“This is the dream. Now we will tell the interpretation of it before the king. You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold. But after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to yours; then another, a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And the fourth kingdom shall be as strong as iron, inasmuch as iron breaks in pieces and shatters everything; and like iron that crushes, that kingdom will break in pieces and crush all the others. Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet the strength of the iron shall be in it, just as you saw the iron mixed with ceramic clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile. As you saw iron mixed with ceramic clay, they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold—the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure.”
Boy is Daniel buttering him up. “You, O king, are a king of kings. For the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, strength, and glory; and wherever the children of men dwell, or the beasts of the field and the birds of the heaven, He has given them into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all—you are this head of gold.”
The interpretation is truth direct from God, but Daniel still gets to choose the adjectives.
The Christian interpretation of this passage is that the gold head is the Babylonian kingdom; the silver chest and arms are the Medes and Persians; the bronze belly and thighs are the Greeks; lastly, the iron and clay legs and feet are the Romans. The kingdom which shall never be destroyed is Christianity.
The non-believers don’t like that interpretation, since it doesn’t fit their timeline. They think that Daniel was written after-the-fact, around the second century BC. Since the Roman empire came after that, the Christian interpretation would leave some of this passage’s prophesy in the future. So, they split the Medes and Persians into two kingdoms. The Medes are the second kingdom, the Persians the third, and the Greeks the fourth. That way, all of Daniel is after-the-fact.
I’ll leave the historical debates to the experts. However, as we read though Daniel, we’ll see one thing that makes the non-believer’s interpretation obviously wrong—it’s incompatible with the book itself. Daniel depicts the Medes and the Persians as a single kingdom (e.g., see Daniel 5:28 and 6:8).
So, unless Daniel didn’t understand his own prophesy …
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.