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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 2

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-49

Daniel 2:1 . In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, after he ascended the throne, according to the Chaldaic account, which was the fourth according to the Hebrew account. Nebuchadnezzar is thought by some to have reigned awhile with his father, as Solomon did with David. He is called king when he first came against Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36:6.

Daniel 2:2 . Call the hariolites or aruspices, those who used incantations, being diviners. The magicians, those who affected to know all the secrets of philosophy. The astrologers, those who affected necromancy, or converse with the dead: by some they are called aruspices. The Chaldeans, professors of astronomy, engaged in deciphering the book of fate. All these were to interpret to the king his dreams.

Daniel 2:5 . Your houses shall be made a dunghill, or be demolished, as Theodotian reads; and his is the only Greek version extant. Desirous of being exact as far as possible, in the illustration of these prophecies, as far as critics have given light, I have procured two copies of Theodotian’s work, with a variety of others on this book. Daniel wrote the first chapter, and to the fourth verse of the second chapter, in the Hebrew language. Chapters eight to twelve are also in the Hebrew; the others, which concerned chiefly the affairs of Babylon, are written in the Chaldee.

Daniel 2:21 . He changeth the times and the seasons. The God of heaven was not bound by any law of fate; he can do what he pleaseth among the armies of heaven, and the inhabitants of the earth. This was a homestroke at the Chaldaic astrology.

Daniel 2:41 . Iron mixed with miry clay. The word in Theodotian, followed by the Vulgate, signifies earthenware. So it is in Montanus.

Daniel 2:45 . The stone was cut out of the mountain without hands. Christ, the chief cornerstone of the church, emanated from the bosom of the Father, and was born of the virgin without hands. He also sent his gospel throughout the Roman world without regal support, and established his kingdom without acquainting the princes of this world with his design, and it shall encrease and enlarge till it has filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:46 . Then the king worshipped Daniel. He was so awed and overcome with the divinity that spake in Daniel, that he could not forbear this act of prostration. When the emperor Alexander was marching to punish the jews for not sending him supplies, Jaddua the highpriest came out to meet him in his full pontifical dress. The emperor fell down at his feet; and on being admonished by his generals for this act of degradation, he said that he had before seen this highpriest in a dream, who had promised to give him the keys of Asia. In like manner the Lycaonians wanted to offer sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas, when they had healed the lame man at Lystra. Acts 14:10-13. The elevation of Daniel proves how much the king was struck with the divine wisdom communicated to that distinguished prophet.


Here the veil of futurity was lifted up to the young and holy Daniel somewhat higher than it had ever been raised to any other prophet. The four great monarchies stood before him in all their gigantic terrors, but peacefully terminated in the everlasting kingdom of Jesus. The Babylonian empire was just organized after the unexampled conquests of Nebuchadnezzar, and conquests extending towards the extremities of the earth. It was, so to speak, the empire of the whole social world. Hence, though other prophets had spoken of the chastisement of the nations by Nebuchadnezzar’s bloody career, and of the fall of Babylon; yet no one had spoken in this way, of the future lords of the world. The vision therefore tended to humble the haughty monarch, who had already begun to reckon himself a god rather than a mortal. It tended also to exalt the Most High, to procure better treatment of the captives, and to elevate Daniel in the eyes of all the world. Above all, it tended to lead good men to the contemplation of prophecy, harmonized by providence, as the sole hope of the afflicted church. But the language is so figurative, that while it affords a general hope to the church, it does not discover too much of God’s designs to proud and infidel men. Nor is there any calamity denounced against either men or nations but what may be postponed, or altogether averted by sincere repentance; so we fairly gather from the repentance of Ahab, of Hezekiah, and of Nineveh. This is very encouraging to all men oppressed by the heavy hand of God’s afflicting rod, and to every nation menaced with devastation and war. The dream of this monarch has claimed the most serious attention of the church, and in conjunction with the other prophecies of this nature, the most enlightened saints have kept their eye upon it. Nebuchadnezzar was elevated with thoughts of present and of future grandeur, for God prepared him for the dream by deep reveries of thought. Then sleep stole on his weary mind, and heaven presented him with a huge statue or image; for the idols of the nations represented the patriarchs and kings who had once governed the earth. The composition of this idol was so various that the imagination of man, unassisted by revelation, would hardly have dared to indulge so singular an idea. The head was gold; the breast and shoulders, silver; the belly and thighs, brass; the legs and feet were pillars of iron branching into toes, and decorated with potter’s ware to give a beauteous finish to the human form. In the morning, all the dream was wiped away from the monarch’s mind, except the beclouded consciousness of a portentous influence. Had he recollected the dream, the astrologers would have given some studious interpretation to sooth the royal fears. The embarrassment of the learned, and the terror of the tyrant’s threats, led Daniel, with his three colleagues to watch and pray. Then He, who sometimes speaks to carnal men in dreams, favoured Daniel with an extraordinary revelation, showing him both the dream and its import. Thus the Lord spake to the king and the Chaldeans by his prophet, that they might know his name and rely on his providence; revere his servants, and no more repose confidence in gentile prognostications. How glorious it is to seek wisdom from heaven.

