In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.” Then the Chaldeans said to the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.” The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.” They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.” The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm- if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.” The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. Daniel 2:1-12
Unanswered or Unanswerable?
“What do you mean, you can’t know? You’re the confidant of the god! Does Shamash speak to you or not!”
The diviner stopped in his tracks, dumbfounded. Up to now, the learned soothsayer had stubbornly tailed the king, not unlike the faded train of a despised, forgotten ruler. While most of his peers had resorted to pleading, he brimmed with offended pride, outraged that the king would treat the divining arts so lightly. Defiant of the guards and the king’s own rage, he had determinedly followed the king out of the throne room, irate and erupting with assertions and angry platitudes. But he had not anticipated this question and could only stand silent and empty-handed before the young monarch.
“Put him away,” the king groaned.
“Anywhere, I don’t care; but confine him so he can’t deceive anyone else into heeding empty traditions.”
Nebuchadnezzar turned his back toward them and gazed into the inner court gardens. The sound of running water and the soft spread of lush foliage beckoned him to a shaded seat where he could muse over what had transpired. At five feet, seven inches and richly adorned, the king was an odd sight among the peaceful greenery. Angry resolution furrowed his brow and stiffened his body as he sat entrenched amidst the quiet, beauty, and abundance- like a large, scarlet rock placed as a monument along a forest path, stark and serious but belonging nonetheless.
Light and Living Water
The bubbling brook worked upon his disposition, loosening his posture as he watched the morning light dance upon the surface of its waters. Had he done well? His father had maintained the diviners, enchanters, and seers; would he remove them altogether? But had he not been named, May Nebo Protect the Crown? Could that be done by employing liars? What good was to be found outside the realm of truth? His eyes dropped down to a fern the breeze had brushed past his extended foot. Smiling, he welcomed the little diversion and knelt down as if to hear it speak to him. If only it could! The plants neither lie nor have any pretensions. They are what they are, and they give more than they have been given.
Raising his head, he gazed beyond the garden into the empty palace room. The dream was certain. Though far from him now, he knew that he had met with something that could be understood. Now, what would be his next step? The morning’s experiment had proven effective but deeply disturbing. Babylon’s best and brightest, men who stood and communed with the gods themselves, were actually no different from any commoner. Worse, too many of them resembled fish merchants, loudly passing off yesterday’s catch as a wonderful bargain. To be rid of them would be a step forward—but then what? The dream was no closer than it was hours before. Turning toward the fern, he delicately touched a frond and asked, “Where is truth?”
Artwork by Elesha Casimir