return to homepage

Daniel 2

Daniel 2 is the longest chapter in the book. It is the first peek into the future in the book of Daniel and actually comes through the troubled dream of a heathen king. In this study of Daniel, we are regarding the prophecies as primarily future, end-time prophecies and that applies to this chapter. So let's take a look at Daniel 2.

"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 shew 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." (Daniel 2:1-3)

God was as anxious to reach this heathen king as anyone else and, of course, if He could get through to the king, there was great potential for a positive influence on many others. Evidently, the king had forgotten the details of the dream, remembering only that it was troubling and of seeming great importance.

"Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation." (Daniel 2:4)

From verse 4 on to the end of chapter 7 the language used is Aramaic and not Hebrew as in the rest of the book of Daniel.

"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 shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew 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 shew me the interpretation thereof." (Daniel 2:5-9)

At first, it would seem that the king was being entirely unreasonable with his servants. But we don't have all the details; perhaps he already had good reason to be suspicious of them as is suggested in verse 9.

... "ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me ..." (Dan 2:9)
"The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew 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 shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 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." (Daniel 2:10-13)

The Chaldeans essentially admitted, in verse 11, that they were not in connection with the Gods as they had claimed to be.

Daniel's Response
"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 shew the king the interpretation." (Daniel 2:14-16)

Notice that there was something different about Daniel's request compared to the others - he did not ask for the details of the dream. The king may have also honored Daniel's request because of Daniel's good service in the court. Daniel's request may have given the king hope of getting his answer.

Somehow, just as the King was restrained from remembering the dream, he was restrained from calling for Daniel at first. This gave opportunity to expose the Chaldeans (by giving them first chance) just as the priests of Baal were exposed at Mt Carmel in the test with Elijah.

"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." (Daniel 2:17-18)

Daniel went to the king even before he made the matter known to his friends. Daniel's desire was not just for himself but for his friends as well. But then he recognized the need to call on God in their situation.

"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matt 18:19-20)
The Secret Revealed
"Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven." (Daniel 2:19)

We are not given the prayer that Daniel and his friends prayed but it was answered. It was God's intent that it should happen this way that His representatives could be a strong witness to the king. His prayer of thanks to God for revealing the secret is given:

"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." (Daniel 2:20-23)

To bless God is to acknowledge that He is the source of gifts and all good things. We can likewise make requests to God, the source of all wisdom, for help as it is needed:

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him." (Jam 1:5)

Daniel made reference to an act of God that was related to an earlier celestial event resulting in a change in the calendar. There are scriptural reasons for understanding that "he changeth the times and the seasons" refers not only to this historical event but also to another event yet to come.

"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 shew unto the king the interpretation." (Daniel 2:24)

Daniel here shows his concern for all of the wise men of Babylon. They were saved because of the presence and plea of a righteous man in their midst. Think of the sailors mentioned in Acts 27:24 and Sodom which would have been saved had there been enough righteous people living there.

Daniel Before the King
"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." (Daniel 2:25)

It's interesting that Arioch claimed credit "... I have found a man ... that will make known ..." whereas Daniel claimed no credit but gave it to God as we see in Daniel's response to the king.

"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, shew 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;" (Daniel 2:26-28)

Notice that the events of Daniel 2are said to be for the latter days.

"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." (Daniel 2:29-30)

The purpose of the dream for Nebuchadnezzar was twofold:

  1. to "... make known ... what shall be in the latter days ..." (v28) To reveal "... what should come to pass hereafter: ... what shall come to pass." (v29)
  2. "... and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart." (v30)

It was to reveal future events and to reveal to him his own thoughts. The wording "but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king" seems awkward. Here is perhaps a better version of it:

"... but for the sake of making known the interpretation to the king, that thou mightest know the thoughts of thine heart." (Dan 2:30, LXX)

That seems to make it more clear. We will see as we continue that the king had a problem with pride that he needed to deal with.

head of gold

"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 2:31-36)

As we commonly use it, there seems to be a discrepancy here with the use of the terms thigh and leg, however, note this definition:

"Although in common usage, the human leg can refer to the entire lower extremity or limb of the human body, the precise definition in human anatomy refers to the section of the lower limb extending between the knee and the ankle." (Wikipedia)

The phrase "cut out without hands" may refer to the idea of this action not being done by the action of man but by God. Here are some verses that suggest this:

"And through his policy also he shall cause craft to prosper in his hand; and he shall magnify himself in his heart, and by peace shall destroy many: he shall also stand up against the Prince of princes; but he shall be broken without hand." (Dan 8:25)
"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor 5:1)

At this point in Daniel 2, we know nothing about the identity of any of these parts of the image or its meaning. Daniel now begins to give the interpretation.

The Interpretation
"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." (Daniel 2:37-38)

Daniel reveals that the head of gold represents king Nebuchadnezzar who is reminded that it was God who gave him his position. It is not clear how far "wheresoever the children of men dwell" extends as the kingdom of Babylon was not the whole world.

The thoughts of Nebuchadnezzar's heart were that he was "this head of gold." These were thoughts of pride that God was trying to help him with. Humanly speaking, the king had reason to be proud. Babylon that he had built was a very impressive city. It was 60 miles around with walls 200-300 high and 87 feet thick. It is pretty obvious that Nebuchadnezzar was filled with pride in his accomplishments:
"... Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30)

He was taking all the glory to himself but the prophecy revealed to him that his kingdom would have an end.

"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." (Daniel 2:39-43)

The Common Interpretation of Daniel 2

This vision is commonly interpreted to be an overview of history and its important kingdoms from the time of Babylon to the end of time. The symbols are often matched up with the visions of Daniel chapters 7 and 8 and understood to line up historically like this:

Daniel 2 Daniel 7 Daniel 8 Nation Represented
gold lion/eagle   Babylon
silver bear ram Medo-Persia
brass leopard he-goat Greece
iron 4th beast   Rome
iron/clay 10 horns   divisions of Rome

However, the stated purposes of the dream were:

  1. to reveal something about Nebuchadnezzar himself and
  2. to reveal events of the latter days

The latter days is the end of time not all of history from Nebuchadnezzar's time to the end. Let's consider each of the two purposes. Note that, if the purpose is to reveal successive world powers to the end of earth's history, shouldn't the United States of America, such a prominent power near the end of time, be included?


It was said "Thou art this head of gold." (verse 38); not Babylon is the head of gold. While the succession of metals is commonly understood to represent Babylon and the succeeding world powers down to the end of time is that its real meaning, its fulfillment or is it, at best, an application?

If we stay closer to the wording of the text "thou art this head of gold" we will see that the fit to the prophecy is quite good.

Each kingdom or world empire was made up of multiple kings. Nebuchadnezzar was only one king of the kingdom of Babylon. After him came another Babylonian king not the Medo-Persian kingdom - yet. The other kingdoms that we think the prophecy says follow him are not named in Daniel 2. We need to see that the supposed succession of Babylon, Medo Persia, Greece etc is an assumption. Not that it is necessarily completely wrong but it is a less-supported and therefore less-probable option for the meaning.

It is also possible that the prophecy had a more local and short-term application. Nebuchadnezzar was told "thou art this head of gold" not the kingdom or Babylon is the head of gold. In fact the Babylonian kings that succeeded Nebuchadnezzar can be seen to match the prophecy. There were the right number of them. The last kingdom was divided. They were represented by metals declining in value as the empire went into decline.

Part of Image King Time Reigning
gold Nebuchadnezzar 604 - 562
silver Amel-Marduk 562 -560
brass Neriglasser 4 years
iron Laborosoarchod 9 months
iron/clay Nabonidus and Belshazzar till Babylon's fall

Nebuchadnezzar is the one who really built and established Babylon as an empire and the prophecy is about him so that is where it starts:

"The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" (Dan 4:30)

