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Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (2:1-23)
Soon after completing their early training, Daniel and his friends were faced with a severe test. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and wanted his wise men to tell him its meaning. However, he would not, or could not, tell them the dream. He insisted that they first describe the dream to him accurately, and then he could be sure that their interpretation also was accurate (2:1-6). The wise men replied that the king’s demand was unreasonable. No person anywhere had such knowledge (7-11). Furious at their reply, the king ordered that all Babylon’s wise men be executed (12).
Perhaps Daniel and his friends had kept themselves separate from the Babylonian magicians and sorcerers, for they did not appear with them before the king. When the king’s guards came to arrest them to be executed, Daniel bravely went to the king and successfully asked for extra time to consider the matter (13-16). He immediately returned home and gathered his three friends with him to pray to their God (17-18).
That night God revealed the dream and its interpretation to Daniel in a vision. Without waiting to check with the king whether his vision of the dream was the same as the king’s, Daniel confidently thanked God for answering his prayer (19). He praised God as the all-wise and all-powerful ruler of the world, who controls history, determines the destinies of kings, gives wisdom to the faithful and reveals mysteries to his servants (20-23).
The meaning of the dream (2:24-49).
Daniel had no thought of taking the opportunity to exalt himself above his unfortunate fellow officials. Rather he first of all ensured that they would not be executed (24) and even supported their statement that no person could be expected to meet the king’s demand (25-27). Certainly, Daniel would tell the king the dream and its meaning, but the revelation was due entirely to God, not to any special skill that Daniel possessed (28-30).
What Nebuchadnezzar saw was a huge statue. It was made of a variety of substances, which, from head to feet, decreased in value while increasing in strength - except that the feet, which supported the statue, were brittle. A huge stone, supernaturally formed, struck the statue in the feet so that the whole structure crumbled to dust and was blown away. The stone, however, grew into a mountain that covered the whole earth (31-35).
The dream concerned the future of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom and the climax to which coming events would lead (see v. 29). Its chief purpose so far as Nebuchadnezzar was concerned was to show him that God is the sovereign ruler of the world, and he sets up kingdoms and destroys them according to his own will.
In the light of later history, the meaning of the dream appears to be as follows. The mighty Babylonian Empire headed by Nebuchadnezzar (the head of gold) would soon be replaced by the Medo-Persian Empire (the chest and arms of silver) as the ruling power in the world as Nebuchadnezzar knew it. The Medo-Persian Empire would in turn be replaced by the Greek Empire (belly and thighs of bronze), and this in turn by the Roman Empire (legs of iron) (36-40). The Roman Empire would take in more scattered states than any of the previous empires, but would not be able to hold its empire together in a stable union (feet partly of iron, partly of clay) (41-43).
During the time of this Roman Empire, God would intervene. The mighty empires of human achievement, which started with Babylon and lasted till Rome, would crumble before the coming of a supernatural king, Jesus Christ (the supernatural stone that smashed the image). The kingdom of God introduced by Jesus Christ would spread worldwide and would last for ever (the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth) (44-45).
Though Nebuchadnezzar was forced to acknowledge the superiority of Daniel’s God, he did not yet acknowledge that he was the only true God (46-47). The king promoted Daniel to chief administrator in the kingdom and head over his council of advisers. But Daniel, in his hour of greatness, did not forget his friends. He had them appointed administrators with responsibilities over various country regions, but he himself remained at the palace in the city of Babylon (48-49).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Daniel 2". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17