Nebuchadnezzar, in the second year of his reign, (or in the fourth, according to the Jewish account, which takes in the first two years in which he reigned conjointly with his father,) had a dream which greatly troubled him; but of which nothing remained in the morning but the uneasy impression. Hence the diviners, when brought in before the king, could give no interpretation, as they were not in possession of the dream, 1-13. Daniel then, having obtained favour from God, is made acquainted with the dream, and its interpretation, 14-19; for which he blesses God in a lofty and beautiful ode, 20-23; and reveals both unto the king, telling him first the particulars of the dream, 24-35, and then interpreting it of the four great monarchies. The then existing Chaldean empire, represented by the head of gold, is the first; the next is the Medo-Persian; the third, the Macedonian or Grecian; the fourth, the Roman, which should break every other kingdom in pieces, but which in its last stage, should be divided into ten kingdoms, represented by the ten toes of the image, as they are in another vision 7:7) by the ten horns of the fourth beast. He likewise informs the king that in the time of this last monarchy, viz., the Roman, God would set up the kingdom of the Messiah; which, though small in its commencement, should ultimately be extended over the whole earth, 36-45. Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, (named by the prince of the eunuchs, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego,) are then promoted by the king to great honour, 46-49.
Notes on Chapter 2
The second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar
That is, the second year of his reigning alone, for he was king two years before his father's death. See Clarke on Daniel 1:1. This was therefore the fifth year of his reign, and the fourth of the captivity of Daniel.
Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams wherewith his spirit was troubled
The dream had made a deep and solemn impression upon his mind; and, having forgotten all but general circumstances, his mind was distressed.
chartummim. See Clarke on Genesis 41:8.
ashshaphim. Perhaps from nashaph, to breathe, because they laid claim to Divine inspiration; but probably the persons in question were the philosophers and astronomers among the Babylonians.
mechashshephim. See Clarke on Deuteronomy 18:10.; and "Ex 22:18"; and "Le 19:31", where several of these arts are explained.
Who these were is difficult to be ascertained. They might be a college of learned men, where all arts and sciences were professed and taught. The Chaldeans were the most ancient philosophers of the world; they might have been originally inhabitants of the Babylonian Irak; and still have preserved to themselves exclusively the name of Chaldeans, to distinguish themselves from other nations and peoples who inhabited the one hundred and twenty provinces of which the Babylonish government was composed.
Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriac
aramith, the language of Aram or Syria. What has been generally called the Chaldee.
O king, live for ever
Malca leolmin cheyi. With these words the Chaldee part of Daniel commences; and continues to the end of the seventh chapter. These kinds of compliments are still in use in the East Indies. A superior gives a blessing to an inferior by saying to him, when the latter is in the act of doing him reverence, "Long life to thee." A poor man, going into the presence of a king to solicit a favour, uses the same kind of address: O father, thou art the support of the destitute; mayest thou live to old age!-WARD'S Customs.
Ye shall be cut in pieces
This was arbitrary and tyrannical in the extreme; but, in the order of God's providence, it was overruled to serve the most important purpose.
That ye would gain the time
The king means either that they wished to prolong the time that he might recollect it, or get indifferent about it; or that they might invent something in the place of it; or make their escape to save their lives, after having packed up their valuables. See Daniel 2:9.
There is not a man upon the earth
The thing is utterly impossible to man. This was their decision: and when Daniel gave the dream, with its interpretation, they knew that the spirit of the holy gods was in him. So, even according to their own theology, he was immeasurably greater than the wisest in Babylon or in the world.
They sought Daniel and his fellows
As the decree stated that all the wise men of Babylon should be slain, the four young Hebrews, being reputed among the wisest, were considered as sentenced to death also.
