Dreams are a prominent feature of the first half of the book of Daniel.
In the second chapter, Daniel describes and interprets a dream of Nebuchadnezzar.
I looked at the dream itself in a previous thread, without touching on the encounter between the two men.
The stone and the statue
The key points of the story are briefly told.
Nebuchadnezzar is troubled by his dreams and summons all the experts in various magic arts to tell him about them.
In fact it becomes a question of one dream, which must have been recurring.
Instead of following the normal practice, by recounting the dream and asking them to explain it, he orders them to recount the dream themselves before
offering an interpretation.
They object, quite reasonably, that he is asking them to describe his own thoughts, and they point out that nobody except the gods can know the
contents of a man’s mind.
So the king is “angry and very furious” and orders them all to be executed, because their services are useless to his purpose.
“You shall be torn limb from limb, and your houses shall be laid in ruins”.
Why does the king make this apparently perverse challenge?
He does seem to have genuinely forgotten the details of the dream, knowing only that he wakes with “a troubled spirit”.
But even if he remembered them, finding a valid explanation would still be problematic.
Once a dream has been described, almost any fool with enough imagination can offer AN interpretation (“This dream is disclosing your feelings about
your mother, Your Excellency…”). But the royal client has no way of telling which interpretation is presenting the true meaning. Of course any
prophecy extracted from the dream may be proved wrong by events, but he doesn’t want to wait as long as that.
His approach, though it may be instinctive, is based on solid principles.
The implied starting-point is that only God can control the future, to the extent that he wants to control the future (but we can leave that open).
For this and other reasons, only God can know
Therefore God is the sole provider of genuinely prophetic dreams.
Two more inferences follow on from this last point;
Apart from the dreamer himself, only God, as the dream-provider, can tell us the content
of a prophetic dream.
And only God, as the dream-provider, can tell us the meaning
of a prophetic dream.
Therefore anyone who can report the content of a dream must be getting his information direct from God.
In which case, he can learn the true meaning of the dream from the same source.
The “wise men” are admitting that they cannot report the content of his dreams. They are not expecting their gods to tell them. So their
unconscious admission is that they cannot expect their gods to tell them anything about the meaning of his dreams either.
Daniel is already numbered among the “wise men” of the kingdom.
He was not included in the grand royal summons, but he is included in the general decree of execution.
Therefore he comes forward in haste and presents himself to the king, after consulting the God of heaven.
Of course he gives a full account of the dream itself and its meaning.
But first he spells out the implications of the fact that he can pass the test.
“There is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries”.
That is the key point.
This means that he can reveal to the king even the thoughts which the king has forgotten, as well as the interpretation of his dream.
But these are really the lesser mysteries, which are incidental to the greater mystery.
The greater mystery, which God has been revealing in this dream, is “what will be in the latter days”.
So the first half of this chapter has been answering the question “Who knows the God of heaven?”
Daniel has shown that he, and he alone, hears from the God who provides prophetic dreams.
But this also means that he hears from the God who knows the future; that is, the God who governs the future.
At the same time, the idolaters of Babylon have been demonstrating that they don’t know this God.
This has a bearing on the controversies in the rest of Daniel.
The message of the story is that Daniel has a unique access to God’s knowledge of the future.
That serves to establish Daniel’s authority on other occasions when he speaks in God’s name.
On that basis, we can be ready to receive, and accept as from God, the revelations which Daniel gives us in the later chapters- his interpretation of
the king’s next dream and of the words shown to Belshazzar, his own dream in ch11, and the visions in the later part of the book.
Since Daniel is a representative of God’s people Israel, the same conclusion also affirms the relationship between God and his people.
In previous threads on the book of Daniel, I suggested that the central theme of the book is the clash between the will of God and the over-weening
self-esteem of a human authority that thinks it’s God.
In its bearing on that theme, the second chapter is really covering two topics at the same time.
The contrast between the power of the Biblical God and the power of human authority does appear in the dream itself.
But there’s another contrast, in the story of the interpretation, between the power of the Biblical God and the power of multiple idolatry.
The weakness of idolatry is betrayed by the fact that it cannot give its adherents any knowledge of the future.
The combination of the two topics in the same chapter implies that “human authority” and “multiple idolatry” are living in comfortable
co-existence, which was also the case in the time of Imperial Rome.
That is the alliance which presents the most severe test of the allegiance of God’s people.
edit on 10-8-2018 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)