Daniel Chapter 4
Nebuchadnezzar Praises God
4:1 “King Nebuchadnezzar, to all peoples, nations, and language groups that live in all the land: Peace and prosperity! 4:2 I am delighted to tell you about the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me. 4:3 “How great are his signs! How mighty are his wonders! His kingdom will last forever, and his authority continues from one generation to the next.”
Nebuchadnezzar Dreams of a Tree Chopped Down
4:4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was relaxing in my home, living luxuriously in my palace. 4:5 I saw a dream that frightened me badly. The things I imagined while lying on my bed — these visions of my mind — were terrifying me. 4:6 So I issued an order for all the wise men of Babylon to be brought before me so that they could make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 4:7 When the magicians, astrologers, wise men, and diviners entered, I recounted the dream for them. But they were unable to make known its interpretation to me. 4:8 Later Daniel entered (whose name is Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom there is a spirit of the holy gods). I recounted the dream for him as well,
4:9 saying, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, in whom I know there to be a spirit of the holy gods and whom no mystery baffles, consider my dream that I saw and set forth its interpretation!
Daniel must have been about middle aged by this time and Nebuchadnezzar nearing or at the age of a senior. Interestingly this chapter begins and ends with King Nebuchadnezzar praising God. Will he be in Heaven? Don’t think we can know that for sure. Some scholars believe so, some don’t. There is some doubt as he still mentions in this chapter gods (plural) so at this point he may not have been quite there. But maybe at some point later his heart was finally changed to believe and have faith in the one true God only, the one whom Daniel and us worship.
He says he was living large in his palace. History tells us he built the magnificent Hanging Gardens, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. You can google it to see what historians say about it. He had built a beautiful place to reside. Things had calmed down by this time and he apparently didn’t have any major wars going on. In fact historians say there were 7 years in which he was not at war. We will learn in this chapter what he would be doing those 7 years.
We learn early that he again had a very disturbing dream, actually a vision from God which he didn’t understand so as usual he calls together all the “wise” men to interpret it for him. Of course the dream came from God, so nobody but the faithful servant of God, Daniel, can give the interpretation.
Nebuchadnezzar’s account of the Dream
4:10 Here are the visions of my mind while I was on my bed. While I was watching, there was a tree in the middle of the land. It was enormously tall. 4:11 The tree grew large and strong. Its top reached far into the sky; it could be seen from the borders of all the land. 4:12 Its foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful; on it there was food enough for all. Under it the wild animals used to seek shade, and in its branches the birds of the sky used to nest. All creatures used to feed themselves from it. 4:13 While I was watching in my mind’s visions on my bed, a holy sentinel came down from heaven. 4:14 He called out loudly as follows: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches! Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit! Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches! 4:15 But leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it surrounded by the grass of the field. Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the animals in the grass of the land. 4:16 Let his mind be altered from that of a human being, and let an animal’s mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time go by for him. 4:17 This announcement is by the decree of the sentinels; this decision is by the pronouncement of the holy ones, so that those who are alive may understand that the Most High has authority over human kingdoms, and he bestows them on whomever he wishes. He establishes over them even the lowliest of human beings.’ 4:18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, for none of the wise men in my kingdom are able to make known to me the interpretation. But you can do so, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel’s interpretation of the Dream
4:19 Then Daniel (whose name is also Belteshazzar) was upset for a brief time; his thoughts were alarming him. The king said, “Belteshazzar, don’t let the dream and its interpretation alarm you.” But Belteshazzar replied, “Sir, if only the dream were for your enemies and its interpretation applied to your adversaries! 4:20 The tree that you saw that grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky, and which could be seen in all the land,4:21 whose foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful, and from which there was food available for all, under whose branches wild animals used to live, and in whose branches birds of the sky used to nest –4:22 it is you, O king! For you have become great and strong. Your greatness is such that it reaches to heaven, and your authority to the ends of the earth. 4:23 As for the king seeing a holy sentinel coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it, surrounded by the grass of the field. Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the wild animals, until seven periods of time go by for him’ — 4:24 this is the interpretation, O king! It is the decision of the Most High that this has happened to my lord the king. 4:25 You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and you will become damp with the dew of the sky. Seven periods of time will pass by for you, before you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes. 4:26 They said to leave the taproot of the tree, for your kingdom will be restored to you when you come to understand that heaven rules. 4:27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged.”
