Daniel 2 Chaldean Dreaming

Questions: How can we find the answer when we don’t know the question? Does God speak to us through dreams? Can impossible demands lead to miraculous deliverance? Does it matter who gets the glory? Will it help to know the future?

“Read More” to pursue answers from the Prophet Daniel.

Lord, make me a Fountain of your Love.
Draw me into your Presence, and fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I might know you as my Father, and manifest the image of Christ
In this world, and the world to come. Amen.

Daniel 2:1-49

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.

As someone who is occasionally troubled with odd dreams, I feel for him. I can appreciate his desire for an answer:

Then 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. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

His counsellors, perhaps used to these sorts of requests, are ready to accommodate him:

Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation.

He — perhaps used to their sorts of answers! — is not quite ready to accommodate them:

The 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. But 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.

Whoops. Nebbie has veered dangerously off script. The wise guys try their best to get back on course:

They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.

But he’s having none of that:

The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But 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.

Knowing court politics, I can somewhat understand Nebbie’s frustration. Even if they genuinely desire an authentic interpretation, they know that they really only need a plausible one. But whatever this dream is, Nebbie doesn’t want to risk getting a good answer; he wants the right answer.

Which is perfectly understandable (even admirable!) — and completely impossible:

The 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. And [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.

Their response — while also completely understandable — is pretty much a cop-out, so (again) I can sympathize with Nebbie’s irritation:

For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise [men] of Babylon.

Now, one might consider that a little extreme. On the other hand, he’s been footing the bill for this fancy school of wizardry for who knows how many years. If they really can’t come up with one incontrovertible proof of their legitimacy when he desperately needs it, it is not implausible that they have been scamming him the whole time. Under such circumstances, there is a certain crude justice in his decree.

Though, it is a bit of a bad break for Daniel and his innocent friends:

And the decree went forth that the wise [men] should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain.

To his credit, Daniel — rather than fleeing or pleading for mercy — appears to calmly ask what’s going on:

Then 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: He 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.

And, even more impressively, manages to get the extension than the other wise men failed to receive:

Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

How’d he pull that off? Well, I suspect it is simply because he submitted himself to the king’s legitimate desire, rather than protesting the unfairness of it all. Even though it was impossible. 🙂

Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That 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.

Now, that must’ve been a fun conversation. “Um, guys, sorry I didn’t mention this to you earlier, but I just promised the king that we’d all tell him the dream he had, so that he won’t kill all of us.” Then again, maybe they’d been through so much they had complete faith in him. If so, their faith in him certainly proves to be well-justified:

Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision.

Or, more appropriately, Daniel’s faith in God, as he’s the first to remind us:

Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: And 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: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what [is] in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I 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.

Perhaps that is in fact the source of Daniel’s apparent calmness and boldness. Having already lost everything, he is fully aware of his utter powerlessness — which enables him to apprehend God’s unlimited provision.

And share it with others:

Therefore 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.

Then 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. The 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?

Again, note how Daniel avoids promoting himself — or dissing his competitors — but instead gives all glory to God:

Daniel 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; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days.

In fact, the overwhelming sense I get from this is compassion — helping Nebbie understand why this happened, not just what:

Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; As 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. But 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.

For the sake of time, I’ve chosen to focus more on Daniel than the content of the dream, though this one is a doozy:

Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness [was] excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof [was] terrible. This image’s head [was] of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou 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. Then 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.

As is the interpretation:

This [is] the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

Thou, O king, [art] a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And 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.

Stop and think about this for a moment. Though this sounds flattering, it is really quite a strong statement of subjugation: Nebbie of all people knows the difference between being ‘self-sovereign’ and serving as the tributary of a greater king.

And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And 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.

And 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. And [as] the toes of the feet [were] part of iron, and part of clay, [so] the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And 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.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure why all this is here, since Nebbie couldn’t know (and arguably wouldn’t care) about what happens after him, except to know the he was the “greatest.” Though I can easily imagine why God might want him to know The End:

And 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. Forasmuch 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.

That last phrase has something of ritual about it. I wonder if the (other) wise guys would make the same claim after their interpretations; though I doubt they ever got the reception Daniel did:

Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him.

Though — perhaps more impressively — Nebbie also got the point that it wasn’t him, but Him:

The 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 couldest reveal this secret.

Of course, that didn’t stop him from realizing that this guy had a direct line to The Almighty, and acting accordingly:

Then 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.

Yow! A great honor, though it is easy to tell that this may cause some resentment down the line. For his part, Daniel makes sure to spread the honor around:

Then Daniel requested of the king, and he set Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, over the affairs of the province of Babylon: but Daniel [sat] in the gate of the king.

Not a bad leap, from summer intern to senior vice president!


God, I am humbled by the example of Daniel. Truly you have gifted him with great faith, but his focus was never on his own gifting, but on you — your goodness and your glory. Father, help me to embrace my own weakness as Daniel embraced his, that I might walk in the understanding of your incomparable power. Grant me the chutzpah to expect great things of you — when they are needed for the salvation of many. May I never fear to bet my credibility on your ability to deliver me, and do the impossible. Not for my sake, but for the honor of your Name. And that of the Lord in which I pray. Amen.

About the Title:

Today’s title is in honor of such a winter’s day as today.