This is the second historical chapter of the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar dreams an impressive dream, but forgets about the content and forces his wise men to tell what the dream was all about and its interpretation. Being a despotic ruler he tells them they will be rewarded with gifts and honour but if they do not tell him they will be dead and their possessions being destroyed. The wise men fail and order is given to round them up and be executed.
Daniel and his companions are also sought to suffer the same fate, but Daniel asks from the officer stay of the execution. Daniel’s request is granted and Daniel receives from God what the dream is all about and its interpretation, from that point the story turns into a prophecy of a most remarkable character which has astonished, amazed and kept spellbound not only Nebuchadnezzar, but people of all kind and from all over the world ever since.
In relation to the following visions of Daniel and the Revelation of Jesus Christ in the NT
this metallic image and its interpretation has laid the foundation and is called sometimes the ABC of apocalyptic prophecy. We may even say the prophetic visions following hereafter in Daniel and the Revelation are repetition and enlargements. Each time filling in more detail until the whole picture is clear. With this introduction we are ready to enter into this great chapter 2 of Daniel.
Start by reading this section first from your Bible. It happened during the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign in Babylon. From 2:29 we know that he was thinking about the future and what would happen to his empire. May be he was worried about the beautiful city of Babylon he had built. He knew one day he would have to die and what would happen then. He may have been thinking about other empires before him, like the Egyptian and Assyrian and what happened to them. Would his empire suffer the same fate?
While all this may have gone through his mind he dreams a very impressive dream. However when he awakes from his night sleep, his mind is most impressed, but he cannot recall what the dream was all about and of course no clue at all what it meant.
He summons his wise men to appear before him. (2:2, 3) His demand is firm and decided. I have dreamed a dream but I don’t know what it was. Tell me the dream and its interpretation. The wise men answer (2:4) tell us the dream and we will tell you the interpretation. But the king is firm in his decision. You tell me the dream and its interpretation and you will be greatly honoured and rewarded, but if not that is the end of you and what you posses. (2:5, 6) Again the wise men repeat, tell us the dream and we will give you its meaning. But the king is not to move. Finally the wise men have to make a confession in which they admit that what the king is demanding from them is beyond their capacity. It is something which belongs to the gods who are not living with humans.
The king now becomes real furious and orders that these men be executed. The order is being followed up and a search begins for all wise men in Babylon. (12-16) Daniel and his friends are also being searched for. Daniel may not have yet heard about it. He asks from Arioch, the officer in charge, why such a haste? Arioch informs Daniel what’s going on. Daniel asks for delay from the king and to give him some time and he will tell the king what he wants to know, the dream and its interpretation, a tremendous act of faith shown by Daniel. He knew about the God heaven for whom there is no secret. He is the Father of lights, James 1:17
Daniel went home and told his friends, companions, all about it (2:17). They know what to do and decide on a prayer season. Daniel having the gift of prophecy (1:17b) did not mean that he automatically knew what was going on. He was still depended on what God would reveal to him. Their first concern was that their own lives would be spared (2:18)
You can be sure they brought this problem before the Lord and the reason why their lives were at stake. After prayer the secret which the wise men of Babylon could not solve was revealed to Daniel (2:19) this gave them immediate assurance that their lives were save.
After this season of prayer followed a season or outburst of praise, thanks giving and blessing to the God of heaven who had revealed it to them.(2:20-23) they acknowledge that the God of heaven is in charge of world affairs. He removes kings and sets them in place.
Daniel 2:24, 25
The next morning Daniel goes to Arioch and informs him that all is clear and that he is ready to meet the king and tell him about his dream and its interpretation. Daniel also tells Arioch not to destroy the wise men of Babylon but to take him to the king. So Daniel becomes the saviour from death for these heathen wise men. Arioch takes advantage of the new development and informs the king that he has found a man who is able to inform the king about what he wants to know. He adds that it is a man from the captives of Judah, in other words one of your prisoners of war.
Daniel is brought before the king and the two commence talking. The king is anxious to have his problem solved and Daniel is anxious to relate to the king what it is all about and to introduce the king to the God of heaven.
The king asks Daniel if he is able to make known to him his dream and its interpretation (2:27) But Daniel takes advantage of the moment to tell the king that there is a God in heaven Who reveals secrets and has made known to the king what will happen in the latter days. (2:28) Daniel also makes it clear that the wise men could not answer the king. Daniel does what Joseph did while in prison when the butler and baker had a dream problem. Joseph told them “Do not interpretation belong to God?” (Gen.40:8). Both men gave honour and glory to God.
Then Daniel starts to explain what the king saw and why he saw it. He says to the king, while you were on your bed you were thinking about the future and what would happen to your empire and its city Babylon. (2:29) Daniel adds that He who reveals secrets has made known to the king what shall come to pass. Then Daniel diverts the king’s mind away from himself. Daniel says the matter has been revealed to me not because I have that wisdom but to make it known to the king and to satisfy the desire of his heart. (2:30)
In the following verses 2:31-35 Daniel describes the dream, what the king saw, a metallic image of gold, silver, brass/bronze, iron and standing on a mixture of iron and clay. Then a stone was seen hitting the image at its feet breaking the whole image in pieces and turning it into chaff that is blown away by the wind. The stone itself becomes big and fills the whole earth. (2:35)
Ellen G.White wrote about this as follows: “This is the dream”, confidently declared Daniel; and the king, listening with closest attention to every particular, knew it was the very dream over which he had been so troubled. Thus his mind was prepared to receive with favour the interpretation. The King of kings was about to communicate great truth to the Babylonian monarch. God would reveal that He has power over the kingdoms of the world, power to enthrone and to dethrone kings. Nebuchadnezzar’s mind was to be awakened, if possible, to a sense of responsibility to heaven. The events of the future, reaching down to the end of time, were to be opened before him” (EGW PK 497/8)
We can well imagine that the king listened with his mouth open, spellbound and with great awe and ready to take in the interpretation, while Daniel was describing his dream.
The king must have paid attention to Daniel with extraordinary anxiety when Daniel told him exactly what his dream was all about. It all came back to his mind. Now he had great desire to know the interpretation.
Daniel in his God given wisdom uses very kind words to introduce the interpretation well knowing that it would not be in favour of the king’s thinking and his planning for the future of his empire.
Daniel starts with praising the king for all he has accomplished but that it is not because of his skill and cleverness. Daniel is a faithful witness for his Hebrew God Yahweh and says: “The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, strength and glory” (2:37)
All this has been given to him by the God of heaven and then Daniel adds “thou art this head of gold.” That must have pleased Nebuchadnezzar very much and bringing a smile on his face. Isaiah and Jeremiah in their days spoke already about the “golden city”, and “a golden cup in the Lord’s hand” (Isa.14:4; Jer.51:7). This is also used to illustrate apocalyptic Babylon of the end times in Revelation 17:4
Babylon as an empire has been ruling the world of that time from 605-539BC. Some take the starting date as from 629BC when Nebuchadnezzar’s father Nabopolassar started the empire. However because Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that he is the head of Gold
it may be more correct to use the date 605BC and it is generally accepted that Nebuchadnezzar founded the empire upon the work of his father.
What follows next may not have pleased the king so much and we will learn more about that in Daniel chapter 3.The smile may have disappeared from the king’s face when Daniel revealed that another empire would follow after Babylon, see 2:39. Another kingdom would follow less in value, represented by silver and then another one again lesser in value as represented by brass or bronze. The first one is Medo-Persia represented by the breast and arms of silver and ruling the world from 539-332BC and was followed by the Grecian or Macedonian empire represented by the belly of brass and ruling the world from 331-168BC. We will learn more about these empires in Daniel 7. After the brass empire would follow an empire of iron, the legs of the image. The Grecian empire had fallen apart in four divisions after the death of Alexander the Great and the Roman armies unified the empire and ruled it with an iron fist from 168BC – 476AD. In a few words it is well described in 2:40. Under the Romans our Lord, Jesus Christ suffered the cruel and brutal death of crucifixion.
Nebuchadnezzar after listening to the summing up of one kingdom after the other may have thought,’ I wonder what will follow after the iron kingdom, what is next in value after iron? Most of us would have had the same thought. However the sequence of one kingdom following the other suddenly stops at this point of the image. The bottom of the image are the ten toes consisting of a mixture of iron and clay illustrating that the next kingdom, he still calls it a kingdom, will be disunited and weak. No chemist yet has been able to mix iron and clay successfully in a solid unbreakable substance. So this “kingdom” may have some of iron in it, but will not be united anymore. ‘They shall not cleave one to another ever, as iron is not mixed with clay”.(2:43) Ever since the break up of the Roman empire in 476 because of invading tribal forces, great and powerful men have tried to restore the Roman Empire even trying to call it the Holy Roman Empire but without lasting success. We will learn later that Rome continued in another way, because the iron is still found in the next phase of history. But it is “mixed” with clay which makes it weak.
