The Book of Daniel – Revisiting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an Image – Daniel 2:31-45
This revisiting of the account in Daniel 2:31-45 of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of an Image, was prompted by the examination of Daniel 11 and 12 about the King of the North and the King of the South and its results.
The approach to this article was the same, to approach the examination exegetically, allowing the Bible to interpret itself. Doing this leads to a natural conclusion, rather than approaching with preconceived ideas. As always in any Bible study, the context was very important.
Who was the intended audience? It was interpreted in part to Nebuchadnezzar by Daniel under God’s Holy Spirit, but it was written for the Jewish nation as it affected their future. It also occurred in the 2nd year of Nebuchadnezzar, right at the beginning of the Babylonian domination of Judah as the World Power, which it took from Assyria.
Let us begin our examination.
Background to the Vision
When Daniel heard of the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed and wanted an interpretation and was going to kill the wise men because they did not understand it, Daniel asked the king for time to show him the interpretation. He then went and prayed to Jehovah to make the answer known to him. He also asked his companions Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah to pray on his behalf as well.
The result was “in a night vision the secret was revealed” (Daniel 2:19). Daniel then thanked God for revealing the answer. Daniel went on to tell King Nebuchadnezzar, not only the dream but the interpretation. The timing was the 2nd Year of Nebuchadnezzar, with Babylon already have subsumed the Assyrian Empire and taken control of Israel and Judah.
Daniel 2:32a, 37-38
“As regards that image, its head was of good gold”.
The answer was “You, O king, [Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon] the king of kings, you to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the might, and the strength and the dignity, 38 and into whose hand he has given, wherever the sons of mankind are dwelling, the beasts of the field and the winged creatures of the heavens, and whom he has made ruler over all of them, you yourself are the head of gold.” (Daniel 2:37-38).
Head of Gold: Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon
Daniel 2:32b, 39
“its breasts and its arms were of silver”.
Nebuchadnezzar was told that “And after you there will rise another kingdom inferior to you;” (Daniel 2:39). This proved to be the Persian Empire. There were constant revolts and assassination attempts against its kings, Esther 2:21-22 records one such attempt, and after Xerxes’ defeat by Greece, its power faded until it was finally defeated by Alexander the Great.
Breast and Arms of Silver: Persian Empire
Daniel 2:32c, 39
“its belly and its thighs were of copper”
Daniel explained this saying “and another kingdom, a third one, of copper, that will rule over the whole earth.” (Daniel 2:39). Greece had a larger kingdom than both Babylon and Persia. It stretched from Greece to western parts of Northern India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and south to Egypt and Libya.
Belly and Thighs of Copper: Greece
Daniel 2:33, 40-44
“its legs were of iron, its feet were partly of iron and partly of molded clay”
This fourth and final part of the image was explained to Nebuchadnezzar as “And as for the fourth kingdom, it will prove to be strong like iron. Forasmuch as iron is crushing and grinding everything else, so, like iron that shatters, it will crush and shatter even all these.” (Daniel 2:40).
The fourth kingdom proves to be Rome. Its expansion policy could be summarized as submit or be destroyed. Its expansion was relentless until the early 2nd century AD.
There was more explanation in Daniel 2:41 “And whereas you beheld the feet and the toes to be partly of molded clay of a potter and partly of iron, the kingdom itself will prove to be divided, but somewhat of the hardness of iron will prove to be in it, forasmuch as you beheld the iron mixed with moist clay”
After Augustus, the first Emperor, who ruled alone for 41 years, Tiberius had the 2nd longest reign at 23 years, most were less than 15 years, even for the rest of the first century. After that, the rulers were generally on rulers for short periods of time. Yes, while it had an iron-like attitude to the countries it ruled and attacked, at home it was divided. That is why Daniel continued to describe Rome as “42 And as for the toes of the feet being partly of iron and partly of molded clay, the kingdom will partly prove to be strong and will partly prove to be fragile. 43 Whereas you beheld iron mixed with moist clay, they will come to be mixed with the offspring of mankind; but they will not prove to be sticking together, this one to that one, just as iron is not mixing with molded clay.”
The power of Rome started to decay very early in the 2nd Century. The society became more and more corrupt and decadent, and so it began to lose its iron-like grip, its stability and cohesiveness weakened.
Legs of Iron and feet of Clay/Iron: Rome
In the days of the fourth kingdom, i.e. Rome, Daniel 2:44 goes on to say “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people”.
Yes, in the days of the fourth kingdom, Rome, which ruled Babylon, Persia, and Greece, Jesus was born, and through the lineage of his parents inherited the legal right to be the king of Israel and Judah. After being anointed by Holy Spirit in AD29, when a voice from heaven stated, “This is my son, the beloved, whom I have approved” (Matthew 3:17). For the next three and half years until his death in AD33, he preached about God’s kingdom, the Kingdom of the Heavens.
The God of heaven would set up an everlasting kingdom during the time of the fourth kingdom.
Is there any Biblical evidence that this happened?
In Matthew 4:17 “Jesus commenced preaching and saying: ’Repent, you people for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near’”. Jesus gave many parables in Matthew regarding the kingdom of the heavens and that it had drawn near. (See in particular Matthew 13). That was also the message of John the Baptist, “Repent for the kingdom of the heavens has drawn near” (Matthew 3:1-3).
Rather, Jesus indicated that the Kingdom of the Heavens was now set up. When speaking to the Pharisees he was asked when the kingdom of God was coming. Note Jesus’ answer: ”The Kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness, neither will people be saying ‘see here! Or There! For, look! The kingdom of God is in your midst”. Yes, God had set up a kingdom that would never be brought to ruin, and the king of that kingdom was right there in the midst of the group of Pharisees, yet they could not see it. That kingdom was to be for those accepting Christ as their savior and becoming Christians.
Daniel 2:34-35, 44-45
“You kept on looking until a stone was cut out not by hands, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and of molded clay and crushed them 35 At that time the iron, the molded clay, the copper, the silver and the gold were, all together, crushed and became like the chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the wind carried them away so that no trace at all was found of them. And as for the stone that struck the image, it became a large mountain and filled the whole earth.”
There then appears to be a period of time before the next event, before Rome was to be destroyed as suggested by the phrase “You kept on looking until” which would indicate waiting until the time that “a stone was cut out not by hands”. If the stone was not cut out by human hands, then it had to be by God’s power, and God’s decision as to when this would take place. Jesus told us in Matthew 24:36 that “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.”
What would take place following this?
As Daniel 2:44b-45 recorded “It [the stone] will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite; 45 forasmuch as you beheld that out of the mountain a stone was cut not by hands, and [that] it crushed the iron, the copper, the molded clay, the silver and the gold.”
God’s kingdom will be in due course crush all kingdoms regardless of their power, when Christ exercises his power as king, and comes to crush the kingdoms at Armageddon. Matthew 24:30 reminds us that “And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” (see also Revelation 11:15)
Unspecified time gap until all worldly powers are destroyed by God’s Kingdom at a time of God’s choice, that he has not communicated to anyone else.
This is the only part of this prophecy that appears to refer to the future as God’s kingdom has not yet crushed all these kingdoms.