Daniel 2:31-33, 37-43
You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you…
Thou, O king, sawest, and behold an image, one and grand (ver. 31). Seize first the imagery of the dream.
1. A grand unity loomed before Nebuchadnezzar. "Behold an image, one and grand" (Chaldee, ver. 31). Four empires represented, not by four figures, but one. Symbol of human power at its highest, that of universal empire, but separate from God. Same spirit and genius in all four. A common thing to represent empire by the human figure; e.g. Britannia. The colossal imagery of the dream the reflection of the magnificent scale of objects in Babylon. But:
2. A diversity.
(1) Inform; for after the head, the human form is double, in the toes tenfold.
(2) in substance: gold, silver, etc.; the diversity constitutes a successive deterioration.
3. Destruction For a time the image stands. At length there rushes through the air, self-detached, a stone, as instinct with life; it smites, destroys, pulverizes, and instantly the image is gone-nothing is left on the wide Assyrian plain but the stone, which then grows to be a mountain, a whole mountain region, filling the field of view, grand, beautiful, with its varied vegetation, from that of a tropical clime to the eternal snow. So complete was the displacement.
I. THE WHOLE. Observe respecting the ancient world-power:
1. Its unity. One image. One universal empire. One in alienation from God. This need not have been. Civil government is of God, may be a reflection of Divine government, rooted in Divine principles, administered in the fear of God, directed to the good of humanity, and so to the glory of God. The government of this world may be one in alliance with God.
2. Its majesty. Empire like this has a majesty of its own, even though alienated from God. Just as intellect or genius may. Man was made in the image of God, in this matter of dominion over men and also over nature. Of all forms of dominion, rule over a nation (much mere of nations) is of God.
(1) The idea of civil government is of God. Government must be. It is of the Divine will. Not some particular form, e.g. monarchical, republican, etc.; but government in essence.
(2) So its realization. Government of some kind is an everlasting fact, perpetuated in the providence of God. Empire has then intrinsic majesty. Much more when in alliance with God.
3. Its weakness. All things human deteriorate, unless redeemed from corruption by the saving power of religion. The life of all that lasts is of God. It would be interesting to trace, if that were possible, the gradual deterioration of heathen religiousness, from the purer Chaldee form to the Roman degradation. As life declined, so the strength of empire went down.
II. THE PARTS.
1. The head of gold: Babylon.
(1) The empire itself.
(a) First in order of time (first universal empire).
(b) Possessed certain unity (head).
(c) Characterized by intelligence.
(d) Magnificent (gold). (For illustration, see Rawlinson's 'Manual of Ancient History,' p. 35.)
(2) Its relation to the kingdom of God, Note the pressure of the all-directing hand on these heathen world-kingdoms, Babylon:
(a) Cured, by the Captivity, Israel of idolatry.
(b) Prepared the world for unity under the Roman empire, and so prepared for the Advent.
2. The breast and arms of silver: Medo-Persia.
(1) The empire. Silver less value and power of resistance than gold. So Persia inferior to Babylon. Not in extent; but greatness is never to be confounded with bigness. (For vivid picture of real state of Persia, see Eber's ' Egyptian Princess.')
(2) Relation to Divine kingdom. The Church returned healed from the Captivity. Second temple built. Persia an instrument for raising the dormant energies of Greece, which became, under Alexander, the universal empire, and spread Greek culture, civilization, and speech everywhere, and so prepared the way for the coming of the Lord.
3. The belly and thighs of brass: Greece.
(1) The empire. None other than Greece; for:
(a) Greece succeeded Persia, and, like it, was a universal monarchy.
(b) Is named in the same order (Daniel 8:20, 21).
(c) Brass armour marked the Greeks; their soldiers were the "brazen-coated."
(2) Relation to the Divine kingdom. The service of Greece to Christ's kingdom was vast. Let the following brief sentences and phrases be suggestive: Alexander no vulgar conqueror; a fusion of East and West his object; hence, colonization, intermarriages of races, foundation of seventy cities; the idea, one brotherhood of humanity. Oriental thought blended with Hellenic culture. As a part of this plan, first dispersion of the Jews; and so everywhere a synagogue, the Septuagint, and Hebrew (i.e. true) ideas of God, sin, the Saviour. Influence of the Alexandrian school on early Christianity.
4. The legs of iron: Rome.
(1) The empire. This was indeed Rome, and not the empire of Alexander's successors; for:
(a) To omit Rome frustrates the design of the image to exhibit in succession the great empires which preceded the Advent.
(b) Rome existed at the Advent, not so the empire of Alexander's successors.
(c) Compare fourth beast (Daniel 7:7: et seg.).
(d) The symbolic imagery is strikingly close to the reality of Rome.
(2) Relation to the Divine kingdom and the Advent. Under the shield of the prevalent Roman law, Jesus was born, lived, and was crucified. Hence Gentile with Jew nailed him to the tree. The Crucifixion was marked by publicity. Rome destroyed city and temple, broke up the Jewish Church, and scattered the nation. The most prominent suggestions of this exposition are:
1. The almightiness of God's subordinating power. All things - interests, men, nations, kings - bend before it.
2. The way in which hostile powers serve his purpose. Often unconsciously, and in spite of their own intention.
3. Christ the Centre of history. To him, before the Advent, all things tend; and since, from him all things date. The greatness of the Lord Jesus. Imagine Christ taken out of the history of man! - R.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: You, O king, saw, and behold, a great image. This image, which was mighty, and whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and its aspect was awesome.