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Daniel 2(b) – God, the Revealer of Secrets

06 Jan

Our Word of Life study got bumped back another week, so in the meantime, I thought I’d put in another post on Daniel. We looked a little bit last time at the circumstances and setup of the dream, and in the rest of the chapter, we find out more about the dream itself.

Firstly, I love the confidence with which Daniel approaches this. He shows no hesitation in his language: “…take me before the king, and I will tell the king the interpretation” (2:24). Apparently, even in his short time in Babylon, Daniel’s reputation preceded him; Arioch, an officer in the king’s guard, seems eager to cash in on his success. This part is so funny to me. “Then Aroich quickly brought Daniel before the king, and said thus to him, ‘I have found a man of the captives of Judah who will make known to the king the interpretation'” (2:25, emphasis added). The king then asks Daniel if he’s sure he can recount the dream. This was not so much of a tentative precaution as it was a stern warning. This was not a game. If Daniel was wrong, he was a dead man.

Again, I can’t help but love Daniel’s boldness. To kick things off, he answers the statement of inability of the wisemen in verses 10-11. He acknowledges that nobody can perform the act that the king had demanded; it was simply beyond human ability. However, Daniel solidly contradicts the idea that such a task was only for the distant, removed, unapproachable gods to solve. “There is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known…” (2:28, emphasis mine). God had given Nebuchadnezzar this dream as a prophetic sign of things to come. What kind of mercy is this, that God would speak to a pagan king in an effort to reach him and speak to him? This will come up several more times through the book, but I am always amazed by what great lengths God goes to in order to get the message through Nebuchadnezzar’s hardened heart.

Before diving into the dream itself, Daniel also qualifies where the power comes from, and why this secret was revealed to him. He wasn’t inherently smarter or more cunning than any of the king’s advisors. He wasn’t able to conjure up what had come to him. The revelation of the dream was solely and purely an act of God’s kindness, to spare the lives of him and his companions, as well as to tell Nebuchadnezzar plainly what the dream meant.

Daniel then tells the king his dream, point by point, without hesitation, and without error. He is so confident of the answer that he doesn’t have to qualify it by saying, “I’m getting the sense that…” or, “Does this mean anything to you?” By the point he has recounted the dream, and no doubt has the king’s rapt attention, he directly states, “This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king” (2:36). Talk about no-nonsense.

The dream itself seems relatively simple. When I was first studying this book, I wondered to myself why it would be so troubling to Nebuchadnezzar. I’ve had my share of frightening dreams, especially when I was little, but it seems to me like watching an inanimate statue get smushed by a rock wouldn’t be something that would wake me up in a cold sweat. Although it’s true that Nebuchadnezzar would have taken the dream as an omen, I think something else was at work. I think he felt, at some level, the presence and influence of Someone who was much larger, wiser, and more powerful than himself. I think the weight and authority of heaven was on that dream, and that alone would be enough to shake any king out of his bed. Nothing is more terrifying to a power-hungry person than an uninvited visit from a higher Sovereign.

In the dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a progression of four great earthly empires. He saw this as a giant statue, splendrous and majestic, made in the image of man. It is interesting to note that when Daniel sees these same four empires in Daniel 7, it’s not at all the same picture. Daniel 2 and 7 are incredible parallels, but I’ll save that for the post(s) on Daniel 7.

The first kingdom is represented by a head of gold. There is no mystery as to what kingdom this is, because Daniel tells us straight out in the text. This represents Babylon. The next kingdom was depicted as a chest and arms of silver; history has shown this to be Medo-Persia. The third kingdom, Greece, is pictured as a belly and thighs of bronze, with Rome the logical fourth as the legs of iron. All four of these kingdoms are incredibly significant in Israel’s history, oppressive empires that lorded over the Promised Land for some stretch of time. These kingdoms are pictured as decreasing in value from the head down, most likely indicating the decreasing moral standard in each kingdom as time progressed, and possibly indicating the increasing persecution the Jews would suffer under their hands.

