A. Nebuchadnezzar's Dream 2:1-2
1. the dream 2:1
We face yet another issue of chronology here. If Daniel was brought to Babylon in the first year of Neb's reign and then began a three year training period (1:5), after which he served the king, how could chapter two describe events that occurred during the second year of Neb's reign? E. J. Young is probably correct that the Hebrew practice was to reckon a fraction of a year as a full year. Thus Daniel's third year of training could easily have fallen in the second year of Neb's reign.
|Years of Training||Nebuchadnezzar|
|first year||year of accession (from|
|Sept. 605 b.c. to Nissan|
|[March-April] 604 b.c.)|
|second year||first year (Nissan|
|third year||second year in which|
|the dream occurred|
|(Nissan 603-602 b.c.)|
[If nothing else, this incident demonstrates conclusively that God can and does speak, through revelatory dreams, visions, etc., to non-believers!]
2. the summons 2:2
* 'magicians (also rendered 'diviners) a word used 'for dream interpreters at the Assyrian court and in the OT for the magicians of Egypt to whom Joseph proved superior (Goldingay, 45).
* 'conjurers was a common Babylonian term for those purportedly skilled at interpreting signs in people who were ill and performing rituals to influence their lives/recovery.
* 'sorcerers (also render 'charmers) cf. Isa. 47:9,12.
* 'Chaldeans a word used to denote the groups as a whole; anyone who practiced the magical and astrological arts.
B. Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldeans 2:3-13
1. Neb's explanation 2:3
Some (e.g., Baldwin, Calvin) contend that Neb forgot the dream entirely and this explains his otherwise unparalleled and altogether unjust demand that the Chaldeans not only interpret the dream but tell him its content as well. The KJV supports this interpretation by rendering the clause in v. 5: 'the thing is gone from me. The NASB is more accurate: 'the command from me is firm. The fact that in 2:1 Neb is 'troubled by the dream implies he knew its content. Also, v. 9 implies that Neb in fact knew the content of the dream but desired to test both the integrity and skill of his court magicians. Neb apparently remembered enough of the dream that he could later certify that Daniel's reconstruction of it was correct.
2. The Chaldeans' response 2:4
'Extant religious texts, explains Wood (51), 'show that interpretation of dreams [oneiromancy] was an art in which wise men were believed to be skilled. They had manuals to state what the various factors which might appear in a dream signified. All they had to know was the nature of the dream so that their rules could be applied. Such an interpretation would not have been a true one, but it would have satisfied ignorant people.
It is more than a little ironic that Neb is addressed with the flattering declaration: 'O king, live forever! The point of the dream and subsequent events in Daniel will highlight the fact that Neb will do no such thing! The only enduring, indeed, eternal king is Yahweh. His kingdom alone will endure forever.
[Note: in the middle of v. 4 the language shifts from Hebrew to Aramaic. Hebrew resumes at the beginning of chapter 8. The NIV and NASB give the impression that the 'wise men spoke to Neb in Aramaic, 'but the phrase 'in Aramaic' is best taken as a parenthetical notation placed in the text to mark the change in the written language (Miller, 80).]
3. Neb's first threat 2:5-6
Neb was a paradox: he was brilliant, visionary, generous, and on occasion kind, as well as cruel, sadistic, angry, arbitrary, and extremely violent. Given his treatment of Daniel's three friends in chapter three, there is every reason to believe that Neb would have carried through with his threats without a moment's hesitation.
4. The Chaldeans' response 2:7
5. Neb's second threat 2:8-9
'In their renewed request . . . the king sees evasiveness and a confession of helplessness that suggests that their whole profession is a sham. All they can offer is textbook answers to set questions. Their inability to move beyond these parameters undermines the validity of the answers they provide within them. They are simply seeking to gain a period of time, in the devious hope that the situation may change in some way. Perhaps they will be able to discover an answer to the apparently impossible question, perhaps sources in the palace will discover for them what the king dreamed or whether he knows what he dreamed, perhaps he will forget the matter. . . . Nebuchadnezzar, however, will not let go of the possibility of testing what real access the experts have to resources of insight beyond those available to other people (54).
