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Question is straightforward: Which four kingdoms are represented in the statue of Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel Chapter 2?

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If memory serves, the Word Biblical Commentary says the Iron is Greece, which was interesting to me. I had always been under the impression it was Rome. It might be worth considering both perspectives before drawing conclusions. –  Jas 3.1 Jul 1 '13 at 17:22
I remember preaching a sermon about this in which I had to remind both my church and myself - this vision is not about the statue - it's about the rock! –  Affable Geek Jul 1 '13 at 19:04
(Not to say this isn't a great question - just, I get so wrapped around the axle on the earthly kingdoms, that it is easy to neglect the point - the ROCK (aka the Church or heaven) makes everything crumble!) –  Affable Geek Jul 1 '13 at 19:05

2 Answers 2

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Daniyy'el describes the image as follows (Dan. 2:32-33),

32 The head of that image is of fine gold, its breast and its arms of silver, its belly and its thighs of brass,* 33 its legs of iron, and its feet, part of iron and part of clay.

הוּא צַלְמָא רֵאשֵׁהּ דִּי־דְהַב טָב חֲדֹוהִי וּדְרָעֹוהִי דִּי כְסַף מְעֹוהִי וְיַרְכָתֵהּ דִּי נְחָשׁ שָׁקֹוהִי דִּי פַרְזֶל רַגְלֹוהִי מנהון דִּי פַרְזֶל ומנהון דִּי חֲסַף

  • or "copper"

Daniyy'el then tells Nevukhadnetzar (נְבֻכַדְנֶצַּר), to whom he was speaking (cp. Dan. 2:1), אנתה־הוּא רֵאשָׁה דִּי דַהֲבָא׃, that is, "You are that head of gold."

Nevukhadnetzar was the king of the Babylonian kingdom.

After the Babylonian empire came the Mede/ Persian empire (cp. Dan. 5:31). The Mede/ Persian empire is "its breast and its arms of silver."

After the Mede/ Persian empire came the Greek empire (cp. 1 Mac. 1:1). The Greek empire is "its belly and its thighs of brass."

After the Greek empire came the Roman empire (the NT was written during the reign of the Roman empire). The Roman empire is "its legs of iron."

As for the mixed feet, part iron and part clay, this is a bit more mysterious.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the "clay" mixed in with the iron refers to the Arab/ Islamic empire that began after the birth of Islam and Muhammad.

Admittedly, I'm not absolutely certain about this interpretation, but I'm quite certain about the interpretation of the kingdom of Babylon, Mede/ Persia, Greece, and Rome.

If you look in Dan. 2:41 and 2:43, you'll find the word "mixed" in English. If you look at the actual Aramaic word, it's derived from the verb עֲרַב (arav). It's based on the root ע-ר-ב. While this root signifies the meaning of "to mix," it is also the same root used in the Hebrew word עֲרָבִי (aravi), meaning "Arab." This is a cognate of the Arabic word عربي (ʿarabiyy), also meaning "Arab."

I'm going to say that it's a play-on-words. Daniyy'el was prophesying long into the future when the Arab empire would feud with the Roman empire. The "clay" (Arabs) would mix with the "iron" (Romans), but they would not cleave to one another (cp. Dan. 2:43). As you know, both the Roman empire and the Arab empire still exist today, albeit not in their original form.

Final note: Again, this is a theory, not something I'm absolutely certain of. Prophecy is notoriously difficult to understand, but one thing I am certain on is the identity of the Babylonian, Mede/ Persian, Greek, and Roman empires in Daniyy'el's image. The clay is the unknown variable.

As you know, there are many commentaries on Daniyy'el's prophecies, but allow me to suggest one for examination. It's a tafsīr (commentary) from the Karaite scholar יפת בן עלי הלוי (Yafet ben Ali ha-Levi). See p. 12-14.

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Totally right! Thanks. I was in a rush getting ready for work. :( –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jul 1 '13 at 19:05
(+1) Think this is the correct answer but as there are hundreds of commentaries out there, mostly split over the Grecian versus Roman view on the legs/feet, a reference should be cited to strengthen the position taken here. By the way I will probably ask a seperate question about the toes and clay/iron as this is more difficult and less agreed in the Roman school. –  Mike Jul 2 '13 at 4:46
I know...I'll work on the answer for you. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jul 2 '13 at 4:51
@Mike: Supplied one commentary just to support my view. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jul 2 '13 at 19:36
Hey - thanks for the commentary link its a interesting verynold one. I will undoubtedly check it out. –  Mike Jul 8 '13 at 4:41

The Kingdoms as Often Understood

The majority consensus would say:

  • Babylon
  • Media-Persia
  • Greece
  • Rome*

The Reasoning

The first is identified in the text, Nebuchadnezzar is called the head of gold in Daniel 2:38.

Following this, the second and third Kingdom, would be the kingdom of the Medes and Persians, followed by the Greecian Empire, with Alexander the Great as its first ruler.

The Issue With Rome -- Past or Future or Neither?

The only caveat, (*) is that Rome is often interpreted as either completely historical (in the Preterist view), or that it continued in some form (some make the claim the Roman Catholic Church is still 'Rome' today, such as certain historicists), or in some way to signify a future, rebuilt Rome as the fulfillment.

