Daniel Ch. 2 - Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. (Daniel 2:1)

God had taken command of Jerusalem from Jehoiakim because of his evil behavior and given it to Nebuchadnezzar. That was a picture of the fall of mankind. It’s when we became separated from God and He handed us (our spiritual beings) over to our sinful desires.

This chapter starts out in Nebuchadnezzar’s second year in power and it’s where we see God using dreams to show him where his evil ways were leading.

There are some passages in Job that demonstrate how God used dreams and visions to get a person’s attention in order to save him from the pit.

A word was secretly brought to me, my ears caught a whisper of it. Amid disquieting dreams in the night, when deep sleep falls on men, fear and trembling seized me and made all my bones shake. (Job 4:12-14)

When I think my bed will comfort me and my couch will ease my complaint, even then you frighten me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I prefer strangling and death, rather than this body of mine. (Job 7:13-15)

So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.” (Daniel 2:2-3)

The king wanted to understand what he needed to do to bring peace to his troubled mind. So he tried all of his familiar ways –the magicians, enchanters, etc.

That’s what happens when God confronts us with the fact that our ways are taking us on a path to hell. He reveals that we have a huge void in our hearts; we are dead in our sins and need Him for new life. Of course we first have to try our familiar substitutes –the things of this world– like buying material things; creating and trying to control relationships with people; drugs and alcohol; and even being religious.

Then the astrologers answered the king in Aramaic, “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” (Daniel 2:4)

The astrologers depict our own attempts to achieve purpose and satisfaction in life. Yet, none of our own ways –distractions, relationships, religion, or anything else– can fill the emptiness within. They are incapable of doing so.

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.” (Daniel 2:5-6)

The emotions shown by the king demonstrates the disappointment, frustration and fear that was left after coming to the realization that there was nothing he could do to bring peace into his heart and mind.

Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.” Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is just one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.” (Daniel 2:7-9)

The king took stock of his resources feeling that he should have been able to control the circumstances in his life. Similarly, we try almost everything available when we get to feeling empty, anxious, discontented, or unfulfilled.

The astrologers answered the king, “There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men.” (Daniel 2:10-11)

None of those under his command could help the king. That’s the way we are. Nothing that we have or try to control, can substitute for the life that God has planned for us. He designed us to be complete –without that emptiness. And completeness can only be realized when we accept His gift of eternal life through Jesus.

This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death. (Daniel 2:12-13)

The king was ready to give up on everything he had trusted in the past. Hopefully, after enough of our own failures of being self-sufficient –going from disappointment to rejection to depression and even to despair– we can come to the “end of our rope” like this king.

When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. (Daniel 2:14)

Daniel intervened when everything else failed. And when we reach our lowest times –when all else fails– that we are able to see that God has been waiting patiently to lift us up from our troubles.

He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him. (Daniel 2:15-16)

It was through Arioch that Daniel was able to discern the king’s troubles. In this parallel story, it’s our emotions that show we are “heavy laden and in need of rest” and it’s then that God can begin to reason with us –showing us His ways are better than our ways.

Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:17-18)

Daniel and his three friends prayed. In the same way, the Holy Spirit prays for us and reminds us: Jesus lived on this earth as a man so that we can trust Him to know our troubles (that’s Hananiah); we can know God through His word (Mishael); and He has given us His Counselor to guide us always (Azariah).

During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven and said: “Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; He sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power, you have made known to me what we asked of you, you have made known to us the dream of the king.” (Daniel 2:19-23)

This vision in the night could be considered God’s calling –His knocking on the door of Nebuchadnezzar’s heart. It’s where Daniel was given permission to reveal God’s message to the king. likewise, it’s where the Holy Spirit begins revealing the truth about God to us!

Then Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to execute the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the king, and I will interpret his dream for him.” Arioch took Daniel to the king at once and said, “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can tell the king what his dream means.” (Daniel 2:24-25)

As we saw earlier, the king had given up all hope in his own resources and abilities much like any person who falls into despair when they can’t find any solution to life’s problems.

Daniel –made his appeal to Arioch to not give up –He knew of another hope! It is through our emotions (our Arioch) that the Spirit (Daniel) is finally able to get our attention.

The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), “Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?” Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that passed through your mind as you lay on your bed are these: (Daniel 2:26-28)

As a last resort, the king asked Daniel for help. But even then Daniel was not recognized by his real name, rather one invented by the king. Nonetheless, Daniel responded with compassion and told the interpretation that God had given to him.

When we seek God –even when we don’t know Him fully– God begins to reveal His message to us and He does it through the Holy Spirit.

“As you were lying there, O king, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have greater wisdom than other living men, but so that you, O king, may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. (Daniel 2:29-30)

Daniel wanted no special recognition for being able to interpret the vision; he only wanted the king to know God’s plan for life. Similarly, the Holy Spirit brings honor and glory to the Father by leading us into the kingdom of God.

“You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. (Daniel 2:31-33)

This statue was large, enormous, dazzling, awesome –but the only thing great about it was it’s appearance. Notice that the value of the materials decrease in value when progressing from the head of gold to the feet of clay and iron. They also increase in hardness and decrease in their ability to be hammered into a shape. Gold is worth the most and can be formed into very thin leaf. Silver is not nearly as valuable as gold, nor is it as workable. Bronze and iron continue in this pattern. And lastly, baked clay is just common dirt and it’s very brittle –easily broken.

While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:34-35)

The rock which came out of nowhere represents Jesus. In Hebrews 6:20-7:3, He is compared to king Melchizedek who had no beginning or end of days and no genealogy to be traced. The rock destroyed and replaced the great statue. The rest is explained later. . . 

“This was the dream, and now we will interpret it to the king. You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold. (Daniel 2:36-38)

The statue shows us a picture of our inner person –our soul. God has given us dominion (free will) over ourselves as described in Daniel 1:1-2.

The birds might be our purist hopes and dreams; while the beasts would correspond to the earthier things that we think and do.

“After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron for iron breaks and smashes everything and as iron breaks things to pieces, so it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. (Daniel 2:39-43)

The change in kingdoms (rulers) shows a continual decline in the country until it’s eventual destruction. The change can also provide insight –seeing ourselves from God’s point of view. We can have the most noble of goals (golden head). But they become more and more corrupt (and progressively harder to change) as they are transformed into thoughts (silver chest and arms), plans (bronze belly), attitudes (iron thighs), and finally actions (clay and iron feet).

“In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces. “The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.” (Daniel 2:44-45)

This is best explained with these New Testament passages.

For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” and, “A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message– which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:6-9)

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you? (1 Corinthians 3:9-16)

The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. “The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. (John 3:29-34)

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, “Surely your God is the God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery.” (Daniel 2:46-47)

It was at this point when the king –representing our human soul– realized that there was a God more powerful than himself!

Then the king placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel’s request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the royal court. (Daniel 2:48-49)

The king began to try out a new way of thinking by making Daniel’s ways above his own ways. Even though he was entertaining new ways, he did not fully submit himself –his entire being– to Daniel. This describes our own first step of faith. It’s not salvation, but it is a willingness to try letting God take care of our problems.