Twilight of an Idol

Twilight of an Idol (An Adventure in Scribal Mischief)

by Walter C Cambra

The Book of Daniel 2:31–35 mentions a multi-metaled statue revealed to Nebuchadnezzar in a dream. The statue ostensibly purports to be a symbol for the passing of world empires until “the time of the end.”

Both the Books of Daniel and Revelation contain several numbers in various sections of the texts that refer to “the time of the end.” The texts of Daniel and, especially, Revelation appear as a mosaic of cryptically arranged symbols, allegories, and numbers. However, after much meditation and research on these works, several keys were distilled that unlock the originally intended meanings of these cryptic numbers that were enciphered in the late sixth century B.C. or early fifth century B.C. by the Jewish authors. The following are the keys:

1. When three numbers are stated in the same chapter, only the middle number is evenly divisible by 30; this,

2. only the middle number is intended, and

3. the first and third numbers are decoys.

This is as far as the traditional Christian and Jewish scholarship goes on decoding these cryptic series of numbers. (1) However, after reading Robert Graves' work The White Goddess, I discovered a fourth key that completes the decoding process:

4. In apocalyptic literature, “… years are usually expressed as months, and months and days.” (2)

In the Book of revelations (Chapter 11), the following three numbers are stated as signifying the interval of time until heathen rule is abolished: 42 months, 1,260 days, and 3 ½ days. The center number, 1,260 days, is significant, and it is the only number in the series that can be evenly divisible by 30 days (1 month). And 1,260 divided by 30 equals 42 months.

However, according to Robert Graves (my key #4), months were a cipher for the intended meaning of years. And according to Chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation, “1,260 days” was the esoteric manner of alluding to the 42 years that Jerusalem would lay in ruins from the last deportation of Jews in 581 B.C. until Babylon fell to Persia in 539 B.C. This assessment is accurate and is supported by evidence from the Bible.

As was mentioned in Jeremiah 52:30, the last deportation of Jews from Jerusalem occurred in the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. Dating Nebuchadnezzar's reign as beginning in 604 B.C. (3) and using the twenty-third year of his reign for the last deportation of Jews from Jerusalem, the date of the last deportation would be the year 581 B.C. Furthermore, from 581 B.C. until the Babylonian domination was overthrown in 539 B.C. by the Persians is a period of forty-two years!

Chapter 12 of the Book of Daniel also presents a series of three numbers alluding to the interval of time until “the time of the end.” These numbers are 3 ½, 1,290, and 1,335. This sequence of numbers reveals the same pattern as those for Chapter 11 of the Book of Revelation. Only the center number , 1.290, is significant and yields 43 months when divided by 30. However, according to key #4, the 43 months is an allusion to the intended meaning of 43 years.

What is so significant in the history of ancient Israel during the year following the fall of Babylon in 539 B.C.? Although the keys are true and provide the intended meaning that was enciphered by the Jewish apocalypse, the insights extracted from detailed historiographical and hermeneutical analysis matched the correct number with the correct historical era. Both the Books of Revelation and Daniel are redacted texts that appear in historical eras later than the era upon which the substratum was originally based.

In light of the above, the 43 years refers to the year following the conquest of Babylon. That is the year 538 B.C. or the first regnal year of Cyrus king of Persia as king of kings. The arcane meaning of the 1,290 days (43 years) has been solved. The first regnal year of Cyrus and its significance for the Jewish exiles is stated in the Book of Ezra:

“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, so that the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the heart of Cyrus king of Persia; and he issued a proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing, to this effect:
”'This is the word of Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord the God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he himself has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem in Judah.'“ (Ezra 1:1–3)

The issuance of the edict of Cyrus in his first regnal year after the fall of Babylon fulfills the twin aspects of the prophecy of Jeremiah concerning Babylon's fall and the restoration of a remnant of ancient Israel. The Book of Isaiah refers to Cyrus king of Persia in this manner:

“I make my servants' prophecies come true and give effect to my messengers' designs. I say to Jerusalem, 'She shall be inhabited once more', and of the cities of Judah, 'They shall be rebuilt; all their ruins I will restore.' I say to the deep waters, 'Be dried up; I will make your streams run dry.' I say to Cyrus, 'You shall be my shepherd to carry out all my purpose, so that Jerusalem may be rebuilt and the foundations of the temple may be laid.'” (Isaiah 44:26–28)

After detailed historiographical analysis of the text of Daniel, the fruits of meditation show Chapter 12 to be a recapitulation/representation of Chapter 1:21 in an allegorized form with a hermetically sealed cipher referring to the edict of Cyrus—the year 538 B.C. Daniel 1:21 reads as follows: “Now Daniel was there till the first year of King Cyrus.” Until the cryptic meaning of “the time of the end” was solved, Daniel 1:21 was perplexing. Now, however, it is understood that Daniel was at the Babylonian Royal Court until the first regnal year of Cyrus.

The main argument of this article is that major portions of the Books of Daniel and Revelation were originally a literary unity celebrating the passage of world sovereignty form Nebuchadnezzar's Neo-Babylonian Empire to that of Cyrus the Great of Persia in the sixth century B.C. This literary unity served as a pre-existing (that is, pre-existing prior to the second century B.C. and prior to the first century A.D. redactions known as the canonical Daniel and the canonical Revelation) eschatological schema or literary quarry for theological ideas and potent apocalyptic symbols. The notion of a pre-existing eschatological schema is suggested by R. H. Charles (in G. K. Beale's work title The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John). (4)

In the book of Daniel, Daniel said the following to King Nebuchadnezzar while interpreting one of the king's dreams:

”'As you watched, O king, you saw a great image. This image, huge and dazzling, towered before you, fearful to behold. The head of the image was of fine gold, its breast and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet part iron and part clay.'“ (Daniel 2:31–33)

The multi-metaled image is a metaphorical representation of the successive reigns of Neo-Babylonian kings from Nebuchadnezzar through Belshazzar. The gold is Nebuchadnezzar, the silver is Evil Marduk, the bronze is Neriglissar, the iron is Nabonidus, and the clay is Belshazzar. (5)

The argument presented in this article, that many of the symbols in the canonical Book of Daniel come from an era much earlier than the Maccabean period, is also suggested by the Old Testament Biblical scholar Philip R. Davies:

“The original meaning of the dream which I have proposed elsewhere is that the statue represents the kingdom of Babylon, of which Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold, and three successors are represented by successively degenerate materials, culminating in either Nabonidus, the absentee ruler or possibly Belshazzar his regent. The statue—the Babylonian kingdom—will fall to a miraculous stone which will become a mountain. … It may reasonably be objected that this is not what the chapter means in its present form. But the importance of the account just as given is that it suggests a fairly early date for the original—or earlier—form of this story, probably no later that the early years of Cyrus—whose advent, actual or potential, may have evoked it. It was accordingly refashioned later, in the Hellenistic period, when the interpretation was added to the dream, creating the unique scenario in which the king, requires both dream and interpretation, and turning the story into one about four successive kingdoms.” (6)

G. K. Beale's writing supports my assessment that there was a pre-existing substratum that existed prior to the Maccabean historical era of the second century B.C.: “Indeed, the observation that these Danielic patterns appear repeatedly in Jewish and Christian apocalyptic literature would seem to point, not to a mere general apocalyptic tradition, but to a specific, circulating Daniel tradition.” (7)

For a solution to the complex mathematical cryptograms for Revelation 13:18 regarding the number 666, in which Nebuchadnezzar and Balthasar (Belshazzar) are two of the nine components of the cryptogram, see my article titled Enigma which appears on the Hermetic Library website.

1. R. H. Charles, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Daniel (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1929), pp. 339–340.

2. Robert Graves, The White Goddess (New York, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983), p. 347.

3. D. J. Wiseman, Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (New York, New York: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 19.

4. G. K. Beale, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John (Lanham, Maryland: University Press of America, Inc., 1984), p. 289.

5. P. R. Davies, Daniel (Sheffield, England: JSOT Press, 1985), pp. 26 & 48.

6. Davies, Daniel, p. 48.

7. Beale, The Use of Daniel in Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and in the Revelation of St. John, p. 310.