Introduction 1 Beginning of the Proclamation 2-3 Nebuchadnezzar Honors God 4-5 Nebuchadnezzar Sees a Dream 6-9 Who Knows the Interpretation of the Dream? 10-12 The Tree 13-16 What Happens to the Tree 17 Purpose of the Command 18-19 Daniel Must Tell the Interpretation 20-26 The Interpretation of the Dream 27 Counsel of Daniel 28-33 Fulfilment of the Dream 34-37 Nebuchadnezzar Gets Back His Reason

In Daniel 4 we don’t hear anything about the faithful remnant. This chapter is about the ruler of the world empire. It connects to Daniel 3, where, in what happened to Daniel’s three friends, we see the fates of the remnant. A ‘faithful remnant’ is that in which God finds true faith; the characteristics of the whole people are found there. Together with Daniel 3, this chapter describes the fates of the two main actors in the end time, the faithful remnants and the world ruler.

As has already been mentioned, with the inauguration of Nebuchadnezzar there has come a turning point in God’s actions with His people and the nations. God has placed the dominion of the world which He initially ascribed to Israel in the hands of a gentile kind and a gentile empire. This is the start of “the times of the Gentiles” (Lk 21:2424and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.). These times of the Gentiles come to an end with the liberation of Jerusalem. That liberation comes because of the reconciliation through and the coming of the Messiah. We will see that in Daniel 9.

The fact that God has placed the dominion in the hands of a gentile ruler and withdrawn His hands from His people does not mean that He leaves the world to itself. In a certain sense, He does, because the world is following its own course and with it its downfall. At the same time, God keeps the supreme government. We see that in what happens to Nebuchadnezzar.

The subject of Daniel 4 is the pride of the ruler and how God acts with it. Pride is the primeval sin (1Tim 3:66[and] not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.). Any other sin results from that. Warnings against this sin are often given, and we too must have an eye in our lives for the danger of pride (Jam 4:66But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”; 1Pet 5:55You younger men, likewise, be subject to [your] elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.; Pro 3:3434Though He scoffs at the scoffers,
Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.
; 16:1818Pride [goes] before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
; 18:1212Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
But humility [goes] before honor.

Beginning of the Proclamation

1Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and [men of every] language that live in all the earth: “May your peace abound!

It is remarkable that the testimony of Nebuchadnezzar’s humiliation does not come from Daniel’s mouth, but from Nebuchadnezzar’s own mouth. Just as remarkable is the fact that he doesn’t tell his experiences to a few confidants somewhere in an inner room, but that he communicates what happened to him to all the peoples.

We have here an example of a pagan man who, under the action of God’s Spirit, communicates things he would never naturally tell. But if God wants this mighty king to testify to the whole world that He is the Supreme One and that Nebuchadnezzar, as a mighty king, cannot argue with Him, it happens as He wants it.

This will also happen in the end time. All nations, and especially their kings, will bow before the Lord Jesus. He, the Messiah, is supreme God (Dan 4:22It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
). This will be recognized by all “who live on all the earth”. Those who “live in all the earth” are those who have connected their souls and their whole life to the earth. They look no further than the earth and live only for it (Rev 3:1010Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that [hour] which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.; 6:1010and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”; 8:1313Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!”; 11:1010And those who dwell on the earth [will] rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.; 13:8,12,148All who dwell on the earth will worship him, [everyone] whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.12He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence. And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed.14And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who *had the wound of the sword and has come to life.; 14:66And I saw another angel flying in midheaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people;; 17:2,82with whom the kings of the earth committed [acts of] immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.”8“The beast that you saw was, and is not, and is about to come up out of the abyss and go to destruction. And those who dwell on the earth, whose name has not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, will wonder when they see the beast, that he was and is not and will come.). By “all the earth” is meant the part of the earth that is known and ruled by Nebuchadnezzar (cf. Dan 2:3939After you there will arise another kingdom inferior to you, then another third kingdom of bronze, which will rule over all the earth.; Lk 2:11Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.).

It is not clear when Nebuchadnezzar pronounced this proclamation. It seems that he is at the height of his power and peace reigns in his empire (verse 44“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace.). As a good ruler and governor he wishes all his subjects an increase in peace. Even people who do not take God into account often see the great blessing of peace and wish others will have that peace.

Nebuchadnezzar Honors God

2It 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.

By starting with “it has seemed good to me”, he makes it clear that as head of his kingdom he does not act on the orders of anyone else. He does not say that he gives his testimony because God has commanded him to do so. He thinks it’s good to do that and that’s why he does it. He is not aware that God is urging him to do so.

But he does speak of God as the One Who dealt with him through “His signs” and “His wonders”. Signs and wonders are often mentioned together in Scripture (Exo 7:33But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart that I may multiply My signs and My wonders in the land of Egypt.; Deu 4:3434Or has a god tried to go to take for himself a nation from within [another] nation by trials, by signs and wonders and by war and by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm and by great terrors, as the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?; 13:11“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder,; 34:1111for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land,; Isa 8:1818Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.; Jer 32:2020who has set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, [and] even to this day both in Israel and among mankind; and You have made a name for Yourself, as at this day.). Not every sign is a wonder, but every wonder is a sign. Signs are events or things with a certain meaning.

A sign does not have to be something extraordinary or supernatural. When the Lord Jesus is born, the shepherds are told that this will be “the sign” for them: “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk 2:1212This [will be] a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”). A baby in a manger and wrapped in cloths is no wonder, it is nothing extraordinary. But this Baby and the way He came into the world is a sign. His coming to earth has a deep meaning.

In a sign God shows His presence and power. A wonder is something that causes great amazement, because it is incomprehensible and inimitable for man. A wonder shows God’s presence and power in a supernatural action with the intention that man comes to the recognition that God is acting.

Nebuchadnezzar calls God here “the Most High God”. In so doing he acknowledges that God is above all things and also above His own gods. This is the conclusion he comes to, after being humiliated by God in the deepest way. A person only recognizes God’s exaltation above all things when he has experienced how small he himself is. This experience is to be given by God to man because he exalts himself and boasts of his own person and works.

Nebuchadnezzar is deeply impressed by the signs and wonders the Most High has done to him. He expresses his amazement by talking about “how great” and “how mighty” they are. This means that he sees these signs and wonders as incomprehensible or indescribable or inexplainable. They are unique and incomparable. In the life of Nebuchadnezzar this has become visible both in his humiliation to the state of a beast and in his restoration, in which he receives even more greatness and glory than he had before his humiliation (verse 3636At 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.).

Remarkable is his confession that the kingdom of God is “an everlasting kingdom” (Dan 2:4444In the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and [that] kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever.; 7:14,2714“And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
That all the peoples, nations and [men of every] language
Might serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed.
; Psa 145:1313Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
And Your dominion [endures] throughout all generations.
). It means that he sees his own kingdom as passing by. His high mind is gone and he gives God all honor, both in His Person and in His kingdom. With that kingdom Nebuchadnezzar connects a dominion that is “from generation to generation”. This means that he recognizes the supreme authority of God through the ages, from the beginning of creation so far and also farther.

It is also important for us to stick to this. The dominion of the Lord Jesus throughout the history of mankind may encourage us by remembering that He also has all dominion in our personal lives. Nothing gets out of hand for Him. Nebuchadnezzar is forced to acknowledge this. Sometimes that has to happen in our lives. But the result of this acknowledgement is that we entrust our lives to Him with peace of mind and with joy.

Nebuchadnezzar Sees a Dream

4“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. 5I 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.

After his introductory proclamation about the greatness of God Nebuchadnezzar tells him what has happened to him. He goes back to the moment when he lives at ease in his house and is flourishing in his palace. He seems to have everything under control. He has nothing to fear from his enemies, for they have been conquered. In his palace, that is to say his government, everything is going well. Also internally everything is in order. His rule is well established. He is at the height of his power.

At the same time, a state of rest is a dangerous state (cf. Eze 16:4949Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.; 2Sam 11:1-41Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out [to battle], that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.2Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance.3So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?”4David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.) if that rest is attributed to one’s own effort. Then God must show that He is there. He does so through a dream. Nebuchadnezzar is disturbed in his ease and prosperity. This is not done by an outside enemy he has overlooked or by a confidant who unleashes a palace revolution, but by Someone he has not taken into account at all.

