Daniel 2 – The Dream of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Its Interpretation

Introduction

The life of the human race, which is the subject or topic of general history, belongs to the past. But the past can be known from the testimony of those who lived in it. God not only is present at all occurrences in time but also knows of them before they occur and foretells them through the mouth of His holy prophets. “There shall be no thing on earth,” says the Bible, “which the Lord will not reveal to his servants the prophets.” And according to what Peter the Apostle says in the Acts of the Apostles the second and glorious coming of Christ is deferred until “the times of restoration of all things whereof God hath spoken through the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.” So the only trustworthy and infallible witness of history is the Holy Spirit, which spoke through the prophets and speaks the truth through all God-beloved men; accordingly, the historian must take for his standard and test of historical truth the prophecies by which God foretold the course and issue of human affairs and vicissitudes, as well as the testimonies of God­-beloved and virtuous men. But besides the spirit of truth witnessing the truth through the mouth of all holy men there is also the spirit of falsehood and of traducement, which garbles and distorts the truth of the facts through the mouth of impious and perverse men always speaking with a view to some private and selfish end. The historian, therefore, distinguishes the witnesses to the truth from those speaking falsehood, and possessing the infallible standard of truth he weighs with it testimonies of others, and through all he traces and verifies one and the same historical truth. The method, therefore, of general history, according to the Christian university, consists in seeking and tracing historical truth through trustworthy witnesses of the truth, testing all testimonies of others by means of the infallible standard, interpreting prophecy by means of history, and confirming history by means of prophecy. For example, let us take the prophecy of Daniel, in which are foretold the course and the issue of the political vicissitudes of the human race, and let us see how far the prophecy agrees identically with history, that we may discern and acknowledge the inseparable bond between prophet and historian, and between prophecy and history.

The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and its Interpretation

In the second year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had a dream, of which he lost memory upon awaking. He summoned all the enchanters and the magicians and the sorcerers and the Chaldeans, and demanded of them that they tell him the dream and its interpretation. When they were unable and refused, the king became angry and ordered the slaughter of all the wise men of Babylon; and the order was carried out at once. Daniel the prophet, too, was about to become a victim of this anger as being classed among the wise men of Babylon, and as soon as he learned the cause of the king’s cruel decision he desired of Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, and executor of the decision, that he give him time to satisfy the king’s wish. He was granted this, and through prayer and entreaty Daniel and his three companions, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, persuaded God to reveal to Daniel the secret of the dream. Then Daniel, filled with a sense of gratitude to God, blessed God, and said: “Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and understanding are his; and he changeth seasons and times; he setteth up kings and removeth them, giving wisdom unto the wise, and prudence to them that know understanding. He revealeth deep and hidden things, knowing what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. I thank thee and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, because thou hast given me wisdom and power, and hast made known unto me what we requested of thee, and thou hast made known unto me the king’s vision.”

Having thus thanked God, Daniel was brought before the king by Arioch that he might tell him the dream which he had had and its explanation. “O king,” he said, “thy dream and the visions of thy head upon thy bed are these. Thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed concerning what should come to pass hereafter; and he that revealeth secrets made known unto thee what shall come to pass … Thou, O king, sawest, and behold an image, a great image was that and its aspect in­deed was superb, as it stood before thy face, and the sight of it was fearful. An image whose head was of fine gold, its hands and breast and arms being of silver, its belly and thighs of copper, and its legs of iron, its feet, however, partly of iron and partly of clay. Thou sawest till a stone was split off from a mountain without hands, and smote the image upon its feet of iron and clay, and attenuated them in the end. Then were the clay, the iron, the copper, the silver, the gold, thinned all at once, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the force of the wind carried them away, and no place was found for them. And the stone which smote the image became a great mountain and filled all the earth. This is the dream, and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. Thou, O king, art a king of kings, to whom the God of heaven hath given a strong and mighty and honorable kingdom … Thou art the head of gold. And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and a third kingdom of copper which shall conquer all the earth, and a fourth kingdom which shall be as strong as iron. In the same way as iron can attenuate and subdue all things, so will it attenuate and sub­due all things. And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes partly of clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; and there shall be in it the strength of the iron in the same way as thou sawest the iron mixed up with the clay. And the toes being partly iron and partly clay, a part of the kingdom shall be strong and some of it shall be in a condition of being crushed. Whereas thou sawest the iron mixed up with clay, they shall be commingled among the seed of men, and they shall hot cleave one to the other, just as iron cannot be mixed up thoroughly with clay. And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and his kingdom shall not be left to another people. It shall attenuate and winnow all kingdoms, and it shall stand up for ever. In the same way as thou sawest that from a mountain a stone was cut without hands and attenuated the clay, the iron, the copper, the silver, the gold, the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter. And true is the dream, and faithful the interpretation thereof.”

