Dan 4: Nebuchadnezzar's pride and humbling: (1)
Nebuchadnezzar's introductory doxology (vv 1-3); (2) The king's frustration over
his second dream (vv 4-8); (3) Nebuchadnezzar's account of his dream (vv 9-18);
(4) Daniel's interpretation (vv 19-27); (5) The fulfillment of threatened
discipline (vv 28-33); (6) Nebuchadnezzar's restoration (vv 34-37).
The time of this incident seems to be considerably later than
the event recorded in Dan 3 -- Nebuchadnezzar had finished extensive building
projects (v 30). He reigned a total of 43 years (605-562 BC). Perhaps it was
toward the end of his reign that these events transpired.
MIRACULOUS SIGNS AND WONDERS: Common Bible words used
to describe miracles (cf Deu 6:22; 7:19; 13:1,2; 26:8; Neh 9:10; Isa 8:18;
I, NEBUCHADNEZZAR, WAS AT HOME IN MY PALACE, CONTENTED AND
PROSPEROUS: "The time of this dream was apparently later in Nebuchadnezzar's
reign. Historians have identified a seven-year period during his reign when he
engaged in no military activity (c 582-575 BC). This may be the seven years
during which he was temporarily insane. If so, he may have had this dream in 583
or 582 BC. If this is the true date, Nebuchadnezzar would have defeated the
Egyptians under Pharaoh Hophra (in 588-587 BC) and would have destroyed
Jerusalem (in 586 BC) before he had this dream. In any case, he was at ease and
resting in his palace when God gave him this revelation. Nebuchadnezzar
described himself as flourishing in his palace... the original language pictures
him flourishing as a green plant. This king built the famous hanging gardens of
Babylon, which enriched his capital with luxuriant foliage. His description of
himself here anticipates the figure of the tree in his dream that represented
I COMMANDED THAT ALL THE WISE MEN OF BABYLON BE BROUGHT
BEFORE ME TO INTERPRET THE DREAM FOR ME: Such "wise" men had failed him
before (Dan 2:10-12).
BUT THEY COULD NOT INTERPRET IT FOR ME: Was it any
THE SPIRIT OF THE HOLY GODS IS IN HIM: That this
"elahin" (Aram "gods") is meant as a true plural -- rather than a plural of
majesty -- is shown by the plural form of the adjective "qaddisin" (Aram "holy")
But of course, it is possible that Nebuchadnezzar was hereby
referring to the One Great God of Israel -- whom he knew to be Daniel's
CHIEF OF THE MAGICIANS: By this he probably meant that
Daniel was his chief interpreter of the future, not that he was the head of a
group of magicians. Daniel's fame in this regard had evidently become well known
A TREE: Which frequently signifies a great ruler of a
nation: Isa 2:12,13; 10:34; Eze 31:3-17.
THE TREE GREW LARGE AND STRONG: Cp the parable of the
mustard seed: Mat 13:31,32.
ITS TOP TOUCHED THE SKY: Like the tower of BABEL --
"with a tower that reaches to the heavens" (Gen 11:4).
COMING DOWN FROM HEAVEN: As God (or the "angels" He
sent) "came down" to Babel (Gen 11:7).
CUT DOWN THE TREE...: "Nebuchadnezzar was very keen on
felling cedars in Lebanon -- he did it personally: 'Under her shadow (Babylon) I
gathered all even in peace... Mighty cedars with my own hands I cut down...
Merodach... may my woodcutting prosper' -- And from a bas-relief in Wadi Brissa:
the 'image of my royal person' is felling cedars" (WDan).
Nebuchadnezzar's fate would be the same as that of Assyria (cp
v 10; and Eze 31:3-17).
BOUND WITH IRON AND BRONZE: . The significance of the
iron and bronze band that bound the stump is questionable. It kept the tree
stump from disintegrating. Perhaps it symbolized the madness that would bind
Nebuchadnezzar or the fact that he would be protected while demented.
The Bible tells us generally that men who know not God, or who
treat other men in a brutal fashion, are no better than "beasts", and that they
will ultimately perish like beasts (Psa 49:12,20; Ecc 3:19,20). This is probably
the rationale for Gentile oppressors of God's people being characterized as
"beasts" of prey, in Daniel and elsewhere. The great "Beast" of Rev 13, with its
7 heads and 10 horns, also is said to have the number of a man (v 18), perhaps
indicating that it represents a particular man. At least one man in OT times was
actually made by God to be like a "beast". This was the great king
Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who recognized himself in the "head of gold" in the
image of Dan 2, and whose great pride and arrogance brought upon him an unusual
judgment from the Almighty: see Dan 4:16,25,32,33. Only a coincidence? Or does
this suggest that the "Beast" of the Last Days will be Babylonian, as was the
"Beast" Nebuchadnezzar? (See Lesson, Beasts, heads, and horns.)
SEVEN TIMES: The word "periods of time" ("iddanin") is
indefinite; it does not indicate how long these periods of time are. It means
years in Dan 7:25, and probably that is the meaning here too. Seven days or
seven months would have been too short a time for his hair to have grown the
length of feathers (v 33).
" 'God ruleth in the kingdom of men and giveth it to
whomsoever He will.' It is this that imparts to political occurrences the
character of signs of the times, in the discernments of such as are enlightened
in the scriptures of truth. These occurrences, which to the natural man are the
fortuitous changes of the hour, are to the other class the open and public
expression of the secret and divine will which is moulding all public affairs,
with a view to the appointed climax when all things will be gathered together
under one head, even Christ. The recognition of this fact makes all the
difference between the mere newspaper point of view, which is that of scientific
Paganism, and the point of view of the Scriptures, from which we are able to see
things as they appear to Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own
will, and who is guiding them to a determined end -- even the end proclaimed in
the gospel of the kingdom and the promises made to the fathers in the beginning"
"Daniel tells us, in a sense that does not conflict with the
Gospel of the kingdom, that He ruleth in the kingdoms of men, setting up some
and putting down others. The kingdoms, now existing, are provisionally of God's
appointment. God's purpose to make the earth a habitation of order, love,
intelligence, and glory, requires a preliminary prevalence of evil, and yet the
evil must be regulated. If evil were allowed to run riot, it would make the
world a desert, in which it would be impossible for the preliminary work of
trial in patient obedience to be done; we could never assemble here this morning
if evil were not controlled in its operations. There is a necessity for a
certain machinery to exist, and God has appointed that machinery, but only for
mechanical service. It is, so to speak, but the scaffolding for the erection of
the future building. They are a crude work, the saints are called to a higher
work in all respects. Even now it is highest work to preach the Gospel of the
future kingdom" (SC 116).
Cp Dan 2:21; Deu 28; Isa 10:5-7; Jer 25:15-32; 27:5-17; 51:11;
Eze 29:18; 30:24; 38:16-21; Hab 1:6-12; Zeph 1:14-17; 1Sa 2:7,8; Job 5:11. God
does not need the mighty to do His work. Therefore it is foolish to become proud
over one's accomplishments and importance, as Nebuchadnezzar was.
God had sought to impress His sovereignty on Nebuchadnezzar
previously (Dan 2; 3), but the king had not learned his lesson. So the LORD sent
him a stronger lesson. This is often what He does (cf Job 33:141-7). The last
part of this v is really a summary of the main theme of the Book of
AND SETS OVER THEM THE LOWLIEST OF MEN: In his
inscriptions, Nebuchadnezzar speaks of his father Nabopolassar as "son of a
nobody", while he -- Nebuchadnezzar -- has become "the magnificent
THE LOWLIEST OF MEN: KJV has the "basest of men". But
not necessarily the most wicked of men. Points to Christ, the humblest of men,
because he relied on his Father altogether. And because he humbled himself, even
unto the death of the cross, therefore God will exalt him above all others (Phi
NONE OF THE WISE MEN IN MY KINGDOM CAN INTERPRET IT FOR
ME: It seems incredible that the Babylonian soothsayers could not offer an
interpretation of this dream since its meaning seems quite transparent. Perhaps
God hid the meaning from them, or maybe they pretended ignorance of it since it
predicted Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation, and they would not have wanted to tell
him of that.
DANIEL... WAS GREATLY PERPLEXED FOR A TIME, AND HIS
THOUGHTS TERRIFIED HIM: "This verse reveals the heart of Daniel as well as
any in the entire book of Daniel. He knew the meaning of this dream and how well
Nebuchadnezzar deserved what was to come upon him. Nevertheless, Daniel's heart
was concerned for the king and grieved over what he had to tell him. This was
the distinctive feature of the true prophets of God: though they often had to
predict judgments, they were nevertheless grieved when any of God's creatures
were chastised" (Feinberg, "Daniel").
LET HIM LIVE LIKE THE WILD ANIMALS: Such mental illness
has actually been observed and recorded: men acting like wild beasts, in outward
appearance and actions, while still retaining more or less reasonable mental
abilities. Of course, the Bible tells us that men who know not God are in fact
like the beasts that perish (Psa 49:12,20).
UNTIL SEVEN TIMES PASS BY FOR HIM: Figurative, perhaps,
of "seven times" of Gentile madness. At the end of this time, Gentile powers
(symbolized by Nebuchadnezzar here) acknowledge the power and authority of the
Almighty God of Israel (vv 34-37).
Suggested periods (as per CH views): 7 times 360 years, or
2,520 years: from 606 BC (Nebuchadnezzar's accession) / 536 BC (abasement of
Jews) ... 1914 / 1984 (the period marking the beginning of the renewal of
Israel; Balfour Declaration; independence of Israel; etc).
