10 April 2013

Daniel 2:1-16

“The king answered the Chaldeans, ‘This is a public decree: if you do not tell me both the dream and its interpretation, you shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins. But if you do tell me the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts and rewards and great honour. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation.’” (vv. 5-6)


Daniel is a member of the nobility of the Court of Judah who has been carried off into exile into Shinar (the Hebrew word for Babylon) by King Nebuchadnezzar. He is being / has been trained to be a court official (the timing is not clear between Daniel 1:5, 18, and Daniel 2:1).

The first part of the book of Daniel (Daniel 1:1 - 2:4a) is written in Hebrew. From the point in the story when we hear the astrologers (the 'Chaldeans') answer the king in Aramaic (verse 4a), the story continues in Aramaic (right up to the end of chapter 7).

The point of the book of Daniel is that whatever happens to God's people, they must still accept that God is sovereign, and that God alone is in charge (see Daniel 1:2; 2:47). Furthermore, lesser gods and deities have no true power, and those who rely on them will reap their own downfall. This point is made to an audience, reading in the second century before Christ, that is undergoing tremendous persecution for wanting to be faithful to the one true God. They are refusing to bow down to Zeus, whose image is now placed in the temple after the desecration of the Seleucid ruler, Antiochus IV Epiphanes.

In the introduction to the story of the dreams, we see the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and Chaldeans (and the king himself) recognising that their stock-in-trade prophecies and pronouncements may not be as genuine as they claim them to be: indeed they would not stake their lives on them. In a no-win situation, they condemn themselves.

To Ponder

  • If you have a faith, on what foundations have you built it? How much of it is based on what you would stake your life on? And how much of it doesn't stand up to too close a scrutiny?
  • Have you ever struggled with the meaning of a recurring dream you have had? Do dreams have to have underlying meanings? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Neil Cockling

Neil spent 20 years as a circuit minister before becoming the District Development Enabler for the Newcastle upon Tyne Methodist District. He now works full-time for the NHS as a Consultant Lead Chaplain in mental health, leading a multi-faith team of 14 chaplains working in 10 hospitals in Northumberland and Tyne & Wear.