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Daniel (2010)

The Statue

Daniel  2

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About Dreams and Prophecy

Is this OK for Christians?

One of the first questions to arise for Christians is whether or not dreams should be taken seriously. It is not at all obvious that the average Christian should pay any attention to dreams, and in particular any attention to someone who in turn for its dreams. So it seems a little odd that the Scripture would have dreams and interpretations. But we may consider the following:

  • First, there are several examples of dreams and interpretation in the Old Testament. The best known outside of Daniel are those of Joseph. So this is a phenomenon which occurs in Scripture from the very beginning.
  • Aquinas, in his Summa Theologica, lays out the general principle that dreams can be considered valid if they occur from one of two sources. The first source is divine revelation. The second is what he calls natural causes, which is to say the ordinary workings of the human mind based upon its experiences. He warns however, that it is highly possible to have a demon inspired dream.
  • The same set of problems exists with prophecy. Paul specifies a number of conditions for keeping the profits under control. The reason is simple: it is easy to abuse prophecy, and it is likewise easy to abuse the interpretation of dreams. Nebuchadnezzar knows this, which partially explains his treatment of his wise men and magicians.
An Unreasonable King

We may now examine Nebuchadnezzar's behavior:

Daniel 2:1-12 NASB Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. (2) Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. (3) The king said to them, "I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream." (4) Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: "O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation." (5) The king replied to the Chaldeans, "The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. (6) "But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation." (7) They answered a second time and said, "Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation." (8) The king replied, "I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, (9) that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation." (10) The Chaldeans answered the king and said, "There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. (11) "Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh." (12) Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Think of it this way: how would your psychiatrist react if you told him he would have to tell you what you had dreamed and then tell you what it meant? In this, you see the parallel between magic and science. They are twins. They both say, if you tell us what happened we will interpret it. It is beyond science to know what your dream was, and it is beyond magic too.

Why did the king do this?

  • First, he doesn't trust these people. I suspect he has long experience with them and knows that they are very self serving.
  • Second, his dream is capable of multiple interpretations. How does he know which one is correct?
  • The magicians of this time had books of dreams. Perhaps he had encountered these books before, and he didn't like the answer he had gotten.
  • It is even possible that he understood part of the dream to mean that his kingdom would end. Perhaps he wished to keep the truth at bay.

There is, perhaps, a simpler solution. Have you ever awakened from a vivid dream and been unable to remember it? Perhaps he had the same problem.

The king of therefore approaches the problem with a big stick and a huge carrot. One thing is sure: this problem is important.

Types of prophecy

(Taken from a previous lesson.) It may help to review the types of prophecy.

Accidental

It sounds almost silly, but God can use the words of the ungodly as prophecy. One well known instance is from the High Pries, Caiaphas, who condemned Jesus to the cross:

{49} Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! {50} You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." {51} He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, {52} and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. -- John 11:49-52 (NIV)

Literal

Literal prophecy is just that: plain, unadorned by symbolism, a statement of a fact to occur. When a prophet makes such a statement, he does so with his life, for God makes it clear (Deuteronomy 18:18-22) that such a prophet either is 100% accurate, or is a false prophet.

Diagnostic

Diagnostic prophecy is based upon God’s sovereign control of the universe. It is the most common form of prophecy, and it usually is phrased in an “if-then” fashion. “If you don’t stop beating your wife, you’ll soon be in jail.” Most of the work of the prophet is in “forth-telling”, not foretelling.

Symbolic

The prophecy in this section is symbolic. There is such a mass of this type of prophesy in the Bible that it is worth our time to put forward the methods by which these are generally interpreted:

·         Prophecy centers around the people of God. There is no attempt to create a future history of the world.

·         Symbols used have meaning in their own context. As we will see, the bronze part of the figure becomes a goat in Chapter 8.

·         Prophecy often takes a long view; a single prophetic passage may be partially fulfilled, leaving the rest to be fulfilled at the return of Christ.

·         No prophecy stands alone; it must be compared with other prophetic passages to be sure that interpretation is reasonable.

·         Revelation naturally gets clearer as the time for fulfillment draws nearer.

