Study Notes

Daniel 4:1-37


King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had seen some amazing things done in the name of God. Daniel had miraculously told him what he had dreamed, and then gave the prophetic interpretation. At that time, the king had said,

Dan. 2:47 ..."Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery."

But Nebuchadnezzar did not become a believer in the true and living God just yet. Instead, he mandated idolatry - demanding that everyone bow down to a huge golden image he had constructed. When Daniel's three friends, Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O refused to worship it, they were cast into a firey furnace. But again, the king saw a miracle take place when he saw a fourth person in the furnace with them, and none of them were burned up. Again, he recognized God's hand in this, proclaiming,

Dan. 3:28 ..."Blessed be the God of Shad-RAK, May-SHAK, and Ab-ADE Neg-O, who has sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him..."

You'd think that by now, he would have learned his lesson. But unfortunately, he has not. Tonight, we look at chapter four of the book of Daniel. A chapter that is the first of its kind in the Scriptures, in that it is a narrative written by a Gentile king. It is a testimony from a truly unlikely convert.

4:1-3 A Note From Nebuchadnezzar

This was a press release, an open letter, sent around the entirety of the kingdom of Babylon. It was sent by the most prominent human being on the earth at that time - Nebuchadnezzar.

He was the dictator of the day - a ruler known by everyone in the earth. All of the historians from that era write of him - Berosus, in the third book of his Chaldaic History; Megasthenes, in his fourth book of his Accounts of India; Diocles, in the second book of his Accounts of Persia; and Philostrates in his Accounts (source: Josephus).

This king had come to the point where he could no longer ignore the miraculous intervention of God in his life. He had to acknowledge it personally, and make it known publicly.

It is so great when people come to Christ and let everyone around them know. It is also greatly unfortunate that not everyone does.

It seems that many people feel ashamed about their faith. They remember how they thought Christians were idiots, and are afraid that now they will be thought of that way to. You know what? I don't care if people think I'm an idiot.

Rom. 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes...

We must not be embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid to proclaim our faith. Jesus said,

Mark 8:38 "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels."

I don't want to hide my faith under a basket - when I share with someone, there is always the possibility that he or she will come to faith as well.

But what do you do if you are afraid? Ask for prayer. Paul wrote to ask the Colossians,

Col. 4:3-4 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

King Nebuchadnezzar had come to faith and proclaimed it within his sphere of influence. How did he come to that faith? Chapter four is his testimony regarding the events that led up to it.

4:4 Flourishing

Babylon had crushed its opposition militarily. They were sitting easy and pretty. Historically, we know that Nebuchadnezzar adorned Babylonia magnificently with the spoils of war he had captured. The temples were improved, cities were rebuilt, and many walls were erected. A second palace was built, attached to the old one. Berosus notes in his third book of Chaldaic History regarding that palace, "to describe whose vast height and immense riches it would perhaps be too much for me to attempt; yet as large and lofty as they were, they were completed in fifteen days."

Another thing that the king commissioned to have built were elevated walkways and hanging gardens. He wanted his wife from Media to feel at home, so he made them look like mountains, planted with all kinds of trees. These hanging gardens of Semiramis were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Even in the book of Revelation, Babylon is described as...

Rev. 18:10 ... the great city, Babylon, the strong city...

Indeed, Babylon was flourishing, and Nebuchadnezzar was at ease.

4:5-7 Another Dream

The king had another alarming dream. Again, he brought in the wise men of the court to interpret the dream, but they could not make it known to him. This was not like the last time, when he demanded that they tell him what he had dreamed, in addition to the interpretation. Although he described the dream to them, they were either unable or unwilling to tell him what the dream meant.

4:8-9 Daniel Brought In

Daniel had been given the pagan name Bale-tesh-ats-TSAR when he had been captured from Jerusalem as a teenager (1:7). The name means "the treasure of Bel." Bel was one of the primary gods that Nebuchadnezzar had worshiped.