1. Nebuchadnezzar and his government were this head of fine gold. His capital is called the golden city, being filled with plundered wealth and the riches of commerce. His empire comprised all the Assyrian conquests and power, extending itself in Europe and Africa to the straits of Gibraltar. This prince was therefore fitly represented by a head of gold. But as the image seemed melted in four furnaces, and was composed of four metals, so this head, imperfectly sodered to the body, was to fall off in less than seventy years. Jeremiah 25:11.

2. The breasts and the arms of the idol were silver. The Medes and Persians had before been represented by a couple of chariots approaching Babylon: now they are represented as one breast and two arms which act in concert. These two powers were consolidated in Cyrus; and after the reign of nine monarchs, most of whom were monsters of tyranny, Babylon was taken by Alexander, and the Persian empire was destroyed after having existed from two hundred to two hundred and thirty years.

3. The belly and the thighs of this idol were of brass. Here the Grecian empire under Alexander is foretold. On this subject, sacred antiquity both before and after Christ is generally agreed. This vain and ambitions youth, making Cyrus his model, took about thirty six thousand veteran soldiers from Greece, the same in number as Cyrus led from Persia and Media; for magnitude of force is not of moment when God has a work to do. He led his army to Babylon, overthrew the Persian power, and filled his court with ambassadors from all the earth. This is called the Grecian brazen empire; their shields and coats of mail were chiefly of that metal. It extended from Spain to India, from Abyssinia to Thrace. On Alexander’s death, his great captains divided the empire; but of course, the manner and the spirit of the several governments remained much the same, till the Romans under their consuls generally extended their conquests over the east. And it is very remarkable, that most of the ancient empires and kingdoms fell by the loss of a single battle. How small is the pivot on which the largest empire moves. The gradual fall of this empire may be averaged at about two hundred years.

4. The legs and feet of this statue were composed of iron, and potter’s ware, or beautiful porcelain, at once to denote, its incomparable strength and great weakness. “The fourth kingdom, or empire, says St Jerome, obviously refers to the Romans, who break and subdue all nations. Its feet are partly iron and partly pot, as is most manifestly felt in our own age. In the beginning, nothing was stronger and harder than this empire; now nothing is weaker. Both in our civil wars, and in our contests with other nations, we need the aid of barbarous gentiles.” This empire was not only stronger but more durable than the other three, reckoning from the time that they enlarged themselves by conquests. It fell a prey to the northern nations, being first weakened by its own discords; and they divided its toes into about ten kingdoms. It is also remarkable, that the Romans strengthened themselves by mixing “with the seed of men.” They kept not themselves from marriage with strangers, as the Jews did, and some other nations of the east, but freely intermarried with any nation. Their city rising at first from vagabonds and refugees associated from all parts, this principle operated throughout all succeeding ages, and their various forms of government. There is therefore no empire but the Roman to which this prophecy can refer, and it applies to that with a force which carries conviction of the truth of prophecy to every impartial mind. Hence the prophecies have embarrassed and confounded every infidel who has rashly dared to oppose their authenticity.

5. While Nebuchadnezzar was contemplating his majestic statue, he beheld a stone detached from the adjacent hills, as by accident, which rolling down with encreasing velocity struck the terrific image, not on the head, nor the breast, nor the trunk, but on the feet, and it fell with a portentous crash, and all the different metals were broken to pieces. And this mysterious stone, rising as a mountain by an earthquake in the seas, became the mountain of the Lord, and the sanctuary of all the earth. This stone or mountain is illustrated at the forty fourth verse. In the days of these kings, that is in the time of the fourth empire, as is signified by the stone striking the feet of the image, shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and this kingdom shall not be left to other people, but shall consume, or convert all kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. The rise and progress of this stone or kingdom which is the cheering theme of prophecy, is illustrated at large in the general reflections at the close of Isaiah’s prophecies. Now, this kingdom differs from all the others in many material points. The stone was detached from the precipice without hands. No human tools or policy was employed. The Lord Jesus became incarnate by the power of the Highest, and his gospel was preached in a peaceful way, without noise or ostentation. The commencement of this kingdom was not the mighty result of battles which founded other kingdoms; on the contrary, it was small and weak as a foundation and a corner-stone, and it became great before the world was properly aware. At the same time this kingdom was impregnable, as is marked by the mountain on which it is exalted above the malice of all its enemies. It was to be inhabited, not by wicked and bloody men, but by the saints of the Most High. It was to break in pieces the rebel power of all the other nations, and to endure for ever. Now, no kingdom began in the time of the Romans, or rose to empire, but that of Christ’s. Already overflowing with righteousness, peace and joy, may it spread to the remotest corners of the earth. May it also encrease our confidence, and confound the infidelity of the human heart.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Daniel 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/daniel-2.html. 1835.
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