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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Jeroboams & Balthazars, Part 2: Wine Bottles of Biblical Proportions

Throughout the history of wine there have been countless variations of vessels to carry and store it. As we've already seen, there are many different names that have been used to describe specific glass wine bottles (apart from simply calling them by how much volume they carry). The title of this three part series, Jeroboams & Balthazars, are just two of them. The point of this series is to not only show the names of these bottles that are still in production, but also to tell the stories of for whom specific bottles were named after and why that name was chosen.

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
In Part 1: Wine Bottles of Typical Proportions everything below 3 liters was covered. And everything below 3 liters are easily summarized as a translation (piccolo means "small", magnum means "great") or just an old unit of measurement (like the chopine). In other words: light reading. When you go above that 3 liter bottle, things change.

Wine is an essential part of Christian worship. And so you have Christians, particularly the Catholics, pretty much making all of the advancements in viticulture and winemaking for the vast majority of the last 2,000 years. Wherever Christianity spread, the wine got better. If they didn't make wine before, then vineyards started popping up. Of course, the monotheist institution caused other advancements to be set back hundreds to thousands of years but c'mon... wine is a necessity of life.

The people that named these impressively large bottles had larger-than-life characters from their religious faiths in mind. Who better to be the namesake of an enormous and heavy bottle of wine than a great king of Israel? Or a giant that tried to kill one of them? They may be characters from an ancient mythology that's still believed by many today, but there is no denying that these characters are legendary and have had influence in the course of world history. And, whether you're a theist or an atheist like myself, you have to admit that they're great stories.

And so we transition away from a double-magnum being twice the size of a magnum, and thus double-great, into something completely different. Now we delve into the world of the Christian Old Testament, AKA the Jewish Tanakh.

But before we begin, this blog comment was made by mgraves in Part 1: "What you should emphasize is how infrequently the the odd sizes are used. Most especially the very large bottles. It has been said that there have been more very large bottles of old Bordeaux sold than were ever known to be produced. Large bottles have played an important role in famous wine frauds." Thanks, mgraves! I was unaware of that fact!

Jeroboam's Sacrifice
4.5 liter
Rehoboam (Sparkling)

The Jeroboam is said to be the first bottle size to be named in this way. It's usually 4.5 liters (six standard bottles), but when we're talking about Champagne or Burgundy then a Jeroboam is 3 liters. When you have a 4.5 liter bottle of Champagne or another sparkling wine it's a Rehoboam. That actually makes sense because the dudes they are named after fought for the same thing.

I'll get to Rehoboam's grandfather, King David, and his father, Solomon, in more detail when we hit the 18 liter bottle in Part 3. But King David started off The First Book of Kings in his deathbed, naming his fifth son Solomon as the king of the United Kingdom of Israel. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam make their first appearances in Kings Chapter 11 and The Second Book of the Chronicles Chapter 10.

When they enter the scene it's roughly 930 BCE. King Solomon is an old man that's getting metaphorically slapped in the face by Yahweh (AKA God). After a lifetime of service to the almighty, Solomon was convinced by his 700 wives to start allowing worship of the gods of their homelands and he even started building structures in their name. Can you really blame him, though? He had 700 wives. That's a lot of nagging and pestering to do this and do that. I can't even imagine. Amiright, fellas? Sigh.

Old Man Solomon

So Yahweh told him "Listen, I'm not gonna take away your kingdom and boot you out of Israel like I told you I would. Instead, when you're dead, I'm gonna split the kingdom in two between your heir and one of your servants. I'm not sure which one yet but I'll figure it out. Oh, and guess what? Prepare to have a bunch of shit go down." Suddenly there was discontent in the kingdom, old family rivals returned to cause trouble, and there was backlash within the kingdom against Solomon's luxurious lifestyle.

Jeroboam (we'll call him Jerry) was one of Solomon's servants. Because he was industrious and ambitious he was named the head guy in charge of building the Millo rampart in the City of David. One day the prophet Ahijah paid Jeroboam a visit and told him that Yahweh's threat to Solomon would come true, and Jeroboam would rule ten of the twelve tribes that now made up the United Kingdom of Israel. Jerry liked the way this sounded, because as Mel Brooks told us once, “It's good to be the king.” Unfortunately, he just couldn't wait patiently for God to give him his crown. Jerry began actively revolting and conspiring, and naturally Solomon ordered him to be put down. The coup attempt failed and Jerry fled to Egypt.

