Nebuchadnezzar (also spelled, Nebuchadrezzar, meaning “may Nebo protect the crown”) was one of the greatest kings of Babylon. He and his forebears expanded the Babylonian kingdom into Egypt. In marrying a princess of Mesopotamia, he realized she missed the fruitful hills in the flat desert lands of Babylon. He built her what is now known as one of the ten ancient wonders of the world, the Hanging Gardens. He literally built a mountain in the city of Babel, with waterfalls and gardens hanging everywhere, as a reminder of her home.
Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as great a king as the legendary Nimrod. In previous lessons discussing Nimrod, we see that he reigned from Babylon to Egypt, and was one of Abraham’s key enemies in the ancient stories. According to ancient tradition, Nimrod obtained the garment of Adam through his fathers, when Ham stole the garment from Noah. He used the garment to become rich and powerful. Animals would recognize the garment of Adam and innocently approach him, making him one of the mightiest hunters in the world. Joel foresaw the future armies of Gog and Magog in terms that also describe Nimrod:
“A fire devoureth before them; and behind them a flame burneth. The land is as the Garden of Eden before them, and behind them a desolate wilderness. Yea, and nothing shall escape them” (Joel 2:3).
Nebuchadnezzar sought to be as powerful and great as Nimrod. Another project he initiated, but never completed was to rebuild the Tower of Babel upon its original foundation that Nimrod set in place about one millennium before. Nebuchadnezzar wanted to be not only the greatest king, but a god. While it does not specify, many scholars believe that the golden image Nebuchadnezzar set up and required all to worship (see Daniel 3), was his own image. He sought to make himself a god, but ended up finding out that Jehovah, the God of the exiled Jews, was more powerful than he and his furnace ever could be. Later in Daniel, we’ll see how this intense desire to make himself a god led to Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall.
In his second year as king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar had an intense dream that seemed to have no meaning. He called for all of the counselors in the kingdom. These included the magicians (diviners), the astrologers (conjurer or necromancer), the sorcerers (those who practice witchcraft), and the Chaldeans (the wise men). The king demanded to know the interpretation of the dream, but insisted that he could not even remember the dream, so they would not only have to interpret the dream, but also tell him what the dream was.
Several times the counselors begged the king tell the dream to them, but he insisted he no longer remembered it. He tested them, and they knew it. They came ready to interpret the dream according to whatever their imaginations could create. Yet, they knew that if they pretended to know the actual dream, he would tell them they were wrong, and they would be punished by death for their trickery and falsehoods. As far as they were concerned, “there is not a man on earth that can shew the king’s matter” (Dan 2:10), and so no previous ruler or king had ever asked such an impossible task of his counselors in the past. Nebuchadnezzar was being unreasonable to them. Yet Nebuchadnezzar knew the dream was important enough to demand the correct answer.
Upon hearing the problem and that all the counselors were to be put to death, Daniel spoke up and asked to see the king. The Hebrew God could reveal both the dream and its interpretation through the prophet.
The king saw in vision a great warrior statue. Its head was made of gold, with lower parts made of silver, brass, iron, and a mixture of iron and clay. Then Nebuchadnezzar saw a stone cut out without hands, which went forth growing until it became a great mountain, destroying the image in its path.
“36 This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king.
37Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory.
38And 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.
39And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth.
40And the fourth kingdom 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.
41And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay.
42And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken.
43And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry 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.
44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.”
Daniel explained that the statue was of successive world powers. Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon was the portion of gold, the best one could hope for. According to historic tradition, the following nations followed: Silver = Persia, Brass = Greece, Iron = Rome, and finally the feet of iron and clay represented the nations of the last days.
These final nations, some strong as iron, others weak as clay, combined to form a conglomeration of allies and powers that occasionally held together, but often fell apart. We see such occurring in the ever changing powers and alliances of England, France, Spain, Germany, Russia, the United States, and others. At times each has been strong as iron, while they also have been weak as clay.
It is in such an environment that the stone is cut out without men’s hands. It is a supernatural stone, representing a hardness that is greater than gold, silver, brass or iron. While it will begin small, the stone grows, becoming more powerful until it becomes a mountain that completely overshadows the image or nations of the world. They cannot fight against it, as they break in attacking the stone. This stone is the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ, brought forth AFTER the rein of the Romans – so it is not the mortal ministry of Christ and his apostles that the stone references. It comes later, much later, when the world is not united under one national rule, and when the clay in its feet makes it dangerous, unpredictable and chaotic.
This is the preparation for the Second Coming of Christ, when the gospel in its fullness is restored through God’s power, and not by the political or philosophical ways of man. Kingdoms rise and fall, but only the kingdom of God will go forever; replacing all the world’s kingdoms when Christ comes again in power and glory.