<< Daniel 2: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream >>
“Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’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. Thou sawest till that 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 was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain.”—DANIEL. ii. 31-35.
THE dream of King Nebuchadnezzar is introduced to us in a very striking manner. It evidently impressed and alarmed him to an extraordinary degree. There are no doubt differences in dreams as in all the other occurrences of life. There are dreams and dreams. There are many people who will dismiss dreams altogether as idle impressions of no significance, mere results of certain states of the stomachs. Yet it cannot be denied that the annals of mankind shew that dreams are sometimes remarkably fulfilled, and considering how large a portion of human life is passed in dreaming, it does not seem altogether rational to suppose that they are absolutely without any meaning or import whatever. How many dreams, too, there are related in the Word containing circumstances in which Divine instructions were given to men involving the weightiest consequences. For instance, the dreams of Joseph, the dreams of Pharaoh, the dreams of Joseph the husband of Mary.
Dreams may be regarded as having a weighty lesson to teach, if we consider them as shewing our capacity for realizing a life quite independent of the body or the outward world: and if we think of them in relation to the truth that we are associated mentally with good spirits or with bad, and conceive that good dreams, like good thoughts, come from our angelic friends, and bad dreams, like evil thoughts, come from evil spirits, unpleasant dreams will then serve to put us on our guard and intimate that danger is near. Such appears to be the teaching of the very interesting and striking passage in Job, “For God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not. In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed, then He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that He may draw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man” (xxxiii. 14- 17).
Some dreams make an impression upon the person who is their subject that cannot be shaken off He endeavours to turn his mind from them, and to think of them no more. But quite in vain. And many are the recorded instances of such dreams, having weighty significance, having reference to some crisis in the person’s character or condition, which perhaps strengthens his conviction that the Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men, and thus to conduce to check his self-conceit, and withdraw his soul from pride. Such a dream was this of the mighty king of Babylon. He could not remove the impression that it was a Divine message. He was deeply moved, so much so, that he felt if his hierarchy of priests could not explain it to him, it was their condemnation, their system was false, and they and it should perish. This arbitrary and awful decision spread consternation through Babylon. It was a hard thing which the king required. He insisted, first, that the wise men should tell him the dream which he had himself forgotten, and then he thought he would have a warrant that their interpretation might also be believed. To the forlorn priests of Nebo, the condition of the king was simply an impossibility. They were the blind leaders of the blind; the numerous supporters of a worn-out superstition. They could only say to this extraordinary order like the chiefs of other worn-out superstitions of our own time, Non possumus; we are not able.
But Daniel, who heard of this amazing occurrence, and was concerned-for he too, and his friends were to perish like the rest—and being a seer, “with understanding in visions and dreams,” he knew that the dream had been given from the spiritual world, and if well-pleasing to the Lord, it could easily be repeated to him. He prayed, and asked his friends to pray, and lay the whole case before the Lord. The secret was revealed to him in a night vision; that is, his spiritual sight was opened, and he beheld the scene which had been presented to the king in a dream, and with such impressiveness that he had no doubt upon the subject, and he broke out into that glowing expression of thankfulness-” Blessed be the name of God forever and ever: for wisdom and might are His. I thank and praise thee, God of my fathers, Who hast given unto me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what he desired of thee; for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.”
Daniel desired to beled before the king; and having, with great modesty: and diffidence disclaimed any peculiar art, skill, or merit in himself he claimed to be able, by the merciful revelation which the God of heaven had vouchsafed in answer to his prayer, to relate to the king the impressive and marvelous dream which he had perceived in the night; and then forgotten. When he had drawn back to the king’s recollection the dream which had made so deep an impression, and then so mysteriously vanished from memory, he would proceed to give the interpretation: All this he did so completely to the conviction and satisfaction of the monarch, that he exclaimed “Of a truth it is that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldst reveal this secret.” The king made Daniel a great man, and gave him many great gifts, and made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon, and chief of the governors over all the wise men of Babylon.
And now let us observe a little more closely this dream and its interpretation. It was a great image that the king saw, bright, imposing, and terrible to view. The image’s head was of fine gold, the breast and arms of silver, the belly and thighs of brass, the legs of Iron, the feet partly of iron and partly of miry clay. Then a stone was cut out of a mountain without hands, and smote the image, broke it to pieces, and dissipated it, and itself became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.
