A TROUBLING DREAM
Daniel 2:1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 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.
At the conclusion of chapter one, Daniel and friends, newly minted graduates of the University of Babylon, had passed their final exams with flying colors and impressed Nebuchadnezzar, who had himself personally administered the exam, with their knowledge. But they were still the new kids on the block. In the greater scheme of things, they were at the bottom of the food chain, the low man on the totem-pole. Being new and inexperienced, and Hebrew on top of that (not a proper Chaldean as wise men should be), they most likely started their career as assistants to the assistant to some low level functionary within the kingdom. When Nebuchadnezzar summoned the wise men to tell him his dream, they were apparently not considered important enough to come before the king.
But God was about to change all of that. In an act of divine providence God was about to catapult Daniel and his three friends into national prominence. And so, Nebuchadnezzar had a dream.
Daniel 2:3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 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. 5 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. 6 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.
Now there is some question as to the interpretation of verse 5, as to whether or not the king had forgotten the dream. The phrase “The thing is gone from me” may also be translated “The matter is decided by me,” indicating that the king remembered the dream, but had decided to make the ability of the wise men to tell him what the dream was a test of their ability to also give him a correct interpretation of its meaning. This is further indicated in verse 9 where Nebuchadnezzar says “tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof.” A test that would hardly be possible if the king had truly forgotten the dream. Also, it is apparent that the wise men believed that Nebuchadnezzar still remembered the dream, otherwise they could have simply made up a dream and given its interpretation - for they knew full well that Nebuchadnezzar meant exactly what he said when he said to them “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 instead, what we find in the next few verses is a desperate life and death struggle on the part of the wise men to persuade Nebucahdnezzar to tell them the dream.
THE UN-WISE MEN
Daniel 2:7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me [alt translation: 'firmly decided by me.'] 9 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.
One thing that becomes apparent as you progress through the first few chapters of Daniel is that God was working not only to promote Daniel and his friends to prominence within the kingdom, but also to save Nebuchadnezzar. God was reaching out to save the soul of this heathen king. And to do so, He first had to break the hold that the wise men of Babylon, with all their mystic arts, had over him.
And just as God had designed, the wise men were totally discredited. Even under the threat of death they were unable to reveal the dream to Nebuchadnezzar.
In the first few chapters of Daniel there is a progressive discrediting of the wise men of Babylon. Here in chapter 2 we find that they cannot reveal a dream, much less interpret it. But they had boasted that if they knew the dream they could interpret it. So God gives them their chance. In chapter 4 the king has another dream, and he plainly tells it to the wise men, yet they cannot interpret the dream even after it has been told them. And in finally chapter 5 God literally spelled it out for them, writes it on the wall, and they still don‘t get it.
Why did the wise men of Babylon fail so miserably? Because, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14).
In other words, human wisdom is worthless in understanding spiritual things. We must have wisdom from above, God’s Spirit in our hearts, if we are to understand His Word.
Daniel 2:10 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. 11 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.
There was nothing unreasonable in Nebuchadnezzar’s demand that they should make known to him his dream. After all, these wise men claimed to be able to make known hidden mysteries. They claimed to have communion with the gods who reveled secrets to them. But when they declared that “there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh,” they in effect slit their own throats. By these words they confessed before the king and all present that they were frauds, that they had no communication with these gods, and therefore knew nothing beyond what their own scheming minds could devise, and that all their doings were just so much mumbo jumbo. There was most probably a real “Oops” moment among the wise men when that little statement slipped out. Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction was immediate.
Daniel 2:12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. 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: 15 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. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 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.
Although Daniel was not among the wise men who failed Nebuchadnezzar, the king’s decree apparently included all the wise men, whether they were present before the king or not. It would seem that the first Daniel and his friends knew about the matter was when the king’s men came knocking on their door. Fortunately, (and here we see divine providence in action) the officer who came to take Daniel and his friends was not only willing to explain things to them but also apparently willing to arrange for Daniel (a nobody, and a captive at that) an audience with the king. And miracle of miracles, the enraged king granted it, and more than that, granted Daniel all that he asked of the king - time. Time to pray. And note how positive verse 16 is. Daniel was not going to “try” to show the king the interpretation, he “would” show the king the interpretation. A brave statement considering that Daniel did not yet have the slightest clue what the dream was.
As soon as his request for time was granted Daniel went straight to his friends - and together they did the one thing they could do. They prayed.
Matthew 18:20 "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."
And God was there with them.
TO GOD BE THE GLORY
Daniel 2:19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 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: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.
Contrary to popular opinion, the rise and fall of nations is not by the will of man. No, not at all. Although the shaping of events seems to a great degree to be determined by man’s power and by man’s ambition, or even by random chance, that is not at all the case. In the Bible the curtain is drawn aside, and through its pages we catch a glimpse of the providential workings of Almighty God above, behind, and through all the play and counter-play of human interests and power and passions, ever so surely working out His will in this world of ours.
This is the essence of what the prophecy of Daniel 2 reveals -- A God who is in absolute control of the events of human history. Nothing happens that God is not already aware of and has not allowed. We may not understand what is happening in our world today, but Daniel tells us clearly that God is in control.
Daniel 2:23 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.
This was an occasion to praise God, and that is exactly what Daniel and friends did. They immediately offered up praise to God for being so gracious and revealing the dream to them. The prayer Daniel and his friends prayed asking to know the kings dream is not recorded, but their thanksgiving and praise to God is. And there is a lesson in that for us. God is honored by our praise to Him for the things he has done for us. We all need to be more like Daniel in this respect.
Daniel 2:24 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. 25 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’s first plea was for the wise men of Babylon. “Do not destroy them, the kings secret is revealed.” They were saved because a man of God was among them. And so it ever is. For the sake of Paul and Silas, all the prisoners with them were set free. (Acts 15:26). For the sake of Paul, the lives of all that sailed with him were saved. (Acts 27:24). Time and again the wicked are saved from destruction by the presence of the righteous among them.
What holds the world back from total destruction? For whose sake is it still spared? For the sake of the few righteous persons who are left. How long would the wicked be allowed to go their way if the righteous are taken out of the way? No longer than the antediluvian’s were allowed to go on after Noah entered the ark, or the Sodomites after Lot departed from their presence. If only ten righteous persons could have been found in Sodom, Gomorrah and all the cities around them the whole multitude of their wicked inhabitants would for their sake have been spared. Yet the wicked will despise, ridicule and oppress the very ones on whose account it is that they are still permitted life and all its blessings.
Daniel 2:26 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? 27 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; 28 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; 29 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. 30 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.
Instead of being totally absorbed in the here and now, instead of thinking only of himself, the king apparently truly desired to know what the future held. It may be for this reason that God gave him the dream.
Yet though he gave the dream to the king, he sent its interpretation through one of His own people. God works in this world though His church. We are His messengers.
Daniel did not take any credit for the interpretation of the dream, but went to great lengths to show that all the praise and glory should go to God. If there were more people in the world like Daniel, who would give the credit to God where it is due, instead of trying to glorify themselves, we would see far more manifestations of God’s power in this world than we now do. But God can’t do this, not because he is unwilling, but because we would glorify ourselves saying. “look at what I have done.”
In chapter 1 we saw how God gave Daniel and his companions wisdom and knowledge. And now Daniel acknowledges before all that he has nothing, no ability, no wisdom, that he did not receive from God. “But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living” In other words, to God be all the glory. This should be the attitude of every Christian.
Romans 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.
The Bible tells us “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3). And again, "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. 7 Be not wise in thine own eyes." (Proverbs 3: 6-7).