Considering the first of these points, we should note that Daniel identified Nebuchadnezzar himself as the head of gold. We can therefore appreciate why Nebuchadnezzar was so distraught when he saw the image and recognised his own face! But why was this head represented as gold? The attributes of gold include:
- Preciousness, comparative rarity
- Heavy, extreme mass density
- Very good malleability, pliability
- Comparative softness
These aspects were displayed in the Biblical and historical record of this man’s personal achievements. But as the image is descended, the preciousness of the metal depicted decreases, the prevalence of the metal becomes greater, the metals become less compliant, and the hardness increases very significantly. So we would expect the character of human nature to progressively follow these broad trends as the image is considered in the downward direction. That would place us today within an environment where human nature is such that it can be compared with iron and clay. We know that these two components are quite incompatible with each other. As indeed Daniel explained:
“People will be a mixture and will not remain united, any more than iron mixes with clay.” Daniel 2:43
This is undeniably a description of the world today, not only with nations showing incompatibility to each other, but incompatibility within each nation. Not only is this occurring in the political sense, but also in the manner in which minority groups endeavour to thrust their ideals on the greater mass of people. Incompatibility is rife.
The vision was a dynamic one—a rock struck the image on the feet, and as a result the image completely collapsed and was blown away without a trace remaining. The rock itself expanded and occupied the entire space—it would become a Kingdom set up by God Hinself.
The image was intended to convey to Nebuchadnezzar the character of human nature that would develop from his time onwards, and how it would finally, and suddenly, be replaced, by being entirely demolished by a Rock, not made with human hands—Jesus Christ. The change to mankind brought about by Jesus Christ is to be sudden: not a gradual process of conversion and assimilation. It was not fulfilled on the first advent of Jesus—it awaits the Second Advent. The image provides this lesson without getting lost in detail. The detail would be passed to Daniel in later visions more than 60 years later.
Daniel’s dream of four beasts
The seventh chapter of the Book of Daniel narrates a series of four beasts that Daniel saw in a night vision. The dating of the chapter indicates that Daniel was now aged 81, assuming that he was 16 years of age when taken captive and 19 years old when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.
The four beasts paralleled in number the four metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s image.
- The first beast was like a lion, but had wings of an eagle,
- The second beast resembled a bear, and had three ribs in its mouth,
- The third was a four-headed, four-winged leopard,
- The fourth was a dreadful and terrifying non-descript beast.
These visions naturally alarmed Daniel, but the interpretation was revealed to him.
“The four great beasts are four kingdoms that will rise from the earth. But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and will possess it forever—yes, for ever and ever.” Daniel 7:17–18
The first beast, then, represented the Babylonian dominion.
“The first was like a lion, and it had the wings of an eagle. I watched until its wings were torn off and it was lifted from the ground so that it stood on two feet like a man, and the heart of a man was given to it.” Daniel 7:4