24 November 2020Daniel 2:31-45
'You, O king, the king of kings – to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the might, and the glory...' (v. 37)
Chapter 2 of the Book of Daniel begins with King Nebuchadnezzar having a bad dream. It was not uncommon for people, especially kings, to presume their dreams had meanings or could be a means by which the gods chose to communicate. There were plenty of officials whose job was to interpret such signs. When Nebuchadnezzar summoned them, rather than telling them about his dream, he insisted they tell him what the dream was, as well as its meaning, on pain of death. It is unclear whether he said this to test they weren’t just making up an interpretation to tell him what he wanted to hear, or because he woke up unable to remember the dream.
With no-one forthcoming to narrate the dream, let alone interpret it, it seemed as though all the officials would be killed, Daniel included. Daniel’s response was to say that while he was unable, God was able. Our reading today picks up from Daniel beginning to narrate the dream and provide its meaning.
Nowhere in the reading is it explained exactly what the various materials of the statue represent, apart from the head of gold being Nebuchadnezzar himself. Opinion is divided. Some believe that the other materials represent the kings who were going to follow Nebuchadnezzar in succeeding the Babylonian throne before their empire fell away. Others understand them as representing the empires who would come after the Babylonians – possibly the Medes and Persians, the Greeks and the Romans. There is a similar vision in Daniel 8 of a ram and a goat. This time an interpretation is provided which follows some of this thinking. Christian interpretation often understands the stone that crushes them all as Christ.
Whatever is meant by the different materials, the meaning is that no human empire will last forever. Each kingdom, allowed to exist by God, will ultimately come to an end. The only kingdom to endure will be by the will of God.
The conclusion of the chapter, just after our passage ends, has Nebuchadnezzar acclaiming Daniel’s God as the greatest god. Sadly, if you read the chapters between today’s reading and tomorrow’s you will see that his memory of this was short lived.
- It may seem strange to think that God gave Nebuchadnezzar the kingdom (2:36-38) when he did such harm, particularly to the Jewish people. How should we respond to world leaders who do not seem to follow the way of God?
- Have you ever experienced a dream which seemed to reveal something to you? If so, how did you share it with others?