to fill in the blanks, especially when there is no proof that King Nebuchadnezzer ever fully converted to the Lord.
Take me to Question One of this BABQ edition: If Paul was the unique apostle of Grace, why did Peter declare “But we (Israelites) believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they (Gentiles)”?