Daniel Bible Study – Week 3

So frequently, I see the story about King Nebuchadnezzar (affectionately, King Neb)’s dream to only be a prelude to Daniel’s big reveal. While this is absolutely accurate, I think the story in itself has a lot of great moments and truths we can glean. This guy was a regular dude with a big job.

We met for this Bible study the night before Halloween, so apologies for my pun, but King Neb is spooked. He’s confused, concerned, and desperate. He’s so used to putting his faith in people who are “yes men” and live to serve him. He doesn’t have a Godly editor (like we saw last week in Week 2 of this Bible Study).

Here are two key questions to keep in mind:

  1. Have you ever felt this desperate?
  2. How have you reacted to others when they acted like King Neb?

The game we played this night was a fun one! We each tore three pieces of paper and wrote down three “truths” about us – nothing too general which would apply to us all, but not too niche so that it’s immediately guessed. We put these into a basket, mixed them up, and then I pulled them out and read them one by one. After each one, the group had to decide who it matched.

Once we had a conclusion, I handed the piece of paper to the person the group chose (folded) so that we could keep track of who had how many. When someone had three pieces of paper (the number of truths they put in the pile), they couldn’t get any more! After all of the pieces were given out, everyone counted how many were correct and read out each one. We then truly got to piece together who wrote what.

While this game is a good “get to know you” game, it also parallels what we’ll discuss in the lesson.


Here’s the scripture for today:

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”

Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

Daniel 2: 1 – 16, New International Version, emphasis mine

For this story, we decided to go verse by verse to get a full picture of the emotions, conversations, and frustrations. Let’s break it down.

In the second year of his reign, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; his mind was troubled and he could not sleep. 

  • Have you ever struggled with insomnia? What does lack of sleep do to you?
  • Notice how this is only the second year of the King’s reign. How does that impact this story for you?

So the king summoned the magicians, enchanters, sorcerers and astrologers to tell him what he had dreamed. When they came in and stood before the king, he said to them, “I have had a dream that troubles me and I want to know what it means.”

Then the astrologers answered the king, “May the king live forever! Tell your servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

Picture the scene – an erratic king either pacing around the room or sitting in his bedchamber, freaking out.

Notice how King Neb expresses his frustrations and is only met with people wanting to solve the problem. Yes, he’s a king and I’m sure not a super touchy-feely guy, but I know that when I express this sort of emotion I want to feel heard. I don’t want to be brushed aside like another project. If he normally wants to get down to business, like the servants’ reactions suggest, why is this so different?

  • What is your gut instinct when someone comes to you and expresses doubt or troubles?
  • How do you want to be treated when you have these feelings?

The king replied to the astrologers, “This is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me what my dream was and interpret it, I will have you cut into pieces and your houses turned into piles of rubble. But if you tell me the dream and explain it, you will receive from me gifts and rewards and great honor. So tell me the dream and interpret it for me.”

Neb’s statement here leads us to believe, again, that this situation is different. He not only wants the dream interpreted but also told to him.

There are two options: be correct and be honored, or be incorrect and suffer. There isn’t a pretty middle ground.

Once more they replied, “Let the king tell his servants the dream, and we will interpret it.”

They ask the same thing, again?

  • Why do you think they ask the same thing again this time?
  • Do you find yourself asking for the same thing over and over (whether to God, your parents, your teacher, or your friends)? When?
  • For me, this often happens when I’m not getting the answer I want. How are the wise men not getting the answer they want?

Then the king answered, “I am certain that you are trying to gain time, because you realize that this is what I have firmly decided: If you do not tell me the dream, there is only one penalty for you. You have conspired to tell me misleading and wicked things, hoping the situation will change. So then, tell me the dream, and I will know that you can interpret it for me.”

There’s something about the phrase “there is only one penalty for you,” that struck me. You might be familiar with the phrase “the wages of sin is death,” which is the phrase that I instantly thought of when reading this passage. We see people all over the Bible act as models of Jesus, and we can see Daniel here (below) being someone who saves a whole bunch of people from death.

Do you have people in your life who only say yes? While this can ultimately feel like a plot line only in Mean Girls, “yes men” are everywhere. Why do these sorts of relationships exist? A few examples:

  • The relationship is one-sided, or there is a power dynamic
  • People saying “yes” don’t value their own opinion
  • People saying “yes” want to change the subject
  • They don’t truly care about you, only them

The astrologers answered the king, “There is no one on earth who can do what the king asks! No king, however great and mighty, has ever asked such a thing of any magician or enchanter or astrologer. What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.”

I call this foreshadowing of the next story to come.

  • How would you have reacted? Would you have taken this stance?

This made the king so angry and furious that he ordered the execution of all the wise men of Babylon. So the decree was issued to put the wise men to death, and men were sent to look for Daniel and his friends to put them to death.

Not just the men in there, but the men who weren’t (including Daniel, as well).

When Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, had gone out to put to death the wise men of Babylon, Daniel spoke to him with wisdom and tact. He asked the king’s officer, “Why did the king issue such a harsh decree?” Arioch then explained the matter to Daniel. At this, Daniel went in to the king and asked for time, so that he might interpret the dream for him.

  • What are some key characteristics of King Neb in this story? His servants? Daniel?

I hope that through this story you were able to see how you can be there for yourself and others this week – being kind, present, and asking good questions. As a Christian, we are called to stand apart like Daniel. We are to speak up when something isn’t right. Next week we’ll look at how Daniel does act, but this story serves as a great foil nonetheless.

Where do you see this story going next?

Quite the teaser for next week, right? Check back then for more!

Is there anything else you’ve gleaned from this passage? Please let me know in the comments below!

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