a Bible passage

Click a verse to see commentary
Select a resource above

2. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2Then 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. 3And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5The 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. 6But 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. 7They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. 9But 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.

10The 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. 11And 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. 12For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

14Then 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: 15He 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. 16Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18That 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.

19Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21And 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: 22He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 23I 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.

24Therefore 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. 25Then 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. 26The 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? 27Daniel 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; 28But 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; 29As 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. 30But 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.

31Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

36This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. 37Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold. 39And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. 40And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. 41And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. 42And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. 43And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. 44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. 45Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.

46Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 47The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldst reveal this secret. 48Then the king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon. 49Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel sat in the gate of the king.

In the third place, it may be doubted why Christ is said to have broken this image from the mountains For if Christ is the eternal wisdom of God (Proverbs 8:15) by whom kings reign, this seems scarcely to accord with it; for how, by his advent, should he break up the political order which we; know God approves of, and has appointed and established by his power? I answer, — earthly empires are swallowed and broken up by Christ accidentally, as they say. (Psalm 2:9.) For if kings exercise their office honestly, clearly enough Christ’s kingdom is not contrary to their power. Whence, then, does it happen that Christ strikes kings with an iron scepter, and breaks, and ruins, and reduces them to nothing? Just because their pride is untamable, and they raise their heads to heaven, and wish, if possible, to draw down God from his throne. Hence they necessarily feel Christ’s hand opposed to them, because they cannot and will not subject themselves to God.

But another question may be raised: — When Christ was made manifest, those monarchies had fallen long previously; for the Chaldean, the Persian, and that of the successors of Alexander, had passed away. The solution is at hand, if we understand what I have previously mentioned — that under one image the whole state of the world is here depicted for us. Although all events did not occur at the same moment, yet we shall find the Prophet’s language essentially true, that Christ should destroy all monarchies. For when the seat of the empire of the East was changed, and Nineveh destroyed, and the Chaldeans had fixed the seat of empire among themselves, this happened by God’s just judgment, and Christ was already reigning as the king of the world. That monarchy was really broken up by his power, and the same may be said of the Persian empire. For when they degenerated from a life of austerity and sobriety into one of foul and infamous luxury; when they raged so cruelly against all mankind, and became so exceedingly rapacious, their empire necessarily passed away from them, and Alexander executed the judgment of God. The same occurred to Alexander and his successors. Hence the Prophet means, that before Christ appeared, he already possessed supreme power, both in heaven and earth, and thus broke up and annihilated the pride and violence of all men.

But Daniel says — the image perished when the Roman empire was broken up, and yet we observe in the East and the neighboring regions the greatest monarchs still reigning with very formidable prowess. I reply, we must remember what we said yesterday — the dream was presented to King Nebuchadnezzar, that he might understand all future events to the renovation of the world. Hence God was not willing to instruct the king of Babylon further than to inform him of the four future monarchies which should possess the whole globe, and should obscure by their splendor all the powers of the world, and draw all eyes and all attention to itself; and afterwards Christ should come and overthrow those monarchies. God, therefore, wished to inform King Nebuchadnezzar of these events; and here we must notice the intention of the Holy Spirit. No mention is made of other kingdoms, because they had not yet emerged into importance sufficient to be compared to these four monarchies. While the Assyrians and Chaldeans reigned, there was no rivalry with their neighbors, for the whole of the East obeyed them. It was incredible that Cyrus, springing from a barbarous region, could so easily draw to himself such resources, and seize upon so many provinces in so short a time! For he was like a whirlwind which destroyed the whole East. The same may be said of the third monarchy; for if the successors of Alexander had been mutually united, there was then no empire in the world which could have increased their power. The Romans were fully occupied in struggling with their neighbors, and were not yet at rest on their own soil; and afterwards, when Italy, Greece, Asia, and Egypt were obedient to them, no other empire rivaled their fame; for all the power and glory of the world was at that period absorbed by their arms.

We now understand why Daniel mentioned those four kingdoms, and why he places their close at the advent of Christ. When I speak of Daniel, this ought to be understood of the dream; for without doubt God wished to encourage the Jews not to despair, when first the brightness of the Chaldean monarchy, then that of the Persian, next the Macedonian, and lastly, the Romans overwhelmed the world. For what could they have determined by themselves at the time when Nebuchadnezzar dreamt about the four empires? The kingdom of Israel was then utterly destroyed, the ten tribes were exiles, the kingdom of Judah was reduced to desolation. Although the city Jerusalem was yet. standing, still where was the kingdom? It was full of ignominy and disgrace; nay, the posterity of David then reigned precariously in the tribe of Judah, and even there over but a part of it; and afterwards, although their return was permitted, yet we know how miserably they were afflicted. And when Alexander, like a tempest, devastated the East, they suffered, as we know, the greatest distress; they were frequently ravaged. by his successors; their city was reduced almost to solitude, and the temple profaned; and when their condition was at the best, they were still tributary, as we, shall afterwards see. It was certainly necessary for their minds to be supported in so great and such confused perturbation. This, therefore, was the reason why God sent the, dream about those monarchies to the king of Babylon. It Daniel had dreamt, the faithful would not have had so remarkable a subject-matter for the confirmation of their faith; but when the king’s dream is spread abroad through almost the whole East, and when its interpretation is equally celebrated, the Jews might recover their spirits and revive their hopes at their own time, since they understood from the first that these four monarchies should not exist by any mere changes of fortune; for the same God who had foretold to King Nebuchadnezzar future events, determined also what he should do, and what he wished to take place.

The Jews knew that; the Chaldeans were reigning only by the decree of heaven; and that another more destructive empire should afterwards arise; thirdly, that they must undergo a servitude under the Macedonians; lastly, that the Romans should be the conquerors and masters of the world — and all this by the decree of heaven. When they reflected on these things, and finally heard of the Redeemer, as, according to promise, a perpetual King, and all the monarchies, then so refulgent, as without any stability-all this would prove no common source of strength. Now, therefore, we understand with what intention God wished what had hitherto been hidden, to be everywhere promulgated; the Jews, too, would hand down to their sons and grandsons what they had heard from Daniel, and afterwards this prophecy would be extant, and become an admiration to them throughout all ages.

When we come to the words, he says, one image was great and large, its splendor was precious, and its form terrible By this phrase, God wished to meet a doubt which might creep into the minds of the Jews, on perceiving each of those empires prosperous in its turn. When the Jews, captive and forlorn, saw the Chaldeans formidable throughout the whole world, and, consequently, highly esteemed and all but adored by the rest of mankind, what could they think of it? Why, they would have no hope of return, because God had raised their enemies to such great power that their avarice and cruelty were like a deep whirlpool. The Jews might thus conclude themselves to be drowned in a very deep abyss, whence they could not hope to escape. But when the empire was transferred to the Medes and Persians, although they were allowed the liberty of returning, still we know how small a number used this indulgence, and the rest were ungrateful. Whether or not this was so, few of the Jews, returned to their country; and these had to make war upon their neighbors, and were subject to continual molestation. As far as common sense would guide them, it was easier for them not to stir a step from Chaldea, Assyria, and the other parts of the East, since their neighbors in their own country were all so hostile to them. As long as they were tributary and esteemed almost as serfs and slaves, and while their condition was so humiliating, the same temptation remained. For, if they were God’s people, why did he not care for them so far as to relieve them from that cruel tyranny? Wily did he not restore them to calmness, and render them free from such various inconveniences, and from so many injuries? When the Macedonian. empire succeeded, they were more miserable than before; they were daily exposed as a prey, and every species of cruelty was practiced towards them. Then, with regard to the Romans, we know how proudly they domineered over them. Although Pompey, at his first assault, did not spoil the temple, yet at length he became bolder, and Crassus shortly afterwards destroyed everything till the most horrible and prodigious slaughter followed. As the Jews must suffer these things, this consolation must, necessarily be offered to them — the Redeemer shall at length arrive, who shall break up all these empires.

As to Christ being called the stone cut out without human, hands, and being pointed out by other phrases, I cannot explain them now.

VIEWNAME is study