picture above is from the poet and engraver William Blake. It shows
Nebuchadnezzar in his period of madness.
Daniel 4:1-37 NASB Nebuchadnezzar the
king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every
language that live in all the earth: "May your peace abound! (2) "It has seemed good to me to declare the
signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me. (3) "How great are His signs And how mighty are
His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom And His dominion is from
generation to generation. (4) "I,
Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. (5) "I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I
lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. (6) "So I gave orders to bring into my presence
all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the
interpretation of the dream. (7) "Then
the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I
related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to
me. (8) "But finally Daniel came in
before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in
whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, (9) 'O
Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy
gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me
the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation. (10) 'Now these were
the visions in my mind as I lay on my
bed: I was looking, and behold, there was
a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was
great. (11) 'The tree grew large and became
strong And its height reached to the sky, And it was
visible to the end of the whole earth. (12)
'Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit
abundant, And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it, And the birds of the sky dwelt in
its branches, And all living creatures fed themselves from it. (13) 'I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from
heaven. (14) 'He shouted out and spoke as follows:
"Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its foliage and
scatter its fruit; Let the beasts flee from under it And the birds from its
branches. (15) "Yet leave the stump with
its roots in the ground, But with a band of iron and bronze around it In the new grass of the field; And let
him be drenched with the dew of heaven, And let him share with the beasts in
the grass of the earth. (16) "Let his
mind be changed from that of a man And
let a beast's mind be given to him, And let seven periods of time pass over
him. (17) "This sentence is by the
decree of the angelic watchers And the
decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That
the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He
wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men." (18)
'This is the dream which I, King
Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the
wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you
are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.' (19)
"Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his
thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, 'Belteshazzar, do not let
the dream or its interpretation alarm you.' Belteshazzar replied, 'My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you
and its interpretation to your adversaries! (20)
'The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height
reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth (21)
and whose foliage was beautiful and its
fruit abundant, and in which was food
for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the
birds of the sky lodged-- (22) it is you, O
king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become
great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. (23) 'In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from
heaven and saying, "Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump
with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let
him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of
the field until seven periods of time pass over him," (24) this is the interpretation, O king, and this is
the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: (25) that you be driven away from mankind and your
dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat
like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time
will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the
realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. (26) 'And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the
roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that
it is Heaven that
rules. (27) 'Therefore, O king, may my advice
be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy
to the poor, in case there may be a
prolonging of your prosperity.' (28)
"All this happened to
Nebuchadnezzar the king. (29) "Twelve
months later he was walking on the roof of
the royal palace of Babylon. (30) "The
king reflected and said, 'Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have
built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my
majesty?' (31) "While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven,
saying, 'King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it
is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, (32)
and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be
given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you
until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and
bestows it on whomever He wishes.' (33)
"Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was
driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was
drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws. (34)
"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward
heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised
and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation
to generation. (35) "All the inhabitants
of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the
host of heaven And among the inhabitants
of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You
done?' (36) "At that time my reason
returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory
of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was
reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. (37) "Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and
honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He
is able to humble those who walk in pride."
on the chapter
is one of the more unusual chapters in the book of Daniel. One reason for this
is that the chapter is written in Chaldean. The incident described in this
chapter is often challenged by liberal scholars because there is no
comprehensive record of this set of events recorded elsewhere. This is a
reflection of the fact that we actually know very little of Nebuchadnezzar
outside the Bible. Only two authors in antiquity, Abydenus and Berosus, (I
never heard of them either) wrote any extensive biography. We know of their
writings only from the fact that they are quoted by other historians. Those
interested in the history of this text should consult Albert Barnes’ notes on
the New Testament.
will also note that the chapter takes the form of a royal proclamation.
Evidently, the chapter is composed of the Royal proclamation with commentary by
Daniel himself. Thus, the writing is in something other than Hebrew.
character of Daniel.
is interesting to note how Daniel reacts to the dream told to him by
Nebuchadnezzar. His character is clearly shown in his actions. For example:
first reaction is one of concern for Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel does not think
of maintaining his position, but rather is concerned for the King about
his actions show a disregard for his place in the administration. Bringing
bad news to the King is usually not a good idea.
important, Daniel attempts to get the king to repent. He does not attempt
to sugarcoat the news. The objective -- and it is always God's objective
-- is to produce repentance and reformation.
of the key characteristics of humility is this: the humble man's first concern
is for others. This seems counterintuitive to most of us, but please remember
that the humble man of God knows something the rest of the world does not.
