Read again the dream and its interpretation (Dan. 2:31-49). What does this teach us about God’s foreknowledge of world history?
The prophecy conveyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s dream provides a general prophetic outline and functions as the yardstick with which to approach the more-detailed prophecies of Daniel chapters 7, 8, and 11. Also, Daniel chapter 2 is not a conditional prophecy.
It is an apocalyptic prophecy: a definitive prediction of what God foresaw and would actually bring to pass in the future.
- The head of gold represents Babylon (626-539 B.C.). Indeed, no other metal could better represent the power and wealth of the Babylonian empire than gold. The Bible calls it “the golden city” (Isa. 14:4) and “a golden cup in the LORD’s hand” (Jer. 51:7; compare with Rev. 18:16). The ancient historian Herodotus reports that an abundance of gold embellished the city.
- The chest and arms of silver stand for Media-Persia (539-331 B.C.). As silver is valued less than gold, the Medo-Persian empire never attained the splendor of the Babylonian. In addition, silver was also a fitting symbol for the Persians because they used silver in their taxation system.
- The belly and thighs of bronze symbolize Greece (331-168 B.C.). Ezekiel 27:13 portrays the Greeks as bartering bronze vessels. Greek soldiers were noted for their bronze armor. Their helmets, shields, and battle-axes consisted of brass. Herodotus tells us that Psammetichus I of Egypt saw in invading Greek pirates the fulfillment of an oracle that foretold “men of bronze coming from the sea”.
- The legs of iron aptly represent Rome (168 B.C.-A.D. 476). As Daniel explained, the iron represented the crushing power of the Roman Empire, which lasted longer than any of the previous kingdoms. Iron was a perfect metal to represent the empire.
- The feet partly of iron and partly of clay represent a divided Europe (A.D. 476-Second Coming of Christ). The mixture of iron with clay provides a fitting picture of what happened after the disintegration of the Roman Empire. Although many attempts have been made to unify Europe, ranging from marriage alliances between royal houses to the present European Union, division and disunity have prevailed and, according to this prophecy, will remain so until God establishes the eternal kingdom.