Daniel Chapter 4

Daniel Chapter 4 - Drowning in a Sea of Madness
Class Notes
March 10, 2013

A most unusual chapter from the Bible awaits us this week; one not penned by a prophet or an apostle but by an ancient Gentile king. It appears to be a royal proclamation by King Nebuchadnezzar that Daniel was inspired by the Holy Spirit to include in his book. From all appearances, this royal proclamation had been in the archives long before Daniel included it into his writings.

In a quick summary, Nebuchadnezzar submits his will to G_d’s Will by the end of the chapter following a judgment that was proclaimed upon him by the Watchers.

The conclusion of the narrative [is] with a humble acknowledgment and adoration of G_d as Lord of all. This was extorted from him by the overruling power of that G_d who has all men's hearts in his hand, and stands upon record a lasting proof of G_d's supremacy, a monument of his glory, a trophy of his victory, and a warning to all not to think of prospering while they lift up or harden their hearts against G_d. - Matthew Henry

Since we met him, Nebuchadnezzar has been inadvertently attending G_d’s school for wayward kings. In Chapter 2, he learned that G_d was an all knowing G_d. In Chapter 3, he learned that G_d was all powerful and could override the will of even the mightiest king. In this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar will learn of his own weakness and folly before G_d and how important his utter dependence on The Lord is.

There is little in history, secular or sacred, to corroborate this chapter. Paul Butler devotes several pages to possibilities. This event does not conflict with other reports, it is simply not reported by others. - Charles Dailey

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

Nebuchadnezzar writes this chapter in the first person for the most part. He is writing this proclamation to all the nations in the word and includes a salutation that was common among the eastern nations of the time, ‘Peace be multiplied unto you’.

[2] I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.

The great polytheist-king from chapters past is now writing as a true believer in the High G_d. Not only does he appear to admit the sovereign nature of G_d, but he notes here that he admires the way The Lord dealt with him in the verses that will follow.

[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.

How great are his signs — Nothing less than a real change of heart could cause such a confession as this! Nebuchadnezzar was now old, had reigned above forty years, and seen as much of the world as most men ever did. And yet never 'till now, did he admire surprizing events, as the signs and wonders of the high God!John Wesley

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

The mighty king was at rest which indicates more precisely that he was feeling secure and completely free from apprehension. His wars were over; his kingdom was tranquil and prosperous beyond his fondest dreams. He had built a magnificent city; gathered about him the wealth and the luxuries of the world and now he was preparing ‘to while away the remainder of his life enjoying it all’.Paul Butler

Jesus warns us against this attitude in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 12
[19] And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry.
[20] But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
[21] So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.

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

G_d will often speak to men who will not read His Word by some other means in order that He may reveal His divine Will to them. G_d will also use many ways to reach those who appear to be bent on their own destruction.

One would think no little thing would frighten him that had been a man of war from his youth, and used to look the perils of war in the face without change of countenance yet, when God pleases, a dream strikes a terror upon him. His bed, no doubt, was soft, and easy, and well-guarded, and yet his own thoughts upon his bed made him uneasy, and the visions of his head, the creatures of his own imagination, troubled him. By the consternation which this dream put him into, and the impression it made upon him, he perceived it to be, not an ordinary dream, but sent of God on a special errand. - Matthew Henry

[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.

Here we see king Nebuchadnezzar was still prone to rely on the old advisors for the meaning to his dreams, and they were still failing.

[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,

Notice that at the point and time of the writing of this decree, the king was now calling Daniel by his Hebrew name, which means ‘G_d if my judge’.

[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.

Daniel must have been chief-of-staff of the advisors by this time. This agrees with Daniel 2:48. Leupold thinks a better translation would be "chief of the scholars."

Nebuchadnezzar realizes that gods could somehow dwell with men, because he had witnessed it in the life of Daniel. This should be an inspiration to Christians everywhere to live their lives in a righteous manner. Because you never know who is looking at the things you do and the way you live your life.

[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.

For a man to be portrayed as a tree in his own lofty pride is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible:

Isaiah 2
[12] For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low:
[13] And upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan,

Isaiah 10

[33] Behold, the Lord, the LORD of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.
[34] And he shall cut down the thickets of the forest with iron, and Lebanon shall fall by a mighty one.

The prophet Ezekiel, who was a captive in Babylon at the same time as Daniel, used a very similar picture to describe Assyria just a few years before Nebuchadnezzar had this dream. Note the similarities of the descriptions in the two dreams:

Ezekiel 31
[3] Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.
[4] The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field.
[5] Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth.
[6] All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations.

Daniel 4
[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;

A watcher — A holy angel, the instrument of God, to execute God's judgments which the angels watch constantly to perform. - John Wesley

For more information on these Watchers, please refer to my blog entry entitled “By the Decree of the Watchers”.

[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:

He heard the doom of this tree read, which he perfectly remembered, and related here, perhaps word for word as he heard it. The sentence was passed upon it by an angel, whom he saw come down from heaven, and heard proclaim this sentence aloud. This angel is here called a watcher, or watchman, not only because angels by their nature are spirits, and therefore neither slumber nor sleep, but because by their office they are ministering spirits, and attend continually to their ministrations, watching all opportunities of serving their great Master. They, as watchers, encamp round those that fear God, to deliver them, and bear them up in their hands. This angel was a messenger, or ambassador (so some read it), and a holy one. Holiness becomes God's house therefore angels that attend and are employed by him are holy ones they preserve the purity and rectitude of their nature, and are in every thing conformable to the divine will.Matthew Henry

[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:

The saving of the stump and its banding is a clue that the root will have a future ahead of it following its judgment. Note in this verse how the figure of the tree is changed from an inanimate object (tree) to a more human description (his).

[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.

The “Seven Times’ here will be shown to be seven years. In addition, it also gives rise to speculation, as the seven years equals 2,520 days, and this is a number that seems to come up a lot in this book. Hebrew years were 360 days in duration. I will not speculate on the meaning of the seven years or the 2,520 days at this point in the study, but we will note these numbers and mark them as they show up in the following chapters.

[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.

Of the holy ones — The decree was God's, and the demand was of the holy angels; if God enact it, the angels had the dispensation of it put into their hands, and they all consent to it as a just judgment of God to be executed by them according to the will of God. - John Wesley

The term used at the end of this verse, ‘basest of men’ is noteworthy. G_d will show Nebuchadnezzar that it is He who will choose who wears the crown and many times He chooses those who are merely humble and of low standing in the social arena.

Job 5
[11] To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety.

1 Samuel 2
[7] The LORD maketh poor, and maketh rich: he bringeth low, and lifteth up.
[8] He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.

Luke 1
[51] He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
[52] He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
[53] He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

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.
[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.

Daniel had a tough task in telling Nebuchadnezzar the meaning of his dream. It ‘troubled’ him because he had a high reverence for the king and could see the judgment that was coming upon him in the future. It’s not easy to tell people today that they are sinners destined for judgment but that Christ came to save them. But we cannot hide truth in the work of witnessing to the lost. God is truth, while falsehoods, half-truths, and little white lies all originate with Satan.

Nebuchadnezzar is correct when he tells Daniel to basically speak out and let the event be whatever it is meant to be.

Here in his explanation, Daniel reaches the point where he has to honestly tell the king that his biggest problem was his pride, and that the judgment from G_d was going to fall on him because of it. This is a touching portrait of Daniel’s care and consideration for a wicked and evil king. It should be taken as an example for Christians today on how to deal with lost souls—not with a sense of judgment but with one of compassion.

Proverbs 6
[16] These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
[17] A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
[18] An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
[19] A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

Daniel 4
[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.

Daniel begins his revelation of the dream by telling Nebuchadnezzar that the tree represented him as a great king, whose power (due to G_d’s Will) reached unto heaven. Nebuchadnezzar found himself high and mighty with the majesty which G_d had given him.

To the end of the earth — To the Caspian sea in the North, to the Euxine and Aegean sea in the West, and South to the Mediterranean sea.

[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, 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.

As Daniel relates the interpretation of the dream, and from our study of Nebuchadnezzar’s past, it at first appears odd that when Daniel explains how the king will be ‘driven from men’ and Nebuchadnezzar did not become angry or throw himself into a rage. He was a powerful king and would not be pushed around by anyone. We don’t know the details, but I can speculate that the Holy Spirit was keeping him calm and allowing him to accept his fate.

Daniel also explains that his punishment would last ‘until he knew’ that the Most High rules in the kingdoms of men and gives power to whomever he wants to. How hard is it for a powerful king to grasp this and learn the lesson presented here?

Psalm 115
[3] But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.

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.

The Lord that rules in Heaven is surely the Ruler over all.

[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.

Daniel uses the same analogy as the humbled king of Ninevah in the days of the prophet Jonah: Who knows if maybe G_d will change His mind towards you? Daniel speaks with wisdom here, his strongest attribute, but he also speaks with tenderness and plainness.

[28] All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.

In the next six verses Nebuchadnezzar changes tense from first person to third person. This is a good way to make it understandable of the madness that set upon him during his judgment—he could no longer speak as a man and would have to depend on others to tell his story.

[29] At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

Ever a fountain and a well of grace, The Lord allowed an entire year for Nebuchadnezzar to repent and turn from his wicked, pride-filled ways.

[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?

Unfortunately for him, Nebuchadnezzar did not repent. Instead he ended up finally overstepping his bounds.

There is a similar correlation to this story in the New Testament as Herod suffers a similar fate:

Acts 12
[21] And upon a set day Herod, arrayed in royal apparel, sat upon his throne, and made an oration unto them.
[22] And the people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man.
[23] And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.

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.
[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.
[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.

The most important part of Daniel's revelation is the focus or purpose of the king's insanity. The intent of the matter is to give mankind, specifically this heathen king and his subjects, and the captive covenant people of God, a proof that the fortunes of kings and empires are in the hand of Jehovah - that His providence perpetually interposes in the affairs of men, distributing thrones and empires, always for the good of the faithful, but according to His will.Paul Butler

Boanthropy (Definition) A psychological disorder in which a human being believes himself to be a Bovine. The most prominent sufferer of the disorder was King Nebuchadnezzar who in the Book of Daniel "was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen". Karl Jung would subsequently instance 'Nebuchadnezzar...[as] a complete regressive degeneration of a man who has overreached himself'.

With the loss of his understanding, Nebuchadnezzar can no longer function as a great ruler or statesman. Instead, he heads out to live in the woods as was prophesied by his very own dream.

[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:

G_d opened Nebuchadnezzar’s eyes and finally, the king was able to see his stricken state and the root causes of the judgment that had been placed upon him. Notice that he goes back to speaking in the first person as his reasoning and facilities begin to return.

He also praises and honors G_d , adoring Him for His justice and mercy, and giving Him the glory for not only his sovereignty and unchangeableness.

[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?

Honest consideration of the Creator’s infinite greatness makes the ‘createe’ appear as nothing. We are powerless and worthless without the influence and support we receive from G_d on a daily basis.

G_d is the Lord of Hosts, the Captain of the Armies of Heaven and therefore the only absolute and universal Monarch of the world.

[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 counsellers and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.

At the end of this proclamation, Nebuchadnezzar has been returned to his power as king. He is once again in control and obeyed by all in his kingdom. Notice also that due to his repentance and change of heart, The Lord saw fit to increase his majesty even above the amount he had held previously.

[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.

The praise from Nebuchadnezzar in this last verse proceeds from his heart and not just his head. He states that all of G_d’s works are truth, and this is an astounding statement coming from an Old Testament gentile king. G_d is by His very essence—truth! His ways are truth, His judgments are truth, and finally, His Word is truth.

This verse touches my heart in a most striking way. I realize that I am reading the personal testimony of one who was in some respects the greatest monarch this world has ever known. I am privileged to have his own account of how he—a proud, self-willed man—was brought to repentance and to the saving knowledge of the God of all grace. For I gather from this proclamation that a divine work was accomplished in Nebuchadnezzar's soul by God who, in mercy, had revealed Himself to him. What a wonderful miracle this is! The fact is, every conversion is a miracle—every soul that is saved knows what it is to be dealt with in supernatural power. It is God alone who changes men like this...Oh that men might have their eyes opened to see, and their ears to hear, what God in His grace is doing on the basis of His blessed Son's offering for sin on the cross! - H A Ironside

By the authority of Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony in this chapter I would have to speculate that he finally got it right in this chapter. G_d humbled him, and as he was humbled, his heart reached out to the only place that matters. Nebuchadnezzar found G_d out in that forest in a very real way.

Whatever others may think or say, the redeemed have overwhelming reasons for declaring the goodness of the Lord. Theirs is a peculiar redemption, and for it they ought to render peculiar praise. The Redeemer is so glorious, the ransom price so immense, and the redemption so complete, that they are under sevenfold obligations to give thanks unto the Lord, and to exhort others to do so. Let them not only feel so but say so; let them both sing and bid their fellows sing. - Charles Spurgeon

Mayger Minute Verse

Isaiah 46
[9] Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
[10] Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

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