At long last, we have reached the end of Daniel 2. It’s an interminably long chapter – an impression I had when I had to slog through it verse by verse in Aramaic for a PhD class. Blogging through it has done nothing to change that impression!
Here’s how things end. When Daniel is done interpreting the king’s dream about the statue, Nebuchadnezzar falls down before him in a very unkingly fashion and actually goes through a routine of worshipping him (that’s what the offering and incense are all about; 2:46). Then he praises the God of Daniel as the “God of gods and the Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries” (2:47) – a return to the theme of the chapter, namely that God is the true source of knowledge. When he’s done admitting this, he properly rewards Daniel as the interpreter of his dream, as he said he’d do for the one who told the dream and the interpretation (2:6).
Some people are bothered by the fact that the king appears unfazed by the cataclysmic meaning of the dream. Shouldn’t the destruction of world empires rock his world?
Well, maybe not. Put yourself in his shoes. He’s a young king (it’s only his second year; 2:1) who’s not yet reached the peak of his splendor. The dream has nothing but good news for him – he’s the head of gold! No subsequent human empire will surpass his greatness. All the destruction will happen long after he’s gone. He might have been troubled in the abstract – that is, it is sobering to think apocalyptic thoughts about the end of life as we know it – but practically speaking, Nebuchanezzar’s life would be untouched. (Compare King Hezekiah’s response to Isaiah’s prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction in 2 Kgs 19.)
And so chapter 2 comes to an end. Nebuchadnezzar has encountered (and acknowledged) a God who outranks his gods in the area of wisdom. But this king has much more to learn about Israel’s God. Much, much more.
P.S. Lest you think I’m skirting the issue of the four kingdoms’ identities, rest assured – the four kingdoms come up again in chapter 7. And so we shall return to that discussion in another year or two, when we finally get to chapter 7.