God’s judgment upon His chosen people illustrates both His justice and His fairness. God does not distinguish between the heathen and the chosen, the religious and the secular. He is Judge of them all. Paul expresses this well when he says, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ” (Rom. 14:10). Indeed, God holds His chosen people accountable, as Peter points out: “Judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17).
God’s judgment on Judah came in the form of Babylonian captivity in 606 B.C. Daniel says: “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, came Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, unto Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand with part of the vessels of the house of God, which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessel into the treasure house of his god” (Dan. 1:1, 2). The chronicler of Israel further confirms God’s judgment over His chosen race when he declares that Nebuchadnezzar carried the vessels of the house of the Lord to Babylon and put them in his temple at Babylon (2 Chron. 36:16, 17).
The reasons for God’s judgment over His people are clear (2 Chron. 36:14-16; 2 Kings 24:1-3): (1) Priests, kings, and the people sinned against God in adopting the customs of the contemporary communities; (2) God’s people deserted His temple; (3) they defied His messengers; and (4) they rejected His messages.
The chronicler further asserts that because of the reasons enumerated above, “the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of he Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of the sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand” (2 Chron. 36:16, 17).
Note that the judgment of Yahweh was extensive: (1) It affected the entire community: people, priests, and king; (2) it affected the house of God and its vessels; (3) as the house of worship perished, so did the worshipers; and (4) as the worshipers were carried into Babylon, so were the instruments of worship.
The chronicler confirms that these remained in Babylon until “the reign of the kingdom of Persia” (2 Chron. 36:18-20). Habakkuk supplements the chronicler’s list of the causes of God’s judgments over Jerusalem with the following additions (Hab. 1:4): (1) The law was ignored; (2) justice was perverted and did not prevail; and (3) wretchedness overtook righteousness.
To Habakkuk’s appeal for divine intervention in the fast-deteriorating society of Jerusalem, God responded, “I raise up the Chaldeans, that bitter and hasty nation, which shall march through the breadth of the land, to possess the dwelling places that are not theirs. They are terrible and dreadful: their judgment and their dignity shall proceed of themselves. . . . They shall come all for violence: their faces shall sup up as the east wind, and they shall gather the captivity as the sand. . . . Then shall his mind change, and he shall pass over and offend, imputing this his power unto his god” (Hab. 1:6-11).
Judgment as Daniel sees
While Nebuchadnezzar was of the opinion that his god Nebu brought about his victory over Judah and the resulting captivity of the Israelites, Daniel and other prophets make the bold declaration that it was God’s will that brought about judgment over apostate Judah. God hands Judah over to Nebuchadnezzar. Even in this judgment, the question that is foremost in God’s mind and in the ministry of Daniel is: How shall Judah relate to God’s judgment? Will they reject their perverse ways and forsake their sin and return to the true God? Will they seek in God their redemption and strength, their freedom and dignity as God’s chosen people? The book of Daniel contends that only God deserves worship—not Nebu, not any emperor, not any human system. God is the supreme judge over all nations, Jew or Gentile.
This truth is vividly taught in the book of Daniel, as the prophet narrates God’s dealings with the mighty monarchs of Babylon and Medo-Persia.
1. Consider the dream of Daniel 2. The succession of one kingdom after another, and the human system giving way to the establishment of God’s kingdom is a lesson in history that God rules and God judges. He gives power to whom He wills. He is in control.
2. In chapters 3 and 6, Daniel presents to us the God who redeems. When His faithful servants become prey to the selfish arrogance of human potentates or to the jealousy of individuals who refuse to acknowledge the grace and power of God, God intervenes. The stories of the fiery furnace and Daniel in the lions’ den illustrate that God reverses human verdicts and passes judgment on human actions.
3. In chapter 4, the Lord of judgment rises to magnanimity as He mingles justice with mercy. In spite of the truth revealed to him that he is what he is because of God’s providence, the Babylonian monarch explodes in self-exaltation and defies God. “Is not this great Babylon,” says Nebuchadnezzar, “that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?” (Dan. 4:30). Note that this defiant statement against Yahweh’s prerogative to judge and remove kings at will was made after God had revealed to Nebuchadnezzar the course of history and his limited role in it. But the king chose to defy God’s Word and ignore God’s dealings in human affairs. Then came God’s judgment on Nebuchadnezzar: “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; the kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the fields: they shall make thee to eat grass like oxen, and seven times1 shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan. 4:31, 32).
God’s judgment of Nebuchadnezzar was both instructive and corrective, just like His judgment on Judah. Nebuchadnezzar learned well, for he testifies, “And at the end of the days, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honored him that liveth forever, 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 doth 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? . . .
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the king of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (Dan. 4:34-37).
The proud worshiper of Nebu bowed low before the God of judgment. Ellen G. White comments, “The once proud monarch has become a humble child of God; . . . He who had defied and blasphemed the God of heaven now acknowledged the power of the Most High and earnestly sought to promote the fear of Jehovah and the happiness of his subjects.”2
4. God as judge is seen again in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson, Belshazzar. Here the punishment was not corrective but punitive. In the midst of reveling calculated to defy God and dishonor Him, judgment came in the form of handwriting on the wall. Daniel rebuked the drunken king; “But [thou] hast lifted up thyself against the Lord of heaven; . . . and thou hast praised the gods of silver, and gold, of brass, iron, wood, and stone, which see not, nor hear, nor know: and the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, hast thou not glorified” (Dan. 5:23). The prophet’s rebuke was followed by an announcement of the divine judgment: “Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians” (Dan. 5:28). That very night, even as Belshazzar defied God, God’s judgment indicted Babylon, and history moved on to Medo-Persia.
Since the sell-out in Eden, the God of judgment had been numbering the kingdoms of this world, and indeed the kingdom of Satan, until He would give the rulership of the entire creation to its rightful owner—Jesus Christ. Under this scheme, kingdoms have reigned and kingdoms have waned. As the prophet Ezekiel declared, God would “overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more until he come whose right it is; and I will give it to him” (Ezek. 21:27).
5. In chapters 7 and 8, Daniel shows how God would judge both the secular and false religious powers of this world. Chapter 7 predicts the activities of the little horn—a religious power of immense power and pretense. This little horn earned itself Yahweh’s adverse judgment because of its rebellious activities (Dan. 7:21, 25; 8:10-12):
• Making war with the saints and prevailing against them.
• Speaking great words against the Most High.
• Attempting to change items of the laws of Yahweh.
• Reaching to and casting down some of the host of heaven.
• Magnifying itself even to the prince of the host.
• Meddling with Christ’s mediatorial ministry.
•Casting down the sanctuary and thereby abrogating its ministry.
• Casting down the truth to the ground.
These activities prompted God to sit in judgment over the little horn (Dan. 7:9- 11, 21-26). The reason for the judgment is twofold: to examine the activities of the little horn and to exonerate the saints from the accusation of the little horn. The saints, exonerated by the God of judgment, will receive the kingdom, wrested from the enemy. “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom and all dominion shall serve and obey him” (Dan. 7:27). Jesus reaffirmed this truth when He declared, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Thus the God who judges is the God who will establish the kingdom of righteousness. It is He who deserves our worship and allegiance: in our allegiance and commitment to Him, we find our redemption and eternal security; when all is done and the righteous will have received the kingdom from their God, they shall declare, “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou kings of saints. Who shall not fear, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou art holy: For all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev. 15:3, 4).
1. Seven times means seven years. “For seven years Nebuchadnezzar was an astonishment to all his subjects; for seven years he was humbled before all the world.” (Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 520).
2. Ibid., p. 521.
This article is excerpted and adapted from the practical resource, The God of Daniel, by Dr. L. D. Raelly. The entire book is available for purchase at <www. ministerialassociation.com>.