Decoding Daniel - an in depth Bible study of the book of Daniel

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Daniel 2

Outline and Background

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream - Daniel 2:1-11

Nebuchadnezzar's Folly - Daniel 2:12-13

Daniel's Wisdom - Daniel 2:14-16

Daniel's Request - Daniel 2:17-18

Daniel's Vision and Praise - Daniel 2:19-23

Interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's Dream - Daniel 2:24-45

The Image is Four Empires

The Everlasting Empire

Eschatology of the Mt Olivet Discourse

Christ's Kingdom

Nebuchadnezzar's Declaration - Daniel 2:46-49

Application and Typical Prophecies

The Image is Four Empires

Nebuchadnezzar's image with a golden headThe Future from Man’s Perspective
(Daniel 2)

FROM HEAD TO TOES
Deteriorating Power of the King
Increasing Strength of the Army
Increasing Size of the Territory
Increasing Duration of the Rule


 

Babylon (605-539 B.C.)

Unlimited Power of the King
Gold (19) – Economic Standard
Medo-Persia (539-330 B.C.)

Limited Power by Decree
Silver (11) – Economic Standard
Greece (330–63 B.C.)

Military Power
Bronze (8.5) – Military Shields
Rome (63 B.C.–A.D. 1453)

Imperialistic Power
Iron (7.8) – Military’s Iron Rule
Revived Roman Empire (?)

Unable to Hold Together
Mixed Iron & Clay (Brittle)

Ten Toes – Confederation
 

The boundaries of the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Grecian and Roman
empires increased in land mass in proportion to their representation on the
image as shown on the following four maps.

Babylonian empire

Medo-Persian empire

Grecian empire

Roman empire 

The Dawn, Duration, Deterioration, Doom of Four Empires

Having revealed the dream, Daniel turned to its interpretation. The young prophet moved progressively from the top of the image to the bottom, since the head represented current history and the successive parts portrayed later history, all in sequential order.

You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory; in your hands he has placed mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds of the air. Wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are that head of gold (Daniel 2:36-38).

Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, was called “the god of gold.” Gold was used exclusively in the city’s buildings, images and shrines. Herodotus, the Greek historian who was at Babylon ninety years after the era of Nebuchadnezzar, was astonished at the amount of gold there. Even the walls and buildings were overlaid with gold (see “Babel, Babylon,” ISBE). Being identified as the head of gold should have registered with Nebuchadnezzar.

It took courage for Daniel to speak this way to the king. He declared that it was the God of heaven, not the Babylonian gods nor the king himself, who had made Nebuchadnezzar the ruler of the world. Daniel made it clear that the God of heaven is sovereign.

One element in the interpretation of the dream is that God is the bestower of dominion, power, might and glory. Gold, being the most precious of the image’s metals, represents King Nebuchadnezzar, who possessed those four things to a greater degree than any other monarch did.

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1).

Nebuchadnezzar is “the king of kings,” because like no other monarch after him, he had absolute authority and unlimited power. He was subject to neither men, nor their laws, and so he prefigures Christ.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).

And you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority (Colossians 2:10).

To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and for evermore! Amen (Jude 25).

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ” (Revelation 12:10).

The Ancient Near East regarded kings and their kingdoms as being synonymous with each other. Hence, the head of gold represents Babylon as well as Nebuchadnezzar. This dual concept is important to remember when interpreting apocalyptic imagery in the Bible.

John McArthur, Jr. has observed that there is a decreasing specific gravity of the image’s metals (gold, 19; silver, 11; bronze, 8.5; iron 7.8) as well as preciousness (The Rise and Fall of the World, 24). The descending metals picture the deteriorating authority and power of each successive empire’s ruler.

The gold head signifies the absolute authority and power of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of kings. The silver chest signifies the kings of Medo-Persia who were limited by the power of decree. Their rule sprang from the power of nobles. The bronze belly and thighs signify the military heads of the Greek empire, and its rulers were elected by the popular vote of the military. The iron legs signify the imperialistic power of Rome that occurred with colonization—a commonwealth of nations.

The feet of mixed iron and clay signify democratic rule—the rule of the people is an inferior quality of government. Today all races, religions, and rationalizations are clamoring for a hearing, insisting upon their rights. The United States of America has become a melting pot for the peoples of all nations. There is no mistaking the present trend and the end depicted by the image.

A democracy will produce the Antichrist, consummating in the lawlessness and wickedness of the satanic world system. Then the smashing Rock will strike, becoming a mountain that fills the whole earth with God’s kingdom. This event answers the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer—“Your kingdom come!”

The dream, therefore, reveals the course of world rule from autocratic (Babylon) to oligarchic (Medo-Persia) to militaristic (Greece) to imperialistic (Ancient Rome) to democratic (Revived Rome) to theocratic (God’s Kingdom).

The strength of Rome was not a moral or religious strength, nor the strength of inner unity, but a destructive strength that ruthlessly “smashes everything” (2:40). With the notable exception of the clay and iron feet, the metals become progressively harder.

