Reflections on Daniel Chapter 2
The Book of Daniel contains many complex visions of the future. Because of their complexity and often vague symbolism, the various churches of the world are unable to come to an agreement about their interpretations. Even the simplest of the visions, recorded in Daniel Chapter 2, elicits scores of interpretations from various sources. I believe that this particular chapter is a key to the other chapters. It is simple yet it covers a broad span of history, and is the basis upon which all the other visions in Daniel are to be understood. This page is an effort to establish an interpretation for this vision which is consistent with itself.
Many modern critics explain Daniel's visions in terms of events occurring
locally in respect to both location and time to Daniel. They are forced to
these conclusions based on the assumption that prophets do not exist and that
there can be no prediction of future events beyond an obvious extrapolation from
current events. My assumptions are quite different. For many
reasons which are far beyond the scope of this essay, I assume that Daniel was a
prophet. Along with most Christian religionists of today, I assume that
Daniel actually saw the visions he claimed to see, that they came to him from
God, and that they are prophecies which cover vast periods of time. This
analysis takes for granted the standard Christian interpretations of the
chapter, up to the same point were most the commentaries seem to diverge.
Summary of Daniel 2
I recommend you start by reading Daniel Chapter 2, it is short and
self-contained. This chapter discusses a dream that was originally given
to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel sees the dream because he
took on the task of interpreting it for the King. In this dream the
King sees "a great image [who's] head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms
of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, His legs of iron, his feet part of
iron and part of clay". Then "a stone was cut out without hands, which
smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to
pieces". Then "the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and
filled the whole earth." Daniel then interprets the dream and tells
Nebuchadnezzar that each section of the image represents a succession of
kingdoms which "bear rule over all the earth". He specifically tells us
that the head is the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar, but then another kingdom will
replace that one. He gives some characteristics of each kingdom without
specifically identifying them. Then he tells us the stone is a
kingdom set up by God which "shall not be left to other people, but it shall
break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for
ever". Daniel also tells us that "the dream is certain, and the
interpretation thereof sure."
Interpretation of Daniel 2
Despite the fact that Daniel gives us an interpretation, we must interpret his interpretation so we can see the point of it all. Actually, 90% of the chapter is interpreted the same way by the vast majority of Christian religionists. The few important arguments that exist are about the fifth part of the image and the stone at the very end of the dream. I intend to show that the beginning part of the dream establishes a pattern by which the end of the dream must also be interpreted.
First notice that Daniel says that each body section of the image represents
a new kingdom, not simply a new king Looking at world history and knowing
the kingdoms of the world, almost all commentators agree that the various parts
of the dream represent the following kingdoms.
|Breast and Arms||Silver||Media/Persia|
|Belly and Thighs||Brass||Greece|
|Feet and Toes||Iron / Clay||?????|
|Stone||Stone||Kingdom of God|
It is this fifth material that causes all the contention and the various interpretations. The kingdom that the fifth material represents can be determined by following the pattern given in the first four. The first 4 kingdoms have these characteristics:
1. Each new body section / material is a New Kingdom
Each new kingdom is represented by a separately named body section and a new material from which it is composed. Daniel tells us that the second kingdom will be "inferior" to the first. This is represented by the type of material that is used to represent the kingdom. Starting with the most precious metal, the value of each successive material is inferior to the previous one. The type of metal can also be used to describe the type of the kingdom. For example, iron is a good description for the Roman Empire. Daniel describes very well the nature of ancient Rome when he said "the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: forasmuch as iron breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things: and as iron that breaketh all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise". Some commentaries have long discussions about how each material or each body part represents the details of the various kingdoms. I am not concerned with all the details now, just the grand sweep of history.
2. Each New Kingdom describes "The Dominant World Power" of its respective
Each new kingdom is not some minor kingdom taken at random from among many other kingdoms. Each kingdom was considered "the" most powerful, most influential kingdom of its time. It describes the dominate leadership and governmental forces of the world.
3. Each New Kingdom is the direct successor to the previous kingdom
There are no gaps in time. The vision starts with Babylon which was "The Dominant World Power". As Babylon declined in power Media/Persia became "The Dominant World Power". As Media/Persia declined in power Greece became "The Dominant World Power". As Greece declined in power Rome became "The Dominant World Power".
