Daniel 4 - Outline of Daniel (MENU page)
I. Daniel's Chronicles of his Times under Gentile Kings (ch. 1-6)
B. Nebuchadnezzar's pride and conversion -
3. His proclamation (4:1-37):
  1. the proud king ...warned
  2. ...humbled
  3. ...exalts the King of heaven
 
1. Nebuchadnezzar the king,
unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth;
Peace be multiplied unto you.
2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward 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.
Nebuchadnezzar the king...- Something radical has happened to Nebuchadnezzar.
He opens this letter to all people and nations with a tone that reminds us of the NT epistles, full of grace and peace.
Peace be multiplied unto you.- Can this be the Nebuchadnezzar who took peace from the earth?
Who destroyed Jerusalem and wreaked havoc on all of the surrounding nations? (eg., Jer 25:8-11; Eze 26:7-11; 30:10,11)
What is this peace of which he speaks? Is it the peace imposed by his iron fist, by crushing all who would oppose him?
No! Having discovered a wonderful inner peace, he desires everyone to experience this peace for themselves.
     In his letter, he will explain that this peace came as the result of humbling himself, or rather of being humbled, and entering into submission to the true God. This is the peace of sins forgiven, and of a heart in right relationship to God (as described in Rom 5:1). Perhaps the similarity to the epistles stems from the parallel between his testimony and that of Paul. Both men were persecutors of God's people. Both men were overtaken by God's grace (see Acts 26:9-16; 1Tim 1:12-15).
I thought it good to shew the signs {ie., miraculous omens, warnings}...
...and wonders {ie., astonishing works}...
that the high God hath wrought toward me.-
Nebuchadnezzar stands amazed that the High God {ie., the Most High God, who had been progressively revealing Himself to him, cp. Dan 3:26} had intervened in his personal life, to do a mighty work within him. His amazement overflows in v.3, in worship toward this God, and in praise for His grace toward him.
This seems to be his version of our hymns:
"Amazing Grace! how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see!"
[hymn words by John Newton]
- - - - -or - - - - -
"Wonderful grace of Jesus,
Greater than all my sin!
How shall my tongue describe it?
Where shall His praise begin?"
[hymn words by Haldor Lillenas]
Nebuchadnezzar explains:
4. I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:
5 I saw a dream which made me afraid,
and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise [men] of Babylon before me,
that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.
7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers:
and I told the dream before them;
but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.
I Nebuchadnezzar... I saw a dream which made me afraid...-
Notice the frequent occurrence of first person pronouns: I, my, me..., in v.4-10. There was a message here for him personally, but he could neither discern its meaning nor apply it. He did not even know who to ask for help.
bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me...-
Perhaps he had forgotten that these men had failed to make known his earlier dream (ch. 2). But these were his counsellors, to whom he consistently turned for wisdom and spiritual insight. Once again, they were consistent, for they could not explain his dream. The message, having come from God, required spiritual discernment that was higher than all the wisdom of the world (1Cor 2:14).
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 before him I told the dream, [saying],
Daniel bore the name Belteshazzar, which had been given to him in honor of Nebuchadnezzar's god, Bel (Dan 1:7).
But beneath that name, within Daniel's heart there was wisdom which came from a very different God. "The spirit of the holy gods" was within him. In v.8, the Aramaic word for 'god' is used twice. The second occurrence is in a plural form. This is consistent with the usage of the generic word for 'god' in the Hebrew Bible, where the common word for god ('El') is usually in the plural form ('Elohim') when referring to the God of Israel. This is the 'plural of majesty,' reflecting His greatness in comparison to all others that are called 'god.'
     But Daniel's God was not only great, He was also "holy," that is, 'separate' from all others. Nebuchadnezzar had previously observed the superiority of this God (Dan 2:47; 3:29). So, now the king is glad to present his problem to this representative of 'the Holy God.'
9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians,
because I know that the spirit of the holy gods [is] in thee, and no secret troubleth thee,
tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.
10 Thus [were] the visions of mine head in my bed;
I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof [was] great.
11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven,
and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:
12 The leaves thereof [were] fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it [was] meat for all:
the beasts of the field had shadow under it,
and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.
13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed,
and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;
14 He cried aloud, and said thus,
Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit:
let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:
15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his 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 heaven,
and [let] his portion [be] with the beasts in the grass of the earth:
16 Let his heart be changed from man's,
and let a beast's heart be given unto him;
and let seven times pass over him.
17 This matter [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 ruleth in the kingdom of men,
and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen.
Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof,
forasmuch as all the wise [men] of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation:
but thou [art] able; for the spirit of the holy gods [is] in thee.
The substance of the dream:
A majestic towering tree would become an insignificant groveling beast.
The benefactor and provider for a great realm would be degraded to forage as a lone wild animal.
This matter is by the decree of the watchers {the wakeful ones}...-
'Watcher' is singular in v.13 and v.23, but plural in v.17, where the plural of majesty is employed. The decree is issued by "the Watchers," ie., by God (v.17; cp. Psa 11:4; 14:2; 66:7). The decree, having been issued, is proclaimed by "a watcher" who is also referred to as "an holy one" (v.13; ie., by an angel, who having been 'set apart' to the service of 'the Watchers,' is himself 'awake to' or 'aware of' the will of God concerning the affairs of men. cp. Psa 103:20).
... and the demand {ie., request} by the word {ie., command} of the holy ones.-
Again, in the plural of majesty, "the holy ones" may refer to God. However, in Daniel, the same word form (for 'the holy ones') is often used of 'the saints' who are identified with the Holy God (see Dan 7:18,21,22,25,27). Perhaps the sense here (v.17) is that the saints have made request (through prayer) and their God has commanded accordingly (because they prayed according to His will). Was Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation and consequent salvation due, in part, to prayer on his behalf by Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah?
to the intent that the living may know...- Here are God's purposes for this dream:
That men (including Nebuchadnezzar) would understand (while yet in this life):
  1. that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men...
  2. and giveth it to whomsoever he will...-
    Men imagine that they shape the course of history. But see Rom 13:1 and Psa 75:6,7
  3. and setteth up over it the basest of men.-
    Kings think they are the best men to rule. In a democracy, 'we the people' think we choose the best men to be our leaders. But God gives us the leaders that we deserve: 'the basest of men' (cp. Ecc 10:6,7). In this phrase, we also glimpse the future elevation to power of One who was disregarded and rejected by men (Acts 4:11; 1Cor 1:21-31).
19. Then Daniel, whose name [was] Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour,
and his thoughts troubled him.
The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar,
let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee.
Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord,
the dream [be] to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.
then Daniel... was astonied {ie., appalled, stunned} for one hour {ie., for a brief time}...-
The word translated 'hour' is related to a word meaning 'to gaze' or 'to look away.' Having heard and understood the dream, Daniel was overcome with grief, and turned his eyes away from the king. He had come to regard Nebuchadnezzar as a friend, through working closely with him in governing the kingdom. Now, Daniel is alarmed and frightened by what he sees of his friend's future. This dream debases the king, whereas the earlier dream (ch. 2) had elevated him.
the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies...-
Although Daniel wished that the dream could apply to Nebuchadnezzar's enemies, he does not withhold or dilute the message.
20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong,
whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;
21 Whose leaves [were] fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it [was] meat for all;
under which the beasts of the field dwelt,
and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
22 It [is] thou, O king, that art grown and become strong:
for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven,
and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
The tree... it is thou, O king... for thy greatness is grown...- Daniel gives him the good news first.
The great tree represents Nebuchadnezzar, who had become great personally, and whose kingdom encompassed the whole civilized world (Dan 2:37,38).
23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven,
and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it;
yet leave the stump of the roots thereof 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 heaven,
and [let] his portion [be] 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 is come upon my lord the king:
25 That they shall drive thee from men,
and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field,
and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen,
and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven,
{ie., he would be forced to live outdoors, in the weather}
and seven times shall pass over thee,
till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots;
thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee,
and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor;
if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
Hew the tree down... yet leave the stump of the roots... with a band of iron and brass...
The great tree would be cut off, yet its root would be preserved and secured.
... and let his portion be with the beasts...- The change of metaphor,
from tree to wild animal, further emphasizes the degree of degradation.
this is the interpretation, O king...- Proud Nebuchadnezzar would be brought down
to the level of a wild animal, by reason of his insanity. He would be removed from his position, power and palace for seven years. [The word translated 'time' refers to a period of time, which may be short or long, defined or indeterminate. The length of time is determined from the context (cp. word usage in Dan 2:8,9,21; 3:5; 7:12,25).] Following this period of humbling, Nebuchadnezzar would be restored to his former position, after learning "that the Most High rules" and that He gives dominion over the affairs of men "to whomsoever He will."
