“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.” Daniel 2:1.
Daniel was carried into captivity in the first year of Nebuchadnezzar. For three years he was placed under instructors, during which time he would not, of course, be reckoned among the wise men of the kingdom, nor take part in public affairs. Yet in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, the transactions recorded in this chapter took place.
How, then, could Daniel be brought in to interpret the king’s dream in his second year? The explanation lies in the fact that Nebuchadnezzar reigned for two years conjointly with his father, Nabopolassar. From this point the Jews reckoned, while the Chaldeans reckoned from the time he began to reign alone on the death of his father. It appears that the next year after Daniel had completed his preparation to participate in the affairs of the Chaldean empire, the providence of God brought him into sudden and remarkable prominence throughout the kingdom.
Babylon, the first world empire, was the greatest, richest, and most influential of all the empires in the then known civilized world. It also had the most powerful king. This leader of men had managed by sheer force to put down his enemies one by one, until his kingdom stood as the Queen of nations.
In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar went to bed wondering just how long his kingdom would endure. He wanted to know about the future. That night, God looked down from heaven and chose to entrust this benevolent dictator with a look into the future.
The King had a strange dream and when he awoke he was really upset. He couldn’t remember the dream. But he knew it was important.
“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. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.” Daniel 2:2, 3
He sent for his wise men and magicians and told them he had dreamed a dream and was anxious to know the meaning of it.
Wise men = psychics.
Magicians = casters of spells, witches.
Astrologers = Foretelling future by star charts, fortune tellers.
Sorcerers = Claim to communicate with the dead, Spiritualists.
Chaldeans = Philosophers of psychic divination, numerology etc.
“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
It is clear that these ancient magicians and astrologers seem to have been clever in getting enough information to be able to give answers in such a vague manner that they would seem right whichever way the events turned out. Now, true to their cunning instincts, they called upon the king to make known to them his dream. If they could get full information respecting this, they could easily agree on some interpretation which would not endanger their reputation. They spoke to the king in Syriac, a dialect of the Chaldean language which was used by the educated and cultured classes. From this point to the end of Daniel 7, the record continues in Chaldaic, the language spoken by the king.
“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. 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. They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.” Daniel 2:5-7
These men claimed to have access to all the secrets of the living and the dead, past and future, including the knowledge of the gods. This was not an unreasonable request the king was asking of them, if all their boastful claims were true.
It is important to realize that in all the ages of earth’s history Satan has tried to duplicate the powers of God but his counterfeits do not come close to the 100% accuracy of God’s prophetic Word.
“The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. 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 2:8, 9
The wise men and magicians were confident that they could easily make up an interpretation to please the king if they knew the dream, but no-one could dare to make up the dream as well!
“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. 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.” Daniel 2:10-11
“Tell us the dream, and we’ll tell you what it means,” pleaded the magicians. “Nobody can tell you what your dream was. No king ever asked such an unreasonable thing!”
“For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.” Daniel 2:12.
as obvious to the king their claims were only idle tales; they couldn’t do it. They even complained that the King was being unreasonable and this threw Nebuchadnezzar into a fury. He was so angry, he shouted: “Kill all these wise men and magicians!” Some have denounced Nebuchadnezzar in this matter, as a heartless, unreasonable tyrant. But what did these magicians profess to be able to do? Reveal hidden things; foretell events; make known mysteries entirely beyond human understanding, by supernatural means.
There was therefore nothing unjust in Nebuchadnezzar’s demand that they should make known his dream. When they declared that none but the gods, whose dwelling was not with flesh, could make known the king’s matter, they admitted they had no communication with these gods, and knew nothing beyond what human wisdom could reveal.
“And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.” Daniel 2:13
The soldiers started collecting all the magicians to execute them.
“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: 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.” Daniel 2:14, 15
Daniel and his friends were to die too because they were among the wise men and magicians. “Why does the King want to kill all his wise men,” he asked.
It was strange that Daniel and his companions, declared by the king ten times better than all his magicians and astrologers, were not called first in this matter. But God had a reason for this. Had the king called on Daniel at the first to make known the matter, the magicians would not have been brought to the test. But God would give the heathen systems of the Chaldeans the first chance. He would let them try and fail, that they might be the better prepared to acknowledge His intervention when He should finally manifest His power in behalf of His captive servants, and for the honor of His name.
