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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Daniel 4

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

Nebuchadnezzar confesseth God's kingdom, and maketh relation of his dream, which the magicians could not interpret. Daniel heareth the dream: he intrepreteth it. The history of the event.

Before Christ 570.

THIS chapter contains a decree of king Nebuchadnezzar's, and the reasons of it; the king had again dreamed, and was at a loss for the meaning of his dream. Daniel interprets it of the deprivation and recovery of his royal authority: after the completion, the king acknowledges the truth of the events, and praises and extols the God of heaven. There is a change of persons in the chapter, which may require some little attention to prevent ambiguity. The decree and the history are delivered in the words of Nebuchadnezzar; the interpretation of the dream in the words of Daniel, and the completion or conclusion again in the words of the king.


Verse 1

Daniel 4:1. Nebuchadnezzar the king This is an edict in favour of the Jews: Daniel has preserved it to us in the original language, as an authentic piece. It is probable that it was given upon the occasion, and in consequence of the deliverance of the three Hebrews from the furnace.


Verse 3

Daniel 4:3. How great are his signs, &c.— The king's repeated experience had extorted from him the sublime confession contained in this verse; the latter part of which is a fine display of the infinite power and dominion of the true God.


Verse 4

Daniel 4:4. I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest, &c.— Nebuchadnezzar, after having subjected to his empire Syria, Phoenicia, Judaea, Egypt, and Arabia, returned to Babylon, full of glory; and, inflated with this prosperity, he enjoyed in peace the fruit of his conquests; seeing nothing in all Asia which did not submit to his authority, till God troubled his repose by the uneasy dream which he sent him. See Calmet.


Verse 8

Daniel 4:8. Whose name was Whose name is.


Verse 9

Daniel 4:9. Master of the magicians Or, chief of the diviners. Nebuchadnezzar gave this place and rank to Daniel, after he had interpreted his first dream to him concerning the statue. Instead of troubleth thee, we may read, too hard for thee. Houbigant, for tell me the visions of my dream, &c. reads, attend to the dream which I have seen, and declare its interpretation.


Verse 10

Daniel 4:10. Behold, a tree, &c.— Princes and great men are frequently represented in Scripture under the metaphor of fair and flourishing trees. See Ezekiel 31:3. Jeremiah 22:15. Psalms 37:35. The whole of this allegorical dream is explained in the subsequent part of the chapter.


Verse 13

Daniel 4:13. A watcher Instead of watcher, Houbigant reads, an adversary, or opponent; which he thinks answers much better to the character of the angel here spoken of, as the avenger and punisher of Nebuchadnezzar's pride. According to our translation, we must understand the word as referring to the attendance of the evangelical orders upon God's throne, to receive and execute his commands. Hence they are called the eyes of the Lord.


Verse 16

Daniel 4:16. Let his heart be changed from man's It can only be hence collected, that the king's mind was so changed, that he now appeared to himself no longer as a man, but as an animal; and therefore, of his own accord, lived among wild beasts, neglectful of human food and culture. Nothing is read concerning the change of his form; he therefore crept upon his hands and feet like other animals; in this alone unlike a man, that his hair and nails increased like those of an eagle: see Daniel 4:33. By seven times are meant seven years. Times is used in the same sense in the Revelation. Scaliger thinks that this madness of Nebuchadnezzar is obscurely hinted at in a fragment of Abydenus, produced by Eusebius; wherein, having represented the king, from the Chaldean writers, to have fallen into an exstasy, and to have foretold the destruction of that empire by the Medes and Persians, the author adds, that immediately after uttering this prophesy he disappeared; which Scaliger expounds by the king's being driven from his regal state, and the society of men. See Houbigant and Calmet.


Verse 17

Daniel 4:17. This matter is by the decree, &c.— It is called, in the 24th verse, the decree of the Most High. The expression in the text is an allusion to the proceedings of earthly princes, who publish their decrees by the advice of their chief ministers. Watchers and holy ones are here spoken of in the plural number; whereas the words in the 13th verse are in the singular: which difference may be thus accounted for, that the sentence was pronounced at the joint request of many, but was to be put in execution by one angel only. The basest of men, at the end of the verse, may refer to Nebuchadnezzar, either in his truly abject state of cruelty and pride, or in his state of humiliation; when he who bringeth low the proud, exalted him again, after he had humbled him to the dung-hill.


Verse 19

Daniel 4:19. Then Daniel—was astonished for one hour Stood in silent astonishment for nearly an hour. This, doubtless, arose from his consideration of the extraordinary and affecting circumstances of the dream, as appears from the latter part of the verse.


Verse 25

Daniel 4:25. They shall drive thee from men In the Chaldee and Hebrew the plural active they shall do, signifies no more than thus it shall be, be the cause what it will: so that the meaning is, that Nebuchadnezzar should be punished with madness, which should so deprave his imagination while he yet retained his memory, and perhaps his reason in some intervals, as that he should fancy himself to be a beast, and live as such, till his heart, that is, his apprehension, appetite, or likings, should be changed from man to beast. All this time the stump, which was to be a tree again, is fenced or guarded; no successor was to attempt his life, or step into his throne; which he was to reassume when his reason returned, and his heart was humbled before God. This sort of madness might be the lycanthropy, mentioned by naturalists and medical writers, which makes men go, or imagine they go, out of their houses like wolves, and bite and wound whatever comes in their way. See Chandler's Vindication of the Defence, p. 25 and the first note on the last verse of this chapter.

Daniel 4:25. As oxen Bochart describes the buffalo or wild ox as a sullen, malevolent, spiteful animal, attacking the unwary traveller with great fierceness. Though these fierce animals are for the most part found in Africa, yet Pliny observes, p. 142 that wild oxen were to be met with in ancient Scythia, and therefore probably on the Armenian mountains, not far from Babylonia. Mr. Bruce observes, that in Abyssinia the buffalo is the most ferocious animal in that part of the country where he resides; and yet that in Egypt it is the only one kept for giving milk; and that they are governed by children of ten years old without any apprehension of danger, though apparently of the same species with the Ethiopian. Vol. 5: p. 82. And Thevenot gives us a curious account of an use which was made of them on the Tigris, which he observed in his voyage from Mosul to Bagdad. I saw, says he, an experiment of the dexterity the people of the country have to cross the water without a bridge. I perceived forty or fifty she-buffles driven by a naked boy, who came to sell their milk; these buffles took the water, and swam in a square body; the little boy stood upright upon the last, and stepping from one to another drove them on with a stick, and that with as much force and assurance as if he had been on dry land; sometimes sitting down upon them.


Verse 29

Daniel 4:29. At the end of twelve months God deferred the execution of his threats against this impious prince; he gave him a whole year to repent and return to him; but, seeing that he persevered in his crimes, the measure of his iniquities being full, he put his menaces in execution. See Calmet.

He walked in the palace As he was walking upon the palace. It is well known, that the roofs of the buildings in the East were flat or plain, over which the inhabitants used to walk for pleasure. "The palace of Koscam, (says Mr. Bruce, vol. 4: p. 271.) consists of a square tower of three stories, with a flat parapet roof or terrace, and battlements about it." But "the palace of Gondar and all its contiguous buildings are surrounded by a substantial stone wall thirty feet high, with battlements upon the outer wall, and a parapet roof between the outer and inner, by which you can go along the whole and look into the street: the four sides of this wall are above an English mile and half in length." Vol. 3: p. 380. In a situation like one of these was Nebuchadnezzar placed in the passage before us, in order to take a more full view of his city, and to enjoy the fresh air, according to Sir John Chardin, that is, to gratify his ease and pride; when he pronounced the following extravagant soliloquy.


Verse 30

Daniel 4:30. Is not this great Babylon that I have built The circuit of this city is said to have been 360 stadia at least, or more than 45 miles, and Pliny extends it to 60 miles. Herodotus describes it as a square, each side of which was 120 stadia, or 480 in circumference: the height of its walls was 50 cubits according to the lowest reckoning, and the breadth of them such that six chariots a-breast, according to Diodorus, might drive along them. It was beautifully situated on the Euphrates; so that a branch of that river ran through the midst of it, over which was a bridge of a furlong in length, with a magnificent palace at each end. That it is agreeable to Scripture language and the manner of the Hebrews to style that person the builder of a city, who restores it after a state of neglect to its pristine beauty, and improves and adorns it, may be learnt from 2 Chronicles 11:6 and from 2 Kings 14:22 where cities are said to be built by the kings that repaired, or enlarged and fortified them, although they had been constructed long before. Bochart thinks that Babylon was as much indebted to Nebuchadnezzar as Rome was to Augustus Caesar, who used to boast, as Suetonius relates in his life, that he received the city of brick, and left it of marble. Whatever we read of the original construction of Babylon by Nimrod or Belus, or of its enlargement by Semiramis, yet it was either of little account, or certainly not as one of the wonders of the world, till the walls with their hundred gates, the temple of Belus, the monarch's most magnificent palace, the hanging gardens, and other grand works and improvements, were added by the king who is here said to have built it. See Joseph. Ant. from Berosus, lib. 10: cap. 11. Some of these great works are said to have been finished by Nitocris, who probably completed the plan which Nebuchadnezzar had begun. Nineveh had been the capital of the Assyrian empire, and was for a long time the most considerable city: according to Diodorus, lib. 2: its circuit was reckoned near sixty English miles, or, as the prophet Jonah describes it, of three days' journey, allowing twenty miles to a day. It is reported by some to have been much larger than Babylon, and to have had the preference given to it in several respects. Nor was it till after the destruction of this city that Babylon came into great repute. Now this happened in the time of Nabopollasar, the father of Nebuchadnezzar, who lived at Babylon, but was not peaceably established in the empire, nor was the seat of empire completely fixed herein, till the reign of his son. Herodotus relates, that the wealth and resources of the Babylonian state were so great, that it was equal to one-third part of all Asia; and that beside the tribute, if the other supplies for the great king were divided into twelve parts, according to the twelve months of the year, Babylon would supply four, and all Asia the other eight. See lib. 1: p. 77. Ed. Gron.


Verse 34

Daniel 4:34. And at the end of the days, &c.— "God regarded me with the eyes of his mercy: my mind was restored: I humbled myself before the Lord; I acknowledged the greatness of his power, and the justice of his wrath: I applied to him, and obtained pity." It should appear from what Nebuchadnezzar says, that his conversion was real; and we may consider him as a convert to the Jewish religion.


Verse 36

Daniel 4:36. Brightness Grandeur.


Verse 37

Daniel 4:37. Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, &c.— The reader, desirous of entering more fully into the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzar's extraordinary madness, will find ample satisfaction in Calmet's remarks on the metamorphosis of that monarch. We shall conclude with the following observations of the learned Dr. Mead upon the subject: "All the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzar's case agree so well with an 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, in the manner of cattle. For every sort of madness is the disease of a disturbed imagination; which this unhappy man laboured under full seven years. And through neglect of taking proper care of himself, his hair and nails grew to an excessive length; whereby the latter growing thicker and crooked, resembled the claws of birds. Now the ancients called persons affected with this species of madness, λυκανθρωποι, or κυνανθρωποι, 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 by frequent falls, or the bite of dogs: in like manner as the daughters of Proetus, related to have been mad, who, as Virgil says, Ecl. 6:48.

———Implerunt falsis mugitibus agros. With mimic howlings fill'd the fields.

For, as Servius observes, their minds were possessed with such a species of madness, that, fancying themselves cows, they ran into the fields, bellowed often, and dreaded the plough. But these according to Ovid, Metam. xv. 325. the physician Melampus.

——Per carmen et herbas Eripuit Furiis. Snatch't from the Furies by his charms and herbs.

Nor was this disorder unknown to the moderns; for Schenckius records a remarkable instance of it in a husbandman of Padua, who, imagining that he was 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. But it may be objected to our opinion, that this misfortune was foretold to the king, so that he might have prevented it by correcting his morals; and therefore it is not probable that it befel him in the course of nature. But we know, that those things which God executes, either through clemency or vengeance, are frequently performed by the assistance of natural causes. Thus, having threatened Hezekiah with death, and being afterwards moved by his prayers, he restored him to life, and made use of figs laid on the tumour, as a medicine for his disease. He ordered king Herod, upon account of his pride, to be devoured by worms: and nobody doubts but that the plague which is generally [and justly] attributed to divine wrath, most commonly owes its origin to corrupted air." see Dr. Mead's Works, Medica Sacra, chap. 7: p. 182.

Praise and extol, &c.— This great king probably lived only one year after his recovery, and it might be hoped that during that term he continued in the faith and worship of the true God. But, however that was, his death happened about the thirty-seventh year of Jehoiachin's captivity, after he had reigned as sole monarch forty-three years. He is said to have been one of the greatest princes that had reigned in the East for many ages, and Josephus Ant. lib. 10: quotes Berosus and Megasthenes as both bearing testimony either to his valour, his wealth, or his magnificence. He was doubtless made use of as an instrument of providence to inflict the divine vengeance on several nations, and many of the prophesies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel were fulfilled by him. It had been foretold, especially by the prophet Ezekiel in the 26th and following chapters, that he should reduce Tyre, and subdue Egypt: the former of which he besieged for thirteen years, and at length took it, after it was nearly depopulated, and the effects of the inhabitants transported to new Tyre, an island not far from the old city, which was afterwards reduced by Alexander. While he was employed in this siege, he executed the wrath of the Almighty on some of the nations in the neighbourhood, as on the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Edomites, and the Philistines: but in a particular manner the Jewish nation often felt the power of his arm under several of their kings: their city Jerusalem was besieged not only in the reign of Jehoiakim, but again under his son Jehoiakin, and multitudes of persons were sent into captivity to Babylon; so numerous indeed, that scarce enough were left for necessary uses; 2 Kings 24. He came afterwards with all his army and pitched against it, and built forts against it, under the reign of Zedekiah, when the siege continued from the tenth month of the ninth year of that king until his eleventh year (see 2 Kings 25 and Jeremiah 52.) at which time there was a dreadful famine in the city; and the men of war thereof escaping in the night, the army of the Chaldees pursued them, took the king and put out his eyes at Riblah, and carried him to Babylon, where he was kept in prison till his death. Soon after this, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, about two years before the siege of Tyre, he sent his general Nebuzar-adan against Jerusalem, who burnt the temple and palace, and almost the whole of the city; and at length carried off the small remains of the people into captivity, leaving only a few poor stragglers to till the ground. "Thus Judah was carried away captive out of his own land," Jeremiah 52:27. After Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed Jerusalem, and reduced Tyre, he marched into Egypt, and, taking advantage of some civil dissentions in that kingdom, he slew many of the inhabitants, carried away others as captives, enriched himself and his army with a large share of plunder, and made himself master of the country, so that he had now subdued the whole territory from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates. To which may be added, that he had taken the province of Elam from Astyages, agreeably to the prediction of Jeremiah, chap. Jeremiah 49:34 and had placed his throne therein, or fixed his royal pavilion in it, as a token of supreme and sovereign authority. How he employed himself afterwards, in the peaceable part of his reign, in improving and adorning his great city has already been intimated. Most of the events both of war and peace contributed to gratify his lust and to swell his pride; till at length, his madness having reached its utmost pitch, he was at once reduced to a level with the beasts of the earth, and thereby made to exhibit an useful example to future generations, of the malignant force of inveterate habits, of the dangerous effects of licentious tyranny, of the weakness of human nature, attended with all the greatest advantages of wealth and power, to govern and conduct itself properly, and of the sovereign controlling power of Providence in the highest and most important affairs of life. From the time of his transformation to his death we know but little of his history. Whatever was the fate of this great king, it will be more to our present purpose to observe, that he was succeeded by his son Iloarudam, according to Ptolemy, who is the Evil-merodach of Jeremiah, who married a discreet and prudent woman called Nitocris, from whom was born a son, whose history is the subject of the next chapter. 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: however, he is said to have been quite the reverse to his father, and after he had exercised many acts of wanton cruelty (see Xen. Cyrop. lib. Daniel 3:4 :) he was murdered by his own subjects, and succeeded by Nabonadius or Belshazzar.

Several uses might be made of these historical sketches in explaining various parts of this book: but I shall only remind the reader, that as the captivity began in the year 605 before Christ, or one year before Nebuchadnezzar began his reign, so we shall be now advanced as far as the fifty-first year thereof, at the entrance upon the reign of Nabonadius.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The introduction to this edict begins not with pompous titles, as was the usual style of eastern monarchs, but with that simplicity and humility which afflictions had taught the royal penman, Nebuchadnezzar the king.

It is directed to all people, &c. that dwell in all the earth; who, while he published his own shame, might admire and adore the greatness and the grace of God herein displayed. And he adds his cordial salutation, Peace be multiplied unto you.

The design of the writing is, to acquaint them with the signs and wonders that God had wrought towards him. The world in general had heard, no doubt, of the strange events which had befallen him; his dream, his madness, and recovery: here he gives an account of it from his own pen; content to bear his reproach, if God may be glorified thereby. Note; What God has in general done against us as the effect of our sins, as well as what he hath done for us in mercy, should be mentioned to his glory, and for our own humiliation.

In the contemplation of what had passed, he breaks forth into admiration of God's wondrous works; How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! the more he reviewed the scene, the more he was lost in amazement: convinced by fullest experience, his pride is mortified; he feels himself a worm, the creature of a day; he foresees his own monarchy hastening to ruin; but he beholds a kingdom about to be erected, which should be eternal, and humbly acknowledges God's incontestable rights to the universal sovereignty and everlasting dominion.

2nd, Returned victorious from his wars, a conquered world at his feet, the mighty Nebuchadnezzar after all his toils sets himself down to rest in his palace; flourishing in health of body and vigour of mind, crowned with glory and affluence, and no enemy able to trouble his repose. Then, when most he seemed secure, God's secret hand dashed all his joys, and one dream filled him with terror and dismay: so easily can God disturb the joyous sinner, and in a moment, even in the midst of his worldly comforts, make him feel the beginning of sorrows.

1. He summoned his magicians and astrologers to attend; repeated his dream, and demanded the interpretation. But though they had boasted, that they wanted nothing more than to hear it, in order to explain it, now their rules of art or magic failed them, and they are obliged to confess their ignorance.

2. When none besides could give the king any satisfaction, at last Daniel appears; whether sent for expressly, or of his own accord coming in at this juncture, is not said. He is called Belteshazzar, from Bel, the god of the Chaldeans; and the king, who had before experienced his superior wisdom, addresses him with high respect, as the master of the magicians; not as being of their number, but as excelling them in knowledge, or as appointed their president; but that for which he most admired him was, that the spirit of the holy gods was in him: either he speaks as a heathen, who believed in a multitude of gods; or perhaps he might have learned from the Jews the knowledge of the Elohim, the three Persons in one Godhead, and concluded from what he had experienced before, that under the teaching of God's Spirit, every secret could by him be easily interpreted.

3. He declares to him the dream which troubled him. He beheld a lofty and spreading tree which reached to the heavens and was visible to the ends of the earth; the leaves or branches beautiful, and laden with fruit, affording shelter and food to all the beasts of the earth, and the fowls of heaven. When, lo! a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven, and published aloud the decree of the most High, that the tree must be cut down, its branches broken, its fruit destroyed; and all the beasts and fowls are bid to depart from under it. Yet is it not to be rooted up, but the stump must be left encircled with a band of iron; and this the holy messenger explains of a man, who should be degraded into a brute, exposed to the dew of heaven, and dwell among the beasts during seven years; and this is by the immutable decree of the watchers, and the demand of the holy ones; and the end purposed in this whole transaction is, to magnify the most High, to make his universal power and sovereignty known; who at his pleasure can humble the greatest, and exalt the meanest of the sons of men. Such was the dream, which since the magicians cannot interpret, he looks to Daniel to explain, confident that he is able to unfold the secret.

4. Daniel, at his command, addresses himself to the task assigned him.

[1.] He appeared at first exceedingly affected with what he heard, astonished for one hour, at the heavy judgment contained in the vision. Note; The ministers of God behold, with deepest concern, the miseries impending over the heads of the wicked, who seem unconcerned and unaffected with any sense of their own danger.

[2.] He introduces with a most respectful compliment the unpleasing interpretation. The king had observed his amazement, and bid him not fear to disclose the secret, desiring, however terrible, to know the truth: and Daniel, not as a courtier who meant to flatter, but as one who really wished the prosperity of his prince, intimates how desirous he was, if God so pleased, that the dire contents of this vision had rather respected the king's enemies than himself. Note; When we are constrained to be the messengers of evil to sinners, we must do it in such a way as to evince that we have not desired the woeful day, but wish the evil averted.

[3.] He declares plainly the purport of the dream, (1.) The tree represents this mighty monarch, It it thou, O king, whose conquests had spread on every side; whose growing greatness all admired; under whose government the nations enjoyed protection, and by him were rendered rich and flourishing. Thus should the kings of the earth be the fathers of their people, protecting them from oppression, and seeking to promote their wealth and prosperity: and they are great indeed who thus improve their delegated power. (2.) His doom is read, which his pride had provoked. The watcher and the holy one coming down from heaven, is usually interpreted of holy angels, whose ministry God employs in executing the decrees of his providence, and who approve and applaud them as altogether righteous; or possibly it may signify that watcher over his Israel, that Holy One, the uncreated Angel of the covenant, to whom all judgment is committed, and who in the government of the world fulfils the counsels of the Holy Ones, the persons of the undivided Godhead, the watchers over their believing people.

To vast prosperity was Nebuchadnezzar advanced; but the command is, Hew the tree down, and then his greatness and glory would all be laid in the dust; so vain and transitory is all human grandeur, which one blast of the breath of God's displeasure destroys in a moment. Fallen from his high estate, and struck with madness, he shall be driven from the abode of men, and make his dwelling seven years with the beasts, himself a brute in human shape, and eating grass like the ox. Note; Among the most deplorable of all judgments is madness; may we never by our pride, and the abuse of our intellectual powers, provoke God to deprive us of our reason!

The judgment is heavy; yet doth God in the midst of wrath remember mercy. Though cut down, he is not utterly destroyed; though bound as a madman with a band of iron, the root remains, and recovery is not impossible. God's design in the visitation, however severe, is gracious; even to humble his pride, and make him and all men know God's power, and own his sovereignty who rules over all, and doth according to the counsels of his own will. And when it shall be thus made manifest that the heavens do rule, even the God whose throne is there, then shall his senses return, he shall again resume the reins of empire, and give to the most High the glory due unto his name.

5. The prophet finishes his discourse with a word of faithful and seasonable advice. He introduces it with great submission, and begs a kind reception from the king of what was meant purely for his good. Note; We must court sinners to secure their own mercies. His sins were the cause of the threatened judgments; these, therefore, he exhorts him without delay to forsake. As his despotic power had probably been in many instances abused to the purposes of injustice and oppression, he urges him to the practice of righteousness, and shewing mercy to the poor; many of whom groaned probably under captive bands, and cried for deliverance. And this he presses as a means, at least, of lengthening his tranquillity, though it might not be able to avert the threatened judgment. Note; Without repentance and amendment, there can be no hope of pardon and salvation.

3rdly, We find it was not long ere the divine decree took place; and behold here its exact accomplishment.

1. One year God's patience waited; for he is longsuffering, even toward the most obstinate offenders; but still this monarch's heart remained unchanged. Walking on the roof of his palace, or on the terrace of those amazing hanging gardens which overlooked the city, his eyes beheld with conscious pride the glorious prospect full in his view; and while his bosom glowed with self-importance, his tongue betrayed the language of his heart. The king spake and said, either to his nobles around him, or some foreigners whom he took with him to survey the vast metropolis, or in a secret whisper of self-applause, Is not this great Babylon that I have built? &c. He ascribes the whole to his own power and might, and forgets the God who had given him the ability. No wonder, therefore, that the end he proposed was neither God's glory, nor his people's good, but the honour of his own majesty. Such self-seekers are all proud men: let us beware of contemplating with self-complacency any thing that we have done, lest God behold the robbery of his glory, and smite us for our pride, as he did Nebuchadnezzar.

2. Instantly as the words dropped from his lips, a voice from heaven pronounced his doom; that he is deposed from his dignity, and the prophecy before delivered is immediately to take place; and this is no sooner spoken than executed. On a sudden his reason is lost; degenerated into a brute in human shape, he is driven from his palace, and herds with the beasts of the forest, feeding with them upon grass as the ox; his body exposed to all the inclemencies of the sky, his hair grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. Note; God can soon humble the proudest, and make those who were the envy and admiration of mankind despicable as the worm that crawls.

4thly, The prophesy of his humiliation we have seen fulfilled, and may expect in its season to hear of his restoration.

1. At the end of seven years he lifted up his eyes to heaven, not merely as a man rescued from the herd of brutes, but as an humbled sinner looking to a pardoning God. The return of reason itself had not been a blessing, if grace had not opened the eyes of his mind to a discovery of his provocations, of the justice of his sufferings, and the glory of the divine Majesty. To bring him to this, was the purpose of God's heavy hand upon him, and then even his madness was his mercy: he had never truly come to himself if he had not been thus beside himself. Thus God sometimes seems to work by contraries; and when, like the patriarch, we may think all these things are against us, they are then working together for our good.

2. The first exercise of his enlightened mind is adoration. I blessed the most High, &c. Note; They who live in the habitual neglect of prayer and praise, however wise they may be reputed among men, act more madly than he that eateth straw like the ox. He acknowledges now the eternal dominion and sovereignty of God, who for ever lives, for ever reigns; for his kingdom is from everlasting to everlasting. Before him all nations are as nothing, and the greatest of men, in comparison with him, insignificant as the drop of the bucket, or the dust of the balance. His kingdom is universal; angels as well as men acknowledge him their Lord, the creatures of his pleasure, and wholly subject to his controul. His power is irresistible, his arm omnipotent; whatever he wills is done, nor dare any arraign his proceedings, or challenge an account of any of his matters. Not that he ever doth, or can do wrong; his ways are judgment, perfectly righteous and wise, and his works truth, fulfilling with nicest exactness whatever he hath spoken in his word; and those that walk in pride he is able to abase, an eminent instance of which Nebuchadnezzar acknowledged himself to be, and wishes other proud men to be warned by his example; whilst he extols and praises the King of heaven, who in wrath had still remembered mercy.

3. With his returning reason his majestic countenance returned. He appeared in his former brightness and glory; his lords received him again as their sovereign, probably acquainted by Daniel with the dream, and the expected recovery of their king. Once more he resumed the reins of government, and under the divine benediction excellent majesty was added unto him; he grew more respected than ever, and his latter end was greater than his beginning. He did not, however, long survive this wondrous change; but, I would hope, continued in the same blessed sentiments, and died a monument of rich and unmerited grace.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Daniel 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/daniel-4.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, August 22nd, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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