Within each of the first six chapters of Daniel is an example of a different kind of situation in which Believers will find their selves as witnesses of God’s Word and ways. In the second chapter of Daniel we have the example of a sincere spiritual seeker. Ultimately the seeker’s thirst for knowledge is quenched, but does not meet the biblical criteria by which hearing God is proved: actually DOING what God said and putting it into practice. But as so often is the case, the issue isn’t solely about whether or not the message is received, but how the messenger conducts themselves in the process. The most powerful lesson contained herein may be that maintaining personal faithfulness has a greater range of impact on those about us than we might imagine.
Read verses 1-3
Q: What is probably the chief source of Nebuchadnezzar’s anxiousness? How is this revealed by the seeming contradiction of Daniel having been in Babylon a number of years to this point but it here states it was “the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar”?
A: The secular historical record shows that Nebuchadnezzar’s early public actions, such as invading Judah, were undertaken by him personally although he was not yet officially the king of Babylon; he was acting for his father, Nabopolassar. So there isn’t actually any contradiction since this refers to the 2nd year of his reign proper.
It’s most likely, therefore, that Nebuchadnezzar is anxious about his future and whether or not the Babylonian kingdom under his direct authority would last.
Q: How is Nebuchadnezzar’s problem exacerbated? Why does it become the number one issue in his life?
A: God gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream which answered his questions concerning the future, but he could not understand it. He knew the answer was available, but he lacked the ability to grasp it.
Point: There are non-believers who know they need a spiritual answer to their most pressing problems, but because they lack the Holy Spirit, cannot figure it out on their own. They become spiritual seekers in search of the answer they’re confident exists yet eludes.
Read verses 4-13
Q: What is Nebuchadnezzar revealing about the spiritual advisors in how he treats them?
In the past, where it concerned issues in which he had a lot less personal interested vested than this one, he probably did not take them seriously; he probably only consulted them as a courtesy or to give the appearance of his concern for the spiritual meaning of things.
In the present, he is clearly exercising his doubt as to their authenticity. Nebuchadnezzar is seeking the truth without regard for political correctness or the traditions of the institutions of his day.
He clearly sees their chief behavior as rooted in deception as they bargain for more time and seek to change the king’s mind, another affirmation that his chief concern is obtaining the truth.
Q: How is it that the magicians and Chaldeans actually had the right answer?
A: In v.11 they admit in desperation that “there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods”. They ironically stumble onto the correct answer that with man it’s futile, but with God nothing is impossible. They’re essentially admitting that their own claims of power and wisdom have no heavenly origin and that they’re limited to the resources of men.
Point: Spiritual seekers need someone who can be a conduit to God, not a counterfeit replacement of Him. They may not be able to know the absolute truth, but often recognize spiritual counterfeits.
Q: What can be inferred from the fact that Daniel and company were NOT among these spiritual charlatans and had to be located separately?
A: They were living IN the world, but not OF the world, keeping themselves as separated as possible from those spiritual influences recognized to be bad. Among other things, this ensured that they could not be mistaken as a member of the wrong crowd by constant affiliation with them.
Point: Taking the stage with known, false believers not only transfers your credibility to them, but makes you a target because of them as well.
Read verses 14-23
Q: What is different in the way the king treated Daniel versus all his other spiritual advisors?
A: The king denied the wise men’s request for more time because he saw that it was an insincere attempt to avoid solving a problem they could not solve in the first place. But those about the king risked acceding to Daniel’s request, indicating that they saw something visibly different about Daniel’s demeanor and character.
Q: Why do you suppose God did not immediately provide the answer through Daniel the first time he went to the king?
A: This is most likely a test of faith not just for the king, but for Daniel and his companions as well.
Q: How did they go about seeking the answer?
A: They immediately approached God in prayer.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him
— James 1:5
Q: But what exactly was their prayer based on? What is the chief attribute of God’s character to which they appealed?
A: They did not merely ask for knowledge, for they knew that God not only obviously knew the answer but was also purposely keeping it from being revealed. The approach was “that they might request compassion from God”, that is they appealed to His grace.
Q: What did they do in the course of seeking God’s grace that proved they are true hearers of God’s Word who put it into practice and actually live by it?
A: They didn’t merely ask for their own lives, but included a plea for the lives of their enemies. They themselves had compassion and love for others.
Point: Through the other major prophets, God often established that the lack of love for Him was proved by people’s mistreatment, and therefore lack of love, for others. The proof of obedience to the “first tablet” is obedience to the “second tablet”.
Q: What can we learn from Daniel’s initial response to receiving the answer to his prayer?
A: He did not rush off to employ it, but paused to render God the proper praise and worship due Him. It’s yet another indication of his right heart.
The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant.
— Proverbs 25:14
Point: There is no limit to what God will do for believers who allow God all the glory.
Q: What are the action verbs listed in v.21-22 which indicate God’s sovereignty over history and all things prophetic?
A: “Changes”, “removes”, “gives”, “reveals”, and “knows”.
Q: What are the things over which He exercises complete control listed in those same verses?
A: “Times and epochs”, “kings”, “wise men”, “profound and hidden things”, and “what is in the darkness”.
Point: God is the answer for BOTH the spiritual as represented by Daniel, and the unspiritual as represented by Nebuchadnezzar. The largest difference between the two is seeking and being transformed by the Source of all knowledge rather than merely coming into contact with it.
Read verses 24-30
Q: When Daniel returns to the king with the answer, what is the first thing he does?
A: Although “the wise men of Babylon” were worthy of death, Daniel intercedes on their behalf. God’s Word had transformed Daniel’s basic behavior to the point that he did not hate his enemies. His personal witness therefore was not just limited to the king alone, but to the wise men, the guards, and all who were aware of the situation.
Q: What does Nebuchadnezzar affirm to Daniel as his utmost desire?
A: To know the truth. (v.26)
Q: How does Daniel begin his response? How does it actually fit in with what the spiritual advisors originally told the king?
A: In v.11 they declared, “there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh”. Here Daniel actually affirms that very assertion, restating a little more forcefully that this is EXACTLY the Source of the answer: not man, but the One True God.
Q: What, precisely, is God revealing to Nebuchadnezzar?
A: “The future”. (v.29)
Q: And what is God’s purpose in revealing the future to Nebuchadnezzar?
A: “...for the purpose...that you may understand the thoughts of your mind”. (v.30) Although the information deals with the future, it addresses the more critical needs of the present. It’s an indication that Nebuchadnezzar’s PRESENT condition needs to be changed.
Point: All a Believer can do for a non-Believer is allow the voice of God to be heard. Daniel didn’t offer his personal opinion nor assert his own thoughts, but truly acted as a conduit for a non-Believer to clearly hear God’s message.
Read verses 31-45
[Note: “A Prophetic View of Daniel” can be downloaded from the web site to visualize the meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s statue.]
Q: What is the mainstream, consensus interpretation of the statue?
The Babylonian Empire is the head of gold.
The Medo-Persian Empire is the breast and arms of silver.
The Greek Empire is the belly and thighs of bronze.
The Roman Empire is the legs of iron. (It ultimately split into two major parts represented by the two legs.)
A final kingdom yet to come is the feet of partly iron and partly clay, a weaker continuation of the Roman Empire divided into ten kingdoms.
Christ is the Stone, suddenly appearing to smite the nations and setting up His own kingdom forever.
Q: What are some of the meanings we can divine from the symbolism of the various materials representing each kingdom and fitting together within the statue overall?
The overall image is a representation of world history.
The decreasing weight and strength of the materials from top to bottom show it to be top-heavy and therefore easy to topple. Humans think civilization is enduring, but it actually rests on brittle feet of clay.
The value of the elements decrease dramatically from the top down. Mankind is not getting better and better, but cheaper and weaker. It is also reflected in the decreasing beauty from the head to the feet.
Each of the kingdoms has its own strengths, but each one is weaker than the previous. This explains why the Antichrist will be able to organize and oversee the final kingdom as it will be so intrinsically weak that it demands a dictator to keep it together.
Each of these empires had a different form of government.
Babylon was ruled by an absolute monarch.
Medo-Persia had a king who worked through his princes and established laws for which even he was accountable to obey.
Greece operated through a king and an army.
Rome was supposed to be a republic, but mostly ruled by the military through laws.
The iron and clay could represent current governments in terms of law and justice (iron) mixed with mankind (clay) to form democracies. The strength of democracy is the law, but its weakness is human nature. Lawlessness results when human nature refuses to be bound by God’s laws.
Q: Which part of the statue receives the most attention? Why?
A: The feet of clay and iron. God already sees that it is the empire of the Last Days, the only one yet to come. He knows that history will plainly reveal the identity of all the coming kingdoms except the last one, so it’s the one for which we need the most information.
Q: What is revealed about the kingdom of clay and iron?
“...like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these pieces”. (v.40)
“...it will be a divided kingdom” (v.41)
“...some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle” (v.42)
“ ...they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery”. (v.43)
Q: But what is the ultimate application of this revelation? What should be done with it?
A: Knowing that ALL of the empires will be destroyed forever by the final kingdom of the Messiah, the proper application is to reject all other empires but the Messiah’s alone. The practical application of this information is to seek and embrace God’s Word and ways which will be eternally established rather than those of these temporary kingdoms.
Observation: We shall see these same kingdoms again in chapter 7 represented as wild beasts. Not impressed with gold, silver, or bronze, God sees the human heart and knows the world is full of violence and sin. From humanity’s point of view earthly kingdoms are like metal, durable and strong; from God’s point of view they are ferocious beasts which must be slain. This did not frighten Daniel whose faith was in the final kingdom of the Messiah; neither should we fear.
Read verses 46-49
Q: How would you characterize Nebuchadnezzar’s response? Did he experience a life-changing event in which he gave himself over completely to God?
A: He acknowledges the authenticity of both the message and the messenger, but does not appear to be significantly changed by it. His original concern was to get the truth. But having received it, he fails to fully and properly act on it.
Application: Have you ever known someone who seems to want to be in the proximity of God and His people without giving themselves completely over to Him? What is the difference between knowledge of God’s plan of salvation, and actually employing it?
Q: How does Daniel continue to serve as an example of one whose heart and behavior are truly in alignment with God’s Word?
A: By the way he continues to treat others.
Point: Daniel did not have to compromise the truth in order to achieve victory; nor did he need to resort to tearing down those about him to elevate himself. He was able to balance truth and love. Devotion to God’s name and glory gave way to receiving his own. Daniel provides an example of the Believer’s responsibility to maintain both the integrity of the truth of God’s Word at the same time as God’s love in the course of all relationships in order to be a proper witness, regardless of the ultimate response of others.
The definitive proof of how Nebuchadnezzar did not allow the revelation of God’s Word to change him comes in the very next verse of the very next chapter:
Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, the height of which was sixty cubits and its width six cubits; he set it up on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.
— Daniel 3:1
God spoke, but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t put it into practice. His spiritual decline led to making himself a god. God would speak again and although Nebuchadnezzar would yet again profess the revelation could come from none other than the One True God, his rebellion would result in being given the mind of a beast, the ultimate example of being given over to spiritual deception which came not because he was “tricked” or “duped”, but because he steadfastly refused to become more than just a hearer of God’s Word.