Daniel Chapter 2 Commentary: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
In the second chapter of the book of Daniel, we are transported to the second year of the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar. The chapter centers around Nebuchadnezzar’s troubling, yet prophetic, dream. When none of the king’s magicians and seers are able to reveal the dream and its meaning, young Daniel steps forward endued with God’s wisdom. Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream foretells the unfolding of future world empires, including the final world empire. This richly prophetic dream also reveals the destruction of all of these world empires by the coming Kingdom of God. This is a vital prophetic chapter in the study of eschatology. The chapter concludes with the decision of King Nebuchadnezzar to promote Daniel, and his three friends, over the entire province of Babylon.
Time: The text opens in the second year of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
Daniel Chapter 2 Commentary – Verse by Verse
Simply click the arrows below each verse to reveal our notes and commentary
1 In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him.
“In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar”
– This first verse sets the stage for all of the events that will follow in this chapter. The original Hebrew word for “reign” in this verse is “malkuth,” (a derivative form of the Hebrew word for king, “melek”) meaning royal power over a realm or a kingdom. King Nebuchadnezzar ruled the Babylonian empire with an iron fist. He “reigned” in every sense of the word.
Note that the following events are transpiring in the “second year,” which is very early into Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
“Nebuchadnezzar had dreams”
– In ancient times, dreams of royalty carried great significance.
“his spirit was troubled, and his sleep left him”
– In Genesis 41:1-9, we read about Pharaoh’s prophetic dream, after which he awakens and finds “his spirit was troubled.” Interestingly, this is the exact Hebrew phrase used in this verse.
The word for “troubled” is the Hebrew word, “paam,” meaning to thrust, impel, or agitate. Like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream shakes his spirit and leads him in a desperate search for answers.
2 Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.
“Then the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned”
– Shaken by the strange images in his dream, Nebuchadnezzar gives orders that four groups of wise men should be summoned to his aid.
“The magicians” – This word is “chartom” in Hebrew. Except for this verse, this word always refers to Egyptian magicians.
“The enchanters” – This word is “ashshaph” in Hebrew and refers to conjurers or necromancers, that is, those who can conjure up and communicate with the deceased.
“The sorcerers” – This word is “kashaph” in Hebrew and refers to those who engage in witchcraft and the casting of spells.
“The Chaldeans” – The Chaldeans (people from Chaldea) are mentioned numerous throughout the Bible. They were a partly nomadic tribal people who lived in southern Babylon. While they are often lumped in with the Babylonian people, they had their own distinct culture and were known for their intelligence. They were well known for their study of astronomy and astrology, which is likely why Nebuchadnezzar wanted them brought into his court.
“to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king.”
– Nebuchadnezzar apparently wants to test the supernatural abilities of the wise men in his region by forcing them to provide an interpretation of his dream — without first describing the dream!
3 And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”
And the king said to them, “I had a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream.”
– With his entire “prophetic” posse of magicians and seers now gathered, King Nebuchadnezzar issues an unprecedented challenge. The king explains to his servants that he has had a profound dream that he greatly desired to understand. The king admits that the dream has deeply disturbed his innermost thoughts (his spirit). And he is anxious and eager for a correct interpretation to his nocturnal puzzle. While the wise men do not know it yet, this is the only detail about the king’s dream that they will be given before being asked to give their interpretation. Besides explaining the fact that he had a dream, the king adds that his spirit has been troubled by the dream so much that he demands an immediate interpretation.
Then the Chaldeans said to the king
– The Chaldeans are the first ones to respond to the king’s challenge. They were a proud people known for their fierce intelligence (according to astute historians.)
– It is also worth noting that beginning in this verse, the language of the original texts and parchments of the book of Daniel suddenly shift from Hebrew to Aramaic. The original language will remain in Aramaic until Daniel 7:28, where it then reverts back to Hebrew. Why does the language shift to Aramaic? Some commentators suggest that it is because much of the prophetic details of this portion of the book deals with gentile kingdoms. Therefore, it is fittingly written in a Gentile language.
“O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.”
– The response by the Chaldeans begins with a reverent, but typical, verbal salute to the king, followed by a plea for the king to retell his dream, including all of the important details, so that they could then apply their otherworldly powers in concocting a satisfactory interpretation for the king. Chaldeans are saying: “If you give, we’ll give.”
5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins.
The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “The word from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins.
– King Nebuchadnezzar is not a king to take orders or ultimatums from his underlings. He angrily demands that those present immediately provide him with both the contents of his dream, and their interpretation. If not, the king warns that they each will be “cut into pieces” and that their lineages will be expunged from the earth.
6 But if you show the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.”
But if you show the dream and its interpretation,
– After threatening their lives, King Nebuchadnezzar provides an assurance to his wise men if they will reveal both the contents and the interpretation of his remarkable dream.
you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor.
– In a final attempt to force his wise men into leveraging their professed “otherworldly” powers, the king resorts to offering bribes (“gifts and rewards and great honor”) to any who could meet his challenge.
But the spiritual power that was available to the king’s wise men originated in the kingdom of darkness, not the Kingdom of Light. Just as the blind cannot lead the blind, the king’s wise men had no ability to decode God’s profound prophetic message.
As Biblical commentator Matthew Henry observes of this verse: “Those who deceived, by pretending to do what they could not do, were sentenced to death, for not being able to do what they did not pretend to.”
Therefore show me the dream and its interpretation.
– The king is insistent upon receiving the answer. His repetition of the request perhaps displays the deep angst the dream has caused within him.
7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.”
They answered a second time and said,
– In a daring move, the king’s wise men persist in their original request a second time.
“Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show its interpretation.”
– Defying the king’s orders, and confronted with their own execution, the wise men once again ask the king to tell them the dream so that they may furnish him with an interpretation.
8 The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see that the word from me is firm—
The king answered and said, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time,
– Nebuchadnezzar rightly perceives that his clueless soothsayers are attempting to stall in answering his question in order to protect their lives and their families.
because you see that the word from me is firm
– Their fears are justified as Nebuchadnezzar is in no mood for games. His divine dream has so greatly disturbed him that he is desperate for an accurate interpretation. He will certainly not spare the lives of his false seers if they fail to perform.
9 if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you. You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.”
if you do not make the dream known to me, there is but one sentence for you.
– Nebuchadnezzar has already pronounced this sentence earlier in vs 5, namely, that they “shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins.”
You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change.
– Nebuchadnezzar accuses the wise men of conspiring to mislead him with lies with the hopes that he may change his mind or that the current situation will change.
Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me its interpretation.
– The king presses them once again to tell him both the contents of his dream, as well as its interpretation, under the penalty of death.
10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.
The Chaldeans answered the king and said,
– Once again, it is the Chaldeans who speak up in response to the king.
“There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand,
– In their final attempt at saving their lives, the Chaldeans appeal to the king’s sympathy and compassion by explaining to him that no mere mortal possessed the ability to answer the king’s demand.
for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean.
– Their hope is to demonstrate that Nebuchadnezzar’s request is not only unusual but entirely unprecedented, in that such a request had never demanded of any wise man on earth.
11 The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
The thing that the king asks is difficult,
– Finally, the Chaldeans attempt to appeal directly to Nebuchadnezzar’s reasoning, calling the request “difficult.”
and no one can show it to the king except the gods,
– They add that Nebuchadnezzar is asking too much from men when only the “gods” possess the kind of interpretative power that he seeks.
whose dwelling is not with flesh.
– This final phrase of their statement of defense reveals the neo-Babylonian view of the ability of the “gods” to manifest themselves in the flesh. In essence, the Chaldeans are telling the king that “the ‘gods’ are the only ones who can answer your question, and they are not here. It’s only us and we are unable to provide an answer.”
12 Because of this the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed.
Because of this the king was angry and very furious,
– This verse uses two words to describe the king’s anger: 1) “Benas” meaning “to be enraged” and 2) “qetsaph” meaning “to be furious.” This second word is augmented with the modifier “saggi”, meaning “very.” The book of Daniel reveals that King Nebuchadnezzar was given to fits of rage, at times. When the king becomes angry, he often becomes extremely violent. We will see his anger boil over once again in Daniel 3:13,19 over the failure of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to bow down in worship to the king’s statue.
and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed.
– Why is the king so furious? Because he is desperate to understand his bizarre dream, which he believes to be of divine origin, and all of his supposed “diviners” are unable. He considers them to be useless. Here, King Nebuchadnezzar issues a horrifying edict: The putting to death of every so-called “wise man” in his kingdom. His rage at the “few” impairs his judgment towards “all.”
13 So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
So the decree went out, and the wise men were about to be killed;
– Immediately, the king’s decree (“dath”= lit. “law, decree”) is carried out. The king’s men were notified of their new task: to slay all of the wise men in the land of Babylonia. The king’s wrath was not just isolated to those in his court, but all “wise men” in his kingdom.
and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them.
– The narrative now returns to Daniel and his three companions. It is doubtless that some within the king’s court were envious of Daniel and his friends. After all, he had publicly garnered the king’s favor in the previous chapter. Now, armed with the legal authority to kill him and his friends, it is likely that they were viewed as a prized target of this royal extermination by those who envied their abilities and wisdom.
14 Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon.
Then Daniel replied with prudence and discretion
– It is here where the story officially turns as Daniel enters into the story. From the moment that Daniel is injected into this dramatic story, his “prudence” and “discretion” are on full display. The delicacy of the situation demands these character traits as Daniel’s face certain death. However, these same character traits will soon bring him before the king to tell and interpret the dream.
to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon.
– Little else is known about Arioch except for what we have in this verse. As the “captain of the king’s guard”, Arioch was the king’s chief executioner. He is the one responsible for overseeing the wholesale slaughter of all of the wise men in Babylon.
15 He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.
He declared to Arioch, the king’s captain, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?”
– Daniel, no doubt surprised by the severity of the king’s decision to slaughter all of the wise men of Babylon, inquires of Arioch why the king chose to be so harsh. The original word for “urgent” is “chatsaph”, which means “to be harsh or insolent.”
Then Arioch made the matter known to Daniel.
– Arioch answers by explaining the reasons behind the king’s decision to Daniel. Here, Daniel learns that the sentence is rooted in the king’s disturbing dream, to which he had demanded an interpretation.
16 And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time, that he might show the interpretation to the king.
And Daniel went in and requested the king to appoint him a time
– Upon learning of the king’s mysterious dream from Arioch, Daniel goes before the king to request more time to interpret the dream.
that he might show the interpretation to the king.
– While the text does not explicitly say that the king agreed to stay his execution plans, it is inferred from the narrative. Note Daniel’s faith in God’s ability to reveal the dream. Of course, it may be said that Daniel had little to lose since a death sentence was already hanging over him. However, to single himself and his God out before Nebuchadnezzar in his anger must have required a tremendous belief that God would provide Daniel with both the dream and its interpretation. If Daniel were to fail to deliver the interpretation, it would be devastating to both Daniel’s temporal life and to his God’s reputation in the world’s greatest empire of the time.
17 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,
Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions,
– Daniel returns home after learning of the king’s request to be told his dream, and its interpretation. Without God’s intervention, no one could answer King Nebuchadnezzar’s demands. Daniel wisely consults with his faithful companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, to whom we were first introduced to in the last chapter.
18 and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery,
– Note the great dependency upon displayed by that Daniel in this passage. Once he fully understood the king’s request, Daniel hurried home to implore his friends to join him in seeking God’s mercy in cracking the mystery of the king’s dream.
so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
– Without God’s divine revelation, Daniel and his companions would be put to death along with the “rest of the wise men of Babylon.”
19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel
– To Daniel, it was given to understand the mystery (lit. “hidden secret”) of the King’s dream.
in a vision of the night.
– Visions and dreams are the hallmarks of God’s revelation to His prophets. (See Num. 12:6; Job 33:14-16) The book of Daniel is filled with prophetic visions and dreams that contain deep meaning.
Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
– Daniel must have been elated at God’s merciful revelation. In verse 18, Daniel had urged his companions to join him in seeking “mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” The answer had come and now, thanks to God, the life of Daniel (and many others) would now be spared!
Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever
– Daniel’s benediction comes immediately after God reveals the mystery of the king’s dream. Once again, this displays the solid character of Daniel who properly credits God for the revelation without haste.
to whom belong wisdom and might.
– In addition to blessing the name of God, Daniel boasts of God’s attributes of “wisdom” and “might.” Only God has such infinite power to reveal those things which are hidden from the eyes of men.
