Daniel was a young man when his nation was taken captive to Babylon. He was chosen by his captors to learn their language and customs. One day when King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, he called his astrologers to tell him its meaning. There was one catch: they had to tell him what the dream was first, or be killed. When Daniel heard about it, he prayed to God who showed him the dream and its meaning.
Daniel answered the king and said, ‘No wise men … can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.’ – Daniel 2 v 27, 28 (ESV)
The King dreamt of a fearsome statue made of different metals. This represented the Kingdoms of Men, of which Babylon was head. See the list below for each metal and the empire it represents.
Head of gold : Babylonian Empire 621-539BC
The fertile river basins of Mesopotamia have been home to many civilizations, but no city was as grand as Babylon in Daniel’s time. Famed for its golden idols, Babylon remains synonymous with false religion and paganism.
Chest and arms of silver : Medo-Persian Empire 539-331BC
Cooperating kingdoms of Medes and Persians formed the two arms of the empire that destroyed Babylon. The monarch’s power was no longer absolute. Noted for its advanced economy based on silver.
Belly and thighs of brass : Grecian Empire 331-30BC
The brazen Greeks lightning conquest of the Persian empire was due to the superior leadership and tactics of Alexander the Great, who was cut down in his prime at only 33 years old. His kingdom was divided between his four generals, forming rival monarchies. See also Daniel 7 v 6, Daniel 11.
Legs of iron : Roman Empire 30BC-1806AD
The iron legions of Rome formed the fearsome war machine that conquered the Greek Empire. Rome was ruled by the Senate, a weaker form of government than the empires preceding it.
Feet of iron and clay : Divided Europe 1806AD-Present
From the eastern and western legs of the Roman empire sprang the barbarian kingdoms that we now know as Europe. As iron and clay do not mix, so these nations come together but do not “adhere” or “stick” to one another.
The Kingdom of God
Finally, the King saw a rock cut out without hands, symbolising the work of God separating a special people for Himself. The rock strikes the image on the feet, and it is destroyed.
In the days of those kings [of iron and clay] shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed … it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever… – Daniel 2 v 44, 45 (HNV)
We look forward to this time when the God of Israel is known throughout the whole earth.