Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound! 2 It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
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.
A sudden change in tone is evident in chapter four regarding the king as compared to the previous chapters. Nebuchadnezzar, the king who had previously been prone to wrath and violence toward even his own people suddenly says to his kingdom, “May your peace abound.” Peace and tranquility had not been the hallmarks of his reign, and this would have caused the people to take notice upon hearing this from Nebuchadnezzar. Then it got really different for those who were used to the pride of the king. He says that it is good to him to declare the signs and wonders that God has done for him. He even refers to God as the Most High, something he refused to acknowledge previously. He wanted to be the most high, but something happened to finally humble him to bow before God Who he finally recognized as having all power, strength, and dominion. He finally resigned himself to the fact that he was but a man and that it was God Whose kingdom endures forever and Whose rule came before him and will continue on after him.
4 “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. 5 I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 6 So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7 Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me. 8 But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, 9 ‘O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.
Nebuchadnezzar recounted what had changed him. He had another dream given to him again by God. He again was afraid upon seeing the visions, but instead of going right to Daniel who had interpreted the dream last time, he called upon the pagan “wise” men of Babylon. Again, they could not interpret the dream. But then Daniel came in who had been given the name Belteshazzar, a reflection of Nebuchadnezzar’s god even though Daniel didn’t worship his god. He refers to Daniel as having a spirit of the holy gods as if the Jewish God was but one of many. Clearly, Nebuchadnezzar still didn’t understand the uniqueness and holiness of God, but he would by the time this narrative was over. He even referred to Daniel as one of the Babylonian magicians as if he was of their same kind. He knew that Daniel was good at understanding visions and their interpretations, but he didn’t understand or bow before the God Who gave him the understanding just yet.
10 ‘Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great.
11 ‘The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12 ‘Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it.
13 ‘I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
14 ‘He shouted out and spoke as follows:
Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it
And the birds from its branches.
15 “Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16 “Let his mind be changed from that of a man
And let a beast’s mind be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17 “This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes
And sets over it the lowliest of men.”
This time the king gave Daniel the dream, whereas the first time Daniel had to give the king both the dream and the interpretation. The king said that he saw in his vision a tree that was large and strong, seen by the whole earth. It was beautiful, and it provided sustenance to the whole earth. But then an angel came and issued a decree that the tree would be cut down, its fruit taken away, and those who took refuge in it scattered. The stump could remain but with a band of iron and bronze around it. There was also the prophecy of insanity for seven periods of time, likely seven years. There was to be a lesson in all of this, that God is the Most High and that He wants people from all over and from future times to know that He is the king over all of mankind.
18 This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.’
19 “Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, ‘Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you.’ Belteshazzar replied, ‘My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20 The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged— 22 it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23 In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, “Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him,” 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26 And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27 Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’
The king asked Daniel to explain the imagery in the dream and its implications. Daniel, not wishing harm upon the king, said that he would rather the dream be for the king’s enemies, for he realized the severity of what it entailed. He cared about Nebuchadnezzar, and the dream was a frightening judgment. Thus, he was greatly alarmed by it. The vision meant that the king would be given the mind of an animal for seven years. He would be removed from ruling for that time. The future kingdoms would still take Babylon over, but it would not happen yet. God promised that the kingdom would be given back to Nebuchadnezzar for a time after he recognized that God in heaven is in charge and that he is not ultimately in charge. Daniel, knowing that God is merciful, pleaded with the king to turn from his sins that God might relent on this coming judgment. He advised the king to turn from his iniquities and start showing mercy to the poor in case God might change His mind or lessen His punishment.
28 “All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29 Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’ 31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32 and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes.’ 33 Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles’ feathers and his nails like birds’ claws.
Twelve months passed since the vision was given, and nothing happened. God gave the king time to repent and change and start being just with the poor and to fix other areas of cruelty and injustice, but he didn’t change. Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar thought that he had gotten away with his continued evil or that God had forgotten His promised punishment. Maybe the king had forgotten what God had promised. Walking on the roof of his royal palace, the king made a great boast that he had built Babylon by his might and power. He took credit for his kingdom, and he didn’t acknowledge God at all. He acknowledged that he did all things for his own majesty and never for the benefit of others or in reverence for God. God hates pride, and at the very moment that Nebuchadnezzar made his great boast, a voice came from heaven reiterating the promise of God that he would be given the mind of an animal and lose his kingship for a time until he acknowledged God as the Most High. He needed to realize that all is from God and that God is sovereign over all. Refusing to be changed by the first vision and the miracle at the fiery furnace, more dramatic steps were required. Immediately, the king became insane and took on the behavior of a wild beast until he even started to look kind of like one. This was the ultimate humbling thing to come to a prideful person, and he was driven away not just from his kingdom but from people in general.
34 “But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35 “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?’
36 At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 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.”
At the end of the time that God had decreed, the king’s mind returned to him and he acknowledged and worshipped the God of heaven, finally. First, he looked to heaven, and then his reason came back. God had said that he needed to learn Who was the true authority before the punishment would end, and somehow and someway while he was behaving like an animal God changed his heart. He praised and honored God, something he had never done himself before. He referred to God as the Most High God and the One Who has all dominion and authority throughout all ages and times. Compared to God, people are nothing, for only God has all power and authority. He rightly said that God does what He wants and that no one in heaven or on earth can thwart His plan or question His judgment. By God’s grace and consistent with the vision, upon his reason returning to him, his nobles and counselors began seeking him out. He was reestablished as king and given surpassing greatness. The difference, however, was clear, for now Nebuchadnezzar praised, exalted, and honored the King of heaven. He recognized rightly that God is able to humble those who, like him, walk in pride, for He is just and the one true God.