The Prophecies of Daniel – Daniel 2

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Here we continue, again, to look at the prophecies of Daniel.

Outline:

  1. Introduction
  2. Daniel chapter 8
  3. Daniel chapter 7
  4. The little horns and Antiochus
  5. Daniel chapter 2 (this post)
  6. Daniel chapter 9
  7. Matthew 24 – The Olivet Prophecy

The prophecy

The prophecy is this:

  • Nebuchadnezzar saw an image in a dream. The image had the following characteristics:
    • The head was made of gold.
    • The chest and arms were made of silver.
    • The belly and thighs were made of brass.
    • The legs were made of iron, and the feet partly of iron and partly of clay.
  • A stone hit the feet, and the image shattered. The stone grows and fills the earth.

The interpretation

  • The head of gold was Nebuchadnezzar, and, by extension, his empire.
  • The silver chest and arms were a kingdom to follow his.
  • Then would come a kingdom represented by the brass belly/thighs.
  • The next kingdom was represented by the iron legs, and would be divided.
  • They would be replaced by the kingdom of God.
Daniel 2 Image Unveiled

Daniel 2 explained, adapted from FreeBibleImages, CC BY-NC 4.0

My interpretation

  • Head of gold – Babylonian empire, from 609 to 539 BC
  • Chest and arms of silver – Medo-Persian empire, from 539 to 330 BC
  • Belly and thighs of brass – Greek empire, from 330 to 323 BC
  • Legs of iron and feet of clay/iron – Seleucid empire, from 312 to 63 BC, with the other leg being the Ptolemaic empire
  • The kings of the north (Seleucid) and the south (Ptolemaic) would fight back and forth, dividing Judaea.
  • Rock – Christ, who brings his kingdom in its infancy, which grows over time and ultimately, after his return, rules the universe.

The Greek empire and why it differs from the Seleucid empire

Daniel 8 establishes the Greek kingdom as an independent entity within these prophecies. We should therefore conclude that it plays a legitimate role in the prophecies, even though its rule over Israel was short, from the time Alexander the Great conquered the Medo-Persian kingdom, until the death of Alexander and the division into four by his generals.

Map of the breakup of the Greek empire

Map of the breakup of the Greek empire, by Captain Blood, [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some don’t differentiate between the Greek kingdom and the four that followed, but in my view, the prophecies separate out those four, with one holding the main power. If the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdom are to merely be called “Greece“, we’re left with a situation where “Greece” is fighting with “Greece” over Israel, with a king of the north (the Seleucid “Greek” king) fighting with a king of the south (the Ptolemaic “Greek” king). The chapters that follow Daniel 7-9 deal in more detail with the king of the north and the king of the south, and describe the interactions between the Seleucid king and the Ptolemaic king well – and, in fact, provide even more detail about Antiochus that fits him well.

Daniel 8:22 explicitly calls “kingdoms” the four entities (horns) that arose after the death of the first king (horn). Therefore I conclude that they are truly classified as separate kingdoms for the purpose of this prophecy, and need to be considered as independent legitimate kingdoms in the other prophecies, which I’ll deal with in subsequent posts. Verse 23, in the KJV, uses the singular word “their kingdom“, but it’s plural in Hebrew, so “their kingdom” in the KJV simply means “their reign” or “their rule“. Jeremiah 10:7 uses the identical word in the plural – “their kingdoms“, and the Septuagint translates both as plural. The word can just as easily be translated “their rule” (which covers both singular and plural), and is the usage in more modern translations. So verse 23 poses no problem to considering the four kingdoms separate kingdoms in their own prophetic right.

Furthermore, the actual Greek Macedonian empire in Greece continued under the continued Macedonian kingdom, which was located in Greece, and had nothing to do with Israel or God’s people after the larger Macedonian kingdom broke up when Alexander the Great died.

Alternative interpretations

The Sacrificial Lamb - Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

The Sacrificial Lamb – Josefa de Ayala, ca 1670

Many people consider the final kingdom of Daniel 2 to be Rome. That is possible, but only if the timeline of Daniel 2 is different to that of Daniel 7-9. As I’ve shown in the previous posts, Daniel 7 ends with the ascension of Christ into heaven. It is true that at that time, Rome ruled Judaea, but Rome’s persecution of Jews and Christians was not yet apparent, and would become so later, and be depicted, perhaps, in Revelation. I believe Daniel’s prophecies form a compound description / prophecy of a single timeline, which ends prior to the Rock, Christ in his first appearance on earth. The Rock destroys the hold that the kingdoms of man have over Israel, and ushers in the kingdom of God in its infancy.

One can argue that it was during the rule of Rome that Christ came, and therefore the final kingdom must be Rome. One can also argue that the final kingdom started winding down with the abomination of desolation, after which came Christ, after whom came Roman persecution that is covered in another set of apocalyptic writing – Revelation.

Council of Trent in Santa Maria Maggiore church, Museo Diocesano Tridentino, Trento (Italy)

Council of Trent in Santa Maria Maggiore church, Museo Diocesano Tridentino, Trento (Italy)

Taylor Marshall has a blog post about his views here. He conflates the Greek and Seleucid empires, and the Roman empire he has as the final one, struck by the rock. The rock, however, he links to Peter, Kephas, the person named rock by Christ (just as Abraham is in Isaiah 51), the prime minister, in a way, left in charge by Christ when he returned to heaven. It’s a possibility, but I find it to be a bit of a stretch, unless only as a secondary interpretation.

I think one can hold either view – Rome or Seleucids – but if there are 4 kingdoms in Daniel 7 and four in Daniel 2, and Daniel is internally consistent with a single timeline, then for me, the fourth kingdom must be the Seleucids, with the persecution by Antiochus Epiphanes. For me, there are several inconsistencies with the Rome theory, and none with the Seleucid theory.

The two views fit nicely, though, in this way:

  • Rome as the 4th kingdom:
    • Daniel ends with Rome and Revelation starts with Rome, with Jesus at the end of Daniel and the beginning of Revelation
  • Seleucids as the 4th kingdom:
    • Daniel ends – break – Jesus appears – break – Revelation begins (Roman persecution)

When I get to the next series of posts on prophecy, I’ll deal with Revelation. If the 4th beast in Daniel 7 is Rome, it will correlate with one of the beast in Revelation.

Further reading

The Roman Church as Prophesied in the Old Testament … by Dr Taylor Marshall
The Prophecy of Daniel Two … by Kurt Simmons
Daniel 2 … Wikipedia
Daniel 2 Prophecy Regarding the Catholic Church … Catholic Answers Forums

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