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Nebuchadnezzar’s madness (4:1-37)
In this chapter Nebuchadnezzar recounts, for the benefit of his subjects, an experience that humbled his pride and brought him to acknowledge Yahweh as the one and only true God (4:1-3). It all began when Nebuchadnezzar had a puzzling dream. After getting no help from his Babylonian wise men, he told it to Daniel in the hope of discovering its meaning (4-9).
The first thing that Nebuchadnezzar saw in his dream was a giant tree. It towered over the world and provided food and shelter for all creatures everywhere (10-12). A heavenly messenger then announced that this tree would be cut down, though its stump would be preserved (13-15a). The tree was also a person, who then lived for a time as an animal in the fields (15b-16). Angels announced that the purpose of the dream was to show that God rules over all the world’s kingdoms and gives them to anyone he chooses (17-18).
Daniel, after hesitating at first, revealed that the dream applied to the great and powerful Nebuchadnezzar himself (19-22). The king would suffer a period of mental illness when, imagining he was an animal, he would go and live like an animal in the field. Although he would not be able to rule during this time, God would preserve his kingdom for him. Eventually he would come to realize that God, not he, was the all-powerful one who decided the destinies of nations. Then God would give him back his throne (23-26).
After revealing the dream’s meaning, Daniel gave the king some advice. He urged the king to cease the oppression and injustice that characterized his rule, and begin instead to administer justice for the welfare of his people. Perhaps he would then avoid the threatened disaster (27).
God gave Nebuchadnezzar a year to repent as Daniel had urged, but the king would not change. Instead of repenting, he only grew more defiant and proud. The result was that God acted, and Daniel’s dreadful forecasts concerning Nebuchadnezzar came true (28-33).
Only after Nebuchadnezzar lost his sense of self-importance and humbly submitted to God did his sanity return. Previously he had acknowledged that Daniel’s God was one among many gods, maybe even the best god (see 2:47; 3:29), but now he openly acknowledged that Daniel’s God was the one and only true God, to whom he must bow. This God is the one who determines the destinies of individuals and nations according to his will (34-37).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Daniel 4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter