Skip to content

Daniel 4

At first glance, the scenario of this chapter took place just after “the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” when they were miraculously delivered from the burning, fiery furnace. The king was so impressed with the deliverance, that he immediately made “a decree” that all his kingdom reverence the God of the Hebrews. That decree completely countermanded his order to worship the golden image that he had gone to so much trouble and expense to set up. His decree, in effect, destroyed the image just as the “stone” (Daniel 2:34, 35, 45) had done in his dream so many years before! Whether or not he permitted the golden image to remain is pure speculation, but it seems possible he could have had it melted down in the very furnace that he had cast the three Hebrews into.

That scenario exemplifies just how God will win in the great controversy between good and evil during the final stage of earth’s history during the “feet” (or toe) stage of Nebuchadnezzar’s image (Daniel 2:33, 34, 41, 42). At that time another “image” will be set up and all will be required to “worship the image” or be “killed.” The “patience” of God’s “saints,” who will have to endure a worldwide economic boycott, will be tried to the utmost for refusing to accept the beast’s “mark” (Revelation 13:15-17). Nevertheless, because they will “Keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12; also 12:17) like the three Hebrews, “the beast” and the “false prophet” will finally be “cast alive into a like of fire burning with brimstone” (Revelation 19:20). Then, says the Lord: “every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11).

But, coming back to Daniel’s story, God was not through with king Nebuchadnezzar:

Verse 1: Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.

Interestingly, Nebuchadnezzar’s name is found 58 times in the Old Testament[1] with 32 of those in the book of Daniel. Even though “little is known of Nebuchadnezzar’s history from sources outside of the Bible”[2] a search on the internet produces almost a million and a half articles about him.[3] Therefore, considerable interest in that ancient king remains even to our day.

In chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar had just decreed all those who spoke “any thing amiss against the God” of the three Hebrews were to “be cut in pieces, and their houses . . . made a dunghill.” The non threatening tone of this chapter is completely different suggesting a profound change in the king’s outlook had taken place because he proclaims “Peace” to all the world instead of death. Although the previous three chapters were authored by Daniel, the introduction to this chapter puts us on notice that Nebuchadnezzar himself was the author. A quick survey of this chapter tends to confirm that conclusion.

Verse 2: I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.

In spite of the impression that the events of this chapter took place soon after that of chapter 3, its date “may credibly be placed at about 569 B.C., after Nebuchadnezzar had been king for 35 years.”[4] Therefore, the events the king tells us about here may have occurred some ten years after the three Hebrews had been delivered from the burning fiery furnace in the year 580 B.C.

Although we have heard nothing about Daniel himself since chapter two, he will reappear here beginning in verse 19 to interpret the king’s second dream.[5] Although nothing more is said about Daniel’s three companions, there is reason[6] to believe they were still holding the important governmental positions to which they had been promoted ten years ago. Even before that they had already been assigned high positions over “the affairs of the province of Babylon” (Daniel 2:49) just after they completed their early training after Daniel had interpreted the king’s first dream.

To be promoted to an even higher place from those positions must have brought them, in all likelihood, into the environs of the king himself where, doubtless they served well because the kingdom flourished like no other kingdom ever did before or after the reign of Neubchadnezzar. “Exalted to the pinnacle of worldly honor, and acknowledged even by Inspiration as ‘a king of kings,’ (Ezekiel 26:7), Nebuchadnezzar nevertheless at times had ascribed to the favor of Jehovah the glory of his kingdom and the splendor of his reign.”[7] Quite likely, the continuing influence of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, as well as Daniel, had a lot to do with that.

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.

At the time of this writing it appears that the king’s spiritual life was flourishing. He was enjoying immensely the thought that his newfound God was Master of all and that God’s kingdom was the only kingdom that would last forever. Now, he was at peace with the thought his kingdom was only temporary.

Although the deliverance of the Hebrews gave his spirituality a real jump-start, that experience, being some years in the past by now, had steadily lapsed. But, who could blame him? He was probably the most outstanding king in history. According to one source, here are some interesting facts about this king and his kingdom:

“Nebuchadnezzar II (Nabu-kudurri-usur II) was the real genius and builder of Babylon. Of its 70 years in existence he ruled 45 years. As the commander of Nabopalassar’s armies he was unstoppable. He broke the power of Egypt at the battle of Carchemish and proved to be one of the mightiest monarchs of all time. Among the cities he invaded and plundered were Tyre, Moab, Ammon, Edom, and Jerusalem. Inscriptions, documents and letters written during the 43 years of his reign (604-562 BC.) give an idea of the power and wealth of Babylon. Here are some interesting facts according to the historian Herodotus (Bk 1, 178-186) about Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon:

-In the form of a square, 14 miles on each side, and of enormous magnitude

-The brick wall was 56 miles long, 300 feet high, 25 feet thick with another wall 75 feet behind the first wall, and the wall extended 35 feet below the ground