Since the great God, then, made known to king Nebuchadnezzar what should come to pass thereafter in relation to the kingdoms and governments of the earth, history can be nothing but the prophecy itself being realized in time, and in order to see this truth, let us inquire how much of the prophecy has become history and how much of the prophecy still remains awaiting the time of its realization.

God foreshowed the course and issue of human affairs by means of an image of a man composed of various metals in order that the nature and character of each kingdom might be made evident. The image is one, but the parts of which it is composed vary according to the difference in the metals that go to make up the image. The single image, a type or figure of the single history of the human race, prefigures four great kingdoms in which pass by in succession all the embodiments of power and authority over human affairs. The first kingdom, represented by the gold head, is the rich and mighty kingdom of the Babylonians. The second, represented by the silver breast and silver hands is the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, which subjugated and supplanted the kingdom of the Babylonians. The third kingdom, symbolized by the copper belly and copper thighs, is the kingdom of Alexander the great, which overthrew the Persian empire and conquered all the earth in agreement with the prophecy. The fourth and last, represented by the iron legs and the feet and toes partly of iron and partly of clay, represents the Roman empire. This kingdom in the beginning is purely iron and as strong as iron. In the same way as iron can attenuate and subdue all other metals, so the Roman empire subdued and overthrew all other kingdoms. But after the barbarians entered the Roman empire and established themselves therein the kingdom at first purely iron became a divided kingdom, composed partly of iron and partly of clay. Since iron is stronger than clay, and clay is friable and weakest of all, it was thereby signified that some of the kingdoms were to be weak, those which were to be strong crushing the weak ones. And since, from another point of view, clay cannot be mixed with iron, the intercourse and intercompmnication of the kingdoms, and their distinctness from each other were thus betokened. All Europe appears to be a single state as a result of intercourse and intercommunication. Nevertheless, each nation, even if weak and small, asserts its nationhood and is unwilling to be fused with another, though stronger, nation, just as clay cannot be mixed with iron. Nearly the whole image, then, from head to foot and toes, has become history; for both gold and silver and copper and iron and the mixture of iron and clay have held sway one after another in accordance with the pre-appointed seasons and times. There remains only the kingdom of the stone cut without hands, which is to smite the image on its iron-and-clay feet, and after attenuating it into chaff and winnowing it off the face of the earth, the stone which smote the image will become a great mountain, and will cover all the earth. In other words, it remains for the God of heaven to set up that kingdom which shall never be destroyed and shall not be left to another people.

But if anyone say that the prophecy as respects the stone cut without hands has become history, because Christ is conceived as a stone not made by hands, in accordance with the sacred song of the Church: “A stone cut without hands, a corner stone, O Virgin, out of thy unchiseled mountain Christ was cut,” and that this stone smote the Roman empire and through Constantine the Great set up the Christian kingdom of the Byzantines which lasted for over a thousand years, and that we are already on the eve of the end of the world, – if, I say, anyone retort with this argument, even supporting his contention by reference to certain expounders of the prophecies, such a person is allowing himself to be misled by groundless opinions, and understands neither prophecy nor history. But since many Christians hold this prejudice, we deem it our duty to enlighten them upon this question of the stone cut without hands, and to give them, if possible, to understand the prophecy by means of history. It is true that Christ and His word are conceived as a stone cut without hands, and that this stone was cut without hands out of Mount Zion nineteen centuries ago. Nevertheless the cutting of the stone and the stone’s smiting the image are two different things. The stone was cut during the pureiy iron sway of the Romans, whereas the prophecy says that it smote the image upon the feet of iron and clay; but between the iron legs and the clay feet, or, before the feet and toes come upon the world’s stage and fulfill their part, a long time must necessarily elapse, so that we can conclude that the cutting of the stone and the smiting of the image on its feet of iron and clay are not contemporaneous events, but far removed from each other. The prophecy says that the image, when smitten, will be attenuated into chaff, or dust, and that the force, or bulk, of the wind will carry, or lift, it away from the face of the earth. On the other hand, the stone, after smiting the image, becomes a great mountain and fills all the earth. Which meaps the kingdoms of the world are to be succeeded by the kingdom of God.

But up to the present time the toes of the image have been ruling, and the reign of the stone, or of Christ, is nowhere to be seen. Therefore the smiting of the image and the reign of the stone, which is to be universal and world-wide, are as yet merely prophecy and have not yet become history. The prophecy says that in the days of those kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed and which shall not be left to another people. It is impossible for it to mean the period of Augustus Caesar, for at that time a single empire prevailed on earth, and not a plurality of kingdoms. Consequently, the prophecy has reference to the period in which we are living, because in these days there are many kingdoms ruling, and it would be no wonder if the newly-­born prince, Constantine, should be that personage through whom the God of heaven is to smite the image on its feet of iron and clay, and set up that world-wide kingdom which shall never be destroyed and which shall not be left to another people. For the sake of greater clarity, the following historical law must also be taken into consideration. The kingdom that is to overthrow and succeed the preceding one needs must co-exist together with it for a long time until it itself has grown up and attained its prime, while the other has grown old and become decrepit. The kingdom of the Medes and Persians, for instance, existed during the time that the Babylo­nians prevailed; and during the time that the Medes and Persians prevailed, Greeks existed, too; and during the time that Alexander held sway over all the earth, there were Romans in existence, too. But the power of the Babylonians gradually waning, that of the Medes and Persians increased until the time came for the overthrow of the decrepit by the vigorous, of the old by the young. Again, with the waning of the kingdom of the Medes and Persians and the upblazing of that of the Greeks under Philip and Alexander, the former was overthrown by the latter. With the decline of the Greeks, the Romans flourished, and the overthrow of the first by the second supervened. In accordance with the same historical law the kingdom of the stone which is to smite the image on its feet of iron and clay needs must co-exist for a long time together with the other while flourishing, and when the kingdom of toes reaches its lowest ebb, and the kingdom of the stone its prime, then must the overthrow and succession take place. However, the kingdom of the stone is peculiar in this respect, that it is not subject to decline and decay; for it shall never be destroyed and shall not be left to another people.

But the upshot of this article is that a historian who studies history in accordance with the principles of the Christian university will not only gain an accurate knowledge of the past, but will also become conversant with the future. Thus does the Christian university understand general history and the method of its investigation.


A. Makrakis, pp-47-52, The Two Contrarian Schools Concerning the Establishment of a Christian University.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you Sir Jonathan

    On Wed, Nov 17, 2021, 1:30 PM Neo-Historicism – End Times Eschatology From A New Eastern Orthodox Christian Historicist Perspective wrote:

    > Jonathan Photius posted: ” Introduction The life of the human race, which > is the subject or topic of general history, belongs to the past. But the > past can be known from the testimony of those who lived in it. God not only > is present at all occurrences in time but also knows of” >

    Like

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