Bible Book of Daniel, Part 4 – Chapter 2

We’re now starting to look at the main prophecies in the book of Daniel, although we’ve arrived here the long way round. Part one covered the first chapter, part two jumped to chapters three and six together, and part three covered chapters four and five together.

But now back to chapter two, one of the longest chapters in the Bible. This is a prophecy through a pagan King Nebuchadnezzar – all other prophecies from chapter seven onwards are through Daniel himself.

Display-wise, we’re now starting in the main middle section from the left and working across with the substance of this book – what God is communicating about the future through dreams and visions.

4 6 daniel left side sharedfish

Here is a video overview of this chapter:

King Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

We are only two years into the king’s reign, and he has a bad dream one night that troubles his spirit:

“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” – Daniel 1:2

And to make matters worse, he can’t even remember what the dream was about – he just knows that it wasn’t good.

Therefore, he calls in his experts to interpret the dream and first tell him what it actually was. Although they will be blessed if they do this, they will be cursed and killed if they don’t (including their students like Daniel and His friends); that’s how desperate the king is to know about it:

“The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.” – Daniel 2:5-6

But the experts admit defeat, stating that this was only possible by godly powers:

“And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” – Daniel 2:11

This is where Daniel enters the scene; first approaching the captain, and then the king himself, with the offer to interpret this for the king and save lives (very bold considering the consequences if he got this wrong). They accept, and after involving his three friends, he turns to God for wisdom:

“Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:” – Daniel 2:16-17

Interestingly, Daniel had been given this gift of interpreting dreams and visions in chapter one. Yet, he still turns to God humbly asking to be used rather than being assumptious.

And when he does receive the answer through a night vision, his first response is to praise God and acknowledge that He is ultimately in control of everything:

“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:” – Daniel 2:20-21

A Happy Ending

Before we get into the prophecy's detail, let’s see the happy ending to all of this.

Daniel reveals this to the king – clearly stating that this is from God and not Daniel himself – which makes the king overjoyed, and gives glory back to God who ultimately provided this.

He senses that this must be divine, and has almost been protected from any false interpretations by not being able even to remember the dream, and to experience the true and living God bring it to life now:

“The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealed of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.” – Daniel 2:47

He keeps his promise and promotes Daniel to the Chief Governor of the whole Babylonian kingdom – quite an achievement for an outside Jew, who also involves his three friends in the blessing:

“Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.” – Daniel 2:48-49

The King’s Prophecy

statue daniel sharedfishTurning back to the actual dream and what it means, it is basically a picture of a grand statute.

This statue's ‘image’ is then described as having four different types of metals stretching from the head down to the toes through five stages:

“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” – Daniel 2:31-33

You then have a large stone hitting the statue at the bottom feet, which smashes the whole image into pieces which then blows away, leaving the stone to develop into a mountain that dominates the whole earth:

“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” – Daniel 2:34-35

statue stone overview 2 daniel sharedfishIn terms of the display, we’ll place this stone at the bottom – ready to hit the statue at some point.

Daniel clarifies that this dream is representing ‘kingdoms’ that will come and go in the future. It’s not just a nice story (or not so nice with it being destroyed) – the purpose is for God to reveal to people, including ourselves a future generation of readers, what lies ahead.

These are the key kingdoms over time from God's perspective, even though the world has seen many come and go over time.

“And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.” – Daniel 2:39

‘Kingdoms’ are actually straightforward to understand in the bible – a certain rule and dominion. We can’t see spiritual ones, and there are earthly ones through nations, groups of people etc., which ultimately are controlled by spiritual kingdoms and rulers.

You can see a symbols checklist here which helps identify how symbols like a kingdom are described in Scripture as meaning something else.

In terms of how you then interpret this, a Historicist approach is the one that makes sense. We touched on this in part one, and how you need to appreciate the right perspective of interpretation in order to make sense of everything (other versions are Futurist, Preterist, and Idealist).

This particular prophecy is fairly straightforward compared to later ones, with the majority of scholars agreeing to what is described as unfolding over time step by step.

The understanding of the first three metals is the same for the majority with differences emerging in how the fourth one develops into a second phase.

So one kingdom/nation goes, and then another comes in and takes over. This is repeated until it all ends with a final big-stone finale.

You can then begin to see how these map out in history over time and is something that all the great Reformers of old believed in.

The Four Metals Stages Across Five Stages

We’ll now go through these different metal stages in the statue and see how they match up with actual earthly kingdoms throughout history.

To help clarify when these were, there is a separate time lime on the display (a piece of wood):

statue time line 2 daniel sharedfish

An amazing thing about all these prophecies in the book of Daniel is how specific they are in terms of timing and years. Therefore, we will be adding dates on this timeline when these change-over periods were between the various actual kingdoms in history.

