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DANIEL CHAPTER 2
In this chapter are four principal parts:
I. The king’s, dream, Daniel 2:1.
II. The wise men’s ignorance and danger, Daniel 2:2-13.
III. The revelation and interpretation of the dream by Daniel, Daniel 2:14-45.
IV. The advancement of Daniel to great honour by that means, Daniel 2:46-49.
In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Heb.
in the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, for this was properly in the fifth year of that king’s reign and of Daniel’s captivity, and the ninth year of Jehoiakim; but in the second year after Daniel had by his three years’ preparation been brought before the king and approved, then the king dreamed.
Dreamed dreams; it was one dream, but of many parts, therefore called dreams; chiefly for what follows.
His spirit was troubled; by reason of the strangeness of it, he was terrified and in great consternation, and this made him awake.
The magicians and the astrologers: these words signify astrologers, or those that cast nativities, that pretended great skill in natural and supernatural things; and the sorcerers, or necromancers, were those who used diabolical arts. See Poole "Exodus 7:11"; See Poole "Exodus 22:18", See Poole "Deuteronomy 18:10". Though Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar made use of these as their great counsellors, yet God baffled them by Moses and Daniel; and forbade his people the use or toleration of them, because they are an abomination to him. God will have his people ask counsel of him and his words, and not of the devil’s oracles.
Chaldeans: this name the magicians assumed, as being national and most noble; and whatever these wise men or wizards said, it was as if Jupiter himself had spoken it, as the Roman satirist said of them, Juv. Sat. 6.
They came and stood before the king. Daniel was not called among them. Why? Because the king confided more in these his own old standers; but chiefly God had thus ordered by his wise providence that Daniel should not be in their number, for if he had, the interpretation would have been attributed to astrology and magic, and not to God, as now it was.
He remembered the fact in general, but could not repeat it perfectly, much less know the meaning of it; yet it had left such an impression on him, as put him into great perplexity. The Lord hath ways to affright the greatest men in the world, in the midst of their security and jollity.
In Syriac; that is, in the Chaldee tongue, for Syria or Aram is taken in a large sense sometimes, containing Assyria, Babylon, Mesopotamia, Phoenicia, Palestine, 2 Kings 18:26, and from hence to the 8th chapter all is written in the Chaldee language, and not Hebrew, because it most concerned that people, and from thence in Hebrew again.
O king, live for ever: this was a salutation to princes of old, 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Kings 1:25; their meaning was, Let him live a long happy life, for thus the word live is often taken, Psalms 34:12, and this is agreeable to the desires of all worldly men in their prosperity.
We will show the interpretation: it is observed of old to this day, that there is not any sort of men who are such flatterers as impostors. So confident and arrogant are these fortune-tellers, that they promise to interpret a dream which they never knew: this was boldly said of them, seeing the Egyptian magicians could not interpret Pharaoh’s dream though he told it them, Genesis 41:8.
The thing is gone from me: this was of God, that these impostors should be made infamous, by detecting their ignorance and their arrogance, and that this should be a step to Daniel’s honour, for knowing the king’s dream and interpreting it, neither of which the Chaldeans could do.
With the interpretation thereof: if they do not both, saith the king.
Cut in pieces, and your houses, & c, this was a usual punishment in those parts of the world; thus Samuel cut Agag in pieces, 1 Samuel 15:33; 1 Chronicles 20:3. Thus David dealt with the Ammonites. And the like was in making houses a dunghill. The like we have Daniel 3:29; and thus they did to the house of Baal, made it a draught-house to this day, by Jehu’s command, 2 Kings 10:27. The like did Darius threaten to them that would alter his decree for building the house of God, Ezra 6:11. This commination argued the king’s wrath to be excessive and furious, in punishing for not doing what was above their human strength, and which the Chaldeans never arrogated to themselves; yet was this a just reward to these men, that were so presumptuous.
As I threatened you with death for not doing, I promise you rewards and honour if ye perform it. This is in the power of princes, as they think, but all this would not do; therefore they are still where they were, they answered the king again.
But this the king could not do; they could not tell the dream, and the king could not, yet both require impossibilities.
This ye do in policy, to escape punishment; when taken up with other affairs, I may forget to make further inquiry after this thing, but it shall not serve your turn.
There is but one decree for you; that is, I will not retract my sentence, ye shall surely die: you are upon tricks, ye have prepared corrupt and lying words, for he that can interpret a dream can tell the dream, both come from a Divine inspiration, which ye pretend to; but I say ye have it not.
The Chaldeans bring three arguments to convince the king.
1. There is not a man upon earth can show the king’s matter.
2. There is no king requires such a thing of any magician.
3. None but the gods can do this. The Chaldeans with other Gentiles did believe more gods than one and the supreme deity or deities did not meddle with the affairs of men, but had the cognizance by inferior or intermediate demons. So Plato and many of them held. The meaning then is this, Seeing there are some things that God, who knoweth all things, will not communicate the knowledge of to men, and hath not done it to us, it is therefore a singular and unreasonable thing the king should require it of us, and that so suddenly, and upon such penalties.
Tyrants are inexorable, and they rule according to their will, and being crossed they are furious, and that brings forth death; the wrath of such is the roaring of a lion.
This was unjust, that Daniel and his fellows should have their share in the punishment, and yet be excluded from the other part which was the reward; the reason why they were not called was because of their youth, which the Chaldeans despised, wherein we have these three things observable.
1. The magicians confessed this, that knowledge and revelation must come from God, and therefore what Daniel did was not by any human strength, but Divine only.
2. That the Lord held the governor’s hands, so that he did not slay Daniel presently with the first.
3. That Daniel, by his prudence and piety, saved all the magicians’ lives.
So hasty; so precipitate, to slay the innocent who were never called, who knew nothing of it-this appears plainly from these words,
Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel, Daniel 2:15, which was this, that the king had dreamed a strange dream that troubled him, that he had forgotten it, that he called all his wise men to show both the dream and interpretation, but they could not; therefore the king decreed the death of all the wise men in Babylon, and Daniel with his fellows among them, without saving the life of one of them, and he, viz. Arioch, had received command to execute it presently. Thus there was but a step between him and death.
There are four things here very strange and wonderful.
1. That Arioch, instead of executing the king’s decree speedily, should make this stop.
2. That he should dare to see the king’s face when he was so wroth, instead of doing what his commission tied him to.
3. That Daniel should have the boldness to go in to the king when he was in his fury.
4. That he should desire time and obtain it of the king, who had denied the same thing to the wise men. To which we answer, The signal hand of God was in all this.
2. In particular, Daniel was in great esteem with the king above all the wise men, Daniel 1:19,Daniel 1:20 Daniel 1:3.
3. He gave both Arioch and the king hopes he would show and interpret the king’s dream.
According to the good hand of his God upon him, who had shown him favour thus far, and obtained the king’s leave, he went to his house near the palace, that he might seek God in secret for this great thing. For,
1. Their lives were at stake.
2. It was not a small thing, he was sure, that God was about, wherewith he had troubled the king’s mind in such a manner. Therefore he reinforceth his strength, calling his friends to help him: as prayer in times of danger is the most seasonable and sovereign help so, in a common danger we must call in all the help we can to it.
Observe here Daniel’s humility, he sought not to engross this business, and the honour of it, wholly to himself, but would have his fellows share in it with him. Again, they would desire mercy, Heb. the bowels of tender mercy: the choicest saints desire to be saved by mercy, Psalms 51:1.
That Daniel and his fellows should not perish: the Lord hath a distinguishing care and love for his people, 2 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Peter 2:9, especially in common calamities, Exodus 14:19, &c.; Revelation 18:4.
