on Daniel 2 :32
Head was of fine gold - The Babylonish empire, the first and greatest.
Breast and his arms of silver - The Medo-Persian empire, under Cyrus, etc.
His belly and his thighs of brass - The Macedonian empire, under Alexander the Great, and his successors.
on Daniel 2 :32
This image's head was of fine gold - Chaldee, "good gold" - טב דהב dehab ṭâb - that is, fine, pure, unalloyed. The whole head of the figure, colossal as it was, appeared to be composed wholly of this. Had the "whole" image been made of gold, it would not have been so striking - for it was not uncommon to construct vast statues of this metal. Compare Daniel 3:1. But the remarkable peculiarity of this image was, that it was composed of different materials, some of which were seldom or never used in such a structure, and all of which had a peculiar significancy. On the significancy of this part of the figure, and the resemblance between this head of gold and Nebuchadnezzar himself, see the notes at Daniel 2:37-38.
His breast and his arms of silver - The word rendered "breast" (חדין chădı̂y) is in the plural number, in accordance with common usage in the Hebrew, by which several members of the human body are often expressed in the plural; as פנים pânı̂ym - "faces," etc. There is a foundation for such a usage in nature, in the two-fold form of many of the portions of the human body. The portion of the body which is here represented is obviously the upper portion of the front part - what is prominently visible when we look at the human frame. Next to the head it is the most important part, as it embraces most of the vital organs. Some degree of inferiority, as well as the idea of succession, would be naturally represented by this. "The inferior value of silver as compared with gold will naturally suggest some degree of decline or degeneracy in the character of the subject represented by the metal; and so in other members, as we proceed downward, as the material becomes continually baser, we naturally infer that the subject deteriorates, in some sense, in the like manner." - Professor Bush, in loc. On the kingdom represented by this, and the propriety of this representation, see the notes at Daniel 2:39.
His belly and his thighs of brass - Margin, "sides." It is not necessary to enter minutely into an examination of the words here used. The word "belly" denotes, unquestionably, the regions of the abdomen as externally visible. The word rendered "thighs" in the text is rendered "sides" in the margin. It is, like the word "breast" in the previous verse, in the plural number and for the same reason. The Hebrew word (ירך yârêk) is commonly rendered "thigh" in the Scriptures (Genesis 24:2, Genesis 24:9; Genesis 32:25 (26), 31, 32(32, 33), et al.), though it is also frequently rendered "side," Exodus 32:27; Exodus 40:22, Exodus 40:24; Leviticus 1:11; Numbers 3:29, et al. According to Gesenius, it denotes "the thick and double fleshy member which commences at the bottom of the spine, and extends to the lower legs." It is that part on which the sword was formerly worn, Exodus 32:27; Judges 3:16, Judges 3:21; Psalm 45:3 (4). It is also that part which was smitten, as an expression of mourning or of indignation, Jeremiah 31:19; Ezekiel 21:12 (17). Compare Hom. Iliad xii. 162, xv. 397; Odyssey xiii. 198; Cic. 150: "Orat." 80; "Quinc." xi. 3. It is not improperly here rendered "thighs," and the portion of the figure that was of brass was that between the breast and the lower legs, or extended from the breast to the knees. The word is elsewhere employed to denote the shaft or main trunk of the golden candlestick of the tabernacle, Exodus 25:31; Exodus 37:17; Numbers 8:4.
Of brass - An inferior metal, and denoting a kingdom of inferior power or excellence. On the kingdom represented by this, see the notes at Daniel 2:39.
on Daniel 2 :32