Later we learn the king only dreamed one dream, so the word “dreams” here (v. 1) must mean he had that one dream over and over. Since it “troubled” him, it must have been a nightmare. Don’t envy the rich; their riches won’t let them sleep for fear of losing their riches (Eccl. 5:12). Besides, envy is unhealthy as well as unspiritual (Pr. 14:30).
The king called his advisers “then” (v. 2)—when “his sleep brake from him” in verse 1—in the middle of the night to show him his dream. “Shew” means to interpret (cf. 5:15). Pagans back then thought their gods communicated with them in dreams (cf. Mt. 27:19), so the king thought he’d just heard from his gods with troubling news that he needed interpreted pronto! And he wasn’t the first pagan king to need a dream interpreted (Gen. 41:1-8).
In Chapter 1, we saw that Daniel and his 3 friends were in a 3-year program to become advisers, and Daniel 2:1 says that they were still in their second year, so the king only summoned his graduates to interpret this troubling dream.
The king told his advisers that he’d had a dream (v. 3) and they asked him what it was (v. 4). “Chaldeans” (2:4) was another name for Babylonians (Ezek. 23:15). “Syriack” (2:4) was what the Syrian language had evolved into in Babylon, the way English evolved in our country. Daniel mentions this because at this point he starts writing in Syriack because it was the language that all the nations spoke after Assyria conquered them. Daniel is about to describe the future of the nations, and he wants them to be able to read it, so they know Israel’s God is God. It’s kind of like how God wanted the New Testament written in Greek because everyone spoke Greek after Alexander the Great conquered the world.
There’s also 15 Persian words and 3 Greek words in Daniel. Bible critics say that this is because Daniel wrote his book after the Persians and Greeks conquered the nations and spread their language. They say that because they don’t want to admit Daniel’s God predicted they’d conquer the world, because to admit that would mean admitting that the God of the Bible is God. But Daniel spent his life standing in the king’s court (cf. 1:5) hearing ambassadors from Persia and Greece, so some of their words had crept into his vocabulary, the way Japan’s word tsunami crept into ours.
The king didn’t like being asked what his dream was (2:5), so just said the thing was gone from him, meaning: “I meant what I said” (cf. Ps. 89:34). After threatening to kill them if they couldn’t interpret his dream, he offers to reward them if they can (2:6), so they ask him again what he dreamt (v. 7).
The king accused them of stalling (2:8), hoping he’d get so desperate for an interpretation that he’d tell them his dream. He told them his “decree” of killing them would stand (v. 9) if they didn’t tell him his dream. He knew that every time he’d asked them to interpret a dream in the past that they “had prepared” lying words to tell him—i.e., they just made something up “till the time be changed.” That refers to a change in administration (cf. 2:21). In other words, they’d just interpret the dream to be a prophecy of something that wouldn’t come true till after he was no longer king, so he couldn’t kill punish them when it didn’t come true!
That means this wise king figured something out. After a year of listening to their phony interpretations, he figured out that if he makes them tell him what he dreamed, then he can be sure they were in touch with the gods and he could trust their interpretation.
They were partly right when they admitted that only the gods knew his dream (2:10, 11), for Daniel’s God did (Amos 4:13). But only Daniel’s God did (IKi.8:39). But when those advisors admitted they weren’t in touch with the gods that knew his dream, the king commanded them to die (2:12). He’d been paying them to tell him what the gods said, and now they admit they didn’t know what the gods knew!
This death order included Daniel and his friends (2:13) even though they hadn’t been given a chance to interpret the dream—probably because the king figured if the men who had graduated his advisory school couldn’t interpret it, there was no use asking men who were still in school.
Video of this sermon is available on YouTube: The King Had a Dream – Daniel 2:1-13