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feet of clay

“You saw, O king, and behold, a great image. This image, mighty and of exceeding brightness, stood before you, and its appearance was frightening. The head of this image was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its middle and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold, all together were broken in pieces, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, so that not a trace of them could be found. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” Daniel 2: 31-35

The first man to hear the words in bold above was, at the time, the most powerful political ruler the world had ever known - King Nebuchadnezzar (reigned 605-562 BC) of Babylon. They were spoken to him by a man who would, immediately after, become that King’s chief civil servant.

The King had had a dream which he couldn’t understand. He demanded that it be interpreted but he refused to tell the dream to possible interpreters. He reckoned that, if they didn’t know the dream without him telling them what it was, then they wouldn’t be much good as interpreters of it. I like it.

Only one person in the neo-Babylonian Empire would take this on – Daniel from Jerusalem. Daniel began by telling King Nebuchadnezzar the dream – using the words in bold above. Sure enough, it was the right dream – a huge statue destroyed.

The interpretation? Briefly (hopefully without too much loss of accuracy) Daniel explained that Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire was the head of gold. After that another Empire would take over – the silver chest and arms of silver. Then another would arise after that – the bronze midriff and thighs. Finally the iron legs and iron and clay feet. The whole statue was destroyed by a stone which shattered its feet.

Sure enough ancient history records -
• The replacement of the (gold) Babylonian Empire by the Achaemenid Empire in 539 BC;
• The defeat of the (silver) Achaemenid Empire by Alexander the Great in 330 BC and the resulting Greco-Macedonian Empire;
• The overcoming of the (bronze) two-thighs rule of that Hellenistic Empire from around 30 BC when the (iron) Roman Empire took over.

But it was the iron feet of the image which caused the whole thing to collapse. Why? Because the strength of iron was compromised by being mixed with clay......... Daniel explained the clay as being human involvement in the exercise of power.

Just as Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed and just as Daniel explained to him, the weakness of man wielding power throughout those centuries would cause the Empires of gold, silver, bronze, and iron to end up like the husks at the time when grain is threshed and harvested.

Men and power don’t mix. Do any of us fear the power of King Nebuchadnezzar today? Where is Caesar? Gone.

But what would shatter the whole image of power in the “iron” times of the Roman Empire (BC 30 onwards)? Daniel told the King: “As you looked, a stone was cut out by no human hand, and it struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces…….. But the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.”

Then Daniel explained the stone to the King. “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,  just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure.”

Yes, Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, would, by submission to human power, conquer it. He would have more followers than all earth’s armies put together. The stone was born in a stable AD 0.

‘Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.' (Lord Acton, Historian, 1834-1902)
‘Almighty must be the power whose sufficient strength is weakness.' (Anon.)
Richard Syvret

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