Daniel succeeded in telling the king his dream. It consisted of a great image made of different materials and a stone that demolished the image. Now Daniel is ready to tell the king the interpretation.
Daniel 2:36-45 (KJV)
This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
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.
And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
Daniel began to speak. In verse 36 notice the use of "we". Why would Daniel not use "I"? He was alluding to the fact that the interpretation of the dream, although spoken by him, was from another source (meaning God). According to verse 37 how did Daniel describe King Nebuchadnezzar? He called the king, a king of kings. That was pretty high praise! But who was responsible for setting Nebuchadnezzar up as king? God had given the king a kingdom, power, strength, and glory. In verse 38 Daniel spoke of the breadth of Nebuchadnezzar's reign. It extended to "wheresoever the children of men dwell". For the world at this time of history, the Babylonians had a very large empire. What else was subservient to Nebuchadnezzar? He ruled over the beasts of the field and the fowls of the sky. Then Daniel said that Nebuchadnezzar was what? Nebuchadnezzar, as representative of the Babylonian Empire, was the head of gold that he saw in his dream. Why would gold be an appropriate representation for Babylon? Apparently, gold was used extensively in the building projects in Babylon. Plus, the chief god of the Babylonians was Marduk, the god of gold ( Showers, Renald E., The Most High God, 17).
In rapid succession, Daniel spoke about the second and third parts of the great image. Daniel said that after the Babylonian Empire another kingdom would arise. What did he say about that kingdom (verse 39)? He said that it would be inferior. Do you remember what the breast and arms of the image were made of? They were made of silver. What kingdom came after the Babylonian Empire? The Persian Empire came next on the scene of history. Why is silver an appropriate representation of the Persian Empire? The Persians used silver for exchange and had an extensive tax system (Showers 18). It is interesting to note that the Persian Empire was more accurately called the Medo-Persian Empire because it was made up of two groups, the Medes and the Persians. This lack of absolute unity was the only way that the Persian Empire was inferior to the Babylonian Empire (Showers 18).
What empire came after the Persians? The Greeks conquered the Persians. What part of the image represented this third kingdom? The image's belly and thighs stood for the Grecian Empire. What was this part of the image made of? It was made of brass (bronze, an alloy of copper and tin). What did Daniel say about this kingdom in verse 39? He said that it would rule the world. Again for that time of history, the Greeks had conquered the known world. Yet bronze is inferior to silver. How was the Grecian Empire inferior to the Persian? Alexander the Great, the king responsible for conquering so much of the world died young and left his kingdom to four of his generals, two of which continued in importance. Hence the unified belly and two thighs were an appropriate picture of the Grecian Empire. Bronze is a metal used extensively in war and certainly the Greeks were known as conquerors (Showers 19).
According to verse 40 the fourth kingdom would be as strong as what? The fourth kingdom, Rome, would be as strong as iron. Why is this appropriate for Rome? Because Rome was a strong empire that "breaketh in pieces" and "subdueth all things", iron was an appropriate metal. What part of the image was represented by Rome? The image's legs of iron and the feet and toes made of a mixture of iron and clay represented the Roman Empire. The legs of iron spoke of Rome's rule over a western and eastern division. It also spoke of the iron weapons used by the Roman Empire (Showers 20). The feet and toes were addressed in verses 41-43. The Roman Empire then is pictured as having two stages, the first being very strong, while the second stage (the feet and toes) would be militarily strong, but as the Empire aged it would be made up of several groups or confederations that would not work together well.
For Nebuchadnezzar, the dream represented what would happen in the future. Part of this future for us has already happened. But in describing the second stage of the Roman Empire it is possible that this has not occurred yet, that this is prophetic for us as well? Some believe this because after the fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire) what happens in verse 44? God sets up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. It won't be left to other people and it will in fact demolish the previous kingdoms and will last forever. This can only be God's Millennial Kingdom that is established at Yeshua's return. Yet, the Roman Empire ended in about 500 A.D. How does this fit? All of the previous kingdoms were somewhat built on one another. The Roman Empire especially has had long lasting results considering its influence on our rule of law and the Roman Church. So I think we can see that in some ways the Roman Empire is still with us. There are many who believe as well that as we come to the End Times there will be a revived Roman Empire (Some have speculated that this could be the European Union.).
In any case, how does the fifth kingdom get set up (verse 45)? A great stone, cut out from a mountain by supernatural means (God), is used to smash the kingdoms from before. This fifth kingdom represents God's kingdom on earth that He will establish and that will remove all the influences of the prior kingdoms. Daniel ended the interpretation by stating that the dream was certain and the interpretation was sure. In other words, Nebuchadnezzar's dream represented what the world's history would assuredly be like.
This message should be highly encouraging for us. The details prophesied long before the events is amazing. Only God could be responsible for this. He wants us to know that He is in control of the events of history. We see in the first empires how historically accurate the dream was. We can trust the second part just as much. How relevant is that?
Next, we will see what kind of a response King Nebuchadnezzar has to the dream and its interpretation.