What European Colonial Powers Borrowed from King Nebuchadnezzar

King Nebuchadnezzar II


In most cases the concept of what goes round comes round, is a reality that hits hard in human experience. Historical events are in most cases repetitive and most great events have a prototype to compare with. The dean of sagacity, had it well put in his book Ecclesiates:

That which has been is what will be,that which is done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, “See, this is new”? It has already been in ancient times before us.

—King Solomon.



King Nebuchadnezzar II (605 – c. 562 BC) was a power to reckon with in antiquity. He is known as one of the greatest Monarchs of all times. Among his greatest achievements is rampant conquest and holding vassalage of other kingdoms. Among the victims of his expedition was the Northern Kingdom of Israel, also known as the Kingdom of Judah. To be able to benefit from this expedition, he carried out a few important activities which the imperialists have hitherto followed.


Choosing the Very Best.

Then the king instructed Ashpenaz, the master of his eunuchs, to bring some of the children of Israel and some of the king’s descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king’s palace…,

Daniel 1:3-4



In the olden days, the prisoners of war were of great importance. They were a source of free and cheap labour on menial activities. Also there was the part of skilled labour. Different kingdoms had their different areas of gifting. Upon conquest, a king would try to get the very best from their captives. So the king ordered Ashpenaz to choose from the Hebrew camp, young men of royal stock, physically perfect, rich in intellectual endowments and quick to learn. The King wanted the very best out of the Hebrew captives, and I can’t blame him for that. Who wants to set for the least? We all want the best partner, the best job etc.
How did the colonial powers apply this?
All people with a little knowledge of history, remember the Scramble for colonies that has always brought European tribes at loggerheads, especially when they started venturing into the African territory. Everyone wanted the very best and the richest in terms of natural resource endowment. The pressure and a possibility of war, lead to the Berlin Conference (15 Nov 1884 – 26 Feb 1885), in Which the German Chancellor, Otto Von Bismarck, aimed to facilitate a harmonious partition of African continent , like a piece of cake.
Out of all this is a great lesson. The most gifted people must be twice more careful. Your services are in high demand, and therefore you must be careful to ensure it is expended for the good of Mankind and the glory of God. God wants to employ everyone, but the devil wants only the very gifted to lead others into skepticism, error and unbelief. If you are the most influential, the most fluent, then you must be twice more careful.

Change of Curriculum

…and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

Daniel 1:4


In order to make use of the gifted Hebrew youth, they had to be educated in the Chaldean language and literature. Why was this necessary? The Hebrew education was anchored on the plan of redemption and the law of God. The Babylonian Education was also linked to the Babylonian deities. A kind of education that could lead them to a union with the Babylonian rites was a perfect therapy. This however failed to annihilate the glory of God in the four Hebrew young men, who had had great foundation. While at the end they were 10 times better in Babylonian curriculum, they remain fealty to Yahweh, the Hebrew God.
As one of the tools of establishing effective occupation, the European imperialists introduced formal education, to replace what they called informal education. Africans who could speak the foreign language, were successful in formal education and ended up being given higher privileges with the colonial governments. Such people could be used to access the continent deeper and deeper.
Education is not a simple thing. We cannot be too careful in choosing what to read. If the aim of education is not to prepare us to be useful in this world and the world to come, then our education is a failure. True Education aims to restore in man the image of his maker, a goal which if not achieved , we end up with educated sinners.

Change of Religion and Culture

And the king appointed for them a daily provision of the king’s delicacies and of the wine which he drank, and three years of training for them, so that at the end of that time they might serve before the king. Now from among those of the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. To them the chief of the eunuchs gave names: he gave Daniel the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abed-Nego.

Daniel 1:5-7



Culture determines people’s eating habits, naming concepts etc. Babylonian foods were offered to their gods and in the same, their naming concept. The Hebrew diet had untouchables. The Hebrew naming was an important activity. It had an influence on purpose and character. For instance, Jacob’s name meant a supplanter, it had to be changed to Israel. As Jacob, he was a thief of birthright, but as Israel he was a father of a Great Nation. Changing of names, involved breaking the ties of the youth with their God. The name Daniel means ‘God is my judge’ whereas Belteshazzar had an affiliation with Bel, the Babylonian God.
The imperialists used the missionaries to reach out to Africans. In places like Senegal, those who became catholics, were regarded as foreign Citizens of France, and were entitled to the same privileges as native French. This has been used by anti-christians as an argument against Christianity. What do you think? If I use my car as a boat, and sink, does it mean the car is useless? Misuse does not mean declaring something useless.
We must be very careful of our cultural orientation. It is our identity, not a basis of looking down upon others.
Let us learn from History and we will be ready to face the future.

6 thoughts on “What European Colonial Powers Borrowed from King Nebuchadnezzar

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