Last week I noted that Daniel 1 closes by setting up the rest of this book in two simple ways… First, we read, “Thus Daniel continued until the first year of King Cyrus.” Though taken from Judah in the year 605 BC as a captive of King Nebuchadnezzar, the tease in mentioning the Persian King Cyrus is that Daniel’s 70-year ministry will see him outliving Babylon. Amazingly, Daniel will serve in the courts of two different world empires.
Secondly, while we’re told all four of “these young men (Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah) God gave knowledge and skill,” Daniel ends up being unique of the set as he’s also given “understanding in all visions and dreams.” As we’re about to see in chapter 2 God will speak to and through the Prophet Daniel in some awesome supernatural ways.
Let’s dive right in… Daniel 2:1, “Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him.”
The timeline of the event recorded in Daniel chapter 2 places us specifically “in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.” Historically, we know of the ancient Babylonian way of designating time that the first year of a king’s ascension was never taken into consideration. As such, “the second year” was in actuality the third — which is significant because it means Daniel and his three friends have recently concluded their “three years of training.”
In setting the stage for what is one of the most extraordinary and stunning prophetic chapters in all of the Bible, our passage opens, “Nebuchadnezzar had dreams!” Literally, he had multiples of the same dream likely occurring on successive nights. We’re also told this dream is so “troubling” to the king he’s having a difficult time sleeping as a result.
Keep in mind, Nebuchadnezzar was in all likelihood the most powerful man to have ever walked planet earth. By a young age he’d conquered the known world, built a city believed to be impenetrable, and rules his Empire with complete and absolute authority.
And yet, the man who possesses everything with nothing or no one to fear, now finds himself being tormented by this recurring dream. This word “troubled” means to thrust, beat persistently, or impel. Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t know what the dream means, but he has a profound sense it’s important and maybe some type of divine message from beyond.
With these things in mind we continue… Daniel 2:2, “Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.”
In the courts of King Nebuchadnezzar there were several classifications of advisers each specializing in different things. You had “the magicians.” This collection of individuals were not magicians who preformed “Illusions, Michael” or tricks via sleight of hand techniques. Instead, “the magicians” were engravers or scribes in a Babylonian context. Their primary job for the king was to keep a written record of public affairs.
Another class of advisers were “the astrologers.” These individuals really had nothing to do with reading the stars to determine the future and were instead conjurers or enchanters. “The astrologers” unique specialty was communicating with the spirits of the dead.
Then there were “the sorcerers” who practiced witchcraft and used drugs to peer into the supernatural realm. Additionally, we also have a collection of men known as “the Chaldeans.” While there is some debate about these men, most see them as being the scholars and academics who hailed from the higher families of nobility within Babylon.
In verse 27 we’re given two additional groups. “The wise men” were considered to be the experts in history, science, math, and astrology. While the “soothsayers” were the priestly, religious class. The word can be translated as “the cutters” — Think the prophets of Baal.
Again, the situation… We have a tired, troubled king “giving the command” for all of his advisers to meet him for an impromptu meeting in the throne room of the palace. Once gathered… Daniel 2:3-4, “The king said to them, ‘I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.’ Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, ‘O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation.’”
As I mentioned in our introduction to the Book of Daniel, because the subject matter will outline the course of world events and be particularly relevant to the Gentile world, in verse 4 the language switches from Hebrew to Aramaic. Aside from a small section recorded towards the end of Daniel 4 written in Chaldean, the text will remain Aramaic all the way through the end of Daniel 7. Finally, in chapter 8:1 it will switch back to Hebrew.
The king wants an interpretation and the Chaldeans have requested he share the details of the dream so they can advise accordingly. Daniel 2:5-6, “The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, ‘My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.’”
In order to insure the interpretation of his dream was true and trustworthy, Nebuchadnezzar does something cunning. He commands this group of advisers to tell him not only what the dream meant, but to relay the details of the dream itself! The king figures, since these men claimed to have a supernatural connection, this wasn’t too big of an ask.
Furthermore, there is no question the stakes are incredibly high! Nebuchadnezzar tells them if they get it right, he’d give them “gifts, rewards, and great honor.” But, if they failed in this endeavor, he’d “cut them in pieces” and turn their “houses into an ash heap.”
Knowing the challenge before them… Daniel 2:7-9, “They answered again and said, ‘Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation.’ The king answered and said, ‘I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed (they’d lie hoping in the process of time the king would calm down). Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.’”
Obviously, all these “cool cats and kittens” find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place as they stand before the king. They’ve been put on the spot. They do their best to create some wiggle room, but Nebuchadnezzar will not budge! He’s insistent, “If you cannot tell me the dream, how can I trust you’re giving me the correct interpretation?”
While Nebuchadnezzar’s approach is provocative, it’s hard to argue with his logic. He’s had a dream that’s messing with his mind — because he senses God was trying to reveal something to him. His advisers claimed to have a portal into the supernatural realm, so he’s really asking them to do nothing more than they already claimed the ability to do.
Daniel 2:10-13, “The Chaldeans answered the king, and said (they seem to be acting as the spokesmen for the entire group), ‘There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.’
For this reason King Nebuchadnezzar was angry (enraged) and very furious (to become wroth with anger), and gave the command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon (the entire collection of advisers). So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.”
Nebuchadnezzar is deadly serious. So much so “the decree goes out” and he starts making good on his promise. We’re told, “They began killing the wise men” of Babylon. Tragically, while it’s unlikely “Daniel and his companions” had been in the original meeting, they’re now caught in the crossfire! By association a warrant has been issued for their arrest.
Daniel 2:14-16, “Then with counsel and wisdom Daniel answered Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon; he answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, ‘Why is the decree from the king so urgent?’ Then Arioch made the decision known to Daniel. So Daniel went in and asked the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.”
Word reaches Daniel “the wise men” are being systematically rounded up and executed. Alarmed, Daniel doesn’t run off and hide. Instead, he intentionally seeks out “Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard” — the very man charged with the task of “killing the wise men!”
Then we read “with counsel and wisdom” Daniel inquires from Arioch what’s happening and why “the decree from the king was so urgent.” It’s evident these men know each other and, because Daniel has developed a good report with Arioch, he’s brought into the loop.
In response Daniel boldly petitions an audience with the king. While we aren’t given a specific record of the exchange, Daniel wants “the king to give him time, that he might tell the king the interpretation.” Though Nebuchadnezzar had refused to give such an allowance to anyone else, he decides to give Daniel an opportunity. He senses Daniel is different.
Daniel 2:17-19, “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the decision known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, that they might seek mercies from the God of heaven concerning this secret, so that Daniel and his companions might not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.”
The fate of these men lies squarely at the feet of the sovereign God they served. The only way anyone would be able to know the dream as well as it’s interpretation would be through a divine intervention. While our text doesn’t specifically use the word prayer, the activity is implied in this phrase, “That they might seek mercies from the God of heaven.”
Realizing what’s at stake, Daniel and “his companions” are on their knees “seeking” the “God of heaven.” They aren’t making demands. Instead, with an abundance of reverence and sanctified humility, they were petitioning God’s “mercy” in the matter. While grace occurs when God gives you what you don’t deserve, mercy is found when God withholds what you do! These men know that apart from God’s intervention they were in big trouble!
Amazingly, as they are praying to the Lord, we’re read, “Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision.” Though Nebuchadnezzar received this revelation through a “dream” while he was asleep, Daniel is given a “vision” of the dream and interpretation. This Aramaic word “vision” can be translated as appearance. Daniel is very much awake and conscious when God enables him to see the dream with his minds eye.
Something amazing follows, “So Daniel blessed the God of heaven!” The idea behind this word “blessed” is to kneel down — implying worship. You know it’s a good prayer meeting when it transforms into a worship service! Daniel 2:20-23, “Daniel answered and said: ‘Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, for wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank You and praise You, O God of my fathers; You have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of You, for You have made known to us the king’s demand.’”
Daniel’s exaltation of thanksgiving to the “God of his fathers” manifests as a reaction to two different things. First, it will become apparent in retrospect, that Daniel’s praise was largely influenced by the actual interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
As it came to the events of this crazy world and the future of what was to come, Daniel had been given the ability to see God’s hand behind the scenes. Daniel realizes nothing takes place on this earth without God’s approval. Though things may appear to be out of control and lend to a fatalistic outlook, Daniel knows it was God alone who “changes the times and the seasons” — “removes kings and raises them up.” Since we’re approaching an election season this Fall, I should add this applies to Presidents as well!
