A long time ago King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had a dream that greatly disturbed him. Lately that dream and the interpretation of it has been on my mind a lot, and I’ve learned that when God puts something in my heart (or, if you prefer, my mind fixates on something), it’s best just to get it out. So let’s take a look at that famous dream and the interpretation of it, because there are a couple of things regarding that dream that I’ve figured out.
Just for a brief bit of historical background, Nebuchadnezzar II became king of Babylon after the death of his father, Nabopolassar, who had successfully defeated the Assyrians and won Babylonian independence. Nebuchadnezzar had turned his military ambitions loose against Egypt and in 597 BC captured Jerusalem, deposed its king and installed a puppet ruler, and deported many Jews, particularly nobles, back to Babylon. (Ten years later Jerusalem rebelled and Nebuchadnezzar returned, seized the city and destroyed it, enslaved the Jewish people and deported nearly all of them back to Babylon, beginning the period that the Jews refer to as the Captivity.)
One night the king had a dream that disturbed him, and when he called his court “wise men” in he demanded that they tell him the dream and interpret it. None of them could, and as he started to put them all to death for this failure (being an advisor to a king in the old days was definitely risky business!) one of the Jewish princes named Daniel heard about the dream problem and came forward to meet Nebuchadnezzar’s demands.
Daniel had been a young prince at court in Jerusalem when Nebuchadnezzar seized Jerusalem the first time, and he had been deported with the other nobles and made a “house guest” at the Babylonian court, which was common in those days; when a king conquered someone else’s kingdom he would commonly install the other guy’s nobles in his court, partly to keep an eye on them and partly to show off. Anyway, Daniel got an audience with Nebuchadnezzar, accurately told him the dream and interpreted it, and as a result of his efforts he was given a “high position” and the king “lavished many gifts on him”. Not bad for a young captive prince!
Now, to the dream.
The following description of the dream is from Daniel 2:31-35: “You looked, O king, and there before you stood a large statue – an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The head of the statue was made of pure gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of baked clay. While you were watching, a rock was cut out, but not by human hands. It struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and smashed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were broken to pieces at the same time and became like chaff on a threshing floor in the summer. The wind swept them away without leaving a trace. But the rock that struck the statue became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth.” Now that’s what I call a dream!
Daniel then went on to explain the dream to the king. First he told Nebuchadnezzar that he, as king, was the head of gold. Daniel continues in 2:39-45: “After you, another kingdom will rise, inferior to yours. Next a third kingdom, one of bronze, will rule over the whole earth. Finally, there will be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron – for iron breaks and smashes everything – and as iron breaks things to pieces, it will crush and break all the others. Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay. In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the vision of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands – a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces.”
Let’s look at Daniel’s interpretation and see if he got it right.
The Neo-Babylonian empire, as represented by the head of gold, was conquered not long after this by the expanding Persian empire, represented by the chest and arms of silver. Persia ruled over the entire Middle East until it was defeated and conquered by Alexander the Great between 325 and 321 BC (which was appropriately represented by the belly and thighs of bronze since the Greeks used a lot of bronze for weapons and armor). Alexander’s empire was divided after his death, and most of the remaining portions of it were not finally subjugated until the Romans came along. (I think that it is very appropriate that Rome is represented by the legs of iron since Roman power was built upon the “iron” legs of its ever-marching legions.) So far, this is all a standard interpretation of the dream in accordance with history.
But after this the interpretation gets a bit cloudy. Most churches teach that the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay will be the collection of kingdoms led by the Anti-Christ in the Last Days, and up to that point I agree. But it is usually taught that there will be ten of those kingdoms, probably inspired by fixating on the toes and also by comparing this with Revelation 13, which describes the Beast coming our of the sea with ten horns representing kingdoms. But if you look at Daniel’s interpretation, they are feet and toes of clay and iron, which indicates two power blocs made up of many parts, “some strong” and “some brittle”. To me, unless Daniel had told us how many pices of iron and clay there were, which he didn’t, there is no way to count how many kingdoms will be involved. Also, how could the feet and toes be some form of Rome when Rome fell almost 2,000 years ago?
Okay, Dave, what’s your version of this?
For starters, I believe that Rome in this vision is intended to signify Roman civilization, which never really fell. “What?” you ask incredulously. Nope, it never really fell. If you think about it, all of the different tribes and nations that invaded and settled in the Roman empire assimilated into the existing society, blending their own uniqueness with Roman civilization without destroying the latter. There was also the continuity provided by the church in Rome, which was well established by the time of the last emperor. Roman culture and civilization survived even through the Dark Ages. When Charlemagne went to Rome he had the Pope crown him Emperor of Rome. There was the Holy Roman Empire of the Middle Ages. Our laws are all based on Roman law, at least here in the States. Our governments are based to some extent on the style of government of the late Roman Republic. Even our governmental architecture and that of our most sacred monuments are mostly based on Roman models. So, Western Civilization is indeed an extension of Rome, which explains how Rome has survived into the present and will survive until Christ returns. Or at least partly survive.
I believe, for a lot of reasons, that the feet and toes of iron mixed with clay represent two power blocs in the Last Days, and that both of them will be extensions of the old Roman civilization. It is possible that this is the European Union and North America, but it is also possible that this will prove to be the EU and the English-speaking nations along with the bloc headed by the Russians (don’t forget that Russia has been dominated by the Eastern Orthodox church for centuries and that much of Russia’s ideas about government and its architecture were borrowed from the west, so even Russia could qualify as an extension of Rome). It’s still a bit early to tell, but something or someone keeps telling me that I’m right. And this organization will survive in some form until the Second Coming because that is when the big boulder will smash the heritage of all of the kingdoms represented by the statue into pieces.
Oh, and my other insight into this is that the whole episode of the 2,600 year old dream proves that you don’t have to be some kind of holy person to have prophetic visions or dreams. Nebuchadnezzar was a debaucherous tyrant when he had his dream and he stayed one until he died. Yet he still had this very powerful and accurate prophetic dream.
I hope that you were able to follow all of this, dear reader, for I have an analytical mind and sometimes I analyze things into the ground. And I hope that this helps whoever it was meant to help. Anyone who has any ideas or questions on this can leave a comment or even email me at the address on the page “Contact Me”; I’m always happy to have a good discussion and I’m not so set in my ways yet that I can’t see and even accept other viewpoints.
At least now I’ve got this out of my system…until next time.