Whether Daniel had been unavailable, out of town, or the king was just saving his best for last, it was awhile before Daniel came in. Nebuchadnezzar related the dream to him personally, and expressed his confidence in Daniel's ability to interpret it.

4:10-18 The Dream Related

Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel the dream - a vision of a tall and fruitful tree. This tree was chopped down, left only as a stump. The stump was bound with a band of iron and bronze, and begins to be described as a "he" - a "he" that is given the mind of a beast in place of the mind of a man.

Nebuchadnezzar related the dream and again asked Daniel for the interpretation which he knew Daniel was able to give.

4:19 Daniel's Reaction

Daniel did know what the dream meant, but it alarmed and stunned him. He was afraid for the king, and wished that the dream did not mean what it meant.

It was the king who snapped him out of it and said, "You might as well tell me."

4:20-25 The Dream Interpreted

Daniel explained that the tree in the dream was Nebuchadnezzar. He had grown in influence, power, and visibility. His kingdom provided for and ruled over many.

The judgment was spoken against the king - he would be chopped down, but not completely destroyed. He would become just a stump of what he had been, in bondage to his own mind - a mind that would become like that of an animal.

He would be in this state until he recognized that God was the true ruler, and the One who places people in their positions of authority.

4:26-27 Restoration Promised

The roots of the tree were left intact, indicating that when the king did acknowledge the Lord, his kingdom would be given back to him.

Daniel pleaded with Nebuchadnezzar to repent immediately of his pride. Unfortunately, his words had no effect.

4:28-30 The King's Pride

God was merciful for another year, allowing the king time to repent. He did not. He was filled with pride. He looked out over the magnificent city and was impressed with what he had done. He had given no credit to the Lord, but had taken it all upon himself. His name was all over the place. As a matter of fact, when archaeologists began to excavate Babylon, they found that most of the bricks from the buildings were stamped with the phrase, "Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, supporter of Esagila and Ezida, exalted first-born son of Nabopolassar, king of Babylon."

It seems rather self-indulgent, doesn't it? But then again, how often do we pridefully take credit for our accomplishments? How often do we have our name all over what we do? We must acknowledge God as the giver of all good things, and credit him with our accomplishments. They are, after all, because of Him. As Paul said,

1Cor. 4:7 ...what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

God demands credit for what He does. That is why pride is so offensive to Him. It is even listed as the first of the "seven deadly sins" (Prov. 6:16-19).

The Scriptures are full of warning against pride, lest we lose those things we are prideful over.

Prov. 16:18 Pride {goes} before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.

Prov. 29:23 A man's pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.

Nebuchadnezzar was a prideful man, and God was going to make sure he was brought low.

4:31-33 The Dream Fulfilled

The king was judged for his pride. He went mad, experiencing what psychologists call "boanthropy," the delusion that you are an ox. He ate grass and had no personal hygiene. His nails grew long and his hair became matted into dreadlocks. For seven years, he was like this.

As amazing as this account seems, we have it in his own words. Plus, this has been historically confirmed in Babylonian archaeology. A Qumran document, "The Prayer of Nabonidus" makes mention of a king of Babylon as a tree being chopped down and spending seven years in insanity.

The Greek historian Abydenus wrote in 268 BC that Nebuchadnezzar had been "possessed by some god" and subsequently had disappeared from the scene.

Thirdly, scholars have noted that although Nebuchadnezzar's accomplishments have been well documented, there is no record of him doing anything between the years 582 BC and 575 BC.

This was truly a terrible time for Nebuchadnezzar.

4:34-37 Nebuchadnezzar Restored

The king, even in his insanity, waited seven years to lift his eyes toward heaven. Why would anyone wait so long? Remember, many of the inhabitants on the earth in the Tribulation period will wait seven years, suffering terribly insane times before turning to Jesus Christ. How many do we know now who refuse to look to the cross?

But Nebuchadnezzar finally looked to heaven. His reason returned, his kingdom was restored, and he gave glory to God.

Dan. 4:37 "Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise, exalt, and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride."

May we repent of our pride before God is forced to humble us, and praise the King of Heaven for his works are true and His ways are just.

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