Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daniel 2 - Dreams From God

2:1-3 – The disturbing dreams of a king. (cf. Gen.41)  Nebuchadnezzar appears to have had dreams that were disturbing his sleep and the notation of time seems confusing (“in the second year of his reign) until it is understood that it likely refers to the Babylonian calendar and thus refers to just after the ending of the “three” years of training were completed by Daniel and his friends (see Miller 76-7; Walvoord 45-6).  While this is not a guaranteed solution, it seems a very probable one given the all of the evidence.  It was common for kings of the ancient Near East to keep such persons as here listed in order to deal with issues such as interpreting omens like those found in dreams that were considered to be from the gods.  Certainly a new and fairly young king like Nebuchadnezzar would have many reasons to fear the contents of the dreams he had been having (as laid out by Daniel later in this chapter), because it would suggest some sort of great calamity or foreboding omen.  Why would the Lord have given Nebuchadnezzar these dreams and not simply Daniel (as He does in a fuller form later in Dan.7)?

2:4-11 – The impossibility of telling a dream and then interpreting it.  His diviners, who are all well trained in dream interpretations, need to be told the dreams in order to offer an interpretation, but Nebuchadnezzar refuses perhaps because he fears they may be somehow plotting something against him (especially since his dream seamed to contain such destructive images).  His fears may not have been entirely unfounded given that “two of the next three Babylonian kings were assassinated” (Miller 82).  His threats against them are not vain…nor his promises of wealth and honor.  Those who excel in the arts of divining the will of the gods and speaking on behalf of the gods clearly declare to the king that no one can do what he has asked, because there is no one who has that kind of contact with the gods.

2:12-18 – The order of death and the prayer for mercy.  All of the wise men of (the vicinity) of Babylon were to be executed because of the failure to serve the king in the capacity they were supposed to serve him.  What in particular marks Daniel’s statements to Arioch the executioner with “wisdom and tact”?  Why should Daniel have been given time, when Nebuchadnezzar had already said that his wise men were seeming to only want to buy more time in order to change the situation?  What does this say about Divine favor?  What is the first thing Daniel does after getting permission to have more time to interpret the dream (and try to find out what the dream even was)?  They specifically pray for “mercy” (cf. Neh.9:28; Isa.63:7; Dan.9:9).

2:19-23 – A psalm.  It would appear that during the night while Daniel and his friends were praying the Lord gave a vision to Daniel and showed him the “mystery” which caused him to bless the “God of heaven” (Ezra 1:2; 6:10; 7:12, 21; Neh.1:5; 2:4).  This short psalm is indeed “a model of thanksgiving” (Baldwin 101).  All praise is due to God who alone is sovereign over all: time (contrast the bold claim of the “little horn” in Dan.7:25), powers, and authorities.  There is nothing hidden from Him (cf. Deut.29:29) and Daniel also gets specific about thanking God for this particular revelation that He has given to them.

2:24-30 – Who could reveal the dream to the king?  Daniel goes to Arioch who in turn takes him to the king where Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) confesses that this is an impossible task for the wise men.  However, he then clarifies that there is “a God in heaven” who does know and reveal such things and who had done such for Daniel.  “Daniel denies that history is determined by the planetary forces that the Babylonians studied (cf. Isa.40:25-26).  History is under the control of God in his freedom.  It is thus his secret.  It cannot be predicted, divined by means of techniques, s the sages have now acknowledged.  It can only be revealed” (Goldingay 56).  For whose benefit does Daniel say that the dream and the interpretation have been given?

2:31-45 – The dream and interpretation.  The king saw a large statue (Aram. sělem “image” which is not an idol) of unknown size and brilliant in appearance.  It had a head of pure gold, torso and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze (not brass as the KJV), legs of iron with feet partly iron and baked clay.  Suddenly he saw a rock (divinely?) cut out that was hurled at the statue and not only toppled it and destroyed it, but ground it to chaff and dust and the wind blew it all away and the rock grew to become a great mountain that filled the whole earth.  Why does Daniel address Nebuchadnezzar as the “king of kings” and who is the “we” that is doing the interpreting?  The interpretation (which Daniel received further explanation through a dream of his own some forty years later in Dan.7) is as follows: the gold head is Nebuchadnezzar (and his kingdom of neo-Babylon 605-539BC) who is described as having dominion over everyone and everything.  How fitting is this?  The silver torso and arms represents another kingdom (Medo-Persia 539-331BC) that is “inferior”, just as the bronze one (Greek 331-168BC) is even more so.  The fourth kingdom, though tremendously strong (like iron) will be mixed with baked clay and will be a “divided kingdom”.  This fourth kingdom is Rome (168BC-436ADWest & 1453East) or at least ancient Rome and some form of a reconstituted Rome (by this I mean to refer to some future kingdom/s as well).  How could there be no mention of a time gap?  Note the “mountains of prophecy” example: where someone looks at a mountain range from a distance and sees only a mountain, but the closer one gets, the more one sometimes sees the great distances between what turns out to be many mountains.  While there is no mention of there being ten toes on the statue, yet later there are ten specifically mentioned in Dan.7:24 as ten kings (kingdoms or nations) that are somehow a part of what was ancient Rome (cf. Rev.13:1; 17:12).  While the kingdoms would grow increasingly more inferior to the one previous, yet they would also grow more fierce and terrible until finally the fourth kingdom would be destroyed by God’s kingdom represented by the “rock” that will utterly destroy all the kingdoms of this world and will be established itself forever and ever.  “Lifelike as much of this sculpture was, the figure remained rigid and motionless, the artificial product of human handiwork, and as such the statue was a fitting symbol of man-made kingdoms.  The stone, by contrast, was mobile, a ‘living stone’, which had within it the power to grow until it filled the earth” (Baldwin 108).  This whole dream actually seems to rule out the view that the kingdom of God is only spiritual (and thus the millennial reign of Christ is only spiritual) because the other kingdoms are all very much a part of this world and they are destroyed in reality and replaced in reality.  This would suggest a very real historical acting on God’s part to make His kingdom come.  However, one thing should be kept in mind that “the vision offers no hint regarding the chronology whereby God’s rule will arrive; it does invite its recipients to live as people who expect it as a living reality” (Goldingay 62).  While Daniel is explaining the very real plan of God in the scheme of world history, yet we are not being given a time-line of world history so as to map out God’s exact prophetic program.  The “what” is certain; the “when” is left for another time.

2:46-49 – The results of God’s dreams.  While Nebuchadnezzar offers honor and incense to Daniel it appears to actually be to Daniel’s god as the “God of gods and the Lord of kings” (titles that were actually used for Marduk chief god of the Babylonians).  While the gods of the Babylonians were silent and their earthly cohorts in the wise men could say nothing, the living God in heaven spoke and His men of wisdom thereby revealed the hidden mysteries.  This was not really ever about the wise men, but about the gods and about the absolute ruler of this world.  Does this mean that Nebuchadnezzar has confessed his faith in the Lord?  No.  Since the Lord already knew that he wouldn’t turn in faith, why did He go through the trouble of doing what he did as recorded in this chapter?  The king kept his promise of blessing whoever could interpret his dreams.  Perhaps the Lord was positioning his servants Daniel and his friends in other places in the kingdom for yet future service.  How old would Daniel have been at this time as he was made head over the wise men of the vicinity of Babylon since it was only the second year of Nebuchadnezzar?  Also, Daniel’s friends received places of honor and authority because of their part in the interpretation of the dreams.  From this it should be evident whose God is god…

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