It is not improbably conjectured that Daniel spent the night in watching and prayer, for night vision is distinguished from dreams, Numbers 12:6; whether sleeping or waking, Daniel had the same thing revealed unto him which king Nebuchadnezzar had, with this difference, the king remembered not his dream, nor knew what it meant, but Daniel was able to tell his dream and give the meaning of it also.
Daniel blessed the God of heaven; he gave thanks and praise to the Father of lights, from whom all wisdom comes, who heard his prayer, and revealed this secret to him. Note, this was revealed to Daniel, and not to his companions, for he was chief, and by this is signified by what steps he rose up to the degree of a famous prophet. Again, he calls the true God the
God of heaven, because he made heaven, his throne is there, and the magicians’ and heathen gods come not there, but were cast out thence, being devils of hell; but the God of Israel is the God of heaven.
He blesseth God for two things.
1. Wisdom; he means chiefly the wisdom God gave him in revealing this great secret to him, which the wise men could not attain to, because they knew not the true God, nor did seek to him for it, this is clear in Daniel 2:21-23.
2. Might is his; that is, almighty, above all mighty potentates of the world, above Nebuchadnezzar and all the kings of the earth, for he sets them up and plucks them down at pleasure, Daniel 2:21, as the interpretation of the dream and vision shows.
God made time; God made the sun, moon, and stars, the measure of time; he made the day and the night, and seasons of the year, yea, the revolutions and change of times; he can make bad times better, and turn night into day. He can make the sun go backward or stand still, as in Ahaz’s and Joshua’s time; it is the great part of God’s power and prerogative to change times. Daniel here attributes that to God which heathens attributed to nature, which they deified, or to chance; seeing that God only, that made all by his power, doth rule, and sometimes overrule all by his providence.
The deep and secret things; both of nature, wherein are infinite depths and secrets: and of men’s hearts and counsels, which are very close, deep, and secret, saying in themselves, Who can see us? and the deep and secret things of grace, and the mysteries of Christ’s kingdom: all this is comfortable to the saints, and glorious to God.
He knoweth what is in the darkness, and it dwelleth with him, and he in it. He sees and foresees the most hidden things. Daniel points at the king’s dream in the night, which he only gave the king, and then took it from him, and then gave it Daniel for him again.
Here he gives his God another distinguishing title from all the gods of the heathen, he calls him the God of his fathers, meaning the covenant made with Abraham, &c., to whom and their seed God revealed his saving knowledge, which he did not to the heathen. God is the God of all by the kingdom of his power, but the God of his church only according to the kingdom of his grace.
Thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter; in which words he intimates a twofold privilege; the one that, as the son of such fathers, he obtained the grace and favour of God in giving him safety and wisdom; the other, that he found him a God hearing prayer, and that in a thing of a high nature, he made known to him the king’s matter.
Being now prepared, he goes to Arioch to go in with him to the king; and bid him stay his hand, and not destroy the wise men of Babylon. Arioch might plead the king’s command, Daniel tells him that was because they could not tell the king’s dream: come, saith he, I will show that; by that I take away the ground of thy commission to destroy.
Quest. Did Daniel do well in desiring to have them spared, who deserved to die for their unlawful arts, diviners, necromancers, &c.?
Answ. Two things are usually answered to this:
1. They were not all such, some were innocent, studied arts and sciences lawful and laudable.
2. Those that were otherwise, he pleaded not for them as such, but for justice, that they ought not to die unjustly; and that was their case and cause.
How comes Arioch to boast of what he had found; as if he got him by great search, or by great chance, and as if Daniel had been some obscure, unknown person, when Daniel had asked time of the king just before? It is the manner of courtiers to be very officious, and to commend their own little deeds, that thereby they may signify something with their prince, and make themselves necessary to him, possibly Arioch might not know that Daniel had been with the king, and therefore comes with this Ευρηκα, I have found your man, here he is, behold him, he will give the king full satisfaction in all concerning the dream.