A person can have everything under control, but on his mind in an unconscious state he nor another person has control. The only one who can approach the spirit of a man against his will is God. He can do that in different ways. Here He does that through a dream. It is often the case that “the dream comes through much effort” (Ecc 5:3a3For the dream comes through much effort and the voice of a fool through many words.). That is not the case here. God enters his life again through a dream. The previous dream, which in Daniel 2, is about his empire. The dream he gets now is about him personally.

The man who is very robust is overcome by fear because of the visions he sees. On his soft bed, which will be well guarded, Someone penetrates him to tell him something. If God wants to approach a person, He penetrates the most inner being of man, no matter how much that person has equipped himself with defense mechanisms to prevent God from ‘bothering’ him.

Who Knows the Interpretation of the Dream?

6So 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. 7Then 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. 8But 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.

Just as with the first dream, it is clear to Nebuchadnezzar that this second dream is not just a dream. He realizes that it is a dream with a message. He wants to know that message. To find out the meaning of the dream, he lets all the wise men of Babylon bring into his presence. They stand around him as a large group. In contrast to the first dream (Dan 2:4-114Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.”5The king replied to the Chaldeans, “The command from me is firm: if you do not make known to me the dream and its interpretation, you will be torn limb from limb and your houses will be made a rubbish heap.6But if you declare the dream and its interpretation, you will receive from me gifts and a reward and great honor; therefore declare to me the dream and its interpretation.”7They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.”8The king replied, “I know for certain that you are bargaining for time, inasmuch as you have seen that the command from me is firm,9that if you do not make the dream known to me, there is only one decree for you. For you have agreed together to speak lying and corrupt words before me until the situation is changed; therefore tell me the dream, that I may know that you can declare to me its interpretation.”10The Chaldeans answered the king and said, “There is not a man on earth who could declare the matter for the king, inasmuch as no great king or ruler has [ever] asked anything like this of any magician, conjurer or Chaldean.11Moreover, the thing which the king demands is difficult, and there is no one else who could declare it to the king except gods, whose dwelling place is not with [mortal] flesh.”), which he may have really forgotten, he now tells what he dreamed.

But all his scholars are inadequate; they cannot tell him the interpretation. When they were called on the occasion of his first dream, they claimed that Nebuchadnezzar only needed to tell the dream and then they would tell him the interpretation (Dan 2:4,74Then the Chaldeans spoke to the king in Aramaic: “O king, live forever! Tell the dream to your servants, and we will declare the interpretation.”7They answered a second time and said, “Let the king tell the dream to his servants, and we will declare the interpretation.”). It is clear why they can’t interpret the dream even now, even though he has told them the dream. For the dream comes from God and only God can give the interpretation, for nobody knows the inner being of God but the Spirit of God (1Cor 2:1111For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the [thoughts] of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.).

Finally Daniel comes. Did he forget Daniel? Or is it below his level of honor to have to be helped by a Jewish exile again? In any case, he cannot ignore him. Daniel appears on stage when all worldly wisdom has failed and has been unable to provide a solution. After his earlier experience with the interpretation of dreams it would have been understandable if the king had first thought about Daniel. But so quickly does man, and certainly man who does not live with God, forget God’s former actions in his life. The lesson must be learned again.

The last who the world thinks of will be the first to be recognized by God. We also see this with the woman who spent everything on doctors for her illness. If there is no one who has been able to help her, if all the resources she has tapped into have failed, she finally goes to the Lord Jesus. With Him she finds the long sought after and coveted healing (Mk 5:25-3425A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years,26and had endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all, but rather had grown worse—27after hearing about Jesus, she came up in the crowd behind [Him] and touched His cloak.28For she thought, “If I just touch His garments, I will get well.”29Immediately the flow of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her affliction.30Immediately Jesus, perceiving in Himself that the power [proceeding] from Him had gone forth, turned around in the crowd and said, “Who touched My garments?”31And His disciples said to Him, “You see the crowd pressing in on You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?’”32And He looked around to see the woman who had done this.33But the woman fearing and trembling, aware of what had happened to her, came and fell down before Him and told Him the whole truth.34And He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.”). So many people only resort to the Bible when all the other books have not given what they were looking for. God’s Word is the last refuge.

