Daniel, Chapter 4
1 Peace be multiplied to you.
Nebuchadnezzar the king,
To all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth:
2 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders
that the Most High God has worked for me.
3 How great are His signs,
And how mighty His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And His dominion is from generation to generation.
It seems good that chapter four begins with Nebuchadnezzar praising God in this way, in light of the dream he has had. It may be that he is now praising God in retrospect to the things he will experience in chapter four.
4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts on my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear this was straight out of a Dr. Seuss book! All kidding aside, Nebuchadnezzar’s dream would reveal another amazing and timeless prophecy.
Therefore I issued 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.
This decree most likely had all those wise men of Babylon pretty upset, especially in light of what happened the last time Nebuchadnezzar called a meeting of the wise men of Babylon. At least he is only asking for the interpretation of the dream and not the dream it self! However, this does offer the opportunity for the wise men to deal deceptively with the king.
Then the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers came in, and I told them the dream; but they did not make known to me its interpretation.
This time around Nebuchadnezzar was more gracious than before as he tells them the dream however, with no more results than before as they still are unable to help the king with the interpretation he is asking for.
8But at last Daniel came before me(his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him, saying: 9 ”Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the Spirit of the Holy God is in you, and no secret troubles you, explain to me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and its interpretation.
This is the second mention of his god, the first was found in chapter one, verse two. The god he is referring to is known as Bel-Marduk, Bel means Lord.Marduk was the chief deity of the Babylonian Empire during the period of Jewish exile in Babylon (sixth-fifth centuries, B.C.E). You may recall from chapter one that Daniel and his friends were given new names which were according to the Babylonian deity, Bel-Marduk.
Nebuchadnezzar recognized that Daniel’s God, or the Spirit of his God was in him thus giving him power to explain visions and dreams.
10 “These were the visions of my head while on my bed:
I was looking, and behold,
A tree in the midst of the earth,
And its height was great.
11 The tree grew and became strong;
Its height reached to the heavens,
And it could be seen to the ends of all the earth.
12 Its leaves were lovely,
Its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
The birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches,
And all flesh was fed from it.
Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a tree so great that it can be seen from every location on earth. The imagery found in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream certainly illustrates greatness, but to whom does it refer? This great tree provides for all the flesh of the earth. At first thought, one might associate such a vision to God, however we must choose wisely whenever we come to that proverbial fork in the road. Romans, Chapter 1 teaches that God can be seen in creation, not that He is creation. We could find ourselves worshiping the tree (creation) rather than God the Creator. In this case the tree must refer to an earthly ruler, not God Himself.
13 “I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. 14 He cried aloud and said thus:
‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit.
Let the beasts get out from under it,
And the birds from its branches.
15 Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth,
Bound with a band of iron and bronze,
In the tender grass of the field.
Let it be wet with the dew of heaven,
And let him graze with the beasts
On the grass of the earth.
16 Let his heart be changed from that of a man,
Let him be given the heart of a beast,
And let seven times pass over him.
17 ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers,
And the sentence by the word of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men,
Gives it to whomever He will,
And sets over it the lowest of men.’
The vision continues as an angel comes down from heaven with clear instructions to bring down this great tree, or ruler and strip him of his dominion over all of the earth. He is given the heart of a beast for a period of seven years (seven times).
The term Lycanthropy originated in Greek mythology in which Zeus turned King Lycaon of Arcadia into a raging wolf, thus the term Lycanthropy. This strange state exists in mythology with tales of werewolves, or humans with the ability to transform into a wolf-like creature. However, there also exists a mental health condition known as Clinical Lycanthropy. In this condition, a person will suffer from a delusion that he/she has transformed into a wild animal, usually a wolf, and act accordingly. In Daniel, chapter 4 the watchers, or holy angels have afflicted Nebuchadnezzar with such a delusion in order for Nebuchadnezzar to finally acknowledge his own humbleness and recognize that Daniel’s God is the One-True-God.
“This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for the Spirit of the Holy God is in you.”
There must be a protocol where the king must first inquire of his magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans, and soothsayers before he can call on the one who he is sure can solve the riddle of his dream. He now summons Daniel and gives credit to the Spirit of the Holy God which he believes is in Daniel for the ability to interpret his dream.
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonished for a time, and his thoughts troubled him. So the king spoke, and said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation trouble you.”Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream concern those who hate you, and its interpretation concern your enemies!
That must have been some dream Nebuchadnezzar had that Daniel would respond the way he did. I can imagine that when Nebuchadnezzar attempted to reassure Daniel not to be troubled, that he did so with nervous laughter.
20 “The tree that you saw, which grew and became strong, whose height reached to the heavens and which could be seen by all the earth, 21 whose leaves were lovely and its fruit abundant, in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and in whose branches the birds of the heaven had their home — 22 it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong; for your greatness has grown and reaches to the heavens, and your dominion to the end of the earth.
The tree is the king who is known to all of the known world as a great ruler. The leaves provided abundant shade, or protection. The abundant fruit surely represented the great revenues of the kingdom. All life was provided for under this great king who had surely been placed in such a great authority and responsibility by God.
23 “And inasmuch as the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze in the tender grass of the field; let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts of the field, till seven times 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 They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.
Nebuchadnezzar was a man filled with pride. We witnessed his pride when he constructed a great image of himself that was to be worshiped by all of his subjects under the threat of death! Here he is lifted up in his pride by his dreams interpretation that he is the benevolent caregiver of all the earth, but now God will humble him! His kingdom will be taken from him and he shall be driven from his palace and throne. For a period of seven years (seven times), he shall dwell in the wilderness living like a beast (see notes from verse 17). This prophecy suggests that it will take seven years in this bizarre trial for Nebuchadnezzar to truly understand and know who God is.
26 “And inasmuch as they gave the command to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be assured to you, after you come to know that Heaven rules. 27 Therefore, O king, let my advice be acceptable to you; break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Daniel was presenting to the king an opportunity to repent of his sins and live righteously. He is advising him these things that he may reverse the horrible thing that is about to happen.
28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29 At the end of the twelve months he was walking about the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king spoke, saying, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?” 31 While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! 32 And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like 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 whomever He chooses.”
One year later, Nebuchadnezzar seems to have forgotten Daniel’s advice, not to mention the prophecy concerning his coming ordeal living as a beast for 7 years (seven times). As he was praising himself and all of his great works, God spoke from heaven and initiate His prophecy to Nebuchadnezzar, and all that he was changed, and all that he had was taken from him.
33 “That very same hour the prophecy was fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar was driven from human society. He ate grass like a cow, and he was drenched with the dew of heaven. He lived this way until his hair was as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails were like birds’ claws. 34 “After this time had passed, I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up to heaven. My sanity returned, and I praised and worshiped the Most High and honored the one who lives forever.
His rule is everlasting,
and his kingdom is eternal.
35 All the people of the earth
are nothing compared to him.
He has the power to do as he pleases
among the angels of heaven
and with those who live on earth.
No one can stop him or challenge him,
saying, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’
36 “When my sanity returned to me, so did my honor and glory and kingdom. My advisers and officers sought me out, and I was reestablished as head of my kingdom, with even greater honor than before. 37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and glorify and honor the King of heaven. All his acts are just and true, and he is able to humble those who are proud.”
His sanity is restored to him. His kingdom and honor is restored to him. Nebuchadnezzar is worshipping the Most High God of Heaven who is able to humble the proud. The question is…does he now know God in a personal way? Will we see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven? I believe that God will use adversity to bring us close to Him, to bring us to a personal relationship with Him. In my own life, it took more than seven times for God to get my attention and cause me to finally surrender my life over to Him. However, I can’t help but wonder, if God knew the trials of my life before they took root in me, then were those trials strategically put there for the purpose of drawing me so close to Him that I simply could not resist knowing Him in a personal way? In verses 34-37 we hear Nebuchadnezzar acknowledge God’s wonderful mercies, but did he repent of his sins? I am reminded of the words of Jesus recorded in Mathew, chapter 7:
21 Not everyone who says to Me,’Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’