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KD Old Testament Lesson 46: Daniel 2

Posted by Karl D. on December 6, 2010

Gospel Doctrine
Lesson: Daniel (#46)
Reading: Daniel 2

PDF Version of Notes

1 Approach

These represent the notes I made during my reading of the scriptural text for this lesson. It is not a lesson outline or a lesson plan but really notes about issues and questions that struck me as interesting during my reading. Consequently, the notes do not have a conclusion and very little mention of application. I like to let those things arise while I teach.

2 Introduction

2.1 What Do You Think of Daniel?

  • Daniel strikes me as a well liked book in the Old Testament? Is this true?
  • What makes the book well liked? Are there parts that really resonate with you?
  • Is it because at least half of the book is comprised of narratives? Do you tend to read the last part of Daniel (chapters 7-12)?
  • Have you read the book much as an adult or do you primarily remember the book from your primary days and youth Sunday School? Has your view of the book or the relevence of the book to you changed over time?
  • Do you see yourself in the narrative? Do you identify with Daniel and his friends?
  • Do you see the first six chapters as primarily didactic stories that are easy to teach to children?
  • In what ways is the book of Daniel very timely and relevant? And I don’t mean that the stories may contain prophecies about the latter-days. I mean is the narrative itself timely? Are the difficulties faced by Daniel and his friends timely?

2.2 Court Tales

All the narratives (including this week’s reading) take place in the Babylonian court. In fact, we could view all these narratives as part of court narrative genre. Why might have these court narratives resonated with Jews living in the Diaspora?

3 Nebuchadnezzar, the Advisers, and Daniel

3.1 Nebuchadnezzar Dreams

Read Daniel 2:1-2:

1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.

3.1.1 Contrast

  • Is there anything different about Nebuchadnezzar here in chapter 2 as opposed to Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 1? At least as far as his role in the narrative is concerned?
  • Nebuchadnezzar is now playing an active role as opposed to a passive one. Whenever a character plays an active role I think we need to think about why the author went out of his why to put the character in an active context. The author could have left him more in the background like in chapter 1. For example, the author could have told the story starting with Daniel’s involvement and kept the focus more on Daniel (but the authors doesn’t and that might be important). I think we are supposed to learn something from Nebuchadnezzar from the very beginning.
  • I think one of the reasons Nebuchadnezzar plays such a prominent role is to provide contrast and I think we, as readers, might be able learn something from the that contrast.
  • How is Nebuchadnezzar a source of contrast and with whom does he contrast? How do his actions from the very beginning provide contrast? Is the contrast ironic?
  • I think he provides contrast with the Lord. The earthly king provides contrast with the heavenly King. The king is troubled; he is the most powerful man in the world yet he is not at peace. Contrast this with the LORD, who is the source of all peace. To me this is at the core of the book of Daniel; balancing earthly and heavenly concerns. In that sense the book of Daniel is very timely.

3.1.2 The King’s Advisers

Goldingay, in the Word Biblical Commentary, gives some background on the types of advisers mentioned in this pericope:1

  1. Magician (Diviners): Egyptian in origin denoting magicians/priests skilled in cuneiform. The same word is used with the magicians of the Egyptian court to whom Joseph showed he was superior.
  2. Astrologers (chanters): refers to a more common Babylonian term for magical practitioners who are skilled at interpreting signs of the those who are sick or ill.
  3. Sorcerers (charmers): a common OT term that denotes sinful practitioners of alien magic.
  4. Chaldeans (sages): can refer to any Aramaic speaking people but here it refers to sages who engage in mantic arts.

3.2 Long Live the King

Read Daniel 2:3-7:

3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: if ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. 6 But if ye shew the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honour: therefore shew me the dream, and the interpretation thereof. 7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it.

3.2.1 Some Irony

In verse 4 the king’s advisers greet the king by proclaiming “O king, live for ever” or approximately, “Long live the king.” How is the greeting ironic given one of the central messages of chapter 2?

3.2.2 He Doesn’t Tell

Why doesn’t the king recount his dream to his advisers? Is there more than one possibility?

