Nebuchadnezzar’s Vision of the Great Image
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live for ever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honour. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”
Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realise that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.”This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to Daniel and his friends to put them to death.
The chapter starts with the words “In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep.” Because of his agitation, Nebuchadnezzar summoned all his wise men. He demanded of them that they not only interpret the dream for him but tell him the dream itself. However, the wise men could not do so. They knew that the king’s request was out of their league. This was something for the gods and gods do not live among men. Their comments caused the king to be so enraged that he decided to get rid of these wise men once for all. Unfortunately, Daniel and his friends were included in the people to be killed, even though they had not been part of the group of magicians the king had called in for counsel. Let’s read on:
When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
Having found out what was happening, Daniel went to the king and asked for some time. Now, please remember that this was a very courageous act of Daniel since he had not been summoned by the king but went on his own accord. He could have been killed for his action. Obviously God had prepared the way for him to see the king and that is why he was given a favourable response from the king. Next, Daniel called his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah together to seek God’s face. And God spoke to them in a night vision as we can read in:
During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are His. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him. I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, You have made known to me what we asked of You, You have made known to us the dream of the king.”
Having received the understanding of the vision, Daniel went to speak to Arioch, the king’s official as we can read in:
Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind.”
Daniel made sure that the wise men did not get killed before going before the king. He made it very clear to the king that no wise man could have discovered the secret which was revealed to him. He then moved on to declare that there was a God in heaven who was able to reveal secrets for this God knew “what is going to happen.” The dream has been recorded in:
“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on the threshing-floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands He has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, He has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold.
After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands - a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.”
In the context of Daniel 2 “the events which are going to happen” cover the period from 600 B.C. to the Second Coming of Christ. After having given the purpose of the dream to the king, Daniel began to reveal the dream; the king had seen “a great image”, a large statue, which was destroyed by a stone. This statue was made of different kinds of metals in decreasing value. However these metals depicted at the same time increasing strength. The statue’s head was of gold and represented Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings who owed his power to the God of heaven. The statue’s chest and arms were of silver and represented another kingdom, the Medo-Persian Empire, which followed the Babylonian Empire. The statue’s belly and thighs were of bronze and represented the Greek Empire, which followed the Medo-Persian Empire. The statue’s legs were of iron and its feet were partly iron and partly clay and represented the Roman Empire. This kingdom, though great in strength, would be divided as indicated by the presence of iron, symbolic of strength, and clay, symbolic of brittleness, in the feet. The crux of the interpretation of the entire symbolic vision is found in the prediction of a final kingdom which God will set up, as symbolized by the stone cut without human hands which broke the image into pieces. Though many interpretations have been given as to the timing of this kingdom, it seems reasonable to say that the feet stage, including the destruction of the image by the stone, is still future and unfulfilled and will coincide with the Second Coming of Christ.
See also Daniel 7:3-12
Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea. The first was like a lion, and it had wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it. And there before me was a second beast, which looked like a bear. It was raised up on one of its sides, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth. It was told, “Get up and eat your fill of flesh.” After that, I looked and there before me was another beast, one that looked like a leopard. And on its back it had four wings like those of a bird. This beast had four heads, and it was given authority to rule. After that, in my vision at night I looked, and there before me was a fourth beast – terrifying and frightening and very powerful. It had large iron teeth; it crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. It was different from all the former beasts, and it had ten horns. While I was thinking about the horns, there before me was another horn, a little one, which came up among them; and three of the first horns were uprooted before it. This horn had eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth that spoke boastfully.
As I looked, thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. His clothing was as white as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheel were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before Him. Thousands upon thousands attended Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated and the books were opened. Then I continued to watch because of the boastful words the horn was speaking. I kept looking until the beast was slain and its body destroyed and thrown into the blazing fire. (The other beasts had been stripped of their authority but were allowed to live for a period of time.)
And Daniel 7:17-27
The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever – yes, for ever and ever. Then I wanted to know the true meaning of the fourth beast, which was different from all the others and most terrifying, with its iron teeth and bronze claws – the beast that crushed and devoured its victims and trampled underfoot whatever was left. I also wanted to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn that came up, before which three of them fell – the horn that looked more imposing than the others and that had eyes and a mouth that spoke boastfully. As I watched this horn was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and the the time came when they possessed the kingdom. He gave me this explanation, “The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on earth. It will be different from all the other kingdoms and will devour the whole earth, trampling it down and crushing it. The ten horns are ten kings who will come from this kingdom. After them another king will arise, different from the earlier ones. He will subdue three kings. He will speak against the Most High and oppress His saints and try to change the set times and laws. The saints will be handed over to him for a time, times and half a time. But the court will sit, and his power will be taken away and completely destroyed forever. Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship and obey Him. ”
And Daniel 9:24-27
Seventy “sevens” are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy. Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the Ruler comes, there will be seven “sevens” and sixty-two “sevens”. It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble. After the sixty-two “sevens,” the Anointed One will be cut off and will have nothing. The people of the ruler who will come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end will come like a flood: War will continue until the end, and desolations have been decreed. He will confirm a covenant with many for one “seven”. In the middle of the “seven” he will put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on a wing of the temple he will set up an abomination that causes desolation, until the end that is decreed is poured out on him.
Let’s turn back to Daniel 2 where we see that Nebuchadnezzar began to realise the greatness of Daniel’s God as we can read in:
The king to Daniel, ‘Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.’”
Afterwards, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Daniel to a high position in his court. Daniel’s friends Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were given important positions in the province of Babylon as well as we can read in:
Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court.
Did that mean that Nebuchadnezzar became a true believer of the God of Daniel? I don’t think so at this time as we will be able to see when we continue our study of the book of Daniel. However, we can clearly see God’s hand at work so that this king will begin to know who the true God is.