-250 towers that were 450 feet high -A wide and deep moat that encircled the city

-The Euphrates River also flowed through the middle of the city. Ferry boats and a 1/2 mi. long bridge with drawbridges closed at night

-‘Hanging Gardens’(one of the wonders of the ancient world) and water was raised from the river by hydraulic pumps

-Eight massive gates that led to the inner city and 100 brass gates -Streets were paved with stone slabs 3 feet square

-The great Tower (Ziggurat) and 53 temples including the “Great Temple of Marduk.” 180 altars to Ishtar

-Golden image of Baal and the Golden Table (both weighing over 50,000 lbs of solid gold.)

-2 golden lions, a solid gold human figure (18 feet high)

-Nebuchadnezzar’s palace was considered to be the most magnificent building ever erected on earth.”[8]

Verse 4: I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:

Any one of us, unless completely devoted to God as was Daniel, Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego, would be dazzled, especially if we ruled over all of that! How true it is that “The cup most difficult to carry is not the cup that is empty, but the cup that is full to the brim. It is this that needs to be most carefully balanced. Affliction and adversity bring disappointment and sorrow; but it is prosperity that is most dangerous to spiritual life.”[9]

Verse 5: I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.

In contrast to his first recorded dream in chapter 2, in which “the thing [was] gone from [him]” (Daniel 2:5), here, it appears the details remained vividly in mind when he awoke. Therefore, it was the meaning of those things that “troubled” him. But, like his first dream that caused him great anxiety, this too came directly from God. “In mercy God gave the king another dream, to warn him of his peril, and of the snare that had been laid for his ruin.”[10]

Clearly, the “snare” and “ruin” spoken of were threats to his own soul; not of potential assassination or invasion of his kingdom.[11] “Satan comes to us [as he did Nebuchadnezzar] with worldly honor, wealth, and the pleasures of life. These temptations are varied to meet men of every rank and degree, tempting them away from God to serve themselves more than their Creator. ‘All these things will I give thee,’ said Satan to Christ. ‘All these things will I give thee,’ says Satan to man. ‘All this money, this land, all this power, and honor, and riches, will I give thee’; and man is charmed, deceived, and treacherously allured on to his ruin. If we give ourselves up to worldliness of heart and of life, Satan is satisfied.”[12]

This is the same cosmic conspiracy we are all involved in, but it swirls like a tornado around people like Nebuchadnezzar for Satan has much to gain from their ruin! Because of the influence they exert upon so many others, their ruin ensures the ruin of a host of other souls. So, it was carnal security that threatened Nebuchadnezzar’s eternal security and God was mercifully concerned for him as well as the many other people under his influence.

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.

A “decree” was a serious matter in those days. The first one recorded in Daniel was actually a death decree that “the wise men should be slain” (Daniel 2:9, 13). But, it was made after the wise men had been “commanded” to come in for counseling (Daniel 2:2). Here, his decree was made in order to secure the meaning of a dream he could recall in distinct detail.

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.

The original members of the “wise” in Daniel 2:2 is exactly the same except for “the sorcerers” who are not listed here. The “sorcerers,” in contrast to the “magicians, astrologers, Chaldeans and soothsayers,” were those who practiced witchcraft like those of Pharaoh’s court who did “enchantments,” and others who “dealt with . . . familiar spirits” (see Exodus 7:11; 2 Chronicles 33:6 for example). While, to us, all of the others would seem to fall under the same category as those who dabble in the occult, it may have been Daniel, who was aware of God’s command “thou shalt not suffer a witch[13] to live,” had advised the king to dismiss the sorcerers from his cabinet. Note, it is only in Daniel 2:2 that “the sorcerers” are mentioned in the book of Daniel.

Verses 8 & 9: 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, 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.

Note, this is the first mention of Daniel’s name since chapter 2:49. At that time, he was in his early twenties. Now, thirty-three years later,[14] he is in the middle age of his life. What went on during those thirty three years we can only speculate. But, from the esteem, noted in this verse, that he held in the eyes of the king we can safely assume that he conducted a very distinguished service in the kingdom of Babylon. Quite likely, he had counseled the king on many other matters throughout the intervening years and thus had established his reputation for having “the spirit of the holy gods” because “no [other] secret” seemed to be hidden from him.

So Daniel did not come in before the king along with the other “wise men” even though he was “master of the magicians.” Evidently, by the time Daniel did come in, the king had already explained his dream giving the others opportunity to interpret it before Daniel arrived. We are not told whether or not they ventured an explanation, only that “they did not make [it] known . . .”

Some have suggested Nebuchadnezzar aimed first to find out what the Chaldeans in general had to say about this extremely disconcerting dream, before hearing the full truth which he suspected was unfavorable.”[15] With the king’s statement in verse 7 that they “did not make known . . . the interpretation,” instead of “could not,” implies that they too had an inkling of its negative implications but feared to make it known. Putting a positive spin on it, especially since the “master” was soon to come in would have been hazardous, to say the least! Even though their scrape with death and deliverance by Daniel took place some thirty-three years before, the incident was still fresh in their minds. They knew, whatever they had to say they would again be exposed as charlatans.

But, whatever the case, it had to be impossible for them to remain totally silent. They had to come up with something and their stammering, hesitant words probably bored, if not exasperated the king. But, unlike his previous reaction, the king was far more patient this time and did not threaten to have them “cut in pieces” as he did in Daniel 2:5!

Note the king’s words saying: Daniel’s “name was Belteshzzar, according to the name of my god” instead of Daniel’s. Even though in verse 2 Nebuchadnezzar referred to “the high God” he seems here to be struggling with the idea that Daniel’s God was the “only God” instead of being the greatest among many others.

So, even today like the ancient king, multitudes continue to believe in a polytheistic, multiplicity of “gods” instead of only one God. The king’s words, when introducing Daniel, were indeed flattering. If they were designed to take Daniel off his guard and tempt him to modify the negative impact of the dream’s interpretation, it didn’t work. One of the tests of a true prophet is to tell the truth regardless of the consequences, and Nebuchadnezzar respected him for it. Perhaps, his purpose for bringing the wise men in first, was to hear as much good news (even though false) as possible, before hearing the bad.

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.

In verse 5 he called it a singular “dream.” The “visions” (plural) refer to the many details in his single “dream.” Nebuchadnezzar now proceeds to describe the dream in detail. Instead of “a great image” that he saw in his first dream, he saw a great “tree.” While nothing was said regarding what the “great image” was standing on, this “tree” is standing “in the midst of the earth” and of tremendous “height.”

Verses 11 & 12: The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: 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.

A similar description is given of “Pharaoh king of Egypt” who was likened to “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. The waters made him great, the deep set him up on high with her rivers running round about his plants, and sent out her little rivers unto all the trees of the field. Therefore his height was exalted above all the trees of the field, and his boughs were multiplied, and his branches became long because of the multitude of waters, when he shot forth. All the fowls of heaven made their nests in his boughs, and under his branches did all the beasts of the field bring forth their young, and under his shadow dwelt all great nations” (Ezekiel.31:2-6).

We ourselves can “be like a tree . . . that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalms.1:3). David observed he had “seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree.” But, he likened himself to “a green olive tree in the house of God.” “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon” (Psalms 37:5; 52:8; 92:12).

So, in most cases, the “tree” figure represents the individual, not a kingdom or a nation as such.

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;

Who was the “watcher?” The Aramaic word is “’iyr” meaning “waking, watchful, wakeful one, angel.”[16] So, this was a heavenly angel who bore “the credentials of the God of heaven.”[17] “Every nation that has come upon the stage of action has been permitted to occupy its place on the earth, that the fact might be determined whether it would fulfill the purposes of the Watcher and the Holy One. Prophecy has traced the rise and progress of the world’s great empires–Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. With each of these, as with the nations of less power, history has repeated itself. Each has had its period of test; each has failed, its glory faded, its power departed.”[18]

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:

The “watcher,” who is an angel, has been observing the progress of the fruitful tree that was “permitted to occupy its place on the earth” representing the first of the “worlds” great empires. Here, the angel decrees its premature destruction while it was still fruitful and before it has had a chance to fade, fail or wither of its own accord. Note that the hewing “down,” shaking “off” and the scattering represent acts coming directly from heaven, a direct, heavenly interference, as it were, in the affairs of men hoping to steer the kingdom in a better direction. If Nebuchadnezzar had accepted the warning, he would have retained his sanity.

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:

So, while the “watcher” ordered the tree be hewed down, it was not to be uprooted from the earth. The “stump” was to be preserved “with a band of iron and brass” suggesting justice being measured out while mingled with mercy. Note the personal pronoun “his,” in the last part of this verse instead of “it,” as in the preceding clause. Thus, it becomes clear that watcher’s message is being directed to a person, instead of a literal plant.

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.

So, at this point in the king’s narration, it becomes evident that the “tree” represented a person, not the entire kingdom. Note the use of the personal pronouns “his branches, his leaves, his fruit, his branches, his roots” in verses 14 and 15, and now “his heart” in this verse. If it were the entire kingdom, the impersonal pronoun “it” would seem more applicable. So, it must have been abundantly evident that “his heart” could not be the property of a literal “tree” but that it represented a person. That it was himself, must have been apparent as well.

Here, for the first of four times in Daniel 4, “seven times were to pass over him.” The word “times” is from the Aramaic word “‘iddan,” which, according to Strong’s is defined as “time (of duration)” or “a year.” It is the same word for “time” found in Daniel 7:25 that is properly computed in “prophetic, day-for-a-year time,” or 360 literal years.

But, in this case,  where “seven times” were to “pass over him,” or that the person represented was to live like a “beast” during that period of time, it could not mean he was to endure this humiliation for 2,520 years of prophetic time (that is 7 x 360), but seven years of literal time. Therefore, as in this case and as in all the other cases were time periods are mentioned both in Daniel and in the book of Revelation, it is the context that dictates what application is to be used, whether symbolic “day-for-a-year” time is to be applied, or, the application of straight forward, literal time.

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.

In verse 13 “a watcher . . . came down from heaven.” Here “watchers” and “holy ones” are depicted. They, together with the “watcher” in what appears to be a heavenly counsel session, had agreed upon a “decree” or a plan regarding the fate of “the “tree” with the object of making known the supremacy of God over all the kingdoms of the world.

Even though Nebuchadnezzar had previously made “a decree that every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort” and even “promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego” (Daniel 3:29, 30) for their courageous witness in the burning furnace, he had drifted back into his original, arrogant frame of mind characterized by the question: “who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?”

So, he was soon to find out once again! The heavenly “watcher, watchers” and the “holy ones” had been observing this outstanding king who had many admirable character traits. They were concerned that something special must be done to spare him the inevitable ruin of his soul. They were fully aware that he was represented by the “head of gold” in his previous dream and that his kingdom was to be succeeded by “another kingdom inferior to” (Daniel 2:38, 39) his. Therefore, their concern was not so much for the kingdom itself, but for the king himself as an individual! So, the heavenly council session was convened to carefully lay a plan for the salvation of this one, precious soul, even though the full “intent” of the plan was to make known to all “the living . . . that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and setteth up over it the basest of men.”

The word “basest” is from the Aramaic “sh@pal” meaning “low” or “lowest (of station)”[19] suggesting that the position occupied by a ruler must be respected as appointed by God even though the king himself might deserve little nor no respect. The first part of the plan was to give warning. Since the king was a great believer in dreams, the initial avenue of approach was another dream like the one he had some twenty years before. That dream ended with a “stone” kingdom that “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth” (Daniel 2:35). It was that kingdom the “watcher, watchers” and “holy ones” were hoping Nebuchadnezzar, as well as all “the living” would accept.

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.

Evidently, in view of the fact that Daniel was not present when first explained (see verse 8), the king had gone over the details the second time especially for Daniel’s sake. Judging from the words expressed here, the king was fully confident that Daniel would be able to handle all the details that the others had avoided.

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.

In verse 9, the king asserted: “no secret troubleth thee . . .” Here we see Daniel greatly troubled. He was stunned, perplexed, even embarrassed. He clearly understood the meaning right from the start, but felt reluctant to share it. At first, much like the wise men who “did not make [it] known,” he was speechless, not for “one hour,” as KJV reads, but for “a moment.”[20] In other words, he faltered.

Mrs. White puts it this way” “Seeing Daniel’s hesitation and distress, the king expressed sympathy for his servant . . . its dreadful import had made him hesitate in dumb amazement, . . .”[21] It must have been clear, even to the other wise men, that it portrayed impending doom and would not explain it because they were afraid of the king. In contrast, Daniel was afraid for the king. But, he accepted the responsibility for explaining the dream as tactfully as he could without omitting any details. He prefaced his interpretation with a sympathetic disclaimer which could be worded: “what I am about to tell you is good news for your enemies, but bad news for you.” Some catastrophes are worse than death, and what Daniel was preparing to tell the king that he was in danger of terrible humiliation. Death with honor would be more acceptable to a proud man like Nebuchadnezzar.

Verses 20-22: The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: 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.

In other words “the tree that [you saw] . . . is [you], O king.” More than thirty years before, Daniel told the king “[you are] this head of gold.” Similarly he said “wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into [your] hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all” (Daniel 2:38), language very similar to what he says here. Therefore, the “tree” in this dream could be considered a parallel to the “head of gold” in Daniel two.

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;

In verse 17 the “watchers, and . . . holy ones” came forth with a “demand” codified as a “decree.” In view of the parallel in the foregoing verses to the image of Daniel 2, is there a parallel of the “watcher” of this verse to the “God of heaven” who is to “set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed,” and whose “hands” were responsible for cutting “out” or selecting the “stone” from “the mountain” that He used to smite “the image upon his feet”[38] in Daniel 2?

Recall that the words “cut out” in Daniel 2:34, 45 are translated from the Aramaic word “g@zar” which is translated “soothsayer” in Daniel 2:27; 4:7; 5:7, 11. We also learned that “soothsayers” is “from a root meaning ‘to cut,’ ‘to determine,’ Hence the generally accepted meaning is ‘the deciders,’ or ‘the determiners [of destiny].’”[22]

Now, check out the Aramaic word for “Hew . . . down” in this verse and verse 14. It is from a closely related Aramaic word “g@dad”[23] which means “cut down” instead of “cut out.” It therefore naturally follows that the “watcher, watchers” and “the holy ones” had determined or decided the “destiny” of this one individual named Nebuchadnezzar! They, in effect, were the same heavenly “soothsayers” that did the cutting “out” in Daniel 2:45.

But, unlike the great image of Daniel 2 that was broken “in pieces” (Daniel 2:35, 44) the “stump” of the “tree” with its “roots” were preserved “with a band of iron and brass” suggesting that the king’s dominion in the earth was to be preserved for a specified period delineated as “seven times.” The “seven times” specified for the king’s period of insanity obviously must be interpreted in a literal time scale of seven years because prophetic day-for-a-year time would amount to 2,520 years,[23] far longer than the king could be expected to live.

Never-the-less, the Aramaic word for “times” is “iddan,” the same word translated “time, times” in Daniel 7:25 which must be understood in the “prophetic day-for-a-year” time period of 1260 years. Hence, when deciding on the interpretation of a time period (whether in literal or prophetic time) it is essential, just as we see here, to allow the context to bear full sway when making such a determination.

Verses 24 & 25: This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: 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.

At this point, Daniel dispenses with the figurative language of the “tree, leaves, root and stump” saying “the decree” is to “come upon [you] my lord” and that “they,” whoever “they” might be, will ostracized you from human society to live like a grazing animal out in the field preferring “to eat grass” instead of the delicacies that are now on your table. You, O king will not even have enough sense to come in out of the rain for seven long years!

Although nothing is said about this delicate matter, it stands to reason he would also have to handle his bodily eliminations just like an animal. Little wonder he would be driven from human society. Daniel adds that the “decree” was determined for your own good, O king. It will make you fully aware that even kings like you are under the full control of “the most High.” That was the bad news.

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.

This was the good news. His kingdom was slated to remain his and not another’s in spite of his predicted insanity. While the king surely understood the negative implications of the flourishing tree followed by its destruction, Daniel’s revelation of a seven year time slot in which he would behave much like a cow must have seemed humorously absurd to him in the extreme. But, he didn’t laugh, at least, at first.

“For months the judgment of God lingered. But instead of being led to repentance by this forbearance, the king indulged his pride until he lost confidence in the interpretation of the dream, and jested at his former fears.”[24]

Consider the words “till thou shalt know that the most High” rules, and “after” this curse “thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.” Note that while the knowledge of God’s power would be forcefully impressed upon him, it was still his choice to accept that knowledge without attributing his condition to something like an unfortunate illness brought on, perhaps, by one of his own heathen gods. In other words, the king still had to exercise his power of choice. God will never use force to compell worship.

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 tranquility.

This was good council for the king, and it is good council for us. Note that sinning cannot be overcome in a vacuum. It is “righteousness” or right-doing, doing the right thing in all circumstances that must be substituted for “sinning.” Evidently, in the case of the king, he was dealing severely with the “poor.” Quite likely the king had levied heavy taxation upon the citizens to pay for his expensive building projects or for the support of his military machine. Things may have been just about at the breaking point. But, instead of pointing those things out, Daniel endeavored to motivate the king to take the warning seriously if for no other reason than to ensure his own state of well being.

Verses 28-33: All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. 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? 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. 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. 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.

Because the king is depicted in the second person mode in these verses, it seems evident these words were penned by Daniel himself who must have personally witnessed the whole sad spectacle.

Since the scenario began exactly “twelve months” after receiving the warning, it must have been eight years until it was over. So, after “the end of twelve months” even after having been warned to “break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor,” the king’s voice was heard saying some famous, ego-centric, last words: “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?”

Such words as these were probably spoken frequently over the intervening twelve months as the shock of Devine revelation began to wear off. That must have been much to the delight of the wise men who, having learned of Daniel’s interpretation, took pleasure in observing the king’s “normal” behavior. Without doubt, they laughed heartedly with the king as he joked about the “absurd” prediction. Regardless how frequently he may have declared himself immune from harm, the final “twelvth month” bragging festival was one time too many.

His attitude illustrated the truth of Solomen’s words “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” (Ecclesiastes 8:11).

So, “while the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell an actual voice from heaven, saying, as it were, that the “time” had come. Evidently, the “voice” was heard audibly, at least by the king and perhaps by the wise men who were in obsequious agreement with the king.

Note in the warning given by Daniel, nothing was said about a twelve month period of probation. But, though the time of leniency was long, and God’s patience was being presumptuously provoked by the king’s increasingly casual attitude, God bore long with him until it became absolutely clear that the “decree” must be executed in order to turn him around. So, suddenly in the midst of his mirthful boastfulness and jocularity, his conversation suddenly became incoherent.

“In a moment the reason that God had given him was taken away; the judgment that the king thought perfect, the wisdom on which he prided himself, was removed, and the once mighty ruler was a maniac. His hand could no longer sway the scepter. The messages of warning had been unheeded; now, stripped of the power his Creator had given him, and driven from men, Nebuchadnezzar ‘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.’”[26]

So, the change in Nebeuchadnezzar’s body was not only in his mind but his entire physical being. No normal human can subsist on “grass” alone and survive. The human stomach lacks the necessary enzymes that herbivorous animals are equipped with to break down cellulose, the material grass is largely composed of. So, while the alternations to his brain were supernatural, the same applies to his digestive tract.

There are no limits to the power of our great Creator who brought us into the world. He is able, not only take us out again, He can even modify our organism to suit His Divine purposes at any time.

We can only guess the circumstances that immediately took place when the king lost his mind, but, it is unlikely Daniel was nearby at the time, for he could have found no pleasure in the company of the king and his wise men while making sport of the warnings from heaven. However, the fulfillment of Daniel’s prediction could not have been kept secret.

Just as Daniel warned, he would live like a cow even to the point of falling down on all fours and eating grass, we are compelled to conclude that he also eliminated like one and had to be evicted very soon from his spotless palace! This marked the beginning of the seven year time span that all, including the wise men, were familiar with for that was one of the things they had just been joking about.

“For seven years Nebuchadnezzar was an astonishment to all his subjects; for seven years he was humbled before all the world.”[27] “The jewel of the mind, that which elevates man above the beasts, he no longer retained. . . . The scepter is no longer held in the hand of a proud and powerful monarch. The mighty ruler is a maniac. He now herds with the cattle to eat as they eat. He is a companion of the beasts of the field. The brow that once wore a coronet is disfigured by the absence of reason and intellect.”[28]

Some diagnose the king’s madness as a species of “lycanthropy” a mental condition in which the subject believes himself a wolf or a werewolf. But, a mere mental condition cannot account for Nebuchadnezzar’s ability to subsist on grass for such a prolonged period of time. The human digestive system is simply incapable of digesting cellulose (the primary constituent of grass) and would simply starve without supernatural intervention. Under ordinary circumstances, the “scepter” would have been taken away permanently with no thought of restoration.

But, the conditions associated with the king’s insanity, were far from ordinary. The “band of iron and brass” featured in the king’s dream had yet to be confirmed by reality. Evidently, the “astonishment” that stunned the minds of the king’s subjects right at the beginning of the “seven years,” instead of changing to disgust, remained that way during the entire period! That, in-and-of itself is remarkable. The wise men had encouraged the king to forget what he had been warned about and who took great pains to represent themselves as his loyal subjects under all circumstances.

With the drastic, even disgusting changes in Nebuchadnezzar’s behavior, it would be more than surprising if the thought of eliminating the king and taking control of the kingdom had not crossed their minds. Being world class conspirators themselves, they may have toyed with a plan to take over the government just in case Daniel’s interpretation proved true. Daniel, on the other hand, had unshakable faith in the interpretation of the dream. Having told the king twelve months earlier that “thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee,” knew sooner or later, a seven year plan of preservation would have to be instituted. Without doubt, not knowing how long it would take before the king’s resolve to “break off [his] sins by righteousness, and [his] iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor” would ultimately lapse into his usual tyrannical style of governance, moved quickly to establish interm emergency measures that could be activated at a moment’s notice. Whatever the changes, it all had to be done with the king’s approval. Even though Nebuchadnezzar may have thought it all unnecessary, he was still interested in anything that insured permanence to his kingdom, so he would have allowed Daniel to proceed.

Although Daniel writes nothing about his three companions since chapter 3, It is quite possible, if they were still occupying the high positions specified in Daniel 3:30, that they worked in unison with Daniel to put emergency plans in place that could be implemented at a moment’s notice. When the moment came causing the king’s subjects to be frozen in astonishment, Daniel and his three friends had things well under control before their “astonishment” had a chance to ware off.

The affect of this incident on the king’s subjects is illustrated by this historic account: “after Nebuchadnezzar had died and the nobles of the realm came to the son to swear fealty to him as their king, he did not dare listen to them until they brought the corpse of his father, so that he could convince himself that the latter really was dead. Others say that Evil-merodach himself exhumed the body of his father, because the people believed that Nebuchadnezzar was not really dead—that he had simply disappeared as he had once before, and that they would be severely punished by him if at his return he found that they had invested another king. The body of the dead monarch was therefore dragged through the city so that the people might see it.”[29]

We can be sure the exact time of the king’s derangement was recorded. In the meantime, Daniel and his companions frequently reminded Nebuchaednezzar’s subjects that his reason would be restored and that the kingdom must likewise be restored to him without any delay when the king’s reason returned.

So, year after year, the people kept a vigilant watch on the king. When the final, seventh year arrived, their attention was riveted on the sundial watching with bated breath what would happen on the exact year-month-week-day-hour-second of time that was recorded at the beginning of the seven years. Regardless how exact the preceding elements of the prophecy were fulfilled, its credibility still hinged on the exactness of its final, time element.

This is illustrative of an important point to bear in mind when we come to the other time prophecies, not only in Daniel, but Revelation as well. Because no beginning point was alluded to when the seven year time period was first given in verses 16, 23 and 25, it must be understood as “indefinite time.” But, in verse 33 where “the thing [was] fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar” at “the same hour,” it should be considered “definite time” because it was now possible to establish its end point. Check out this little diagram. It might help illustrate this important principle:

Verses 34 & 35: 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: 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?

While some were watching the sundial, others were watching the king who was leisurely consuming grass along with the cattle. When the time arrived, the king suddenly “Lifted up [his] eyes unto heaven, and [his] understanding [suddenly] returned . . .” at the exact year, month, week, day, hour and second that were recorded seven years prior.

We have no way of assessing the king’s awareness during those seven years. Nevertheless, we can be certain that the things that happened to him, not only made a deep impression, they also produced the change in his thinking that the “Watcher” and the “holy watchers” had desired.

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.

Some might consider it absurd that Daniel with the possible assistance of his three companions had anything to do with the preservation of the king’s dominion. But, consider the fact that God’s promise to preserve is never intended to bring complacency. He is always honored when men do all they can do to vindicate God’s name and the truthfulness of His prophecies. Since Daniel was made the “master of the magicians”[49] he had ample opportunity to institute an emergency plan that, even though he did not know he had a year of time, he doubtlessly knew would soon be necessary. Little wonder, then, that his “counselors and [his] lords sought unto [him]; and [he] was established in [his] kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto [him].” The exactness of the dream’s fulfillment was certainly a key element in restoring the king’s credibility.

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.

Note the absence of any trace of pride in this verse. The “decree” executed by the “watcher” and the “watchers” had done its work. Nebuchadnezzar is now a converted man more than willing to render “praise” and “honour” to “the King of heaven.”

In the place of pride, he now gratefully takes second place to Daniel’s God clearly admitting that his “pride” had been fully humbled. For all we can see, he had just been shaped and honed for citizenship in the stone kingdom that will grow up and fill “the whole earth” (Daniel 2;35).

This is the last we hear of king Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel except for the time when Daniel was brought before his last successor Belshazzar and was required to interpret the mysterious handwriting on the wall of the palace.

Before beginning his exposition, Daniel, using far less tact with this king, turned his attention to “Nebuchadnezzar [his] father” to whom “the most high God gave . . . a kingdom, and majesty, and glory, and honour” (Daniel 5:18). He then praised Nebuchadnezzar’s decision-making ability (sorely lacking in the case of Belshazzar) saying “whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive; and whom he would he set up; and whom he would he put down” (Daniel 5:19).

Daniel then referred to the very incident (Daniel 5:21) Nebuchadnezzar himself had recorded in this chapter and said to Belshazzar: “though thou knewest all this” you still did not “humble thine heart.” (Daniel .5:22). So, other than what we find briefly in the next chapter, this is the last of what we hear about Nebuchadnezzar who is featured in the first four chapters of the book of Daniel.

According to historians, Nebuchadnezzar died in the year 562 B.C. If the eight year events of this chapter began in 569 B.C.,[30] it seems likely that the king died very soon after his sanity was restored.

At this point in the book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon featured in chapters 1, 2, 3 and 4, comes to his end. His part in Daniel’s narrative scenario is finished. Even though he was “an idolater by birth and training, and at the head of an idolatrous people, he had nevertheless and innate sense of justice and right, and God was able to use him . . .”[31]

Considering the closing thoughts recorded by Nebuchadnezzar himself in the last four verses of this chapter, it appears God had not only been “able to use him” to carry out His earthly purposes, He was also able to create in him a “new heart” making him one of “the kings of the earth” who will ultimately “bring the glory and honour of the nations” to “the holy city, new Jerusalem” (Revelation 21:24, 2) that John saw “coming down from God out of heaven” in the future.

Thus, we see demonstrated another example of God’s selecting process first depicted in Daniel 2:45 where a “stone was cut out of the mountain without [the] hands” of man, but by God Himself. Nebuchadnezzar was a diamond in the rough who accepted God’s severe handling that was necessary in order to reshape his character and make him fit for His everlasting kingdom in heaven. While Nebuchadnezzar was deeply concerned for the perpetuity of his earthly kingdom, God reveled to him the futility of such hope, and gave him something far better: eternal life in His kingdom, represented by the “mountain” that will fill “the whole earth” that will outlast all preceding earthly kingdoms.

Therefore, king Nebuchadnezzar becomes an example of how God is working with each person, seeking to wean from the world those who also have an “innate sense of justice and right,” for that “sense” is not limited only to king Nebuchadnezzar. He is a brilliant example of “the number of the children of Israel [who] shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered; and it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people, there it shall be said unto them, Ye are the sons of the living God” (Hosea 1:10). “. . . for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

So, in chapter 4, we see illustrated in Nebuchadnezzar’s experience, God’s ability to save a man for His kingdom regardless of his past, even a person steeped in the honor, glory and magnificence of a pagan kingdom. From all outward appearance, such an outcome is wholly unlikely, even impossible. But, with God, all things are possible. Nebuchadnezzar proves it! Referring back to God’s selecting process as depicted in Daniel 2:45, 35 where a “stone was cut out of the mountain without [the] hands” of man, we can see Him selecting king Nebuchadnezzar to be part of “the stone that . . . became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”

Summary of chapter 4: This chapter is a continuation of what might be considered part of the narrative portion of the book of Daniel. The greater portion of this narration was probably authored by king Nebuchadnezzar himself. Central to the dream the king related were the heavenly visitants called the “watcher” and “watchers.” They had determined to subject the king to an extremely humiliating experience in order to save his soul. With the king himself represented as a “tree” that was cut down to stump level, he was to remain in that condition for seven literal years. The contrast between that of a true prophet and false is brought out in this story. While the king’s counselors may have understood the negative aspects of the dream they could not explain it because of fear. Daniel on the other hand, laid it all out and encouraged the king to reform and thus prevent the dream from being fulfilled, or at least postpone the inevitable.


[1] In fact, more than ninety times according to an article in the Jewish Encyclopedia by Emil G. Hirsch, William Bacher, and Louis Ginzberg

[2] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.4, page 788

[3] the Google search engine produced 1,400,000 hits on the name “Nebuchadnezzar”

[4] Mervyn Maxwell in God Cares Vol.1, page 59

[5] At least his second recorded dream. He probably had many others.

[6] At least that is what most of us would like to believe. Some things we will never know until we are in our heavenly home. Then, perhaps we can get Daniel to fill in the rest of the story!

[7] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, pages 514- 515

[8] By Rusty Russell
PMB #510
14845 SW Murray Scholls Dr. Suite 110
Beaverton, Or 97007

[9] Ministry of Healing by E.G. White, page 212

[10] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, page 515 (italics mine)

[11] certainly, however, apostasy from God could bring such fate indirectly. Consider what happened to Belshazzar

[12] Our High Calling page 93 (brackets and italics mine)

[13] the noun “witch” is translated from the same Aramaic word “kashaph” as “sorcerer.” Therefore, a “sorcerer” was also a “witch.”

[14] Judging from 603 to 570 BC = 33 years

[15] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.4, page 789

[16] From Online Computer Lexicon: #5894 rye `iyr (Aramaic) eer from a root corresponding to 05782; TWOT – 2907; n m KJV – watcher 3; 3. 1) waking, watchful, wakeful one, watcher, angel

[17] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.4, page 790

[18] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, page 535 (italics mine)

[19] From Online Computer Lexicon: #8215 lpv sh@phal (Aramaic) shef-al’ from 08214;; adj KJV – basest 1; 1. 1) low, lowliest (of station)

[20] From Online Computer Lexicon: #8160 hev sha`ah (Aramaic) shaw-aw’ from a root corresponding to 08159; TWOT – 3044; n f KJV – hour 5; 5. 1) brief time, moment

[21] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, pag 517 (italics and ellipse mine)

[22] Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary Vol.4, page 770 right column under “Soothsayers” for Dan.2:27 Unfortunately, the Commentary does not comment on the fact that “cut out” in Dan.2:34 & 45 is translated from the same Aramaic word.

[23] From Online Computer Lexicon: #1414 ddg g@dad (Aramaic) ghed-ad’ corresponding to 01413; TWOT – 2649; v KJV – hew 2; 2. 1) to cut down, hew down

[24] 7 x 360 = 2520 days of years in the “prophetic, day-for-a-year” time scale

[25] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, page 519 (italics mine)

[26] Prophets and Kings by E.G. White, page 520

[27] ibid

[28] Testimonies for the Church by E.G. White Vol.8 page 127 (ellipses mine)

[29] the Jewish Encyclopedia by Emil G. Hirsch, William Bacher, and Louis Ginzberg

[30] Mervyn Maxwell in God Cares Vol.1, page 59

[31] Prophets and Kings pages 514, 515