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Meta tauta de, legetai pros Chaldaiōn, hōs anabas epi ta basilēia, kataschetheiē theō hoseō dē, phthengxamenos de eipen; ousos egō Naboukodrosoros, ō Babulōnioi, tēn mellousan humin proangellō sumphorēn, tēn hote Bēlos emos progonos, hē te basileia Bēltis apotrepsai Moiras peisai asthenousin; hēxei Persēs hēmionos, toisin humeteroisi daimosi chreōmenos summachoisin; epaxei de doulosunēn; hou dē sunaitios estai Mēdēs, to Assurion auchēma; hōs eithe min prosthen ē dounai tous poliētas, Charubdin tina, ē thalassan eisdexamenēn, aistōsai prorrizon; ē min allas hodous straphenta pheresthai dia tēs erēmou, hina oute astea, oute patos; anthrōpōn, thēres de nomon echousi, kai ornithes plazontai, en te petrēsi kai charadrēsi mounon halōmenon; eme te, prin eis nōn balesthai tauta, teleos ameinonos kurēsai. Ho men thespissas parachrēma ēphanisto.
This passage is so remarkable that I annex a translation of it, as I find it in Prof. Stuart’s work on Daniel, p. 122: “After these things” (his conquests which the writer had before referred to), “as it is said by the Chaldeans, having ascended his palace, he was seized by some god, and speaking aloud, he said: ‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, O Babylonians, foretell your future calamity, which neither Belus, my ancestor, nor queen Beltis, can persuade the destinies to avert. A “Persian mule” will come, employing your own divinities as his auxiliaries; and he will impose servitude (upon you). His coadjutor will be the “Mede,” who is the boast of the Assyrians. Would that, before he places my citizens in such a condition, some Charybdis or gulf might swallow him up with utter destruction! Or that, turned in a different direction, he might roam in the desert (where are neither cities, nor footsteps of man, but wild beasts find pasturage, and the birds wander), being there hemmed in by rocks and ravines! May it be my lot to attain to a better end, before such things come into his mind!’ Having uttered this prediction, he immediately disappeared.” This passage so strongly resembles the account in Daniel 4:0, that even Bertholdt (p. 296) admits that it is identical (identisch) with it, though he still maintains, that although it refers to mental derangement, it does nothing to confirm the account of his being made to live with wild beasts, eating grass, and being restored again to his throne. The points of “agreement” in the account of Abydenus and that of Daniel are the following:
(1) The account of Abydenus, as Bertholdt admits, refers to mental derangement. Such a mental derangement, and the power of prophecy, were in the view of the ancients closely connected, or were identical, and were believed to be produced by the overpowering influence of the gods on the soul. The rational powers of the soul were supposed to be suspended, and the god took entire possession of the body, and through that communicated the knowledge of future events. Compare Dale, “de Oraculis Ethnicorum,” p. 172. Eusebius, “Chr. Arm.- lat.,” p. 61. In itself considered, moreover, nothing would be more natural than that Nebuchadnezzar, in the malady that came upon him, or when it was coming upon him, would express himself in the manner affirmed by Abydenus respecting the coming of the Persian, and the change that would occur to his own kingdom. If the account in Daniel is true respecting the predictions which he is said to have uttered concerning coming events Daniel 2:0, nothing would be more natural than that the mind of the monarch would be filled with the anticipation of these events, and that he would give utterance to his anticipations in a time of mental excitement.
(2) There is a remarkable agreement between Abydenus and Daniel in regard to the “time” and the “place” in which what is said of the king occurred. According to Abydenus, the prophetic ecstasy into which he fell was at the close of all his military expeditions, and occurred in the same place, and in the same circumstances, which are mentioned in the book of Daniel - upon his palace - apparently as he walked upon the roof, or upon some place where he had a clear view of the surrounding city which he had built - ἀναβὰς ἐπὶ τὰ βασιλήΐα anabas epi ta basileia.
(3) The accounts in Abydenus and in Daniel harmonize so far as they relate to the God by whom what occurred was produced. In Daniel it is attributed to the true God, and not to any of the objects of Chaldean worship. It is remarkable that in Abydenus it is not ascribed to an idol, or to any god worshipped by the Chaldees, but to God simply, as to a God that was not known - κατασχεθείη θεῷ ὅτεῳ δὴ kataschetheiē Theō hoseō dē. It would seem from this that even the Chaldee tradition did not attribute what was said by Nebuchadnezzar, or what occurred to him, to any of the gods worshipped in Babylon, but to a foreign god, or to one whom they were not accustomed to worship.
(4) In the language which Nebuchadnezzar is reported by Abydenus to have used respecting the return of the Persian king after his conquest, there is a remarkable resemblance to what is said in Daniel, showing that, though the language is applied to different things in Daniel and in Abydenus, it had a common origin. Thus, in the prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar, as reported by Abydenus, it is said, “may he, returning through other ways, be borne through the desert where there are no cities, where there is no path for men, where wild beasts graze, and the fowls live, wandering about in the midst of rocks and caves.” These considerations show that the Chaldean traditions strongly corroborate the account here; or, that there are things in these traditions which cannot be accounted for except on the supposition of the truth of some such occurrence as what is here stated in Daniel. The sum of the evidence from history is
(a) that very few things are known of this monarch from profane history;
(b) that there is nothing in what is known of him which makes what is here stated improbable;
(c) that there are things related of him which harmonize with what is here affirmed; and
(d) that there are traditions which can be best explained by some such supposition as that the record in this chapter is true.
As to the objection that if the edict was promulgated it would not be likely to be lost, or the memory of it fade away, it is sufficient to observe that almost “all” of the edicts, the laws, and the statutes of the Assyrian and Chaldean princes have perished with all the other records of their history, and almost all the facts pertaining to the personal or the public history of these monarchs are now unknown. It cannot be believed that the few fragments which we now have of their writings are all that were ever composed, and in the thing itself there is no more improbability that “this” edict should be lost than any other, or that though it may have been kept by a Hebrew residing among them, it should not have been retained by the Chaldeans themselves. As to the question which has been asked, if this were lost how it could have been recovered again, it is sufficient to remark that, for anything that appears, it never “was” lost in the sense that no one had it in his possession. It would undoubtedly come into the hands of Daniel if he were, according to the account in his book, then in Babylon; and it is not probable that so remarkable a document would be suffered by “him” to be lost. The fact that it was preserved by him is all that is needful to answer the questions on that point. It “may” have been swept away with other matters in the ruin that came upon the Chaldean records in their own country; it has been preserved where it was most important that it should be preserved - in a book where it would be to all ages, and in all lands, a signal proof that God reigns over kings, and that he has power to humble and abase the proud.
II. There is a second class of objections to the credibility of the account in this chapter quite distinct from that just noticed. They are based on what is alleged to be the intrinsic “improbability” that the things which are said to have occurred to Nebuchadnezzar should have happened. It cannot be alleged, indeed, that it is incredible that a monarch should become a maniac - for the kings of the earth are no more exempt from this terrible malady than their subjects; but the objections here referred to relate to the statements respecting the manner in which it is said that this monarch was treated, and that he lived during this long period. These objections may be briefly noticed.
(1) It has been objected, that it is wholly improbable that a monarch at the head of such an empire would, if he became incapable of administering the affairs of government, be so utterly neglected as the representation here would imply: that he would be suffered to wander from his palace to live with beasts; to fare as they fared, and to become in his whole appearance so “like” a beast. It is indeed admitted by those who make this objection, that there is no improbability that the calamity would befall a king as well as other men; and Michaelis has remarked that it is even more probable that a monarch would he thus afflicted than others (“Anm. Z. Dan.” p. 41; compare Bertholdt, p. 304), but it is alleged that it is wholly improbable that one so high in office and in power would be treated with the utter neglect which is stated here. “Is it credible,” says Bertholdt (p. 300-303), “that the royal family, and the royal counselors, should have shown so little care or concern for a monarch who had come into a state so perfectly helpless? Would no one have sought him out, and brought him back, if he had wandered so far away? Could he anywhere in the open plains, and the regions about Babylon, destitute of forests, have concealed himself so that no one could have found him? It could only have been by a miracle, that one could have wandered about for so long a time, amidst the dangers which must have befallen him, without having been destroyed by wild beasts, or falling into some form of irrecoverable ruin. What an unwise policy in a government to exhibit to a newly-conquered people so dishonorable a spectacle!”
To this objection it may be replied,
(a) That its force, as it was formerly urged, may be somewhat removed by a correct interpretation of the chapter, and a more accurate knowledge of the disease which came upon the king, and of the manner in which he was actually treated. According to some views formerly entertained respecting the nature of the malady, it would have been impossible, I admit, to have defended the narrative. In respect to these views, see the notes at Daniel 4:25. It “may” appear, from the fair interpretation of the whole narrative, that nothing more occurred than was natural in the circumstances.
(b) The supposition that he was left to wander without any kind of oversight or guardianship is entirely gratuitous, and is unauthorized by the account which Nebuchadnezzar gives of what occurred. This opinion has been partly formed from a false interpretation of the phrase in Daniel 4:36 - “and my counselers and my lords sought unto me” - as if they had sought him when he was wandering, with a view to find out where he was; whereas the true meaning of that passage is, that “after” his restoration they sought unto him, or applied to him as the head of the empire, as they had formerly done.
(c) There is some probability from the passage in Daniel 4:15 - “leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass” - that Nebuchadnezzar was secured in the manner in which maniacs often have been, and that in his rage he was carefully guarded from all danger of injuring himself. See the notes at Daniel 4:15.
(d) On the supposition that he was not, still there might have been all proper “care” taken to guard him. All that may be implied when it is said that he “was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen,” etc., may have been that this was his “propensity” in that state; that he had this roving disposition, and was disposed rather to wander in fields and groves than to dwell in the abodes of men; and that he was driven “by this propensity,” not “by men,” to leave his palace, and to take up his residence in parks or groves - anywhere rather than in human habitations. This has been not an uncommon propensity with maniacs, and there is no improbability in supposing that this was permitted by those who had the care of him, as far as was consistent with his safety, and with what was due to him as a monarch, though his reason was driven from its throne. In the parks attached to the palace; in the large pleasure-grounds, that were not improbably stocked with various kinds of animals, as a sort of royal menagerie, there is no improbability in supposing that he may have been allowed at proper times, and with suitable guards, to roam, nor that the fallen and humbled monarch may have found, in comparatively lucid intervals, a degree of pleasant amusement in such grounds, nor even that it might be supposed that this would contribute to his restoration to health.
Nor, on “any” supposition in regard to these statements, even admitting that there was a great degree of criminal inattention on the part of his friends, would his treatment have been worse than what has usually occurred in respect to the insane. Up to quite a recent period, and even now in many civilized lands, the insane have been treated with the most gross neglect, and with the severest cruelty, even by their friends. Left to wander where they chose without a protector; unshaven and unwashed; the sport of the idle and the vicious; thrown into common jails among felons; bound with heavy chains to the cold walls of dungeons; confined in cellars or garrets with no fire in the coldest weather; with insufficient clothing, perhaps entirely naked, and in the midst of the most disgusting filth - such treatment, even in Christian lands, and by Christian people, may show that in a pagan land, five hundred years before the light of Christianity dawned upon the world, it is not “wholly” incredible that an insane monarch “might” have been treated in the manner described in this chapter.
If the best friends now may so neglect, or treat with such severity, an insane son or daughter, there is no improbability in supposing that in an age of comparative barbarism there may have been as “little” humanity as is implied in this chapter. The following extracts from the Second Annual Report of the Prison Discipline Society (“Boston”) will show what has occurred in the nineteenth century, in this Christian land, and in the old commonwealth of Massachusetts - a commonwealth distinguished for morals, and for humane feeling - and will demonstrate at the same time that what is here stated about the monarch of pagan Babylon is not unworthy of belief. They refer to the treatment of lunatics in that commonwealth before the establishment of the hospital for the insane at Worcester. “In Massachusetts, by an examination made with care, about thirty lunatics have been found in prison. In one prison were found three; in another five; in another six; and in another ten. It is a source of great complaint with the sheriffs and jailers that they must receive such persons, because they have no suitable accommodations for them. Of those last mentioned, one was found in an apartment in which he had been nine years. He had a wreath of rags around his body, and another around his neck. This was all his clothing. He had no bed, chair, or bench. Two or three: rough planks were strewed around the room; a heap of filthy straw, like the nest of swine, was in the corner. He had built a bird’s nest of mud in the iron grate of his den. Connected with his wretched apartment was a dark dungeon, having no orifice for the admission of light, heat, or air, except the iron door, about two and a half feet square, opening into it from the prison.
The other lunatics in the same prison were scattered about in different apartments, with thieves and murderers, and persons under arrest, but not yet convicted of guilt. In the prison of five lunatics, they were confined in separate cells, which were almost dark dungeons. It was difficult after the door was open to see them distinctly. The ventilation was so incomplete that more than one person on entering them has found the air so fetid as to produce nausea, and almost vomiting. The old straw on which they were laid, and their filthy garments, were such as to make their insanity more hopeless; and at one time it was not considered within the province of the physician to examine particularly the condition of the lunatics. In these circumstances any improvement of their minds could hardly be expected. Instead of having three out of four restored to reason, as is the fact in some of the favored lunatic asylums, it is to be feared that in these circumstances some who might otherwise be restored would become incurable, and that others might lose their lives, to say nothing of present suffering.
In the prison in which were six lunatics their condition was less wretched. But they were sometimes an annoyance, and sometimes a sport to the convicts; and even the apartment in which the females were confined opened into the yard of the men; there was an injurious interchange of obscenity and profanity between them, which was not restrained by the presence of the keeper. In the prison, or house of correction, so called, in which were ten lunatics, two were found about seventy years of age, a male and female, in the same apartment of an upper story. The female was lying upon a heap of straw under a broken window. The snow in a severe storm was beating through the window, and lay upon the straw around her withered body, which was partially covered with a few filthy and tattered garments. The man was lying in the corner of the room in a similar situation, except that he was less exposed to the storm.
The former had been in this apartment six, and the latter twenty-one years. Another lunatic in the same prison was found in a plank apartment of the first story, where he had been eight years. During this time he had never left the room but twice. The door of this apartment had not been opened in eighteen months. The food was furnished through a small orifice in the door. The room was warmed by no fire; and still the woman of the house said ‘he had never froze.’ As he was seen through the orifice of the door, the first question was, ‘Is that a human being?’ The hair was gone from one side of his head, and his eyes were like balls of fire. In the cellar of the same prison were five lunatics. The windows of this cellar were no defense against the storm, and, as might be supposed, the woman of the house said, ‘We have a sight to do to keep them from freezing.’ There was no fire in this cellar which could be felt by four of these lunatics.
One of the five had a little fire of turf in an apartment of the cellar by herself. She was, however, infuriate, if any one came near her. The woman was committed to this cellar seventeen years ago. The apartments are about six feet by eight. They are made of coarse plank, and have an orifice in the door for the admission of light and air, about six inches by four. The darkness was such in two of these apartments that nothing could be seen by looking through the orifice in the door. At the same time there was a poor lunatic in each. A man who has grown old was committed to one of them in 1810, and had lived in it seventeen years. An emaciated female was found in a similar apartment, in the dark, without fire, almost without covering, where she had been nearly two years. A colored woman in another, in which she had been six years; and a miserable man in another, in which he had been four years.”
(2) It is asked by Bertholdt, as an objection (p. 301), whether “it is credible that one who had been for so long a time a maniac would be restored again to the throne; and whether the government would be again placed in his hands, without any apprehension that he would relapse into the same state? Or whether it can be believed that the lives and fortunes of so many million would be again entrusted to his will and power?” To these questions it may be replied:
(a) That if he was restored to his reason he had a right to the throne, and it might not have been a doubtful point whether he should be restored to it or not.
(b) It is probable that during that time a regency was appointed, and that there would be a hope entertained that he would be restored. Undoubtedly, during the continuation of this malady, the government would be, as was the case during the somewhat similar malady of George III of Great Britain, placed in the hands of others, and unless there was a revolution, or an usurpation, he would be, of course, restored to his throne on the recovery of his reason.
(c) To this it may be added, that he was a monarch who had been eminently successful in his conquests; who had done much to enlarge the limits of the empire, and to adorn the capital; and that much was to be apprehended from the character of his legal successor, Evil-Merodach (Hengstenberg, p. 113); and that if he were displaced, they who were then the chief officers of the nation had reason to suppose that, in accordance with Oriental usage on the accession of a new sovereign, they would lose their places.
(3) It has been asked also, as an objection, whether “it is not to be presumed that Nebuchadnezzar, on the supposition that he was restored from so fearful a malady, would have employed all the means in his power to suppress the knowledge of it; or whether, if any communication was made in regard to it, pains would not have been taken to give a coloring to the account by suppressing the real truth, and by attributing the affliction to some other cause?” - Bertholdt, p. 301. To this it may be replied:
(a) That if the representation here made of the cause of his malady is correct, that it was a Divine judgment on him for his pride, and that God’s design in bringing it on him was that he himself might be made known, it is reasonable to presume that, on his restoration, there would be such a Divine influence on the mind of the monarch, as to lead him to make this proclamation, or this public recognition of the Most High;
(b) that the edict seems to have been made, not as a matter of policy, but under the fresh recollection of a restoration from so terrible a calamity;
(c) that Nebuchadnezzar seems to have been a man who had a conscience that prompted him to a decided acknowledgment of Divine interposition;
(d) that he had a strong religious propensity (compare Daniel 3:0), and was ready to make any public acknowledgment of what he regarded as Divine; and
(e) that perhaps he supposed that, by stating the truth as it actually occurred, a better impression might be made than already existed in regard to the nature of the malady. It may have been an object, also, with him to convince his subjects that, although he had been deprived of his reason, he was now, in fact, restored to a sound mind.
(4) Another ground of objection has been urged by Eichhorn, Bertholdt, and others, derived from the character of the edict. It is said that “the narrative represents Nebuchadnezzar at one time as an orthodox Jew, setting forth his views almost in the very words used in the writings of the Jews, and which only a Jew would employ (see Daniel 4:2-3, Daniel 4:34-37), and then again as a mere idolater, using the language which an idolater would employ, and still acknowledging the reality of idol gods, Daniel 4:8-9, Daniel 4:18.” To this it may be replied, that this very circumstance is rather a confirmation of the truth of the account than otherwise. It is just such an account as we should suppose that a monarch, trained up in idolatry, and practicing it all his life, and yet suddenly, and in this impressive manner, made acquainted with the true God, would be likely to give. In an edict published by such a monarch, under such circumstances, it would be strange if there should be no betrayal of the fact that he had been a worshipper of pagan gods, nor would it be strange that when he disclosed his dream to Daniel, asking him to interpret it, and professing to believe that he was under the influence of inspiration from above, he should trace it to the gods in general, Daniel 4:8-9, Daniel 4:18.
And, in like manner, if the thing actually occurred, as is related, it would be certain that he would use such language in describing it as an “orthodox Jew” might use. It is to be remembered that he is represented as obtaining his view of what was meant by the vision from Daniel, and nothing is more probable than that he would use such language as Daniel would have suggested. It could not be supposed that one who had been an idolater all his life would soon efface from his mind all the impressions made by the habit of idolatry, so that no traces of it would appear in a proclamation on an occasion like this; nor could it be supposed that there would be no recognition of God as the true God. Nothing would be more natural than such an intermingling of false notions with the true. Indeed, there is in fact scarcely any circumstance in regard to this chapter that has more the air of authenticity, nor could there well be anything more probable in itself, than what is here stated.
It is just such an intermingling of truth with falsehood as we should expect in a mind trained in paganism; and yet this is a circumstance which would not be very likely to occur to one who attempted a forgery, or who endeavored to draw the character of a pagan monarch in such circumstances without authentic materials. If the edict was the work of a Jew, he would have been likely to represent its author without any remains of paganism in his mind: if it were the work of a pagan, there would have been no such recognition of the true God. If it is a mere fiction, the artifice is too refined to have been likely to occur, to attempt to draw him in this state of mind, where there was an intermingling of falsehood with truth; of the remains of all his old habits of thinking, with new and momentous truths that had just begun to dawn on his mind. The supposition that will best suit all the circumstances of the case, and be liable to the fewest objections, is, that the account is an unvarnished statement of what actually occurred. On the whole subject of the objections to this chapter, the reader may consult Hengstenberg, Die Authentie des Daniel, pp. 100-119. For many of the remarks here made, I am indebted to that work. Compare further see the notes at Daniel 4:25, following.
Section II. - Analysis of the Chapter
The chapter professes to be an edict published by Nebuchadnezzar after his recovery from a long period of insanity, which was brought upon him for his pride. The edict was promulgated with a view to lead men to acknowledge the true God. It states, in general, that the approach of his calamity was made known to him in a dream, which was interpreted by Daniel; that his own heart had been lifted up with pride in view of the splendid city which he had built; that the predicted malady came suddenly upon him, even while he was indulging in these proud reflections; that he was driven away from the abodes of men, a poor neglected maniac; that he again recovered his reason, and then his throne; and that the God who had thus humbled him, and again restored him, was the true God, and was worthy of universal adoration and praise. The edict, therefore, embraces the following parts:
I. The reason why it was promulgated - to show to all people, dwelling in all parts of the earth, the great things which the high God had done toward him, Daniel 4:1-3.
II. The statement of the fact that he had had a dream which greatly alarmed him, and which none of the Chaldean soothsayers had been able to interpret, Daniel 4:4-7.
III. The statement of the dream in full to Daniel, Daniel 4:8-18.
IV. The interpretation of the dream by Daniel - predicting the fact that he would become a maniac, and would be driven from his throne and kingdom, and compelled to take up his abode with the beasts of the field - a poor neglected outcast, Daniel 4:19-26.
V. The solemn and faithful counsel of Daniel to him to break off his sins, and to become a righteous man, if possibly the terrible calamity might be averted, Daniel 4:27.
VI. The fulfillment of the prediction of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was walking on his palace, and, in the pride of his heart, surveying the great city which he had built, and suddenly a voice from heaven addressed him, announcing that his kingdom had departed, and his reason left him, Daniel 4:28-33.
VII. At the end of the appointed time, his reason was restored, and he gratefully acknowledged the Divine sovereignty, and was again reinstated on his throne, Daniel 4:34-36.
VIII. For all this, he says that he praised the God of heaven, for he had learned that all his works are truth, and his ways judgment, and that those who walk in pride he is able to abase, Daniel 4:37.
Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people ... - The Syriac here has, “Nebuchadnezzar the king wrote to all people, etc.” Many manuscripts in the Chaldee have שׁלח shâlach, “sent,” and some have כתב kethab, “wrote;” but neither of these readings are probably genuine, nor are they necessary. The passage is rather a part of the edict of the king than a narrative of the author of the book, and in such an edict the comparatively abrupt style of the present reading would be what would be adopted. The Septuagint has inserted here a historical statement of the fact that Nebuchadnezzar did actually issue such an edict: “And Nebuchadnezzar the king wrote an encyclical epistle - ἐπιστολὴν ἐγκύκλιον epistolēn egkuklion - to all those nations in every place, and to the regions, and to all the tongues that dwell in all countries, generations and generations: ‘Nebuchadnezzar the king,’” etc. But nothing of this is in the original.
Unto all people, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth - That is, people speaking all the languages of the earth. Many nations were under the scepter of the king of Babylon; but it would seem that he designed this as a general proclamation, not only to those who were embraced in his empire, but to all the people of the world. Such a proclamation would be much in accordance with the Oriental style. Compare the note at Daniel 3:4.
Peace be multiplied unto you - This is in accordance with the usual Oriental salutation. Compare Genesis 43:23; Jdg 6:23; 1 Samuel 25:6; Psalms 122:7; Luke 10:5; Ephesians 6:23; 1 Peter 1:2. This is the salutation with which one meets another now in the Oriental world - the same word still being retained, “Shalom,” or “Salam.” The idea seemed to be, that every blessing was found in peace, and every evil in conflict and war. The expression included the wish that they might be preserved from all that would disturb them; that they might be contented, quiet, prosperous, and happy. When it is said “peace be multiplied,” the wish is that it might abound, or that they might be blessed with the numberless mercies which peace produces.
I thought it good - Margin, “it was seemly before me.” The marginal reading is more in accordance with the original (קדמי שׁפר shephar qâdâmay). The proper meaning of the Chaldee word (שׁפר shephar) is, to be fair or beautiful; and the sense here is, that it seemed to him to be appropriate or becoming to make this public proclamation. It was fit and right that what God had done to him should be proclaimed to all nations.
To show the signs and wonders - Signs and wonders, as denoting mighty miracles, are not unfrequently connected in the Scriptures. See Exodus 7:3; Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 34:11; Isaiah 8:18; Jeremiah 32:20. The word rendered “signs” (Hebrew: אות 'ôth - Chaldee: את 'âth) means, properly, “a sign,” as something significant, or something that points out or designates anything; as Genesis 1:14, “shall be for “signs” and for seasons;” that is, signs of seasons. Then the word denotes an ensign, a military flag, Numbers 2:2; then a sign of something past, a token or remembrancer, Exodus 13:9, Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; then a sign of something future, a portent, an omen, Isaiah 8:18; then a sign or token of what is visible, as circumcision, Genesis 17:11, or the rainbow in the cloud, as a token of the covenant which God made with man, Genesis 9:12; then anything which serves as a sign or proof of the fulfillment of prophecy, Exodus 3:12; 1 Samuel 2:34; and then it refers to anything which is a sign or proof of Divine power, Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 6:22; Deuteronomy 7:19, “et al.”
The Hebrew word is commonly rendered “signs,” but it is also rendered “token, ensign, miracles.” As applied to what God does, it seems to be used in the sense of anything that is significant of his presence and power; anything that shall manifestly show that, what occurs is done by him; anything that is beyond human ability, and that makes known the being and the perfections of God by a direct and extraordinary manifestation. Here the meaning is, that what was done in so remarkable a manner was significant of the agency of God; it was what demonstrated that he exists, and that showed his greatness. The word rendered “wonders” (תמה temahh) means, properly, what is fitted to produce astonishment, or to lead one to wonder, and is applied to miracles as adapted to produce that effect. It refers to that state of mind which exists where anything occurs out of the ordinary course of nature, or which indicates supernatural power. The Hebrew word rendered “wonders” is often used to denote miracles, Exodus 3:20; Exodus 7:3; Exodus 11:9; Deuteronomy 6:22, “et al.” The meaning here is, that what had occurred was fitted to excite amazement, and to lead men to wonder at the mighty works of God.
That the high God - The God who is exalted, or lifted up; that is, the God who is above all. See Daniel 3:26. It is an appellation which would be given to God as the Supreme Being. The Greek translation of this verse is, “And now I show unto you the deeds - πράξεις praxeis - which the great God has done unto me, for it seemed good to me to show to you and your wise men” - τοῖς σοφισταῖς ὑμῶν tois sophistais humōn.
How great are his signs! - How great and wonderful are the things by which he makes himself known in this manner! The allusion is doubtless to what had occurred to himself - the event by which a monarch of such state and power had been reduced to a condition so humble. With propriety he would regard this as a signal instance of the Divine interposition, and as adapted to give him an exalted view of the supremacy of the true God.
And how mighty are his wonders! - The wonderful events which he does; the things fitted to produce admiration and astonishment. Compare Psalms 72:18; Psalms 86:10; Isaiah 25:1.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom - Nebuchadnezzar was doubtless led to this reflection by what had occurred to him. He, the most mighty monarch then on earth, had seen that his throne had no stability; he had seen that God had power at his will to bring him down from his lofty seat, and to transfer his authority to other hands; and he was naturally led to reflect that the throne of God was the only one that was stable and permanent. He could not but be convinced that God reigned over all, and that his kingdom was not subject to the vicissitudes which occur in the kingdoms of this world. There have been few occurrences on the earth better adapted to teach this lesson than this.
And his dominion is from generation to generation - That is, it is perpetual. It is not liable to be arrested as that of man is, by death; it does not pass over from one family to another as an earthly scepter often does. The same scepter; the same system of laws; the same providential arrangements; the same methods of reward and punishment, have always existed under his government, and will continue to do so to the end of time. There is, perhaps, no more sublime view that can be taken of the government of God than this. All earthly princes die; all authority lodged in the hands of an earthly monarch is soon withdrawn. No one is so mighty that he can prolong his own reign; and no one can make his own authority extend to the next generation. Earthly governments, therefore, however mighty, are of short duration; and history is made up of the records of a great number of such administrations, many of them exceedingly brief, and of very various character. The scepter falls from the hand of the monarch, never to be resumed by him again; another grasps it to retain it also but a little time, and then he passes away. But the dominion of God is in all generations the same. This generation is under the government of the same Sovereign who reigned when Semiramis or Numa lived; and though the scepter has long since fallen from the hands of Alexander and the Caesars, yet the same God who ruled in their age is still on the throne.
I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest - Some manuscripts in the Greek add here, “In the eighteenth year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar said.” These words, however, are not in the Hebrew, and are of no authority. The word rendered “at rest” (שׁלה shelēh) means, to be secure; to be free from apprehension or alarm. He designs to describe a state of tranquility and security. Greek, “at peace” - εἰρηνέυων eirēneuōn: enjoying peace, or in a condition to enjoy peace. His wars were over; his kingdom was tranquil; he had built a magnificent capital; he had gathered around him the wealth and the luxuries of the world, and he was now in a condition to pass away the remainder of his life in ease and happiness.
In mine house - In his royal residence. It is possible that the two words here - house and palace - may refer to somewhat different things: the former - house - more particularly to his own private family - is domestic relations as a man; and the latter - palace - to those connected with the government who resided in his palace. If this is so, then the passage would mean that all around him was peaceful, and that from no source had he any cause of disquiet. In his own private family - embracing his wife and children; and in the arrangements of the palace - embracing those who had charge of public affairs, he had no cause of uneasiness.
And flourishing in my palace - Greek, εὐθηνῶν ἐπὶ τοῦ θρόνου μου euthēnōn epi tou thronou mou - literally, “abundant upon my throne;” that is, he was tranquil, calm, prosperous on his throne. The Chaldee word (רענן ra‛ănan) means, properly, “green;” as, for example, of leaves or foliage. Compare the Hebrew word in Jeremiah 17:8; “He shall be as a tree planted by the waters - her leaf shall be green.” Deuteronomy 12:2, “under every green tree,” 2 Kings 16:4. A green and flourishing tree becomes thus the emblem of prosperity. See Psalms 1:3; Psalms 37:35; Psalms 92:12-14. The general meaning here is, that he was enjoying abundant prosperity. His kingdom was at peace, and in his own home he had every means of tranquil enjoyment.
I saw a dream - That is, he saw a representation made to him in a dream. There is something incongruous in our language in saying of one that he saw a dream.
Which made me afraid - The fear evidently arose from the apprehension that it was designed to disclose some important and solemn event. This was in accordance with a prevalent belief then (comp. Daniel 2:1), and it may be added that it is in accordance with a prevalent belief now. There are few persons, whatever may be their abstract belief, who are not more or less disturbed by fearful and solemn representations passing before the mind in the visions of the night. Compare Job 4:12-17; Job 33:14-15. So Virgil (Aen. iv. 9):
“Anna soror, quae me suspensam insomnia terrent!”
And the thoughts upon my bed - The thoughts which I had upon my bed; to wit, in my dream.
And the visions of my head - What I seemed to see. The vision seemed to be floating around his head.
Troubled me - Disturbed me; produced apprehension of what was to come; of some great and important event.
Therefore made I a decree - The word here rendered decree (טעם ṭe‛êm) means, commonly, “taste, flavor,” as of wine; then “judgment, discernment, reason;” and then a judgment of a king, a mandate, edict. Compare Daniel 3:10. The primary notion seems to be that of a delicate “taste” enabling one to determine the qualities of wines, viands, etc.; and then a delicate and nice discrimination in regard to the qualities of actions. The word thus expresses a sound and accurate judgment, and is applied to a decree or edict, as declared by one who had the qualifications to express such a judgment. Here it means, that he issued a royal order to summon into his presence all who could be supposed to be qualified to explain the dream. The Greek (Codex Chisianus) omits Daniel 4:6-9.
To bring in all the wise men ... - Particularly such as are enumerated in the following verse. Compare Daniel 2:12. It was in accordance with his habit thus to call in the wise men who were retained at court to give counsel, and to explain those things which seemed to be an intimation of the Divine will. See the note at Daniel 2:2. Compare also Genesis 41:8.
Then came in the magicians ... - All the words occurring here are found in Daniel 2:2, and are explained in the note at that verse, except the word rendered “soothsayers.” This occurs in Daniel 2:27. See it explained in the note at that verse. All these words refer to the same general class of persons - those who were regarded as endued with eminent wisdom; who were supposed to be qualified to explain remarkable occurrences, to foretell the future, and to declare the will of heaven from portents and wonders. At a time when there was yet a limited revelation; when the boundaries of science were not determined with accuracy; when it was not certain but that some way might be ascertained of lifting the mysterious veil from the future, and when it was an open question whether that might not be by dreams or by communication with departed spirits, or by some undisclosed secrets of nature, it was not unnatural that persons should be found who claimed that this knowledge was under their control. Such claimants to preternatural knowledge are found indeed in every age; and though a large portion of them are undoubted deceivers, yet the existence of such an order of persons should be regarded as merely the exponent of the deep and earnest desire existing in the human bosom to penetrate the mysterious future; to find something that shall disclose to man, all whose great interests lie in the future, what is yet to be. Compare the remarks at the close of Daniel 2:0.
And I told the dream before them ... - In their presence. In this instance he did not lay on them so hard a requisition as he did on a former occasion, when he required them not only to interpret the dream, but to tell him what it was, Daniel 2:0. But their pretended power here was equally vain. Whether they attempted an interpretation of this dream does not appear; but if they did, it was wholly unsatisfactory to the king himself. It would seem more probable that they supposed that the dream might have some reference to the proud monarch himself, and that, as it indicated some awful calamity, they did not dare to hazard a conjecture in regard to its meaning.
But at the last - After the others had shown that they could not interpret the dream. Why Daniel was not called with the others does not appear; nor is it said in what manner he was at last summoned into the presence of the king. It is probable that his skill on a former occasion Daniel 2:0 was remembered, and that when all the others showed that they had no power to interpret the dream, he was called in by Nebuchadnezzar. The Latin Vulgate renders this, Donee collega ingressus est - “until a colleague entered.” The Greek, ἕως heōs, “until.” Aquila and Symmachus render it, “until another entered before me, Daniel.” The common version expresses the sense of the Chaldee with sufficient accuracy, though a more literal translation would be, “until afterward.”
Whose name was Belteshazzar - That is, this was the name which he bore at court, or which had been given him by the Chaldeans. See the note at Daniel 1:7.
According to the name of my god - That is, the name of my god Bel, or Belus, is incorporated in the name given to him. This is referred to here, probably, to show the propriety of thus invoking his aid; because he bore the name of the god whom the monarch had adored. There would seem to be a special fitness in summoning him before him, to explain what was supposed to be an intimation of the will of the god whom he worshipped. There is a singular, though not unnatural, mixture of the sentiments of paganism and of the true religion in the expressions which this monarch uses in this chapter. He had been a pagan all his life; yet he had had some knowledge of the true God, and had been made to feel that he was worthy of universal adoration and praise, Daniel 2:0. That, in this state of mind, he should alternately express such sentiments as were originated by paganism, and those which spring from just views of God, is not unnatural or improbable.
And in whom is the spirit of the holy gods - It is not easy to determine whom he meant by the holy gods. It would seem probable that this was such language as was dictated by the fact that he had been an idolater. He had been brought to feel that the God whom Daniel worshipped, and by whose aid he had been enabled to interpret the dream, was a true God, and was worthy of universal homage; but perhaps his ideas were still much confused, and he only regarded him as superior to all others, though he did not intend to deny the real existence of others. It might be true, in his apprehension, that there were other gods, though the God of Daniel was supreme, and perhaps he meant to say that the spirit of all the gods was in Daniel; that in an eminent degree he was the favorite of heaven, and that he was able to interpret any communication which came from the invisible world. It is perhaps unnecessary to observe here that the word spirit has no intended reference to the Holy Spirit. It is probably used with reference to the belief that the gods were accustomed to impart wisdom and knowledge to certain men, and may mean that the very spirit of wisdom and knowledge which dwelt in the gods themselves seemed to dwell in the bosom of Daniel.
And before him I told the dream - Not requiring him, as he did before Daniel 2:0, to state both the dream and its meaning.
O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians - “Master,” in the sense that he was first among them, or was superior to them all. Or, perhaps, he still retained office at the head of this class of men - the office to which he had been appointed when he interpreted the former dream, Daniel 2:48. The word rendered “master” (רב rab) is that which was applied to a teacher, a chief, or a great man among the Jews - from where came the title “rabbi.” Compare Daniel 2:48; Daniel 5:11.
Because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee - This he had learned by the skill which he had shown in interpreting his dream on former occasion, Daniel 2:0.
And no secret troubleth thee - That is, so troubles you that you cannot explain it; it is not beyond your power to disclose its signification. The word rendered “secret” (רז r̂az) occurs in Daniel 2:18-19, Daniel 2:27-30, Daniel 2:47. It is not elsewhere found. It means what is hidden, and has reference here to the concealed truth or intimation of the Divine will couched under a dream. The word rendered “troubleth thee” (אנס 'ânas) means, to urge, to press, to compel; and the idea here is, than it did not so “press” upon him as to give him anxiety. It was an easy matter for him to disclose its meaning. Greek, “No mystery is beyond your power” - ὀυκ ἀδυνατεῖ σε ouk adunatei se.
Tell me the visions of my dream - The nature of the vision, or the purport of what I have seen. He seems to have desired to know what sort of a vision he should regard this to be, as well as its interpretation - whether as an intimation of the Divine will, or as an ordimary dream. The Greek and Arabic render this, “Hear the vision of my dream, and tell me the interpretation thereof.” This accords better with the probable meaning of the passage, though the word “hear” is not in the Chaldee.
Thus were the visions of my head in my bed - These are the things which I saw upon my bed. When he says that they were the “visions of his head,” he states a doctrine which was then doubtless regarded as the truth, that the head is the seat of thought.
I saw - Margin, “was seeing.” Chaldee, “seeing I saw.” The phrase would imply attentive and calm contemplation. It was not a flitting vision; it was an object which he contemplated deliberately so as to retain a distinct remembrance of its form and appearance.
And, behold, a tree in the midst of the earth - Occupying a central position on the earth. It seems to have been by itself - remote from any forest: to have stood alone. Its central position, no less than its size and proportions, attracted his attention. Such a tree, thus towering to the heavens, and sending out its branches afar, and affording a shade to the beasts of the field, and a home to the fowls of heaven Daniel 4:12, was a striking emblem of a great and mighty monarch, and it undoubtedly occurred to Nebuchadnezzar at once that the vision had some reference to himself. Thus in Ezekiel 31:3, the Assyrian king is compared with a magnificent cedar: “Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature, and his top was among the thick boughs.” Compare also Ezekiel 17:22-24, where “the high tree and the green tree” refer probably to Nebuchadnezzar. See the note at Isaiah 2:13. Compare Isaiah 10:18-19; Jeremiah 22:7, Jeremiah 22:23. Homer often compares his heroes to trees. Hector, felled by a stone, is compared with an oak overthrown by a thunderbolt. The fall of Simoisius is compared by him to that of a poplar, and that of Euphorbus to the fall of a beautiful olive. Nothing is more obvious than the comparison of a hero with a lofty tree of the forest, and hence, it was natural for Nebuchadnezzar to suppose that this vision had a reference to himself.
And the height thereof was great - In the next verse it is said to have reached to heaven.
The tree grew - Or the tree was “great” - רבה rebâh. It does not mean that the tree grew while he was looking at it so as to reach to the heaven, but that it stood before him in all its glory, its top reaching to the sky, and its branches extending afar.
And was strong - It was well-proportioned, with a trunk adapted to its height, and to the mass of boughs and foliage which it bore. The strength here refers to its trunk, and to the fact that it seemed fixed firmly in the earth.
And the height thereof reached unto heaven - To the sky; to the region of the clouds. The comparison of trees reaching to heaven is common in Greek and Latin authors. - Grotius. Compare Virgil’s description of Fame.
“Mox sese attollit in auras,
Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubila condit.” -
“AEn. iv. 176
And the sight thereof to the end of all the earth - It could be seen, or was visible in all parts of the earth. The Greek here for “sight” is κῦτος kutos, “breadth, capaciousness.” Herodotus (“Polymnia”) describes a vision remarkably similar to this, as indicative of a wide and universal monarchy, respecting Xerxes:
“After these things there was a third vision in his sleep, which the magicians (μάγοι magoi) hearing of, said that it pertained to all the earth, and denoted that all men would be subject to him. The vision was this: Xerxes seemed to be crowned with a branch of laurel, and the branches of laurel seemed to extend through all the earth.” The vision which Nebuchadnezzar had here, of a tree so conspicuous as to be seen from any part of the world, was one that would be naturally applied to a sovereign having a universal sway.
The leaves thereof were fair - Were beautiful. That is, they were abundant, and green, and there were no signs of decay. Everything indicated a vigorous and healthy growth - a tree in its full beauty and majesty - a striking emblem of a monarch in his glory.
And the fruit thereof much - It was loaded with fruit - showing that the tree was in its full vigour.
And in it was meat for all - Food for all, for so the word meat was formerly used. This would indicate the dependence of the multitudes on him whom the tree represented, and would also denote that he was a liberal dispenser of his favors.
The beasts of the field had shadow under it - Found a grateful shade under it in the burning heat of noon - a striking emblem of the blessings of a monarchy affording protection, and giving peace to all under it.
And the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof - The fowls of the air. They built their nests and reared their young there undisturbed, another striking emblem of the protection afforded under the great monarchy designed to be represented.
And all flesh was fed of it - All animals; all that lived. It furnished protection, a home, and food for all. Bertholdt renders this, “all men.” In the Greek Codex Chisianus there is the following version or paraphrase given of this passage: “Its vision was great, its top reached to the heaven, and its breadth (κῦτος kutos) to the clouds - they filled the things (τὰ ta) under the heaven - there was a sun and moon, they dwelt in it, and enlightened all the earth.”
I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed - In the visions that passed before me as I lay upon my bed, Daniel 4:10.
And, behold, a watcher and an holy one - Or rather, perhaps, “even a holy one;” or, “who was a holy one.” He evidently does not intend to refer to two beings, a “watcher,” and “one who was holy;” but he means to designate the character of the watcher, that he was holy, or that he was one of the class of “watchers” who were ranked as holy - as if there were others to whom the name “watcher” might be applied who were not holy. So Bertholdt, “not two, but only one, who was both a watcher, and was holy; one of those known as watchers and as holy ones.” The copulative ו (v) and may be so used as to denote not an additional one or thing, but to specify something in addition to, or in explanation of, what the name applied would indicate. Compare 1 Samuel 28:3 : “In Ramah, even (ו v) in his own city.” 1 Samuel 17:40 : “and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even (ו v) in a scrip.”
Compare Psalms 68:9 (10); Amos 3:11; Amos 4:10; Jeremiah 15:13; Isaiah 1:13; Isaiah 13:14; Isaiah 57:11; Ecclesiastes 8:2. - Gesenius, “Lex.” The word rendered “watcher” (עיר ‛ı̂yr) is rendered in the Vulgate vigil; in the Greek of Theodotion the word is retained without an attempt to translate it - εἴρ eir; the Codex Chisianus has ἄγγελος angelos - “an angel was sent in his strength from heaven.” The original word (עיר ‛ı̂yr) means, properly, “a watcher,” from עיר ‛ı̂yr, to be hot and ardent; then to be lively, or active, and then to awake, to be awake, to be awake at night, to watch. Compare Song of Solomon 5:2; Malachi 2:12. The word used here is employed to denote one who watches, only in this chapter of Daniel, Daniel 4:13, Daniel 4:17, Daniel 4:23. It is in these places evidently applied to the angels, but “why” this term is used is unknown. Gesenius (“Lex.”) supposes that it is given to them as watching over the souls of men.