Solomon died soon after and his son Rehoboam (we'll call him Ray) was crowned in the city of Shechem at the age of 41. After hearing of Solomon's death, Jerry came back and joined the people of the kingdom in asking that Ray lower the high tax rates set by his materialistic father. All of Solomon's gold dinnerware and awesomely huge temple in Jerusalem hadn't come cheaply. Ray sent them away for a few days so he could take consultation and think it over. The elders advised him to do it and gain some loyalty, but when he asked his lifelong buddies they said "Nah, dude. Make those whinny pay more for even asking." This is like getting elected president and instead of going to your cabinet for ideas on tax policy, you listen to your fraternity brothers from college (even the one who gave himself an Everclear enema that one time).

When the people came back, Ray had an unpleasant surprise for them. He told them that yes, his father's taxes had been heavy, but instead of lowering them, he was actually going to INCREASE them. He stuck out his pinkie and said "For my littlest finger is thicker than my father's loins; and your backs, which bent like reeds at my father's touch, shall break like straws at my own touch." Ouch. Somebody's got daddy issues.

The Israelites were piiiiiiissed and they told Ray that they were done. They said, and I'm paraphrasing, "Oh yeah? We'll make our own kingdom. With blackjack. And hookers." and right there ten of twelve tribes denounced the house of David, left and went north back to their homes. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin stayed loyal to Ray.

Solomon's jerkfaced son was left with exactly what Yahweh had promised: two tribes that now made up the Kingdom of Judah. When the people of the ten seceded tribes found out that Jerry was among them they named him the king of the Kingdom of Israel. It was on. A once united kingdom was now divided in an ugly divorce and one of them wanted the deed to the house.

The Kingdom of Israel, The Kingdom of Judah
Ray wasted no time and got back to Jerusalem where he gathered his own forces and called on the 180,000 warriors from the tribe of Benjamin. He was going to take his family's kingdom back by force. But on their way a holy man named Shemaiah started spitting out new instructions from the Lord to turn back.

How many curse words do you think came out of Ray's mouth after the freaking creator of earth and life and everything told him to not attack Israel? It seems to me he was a guy that would have had a bit of a tantrum. He probably broke something. But nevertheless, the U-turn was made back to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, Jeroboam was busy building. He didn't have Jerusalem but he had Jewish people. What if they made the trip to Jerusalem to visit the temple and they were convinced to switch sides? Ray had a tourist attraction that could be used to turn Jerry's own people against him and Jerry knew it. So he started building his own cities and he started building alters and places of worship. He even set up his own capital at Shechem.

These alters and places of worship weren't for worshiping Yahweh, though. Instead they were for worshiping two golden calves. "Hey," he told his people, "Look at me... look at me... these are your gods now." That was a terrible Captain Phillips reference and I don't regret making it. A new religion was made with new temples and a new order of priests. It probably wasn't that big of a deal to the people. Calf worship was common back then, and they were already burning cows and sheep all the time for Yahweh so it most likely wasn't that much of a transition. I mean, unless you're the LORD HIMSELF. He must have been livid, huh?

IMAGE CREDIT: dwellingintheword
Well, he was. So he sent a man out of Judah to have a little talk with Jerry while he was burning incense on his new alter and chilling to reggae music because that's just what you do when you burn incense. This nameless man (I'm convinced he was Jaqen H'ghar of Braavos) told Jerry that a child named Josiah* would be born to the house of David and he'd destroy the alter and murder the priests of Jeroboam's new religion if the Jerry's new religious sites weren't destroyed. Also, the alter he was standing on right now was about to split apart and spill ash all over the place.

Jerry's reggae vibe was killed so he outstretched his hand, pointed to the nameless man, and ordered him to be arrested. But a man could not be contained (except when he was a prisoner in a barred wagon before being saved by Arya that one time). Suddenly Jerry's pointing hand dried up and shriveled, leaving him with a useless piece of human jerky as an appendage. It probably looked like Dumbledore's creepy burned-up hand in Harry Potter 6. Also, the alter he was standing on split apart and spilled ash all over the place, which didn't exactly start his new religion off on the best of footings.

That's a scary experience for Jerry. He frantically asked the nameless man to pray that his hand be restored, and the nameless man obliged. So Jerry got his hand back and the nameless man headed out from Bethel, after refusing food and accommodations from Jerry himself because Yahweh had forbidden it. He was found by another prophet and was convinced to come back and have a boring meal of bread and water. That was a direct violation of Yahweh's orders so the nameless man was later killed on the road by a random lion. If it makes you feel any better, the prophet that convinced the nameless man to come back found his body and gave him a proper burial.

Jeroboam and his dying son
None of this meant anything to Jerry. He forgot all about the scary hand-withering that Yahweh had given him and he went right on being the high priest of his golden calf cult. Since Yahweh felt Jerry wasn't getting the message, it was time for immediate family to be affected by his wrong doings. When his kid was struck with illness he told his wife to disguise herself and go see Ahijah, the prophet that told Jerry he would be king, so they could find out if they would lose their son. She went to him incognito but Ahijah knew who she was. He had gone blind but Yahweh had told him she was coming, and he told him what to say. It was this: When you go back home the child will die. Also I'm going to mess up the rest of your family and Israel itself. "The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Jeroboam and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field; for the LORD has spoken!" When Jerry's wife arrived home, the child died.

What about our buddy Ray? He kinda did the same thing and turned away from Yahweh, building pillars and places of worship to other gods, because that's the continuous loop that Kings and Chronicles gets stuck in. But the almighty had a different plan for him. He sent Shishak, the king of Egypt, to Judah with twelve hundred chariots, sixty thousand horsemen, and an uncountable sum of soldiers. They took the cities of Judah by storm and then confronted Ray in Jerusalem. The message was clear: repent or die. And the answer was obvious: repent. The kingdom of Judah was back in the good graces of Yahweh, enjoying good and successful times. Rehoboam suddenly died seventeen years after taking the throne, leaving his son Abijah with the throne.

Abijah wanted to reunite the kingdoms of Israel and Judah so the two kingdoms kicked up their rivalry once again and faced each other in battle. Jerry outsmarted Abijah and set up a flank attack from behind, but Yahweh just had to get involved and "struck" the Israelites right when they were about to spring their ambush. The Judeans slaughtered half a million of Jerry's men, then started taking his towns. Jeroboam's power over Israel was fading away, and he died suddenly in 910 BCE after reigning for twenty-two years. His son Nabab was his successor, and he reigned for two years before being assassinated by one of his own captains. Despite defeating Jerry in battle, Abijah wasn't able to reunite the kingdoms, and Israel and Judah continued to fight each other off and on for the next several hundred years.

Josiah was born to the house of David 300 years later. He didn't need to lay waste to Jeroboam's constructs of blasphemy because they were already destroyed.

6 liter
Methuselah (Sparkling)

The six liter Imperial bottle size is the equivalent of eight standard bottles. When it contains sparkling wine then it's known as a Methuselah, which means "man of the spear" and "his death shall bring judgment".

Methuselah is the longest living mortal in Abrahamic mythology and the grandfather of Noah. He's brought up in various Hebrew texts but always only briefly, and they all conflict with each other in one way or more. Most of them agree that he died at 969 years old, one says he was 720 years old, and the Bible that I stole from a hotel when I was a kid says he lived to be 870 years old.

In terms of when Methuselah died, some say it was years before or after the Great Flood, but traditionally it's believed that he passed a mere week shy of it. When he's warned of the Great Flood he unsuccessfully tries to get people to be more god fearing so they all wouldn't friggin' drown. In the Book of Enoch (an ancient text that didn't make it into the Hebrew or Christian Bible), Methusalah wields a magical sword that he uses against evil and spooky ghosts.

9 liter

Nine liters is the equivalent of twelve standard size bottles. And for this one we're taking a little break away from religious text, at least for most of it, to head into some Assyrian history.

Shalmaneser, also known as Salmānu-ašarēd ("Salmānu the supreme god"), is the name of five Assyrian kings: Shalmaneser I through Shalmaneser V. None of them reigned right after the other so it wasn't like there was Shalmaneser and then Shalmaneser Junior. It's like Queen Elizabeth I and II.

