“And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” — Daniel 2:44
A few years ago, some church friends and I had the opportunity to visit Peru to attend our church camp meeting there. We stayed in the country a few days afterward to visit the imposing and mysterious Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. The buses that take visitors to the ruins leave at 5:30 a.m. and lines form for the buses at 4:00. So we were up at 3:30 the morning after our arrival in the area to make that trek. It was ridiculous, but totally worth it!
In its breath-taking setting in the Peruvian Andes portion of the Amazon Basin, the sprawling Inca citadel of Machu Picchu more than lived up to our expectations. We spent hours wandering through the amazing ruins and climbing the numerous flights of steep stone steps that interconnect its palaces, temples, and storehouses. Surrounded by lush vegetation, the ancient walls, terraces, and ramps seemed as if they had been carved out of the steep slopes.
Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was constructed around A.D. 1450 as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti. The three primary structures — the Temple of the Sun, the Hitching Post of the Sun, and the Room of the Three Windows — were all built in classic Incan style, with polished drystone walls. The more than 150 other structures in the area (now a UNESCO site) are divided into upper and lower sections with a large square separating the agricultural area from the residential area.
About a century after the Incas built the city of Machu Picchu, the Spanish arrived and conquered the Inca Empire, wiping out most of their amazing kingdom. However, Machu Picchu was not destroyed because it was never discovered — for some unknown reason, the city had been abandoned by its residents before the foreign soldiers could get to it. As decades and then centuries passed, it became overgrown and turned to ruins, and eventually was totally forgotten by the world except for a small local population. The ruins remained undiscovered by the outside world until an American historian, Hiram Bingham, brought them to international attention in 1911. In the years since, tourism, the development of nearby towns, and natural environmental degradation have taken their toll. The Peruvian government has taken steps to protect the site and prevent further erosion of the mountainside, but given time, all man-made structures eventually crumble.
The setting of our text today was Ancient Babylon, another awe-inspiring edifice constructed for a ruler. The ancient Greek historian Strabo wrote of the city, “The roadway upon the walls will allow chariots with four horses when they meet to pass each other with ease. Whence, among the seven wonders of the world, are reckoned this wall and the hanging garden: the shape of the garden is a square, and each side of it measures four plethora.”1 Another ancient writer, Herodotus, said of Babylon, “In addition to its enormous size it surpasses in splendor any city of the known world.”2
As impressive and powerful as Babylon was, it eventually collapsed. The beautiful gardens shriveled up and died, the stately walls crumbled, and the powerful government once housed there broke apart.
There is a kingdom, however, that will never be destroyed. As Daniel foretold the rise and fall of several world powers, he prophesied that one day Jesus would come to earth and establish His kingdom. Though the greatest powers of the ancient world fell, and the greatest powers of the modern world will one day disintegrate, Christ’s kingdom will last forever.
The good news is, we can all have a part in that everlasting kingdom. And that will not be just a one day visit!
This portion of Daniel 2 covers Daniel’s confident claim to Nebuchadnezzar regarding the king’s dream (verses 25-30), his interpretation of the dream (verses 31-45), and Daniel’s subsequent promotion (verses 46-49).
While Bible scholars differ in the exact meaning of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, most concur that it was a prophecy of the future Gentile world powers, with parts of the image representing different world kingdoms. In verse 38, the Bible states that the head of gold represented Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom. Many scholars concur that the arms of silver represent the kingdoms of the Medo-Persian Empire established by Cyrus in 539 B.C. at the fall of Babylon. The brass (or bronze) belly and thighs signified the Greek Empire established by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C. The legs of iron symbolized the Roman Empire, which gradually assumed control over the Greeks prior to Christ’s birth. The mixture of iron and clay possibly were an indicator of that empire’s weakness.
In verse 34, the stone cut without hands that destroyed the last kingdom represented the Messiah and King of kings, Jesus Christ, who will one day destroy the Gentile world powers and set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. Comparing the ten toes of the image with the ten horns of the beast in Daniel 7:24, it is likely that the ten toes stood for ten world powers that would stem from the Roman Empire and exist at the time of Christ’s return.
After the interpretation of the dream, it is noteworthy that according to verse 47, King Nebuchadnezzar not only honored Daniel, but also Daniel’s God. Daniel was made ruler over the entire province of Babylon and chief of the governors over all the wise men (see verse 48). He requested that his three Jewish friends assist him in his administrative duties and this was granted; no doubt he trusted them above all his other associates from the training program.
II. The prophetic history of the Gentiles
A. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar (the course of Gentile world powers)
3. The dream revealed to Nebuchadnezzar (2:25-45)
a. The presentation of Daniel (2:25-30)
b. The disclosure of the dream (2:31-36)
c. The interpretation of the dream (2:37-45)
Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was a prediction of future Gentile world history. The fact that this earth is moving toward God’s specified end should give us confidence and peace, knowing that one day we will be part of God’s eternal kingdom.
1 Strabo. The Geography of Strabo, Volume III Literally Translated, with Notes, trans. H.C. Hamilton, W. Falconer (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1857), XVI.I.5, https://gutenberg.org/files/44886/44886-h/44886-h.html.
2 Herodotus. Herodotus: The Histories, tran. Aubrey de Sélincourt (London, England; New York: Penguin Books, 2003), I.178-179