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Democracy is the “clay” in Daniel 2 (book excerpt)

Hippolytus (AD 170–235), an early church theologian in Rome, understood Daniel’s prophecies about the clay component or element in the feet and toes of the fourth kingdom [consisting of iron and clay, Daniel 2:32–33, 40–43]. In the third century, even during a time when emperors ruled the Roman Empire with iron authority, he confidently wrote that “democracies are shown” in the ten toes [or latter stage] of the fourth kingdom.[1] Thus, Hippolytus, understanding Bible prophecy, interpreted the clay to mean democracy and believed that the Roman [Empire]’s iron rule would eventually transition into a mixture of iron and clay. His Commentary on Daniel is said to be the “oldest surviving Christian commentary on Scripture,” while Schmidt’s work in 2010 is said to be “the first complete English translation” of Hippolytus’s Commentary.[2]

Agreeing with Hippolytus, Gaebelein wrote in 1911 that the clay in the feet and toes of the fourth kingdom represents Roman democratic rule (where the people participate in their government) . . ..[3] Here, at the beginning of the twentieth century, on the brink of the clash between the great powers in World War I, Gaebelein, based on an understanding of Bible prophecy, foresaw democratic change coming to the old Roman world of Europe. He writes: “But what does the clay represent? Clay is of the earth. It stands for . . . democratic rule, the rule by the people. This is exactly what we behold in our day. There is a strong current towards democratic rule, the rule by the people, the exaltation of the people. . .[.] We see indications of this already, for the people are more or less dictating to kings; the kings are ruled over by the popular elements.”[4] Indeed, during the twentieth century, democracy “became the most common form of government.”[5] Such . . . spreading of democracy signals that we may currently be living in the latter stage (or feet and toes) of [Daniel’s fourth kingdom, the last of the four gentile kingdoms to exist in the earth before Jesus Christ returns].

[1]. Hippolytus of Rome: Commentary on Daniel, 57. West also noted Hippolytus’s interpretation in 1898. West, Daniel’s Great Prophecy, The Eastern Question, 63.

[2]. Hippolytus of Rome, 3.

[3]. Gaebelein, The Prophet Daniel.

[4]. Ibid.

[5]. Adam Hart-Davis, et al., History: The Definitive Visual Guide from the Dawn of Civilization to the Present Day (New York: DK Publishing, 2010), 100.

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