Daniel, Chapter 2
2:1-2 The second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar would be the third year of Daniel’s training (1:5), for the year that Nebuchadnezzar assumed the throne was his ascension year, and this year is not counted as his first year. Be impressed that God can use such simple things as dreams to get the attention of the world’s mightiest mortal. “Call in the magicians”: “Each one of us at one time or another wastes his time. Even world rulers do it. Nebuchadnezzar did it on this occasion, and yet, his time would not have been wasted had he learned only one thing: magicians, astrologers, and the like are all useless. This western world, for all of its wisdom and technological progress, has not fully learned this lesson” (McGuiggan p. 41). “The Chaldeans”: Is not used in an ethnic sense. “They seem to be regarded in their day as the very elite of Babylonian society. The ‘Chaldeans’ of Daniels time, therefore, were probably men of great learning who could trace their ancestry back to families of the original conquerors of Babylon” (Butler p. 58).
2:3-4 “In Aramaic”: Beginning in verse 4 and going all the way through 7:28 our copies of Daniel are written in Aramaic, even the Dead Sea scroll of Daniel contains this switch from Hebrew to Aramaic. This statement does warn the reader of a sudden change in language. Ancient historians related that the Babylonians spoke a form of Aramaic. When the Jews returned to their homeland after Babylonian captivity, they returned speaking Aramaic. In Daniel’s time, Aramaic was the common language of non-Jewish peoples. “Tell the dream”: They were confident that with their collective wisdom, they could satisfy the king with an interpretation.
2:5-6 Nebuchadnezzar is no fool, for he knew that wise men were not beyond making up an “interpretation”, and he also knew that if the magicians could tell him the dream without it being told to them, they would be demonstrating their ability to interpret it. The King James Version here has the statement, “The thing is gone from me”, which probably is better translated, “The word from me is sure”, i.e., I have made up my mind about this, this is my decision. The punishment of being torn limb from limb pretty much fits what we know about such ancient rulers.
2:10-11 “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter….and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods”: “They spoke more truth than they knew. They are our witnesses that astrology and the like are fraudulent! If these people have any power at all, why must they have crystal balls? Why can’t they perform with an onion or a hotdog? If the power is in the ball, let’s go straight to the factory where they are made and cut out the middle man or woman!” (McGuiggan p. 42). These two verses stand as a lasting condemnation of all occult practices. These men were not amateurs, rather, they were professionals and they candidly admit that their practices and methods cannot even discover or penetrate a simple thing such as, “Tell me the dream I had last night”. If they cannot discover this truth, then obviously, they cannot penetrate the future! These men admit, only an inspired man could declare the dream. Interestingly this was an admission that they had deceived the king in their past interpretations—and deceived his father as well. It is also interesting how things become very clear and people become very honest upon pain of death. All of a sudden the “religion” of those in the world changes when their lives are on the line.
2:12-16 The king determined in his anger that he would be well off without such “wise” men. “Why have a watchdog if you must do your own barking?” (McGuiggan p. 42). Notice how Daniel remains calm even when his life is in danger, instead of panicking, the text says, “Daniel replied with discretion and discernment” (2:14). Daniel then boldly approached the king with the request that the executions be stayed for a while so that he might interpret the king’s dream. Seeing that true faith is not presumptuous, it would appear that Daniel already knew that God had given him the supernatural ability to interpret dreams (1:17). The verse seems to infer that Daniel had already impressed the king with his character and wisdom. Daniel is humble; he does not make any extravagant promises. Be impressed that the Babylonian “experts” had not even asked for an extension of time, for they knew that their practices could not solve this problem, no matter how much time they were given.
2:17-18 Notice that prayer is far more powerful and useful than what they had been taught out of astrology or wizardly books(James 5:16-17). “There is no doubt about this being more effective than peering into an ox’s liver or mumbling over a glass ball or worrying!” (McGuiggan p. 43). Notice how the answer to this prayer is called “compassion”. I wonder if we really appreciate the answers to our prayers? Do we see such answers as “mercies” and “compassion” from God? How many people are trying to live without such mercies because they simply do not ask?
2:19 “The night is not always bad! God is sovereign of time too. Sometimes it is in the darkness that we see best. If God is behind it all, whatever time of day it is, we see better than before” (McGuiggan p. 43).
2:20-24 Do we express gratitude for our answered prayers? (Luke 17:17) “And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings”: Note, if God had not revealed this dream, they would have still blessed His name, Chapters 3 and 6 make this very clear. Daniel claims that it is God who moves the nations and precipitates the critical periods of world history. Notice how Daniel views the upheavals of history, not as time to throw in the towel, but rather, “God works just as well when things are looking terrible” (McGuiggan p. 44). “Slice it how you will. God runs this show and no one has authority to exercise it unless it’s been given to him of God (2:37). This not only includes godly rulers and acceptable governments, but dictatorships as well as democracies (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13-17). Therefore, when one studies history, one should be impressed with the fact that they are studying God’s hand in the affairs of men (Jeremiah 18; Acts 17:26). Consider how this section makes the rulers of this world and their armies look so small and powerless. God removes kings who have great armies and powerful weapons! “Light dwells with Him”: In the sense that all things are clear to Him though people are surrounded by darkness. “O God of my fathers”: God has been around for a long time and His faithfulness as been tried time and time again. Daniel’s fathers had found Him faithful and worthy of their trust (Isaiah 28:16). “No one believing in Him has ever been put to shame. So when we tell the story of God we’d do well to tell of Him as an old God; old in victories, judgment, forgiveness and tender mercies. Tell of Him as a personal God who relates to families; to fathers and sons; mothers and daughters” (McGuiggan p. 44).
2:24-25 “Therefore”: “Heavy on the word of explanation, ‘therefore’. Because God was merciful; because God was able and willing; and because God was alive and well, Daniel was able to go in to make an appointment with the king. The ‘therefores’ of life are important and they tell a lot about a person’s character and convictions” (McGuiggan p. 44). “I have found a man”: Arioch’s claim may be a little horn tooting, or relief that he does not have to execute all these wise men.
2:26-30 Daniel makes three things abundantly clear: 1. First, astrology and all its relatives are bankrupt. 2. Only God is able to do this. 3. The ability to declare and interpret the dream is not some natural ability or wisdom that resides in Daniel, for he gives all the credit and glory to God. Compare with Genesis 41:16. “In the latter days” (2:28), that is, the days following the reign of Nebuchadnezzar up to the time when Jesus will come and build His church. Both Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2-4) and Peter (Acts 2:16-17),speak of God’s kingdom being established in the last days. The Premillennial idea which says that the expression “latter days” speaks of the short period immediately prior to the second coming of Christ, does not fit this passage or any other passage in Scripture. “Your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future” (2:29). Apparently, the king had gone to bed thinking about what would happen after his reign of power. Notice that even powerful people, people who according to this world, “have done it all”, still worry about the future. 2:31-35 The dream is revealed.
2:36-38 The statue clearly represents four successive world empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian Empire represent the head of gold in the statue. The next part of the statue is not the next Babylonian king, but the next empire, “after you will arise another kingdom” (2:39). Once again, the sovereignty of God is stressed, “to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom” (2:37). “Given can be written over all areas of human endeavor. The nations may strive and sweat and groan in exertion, but the kingdom is ‘given’” (McGuiggan p. 52). Do we view the things in our lives as “gifts”? (Psalms 127:3; Proverbs 19:14). “the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky”: That is, Nebuchadnezzar’s rule was absolute.
2:39 The second portion of the statue, the chest and arms of silver, represented the rise of the Medes and the Persians, who conquered the Babylonians in 539 B.C. The belly and thighs of bronze represented the third kingdom to arise. This was the Grecian Empire. Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persians between 334 and 330 B.C. By his conquests he extended the Greek Empire as far east as the northwestern portion of India, an extensive empire that seemingly was over the whole earth. “Inferior to you”: Apparently in the sense of inferior unity and cohesiveness. Thus Babylon is represented as one head, the second kingdom by breast and arms, the third by belly and thighs and the fourth by legs and feet. Also note 2:43.
2:40-43 The Roman Empire was as strong as iron, for it swallowed up lands and peoples who had been part of the previous three empires, but the empire was also fragile and divided, just like iron and clay cannot be mixed. Though Rome succeeded in conquering the territories that came under its influence, it never could unite the peoples to form a united empire.
2:44 In the days of the kings of the fourth empire, God would set up a kingdom. The New Testament reveals that the kingdom of God, the church, was established in the first century, during the days of the Roman emperors (Matthew 3:1; Luke 3:1-3; Mark 9:1; Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:12-14). 1. The church has outlasted the Roman Empire, it still exists. “Stone cut without hands”: Speaks of a kingdom without human origin, and the other kingdoms in this chapter had been shaped and built by humans. “It crushed the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold”: Until the church is established, the whole image is viewed as continuing to exist. This stresses the fact that all these empires had built upon each other and all of them were of the same worldly spirit. 2. This message would be very encouraging to the Jews of Daniel’s time, and after, for they would endure five centuries of being ruled and dominated by foreign powers. Such a situation would cause some to think that God’s promise to David, of an enduring kingdom had failed (Psalm 89; 2 Samuel 7:13-14). During the period from Babylon to Rome, God was ruling Israel through Gentile governments, but the day would come when a child of David would once again occupy the throne and reign. This was the kingdom spoken by Gabriel (Luke 1:31-32) and heralded by John and Jesus (Mark 1:15).
2:46-49 The king’s homage to Daniel was without Daniel’s permission or approval, yet He does acknowledge the power of the God Daniel served. Daniel is promoted politically, but Daniel was already a great man in the eyes of God. In verse 49 be impressed that Daniel remembered his friends.
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017