Daniel - Lesson 5

Interpretation of the Dream

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.

Lesson 5
Watching Now
Interpretation of the Dream

I. Daniel Reveals the Dream

A. Daniel gave God the credit

B. Description of the Dream

II. Interpretation of the dream

A. Symbolism of the statue

B. Final intrusion

III. King Nebuchadnezzer's Response

  • 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 - OT666-05
Interpretation of the Dream
Lesson Transcript

Tremper Longmann III [00:00:01] So now, in the second half of chapter two, beginning in verse 24, after God has revealed to Daniel the dream and its interpretation, he asks Ariel to take him to the King. So I'll pick it up in verse 24. Then Daniel went to Eric, whom the King had appointed to execute the Wise Men of Babylon, and said to him, Do not execute the wise men of Babylon. Take me to the King and I will interpret his dream for him. Now, earlier I mentioned Calvin's comment about this was a mistake on Daniel's part, but actually I would say that maybe we should reflect on this in the light of Genesis 12 one through three, that through Abraham's descendants become a blessing to the nation. So. So the wise men of Babylon are going to have their lives preserved because of Daniel here. Arya took Daniel to the king at once and said, I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who could tell the king what his dream means. You know, one thing you learn in studying narrative in the Old Testament or actually any type of literature, is that the way people are described in this case by a character kind of indicates not only who they are, but kind of the character's attitude toward that person. So rather than introducing him as, Hey, here's Daniel, valedictorian of the class of such himself, he's being introduced in a kind of demeaning way as one of the exiles from Judah and the King, as Daniel also called, built a shelter. That's another thing that we might observe, that they've had their names change, but typically the narrator will continue to refer to Daniel as Daniel. So we'll keep an eye on that as we go through exactly who refers to him as Balthasar, who refers to as Daniel? The king asked him, Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it? Daniel replied, No, wise man. Enchanter magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about. But there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come. Your dream and the visions that pass through your mind as you were lying in bed. Are these. Okay. We obviously have to take note of the fact that Daniel does not take credit for this, but he attributes all the glory and credit to Yahweh, who has revealed the dream to him again, contrasting with the impotent and actually non-existent gods of of Babylon. So then he goes, As Your Majesty was lying there, your mind turned to things to come, and the revealer of mysteries showed you what is going to happen. As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me because I have greater wisdom than anyone else alive, but so that Your Majesty may know the interpretation and that you may understand what went through your mind. Your Majesty looked, and there, before you stood a large statue. An enormous, dazzling statue. Awesome. In appearance, the head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly a big clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze and the silver and the gold were all broken to pieces and became like chaff on a threshing floor In the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream. And now we will interpret it to the king. So this will be typical of later visions as well, where you'll get a description of the dream or vision followed by an interpretation. And the dream is of a moldy medaled statue, beginning with gold and descending in value from silver to bronze to iron to combined iron and clay. Your Majesty, You are the King of Kings. The God of Heaven has given you dominion and power and might and glory in your hands. He has placed all mankind and the beasts of the field and the birds in the sky, wherever they live. He has made you ruler over them all. You are the head of gold. Okay, so we get a very clear identification of what the head of gold stands for. Namely never Nasser himself and therefore the Babylonian kingdom. After you, another kingdom will arise inferior to yours. Next, a third kingdom won a bronze for rule over the whole Earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom strongest iron, four iron breaks and smashes everything. And as iron breaks things to pieces. So it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes are partly a baked clay and partly of iron. So this will be a divided kingdom, yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it. Even as you saw iron mixed with clay, as the toes are partly iron and partly clay. So this kingdom will be strong, partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw, the iron mixed with baked clay. So the people will be a mixture and will not remain united any more than iron mixes with clay. Okay, so now what to make of the rest of the statue and what it represents is been a place of contention between two main schools of thought. And I'm just going to begin to get into it now and we'll return to this subject when we come to Daniel seven, where we're going to have a similar parallel type of vision. But rather than four main sections of a statue, we'll be dealing with four horrifying beasts that arise out of a chaotic sea that the interpreting Angel will tell us represent