The king confessed the exactitude of the recalled dream and his full acceptance in consequence of the interpretation. That interpretation he received in its literal bearing on the political career of his empire. It commenced with himself, the head of gold. He had unrolled, as it were, before him the broad pages of the imperial career of Babylon. There would come the Persian monarchy after his own dynasty had ended, represented by the silver breast and arms; then the Greeks, under Alexander and his successors, would constitute the kingdom of brass then the Romans, the fourth kingdom would come and trample down all opposition, and continue in one form or another until the kingdom should be born and grow which would break in pieces all other kingdoms—the kingdom of truth derived from love (the stone out of the mountain) which would grow until it had filled the whole church, and the whole earth, and it should last for ever.
But this literal interpretation, as given by the prophet Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, and referring to the stages of decline through which his empire of Babylon would pass to its end, though most interesting to him, and to those who were concerned in the political changes of that remote time, have only a general, a very general interest for us. The political rise and fall of kingdoms have no very enduring impressions upon character. The movements of the church affect our nature and our everlasting condition more deeply, and hence it will be more proftable for us to make a more interior inquiry into the spirit of this wonderful vision of the king of Babylon.
It is reasonable to conclude that a vision so introduced, with such remarkable circumstances, showed plainly that a Divine hand was engaged in it, and disclosures worthy of infinite wisdom were, by its means, intended to be made. It is interesting to observe, also, that in the oldest known poem out of the Bible, that by Hesiod, who lived two centuries before Daniel, the progress of humanity is described by the succession of metals of precisely the same kind as in this vision: the age of gold, the age of silver, the age of brass-or more properly copper-and the age of iron, which he describes as the one in which men were then living. This great image, then, would represent the career of humanity; the march of the world; the succession of ages; all the race represented as one vast form, to the period when truth from Divine Love would restore to the world a state of universal loving-kindness, and none would hurt or destroy in all God’s holy mountain (Isa. xi. 9). The golden age of Hesiod, like this head of gold, would represent the age of innocence and love, the same as in the early part of Genesis is meant by man in the garden of Eden. This most ancient church was the babyhood of the world. We know not how long, probably an immense period. The people were not wise in science, they probably knew as little of mechanics as babies, but they delighted in the wisdom of being good. They were ignorant of worldly ways, and of literary skill, but in the wisdom of being innocent, guileless, pure, and loving, they far surpassed all who have succeeded them.
The earliest records of the old nations–the Hindoo, the Chinese, the Persian—all speak of this age of gold; and gold in Scripture is used as the symbol of the highest love of the soul. All things in the temple were covered with gold. “I counsel thee,” the Lord Jesus said, “to buy of Me gold tried in me tire, that thou mayest be rich” (Rev. iii. 18). The street of the city of New Jerusalem was to be of gold (Rev. xxi. 18). Gold is the most valuable of the metals, and therefore properly represents love to the Lord, the mostvaluable of all principles. Gold is unaffected by acids. Gold can be drawn out and applied to all sorts of forms. It has been used from the remote of times, long before history, for the ring, the emblem of indissoluble affection, which joins human beings in the closest and most self-sacrificing of all unions. The golden age was the age of pure love, that Eden state of the world, guileless, pure in heart, in all the gushing innocence of childhood. “Of such was the kingdom of heaven.” ‘The head of humanity was then this head of gold. This was the celestial church; the most ancient church.
The second age of humanity was the age of silver. The breast and arms were of silver. These simple words unfold before us another dispensation, the ancient church, the dispensation in which men chiefly delighted in spiritual truth, for this is heavenly silver. This ancient church is meant in Scripture by Noah and his family, and that dispensation lasted also a very long period. It was the age in which allegories and beautiful personifications had their rise, representing the attributes of God, and spiritual things in lovely natural forms, the degeneration of which gave rise to idolatry. Silver in Scripture corresponds to spiritual wisdom, Hence, we read, “Ye shall be as the wings of a dove covered with sllver (Ps. lxviii. 13). The words of the Lord are pure words, as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times (Ps. xii. 6). For iron I will bring silver, the Saviour said (Isa. lx. 17). And the age of silver was the age when men valued heavenly truth above all earthly good; it was the age of faith, corresponding to that time of early youth, when the young soul has not yet learned to doubt but believes that things and persons are what they affirm themselves to be, and the eye glitters with truthful confidence. The breast and arms are said to have been of silver, for spiritual truth inspired all who lived then with charity, and what their hearts felt, they stretched out their arms to do.
The age of copper was that which the human race next realized. The good nature and genuine integrity of the next succeeding age, the age of the Melchisedeks and patriarchs, when people lived simply and kindly in tents, was that which succeeded the age of silver, and was compared with the age of celestial love and innocence, as copper in relation to gold. They lived lives of virtue, but not from motives and principles so pure, so high, and so heavenly as those which actuated the age of gold.
Then came the age of iron, when men were altogether ruled by force, by force of law, or force of hand. God’s Word was still given to men and still to a large extent obeyed, but it was the Word understood only in the very letter. Men were then ruled with a rod of iron. The iron Romans compelled order. This was the Jewish age, extending through the mercy of a loving Saviour and Redeemer, under Christianity, to barbaric peoples the knowledge of the law, the prophets, and the Gospel, throwing off what was peculiarly national in Judaism. The Gospel was only the enlarging of the sphere of the age of iron, and blending with the nations far and wide. It was not ruling the Jews only with a rod of iron, but ruling all nations. And when we look over the Christian centuries, and observe the wars, the persecutions, the controversies which have been waged among Christian nations, and the immense mass of impurity which has ever clung to Christian profession, we must humbly confess that, with the iron truth which has taught us our duty, there has still been found too much miry clay.
Miry clay means moral defilement (Ps. xl. 2, lxix, 2). But, at last a stone was seen, cut out of a mountain without hands, and it became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. Stones correspond to doctrinal truths. In large blocks they make foundations on which to build, and in detail they furnish us with the means of erecting houses and building walls. Will the Stone cut out of the mountain without hands be any other than the head-stone of the corner, which the builders rejected, the true doctrine of the Lord Jesus, as the Only God, in whom is all the Trinity. ” No other foundation,” said the apostle, “can any man lay, than that is laid, even Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. iii. 2).
When this truth is given to the world again, as we are assured in the Gospel it will be in fulness, from the Divine Love of the Lord, it is indeed the stone cut out of the mountain without hands. It is the foundation-stone, and the head-stone, the All in All. This will shew us plainly of the Father. This will reveal in the Glorified Redeemer Himself, the First and the Last, the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and the Morning Star, and the Sun of Righteousness. The Son of Man in Him will be brought near to the Ancient of Days, so near, that it will he seen thst He and the Father are one: all things that the Father hath are His. He that seeth Him seeth the Father. A dominion will then be given to Him, and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages shall serve Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed (Dan. Vii. 13, 14). “This kingdom of the Lord Jesus, in His true character as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in one unutterably Glorious Person, Divine Love and Wisdom embodied, the One King who shall be over all the earth (Zech. xvi. 9), is that which is further described by Daniel when he said, “And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, WHICH SHALL NEVER BE DESTROYED, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and IT SHALL STAND FOR EVER (verse 44).
This kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ is now being realized. It is yet small and feeble, but it has manifestly begun, and its influences are already being felt throughout the world. Bibles are issuing forth in a broad stream which has never before been equaled. There is more of loving-kindness, less of sectarian separation, than any previous age has seen. There is more care for universal education for children, more true sympathy for others, incalculably more diffusion of good of every kind, more horror of war, and ardent thirst for the true progress of humanity, than any age has seen since the time of history began. It is the age of hope. All seems young and progressive once again. There is evidently a fresh spring, the foretoken of a glorious summer, WHEN ALL SHALL KNOW THE LORD. Oh may the growth of this glorious stone from the mountain hasten and remove the rust of ages. Oh may the kingdom of God come, in which there shall be no tears, nor pain, nor death (of sin), but healthy, happy youth grow up to healthy, happy maturity, and useful, noble, spiritual, orderly, heavenly lives, announce that God’s will is done on earth, as it is done in heaven.
It is written that the stone struck the image all its feet, that were of iron and miry clay, and brake them to pieces. The stone striking the feet signifies the manifestation by Divine truth of the worthlessness of the life produced by the decayed systems of the old dispensations. All interior things result in conduct, and rest upon daily life, as the body rests upon the feet. A man really is WHAT HE DOES. The deeds of the world are the result of the principles of the world. And, when it is palpable to all that national life is but little better than national selfishness commercial life grievously tainted in all its parts with fraud, domestic life largely soiled with domestic impurity, there can be no difficulty in admitting that the doctrine of a pure and loving Saviour will strike these feet. The superstitious remains of the grand old religions of ancient times, not the good things themselves, but the dead image of them; the lingering lifeless remains of glories, holy virtues, and bright truths, now old, worn out, and meaningless, must disappear, and the newly revealed truth make a new heaven and a new earth. Hasten, O Merciful Adorable Saviour, this pure, loving, bright, and blessed age, Let the weary shadows of wrong and misery disappear, and do Thou thyself arise amongst us, and Thy glory be seen upon us.
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)