THE IMAGE OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
In these days when prophecy is so rapidly fulfilling before our eyes the implications of Daniel’s words are intensely interesting for serious Bible students. It is important therefore, if we really desire to be “faithful and true witnesses”, for us to correctly understand the meaning of this significant prophecy.
With the above in mind then, we proceed to firstly comment upon some of the ideas currently being suggested by popular opinion. Our first consideration takes us to the LEGS OF IRON of Nebuchadnezzar’s Image. Much is often made of the fact that the image had TWO LEGS. Some assert that this represents the division of the ancient Roman empire into two, together with its counterpart in modern times – namely the Little Horn of Daniel’s Fourth Beast (Leg 1 – West) and the Little Horn of the Goat (Leg 2 – East) – both historically Roman.
Others propose the concept of a United Europe, East and West, being the two legs of the Image. However, upon examination of these two propositions, it will be seen that they do not only create great difficulty, but that the very premise upon which they are built, namely the TWO LEGS of the image, is not quite what the Scriptures are saying. If we adhere to any proposition, then we must always be prepared to test it against two criteria:
(1) Whether it is what the Scriptures are actually indicating and
(2) Whether the argument, reasoned out logically, is consistent with itself and with other portions of Scripture which speak of the same subject when taken in their context.
Bearing these in mind then, let us proceed with our examination of the subject.
Once we observe the DREAM and the INTERPRETATION, we can see that there are certain expressions used by Daniel which we have emphasized, to highlight the way Daniel would have us to understand it. We note, for example, that as there was a contrast in the quality of the first two metals (gold and silver) and a point made about it, so there is also a focus upon the quality of the fourth metal – its STRENGTH to “break in pieces”. This clearly indicates military might. It is the same “breaking in pieces” that the Stone-Kingdom will later accomplish – the power to conquer and subdue by force.
The concept also appears in the description of the Fourth Beast in ch.7, where we note that with its IRON teeth it was “strong exceedingly” and that it “BRAKE IN PIECES”. We should pause and consider the implications of this, particularly with regard to which element of divided Europe the iron and clay respectively represent.
However, let us examine one theory of the LEGS OF IRON and its implications.
We must first resolve this issue:- do we really have any scriptural authority to take the observation that the image (being a man) has TWO LEGS and use it as a significant basis for expounding the Divine intention behind the symbol? – OR should be simply be content to view “the legs” as a general symbol of “the fourth kingdom” of man’s dominion?
Two Legs! – Ten Toes?
We notice that when Daniel interpreted the dream to Nebuchadnezzar, he didn’t even mention “the legs”, but only “the fourth kingdom”. He does however, particularly comment on “the toes of the feet” (v42). One would expect therefore that more attention should be paid to the significance of the toes than the legs. If we wish, despite Daniel’s silence, to impose a meaning upon “the legs” then in all honesty we must be prepared to maintain a consistent application of our own argument with regard to the toes.
We should ask ourselves: If indeed two legs represent the eastern and western portions of the Roman Empire, then WHAT OF THE TOES? Are we to expect the “iron and clay” development to necessitate TWO DIVISIONS OF FIVE which make up the “ten”? Moreover, is there any historical basis for such a division in history? If we must have the legs, then we cannot disregard, or conveniently ignore the toes!
If indeed, two legs represent, for example, the two “little horns” of Daniel 7 & 8, then how is this five-fold division of each to occur? If the two legs are the eastern and western territories of a revived Roman Empire in the latter days, with Rome and Constantinople as federal heads, then are we to expect a five-fold division of a “united Europe” and a five-fold division on the territory of the ancient Eastern Roman Empire standing together to complete the mighty colossus, whose “form was terrible”?
Alternatively, if we wish to see a “United Roman Europe” as the two iron legs with ten toes corresponding to the “ten horns” of Daniel’s Fourth Beast and hence, a five-East, five-West confederation into which is injected the “clay power” of Russia as the uniting force, then we must be anticipating a massive realignment of ethnic and national borders in Europe, to complete “the ten” before the expected Russo-Catholic alliance matures and Russia controls the continent.
If this were the Divine will, then nothing of course is beyond His power to accomplish. Nevertheless, for our present purpose, we are looking at a consistent application of an interpretation which rests upon a premise of which Daniel spoke nothing, namely that two iron legs must represent a twofold division of the Roman Empire. Not only so, but historically the Roman Empire was not always divided. From 60 B.C. until the fourth century A.D. the empire was one. Yet Nebuchadnezzar’s Image only had legs of iron. Perhaps it was a knock-kneed image – “terrible” indeed!
Then there is the matter of the historical division of the Western Roman Empire into independent kingdoms after barbarian invasions from the east. Daniel said “the kingdom shall be divided” into iron and clay elements. But the eastern, Byzantine Empire remained intact for another 1,000 years. Do we have one leg dividing into five toes later than the other? Is there no correlation between the ten toes of a man and the ten horns of the Western Empire, as represented by Daniel’s Fourth Beast and the medieval Sea-Beast of Revelation 13?
It may be readily perceived that there is some difficulty encountered when the above theories are pursued to their logical implications. The problem would not be worth a comment if the premise was not popularly used to forecast a situation yet to come. We now propose to suggest an alternative understanding of the prophecy, which it is felt is much more in harmony with Daniel’s own interpretation given.
Is it a Matter of Territory?
There is no doubt from the indications Daniel gives, that the Image of Nebuchadnezzar is “broken to pieces together“, that is, in some way, when the end of the Kingdom of Men comes, the Stone-Kingdom will crush “all these kingdoms” at once. What really matters is, does this mean that in some way there must be the welding together of all the former territories of these ancient empires into one mighty dominion, so that in that sense it can be smitten together?
Moreover does Daniel in fact indicate, that once the Image has been “broken to pieces together” (it is proposed, the destruction of the Ezekiel 38 confederacy at the Battle of Armageddon) it is afterwards “ground to powder” and blown away? We would like to suggest that neither of the above is what the Scriptures are indicating and that, yes, there is a sense in which the Image will be destroyed “as one” at the end.
It is this territorial interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s Image and the associated concept of an “Image Empire” incorporating all the territories of these past empires in the “latter days” which we take issue with.
Broken to Pieces Together
Looking at the feet of the Image now, we note regarding the iron and clay that Daniel indicates this means “weak” and “strong” in combination, just as the gold and silver were contrasted earlier for their relative values. Our thoughts should also be guided by the indications given to us in the Book of Revelation of the development of this system. We find a fairly obvious connection between the “toes of the feet” and the “ten horns” of Daniel’s 4th Beast. These ten horns are taken up in the Apocalypse and are found to be the common characteristic of The Great Dragon (ch.12) the Beast from the Sea (ch.13) and the Scarlet Beast (ch.17). These are historical phases of the Fourth Beast of Daniel 7.
Now concerning the Sea-Beast phase of Daniel’s 4th Beast we learn that it had a body like a LEOPARD, feet like a BEAR, mouth like a LION – and ten horns like the FOURTH BEAST. In other words, it was a combination of Daniel’s four beasts in one! Since the four beasts of Daniel 7 are parallel with the four metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s Image, we are faced in Revelation 13 with an equivalent idea to Nebuchadnezzar’s Image as a whole. Moreover, the language of Revelation 13 is deliberately drawn from Daniel 7, so the connection cannot be denied.
We have seen the Scriptural connection between Nebuchadnezzar’s Image, the four beasts of Daniel 7 and a particular phase of its development in Revelation 13, as outlined above. We must pause at this point to ask the question: In what sense did the historical “Beast from the Sea” incorporate Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome into its system? Was it in a territorial sense? Obviously not! Rather, it was a continuation of all that they once were – historical phases of the kingdom of men in opposition to the people of God, whether Jews or true believers. It inherited their mantle and continued their work. It was their representative at that time of history.
The God of Heaven will set up a Kingdom
We now return to Daniel 2 and note the sequence of events as Daniel explains the work of the Stone Kingdom:
(1) The “feet and toes” stage is fulfilled and the Image is finished.
(2) The Stone breaks away from the “mountain”
(3) The image is smitten on the feet, crushing them.
(4) Then the image, feet included, is crushed together into chaff and is blown away.
(5) The Stone grows into a great mountain, filling the earth.
This is how Daniel explains it:
(1) in the days of these kings.
(2) shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom …
(3-5) it shall break (or crush) into pieces and consume all these kingdoms and it shall stand forever.
We learn from Daniel’s words that “a kingdom” is first set up by the God of heaven and that this kingdom then proceeds to smash the image to chaff by colliding with its iron/clay feet and toes. It is a popular notion that it first smashes, all the metals of the image “together” (at Armageddon, where all territories are under Russian control) and then “grinds to powder” but this is nowhere mentioned by Daniel. In fact, Daniel actually says that the stone smites the Image on the feet and crushes them, and then all the metals are crushed together.
There is no mention of a further “grinding to powder”. An examination of Daniel’s language reveals the consistent use of one Hebrew word, which is translated “break in pieces”, but literally means, “to crush” or to “grind or beat into powder” and is elsewhere translated that way a number of times. The stone smites the image on its feet of iron and clay and “crushes” them to powder. This sets off a process by which the whole image, i.e. the “iron, the clay, the brass, the silver and the gold” is “beaten to powder” or “like chaff” TOGETHER, or “as one”. THE BREAKING TO PIECES, OR GRINDING TO POWDER “TOGETHER” THEREFORE, CANNOT REPRESENT THE BATTLE OF ARMAGEDDON, but rather the complete disintegration by warfare, of the kingdom of men.
The smashing of the iron and clay feet is the means by which this is done, because they are the last representative of all the kingdoms before it.
So what have we in summary? We have a “stone” or “kingdom” which is first “set up” in Jerusalem, and then proceeds to smash the LAST MANIFESTATION OF MAN’S RULE, represented in symbol by the Scarlet Beast system of Western Europe, or the European Union, which will have, with its 10 horns, given its power unto the Beast, and as the final manifestation of the Sea-Beast combination of Daniel’s four beasts, will “make war with the Lamb”.
The King of Israel, their Messiah, will first save them from the Gogian (Russian) confederacy of Asian and European nations allied with him, otherwise known as the “kings of the earth and the whole world” gathered by the spirit of “The Dragon, the Beast and the False Prophet” and then will “judge and make war” in righteousness, against “the Beast and the False Prophet” themselves, who will perish together in the “lake of fire” or “fiery stream” of Daniel 7.
The destruction of Nebuchadnezzar’s Image is the same thing as the consummation of Daniel’s Fourth Beast in the “burning flame”. The battle of Armageddon, in the land of the Hebrew tongue, initiates the “war of the great day of El Shaddai” in which all nations are involved, but does not necessitate Russian domination of a great and final world empire, from the Atlantic Ocean to the borders of India.
Present trends indicate that the first phase of the prophecy is about to be fulfilled – “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom”. Russia and the kings of the earth will be humiliated before the Divine fury and the stone-kingdom will tear itself away from the mountain “without hands”. But Western Europe will finally unite in time to oppose “the antichrist”, as they see the King of Jerusalem. “These shall make war with the Lamb”. But the image of Nebuchadnezzar will be smitten by the stone and crushed – “the Lamb will overcome them”.
Will we be among the “wise” to correctly “understand” the book? The exhortation for us is “Him that reads, LET HIM UNDERSTAND!”