Daniel - Lesson 4

Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

Lesson 4
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Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

I. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

A. Nebuchadnezzar's request

B. Description of Babylonian gods

II. Main Message

  • Join distinguished scholar and professor emeritus Dr. Tremper Longman for a study of the book of Daniel, a fascinating and inspiring part of the Bible. In this class, you'll explore six stories and four apocalyptic visions that all demonstrate God's control and ultimate victory, even in the face of evil and difficulty. Don't miss this opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as you study the powerful messages of the book of Daniel with Dr. Longman.

  • Daniel is written in two parts. The first six chapters is history written in the form of a story. Chapters seven through twelve are apocalyptic literature. In the English Bible, it’s with the major prophets. In the Hebrew Bible it’s in the Writings. The Apocalyptic section has similarities to the book of Revelation. One of the main messages in the book of Daniel is that even if you are living in a culture that is toxic to your faith, living by faith can help you not only survive, but thrive.

  • By the time Daniel was written, the nation of the Jewish people was divided into the tribes of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC. Babylon overthrew Assyria in 612 BC then Judah in 605 BC. Daniel. Daniel and others were taken to Babylon and chosen to be trained as royal advisors.   

  • Daniel and his friends were willing to learn the language, literature and divination practices of the Babylonians even though it was potentially toxic to their faith. They temporarily chose to eat vegetables and water rather than the food and wine that the other officials in training were eating. The performed at the top of their class.

  • Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

  • Daniel reveals the dream and the interpretation because God revealed it to him. The parts of the statue represent different worldly kingdoms. The stone that crushes the statue represents God’s rule over the kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Yahweh as being powerful.

  • Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

  • This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

  • As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

  • Belshazzar was a ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. During a banquet he hosted, he used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem for his guests to drink out of. In the middle of a banquet, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the message.

  • When Darius gave Daniel a position of authority in his government, the administrators underneath him were jealous. They devised a plan to trap Daniel and force Darius to execute him. God rescued Daniel and the administrators suffered the fate that they had planned for Daniel. The story shows that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and it’s important to live a life that is faithful to him.

  • Daniel had a vision of four beasts that were frightening in appearance. An angel explained the significance of the beasts in terms of historical kingdoms but didn’t say specifically which ones.

  • Daniel and Jeremiah both had messages from God but the way God communicated to each of them was different. The word “apocalypse” comes from the first word in Greek in the book of Revelation which means to reveal or uncover something. Some characteristics of apocalyptic literature are visions, dreams, a binary point of view, highly figurative language and the theme of hope based in confidence in God’s control over people and events that seem chaotic and overwhelming.

  • In this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the book of Daniel, focusing on its themes, historical context, and preparation for spiritual battles in a challenging cultural environment.
  • You gain a deeper understanding of the Book of Daniel, its historical context, literary features, key themes, and significance within the Old Testament, while focusing on God's warfare against evil.
  • John the Baptist described Jesus coming as a warrior but the ministry of Jesus was different than what he expected. Since we live in phase 4, God gives us the power to fight spiritual battles. The God who led the people of Israel into battle in the Old Testament is the same God described in the New Testament who came as God in human form as Jesus.

  • The vision in Daniel 8 describes animals that represent kingdoms and individuals. While Daniel was seeing the vision, Gabriel came and explained its meaning. Antiochus Epiphanes fits the description of one of the horns in the vision. His persecution of the people of Israel and his desecration of the temple is similar to the way the anti-Christ is described in Revelation.

  • As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

  • As Daniel is reading Jeremiah and praying, the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain the vision to him. The numbers in the vision are symbolic but demonstrate that God has a plan and a time frame to accomplish it.

  • The final of Daniel’s four visions described in chapters 10-12. There is an introduction to the vision, description of the vision and instructions to Daniel. The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed because of spiritual warfare.

  • This vision covers the events surrounding the Persian and Greek rulers in the 3rd and 4th century BC. They are described in such detail that some people think it was written after they took place, not as a prophecy.

  • The righteous and the wicked have different fates in the after-life. Throughout Scripture there is progress of revelation. God is in control and he will be victorious. The prophecy that God gave Daniel describes events that will happen in the future. Celestial sources give final words to Daniel that are also addressed to readers of the book of Daniel. A theme that is emphasized throughout the book of Daniel is, in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory.  This is illustrated both in the stories of Daniel and his friends and in the visions of future events that Daniel has.

  • Daniel informs the imagery and message of the book of Revelation. They are the two books of the Bible with primarily apocalyptic themes. Daniel’s encounter with God and angels is similar to what John records in Revelation. Daniel is commanded to seal his prophecy and in Revelation, the seals are opened. The references Revelation to the beasts and three and a half years is also similar to Daniel.

Living in a toxic culture can be dangerous and risky, but when you live by faith, God can give you opportunities to thrive, succeed and be a testimony to God's power and love for people. A primary message of the prophecies of Daniel is that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory. God has not provided us with a precise date on the calendar for when that will happen, but he will accomplish his plan on his timetable.

Dr. Tremper Longman III
The Book of Daniel - OT666-04
Nebuchadnezzar's Dream
Lesson Transcript

So we've looked at Daniel chapter one, where in the year 605 B.C., during the reign of King Yahya and Nebuchadnezzar has come, besiege Jerusalem has made it vassal state of the Babylonian empire. And as part of that process, has brought you noble young men to Babylon in order to reprogram them to essentially serve the Babylonian empire. And this was a pretty extensive process we saw that included changing their names, perhaps making them eunuchs, subjecting them to a curriculum that was hostile to their faith. In all these matters, they don't seem to have publicly protested or refused to participate. But they did decide not to eat the food or drink the wine that Nebuchadnezzar provided for them, but rather and they did this privately. By the way, I should highlight, you know, they didn't even protest this publicly. It was a private protest by not eating the rich food or drinking the wine. And I suggested that the reason why was because they were giving God room to work, that Nebuchadnezzar was trying to feed them in a way that would lead to what Nebuchadnezzar considered was an ideal physique for a wise man, which is a pudgy person. And so at the end of the chapter, when Nebuchadnezzar looked at them and said, You're not only the smartest, you're the best looking wise men in the group, he's thinking, I did it through my efforts and curriculum and feeding program. But they know because they've given God room to work, that their physical looks were because of God. Now, when we come to Daniel 2, we get a story that where I say the other shoe drops, we're now going to learn that. What Daniel and the three friends learned and Babylonian university don't help them in the crunch, but rather God will reveal to them what they need to know. So it doesn't happen too much later, it says in the second year of his reign. So this is probably the following year. Never has there had dreams. His mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians and enchanter sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dream. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means. Then the astrologers answered The King. May the king live forever. Tell your servants to dream and we will interpret it.

Okay. Let me remind you what I said in the lecture and on the first chapter, which is This is the way Babylonian dream interpretation works. The wise men are saying, The noble desert will tell us your dream, and then, of course, will interpret it for you. And but the king replied to the astrologers, verse five. This is what I have firmly decided. If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your house is turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me. So I have to say, it's a little unclear why the king is insisting on them telling him his dream. Because that's not the way Babylonian dream interpretation works, though we might speculate that maybe the king detects a little bit of a racket here that that if you if you tell somebody a dream, of course, they're going to be able to come up with some kind of interpretation, you know. So maybe he's testing them. But whatever the king's motivation, this whole situation is setting the scene so that your way through Daniel can show his vast superiority to the other gods. Then the king answered, I'm certain that you're trying to gain time because you realize that this is what I firmly decided. If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then tell me the dream and I will know that you can interpret it for me. Yeah. So that last phrase there, tell me the dream and then I'll have confidence that, you know, maybe, maybe you can actually give me of an interpretation. But the astrologers answer the king. There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks. No King, however great and mighty has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans. This is definitely a setup line, you know. And and and it's going to set the stage for Yahweh demonstrating his superiority over the other gods. And it does fit in with Babylonian conception of the gods, who are much more aloof from human beings than Yahweh is toward his people.

Now, don't hear me saying that the Babylonian gods exist, except as perhaps spiritual powers that lie behind the. Religious imaginations of the Babylonians. And let me let me explain myself a little bit here. And I'm basing what I'm about to say more on the early chapters of Exodus. You might remember that in the early chapters of Exodus at the culminating Plague, the plague of the firstborn Exodus 12, verse 12, Yahweh says, "On this night, I will have victory over the gods of Egypt." "On this night, I will have victory over the gods of Egypt." The story of the exodus suggests that the Egyptian gods are real. After all, the Egyptian magicians can turn their staff into a serpent. The Egyptian magicians can turn water into blood, but after that, their power sort of, you know, peters out. So what are we to make of this? Well, in the Old Testament, and this isn't the only place some time the term God or gods Elohim is is used not just to depict a deity like Yahweh, but rather all spiritual beings, what we might call angels and demons. So what I think is going on and the early chapters of Exodus is that that there are evil, spiritual powers, demons that are being worshiped by the Egyptians and who exercised their limited power over against God. And this is the most important thing to say who created them. So I have one scholarly friend who isn't a Christian who talks about Yahweh and his peers, and I said, There are no peers here, Randi. God created all the other gods. And he acknowledged that that was right.

So the gods are much more distant. They don't have intimate relationships with their worshipers. They do not live among humans. Well, this made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death. And men were sent to look for Daniel and his three friends to put them to death. So reasons that were not told. Daniel and his three friends aren't at the court at this time. They're not part of the initial interchange with the king. But since he the king, has issued a decree that all the wise men be killed, that would include Daniel and the three friends.

So in verse 14, "When Arioch, the commander of the Kings' Guard had gone out to put to death the Wise Men of Babylon. Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact." Here is Daniel, the wise man again, not reacting in a frenzy, but coolly analyzing the situation. By the way, John Calvin, I was thinking John Calvin's commentary on this section, who said Daniel's only mistake in this chapter is not waiting until all the other Babylonian wise men were killed before.

"He asked the king's officer, 'Why did the King issue such a harsh decree?' Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this. Daniel went into the king and asked for time so that he might interpret the dream for him. Then Daniel returned to his house and explained the matter to his friends Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. He urged them to plead for mercy from the God of Heaven concerning this mystery so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. During the night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of Heaven and said, Praise be to the name of God forever and ever. Wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons. He opposes kings and raises up others. He gave his wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things. He knows what lies and darkness and light dwells with him. I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors. You have given me wisdom and power. You have made known to me what we asked of you. You have made known to us the dream of the king."

In a moment, we'll turn to the interpretation of the dream, which is what actually attracts a lot of contemporary interest, you know, among readers. I mean, because it is kind of striking and this vision of a multi metal statue. But I don't want us to miss what I think is actually the main point here, which is, as I say, the teaching, that true wisdom comes from God, that the kind of learning that he got at Babylonian university was not at all helpful to him and that God is one who dwells among humans and that God does make known to Daniel what He needs to know in this situation, because in spite of present troubles, Arioch is at my doorstep and about to execute us. God is in control and he'll have the final victory, you know, and again, it makes me reflect on the wisdom books of the Old Testament, Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes these. And to remember that wisdom is more than just sort of practical wisdom. That is a skill of living, what we might call emotional intelligence or street smarts. Though it does a book like Proverbs does offer to give us that as well, to tell us to be mindful of saying the right thing at the right time, doing the right thing at the right time and all those kind of things. And a lot of people would just kind of stop there and say that's what Proverbs is all about. But no, it's not at all. It's wisdom is also ethical. A wise person not only knows how to do the right thing at the right time in order to get a desired conclusion, but won't do something to get a desired conclusion that will harm other people. A wise person is also a righteous person. But most fundamentally, and this is the point I want to get at, is that wisdom is ultimately and actually starts with the fear of the Lord. Okay, The fear of the Lord is wisdom. All three of those books, that's its central teaching. Proverbs says that most clearly in Proverbs 1:7 when it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" and repeats that throughout. Daniel 1-9. It also does it in the figure of women wisdom. Woman Wisdom is personification of Yahweh's wisdom, and I argue ultimately stands for Yahweh himself. Because in Proverbs chapter nine, when wisdom houses on the highest point of the city, contrasted with Woman Folly, whose house is also on the highest point of the city, but she represents false gods. And so the choice with whom to dine and Proverbs 9 is "Will I dine with woman wisdom who stands for Yahweh, or will I dine with Woman Folly who stands for Pagan gods?" Again, the most important point is that wisdom begins with a proper relationship with God, the type of relationship that Daniel is displaying here.

The book of Job begins by telling us at the beginning that Job fears God, But without going into all the details, What happens throughout the book of Job is that through his suffering, Job actually grows in wisdom. So at the end of the book of Job when he's able to. To submit silently in the midst of his suffering rather than complaining. Throughout, he's grown in his understanding of who God is. He might remember that, he says at the end, I had heard of you before, but now I see you. So he has a more intimate relationship with God, and he's demonstrating a kind of fear of God.

And the book of Ecclesiastes, too. We talked earlier about how Helena, the teacher and the preacher, he is trying to find meaning under the sun in various areas like wisdom, pleasure, wealth work, and coming up empty, meaningless, meaningless. Everything is meaningless. But a second wise man comes in at the end, speaking to his son. Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Chapter 12, Verse 12. So it appears that the second unnamed wise man is using the teacher as a kind of object lesson of the futility of trying to find meaning in anything other than God. And therefore, in the final two verses pointing his son to true meaning, which is dear God and obey his commandments and live in the light of his future judgment.

So all three of these books, that's their punch line, grow in wisdom by fearing God, which doesn't mean being horrified by God, but it means more than just respect. Or, I would argue, even kind of a different attitude than or reverence, because our reverence leads to a good conclusion, which is wonderment and sort of an open mouth acknowledgment of how great God is. But the fear of God always leads to obedience. Paul himself tells Christians, you know, work out your salvation with fear and trembling. So it's more than respect. I don't tremble around people I respect. But yeah, so.

So again, I want to emphasize the fact that in these chapters, Daniel is also modeling what it means to be a wise man. And another kind of misconception of wisdom in the Old Testament is that it's all a result of what we were talking about earlier. And it's true, as I talked about earlier, that we grow in wisdom if we're reflective people who observe what's going on in our lives and learn from our mistakes, etc. But ultimately true wisdom comes from God. Many scholars today say that one of the differences between wisdom literature and say prophetic literature is that a prophetic literature comes about through the direct, direct revelation of God, whereas wisdom comes about through more empirical means. But that's not at all true. I mean, just look at Job. God speaks to Job at the end. And so wisdom, too, comes from revelation from God as God reveals to Daniel the dream and its interpretation. And God has thus grown wisdom as we interact with His revelation to us, namely His scriptures. So with that background, we can now turn to the dream itself and its interpretation.