James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah came Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon unto Jerusalem, and besieged it.Daniel 1:1-2:49
Daniel, like Ezekiel, was an Israelite in Babylonian captivity, but of a little earlier date (Daniel 1:1-4, compared with Ezekiel 1:1-2). Of royal blood, fine physique, strong intellectuality and deep knowledge, he became trained in the language, traditions and astrological science of his captors that, with the other eunuchs, he might serve their king in responsible relations in the palace (Daniel 1:4-7). For religious reasons, and out of reverence to the true God, he sought the privilege of abstention from a certain part of the physical preparation (Daniel 1:8), with the happy result indicated in the chapter. God was preparing Daniel better than Nebuchadnezzar was and for a greater purpose than he knew.
THE TESTING TIME (Daniel 2:1-30)
In process of time the testing came (Daniel 2:1-13). Daniel had won a victory, and his faith had been strengthened to essay another (Daniel 2:14-16). We gather from these verses and the preceding that he had not been consulted with the heathen advisers above (Daniel 2:20). Observe the character of his piety (Daniel 2:17-18), and note the first young men’s prayer-meeting on record, and its results (Daniel 2:19-23). Belteshazzar (Daniel 2:26) is the Babylonian name given Daniel. Note his unfaltering witness to the true God (Daniel 2:27-30).
THE DREAM AND INTERPRETATION (Daniel 2:31-45)
At this point the book of Daniel differs from the preceding prophets in that they deal chiefly with Israel or Judah, and only secondarily with the Gentile nations; while he deals chiefly with the Gentiles, and secondarily with Israel. He is giving us the outline history of these nations during the time Israel is scattered among them in punishment, and up until the period of her restoration to her land and deliverance from their oppression.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which he interpreted, shows that this period of Gentile dominion in the earth, lasting from the time of that king, when Judah is taken from her land until the end of this age when she shall be restored there again, is divided among four world powers (Daniel 2:31-35).
The metal image equals Gentile dominion in all this period. The head of gold, the Babylonian power, the breast and arms of silver, the Medo- Persian power succeeding; the belly and thighs of brass, the Grecian; the legs and feet of iron and clay, the Roman. The stone “cut out of the mountain without hands” represents the Kingdom of the Messiah, which shall be set up on the earth at the end of this age, and whose establishment shall involve the demolition of all the earthly powers (Daniel 2:36-45).
An interpretation of some of the difficulties follows: Note the two words of Daniel 2:31, “excellent” and “terrible,” as characterizing the history of the Gentile powers in all this period. They will have that to attract and that to repel to the very end. Note that the stone smites the image (Daniel 2:34); in other words, the establishment of God’s Kingdom on the earth will be with destructive judgments, as all the prophets have shown. Note that some day after the present kingdoms as such, are destroyed, but not before, God’s Kingdom will be supreme in the earth (Daniel 2:35). For the meaning of verses 37-38, see Jeremiah 27.
Note that all the world-powers following Babylon will be inferior to it in a descending scale (Daniel 2:39-40). Inferior not in territorial extent or military prowess, but in the character of their government. Babylon was an absolute monarchy, Nebuchadnezzar’s word was law (Daniel 2:12-13). The Medo-Persian power represented a limited monarchy Darius hearkened to his princes and his lords (Daniel 6:4-16). The Grecian was weaker, in that after the death of Alexander the Great, the empire was divided into four parts. The Roman, the weakest of all, the clay mingled with iron, indicating the development of the democracy in the latter times; in other words, constitutional monarchies and republics.
Note particularly the fourth, or Roman, power (Daniel 2:40-43). The two legs foreshadow the later division of that empire into the eastern and western halves. The ten toes speak of a time when five separate kingdoms shall represent each half. The iron and clay show the monarchial elements in more or less contention with the democratic, and vice versa. These governmental features are to characterize the end of this age (Daniel 2:44), when God shall set up His Kingdom in the midst of heavy and destructive judgments.
1. In whose reign was Daniel taken captive?
2. State in your own words his history down to the time of the dream.
3. How does his book differ from the other prophets?
4. State the beginning and the ending of Gentile dominion.
5. Name its four great historical divisions.
6. Shall this age end in peace or disorder?
7. Have you compared Jeremiah 27?
8. In what sense do the world powers grow inferior to one another?