Last year in June 2022 I visited the British Museum for the second time. The British Museum must be one of the greatest testimonies to the historicity of the OT Scriptures, for there we find the histories of biblical cultures, including the histories of the Assyrians, the Babylonians and the Jews. In this museum there is a clay tablet [Inscription language: Akkadian; Inscription script: cuneiform] that describes Nebuchadnezzar’s first campaign against Jerusalem in 597 BC. The tablet covers the period of 12 years from the 21st year of Nabopolassar (605 BC, which was also Nebuchadnezzar’s accession year), through to the 11th year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
|Clay tablet : British Museum|
In 2011 we also had the privilege of visiting the Pergamon Museum in Berlin where we saw the Ishtar gate. This gate was built at the northern side of the city of Babylon by king Nebuchadnezzar II. The gate was excavated by a German archaeological team lead by Robert Koldewey from 1902-1914. A complete reconstruction is now found in the Pergamon Museum. The inscription of the Ishtar Gate is written in Akkadian cuneiform in white and blue glazed bricks and was a dedication by Nebuchadnezzar to explain the gate's purpose. The inscription is 15 meters tall by 10 meters wide and includes 60 lines of writing..
|Ishtar gate ( Babylon) - Pergamon Museum, Berlin|
We are talking about a real person in history.
In Daniel 1 we have considered the history of this book. We are talking about the 6th century BC and we have previously learned that the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar have conquered Jerusalem and have taken many of its prominent citizens into captivity, some 800 kilometers east of Jerusalem. The book focusses on the story of 4 young men taken from the Hebrew nobility. The leading character is Daniel. We saw that these young men were trained for the Babylonian service. We also saw that they excelled in this with God’s help (1:17).
1. 2:1-16 Nebuchadnezzar's dream : a. He calls the wise men of Babylon to interpret it. b. They cannot do it - he orders their execution c. Daniel diffuses the dangerous situation
2. 2: 17 -23 Daniel prays to God for a revelation of the dream. a. God reveals the dream to Daniel b. Daniel's prayer of praise and thanksgiving
3. 2: 24 – 49 Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar : a. Declares that he is able to reveal contents of the dream b. Interprets the dream c. Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction d. Daniel's promotion
1. 2: 1 – 16 NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S DREAM
The second chapter starts with king Nebuchadnezzar having a dream, a nightmare (2:1). We know with hindsight, that this was not an ordinary dream. It was a dream which the sovereign God of the Universe gave him – and not Marduk the Babylonian god. This dream troubled him so much that he was left sleepless (2:1). Nebuchadnezzar does not know this yet and neither can he understand the meaning of this dream. And so he calls his wise men (2:2) not only to interpret - but to tell him the contents of the dream. After all this was what was expected of them. This is what they were paid to do. From another perspective this was a subtle move. After all, how would Nebuchadnezzar know that their interpretation would be correct? He needed more than an interpretation. He needed assurance, that this very troublesome dream had substance.
And so in 1:4ff we find that this was one thing the Chaldeans, or the wise men could not do. They considered themselves interpreters of dreams, and not ‘revealers of dreams‘. And they answer him in the Aramaic language. In the original manuscript which begins in Hebrew, the script now changes to Syriac /Aramaic and continues until the end of Chapter 7. They want Nebuchadnezzar to tell them the dream. They readily confess in 2:10 that they cannot do this. They reckon that only the 'gods' could reveal this to the King - but there was no possibility of that happening either since 'their dwelling is not with flesh’ [2:11]. This is a very interesting statement. This shows us really how useless their pagan religion is. When things really matter, these so called gods cannot deliver . According to these wise men these gods are far away, and they cannot be involved in our world. How different is that from Daniel’s view. The God whom Daniel knows is the God who is near (see 2:28) and who can be spoken to in prayer. This is the God who helps His people, the God who is omniscient and who is able to reveal mysteries, because He knows the heart and minds of all. He will reveal this dream to Daniel. He is also ONE God, not many. In fact He is the sovereign God of the Universe who reveals Himself to people by way of (i) General revelation: by what has been made; created order (Ps.19; Rom.1:19-20) (ii) Special Revelation: Theophanies / angels, by His prophets, and LAST of all – though Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Hebr. 1:1).
Incidentally , the further away we perceive God to be, the more need we have for intermediaries. That is sadly why Roman Catholics generally do not address God the Father, in the Name of Jesus, by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. They will sooner pray to saints and to Mary, but they feel that they cannot reach God. He is too distant. In the same way many world religions have a concept of a supreme God, but they cannot relate to him, and therefore they will speak to intermediaries. In Africa it is common to speak to ancestors/ the dead etc.
None of these men could reach their gods and therefore they could not interpret the dream. Now this made Nebuchadnezzar quite determined to put an ultimatum before them: No telling of dream and no interpretation – painful death ; tell the dream and interpretation – gifts, rewards and great honour. But, as the wise men insist that they are not able to do this, so the king is aroused to fury, and he orders that all of them should be executed (1:12), including Daniel and his friends, all trained by the so called wise men of Babylon. This tells us how intensely the king felt about the need to have this dream interpreted. This is bad news for the astrologers, enchanters and magicians in Babylon, and it is bad news for Daniel and his friends…
TURNING POINT : (2:14FF) We read, that Daniel with prudence and discretion (2:14) asks the captain of the kings guard, Arioch, who would be their executioner, to make an appointment with the king, with the intention to make the dream known and interpreted. Such was Daniel’s confidence in the nearness and ability of the God of heaven, the God of my fathers , the God of gods and Lord of kings . What a contrast to the Babylonian religion!
2. 2:17-23 DANIEL ASKS GOD TO REVEAL THIS DREAM
Contrary then to the wise men, who believe that the gods cannot help men, we find that Daniel calling upon his friends to join him in prayer … “ to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery…” (2:18). The key is word mercy! Amongst the many attributes of God, we find the attribute of mercy. God has revealed Himself to be merciful (cf. Ex 34:6). In the biblical Hebrew language, the word for “mercy” used here (רחם; racham) shares the same three-letter root as the word for “womb” (רחם; rechem).
Based on the close linguistic connection between these terms, God’s mercy toward humanity denotes the same kind of divine protection that a baby has in its mother’s womb. This is profound when considered in its original sense. Daniel is asking his friends, “Pray now with me in this great hour of need where we are in real danger of losing our lives, that the presence of God would surround us, in the same way in which a baby is surrounded by the protecting walls of a mother’s womb. My dear fellow believers: This is who we are and this is who our God is. We come as humble people, often in desperate situations and mindful of our inability, and we place our trust in the God who is near, and who hears prayer and who is more than able to see us through our crises.
The answer comes in 2:19 in response to prayer. Truly God is merciful! “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night.” Truly there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries (2:28). There is the answer! And there even the lives of the pagan wise men are spared. Who knows how often the humble prayer of God’s servants in this country and elsewhere has not saved the godless from an early destruction? (see 2:24). Oh friends do not underestimate the value of the presence of a praying church in this nation.
2:19- 23 : The first thing Daniel does in response is praise and thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving are the natural outflow of a believer’s life when we have obtained a great deliverance. To God be the glory great things He has done.
3. 2:24 – 49 DANIEL BEFORE NEBUCHADNEZZAR
Now, with God’s help Daniel is able to disclose the contents of the dream. Note, that he is careful to acknowledge the Source from which it comes (see 2:27,28 and also 2:30).
The content of the dream is then accurately related in 2: 31- 35. The details of the statue are given. It has
a. a head of pure gold
b. chest and arms of silver
c. the middle and thighs of bronze
d. the feet partly of iron and partly baked clay
e. Towards this statue comes a rock cut out of rock, but by no human hands. This rock strikes the feet of iron and clay and smashed them. The statue crumbles and disintegrates, while the rock grows, become a huge mountain, filling the whole earth.
