Daniel
Introduction 1 Nebuchadnezzar Dreams 2-12 Nebuchadnezzar and His Advisers 13-18 Reaction of Daniel 19-23 Heard and Praise 24-30 Daniel before the King 31 The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar 32-33 The Components of the Statue 34-35 The End of the Statue 36-38 The First Empire 39 The Second and Third Empires 40-43 The Fourth Empire 44-45 The Fifth Empire 46-49 Homage from Nebuchadnezzar
Introduction

In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the statue reveals the history of the world’s empires. Daniel 7 gives that history too, but there it is revealed in a dream to Daniel and presented in beasts. Beasts are creatures without insight and without conscious connection with God. The statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is in accordance to his imagination of power and rule, how man sees those realms. The beasts in Daniel’s dream show how God thinks about these realms, how He sees them.

Daniel 2 is fundamental to the understanding of prophecy. It contains a key to many other prophecies. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar is so telling, because here in brief the whole history of the world is presented, with as the final piece – and this is what it is all about – the creation of the realm of the Lord Jesus.


Nebuchadnezzar Dreams

1Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him.

In Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, God shows him the history of the world. The way in which it is made known makes it clear that the most powerful man on earth depends on the prophet of God for its interpretation. This chapter shows three characteristics related to Nebuchadnezzar:

1. He has received his authority from above.
2. He has been given his authority for a specified period.
3. For insight he depends on faithful people.


Nebuchadnezzar and His Advisers

2Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. 3The king said to them, “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.” 4Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 5The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. 6But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.” 7They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.” 8The king replied, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, 9that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.” 10The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has [ever] asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. 11Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with [mortal] flesh.” 12Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

In these verses a scene unfolds that shows the tragedy of searching for explanations about future things without asking God. We see the human wisdom of the advisors of Nebuchadnezzar and his own power expressed in a disillusioned way. That’s how it always goes. When the wisdom and power of the world are put to the test, wisdom turns out to be moderate, and power turns out to be completely inadequate to obtain the coveted. First man will try to solve the riddles of life and the future by all means at his disposal. Only when it has become apparent that there is no satisfactory answer in this way, is one inclined to listen to God. Man’s failure paves the way for the revelation of the wisdom and power of God.

Nebuchadnezzar wants to know the meaning of his dream. He orders his entire staff of advisers to come before him, all specialists in the field of dream declarations, everyone from his own perspective. Let the king tell his dream and they will give him the explanation. It is not clear from the text whether the king has indeed forgotten the dream or whether he simply does not want to tell it. This is not important either. It is about Nebuchadnezzar if he would tell them the dream they will have a meaning ready for it.

It is not inconceivable that he knows their twists and turns with explanations and that he knows how they will manipulate the explanation of his dream. As long as this has been favorable to himself, he has endured their twists and turns. But because God is at work, this time he is not content with a plausible explanation. He wants to know the right meaning. Those who can tell the dream can also be trusted with the explanation.

God uses the king’s demand to expose the foolishness and inability of his counselors. They answer that they are not able to tell the king his dream. In verses 10-1110The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has [ever] asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean.11Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with [mortal] flesh.” they unconsciously give the right answer: no creature can meet the king’s demand. In so doing, they acknowledge their failure. Only the gods can tell the dream, but they fail. This time the scholars cannot live up to their pretensions that they are in contact with the higher world. Only the true God can make known this dream because the dream comes from Him. By unmasking these people He clears the way for this Himself.

Not only the scholars of Nebuchadnezzar are disillusioned, but also Nebuchadnezzar himself is disillusioned in his power. His worst threats are powerless as a means of exerting pressure to find out what he absolutely wants to know. In powerless anger, he lets his threats be carried out. He orders to kill all the wise men in Babylon.


Reaction of Daniel

13So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill [them]. 14Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king’s bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; 15he said to Arioch, the king’s commander, “For what reason is the decree from the king [so] urgent?” Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. 16So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king. 17Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, 18so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

When Daniel hears about the tread to be killed, he does not shy away from the problem. He first asks what is going on, why there is such a hurry. Daniel does not allow himself to be tempted to act hastily. He goes to the king and asks for respite. That is courageous, because the king has already given the order that the wise men should be killed.