They have tried combining the spiritual with the secular but it did not succeed satisfactorily. Ellen G.White calls the mixture of iron and clay, “The mingling of church craft and statecraft” (SDABC vol, 4, p.1168) the church getting involved in the state for its own ecclesiastical agenda. We will learn more about that in Daniel 7 and 8
From history we know that kings like Charlemagne, Charles V have tried hard, but failed. Napoleon had his plans for a united Europe, but met his Waterloo. Kaiser Wilhelm had another try and unleashed WWI. He failed and ended up as a refugee in my home country The Netherlands in the town of Doorn. After the war his castle became a museum and I have visited that place and had a look through his library I found a book written by Ellen G.White under the tile THE GREAT CONTROVERSY (In German translation). I saw the Kaiser’s notes in the margins as evidence that he had read it. But he did not except its message otherwise he would not have pursued his ambition for Europe. He failed miserable. Millions of people could have been saved instead of perishing in that terrible war. The next one was Adolf Hitler who had in mind to establish an empire for 1000 years. It lasted just a decade or so and was the reason for WWII, causing millions and millions of people to loose their lives and Hitler ending his life in an act of suicide. Some of his officers have been told about this message of Daniel 2, but refused to accept.
Now we have the European Union, with its open borders, European parliament in Brussels, European currency the euro and European passports ( I have one), will that union last and create a new world empire? No, definitely it will not last. Revelation 17 reveals how this so-called union will fall apart. Go to the Revelation section of this website and read my study on Revelation 17. The European Union will not last. But what will happen? There will be a kingdom that will last forever. We go back to Dan.2:44 and read that” the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed.” That kingdom will destroy all worldly kingdoms and they will become like chaff for the wind on the threshing floors. 2:35. This kingdom is represented by the stone cut off from the mountain and hitting the image at its feet, the weakest place. 2:35,45. The mountain of which it is cut off, is God’s Holy mountain, Ps.48:1, 2 and the stone is Christ our Lord who is rejected by unbelievers but used to become a corner stone or key stone in God’s Kingdom, Ps.118:22, 23;Acts 4:10-13; 1Pet.2:6, 7 and Rev.11:15.
Daniel terminates his God given revelation to the king by saying “the Great God hath made known to the king, what shall come to pass hereafter and the dream is certain, and the interpretation there of sure”. 2:45b.
What an assurance not only for Nebuchadnezzar but for all people since that time even in our day of the 21st century. God’s Word is solid more than any rock could be and will never fail. We better believe and surrender our lives to the God of Heaven Who has made us and is anxious to redeem us into His eternal Kingdom of glory. May I urge you to do so by God’s grace and through faith in Him.
In this last part of Daniel 2 we learn about Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction. He falls down in front of Daniel in an act of worship and commands that oblation be offered unto Daniel. Scripture does not tell us how Daniel accepted or rejected this behaviour of the king.
In chapter 5 we learn that he did not accept the king’s honour and praise for revealing the writing on the wall, 5:17.But what Daniel did in this case we do not know,
Later in scripture we learn that some who received divine honour refused to accept it. Peter told Cornelius not to worship him, Acts 10:25, 26. Paul and Barnabas did the same, Acts 14:13-18. When John was receiving the Revelation of Jesus Christ he fell down before an angel and the angel did not accept this, Rev.19:10; 22:8, 9
Pastor Alfred DeLinge in his book on Daniel comments as follows: “Most likely Daniel will have informed the king that only God can be worshipped” (De Ligne p.53).
McCready Price refers to what Alexander the Great did when he met the High priest of Jerusalem and bowed down before the priest. His officers asked Alexander why he did this and he said “I do not adore him (the high priest), but the God who hath honoured
him with the priesthood”. (Price p.84/5 and can be found also in The Works of Flavius Josephus, book 11, chapter 8, par 5)
Same could have been the case here in Daniel 2:46, Nebuchadnezzar honouring the God of Daniel who had revealed all this to him what he heard from the lips of Daniel. Daniel must have stood there quietly watching and realising he is standing before an unconverted heathen king.
In 2:47 the king still speaks in terms of “your God is a God of gods and Lord of kings.”
He is not yet ready to accept Daniel’s God as his God; more has to be done in the life of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel receives honour and promotion to be the ruler of the province of Babylon.2:48 But Daniel turns it around and ask if this honour be given to his friends, Sadrach, Meshach and Abednego and they receive the promotion to become rulers of the province of Babylon and Daniel sits in the gate of the king. According to the SDABC Vol.4 page 777 this means “the place where Oriental kings sat as judges and where chief councils convened. (See Gen.19:1)”.Read also Ruth 4:1, 2
The story made a deep impression upon the people of that time, has made impressions upon people throughout the ages and should not fail to make a deep impression upon you and me living in the 21stcentury. We urge you and challenge you by the grace of God to make preparation to be a citizen in that kingdom of Glory which will last forever and ever.
Pastor Jan T.Knopper
Edited October 2010
Revised August 2013