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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Daniel 2



Verses 1-19



We come to the first of the visions given to Daniel. The occasion of it was a dream of Nebuchadnezzar, of which it was required to give both the description and the interpretation. The vision thus in harmony with Daniel's situation in Babylon, where pretensions to such wisdom and ability prevailed; a confirmation of the genuineness of the book. One object of the vision to elevate Daniel still higher in the king's esteem and in the State, and so still further to prepare the way for Israel's liberation at the appointed time. Another and more direct object to comfort the people of God, then and in all future time, with the assurance that God rules in the kingdoms of men, and that when the great monarchies of the world have run their allotted course, the kingdom of Messiah shall overthrow them all and bless the earth with a lasting reign of righteousness and peace.

From the whole section observe—

1. Men's minds capable of being acted upon by God. Dreams themselves often from God, as well as the apprehension of their meaning. The power of recollection, as well as the want of it, also from Him. By divine revelation, mediately or immediately given, Daniel is enabled not only to interpret the king's dream, but to describe the dream itself, without the slightest clue to it. The office of the Spirit to "bring all things to remembrance," as well as to "show things to come." The faculties of our minds as well as the members of our bodies under the influence and control of Him who made both, and that both while asleep and awake. "I awoke, and my sleep was sweet unto me." "Thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions."

2. The misery of ungodly men. Nebuchadnezzar troubled and unhappy in the midst of all his power and grandeur. A dream by night or a thought by day, laying hold of the mind, able to poison all earthly enjoyments. The sword of Damocles suspended over the ungodly in the midst of their mirth. Armed guards around a king's chamber unable to keep trouble from his spirit. Sleep, the gift of God to His beloved (Psa ), often far from the pillow of the ungodly. An evil conscience a sufficient tormentor. A vague terror the usual accompaniment of unpardoned sin. Apprehended anger on the part of God enough to rob a man of peace by day and sleep by night. The mere man of the world "generally impatient under suffering; apprehensive of danger at every change both of body and mind; alarmed at every circumstance which to him appears to portend either adversity or dissolution."—Wood.

3. The evils of despotism and absolute power. Like Nebuchadnezzar, a despot usually unreasonable and arbitrary, cruel and oppressive, hasty and impetuous. Is easily irritated, while his wrath is "like the roaring of a lion." The capricious disposer of his subjects' lives and property. The will of an absolute monarch, who in his wrath rather resembles a madman or a wild beast, takes the place of law, justice, and reason. Sad condition of a people when the will of one man is law. Usually the character of Oriental monarchies. The beheaded Baptist and the slaughtered infants of Bethlehem melancholy examples. The tendency of absolute power to make good men bad and bad men much worse. Such power only safe in the hands of Him who is King of Righteousness and Prince of Peace. The happiness of a free and constitutional State, as well as the duty of gratitude to God for the privilege of living under such, best seen in contrast with the misery of being under a despotic one. Adam Clarke exclaims on the passage: "Happy England! Know and value thy excellent privileges!"

"Thee therefore still, blameworthy as thou art,

Thee I account still happy, and the chief

Among the nations, seeing thou art free,

My native nook of earth."

Plutarch relates that when Dionysius the Second took his departure from Syracuse, the whole city went out to behold the joyful sight, and that their hearts were so full of the happy event that they were angry with those that were absent and could not witness with what joy the sun rose that day on Syracuse, now at last delivered from the chains of slavery.

4. The fearful effects of sin, Sin makes men, who were created in the image of God, to resemble demons. Degraded Nebuchadnezzar into the likeness of a beast long before he was driven into the fields to eat grass. "When passion is on the throne, reason is under foot." Both God and the devil stamp their image on their respective servants. Men must resemble the being they worship. We must either be like the God who is love, or him who was "a murderer from the beginning." Causeless and unholy anger is murder in the germ. Anger may enter for a moment into the breast of a wise man, but "resteth only in the bosom of fools." The maxim of Periander, the wise man of Corinth, was—"Be master of thine anger." The Holy Spirit says, "Let not the sun go down upon your wrath." Anger, Dr. Cox observes, is—

(1) undignifying;

(2) unreasonable;

(3) destructive of that just and useful influence to which we should aspire, and for which every one is naturally capacitated by his position in society;

(4) usually makes a rapid progress;

(5) is productive of great unhappiness;

(6) is a most guilty passion. It is remarked by Robert Hall: "Vindictive passions surround the soul with a sort of turbulent atmosphere, than which nothing can be conceived more opposite to the calm and holy light in which the blessed Spirit loves to dwell."

5. The helplessness of heathenism and of men without God. Babylon's wise men, with all their learning and science, unable either to find direction in their difficulty or deliverance from their danger. Like the mariners in the storm, they are "at their wit's end." They believed the gods could tell the king his dream, but they had no access to them. Their "dwelling is not with flesh." Their gods do not dwell with them, and they confess that they have no converse with them. Thus heathenism, by its own confession, is powerless. Sorry gods, indeed, that cannot approach men, nor be approached by them! Even the great Bel of Babylon unable to help his royal and devoted worshipper. Contrast with this the God of the Bible, "a very present help in trouble," and "near to all who call upon Him in truth." Blessed are the people who know the "mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh;" and that, having been "made flesh" Himself, He can and does dwell with men on the earth. Matthew Henry notices the righteousness of God in causing men who imposed on others by pretending to do what they could not, to be threatened with death for not doing what they did not even pretend to do.

6. The happy privilege of prayer. Access to the throne of grace both the comfort and deliverance of Daniel and his three friends. A noble sight for angels to look down upon, those four young men on their knees, asking believingly, as children of a father, the gracious interposition of the God of heaven on behalf of themselves and others. They knew that for the God of their fathers nothing was too dark to know, nothing too hard to do, nothing too great to grant to His praying children. Nothing really good excluded from the subjects of prayer. "In everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God" (Php ). Even under the law, Moses could appeal to Israel, "What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?" How much nearer under the Gospel! "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, I will do it." "What soever things ye desire when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." "If we ask according to His will, we know that He heareth us; and if we know that He heareth us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions we desire of Him" (1Jn 3:22; 1Jn 5:14-15). The Spirit of God given to help us in prayer, and to teach us to pray for what is according to the divine will (Rom 8:26). Hence—

7. The happiness of the godly. Daniel, though exposed to the same danger as the wise men, is calm and collected. He knew in whom he believed. An example of the text, "He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord." He knew the God of his fathers to be the God "that heareth prayer." The glory of the gospel that it brings the apostolic exhortation into realised experience and actual practice: "Be careful (or anxious) for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known unto God; and the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Such a religion needed by men in the battle of life; and the last-quoted words show how it is to be found,—"through Christ Jesus." Daniel an example of it in the Old Testament; millions such in the New. Tried by men and things as others are, yet kept in a peace to which the world is a stranger,—a peace found in the knowledge and possession of Christ Jesus. "The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge."

8. The special importance of united prayer. Daniel invites his three friends to unite with himself in prayer for the divine interposition. "Two are better than one," no less in prayer than in labour. "If two of you," said the Master, "shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them" (Mat ). So Esther asked her Jewish maids to join their prayers with hers in a time of great emergency. The promised baptism of the Holy Ghost bestowed on the disciples when engaged, as they had been for ten days, in united prayer. Peter's deliverance from prison in answer to the united prayer made by the Church for that object. Those the most valuable friends who are able to join us in our suit at a throne of grace. Dr. Cox remarks on the passage: "While the individual supplication of the ‘righteous man availeth much,' union in prayer is adapted to increase its fervency, and, through grace, to promote its success; and while it is adapted to our social nature and suited to our circumstances of common necessity, it has the express assurance of a divine blessing."

9. A praying man a national benefit. Here are four men, captives in a strange land and occupying the position of slaves, made the means, by their intercession with God, not only of saving the lives of a numerous class of citizens, and of bringing peace and comfort to the troubled mind of the sovereign, but of bringing that heathen king to confess the worthlessness of his idols, and for a time at least to favour the worship of the true God among his subjects. How many national blessings have been bestowed and national calamities averted by the believing prayers of godly men, eternity alone will disclose. A poet reminds us how much the world—

"Receives advantage from his noiseless hours,

Of which she little dreams. Perhaps she owes

Her sunshine and her rain, her blooming spring

And plenteous harvest, to the prayers he makes,

When, lsaac-like, the solitary saint

Walks forth to meditate at eventide,

And thinks on her who thinks not on herself."

10. The special privilege of a godly ancestry. Daniel's privilege that he could address his prayers to God as "the God of his fathers," and then thank and praise Him as such, connecting with that relationship the gracious answer he had received. The title reminds us, as Dr. Cox observes, "that the recollections of piety are the most solemn and endearing that earth can afford. Some are privileged to look back upon an extended succession of holy ancestry, and to recount the names of those who are endeared by relationship as well as distinguished for their faith, who now form a part of the celestial society. Their sun is set, but their example continues to shed its holy twilight around the horizon of life, and cheer them on their pilgrimage." The recollection of such an ancestry at once a stimulus to prayer and a help to faith.


"Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision" (Dan ).

Daniel obtained what he asked of God. Important to inquire, How may we Reason and Scripture teach us that various things are necessary to efficacious prayer. Prayer, to be efficacious, must obviously possess the following conditions. It must be—

1. Offered in faith. This constantly required. "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering: for he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord" (Jas ). "He that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him" (Heb 11:6). The ability to grant on the part of the Giver, as well as His faithfulness if He has promised, must be cordially believed. "Believe ye that I am able to do this?" (Mat 9:28). We must be able to say, "Thine is the power;" and to believe "He is faithful that promised." Daniel prayed in confidence that God was the "Hearer of prayer." "The prayer of faith shall save the sick" (Jas 5:15). "As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee."

2. Earnest. Prayer offered without earnestness only begs a refusal. Daniel prayed as in a matter of life and death. It is the "fervent" prayer that availeth much. "Elijah prayed earnestly that it might not rain, and it rained not" (Jas ). "I will not let Thee go except Thou bless me" (Gen 32:26). "They constrained Him."

3. Importunate and persevering. This the evidence at once of faith and earnestness. Answers to prayer not always, nor often, granted immediately. Prayer to be continued till the answer come. Thus prayed Daniel and his three friends. The disciples in the upper room "continued in prayer and supplication" till they received the promised baptism of fire. The Church prayed for Peter's release till it was granted. To this end Christ spake a parable that "men ought always to pray and not to faint," or give up because the answer is delayed. "Shall not God avenge His own elect who cry day and night unto Him continually, though He bear long with him?" Jesus Himself continued whole nights in prayer to God. Elijah returned to his knees "seven times" before the "little cloud" appeared.

4. From a right motive and for a right end. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (Jas ). God's glory and the good of others as well as ourselves to be our true motive. "Thine is the glory." "Hallowed be Thy name," the first petition taught in the Lord's Prayer. Daniel prayed that men's lives might be saved and God's name glorified. Prayer offered to gratify lust, pride, ambition, covetousness, either unanswered or answered without a blessing. "He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul" (Psa 106:15).

5. Offered with uprightness of heart and life. "Whatever we ask we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments" (1Jn ). The fervent prayer of the "righteous man" that which availeth much. The language of the man born blind that both of Nature and Scripture: "God heareth not sinners; but if any man be a worshipper of God and doeth His will, him He hearth" (Joh 9:31). "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me." "The prayer of the wicked is abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the righteous is His delight." The sinner, however, also heard, if he come confessing himself such and feeling his sin a burden. "God be merciful to me a sinner," a prayer when offered sincerely never returned unanswered. Paul's prayers heard and answered as those of a sinner before they were so as those of a saint. The prayers of a sinner, groaning under his sin, and pleading for pardon and a clean heart, make sweet music in heaven. "Behold, he prayeth."

6. With submission to God's will and desire only for what is according to it. "Thy will be done," the third petition in the Lord's Prayer. The great Teacher Himself an example. "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will, but Thine be done." Prayer without submission to God's will, only the language of rebellion. Prayer for what is not according to God's will better left unanswered. "If we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us" (1Jn ). The work of the Spirit to teach us to pray for what is according to the will of God (Rom 8:26-27). Prayer thus offered never unanswered. Connected with this is—

7. With entire self-surrender. For the submission of the will to God the surrender of our whole self necessary; without such surrender our prayer still that of rebellion. The language of our heart either, "O Lord, I am Thy servant," or, "Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?" Prayer only safely and profitably answered where there is entire self-surrender. Such surrender secures either the blessing asked or something better.

8. In the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ. Daniel, in a recorded prayer of his (chap. 9.), renounces all merit and righteousness of his own as a ground of acceptance, and pleads only to be heard "for the Lord's, that is, Messiah or Christ's, sake." "Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name" (on my account or for my sake), "I will do it." David taught to use the same prevailing plea—"Look upon the face of Thine Anointed" (Psa ). God can refuse no blessing so asked, because He cannot refuse His Son. To plead the name and merits of Christ, however, implies a cordial acceptance of and trust in Him as a Saviour. The consequence of such acceptance and trust is a personal union with Him, and the consequent indwelling of the Spirit as a "Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." With that Spirit we not merely say, "Our Father," but "My Father," and "pray in the Holy Ghost."

Verses 19-23



The part of faith not only to pray but to look out for an answer. Daniel prayed in the firm expectation that, if for God's glory, an answer would be granted. When the answer was given in the vision vouchsafed to him, he was in no doubt about its being such. The vision carried with it the proof of its divine origin. Revelations from God bear their evidence in their own bosom. No need for Daniel to wait till the king identifies his dream. Daniel therefore at once gives thanks and blesses the God of heaven. The text exhibits him at seventeen or eighteen years of age as a beautiful example of elevated piety and devotion, worthy of the mention made of him by the prophet Ezekiel some years afterwards.

In Daniel's thanksgiving we have—

I. The Object of it. This is God, viewed under two aspects.

1. "The God of heaven" (Dan ). All blessings received to be traced immediately to God. The title indicates

(1.) His unity. The one God in contrast with the "gods many "of the heathen. The only God known in heaven, though mysteriously subsisting in a Trinity of persons.

(2.) His supremacy. Heavenly powers and heavenly bodies worshipped by the heathen. Israel's God the God of them all. All in heaven as well as on earth subject to Him as His creatures. Daniel's God not the sun nor the firmament, but He that made both.

(3.) His majesty. Heaven His throne, the earth His footstool. Nations and their sovereigns as nothing before Him. This not to be forgotten in our approaches to Him. Prayer to be addressed to Him as "Our Father, who art in heaven."

(4.) His holiness. Heaven conceived of as the place of purity, untainted by sin. The abode only of pure and holy beings. That holy heaven the place of God's throne and special residence.

(5.) The source and centre of happiness. Heaven the place of blessedness. It is God that makes it such. The "God of heaven" makes heaven what it is. A heaven without God no heaven to holy creatures: "Whom have I in heaven but Thee?"

2. "The God of his fathers" (Dan ). The God known, served, and trusted in by his fathers, from Abraham downwards. A special mercy when the "God of heaven" is also the God of our fathers. Daniel recognises the privilege of having godly, praying ancestors. Answers to prayer and blessings in general to be then viewed in connection with such ancestry. The prayers of godly parents often answered in the blessings bestowed upon their children after them. Children often blessed for the sake of godly forefathers. The prayers of the righteous their children's best inheritance. A special reason as well as encouragement to pray to Him who has been the God of our fathers. "Our fathers trusted in Thee and were delivered," a scriptural and powerful plea in prayer. The God of our fathers likely to be our God too. The promise that comforted Jacob's sorrowful heart on his way to Padanaram (Gen 28:13-15). What God was to our fathers He will be to us, if we take Him and trust Him as our God. "I am the Lord; I change not." The text a powerful argument with parents to make God in Christ their God, so as to hand down the blessing to their children and children's children after them.

II. The Subject of the thanksgiving. The special subject is the answer to prayer vouchsafed. "Who hast given me wisdom," &c. (Dan ). The very thing that Daniel and his friends had asked had been granted—wisdom and power to interpret the king's dream, and so to save the lives of others as well as themselves, as well as to relieve the king's agitation. The thing granted in answer to prayer often the very thing asked. Examples, Eliezer, Hannah, Elijah, Nehemiah. Faith receives either the very thing asked or something better. With thanks for the special blessing vouchsafed, Daniel connects blessing and praise.

1. For what God is.

(1.) Wise. "Wisdom and might are His" (Dan ). Divine wisdom seen in the manner in which all things have been created and in which all things are governed; in the plan of the universe and the means for carrying that plan out. Especially seen in the redemption of fallen mankind by the incarnation and mediatorial work of His own Son. God the only wise. His wisdom contrasted with the pretended wisdom of the wise men of Babylon. That wisdom revealed in part in the king's dream.

(2.) Mighty. "Might" as well as wisdom His. Has power to execute what His wisdom plans. Power as well as wisdom necessary to the government as well as the creation of the universe, and of every, even the smallest portion of it. One object of the king's dream to exhibit the power of God, in opposition to the gods of the heathen and the rulers of the world. Constant reference to this contrast in the descriptions of Jehovah in this book. "It is He, not as the Chaldean kings in their pride fondly imagined, human power, that bestows kingdoms, sets up kings and casts them down, and that changes times." The author of those great changes in the kingdoms of the world which Daniel announced in the interpretation of the king's dream.

(3.) Omniscient. "Knoweth what is in darkness," &c. (Dan ). Able to "reveal the deep and secret things," which the wise men of Babylon, with all their pretension, were unable to do, or their gods to do for them. All things naked and open before Him. No darkness or shadow of death where men may hide themselves from His sight. Hell and the invisible world without a covering before Him. The future as the present within His ken. Sees the end from the beginning. "Known unto Him all His works from the beginning of the world." All history, including the lives and doings of the humblest of His creatures, only the development of His plan formed before the foundation of the world. No mysteries with God. The web of the universe, with its endlessly varied pattern, all before His all-seeing and all-contriving mind from the beginning, and that without any prejudice to the free agency of His intelligent creatures.


"Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven" (Dan ).

Mercies in general, and answers to prayer in particular, call for due acknowledgment. Favours demand returns. A thankless heart a graceless one. "Neither were they thankful," among the marks of man's apostasy from God. Of the ten cleansed lepers, only one "returned to give glory to God." Not much prayer in the world, still less of thanksgiving. A gracious soul not only prays but praises, especially when prayer has been heard and answered. Thanksgiving for answers to prayer doubles the blessing. "More blessed to give than to receive." Thanksgiving both God's right and man's happiness. The want of it a wrong both against God and ourselves. To give thanks not only right and "comely," but "pleasant,"—pleasant both to God and man. The ungodly man prays at times in a way; the godly both prays and gives thanks. Prayer made in hell, though in vain; thanksgiving and praise the employment of heaven.

Daniel's thanksgiving was—

(1.) Prompt. Followed immediately on the bestowment of the blessing. "Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven." Thanks delayed lose half their value. He gives twice who gives quickly. Christ gave thanks even before the answer to His prayer was actually given, though anticipated (Joh ).

(2.) Hearty. Indicated by the language and enlargement on the subject. Heartless thanks not real ones. The thankful leper fell down on his face on giving thanks to Jesus, a thing more like a person asking for a favour than giving thanks for one. Daniel as hearty in his thanks as he had been in his prayers. "I thank thee, O God of my fathers." So the Psalmist: "I will praise thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart; for great has been Thy mercy toward me" (Psa ).

(3.) Full. Daniel copious in his thanksgiving, as in his prayer (ch. 9.). Anxious to omit nothing in describing the blessing received. When God is not stinted in His gifts, we should not be stinted in our thanksgiving.

Verses 24-30



Daniel's thanksgiving to God immediately followed by his testimony to men. Life being at stake, the business required haste. Daniel repairs, therefore, at once to the captain of the guard, informing him he was able to meet the king's wish, and desiring to be admitted to his presence. In answering the king's question, "Art thou able," &c. (Dan ), Daniel verifies the words of the Psalmist, perhaps his own,—"I will speak of thy testimonies before kings, and I will not be ashamed" (Psa 119:46). His testimony includes reference to—

2. The true God. "But there is a God in heaven," &c. (Dan ). Daniel neither ashamed nor afraid to confess God before kings. He declares not merely His superiority to all the gods of Babylon, but His exclusive claim to deity. The wise men spoke of "the gods whose dwelling is not with flesh;" Daniel declares there is but one. The "gods many" of the heathen he tacitly intimates were mere figments, shadows, and worthless dumb idols, neither able to help their worshippers nor themselves. He declares, further, the spirituality and invisibility of the true God, in opposition to those idols that stood in their temples. The God who is able to reveal the king's dream is the God of heaven, the invisible Being whose throne and abode is in heaven, and who fills it with His presence. The proof of His sole and exclusive claim to Godhead about to be given, Elijah's challenge: "The God that answereth by fire, he is the God." Daniel's,—The God that revealeth the king's dream, he and he only is the God.

3. Daniel himself. "As for me," &c. (Dan ). Daniel disclaims any superior wisdom or merit in himself as the ground of his ability to show the king's dream. Ascribes the revelation entirely to God and His good pleasure. God wished to reveal to the king what should hereafter happen to His kingdom and to the world. True excellence always lowly. Apparent room and a strong temptation in the circumstances for Daniel to glory. Daniel's lowliness of mind the very ground of the distinction given him. God "giveth grace to the lowly; the proud He knoweth afar off." Daniel, though young, taught the lesson so difficult to fallen humanity. "He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." No glory due to the best of creatures. "Who maketh thee to differ? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?" Quite natural that Ezekiel should refer to Daniel as an example of piety as well as wisdom.


The high vocation of God's servants and people to bear witness for Him in the world. "Ye are my witnesses" (Isa ). This repeated by Christ to His disciples: "Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem," &c. (Act 1:8). This witness to be borne before all classes as occasion may offer and require. "Ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony" (Mar 13:9). To bear testimony to and for Christ in the world often the cross given a disciple to carry. Sometimes hard enough to do so before friends and neighbours, in the workshop, the market, or the drawing-room. The sneer of the unbelieving its frequent consequence. Sometimes something more than a sneer. "Martyr" literally a "witness," or a witness-bearer. A cruel death in days past the frequent result of faithful witness-bearing. Hence courage necessary to make a consistent Christian. Such courage the offspring of the faith that makes a believer. "This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith" (1Jn 5:4). "Virtue" or courage to be added to "faith" (2Pe 1:5). Hence faith's noble roll of witness-bearers (Hebrews 11.) The "cloud of witnesses" not mere spectators but witness-bearers, who on earth bore faithful testimony for God and His truth. Christ Himself the great witness-bearer,—"who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession." The world to be won to Christ and to God by faithful witness-bearing. The testimony to be borne as well by our life as our lips. Future glory the reward of faithful witness-bearing. "Whoso shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven" (Mat 10:32).

