DANIEL CHAPTER 2.
The Vision of the Monarchies.
THE DREAM OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR. — V. 1. And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, when he had advanced from the position of coregent to that of sole regent of the Babylonian Empire, which must have been shortly after he had examined the Jewish youths brought before him, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, he was, by the interposition of God, vouchsafed a vision of the future in the form of symbols, wherewith his spirit was troubled, very strongly agitated, and his sleep brake from him, so that he was unable to regain the tranquility of mind necessary for quiet sleep. V. 2. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, the men who were learned in the Chaldean language and literature, and the astrologers, those who were masters of incantation, and the sorcerers, the men who employed witchcraft, and the Chaldeans, the noblest and most exalted among the highest class of influential men in the kingdom, for to show the king his dreams, to tell him the contents of his dream which he could not remember. So they came, in obedience to his summons, and stood before the king. V. 3. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream, for he had only a vague impression of the importance of his dream, whence he was all the more anxious to have it presented to him in all its details, together with its explanation. V. 4. Then spake the Chaldeans, as the foremost representatives of the wise men of the realm, to the king in Syriac, in the East Aramaic dialect in which this section of the book is also written, O king, live forever! This was the usual form of salutation at the courts of the Chaldean and the Persian monarchs. Tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation. It was necessary for them to know the contents of the dream before they would even venture an interpretation. V. 5. The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me, that is, the statement of what he required from them had gone forth from him, he had stated his purpose of having called them; if ye will not make known unto me the dream, giving its contents, with the interpretation thereof, both of which he now clearly demanded, ye shall be cut in pieces, such hewing to pieces being a punishment in vogue among the Chaldeans, and your houses shall be made a dunghill, that is, razed to the ground and covered with refuse and dung. V. 6. But if ye show the dream and the interpretation thereof, what it consisted in and what it meant, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor, both in money and in advancement. Therefore show me the dream and the interpretation thereof. The insistence of the king was that of a true Oriental despot, who demanded without a reason, simply because it suited his fancy. V. 7. They answered again and said, in an effort to bring home to the king the unreasonableness of his request, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it. V. 8. The king answered and said, I know of certainty, most assuredly, that ye would gain the time, because ye see that the thing is gone from me, because he insisted upon a speedy answer to his demand. He declared that they were merely trying to put off the matter, to postpone it indefinitely, in the hope that he would sufficiently relent to tell them the contents of his dream. V. 9. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you, one and the same sentence of condemnation would strike them all: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, base misrepresentations, by which they kept him for a fool, till the time be changed, until by some lucky chance they might get into possession of the secret, or until the king would withdraw his demand. Therefore tell me the dream, which he would immediately recognize, and I shall know that ye can show me the interpretation thereof. It was clear to Nebuchadnezzar that the wise men were unable to reveal hidden things, and therefore he concluded that the interpretation which they would offer in case they would find out the contents of the dream would, at best, be mere guesswork. V. 10. The Chaldeans answered before the king, in an attempt to establish the impossibility for mere human beings to satisfy the king's demand, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king's matter, revealing this secret thing; therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler that asked such things at any magician or astrologer or Chaldean. The fact that no ruler on earth, no matter how great and mighty he was, had ever made such a demand, was to them a proof that the fulfillment of his command transcended the highest human wisdom. V. 11. And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, most singular and unusual, the like of which was not known in history, and there is none other that can show it before the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. “God makes the heathen, out of their own mouth, condemn their impotent pretensions to supernatural knowledge in order to bring out in brighter contrast His power to reveal secrets to His servants.” V. 12. For this cause the king was angry and very furious and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon, either of this city or of the province. V. 13. And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain, the slaughter being apparently begun; and they sought Daniel and his fellows, who had not been summoned with the older members of the. Chaldeans, but belonged to their class, to be slain. The enemies of the believers often seem to be on the verge of triumphing over them and of taking their life, but God holds His sheltering hand over His children so that without His consent no harm may come near them.
DANIEL PREPARES TO INTERPRET THE KING'S DREAM. — V. 14. Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom, with sound and prudent advice, to Arioch, the captain of the king's guard, who was also in charge of the sentence of execution, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; v. 15. he answered and said to Arioch, the king's captain, thereby displaying the wisdom for which he afterward became so famous, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Why the furious and sharp command, which came upon the people concerned like a bolt out of the blue sky? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel, giving him the information which he sought. V. 16. Then Daniel went in, naturally after being properly announced, and desired of the king that he would give him time, postponing the execution of the cruel decree for some days, and that he would show the king the interpretation, thereby giving the king a definite promise. V. 17. Then Daniel went to his house and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, who were of one mind with him in their observation of the religion of their fathers, v. 18. that they would desire mercies of the God of heaven, the fulfillment of their united prayers being represented as a taking of gifts from before the throne of God, concerning this secret, that Daniel and his fellows, his Jewish companions, should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon, whose death, according to the king's decree, seemed inevitable. V. 19. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision, the Lord Himself granting the knowledge needed in this urgent case. Then Daniel, properly giving all glory and honor to God alone, blessed the God of heaven, the one and only Lord. V. 20. Daniel answered and said, responding, as it were, to the goodness of God with his hymn of praise, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, this name including His entire essence and attributes; for wisdom and might are His, the two qualities coming into consideration here; v. 21. and He changeth the times and the seasons, as would appear in the carrying out of the king's prophetic vision; He removeth kings and setteth up kings, all the events in the history of nations being determined by Him; He giveth wisdom unto the wise and knowledge to them that know understanding, Daniel thus tracing his own accomplishments entirely to the gift of God; v. 22. He revealeth the deep and secret things, which are hidden before the eyes of such as are mere human beings; He knoweth what is in the darkness, what is covered before human eyes, and the light dwelleth with Him, abiding with Him as His possession, so that He is the Source of all light, physical and spiritual. V. 23. I thank Thee and praise Thee, O Thou God of my fathers, of the patriarchs of the Jewish nation, who hast given me wisdom and might and hast made known unto me now what we desired of Thee, that for which they had so eagerly implored Him; for Thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter, the very thing which the Chaldeans had declared to be an impossibility. V. 24. Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and said thus unto him, Destroy not the wise men of Babylon, their execution thus being summarily stayed; bring me in before the king, and I will show unto the king the interpretation. V. 25. Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah that will make known unto the king the interpretation. V. 26. The king, having duly received Daniel in audience, answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen and the interpretation thereof? V. 27. Daniel answered in the presence of the king, whose amazement at his assertion concerning his ability to undertake what the wisest of the realm had found beyond their wisdom had just appeared in his question, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king, it was clearly impossible for any mere man, no matter what degree of wisdom was his, to solve the king's difficulty; v. 28. but there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, possessing the attribute of omniscience of which the heathen gods and their servants knew nothing, and maketh known to the King Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days, at the period to which the believers of the Old Testament were looking forward with such intense eagerness. Thy dream and the visions of thy head, those which he saw in his mind, upon thy bed are these: v. 29. As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, he was engaged with these problems, what should come to pass hereafter; and He that revealeth secrets, the one true God, whom the Jews worshiped, maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. V. 30. But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, because he possessed such an extraordinary measure of wisdom by virtue of his own efforts or natural abilities, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart. The indefinite expression was used purposely, so that the person of Daniel might be as little conspicuous as possible. When God endows a person with unusual understanding and wisdom in the interest of His Word and work, it behooves such a person to be properly humble, giving the glory to God alone and working in His service with cheerful energy.
THE DREAM INTERPRETED; DANIEL ADVANCED. — V. 31. Thou, O king, sawest, that is, he beheld before his eyes, he had his gave fixed upon the vision, and behold a great image, a statute in human form. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee, over against him, in full view; and the form thereof was terrible, on account of its colossal proportions and its terrifying aspect. V. 32. This image's head was of fine gold, or, ''as far as the image was concerned, its head was of pure gold,” his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs, or, “his hips with the upper thighs,” of brass, v. 33. his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. “Only the first part, the head, constitutes a unity; the second, in the arms, shows evidence of division; the third has the same feature in the thighs: the fourth while proceeding from a common source, is entirely divided, although it also possesses ability of motion; the fifth is divided from the start and is finally subdivided still further in the ten toes. The material becomes less precious as we proceed, until it reaches common clay.” V. 34. Thou sawest, that is, the king's gaze was still directed toward this image, till that a stone was cut out, being torn loose from a mountain above, without hands, without human agency, by a special act of God, which, in rolling down from the mountainside, smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay and brake them to pieces. V. 35. Then, as a result of this smashing blow, was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, all the perishable materials of the image named in reverse order, broken to pieces together and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, reduced to the finest dust to be carried away by the wind, totally demolished; and the wind carried them away that no place was found for them, that not a vestige remained; and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth, the image and all it represented sinking into insignificance beside it. V. 36. This is the dream, all the details of which must now have come back to the king's recollection, so that he recognized them; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king, Daniel here classing himself with his companions, the believing worshipers of Jehovah, with whom together he had access to the mysteries of the divine revelation. V. 37. Thou, O king, art a king of kings, a great sovereign, ruler of a world-power; for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, or dominion, power and strength and glory, the attention of the king being here directed to the one Lord, the Dispenser of all good gifts. V. 38. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, even in the most remote parts of the habitable world, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath He given into thine hand, in an absolute dominion such as man possessed at the beginning, and hath made thee ruler over them all, his power extended over practically the entire world then known, at least to all parts which might be termed civilized. Thou art this head of gold, this being all the more appropriate since Babylon possessed an immense wealth, also in precious metals. V. 39. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, with a lower standard of political morals, lacking in internal strength, although still possessing a world sovereignty, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth, by virtue of its unyielding hardness, though also inferior in quality. V. 40. And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron, forasmuch as, or, “just as,'' iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things, crushing them and utterly destroying them; and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise, its destructive power being the point of comparison. V. 41. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay and part of iron, total weakness and lack of power being implied in the terms, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, this being retained in spite of the internal division, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay, in its sticky form, just as it came from the pits. V. 42. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of clay, indicating the weakness of the feet supporting the great colossus, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly broken, that is, chiefly brittle, and therefore always on the verge of disintegration. V. 43. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they, the rulers and the various ruling elements making up the fourth kingdom, shall mingle themselves with the seed of men, making an effort to establish harmony; but they shall not cleave one to another, in a firmly coherent mass, even as iron is not mixed with clay, namely, in a solid and permanent union. The meaning is clear. The world-power in its totality appears as a colossal human form: Babylon, the head of gold; Medo-Persia, the breast and the two arms of silver; the Greco-Macedonian Empire, as the belly and the two thighs of brass; and Rome, with its various branches and dependent kingdoms, as the legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay. “Those kingdoms only are mentioned which stand in some relation to the Lord's people.” V. 44. And in the days of these kings, while the various minor rulers were in power under the general sovereignty of Rome, shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, its divine and eternal character being evident throughout; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, its dominion taken over by a new power which might arise, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, bringing all world powers to an end, and it shall stand forever. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and yet its power is such as to overcome all human might and authority and to establish instead the glorious reign of the Gospel of peace; for Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. V. 45. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, without human agency and influence, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold, all these materials being equally powerless to stand before its impetuous rush: the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter, the one and only true God having might not only to make such wonderful revelations, but also to bring His promises to pass. And the dream is certain and the interpretation thereof sure, a fact which Daniel's emphatic statement properly brought to the foreground in conclusion. V. 46. Then the King Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, overcome by the wisdom contained in this straightforward declaration, and worshiped Daniel, giving him adoration as a prophet of the true God, worshiping the Lord in the person of Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odors unto him. Cp. Acts 10, 25; 14, 13. V. 47. The king answered unto Daniel and said, Of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, in the eyes of Nebuchadnezzar the mightiest of all gods, and a Lord of kings, and a Revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret, which was so obviously beyond mere human ability. V. 48. Then the king made Daniel a great man, exalting him to a position of great dignity and power, and gave him many great gifts, rewarding him after the manner of Oriental rulers, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, a civil appointment which gave him the administration in the most important province of the empire, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon, a position of influence as well as of honor. V. 49. Then Daniel requested of the King, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon, as those immediately in charge of the business of administration; but Daniel sat in the gate of the king, as his chief counselor and president over the various orders into which the wise men of Babylon were divided. Christians may well occupy even the highest positions in the state, for then they may perform the work of their office to the honor of God and for the true welfare of the state.