Instructor: Joel Wheeler
Class: Major Prophets
Nov. 7, 2012
Northwest Florida School of Biblical Studies
It is hard to comprehend a supreme ruler deciding to kill off all the ones of your inner circle and the main magicians and astrologers by just a simple dream. Nebuchadnezzar, for many, must have overreacted. He was indeed the king. The wise men were all being rounded up to be killed and to have the houses made into dung heaps. This were the events that were occurring when Daniel told Arioch the captain of the guard destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. Daniel showed a humbleness and concern for his fellow man. Daniel was being held in the king’s palace against his will while his homeland burned and lay desolate. This must have been a trying time for Daniel and his comrades.
The writing of Daniel must have been written during the time of the captivity of Judah. Some of the more liberal commentators put the writing at the time of the Maccabean period. Henry H. Halley in his Bible commentary answers these critics with this chapter. Halley writes:
“Critics who assign a Maccabean date to the book of Daniel, in order to explain it as referring to past events instead of being a prediction of the future, find it necessary to place all four empires prior to the date of composition, and so call the Persian empire two Empires, Median and Persian, in order to make the Greek Empire the Fourth. But as a matter of fact there was not Median Empire and a Persian Empire following the Fall of Babylon. To make it appear so is only an effort to distort the facts of history to substantiate a theory. Medes and Persians constituted One Empire under the rule of Persian kings. Darius the Mede was only a sub-king, ruling for a little while, under Cyrus the Persian till Cyrus arrived. Moreover, nothing happened in the Maccabean period that answers to the “Stone cut out of the mountain.” (Halley 1965, 314)
Another interesting observation about this chapter is how Daniel uses the term “we”. Upon first reading it sounds like he maybe referring to him and God. Homer Hailey says the following:
“Having revealed the dream, Daniel began his interpretation with the plural “we,” which raises the question, who is included in the “we?” Leopold thinks he included his three friends, though they are not mentioned as being present. Young thinks he used the plural out of a sense of humility.” (Hailey 2001, 47)
The critics that put the writing at a later time, which also makes the book a history as opposed to a prophecy of future events, have many hurdles to overcome as mentioned above. Any attempt to change this date is an attempt to take the miraculous out of the work of God. This book is filled with many astonishing miracles that are without doubt the direct hand of God.
Dan 2:38 “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.”
The first part of this prophecy starts with a declaration that the king is in the position he is because of the power of God. The statue was made with a head of gold which here is told is Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar had the tendency to plow through a land and while laying waste to the land and people he would take all of their gold. It seems he had a gold fetish. He even took the gold vessels from the temple of God. Nebuchadnezzar not only destroyed the surrounding areas but was renowned for his architecture and building projects. His hanging gardens were the apex of design for the time in history. Nebuchadnezzar also contributed to the coming of the Messiah. By placing God’s people in captivity and utterly destroying their temple, he forced the people to form synagogues. Here in the synagogues they would sing, pray, give of their means very similarly to what the Christian church does today. Rex Turner considers this to be the chief contribution of Babylon to the coming of the church building of the synagogues (Turner 1993, 52)
Babylon was a large city with outstanding defenses. The walls were so thick and tall that an army could not shoot over with arrows or catapults. Herodutus, the Greek historian, has given us a picture of Babylon in his day. He says the city was a great square, 42 miles in circuit. Ctesias makes it 56 miles. This, he writes, was surrounded by a moat or rampart 300 feet high, and 75 feet broad (TISBE 349).
Halley places the rule of Nebuchadnezzar 606-561 BC with a two year overlap for his father’s reign. Babylon fell to Cyrus the king of Persia in 536 BC and started the next stage of the statue, the breast of silver (Halley 1965, 201).