Verses 31-35



With the confidence of a man inspired and commissioned by the Most High, Daniel proceeds to declare the king's dream. The dream one of no ordinary character. Exhibited the fate, not only of the empire of Babylon, but of those which should succeed it. Foreshowed their destruction and the means by which it should be effected. A little mysterious stone, with which the history of the world was bound up, was to accomplish the whole. The dream further unfolded what should ensue after the destruction of those empires. That stone should itself become an empire, and as such should fill the whole earth. A fifth monarchy, totally unlike its predecessors, should take their place, and last for ever. Thus the history of the world to the end of time was summarily comprehended in that dream. It is accordingly receiving its fulfilment at the present moment. Most of it has already been accomplished. The image has long ago been smitten, though not entirely destroyed. A little while and the whole shall be fulfilled. The stone is enlarging and will soon fill the earth. The time not distant when the predicted cry shall be heard in heaven, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ" (Rev ). A vague impression both of the import and importance of the dream made on the king's mind in his sleep, probably the occasion of his perturbation when he awoke. The dream in itself fitted to alarm. A gigantic, dazzling, and terrible image stood before his eyes; then smitten on its feet by an insignificant-looking stone, mysteriously cut out of a mountain without hands; then broken in pieces till it disappeared "like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor." The dream all the more likely to alarm in a country where dreams were believed to have frequently an important meaning, and to foreshow future events, the interpretation of which formed one considerable branch of Chaldee learning. Natural for the king to feel that his dream had a meaning and a mission—a feeling which it was part of the divine purpose to produce, and to which his previous thoughts about the future had doubtless contributed (Dan 2:29). No wonder the king was deeply concerned to discover what that meaning was. The dream consisted of four parts—

3. Terrible in its aspect. An object of terror notwithstanding its brilliancy. The form no further indicated than that it was that of a man. Dr. Rule observes that it would not be "sculptured in relief, but in the full round, and not connected with any other object. It was in form terrible and majestic, and we may also be almost certain that it was in a sitting posture, like the statues of Shalmanezer in the British Museum."

4. Resplendent in its appearance. Its "brightness was excellent." The metals composing it, for the most part, such as to dazzle the eyes of the beholder. So the tempter showed to the Saviour "all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them." This world and its kingdoms something dazzling to the carnal eye. Its contents "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life" (1Jn ). Hence its witchery and its worship.

II. The Stone. Probably to Nebuchadnezzar the most remarkable object in his dream. To him the most alarming; to us the most comforting. That for which the whole dream was given. The stone that on which the happiness of the world and of the universe depends. Six features noticeable in the stone. It was—

1. Mysterious in its origin. "Cut out of a mountain" or rock "without hands." No human power or instrument visible in its extraction. Its existence supernatural, and the result of an invisible superhuman agency. The very existence of Christianity a miracle.

2. Small in its beginning. Smites the image not on the head, nor on the body, but on the feet. From a small beginning it was to grow into a mountain. God's great works generally small in their commencement. The grain of mustard-seed.

3. Humble in its appearance. A rough stone taken out of a quarry, mean and unattractive to look at. Striking contrast in its appearance with that of a dazzling image of gold, silver, brass, and iron. Things not to be judged according to outward appearance.

4. Wonderful in its growth. Stones not naturally things that grow. The peculiarity of this stone that it expanded in its dimensions till it became "a great mountain," filling the whole earth. Progress and ultimate greatness its leading features.

5 Mighty in its effects. Small as at first it was, yet even then mighty enough to break, initially at least, the gigantic image in pieces. This amazing power of the stone doubtless the great disturbing element in the king's dream. The stone given us to rest our hopes for eternity upon, powerful enough to grind the world to powder.

6. Lasting in its duration. No end is ascribed to the stone. That which it symbolised to "stand for ever" (Dan ). Contrasted with the image. That, notwithstanding its dazzling glory and apparent strength, is broken in pieces, carried away by the wind, and vanishes like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor. This, notwithstanding its small beginning and humble appearance, not only outlives the image, but lasts for ever.

III. The Action of the Stone upon the Image. The stone smote the image on its feet and "brake them to pieces" (Dan ). This probably to the king the most alarming part of his dream. Observe in it—

1. The part smitten. "Smote the image on its feet." The blow to be given during the last of the empires symbolised by the image, and that in the period of its mixture and decay, the iron legs having been succeeded by feet of iron and clay. From the corresponding image of the four beasts, the stroke might appear to fall rather on the toes, into which the feet are divided (chap. Dan ).

2. The completeness of the destruction. The image was "broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floor; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them" (Dan ). The effect like that of the corner-stone on its rejecters, "It shall grind him to powder" (Mat 21:44). The same effect indicated by the angel in the Revelation taking up a great stone like a millstone and casting it into the sea, saying, "Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all" (Rev 18:21). So in the corresponding image of the four beasts, "The beast (the fourth one, corresponding with the legs and feet of the image) was slain, and his body destroyed and given to the burning flame" (chap. Dan 7:11).

IV. The Growth of the Stone. "The stone that smote the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan ). This perhaps the most conspicuous and wonderful part of the dream, with which it closes, leaving nothing to be seen by the king but the mysterious mountain-stone now filling all the earth. This the grand development of the dream, and that for which all the rest was intended. This glorious result the hope of the Church and the expectation of a groaning creation (Rom 8:21-22). The finishing of the mystery of providence and redemption. Observe—

1. The character of the growth. Growth either slow and gradual or sudden and rapid. Here not said which. Probably both. Slow and gradual for a time, and then towards the end sudden and rapid, when the stone assumes its mountain proportions. So in the vision of the beasts, it is after the destruction of the fourth beast that the Son of Man appears to be brought before the Ancient of Days, and to have given to Him "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him" (chap. Dan ). The growth into a mountain apparently following upon the destruction of the image, though commencing with the first smiting of it. So in the Revelation with reference to the same event, when the seventh angel sounded, announcing the third and last woe, great voices were heard in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of the Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev 11:15).

2. The completeness of the growth. "It became a mountain and filled the whole earth." No stop to its growth till then. The growth from its commencement not however necessarily uniform. Its earlier period slow, interrupted, and uneven. Often greatly hindered by the image itself. One among the ten toes, or the Little Horn in the head of the fourth beast, its great antagonist. This and the beast itself, or the great image having been destroyed, the growth of the stone rapid and onward till it fills the earth. The growth of the stone as complete as the destruction of the image. "The earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (Hab ; Isa 40:5).

Verses 36-46




From this part of the interpretation of the dream we may notice—

2. The overruling providence of God. History the execution by divine power of a plan which divine wisdom devised. Such execution is providence. Daniel, in his thanksgiving, extolled Jehovah as the God of "wisdom and might," who "changeth the times, and who removeth kings and setteth up kings." He accordingly reminds Nebuchadnezzar that it was He who gave the nations into his hand. He did the same thing with his successors. Plutarch wrote a book about the Fortune of Alexander; but that fortune was only the providence of God regarding that monarch, employing him as His free and responsible instrument, as He had done Cyrus and Nebuchadnezzar before him. "The Lord of hosts mustereth the hosts of the battle," and giveth the victory to whomsoever He will. The providence of God, rather than the boatman, that which carried Csar and all his fortunes. That same providence carries the humblest believer and all that concerns him.

3. The evidence of the truth of revelation. Prophecy no mere guess or clever calculation, whether sage or scientific. As a simple declaration of future events, impenetrable to human foresight, it necessarily partakes of the nature of miracle. Its fulfilment, therefore, the credential of a divine message. Supernatural predictions must either be from above or from beneath. With holiness as their character and their object, they cannot be the latter. Necessarily therefore from above, and as such the testimonial of a messenger sent from God. Appealed to as such by Jesus Himself. "These things have I spoken unto you before they come to pass, that when they are come to pass ye may believe that I am He." The character of the Book of Daniel as inspired Scripture, only attempted to be set aside by the assertion that its prophecies were merely narratives of the past. But these prophecies extended not only up to the times of the Maccabees, but far beyond them, and are receiving their fulfilment at the present day. The simple prediction of four, and only four, universal monarchies, is such, and in itself the evidence of a divinely inspired author.

4. The transient nature of human greatness and glory. These reached their height in the empires of Babylon and Persia, Greece and Rome. Yet the three first and much of the fourth have passed away, leaving only vestiges behind, sufficient to testify their existence. The earth-mounds of Babylon, the petty town of Athens with its fragment-strewn Acropolis, and the wretched remains of the palace of the Csars, all echo the cry of the prophet in our ears, "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, and the flower fadeth, because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass" (Isa ). The contrast that follows is striking: "but the Word of our God shall stand for ever." History and science, observation and experience, constantly verify the declaration. Happy those who, relying on the truths and promises of that Word, secure to themselves, in the possession of that Saviour whom it reveals, a greatness and a glory that shall not pass away.




The stone no less remarkable than the image. The most glorious part of the vision, and to Christians the most interesting. May be considered under three heads: the Stone itself, its Action on the Image, and its Growth and ultimate Greatness.

1. Christ Himself. The "stone of Israel" one of the Old Testament names of the Messiah. The stone laid for a foundation for sinners to build their hopes upon (Isa ). The corner-stone of the spiritual temple (Psa 118:22; Eph 2:20; 1Pe 2:4; 1Pe 2:7). A crushing stone of stumbling to those who reject Him, but a sure and precious foundation to all who accept and trust in Him (Mat 21:42; Mat 21:44). Like the stone "cut out of the mountains without hands" (Dan 2:45), Christ's birth supernatural. Born of a virgin and conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. Humble in circumstances and mean in outward appearance. A "root out of a dry ground, without form or comeliness" (Isa 53:2). His resurrection, or official birth as the Messiah, equally of God (Psa 2:7; Act 13:33). As a stone, he, as God's appointed King of Zion, breaks opposing nations as a potter's vessel (Psa 2:9). In the corresponding vision of the Four Beasts, he who takes the kingdom is "one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven" (chap. Dan 7:13). Applied by Jesus to Himself at the judgment seat of Caiaphas (Mat 26:64). Christ, however, to be viewed as including His people. Christ and believers one (Joh 15:5; Eph 5:30). The head and the members one Christ (1Co 12:12; Rev 11:15). Like the head, the members made such by a supernatural and divine birth (Joh 1:12-13). Believers associated with Christ in His government and judgment of the world (1Co 6:2; Rev 5:10; Rev 20:6; Rev 22:5; Rev 19:14; Revelation 15). Employed as His instruments both of mercy and judgment (2Co 10:4-5; Psa 149:6-9; Jer 51:20-24).

III. Its Growth and ultimate Greatness. The stone, after smiting the image, "became a great mountain and filled the whole earth" (Dan ). The interpretation: "The God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever" (Dan 2:44). In the corresponding vision it is said that to the Son of Man was given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him" (chap. Dan 7:13-14). This growth and greatness of the stone the glorious part of the king's dream; that to which all the previous works of the Almighty, both in creation and providence, pointed; the end, as it is the reward, of the mediatorial undertaking of the Son of God (Php 2:6-11; Isa 53:11); the hope, comfort, and joy of the Church; the deliverance and blessedness of creation; the joyous burden of all the prophets, who testified beforehand "the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow" (1Pe 1:11). In the full enlargement, universal prevalence, and glorious manifestation of that kingdom, which is "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost," we see Satan's head bruised, and paradise restored to a sin-blighted and curse-stricken world; men blessed in Christ and all nations calling Him blessed; earth filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord; a pure language turned upon the people, "so that they shall call upon the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one consent;" Israel saved, and the receiving back of Israel life from the dead to the world at large; the Father's house filled with the sound of music and dancing at the return of the long-lost prodigal son; the whole creation "delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:21-22). The prospect of this blessed consummation and glorious triumph of the kingdom of Christ in the earth, that which has gladdened, animated, and sustained the servants of God while battling with the power of evil in the world, and, as Christ's witnesses, seeking to carry His gospel to the ends of the earth.

"The time of rest, the promised Sabbath, comes,

Six thousand years of sorrow have well nigh

Fulfilled their tardy and disastrous course

Over a sinful world; and what remains

Of this tempestuous state of human things,

Is merely as the working of the sea

Before a calm, that rocks itself to rest.

For He whose ear the winds are, and the clouds

The dust that waits upon His sultry march,

When sin hath moved Him and His wrath is hot,

Shall visit earth in mercy; shall descend

Propitious in His chariot, paved with love;

And what His storms have blasted and defaced

For man's revolt, shall with a smile repair."

From the prophecy of the Stone we may observe—

3. The characteristics of Christ's kingdom.

(1.) Divine in its origin—a "stone cut out of the mountain without hand" (Isa ; Joh 1:12-13).

(2.) Humble in its beginning—a "stone," small, rough, mean, insignificant in its appearance (Isa ; Php 2:8).

(3.) Victorious over all opposition—"breaking to pieces" the opposing kingdoms of the world and "subduing" all to itself (2Co ; Act 5:39).

(4.) Onward in its progress—growing from a little stone into a "great mountain" (Act ; Act 12:24; Act 19:20; Isa 9:7).

(5.) Universal in its ultimate extent—destined to "fill the whole earth" (Psa ; Psa 72:11; Psa 72:17; Php 2:9-10).

(6.) Everlasting in its duration—never to be "destroyed," or to be "left to another people," or succeeded by another kingdom, but to "stand for ever" (Psa ; Rev 11:15; Isa 9:7).

Verses 46-49



III. Daniel's Elevation shared in by his Three Friends (Dan ). At his request they are invested with a charge over the affairs of the province of which he himself was made ruler. Sharers in his prayers, they are made sharers in his promotion. Unlike the chief butler in Egypt, Daniel in his elevation forgat not former friends. So Jesus associates His faithful followers with Himself in His future kingdom. "Ye are they that have continued with me in my temptations, and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as my Father hath appointed unto me" (Luk 22:29). "Thou hast made us unto our God kings and priests, and we shall reign upon the earth." "They lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years" (Rev 5:10; Rev 20:4; Rev 20:6). We may notice from the passage—

1. Prayer often the path to promotion. The elevation of Daniel and his three friends the result of their united prayer for divine illumination. Earnest and believing prayer sooner or later turned into thankful praise. "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." "Promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south; but God is the judge: He putteth down one and setteth, up another" (Psa ). That God also the hearer of prayer (Psa 65:2).

2. Believers' trials only temporary. Daniel and his three friends involved in the trouble and dangers of the wise men in Babylon. Their sorrow soon turned into joy. "To the upright there ariseth light in the darkness" (Psa ; Psa 112:4). "Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take," &c.

3. The troubles of God's people overruled for good to themselves and others. "Daniel's captivity and the trouble in which the king's dream involved him, overruled to his being made ruler over Babylon, and a blessing to his people. Joseph a similar example." "Ye thought evil against me, but God meant it for good" (Gen ). The comfort of God's people in affliction and trouble, that "all things work together for good to them that love God, that are the called according to His purpose" (Rom 8:28). The loss of earthly things, as in the case of Saul and his father's asses, often the gaining of a kingdom.


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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 2:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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