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THE EXALTATION OF MAN
We learn from Daniel 3 that, directly the power of government is committed to the Gentiles, it is used to set aside the rights of God. This solemn feature of man's rule has marked each of the four great powers and will have its most extreme expression in the closing days of the last Empire.
From Daniel 4 we learn that the exaltation of man is another leading characteristic of the times of the Gentiles. The power and authority conferred by God is used by man for the exaltation of himself and the gratification of his own pride. Leaving God out of his thoughts, man becomes like a beast that has no understanding of the mind of God, and lives without reference to God.
These solemn truths are presented in the form of a letter addressed by Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations and languages, relating his own experiences.
Already God had spoken to the king by visions and interventions of divine power, but, apparently, the king had not been brought into personal relations with God. After the interpretation of the vision of the great image, Nebuchadnezzar had put great honour upon Daniel, and acknowledged that Daniel's God was the God of gods and a Lord of kings; but, however much impressed, he himself did not bow down to God. No personal link was formed between his soul and God. Again, in the matter of God's intervention on behalf of His servants in the fiery furnace, it is evident that the king was greatly moved, and in consequence issued autocratic commands as to the attitude others were to take in relation to God. But, while the king acknowledged the power of "the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego," he did not recognise and submit to God as the One who alone is God.
At length, however, in His mercy God deals with the king in a personal way, leading him to turn to God and bless Him as the Most High, and acknowledge His authority in the affairs of
men. For the first time Nebuchadnezzar has personally to do with God. In result, he sends out this personal confession of his sin, and acknowledges the way in which he, himself, had been brought to submit to God.
(Vv. 1-3). The king's letter is addressed to all that dwell in all the earth. He tells the people all that "God hath wrought toward" him, and, as he thinks of the wonders of God's ways with him, he breaks forth into praise.
(V. 4). In recounting these ways of the Lord, he first describes the circumstances in which God commenced to deal with him. "I was at rest," he says, "in mine house, and flourishing in my palace." As a thorough man of the world, he found rest and prosperity in the enjoyment of his own things without any thought of God.
(V. 5). In the midst of the king's prosperity, God spoke to him by a dream. Though he did not understand the full import of the dream, it was sufficiently plain to fill him with dire forebodings of coming evil.
(Vv. 6, 7). In his fear, the king again turns to his wise men, only to find that they cannot interpret the dream. The reason is simple. The dream was a message from God, and, being such, can only be interpreted by God. The natural man can understand the things of a man, but, "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God." God's things are only spiritually discerned.
(V. 8) . "But at the last Daniel came in." It might be thought that after the way Daniel had been used to interpret the king's former dreams, he would be the first to whom the king would turn. Apparently, Daniel is the last resource of the king. But the man that is "last" in man's estimate is first in God's.
(Vv. 9-18). The king commences his interview with Daniel by assuring him that he is perfectly aware of the wisdom and power that is with Daniel, though ascribed by the king to false gods.
Then he tells Daniel the dream, giving first the vision of the tree (10-12); then the cutting down of the tree (13-16); and lastly the great object of the tree being cut down (17). He concludes his address to Daniel by owning that all the wise men or his kingdom are unable to give the interpretation; but, says the king, "Thou art able."
(V. 19). Before hearing the interpretation of the dream we learn the effect it produced upon Daniel. He was a captive in a strange land under the yoke of a foreign king; but it was no pleasure to Daniel to know that judgment and disaster were coming upon the king. So, for one hour, he was silent and his thoughts troubled him. Reassured by the king, Daniel at length gives the interpretation of the dream.
(Vv. 20-22). The tree, which was so imposing in the sight of the earth and which provided shelter for all living creatures was a figure of the king himself.
(Vv. 23-26). The interpretation of the cutting down of the tree follows. The king is plainly told that the dream indicates that he is going to be driven from men to take his place with the beasts for a period of seven years, until the king acknowledges the rule of the Most High in the kingdoms of men. Nevertheless, though he will lose his kingly dignity and position, the kingdom will be retained. The stump of the tree roots will be left, though the tree will disappear for a time from the sight of men.
(V. 27). Finally, Daniel closes the interview with a bold appeal to the king to break off his sins by doing righteousness, and ceasing his oppression of the poor. This is indeed a bold witness for a Jewish captive to bear before the world's greatest potentate. It surely signifies that during the times of these Gentile powers God will have a faithful witness for Himself on the earth. There will be a godly remnant marked by dependence upon God and wisdom before men, as we have seen in Daniel 2 ; by devotedness to God and power before men, as seen in Daniel 3 ; and by a faithful witness to God, as seen in this chapter.
(Vv. 28-30). There follows the account of the fulfilment of the dream. The threatened blow is held off for twelve months. Between the announcement of the judgment and its execution, space is given for repentance. Will the king avail himself of this mercy and humble himself before God? Alas! at the end of twelve months the king's pride is as great as ever. Walking in his palace he says, "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" In all this proud talk there is no recognition of God. As the king looks over the great city of Babylon, he claims that he has built it for the establishment of the imperial line. He claims that all has been wrought by his power and for his glory.
(Vv. 31-33). This boastful pride of the king, in spite of solemn warnings, proves that the time is ripe for judgment. While the word is in the king's mouth, the voice comes from heaven telling him that the predicted judgment is to be fulfilled. So we read that, "the same hour was the thing fulfilled." Nebuchadnezzar is driven from men and becomes like a beast of the field.
It may be that this judgment took the form of madness; but, even so, we are permitted to see in the case of the king its direct connection with the hand of God. God had given to the king "a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory" ( Dan_2:37 ). In spite of God's gifts and the striking way in which God had borne witness to Himself, God had been forgotten. The king, at rest in his palace and at the height of his prosperity, ascribes all his power and glory to himself, and uses his high position for his own self-exaltation. Never was such great prosperity linked with such pride. Even so, God had given warning and space for repentance, but all in vain. Judgment must take its course, and the king becomes as a beast. As one has said, "He makes himself the centre instead of God. He becomes a beast and loses his reason entirely. A beast may be powerful, large, stronger than man, show much sagacity in his way, but its look is downward; there is no exercise of conscience, and, as a consequence, no real relationship to God."
In all these incidents we have set forth the evil course of these Gentile powers. They will exalt themselves against God, ignore God, impute their prosperity to their own efforts, and thus become brutish, and finally bring down judgment upon themselves.
Seven times pass, and then God is confessed. Seven times signifies a complete period of time, and prophetically would cover the whole period of Gentile domination. We have a similar use of "seven" in connection with the addresses to the seven Churches in Revelation 2 and 3, where seven Churches are chosen to cover the complete period of the history of the professing Church on earth. During the period of Gentile power, the government of the world is carried on without reference to God and therefore without any understanding of His mind. At the end of this period, after judgment has done its work, God will be confessed by the nations.
(Vv. 34, 35). Looking at himself, his might and his glory had led the king to become like a beast that looks down; but at the end of days he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and at once his understanding returned. His reason being restored, he blesses and praises the Most High. Then he thinks of men and, in comparison with God, he owns that all the inhabitants of the earth - the greatest kings as well as the meanest subjects - are as nothing. The man that thought he was everything discovers that he is nothing - a wholesome lesson for us all to learn. Moreover, he owns the sovereignty of God; and that God is not only sovereign in the armies of heaven, but also among the inhabitants of the earth. None can stay His hand or question His ways.
Vv. 36, 37). Upon his submission to God, the king's reason returns and he is once again established in his kingdom. So, in the days yet to come, after the judgment of the living nations the Gentiles will be established in blessing under the rule of Christ.
Nebuchadnezzar is brought personally to extol and honour the King of heaven. Before, he had owned that Daniel's God was a God of gods and the Lord of kings: later, he had passed a decree that none should speak a word against God, but at last he himself turns to God, and praises Him. Now he says "Those that walk in pride He is able to abase." He no longer talks about cutting people in pieces and making their houses a dunghill if they do not praise and bless the God of heaven. He will not intrude into God's domain, for God Himself knows how to humble the proud. He no longer tells others what they are to do, but he acknowledges what he himself does. He says 'Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment: and those that walk in pride He is able to abase."
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Smith, Hamilton. "Commentary on Daniel 4". "Smith's Writings". https://www.studylight.org/
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