Daniel 2

DateVersionReading Plan
@October 11, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
  • God Reveals Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream
  • Daniel Interprets the Dream
  • Daniel is Promoted


The chapter opens with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, having dreams the troubled his spirit. In Gen 41:8, the ruler of Egypt (the Pharaoh) is similarly troubled by a dream. Daniel will assist Nebuchadnezzar in understanding the dream just as Joseph did for Pharaoh. The lives and careers of Joseph and Daniel have many parallels: Both figures were carried against their will into the service of a foreign ruler; both were viewed as pious, God-fearing Jews who sought to live righteously in a strange land; both have been upheld as paragons of virtue for Jews in similar circumstances; both are also portrayed as interpreters of dreams.

In Dan. 2:2-11, the king “commanded the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned” to tell him his dream and its interpretation. The Chaldeans responded the king “in Aramaic” that he should tell them the dream so that they could interpret. This switch to Aramaic begins here at Dan. 2:4 and extends to Dan. 7:28. The surrounding linguistic structure of the book is in Hebrew. The king first gives the negative consequences of not making known the dream’s interpretation (being torn limb from limb and houses laid in ruins – Dan. 2:5) and then the positive reward of correct interpretation (gifts and great honor – Dan. 2:6). Dumfounded by the king’s request, the magicians and advisors stall to gain time to formulate an alternative plan (Dan. 2:7). The king, wise to their ploy, reiterates that their failure to interpret the dream will result in their death (Dan. 2:9). The Chaldeans answer a final time that “there is not a man on earth who can meet the king’s demand” (Dan. 2:10), setting up a deliberate contrast between the impotent Babylonian religious figures, representing powerless gods, and Daniel who represented the all-powerful God of Israel.

In Dan. 2:12-16, the king responded in anger and decreed that all wise men were to be killed. In this, they sought Daniel and his companions to kill them (Dan. 2:13). Daniel replied “with prudence and discretion” to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard assigned to the carry out the decree, and requested the king’s audience to interpret his dream (Dan. 2:14-16). Up to this point, Daniel had not interpreted any dreams or visions. Yet his faith in Yahweh was so great that he arranged to explain the interpretation to the king, confident that he would be given the supernatural ability to do so.

In Dan. 2:17-23, Daniel told his three companions to “seek mercy from the God of heaven” concerning the mystery of the dream interpretation so as not to be “destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.” (Dan. 2:17). The mystery is then revealed to Daniel in “vision of the night” who answered the revelation in praise and blessing of “the name of God” (Dan. 2:19-20).

In Dan. 2:24-30, Daniel told Arioch to halt the destruction of the Babylonian wise men and that he would show the king the interpretation of his dream (Dan. 2:24). Daniel is brought to the king who asked Daniel if he is able to make known the dream’s interpretation (Dan. 2:26). The first part of Daniel’s response was the clarify the complete ineffectiveness magicians and enchanters and then contrasts this with the true God who “reveals mysteries” (Dan. 2:28). Daniel also points out that it was Nebuchadnezzar—rather than himself—who was the recipient of the dream and its revelation (Dan. 2:29). Daniel clarifies that the reason why the dream’s interpretation was made known to him (Daniel) was not because of his wisdom but so that its interpretation would be made known to the king (Dan. 2:30).

Dan. 2:31-45 is Daniel’s description and interpretation of the dream. Daniel interpreted the parts of the colossal statue to represent four empires in historical succession. The head represented the kingdom of Babylon (605–539 BC). The chest and arms symbolized the Medo-Persian Empire (539–331 BC). The stomach and thighs stood for the Greek Empire (331–146 BC). The legs referred to the Roman Empire (146 BC–AD 1476 in the West and AD 1453 in the East). The feet were mixed of iron and clay and represented a future continuation or revival of Rome. The material of each section of the statue decreased in value but increased in strength (except for the feet; see Dan. 42–43). The decreased value may symbolize the moral decline of each succeeding kingdom. The increased strength refers to the harsher domination each successive kingdom would impose on its subjects.

The final section (Dan. 2:46-49) is the king’s reaction to Daniel’s interpretation in falling upon his face and paying homage to Daniel. In this, the king recognized the God of Israel as part of the pantheon of gods but not as the one and only true God. Nebuchadnezzar gave Daniel “high honors and many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (Dan. 2:48). Daniel then requested that his three companions be deputized as assistants “over the the affairs of the province” while Daniel remained “in the king’s court” (Dan. 2:49).


In this very large chapter, king Nebuchadnezzar has a troubling dream and calls for its interpretation. The magicians and enchanters are unable to interpret, angering the king and leading to the command that all wise men are to be killed. Daniel and his companions are included in this death decree, so Daniel sets up a time to meet with the king, sure that his God would give him the ability to interpret. Daniel tells his companions to seek mercy from God to reveal the mystery of the dream which then comes to him in a vision of the night. Daniel praises God, meets with the king, recounts his dream, gives the interpretation and is promoted to rule over the province of Babylon. Daniel appoints his companions as assistants and remains in the king’s court.

There is so much to unpack here, but it was the order of things that seemed most fascinating. First, Daniel’s initial move was to make the appointment with the king. He hadn’t even received the interpretation but was so sure of God’s ability to reveal it that he made it without hesitation. This is an inspiring level of faith.

Daniel’s next move was to make the matter known to his companions and telling them to seek mercy from God in revealing the mystery and that the rest of the wise men of Babylon not be destroyed. This is a wonderful example of seeking others and requesting their prayerful guidance. Without question we are to go to the Lord directly ourselves, but this also points to the need for and power of communal prayer.

The next thing we see following the commission of Daniel’s companions is that the mystery is revealed. This is a clear model showing how God answers prayers. They may not come in the manner or timing we want, but His answers are always perfect and work to maximize His glory. It also points to our need to be in constant prayer, professing a heart of incessant need and acknowledging our Lord as the Provider of all things.

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