DANIEL'S CAPTIVITY

AND

RISE TO POWER IN BABYLON

DANIEL 1 - 2

 

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1:1-4

In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king's court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans.

From II Kings 24:21, we learn that Jehoiakim, king of Judah, had already agreed to submit to Nebuchadnezzar and had been serving him for three years.  Jehoiakim, however, changed his mind and rebelled causing Nebuchadnezzar to come against Jerusalem and lay siege to it. After successfully conquering the city, Nebuchadnezzar decided to take captives of the brightest and best of the youth of the Jews and bring them back to Babylon to serve him. Thus, in the sovereign plan of God, the stage was set for Daniel, one of God's greatest saints, to put an indelible mark on human history by greatly impacting the Babylonian, Persian and Medo-Persian empires. Daniel's life and writings would impact the Jewish people as well and, ultimately, every child of God all the way down to our present day. We learn from Daniel's book that God is a great and sovereign God. His ways are higher than the heavens and his purposes are beyond finding out. He is mysterious and wonderful and that his children can trust him in their darkest hours. He rules over the affairs of men. He is in control. He takes care of his own. As we have it in Isaiah 55:8-9,

'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' declares the LORD. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.'

And again, in Romans 8:28,

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

I repeat, our God works his own perfect will in the affairs of nations and men and in the lives of his children. As you have it in Ephesians 1:11,

..also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will...

Someone might say, "But, what about all the Christians that are being slaughtered by Islam around the world? And especially by ISIS in Iraq and north Africa? Is God taking care of his own where they are concerned?" The answer is, "Yes", beloved. Absolutely. Awful as these atrocities are, our God is still in control. As Jesus put it in Matthew 10:28,

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

One moment, a saint is in the merciless hands of murderers ... the next moment, he or she find themselves in the loving arms of Jesus ... never again to suffer pain or fear or anything else for all eternity. For additional thought, you might like to study the martyrs of the 5th Seal Judgment found in Revelation 6. We learn there that many believers will lose their lives during the coming awful days of the Tribulation on earth.  During those dark days, they will be arriving by the score in Heaven where they will be seen as highly valued sacrifices for Christ and will and their blood will ultimately be throughly avenged by their just and comforting Savior.

And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held:
And they cried with a loud voice, saying, How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth? And white robes were given unto every one of them; and it was said unto them, that they should rest yet for a little season, until their fellowservants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled. Rev. 6:9-11

Coming back to our text, notice that Nebuchadnezzar confiscated many of the golden vessels from God's house (the temple at Jerusalem), and took them to the house of his god in Babylon. This seemingly insignificant act set the stage for his son, Belshazzar, to one day stupidly use these sacred items for dinner utensils at a drunken orgy he would throw. That resulted in the miraculous handwriting on the wall intervention by the true and living God at that event, resulting in the fall of the Babylonian Empire that same night ... and ending the pure Babylonian reign ... delivering its territories into the hands of Darius the Mede. The name, Darius, there, was more of a title than a name and probably refers to Cyrus's son, Cambyses. We will read more about him when we get to chapter 5. But, again, the lesson to be grasped here is that our God is sovereign over nations and men and the lives of his people. We see this clearly being worked out in the lives of Daniel and his friends. As you have it in Psalm 37:23,

The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord: and he delights in his way.

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1:5-7

The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king's choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king's personal service. Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah, Shadrach, to Mishael, Meshach and to Azariah, Abed-nego.

Of all the captives taken to Babylon, these four young Hebrews were the crème de la crème. And, Nebuchadnezzar ordered that they were to eat and drink the best of the best ... the food and drink from his own table. They were being groomed to be a part of the elite of Babylon, you see, which explains the intense jealousy of the Chaldeans of the court that we will read about a bit later on. Also, accordingly, these four young men were assigned new names. How difficult that must have been for these devout young Hebrews. Each of their Hebrew names, consisted of a form of the name of the true and living God. But, from this time on, their new Chaldean names would contain a form of the name of one of the dumb idols of Babylon (4:8) instead!

Let's step aside here for a moment. When God delivered the Jews from captivity in Egypt, they were just a bunch of old idol worshipers. So, when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the Law, you will remember that the people promptly built themselves a golden calf to worship. The Jewish people would never shake that evil and stupid tendency of idol worship until the days of which we are reading ... the days of their final captivity in Babylon. Up until that time, idol worship dogged them throughout their history. It was idol worship that led to the annihilation and captivity of the northern kingdom of Israel by the Assyrians in 722 BC. And, it was idol worship that led to the subsequent annihilation of the southern kingdom of Judah, by these Babylonians in 586. Now, believe you me, all the Jews who survived those great calamities had really gotten their noses rubbed in their sins of idolatry! After the days of this Babylonian captivity, the Lord's command ... Thou shalt have no other gods before me ... took on a new meaning for his chosen people. As a result, following their Babylonian captivity, from that day to this, the Jewish people have never again gotten themselves entangled in idol worship. They had had the cure!

May we step aside? Sometimes the cure for a besetting sin in one's life is akin to what these Jews experienced. Our God just keeps rubbing our noses in it until we become so sick of it that, ever after, we don't want to have anything more to do with it. However, that's learning the hard way, brother ... is it not? Nevertheless, whatever works, aye? God often uses the terrible consequences of sin to bring about its cure in the lives of his people. In the book of Genesis, the experiences of Jacob and his bent to always be scheming, conniving, deceiving and stealing comes to mind.

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1:8-16

But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king's choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself. Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials, and the commander of the officials said to Daniel, 'I am afraid of my lord the king, who has appointed your food and your drink; for why should he see your faces looking more haggard than the youths who are your own age? Then you would make me forfeit my head to the king.' But Daniel said to the overseer whom the commander of the officials had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, 'Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king's choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.' So he listened to them in this matter and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king's choice food. So the overseer continued to withhold their choice food and the wine they were to drink, and kept giving them vegetables.

Daniel greatly valued and carefully kept the covenant his God had made with the Hebrew people in the days of Moses. To him  and his friends, God's Law was paramount. They were horrified at the thought of disobeying any part of the Law of their God ... and, to eat of the king's food, meant they would have to do just that. Doubtless, Nebuchadnezzar's table contained things that were forbidden to the Jews in God's Law. So, if they ate them, they would be defiled and cut off from their God. To Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah ... that was unthinkable. These young Hebrews were totally committed to their God. The level of that commitment will be greatly magnified when we come to the story of the fiery furnace in chapter 3.

So, Daniel and his three friends, set about to find a way not to depart from the dietary requirements of their God ... as set down in his Word (if you would like to read up on these requirements, they can be found in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14). The Babylonians were under no such laws and, therefore, had no compunction whatever about anything they might eat. They indulged in partaking of many foods that had been forbidden to the people of God. So, quickly, Daniel and his fellows, came up with a plan. Through Daniel, they requested their overseer that they be allowed to eat only vegetables for ten days. Their request frightened Nebuchadnezzar's officer, however, because the food he was supposed to give to these young men had been ordered by the king himself ... food and drink from the king's own table. To disobey, he told Daniel, would be to forfeit my head! However, God's sovereign hand intervened. Our text says, God granted Daniel favor with the man and he went ahead and allowed Daniel's plan to be tried. Does that surprise you? It does me. Amazing! Under the hand of Almighty God, this high officer of the Babylonian court made a decision contrary to the direct edict of his king which ... if found out ... or if it backfired ... would have cost him his own life. God can certainly turn a mind, can he not? As you have it in Proverbs 16:7,

When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

And again, in Romans 8:31b,

If God be for us, who can be against?

And, again, in Proverbs 56:9,

He keeps the paths of judgment and preserves the way of his saints.

So, the overseer agreed to the food and the test period suggested by Daniel that he and his friends be allowed to eat only vegetables for ten days. And, when the period had expired, Daniel and his friend were found not only to be the picture of health but even better than all the other captives,who had ignored the Law of their God and had been eating the delicacies of the king's table! God is good. Is he not? He takes care of his own, especially those who go out on a limb for him.

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1:17-21

As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams. Then at the end of the days which the king had specified for presenting them, the commander of the officials presented them before Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and out of them all not one was found like Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so they entered the king's personal service. As for every matter of wisdom and understanding about which the king consulted them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and conjurers who were in all his realm. And Daniel continued until the first year of Cyrus the king.

Wow. You know, when God gives someone understanding, knowledge and wisdom ... it's a wonderful thing to behold. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians,

...we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding... Colossians 1:9b

Am I reading that right? Is that saying that the capacity of a believer to be filled with the knowledge of God's will and receiving all spiritual wisdom and understanding is predicated on whether or not God decides to give it? Exactly. Therefore, if you and I really want to get to know God ... it must be desired and asked for. It is a matter of prayer ... individually ... as well as by others on our behalf. Right? Right. Has anyone ever prayed like that for you, dear saint? I hope so ... even as I hope so for myself, as well. If God grants it, then, it is very important to give him all the glory because, what do any of us have that we have not received from him? Real knowledge, real understanding and real wisdom always come from the wonderful hand of our great and loving God ... via his Spirit and his Word ... and as a result of desire and prayer. The importance of this cannot be underestimated.

Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies,
         For they are ever mine.
  I have more insight than all my teachers,
         For Your testimonies are my meditation.
  I understand more than the aged,
         Because I have observed Your precepts. Psalm 119:98-100

Because Daniel and his friends put God first, he imparted to them great understanding, knowledge and wisdom in that far off and unfamiliar land of their captivity. In fact, they probably received far more from the hand of their God in Babylon than they might ever have had they been left comfortably back home. God gave them a supernatural grasp of the Chaldean language, culture and knowledge that exceeded by a factor of ten ... the knowledge of the native "Intelligencia" of Nebuchadnezzar's court. Consequently, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah knew more and were far wiser than all the other wise men that served king Nebuchadnezzar and he promoted them accordingly. All praise be to God from whom all blessings flow. Amen?

This brings a thought to mind. You and I, like Daniel and his friends, are living in a distant and foreign land ... down here on planet Earth. We are far from our home in Heaven. We reside down here in a great dark pagan kingdom that is ruled by the Prince of Darkness. However, our Lord has promised to supply all that we need for our sojourn down here if, like Daniel and his friends, we covenant in our hearts to walk closely with him (John 15).

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

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Now, allow me to lay out a bit of historical groundwork before we begin our study of this next passage. It is needed so we can orient our thinking in regard to God's broad plan in human history. An incredible shift took place in Daniel's time ... a major shift in God's sovereign plan for his people and for our world. I personally believe that, time-wise, it took place right in the midst of Daniel's writing of the passage of which we are about to study ... specifically ... as he was penning verse 4. 

 

When God chose the Jewish people for his own, he entered into a covenant with them. He would be their God and they would be his people. Part of that agreement, from his side, was that he would literally dwell among them. So, when the covenant was in place, and Moses and the people of Israel had finished building the tabernacle in the wilderness, God Himself came down to Earth and took up his dwelling place there ... right in the midst of his people. At that exact point in time, a Theocracy existed on the earth and God Himself dwelt at a specific location here. His dwelling place was within the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the Tabernacle of Moses. When it moved ... God moved. Later, when Solomon finished building a permanent house for God, the Temple at Jerusalem, we read that God's presence moved from its temporary residence inside Moses' portable Tabernacle to his permanent dwelling place within the Holy of Holies (naos) inside of Solomon's Temple. Now, everyone knows that the true and living God cannot be confined to any one place. Solomon himself acknowledged that fact in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple.

 

But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! ... that Your eyes may be open toward this house night and day, toward the place of which You have said, 'My name shall be there,' to listen to the prayer which Your servant shall pray toward this place. I Kings 8:27,29

 

Nevertheless, in a very wonderful and mysterious way that you and I cannot fully understand (similar to trying to explain the Trinity), God did, in fact, take up his central dwelling place within Solomon's Temple ... just as he had previously done in Moses' Tabernacle. Furthermore, he continued dwelling there in the midst of his chosen people for several hundred years. As you have it in Exodus and I Chronicles,

 

Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Exodus 40:34-35

Now when Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the LORD because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. I Chronicles 7:1-2 (KJV)

I say all of this because that amazing reality ... The Earthly Theocracy ... that unprecedented phenomena of the living God Himself ... literally dwelling on earth in the midst of his people, Israel ... came to an end during the days of Daniel and Ezekiel's captivity in Babylon. Further, the prophet Ezekiel actually witnessed the Lord's departure from the earth to return to Heaven ... having been transported by God's Spirit back to the destroyed Temple at Jerusalem to witness it. This was a remarkable experience for Ezekiel and its significance cannot be over emphasized. Let's look at it together ... in sequence ... from the book of Ezekiel.

  Ezekiel 8:4-5 ...  He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located. And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain.

  Ezekiel 10:4-5 ... Then the glory of the LORD went up from the cherub to the threshold of the temple, and the temple was filled with the cloud and the court was filled with the brightness of the glory of the LORD. Moreover, the sound of the wings of the cherubim was heard as far as the outer court, like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks.

   Ezekiel 10:18-19 ... Then the glory of the LORD departed from the threshold of the temple and stood over the cherubim. When the cherubim departed, they lifted their wings and rose up from the earth in my sight with the wheels beside them; and they stood still at the entrance of the east gate of the LORD'S house, and the glory of the God of Israel hovered over them.

   Ezekiel 11:23 ... The glory of the LORD went up from the midst of the city and stood over the mountain which is east of the city.

What Ezekiel observed was the actual departure of the God of Glory (cherubim and all) from his dwelling place at the then destroyed Temple at Jerusalem. Almost all the Jews were gone from the land and scattered. Jerusalem was deserted. The northern kingdom of Israel had been given into the hands of the Assyrians ... to this day, referred to as the ten lost tribes of Israel. The southern kingdom of Judah had followed in the footsteps of its northern brother and had been given into the hands of the Babylonians. The city of Jerusalem ... had been literally plowed by Nebuchadnezzar, its Temple destroyed, and, where the Holy of Holies had once stood, apparently, someone had set up a blasphemous idol! The presence of the God of Israel, however, was still right there at his dwelling place ... midst the ruins of the Holy of Holies ... which had now become the seat of the idol of jealousy. What an utterly tragic, desolate and forlorn picture greeted the eyes of Ezekiel on that day!

As Ezekiel looked on, suddenly he saw the Glory of the Lord lift from its dwelling place among the ruins ... accompanied by the thunderous sound of Cherubim wings ... like the voice of Almighty God when He speaks. Cherubim, by the way, are creatures that were specifically created for the protection and moving of the throne of God. You can find a discussion of them in my commentary on Revelation in chapter one at http://biblebookofrevelation.com/ch1.htm.

As Ezekiel continued to watch, the Glory of the Lord, slowly, reluctantly, it seems, rose up and and, then, moved away from the site of the Holy of Holies. Then, he watched it move off to the entrance of the east gate of the LORD'S house. This is significant, by the way, because it is the exact path, in reverse, that Jesus will one day take when he returns to this exact same spot! As Ezekiel continued to watch, it then lifted up and slowly moved off out over the destroyed city ... crossing over the Kidron Valley and moving up to hover above the Mount of Olives. Ezekiel was then whisked away back to Babylon and the Glory of the Lord was last seen ... still hovering there ... above the Mount of Olives. It was a scene for weeping. The word, Ichabod, comes to mind, from I Samuel 4:21. That Hebrew word means, the glory of the Lord has departed and, indeed, it had done just that. The fact that the Lord was last seen hovering over the Mount of Olives was, in my mind, prophetically pregnant with meaning ... for it would be from that very place, that one day the  Lord of Glory, Israel's Messiah, would leave his people once again ... from that very exact spot ... to ascend back into Heaven once again, having been crucified and , once again, utterly rejected by Israel. As you have it in Acts 1:9-12a,

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.' Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet ...

What I'm trying to get at here is very important. The time period that Jesus called, the times of the gentiles, in Luke 21:24, began on Earth when the Lord of Glory departed from Jerusalem during Ezekiel and Daniel's day. At that time, the first great gentile nation, Babylon, assumed center stage in world history ... whereas, before, Israel and the presence of their God had been center stage. So, from that day to this, gentile kingdoms have come and gone ... dominating the earth. We are still living today in that time period. It is an era in the economy of God that is still running its course and will continue to do so until the Lord of Glory returns again to our world. When that occurs, at the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christ himself will return to the exact spot from which he left the Mount of Olives two times before ... once in Ezekiel and Daniel's day ... and once again, after his resurrection in Peter and Paul's day. He is scheduled to set his feet there on the Mount of Olives, once again. Then, he will cross over the Kidron Valley and enter back through the eastern gate of Jerusalem ... and on through the east gate of his Temple to ...  suddenly come to his temple (Malachi 3:1).

The moment Christ Jesus sets foot on the Mount of Olives, the times of the gentiles will have come to an end and, from that day forward, there will once again be a Theocracy right here on Earth ... and the long awaited Kingdom of our God and His Christ will reign supreme. It will be a Theocracy and Kingdom that will cover the entire world and Christ will rule and reign here for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4). As we have it in Zechariah 14:3-4, 8-9,

Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.

 

And in that day living waters will flow out of Jerusalem, half of them toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea; it will be in summer as well as in winter. And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one...

 

To sum up, I believe that just as Daniel was writing this very passage we are about to look at ... probably at the exact moment when he began to write in Aramaic, rather than Hebrew, right at verse four ... the Glory of the Lord began to depart back to Heaven from Jerusalem and the times of the gentiles commenced on Earth. Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylon then came to full bloom, and the theocratic Israel ... no longer existed. The Glory of the Lord was gone from Jerusalem ... and, the times of the gentiles had begun ... and Nebuchadnezzar had a dream. Now, let's look at our passage.

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2:1-12

 

Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. Then the king gave orders to call in the magicians, the conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came in and stood before the king. The king said to them, 'I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to understand the dream.' Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: 'O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.' The king replied to the Chaldeans, 'The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap. But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.' They answered a second time and said, "Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.' The king replied, 'I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm, that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you for you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.' The Chaldeans answered the king and said, 'There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has ever asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean. Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.' Because of this the king became indignant and very furious and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

 

Daniel, chapter 2, is one of the great prophetic chapters of the Bible. The scepter of David had been removed and placed into Gentile hands. It will not be taken back again until "nail pierced" hands take it back. Accordingly, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, received a dream from God. It was not your "run of the mill" dream. He must have awakened in a sweat. It troubled him so much that he couldn't go back to sleep. The dream was of such a nature that Nebuchadnezzar knew immediately that it was of supernatural origin. Therefore, anxious to understand the dream, he quickly summoned anyone and everyone in his realm who claimed to have metaphysical powers, wisdom or knowledge ... to come before him. Four groups responded to the call ... the magicians, conjurers, the sorcerers and the Chaldeans.

 

[A side note here: the Chaldeans were a people that had conquered and occupied the land of Babylon, long before it was called Babylon. Technically, they were not Babylonians. Hence they were a distinct group within Babylonian society and were fiercely jealous of their origins and positions in the kingdom.]

 

Now, Nebuchadnezzar was wise in not telling his dream to all these fellows that showed up. Rather, he insisted that they tell him both his dream and its interpretation. He didn't want to be "bamboozled," you see. He knew his dream was of such import that he dare not risk putting it into the hands of "fly by night" charlatans. The magicians, conjurers, sorcerers and Chaldeans were equivalent to our modern day astrologers, mediums, palm readers, psychics and so on, So, it was wise of Nebuchadnezzar to put them to the test before he accepted any interpretation from them.

