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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Image, Nebuchadnezzar's

1. The figure in Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2:31-45 ); 2 . a colossal figure Nebuchadnezzar erected on the plains of Dura (Daniel 3:1-18 ).

The interpretation of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream is debated. Nebuchadnezzar is clearly the head of gold (Daniel 2:38 ). The identification of the other materials (silver, bronze, iron mixed with clay) with historical references is less clear. For convenience, interpreters may be classed broadly as historicists and dispensationalists.

Historicists have proposed various solutions to the enigmatic historical references. According to one interpretation, the various materials refer to the line of Neo-Babylonian kings which came to an end with the conquest of Cyrus who is identified as the divinely ordained rock (Daniel 2:45; compare Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1 ). Others see a succession of kingdoms rather than kings, for example, (1) Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece or (2) Babylon, Medo-Persia, Alexander the Great, and Alexander's Hellenistic successors. Interpreters divide over whether to identify the kingdom that rules the world (Daniel 2:39 ) with that of Cyrus who made this claim or with Alexander who in fact conquered much of the known world. The fourth “divided” kingdom (Daniel 2:41 ) is frequently identified with the division of Alexander's empire by his generals. The mixing of iron and clay is possibly a reference to failed attempts to unite these kingdoms by marriage treaties (Daniel 2:43 ). For these interpreters, the God-ordained stone is the Maccabees who secured Jewish independence and reinstituted Temple worship. Many historicists recognize that the Maccabees only partially fulfilled the hopes of the writer of Daniel and thus find the ultimate fulfillment in the kingdom established by Christ.

Dispensationalist interpreters identify the succession of kingdoms as Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Rome is the empire divided into eastern and western halves and finally represented by a ten nation federation. The Roman period extends until the time of Christ who is the God-ordained Rock which ends the power of the Gentiles (Daniel 7:1; Luke 21:24; Revelation 16:19 ).

The charge of not worshipping the gods of Nebuchadnezzar leveled against the Jews (Daniel 3:12 ,Daniel 3:12,3:14 ) suggests a statue of Bel-merodach, the patron deity of Babylon, though the statue was possibly of Nebuchadnezzar himself. Here religion is a political tool to unite various peoples into one empire. Readers in Maccabean and Roman times no doubt understood the statue against contemporary use of the divine ruler cult.

Chris Church

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Image, Nebuchadnezzar's'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

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