Daniel: The dream and its interpretation
Apr 09, 2015
Last week we left off in Daniel 2:30, where Daniel concluded his introduction to the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
The Dream Revealed
Daniel 2:31-33 says,
31 You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. 32 The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33 its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
The Babylonian king was used to such statues, or images. There were many gods, all depicted by statues. Perhaps that is why God chose this particular way of revealing the future to him. The statue represented the kingdoms of men as a whole, even as the images of their gods represented the imagination of the hearts of men.
Daniel 2:34, 35 continues,
34 You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay, and crushed them. 35 Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The statue was made by men, but the stone was “cut out without hands,” that is, without human effort. The idea is to show the contrast between the kingdoms of men and the Kingdom of God. We see the same contrast with the construction of altars that are used to worship God. In Exodus 20:25 we read in the law how altars were to be constructed:
25 And if you make an altar of stone for Me, you shall not build it of cut stones, for if you wield your tool on it, you will profane it.
Altars were to be made of naturally-shaped stones—that is, stones that are shaped by God alone through His invisible works. Altars represent the hearts of men, and only God can shape their hearts by the inner work of the Holy Spirit. Men may change their behavior, but any time men attempt to change their own hearts, they only pollute them.
So also is it with kingdoms. The kingdoms of men are built and shaped by the hands of men, but the Kingdom of God is not dependent upon the hands of men. This is true about the Kingdom that is within our hearts as well as the outward Kingdom that is coming to claim all of God’s creation and thus fill the whole earth.
The Head of Gold
Daniel 2:36, 37 says,
36 This was the dream; now we shall tell its interpretation before the king. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the glory; 38 and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.
Just as Daniel refused to take credit for the revelation of the dream itself, so also did he make it clear that the king of Babylon could not take credit for the success of his revolt against Nineveh and the establishment of his kingdom. The only reason that he was successful was because “the God of heaven” gave him “the kingdom, the power, the strength, and the glory.”
This is consistent with Jeremiah 27:6, where God told the Judahites that “I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, “My servant.” If the king of Assyria had known this (and believed the word of God), he might have submitted to Nebuchadnezzar without a fight. But the carnal hearts of men, shaped by human hands, does not agree with God, nor does it submit to His word.
Nebuchadnezzar, representing the kingdom of Babylon, was the head of gold. Its value and splendor was greater than all of the succeeding kingdoms, and yet it was given the shortest amount of time to rule on earth. The city of Babylon was the golden city in a golden age. It was laid out in a perfect square and was surrounded by a wall that was 15 miles long on each side. The stone wall was 200-300 feet high and 87 feet thick, surrounded by a moat that was of equal capacity to the wall itself.
The city was built to last forever. But it was only a counterfeit of the New Jerusalem, for in Revelation 21:16 we read, “the city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width.” Babylon’s walls were of regular stone; the New Jerusalem’s walls are of jasper (Revelation 21:18). The smooth stone-paved streets of Babylon, all laid out in squares, could not compare with the transparent gold streets attributed to the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:21). In fact, the whole city of New Jerusalem is pictured as a “city of pure gold, like clear glass” (Revelation 21:18). Even Babylon could not find enough gold to match that of New Jerusalem.
Babylon’s gates were of bronze, but the New Jerusalem’s gates are each made of a single pearl (Revelation 21:21). Where could Babylon obtain such huge pearls that might compete with New Jerusalem?
Whereas Babylon needed the sun to give it light, the New Jerusalem “has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23).
While Babylon was watered by the Euphrates River, the New Jerusalem was watered by the River of Life (Revelation 22:1). The songs sung in the New Jerusalem come from former captives that are set free, as we see in Isaiah 35:10,
10 And the ransomed of the Lord will return, and come with joyful shouting to Zion, with everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
Babylon’s music was forced from the mouths of captives and slaves. Psalm 137:1-4 says,
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 Upon the willows in the midst of it we hung our harps. 3 For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” 4 How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
In Revelation 21 the New Jerusalem is pictured in natural terms that are meant to set forth a spiritual meaning. Nature itself is a dim reflection of spiritual truth, which is why nature itself may teach us of heavenly things (1 Corinthians 11:14). Further, whenever men attempt to counterfeit heavenly things, they prophesy that there is something real that they are attempting to imitate by fleshly means.
So it was with Babylon. It was an attempt to counterfeit the New Jerusalem. In fact, the two natural cities—Jerusalem and Babylon—became prophetic cities representing the two competing kingdoms. Babylon was built by Nimrod; Jerusalem by Shem who ruled as the King-Priest (Melchizedek).
In the end, even Jerusalem itself (being fleshly) failed to manifest the glory of God. The prophets changed its name from the City of Peace to the Bloody City (Ezekiel 22:2; 24:6, 9; Nahum 3:1). Thus, the old cities became types and shadows of spiritual cities that would yet arise: Mystery Babylon and the New Jerusalem.
Babylon ruled just seventy years from 607-537 B.C.
The Arms and Belly
Daniel 2:39 continues,
39 And after you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.
The second kingdom was Medo-Persia, which was less glorious, though its dominion was larger than that of Babylon. Its metal was silver (Daniel 2:32). The third kingdom was of Greece, pictured as “its belly and its thighs of bronze.” Although each of these would have peculiar characteristics and strengths, none would ever match the glory of Babylon.
Medo-Persia took Babylon in 537 B.C. and was in turn conquered by Alexander the Great of Greece in 330 B.C.
The Legs of Iron and its Toes
Daniel 2:40 says,
40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces.
The legs of iron prophesied of the Roman Empire which was fulfilled when Rome took Jerusalem and Judea in 63 B.C.
41 And in that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle.
Rome itself was as strong as iron, but yet the city fell in 476 A.D. It was replaced by the “feet” and “toes” that were a mixture of iron and clay. That is, it was a combination of Rome and something else that was pictured as “pottery.” There are many sides to this particular kingdom on the image, but politically speaking it prophesied of the Christian Kingdom beginning with Justinian the Great, who ruled from 527-565 A.D. in Constantinople (now Istanbul). His ambition was to regain the western half of the Roman Empire (including the city of Rome itself).
The “clay” of this kingdom prophesied of more than one dividing element in the Christian Empire. As we will see later, Justinian combined the secular of Rome with the spiritual of Christianity. He also combined Roman law with Church law. His empire was also divided religiously between the traditions of east and west, eventually separating “Orthodox” from “Roman” in the Great Schism of 1054 A.D.
As for control over Jerusalem was concerned, the city soon found itself alternately under the control of Muslims (clay) and Roman Christians (iron) for many centuries.
Later in the prophecies in Daniel 7 we are given more details, so we will discuss the iron and clay in greater detail at that time.
This is part 7 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Daniel." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones