Here Daniel records an official proclamation by King Nebuchadnezzar. One of the greatest Kings in history records his testimony on how God humbled him and what led him to insanity and his restoration. This is the only chapter in the Bible written by a pagan but placed into Scripture by Daniel. The events of this chapter begin with a second dream that God gave Nebuchadnezzar. In this verse he’s bearing witness for a third time of God’s power to work miracles, His kingdom, and His dominion. Most likely this proclamation was used to explain why he had been absent from public functions for so long and why he was now able to return to the throne. Nebuchadnezzar wanted the people under his authority to know what God had done in his life. So don’t let Satan tell you that people you share with aren’t religious enough for God to work in their lives. Because God doesn’t evaluate people’s spirituality to determine whether they’re holy enough for Him to speak to them or work in their lives.
V 4-5 The king began to share how his encounter with the Lord took place. He was living in the palace, comfortable, prosperous, and perfectly content with his life. He shares about his self-sufficiency and pride, extolling his comfort and prosperity. It was a time of peace and plenty for the empire. But abruptly, one night while the king slept, he had another terrifying dream. This was the second portentous dream he would have. The first was the great statute in described in Chapter 2 in where we learned that represented future kingdoms and the times of the Gentiles.
V 6-9 When morning finally came, the king summoned his wise men to interpret the dream. A diverse group of counselors came before Daniel arrived but were unable to interpret the dream and then Daniel the chief advisor appeared. As soon as he entered the court, the king addressed him as Belteshazzar, a name derived from the king’s false god Bel (1:7). We see in these verses Nebuchadnezzar’s respect for Daniel, as he had now served the king for many decades, perhaps more than 30 years. We know this because it is written toward the end of the king’s reign. He believed that the spirit of gods was in him, and that Daniel’s God was far superior to the gods of his land. Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret the dream for him.
10-18 There were 4 significant points about this dream first there was of a huge tree. This great tree grew until its top touched the sky and was visible throughout the earth. It was beautiful with abundant fruit that fed all the creatures of the earth. Secondly Nebuchadnezzar saw a messenger from heaven come and call out with a loud voice that the tree was to be cut down. Its branches were to be trimmed off, the leaves stripped off and the fruit scattered, and all the beasts were to flee from it. Only the stump and roots were to be left and they were to be bound with iron and bronze and remain in the grass of the field. The messenger switched from talking about the tree then began talking about a man. He said he was to be drenched with the dew of heaven and live with the animals and his mind be changed from that of a man to the mind of an animal for seven times. The messenger said that this decision was made so that every living thing may know that God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of men. Nebuchadnezzar had no idea what it meant. Once again, his counselors could not interpret the dream, so he turns to Daniel who gave him the interpretation.
V 19-27 Daniel was terrified because when he heard the dream and what it meant. He told the king he wished the dream applied to his adversaries and not him. This is an indication of his respect for the king. Nebuchadnezzar saw Daniel’s dread and told him not to be alarmed, but to go ahead and tell him what it meant. He knew it wasn’t good news, but he wanted Daniel to tell him the truth. Daniel told him that he was the tree in the dream. The description of the tree reaching to the heavens (4:11) brings to mind the builders of the Tower of Babel constructing a structure whose top would reach the heavens (Gen. 11:4). Such acts of pride inevitably end in disaster. Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom stretched over the land like the tree. His kingdom was enormous and beautiful providing food for everyone one and everything. But the messenger who came down from heaven saying that the tree should be cut down and destroyed was saying that Nebuchadnezzar would be dethroned, and his kingdom taken away. He would be driven away from people and would live with wild animals and eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Nebuchadnezzar would be brought low and humbled. He would lose his power and glory; his sanity would be removed from him. Daniel said seven periods or years would pass until Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God was greater than himself.
Nebuchadnezzar would then make his home with the birds and wild beasts of the field. The one who thought of himself as a god and the center of the universe will be transformed into an animal. The stump with the band meant that his kingdom would be preserved and restored until when he comes to acknowledge that God is supreme and sovereign (Dan. 4:15). There was hope for renovation with the revival of the stump. So, God’s act of judgment on the king would not be a final cutting off. This echoes what God told Israel in Is. 10:33-11:1 Behold, the Lord, the GOD of hosts, will lop off the boughs with a terrible crash; Those also who are tall in stature will be cut down And those who are lofty will be abased. He will cut down the thickets of the forest with an iron axe, And Lebanon will fall by the Mighty One. Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
Daniel 4:28-37 In these verses we see that it turned out exactly the way God said it would. It should come as no surprise to us that God takes His word seriously and Nebuchadnezzar experienced just what the dream spoke of. Nebuchadnezzar said that one year later, it happened just the way it was foretold. Historians tell us that one year later; Nebuchadnezzar expanded the city of Babylon and built himself a new palace. He rebuilt the city by restoring and enlarging all of the buildings, the streets, and by rebuilding and expanding the wall around the city. After the work was completed, Nebuchadnezzar went up on the roof of his new palace and was admiring his beautiful new city that he had just built. In Daniel 4:30 he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” Nebuchadnezzar had missed or forgotten the whole point of his dream. At that moment a messenger from heaven came and said exactly what was prophesied would happen, what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle.
His body was drenched with the dew of heaven and his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. The king literally lost his sanity. Then after seven years, he raised his eyes toward heaven and was restored when he acknowledged that God was sovereign and his sanity and kingdom was restored. And as a result, King Nebuchadnezzar wrote this proclamation so that everyone would know what he learned—the hard way. The most difficult thing for Nebuchadnezzar to learn was the very last sentence: “And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”
Why did Nebuchadnezzar have to go through this loss of sanity? Was it to teach him a lesson? Of course, but did he have to go through this to learn humility? Maybe not. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that there was a way to avoid it in Daniel 4:27. If he would have renounced his sin by doing what is right, it was possible that his prosperity might continue. This is what the prophets did over and over again to God’s people. God’s Word does that to us as well if we will harken to His Word.
The prophets plead with His people to get themselves right with God so that something bad didn’t happen to them. Sadly many, like Nebuchadnezzar, did not heed the warnings and suffered the consequences of their sin. But we should understand that even if we do wise up and repent of our sin it does not automatically take away the consequences of our sin. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and got caught, he repented and found forgiveness and got right with God.
But even though God forgave the sin, he did not take away the consequences of that sin, the child still died, and many more things occurred that were the consequences of his sin. When we repent God forgives us, but He may or may not take away the consequences of that sin. Forgiveness does not equal rescue from consequences. But we still need to repent. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar how to renounce his sin. Not just with words, but by doing what was right. We can’t just say that we know that pride is wrong; we must start by being humble enough to receive God’s Word and conviction from His Spirit.
We can’t just say that we know lying is wrong; we must start telling the truth. We can’t just say that gossip is wrong; we must start encouraging others. We can’t just say that stealing is wrong; we must start helping the poor. God gave Nebuchadnezzar 12 months, how long will He give you before he allows you to lose your sanity?