Outline prophecy in Daniel
As we’ve discussed previously, Daniel 2 contains the outline prophecy for much of our history, and our future to come. In this post, we’re going to dig deep into Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and pull apart the interpretation Daniel gave for it, adding to what we know of history, since we have a wider perspective than Daniel. If you’ve never studied this before, I think you’re going to be amazed.
Nebuchadnezzar has a dream one morning. It was frightening to him and preoccupied his thoughts, but try as he might, he couldn’t remember the dream. So he calls all his advisers, the wise men of learning who attended him to tell him his dream (Daniel 2:1-3).
Chaldea was particularly known for their understanding of what passed for science back then. They were considered with wisest nation, but even they were forced to tell the king that they had no idea what the dream was. They told the thing that if he told them his dream, they could interpret it for them. (Daniel 2:4)
Nebuchadnezzar is so worried about this he begins threatening the entire group of wise men. Astrologers, sorcerers and magicians, as well as the Chaldeans in his service. He tells them that if they don’t tell him his dream, he’ll not only brutally kill them, but burn their houses down (likely with the families still in it). But, if they solve the dream (including telling him what it was), he will reward them with gifts and power. (Daniel 2:5-6)
Of course, the Chaldeans can’t interpret a dream they don’t know and they tell the king that it’s a nonsensical thing to ask, which of course doesn’t go over well. Nebuchadnezzar starts lining them up for execution (Daniel 2:7-12).
When they get around to Daniel and his friends (remember, they were brought to serve the king as wise men), Daniel asks the captain of the guard why they are being killed. Daniel goes to the king and asks for time to interpret the dream. Daniel and his friends are given time to come up with an answer, and God grants his request. Remember, God promised to give Daniel this power for staying faithful regarding the food issue earlier (Daniel 2:13-23).
So, Daniel heads back to the captain of the king’s guard and tells him to stop killing the wise men, because Daniel has the dream and the interpretation. The captain of course immediately brings Daniel to the king. The king demands the answer, but before he gives it, Daniel tells the king that only God can answer his request, and that Daniel is not wiser than any other, but rather that God wants Nebuchadnezzar to know the dream (Daniel 2:24-30).
And so, Daniel begins to tell the king his dream:
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)
And then Daniel precedes to tell the king what the dream meant:
Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold, but that after his rule would come another, inferior kingdom (the chest of silver). After that another would come, yet more inferior (the bronze stomach and thighs). Then there would be a kingdom of iron which would lead to a mixed kingdom, represented by the toes of mixed clay and iron. Mixed, but not well, that they would never truly stick together. But, after all that, God would set up a kingdom that would never be broken (the stone), that it would stand forever, encompassing the whole earth, and that nothing can stand in the way of this occurring (Daniel 2:36-45).
Nebuchadnezzar recognizes the dream and believes the interpretation, and believes that God gave this to Daniel. He worships God, promotes Daniel and even makes Daniel a ruler under himself. Daniel asks the king to put his friends in high positions, and he does so. And so ends this chapter of the book of Daniel. At least, from Daniel’s perspective.
But, we have the benefit of a couple thousand years of history to reflect on this dream.
We know from Daniel’s interpretation that Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold (Daniel 2:38). Actually, it’s more accurate to say that the head of gold was the kingdom of Babylon. History shows that Babylon was an extremely wealthy nation, best categorized by this precious metal. But, in 538 BC, it fell to Medo-Persia, lead by Cyrus. Another great kingdom, but not quite as great as Babylon. In 331 BC, they, in turn, fell to the Greeks, known as the center of the bronze age, even today. Then, in 168 BC, the Greeks fell to the Roman Empire, well known for it’s use of iron.
There we go, four kingdoms in a row, gold, silver, bronze, iron. Pretty cool, right? But it’s not a huge bet to guess that a kingdom will fall one day and be replaced by another. But here’s where it get’s a little impossible to predict. What happened to the Roman Empire?
In 476 AD, it fell, but not to another kingdom. Rather, the barbarian tribes overran the empire and dissolved it into 10 factions:
10 tribes, for ten toes. Never to be reunited, as it said, mixed like clay with iron. And to this day it hasn’t been. Most of these tribes eventually become what is now Europe. The Anglo-Saxons become the English, the Franks become the French, the Lombards become the Italians, and we’ll see more of this when we go through Daniel 7, when the prophetic details become staggering.
Throughout time, many have tried to reunite these tribes. Charlemagne, Napolean, Mussolini, Hilter, and more recently with the European Union, but all have failed, and will continue to fail, because Biblical prophecy tells us it will not happen.
And what of that final kingdom? The stone that will crush the entire world? Well, that’s still coming, but we see a precursor to it in Matthew 25:31-34. That’s the outline prophecy that we’ll be studying for the next while. The rest of the prophecies in Daniel and Revelation all serve to fill in pieces of this outline prophecy.
Unfortunately, king Nebuchadnezzar doesn’t stay converted. We’ll see in the next post, he, as an archetype of the devil, twists the prophetic word of God into an idol for himself.