Nebuchadnezzar’s Pride and Punishment
King Nebuchadnezzar, “To the peoples, nations and men of every language, who live in all the world. May you prosper greatly! It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the Most High God has performed for me. How great are His signs, how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an eternal kingdom; His dominion endures from generation to generation. I, Nebuchadnezzar was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and visions that passed through my mind terrified me. So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret the dream for me.When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.”
The theme of this chapter is God’s dealings with Nebuchadnezzar.
Nebuchadnezzar, while in a position of security and prosperity, had a dream which made him afraid. He called in the wise men and this time told them the contents of the dream. However, they were unable to give the king the interpretation. Let’s read what happened next in:
Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. ( He is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in him.) I said, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the spirit of the gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream; interpret it for me. These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all. Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its branches; from it every creature was fed. In the visions I saw while lying in my bed, I looked and there before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice: Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by for him. The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and set them over the lowliest of men. This is the dream that I, king Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now, Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
Daniel entered the king’s presence. The king shared the dream with him, in whom “the spirit of the holy gods lives.” In his vision, Nebuchadnezzar saw a tree, which was becoming very strong and very high until it was visible all over the earth. It bore much fruit and “it was food for all” symbolizing all of mankind was under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar.
As Nebuchadnezzar observed the scene ‘a watcher and a holy one came down from heaven’. The most natural conclusion is that this being described as ‘a messenger, a holy one’ was an angel sent from God. This heavenly messenger cried for the tree to be cut down. However the stump was to be bound with a band of iron and bronze and to have its portion with the beasts of the field. Let’s read Daniel’s reaction to the king’s dream in:
Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered, My lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your advisaries! The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting places in its branches for the birds of the air – you, O king, are that tree! You have become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, “Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times pass by for him. This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the Most High has issued against my lord the king. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to leave the stump of the tree with its root means that your kingdom will be restored to you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king , be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”
Daniel interpreted the dream as follows:
The tree represented Nebuchadnezzar who had grown great and reached into heaven with his dominion to the end of the earth. According to the decree of the Most High, Nebuchadnezzar would be driven from ordinary association with men and would dwell with the beasts of the field. In that condition he would eat grass as the ox until he understood that God is the One who gives power to men to rule as He wills.
The stump with its band of iron and bronze represented the fact that he would retain control of his kingdom and that it would be restored to him after he had come back to his senses. Now Daniel knew his God and he knew that, at this stage, God was only giving the king a warning that, if he did not repent and change his lifestyle, these things would happen. Therefore, Daniel spoke and urged the king to renounce his sins by doing what is right and to be kind to the oppressed. That shows the concern Daniel had for the king and was a very courageous act of Daniel because he could have lost his head if the king had become angry with him for daring to be so forthright. Sadly the king did not take to heart the words of Daniel as we can see from:
All this happened to king Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, “Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?” The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, king Nebuchadnezzar. Your royal authority has been taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.” Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
Twelve months later this dream was fulfilled and king Nebuchadnezzar lost his sanity as he was driven from the palace he took so much pride in. However, after seven years, his sanity returned to him as we can read in:
At the end of that time, I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honoured and glorified Him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?” At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honour and splendour were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything He does is right and all His ways are just. And those who walk in pride He is able to humble.
When the prophesied season was over, Nebuchadnezzar lifted up his eyes to heaven and his understanding returned. He was once more established in his kingdom. This experience taught him that even the greatest of earthly sovereigns is completely subject to the sovereign power of God. Through these experiences God gave Nebuchadnezzar an increasingly clear understanding that He truly was the one and only God who was worthy of worship.