Summary: The king of Babylon had a dream that bothered him, but nobody could tell him the dream or what it meant. Daniel offered to do this very thing. After Daniel prayed, God showed Daniel the dream and its meaning.
Introduction: After the events of chapter 1, Daniel and his three close friends were part of the king of Babylon’s staff. At a certain unspecified point, the king had a dream which he simply could not understand or figure out. When the other wise men could not tell the king what he had dreamed, he tried to have them all put to death. He would have done so unless Daniel, in a great step of faith, promised not only to tell the king what he had dreamed, but also what it meant. God came through and indeed revealed to Daniel the king’s exact dream plus the meaning. The king’s response may not have been what Daniel or his friends expected!
I The dream was retained
Text: Daniel 2:1 And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. 2 Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. 3 And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream. 4 Then spake the Chaldeans to the king in Syriack, O king, live for ever: tell thy servants the dream, and we will shew the interpretation. 5 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 (KJV).
This event took place in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Why he should have a dream that bothered him the way this one did was not anywhere explained, except that God in His Providence took compassion on a heathen king and showed him a glimpse of the future. The fact that it bothered him is evident because not only did he lose his sleep, but he also gathered all the “wise men” of Babylon—the categories are listed in the text. He hoped—and expected—to receive an explanation of his dream.
And of course the wise men seemed glad to do this, on one condition: they wanted the king to tell them the dream! Some have thought that these men could take the details of the dream and try to “interpret” the dream by means of the writings, etc., that they would have access to, but not most people. In Romans 1, Paul mentioned that one of the things leading to mankind’s downward spiral to idolatry and debauchery began when certain people held down, held back, or suppressed the available truth of the time and traded God’s truth for lies (Romans 1:18 and 25, paraphrased). Nebuchadnezzar, though, decided to put these men to the test—and demanded they tell him what he had dreamed!
Of note, this portion of Daniel’s book, up through the last verse of chapter 6, is written in “Syriack (KJV)” or an Aramaic language, instead of Hebrew. This language, “Syriack”, was used as a diplomatic language as far back as the time of King Hezekiah. One of the Assyrian leaders had come to Jerusalem during Hezekiah’s reign and proclaimed a speech designed to frighten the people of Judah and Jerusalem. When the three members of Hezekiah’s delegation asked him to speak in Syriac/Aramaic, the Assyrian would have none of it. He then proceeded to address the people of Judah and Jerusalem using the Hebrew language (see 2 Kings 18 and Isaiah 36 for the complete story and the amazing conclusion).
But even more notable was that the king refused to give these wise men the details of his dream! Some people believe the king had forgotten the dream based on the King James Version translation of verse 5, “the thing is gone from me” where some believe the “thing” mentioned here was the dream itself. Others, like the late Dr. J. Vernon McGee, believe the king was giving a command to “tell me what I dreamed, or else!” citing a number of other renderings of this verse. His notes and comments are available online via http://www.ttb.org
At any rate, Nebuchadnezzar refused to tell what he had dreamed to these wise men. There is no reason given why as to why he didn’t trust them this time. He retained the dream in his own mind, and increased the levels of reward for making it known or punishment if they could not “produce” the dream and its meaning.
The wise men could not do this, and sure enough, the king’s wrath was about to be turned loose on them. Even though the wise men pleaded with the king, saying nobody on earth could do what he asked, the king was so furious that he gave orders to have all—ALL—the wise men of Babylon put to death (verses 7-13).