The future fulfillment folk would be most of the modern interpretations that are generally mainstream these days, which would be pointing towards a future fulfillment of much of Daniel and most of Revelation. Some would say that there will be a 'Revived Roman Empire', that it will come back in some way, while some say that the original Rome was only a foreshadowing of the real fourth-empire that is yet to come, but that historical Rome itself was not it. Some also attempt to differentiate between iron section and the iron/clay section, and make five Kingdoms.

A minority group of opinions consider the second Kingdom as the Medes, the third as the Persians, and the fourth to be the Greeks, putting the whole thing back even further. Others posit a Islamic Caliphate as the fourth kingdom, completely bypassing Rome.

Support for Rome

Substantial support for the Rome-ending sequence can be found throughout the sequence of the book, however.

In Daniel 8:20, the kings of Media and Persia are grouped together, and they are together seen fighting what is identified as the King of Greece. Further, since many consider Daniel 2 & 7 to be parallel, Daniel 7:17, reading, "These great beasts, which are four...", clearly identifies the number of beasts to be four, not five (some do not agree to this parallelism).

References Within Daniel

Still further evidence within the book of Daniel that points to a historic Rome solution for the fourth Kingdom is found in Daniel 11.

As Daniel 8 established the conflict between the Ram (Media-Persia) and the Shaggy Goat (Greece), Daniel 11 begins with the kings of Persia (Daniel 11:2), and goes on to describe the king of Greece (Daniel 11:3), which, historically is seen to be Alexander the Great. When he died in his early thirties, he left his kingdom to his four generals, "parceled out toward the four points of the compass". These four kings then, are the King of the North, South, East and West. For the passage following, these all refer to the Greecian Kingdom, in its four parts.

Following the throne(s) of the Greecian Kingdom (not the kings, but the king-ship), the history of the Greek Kingdom is fore-told. The progression lays out the lineage of kings of Greece.

In Daniel 11:21, it gets interesting, as the character Antiochus Epiphanes is discussed.

Daniel 11:21-35 then detail the reign of Antiochus and his desecration of the Jewish Temple with the Abomination of Desolation in Daniel 11:31.

A fulfilled Daniel 11?

A great number of scholars hold that the historical fulfillment of Daniel 11 stops here. There claims to be no great concensus within those that would interpret Daniel beyond this point. Some claim that Antiochus only fulfilled a "type" of Daniel 11:21-35, but that the real fulfillment will be a future anti-christ. While not necessarily a popular viewpoint, the case for a more-fulfilled Daniel 11 can be made.

In Daniel 11:36, the "willful king" is considered by some to be one of the four, or to be a third entity. When we consider the rest of v36, we read this, in Daniel 11:36b,

and he will prosper until the indignation is finished, for that which is decreed will be done.

This would indicate, if Rome is the last kingdom, that this kingdom will be the last kingdom of the four.

Octavius as the Willful King

Looking at beginning of the end of the Greecian Empire and the beginning of the Roman Empire, then, we see that Octavius, one of the Second Triumvirate, went to war with Marc Antony (also one of the three) and Cleopatra.

Reading Octavius as the willful king, Marc Antony as the king of the North (in the region of Syria), and Cleopatra as the King of the South (in Egypt), we see that most of the reading of Daniel 11 comes forth straightforward.

Octavius, also Caesar Augustus (the first ruler of the Roman Empire), regarded no other gods, but on legions of their army, they honored "forces", signs of the Zodiac. He attacked the fortress a Phillip with many legions of Roman soldiers and conquered it, and actually displaced whole towns to honor his retiring soldiers after the war.

v40-43 depict the Battle of Actium in 2 September 31 BC, between Marc Antony and Cleopatra, both in scope and in composition of military forces. The battle was comprised much at sea, and the large infantries were not engaged. He also left out Edom, Moab, and Ammon, as in v41. And, after conquering Cleopatra in Egypt, he then took hold of the wealth of Egypt.

The last two verses, then, while not directly seeming applicable to Octavius, could then look forward again, to the same throne, but a different individual king reigning on it.

If the above holds true, then the introduction of Daniel 12 falls in the beginning of the Roman Empire, and the time of great trouble prophesied in Daniel 12:1, with Michael the great Prince, would most likely be looking towards the First Century (i.e., the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD), the same time that most Preterists readings of Matthew 24:14 would put the "Great Tribulation". Which, of course, doesn't work at all for a futurist reading of the text.

Futurist Readings

If one took a similar logic for the "willful king" of v36 and applied it to a yet-to-come individual, however, you could reach the same result as regards the four kingdoms. By understanding that the Kings of the North/South are referring to the Greecian Kingdom (by v4), the "willful king" who must "prosper until the indignation is finished", this is interpreted, still, as the fourth, but yet-to-come, Kingdom. Regardless, they typify it as Rome, either as "like Rome", or a "revived Rome".

Others make contentions such as that Rome did not control the ancient city of Babylon, and therefore could not fulfill the prophecy. However, this does not hold strictly true, as Wikipedia points out,

There was a brief interlude of Roman conquest (Roman Assyria, Roman Mesopotamia; AD 116 to 118) under Trajan, after which the Parthians reasserted control.

Wikipedia Article on 'Babylonia', accessed 11/21/2014

Certainly other views are around, and this is not exhaustive or complete in disproving alternate views. This view is obviously coming from a largely fulfilled interpretation, but is at least an attempt to represent the noted variations.

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