Daniel, first learning of the situation when the executioners come for his arrest, asked for time that he might consult the God whose dwelling was not with men, and pray for wisdom to make the dream known to the king.
“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 2:16
The king agreed to give Daniel time to consider the matter; a privilege which probably none of the magicians could have obtained, as the king had already accused them of preparing false words, and seeking to gain time for this very purpose.
“Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 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. Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” Daniel 2:17-19
Daniel at once went to his three companions, and asked them to unite with him in asking light from the God of heaven concerning this secret. He could have prayed alone and doubtless would have been heard, but in the union of God’s people there is prevailing power. The promise tells us that when two or three shall agree as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19, 20.)
Daniel’s Hymn of Praise:
“Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 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: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 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
Daniel offered up praise to God for His gracious dealing with them. God is honored by our praise to Him for the things He has done for us, as well as by our petitions to Him for help. Let Daniel be our example in this. Let us not forget to return thanksgiving and praise for blessings given us. In the days of Christ’s ministry on earth, did He not cleanse ten lepers, and only one returned to give Him thanks? “But where,” asks Christ sorrowfully, “are the nine?” Luke 17:17.
Daniel had the utmost confidence in what had been shown him. He did not first go to the king to see if what had been revealed to him was indeed the king’s dream, but he immediately praised God for having answered his prayer. Although the matter was revealed to Daniel, he did not take the honor to himself, as though it were by his prayers alone that the answer had come. He included his friends in his thanksgiving. It was, said he, “what we desired of Thee,” and Thou hast made it “known unto us.”
“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. 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 2:24, 25
Daniel’s first plea was for the wise men of Babylon. Destroy them not, for the king’s secret is revealed, he implored. True, it was through no merit of theirs or their heathen systems of divination that this revelation was made. They were worthy of as much condemnation as before. But their own confession of utter impotence in the matter was humiliation enough for them, and Daniel was anxious that they should so far partake of the benefits shown him as to have their lives spared. They were saved because there was a man of God among them.
“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? 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; 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
“Art thou able to make known unto me the dream?” was the king’s greeting to Daniel as he came into the royal presence. In spite of his previous acquaintance with this Hebrew, the king seemed to question his ability, so young and inexperienced, to make known a matter in which the aged and venerable magicians and soothsayers had utterly failed.
Daniel declared plainly that the wise men, the astrologers, the soothsayers, and the magicians could not make known this secret. It was beyond their power. Therefore the king should not be angry with them, nor put confidence in their vain superstitions. The prophet proceeded to make known the true God, who rules in heaven, and is the only revealer of secrets. He it is, said Daniel, who “maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in 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. 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
Unlike some rulers, who fill up the present with folly and debauchery without regard to the future, the king thought upon the days to come, with desire to know what would be in the years to follow.
It was partly for this reason that God gave him this dream. Yet God would not work for the king independently of His own people. Though He gave the dream to the king, He sent the interpretation through one of His acknowledged servants.
Daniel first disclaimed all credit for the interpretation, and then he sought to modify the king’s natural feelings of pride in being thus noticed by the God of heaven. He informed him that although the dream had been given to him, it was not for his sake alone that the interpretation was sent, but also for their sakes through whom it should be given. God had some servants there, and it was for them that He was working. They were of more value in His sight than the mightiest kings and potentates of earth.
By this one act of revealing the king’s dream to Daniel, God made known to the king the things he desired; He saved His servants who trusted in Him; He brought before the Chaldean nation the knowledge of Him who knows the end from the beginning; He poured contempt on the false systems of the soothsayers and magicians; He honored His own name and exalted His servants in their eyes. He also laid into history an important prophetic waymark for us who live in the time of the end of this world.
“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. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay.” Daniel 2:31-33
Nebuchadnezzar, a worshiper of the gods of the Chaldean religion, was an idolater. An image was an object which would at once command his attention and respect. Moreover, earthly kingdoms, which, as we shall hereafter see, were represented by this image, were objects of esteem and value in his eyes.
