Welcome to the new year! My Christmas tree is still up (until after Epiphany), but I’m definitely ready to start jogging off the Christmas calories and to start blogging again.
In case you’ve forgotten, we’re in Daniel 2, a chapter in which King Nebuchadnezzar has a disturbing dream and turns a bit maniacal because of it. This is a really long chapter, so before we go deep into any more details, I’d like to give an overview for my readers who don’t already know what’s coming.
Usually when people talk about this chapter, they are most interested in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and what it meant (and means). So, we’ll start there. The king dreams about a huge statue (“an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance” [2:31, NIV]) that is made of five different substances from head to toe: gold (head), silver (torso), middle (bronze), legs (iron), feet (iron and clay). A rock “cut out by no human hand” smashes the statue’s feet and the whole thing tumbles down into smithereens that are scattered to the wind. The interpretation of the dream is that each part of the statue represents a human kingdom and in the end, they all are destroyed, while only one kingdom – God’s kingdom (the rock) – will endure forever.
As much as people focus on this part of the chapter (vv. 31–45), it only represents less than a third of the entire chapter. There’s a whole lot more going on, and, I would argue, the meaning of the dream isn’t even the most important part of the chapter. Here’s a quick summary of the chapter’s events
King Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream that he summoned his experts to interpret for him (because dreams were one of the gods’ methods of communicating to kings). However, he pulled a fast one on “the wise guys” and demanded that they tell him the actual dream before they interpret it – that is, he said, “I had a dream. Tell me what it was. Then tell me what it means.” The king’s demand extended beyond their professional capabilities, but in spite of their protests, he ordered their execution, along with all the “wise men” of Babylon, a roll call that included Daniel and his friends.
When the executioner reached Daniel, the Jewish exile asked what the deal was and, “Please, could I have a chat with the king first?” Granted what could have been his last request, Daniel asked the king for more time so he could interpret the disturbing dream. The king, amazingly, gave it to him, and Daniel used the time (with his friends) to pray for mercy and, apparently, get some sleep (2:19). During the night, God revealed the “mystery” to Daniel, who took the happy news to the king the next day. Nebuchadnezzar, upon hearing the news (the dream and its interpretation), made a proclamation and some promotions. End of chapter.
There. Now we’re ready to tackle the chapter.: