Introduction: The timing of this event was probably close to the end of King Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and life and was his personal testimony of the experience he had had that changed his life and convinced him that Yahweh was the true and living God.
Overview: The chapter is a penetrating study of a man full of pride who was humbled to learn that all he had and all he had done was because of what God did for him or allowed/enabled him to do. One of the important truths of our faith is that God will share everything with us except His glory. God’s glory belongs to Him and Him alone.
The chapter introduces the reader to two sovereigns. On the one hand we have King Nebuchadnezzar who at his time was ruler of the most powerful kingdom in the world and alongside of him was the Most High God who is ruler of heaven and earth.
In verse 3 King Nebuchadnezzar stated his primary thesis of his testimony, a testimony that is repeated and summarized in verses 17, 25 32 and 34. King Nebuchadnezzar learned that the “Most High God” rules not only in heaven but on earth as summarized in verse 26.
In Verse 4 Nebuchadnezzar, who was at one of his royal palaces declared he was “contented
and prosperous.” He was at ease or rest in what we would describe today as a luxurious setting. He had overseen the building of a marvelous kingdom and city and took personal credit for it all.
Verse 5 introduces the event that set the stage of the rest of the chapter. King Nebuchadnezzar recorded, “I had a dream that made me afraid.” The phraseology reminds us of the way the events of chapter 2 were introduced. Because of his understanding of the importance of dreams we are told this one, “terrified him or made him afraid.” As one would expect, verses 6-7 record that he called in all the advisors that he usually relied on. As expected, they were either unable or unwilling to interpret the dream for him.
Verse 8 records that finally Daniel arrived. King Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel by his Babylonian name, “Belteshazzar.” Verse 9 is primarily a declaration of King Nebuchadnezzar’s confidence that Daniel had the ability to interpret his dream.
Verses 10-12 give a description of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream with verse 13 presenting the second part of his dream, and probably the part that terrified him most. The terminology used here clearly describes King Nebuchadnezzar’s surprise and even shock.
Verses 14-15 detail that part of the dream which clearly shows that what was his kingdom at that time would not continue and would not continue because of the actions of God and all this would happen as judgment on him. The first part of verse 15 holds out hope that both King Nebuchadnezzar’s life and his kingdom may survive.
In verses 15b and 16 the imagery shifts from that of a tree to that of a man. The picture is vivid. That individual will live outdoors with the animals and will have the “mind of an animal,” and act like an animal. The prophecy goes on to note that this condition will last “till seven times pass by for him.” Most commentators believe that is intended to imply 7 years although technically the term was also used to simply denote a long period of time.
Verse 17 presents the reason for this dream. At the heart of this part of the dream are three important truths:
- The one behind this message is not the messenger but God himself. The messengers merely delivered the message.
- God is the God of the whole world.
- It is God’s decision as to whom He will give kingdoms. They go to anyone He wishes.
Verse 19 introduces Daniel’s interpretation of the dream and presents an interesting picture of Daniel. Daniel understood the implications of the dream God had given to King Nebuchadnezzar and was disturbed or alarmed at what the dream meant. Daniel genuinely cared for the king who had not only treated him well but seems to have treated all the Jews well. Daniel’s attitude reminds us to pray for our enemies and to love those who persecute us. King Nebuchadnezzar sensed the hesitance on the part of Daniel, so he said to him, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you.”
Daniel went on and in verse 23-25a to repeat the dream. In verse 24 Daniel said that part of the dream applied to King Nebuchadnezzar, making it very clear that the message was coming from the “Most High,” that is from God Himself.
Verse 25a makes it clear what would happen to King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that he would live like the animals, eating the food that animals eat and would sleep outside so that in the morning he would be wet from the night dew.
Verses 25b and 26 offer a ray of hope. King Nebuchadnezzar will exist under judgment for a period of 7 but God has left a stump from which the renewed kingdom would come if King Nebuchadnezzar repented and acknowledged that all he had really came from God. Verse 27 records that Daniel followed that interpretation with a plea to King Nebuchadnezzar to repent.
King Nebuchadnezzar’s sin was primarily that of pride, although there were other factors including his treatment of the oppressed. Pride is seeing one possessions or achievements as the by-product of one’s own work instead of seeing them as coming from God.
Verses 28-30 describe what happened when King Nebuchadnezzar failed to repent. He was givena full year, but he did not repent. That tells us a lot about the patience of God and of His desire to see us turn away from sin rather than face His judgment. See II Peter 3:9.
Without a doubt Babylon was great but the issue was not the greatness of the city and kingdom but the one to whom glory should be directed.
Verse 31 states that time was up. Just as God is patient and not anxious to punish, He is also just and will not turn His back forever on sin. Verse 32 repeats what God had said would happen if he did not repent. God does not change His mind when He calls for a specific action or forbids something. We don’t get to vote on what part of God’s directive we want to follow.
Verse 33 describes what happened next and notes that it happened immediately. The sentence was carried out and he was driven into exile. The picture of him in exile is that of one totally unable to care for himself. He who thought he was a representative of the gods and master of everything couldn’t even function above that of an animal.
Verse 34a records King Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony at the end of the appointed time when he finally surrendered to Yahweh. The moment he repented God restored his sanity.
Verses 34b-35 give King Nebuchadnezzar’s testimony to God and reveal what he learned about the Most High God. His testimony is filled with descriptive statements about God.
Having repented verse 36 states that God restored him to all that had been lost. In his case it was full restitution but that is not always the case. Many times, there are lasting consequences to sin. We cannot assume that we can sin, repent and everything will be as it was.
Verse 37 is King Nebuchadnezzar’s closing testimony and contain his praise of Yahweh.