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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Daniel 2

 

 

Verses 1-49

WITH THE SENSATIONAL rise of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar the times of the Gentiles began, and chapter 2 opens with the statement that as early as his second year that great monarch had a remarkable dream that troubled him much; and well it might, for in it lay a God-given revelation calculated to humble him. He lost his sleep and, what to him was worse, he lost also any recollection of his dream. He turned naturally to the Chaldeans and their associates, who trafficked with demon powers; demanding that they should recount his dream as well as give its meaning.

This demand, with the threat that, if they failed to answer to it, they should all be destroyed, does at first sight seem savage and unreasonable. On second thoughts we may remember that just about that time there were false prophets and diviners even in Jerusalem, as we see in Jeremiah 29:1-32, whose predictions and explanations failed, and so it doubtless had been with the diviners of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar may have thought he had now a fine opportunity to test these men that surrounded him, and would wish to control him with supernatural understanding as they claimed. If they claimed to give supernatural interpretation of dreams, surely the same supernatural power could reconstruct the forgotten dream! This would verify the claims they made. And if they could not verify their claims, he would wipe them out of his kingdom!

Daniel and his friends being classified by the Babylonians as being amongst these 'wise men,' they were included in the decree issued by the furious king. The action of Daniel and his friends is instructive. They did two things. First, there was Daniel's humble supplication to the king for time, with the assurance that an answer would be forthcoming. This assurance revealed faith in God on the part of Daniel, and that of very remarkable strength. Second, having obtained this brief respite, Daniel and his fellows gave themselves to prayer that the secret as to the dream might be revealed to them.

So here were these four men, surrounded by the grossest form of idolatry in the world's greatest city, yet so truly separated in heart and ways from it all as to be in touch with the 'God of heaven,' to the point of receiving communications from Him. The secret they prayerfully sought was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. He saw by night just what the king had seen by night some days before. Others had been enabled to interpret dreams — Joseph for instance — but to duplicate a dream, so that what appeared before the mind of one man by night should be exactly repeated before the mind of another man a few nights later; this none can achieve but God. And in no servant of His does God perform this miracle but in one who was thoroughly separated to Him from the defilements of the surrounding world.

The first thing that Daniel did was to bless God and offer praise to Him, as shown in verses Daniel 2:19-23. He was indeed living in an epoch, when God had been changing 'the times and the seasons,' and also removing kings, and setting up kings, showing that wisdom and might are His. The removing of the kings of David's line and the setting up of Nebuchadnezzar had been acts of God, and Daniel bowed to this and even blessed God in the acknowledgment of it. He blessed God too that He imparted wisdom to those who had been given understanding to receive it, and in particular that the desired secret had been made known unto him.

'Times and seasons' as relating to the earth are first mentioned in Genesis 1:14. We have the exact words here, and we meet with them again in Acts 1:7 and 1 Thessalonians 5:1. It is clear that this expression refers to God's dispensations and dealings on the earth. In Acts 1:1-26, the disciples were not to know the time of God's dealings. Yet the Thessalonians did know the manner of God's predicted dealings, and the order in which they would transpire: indeed they knew this perfectly, though they were ignorant of the coming of the Lord for His saints, as revealed in the previous chapter. But then, that coming has to do with a heavenly calling, while 'times and seasons' relate to the earth.

The dream being revealed, Daniel is quickly brought before the king, and at once disclaims any virtue, as resident in himself. He referred the king to the God of heaven, who reveals secrets, and who intends to make known to him the future course of Gentile dominion, that had commenced with his overthrow of Jerusalem and its king. Nebuchadnezzar was plainly told that God had thus acted for the sake of Daniel himself and his fellows, and that he might realize that he had to do with a God who knew the most secret thoughts of his heart and mind. In verses Daniel 2:31-35, the dream is related to the king.

We pass on however to consider the dream, as its meaning is unfolded by Daniel, beginning with verse 37. The golden head of this great image of excellent and terrible brightness was Nebuchadnezzar himself. He wielded absolute power, unfettered and unlimited, as no one before had known, nor has anyone since, and which we believe will only be equalled by the predicted 'Beast' of Revelation 13:1-18, and exceeded by the Lord Jesus, when He comes as King of kings and Lord of lords. The Lord Jesus will judge and rule in equity, but it was far otherwise with Nebuchadnezzar, for, 'whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive' (Daniel 5:19), as Daniel himself recorded.

The Babylonian empire, magnificent as it was, only dominated the stage in the world's history for a short time. Under Belshazzar and his father it fell from its proud preeminence. It was so much dependent upon the power and glory of Nebuchadnezzar that no subsequent king is regarded, and in verse Daniel 2:39 we read, 'after thee shall arise another kingdom' which was to be inferior in its character, described in the dream by the breast and arms of silver; and this again superseded by a third kingdom, designated by the belly and thighs of brass.

