Daniel interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s dream – Daniel 2:1-48

READING Daniel 2:1-19

From the earliest days God’s chosen people had always known that God would speak directly to his people. God revealed himself on many occasions to the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We could add Laban Solomon and Abimelech, and from the New Testament Joseph the Carpenter, the Wise Men, Pilate’s wife and the apostle Paul. The God of Israel, the God of the Bible, speaks to people through dreams.

But it was not only the Israelites who believed that deities could speak in dreams and visions. Along with many ancient civilisations, the Babylonians also believed that their deities would give revelations through dreams and visions. So it is not surprising that King Nebuchadnezzar was troubled by a particular dream or that he would consider finding the interpretation of the dream a matter of such great importance. But Nebuchadnezzar was asking the impossible from his advisors. He wanted them not only to tell him what his dream meant. To prove the interpretation was correct, they had to tell him correctly what his dream had contained! The Babylonian advisors all failed to do this. Only Daniel was able to reveal what the dream had been, and then interpret it. And of course he could only do this by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Interpreting dreams is still big business today. Psychologists make big fortunes out of it. Followers of New Age spirituality and religions, astrologers, Pagans, wiccans, all write book after book about dreams. Daytime TV and even the Sunday colour supplements have features on interpreting dreams far too often. I do NOT want anyone to be drawn into any of this New Age deception by what I say. But the story of Daniel does hinge in several places on the interpretation of dreams, so I do want to remind us of what the Bible has to say about dream.
Dreams can have different levels of meaning and significance. Most dreams are absolutely MEANINGLESS- a just a jumble of images. Francis Crick who discovered the double helix of DNA has pioneered the theory that dreams are part of the process of the brain’s filing system remaking memories. Some dreams may have PSYCHOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE – dreams may reveal things about our subconscious, our hidden inmost feeings. At least according to some schools of psychology.
Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) said,
“Every dream reveals a psychological structure, full of significance.… The dream is not meaningless, not absurd … it is a perfectly valid phenomenon, actually a … disguised fulfillment of a suppressed wish.”
Carl Jung (1875–1961) had similar ideas.
“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul, which opens into that primeval cosmic night that was soul long before there was a conscious ego and will be soul far beyond what a conscious ego could ever reach.” Carl Gustav Jung (1875–1961)
“This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience, and critic.” Carl Jung
Different schools of psychology interpret same dream in conflicting ways – but professional psychiatrists MAY sometimes have valuable insights.

Dreams CAN be THE VOICE of CONSCIENCE. Our conscience is given to all human beings by God to help us know right from wrong. And sometimes our dreams can be the voice of our conscience speaking to us.
Job 33:13-18 (NIV) 14 For God does speak–now one way, now another– though man may not perceive it. 15 In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falls on men as they slumber in their beds, 16 he may speak in their ears and terrify them with warnings, 17 to turn man from wrongdoing and keep him from pride, 18 to preserve his soul from the pit, his life from perishing by the sword.
Sometimes a dream may show us a side of our character which we do not like, and which God would not be pleased with, or even bring to light some sins we have committed in real life – and for those things repentance and seeking God’s grace to become more like Christ are certainly a proper response.

As well as having psychological significance or being the voice of conscience,
Some dreams can be a MESSAGE from GOD. Some are simply an ENCOURAGEMENT, others can be a WARNING from God. Some dreams CAN contain REVELATIONS ABOUT FUTURE EVENTS such a number of the dreams in the story of Joseph. In Daniel we find dreams foretelling events here in chapter 2 and again later in chapters 4 and 5.
Job and Isaiah describe dreams as “visions of the night” or “visions in the night” and the Bible speaks of visions exactly 100 times. Dreams and visions are both forms of prophecy.
Numbers 12:6 (The LORD) said, “Listen to my words: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.
WE can EXPECT God to speak to US through dreams and visions sometimes too, because we have all received the Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets..
Joel 2:28 -> Acts 2:17 “`In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.
We need GOD to tell us what our dreams mean. NOT psychologists. Certainly not New Age dream freaks ! The Holy Spirit will give the interpretation, if we ask God. And it’s always right to check out the interpretation with other wise Christians if we think God is speaking to us through a particular dream. Interpretations belong to God!
In the Old Testament kings certainly believed that God gave them direction in dreams. If they wanted to know what they were supposed to do in their administration, they would try to receive a direct word from God in their dreams. If they weren’t getting any messages in their dreams while lying in their own beds, then they would sleep in the Temple, where they believed it would work better. Perhaps that’s why some people go to sleep in church – to hear God better!
But the serious point is that God can speak to his people through dreams. I have spoken before about three important dreams which I have had which I believe were messages from God. We have all received the Holy Spirit who inspires prophecy, so we can all be eager for God to speak to us. As the young prophet Samuel was taught to say. “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”
Margaret Jarman, in her Presidential Address to the Baptist Union back in 1987, said, “Have you listened for God’s voice speaking directly to you? Have you considered that He may speak through your intuition, through your imagination, through dreams and visions, through flashes of inspiration?”

READING Daniel 2:24-48

So God gave Daniel the interpretation for the dream. And to prove to Nebuchadnezzar that the interpretation was correct God even revealed to Daniel the details contained in the dream.
The dream referred to what will happen in days to come (28).
Since the head of gold was specifically identified as Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (38),
We may assume that the other parts of the statue also represented specific empires or dynasties.

Their identity was not yet unveiled to Daniel and his contemporaries but are explained in Daniel 8:19–21 in the interpretation of a different vision.
19 He said: ‘I am going to tell you what will happen later in the time of wrath, because the vision concerns the appointed time of the end. 20 The two-horned ram that you saw represents the kings of Media and Persia. 21 The shaggy goat is the king of Greece, and the large horn between its eyes is the first king. 22 The four horns that replaced the one that was broken off represent four kingdoms that will emerge from his nation but will not have the same power.

To help interpret Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in chapter 2 we can also look back at history with the benefit of hindsight.
So – the golden head is Nebuchadnezzar’s Kingdom of Babylon
The chest and arms of silver (32) represent the Medo-Persian Empire ruled over by Cyrus from 539
The belly and thighs of bronze (32) would then symbolize the Greek Empire which would rule over the whole earth (39)
Followed by the Roman Empire (although some conservative interpreters have taken the legs and feet to refer to the successors of Alexander the Great).
This interpretation has often led to the understanding of the rock as Christ and its growth as a reference to the advance of the kingdom of God.

Some commentators have problems with the idea that predictive prophesy can reveal events which are yet to occur. This is a powerful motive for them dating Daniel much later in the second century BC. But if we believe God does speak to people through the Holy Spirit in dreams and visions and prophecies, then we have no problem in thinking that the Book of Daniel was written in Babylon in Daniel’s own time to encourage the Exiles seeking to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land.

But what does this story of Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream have to say to us? Let’s go back and read the middle bit of the story I skipped over earlier.

Daniel 2:19 During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven 20 and said:
‘Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to the discerning.
22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.
23 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.’

To wrap up, this story shows us at least three things. It shows us the almighty, all-knowing God of Israel who is Sovereign over all nations and all peoples.
‘Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his.
21 He changes times and seasons;
he deposes kings and raises up others.

In times of trouble, like during the Exile, and also over the last year of upheaval, it is good to know that God is on the throne. God is in charge of history.

Then also it shows us that God knows the future and that he can reveal what is going to happen to his people when they need to know.

22 He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.

God is never surprised. He knows the end from the beginning. God knew his plans for his chosen people even in the painful times of exile. And he knows his plans for our lives too. That brings us so much peace when everything around us seems to be falling apart.

23 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.’

Finally, the fact that God did reveal to Daniel both the content and the meaning of the king’s dream is a demonstration to us of the first two points. It was proof to Nebuchadnezzar and it is proof to us that that God is Sovereign over history and that God knows everything which is going to happen in the future. So whatever the situation we find ourselves in, we can put our trust in God and his unfailing love.

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell prostrate before Daniel and paid him honour and ordered that an offering and incense be presented to him. 47 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.’

This entry was posted in Daniel.

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