By this name of
Belteshazzar he had given Daniel, he took courage as if he might expect some great thing from him; for the word signifies the keeper of secret treasure, i.e. to lay up and bring forth.
Art thou able, & c.? as if he had said, I question if thou canst, seeing all my wise men cannot do it; canst thou presume to do more than all they?
He reckons up here all sorts of divination, to show that divine things, and the secrets of God, cannot be comprehended by man without special revelation; and that those who presume to do it arrogate too much to themselves, and that it is too tyrannical to require it of any, and that upon pain of death; for, saith Daniel, they cannot do it.
Here the prophet gives God entirely all the glory, proving all the powers on earth to come short in it, it being one of God’s peculiar prerogatives to reveal secrets. Yea, in great humility he denies himself to have any share in it, as also Daniel 2:29.
What shall be in the latter days: observe here the prophet’s wisdom in this discovery, he doth not fall abruptly upon the dream, but first prepares this lofty king for it in general, and by degrees he doth labour to win him to the knowledge of the true God.
1. By this his power; and,
2. By his gracious favour to the king, in revealing to him the greatest secret in the world about the change of kingdoms and governments, and touching the power of Christ’s kingdom over all in the latter days. See Daniel 2:44.
For their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king: some will have this relate to the Jews and the church of God, by whose prayers this was obtained; but the more plain sense is this, But that the interpretation may be manifest to the king, and that thou mayst know the thoughts of thy heart, that thou mayst be better instructed and satisfied in thy mind in this great secret, when thou seest the mind of God in it, and what it points at, and what thy duty is, and how to steer thy counsel and actions in this vast monarchy, and towards the afflicted church of God in it.
A great image; not a painted, superficial image, but a massy one, a statue in man’s shape, great, splendid, majestical: thus they were wont of old to represent great emperors and empires, and worshipped them as gods: called here an image, and in a dream, all which is in show and shadow rather than in substance, and therefore vanishing.
Stood before thee, and that upright, of a prodigious height, noting the grandeur of those monarchies.
The form thereof was terrible: government is to be feared, fear to whom fear, and honour to whom honour; also some had rather be feared than loved. Some say the image was so placed that the face looked toward the king, and thus it might trouble and terrify him.
By this we see the world is much worse and far declined, every age degenerating from what it was of old; as the poets, which borrowed their fancy from this image, have described the ages of the world from metals; the first was golden, and so, coming on coarser, it ended at last, as this image in the text, in dirt.
i.e. All of it to pieces, all vanished, and the stone became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth: this is the dream, and the interpretation of all follows.
By this word we appears Daniel’s piety and modesty, for he declares by it that he and his companions had begged this skill from God, and therefore he did not and could not arrogate it to himself, excluding them, without injury and dishonour to God that heard prayer. Now begins the interpretation.
A king of kings; he means Nebuchadnezzar in person, together with his successors, Evil-merodach and Belshazzar. The prophet would not mind the king of any thing past, nor of any other governments but those with whom his church were then and to be concerned for the future, till the coming of the Messiah, by whose coming they should support and comfort themselves against all their sufferings by oppressors; and also God would have the prophet mind Nebuchadnezzar of the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, growing and breaking in pieces all earthly power.
The God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom; it came not to thee by thy ancestors, or by fortune, or by thy valour, but the great God of heaven hath the bestowing of those, and giveth them to whomsoever he will.
Power, and strength, and glory; authority; victorious armies, with great prosperity.
Hath made thee ruler over them all, i.e. hath given thee absolute dominion of all creatures, men and beasts, within the bounds of thy vast kingdom, to hunt, catch, or kill far thy use and pleasure. God as Lord paramount allows thee, his vassal and tenant at will, all this. This was not universal over all the world, but only within his large territories, which yet were bounded.
Thou art this head of gold.