  • Let’s suppose the king has forgotten his dream? What do we learn about the king? How do his actions provide contrast?
  • This makes the king very human and very frail. He cannot remember is dream so he lashes out in angry and fear towards his advisers. Compare to the heavenly king.
  • Let’s suppose the king has purposely withheld the dream? How does this provide contrast?
  • Violent, arbitrary, mistrustful, crafty? Compare to the heavenly king.
  • I think this is a wonderful message to the Diaspora Jews. It not only humanizes the king but reminds them of the differences between worldly power and heavenly power. This strikes me as a nice message for us today. There is a huge difference between worldly and heavenly wisdom.
  • Notice also that the king here is not painted as uniformally bad. He is visionary and he makes important contributions to the world. He appears to be very smart and seems like a pretty good motivator too.
  • What do we learn about the king’s advisers? I think we primarily learn that their occupation is very dangerous.

3.3 The Advisers

Read Daniel 2:7-12:

7 They answered again and said, Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation of it. 8 The king answered and said, I know of certainty that ye would gain the time, because ye see the thing is gone from me. 9 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. 10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

  • What do the king’s advisers try to do?
  • What does the king’s response in verse 8 mean? The NRSV is the following for verses 8-9:

8 The king answered, “I know with certainty that you are trying to gain time, because you see I have firmly decreed: 9 if you do not tell me the dream, there is but one verdict for you. You have agreed to speak lying and misleading words to me until things take a turn. Therefore, tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation.”

  • Are the advisers another source of contrast and with whom do they contrast?
  • What actions in these verses contrast the most with Daniel’s actions later in the narrative?
  • Do you think the advisers are portrayed negatively or positively? Do you feel sympathetic towards their plight? Why? Do you see yourselves in the king’s advisers?

3.4 Daniel About to be Executed

Daniel is about to be executed with the rest of the advisers (there is no mention of why he wasn’t with the advisers earlier). Daniel does the following (Read 2:15-18):

15 He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel. 16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation. 17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

  • What do we learn here? How does it provide contrast? Why is there very little dialog as compared to the turbulent dialog of the king with his advisers?
  • Why did Daniel succeed when the king’s other adviser’s failed?
  • Do these verses change your view of Nebuchadnezzar? Why or why not?
  • Why is the Lord not mentioned in verses 15-16? Is Daniel prospering according to his own genius here? Is this a precursor to the Lord helps those who help themselves?
  • Why does the author go out of his way to mention Daniel’s friends? They seem to play no essential role in the narrative? Does this tell us anything about the nature of faith and worship?

3.5 Mystery Revealed

Read Daniel 2:19:

19 Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night, and Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

  • Obviously this is an important development in terms of saving Daniel’s life. But I think it is important in other ways.
  • Why might Daniel’s role in the narrative been very important to the original audience: Diaspora Jews? Do you think it would be comforting to them? How is Daniel like Samuel or Nathan? In what way does he move beyond Samuel and Nathan?

3.6 Daniel’s Praise

Daniel praises the Lord in verse 20-23 with a beautiful poem. The poem really emphasizes some of the main points of the narrative. It is definitely worth reading if you haven’t read it in a while.

4 The Dream Revealed

4.1 The Dream

Read Daniel 2:31-36:

31 Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. 32 This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, 33 His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. 34 Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. 35 Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.

  • Let’s not do any kingdom identification at this point. Let’s simply recognize that the metals represent kingdoms and that the first kingdom is Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom.
  • Why this imagery to describe a series of kingdoms? How does the imagery reflect themes already discussed? Have we already seen feet of clay?
  • Why is Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom the first kingdom mentioned? Why not start earlier? Is this just to flatter him? In what sense is Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom the beginning of history?

4.2 The Kingdoms

Read Daniel 2:37-38:

37 Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. 38 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.

  • What do we learn about Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom?
  • What is the main point of the dream? Would the main point have been relevant and meaningful to Diaspora Jews or really only to us today?
  • Daniel never identifies the other kingdoms? Why? Might the lack of identification be important?
  • Suppose you are a Jew who lives in about 167 BCE? How might you see the kingdoms? In what sense was the prophecy fulfilled for these Jews? Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece. Maccabean revolt?
  • Suppose you are an early Christian around 30 CE? How might you see the kingdoms? In what sense was the prophecy fulfilled for early Christians?
  • As a latter-day saint?

4.3 Your God is a God of Gods

Read Daniel 2:46-47:

46 Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. 47 The king answered unto Daniel, and said, 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.

  • Does Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction reveal the most important lesson we can learn from this story? Why or why not?
  • What does Nebuchadnezzar’s reaction reveal?


1 Goldingay, John E., 1989, Daniel, Word Books, 45-46.

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