2 Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. 2 Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3 The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.”
4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 5 The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. 6 But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” 7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 8 The king replied, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, 9 that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.” 10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. 11 Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.”
Nebuchadnezzar was given a dream from God, though he did not realize it was from God. The dreams were seriously upsetting to the king, and he was troubled and unable to sleep. So he called all of the pagan “wise” men to him to divine and determine the meaning of the dream. But he threw them a curve ball by giving them an extreme test to avoid any lying and deceit on their parts. He told them that they had to tell him both the dream and its meaning to prove that they were indeed telling the truth and as a means of proving their worth. Unless they did this, they would be killed. If they succeeded, they would be given great honor and standing in the kingdom. But they knew that they had no power or ability to do this thing for the king, and they told him that only a deity could do it.
12 Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them.
The king became angry because he didn’t want people serving him who would simply make up a nice story about his dreams. He wanted to know what they actually meant because they were really upsetting him. Thus, he ordered that all the wise men would be killed including Daniel and his three friends.
14 Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; 15 he said to Arioch, the king’s commander, “For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.
Daniel asked Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, what the king was so upset about and why this decree was so urgently being executed. Daniel had the courage to go in and see the king and ask for time to declare to him the interpretation of his dream. God had gifted Daniel for this precise purpose, and He had a desire to keep pursuing Nebuchadnezzar with the truth of His power and dominion.
17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18 so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20 Daniel said,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
21 “It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
22 “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
23 “To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”
Daniel told his friends of the situation so that they could all pray to God for His insight to be given to Daniel so that he could discern the dream and declare the interpretation to the king. This was literally a matter of life and death, for their lives were on the line if God didn’t deliver. But He did answer their prayers, and God revealed the mystery to Daniel in a night vision. Therefore, Daniel couldn’t help but declare praise to the name of God. He said that wisdom and power belong to God, not to the false deities of Babylon. He said that God is in charge of the times and epochs, during which nations rise and which fall and come and go. He is in charge of kings, and he allows them to come to power and be removed from power. A man is only wise if God gives him the wisdom, and Daniel rightly understood that God’s deliverance and revelation of the dream was not a credit to himself but to His God. God knows all things, even what people dream at night because He is sovereign over all. Nothing is hidden from Him, including Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. God is the only hope of wisdom and insight, and Daniel put his trust and hope in the right place. God delivered, and Daniel worshipped and thanked Him for the insight. This was no fake deity, but it was the God of his fathers, the God of Israel, of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The one true God Who has all power gave wisdom and power to Daniel to declare the king’s dream.
24 Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.” 25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” 26 The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. 29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. 30 But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
Daniel rushed to get the captain of the bodyguard to tell him not to kill any of the wise men and to take him into the king’s presence so that he could tell him the dream and its interpretation. Arioch rushed Daniel in to see the king. Arioch made mention that Daniel was a Jew and one of the exiles, and Nebuchadnezzar asked him if he could tell him the dream and its meaning. Daniel said that the God of Israel had given him the understanding to reveal the dream and that it was not something that would point to his own glory. God deserved the glory because God revealed the mystery and made it known for His divine purpose. Daniel was so clear in his explanation that he even was able to tell the king what he was thinking about as the vision came. The king was thinking about the latter days and what would come of his kingdom. The God of heaven knows the mind of man even though the “wisest” of man has no such ability, especially those who seek such wisdom through divination, sorcery, and other pagan means.
31 “You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
Daniel says that in the dream the king saw a great statue, very large, awesome, and of extraordinary splendor. It was in front of the king, implying that the vision pertained to future events. The head was gold, the chest and arms silver, the belly and thighs bronze, and the legs iron, with the feet partly of iron and partly of clay. A stone was cut out without hands, and it crushed the statue on its feet. Then the rest of the statue was crushed at the same time until it was like chaff. The wind carried the dusty remains away so that not even a trace remained. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. With that, Daniel moved on to the interpretation.
36 “This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; 38 and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. 39 After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. 40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. 41 In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. 43 And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was the most powerful king of the world of his day. The true God of heaven gave him the kingdom according to His sovereign plan and will, even though Nebuchadnezzar refused to believe that. His rule was allowed by God and given by God. Thus, Nebuchadnezzar, was the head of gold. After that, a lesser kingdom would arise, that of the Medes and Persians. The two arms of the statue highlight the fact that there were two peoples that merged into one. Just as silver is less valuable than gold, the kingdom would be inferior in the sense that the king would not have such absolute power. The Law of the Medes and Persians stood even above the king’s decree, unlike Babylon. A third kingdom, the one of bronze, referred to Greece which became the next world power. These were made up of many individual self-governing city-states, so the kingdom was “lesser” in that the king had less absolute power. Next, there was Rome which became the next world power. Its reign was even known as the Iron Age, and Rome exerted and imposed its will on many nations and peoples. Rome was even “lesser” in that it had the people more involved in governing with the senate, for example. The emperor was still powerful, but there were checks on his power with the citizens having many more rights. The two feet as well as the mixed iron and clay point to the kingdom being divided, which it eventually was. Some parts of the kingdom were strong, but some were more vulnerable and brittle. The empire became so expansive that nations and peoples were blended together, but eventually Rome fell from instability on the inside more than from the outside. Even the Jews would be a subset of the many mixed peoples who lived under Roman rule. The Jews, too, still had their own internal religious government, and Rome allowed this, just as iron does not combine with pottery. What is remarkable is that God has the future planned before it even happens. Nothing came to pass to thwart the vision, but it came to pass over history exactly as described. This speaks to the divine nature of God and the God-breathed nature of His Word.
44 In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”
Throughout all of human history including the period of these four kingdoms, God continues to build a kingdom in the hearts of those who put their faith in Him. Faithful men and women of old believed God and were credited with righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5, 9). Now, Christ has built His church, and even the powers of hell cannot stop the gospel from going forward (Matthew 16:18). Hearts and lives will be changed, though sadly, most will refuse to believe. Yet there is a kingdom united throughout the ages and composed of faithful men and women of God. One day, Christ will return to establish an eternal kingdom (Revelation 19). He will rule for a thousand years on earth (Revelation 20), and then He will create a new heavens and earth (Revelation 21-22). His kingdom will endure forever. He is the God of heaven because the kingdom of heaven endures forever and cannot ever be defeated. The God of this eternal kingdom is the One Who has given the dream to the king to help him to see the truth about His power and rule. It is the truth, and even Nebuchadnezzar believed it to be the truth even though he didn’t agree with or like the dream.
46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. 47 The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48 Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court.
Nebuchadnezzar foolishly bowed before Daniel as if the wisdom came from Daniel even though Daniel had just said that the wisdom was from God. He even said to bring an offering before Daniel and to burn incense before him as if he was to be worshipped. Obviously, the king missed the point, and Daniel did all that he could do to make his point concerning God’s power, strength, wisdom, and dominion. At least the king did at this point acknowledge that Daniel’s God was a God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries. But he exalted the messenger rather than the Giver of the revelation, and he did not bow down before God but only before Daniel. Daniel was promoted to ruler over the whole province of Babylon and made the chief prefect of all of the wise men. He was also given many great gifts. As per Daniel’s request, the king appointed Daniel’s three friends to be administrators over the province of Babylon while Daniel served in the king’s court. Daniel didn’t forget his friends who stood by him, who took a stand for truth and purity with him, and who prayed for him for an answer from God. The gifts and promotion didn’t make him prideful but grateful to God. He remembered that who he was in God was more important than any promotion or position.