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

28 thoughts on “Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream, Daniel’s Interpretation, And What It Means Today

  1. respectfully disagree. what about Christ’s first coming? Im pretty sure He set up the kingdom the first time around, hence the stone cut out without hands, ‘the rock’ he built his church on.

    1. Hi,

      Thank you for reading and for commenting. Do you believe that we are living in the “Kingdom Age” presently? I understand the “kingdom” aspect of the Church. Our King Jesus certainly reings in the hearts of His people. However, the kingdoms of this world have not been made the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. So while I certainly believe in the Kingdom of the Church, I do see scripture presenting a future kingdom on earth, coming in the days of the kingdoms represented in the ten toes of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel 2.

      Would you consider yourself an ammillienist? I started in ministry in the Churches of Christ and they postulated a posistion similar to the one you are. I am certainly glad that our particular stance on eschtalogical issues does not determine our salvation. Also I am glad that we can enjoy sweet fellowship as brothers in the Lord, even if we don’t agree on everything.

      Blessings to you!

      Pastor Kevin

      1. Pastor Kevin,God richly bless you for this truth. Any way I’m Nicholas, a Law enforcement agent. Reading the Bible and Researching about it is important to me than anything else.Pastor I really want to know more about God. Please I want know about you and where you are. Thanks

      2. Hi Nicholas,

        Thank you for stopping by, and for your kind comments. The Lord richly bless you. I encourage you to keep reading and studying God’s Word.

        Are you involved in a local church in your area? If not, I would encourage you to find one and get involved. Fellowship with other believers and sitting under the teaching of the scriptures are key to spiritual growth.

        Feel free also to email me with any questions you have. I would be happy to assist you in way that I can to help you grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior.

        Pastor Kevin

  2. Christ’ kingdom is already in existence and was at the time Paul wrote to the church in Colosse. In Colossians 1:13 the Holy Spirit says that they (Paul and the saints at Colosse) were translated (past tense) into Christ’ kingdom. The kingdom of Christ was in existence and they were in it. It necessarily follows that if Christ has established his kingdom, then he is already reigning in that kingdom. We find that to be the case as early as Acts 2: 30-36 in which Christ was raised to sit on his throne (the place kings sit when they rule over their kingdom). This shows that Christ was right when he declared in Mark 9:1 that there would be those who he was then speaking to, who would see His kingdom come in power, before they died. That prophecy spoken by Christ clearly states that His kingdom would be established in the first century. The logical argument is complete. Christ said he would set up His kingdom in the first century (while those people were still alive), He was raised from the dead to rule over his kingdom, and he has subjects in that kingdom(Christians).

    This then makes sense with Christ’ statement that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36). He had to die, go to Heaven and establish his kingdom in Heaven. We then have an opportunity to be part of a heavenly kingdom right now, just like the church at Colosse and Paul.

  3. I have been doing a study on this dream in Dan 2. I was awaked when I came to the scripture in vs 28 <"But there is a God in heaven that reveals secrets, and he has made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days." This opened my eyes to the fact that God revealed a secret to the King and the future of his kingdom in the latter days. I have been given by the Holy Spirit what I feel is insight to something that may or may not have been overlooked here in this dream. Jesus in Matt 24 talks about Daniel and assures us that he was in fact a prophet of God who fortold future events. Given Jesus is talking about Daniel explaining what to look for in the latter days I believe that there is hidden secrets in the book. i believe that the statue in this dream can be linked to major world powers today if in fact we are living in the "latter days"

  4. I am currently for the next 21 days doing a major study of the book of Daniel. I am hoping to find some of these secrets that are hidden in the book. If you have any knowledge of the book please talk about it. It will help me in this study.

  5. If this is Kevin Johnson of Jacksonville and Logos! This is Kristina and I just stumbled upon your blog doing some research for a final old testament paper. Glad to see you blogging! It is inspiring and convicting at the same time. Hope you’re well, Kevin.

  6. please pastor kevin send me Full interpretation of Nebuchadnezars dream [the image of man] i.e the meaning
    Head of Gold, Chest hands of silver
    Thighs of bronze
    Legs of iron
    Feet & toes mix with iron & clay. thanks alot pastor antony kaura

    1. Hi Pastor,

      As we look at Daniel 2 we see that the Prophet identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold. What is in view here are the four great world Empires that would directly affect and oppress Israel and the Jewish people. Now, since Nebuchadnezzar was identified as the head of gold, that means that Babylon was the first empire. The chest and hands of silver would be the next empire following Babylon, which we know from history was the Media-Persian Empire.

      The thighs of bronze spoke of the next empire, the Grecian. The legs of Iron pointed to the Roman Empire. Since there were two legs, it represents the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire.

      I hope this helps.

      The Lord richly bless you,

      Pastor Kevin

  7. people should leave what is unnecessary that is occupying them coz we are in the last days and find w@ is acceptable 2 God so as 2 get a ticket 2 the kingdom of heaven.God bless u. I wish every 1 wud know how unimportant the worldly things are and leave them and focus on the everlasting treasure that is kept for us in heaven.

  8. It is nice that you make an attempt to explain the powers to be in Daniels prophecy. The first six are easy because the Lord actually reveals there identity to Daniel and to us through Nebachadnezzers dream. For those of you who feel the kingdom was established when Christ came, I respectful say you are wrong. Jesus said “that his Kingdom was no part of this world”
    Dan. 2:44 points when the kingdom will be established in the final part of the the days. “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will endure forever.” NIV This is the same kingdom that Jesus gospel message was about. This is not a warm and fuzzy kingdom in our hearts, this is a real kingdom that Christ will reign as King. It has teeth, it will at blazing speed crush this image, the world govts. seize Satan and the demons and abiss them for a thousand years. God through his King Christ Jesus will retake this earth and His divine will, will finally be made true. Praise and welcome the prince of peace and his endearing Father. May they come swiftly and soon!

  9. Hi u have been able to shed light into some of the eschathological facts that was bothering me. However i hope the unseen hand that threw stone which scattered d image signify d one thousand years that jesus ll reign on earth after d rapture. As i wil be waiting for confirmation i will implore u to please send d full interpretation of d dream to my email. Thanks. Be raptureable.

  10. Hi Pastor Kevin. I am a relatively new Christian and eager to learn. Last week I experienced what I could only describe as a revelation about the final part of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
    First of all, let me say that a number of ‘things’ occured to bring me to read this passage (Danial ch 2 vs26 to 46) on that day and the absence of any of these events would have meant that I would not have read it. .
    When I read the passage about the feet of iron and clay I was struck by a clear and immediate understanding of it’s meaning, that is, that the ‘feet of iron and clay’ is refering to the marriage of the Roman Catholic church to the Council of churches. Rome is seen as being strong whilest the Council af Churches appear to have have “feet of clay”, ignoring the reasons for the split at the Reformation
    To my simple eyes, this is supported by logic too, ie We know from history that the iron legs refer to the Romans, there for, it is logical that the iron in the feet must also referr to Rome. Now, who is moving towards a marriage with Rome? The Council of churces. Now ask yourself, how does God feel about this marriage? Well, Revelations Ch’s 18 and19 give a clear understandfing
    I would appreciate your coments on why this thought does not fit in with the essence of Daniel’s interpretation. many thanks.

    Bob Donaldson .

  11. So far this seems to be very interesting! Daniel gave us the first world powers, but only gave us clues about the feet of clay and iron. So Pastor K
    what is your spin on the identification of the world powers that the feet represent? In your history wrap up, you are on a line of reasoning that is consistent with the rise and fall of the previous world powers. Say what is your take?

    1. I believe the feet, partly of Iron and part of clay, represent a revised Roman Empire mixing with a form of Western Democracy. That is a short answer, we could discuss more in depth if you like.

      Pastor Kevin

      1. It seems that as one world power rises the following world power was involved in its predecessors demise. Would you conclude that this happened as well in the kingdom represented by the feet of clay and iron. Yes I would very much like to discuss this in greater detail for it holds part of the sacred secret that Jesus refers to.

      2. Warm greetings to all. More important than the world powers predecessors demise at the the hands of the new world power, is of the world powers being hard and fast enemies of God’s people. Each of these nations occupied Israel and stood in opposition to both God and his chosen people. The Roman empire opposed both Jews and Christians, the spiritual Israel of God.

  12. I’m extremely inspired along with your writing abilities as neatly as with the structure to your weblog. Is this a paid topic or did you customize it your self? Anyway keep up the nice high quality writing, it’s uncommon to see a nice blog like this one today..

  13. There are many different interpretations of what Daniel chapter 2’s fourth kingdom means. See my article on the Fourth Kingdom of Daniel 7 @ Atavist Biblical Church site. I could sure use your help in describing what you believe happens after the stone strikes the toes. I look forward to corresponding. God bless.


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