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Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream


In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed such dreams that his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. 2So the king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams. When they came in and stood before the king, 3he said to them, “I have had such a dream that my spirit is troubled by the desire to understand it.” 4The Chaldeans said to the king (in Aramaic), “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will reveal the interpretation.” 5The king answered the Chaldeans, “This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. 6But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.” 7They answered a second time, “Let the king first tell his servants the dream, then we can give its interpretation.” 8The king answered, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see I have firmly decreed: 9if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one verdict for you. You have agreed to speak lying and misleading words to me until things take a turn. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.” 10The Chaldeans answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can reveal what the king demands! In fact no king, however great and powerful, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or Chaldean. 11The thing that the king is asking is too difficult, and no one can reveal it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals.”

12 Because of this the king flew into a violent rage and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed. 13The decree was issued, and the wise men were about to be executed; and they looked for Daniel and his companions, to execute them. 14Then Daniel responded with prudence and discretion to Arioch, the king’s chief executioner, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon; 15he asked Arioch, the royal official, “Why is the decree of the king so urgent?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. 16So Daniel went in and requested that the king give him time and he would tell the king the interpretation.

God Reveals Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

17 Then Daniel went to his home and informed his companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 18and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions with the rest of the wise men of Babylon might not perish. 19Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.


Daniel said:

“Blessed be the name of God from age to age,

for wisdom and power are his.


He changes times and seasons,

deposes kings and sets up kings;

he gives wisdom to the wise

and knowledge to those who have understanding.


He reveals deep and hidden things;

he knows what is in the darkness,

and light dwells with him.


To you, O God of my ancestors,

I give thanks and praise,

for you have given me wisdom and power,

and have now revealed to me what we asked of you,

for you have revealed to us what the king ordered.”

Daniel Interprets the Dream

24 Therefore Daniel went to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon, and said to him, “Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon; bring me in before the king, and I will give the king the interpretation.”

25 Then Arioch quickly brought Daniel before the king and said to him: “I have found among the exiles from Judah a man who can tell the king the interpretation.” 26The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, “Are you able to tell me the dream that I have seen and its interpretation?” 27Daniel answered the king, “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or diviners can show to the king the mystery that the king is asking, 28but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has disclosed to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen at the end of days. Your dream and the visions of your head as you lay in bed were these: 29To you, O king, as you lay in bed, came thoughts of what would be hereafter, and the revealer of mysteries disclosed to you what is to be. 30But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me because of any wisdom that I have more than any other living being, but in order that the interpretation may be known to the king and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

31 “You were looking, O king, and lo! there was a great statue. This statue was huge, its brilliance extraordinary; it was standing before you, and its appearance was frightening. 32The head of that statue was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, 33its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34As you looked on, a stone was cut out, not by human hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and broke them in pieces. 35Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, were all broken in pieces and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

36 “This was the dream; now we will tell the king its interpretation. 37You, O king, the king of kings—to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory, 38into whose hand he has given human beings, wherever they live, the wild animals of the field, and the birds of the air, and whom he has established as ruler over them all—you are the head of gold. 39After you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over the whole earth. 40And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron; just as iron crushes and smashes everything, it shall crush and shatter all these. 41As 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 strength of iron shall be in it, as you saw the iron mixed with the clay. 42As the toes of the feet were part iron and part clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43As you saw the iron mixed with clay, so will they mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. It shall crush all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever; 45just as you saw that a stone was cut from the mountain not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The great God has informed the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation trustworthy.”

Daniel and His Friends Promoted

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face, worshiped Daniel, and commanded that a grain offering and incense be offered to him. 47The king said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery!” 48Then the king promoted Daniel, gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49Daniel made a request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel remained at the king’s court.

This confession is quite pious and holy, and is fraught with rectitude and sincerity; it may even be taken as a proof of true conversion and repentance. But, as I have lately reminded you, profane men are sometimes seized with an admiration of God and then they profess largely and copiously whatever may be expected from God’s true worshippers. Still this is but momentary, for all the while they remain wrapt up in their own superstitions. God, therefore, extorts this language from them, when they speak so piously; but they inwardly retain their faults, and afterwards easily fall back to their accustomed habits — as a memorable example will shortly prove to us. Whatever sense be adopted, God wished his glory to be proclaimed by the mouth of the profane king, and desired him to be the herald of his own power and influence. But this was peculiarly profitable to those Jews who still remained firm in their allegiance; for the greater part had revolted — notoriously enough, and had degenerated with great facility from the pure worship of God. When led into captivity, they became idolaters and apostates, and denied the living God; but a small number of the pious remained; God wished to promote their benefit, and to strengthen their minds when he drew this confession from the king of Babylon. But another object was gained, since the king as well as all the Chaldeans and Assyrians were rendered more excuseless. For if the God of Israel was truly God, why did Bel in the meantime retain his rank? He is the God of gods — then it must be added at once, he is the enemy of false gods. We observe how Nebuchadnezzar here mingles light with darkness, and black with white, while he confesses the God of Israel to be supreme among gods, and set continues to worship other deities. For if the God of Israel obtains his right, all idols vanish away. Hence, Nebuchadnezzar contends with himself in this language. But, as I have said, he is seized by a violent impulse, and is not quite in his senses when he so freely declares the power of the only God.

As far then as words go, he says, truly your God is himself a God of gods The particle truly is by no means superfluous here; it is strongly affirmative. For if any one had inquired of him whether Bel and other idols were to be worshipped as gods, he might answer, “yes;” but doubtfully, and according to pre-conceived opinion, since all superstitious worshippers are perplexed, and if ever they defend their superstitons, they do so with the rashness which the devil suggests, but not according to their judgment. In truth, their minds are not composed when they dare to assert their own superstitions to be pious and holy. But Nebuchadnezzar seems here formally to renounce his own errors; as if he had said — Hitherto I acknowledged other gods, but I now change my opinion; I have discovered your God to be the chief of all gods. And, truly, if he really spoke his own mind, he might perceive he was doing injustice to his own idols, if there was any divinity in them; Israel’s God was confessedly held in utter hatred and abomination by the profane nations. By extolling him above all gods, he degrades Bel and the whole crew of false gods which the Babylonian worshipped. But, as we have said, he was swayed by impulse and spoke without thinking. He was in a kind of enthusiasm, since God astonished him, and then drew him on to wonder at and to declare his own power. He calls him Lord of kings, by which eulogium he claims for him the supreme dominion over the world; he means to assert that Israel’s God not only excels all others, but holds the reins of government over the world. For if he is the Lord of kings, all people are under his hand and dominion! and the multitude of mankind cannot be drawn away from his empire, if he rules their very monarchs. We understand, therefore, the meaning of these words, namely, whatever deity is worshipped is inferior to the God of Israel, because he is high above all gods; then his providence rules over the world, while he is Lord of all peoples and kings, and governs all things by his will.

He adds, he is a revealer of secrets This is our proof of Divinity, as we have said elsewhere. For Isaiah, when wishing to prove the existence of only one God, takes these two principles, viz., Nothing happens without his permission; and his foreseeing all things. (Daniel 48:3-5.) These two principles have been inseparably unified. Although Nebuchadnezzar did not understand what was the true peculiarity of Divinity, yet he is here impelled by the secret instinct of God’s Spirit clearly to set forth God’s power and wisdom. Hence he confesses the God of Israel to excel all gods, since he obtains power in the whole world, and nothing whatever is concealed from him. He adds the reason — Daniel could reveal that secret This reason does not seem very good one; for he infers the world to be governed by one God, because Daniel made this secret known. But, then “this has no reference to his power.” The answer to this remark is easy; we shewed elsewhere how we ought not to imagine a god like Apollo who can only predict future events. And, truly, it is far too insipid to attribute to God simple prescience, as if the events of the world had any other dependence than upon his power; for God is said to have a previous knowledge of future events, because he determined what he wished to have done. Hence Nebuchadnezzar concluded the dominion of the whole world to be in God’s hands, because he could predict futurity; for unless he had the full power over the future, he could not predict anything with certainty. As, therefore, he really predicts future; events, this clearly determines all things to be ordained by him, and disproves the existence of chance, while he fulfills whatever he has decreed.

Let us learn from this passage, how insufficient it is to celebrate God’s wisdom and power with noisy declamation, unless we at the same time reject all superstitions from our minds, and so cling to the only God as to bid all others heartily farewell. No fuller verbal confession can be required than is here set before us; and yet we observe how Nebuchadnezzar was always involved in Satan’s impostures, because he wished to retain his false gods, and thought it sufficient to yield the first place to the God of Israel. Let us learn again, to do our best in purging the mind front all superstitions, that the only God may pervade all our senses. Meanwhile, we must observe how severe and dreadful a judgment awaits Papists, and all like them, who at least ought to be imbued with the rudiments of piety, while they confess the existence of but one supreme God, and yet; mingle together a great multitude of deities, and dishonor both his power and wisdom, and at the same time observe, what is here said by a profane king. For the Papists not; only divide God’s power, by distributing it in parts to each of their saints; but also when they speak of God himself, they fancy him as knowing all things beforehand, and yet; leaving all things contingent on man’s free will; first creating all things, and then leaving every event in suspense. Hence heaven and earth, as they bear either men’s merits; or crimes, at one time become useful, and at another adverse to mankind. Truly enough, neither rain, nor heat, nor cloudy nor serene weather, nor anything else happens without God’s permission; and whatever is adverse is a sign of his curse; whatever is prosperous and desirable is the sign of his favor. This, indeed, is true, but when the Papists lay their foundation in the will of man, we see how they deprive God of his rights. Let us learn, then, from this passage, not to attribute to God less than was conceded by this profane king.

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