The Book of DANIEL
James J. Barker
HOW GOD DEALT WITH KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR?
- King Nebuchadnezzar was the most famous of all the kings of the East. He reigned for 43 years (605-562 BC).
- In his younger days, his father, Nabopolassar, was the king of Babylon, and Nebuchadnezzar was in charge of the Babylonian army. He distinguished himself as a great soldier, winning victory after victory over all the surrounding nations.
- It took thirteen years but he finally conquered the mighty city of Tyre. Nebuchadnezzar defeated the Egyptians, and chased them out of Israel. Jerusalem fell before his army after a siege of eighteen months.
- When Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, he told him, "Thou, O king, art a king of kings," and "Thou art this head of gold" (2:37, 38).
- King Nebuchadnezzar was a great king, but like many great men he was very proud (4:30). Daniel chapter 4 shows us how God can bring a proud man low (cf. Isaiah 2:12).
- The Scofield Study Bible (margin) says, "The discipline was effective. Cf. verse 30 with verse 37."
- The middle letter in the word "pride" is i. God hates pride. God has His ways of humbling the proud, and King Nebuchadnezzar is a vivid illustration of this. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
- The Bible tells us quite a bit about King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel the prophet told him his "greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven" (4:22).
- But King Nebuchadnezzar did not understand that his success came from God (cf. Dan. 2:37). And so God had to get his attention in an unusual way.
- Verses 1-3 describe a proclamation from King Nebuchadnezzar, and from here the king goes on to explain how God humbled him and saved him.
- John Walvoord said, "As a lesson in the spiritual progress of a man in the hands of God, this chapter is a literary gem" (Daniel, the Key to Prophetic Revelation).
- In this chapter we see King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, his humiliation, and his repentance.
KING NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S DREAM (4:4-18).
- I believe God sent this dream to Nebuchadnezzar as a warning (4:4, 5; cf. 2:1).
- This dream may have come in response to the prayers of Daniel. Daniel had been working for King Nebuchadnezzar for a long time.
- While the humiliation King Nebuchadnezzar experienced was probably not what Daniel had prayed for, the outcome was (4:37).
- There are many interesting lessons to be learned from the life of King Nebuchadnezzar. Here is one: after realizing that his wise men were incapable of interpreting his dreams (Daniel 2), he still went back to them for help (4:6, 7).
- That’s always the way it is. Multitudes of people keep going back to their cults and false religions even after they have proven themselves useless and even dangerous.
- Many people have come here and made professions of faith, and then went right back to their mixed-up church.
- After the wise men failed to interpret the king’s dream, he called upon Daniel (4:8). Notice how spiritually confused Nebuchadnezzar was. He acknowledged the God of Israel as the true God (2:47; 3:28, 29), yet he would not give up his false Babylonian gods (4:8).
- There are many people like that today. They acknowledge that the God of the Bible is the only true God. They say they believe Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead. But they will not give up their little idols – their false religion, their money, their drinking, their gambling, their drugs, their immoral relationships, etc.
- King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream centered around a tree (4:10-12).
- In the Bible, a great tree often symbolizes a king or a kingdom. For example, Ezekiel 31:3 says, "Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs."
- In our Lord's parable of the mustard seed, He said the mustard seed "is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof" (Matt. 13:32).
- A tree symbolizes strength, greatness, grandeur, and power. In King Nebuchadnezzar's dream, the tree was in a conspicuous place – in the midst of the earth (4:10), and its height "reached unto heaven" (4:11).
- Notice the personification of the tree – "his branches" (4:14). The tree obviously represents King Nebuchadnezzar.
- The "watchers" are angels (4:13, 17, 23), found only here in Scripture.
- God is going to "hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit" (4:14), but God would leave the stump alone (4:15).
- God was not going to pull out the stump. The stump would stay rooted to the earth. This signifies that provision was made for the continuation of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. Thank God for His grace and mercy. God could have pulled out the whole stump and burned it, but He didn’t.
- Some of us can thank God for His grace and mercy. God had to hew us down and cut off a few branches, but thank God He didn’t totally obliterate us. Thank God He did not pull us off the face of the earth and burn us.
- Have you ever noticed the way sinners react differently to God’s chastening? With some individuals, once God starts chopping off some branches they repent right away. But with some others, God has to get right down to the stump and they still won’t do right.
- King Nebuchadnezzar was a proud man, so God had to deal with him sternly. God made him crawl around like a madman for seven years -- "and let seven times pass over him" (4:16).
- Why? 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" (4:17).
- This is one of the great themes of the book of Daniel (cf. 4:25, 32; 2:21; 5:18-22).
- The great French writer Victor Hugo said that on the morning of the battle of Waterloo, Napoleon stood gazing upon the field of battle as he described to his commanding officer his strategy for that day’s campaign. "We will put the infantry here, the cavalry there, and the artillery here. At the end of the day England will be at the feet of France, and Wellington will be the prisoner of Napoleon."
- After a pause, the commanding officer said, "But we must not forget, sir, that man proposes, but God disposes."
- With arrogant pride, Napoleon stretched his body to full height and replied, "I want you to understand, sir, that Napoleon proposes and Napoleon disposes."
- Victor Hugo went on to write these words, "From that moment Waterloo was lost, for God sent rain and hail so that the troops of Napoleon could not maneuver as he had planned, and on the night of battle it was Napoleon who was the prisoner of Wellington, and France was at the feet of England."
- "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble" (James 4:6; I Peter 5:5).
THE KING’S HUMILIATION
- King Nebuchadnezzar had great confidence in Daniel (4:18). And as a loyal subject, it was difficult for Daniel to tell the king the bad news (4:19).
- Also: Daniel needed great courage to be honest with the proud king. It could have easily cost him his life (cf. 2:12, 13; 3:6; 5:18, 19).
- Verse 19 indicates their mutual respect.
- Daniel had to tell Nebuchadnezzar the interpretation. At this time, King Nebuchadnezzar was then at the peak of his political and military power (4:20-22).
- Leaving "the stump of the tree roots" signifies the eventual restoration (after his seven years of madness) of King Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (4:23-26).
- Daniel urged King Nebuchadnezzar to repent (4:27). "If it may be…" (4:27) indicates that God was ready to extend mercy to the proud king if he would humble himself.
- Perhaps God would prolong the time before the judgment, or perhaps shorten the judgment when it came. In any event, God would "lengthen" his "tranquility" if the proud king would repent.
- God gave King Nebuchadnezzar twelve months but he still did not repent (4:28, 29). Sinners can be very stubborn!
- Babylon was the greatest city in the world in that day (4:30). The city was protected by huge double walls, each 25 feet thick. There was 40 feet between the two walls. There were 260 towers surrounding the city, 160 feet apart.
- Through the center of the city, for two-thirds of a mile, extended the great 70-feet wide stone-paved Procession Street, having walls decorated with enameled bricks showing 120 lions and 575 dragons and bulls arranged in alternate rows.
- At the end of the Procession Street was the famous Ishtar Gate, 35 feet high, decorated with 557 animals in bright colors against a glazed blue background.
- The city was dominated by a seven-story ziggurat (step-pyramid), 288 feet high, known as the Tower of Babylon. On the top of the tower stood the Temple of Marduk, containing a solid gold statue of Marduk, weighing 52,000 pounds.
- At the north end of the city, near the Ishtar Gate, was Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. His throne room was 171 feet by 56 feet.
- Indeed, King Nebuchadnezzar was flourishing in his palace (4:4).
- At the end of his palace were the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon, counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
- But proud sinners like King Nebuchadnezzar live only for the things of this world, and they have no time for God.
- Psalm 10:4 says, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts."
- While the proud king was still boasting of his achievements – "While the word was in the king’s mouth" (4:31), "there fell a voice from heaven…" (4:31). It was the voice of God.
- King Nebuchadnezzar was a great man, but he was still just a man. He attempted to make himself more than a man, and so God had to cut him down and make him crawl like an animal (4:32, 33).
- He crawled around like a wild ox. He ate grass like an ox. He did not cut his hair, and his nails became like the claws of a bird (4:33). He lived like an ox and he actually thought he was an ox.
- Some people think he was suffering from some sort of mental disorder. This is true, but more importantly, this was the judgment of God upon a proud and ungodly king (4:32b; 5:18-22).
THE KING’S REPENTANCE (4:34-37).
- We must give King Nebuchadnezzar credit – it took him a long time but he finally learned his lesson. The key verse in this chapter is the last verse. "And those that walk in pride He is able to abase" (4:37).
- Daniel 4:1-3 was written before God judged him. I believe King Nebuchadnezzar repented and was genuinely saved.
- He lifted up his eyes unto heaven (4:34).
- His understanding returned (4:34, 36). Like the Prodigal Son, "he came to himself" (Luke 15:17).
- He blessed the most High God (4:34). There is no suggestion here that King Nebuchadnezzar ever went back to his pagan religion.
- He praised and honored the true eternal God (4:34, 37).
- He testified to God’s sovereignty (4:35).
- King Nebuchadnezzar dominates the first four chapters of the book of Daniel, but after chapter 4 nothing more is reported about him.
- When we begin chapter 5, his grandson King Belshazzar is on the throne.
- Before we finish our lesson tonight, please consider Ecclesiastes 8:11. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil."
- Many months had passed since Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar’s unusual dream. Remember, the dream made him "afraid" (Dan. 4:5), and he was "troubled" (4:5). He knew the God of Daniel, the God of Israel, was the true God (2:47; 3:28-30).
- Yet he apparently thought that since many months had passed and nothing bad had happened to him, God had forgotten all about it.
- But God never forgets. And when God says He is going to do something, He will surely do it.
- The Bible says God will judge the wicked and cast them off into hell, and He will surely do it.