Verses 1–13: The King’s Dream
King Nebuchadnezzar received a disturbing dream from God. He panicked because he could not remember it. Therefore, Nebuchadnezzar called all the wise men of Babylon to tell him the dream and its interpretation.
The wise men of Babylon had to confess that they could not tell the king his dream, nor could they therefore provide any interpretation. No man could do what the king required; only the gods could reveal the dream and the interpretation. The king was so furious with the wise men’s inability to help him that he sent forth a decree to destroy them all.
God wisely created a situation to reveal the futility of the Babylonian gods. He unmasked the limitations of Babylonian wisdom. It was now a perfect time to reveal Himself to the king as the only true God.
Verses 14–30: Daniel Requests Time to Pray
When Daniel was brought before the king, he did not demand any details about the dream, but only requested time to pray. Daniel knew that God was more than able to reveal to him the king’s dream.
In preparation for God’s revelation, Daniel and his friends fasted and prayed. After God showed them the dream, they rejoiced in the Lord for His faithfulness and goodness.
Daniel respectfully stood before the king and revealed to him the dream and its interpretation. He could have taken all the credit for himself and humiliated the wise men of Babylon, but he did neither. Instead, he reminded the king that none of the wise men were able to reveal to the king his dream and its interpretation. Daniel then pointed to the God of heaven as the only One who could reveal secrets.
This humble spirit of Daniel increased his influence with others. Men could see that he had a connection with God and they respected him for it.
Verses 31–45: The Dream and its Interpretation
The king saw in his dream a great image made up of four different metals. There was a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, a belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron. These four different metals represented the chronological succession of world empires beginning with Babylon.
Daniel told the king of Babylon that his kingdom represented the head of gold. However, a kingdom of silver would follow. Then there would be a third kingdom of brass, which would be followed by a kingdom of iron that would crush and devour.
We know historically that the Medes and Persians defeated the Babylonians in 539 BC. The book of Daniel itself identifies this historical fact. See Daniel 5:30, 31. The Medes and Persians were in turn defeated by the Greeks in 331 BC and became the third empire of brass. Amazingly, the book of Daniel predicted the fall of the Medes and Persians by the Greeks before the Grecian Empire was even a world contender. See Daniel 8:3-8, 20-22.
History identifies Rome as the fourth empire that defeated the Greeks in 168 BC. However, the iron legs of Rome would itself disintegrate into ten smaller kingdoms by AD 476. The feet with ten toes of iron and clay would replace it. These ten smaller kingdoms were the Anglo-Saxons (English), Alemanni (Germans), Franks (French), Burgundians (Swiss), Suevi (Portuguese), Visigoths (Spanish), Vandals (in North Africa), Lombards, Ostrogoths, and the Heruli (each a part of Italy).
There have been many attempts to bring these ten nations into a singular empire, but as the Bible predicted they would not adhere one to another. Hitler attempted it through force, and others through the “seed of men” (verse 43), but these attempts have always failed.
Others have noted that the mixture of iron and clay also represents the union of church and state. In the Bible, clay often represents the professed people of God. God is described as the potter and His people as the clay. See Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6. Therefore, a church (the clay) governed the continuation of Rome (the iron) into the feet of the image.
After the breakup of the Roman Empire into ten smaller kingdoms in AD 476, the Church of Rome took over the empire by AD 538. In this year, the pope sat upon the throne of Caesar and ruled both civilly and religiously. (More on this point in chapter seven of Daniel.)
In the end, the stone cut without human hands destroys all these earthly kingdoms, whether they are monarchies, republics, or ecclesiastical powers. This event is none other than the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Only Christ’s kingdom will last forever and ever.
Verses 46-49: The King Recognizes the God of Daniel
After the explanation of the king’s dream, Nebuchadnezzar confessed to Daniel, “Your God is truly a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets” (verse 47). Unfortunately, the king did not at that time accept the God of heaven as his own god. However, years down the road he would.
What are some of those things that made Daniel and his friends strong?
First, Daniel continued to make every issue and situation in life a matter of prayer. In our “Apply It” section in chapter one, you began a list of people to pray for. Now begin a list of situations to pray for.
Second, Daniel knew that humility was an important key in knowing God and in exerting a positive and spiritual influence upon others. We should all choose to receive the free gift of Christ’s humility each day. In so doing, we will not be pointing others to ourselves, but to Christ.
Some have asked if there was a difference between the potter’s clay in the ten toes and the miry clay in the feet. Let begin with a short review. We know that the king of Babylon saw in his dream a metallic man made up of four different metals.
Head of Gold-Babylon (605 to 539 BC)
Silver breast and arms-Medo-Persia (539 to 331 BC)
Brass belly and thighs-Greece (331 to 168 BC)
Iron legs-Rome (168 BC to 476 AD)
Ten toes of iron and potter’s clay-The break-up of Rome into ten smaller kingdoms
Feet of iron and miry clay-The Papacy (538 AD to 1798 AD)
What do we know historically?
History does confirm the rise and fall of empires from Babylon, to Medo-Persia, to Greece, and then Rome. History confirms that the Roman empire fell by 476 AD into ten smaller kingdoms. These ten smaller kingdoms were made up of ten separate people groups. The ones we are most familiar with are the Franks (or French), the Alemanni (the Germans), and the Anglo-Saxons (the English). There were seven other people groups. Three of these people groups or nations were destroyed at the instigation of the Papacy, namely, the Heruli in AD 493, the Vandals in AD 534, and the Ostrogoths in AD538.
All of these people groups existed in Europe while Rome still ruled the world. Some broke off from Roman rule sooner than others. But by the time we come to 476 AD, Rome could no longer hold the western Roman empire together. It was at this time, 476 AD, that the entire Roman empire had disintegrated into a total of ten smaller kingdoms. This is why there are ten toes in the image that follows the iron legs of Rome.
Historically, we also know that the Church of Rome took over the reins of the Roman empire by 538 AD. Did the Church of Rome exist before 538 AD? Of course, she did. Constantine became emperor of Rome in 313 AD, and was himself making deals with the highly organized and political Church of Rome.
The Church of Rome was entrenched in Roman politics centuries before she ruled the empire by 538 AD. But she could not rule the empire while the Caesars still ruled the empire. When the Roman empire fell in 476 AD, it would take only 62 years and the Church of Rome was ruling the empire by 538 AD.
When we study the seventh chapter of Daniel, we will see the same exact rise and fall of empires. Daniel chapter two describes the rise and fall of these nations with four different metals, while Daniel chapter seven symbolically describes them as four different beasts.
Potter’s clay verses miry clay
Let us now consider the usage of the terms “potter’s clay” and “miry clay” in Daniel 2:40-43.
Roman Empire (168 BC to 476 AD): “And the fourth kingdom (Rome) 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.” Verse 40
Break-up of Rome (476 AD): “And whereas thou sawest the feet and (ten) toes (the break-up of Rome), part of potter’s clay (not miry clay), and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided (into ten smaller kingdoms).” Verse 41a
Church of Rome (538 AD to 1798 AD): “But there shall be in it (the feet) the strength of iron (Roman rule continues through the Church of Rome), forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay (not potter’s clay).” Verse 41b
It would seem clear to me that there is a distinction between “potter’s clay” represented in the ten toes when Rome is divided amongst ten smaller nations, and the “miry clay” which is associated with the “strength of iron” when the Church of Rome took over the reins of the Roman empire.
We understand that “clay” symbolically represents a church in Bible prophecy. See Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:6.
The ten toes of iron and potter’s clay is not referring to any church. Rather, it is focusing on the division of the Roman empire into ten smaller kingdoms. Some of those kingdoms were strong and some were weak and brittle, like potter’s clay.
The feet of iron and miry clay, referring to the Papacy, is a clear example of “clay” representing a church in Bible prophecy. We have the continuation of the Roman empire symbolized by the iron in the feet, but it is mixed with miry clay. It is no longer pagan Rome that rules, but the Church of Rome that rules. A church (clay) now runs and rules this iron kingdom. Therefore, we see that the “iron mixed with miry church” represents the uniting of church and state, and the rule of the Papacy as the next world empire.
Now Daniel will again review this sequence of events with the break-up of Rome being followed by the rule of the Church of Rome.
Break-up of Rome (476 AD): “And as the (ten) toes of the feet (those ten smaller kingdoms) were part of iron, and part of (potter’s) clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken (or brittle).” Verse 42
Here we have a reference back to the ten toes of the image. Daniel recorded that some of these nations would be strong and some would be weak. We know historically and prophetically that three of these nations would be destroyed. (See Daniel 7:8, 20, 24)
Church of Rome (538 AD to 1798 AD): “And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay (not potter’s clay), they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.”
There is a clear reference back to the “miry clay.” During the reign of the Papacy from 538 to 1798 there was the attempt to bring these various nations into one. But every attempt failed. Now notice the lesson that is being taught. In the same way that these nations would not cleave one to another, iron and clay should not be mixed together. It would be wrong to mix iron and miry clay together in a bucket. It would also be wrong to mix church and state together. What an important lesson for us who are living in these last days.
Some have asked, “Why does the iron continue in both the feet and toes of the image?”
There are many nations in our world, but the toes made of iron and potter’s clay, signify that these nations were part of the break-up of the Roman empire. They were part of Rome, not Asia or the New World. By 476 AD, they became ten smaller independent states or nations.
The feet of iron and miry clay representing the Church of Rome, confirms that the Papacy emerged out of the very ruins of Rome. She did not come from another part of the world. Rather, her birthplace was within the Roman empire. By 538 AD, she would rule the Roman empire.