What does Daniel 2:11 mean?
ESV: The thing that the king asks is difficult, and no one can show it to the king except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.”
NIV: 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.'
NASB: Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with mortal flesh.'
CSB: What the king is asking is so difficult that no one can make it known to him except the gods, whose dwelling is not with mortals."
NLT: The king’s demand is impossible. No one except the gods can tell you your dream, and they do not live here among people.'
KJV: And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh.
Verse Commentary:
This portion of the book of Daniel (Daniel 2:4—7:28) is written in Aramaic. At the time, this was the common language of the Babylonian culture. The miracles and stories recorded in this section are mostly messages about, or targeted at, the Gentile people. The statement recorded in this verse comes from the pagan magicians and sorcerers of king Nebuchadnezzar. He has commanded them to prove their divining powers not merely by interpreting a dream, but also by describing the dream he had (Daniel 2:1–3). What the conjurers admit here is a cornerstone idea in the story of Daniel.

The diviners likely meant this as a cry for sympathy from the king. He had threatened them with gruesome death (Daniel 2:4–7). One reason Nebuchadnezzar created this challenge was to test the spiritual insight of his magicians (Daniel 2:8–9). So, it might even be a subtle admission that they had been lying in the past. Their contention is that only a real god—a true deity—could know what Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed without being told. As it happens, Daniel (Daniel 1:17) has insight from the One True God (Daniel 2:27–35) and will be able to meet the king's demands.

The God who created all things is transcendent—above and beyond all—yet He involves Himself in human affairs. The Babylonian deities were fictional, so they could not communicate with human beings. Yet the God of Israel has communicated with human beings through direct revelation, dreams, visions, signs, nature, Jesus' incarnation, the Holy Spirit, and His inspired Word (Romans 1:19–20; Hebrews 1:1–4; 1 Corinthians 2:10–16; 2 Timothy 3:16–17). Second Timothy 3:16 affirms that all Scripture is God-breathed, and 2 Peter 1:21 states that "no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit."
Verse Context:
Daniel 2:1–16 builds on the introduction to Daniel and his three friends given in chapter 1. Babylon's king, Nebuchadnezzar, is deeply disturbed by a recurring dream. He insists that his pagan advisors tell him what the dream contained, to prove they have genuine insight. When the Babylonian counselors say that only a god could do that, the king plans to have every advisor in Babylon killed. Daniel, however, claims he can meet Nebuchadnezzar's challenge. The text switches from Hebrew to Aramaic in verse 4 and will not revert until chapter 8.
Chapter Summary:
King Nebuchadnezzar tests his magicians, demanding they tell him what he has dreamed, rather than merely inventing an interpretation. When they fail, he prepares to execute the entire department of wise men. Daniel promises he can meet the king's request and is given a special vision from God. The king dreamed of a massive statue shattered into powder by a supernatural rock. Daniel accurately describes this and interprets it as a prophecy about kingdoms which would come after Babylon. The king appoints Daniel and his friends to positions of power and influence over Babylon.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduced King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, Daniel—a captive youth from Jerusalem—and three other Jewish boys. After three years of education, the four Hebrew captives outperformed all the other trainees, even surpassing the wise men in Babylon. In chapter 2, Daniel describes and interprets Nebuchadnezzar's disturbing dream, though the court magicians could not. As a result, the king promotes Daniel and his three friends to high positions over the provinces of Babylon. This sets the stage for a severe test of faith in chapter 3.
Book Summary:
The book of Daniel contains famous Old Testament stories and prophecies. Daniel was taken from the Israelite people and made an advisor for a conquering empire. He demonstrates faithfulness and wisdom during many years serving in this role. Though Daniel does not deliver a public message, Jesus refers to him as a "prophet" (Matthew 24:15). The first portion of the book mostly describes Daniel's interpretations of dreams and other events. The second portion looks ahead to the end times. Daniel is classified in English Bibles as a "major" prophet, meaning the book is relatively long and the content has broad implications. The book of Revelation echoes and expands on many of the same themes.
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