4. Each of these transitions in power were the result of military
conflicts between the two kingdoms
These transitions of power came as a result of being conquered by "The New Dominate World Power (DWP). Babylon became The DWP in approximately 614 BC and remained dominate for 75 years until Cyrus the Persian captured the capital city of Babylon in 539 BC. Persia (which had previously been joined with the Medians) therefore replaced Babylon as The DWP. Persia held this status for 208 years until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. This is when Persia ceased being The DWP and Greece began its 185 year reign as The DWP. Meanwhile the Romans were gaining more and more power and in the year 146 BC at the end of the 3rd Punic War, the Roman Empire defeated the Greeks and became The DWP. In all of these cases there were many reasons why one kingdom decreased in power as another increased in power, but the vision does not go into these details. There was often several years of fighting and give and take of dominance between the two powers, but there was one final military event that caused a transition in power to take place. The transfer of world domination occurred as each successive kingdom defeated the old kingdom in battle.
The Feet and Toes of the Vision
In interpreting the rest of this vision we must maintain the pattern given, or we must have a very good reason not to. Preferably there should be a scriptural reason not to. And not some obscure scripture with some tenuous tie to Daniel such as something out of the Book of Revelation, which was written hundreds of years later. The dream was given as a whole to Daniel, and needs to be interpreted as such. There must be some reason within this vision to indicate that we should now ignore the established pattern of events. Since there is no indication that there should be a break in the pattern, then we need to follow the same pattern.
The feet and the toes are a new kingdom. We know this for several reasons. Firstly they are separately named body parts, made of a new material. Now granted they are not made of a completely new material, since there is iron mixed in with the clay. But any blacksmith in comparing iron with iron mixed with "miry" clay (or elsewhere translated as "ceramic", "common", or "brittle" clay) will tell you that they are not the same material. This new kingdom may be slightly different from the previous ones because it contains a mixture of the old kingdom with the new. This only shows that instead of a clean break between kingdoms of different traditions and locations, this last may be a change in the kingdom, a mixture of a new material, which created a new thing. Daniel nevertheless describes it as a separate body section which in every other case in the vision meant a new kingdom. Secondly, our knowledge of history tells us that the Roman Empire does not now exist. Everyone as heard of "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" The part of the image represented by the legs fell, as did all the previous kingdoms. The part of the image represented by the feet and toes must follow the established pattern and be The New DWP after Rome.
To contend that the feet and toes are still part of the old Roman Empire, breaks the pattern given that each new body section, made of a new material, represents a new kingdom. To contend that the feet and toes are some kingdom that is to come to pass in the future breaks the established pattern that each new kingdom immediately follows the old kingdom, and is actually the cause of it's final loss of dominion through military action. A 2000 year gap between kingdoms is not in the given pattern – and there is no scriptural reason to suggest there is a gap.
The feet and toes must therefore be identified as The New DWP, sequentially after Rome. They must also be identified as the kingdom which caused the fall of Rome through military action. This is the only solution which follows the pattern God gave in the vision. A brief inquiry into the history of the Fall of the Roman Empire records a long process, but the final blow - the event that caused the final demise of the Roman Empire as The DWP and it's replacement by The New DWP, according to the manor of the vision's previous transitions of power, occurred around 568 AD.
In 180 AD Commodus became the new Emperor, but was very weak and marked the beginning of the decline of the Roman Empire. In 330 AD Emperor Constintine re-reorganizes the Empire and begins to rule from Constantinople, on the border of Europe and Asia. In 378 AD The Visigoths (Germanic Tribes from the north) defeated a Roman Army at the Battle of Adrianople. The Emperor Theodosius makes peace but he is the last emperor to control a united Roman empire. In 410 AD the Visigoths along with their allies of other Germanic tribes sack the city of Rome, and then conquer Southern Gaul, Spain, and the North of Africa, taking control of the Mediterranean. In 476 AD , the leader of the united German tribes, Odovacar, assumes the title of king of Rome. After this time there are no Roman Emperors occupying the West. This is the date historians generally give for the end of the Western Roman Empire. However this date does not fit the pattern given in Daniel, and so is not the one God is concerned about. The Eastern Roman Empire was still a major world power, and still considered to be The DWP of the period. There had been no transition of power yet, the Germanic leader Theodoric the Great assumes control over Italy but tries to preserve the Roman civilization, culture, and system of government. In the 500's Clovis, founder of the Frankish state, conquers most of France and Belgium, thus taking control of the outlying areas of the Roman Empire In 527 AD Justinian becomes the Roman Emperor in the East, and the Eastern Roman Empire reasserts itself. In a series of wars which lasted until his death in 565 AD, Justinian broke the Visigoth control of the Western Empire and reestablished Roman control of all the Mediterranean by retaking the 3 key areas of Italy, northwest Africa, and coastal Spain. Three years later however in 568 AD, another Germanic Tribe called the Lombards invade the Western Empire. In the following years, they broke the strength of the Eastern Empire and retook much of Italy. This war is the final series of attacks which finally breaks the dominion of Rome. Although, much of the coast remained under Byzantine rule, Northern and Central Italy was controlled by the Lomabards, and the city of Rome was kept by the papacy. This is the time when the status of being The DWP changes from being the Roman Empire to being the European Barbarian tribes and the Western Catholic Church. These battles are the cause of the rise of Medieval Europe as The Dominate World Power.
