I. Nebuchadnezzar and His Wise Men (2:1-16)
A. Nebuchadnezzar had dreams (2:1-2)
1. In “second year” his reign, which means the “three years” the Hebrews were trained (1:5) were either partial years or this happened during their training.
2. He had “dreams,” maybe the same dream over and over.
3. Left him troubled, and he summoned the full range of wise men to interpret what this meant (2:2).
B. Nebuchadnezzar and the wise men have three exchanges (2:3-12):
1. The first exchange (2:2-6).
a) Nebuchadnezzar says he is “troubled to know the dream” and insists that they tell him not only the interpretation but the dream itself (2:2-3). I assume this was to test their integrity.
b) They reply that if he will tell them the dream they will tell him what it means (2:4). Remember, this is where the section of the book in Aramaic begins, extending through Dan. 7.
c) The king insists that they do as he said, promising a great reward if they are successful and a horrible punishment if they are not (2:5-6).
2. The second exchange (2:7-9).
a) Once more the wise men ask the king to tell them the dream (2:7).
b) He accuses them of stalling for time and dishonesty, and threatens them once more unless they tell him the dream and interpretation (2:8-9).
3. The third exchange (2:10-12).
a) The wise men reply by saying that no man on earth could do what the king is asking, that he is asking something no other king ever asked for, and that no one could show the king “except the gods” (2:10-11).
b) Furious, Nebuchadnezzar orders their execution (2:12).
C. Daniel and his friends face death (2:13-16).
1. The order goes out and Arioch comes to arrest Daniel and his friends (2:13).
2. Daniel replied with “prudence and discretion” (2:14), just as he did in Dan. 1.
3. Daniel was able to request an appointment to see the king (2:15-16). Notice the similarities in this account and Joseph’s experiences in Gen. 41.
II. Daniel’s Prayers (2:17-23)
A. Daniel and the friends seek mercy from God (2:17-18).
1. Daniel immediately informed Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the situation (2:17).
2. He told them to pray for mercy from God so that they would not be destroyed (2:18).
B. Daniel’s prayer of thanksgiving (2:19-23).
1. “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night” (2:19a).
2. Daniel responded with a thanksgiving prayer to God, extolling His great wisdom and might (2:19b-23).
III. Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar (2:24-49)
A. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar what happened (2:24-30).
1. Arioch brings Daniel before the king and explains that he can make everything known (2:24-25).
2. The king asks Daniel (Belteshazzar) if this is true (2:26).
3. Daniel responds that “there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (2:27-30).
a) Notice that Daniel says that God had made known what will happen in “the latter days” (2:28), which can simply refer to the future, or specifically to the Messianic era (cf. Acts 2:17).
b) Notice that Daniel emphasizes this knowledge is from God, not himself.
B. The dream (2:31-35).
1. A great image, mighty and exceedingly bright (2:31).
a) Its appearance was “frightening” (cf. 2:1, “spirit was troubled”).
b) “As Collins points out, ‘apparitions of gigantic figures are characteristic of ancient Near Eastern dreams’…There is a tradition of recounting world history by means of metals of declining value as early as Hesiod…in the eighth century BC” (Longman, Daniel, 80).
2. Four sections of decreasing value: head of gold, chest and arms of silver, middle and thighs of bronze, legs of iron and feet of part iron and clay (2:32-33).
3. A stone cut “by no human hand” struck the feet and broke the image in pieces, which were swept away by wind (2:34-35a).
4. The stone became a great mountain and filled the earth (2:35b).
C. The interpretation (2:36-45).
1. The head of gold represents the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, to whom God had given sovereignty (2:36-38; cf. Jer. 27:5-7).
2. The silver and bronze represent a second and third kingdom, inferior to Nebuchadnezzar (2:39). Historically, the Babylonians were succeeded by the Medo-Persians (see 5:28-31) and the Macedonians (or Greeks, led by Alexander (see 8:20-21).
3. The iron and iron/clay represents a fourth kingdom (2:40-43). Historically, the fourth major empire was the Roman empire (liberal critics do not believe this kind of prediction is possible and identify it with Alexander’s kingdom).
4. The stone that was not man-made represents the kingdom of God, which breaks all other kingdoms and lasts forever (2:44-45).
a) The NT picks up on several OT passages using stone imagery to apply to Christ (see Ps. 118:22; Isa. 8:14; 28:16; Luke 20:18).
b) The kingdom of Christ is eternal, and will not be overthrown! (see Heb. 12:28)
D. Daniel’s reward (2:46-49).
1. Nebuchadnezzar honored Daniel and his God, which he probably thought of as a great god among many (2:46-48).
2. Daniel used his influence to promote the friends as well (2:49).