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Nebuchadnezzar Has a Disturbing Dream

In the second year of his[a] reign Nebuchadnezzar had many dreams.[b] His mind[c] was disturbed and he suffered from insomnia.[d] The king issued an order[e] to summon the magicians, astrologers, sorcerers, and wise men[f] in order to explain his dreams to him.[g] So they came and awaited the king’s instructions.[h]

The king told them, “I have had a dream,[i] and I[j] am anxious to understand the dream.” The wise men replied to the king: [What follows is in Aramaic[k]] “O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will disclose its[l] interpretation.” The king replied[m] to the wise men, “My decision is firm.[n] If you do not inform me of both the dream and its interpretation, you will be dismembered[o] and your homes reduced to rubble! But if you can disclose the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts, a reward, and considerable honor. So disclose to me the dream and its interpretation.” They again replied, “Let the king inform us[p] of the dream; then we will disclose its[q] interpretation.” The king replied, “I know for sure that you are attempting to gain time, because you see that my decision is firm. If you don’t inform me of the dream, there is only one thing that is going to happen to you.[r] For you have agreed among yourselves to report to me something false and deceitful[s] until such time as things might change. So tell me the dream, and I will have confidence[t] that you can disclose its interpretation.”

10 The wise men replied to the king, “There is no man on earth who is able to disclose the king’s secret,[u] for no king, regardless of his position and power, has ever requested such a thing from any magician, astrologer, or wise man. 11 What the king is asking is too difficult, and no one exists who can disclose it to the king, except for the gods—but they don’t live among mortals!”[v]

12 Because of this the king got furiously angry[w] and gave orders to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So a decree went out, and the wise men were about[x] to be executed. They also sought[y] Daniel and his friends so that they could be executed.

14 Then Daniel spoke with prudent counsel[z] to Arioch, who was in charge of the king’s executioners and who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon. 15 He inquired of Arioch the king’s deputy, “Why is the decree from the king so urgent?”[aa] Then Arioch informed Daniel about the matter. 16 So Daniel went in and[ab] requested the king to grant him time, that he might disclose the interpretation to the king. 17 Then Daniel went to his home and informed his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah of the matter. 18 He asked them to pray for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery so that he[ac] and his friends would not be destroyed along with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19 Then in a night vision the mystery was revealed to Daniel. So Daniel praised[ad] the God of heaven, 20 saying:[ae]

“Let the name of God[af] be praised[ag] forever and ever,
for wisdom and power belong to him.
21 He changes times and seasons,
deposing some kings
and establishing others.[ah]
He gives wisdom to the wise;
he imparts knowledge to those with understanding;[ai]
22 he reveals deep and hidden things.
He knows what is in the darkness,
and light resides with him.
23 O God of my fathers, I acknowledge and glorify you,
for you have bestowed wisdom and power on me.
Now you have enabled me to understand what we[aj] requested from you.
For you have enabled us to understand the king’s dilemma.”[ak]

24 Then Daniel went in to see[al] Arioch (whom the king had appointed to destroy the wise men of Babylon). He came[am] and said to him, “Don’t destroy the wise men of Babylon! Escort me[an] to the king, and I will disclose the interpretation to him.”[ao]

25 So Arioch quickly ushered Daniel into the king’s presence, saying to him, “I[ap] have found a man from the captives of Judah who can make known the interpretation to the king.” 26 The king then asked Daniel (whose name was also Belteshazzar), “Are you able to make known to me the dream that I saw, as well as its interpretation?” 27 Daniel replied to the king, “The mystery that the king is asking about is such that no wise men, astrologers, magicians, or diviners can possibly disclose it to the king. 28 However, there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries,[aq] and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in the times to come.[ar] The dream and the visions you had while lying on your bed[as] are as follows:

29 “As for you, O king, while you were in your bed your thoughts turned to future things.[at] The revealer of mysteries has made known to you what will take place. 30 As for me, this mystery was revealed to me not because I possess more wisdom[au] than any other living person, but so that the king may understand[av] the interpretation and comprehend the thoughts of your mind.[aw]

31 “You, O king, were watching as a great statue—one[ax] of impressive size and extraordinary brightness—was standing before you. Its appearance caused alarm. 32 As for that statue, its head was of fine gold, its chest and arms were of silver, its belly and thighs were of bronze. 33 Its legs were of iron; its feet were partly of iron and partly of clay.[ay] 34 You were watching as[az] a stone was cut out,[ba] but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its iron and clay feet, breaking them in pieces. 35 Then the iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were broken in pieces without distinction[bb] and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors that the wind carries away. Not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the statue became a large mountain that filled the entire earth. 36 This was the dream. Now we[bc] will set forth before the king its interpretation.

Daniel Interprets Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream

37 “You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has granted you sovereignty, power, strength, and honor. 38 Wherever human beings,[bd] wild animals,[be] and birds of the sky live—he has given them into your power.[bf] He has given you authority over them all. You are the head of gold. 39 Now after you another kingdom[bg] will arise, one inferior to yours. Then a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule in all the earth. 40 Then there will be a fourth kingdom, one strong like iron. Just like iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything, and as iron breaks in pieces[bh] all these metals,[bi] so it will break in pieces and crush the others.[bj] 41 In that you were seeing feet and toes[bk] partly of wet clay[bl] and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom. Some of the strength of iron will be in it, for you saw iron mixed with wet clay.[bm] 42 In that the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, the latter stages of this kingdom will be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 And[bn] in that you saw iron mixed with wet clay, so people will be mixed[bo] with one another[bp] without adhering to one another, just as[bq] iron does not mix with clay. 44 In the days of those kings the God of heaven will raise up an everlasting kingdom that will not be destroyed and a kingdom that will not be left to another people. It will break in pieces and bring about the demise of all these kingdoms. But it will stand forever. 45 You saw that a stone was cut from a mountain, but not by human hands; it smashed the iron, bronze, clay, silver, and gold into pieces. The great God has made known to the king what will occur in the future.[br] The dream is certain, and its interpretation is reliable.”

46 Then King Nebuchadnezzar bowed down with his face to the ground[bs] and paid homage to Daniel. He gave orders to offer sacrifice and incense to him. 47 The king replied to Daniel, “Certainly your God is a God of gods and Lord of kings and revealer of mysteries, for you were able to reveal this mystery!” 48 Then the king elevated Daniel to high position and bestowed on him many marvelous gifts. He granted him authority over the entire province of Babylon and made him the main prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. 49 And at Daniel’s request, the king[bt] appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego over the administration of the province of Babylon. Daniel himself served in the king’s court.[bu]


  1. Daniel 2:1 tn Heb “Nebuchadnezzar’s.” The possessive pronoun is substituted in the translation for stylistic reasons.
  2. Daniel 2:1 tn Heb “dreamed dreams.” The plural is used here and in v. 2, but the singular in v. 3. The plural “dreams” has been variously explained. Some interpreters take the plural as denoting an indefinite singular (so GKC 400 §124.o). But it may be that it is describing a stream of related dreams, or a dream state. In the latter case, one might translate: “Nebuchadnezzar was in a trance.” See further, J. A. Montgomery, Daniel (ICC), 142.
  3. Daniel 2:1 tn Heb “his spirit.”
  4. Daniel 2:1 tn Heb “his sleep left (?) him.” The use of the verb הָיָה (hayah, “to be”) here is unusual. The context suggests a meaning such as “to be finished” or “gone” (cf. Dan 8:27). Some scholars emend the verb to read נָדְדָה (nadedah, “fled”); cf. Dan 6:19. See further, DCH 2:540 s.v. היה I Ni.3; HALOT 244 s.v. היה nif; BDB 227-28 s.v. הָיָה Niph.2.
  5. Daniel 2:2 tn Heb “said.” So also in v. 12.
  6. Daniel 2:2 tn Heb “Chaldeans.” The term Chaldeans (Hebrew כַּשְׂדִּים, kasdim) is used in the book of Daniel both in an ethnic sense and, as here, to refer to a caste of Babylonian wise men and astrologers.
  7. Daniel 2:2 tn Heb “to explain to the king his dreams.”
  8. Daniel 2:2 tn Heb “stood before the king.”
  9. Daniel 2:3 tn Heb “I have dreamed a dream” (so KJV, ASV).
  10. Daniel 2:3 tn Heb “my spirit.”
  11. Daniel 2:4 sn Contrary to common belief, the point here is not that the wise men (Chaldeans) replied to the king in the Aramaic language, or that this language was uniquely the language of the Chaldeans. It was this view that led in the past to Aramaic being referred to as “Chaldee.” Aramaic was used as a lingua franca during this period; its origins and usage were not restricted to the Babylonians. Rather, this phrase is better understood as an editorial note (cf. NAB) marking the fact that from 2:4b through 7:28 the language of the book shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic. In 8:1, and for the remainder of the book, the language returns to Hebrew. Various views have been advanced to account for this change of language, most of which are unconvincing. The change in language likely reflects stages in the transmission history of the book of Daniel or factors in its composition history.
  12. Daniel 2:4 tn Or “the.”
  13. Daniel 2:5 tn Aram “answered and said,” a common idiom to indicate a reply, but redundant in contemporary English.
  14. Daniel 2:5 tn It seems clear from what follows that Nebuchadnezzar clearly recalls the content of the dream, although obviously he does not know what to make of it. By not divulging the dream itself to the would-be interpreters, he intends to find out whether they are simply leading him on. If they can tell him the dream’s content, which he is able to verify, he then can have confidence in their interpretation, which is what eludes him. The translation “the matter is gone from me” (cf. KJV, ASV), suggesting that the king had simply forgotten the dream, is incorrect. The Aramaic word used here (אַזְדָּא, ʾazdaʾ) is probably of Persian origin; it occurs in the OT only here and in v. 8. There are two main possibilities for the meaning of the word: “the matter is promulgated by me” (see KBL 1048 s.v.) and therefore “publicly known” (cf. NRSV; F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 62-63, §189), or “the matter is irrevocable” (cf. NAB, NIV, TEV, CEV, NLT; HALOT 1808 s.v. אזד; cf. also BDB 1079 s.v.). The present translation reflects this latter option. See further E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 3.
  15. Daniel 2:5 tn Aram “made limbs” (cf. 3:29).
  16. Daniel 2:7 tn Aram “his servants.”
  17. Daniel 2:7 tn Or “the.”
  18. Daniel 2:9 tn Aram “one is your law,” i.e., only one thing is applicable to you.
  19. Daniel 2:9 tn Aram “a lying and corrupt word.”
  20. Daniel 2:9 tn Aram “I will know.”
  21. Daniel 2:10 tn Aram “matter, thing.”
  22. Daniel 2:11 tn Aram “whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
  23. Daniel 2:12 tn Aram “was angry and very furious.” The expression is a hendiadys (two words or phrases expressing a single idea).
  24. Daniel 2:13 tn The Aramaic participle is used here to express the imminent future.
  25. Daniel 2:13 tn The impersonal active plural (“they sought”) of the Aramaic verb could also be translated as an English passive: “Daniel and his friends were sought” (cf. NAB).
  26. Daniel 2:14 tn Aram “returned prudence and counsel.” The expression is a hendiadys.
  27. Daniel 2:15 tn The Aramaic word מְהַחְצְפָה (mehakhtsefah) may refer to the severity of the king’s decree (i.e., “harsh”; so HALOT 1879 s.v. חצף; BDB 1093 s.v. חֲצַף), although it would seem that in a delicate situation such as this Daniel would avoid this kind of criticism of the king’s actions. The translation above understands the word to refer to the immediacy, not harshness, of the decree. See further, F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 50, §116; E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 67.
  28. Daniel 2:16 tc Theodotion and the Syriac lack the words “went in and.”
  29. Daniel 2:18 tn Aram “Daniel.” The proper name is redundant here in English and has not been included in the translation.
  30. Daniel 2:19 tn Or “blessed.”
  31. Daniel 2:20 tn Aram “Daniel answered and said.”
  32. Daniel 2:20 sn As is often the case in the Bible, here the name represents the person.
  33. Daniel 2:20 tn Or “blessed.”
  34. Daniel 2:21 tn Aram “kings.”
  35. Daniel 2:21 tn Aram “the knowers of understanding.”
  36. Daniel 2:23 tn Various explanations have been offered for the plurals we and us. They could be editorial plurals, or refer to Daniel and his three friends who were also praying about the matter.
  37. Daniel 2:23 tn Aram “the word of the king.”
  38. Daniel 2:24 tc The MT has עַל עַל (ʿal ʿal, “he entered upon”). Several medieval Hebrew mss lack the verb, although this may be due to haplography.
  39. Daniel 2:24 tc The LXX and Vulgate, along with one medieval Hebrew ms, lack this verb.
  40. Daniel 2:24 tn Aram “cause me to enter,” as also in v. 25.
  41. Daniel 2:24 tn Aram “the king.”
  42. Daniel 2:25 sn Arioch’s claim is self-serving and exaggerated. It is Daniel who came to him, and not the other way around. By claiming to have found one capable of solving the king’s dilemma, Arioch probably hoped to ingratiate himself to the king.
  43. Daniel 2:28 tn Aram “a revealer of mysteries.” The phrase serves as a quasi-title for God in Daniel.
  44. Daniel 2:28 tn Aram “in the latter days.”
  45. Daniel 2:28 tn Aram “your dream and the visions of your head upon your bed.”
  46. Daniel 2:29 tn Aram “your thoughts upon your bed went up to what will be after this.”
  47. Daniel 2:30 tn Aram “not for any wisdom which is in me more than [in] any living man.”
  48. Daniel 2:30 tn Aram “they might cause the king to know.” The impersonal plural is used here to refer to the role of God’s spirit in revealing the dream and its interpretation to the king. As J. A. Montgomery says, “it appropriately here veils the mysterious agency” (Daniel [ICC], 164-65). Subsequent narratives show both God and angels involved with Nebuchadnezzar, so “they” can be appropriate.
  49. Daniel 2:30 tn Aram “heart.”
  50. Daniel 2:31 tn Aram “an image.”
  51. Daniel 2:33 sn Clay refers to baked clay, which despite being hard was also fragile. Compare the reference in v. 41 to “wet clay.”
  52. Daniel 2:34 tn Aram “until.”
  53. Daniel 2:34 tc The LXX, Theodotion, and the Vulgate have “from a mountain,” though this is probably a harmonization with v. 45.
  54. Daniel 2:35 tn Aram “as one.” For the meaning “without distinction” see the following: F. Rosenthal, Grammar, 36, §64, and p. 93; E. Vogt, Lexicon linguae aramaicae, 60.
  55. Daniel 2:36 tn Various suggestions have been made concerning the plural “we.” It could be an editorial plural translatable as “I.” However, Daniel has portrayed himself as an agent of God, who revealed the matter (vv. 28, 30), so we can express that reality.
  56. Daniel 2:38 tn Aram “the sons of man.”
  57. Daniel 2:38 tn Aram “the beasts of the field.”
  58. Daniel 2:38 tn Aram “hand.”
  59. Daniel 2:39 sn The identity of the first kingdom is clearly Babylon. The identification of the following three kingdoms is disputed. The common view is that they represent Media, Persia, and Greece. Most conservative scholars identify them as Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
  60. Daniel 2:40 tc Theodotion and the Vulgate lack the phrase “and as iron breaks in pieces.”
  61. Daniel 2:40 tn The Aramaic text does not have this word, but it has been added in the translation for clarity.
  62. Daniel 2:40 tn The words “the others” are supplied from the context.
  63. Daniel 2:41 tc The LXX lacks “and toes.”
  64. Daniel 2:41 tn Aram “potter’s clay.”
  65. Daniel 2:41 tn Aram “clay of clay” (also in v. 43).
  66. Daniel 2:43 tc The present translation reads the conjunction, with most medieval Hebrew mss, LXX, Vulgate, and the Qere. The Kethib lacks the conjunction.
  67. Daniel 2:43 sn The reference to people being mixed is usually understood to refer to intermarriage.
  68. Daniel 2:43 tn Aram “with the seed of men.”
  69. Daniel 2:43 tc The present translation reads הֵיךְ דִּי (hekh di) rather than the MT הֵא־כְדִי (heʾ khedi, “even as which”). It is a case of wrong word division.
  70. Daniel 2:45 tn Aram “after this.”
  71. Daniel 2:46 tn Aram “fell on his face.”
  72. Daniel 2:49 tn Aram “and Daniel sought from the king and he appointed.”
  73. Daniel 2:49 tn Aram “was at the gate of the king.”