A Deep Dive into Daniel — Part 1 — The Five Kingdoms

“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand forever.”

Daniel 2:44

Daniel 2 lays some of the most important groundwork in all of Scripture for understanding the geopolitical climate in the last days and particularly the emergence of the final kingdom of the Antichrist — aka the Beast.

Simply by taking a look at the details provided in King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in addition to Daniel’s interpretation, one can begin to form a pretty clear picture of what to expect during the unique time of the end. Let us not forget that Daniel himself told King Nebuchadnezzar that his dream specifically revealed “what will be in the latter days” [Daniel 2:28], which is the first big clue to interpreting this prophecy.

The metal image, or statue, that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream represents four earthly kingdoms, but there is a fifth kingdom — a mountain not cut with human hands — that ultimately will crush and shatter the previous four kingdoms in the last days. Daniel says that this fifth kingdom — this mountain that fills the whole earth — will never be destroyed and will stand forever [Daniel 2:44].

The primary reason we know that this prophecy applies to the time of the end is because we know that the inauguration of God’s eternal kingdom will not be realized until the King of kings returns from heaven to earth to crush His enemies and sit down on His glorious throne. This prophecy, therefore, will not be fulfilled until that Day when Jesus comes in power and glory to establish His kingdom on earth.

Now that we understand the timing of this prophecy in Daniel, it is important that we spend some time brushing up on our geography.

Building a Geographical Template

One of the most essential disciplines for any serious Bible student is to access the original languages by utilizing the various Hebrew and Greek lexicons and concordances at our disposal. Anyone who has a desire to rightly interpret Scripture should have these tools in their own personal library if at all possible, especially with the advantages provided by online resources and digital software.

I would like to demonstrate an unfortunate example of how the English translation of one simple Hebrew word can create an unnecessary obstacle to the accurate interpretation of Daniel 2. Trust me. This type of extreme examination may seem like technical overkill, and I would agree if it didn’t have such a significant impact on the meaning of the text.

In Daniel’s interpretation of the metal image, he explains to Nebuchadnezzar that the divisions in the statue represent subsequent kingdoms, beginning with his own kingdom — ancient Babylon as the head of gold. Now this is where an unfortunate English translation comes into play. Let’s read Daniel 2:38-39.

“You [Babylon] are the head of gold. Another kingdom inferior to you shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” 

Daniel 2:38b-39

Now stay with me because this is critical. I would not belabor this point unless it was necessary.

It is universally recognized that the first three kingdoms in Nebuchadnezzar’s image represent the ancient kingdoms of Babylon, Persia and Greece. Few will dispute that.

My issue, however, is with the English translation in Daniel 2:39 that reads, “inferior to you” because it fails to convey the real meaning of the Hebrew word used in the text. The Hebrew word used in Daniel 2:39 is “ara” — אֲרַע — which means earth or land. This particular Hebrew word is used 21 times in the Hebrew Bible and 20 out of the 21 times it simply is translated as earth or ground or land.

But for some bizarre reason, every English translation of Daniel 2:39 renders this Hebrew word — אֲרַע — as “inferior.” Now I have yet to find one good explanation that supports this translation. There is absolutely no rhyme of reason behind choosing the English word, “inferior,” in this verse. Something certainly was “lost” in translation.

The only thing that even begins to make sense is that there is some latitude within the meaning of “ara” that could possibly mean INTERIOR — with a T — but NOT INFERIOR — with an F. It is possible that translators somehow meant to translate this word as interior — meaning territory or land mass — but somehow transcribed it with an “F” instead of a “T.”

I’m not sure, but the reason all of this matters is because if this verse were translated properly in English to reflect the Hebrew, then it would read as follows.

“You [Babylon] are the head of gold. Another kingdom from your land shall arise after you, and yet a third kingdom of bronze, which shall rule over all the earth.” 

Daniel 2:38-39

Now can you see why this unfortunate English translation completely alters the original meaning of this verse? The silver arms and chest of Persia were never “inferior” to Babylon! On the contrary, the Persian Empire first conquered and later covered vastly more territory than Babylon. Persia and Greece were in no way inferior to Babylon but both did occupy the same territory — אֲרַע — as Babylon.

What we discover with a little linguistic homework is that the interpretation of this prophecy has everything to do with subsequent kingdoms that share the same geographical land mass or territory. In other words, the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and the fourth kingdom will emerge from the same part of the earth and occupy the same land, or אֲרַע.

Now that we have tackled this interpretive obstacle and established a geographical profile, let’s take a closer look at how the three previous kingdoms provide the composite picture of the fourth kingdom.

Babylon — The Head of Gold

The statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream must be understood as a composite of four kingdoms that occupy the same geographical land mass. Three of these kingdoms have come and gone — Babylon, Persia, and Greece — but the fourth kingdom is a future kingdom that will be comprised of the same geographical territories of the previous three.

Let’s take a look first at Babylon — the head of gold.

Notice that at the height of the empire, Babylon covered a vast territory from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.

Medo-Persia — The Arms and Chest of Silver

The Medes, and later the Persians, combined to form one of the greatest empires in history. You can see in the map above that the Babylonian territory was engulfed by the Persians, but also notice that the Persians expanded control into Northern Africa and modern-day Turkey.

Javan [Greece] — The Core and Thighs of Bronze

The Biblical name for Greece is “Javan,” and it represents the historical Macedonian Empire that reached its height under the leadership of Alexander the Great. This is important because when we think of modern Greece today, we often limit our scope to the European Greek Isles, but the ancient Macedonian Empire was a vast and powerful kingdom that covered more territory than the Persians.

Once again, notice how Javan covered the Middle East, parts of Northern Africa and all of Persia. In other words, ancient Greece occupied the same land mass as Babylon and Persia before it.

The geographical profile provides very important clues about the potential territory of the fourth kingdom in the last days that will be shattered to pieces by King Jesus Himself. One of the other key points of interpretation is that all three of these historical empires were foreign occupiers of Israel and oppressors of the Jews.

There is only one other historical kingdom that fits the profile of the previous three — a kingdom that occupied the same territory and that also oppressed the Jewish people. This empire, I believe, provides another critical clue in understanding what the fourth kingdom of Daniel 2 will be.

Just consider the map below until next time.

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