In the second year of his reign, King Nebuchadnezzar started having dreams that disturbed him deeply. He couldn't sleep.
He called in all the Babylonian magicians, enchanters, sorcerers, and fortunetellers to interpret his dreams for him. When they came and lined up before the king,
he said to them, "I had a dream that I can't get out of my mind. I can't sleep until I know what it means."
The fortunetellers, speaking in the Aramaic language, said, "Long live the king! Tell us the dream and we will interpret it."
The king answered the fortunetellers, "This is my decree: If you can't tell me both the dream itself and its interpretation, I'll have you ripped to pieces, limb from limb, and your homes torn down.
But if you tell me both the dream and its interpretation, I'll lavish you with gifts and honors. So go to it: Tell me the dream and its interpretation."
They answered, "If it please your majesty, tell us the dream. We'll give the interpretation."
But the king said, "I know what you're up to - you're just playing for time. You know you're up a tree.
You know that if you can't tell me my dream, you're doomed. I see right through you - you're going to cook up some fancy stories and confuse the issue until I change my mind. Nothing doing! First tell me the dream, then I'll know that you're on the up and up with the interpretation and not just blowing smoke in my eyes."
The fortunetellers said, "Nobody anywhere can do what you ask. And no king, great or small, has ever demanded anything like this from any magician, enchanter, or fortuneteller.
What you're asking is impossible unless some god or goddess should reveal it - and they don't hang around with people like us."
That set the king off. He lost his temper and ordered the whole company of Babylonian wise men killed.
When the death warrant was issued, Daniel and his companions were included. They also were marked for execution.
When Arioch, chief of the royal guards, was making arrangements for the execution, Daniel wisely took him aside
and quietly asked what was going on: "Why this all of a sudden?"
Daniel went to the king and asked for a little time so that he could interpret the dream.
Daniel then went home and told his companions Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah what was going on.
He asked them to pray to the God of heaven for mercy in solving this mystery so that the four of them wouldn't be killed along with the whole company of Babylonian wise men.
That night the answer to the mystery was given to Daniel in a vision. Daniel blessed the God of heaven,
saying, "Blessed be the name of God, forever and ever. He knows all, does all:
He changes the seasons and guides history, He raises up kings and also brings them down, he provides both intelligence and discernment,
He opens up the depths, tells secrets, sees in the dark - light spills out of him!
God of all my ancestors, all thanks! all praise! You made me wise and strong. And now you've shown us what we asked for. You've solved the king's mystery."
So Daniel went back to Arioch, who had been put in charge of the execution. He said, "Call off the execution! Take me to the king and I'll interpret his dream."
Arioch didn't lose a minute. He ran to the king, bringing Daniel with him, and said, "I've found a man from the exiles of Judah who can interpret the king's dream!"
The king asked Daniel (renamed in Babylonian, Belteshazzar), "Are you sure you can do this - tell me the dream I had and interpret it for me?"
Daniel answered the king, "No mere human can solve the king's mystery, I don't care who it is - no wise man, enchanter, magician, diviner.
But there is a God in heaven who solves mysteries, and he has solved this one. He is letting King Nebuchadnezzar in on what is going to happen in the days ahead. This is the dream you had when you were lying on your bed, the vision that filled your mind:
"While you were stretched out on your bed, O king, thoughts came to you regarding what is coming in the days ahead. The Revealer of Mysteries showed you what will happen.
But the interpretation is given through me, not because I'm any smarter than anyone else in the country, but so that you will know what it means, so that you will understand what you dreamed.
"What you saw, O king, was a huge statue standing before you, striking in appearance. And terrifying.
The head of the statue was pure gold, the chest and arms were silver, the belly and hips were bronze,
the legs were iron, and the feet were an iron-ceramic mixture.
While you were looking at this statue, a stone cut out of a mountain by an invisible hand hit the statue, smashing its iron-ceramic feet.
Then the whole thing fell to pieces - iron, tile, bronze, silver, and gold, smashed to bits. It was like scraps of old newspapers in a vacant lot in a hot dry summer, blown every which way by the wind, scattered to oblivion. But the stone that hit the statue became a huge mountain, dominating the horizon.
This was your dream.
You, O king, are the most powerful king on earth. The God of heaven has given you the works: rule, power, strength, and glory.
He has put you in charge of men and women, wild animals and birds, all over the world - you're the head ruler, you are the head of gold.
But your rule will be taken over by another kingdom, inferior to yours, and that one by a third, a bronze kingdom, but still ruling the whole land,
and after that by a fourth kingdom, iron-like in strength. Just as iron smashes things to bits, breaking and pulverizing, it will bust up the previous kingdoms.
"But then the feet and toes that ended up as a mixture of ceramic and iron will deteriorate into a mongrel kingdom with some remains of iron in it. Just as the toes of the feet were part ceramic and part iron,
it will end up a mixed bag of the breakable and unbreakable.
That kingdom won't bond, won't hold together any more than iron and clay hold together.
"But throughout the history of these kingdoms, the God of heaven will be building a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will this kingdom ever fall under the domination of another. In the end it will crush the other kingdoms and finish them off and come through it all standing strong and eternal.
It will be like the stone cut from the mountain by the invisible hand that crushed the iron, the bronze, the ceramic, the silver, and the gold. "The great God has let the king know what will happen in the years to come. This is an accurate telling of the dream, and the interpretation is also accurate."
When Daniel finished, King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face in awe before Daniel. He ordered the offering of sacrifices and burning of incense in Daniel's honor.
He said to Daniel, "Your God is beyond question the God of all gods, the Master of all kings. And he solves all mysteries, I know, because you've solved this mystery."
Then the king promoted Daniel to a high position in the kingdom, lavished him with gifts, and made him governor over the entire province of Babylon and the chief in charge of all the Babylonian wise men.
At Daniel's request the king appointed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to administrative posts throughout Babylon, while Daniel governed from the royal headquarters.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)