28 November 2023Daniel 2:31-45
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people. (v. 44)
It is a pity that our reading for today starts a long way into a story. It is worth reading the whole of chapter 2 to see how today's section fits into the whole. That does raise some consistency issues as it appears in chapter 1 that Nebuchadnezzar knows Daniel, but in chapter 2 he doesn’t. However, that does fit with the theory I shared yesterday that chapter 1 is an introduction that was added later.
The first part of chapter 2 has a key theme, which is the violent and unjust nature of the Babylonian kingdom. The king is a despotic dictator who appears routinely to threaten people with death. Following prayer and an overnight vision, Daniel is able to go to the king with details of the king’s dream and an explanation of it. Then Daniel saves not only himself and his friends but also the lives of all “the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans”. (Daniel 2:2) We see God being active, working to save people from injustice. That helps us see why Christians in difficult, dangerous and unjust societies have found the book of Daniel a comfort.
Then we get to a complex issue. Daniel gives a prophetic interpretation of the king’s dream. There are a wide range of views on this and on how to match it to history. In particular verse 44 (“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall this kingdom be left to another people.”) is typically understood by Christians to be a 5th eternal kingdom, one that is picked up in the book of Revelation 11:15: “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.’”
Again, there is no consensus on whether it is essential, possible, appropriate or unhelpful to try to attach this to a timetable.
- Is Christian hope of God’s eternal kingdom encouraged and strengthened by mapping prophetic visions to world events and a timetable? Why?
- Do you find this passage a comfort? Do you find it relevant to our lives and society? How and why?