The Musical Instruments in Daniel 3 -- By: Charles H. Dyer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 147:588 (Oct 1990)
Article: The Musical Instruments in Daniel 3
Author: Charles H. Dyer


The Musical Instruments in Daniel 3

Charles H. Dyer

Associate Professor of Bible Exposition, Dean of Enrollment Management
Dallas Theological Seminary, Dallas, Texas

The setting for the Book of Daniel in the Bible is the court of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon. It is beyond the scope of this paper to examine the historicity of the Book of Daniel, but several scholars have provided strong evidence for assuming the factualness of the historical accounts presented in Daniel.1 The third chapter of the Book of Daniel records an unusual gathering on “the plain of Dura” possibly located to the south of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar summoned all the officials of the provinces to Babylon to participate in a solemn ceremony.2

King Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold…and set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon. He then summoned the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials to come to the dedication of the image he had set up. So the satraps, prefects, governors, advisers, treasurers, judges, magistrates and all the other provincial officials assembled for the dedication of the image that King Nebuchadnezzar had set up, and they stood before it. Then the herald loudly proclaimed, “This is what you are commanded to do, O peoples, nations and men of every language: As soon as you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, pipes and all kinds of music, you must fall down and worship the image of gold that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up” (Dan 3:1–5).3

Though the purpose for the gathering is unclear from the text, it seems obvious that this was a special gathering and was to be a solemn occasion. The list of officials spans the ranks of Babylonian government and includes the rulers of the territories conquered by Babylon. Though the individuals summoned include only government officials, the international scope of Nebuchadnezzar’s gathering is apparent when the herald addressed the officials as “peoples, nations and men of every language” (v. 4).

An undated clay prism discovered at Babylon (now in the Istanbul museum) provides a parallel account of this event. On the prism Nebuchadnezzar wrote, “I ordered the [following] court officials in exercises of [their] duties to take up position in my [official] suite.”4 The prism then lists five ranks of individuals who were evidently summoned ...

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