The Book of Daniel, The Dream and the Interpretation Thereof, Daniel 2:25-30 - Lesson 9
Daniel 2:25-30, Then Arioch (ar-yoke') brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation. The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.
It seems that every event recorded thus far in this book reveals to us the character of Daniel to be one of great strength.
Again we see in this passage the character of a humble man who does not put himself first nor promote himself in any way but on the contrary lifts up his Great God as the benefactor of men.
Here is an example where the typical man would take great advantage to gain benefit for himself, especially when his life was in danger, but this is not the case with Daniel.
But we do see an example of self serving in the man named Arioch the executioner, who quickly makes haste to bring Daniel to the king after being told of Danielís revelation.
We certainly see some good things in this man but we also see a self serving individual who claims to have found a man among the captives of Judah who will solve the dream problem of the king.
It appears from his claim for finderís recognition from the king that Arioch did not know of Danielís approval from Nebuchadnezzar for a space of time to tell and interpret the dream.
Certainly Arioch ought to be given credit for trusting in Daniel for had Daniel brought foolishness to the king it no doubt, would have resulted in the executioner himself being put to death.
But the contrast between the two is great.
One is promoting himself while the other one puts himself in the background while lifting up the God of Israel.
There is no indication of Arioch receiving anything from the king but there is certainly the opposite of that for it shall come to pass where Daniel is greatly lifted up by telling the king what God had revealed to him.
Again we see a clear example of God exalting the humble.
There was no hesitation on Danielís part as to whom he was going to exalt and he quickly stated that it was his God who determines and reveals the future.
In this Daniel reveals that he cannot foretell the future and Nebuchadnezzar already knew that his wise men also could not do this.
Daniel did accept the fact that he was simply an instrument in the hand of God and any trust and praise from Nebuchadnezzar must go to God and not to Daniel.
He retells again to the king what the wise men had already told him.
And that was: what the king requested was beyond the reach of men and also impossible for Daniel.
28But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.
This God in heaven was not from the gods of the wise men.
Daniel made it plain that the God who reveals secrets was the God of Israel, Danielís God.
But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.
Daniel wanted Nebuchadnezzar to clearly understand that the God of heaven had revealed the interpretation to him and all praise should go to God.
The only reason God had made known that revelation was so the king would know the future of his kingdom.
And that he might also know the things that were to come to pass in the far distant future Ė even until the consummation of the times of the Gentiles.
What a lesson this is for us as to the humility of the true servant of God.
Daniel could have basked in the glory of this moment and won great admiration and reward to himself but he could not have been clearer as to who should receive the glory.
So after this testimony of God to the king Daniel gets to what the king had been longing for, the dream and the interpretation thereof.
Daniel 2:31-35, Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This imageís head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
Before the details of the dream were told, Daniel informed Nebuchadnezzar that the dream concerned what should come to pass hereafter.
Prior to his dream the king mused upon his bed as to what should come to pass in his kingdom but God answered his ponderings by telling him what should come to pass not only hereafter but far into the future, in fact the totality of the future of the Gentile kingdoms.
This knowledge was wrapped up in the great image that he was given to see.
It was a strange image, not one a sculptor would ever produce on the earth for it was made from several materials.
Gold, silver, brass, iron and clay.
It was a top heavy structure with a material of great density at the top and lessening density as one progressed down toward the toes.
Gold is 19.3 times the density of water, silver is 10.5 times the density of water, brass is 8.5, iron is 7.9 and compacted clay is 1.7.
Also the composition of the image was of materials of decreasing value from precious, expensive, and rare to ordinary, cheap and plentiful.
This structure would never have been designed by an engineer for its foundation was its weakest part and because of this it was doomed to failure.
And fail it did for a stone cut out without hands rushed toward the weakest of materials smiting the feet causing the statue to fall and to be ground into chaff small enough for the wind to blow away.
The winds blew every trace of the statue away as though it never existed.
The stone, on the other hand, became a great mountain which filled the whole earth.
Now that the king had learned of the dream from the lips of Daniel he was eager to hear the interpretation.
Daniel 2:36-45, This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of pottersí clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Daniel described the dream exactly as Nebuchadnezzar dreamed it.
But it was necessary for God to tell what it meant and Daniel was chosen to provide the interpretation.
Daniel had made this clear to the king and wanted all praise to go to God.
The statue was one entity.
It was a symbol of the kingdoms of the earth from Nebuchadnezzarís time until the time when the last and only enduring kingdom would come.
It began with Nebuchadnezzar which was the beginning of the Gentile kingdoms and ended with the last of the kingdoms which was in existence when the stone made without hands enters the picture and brings down every vestige of the kingdoms of man.
This image is an image of a man and a manís body has important parts and lesser important parts.
This image is so composed of materials with ever decreasing value proceeding from the head to the toes.
We are clearly told that the head of fine gold was Nebuchadnezzar, and that this designation shows that his kingdom was superior to those that followed.
There is a downward progression in the kingdoms and the three kingdoms which follow are progressively inferior to the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar.
More is said about the first and the fourth kingdoms and little said about the second and third kingdoms.
Chapter two begins with an example of the power and authority of King Nebuchadnezzar for his every command is to be carried out without question and if he wishes for all of his wise men to be destroyed then so be it.
There will afterwards even be a vast chorus of "Long Live the King!"
He has absolute authority and I think this is an indicator of what the character of his kingdom is and also indicates to what the following kingdoms will be compared as far as authority is concerned.
We have said that the materials used in this image are of decreasing density and decreasing value.
There appears to be also a decreasing value of authority as the kingdoms come on the scene.
The image goes from pure gold to iron mixed with clay.
The Bible tells us that God is the potter and we are the clay.
There is here in this dream an indication that authority goes from the absolute authority of one man to the limited authority of many men.
This image indicates a dilution of authority related to value.
It indicates a transition from the authority of a monarch to the diluted authority of the people.
It indicates a movement from the absolute authority of one man to the authority that is carried out in democracies.
We have come from the absolute authority of a monarch to the divided authority of the many.
Today authority is a hated concept for it demands responsibility and accountability.
It is obvious that most people today do not operate by authority but wish to be moved by persuasion.
God does not operate by persuasion but by authority!
But this whole picture that God paints for us with this image indicates a dissatisfaction of all of the authority or non authority schemes of man for God casts the stone made without hands to destroy the whole structure so that it will be remembered no more.
The plan of God is for a monarch but the monarch that He has in mind is a monarch who is a god-man, the man Christ Jesus, the stone made without hands, who will rule with a rod of iron.
Some commentators say the authority of the clay lies in the antichrist who is revealed in the last days.
He is the ultimate product of man and as Revelation 13:1 tells us rises up out of the sea (a symbol of mankind) as though he were a god-man.
Revelation 13:6, And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
But the stone made without hands destroys him and all the authority systems before him, the stone that becomes a great mountain, filling the whole earth.
When this final kingdom comes to power, the end is near.
Daniel ends the interpretation by informing Nebuchadnezzar that the vision was from God, indicating to him what would take place in the future.
Now this interpretation certainly excited Nebuchadnezzar for it matched exactly his dream and made all the parts fit together.
But much of the dream is not explained for the only kingdom that is identified is the first kingdom, Babylon and its king, Nebuchadnezzar.
The thing that the king needed to know as he progressed toward a recognition of Danielís God was the fact that his kingdom was not eternal but the kingdom of Danielís God was eternal.
What was not interpreted did not need to be known by Daniel or the king.
We know more than they knew, for we are on this side of that event by over 2600 hundred years.
Nebuchadnezzarís kingdom has passed, the Medo-Persian Empire has passed, the Greek empire has passed, the Roman empire has passed but has morphed into an empire composed of iron and clay and awaits the coming stone of destruction.
The man that arises out of the sea of humanity symbolized by iron and clay and known as the Antichrist will be the one crushed by the stone cut out without hands.
Godís kingdom, the eternal kingdom will be ushered in, first to spend 1000 years on this earth and then eternity in the new heaven and the new earth.
(1) There is a unity, a bond between the four kingdoms, as indicated by the vision. There is one statue, but four distinct kingdoms. Somehow these four kingdoms are related or share something in common. The common element seems to be that these were all Gentile kingdoms, kingdoms which subjugated and dominated the nation Israel.
(2) There is a downward progression, a deterioration of the kingdoms. The head of gold is glorious, the breast of silver of a lesser greatness. The belly of brass deteriorates to legs of iron and feet which are a mixture of iron and clay. Things donít get better, only worse.
(3) There is, in the end, a disintegration of the entire statue. Granted Nebuchadnezzarís kingdom was great, but when the stone strikes the feet of the statue, the entire statue collapses, disintegrates, and blows away. In the end, the greatness of Nebuchadnezzarís kingdom (not to mention all the rest) is blown away. Somehow Nebuchadnezzar is to see the link between his kingdom and the other three, and to see that he shares in the final destiny of the entire statue.
(4) There is an unknown, mysterious "king," who destroys the entire statue, who nullifies all of these kingdoms, bringing them to nothing while establishing his own kingdom.
(5) The kingdoms of Nebuchadnezzar and those who follow him pass away, and a greater, eternal kingdom does not.
(6) Greater emphasis is on the first and fourth kingdoms than on the rest. The first kingdom is given attention because Nebuchadnezzar is the king. The fourth kingdom receives more emphasis than the other three, I believe, because it is the final kingdom which will be struck down by Messiah at His appearance.
(7) Much in this vision is not interpreted or explained, which neither Daniel nor Nebuchadnezzar seem to have understood. In this vision, none of the kingdoms or kings are identified, except the first kingdom (Babylon) and its king (Nebuchadnezzar). What was not interpreted did not need to be known by Daniel or the king. The meaning and interpretation of these mysterious details will be evident when they are fulfilled.
Nebuchadnezzarís Response Recorded
The response of Nebuchadnezzar is truly amazing. Imagine Sadam Hussein, falling before a Jewish Christian, acknowledging the God of Israel as the only true God, and falling prostrate before one of His servants. Nebuchadnezzar was a much greater man, in power and in reputation.
In chapter 1, the king thought of the God of Israel as a lesser "god," as one defeated by his "gods" (see 1:1-2). He seems to have cared little about Danielís God, or about Danielís convictions. He is impressed only by Danielís superior performance (1:18-20). But now, in light of the events of chapter 2, Nebuchadnezzar falls prostrate, acknowledging the superiority of the God of Israel as the "God of gods," "Lord of kings," and a "revealer of mysteries." Nebuchadnezzar has not yet come far enough to be called a saint, but he has come a long way in his understanding of the God of Israel.
Nebuchadnezzar was a man of his word. He gave Daniel many gifts, just as he promised the wise men, if they would but tell him his dream and its meaning (see 2:6). Along with the gifts, Daniel received a promotion. He was made ruler of the entire province of Babylon and placed in charge of all the wise men of Babylon. Here was something for the wise men of Babylon to ponder. Their gods had nearly gotten them killed. Danielís God had saved their lives.
While Arioch attempted to use Danielís God-given gifts and abilities to further his own position, Daniel used his newly gained standing with Nebuchadnezzar to further his three friends. He spoke to the king on their behalf, and they were appointed with charge of the whole province of Babylon during the time Daniel was at the kingís court.
Before we focus our attention on the central theme and message of the kingís vision, consider three secondary lessons which we can learn from our text.
(1) Our text contributes to our understanding of spiritual leadership. Daniel did not seek prominence. He did not set his sights on spiritual leadership. He sought to be faithful to His God and to his calling. It was only when he was put "between a rock and a hard place" that he stepped forward. It is often in the crisis situations of life that leaders emerge. So it was with Daniel. He was, in a sense, forced to lead. Had he not acted as he did (humanly speaking), he and his three friends would have died. Danielís leadership came about when he acted out of necessity and out of faith, in a way that set him apart from the rest. This seems to be the way most of the leaders in the Bible were set apart.
(2) Impossible situations expose the futility of human wisdom and power and of false gods and religions. At the same time, they provide the setting for which the power and wisdom of God to be undeniably demonstrated. God brought about the crisis of Daniel 2. In so doing, He showed the wise men of this world to be unwise, and by testimony of their own lips showed their gods powerless. Godís power was so evident through the faith of Daniel and his friends that the king fell before this man and his God.
(3) Evangelism is the work of God, brought about by the workings of the Spirit of God. I am greatly impressed by what Daniel could have said, but did not. Daniel told the king his dream and its meaning. He did not tell the king what to do about the message God had revealed to him. He did not press the king to "close" the matter of his faith in God. The events of chapter 2 brought Nebuchadnezzar a long way from where he had been, but he was not yet ready to profess his faith in this God. All too often Christians are telling others what to do, when they should be concentrating on the proclamation and interpretation of Godís Word, trusting in the Holy Spirit to prompt men to take action as He guides them.
There are times when God does give clear application. Joseph not only interpreted the Pharaohís dreams, but then went on to recommend a specific plan of action. This was in order to preserve men from starvation, and especially to save the nation Israel. But often we make applications where God has not. Let us be careful not to rush beyond biblical revelation. The Holy Spirit knows better how to apply the Word of God than we do.
The major thrust of the kingís dream, as revealed and interpreted in Daniel 2, is so obvious we almost miss it. I fear that we usually miss this "camel" because we are too busy looking at the "gnats." The lesson for the king can be summed up in these words:
THE KINGDOMS OF MEN FADE AWAY AND ARE FORGOTTEN;
Nebuchadnezzar lay on his bed that eventful night, thinking about what the future held. No doubt his thoughts were focused on his reputation, his role in changing the course of history, and especially on his glory and fame. How humbling was the message of his dream!
His kingdom did have fame and glory. He was the head of gold. But his kingdom would pass, only to be replaced by another, and then another and another. In the end, One was coming who would put an end to all human kingdoms and establish a kingdom that was eternal. "Gone With the Wind" óthat was the message of this kingís dream and the way it is with all human glory and power and works.
If the king wanted to be a part of a kingdom filled with glory, which lasted forever, he must "look to the rock" of his vision. It is not the head of gold, nor the breast of silver, nor even the entire statue which is glorious and eternal, but the stone. The stone brings the destruction of the statue and the creation of an everlasting kingdom.
Throughout the New Testament, our Lord taught the people of His day the same lesson God was teaching Nebuchadnezzar through his dream. Jesus warned men that the kingdoms of the world would pass away and that they should set their hearts and minds on the kingdom of God, which He had come to establish. He is the stone "fashioned without hands" (see Luke 1:35). He is the One whose kingdom is eternal and glorious.
Nebuchadnezzar was thinking of his empire. God instructed him in his dreams to submit to a great King and to be a part of an eternal empire, an eternal kingdom. Jesus is that King, and the kingdom of Heaven is the empire. Those who trust in Him have not only obtained immortality, but salvation, eternal life, glory, and peace. May we, like Nebuchadnezzar, turn from our own earthly empires to the heavenly empire of God.
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak Godís wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, "Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love him." For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God (1 Corinthians 2:6-10).
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each manís work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each manís work. If any manís work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. If any manís work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).
(1) How do we go about interpreting the prophecies of Daniel 2, knowing there is so much disagreement among Bible scholars in their interpretations?
The words of Deuteronomy 29:29 should serve as our guide: "The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law."
Disagreement between sound, serious Bible scholars is most often found in areas unclear or dogmatic. I believe that there is much about prophecy we are not supposed to understand. This was true even of the prophets themselves (see 1 Peter 1:10-12). Our main responsibility is to focus on what God has made clear to us, to believe it, and to act upon it in faith.
We should approach the prophecies of Daniel 2 in light of what God has told us through Daniel. We should understand what he understood, what he explained to Nebuchadnezzar, and what Nebuchadnezzar therefore came to understand himself. We should pay attention the main points, and not the unexplained details.
(2) What events lead up to Daniel telling the king what his vision was, and its meaning?
King Nebuchadnezzar had gone to bed and was thinking about the future (verse 29). God gave the king dreams that night which informed him about the future and about his attitude toward it. These dreams were distressing to him, especially since he did not know what they meant. He was not able to sleep the rest of the night. When he got up, he summoned some of his leading wise men and demanded from them that they tell him his dream and its meaning. They protested that this was unreasonable, requiring more wisdom and greater gods than Babylon had to offer. The king was furious and ordered all the wise men of Babylon to be put to death. This order included Daniel and his three friends. After learning from Arioch what the problem was, Daniel went before the king and asked for time to learn the dream and its meaning. He and his friends then prayed to the God of Israel for mercy, by giving Daniel the dream and its meaning. God answered their prayers by revealing these things to Daniel. Daniel went to Arioch and then the king, to tell him what God had revealed to him in his dream.
(3) How and why does Daniel end up in a position of power and honor?
Daniel did not seek the prominence, honor, or position which he gained as a result of the events of chapter 2. Daniel and his three friends, through no fault of their own, fell under the death sentence pronounced by the king on all the wise men of the land. This prompted Daniel to seek out the king, and to assure him that he could reveal the dream and its meaning, because his God was the God who controlled and foretold future events. Daniel was careful not to take credit for his God-given ability, but in spite of this Nebuchadnezzar gratefully rewarded him with gifts and a high position for himself, and also a promotion for his three friends (at Danielís request).
(4) What was the vision which the king saw in the night?
Nebuchadnezzar saw a great and awesome statue. Its head was made of gold; its chest and arms were silver; its belly was bronze; its legs were iron, and its feet were a mixture of iron and clay. As Nebuchadnezzar looked on with amazement, a stone (shaped without human hands) was fashioned and struck the image on its feet. The image did not merely topple, it disintegrated, and the wind blew its dust away, so that there was nothing left of the statue. The stone, on the other hand, became a great mountain.
(5) What was the interpretation of the vision?
The statue was a representation of the Gentile kingdoms, from Babylon to the time of the coming of Christ. Nebuchadnezzar was the first kingdom, the head of gold. Three other kingdoms would follow. The second and third kingdoms are barely discussed. Each kingdom seems to be of decreasing value (begining with gold and ending with iron and clay). The final kingdom is overthrown by the "stone" (Christ), and establishes an eternal kingdom in its place.
(6) What is the meaning of the vision?
Essentially, God is warning Nebuchadnezzar against pride and preoccupation with his own kingdom, or with earthly kingdoms in general. Gentile kingdoms will, in the end, be done away with and their glory will be forgotten. The "king" who should gain our attention and our worship is the Messiah. He will, at His coming, put down earthly kings and kingdoms, and establish His eternal kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar should set his mind not on earthly things, but on heavenly things.
(7) What is the meaning of this vision for us?
It is exactly the same as it was for Nebuchadnezzar. As our Lord taught, we should not lay up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. We should not focus on the temporal, but on the eternal. We should not dwell on ourselves, and our glory, but on God and His glory.
(8) What change occurs in Nebuchadnezzar as a result of this vision and its interpretation?
Significant changes occurred in the attitudes and actions of Nebuchadnezzar. From one who worshipped his own Babylonian gods as superior to the God of Israel, this king now acknowledged Him as superior to his gods. He greatly honored Daniel and his friends and promoted them to high level positions. But he was not yet what we would call a true believer. This will not come until chapter 4. The events of chapter 3 reveal to us that he did not yet "get the message" fully.