 

Let's step aside here a moment. You know, millions of dollars are spent around the world today on similar kinds of hocus pocums. I recall one Internet site that, for $36, offered to tell people about their "past lives". What utter balderdash. Nebuchadnezzar's principle of "you tell me my dream first ... then I'll listen to what you have to say" ... was a great, and not unreasonable test and would be a good principle for the gullible to follow today. Why not test those charlatans? They claim to be "in touch" with the supernatural. Make them prove it. Nebuchadnezzar did. He called their hand on it. He wanted to know the truth. He didn't want a bunch of malarkey! His so called "wise men" objected vociferously. They said ... Listen, dear king, you're being unreasonable ... no great king or ruler has ever asked such a thing before and there is not a man on earth who could declare your dream without hearing it first! Only the gods could do what you are asking. That statement was probably the closest to the truth that any of these fellows had ever come up with before. Their argument, however, fell on deaf ears and, with great fury, Nebuchadnezzar simply ordered them all to be killed!

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2:13-16

 

So the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they looked for Daniel and his friends to kill them. Then Daniel replied with discretion and discernment to Arioch, the captain of the king's bodyguard, who had gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon; he said to Arioch, the king's commander, 'For what reason is the decree from the king so urgent?' Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. So Daniel went in and requested of the king that he would give him time, in order that he might declare the interpretation to the king.

Even though they were still in training, Daniel and his friends found themselves lumped in with all the other wise men of Babylon that the king's decree had scheduled for execution. Hence, Arioch, the king's commander, arrived on their doorstep to do his job and kill them. Daniel, however, managed to acquire an immediate audience with Nebuchadnezzar. I admire Daniel's coolness and confidence. Basically, he simply said to Nebuchadnezzar, Give me a little time and I'll tell you your dream and its interpretation. Was he just buying time? I think not. Daniel knew that all he and his friends needed to do was simply tell their need to their God and he would handle the rest. It's a wonderful thing to observe a believer who operates on this level, by the way ... a child of God who is mature enough not to panic but to lay everything at the feet of their Lord and then leave it there. That is a demonstration of real faith ... relationship and maturity at work in shoe-leather. Beloved, every believer must learn to put the ball in God's court and leave it there. Then, let whatever comes, come. As we have it in I Peter 5:7,

Casting all your care on him for he cares for you

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2:17-23

Then Daniel went to his house and informed his friends, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, about the matter, so that they might request compassion from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his friends would not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven; Daniel said,

         'Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever,
         For wisdom and power belong to Him.
         It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
         He removes kings and establishes kings;
         He gives wisdom to wise men
         And knowledge to men of understanding.
         It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things;
         He knows what is in the darkness,
         And the light dwells with Him.
         To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise,
         For You have given me wisdom and power;
         Even now You have made known to me what we requested of You,
         For
You have made known to us the king's matter.'

This is one of the great praises of the Bible. It truly needs to be read and re-read and cries out to be meditated upon. As I was in the midst of writing this chapter, Daniel's inspired praise really spoke to me. It's a prayer of the Spirit, you see. It rings like a great golden bell of truth. Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever. It is so easy for us, children of the living God, to think that we know something ... that we have "discovered" something ... that we can teach something ... perhaps that we can even write something of truth and importance ... that we have something to offer that came from us ... our ability to understand ... our study ... our training ... our insight ... but, beloved, may I say to you, if you or I know anything, understand anything, or have any degree of knowledge or wisdom or whatsoever ... it all came from God. It has all been given to us, beloved. John 16:13 says,

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

As it was with Daniel, so it is with us as well. So, like him, let us always be quick to say, Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever. Daniel gave God all the glory and so should you and I.

Another thing about Daniel's prayer here, is ... It is He who changes the times and the epochs. Such as? Well, one thing that comes to mind is how God has, from time to time, changed the way that he deals with men. I call the result of those changes ... dispensations. You might call them something else. Dispensation is a good Bible word, however. As you have it in Ephesians 1:10,

That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him...

In the history of God's dealings with men, he has changed his methodology from time to time, according to his will. And, these changes resulted in a period of time, epoch, or era, when the dealings of God with men was markedly different from what it was before or would be after. For example, almost everyone agrees that God dealt with his people under the Law of Moses in the Old Testament (instituted at Mount Sinai), very differently than he deals with them in this present age described in the New Testament ... the dispensation of grace (instituted at the Cross of Christ). So, there are at least two great dispensations in the Bible ... the dispensation of the Law (Old Testament) and the dispensation of Grace (the lion's share of the New Testament). Truly... It is He who changes the times and the epochs.

One last thought, before we move on. It is clear that Daniel and his friends recognized the power of corporate prayer. Together, they took their problems before God. Jesus said in Matthew 18:19,

Again I say unto you that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in Heaven.

It was in the midst of corporate prayer, that Christ chose to send his Holy Spirit in Acts 2. Also, it was by corporate prayer that God sprung Peter from prison in Acts 12. Someone has said ... A church will never amount to a hill of beans for the Kingdom of God unless it is willing to get on its knees together before God. When the people of God get serious and come to God together, things happen. Daniel and his friends brought their problem to the God of Heaven ... together. And, God answered. This name, by the way, the God of Heaven, is found almost exclusively in the captivity books of the Bible ... Ezra, Nehemiah, Ezekiel and Daniel. These were books written after the God of Glory had departed from the Temple and was no longer on the earth, you see.

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2:24-35

 

Therefore, Daniel went in to Arioch, whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon; he went and spoke to him as follows: 'Do not destroy the wise men of Babylon! Take me into the king's presence, and I will declare the interpretation to the king.' Then Arioch hurriedly brought Daniel into the king's presence and spoke to him as follows: 'I have found a man among the exiles from Judah who can make the interpretation known to the king!' The king said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, 'Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation?' Daniel answered before the king and said, 'As for the mystery about which the king has inquired, neither wise men, conjurers, magicians nor diviners are able to declare it to the king. However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. This was your dream and the visions in your mind while on your bed. As for you, O king, while on your bed your thoughts turned to what would take place in the future; and He who reveals mysteries has made known to you what will take place. But as for me, this mystery has not been revealed to me for any wisdom residing in me more than in any other living man, but for the purpose of making the interpretation known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

This must have all occurred quite rapidly because, when Daniel went to Arioch, the man had not yet begun to carry out his orders to execute all the wise men of Babylon. He informed Arioch that he knew the interpretation of the king's dream. Immediately, Arioch ushered him in before the king. Are you able to make known to me the dream which I have seen and its interpretation, Nebuchadnezzar asked. His tone was, no doubt, skeptical. I don't blame him, do you? He had never known anything but the so-called wisdom of his magicians and their ilk, and he was so fed up with them that he had ordered them all executed.

I Corinthians 3:19 says,

...the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God for it is written, 'He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness'

And again, in I Corinthians 1:20, 25, 27-28,

    Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?

 

    Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men...

 

    ...but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are...

Let's "chase a rabbit" here for a moment. Some time ago, the supposed great evolutionary "missing link" was unveiled in New York City. Having uncovered a well preserved fossil of a monkey that supposedly existed forty-seven million years ago (called Ida), the fossil was put on display at the Museum of Natural History in New York City (May 19, 2009). They said it had been preserved in Germany's Messel Pit and measured approximately 3 feet in length and that the Norwegian paleontologist, Dr. Jorn Horum, of the University of Oslo, had led a team that had been secretly studying it for the past two years. Over the week end, television spots trumpeted again and again that this was "the missing link" between apes and humans, which scientists had so long been looking for and that it would completely "change history." My what wisdom (sic)! Makes one wonder  ... if the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God ... what must the foolishness of man be?

All during his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had been subjected to a court full of fools and probably, more often than not, had been served up a crock full of their baloney! But now a young man stood before him the like of which he had never seen or heard before ... a young, truthful and humble man of God. What an impression Daniel's straight-forward words and wisdom must have made. Surely they must have made Nebuchadnezzar catch his breath. Daniel had his facts straight, his own standing before God straight and his spiritual head screwed on right. There is a God in Heaven who reveals mysteries, he replied to Nebuchadnezzar. He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will take place in the latter days. It was not given to me because I am wiser than any other man. God gave it to me because he wants you to know what will take place in the future

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2:31-36

You, O king, were looking and behold, there was a single great statue; that statue, which was large and of extraordinary splendor, was standing in front of you, and its appearance was awesome. The head of that statue was made of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found but the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This was the dream; now we will tell its interpretation before the king.

A picture of the multi-metaled statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream.

 

This is one of the most remarkable prophetic dreams God has ever given to men. What you saw in your dream, Daniel said, was a single great statue. It was striking in splendor and awesome in appearance. Its:

                                                                                                        1. ... head ... was made of fine gold

                                                                                                        2. ... breast and arms were of silver

                                                                                                        3. ... belly and its thighs were of bronze

                                                                                                        4. ... legs were of iron

                                                                                                        5. ... and, its feet were partly of iron and partly of clay.

Then, as you watched, a stone was cut out without hands and it struck the statue on its feet, instantly smashing them and crushing the entire statue to powder. Its residue was, like chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the wind blew them away until there was not a trace of them left anywhere on the face of the earth. But the stone that struck the statue grew into a great mountain and filled the whole earth. This was your dream, king Nebuchadnezzar. And now, I will tell you the meaning of it.

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2:37-45

You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold. After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth. Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron; inasmuch as iron crushes and shatters all things, so, like iron that breaks in pieces, it will crush and break all these in pieces. In that you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it will be a divided kingdom; but it will have in it the toughness of iron, inasmuch as you saw the iron mixed with common clay. As the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of pottery, so some of the kingdom will be strong and part of it will be brittle. And in that you saw the iron mixed with common clay, they will combine with one another in the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, even as iron does not combine with pottery. In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. Inasmuch as you saw that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands and that it crushed the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold, the great God has made known to the king what will take place in the future; so the dream is true and its interpretation is trustworthy.

