Daniel Ch 2:1-7

We live in a time when the so-called 'New Age' movement is making increasing strides into our culture. There are over 10,000 professional astrologers in the United States. 30,000 personalized horoscopes a month are pumped out from department stores[1]. Over 60% of daily newspapers carry a horoscope column. Astrology on the web is booming most major portals carry an astrology column [2]. Astrology.ca gets over 30,000 hits each day, every day [3]. According to a Gallup survey more than 32 million Americans believe in astrology. Yet these verses of Daniel show us that there is nothing new about the New Age, it was alive, well and extensively practiced 600 years before Christ. They also show some of the techniques deployed by these charlatans and how an astute individual can see through the subterfuge.

Verse 1, at first glance, presents a problem in that this incident is said to take place in the second year of Nebuchadnezzar, yet Daniel was supposed to have been in training for three years. Matthew Henry suggests this could imply that Daniel had not needed the full three years for his training. John Wesley suggests it was the second year since Daniel had been brought to him. Adam Clark and JFB suggest, most probably, that realizing that Nebuchadnezzar had been co-regent with his father for some 3 years, and that the 'second year' is taken from his period of sole reign solves this.

Matthew Henry and JFB depart company in explaining why Nebuchadnezzar had this dream. The former shows that a troubled and restive sleep (suggested by the multitude of dreams and his sleep breaking from him) is the lot of someone who appears to be doing well and yet is not following God. JFB rather shows that dreams were Gods way of communicating with the heathen (citing Pharaoh and Abimelech) as the heathen would take notice of the dream. They are probably both right, Nebuchadnezzar was the most important leader around which is why God communicated to him, the method of communication fell in with a predisposition that he already had.

Verse 2. King Nebuchadnezzar, clearly deeply disturbed called for all the people he could think of that would be able to help both interpret and potentially remedy the situation that the dream portrayed.

Whilst we tend to collapse the various wise men of ancient times into one group it was a highly evolved system and no fewer than four different groups were called: magicians, astrologers, sorcerers and the Chaldeans.

The word translated 'magician' derives from 'to carry a stylus'[4] and probably refers to a class of people skilled in the ancient writings. The word 'astrologers' derives from 'to breath'. Adam Clarks suggests this is possibly because of claim to divine inspiration, Keil prefers the idea that these were conjurers who chanted as they performed. The sorcerers were probably associated with animals, either divining by inspection of entrails or possibly charming the animals[5]. The final group mentioned in V2, probably the most important, would represent the 'old' knowledge or wisdom of the Babylonian nation.

There is actually at least one more group, referred to in v27, Ch 5:7,11 as soothsayer. Here the word derives from 'dividing into pieces', they were the ones that divided the heavens into pieces and they almost certainly correspond to the modern day producers of horoscopes[6].

Whilst these categorizations are helpful we should remember that there would be overlap between these groups, and also that there would be overlap between these groups and what we would consider to be legitimate science. Whilst the Babylonians invented astrology [7] they were also at the forefront of astronomy[8] and mathematics[9] and were also the inventors of the sexigesimal[10] system that we still honor today in our time and navigational systems. As such the assembled group would represent both the cream of genuine Babylonian education but also the leaders of Babylonian hocus-pocus.

Verse three suggests that Nebuchadnezzar had been disturbed by the dream and could remember it but only hazily. At this point he is not entirely clear as to what he wants the wise men to do, he is pretty lost and looking for assistance.[11]

In verse 4 we see the Chaldeans taking the lead and using the Syriack which was similar to Chaldean but more eloquent and therefore more impressive.[12] Interestingly in this verse Daniel too switches to Chaldee until the end of the 7th chapter. This probably shows the extent to which these intervening chapters pertain to the time of the gentiles, Chapter 8 again returning to the time of the Jew. The wise men were certainly quite wise; they were prepared to work upon their terms. If Nebuchadnezzar could recount the dream then they could make up the interpretation.

Whether it was something in the Chaldee manner that alerted the king, or an inclination from God himself we don't know, but Nebuchadnezzar now insists upon a very good proof of their abilities. If they could see what the dream was then he would believe the interpretation[13]. The threat for failure was quite barbaric, in keeping with the 'basest of men'.[14] JFB suggests the threat of the dunghill was simply one of destruction; the Babylonian houses being made of mud and demolition and rain would produce slurry. Keil believes (and so do I) that the threat was more literal and similar to the action taken in 2 Ki 10:27.

Whilst verse 6 shows the seriousness with which Nebuchadnezzar treated this matter, and also the stakes that these wise men were playing for; verse 7 shows the pitiful state of a Godless intelligentsia. When presented with a reasonable scientific test they were forced to simply repeat that they needed to know what the dream was (so they could make up an interpretation).

Nebuchadnezzar was graphically shown the shortcomings of both science, which is unable to work outside of the mathematical model that it has constructed, and also 'New Age' activity, which has more to do with the farming of gullibility than the offering of genuine solutions. In the case of Nebuchadnezzar his journey ended in acknowledging that answers came from God (Dan 2:47) let us pray that those people currently dabbling in astrology and other new age activities will one day reach a similar position.


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