Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Bible Book: Daniel  2
Subject: Dreams; Prayer Answered; Lordship; God, Presence of


Here in Daniel 2 we see the powerful king of a great nation in a very agitated state of mind, for what might strike you and me as a very strange reason. Verse 1 says, “And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him.”

We might ask, Why on earth would a wealthy, influential monarch be so perturbed about some dream? The explanation is that folks in those days placed great stock in dreams, because dreams often conveyed important information. So, Nebuchadnezzar was perplexed and disturbed; he felt that his dream might contain some crucial message for him, yet he couldn’t interpret it.

So, he sends for help. In verse 2 we read: “Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.” Apparently, for some unexplained reason, Daniel and his three friends were not present for that meeting.

This group now gathered before the king were the intelligentsia of the land--the cream of the crop. They were considered to be the greatest minds in Babylon. Surely they could solve any problem. So, the king tells them of his quandary. Then I can picture the spokesman of the group, as with great pomp and self-importance he says, “It will be our pleasure to help you, oh great sovereign--just tell us the dream, and we’ll give the interpretation.”

While this scholar is speaking, Nebuchadnezzar’s suspicious, troubled mind is at work. He is thinking, “Maybe these people can’t really interpret dreams. Maybe they’re going to give me some trumped-up interpretation that can’t be immediately checked out, so as to cover their deception.” The more he thinks about that possibility, the angrier he becomes. He says to himself, “Surely there must be some way to keep them from pulling a fast one on me” Then he thinks of it!--and they are startled at what he demands of them. Look at verses 5-6: “The king answered and said to the Chaldeans, The thing is gone from me: If ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation thereof, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a dunghill. But if ye show the dream, and the interpretation thereof, ye shall receive of me gifts and rewards and great honor: therefore show me the dream, and the interpretation thereof.”

These scholars can’t believe what they’re hearing. “But, sir,” their leader stammers in protest, “it’s imperative that you tell us the dream, in order for us to interpret it.” But the king is adamant. “No, you must tell me both the dream and the interpretation.” They repeat their protest. “But, sir, what you’re asking is unprecedented; it’s unheard of; it’s impossible. No one can do what you’re demanding of us.”

At that, the king’s anger explodes into fury. In his rage, he shouts to his soldiers, “I want you to take these self-styled, would-be scholars and execute them. But first I want you to go throughout the land and gather all of the so-called wise men and put the whole crowd to death!”

In the course of their round-up, the soldiers arrest Daniel and his three friends. These four young men are Hebrews, having been brought to Babylon as captives. Even though they’re here in a heathen, idolatrous, immoral environment, where most people don’t know them, they’ve maintained their integrity. They’ve continued unwaveringly to stand for God and for the right, even at great personal risk.

When Daniel is arrested he asks Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard, why he and the others are being rounded up and are to be killed, and Arioch explains; he tells Daniel about the king’s decree. As they march toward the place where the mass execution is to take place, Daniel’s mind is racing. In addition to his concern for himself and his friends, he probably thought of that multitude of Babylonian wise men who are not prepared to meet God. He says to himself, “What a senseless tragedy. Surely there must be some way to forestall this horror.” Then he makes a decision. We aren’t given the details, but somehow he manages to get in to see the king. In all likelihood, Arioch must have given him special permission, in spite of his being under arrest.

As Daniel is brought into Nebuchadnezzar’s presence, he immediately gets to the point. Verse 16: “Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would show the king the interpretation.” Apparently the king, in his desperation to get some answers, decides to put everything on hold for a limited time and see what this young man can do.

Daniel hurries home. By this time his three friends have also been released, and he explains to them why the execution has been delayed. Let’s look at verses 17-18: “Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.”

Daniel and his friends--elsewhere called Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego--determined to “desire mercies” of God--in other words, they determined to plead with God to help them. When trouble and heartache come, we can do either of two things: we can panic, or we can pray. Daniel and his friends chose the latter course. They agreed to “desire mercies” of God. Their prayer was similar to that expressed in Psalm 119:77: “Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live....” Every good thing that ever comes our way is an expression of God’s mercy--and that includes the great gift of eternal life. Titus 3:5 says, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us....”

Verse 18 doesn’t go into detail--but I can well imagine that their praying must have gone on for many hours, for the answer finally came during the night. When you consider what was at stake, there’s no doubt in my mind that these men must have agonized, and wept--and then look at verse 19: “Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision....”

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 5:16 says, “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The song-writer said, “Oh, what peace we often forfeit, Oh, what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

Now look at the last part of verse 19: “Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.” What a fine, inspirational example for the rest of us. Daniel--along with his friends--asked God for mercy, God answered accordingly, and then for the next several verses Daniel expressed his gratitude. In verse 23 he said, “I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made know unto us the king’s matter.”

Daniel hurries to the king’s palace, and asks to see the king. Arioch, the ranking officer, quickly takes him inside. Apparently Nebuchadnezzar’s mind is so jaded from stress and turmoil over his mysterious dream, that Arioch has to introduce Daniel all over again. His eyes bloodshot from tossing and turning, Nebuchadnezzar looks anxiously to Daniel. Verse 26: “The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?”

Now look at verses 27-28: “Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, show unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days....”

Then he went on to describe what the king had dreamed, and told what it meant. Because he related the dream accurately, Nebuchadnezzar knew that this young man was on the level, and with great eagerness he listened to Daniel’s interpretation.

Nebuchadnezzar was elated to have the mystery solved, and in his joy and relief and gratitude he promoted Daniel and his three friends to high positions in his government--but more important than that, this heathen king was impressed by these developments to praise the true, living God. Look at verse 47: “The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret.”


Now, what does this strange story from the long ago have to say to you and me? The great lesson of the story is this: Regardless of how horrendous or hopeless a problem may seem--and indeed may actually be, from a human standpoint--there is a God in heaven, for whom nothing is impossible!

The outlook in Daniel’s situation certainly appeared to be bleak. The king’s demand was unheard of, it seemed absurd to think anyone could do what he asked. He anxiously inquired of Daniel, “Have you found the answer?” Daniel responded, in effect, “Oh, king, what you have asked can’t be done, humanly speaking--but there is a God in heaven, for whom nothing is too hard, and he has given me the answer!”

Regardless of what you and I may face, if we take God into the equation that changes things dramatically, because God is all-wise, all-powerful, and--as the inspired author of Psalm 86:5 expressed it--is “plenteous in mercy!”

Of course, God’s help is not automatic. It must be sought diligently. One must pay the price. That is, he must, in humble submission, cast himself, his problem and his all at the feet of the crucified, risen Christ, having trusted him as Lord and Savior. Jesus said, in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” We must confess our sins, and turn from them. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” We must be patient. Psalm 27:14 says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” When God’s time comes, he will give an answer. Not necessarily the answer that we asked, desired, or expected, although he answered in that way in Daniel’s case and sometimes does today--but if we seek diligently, in his own time and way God will give the solution that is right, and best, and for the ultimate good, whether we understand it or not.

Every one of us, if God lets us live any length of time at all, finds himself at times facing situations that seem to overwhelm us--problems that there doesn’t seem to be any way over, under, around, or through--and that may be the case from a human standpoint--but there is a God in heaven, and he has resources that are supernatural, and inexhaustible--and they are available! Ephesians 3:20: “Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.” Philippians 4:19: “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

You may have a burden that seems too heavy to bear--it may have to do with a financial crisis, or a marital problem, or great sorrow, a wayward loved one, or a health issue, or a personal moral weakness, or with the job situation. Don’t give in to despair. Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Don’t throw in the towel. There may not seem to be any hope--but there is a God in heaven who loves you, and who says in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” He can give peace in the place of turmoil, joy in the place of sorrow, and clarity in the place of confusion. He can give victory in the place of defeat, strength in the place of weakness, and light in the place of darkness. He can give salvation in the place of lostness.

One of the greatest men of God I ever had the privilege of hearing was Dr. Carl E. Bates, who was pastor of First Baptist Church of Amarillo, Texas, for years, and then became professor of preaching at one of our seminaries. But in his earlier years, according to his testimony, Carl Bates was anything but a man of God. He was, as a young adult, so enmeshed in sin and despair, and so crushed by his mountain of complex personal problems, that he decided to commit suicide. He was in a dirty, dingy little hotel room in New Orleans when he decided to end it all. There seemed to be no other way out. He walked over to the window of his upper-story room and started to climb out onto the ledge overlooking the street far below, intending to jump to his death.

As he started to climb up into the window, he reached out to place his hand on the corner of the dresser to give himself a lift--and he felt something. He looked over and saw that he had accidentally put his hand on a Gideon Bible--and then thoughts began to surge through his tormented mind. “A Bible!” he said to himself. “My mother used to call it the Word of God. I remember that she said it tells about Jesus, the Son of God. She told me that if I ever got to the place that I couldn’t help myself, if I would call on him he would help me.”

Like an arrow flying to its mark, the Holy Spirit broke Carl Bates’ heart with conviction. He fell to his knees and began to sob. He asked Jesus to come into his heart and forgive his sins--and right then and there, in that dingy, dirty little hotel room God made a new man out of Carl Bates. He had come to the end of his rope. His sins and problems defied solution, it seemed. But then it came to him like the dawning of the sun after a long, dreary, storm-tossed night, that “there is a God in heaven,” for whom nothing is impossible!

I don’t know where you are this morning in your personal pilgrimage--but I know that “there is a God in heaven” who stands ready to meet the need of your life. If you’re not a Christian, he stands ready to save you--all he’s waiting on is for you to ask him, by repenting of your sins and surrendering yourself to him.

If you’re already a Christian, and you’re dealing with some overpowering problem in your life, “there is a God in heaven” who has the answer. Confess whatever sin needs to be confessed, and submit yourself afresh to his Lordship.