New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:33 part of iron. The metals of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image follow a definite order corresponding to the empires they represent, decreasing in intrinsic value, but increasing in strength. That is, gold at the head is the most beautiful and valuable of the metals, iron in the legs is the strongest. These empires decrease in structural likeness to God’s ideal theocratic kingdom, but increase in worldly strength and geographical extent.
2:38 head of gold. This begins the remarkable prophecy—later fulfilled in detail over the centuries—of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream image. The emperor was very pleased when he learned that the golden head of the image represented himself and his empire. The universality of this kingdom referred to its influence, rather than its geographical extent. Babylon was, indeed, the source (or “head”) of all the world’s false religions (Revelation 17:5) and materialistic greed (Revelation 18:3). It was conquered by the Medo-Persian empire in 538 B.C. (note Daniel 5:28).
2:39 another kingdom. The “breast and arms of silver” represented the two-sided kingdom of the Medes and Persians, which would dominate the known world from 538 B.C. to 334 B.C., when it was to be conquered by Alexander the Great, of Greece (see Daniel 8:20-21).
2:39 kingdom of brass. The “third kingdom of brass (or bronze),” was the great Greek empire, which continued until defeated by Rome, which became a world empire under Augustus in 31 B.C.
2:40 fourth kingdom. The fourth world kingdom, stronger than any before it, and longer in duration, dominated the world beginning about 129 B.C., becoming a monolithic empire under Augustus in 31 B.C., and continuing until its fall in A.D. 476. However, it divided in A.D. 285 under Emperor Diocletian into eastern and western branches, as indicated by the two legs of the image. The eastern leg, centered at Constantinople, did not fall until A.D. 1453.
2:41 kingdom shall be divided. The two divisions of the Roman empire, centered at Rome and Constantinople, respectively, continued for a long time, as suggested by the length of the legs. After the fall of political Rome, the empire continued in ecclesiastical form, as the Roman and Byzantine Catholic churches. In fact, in an extended sense, they continue even into the modern era, in the context, not of political unity, but of culture, language, legal structure, civilization and government. The change from political Rome to ecclesiastical Rome, at the knees of the image, as it were, became the Holy Roman empire in the west and the complex of Orthodox churches in the east. The western branch expanded throughout western Europe and into the Americas, the eastern into northern Eurasia, but the essential character of the old Roman empire persisted in both for many centuries.
2:42 partly broken. Gradually, the feudal economies of the various kingdoms began to disintegrate, with the king (or czar, or emperor, or other monarch) yielding more and more of his power to his subjects.
2:43 seed of men. The change of character and directions suggested by the change in the image from legs to feet apparently marks the rapid rise to dominance of the “seed of men” in the two divisions of the old empire of Rome. In the West, the American revolution was the first of many republics and democracies. In the East, the later emergence of communism had similar implications, but this also gave way to kingdoms “partly strong and partly broken,” continual conflict between totalitarianism and populism in the various nations.
2:44 days of these kings. The term “these kings” would indicate that at the very end of the age, the old Roman empire would develop into ten dominant kingdoms (corresponding to the “feet and toes” of the image), five in the western division, five in the east. Although the prophecies implicit in the rest of the image have largely been fulfilled already, the prophecy related to these extremities has not. Thus, it is not yet possible to identify these final ten kingdoms. They are probably the same as the “ten horns” of the tribulation period (Revelation 17:12).
2:44 kingdom. This kingdom “that shall never be destroyed” can be nothing less than the millennial kingdom set up by Christ when He returns and “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
2:45 without hands. The establishment of this final kingdom by “the God of heaven” is in no way an accomplishment by Christians and the church. The kingdom is established “without hands” by the conquering Lamb. “With the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked” (Isaiah 11:4; Revelation 17:14; 19:15).