on Daniel 2 :31
A great image - Representing the four great monarchies.
on Daniel 2 :31
Thou, O king, sawest - Margin, "wast seeing." The margin is in accordance with the Chaldee. The language is properly what denotes a prolonged or attentive observation. He was in an attitude favorable to vision, or was looking with intensity, and there appeared before him this remarkable image. Compare Daniel 7:1-2, Daniel 7:4, Daniel 7:6. It was not a thing which appeared for a moment, and then vanished, but which remained so long that he could contemplate it with accuracy.
And, behold, a great image - Chaldee, "one image that was grand" - שׂגיא חד צלם tselēm chad s'agı̂y'. So the Vulgate - statua una grandis. So the Greek - εἰκὼν μία eikōn mia. The object seems to be to fix the attention on the fact that there was but "one" image, though composed of so different materials, and of materials that seemed to be so little fitted to be worked together into the same statue. The idea, by its being represented as "one," is, that it was, in some respects, "the same kingdom" that he saw symbolized: that is, that it would extend over the same countries, and could be, in some sense, regarded as a prolongation of the same empire. There was so much of "identity," though different in many respects, that it could be represented as "one." The word rendered "image" (צלם tselem) denotes properly "a shade," or "shadow," and then anything that "shadows forth," or that represents anything.
It is applied to man Genesis 1:27 as shadowing forth, or representing God; that is, there was something in man when he was created which had so far a resemblance to God that he might be regarded as an "image" of him. The word is often used to denote idols - as supposed to be a "representation" of the gods, either in their forms, or as shadowing forth their character as majestic, stern, mild, severe, merciful, etc. Numbers 33:52; 1 Samuel 6:5; 2 Kings 11:18; 2 Chronicles 23:17; Ezekiel 7:20; Ezekiel 16:17; Ezekiel 23:14; Amos 5:26. This image is not represented as an idol to be worshipped, nor in the use of the word is it to be supposed that there is an allusion, as Prof. Bush supposes, to the fact that these kingdoms would be idolatrous, but the word is used in its proper and primitive sense, to denote something which would "represent," or "shadow forth," the kingdoms which would exist. The exact "size" of the image is not mentioned. It is only suggested that it was great - a proper characteristic to represent the "greatness" of the kingdoms to which it referred.
This great image - The word here rendered "great" (רב rab) is different from that used in the previous clause, though it is not easy to determine the exact difference between the words. Both denote that the image was of gigantic dimensions. It is well remarked by Prof. Bush, that "the monuments of antiquity sufficiently evince that the humor prevailed throughout the East, and still more in Egypt, of constructing enormous statues, which were usually dedicated to some of their deities, and connected with their worship. The object, therefore, now presented in the monarch's dream was not, probably, entirely new to his thoughts."
Whose brightness was excellent - "Whose brightness "excelled," or was unusual and remarkable." The word rendered brightness (זיו zı̂yv) is found only in Daniel. It is rendered "brightness" in Daniel 2:31; Daniel 4:36, and in the margin in Daniel 5:6, Daniel 5:9; and "countenance" in Daniel 5:6 (text), and in Daniel 2:9-10; Daniel 7:28. From the places where it is found, particularly Daniel 4:36, it is clear that it is used to denote a certain beauty, or majesty, shining forth in the countenance, which was fitted to impress the beholder with awe. The term here is to be understood not merely of the face of the image, but of its entire aspect, as having something in it signally splendid and imposing. We have only to conceive of a colossal statue whose head was burnished gold, and a large part of whose frame was polished silver, to see the force of this language.
Stood before thee - It stood over against him in full view. He had an opportunity of surveying it clearly and distinctly.
And the form thereof was terrible - Vast, imposing, grand, fearful. The sudden appearance of such an object as this could not but fill the mind with terror. The design for which this representation was made to Nebuchadnezzar is clearly unfolded in the explanation which Daniel gives. It may be remarked here, in general, that such an appearance of a gigantic image was well adapted to represent successive kingdoms, and that the representation was in accordance with the spirit of ancient times. "In ancient coins and medals," says the editor of the "Pictorial Bible," "nothing is more common than to see cities and nations represented by human figures, male or female. According to the ideas which suggested such symbols, a vast image in the human figure was, therefore, a very fit emblem of sovereign power and dominion; while the materials of which it was composed did most significantly typify the character of the various empires, the succession of which was foreshown by this vision. This last idea, of expressing the condition of things by metallic symbols, was prevalent before the time of Daniel. Hesiod, who lived about two centuries before Daniel, characterizes the succession of ages (four) by the very same metals - gold, silver, brass, and iron."
on Daniel 2 :31