Dan 2: Nebuchadnezzar's first dream: the big picture: (1) The
king's dream (vv 1-3); (2) The failure of the king's wise men (vv 4-13); (3)
Daniel's request for time (vv 14-16); (4) Daniel's reception of a revelation and
his thanksgiving (vv 17-23); (5) Daniel's appearance before Nebuchadnezzar (vv
24-30); (6) What Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream (vv 31-35); (7) The
interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream (vv 36-45); (8) The consequences of
Daniel's interpretation (vv 46-49).
"Daniel saw about him in the great metropolis of Babylon,
evidence of human achievement. In Dan 1, Human Wisdom was challenged; and now in
Dan 2, Human Power is judged. In his power and wisdom mankind fails to recognise
that God guides the destiny of nations, and that while man may propose, it is
God who disposes, and whose will and purpose will finally prevail. The events
recorded reveal that the nature of human glory is transient, and show
Nebuchadnezzar that though he might think he was working out his own will, he
was but an instrument in the hands of the God of Israel. The king received an
unusual dream, which he never claims to have forgotten, but demands some
evidence of wisdom from his university, religious and secular advisers, none of
whom had the slightest ability to interpret such world events. The great
metallic image stands proud in its might, but is seen to be weak in its
foundations. The stone cut without hands so simply reduced the whole image to
dust with one powerful sweep from the heavens. So will the fulfilment be seen,
as the great power of the multitudinous Christ sweeps down to destroy the power
of Gentile strength" (GEM).
DREAMS: Why "dreams", plural? Perhaps a Heb intensive:
ie, Nebuchadnezzar had a GREAT dream! Or maybe he had the same recurring dream,
time after time.
Other earlier Gentile rulers who received revelations from God
were Abimelech (Gen 20:3) and Pharaoh (Gen 41:1-8).
MAGICIANS: Heb "hartummim": scholars who could divine
the future by using various means
ENCHANTERS: Or "conjurers". Heb "assapim"; those who
communicated with the dead.
SORCERERS: Heb "mekassepim": those who practiced
sorcery and cast spells.
ASTROLOGERS: The "Chaldeans" (Heb "kasdim") here refer
to the priestly caste that studied the heavens to determine the future.
Daniel prepared the reader for the failure of all the king's
counselors that follows by pointing out that there were many different groups of
THEN THE ASTROLOGERS ANSWERED THE KING IN ARAMAIC: The
text from here through Dan 7 is in Aramaic, or "Chaldean" or "Syriac".
O KING, LIVE FOREVER: The Chaldeans addressed the king
with appropriate respect: cp 1Ki 1:31; Neh 2:3; Dan 3:9; 5:10; 6:21.
THIS IS WHAT I HAVE FIRMLY DECIDED: "The thing is gone
from me" (AV), also in v 8 -- meaning: 'I cannot -- or will not -- change my
mind at this point.'
"The thing has gone from me" implies that the king had
actually forgotten his dream, but it is more likely that he was just withholding
the information to test his counselors, and the alternative rendering, from the
NIV, is the correct one.
TELL ME WHAT MY DREAM WAS: "The [Chaldean] dream
manuals, of which several examples have come to light, consist... of historical
dreams and the events that followed them, arranged systematically for easy
reference. Since these books had to try to cover every possible eventuality they
became inordinately long; only the expert could find his way through them, and
even he had to know the dream to begin with before he could search for the
nearest possible parallel. The unreasonable demands of the king and the protests
of the interpreters in vv 3-11 are in keeping with his character and the known
facts concerning dream books" (Baldwin, cited in Const).
"The king was a young man who had been extraordinarily
successful in his military conquests. He undoubtedly had developed a great deal
of confidence in himself. It is entirely possible that the wise men were much
older than the king, having served Nebuchadnezzar's father. It would be
understandable that the king might have previously been somewhat frustrated by
these older counselors and may have had a real desire to be rid of them in favor
of younger men whom he had chosen himself. Nebuchadnezzar might well have
doubted their honesty, sincerity, and capability, and may even have wondered
whether they were loyal to him. He may also have questioned some of their
superstitious practices" (Walvoord, cited in Const).
HOPING THE SITUATION WILL CHANGE: This phrase (which is
"till the time be changed" in the AV) "implied [the one day soon there might be]
a new king on the throne. These wily priests, faced with a demand contrary to
all their trade union rules, were quite capable of resolving their dilemma with
a spoonful of strychnine in their master's morning cup of tea!" (WDan).
(Background: Nebuchadnezzar had only recently ascended to power; and it is quite
possible that many of his "counselors" were not really loyal to him.) So the
wise young man, Nebuchadnezzar, saw that he must be rid of these crafty
"counselors" before they got rid of him!
Vv 10,11: The Chaldeans proceeded to explain with profuse
courtesy and flattery that what the king requested was humanly impossible. No
one could tell what the king had dreamed. Furthermore no king had ever asked his
counselors to do such a thing before. Only the immortal gods could provide this
information, and the implication was they even these men could not get
information from the gods. Yet that is precisely what they claimed to be able to
provide: supernatural information! Their confession sets the stage for Yahweh's
ability to do precisely what they said no person could do.
Cp the inadequacies of the Egyptian magicians, when compared
to Moses and his God: "But when the magicians tried to produce gnats by their
secret arts, they could not. And the gnats were on men and animals. The
magicians said to Pharaoh, 'This is the finger of God.' But Pharaoh's heart was
hard and he would not listen, just as the LORD had said" (Exo 8:18,19).
""The stage was now set to show the reality, wisdom, and power
of the one true God -- Yahweh -- as over against the inarticulate and impotent
imaginary gods the magicians worshiped. It is the same general theme that
dominates the remainder of the book and serves to remind the Hebrew nation that
despite their own failure, collapse, and banishment into exile, the God of
Israel remains as omnipotent as He ever was in the days of Moses and that His
covenantal love remains as steadfast toward the seed of Abraham as it ever had
been" (Archer, cited in Const).
YOU HAVE MADE KNOWN TO US: By "us" Daniel may mean
himself AND his three companions.
BUT THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN WHO REVEALS MYSTERIES:
Arioch had focused on Daniel as the solution to the king's problem.
Nebuchadnezzar viewed him the same way. Daniel, however, quickly redirected the
king's attention from himself and placed it where it belonged, on God who
revealed the future. Thus Daniel gave all the glory to God (cp Joseph in Gen
THAT YOU, O KING, MAY KNOW THE INTERPRETATION...: It
was important for Nebuchadnezzar to receive this revelation since he was to be
the first Gentile king in a significant period of history, namely the times of
the Gentiles -- ie, the period during which Gentile nations would dominate
Israel until Messiah would subjugate Gentile power under his reign.
Vv 32,33: Several features are noteworthy: (1) The head is the
only member of the body made of only one metal. All the other parts had more
than one substance with the exception of the arms. For example, the upper torso
was silver but bronze lower down. The same was true of the legs and feet. (2)
There is a consistently decreasing value to the substances beginning at the top
and proceeding to the bottom of the image. (3) The image was top-heavy, and thus
unstable: note the specific gravities: gold 19.3; silver 10.6; brass 8.4; iron
7.8; and clay, approx 2.0. (4) The substances progress from the softest to the
hardest, top to bottom. The feet are a non-adhering combination of very hard and
hard but fragile materials. The clay in view may have been baked clay that the
Babylonians used as tiles in construction projects.
NOT BY HUMAN HANDS: Not of human origin. Cp Mar 14:58;
Heb 9:11; Acts 7:48.
THEN THE IRON, THE CLAY, THE BRONZE, THE SILVER AND THE
GOLD WERE BROKEN TO PIECES AT THE SAME TIME: "How can they be broken to
pieces together, seeing that they have been broken to pieces one after the other
many centuries ago? The answer to this question is important, and must be given;
for without it no interpretation can be received as satisfactory. And here I
would remark, that the image was presented to the mind of the King of Babylon,
not so much to represent a succession of empires, as to exhibit the catastrophe
which should usher in the Kingdom of God. The idea I would convey is well
expressed by the prophet, saying, 'The God in heaven, who revealeth secrets,
maketh known to the king what shall be in the latter days' (Dan 2:28,29). That
is, there will be in the latter days a dominion, ruling over all the countries
mainly comprehended in the limits of the successive empires of Babylon, Persia,
Greece, and Rome: and represented by the image as a whole; and which will be
broken by a power from heaven, which will utterly destroy it, and set up an
empire which will cover all the territory it possessed" (Elp ch 12).
LIKE CHAFF ON A THRESHING FLOOR: Cp the threshing floor
of Araunah the Jebusite (2Sa 24:16-24; 1Ch 21:15-28) -- the Temple
Dan 2:36-45: The interpretation of the dream: "That the
segments of that impressive image represent a chronological sequence of empires
can hardly be doubted. And if there were nothing more in the vision than this
main idea the interpretation would be impressive: Babylon -- Persia -- Greece --
Rome. The sequence and character of these empires has often been commented on.
The aptness and accuracy of the successive parts are something to marvel at.
"But all too easily a twofold difficulty has been constantly
glossed over: (a) Why should world history suddenly become the quite new feature
of Old Testament prophecy? And (b) Why should this sequence of world empires be
so blatantly incomplete?
"This last point needs to be underlined. The truth is that
since the days of the fourth (Roman) empire, the world has seen plenty of other
empires as extensive and as long-lasting as the four, which preceded them: (1)
Genghis Khan had an empire, which stretched right across Asia. (2) Philip II of
Spain ruled an empire covering a large part of Europe and the whole of Central
and South America. Here was grandeur to make golden Babylon look ordinary. (3)
Napoleon's genius defeated every army he came against. Even Alexander's
achievements look small at the side of his. (4) And for two centuries the
British Empire sprawled great splashes of red right round the globe. That empire
was, in all respects, easily the greatest of them all.
"Then if this revelation to Nebuchadnezzar was intended to be
a conspectus of world history, why these amazing omissions? What the vision
included was magnificently accurate. Put why so incomplete?
"Careful attention to certain of the image details supplies a
fully convincing explanation:
"(a) 'After thee (Nebuchadnezzar) shall arise another kingdom
inferior to thee' (v 39). And this is all that is revealed here about the
Persian Empire. The reason is simple: Already, in the early days of
Nebuchadnezzar, Medes and Persians were becoming troublesome. Within a lifetime
their aggressive spirit was to prove overmastering. So it was hardly tactful to
dwell at length on this silver part of the image. Also it needs to be recognised
that 'inferior to thee' is an altogether inaccurate description of the Persian
Empire. It was stronger, better organized, and more long-lasting than Babylon.
The words simply mean 'lower down' (in the image). They indicate that Daniel was
working his way systematically through the details of the vision.
"(b) 'And another kingdom of brass which shall bear rule over
all the earth.' But, for certain, the Greek empire did not bear rule over all
the earth, not even over all the civilised world of that time. Here, once again,
students have been at the mercy of King James's translators with their failure
to recognize that right through the Bible -- OT and NT -- the words for 'earth'
and 'land (of Israel)' are interchangeable. Only context can decide which
reading is called for. Here the phrase clearly alludes to the instantaneous
appropriation of the state of Judea by the advancing Alexander.
"(c) Most decisive of all are the details about the Iron
kingdom of Rome: 'as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things... shall it
break in pieces and bruise (crush)' (v 40). Yet in point of fact the Roman
regime did not have this character. Wherever the legions went, there followed
the blessings of law and order. The pax Romana provided the civilised world with
its most wonderful era of peace and settled government. To that general rule
there was one quite striking exception. The Jews in Palestine proved to be the
most turbulent province of the empire, until at last in the war of AD 67-70 (and
again in 135) Roman patience gave out, and all the towns and cities were
ruthlessly devastated. 'Break in pieces and crush' became the most exact part of
the prophecy regarding Israel!
"In these details there is supplied a highly important clue
concerning Nebuchadnezzar's dream. It was not a revelation of world history. It
was a revelation of the sequence of Gentile powers that would completely
dominate the People of God in their own Land. It was made known to the king of
Babylon because he was the first to incorporate the Holy Land in his empire
(Sennacherib the Assyrian had tried and failed -- hence the omission of Assyria
from the sequence)" (WDan).
WE WILL INTERPRET IT TO THE KING: By "we" Daniel must
mean himself AND his three friends.
Vv 37,38: "It took considerable courage for Daniel to tell the
most powerful ruler of his time that he was responsible to God. God had given
Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty (symbolized by the head of the statue), power (the
head's weight), strength (the connotation of the head on a body), and glory (its
value as gold). The head of gold aptly described Nebuchadnezzar. It also
symbolized the kingdom over which he ruled. Nebuchadnezzar ruled about 45 years
(605-560 BC), and his empire only lasted another 21 years. Nebuchadnezzar's
father, Nabopolassar, founded the Neo-Babylon Empire in 627 BC, and it fell to
the Persians in 539 BC" (Const).
AFTER YOU, ANOTHER KINGDOM WILL RISE, INFERIOR TO
YOURS: The Medo-Persian Empire led by Cyrus the Great would have been
inferior in quality to Babylon from Nebuchadnezzar's viewpoint (Dan 5:28,31).
The Medo-Persian monarchs could not annul a law once it went into effect (Dan
6:8,12). This restricted the absolute authority of the king. However, in some
respects this kingdom was superior to Babylonia: it covered a larger
geographical territory, and it lasted longer (539-331 B). The arms of the image
evidently represented the two nations of Media and Persia that united to defeat
NEXT, A THIRD KINGDOM, ONE OF BRONZE, WILL RULE OVER THE
WHOLE EARTH: The kingdom that succeeded Medo-Persia was Greece under
Alexander the Great (Dan 8:20,21). Its territory was even larger than that of
Medo-Persia. Greece dominated the ancient cradle of civilization from 331 to 31
BC, lasting longer than either Babylonia or Medo-Persia. However, after
Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, the empire split into four parts, and each
of Alexander's generals took one piece. Antipater ruled Macedon-Greece,
Lysimachus governed Thrace-Asia Minor, Seleucus headed Asia, and Ptolemy reigned
over Egypt, Cyrenaica, and Palestine. Thus Greece lacked the unified strength of
Medo-Persia and Babylonia. Its republican form of government gave more power to
the people and less to the rulers. The two legs of the statue evidently
represented the two major divisions of the Greek Empire: its eastern and western
FINALLY, THERE WILL BE A FOURTH KINGDOM, STRONG AS
IRON: Rome defeated the last vestige of the Greek Empire in 31 BC and ruled
for hundreds of years, until 476 AD in the West and until 1453 AD in the East.
The eastern and western parts of this empire ruled their territories with a
strength that surpassed any of its predecessors. Certainly iron legs fitly
symbolized the Roman Empire. Rome also dominated the map more extensively than
any previous kingdom, encompassing almost all of Europe including Spain and the
British Isles as well as India. Those legs stood astride most of the ancient
world. However, from Nebuchadnezzar's viewpoint, Rome was indeed an inferior
power. The people and the senate played major roles in setting its policies, and
they controlled the emperors more than had been true in the preceding
FEET AND TOES: "For generations it has been asserted
that the ten toes, part iron, part clay, strong and weak, represent the
subdivisions of the Roman Empire covering the period from (roughly) the 7th
century to the 20th. Which ten? Here a good deal of guesswork comes into play.
In Elp 326... two separate lists are submitted for approval. Today neither of
these carries conviction. In the last thing he wrote, JT ('Exposition of Daniel'
13) suggested that no accurate identification need be looked for until the Last
Days. This was a wise assessment.
"Let it be remembered that, according to the clue now brought
to light, the vision is about the oppressors of Israel in the Holy Land. When at
last they were scattered far and wide, this history -- God's history -- was
drastically interrupted; and this state of affairs continued until the Zionist
movement in this century. Then, and only then, does the vision -- God's history
regarding His Chosen People -- resume its relevance. In other words, the ten
toes, weak and strong, do not represent a long period of European history (that
idea beloved of so many politically-biased expositors); it represents ten
enemies of Israel who are to dominate the State of Israel in the Last Days
immediately before the impact of the Stone, the Messiah" (WDan).
(different nations, but also 10; mixed with the Arab peoples);
Isa 13-23 (10
enemies of Israel, primarily Arab);
Jer 46-51 (10 nations in days of
Jer 25 (nations drunk with cup of Babylon);
tenor of age-old dispute between Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob;
nations "born" in same generation (ie between 1925 and 1975) that witnessed
"birth" of Israel -- is the 11th the Palestinian nation?;
Muslim Arabs are
situated perfectly to mount a "holy war" against God's "holy place", the Temple
Mount (Eze 25; Eze 36; Obad; Joe 3; etc); and
a map of Europe and Asia and
Africa showing the overlay of all 4 "world" empires of Dan 2 will completely
intersect, only, in the Middle Eastern area of Israel and its Arab
MIXED... MIXTURE... MIXED: Heb "arab", sig the Arabs, a
"mixed" or "mingled" peoples: See Lesson, Arab/"mixed".
BAKED CLAY: Like the potter's vessel -- the same
material as Psa 2:9.
SO THE PEOPLE WILL BE A MIXTURE: "As you saw the iron
mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage"
A KINGDOM THAT WILL NEVER BE DESTROYED: This is a fifth
kingdom that God Himself will establish following the final phase of the fourth
kingdom, of Rome (cp Psa 2:7-9; Rev. 11:15). The rock, a frequent symbol of
Jesus Christ in Scripture (Psa 118:22; Isa 8:14; 28:16; Zec 3:9; 1Pe 2:6-8),
evidently represents the King as well as His kingdom (cp v 38: "You are the head
of gold"). The mountain out of which the rock comes is evidently God (cp Deut
32:18; Psa 18:2; 31:2-3)
Daniel here typifies Christ -- who will rule over "Babylon"
(Rev 16:15-19), when the judgments of God (which is sig of "Daniel") is revealed
(Acts 17:31). Daniel received the homage of a prostrate king just as the Lord
Jesus Christ, who was submissive to men and the servant of God, will receive the
homage of all men (Phi 2:10,11).
AND LAVISHED MANY GIFTS ON HIM: As Christ will receive
gifts (Psa 72:10; Isa 60:8; 61:6).