Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar: “Whereas you beheld the feet and the toes to be partly of molded clay of a potter and partly of iron, the kingdom itself will prove to be divided, but somewhat of the hardness of iron will prove to be in it, forasmuch as you beheld the iron mixed with moist clay. And as for the toes of the feet being partly of iron and partly of molded clay, the kingdom will partly prove to be strong and will partly prove to be fragile. Whereas you beheld iron mixed with moist clay, they will come to be mixed with the offspring of mankind; but they will not prove to be sticking together, this one to that one, just as iron is not mixing with molded clay.”—Daniel 2:41-43.
The succession of world powers represented by the various parts of the image in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream began with the head and extended down to the feet. Logically, the feet and toes of “iron mixed with moist clay” would symbolize the final manifestation of human rule that would exist during “the time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.
At the dawn of the 20th century, the British Empire ruled over every fourth person on earth. Other European empires controlled millions more. But World War I resulted in the emergence of groups of nations in place of empires. After World War II, this trend accelerated. As nationalism developed further, the number of nations in the world grew dramatically. The ten toes of the image represent all such coexisting powers and governments, for in the Bible the number ten at times signifies earthly completeness.—Compare Exodus 34:28; Matthew 25:1; Revelation 2:10.
Now that we are in “the time of the end,” we have reached the feet of the image. Some of the governments pictured by the image’s feet and toes of iron mixed with clay are ironlike—authoritarian or tyrannical. Others are claylike. In what way? Daniel associated the clay with “the offspring of mankind.” (Daniel 2:43) Despite the fragile nature of clay, of which the offspring of mankind are made, traditional ironlike rulerships have been obliged to listen more and more to the common people, who want their say in the governments ruling over them. (Job 10:9) But there is no sticking together of authoritarian rule and the common people—no more than there could be a uniting of iron with clay. At the time of the image’s demise, the world will indeed be politically fragmented!