Daniel 2:39a (NASB) says: "After you, there will arise another kingdom inferior [ara] to you ...."

The kingdom referred to here is indicated by the silver breast and arms of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar saw in a dream (vss 31-33), with the golden head of the statue representing king Nebuchadnezzar (vs 38b).

As I understand it, the Aramaic word ara literally means "earth" or "ground," but can also indicate something that is "inferior." Most English translations translate the word in verse 39 as "inferior," in the sense that silver is inferior to (of lesser value than) gold. But what I'm wondering is if ara might actually have a double meaning here, referring both to the "inferiority" of silver to gold, as well as to the fact that the silver breast and arms are "lower" on the statue than the head (i.e., "below" the head).

The only commentator I know of (though there are probably others) who takes the word to mean "lower (than the head in its position on the statue)" is John MacArthur, but that got me thinking there might be some wordplay going on here.

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  • Why can't [מלכו אחרי ארעא מנך] = following/another kingdom of land from you ? A kingdom that splits its territory from your land.
    – Cynthia
    Dec 29, 2015 at 8:30
  • It's been a while. Any thoughts on this?
    – Rong Wei
    Feb 29, 2016 at 6:47

4 Answers 4


Translation of this whole verse is a little problematic, as the aramaic ara appears as a noun both here in the middle of the verse and again at the end, again v29 from the NASB:

"After you there will arise another kingdom inferior (ara) to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth (ara)."

Given the double usage of this word so close together, an argument could be made for the context confirming a pun, or else disproving it entirely:

Consistent usage - argument against a paranomasia

Ara appears no less than seventeen times in Daniel, and every single time in the clear context of 'earth/land'... except this one. So whatever translation we make of it, we need to justify why we are or aren't aligning with the other sixteen uses. Using a consistent hermeneutic of the word in this verse, we should first try to use the word in the same sense in both places, as long as that fits reasonably.

However, a consistent usage doesn't fit this context naturally - it's fairly obvious that the second usage 'all the ara' fits perfectly with all other known usages of the word in Daniel, so it should definitely be 'earth/land'. But if we were to port that translation through to the first half of the verse, it would read closer to 'After you shall arise another kingdom, a kingdom from your land', but I'd feel sketchy making such a suggestion given the conformity of every single translation I've checked to your given usage.

Dual usage - argument for a paranomasia

However, I'd see the consistency and repetition of the word's usage as our ally here - because that would mean that this slightly stretched usage of ara in the first half of the verse is there precisely to match the latter half:

"After you there will arise another kingdom like ara to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the ara."

I would say there is a definite pun here, but rather in reference to the kingdoms destroying one another than in reference to the statue. If the author is clearly using the same word in two senses in the same sentence, that confirms some form of paranomasia or word-play. It's possible there's even a triple entendre as you suggest in reference to the statue, but given the passage and other known usage of the word throughout Daniel, I wouldn't try to stretch the word quite that far.


The Medo-Persian empire was not in any tangible way "inferior" to the Babylonian empire. Any conclusion finding it was, would be highly allegorical in nature. The problem here is one of translation. The word translated as "inferior" here is the Aramaic word "ara". It is used 17 times in the old testament and 16 of those times it is translated "earth'. This is the only place it is translated as "inferior". A more proper translation of this might be "out of your earth" or "out of your land". The idea being that next kingdom would contain Babylon within it's borders. Not only did this in fact occur with the Medo-Persian empire but also with all the other kingdoms represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the statue as well.

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    Hi Michael, welcome to the site! Could you add some sources to your answer? Apr 1, 2022 at 22:28
  • I'm not sure this really answers the question. You've given some info, but haven't discussed whether this is wordplay or not.
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 2, 2022 at 3:50

Translators have made a mess of this passage. It should read "After you there will arise another kingdom of the earth, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth." The word "earth" should be used in both places. The Persian kingdom was not inferior to the Babylonian Kingdom it was far superior in size and power. But it was another "earthly kingdom" as opposed to a "heavenly" kingdom. The parallel symbology of the beasts in Daniel 7 refers to the four beast kingdoms using the same Aramaic words. In Daniel 2 they are translated as "inferior to you" but in Daniel 7:17 they are translated as The four great beasts are four kings that will rise from the earth. This changes the understanding of the image. It's not about the greatness of world empires, but a focus on the empires in the land promised to Abraham who rule over Israel.


The fact that silver is inferior to gold, as well as lower in position in the position, is merely an artefact of the purpose of the vision — to show a devolution of the relative greatness (greatness is measured by the circumstances of the time, not against all history — building a house for the first time was the greatest 'kingdom' at the beginning of creation, but not ever) of the successive kingdoms. This is why "earthwardness" applies both to the increasing lowliness of the materials (gold, silver, etc.), as well as increasingly low position of the sections of the statue.

The min ("than") makes the phrase comparative, so whatever it means, it must mean a kingdom that is "more [something related with the concept of earth] than you[r kingdom]." A more "earthy" kingdom inuitively seems to denote a lower kingdom — which agrees perfectly with the vision, which shows the silver-kingdom succeeding the gold-kingdom. The referent of araa minak is not the symbols in the vision, but the kingdoms — one would need to demonstrate the existence of an Aramaic idiom whereby "more earthward" did not denote merely the concept of lowliness or such, but rather "lower positionally," rather than assume one unfalsifiably. The falsifiability in my reading relies on the compelling ubiquity of seeing earth as a symbol of inferiority, lowiness, and baseness in pretty much all cultures on earth.

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