One interesting way in which the history validates the vision is the mixture of iron and clay in the feet. The New DWP was not a single country or power but was a mix of the power of the European kings and the power of the Church. From this point in history they dominated the world scene together for over 1000 years. They also divided into many kingdoms, as the toes divide off from the foot, and many commentators list just what they think these 10 European nations are.
So we see that the pattern that God gave us to interpret the vision can be
maintained by a simple application of the major events of world history.
The stone cut out of the mountain
That is the end of the image. There are no more sections of the image to dissect and figure out. As Daniel begins to tell us about the stone he has progressed the history of the world into the rise of Medieval Europe. This gives us a minimum starting date for the formation of the stone of around 568 AD. But that does not mean that it was formed at this time. Since the vision gives us a sequential history of the Kingdoms of the world, the image also gives us an upper limit in time. Daniel only says that in "the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom". Since there are no more parts of the statue discussed by Daniel, we must conclude that this Kingdom of God must be set up before the European kings cease being The DWP, otherwise the image would have to show The Next Sequential DWP. The stone is set up between the time that the the European kings become The DWP and the time they ceased being The DWP. So when are the days of these kings?
There are still kings of Europe today in several of the countries so the vision could mean anytime over the last 1434 years. Now the truth is that although these kings still exist, all of them have effectively lost governmental power. The kings of Europe lost the status of being The DWP in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. So it could be argued that this is an upper limit for the stone to have been created.
However it is not a very good argument, for several reasons. The pattern of being supplanted by a new Dominate World Power through invasion and warfare does not fit for most cases. Often the kings lost power to their own people through democratic reforms, and the kingdom itself still retains its original power, and is still considered the same nation, and Europe remained The DWP. Since Daniel figuratively referred to a "king" as representing a kingdom, whether or not the leader is actually a king or not, the loss of the European Royalty's power can not seen as an upper limit.
Europe held its dominate position for a very long time, but today Europe is not The DWP. When did Europe loose its status as The DWP? As in all historical events, it was of course progressive, but most historians agree that at the close of World War II, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic emerged as The DWP's, Super-Powers in fact. They achieved this through a dominance in warfare and an invasion of The Old DWP, just like all the other New DWP's did. There is a minor difference in the fact that some of the European nations were with the Allies, and some were against them, but this also fulfills the nature of the feet and toes which Daniel described saying "the kingdom shall be divided" and "they shall not cleave one to another". Another interesting thought presents itself however, Rome lost its DWP status to the Germanic tribes when they invaded and took over Italy. It was the invasion of The DWP countries of Italy and Germany by the US and USSR (and allies) that brought about their loss of The DWP status.
It could be argued that Russia is part of Europe and the US was an offshoot of Europe so they were actually still part of the European Kingdoms. But, the USSR had completely separated itself from the rest of the European countries and set itself up a completely separate kingdom in all ways but actual location. The roots of the US were from England, Spain, and to a smaller degree France, however they had developed over the previous century into their own nation and kingdom. Likewise it can be said that the Etruscans were descendants of the Babylonians and Greeks. Rome was certainly heavily influenced by Greek Culture, but it was still a separate kingdom and grew on it's own to challenge the supremacy of Greece, just as the US challenged European supremacy.
The point of this being that the US and USSR are not represented in the image. This means that the stone had to be set up, at the very latest, before 1945. Otherwise the vision is incomplete, inaccurate, and again breaks the pattern God gave. Also since the vision clearly shows that the stone was set up after the fall of Rome and the emergence of the European nations and before the rise of the US and USSR, anyone who insists that the toes are some later event or some future kingdom (such as the EEC or some power to come from it) must have some very strong scriptural reasons why the clear pattern shown in the first 4 kingdoms breaks down completely just when it's convenient for their particular interpretation.
In summary the stone must start between the years 568 and 1945 AD.
My ancient history source is from the web site Exploring Ancient World
Cultures at "http://eawc.evansville.edu/eawcindex.htm".
Also some info from infoplease.com "http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/history/"
under the topics Roman Empire, Lombards, Byzantine Empire, etc..
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