Summary: This message is a part of a series that surveys the entire Bible. It is based upon the study guide from an older Chuck Swindoll series. This message looks at the intertestamental period.
"The Sounds of Silence" is the song that propelled the 1960s folk music duo Simon and Garfunkel to popularity. It was written in February 1964 by Paul Simon in the aftermath of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Simon conceived of the song as a way of capturing the emotional trauma felt by many Americans. Listen to these lyrics from that song, “And the people bowed and prayed to the neon God they made. And the sign flashed out its warning, in the words that it was forming. And the signs said, the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls. And whispered in the sounds of silence.” These words in a way echo the plight of the Jewish people as we begin this segment of our journey on God’s Route 66. They are living with the results of bowing and praying to the gods that their hands had made. The emotional trauma is undoubtedly great, for centuries they have turned a deaf ear to God speaking through His prophets and now there is nothing left but the sounds of silence. God’s silence when the people have nowhere to turn. Today let’s discover what we can learn from this tragic period in Jewish history.
I. Two dreams in the book of Daniel are important and can help us make sense of this period.
A. Nebuchadnezzar has the first dream in Chapter 2. (2:31-47)
1. Nebuchadnezzar has this dream during the second year of his reign which began in March or April of 603 BC.
2. Nebuchadnezzar had dreamt he saw a statue (not an idol), an enormous, dazzling statue, awesome in appearance. The statue was in human form: 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
3. The statue was top-heavy, likely to topple to its ruin. To bring about this ruination, a rock appeared. The rock, moved by superhuman power, struck the statue on its feet, knocking it over. The fall resulted in the destruction of the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold of the statue.
4. Daniel’s interpretation of the dream begins with the identification of Nebuchadnezzar as the head of gold. This identification with the most precious of metals — gold — would have been flattering.
5. The Neo-Babylonian Empire would be followed by a second (“another”), third, and fourth kingdom. In other words, Daniel interprets the remaining metals as symbolic of nations rather than individual kings. These kingdoms will be world empires (will rule over the whole earth). The identification of these kingdoms with inferior metals — silver, bronze, iron/clay — implies gradual decline.
6. The fourth kingdom is described in greater detail than either the second or third.
7. The fourth kingdom has greater strength than the previous kingdoms: so it will crush and break all the others. But since clay and iron do not bond together, this kingdom is intrinsically weak. “Unity is impossible and the kingdom is vulnerable.
8. By contrast the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed. This kingdom is, of course, the rock that became a huge mountain and filled the whole earth”.
9. The interpretation ends with an affirmation of its certainty: The dream is true and the interpretation is trustworthy.
B. Daniel has the second dream in chapter 7. (7:1-8)
1. God speaks to Daniel through a dream, and Daniel writes down the content of that revelation.
2. Daniel’s report of the vision begins with the setting. He is on the shore of the great sea, where the four winds of heaven are turning the waters into a turbulent frenzy.
a. By the time of Daniel, the sea was a symbol of humanity in rebellion against God and the ensuing chaos.
b. The four winds of heaven represent “the heavenly powers and forces by which God sets the nations of the world in motion.”
3. Out of the sea arise four great beasts, one after the other. Three of the beasts are bizarre: a lion with the wings of an eagle, a leopard with four heads and four wings like those of a bird, and a beast with iron teeth.
4. Like chapter 2 these beasts represent “kingdoms that will arise from the earth”
a. The lion with the wings of an eagle stands for the Babylonian Empire.
b. The bear with the three ribs between its teeth represents the Medo-Persian Empire.
c. The third beast, the leopard with four heads and four wings, is blazingly fast and represents the Greek Empire.
d. The forth beast which is powerful and terrible represents the Roman Empire.