Of the difficult passages in the Bible, skeptics often bring out one that may seem more
difficult than the rest. They cite it as
positive proof that the Old Testament contains historical inaccuracies. Because of its difficult
nature, Daniel 2:31-45 bears special
consideration, and requires one to “think outside the proverbial box.” The section tells
of Daniel’s interpretation of
Nebuchadnezzar’s prophetic dream:
Thou, O king, sawest, and, behold, a great image. This image, which was mighty, and
whose brightness was excellent, stood
before thee; and the aspect thereof was terrible. As for this image, its head was of fine gold,
its breast and its arms of silver,
its belly and its thighs of brass, its legs of iron, its feet part of iron, and part of clay. Thou
sawest till that a stone was cut out
without hands, which smote the image upon its feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them in
Thou, O king, art king of kings, unto whom the God of heaven hath given the kingdom, the power,
and the strength, and the glory; and
wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the birds of the heavens hath
he given into thy hand, and hath made
thee to rule over them all: thou art the head of gold. And after thee shall arise another
kingdom inferior to thee; and another
third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be
strong as iron, forasmuch as iron
breaketh in pieces and subdueth all things; and as iron that crusheth all these, shall it break in
pieces and crush….
And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be
destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty
thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms,
and it shall stand for ever.
Forasmuch as thou sawest that a stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake
in pieces the iron, the brass, the
clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass
hereafter: and the dream is certain,
and the interpretation thereof sure (Daniel 2:31-34,37-40,44-45, emp. added).
There are two proposed fallacies in this section of Scripture. The first is the kingdoms
supposedly associated with the different
sections of the statue, and the second concerns verse 39 where Daniel stated that, “after
thee shall arise another kingdom
inferior to thee….”
The most widely accepted view of the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is that the
silver, brass, and iron and/or clay sections
of the statue refer respectively to the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires. But some question
this view, saying that the sections
of the statue refer to the Median, Persian, and Greek empires, respectively. This, however, is an
easily refutable view: the Medians
were never a great empire, but rather existed only as a small kingdom where present-day northern
Iran is located. As Leupold stated:
“If the statue represents the truth of history, the silver could not refer to a Median
empire, for there never was such an
empire” (1989, p. 117).
The kingdom of Persia conquered the kingdom of Media, among with other peoples and nations, and
became the great Persian Empire upon
the capture of Babylon and the subjugation of the Babylonian Empire. (The Persian Empire also is
known as the Medo-Persian Empire, cf.
Esther 1:19; Daniel 5:28). Some speak vehemently against this interpretation, using only exegesis
to derive their view. In doing so,
they ignore every piece of contrary historical, archeological, and even prophetic evidence. Barnes
correctly stated that “[t]he
kingdom here referred to was undoubtedly the Medo-Persian, established by Cyrus in the conquest of
Babylon, which continued through the
reigns of his successors until it was conquered by Alexander the Great” (1973, 1:158).
Since the second empire must represent the Medo-Persian Empire and not the non-existent Median
Empire, critics claim that Daniel is
historically inaccurate since the Medo-Persian Empire was larger and richer than the Babylonian
Empire, and Daniel 2:39 refers to the
second empire as being “inferior.” Keep in mind that the reference to it being inferior
does not mean that it necessarily was
inferior in all respects. Leupold mentioned the fact that the Persian Empire was inferior in the
sense of influence on the rest of the
world. Babylonian culture was dominant in that part of the world for around 2,000 years, and is
well known for many of its
accomplishments in architecture and science (p. 116).
But does Daniel have to be referring solely to materialism when he says that the kingdom was to
be inferior? After all, Daniel’
s prophecy dealt mainly with the establishment of the kingdom of Christ (represented by the rock),
which is not defined by size, shape,
or wealth, but by its people. Perhaps “inferior” could be referring to the moral
situation of the empire during the reign of
the Persians, as opposed to the Babylonians. Both Barnes and Leupold mention this as a
possibility, stating that from the close of the
Babylonian Empire, all throughout the time of the Roman Empire, ethics and morals declined greatly
(Barnes, 1:160; Leupold, p. 116).
Whether it was in influence or morals, the Medo-Persian Empire was clearly inferior in some
respects, yet superior in others (such
as size and wealth). Daniel 2:39 never mentioned what was inferior about the second
kingdom; rather, he merely stated that
something would be inferior, not necessarily everything. When viewed in this light, the
supposed historical inaccuracy of
Barnes, Albert (1973), Notes on the New Testament: Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Leupold, H.C. (1989), Exposition of Daniel (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
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