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Daniel 2 is a very interesting chapter. This chapter has everything. It has drama. It has intrigue. It has suspense. The king threatens people with death. It has mystery Nebuchadnezzar has a mysterious dream which he cannot understand and needs interpreted.
Daniel receives a death sentence in this chapter. He almost loses his life. He ends up being the hero and saving some lives in this chapter, including his own. This chapter is a turning point in the life of Daniel. He gets a huge promotion at the end of the chapter.
There is also some deep theology in this chapter. The chapter is really not about Daniel. It is about God. The chapter does contain Daniel’s first prophecy. It is one of the most important prophecies in the entire Bible. There are two revelations in this chapter: Nebuchadnezzar gets a dream and Daniel gets a vision.
These revelations describe the next four world empires in advance but it even goes beyond that. Daniel 2:28 says that the prophecy deals with what that will happen “in the latter days” (ESV, KJV). It describes end-time events.
This prophecy covers the period from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar to the reign of the Messiah when he returns. It covers the period which Jesus called THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES (Luke 21:24). This chapter maps the course of future world history which will be dominated by Gentile powers. Why is this chapter important to us? It was given to a Gentile king and is about Gentiles. One writer called it, “The most important single prophecy in the Bible concerning Gentile nations.” It deals with the end-times.
It is also a MESSIANIC chapter. Jesus is in this chapter. Jesus is pictured as a rock (Daniel 2:34, 45). He is described as a rock in the NT. He is called a stone of offense and a stone of stumbling (I Peter 2:8; Romans 9:33). The Jews tripped over that stone.
In this chapter, He is described as a different kind of stone. He is described as the stone that comes out of nowhere, flies through the air, and smashes the colossal statute that Nebuchadnezzar saw. This stone completely destroys the image and break it into pieces. Mathew 21:44 says, “Anyone who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed” (NIV).
We can boil down the message of this chapter in one sentence. One day, God is going to destroy the kingdoms of this world and set up his own. When Jesus comes back, he is going to destroy all of the other kingdoms on earth and establish his own kingdom on earth. It will not happen gradually over thousands of years.
It will happen instantly. When he does this, there will not be any trace of the other kingdoms. They will be gone and the kingdom that He establishes will last forever. It will never be destroyed. It will never be replaced.
Six Dramatic Events in Daniel 2
What happens in this chapter? The chapter can be summarized by six main points.
1. A Disturbing Dream (a pagan king gets divine revelation)
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. (Daniel 2:1 NIV)
Nebuchadnezzar was a young man. Early in his reign, he had a rather strange dream. Like a lot of us, Nebuchadnezzar took his problems to bed with him. He was thinking about his kingdom when he fell asleep (Daniel 2:20). He was wondering what would happen to his kingdom and this dream answered that and a lot more.
Scientists say that we have about five dreams a night and when we wake up, we do not remember ninety-five percent of our dreams. This ream of Nebuchadnezzar was different. It was memorable. He dreamed about a statute. This statute was huge. It was colorful. It was bright. It was shiny.
“Your Majesty looked, and there before you stood a large statue–an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance” (Daniel 2:31 NIV)
Nebuchadnezzar would never forget this dream. He may have had the same dream more than once because it mentions dreams in the plural (Daniel 2:1). He knew it was important. He knew it had meaning. He knew it was not an ordinary dream. It was a supernatural dream. It was a prophetic dream. He thought he might be involved in the dream but he did not know how. He did not know what the dream meant.
Many preachers call it a nightmare. That makes a good sermon but it wasn’t the kind of dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. This dream didn’t frighten him but it did trouble him (Daniel 2:1). He did not dream about a ghost or a monster chasing him. He dreamed about a statute.
He was desperate to find out what it meant, because the dream was symbolic. He needed someone to tell him what it meant, so who did he turn to? He turned to experts, the smartest men in the kingdom. In Babylon, there were actual dream experts. There were ancient Babylonian books on interpreting dreams, written long before the time of Daniel.
2. A Deadly Command (the king freaks out and over reacts)
In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 2 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, 3 he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means. ”4 Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it. 5 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. (Daniel 2:1-5 NIV)
Martin Luther King said, “I have a dream.” Nebuchadnezzar, said, “I have a dream and I need it interpreted” (Daniel 2:3), so he calls the experts in. He uses the carrot and stick approach. If they tell him what it means, they will get “gifts, rewards and great honor” (Daniel 2:6 NIV). If they do not, they will not only be killed, they will be dismembered. He says, “I do not just want the interpretation, I want you to tell me what I dreamed. I want both.”
All of us have had a demanding boss. We may have worked for someone who is unreasonable but when he says this, you almost feel sorry for these evil magicians. Why did Nebuchadnezzar make this demand? Apparently, he did not trust these wise men.
He thought they were all frauds and con artists, so he thought he could kill two birds with one stone. He could get his dream interpreted and find out who the false experts were. They said, “Not only can we not do this, no one can,” which made the king furious, so they are arrested, and Arioch, head of the executioners, even comes to arrest Daniel.
3. An Urgent Prayer (Daniel and his friends get on their knees and pray hard)
Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 18 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. (Daniel 2:17-18 NIV).
Daniel went to the king, said that he can interpret the dream but he needs some time to do it. Daniel used “wisdom and tact” (Daniel 2:14). The king gives him time. He comes home, tells his friends and they have a prayer meeting, an all-night prayer meeting. Their necks were on the line. They were praying for their lives. They did not have to wait long. That night their prayer was answered. Daniel praised God and then tells Arioch that he is ready to interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
4. A Mystery Revealed (God comes through and answers prayer through a vision)
During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. (Daniel 2:19 NIV). The first thing after he receives the vision is to praise God (Daniel 2:19-23).
5. A Dream Interpreted (Daniel tells the king the meaning of the dream)
Daniel is taken to the king. The king said to Daniel, “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” (Daniel 2:26). Daniel says, “I can’t but God can. He is the revealer of mysteries. He revealed it to me.”
6. A Teenager Honored (the king rewards Daniel)
When Nebuchadnezzar hears the dream and the interpretation, he falls down on his face. He praises Daniel and Daniel’s God (Daniel 2:46-47). Then, he rewards Daniel with MANY GIFTS and a high position. Daniel asked Nebuchadnezzar not to execute the wise men of Babylon (Daniel 2:24). He saved the lives of his enemies. Now, he asked Nebuchadnezzar to help his friends (Daniel 2:49). Daniel does not just think of himself. He is always thinking of others.
Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar the dream and its interpretation. It was a dream about a statute. What did it all mean?
The Great Statute Prophecy Broken Down
1) The statute is of a big metal man
The statute is made up of, not one metal but four different kinds of metals. The metals were not mixed together, like an alloy. The head was made of gold. The chest was made of silver. The belly and thighs were made of bronze. The legs were made of iron and the feet were made of iron and clay. It is made up of four different metals and each metal is replaced by an inferior metal. Gold is more valuable than silver and silver is more valuable than bronze. Each one is less valuable.
2) Each metal represents a world power.
One follows the other chronologically. They represent countries or empires. Three of the four are named. Gold represents Babylon (Daniel 2:38). Silver represents Persia (Daniel 5:21; 8:20; 11:2). Bronze represents Greece (Daniel 8:21). We are not told what iron represents but it has to represent Rome. Babylon was conquered by Persia. Persia was conquered by Greece and Greece was conquered by Rome.
3) The list of world empires is selective
All political powers are not mentioned. It does not mention all of the kingdoms of man or all of the kingdoms and empires of history. The US is not in this chapter. It focuses on the countries that specifically ruled over the Jews.
4) A stone destroys the final kingdom of man
It does not hit the first kingdom. It hits the last kingdom and the last kingdom is the weakest part of the image. The toes are made of part iron and part clay. This image is top heavy. The stone does not hit the head but the feet of the image (Daniel 2:34) and the entire image crumbles. The metals turn into powder and are blown away
5) God’s kingdom rules throughout the whole earth
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. (Daniel 2:44 NIV)
Will Jesus actually rule on the earth? Yes. Nebuchadnezzar was called king of kings (Daniel 2:36) but Jesus will return to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). He will rule and reign on the earth. The stone that his the statute fills the whole earth, which shows the kingdom will be an earthly kingdom (Daniel 2:35).
Applications for Today
1. God can predict the future in advance
One fourth of the Bible is prophecy. One of the strongest evidence for the inspiration of the Bible is the fulfillment of prophecy. God is the only one who can predict the future. The Book of Daniel predicted the arrival of four great world empires in advance (Babylon, Persia, Greece & Rome). Not everything in this prophecy has been fulfilled yet.
The last kingdom has not come yet. The last kingdom is related to Rome (iron). Prophecy experts believe that it refers to a ten-king confederacy (ten toes imply ten kings). That has not happened yet and the stone has not hit it yet, destroying all of the kingdoms of man and God’s kingdom has not completely filled the earth yet (Daniel 2:35).
There are plenty of places where other gods are worshipped and other religions are practiced. One day the whole world will worship the one true God. Daniel says, “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:45 NIV). If the first part of the prophecy came literally true, the last part will as well.
2. God is sovereign over human history
We see that in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Empires come and empires go. Some are frightening. Some are big and some are small but they are all temporary. Adolf Hitler said that the Third Reich would last a thousand years. It only lasted twelve. Eventually the stone will destroy all of the empires of man and God’s kingdom will be established on the earth.
3. God can speak to anyone at any time.
Nebuchadnezzar was not a believer. He was a pagan king. He was an extremely wicked king. He was mean. He was violent. He was vindictive. He was angry. He had a temper problem but God had a way of getting his attention. God can reach the hardest hard. He can use different ways to reach that person. He used a dream. It is the one time when God can talk to us when we are quiet enough to listen and there are no distractions.
4. God can speak to people through dreams
Some people have a problem with this. I don’t. It is biblical. It is not the only way God speaks but He can do this today. He spoke to people through dreams in the Bible. He spoke to believers and to unbelievers through dreams.
Some say that God does not do this anymore. We have the Bible. We have the completed revelation. We do not need dreams. The Bible says in Joel that in the last days that he will pour out His Spirit on all people and they will prophesy, dream dreams and see visions (Joel 2:28). It does not say that in the last days, the Bible will be written and God will not speak to people in dreams or visions. It says the exact opposite.
5. God answers prayers in impossible situations
When many have a crisis or a trial, they run FROM God. Daniel ran straight TO God. This chapter shows what to do when we are in trouble. Psalm 50:15 says, “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me.” This was urgent. If God did not come through, they would all be dead. God works best in impossible situations. They prayed fervently. It was passionate. It was heart-felt. The Bible says, “The effectual FERVENT prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16 KJV).
6. God is the one who reveals mysteries
That is one of the main points of the chapter (Daniel 2:21-22, 29, 47). God gave a revelation to Nebuchadnezzar. He was the only one who could interpret it. He has given us the Bible and the Holy Spirit is the only one who can tell us what it means. God is the revealer of mysteries.
Each of us have some mysteries in our life. Some more so than others. Some may have experienced tragedy, like the death of a child or spouse. All of us may have asked why something happened in our life. God is the only one who knows the answer. We ask people for the reason but the only one who knows is God.
Sometimes He gives us and answer and sometimes we may have to wait for the answer but we should always go to him to look for an answer. The Bible encourages us to do this. It says, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5)
7. God gets the glory in everything we do
When Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar his dream and the interpretation, he did not take credit for it. He did not boast about his abilities that he was able to do what no one else in Babylon could do, not even the wisest of the wise men in Babylon and he was a young man. Instead, he gave God the credit (Daniel 2:27-30).
This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9: 23-24 NIV)
 Prophecy Study Bible, 897.
 Many today believe that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream but could not remember it. That is based on the KJV reading of Daniel 2:5 (The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me). That is not what is going on here. If Daniel forgot the dream, the interpreters could have simply made something up. The only way for Nebuchadnezzar would have to know what the dream was in order for him to test the interpretation of the dream. No modern translation follows the KJV, not even the NKJV (The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap).