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Daniel, Chapter 2 - God Interprets Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

INTRODUCTION: I completed the book of Daniel in my bible reading schedule this year, then I settled back on chapter 2 for a closer look. The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers in New York City, and the voluminous media coverage, carried me away for more than a week. The events across our nation, and the reaction within my own heart, since the morning of September 11, 2001, have altered my thoughts as I study Daniel chapter 2.

Before September 11th, I had reviewed Daniel chapter 2 in 7 translations, then prepared a composite paraphrase to more fully grasp the setting, the dream and its interpretation, and most importantly to me, Daniel's conduct through the entire situation. Daniel is highly regarded by many bible students, and scripture indicates that he is highly regarded in heaven as well. Now, I will intersperse my comments within the text below.

A - Daniel 2:1-12, in composite paraphrase

1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, by which his spirit was troubled, and his sleep went from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit is troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spoke the Chaldeans to the king in Aramaic: O king, live for ever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will declare the interpretation. 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if you do not make known unto me the dream and the interpretation thereof, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6 But if you shall show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, you shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7 They answered the second time and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation. 8 The king answered and said, I know of a certainty that you would gain time, because you see the thing is gone from me. 9 But if you will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for you have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can show me the interpretation thereof. 10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can reveal the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that has asked such things of any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 For the thing that the king demands is extraordinary, and there is no one that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 12 Because of this, the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

COMMENTS: Jehovah was causing even those who know him not, to praise him, as the wise men of Babylon made some true statements about that which is reserved for God, as they spoke in frantic desperation before their threatening king. As described for us in chapter one, The LORD had prepared Daniel, through Daniel's resolve to serve the LORD even in his captivity, and Daniel had distinguished himself by being ten times more wise than the resident wise men of Babylon before the king. The LORD gave King Nebuchadnezzar the dream, and prompted him to test the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, of Babylon beyond their ability to satisfy through their deceptions (lying and corrupt words). As a result of their failure, the king then gave a crisis producing command, which would bring glory to the true and living God. That group of "wise men of Babylon" is still represented around our world today, and great leaders still seek advise from sources, which deceive, as from the father of lies.

B - Daniel 2:13-16, in composite paraphrase

13 So the decree went forth, and the wise men were to be slain; and they sought Daniel and his companions to be slain. 14 Then Daniel gave an answer with counsel and insight to Arioch the chief of the king's bodyguard, who had gone out to kill the wise men of Babylon. 15 he answered and said to Arioch the king's captain: Why is the decree so peremptory from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 And Daniel went in, and sought of the king that he would give him time, and he would show the king the interpretation.

COMMENTS: The LORD is able to make even our enemies to be at peace with us, even if that is for a period just long enough to demonstrate that the LORD is the one clearly providing our protection. Daniel first talked persuasively with the king's captain to learn details of the king's abrupt command. Then he went before the king, with no textual explanation of how he was granted audience. Nebuchadnezzar then gave him time, which he would not give to the Babylonian wise men, because Daniel says boldly that he would bring the interpretation to the king, and he made this statement even before we are told of any prayer for help from God. In some manner, Daniel's attitude was similar to the approach Daniel's three companions took later in this book, when they acknowledge that God could save them, but even if he chose not, they would trust their God above an earthly king. This attitude was very likely possible because of a consistent prayer life, even if each detail of that practice is not recorded.

NOTE: Daniel means "God is my judge" or "judge of God"
Hananiah means "Jehovah has given"
Mishael means, "who is like God"
Azariah means "whom Jehovah helps"

C - Daniel 2:17-18, in composite paraphrase

17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions; 18 that they might ask mercy of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his companions should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

COMMENTS: Daniel went to his companions to explain to them the dire situation of the king's threat of death, the opportunity God had presented to them for escape, and to join them in prayer to ask mercy from the God of heaven that they would not perish.

D - Daniel 2:19-23, in composite paraphrase

19 Then was the secret revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel spoke and said: Blessed be the name of God from everlasting even unto everlasting; for wisdom and might are His; 21 And it is he that changes times and seasons; He deposes kings, and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise, And knowledge to them that have understanding. 22 It is he that reveals the deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 I thank you, and praise you, O The God of my fathers, who has given me wisdom and might, and has now made known unto me what we sought of you; for you have made known unto us the king's matter.

COMMENTS: The text above speaks for itself in Daniel's praise and thanksgiving for answer to his prayer. It bears reading, and rereading, for reflection and contemplation.

E - Daniel 2:24, in composite paraphrase

24 Therefore Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and said thus unto him: destroy not the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will declare unto the king the interpretation.

COMMENTS: Daniel made a statement to Arioch which did not limit the reprieve to only himself and his companions, by declaring to Arioch to stay the execution of the wise men of Babylon. He confidently asked to be taken before the king to reveal the dream and its interpretation. It is interesting to note that Daniel asked Arioch to take him to the king, but in verse 17, it had not been clear whether he went directly, or through the introduction of Arioch. See below for other comments.

F - Daniel 2:25, in composite paraphrase

25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him: I have found a man of the children of the captivity of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

COMMENTS: Arioch wasted no time to present Daniel to the king, and in a manner which may have been designed to partially credit himself with what Daniel had for the king ("I have found a man ..."). If that was so, he either was taking great risk if Daniel should fail (Arioch means lion-like), or he had faith that Daniel would succeed. I also found it interesting that starting in chapter 2, verse 4, the text is from the Aramaic (or Syriak) language. Even the word for Daniel is in Aramaic. See the note below about Daniel.

01840 laynd Daniye'l daw-nee-yale' in Ezekiel laynd Dani'el
daw-nee-le' [Hebrew]
from 01835 and 0410, Greek 1158 danihl; n pr m
AV-Daniel (in 22 verses) In chapter 1, in chapter 8 - 10, and 12.
01841 lyand Daniye'l (Aramaic) daw-nee-yale'
corresponding to 01840; n pr m
AV-Daniel (43 verses) in chapters 2 - 7,
Neither form of Daniel appears at all in chapters 3 or 11.

G - Daniel 2:26-28, in composite paraphrase

26 The king spoke and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar: Are you able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof? 27 Daniel answered before the king, and said: The secret which the king has asked can neither wise men, enchanters, magicians, nor astrologers, declare unto the king; 28 but there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and he has made known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Your dream, and your visions of your head upon your bed, are these:

COMMENTS: The mention of Daniel's Babylonian name (only once in chapter 2), is more than incidental. The names Belteshazzar and Daniel present direct contrast between false god and true God, but Nebuchadnezzar does not accept the difference, even though Daniel is clear that he credits the God of heaven, with the dream and its interpretation.

H - Daniel 2:29-30, in composite paraphrase

29 As for you O king, your thoughts came into your mind upon your bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that reveals secrets made known to you what shall come to pass. 30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living person, but to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart.

COMMENTS: Here Daniel underscored that God, not Daniel, had revealed this matter, and it had been revealed to Daniel through no merit of his own. God had a specific purpose in the dream, and Daniel became the tool for the king, and for all readers of this account, to know the dream and its interpretation. The revealing of the dream had a much greater importance than just to save lives at that present time.

I - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

31 You, O king, looked And, behold, a certain great image! That great image stood before you with a brilliant brightness, and its form was dreadful. 32 As for that image, its head was of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass, 33 its legs of iron, its feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 While you were looking at it, a stone was cut out, but not by hands, and it gave the image a blow on its feet, which were of iron and earth, and they were broken in pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken in pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind carried them away, so that no place was found for them; and the stone that struck the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

COMMENTS: God used a "night vision" (verse 19) to reveal the dream to Daniel. So, Daniel likely saw the precise images which Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream. This made Daniel unique along with Nebuchadnezzar in what they saw, and it gave Daniel a powerful means of describing the dream back to Nebuchadnezzar as Daniel could picture it in his memory while he spoke to the king. It was probably quite a startling experience for the king to have the dream brought back with clarity to his own thoughts by Daniel's description, as if he and Daniel had experienced the dream at the same time.

J - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

37 You, O king, are king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the strength, and the glory; 38 and wheresoever the children of men, the beasts of the field, and the fowls of the heaven dwell, has He given them into your hand, and has made you to rule over them all; you are the head of gold.

COMMENTS: Now Daniel began the interpretation, and how would a carnal mind deal with the words placed before him in the above verses? If we think for awhile, perhaps the remaining carnality of our own minds, yet untransformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, can help us to imagine a reaction, before Daniel moves to the next phase.

K - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

39 And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you then another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron; forasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and beats down all things; and as iron that crushes all these, shall it break in pieces and crush. 41 And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but there shall be in it of the firmness of the iron, forasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay.

COMMENTS: The second and third kingdoms are mentioned in a single sentence, and I do not plan to comment on any detail of the first three kingdoms. I still wonder how Nebuchadnezzar's mind was processing all that he was hearing as the interpretation. But we must also remember that God has intended the words for countless more than just the ears of Nebuchadnezzar.

L - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

42 As to the toes of the feet, part of them iron, and part of them clay: some part of the kingdom is strong, and some part of it is brittle. 43 And as you saw the iron mixed with earth, they will give their daughters to one another as wives: but they will not be united one with another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

COMMENTS: This fourth kingdom seems to have two emphasized characteristics: the strength of iron in contrast to the majesty of gold and headship of Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, and a mingling which does not result in a strong and cohesive mixture. I settled on the term brittle for my paraphrase in verse 42 above, but at least one translator chose fragile. After considering how devastating three commercial airplanes were to the United States on September 11th with immediate and delayed effects, perhaps fragile is the appropriate term. Verse 44 below, then gives another point, indicating that the kingdom being described is actually a plurality of kingdoms for the whole earth. We can observe from history and up to the present, that there have been many kingdoms with shifts of power over the centuries, and century by century, the nations of the earth become more cosmopolitan.

M - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

44 And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed; nor shall the kingdom be left to another people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, but it shall stand for ever. 45 Because you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold in pieces. The great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

COMMENTS: The dream was made known to the king, and to all readers of this account, and yet neither he nor we, fully understand what has been made known. As the apostle Paul said, For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. Perhaps we are now in the period of "the days of those kings". But of this we can be certain: the terminus of all history will be brought about by Jehovah, just as he is the one who brought about its beginning. And the manner of that terminus in light of the further revelation of the New Testament is that old things are passed away (by the stone - the rock of our salvation), and all things are become new. And this state of new things will remain with everlasting permanence!

N - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

46 Then king Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odor unto him. 47 The king spoke unto Daniel, and said: Of a truth it is, that your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing you have been able to reveal this secret.

COMMENTS: This powerful king fell on his face in front of Daniel, and orders that sacrifice and fragrance be offered to Daniel, not to God. King Nebuchadnezzar will have at least three more startling experiences after chapter 2, while still not grasping the difference between Daniel's God and all other gods.

O - Daniel 2, in composite paraphrase

48 Then the king made Daniel great, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 And Daniel requested of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon; but Daniel was in the gate of the king.

COMMENTS: Jehovah placed Daniel in a position of high authority through this event, as Nebuchadnezzar made good his earlier words to give "gifts and rewards and great honor". And Daniel shares this standing with his three God-honoring companions by making request to the king in their behalf. Jehovah had orchestrated all of this as we see in the developments of chapter 3 and succeeding chapters.

--- Reflections in prayer ---

Drawn principally from chapter 2, verses 18 through 23:
LORD, please direct my thoughts as I consistently commune with you, so I will be following a pre-established pattern that need not be redirected in crisis for myself or those close to me. Thank you LORD, that I can come to you in confidence that you are the only source of mercy, even though you may work that mercy through others of your choosing. I praise you for those times in my past when you worked many situations from difficulty and discomfort, through to the point of blessing, in unexpected ways. The name of the LORD shall be blessed from everlasting to everlasting for all wisdom and all power is yours. You have established your creation, sustained me from my beginning, and through your wisdom and power, you will bring about, all that you have determined by your counsel. You change times and seasons; you depose kings, and set up kings. You give wisdom to the wise, and you supply the knowledge to those that are found with understanding, so they have no boast except in the LORD.

You reveal the deep and secret things; you know what is in the darkness of the unknown; because the light dwells with you always. I thank you, and praise you, O The God of my faith fathers, who has given me wisdom through the written and Living Word, and power through the Holy Spirit. After Daniel's time, your further work through Christ Jesus, and further revelation through the completed scripture, has made known to us the "King's matter": eternal life through the sacrifice of our LORD and Savior! Amen, and amen.

Published 5 June 2004, first issued 30 September 2001