Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.
Da 2:1-49. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream: Daniel's Interpretation of It, and Advancement.
1. second year of … Nebuchadnezzar—Da 1:5 shows that "three years" had elapsed since Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem. The solution of this difficulty is: Nebuchadnezzar first ruled as subordinate to his father Nabopolassar, to which time the first chapter refers (Da 1:1); whereas "the second year" in the second chapter is dated from his sole sovereignty. The very difficulty is a proof of genuineness; all was clear to the writer and the original readers from their knowledge of the circumstances, and so he adds no explanation. A forger would not introduce difficulties; the author did not then see any difficulty in the case. Nebuchadnezzar is called "king" (Da 1:1), by anticipation. Before he left Judea, he became actual king by the death of his father, and the Jews always called him "king," as commander of the invading army.
dreams—It is significant that not to Daniel, but to the then world ruler, Nebuchadnezzar, the dream is vouchsafed. It was from the first of its representatives who had conquered the theocracy, that the world power was to learn its doom, as about to be in its turn subdued, and for ever by the kingdom of God. As this vision opens, so that in the seventh chapter developing the same truth more fully, closes the first part. Nebuchadnezzar, as vicegerent of God (Da 2:37; compare Jer 25:9; Eze 28:12-15; Isa 44:28; 45:1; Ro 13:1), is honored with the revelation in the form of a dream, the appropriate form to one outside the kingdom of God. So in the cases of Abimelech, Pharaoh, &c. (Ge 20:3; 41:1-7), especially as the heathen attached such importance to dreams. Still it is not he, but an Israelite, who interprets it. Heathendom is passive, Israel active, in divine things, so that the glory redounds to "the God of heaven."
Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
2. Chaldeans—here, a certain order of priest-magicians, who wore a peculiar dress, like that seen on the gods and deified men in the Assyrian sculptures. Probably they belonged exclusively to the Chaldeans, the original tribe of the Babylonian nation, just as the Magians were properly Medes.
And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
3. troubled to know the dream—He awoke in alarm, remembering that something solemn had been presented to him in a dream, without being able to recall the form in which it had clothed itself. His thoughts on the unprecedented greatness to which his power had attained (Da 2:29) made him anxious to know what the issue of all this should be. God meets this wish in the way most calculated to impress him.
Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.
4. Here begins the Chaldee portion of Daniel, which continues to the end of the seventh chapter. In it the course, character, and crisis of the Gentile power are treated; whereas, in the other parts, which are in Hebrew, the things treated apply more particularly to the Jews and Jerusalem.
Syriac—the Aramean Chaldee, the vernacular tongue of the king and his court; the prophet, by mentioning it here, hints at the reason of his own adoption of it from this point.
live for ever—a formula in addressing kings, like our "Long live the king!" Compare 1Ki 1:31.
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.
5. The thing—that is, The dream, "is gone from me." Gesenius translates, "The decree is gone forth from me," irrevocable (compare Isa 45:23); namely, that you shall be executed, if you do not tell both the dream and the interpretation. English Version is simpler, which supposes the king himself to have forgotten the dream. Pretenders to supernatural knowledge often bring on themselves their own punishment.
cut in pieces—(1Sa 15:33).
houses … dunghill—rather, "a morass heap." The Babylonian houses were built of sun-dried bricks; when demolished, the rain dissolves the whole into a mass of mire, in the wet land, near the river [Stuart]. As to the consistency of this cruel threat with Nebuchadnezzar's character, see Da 4:17, "basest of men"; Jer 39:5, 6; 52:9-11.
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.
6. rewards—literally, "presents poured out in lavish profusion."
They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.
The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.
8. gain … time—literally, "buy." Compare Eph 5:16; Col 4:5, where the sense is somewhat different.
the thing is gone from me—(See on Da 2:5).
But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.
9. one decree—There can be no second one reversing the first (Es 4:11).
till the time be changed—till a new state of things arrive, either by my ceasing to trouble myself about the dream, or by a change of government (which perhaps the agitation caused by the dream made Nebuchadnezzar to forebode, and so to suspect the Chaldeans of plotting).
tell … dream, and I shall know … ye can show … interpretation—If ye cannot tell the past, a dream actually presented to me, how can ye know, and show, the future events prefigured in it?
The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king's matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.
10. There is not a man … that can show—God makes the heathen out of their own mouth, condemn their impotent pretensions to supernatural knowledge, in order to bring out in brighter contrast His power to reveal secrets to His servants, though but "men upon the earth" (compare Da 2:22, 23).
therefore, &c.—that is, If such things could be done by men, other absolute princes would have required them from their magicians; as they have not, it is proof such things cannot be done and cannot be reasonably asked from us.
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.
11. gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh—answering to "no man upon the earth"; for there were, in their belief, "men in heaven," namely, men deified; for example, Nimrod. The supreme gods are referred to here, who alone, in the Chaldean view, could solve the difficulty, but who do not communicate with men. The inferior gods, intermediate between men and the supreme gods, are unable to solve it. Contrast with this heathen idea of the utter severance of God from man, Joh 1:14, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us"; Daniel was in this case made His representative.
For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
12, 13. Daniel and his companions do not seem to have been actually numbered among the Magi or Chaldeans, and so were not summoned before the king. Providence ordered it so that all mere human wisdom should be shown vain before His divine power, through His servant, was put forth. Da 2:24 shows that the decree for slaying the wise men had not been actually executed when Daniel interposed.
And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.
Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king's guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon:
14. captain of the king's guard—commanding the executioners (Margin; and Ge 37:36, Margin).
He answered and said to Arioch the king's captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.
15. Why is the decree so hasty—Why were not all of us consulted before the decree for the execution of all was issued?
the thing—the agitation of the king as to his dream, and his abortive consultation of the Chaldeans. It is plain from this that Daniel was till now ignorant of the whole matter.
Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.
16. Daniel went in—perhaps not in person, but by the mediation of some courtier who had access to the king. His first direct interview seems to have been Da 2:25 [Barnes].
time—The king granted "time" to Daniel, though he would not do so to the Chaldeans because they betrayed their lying purpose by requiring him to tell the dream, which Daniel did not. Providence doubtless influenced his mind, already favorable (Da 1:19, 20), to show special favor to Daniel.
Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
17. Here appears the reason why Daniel sought "time" (Da 2:16), namely he wished to engage his friends to join him in prayer to God to reveal the dream to him.
That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.
18. An illustration of the power of united prayer (Mt 18:19). The same instrumentality rescued Peter from his peril (Ac 12:5-12).
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
19. revealed … in … night vision—(Job 33:15, 16).
Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
20. answered—responded to God's goodness by praises.
name of God—God in His revelation of Himself by acts of love, "wisdom, and might" (Jer 32:19).
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:
21. changeth … times … seasons—"He herein gives a general preparatory intimation, that the dream of Nebuchadnezzar is concerning the changes and successions of kingdoms" [Jerome]. The "times" are the phases and periods of duration of empires (compare Da 7:25; 1Ch 12:32; 29:30); the "seasons" the fitting times for their culmination, decline, and fall (Ec 3:1; Ac 1:7; 1Th 5:1). The vicissitudes of states, with their times and seasons, are not regulated by chance or fate, as the heathen thought, but by God.
removed kings—(Job 12:18; Ps 75:6, 7; Jer 27:5; compare 1Sa 2:7, 8).
giveth wisdom—(1Ki 3:9-12; Jas 1:5).
