A Dream in the Night: Prophecies in Daniel Chapter Two 

?In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams? (Daniel 2:1). These
dreams occurred early in Nebuchadnezzar?s long reign. Since Daniel was brought
to Babylonin the first year of his reign, we can assume that he has entered
service to the king fairly recently. He may even still be in the training period
referred to in Daniel chapter one.

Apparently, the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar are extremely vivid. Upon awakening,
he is convinced that they have some significance beyond those of ordinary dreams.
Surely this dream is from the ?gods.? He is absolutely determined to learn the
meaning of his vision in the night. The problem is that his customary method of
determining the ?truth? is unreliable. As with Nebuchadnezzar, those who regularly
rely on astrology, numerology or the psychic hotline in an attempt to gain control
over a seemingly uncontrollable world eventually become aware that these methods
are not reliable. Nebuchadnezzar is willing to go so far as to rely on divination
to determine when to go to war because to some extent he can control a battlefield
situation by gathering an army of sufficient size to overcome his enemy. In a war,
he can partially rely on the diviners and partially on himself. In the case
of these dreams, however, Nebuchadnezzar feels totally at the mercy of whatever
divine force caused the dream.

For this reason, he is not content to ask his magicians, enchanters, sorcerers,
astrologers and various other ?psychics? (to use the modern term) for a simple
interpretation of the dream. He wants them to tell him the details of the dream
before interpreting it. Nebuchadnezzar reasons that if they can tell him what he dreamed,
then he can trust their interpretation of the dream. ?No fair,? the astrologers
shout. ?No one has ever demanded such proof that we actually have real power
to determine the truth. Since when did we have to prove our methods really work??
Perhaps no one had ever demanded proof from these deceivers simply because they
wanted to believe what the magicians had to say. The words of 2 Timothy 4:3,4
have always been true. Most people prefer having their ?ears scratched? to hearing
the truth about difficult things. The psychics provide us with a soothing belief
that we have some control over our lives. We certainly do not want to mess up
this nice feeling with questions about whether it is actually true or not. ?Don?t
confuse me with the truth.? Nebuchadnezzar has long been party to this silent
conspiracy in which one does not ask for proof because one is secretly aware
that it is all an illusion.

Praise God that those who believe in the Bible do not have to play this game.
The Bible is the real thing. The inspiring fact is that the more strongly one
examines the Bible for proofs of its divine authorship, the more confident that
person will become that it is indeed the word of God.

Under the intense pressure he feels to understand the meaning of his vivid dream,
Nebuchadnezzar decides to stop the game of pretending the religious people around
him actually have some power to determine truth. If it were not a life and death
matter, the scene would be comic. The magicians plead one more time for Nebuchadnezzar
to recite the dream. All these professional psychics are well aware that their
powers are just a hoax. Notice that as far as we can tell, they do not even
consider the possibility of trying to use their supposed powers to determine the content
of the dream. Their conspiracy of silence is about to be uncovered, and they
are about to be cut into pieces. The king answers, ?I am certain that you are
trying to gain time? (v. 8). Nebuchadnezzar levels an indictment against these
religious pretenders which would apply with equal weight to today?s new-age
mystics, astrologers and faith healers: ?You have conspired to tell me misleading
and wicked things.? Nebuchadnezzar stands his ground. Tell me the dream or you
will be cut to pieces.

The magicians? answer reveals their deceit. They say ?There is not a man on
earth who can do what the king asks? 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.?
They could have added: ?Our claim to have access to those gods was a dissimilation
all along, and you know it, O Nebuchadnezzar, so it is unfair for you to suddenly
demand of us what you know it is impossible for us to do.?

The stalling does not placate Nebuchadnezzar at all, to say the least. A decree
is issued to execute all the ?wise? men in Israel. This is where our protagonists
come in. Guess who is on the list of wise men?Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and

Daniel?s response is in diametric opposition to that of the magicians. Instead
of making excuses, he acknowledges the logic in Nebuchadnezzar?s demand. In
faith, he simply asks for time to seek from his God the content of the dream
and its interpretation. Why have the other magicians not thought of this ?delay tactic??
The idea of pretending they might actually be able to answer the question has
never even occurred to them.

Please look at Daniel?s instinctual first response to a very trying situation.
He goes back to his house, gathers his close spiritual companions, and together
they pray to God for help and guidance in this time of trouble (v. 18). That
night, God answers their prayer. Their faith is rewarded. Rather than immediately rushing
out to tell Nebuchadnezzar the dream, Daniel first takes the time to give glory
to God in prayer. He writes what could be called The Psalm of Daniel. This psalm expresses
the theme of the book of Daniel more eloquently than this author could ever
hope to accomplish:


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; [in Bible for us]

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 2:20-23)


It would seem that during the night, God had caused Daniel to have the identical
dream that Nebuchadnezzar had experienced earlier. The header to this section
in the New International Version is ?Nebuchadnezzar?s Dream.? It could equally
well have been ?Nebuchadnezzar?s and Daniel?s Dream.? In both humility and confidence,
Daniel goes before the king.

Nebuchadnezzar asks Daniel ?Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and
interpret it?? Someone less spiritual than Daniel would have nervously blurted
out ?Yes I can.? That the youth Daniel is able to keep his head in this circumstance
is a testimony to his relationship with God.  Instead, Daniel gives all the glory to
God (v. 28) and none to himself (v. 30). Using the situation as an opportunity
for evangelism, Daniel explains that only the true God?the God of Israel?could
reveal such a mystery. Daniel pointedly reminds Nebuchadnezzar that the enchanters,
magicians and diviners are powerless to reveal truth. He is aware that Nebuchadnezzar
is likely to add Jehovah to his pantheon of ?gods
?, rather than worship the
Lord Jehovah alone. Unfortunately, it would appear that Daniel?s fears were realized.

So Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar his dream. And an awesome dream it is! Nebuchadnezzar
(and Daniel) have seen an enormous, dazzling statue. The chief characteristic
of this statue is its division into four parts.  It is composed of a head of gold,
chests and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, and legs of iron. Daniel
supplies additional information about the legs. The legs are made of iron, but
the feet are partly of iron and partly of clay. Daniel goes on to relate to Nebuchadnezzar
that at the end of the dream, a huge rock appeared suddenly out of nowhere.
Unlike the statue, which apparently was man-made, this rock was not of human
origin. Daniel describes how this rock struck the statue; shattering it into
?dust, which blew away in the wind, leaving behind only this giant rock which
?filled the whole earth.?

At this Nebuchadnezzar is absolutely floored. Daniel has been able to describe
to him in vivid and complete detail the exact dream he experienced. Probably
Daniel has even filled in details which were vague in Nebuchadnezzar?s mind.
He now knows that, as he had suspected, this dream truly is a message from ?the
gods,? or more accurately, from the God. Daniel immediately launches into the interpretation
of the dream. There is some bad news for Nebuchadnezzar in this dream, so Daniel
wisely (no one ever has accused Daniel of lack of wisdom) sets the stage by
telling Nebuchadnezzar how awesome he is. ?You, O king, are the king of kings….
You are the head of gold? (v. 37, 38).

What does this mean? Daniel is telling Nebuchadnezzar that the head of gold
represents the Babylonian Empire. It is worth noting the courage of Daniel in
telling Nebuchadnezzar that the source of his power is a foreign god?the God
of Israel. ?The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory?
he has made you ruler over them all? (v. 37. 38). Daniel is risking a prideful
and violent response from Nebuchadnezzar in telling him his success is due to
the power of a god from a nation he has conquered, rather than any special positive
qualities of personal strength or wisdom on the part of the king. Such are the
fearless acts of a righteous man of God as he proclaims the God of heaven to
a pagan king.

In case there is any doubt that Daniel is saying the head of gold represents
the Babylonian Empire, rather than just Nebuchadnezzar himself, consider verse
39: ?After you another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours.? Based on the historical
material in chapter two, one can be confident the kingdom being referred to,
the silver kingdom, is the Persian/Mede Empire. This empire did not succeed
Nebuchadnezzar himself. The Persian/Mede Empire succeeded the empire he helped to
establish?Babylon. Again wisely, Daniel slips through his description second empire quickly,
perhaps to avoid raising the ire of Nebuchadnezzar. He succinctly describes
this second empire (Persia/Media) as ?inferior? to Nebuchadnezzar?s. Surely,
the Persian/Median Empire was, as Daniel describes, inferior to Babylonin some way,
but Daniel does not give details. Perhaps Daniel is referring to the city of B
abylonitself, which was grander than any city ever built by the Medes or the Persians.
In point of fact, in almost any important characteristic, the empire established
by Cyrus was much greater than the Babylonian. It was much greater in extent
of territory (see the map in the appendix), in wealth and in duration of its power.[
1] In a different context, when Daniel is not pointing out that this kingdom will
destroy Babylon, God will reveal much more detail about the nature of the Persian/Median

Daniel goes on to mention the ?bronze? kingdom which will rule over the whole
earth. There can be no reasonable doubt that God, through Daniel, is telling
us about the Greek Empire established by Alexander the Great. This is the empire
which conquered and destroyed the Persia/Mede Empire. Of course, Alexander?s
empire did not literally cover the whole earth. However, his armies did conquer
an area considerably greater than any other empire in the world up to that point
in time (see the map in the appendix).

Last, Daniel describes the ?iron? kingdom, which is the greatest empire of them
all. Like iron, it will be so strong that it will be able to break and smash
every kingdom that came before it. What empire is Daniel referring to? What
empire in the history of mankind could be described as an empire of iron which broke
and smashed all other empires that came before it? Even with only a rudimentary
background in history, without knowing what power destroyed the Greek dynasties,
it is easy to identify this empire. It must be Rome. Rome, without question,
is the greatest empire in the history of mankind. There is not even a close
second. Counting the Eastern Roman Empire, Romewas the dominant power at the
crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africafor almost two thousand years.


Figure 18. Alexander the Great, silver tetradrachm.  Note that the horn is a symbol of divinity.


So according to the prophetic dream, Romeis to succeed the Greek power. This
vision provides very little detail about the Greek Empires. The visions recorded
in Daniel chapters eight and eleven will expand greatly on this third kingdom.

In the dream, God supplies more detail to Nebuchadnezzar (and to us) about
Rome. According to the dream, Rome?will be a divided kingdom? (v. 41). That
is exactly what happened! It is difficult to give an exact date for the division
of Romeinto east and west, as the division occurred in stages. Diocletian (AD
284-305) was the first to establish western and eastern emperors. Constantine
the Great (AD 306-337) established a permanent eastern capital at Byzantium(later called
Constantinople, now called Istanbul). The division became permanent under Theodosian
after AD 395. This political division ultimately defined the division of the
church into the (Roman) Catholic and the (Greek) Orthodox.

Daniel gets this historical detail correct almost one thousand years before
it occurred. One is supplied with even more information about the divided R
oman Empirein the dream. Part of it will be brittle, like clay, and part if it will
be strong, like iron. Again, that is a wonderfully appropriate description of
the history of the Roman Empire. After the division, the Western Empireproved to be weak,
like clay. It was able to withstand the attacks of the ?barbarian? Goths, Vandals
and others for only a very short time. Romeitself was sacked and the last identifiable
Western Roman emperor (Romulus Augustulus) was deposed on 476 AD.  The Western
?Empirelasted only about one hundred years after the permanent split.

On the other hand, the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as Byzantium, endure
d for over one thousand years. It definitely was the ?iron? leg. This empire
was not completely overcome until the capture of Constantinopleby the Ottomans
on May 29, 1453. For eight hundred years, Byzantiumstood as Christendom?s eastern
flank against the Moslem expansion. Could God have described this empire more

This is amazing! Using a dream which was given to both Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel,
God has provided an outline of the future history of the Near Eastand the Mediterranean
?world for the next two thousand years. In 603 BC God sent Nebuchadnezzar a
dream which described the great events of history all the way down to 1453 AD!
Is there any other book ever written by man that can even begin to touch this
great prophecy? The history of the world for the next two thousand years!!

Perhaps you are a bit disappointed. Although the dream covered a long period
of time, it did not supply much detail in this particular future history lesson.
Just you wait! If it is details you want, God has a lot of those in store for
you as well.

Where is the precedent for what God did here? It would almost be disrespectful
to God to even mention the names of the supposed psychics of the twentieth century
who give vague predictions for the coming year or at most the next few years.
Their predictions are occasionally vague enough to be correct, such as ?I predict there
will be a sexual scandal in Washingtonnext year.? The most famous supposed prophet
of our century happened to predict the assassination of John F. Kennedy the
year before it happened. She built an entire career on this one lucky guess.
Did she ever get another major specific prediction right? Some would mention Nostradamus,
the French practitioner of ?black magic.? Go to your local library and read
some of his writings. You will find extremely obtuse references that have the
advantage of being applicable to almost any situation in any country at any time.
The Bible is unique, even among the literature of world religions. Unlike Nostradamus,
the prophecies of Daniel make predictions which are very definite and specific
in what they predict.

Remember the theme of Daniel. God rules the nations: do not fear. Is there any
way God could have provided stronger evidence that he rules the nations than
to tell us hundreds of years before the events exactly what these nations will
do? Is there any way he could have provided more incontrovertible proof that his
Bible is inspired?



Figure 19.  Constantine the Great.

But there is one more historical detail. This particular part of the dream and
Daniel?s interpretation of it is the most encouraging of all. ?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? (Daniel 2:44). ?Those kings?
refer to the kings of Rome. What kingdom was established during the time of Ro
methat is still going strong right up to this very day? In looking at history,
it is impossible to choose a physical empire that fits this description. Remember,
though, that human hands did not build this kingdom. God will establish this
kingdom (v. 44). The kingdom established during the time of the Roman kings is
the church: the kingdomof God.[2]

Daniel truly is the prophet of comfort. As more and more of the prophecies contained
in Daniel were fulfilled, God?s people were supplied with an ever-increasing
body of evidence to convince them that eventually he would establish a kingdom
on earth?the kingdom we call the church. It is true that many of the Jews misunderstood
the nature of this kingdom, expecting it to be a political/military government,
but God made it clear to them in the book of Daniel and elsewhere that it would
be a spiritual kingdom.

It is interesting to realize that many Jews today are still waiting for this
kingdom to be established. It is a central tenet of Judaism that the Messiah
will come and establish God?s reign on the earth. Whether Jews will accept that
Jesus is the Messiah or not, the prophecy in Daniel chapter two seems to imply that
the kingdom the Jews are waiting for was to be established in the time of R
ome. Romehas come and gone long ago. What are the Jews waiting for now?

What encouragement and what comfort this prophecy gives to the Christian. First,
they can observe with retrospect the fulfillment of the entire two thousand
years of prophecy. Secondly, they have been provided with undeniable proof that
the kingdomof Godis indeed of God and that it will ultimately overcome every power
in the world. God is in control. Do not fear. Only obey him in righteous, patient
service as did Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and you will be vindicated.
This is the message of the second part of Daniel.

What is the immediate result of Daniel?s interpretation of the dream? Nebuchadnezzar
is totally overcome by his recital of his dream and its interpretation. He falls
prostrate before Daniel, proclaiming ?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? (v. 47). Unfortunately, Nebuchadnezzar has not quite put God in the
right place yet. Thanks to the religious experience he just had, Nebuchadnezzar
has admitted that God is the chief of the gods. He is not quite ready to acknowledge
that he is the only true God. Nebuchadnezzar?s partial conversion is encouraging,
but one should be skeptical of such emotional responses to religious experiences.
It would be wiser to, like God, look for people to ?prove their repentance by
their deeds? (Acts 26:20).

In gratitude, the king raises Daniel into a high position in his government
and showers many gifts on him. Daniel is given a very practical reminder that
his God is in control of nations and kings as he is promoted. You want a promotion
at work. That is a good thing, but will the promotion tempt you to compromise
your walk with God?  Follow the example of Daniel and continue to rely on God with
all your heart.  By the way, in addition, Daniel?s three godly friends are promoted
along with him.  This will become significant in chapter nine.

Before moving on to the next dream about the great tree, it will be important
to consider what the critics of Daniel have to say about this astounding prophecy
of the four kingdoms. Those who do not accept that the Bible is from God must
come up with a response to this apparent proof that the book of Daniel shows signs
of miraculous origin. In discussing the later chapters of Daniel, it will be
shown that Daniel reveals the history of the Near Eastfrom his own time period up
to about 160 BC in such astounding accuracy that even the strongest critic of
the reliability of the Bible has no choice but to admit it is indeed accurate

What will the theologian or skeptic who is not ready to accept the simple truth
that Daniel is from God do about the four kingdom prophecy? They will take the
only available alternative. Many theologians have claimed that Daniel was written
somewhere around 160 BC or later. In other words, these theologians claim that the
reason Daniel is so accurate is that it was not Daniel who did the writing.
Instead, they would claim that an author posing as Daniel described events which
had already taken place when the book was written. If this accusation were true,
it would certainly put claims of Biblical inspiration in a bad light.

There is plenty of evidence to show that this simply cannot be the case. Some
of that evidence has already been mentioned; some of it will be described later.
For example, the strongest argument supposedly supporting the later date for
the writing of Daniel is the language used in the book. As previously shown, the
language of Daniel cannot in reality be used to support a second century BC
date at all.

Even if one puts aside for now the weak evidence that Daniel
was written in
about 160 BC, those who want to support a late date for the writing of Daniel
have a problem in Daniel chapter two. This chapter predicts events which occurred
much later than 150 BC, to say the least. For example it accurately predicts the
establishment of the kingdomof God( about AD 30) and details about Romewhic
h were fulfilled hundreds of years after that. The answer these skeptics have
come up with is to claim that the four kingdoms of Daniel chapter two are not B
abylon, Persia/Media, Greeceand Rome.

There are different versions of this theory. One of them is to hold that the
four kingdoms are: 1) Nebuchadnezzar himself, 2) Babylon, 3) Persia/Media and
4) Greece. The second of them is: 1) Babylon, 2) Media, 3) Persia, and 4) G
reece. These views will be discussed carefully, but one must remember the purpose
of these theories. They are not the most reasonable fit of history to the dream.
They are an attempt to explain how the book of Daniel could include such accurate
historical detail without resorting to the seemingly obvious explanation that the
writing of Daniel is from God.

A table is included below which shows the four parts of the statue, the correct
interpretation of the prophecy and the two most common alternative explanations.




??????????????? ?Correct? Explanation
??????????????????????????????? Theory #1
??????????????????????????????????????????????? Theory #2

Head of gold

??????????????? Babylon
??????????????????????????????? Nebuchadnezzar
??????????????????????????????????????????????? Babylon

Chest and arms of silver

??????????????? Persia/Media
??????????????????????????????? Babylon
??????????????????????????????????????????????? Media

Belly and thighs of bronze

??????????????? Greece
??????????????????????????????? Persia/Media
??????????????????????????????????????????????? Persia

Legs of iron

??????????????? Rome
??????????????????????????????? Greece
??????????????????????????????????????????????? Greece


There are a number of reasons to reject theory #1. First, Daniel 2:39 says,
?After you, another kingdom will rise.? How would Nebuchadnezzar interpret this?
Would he interpret his successor, his own son, as ?another kingdom? from his
own? In fact, all the kings of the Babylonian Empire were related to Nebuchadnezzar,
either by direct descent or by marriage. If a separate dynasty had ever ruled Bab
ylon, this might at least have the semblance of believability. Besides this, in
studying the four beasts of Daniel seven, which are clearly parallel to the
four parts of the statue in chapter two, it will be shown that there is no way
conceivable to identify Nebuchadnezzar as the first beast and the rest of his
empire as the second beast. In addition to all this, if one were to accept theory
#1, the church would have to have been established during the time of the Greek
kings. Who can believe that explanation?

Theory #2 is the most popular explanation of the theologians.[3] This theory also has several
problems which seem to make it untenable, despite the great number of well-educated
people who have supported it. The Babylon, Media, Persia, Greecetheory gets
in trouble right away. Cyrus defeated Astyages, the last independent Median
king in 550 BC. Babylonexisted as an independent kingdom until 539 BC. In other
words, Media was removed as an independent empire before Babylon. There is no
way history allows one to put Media after Babylonbut before Persia. Media itself
was never truly a great empire, and it never had any significant impact on
Israel,[4] whereas Babylon, Persia(with its subordinate Median allies) Gree
ceand Romerepresent the successive overlords of Israel. It would probably be fair
to say that if a student were not predisposed to forcing the fourth kingdom
to be Greece, no one would ever have proposed the Babylon, Media, Persia, G
reecetheory. In addition to the facts mentioned above, this theory would have the
Messiah establishing the kingdomof Godduring the tenure of the Greek kingdom?
something which is obviously not possible.

In summary, the four kingdoms of Daniel chapter two are Babylon, Persia/Med
ia, Greeceand Rome. During the time of the Roman kings, God established a kingdom,
which will never be destroyed: the Kingdomof God. Those who hold to other theories
do so, not because the facts of history support them, but rather because they
want to uphold a theory that can discount the divine, prophetic nature of the

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