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Nebuchadnezzar's Testimony of God  (Daniel Chapter 4)

Nebuchadnezzar was a religious man for a king.  He shared the belief of his people in the existence of many gods.  While the first dream Daniel interpreted for him convinced him in the existence of the reality of  the God of the Hebrews and the incident with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego convicted him of the supremacy of God, he was not yet  convinced that his false god did not exist.  He still believed and worshipped his pagan god, Marduk, also called Bel.  It is important to know here that the Babylonians believed in many many gods. 

Some of these were Sumerian, some Akkadian and other later groups and some imported from the mountainous regions to the north and east of Mesopotamia. These gods reflected the various needs and fears of the different peoples. These different nations and peoples which were engulfed into the Babylonian culture would have their own specific gods.  These gods would have been brought into the existing belief structure either as a completely new god or, much more often, be attached or merged into an existing god. Often when this happened the combined god continued under the name of the new people arriving in Mesopotamia. Because of this the Babylonians had a great many gods which they believed in. 

A list of their more prominent ones follows:

Anu: the god of the highest heaven
Marduk: national god of the Babylonians.  (Also known as Bel)
Tiamat: dragon goddess
Kingu: husband of Tiamat
Enlil: god of weather and storms
Nabu: god of the scribal arts
Ishtar: goddess of love
Ea: god of wisdom
Enurta: god of war
Anshar: father of heaven
Shamash: god of the sun and of justice
Ashur: national god of the Assyrians
Kishar: father of earth

While Nebuchadnezzar was indeed a religious man, he had a long way to go and a lot of deeply rooted beliefs to work through in order to come to the point he achieved as recorded in this remarkable testimony narrated in part by Nebuchadnezzar himself and recorded by inspiration by Daniel who was a trusted servant in the service of the Babylonian king. 

This fourth chapter is a narrative revealing yet another dream which greatly affected Nebuchadnezzar, especially after he heard a literal voice from heaven speaking to him.  The wise men were consulted as before to no avail.  They could not explain the dream to Nebuchadnezzar so Daniel was again consulted.  Nebuchadnezzar questioned the interpretation and got a grand demonstration of God's power and authority in a big way.  This extraordinary narrative reveals that at least for a little time, Nebuchadnezzar believed in the one true and living God to the exclusion of all others.  It is entirely within the scope of possibility and probable that Nebuchadnezzar may have completely converted and died a faithful follower of God. 

What an extraordinary accomplishment this would have been for a conquering king to be brought to righteousness by those under his authority.  A king so ruthless and vicious that he would order the execution of a entire class of people from his empire for being unable to reveal a dream to him that he himself couldn't recall.  A ruler so cruel and prideful that he would order the execution of people for refusing to worship a statue of himself.  Nebuchadnezzar was not a nice man by any stretch of the imagination.  He was a cruel and bloody king who came to know God through the consistent and stedfast actions of those who were faithful to and served God and only God. 

What an example Daniel and his companions left for all who would come thereafter of all ages.  One cannot help but to draw a parallel here between Babylon and the Roman Empires which were so similar in so many ways due to cruel leaders, forced king worship and a multiplicity of pagan gods. 

Daniel 4:1
Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

Nebuchadnezzar introduces himself in this narrative.  It is obvious he intended for Daniel to write this and publish it throughout the Empire as an official decree.  It is addressed to all the people that dwell on the earth.  It is intended even for those who were not a part of the Babylonian Empire.  Nebuchadnezzar has something he wants to say and he wants it said to everybody.  Daniel wrote this in the Aramaic language which was the most prevalent language at the time. 

Notice here the immediate change in this man's demeanor which is evident from the beginning.  He desired peace to be multiplied to all people.  This isn't the same person as the Nebuchadnezzar who handed the king of Egypt a defeat so overwhelming that he returned home never to leave his country again.  This isn't the same man as the one who sacked the city of Jerusalem, carried off some of her temple treasures, castrated and hauled off several of her princes and children of noble blood.  Nor is this the same man who tried to burn three men to death for refusing to worship his statue.  The Nebuchadnezzar of old was not a peaceful man.  So it is a remarkable thing in and of itself to see this man declaring peace to all nations and all people on earth.  When studying this extraordinary chapter of Daniel it is important to keep in mind that it was written as an official narrative and decree of the king of the Babylonian empire to all who lived under his authority. 

Daniel 4:2 
I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 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.

This narrative sounds more like a line out of one of the Psalms than it does a declaration from the king of the Babylonian Empire.  At this time in his life, Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful man on earth.  His word was law throughout the Babylonian Empire which was at the time the most powerful world empire in existence. 

At the time Nebuchadnezzar made this proclamation, there was no room in his belief structure for the existence of other gods.  He had learned full well from the experience he is about to narrate that God is God and there is no other.  Nebuchadnezzar was sincere in this proclamation and he wants it published throughout the earth.  He fully explains the final episode which brought him to this conclusion and compels him to tell the earth about it in the following account written by Daniel at the order of the king. 

Daniel 4:4 
I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:

Nebuchadnezzar identifies himself as the one who is experiencing the following events he is about to reveal.  He declared that he was at ease, living the good life of a prosperous and powerful king.  Safe, and secure and wealthy, he was the epitome of glory, wealth and power. 

Daniel 4:5-7 
I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.  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.  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.

This is an old story with priest class and mystics of Babylon.  This is certainly not the first time they stood before the king of Babylon unable to fulfill his request.  We notice here that this time they did not face execution for their inability to interpret this dream.  Nebuchadnezzar remembered this one and was able to recount the dream to them but they still could not interpret it.  Call to mind that on the earlier occasion, they told Nebuchadnezzar they could reveal the meaning if he would tell them the dream.  This time he told them the dream and they still couldn't interpret it for him. 

It is an evident sign that Nebuchadnezzar was softening from his earlier hasty decrees on those who failed to provide what he requested.  Nebuchadnezzar is showing the signs here of being more reasonable and less compulsive.  It is without a doubt that the Chaldeans and mystics were nervous about this.  They had faced Nebuchadnezzar's wrath before and it was not a good memory for them. 

Daniel 4:8-9 
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, 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.

This had been going on for some time when Daniel came before Nebuchadnezzar.   The king had sought the counsel of his mystics and astronomers first without consulting Daniel.  There are a number of explanations for this.  Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar wanted to put them to the test first in order to give them an opportunity to validate his declining belief in his gods.  At this point in his life, Nebuchadnezzar knew the God of the Israelites was the supreme God but he still clung to the belief in his gods as well.  Notice Nebuchadnezzar affirmed that Daniel's Babylonian name, Belteshazzar, was "according to the name of my god".   Nebuchadnezzar's worshipped the false god named Marduk, also known as Bel.   Notice here that Nebuchadnezzar still referred to "Bel" as his god. 

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream

Daniel 4:10-12
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.  The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:  The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:  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. 

The Tree in Nebuchadnezzar's dream was a representation of himself.  Daniel provides an excellent commentary on this in his interpretation: "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, 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 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" (NKJV). 

It was a vision of a man who ruled the earth from a glorious empire in which many people lived and were cared for abundantly.  History records the Babylonian Empire was not nearly the biggest in land accumulation, but it was very wealthy, which is a testament to the administrative ability of Nebuchadnezzar.  He is remembered in history as one of the great builders of all time.   

Daniel 4:13
I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; 

A council of angels is intended in this narrative over which God presides supreme. Verse 17 refers to these heavenly beings in the plural.  The watchers would be angelic beings placed over the administration of particular kingdoms by God, (Daniel 10:13,20)  Michael was said to be "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people," Israel, (Daniel 12:1).  The holy one which came down from heaven would likely have been the same individual who walked in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego.  The holy ones being in the plural does not necessarily rule out God in that the Godhead is composed of the three independent but unified persons.  In verse 13 a holy one came down from heaven while in verse 17 it simply meant the word came from all three of them.  This is a demonstration of the plurality of the godhead while at the same time shows the unity of their nature and purpose.   

Daniel 4:14-16
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:  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:  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. 

Daniel explains it to Nebuchadnezzar thus:  "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" (NKJV)

Nebuchadnezzar is going to be humbled, driven away and he will live like a wild beast among the fields, naked, unshorn, unkept, crawling around on all fours and eating grass like an ox.  Nebuchadnezzar has let his pride get out of hand and God is simply going to show him who is really running the affairs of the earth.  

Daniel 4:17
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.

This decision is by the decree of the angels who watch.  It appears that the watchers petitioned the holy ones in this matter and received Nebuchadnezzar's sentence from them.  This was done by authority of God so that those living on the earth would know that God indeed is the supreme ruler on the earth.  This whole thing is being done as a demonstration of God's sovereignty over the earth and the king of the Babylonian Empire is going to serve as the example.    The delivery of the sentence was obviously of great importance because verse 13 says it was accompanied with a "holy one" which "came down from heaven".

Daniel 4:18
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.

Nebuchadnezzar knew when he was consulting the wise men of his kingdom that Daniel could interpret this dream.  He knew the spirit of God was in Daniel, but at this time he was still thinking in terms of more than one god.  Nebuchadnezzar went to the wise men of his kingdom first, knowing full well that Daniel was able to interpret this dream whether they could or not.  But the wise men of Babylon got the first chance.

Daniel 4:19 
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.

First the narrator used both names associated with Daniel.  There is every reason to believe that Daniel wrote this narrative and that he was accurate in its transcription.  Add to this the influencing power of inspiration by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21), which we know oversaw and directed the words of the writers.  Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel by his Jewish name first and then identified him by his Babylonian name.  This decree was sent out as an official document of the king, addressed to all nations and all peoples of the earth.  At the time of the writing of this narrative, Daniel had been a servant of the king in Babylon for about 40 years.   There were people living in Babylon who had been born and grown up since Daniel had been brought into captivity and probably did not even know Daniel's Jewish name.  Nebuchadnezzar made sure everybody, both Israelite or Gentile made the connection.  It is exceedingly significant in this narrative that Nebuchadnezzar identified Daniel by his Jewish name first.  This is the second time in this narrative that this has happened as we saw in Daniel 4:8.     In all events, it is obvious that Nebuchadnezzar is sincere in communicating this narrative to all the people of the earth in his use of both the names of Daniel.

The text reads that Daniel "astonied for one hour", overwhelmed with awe at the terrible importance of the dream.  At this point, Daniel knew the interpretation of the dream and he was so concerned that he could not tell the king what it was.  It is hard to know what was going through Daniel's mind at this time.  Many commentators have stated that in the forty years of Daniel's service to Nebuchadnezzar, they had grown to have a relationship and Daniel was overwhelmed at the prospect of delivering such bad news to the king.  This is certainly a possibility and without a doubt Daniel was dealing with a whole flood of mixed emotions at this point. 

Of significance here in unraveling Daniel's thoughts on the matter are his words to Nebuchadnezzar pertaining to his enemies.  The rivals of Nebuchadnezzar were obviously on Daniel's mind.  What would Daniel and his countrymen have to look forward to if Nebuchadnezzar were to fall?  What fate would await Daniel and his Israelite countrymen under the rule of another king? 

"Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies."
Daniel knew at this time that Nebuchadnezzar was going to fall for a period of time.   Due to some overwhelming miracles at the hand of God, the Israelites in Babylon enjoyed a freedom of religion of sorts.  They could not return to Jerusalem and participate in temple worship, but they were allowed to do homage to God in Babylon without fear of persecution under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.   Another king on the throne of Babylon, even temporarily would have been disastrous for the Israelites if the enemies of Nebuchadnezzar which were in Daniel's thoughts rose to power.  Daniel did not know what lie ahead ahead for him or his countrymen and he was without a doubt shocked and overwhelmed at this prospect. 

"The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee"
Many kings would have and did punish prophets who dared to foretell their overthrow.  Nebuchadnezzar assures Daniel he may freely speak out and we know from the ending of this narrative that such was the case.  There can be no doubt there was a strong relationship between Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar. 

Nebuchadnezzar's Dream Explained

Daniel 4:20-22
The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;  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:  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.

It is interesting to note here that an entire empire on earth is personified in a single man as a figure of a tree.  We see a similar instance in Revelation where a man is personified for a kingdom in the figure of the beast.  The Babylonian empire was indeed a glorious kingdom on earth, being the most powerful nation in the ancient world after the fall of the Assyrian empire (612 BCE). The capital city, Babylon, was beautifully adorned by king Nebuchadnezzar, who erected several famous buildings that endured for centuries after the empire fell.

Daniel 4:23
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;

The watcher and the holy one coming down from heaven as discussed previously are most likely an angelic being similar to Michael who was said to be standing over the affairs of Israel in Daniel 12:1 and the holy one mentioned may be the incarnate form of Jesus Christ Himself who is believed to be the fourth person walking amid the flames of Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego.  It is perfectly well within reason that if the word of God chose to manifest Himself in the sight of Nebuchadnezzar that day, then He would have no problems with manifesting Himself in Nebuchadnezzar's dream. 

Nebuchadnezzar was to be taken down from his position of authority, but the root, the foundation, was to remain.   Nebuchadnezzar, as the stump of the great tree in this figure, was to remain and be humbled with the beasts of the field.  Daniel explains this in detail to Nebuchadnezzar in the following verses.

Daniel 4:24
This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:

The interpretation is finished, but there remains the decree of God which has come upon Nebuchadnezzar.  Nebuchadnezzar was never able to say he was not thoroughly warned from a divine source. 

Daniel 4:25
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, 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.

By decree of the most High, the watcher is to drive Nebuchadnezzar from men and compel him to live as a wild beast with the cattle.  Nebuchadnezzar will forsake all personal hygiene, and crawl around on all fours, naked and dirty with the cattle and eat grass with them.  He will not come in at night, rather he will spend all his time with them, even waking up in the fields with the cattle, wet from the morning dew.  In short, the most powerful man on earth at the time is going to crawl around on all fours, naked and unwashed like an ox in the fields and is going to graze on the grass of the field just like an ox would.  He's going to sleep with them at night, wake up in the mornings and crawl around on the ground some more.  This is going to go on continuously for a period of time which has been previously identified as "till seven times pass over him"

"till seven times pass over thee"
This period of time, already mentioned in verse 23, is sufficient to accomplish God's purpose of fully establishing in Nebuchadnezzar's mind who is in control of the affairs of the earth.  It is fully explained to Nebuchadnezzar by Daniel in this verse as being till "thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will".  God made sure there was no doubt in Nebuchadnezzar's mind when this was over as to who was responsible and why. 

Rulers today do not get this kind of opportunity.  They must take it upon themselves to avail themselves of the knowledge of scripture and learn from the examples of those who lived before them.  God still sets up the kingdoms of the earth and works all things to the ends of His purposes.  But He does not give kings or rulers today any direct guidance.  They are expected to know from the examples of others and make the correct applications.  Nebuchadnezzar was brought low by the hand of God and it was no doubt a humiliating experience, but be that as it may, he was the recipient of an incredible blessing of God who saw fit to directly and personally guide Nebuchadnezzar in the direction He wanted him to go.  And Nebuchadnezzar obviously saw it as a blessing in the end because we see this narrative being written as a witness to the event and sent out to all nation, peoples and languages. 