Daniel’s Reaction

Daniel 2:13-28 NASB So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them. (14) Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; (15) he said to Arioch, the king's commander, "For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?" Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. (16) So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king. (17) Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, (18) so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (19) Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; (20) Daniel said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, For wisdom and power belong to Him. (21) "It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men And knowledge to men of understanding. (22) "It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him. (23) "To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, For You have given me wisdom and power; Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, For You have made known to us the king's matter." (24) Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: "Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king." (25) Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!" (26) The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation" (27) Daniel answered before the king and said, "As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. (28) "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed.

How do you handle anger?

Daniel now has a problem. He has an angry monarch on his hands. How does he handle this?

  • The words are variously translated: wisdom and tact, discretion and discernment, or counsel and the wisdom. In fact the words are difficult to translate. But it is clear that Daniel does not panic, nor does he try to find an easy way out.
  • Daniel zeroes in on the exceptional, not the threat. He focuses on the anger. There are two questions: first, why so hasty? Second, why so harsh?
Steps

Daniel does what is reasonable: he asks for more time. He was not there at the king's initial interview, so this is indeed a just request. But note what he does next. He asked his friends for support in prayer; he does not organize a protest group. That prayer is a model for us:

  • Daniel acknowledges that he and his friends are sinners.
  • He then extols God and acknowledges him for who he is.
  • Then, logically, he asks for mercy. There is no sense that Daniel thinks he deserves the answer, but he knows the merciful God.
When he gets the answer

Most of us, I suppose, would be so glad to get the answer we would run right off to the king and tell him what we knew. Daniel does the right thing:

  • He begins by giving God praise and thanks. Have you ever forgotten this?
  • He acknowledges who God is. Wisdom and power belong to God, he is the one who controls the future, in him everything is like and there is no darkness.
  • He then acknowledges what God has done: namely, giving him the answer to the problem.
  • Finally, he shows humility. This is not about the greatness of Daniel, but about the greatness of God.
Before the king

Daniel goes before the king. In so doing, he acknowledges the same things he just did in private with God. Specifically:

  • He doesn't take the credit for the vision. It's not because Daniel is special but because God wanted to reveal it.
  • He acknowledges that the problem is beyond mortals. No man could solve this problem.
  • He takes no credit for being wise greater than any other man, but tells the king that the answer came because of God's intention.

Result

Daniel 2:25-49 NASB Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: "I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!" (26) The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, "Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?" (27) Daniel answered before the king and said, "As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. (28) "However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. (29) "As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. (30) "But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind. (31) "You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. (32) "The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, (33) its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. (34) "You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. (35) "Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (36) "This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king. (37) "You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; (38) and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. (39) "After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. (40) "Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. (41) "In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. (42) "As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. (43) "And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. (44) "In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (45) "Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy." (46) Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. (47) The king answered Daniel and said, "Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery." (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 prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. (49) And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.

The vision and the interpretation

Because we have read ahead to Chapter 7, we know what this vision means in more detail than Daniel was able to reveal at this point. There are only minor differences in the various theories about this passage, so we will review it briefly.

  • The head of gold is, of course, the Babylonian empire.
  • The chest of silver is later identified as the Persian Empire.
  • The legs of bronze are identified as the Greece.
  • Only the feet of iron and clay are left unidentified in Daniel. Universally these are interpreted as a Roman empire. The only question is, which Roman empire? Most interpreters, especially before the 20th century, held that this was the Imperial Rome of the time of Christ. This identification is based upon the stone being identified as Christ. Christ came during the Roman empire. So until recently the identification was the original Roman empire. Late commentators have also speculated that the stone is the second coming of Christ, and applies to a renewed Roman empire.

That identification with the Roman empire caused Augustine to predict that Christ would not return until after the complete distraction of the Roman empire. This did not happen until 1453.

The king's reaction

One thing is for certain: Nebuchadnezzar kept his word. He promised riches and honor to the man who would interpret this dream, and he meant it. More than that, however, he acknowledges God for who he is. This is important for later understanding. It means that Nebuchadnezzar does know who God is, and when he rebuilds against him later he should have known better.

It is also obvious that the good old boy network was in full swing at this time. Daniel got the credit, but he also got his three friends a better job.

Lessons for us

May I suggest that there are lessons for us in this passage:

  • first, there is the character of God. We see his eternal purpose, his control of history, and that his will ultimately prevails.
  • Second, prophecy is meant to be understood -- at least in part. At the very least prophecy tells us that God is in control.
  • Finally, there is the outline of prayer. I am a sinner, you are God, have mercy upon me.

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