Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
The sound of armor echoed all around the wide corridor as he made his way to the west wing. It was a sound he had grown accustomed to most of his life and had grown to first tolerate, and then love it. To him, it was a sound of power – fear to his enemies and peace to his allies, the status of either he could change at a moment’s notice as his mood desires.
But he wasn’t one given to random mood swings. Calculative, focused, wise, strong, cunning, powerful, mighty… these were the kind of adjectives better used to describe him. He had been blessed by the gods no doubt! The level of success he had achieved in such a short while was at best, unimaginable.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
The fifty guards surrounding him were the best of the best. These had sworn an irrevocable oath of loyalty to him and would kill a fly before it could get near enough to sing its annoying tune, the fifty more off-duty equally as adept at bringing death as they were at keeping their mouths shut concerning his personal matters. These numbers increased to two hundred whenever he left the palace grounds and double that whenever he left the capital. On the battle ground, the number rose to a thousand – and that was when he occasionally (against better counsel from his Generals) forced his way into a fight. They knew there was no better tactician in all the kingdoms, but they’d rather have him scheming from within the palace walls.
As King, it wasn’t necessary to have this number with him all the time. But he was no ordinary king.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
Nebuchadnezzar stopped by a large window overlooking one of the gardens and looked outside. Despite being a warrior, he did appreciate the finer things of life. The hanging gardens of Babylon, the Ishtar gate, to name a few. He had heard of the Hebrew king, Solomon whose wisdom and appreciation for beauty was second to none, as was his wealth and taste for all kinds of women. All well and good, those were admirable, but the kingdom of Israel was nothing but ashes and broken-down towns now. In fact, the kingdom was right here in Babylon! He smiled to himself as he walked on.
The initial defeat handed to him by the Egyptians in their home during his earlier days had led to a ripple effect of rebellion upon rebellion. He personally took out his wrath, embarrassment and rage in each and every rebelling kingdom. Israel as no exception. And to ensure there no never a repetition, he took away anyone of worth that was left in the Kingdom. The rebellions died off, permanently, leaving him the time and energy to expand his already vast empire.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
Only ten guards followed him up the spiral stairs and unto the roof of the west wing. He could confidently claim that this was both the highest point and the safest place in all the Kingdom. As the wide door opened before him, the cool breeze of the evening hit him. He stopped, eyes closed, taking a moment to enjoy the pleasure.
The gods were great indeed. He never believed in any of the gods per se. Yes he acknowledged their existence and honored them, but he doubted any single god could give him power and a kingdom so vast! And because the gods were constantly at odds with each other over who was superior, he also doubted that they had come together to unanimously bless him. So, it was easy to deduce that his greatness of his, of his doing and by his doing.
Simply put. He was more of god and less of a man than all men.
He had encountered the God of the Hebrews more than once and had seen Him at work through one of his most trusted advisers, Daniel, who he called Belshazzar as he could give no greater name. While he acknowledged that he was a great God, greater than most (and he accorded Him that reverence) he couldn’t bring himself to accept that he was “The God”.
The clinking noise had stopped, and the air was still. He walked to the edge of the palace roof and leaned on the wall, looking out across the kingdom. As far as his eyes looked, his kingdom looked back at him…the splendor and beauty of the capital Babylon was a testament to his strength. Every direction he looked reflected beauty, power and might.
The sight overwhelmed him, and he couldn’t help himself.
“Mine. This is all mine. I built this. All of this, it’s beauty, it’s splendor and power!”
One of his advisors, Polus, stepped forward and acknowledged him.
“Look” he waved his hands around. “Isn’t this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?”
He had barely gotten the words out when terror filled the air. In a split second, the air felt damp and oppressive, a loud sound filled his ears and his ears causing him to drop on the ground in fear. It felt like air was being sucked out of him and like his ears would explode. He was unaware of all the clinking of armor all around him as his guards and advisors crumbled to the ground. The words that were spoken out of nowhere, they all heard.
“King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven years shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men and gives it to whomever He chooses.”
It was over as soon as it began, and Polus jumped to his feet in fear, the same fear that was in the eyes of the most dangerous men he knew, as they rose from the ground.
He rushed towards where the King lay, flat on the round. Unmoving.
Fear gripped him. A dead king not only meant the end of the mightiest king in the world, it meant his certain death too.
He hurriedly turned the King over with the help of the nearest guard. Nebuchadnezzar was drenched, drops of sweat running down his strong face and thick lock of hair.
NO! You can’t be dead.
And then the King opened his eyes and stared up ahead to the sky, as though in a trance.
Polus looked into his King’s eyes. What stared back at him was not the King he knew.
The King flew up with a growl, grabbing the neck of the nearest guard, who didn’t know how to respond, eyes wide in shock. He mumbled incoherently and then flung the guard a few feet away… over the roof of the palace. the screams of the guard as he fell to his certain death hung in the air. The next sound was a sound Polus would never forget.
It sounded like an animal was trying to growl, squeal, snarl and chuckle at the same time. The fear gripped him without warning and he crumbled to his feet. The sound came from the King’s throat, eyes narrowing, prowling, looking for who next to attack. The eyes met his…his stopped breathing as he watched his King dive towards his direction.
The animal had found its way far away from where men dwelled and had its home in the forest. It sat underneath a tree, long sharp talon-like nails scratching the bark. Wet hair matted the most of his face, leaving eyes, a nose and teeth visible. It snarled and instinctively grabbed at a leaf which it stuffed into its mouth, eyes darting to the left and right, daring any other animal to come close to his dwelling.
It had been years since that time on the roof, a time it could not remember. It had faint visions of being enclosed by shields, in a cage and then dragged out into the wild amidst shocked and teary eyes that meant nothing to it. Nothing else was clear.
It looked up the tree, trying to catch a glimpse of the sun. Unsatisfied, it began to climb… like it had done a thousand times. it crouched on both hands and legs, clearing branch after branch till it got high enough to get a full glimpse of the setting sun. it sat down and watched.
As it watched the sun and the heavens, a warm sensation spread within its stomach. It was a sensation it had never felt. It closed its eyes as it spread all over him. It suddenly turned and started a hasty decent down the tree, running as fast as it could to the clearing of the forest. it didn’t know why it ran, but it did.
It cleared the last set of trees and saw the sun again, it stopped.
Nebuchadnezzar stood to his feet and looked up at the sky, tears falling down his face, his understanding returning to him.
“GOD!!! Most High! I bless you! You who lives forever: Your dominion is an everlasting dominion, and Your kingdom is from generation to generation.”
A figure appeared, eyes in shock, a large stick (presumably for self-defense) limp in his hands.
“All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; You do according to Your will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain Your hand or say to You, “What have You done?” Nebuchadnezzar continued, pausing on noticing he wasn’t alone.
Polus ran to his King, tears flooding his eyes. He had followed the prophecy closely when others had forgotten and counted the time. Seven years! Not a minute more. He had no doubt in his heart that the God of the Hebrews was the God he and his family would serve forever.
“My King.” He bowed.
Nebuchadnezzar, tears still running down his face smiled at his faithful friend and adviser.
“I need some clothes Polus.”
The return to the Palace and to power was as swift as it was welcomed, with rejoicing, singing and dancing.
Every morning, the King awoke before the Palace, made his way to the west wing, down the corridors, up the spiral stairs and up to the roof.
Every morning, he fell to the ground on that rooftop, worshipping the One true God.