6. The Chaldeans' response 2:10-11
What, if anything, does this tell us about the ability of Satan/demons to know divine mysteries and revelatory dreams? Surely these Chaldeans practiced their arts through demonic power. Why, then, could they not receive the content of Neb's dream from them (as Neb evidently thought they could)? Perhaps God has sovereignly prevented such from happening in this one instance in order to set the stage for Daniel's divinely given insight. But if it was a regular practice among the Chaldeans to 'know, by demonic power, the content of someone's dream, Daniel's performance would not have been regarded by Neb as so spectacular. What do you make of the concluding words of v. 11?
7. Neb's decree 2:12-13
C. Daniel's Proposal 2:14-16
Again, notwithstanding the perilous situation and the utterly unreasonable demands and decree of Neb, Daniel refused to panic. He neither despaired nor ranted. His behavior is marked by tact and common sense. There is a place for diplomacy and d?tente! Baldwin comments:
'Daniel's question is concerned with the hastiness rather than the severity of the decree: 'why has his majesty issued such a peremptory decree?' He asks for time and promises he will give the interpretation. The ability to keep calm under severe shock and pressure, to think quickly and exercise faith in moments of crisis, these are aspects of prudence and discretion seen in Daniel here (89).
D. Daniel and his Friends in Prayer 2:17-18
The title 'God of Heaven was infrequent prior to the exile, but was especially appropriate here (and in 2:19) in view of the astrological speculations of the Babylonians. Yahweh, declares Daniel, is supremely transcendent and sovereign over the sun, moon, and stars, heavenly bodies that were objects of Babylonian worship.
E. Daniel's Doxology 2:19-23
1. benediction 2:20a
2. affirmation of God's wisdom and power 2:20b
3. illustrations of God's wisdom and power 2:21-22
a. control of epochs and events
In other words, says Archer, 'God determines when in history events are to take place and how long each process or phase in history is to endure (43).
b. sovereignty over kings and rulers
Note well: Daniel makes these affirmations of God's sovereignty in the context of the domination of the Jews by Gentiles! In other words, God not only controls the history of his own people (whether Israel or the Church), but also of the 'secular world as well. And the oppression of his own people is no indication that he has lost control or that he is any less sovereign than when his people are safe and blessed.
[Illus: Consider the divisions at Barnes & Noble or any other bookstore between the 'Religion section and all others such as 'European History or 'U. S. History, or 'Current Events, etc., as if God is active and relevant only in overtly 'religious matters! According to Daniel, his sovereignty is limitless, all-inclusive!]
c. bestowal of wisdom and knowledge
The 'wisdom of vv. 20-21 is not empirical, rational understanding such as we find in the book of Proverbs. This is not 'practical wisdom but supernatural insight into the mysteries of God. 'It is not something human beings achieve but something they receive from God by revelation, equivalent to the knowledge of God's purposes that prophets receive from being admitted to Yahweh's council (Goldingay, 48).
d. revelation of mysteries
e. infinite knowledge
f. association with light
Again, as with 'wisdom above, the light and darkness referred to here are God's capacity to perceive and understand what to humans is utterly inaccessible and indecipherable.
4. declaration of thanksgiving and praise 2:23
F. Daniel's interview with Nebuchadnezzar 2:24-30
1. Daniel's announcement 2:24
2. Arioch's arrogance 2:25
3. Neb's question 2:26
4. Daniel's response 2:27-28
a. human inability 2:27
Daniel's first concern is to disclaim any special power, qualifications, or merit of his own (unlike Arioch)
b. divine power 2:28
Daniel's initial statement in v. 27 was deliberately discouraging in order to set the stage for the stunning declaration that 'there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries! Circumstances may look impossible from an earthly perspective, given obvious human limitations, but there is a God in heaven for whom anything is possible.
The phrase translated 'in the latter days (NASB) or 'in days to come (NIV) first appears in Gen. 49:1. See also Deut. 4:30; 31:29; Isa. 2:2; Ezek. 38:16; Dan. 10:14. It simply means 'in the future without specifying whether that is immediate, long-term, or at the end of the age.
5. Daniel's report of the dream 2:29-30
a. the nature of the dream 2:29
b. the source of Daniel's interpretation 2:30
G. Daniel's Interpretation of the Dream 2:31-45
One of the central issues in the interpretation of Daniel is the identification of the four world empires or kingdoms described in chapters 2 and 7. Traditionally, conservative scholars have argued that the four kingdoms are Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece (or Macedonia), and Rome. Most non-conservative scholars (Marvin Pate and Calvin Haines [Doomsday Delusions] being an exception) contend that they are Babylon, Media, Persia, and Greece (see also the articles by Robert J. M. Gurney, Gordon Wenham, John Goldingay, 'Approaching Daniel: Three Studies, in Themelios [January 1977]:39-52). Others suggest Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece under Alexander the Great, and Greece under his successors. The latter two schemes are discussed in the appendix to this lesson. Here I will focus on what I believe is the correct interpretation. In conjunction with the parallel description in chapter 8, see the chart that illustrates my view.
John Goldingay proposes a view that no one else, as far as I can tell, has ever entertained. He argues that since Daniel declares Nebuchadnezzar himself to be the 'head of gold the subsequent elements in the statue likewise refer to individual 'kings and not 'kingdoms or 'empires. The four are, says Goldingay, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian. However, 'king and 'kingdom are frequently interchangeable in Scripture since the king was viewed as the embodiment of the kingdom. See also v. 39 which explicitly refers to 'kingdoms that follow Babylon.
A few preliminary observations are in order:
First, this prophecy does not purport to describe every world power then or now. It is not intended to be exhaustive, but to describe the course of history from the Babylonian Captivity to the consummation of the Messianic kingdom of God as it relates to his covenant people.
Second, observe the emphasis on deterioration and decline. The image deteriorates in value, weight, unity, and in brittleness.
Third, note the increasing strength of the image. 'The metals increase in their degree of hardness, thus suggesting a paradox when seen alongside the emphasis on deterioration already mentioned (Ford, 96).
Fourth, 'the symbols quite clearly teach truths about the transitory nature of earthly kingdoms, compared with the reign of God, and the certainty of destructive judgments for all powers that oppose the divine will (Ford, 96).
Fifth, there is a marked contrast between the metals of the image and the unworked stone, cut without hands. It would seem to point to a transition from the efforts of mere humans to the creative work of God.
Sixth, we should also note the unity of the statue amidst the diversity. 'Essentially, world powers are one, since they are human in nature; hence, the world powers are united in the one statue (Young, 71). It is a 'single statue (2:31) which is destroyed as a unity. In other words, although the Babylonian empire, for example, had long since passed from the scene of history when Rome merged, in some sense the four world powers are but successive forms of one unified entity. According to 2:35, the entire image was destroyed by the stone. Again in 2:44 the four empires are envisioned as together existent when crushed by God. Patrick Fairbairn explains:
'The language is purposely indefinite. It does not indicate at what particular time, or even under what precise dynasty, the kingdom represented by the stone should begin to develop itself on the theater of the world though, from being mentioned the last in order, and from the fourth worldly kingdom being the one, with which alone it appears coming into collision, the natural inference obviously is, that the commencement of the heavenly kingdom is to be assigned to the fourth or last form of the earthly one. The whole of these successive monarchies of the world are taken together, as but different phases of the same worldly principle; in a somewhat different form the old always lived again in the new; so that the image which represents the entire series, appears still standing in its completeness the several successive kingdoms, which it symbolized were to the last ideally present; but, from the nature of the case, they could only be so as seen in that which was more immediately represented by the legs and feet of the image (292).
Seventh, and finally, whereas the visions in chapters 2 and 7 are of the same world empires, they are presented under vastly diverse images. Neb's conception, being that of an unregenerate man, is of a colossal and brilliant statue. In chapter 7, however, the divine perspective on these kingdoms is given to Daniel. Hence, the imagery of ravenous, destructive beasts. That is to say, in chapter 7 prominence is given to the internal reality of each kingdom. 'Viewed as a whole, the worldly kingdoms have their representation in so many wild beasts, because in them the beastly principle was predominant that is, the earthly, sensual, grovelling tendency, with all its selfishness of working and its debasing results (Fairbairn, 295).
1. Babylon: the head of gold (2:32a,36-38) Note the emphasis on the derivative character of Neb's power: it has been given to him by God. The Babylonian empire ruled from 605 to 539 b.c.
2. Medo-Persia: breast and arms of silver (2:32b,39a) The second kingdom is here only briefly noted, a more detailed description being reserved for chapters 7-8. The kingdom is most likely that of Medo-Persia (see 5:28; 6:9,13,16; 8:20). Daniel obviously considered the Medes and Persians as components of one and the same empire (see 6:8,15; 8:20). The two arms have no more symbolic significance than do the two legs of the next empire. After all, what should one expect from a statue of a man but that it have two arms and two legs? [Some, however, have argued that the two arms represent the two-fold nature of this empire: Media and Persia.] This empire ruled from 539 to 331 b.c.
In what sense was Medo-Persia 'inferior (lit., 'beneath you, v. 39) to Babylon when it actually controlled more territory? Most commentators believe the reference is to a progressive moral deterioration.
3. Greece: belly and thighs of bronze (2:32c,39b) Alexander the Great did indeed rule over 'all the earth as then conceived, from Egypt and Europe eastward to India. In 332 b.c. Alexander defeated the Medo-Persian empire in a series of decisive battles. His empire lasted from 331 to 146 b.c.
4. Rome: legs of iron, feet of iron and clay (2:33,40-43) Rome dominated the world from the defeat of Carthage in 146 b.c. to approximately 400 a.d. Two important points are made in the description of the fourth kingdom. First, its strength and destructive power are symbolized by iron. Second, its inner divisions and eventual dissolution are symbolized by the curious mixture of iron and clay. Says Baldwin,
'It has therefore an intrinsic weakness, for potter's clay and iron do not bond together. Unity is impossible and the kingdom is vulnerable because it is seeking to unite elements which will not coalesce (93).
Wood theorizes as to its significance:
'The weakness of Rome, which led to its fall and which did come to existence especially in its later period, was a deterioration of moral fiber among the people. Idleness, luxurious living, and dissipation of character found their way into, and intermixed with, the still firmly structured aspects of government (70).
The meaning of v. 43 is disputed, but Keil is probably correct in saying that
'the figure of mixing by seed is derived from the sowing of the field with mingled seed, and denotes all the means employed by the rulers to combine the different nationalities, among which the connubium [intermarriage] is only spoken of as the most important and successful means (109).
5. Messianic kingdom: stone (2:34-35,44-45) It is not cut by human hands but is prepared solely by God. Two crucial issues relating to the kingdom of God:
* when and in what manner does the 'stone shatter the pagan empires and establish its universal sovereignty?
* when and in what manner does the messianic kingdom emerge, assert its dominion, and crush the 'little horn of Daniel 7?
These questions will be addressed fully when we come to chapter 7.
H. Nebuchadnezzar's Response 2:46-49
This should not be taken as an expression of 'saving faith. Neb was happy to acknowledge that Daniel's 'God was the greatest of all 'gods, but this is no surprise coming from a polytheist! Neb still has not come to the understanding that Daniel's God is in fact the only God.
As a preface to our discussion of the 4 beasts it should be noted that they emerge from the 'great sea (7:2-3). On the significance of the 'sea as symbolic of evil, chaos, and anti-kingdom powers with whom Yahweh must contend, see Isaiah 17:12,13; 51:9-10; 27:1; 57:20; Rev. 17:8; 21:1; Jer. 46:7ff.; Job 26:7-13.
'Against this background we can appreciate the evocative power of Daniel's vision. The reference to the winds of heaven stirring up the great sea may be said to echo the primordial scene in Gen. 1:2, but here the winds serve to arouse chaos rather than subdue it. Daniel sees a world engulfed by disorder. The beasts of the sea, the traditional 'dragons on the waters' (Ps. 74:13) and the 'dragon that is in the sea' (Isa. 27:1) are let loose upon the world. Specifically, chaos takes the form of Gentile rule, expressed by the traditional schema of four kingdoms. Subsequently we are told that 'these four great beasts are four kings that will arise out of the earth' and again that the fourth beast represents a 'kingdom'. It should be apparent that this interpretation does not exhaust the significance of the vision. It gives the reference of the four beasts. It does not give their expressive value. The vision of terrible beasts rising out of the sea does not merely give factual information that four kings or kingdoms will arise. It paints a picture of these kingdoms as monstrous eruptions of chaos, in order to convey a sense of terror far beyond anything suggested by the flat statement of the interpretation. The impact is more profound when we recognize the mythological overtones of the imagery. The kings are not merely human but are manifestations of the primordial force of chaos (John Collins, Apocalyptic Imagination, 80).
