Daniel 2 – “Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream”

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I. Summary
Nebuchadnezzar is agitated by a dream, and he demands that his sorcerers relate its contents to him. The Babylonian sorcerers are unable to meet the challenge, but God relates the dream to Daniel. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that he dreamed of a statue made of four metals, and that it was crushed by a stone. The dream indicates that there will be four kingdoms after Nebuchadnezzar’s, and the final one will last forever.

II. Photo
Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a statue made of heterogeneous metals: “The head of that statue was of fine gold; its breast and arms were of silver; its belly and thighs, of bronze; its legs were of iron, and its feet part iron and part clay.” (vv. 32-33)

III. Important Verses
vv. 5-6: The king said in reply to the Chaldeans, “I hereby decree: If you will not make the dream and its meaning known to me, you shall be torn limb from limb and your houses confiscated. But if you tell the dream and its meaning, you shall receive from me gifts, presents, and great honor; therefore, tell me the dream and its meaning.”
v. 10: The Chaldeans said in reply to the king, “There is no one on earth who can satisfy the king’s demand, for great king or ruler — none has ever asked such a thing of any magician, exorcist, or Chaldean.
vv. 19-20: The mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision; then Daniel blessed the God of Heaven. Daniel spoke up and said: “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power are His…”
vv. 28-29: [Daniel said to Nebuchadnezzar:] “There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what is to be at the end of days. This is your dream and the vision that entered your mind in bed: O king, the thoughts that came to your mind in your bed are about future events; He who reveals mysteries has let you know what is to happen.”
v. 44: [Daniel related:] “And in the time of those kings, the God of Heaven will establish a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, a kingdom that shall not be transferred to another people. It will crush and wipe out all these kingdoms, but shall itself last forever.”
vv. 46-47: Then King Nebuchadnezzar prostrated himself and paid homage to Daniel and ordered that a meal offering and pleasing offerings be made to him. The king said in reply to Daniel, “Truly your God must be the God of gods and Lord of kings and the revealer of mysteries to have enabled you to reveal this mystery.”
vv. 48-49: The king then elevated Daniel and gave him very many gifts, and made him governor of the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect of all the wise men of Babylon. At Daniel’s request, the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego to administer the province of Babylon; while Daniel himself was at the king’s court.

IV. Outline

1. Nebuchadnezzar is agitated by a dream
2-11. None of the ministers could relate the kings dream
12. All wise men were condemned to death
13-19. The dream is revealed to Daniel
20-23. Daniel’s hymn in praise of God
24-45. Daniel relates the dream to Nebuchadnezzar
    24-30. Introduction
    31-35. The dream
    36-45. The interpretation
46-47. Nebuchadnezzar genuflects before Daniel
48-49. Daniel and the friends’ rise in stature

V. Comment
Due to the fact that it speaks about a nation which will rise to power and “last forever,” Daniel 2 is a paragon of “apocalyptic” literature. While Daniel does not divulge the everlasting nation’s identity, he is probably speaking about the Jewish nation.

Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was about a statue with four types of metal (gold, silver, bronze, and iron mixed with clay). Collins writes: “There are ancient parallels for the representation of history by a sequence of metals of declining value, even if they are not in the form of a statue. The Greek poet Hesiod, who wrote about 700 B.C.E., described history as a sequence of five ages – golden, silver, bronze, a fourth that is not identified with a metal, and iron… A closer parallel to Daniel is found in a Persian text, the Bahman Yasht, chapter 1. There we read that the supreme god, Ahura Mazda, revealed to Zoroaster “the wisdom of all-knowledge” in a vision of a tree with four branches. One branch was of gold, one of silver, one of bronze, and the fourth of mixed iron. The golden age was the time of Zoroaster. The iron age would be dominated by the “divs with disheveled hair,” which is generally taken as a reference to the Greeks. The Bahman Yasht in its current form is relatively late (after the sixth century C.E.), but it is likely that the original Yasht dates from the early Hellenistic period. We need not assume, however, that Daniel was directly influenced by the Persian text, although that is possible. More likely, the schema by which ages or kingdoms were represented by metals was widely known in the ancient Near East.” (556-557)

In regards to another ancient Near Eastern parallel, Collins writes: “Daniel’s interpretation of the statue also draws on another widely known pattern: the idea that a sequence of four kingdoms would be followed by a lasting fifth one. Several Greek and Roman sources describe the sequence as follows: first Assyria, second Media, third Persia, fourth Greece, and finally Rome. This view of history seems to have developed in Persia, since Media never had an important role in the west. People in the Near East would not have looked to Rome as the final kingdom, but would rather have hoped for a restoration of their native kingship, which had beeen overrun by Alexander the Great in 334-323 B.C.E.” (557)

Who are the four kingdoms? Daniel already told Nebuchadnezzar that his kingdom (Babylon) is the first (vv. 37-38). Although Daniel doesn’t divulge any additional information in this chapter, it is clear from 9:1 that Media is next in line, and the Medes are followed by Persia (10:1) and Greece (10:20). Thus, the four kingdoms are Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. Collins notes that “The presence of Media, however, can be explained only by reference to the schema of the four kingdoms. Media never ruled over the Jews, and no such person as Darius the Mede ever existed. (There were three Persian kings called Darius, all after Cyrus.)” (557)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from http://www.khulsey.com/jewelry/main_metals.jpeg