In 2: 36 - 45 follows the interpretation: Notice now how the details in 2:31 - 35 are interpreted: a. Nebuchadnezzar is the head of gold- the ruler of a kingdom
b. The chest and arms of silver represents another, less significant kingdom [Medo –Persia].
c. The third Kingdom (represented by the middle - belly and thighs) is made of bronze will be the next world power [Greece]
d. The fourth Kingdom, strong as iron (legs of iron, feet partly of iron and clay) smashes all the others, but since it is made up of two substances this indicates that it is a divided kingdom [ Rome].
e. The stone must be matched up with 2:44,45. This is the stone sent by the God of heaven. He will set up a Kingdom which will never be destroyed. Doesn't this language sound familiar to us?
Nebuchadnezzar's response is twofold:
a. In 2:46,47 he fell upon his face and paid homage to Daniel and commanded that an offering and incense be offered up to him and acknowledged that Daniel’s God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries…”
b. In 2:48,49 he promotes Daniel and his friends to high positions. They were now not only saved from destruction, but God had made them an influential people in Babylon. Interesting!
LESSONS FROM THIS CHAPTER
1. God's Word is true: a. The revelation which God gave to Daniel was true b. the fulfilment of that vision was true, as we shall later see in the prophetic part , beginning with Daniel 7 – the vision of the 4 beasts. We know that Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom was taken over by the Medo-Persians; they in turn were taken over by Greece (Alexander the Great); he in turn was displaced by the Romans, divided into a western and eastern part , who were ruling at the time of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It was in the days of Rome's rule, that a Stone cut out by no human hand came into this world. He was cut out by no human hand, because He existed before all time. He came to establish an everlasting kingdom. Today all these great kingdoms lie in the dust. Christ's kingdom remains and is growing and it will last forever. A chapter like this affirms and renews our confidence in God's Word.
2. History is in God's hands. God knows all things and leads all things. It is not sufficient to say, that God foresaw that these things would happen. "You cannot see the future unless you control the future" . That is precisely what the Bible teaches in Acts 17:26 "From one man, He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live."
3. Human power is very fragile: In 2:39 Nebuchadnezzar is told, “After you another kingdom will arise …”. “God removes kings and sets up kings…” (2:21). God controls history. History is not out of control. History is His story. God knows what He is doing. His kingdom is advancing. The nations may be furious, and people may shake their fists, but the One who is enthroned in the heavens laughs. (Psalm 2). There is no need for us to fear the future of Christ's church, even though we often seem small and insignificant . Stuart Olyott reminds us that "God's ark is going along very well, and we do not need to put our hands out to steady it".
 The Inscription reads: Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, the pious prince appointed by the will of Marduk, the highest priestly prince, beloved of Nabu, of prudent deliberation, who has learnt to embrace wisdom, who fathomed Their (Marduk and Nabu) godly being and pays reverence to their Majesty, the untiring Governor, who always has at heart the care of the cult of Esagila and Ezida and is constantly concerned with the well being of Babylon and Borsippa, the wise, the humble, the caretaker of Esagila and Ezida, the first born son of Nabopolassar, the King of Babylon, am I.
 Aramaic is a Semitic language. It has been written for 3100 years and has been spoken for longer than that. The Semitic languages include Aramaic, Hebrew, Arabic and many other languages. It was once the most important language in the Middle East. In the 7th century AD, Aramaic stopped being the most important language in the Middle East. The Arabic language became the new important language. Small groups of people still speak Aramaic in different parts of the Middle East. Today, between 500,000 and 850,000 people speak Aramaic languages.
 The same is true for the Baal worshippers in their encounter with Elijah in 1 Kings 17
 See Dan.2:18,19,28,37,44
 Dan. 2:23
 Dan 2:47 Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony
 Stuart Olyott : Daniel, Evangelical Press, p.34
 Ibid, p. 36