Secondly, knowing the stakes, Daniel is grateful God answered their prayer! His life was on the line. He’d stand before Nebuchadnezzar when the sun rose. Daniel praises the Lord because He “gave him wisdom and might” and “made know to him the king’s demand.”
I hope you know God is not only knowable, but wants to be known. God deeply desires to speak to His children and reveal His plans to them. Amazingly, God wants His people to know the future — specifically so that we might be prepared for what’s on the horizon.
Daniel 2:24-25, “Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. Daniel went and said thus to him: ‘Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation.’ Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, ‘I have found a man of the captives of Judah, who will make known to the king the interpretation.’” (Daniel must have been very convincing for Arioch to intercede.)
Daniel 2:26-28a, “The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, ‘Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen, and its interpretation?’ Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, ‘The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to the king what will be in the latter days.’”
Don’t miss what Daniel does in this situation… Since the Lord had given him the dream and the interpretation, Daniel keeps his proper place by giving 100% of the credit and glory to God. In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s question, “Are you able to make known to me the dream and its interpretation?” Daniel says, “Yes, but only in so much as ‘there is a God is heaven who reveals secrets.’” Daniel was simply a mouth for God to speak.
Nebuchadnezzar knows the dream was significant — now he knows why. Daniel says that through this particular dream “God had made known to him what will be in the latter days” or better translated “the end of days.” Let’s work our way through this passage…
Daniel 2:28b-30, “Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these: As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this (present tense — after his kingdom); and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be. (God has granted your request to know the future.) But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.”
Now the dream… Daniel 2:31-35, “You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
You watched while a stone cut out without hands 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 the whole earth.”
Daniel 2:36-38, “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. (Incredibly, Daniel doesn’t wait for Nebuchadnezzar to respond and confirm this was indeed his dream.) You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all — you are this head of gold.”
Daniel 2:39-40, “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.”
Daniel 2:41-43, “Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay.”
Daniel 2:44-45, “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold — the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
Through this dream God is revealing to Nebuchadnezzar and by extension everyone who’d read this passage the overarching story and future destiny of the kingdoms of man. God illustrates this narrative using this “great image” of a man. With the benefits of hindsight, let’s systematically break down the succession of kingdoms.
The Head of Gold: Daniel 2:37-38, “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all — you are this head of gold.”
Fulfilled by Nebuchadnezzar this “head of gold” was the Babylonian Empire. Though there had been other nation-states before (the Egyptians and Assyrians to name a few), Babylon became the first superpower and Nebuchadnezzar an absolute monarch. My guess is one of the reasons the dream freaked King Neb out was that the head was literally his!
This statement, “You, O king, are a king of kings” is noteworthy because it contrasts what will be said of Jesus in Revelation that He is “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.” For the reasons mentioned at the end of last weeks study, Babylon’s direct connection to Babel of old presents her as the head of this kingdom of man counterfeit to the Kingdom of God.
Chest and Arms of Silver: Daniel 2:39a, “But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours.” As great and powerful as Babylon would be, she would fall in the year 539 BC to a kingdom comprised to two separate arms. While the Medes and the Persians were inferior in might to Babylon the Great, through her alliance they’d rise to world prominence.
Belly and Thighs of Bronze: Daniel 2:39b, “Then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” In 331 BC the Medo-Persian Empire would fall to Alexander the Great. Though she was not as imposing as those who’d come before, for the 150 years the Grecian Empire reigned they’d be the first to rule over the entire world.
Legs of Iron: Daniel 2:40, “And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others.” In 146 BC the Greeks would fall to a new Roman Empire who, as illustrated with these “legs of iron,” would be so mighty their “kingdom would break in pieces and crush all the others.” Rome dominated like no other before her!
Before we get to the “feet and toes of this iron mixed with clay,” regarding the interesting progression of metals from the “head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron” there are two things that make this so interesting. First, the metal used for each section was actually unique to the Empire it represented.
You can study this more on your own, but Babylon was known as being the city of gold. In defiance of this, the Medes and Persians used silver as their currency. The Greeks ushered in what was known as the Bronze Age. And the Roman’s — The Iron Age. Fascinating!
Aside from this, there is also a correlation to the metals inherent value and the power structure of each Empire. In Babylon the king’s authority was absolute. In Persia, the king’s authority was reigned in by agreed upon law. In Greece, we find the first democratic structures being established. And in Rome, power rested in the people’s representatives.
As you peered down this “great image” from the “legs of iron” you’d come to see this final kingdom of man would possess a remnant of Rome, but be severely weakened as illustrated with “its feet and toes” being made up of a “mixture of iron and clay.”
Confirmed by the last 1500 years of human history, the Western World that emerged following Rome’s implosion has always been “divided” and “fragile.” Nations have attempted to unify under one banner, but all to quickly these alliances falter. In fact, this final kingdom of man would project strength without there being any real substance behind it.
While the parts of this dream that have been fulfilled are incredible to consider, it’s the future aspects of this revelation that really demands most of our attention. Look back at the dream itself… As Nebuchadnezzar is admiring this “great image” we read how “a stone” which had been “cut out without hands” (meaning the stone has a supernatural origin) came down, “struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.”
As a result of this, “the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were crushed together, became like chaff from the summer threshing floors,” and “the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found.” In place of this “great image” the dream concludes with “the stone that struck the image becoming a great mountain and filling the whole earth.”
According to the interpretation provided in verse 44, at some point during this future, final kingdom of man, a supernatural event of divine origin will takes place on this earth. “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (in place of those made by man) which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”
Prophetically, what we have being described is the Second Coming of Jesus whereby He puts an end to the kingdoms of man by establishing on this earth the Kingdom of God. Regarding Jesus being this “stone” Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, consider what the Apostle Peter says of Jesus in Acts 4:10-12, “Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' (He’s quoting directly from Psalms 118:22.) Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Daniel 2:46-49, “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, prostrate before Daniel, and commanded that they should present an offering and incense to him. The king answered Daniel, and said, ‘Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.’ Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. Also Daniel petitioned the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.”
What a moment! “Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face!” Not only does the king confirm that Daniel nailed the details of his dream, but his explanation for what the dream meant appears to have satisfied the deeper longing of what Nebuchadnezzar had sensed.
In closing, there are a few key lessons we should derive from this chapter. My friend, as Daniel concluded, “The dream is certain and its interpretation is sure.” In light of such a holy text and how much of it we’ve already seen fulfilled, we can be assured of God’s future plan for the world! There is an expiration date to the kingdom of man. This fallen system will be crushed by a future Kingdom Jesus will come and establish on this planet.
Honestly, it doesn’t matter if you believe this or not! “The dream is certain!” God’s Word has declared what He plans to do! “Its interpretation is sure!” The day is coming when Jesus will return to judge the earth and usher in a Kingdom in which there will be no end.
What makes Daniel 2 so incredibly relevant is that YOU KNOW THE FUTURE! Sure, we don’t know the WHEN, but there is zero uncertainty as to the WHAT! You see, in the end, knowing the future should have a tremendous impact on the way you live today!
Which leads directly to the other big point of application… As citizen of that future Kingdom living in Babylon — knowing that our King’s arrival is eminent, never forget you’ve been given an important job! In order to unpack what that job is… Please consider how Daniel was used by God to make an impact in the life of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar received a Word from God. Deep down he knew it. God was trying to reveal to him his future. What troubled Neb so greatly is the fact he lacked an interpretation. He had God’s Word, but he didn’t know what it meant — What God was saying to him.
Enter Daniel! Daniel’s fundamental role in Nebuchadnezzar’s life was to be an interpreter. He was placed in Babylon to help this man understand what God was saying to him. Nebuchadnezzar had been let down by the brightest Babylon had to offer. He knew all they peddled were lies! In the end all Daniel did was point him to the “God in heaven who reveals secrets.” A God who speaks. A God who’s knowable and wants to be known!
Friend, we live in interesting days. I believe there is a stirring taking place in our culture. The lost souls around us are troubled. Their spirit’s are anxious. God is working. He’s speaking. He’s revealing Himself, but so many remain confused. People what to know if God is real. They want to know He’s in control. They want to know what’s going on, what their futures hold. Like Nebuchadnezzar, what they need is a Daniel who will interpret these things.
You see when it comes to the divine, it’s true no one can make sense of these things “except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” And yet, we know “there is a God in heaven” who dawned human flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus. He “is truly the God of gods, the Lord of kings, the revealer of secrets.” God is knowable and known in Him! What’s more, “He has made known what will be in the latter days,” revealed these things to us, so that we might in turn make sense of this world for those desperate to know!
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