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Bible Commentaries

Peake's Commentary on the Bible

Daniel 2

Daniel 2. Nebuchadnezzar’ s Dream.— We enter in this chapter into the region of Apocalyptic (pp. 431– 435). The colossal image, which forms the centre of the king’ s dream, is in reality a pictorial representation of the world’ s history during three and a half centuries. The message for the writer’ s own age lies in his confident prophecy of the speedy advent of the Messianic kingdom ( Daniel 2:44) which is to follow upon the defeat and destruction of Antiochus Epiphanes.

Verses 1-13

Daniel 2:1-13 . The Forgotten Dream.— Nebuchadnezzar, troubled by a dream which had escaped him, calls his magicians and orders them to recover it and explain its meaning. When they declare their inability, he issues orders that they are to be put to death.

Daniel 2:1 . in the second year: this statement seems to be in conflict with Daniel 1:5; Daniel 1:18, which imply that Daniel spent three years in training. Driver suggests that the discrepancy can be explained thus: We know that Babylonian kings did not count the year of their accession as the first year of their reign, but regarded the second year as the first. In that case, the second year mentioned here would be the third, and it is quite possible that the dream may have occurred at the end of this year, and so after Daniel’ s period of education was ended (CB, p. 17). For other suggestions see Cent.B, p. 14.

Daniel 2:2 . magicians, etc.: Daniel 1:20 *.

Daniel 2:4 . in the Syrian language: i.e. in Aramaic ( mg.) . From this point to Daniel 7:28 the Book is written in Aramaic. The statement seems to assume that Aramaic was used in the Babylonian court for official communications, but this is very improbable. Many scholars suppose that the words are not genuine, but were originally a marginal note to indicate that the Aramaic part of Daniel commenced at this point, which afterwards crept into the text.

Daniel 2:9 . there is but one law for you: your fate is irretrievable.— till the time be changed: i.e. till the king’ s attention is diverted to other affairs.

Verses 14-24

Daniel 2:14-24 . Daniel Volunteers to Explain the Dream.— To save the magicians from their doom, Daniel offers to tell the king his dream and prays to God to make the thing clear to him.

Daniel 2:14 . Arioch: Eri-Aku (“ Servant of the Moon-god,” see on Daniel 2:17), an old Sumerian (p. 51) name which, according to Sayce, was not in use in the time of Nebuchadnezzar. It occurs in Genesis 14:1, whence many scholars think our author derived it.— captain of the guard: lit. “ captain of the slaughterers or butchers.” The same expression occurs in Genesis 37:36; Genesis 39:1, 2 Kings 25:8, Jeremiah 39:9.

Daniel 2:18 . the God of heaven: this title for God is often found in post-exilic literature, especially in Ezra and Nehemiah. It indicates, as Charles suggests, “ the growing transcendence of Jewish thought concerning God.”

Daniel 2:20-23 . Daniel’ s hymn of praise. This hymn emphasizes ( a) the might, ( b) the wisdom of God, especially the latter. The might of God is illustrated in Daniel 2:21 by His influence in history. “ He changeth times and seasons,” i.e. the course of history does not run smoothly. There are constant crises and changes, empires are overthrown, new forces arise, and all these are due to the intervention of God.

Daniel 2:21 b Daniel 2:23 describes the wisdom of God. God is the source of all light and knowledge, and it is because of this that he has made clear to Daniel the king’ s dream.

Verses 25-35

Daniel 2:25-35 . Daniel Declares the Dream to the King.— By the inspiration of God Daniel is enabled to describe to the king his forgotten dream. In this dream the king had seen the image of a colossal man, which was of surpassing brilliance. The head was made of gold, the upper part of the body of silver, the lower part of bronze, the legs of iron, the feet of iron mixed with clay. As the king watched, a stone “ cut without hands” smote the image and smashed it in pieces. The stone then grew till it became a mountain and filled the whole earth.

