Daniel 2 – “Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream”

Jewelry Site ImagesHebrew-English Text
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

Daniel 1 – “Four Judean Boys Arrive in Babylon”

legumesHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
King Nebuchadnezzar captures Judea, and he takes a group of first-rate boys back with him to Babylon. Although Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah choose to abstain from the king’s food and wine, God grants them strength, health, and wisdom. They quickly distinguish themselves from the rest of the group and find favor with the king.

II. Photo
While Nebuchadnezzar’s guards want to force-feed the boys, Daniel responds: “Please test your servants for ten days, giving us legumes to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the youths who eat of the king’s food, and do with your servants as you see fit.” (vv. 12-13) The plan worked – the four boys looked healthier than their counterparts.

III. Important Verses
vv. 3-6: Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some Israelites of royal descent and of the nobility — youths without blemish, handsome, proficient in all wisdom, knowledgeable and intelligent, and capable of serving in the royal palace — and teach them the writings and the language of the Chaldeans. The king allotted daily rations to them from the king’s food and from the wine he drank. They were to be educated for three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s service.  Among them were the Judahites Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah.
v. 8: Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or the wine he drank, so he sought permission of the chief officer not to defile himself,
v. 17: God made all four of these young men intelligent and proficient in all writings and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding of visions and dreams of all kinds.
vv. 19-20: The king spoke with them, and of them all none was equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so these entered the king’s service. Whenever the king put a question to them requiring wisdom and understanding, he found them to be ten times better than all the magicians and exorcists throughout his realm.

IV. Outline
1-2. Nebuchadnezzar conquers Judah
3-5. A group of noble Judeans are chosen to serve serve Nebuchadnezzar
6-7. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are introduced as being amongst the group
8-16. The four choose to eat legumes and drink water in place of the king’s food and wine, and they are in better shape than their peers
17. God grants the four wisdom
18-21. The four impress the king and outperform the other necromancers

V. Comment
Chapter 1 begins by relating how Daniel and his friends arrive in Babylon, and how they act once they arrived. Collins, who gives a succinct and discerning introduction to the book, writes the following: “The book of Daniel is exceptional in many respects. It is probably the latest composition in the Hebrew Bible. Like the book of Ezra, it is written partly in Hebrew and partly in Aramaic… Daniel is placed among the Writings [in the Hebrew Bible]. It may be that the canon of prophetic writings was already closed when Daniel was written. It may also be that the rabbis saw the book as having more in common with the Writings than with the Prophets.” (553)

He outlines the book as follows: “As found in the Hebrew Bible, the book falls into two sections. The first six chapters are stories about Daniel and his friends, who were allegedly among the exiles deported from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, at the Babylonian and Persian courts. The second half of the book, chapters 7-12, consists of a series of revelations to Daniel, which are explained to him by an angel… One of the oddities of the book is that the division by language does not fully coincide with the division by genre. Chapters 2-7 (strictly, 2:4b-7:28) are in Aramaic. Chapter 1 and chapters 8-12 are in Hebrew.” (ibid.)

In order to understand why the book takes the particular shape that it does, scholars speculate about the process of its composition. Collins writes, “It seems that the book was written in stages. The Aramaic stories in chapters 2-6 originally circulated independently. Chapter 1 was written as an introduction to these stories, presumably in Aramaic. The first of the visions, in chapter 7, was composed in Aramaic for continuity with the tales. The remaining chapters were added in Hebrew, presumably because of patriotic fervor at the time of the Maccabean revolt. The opening chapter was then translated into Hebrew, so that the beginning and end of the book would be in Hebrew, forming an inclusio. This explanation is, of course, hypothetical, but it gives a plausible account of the way the book took shape.” (553-554)

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Minneaolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Photo taken from  http://www.dietriffic.com/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/legumes.jpg