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Bible Commentaries
Daniel 4

Wells of Living Water CommentaryWells of Living Water

Verses 1-28

Nebuchadnezzar's Proclamation

Daniel 4:1-28


1. Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. As we open our study we find King Nebuchadnezzar relating the story of God's dealings with himself: "Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth." After God had shown the king the utter folly of his golden image and his effort for a world kingdom, with a world religion centering in himself; after Nebuchadnezzar had been shown the glory of God, by the deliverance of the three Hebrew children from the fiery furnace; Nebuchadnezzar still walked in pride. Then the things related in the chapters of this study occurred, and after they had come to pass, Nebuchadnezzar sent forth this world notification of how God dealt with him.

2. Nebuchadnezzar's salutation. Here it is: "Peace be multiplied unto you." In his hour of humiliation, his heart went out to his people, and in the hour of his restoration he wrote, "Peace be multiplied unto you."

3. Nebuchadnezzar's tribute to God.

(1) "How great are His signs!" Nebuchadnezzar wrote, saying, "I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the High God hath wrought toward me." Then he gave this tribute: "How great are His signs." Somehow we wonder if this king was not almost persuaded to follow the Lord fully. It seemed that he was.

(2) "How mighty are His wonders." "How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders!" Yes, the king was ready to ascribe honor and glory unto God. The three Hebrew children had forced the king to acknowledge God's greatness and power. Had the king only lived in the center of that wonderful confession relative to God, God had never brought him to sorrow.

Now, however, God was again merciful to him, and had restored his kingdom unto him, and once again he is ascribing honor and glory unto God.

(3) "His Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom." This was the message of Daniel 2:1-49 , where God said to Nebuchadnezzar, "In the days of these kings shall the God of Heaven set up a Kingdom, which shall never be destroyed." This also was God's promise to David, that upon his throne the Lord would sit, to establish His Kingdom forever.

Earth's thrones will all topple and fall, but the throne of God, which is to be given unto the Son, shall never fall. It is true that Christ will, after the thousand years, turn over the Kingdom to the Father, that God may be All in all. However, the Kingdom of Christ but merges into the Kingdom of the Father; and it shall never be destroyed.

(4) "His dominion is from generation to generation." Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged that God was All in all. We are reminded of Isaiah, who, when he saw the throne of Uzziah toppling and falling, saw also the Lord seated upon His throne. Isaiah knew what Nebuchadnezzar had learned that God's throne is from generation to generation.

The thousand years upon the earth will be a wonderful period of blessing. In that day the Word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem, for He will reign in Zion. He will judge the poor with righteousness, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth.

In that day the wolf shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the cow and the bear shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The earth will be full of the glory of the Lord.

I. PEACE 'MID A COMING STORM (Daniel 4:4-5 )

1. Saying peace when there is no peace. Here are the words of the king. "I * * was at rest in mine house." Nebuchadnezzar was resting in his own pride and glory. He was resting in a false security. The Lord had shown him, through Daniel, and through the three Hebrew children, God's power and Godhead, but Nebuchadnezzar had foolishly trusted in his own strength and forgotten the God who had spoken to his heart. We are reminded of the Scripture: "He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed."

2. Flourishing with destruction lowering near. Here again are the words of the king: I was "flourishing in my palace."

He was flourishing just the same as his successor, flourished. Belshazzar gave a feast to a thousand of his lords and drank wine before the thousand, as he drank, he praised the gods of gold, of silver, of iron, of wood, and of stone. In the same hour (the hour when he flourished and when he feasted), the Lord God wrote over against the wall, the memorable "Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin."

Nebuchadnezzar flourished. He looked out over the city of Babylon and in his self-trust and self-pride he said, "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?" It was in that moment, while he flourished, that he was cut down.

Is this not often the case? The rich man said: "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." That night he was cut down. The Lord said unto him, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?"

So also shall the antichrist be cut down when he, in the Temple, ascribes himself as God.


1. He brought in the magicians and astrologers. The king, in his letter to all the world, was recounting a dream which made him afraid. He says that this dream came upon him while he was resting on his bed, and the visions of his head troubled him. He knew that he had gone too far in his self-centered life. Therefore his dream startled him.

At once he made a decree, and brought all the wise men of Babylon before him, and demanded that they should make known unto him the interpretation of his dream.

One would have thought that Nebuchadnezzar by this time would have known the futility of going to men in an hour like that. Had he himself not called in all the Babylonian soothsayers, magicians, and astrologers when he had dreamed a dream and had forgotten it?

Did he not know that they could not tell him anything? Had he failed to remember his former anger and fury, as he commanded that all of them should be killed? Why, then, should he call in the wise men?

2. The magicians and astrologers failed him again. Here is the way it reads: "They did not make known unto me the interpretation." When will men cease from men? When will they turn away from the arm of flesh?

It is the same story today that it was then. We go to one another for advice and for help in the time of emergency, but we go not to God. Have we not learned that other men are just as weak as we? They may know much about some things and yet know nothing as they ought to know. There is a verse which says: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."


1. Daniel was called only after the others failed. There are very few men who like to be brought in as a second choice. We wonder how God feels about it. A businessman met his friend on the street, and said something like this: "George, my business is about to go to the wall. I have tried everything I know. I guess I'll have to take it to God." His friend replied, "Has it come to this?"

For our part we feel that if it had come to that, in the first place, he never would have been in such a fix. "That in all things (God) might have the preeminence."

2. Daniel was recognized as led of God. When Nebuchadnezzar turned away from the wise men, he sent for Daniel, and he said unto him, "O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream, that I have seen."

Even now that Nebuchadnezzar was forced to call Daniel, he would not ascribe glory to Daniel's God, but he said, "the spirit of the holy gods." When Nebuchadnezzar had sent forth his edict after the three Hebrew children had been saved from the burning fiery furnace, he spoke of God as the Most High God. He knew that the God of Daniel, was not like unto the gods of the nations.

3. An SOS call to Daniel for help. Is it when everything fails, and there is no other hope or help, that we sound our SOS call to God? Why should we wait until the hour of extremity has arisen? Daniel knew how to pray to God three times every day. Nebuchadnezzar knew how to cry to God only in the hour when hope failed him, and disaster seemed about to fall upon him.

How about those who read these words?

If we fail to pray regularly, we have no power in which to pray in the time of stress.

IV. A LIFE WORLD-CENTERED (Daniel 4:10-13 )

1. A tree in the midst of the earth world-centered. Nebuchadnezzar said: "I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great." The earth stands for the things which are beneath, and not above. The great tree rooted in the earth prefigured a great life centered in the things under the sun. This tree was none other than Nebuchadnezzar himself. It seemed to say to him, You are great and mighty and all that, but you are of the earth earthy.

2. A tree in the earth world-known and glorified. The tree was great in height. It grew and was strong. It reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the ends of the earth.

Thus far Nebuchadnezzar might have been well pleased with his dream. He needed no astrologer or wise man to tell him that he was the mighty tree that reached to the heavens, and that he was known in his glory and might unto the ends of the earth. In all this he would feast his soul. It was in his greatness that he rejoiced.

3. A tree earth blessing filled with fruit. The vision continues: The leaves of the tree were fair. The fruit there-of was much. In it there was meat for all. Even the beasts of the field enjoyed its shadows, and the fowls of the heavens roosted in its branches.

Everything thus far in the dream appealed to Nebuchadnezzar's pride. God Himself was granting to Nebuchadnezzar everything that was his due. He knew that the king was beneficent, and that all men were enjoying his rule because he provided them with meat for all. Even the beasts seemed to enjoy the shadow of his kingdom. All flesh fed upon him.


1. Earth's crumbling thrones. Here is the part of the dream that troubled the king. In the visions of his head he saw "And, behold, a Watcher and an Holy One came down from Heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches."

This dream seems simple enough. If Nebuchadnezzar had boasted, however, that he was the tree that flourished, he must also admit that he was the tree that was about to be hewn down. There is no need to marvel that his thoughts troubled him. Let us stop awhile and consider.

If we build for the things of earth, and glory in the things of men, we, too, will be cut down. Can we not hear the voice of the crier even now, saying, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?"

2. A new order on the old stump. Nebuchadnezzar's dream did not stop with the hewing down of the tree. In his dream he saw that the stump of the tree was left, and that its roots remained in the earth. He even saw that a band of iron and brass had girdled it. He beheld that the tree was wet with the dew of heaven, and that its portion became with the beasts in the grass of the earth.

The Crier then said: "Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him."

No wonder that Nebuchadnezzar sent for the wise men. If the wise men detected its meaning, they would not at least endanger their lives by revealing unto the king what it evidently meant.

God Himself was speaking to King Nebuchadnezzar. He was giving him one more opportunity to repent, and one more opportunity to follow the Most High. This refused, there was nothing for the king except dethronement and worse than that.

The Psalmist saw the wicked flourish, and then he cried: "But suddenly he was cut down."

VI. THE PROUD BROUGHT LOW (Daniel 4:17-25 )

1. The supremacy of God The Most High ruleth in the kingdoms of men.

The last part of the dream was "To the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will, and setteth up over it the basest of men."

Did God mean to call the greatest of kings, the one whom He described as the head of gold, the basest of men? Even so. He was base because he had sinned against light, and had refused to recognize, as he should, God's greatness.

2. Daniel astonished one hour. Daniel, as he heard the dream, knew full well the meaning of it all. We have no doubt that he had lived in anticipation of something similar to this. The die was cast. The hour had come that God had said: "It shall be no more." Thus, for one hour, amazed and astonished, Daniel hesitated to speak. Then the king said unto Daniel, "Let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee." Thus Daniel answered and said: "My Lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies."

3. The dream interpreted, pride brought low (Daniel 4:25-26 ).

(1) Daniel told the king that he was the tree that had grown strong: "For thy greatness is. grown, and reacheth unto Heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth."

(2) Daniel told the king that the decree of the Watcher meant that he should be cut down. Then he said: "They shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will."

(3) Daniel told the king that whereas the stump of the tree was left, his kingdom should be sure unto him after he had learned that the Heavens do rule.

VII. THE PLEA TO REPENT (Daniel 4:27 )

1. Break off thy sins by righteousness. When Daniel had finished telling the meaning of the dream, he uttered a plea from his heart, saying, "O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness."

God is still calling to sinners to repent. He is still asking them to forsake every evil way, and every evil thought, under the promise that He will have mercy upon them, and that He will abundantly pardon.

He also said to the king, "Break off * * thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be the lengthening of thy tranquillity."

2. The dream's fulfillment. Nebuchadnezzar now concludes his edict which he is sending throughout the Babylonian empire. Remember as you read that the 4th chapter of Daniel is a proclamation which Nebuchadnezzar made and sent out after the fulfillment of his dream. It was written when the seven years of his sorrow had passed by; after he had been driven from men; after his body was wet with the dew of heaven; after he had eaten grass as oxen; after his mind had been restored, and he, was reestablished in his kingdom; after he had learned that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men.

Then it was that King Nebuchadnezzar sent out his letter praising God, and saying, "All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar." God had cut him down, but God had also restored him; and now the king, at the end of the day, with the seven years of darkness behind him, lifted up his eyes unto Heaven and blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him that liveth forever and ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion.

Then it was that the king said: "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing."

Then it was that Nebuchadnezzar concluded his worldwide confession:

"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."


Saints should forget their persecutions and trials. The unsaved should remember their warnings. The three Hebrew children could well forget their "fiery trials"; Nebuchadnezzar should have remembered Daniel's warnings.

It is said that Percy Crosby, the cartoonist, has in his yard a small house called a "Forgettory." That is good spiritual architecture. Much of our misery comes from remembering the wrong things: stinging words whipped out by careless friends; honeyed praises making us arrogant; a glamorous past which cannot be recovered. Let us go into the "Forgettory" and there prayerfully submit to God the mistakes of yesterday; let our forgiveness heal the old wounds of stinging words; let the confession of sins humble unearned praises; and be sure that the past has held no good thing which cannot be ours in God's tomorrow. E. W. Z.

Bibliographical Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Daniel 4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lwc/daniel-4.html.
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