Jerome (in loc.) says that the reason why the name is given is because they always watch, and are prepared to do the will of God. According to Jerome, the Greek ἴρις iris as applied to the rainbow, and which seems to be a heavenly being sent down to the earth, is derived from this word. Compare the “Iliad,” ii. 27. Theodoret says that the name is given to an angel, to denote that the angel is without a body - ἀσώματον asōmaton - “for he that is encompassed with a body is the servant of sleep, but he that is free from a body is superior to the necessity of sleep.” The term “watchers,” as applied to the celestial beings, is of Eastern origin, and not improbably was derived from Persia. “The seven Amhaspands received their name on account of their great, holy eyes, and so, generally, all the heavenly Izeds watch in the high heaven over the world and the souls of men, and on this account are called the watchers of the world.” - Zendavesta, as quoted by Bertholdt, in loc. “The Bun-Dehesh, a commentary on the Zendavesta, contains an extract from it, which shows clearly the name and object of the watchers in the ancient system of Zoroaster. It runs thus: “Ormuzd has set four “watchers” in the four parts of the heavens, to keep their eye upon the host of the stars.
They are bound to keep watch over the hosts of the celestial stars. One stands here as the watcher of his circle; the other there. He has placed them at such and such posts, as watchers over such and such a circle of the heavenly regions; and this by his own power and might. Tashter guards the east, Statevis watches the west, Venant the south, and Haftorang the north.” - Rhode, Die heilige Sage des Zendvolks, p. 267, as quoted by Prof. Stuart., in loc. “The epithet “good” is probably added here to distinguish this class of watchers from the “bad” ones, for Ahriman, the evil genius, had “Archdeves” and “Deves,” who corresponded in rank with the Amhaspands and Izeds of the Zendavesta, and who “watched” to do evil as anxiously as the others did to do good.” - Prof. Stuart. It is not improbable that these terms, as applicable to celestial beings, would be known in the kingdom of Babylon, and nothing is more natural than that it should be so used in this book. It is not found in any of the books of pure Hebrew.
He cried aloud - Margin, as in the Chaldee, “with might.” That is, he cried with a strong voice.
Hew down the tree - This command does not appear to have been addressed to any particular ones who were to execute the commission, but it is a strong and significant way of saying that it would certainly be done. Or possibly the command may be understood as addressed to his fellow-watchers Daniel 4:17, or to orders of angels over whom this one presided.
And cut off his branches ... - The idea here, and in the subsequent part of the verse, is, that the tree was to be utterly cut up, and all its glory and beauty destroyed. It was first to be felled, and then its limbs chopped off, and then these were to be stripped of their foliage, and then the fruit which it bore was to be scattered. All this was strikingly significant, as applied to the monarch, of some awful calamity that was to occur to him after he should have been brought down from his throne. A process of humiliation and desolation was to continue, as if the tree, when cut down, were not suffered to lie quietly in its grandeur upon the earth. “Let the beasts get away,” etc. That is, it shall cease to afford a shade to the beasts and a home to the fowls. The purposes which it had answered in the days of its glory will come to an end.
Nevertheless, leave the stump of his roots in the earth - As of a tree that is not wholly dead, but which may send up suckers and shoots again. See the note at Isaiah 11:1. In Theodotion this is, τὴν φυήν τῶν ῥιξῶν tēn phuēn tōn rizōn - the nature, germ. Schleusner renders the Greek, “the trunk of its roots.” The Vulgate is, germen radicum ejus, “the germ of his roots.” The Codex Chisianus has: ῥίξαν μίαν ἄφετε ἀυτοῦ ἐν τῇ γῇ rizan mian aphete autou en tē gē - “leave one of his roots in the earth.” The original Chaldee word (עקר ‛ı̂qqar) means a “stump, trunk” (Gesenius); the Hebrew - עקר ‛ēqer - the same word with different pointing, means a shrub, or shoot. It occurs only once in Hebrew Leviticus 25:47, where it is applied to the stock of a family, or to a person sprung from a foreign family resident in the Hebrew territory: “the stock of the stranger’s family.” The Chaldee form of the word occurs only in Daniel 4:15, Daniel 4:23, Daniel 4:26, rendered in each place “stump,” yet not meaning “stump” in the sense in which that word is now commonly employed. The word “stump” now means the stub of a tree; the part of the tree remaining in the earth, or projecting above it after the tree is cut down, without any reference to the question whether it be alive or dead. The word here used implies that it was still alive, or that there was a germ which would send up a new shoot, so that the tree would live again. The idea is, that though the mighty tree would fall, yet there would remain vitality in the root, or the portion that would remain in the earth after the tree was cut down, and that this would spring up again - a most striking image of what would occur to Nebuchadnezzar after he should be cast down from his lofty throne, and be again restored to his reason and to power.
Even with a band of iron and brass - This expression may be regarded as applicable either to the cut-down tree, or to the humbled monarch. If applied to the former, it would seem that the idea is, that the stump or root of a tree, deemed so valuable, would be carefully secured by an enclosure of iron or brass, either in the form of a hoop placed round the top of the stump, to preserve it from being opened or cracked by the heat of the sun, so as to admit moisture, which would rot it; or around the roots, to bind it together, with the hope that it would grow again; or it may refer to a railing or enclosure of iron or brass, to keep it from being plowed or dug up as worthless. In either case, it would be guarded with the hope that a tree so valuable might spring up again. If applied to the monarch - an explanation not inconsistent with the proper interpretation of the passage - it would seem to refer to some method of securing the royal maniac in bonds of iron and brass, as with the hope that his reason might still be restored, or with a view to keep him from inflicting fatal injury on himself. That the thing here referred to might be practiced in regard to a valuable tree cut down, or broken down, is by no means improbable; that it might be practiced in reference to the monarch is in accordance with the manner in which the insane have been treated in all ages and countries.
In the tender grass of the field - Out of doors; under no shelter; exposed to dews and rains. The stump would remain in the open field where the grass grew, until it should shoot up again; and in a condition strongly resembling that, the monarch would be excluded from his palace and from the abodes of men. For the meaning of this, as applied to Nebuchadnezzar, see the note at Daniel 4:25. The word which is rendered “tender grass,” means simply young grass or herbage. No emphasis should be put on the word tender. It simply means that he would be abroad where the grass springs up and grows.
And let it be wet with the dew of heaven - As applied to the tree, meaning that the dew would fall on it and continually moisten it. The falling of the dew upon it would contribute to preserve it alive and secure its growth again. In a dry soil, or if there were no rain or dew, the germ would die. It cannot be supposed that, in regard to the monarch, it could be meant that his remaining under the dew of heaven would in any way contribute to restore his reason, but all that is implied in regard to him is the fact that he would thus be an outcast. The word rendered “let it be wet” - יצטבע yı̂tseṭaba‛ from צבע tseba‛ - means, to dip in, to immerse; to tinge; to dye; though the word is not found in the latter senses in the Chaldee. In the Targums it is often used for “to dye, to color.” The word occurs only in this chapter of Daniel Daniel 4:15, Daniel 4:23, Daniel 4:33 and is in each place rendered in the same way. It is not used in the Hebrew scripture in the sense of to dye or tinge, except in the form of a noun - צבע tseba‛ - in Judges 5:30 : “To Sisera a prey of divers colors, a prey of divers colors of needlework, of divers colors of needlework.” In the passage before us, of course, there is no allusion of this kind, but the word means merely that the stump of the tree would be kept moist with the dew; as applicable to the tree that it might be more likely to sprout up again.
And let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth - Here is a change evidently from the tree to something represented by the tree. We could not say of a tree that its “portion was with the beasts in the grass,” though in the confused and incongruous images of a dream, nothing would be more natural than such a change from a tree to some object represented by it, or having some resemblance to it. It is probable that it was this circumstance that particularly attracted the attention of the monarch, for though the dream began with a “tree,” it ended with reference to “a person,” and evidently some one whose station would be well represented by such a magnificent and solitary tree. The sense here is, “let him share the lot of beasts; let him live as they do:” that is, let him live on grass. Compare Daniel 4:25.
Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him - Here the same thing occurs in a more marked form, showing that some man was represented by the vision, and indicating some change which was fitted to attract the deepest attention - as if the person referred to should cease to be a man, and become a beast. The word heart here seems to refer to nature - “let his nature or propensity cease to be that of a man, and become like that of a beast; let him cease to act as a man, and act as the beasts do - evincing as little mind, and living in the same manner.”
And let seven times pass over him - In this condition, or until he is restored. It is not indeed said that he would be restored, but this is implied
(a) in the very expression “until seven times shall pass over him,” as if he would then be restored in some way, or as if this condition would then terminate; and
(b) in the statement that “the stump of the roots “would be left in the earth as if it might still germinate again.
Everything, however, in the dream was fitted to produce perplexity as to what it could mean. The word rendered “times” (עדנין ‛ı̂ddânı̂yn - singular, עדן ‛iddân) is an important word in the interpretation of Daniel. It is of the same class of words as the Hebrew יעד yâ‛ad - to point out, to appoint, to fix; and would refer properly to time considered as “appointed” or “designated;” then it may mean any stated or designated period, as a year. The idea is that of time considered as designated or fixed by periods, and the word may refer to any such period, however long or short - a day, a month, a year, or any other measure of duration. What measurement or portion is intended in any particular case must be determined from the connection in which the word is found. The word used here does not occur in the Hebrew scripture, and is found only in the book of Daniel, where it is uniformly rendered “time” and “times.”
It is found only in the following places: Daniel 2:8, “that ye would gain the time;” Daniel 2:9, “till the time be changed;” Daniel 2:21, “and he changeth the times;” Daniel 3:5, Daniel 3:15, “at what time ye shall hear;” Daniel 4:16, Daniel 4:23, “and let seven times pass over him,” Daniel 4:25, Daniel 4:32, “seven times shall pass over him;” Daniel 7:12, “for a season and time;” Daniel 7:25, “until a time and times and the dividing of time.” In the place before us, so far as the meaning of the word is concerned, it might mean a day, a week, a month, or a year. The more common interpretation is what supposes that it was a year, and this will agree better with all the circumstances of the case than any other period. The Greek of Theodotion here is: καὶ ἑππὰ καιροὶ ὰλλαγήσονται ἐπ ̓ ἀυτόν kai hepta kairoi allagēsontai ep' auton - “And seven times shall change upon him;” that is, until seven seasons revolve over him.
The most natural construction of this Greek phrase would be to refer it to years. The Latin Vulgate interprets it in a similar way - et septem tempora mutentur super eum - “And let seven times be changed” or revolve “over him.” In the Codex Chisianus it is: καὶ ἐππὰ ἔτη βοσκηθῆ σὺν αὐτοῖς kai hepta etē boskēthē sun autois - “and let him feed with them seven years.” Luther renders it “times.” Josephus understands by it “seven years.” - “Ant.” b. x. ch. 10: Section 6. While the Chaldee word is indeterminate in respect to the length of time, the most natural and obvious construction here and elsewhere, in the use of the word, is to refer it to years. Days or weeks would be obviously too short, and though in this place the word “months” would perhaps embrace all that would be necessary, yet in the other places where the word occurs in Daniel it undoubtedly refers to years, and there is, therefore, a propriety in understanding it in the same manner here.
This matter is by the decree of the watchers - See the notes at Daniel 4:13. They are described here not only as watching over the affairs of men, but as entrusted wth the execution of high and important designs of God. The representation is, that one of these heavenly beings was seen by Nebuchadnezzar in his visions, and that this one stated to him that he had come to execute what had been determined on by his associates, or in counsel with others. The idea would seem to be, that the affairs of the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar had been in important respects placed under the administration of these beings, and that in solemn council they had resolved on this measure. It is not said that this was not in accordance with, and under the direction of, a higher power - that of God; and that is rather implied when it is said that the great design of this was to show to the living that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.” In itself considered, there is no improbability in supposing that the affairs of this lower world are in some respects placed under the administration of beings superior to man, nor that events may occur as the result of their deliberation, or, as it is here expressed, by their “decree.” If, in any respect, the affairs of the world are subject to their jurisdiction, there is every reason to suppose that there would be harmony of counsel and of action, and an event of this kind might be so represented.
And the demand - Or, the matter; the affair; the business. The Chaldee word properly means a question, a petition; then a subject of inquiry, a matter of business. Here it means, that this matter, or this business, was in accordance with the direction of the holy ones.
The holy ones - Synonymous with the watchers, and referring to the same. See the note at Daniel 4:13.
To the intent that the living may know - With the design that those who live on the earth may understand this. That is, the design was to furnish a proof of this, so impressive and striking, that it could not be doubted by any. No more effectual way of doing this could occur than by showing the absolute power of the Most High over such a monarch as Nebuchadnezzar.
That the Most High - He who is exalted above all men; all angels; all that pretend to be gods. The phrase here is designed to refer to the true God, and the object was to show that he was the most exalted of all beings, and had absolute control over all.
Ruleth in the kingdom of men - Whoever reigns, he reigns over them.
And giveth it to whomsoever he will - That is, he gives dominion over men to whomsoever he chooses. It is not by human ordering, or by arrangements among men. It is not by hereditary right; not by succession; not by conquest; not by usurpation; not by election, that this matter is finally determined; it is by the decree and purpose of God. He can remove the hereditary prince by death; he can cause him to be set aside by granting success to a usurper; he can dispose of a crown by conquest; he can cut off the conqueror by death, and transfer the crown to an inferior officer; he can remove one who was the united choice of a people by death, and put another in his place. So the apostle Paul says, “There is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God” Romans 13:1.
And setteth up over it the basest of men - That is, he appoints over the kingdom of men, at his pleasure, those who are of the humblest or lowest rank. The allusion here is not to Nebuchadnezzar as if he were the “basest” or the “vilest” of men, but the statement is a general truth, that God, at his pleasure, sets aside those of exalted rank, and elevates those of the lowest rank in their place. There is an idea now attached commonly to the word “basest,” which the word used here by no means conveys. It does not denote the mean, the vile, the worthless, the illiberal, but those of humble or lowly rank. This is the proper meaning of the Chaldee word שׁפל shephal - and so it is rendered in the Vulgate, humillimum hominem. The Greek of Theodotion, however, is, “what is disesteemed among men” - ἐξουδένωμα ἀνθρώπῶν exoudenōma anthrōpōn. In the latter part of the dream Daniel 4:15-16 we have an illustration of what often occurs in dreams - their singular incongruity. In the early part of the dream, the vision is that of a tree, and the idea is consistently carried out for a considerable part of it - the height of the tree, the branches, the leaves, the fruit, the shade, the stump; then suddenly there is a “change” to something that is living and human - the change of the “heart” to that of a beast; the being exposed to the dew of heaven; the portion with the beasts of the earth, etc. Such changes and incongruities, as every one knows, are common in dreams. So Shakespeare -
“True, I talk of dreams,
Which are the children of an idle brain,
Begot of nothing but vain fantasy;
Which is as thin of substance as the air,
And more inconstant than the wind, who woos
Even now the frozen bosom of the North,
And, being anger’d puffs away from thence
Turning his face to the dew-dropping South.”
Romeo and Juliet.
This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen - This is the dream which I saw. He had detailed it at length as it appeared to him, without pretending to be able to explain it.
Forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom ... - Daniel 4:7.
But thou art able ... - See the notes at Daniel 4:9.
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar - Daniel 4:8. It has been objected that the mention in this edict of “both” the names by which Daniel was known is an improbable circumstance; that a pagan monarch would only have referred to him by the name by which he was known in Babylon - the name which he had himself conferred on him in honor of the god (“Belus”) after whom he was called. See the note at Daniel 1:7. To this it may be replied, that although in ordinary intercourse with him in Babylon, in addressing him as an officer of state under the Chaldean government, he would undoubtedly be mentioned only by that name; yet, in a proclamation like this, both the names by which he was known would be used - the one to identify him among his own countrymen, the other among the Chaldeans. This proclamation was designed for people of all classes, and ranks, and tongues Daniel 4:1; it was intended to make known the supremacy of the God worshipped by the Hebrews. Nebuchadnezzar had derived the knowledge of the meaning of his dream from one who was a Hebrew, and it was natural, therefore, in order that it might be known by whom the dream had been interpreted, that he should so designate him that it would be understood by all.
Was astonied - Was astonished. The word “astonied,” now gone out of use, several times occurs in the common version; Ezra 9:3; Job 17:8; Job 18:20; Ezekiel 4:17; Daniel 3:24; Daniel 4:19; Daniel 5:9. Daniel was “amazed” and “overwhelmed” at what was manifestly the fearful import of the dream.
For one hour - It is not possible to designate the exact time denoted by the word “hour” - שׁעה shâ‛âh. According to Gesenius (“Lex.”), it means moment of time; properly, a look, a glance, a wink of the eye - German, “augenblick.” In Arabic the word means both a moment and an hour. In Daniel 3:6, Daniel 3:15, it evidently means immediately. Here it would seem to mean a short time. That is, Daniel was fixed in thought, and maintained a profound silence until the king addressed him. We are not to suppose that this continued during the space of time which we call an hour, but he was silent until Nebuchadnezzar addressed him. He would not seem to be willing even to speak of so fearful calamities as he saw were coming upon the king.
And his thoughts troubled him - The thoughts which passed through his mind respecting the fearful import of the dream.
The king spake and said ... - Perceiving that the dream had, as he had probably apprehended, a fearful significancy, and that Daniel hesitated about explaining its meaning. Perhaps he supposed that he hesitated because he apprehended danger to himself if he should express his thoughts, and the king therefore assured him of safety, and encouraged him to declare the full meaning of the vision, whatever that might be.
Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee - Let such things as are foreboded by the dream happen to your enemies rather than to you. This merely implies that he did not desire that these things should come upon him. It was the language of courtesy and of respect; it showed that he had no desire that any calamity should befall the monarch, and that he had no wish for the success of his enemies. There is not, in this, anything necessarily implying a hatred of the enemies of the king, or any wish that calamity should come upon them; it is the expression of an earnest desire that such an affliction might not come upon him. If it must come on any, such was his respect for the sovereign, and such his desire for his welfare and prosperitry, that he preferred that it should fall upon those who were his enemies, and who hated him. This language, however, should not be rigidly interpreted. It is the language of an Oriental; language uttered at a court, where only the words of respect were heard. Expressions similar to this occur not unfrequently in ancient writings. Thus Horace, b. iii. ode 27:
“Hostium uxores puerique caecos
Sentiant motus orientis Austri.”
And Virgil, Georg. iii. 513:
“Di meliora piis, erroremque liostibus ilium.”
“Such rhetorical embellishments are pointed at no individuals, have nothing in them of malice or ill-will, are used as marks of respect to the ruling powers, and may be presumed to be free from any imputation of a want of charity.” - Wintle, in loc.
The tree that thou sawest ... - In these two verses Daniel refers to the leading circumstances respecting the tree as it appeared in the dream, without any allusion as yet to the order to cut it down. He probably designed to show that he had clearly understood what had been said, or that he had attended to the most minute circumstances as narrated. It was important to do this in order to show clearly that it referred to the king; a fact which probably Nebuchadnezzar himself apprehended, but still it was important that this should be so firmly fixed in his mind that he would not revolt from it when Daniel came to disclose the fearful import of the remainder of the dream.
It is thou, O king - It is a representation of thyself. Compare Daniel 2:38.
That art grown and become strong - Referring to the limited extent of his dominion when he came to the throne, and the increase of his power by a wise administration and by conquest.
For thy greatness is grown - The majesty and glory of the monarch had increased by all his conquests, and by the magnificence which he had thrown around his court.
And reacheth unto heaven - An expression merely denoting the greatness of his authority. The tree is said to have reached unto heaven Daniel 4:11, and the stateliness and grandeur of so great a monarch might be represented by language which seemed to imply that he had control over all things.
And thy dominion to the end of the earth - To the extent of the world as then known. This was almost literally true.
And whereas the king saw a watcher ... - See the note at Daniel 4:13. The recapitulation in this verse is slightly varied from the statement in Daniel 4:14-16, still so as not materially to affect the sense. Daniel seems to have designed to recal the principal circumstances in the dream, so as to identify it in the king’s mind, and so as to prepare him for the statement of the fearful events which were to happen to him.
This is the decree of the Most High - Daniel here designs evidently to direct the attention of the monarch to the one living and true God, and to show him that he presides over all. The purpose of the vision was, in a most impressive way, to convince the king of his existence and sovereignty. Hence, Daniel says that all this was in accordance with his “decree.” It was not a thing of chance; it was not ordered by idol gods; it was not an event that occurred by the mere force of circumstances, or as the result of the operation of secondary laws: it was a direct Divine interposition - the solemn purpose of the living God that it should be so. Nebuchadnezzar had represented this, in accordance with the prevailing views of religion in his land, as a “decree of the Watchers” Daniel 4:17; Daniel, in accordance with his views of religion, and with truth, represents it as the decree of the true God.
Which is come upon my Lord the king - The decree had been previously formed; its execution had now come upon the king.
That they shall drive thee from men - That is, thou shalt be driven from the habitations of men; from the place which thou hast occupied among men. The prophet does not say “who” would do this, but he says that it “would” be done. The language is such as would be used of one who should become a maniac, and be thrust out of the ordinary society in which he had moved. The Greek of Theodotion here is: καὶ σὲ ἐκδιώξουσιν kai se ekdiōxousin. The Codex Chisianus has, “And the Most High and his angels shall run upon thee - κατατρἑχουσιν katatrechousin - leading thee into prison,” or into detention - εἰς φυλακὴν eis phulakēn - “and shall thrust thee into a desert place.” The general sense is, that he would be in such a state as to be treated like a beast rather than a man; that he would be removed from his ordinary abodes, and be a miserable and neglected outcast.
This commences the account of the calamity that was to come upon Nebuchadnezzar, and as there have been many opinions entertained as to the nature of this malady, it may be proper to notice some of them. Compare Bertholdt, pp. 286-292. Some have held that there was a real metamorphosis into some form of an animal, though his rational soul remained, so that he was able to acknowledge God and give praise to him. Cedrenus held that he was transformed into a beast, half lion and half ox. An unknown author, mentioned by Justin, maintained that the transformation was into an animal resembling what was seen in the visions of Ezekiel - the cherubim - composed of an eagle, a lion, an ox, and a man. In support of the opinion that there was a real transformation, an appeal has been made to the common belief among ancient nations, that such metamorphoses had actually occurred, and especially to what Herodotus (iv. 105) says of the “Neuri” (Νευροι Neuroi) “It is said by the Scythians, as well as by the Greeks who dwell in Scythia, that once in every year they are all of them changed into wolves, and that after remaining in that state for the space of a few days, they resume their former shape.”
Herodotus adds, however, “This I do not believe, although they swear that it is true.” An appeal is also made to an assertion of Apuleius, who says of himself that he was changed into an ass; and also to the “Metamorphoses” of Ovid. This supposed transformation of Nebuchadnezzar some have ascribed to Satan. - John Wier “de Prcestigiis Daemonum,” I. 26, John 4:1. Others have attributed it to the arts of magic or incantation, and suppose that it was a change in appearance only. Augustine (“de Civit. Dei.” lib. xviii. cap. 17), referring to what is said of Diomed and his followers on their return from Troy, that they were changed into birds, says that Varro, in proof of the truth of this, appeals to the fact that Circe changed Ulysses and his companions into beasts; and to the Arcadians, who, by swimming over a certain lake, were changed into wolves, and that “if they ate no man’s flesh, at the end of nine years they swam over the same lake and became men again.”
Varro farther mentions the case of a man by the name of Daemonetus, who, tasting of the sacrifices which the Arcadians offered (a child), was turned into a wolf, and became a man again at the end of two years. Augustine himself says, that when he was in Italy, he heard a report that there were women there, who, by giving one a little drug in cheese, had the power of turning him into an ass. See the curious discussion of Augustine how far this could be true, in his work “de Civit. Dei,” lib. xviii. cap. 18. He supposes that under the influence of drugs men might be made to suppose they were thus transformed, or to have a recollection of what passed in such a state “as if” it were so. Cornelius a Lapide supposes that the transformation in the case of Nebuchadnezzar went only so far that his knees were bent in the other direction, like those of animals, and that he walked like animals. Origen, and many of those who have coincided with him in his allegorical mode of interpreting the Scriptures, supposed that the whole of this account is an allegory, designed to represent the fall of Satan, and his restoration again to the favor of God - in accordance with his belief of the doctrine of universal salvation.
Others suppose that the statement here means merely that there was a formidable conspiracy against him; that he was dethroned and bound with fetters; that he was then expelled from the court, and driven into exile; and that, as such, he lived a miserable life, finding a precarious subsistence in woods and wilds, among the beasts of the forest, until, by another revolution, he was restored again to the throne. It is not necessary to examine these various opinions, and to show their absurdity, their puerility, or their falsehood. Some of them are simply ridiculous, and none of them are demanded by any fair interpretation of the chapter. It may seem, perhaps, to be undignified even to refer to such opinions now; but this may serve to illustrate the method in which the Bible has been interpreted in former times, and the steps which have been taken before men arrived at a clear and rational interpretation of the sacred volume. It is indeed painful to reflect that such absurdities and puerilities have been in any way connected with the interpretation of the Word of God; sad to reflect that so many persons, in consequence of them, have discarded the Bible and the interpretations together as equally ridiculous and absurd. The true account in regard to the calamity of Nebuchadnezzar is undoubtedly the following:
(1) He was a maniac - made such by a direct Divine judgment on account of his pride, Daniel 4:30-31. The essential thing in the statement is, that he was deprived of his reason, and that he was treated as a maniac. Compare Introduction to the chapter, II. (1).
(2) The particular form of the insanity with which he was afflicted seems to have been that he imagined himself to be a beast; and, this idea having taken possession of his mind, he acted accordingly. It may be remarked in regard to this,
(a) that such a fancy is no uncommon thing among maniacs. Numerous instances of this may be seen in the various works on insanity - or indeed may be seen by merely visiting a lunatic asylum. One imagines that he is a king, and decks himself out with a scepter and a diadem; another that he is glass, and is filled with excessive anxiety lest he should be broken; others have regarded themselves as deprived of their proper nature as human beings; others as having been once dead, and restored to life again; others as having been dead and sent back into life without a heart; others as existing in a manner unlike any other mortals; others as having no rational soul. See Arnold “on Insanity,” I. pp. 176-195. In all these cases, when such a fancy takes possession of the mind, there will be an effort on the part of the patient to act in exact conformity to this view of himself, and his whole conduct will be adapted to it. Nothing can convince him that it is not so; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, if the thought had taken possession of the mind of Nebuchadnezzar that he was a beast, he would live and act as a wild beast - just as it is said that he did.
(b) In itself considered, “if” Nebuchadnezzar was deprived of his reason, and for the cause assigned - his pride, nothing is more probable than that he would be left to imagine himself a beast, and to act like a beast. This would furnish the most striking contrast to his former state; would do most to bring down his pride; and would most effectually show the supremacy of the Most High.
(3) In this state of mind, fancying himself a wild beast, and endeavoring to act in conformity with this view, it is probable that he would be indulged as far as was consistent with his safety. Perhaps the regency would be induced to allow this partly from their long habits of deference to the will of an arbitrary monarch; partly because by this indulgence he would be less troublesome; and partly because a painful spectacle would thus be removed from the palace. We are not to suppose that he was permitted to roam in forests at large without any restraint, and without any supervision whatever. In Babylon, attached to the palace, there were doubtless, as there are all over the East, royal parks or gardens; there is every probability that in these parks there may have been assembled rare and strange animals as a royal menagerie; and it was doubtless in these parks, and among these animals that he was allowed to range. Painful as such a spectacle would be, yet it is not improbable that to such a maniac this would be allowed, as contributing to his gratification, or as a means of restoring him to his right mind.
(4) A king, however wide his empire, or magnifient his court, would be as likely to be subject to mental derangement as any other man. No situation in life can save the human mind from the liability to so overwhelming a calamity, nor should we deem it strange that it should come on a king as well as other men. The condition of Nebuchadnezzar, as represented by himself in this edict, was scarcely more pitiable than that of George III of England, though it is not surprising that in the eighteenth century of the Christian era, and in a Christian land, the treatment of the sovereign in such circumstances was different from that which a monarch received in pagan Babylon.
(5) It cannot be shown that this did not come upon Nebuchadnezzar, as stated in this chapter Daniel 4:30-31, on account of his pride. That he was a proud and haughty monarch is apparent from all his history; that God would take some effectual means to humble him is in accordance with his dealings with mankind; that this would be a most effectual means of doing it cannot be doubted. No one can prove, in respect to any judgment that comes upon mankind, that it is not on account of some sin reigning in the heart; and when it is affirmed in a book claiming to be inspired, that a particular calamity is brought upon men on account of their transgressions, it cannot be demonstrated that the statement is not true. If these remarks are correct, then no well-founded objection can lie against the account here respecting the calamity that came upon this monarch in Babylon. This opinion in regard to the nature of the affliction which came upon Nebuchadnezzar, is probably what is now generally entertained, and it certainly meets all the circumstances of the case, and frees the narrative from material objection.
As a confirmation of its truth, I will copy here the opinion of Dr. Mead, as it is found in his “Medica Sacra:” “All the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzars cage agree so well with a hypochondriacal madness, that to me it appears evident that Nebuchadnezzar was seized with this distemper, and under its influence ran wild into the fields; and that, fancying himself transformed into an ox, he fed on grass after the manner of cattle. Forevery sort of madness is the result of a disturbed imagination; which this unhappy man labored under for full seven years. And through neglect of taking proper care of himself, his hair and nails grew to an uncommon length; whereby the latter, growing thicker and crooked, resembled the claws of birds. Now the ancients called people affected with this kind of madness, λυκάνθρωποι lukanthrōpoi, “wolf-men” - or κυνάνθρωποι kunanthrōpoi, “dog-men” - because they went abroad in the night imitating wolves or dogs; particularly intent upon opening the sepulchres of the dead, and had their legs much ulcerated, either from frequent falls or the bites of dogs. In like manner are the daughters of Proetus related to have been mad, who, as Virgil says, Ecl. vi. 48,
‘ - implerunt falsis mugitibus agros.’
‘With mimic howlings filled the fields.’
For, as Servius observes, Juno possessed their minds with such a species of fury, that, fancying themselves cows, they ran into the fields, bellowed often, and dreaded the plow. Nor was this disorder unknown to the moderns, for Schneckius records a remarkable instance of a farmer in Padua, who, imagining himself a wolf, attacked and even killed several people in the fields; and when at length he was taken, he persevered in declaring himself a real wolf, and that the only difference consisted in the inversion of his skin and hair.” The same opinion as to the nature of the disease is expressed by Dr. John M. Good, in his “Study of Medicine.” So also Burton (“Anatomy of Melancholy,” Part I. Section I. Memb. i. Subs. 4). Burton refers to several cases which would illustrate the opinion. “Wierus,” says he, “tells a story of such a one in Padua, 1541, that would not believe the contrary but that he was a wolf. He hath another instance of a Spaniard, who thought himself a bear. Such, be-like, or little better, were king Proectus’ daughters, that thought themselves kine” - an instance strikingly resembling this case of Nebuchadnezzar, who seems to have imagined himself some kind of beast. Pliny, perhaps referring to diseases of this kind, says, “Some men were turned into wolves in my time, and from wolves to men again,” lib. viii. c. 22. See Burton as above.
And thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field - That is, as above explained, thou wilt imagine thyself to be a beast, and wilt act like a beast. Indulgence will be given to this propensity so as to allow you to range with the beasts in the park, or the royal menagerie.
And they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen - That is, this shall be thy propensity, and thou shalt be indulged in it. Fancying himself a beast of some kind - probably, as appears from this expression, “an ox” - nothing would be more natural than that he should attempt to live as oxen do, on grass, that he should be so far indulged that his food would consist of vegetables. Nothing is more common among maniacs than some such freak about food; and it is just as likely that a king would manifest this as any other man. The word “grass” here (עשׂבא ‛ı̂s'ebâ', Hebrew: עשׂב ‛ēs'eb) means, properly, “herbs; green herbs; vegetables” - represented commonly, as furnishing food for man, Genesis 1:11-12; Genesis 2:5; Genesis 3:18; Exodus 10:12, Exodus 10:15; Psalms 104:14. The word “grass,” in our language, conveys an idea which is not “strictly” in accordance with the original. That word would denote only the vegetable productions which cattle eat; the Hebrew word is of a more general signification, embracing all kinds of vegetables - those which man eats, as well as those which animals eat; and the meaning here is, that he would live on vegetable food - a propensity in which they would doubtless indulge a man in such circumstances, painful and humiliating as it would be. The phrase “they” shall make thee eat grass,” rather means, “they shall permit thee to do it,” or they shall treat thee so that thou wilt do it. It would be his inclination, and they would allow him to be gratified in it.
And they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven - Or, shall Suffer you to be wet with the dew of heaven; that is, to be out in the open air - no improbable treatment of a maniac, and especially likely to occur in a climate where it was no uncommon thing for all classes of persons to pass the night under the sky.
And seven times shall pass over thee - See the notes at Daniel 4:16.
Till thou know ... - Until thou shalt effectually learn that the true God rules; that he gives authority to whom he pleases; and that he takes it away when he pleases. See the notes at Daniel 4:17. Nothing could be better fitted to teach this lesson than to deprive, by a manifest judgment of heaven, such a monarch of the exercise of reason, and reduce him to the pitiable condition here described.
And whereas they commanded - The watchers, Daniel 4:15. Compare Daniel 4:17.
To leave the stump of the tree roots - Or, to leave roots to the stump of the tree; that is, it was not to be dug up, or wholly destroyed, but vitality was to be left in the ground. The Chaldee here is the same as in Daniel 4:15, “leave the stump of his roots.”
Thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee - That is, thou shalt not die under this calamity, but after it has passed away shalt be restored to authority. It might have been supposed that this meant that the authority would survive in his family, and that those who were to succeed him would reign - as shoots spring up after the parent tree has fallen; but Daniel was directed to an interpretation which is not less in accordance with the fair meaning of the dream than this would have been.
After that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule - That God rules, This was the great lesson which the event was designed to teach, and when that should have been learned, there would be a propriety that he should be restored to his throne, and should proclaim this to the world.
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee - Daniel was permitted to see not only the fact that this calamity impended over the king, but the cause of it, and as that cause was his proud and sinful heart, he supposed that the judgment might be averted if the king would reform his life. If the “cause” were removed, he inferred, not unreasonably, that there was a hope that the calamity might be avoided. We cannot but admire here the boldness and fidelity of Daniel, who not only gave a fair interpretation of the dream, in the case submitted to him, but who went beyond that in a faithful representation to the most mighty monarch of the age, that this was in consequence of his wicked life.
And break off thy sins by righteousness - By acts of righteousness or justice; by abandoning a wicked course of life. It is fairly to be inferred from this that the life of the monarch had been wicked - a fact which is confirmed everywhere in his history. He had, indeed, some good qualities as a man, but he was proud; he was ambitious; he was arbitrary in his government; he was passionate and revengeful; and he was, doubtless, addicted to such pleasures of life as were commonly found among those of his station. He had a certain kind of respect for religion, whatever was the object of worship, but this was not inconsistent with a wicked life. The word translated “break off” (פרק peraq) is rendered in the Vulgate redime, “redeem,” and so in the Greek of Theodotion, λύτρωσαι lutrōsai, and in the Codex Chisianus. From this use of the word in some of the versions, and from the fact that the word rendered “righteousness” is often employed in the later Hebrew to denote almsgiving (compare the margin in Matthew 6:1, and the Greek text in Tittmann and Hahn where the word δικαιοσύνην dikaiosunēn is used to denote “alms”), the passage here has been adduced in favor of the doctrine of expiatory merits, and the purchase of absolution by almsgiving - a favorite doctrine in the Roman Catholic communion.
But the ordinary and common meaning of the word is not to redeem, but to break, to break off, to abandon. It is the word from which our English word “break” is derived - Germ., “brechen.” Compare Genesis 27:40, “that thou shalt break his yoke;” Exodus 32:2, “Break off the golden ear-rings;” Exodus 32:3, “And all the people brake off the golden ear-rings;” Exodus 32:24, “Whosoever hath any gold let them break it off;” 1 Kings 19:11, “A great and strong wind rent the mountains;” Zechariah 11:16, “And tear their claws in pieces;” Ezekiel 19:12, “her strong rods were broken.” The word is rendered in our common version, “redeem” once Psalms 136:24, “And hath redeemed us from our enemies.” It is translated “rending” in Psalms 7:2, and “deliver” in Lamentations 5:8. It does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures. The fair meaning of the word is, as in our version, to break off, and the idea of redeeming the soul by acts of charity or almsgiving is not in the passage, and cannot be derived from it. This passage, therefore, cannot be adduced to defend the doctrine that the soul may be redeemed, or that sins may be expiated by acts of charity and almsgiving. It means that the king was to break off his sins by acts of righteousness; or, in other words, he was to show by a righteous life that he had abandoned his evil course. The exhortation is, that he would practice those great duties of justice and charity toward mankind in which he had been so deficient, if, perhaps, God might show mercy, and avert the impending calamity.
And thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor - The peculiar “iniquity” of Nebuchadnezzar may have consisted in his oppressing the poor of his realm in the exorbitant exactions imposed on them in carrying on his public works, and building and beautifying his capital. Life, under an Oriental despot, is regarded as of little value. Sixty thousand men were employed by Mohammed Ali in digging the canal from Cairo to Alexandria, in which work almost no tools were furnished them but their hands. A large portion of them died, and were buried by their fellow-laborers in the earth excavated in digging the canal. Who can estimate the number of men that were recklessly employed under the arbitrary monarch of Egypt on the useless work of building the pyramids? Those structures, doubtless, cost million of lives, and there is no improbability in supposing that Nebuchadnezzar had employed hundreds of thousands of persons without any adequate compensation, and in a hard and oppressive service, in rearing the walls and the palaces of Babylon, and in excavating the canals to water the city and the adjacent country.
No counsel, therefore, could be more appropriate than that he should relieve the poor from those burdens, and do justice to them. There is no intimation that he was to attempt to purchase release from the judgments of God by such acts; but the meaning is, that if he would cease from his acts of oppression, it might be hoped that God would avert the threatened calamity. The duty here enjoined of showing mercy to the poor, is one that is everywhere commanded in the Scriptures, Psalms 41:1; Matthew 19:21; Galatians 2:10, “et saepe.” Its influence in obtaining the Divine favor, or in averting calamity, is also stated. Compare Psalms 41:1, “Blessed is he that considereth the poor; the Lord will deliver him in time of trouble.” It is a sentiment which occurs frequently in the books of the Apocrypha, and in these books there can be found the progress of the opinion to the point which it reached in the later periods of the Jewish history, and which it has obtained in the Roman Catholic communion, that almsgiving or charity to the poor would be an expiation for sin, and would commend men to God as a ground of righteousness; or, in other words, the progress of the doctrine toward what teaches that works of supererogation may be performed.
Thus in the book of Tob. 4:8-10, “If thou hast abundance, give alms accordingly; if thou have little, be not afraid to give according to that little: for thou layest up a good treasure for thyself against the day of necessity. Because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into darkness.” Tob. 12:9, 10, “For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise righteousness and alms shall be filled with life; but they that sin are enemies to their own life.” Tob. 14:10, 11, “Manasses gave alms, and escaped the snares of death which they had set for him; but Aman fell into the snare and perished. Wherefore now, my son, consider what alms doeth, and how righteousness doth deliver.” Ecclesiasticus 29:12, 13, “Shut up alms in thy storehouses; it shall deliver thee from all affliction. It shall fight for thee against thine enemies better than a mighty shield and a strong spear.”
Ecclesiasticus 40:24, “Brethren and help are against time of trouble; but alms shall deliver more than them both.” In these passages there is evidence of the progress of the sentiment toward the doctrine of supererogation; but there is none whatever that Daniel attributed any such efficacy to alms, or that he meant to teach anything more than the common doctrine of religion, that when a man breaks off from his sins it may be hoped that the judgments which impended over him may be averted, and that doing good will meet the smiles and approbation of God. Compare in reference to this sentiment the case of the Ninevites, when the threatening against them was averted by their repentance and humiliation, Jonah 3:10; the case of Hezekiah, when his predicted death was averted by his tears and prayers, Isaiah 38:1-5; and Jeremiah 18:7-8, where this principle of the Divine government is fully asserted.
If it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility - Margin, “or, a healing of thine error. “The Greek of Theodotion here is, “Perhaps God will be long-suffering toward thy offences.” The Greek of the Codex Chisianus is, “And thou mayest remain a long time (πολύημερος γένῃ poluēmeros genē) upon the throne of thy kingdom.” The Vulgate, “Perhaps he will pardon thy faults.” The Syriac, “Until he may remove from thee thy follies.” The original word rendered “lengthening” (ארכא 'arkâ') means, properly, as translated here, a prolongation; a drawing out; a lengthening; and the word is here correctly rendered. It has not the meaning assigned to it in the margin of healing. It would apply properly to a prolongation of anything - as of life, peace, health, prosperity. The word rendered “tranquility” (שׁלוה shelêvâh) means, properly, security, safety, quiet; and the reference here is to his calm possession of the throne; to his quietness in his palace, and peace in his kingdom. There is nothing in the text to justify the version in the margin.
All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar - That is, the threatened judgment came upon him in the form in which it was predicted. He did not repent and reform his life as he was exhorted to, and, having given him sufficient time to show whether he was disposed to follow the counsel of Daniel, God suddenly brought the heavy judgment upon him. Why he did not follow the counsel of Daniel is not stated, and cannot be known. It may have been that he was so addicted to a life of wickedness that he would not break off from it, even while he admitted the fact that he was exposed on account of it to so awful a judgment - as multitudes do who pursue a course of iniquity, even while they admit that it will be followed by poverty, disgrace, disease and death here, and by the wrath of God hereafter; or it may be, that he did not credit the representation which Daniel made, and refused to follow his counsel on that account; or it may be, that though he purposed to repent, yet, as thousands of others do, he suffered the time to pass on until the forbearance of God was exhausted, and the calamity came suddenly upon him. A full year, it would seem Daniel 4:29, was given him to see what the effect of the admonition would be, and then all that had been predicted was fulfilled. His conduct furnishes a remarkable illustration of the conduct of sinners under threatened wrath; of the fact that they continue to live in sin when exposed to certain destruction, and when warned in the plainest manner of what will come upon them.
At the end of twelve months - After the dream, and the interpretation - giving him ample opportunity to repent, and to reform his life, and to avoid the calamity.
He walked in the palace - Margin, “upon.” The margin is the more correct rendering. The roofs of houses in the East are made flat, and furnish a common place of promenade, especially in the cool of the evening. See the note at Matthew 9:2. The Codex Chisianus has here, “The king walked upon the walls of the city with all his glory, and went around the towers, and answering, said.” The place, however, upon which he walked, appears to have been the roof of his own palace - doubtless reared so high that he could have a good view of the city from it.
Of the kingdom of Babylon - Appertaining to that kingdom; the royal residence. As it is to be supposed that this “palace of the kingdom,” on the roof of which the king walked, was what he had himself reared, and as this contributed much to the splendor of the capital of his empire, and doubtless was the occasion, in a considerable degree, of his vainglorious boasting when the judgment of heaven fell upon him Daniel 4:30-31, a brief description of that palace seems to he not inappropriate. The description is copied from an article on Babylon in Kitto’s “Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature,” vol. i. pp. 270, 271: “The new palace built by Nebuchadnezzar was prodigious in size and superb in embellishments. Its outer wall embraced six miles; within that circumference were two other embattled walls, besides a great tower. Three brazen gates led into the grand area, and every gate of consequence throughout the city was of brass. The palace was splendidly decorated with statues of men and animals, with vessels of gold and silver, and furnished with luxuries of all kinds brought thither from conquests in Egypt, Palestine, and Tyre. Its greatest boast were the hanging gardens, which acquired, even from Grecian writers, the appellation of one of the wonders of the world. They are attributed to the gallantry of Nebuchadnezzar, who constructed them in compliance with a wish of his queen Amytis to possess elevated groves, such as she had enjoyed on the hills around her native Ecbatana. Babylon was all flat, and to accomplish so extravagant a desire, an artificial mountain was reared, four hundred feet on each side, while terraces, one above another, rose to a height that overtopped the walls of the city, that is, above three hundred feet in elevation.
The ascent from terrace to terrace was made by corresponding flights of steps, while the terraces themselves were reared to their various stages on ranges of regular piers, which, forming a kind of vaulting, rose in succession one over the other to the required height of each terrace, the whole being bound together by a wall twenty-two feet in thickness. The level of each terrace or garden was then formed in the following manner: the tops of the piers were first laid over with flat stones, sixteen feet in length, and four in width; on these stones were spread beds of matting, then a thick layer of bitumen, after which came two courses of bricks, which were covered with sheets of solid lead. The earth was heaped on this platform, and in order to admit the roots of large trees, prodigious hollow piers were built and filled with mould. From the Euphrates, which flowed close to the foundation, water was drawn up by machinery. The whole, says Q. Curtius (Daniel 4:5), had, to those who saw it from a distance, the appearance of woods overhanging mountains. The remains of this palace are found in the vast mound or hill called by the natives “Kasr.” It is of irregular form, eight hundred yards in length, and six hundred yards in breadth. Its appearance is constantly undergoing change from the continual digging which takes place in its inexhaustible quarries for brick of the strongest and finest material. Hence, the mass is furrowed into deep ravines, crossing and recrossing each other in every direction.”
The king spake and said - The Chaldee, and the Greek of Theodotion and of the Codex Chisianus here is, “the king answered and said:” perhaps he replied to some remark made by his attendants in regard to the magnitude of the city; or perhaps the word “answered” is used, as it often seems to be in the Scriptures, to denote a reply to something passing in the mind that is not uttered; to some question or inquiry that the mind starts. He might merely have been thinking of the magnitude of this city, and he gave response to those thoughts in the language which follows.
Is not this great Babylon, that I have built - In regard to the situation and the magnitude of Babylon, and the agency of Nebuchadnezzar in beautifying and enlarging it, see the analysis prefixed to the notes at Isaiah 13:0. He greatly enlarged the city; built a new city on the west side of the river; reared a magnificent palace; and constructed the celebrated hanging gardens; and, in fact, made the city so different from what it was, and so greatly increased its splendor, that he could say without impropriety that he had “built” it.
For the house of the kingdom - To be considered altogether - embracing the whole city - as a sort of palace of the kingdom. He seems to have looked upon the whole city as one vast palace fitted to be an appropriate residence of the sovereign of so vast an empire.
And for the honour of my majesty - To ennoble or glorify my reign; or where one of so much majesty as I am may find an appropriate home.
While the word was in the king’s mouth - In the very act of speaking - thus showing that there could be no doubt as to the connection between the crime and the punishment.
There fell a voice from heaven - There came a voice; or, perhaps, it seemed to fall as a thunderbolt. It was uttered above him, and appeared to come from heaven. There was an important sense in which it did fall from heaven, for it was the voice of God.
Saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken - For you it is particularly intended; or what is predicted is now spoken to thee.
The kingdom is departed from thee - Thou art about to cease to reign. Up to this time he retained his reason, that he might distinctly understand the source from where the judgment was to come, and why it was brought upon him, and that he might be prepared, when he should be recovered from his insanity, to testify clearly to the origin and the nature of the judgment. The Codex Chisianus has an important “addition” to what is said here, which, though of no authority, as having nothing corresponding to it in the original text, yet states what is in itself not improbable. It is as follows: “And at the end of what he was saying, he heard a voice from heaven, To thee it is spoken, O king Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom of Babylon shall be taken away from thee, and shall be given to another, a man despised or of no rank - ἐξουθενημένῳ ἀνθρώπῳ exouthenēmenō anthrōpō - in thy house. Behold, I will place him over thy kingdom, and thy power, and thy glory, and thy luxury - τὴν τρυφήν tēn truphēn - he shall receive, until thou shalt know that the God of heaven has authority over the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomsoever he will: but until the rising of the sun another king shall rejoice in thy house, and shall possess thy power, and thy strength, and thine authority, and the angels shall drive thee away for seven years, and thou shalt not be seen, and shalt not speak with any man, but they shall feed thee with grass as oxen, and from the herb of the field shall be thy support.”
And they shall drive thee from men ... - See the note at Daniel 4:25.
The same hour was the thing fulfilled - On the word hour, see the note at Daniel 4:19. The use of the word here would seem to confirm the suggestion there made that it means a brief period of time. The idea is clearly that it was done instantly. The event came suddenly upon him, without any interval, as he was speaking.
Till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers - By long neglect and inattention. The Greek version of Theodotion has in this place the word lions instead of eagles: “until his hairs were grown long like that of lions;” and the passage is paraphrased by Jackson thus, “until his hair was grown long and shagged like the mane of a lion.” This would make good sense, but it is not the reading of the Chaldee. The Codex Chisianus reads it, “and my hairs were like the wings of an eagle, and my nails like those of a lion.” The correct idea is, that his hair was neglected until in appearance it resembled the feathers of a bird.
And his nails like birds’ claws - No unnatural thing, if he was driven out and neglected as the insane have been in much later times, and in much more civilized parts of the world. In regard to the probability of the statement here made respecting the treatment of Nebuchadnezzar, and the objection derived from it against the authenticity of the book of Daniel, see Introduction to the chapter, II. (1). In addition to what is said there, the following cases may be referred to as showing that there is no improbability in supposing that what is here stated actually occurred. The extracts are taken from the Second Annual Report of the Prison Discipline Society, and they describe the condition of some of the patients before they were admitted into the insane asylum at Worcester. If these things occurred in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in the nineteenth century of the Christian era, there is nothing incredible in supposing that a similar thing may have occurred in ancient pagan Babylon. “No. 1. Had been in prison twenty-eight years when he was brought to the Institution. During seven years he had not felt the influence of fire, and many nights he had not lain down for fear of freezing. He had not been shaved for twenty-eight years, and had been provoked and excited by the introduction of hundreds to see the exhibition of his raving. No. 2. Had been in one prison fourteen years: he was naked - his hair and beard grown long - and his skin so entirely filled with the dust of charcoal as to render it impossible, from its appearance, to discover what nation he was of. He was in the habit of screaming so loud as to annoy the whole neighborhood, and was considered a most dangerous and desperate man. No. 3. An old man of seventy years of age or more; had been chained for twenty-five years, and had his chain taken off but once in that time.
No. 4. A female: had so long been confined with a short chain as wholly to lose the use of her lower limbs. Her health had been materially impaired by confinement, and she was unable to stand, and had not walked for years. No. 8. Had been ten years without clothes: a most inconceivably filthy and degraded being: exceedingly violent and outrageous. No. 9. Another female, exceedingly filthy in her habits, had not worn clothes for two years, during which time she had been confined in a filthy cell, destitute of everything like comfort, tearing everything in pieces that was given her. No. 10. Had been insane eight years: almost the whole of the time in jail and in a cage.”
And at the end of the days - That is, the time designated; to wit, the “seven times” that were to pass over him.
I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven - Probably the first thing that indicated returning reason. It would not be unnatural, on the supposition that he was deprived of reason at the very instant that a voice seemed to speak to him from heaven, and that he continued wholly insane or idiotic during the long interval of seven years, that the first indication of returning reason would be his looking up to the place from where that voice seemed to come, as if it were still speaking to him. In some forms of mental derangement, when it comes suddenly upon a man, the effect is wholly to annihilate the interval, so that, when reason is restored, the individual connects in his recollection the last thing which occurred when reason ceased with the moment when it is restored. A patient had been long an inmate of an insane apartment in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a seaman, and had been injured on the head when his vessel was in a naval engagement, and it was supposed that his brain had been permanently affected.
For many years he was idiotic, and no hopes were entertained of his recovery. It was at length suggested that the operation of trepanning should be performed, and the very instant that the bone was raised from its pressure on the brain, he exclaimed, “Has she struck?” The whole interval of time was obliterated from his memory. Similar instances are mentioned by Dr. Abercrombie (“Intellectual Powers,” pp. 252, 253). A man had been employed for a day with a beetle and wedges in splitting pieces of wood for erecting a fence. At night, before going home, he put the beetle and wedges into the hollow of an old tree, and directed his sons, who had been at work in an adjoining field, to accompany him next morning to assist in making the fence. In the night he became maniacal, and continued in a state of insanity for several years, during which time his mind was not occupied with any of the subjects with which he had been conversant when in health.
After several years his reason returned suddenly, and the first question he asked was, whether his sons had brought home the beetle and wedges. A lady had been intensely engaged for some time in a piece of needlework. Before she had completed it she became insane, and continued in that state for seven years; after which her reason returned suddenly. One of the first questions she asked related to her needlework, though she had never alluded to it, so far as was recollected, during her illness. Another lady was liable to periodical paroxysms of delirium, which often attacked her so suddenly that in conversation she would stop in the middle of a story, or even of a sentence, and branch off into the subject of hallucination. On the return of her reason, she would resume the subject of her conversation on which she was engaged at the time of the attack, beginning exactly where she had left off, though she had never alluded to it during her delirium; and on the next attack of delirium she would resume the subject of hallucination With which she had been occupied at the conclusion of the former paroxysm. A similar thing may have occurred to Nebuchadnezzar. He was deprived of reason by a sudden voice from heaven. Nothing was more natural, or would be more in accordance with the laws respecting insanity, than that at the very instant when reason returned he should look up to the place from where the voice had seemed to come.
And mine understanding returned unto me - This shows that he regarded himself as having been a maniac, though doubtless he was ignorant of the manner in which he had been treated. It would seem from the narrative, and from the probabilities of the case, that he found himself driven out from his palace, herding with cattle, and in the deplorable condition in regard to personal appearance which he here describes. Seeing this in fact, and recollecting the prediction, he could not doubt that this was the way in which he had been treated during the period of his distressing malady.
And I blessed the Most High - For his recovery, and in an humble acknowledgment of his dependence. “The acts of praise here referred to are the suitable returns of a mind truly penitent, and deeply sensible of its faults and of its mercies.” - Winkle.
And I praised and honored him - That is, I honored him by rendering thanks for his restoring mercy, by recognizing him as the true God, and by the acknowledging of the truth that he has a right to reign, and that his kingdom is over all.
That liveth for ever - He is the living God, as he is often styled, in contradistinction from all false gods - who have no life; and he lives forever in contradistinction to his creatures on earth, all of whom are destined to die. He will live when all on earth shall have died; he will live forever in the future, as he has lived forever in the past.
Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion - His empire extends through all time, and will continue while eternal ages roll away.
And his kingdom is from generation to generation - The generations of men change, and monarchs die. No human sovereign can extend his own power over the next generation, nor can he secure his authority in the person of his successors. But the dominion of God is unchanged, while the generations of men pass away; and when one disappears from the earth, he meets the next with the same claim to the right of sovereignty, with the same principles of government - carrying forward, through that and successive ages, the fulfillment of his great and glorious purposes.
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing - Are regarded as nothing in comparison with him. Compare Isaiah 40:15, note 17, note. Precisely the same sentiment occurs in Isaiah which is expressed here: “All nations before him are as nothing; and they are accounted unto him less than nothing and vanity.”
And he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven - In the host of heaven - בחיל bechēyol - Greek, “in the power of heaven,” ἐν τῇ, δυνάμει en tē, dunamei. The Chaldee word means properly strength, might, valor; and it is then applied to an army as possessing strength, or valor, or force. It is here applied to the inhabitants of heaven, probably considered as an army or host, of which God is the head, and which he leads forth or marshals to execute his puroses. In Daniel 3:20, the word is rendered “army.” The sentiment here is, that in respect to the inhabitants of heaven, represented as organized or marshalled, God does his own pleasure. An intimation of his will is all that is needful to control them. This sentiment is in accordance with all the statements in the Scripture, and is a point of theology which must enter into every just view of God. Thus in the Lord’s prayer it is implied: “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.” So Ephesians 1:11 - “Who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” In heaven the will of God is accomplished in the most strict and absolute sense, for his will is law, and the only law to all the dwellers there. The obedience is as entire as if the will of each one of the dwellers there were but a form or manifestation of the will of God itself.
And among the inhabitants of the earth - This cannot mean, even as understood by Nebuchadnezzar, that the will of God is actually done among the inhabitants of the earth in the same sense, and to the same extent, as among those who dwell in heaven. His design was, undoubtedly, to assert the supremacy and absolute control of God; a fact that had been so strikingly illustrated in his own case. The sentiment expressed by Nebuchadnezzar is true in the following respects:
(1) That man has no power to prevent the fulfillment of the Divine purposes.
(2) That God will accomplish his design in all things, whatever opposition man may make.
(3) That he has absolute control over every human being, and over all that pertains to anyone and everyone.
(4) That he will overrule all things so as to make them subservient to his own plans.
(5) That he will make use of men to accomplish his own purposes. Compare the note at Isaiah 10:7.
(6) That there is a great and glorious scheme of administration which God is carrying out by the instrumentality of men.
And none can stay his hand - literally, “none can smite upon his hand” (Gesenius, “Lex.”); that is, none can restrain his hand. The language is taken, says Bertholdt, from the custom of striking children upon the hand when about to do anything wrong, in order to restrain them. The phrase is common in the Targums for to restrain, to hinder. The Arabs have a similar expression in common use. See numerous instances of the use of the word מחא mechâ' in the sense of restrain or prohibit, in Buxtorf. - “Lex. Chal.” The truth taught here is, that no one has power to keep back the hand of God when it is put forth to accomplish the purposes which he intends to execute; that is, he will certainly accomplish his own pleasure.
Or say unto him, What doest thou? - A similar expression occurs in 2 Samuel 16:10 : “So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” Also in Job 9:12 : “Behold, he taketh away: Who can hinder him? Who will say unto him, What doest thou?” See the note at that passage. The meaning here is plain. God is supreme, and will do his pleasure in heaven and in earth. The security that all will be done right is founded on the perfection of his nature; and that is ample. Mysterious though his ways may seem to us, yet in that perfection of his nature we have the fullest assurance that no wrong will be done to any of his creatures. Our duty, therefore, is calm submission to his holy will, with the deep conviction that whatever God does will yet be seen to be right.
At the same time my reason returned unto me - Showing that he regarded himself as having been insane.
And for the glory of my kingdom - That is, his restoration to the exercise of his reason contributed to the glory of his kingdom, either by the acts of justice and beneficence which he intended should characterize the remainder of his reign, or by his purpose to reform the abuses which had crept into the government while he was deprived of his reason, or by his determination to complete public works which had been purposed or commenced before his affliction.
Mine honor and brightness returned unto me - Evidently referring to his intellect. He was again restored to that strength and clearness of understanding by which, before his affliction, he had been able to do so much for the glory of his kingdom.
And my counselors and my lords sought unto me - As they had done formerly. During his state of mental alienation, of course, the great lords of the empire would not resort to him for counsel.
And excellent majesty was added unto me - Majesty and honor appropriate to my state, instead of the treatment incident to the condition of a maniac; Theodotion renders this, “and greater majesty was added to me.” It is by no means improbable that additional honor would be conferred on the recovered monarch.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honor the King of heaven - Compare Daniel 2:47, and Daniel 4:1-3. He felt himself called on, in this public manner, to acknowledge the true God, with whose supremacy he had been made acquainted in so affecting a manner; to “praise” him that he had preserved him, and restored him to his reason and his throne; to extol or exalt him, by recognizing his sovereignty over the mighty kings of the earth, and the power to rule over all; and to “honor” him by making his name and attributes known abroad, and by using all his influence as a monarch to have him reverenced throughout his extended empire.
