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Daniel 2: Statue of Gold, Silver, Bronze, Iron and Clay

Chapter 2 - Introduction

The story line backtracks about a year from the end of Chapter 1. The previous chapter finished the story of the training with Nebuchadnezzar's examination of the four Hebrews. It skipped the events of this chapter in order to complete the thought of the 'final exams' for the three years of training.

The events in this chapter apparently took place sometime between April 603 and March 602 BC, during Daniel's training. Of course, in reviewing chapter one we realize that at the examination Nebuchadnezzar was already familiar with Daniel and his wisdom - perhaps this is part of why he acknowledged that they were "ten times better than all the magicians and enchanters in his kingdom."

The Scripture text is BrRon's paraphrase, based on the World English Bible and the 'original' Aramaic text. (This chapter was written in Aramaic instead of Hebrew. Aramaic was the language of Babylon.)

{2:1} In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams; his spirit was troubled and his was unable to sleep.

While it is not unusual to dream, the phrase 'dreamed dreams' implies intensity. The whole verse indicates that his intense dreams bothered him, we would say that he 'tossed and turned in his sleep'.

{2:2} The king called the magicians, enchanters, diviners, and the wise men, to explain his dreams. So they came before the king.

Four words are used to include all of the king's learned advisors. They are not seperate categories, but overlap, and show that all manner of wise men were called.. It would be as if our president called all of his cabinet, congress, business leaders, and academic professors to give advice on a particular problem.

{2:3} The king said to them, "I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit is disturbed about the meaning of the dream."

A simple statement of fact by the king. But if the king is disturbed, the advisors and nation must also be disturbed.

{2:4} Then wise men said to the king in Aramaic, "O king, may you live forever. Tell your servants the dream, and we will explain its meaning."

This is quite a reasonable request. Joseph in Egypt was told dreams by the baker, the butcher, and even Pharoah, before he interpreted them. Note the switch to Aramaic from Hebrew in this verse. The text is written in Aramaic from this point on until Chapter 7. Because Biblical Aramaic is written with the Hebrew alphabet, this clues readers as to the switch in language.

{2:5} But the king answered, "It is is gone from me, and if you don't make known to me both the dream and it's interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces and your houses shall be made like a heap of rubbish.

The king did not necessarily forget the dream, but determined that whoever could tell him what the dream was could also interpret it. The actual telling of the dream is what certified the ability of the interpreter. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar had been tricked and deceived by his counselors before, or doubted their true abilities. Or perhaps he remembered the broad features of the dream, but did not remember the details. Or perhaps he just did not want several counselors giving different guesses as to what it might mean. Still, the mention of cutting his counselors into pieces must have alarmed them quite a bit.

{2:6} But if you tell me the dream and it's interpretation, I will give you gifts and rewards and great honor. So, tell me the dream and it's interpretation."

The king could simply have demanded an interpretation, but he offers great honors and rewards to the interpreter. This shows that the king understood the dream to be important. He appears to expect that a true magician can do this, or at least the cream of the magical crop.

{2:7} They replied a second time saying, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will then tell the interpretation."

The counselors begin to sweat. They appeal to the king to give them the dream, promising that they can indeed give an interpretation if only they are told the dream. Of course, I can give an interpretation if you tell me a dream (especially if I am to be killed if I don't). My interpretation may not be accurate, but I would give it anyway.

{2:8} But the king, "I certainly know that you want to gain time, because you know I can't remember the dream.

The king understands that the wise men cannot fulfill his request. Again, perhaps he forgot the dream as he says, or perhaps he is crafty and does remember at least part fo the dream.

{2:9} But if you don't tell me the dream, there is only one law for you; for you have prepared deceptive and false words to speak before me to delay the matter. So, tell me the dream and I will trust that that you really can tell me the true interpretation."

The assumption is that if the King is told the dream, he will remember it (or he never forgot all of it). The magicians do not attemt to make up a dream! However, they may hope that the king will 'get over it' in a day or two, or perhaps remember the dream. Any delay can only help. But the king now sees that his wise men are useless in this matter.

{2:10} The wise men answered the king, "There is not a man on the earth who can reveal the king's dream, because no king, lord, or ruler, has ever asked such a thing of any magician, or enchanter, or wise man.

Quite true! Humanly speaking, it is impossible. It is worth mentioning, however, that we could expect unusual things from wise men, enchanters, magicians, and diviners. Pagans would expect them to percieve this knowledge from various spirits or gods. If the magicians can only think things out like ordinary men, what good are they? Where's the magic?

{2:11} "It is a peculiar thing that the king asks, because there is no one else who can reveal it before the king except the gods, who do not live among us".

This falls just short of saying the whole truth, that the diviners and magicians are unable to gain any knowledge from their gods.

{2:12} Because of this, the king was angry and furious, and commanded the destruction of all the wise men of Babylon.

Nebuchadnezzar was a despot, having absolute power that has been the envy of dictators ever since. He gave vent to his rage, and the wise men suffered. The king really did want to know about this dream!

{2:13} So the decree went forth that the wise men were to be killed; and the guards went to get Daniel and his companions for the execution.

If the king gathered the wise men of the realm, why wasn't Daniel there? He was probably still a student, not a 'fully trained and certified' wise man. But the king was not just killing particular wise men, he was exterminating the whole group or class of wise men, including their families and students. (Remember he would make their homes into piles of rubble.)

{2:14} But Daniel sent an answer with counsel and prudence to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, who was preparing to kill the wise men of Babylon.

The guard was doing what military men of all the ages have done, carrying out his orders whether he agreed with them or not. It would take some preparation to make sure all the wise men were gathered, that none got away, besides the actual work.

{2:15} He said to Arioch the king's captain, "Why is the decree so urgent from the king?" Then Arioch told Daniel what had taken place.

Daniel questions the urgency, as well as why. He must have been in good standing with Arioch for this conversation to have taken place. We see the Lord's hand in this.

{2:16} Daniel went and asked for an appointment with the king, a time to tell the interpretation.

Daniel knows immediately that God will give him the interpretation. He does not necessarily talk to the king, but perhaps to a secretary or a counselor. It will take some time to assemble the king's council again. His appointment was granted.

{2:17} Then Daniel went to his house, and told Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,

Note the Hebrew names of the friends are used by Daniel. He does not act alone, but goes to his godly companions. Do you have friends to confide in when times get tough?

{2:18} and asked them to pray for mercy from the God of heaven regarding this secret, so that Daniel and his companions would not die with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

We might expect Daniel to ask his friends for advice, or to help him figure out a trick, or to help make up a dream. BUT - he asks for the only true solution, praying to God to reveal the answer and specifically asking for mercy. There is no looking to their textbooks on the wisdom of Babylon for an answer.

{2:19} Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Perhaps Daniel dreamed the dream and interpretation, or woke up and saw it. But Daniel realized the source of the vision and blessed the only true God.

{2:20} Daniel said, "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and power are his.

The blessing included three attributes of God, his eternity, his wisdom, and his power. As we will see, the power of God was revealed in the vision. And God's wisdom was seen in that only God could know the dream and its meaning.

{2:21} "He changes the times and the seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise, and knowledge to those who have understanding;

This verse also gives the main point of the vision, that God determines the times and when He will set up and depose kings and kingdoms. This is of special meaning to the Jews in captivity, an a warning to the Jews still in Jerusalem (the destruction will happen a few years later), the God is able to keep His promise to send the Jews out of the land of Israel if they continue to disobey Him. Although we hold elections in the United States, it is ultimately the Lord who places rulers over us. This is a matter of much prayer, as well as voting.

{2:22} he reveals the deep and secret things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.

God's wisdom includes all things, even our secrets. It also includes the knowledge of science and of fact, that we humans have not yet discovered. He needs no light, knowing even what is in the darkness, yet his presence is with the light and full of light. He shed light on this secret dream.

{2:23} I thank you and praise you, God of my fathers, who has given me wisdom and power, and has made known to me what we asked of you; for you have revealed to us the king's matter."

'... what we asked ...' Daniel realized the need for collective prayer, and acknowledged the importance of his friends' prayers with his own. Do you always remember to thank God after He answers prayer?

{2:24} So Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon; he went and said to him: "Don't execute the wise men of Babylon, but bring me before the king and I will tell the king the interpretation."

In 2:16 Daniel talked with Arioch and 'went to ask for an appointment with the king'. It is not clear who Daniel talked to, and what the answer was, although Arioch did delay. Now Arioch is again asked to delay, Daniel has found favor with Arioch in the past.

{2:25} Arioch brought Daniel before the king in haste, and said, "I have found a man among the captives of Judah, who will tell the king the interpretation."

It appears that Arioch is taking some credit for finding Daniel. Actually, he is risking his life by throwing his fate in with Daniel. If Daniel cannot tell the dream, Arioch will be blamed for the delay of executions and also with wasting the time of the king who was a bit rash the day before.

{2:26} The king asked Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to explain to me the dream which I have seen, and it's interpretation?

A simple enough question from the king. He may be a bit amazed that this 'unknown' student (time is in the middle of the last chapter) claims to know the mystery that has perplexed his wisest advisors.

{2:27} Daniel said to the king, "The thing which the king has demanded can not be told by wise men, enchanters, magicians, nor soothsayers,

Daniel repeats the history, that no man can do what the King has requested. Daniel also does not claim to have powers greater than these men on his own.

{2:28} but there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and he shown the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head on your bed, are these:

Rather than say, "Yes I can", Daniel explains that he is speaking for God in heaven who reveals secrets. Then he goes right into the vision without claiming any credit for himself.

{2:29} as for you, O king, your thoughts came into your mind while lying on your bed, what should happen after these days; and he who reveals secrets has shown you what shall happen.

Daniel is revealing the meaning of the dream before even revealing the dream, and makes it clear that the vision concerns the times after 'now', the days after Daniel revealing the dream in 603 or 602 BC.

{2:30} But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any special wisdom that I have, but for the purpose of making interpretation known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart."

Daniel understands that the secret is not revealed because of his own wisdom, but that God has chosed to speak to Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar is the world leader of the first true world empire, which will soon extend to the 'known world'. God has chosed to speak to him through one of his own people, Daniel the Jew.

{2:31} "You, O king, saw a great image. This image, which was mighty exceedingly bright, stood before you; and it was awesome.

The vision was of a great image. This would be a statue, not a picture, and it was magnificent.

{2:32} As for this image, its head was of fine gold, its chest and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass,

{2:33} its legs of iron, and its feet a mixture of iron and clay."

We can see that the statue, apparently of a man, is made of various metals. It starts with Gold at the top, and as we go down different sections are made of silver, brass, iron, and finally an impure iron with bits of clay or dirt in it.

{2:34} "You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.

We do not know how, but a stone is apparently taken out of a mountain and dashed against the feet, which broke.

{2:35} Then the iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold were broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that they could not be found. The the stone that struck the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

It appears the statue was standing, and fell to the ground. All the pieces broke, and were broken up into such small pieces (like chaff) that they all blew away and nothing was left of them. But the stone grew until it filled the whole earth.

{2:36} This is the dream; and we will now tell the interpretation of to the king."

{2:37} You, O king, are king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory;

{2:38} and wherever the children of men dwell, the animals of the field and the birds of the sky has he given into your hand, and has made you to rule over them all: you are the head of gold.

{2:39} After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you; and then another third kingdom of brass, which shall rule over all the earth.

2.39 'inferior' - better translated as 'lower' or 'below', that is, the next part of the statue closer to the earth. There is no justification for stating (as many commentators do) that the Medo-Persian and following empires were inferior to the Babylonian empire. Everywhere else in extant Aramaic literature this word is translated to mean closer to the earth. The link between lower, shorter, and inferior is a common one. I have kept the word 'inferior' because of the traditional way of translating it.

{2:40} The fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, because iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things; and as iron that crushes all these, it shall break in pieces and crush.

{2:41} Just as you saw the feet and toes, partly clay and partly iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but it shall the strength of the iron, because you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.

{2:42} As the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

{2:43} As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, they shall be of mixed nationalities; but they will not cling to one another, even as iron does not merge with clay.

2:44-45a Any references to 'ten' toes and finding significance in them, paralleling the ten horns of a later vision, is unjustified. Daniel did not record the number of toes or assign significance to them in the text. In the same way, finding significance in the two legs is not justified, we do not look for it in the two arms. We should look for significance only where items are specifically reported in the vision or interpretation.

{2:44} In the days of those kings, the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty of it be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, but it shall stand forever.

{2:45} Because you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has told the king what shall happen hereafter: for the dream is certain, and the interpretation of it sure.

Nebuchadnezzar's Statue Vision

Object

Metal

Symbolism

Head

Gold

Babylon

Chest and Arms

Silver

Media-Persia

Belly and Thighs

Bronze

Greece

Legs

Iron

Rome

Feet

Iron and Clay

Later Rome

Rock

.

Messiah

{2:46} Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, and worshiped Daniel, and commanded that they place an offering and incensce before him..

{2:48} Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, appointing him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief governor over all the wise men of Babylon.

{2:49} Daniel asked the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel was in the gate of the king.

Chapter 2 - Summary

Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision by the LORD. He asked for his wise men first to recount his dream, and then to interpret it. Anyone can guess at the meaning of a dream, but the one who could tell him the dream first would surely be able to give a trustwoRChy interpretation. Since no wise man could do this, he ordered all the wise men executed. Daniel, in his last year of training, asked the king for a shoRC delay. He then asked his friends to pray with him. The LORD granted Daniel the knowledge of the vision and its interpretation.

The dream was of a statue, the paRCs made of various metals from top to bottom, namely gold, silver, bronze, iron, and feet with clay mixed with the iron. A stone was carved out, not by human hands, and fell on the feet, crushing all the metals together. The rock became a mountain that would last forever.

The interpretation is a map of history. The gold stood for Babylon, which would fall to Media-Persia (silver), in turn conquered by Greece (bronze), in turn conquered by Rome (iron). In the later time of Rome a stone would crush the kingdoms together (the metals all lasted). The metals lasting apparently means that the characteristics of each kingdom were preserved and incorporated into the later kingdoms. The iron and clay mixed revealed a weakness in the later paRC of the Roman empire. The stone stood for the kingdom of God. This vision should be compared to the visions in the later chapters before drawing too many conclusions. However, the main point is that the LORD is God over all creation, and directs the history of gentile nations as well as the history of Israel.

Daniel was honored by Nebuchadnezzar, and the four Jews were give high positions in his administration.

Chapter 2 - Questions


Unless otherwise stated, the Bible text is from the World English Bible, and is in the public domain.
BrRon's Bible Commentary (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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