By Karen Thompson
First in a Four-Part Series
Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of the Metal Man
In this series, we’re going to study Daniel chapter two, the chapter that talks about Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of a giant metal man. Nebuchadnezzar was the Babylonian king that invaded and conquered Jerusalem and took captive thousands of Jewish people and forced them to live as exiles in Babylon. In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had a troubling dream. It was a dream about a fierce looking man made up of different metals… a metal man. The dream came when he was lying upon his bed and was wondering what would “come to pass hereafter” (v. 29). He wanted to know the future, and so in response, God gave him a dream that showed him what would come after his reign. In this post, we’re going to talk about how Nebuchadnezzar’s dream affected him personally.
The King Demands, “Tell me the Dream”
“Now in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was so troubled that his sleep left him. Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said to them, “I have had a dream, and my spirit is anxious to know the dream” (Dan. 2:1–3 NKJV).
In Daniel chapter two, King Nebuchadnezzar dreamed a dream that left him troubled. He wanted to know what the dream meant, so he summoned his wise men—the magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers—to come at once. As they were all assembled in his presence, he told them he had a dream that he wanted them to interpret for him. But there was a catch. He forgot the dream. He said, “The thing has gone from me” (v. 5). So instead of telling them what he dreamed, he told them they had to first tell him what he had dreamed.
In response, the wise men said, “Tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation” (Dan. 2:4). From their response, I don’t think they believed the king forgot the dream. The king demanded they first tell him the dream and then give him the interpretation. And if they didn’t, he was going to “cut them all into pieces.” They again asked the king to tell them the dream and they would, in turn, give him the interpretation. But the king refused; instead, he reasserted his demand and said:
“I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. But if ye will not make known unto me the dream, there is but one decree for you: for ye have prepared lying and corrupt words to speak before me, till the time be changed: therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that ye can shew me the interpretation thereof” (vv. 8–9).
The king wanted them to tell him what the dream was and its interpretation while they were standing right there in front of him. He felt if he allowed them to leave his presence, they would simply conspire to make up a dream as well as the interpretation.
Knowing their lives were on the line, they informed the king that no man could do what the king was requesting. They reasoned with him saying no king or ruler had ever asked such a thing from a magician, astrologer, or sorcerer. But the king didn’t care. This dream had shaken him to the core and he wanted to know what it meant, but alas, they were not able to tell the king what he had dreamed. So true to his word, the king gave the command for all the wise men to be killed.
Daniel and His Three Friends Are Sentenced to Death
That was bad news for Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. In chapter one, the king commanded to bring before him those of the Israelites that were from the royal family and of the nobility. He wanted them to be trained in literature and the language of the Chaldeans so they could serve in the king’s palace (Dan. 1:4). In effect, Daniel and his friends were chosen to attend the Babylonian University to become wise men. So when the king made the proclamation for all the wise men to be put to death, it included students in training! Yikes!
Being the proactive kind of guy that he was, when Daniel learned of the command to kill all the wise men, he sent a message to the king requesting time to fulfill his request about the dream. And the king granted his request! What is interesting is that the king gave to Daniel what he wasn’t willing to give to the other wise men that he called to help him with the dream. He wouldn’t let them leave his presence until they told him the dream and the interpretation. So it’s unusual that the king granted Daniel’s request for time to fulfill his request. Why did he? It has to be because God had granted Daniel favor. That, and the fact that the king really wanted to know about his dream.
Daniel and his friends prayed and asked the Lord to give them the interpretation. That night Daniel dreamed the very dream that the king had dreamed, and the Lord gave him the interpretation of the dream as well. When Daniel awoke, he gave God the glory saying:
“Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: and he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” (Dan. 2:20–22).
I want to focus your attention on the phrase, “he removes kings and sets up kings.” This is pertinent to Nebuchadnezzar’s experience.
Daniel Described the Dream to the King
Daniel was escorted into the king’s presence. He told the king about the dream. He described a great image of a man “whose splendor was excellent” and “its form was awesome.” The image was made up of different metals: the head was gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and thighs were bronze, the legs were iron, and its feet were a mixture of clay and iron.
Daniel gave the king the interpretation for the head of gold: “Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all. Thou art this head of gold” (Dan. 2:37–38).
Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that he represented the head of God. The king responded by saying, “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 couldest reveal this secret” (Dan. 2:47). The king definitely liked hearing that he was the head of gold.
Now I want to focus your attention of the phrase, “God … hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.” This is also pertinent to Nebuchadnezzar’s experience.
Being the Head of Gold Went to His Head
When Daniel told the king that he himself represented the head of gold on the great image in his dream, it clearly went to the king’s head. That fact is fairly obvious because of what we are told he did in the next chapter. Chapter three begins by telling us the king had created a giant image of gold like in his dream. It was ninety feet high and nine feet wide! Essentially, the king made a giant golden image of himself, because in his dream, he was the head of gold.
Then we are told the reason why he made this golden image. When the golden image was completed, he sent word throughout all his provinces to all the “satraps, the administrators, the governors, the counselors, the treasurers, the judges, the magistrates, and all the officials of the provinces” to come to a ceremony to dedicate the image.
When all the king’s officials came and stood before the great image, the king’s herald announced, “To you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of musick, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshippeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace” (Dan. 3:4–6).
This is a man filled with pride. His pride and arrogance had reached a level where he desired to be acknowledged and worshiped as god. It was not a suggestion. It was a command. And the command to worship the golden image was not just exclusive to the officials he invited to the ceremony. It was addressed to “O people, nations, and languages.” Everyone under his rule was to worship the golden image, meaning him. And if they failed to worship the image, they were threatened with death.
Of course, we know three of those before the image refused to bow down and worship the golden image: Daniel’s three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah whose names had been changed to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They refused to worship the golden image, because they already had a god whom they worshiped. They would not bow down to a false idol. And as the king promised, they were thrown into the fire. But they didn’t die. They survived the fire, so much so that when they were brought out of the fire, there wasn’t so much as the stench of smoke on them. The king was so impressed with the God of the Israelites that he said:
“Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who believed in, trusted in, and relied on Him! And they set aside the king’s command and yielded their bodies rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree that any people, nation, and language that speaks anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be cut in pieces and their houses be made a dunghill, for there is no other God who can deliver in this way! (Dan. 3:28–29)
Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by this miracle. He was put in his place. He had become full of pride, thinking of himself as a god, demanding all those in his kingdom to bow down and worship him. Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had set aside his command to burn alive those who refused to worship his image. The God of the Hebrews was greater than Nebuchadnezzar. When God set aside Nebuchadnezzar’s command, his pride balloon was popped. Nebuchadnezzar expressed humility by making a decree that no one can say anything amiss about their God. Nebuchadnezzar said, “There is no other God who can deliver in this way!” Nebuchadnezzar was humbled.
But… does Nebuchadnezzar stay humble? Stay tuned for next week to find out!
2 Kings 4:24, “Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and send that email forward…” (KJV).
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