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Cyrus allows some of the Judean exiles to return home around 538 b.c.

In the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign,[a] the king had a dream that disturbed him so much that he was unable to fall asleep. So the king sent for his usual advisors—magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and other Chaldean wise men—to come and help him understand the dream. They came and stood before the troubled king.

Nebuchadnezzar (to his advisors): I’ve had a dream that has disturbed me. I know I am not going to have any peace until I know what it means.

Wise Men (in Aramaic):[b] Long live the king! We are your servants. Tell us your dream, and we will tell you what it means.

The king has his suspicions about his advisors, so he purposely makes the task more difficult.

Nebuchadnezzar: My mind is made up; my decree is firm. If you do not tell me what I dreamed and what it means, you will be torn apart, limb from limb, and those houses of yours will be turned into piles of rubble. But if you do tell me what I dreamed and what it means, then you can expect to receive great honor, gifts, and other rewards as I see fit. So tell me the details of the dream and what it means.

Wise Men: Perhaps the king should first tell his servants what he dreamed; then we can tell him what it means.

Nebuchadnezzar: It’s obvious to me that you are just buying time, hoping to figure a way out of this, because you can plainly see I will do as I’ve said. If you do not tell me what I dreamed, then there can be only one fate for you: death as I have decreed. You have conspired to lie and deceive me until the situation turns around. But it won’t. I will not change my mind. So tell me, right now, what I dreamed. If you can do that, then I will have some assurance that you can tell me what it means.

Wise Men: 10 No one on earth is able to do what the king demands. And never in history has a great and powerful king, such as yourself, asked this sort of thing of any magician, enchanter, or wise man. 11 What the king requires is far too difficult for any human being. Only the gods can reveal it to the king, and they do not live among us mortals.

12 When the king heard their reply, he was absolutely outraged and ordered that all the so-called wise men of Babylon be put to death. 13 So the decree was issued, and the king’s officials began to round up all the wise men in Babylon for execution; officers were sent to find and kill Daniel and his friends, too, for they were renowned for their wisdom. 14 As Arioch, the chief of the royal guard, was searching for the wise men of Babylon to kill them, he came across Daniel. Daniel responded to the situation shrewdly and with discretion.

Daniel: 15 What has happened? Why has the king issued such a harsh decree?

Arioch did his best to explain the situation to Daniel. 16 So Daniel entered the palace and asked the king to give him a little more time so that he could come back and tell the king both what he dreamed and what it all meant.

17 After Daniel made his request, he returned home and told his friends—Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah—what was going on. 18 He asked them to pray and plead for mercy so that the God of heaven might reveal this mystery. If Daniel and his friends could tell the king what he wanted to know, then they would not be put to death along with the other wise men of Babylon. 19 Then, one night, the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision, and so Daniel offered this blessing to the God of heaven:

20 Daniel: Praise the name of God forever and ever,
        for all wisdom and power belong to Him.
21     He sets in motion the times and the ages;
        He deposes kings and installs others;
    He gives wisdom to the wise
        and grants knowledge to those with understanding.
22     He reveals deep truths and hidden secrets;
        He knows what lies veiled in the darkness;
        pure light radiates from within Him.
23     I recognize who You are, and I praise You, God of my ancestors,
        for You have given me wisdom and strength.
    And now You have graciously revealed to me what we asked of You,
        for You have revealed to us the king’s dream and its meaning.

24 So Daniel went back to Arioch, the officer charged with rounding up and executing all the wise men in Babylon, and tried to stop him.

Daniel: Stop what you are doing. It is not necessary to execute the wise men of Babylon. Instead, take me to the king, and I will tell him what the dream means.

25 Arioch did not waste any time in bringing Daniel before the king.

Arioch (to Nebuchadnezzar): Mighty king, I have found a man from among the exiles from Judah who says he is able to tell the king what the dream means.

26 The king turned to Daniel, who you remember had been given the Babylonian name, Belteshazzar.

Nebuchadnezzar: So, Belteshazzar, are you able to tell me what I dreamed and what it all means?

Daniel: 27 The Chaldeans were correct. There are no wise men, enchanters, magicians, or sorcerers in all the world who are able to reveal the mystery the king requested. 28 But there is a God in heaven who can reveal such mysteries. The dream you dreamed and the visions you saw, King Nebuchadnezzar, unveil the future and disclose what will happen at the end of the age. Now I will tell you what you dreamed and the visions you saw as you slept in your bed.

29 Good king, as you lay in your bed that night, thoughts about the future sprang up in your mind, and the revealer of all mysteries unveiled to you what is going to happen. 30 I am here today, not because I have greater wisdom than any other in the land, but because God in His wisdom has revealed this mystery to me. It is God’s plan that the king knows the meaning of this dream and understands the thoughts that raced through your mind.

Daniel agrees with the counsel given to the king by his own advisors. No worldly source can possibly answer the king’s challenge. To know the content of the dream without any prior information is beyond anyone but the God of Israel.

Daniel: 31 In your dream, you were looking, O king, and suddenly a great statue of what appeared to be a man stood before you. It was enormous in size, shining bright as the sun at midday. Its appearance was frightening. 32 The head of the statue was fashioned of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its trunk and thighs of bronze, 33 its calves of iron, and its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. 34 As you were watching, a special stone was quarried and cut, but not by human hands. The divinely hewn stone began to move; it struck the statue on its iron and clay feet and smashed them to pieces. 35 Suddenly the entire statue collapsed—its iron, clay, bronze, silver, and gold were all broken into pieces and turned to dust, like the chaff carried away by the wind from the threshing floors in summer. Soon not a trace of the statue was left. But the divinely hewn stone that struck the statue became a mountain that filled the whole earth. 36 That, good king, was your dream.

If you allow, we will now tell you what it all means. 37 You, O king, are the king of kings. The God of heaven has conferred upon you the kingdom you now rule, along with the power and strength and glory to subdue it. 38 He has placed all people everywhere and all the beasts that roam the fields and all the birds that fly in the sky under your control. He has made you ruler over them all: you are the head of gold. 39 After your reign is over, another kingdom will rise, but its glory will never match yours. This lesser kingdom is the chest and arms of silver. When that kingdom has come and gone, a third and even less majestic empire will rise, which will rule over the whole earth. This kingdom is the trunk and thighs of bronze. 40 Then, when those days are past, a fourth kingdom will come to power with the strength of iron, though lacking in grandeur. Just as iron breaks and shatters everything, so this kingdom will break and shatter all these former realms. 41-42 But as you saw in your vision, this kingdom will be divided, with feet and toes made of both clay and iron. The strength of iron runs through it, but as the toes are made partly of iron and partly of clay, the kingdom, too, will be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 Your dream envisions that this kingdom of iron mixed with clay will be of peoples mixed but not united, the kingdoms joined in the bonds of marriage but not true allies, for iron and clay form no alloy.

These four kingdoms of gold, silver, bronze, and iron/clay are probably the Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Greek kingdoms, respectively.

44 In the days when these kings of iron and clay reign, the God of heaven will set up another kingdom, a kingdom that can never be destroyed, a kingdom that will never be ruled by others. It will crush all the other kingdoms and bring them to an end. This kingdom will last forever. 45 It will be as you have seen in your dream, that a special stone quarried and cut from the mountain—but not by human hands—will crush the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The great God, the one True God of heaven, has revealed to the king what will happen in the future. You can be sure that the dream and its meaning are true.

46 When Daniel had finished, King Nebuchadnezzar did something remarkable. He fell on his face before Daniel, worshiped him, and ordered his officials to offer grain offerings and burn incense to him as they would to a god.

Nebuchadnezzar: 47 I am now certain that your God is the God of all gods, the Lord of all kings, and the Revealer of mysteries, for unlike the other wise men in my service, you were able to reveal to me this mystery. You told me not only what I dreamed but what it all means.

48 The king bestowed high honors and many gifts on Daniel. He promoted him to new positions in his court and made him governor over the whole province of Babylon and head over all the wise men in his realm. 49 Daniel approached the king and requested that he put his friends—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego—in charge of affairs in the province of Babylon while Daniel remained in the royal court.


  1. 2:1 About 604 b.c.
  2. 2:4 The language shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic through 7:28. This was the language of commerce and diplomacy in the ancient Near East that became the spoken language of the Jews and displaced Hebrew after their return from Babylon in the late sixth century b.c.

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