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee...-
Daniel suggests that the dream may have been a warning of judgment, which might yet be avoided, if Nebuchadnezzar were to humble himself and turn from his sins.
if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.- Perhaps, if the king were to repent,
it would allow a prolongation of his present prosperity. cp. Isa 55:7; 57:21; Jam 4:8-10
But the king, who had been so troubled to understand the meaning of his dream (v.5), soon forgot God's warning and disregarded the counsel of His servant.
28. All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built
for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power,
and for the honour of my majesty?
31 While the word [was] in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, [saying],
O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken;
The kingdom is departed from thee.
32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling [shall be] with the beasts of the field:
they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee,
until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
at the end of twelve months...- The grace of God, in withholding judgment,
is misinterpreted by sinful man as license to continue in their own way (Ecc 8:11).
...he walked in {ie., 'on'} the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.- From the roof or a balcony of his palace,
the king looked out over the greatness of his capital city and pondered the greatness of his empire which extended far beyond its walls.
Is not this great Babylon, that I have built... by my power... for my honor...?-
Though he had been clearly told that God had given the kingdom to him and could give it to another, the pride of man's heart persists in honoring itself, and forgetting God's Word.
O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken...- The king is reminded of God's message to him,
with an echo of Daniel's interpretation (cp. v. 25).
33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar:
and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen,
and his body was wet with the dew of heaven,
till his hairs were grown like eagles' [feathers], and his nails like birds' [claws].
When the stubbornness of his heart was revealed, and it was evident that repentence was not forthcoming, there was no reason for further delay of judgment. Rom 2:3-5
34. And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven,
and mine understanding returned unto me,
and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever,
whose dominion [is] an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom [is] from generation to generation:
35 And all the inhabitants of the earth [are] reputed as nothing:
and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and [among] the inhabitants of the earth:
and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
36 At the same time my reason returned unto me;
and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me;
and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me;
and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.
37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven,
all whose works [are] truth, and his ways judgment:
and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
And at the end of the days, I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven...-
When the set time (seven years) of his humiliation was accomplished, God fulfilled His promise:
  • Giving him understanding, to know that God reigns as the true King.
  • Restoring Nebuchadnezzar to sanity (reason).
    The words 'understanding' (v.34) and 'reason' (v.36) are the same Aramaic word, meaning 'knowledge' or 'the power to know.' Nebuchadnezzar's thinking became correctly ordered 'at the same time' that he acknowledged the One who orders all things after His own will. cp. Psa 111:10; Prov 1:7; 1Cor 3:18-20; 2Tim 3:7
  • Restoring him to power and glory (but now, with the understanding that God had placed him in this position).
Now, I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven...-
Thus, a man humbly worships the God who worked powerfully to bring him into right relationship with Himself (cp. v.2,3). Where would he be, if the true King had not humbled him, to bring him to the end of himself? Jam 4:6,7; 1Pet 5:5,6
This chapter is Nebuchadnezzar's personal testimony of his humbling and conversion.
However, the things that happened to him may also be seen prophetically, as foreshadowing the conversion of the gentile nations, at the time when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar, as the head of gold, marked the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles. From his time onward, the course of gentile power has been continually characterized by man's self-promotion and mindless disregard for God, as illustrated by the king's pride and loss of reason. The course of his madness spanned 'seven times,' which, in prophetic terms, could be understood as 'the full period' of gentile dominion. At the end of the Times of the Gentiles, the towering tree of gentile dominion will be brought down to nothing (Isa 21:9; Rev 14:8). Yet, God preserves its stump, from which He raises up righteous nations, who know the LORD and who live in peaceful submission to Him. Eze 38:23; Zech 2:11
The process by which Nebuchadnezzar was brought to personal faith and submission to the God of Heaven is also instructive and encouraging to all who would win souls, today.
God drew Nebuchadnezzar to Himself through...
  1. The light of God's Word (Dan ch.2), revealing...
  2. The testimony of God's children (Dan ch.3)...
  3. The work of God's Spirit (Dan ch.4)...The three numbered points above can also be traced in 1Cor 3:6,7 (one plants the good seed, another waters, God causes it to grow).

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