But how well suited was this image to convey a great and needful truth to the mind of Nebuchadnezzar. Besides delineating the progress of events through the whole course of time for the benefit of His people, God would show Nebuchadnezzar the utter emptiness and worthlessness of earthly pomp and glory. How could this be more impressively done than by an image whose head was of gold? Below this head was a body composed of inferior metals descending in value until they reached their basest form in the feet and toes of iron mingled with miry clay.
“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. 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 threshingfloors; 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.” Daniel 2:34, 35
The whole was then dashed to pieces, and made like empty chaff. It was finally blown away where no place could be found for it. Then something durable and of heavenly worth occupied its place. So God would show to the children of men that earthly kingdoms are to pass away, and earthly greatness and glory, like a gaudy bubble, will break and vanish. In the place so long usurped by these, the kingdom of God shall be set up and have no end, while all who have an interest in that kingdom shall rest under the shadow of its peaceful wings forever and ever.
“This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 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 2:36-38
Now opens one of the most comprehensive histories of world empires. Eight short verses of the inspired record tell the whole story, yet that story embraces the history of this world’s pomp and power. A few moments will suffice to commit it to memory; yet the period which it covers, beginning more than twenty-five centuries ago, reaches from that far-distant point, past the rise and fall of kingdoms, past the setting up and overthrow of empires, past cycles and ages, and past our own day to eternity. It is complete, yet it is so minute that it gives us the great outlines of earthly kingdoms from that time to this. Human wisdom never devised so brief a record that embraced so much. Human language never set forth in so few words such a great volume of historical truth. The finger of God is here. Let us heed the lesson well.
With what interest and astonishment must the king have listened as he was informed by the prophet that his kingdom was the golden head of the magnificent image? Daniel informed the king that the God of heaven had given him his kingdom, and made him ruler over all. This would restrain him from the pride of thinking that he had attained his position by his own power and wisdom, and would enlist the gratitude of his heart toward the true God.
“And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.” Daniel 2:39
Nebuchadnezzar reigned forty-three years, and was succeeded by the following rulers: His son, Evil-Merodach, two years; Neriglissar, his son-in-law, four years; Laborosoarchod, Neriglissar’s son, nine months, which, being less than one year, is not counted in the canon of Ptolemy; and lastly, Nabonidus, whose son, Belshazzar, grandson of Nebuchadnezzar, was associated with him on the throne.
“The proof of this association is contained in the cylinders of Nabonadius [Nabonidus] found at Mugheir, where the protection of the gods is asked for Nabu-nadid and his son Bel-shar-uzur, who are coupled together in a way that implies the co-sovereignty of the latter. (British Museum Series, Vol. I. pl. 68, no. 1.)
The Fall of Babylon
In the first year of Neriglissar, only two years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, that fatal war broke out between the Babylonians and the Medes, which resulted in the overthrow of the Babylonian kingdom. Cyaxares, king of the Medes, who is called “Darius” in Daniel 5:31, summoned to his aid his nephew Cyrus of the Persian line. The war was prosecuted with uninterrupted success by the Medes and Persians, until in the eighteenth year of Nabonidus (the third year of his son Belshazzar), Cyrus laid siege to Babylon, the only city in the entire East which then held out against him.
The Babylonians, gathered within their seemingly impregnable walls, with provision on hand for twenty years, and land within the limits of their broad city sufficient to furnish food for the inhabitants and garrison for an indefinite period. They scoffed at Cyrus from their lofty walls, and derided his seemingly useless efforts to bring them into subjection. According to all human calculation, they had good ground for their feelings of security. Never, weighed in the balance of earthly probability, could that city be taken with the means of warfare then known. Hence they breathed as freely and slept as soundly as though no foe were waiting and watching around their beleaguered walls.
But God had decreed that the proud and wicked city should come down from her throne of glory. And when He speaks, what mortal arm can defeat His word?
In their feeling of security lay the source of their danger. Cyrus resolved to accomplish by strategy what he could not do by force. Learning of the approach of an annual festival in which the whole city would be given up to mirth and revelry, he chose that day as the time to carry his purpose into execution.
There was no entrance for him into that city unless he could find it where the River Euphrates entered and emerged, as it passed under the walls. He resolved to make the channel of the river his highway into the stronghold of his enemy. To do this, the water must be turned aside from its channel through the city. For this purpose, on the evening of the feast day above referred to, he detailed one body of soldiers to turn the river at a given hour into a large artificial lake, a short distance above the city; another to take their station at the point where the river entered the city; and a third to take a position fifteen miles below, where the river emerged from the city.
The two latter military groups were instructed to enter the channel as soon as they found the river fordable, and in the darkness of the night explore their way beneath the walls, and press on to the palace of the king where they were to surprise and kill the guards, and capture or slay the king.
When the water was turned into the lake, the river soon became shallow enough to ford, and the soldiers followed its channel into the heart of the city of Babylon. (See Herodotus, pp. 67-71; George Rawlinson, The Seven Great Monarchies of the Ancient Eastern World, Vol. II, pp. 254-259; Humphrey Prideaux, The Old and New Testament Connected in the History, of the Jews, Vol. I, pp. 136, 137.)
But all this would have been in vain, had not the whole city given itself over on that eventful night to the most abandoned carelessness and presumption, a state of things upon which Cyrus calculated largely for the carrying out of his purpose. On each side of the river through the entire length of the city were walls of great height, and of equal thickness with the outer walls. In these walls were huge gates of brass, which, when closed and guarded, debarred all entrance from the river bed to any of the streets that crossed the river. Had the gates been closed at this time, the soldiers of Cyrus might have marched into the city, along the river bed, and then marched out again, for all that they would have been able to accomplish toward the subjugation of the place.
But the Lord had spoken and in the drunken revelry of that fatal night, these river gates were left open, as had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah years before in these words: “Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two-leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut.” Isaiah 45:1. The entrance of the Persian soldiers was not perceived. Many a cheek would have paled with terror, had the sudden going down of the river been noticed, and its fearful import understood.
Many a tongue would have spread wild alarm through the city, had the dark forms of armed foes been seen stealthily treading their way to the citadel of their supposed security. But no one noticed the sudden subsidence of the waters of the river; no one saw the entrance of the Persian warriors; no one took care that the river gates should be closed and guarded; no one cared for aught but to see how deeply and recklessly he could plunge into the wild debauch. That night’s dissipation cost the Babylonians their kingdom and their freedom. They went into their brutish revelry subjects of the king of Babylon; they awoke from it slaves to the king of Persia.
The soldiers of Cyrus first made known their presence in the city by falling upon the royal guards in the vestibule of the palace of the king. Belshazzar soon became aware of the cause of the disturbance, and died fighting for his life. This feast of Belshazzar is described in the fifth chapter of Daniel, and the scene closes with the simple record, “In that night was Belshazzar the king of the Chaldeans slain. And Darius the Median took the kingdom, being about threescore and two years old.”
The historian Prideaux says: “Darius the Mede, that is, Cyaxares, the uncle of Cyrus, took the kingdom; for Cyrus allowed him the title of all his conquests as long as he lived.” Humphrey Prideaux, The Old and New Testament Connected in the History of the Jews, Vol. I, p. 137.
Thus the first empire, symbolized by the head of gold on the great image, came to an ignoble end. It would naturally be supposed that the conqueror, becoming possessed of so noble a city as Babylon, far surpassing anything else in the world, would have taken it as the seat of his empire, and maintained it in its splendor. But God had said that the city should become a heap, and the habitation of the beasts of the desert; that its houses should be full of doleful creatures; that the wild beasts of the islands should cry in its desolate dwellings, and dragons in its pleasant palaces. (Isaiah 13:19-22.) It must first be deserted. Cyrus established a second capital at Susa, a celebrated city in the province of Elam, east from Babylon, on the banks of the River Choaspes, a branch of the Tigris. This was probably done in the first year of his sole reign.
The pride of the Babylonians being particularly provoked by this act, in the fifth year of Darius Hystaspes, 517 BC, they rose in rebellion and brought upon themselves again the whole strength of the Persian Empire. The city was once more taken by strategy. Darius took away the brazen gates of the city, and beat down the walls from two hundred cubits to fifty cubits. This was the beginning of its destruction.
By this act, it was left exposed to the ravages of every hostile band. Xerxes, on his return from Greece, plundered the temple of Belus of its immense wealth, and then laid the lofty structure in ruins. Alexander the Great endeavored to rebuild it, but after employing ten thousand men two months to clear away the rubbish, he died from excessive drunkenness and debauchery, and the work was suspended.
In the year 294 BC, Seleucus Nicator built the city of New Babylon in the neighborhood of the old city, and took much of the material and many of the inhabitants of the old city, to build up and people the new. Now almost exhausted of inhabitants, neglect and decay were telling fearfully upon the ancient capital. The violence of Parthian princes hastened its ruin. About the end of the fourth century, it was used by the Persian kings as an enclosure for wild beasts. At the end of the twelfth century, according to a celebrated traveler, the few remaining ruins of Nebuchadnezzar’s palace were so full of serpents and venomous reptiles that they could not be closely inspected without great danger. And today scarcely enough even of the ruins is left to mark the spot where once stood the largest, richest, and proudest city of the ancient world.
Thus the ruin of great Babylon shows us how accurately God fulfills His word, and makes the doubts of skepticism appear like willful blindness.
“After thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee.”
The use of the word ‘kingdom’, shows that kingdoms, and not particular kings, are represented by the different parts of this image. Hence when it was said to Nebuchadnezzar, “Thou art this head of gold,” although the personal pronoun was used, the kingdom not the king himself was meant.
The succeeding kingdom, Medo-Persia, was indicated by the breast and arms of silver of the great image. It was to be inferior to the preceding kingdom. In what respect inferior? Not in power, for it conquered Babylon. Not in extent, for Cyrus subdued all the East from the Aegean Sea to the River Indus, and thus erected a more extensive empire. But it was inferior in wealth, luxury, and magnificence.
Viewed from a Scriptural standpoint, the principal event under the Babylonian Empire was the captivity of the children of Israel; under the Medo-Persian kingdom it was the restoration of Israel to their own land. At the taking of Babylon, Cyrus, as an act of courtesy, assigned the first place in the kingdom to his uncle, Darius, in 538 BC. But two years afterward Darius died, leaving Cyrus sole monarch of the empire. In this year, which closed Israel’s seventy years of captivity, Cyrus issued his famous decree for the return of the Jews and the rebuilding of their temple. This was the first installment of the great decree for the restoration and building again of Jerusalem (Ezra 6:14), which was completed in the seventh year of the reign of Artaxerxes, 457 BC, a date of much importance, as will hereafter be shown.
After a reign of seven years, Cyrus left the kingdom to his son Cambyses, who reigned seven years and five months, to 522 BC. Ten monarchs reigned between this time and the year 336 BC. The year 335 BC is set down as the first of Darius Codomannus, the last of the line of the old Persian kings. This man, according to Prideaux, was of noble stature, of goodly person, of the greatest personal valor, and of a mild and generous disposition. It was his ill fortune to have to contend with one who was an agent in the fulfillment of prophecy, and no qualifications, natural or acquired, could make him successful in the unequal contest. Scarcely was he warm upon the throne, ere he found his formidable enemy, Alexander, at the head of the Greek soldiers, preparing to dismount him from it.
The cause and the particulars of the contest between the Greeks and the Persians we leave to histories especially devoted to such matters. Suffice it to say that the deciding point was reached on the field of Arbela in 331 BC, where the Grecians, though only one to twenty in number as compared with the Persians, won a decisive victory. Alexander became absolute lord of the Persian Empire to an extent never attained by any of its own kings.
“Another third kingdom of brass . . shall bear rule over all the earth,” the prophet had said. Few and brief are the inspired words which involved a succession in world rulership. In the ever-changing political kaleidoscope, Grecia came into the field of vision, to be for a time the all-absorbing object of attention, as the third of what are called the universal empires of the earth.
After the battle which decided the fate of the empire, Darius endeavored to rally the shattered remnants of his army, and make a stand for his kingdom and his rights. But he could not gather out of all the host of his recently so numerous and well-appointed army, a force with which he deemed it prudent to hazard another engagement with the victorious Grecians. Alexander pursued him on the wings of the wind. Time after time Darius barely eluded the grasp of his swiftly following foe.
At length three traitors, Bessus, Nabarzanes, and Barsaentes, seized the unfortunate prince, shut him up in a close cart, and fled with him as their prisoner toward Bactria. It was their purpose, if Alexander pursued them, to purchase their own safety by delivering up their king. Hereupon Alexander, learning of the dangerous position of Darius in the hands of the traitors, immediately put himself with the lightest part of his army upon a forced pursuit. After several days’ hard march, he came up with the traitors. They urged Darius to mount on horseback for a more speedy flight. Upon his refusing to do this, they gave him several mortal wounds, and left him dying in the cart, while they mounted their steeds and rode away.
When Alexander arrived, be beheld only the lifeless form of the Persian king, who but a few months before was seated upon the throne of universal empire. Disaster, overthrow, and desertion had come suddenly upon Darius. His kingdom had been conquered, his treasure seized, and his family reduced to captivity. Now, brutally slain by the hand of traitors, he lay a bloody corpse in a rude cart. The sight of the melancholy spectacle drew tears from the eyes of even Alexander, familiar though he was with all the horrible happenings and bloody scenes of war. Throwing his cloak over the body, he commanded that it be conveyed to the ladies of the Persian royal family who were captives at Susa, and furnished from his own treasury the necessary means for a royal funeral.
When Darius died, Alexander saw the field cleared of his last formidable foe. Thenceforward he could spend his time in his own manner, now in the enjoyment of rest and pleasure, and again in the prosecution of some minor conquest. He entered upon a pompous campaign into India, because, according to Grecian fable, Bacchus and Hercules, two sons of Jupiter, whose son he also claimed to be, had done the same. With contemptible arrogance, he claimed for himself divine honors. He gave up conquered cities, freely and unprovoked, to the mercy of his bloodthirsty and licentious soldiery. He often murdered his friends and favorites in his drunken frenzies. He encouraged such excessive drinking among his followers that on one occasion twenty of them died as the result of their carousal.
At length, having sat through one long drinking spree, he was immediately invited to another, when, after drinking to each of the twenty guests present, he twice drank, says history, incredible as it may seem, the full Herculean cup containing six of our quarts. He was seized with a violent fever, of which he died eleven days later, June 13, 323 BC, while yet he stood only at the threshold of mature life, in the thirty-second year of his age.
Iron Monarchy of Rome
“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.” Daniel 2:40.
Thus far in the application of this prophecy there is a general agreement among expositors. That Babylon, Medo-Persia, and Greece are represented respectively by the head of gold, the breast and arms of silver, and the sides of brass, is acknowledged by all. But with as little ground for a diversity of views, there is strangely a difference of opinion as to what kingdom is symbolized by the fourth division of the great image; the legs of iron.
What kingdom succeeded Greece in the empire of the world, for the legs of iron denote the fourth kingdom in the series? The testimony of history is full and explicit on this point. One kingdom did this, and one only, and that was Rome. It conquered Grecia; it subdued all things; like iron, it broke in pieces and bruised.
Says Bishop Newton: “The four different metals must signify four different nations: and as the gold signified the Babylonians, and the silver the Persians, and the brass the Macedonians; so the iron cannot signify the Macedonians again, but must necessarily denote some other nation: and we will venture to say that there is not a nation upon earth, to which this description is applicable, but the Romans.”
Thomas Newton, Dissertations on the Prophecies, vol. I, p. 240.
Gibbon, following the symbolic imagery of Daniel, thus describes this empire: “The arms of the Republic, sometimes vanquished in battle, always victorious in war, advanced with rapid steps to the Euphrates, the Danube, the Rhine, and the ocean; and the images of gold, or silver, or brass, that might serve to represent the nations and their kings, were successively broken by the iron monarchy of Rome.” Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. III, general observations following chap. 38, p. 634.
At the opening of the Christian Era, this empire took in the whole south of Europe, France, England, the greater part of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the south of Germany, Hungary, Turkey, and Greece, not to speak of its possessions in Asia and Africa. Well therefore may Gibbon say of it:
“The empire of the Romans filled the world, and when that empire fell into the hands of a single person, the world became a safe and dreary prison for his enemies. . . . To resist was fatal, and it was impossible to fly.”
Ibid., Vol. I, chap. 3, pp. 99, 100.
It will be noticed that at first the kingdom is described without question as strong as iron. This was the period of its strength, during which it has been likened to a mighty colossus bestriding the nations, conquering everything, and giving laws to the world. But this was not to continue.
“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. 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.” Daniel 2:41-42
Rome, before its division into ten kingdoms, lost that iron vigor which it possessed to a superlative degree during the first centuries of its career. Luxury, with its accompanying effeminacy and degeneracy, the destroyer of nations as well as of individuals, began to corrode and weaken its iron sinews, and thus prepared the way for its disintegration into ten kingdoms.
Iron and Clay
In this mixture of metal and mud we see a very unnatural situation, the strength of the iron is undermined by the brittleness of clay and the fact that they do not even stick together makes it even worse. But there is a deeper meaning in this symbol and we learn much by looking into it.
Iron is used in the Bible as a symbol of ruling power. (see: Psalms 2:9; Revelation 2:27) It stands for Civil or State power. Clay is used in a figurative way in describing God’s people or church. Isaiah 64:8; “But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” (Also see: Jeremiah 18:1-6)
But here we do not see just clay; we are told it is miry or dirty clay. Miry clay denotes filthy or corrupted churches.
The combination of the iron and miry clay represents the mingling of State-craft and Priest-craft which is an abomination to God. The feet come into history close to the time of the beginning of the Papal supremacy of the 1260 years where the church ruled the secular governments and used them for her own corrupt ends.
The ten toes are also of this same material and our attention is called to them by the explicit mention of them in the prophecy. The Roman kingdom was finally divided into ten parts. However the ten toes of the image do not represent the ten divisions of the Roman Empire. We know this because in the division of the Roman Empire, three kingdoms were removed leaving only seven. This we do not see in the ten toes. We will address them later.
The Ten Toes
The image of Daniel 2 is exactly parallel with the four beasts in the vision of Daniel 7. The fourth beast represents the same kingdom as do the iron legs of the image. The ten horns of the beast correspond naturally to the ten divisions of the Roman Empire. These horns are plainly declared to be ten kings (or kingdoms) which should arise, but here we are also told that 3 would be uprooted. It is only when we look to Revelation 17 that we find further information regarding the final ten toes on the image and what they stand for.
Daniel and Revelation are actually one prophetic book with the first part having been given by Christ to Daniel and the second part having been given by Christ to John on Patmos. Any attempts to truly understand these prophetic books separately will yield poor results. In Revelation 17 we see a beast with seven heads and ten horns. The seven heads correspond with the seven kingdoms of the earth and the ten horns here are described: “And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.” Revelation 17:12
At the end of time there will be a confederacy of ruling powers that will have one mind and will give their power to the Beast for a short time. These correspond with the ten toes on the image of Daniel 2. They are not ten kingdoms, but one kingdom with ten kings. We will learn more of this later.
In Daniel’s interpretation of the image he uses the words “king” and “kingdom” interchangeably meaning the same thing. In verse 44 he says that “in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom.” This shows that at the time the kingdom of God is set up, there will exist this plurality of confederated kings acting as one kingdom and giving their power to the Beast.
The Ten Kingdoms
This division of the Roman Empire was accomplished between AD 351 and 476, a hundred and twenty-five years, from about the middle of the fourth century to the last quarter of the fifth. The map of the Roman Empire during that time underwent many sudden and violent changes, and the paths of hostile nations charging upon its territory, crossed and recrossed each other in a labyrinth of confusion. But all historians agree in this, that out of the territory of Western Rome, ten separate kingdoms were ultimately established as follows: Huns, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Franks, Vandals, Suevi, Burgundians, Heruli, Anglo-Saxons, and Lombards. The connection between these and some of the modern nations of Europe, is still traceable in the names.
“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 2:43
With Rome, fell the last of the world’s universal empires. No other world kingdom was to succeed it, as it had the three which went before it. It was to continue until the kingdom of the stone smote it, upon its feet; broke them in pieces, and scattered them as the wind does ‘the chaff of the summer threshing-floor.’ Yet, through all this time, a portion of its strength was to remain. And so the prophet says, ‘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.’
Time and again men have dreamed of rearing on these dominions one mighty kingdom. Charlemagne tried it; Charles V tried it; Louis XIV tried it; Napoleon tried it; Hitler tried it; and none of them succeeded. A single verse of prophecy was stronger than all their hosts. ‘This shall not be,’ says the word of God. ‘This has not been,’ replies the book of history.