The way Daniel addresses the king is a testimony of faith. He promises the king that he will give him the explanation. In verse 2828However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind [while] on your bed., he testifies that the explanation does not come from himself, but that God has revealed the explanation. Here, however, Daniel does not yet know anything about the dream, but he is aware that there is a God who reveals “profound and hidden things” (verse 2222“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
). Because Daniel has a living faith in God and trusts Him unconditionally, he can speak to the king in this way.

In his speech, no pretention can be heard. He is not self-assured, but asks for respite. He asks no delay to explore all kinds of clever possibilities and to plan to escape the imminent danger. He uses the postponement to share his needs with his friends and pray together for the situation (cf. Acts 4:23-3123When they had been released, they went to their own [companions] and reported all that the chief priests and the elders had said to them.24And when they heard [this], they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is You who MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM,25who by the Holy Spirit, [through] the mouth of our father David Your servant, said,
‘WHY DID THE GENTILES RAGE,
AND THE PEOPLES DEVISE FUTILE THINGS?
26‘THE KINGS OF THE EARTH TOOK THEIR STAND,
AND THE RULERS WERE GATHERED TOGETHER
AGAINST THE LORD AND AGAINST HIS CHRIST.’
27For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,28to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.29And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence,30while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.”31And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and [began] to speak the word of God with boldness.
). Faith leads to dependence on God. In this prayer, a common prayer, they pray to “the God of heaven”. They approach God in the right mind, without the pretention being His people. They ask mercy from Him, that they may not be put to death.


Heard and Praise

19Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; 20Daniel said,
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
For wisdom and power belong to Him.
21“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
22“It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And the light dwells with Him.
23“To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
For You have given me wisdom and power;
Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
For You have made known to us the king’s matter.”

The prayer of Daniel and his friends is heard in an impressive way. Daniel sees in a night vision exactly the same thing Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream. He is also given the explanation. Here the word is experienced: “The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him, And He will make them know His covenant” (Psa 25:1414The secret of the LORD is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.
). What Daniel experiences here, agrees in a number of ways with what Joseph has experienced, who also explains a dream several times (Gen 40:4-8,12,184The captain of the bodyguard put Joseph in charge of them, and he took care of them; and they were in confinement for some time.5Then the cupbearer and the baker for the king of Egypt, who were confined in jail, both had a dream the same night, each man with his [own] dream [and] each dream with its [own] interpretation.6When Joseph came to them in the morning and observed them, behold, they were dejected.7He asked Pharaoh’s officials who were with him in confinement in his master’s house, “Why are your faces so sad today?”8Then they said to him, “We have had a dream and there is no one to interpret it.” Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell [it] to me, please.”12Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days;18Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days;; 41:15-16,2515Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you, that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”16Joseph then answered Pharaoh, saying, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”25Now Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one [and the same]; God has told to Pharaoh what He is about to do.). Only Daniel also gets the dream itself revealed and not just the explanation. Daniel and his friends have no doubt about this answer from God.

Daniel’s first reaction is not that he goes to the king to tell him the dream, but a thanksgiving to God. He praises God for Who He is and what He does and what He is capable of. All change comes from Him. It is important to see and realize that. All authority comes from Him. He removes kings and establishes them. He also gives people what they need in wisdom and knowledge.

Daniel is not proud that the dream has been revealed to him and not to his friends. He speaks of a response from God to him and his friends (“us”) to a prayer from him and his friends (“we”). There is no truth that we can call our private property. What we have received belongs to all who believe. This will save us from boasting about what the Lord has given us as insight (cf. 1Cor 4:77For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?).


Daniel before the King

24Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king’s presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.” 25Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king’s presence and spoke to him as follows: “I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!” 26The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?” 27Daniel answered before the king and said, “As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians [nor] diviners are able to declare [it] to the king. 28However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind [while] on your bed. 29As for you, O king, [while] on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. 30But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than [in] any [other] living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

The circumstances, which are all in God’s hand, ensure that Daniel asks for and receives delay. He went to Arioch fearlessly and told him not to kill the wise men. This time it looks more like an order than a request. If God has revealed anything, any reluctance to accept or do so is a stain on His credibility. When Daniel acts in the certainty of faith in what God has revealed, God confirms His presence by paving the way for Daniel to the king. Arioch hurries to bring Daniel to the king.

Arioch introduces Daniel to the king as one of the “exiles from Judah”. This emphasizes that only that people have knowledge of the true God and that God only reveals His thoughts to the members of that people. It also emphasizes that the heads of the peoples depend on them for knowing the revelation of God. The king must know that wisdom can be found among the faithful of that people, who are a remnant, no matter how much the people as a whole have failed.

We see this as a general principle that also applies today. The truth concerning God revealed in Christ can only be found in Christendom. To know the truth Who God is, one must be with “the church of the living God”, for that is “the pillar and support of the truth” (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.), no matter how much the church has failed. In practice, one must be with those who acknowledge to have failed and who want to be faithful to God’s Word as a remnant. Outside the church of the living God one cannot be made know with the knowledge of the truth. This denounces every other world religion as a lie.

There is always a great danger that a person will boast about his knowledge of what God has made known. That is why Daniel’s attitude is so valuable and exemplary. We see in him that real, deep knowledge of the ways of God does not blow up, but humbles. He did not attribute any honor to himself. He declares that he is no smarter than any other person. Everything he knows comes from God, and he therefore gives Him all honor.

The true purpose of what God has shown is to make known to Nebuchadnezzar “what will take place in the later days” and “what will take place in the future” (verses 28,2928However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind [while] on your bed.29As for you, O king, [while] on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.). It is not so much about events in the days nearby, but about what will happen in the end times. Certainly the dream also says something about the near future for Nebuchadnezzar. But it is particularly about the end time. Nebuchadnezzar does not see a statue that grows, but a ready-made statue. And then he sees the destruction of the statue by a stone. He sees this stone grow and become a great mountain (verses 34,35,44,4534You 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.35Then 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.44In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.45Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”). The emphasis is on what the stone does and becomes. When we come to discuss the relevant verses, we will see their great significance.

It seems that Nebuchadnezzar has been very busy in his mind with the coming of his kingdom and that God answers the thoughts of his heart through the dream (verse 3030But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than [in] any [other] living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.; cf. Ecc 5:2a2Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few.). God addressed Nebuchadnezzar personally in the dream: “He has let you know” (verse 2929As for you, O king, [while] on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place.). Contrary to what Elihu observes about ignoring God’s speaking through dreams (Job 33:14-1514“Indeed God speaks once,
Or twice, [yet] no one notices it.
15“In a dream, a vision of the night,
When sound sleep falls on men,
While they slumber in their beds,
), Nebuchadnezzar does heed the dream and wants to know its meaning. He may be a gentile ruler but he is not like so many people today who do not care about the future and their own future.


The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

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.

In his dream Nebuchadnezzar saw a statue. According to the description given, it is not just a statue, but a “great” statue. Furthermore, it is a “large” statue and “of extraordinary splendor”. It has an exceptional appearance. The whole is both impressive by its beauty and terrifying by its largeness. Those who see it are deeply impressed. From the statue a major threat is going out.

This is how Nebuchadnezzar sees the statue. It responds to his view of a world empire. As mentioned in the introduction, this is different from Daniel 7. There the world empires are shown to Daniel. And how does he see them? Like tearing beasts. Daniel sees the character of the empires as God sees it, while Nebuchadnezzar only sees their appearance.

Nebuchadnezzar sees the statue in the form of a statue of man. To this man belongs the earth, it is the earthly man. The statue expresses the self-righteousness of man. Nebuchadnezzar gets to see the realms of the world the way people like to see them. It focuses on the person who boasts of the results of his own efforts.


The Components of the Statue

32The head of that statue [was made] of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, 33its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.

The statue consists of four parts of different material. It presents the history of four successive empires. Yet it is only one statue. The empires can alternate, but the main idea is that authority rests with the nations, regardless of which nations is in power.

The description of the statue begins with the head and ends with the feet. The materials that make up the body parts are decreasing in value. They range from the most expensive to the cheapest material: from gold to silver and copper to iron, finally mixing this iron with clay. That they end in value does not mean that they decrease in size, but in power. We will see that in the explanation.

It is remarkable that the latter empire is not only represented in the legs of iron, but that it is seen even lower, in the feet, which are composed of iron and clay. This means that the fourth realm at the end of its existence (“its feet”) will have a different character than at the beginning (“its legs”). In the beginning it is only iron, which means that there is a coherent whole that is hard like iron. The end, however, will be incoherent, as we see in the feet.

When the statue is explained, we suddenly hear about “the toes of the feet” (verses 41-4241In 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[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.). Then it becomes clear that the last manifestation of this realm will consist of ten realms that are tied up to one realm, just as the toes are connected to the feet.


The End of the Statue

34You 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. 35Then 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 whole statue rests on a construction of iron and clay. That shows how unstable it is. Proof of this is provided when, under the watchful eye of Nebuchadnezzar, a stone is cut out that hits the statue at the feet. The special feature of the cut out stone is that it is “cut out without hands”. This means that no human or human effort is involved here, but that God Himself cuts out this stone and works this result (cf. Job 34:2020“In a moment they die, and at midnight
People are shaken and pass away,
And the mighty are taken away without a hand.
; Col 2:1111and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ;).

As a result of the collision of the stone with the statue, the statue does not just fall down, no, the whole statue is crushed by the stone, nothing remains of it. All materials are blown away by the wind as if they were chaff on a summer threshing floor. The statue is so thoroughly crushed that there is no trace of it to be found.

As the last part of his dream, Nebuchadnezzar sees the enormous contrast between the vanishing of the statue without a trace and what happens to the stone. The stone grows so much that it finally fills the entire earth. What happens to the statue finds its fulfilment just before the establishment of the kingdom of peace where Christ will reign for thousand years. Just before the dawn of eternity something similar is happening. For then heaven and earth flee away from the face of Christ, Who sits on the great white throne, “and no place was found for them” (Rev 20:1111Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.).

The destruction of the statue also contains a lesson. When at the end of time, in the last days, the statue is destroyed, this destruction concerns the whole statue, so all the empires, and not just the last empire. Each empire that has conquered the previous empire has taken in elements of the conquered empire. Therefore, after the destruction, there still something remained. Therefore, all the empires are destroyed at the same time in what is left of them.

Whatever has been said about the stone, whatever explanation was given, it is clear that this stone has never filled the whole earth and that this stone still does not fill the earth. The extermination of the world empires has yet to take place. This means – and this is the lesson – that we still live in the history of the four world empires.

We are now ready for the explanation. It is worth remembering that we do not need history to explain what we read in God’s Word, but that it is the other way around. We need God’s Word to explain history. In retrospect, history always seems to confirm what God said in His Word beforehand about how it will be.


The First Empire

36“This [was] the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. 37You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; 38and 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.

Daniel has accurately rendered the dream. The first condition of Nebuchadnezzar is thus met. Now he can rest assured about the explanation. Daniel begins with the golden head. With due respect he addresses Nebuchadnezzar. Then he says that the ruler has seen in the dream received Who has given him his power. He owes everything he is and owns only to God.

Daniel leaves no doubt as to who represents the golden head. He says to Nebuchadnezzar: “You are the head of gold”. God announces, through the explanation given by Daniel, that He has transferred the rule to Nebuchadnezzar as the head of the nations.

With the appointment of Nebuchadnezzar as head of the nations, “the times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:2424and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.) have begun. Israel is no longer in the land, God no longer lives there, the temple is empty. Israel is no longer the center of the earth and history from the moment that the glory of the LORD has left the temple and the land. A whole new period has begun in which the people have become “Lo-ammi”, which means “not My people” (Hos 1:99And the LORD said, “Name him Lo-ammi, for you are not My people and I am not your God.”
).

God then gave His authority to the head of the nations. God will count history according to the heads of the peoples. The realm of Nebuchadnezzar is the first great world empire after Israel has been set aside. The big difference with the time that Assyria and Egypt were world empires, is that Israel in that time is still recognized by God as His people.

But although God can no longer recognize Israel as His people, He is still in touch with a remnant. The first characteristic of this remnant is faithfulness. And whoever is faithful gets insight in the thoughts of God, in His mystery. Only with those who want to live by the Word of God knowledge of God’s thoughts can be found.

The light they possess is not their own, but is given to them by God. The world can only find God’s thoughts in those who hold faithfully to His Word. Through the dream God makes clear through Daniel’s explanation how the history of the world will go after Israel is set aside.


The Second and Third Empires

39After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.

Nebuchadnezzar is also told that his power is only valid for a certain period of time. Jeremiah determines the duration of his kingdom: three generations will reign (Jer 27:77All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson until the time of his own land comes; then many nations and great kings will make him their servant.). Then his kingdom will be succeeded by other kingdoms. Those other empires will also come to an end. Only the last empire, the fifth one, will be an eternal empire. That is a very special empire.

So the first empire is Babel, represented in Nebuchadnezzar. But there will follow still three empires. If Nebuchadnezzar has already flattered himself with the thought that his kingdom will last forever, something that every ruler has within him, then his dream will burst his bubble. His kingdom will be succeeded by kingdom “inferior to” his, like silver has a lower value than gold. The silver refers to the Medo-Persian empire (Dan 5:2828‘PERES’—your kingdom has been divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”). It is a double realm, which is reflected in the two arms.

But the Medo-Persian empire will also come to an end. There will rise a third world power that will overpower the second world power. The battle between these two empires is described in Daniel 8. There we also hear that this third empire is the kingdom of Greece (Dan 8:2121The shaggy goat [represents] the kingdom of Greece, and the large horn that is between his eyes is the first king.). In just a few years Alexander the Great conquered the huge previous empire and more. From this third empire it is extra mentioned that it is an empire “which will rule over all the earth”. Alexander must have complained that there is no other world to conquer. When he is thirty-three years old, he dies. After that his four generals divided the kingdom among themselves.

The decrease in the value of the metals symbolizes the decrease in power of the successive kings. This state of affairs is not in line with what man claims. According to man, things are getting better and better. But Scripture says that there is decline. This decline, as has been said, is not in the size of the empires, but in the power to be exercised by the rulers of those empires:

1. Nebuchadnezzar is an absolute dictator. He is ruler over everything (verse 3838and 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.; Jer 28:1414For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, “I have put a yoke of iron on the neck of all these nations, that they may serve Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon; and they will serve him. And I have also given him the beasts of the field.”‘“; 27:5-65“I have made the earth, the men and the beasts which are on the face of the earth by My great power and by My outstretched arm, and I will give it to the one who is pleasing in My sight.6Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, My servant, and I have given him also the wild animals of the field to serve him.).
2. In the case of the Medes and Persians, the authority of the king is not absolute. The rulers themselves are bound by the laws of that empire (Dan 6:9,169Therefore King Darius signed the document, that is, the injunction.16Then the king gave orders, and Daniel was brought in and cast into the lions’ den. The king spoke and said to Daniel, “Your God whom you constantly serve will Himself deliver you.”).
3. In the third empire, the ruler’s authority is even less. Alexander is dependent on the support of his generals.
4. The fourth empire, the Roman empire, is the least absolute in its rule. The emperors rule by the grace of the people. How important the voice of the people is, we see in Pilate’s fear that the people are threatening to sue him at the emperor (Jn 19:12-1312As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out [to be] a king opposes Caesar.”13Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.).


The Fourth Empire

40Then 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. 41In 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[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. 43And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery.

The fourth empire is the Roman empire

The proof that the fourth empire is the Roman empire is found especially in Revelation 17. We will discuss this in more detail in a moment. First we must draw attention to another proof. That proof lies in the relationship between the world empires and Israel. Remarkably enough, each of the three world empires mentioned so far has ruled over Israel. That is actually why they are mentioned. A people only has a place in the Bible if it is somehow related to the history of God’s people.

Scripture confirms that the fourth empire, the Roman empire, also ruled over Israel. We read about the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus about Judea (Lk 2:11Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.) and about the reign of the Roman emperor Tiberius (Lk 3:11Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene,). Other places in the Gospels also prove Rome’s rule over the land of Israel (Lk 20:22-2422Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”23But He detected their trickery and said to them,24“Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.”; Jn 11:4848If we let Him [go on] like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”; 19:10,11,1510So Pilate *said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?”11Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has [the] greater sin.”15So they cried out, “Away with [Him], away with [Him], crucify Him!” Pilate *said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.”). It should not surprise us that we find this back in history. In the year 63 BC Pompejus conquered Judea that after that became a Roman province.

The three preceding empires are described relatively briefly. In comparison, the description of the Roman empire is comprehensive.. This description with the explanation gives some details that show that this very empire is extraordinarily interesting. And when we see that the history of Europe is given to us in this empire, the data interest us all the more.

Two phases

In the development of the Roman empire, two phases can be distinguished that are related to the division of the empire into an eastern and a western part. The Western Roman empire ceases to exist when Rome is destroyed in the year 476. It was not until 1453 that the Eastern Roman empire comes to an end, when the Turks conquer it. Of these two empires, the Western Roman empire falls within the framework of prophecy.