Specifically he knows, and accepts, that position and power come from the Lord,
not from his own scheming. The key to humility is your relationship with God --
and it seems also the key to true success.
one but Daniel could interpret.
is, of course, not the only devout Jew in Nebuchadnezzar's court. But it seems
he's the only man who can interpret these dreams. God gives his gifts in such
manner as fits his purpose. As such, it may seem unfair that others have gifts
that we would like to have. For example, have you ever wanted to have the gift
of healing? God gives this as he sees fit -- and only occasionally does he
us begin with the purpose of the prophecy:
this prophecy is there to establish their credentials of the prophet
Daniel. This is not so much as a foreteller as a forth teller. If you
please, God gives Daniel the gift of interpretation so that he will be
listened to when he calls for repentance.
another purpose of this prophecy is to warn the King. Remember that God is
just, and therefore provides a warning to those in need of repentance.
there is this: Nebuchadnezzar needs to know just who is God and who is
is customary when studying prophecy to state what the various parts of the
dream mean. We will not disappoint you.
most striking image is that of the tree: the tree, which blesses all the
birds and animals, is an image of the kingdom. Indeed it is an image of
the King himself. This has the incidental meaning that government is meant
to be a blessing to the people. When it is not, it is the Lord's privilege
to remove it.
tree is bound with iron and brass. Iron represents strength; brass
represents endurance -- it doesn't rust.
see also the role of an angel as a watcher. This reminds us that our deeds
do not go unnoticed, but that God knows everything.
to the symbolism of the seven times, it is not certain. Many commentators take
this to be seven years. However, it should be noted that seven, in the Bible,
usually represents completeness. So we can say for sure that the madness will
last until the time God is finished.
is a prophecy of madness, repentance, and (please note) restoration. Note the
purposes of God: it is not sufficient to repent. Restoration must follow.
may begin by considering the nature of God. First, he is true and just. So
therefore the things that he does our time in truth for the cause of justice.
He is fair to all, even those whom he is punishing. You must remember that, in
comparison to God, we are like ants. His will prevails. The amazing thing is
that he pays any attention to us at all. Beyond that, the fact that he loves us
is absolutely astonishing. This is the creator of the universe, and yet he
stoops so low as to notice the inhabitants of this obscure planet.
should go without saying, therefore, that he is able to humble the proud.
Unfortunately the disease of pride prevents its victims from seeing this truth.
God deals with pride
us begin with the concept of hubris. As the Greeks said, whom of the gods would
destroy they first make mad. God's method be seen as follows:
a warning is given. Look back on your own experience; how often have you
heard, "didn't I tell you so?" It's usually clearer after the
fact, but the truth is yes, God told you so.
punishes the sin by letting it run its course. He allows the effects of
sin to be the punishment of sin. You have seen this yourself; often enough
it is humorous -- when you see it in others. Think of Archie Bunker
getting what he deserves.
begins the process of restoration. God does not desire simply the
punishment of the sinner, but rather his complete restoration to the
family of God. Nebuchadnezzar serves as an example for us that God greatly
desires each of us to enjoy our service to him as he plans it. Sin
interrupts this. When the interruption is over, God's desire is to restore
us to our previous state.
desire on the part of God is often resistant and rejected by a certain segment
of the church. Permit me a bit of history. In the early days of the church
there arose persecution. Many Christians, including those who were priests,
gave in to the persecution and surrendered to the authorities their copies of
the Bible. After the persecution a group known as the Donatists arose, holding
that those who had betrayed the Scriptures and the church could no longer hold
positions of authority in the church. They refused to honor any ceremonies
these priests performed, such as baptism.
view has not disappeared from the church. It seems there are two views of the
church: the first is that of a health club for saints. Particularly for those
in authority in the church, certain sins are unforgivable. Those of an older
generation will recall the days when a preacher who had been divorced and
remarried was considered unacceptable for the pulpit. The arguments for this
are many; one might consider the example of the church.
alternative is to view the church as a hospital for sinners. It is a well known
fact that the best preacher to reach out to bikers is a man who is a biker
himself. St. Augustine, in arguing against the Donatists, cites this passage.
If Nebuchadnezzar then be restored to supreme earthly authority by Almighty
God, then is it not also possible that even the greatest of sinners can be
restored to a position of authority and great ministry? Perhaps we should
consider the future of a preacher or teacher as more important than their past.