21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
He changes times and seasons;
– Daniel extols Almighty God as the one who alone can control the course of world events. Nature obeys His commands. He set the universe in motion and through His infinite wisdom, the earth’s seasons rotate in perfect precision. Night and day, light and dark, winter and summer are all creations of, and dependent upon, God’s eternal power.
he removes kings and sets up kings;
– As the King of kings, God oversees the setting up and removal of earthly kings. Here, Daniel is likely referring to the contents of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, having discerned that it pertains to future kingdoms that God will allow to rise and rule the earth.
he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding;
– As the source of all true wisdom, Almighty God may bestow His divine wisdom upon those He chooses. Those who boast of wisdom have been made wise by God. And those who have deep understanding have received their knowledge from God. Here, Daniel is obviously showing gratitude to God for revealing Nebuchadnezzar’s mysterious dream to him. Note that Daniel is always quick to credit God for his revelations.
22 he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him.
he reveals deep and hidden things;
– Daniel boasts that Almighty God is the revealer of the unfathomable depths of knowledge and wisdom. He alone has the power to uncover those things which are concealed. There is no unsearchable mystery which is not laid completely bare before Him. Nothing can hide from His eyes.
he knows what is in the darkness,
– While we stumble in the darkness being unable to see, it is not so with God. There can be no absence of light with Him. Nothing can obscure his vision.
and the light dwells with him.
– Because the light dwells with Him, darkness has no power to shroud anything from his view. Light shines forth from His being. All things are illuminated before Him. His knowledge and wisdom know no bounds.
23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”
To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
– Daniel prays to the God of his “fathers”, that is, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He blesses God with a heart of gratitude and worship.
for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you,
– Daniel specifically praises God for enduing him with shrewdness, wisdom, and strength and for answering his urgent request.
for you have made known to us the king’s matter.
– Note the “we” and “us” in this passage. Daniel is clearly thanking God for answering the prayer of both him and his three companions, who had all labored diligently in prayer seeking God’s wisdom in answering the king’s challenge.
24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon. He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon.
– After Daniel is given the dream and its interpretation, he first glorifies God and then goes before Arioch, Nebuchadnezzar’s chief captain. Arioch has been commanded to execute all of the wise men of Babylon, at the king’s command.
He went and said thus to him: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will show the king the interpretation.”
– Daniel’s bold appeal to Arioch is rooted both in faith and knowledge. Daniel knows the only reason that King Nebuchadnezzar has ordered the execution of all of the wise men in Babylon is that he is desperate to know his dream. Daniel has faith that God has indeed revealed the entire dream and its interpretation to him. Armed with this knowledge, Daniel acts swiftly both to meet the king’s seemingly impossible demand while saving as many lives as possible in the meantime. He appeals to Arioch for a meeting with the king to show him his dream, and its interpretation.
25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who will make known to the king the interpretation.”
Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste
– Arioch appears eager to bring Daniel before the king, likely knowing the king’s desperation at decoding his unusual dream. (The haste with which Daniel is brought before the king also echoes a similar story found in Genesis 41 when Joseph was brought up from the dungeon to interpret Pharaoh’s bizarre dream.)
and said thus to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man…
– Here, we see Arioch’s probable motivation to gain the king’s favor. Arioch claims: “I have found among the exiles…” revealing his desire to obtain credit for his discovery. Of course, if Daniel’s interpretation is wrong, it could cost Arioch. Such was the faith that Arioch had in Daniel’s wisdom.
Also, note that the answer to the king of Babylon’s dream will come, not from the wisest Babylonian, but from a Jewish exile. It is this type of humility that is the hallmark of God. Never forget that our God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise! (1 Cor. 1:27)
who will make known to the king the interpretation.
– In the following verses of this chapter, Daniel will not only explain Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in painstaking detail but will also provide the king with its interpretation. This is something that no one but God could do, as Nebuchadnezzar is very aware. (See Dan. 2:47)
26 The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
The king declared to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar,
– Once before the king, Daniel’s Babylonian name Belteshazzar is employed in the text. This name was bestowed upon him back in Daniel 1:7. Ironically, this name means: “Prince of Bel” or “Bel protect the king.” Bel is the Babylonian word for Lord and was used to refer to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon.
However, as Nebuchadnezzar will soon realize, Marduk is powerless to interpret his dream. Only the true God of Israel has such power.
“Are you able to make known to me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?”
– You can almost hear the surprise in Nebuchadnezzar’s question. Here is a Jewish exile, albeit of good reputation, but a Jewish exile nonetheless. Nebuchadnezzar is about to come face to face with the awesome power of the God of Israel. The king has taken comfort in the many false gods of Babylon. It is likely that the king wondered how a Jewish exile, so unlearned in invoking the powers of Babylon’s false gods, could possibly do what no other wise man in his kingdom has been capable of doing… Namely, telling the king his dream and interpreting it.