When Nebuchadnezzar speaks about Daniel and also when he speaks to him, he still turns out to be an idolater. He connects Daniel with his god, he sees Daniel as someone in whom the spirit of the holy gods is and speaks to him as “head of the magicians”. He has no doubt that Daniel has insight into the most hidden secrets. Full of confidence in ’Daniel’s ‘skill’ to interpret dreams, he tells him his dream.

The Tree

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.

Nebuchadnezzar sees a tree. First he calls the place where this tree stands, “in the midst of the earth”. Then he talks about its height, it is a tree of great height. But there is also growth in the tree. It increases in size and strength. He gets so high that he reaches to heaven. Because of its enormous height it is “visible to the end of the whole earth”. Wherever people live, they can see the tree.

It is also a beautiful tree to see. The tree also provides numerous fruits that serve as “food … for all”. Finally, the tree appears to provide shade for the beasts of the field and a home for the birds of the sky. So this tree is a blessing for all creatures.

In the interpretation it becomes clear that this tree represents Nebuchadnezzar. Trees are often used as a picture of a human being (Eze 17:22-2322Thus says the Lord GOD, “I will also take [a sprig] from the lofty top of the cedar and set [it] out; I will pluck from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one and I will plant [it] on a high and lofty mountain.23On the high mountain of Israel I will plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit and become a stately cedar. And birds of every kind will nest under it; they will nest in the shade of its branches.; 31:3,183‘Behold, Assyria [was] a cedar in Lebanon
With beautiful branches and forest shade,
And very high,
And its top was among the clouds.
18“To which among the trees of Eden are you thus equal in glory and greatness? Yet you will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth beneath; you will lie in the midst of the uncircumcised, with those who were slain by the sword. So is Pharaoh and all his hordes!”‘ declares the Lord GOD.”
; Psa 1:33He will be like a tree [firmly] planted by streams of water,
Which yields its fruit in its season
And its leaf does not wither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
; 92:1313Planted in the house of the LORD,
They will flourish in the courts of our God.
). In the picture sketched in the tree, we see Nebuchadnezzar as the center of the earth. He is the world ruler. His power increases even more. It seems that his power extends to heaven, which indicates that he even wants to extend his power into heaven.

It recalls the tower building of Babel (Gen 11:44They said, “Come, let us build for ourselves a city, and a tower whose top [will reach] into heaven, and let us make for ourselves a name, otherwise we will be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”). This tower must also reach into the heaven and be visible all over the earth. It is an expression of man’s pride and his rebellion against God. We see that also here in Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. Babel is the symbol of pride and disobedience linked to idolatry.

Nebuchadnezzar’s rule has brought him prestige and a good life for all his subjects who comply with his rule. It seems, however, that there is room in his empire for all kinds of beasts, both beasts on earth and beasts living in the sky, the birds. The birds of the sky often represent demonic powers and influences that exert a pernicious in-flow on the spirit of man (Rev 18:22And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird.; Mt 13:3232and this is smaller than all [other] seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES.”).

What Happens to the Tree

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.

It is as if Nebuchadnezzar takes a breath after the description of the tree. There is more to come. Something will happen to the tree. This is made known to him in the continuation of his vision or dream. He tells Daniel that he sees in his dream that “an [angelic] watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven”. It seems that we have to think of an angel. The angel says what to do with the tree. This is not done with a soft voice, but with a powerful exclamation.

The power with which is spoken matches the content of what is said. There has to be dealt with force with the tree. The tree must be chopped down, and any blessing attached to the tree must be stopped. There should be nothing left of his impressive stature that is visible all over the world. Everything that the tree provides for shade, habitat and food must disappear. This is how it will be with all the prosperity on which man relies.

But the chopping down of the tree does not mean the final end of the tree. This is shown by the command that the stump with its roots must be left in the ground. This contains the promise of a future restoration (cf. Job 14:7-97“For there is hope for a tree,
When it is cut down, that it will sprout again,
And its shoots will not fail.
8“Though its roots grow old in the ground
And its stump dies in the dry soil,
9At the scent of water it will flourish
And put forth sprigs like a plant.
; Isa 6:1313“Yet there will be a tenth portion in it,
And it will again be [subject] to burning,
Like a terebinth or an oak
Whose stump remains when it is felled.
The holy seed is its stump.”
; 11:11Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,
And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
). Until then, the trunk is kept under control by “a band of iron and bronze” around it to prevent premature flowering. Until then, the stump stands “in the new grass of the field”. Nothing is left of the tree that rises far above the grass. It has become equal to the grass and depends on dew for the continuation of life as much as the delicate, perishable grass.

The trunk is thus reduced to its original nullity. “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off, But the word of the Lord endures forever” (1Pet 1:24-25a24For, “All flesh is like grass, And all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, And the flower falls off,25But the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word which was preached to you.). That makes the transition in verse 1616“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.
from the picture of the tree to a human and a beast less strange. The tree, which represents the man Nebuchadnezzar, has a mind. But because his mind is not directed toward God, his mind must change into the mind of a beast.

The chopped down tree, of which only the stump is left, is comparable to a beast. A tree is connected to the earth. A tree also has no sense of God at all. So it is with a beast. A beast is connected to the earth and has no knowledge of God. That is what Nebuchadnezzar must experience for himself (Ecc 3:1818I said to myself concerning the sons of men, “God has surely tested them in order for them to see that they are but beasts.”).

In that situation he will remain seven times, which mean seven years. There will be a period of time before Nebuchadnezzar will be restored. The discipline of God must have a complete effect.

Purpose of the Command

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.”

The dream ends with the statement that the decision is fixed in heaven. Angels agree. Every decision made by God always receives the consent of all heavenly people. What will happen to Nebuchadnezzar is according to a “command of the holy ones”. In other words, it may be that the same is said here as in the first part of the sentence. This is indicated by the use of the word “watchers” in the first part of the sentence and the use of the words “holy ones” in the second part of the sentence.

Verse 1313‘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.
refers to “a watcher, a holy one”, which clearly shows that “watcher” and “holy one” refer to one and the same person. Another indication that they seem to be heavenly beings is the contrast with “the living” mentioned in the following sentence. By this are meant all people living on earth.

The purpose of God’s actions with Nebuchadnezzar is that all people on earth come to the acknowledgement that He rules. This applies not only to the people in general, but certainly also to all who are in authority (cf. 1Tim 2:1-21First of all, then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.). It is about Nebuchadnezzar and the kingship that God gives to whom He wants. For God’s children this is an encouragement, because they often have to deal with rulers who do not care about God and forbid them to live according to God’s will.

Governments can only exercise power within the space God gives them. It is even so that He determines to whom He gives government power (Dan 2:2121“It is He who changes the times and the epochs;
He removes kings and establishes kings;
He gives wisdom to wise men
And knowledge to men of understanding.
; Rom 13:1b1Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.). He can give honor to even “the lowliest of men” (1Sam 2:8a8“He raises the poor from the dust,
He lifts the needy from the ash heap
To make them sit with nobles,
And inherit a seat of honor;
For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S,
And He set the world on them.
; Job 5:1111So that He sets on high those who are lowly,
And those who mourn are lifted to safety.
; Psa 113:7-87He raises the poor from the dust
And lifts the needy from the ash heap,
8To make [them] sit with princes,
With the princes of His people.
; 75:7-87But God is the Judge;
He puts down one and exalts another.
8For a cup is in the hand of the LORD, and the wine foams;
It is well mixed, and He pours out of this;
Surely all the wicked of the earth must drain [and] drink down its dregs.
). David, who is the lowliest among his brothers, is a good example of this.

Daniel Must Tell the Interpretation

18This 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!

