HUMILIATION & RESTORATION
Several decades pass between the end of chapter 3 and the event recorded in chapter 4. This is the last event in Daniel that concerns Nebuchadnezzar. It comes toward the end of his reign. He has been very successful. He conquered many nations. He kept them subservient. He built Babylon into a great, impressive city.
This little doxology actually is the end of the story contained in this chapter. After the recorded events, Nebuchadnezzar told of the signs and wonders God had done for him. He acknowledged God’s power and eternal reign. These were things he learned as a result of these signs and wonders. As a literary type, this is a sort of frame story. The doxology sets the stage for the story and prepares us to see the king’s submission to God.
You could also say it is an “inclusion”, as doxologies begin and end the narrative to show us it is a separate event from the event of chapter 3.
Nebuchadnezzar addressed this praise to “all peoples, nations, and languages”. (1) his is the same language he used, through a herald, to command people to worship the golden image. (3:4) He addressed everyone in the world as the king of the world. Semitic people saw the world mostly as those areas adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea (sometimes called the Great Sea in the Old Testament). It would be easy to become proud if you were king of the world.
Nebuchadnezzar’s 2nd Dream
At the time of this dream, the king had it very good and very easy. He had conquered his enemies. He had built a beautiful city, including the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon. He built an outer wall around the city big enough to drive a chariot on, according to Herodotus. He said he was at ease and prospering. It reminds me of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21.
Nebuchadnezzar had his second prophetic dream, or vision, while in bed. (4) The ease went away, replaced by alarm. In this dream, he saw a very tall tree. (10) It grew huge. It was visible all over the earth. (11) It was beautiful. Its fruit fed everyone. Animals sat in its shade. Birds lived in its branches. (12)
But an angel (holy one) came down from heaven, proclaiming that the tree will be chopped own and only a stump left. (14) The stump would be bound with metal bands. (15)
Here the angel changed from saying “it” to “him”. He said let him be wet with dew, let him live with the beasts and have the mind of a beast for seven periods of time. (16)
The angel announced the purpose of the cutting of the tree: so that people may know that God rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. (17) Nebuchadnezzar was not able to apply this to himself.
As with the first dream, the king’s magicians could not interpret the meaning of the dream. (7) Daniel was brought in last. (8) In another demonstration that Daniel’s wisdom was greater than the Babylonian magicians, Daniel interpreted the dream.
Daniel was dismayed by the vision, so that he hesitated before speaking. (19) He must have cared for the king and regretted what would happen.
The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar. (22) Ironically, Ezekiel 31 referred to Assyria as a great tree with a very similar result. He had grown great. But God decreed that he become like a beast for 7 periods time. (25) His fall is represented by the tree being cut down. The number 7 is used symbolically here to mean the fullness of time until Nebuchadnezzar’s restoration. At the end of this time, Nebuchadnezzar would know that God rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. (25) The stump represented the preservation of the kingdom until God deemed Nebuchadnezzar fit to resume his rule. (27) His kingdom would be restored when he knew that Heaven rules. (26) Heaven here is just another way to refer to God.
Daniel realized how terrible this judgment was. He advised the king to repent and practice righteousness in hopes that God would relent. (27) If the king humbled himself, God would not need to do it. It is that way with all of us, by the way. God opposes the proud. (James 4:6) If you do not humble yourself, God will do it. It can be a painful experience. You know this to be true even if you ignore it. We have all seen leaders, even Christian leaders, become proud and take terrible falls.
God extended grace to Nebuchadnezzar. He allowed him the opportunity to repent. The opportunity lasted for 12 months.
Nebuchadnezzar did not take Daniel’s advice. He did not repent. Instead, he proclaimed that Babylon was build by his mighty power and reflected the glory of his own majesty. (28-30) As soon as he said this, a voice from heaven proclaimed the judgment just as the vision had stated. It is a good reminder that Christ himself will return and bring judgment when he is not expected. The Bible uses the analogy of a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:2; Revelation 16:15)The king ate grass and lived like an animal. He had no majesty or glory. He did not even have human dignity. He was
At the end of his period of humiliation, Nebuchadnezzar appears to have learned his lesson. He lifted his eyes to heaven, acknowledging the source of his humiliation and former glory. He took his eyes off of himself and set them on God. He blessed God Most High. His reason returned to him. (34) He acknowledged God’s dominion and eternal kingdom. (34) He acknowledged the God does according to his will among the host of heaven and people of earth. No one can stay his hand or question his purpose.
After this, Nebuchadnezzar became great again, even greater than before. But he did no in recognition of the One who put him on his throne. He acknowledged that God’s ways are righteous and just, and that he will humble those who are proud. (37)
These are the last words we hear from Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible. They are his personal confession of faith in the God of Israel.
These last words of confession were also words of hope for Israel, for Israel had been humiliated also. Their humiliation continued for many years. Israel had once been a strong tree in the grace of God. But in pride and rebellion, they turned from God. He cut them down. But he left a stump in Israel, as he did with Nebuchadnezzar. Here is what the Lord said to Isaiah:
Until cities lie waste without inhabitant and houses without people, and the land is a desolate waste, and the LORD removes people far away and the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land. And though a tenth remain in it, it will be burned again like a terebinth or an oak whose stump remains when it is felled. The holy seed is its stump. (Isaiah 6:11-13)
If Nebuchadnezzar could be forgiven and restored upon repentance, so could Israel. God had promised them that very thing in 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Maybe you are in this place of pride today. If so, I urge the Lord’s message upon you. Repent and acknowledge God as the source of what you have and who you are. Humble yourself.
The Gospel itself is a humbling message. Mankind wants God to accept them as they are and say “you are good in your own works”. But the Gospel says no, you are a sinner who has fallen short of God’s standards. You cannot become acceptable on your own. Only if you acknowledge your sin and receive Christ’s forgiveness and lordship can you become acceptable to God.
Do not delay like Nebuchadnezzar. Repent and believe today.