Nebuchadnezzar's son was Amel-Marduk (called Evil-Merodach in Jer 52:31). He was assassinated after 2 years by his brother in law Neriglasser (son-in-law to Nebuchadnezzar) who held the throne for 4 years. He was succeeded by his son Laborosoarchod who reigned for 9 months before being assassinated by conspirators. Nabonidus then became king and co-reigned with his eldest son Belshazzar. He moved his capital to Tema in Arabia, leaving his son Belshazzar in charge of Babylon. Since there were two kings reigning together, the period of time is represented by 2 metals. In chapter 5, Belshazzar made a promise to Daniel if he could read the writing on the wall:

"The king (Belshazzar) cried aloud to bring in the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers. And the king spake, and said to the wise men of Babylon, Whosoever shall read this writing, and shew me the interpretation thereof, shall be clothed with scarlet, and have a chain of gold about his neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom." (Dan 5:7)

This was because he himself was only the second ruler in the kingdom. The kings could be represented by metals of declining value because the kingdom was in decline.

The Latter Days

We identified two purposes to the dream; the second purpose being to reveal what would happen in the latter days.

" 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." (Daniel 2:44)

The implication of verse 44 seems to be that God will set up His kingdom "in the days of these kings" or while these kings are in power. "These kings" would seem to include each of those represented by the different parts of the image and suggest that they are all present at the end of time when the image is struck on the feet.

Evidently, "all these kingdoms" are present at the time God sets up His kingdom. This precludes the possibility that they are successive kingdoms that one by one have replaced each other. They are destroyed, not by for instance by Alexander the Great defeating the Medo-Persians at the Battle of Arbela in 331 BC but by the end-time stone that breaks and consumes "all these kingdoms" and stands forever.

This brings up the question of how can the 3rd kingdom rule over the whole earth if the kingdoms are coexistent? Wouldn't they each rule over a part of the earth? Perhaps they each rule in a different way - politically, spiritually, socially, economically.

God Sets Up a Kingdom

God's kingdom is not physically set up on earth - as in the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven etc. - until after the millennium. But could it be set up in a spiritual sense? A kingdom was promised to the nation of Israel even back at the time of the exodus:

"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." (Exo 19:5-6)

This idea that the kingdom is in some way set up on earth before the Second Coming will be explored more when we get to the 144,000 in our studies in Revelation.

"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 2:45)

A mountain peak was viewed anciently as the dwelling of God. "Without hands" indicates an action by God as opposed to the action of man:

"For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle (mortal body) were dissolved, we have a building of God, (immortal body) an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." (2 Cor 5:1)
The Stone is Not Christ at His Second Coming

Christ will not fill the whole earth when He returns. When He comes, in fact, He will not even touch the earth:

"For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words." (1 Thess 4:16-18)

Rather, He will basically rescue us from the earth that is in a state of total destruction after the plagues and takes us to heaven for the millennium. He has been preparing places in His Father's house:

"In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2-3)
What is the Stone or Mountain of Daniel 2?

What mountain was Christ cut out of? None, but He is likened to a stone or a stone foundation. There are references to the church as a stone.

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matt 16:18)
"And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;" (Eph 2:20)
"Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." (1 Pet 2:5)

So this stone could represent God's people and may have a special reference to the 144,000 which will be covered in the studies on Revelation.

"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. 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. 49 Then 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 2:46-49)
The king recognized God's power but did not yet surrender to Him. Daniel remembered his friends and wanted them to have positions of influence also. Daniel's position "in the gate of the king" would indicate his prominent role in the affairs of the kingdom.

Parts Not Successive but Contemporary

There is considerable evidence within the chapter that all of the entities represented by the difference parts of the image are coexistent rather than replacing each other over time:

  1. "the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together" (v35)
  2. the kingdom of God is set up "in the days of these kings" (v44)
  3. "it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms" (v44)
  4. the stone broke in pieces "the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold;" (v45)
So Daniel 2 can be understood to have an ultimate fulfillment at the end of time when earthly kingdoms will be replaced by the kingdom of God. Later chapters of Daniel will tell us more about who these powers represent in their end-time setting.  

Prophecy Newsletter
Receive free newsletters reporting and analysing world events related to prophecy.
The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
God always forgives!


New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Please leave a comment below.