Captain of the king's guard
Chief of the king's executioners or slaughter men. Margin, rab tabachaiya, chief of the butchers, he that took off the heads of those whom the king ordered to be slain, because they had in any case displeased him. "Go and bring me the head of Giaffer." The honourable butcher went and brought the head in a bag on a dish. It was Herod's chief butcher that brought the head of John the Baptist in a dish to the delicate daughter of Herodias. This was the custom of the country. No law, no judge, no jury. The will or caprice of the king governed all things. Happy England! know and value thy excellent privileges!
That he would give him time
That is, that he might seek unto God for a revelation of the thing. The Chaldeans dared not even to promise this; they would only pledge themselves for the interpretation, provided the king would furnish the dream. Daniel engages both to find the lost dream, and to give the proper interpretation.
That they would desire mercies
For this Daniel had requested a little time; and doubtless both he and his three companions prayed incessantly till God gave the wished for revelation; but whether it was given that same sight, we do not know.
Then was the secret revealed-in a night vision.
Daniel either dreamed it, or it was represented to his mind by an immediate inspiration.
Wisdom and might are his
He knows all things, and can do all things.
He changeth the times
Time, duration, succession are his, and under his dominion. It is in the course of his providence that one king is put down, and another raised up; and therefore he can distinctly tell what he has purposed to do in the great empires of the earth.
I thank thee and praise thee
No wonder he should feel gratitude, when God by this merciful interference had saved both the life of him and his fellows; and was about to reflect the highest credit on the God of the Jews, and on the people themselves.
Destroy not the wise men
The decree was suspended till it should be seen whether Daniel could tell the dream, and give its interpretation.
Cannot the wise men
Cannot your own able men, aided by your gods, tell you the secret? This question was necessary in order that the king might see the foolishness of depending on the one, or worshipping the other.
One of our old words: "The tellers of truth:" but gazerin is the name of another class of those curious artists, unless we suppose it to mean the same as the CHALDEANS, Daniel 2:2. They are supposed to be persons who divined by numbers, amulets, which, whatever learning they show, cast little light upon this place.
There is a God in heaven
To distinguish him from those idols, the works of men's hands; and from the false gods in which the Chaldeans trusted.
In the latter days.
A phrase which, in the prophets, generally means the times of the Messiah. God is about to show what shall take place from this time to the latest ages of the world. And the vision most certainly contains a very extensive and consecutive prophecy; which I shall treat more largely at the close of the chapter, giving in the mean time a short exposition.
A great image
Representing the four great monarchies.
Head was of fine gold
The Babylonish empire, the first and greatest.
Breast and his arms of silver
The Medo-Persian empire, under Cyrus,
His belly and his thighs of brass
The Macedonian empire, under Alexander the Great, and his successors.
His legs of iron
The Roman government.
His feet part of iron and part of clay.
The same, mixed with the barbaric nations, and divided into ten kingdoms. See at the end of the chapter. See Clarke on Daniel 2:49.
A stone was cut out
The fifth monarchy; the spiritual kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which is to last for ever, and diffuse itself over the whole earth.
The stone-became a great mountain
There is the kingdom eben, of the stone, and the kingdom of the mountain. See at the end at the chapter. See Clarke on Daniel 2:49.
The God of heaven
Not given by thy own gods, nor acquired by thy own skill and prowess; it is a Divine gift.
To rule this kingdom.
To defend it against all foes.
Great honour and dignity.
Thou art this head of gold
See on Daniel 2:31-34, and at the end. See Clarke on Daniel 2:49.
A kingdom which shall never be destroyed
The extensive and extending empire of Christ.
Shall not be left to other people
All the preceding empires have swallowed up each other successively; but this shall remain to the end of the world.
The dream is certain
It contains a just representation of things as they shall be.
And the interpretation thereof sure.
The parts of the dream being truly explained.
The king-fell upon his face
Prostrated himself: this was the fullest act of adoration among the ancients.
Supposing him to be a god, or Divine being. No doubt Daniel forbade him; for to receive this would have been gross idolatry.
Your God is a God of gods
He is greater than all others.
And a Lord of kings
He governs both in heaven and earth.
Made Daniel a great man
By, 1. Giving him many rich gifts. 2. By making him governor over the whole province of Babylon. And, 3. By making him the chief or president over all the wise men.
Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego over the affairs of the province of Babylon
He wished his three companions promoted, who had shared his anxieties, and helped him by their prayers. They all had places of trust, in which they could do much good, and prevent much evil.
Daniel sat in the gate of the king.
That is, was the chief officer in the palace; and the greatest confidant and counsellor of the king. But whatever his influence and that of his friends was, it extended only over the province of Babylon; not through the empire.
A DISCOURSE ON NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM, Daniel 2:41-45.
I shall now consider this most important vision more at large, and connect it with a portion of the previous history of the Jewish people.
The kingdoms of Israel and Judah after a series of the most unparalleled ingratitude and rebellion, against displays of mercy and benevolence, only equalled by their rebellions, were at last, according to repeated threatenings, given over into the hands of their enemies. The inhabitants of the former country were subdued and carried away captives by the Assyrians; and those of the latter, by the Chaldeans.
The people of Israel never recovered their ancient territories; and were so disposed of by their conquerors, that they either became amalgamated with the heathen nations, so as to be utterly undistinguishable; or they were transported to some foreign and recluse place of settlement, that the land of their residence, though repeatedly sought for and guessed at, has for more than two thousand years been totally unknown.
Judah, after having been harassed by the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and others, was at last invaded by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; Jerusalem besieged and taken; and Jehoiachin the king, who had before become tributary to the Babylonians, with his mother, wives, officers of state, and chief military commanders, princes, and mighty men of valour, to the amount of ten thousand; and all the artificers, smiths, one thousand, with all that were fit for war, he carried captives to Babylon; leaving only the poorest of the people behind, under the government of Mattaniah, son of the late king Josiah, and uncle to Jehoiachin; and, having changed his name to Zedekiah, gave him a nominal authority as king over the wretched remains of the people. Zedekiah, after having reigned nine years, rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who, coming against Jerusalem with all his forces, besieged it; and having reduced it to the last extremity by famine, and made a breach in the walls, took the city, pillaged and destroyed the temple by fire, slew the sons of Zedekiah before his face, then put out his eyes, and carried him bound in brazen fetters to Babylon, 2 Kings, 2 Kings 24:1-25:30. Thus, the temple of GOD, the most glorious building ever laid on the face of the earth, was profaned, pillaged, and burnt, with the king's palace, and all the houses of the Jewish nobility, in the eleventh year of Zedekiah,-the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar,-the first of the forty-eighth Olympiad,-the one hundred and sixtieth current year of the era of Nabonassar,-four hundred and twenty-four years, three months, and eight days from the time in which Solomon laid its foundation stone!
In the same month in which the city was taken, and the temple burnt, Nebuzar-adan, commander in chief of the Babylonish forces, carried off the spoils of the temple, with the Jewish treasures, and the principal part of the residue of the people; and brought them also to Babylon. And thus Judah was carried away out of her own land, four hundred and sixty-eight years after David began to reign over it; from the division under Rehoboam, three hundred and eighty-eight years; from the destruction of the kingdom of Israel, one hundred and thirty-four years; in the year of the world, three thousand four hundred and sixteen; and before the nativity of our Lord, five hundred and eighty-eight.
In the fourth year of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, A.M. 3397, B.C. 607, Nebuchadnezzar, having besieged Jerusalem, and made its king tributary, carried away a number of captives; and among them was the Prophet Daniel, then in his youth, who became, for his wisdom, and knowledge of future events, very eminent at Babylon; and, with some other Jewish captives, great favourites of Nebuchadnezzar the king; who made Daniel president of all the wise men of his city. It was in the second year of the reign of this king, that a circumstance occurred which, though at first it threatened the destruction of the prophet, finally issued in the increase of his reputation and celebrity.
As prophecy is one of the strongest proofs of the authenticity of what professes to be a Divine revelation, God endued this man with a large portion of his Spirit, so that he clearly predicted some of the most astonishing political occurrences and changes which have ever taken place on the earth; no less than the rise, distinguishing characteristics, and termination of the FOUR great monarchies or empires, which have been so celebrated in all the histories of the world. And as the Babylonian, under which he then lived, was one of these monarchies, and was shortly to be absorbed by the Medo-Persian, which was to succeed it, he made Nebuchadnezzar, the then reigning monarch, by means of a most singular dream, the particulars of which he had forgotten, the instrument that appeared to give birth to a prediction, in which the ruin of his own empire was foretold; as well as other mighty changes which should take place in the political state of the world, for at least the term of one thousand years next ensuing. Nor did the prophetic Spirit in this eminent man limit his predictions to these; but showed at the same time the origin and nature of that FIFTH monarchy, which, under the great King of kings, should be administered and prevail to the end of time.
The dream itself, with its interpretation, and the exact and impressive manner in which the predictions relative to the four great monarchies have been fulfilled, and those which regard the fifth monarchy are in the course of being accomplished, are the subjects to which I wish to call the reader's most serious and deliberate attention.
This image, so circumstantially described from the thirty-eighth to the forty-fourth verse, was, as we learn from the prophet's general solution, intended to point out the rise and fall of four different empires and states; and the final prevalence and establishment of a fifth empire, that shall never have an end, and which shall commence in the last days, Daniel 2:28; a phrase commonly used in the prophets to signify the times of the Messiah, and in the New Testament, his advent to judge the world.
Before we proceed to particular parts, we may remark in general, that the whole account strongly indicates:-
1. The especial providence of God in behalf of the Jews at that time. For, although suffering grievously because of their sins, being deprived of both their political and personal liberty, God shows them that he has not abandoned them; and the existence of a prophet among them is a proof of his fatherly care and unremitted attention to their eternal welfare.
2. The particular interference of God to manifest the superiority of his truth, to wean an idolatrous nation from their vanity and superstition, and lead them to that God who is the fountain of truth, the revealer of secrets, and the governor of all things.
And, 3. The direct inspiration of God immediately teaching his servant things which could be known only to God himself, and thus showing the Babylonians that his prophets had spoken by an unerring Spirit; that the Jews were the depositaries of the true religion; that HE was the only true God; and as he was omniscient, so he was omnipotent; and the things which his wisdom had predicted, his power could and would accomplish.
The sum of the account given in this chapter is the following:-
1. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, in the second year of his reign, about A.M. 3401, and B.C. 603, had a remarkable dream, which, although it made a deep impression on his mind, yet, on his awakening, he found it impossible to recollect; the general impression only remaining.
2. He summoned his wise men, astrologers, had a dream or vision, which he had forgotten; and commanded them to tell him the dream, and give its interpretation.
3. They request the king to tell them the dream; and promise, then, to make known the meaning. This he could not do, having forgotten it; yet he insists on their compliance on pain of death.
4. To tell the king his dream they find impossible; and a decree for the destruction of the wise men of Babylon is issued, in which Daniel and his fellows are included.
5. Daniel, hearing of it, speaks to Arioch, captain of the king's guard or the royal executioner; desires to be brought before the king; and promises to tell the dream,
6. He is introduced; and immediately tells the king what he had dreamed, and shows him its interpretation.
A vast image, exceedingly luminous, of terrible form, and composed of different substances, appears in a night vision to the king, of which the following is the description:-
I. Its head was of fine gold.
II. Its breast and arms of silver.
III. Its belly and thighs of brass.
IV. Its legs of iron, and its feet and toes of iron and clay. While gazing on this image he sees,-
V. A stone cut out of a mountain without hands, which smites the image on its feet, and dashes it all to pieces; and the gold, and silver, brass, iron, and clay become as small and as light as chaff.