Shalmaneser I was king of Assyria between 1265 and 1235 BCE. His dad, Adad-nirari I, had managed to strengthen Assyria through conquests, but unfortunately he also pissed a lot of people off in the process. The Hittites had convinced Aramaean and the powerful kingdom of Mitanni (located in the modern nation of Syria) to place embargos on Assyria, so when Shalmaneser I took over he went right to the battlefield for resources and to strike down his enemies, which he did swiftly. Within a year he conquered eight countries. When he destroyed the temple of Arinnu, he brought back some dust from the rubble and poured it out in the Assyrian capital of Assur to show his god. Within the next year he had taken down the Hittites, the Aramaeans, and the Mitannians. Instead of wanting to go in and slaughter everybody as was common for the times, growing the economy of Assyria was Shalmaneser I's prime directive. Being smart about who they left alive in their pillaging was important... for slavery. Successful merchants and and talented scribes were brought into a government trading network. Laborers from the conquered lands were imported into Assyria to be forced into working the fields, the ones from Mitanni horrifically blinded in one eye. To the Assyrians this was an unparalleled act of mercy. We're letting you live when you should be dead.

Shalmaneser II reigned from 1030 BCE to 1019 BCE and there's a big blind spot on his time on the throne. Legend has it that he raised an army of 20,000 only to be defeated due to the useless wicker shields he armed them with. But most of the things that were written about him could very well be about the first Shalmaneser or even the ones that followed.

The Black Obelisk of Shalmaneser
Shalmaneser III wore the crown from 859 BCE to 824 BCE. He was constantly at war, usually with Babylon, but by far the most interesting thing about him was his creation of the Black Obelisk.

The ancient world of the Middle East loved to keep records of everything, and the long reigning and successful kings were obsessed with their annals. Shorter termed kings, such as three of these five Shalmanesers, had little or nothing to record of their victories or great stories. What they did record was miscule in comparison to other records so we're lucky if anything survives from them at all. They were here and then gone, never legends in their own time, so we really have nothing to say about them today.

A guy like Shalmaneser III had annals up his anal. Sorry, there was no way I wasn't going to that. His records show the first historical mention of the Arabs and Chaldeans, a tribe that would soon take control of the Babylonian state. The greatest of his monuments is the stunningly beautiful Black Obelisk, found in his Central Palace by A.H. Layard in 1816, and it now resides in the British Museum. It's a four-sided pillar made of limestone standing 6 1/2 feet tall and 2 feet thick. Each side contains five panels, each panel with pictures and text of a different king that submitted to him. So you could say he was pretty successful.

The most famous is that of Jehu, a king from northern Israel, bowing down to the floor for Shalmaneser, his men behind him baring gifts for the Assyrian king. It reads: "The tribute of Jehu, son of Omri: I received from him silver, gold, a golden bowl, a golden vase with pointed bottom, golden tumblers, golden buckets, tin, a staff for a king [and] spears." With the Black Obelisk being dated at 841 BCE, this is the earliest surviving image of an Israelite.

Shalmaneser IV was king from 783 BCE to 773 BCE. Under this Shalmaneser, the kingdom of Assyria was run more by his appointed governors and military leaders than by himself. Aaaaand that's it with him. We can move on.

Shalmaneser V ruled from 737 BCE to 722 BCE. This is the dude where the differently spelled Salmanazar comes from, and the guy that the nine liter bottle is named after. Salmanazar is the Latin name for Shalmaneser. And of course, Shalmaneser V was the Salmanazar / Shalmaneser of the Old Testament. Not surprisingly, there's no evidence to support his existence other than scripture and legend.

In The Second Book of Kings Chapter 17 we find yet another king of Israel, this time Hoshea, doing evil in the sight of the Lord. Guess what happens next? SMITE! Salmanazar rolls in from Assyria and, like a mob boss, says "You work for me now, okay? I want a piece of everything you make. Don't be late and don't try anything funny." Hoshea, shaking in his boots, made payments until he came to an agreement with the king of Egypt to join together and rebel against the Assyrian domination. When the payments didn't come in, Salma swooped down into Palestine looking to collect. Egypt never showed up to help and the Assyrians besieged the city of Samaria for three freakin' years.

When Hoshea finally surrendered in 721 BCE he did so to Sargon, the new Assyrian king. Salmanazar's death is given no explanation.

12 liter

Twelve liters is the equivalent of sixteen standard bottles. For the first time, and we'll only be doing it twice, we're dipping into the New Testament. We're in Jesusland!