evil human kingdoms. And so there's a interesting parallel between these two visions. But I will begin by saying that that the two main schools of thought are that. And the traditional one, we might call it that is that while the gold head stands for Babylon, the second Kingdom, after you, after you another kingdom all rise inferior to yours. That's associated with the silver represents the miedo that represents the Persian Empire. And then the third section, the bronze represents the Greek Empire. And then the final kingdom is the Roman Empire. Whereas another variation, which goes along with a school of thought which would date the Book of Daniel to the second century B.C., but not always. I mean, there are some people who think that this is actually a Bible prophecy, not a prophecy after the fact. And I'll also return to that issue later in the course. Who would say that the First Kingdom is Babylon? The Second Kingdom is the kingdom of the Medes. The third Kingdom is the Persian Empire and the Fourth Kingdom is the Greek Empire. And the beat of clay and iron is an offshoot of Alexander the Great's Greek Empire. Namely, the time period after Alexander's death, where the Promised land was contested between the so called Seleucid Empire up in the north, located in Antioch and the Ptolemaic empire with its capital in Alexandria. Again, I'd like to wait till we get the Daniel seven to get into this issue a little bit more, particularly since I hold neither of these views and I think rather that both Daniel two and Daniel seven is suggesting not that there will be a discrete number of kingdoms that will follow from Babylon that will serve as oppressive over the people of God, but rather it's what I would call a four kingdom schema that we actually see in a another text that I translated for my doctoral dissertation called The Dynastic Prophecy, which talks about four successive kingdoms. And some people might also bring in Hesiod's, you know, four epics, you know, the golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, that kind of thing. So there's an argument to be made that what we're dealing here is not a prophecy of specific kingdoms that will follow from the Babylonian kingdom, but simply making the point that until God's final intrusion, there will be one toxic culture after another again, until the very end. And that, to me, seems to also fit in more with history, rather than trying to make complicated articles about how modern European nations somehow descend from the Roman Empire. And perhaps some of you are familiar with those types of schemas. And in a place like this, I want to appeal again to what we talked about earlier, about the security or clarity of scripture. That is that even in a difficult interpretive passage like this one, there are certain things which are absolutely clear and certain things about which we can have honest disagreement and discussion without having it devolve into out now hostile interaction. What is absolutely clear is that this vision is teaching us that there will be a succession of evil human kingdoms, whether it's the ones that are identified by the traditional interpretation or as I suggest, it's simply not talking about only four and its offshoots. But but about it could be five, it could be ten, it could be 20. The point that the vision is telling us is is a until the time of God's final intrusion, bringing an end to these evil. All human kingdoms. They will continue to be an issue for God's people trying to live a faithful life in a world that seems controlled by evil. So. So that's absolutely clear, as is the teaching that the final divine intervention is absolutely sure. But let me also look more closely at the way that that final intrusion is being described here. You know, the idea that that after describing the kingdom now I'm going back to first 34 while you were watching a rock was cut out, but not by human hands, which of course, is an indirect way of saying divinely cut out. And it struck the statue on its feet of iron of clay and smashed them. So by hitting the weak point, smashing the feet, the whole statue, the whole edifice of evil human kingdoms comes to an end and is is blown away like chaff on a threshing floor. But then the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth. And then in verse 44, it says, In the time of those these kings, the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Or will it be left to another people who will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end. But it will itself endure forever. In other words, this frock stands for the Kingdom of God, which will will destroy the evil human kingdoms of the Earth and will eventually envelop the whole world. And again, when we come to the Book of Revelation, we'll see even more clear depictions of this, which is interesting, partly because, you know, this is one of the clearest places where the phrase Kingdom of God comes in the Old Testament, which of course is very fully developed in the New Testament and is talking about how God's power and authority, which does extend to the whole world, will become increasingly recognized. So now. Down to verse 46. Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honor and ordered an offering and incense be presented to him. The king said to Daniel, Surely your God is the God of Gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery. Then the King placed Daniel in a high position and lavished many gifts on him. He made him ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men. Moreover, at Daniel's request, the King appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego administrators over the province of Babylon, while Daniel himself remained at the Royal Court. So a couple of comments here at the end of chapter two. One is, throughout these first chapters of Daniel, we're going to see never are getting converted again and again and again. I'm using the word converted loosely. I don't think that the Book of Daniel is intending to tell us ever that Nabil can, as are becomes an exclusive worshiper of Yahweh. And if I was making that claim, it would be very problematic, since we have many records from Babylon during his time period. And and so and it's pretty clear that he remained a devotee of the God Marduk throughout. I think the way we should understand this, though, is that he remember he's a polytheist. He thinks that there are many gods and and that Marduk, his God is the chief God. But now Yahweh has gone dramatically up in his estimation. And and, you know, that might sound kind of disappointing, but on the other hand, imagine that you're somebody who is living under, you know, the thumb of either the Babylonian or the later Persian Empire. And you're reading this. And it's really encouraging to know that this pagan king has points in his life where he acknowledges you always power. So, so so I think I think that's the way we should understand this. And later episodes where never Nasr will have a realization of the importance of your way. The other thing I want to point out at the end here is that secondary theme that I talked about early on, which is you can not only survive, but you can thrive under persecution. Again, not as a promise, not as a guarantee, but as a kind of encouragement not to just withdraw from society. You know, the king placed a high position and on his advice, you know, the three friends get promotions as well. You know, in this way, it's interesting also to think of the book of Esther, right, when I think that, you know, reading the signals at the beginning of the Book of Esther, Mordechai is already an official within the Roman court. I mean, he's in position to hear an assassination plot. He catches wind of the fatwa, we would say, today against the Jews. So Mordechai, whose name, by the way, interestingly enough, to talk about how during the post period, faithful people could find ways to live within a toxic culture. The name Mordechai actually means man of Marduk. He's not a man of Marduk. He's a faithful worshiper of Yahweh, but he has a Persian name. And Esther actually comes from the the Persian name for the Goddess of Love Ishtar. Her real name is Hadassah. But, you know, she has a she has a name within the Persian Empire. So so these figures, Ezra and Nahum I among them are learning how to live within a toxic culture. And again, I think it's valuable to us. But we live in a different type of culture, too. And maybe we will develop this more later in the course as opposed to all the people we're talking about in the Bible. They're living under an authoritarian emperor who has the power of life and death over them, and they have no say in their government, which is different than those of us who live, say, in the United States or some other Western democracy where we can have a voice. But on the other hand, we have a voice in the United States within a pluralistic society now. And whether America was founded on those principles or not, that's where we are at this moment. So we need we need to learn how to navigate in wise ways that are promoting the gospel in positive ways, hopefully drawing non-Christians to the gospel rather than repelling them. And those are the kind of issues that we need to use our wisdom to think about. But any case to wrap up. Daniel Chapter two. We now know at the end of Daniel, chapter two, where Daniel and his three friends true wisdom comes from. We know that even though they have not protested against certain of the program that Nebuchadnezzar has imposed on them, that God is with them. That God is using them. And. And so. So I think Daniel one and two are actually quite encouraging to us today as well. 

Audience Member  [00:22:17] You may be raising yourself at a later time, and if you do so, then I'll just pass this over. But I'm curious about the feet, partly of iron and partly of clay, which seems to be a characteristic of the Fourth Kingdom. 

Tremper Longmann III [00:22:30] Mm hmm. 

Audience Member  [00:22:31] So in the traditional interpretation of be wrong, but in in your understanding, I'm trying to figure where the the, the mix of clay and iron fits in your understanding. Do you see some kind of a general degradation of cultures as you go. Which is just going to keep getting worse and worse and worse and worse? Is that what's going on or. 

Tremper Longmann III [00:22:53] Well, it depends on what kind of. That's a great question, Bill, and it kind of depends on what kind of degradation we're talking about. I, I don't see it on the surface of it as a kind of moral degradation, for instance. But but but I think it's pointed to kind of a weakening, you know, a kind of. For. You know, the gold is not only valuable, but it's also strong. And then it goes down to a type of mixture that's extremely vulnerable to being destroyed. Um, I'd, I'd be a little hesitant, but I'd want to think about it more. Whether I worry about reading history as a continual sort of diminishment of morality, only because I know too much about ancient cultures as you do, to know that they were pretty morally corrupt. Yeah.