Dan 2:39 “And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee,…”
After Daniel made known about Babylon and the eventual fall of Babylon, Daniel indicated the next kingdom would not have the same stature as the previous one. The Medo-Persians were going to take over the Babylonian empire. This would coincide with the return of Judah to their homeland. This would not be a complete return but a remnant of those people. This was promised by God prior to Jeremiah seeing Judah laid to waste (Jer 29:10). Babylon was still strong when taken by Cyrus king of Persia. Belshazzar was in the middle of a drunken revelry when the finger of God wrote “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN”, simply put “numbered, numbered, weighed, and divided,” was the words meaning,” you have been weighed and you were found lacking so now your kingdom is divided.” That night, Darius the Median took the kingdom. Cyrus later would send the Jews back home with money to build their Temple. Halley stated in his Bible Commentary that it was the habit of those in Persian rule to be repatriated that were once captives of other lands. Halley puts the Persian rule at 536 -331 B.C. (Halley 217). The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states that the Medes and Babylon had an alliance that ended with Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. By the time of Cyrus there was no separate Mede and Persian kingdom, they were both under Cyrus as their king (ISBE 2017).
One of the chief contributions of the Medo-Persian Empire was their rule of law. “The law of the Medes and Persians altereth not,” was the prevailing spirit of government at that point and time. Darius could not rescue Daniel from the den of lions. This made for a certain protection of men like Paul, Barnabas, Titus, and Luke (Turner 1993, 52,53). The Medo-Persian Empire had a fairly long and steady rule, about 200 years. What followed was an empire of culture and language, the Grecians.
The belly and thighs of Brass represented the third kingdom in Daniel’s interpretation to Nebuchadnezzar. It is stated in the verse that it would be a world power as were the other kingdoms mentioned. Halley placed the rule of the Grecians at 331-167 B. C. Halley puts the invasion of Alexander the Great at 332 B. C. He also said that Alexander the Great gave consideration to the Jews, spared Jerusalem, and offered immunities to the Jews to settle in Alexandria (Halley 1965, 368). This would give a somewhat peaceful time for the Jews. The Grecians offered much in terms of language and culture. As far as the language, it was instrumental in God’s plan of salvation. Turner, in his commentary on Daniel, states the following:
The chief contribution of this world empire was its Greek language, which came to be a nigh universal language- thus the saying: “The Greeks have a word for it.” As a result of this contribution, the books of the New Testament, fortunately, were written in Greek- a language that was sufficiently versatile to allow for fine spiritual distinctions (Turner 1993, 53).
This language would be the ideal language to place deep spiritual meanings in words so all those after could clearly understand. Their culture was really what set them apart as a nation. International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states the following about the culture:
In the 4th century BC many felt, as did Isocrates, that even “Hellene” stood not so much for a distinction in race, as for preeminence of culture, in contrast to the despised “Barbarian” (ISBE 1295).
Grecian rule had set the stage for the final leg before the establishment of the never-ending kingdom set up by God himself.
Legs of Iron is the Roman Empire. Rome ruled with an iron fist. Halley writes of the Roman rule as the following:
In the year 63 B.C., Palestine was conquered by the Romans under Pompey. Antipater, an Indumean (Edomite, descendant of Esau), was appointed ruler of Judea. He was succeeded by his son Herod the Great who was king of Judea 37-3 B.C. Herod, to obtain favor of the Jews, rebuilt the Temple with great splendor. But he was a brutal, cruel man. This is the Herod that ruled Judah when Jesus was born, and he it was who slew the children of Bethlehem (Halley 1965, 369)
The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia gives us additional insight as to their coming of power:
For a couple of generations political leaders had foreseen the coming of supreme power and had tried to grasp it.. But it was Julius Caesar who best succeeded in exploiting democracy for his own aggrandizement. This proved the potent factor of the first triumvirate (60 B. C.); his consulship (59) was truly kingly. In 49 B. C. he crossed the Rubicon and declared war upon his country, but in the same year was appointed Dictator and thus made his enemies the enemies of his country (ISBE 2598).
Rome at the time of Jesus was the world power and had far reaching influence over the world. Rome had its own collection of contributions for the Lord’s church. We could see how Babylon purified them from idolatry and set up the synagogue system of worship which is very similar to the New Testament church worship. We can also see where the Medo-Persians set the stage for a definitive structure of law and order and a coming departure of having tyrannical kings. The Grecians had set in place a wonderful language in which to put this precious spiritual message from God to be used by the known world. Finally Rome completes the mix by making roads and a free customs and travel system for their citizens. Rex Turner Sr. states the following about this system:
All the prior world empires features were brought into the Roman society; Rome’s major contribution was the roads and free customs, which allowed for freedom of travel and communication. “There was also a high standard for Roman citizenship. When Christ appeared upon the scene of action, the Roman Empire unwittingly provided a cradle or protectorate for the infant church. Paul and his contact with the Roman government is a striking case in point (Turner 1993, 53).
A few words about the feet with mingled iron and clay need to be stated to fully understand this time. There were some weaknesses that the Roman Empire had to deal with during this time. From the onset of Rome there was a divided power struggle between the military leaders and the Roman senate. Turner states the following concerning this struggle:
The Roman republic continuing until the Roman Empire, there existed an internal division….inherent division between the Roman senate and the popular military generals, particularly Gnaeus Pomey and later Julius Ceasar. ….Rome’s circumstantial and forced conquests brought on a considerable number of inherent weaknesses, which weaknesses could not be better characterized in symbolical language than by the feet part of iron, and part of clay (Turner 1993, 54)
Hailey thinks that the division is of the cultures that Rome encompassed. Hailey believed that the conquered people could not be effectively melded with the “Roman” culture that was being conquered. He states the following:
…its division was not geographical, it was social and cultural. As iron and clay cannot be fused together, so Rome could not amalgamate its conquered peoples. It tried to do this by the introduction of emperor worship, but this failed (Hailey 2001, 49).
Either way, it was a taxing system that was being set up between the power structures and the differing cultures. These divisions would ultimately drain the resources of the empire. Turner discusses this, stating, ”many smaller kingdoms were excited to be part of a nation that was governed by a senate and not an absolute power of a ruthless king. The many conquests of Rome bled the country of its resources (Turner 1993, 55).”
The stage was now set for the fullness of time where God would bring about His eternal kingdom, a stone not cut with hands that would take over the whole world. A few things would occur that would signify this prophecy. A kingdom would come which was solely from God and would break down all the remaining world powers. None of the mentioned earthly kingdoms would survive after this. Then once the establishment of God’s kingdom is set up it will take over all the world and dwarf any worldly kingdom. Turner gives us a tidy history of the time when the kingdom of God is set up in the following:
The stone would come in this last kingdom. We see this kingdom established during this Roman Empire. This occurred at the time of Pentecost, following the death and resurrection of Christ during the reign of Tiberius Caesar, the Roman emperor (Turner 1993, 56).
Turner also agrees with the above statement concerning that the stone “not cut with hands” is signifying that this kingdom would come solely from the hand of God (Turner 57). As far as the mountain represented in this dream, some state that this is Mount Zion where other prophecies indicate that the new law would come out of Zion. Jesus would come out of Zion bringing the law (Hailey 51). Writers, such as Thomas, agree that the stone that grew to encompass the remaining kingdoms was represented by the church starting small and expanding to all the earth (Thomas 1987, 11)
God had a plan for mankind before the foundation of the earth (Matt 25:34; Eph 1:4; 1 Pet 1:20). This plan was not some after thought or the plan “B” for a mistake on God’s part. God in his providential care and economy made a way for the kingdom of God, the church, to come and made a way to reconcile sinful man and for us to be his people.
Hailey, Homer. A Commentary on Daniel, A Prophetic Message. Las Vegas : Nevada Publications, 2001.
Halley, Henry. Halley’s Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1965.
Thomas, Leslie G. Studies in the Book of Daniel. Abilene: Quality Publications, 1987.
Turner, Rex. Daniel, A Prophet of God. Abilene: Southern Christian University, 1993.
International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia, Year ??, City ??, Publication??