And this is the Interpretation
It would be hard to find anywhere in the Scriptures a better known or more commentated upon prophecy than this one. The story is full of human drama.
Nebuchadnezzar has a nightmare. He is spooked by what he sees in his head as he lies asleep on his pillow. But awakening he cannot pluck from his sub-conscious memory the details of his dream. The imagery floats evanescently through his head. Nebuchadnezzar is disturbed. A sense of dread and foreboding grips the king and all subjects below him.
Although Nebuchadnezzar lived thousands of years ago, there is a sense in which he is our contemporary. I see his troubled face everywhere in the crowd of this 21 st century. These last few decades to us have been like a terrible dream. What is the meaning of the events of our modem generation? The images are real. But they somehow elude interpretation. The significance of their interpretation, as with Nebuchadnezzar, eludes us. What is the meaning of these events?
Ah yes, I see Nebuchadnezzar's face plainly all around us today. Surely, he is one of us. The dream he cannot recall, and the interpretation he cannot find are shared by this generation. So Nebuchadnezzar does the logical thing. He turns to the intellectuals for help. "Make known to me the dream and its interpretation!" he demands of his wise men.
These men of the books, the brains trust, the intelligentsia, squeal in protest. "Tell us the dream 0 king, and then we'll give the interpretation." Nebuchadnezzar senses their bankruptcy. And even when the sword is dangling over their heads, the Chaldean wise men cannot produce the goods. The dream and its interpretation elude them all.
But when Daniel leams of the king's death-decree he asks for time to pray. He will seek the living God of Heaven. "God will tell me! God will show me the dream and its interpretation" he confidently affirms.
I am convinced that if we believers in the God of the Bible would do what Daniel did, we could make such a difference. Oh, how we need to shut ourselves up with God and pour out our hearts to Him for wisdom. He promises that "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all men generously, and without reproach, and it shall be given to him (James 1 :5). Yes, there is a wisdom from heaven that is different from the wisdom of men. God is the living God. He can speak and He can give the answer.
Carefully note and consider these matters.
1. The vision concerns "the end of days" (v. 28). "God has made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the end of days." Other Scriptures make it clear that this expression "end of days" or "latter days" refers to when Messiah will establish the house of the LORD at the top of the mountains ...
Now it will come about that in the last days, the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all nations will stream to it, and many peoples will come and say. "Come. let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways ... " (Is. 2:1ff. See also Jer. 23: 20; 30:24)
2. An important feature of the image is the deterioration in the quality of rule. The metals deteriorate from gold, to silver, to brass, to iron, to clay. God announces to Nebuchadnezzar (v.39) that "After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you." The deterioration in the quality of the metals is seen all the way down to the toes of iron mixed with clay ... (v.41) " ... you saw the iron mixed with common clay", or literally, "clay of mud". The iron speaks of strength, steely brutality. The clay speaks of underlying brittleness. God tells us that human history is progressively going to deteriorate. What started out as a fine upstanding and glorious statue finally at the end of this age, dissolves into mud! But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come ... [for] evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived (2 Tim.3:13).
3. Nebuchadnezzar is personally said to be the head of gold. "You, 0 king ... you are the head of gold." This is even more emphatic in the old KJV version, "Thou, 0 king ... thou art the head of gold." First person singular. Nebuchadnezzar is himself the head of gold.
The assumption that the whole duration of the Babylonian empire is included under the golden head of the image is unwarranted. "When 'thou' can be made to mean a long succession of persons covering a century and a half, grammar would seem to have lost all force. " (Lang, G.H. p. 26).
"The times of the Gentiles" started with Nebuchadnezzar. Since 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar razed the Temple in Jerusalem and carried off the Jews into exile, Israel has been put aside as the administrative centre for world blessing. To this very day, Israel has been in remnants, in parts and pieces, mostly buried among the Gentile nations of the earth.
4. The fourth kingdom has no name. This is critical to rightly understanding the interpretation. By and large it has been generally taught that the two legs of iron and the feet and toes of iron and clay represent the Roman Empire, in its eastern and western divisions. After the attacks of the Vandals and Saracens (Muslims) the Roman Empire passed away but will at the end of days be "revived". [Roman Catholic Church].
"Now all these details have been imported by interpreters. The divine explanation through Daniel does not suggest anyone of them. They have been invented to explain what the wisdom of God saw fit not to explain, to fasten a special meaning upon things to which He did not assign a meaning." (Lang, G.H. p.28-29).
But I repeat. The fourth kingdom of iron has no name. This is the more striking when we note that Nebuchadnezzar is named. So is his city, Babylon. The second empire is named. It is Persia (Dan. 5:28; 8:20, etc.). The third kingdom is called Greece (Dan. 8:21). But where is the name of the fourth empire of iron given?
Lang states that "It has been most confusing that writers have universally assigned to it the name of its place and origin, for thus thought has been concentrated intensely upon the city of Rome as its centre throughout its existence. But in prophecy Rome has no special place and is not even mentioned." (p. 29). Thus the 'historical' interpretation is without foundation, and 'futurism' also must be modified. Babylon had existed since the days of Nimrod (Gen. 10:10), but the ups and downs of that state during those 1500 years do not matter prophetically. It was when Nebuchadnezzar made Babylon the centre of a world empire that the first kingdom of prophecy arose.
The Medes and Persians had had an almost equally long history, but that is of no account prophetically. It was only when Cyrus made Babylon the centre of his rule that the second kingdom of prophecy appeared.
The Grecian states had been fighting, developing, colonizing for long centuries before Alexander, but prophecy takes no account of this also. It was when Alexander made Babylon his world-centre that the third kingdom of prophecy became present.
So it is with the fourth empire of iron. The developments and mutations of its long course are of small concern prophetically. The Divine interpretation entirely ignores the legs. The divine interpretation and profound interest concentrate on the final stage, the toes, the closing days when Antichrist will make Babylon his capital.
This may be inferred from the fact that the image is standing on its feet. The image is vertical. The centre of gravity of each successive metal is exactly under that of the preceding kingdom above. The feet stand directly beneath the head, the chest, the abdomen and the legs. These facts rule out all attempts to fit the history of this age into the legs of iron, for Rome never has been centred in Babylon. To attempt to make the legs of iron fit into the Roman Empire distorts both history and image. For there is no way that all through these centuries there have always been two legs (east and west) and ten toes (or kingdoms) in the territory once occupied by Rome.
If the two legs represent the Roman Empire in its eastern and western parts, the image Daniel saw should be lop-sided. One leg should be longer than the other. For historically the eastern part of the Roman empire fell a thousands years before the western half. As Lang pithily remarks, "If the two legs represented the divided Roman Empire, why was not the image shown as standing on one leg for perhaps a third of its course? For the western part succumbed in A.D. 476 while the eastern portion survived almost a thousand years, till A.D. 1453. That the image was standing was noted by the prophet. (Lang, p.30).
You, 0 King, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendour, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. (Dan.2:31).
Not only is the statue standing, vertically on the one spot -- on the city of Babylon -- but it has no break in continuity from beginning to end. Nebuchadnezzar was not shown the legs as broken off and later re-joined or revived. The notion of the iron-kingdom as Rome passing away and then re-appearing is a needless invention arising from the misleading attempt to fit into the interpretation a period the Spirit of prophecy passes over untouched because it is unimportant to the prophecy.
The ups and downs of the fourth empire prior to its final stage are as immaterial to prophecy as are those of the first kingdom. The fourth iron-kingdom only takes the prophetic main stage when it's administration is centred in the city of Babylon.
"It would have been of great gain to the study of Daniel and the Revelation if the term "Roman" empire had never been employed. It is not Scriptural. In the Word of God, the first three empires are named from the countries of their origin, Babylon, Persia, Greece (Dan. 1: 1; 2:48; 8:20,21), but the next is not named, it is simply the "fourth beast." Of its rise and career little is said." (Lang, p.188). It will be like iron, strong, merciless, violent. Its course and development is unnoticed until the final stage when ten kings should arise out of it, and then an eleventh, who should be its last head and who will be destroyed by the Son of Man, whose kingdom will smash and supersede his.
The interest and details of the prophecy centre on this concluding stage and final king, the Antichrist. There is no ground for supposing him to be the emperor of Rome, but, on the contrary, [he has] his centre at Babylon (Is 14:4, etc.) It is the city of Babylon that ties the whole statue together.
"It is to be noticed further that the Babylonian kingdom did not become the first empire of prophecy until the time when Nebuchadnezzar had made his city, Babylon, the capital. The century and a half during which the kingdom had existed, and the changes that it had undergone, were not of moment prophetically; but at the same time that a king of Babylon had gained world dominion, the hour had come when Israel no longer could be held worthy of that dominion, and the sovereignty was for a time transferred by God to the Gentiles, whereupon commenced "the times [viz. The opportunity of world-authority] of the Gentiles," and the first empire of prophecy emerged. (Lang, p.188).
Similarly, the inter-tribal conflicts and changes of the Medes and Persians throughout the long period preceding Cyrus are of no moment prophetically and are unnoticed in Scripture. It is when Cyrus seizes Babylon and fixes there in Babylon his centre, that his kingdom becomes the second empire of prophecy.
So with the Grecian kingdom. The Word of God makes no reference to the long history of the tribes of Greece, nor to the schemes and wars by which Philip of Macedon and his son Alexander brought Greece under one sovereignty. It is only when Alexander attacks the Persians, and makes himself master of Babylon (the he-goat rushing upon the ram, Dan. 8) that his kingdom becomes the third empire of Daniel.
Thus will it be with the fourth empire. Its ferocity and supremacy are emphasized, but that it would commence, or had commenced, at a city named Rome, is not even mentioned, and what its course would be is unnoticed. It is when the Antichrist will have made Babylon his centre of (world?) government that the empire will become what is so vividly and minutely portrayed in prophetic Scripture.
This central geographical feature is learned from one fact, because the four kingdoms are represented by an upright image, therefore the centre of gravity, of each of the three upper portions is exactly over the spot on which the feet stand. The centre of each empire would be at the same place ... Babylon! Babylon is Satan's original centre of operations amongst the nations (Gen. 10) and will be his final earth centre, just as Jerusalem is the Divine city. Today's world movements are unceasingly towards the Middle East! And they hasten "the day of the Lord" when Messiah will return from heaven like a crushing stone that will destroy all earthly kingdoms, for:
In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom ... will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever (Daniel's interpretation in Dan. 2: 44).
Lang, G.H. The Histories and Prophecies of Daniel, Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A., 1973.
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