by Jerry Robinson

Daniel 4 Commentary: Nebuchadnezzar’s Dream of a Great Tree

Daniel 4 Commentary Verse by Verse - Daniel 4 Bible StudyThe fourth chapter of the book of Daniel provides the Bible prophecy student with yet more insights based upon the divine details revealed to the Babylonian king in a dream. This time, King Nebuchadnezzar dreams of a giant flourishing tree that is suddenly cut down with all of its branches and foliage removed and its fruit scattered. All that is left of the tree is a stump that is bound with bands of bronze and iron, which are metals with great symbolism as we have already seen in our Daniel chapter 2 commentary.

Once again, the wise Hebrew Daniel is called upon to interpret the dream. Daniel’s interpretation comes as bad news to King Nebuchadnezzar, as it forecasts a temporary end to his reign.

However, by the end of the chapter, we will find the king has been fully humbled by God and restored to his throne after an interesting seven-year period in which Nebuchadnezzar is subdued in the most unusual way.

Time: During King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign from approximately 605 B.C. to 562 B.C.


 

Daniel 4 Commentary – Verse by Verse

Simply click the arrows below each verse to reveal our notes and commentary


 

1 Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and [men of every] language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound!”

Commentary

“Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and [men of every] language that live in all the earth:”

– It should be noted at the outset that this letter appears to be written by King Nebuchadnezzar though some commentators believe it is more likely that it was penned by the prophet Daniel at the king’s request. This is largely due to the use of Biblical phrases that appear at the beginning and end of the chapter. This chapter represents Nebuchadnezzar’s astounding testimony of being humbled and raised back to a place of great honor by Almighty God.

Here, in the opening verse of Daniel chapter 4, we recall that King Nebuchadnezzar has just recently witnessed an incredible miracle involving God’s saving power as he delivered the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, from the king’s own fiery furnace. While this event apparently humbled the great king of Babylon, causing him to proclaim protection for all who worship the God of the Hebrews, even more humiliation is yet to come for Nebuchadnezzar in this chapter.

Nebuchadnezzar will serve as the narrator in much of this chapter. In this verse, the king proclaims himself as the king of the known world as he wields power over “all the peoples (“am”), nations (“ummah”), and language (“lishshan”) of the earth.”

“”May your peace abound!”

– In this opening greeting, King Nebuchadnezzar speaks a blessing over the welfare of his subjects: “May your peace abound!”

 


 

2 “It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.”

Commentary

“It has seemed good to me”

– The word used for this phrase in the Aramaic is “shephar” and is derived from the Hebrew word “shaphar” meaning to be beautiful, fair or comely. In this verse, it refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s own belief that it would be pleasing or good to announce what comes next.

“to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.”

– It is clearly Nebuchadnezzar’s intent through this letter to openly declare (“chavah”) and publish the signs (“ath”) and wonders (“temah”) that have been wrought by the hand of God before his eyes — and often on his behalf. This phrase “signs and wonders” is, of course, a Biblical phrase that appears numerous times throughout the Old Testament. (See Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 34:11; Isaiah 8:18; Jeremiah 32:20)

Without a doubt, Nebuchadnezzar has already been a witness to God’s miraculous works. In Daniel chapter 2, he is given a dream that reveals the entire span of human government followed by its replacement with God’s eternal Kingdom. And in Daniel chapter 3, he is witness to God’s redemptive power when He delivers the three Hebrews out of the fiery furnace. However, as we will discover in this chapter, God has more to reveal to Nebuchadnezzar and it is these things that the king intends to publish in this letter.

 


 

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.”

Commentary

“How great are His signs and how mighty are His wonders!”

– King Nebuchadnezzar continues his praise of the God of the Hebrews by recalling the greatness of His signs (portents) and the mightiness and strength of His wonders. The king has experienced Almighty God’s great signs and mighty wonders and speaks from experience.

“His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom”

– This earthly king of Babylon understands the concept of a kingdom. He knows his own kingdom is perishable. But he knows that Almighty God’s Kingdom (“malku”) is everlasting (“alam”). That is, while man’s kingdoms are temporary, the Kingdom of God is eternal with no end.

“And His dominion is from generation to generation.”

– Nebuchadnezzar goes on to declare God’s dominion (“sholtan”) as able to last throughout all of the ages to come.


 

4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.”

Commentary

“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.”

– The writer of this passage once again identifies himself as the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. Before expanding upon his dream of a great tree that filled the whole earth, he explains that he was at rest or “at ease” (“sheleh”) in his home (indicative of peace in his personal life) and prospering or “flourishing” (“raanan”) in his palace (indicative of peace within his government and rulership.)

It is in this context of peace and prosperity that King Nebuchadnezzar will be once again challenged by a prophetic heavenly dream.

 


 

5 “I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and [these] fantasies [as I lay] on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.”

Commentary

“I saw a dream and it made me fearful;”

– Suddenly, the king’s narrative turns from resting in peace at his palace to having a dreadful and terrible dream. This is just one of the heavenly-inspired dreams that Nebuchadnezzar has during his reign as the king of Babylon.

“and [these] fantasies [as I lay] on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me.”

– Finally, note that the king is “alarmed” by the contents (fantasies and visions) of this dream. The word “fantasies” in this verse is unusual as it is taken from an obscure Aramaic word “harhor,” which means to imagine. However, this Aramaic word is derived from a root corresponding to the Hebrew word “harah,” meaning to become pregnant. In a way, Nebuchadnezzar’s mind will become “pregnant” with divine information. Only the Spirit of God will be able to decode the relevance and import of what the king is about to see.

Like the king’s previous dream, which we discussed in detail in our Daniel chapter 2 commentary, the Spirit of God chooses the mouth of the blessed prophet Daniel to unlock the dream’s interpretation. 


 

6 “So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.”

Commentary

“So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon,”

– Similar to the account given in Daniel 2, the king once again commands all of Babylon’s wise men to be brought before him.

“that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.”

– The purpose of the king’s command is to properly discern his unusual dream. He is unable to interpret the dream for himself and rightly understands that its interpretation will require divine wisdom. However, instead of simply calling for the prophet Daniel, he requests all of the wise men of Babylon to come to his aid. Did the king simply forget about the unmatched divine wisdom that rested upon Daniel or is this a display of Nebuchadnezzar’s lack of trust in Daniel’s God? Either way, the fact that Nebuchadnezzar calls for all of Babylon’s wise men — instead of simply calling for Daniel — is somewhat interesting.


 

7 “Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me.”

Commentary

“Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them,

– Here, the king recounts the four various groups of Babylonian wise men that he ordered into his presence so that he could share with them the contents of his dream. See our commentary note on Daniel 2:2 for more information about each of these four groups.

“but they could not make its interpretation known to me.”

– Despite hearing the entire contents of Nebuchadnezzar’s intense and vivid dream, none of Babylon’s wise men were able to provide the king with an interpretation. (At least the king shares the contents of the dream with them in this instance. In Daniel chapter 2, the king demanded the wise men to relay both the contents and the interpretation of his dream!)

 


 

8 “But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, [saying],”

Commentary

“But finally Daniel came in before me,”

– Just as the story unfolded in our Daniel chapter 2 commentary, it is Daniel alone who is able to come before the king and share the divine interpretation of his dream.

“whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god,”

– “Belteshazzar” is the Babylonian name assigned to Daniel by Ashpenaz, the chief of the king’s eunuchs. (See our comment on Daniel 1:7) The name literally means “Prince of Bel” or “Bel protect the king.” Bel is the Babylonian word for “Lord” and was used to refer to Marduk, the chief god of Babylon.

“and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods;”

– Nebuchadnezzar understands that Daniel’s wisdom is not purely of human origin. Instead, the king rightly gives credit for Daniel’s prophetic interpretive abilities to divine spiritual powers.

“and I related the dream to him, [saying],”

– Here, the king begins to share his unusual dream with Daniel as we will see in the following dramatic verses.

 


 

9 “O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell [me] the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.”

Commentary

“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians,”

– The king’s reference to Daniel (or Belteshazzar) as the “chief of the magicians” reveals how Daniel was highly regarded across Babylon at this time. This position of honor was actually given to Daniel after his correct interpretation of the king’s dream earlier in chapter 2. (Specifically, see our commentary on Daniel 2:48.)

“since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you,”

– The king’s lauding of Daniel’s divine wisdom as the “chief of magicians” in this passage is reminiscent of the way the Egyptian pharaoh praised the interpretative abilities of Joseph. (Ex. Genesis 41:38 reads: “Then Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is a divine spirit?”)

“tell [me] the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.”

– Here, the king makes his clear request known to Daniel. Because he knows Daniel is capable, endued with divine wisdom, he asks him to interpret his stunning dream. Before he permits Daniel to speak, however, he continues in the following verses by explaining the specific contents of the dream so that Daniel can interpret it for him.


 

10 “Now [these were] the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed: I was looking, and behold, [there was] a tree in the midst of the earth and its height [was] great.”

Commentary

“Now [these were] the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed:”

– Here, the king begins a lengthy description of his very unusual and vivid dream that came to him as he rested in his royal bed.

“I was looking, and behold, [there was] a tree in the midst of the earth and its height [was] great.”

– The dream opens with a visual of an exceedingly tall tree that was situated in the “midst” or middle of the earth. In essence, this tree sits at the focal point of the earth and serves as the centerpiece of the king’s dream.


 

11 “The tree grew large and became strong And its height reached to the sky, And it [was] visible to the end of the whole earth.”

Commentary

“The tree grew large and became strong And its height reached to the sky,”

– Next, Nebuchadnezzar explains that the tree in his vision grew large and strong before his eyes. The height of the tree became so overwhelming that the treetop reached all the way up to the heavens (Aramaic: “shamayin”). The idea of an earthly object breaching the earth/heaven divide, which was implemented from the dawn of creation, is reminiscent of the story of the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:1-9. (For more on this interesting topic, view our special Bible commentary video concerning the Tower of Babel.) In essence, the idea of an earthly object (tree) reaching to the heavens carries a negative connotation in the Old Testament and suggests early on that this dream may result in judgment.

“And it [was] visible to the end of the whole earth.”

– Due to its extreme height, this tree envisioned in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream could be seen from anywhere in the world. What does this massive tree represent? Let’s keep reading to discover the answer.

 


 

12 “Its foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, And in it [was] food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, And all living creatures fed themselves from it.”

Commentary

“Its foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, And in it [was] food for all.”

– The leaves of this great tree were beautiful to the eyes and it bore so much fruit that it was able to provide food for all the living.

“The beasts of the field found shade under it, And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches, And all living creatures fed themselves from it.”

– In addition to its beauty and abundance of fruit, the shade created by this massive tree sheltered the beasts of the field from the blistering sun. The great tree’s branches served to house the birds of the sky which “dwelt” there.

Finally, this verse concludes by reiterating the complete sustenance provided by the vast amount of fruit grown on this great tree from which “all living creatures” feed.

From the king’s perspective as related through his dream, this great tree is vitally important to all life on earth.


 

13 “I was looking in the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed, and behold, an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.”

Commentary

“I was looking in the visions in my mind [as I lay] on my bed,”

– The king’s captivating dream about the massive tree providing shade for the beasts and food for all living things takes a sudden turn as the king’s attention is turned towards the heavens.

“and behold, an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.”

– As the dream continues, Nebuchadnezzar describes a vision of an angelic being, which the text refers to as a “watcher” descending from heaven. The word “watcher” in the Aramaic is “ir” and literally means “waking or wakeful one.” This word is derived from the Hebrew word “awr”, which carries the same meaning and usually appears as the word “awake” or “to stir” in the 80 times it is used throughout the Old Testament. (Ex. Judges 5:12, Ps. 35:23, 57:8)

This is the only chapter of the Bible where this word is translated as “watcher.” The word is used twice by the king, and once by Daniel (Daniel 4:23). This word, however, is used many times in extrabiblical books, such as The Book of Enoch, and refers to a higher order of angelic beings, usually archangels. See our comment in Daniel 4:23 for more on this topic.

It is interesting that the king sees one who is awake even as he sleeps.

This wakeful angelic being, known as a watcher, that descends from heaven is also referred to in this verse as a “holy one.”


 

14 “He shouted out and spoke as follows: “Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit; Let the beasts flee from under it And the birds from its branches.”

Commentary

“He shouted out and spoke as follows: “Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;”

– Next, the king hears the angelic watcher shout aloud an unusual command in his dream. The command is to chop down the great tree and to cut off all of its fruitful branches. Additionally, the angel commands that the branches, once removed from the tree, be stripped of all of their leaves and that the fruit be scattered

“Let the beasts flee from under it And the birds from its branches.”

– The devastation continues as the angelic being commands that the beasts, who formerly dwelt safely in the shade cast by the tree, “flee from under it.” So too, the birds are ordered to leave the safety and refuge of the tree’s great branches.


 

15 “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, But with a band of iron and bronze [around it] In the new grass of the field; And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.”

Commentary

“Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, But with a band of iron and bronze [around it]”

– As the angelic commands continue, we learn that the stump of the chopped down tree is ordered to be left alone with its roots intact in the ground. While the tree, its branches, foliage, fruit, and all of its animal inhabitants are removed, the tree’s trunk is to be bound with iron and bronze. These two metals carry an interesting prophetic significance as explained in our Daniel 2 commentary. While the divine interpretation of these events will come in later verses of this chapter, it is at least noteworthy here that this tree stump has been bound with two of the strongest metals available at the time. According to Job 14:7-9, we read that even a fallen tree has hope of growing again if its roots remain intact: “For there is hope for a tree, When it is cut down, that it will sprout again, And its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground And its stump dies in the dry soil, At the scent of water it will flourish And put forth sprigs like a plant.” However, the application of an iron and bronze band around the stump seems to ensure it would be restrained from growing, at least temporarily, for a divine purpose.

“In the new grass of the field; And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.”

– The angelic being orders the stump of this enormous fallen tree to remain intact, along with its roots, in the grass of the open field. Interestingly, this stump is referred to as “him,” which infers that this tree and its fate signifies that of a person. This stump, which we know now represents a person, is to be “drenched” in the dew of heaven. So too, this personified tree stump will reside alongside “the beasts in the grass of the earth.”

 


 

16 “Let his mind be changed from [that of] a man And let a beast’s mind be given to him, And let seven periods of time pass over him.”

Commentary

“Let his mind be changed from [that of] a man And let a beast’s mind be given to him,”

– The word for “mind” in this verse is the Aramaic word “lebab” meaning “heart.” This word, which is the same in Hebrew, refers to the “inner man,” the “will,” or the “heart.” The command is that the king’s “inner man” be replaced with a “beast’s mind.” Basically, Nebuchadnezzar’s punishment is to be degraded to the base level of the beast of the wild. This is a drastic and certainly an unusual consequence that the proud Nebuchadnezzar will have to endure.

“And let seven periods of time pass over him.”

– The angelic watcher proclaims that Nebuchadnezzar’s mental metamorphosis from a man to a beast is to last for a period of seven (“sheba”) times (“iddan”). This most likely means seven years.


 

17 “This sentence is by the decree of the [angelic] watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.”

Commentary

“This sentence is by the decree of the [angelic] watchers And the decision is a command of the holy ones,”

– This word (or “sentence”) of Nebuchadnezzar’s fate is issued by the heavenly watchers/guardians (“ir”). And again, this verse indicates that this decision (meaning “affair”) is a word given by the holy ones, or saints (“qaddish”).

“In order that the living may know That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,”

– The purpose of this word or edict pronounced by both the angelic “watchers” and the holy “saints” is that those living on earth that the “Most High God” (“Illay,” a name for God meaning “highest”) is the rightful ruler, master, governor, and captain (“shallit”) as He exercises His authority over the realm, or kingdom (“malku”) of men.

“And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.”

– As the ultimate Master of men and of their earthly kingdoms, God Most High has the authority to give power to whomever He pleases and to raise up even the “lowliest of men” to oversee earthly kingdoms. This phrase “lowliest of men” is translated from the Aramaic word “shephal,” which means “low in station” and more specifically, “humble.” In essence, the Most High God can humble the proud anytime He wishes and for any reason He wishes.


 

18 “This is the dream [which] I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell [me] its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.'”

Commentary

“This is the dream [which] I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen.

– Thus, the king concludes the summation of his unusual dream.

“Now you, Belteshazzar, tell [me] its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation;”

– Once again, King Nebuchadnezzar appeals to the prophet “Belteshazzar” (the Babylonian name given to Daniel) to interpret his dream as “none of the wise men” in Babylon have been able to decode it.

“but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

– King Nebuchadnezzar suggests his belief that the “spirit of the holy gods” that resides within Daniel will give him the answer.


 

19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, My lord, [if only] the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!”

Commentary

“Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him.”

– After hearing the king’s description of his dream, the prophet Daniel is “appalled” (or astonished). So too, the thoughts that are provoked in Daniel’s mind “alarmed” (or deeply troubled) him.

“The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.'”

– The king, in his haste to understand the dream and aware that its contents had greatly troubled Belteshazzar (Daniel), urges the prophet to not be alarmed by its interpretation.

“Belteshazzar replied, My lord, [if only] the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries!”

– Just before the prophet begins to share the astonishing interpretation of the dream, he laments that it is directed at the king himself instead of at his enemies (of which he likely had many).


 

20 “The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth”

Commentary

“The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth”

– Here, the prophet Daniel begins to deliver a sobering interpretation of the king’s dream (perhaps with a genuine “fear and trembling” as to exactly how the king would respond upon discovering the dream’s devastating prediction for his own mind and body). Daniel refers first, of course, to the large and mighty tree that reached to the heavens.


 

21 “and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged–”

Commentary

“and whose foliage [was] beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which [was] food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged–“

– The prophet Daniel continues the retelling of the king’s dream with the aim of interpreting the identity of this enormous tree adorned with beautiful leaves, with its abundant fruit for all, that served as a refuge for the “beasts of the field” and the “birds of the sky.”


 

22 “it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.”

Commentary

“it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong,”

– It is here where the hammer drops and the prophet Daniel reveals the identity of this glorious tree that will be cut down. The tree that became great and grew strong represented none other than King Nebuchadnezzar himself! How difficult it must have been for Daniel to articulate such devastating news to the most powerful ruler on earth at the time.

“and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth.”

– Indeed, the king’s majesty and the works of his hands had become renowned throughout the ancient world. From a spiritual perspective, the ancient kingdom of Babylon had seemingly reached to the heavens (much like the Tower of Babel whose builders sought to build an edifice that would reach the heavens). So too, the “dominion” of the ancient Babylonian kingdom was great as it ruled the known world at the time of Daniel’s interpretation of the king’s dream.


 

23 “In that the king saw an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze [around it] in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,”

Commentary

“In that the king saw an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze [around it] in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,”

– Here, the prophet recounts the contents of the dream in preparation for the full interpretation which follows.


 

24 “this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:”

Commentary

“this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king:”

– After revealing that the tree in the dream represents the king, the prophet continues in his interpretation, which he confirms is the “decree of the Most High” that directly involves the king of Babylon.


 

25 “that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”

Commentary

“that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field,”

– Now, Daniel reveals the most devastating part of the interpretation regarding the king. Namely, that he will be driven out, or expelled from his palace, away from all of mankind. Instead of living as an exalted man in the lap of luxury, Nebuchadnezzar will now live like an animal among the “beasts of the field.”

“and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven;”

– Instead of feasting in glory and splendor at the king’s table, Nebuchadnezzar will now be made to eat the grass (“asab”) of the field like the cattle and oxen and will be made wet by the “dew of heaven.” While this is certainly a punishment, there is an interesting semblance of grace even in this judgment. {For example, read the reference to the “dew of heaven” in Issac’s blessing of Jacob (Gen. 27:28) and in Isaac’s words over Esau (Gen. 27:39).}

“and seven periods of time will pass over you,”

– Here, the length of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliating punishment is determined to be “seven periods of time.” The word for seven is “sheba” and is the same word used hundreds of times throughout the Bible to refer to this number. For example, in our Daniel 3 commentary, we read that Nebuchadnezzar ordered the furnace to be heated up by a magnitude of seven (“sheba”) times before casting the three Hebrews into the flames.

“until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”

– Here, this unusual judgment is understood as a direct consequence of the sovereign king’s pride and obstinacy. In essence, the Most High God decrees that it will take a length of “seven times” for the king to “recognize” (or know) that it is God Himself who rules over the kingdoms of men and that it is He who “bestows” (or gives) those kingdoms to those to whom He pleases. What a hard lesson that the proud king of Babylon must suffer!


 

26 “And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that [it is] Heaven [that] rules.”

Commentary

“And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree,”

– Now that the king has learned that he represents the great tree that was felled, the prophet now turns to interpret the reason why the tree’s stump (“iqqar”) and the roots (“shoresh”) were commanded to be left alone and intact.

“your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that [it is] Heaven [that] rules.”

– Here we learn that God’s unique humiliation of Nebuchadnezzar will be temporary and that his seat as the ruler of the Babylonian kingdom would be restored to him. However, the restoration of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne and authority will only come “after” he knows, and more specifically acknowledges, that it is the God of the heavens above that rules rightly over the affairs of men.


 

27 “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by [doing] righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to [the] poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”

Commentary

“Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you:”

– In the wake of this devastating interpretation, Daniel the prophet urges King Nebuchadnezzar to heed his godly counsel.

“break away now from your sins by [doing] righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to [the] poor,”

– Specifically, Daniel urges the king to renounce his sins and to pursue righteousness. In addition, Daniel tells the king to turn back from his wicked and unjust ways and to show mercy and kindness to the poor and oppressed.

“in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.”

– Daniel urges the king to humble himself through repentance and pursue good works so as to potentially turn away God’s wrath and possibly delay the coming divine judgment.

 


 

28 “All [this] happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.

Commentary

“All [this] happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.”

– Now, the narrative turns to describe the literal fulfillment of the events of the king’s prophetic dream in his own lifetime.

 


 

29 “Twelve months later he was walking on the [roof of] the royal palace of Babylon.”

Commentary

“Twelve months later”

– The fulfillment of the specific judgments upon King Nebuchadnezzar, as foretold by the prophet Daniel, begin to come to pass twelve months after the prophet’s encounter with the king.

“he was walking on the [roof of] the royal palace of Babylon”

– God’s ordained judgment upon King Nebuchadnezzar, which will be described in graphic detail in the final verses of this chapter, begins its fulfillment as the king walked atop his royal palace.

 


 

30 “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?'”

Commentary

“The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great,”

– As the king walked atop his royal palace, he opens his mouth to declare the greatness of his royal city. His reference to “Babylon the great” should not be lost on Bible prophecy students who will recognize this phrase from the book of Revelation. (See Revelation 17, 18)

“which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?”

– Here, we see that Nebuchadnezzar’s boast goes well beyond nationalistic pride. In addition to boasting of “Babylon the great,” he takes full credit for its immense royal power. He specifically boasts of this ancient kingdom as being built by — and for — him through the “might” or strength of his own power and for the precious “glory” of his own human majesty. Clearly, the king has forgotten his place as God’s servant and has, instead, come to falsely believe that the grandeur of “Babylon the great” is ultimately purposed for his own glorification. As we will see, Nebuchadnezzar is in for a rude awakening.

 


 

31 “While the word [was] in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, [saying], ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,”

Commentary

“While the word [was] in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, [saying],”

– As the king walked atop his royal palace praising his own might and majesty, suddenly a voice was heard from heaven.

“‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you,”

– The voice speaking from heaven issued an incredibly harsh edict that effectively stripped Nebuchadnezzar of his sovereignty over the Babylonian empire, in direct fulfillment of Daniel’s prophecy regarding the king’s fearsome dream. Scripture is clear when it tells us that “God resists the proud,” as this passage is proof. As one commentator once put it: “Nebuchadnezzar would be more than a man, but God justly makes him less than a man.”

 


 

32 “and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place [will be] with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.'”

Commentary

“and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place [will be] with the beasts of the field.”

– Here, we see the unfolding of the king’s prophetic dream, as correctly interpreted by Daniel, becomes a reality. The proud and boastful king is stripped of his sovereignty and is to be expelled from the presence of his fellow man (human society) so that he may live in the wild among the beasts of the field.

“You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you”

– The formerly proud and majestic king of Babylon will now eat the grass of the earth like a cow or an ox. This utterly humiliating punishment would continue for “seven periods of time”, which a rendering of the Aramaic text implies to be a period of seven years.

“until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.”

– What is the purpose of this forced humiliation of the king of “Babylon the great?” The Lord reveals His purpose in this act is to remind the boastful and proud king of his true condition as a mere pawn in God’s Hand. That is, the Most High God is the rightful ruler over all of man’s “kingdoms” at all times. And as the rightful ruler, he gives royal power to those of His choosing, as it pleases Him. King Nebuchadnezzar will have to learn this lesson the hard way. But, as the text reveals, he will recognize the truth of God’s ultimate sovereignty through seven years of intense humiliation.

 


 

33 “Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ [feathers] and his nails like birds’ [claws].”

Commentary

“Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled;”

– The Word of the Lord is now immediately confirmed and fulfilled

“and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle,”

– In fulfillment of the prophecy, the king is chased away from human society and grazes on grass like the cattle of the field.

“and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven”

– In direct fulfillment of the prophecy, the king lives in the wild and his body is covered in heaven’s dew, just as the beasts of the field.

“until his hair had grown like eagles’ [feathers] and his nails like birds’ [claws].”

– Living the life of a beast, Nebuchadnezzar even came to resemble a beast. His hair grew long (like an eagle’s long feathers) and his unkempt and untrimmed nails came to resemble the claws of a bird.

 


 

34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever; For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom [endures] from generation to generation.”

Commentary

“But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me,”

– Here begins the testimony of King Nebuchadnezzar after suffering his intense and humiliating experience. After the seven years, the sanity and knowledge of the king were restored to him.

“and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;”

– Upon regaining his sanity, the king’s first action was to bless, praise, and honor the One who had judged him for his pride: God Most High. This represents an act of great wisdom on the king’s part. Instead of blaming God for His corrective action, the king blesses, praises, and honors the Eternal Father.

“For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom [endures] from generation to generation.”

– The king has certainly changed his tune! Before he was humbled by God, the king had been focused upon the greatness and might of his own dominion and kingdom. In the wake of his correction, he sees the folly and error of his ways and instead focuses upon the everlasting kingdom and dominion of Almighty God.

 


 

35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And [among] the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”

Commentary

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,”

– As the king’s sanity is restored, his wisdom also appears to have increased as he correctly discerns that man has no control over the Most High God of heaven. This phrase is reminiscent of the prophet Isaiah’s writings: “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust… All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.” (Isaiah 40:15a,17)

“But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And [among] the inhabitants of earth;”

– The king rightly admits that man cannot thwart the will of God once it is purposed. (See Job 42:2; Psalm 115:3, 135:6; Isaiah 14:27)

“And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'”

– Additionally, the king admits the utter futility of mankind attempting to call the motives or intentions of the Most High God into question. Again, Nebuchadnezzar’s revelation is similar to that shared in Isaiah’s prophetic writings: “You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, That what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; Or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding?” (Isaiah 29:16)

Many centuries later, the Apostle Paul makes the same point when he writes: “On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?” (Romans 9:20)

God is the potter and we are the clay. Prideful men cannot see this. But the humbled King Nebuchadnezzar shouts it from the rooftops.

 


 

36 “At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.”

Commentary

“At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom,”

– After Nebuchadnezzar suffers a lengthy and humiliating experience, it pleased God to fully return him to his former state. Along with the return of his sanity, the king’s majesty and splendor, as well as the glory of his kingdom, are restored. God’s mercy coupled with Nebuchadnezzar’s humility leads to restoration. As the proverb says: “The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life.” (Proverbs 22:4)

“and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out;”

– After groveling like a beast of the field for years, the humbled king must have been pleasantly surprised to see that the ministers and nobles of his government did not shun him but, rather, sought him out to meet with him once again.

“so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me.”

– Not only was Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom fully reinstated to him. So too, the greatness of his restored kingdom was greater (“surpassing”) than at the first.

 


 

37 “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

Commentary

“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just,”

– This chapter, which began with an incredibly unusual dream that led to a profound tragedy, concludes with a soaring act of redemption by God. Not only did God humble the mighty king of “Babylon the Great,” so too, He restored him to his throne after a period of intense humiliation. Nebuchadnezzar, in this concluding verse, praises, exalts, and honors the “King of heaven.” Those who fear the Lord, as Nebuchadnezzar does in the wake of his correction, are instructed in wisdom. And once again, we see that “humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 15:33) How glorious to see that even the mighty king of Babylon was able to accept God’s correction and to embrace his discipline. How much more so the sons of the Kingdom?

“and He is able to humble those who walk in pride.”

– How many of us today can testify to the fact that God is “able to humble those who walk in pride?” Just as pride appeared before Nebuchadnezzar’s downfall, so too, it precedes our own. How difficult it is to grasp that it is actually man’s pride that brings him low but a humble spirit that exalts him! (Proverbs 29:23) Let us remember and learn from the great folly of King Nebuchadnezzar. His example stands forever enshrined in scripture for our learning and edification. So too, it serves as a constant reminder that God is always in control and can easily bring to naught all of man’s greatest plans that exist outside His will!

 


 

 

Read More Daniel Commentaries

 

 

Read Daniel 1 Commentary >>

 

 

Read Daniel 2 Commentary >>

 

 

Read Daniel 3 Commentary >>

 

 

incoming searches: Daniel Chapter 4 Commentary, Daniel 4 Commentary, Book Daniel Bible Study, book of daniel bible study, fiery furnace

Print Friendly, PDF & Email