This leads us to the discussion of a problem that we first have to deal with, before we continue: How can the stone hit the statue at the feet, i.e. the Roman empire, when it no longer exists? As a solution to this problem, it has been thought that the stone represents Christendom, which originated through Christ. Then, with the advent of Christendom, the dream of Nebuchadnezzar must have been fulfilled.

But the coming of Christ, and with Him Christendom, did not destroy the empire. As for Christ, the opposite is true. That empire has killed Christ. But Christendom cannot be the fulfilment either. The dream shows the crushing of the statue as a sudden thing, after which the stone fills all the earth. Who would dare to state that Christendom suddenly attacked the Roman empire and then gained general rule over the world?

The fourth empire is still to come

This means that this fourth empire still has to come. But how is that possible? It has existed anyway and now it no longer exists, isn’t it? The solution to this problem is found in Revelation 17, already mentioned. There we read of the beast representing the Roman empire (Dan 7:7-87After this I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, a fourth beast, dreadful and terrifying and extremely strong; and it had large iron teeth. It devoured and crushed and trampled down the remainder with its feet; and it was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.8While I was contemplating the horns, behold, another horn, a little one, came up among them, and three of the first horns were pulled out by the roots before it; and behold, this horn possessed eyes like the eyes of a man and a mouth uttering great [boasts].; Rev 13:1-111And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns [were] ten diadems, and on his heads [were] blasphemous names.2And the beast which I saw was like a leopard, and his feet were like [those] of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion. And the dragon gave him his power and his throne and great authority.3[I saw] one of his heads as if it had been slain, and his fatal wound was healed. And the whole earth was amazed [and followed] after the beast;4they worshiped the dragon because he gave his authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, “Who is like the beast, and who is able to wage war with him?”5There was given to him a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him.6And he opened his mouth in blasphemies against God, to blaspheme His name and His tabernacle, [that is,] those who dwell in heaven.7It was also given to him to make war with the saints and to overcome them, and authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation was given to him.8All who dwell on the earth will worship him, [everyone] whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.9If anyone has an ear, let him hear.10If anyone [is destined] for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed. Here is the perseverance and the faith of the saints.11Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon.): “It was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss” (Rev 17:88“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.). Not only is the empire itself divided into two parts, east and west, but the history of the empire also consists of two parts, that is, two phases. The first phase of the empire is past, it “was”. And at present the empire does not exist, “and is not”. The second phase is still the future, “and is about to come up out of the abyss”.

It is clear that for the prophecy to be fulfilled, the once disappeared Western Roman empire must be restored. This restoration is still future, but this future has come very close! During the course of history several people have tried to restore this empire to its former glory. Powerful rulers such as Napoleon and Hitler all tried to revive this empire by force. It did not work. The empire will therefore not be established by force and conquest, but by that ten kings will voluntarily give their power to an autocrat (Rev 17:12-1312The ten horns which you saw are ten kings who have not yet received a kingdom, but they receive authority as kings with the beast for one hour.13These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.).

The legs, the feet and the toes

These ten kings are already symbolically indicated in the statue. If we still look for a moment at the part of the statue representing the Roman empire, the legs and the feet, we can see in the two legs and the two feet with the ten toes the two phases of the Roman empire. The two legs are a picture of the two parts of the former Roman empire, that is the Western Roman empire and the Eastern Roman empire. The ten toes represent the division of the empire in the future.

It points out that in its final phase this kingdom will be composed of ten kingdoms, according to the ten toes (cf. Dan 7:2424As for the ten horns, out of this kingdom ten kings will arise; and another will arise after them, and he will be different from the previous ones and will subdue three kings.). The future empire will consist of ten parts, each with a king, a situation that the empire never knew in its former existence. If these ten parts of Europe have voluntarily joined together, that empire will be destroyed by the coming of Christ, for He, and no one else, is represented in the stone that rolls off the mountain.

The toes are not only made of iron, but of iron and clay. This indicates a binding of something hard like iron with something brittle like clay. Iron and clay are two elements that by their nature cannot be mixed. They both maintain their own characteristics. It is a hard and at the same time a brittle kingdom. The performance is hard, but it is not a compact unit. We can think of the democratic principle that is incompatible with authoritarian state power that wants to act with military force. These things are reflected in the current drive towards one Europe.

Clay also represents man, where we can think of individualism, self-interest, personal freedom and participation. We see that also clearly present in Europe. We see the power of the great whole on the one hand, and the maintenance of national interests on the other.

History

Incidentally, the decline and finally the fall of the once mighty Roman empire has been a subject of study for many historians. Their amazement is at a different level than that of John. We have already talked about one of the suggested causes of the fall of the Roman empire, Christendom. Some other causes are mentioned in a booklet edited by Donald Kagan, ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Why Did it Collapse?’. In it a number of historians have their say. Everyone comes to their own conclusion after research. And these conclusions are very diverse.

The one blames the downfall to a class struggle, a struggle of the slaves against the ruling class. Another believes that climatic conditions are the cause. As a result, there would have been no rain for a certain period of time, resulting in crop failures and population displacement. That would have had an effect on the strength of the army, because the growth of recruits has been halted by the withdrawal of the population. Yet another considers it possible that racial mixing has caused the decay. (Hitler may have wanted to arm himself against this last aspect when considering his measures for the maintenance and promotion of a purely Germanic or Aryan race. The idea of growing a super breed came from Heinrich Himmler, a close employee of Hitler.)

All these historians are wrong with their assumptions. Scripture is the only reliable source for history. Scripture also describes history when everything has yet to happen. That is because Scripture is the speaking of God (Rom 9:1717For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.”) and God declares the end from the beginning (Isa 46:1010Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying, ‘My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure’;
).


The Fifth Empire

44In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. 45Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.”

Although Daniel does not mention the number ten – John does (Rev 17:1313These have one purpose, and they give their power and authority to the beast.) – he speaks of “kings” (verse 4444In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.). The empires of all those kings come to an end, because “the God of heaven” establishes a kingdom that is eternal. This fifth empire is a total replacement of the fourth and will not be succeeded. The previous kingdoms have always ended. This kingdom has no end. It puts an end to all previous empires and itself endures forever. Nothing and nobody is able to overcome this empire. It does not belong to the statue and does not absorb anything of it, as the previous empires did with the empires they conquered.

The stone, the last empire, completely destroys the statue and then grows into a mountain. This kingdom is not established by a man, “not by hands”, but by God (cf. Heb 9:24a24For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a [mere] copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us;; 2Cor 5:11For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.). This kingdom originates with God in heaven. When Jesus Christ establishes His kingdom, He will first judge all the power of man. The stone is a picture of Christ (Lk 20:17-1817But Jesus looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written:
‘THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED,
THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone’?
18Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.”
). In Daniel 7 we will see that the cutting of the stone corresponds to the return of Jesus Christ.

Time and again Daniel uses the words “you saw” in his explanation. In this way he reminds the king of what he saw with his own eyes. It is an extra emphasis of the truth of the dream and the explanation. Daniel concludes his explanation by pointing to “the great God” as the Origin of the dream and declaring that the “dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy”. Everything that comes from God provides a handhold, you can rely on that.


Homage from Nebuchadnezzar

46Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. 47The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” 48Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel [was] at the king’s court.

Nebuchadnezzar is deeply impressed by the explanation by Daniel. He has let him finish without interrupting him. There is no doubt whatsoever with him about its accuracy. He feels that he is dealing with a power that completely shadows his power. The great, mighty king falls down before Daniel and worships him. The golden head proves a poor exile divine honor!

It is impossible to imagine that Daniel accepted that divine tribute, nor the sacrifices. That is contrary to his character and his piety. Peter refuses this honor also when Cornelius honors him, as do Paul and Barnabas when the crowds want to sacrifice to them as if they were gods (Acts 10:25-2625When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped [him].26But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am [just] a man.”; 14:14-1514But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out15and saying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM.).

Through what Nebuchadnezzar says about God, we see that he has not truly come to repentance and conversion. He praises the God of Daniel. That God has also become his God is unfortunately not apparent.

He does Daniel great honor and loads him with gifts. Daniel lets his friends share in the honor. He has asked them to pray for and with him for outcome regarding the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. Now that Nebuchadnezzar has made him head over all the wise men, he uses his position to give his friends certain privileges. Faith shares in distress and in prosperity (cf. 1Cor 12:2626And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if [one] member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.).


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