The feet of iron mixed with clay may be seen in the rider of the four horses of Revelation 6:1-8 along with other biblical prophecies. The Antichrist will rise to power by peaceful means (economics and the power of the people) before he unleashes his military on an unsuspecting world.

The world powers rise, only to fall. The decreasing weight of the image supported by feet of mixed clay and iron indicates the image is top-heavy and destined to topple. The iron, the bronze, the clay, the sliver and the gold are smashed to pieces when the Rock strikes the image.

The four metals are characteristic of each empire. Gold was the standard of Babylon; silver the standard of Medo-Persian; the Greek military was known for its bronze implements of war; and iron was used by Rome’s military, which was known for its iron-rule. Additionally, iron is able to crush gold, silver and bronze because it is stronger. Ancient Rome did just that through its military strength.

When Nebuchadnezzar dreamed his dream, Media and Persia were not a threat to Nebuchadnezzar; Greece was barely anything, and Rome was merely a little village on the banks of the Tiber. Yet, the details of Daniel’s interpretation fit these empires like fingers in a glove. So much so, liberal scholars deny the authenticity of Daniel.

Each section of the image represents proportionally the duration of four empires from the shortest to the longest. First, the head is the shortest duration: Babylon (605-539 B.C.); second, the chest: Medo-Persia (539-330 B.C.); third, the belly and thighs: Greece (330-63 B.C.); and fourth, the legs, which are the longest: Rome (63 B.C. to A.D. 1453). In A.D. 455, the Western Roman Empire fell to the Vandals, and in A.D. 1453, the Eastern Roman Empire fell to the Ottomans.

Likewise, the image from head to toes represents proportionally the land area each empire ruled. Each successive empire conquered and ruled more land mass and more people than the empire preceding it.

The two arms of the image represent the twofold division of the Medes and the Persians. The belly represents the Greek Empire united under Alexander the Great. After his death, the kingdom was divided among his four generals, but only two of the divisions, Egypt and Syria (typified by two thighs), played an important part in history. The two legs typify the division of the Roman Empire in A.D. 364: The Western Roman Empire (Mediterranean and Western Europe) with Rome as its capital and the Eastern Roman Empire (Western Asia) with Constantinople as its capital.

This last part of the image is the eschatological portion. The legs are separated from the feet and toes in Daniel’s interpretation. No hint is given as to the duration of the intervening period, which also occurs between the sixty-ninth and seventieth sevens of Daniel 9:26-27. The fourth empire would have two distinct stages of existence: Ancient Roman Empire (iron legs) and Revived Roman Empire (feet and toes of mixed iron and clay).

The toes are only mentioned by Daniel in his interpretation (2:41-43). The toes represent the tenfold division of the final form of the Roman Empire. Such a division has never occurred in history. These toes are the same as the ten horns (kings) of Revelation 17:12. Out of this predicted ten-nation confederacy, the Antichrist will arise and he will seek to rule the world prior to the second coming of Christ.

The feet and toes of iron and clay imply that the Revived Roman Empire will be weak and vulnerable. This weakness will be due to its composition of the firm and brittle. The original Roman Empire was strong in that its government was solidly organized, its armies well disciplined, and it policies well defined as evidenced by the Pax Romana. The weakness was not located in the iron legs (Ancient Rome), but in the feet and toes (Revived Rome) according to verse 43:

And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.

Solidarity will be brittle in the final stage of the Roman Empire. The ten toes of mixed iron and clay represent the ultimate in deterioration of the character of sovereignty. A democracy of mixed nationalities and races, each with their own agenda is naturally weak. At the top of the
image is the gold head, the only part that is identified as a ruler and not as an empire. The more government becomes decentralized; the more it becomes susceptible to internal problems. The Revived Roman Empire will be fragile because of the mixture of people.

There has been no world empire since Rome. Napoleon tried to rule the world, Hitler tried it, and neither of them could do it. The Roman Empire simply faded away to await its comeback. During the end times, religious and state powers will join forces for the sake of world dominion.

He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed (Revelation 13:12).

In our time, “the beast coming out of the sea” (Revelation 13:1), might be starting to breathe in the European Union. “Sea” most likely stands for the rise of ten nations around the Mediterranean, which sets the stage for man’s last effort to rule the world apart from God. Hereafter, this confederation of nations is referred to as “the Revived Roman Empire.”

Out of the Revived Roman Empire will arise “the ruler who will come” of Daniel 9:26, who is “the Wilful King” of 11:36-39, and who is better known as “the Antichrist.” He will come on the scene in Europe in order to pull together the ten-nation coalition. Once the ten kings submit to the Antichrist, it will not be very long until the final kingdom comes.

In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will establish His kingdom on earth. It will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush the remnants of the previous kingdoms and put an end to them, but it will itself endure forever. That is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands—a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces (Daniel 2:44-45).

Bible Studies by Bob Conway

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Book of James

Life and Passion of Christ

The Holy Spirit

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Life of the Apostle Paul

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