The Holy Bible actually doesn't say how many wise men there were, their names, or that they were kings. The only information that it gives about them is that wise men came from the east and brought three gifts.

These guys camel-convoyed to Jerusalem after seeing a new star in the sky, a sign that the King of the Jews had been born, and they demanded that King Herod tell them where he was. He sent them to the Judean town of Bethlehem, because that's what the prophecy said, and asked them to let him know if they find him so he could go pinch the widdle peanut's cutie-pie cheeks too. Herod super-duper pinky swore that he really wanted to honor the child, and he DEFINITELY wasn't interested in murdering him. No siree! When they found eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus in a manger they gave him the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And then they left. That's it for them in the Bible but it's not the end of their story.

The wise men are actually referred to as Magi but many Bible editors opted to call them wise men instead. Why would they want to change that? Because the Magi were a Persian social class of people that were well respected for their education and knowledge of science and astronomy... within Zoroastrianism, one of the oldest monotheist religions. So the wise men were followers of Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god; not Yahweh, the Jewish God, or the Christian version of Yahweh, Jehovah.

The Magi of the Bible got their own spinoffs. Eastern Christians decided that there was twelve of them. Western Christians went with three. Their names were Balthazar, Caspar and Melchior. The names and origin stories are said to come from a Greek manuscript circa 500 CE, and it became commonly accepted. What reigns true on Earth reigns true in heaven, right?

Balthazar, his name translated from Bithisarea in the Greek manuscript, by tradition is the king of Saba in Africa and widely credited with presenting the gift of myrrh. This gum resin comes from African trees, has a perfume-like fragrance, deters vermin when turned into incense, and it was hella expensive. The gift of myrrh symbolized suffering and *gulp* death.

English monk Saint Bede the Venerable, a historian and Doctor of the Church in the 8th century, described Balthazar in his work titled Collectanea or Excerpta et Collectanea as being the king of Ethiopia, middle aged, and having a "black complexion" with a heavy beard. Since then he's been depicted as darker skinned than the other wise men in art, nativity scenes, plays and movies. It's said that he died at the age of 112 on January 6th, 55 CE.

In Part 3 we'll be meeting one of his counterparts, Melchior, so I'll continue with the three wise men there and give you a rundown on what happened to them after leaving Bethlehem.

15 liter

Fifteen liters is the equivalent of twenty standard sized bottles. The fifteen liter bottle is named after Nebuchadnezzar II, whose story was my favorite from the Bible as a kid, even though I knew it was all hogwash back then too.

Nebuchadnezzar II was the Chaldean king of Babylon from 605 BCE to 562 BCE, and his Biblical portrayal is within the pages of The Book of Daniel, a collection of folktales from the Jewish people of ancient Babylon and Mesopotamia. It actually didn't make the cut for the Israeli Tanakh but it is included in the Christian New Testament.

The book starts with Nebby besieging Jerusalem with the consent of Yahweh, which included the destruction of the temple that Solomon built (which we'll get to in Part 3). The King of Jerusalem at the time was Jehoiakim, who was godless and heavily tattooed. He banged his own mom, step-mom and his daughter-in-law. He would also kill guys just so he could rape their wives and take their stuff. The Old Testament condones those last few parts all the time so it must have been Jehoiakim's lack of faith and tattoos that Yahweh didn't like.

When Nebby attacked in 597 BCE, Jehoiakim pulled a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" and gave his allegiance to Babylon. He then handed over all sorts of stuff. Not just treasures and artifacts, but actual people. Nobles and descendants of the Judean king, all strapping and intelligent young men, were now property of Nebuchadnezzar and they were brought to Babylon to learn the language and literature of the Chaldeans.

They were looked after by a eunuch named Ashpenaz and were treated more like guests than hostages, really.  They ate the best food, including delicacies only available to royalty, and had access to Nebby's personal wine supply. Their training would last three years, with the end game being that they would serve under the king of Babylon. Four of these hostages were Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah and, the guy that the book is named after, Daniel.

Every one of them were given Babylonian names, Dan's being Belteshazzar. Dan didn't like that. Dan didn't like any of this. Eating food the Babylonians prepared was considered unclean, and, well, not kosher as it's called today. So he and his three friends decided they weren't going to partake in provisions to avoid being defiled. Ashpenaz freaked out a little bit. He was in charge of training and taking care of these kids! If they don't eat they'll deteriorate and die, and Nebby would surely punish him for letting valuable captives die! So Dan said "Look, give us vegetables and water for ten days. After those ten days, give us a look over." When the ten days were up they were in better condition, and even fatter, than those that were stuffing their face with delicious fried chicken and chili dogs. So, and this just blows my mind, Yahweh gave the Fantastic Four their powers. They were divinely granted "knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom". Dan himself could now understand visions and dreams. All for being vegan.

At the end of their three-year training, the whole crew was brought to see Nebuchadnezzar so they could be judged. There was a spelling bee, a bikini show, a talent show, a town hall debate on the most efficient way to sacrifice various animals, a game of strip twister, and a pop quiz lightning round. The Fantastic Four came out as the victors, performing ten times better than any of the magicians and astrologers in the entire kingdom would. So they got to stay and serve King Nebby. I'm assuming the other guys were fed to the Rancor.

A year later, Nebby was having a recurring night-terror that was so horrifying to him that he was too scared to fall asleep. He desperately wanted to know what it meant so he called on all of the magicians, astrologers and sorcerers in the kingdom. And so he said unto them, "Guys, I keep having this really messed up dream. Tell me what it means. Thanks. Oh, and if you don't I'm going to cut you into pieces and burn down your homes. Smooches!" to which they replied, "Okay. Give us the details of the dream and we'll interpret it for you." to which he replied, "Nope! You have to tell me what the actual dream was, AND interpret it for me!", to which the wise men replied, "You're joking, right?" to which he replied, "No." The cutting up of wise men and burning down of their homes went into full effect.

Cut to a dark room. Beer cans everywhere. The phone is ringing. Pan to a messy bed. There's a groan. An arm appears from under the covers and grabs the phone. "Daniel!", it's Arioch, captain of the king's guard, "We need you and your team to take out some wise men!" Dan tosses the sheets aside and sits up. "What? Why?", "Because the king wants a dream analyzed but won't tell them anything about the dream. So we need to kill them.", "Let me talk to the king. Alone.", "Are you sure, Daniel?", "You know me, Arioch. I'm the best." *Babylon skyline, Roger Daltrey screams*

In an attempt to stop the slaughter of the wise men, and so he and his buddies wouldn't meet the same fate, Dan met with Nebby and told him that he'd interpret his dream if he was given time. This was one of the gifts that was given to him by Yahweh, right? Yet still, Dan had nothing. Or the writer simply forgot this was one of Dan's super powers now. So himself, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah prayed for help. Yahweh came in a "night vision", AKA hypnogogic hallucinations (the sleepy-time phenomenon that makes us believe we had an experience with fairies, demons, deities, or aliens) and let him know the details of Nebby's dream and what it all meant. Of course, the night vision could have said anything. The king was probably too proud to admit that he didn't even remember anything about the dream, just that it scared the bejesus out of him.

Nebuchadnezzar's Statue
Dan met with Nebby again and broke it all down for the king. In his dream he saw a giant statue of a man. "The image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iton, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands (ASTEROID, ANYONE?), which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled whole earth. This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king."

"You are this head of gold." Each level represented a different empire that would be brought down successively by Yahweh, represented by the stone, starting with Nebby's empire, the golden head. The mountain that covers the entire planted, formed out of the stone, is the Kingdom of God that will reign forever.

Christians have taken the book of Revelation from the New Testament and used it to pin down what empires the other levels represent. Revelations is a ghastly and despicable work of literature that concludes the Holy Bible, has inspired Christian extremists throughout history to do terrible crimes against humanity, and still gives them a sense of justification for bigotry and hate by rebranding them as "values". It is literally the reason why the actual teachings of Christ are largely ignored by his followers.

Anyways, in Revelations there's a seven headed beast that's gonna gobble up all the sinners after the rapture. Each head represents seven kingdoms that constantly agitate and disobey Jehovah (the Latin name for Yahweh): Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and a bonus slot for whatever major empire is around just before the apocalypse.

So what we have for Nebby's statue dream is this:
Head of Gold: Babylon (605 BCE - 539 BCE)
Breast of Silver: Medo-Persia (539 BCE - 331 BCE)
Thighs of Brass: Greece (331 BCE -168 BCE)
Legs of Iron: Rome (168 BCE - 476 CE)
Feet of Iron and Clay: Divided Nations (476 CE - literally tomorrow)
Mountain: Kingdom of God (literally tomorrow - eternity)

When Dan is finished interpreting the dream, Nebby collapses and praises Dan's god for being so amazing. For his efforts, Dan received a bunch of swag and a promotion. He was named the administrator over the wise men. He and his whole crew were also given rule over the province of Babylon, under the king of course.

