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Bible Study: Daniel 2

The first part of Daniel 2 (verses 1 – 30) gives the narrative setting for Daniel’s first prophecy, about the future world kingdoms. This section sets the stage of the “forgotten dream and the unforgettable Daniel.”

MacArthur makes a strong case that Nebuchadnezzar, though remembering the terror of it, indeed forgot the dream, as purposed by God to bring Daniel into the role God had created for him as adviser to the king. Though some translations of Nebuchadnezzar’s words say “the command from me is sure,” other translations render it “the thing has gone from me.” It could be translated either way, but the context makes the meaning clear:

“Why would Nebuchadnezzar have a dream that scared the life out of him that absolutely panicked him, that gave him a good case of apoplexy, a dream that cost him such frenzy that he couldn’t sleep, that he lost his sleep. Why would he then pretend not to remember that and start to play games with his wise men? It would seem to me that if the panic was as deep as the text indicates it was, he wouldn’t be fooling around just trying to prove that his wise men couldn’t really tell him the answers. Because as it turned out, he kept saying to them, “Tell me the dream and then its interpretation.” And they would say, “Well, you tell us the dream and we’ll tell you the interpretation. We can’t figure out the dream if you don’t tell us.” And some say, well, he was just pretending not to remember to smoke out their phoniness.

But you see that would’ve been completely off his point. He was trying to get an answer to this tremendously disturbing dream, not try to unmask his wise men. That could save itself for another day when things weren’t quite as panicky. The fact that he made the wise men tell the dream and its interpretation. And he was so distressed that they couldn’t, he said I’m going to kill every one, gather every single one of them and kill every one of those. Now that’ll give you a little idea of the anxiety of his heart.

By the way, when Daniel finally told him the dream, he never killed anybody, which shows you that he wasn’t really trying to kill his wise men, he was really trying to get the answer of the dream. And that’s why I believe he forgot it. And I think God helped him forget it, just like God gave it to him, so that God could smoke out the phonies among the wise men and put Daniel in the place he wanted him in.”

From MacArthur’s sermon I also learned some interesting things about the actual practices of the wise men of the Babylonian court. They were really into dream interpretation, and kept records of dreams and the subsequent events, to come up with a pattern for future dream interpretation. These dream records were in large manuals, which have even been found in archeological studies. This system was rather like our legal profession, in which our lawyers refer back to the history of similar situations and how a law was interpreted in the past, to determine how to apply it in a current case.

Some other great points from this passage:
1) Daniel is calm in the midst of chaos. The guards are coming to round up all the wise men for execution, and Daniel calmly asks, what caused the king to issue such a harsh decree? What a great point to remember and apply, yet one in which I fail terribly, the ability to be calm in a bad situation. Yet God gave such grace to Daniel, and MacArthur applies this ability to all effective ministers: “If you can’t stay composed in a crisis, you’re never really going to have an effective long-range ministry because ministry is all about meeting one crisis after another.”

2) Daniel’s courage, his boldness, in asking for an audience with the king — and even asking the king for time, the one thing that King Nebuchadnezzar had denied to the wise men at the first hearing.

3) Daniel’s communion with his friends — he told the situation to his friends, and then they prayed earnestly to God, for His mercy, in utter dependence on God to supply the answer concerning this secret, so that they would not perish with the rest of the wise men. MacArthur again: “Anybody who goes into any kind of a crisis ministry knows full well that you go in first of all on your knees or you’re the biggest fool of all. He didn’t expect to receive what he needed without prayer. He didn’t expect to receive it because he observed that it would have to be from the mercy of the God in heaven. He didn’t look to men’s wisdom and look up the dream books. He got on his knees.”

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