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
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.
Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations,
and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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"
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.
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.
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
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".
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.
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.