Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar's dream, Part 2
Mar 30, 2015
The king threatened his wise men with death and the destruction of their houses if they could not tell him the contents of his recurring dream and its interpretation. Daniel 2:7 says,
7 They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.”
This was a reasonable request, but the king still would not tell them. Daniel 2:8, 9 says,
8 The king answered and said, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, 9 that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.”
The king had made up his mind, telling them, in effect, that he would not believe their interpretation unless they received divine revelation of the dream’s contents. This appeared to be an impossible and unreasonable demand, for it is not likely that any king had ever required such a thing of his wise men. The wise men were schooled only in interpreting signs and dreams. Daniel 2:10, 11 continues,
10 The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer, or Chaldean. 11 Moreover the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else [“king, grandee, or authority,” CV] who could declare it to the king except gods [or God], whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.
Nebuchadnezzar took this answer as their final answer. The wise men had admitted failure. What else could they do? Daniel 2:12 says,
12 Because of this the king became indignant and very furious, and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
Daniel and his three friends were also in danger of being executed, for it was assumed that they too had no revelation about the dream. They were not present when the Chaldeans confessed their ignorance of the king’s dream, for they were yet students at the king’s college. But the alarming news spread quickly.
Daniel 2:14-16 says,
14 Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard [“the grandee of the king’s executioners,” CV], who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; 15 he answered and said to Arioch, the king’s commander, “For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?” Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time [“a stated time,” CV] in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.
This may have been Daniel’s first personal audience with the king himself. More likely, however, this petition was made through Arioch himself, because a mere student would hardly be given a personal audience. Later, after Daniel learned the secret of the king’s dream, Arioch tells the king that he has found a man who could tell the dream and its interpretation. The fact that Arioch takes credit for finding Daniel implies that the king had not yet met Daniel personally.
So Daniel’s request for time to pray seems to have been made on behalf of all the wise men. We are not told of the king’s actual response, but we know that he succeeded in obtaining for himself—and for all of the wise men—a time of prayer. Perhaps the request went something like this: “Since only God can reveal such secrets, and we are but mortal men, we need some time to pray and appeal to Him for the revelation of your dream.”
The king had already accused the wise men of trying to buy time. Yet somehow Daniel convinced the king to grant a specified amount of time for them to learn the secret. We are not told how much time was granted, but it seems certain that Daniel appealed for a time of prayer.
The king apparently saw this as a reasonable request, one which the wise men had not even considered, since they had no faith that their gods would reveal such secrets. So Daniel’s request was granted. We then read in Daniel 2:17-19,
17 Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, about the matter, 18 in order that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men [“the remaining wise men,” CV] of Babylon. 19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
The CV gives us the impression that many of the wise men of Babylon had already been executed before Daniel’s request was granted. If that is the case, then it is likely that those who had appeared before the king had been the first to be executed. When the king’s executioner came to kill Daniel (and perhaps the other students), they escaped the immediate execution by requesting an audience with the king.
Later, when Daniel successfully revealed the dream and its interpretation, Daniel was promoted as the “grandee of the prefects who are over all the wise men of Babylon” (Daniel 2:48, CV). In other words, he replaced the former president of the magi, who very likely had been executed.
Daniel Blesses the God of Heaven
The time allotted for prayer is uncertain, but we know that the king had granted at least one more day for the remaining wise men to learn the contents of his recurring dream. But only Daniel himself was blessed with the revelation. Daniel 2:20-23 says,
20 Daniel answered and said, “Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever [“from the eon to the eon,” CV], for wisdom and power belong to Him. 21 And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding. 22 It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him. 23 To Thee, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for Thou hast given me wisdom and power; even now Thou hast made known to me what we requested of Thee, for Thou hast made known to us the king’s matter.”
Verse 21 says “It is He who changes the times and the epochs.” The CV renders this, “He is altering the eras and the stated times.” This shows not only that God controls time but also that He has divided time into ages and has the authority to change or alter those ages according to His will. For this reason God had the right to make all the changes described in the book of Hebrews. Just because God decreed to Moses that religious practices were to be done in a prescribed manner did not mean that God was bound to continue such things forever.
Daniel then gives thanks and praise to God for revealing the king’s dream during the night. We do not know if this revelation was given that first night or later, but it was revealed during the time allotted by the king.
The Moment of Truth
Daniel 2:24, 25 continues, saying,
24 Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.” 25 Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king.”
Arioch was confident that Daniel had learned the secret of the dream. Did Daniel tell him the dream? We are not told, but Arioch would hardly have jeopardized his own life or reputation without knowing that Daniel had indeed received divine revelation. If there had been any doubt in his mind, he would have told the king, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who claims to have the interpretation.”
Daniel 2:26-28 says,
26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27 Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians, nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.”
Daniel was careful not to take credit for the revelation, but to bear witness to the “God in heaven who reveals mysteries,” or secrets. Yet implied in this situation is the fact that Daniel knew this God personally, and he was exactly the type of wise man that the king was striving to find. Daniel 2:29, 30 continues,
29 As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. 30 But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.
Again, Daniel knew that he had no special ability beyond “any other living man.” His only advantage was in knowing the God of heaven, who had determined to convey to Nebuchadnezzar the kingdoms that would arise in the epochs yet to come.
This revelation to the king was then recorded in the official records of Babylon (though expunged or lost in later years when Babylon was destroyed). Fortunately, Daniel put the account in his own book of prophecies, so that we too may learn from it and know the times that God has determined for the rule of the kingdoms of men until the Kingdom of the God of heaven should be established on earth.
This is part 5 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones