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by R. H. Boll


Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

Robert H. Boll (1875-1956)

The focus of interest in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is in its closing point. The vision of the succession of the four Gentile world-powers, symbolized by the head, the arms and breast, the belly and thighs, the legs and feet of the image, is introductory, leading up to the final event which God wanted to set before the king’s mind (and ours). What God would do “in the latter days” (Dan. 2:28)–that is the real center of the prophecy. When the fourth and last of the world-powers comes to its final development, when the iron is mingled with potter’s clay, in the feet and toes of the image, then is the stage set for the great last act, which puts an end to “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24) the times of Gentile world sovereignty began with Nebuchadnezzar’s assumption of world-empire and has continued until now. For the stone that descends from on high does not smite the image on its head, or its body, or the legs, but upon its feet, crushing the feet and toes, and utterly demolishing the whole statue, with all that makes up its substance and power. The broken fragments, small as the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, are carried away by the wind, and there is “no place found for them,” and the stone which smashed the image becomes a great mountain, filling the whole earth. The Divine interpretation of this stupendous event is given in Daniel 2:44:

“And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever.”

Much effort and ingenuity has been devoted to the task of showing that this was fulfilled in the establishment of the church on the day of Pentecost. But certainly “the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it.” The prophecy and its alleged fulfillment do not correspond. True, the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s rightful King who ascended to heaven and sat down on God’s right hand, angels, principalities, and powers being made subject to Him; having all authority in heaven and on earth; and God “put all things in subjection under his feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body . . .” (Eph. 1:22-23) This one should not merely “admit,” but boldly and gladly avow and declare. Moreover it is to be stated that all who are in the church are in His kingdom; for it is written that He has “delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love”. (Col. 1:13). But here the correspondence ends. The kingdom to which we belong is above. Our citizenship is in heaven, from whence also we wait for a Savior. (Phil. 3:20) The Roman empire, the fourth and last of the Gentile world-kingdoms, was indeed in existence when Christ sat down on God’s throne in heaven, and when the church was established on the day of Pentecost. But there was no development corresponding to the two legs, or iron feet mixed with potter’s clay, or ten toes (shown in Daniel 7 to signify ten kings of the end-time, under the sovereignty of the fourth beast, the fourth Gentile world-power). There has been plenty of research and effort to show a ten-fold division of the Roman Empire at the time when the church was established, but all in vain. No stone smote the fourth world-power and destroyed it, when the church was established. The image felt no shock or tremor. If it be said that the demolition was meant to be a gradual one, extending through centuries till the fall of Rome–then to fit the prophecy, it should at least have begun with the event of Pentecost.

Did the Roman empire begin to go to pieces and disintegrate from Pentecost onward? Far from it. It not only maintained its status for long afterward but continued to grow in power and territorial extent, reaching its widest expansion in the reign of the Roman emperor Trajan, almost a hundred years later. In the days of Constantine (A. D. 320) a twofold division of the empire began to appear. When the Roman empire at last did fall it was not by any supernatural stroke of judgment but in the common course of human events, in simple, natural consequence of those ordinary laws and causes that account for the rise and fall of kingdoms. The western division of the Roman empire succumbed to barbarian invaders in the fifth century A. D.; the eastern, similarly, about 1000 years later. Even then it was not broken up into small rubbish as the imagery of the prophecy would demand, but into big, sizeable fragments, constituting smaller sovereignties, which, peculiarly, have to this day kept Roman names, titles, customs, insignia, systems of government, forms of administration of justice, militarism, and even a kinship of language. The Roman power in fact did never entirely pass away, but has been more or less in abeyance, showing at various times signs of reviving. Its final form, symbolized by the feet and ten toes of iron with their admixture of clay has never as yet been reached.





“Here is the moral of all human tales;

‘Tis but the same rehearsal of the past:

First, freedom, and then glory–when that fails,

Wealth, vice, corruption, barbarism at last,

And history with all her volumes vast

Hath but one page.”

Nor has there been anything that would answer to the descent of that stone which was cut out of the mountain without hands, or its effect upon the image and its own subsequent growth. Various theories have been advanced by those who try to make the prophecy agree with something that has happened in the past. According to some purported explanations it would seem that the Stone should have peacefully nestled down at the image’s feet, and penetrated the image with the gentle influence of the gospel. Or we should read that the Stone had come down to the image’s feet, and by steady growth had crowded the image off the scene.

