Bible study


[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.

We see from verses 48-49 that this “second year” incident occurred some time after the three years of training for Daniel and his friends. Skeptics claim that this creates a contradiction. Yet, to Daniel, this makes perfect sense and he offers no explanation. There are many ways to reconcile our lack of understanding, but the most common view is that Nebuchadnezzar reigned alongside his father, Nebopolassar, for a few years before his father’s death. This would be the second year of Nebuchadnezzar reigning alone. Another strong possibility is that, in the original text, the second year does not refer to Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, but to the second year after Daniel and his friends stood before the king, during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.

2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

The king was so troubled by the dream that he called in every sort of person skilled in natural and supernatural things. The Chaldeans refers, not to Babyonians in general, but to a select group of counselors.

3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

Verse 2:1 says that he was troubled enough that sleep deserted him.

4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.

“Syriack” is Syrian, or Aramaic, or Chaldean, or Aramean Chaldee. Verses 2:4-7:28 are written in Aramaic, while the rest of the book of Daniel is written in Hebrew. Many commentators suggest that the Aramaic section deals with prophecies concerning the Gentiles, while the rest of the book relates to the Jews. This, however, is an oversimplification which doesn’t quite hold water, as we shall see in chapter 7. At this point, Daniel was fluent in both languages (verse 1:4), though he apparently wrote this much later in life. The book of Ezra was written in a similar fashion.

5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill.

Apparently, the king had forgotten the dream, at least for the most part, but felt strongly that it was an important divine communication. We will see, in verses 46-48 that he remembered enough of the dream to know that Daniel was telling the truth.

This verse offers a glimpse into the character of Nebuchadnezzar. (See also Daniel 3:29; Jeremiah 39:5-7; 52:4-11). There is much debate as to what would actually happen to their houses. The word translated “dunghill” literally means “ruin”.

6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.

If threats don’t work, offer promises of gifts, rewards, and great honor.

We see, in verses 12-15 that Daniel and his friends knew nothing of this meeting. Apparently, only the leaders of the four groups (verse 2) were present and were unwilling to share any possible rewards.

7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.

8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.

Buying time to find a way to appease the king’s anger.

9 But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.

Their claim to be able to interpret dreams was supposedly a divine ability. Nebuchadnezzar knew that if their gods could tell them the interpretation of the dream, they could also tell them what the dream was. If they couldn’t tell the past, how could they tell the future?

10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.

11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.

They admit now that no man has the ability to do what the king requests, but only the gods, which apparently aren’t communicating with them. Daniel will reaffirm this impossibility in verse 27.

Not only could the wise men not do what he wanted, but now they insulted him by suggesting immaturity and ignorance, and calling him the most unreasonable king who ever lived. Not a wise thing to do (see- Ecclesiastes 10:4; Proverbs 16:14).

No god except the true God has ever dwelt with man (John 1:1-14; 14:17, 23).

12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

The word translated “cause” is the same word translated “all” (the wise men). “For this cause” literally means “for this all”, and refers to the entirety of their inabilities and insults. As noted in verse 6, only the leaders of the wise men came before the king. But now, every wise man in Babylon was to be punished.

13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

It is unclear if the wise men were being slain as they were found, or if they were being gathered for some kind of public execution. The next verses seem to suggest the former.

14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon:

15 He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.

Daniel answered with discretion and wisdom, rather than stating his ignorance and appealing to the impossibility of the task as the leaders of the wise men had done.

The captain of the king’s guard was also bodyguard and chief executioner. Also, he was probably a general in the king’s army (Jeremiah 52:12-16).

16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

It seems unlikely, based on ancient Oriental culture and the king’s rage, that Daniel personally stood before the king. More likely, Daniel presented his request to a high official (possibly Arioch himself) who carried some authority of the king (see verse 48), so that Daniel literally took his request before the authority of the king. Verses 24 and 25 seem to confirm this.

17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:

18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

(See also- Matthew 18:20; Psalm 50:15; 91:15-16)

While verse 1:17 says that Daniel had understanding in visions and dreams, in this case he did not know what the dream was. As in verse 13, there is much debate as to the extent the king’s decree had been executed.

19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Daniel asked God to do the impossible, whereas the wise men had simply stated the truth concerning the impossibility of the task. If God was not the God of the impossible, then our relationship with him would be a relationship with an equal.

It is unclear whether Daniel was awake or asleep when he had the vision, whether it was a vision or a dream (Numbers 12:6). It seems, however, that he dreamed the same dream as Nebuchadnezzar, and was given understanding. (See also- Amos 3:7)

20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:

21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:

22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.

23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

Daniel’s answer was a response to God’s goodness. Daniel acknowledges that God is in control of all things natural, and all things man takes credit for. Daniel also alludes to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and its meaning, and to the failure of the wise men.

The phrase “the light dwelleth with him” may also be a reference to the messiah (John 1:1-5; 8:12; 1 John 1:5). The “wisdom and might” does not simply refer to this revelation, but speaks of a continuation of that given him in chapter 1.

24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.

The debate continues here, from verses 13 and 18, as to the extent in which the king’s command had been carried out.

25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.

The word “haste” can also be translated as “alarm” or “troubled”. It suggests a fearful excitement.

It appears that Arioch tries to take credit for the coming interpretation. On the other hand, if Arioch had not displayed full confidence in Daniel, he might not have gained access to the king.

26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?

It is unclear if the king asked with hope or disbelief.

27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;

The first thing Daniel does is reaffirm the impossibility of the task.

28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;

The phrase “latter days” usually refers to the first or second coming of the messiah. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream concerned the time of his own kingdom, through the kingdoms that would follow, and then the time of the messianic reign.

29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.

Daniel confirms the king’s suspicion (verse 5) that the dream was some sort of divine communication. Nebuchadnezzar was concerned about the future of his kingdom, but God gave him a glimpse into the entire future of the world.

30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

The wise men boasted in their abilities, but failed. Now, Daniel gives all glory to God, excuses himself from being anything special, and will give the king all he asked for.

31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible.

The word translated as “sawest” implies that he beheld the statue for a period of time, so as to study its features. Though the KJV simply says “a great image”, the oldest texts specifically say “one great image”. We are not told the size of the statue, but the verse uses two words to describe its largeness, both of which the KJV translates as “great”. The word terrible means fearsome.

32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,

Daniel will explain, in following verses, what this signifies.

There is some debate as to the meaning of the word “thighs”, whether this section extends to the waist or to the knees. Some translations say “sides”. This is the only time the Bible uses this word.

33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.

There is some debate as to whether there are four or five parts to the image. There is also some debate as to whether the iron and clay are mixed, or some toes are iron and others clay. The word for clay signifies a fired clay, or pottery.

34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.

35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

As in verse 31, the word “sawest” implies that he continued looking at the image for some time. These verses imply that the divinely cut stone was small, compared to the image, and struck it on its feet. While the king continued looking, the stone grew and filled the whole earth.

36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

It is generally believed that the word “we” refers to Daniel and his three friends, yet, verses 24-26 imply that Daniel was alone. Daniel could have been making a simply reference to his friends or to the entire class of wise men, or he could have been referring to himself and God.

37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.

The phrase “king of kings” refers to a king with other kings subject to him. The same term is applied to Jesus as he begins his earthly reign (Revelation 17:14; 19:16).

All this was given to Nebuchadnezzar, by God, so that he might serve as a minister of judgment against Israel (Jeremiah 25:1-11; 27:5-7). (See also- Ezekiel 26:7; Jeremiah 27:6-7; 28:14)

38 And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.

For skeptics who want to harp about Nebuchadnezzar nor ruling over the entire world, carefully note that Daniel doesn’t actually say that Nebuchadnezzar rules over the whole earth, but over beast and fowl, wherever men dwell. Dominion over beast and fowl was given to man in Genesis 1:26-28 (see Psalm 8:4-8). Also note that these were Daniel’s word, and they comply with Daniel’s limited knowledge.

Here, Daniel ascribes to Nebuchadnezzar, as king. the attribute of Babylon, the golden city (see- Isaiah 14:4; Jeremiah 51:7).

39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.

40 And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.

The largely accepted traditional view is that the four kingdoms are- Babylon, Medio-Persia, Greece, and Rome (see also- chapter 8). There is much debate as to whether the feet and toes are a continuation of the Roman Empire, or a different one. If the last empire is an end-time continuation, or rebirth, of Rome, then the Roman Empire would be the one in existence at both the first and second comings of Jesus.

41 And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.

42 And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.

43 And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.

Some view the feet and toes as an entirely different kingdom from the fourth kingdom. Daniel, however, appears to still be speaking of the fourth kingdom, and makes no mention of a fifth kingdom. Therefore, I believe the feet and toes must be a continuation of the fourth kingdom, regardless of its identity.

The phrase “mingle themselves with the seed of men” denotes the kingdom of iron forming an alliance with an inferior group. The instability of the feet and toes appears to be not so much due to the weakness of the fired clay, but to the diversity of the two materials and inability to bond. Some view the phrase to refer to an alliance between demons and humans. If so, the fourth kingdom would probably not be Rome, as there is no evidence of it having had demonic activity.

44 And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

The phrases “these kings” and “these kingdoms” are believed by some to refer to ten kings (ten toes). If these ten kings, however, are the same ten kings of Revelation, as most believe, they are ten kings without kingdoms (Revelation 17:12). Others view it as referring to a continuance of all the kingdoms, similar to the wording of Ruth 1:1, “Now it came to pass in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land.” Also, the next verse clearly says that the stone broke into pieces the kingdoms of iron, brass, clay, silver, and gold. It is useless, however, to debate the issue, as both views lead to the exact same time and result. When the final kingdom is struck down by Christ, the system of mankind’s rule of the world will fall.

45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

Here, Daniel reaffirms the king’s belief that the dream was a divine message.

Notice that all the materials of the statue, refined metals and fired clay, are man-made. The stone, however, is made by God.

46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.

The king worshiped Daniel as a messenger of God, and that worship was obviously intended for God through his prophet Daniel (verse 47). If Daniel had been willing to risk death to not eat unclean foods, he certainly wouldn’t have allowed himself to be worshiped as a god.

47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.

Nebuchadnezzar did not suddenly become a follower of God, but recognized God as being more powerful than his other gods, and ruler over all kings of the earth, as proven by the revealing of his dream.

48 Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.

We are not told if Daniel was given a newly created position, or if he was replacing someone who possibly had been killed when no one could interpret the king’s dream.

49 Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

We are not told what positions his friends held. In verse 3:3, they were among the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counselors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces. The traditional view is that the word translated “affairs” means “work” and refers to agriculture.

In many cities of that era, court was held at the gate of the city. The word “gate” is sometimes translated court, or door. Daniel was literally the entryway to the king.

(Daniel 3)

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