Damien F. Mackey
According to Paul-Alain Beaulieu, The Reign of Nabonidus, King of Babylon, 556-539 B.C. (1989), p. 63: “… there is no evidence that the king [Nabonidus] tried to impost the cult of Sîn as supreme deity in his early reign”. But, as Beaulieu will interpret it (p. 62): “Upon his return from Arabia, Nabonidus imposed a major religious reform, resulting in the rejection of Marduk, the undisputed supreme god of Babylon of the past six centuries …”.
“In inscription 17 Nabonidus, in an accent of supreme devotion”, Beaulieu continues, “goes as far as to call Sîn ilāni ša ilāni, “god of gods”, probably the highest epithet ever given to a god in the Mesopotamian tradition”.
Now, was King Nabonidus, as “Nebuchednezzar”, inspired to attain to that “highest epithet” due to the extraordinary incident when Daniel recounted and interpreted the king’s Dream? Because that is just what “Nebuchednezzar” called Daniel’s God (Daniel 2:47):
“Surely your God is the God of gods …”!
The full verse reads: “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.”
And Nabonidus, servant of Sîn, had likewise claimed: “I have seen se[cret things]. …”.
Daniel had said to the king, when interpreting the latter’s first Dream (2:37-38):
“Your Majesty, you are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold”.
And so Nabonidus, basing himself upon such high authority, can likewise say, this time addressing Marduk (Beaulieu, p. 50. Emphasis added): “When Marduk, the lofty leader of the gods, the lord of the universe, brought into being a sovereign to assume rulership, he called Nabonidus the king to the function of provider. He raised his head above all kings. At his command the great gods rejoiced at his kingship”.
In the case of the second Dream, the words of “Nebuchednezzar” addressed to the Most High (4:35): “No one can hold back his hand or say to him: ‘What have you done?’”, are somewhat reminiscent of Nabonidus in these words to Sîn (Beaulieu, pp. 60-61): “… who does not reconsider his order, and you do not utter you command twice … without you who can do what?”
In Baruch 1:11, we read of prayers asked by the Jews for King Nebuchednezzar and his son, Belshazzar, for long life for them: “… pray for King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia and his son Belshazzar, that they may live as long as the heavens last. …”.
And King Nabonidus will pray to Sîn for long life for (the same) Belshazzar (Beaulieu, p. 64): And as for Belshazzar, my eldest son, my offspring, lengthen his days. May he not commit any sin”.
Unfortunately Belshazzar, however, now king, would hear this terrible denunciation from Daniel just prior to Belshazzar’s having his kingdom taken away from him (5:22): “But you, Belshazzar, [Nebuchednezzar’s] son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven”.
Hence (vv. 30-31): “That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two”.