27 Daniel answered the king and said, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,
Daniel answered the king and said,
– Here, Daniel is standing in the presence of one of the world’s most powerful monarchs of the ancient world. He is preparing to deliver a stunning message that will greatly impact the king’s entire worldview. Let’s listen carefully to the words of Daniel.
“No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked,
– In this stunning statement, Daniel informs King Nebuchadnezzar that no mere mortal can explain the contents nor provide an interpretation of the king’s prophetic dream. Daniel exposes the fraudulent soothsayers that the king takes comfort in, one by one.
– The wise men (Original language: “chakkim”; literally those steeped in occultic knowledge and learning in ancient Babylon)
– The enchanters (Original language: “ashaph”; literally a conjurer or a necromancer)
– The magicians (Original language: “chartom”; this word is often used of Egyptian magicians in Exodus, literally those possessing occult knowledge and drawing or engraving magical lines or circles)
– The astrologers (Original language: “gezar”; literally those who determine fates)
but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries,
– Note the singularity of Daniel’s statement. There is a “God” — one God, not many gods as the Babylonians believed — who resides in the heavens above.
Daniel is careful to ascribe honor and glory, not to human wisdom, but to his God as the one who “reveals mysteries.”
and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.
– Daniel explains that King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was “made known” to him by this one God of heaven. Notice that the purpose of this dream is to reveal “what will be in the latter days.” That is, the interpretation of this dream will contain information regarding the future, but specifically, the end times.
As we will see, the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s astonishing dream contains important eschatological knowledge that will be confirmed, and added to, in other parts of scripture.
Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed are these:
– At last, we come to the climax of this ancient story. Daniel, standing in the presence of the King of Babylon, boldly announces that he will now declare the contents and interpretation of his dream, not by might, but by the power of God. What no other “wise man” in Babylon could do, Daniel will do, by God’s power and revelation.
29 To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this, and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.
To you, O king, as you lay in bed came thoughts of what would be after this
– Daniel begins by telling the king specific details. Namely, the thoughts came to Nebuchadnezzar as he laid in bed. And these thoughts pertained to things that would take place in the future.
and he who reveals mysteries made known to you what is to be.
– Once again, Daniel confirms that it was the God of heaven who revealed these prophetic mysteries to the king. Daniel is faithful to His God and always seeks to ensure that He is the one receiving credit, not himself.
30 But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living, but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
But as for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because of any wisdom that I have more than all the living,
– Notice how Daniel carefully deliberates before sharing the interpretation of the king’s dream. He obviously wants to separate himself in the king’s mind from all of the other “wise” men in Babylon by deflecting credit for his revelations. Instead, Daniel explains that the interpretation came to him, not because he is wiser than any other living person, but for the benefit of the king.
but in order that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your mind.
– Here, Daniel explains the purpose of the interpretation. Namely, to help the king understand the profound nature of the dream.
31 “You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.
“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image.
– At last, the prophet Daniel unveils the specifics of the king’s mysterious dream. As the dream opens, the king sees a single massive statue. In the original language (Aramaic), this “great image” is literally one exceedingly great (large) image (or statue).
This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening.
– Daniel re-emphasizes the sheer size of this statue or image by calling it “mighty” (literally “great” in Aramaic) and adds that it boasted an “exceeding brightness.” In essence, Daniel suggests that this statue, which we will later learn has the appearance of a man, has an extraordinary and surpassing splendor. It must have been an amazing sight to behold. However, its “appearance was frightening.” The king was in shock and awe of this extraordinarily massive statue. This formidable image was so dreadful, it frightened the king of Babylon, the most powerful man on earth.
32 The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze,
The head of this image was of fine gold.