But then, another plan remains. If force cannot avail, diplomacy and reasons of state may. And so the prophecy foreshadows this when it says, ‘They shall mingle themselves with the seed of men’, i.e., marriages shall be formed, in hope thus to consolidate their power, and in the end, to unite these divided kingdoms into one. To avert future conflicts, benevolent rulers resorted to the expedient of intermarriage to ensure peace, until by the opening of the twentieth century it was asserted that every ranking hereditary ruler of Europe was related to the British royal family. And did this device succeed? No! World War I showed the futility of these attempts. The prophet answers: ‘They shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.’
Alliances may come, and it may appear that the iron and miry clay of the feet and toes of the great image have finally fused, but God said, “They shall not cleave one to another.” It may seem that old animosities have disappeared, but “the Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10:35.
“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 forever. 45 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 2:44-45
The phrase, “shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom”, denotes a process, which God carries out in this time of the toes of the image, that takes place just before the Second Coming of Jesus. If it referred only to Christ’s coming, it would be worded; “In the days of these kings shall Christ return and destroy all the nations and rule forever”; but instead we see indicated, the development of Christ’s kingdom.
The coming kingdom! This ought to be the all-absorbing topic with the present generation. He who enters this kingdom shall dwell in it not merely for such a lifetime as men live in this present state. He shall not see it degenerate, or be overthrown by a succeeding and more powerful kingdom. No, he enters it to participate in all its privileges and blessings, and to share its glories forever, for this kingdom is not to “be left to other people.”
Are you ready? The terms of heirship are most liberal: “If ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:29. Are you on terms of friendship with Christ, the coming King? Do you love His character? Are you choosing to walk humbly in His footsteps, and, by His enabling grace, obey His teachings? If not, read your fate in the cases of those in the parable, of whom it was said, “But those Mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before Me.” Luke 19:27.
There is to be no rival kingdom where you can find an asylum if you remain an enemy to this, for God’s kingdom is to occupy all the territory ever possessed by any and all of the kingdoms of this world, past or present. It is to fill the whole earth. Happy are they to whom the rightful Sovereign, the all-conquering King, can say at last, “Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34.
The ‘Stone, cut out without Hands’ represents the last remnant of God’s faithful. It is Jesus that cuts them out and prepares them by the Holy Spirit. He polishes and perfects them through trial and tribulation, to be able to show them at last as His precious First-Fruits. (Also see Daniel 7:18; 27)
They carry forth the final message of mercy and warning that leads quickly to the Second Coming of Christ to take His faithful home. These will be translated without seeing death at Jesus’ Second Coming.
The idea that the stone itself is Christ’s coming is an overly simplistic and unbiblical view and does not fit the Bible evidence. Jesus cannot cut himself out of Mount Zion, which represents God’s faithful saints. But Jesus uses the stone He cuts out to bring to an end the wicked reign of Satan and his cohorts forever.
“Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 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.” Daniel 2:46, 47
Nebuchadnezzar felt that he could accept this interpretation as a divine revelation; for to Daniel had been revealed every detail of the dream. The solemn truths conveyed by the interpretation of this vision of the night made a deep impression on the sovereign’s mind, and in humility and awe he “fell upon his face, and worshipped.”
Nebuchadnezzar saw clearly the difference between the wisdom of God, and the wisdom of the most learned men of his kingdom. In fulfillment of his promise of rewards, the king made Daniel a great man. A man is considered great if he is a man of wealth; and we read that the king gave him many and great gifts. If in conjunction with riches a man has power, certainly in popular estimation he is considered a great man; and power was bestowed upon Daniel in abundant measure. He was made ruler over the province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. Thus speedily and abundantly did Daniel begin to be rewarded for his fidelity to his own conscience and the requirements of God.
“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. 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 2:48, 49
Daniel did not become bewildered or elated by his signal victory and his wonderful advancement. He first remembered the three who were companions with him in anxiety respecting the king’s matter. As they had helped him with their prayers, he determined that they should share his honors. At his request they were placed over the affairs of Babylon, while Daniel himself sat in the gate of the king. The gate was the place where councils were held, and where matters of chief importance were considered. The record is a simple declaration that Daniel became chief counselor to the king.