Online Bible Commentary
Daniel 2:36 "This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. 37 You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; 38 and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all--you are this head of gold. 39 But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. 40 And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. 41 Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. 43 As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. 45 Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold--the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure." (NKJV)
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that he could not remember. The dream troubled his soul such that he sought out anyone who could tell him this dream and interpret it for him. Daniel was given this information from God in a vision and Daniel has now approached the king.
First Daniel explained the dream to the king in verses 32-35 (v. 36a). The dream was of a large image. The image, like that of a great man, consisted of four parts. The head was made of fine gold; its chest and arms of silver; its belly and thighs of bronze; and its legs of iron extending to its feet of partly iron and partly clay. Sitting next to the image was a stone, not made from human hands. In the dream the stone crushed the feet, toppling the image which then fell and was pulverized into dust that was blown away by the wind. The stone then grew into a mountain that filled the earth.
Now, in this passage, Daniel interprets the dream (v. 36b). First, Daniel makes sure that the king knows that all of his power comes from Daniel’s God (vv. 37-38a). He then tells the king that he, the king of Babylon, is represented by the gold head (v. 38b). After Babylon, there will be a second kingdom, the silver chest and arms, and then a third kingdom, the bronze belly and thighs (v. 39). The fourth kingdom, the legs of iron and the feet of partly clay and partly iron, “will break in pieces and crush all the others” (v. 40).
Most scholars believe that the silver kingdom represented the Medo-Persian Empire; the bronze kingdom represented Alexander the Great and the Greek empire; and the iron kingdom represented the Roman Empire. Each of the four kingdoms ruled over God’s people, the Jews. The Babylonians ruled from 605-539 B.C; the Medo-Persians, under Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian, ruled from 539-331 B.C.; the Greek empire, under Alexander and later his four generals, ruled from 331-146 B.C.; and the Roman Empire ruled from 146 B.C. to 476 A.D. in the West and to 1453 A.D. in the East.
The two legs represented the West and the East kingdoms of the Roman Empire and the feet and toes represented the later Roman Empire. In the latter days of the Roman Empire the monarchy broke into ten kingdoms, the ten toes. Some of these ten kingdoms were strong, like iron, and some were weak, like clay (vv. 41-43).
Note that as we go down the image the value of each kingdom decreases, but the strength of each increases. Pure gold is the most valuable but the softest. Iron is the least valuable but the strongest. This could mean that these kingdoms become progressively less valuable in the eyes of God as they increase in violence and persecution of God’s people.
The stone that destroys all the earthly kingdoms and grows into a mountain represents the kingdom Of God. Christ came and started the kingdom during the reign of the Roman Empire. What started from a stone, Christ, grew into a great mountain, the kingdom of God, which will fill the earth and will reign forever (vv. 44-45a).
Daniel then concludes his interpretation of the dream with the statement “The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure” (v. 45b). In other words, God has spoken and this surely will come to pass. Remember, the time is 602 B.C. and the vision that God gave to Daniel is of the future, extending to the end times.