– At the top of this dreadful and formidable statue is the “head” or “resh” in Aramaic which means head, or chief (related to Hebrew: “Rosh”). The head was composed of fine gold
its chest and arms of silver
– The statue’s chest (lit. breast) and its arms are composed of silver. Note that the strength of a man is often considered to be in the “arms.” (2 Sam. 22:35; Daniel 11:6)
its middle and thighs of bronze,
– The statue’s “middle” (lit. belly, and can even imply internal organs in the stomach), as well as its thighs (and loin), are composed of “bronze.” In the original Aramaic, this word is “nechash”, which can refer either to bronze or copper. Regardless, note that bronze is not a pure single metal, but instead an alloy metal that is created by mixing copper with other metals, often tin. Throughout history, bronze has been used in ship making due to its water-resistant properties, thus preventing corrosion.
its legs of iron
– Daniel continues to move down the statue describing the content of each body part. Next, he comes to the legs (“shaq”) which he describes as being made of iron (“parzel”). Iron is the strongest of all of the metals mentioned so far in this passage and, figuratively speaking, carries the meaning of harshness, strength, or oppression.
Iron is known for its strength but also its usefulness. When heated, a skilled blacksmith can work it into practically any imaginable shape. Finally, it should be noted that unlike gold or silver, iron is prone to rust and corrosion. Prolonged exposure to oxygen leads to the formation of a new compound known as oxide, which serves to weaken the metal at the atomic level.
its feet partly of iron
– The statue’s feet (“regal”) are also composed of iron. The feet carry their own unique importance in that they are what support men when standing upright (Ezek. 3:24). The feet are required to physically move and follow. We stumble when our feet slip (Ps. 121:3; Matt. 18:8) and men use their feet to run to evil (Prov. 1:16). Proverbs 6:13 even states that men can “speak” with their feet, obviously referring to how our actions can speak volumes for both good purposes (Rom. 10:15) and evil purposes (Rom. 3:15). We also “tread” things down with our feet. (Ezek. 34:18,19; Matt. 7:6)
Finally, in John’s vision of the Lord on the island of Patmos, we learn that Jesus’ feet appeared “like burnished bronze when it has been made to glow in a furnace” (Rev. 1:15, 2:18).
and partly of clay.
– In addition to being partially composed of iron, the statue’s feet are also partially made of clay (“chasaph”), which literally means “pottery.” Unlike the head of pure gold and the arms of pure silver, the feet of this statue is composed of a blend of iron and clay.
In summary, all of the body parts of this statue are composed of earthly elements. This is an early indication that whatever these body parts represent (as Daniel will reveal later in this chapter), it is human, in nature.
34 As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces.
As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand,
– After describing this stunning statue in intricate detail, Daniel continues by telling King Nebuchadnezzar about the next phase of his dream in which he saw “a stone” that was miraculously “cut out” out of a mountain, without the aid of human hands. Note that this act of seemingly divine origins is in sharp contrast to the human and earthly nature of the statue.
and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay,
– Next, note that this stone strikes this immense statue on its feet, which are composed of iron and clay.
and broke them in pieces.
– When the stone smites the statue’s feet, it shatters them into many pieces, likely separating the iron from the clay in the process.
35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces,
– After being struck at the feet by this miraculous stone, all of the earthly elements are also shattered into pieces. This stone devastates the former state of stability and continuity of this statue.
and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors;
– The shattered pieces of this formerly immense and imposing statue is crushed to the point where it scatters in the wind, “like the chaff in the summer threshing floors.”
and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found.
– The fragments are blown away in the wind leaving not a trace of their former existence.
But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
– However, the stone that smote the statue morphs into a massive mountain filling the entire earth. This stone not only replaces the glory of the former statue but grows in size to cover the whole earth.
36 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation.
This was the dream.
– Note the certainty in Daniel’s words. He does not ask King Nebuchadnezzar if what he has described fits his dream. He knows that he has perfectly described the king’s dream in accurate detail and states it with certainty: “This was the dream.”
Now we will tell the king its interpretation.
– “We will tell” is a phrase that reveals Daniel dependence upon God to provide the interpretation. Daniel is the mouthpiece and God is the interpreter. Together, they will provide Nebuchadnezzar the true meaning of this bizarre dream.
37 You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory,
You, O king, the king of kings,
– Daniel begins the interpretation by honoring Nebuchadnezzar’s role and status as the greatest of all earthly kings of his day. The phrase “king of kings” is also quite literal in that other regional kings paid tribute to King Nebuchadnezzar, including the kings of Judah, Ammon, and Moab. (See Jer. 27:5-8)
to whom the God of heaven has given
– In Jeremiah 27:5, the God of heaven states: “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.” Earlier in Daniel 2:21, we read that it is God who “removes kings and sets up kings.”
the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory,
– This passage explains that God chose to bestow four specific blessings upon King Nebuchadnezzar.
