Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, Daniel’s Interpretation, And What It Means Today
March 3, 2010
I greet you once again in the Name of Jesus!
One of the most fascinating sections of God’s Word, in my opinion, is the account in Daniel 2 concerning the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel was the first major Old Testament Prophet to actually unveil details of the final empire that would arise at the time of the end. This revelation of the kingdom of the beast is revealed in several prophetic dreams and visions recorded in the book of Daniel.
This Hebrew Prophet was living in Babylon at the time the first dream was revealed to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. The three main visions/dreams are:
- Daniel 2 – the dream of a metallic image given to King Nebuchadnezzar
- Daniel 7 – the vision of a beast with ten horns
- Daniel 8 – the vision of a ten-horned beast and little horn (final leader
) speaking great things
First, I want to carefully examine the dream of Nebuchadnezzar. If you are a student of the Word you are no doubt familiar with this account. In the night Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream where a huge image of a man was seen. This image consisted of various grades of metal, beginning with gold at the head and concluding with a mix of iron and clay feet with ten toes (Dan. 2:31 – 35). The image had:
- A head of gold
- A chest and two arms of silver
- Thighs made of brass
- Two legs of iron
- Two feet with a mixture of iron and clay
- Ten toes that were a mixture of iron and clay
There is a great deal of background that we could look at here. However suffice it to say that Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is a mixture of both world history and spiritual history and moves from gold to iron and clay. This image with its metals represented the major empires of prophecy that would begin in Daniel’s day with Babylon and conclude with a ten-king coalition that would be ruling at the return of the Messiah. We don’t have to wonder what this image means. History has interpreted the meaning.
The head of gold
The head of gold represented Babylon, the empire responsible for destroying the temple and taking the Jews captive. The Babylonians were known for their gold wealth. One hundred years after the death of Nebuchadnezzar, an ancient historian wrote that he had never seen so much gold as was in Babylon. One temple, the Temple of Belus, had an eighteen-foot human statue of solid gold. There were also statues of two golden lions and one golden image of Ishtar. Inside the Temple, there was a forty-foot long golden table, on which were placed three golden religious objects weighing a total of five thousand pounds. No wonder Babylon was called the golden city.
The chest and arms of silver
The second empire, following Babylon, was Media-Persia. They are represented on the image by the chest and arms of silver. It was the Media-Persian Empire that allowed the Jews to return to Israel and rebuild their homes and temple. Silver was an important metal to the Persians, since their taxes were to be paid in silver. It is said that the Persians also placed silver harnesses on their horses.
The thighs of brass
The third empire was Greece, under the command of the military genius Alexander the Great. The Grecians were typified by the imagery of thighs of brass on the image. The armies of the Greeks used brass helmets and weaponry in their conflicts. It was the Grecian ruler Antiochus Ephiphanes who defiled the temple, filling it with pagan idols, placing a Hellenistic priest in the temple, and requiring the sacrifice of pigs on the altar.
The legs of iron
The Roman Empire, identified by the legs of iron, followed the Grecians. Iron, I submit to you, has a two-fold meaning: First, it was a metal the Romans mastered for use in their chariots and weapons; second, it also typifies war and fighting, which was a central feature when the Romans set out to conquer new territory. The Romans destroyed the temple for a second time and took the Jews captive.
On thing about this image escaped my attention for years. I always have taught that the legs of iron represented the Roman Empire. While that is true, there is an important element of this dream and the image that we dare not miss. This image stood on two legs. I never saw the importance of that fact and why the Holy Spirit included it. The two iron legs predicted a two-division split in the Roman Empire. The process began in A.D. 395 when the Roman Empire was divided between the East (one leg) and the West (the other leg). In A.D. 476 the West (Rome) fell to the Germanic tribes, but the eastern leg became the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines ruled out of Constantinople, Turkey, and built churches in Palestine commemorating many of the Christian holy sites.
While the Roman Church maintained dominion through much of Western Europe through the influence of the Pope and Cardinals of the Roman Church, the Byzantines exercised influence over much of the East, including Palestine and Jerusalem, during a period of one thousand years. Eventually the Eastern (Byzantine) branch of the leg of Rome fell into the hands of Muslim Turks in 1453. An Islamic empire called the Ottoman Turkish Empire ruled from Palestine from 1517 to 1917. After seizing control of Palestine and Jerusalem in 1517, the Turks began rebuilding the upper walls on the old city of Jerusalem. The Turkish power continued until the early Twentieth century.
During the peak of its authority, this Empire stretched over three continents and contained twenty-nine provinces. This Empire succeeded both the Roman and Byzantine legs of the Roman Empire. Eventually, Palestine and Jerusalem were occupied by the British, who crushed the Turkish rule after four hundred years.
The Ottoman Empire was the seat of the Islamic caliphate until 1923 when it was abandoned and replaced by the Republic of Turkey, today known as the country of Turkey. Since 1923, Muslims world-wide have dreamed of the time when a holy man will arise and restore Islam to its glory days of influence, experienced during the days following Mohammed and the times of the Ottoman Empire.
We have barely scratched the surface. There is much more to come as we explore this image, its meaning, and its interpretation.
The Weekly Word is found in Daniel 2:42, 43. Here the Bible says,
And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. [Dan. 2:42, 43 ESV]
Until next time, this is THE WEEKLY WORD.
Pastor Kevin E. Johnson
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