Daniel 2:1–3, 27–29a, 36–44comment (0)
September 6, 2007
By Jim Barnette
Related Scripture: Daniel 2:1–3, 27–29a, 36–44
Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Ministerial Formation, Samford University Feeling Anxious About the Future
Daniel 2:1–3, 27–29a, 36–44
Anxious About the Future (1–3, 27–29a)
Nebuchadnezzar was deeply disturbed by what he saw in his dreams. “[H]is mind was troubled” could also be translated “his spirit was struck.” Here the root verb means to strike as with a hammer on an anvil or as a bell. Sometimes it is connected with the rapid beat of the heart due to extreme anxiety. Because he was so stressed, the king “could not sleep.”
The king summoned his entire fraternity of soothsayers to discern the meaning of the dreams. Most “magicians” were protective and benevolent, but there were some unofficial sorcerers who dealt in black magic and were supposedly in league with evil forces. Those mentioned here were of the former stripe, seeking to protect the king and his subjects from various evils. “Enchanters” with their magic spells and incantations were believed to communicate with the spirit world. “Sorcerers” were omen seekers who recited incantations. “Astrologers” (NIV) is often translated “Chaldeans” (KJV, NASB, NRSV). The former is more helpful, as here the word does not refer to a nationality. Originally it had an ethnic sense but developed to refer to a class of practitioners in magic and esoteric wisdom.
Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams resembles in some respects the experiences of Joseph in Genesis 41. In each account, a foreign king was troubled by a dream; the king’s wise men were unable to interpret the dream; an inexperienced Hebrew youth proved capable of making the right interpretation; the young Hebrew revealed that his God enabled him to do what the seasoned wise men could not; as a result of the successful interpretation, the youth was rewarded with a prominent and influential position.
Empires Come and Empires Go (36–43)
In his interpretation, Daniel was able to reassure Nebuchadnezzar. Actually when Daniel said “now we will interpret it to the king,” he involved the other Hebrew youth just as he had involved them in the prayer to the Lord that their lives would be spared (2:17–18). Daniel was careful to address the king with his exalted titles, declaring at the same time that the king owed all his territory and authority over people and beast to the God of heaven who had given him these honors.
Four metals are depicted that clearly represent four succeeding kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the “head of gold.” In Hebrew thought, there was no distinction between king and kingdom. The king was the embodiment of the kingdom (see Isa. 7:1–9). Such is the case here. Historically there have been two perspectives as to the identity of the kingdoms represented by the other three metals: the Greek view and the Roman view. The Greek view considers the three to be Media, Persia and the Greek Empire. The Roman view has been more widely accepted and is therefore deemed “the traditional approach.” Proceeding with this latter view, the silver kingdom represented the Persian Empire and the kingdom of bronze was the Greek Empire. The fourth kingdom — “strong as iron” — was the mighty Roman Empire.
God’s Kingdom Is Forever (44)
The key to understanding verses 36–43 is the interpretation of “the rock” that fills the earth (45). The rock represented the kingdom of God. When this rock was matched up with the statue composed of the above metals, the latter was obliterated. The statue was an object made with human hands and ingenuity. The rock, however, was not to be the result of human efforts or energy. The rock decimated these human kingdoms.
With this word of God’s Kingdom overcoming kingdoms of the flesh, Daniel offered good news to the Lord’s oppressed people. The evil that they were experiencing was not the end of the story. In spite of present appearances, God would defeat the forces that ruled over them. Not only this but God’s Kingdom would spread and take over the world, just as the rock became an enormous mountain. As sovereign Ruler, He alone is worthy of the highest praise.
Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Ministerial Formation, Samford University
Feeling Anxious About the Future