Sunday School Lesson 46: Daniel 2
Posted by Jim F. on December 5, 2010
Verses 4-5: Why does the king make this demand on his wise men?
Verses 10-12: What did it mean to be a wise man in Babylon? Why was the king angry? Why do you think that the gods of Babylon are never mentioned in this story, not even negatively?
Verse 24: Why does Daniel save the other wise men of Babylon? Verse 28: Why would a king living hundreds of years before Christ’s birth be interested in what would happen at the age when the end of the world would come? (“Latter days” is probably better translated “at the end of days.”) Why should anyone but those who live in the latter days care about them? Books about the last days and prophecies of them were not uncommon during the time after the Jewish exile in Babylon, but why? Why are they important to us?
Verse 32: The Greek poet Hesiod uses the image of world history as having four parts, each less happy than the last, and each designated by a metal of decreasing value: gold, silver, bronze, iron. The Persians had a similar understanding of the ages of human existence: gold, silver, steel, and iron mixed with clay. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is a mixture of the two traditions. Why would a revelation to the Lord come to Nebuchadnezzar in those terms?
Verse 34: What is the stone cut from the mountain without hands? Why do you think that? How does your identification of that stone fit with your identification with the parts of the image in the next verses?
Verses 36-45: It appears that the Jews before Christ’s time understood world history to be encapsulated in the reigns of the Babylonians, Medes, Persians, and Greeks. So, it was probably in those terms that the prophecy was understood up to the time of Christ. The traditional Catholic interpretation was that the four parts of the image represent the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman empires, culminating in the birth of Christ. Joseph Smith didn’t seem particularly interested in discussing those kingdoms. (See Dean Jesse, comp., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith 106-107.)
Verses 41-44: Joseph Smith was, however, interested in the feet and toes:
The feet of the image, is the government of these United States, other nations & kingdoms are looking up to her, for an example, of union freedom and equal rights, and therefore worship her, like as Daniel saw in the vision, although they are beginning to loose confidence in her, seeing the broils and discord that distract, her political & religious horizon; this Image is characteristic of all governments and institutions or most of them; as they begin with a head of gold and terminate in the contemptible feet of iron & clay: making a splendid appearance at first, proposing to do much more than they can perform, and finally end in degradation and sink, in infamy; we should not only start to come out of Babylon but leave it entirely lest we are overthrown in her ruins. (Personal Writings of Joseph Smith 106-107; spelling and capitalization modernized)
[Note that in this quotation Joseph is recording in his diary something that a visitor, Joshua, has told him, without saying whether he agrees. He may not have agreed, but I assume that he recorded it because he found it noteworthy, and he gives no indication of finding fault with this--though he specifically says that he disagreed with Joshua about the resurrection. So, thoug it is hardly certain, I think that Joseph recorded this because he agreed with it.]
Assuming that this represents Joseph Smith’s understanding, how did he understand the prophecy of Daniel? What import does it have for us today? How did Joseph Smith understand what it meant to come out of Babylon? How ought we to understand it?
Verse 44: What kingdom will consume all other kingdoms? What is the relation of the Church to that kingdom? Given these biblical and prophetic teachings, why does the Church require our obedience to earthly governments?