Kim Il-sung is the deceased leader of North Korea. He ruled for 46 years (1948-1994). The Bible also describes a great leader who ruled for 43 years. He was Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian empire.
Nebuchadnezzar once had a dream. He saw a large statue. Its head was made of pure gold. The exiled Jew, Daniel, gave the king the interpretation.1 Daniel explained that the dream was from God and Nebuchadnezzar’ kingdom was the head of gold. God gave him the dominion, power, might and glory to rule over a very big empire.
Since people are not made to worship either themselves or other people, Nebuchadnezzar received the implicit message to worship God. He didn’t listen, but fell into the all too familiar trap to think that he is great. In Daniel 3 he made a statue and commanded his people to fall down and worship it when they heard the sound of horn, flute and other musical instruments.2 This is the Bible’s example of what is called a ‘personality cult.’ The leader is the beginning and end, and everyone has to worship and adore him.
Today the Bible is supposed to be mythological, and many people will dismiss this incident as fiction. However, in North Korea we see a new ‘Nebuchadnezzar, Kim Il- sung. He established a similar personality cult and the people worship him. He did not erect one statue like Nebuchadnezzar. There are over 500 statues of Kim in North Korea. One is the Immortal Statue of Kim Il-sung. His ‘religion’ is known as Juche. The North Korean government refers to him as the Great Leader and the Eternal President. His birthday is a public holiday and is called the ‘Day of the Sun.’
Kim Il-sung did not experience what Nebuchadnezzar did when God showed him that He (God) is the Ruler of the universe. He appoints and deposes. Nebuchadnezzar was warned in another dream what would happen to him, if he persisted in his megalomania. He did not heed God’s warning. One day “as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, ‘Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?’” Immediately a voice from heaven spoke to him and he was driven away from people and for seven years he lived in the wild almost like an animal (it is called lycanthropy). After that time his sanity returned and he praised the Most High.3
Was Kim Il-sung as lucky as Nebuchadnezzar? No, by all external accounts it does not seem so. Evidence of the cult of Kim Il-sung continues into the 21st century (even though he died in 1994). On his birthday or the anniversary of his death, the citizens of North Korea are expected to pay tribute to the departed “Great Leader” at the Yeong Saeng (“eternal life”) monuments.
The Bible is about real life. So we can expect that events recorded in the Bible will be repeated in later history. The history of Kim Il-sung closely follows that of Nebuchadnezzar.
- Daniel 2
- Daniel 3:4-6
- Daniel 4