The tree in the dream was a great provider. It symbolized King Nebuchadnezzar’s authority, power and fame. He was rich, and his conquests made Babylon rich. Apparently most in his kingdom benefited from his success and riches.
The one he saw in his dream that descended from Heaven was likely an Angel. The Septuagint (Greek OT) has Angel there in verse 13. Modern translations say sentinel or messenger. Oddly, even though the King praises God at the beginning of the chapter, in verse 18 he says Daniel can interpret the dream because he has the spirit of the holy gods (plural), so it seems he’s still not acknowledging that there is only one true God.
The seven periods of time in verse 23 are generally believed to be seven years. So Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom is the tree depicted in the dream. The tap root protected by iron and bronze signified his kingdom would be restored when he recognized that “Heaven” rules. Commentaries say the word heaven in verse 26 really represents God, because it was custom for the Jewish people, out of respect for God, to use the word heaven rather than to speak God’s name. They had tremendous respect for the name of God. Daniel reveals his belief also that God is a merciful God by advising the king to change his ways, stop sinning, do what is right, and care for the poor, so that God may show him mercy.
Isn’t it interesting how many times in the bible, new and old testaments, we are told to care for the poor? It’s true isn’t it that even secular organizations care for the poor. Where do they get that? Well I don’t think from the human heart, I think rather it’s ingrained in American society because American history is rooted in worship of God and reading the bible. So much so that people now who have never read the bible and don’t go to church do some things traditional to America, which have their roots in Christianity, without realizing this behavior came from the church. Even the benevolent things the government does I think can all be traced back to the bible and the church of early America and even further back to England, Scotland etc, although the government wouldn’t likely admit it. As prices continue to climb in our country I wonder if the result might be larger numbers of poor people. I can understand, especially the elderly needing help these days of such a high cost of living.
4:28 Now all of this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. 4:29 After twelve months, he happened to be walking around on the battlements of the royal palace of Babylon. 4:30 The king uttered these words: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?
If Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself it didn’t last long because we see in verse 29 his pride welled up in him. Here’s an old saying that came from the bible: Proverbs 16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. That proverb certainly came true in Nebuchadnezzar’s case didn’t it?
God opposes the proud (James 4:6).
A proud person won’t acknowledge God (Proverbs 10:4).
God says don’t boast about your wisdom, your might or your riches (Jeremiah 9:23).
Humble yourself before God and he will exalt you. (James 4:10).
In what ways in our day do we need to guard our hearts against pride?
4:31 While these words were still on the king’s lips, a voice came down from heaven: “It is hereby announced to you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you! 4:32 You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and seven periods of time will pass by for you before you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever he wishes.” 4:33 Now in that very moment this pronouncement about Nebuchadnezzar came true. He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a bird’s claws. 4:34 But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the one who lives forever. For his authority is an everlasting authority, and his kingdom extends from one generation to the next. 4:35 All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth. No one slaps his hand and says to him, ‘What have you done?’ 4:36 At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me. My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated over my kingdom. I became even greater than before. 4:37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all his deeds are right and his ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live in pride.
When he looked to God, his insanity left him. It really is insane to ignore God isn’t it? It’s been said that sanity begins with a realistic self-appraisal. When we appraise our hearts, our weaknesses, our need for God, we realize there’s really no room for pride in our hearts. What do we have that God didn’t give us? If we work hard, didn’t God give us the ability to do that? It’s very easy for us to slip into a prideful heart, and the bible has much to say about that.
I’d like to think Nebuchadnezzar turned to our God for forgiveness and in faith, but I’m not sure we can know until we get to Heaven. If he’s there, I’m sure he’ll have some interesting stories to tell. Going from the most powerful man in the world to living like an animal should remove every ounce of pride. It’s clear also that Daniel had a tremendous influence on him. May our time here on earth also be fruitful by us also having an influence for Christ’s sake on somebody in this world. May we be aliens in this world to the extent that we have an impact on those whom we cross paths with in this life.
Remember what the early church referred to as the 7 deadly sins? Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Anger, Envy and Pride. I’m not sure but that all of these have their root in Pride. Lord guard us against a prideful heart. Amen.