Online Bible Commentary
Dwelling With the Flesh
Daniel 2:4 Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic, "O king, live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will give the interpretation." 5 The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, "My decision is firm: if you do not make known the dream to me, and its interpretation, you shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made an ash heap. 6 However, if you tell the dream and its interpretation, you shall receive from me gifts, rewards, and great honor. Therefore tell me the dream and its interpretation." 7 They answered again and said, "Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will give its interpretation." 8 The king answered and said, "I know for certain that you would gain time, because you see that my decision is firm: 9 if you do not make known the dream to me, there is only one decree for you! For you have agreed to speak lying and corrupt words before me till the time has changed. Therefore tell me the dream, and I shall know that you can give me its interpretation." 10 The Chaldeans answered the king, and said, "There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean. 11 It is a difficult thing that the king requests, and there is no other who can tell it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh." 12 For this reason the king was angry and very furious, and gave a command to destroy all the wise men of Babylon. 13 So the decree went out, and they began killing the wise men; and they sought Daniel and his companions, to kill them. (NKJV)
The Israelites from Judah have been captured by the Babylonians and have been carried off to the city of Babylon, in the land of the Chaldeans. Daniel, a teenager, is among them. He and his three friends have been given names that honor the Babylonian gods. Daniel is now known as Belteshazzar, and his three friends are now Meshach, Shadrach, and Abed-nego. Daniel and his friends have become royal officers of the king.
In this passage, King Nebuchadnezzar has had a dream that he does not remember. The dream is troubling his spirit and keeping him awake at night. He has called in his Chaldean “wise men”, i.e. magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers, to interpret the dream. These men were the “priests” of their gods.
“The Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic” (v. 4a). After this phrase the text in the book of Daniel changes from Hebrew to Aramaic. The text then continues in Aramaic through the end of chapter seven. Aramaic is a language that is related to Hebrew, but is distinct from it. It was the international language of the day. Perhaps the reason for the change is that Daniel is no longer strictly among Hebrews. He is now living in a gentile country.
The usage of the word “Chaldeans” referred to the people of the land, and in this case also distinguished the Chaldean wise men from Daniel and his Hebrew royal officers. The Chaldeans responded to the king by asking him to tell them the dream and they would interpret it for him (v. 4b). The king, frustrated at forgetting the dream, responded angrily that he means what he says (v. 5a). He commands them to tell him the dream and the interpretation, or he will cut them in pieces and destroy their homes, likely meaning killing their families also (v. 5b).
Next, the king offers “gifts, rewards, and great honor”, and again commands that the Chaldeans tell him the dream and the interpretation (v.6). The Chaldeans respond again by asking the king to tell them the dream (v. 7). The king then accuses them of stalling and states that he means what he says (v. 8). He gives them an ultimatum to quit stalling, by speaking “lying and corrupt words”, and tell him his dream (v. 9).
The Chaldeans respond with "There is not a man on earth who can tell the king's matter; therefore no king, lord, or ruler has ever asked such things of any magician, astrologer, or Chaldean” (v. 10). They claim that what the king is asking is too difficult for anyone but the gods, and the gods are not present to help (v. 11).
With this, the king became furious and ordered all the wise men killed, including Daniel and his friends (vv. 12). This was obviously unfair to the Hebrews since they had not even been consulted on the matter. Nevertheless, the king’s men began killing the Chaldeans and sought out Daniel and his friends for the same fate (v. 13).
The Chaldean “wise men” in this episode remind us of those in our society who are without God. They were facing an impossible situation, and they only had themselves to rely on. They did not have our God, who is living and working in our lives everyday. They were as those with no hope. They could not say that all things are possible with God, because their gods were inanimate idols with no power.
The Chaldean “wise men” were much like the so-called “wise men” of our culture, those secular humanists who claim that the knowledge of men controls the world. The Chaldeans were faced with a life or death situation and there gods, their human knowledge, failed them. Secular humanists face the same dilemma.
The Chaldeans’ gods’ “dwelling is not with flesh” (v. 11). In contrast, God, the Holy Spirit, dwells in every Christian. As Christians, we have a God living within us who is all powerful, all present, and all knowing. We can go to him with the “impossible” problems of life with the assurance that nothing is impossible for Him. He is bigger than any problem we will ever encounter. All we have to do is live life in His strength, and not our own. We must trust in Him. He is worthy of our trust.