Daniel 2 occurs after Daniel and his friends had entered the king’s service as educated counselors, advisors, administrators. A striking feature of Daniel 2 is not immediately evident to the English reader. When 2:4 says: ‘The Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic’, the entire text thereafter shifts from Hebrew into Aramaic all the way until 7:28. Why? Aramaic was the lingua franca of the international world of the time (as Latin later became and as English is today). It was the language that the elites of every country could speak. Daniel is thus the only book of the Old Testament (or the New) which is written in two languages. It is a bi-lingual book. Therefore, the message of Daniel is intended not just for believers/Jews but for all the nations of the world. It is very much a book about how believers are to live “life in the real world”.
It is too easy for the reader to think that the only reason for such a dream was because God had sent it to him (2:28). But God very often works through (rather than in spite of) our given psyche and humanity.
First, it is often those people with the greatest drive for power and success that are actually the most anxious and fearful. Reinhold Niebuhr believed that deep fear and uncertainty lay at the roots of most political tyranny. The lust for power is born, he thought, ‘in the darkly conscious realization…of the basic insecurity of human existence.” (Quoted in Ronald S. Wallace, The Lord Is King: The Message of Daniel, p.50.) It is fear that often is the reason for the super-confident veneer of many of the most powerful people.
But second, even if fear is not the root cause of a successful career, it is often the result. Those who climb very high will feel not more secure, but less, for they know that they are the object of more jealousy and they are in the ‘sights’ of more competitors. Also, the higher one climbs in wealth, power, or fame, the greater the possibility of a terrible fall. There is now so much to lose. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is only an eruption of these deep fears–which he may have been keeping hidden from himself. No powerful person likes to know how weak they feel underneath. One commentator believes that the colossus in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream is the vision he wanted the world to have of him–”an impregnable giant, towering over the world…” but the weakness of the statue at its feet was an expression of his deepest fears that he could not keep it up, or that someone would come and exploit hidden weaknesses. (R.Clements, Faithful Living in an Unfaithful World, p.153.)
This all is not to say that there was not a message for the world from God in the dream, but we should recognize that this was an expression of the king’s heart condition. Unless we see how the dream gives us insight into the conflicted inner world of Nebuchadnezzar, we will not be prepared to understand his ‘breakdown’ later in chapter 4.