Daniel 2:27 . soothsayers: lit. determiners of fates, i.e. fortunetellers. For the prevalence of magic at Babylon, Daniel 1:20 *.

Daniel 2:28 . in the latter days: lit. “ at the end of the days,” or, as we should say, “ at the close of time.”

Daniel 2:29 . thy thoughts came: the thoughts must be distinguished from the dream. The king was probably pondering over the future destinies of his kingdom, wondering what the future would bring for it, and the dream took shape as a weird and fantastic answer to his musings.

Daniel 2:31 . excellent: surpassing. The word is used here in its old English sense.

Daniel 2:34 . stone was cut out: i.e. from the mountain (see Daniel 2:45).

Verses 36-49

Daniel 2:36-49 . The Interpretation of the Dream.— According to Daniel’ s interpretation the colossal statue is a pictorial representation of the course of history. Four empires succeed each other and are finally destroyed by a fifth which is of Divine origin (not made with hands), and ultimately dominates the world. We can identify these empires with practical certainty, and the identification proves that the statue depicts the history of 450 years, roughly speaking from 600 to 150 B.C. It will be observed that, according to the figure, history degenerates through this period. The gold becomes silver, the silver brass, and the brass iron. The golden empire is undoubtedly the Babylonian. Nothing could exceed the unstinted praise which the writer lavishes upon Nebuchadnezzar ( Daniel 2:37 f.) . The silver kingdom is that of the Medes, which the Book of Daniel interposes between the Babylonian and Persian Empires. The brass kingdom is that of the Persians, which was established by Cyrus in 538. The iron kingdom is the Greek, which was set up by Alexander the Great in 331 B.C. The two feet represent the two divisions of the Greek kingdom, i.e. the kingdom of the Seleucidæ over Syria and Babylon, and the kingdom of the Ptolemies over Egypt, which date from the beginning of the fourth century. The author of Daniel, writing about 168, looks forward to a speedy advent of a fifth or Messianic kingdom, which is to destroy the other kingdoms and sift them like “ chaff on the summer threshing floors.” Four of the kingdoms, therefore, belong to the past, the fifth is the ideal kingdom of the future. It will be observed that the nearer the writer comes to his own day, the more specific are the details which are introduced into the picture.

Daniel 2:37 . Note the description of the glories of Nebuchadnezzar’ s reign. He is described as “ king of kings,” and ( Daniel 2:38) his rule extends over the whole of the habitable world.

Daniel 2:39 . another kingdom: the Median.— third kingdom: the Persian.

Daniel 2:40 . fourth kingdom: Macedonian or Greek. Charles thinks that this verse is corrupt and suggests that it ought to run, “ And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as iron breaketh in pieces and shattereth all things, so shall it break in pieces and crush the whole earth.”

Daniel 2:41 . a divided kingdom, i.e. the Seleucidæ and the Ptolemies, who divided Alexander’ s empire between them, the former representing the iron, the latter the clay.

Daniel 2:44 f. The description of the ideal or Messianic kingdom, the advent of which in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes is to overthrow the other empires and control the destiny of the world.

Daniel 2:46 . worshipped Daniel. Neither the English word “ worship” nor the Heb. original in this passage necessarily implies the payment of Divine honours, though both are used with that connotation. Yet the mention of “ the oblation and sweet odours” seems to imply that the writer intended the word to be taken in that sense. If it were not for Daniel 2:46 b we should be justified in assuming that the term “ worship” meant no more then than it does in the formula of the Prayer Book, “ with my body I thee worship.”

Daniel 2:47 suggests that the homage paid to Daniel was in reality paid to God.

Daniel 2:48 . chief governor: most scholars suppose that each class of the “ wise men” had its own head, and that the title here used implies that Daniel was made governor or prefect of them all.

Daniel 2:49 . in the gate of the king: remained attached to the court of the king.

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Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Daniel 2". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.