Daniel 4:26 
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.

At this point Nebuchadnezzar probably didn't believe the decree given by the most High.  If he did believe it, he sure didn't do anything to hold it off because it was several months after his dream that the execution of it actually occurred.  However, it was made plain to him that he would not lose his kingdom.

Daniel 4:27-28
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.  All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.

Daniel counseled king Nebuchadnezzar to show mercy to the poor.  Daniel suggested that perhaps if He did this, God would grant him a lengthening of his peaceful existence in his palace.  Daniel never hinted to Nebuchadnezzar that he could avoid this decree of God.  That Daniel chose this particular thing to say to Nebuchadnezzar suggests that this was an area that the king needed to pay particular attention to in his behavior.  It took twelve months for the decree to be executed.  We don't know if this was a delay brought on by any repentance of Nebuchadnezzar from his iniquities or not.  What we do know is that all these things came upon Nebuchadnezzar. 

Daniel 4:29 
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.  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?

A year after Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he was walking through his palace and congratulating himself on his kingdom.  Notice the personal pronouns used by the king.  The great Babylon the "I" have built, by the might of "MY" power and for the honor of "MY" majesty.  Nebuchadnezzar is being downright egotistical here.  He is not giving any credit or glory for his achievements to God whatsoever.  It's all about Nebuchadnezzar.  He was being arrogant beyond reason. 

There are plenty of people today who could benefit greatly from the lesson Nebuchadnezzar is about to learn.  And it is up to them to learn about God's disdain for the personal pride of man and make the right application in their lives.  As discussed earlier, Nebuchadnezzar had a tremendous blessing in that God dealt directly with him on a personal level before it was too late.  Many people living after him may never learn of the dangers of a haughty spirit until it is too late to rectify the situation.  What a sad day it will be for many in life to learn that their pride was their downfall.  They will be able to look back on the example of Nebuchadnezzar and the consequences of his pride and see where they could have learned but did not. 

Daniel 4:31 
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.  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.

Nebuchadnezzar did not even finish making his arrogant remark when he received the pronouncement directly from heaven.  He had been told 12 months prior to this and now on the heels of his prideful comment he found himself facing God's judgment. 

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.
This is the fourth time the phrase "seven times shall pass over thee" has been used.  Commentators are divided as to how long a period of time this was.  Some say it was seven years, some say it was seven months.  The truth of the matter is that we just do not know the exact period of time which this referred to.  This student of Daniel believes it was an enigmatic time period that not even Daniel or Nebuchadnezzar knew the extent of for sure.  The use of the number seven is a symbolic reference to a complete period of time sufficient to achieve God's purpose.  Whether this was a passing of seven literal periods of time or not is of no real matter of importance here.   What is important is that when it was finished, Nebuchadnezzar would know beyond any doubt whatsoever that God was the real ruler on earth and that he would give the kingdoms of the earth to whosoever he saw fit.

Daniel 4:33 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.

There may have been a 12 month delay between the dream and the execution of the decree, but when the voice spoke directly from heaven, the delay was over.  Nebuchadnezzar found himself living with the consequences of his arrogance within the hour.  

It is amusing to read through the countless commentaries on Daniel and see the attempts of the commentators to harmonize Nebuchadnezzar's dilemma with some known medical condition.  One of the most outrageous commentaries which will go unnamed here compared Nebuchadnezzar's plight to a form of lycanthropy, which is akin to the legends of the werewolves.  There are plenty of medical conditions similar which can be compared.  Suffice it to say that whatever God saw fit to inflict upon Nebuchadnezzar, it was sufficient to achieve His purpose.  Of significance to this event is the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was in his right mind right up to the moment it struck him.  And when it was over, his memories were intact and he made a full recovery with no apparent side effects.  This does not sound at all like a normal occurring malady however rare it may be.  This was a diving judgment; a divine punishment; by divine decree; for a diving purpose.  It doesn't have to have a medical equal somewhere for it to be genuine.  Sometimes we go too far in our attempts to rationalize everything.  One cannot rationalize all the workings God.  Try as we may, there are just too many things which are beyond nature to rationalize everything.  None of the doctors living today were alive 600 yrs or so before Christ lived.  It would be hard indeed to diagnose with pinpoint accuracy a malady that struck someone 26 centuries removed from the present. 

Within an hour of the declaration from heaven, the king of the most powerful empire on earth found himself crawling on his hands and knees and grazing on grass like cattle.  He was unfit for the company of men, obviously being completely out of his mind.  

How did Nebuchadnezzar keep from losing his throne while all this was taking place?  Obviously he had enemies who would love to take advantage of this situation and seize power.   Daniel made mention of them in the interpretation.  We know that God declared that Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom would be "sure unto" him, meaning he would retain his throne.  We know for sure that God intended for Nebuchadnezzar to stay on his throne so that was by divine decree.  However, we can be reasonable assured that Daniel did not rest back on this knowledge and do nothing.  Daniel was in the position he was in partly because of his intelligence and wisdom. The fate of the Israelites was hanging in the balance.  Nebuchadnezzar had enemies who would doubtless care nothing about the God of the Israelites and all the progress Daniel had made with Nebuchadnezzar on behalf of the Israelites would have been lost. 

Nebuchadnezzar had family there.  It was a common thing for kings of empires to have co-regents.  In chapter 5 we are going to study a king of Babylon named Belshazzar who was a co-regent of Babylon and oldest son of Nabonidus who was the primary king at the time.  Nebuchadnezzar had a son named Amel-Marduk.  In scripture he was called Evil-Merodach and he only reigned for 2 years after the death of his father, Nebuchadnezzar.  Scripture records that Evil-Merodach showed great kindness to the former king Jehoiachin, releasing him from prison and allowing him to eat of the king's meat every day for the rest of his life.  Evil-Merodach was obviously sympathetic to the Jews and felt compelled to extend kindness and mercy to their former king who was thrown in prison by Nebuchadnezzar.  What this suggests is a possible explanation for how Nebuchadnezzar was able to be insane for a period of time, running around on all fours, eating grass like an ox and still remain in power.  It is a necessary conclusion that someone had to be running the affairs of Babylon in the absence of Nebuchadnezzar who was completely loyal to the king or his enemies would have surely overtaken the throne and killed him. 

Daniel knew this was coming.  What Daniel did not know was when.  The period of twelve months from the decree to the execution gave Daniel and all those loyal to Nebuchadnezzar time to arrange for the running of the Babylonian Empire while Nebuchadnezzar was infirmed.  Daniel knew it was temporary and that Nebuchadnezzar's sanity would return.  It was a common thing for a conquering king to leave a loyal co-regent on the throne to run the affairs of state while they were out conquering new territories.  Nebuchadnezzar himself conquered Jerusalem and several other cities and territories while his father stayed behind in Babylon.   It is entirely possible and probable that arrangements to run the empire were made well in advance of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity so that he could crawl around and eat grass safely while the empire continued on in his absence.   

Daniel 4:34 
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:

When the time for Nebuchadnezzar's abasement was over, he was himself again.  His insanity passed as quickly as it had descended upon him.  And the narrative reveals that the first thing Nebuchadnezzar did was to bless and honor God.  He had full recollection of what had happened and he remembered exactly who he was, where he was and why he was there.  Nebuchadnezzar had always been a religious man, believing in a multiplicity of gods especially in Marduk (Bel).  In all his years, he had never had a personal encounter with Marduk never came to the rescue of anyone, or spoke to Nebuchadnezzar from heaven, or caused him to have dreams and then provide someone to tell him a dream he couldn't even remember and then tell him what it meant.  In all his years on the throne of Babylon, approximately 40 at this time, the only God that interacted personally and revealed Himself was the one true and living God of the Israelites.  God worked extensively with Nebuchadnezzar to bring him to this point in his life. 

In New Testament times there was a zealous and very religious man who was going around imprisoning and punishing Christians.  God went out of His way to intervene in this man's life and he later went on to write more of the New Testament scriptures we have today than any of the apostles that lived with Jesus during his earthly ministry.  Saul, who was named Paul by divine decree, was actively persecuting the Christians when Jesus appeared to him on his way to Damascus with orders from the high priest to capture and imprison more Christians.  God knew that Paul was a worthwhile individual and did not allow him to go on like he was without actively intervening in his activities.  The choice was always Paul's whether to act on this new information or not.  It was the same with Nebuchadnezzar.  Obviously God saw in him a person that could be convinced, shaped and molded into someone worthwhile.  We have examples in scripture of those who conformed to God's interventions and we have examples of those who did not.  In every instance, those who did were blessed and those who did not fell upon hard times.

Nebuchadnezzar reached the point during his insanity where he lifted his eyes unto heaven.  He might have been out of his mind and behaving like an ox, but he knew enough to look up.  He still possessed enough of his faculties to realize his state and to look in the only direction that help could be found.  he might have been insane, but he was not without the ability to realize his circumstances and to think about them and make decisions about himself and who he should be turning to.  Perhaps he plead with Marduk for a while during this episode or to other of his false gods with no response.  We don't know and we don't know how long this went on.  Many scholars think it was for seven months but all we know for sure is that it was long enough. 

What we do know is that at some point during this punishment, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes unto heaven.  There is more than a simple act of looking up into the sky in Nebuchadnezzar's view here.  He didn't just look up, he looked toward heaven with a purpose.  He was a broken man, living in the fields with the cattle, without options, without hope and without any response from any of his heathen gods.  And when he looked up towards heaven, he looked up with hope and with a broken and contrite spirit.  God told him through his dream and through Daniel's interpretation that this was going to last until he knew that "the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will".   Nebuchadnezzar may have been on his hands and knees with the cattle of the field, hair unshorn and nails unclipped, crawling around like a maniac, but he still possessed the capacity to know that God was God and he possessed enough of his reason to remember the words of Daniel and to finally look in the only direction that help could be found.  Nebuchadnezzar was a broken man, and a better man at that point in his life than he had ever previously been. 

Nebuchadnezzar "lifted up his heaves unto heaven" and his "understanding returned" to him.  Keeping in mind that this narrative is in his own words, as soon as his understanding returned and his insanity passed, he blessed and praised God.  Not Marduk, or any of the other gods he previously believed in and were utterly unable to help in any way.  But he blessed the one true and living God of heaven.  There is no hint of animosity here in the text.  There is every reason to believe that Nebuchadnezzar was sincere about this.  He wasn't going to fool God and he knew this by now.  Nebuchadnezzar went on to affirm that the kingdoms of the earth are the kingdoms of God and his rule is supreme and eternal. 

Daniel 4:35 
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?

God is sovereign over all the inhabitants of the earth, He does as He wishes in the army of heaven and among those living on earth.  Nebuchadnezzar realizes and decrees to all the inhabitants of the earth that God is God and no one can resist Him, no one can stop Him and no man on earth can question Him.  He declares God's supremacy both in heaven and on earth.  This is not the same man that carried Daniel and his companions off into captivity.  It took Daniel and his companions, however long they lived and served in Babylon, approximately forty years to bring Nebuchadnezzar to this point with the help of God along the way.

There are several Biblical accounts which attest to the long suffering of God and to the benefits of patient godly living before unbelievers but this has got to be one of the best.  Daniel trusted, served and obediently worshipped only one God for all the years he was in the company of Nebuchadnezzar.  Daniel's companions looked Nebuchadnezzar in the eyes and refused to worship his statue even at pain of death.  It took a long time and a lot of patience and a lot of faithfulness in the part of God's children to bring the king to this point in his life and it needs to be said that God is indeed a God of patience and understanding and there is great value in living a righteous life in the eyes of those around us.  We never know who may be influenced by our actions along the way and we never know how long it may take.  It may take a lifetime but we can never ever give up. 

Daniel 4:36 
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.

As soon as Nebuchadnezzar sincerely looked to the throne of heaven for help, his reason returned to him, his glory and majesty returned.  He got up, cleaned himself up, put on his kingly attire and resumed the reign of his throne in Babylon.  The people under him looked again to him for guidance and he was established again in his kingdom.  He went from being a raving, dirty, unshaven, unshorn maniac crawling around on his belly eating grass to the throne of Babylon again.  The text doesn't give an exact time period for all this to take place, but it implies it was in a relatively short time span. 

Someone loyal to Nebuchadnezzar had to be ruling the affairs of Babylon during his infirmity but we just do not know who it was.  But it can be reasonably inferred that it was a member of his immediate family and that Daniel played a big role in this event. 

Daniel 4:37 
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.

What an extraordinary transformation we see here that has taken place with the king of Babylon.  The Israelites were carried into captivity in a foreign land by a cruel and bloodthirsty tyrant and in the end, this resulted in a better man than most of the kings of Israel ruling over a world empire and serving the one true and living God.  This is an extraordinary account of the workings of God upon the earth and within the hearts of men.  One cannot help but remember the account of Joseph when he was sold by his brothers into Egyptian slavery.  Because of that one man and his determination to live rightly, the entire Egyptian empire as well as the whole Israelite nation benefited.  The influence of one man can never ever be disqualified as insignificant. 

Daniel and his companions had no way of knowing ahead of time that their actions would contribute to a transformed believer of God occupying the throne of the most powerful empire on the earth and declaring the sovereignty and majesty of the one true and living God to all his subjects.  All they could do was to live righteously and trust in God to handle the rest.  What an awesome example and lesson there is in this for us today. 

Let us remember here that this entire chapter of Daniel is a narrative of king Nebuchadnezzar himself and that it was published in the language of the Babylonians and sent throughout his empire and beyond as an official document from the Babylonian throne.  This narrative is so important and so significant that it made its way to the pages of the Bible.  It has become part of our sacred text that we turn to in order to learn of the ways of God.  It is a testament to the longsuffering patience of God and to the influence of faithful, determined, purposed and unswerving dedication in righteous living before the unbelievers of the earth. 

We can not know for sure whether or not Nebuchadnezzar died a righteous man or not. But we can infer that he made an amazing transformation in his life. While it may never be known for certain, one thing is, he certainly could have.

The Israelites enjoyed an amazing freedom of religion for the remainder of Nebuchadnezzar's rule.  Upon his death, his son Amal-Marduk reigned for a brief period.  People tend to automatically assume that this man was evil because of his name in scripture but he demonstrated a notable kindness towards Jehoiachin who had been a rebellious king of Judah and wound up being thrown in a prison by Nebuchadnezzar for 37 years.  It is also believed by scholars that Amal-Marduk reigned as co-regent during his father's insanity.  He may have started out as a good king under the guidance of his father and later corrupted during his reign.  He only reigned for about 2 years before he was killed by his brother in law, Neriglissar who wanted the throne.  It was inevitable that Nebuchadnezzar would eventually die.  And when this happened, the Babylonian Empire, just like Judah for so many times, did not follow in the righteousness of her former king and suffered the same fate as all the other kingdoms on earth that had not remained faithful to God. 

In our studies of this narrative, it would behoove all of us to stop and consider the direction our own nation is taking and to consider that since ages past, God has blessed faithful nations and judged the unfaithful ones.  Faithful nations have always been blessed by God and unfaithful nations have always been judged by God.  There is no reason to draw the conclusion that our own nation will be any different in the end. 

 

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Matt 11:28-29
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