Legs, Feet, and Toes of Iron

There are several eschatological issues that have challenged Bible students for generations. One such challenge is the identification of the ten nation gentile federation that will exist at the return of Christ after the great tribulation.

Shortly after Judah was deported to Babylon beginning in 605 BC, the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream which he did not understand. No one could interpret the dream except the Hebrew lad Daniel. The dream was that of a large metal image of a man consisting of four metals from head to toes.

“This image’s head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay.”
Daniel 2:32-33

As Daniel interpreted the dream, he provided more details of the feet and toes.

“Whereas you saw the feet and toes, partly of potter’s clay and partly of iron, the kingdom shall be divided…and as the toes of the feet were partly of iron and partly of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly fragile (brittle).”
Daniel 2:41-43

Daniel revealed to Nebuchadnezzar that the gentile kingdoms of the earth would deteriorate in purity as they increased in the ability to crush opposition, i.e. the specific gravity of the metals decreased from head to toes as they increased in brittleness. Another way to view it is to consider that the autocracies became diluted with each succeeding empire.

History revealed the identity of the four world powers of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Babylon was the head of gold, Media-Persia was the chest and arms of silver, the Greek empire was the belly and thighs of bronze, and Rome was the legs, feet, and toes of iron. These four empires ruled over Israel during their reigns.

The dream, then, reveals that at the time of the great tribulation a ten nation federation, under the rule of a future leader, will bear part of the characteristics of the original Roman Empire’s strength but will be diluted by some other influence depicted by the inclusion of clay.

Part of the challenge in understanding this dream is that it depicts the Roman Empire as never being totally dissolved. The empire began with iron after the demise of the Greeks and ends with iron when it collapses forever at Christ’s return. History, however, describes the ‘demise’ of the Roman Empire in the fifth century AD during the reign of Emperor Diocletian. Historians record the reasons for the demise under Diocletian’s rule which includes excessive and inequitable taxes, the increase of immigrants to fill the void caused by the expanding military resulting in diluted citizenship, and a shortage of funds to support the military while maintaining roads and buildings. Sound familiar?

But did the Roman Empire really totally and permanently fall?

Approximately 1000 years before Roman Emperor Diocletian ruled, a certain man named Byzas of Megara founded a settlement near the south western shores of the Black Sea. This settlement became known as Byzantium. This settlement subsequently came under the rule of Media-Persia and then under Alexander the Great. Following Greek rule was the Romans. History reveals that the Roman Empire, after ruling for approximately 700 years, really didn’t dissolve but was rather divided into two regions, i.e. the eastern region and the western region. During the Roman era Byzantium became very popular due to its expanding cultural advancements. While the western region of the Roman Empire continued to decline, the eastern region of Byzantium continued to gain prominence.

Constantine recognized the value of Byzantium and made it the capital of the eastern region of the empire and Byzantium became known as Constantinople.

Beginning in the 7th century AD a new religion came on the scene. This new religion, i.e. Islam, was expanding into Palestine, Syria, and Egypt and posed a threat to Constantinople. Unrest continued for several centuries.

Subsequently in 1453 AD Constantinople, now known as Istanbul, became the capital of the Ottoman Turkish Empire. The Ottoman Turks sided with Germany in WW I and were defeated by allied forces. The previous home of the Islamic Caliphate would then become the Republic of Turkey.

To be continued.

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