In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him. Daniel 2:1
What was that? The king sat bolt upright in his bed, frozen in fear and filled with alarm. Terror clung a moment more before Nebuchadnezzar slowly regained his senses. The cool air, the bird calls, the belt of light upon the wall to his left—a dream! He had been sleeping. He exhaled and fell back on his bed only to rebound again to his former position. He stared hard at the blankets as his fingers pressed heavily upon his brow, pushing down his eyebrows and turning their march upward across his temples, over his scalp, and through his thick black hair. It would not come to him, and yet it would not let him be.
He strove again to recall the dream. It was firm and foreboding, like the mountains to the north, rising abruptly in defiant opposition to anything he could muster. More than that, it was vast and profound—terrifyingly so—like the sea beyond Dilmun, it existed without him yet demanded his full attention and obedience. It stood unmoved in his consciousness, terribly present, inexplicably vast, and entirely sovereign.
Light Upon the Clay
What was to be done? His eyes slowly scanned the room as though what he needed lay on a nearby table. He looked for the source: what was the need for such a dream? Was he facing another round of insurrections? That seemed too small, too feasible. Had the Medes cast aside their alliance or were the Scyths marshaling their armies? Even invasion was disproportionate to what he had met in the night. A host of evils—a plague, palace conspiracies, and the flooding of the Euphrates? He quickly turned his head aside as though rejecting the empty words of a baffled advisor.
His eyes dropped down to a patch of light on the floor. But where did hope reside? Marduk had made men from the blood of the clumsy laborer, Kingu. Adapa, the wisest of men, could not recognize wisdom when it was spoken to him by the god of wisdom. Even Gilgamesh, the greatest of men, had been totally humiliated. The ancients were clear: The best of men are idiots.
His eyes narrowed in anger. No more digging in the sand. That could not be the answer, however old it may be. It was not for nothing that he had become king! Mountains and seas do not exist to be left alone. He had been given something, even if it was inaccessible to him now. Though entirely independent of him, the dream was, in fact, his. It belonged to him and he would interpret it even if he had to overturn all Babylon to do so.
Illustration by Elesha Casimir