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Go to Bible: Daniel 2
“In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar.” God gave Nebuchadnezzar his dream which resulted in the elevation of Daniel (Belteshazzar), Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abednego) to top positions in Babylon. In those positions they were able to considerably influence the religious and political climate of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar himself reigned 44 years, and with this incident began to honor Yahweh, the God of Israel. He honored other gods as well, but he clearly recognized Yahweh as a most important, perhaps even the most important, God.(top)
|Dan 2:2||- (top)|
|Dan 2:3||- (top)|
|Dan 2:4||- (top)|
“you will be cut in pieces.” The text is more literally, “you will be made limbs” or “you will be made pieces.” This was not an idle threat, Nebuchadnezzar was fully capable of inflicting such a punishment. John Collins writes, “The dismemberment of enemies is attested in ancient Mesopotamia, but see also the late cases of the death of Antiochus III as reported in 2 Macc 1:16 and the dismemberment of an informer in the time of Herod (Ant 15.8.4; 289) (Hermeneia; A Critical and Historical Commentary: Daniel). Because the text can be understood in different ways and the punishment delivered different ways, and the word “limb” in the text, some English versions read that you will be “torn limb from limb,” but the word “piece” or “limb” only occurs once in the text.
“dunghill.” It is hard to know exactly what Nebuchadnezzar had in mind here, and his punishment might even have varied according to the severity of the crime. The word can refer to a ruins after the house has been demolished, or a garbage dump, or a public latrine. Given his emotional state at the time, that he would suggest that the houses of people who spoke against God would be made into public latrines is quite likely.(top)
|Dan 2:6||- (top)|
|Dan 2:7||- (top)|
|Dan 2:8||- (top)|
|Dan 2:9||- (top)|
|Dan 2:10||- (top)|
|Dan 2:11||- (top)|
|Dan 2:12||- (top)|
|Dan 2:13||- (top)|
|Dan 2:14||- (top)|
“urgent.” The Aramaic word can also mean “harsh,” but in the context, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar thought the wise men had conspired to make up lies about his dream would explain the harshness, but why the need to act so hastily? What had gotten the king so stirred up? Daniel did not ask the death sentence be reduced if it was warranted, but rather that the speed of executing the decree was modified and he was given some time to seek God.(top)
|Dan 2:16||- (top)|
|Dan 2:17||- (top)|
|Dan 2:18||- (top)|
|Dan 2:19||- (top)|
|Dan 2:20||- (top)|
|Dan 2:21||- (top)|
|Dan 2:22||- (top)|
|Dan 2:23||- (top)|
|Dan 2:24||- (top)|
“I have found.” Arioch was experienced enough not to miss this chance to make himself seem more important to Nebuchadnezzar. In a culture where the favor of the king could make or break a person’s future, what Arioch said could pay huge dividends down the road. Of course, if Daniel was wrong, it could mean Arioch’s head, so he must have really trusted Daniel.(top)
|Dan 2:26||- (top)|
|Dan 2:27||- (top)|
“there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets.” This statement by Daniel could well be the key to understanding why Nebuchadnezzar was so zealous about having people bow down before his statue. He knew that he had had a dream from God and what he built represented God’s revelation to humankind. There is no indication in the text that Nebuchadnezzar made a statue of himself or for his own glory, especially when the revelation from God was that his kingdom would come to an end and be replaced by other kingdoms that would come after him. Contrast this revelation of his empire coming to an end with the revelation that Nathan gave to David that his dynasty would last forever (2 Sam. 7:13, 16, 25-29).(top)
|Dan 2:29||- (top)|
|Dan 2:30||- (top)|
“statue.” Although many English versions read “image,” that gives the wrong impression to the reader. The Aramaic word is tselem (#06755 צֶלֶם), and what Nebuchadnezzar saw was not an “image” in the modern sense of an image in a mirror or in ones’ mind, but an “image” of something in the sense that an idol is an “image” of a god, a physical representation of a god. What Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was a statue, in this case a statue—a physical representation—that represented the timeline of future kingdoms.(top)
|Dan 2:32||- (top)|
|Dan 2:33||- (top)|
“it struck the image on its feet.” It has been historically believed that the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay in Daniel’s vision refer to the Roman Empire. There are a number of reasons why people believe this; for example, Rome was divided into two parts, Western and Eastern Rome, which at first glance seems to match the two legs of the image. Furthermore, we Westerners tend to focus on Rome. However, the Bible never says the fourth kingdom is Rome, and there are a number of reasons why the Roman Empire is not the best choice. To us, the Islamic “kingdom” (“empire”), the Caliphate, is much more likely than Rome (by the way, the Islamic Empire is also divided into two major parts).
One of the reasons Rome cannot be the fourth kingdom is that the vision was given to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and Rome never controlled Babylon. In the vision, Daniel was explaining to Nebuchadnezzar the “kingdoms” that would arise after him (we often refer to these “kingdoms” as “empires”). Thus, the vision focuses upon kingdoms that were in the area of Babylon. There were many ancient empires that arose around the world that were arguably as great as Babylon, but they were not part of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision because they were not in the area of Babylon. We would argue that Rome, to the west of Babylon, was one of those empires not included in the vision. The empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece all controlled Babylon and are the first three empires of the vision—the head of gold, chest of silver, and belly and thighs of bronze.
Another reason that Rome is not a good candidate for the fourth empire in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision is that this fourth empire, or “fourth beast,” is specifically said on three different occasions to be “different from all the others” (Daniel 7:7, 19, 23). It will devour, crush, and trample all the other kingdoms. But Rome was not different from the kingdoms that came before it, and it did not devour, crush, and trample the kingdoms it conquered. On the contrary, Rome assimilated the kingdoms it conquered and adopted much from them, including art, music, athletics, religion, language, and more. In fact, the most widely spoken language of the Roman empire was Greek, not Latin. But the Islamic empire is different from the kingdoms that came before it. Islam is so strict that no other worship is tolerated, Arabic is the dominant language, and almost everything in the culture from dress, to art, and even to personal sexual behavior, is strictly limited to what Islamic law allows. The countries that have been conquered by Islam have quickly succumbed to its strict regulations.
Another reason that the Roman Empire is not a good candidate for the fourth kingdom is that the fourth empire will exist when Christ fights the Battle of Armageddon and conquers the earth (Dan. 2:44). But the Roman Empire does not exist now, and it seems quite impossible that it would arise in these last days. The great empire that arose in the area of Babylon after Greece, and that will almost certainly exist at the time of Christ’s return, is the Islamic Empire.
Some defenders of the Rome theory say that the fourth empire will be the Roman Catholic Church, but that does not fit with the details given in the Bible. The fourth empire in Daniel is an actual empire that conquers others and crushes and smashes them. But the Roman Catholic Church is not that kind of empire. Many different religions and cultures exist even where Roman Catholicism is the dominant religion. Furthermore, the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are moving in the opposite direction of Daniel’s prophecy. Instead of being vehemently against other religions and crushing them, the Catholic Church is becoming more welcoming of other religions and beliefs, even to the point of Pope Francis saying he would baptize aliens if they came to earth (May 2014).
Another thing about Nebuchadnezzar’s vision is that during the time of the fourth empire, “a stone was cut out, but not by human hands” and it smashes the fourth empire (Dan. 2:34). The “stone” is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and he will destroy the fourth empire, which at that time will be ruled by the Antichrist. Yet Daniel goes on to say that when that fourth empire is destroyed, all the empires before it will be destroyed also (Dan. 2:35). This has caused some commentators to suggest that all of the four empires exist together, but it is clear that they do not, they succeed one another (Dan. 2:39; 7:4-7). How then are they all destroyed when the Messiah conquers the earth and smashes the fourth kingdom? The answer is that although the Islamic Empire covers the land area of the Babylonian Empire before it, here on earth there are still vestiges of all the ungodly earthly kingdoms that have existed until now. Some remnants of those kingdoms are small, but they are still there. Furthermore, and more to the point, the spiritual influences that have existed from one ungodly kingdom to another still exist. The Devil and his demons, who promote things such things as idolatry, strife, sexual perversion, and general ungodliness, continue to exist and persist in kingdom after kingdom. But when Christ conquers the earth and sets up his kingdom, it will fill the earth (cp. Ps. 2:8; 66:4; 72:8-11; Dan. 2:35, 44; 7:14; Zech. 9:10), and the evil influences of the Devil and his demons will be done away with (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8). The ungodliness that has characterized all earthly kingdoms will all be swept away when Christ conquers the earth.
In closing, we should address an issue that has been pointed out by those commentators who wish to defend that the legs of iron are Rome. Those commentators generally assert that the point of Nebuchadnezzar’s vison was the control of Jerusalem, not the control of the area of Babylon. We would first point out that the Bible never says that; it is only an assumption made because in general Israel and Jerusalem are major topics of prophecy. Besides, it does not appear that Israel was of great concern in Nebuchadnezzar’s mind when he had the vision, especially not at that early time in his life. However, if Jerusalem is in mind in the vision, the Islamic Empire still makes more sense as a fulfillment of Nebuchadnezzar’s vision than the Roman Empire does, and for a couple different reasons.
For one thing, the legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue do not match the history of Rome. The Western Roman Empire started long before the Eastern Roman Empire and ceased to exist long before the Eastern Empire ceased to exist. The Western Roman Empire started in 27 BC (although the conquest of Israel by the Roman Republic was in 63 BC). Western Rome declined for years, but formally ended in 476 AD. The Eastern Roman Empire, usually referred to as the Byzantine Empire, started in 330 AD, when the Roman emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire from the city of Rome to Constantinople. The Byzantines lost control of Israel in 638 when the Muslims took control of it. Thus, it is hard to see how Western Rome and Eastern Rome can be portrayed as two legs of Nebuchadnezzar’s image when historically they only co-existed for less than 150 years. The image would be standing first on one leg, then on the other leg. In contrast, the division in the Islamic Empire into two major sects started in the first generation after the death of Mohammad, and continued throughout the Caliphate and still exists today. If the fourth beast is the Islamic Empire, then the two legs are equal and appropriate.
Also, the Islamic Empire would be a better fit for Nebuchadnezzar’s vision because it has controlled Jerusalem longer than Rome did. The Romans conquered Israel in 63 BC when Rome was still a Republic. Then starting in 27 BC the Western Roman Empire, based out of Rome, and then later the Eastern Roman Empire, based out of Constantinople, controlled Israel until 638 AD, when the Muslims took control of it (there had been a minor disruption of Roman control, from 614 to 629 AD, when the Persians controlled Jerusalem). However, the Muslim control over Jerusalem, starting in 638 AD, was considerably longer than Rome’s control.
Although Jerusalem was ruled by Muslims from Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo, and Turkey at different times, Israel was under Muslim control from 638 AD until the Christians conquered Jerusalem in 1099 AD, in the First Crusade. However, the Christians who organized and led the Crusades were not from Eastern Rome, they were from places like Belgium, France, and England, in what had once been Western Rome but was no longer Western Rome, so they were not technically “Romans,” even though some people from Eastern Rome joined that crusade. The Christians and Muslims exchanged rule over various cities in Israel for almost two hundred years through the nine distinct Crusades, and when the crusaders were in control of Jerusalem, it was called “the Kingdom of Jerusalem” or sometimes “the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem.”
The time the Christians were in control of Jerusalem and the time the Muslims were in control of it was pretty evenly split during the time of the crusaders, with the Christians dominating the first half of the time, and the Muslims dominating the second half. Then, in 1291 AD, the Muslim ruler Saladin gained and kept control of Israel. In 1798 Napoleon entered Palestine, and although he captured a few cities, he never ousted the Muslims from Jerusalem or most of Israel, and he withdrew to Egypt the following year. The Muslims kept control of Israel until 1917, when the British took control after WWI.
Thus, although Western and Eastern Rome controlled Israel for some 700 years, the Muslims controlled Israel for almost 1,200 years. So, if Nebuchadnezzar’s vision is about Jerusalem, the Islamic empire is still a better choice than Rome, especially given that the fourth empire will be around and in control of Jerusalem when Christ conquers the earth. Islam is indeed well positioned to take control of much of the world. David Garrison writes: “The House of Islam, Dar al-Islam in Arabic, is the name Muslims give to an invisible religious empire that stretches from West Africa to the Indonesian archipelago, encompassing 49 nations and 1.6 billion people. Dwarfing the size of any previous earthly kingdom, Islam directs the spiritual affairs of nearly a quarter of the world’s population” (A Wind in the House of Islam, WIGTake Resources, Monument, CO, 2014, p. 5). If the Antichrist gains control of that empire, he will be powerful indeed.(top)
“filled the whole earth.” The coming kingdom of Christ on earth will be worldwide. Jesus Christ will rule the whole earth (cp. Ps. 2:8; 72:8-11; Dan. 2:35, 44; 7:14; Micah 5:4; Zech. 9:10). [For more on the coming kingdom of Christ on earth, the Millennial Kingdom, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
|Dan 2:36||- (top)|
|Dan 2:37||- (top)|
“birds of the heavens.” The phrase means “the birds of the air.” This is an example of a place where “the heavens” refers to the air above the earth.
“into your hand.” This is an idiom for “under your authority.”(top)
|Dan 2:39||- (top)|
|Dan 2:40||- (top)|
|Dan 2:41||- (top)|
|Dan 2:42||- (top)|
“they will mix themselves with the seed of men.” The most common understanding of this is that it is idiomatic for intermarriages among the different groups, but even so the groups will not combine but will remain separate. The kingdom that will be iron mixed with clay is not the Roman Empire of the past for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it was not shattered by Christ. The kingdom in Daniel 2:43 that is iron and clay is the future kingdom of the Antichrist, and that kingdom will be powerful but internally divided, as we can see by reading Revelation and noting the number of “kings” who have power in it and the fact that they war against each other. It seems from the prophecy in Daniel that these future kingdoms (nations) that make up the kingdom of the Antichrist will try at different times to unite with each other but try unsuccessfully.(top)
|Dan 2:44||- (top)|
|Dan 2:45||- (top)|
“prostrated himself before.” The act of prostration was an act of worship, and the word is sometimes translated “worship,” especially when it is used in relation to God or a god (see commentary on 1 Chron. 29:20; here in Daniel the Aramaic word for prostration is used, not the Hebrew word).(top)
|Dan 2:47||- (top)|
|Dan 2:48||- (top)|
“Daniel...gate of the king.” This designates Daniel as one of the royal officials (cp. Esther 3:2). In the biblical culture of the Old Testament it was the custom that the elders of a city would sit at the city gate (Gen. 19:1, 9; Deut. 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Josh. 20:4; Ruth 4:11; 1 Sam. 4:18; Esther 2:19, 21; 3:2; Lam. 5:14; Dan. 2:49). [For more on the elders at the gate, see commentary on Ruth 4:11; and for Wisdom being at the city gate, see commentary on Prov. 1:21].(top)