1. Gold Head

statue gold daniel 2 sharedfishThe first is a golden head which matches the Babylonian kingdom which Daniel was in at this time, and who Nebuchadnezzar was, of course, the king of, lasting between 606 BC and 538 BC:

“And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold.” – Daniel 2:38

statue 606 2 daniel sharedfishThey had conquered Assyria and then southern kingdoms of Israel, and were the world-dominating power at the time, based in the magnificent city of Babylon – all given by God:

“Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” – Daniel 2:37

statue 538 2 daniel sharedfishGold is, of course, a symbol of power and value, with other references in the bible to the Babylonian kingdom and gold:

“That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!” – Isaiah 14:4

“Babylon hath been a golden cup in the Lord's hand, that made all the earth drunken: the nations have drunken of her wine; therefore the nations are mad.” – Jeremiah 51:7

2. Silver Chest & Arms

statue silver 2 daniel sharedfishNext up is the silver arms and chest below the head: 

“This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,” – Daniel 2:32

This easily matches the Medo-Persian kingdom from 539 BC to 331 BC, with reference to this in chapter five (the previous part three) when Belshazzar died after God’s finger wrote on the wall at his banquet. The Medo Persian army invaded Babylon that very day through the river Euphrates (but this being only a small empire at this time).

statue 331 2 daniel sharedfishIn actual fact, this new king Cyrus was named by God a hundred years previously as the new takeover-kingdom:

“Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;” – Isaiah 45:1

The weaker silver metal matches the taxation system of the Medo-Persian kingdom.

Even the two arms of this correspond to the two strands of the Medes and Persians that amalgamated by making laws together into this new one empire.

3. Bronze Belly & Thighs

statue bronze 2 daniel sharedfishHalfway down the statue, we have the bronze belly and thigh section (more like today’s polished copper):

“This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,” – Daniel 2:32

This dovetails with the Greek kingdom between the period 331 BC to 168 BC, specifically the Battle of Arbela when the famous Alexander the Great finally defeated the Medo Persian empire.

statue 168 2 daniel sharedfishThis is an intriguing story of how this young man in his early thirties reached world dominance after only eleven years of harsh and tactical fighting with other nations and winning with only ten thousand soldiers compared to the million against him.

Greece was actually just a weak and disorganised arrangement of states when this prophecy was given, with no prospect of such grand accomplishments in these later years. However, although a weaker metal, it would certainly gain worldwide influence:

“And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.” – Daniel 2:39

This matches the type of metal as well, with bronze armour and swords being used by the Greeks, and mention of them in Ezekiel bartering with bronze vessels:

“Javan, Tubal, and Meshech, they were thy merchants: they traded the persons of men and vessels of brass in thy market.” – Ezekiel 27:13

4. Irons Legs

statue iron daniel 2 sharedfishThings then toughen-up, even more, when we reach the iron legs:

“His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” – Daniel 2:33

A look through history can soon reveal this power-house as the Roman kingdom between 168 BC and 476 AD, after conquering the Greeks at the Battle of Pydna in June 168 BC. However, at the time of this dream, Rome was just a little village on the Tiber.

This includes the period when Christ was on the earth and early church history when Rome controlled the whole Mediterranean area – as ‘hard as nails' as the saying goes, with tough customs and laws and blood-shedding leaders like Herod, Augustus, and Carson.

statue 476 2 daniel sharedfishInterestingly, the kingdom did evolve into the Eastern and Western Europe sections, just like the two legs.

5. Iron & Clay Feet

statue iron clay feet 2 daniel sharedfishAlthough we are still in the fourth iron metal, there is a new variation of this at the bottom of the statue.

The feet (and toes) are only a small part of the statue, however, there is still reference to the previous iron metal in here, it is still a specific phase that God is bringing to light through this prophecy:

“His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” – Daniel 2:33

History highlights the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD as it was divided into ten nations that effectively formed Europe, seven of which remain today. 

This is after the Roman empire had split into the East and West regions, and barbaric tribes infiltrated the northern and eastern boundaries of the West, and Germanic tribes finally conquered Rome in 476 AD. There's a detailed post of Roman history here.

This matches the point about these (ten) toes in these feet:  

“And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.” – Daniel 2:42

This Historicist perspective of understanding these prophecies can see how future prophecies from chapter seven then focus on this stage with further detail. In this first prophecy, the important point is that there was a change in the fourth metal stage after 476 AD when the Western Roman Empire fell and the ten regions of Europe began.

The mainstream Futurist interpretation nowadays assumes a future split of ten kingdoms directly from or as a restored ancient Roman Empire.

You then need to look at this new clay material which is mixed with the iron. 

Clay is symbolised in Scripture as representing a religious people, for example, the analogy of believers like a piece of clay on the potter's hand (and see the Symbols Checklist):

"O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel." - Jeremiah 18:6

However, this clay is described as 'miry' clay and therefore a muddy/dirty clay. This suggests an imperfect religious group of people or church now mixing with the Roman iron kingdom.

We now have a weaker cocktail emerging – still with the strong iron/Roman influence, but with the softer clay being part of the mix and yet clearly not getting on with and successfully bonding with the iron's influence:

“And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.” – Daniel 2:41

It then details how there will be an attempt at coherence between the two, with the mingling of men's seeds, but to no avail:

“And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” – Daniel 2:43

If you look at what has happened over the centuries right up to modern times, you can see the many attempts within this original Roman and European area between different kings and royalties, governments and powers, and leaders and influencers to unite everyone, however, with no long term success (for example Mussolini, Kaiser Wilhelm, Charlemagne, Charles V, Louis XIV, Napoleon Bonaparte, and even Adolf Hitler).

Inter-state marriages have been attempted, for example, by Queen Victoria and the King of Denmark, and more modern means like the First and Second World Wars, the United Nations, and now the Common Market Euro and EU.

Without digressing into any political or historical detail – the bottom line is that this feet-and-toes stage of the statue is prophesying a period of combined forces of a pagan-secular Roman power and political-religious one which is simply not getting on with each other, no matter how good an attempt there is.

The Metal Trends

statue daniel sharedfishBefore we come to the final part of the dream, here are a few general pointers about the trends and patterns we can also spot from all these different metals being mentioned in this statue figure:

1. The metals reduce in value and brilliance the further along and down you go – beginning with glamorous gold, and ending up with bog-standard iron (with clay).

2. In the opposite way, the metals actually get stronger (and last for longer) as you go along – with tough as old boots iron at the end (except for the final stage, which we’ll address later).

3. Each metal's purpose also changes, with gold more economical and valuable, silver and bronze more military, and then iron and clay more domestic and general purposes.

4. The weight of the metal decreases, with gold being the heaviest.

5. The forms of governments in these different kingdoms arguably reduce overtime as well. So, Babylon was a one-person king autocracy, but the Medio-Persian kingdom oligarchy had one hundred and twenty governors and strict laws. Greece had aristocracy and progression into governments, leading to the Roman Emperor being chosen by votes.

6. They take us right up to the end of time, and what Christians believe will be the Second Coming of Christ.

The Stone Finale

statue stone 2 daniel sharedfishThe prophecy then finishes with a stone that comes along and smashes the whole statue:

“Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces.” – Daniel 2:34

Although a simple thing, we can conclude four things.

Firstly, this ends the statue's ‘life’ at the feet. So, this final feet-and-toes part is when the earth will end as we know it, and God’s kingdom comes and takes over (plus these feet are the weakest part of the statue with the mixed clay and iron).

Although some have suggested that this stone meant Christ’s first earthly visit two thousand years ago, this can't be the case because we had not reached the toes stage when this occurred, and the statue was not completely destroyed.

Also, no more other world-defining kingdoms are coming – we are currently in the final toes-and-feet stage of this earth’s history.

statue stone time 2 daniel sharedfishSecondly, all the other previous metals are affected and crushed together to be blown away. All remains and legacies of these former world-systems will therefore also disappear:

“Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them:” – Daniel 2:35(a)

Thirdly, the stone then ‘grows’ into a huge mountain that covers the whole earth:

“and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.” – Daniel 2:35(b)

We’re left with no doubts as to what this means at the end of the chapter, with Daniel clarifying that this is God’s Kingdom taking over and not only dealing with the previous earthly ones but forming a new indestructible one:

“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45 Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold”– Daniel 2:44-45(b)

And fourthly, the stone was actually cut out of the larger mountain in the first place.

With this stone being the part of the larger mountain that impacts the feet and toes of the statue, then God’s kingdom must be advancing through His people as a part of the bigger heavenly kingdom for the Kingdom of God to finally arrive, and a new heaven and earth to exist after Christ’s Second Coming.

So, this small stone must be God's true believers at the end of time that He uses as an earthly expression of His kingdom, that Revelation describes:

"And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ." - Revelation 12:17

This is part of a larger 'mountain' of God's kingdom and people that will come to power at His Second Coming.

It's also worth noting how this is opposite to and eventually conquering of the false religious power at the end represented by the dirty clay in the toes, and which is described in the New Testament as the anti-christ.

Recap Summary 

In short, this first prophecy in Daniel is a powerful snapshot of history right from Nebuchadnezzar's time to the end of the world. The following prophecies from chapter seven onwards will provide us with more detail of these key later stages.

statue display 2 daniel sharedfish

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