Life in service to the king of Babylon would at times be quite unpredictable. One didn’t know what next thing the king would demand, and what punishment awaited the failure to achieve what was required.
A strange demand by the King
The magicians, astrologers and soothsayers must have made a good fortune out of interpreting the king’s dreams.
Mental activities – thoughts, dreams, assumptions, etc. – cannot be objectively assessed. They are not material for one to empirically assess. This creates space for people to speculate and presume. It goes without saying that someone’s narration of a dream, for example, can be interpreted in many ways by different people. Obviously each interpretation will be subject to each person’s perceptions and influences. Now, the failure to disapprove a subjective judgement provides immunity for the liar. However, for the Babylonian king, one day he had a strange dream that so much troubled his soul but which he forgot when he woke up! Next he made a demand that had not been anticipated by the Wise Men:
1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.
2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.
3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.
4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation.
5 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.
6 But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.
How outrageous a penalty! The Wise Men tried to work their way into negotiating with the king for him to reconsider the matter. This further infuriated the king. It became clear to him that the men were void of real divine power; they only had lying and corrupt words:
7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will show the interpretation of it.
8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me.
9 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 show me the interpretation thereof.
Knowing that no amount of trickery would enable them to explain the mysterious dream, the Wise Men spoke plainly to the king:
10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can show the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean.
11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.
By saying that “there is none other that can show it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh” the Wise Men unwittingly prepared ground for Daniel to be soon revered as one in whom were the spirits of the gods (cf.Dan.5:11).
Only God can reveal thoughts and secrets of the heart
The Wise Men were right: no one but God can truly see and reveal what lies in the mind of a person. ‘Mind readers’ can only infer by analysing a person’s words, body, and emotional expressions. Even the Devil, he can only get at us by what we reveal of ourselves through what we speak. Although he can throw thoughts at us, he certainly cannot penetrate that realm of thoughts. Like the prophet Daniel explained to the king, “the secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets” (Dan.2:27-28).
Decree given for properties and lives of Wise Men to be destroyed
If the Wise Men had been providing divine interpretations and guidance all through the years, and through their counsels rewarded with gifts and honour, if now they fail a true test of their divinity, have they not been deceiving the king all through the past years? Apparently they accumulated wealth on deceit. Nebuchadnezzar decided to kill them and destroy their houses. “Ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill” he had earlier warned (Dan.2:5). After seeing that the Wise Men were hopeless and there was no sign of them making any attempt to reveal the matter, a decree was given to proceed with the arrests and executions of the men.
12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.
13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.
If Daniel and his three friends would be killed, they would die together with the now infamous Wise Men of Babylon who were now frowned upon as liars who had only been deceiving the king with false interpretations but yet failing to handle a true test of their divine powers. It was time for Daniel and the three men to pray. But how would they have time to wait on the Lord when the urgent decree had already been given and the men were being sought after?
The four men pray for the revelation of the dream
Daniel used wisdom to request for time to pray over the matter and assured the king that the dream and its interpretation would be revealed.
14 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:
15 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.
16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation.
17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions:
18 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.
There is power when believers jointly seek the Lord over a matter in prayer. Even our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ had desired for the disciples to pray with Him on that fateful night in Gethsemane (Mat.26:38-44). Where believers gather to sincerely lay a matter before the Lord, God speaks! God heard the prayer of the four men.
The revelation was given to one of them
It was four men who prayed but the revelation only came through Daniel. God works through gifts and it was Daniel who was equipped with the gift of “understanding in all visions and dreams” (Dan.1:17). Upon receiving the revelation he rejoiced and glorified God saying:
19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.
20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his:
21 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:
22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
23 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.
Having the gift did not mean Daniel was superior and the other brethren inferior. As said earlier, God works through gifts that He gives to individuals. A person’s faithfulness and humility in handling the gift will determine how far God will use him with it. Daniel was one such faithful man. After receiving the revelation of the mysterious dream he made known the matter and sought audience to speak to the king. When he was brought before the king he emphasised that it is only God who could reveal the thoughts of the king’s heart.
24 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 show unto the king the interpretation.
25 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.
26 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?
27 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, show unto the king;
28 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;
29 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.
30 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.
Note (in verse 30) that the vision was revealed first, to protect the lives of Daniel and his three companions. These men served the true God and He shielded them from the trouble that was about to fall on them. He distinguished them from the other Wise Men who were given to pagan practices. Secondly, the revelation was given as an answer to thoughts that had persisted in the mind of Nebuchadnezzar. In verse 29 we read that the dream of Nebuchadnezzar was triggered when before sleeping he thought deeply about “what should come to pass hereafter.” As it had always been among gentile kingdoms, nations strove against one another for power and dominance. At this time Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon had risen to great prominence. But how long would this great experience continue? What eventualities would happen to Babylon? Would the now impregnable empire break all historical records by continuing to reign forever and ever? These are questions that may have troubled Nebuchadnezzar that night of the vision. Were his worries triggered by some reports or rumours of revolts and wars? Most likely as those were usual experiences of empires which thrived on subduing and oppressing other nations. An important thing to note here is that God does not only answer spoken-word prayers; He also answers troubles and petitions of the heart. Does not the Scripture encourage the believer to know that He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph.3:20)? Well, the answer to the questions of Nebuchadnezzar’s thoughts came to him through Daniel.
This was to be the turning point of Daniel’s life. It is the first recorded incident that brought him into public spectacle of the Babylonian regime. Daniel’s gift made him stand before great men just like Solomon’s proverb says, “a man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men” (Pro.18:16).
Daniel narrates and interprets the Dream
Daniel opened his mouth and narrated the revelation of the dream, saying:
31 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.
32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass,
33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.
34 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.
35 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 threshing floors; 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.
36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
Daniel went on to interpret the dream:
37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38 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.
39 And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40 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.
41 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.
42 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.
43 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.
44 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.
45 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
In verses 37 and 38 the head of gold was identified as Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire. It was described as a mighty empire which ruled the then world. Daniel explained that it was God who gave the Babylonian king this might. But how could this be? How could God establish the kingdom of a pagan ruler? What is more, in the prophecy of Jeremiah we read God saying, “And now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant” (Jer.27:6). Well, let us look at the relationship between God, Satan and the political systems of the world.
God, Satan and political systems of the world
First it is important to know that what God permits – whether Satan instigates it and thinks it will work against God’s ways – will ultimately serve His purpose. Whatever man or Satan can do, it cannot occur outside the space of the foreknowledge of God. In having the foreknowledge, and in being careful to let right and truth triumph, God, who is the Ultimate Good, always works out a way for everything to ultimately serve His purpose. Thus, when a person or thing serves His purpose, whether that thing be evil or good, we would call it, for the limitation of language, His ‘servant’. It is in this context that God can say, “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things” (Isa.45:7)’
That the might of Nebuchadnezzar was permitted by God does not mean that he was an anointed beloved ruler of Yahweh. It is important to understand that the dispensation of man’s political systems was never God’s perfect will. He only permitted it because of man’s disobedience, to let him partake of the fruit of his choosing – “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD. They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices” (Prov.1:29-31). Even in the nation of God’s people, Israel, although there were at times good-hearted and God-fearing kings, albeit few, it was never His perfect will for the nation to be governed by kings.
The political system of having a king in Israel began when the people coveted after the political system of Gentiles. Previously the nation had been ruled by prophets and judges. But during the time of the prophet Samuel, the people approached him saying, “Give us a king to judge us like all the nations” (1 Sam. 8:5). To this carnal demand God said to the prophet Samuel, “Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them” (1 Sam.8:7). Next, God warned about how ego and greed (vices in fallen mankind!) would lead kings to abuse their power: “He [a king] will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots.… And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants” (1 Sam.8:11-18). Are these things not still happening today?
Even with modern democratic systems of governance which espouse to establish “rule by the people”, with leaders being servants of the people, the reality (especially in Africa and other Third World regions of the world) leaves much to be desired. Actually democracy seems more of demon-crazy. The so-called servants actually wield so much power which they use to abuse their people. They live and dine in beautiful houses whilst a significant number of people in their populations live in deplorable conditions. Their life knows no cost of living. They have free food, transportation, housing, and on top of all this, emoluments which don’t proportionate with the hard economic conditions of their countries. It is these men in power who appoint judges to manage a country’s justice system, and as expected there can never be a true sense of accountability for what they do. Strangest of all is the fact that the lavish lifestyles of these men are financed by tax contributions of the poor masses. When the ‘masters’ fall sick, they cannot access proper medical attention in the available hospitals and other health institutions. With no money to access quality services, they are left with no option but to endure the circumstances. But when the ‘servants’ get ill, having misprioritised resources and leaving nothing for developing essentials of an economy, they don’t get attended to by their poor health institutions which lack various facilities. They fly to developed countries – again using tax-payer’s money to access better facilities. Many actually don’t just go to the developed nations for medical check-ups; they go there for holiday (as though those nations were built by angels as someone once remarked!). And as though that is not insane enough, they take their children for education to those developed nations. Surely, they can’t educate their children in institutions they have no faith in. They preside over these institutions and have an opportunity to develop them, but greed has a greater control over them and so they choose to abuse them by depriving them of the much needed resources. These men are powerful. You cannot easily access them. They are concealed from the sufferings of a common man on the street by the thick walls of their beautiful offices and residential houses. The one time a person can easily access them, even to shake their hand, is most likely that time when they appear as humble servants again to seek out the vote to run for another term.
Enough about the sins of the black politician. I would have to borrow words of a hymn to describe the Western politician. To write the sins of the white politician, from WW1, through Hitler’s Nazism, onto South Africa’s apartheid system, if the sky were a scroll stretched from sky to sky, and all oceans ink, and every man a scribe by trade, and every stalk on earth a quill, it would drain the oceans dry!
Whilst the Earth spins on its axis, the world of politics revolves around dishonesty, insincerity, greed, ego, and insecurity. All this plays well into the Devil’s hands. Yes, Satan owns the political systems (‘kingdoms’) of this world. This he made clear when he said to the Lord Jesus, “that [the power of the kingdoms of the world] is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it” (Luk.4:6). Once, after long whiles, some men of integrity do rise but often it’s one in a million! It is for this reason that believers pray saying “Thy kingdom come.” And God’s kingdom shall surely come one day and rid this world of all its filth.
Interpretation of the Great Image
Daniel’s revelation and interpretation of the great image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream are well confirmed in history.
(a) Head of Gold
This, as Daniel had explained, referred to Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon. It had grown to be the most powerful empire of the world. It subdued many Mesopotamian nations and tribes, among them Persians and Jews.
(b) Breast and Arms of Silver
Once regarded as impregnable, mighty Babylon fell to the Medo-Persian Empire. The Medes and Persians were once insignificant tribes of the Mesopotamian region. Living under the supremacy of mighty Babylon, they endured abuse and oppression. However, with time there arose a man of exceptional courage and wit, Cyrus. In very unlikely circumstances he managed to rise to great power and Babylon, having defeated it, lay under his powerful reign. History records show that the first important act done by Cyrus when he rose to power was to free Babylonian slaves. The command (or decree) to give freedom to the Jews to go to their land and build the house of God is found in the book of Ezra (chapter 1).
Medo-Persians had successfully subdued Babylon, Egypt and other territories of the region. The empire had been ruled by a succession of great ambitious kings. These kings had a strong defence system of always ensuring that the empire was not vulnerable to defeat. However, with the continuation of peace and security came relaxation. New leaders became obsessed with lavish lifestyles. Leaders became more interested in accumulating wealth and eating nice food. Good clothing styles became the order of the day. Historians have noted that even slaves wore splendid robes.
(c) Belly and Thighs of Brass
Although renowned as formidable, the laxed state of Persia was all that was needed for the enemies to gain courage to launch an attack. It was at this time of great relaxation that King Philip of Greece and Macedonia was building a great army to achieve that very purpose. However, all the great military techniques and investments made by Philip only set the stage for what his son, Alexander, would accomplish.
Philip was assassinated before he could implement his war plans against Persia. Alexander, at only about 20 years of age, was the new king of Greece. This was no ordinary young man. Tutored by the world famed philosopher Aristotle, and armed with bravery, wit, and extraordinary leadership skill, he took on Persia.
When meeting the Persian army, Alexander’s army was by far outnumbered. However, they had courage and hope. And true to their hope, the Persian army although larger was not under an able-commander. The persistence of Alexander’s army put the larger army to fright. Alexander eventually brought down Persia, and Greece rose to dominate the world. That was the “belly and thighs of brass.”
As with the previous empires, a time came when the Grecian empire declined. Greece gave way to the most terrible empire that existed ever, the Pagan Roman Empire!
(d) Legs of Iron and Feet mixed with Clay and Iron
The Roman Empire was the most vast, stretching from Great Britain to Syria on our map today. This empire started out as a pagan empire, annexing different regions to become Roman provinces. Rome ruled conquered nations with an iron fist of suppression and abuse. In Rome wealth and power were achievements greatly desired by people. Nations which got subdued by Rome became its provinces. The nation of Judah was one such victim. It was besieged and annexed during the time of Pompey. About 63 years after that fateful incident Jesus Christ was born. When He was 30 years of age His ministry began and forever changed the course of history.
After the death and resurrection of Christ, the Gospel began to sweep over Jerusalem like a storm. Finding its doctrine of Jesus Christ being the Messiah, the Jews were confused about it and instead began to stir trouble against what was perceived as a strange cult. But so overwhelming was the testimony of the Christians that the blind received their sight, the lame walked, the sick received healing and the demon-possessed were delivered. This power became evidence that although Jesus could not be physically seen, He was alive and working through His believers.
Elders of Judaism were so disturbed by the message of the Christians. First it appeared to them to be contrary to the traditional teachings of Judaism. Secondly, it condemned them to have killed the Messiah, but who resurrected and His power was evidenced by the manifestations of miracles. A fierce persecution ensued led by the Jewish leaders to put an end to the spread of Christianity. Strangely, it was as though the blood of the martyrs was fuel for more fire of the Gospel spreading over the country, and on beyond its borders. One day all these events took a more shocking dramatic turn. This was confusion to religious leaders and great joy and strength to the Christians. A renowned persecutor, seasoned scholar, and religious leader had converted!
Saul, a man who was a leader of the crusade against Christians, at whose hands a well-known martyr Stephen had died, gave testimony of an unusual experience of having had an encounter with a supernatural light out of which Jesus spoke. This changed Saul’s mind, and his life was from that time to be a series of events led by the power that guided the disciples of Christ. Saul’s name was changed to Paul, and this man, against all odds became its great apostle, surpassing the missionary efforts of all those before him. One of the places Paul travelled to, to take the Gospel there, was Rome.
Paul’s missionary work in Rome resulted into pagans rejecting idol worship as they received the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the next coming years the rise of Christianity got the attention of politicians who vehemently opposed its spread. Many Christians died in the most barbaric ways. Emperors Nero and Diocletian are well known in Roman history for their atrocities against Christians.
With time a new emperor rose who was kind hearted towards Christians, Constantine. At a time when he needed to fight a war it is said that he had a dream of a cross, signifying that by the faith of the Christians he would overcome. He overcame. By that time there were so many Christians which he now elevated to positions of power. He later united the Church and State, ushering in the new era of the Holy Roman Empire, when the Roman Catholic Church wielded so much power and influence.
By the year 476 AD, due to the constant invasions of Barbaric tribes, the mighty Roman Empire dismembered into ten provinces. This region of the world continues to exist today as Western and mainland Europe. As was foretold in prophecy, some nations of Europe are stronger and others weaker. Various attempts have been made to integrate the region into a single force but the weak have remained weaker and the strong stronger. Today there is the European Union whose membership over time has been fluctuating, with some countries leaving and others joining in. But, whatever political changes occur, prophetically we know that at the time of the Second Advent of Christ this will be the key political system God will deal with to give way to the coming and establishment of the Kingdom of God. This kingdom will live and abide forever!
When Daniel finished explaining the vision, Nebuchadnezzar was so amazed that he worshipped him.
46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.
47 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.
Was Nebuchadnezzar’s confession of saying to Daniel that “of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods” constitute having the true revelation of Yahweh the God of the Jews? Not so. Although astonished and so amazed that he worshipped Daniel, with regards to having a true revelation of the Godhead, he was ignorant. His pagan tendencies continue to manifest as you read on the chapters that follow in the book. The very act of Nebuchadnezzar bowing down to worship and offer oblations to Daniel show how pagan he was. He was so pagan, and also so engrossed in political power, that Daniel must have never felt it necessary to restrain him from offering his vain oblations.
After this incident Daniel was promoted to a high position of authority. He also secured some positions for his three friends.
48 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.
Now, as we come to the end of Chapter 2, let us look at one interesting matter. Nebuchadnezzar had been told, “thou saw ‘a great image’”, God has “made thee ruler over people”, and “Thou art this head of gold!” The next thing we read in Daniel Chapter 3 is, Nebuchadnezzar “made an image of gold.” This event brought a persecution on the three friends of. A question of interest is, Where was Daniel during this persecution? Did he compromise by bowing and worshipping the idol also? Certainly not as throughout the book Daniel is a fearless man of faith and integrity. The answer much likely lies in the last eight words of Chapter 2:
49Then 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.
Daniel Chapter 3
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