Sunday, 27 November 2011

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Nebuchadnezzar's dream in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel is regarded as an essential componant of interpreting the rest of the visions that occur throughout the text. And like the other biblical prophecies we have covered concerning the future collapse of the volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma, it too contains the motif of an empire being destroyed by a mountain.

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
 “This was the dream. Now we will tell the king its interpretation. You, O king, the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, and the might, and the glory, and into whose hand he has given, wherever they dwell, the children of man, the beasts of the field, and the birds of the heavens, making you rule over them all—you are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth. And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things. And like iron that crushes, it shall break and crush all these. And as you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom, but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the soft clay. And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. As you saw the iron mixed with soft clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever, just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.” (Dan 2:31-45)

Here we are told of a stone being cut out from a mountain, but not by human hand, which destroys the statue in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that the statue represents several world empires, the head of which is that of Babylon itself.
This dream-vision has been interpreted in many different ways by various religious sects, but has traditionally been viewed as representing the following empires:

The text explicitly states that the head of gold represents Babylon, so typically, there is no variation here.
The chest and arms of silver are thought to represent the Medo-Persian empires.
The belly and thighs of bronze have been interpreted as the Greek empire.
The legs of iron are believed to be the Roman empire.
The feet of mixed clay and iron are traditionally believed to be the divided Roman empire.

The rock which hits the feet of clay and iron and destroys the statue, which then transforms into a mountian which goes on to fill the whole earth, represents the coming of the Messiah, who will establish the everlasting kingdom of God. Many commentators believe that this portion of the prophecy refers to the Second Coming. If this interpretation is correct, then once again we have the Second Coming of Christ being paired with a mountain destroying an empire (or a stone being "cut" from a mountain, which can again invoke imagery of a lateral collapse), which is in turn represented by a statue with a head that represents Babylon

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