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Daniel 4: Nebuchadnezzar's Humiliation as a Beast

Chapter 4 - Introduction

Nebuchadnezzar has learned of the power of Daniel's God to reveal truth through dreams, and of the power of this God to deliver His servants. Still, he does not realize his own weak position in relation to the true God.

Chapter 4 - Scripture text with comments

{4:1} Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all the peoples, nations, and languages, who dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you.

Note that this gentile king (the same king who destroyed Jerusalem and the Lord's temple) has become, through Daniel including this chapter, an author of Scripture. As with chapters 2-7, the language is Aramaic, and may be taken as the exact wording of Nebuchadnezzar's decree (not even translated into Hebrew).

{4:2} It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked toward me.

{4:3} 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.

{4:4} I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace.

These events were apparently sometime between the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC and the siege of Tyre in 573 BC. History is silent about Nebuchadnezzar during these years, and the empire did not perform any military conquests between these two. In other words, no document of the times or historical event is contradicts Scripture, and a quiet period of seven years during this chapter.

{4:5} I saw a dream which made me afraid; and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.

{4:6} Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.

{4:7} Then came in the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers; and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known to me the interpretation of it.

{4:8} But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and I told the dream before him, saying],

4.8 Subtly, Nebuchadnezzar still refers to Bel as 'my god'. This indicates that although he has (in previous chapters) acknowledged the God of the Hebrews, he has not accepted the Lord as the only God or as his own God. He also acknowledges that Daniel has the 'spirit of the gods', although Daniel claims only to have the Lord.

{4:9} Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no secret troubles you, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation of it.

{4:10} Thus were the visions of my head on my bed: I saw, and, behold, a tree in the midst of the earth; and the height of it was great.

{4:11} The tree grew, and was strong, and the height of it reached to the sky, and the sight of it to the end of all the earth.

{4:12} The leaves of it were beautiful, and the fruit of it much, and in it was food for all: the animals of the field had shadow under it, and the birds of the sky lived in the branches of it, and all flesh was fed from it.

{4:13} I saw in the visions of my head on my bed, and, behold, a watcher and a holy one came down from the sky.

{4:14} He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off its branches, shake off its leaves, and scatter its fruit: let the animals get away from under it, and the fowls from its branches.

{4:15} Nevertheless leave the stump of its roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of the sky: and let his portion be with the animals in the grass of the earth:

{4:16} let his heart be changed from man's, and let a animal's heart be given to him; and let seven times pass over him.

{4:17} The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones; to the intent that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whoever he will, and sets up over it the lowest of men.

{4:18} This dream I, king Nebuchadnezzar, have seen; and you, Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the nterpretation; but you are able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.

{4:19} Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was stricken mute for a while, and his thoughts troubled him. The king answered, Belteshazzar, don't let the dream, or the interpretation, trouble you. Belteshazzar answered, My lord, the dream be to those who hate you, and the interpretation of it to your adversaries.

{4:20} The tree that you saw, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached to the sky, and the sight of it to all the earth;

{4:21} whose leaves were beautiful, and the fruit of it much, and in it was food for all; under which the animals of the field lived, and on whose branches the birds of the sky had their habitation:

{4:22} it is you, O king, that are grown and become strong; for your greatness is grown, and reaches to the sky, and your dominion to the end of the earth.

Civil government, even a king or dictator, has a legitimate function as described by this tree. Keeping peace and maintaining a level of law and order allow the people and commerce to prosper (providing food and shelter). This does not mean a welfare state, but farms and businesses need protection to survive.

{4:23} Whereas the king saw a watcher and a holy one coming down from the sky, and saying, Hew down the tree, and destroy it; nevertheless leave the stump of the roots of it in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field, and let it be wet with the dew of the sky: and let his portion be with the animals of the field, until seven times pass over him;

{4:24} this is the interpretation, O king, and it is the decree of the Most High, which is come on my lord the king:

{4:25} that you shall be driven from men, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field, and you shall be made to eat grass as oxen, and shall be wet with the dew of the sky, and seven times shall pass over you; until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whoever he will.

{4:26} Whereas they commanded to leave the tump of the roots of the tree; your kingdom shall be sure to you, after that you shall have known that the heavens do rule.

{4:27} Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you, and break off your sins by righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if there may be a lengthening of your tranquillity.

Daniel did give a way out to Nebuchadnezzar, and bravely confronted him with his sins. The specifics are not given, but surely Nebuchadnezzar could have asked Daniel more questions.

{4:28} All this came on the king Nebuchadnezzar.

{4:29} At the end of twelve months he was walking in the royal palace of Babylon.

{4:30} The king spoke and said, Is not this great Babylon, which I have built for the royal dwelling-place, by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?

Archeologists have uncovered the beautiful remains of the city, and a famous Ishtar Gate with enamel brick mosaics of dragons and bulls.

{4:31} While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from the sky, [saying], O king Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom is departed from you:

{4:32} and you shall be driven from men; and they dwelling shall be with the animals of the field; you shall be made to eat grass as oxen; and seven times shall pass over you; until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whoever he will.

{4:33} The same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and ate grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the sky, until his hair was grown like eagles' [feathers], and his nails like birds' [claws].

{4:34} At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted up my eyes to heaven, and my understanding returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and I praised and honored him who lives forever; for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom from generation to generation.

{4:35} All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; and he does according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand, or tell him, What do you?

{4:36} At the same time my understanding returned to me; and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and brightness returned to me; and my counselors and my lords sought to me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent greatness was added to me.

As in chapter 3, commentators sometimes read into this chapter events of the 'tribulation' period. There is no need to do this, as the principles of God's rule over the gentile nations are typical of all of human history.

{4:37} Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven; for all his works are truth, and his ways justice; and those who walk in pride he is able to abase.

Chapter 4 - Summary

God had warned Nebuchadnezzar in an vision and through Daniel that personal discipline was coming. This conqueror to the Holy City, Jerusalem, was under God's control but pridefully did not acknowledge it. While he looked in pride at his achievements, the LORD struck him with dementia for seven years. History is silent about Nebuchadnezzar during this time. When restored, he truly humbled himself before God and issued the proclamation which has become this chapter in Scripture.

Chapter 4 - Questions


Unless otherwise stated, the Bible text is from the World English Bible, and is in the public domain.
BrRon's Bible Commentary (C)Copyright 2010 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved