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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Daniel 4

 

 

Verse 1

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

Punished with insanity for his haughtiness, he sinks to the level of the beasts (illustrating Psalms 49:6; Psalms 49:10-12). The opposition between bestial and human life set forth here is a key to interpret the symbolism in Daniel 7:1-28 concerning the beasts and the Son of man. After his conquests, and his building in fifteen days a new palace, according to the pagan historian, Abydenus (268 BC), whose account confirms Daniel, 'he ascended upon his palace-roof (see Daniel 4:29, margin, 'He walked upon the palace'), whence he could see the surrounding city which he had built, and, seized by some deity, he predicted the Persian conquest of Babylon, adding a prayer that the Persian leader might on his return be borne where there is no path of men, and where the wild beasts graze' (language evidently derived by tradition from Daniel 4:32-33, though the application is different). In his insanity his excited mind would naturally think of the coming conquest of Babylon by the Medo-Persians, already foretold to him in Daniel 2:39.

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people ... Peace be multiplied unto you - the usual salutation in the East. 'Shalom,' whence Salaam. The primitive revelation of the fall, and man's alienation from God, made "peace" to be felt as the first and deepest want of man. The Orientals (as the East was the cradle of revelation) retained the word by tradition.


Verse 2

I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.

I thought it good - `It was seemly before me' (Psalms 107:2-8). To show the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me - tokens significant of God's omnipotent agency. The plural is used, as it comprises the marvelous dream, the marvelous interpretation of it, and its marvelous issue.


Verse 3

How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 4

I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:

I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest - my wars over, my kingdom at peace.

And flourishing - `green.' Image from a tree "planted by the waters" (Jeremiah 17:8). Appropriate to the image in the dream, Daniel 4:10, note. Prosperous (Job 15:32).


Verse 5

I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 6

Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.

Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. It may seem strange that Daniel was not first summoned. But it was ordered by God's providence that he should be reserved to the last, in order that all mere human means should be proved vain before God manifested His power through His servant; thus the haughty king was stripped of all freshly confidences. The Chaldees were the king's recognized interpreters of dreams; whereas Daniel's interpretation of the one in Daniel 2:1-49 had been a special case, and very many years before, nor had he been consulted on such matters since.


Verse 7

Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 8

But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying,

Daniel ... whose name was Belteshazzar - called so from the god Bel or Belus (see note, Daniel 1:7).


Verse 9

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, and the interpretation thereof.

O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.

Nebuchadnezzar speaks as a pagan, who yet has imbibed some notions of the true God. Hence, he speaks of "gods" in the plural, but gives the epithet "holy," which applies to Yahweh alone, the pagan gods making no pretension to purity, even in the opinion of their votaries (Deuteronomy 32:31 : cf. Isaiah 63:11). "I know" refers to his knowledge of Daniel's skill many years before (Daniel 2:1-49); hence, he calls him "master of the magicians."

No secret troubleth thee - gives thee difficulty in explaining it.


Verse 10

Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.

I saw ... a tree - so the Assyrian is compared to a "cedar in Lebanon" (Ezekiel 31:3; cf. Ezekiel 17:24, "I the Lord have brought down the high tree, have exalted the low tree, have dried up the green tree (cf. the expression flourishing, Daniel 4:4), and have made the try tree to flourish").

In the midst of the earth - denoting its conspicuous position as the center whence the imperial authority radiated in all directions.


Verse 11

The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 12

The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.

The beasts of the field had shadow under it - implying that God's purpose in establishing empires in the world is that they may be as trees, affording men "fruits" for "meat" and a "shadow" for rest (cf. Lamentations 4:20). But the world-powers abuse their trust for self; therefore Messiah comes to plant the tree of His Gospel-kingdom, which alone shall realize God's purpose (Ezekiel 17:23; Matthew 13:32, "When it (the mustard seed to which the Gospel-kingdom is compared) is grown, it ... becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof"). Herodotus (7: 19) mentions a dream (probably suggested by the tradition of this dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel) which Xerxes had-namely, that he was crowned with olive, and that the branches of the olive filled the whole earth, but that afterward the crown vanished from his head: signifying his universal dominion, soon to come to an end.


Verse 13

I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;

I saw ... a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven - rather, 'even an holy one.' Only one angel is intended, and he not one of the bad, but of the holy angels. Called a "watcher," because ever on the watch to execute God's will (Jerome). (Psalms 103:20-21.) Compare as to the watchfulness of 'the four living creatures' (so the Greek) or cherubim (Revelation 4:8, "full of eyes within ... they rest not day and night"). Also they watch good men committed to their charge (Psalms 34:7; Hebrews 1:14); and watch over the evil, to record their sins, and at God's bidding at last to punish them (Jeremiah 4:16-17, "watchers," applied to human instruments of God's vengeance). As to GOD (Daniel 9:14; Job 7:12; Job 14:16; Jeremiah 44:27). In a good sense (Genesis 31:49; Jeremiah 31:28).

The idea of heavenly "watchers" under the supreme God (called in the Zendavesta of the Persian Zoroaster, 'Ormuzd') was founded on the primeval revelation as to evil angels having watched for an opportunity until they succeeded in tempting man to his ruin, and good angels ministering to God's servants (as they did to Jacob, Genesis 28:15; Genesis 32:1-2, "Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God's host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim" - that is, two hosts). Compare the watching over Abraham for good, and over Sodom for wrath, after long watching in vain for good men in it, for whose sake he would spare it, Genesis 18:1-33 : and over Lot for good, Genesis 19:1-38. Daniel fitly puts in Nebuchadnezzar's mouth the expression, though not found elsewhere in Scripture, yet substantially sanctioned by it (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3; Jeremiah 32:19), and natural to him, according to Oriental modes of thought.


Verse 14

He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:

Hew down the tree - (Matthew 3:10; Luke 13:7, "Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?") The holy one (so in Jude 1:14 "saints" mean angels) incites his fellow-angels to God's appointed work (cf. Revelation 14:15; Revelation 14:18, "Another angel came ... crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle and reap").

Let the beast get away from under it - it shall no longer afford them shelter (Ezekiel 31:12).


Verse 15

Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:

Leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass. The kingdom is still reserved secure for him at last, as a tree stump secure by a hoop of brass and iron from being split by the sun's heat, in the hope of its growing again (Isaiah 11:1 : cf. Job 14:7-9). Barnes refers it to the chaining of the royal maniac.


Verse 16

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.

Let his heart be changed from man's - "heart," understanding (Isaiah 6:10, "Make the heart of this people fat").

Seven times - i:e., years (Daniel 12:7). "Seven" is the perfect number: a week of years: a complete revolution of time accompanying a complete revolution in his state of mind.


Verse 17

This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: 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.

The demand by the word of the holy ones - i:e., determination; namely, as to the change to which Nebuchadnezzar is to be doomed. A solemn council of the heavenly ones is supposed (cf. Job 1:6; Job 2:1), over which God presides supreme. His "decree" and "word" are therefore said to be theirs (cf. Daniel 4:24, where the "decree of the Most High" answers to "the decree of the watchers," "the word of the holy ones" here). For He has placed particular kingdoms under the administration of angelic beings, subject to Him (cf. Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20; Daniel 12:1, where Michael is represented as being "the great prince which standeth up for the children of thy people," Israel). The word "demand," in the second clause, expresses a distinct idea from the first clause. Not only as members of God's council (Daniel 7:10; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:21; Zechariah 1:10) do they subscribe to His "decree," but that decree is in answer to their prayers, wherein they DEMAND that every mortal shall be humbled, whosoever tries to obscure the glory of God (Calvin). Angels are grieved when God's prerogative is in the least infringed. How awful to Nebuchadnezzar to know that angels plead against him for his pride, and that the decree has been passed in the high court of heaven for his humiliation, in answer to angels' demands! The conceptions are moulded in a form peculiarly adapted to Nebuchadnezzar's modes of thought.

To the intent that the living may know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men - "the living," not as distinguished from the dead, but from the inhabitants of heaven, who "know" that which the men of the world need to be taught (Psalms 9:16); the ungodly confess there is a God, but would gladly confine Him to heaven. But, saith Daniel, God ruleth not merely there, but "in the kingdom of men."

And setteth up over it the basest - the lowest in condition (1 Samuel 2:8; Luke 1:52). It is not one's talents, excellency, or noble birth, but God's will, which elevates to the throne. Nebuchadnezzar abased to the dunghill, and then restored, was to have in himself an experimental proof of this (Daniel 4:37).


Verse 18

This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 19

Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.

Daniel ... Belteshazzar - the use of the Hebrew as well as the Chaldee name, so far from being an objection, as some have made it, is an undesigned mark of genuineness. In a proclamation to "all people," and one designed to honour the God of the Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar would naturally use the Hebrew name (derived from God, 'Eel (Hebrew #410), the name by which the prophet was best known among his countrymen) as well as the Gentile name by which he was known in the Chaldean empire.

Astonied - overwhelmed with awe at the terrible import of the dream.

For one hour - the original [ k


Verse 20-21

The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;

The tree that thou sawest ... Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much ... under which the beasts ... dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls ... had their habitation. The tree is the king; the branches, the princes; the leaves, the soldiers; the fruits, the revenues; the shadow, the protection afforded to dependent states.


Verse 22

It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.

It is thou, O king. He speaks pointedly, and without circumlocution (so Nathan said to David, 2 Samuel 12:7, "Thou art the man"). While pitying the king, be uncompromisingly pronounces his sentence of punishment. Let ministers steer the mean between, on the one hand, fulminations against sinners, under the pretext of zeal, without any symptom of compassion; and, on the other, flattery of sinners under the pretext of moderation.

Thy dominion to the end of the earth - (Jeremiah 27:6-8, "Now have I given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar"). To the Caspian, Euxine, and Atlantic Seas.


Verse 23

And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him;

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 24

This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:

This is the decree of the Most High. What was termed in Daniel 4:17 by Nebuchadnezzar "the decree of the watchers" is here more accurately termed by Daniel "the decree of the Most High." They are but His ministers.


Verse 25

That 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.

They shall drive thee - a Chaldee idiom for thou shalt be driven. Hypochondriacal madness was his malady, which "drove" him, under the fancy that he was a beast, to "dwell with the beasts:" Daniel 4:34 proves this, "Mine understanding returned unto me." The regency would allow him to roam in the large beast-abounding parks attached to the palace.

They shall make thee to eat grass - i:e., vegetables, or herbs in general (Genesis 3:18, "Thou shalt eat the herb of the field").

They shall wet thee with the dew of heaven - i:e., thou shalt be wet with the dew.

Till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men - (Psalms 83:17-18, "Let them be confounded ... that men may know that thou, whose name alone is Yahweh, art most high over all the earth;" Jeremiah 27:5 ).


Verse 26

And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.

Thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known ... - a promise of spiritual grace to him, causing the judgment to humble, not harden, his heart.

That the heavens do rule - the plural is used as addressed to Nebuchadnezzar, the head of an organized earthly kingdom, with various principalities, under the supreme ruler. So "the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 4:17; Grotius, 'kingdom of the heavens') is a manifold organization, composed of various orders of angels, under the Most High (Ephesians 1:20-21; Ephesians 3:10, "the principalities and powers in heavenly places;" Colossians 1:16, "thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers").


Verse 27

Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.

Break off thy sins by righteousness - as a galling yoke (Genesis 27:40). Sin is a heavy load, and all sinners are "heavy laden" (Matthew 11:28). The Septuagint and the Vulgate translate [ p


Verse 28

All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 29

At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.

At the end of twelve months. This respite was granted to him to leave him without excuse. So the 120 years granted before the flood (Genesis 6:3). At the first announcement of the coming judgment he was alarmed, as Ahab, who for the time "fasted, lay in sackloth, and went softly" (1 Kings 21:27), but did not thoroughly repent; so when judgment was not executed at once, he thought it would never come, and therefore returned to his former pride (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

In the palace - rather, upon the (flat) palace roof, whence he could contemplate the splendour of Babylon. So the pagan historian, Abydenus, records. The palace roof was the scene of the fall of another king, David (2 Samuel 11:2). The eye is the avenue through which many of the temptations of the world rush in upon the soul. The tempter tried thus to overcome Jesus by a panoramic view of the glory of the world-kingdoms, but in vain (Matthew 4:8-10). The outer wall of Nebuchadnezzar's new palace embraced six miles; there were two other embattled walls within, and a great tower, and three brasen gates.


Verse 30

The king spake, and 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?

Is not this great Babylon, that I have built? Herodotus ascribes the building of Babylon to Semiramis and Nitocris, his informant under the Persian dynasty giving him the Assyrian and Persian account. Berosus and Abydenus give the Babylonian account-namely, that Nebuchadnezzar added much to the old city; built a splendid palace and city walls. Herodotus, the so-called 'father of history,' does not even mention Nebuchadnezzar. (Nitocris, to whom he attributes the beautifying of Babylon, seems to have been Nebuchadnezzar's wife.) Hence, infidels have doubted the Scripture account.

But the latter is proved by thousands of bricks on the plain, the inscriptions of which have been deciphered, each marked 'Nebuchadnezzar, the son of Nabopolassar.' "Built," i:e., restored and enlarged (2 Chronicles 11:5-6). It is curious, all the bricks have been found with the stamped face downward. Scarcely a figure in stone, or a tablet, has been dug out of the rubbish heaps of Babylon, whereas Nineveh abounds in them; fulfilling Jeremiah 51:37, "Babylon shall become heaps." The "I" is emphatic, by which he puts himself in the place of God; so the "my power, my majesty." He impiously opposes his might to God's, as though God's threat, uttered a year before, could never come to pass. He would be more than man; God therefore justly makes him less than man: he must be driven from men, and "dwell with the beasts," and become like a beast. An acting over again of the fall: Adam, once lord of the world and the very beasts (Genesis 1:28; as was also Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 2:38), would be a god (Genesis 3:5), therefore he must die like the beasts (Psalms 82:6; Psalms 49:12). The second Adam restores the forfeited inheritance (Psalms 8:4-8).


Verse 31

While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.

While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying - in the very act of speaking, so that there could be no doubt as to the connection between the crime and the punishment. So in the case of the rich fool, God's voice of judgment suddenly broke in upon his voice of self-seeking covetousness. Compare also the stroke of God upon Herod, just after his "oration," wherein he gave not the glory to God, but suffered the people's blasphemous adulation, "It is the voice of a god, and not of a man" (Acts 12:21-23; Luke 12:19-20).

O king ... to thee it is spoken - notwithstanding thy kingly power, to thee thy doom is now spoken: there is to be no further respite.


Verse 32

And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 33

The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.

The same hour ... he was driven from men - as a maniac, fancying himself a wild beast. It is possible a conspiracy of his nobles may have cooperated toward his having been "driven" forth as an outcast.

His hairs were grown like eagles' feathers - matted together, as the hair-like thick plumage of the ossifraga eagle. The "nails," by being left uncut for years, would become like "claws."


Verse 34

And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:

I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven - whence the "voice" had issued (Daniel 4:31) at the beginning of his visitation. "There fell a voice from heaven." Sudden mental derangement often has the effect of annihilating the whole interval, so that, when reason returns, the patient remembers only the event that immediately preceded his insanity. Nebuchadnezzar's looking up toward heaven was the first symptom of his "understanding" having "returned." Before, like the beasts, his eyes had been downward to the earth; now, like Jonah's (Jonah 2:1-2; Jonah 2:4) out of the fish's belly, they are lifted up to heaven in prayer. He turns to Him that smiteth Him (Isaiah 9:13), with the faint glimmer of reason left to him, and owns God's justice in punishing him.

I praised and honoured him. Praise is a sure sign of a soul spiritually healed (Psalms 116:12; Psalms 116:14; Mark 5:15; Mark 5:18-19).

I ... honoured him - implying that the cause of his chastisement was that he had before robbed God of His honour.

Whose dominion is an everlasting dominion - not temporary or mutable, as a human king's dominion.


Verse 35

And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing - (Isaiah 40:15; Isaiah 40:17).

He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven - (Psalms 115:3; Psalms 135:6, "Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places." As yet the inhabitants of the earth do not in general consciously and voluntarily do His will; but He overrules even them to do it. We pray for the time when all shall voluntarily do His will here as above; "Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven;" Matthew 6:10; Ephesians 1:11).

Army - the heavenly hosts, angels and starry orbs (cf. Isaiah 24:21).

None can stay his hand - literally, strike His hand. Image from striking the hand of another, to check him in doing anything (Isaiah 43:13; Isaiah 45:9).

What doest thou? - (Job 9:12; Romans 9:20).


Verse 36

At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.

At the same time my reason returned unto me. An inscription in the East India Company's Museum is read as describing the period of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity (G.V. Smith). In the so-called standard inscription read by Sir

H. Rawlinson, Nebuchadnezzar relates that during four (?) years he ceased to lay out buildings, or to furnish with victims Merodach's altar, or to clear out the canals for irrigation. No other instance in the cuneiform inscriptions occurs of a king recording his own inaction.

My counselors and my lords sought unto me - desired to have me, as formerly, to be their head, wearied with the anarchy which prevailed in my absence (cf. note, Daniel 4:33); the likelihood of a conspiracy of the nobles is confirmed by this verse.

Excellent majesty was added unto me - my authority was greater than even before (Job 42:12; Proverbs 22:4; Matthew 6:33).


Verse 37

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.

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven. He heaps word on word, as if he cannot say enough in praise of God.

All whose works are truth, and his ways judgment - i:e., are true and just. How striking that the head of the All whose works are truth, and his ways judgment - i:e., are true and just. How striking that the head of the pagan world-power should be brought to the same confession as shall be the anthem of the redeemed! (Revelation 15:3, "Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways;" Revelation 16:7.) God has not dealt unjustly or too severely with me: whatever I have suffered, I deserved it all. It is a mark of true contrition to condemn one's self and justify God (Psalms 51:4).

Those that walk in pride he is able to abase - exemplified in me. He condemns himself before the whole world, in order to glorify God.

Remarks:

(1) In this chapter we have the instructive confession of Nebuchadnezzar as to his own past self-deifying pride, the consequent warning of God, and the judgment of God on him, deferred for a season of grace, but at last executed, and the blessed effect of the chastisement on him in producing humility, prayer, praise, and devotion toward the most High.

(2) When man seeks to lift himself up to a level with God, he is justly doomed by God to sink beneath man's dignity, to the level of the beast. Nebuchadnezzar, like Adam our progenitor, had been given by God the delegated lordship over both men and also "the beasts of the field" (Daniel 2:38); but as he would be a god, he thereby at once lost his lordship and became brutish. Prosperity was his snare. "At rest" from wars wherein he had been invariably victorious, and "flourishing" in an uninterrupted flow of affluence, he forgot that he was but a frail mortal. God, therefore, who is jealous for His own majesty, and will not allow His honour to be usurped by any other, gave him an awful admonitory dream. How apt we are, when our worldly wealth abounds, to forget what weak, dying creatures we are, and with what a holy God we hays to do! God therefore in mercy sends us warnings, "that He may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man, and keep back his soul from the pit" (Job 33:17-18).

(3) Nebuchadnezzar had had experience many years before of Daniel's inspired skill in interpreting dreams which baffled the power of all the soothsayers of Babylon. And yet he did not have recourse to Daniel until he had first tried all the Chaldean sages in vain. Thus God often permits us to try all earthly physicians and remedies first, in order that the worthlessness of these to the soul may be proved, before He leads us by His Spirit to the Good Physician, who heals all our spiritual diseases effectually and at once with His atoning blood and righteousness. How sad it is that, after we have once tasted His grace, we yet should be so prone to go back to worldly idols! The Lord Jesus Christ has the fullness of "the Spirit of the holy God" (Daniel 4:9), so that He can tell us all that is in our heart, and all the will of God concerning us; nor will He, on account of our past preference of others to Him, cast us out when we come to Him, but "all things that He has heard of His Father, He will make known to us" (John 15:15).

(4) The dream represented Nebuchadnezzar under the image of a wide spreading tree in the midst of the earth, whose height reached toward heaven, whose leaves were fair, and whose fruit was abundant, under whose shadow the beasts sheltered, and in whose boughs the fowls of the heaven dwelt (Daniel 4:10-12). Instead of fulfilling God's purpose in establishing a world-empire under his headship, by seeking the glory of God, and the good of man, and even of the dumb creatures under him, Nebuchadnezzar made a god of himself. The trust was therefore to be taken from him; and in his case first, the world was to be shown that mere man is not fit to be entrusted with the government of the earth; and that therefore men must look for the coming of Messiah the God-man, the Lord of man and of the lower animals, under the shadow of whose universal kingdom on earth the men of every nation shall dwell in security and blessedness (Ezekiel 17:23; Matthew 13:32), and even the brute creation shall partake of the general peace and happiness (Isaiah 11:6-9). (5) A heavenly watcher, a holy one from above (Daniel 4:13), is represented as having come down, in accordance with the "decree" of the Most High (Daniel 4:24), whose will and word are the will and word of His assembled angels, and are the answer to their petitions, wherein they "demand" (Daniel 4:17) that every mortal should be abased (Daniel 4:37), whosoever, like Nebuchadnezzar, try to obscure, in self-exalting pride, the glory that is the prerogative of God alone. "Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches," the heavenly watcher cried aloud (Daniel 4:14). It is a solemn thought that angels are, by God's command, ever watching our conduct; watching over His children for their good; watching over the ungodly to record their sins in the book of judgment, and at last to punish them. At any moment the "decree" may go forth from God against the unhumbled sinner among us, in accordance with "the demand by the word of the holy ones," Hew down the sinner who is either barren, and therefore unprofitable, or else bears fruit only for self, and not for the glory of God and the good of his fellow-men. Then shall all the seemingly green leaves be shaken off from him, and his fair-looking fruit shall be scattered; and all who once gathered about him shall forsake him (Daniel 4:14).

(6) Yet God remembered mercy to Nebuchadnezzar amidst judgment. It is true his heart or understanding was to be changed from man's, and that of a beast was to be given him; and this was to continue so for "seven times," a perfect revolution of time being the disciplinary period appointed to bring with it a complete revolution in his mind. But then his severe chastisement was to terminate, its gracious design having been accomplished in his being brought humbly to look up unto God (Daniel 4:34).

Therefore the stump of the tree was left secured by a band of iron and brass from injury through the sun's heat. The angels had pleaded against him before God, demanding his humiliation for his pride, and so the decree had gone forth against him: but God had still grace in store for him; and therefore when, in accordance with their "demand," those "living" on each had been made, by God's judgment on him, to "know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will," abasing the proud (Daniel 4:37), and "setting up over it the basest" - that is, the lowliest-of men, as He pleaseth (Daniel 4:17), then God restored to him his understanding and reason (Daniel 4:34; Daniel 4:36).

(7) It is the tendency of the natural heart, if it confess God at all, to wish to limit His agency to heaven. Proud man, therefore, must be taught that "the heavens do rule" (Daniel 4:26) on earth, and that the Most High reigneth not only above, but here below also "in the kingdom of men," and that "He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand, or say unto to Him, What doest thou?" (Daniel 4:35.) It is not one's talents or royal birth which are the first cause of any man's elevation-it is simply God's will. The king of Babylon abased to the dunghill, and then lifted up again out of the dust to the world-wide throne (1 Samuel 2:8), was experimentally to know this himself, and to be an example to men of all ages, teaching us that "promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south: but God is the judge; He putteth down one, and setteth up another."

(8) The faithfulness of Daniel in his telling an absolute king the whole of the terrible message from God, without compromise or abatement, definitely fixing the application to Nebuchadnezzar himself, is a pattern for all ministers of God. While avoiding violent denunciations of wrath, as though they took pleasure in the sinner's punishment, ministers must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God, lovingly, indeed, and tenderly, but at the same time without fear or flattery of man, and trying to bring home the sense of guilt personally to each conscience. The sinner must be made to hear the voice of God speaking to his soul, "It is thou" (Daniel 4:22), "Thou art the man" (2 Samuel 12:7).

(9) Even yet Daniel held out to Nebuchadnezzar a hope of suspension of judgment, and prolongation of his reign in tranquillity, before wrath should descend, if he would still repent, and "break off his sins by righteousness, and his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor" (Daniel 4:27). God is indeed slow to wrath. Oh how this lovely feature in the character of our God should move us to put away from us whatsoever sins in us grieve Him, and provoke His displeasure!

(10) But the long-suffering of God was set at nought by Nebuchadnezzar. A respite of a year (Daniel 4:29) was granted to him, to leave him without excuse. Probably at the first announcement of judgment to come he was alarmed, and intended to reform. But when execution was delayed, his deceitful heart whispered to him that it would never come (Ecclesiastes 8:11); so he returned to his former pride, selfishness, and unrighteousness. Standing upon the roof of his gorgeous palace (Daniel 4:29), and looking down upon his golden capital, which owed much of its splendour to the public works which he had caused to be carried on by the forced and unremunerated labour of the poor, to whom he had shown no mercy (Daniel 4:27), he exclaimed, in self-glorifying elation, "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?" (Daniel 4:30.) It was while he was in the very act of so speaking that God also spoke the self-glorifier's judgment, in order that the inseparable connection might be marked between the sinner's pride and the sinner's judicial downfall.

Hypochondriacal madness, sent from God, whereby be fancied himself a beast, along with a conspiracy of his nobles, "drove" him (Daniel 4:32) to dwell with the beasts in the wide grass parks of the palace, which abounded in deer and wild animals kept there for the chase. Thus, severe chastizements were made the means of bringing him to humble repentance. And when this was done, God graciously restored him to the respect of his "counselors and lords" (Daniel 4:36). With his return to God he returned to his true dignity as a man, no longer the associate of beasts. The glory, honour, and brightness of his kingdom returned unto him (Daniel 4:36), when once he learned to adore the "honour" and "everlasting dominion" of God's kingdom. 'Stability in his kingdom and excellent majesty was added unto him' (Daniel 4:36), such as he had not enjoyed before, so long as he reigned without the humble recognition of the allegiance which he owed to the Most High, as being wholly dependent on Him.

His lifting up his eyes to heaven (Daniel 4:34), whence the voice had come for his punishment (Daniel 4:31), was the first symptom of his return to understanding. Previously his eyes, like the beast's, had been downward the earth. But now he turns to Him that smote him (Isaiah 9:13), with the faint glimmer of reason left him, and accepts as just the punishment of his iniquity. Immediately mercy from God followed. And the first use which he made of his restored reason was to "praise and honour Him that liveth forever" (Daniel 4:34) to "extol Him as the king of heaven, all whose works are truth, and His ways judgment." Let us who possess this noble faculty of man, reason, use it for the glory of Him who gave it, not for the pampering of our intellectual pride! Let us remember that only so long as man lives as the humble, trusting, and obedient dependent on the God of heaven, is he truly partaker of man's highest prerogative above the brutes, union with the highest and most glorious being in the universe!

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Daniel 4:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/daniel-4.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, October 13th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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