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah
Nebby was impressed by Daniel's abilities, but was still not a follower of Yahweh. He worshiped his own gods and mainly himself. So he had an image built on the plain of Dura that was similar to the one in his dream but made entirely of gold. He told everybody to bow to it or he'd toss their asses into a blazing furnace. But Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah refused. I thought they were supposed to be divinely wise. Three Stooges is more what they are. Just bow, you dummies!

"Soooo you're really not going to bow?" asked Nebby. They replied with a "Silly Nebuchadnezzar. We don't worship your gods or your image. We ain't skerred." This infuriated King Nebby and he ordered that the furnace be cranked seven times hotter than normal. "IN YOU GO!"

The three were bound and taken over to the furnace, where the heat radiating from it immediately killed the men that lead them there. Somehow the Stooges fell in but Nebby noticed that they were just hanging out, unharmed. And there was a fourth person in there that looked like the Son of God! Nebby ordered the Stooges to come out. When they did, their clothes weren't burned, their hair wasn't singed, and they didn't even smell like they were just in a fire. Somehow White Jesus snuck off, got back in the Delorean, and went back to the future.

Nebby ordered that if anybody talks trash about Yahweh he'd cut them into pieces and burn down their homes. Cutting people up and arson. Babylon's favorite pastime.

Now he started having a different dream. The dude seriously needed to start taking ambien so he could just pass out into a void of darkness and undisturbed sleep. This one showed an enormous tree. "The tree grew and became strong; its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, the birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: 'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him."

Yeah. This was a job for Dan, who by now had embraced his Babylonian name of Belteshazzar. After hearing about this dream, he was visually stunned and Nebby had to tell him that it was okay to give him an honest interpretation. Dan told him that the king himself was the tree because he had grown strong and powerful, and the watcher was the god of the "Most High" who thought he needed a taste of humble pie. This god of the "Most High" had declared that Nebby was going to go mad, behave like a beast, and eat grass like oxen. He would come to act human again and regain his position as king only when he has "come to know that Heaven rules", which would take a while seven years.

One year later he was driven out of his own kingdom by men to the wilderness, where he lost his goddamn mind. His hair grew like eagle's feathers, his nails like bird's claws, and he ate grass like oxen. At the end of seven years, his understanding and reason returned to him, and he was once again the king of Babylon... as well as a deeply religious man. "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose words are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down."

And that's it from ol' Biblical Nebby. Chapter 4 ends with that last quote and Chapter 5 begins with his son in power.

Reality Nebby was an incredibly successful king that broke Babylon's three hundred year vassalage to Assyria, and engaged in many military campaigns to extend Babylon's power (including when he defeated King Jehoiakim in Judah). He's also credited with building the Hanging Gardens, which he did for his beloved Persian wife whom was homesick for Medis. The Gardens supposedly resembled the terraced hills from her mountainous homeland. Every other guy in Babylon grumbled under their breath. How were they supposed to top THAT kind of a gift this Valentine's Day?

Nebuchadnezzar is also the name of Morpheus' ship in The Matrix for a few reasons. In Greek mythology Morpheus is the name for the god of dreams, and in biblical mythology Nebuchadnezzar was a king that sought out the meaning of his dreams. Also, the real-life Nebuchadnezzar was the builder of Babylon; in The Matrix they were rebuilding human civilization. Morpheus also quotes the biblical Nebuchadnezzar several times in the movies.

Up next is the 18 liter Melchior in PART 3: Wine Bottles of Colossal Proportions!

- Joey Casco, CSW/CSS

Guest Editor and Researcher: Graham Richardson
I have to give a million thank you's to Graham, who proof read and fact checked this article series, even wrote pieces of it here and there, and was instrumental in the research. You've seen me thank him on other history articles before but there is absolutely no way I could have EVER done this one without him.

Part 1: Wine Bottles of Typical Proportions
Part 2: Wine Bottles of Biblical Proportions
Part 3: Wine Bottles of Colosal Proportions

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