The lessening value of the metals indicated a deterioration in the quality of the succeeding powers. We may think it a hard saying, but autocracy is the Divine ideal in government, to be realized in righteous yet benevolent perfection in the millennial reign of Christ. It is worthy of note that in this chapter Daniel more than once speaks of 'the God of heaven,' indicating that this first Gentile monarch of supreme power held his authority as delegated from heaven. This is the fact, we believe, that underlies the instruction of the Apostle given in Romans 13:1. The existing power of his day was the fourth, mentioned in our chapter, but the Gentile powers that exist, whoever they may be at any given moment, hold their authority as delegates of 'the God of heaven.'

The second and third empires are passed over with slight mention and our thoughts are concentrated on the fourth, which was to be characterized by strength, as set forth by the iron. The Roman empire did indeed break in pieces and subdue the civilized earth, and lasted in its unified form for centuries. Though its unity was dissolved, as we know, it is viewed in the dream as existing in some way until its final development in a ten-kingdom form at the end of its story, when clay will be found mixed with the iron; and in result the kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle.

The mixture of clay and iron aptly symbolizes this, for they are substances entirely different in character. Iron is a metal, of less value than gold, though stronger: clay is non-metallic, and its figurative use in Scripture indicates what is human in contrast to what is Divine: see Job 10:9, and Job 33:6; also the references to man being like clay in the hands of God, who is the Potter.

The dream indicated therefore that the fourth empire in its last days would have 'kings,' to the number of ten, and that though still strong there would be an element of brittleness, induced by the introduction of a human element — what in these days we call democracy; which was defined by a noted man as being, 'Government of the people by the people for the people.' Nothing is more uncertain, and therefore brittle, than the will of the people. It seems quite certain therefore that we are living in the days contemplated as being the closing stage in the history of the image.

Upon the feet of the image the stone fell. The stone is described as 'cut out without hands;' that is, apart from man having anything to do with it — not human but Divine in origin. The first prophetic reference to the Lord Jesus as the Stone is in Genesis 49:24, when old Jacob, in blessing his sons made a parenthetic exclamation, 'from thence is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel.' Under this figure He again appears in Isaiah 28:16, and so on into the New Testament.

In the dream we are considering, the stone is interpreted as 'A kingdom, which shall never be destroyed,' but we know who the King of that kingdom is going to be. Just as the 'vision' of Habakkuk 2:3, which will surely come and not tarry, is found in Hebrews 10:37 to be centred in a Person, (for the 'it' of Habakkuk is turned into 'He' in Hebrews), so the 'kingdom' which Daniel mentioned as predicted by the 'stone' of Nebuchadnezzar's dream is found to centre round a Person, who is God's 'King of kings.'

We know Him as the 'Living Stone,' and to Him we have already come, as we are reminded in 1 Peter 2:5. We are His already and we partake of His nature as 'living stones,' and so are built up, as under His authority, into that spiritual house and holy priesthood, as indicated. When as the King of that coming kingdom, predicted in Daniel 2:1-49, He falls in judgment it will be completely to demolish. While we wait for that, we know His attractive power, the effect of which is to build up. How great the favour and blessing of knowing Him thus!

It is indeed a solemn thought that judgment has at last to fall on the imposing image, that represents Gentile dominion on earth, and crush all to powder. It should have a sobering effect on us all, as we realize that nothing of all man's pomp and power and outward glory is going to remain. Not only are the iron and clay ground to powder, but the gold and silver and brass also. The wind of God will sweep all away as chaff. The God, who will do this, is great, and He was making it known to this king, who was great in the eyes of men. The greatness of God guaranteed the certainty of the things the dream foretold.

This should remind us of what we read in 1 Corinthians 1:19, and 1 Corinthians 2:6, where the Apostle's words inform us that not only powerful Gentile kingdoms are to be swept away, but that also the intellectual princes of the earth and all the wisdom they represent will come to nothing in the day when God rises up in judgment.

This revelation, that reached the king through Daniel, had an immediate effect upon him, as we see in the closing verses of the chapter. Instead of being angered by this prediction of ultimate disaster, he was made acutely conscious that he was in the presence of the supernatural — a power was in evidence that he had found wholly wanting in the Chaldeans and his magicians. Only, true to his heathen upbringing, he was mainly concerned with the man in whom the power was displayed. He did indeed acknowledge that Daniel's God was 'a God of gods, and a Lord of kings,' but the worship he offered was directed to Daniel, rather than to the God, in whose name he spoke. So we see here an illustration of what is written in Romans 1:25, that the heathen 'worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.'

So Daniel was not only worshipped but also made one of the chief, if not the very chief, of the advisers and rulers under the king, and at his request his three companions were also greatly elevated. They went at one bound, so to speak, into high positions of prominence. And did this wonderful display of Divine power have a salutary and lasting effect on Nebuchadnezzar? The next chapter shows quite conclusively that it did not.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Daniel 2:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/daniel-2.html. 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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