1. Why head? Because he was first in order, as the head is before the other parts, and the vision began in him, and descended downwards to the other three monarchies.
2. Why head of gold? Because of the vast riches wherein it abounded, and which the Chaldeans most coveted, and scraped from the spoils and tributes of all countries, Isaiah 10:13,Isaiah 10:14; Jeremiah 51:41,Jeremiah 51:44. Also this is called the golden head, because it stood longest, five hundred years, and was fortunate and flourishing to the last.
Another kingdom inferior to thee; this was that of the Medes and Persians, inferior in time and succession; in duration, it lasted not half so long as the Assyrian; and in prosperity and tranquillity, for the Persian was fuller of trouble; yet was this wonderfully rich and large for a time, Esther 1:1; this was the breast and arms of silver.
Another third kingdom of brass; this was the Grecian monarchy, under Alexander the Great, who conquered the former, called "the city," because given so much to luxury; brass, because coarser than the other, and their armour was chiefly brass, χαλκοχιτονες.
Which shall bear rule over all the earth; therefore this is also called a universal monarchy; for Alexander marched into the Indies, and conquered much of that, (by which he was said to conquer the world,) and wept that he had not another world to conquer: yet; his lasted not long, for he was soon overcome and killed by his worldly lusts.
The fourth kingdom is the kingdom of the Romans; and was to last not only to Christ’s first coming, but under antichrist to his second coming, but still going down as to pagan worship, and at last to antichristian and papal power; for in Daniel 2:28 Daniel tells the king that God made known to him that should be in the latter days; therefore he intended a general history to the end of the world, Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:0, latter end; and Daniel 11:0, Daniel 12:0.
It shall break in pieces and bruise: this did break in pieces all other kingdoms, being too strong for them, and was never in subjection to any, but brought all in subjection to it, till the stone fell upon it, of which afterward.
The kingdom shall be divided; partly strong and partly weak. The Roman kingdom was divided, partly, because tyranny followed aristocracy, and the government made up of both; partly, in their civil wars, when two competitors strove each for dominion, the common people against the senate, Sylla against Marius, Caesar against Pompey; also, partly, when conquered provinces and kingdoms cast off the Roman yoke, and set up kings of their own, and so the empire was divided into ten kingdoms or toes. The vision attributes two legs to the image, and to the fourth monarchy, because the Romans had sometimes duumvirs, two consuls, two emperors, one in the east, the other in the west.
This was plain in the civil wars of the Romans, the falling off of some countries, especially in and towards the end of it.
With the seed of men, i.e. by marriage; but they shall never solder well together, because ambition is of stronger force than affinity and consanguinity in rulers.
In the days of these kings, i.e. while the iron kingdom stood, (for Christ was born in the reign of Augustus Caesar, Luke 2:1)
shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom. Now see the difference of Christ’s kingdom from all other kingdoms in the world.
1. In the rise of it, it was not by earthly succession, or arms, or policy.
2. It is spiritual and heavenly in the laws and administration of it.
3. Jesus Christ was not a mere man, but God-man, he is the King, the Son of God.
4. It is stronger than all others, because it breaks them in pieces.
5. It is not bounded by any limits as worldly empires are, but truly universal.
6. It shall be for ever, and never destroyed and given to others, as the rest were.
This verse notes,
1. The small beginning of Christ’s kingdom visibly.
2. The different rise of Christ from all other; his conception by the Holy Ghost, like as Melchizedek, without father and mother, respectively as to his two natures.
Who shall declare his generation? His name shall be called Wonderful, Isaiah 9:6.
3. This stone, as a heavy rock, tumbling down from the mountain, brake the image in pieces, which it could not be said any other did.
4. Christ is a stone that grinds to powder those it falls on. He is the precious foundation and chief corner-stone of his church for ever.
5. He is a growing stone, even to a mountain, mid therefore will fill the earth, 1 Corinthians 15:24. God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter, i.e. the great God bath shown all this, who is above all the kings of the earth, and only knows, and decrees, and effects future things, who only doth great and wondrous things.
