One of the most enigmatic passages in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the metal statue is what the ten toes of iron and clay symbolize. Readers to this blog have requested that I comment on this passage, so I thought I’d give you my opinion. Prophecy teachers Joel Richardson and Mark Davidson teach that the iron and clay of the toes represents Sunni and Shia Muslim factions. Some teach iron is Islam and clay is apostate Christianity. Others teach it is some sort of genetic mixing of angels and humans. I personally think all of these are less than completely accurate. Let’s look at Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and see what scripture says:
A fourth kingdom, which shall be strong as iron: as iron beats to powder and subdues all things, so shall it beat to powder and subdue. And whereas thou sawest the feet and the toes, part of earthenware and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet there shall be in it of the strength of iron, as thou sawest the iron mixed with earthenware. And whereas the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of earthenware, part of the kingdom shall be strong, and part of it shall be broken. Whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with earthenware, they shall be mingled with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave together, as the iron does not mix itself with earthenware. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed: and his kingdom shall not be left to another people, but it shall beat to pieces and grind to powder all other kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. (Dan. 2: 40-44 LXX)
Nebuchadnezzar could not remember his dream and threatened to kill all the wise men if they couldn’t tell him his dream and interpret it. Daniel prayed and God revealed the dream and interpretation to Daniel. This quoted section includes the fourth kingdom (iron), the fifth kingdom (ten toes of iron and clay), and the sixth and final kingdom (Jesus’s Millennial Kingdom.) It is crucial to look at all three final kingdoms.
You may also notice that I’m using the Septuagint Greek translation. This allows one to do word studies between the OT and NT because both will utilize the Greek. The Septuagint is the translation used by the First Century Church and John who wrote Revelation.
The dream involves symbols of iron and earthenware. In order to understand these symbols we need to find other references in scripture that should help us define the symbols. This is an excellent discipline to get into, searching for other references rather than looking at a passage as a stand alone section of scripture. God nearly always provides a second or even a third witness scripture of most prophetic passages.
Now that I have you thinking about other reference scriptures, I bet some came to mind immediately. The first was probably Psalm 2 which is directly linked to this dream.
He that dwells in the heavens shall laugh them to scorn, and the Lord shall mock them. Then shall he speak to them in his anger, and trouble them in his fury. But I have been made king by him on Sion his holy mountain, declaring the ordinance of the Lord: the Lord said to me, Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt rule them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces as a potter’s vessel (earthenware). (Psalm 2: 4-9 LXX)
John quotes this in the Letter to Thyatira in Revelation:
He who overcomes, and he who keeps My deeds until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter (earthenware) are broken to pieces, as I also have received authority from My Father. (Rev. 2: 26-27 NASB)
So all three of these passages are related to each other by means of shared references. Notice in Psalm 2, Jesus says he was made king by God the Father and in Revelation Jesus tells us he received authority from the Father. These passages are about authority.
There is another passage in Revelation about authority we should look at:
I looked, and behold, an ashen (Gk: CHLOROS, meaning bright green) horse; and he who sat on it had the name Death; and Hades was following with him. Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth. (Rev. 6: 8 NASB)
There was given to him (the Beast) a mouth speaking arrogant words and blasphemies, and authority to act for forty-two months was given to him. (Rev. 13:5 NASB)
Both of these passages refer to the Antichrist and his Beast empire. Notice he has been given authority by God to act and kill for 42 months. Now that we have assembled most of the relevant scriptures lets start thinking about what they may mean.
Meaning of Iron
Let’s start in Daniel 2 where we learn that Jesus’s Kingdom will “grind to powder” all the other kingdoms. In Dan. 2:40 we see that the nature of “iron” is to grind into powder, “as iron beats to powder and subdues all things.” So if Jesus’s kingdom grinds things to powder it has an element of “iron” to it. When we look Psalms 2 we see Jesus’s “rod” is iron. Sure enough, he uses it to smash the earthenware. This is the same as Daniel 2’s “grinding to powder.” In Revelation 2, we see the saints of God are given authority and this allows them to rule with a rod of iron as well.
The rod of iron is a symbol of authority and it allows the holder of the rod to “grind kingdoms to power” or “smash them like earthenware.” Initially the Antichrist and his Beast Empire are given the authority for 42 months. Jesus then is given the authority by the Father. Jesus in turn gives the authority to the saints in the Millennial Kingdom.
Meaning of Earthenware
Before we look at references, one can probably guess at what earthenware represents. It is a vessel made out of clay. Adam was made out of clay as well, so to my thinking it would be a human body. This is confirmed in many places:
What excellent thing have I prepared as clay (earthenware) of the potter? Will the ploughman plough the earth all day? shall the clay say to the potter, What art thou doing that thou dost not work, nor hast hands? shall the thing formed answer him that formed it? (Isa. 45:9 LXX)
But we have this treasure in earthen(ware) vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Cor. 4: 10 NASB)
So now we know what the symbols mean. We have iron meaning heavenly authority and clay means human frailty.
Back to Daniel 2
Let’s look at the passage in question one more time.
And whereas thou sawest the feet and the toes, part of earthenware and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; yet there shall be in it of the strength of iron, as thou sawest the iron mixed with earthenware. And whereas the toes of the feet were part of iron and part of earthenware, part of the kingdom shall be strong, and part of it shall be broken. Whereas thou sawest the iron mixed with earthenware, they shall be mingled with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave together, as the iron does not mix itself with earthenware. And in the days of those kings the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. (Dan. 2: 41-44 LXX)
Let’s begin looking at the toes. The final verse says “in the days of those kings . . .” The toes are 10 Kings. This is confirmed in Daniel 7:24 and Rev. 17:12. Daniel tells us they are part iron and part clay. Let’s re-insert the meaning of the symbols. The passage is saying the ten kings are part “heavenly authority” and part “human frailty.”
Let’s read on. The passage says “Whereas thou sawest the iron (heavenly authority) mixed with earthenware (human frailty), they shall be mingled with the seed of men (humans): but they shall not cleave (adhere) together, as the iron (heavenly authority) does not mix itself with earthenware (human frailty).” This is super insightful. God is telling us his heavenly authority is not meant for men. The Antichrist and the the Ten Kings may be given it for the 42 months but the authority won’t adhere to the human element. How this is expressed I’m not quite sure. It may mean the Beast Empire experiences revolts.
This passage doesn’t say a thing about Islam or apostate Christianity and it definitively doesn’t say anything about fallen angels. For those who are into the fallen angels impregnating human women thing, look at the words “they shall not cleave” Even if you wanted to stretch the scripture where it shouldn’t go, this verse stops that thinking in its tracks. In Genesis a husband will cleave to his wife. Here we see “shall NOT cleave.” No sex. That isn’t what the words mean here, but just to stress the point, that is definitely not what the verse means.
Now is there more to this passage? There may be. There may be a “mixing” of two dissimilar elements such as Sunni and Shia, but the main implication is that the heavenly authority is not meant for humans without glorified bodies. Only then, when humans reign alongside Christ, will a true one world government work.