The second chapter of Daniel opens with Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, having dreams that troubling him and causing him to lose sleep (2:1). So Nebuchadnezzar calls for his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and Chaldeans to tell him about his dream. So they ask the king to tell them the dream and they will give the interpretation. However, the king demands these magicians and enchanters to tell him the dream and the interpretation or else be torn limb from limb. Many writers have suggested that the king did not know what his dream was (kind of like how we may not remember the details of a dream) and that is why they need to tell the dream and interpretation. However, I think verse 9 explains why the king demands these Chaldeans to give both dream and interpretation:
“You have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the times change.” The point seems to be that they have lied to him about the interpretation of his dreams before. Therefore, to prove they are speaking the truth, he wants them to give both the dream and the interpretation. The response of the Chaldeans is one of the keys for understanding this text. Notice what they say in verses 10-11:
The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand, for no great and powerful king has asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (Daniel 2:10–11 ESV) This is a great set up for the story. No person can do what the king is asking. Only the gods can do what he asks and the gods do not dwell with people. This response infuriates the king and he gives the decree that all the wise men of Babylon were to be killed. Verse 13 points out that Daniel and his companions are not immune from this command. They are going to be killed as well. So Daniel speaks with the executioner in verses 14-15 asking why all the wise men of Babylon have been ordered for execution. So the executioner explains the reason and Daniel requests an appointment to meet with King Nebuchadnezzar.
But notice what Daniel does next. He goes to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah and tells them to pray to God for mercy so that they are not destroyed. These faithful men first turn to the Lord in prayer. The reason why is clear. Daniel not going to receive the interpretation of the dream by his own power or will. He cannot will himself to know the dream and the interpretation. God must reveal to Daniel the dream and its interpretation. God reveals the mystery to Daniel and Daniel offers up praise to the Lord. This song of praise (2:20-23) gives the first description in the book of Daniel about the character and activity of God.
First, wisdom and power belong to the Lord. Hope comes in hopeless times from the knowledge wisdom and power belong to our God. Therefore we have nothing fear and have no need for worry because God’s power is greater than any power on earth. Second, God rules in the affairs of the earth. He changes times and seasons and he removes and sets up kings. What a statement! We have hope in times of difficulty and darkness because God governs the different eras and events of human history and is able to change them at will. We have all of these different eras that we mark for human history. God is in control of all that. Not only this, he causes the rise and fall of kings. He gives them power and takes their power away. It is with this knowledge that we are able to “honor the king” as Peter instructed (1 Peter 2:17). God put the person in power and therefore we must honor that person. Third, God gives wisdom and knowledge to those who have understanding. Notice that God doesn’t merely give knowledge but it is given to those with understanding. Those who fear and seek the Lord, like the book of Proverbs describes, are those who can receive wisdom from the Lord. Fourth, God knows what is in the darkness and the light dwells in the Lord. God is light and he reveals what is in the darkness. This is the hope for the people of God.
Daniel is now ready to stand before the king and deliver the Babylonian wise men from the decree of destruction. The king asks if Daniel is able to reveal the dream and the interpretation. Daniel states that no one can do what the king has asked (2:27) but God in heaven reveals mysteries and God has revealed something to the king. Notice in verse 30 Daniel again deflects any glory. It is not because Daniel has more wisdom than the living, but the mystery was revealed to him so that this could be made known to the king.
In verses 31-35 Daniel describes the dream. It was a dream of a large statue with a head of fine gold, chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet part iron and part clay. A stone then struck the feet and broke them all in pieces. All the broken pieces became like chaff, carried away by the wind so that not a trace of it was left. The stone that struck the image became a great mountain that filled the whole earth. In verses 36-45 Daniel gives the interpretation to the dream that was revealed to him by God. Daniel reveals that each of the metals is a description of the coming world kingdoms. The head of gold is Nebuchadnezzar (2:36-38). A kingdom after him will arise (Medo-Persia) and another kingdom after it (Greece). Notice that no attention is placed on these kingdoms. The attention goes to the fourth kingdom in verse 40. It will be a crushing kingdom that crushes all other kingdoms but even in its strength it will not hold together.
The second key to the text is verses 44-45. “In the days of those kings” which is a reference to this fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire), God will set up a kingdom. Listen to the characteristics of this kingdom that God will establish. First, this is a kingdom that shall never be destroyed nor left to another people. God’s kingdom will be establish and it cannot be overthrown. Unlike the dream where kingdom conquered kingdom, this kingdom that God sets up will never be destroyed nor given to another people. Second, it will break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end. Nothing in this world is going to be victorious over the kingdom that God would set up in those days. Finally, this kingdom will stand forever. The great God of heaven has declared it. After hearing this, King Nebuchadnezzar confesses the greatness of God (2:47). Daniel and his companions are elevated in the kingdom.
Message From Daniel 2
Consider the message to the immediate audience of this book. Earthly kingdoms and nations are frail. But God is not. This is a message of hope to Israel in exile that their enslavement will not last because God deposes kingdoms and will establish his enduring kingdom.
But there is more that we must consider in the interpretation of this dream. The message is not simply that God will establish his kingdom during the day so the Roman Empire. Nor is the message simply God bringing an end to the Roman Empire. Let’s look carefully at this dream and its interpretation. First, we must notice the stone. It is a stone that is not made with human hands. The other kingdoms and their rulers are human in nature. But not this kingdom and not this stone. This stone is not human and this kingdom is not earthly. The stone is a picture of the Christ (Messiah) who will establish a kingdom that is not of this world (cf. John 18:36). This idea begins in Genesis with the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel, referring to God himself (Genesis 49:24). The Psalms key in on this idea of the stone. One passage in particular stands out and that is Psalm 118.
This is the gate of the Lord; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:20–24 ESV)
As the people reject Jesus as their Messiah, Jesus quotes this passage to show that
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits. And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Matthew 21:42–44 ESV)
Notice the connection Jesus makes directly to this prophecy in Daniel. The stone was rejected but has become the cornerstone. Therefore “the kingdom of God will be taken from you.” The stone is Jesus and the kingdom of heaven. Continue into verse 44: “The one who falls on this stone will be broken in pieces.” This is exactly the dream that Daniel revealed. The picture of Daniel is not the destruction of the Roman Empire alone. It pictures the destruction of all enemies, whether they are nations or people. Look back at Daniel 2 and you will see this is the case. Look at Daniel 2:35 shows all the kingdoms being destroyed by this stone. This is directly stated in verse 44. “It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end.” It is not just one kingdom but all the kingdoms of the earth that are being shattered by the stone. Just as the head of gold represents Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire, the stone represents Jesus and the kingdom of heaven.
20 But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:20–28 ESV)
The hope for us today is this truth. Jesus is the stone who reigns and destroys all enemies. Any nation at any time, present or future, that stands against Jesus will be smashed to pieces and the wind carry it away so that not a trace can be found (Daniel 2:35). This truth includes the United States. God reigns. God is in charge and he will use the nations as he sees fit. Our hope is not in this country. Our hope is in being citizens of the kingdom of heaven and knowing that our allegiance rests there alone. We are not disturbed by world events because Jesus reigns. The hope to God’s people has always been in this kingdom that cannot be shaken but endures forever. Put your hope in the eternal kingdom of heaven and submit to King Jesus as your Lord and Master.