posted on Mar, 11 2013 @ 06:06 PM
When Number Six forced a meeting with Number One, he was hoping to unmask the rulers of The Village and put a face to his enemy.
What he got was a cowled figure, repeating his own words back at him.
As the figure began screeching, “I, I, I”, he snatched off its mask, and found a monkey mask.
He snatched off the monkey mask and found a flushed and grinning version of his own face.
All this was hideously confusing on first broadcast, but makes more sense in the repeats.
That is, the driving force of the power which he was combating was a corporate egotism, which was simply a manic version of his own.
Maybe this tells us something about the nature of human authority.
I’ve suggested before that the central theme of Daniel is the clash between the will of God, and the will of a kingship which thinks it’s God.
The particular theme of the fourth chapter of Daniel is the relationship between this kingship and the state of madness.
As in the second chapter, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream.
In the new dream, he saw a great tree.
The tree reached up to heaven and was “visible to the end of the whole earth”.
All the birds and animals found shelter there, “and in it was food for all”.
In Daniel’s interpretation, this tree stands for the king himself.
The king is described as having “dominion to the ends of the earth”.
As in the second chapter, this is not about the king known to history.
This is Nebuchadnezzar as the model of ideal kingship.
The fact that the Bible can have a model of ideal kingship shows that the Biblical God is not set against kingship as such.
But he will distinguish between a right way and a wrong way of exercising kingship.
The right way of exercising kingship is illustrated by the advice which comes from Daniel; “break off your sins by practising righteousness, and
your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed”.
The true function of human authority is to promote justice by defending “the oppressed”, the weaker members of society.
The “watcher” in the dream had been giving a warning of judgement, but judgement is postponed as long as the king heeds the advice.
The wrong way of exercising kingship is illustrated by the event which triggers off the judgement.
The king is moved to declare, as he looks over the extent of his capital; “Is this not great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power…and
for the glory of my majesty?”
So he claims for himself the origin of all these things- “I have built”.
And he claims for himself the purpose of all these things- “for my glory”.
In both respects, his pride is challenging the place of the Creator God who made the world for his own glory.
The immediate response is the fulfilment of the warning and the loss of his human reason.
But it could be argued that a ruler who puts himself in the place of God is already in a state of madness, caught up in a thorough
misunderstanding of his place in the world.
The imagery of a later chapter portrays what happened when his kingdom was erected in the first place
There was a lion with eagles’ wings, the icon of the kingdom of Babylon.
Then, by the action of God, the beast was made to stand on two legs, “and the mind of a man was given to it”-ch7 v4
The undoing of the kingdom is the reverse process.
As human authority forgets its place, and begins reaching towards the place of God, the gift is removed.
The loss of the gift involves the loss of the human reason which came with it.
The king reverts to the existence of an animal.
In his dream, the tree of Nebuchadnezzar was reduced to a stump.
In the same way that his own armies had reduced Israel to a stump, “as of a terebinth or oak”- (Isaiah ch6 v13).
But stumps have a tendency to grow back.
This one, for the moment, was held in by restraining bands of bronze and iron.
He was not to be released before the elapse of the “seven times”- that is, the period which God had planned.
The moral that he was intended to learn by this experience was that human authority is not self-powered, but given by God- “The most High rules the
kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will”.
It’s left rather ambiguous in the story whether the return of his reason is the cause(v34) or the effect (v36) of his ability to give the Lord the
honour that he is due.
Certainly the two things go together.
The tendency of human authority to make itself the centre of the world is proverbial, especially when it finds no rivals.
“All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
Yet anyone who watched The Prisoner will remember that the arrogance of Number Six was a match for the arrogance of his guards.
They both spring from an egotism which has deep roots in human life.
In Biblical terms , it goes back to the defiance of God’s will in the story of Eden.
The report in Genesis, before the Flood, is that the earth has been filled with “Violence”, the ultimate effect of the uncontrolled egotism of
The report after the Flood is about the growth of Babel, representing the corporate version of the same egotism.
The corporate egotism of the human race at large is enough to raise it up against God himself.
Yet whatever the faults of Babel, it has the function of restraining the violent legacy of Cain.
The purpose of good government is to promote justice and protect the weak.
If there is bad government, then justice is promoted badly.
But if there is no government at all, then justice is not promoted at all.
One of the dilemmas of human life is having to accept one of those options as “the lesser of two evils”
The theme of this chapter is the right understanding of the ruler’s place under God.
There’s a place under God for the magistrate, who takes his authority as a way to “execute God’s wrath on the wrongdoer”- Romans ch13 v4.
There’s no place under God for the autocrat (the “self-ruler”, by definition), who takes his authority as coming from his own power and for his
Having a “right understanding”, for a ruler, means knowing the difference.
Insofar as Daniel prophecies a future confrontation between believers and the ruling power, this chapter also demonstrates God’s response and the
The story is a process with three stages, which can be matched in the prophecies of Revelation.
The first stage is the human authority claiming God’s place at the centre of the world..
This can be found in Revelation ch.13, where worship is demanded by a power which combines both forms of egotism; the individual egotism of “the
Beast from the land” and the corporate egotism of “the Beast from the sea”.
We can guess the effect from the conjunction of Adolf Hitler and the German Volk, which was a lesser version of that virulent combination.
The second stage, which is part of God’s response, is the dissolution of human authority.
I believe we see the effects of this in the chaotic nightmare of the “sixth trumpet” in Revelation ch.9
For the removal of authority would not bring in a world of love and peace, but would bring a return to the state of “Violence”.
In the words of Thomas Hobbes, about the absence of social organisation and structures of authority, human life would be “nasty, brutish, and
Human society would cease to resemble human reason, and there would be a return to something more like an animal existence.
The final stage is the restoration of authority in submission to God.
In Revelation, that is the effect of the Return of Christ.
Of him it might be said that;
“His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation”.