VI. A wind carries the whole away, so that no place is found for them.
VII. The stone becomes a great mountain, and fills the earth.
In order to explain this, certain DATA must be laid down.
1. This image is considered a political representation of as many different governments, as it was composed of materials; and as all these materials are successively inferior to each other, so are the governments in a descending ratio.
2. The human figure has been used, both by historians and geographers, to represent the rise, progress, establishment, and decay of empires, as well as the relative situation and importance of the different parts of the government. Thus Florus, in the proaemium to his Roman history, represents the Romans under the form of a human being, in its different stages, from infancy to old age, viz.
Si quis ergo populum Romanum quasi hominem consideret, totamque ejus aetatem percenseat, ut COEPERIT, utque ADOLEVERIT, ut quasi ad quemdam JUVENTAE florem pervenerit; ut postea velut CONSENUERIT, quatuor gradus progressusque ejus inveniet.
1. Prima aetas sub Regibus fuit, prope ducentos quinquaginta per annos, quibus circum ipsam matrem suam cum finitimis luctatus est. Haec erit ejus INFANTIA.
2. Sequens a Bruto, Collatinoque consulibus, in Appium Claudium, Quinctiumque Fulvium consules, ducentos quinquaginta annos habet, quibus Italiam subegit. Hoc fuit tempus viris armisque exercitatissi mum! ideo quis ADOLESCENTIAM dixerit.
3. Dehinc ad Caesarem Augustum, ducenti quinquaginta anni, quibus totum orbem pacavit. Hic jam ipsa JUVENTA Imperii, et quasi quaedam robusta MATURITAS.
4. A Caesare Augusto in saeculum, nostrum, sunt non multo minus anni ducenti, quibus inertia Caesarum quasi CONSENUIT atque DECOXIT. L. An. Flori PROOEM.
1. INFANCY; first stage-under KINGS, from Romulus to Tarquinius Superbus; about two hundred and fifty years.
2. YOUTH; second stage-under CONSULS, from Brutus and Collatinus to Appius Claudius and M. Fulvius; about two hundred and fifty years.
3. MANHOOD; third stage-the empire from the conquest of Italy to Caesar Augustus; about two hundred and fifty years.
4. OLD AGE; fourth stage-from Augustus, through the twelve Caesars, down to A.D. 200; about two hundred years.
Geographers have made similar representations, The Germanic empire, in the totality of its dependent states, has been represented by a map in the form of a man; different parts being pointed out by head, breast, arm, belly, thighs, legs, feet, according to their geographical and political relation to the empire in general.
3. Different metals are used to express different degrees of political strength, excellence, durability,
4. Clay, earth, dust, are emblems of weakness, instability,
5. Mountains express, in Scripture, mighty empires, kingdoms, and states.
6. Stone signifies Jesus Christ, Genesis 49:24; "From thence" (of the posterity of Jacob) "is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel." That our blessed Lord, "the good shepherd," John 10:11-17, is here intended, will appear most plainly from the following passages; Isaiah 8:14: "And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a STONE of stumbling and for a ROCK of offense to both the houses of Israel." Isaiah 28:16: "Thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a STONE, a tried STONE, a precious corner STONE, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste." 1 Peter 2:4,6,8. Collate these with ; Psalms 118:22: "The STONE which the builders refused is become the head STONE of the corner." Matthew 21:42; ; Mark 12:10; ; Luke 20:17; ; Acts 4:11; in which latter quotations the whole is positively applied to Christ; as also 1 Peter 2:4-8: "To whom coming as unto a living STONE," who seems to have all the preceding passages in view. See also Isaiah 2:2: "The mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains,"
7. This stone is said to be cut out without hands, Daniel 2:34. Without hands signifies that which is spiritual. 2 Corinthians 5:1, a house not made with hands means a spiritual building.