1) The kingdom (“malku”) – God gave him royal power and dominion over the kingdom
2) The power (“chesen”) – God gave him the strength to possess the kingdom
3) The might (“teqoph”) – God gave him authority to reign over the kingdom
4) The glory (“yeqar”) – God gave him honor and splendor fitting for a king
38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all — you are the head of gold.
and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all
– God gives rulership over men, animals, birds to whomever he wishes. Although some commentaries claim that this verse hearkens back to Genesis 2, which details Adam’s areas of dominion, it is incomplete. In Genesis 2, God never gave authority over other men to Adam. This is clearly something God gives to kings in their fallen state.
you are the head of gold.
– Here, King Nebuchadnezzar is described as the “head of gold.” The Babylonian empire, initially under the rulership of Nebuchadnezzar, is interpreted as the pure gold head of this imposing statue.
39 Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
– The next kingdom that would rise would be different from the first.
inferior to you
– The word used here for inferior is “ara,” meaning earth. It is the same word that corresponds to the Hebrew word for earth, “erets.” (As the earth is inferior to heaven)
shall arise after you,
– This kingdom will arise or stand after Babylon. From history, we know that this kingdom was the Medes and Persians, thus the two arms of silver. This kingdom, initially led by Darius the Mede, would later depose the Babylonian king Belshazzar and conquer Babylon. Under the direction of Dariu, they conquered Babylon.
and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.
– After the kingdom of silver, a third kingdom of “bronze” would rise and rule over all the earth. If the Babylonian empire was the head of gold and the Medes and Persians composed the arms of silver, then we know that the belly of bronze must be the kingdom that ultimately conquered the Medes and Persians. Namely, the Greek empire, initially under the leadership of King Phillip, and later his more well-known son, Alexander the Great.
40 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron,
– The fourth and final kingdom has the strength of iron. It exceeds all of the other previous kingdoms in sheer power, might, and solidarity.
because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things.
– Daniel provides an added description of these iron legs of this fourth kingdom when he says that iron “breaks” (“Deqaq”, Lit. crushes) other materials “into pieces” and that it “shatters” (“Chashal”, Lit. to shatter by a blow, to weaken and subdue) “all things.”
And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these.
– Just as iron is strong enough to be able to crush and shatter other materials, Daniel explains that the fourth kingdom, represented by two legs of iron in the king’s dream, will crush and shatter all of these previous kingdoms. It will weaken and subdue them all.
41 And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
And as you saw the feet and toes,
– Daniel focuses now on the final manifestation of this statue, the feet and the toes. Note that they are distinct: Feet (“regal”) and toes (“etsba”).
partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron,
– Daniel now elaborates on the feet and the toes, which are composed of two elements: clay and iron.
it shall be a divided kingdom,
– Daniel reveals that the dual composition of this final manifestation of the statue indicates that the final world kingdom will be divided. In the original Aramaic language, this word is “pelag.” This word is derived from the Hebrew word “paleg”, which reminds us of the genealogy of Genesis 10 where we read in verse 25: “To Eber were born two sons: the name of the one was Peleg, for in his days the earth was divided, and his brother’s name was Joktan.”
This is the first reference in the Old Testament to this word, “peleg.” It is clear from the context that the meaning of the word is “to divide.”
The kingdom is divided. It is split.
but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it,
– This divided kingdom will have the strength of iron (“barzel”).
just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay.
– This divided kingdom’s strength will be diluted as the iron is “mixed” with the “soft” clay.
The original Aramaic word for “mixed” is “arab”, which carries the literal meaning of “mingling” or “co-mingling.” It is derived from the Hebrew word “ereb”, which translates into “Arabia.”
The original Aramaic word for “soft” is “tin”, meaning “miry.”
To summarize, this strength of this final divided kingdom will be diluted as it will be composed of a mingling of pure iron and miry clay.
42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay,
– Daniel now gives his readers clues about the toes of this bewildering statue. He explains that the toes of the feet are also partially composed of iron (“barzel”) and of clay (“chasaph”).
so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle.
– This means that this final manifestation of this final kingdom, represented by the toes, will have some strong elements and some brittle, or weak elements. The original Aramaic word for “strong” is “taqqiph” and implies to be full of power and might.
The original Aramaic word for “brittle” is “tebar.” This word, which is derived from the Hebrew word “shabar”, means to be so fragile as to be broken into pieces.
This final kingdom will be composed of great strength and significant weakness.
43 As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay.
As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay,
– Once again, Daniel refers to the mixture of this iron and clay in the feet and toes of the statue.
so they will mix with one another in marriage,
– The strong iron and the brittle clay will mingle themselves with the seed (“zera”) of men. This must be one of the most bizarre phrases in the Old Testament. It is not exactly clear what is being stated. The iron and the clay are mixed together to the point of creating offspring?
but they will not hold together,
– But this mingling of the seed will not “hold” (“dabaq”) together. Unlike God’s original intention for men and women, the iron and the clay will not “cleave” together. (Gen. 2:24)
just as iron does not mix with clay.
– Daniel explains that this lack of adhesion between the iron and clay is not surprising as these two elements do not mix, even in nature.
44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever,
And in the days of those kings
– Daniel now turns his attention to the days of “those kings.” We are left with two options as to who exactly he is referencing: 1) All of the kingdoms that he has described, or more likely 2) the kings involved with the final kingdom, which he describes as being composed of strong iron and miry clay. Based on the context and the Aramaic language employed, the latter seems more plausible.
the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed,
– During the reign of these kings, God will establish His own Kingdom, and this Kingdom will never be destroyed.
nor shall the kingdom be left to another people.
– This Kingdom, established by God, will not be left (“shebaq”) to another people.
It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms
– God’s Kingdom will shatter and crush (“deqaq”) into pieces all of these other kingdoms.
and bring them to an end,
– God’s Kingdom will bring all other kingdoms to an end.
and it shall stand forever,
– God’s Kingdom will endure into perpetuity.
45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”
just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold.
– Daniel now summarizes the meaning of the king’s amazing dream: A stone being hewn out of a mountain by supernatural forces annihilates the towering statue. This represents the destruction of all human government in order to establish the Kingdom of God on the earth.
A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this.
– That the God of heaven would reveal such insight to a pagan king is indeed amazing. But in His perfect omniscience, God used the dream, and its interpretation to encourage Daniel and his people, as well as future generations who now benefit from the dream.
The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.
– Daniel assures the king that this is no ordinary dream. Instead, it is a true prophetic revelation that will indeed come to pass just as Daniel has described.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel
– Imagine the scene… The king of the world’s most powerful empire falls down on his face before a Jewish captive to worship him! However bizarre this may seem, it shows the great impact that Daniel’s correct interpretation had upon Nebuchadnezzar. This act of falling down to pay homage to Daniel is summed up in two Aramaic words: “Naphal” meaning to fall down and “Segid”, which means to worship. This is the first time that these words appear in this book and they will reappear once again several times in Daniel chapter 3 when King Nebuchadnezzar has a massive statue of gold made in his honor and commands that every inhabitant of Babylon to “fall down and worship the image of gold.” (Dan. 3:5)
and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him.
– After falling down at Daniel’s feet in an extravagant show of honor, the king commands that his servants to pour out or offer (“nesak”) a gift offering (“minchah”) and incense full of soothing and tranquilizing aromas (“nichoach”) to Daniel.
While the text does little to reveal whether Daniel accepted this idolatrous act right before him, it is unlikely given that he refused to eat from the king’s table (Dan 1) and would rather face a hungry den of lions than to fail to pray to his God. (Dan 6)
47 The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.”
The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings,
– Here we have the king of the known world at the time promoting the God of the Jews a “God of gods” and a “Lord of kings.” (Deut. 10:17) Nebuchadnezzar will boast once again in the Hebrew God in Daniel chapter 3 after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego escape unharmed from a fiery furnace.
and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.
– One attribute that Nebuchadnezzar is quick to ascribe to the Hebrew God is that He is a “revealer” of hidden secrets. From the context of this story, it is clear that the king is simply astonished to come face to face with real Divine power after dealing with his counterfeit sorcerers for years.
48 Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
Then the king gave Daniel high honors and many great gifts
– Overcome by his amazement at Daniel’s abilities, Nebuchadnezzar lavishes him with “many great gifts” and appoints him to a high position according to his promise earlier in vs. 6.
and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon
– Nebuchadnezzar promotes Daniel to a position of great authority over the entire province of Babylon.
and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon.
– And, perhaps most poetically, Nebuchadnezzar appoints Daniel as the chief governor over all of wise men (including the Magi) in Babylon.
49 Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.
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