Edict of Nebuchadnezzar Containing His Second
Dream, Relating to Himself.
Punished with insanity for his haughtiness, he sinks
to the level of the beasts (illustrating Ps 49:6, 12). The opposition between bestial and
human life, set forth here, is a key to interpret the symbolism in the
seventh chapter concerning the beasts and the Son of man. After his
conquests, and his building in fifteen days a new palace, according to
the heathen historian, Abydenus (268
B.C.), whose account confirms Daniel, he
ascended upon his palace roof (Da 4:29, Margin), whence he could see the
surrounding city which he had built, and seized by some deity, he
predicted the Persian conquest of Babylon, adding a prayer that the
Persian leader might on his return be borne where there is no path of
men, and where the wild beasts graze (language evidently derived
by tradition from Da 4:32, 33, though the application is
different). In his insanity, his excited mind would naturally think of
the coming conquest of Babylon by the Medo-Persians, already foretold
to him in the second chapter.
1. Peace—the usual salutation in the
East, shalom, whence "salaam." The primitive revelation of the
fall, and man's alienation from God, made "peace" to be felt as the
first and deepest want of man. The Orientals (as the East was the
cradle of revelation) retained the word by tradition.
2. I thought it good—"It was seemly
before me" (Ps 107:2-8).
signs—tokens significant of God's
omnipotent agency. The plural is used, as it comprises the
marvellous dream, the marvellous interpretation of it, and its
4. I was … at rest—my wars over,
my kingdom at peace.
flourishing—"green." Image from a tree
17:8). Prosperous (Job 15:32).
6. It may seem strange that Daniel was not
first summoned. But it was ordered by God's providence that he should
be reserved to the last, in order that all mere human means should be
proved vain, before God manifested His power through His servant; thus
the haughty king was stripped of all fleshly confidences. The Chaldees
were the king's recognized interpreters of dreams; whereas Daniel's
interpretation of the one in Da 2:24-45
had been a peculiar case, and very many years before; nor had he been
consulted on such matters since.
8. Belteshazzar—called so from the god
Bel or Belus (see on Da 1:7).
9. spirit of the holy
gods—Nebuchadnezzar speaks as a heathen, who yet has imbibed
some notions of the true God. Hence he speaks of "gods" in the
plural but gives the epithet "holy," which applies to Jehovah
alone, the heathen gods making no pretension to purity, even in the
opinion of their votaries (De 32:31;
compare Isa 63:11).
"I know" refers to his knowledge of Daniel's skill many years before
(Da 2:8); hence he calls him "master of
troubleth—gives thee difficulty in
10. tree—So the Assyrian is compared to
a "cedar" (Eze 31:3;
compare Eze 17:24).
in the midst of the earth—denoting its
conspicuous position as the center whence the imperial authority
radiated in all directions.
12. beasts … shadow under
it—implying that God's purpose in establishing empires in the
world is that they may be as trees affording men "fruits" for "meat,"
and a "shadow" for "rest" (compare La 4:20). But the world powers abuse their trust
for self; therefore Messiah comes to plant the tree of His gospel
kingdom, which alone shall realize God's purpose (Eze 17:23; Mt
13:32). Herodotus [7.19] mentions a dream (probably
suggested by the tradition of this dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel)
which Xerxes had; namely, that he was crowned with olive, and that the
branches of the olive filled the whole earth, but that afterwards the
crown vanished from his head: signifying his universal dominion soon to
come to an end.
13. watcher and an holy one—rather,
"even an holy one." Only one angel is intended, and he not one
of the bad, but of the holy angels. Called a "watcher," because
ever on the watch to execute God's will [Jerome], (Ps 103:20, 21). Compare as to their watchfulness,
Re 4:8, "full of eyes within
… they rest not day and night." Also they watch good men
committed to their charge (Ps 34:7; Heb 1:14); and watch over the evil to record
their sins, and at God's bidding at last punish them (Jer 4:16, 17), "watchers" applied to
human instruments of God's vengeance. As to God (Da 9:14; Job 7:12; 14:16; Jer
44:27). In a good sense
(Ge 31:49; Jer 31:28). The idea of heavenly "watchers" under
the supreme God (called in the Zendavesta of the Persian
Zoroaster, Ormuzd) was founded on the primeval revelation as to
evil angels having watched for an opportunity until they
succeeded in tempting man to his ruin, and good angels ministering to
God's servants (as Jacob, Ge 28:15; 32:1, 2). Compare the watching over Abraham for
good, and over Sodom for wrath after long watching in vain for good men
it it, for whose sake He would spare it, Ge 18:23-33; and over Lot for good, Ge 19:1-38 Daniel fitly puts in
Nebuchadnezzar's mouth the expression, though not found elsewhere in
Scripture, yet substantially sanctioned by it (2Ch
16:9; Pr 15:3; Jer 32:19),
and natural to him according to Oriental modes of thought.
14. Hew down—(Mt 3:10; Lu
13:7). The holy (Jude 14) one incites his fellow angels to God's
appointed work (compare Re 14:15, 18).
beasts get away from under it—It shall
no longer afford them shelter (Eze 31:12).
15. stump—The kingdom is still reserved
secure for him at last, as a tree stump secured by a hoop of brass and
iron from being split by the sun's heat, in the hope of its growing
11:1; compare Job 14:7-9). Barnes refers it to the chaining of the royal
16. heart—understanding (Isa 6:10).
times—that is, "years" (Da 12:7). "Seven" is the perfect number: a week
of years: a complete revolution of time accompanying a complete
revolution in his state of mind.
17. demand—that is, determination;
namely, as to the change to which Nebuchadnezzar is to be doomed. A
solemn council of the heavenly ones is supposed (compare Job 1:6; 2:1), over which God presides supreme.
His "decree" and "word" are therefore said to be theirs (compare Da 4:24, "decree of the Most High"); "the
decree of the watchers," "the word of the holy ones." For He has placed
particular kingdoms under the administration of angelic beings, subject
to Him (Da 10:13, 20; 12:1). The word "demand," in the second
clause, expresses a distinct idea from the first clause. Not only as
members of God's council (Da 7:10; 1Ki 22:19; Ps
103:21; Zec 1:10) do they
subscribe to His "decree," but that decree is in answer to their
prayers, wherein they demand that every mortal who tries to
obscure the glory of God shall be humbled [Calvin]. Angels are grieved when God's prerogative
is in the least infringed. How awful to Nebuchadnezzar to know that
angels plead against him for his pride, and that the decree has been
passed in the high court of heaven for his humiliation in answer to
angels' demands! The conceptions are moulded in a form
peculiarly adapted to Nebuchadnezzar's modes of thought.
the living—not as distinguished from
the dead, but from the inhabitants of heaven, who "know" that which the
men of the world need to the taught (Ps 9:16); the ungodly confess there is a God,
but would gladly confine Him to heaven. But, saith Daniel, God ruleth
not merely there, but "in the kingdom of men."
basest—the lowest in condition (1Sa 2:8;
Lu 1:52). It is not one's
talents, excellency, or noble birth, but God's will, which elevates to
the throne. Nebuchadnezzar abased to the dunghill, and then restored,
was to have in himself an experimental proof of this (Da 4:37).
19. Daniel … Belteshazzar—The use
of the Hebrew as well as the Chaldee name, so far from
being an objection, as some have made it, is an undesigned mark of
genuineness. In a proclamation to "all people," and one designed
to honor the God of the Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar would naturally use the
Hebrew name (derived from El, "God," the name by which
the prophet was best known among his countrymen), as well as the
Gentile name by which he was known in the Chaldean empire.
astonied—overwhelmed with awe at the
terrible import of the dream.
one hour—the original means often "a
moment," or "short time," as in Da 3:6, 15.
let not the dream … trouble
thee—Many despots would have punished a prophet who dared to
foretell his overthrow. Nebuchadnezzar assures Daniel he may freely
the dream be to them that hate thee—We
are to desire the prosperity of those under whose authority God's
providence has placed us (Jer 29:7).
The wish here is not so much against others, as for the king: a common
formula (2Sa 18:32).
It is not the language of uncharitable hatred.
20. The tree is the king. The
branches, the princes. The leaves, the soldiers. The
fruits, the revenues. The shadow, the protection afforded
to dependent states.
22. It is thou—He speaks pointedly, and
without circumlocution (2Sa 12:7).
While pitying the king, he uncompromisingly pronounces his sentence of
punishment. Let ministers steer the mean between, on the one hand,
fulminations against sinners under the pretext of zeal, without any
symptom of compassion; and, on the other, flattery of sinners under the
pretext of moderation.
to the end of the earth—(Jer 27:6-8). To the Caspian, Euxine, and
24. decree of the Most High—What was
termed in Da
4:17 by Nebuchadnezzar, "the
decree of the watchers," is here more accurately termed by
Daniel, "the decree of the Most High." They are but His
25. they shall drive thee—a
Chaldee idiom for "thou shalt be driven." Hypochondriacal
madness was his malady, which "drove" him under the fancy that he was a
beast, to "dwell with the beasts"; Da 4:34 proves this, "mine understanding
returned." The regency would leave him to roam in the large
beast-abounding parks attached to the palace.
eat grass—that is, vegetables, or
herbs in general (Ge 3:18).
they shall wet thee—that is, thou
shalt be wet.
till thou know, &c.—(Ps 83:17,
18; Jer 27:5).
26. thou shalt have known, &c.—a
promise of spiritual grace to him, causing the judgment to humble, not
harden, his heart.
heavens do rule—The plural is
used, as addressed to Nebuchadnezzar, the head of an organized earthly
kingdom, with various principalities under the supreme ruler. So "the
kingdom of heaven" (Mt 4:17;
Greek, "kingdom of the heavens") is a manifold
organization, composed of various orders of angels, under the Most High
(Eph 1:20, 21; 3:10; Col 1:16).
27. break off—as a galling yoke (Ge 27:40); sin is a heavy load (Mt 11:28). The Septuagint and
Vulgate translate not so well, "redeem," which is made an
argument for Rome's doctrine of the expiation of sins by meritorious
works. Even translate it so, it can only mean; Repent and show the
reality of thy repentance by works of justice and charity (compare
11:41); so God will remit thy
punishment. The trouble will be longer before it comes, or shorter when
it does come. Compare the cases of Hezekiah, Isa 38:1-5; Nineveh, Jon
3:5-10; Jer 18:7, 8. The
change is not in God, but in the sinner who repents. As the king who
had provoked God's judgments by sin, so he might avert it by a return
to righteousness (compare Ps 41:1, 2; Ac 8:22). Probably, like most Oriental despots,
Nebuchadnezzar had oppressed the poor by forcing them to labor in his
great public works without adequate remuneration.
if … lengthening of …
tranquillity—if haply thy present prosperity shall be
29. twelve months—This respite was
granted to him to leave him without excuse. So the hundred twenty years
granted before the flood (Ge 6:3). At
the first announcement of the coming judgment he was alarmed, as Ahab
21:27), but did not
thoroughly repent; so when judgment was not executed at once, he
thought it would never come, and so returned to his former pride (Ec 8:11).
in the palace—rather, upon the (flat)
palace roof, whence he could contemplate the splendor of Babylon. So
the heathen historian, Abydenus,
records. The palace roof was the scene of the fall of another king
11:2). The outer wall of
Nebuchadnezzar's new palace embraced six miles; there were two other
embattled walls within, and a great tower, and three brazen gates.
30. Babylon, that I have built—Herodotus ascribes the building of Babylon to
Semiramis and Nitocris, his informant under the Persian dynasty
giving him the Assyrian and Persian account. Berosus and Abydenus
give the Babylonian account, namely, that Nebuchadnezzar added
much to the old city, built a splendid palace and city walls. Herodotus, the so-called "father of history,"
does not even mention Nebuchadnezzar. (Nitocris, to whom he attributes
the beautifying of Babylon, seems to have been Nebuchadnezzar's wife).
Hence infidels have doubted the Scripture account. But the latter is
proved by thousands of bricks on the plain, the inscriptions of which
have been deciphered, each marked "Nebuchadnezzar, the son of
Nabopolassar." "Built," that is, restored and enlarged (2Ch 11:5, 6). It is curious, all the bricks
have been found with the stamped face downwards. Scarcely a figure in
stone, or tablet, has been dug out of the rubbish heaps of Babylon,
whereas Nineveh abounds in them; fulfilling Jer 51:37, "Babylon shall become heaps."
The "I" is emphatic, by which he puts himself in the place of
God; so the "my … my." He impiously opposes his might to
God's, as though God's threat, uttered a year before, could never come
to pass. He would be more than man; God, therefore, justly, makes him
less than man. An acting over again of the fall; Adam, once lord of the
world and the very beasts (Ge 1:28; so
Nebuchadnezzar Da 2:38),
would be a god (Ge 3:5);
therefore he must die like the beasts (Ps 82:6; 49:12). The second Adam restores the forfeited
inheritance (Ps 8:4-8).
31. While, &c.—in the very act of
speaking, so that there could be no doubt as to the connection between
the crime and the punishment. So Lu 12:19, 20.
O king … to thee it is
spoken—Notwithstanding thy kingly power, to thee thy
doom is now spoken, there is to be no further
33. driven from men—as a maniac fancying
himself a wild beast. It is possible, a conspiracy of his nobles may
have co-operated towards his having been "driven" forth as an
hairs … eagles' feathers—matted
together, as the hair-like, thick plumage of the ossifraga eagle. The
"nails," by being left uncut for years, would become like "claws."
34. lifted up mine eyes unto
heaven—whence the "voice" had issued (Da 4:31) at the beginning of his visitation.
Sudden mental derangement often has the effect of annihilating the
whole interval, so that, when reason returns, the patient remembers
only the event that immediately preceded his insanity. Nebuchadnezzar's
looking up towards heaven was the first symptom of his "understanding"
having "returned." Before, like the beasts, his eyes had been downward
to the earth. Now, like Jonah's (Jon 2:1, 2, 4) out of the fish's belly, they are
lifted up to heaven in prayer. He turns to Him that smiteth him (Isa 9:13), with the faint glimmer of reason
left to him, and owns God's justice in punishing him.
praised … him—Praise is a sure
sign of a soul spiritually healed (Ps 116:12, 14; Mr 5:15,
I … honoured him—implying that
the cause of his chastisement was that he had before robbed God of His
everlasting dominion—not temporary or
mutable, as a human king's dominion.
35. all … as nothing—(Isa 40:15, 17).
according to his will in …
heaven—(Ps 115:3; 135:6; Mt 6:10; Eph
army—the heavenly hosts, angels and
starry orbs (compare Isa 24:21).
none … stay his hand—literally,
"strike His hand." Image from striking the hand of another, to check
him in doing anything (Isa 43:13; 45:9).
What doest thou—(Job 9:12; Ro
36. An inscription in the East India Company's
Museum is read as describing the period of Nebuchadnezzar's insanity
[G. V. Smith]. In the so-called standard
inscription read by Sir H. Rawlinson,
Nebuchadnezzar relates that during four (?) years he ceased to lay out
buildings, or to furnish with victims Merodach's altar, or to clear out
the canals for irrigation. No other instance in the cuneiform
inscriptions occurs of a king recording his own inaction.
my counsellors … sought unto
me—desired to have me, as formerly, to be their head, wearied
with the anarchy which prevailed in my absence (compare Note,
see on Da 4:33); the likelihood of a conspiracy
of the nobles is confirmed by this verse.
majesty was added—My authority was
greater than ever before (Job 42:12; Pr 22:4; "added," Mt 6:33).
37. praise … extol …
honour—He heaps word on word, as if he cannot say enough in
praise of God.
all whose works … truth …
judgment—that is, are true and just (Re 15:3; 16:7). God has not dealt unjustly or
too severely with me; whatever I have suffered, I deserved it all. It
is a mark of true contrition to condemn one's self, and justify God
those that walk in pride …
abase—exemplified in me. He condemns himself before the whole
world, in order to glorify God.