After Nebuchadnezzar has told the dream he has seen, he says to Daniel to tell him its interpretation. He says in addition that all his wise men have failed to tell him the interpretation. On the one hand Daniel is his last hope, on the other hand he has no doubt that Daniel will give him the interpretation. He again attributes this to the holy gods. At the same time he realizes that they are not Daniel’s gods.

When Daniel has heard the dream, he immediately knows the interpretation. He is appalled for a while about it. It is not clear how long this bewilderment, which prevents him from speaking a word, lasts. In any case, it is so long that the king sees that the explanation of the dream frightens Daniel and that he must urge him to tell the explanation.

It may surprise us that Daniel was shocked by the dream. The dream makes it known that Nebuchadnezzar will learn a formidable lesson. Shouldn’t he be happy? This is a good opportunity to sarcastically tell Nebuchadnezzar what would happen to him. For that man has done so much evil to his people, that is God’s people. And he himself was taken away by him from the land of God. But there is no trace of any sense of revenge or gloating. On the contrary, Daniel is scared of the judgment that will come upon the king.

That brings us to the question what about our concern for all those people who are directly on their way to hell and will also come there if they do not repent. Generally speaking, we may have that compassion and, forced by the love of Christ, we urge people to repent. But is there also this emotion for those who cause us to suffer, who make our lives difficult or perhaps almost unbearable?

By God’s grace Daniel feels no hatred against Nebuchadnezzar, but compassion. Paul calls for prayer for all people and especially for those who are in high positions, like the cruel emperor of Rome (1Tim 2:1-21First of all, then, I urge that entreaties [and] prayers, petitions [and] thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.). If we have hearts like Daniel and Paul, we will pray for such rulers. We will not wish them hell, but wish them to be saved (Acts 26:2929And Paul [said], “I would wish to God, that whether in a short or long time, not only you, but also all who hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these chains.”).

The Interpretation of the Dream

20The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21and 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— 22it 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. 23In 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,” 24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25that 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. 26And 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.

In his explanation of the dream, Daniel begins with an almost verbatim repetition of the first part of the dream. By doing so he shows Nebuchadnezzar that he has heard and understood the dream well. By repeating the dream again, the king will experience its application even more strongly. Immediately after his repetition of this part of the dream, Daniel says of the tree: “It is you, O king.”

Thus he heard Daniel say at the interpretation of the first dream: “You are the head of gold” (Dan 2:3838and wherever the sons of men dwell, [or] the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given [them] into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all. You are the head of gold.). That will have flattered him. He would also have liked to have heard the application of the tree to him if there would not follow more. His greatness is overwhelming, both in height – which “reached to the sky” – and in breadth – it “was visible to all the earth”.

Then Daniel repeats the part of the dream that is about the watcher and what he said. He does so in somewhat stronger terms than in the depiction of Nebuchadnezzar. Thus Daniel speaks of “destroy it”. In what the watcher says, we see what heaven thinks about this wonderful tree, about this wonderful Nebuchadnezzar, who is impressed by himself and by whom people are impressed.

Heaven says: “That which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Lk 16:1515And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.). That is why the voice sounds from heaven: ‘Turn that thing upside down, and nothing should remain of all appearances.’ However, the stump of the tree must be left. There is no definitive end to the life of Nebuchadnezzar. This is indicated by the word ‘until’. It is a temporary humiliation, for a period of seven times.

After the repetition of the second part of the dream, Daniel explains what the meaning is. He introduces the interpretation with the serious assurance that what happens to Nebuchadnezzar according to the interpretation, “is the decree of the Most High”. With this he places the king, whom he addresses with due respect with “my lord the king”, in the presence of God as the Most High. It is about Nebuchadnezzar being convicted of His existence and His sovereignty. What will happen to him is a decision of the Most High and therefore it will not be possible to be adapted or ignored by a human being.

The content of the decree is that Nebuchadnezzar will be expelled from the people’s living area and will reside amidst the beasts. He will lose his place among men and he will go into the company of the beasts and behave like one of them. His dwelling, his food, his clothing, his dignity, everything that makes up his greatness as a human being, he loses. Instead he shall be in the open field, without covering, and shall eat grass like cattle. He will no longer quench his thirst with selected wines, but will have to content with the dew of heaven.

The humiliation is complete and ends when he recognizes “that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes”. Before he reaches that point, seven times will have passed, a perfect period. That this period of humiliation is coming to an end is included in the words “to leave the stump with the roots of the tree”, words that Nebuchadnezzar also heard. Daniel adds that after his recognition “that [it is] Heaven [that] rules”, his kingdom will be assured to him.

For every human being there can only be a connection with God when he acknowledges that God is the Most High Ruler over everything. God is sovereign. Recognizing this gives peace to the mind. We, as believers, must also learn this in a regular way in our lives, in which so many things can happen that show that we have forgotten this.

Counsel of Daniel

27Therefore, 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.’

When Daniel has interpreted the dream, he adds a personal word. He advises, unasked for, but out of compassion, Nebuchadnezzar to break with his sins,. The rule of Nebuchadnezzar, experienced as a benefit by all who submit to him, does not mean that he is not a sinner and does not do iniquities. His rule is not a righteous and just rule. He lives for himself. Daniel points out to him that he does not show mercy to the oppressed. If he wants to prolong his prosperity, he must change that. This is only possible if he repents and acknowledges God with his heart as the Ruler of all things.

What Daniel says does not mean that Nebuchadnezzar can undo his sins by acting righteously now and proving grace. It is not possible to become clean from sins on the basis of good works. A person is delivered from his sins only by confessing them and believing in the atoning death of Christ. In the time when the Lord Jesus has not yet come, God can forgive sins in view of the sacrifice that Christ will make (Rom 3:23-2623for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. [This was] to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;26for the demonstration, [I say,] of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.). For man nothing has changed before and after the cross. God forgives sins only by confession (1Jn 1:99If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.), whereby the basis for forgiveness is the sacrifice of Christ (Heb 9:22b22And according to the Law, [one may] almost [say], all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.).

Fulfilment of the Dream

28“All [this] happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29Twelve months later he was walking on the [roof of] the royal palace of Babylon. 30The 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?’ 31While 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, 32and 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.’ 33Immediately 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].

Nebuchadnezzar has been told that the decree is assured. But he also heard Daniel’s advice. If God’s decree is certain that a sinner will go to hell, but the sinner accepts the warning, then his fate will change. In the same way, the prophecy would not have had to come over Nebuchadnezzar if he had taken to heart the warning. However, he did not take the warning to heart. Over time, that is, after a year, what is in the heart of Nebuchadnezzar becomes public and what is promised to him in his dream interpreted to him by Daniel happens.

He walks in great complacency on the roof of his palace and looks at Babel. His heart swells with pride. He expresses his pride by taking the word and honoring himself. Everything he sees is thanks to him, he has done it himself, in his own strength and he deserves all the credit for it.

There is no thought of God with him, he simply ignores God, does not call him, God does not count for him. He does not acknowledge that he owes his power to God. All his buildings proclaim his glory. He sees his own name on everything that is Babel. Here we see an example of pride. Pride is the sin of the devil (1Tim 3:66[and] not a new convert, so that he will not become conceited and fall into the condemnation incurred by the devil.). It is the first sin in creation.

A lot of people have their own miniature kingdom, for example in a company with different departments where each manager runs his department as a kingdom of their own. It can also be true of a father who sees his family as his own kingdom and attributes everything of beauty to his own merit. Maybe we have something of our own that we think we’re just a little better at than any other. If we boast of this, it is pride.

We must learn that the word is true: “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” (1Cor 4:77For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?). The Lord Jesus is among His disciples as One Who serves. He never boasted about anything. On the contrary, He humbled Himself. Nebuchadnezzar experiences the truth of the word: “God is opposed to the proud” (Jam 4:66But He gives a greater grace. Therefore [it] says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”). We will also experience this when we are proud.

The king has not yet pronounced his utterances to the full, the sound of the words have not yet died away, when there is another voice, a voice from heaven. This voice lets hear a proclamation: “Sovereignty has been removed from you.“ From the moment he boasted of his achievements, he lost his kingship. A believer who boasts of his own works also loses his royal dignity and gets heaven against him. What a contrast with the Lord Jesus. Above Him the voice of “God [the] Father” sounds from heaven, testifying of Him: “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” (2Pet 1:1717For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased”—).