He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
22. revealeth—(Job 12:22). So spiritually (Eph 1:17, 18).
knoweth what is in … darkness—(Ps 139:11, 12; Heb 4:13).
light … him—(Jas 1:17; 1Jo 1:4). Apocalypse (or "revelation") signifies a divine, prophecy a human, activity. Compare 1Co 14:6, where the two are distinguished. The prophet is connected with the outer world, addressing to the congregation the words with which the Spirit of God supplies him; he speaks in the Spirit, but the apocalyptic seer is in the Spirit in his whole person (Re 1:10; 4:2). The form of the apocalyptic revelation (the very term meaning that the veil that hides the invisible world is taken off) is subjectively either the dream, or, higher, the vision. The interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream was a preparatory education to Daniel himself. By gradual steps, each revelation preparing him for the succeeding one, God fitted him for disclosures becoming more and more special. In the second and fourth chapters he is but an interpreter of Nebuchadnezzar's dreams; then he has a dream himself, but it is only a vision in a dream of the night (Da 7:1, 2); then follows a vision in a waking state (Da 8:1-3); lastly, in the two final revelations (Da 9:20; 10:4, 5) the ecstatic state is no longer needed. The progression in the form answers to the progression in the contents of his prophecy; at first general outlines, and these afterwards filled up with minute chronological and historical details, such as are not found in the Revelation of John, though, as became the New Testament, the form of revelation is the highest, namely, clear waking visions [Auberlen].
I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king's matter.
23. thee … thee—He ascribes all the glory to God.
God of my fathers—Thou hast shown Thyself the same God of grace to me, a captive exile, as Thou didst to Israel of old and this on account of the covenant made with our "fathers" (Lu 1:54, 55; compare Ps 106:45).
given me wisdom and might—Thou being the fountain of both; referring to Da 2:20. Whatever wise ability I have to stay the execution of the king's cruel decree, is Thy gift.
me … we … us—The revelation was given to Daniel, as "me" implies; yet with just modesty he joins his friends with him; because it was to their joint prayers, and not to his individually, that he owed the revelation from God.
known … the king's matter—the very words in which the Chaldeans had denied the possibility of any man on earth telling the dream ("not a man upon the earth can show the king's matter," Da 2:10). Impostors are compelled by the God of truth to eat up their own words.
Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation.
24. Therefore—because of having received the divine communication.
bring me in before the king—implying that he had not previously been in person before the king (see on Da 2:16).
Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation.
25. I have found a man—Like all courtiers, in announcing agreeable tidings, he ascribes the merit of the discovery to himself [Jerome]. So far from it being a discrepancy, that he says nothing of the previous understanding between him and Daniel, or of Daniel's application to the king (Da 2:15, 16), it is just what we should expect. Arioch would not dare to tell an absolute despot that he had stayed the execution of his sanguinary decree, on his own responsibility; but would, in the first instance, secretly stay it until Daniel had got, by application from the king, the time required, without Arioch seeming to know of Daniel's application as the cause of the respite; then, when Daniel had received the revelation, Arioch would in trembling haste bring him in, as if then for the first time he had "found" him. The very difficulty when cleared up is a proof of genuineness, as it never would be introduced by a forger.
The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?
Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king;
27. cannot—Daniel, being learned in all the lore of the Chaldeans (Da 1:4), could authoritatively declare the impossibility of mere man solving the king's difficulty.
soothsayers—from a root, "to cut off"; referring to their cutting the heavens into divisions, and so guessing at men's destinies from the place of the stars at one's birth.
But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these;
28. God—in contrast to "the wise men," &c. (Da 2:27).
revealeth secrets—(Am 3:7; 4:13). Compare Ge 41:45, Zaphnath-paaneah, "revealer of secrets," the title given to Joseph.
the latter days—literally, "in the after days" (Da 2:29); "hereafter" (Ge 49:1). It refers to the whole future, including the Messianic days, which is the final dispensation (Isa 2:2).
visions of thy head—conceptions formed in the brain.
As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.
29. God met with a revelation Nebuchadnezzar, who had been meditating on the future destiny of his vast empire.
But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.
30. not … for any wisdom that I have—not on account of any previous wisdom which I may have manifested (Da 1:17, 20). The specially-favored servants of God in all ages disclaim merit in themselves and ascribe all to the grace and power of God (Ge 41:16; Ac 3:12). The "as for me," disclaiming extraordinary merit, contrasts elegantly with "as for thee," whereby Daniel courteously, but without flattery, implies, that God honored Nebuchadnezzar, as His vicegerent over the world kingdoms, with a revelation on the subject uppermost in his thoughts, the ultimate destinies of those kingdoms.
for their sakes that shall make known, &c.—a Chaldee idiom for, "to the intent that the interpretation may be made known to the king."
the thoughts of thy heart—thy subject of thought before falling asleep. Or, perhaps the probation of Nebuchadnezzar's character through this revelation may be the meaning intended (compare 2Ch 32:31; Lu 2:35).
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.
31. The world power in its totality appears as a colossal human form: Babylon the head of gold, Medo-Persia the breast and two arms of silver, Græco-Macedonia the belly and two thighs of brass, and Rome, with its Germano-Slavonic offshoots, the legs of iron and feet of iron and clay, the fourth still existing. Those kingdoms only are mentioned which stand in some relation to the kingdom of God; of these none is left out; the final establishment of that kingdom is the aim of His moral government of the world. The colossus of metal stands on weak feet, of clay. All man's glory is as ephemeral and worthless as chaff (compare 1Pe 1:24). But the kingdom of God, small and unheeded as a "stone" on the ground is compact in its homogeneous unity; whereas the world power, in its heterogeneous constituents successively supplanting one another, contains the elements of decay. The relation of the stone to the mountain is that of the kingdom of the cross (Mt 16:23; Lu 24:26) to the kingdom of glory, the latter beginning, and the former ending when the kingdom of God breaks in pieces the kingdoms of the world (Re 11:15). Christ's contrast between the two kingdoms refers to this passage.
a great image—literally, "one image that was great." Though the kingdoms were different, it was essentially one and the same world power under different phases, just as the image was one, though the parts were of different metals.
This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
32. On ancient coins states are often represented by human figures. The head and higher parts signify the earlier times; the lower, the later times. The metals become successively baser and baser, implying the growing degeneracy from worse to worse. Hesiod, two hundred years before Daniel, had compared the four ages to the four metals in the same order; the idea is sanctioned here by Holy Writ. It was perhaps one of those fragments of revelation among the heathen derived from the tradition as to the fall of man. The metals lessen in specific gravity, as they downwards; silver is not so heavy as gold, brass not so heavy as silver, and iron not so heavy as brass, the weight thus being arranged in the reverse of stability [Tregelles]. Nebuchadnezzar derived his authority from God, not from man, nor as responsible to man. But the Persian king was so far dependent on others that he could not deliver Daniel from the princes (Da 6:14, 15); contrast Da 5:18, 19, as to Nebuchadnezzar's power from God, "whom he would he slew, and whom he would he kept alive" (compare Ezr 7:14; Es 1:13-16). Græco-Macedonia betrays its deterioration in its divisions, not united as Babylon and Persia. Iron is stronger than brass, but inferior in other respects; so Rome hardy and strong to tread down the nations, but less kingly and showing its chief deterioration in its last state. Each successive kingdom incorporates its predecessor (compare Da 5:28). Power that in Nebuchadnezzar's hands was a God-derived (Da 2:37, 38) autocracy, in the Persian king's was a rule resting on his nobility of person and birth, the nobles being his equals in rank, but not in office; in Greece, an aristocracy not of birth, but individual influence, in Rome, lowest of all, dependent entirely on popular choice, the emperor being appointed by popular military election.
His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
33. As the two arms of silver denote the kings of the Medes and Persians [Josephus]; and the two thighs of brass the Seleucidæ of Syria and Lagidæ of Egypt, the two leading sections into which Græco-Macedonia parted, so the two legs of iron signify the two Roman consuls [Newton]. The clay, in Da 2:41, "potter's clay," Da 2:43, "miry clay," means "earthenware," hard but brittle (compare Ps 2:9; Re 2:27, where the same image is used of the same event); the feet are stable while bearing only direct pressure, but easily broken to pieces by a blow (Da 2:34), the iron intermixed not retarding, but hastening, such a result.
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.
34. stone—Messiah and His kingdom (Ge 49:24; Ps 118:22; Isa 28:16). In its relations to Israel, it is a "stone of stumbling" (Isa 8:14; Ac 4:11; 1Pe 2:7, 8) on which both houses of Israel are broken, not destroyed (Mt 21:32). In its relation to the Church, the same stone which destroys the image is the foundation of the Church (Eph 2:20). In its relation to the Gentile world power, the stone is its destroyer (Da 2:35, 44; compare Zec 12:3). Christ saith (Mt 21:44, referring to Isa 8:14, 15), "Whosoever shall fall on this stone (that is, stumble, and be offended, at Him, as the Jews were, from whom, therefore, He says, 'The kingdom shall be taken') shall be broken; but (referring to Da 2:34, 35) on whomsoever it shall fall (referring to the world power which had been the instrument of breaking the Jews), it will (not merely break, but) grind him to powder" (1Co 15:24). The falling of the stone of the feet of the image cannot refer to Christ at His first advent, for the fourth kingdom was not then as yet divided—no toes were in existence (see on Da 2:44).
cut out—namely, from "the mountain" (Da 2:45); namely, Mount Zion (Isa 2:2), and antitypically, the heavenly mount of the Father's glory, from whom Christ came.
without hands—explained in Da 2:44, "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," as contrasted with the image which was made with hands of man. Messiah not created by human agency, but conceived by the Holy Ghost (Mt 1:20; Lu 1:35; compare Zec 4:6; Mr 14:58; Heb 9:11, 24). So "not made with hands," that is, heavenly, 2Co 5:1; spiritual, Col 2:11. The world kingdoms were reared by human ambition: but this is the "kingdom of heaven"; "not of this world" (Joh 18:36). As the fourth kingdom, or Rome, was represented in a twofold state, first strong, with legs of iron, then weak, with toes part of iron, part of clay; so this fifth kingdom, that of Christ, is seen conversely, first insignificant as a "stone," then as a "mountain" filling the whole earth. The ten toes are the ten lesser kingdoms into which the Roman kingdom was finally to be divided; this tenfold division here hinted at is not specified in detail till the seventh chapter. The fourth empire originally was bounded in Europe pretty nearly by the line of the Rhine and Danube; in Asia by the Euphrates. In Africa it possessed Egypt and the north coasts; South Britain and Dacia were afterwards added but were ultimately resigned. The ten kingdoms do not arise until a deterioration (by mixing clay with the iron) has taken place; they are in existence when Christ comes in glory, and then are broken in pieces. The ten have been sought for in the invading hosts of the fifth and sixth century. But though many provinces were then severed from Rome as independent kingdoms, the dignity of emperor still continued, and the imperial power was exercised over Rome itself for two centuries. So the tenfold divisions cannot be looked for before A.D. 731. But the East is not to be excluded, five toes being on each foot. Thus no point of time before the overthrow of the empire at the taking of Constantinople by the Turks (A.D. 1453) can be assigned for the division. It seems, therefore, that the definite ten will be the ultimate development of the Roman empire just before the rise of Antichrist, who shall overthrow three of the kings, and, after three and a half years, he himself be overthrown by Christ in person. Some of the ten kingdoms will, doubtless, be the same as some past and present divisions of the old Roman empire, which accounts for the continuity of the connection between the toes and legs, a gap of centuries not being interposed, as is objected by opponents of the futurist theory. The lists of the ten made by the latter differ from one another; and they are set aside by the fact that they include countries which were never Roman, and exclude one whole section of the empire, namely, the East [Tregelles].
upon his feet—the last state of the Roman empire. Not "upon his legs." Compare "in the days of these kings" (see on Da 2:44).
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 threshingfloors; 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.
35. broken … together—excluding a contemporaneous existence of the kingdom of the world and the kingdom of God (in its manifested, as distinguished from its spiritual, phase). The latter is not gradually to wear away the former, but to destroy it at once, and utterly (2Th 1:7-10; 2:8). However, the Hebrew may be translated, "in one discriminate mass."
chaff—image of the ungodly, as they shall be dealt with in the judgment (Ps 1:4, 5; Mt 3:12).
summer threshing-floors—Grain was winnowed in the East on an elevated space in the open air, by throwing the grain into the air with a shovel, so that the wind might clear away the chaff.
no place … found for them—(Re 20:11; compare Ps 37:10, 36; 103:16).
became … mountain—cut out of the mountain (Da 2:45) originally, it ends in becoming a mountain. So the kingdom of God, coming from heaven originally, ends in heaven being established on earth (Re 21:1-3).
filled … earth—(Isa 11:9; Hab 2:14). It is to do so in connection with Jerusalem as the mother Church (Ps 80:9; Isa 2:2, 3).
This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
36. we—Daniel and his three friends.
Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
37. Thou … art a king of kings—The committal of power in fullest plenitude belongs to Nebuchadnezzar personally, as having made Babylon the mighty empire it was. In twenty-three years after him the empire was ended: with him its greatness is identified (Da 4:30), his successors having done nothing notable. Not that he actually ruled every part of the globe, but that God granted him illimitable dominion in whatever direction his ambition led him, Egypt, Nineveh, Arabia, Syria, Tyre, and its Ph�nician colonies (Jer 27:5-8). Compare as to Cyrus, Ezr 1:2.
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.
38. men … beasts … fowls—the dominion originally designed for man (Ge 1:28; 2:19, 20), forfeited by sin; temporarily delegated to Nebuchadnezzar and the world powers; but, as they abuse the trust for self, instead of for God, to be taken from them by the Son of man, who will exercise it for God, restoring in His person to man the lost inheritance (Ps 8:4-6).
Thou art … head of gold—alluding to the riches of Babylon, hence called "the golden city" (Isa 14:4; Jer 51:7; Re 18:16).
And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
39. That Medo-Persia is the second kingdom appears from Da 5:28 and Da 8:20. Compare 2Ch 36:20; Isa 21:2.
inferior—"The kings of Persia were the worst race of men that ever governed an empire" [Prideaux]. Politically (which is the main point of view here) the power of the central government in which the nobles shared with the king, being weakened by the growing independence of the provinces, was inferior to that of Nebuchadnezzar, whose sole word was law throughout his empire.
brass—The Greeks (the third empire, Da 8:21; 10:20; 11:2-4) were celebrated for the brazen armor of their warriors. Jerome fancifully thinks that the brass, as being a clear-sounding metal, refers to the eloquence for which Greece was famed. The "belly," in Da 2:32, may refer to the drunkenness of Alexander and the luxury of the Ptolemies [Tirinus].
over all the earth—Alexander commanded that he should be called "king of all the world" [Justin, 12. sec. 16.9; Arrian, Campaigns of Alexander, 7. sec. 15]. The four successors (diadochi) who divided Alexander's dominions at his death, of whom the Seleucidæ in Syria and the Lagidæ in Egypt were chief, held the same empire.
And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
40. iron—This vision sets forth the character of the Roman power, rather than its territorial extent [Tregelles].
breaketh in pieces—So, in righteous retribution, itself will at last be broken in pieces (Da 2:44) by the kingdom of God (Re 13:10).
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.
41-43. feet … toes … part … clay … iron—explained presently, "the kingdom shall be partly strong, partly broken" (rather, "brittle," as earthenware); and Da 2:43, "they shall mingle … with the seed of men," that is, there will be power (in its deteriorated form, iron) mixed up with that which is wholly of man, and therefore brittle; power in the hands of the people having no internal stability, though something is left of the strength of the iron [Tregelles]. Newton, who understands the Roman empire to be parted into the ten kingdoms already (whereas Tregelles makes them future), explains the "clay" mixture as the blending of barbarous nations with Rome by intermarriages and alliances, in which there was no stable amalgamation, though the ten kingdoms retained much of Rome's strength. The "mingling with the seed of men" (Da 2:44) seems to refer to Ge 6:2, where the marriages of the seed of godly Seth with the daughters of ungodly Cain are described in similar words. The reference, therefore, seems to be to the blending of the Christianized Roman empire with the pagan nations, a deterioration being the result. Efforts have been often made to reunite the parts into one great empire, as by Charlemagne and Napoleon, but in vain. Christ alone shall effect that.