The awesome statue, Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream, was a picture of what Jesus would later call ... the times of the Gentiles. Here are his words and another scripture that refers to this period of time as well. Jesus said,

And they (the Jews) shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:24

The Apostle Paul said,

...that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

      'The Deliverer will come out of Zion,
      And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob...' Romans 11:25b-26a
(NKJV)

It is apparent, from Nebuchadnezzar's dream, and its subsequent precise fulfillments, that the God of the Bible is in firm control of Earth's history and he is moving it ... inexorably ... toward the Day of Jesus Christ ... as sure as the waters in a river ultimately flow to the sea. It was this time period ... called the times of the gentiles ... that was revealed in Nebuchadnezzar's dream and has been running its course from Nebuchadnezzar's day, right on through history down to our day. And, it will continue until Christ himself arrives to put an end to it, when he himself takes over and reigns supreme over all the earth. This dream was given to king Nebuchadnezzar because he was the first in line to hold Gentile dominance over Israel and Jerusalem, where God's Temple and Theocracy had been centered. So, Nebuchadnezzar was the first Gentile king to "kick off" the times of the Gentiles. After him, the dream predicted, there would follow three more great empires (each of which also would dominate Israel and Jerusalem). When we come to chapter 7, we will learn that in the far distant future, the last of these four empires will disintegrate into a conglomeration of ten kings. And, during the days of those ten kings, God will set up a Kingdom on Earth that will eliminate Gentile dominance over Israel and the holy city ... once and for all.

So, Nebuchadnezzar's dream was a dream about man's day on the earth. It is a day when Gentiles and Gentile kingdoms dominate the holy land, along with Jerusalem and its Temple Mount, and rule over men. It is a time period in the economy of God in which, technically, you and I are still living ... way down here, some 2600 plus years after Nebuchadnezzar's dream was given. I say, "technically" because the Church Age was not revealed in the Old Testament and it acts like a giant "pause" in the middle of the times of the Gentiles. So, all the 4 great empires of Nebuchadnezzar's dream have now come and gone. All that now remains is the future10 king confederation (represented by the feet and toes of the statue in the dream) that is prophesied to arise from the ashes of the fourth kingdom in the last days (Daniel 7). During the days of those 10 kings, the Gentile's day of dominion on earth will finally expire. We know, from other scriptures, this will come about at the end of the Great Tribulation with the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 19). He is the stone ... cut out without hands in Nebuchadnezzar's dream that will bring to an end the times of the gentiles. God's day and the Kingdom of his Son will come on earth and Christ Jesus will reign supreme from God's Temple at Jerusalem ... and God's Theocracy will have been restored. This fast approaching Day of Christ cannot be stopped. We have the Word of God on it.

Now, let's break down Nebuchadnezzar's dream a bit more precisely. In retrospect, we can easily identify the specific kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The head of gold on the statue represented the Babylonian Empire. It began in 624 BC.  The empire that followed, represented by the breast and arms of silver on the statue, was the Medo-Persian Empire, beginning in 538 BC. It was followed by the Grecian Empire, represented by the belly and thighs of bronze. It began in 330 BC. The fourth and final empire, represented by the legs of iron and feet of iron mixed with clay, was the Roman Empire, beginning around 160 BC. The final feet and toes of iron mixed with clay represent another yet future manifestation of the Roman Empire ... consisting of a confederation of 10 kings. To date, they have not yet risen on the world scene. The fact that iron was a part of their make up in the statue indicates they will be remnants of the old Roman Empire.

There are actually two prophetic records in Daniel of these four Empires, the one here in chapter 2, then later, we will find them again in chapter 7. Why two records? Well, chapter 2, gives them to us from the Gentile perspective. Chapter 7, gives them to us from the Jewish perspective. Chapter 7, also tells us that, in those last days, Antichrist will play a key role in conjunction with the final 10 king Gentile confederation on earth.

Now, something else to notice here, is that there are probably things to be learned from the nature of the metals that represent these kingdoms. For example, the metals increase in strength. This probably points to the fact that each of the empires became more formidable, militarily. On the other hand, each of the metals were progressively less precious. This, probably speaks of their moral and spiritual deterioration.   

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here's a little chart of these Gentile kingdoms as described in Daniel ... along with their symbols and identity:

EMPIRE                                 CHAPTER 2                                                                       CHAPTER 7                                     CHAPTER 8

Babylon                            HEAD of gold                                                                                  LION

Medo-Persia                    BREAST AND ARMS of silver                                                     BEAR                                            RAM (8:20)

Greece                             WAIST AND THIGHS of brass                                                     LEOPARD                                    HE-GOAT (8:21)

Rome                               LEGS of iron, FEET (toes inferred) of iron mixed with clay      BEAST with 10 horns

Everlasting Kingdom     STONE cut out without hands (Christ)                                        THE SON OF MAN (7:13-14)

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here are a few specifics about the four Empires, as symbolized in Nebuchadnezzar's dream:

BABYLON ... Of the four great empires and their rulers, Nebuchadnezzar did the best job. His capital city of Babylon, with its immense walls, its Tower of Belus, its hanging gardens ... were noted as one of the seven wonders of the world. The prophet Isaiah called it the golden city and the glory of the kingdoms. Jeremiah said it was the praise of the whole earth. Nebuchadnezzar didn't realize where it had all come from, however, until God made him eat grass like an ox (Daniel 4).

MEDO-PERSIA ... The greatest leader of this empire was Cyrus, who conquered Babylon in 538 BC. He reigned supreme from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces. Ezra 1:2, records his word as follows,

Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, 'The Lord God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth.'

GREECE ... This great civilization dominated the known world by means of its great conqueror, Alexander the Great. He overthrew the Persian king, Darius Codomannus, in 333 BC. He too was made to realize that God had a firm hand on human history. When he and his armies approached Jerusalem, they were met by Jaddua, the High Priest, dressed in his pontifical robe and accompanied by a long procession of priests in white. Then, Jaddua showed Alexander the Great the book of Daniel and read to him the prophecies concerning him in chapter 2, his depiction as a Leopard in chapter 7, and his portrayal as the He Goat of chapter 8. Alexander was so impressed that he turned his armies around and spared Jerusalem. Later, it is said that he wept when there was no one left in the known world to conquer.

ROME ... This great, long-lived Empire, was coming to full bloom during the days when Jesus walked upon the earth. It had been in existence for nearly 200 years at that time, but came into real power when Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator in 42 BC. One of the best known Latin phrases refer to it as Imperium Romanum. This empire persisted for hundreds of years ... all the way down to the time of Theodosius in AD 395. After that, it was divided into two segments, the Western Roman Empire, which endured on until its collapse in AD 476, and the Eastern Empire (or Byzantine Empire) which endured all the way down to AD 1453. It has been noted that all of the other three empires were conquered from without, but Rome fell apart from within.

The Bible predicts that the Roman Empire will once again take center stage in the last days, as prophesied in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. In a very real way, she still lives on today in the peoples and nations of Europe. In Italy, Spain, France, Germany, England and others, her laws, her Latin rooted languages and her war-like spirit lives on. Dr. J. Vernon McGee observed that many have tried to put her back together again. The Roman Catholic Church tried. Charlemagne, Napoleon, Mussolini and many German emperors, including Hitler, tried to do it ... but they all failed. It won't be accomplished until Antichrist arises. He will get the job done along with his 10 king confederation in the last days. We will read about that when we come to chapter 7.

You and I live in exciting times. I believe we are very close to the closing of the times of the Gentiles, symbolized by the feet of the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. The iron in those feet speak of the fact that Rome lives on. The clay speaks of the masses of peoples who have now mixed into her.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here are a few dates that may be helpful to put into perspective the broad historical scope of Nebuchadnezzar's dream:

    624 BC                The rise of Babylonian Empire

    606 BC                Daniel taken to Babylon

    587 BC                The final fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar

    538 BC                The rise of the Medo-Persian Empire

    445 BC                Artexerxes' edict to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem

    338 BC                The rise of the Grecian Empire

    168 BC                The times of the Maccabees

    160 BC+ -           The rise of the Roman Empire

    32 AD+ -             The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ

    32 to Present       The Church Age

    AD 2015 +           The Rapture of the Church (I Thessalonians 4:16-17) which will kick off a 7 year Tribulation Period on Earth (Matt. 24, 25; Rev. 6-18).

    7 years later:       The Second Coming of Jesus Christ (the stone of Daniel 2 and the Son of man of Daniel 7) to destroy and close the times of the Gentiles and to set up his long awaited and everlasting Kingdom.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Here are a few final thoughts about the stone aspect of Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Notice that the stone struck the image and smashed it to pieces. One day, man's day will come to a sudden, climactic, catastrophic and violent end by means of the direct intervention of the Judge of the whole earth ... the Lord Jesus Christ himself. That is a day which is fast approaching ... the day when Christ will, once and for all, return to Earth and put down man's rebellion against God. Here are a few scriptures that speak to this:

    For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son... John 5:22

    Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle. In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle from east to west by a very large valley, so that half of the mountain will move toward the north and the other half toward the south.  Zechariah 14:3-4

    Jesus said to them, 'Did you never read in the Scriptures,

         "The stone which the builders rejected,
            this became the chief corner stone;
              this came about from the Lord,
            and it is marvelous in our eyes"?

   And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust.' Matthew 21:42,44

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2:46-49

Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, 'Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.' Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king's court.

 

It was very good that Nebuchadnezzar gave God the glory for revealing his dream to him. However, he had much more to learn about Daniel's God before it was all over. As for Daniel, from this point on he would be promoted to hold the highest office in the administration of Nebuchadnezzar. Then, under the kings that would follow, Daniel would hold high office under them as well. When God exalts a man or woman, they are exalted indeed.

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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