In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a great statue, or image. It was frightening to look at. (31) It had four parts. The head was made of fine gold. The chest and arms were made of silver. The middle of the torso and thighs were made of bronze. (33) It’s legs were iron. Its feet were part iron and part clay. Notice that the materials that made the statute became less valuable or noble from top to bottom.
But the statue was not all the king saw. He also saw a stone that was not made by human hands. (34) It struck the statue on the feet and broke them into pieces. (34) Then all the other parts were broken into pieces and blew away. No trace of them was left. But the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (35)
Nebuchadnezzar was the head of gold. Daniel said God gave him the kingdom, power, might and glory. (37) God made Nebuchadnezzar king and gave him his position of great power. He gave him dominion of people, beasts and birds to rule over them. (38) Notice how similar this is to God’s grant of authority and power to Adam, who had dominion over the animals. (Genesis 1:26)
After Nebuchadnezzar, another but inferior kingdom would arise. (39) This is the silver part. Then a third kingdom of bronze which would rule over all the earth. (39) Then a fourth kingdom that was as strong as iron and would crush all other kingdoms. (40) After that, kingdom that would be partly strong (iron) and partly brittle (clay). (42) Just as iron and clay do not mix, or bind together, the two different peoples would not bind together.
So the image or statue was a man whose different parts represented Babylon and the kingdoms of men that would follow it.
Lastly God would set up a permanent kingdom. It would never be destroyed. or taken over by others. (44) It would stand forever. It is represented in the dream by the stone that destroyed the statue. (45) It was not part of the statue, so not part of the kingdoms of men, and was not made by human hands.
Daniel concluded by again giving credit to God for revealing the meaning the dream to the king. (45)
This dream is a prophecy. How do we interpret it?
First, it is important to notice that, when Daniel interpreted the dream to the king, he did not interpret everything. He did not identify the kingdoms or the kings except for the Nebuchadnezzar himself. The interpretation and application of the dream did not require complete understanding all the details. God, through Daniel, only gave a general interpretation. God deemed that to be sufficient.
Second, try to understand the dream and its interpretation the way Daniel and the king understood it. The point of the revelation was to convey knowledge to Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel’s words to the king are critical to the interpretation of the dream. Daniel’s response to the dream, in verses 20-23, indicates his understanding of the dream. The king’s response to the revelation of the dream and its meaning, in verse 47, tells us what the dream meant to him.
God does not reveal everything to us. A good verse to remember is Deuteronomy 29:29: The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. Yet, we often forgo the meaning revealed to us and spend our time speculating on things not revealed.
Notice that God does not reveal who the three kingdoms of men would be. Yet, many have spent much time trying to figure this out. In doing so, you risk missing the point. What God revealed was a simple message to a powerful king: the kingdoms of men will all pass away, but the kingdom of God will last forever. God’s glory is greater than man’s glory.
The kingdoms of men also decline in quality and strength as they go. But the desire to conquer the world is common to them all. I recently visited Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The acres of white crosses overwhelmed me by showing how many thousands of mean and women died to keep a handful of men from taking over the world with their evil designs.
The other thing I think we can see in the vision is that Jesus is the stone made without hands. He is divine. His kingdom will overwhelm all earthly kingdoms and will last forever.
Humanism teaches that man can improve himself to the point of living in Utopia. Many political philosophies are built on this belief. Many believe government can solve all problems. But the governments of men will end. God will replace it with something truly radical, a government of God, built on the submission of men and women to the reign of Jesus Christ.
Those who reject the reign of Jesus will suffer the fate of the statue. They will be crushed by the rock that is Christ. Jesus said “the stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.” (Luke 20:17-18) This was Jesus claiming to be the stone of Daniel 2.
Nebuchadnezzar respected Daniel and God. He rewarded Daniel greatly, as he had promised the wise men. He also acknowledged that God is “God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries”. He might not have had complete understanding of God, but it was a good start.