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.
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.
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.
44. in the days of these kings—in the days of these kingdoms, that is, of the last of the four. So Christianity was set up when Rome had become mistress of Judea and the world (Lu 2:1, &c.) [Newton]. Rather, "in the days of these kings," answers to "upon his feet" (Da 2:34); that is, the ten toes (Da 2:42), or ten kings, the final state of the Roman empire. For "these kings" cannot mean the four successional monarchies, as they do not coexist as the holders of power; if the fourth had been meant, the singular, not the plural, would be used. The falling of the stone on the image must mean, destroying judgment on the fourth Gentile power, not gradual evangelization of it by grace; and the destroying judgment cannot be dealt by Christians, for they are taught to submit to the powers that be, so that it must be dealt by Christ Himself at His coming again. We live under the divisions of the Roman empire which began fourteen hundred years ago, and which at the time of His coming shall be definitely ten. All that had failed in the hand of man shall then pass away, and that which is kept in His own hand shall be introduced. Thus the second chapter is the alphabet of the subsequent prophetic statements in Daniel [Tregelles].
God of heaven … kingdom—hence the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 3:2).
not … left to other people—as the Chaldees had been forced to leave their kingdom to the Medo-Persians, and these to the Greeks, and these to the Romans (Mic 4:7; Lu 1:32, 33).
break … all—(Isa 60:12; 1Co 15:24).
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; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
45. without hands—(See on Da 2:35). The connection of the "forasmuch," &c. is, "as thou sawest that the stone," &c., this is an indication that "the great God," &c., that is, the fact of thy seeing the dreams as I have recalled it to thy recollection, is a proof that it is no airy phantom, but a real representation to these from God of the future. A similar proof of the "certainty" of the event was given to Pharaoh by the doubling of his dream (Ge 41:32).
Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
46. fell upon … face, and worshipped Daniel—worshipping God in the person of Daniel. Symbolical of the future prostration of the world power before Messiah and His kingdom (Php 2:10). As other servants of God refused such honors (Ac 10:25, 26; 14:13-15; Re 22:8, 9), and Daniel (Da 1:8) would not taste defiled food, nor give up prayer to God at the cost of his life (Da 6:7, 10), it seems likely that Daniel rejected the proffered divine honors. The word "answered" (Da 2:47) implies that Daniel had objected to these honors; and in compliance with his objection, "the king answered, Of a truth, your God is a God of gods." Daniel had disclaimed all personal merit in Da 2:30, giving God all the glory (compare Da 2:45).
commanded … sweet odours—divine honors (Ezr 6:10). It is not said his command was executed.
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 revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.
47. Lord of kings—The world power shall at last have to acknowledge this (Re 17:14; 19:16); even as Nebuchadnezzar, who had been the God-appointed "king of kings" (Da 2:37), but who had abused the trust, is constrained by God's servant to acknowledge that God is the true "Lord of kings."
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.
48. One reason for Nebuchadnezzar having been vouchsafed such a dream is here seen; namely, that Daniel might be promoted, and the captive people of God be comforted: the independent state of the captives during the exile and the alleviation of its hardships, were much due to Daniel.
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.
49. Daniel requested—Contrast this honorable remembrance of his humble friends in his elevation with the spirit of the children of the world in the chief butler's case (Ge 40:23; Ec 9:15, 16; Am 6:6).
in the gate—the place of holding courts of justice and levees in the East (Es 2:19; Job 29:7). So "the Sublime Porte," or "Gate," denotes the sultan's government, his counsels being formerly held in the entrance of his palace. Daniel was a chief counsellor of the king, and president over the governors of the different orders into which the Magi were divided.