But the prophecy presents a very different picture.  What was revealed in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, was not a peaceful penetration of the Gentile world-kingdoms by lofty principles and teachings from above, but a catastrophic execution of judgment from on high. In fact the Stone and the image never exist side by side. When the one comes in the other goes out. And the subsequent filling of the earth by the stone, which becomes a great mountain, is not as some have fancied, a picture of world conversion, as though all the world were to be absorbed into the church (an outlook contrary to all that is held out to us in the scriptures) but a thing that corresponds exactly to the sequel of the destruction of the fourth beast in Dan. 7 (which will be a theme of a future study) and the announcement in Rev. 11:15, when the seventh trumpet sounds: “The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of out Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever”; and, as In Dan. 7:27: “And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most high: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” This manifestation of Christ’s kingdom evidently awaits its future accomplishment.


What emotions gripped the Babylonian Monarch’s heart as Daniel reconstructed before his vision his lost dream, we can only imagine. This indeed he knew–that it was indeed his dream; and as little could he now doubt the truth of the interpretation [20] of it. This was a message from God–Israel’s God. It must have been evident now to Nebuchadnezzar that only because their God had given Israel into his hand he had been able to conquer them. Also the kingdom, though given into Gentile hands, would not be held by them for ever; but that the Gentile world-power, of which he, Nebuchadnezzar, was the first representative, would, at last go down under the stroke of God’s judgment. And overwhelmed and humbled by the vision of the Divine Majesty, the king “fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odors unto him.” Yet not to Daniel as a man: it was the God of Daniel, whom the king sought to worship, through these honors done to Daniel as His servant and spokesman. For he said unto Daniel, “Of a truth your God is the God of gods, and the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou hast been able to reveal this secret.” He then promoted Daniel to the highest place in Babylon, and, by Daniel’s request, the three companions also obtained high executive positions “in the affairs of the province of Babylon. But Daniel was in the gate of the king.”


“In the days of those kings.” (Dan. 2:44). What kings are meant? Not the kings that ruled the four successive world-powers–for they were not contemporary. Evidently kings that rule in the fourth world-kingdom. As indicated by the toes, there are ten of them. This is more fully shown by the “horns”  in Dan. 7:24; also see Rev. 13:1; Rev. 17:12; Rev. 19:19.

What Stone is this? Many scriptures refer to Christ as the Stone. See esp. Gen. 49:24 and Matt. 21:42. But note also that “it”–i. e., the kingdom that God sets up, breaks in pieces, and consumes all those kingdoms. (Dan. 2:44.) Consider Rev. 17:14; Rev. 19:11-14, 19. Does the King Himself in and with His kingdom (in which we now hold citizenship, (Phil. 3:20)  descend to execute the stroke of judgment upon the final world-power?

It is not said that the image is destroyed in order that the kingdom of God might come into existence. The kingdom exists before, and the destruction of the Gentile world-power is its first open act.

Whirling dust. A number of passages use such a comparison; and all of them appear to have reference to this event of Dan. 2:35. See Isa. 17:12; Ps. 83:4; Ps. 83:12-13; Rev. 19::19ff also bear on this

“What the prophecy foretells is not the rise and spread of a ‘spiritual kingdom’ in the midst of earthly kingdoms, but the establishment of a kingdom which ‘shall break in pieces all these kingdoms’.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s Praise of God. The three things which he says of God in Dan. 2:47  (though of course, Nebuchadnezzar had no knowledge of the three Persons in the Godhead) beautifully designate the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The effect of this–as to the lot of the captives. Would this episode tend to create a favorable attitude toward the Jews on the part of the Gentile ruler? Comp. Ps. 106:46. There is more of this to come. Does God take notice of how the Jews are treated even in their cast-off state? Would Ps. 121:4 apply still now? May there be a warning in this to present Gentile potentates?

The effect on the Jews. Of course they would all hear of this sooner or later. Would it not tend to make them heartily ashamed of their past idolatries?–that they had given up their God for idols of the nations?

O thou that knowest the hearts of all men! See Acts 1:24. The word in the original is “kardiagnostes”–“heart-knower.” He knows us also–the deepest secrets of our hearts are laid bare and open before Him. (Heb. 4:13. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He could not know us better or be more interested in any one of us if no other human lived. Consider Ps. 139. Yet, though He knows us–He loved us notwithstanding all.


  1. H. Boll was Editor of the print edition of Word and Work from 1916 to 1956.

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That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10