As in the story of Joseph (Ge 40-41), dreams of idol worshipers and dream interpretation play a significant role in several stories in this book.
The emperor determined to put his court wise men to a severe test; he demanded that they tell him the content of his dream before they gave its interpretation. Their failure to do so would be death. The wise men were astounded, claiming that only the gods could do such a thing.
Daniel requested an extension of time. The royal guards were unable to distinguish between his spiritual gifts and the tricks of the diviners.
Daniel and his friends prayed, and the God of heaven revealed to Daniel the secret of the dream and its meaning in a vision. Daniel rejoiced in a psalm of praise and thanked him for granting a revelation that would clear up the mystery and save his life.
When Daniel reported to Nebuchadnezzar, he began by disclaiming any personal skill or special power to reveal the ruler's dream. What he had to say was a revelation from the God of heaven. No wise man in Babylon would make such a denial of personal powers or affirm help from any other source than one or more of their nature deities. This marks the difference, noted throughout the OT, between the true prophet and all false prophets. Joseph gave a similar testimony to the pharaoh of Egypt (Ge 41:16).
The dream was of a giant statue with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet of a mixture of iron and clay.
The head was Nebuchadnezzar, but the other parts represented kingdoms yet to come, hence, cast in the future tense as predictions. In effect, this interpretation laid bare the fraud in the wise men's “skills” and demonstrated the wisdom and power of the one true God. Nebuchadnezzar recognized this and honored Daniel and exalted his God as revealer of mysteries.