We are now prepared to examine the 'kingdoms these 'beasts are designed to represent (7:17; cf. Ezek. 29:3ff; Isa. 27:1; 51:9).
1. Babylon: the lion (7:4) The winged lion is familiar in Babylonian art and statues of this beast have actually been recovered from the ruins of Babylon. The lion was king of beasts and the eagle king of birds, an appropriate image for the power and might of ancient Babylon. On several occasions in the OT Neb and the Babylonians are described as being like both a lion (Isa. 5:25-30; Jer. 4:6,7,13; cf. 25:9,38; 49:19,22; 50:17,44) and an eagle (Deut. 28:49-53; 2 Kings 25:1-11; Jer. 49:19-22; Lam. 4:19; Ezek. 17:1-5,11-14; Hab. 1:6-8). Archer contends that 'it is clear that the plucking of the lion's wings symbolizes reduction of his pride and power at the time of his insanity (ch. 4) (85). The description of a 'human mind being 'give to it also may allude to the restoration of Neb's sanity after his seven-year dementia.
2. Medo-Persia: the bear (7:5) This is an appropriate figure for Medo-Persia (Isa. 13:17,18; cf. Hosea 13:8; Amos 5:19). Two things are said of the bear.
First, it is raised up on one side:
* This may be symbolic of the double-sided nature of the kingdom Media and Persia (see 8:20).
* Others suggest that the bear is raised up simply as an indication of its readiness to pounce on more prey.
* Wood believes that the one side raised 'points to the greater importance assumed by the Persian division over the Median, in the Medo-Persian empire a symbolism formed also by the two horns of the ram in Daniel's second vision (8:3), the second being made to grow higher than the first (183).
Perhaps all three of the above are correct.
Second, the bear has three ribs in its mouth:
* The ribs may represent three nations conquered by the bear, most likely:
Lydia (in Asia Minor): which fell to Cyrus in 546 b.c.;
Babylon: annexed by Cyrus in 539 b.c.; and
Egypt: which Cyrus' son Cambyses acquired in 525 b.c.
[Gurney, who believes the bear is only Media, identifies the three as Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz, based on Jer. 51:27-29.]
* Others argue that the three ribs simply represent the 'victim of a previous hunt which has not satisfied its [the bear's] appetite (Baldwin, 139). In other words, as Calvin put it, the three ribs portray the insatiable nature of the beast, not being content with one body it devoured many (so also Young, 145).
* The reference to 'ribs may simply mean 'tusks or 'fangs with no special symbolic significance.
3. Greece: the leopard (7:6) Known for its sudden, swift, unexpected attacks, the leopard (with wings on its back) is an appropriate symbol for the military ventures of Alexander the Great. The significance of the four heads is not certain.
* Perhaps they represent the four generals among whom Alexander's kingdom was divided following his death: Cassander (already governor of Macedonia, was acknowledged as sovereign over all Greece); Seleucus (received Syria and much of the middle east); Lysimachus (received Thrace and a large part of Asia Minor); and Ptolemy (became ruler over Egypt).
* Or do they represent the four corners of the earth, thus pointing to the ecumenical and universal dominion of Alexander's rule?
* Baldwin believes the four heads simply refer to the fact that the leopard is looking in all directions for prey.
[An additional word on the identity of the second and third beasts as representing Medo-Persia and Greece respectively, comes from Daniel 8. Says Archer: 'There a two-horned ram (one horn of which is higher than the other, just as Persia overshadowed Media in Cyrus' empire) is finally overthrown by a he-goat, who at first shows but one horn (easily identified with Alexander the Great) but subsequently sprouts four horns (i.e., Macedon, Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt), out of which there finally develops a little horn, that is, Antiochus Epiphanes (383).]
4. Rome: the indescribable beast (7:7-8,19-28) The obvious point of this portrait is to emphasize its ferocity and strength, characteristics well suited to what we know of Rome. Two important components of the beast are its ten horns and the 'little horn which comes up among them, uprooting three of the ten in process. The identity of the 'little horn (7:17-18) will be examined in a subsequent lesson. Here we are concerned with the ten horns. What do they mean? These are the most popular interpretations.
a. Dispensationalists take the ten horns as referring to ten literal kingdoms. Since nothing of this nature occurred in the history of the Roman empire (so they argue), they posit a revived Roman empire at the end of the age. Wood explains: 'The correct view can only be that there will be a time still future when the Roman empire will be restored, so that these representations can be true in the manner depicted: a time when ten contemporary kings will rule, among whom another will arise, uprooting three in the process, and then move on to become head of all (187). These ten horns in Daniel, therefore, are usually identified with the 'ten-nation confederacy referred to in Revelation 17:12-18.
b. Others insist that the number ten is not necessarily to be taken as only ten kingdoms. According to Ford, 'the number ten should no more be pressed in this context than in 1:20. It is a round number frequently used in Scripture. The reality, must, however, be more than five or six, or the round number four would have been used. What is represented may indeed rise to a dozen or fifteen and not transcend the symbolism. This precisely fits the situation after the fall of the Roman Empire. The resulting fragments were sometimes more, sometimes less, and rarely stable for long. Thus the lists usually used to illustrate the prophecy differ slightly one from another (148-49).
Here are several different theories and the persons who proposed them.
|(Joseph Mede 1586-1638)||(Uriah Smith 1832-1903)|
|Ostrogoths and Lombards||Ostrogoths|
|Sueves and Alans||Suevi|
|(Bishop Newton 1704-82)||(Isaac Newton 1642-1727)|
|Greeks in Ravena||Ravena|
|Allemanes||Vandals and Alans|
|Senate of Rome||Suevians|
In other words, on this view the ten horns are any and conceivably all of the pagan empires that emerged subsequent to the fall of Rome.
c. E. J. Young suggests that 'like the number four in vs. 6, the number ten here is to be taken in a symbolic sense as indicating 'a multiplicity of rulers, or an indefinitely large number of kings,' 'comprehensive and definite totality' (147). Young thus sees the history of the fourth beast or Rome in three phases or stages:
First, the beast itself is presented in the vision, a prophetic portrait of the emergence and power of Rome following the demise of Greece (and extending at least beyond the close of the apostolic age).
Second, is the period of the ten horns themselves: 'Although, in order to indicate the essential unity of the fourth kingdom, the horns appear upon the head of the beast, it is obvious that these horns represent a later phase of the beast's existence (148). The ten horns come out of this kingdom. 'By arising out of it must be meant, that they were to be historically connected with it, and to be in a sense its continuation; as there can be no doubt that the various kingdoms, which sprung up after the irruptions of the barbarians into the Roman empire, had much in common with Rome, while in policy and character they were diverse from it; they still had her laws, her language and literature, her institutions and customs, for the basis of theirs (Fairbairn, 298).
Third, is the period of the little horn, certainly antichrist, the nature of which (whom) will be examined in another study.
'As I have previously tried to indicate, we are not to look for ten kingdoms which shall exist side by side when the little horn appears. If the number ten is to be pressed, all we need insist upon is that, from the time when the fourth empire lost its beast form (i.e., the destruction of the Roman Empire) to the appearance of the little horn, there have been ten kingdoms which truly partake of the character of the beast. If, however, the number ten be regarded merely as the symbol of completeness, as I am inclined to regard it, the vs. means that from the time of the destruction of the Roman Empire to the appearance of the little horn there will be a number of kingdoms, which may truly be said to originate from the ancient Roman Empire. To seek to identify these kingdoms, when Scripture furnishes no clue as to their identity, is very precarious and probably unwarranted (149-50).
In support of this view, Fairbairn observes that the number ten is often used as a symbol of
'completeness, on which account the ancients called it the perfect number, which comprehends all others in itself. . . . When, therefore, the divided state into which the modern Roman world fell, is represented under ten horns or kingdoms, it may well be doubted whether this should be pressed farther than as indicating, by a round number, the totality of the new states the diversity in the unity whether or not it might admit of being exactly and definitely applied to so many historical kingdoms (431).
d. Baldwin suggests that 'the horns of an animal represent its strength in self-defence or attacks. Ten horns, 5 times the natural 2, represent pictorially the extraordinary power of this beast (140). In other words, she suggests that these ten horns have nothing at all to do with subsequent kingdoms or empires.
Those who believe Daniel was written in the 2nd century b.c. contend that the idea of four world kingdoms was not original with the author of Daniel. The succession of metals in declining value (gold silver bronze iron) is itself reminiscent of Hesiod's Works and Days (106-201) which speaks of the declining ages of men from the golden age to silver, then bronze and finally iron (early 8th c. b.c.). According to John Collins, 'it is unlikely that Daniel depended directly on Hesiod. More probably they drew on a common tradition. The significance of Hesiod for our present purpose is that he makes quite explicit the logic of the sequence, which is one of gradual decline. Hesiod also implies that there is something better to follow the generation or iron (Apocalyptic Imagination, 74). [Apparently Collins cannot accept the possibility that Daniel didn't draw on any tradition, but received it directly by revelation from God.]
In several documents dating from the 2nd c. b.c. there is a reference to the schema of four kingdoms followed by a fifth that is noticeably distinct (e.g., Herodotus [5th c. b.c.]; Ctesias [4th c. b.c.], the Greek physician of Artaxerxes II; in a fragment of the Roman chronicler Aemilius Sura; in the 4th Sibylline Oracle [sib. Or. 4:49-101], see Collins, AI,74-75). However, in this scheme the four kingdoms are identified as Assyria, Media, Persia, and Greece. The author of Daniel simply changed Assyria to Babylon (since it was Babylon, not Assyria, that took Judah captive).
It is also argued that Dan. 2:43 demands a date for the book in the 2nd century since it (allegedly) refers to the unsuccessful intermarriage of the Ptolemaic (Egypt) and Seleucid (Syria) houses (two of the four successors to the Greek or fourth kingdom).
The four beasts of Daniel 7 are likewise interpreted according to this scheme. Some believe the ten horns of the fourth beast are to be taken literally. They are identified as Alexander the Great and nine Seleucid monarchs (Seleucus I, II, III, IV, Antiochus I, II, III, Demetrius, and Heliodorus).
The eleventh or 'little horn that comes up among them is identified as Antiochus IV Epiphanes (ruled 175-164 b.c.) who, besides persecuting the Jews, suppressed the observance of their religious festivals and sacred days (especially the Sabbath; see 2 Macc. 6:6) and prohibited reading of the Torah (1 Macc. 1:41-64). This is thought to be what is meant in Dan. 7:25. According to Lacocque, 'this first religious persecution in the history of Israel lasted for just over three years between 168 and 165. The expression 'one period [a time], two periods [times], and a half period [half a time]' should be understood from this perspective as 'one year, two years, and a half year' (153-54). The three 'horns or rival claimants to the thrown whom he allegedly uprooted and overcame (Dan. 7:8,20,24) are difficult to identify (see Collins, 80-81, and Anderson, 81, for two theories).
Babylon is thus represented by the head of gold in Dan. 2 and the first beast of Dan. 7. Media is represented by the breast and arms of silver in Dan. 2 and the second beast in Dan. 7. Lacocque believes the 'three ribs might refer to the Babylonian kings known to Jewish tradition: Nebuchadnezzar, Evil-Merodach, and Belshazzar. Persia is symbolized by the belly and thighs of bronze in Dan. 2 and the third beast of Dan. 7. The 'four wings of a bird are believed to suggest the celerity with which Cyrus, king of Persia, extended his domain (Anderson, 79; cf. Isa. 41:3), while the 'four heads are taken as referring either a) to the four corners of the earth, thus indicating Persia's claim to universal dominion, or b) to the four Persian kings of Dan. 11:2 (Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Xerxes, Darius III [who was defeated by Alexander the Great]; others identify them as Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, and Xerxes). Greece is represented by the feet of iron and clay in Dan. 2 and the fourth beast of Dan. 7. This identification is made because of the belief that the 'little horn of Dan. 7 = Antiochus Epiphanes, Greek king who defiled the sacrifice of Israel in 168 b.c.
Another view, not commonly held, is that the first three kingdoms are Babylon, Media-Persia, and Greece under Alexander, with the fourth kingdom being that of the Seleucids.
A few suggest that the statue of Dan. 2 in its entirety represents the Babylonian empire: Neb and his successors Amel-Marduk, Neriglissar, and Nabonidus. The iron-clay mixture of the feet = the co-regency of Belshazzar with Nabonidus. But, as Collins points out, the kingdom was never really divided between Bel and Nab. Furtherfore, 'this interpretation disregards the brief (nine-month) reign of Labashi-Marduk, son of Neriglissar, who immediately preceded Nabonidus (51).