Daniel 2:1-49 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

Note: For more information relevant to this passage of Daniel two, see the accompanying Appendix (PDF download) that deals with the following topic: The Account of Stephen Saint in Timbuktu.

1. When King Nebuchadnezzar calls upon the astrologers to interpret his dream, what do they request (see verse 4 printed below?) How does the king respond to their request (see verses 5-6 printed below?) Why does he make this response (see verse 9 printed below?)

Then the Chaldean astrologers answered the king in the Syrian language, O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation. (Daniel 2:4)

The king replied to the Chaldean astrologers, I have issued this decree: If you do not tell me what I dreamed and its interpretation, you shall be cut into pieces and your houses shall be turned into a pile of rubble. (6) But if you tell me the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore, tell me the dream and its interpretation. (Daniel 2:5-6)

But if you do not tell me the dream, there is only one verdict for you; because you have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things until the astrological time has changed. Therefore, tell me the dream, and then I will know that you can give me the true interpretation. (Daniel 2:9)

The astrologers request further information: let the king relate the content of his dream, and they will provide the interpretation. Now the king may be perplexed, but he is not stupid; he insists that the Chaldaeans tell him the dream. The king has not forgotten what he dreamed. Note: the Hebrew phrase sometimes translated, “the thing is gone from me” (vs. 5), is referring to the royal decree the king is about to proclaim, not to the content of the dream, hence we have rendered it: “I have issued this decree.” The king is putting the Chaldaean astrologers to the test: if they can correctly relate the content of his dream, then he knows that he can rely upon their interpretation. But if he must relate his dream to them, they are liable to give it any favorable interpretation they desire so as to save their lives and gain the promised reward.

2. How would you describe the mental and emotional state of King Nebuchadnezzar (with regard to his dream) and that of the astrologers (with regard to the king’s demand)? See Daniel 2:1-2,9-12 (printed below)

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams. His spirit was troubled and he could not sleep. (2) So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and the Chaldean astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. So they came in and stood before the king. (Daniel 2:1-2)

But if you do not tell me the dream, there is only one verdict for you; because you have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things until the astrological time has changed. Therefore, tell me the dream, and then I will know that you can give me the true interpretation. (10) The Chaldean astrologers answered the king, There is not a man on earth who can do what the king asks. No king, lord, or ruler has ever made such a request of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean astrologer. (11) It is an extraordinary thing that the king requests, and no one can fulfill it for the king except the gods, but they do not dwell with men. (12) For this reason the king became angry, indeed, very furious, and he gave the command to put all the wise men of Babylon to death. (Daniel 2:9-12)

It appears that the king was so troubled by his dream that he immediately summoned the Chaldaean astrologers to appear before him in the middle of the night. Being totally frustrated by the king’s demand and perplexed about his dream, these wise men protest that the king’s request is impossible. Thus the opening verses of this passage record the frustration and utter helplessness that descended upon the courts of the great empire of Babylon. The king is so frustrated in his efforts to know the interpretation of his dream that he loses control and becomes enraged. The Chaldaean astrologers are panic-stricken at what will happen to them because they cannot tell the king the content nor the meaning of his dream.

3. Faced with this dilemma and the prospect of being executed by the enraged king, what does Daniel do (see verses 17-18 printed below?) What is the result (see verses 19-23 printed below?)

Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, (18) so that they might request mercies from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. (Daniel 2:17-18)

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel during the night in a vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. (20) Daniel said, Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, because wisdom and might belong to him. (21) He changes the astrological times and the seasons; he deposes kings and establishes kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to men of understanding; (22) he reveals the deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. (23) I thank you and praise you, O God of my fathers, you have given me wisdom and might. Indeed, you have now made known to me what we requested of you; you have made known to us the king’s dream and its interpretation. (Daniel 2:19-23)

How does Daniel handle this dilemma? He shares the problem with his companions, so that together they might ask the Lord for wisdom (verses 1117-18). Not only is it the Christian’s privilege, it is our obligation, to look to Christ our Lord for guidance (note Psalm 50:15 which provides both an invitation as well as a command to seek the Lord’s help). In answer to prayer the Lord reveals the content and interpretation of the dream to Daniel (verse 19a). Note that in response to answered prayer Daniel is faithful to thank and praise God: “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven” (vs.19b).

4. Describe what Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream as Daniel reports it in verses 31-35 (printed below).

You, O king, saw and observed a huge statue. This statue, which was enormous and whose brightness was brilliant, stood before you. Its appearance was awesome. (32) The head of this statue was made of fine gold, its chest and arms were made of silver, its stomach and its thighs were of bronze, (33) its legs were made of iron, its feet were made partly of iron and partly of clay. (34) You continued observing this statue until a rock was cut out of a mountain, but not by hands. The rock struck the statue’s feet, that were made of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. (35) Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were all broken into pieces together and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. Then the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:31-35)

In his dream the king had seen a great statue. This statue of a human figure was composed of the following parts: the head was of fine gold, the chest and arms were of silver, the stomach and thighs were of bronze, the legs were iron, and the feet were part iron and part clay. As the king observed this great statue, a stone was mysteriously and divinely cut out of a mountain. This stone came rolling down the mountainside and smashed into the huge statue. The stone struck the feet (composed of iron and clay), breaking them into pieces. Consequently, the whole statue came crashing to the ground in a pile of rubble. The rubble was then ground into powder and blown away by the wind. Following the destruction of this immense statue of a human figure, the stone began to grow until it finally became a mountain of immense proportion that filled the whole earth.

5. What is the interpretation of the king’s dream? See Daniel 2:36-45 (printed below)

This was the dream. Now we will make known to the king the interpretation. (37) You, O king, are king of kings, the one on whom the God of heaven has bestowed the dominion, the power, and the strength and the glory. (38) Into your hands he has placed mankind, as well as the beasts of the field and the birds of the air—wherever they live, he has made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold. (39) After you, another kingdom will rise, one that is inferior to you. Next, a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over all the earth. (40) And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron. Just as iron breaks and smashes everything, so like iron that breaks things to pieces, this kingdom will crush and break all the others to pieces. (41) Just as you saw that the feet and toes were made partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, just as you saw iron mixed with clay. (42) Just as the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. (43) And just as you saw the iron mixed with the baked clay, the people of this kingdom will be a mixture of nationalities; but they will not be united, just as iron does not mix with clay. (44) In the days of those kings, the God of heaven will establish a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be passed on to another people. It will break all those kingdoms into pieces and consume them, and it will stand forever. (45) This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of the mountain, but not by hands—the rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold to pieces. The great God has shown the king what will take place in the future. The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy. (Daniel 2:36-45)

The head of gold represents Nebuchadnezzar and the kingdom of Babylon (verses 37-38). The chest and arms of silver represent another kingdom that shall succeed Babylon, namely, the Persian Empire (verse 39a). The stomach and thighs of bronze represent a third kingdom that shall rise to power, namely, the Greek Empire (verse 39b). The legs of iron and the feet of iron and clay represent a fourth kingdom, namely, the Roman Empire (verses 40-43). Daniel explains that in the days of the fourth kingdom the God of heaven shall set up His kingdom, this fact is represented by the stone (verses 44-45). Indeed, the kingdom of God was inaugurated on the earth during the days of that fourth kingdom (the Roman Empire): it was during those days that our Lord’s incarnation, work of atonement, resurrection, and ascension all occurred, as well as His outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. But just as that stone did not grow to fill the whole earth until after the great statue was totally eliminated; so, too, the kingdom of God shall not be revealed in its full glory and power until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ on the day of final judgment.