All that is said of Nebuchadnezzar happens to him. At the same time he is robbed of his reason. Suddenly he is insane and in his behavior he becomes “like the beasts that perish” (Psa 49:2020Man in [his] pomp, yet without understanding,
Is like the beasts that perish.
). As announced, he is rejected by the people and takes his place as a beast. There he stands in the open field and eats grass like the cattle. Thus seven times pass over him.

To the description of the dream by Nebuchadnezzar and its repetition by Daniel, it is now added that his hair and nails are growing all this time. There is no question of any physical care. The image of the once so powerful ruler is becoming increasingly blurred.

So vain is even the most powerful man on earth as he exalts himself against God by placing himself in the place of God. A beast has no awareness of its Creator. When a man denounces the connection with God, he becomes like a beast. This is the situation of every person who does not have God in mind, but only himself.

Nebuchadnezzar Gets Back His Reason

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?’
36At 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. 37Now 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.”

When the days when Nebuchadnezzar is a beast are over, he raises his eyes to heaven. A beast only looks at the earth and has no consciousness of the Creator. If Nebuchadnezzar looks up to heaven, it is because he has back his reason. God has taken away his reason from him and gives it back to him. He has achieved His goal with His discipline. This is evident from the first words spoken by Nebuchadnezzar. They are words of praise and glory to the Most High. He glorifies Him.

The name ‘Most High’ is the name of God in the realms of peace. The first time that name occurs is when Melchizedek meets Abraham who by battle has freed his cousin Lot from the power of a few kings. Melchizedek is a priest of “God, the Most High” and blesses Abraham on behalf of “God, the Most High” (Gen 14:18-2018And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.19He blessed him and said,
“Blessed be Abram of God Most High,
Possessor of heaven and earth;
20And blessed be God Most High,
Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.”
He gave him a tenth of all.
). This situation is reminiscent of the liberation by the Lord Jesus of the faithful remnant of Israel in the future. After His victory, He is the true Melchizedek Who distributes bread and wine for strength and joy. The kingdom of peace will be full of them.

Nebuchadnezzar recognizes God even as the eternally Living Whose government is eternal. He not only rules for all eternity, He also rules from the moment there is something to govern, that is, from the moment He created something. There has never been a time when He did not have the rule and there will never be such a time.

Against this greatness Nebuchadnezzar recognizes the nullity of man, not only as an individual, but as a total mankind. All men together cannot do anything against Him. All heavenly inhabitants are under His authority, just like all earth-dwellers. No one is strong enough to shake off His hand and thus evade His authority. Which man is so audacious to take up the word against Him and call Him to account (cf. Rom 9:2020On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it?)? He who does this, sins against his life.

After this recognition, which is the result of the return of his reason, he also gets the kingdom back. His nobles seek him out again. He gets more greatness than he possessed before that time (Pro 29:2323A man’s pride will bring him low,
But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
). It is often the case that we lose more than we win if we go a road that is not good. But it is also sometimes the case that God gives more than we had.

We see that with Peter. After his restoration, he is given a great task among the believers. His two letters are proof of this. Someone who has truly repented on a wrong road or a wrong deed, sometimes receives more praise than in the life he lived before that time.

Nebuchadnezzar concludes his proclamation with a new praise. He calls God the “King of Heaven”, He Who has all authority in heaven. With this position he connects His deeds and paths on earth. Everything He does is truth and in accordance with heaven where everything is truth. Every way which He goes, whether with a man or with a nation, is a way in righteousness; that is the righteousness of heaven. Everything in heaven corresponds to His Being of truth and righteousness. We see the results on earth.

When the Lord Jesus rules on earth, all deeds and paths on earth are a reflection of heaven. He Who rules in heaven, Whose throne is in heaven, shall then reign on earth, and His throne shall be on earth. Then the prayer will be fulfilled: “Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:1010‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
). In view of this time, may it be our prayer that this is already visible in our personal lives.

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