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You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31–35, NKJV)


The first thing we come to in the study of the prophecies of Daniel is the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. This dream is not properly a prophecy of Daniel; it is a dream God gave the king that Daniel interpreted. It so happens that both the dream and its interpretation are prophetic.

God could have given this dream and its interpretation to Daniel without involving Nebuchadnezzar, but God saw fit to give it through the king. Through the interpreting of this dream God brought Daniel to the notice of the king when, otherwise, he would have been just one of the Jewish boys in the back office. Revealing and interpreting this dream gave Daniel credibility that far exceeded the education he received at the University of Babylon. This also set Daniel apart from all the other advisors to the king. Verse 47: The King answered and said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, since you could reveal this secret.” The king realized Daniel had a unique relationship with the Divinity and that his special abilities came from this God. Even as a pagan, the king recognized this was something to be respected. Verse 48: Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts; and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief administrator over all the wise men of Babylon. The king placed Daniel in a superior position within his government wherein he had special privileges and opportunities not available to other wise men. This privilege put him in the position where he could devote time to the visions God would eventually give him.

Also, as it will become obvious as we visit the prophecies of Daniel, this dream and its interpretation serve as a table of contents for the prophecies God gave to Daniel.

God sent the dream to King Nebuchadnezzar shortly after Daniel and his friends graduated from the University of Babylon. Daniel was taken captive in the third year of Jehoiakim king of Judah, which was 606 B.C. According to verse five of chapter one, Daniel spent three years in training at the University. Daniel 2:1 dates the giving of the dream in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, which was 604 B.C., three years after Daniel came to Babylon.

In verses one through fifteen of chapter two we see God setting the stage to bring Daniel to the notice of King Nebuchadnezzar. The process begins when Nebuchadnezzar has a dream and wants it interpreted. He calls for representatives of all classes of his magicians, Chaldeans, and tells them “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream.” The Chaldeans apparently were used to such requests and thought themselves masters at interpreting dreams. In reality, these men knew they did not have magical powers and they cannot really interpret dreams. It was a simple matter for them to listen to the king tell his dream and then make up an interpretation. The king wanted his dream interpreted; the Chaldeans stood there waiting for him to tell them the dream, but the king just sat there without saying anything more. This prompted the Chaldeans to ask the king to tell them the dream and they assured him that once he told them the dream they would interpret it for him.

Verses five and six are interesting: The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, “My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap.  However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” Having heard this story in Sunday school and reading it in Bible Story Books, the common impression is that the king had forgotten the dream and wanted the Chaldeans to reveal both the dream and its interpretation to him. However, if you are a careful reader, you will notice the king did not say he had forgotten the dream. Apparently he was aware of their tricks and wanted the Chaldeans to do the whole thing on their own without his assistance.

They reiterated their request for the king to tell them the dream. One can sense that they were concerned about the serious consequence the king attached to his demand. If they did not come up with both the dream and its interpretation they would be executed. This suggests that the king knew the dream and did not want to give them the advantage of his telling them the dream but rather they should rely on their supposed magical powers to find out what the dream was.

The king became impatient with the Chaldeans and told them he knew they were just stalling for time. Notice what he said in verse nine: For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me. This suggests that Nebuchadnezzar suspected that the Chaldeans had lied to him at other times and that they would lie to him this time. This dream made an impression on him and, no doubt, he felt that in some way he was involved in the meaning of the dream. It wasn’t that he was trying to catch them in their tick, “his spirit was anxious to know the dream” and he wanted to have—must have—a truthful interpretation of it. His reply to the Chaldeans reinforces the fact: Therefore tell me the dream and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation. This statement suggests that he actually knows what the dream is. He is testing them to find out if they can in fact discern the dream and if they can, he would have some confidence they could tell him the real interpretation of the dream.

The Chaldeans did not want to be caught in their own trap, so they set up an argument to justify their inability to tell him the dream.

The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, “There is not a man on earth who can tell the king’s matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.” (Verses 10–11).


They have three points to their argument. First, the king had never asked them to do anything like this before. This implies that the king’s demand is unreasonable. One does not tell the King of Babylon that he is unreasonable; they just say that he had never asked them to this before. Second, to discover a dream is totally impossible for any human being. These men were highly educated and considered to be the leading scientific and religious minds in the Kingdom but to discern a dream far exceeded the bounds of their learning. Third and most important they tell the king that only “the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” can do such a thing. They certainly were not expecting this to happen because they, of all people in Babylon, knew the pagan gods were phony. It would require the power of a God who is far greater than any and all the gods of Babylon. Little did they know, this statement sets up the king’s eventual recognition of the God of Daniel.

Actions have consequences. The deceitful dealings the Chaldeans previously had with the king now came back to haunt them. Verses 12–13: For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men.

Arioch, the king’s captain, came to Daniel’s house to kill him. Daniel, a recent graduate of the University of Babylon and brand new in the employment of the king was shocked that he was about to be executed. He asked Arioch why he was going to be killed and Arioch told him about the king’s dealings with the Chaldeans and that because of them all the wise men of Babylon were to be killed. Daniel toldArioch to let the king know he will give him the interpretation. Daniel did not know the dream yet but this was not just an effort to put off his execution. He called his three friends and they went to prayer. Verse nineteen says that after prayer the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. There is a short praise service after which Daniel notifies Arioch to make an appointment for him with the king.

Arioch notified the king that he has found a man among the captives of Judah who will tell him the interpretation of the dream. When Daniel comes to the king, Nebuchadnezzar asks him, “Can you do this?” He is used to the Chaldeans lying to him and the last thing he wanted is for this Hebrew to try to lie his way out of an execution. Daniel’s response is truly humble and shows his great faith in God. “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king. But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets.” He does not brag on the fact that he has the answer, as if he figured it out on his own. Verse 30: But as for me, this secret has not been revealed to me because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but for our sakes who make known the interpretation to the king, and that you may know the thoughts of your heart. He reminds the king of the impossible nature of his request, to tell the dream, letting him know that “there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets.”

Daniel did not immediately tell the king the dream and its interpretation; instead, he told the king why God had given him the dream. Verses 28–29: But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days. Your dream, and the visions of your head upon your bed, were these:  As for you, O king, thoughts came to your mind while on your bed, about what would come to pass after this; and He who reveals secrets has made known to you what will be.

Many commentators imagine the expression “in the latter days” refers to the end times—those times leading up to the Second Coming of Christ, which, in their thinking, involve a rapture, battle of Armageddon, and a millennium. The latter days are defined by the phrase “after this,” which, in the language Daniel was speaking simply means “after this” or what happens next. The final phrase is “what will be,” which implies only the next in a series of events. The events in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream depict only things that will happen from the time of Nebuchadnezzar through the times of the events God showed him. It is totally inappropriate to the language to apply any part of this dream to the end times, a rapture, or to a millennium.

The events pictured in this dream have to do with world events. Unknown to Nebuchadnezzar is the fact that these are events which God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, will have to endure until Messiah comes.