Daniel chapter 2 tells of how Daniel interpreted a dream/vision given to Nebuchadnezzar which includes the statue with a “head of gold” representing the ancient Babylonian Empire he himself presided over. The statue also had a chest and arms of silver representing the Medo-Persian Empire which conquered and assimilated Babylon, the belly and thighs of bronze representing the Greek Empire which conquered and assimilated Medo-Persia and the legs of Iron, representing the Roman Empire which conquered and assimilated Greece before splitting into Eastern and Western entities ruled from Byzantium and Rome, respectively.
Daniel 2:34-35 says;
You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The feet and toes of “iron mixed with clay” have been the source of endless speculative interpretation over the centuries. Although we can be sure who the head of gold, arms and breast of silver, belly and thighs of bronze and legs of Iron are, which world empire, exactly, is represented by the feet and toes of iron and clay?
So, who are the “feet and toes of iron and clay” which get struck by the “stone” thus bringing down “Babylon” and all the other world-spanning empires represented in the different parts of the statue Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream/vision (actually referred to in Revelation 14:8 as “Babylon the Great”)?
My academic training was in political science and international relations, so I’m gonna take a look at this from that perspective and offer my thoughts.
First, “Babylon” as referred to in the Bible is the name of a literal historical city located in what is today central Iraq, out of which grew a large empire. But the term “Babylon” in the Bible also refers to the political, legal, social, economic and military system by which the world has been governed since Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar had their meeting. The empires subsequent to historical Babylon absorbed, assimilated, perpetuated and reproduced that original system.
In modern times, the “Babylon” system has been maintained by something called “International Law” which consists of treaties and agreements between Nation States, primarily in Western Europe and North America. These agreements, bookended by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and the Bretton Woods Agreements and the UN Charter in 1944-5, set the normative values by which the world has operated for the last few hundred years.
But here’s where the “iron and clay” part comes in.
The Western European and North American Nation States which forged this body of “International Law” had a split personality, trying on the one hand to be old-fashioned hegemonic powers on the global stage while at the same time attempting to be liberal democracies at home, granting rights and privileges to their own citizens which were often made possible only by violating the rights of others, especially through the application of naked force and violence to exploit the resources and wealth of other Nation States.
To that can be added a cultural affinity in most of these countries for one type or another of Christianity, which doesn’t mix well with hegemonic power politics, which seeks to dominate its neighbors, not love them as oneself.
There has always been a great deal of tension between these competing priorities in all the Nation States of the West which inherited the mantle of “Babylon” from their predecessors in ancient Rome, Greece, etc. That tension, I think, explains what the Holy Spirit was revealing in this dream of Nebuchadnezzar’s regarding the “iron and clay” which the feet and toes in the statue representing the respective iterations of “Babylon” were composed of.
Christ, the “stone” of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which strikes the feet and toes of “iron and clay” will set up a Kingdom which, among other things, resolves that tension. It will be a Kingdom which combines global political, social and economic dominance with perfect justice, peace and tranquility for every single person who lives in it.
So with all this in mind, what should we do as Believers?
Well, for starters, we need to remember what Jesus says regarding Babylon in Revelation 18:4-5:
I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues; for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.
I take that to mean that we should, as much as we possibly can, un-plug ourselves from “Babylon” and a good place to start is to simply stop consuming what the world calls “entertainment” but which is actually, most often, poison for your mind, heart, soul and spirit. You might miss watching movies and your favorite TV shows at first, but just think about how much time you’ll have to devote to prayer, Bible Study and fellowship/service to the Body of Christ when you are no longer spending so much time, effort, money and energy on something that is killing you spiritually anyway.
Once you start doing that, once you start throwing all your time, energy and resources into pursuing God and His Righteousness instead of trying to split your time, energy and resources between God and “Babylon” than the tension between these two systems will be resolved in your own life. If enough of us get that done, I think we’ll start to see some very serious progress made towards the goals the Bible sets down for the Body of Christ in this world. That may in fact be how the prophecy of the “stone” crushing the “feet and toes of iron and clay” is fulfilled.
May God give us all the strength, discipline, grace, courage, wisdom and determination to fulfill our role in His plans and purposes for this season of history.