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Kings, and a Kingdom

“In the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him” (Daniel 2:1).

Already in the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar was having divinely prompted nightmares. Daniel, through wisdom given to him by God, describes the king’s dream and shares with him its significance.

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a huge statue, magnificent in its design and awe-inspiring in its size. It had a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of a mixture of iron and clay. As the king watched, a strange stone struck the image on its feet, breaking them into pieces and crushing the entire statue. Rather than break into pieces itself, however, the stone mysteriously grew and became a huge mountain, growing until it filled the whole earth.

Daniel indicated that the different segments of the statue’s body represent successive kingdoms or empires. Of these, the Babylonian Empire is the first: “Thou art this head of gold” (v. 38). The second (chest and arms of silver) predicted the Medo-Persian Empire. The “kingdom of brass” foretold the Greek Empire. It was to “rule over all the earth” (v. 39). Here we instinctively think of the remarkable rise to power of Alexander the Great, who is said to have wept while still in his twenties because there were no more lands for him to conquer. Daniel describes the fourth kingdom in greater detail because it marks an era in which especially significant events would occur. It is strong as iron and shatters everything in its path: “as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things” (v. 40). Again almost instinctively we think of the Roman Empire—of which it was said, “they make a desert and call it peace.”

Notice, however, none of these great empires takes center stage in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream; the centerpiece of the vision is the kingdom that God establishes. This kingdom has several features. It is God’s creation: “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom” (v. 44). It is an indestructible and infallible kingdom “which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people” (v. 44). It is an all-victorious kingdom, eternal in its duration: “it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever” (v. 44). Furthermore, it will be a universal kingdom: “and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (v. 35). All this will occur despite the obscurity and apparent weakness of its origin; it is represented by a mere stone, “cut out without hands” (v. 34).

The stone of course represents Jesus Christ. He is the stone that crushes the kingdoms of this world because He is the one into whose hands the Father has committed all judgment (John 5:22). He is the stone that the builders rejected which became the chief cornerstone (Acts 4:11).

Daniel and his friends were receiving a message that would give them strength, hope, and confidence in the dark days that were still to come; a message that has had the same effect on God’s children in every age. Whatever other elements of this chapter might fascinate us, we must allow nothing to obscure this: God’s kingdom will triumph. He must reign
(1 Corinthians 15:25; Revelation 11:15; Hebrews 12:28).

This has often been the great hope that has encouraged the people of God in times of physical trials and in spiritual darkness. It gave courage to Daniel and has given hope and energy to many Daniels since. Does this chapter not give heightened meaning to the prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come.

—Condensed from The Preacher’s Commentary: Daniel by Sinclair B. Ferguson.