The vast majority of conservative commentators agree on the identity first three kingdoms. (There are some people who will debate that fact, in order to try and remove the prophetic element from the book of Daniel, but for reasons I won’t go into here, I strongly disagree. I’m going to assume you guys are on board with me on that point, and move on.) However, the place where debate enters is the identity of the fourth kingdom. Most people agree that ancient Rome is included in this kingdom of iron, but from my understanding of this passage, this also includes a coming empire. This empire is like Rome in its scope and ruthlessness, but is much larger, more severe, and ruled by a much more evil king. I’m talking about the Antichrist’s regime at the end of the age.

The description that Daniel gives of this fourth kingdom fits ancient Rome to a point. Rome’s army was fearful and unstoppable in the ancient world. When they conquered, they conquered thoroughly and ruthlessly. Rome was the mightiest kingdom to have crossed the face of the earth to that time. Anyone living under its influence would have confirmed it to match the description of 2:40.

But then Daniel goes on to describe the feet and toes of the statue. They are still iron, but they are iron mingled with ceramic clay. It seems to be part of the fourth kingdom, yet Daniel gives so much attention and detail to it that it takes on a bit of a life of its own. Some people consider this to be ancient Rome, as it became divided into East and West, and slowly disintegrated, losing power and influence. Others take this as a natural breaking point where the vision is primarily (if not entirely) about the future Antichrist empire.

So how is the debate to be settled? Though it’s easy to quibble about interpretation of the feet themselves, the ultimate answer is determined by something else: the Rock cut out without human hands. While this is pretty obviously a picture of Christ, there is some disagreement as to whether this speaks primarily of the First or Second Coming of Christ. If the Rock represents the First Coming, then there is no need to look any further than Ancient Rome. However, if it is the Second Coming, then suddenly Nebuchadnezzar’s dream takes on a much bigger scope.

Without going into a whole lot of arguments, I want to briefly state a few reasons why I believe this Rock must be Christ at His Second Coming:

  1. Daniel says that the dream refers to the “latter days” (2:28).
  2. Chapter 2 and 7 are very clear parallels, and the overwhelming majority of scholars understand Daniel 7 to be an eschatological vision. With that in mind, it only makes sense that Daniel 2 speaks of the End Times, as well.
  3. The rock is said to strike the statue “in the days of these kings” (2:44). The question is, which kings? These four empires are clearly said to come in succession to one another (2:37-40), not overlapping. So “these kings” cannot be the kings from Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome all at once. The more likely explanation is that there are several kings ruling in the final kingdom — ten kings, to be exact. These ten kings are clearly explained in Daniel 7, and are hinted at here in Daniel 2 as “ten toes”. This scenario has never been seen in historic Rome.
  4. The entire dream, though full of symbolism, speaks of literal, physical, earthly kingdoms. It only makes sense that the kingdom established by the Rock also be literal, physical, and on the earth, literally overthrowing all other kingdoms and taking over the planet (i.e. Revelation 11:15).
  5. The everlasting kingdom is said to grow to fill the entire planet. Although it’s true that Christianity is much wider-spread than it was in the first century, it is nowhere near universal. Nor has its growth been constant. Nor will its growth be constant on this side of the Second Coming (i.e. the Great Falling Away, 2Thes 2:3). The earth will not be universally saturated with the kingdom until Christ has come back.

So this Rock strikes the feet of iron and clay. The feet represent the kingdom at the end of the age, a “revived Roman Empire”, as it has sometimes been called. This is not to say that it will be in Rome, but rather, it will share much the same characteristics (only much more so). As Daniel explains, this kingdom will have problems with disunity, being an only moderately successful mixing of the peoples of the earth. Ever since the Tower of Babel, folks have had an awfully hard time pulling together for any cause. Even a demonized man, the pinnacle of human strength cooperating with darkness, will not be able to make a rock-solid kingdom out of the earth. Also worth noting again is that the toes, given special emphasis in verse 42, are likely a reference to the ten kings later revealed in chatper 7.

But then comes the ultimate, final Kingdom. A Rock, supernaturally hewn out of a mountain, crushes the image that represents all the power and grandeur that wicked humanity has ever been able to muster. “In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed… it shall break in pieces and consume all other kingdoms…” (2:44). When Jesus takes the throne on the earth, it’s for keeps. I love the repeatedly emphasized finality of this kingdom. No one will overthrow this righteous King. He will never die, never passing on His Kingdom to a successor. The Kingdom will never weaken and decay, as any earthly empire eventually does. This is a holy Kingdom which will endure for the rest of eternity. (PRAISE THE LORD. This is such good news.)

Daniel closes off his interpretation by reminding Nebuchadnezzar what is going on. This isn’t just a dream. This isn’t just an omen. This is the holy God of Heaven, speaking directly to him, telling him what will surely come to pass. Again, Daniel’s boldness absolutely delights me: “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (2:45).

Apparently Nebuchadnezzar agreed with Daniel’s assessment of the interpretation. Despite his best efforts to give credit where credit was due, the king still tried to offer incense to him. I believe Daniel put up a bit of a fuss here, judging by his overall character and boldness, and by the fact that the king “answered Daniel” in the next verse (2:47), finally including God in the glory.

Nebuchadnezzar recieved a significant revelation of God in this encounter. I love the statement that our God is “the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets…” Seriously, Nebuchadnezzar’s little mini-hymns in these first few chapters are all amazing. However, the Babylonian king only had a little bit of the picture. It would take a number of years, two more significant encounters, and two more chapters in the book of Daniel for him to finally come around to a real understanding of Who it was he was dealing with. But for now, he recognized the Hebrew God to be a real, very powerful Deity, promoting Daniel and his friends to even greater honor and authority.

So that about wraps it up for chapter 2. There’s still so much that could be said, but I will refrain for now. 🙂 If you have any questions or ideas, things I didn’t describe thoroughly enough or simply topics you want to pursue further, please comment below. I love discussing this book and would love to hear your thoughts on it.

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9 Comments

Posted by on January 6, 2008 in Bible, Daniel, Eschatology, Prophecy

 

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9 responses to “Daniel 2(b) – God, the Revealer of Secrets

  1. Scott

    January 6, 2008 at 2:16 pm

    Again, thanks Amanda for good stuff on Daniel.

    Okay, now I’m getting way ahead of your flow, but I just wanted to ask a little question to help me in my own studies: do you think Darius was a “viceroy” appointed by Cyrus, or a another name for Cyrus? I’m just trying to get a few things down to better understand later events…
    Thanks.

     
  2. Amanda Beattie

    January 7, 2008 at 4:47 am

    My very tentative and barely-educated opinion is that Darius was a ruler with/under Cyrus, not Cyrus himself. I think it would be terribly cool if Darius was just another name for Cyrus, but I think there’s a better chance that they were different people.

     
  3. Scott

    January 7, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    I agree… The language of Daniel seems pretty clear that this Darius “was given” or “received” the kingdom, as opposed to Cyrus who earned it the old-fashioned way: he conquered it.
    Thanks, Scott

     
  4. Micah Prior

    February 16, 2008 at 11:25 am

    What do you think about the legs of Iron down to the toes mixed with Iron and clay. I’m willing to accept the fact that the legs could possibly be Rome. I’m not totally against that! But as I look further I would assume as it gets to the toes mixed of iron and clay, it keeps me from thinking this. One reason being, why would the legs be Rome if there have been TONS of other empires that could meet the description in Dan. 2:40, i.e. Mongolians, Nazi Germany etc. Another thought, on my little journey in studying eschatology the end of the age empire, the anti-Christ and Babylon, does not come from Europe. It comes from the middle east, Micah 5 (Good name by the way) and Isaiah 10 talks about the Antichrist being Assyrian. Mainly the middle east, not to mention revived Babylon the end of the age empire. So back to chapter 2 if the feet are mixed with iron and clay, it would be presumable that it would be a revived Rome of some sort. But because Babylon will be revived at the end, and will be a predominate city in the end of the age. So I don’t know if I’ve made myself clear or not but lemme re state the question. If Rome is the legs of Iron, how does it make sense that there is Iron(Rome) mixed with the toes(the 10 nation confederation)that come out of the middle east?

     
  5. Amanda Beattie

    February 16, 2008 at 10:06 pm

    The main reason most people assume the iron is Rome is that it follows directly after Greece in the order of the statue. Another big reason has to do with the geography/political influence of these empires. They each took each other over, covering the same rough area of the planet. But the most important thing about these four is that they had control over the Promised Land.

    There are lots of very powerful evil empires that have come across the face of the earth, but these four directly controlled and oppressed the land of Israel (specifically, Judah). This is why the Mongolians aren’t in this prophecy. This is also why Hitler, I don’t believe, is in this prophecy–although he was horrific to the Jewish people, he never had possession of the Land.

    If you’ll notice what Daniel says about the feet of iron and clay, it says that the “strength of the iron” (Dan 2:41). This does not necessarily imply an origin from Italy, but rather it speaks of the way Rome ruled with an iron fist. No other singular empire in history (that I can think of, anyway) has come close as far as its duration, breadth, and domination. Certainly none other in the Middle Eastern area.

    I think it is quite probable that the Antichrist’s kingdom’s geographical headquarters/origin are in the Babylon/Assyria region. But the political style, the vastness of the kingdom, and the power of the kingdom or Rome will be echoed in the new one. I think it might be a bit of a stretch to call it “revived Rome,” per se, because that’s not exactly the point. The point is that it’s going to be really big like Rome (bigger, in fact, following with the pattern of the previous empires), really powerful and really unyielding like Rome.

    The Antichrist is called a lot of things, and his origin is ascribed to several different places. I think it’s most likely that he is a mutt of some kind, or does a lot of country-hopping in his growing up years. Sort of like how Jesus was “called a Nazarene”, “of the city of David,” and “called from Egypt”…

    Let me know if you have more thoughts on this.

     
  6. Dave

    March 10, 2008 at 7:39 pm

    Ok….the “explanation” is missing one key element. That is, WHAT ABOUT THE KINGDOMS THAT WILL BE CRUSHED and DESTROYED? Do you REALLY think that there will ALWAYS exist earthly governments on earth? Man made governments do not have the ability to bring about God’s plan for the Earth through Jesus’ ransom.

    No offense, but you bring me no real hope. These earthly governments have got to go!

    It is so weak to say that the heavenly government will only be in heaven. What about the earth? How about this…..the heavenly government will rule over the earth (after it put an end to all the earthly human governments that have so failed miserably to measure up)? That sounds more comforting AND more ACCURATE.

     
  7. Dave

    March 10, 2008 at 7:47 pm

    The toes being of mixed iron and clay.

    The Anglo-American World Power.

    The American and Great Brittain dual world power. America is known around the world as a “world power” as they get involved with everything and they are so powerful. Combine that with the fact that Great Brittain has always had good dealings with the US from the founding of the US.

    There will be a force that will step in to remove this very last world power (the toes), and it won’t be human in form. To be removed, it would have to be done by force. There are no manmade governments who can fulfill God’s true purpose for us anyway. They just keep sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. Greedier and greedier. More and more stubborn. The hearts of each one of us is sinful in nature and there is much greed that stems from the faulty heart. You couldn’t possibly think that humans could unite together to attain peace. It has to be non-human. No question about it.

     
  8. Amanda Beattie

    March 10, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    Dave: I absolutely agree that the heavenly kingdom will come to earth (Eph 1:9-10, Rev 21-22), and if you read my post a bit more carefully, I think you’ll find that in there. I also completely agree that manmade governments (short of the one made by the Man Christ Jesus) will ultimately fail and come under the dominion of Christ when He returns. I disagree that the iron and clay toes are Anglo-American, but we are completely on the same page as far as which kingdom wins at the end of the day and which one will endure forever.

     
  9. spooky

    December 3, 2008 at 8:58 am

    I’m thinking that the Revived Roman Empire thing is a red-herring to the world. The fourth Kingdom will be different from the other three. What’s different about Rome? In fact, since Rome copied Greece in many other areas, why not just assume that Greco-Rome is meant to be the same as Medo-Persia is? I think we have to look to Jeremiah 51, and see what he says about the armies of the north. Just my opinion, of course.

     

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