The Vision and the Threat
Daniel lived during one of the greatest upheavals in Israel’s history. In the early stages of the Babylonian exile, he was taken captive as a young man during Nebuchadnezzar’s first attack upon the southern kingdom of Judah. Daniel and several of his friends were destined to eventually become servants in the court of the king of Babylon, mainly because of their perceived intelligence and potential. Though they were taken against their will and forced to serve Nebuchadnezzar as seers and consultants, the Lord never left their side and openly protected them through many adverse situations.
The help that God provided Daniel was to be unique among all his peers. Very early in Daniel’s service, the Lord began to reveal to him things that would occur in the near and distant future concerning the nations of the world. Daniel soon became the Bible’s principle prophet concerning the rise and fall of empires—some of which would not come upon the world scene for hundreds or even thousands of years. Through him the Lord would reveal the overall course of world history all the way up to the time of the second coming of Christ.
These key prophecies begin in chapter 2 of Daniel with the description of a very unusual event. In a strange way, the circumstances described in that chapter were going to soon lead to the unveiling of the Lord’s first prediction concerning the future of the nations. We are told that king Nebuchadnezzar…
“…dreamed dreams, and his spirit was troubled, and his sleep went from him…”
The king of Babylon, the leader of that powerful nation which had just subjugated the people of God, was actually chosen by the Lord to be the recipient of special divine knowledge through dreams. In fact, this knowledge would turn out to be a crucial piece of information for anyone wanting to understand the entire course of future events at the end of the age.
Nebuchadnezzar, however, had one small problem. No matter how he tried, he could not remember the exact details of his dream. He awakened from his sleep knowing that the vision he had was much more significant than just the average nighttime dream, but he couldn’t bring any more than mere impressions of it to his conscious mind. At that point, the king knew he could do nothing but call forth the only men he thought could solve the mystery. In the sixth century B.C. it was typical to have decisions endorsed by local astrologers and fortune tellers, so Nebuchadnezzar simply summoned these people to his court to reveal the secret of his dream. The king, however, made it extremely dangerous for anyone who attempted to interpret it, and he stated for all to hear,
“If ye will not make known unto me the dream, with the interpretation of it, ye shall be cut in pieces, and your houses shall be made a refuse heap…”
Whew! He had already told his astrologers that he could not recall the dream, but how could they be certain that the king did not know at least some of the details? If they merely made up a vision in order to satisfy his curiosity, they could get their heads cut off, especially if Nebuchadnezzar somehow realized he was being “had.” The life of a false prophet was never made more difficult.
Obviously, none of these “psychics” could come up with the answer. If you don’t have special power from God it’s impossible to reveal something as hidden like a fleeting dream, particularly when the dream is not even your own. Nebuchadnezzar, however, was not so rational or forgiving. The Bible tells us,
“For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon”.
Unfortunately, this decree was also about to affect the lives of the prophet Daniel and his companions…[more]