Or, perhaps, much more simply: "seven times" sig the
"fullness, or completeness" of Gentile times (ie, Rom 11:25) -- without regard
to exact times!
Daniel's call to true repentance -- which seems to have an
effect on the king, if only temporarily.
Vv 28-33: Nebuchadnezzar is "put out to pasture"!
TWELVE MONTHS LATER: Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar repented,
initially, but after a year he reverted to his great pride and arrogance, and
was then smitten.
IS NOT THIS THE GREAT BABYLON I HAVE BUILT... BY MY MIGHTY
POWER AND FOR THE GLORY OF MY MAJESTY?: "The palace from which he surveyed
Babylon was one of the citadels on the north side of the city. It had large
courts, reception rooms, throne room, residences, and the famous hanging
gardens, a vaulted, terraced structure with an elaborate water supply for its
trees and plants, apparently built by Nebuchadnezzar for his Median queen. From
the palace he would see in the distance the city's 27 km outer double wall,
which he had built. His palace stood just inside the double wall of the inner
city, which was punctuated by eight gates and encircled an area 3 km by 1 km,
with the Euphrates running through it. The palace adjoined a processional avenue
that Nebuchadnezzar had paved with limestone and decorated with lion figures,
emblematic of Ishtar; this avenue entered the city through the Ishtar Gate,
which he had decorated with dragons and bulls (emblems of Marduk and Bel). It
continued south through the city to the most important sacred precincts, to
whose beautifying and development Nebuchadnezzar had contributed, the ziggurat
crowned by a temple of Marduk where the god's statue resided. In Marduk's temple
there were also shrines to other gods, and in the city elsewhere temples of
other Babylonian gods, restored or beautified by Nebuchadnezzar" (Goldingay,
cited in Const).
"Pride is a kind of plagiarism. It attempts to grasp for
ourselves the glory which belongs to another. Nebuchadnezzar took all the glory
for the greatness of his kingdom; he did not give glory to God. In effect, he
began to set himself in the seat of God, reminiscent of other glory-seeking
creatures... (see Isa 14 and Eze 28). Taking glory which does not belong to us
causes us to see ourselves as better than others. Pride ignores and denies the
truth that prosperity comes from God, as a gift of His grace, and not the reward
for our greatness. Pride also interprets others' poverty as proof of inferiority
and the penalty for inferiority. Sooner or later, pride justifies the use of
power as rightly taking advantage of the poor to gain from their weakness"
What did King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon and Nikolai
Ceausescu of present-day Romania have in common? Both were ruthless dictators
who fell after boldly exalting themselves.
Nebuchadnezzar brazenly declared that he had built the great
city of Babylon by his own power and for the honor of his majesty (Dan 4:30).
God humbled him by driving him into the wilderness with a mental
Ceausescu, after years of cruelly persecuting Christians and
killing all potential threats to his power, instructed the National Opera to
produce a song in his honor that included these words: "Ceausescu is good,
righteous, and holy." He wanted this song to be sung on his 72nd birthday on
January 26, 1990, but on December 25, 1989, he and his wife were executed.
Although his overthrow was part of the anticommunist revolution that swept
through eastern Europe, many Christians see his sudden downfall as an act of
God. One Romanian, Peter Dugulescu, said that it was "because he took for
himself the glory of God".
Since this madness lasted 7 years, how did Nebuchadnezzar not
lose control of his empire? Did Daniel perhaps act as his regent, maintaining
his kingdom for him until his senses returned?
AT THE END OF THAT TIME, I, NEBUCHADNEZZAR, RAISED MY EYES
TOWARD HEAVEN: What a scene! What a treatise, what a revelation is
comprehended in a few words! The "wild beast" finally lifts his eyes up to
heaven -- realizing that there is in fact a God enthroned there... one higher
and more powerful than he! In this simple act there is the profoundest
repentance. The man who has lived like a beast, whose thoughts and "spirit" have
been pointed downward, to the earth (Eccl 3:21), now looks UP! And his spirit
soars to the heavens, where his new God dwells! He now sets his mind, and
affections, on things above (Col 3:2).
"In Dan 4 Nebuchadnezzar reaches a new spiritual perspicacity.
Prior to his experience of insanity, his confessions were those of a pagan whose
polytheism permitted the addition of new gods, as illustrated in Dan 2:47;
3:28,29. Now Nebuchadnezzar apparently worships the King of heaven only. For
this reason, his autobiography is truly remarkable and reflects the fruitfulness
of Daniel's influence upon him and probably of Daniel's daily prayers for him.
Certainly God is no respecter of persons and can save the high and mighty in
this world as well as the lowly" (Walvoord, cited in Const).
What we can say certainly is that Nebuchadnezzar moved from
acknowledging the sovereignty of no one but himself to acknowledging Yahweh's
sovereignty over him.