The dream is certain, i.e. this dream is no ordinary dream, but an oracle of God; it is sent from heaven, and gives a perfect scheme and prophetical history of things to come, about the special providence of God in changing governors and governments, with particular regard to his church under them; and above all, about the kingdom of Christ, and the growth of it, maugre all the enterprises of pagan and antichristian Rome.
The interpretation thereof sure; it is not a conjectural guess of the magicians and wise men of Babylon, who use to prepare lying words, because they have no knowledge of the true God, and therefore are; wholly unacquainted with his secrets, which he revealeth to his prophets by the Spirit of prophecy; which he hath now signally imparted to me; this I have faithfully made known unto thee, O King.
This was strange, that so great a monarch should thus worship his vassal: thus was it sometimes done to men, as to Elias the prophet, 2 Kings 1:13; this was done in consternation and admiration, because he saw so much of God in the prophet, and in the revelation of the dream; but why did Daniel suffer it to be done to him?
1. Though he could not hinder the king in his prostration, and in his word of command, yet doubtless he showed his averseness with much zeal and abhorrence, as the apostles did in the like case, Acts 14:13-15, because it was high sacrilege and idolatry.
2. It is not said they offered sacrifice to Daniel, but only the king commanded it, which doubtless Daniel refused, because he was so careful in not defiling himself with the king’s dainties, Daniel 1:8; also when he would not omit the worship of God, though with the hazard of his life, Daniel 6:10; therefore the king, being instructed of Daniel, gives God all the glory, in the next words.
A God of gods; the greatest and supreme God of all the world, above Baal, or Bel, and above all other gods.
A Lord of kings; the word is Maron or Maran, which in the Syriac signifies Lord, or high Lord, seeing he is the highest King of all the earth. He makes, overrules, and pulls down whom he will, 1 Timothy 6:15; Revelation 17:14; Revelation 19:16; by this he gathers that God is a
revealer of secrets, Isaiah 48:3,Isaiah 48:5-8. A revealer of secrets; is supreme God, because he knows, and foreknows, and decrees all things future.
Seeing thou couldest reveal this secret; therefore Daniel had it from God, who revealed it to him, which here the king confesseth.
Made Daniel a great man, Chald. rabbi, magnified him.
Many great gifts; an estate suitable to his honour.
Ruler over the whole province of Babylon; gnal col medina over the chief province of Babylon, which was head, because of the metropolis; the word is also Arabic, and therefore used in Spain at this day.
Chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon: see Daniel 4:9. Daniel was chief of them in wisdom, for he could unfold what none of the wise men could. Again, he was chief in place and power, he had the rule and inspection of them which were students and professors of wisdom and learning, into their studies and manners, like a perpetual lord chancellor. Not that this holy prophet gave any encouragement to them in their unlawful arts and divinations, but rather discouraged and corrected them, leaching them the knowledge of the true God: thus doth the true religion top all the world, and make the grandeur thereof stoop to it, for it is the wisdom of God and the power of God.
He substituted them as lieutenants for the king’s service, under Daniel, which, as the curious observe, was chiefly about agriculture, and gathering revenues and provisions for the court; but Daniel was as privy counsellor and lord chamberlain, about arduous affairs of the king and kingdom, sitting sometimes in judgment, and also admitting and conducting persons and causes to the king, as there was need, to whom there was difficult access, according to the magnificence and majesty of the kings of the East. Thus Daniel sat in the king’s gate, to be near and ready for the king’s chiefest business; and it notes honour, also high favour; but especially we must look upon Daniel’s promotion to be for the service and protection of his brethren in their present state of captivity, as Mordecai was, which shows that God doth remember his people in their low estate, and doth not leave himself without witness to them, in raising up nursing-fathers for them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Daniel 2". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17