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Bible: What Does Daniel 1-2 Teach Us About Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar?

Updated on September 20, 2016



Daniel and His Three Friends


Daniel's book commences with the announcement of Nebuchadnezzar's initial siege of Jerusalem in 604 B.C., not to the city's fall in 587 B.C. (v. 1).

Jeremiah 25:1 states that the king of Babylon's first year coincided with Jehoiakim's fourth anniversary in power, while Daniel records it as his third.

This apparent discrepancy finds a logical explanation by noting which calendar (accession year or non-accession year) the prophets were using.

[For more light on this technical point, see A Commentary on Daniel by Leon Wood].

Two facts receive emphasis in verse two: God permits Jehoiakim's capture, and Babylonians bring certain temple articles to Shinar's shrine.

[These vessels appear later at Belshazzar's party (chap. 5)].

Daniel's Faith in the LORD Displayed


Cyrus the Great


Purposing in Your Heart

After this brief introduction, the writer recounts the story of Daniel and his three friends: especially gifted individuals chosen from among a large group of Israelite youths whom the king wished to train as court servants (vv. 3-4, 6-7).

When faced with the choice between experiencing ritual defilement and possibly insulting Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel (and his friends) bravely selects ("purposed in his heart") the latter, requesting that Ashpenaz, the chief eunuch, not serve them the king's food (vv. 5, 8).

Even though this Babylonian slave likes Daniel, he still does not think it a wise idea for him to refuse the “king’s meat” (vv. 9-10).

Nevertheless, the young Hebrew persuades him to grant his request, for the eunuch allows his steward to test the young men for ten days, providing them with only water and vegetables (vv. 11-13).

Comment: It is reasonable to assume that God miraculously rewards Daniel in this decision to obey Him, since ten days would ordinarily not be long enough for the diet to produce the effects that it did (vv. 14-16).

After they successfully pass this test, Daniel and his friends train as Babylonian court servants, and please Nebuchadnezzar to a greater degree than any other ''wise men" (vv. 17-20).

Daniel serves into the reign of the first Persian king, Cyrus (cf. 6:28; 10:1; 11:1).

Discrepancy in Dating?

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Nebuchadnezzar's Dream and Its Interpretation

Daniel 2

The second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign must have occurred after Daniel had officially begun to serve at his court (cf. 1:1, 5, and 18).

[See Leon Wood's book again for the reconciliation of the dating problem].

The narrative recounts the Babylonian monarch's dream-induced insomnia (v. 1).

Puzzled by strange night images, the king asks his “learned men” to inform him of their meaning (vv. 2-3).

Even though Nebuchadnezzar believes that these fellows are all charlatans, he yearns greatly to have his dreams revealed to him.

Therefore, he toys with their emotions, threatening them all with death unless they do what he knows is impossible (for men) to do (vv. 5,10-11).

Comment: Such is the arrogant presumption of near Eastern absolute monarchs!

Perhaps he resented the fact that he himself was powerless to understand the dreams, so he felt no compunction about taking his frustrations out on others.

One might say that he displayed a rather childish temper! (vv. 2-13).

To save his life (and the lives of his three friends, as well as those of the remaining wise men), Daniel seeks Yahweh for the resolution to the king's dreams, and urges his friends to do likewise (vv. 14-18).

After God reveals the mystery to him, Daniel praises the LORD for granting him the necessary wisdom (vv. 19-23).

[Verses 20-23 contain much fine theology in poetic form, NKJV].

The prophet receives a speedy invitation into the king's presence after informing Arioch, the captain of the guard, that he knows the meaning of the dreams (vv. 24-25).

The Stone Cut Out Without Hands

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Nebuchadnezzar's Statue

Rather increduously, Nebuchadnezzar queries Belteshazzar (the Babylonian name he gives to Daniel) about this quite unexpected announcement (v. 26).

After clearly crediting God with being the Revealer of secrets, Daniel proceeds to disclose to the king the "visions of your head upon your bed."

He then disclaims again any personal innate ability to perform such a miracle (vv. 27-30).

He summarizes the vision proper as follows:

Daniel sees

(1) an awesome statue (probably in Nebuchadnezzar's likeness!) composed of gold, silver, bronze, iron, and clay;

(2) the victory over this image by the "Stone cut out without hands"; and

(3) this Stone's consequent exaltation (vv. 31-35).

Afterwards, he completes his report with the dream’s interpretation (vv. 36-45).



The Interpretation

First in importance, he reveals to Nebuchadnezzar that the king is the head of gold, and that he has received world sovereignty through the gift of the God of heaven (vv. 37-38).

The second kingdom—an inferior one—Daniel hardly mentions, but it represents the silver chest and arms (Persia and Media) [v. 39a].

Third in line comes the bronze kingdom (the Greeks); this empire, too, receives little attention (v. 39b).

The fourth kingdom, however, Daniel describes in detail. As the greatest of the four, though divided, it requires a more involved explanation.

The iron part of this kingdom (ancient Rome) is exceedingly strong (v. 40).

However, the latter-day empire, while also powerful, possesses weaker nations (the clay-iron feet and toes), and thus does not succeed well as a unit (vv. 41-43).

When God sets up a fifth kingdom—an indestructible, everlasting one—He, through the "Stone cut out without hands," will destroy "kings" (v. 44).

[In chapter seven, He elaborates upon all these kingdoms].

Upon hearing this amazing interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar, overwhelmed and astonished, moves to promote Daniel to "ruler over the whole province of Babylon" and, at the prophet's request, to exalt his three friends, too.

The king practically worships Daniel as the messenger-spokesman of the "God of gods, the Lord of kings" (vv. 46-49).

© 2013 glynch1


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