All whose works are truth - See Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalms 33:4; Revelation 15:3. The meaning is, that all that he does is done in accordance with the true nature of things, or with justice and propriety. It is not based on a false estimate of things, as what is done by man often is. How often are the plans and acts of man, even where there are the best intentions, based on some false estimate of things; on some views which are shown by the result to have been erroneous! But God sees things precisely as they are, and accurately knows what should be done in every case.
And those that walk in pride he is able to abase - What had occurred to Nebuchadnezzar might occur to others, and as God had shown that he could reduce the most exalted sovereign of the earth to the lowest condition in which a human being can be, he inferred that he could do the same to all, and that there was no one so exalted in rank, so vigorous in health, and so mighty in intellect, that he could not effectually humble and subdue him. This is indeed an affecting truth which is constantly illustrated in the world. The reverses occurring among men, the sick-bed, the loss of reason, the grave, show how easily God can bring down rank, and beauty, and talent and all that the world calls great, to the dust. In the Greek Codex Chisianus there is at the close of this chapter a beautiful ascription of praise to God, which has nothing to correspond with it in the Chaldee, and the origin of which is unknown.
I will translate it, because, although it is not of Divine authority, and is no part of the sacred writings, it contains sentiments not inappropriate to the close of this remarkable chapter. It is as follows: “To the Most High I make confession, and render praise to Him who made the heaven, and the earth, and the seas, and the rivers, and all things in them; I acknowledge him and praise him because he is the God of gods, and Lord of lords, and King of kings, for he does signs and wonders, and changes times and seasons, taking away the kingdoms of kings, and placing others in their stead. From this time I will serve him, and from the fear of him trembling has seized me, and I praise all his saints, for the gods of the pagan have not in themselves power to transfer the kingdom of a king to another king, and to kill and to make alive, and to do signs, and great and fearful wonders, and to change mighty deeds, as the God of heaven has done to me, and has brought upon me great changes. I, during all the days of my reign, on account of my life, will bring to the Most High sacrifices for an odor of sweet savor to the Lord, and I and my people will do what will be acceptable before him - my nation, and the countries which are under my power.
And whosoever shall speak against the God of heaven, and whosoever shall countenance those who speak anything, I will condemn to death. Praise the Lord God of heaven, and bring sacrifice and offering to him gloriously. I, king of kings, confess Him gloriously, for so he has done with me; in the very day he set me upon my throne, and my power, and my kingdom; among my people I have power, and my majesty has been restored to me. And he sent letters concerning all things that were done unto him in his kingdom; to all the nations that were under him.”
Nebuchadnezzar is supposed to have lived but about one year after this (Wintle), but nothing is known of his subsequent deeds. It may be hoped that he continued steadfast in his faith in that God whom he had thus been brought to acknowledge, and that he died in that belief. But of this nothing is known. After so solemn an admonition, however, of his own pride, and after being brought in this public manner to acknowledge the true God, it is to be regarded as not improbable that he looked on the Babylon that he had reared, and over his extended realms, with other feelings than those which he had before this terrible calamity came upon him. “Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded in his kingdom by his son Iloarudam, according to Ptolemy, who is the Evil-Merodach of Jeremiah. After the death of Evil-Merodach, who reigned two years, Niricassolassar, or Neriglissar, who seems to have been the chief of the conspirators against the last king, succeeded him. He had married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and in the course of his reign made a great stand against the growing power of the Medes and Persians; but at length, after a reign of four years, was killed in a battle with them under the command of Cyrus. His son Laborosoarchod succeeded him, and having reigned only nine months, and not reaching a Thoth, or beginning of an Egyptian year, he is not mentioned by Ptolemy; but he is said to have been quite the reverse of his father, and to have exercised many acts of wanton cruelty, and was murdered by his own subjects, and succeeded by his son Nabonadius, or Belshazzar.” - Wintle.
(1) The narrative in this chapter furnishes an illustration of the disposition among men to make arrangements for their own ease and comfort, especially in view of advancing years, Daniel 4:4. Nebuchadnezzar had drawn around him all that it is possible, perhaps, for man to accumulate with this view. He was at the head of the pagan world - the mighty monarch of the mightiest kingdom on the earth. He was at peace - having finished his wars, and having been satiated with the glory of battle and conquest. He had enlarged and beautified his capital, so that it was one of the “wonders of the world.” He had built for himself a palace, which surpassed in richness, and elegance, and luxury, all the habitations of man in that age. He had accumulated vast wealth, and there was not a production of any clime which he could not command, nor was there anything that is supposed to be necessary to make man happy in this life which he had not in his possession.
All this was the result of arrangement and purpose. He designed evidently to reach the point where he might feel that he was “at ease, and flourishing in his palace.” What was true in his case on a large scale is true of others in general, though on a much smaller scale. Most men would be glad to do the same thing; and most men seek to make such an arrangement according to their ability. They look to the time when they may retire from the toils and cares of life, with a competence for their old age, and when they may enjoy life, perhaps, many years, in the tranquility of honorable and happy retirement. The merchant does not expect always to be a merchant; the man in office to be always burdened with the cares of state. The soldier does not expect always to be in the camp, or the mariner on the sea. The warrior hopes to repose on his laurels; the sailor to find a quiet haven; the merchant to have enough to be permitted to sit down in the evening of life free from care; and the lawyer, the physician, the clergyman, the farmer, each one hopes, after the toils and conflicts of life are over, to be permitted to spend the remainder of his days in comfort, if not in affluence.
This seems to be based on some law of our nature; and it is not to be spoken of harshly, or despised as if it had no foundation in what is great and noble in our being. I see in this a high and noble truth. It is that our nature looks forward to rest; that we are so made as to pant for repose - for calm repose when the work of life is over. As our Maker formed us, the law was that we should seek this in the world to come - in that blessed abode where we may be free from all care, and where there shall be everlasting rest. But man, naturally unwilling to look to that world, has abused this law of his being, and seeks to find the rest for which the soul pants, in that interval, usually very short, and quite unfitted for tranquil enjoyment, between the period when he toils, and lies down in the grave. The true law of his being would lead him to look onward to everlasting happiness; he abuses and perverts the law, and seeks to satisfy it by making provision for a brief and temporary rest at the close of the present life.
(2) There is a process often going on in the case of these individuals to disturb or prevent that state of ease. Thus there was in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, as intimated by the dream. Even then, in his highest state of grandeur, there was a tendency to the sad result which followed when he was driven from his throne, and treated as a poor and neglected maniac. This was intimated to him by the dream; and to one who could see all the future, it would be apparent that things were tending to this result. The very excitements and agitations of his life, the intoxication of his pride, and the circumstances of ease and grandeur in which he was now placed, all tended by a natural course of things to produce what followed. And so, in other cases, there is often process going on, if it could be seen, destined to disappoint all those hopes, and to prevent all that anticipated ease and tranquility. It is not always visible to men, but could we see things as God sees them, we should perceive that there are causes at work which will blast all those hopes of ease, and disappoint all those expectations of tranquility. There may be
(a) the loss of all that we possess: for we hold it by an uncertain tenure, and “riches often take to themselves wings.” There may be
(b) the loss of a wife, or a child and all our anticipated comforts shall be tasteless, for there shall be none with whom to share them. There may be
(c) the loss of reason, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar, for no human precaution can guard against that. There may be
(d) the loss of health - a loss against which no one can defend himself - which shall render all his preparations for comfort of no value. Or
(e) death itself may come - for no one has any basis of calculation in regard to his own life, and no one, therefore, who builds for himself a palace can have any security that he will ever enjoy it.
Men who build splendid houses for themselves may yet experience sad scenes in their dwellings; and if they could foresee all that will occur in them, it would so throw a gloom over all the future as to lead them to abandon the undertaking. Who could engage cheerfully in such an enterprise if he saw that he was constructing a house in which a daughter was to lie down and die, or from which his wife and children were soon to be borne forth to the grave? In this chamber your child may be long sick; in that one you or your wife may lie down on a bed from which you will never rise; from those doors yourself, your wife, your child, will be borne forth to the grave; and if you saw all this now, how could you engage with so much zeal in constructing your magnificent habitation?
(3) Our plans of life should be formed with the feeling that this is possible: I say not with the gloomy apprehension that these calamities will certainly come, or with no anticipation or hope that there will be different scenes - for then life would be nothing else but gloom; but that we should allow the possibility that these things may occur to enter, as an element, into our calculations respecting the future. Such a feeling will give us sober and just views of life; will break the force of trouble and disappointment when they come; and will give us just apprehensions of our dependence on Him in whose hand are all our comforts.
(4) The dealings of God in our world are such as are eminently fitted to keep up the recognition of these truths. What occurred to Nebuchadnezzar, in the humbling of his pride, and the blighting of his anticipated pleasures, is just an illustration of what is constantly occurring on the earth. What house is there into which trouble, disappointment, and sorrow never come? What scheme of pride is there in respect to which something does not occur to produce mortification? What habitation is there into which sickness, bereavement, and death never find their way? And what abode of man on earth can be made secure from the intrusion of these things? The most splendid mansion must soon be left by its owner, and never be visited by him again. The most magnificent banqueting-hall will be forsaken by its possessor, and never will he return to it again; never go into the chamber where he sought repose; never sit down at the table where he joined with others in revelry.
(5) The counsel given by Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar Daniel 4:27, to break off his sins by righteousness, that there might be a lengthening out of his tranquility, is counsel that may now be given to all sinners, with equal propriety.
(I.) For, as in his case, there are certain consequences of sin to which we must look forward, and on which the eye of a sinner should rest. Those consequences are
(1) such as spring up in the course of nature, or which are the regular results of sin in the course of events. They are such as can be foreseen, and can be made the basis of calculation, or which a man can know beforehand will come upon him if he perseveres in a certain course. Thus he who is intemperate can look upon certain results which will inevitably follow if he perseveres in that course of life. As he looks upon the poverty, and babbling, and woe, and sorrow, and misery, and death of an inebriate, he can see that that lot will be certainly his own if he perseveres in his present course, and this can be made with him a matter of definite calculation or anticipation. Or
(2) there are all these consequences of sin which are made known in the sacred Scriptures as sure to come upon transgressors. This, too, is a large class; but these consequences are as certain as those which occur in the regular course of events. The principal difference between the two is, that revelation has designated more sins that will involve the sinner in calamity than can be ascertained in the ordinary course of events, and that it has carried the mind forward, and discloses what will take place in the future world as well as what will occur in this. But the one is more certain than the other; and alike in reference to what is sure to occur in the present life, and what we are told will occur in the future state, the sinner should allow himself to be influenced by the anticipation of what is to come.
(II.) Repentance, reformation, and a holy life would, in many cases, go far to arrest these calamities - or, in the language of Daniel, “lengthen out tranquility.” This is true in the following respects:
(1) That impending temporal calamities may be often partially or wholly turned away by reformation. An illustration of this thought occurred in the case of Nineveh; and the same thing now occurs. A young man who is in danger of becoming intemperate, and who has already contracted some of the habits that lead to intemperance, could avert a large class of impending ills by so simple a thing as signing the temperance pledge, and adhering to it. All the evils of poverty, tears, crime, disease, and an early death, that intemperance produces, he would certainly avert; that is, he would make it certain that the large class of ills that intemperance engenders would never come upon him. He might experience other ills, but he would never suffer those. So it is of the sufferings produced by licentiousness, by gluttony, by the spirit of revenge; and so it is of all the woes that follow the violation of human laws. A man may indeed be poor; he may be sick; he may be bereaved; he may lose his reason, but these ills he will never experience. But what Daniel here affirms is true in another sense in regard to temporal calamities. A man may, by repentance, and by breaking off from his sins, do much to stay the progress of woe, and to avert the results which he has already begun to experience. Thus the drunkard may reform, and may have restored health, rigor, and prosperity; and thus the licentious may turn from the evil of his ways, and enjoy health and happiness still. On this subject, see the notes at Job 33:14-25, particularly the notes at Job 33:25.
(2) But by repentance and holy living a man may turn away all the results of sin in the future world, and may make it certain that he will never experience a pang beyond the grave. All the woe that sin would cause in the future state may be thus averted, and he who has been deeply guilty may enter the eternal world with the assurance that he will never suffer beyond the grave. Whether, then, we look to the future in the present life, or to the future beyond the grave, we have the highest conceivable motives to abandon the ways of sin, and to lead lives of holiness. If a man were to live only on the earth, it would be for his welfare to break off from the ways of transgression; how much higher is this motive when it is remembered that he must exist forever!
(6) We have an illustration in the account in this chapter of the evil of “pride,” Daniel 4:29-31. The pride which we may have on account of beauty, or strength, or learning, or accomplishments; which we feel when we look over our lands that we have cultivated, or the houses that we have built, or the reputation which we have acquired, is no less offensive in the sight of a holy God than was the pride of the magnificent monarch who looked out on the towers, and domes, and walls, and palaces of a vast city, and said, “Is not this great Babylon that I have builded?”
(7) And in view of the calamity that came upon Nebuchadnezzar, and the treatment which he received in his malady, we may make the following remarks:
(a) We should be thankful for the continuance of reasons. When we look on such a case as this, or when we go into a lunatic asylum, and see the wretchedness that the loss of reason causes, we should thank God daily that we are not deprived of this inestimable blessing.
(b) We should be thankful for science, and for the Christian religion, and for all that they have done to give comfort to the maniac, or to restore him to a sound mind. When we compare the treatment which the insane now receive in the lunatic asylums with what they everywhere meet with in the pagan world, and with what they have, up to a very recent period, received in Christian lands, there is almost nothing in which we see more marked proof of the interposition of God than in the great change which has been produced. There are few persons who have not, or may not have, some friend or relative who is insane, and there is no one who is not, or may not be, personally interested in the improvement which religion and science have made in the treatment of this class of unfortunate beings. In no one thing, so far as I know, has there been so decided progress in the views and conduct of men; and on no one subject has there been so evident an improvement in modern times, as in the treatment of the insane.
(c) The possibility of the loss of reason should be an element in our calculations about the future. On this point we can have no security. There is no such vigour of intellect, or clearness of mind, or cultivation of the habits of virtue, and even no such influence of religion, as to make it certain that we may not yet be reckoned among the insane; and the possibility that this may be so should be admitted as an element in our calculations in regard to the future. We should not jeopard any valuable interest by leaving that undone which ought to be done, on the supposition that we may at a future period of life enjoy the exercise of reason. Let us remember that there may be in our case, even in youth or middle life, the loss of this faculty; that there will be, if we reach old age, in all probability, such a weakening of our mental powers as to unfit us for making any preparation for the life to come, and that on the bed of death, whenever that occurs. there is often an entire loss of the mental powers, and commonly so much pain. distress, or prostration, as to unfit the dying man for calm and deliberate thought; and let us, therefore, while we have reason and health, do all that we know we ought to do to make preparation for our eternal state. For what is our reason more certainly given us than to prepare for another world?
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Daniel 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter