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Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream


King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages that live throughout the earth: May you have abundant prosperity! 2The signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount.


How great are his signs,

how mighty his wonders!

His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,

and his sovereignty is from generation to generation.

4 I, Nebuchadnezzar, was living at ease in my home and prospering in my palace. 5I saw a dream that frightened me; my fantasies in bed and the visions of my head terrified me. 6So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, in order that they might tell me the interpretation of the dream. 7Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the diviners came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not tell me its interpretation. 8At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and who is endowed with a spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream: 9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that you are endowed with a spirit of the holy gods and that no mystery is too difficult for you. Hear the dream that I saw; tell me its interpretation.


Upon my bed this is what I saw;

there was a tree at the center of the earth,

and its height was great.


The tree grew great and strong,

its top reached to heaven,

and it was visible to the ends of the whole earth.


Its foliage was beautiful,

its fruit abundant,

and it provided food for all.

The animals of the field found shade under it,

the birds of the air nested in its branches,

and from it all living beings were fed.


13 “I continued looking, in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and there was a holy watcher, coming down from heaven. 14He cried aloud and said:

‘Cut down the tree and chop off its branches,

strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit.

Let the animals flee from beneath it

and the birds from its branches.


But leave its stump and roots in the ground,

with a band of iron and bronze,

in the tender grass of the field.

Let him be bathed with the dew of heaven,

and let his lot be with the animals of the field

in the grass of the earth.


Let his mind be changed from that of a human,

and let the mind of an animal be given to him.

And let seven times pass over him.


The sentence is rendered by decree of the watchers,

the decision is given by order of the holy ones,

in order that all who live may know

that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdom of mortals;

he gives it to whom he will

and sets over it the lowliest of human beings.’


18 “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation, since all the wise men of my kingdom are unable to tell me the interpretation. You are able, however, for you are endowed with a spirit of the holy gods.”

Daniel Interprets the Second Dream

19 Then Daniel, who was called Belteshazzar, was severely distressed for a while. His thoughts terrified him. The king said, “Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or the interpretation terrify you.” Belteshazzar answered, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you, and its interpretation for your enemies! 20The tree that you saw, which grew great and strong, so that its top reached to heaven and was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and which provided food for all, under which animals of the field lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air had nests— 22it is you, O king! You have grown great and strong. Your greatness has increased and reaches to heaven, and your sovereignty to the ends of the earth. 23And whereas the king saw a holy watcher coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave its stump and roots in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze, in the grass of the field; and let him be bathed with the dew of heaven, and let his lot be with the animals of the field, until seven times pass over him’— 24this is the interpretation, O king, and it is a decree of the Most High that has come upon my lord the king: 25You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the wild animals. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, you shall be bathed with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals, and gives it to whom he will. 26As it was commanded to leave the stump and roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be re-established for you from the time that you learn that Heaven is sovereign. 27Therefore, O king, may my counsel be acceptable to you: atone for your sins with righteousness, and your iniquities with mercy to the oppressed, so that your prosperity may be prolonged.”

Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation

28 All this came upon King Nebuchadnezzar. 29At the end of twelve months he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 30and the king said, “Is this not magnificent Babylon, which I have built as a royal capital by my mighty power and for my glorious majesty?” 31While the words were still in the king’s mouth, a voice came from heaven: “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: The kingdom has departed from you! 32You shall be driven away from human society, and your dwelling shall be with the animals of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like oxen, and seven times shall pass over you, until you have learned that the Most High has sovereignty over the kingdom of mortals and gives it to whom he will.” 33Immediately the sentence was fulfilled against Nebuchadnezzar. He was driven away from human society, ate grass like oxen, and his body was bathed with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew as long as eagles’ feathers and his nails became like birds’ claws.

Nebuchadnezzar Praises God

34 When that period was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me.

I blessed the Most High,

and praised and honored the one who lives forever.

For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty,

and his kingdom endures from generation to generation.


All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,

and he does what he wills with the host of heaven

and the inhabitants of the earth.

There is no one who can stay his hand

or say to him, “What are you doing?”

36 At that time my reason returned to me; and my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom. My counselors and my lords sought me out, I was re-established over my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. 37Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven,

for all his works are truth,

and his ways are justice;

and he is able to bring low

those who walk in pride.


The Prophet again introduces King Nebuchadnezzar as the speaker. He says, then, After that time had elapsed, he raised his eyes to heaven Without doubt, he means those seven years. As to his then beginning to raise his eyes to heaven, this shews how long it takes to cure pride, the disease under which he labored. For when any vital part of the body is corrupt and decaying, its cure is difficult and tedious; so also when pride exists in men’s hearts, and gains an entrance within the marrow, and infects the inmost soul, it is not easily plucked out; and this is worthy of notice. Then we are taught how God by his word so operated upon King Nebuchadnezzar, as not immediately and openly to withdraw the effect of his grace. Nebuchadnezzar profited by being’ treated disgracefully during those seven years or times, and by being driven from the society of mankind; but he could not perceive this at once till God opened his eyes. So, therefore, God often chastises us, and invites us by degrees, and prepares us for repentance, but his grace is not immediately acknowledged. But lest I should be too prolix, I will leave the rest till to-morrow.

Now the opposite clause is added to complete the contrast, because though it follows that nothing is firm or solid in mankind, yet this principle flourishes, namely, God is eternal; yet few reason thus, because in words all allow God to be firm and everlasting, yet they do not descend into themselves and seriously weigh their own frailty. Thus, being unmindful of their own lot, they rage against God himself. The explanation then which occurs here is required; for after Nebuchadnezzar praises God, because his power is eternal, he adds by way of contrast, all the dwellers on the earth are considered as nothing. Some take כלה, keleh, for a single word, meaning “anything complete,” for כלה, keleh, is to “finish,” or “complete;” it also signifies to “consume” sometimes, whence they think the noun to be derived, because men are limited within their own standard, but God is immense. This is harsh; the more received opinion is, that ה, he, is put for א, a, here; and thus Nebuchadnezzar says, men are esteemed as of no value before God. Already, then, we see how suitably these two clauses agree together; for God is an eternal king, and men are as nothing in comparison with him. For if anything is attributed to men as springing from themselves, it so far detracts from the supreme power and empire of God. It follows, then, that God does not; entirely receive his rights, until all mortals are reduced to nothing. For although men make themselves of very great importance, yet Nebuchadnezzar here pronounces himself by the Spirit’s instinct, to be of no value before God; for otherwise they would not attempt to raise themselves, unless they were utterly blind in the midst of their darkness. But when they are dragged into the light they feel their own nothingness and utter vanity. For whatever we are, this depends on God’s grace, which sustains us every moment, and supplies us with new vigor. Hence it is our duty to depend upon God only; because as soon as he withdraws his hand and the virtue of his Spirit, we vanish away. In God we are anything he pleases, in ourselves we are nothing.

It now follows: God does according to his pleasure in the army of the heavens, and among the dwellers upon earth This may seem absurd, since God is said to act according to his will, as if’ there were no moderation, or equity, or rule of justice, with him. But we must bear in mind, what we read elsewhere concerning men being ruled by laws, since their will is perverse, and they are borne along in any direction by their unruly lust; but God is a law to himself, because his will is the most perfect justice. As often, then, as Scripture sets before us the power of God, and commands us to be content with it, it does not attribute a tyrannical empire to God, according to the calumnies of the impious. But because we do not cease to cavil against God, and oppose our reason to his secret counsels, and thus strive with him, as if he did not act justly and fairly when he does anything which we disapprove; hence God pronounces all things to be done according to his own will, so that the Holy Spirit may restrain this audacity. We should remember then, when mention is made of God, how impossible it is for anything either perverse or unjust to belong’ to him; his will cannot be turned aside by any affection, for it is the perfection of justice. Since this is so, we should remember how extremely unbridled and perverse our rashness is, while we dare object to anything which God does; whence the necessity of this teaching which puts the bridle of modesty upon us is proved, since God does all things according to his will, as it is said in Psalm 115:3, Our God in heaven does what he wishes. From this sentence we gather that nothing happens by chance, but every event in the world depends on God’s secret providence. We ought not to admit any distinction between God’s permission and his wish. For we see the Holy Spirit — the best master of language — here clearly expresses two things; first, what God does; and next, what he does by his own will. But permission, according to those vain speculators, differs from will; as if God unwillingly granted what he did not wish to happen! Now, there is nothing more ridiculous than to ascribe this weakness to God. Hence the efficacy of action is added; God does what he wishes, says Nebuchadnezzar. He does not speak in a carnal but in a spiritual sense, or instinct, as we have said; since the Prophet must be attended to just as if he had been sent from heaven. Now, therefore, we understand how this world is administered by God’s secret providence, and that nothing happens but what he has commanded and decreed; while he ought with justice to be esteemed the Author of all things.

Some object here to the apparent absurdity of saying God is the author of sin, if nothing is done without his will; nay, if he himself works it! This calumny is easily answered, as the method of God’s action differs materially from that of men. For when any man sins, God works in his own manner, which is very different indeed from that of man, since he exercises his own judgment, and thus is said to blind and to harden. As God therefore commands both the reprobate and the evil one, he permits them to indulge in all kinds of licentiousness, and in doing so, executes his own judgments. But he who sins is deservedly guilty, and cannot implicate God as a companion of his wickedness. And why so? Because God has nothing in common with him in reference to sinfulness. Hence we see how these things which we may deem contrary to one another, are mutually accordant, since God by his own will governs all events in the world, and yet is not the author of sin. And why so? Because he treats Satan and all the wicked with the strict justice of a judge. We do not always see the process, but we must hold this principle with firmness — supreme power is in God’s hands; hence we must not cavil at his judgments, however inexplicable they may appear to us. Wherefore this phrase follows, There is no one who can hinder his hand, or can say unto him, Why dost thou act thus? When Nebuchadnezzar says, God’s hand cannot be hindered, he uses this method of deriding human folly which does not hesitate to rebel against God. Already they raise their finger to prevent, if possible, the power of his hand; and even when convicted of weakness, they proceed in their own fury. Nebuchadnezzar, then, deservedly displays their ridiculous madness in conducting themselves so intemperately in wishing to restrain the Almighty, and to confine him within their bounds, and to fabricate chains for the purpose of restricting him. When mankind thus burst forth into sacrilegious fury, they deserve to be laughed at, and this is here the force of Daniel’s words.

He afterwards adds, No one can say, Why dost thou act thus? We know how they gave way to the language of extreme petulance; since scarcely one man in a hundred restrains himself with such sobriety as to attribute the glory to God, and to confess himself just in his works. But Nebuchadnezzar does not here consider what men are accustomed to do, but what they ought to do. He says therefore, and with strict justice, God cannot be corrected; since however the reprobate chatter, their folly is self-evident, for it has neither reason nor the pretense of reason to support it.

The whole sense is — God’s will is our law, against which we strive in vain; and then, if he permits us sufficient license, and our infirmity breaks forth against him, and we contend with him, all our efforts will be futile. God himself will be justified in his judgments, and thus every human countenance must submit to him. (Psalm 51:6.) This is the general rule.

We must now notice the addition, God’s will must be done as well in the army of heaven as among the inhabitants of earth By “the army of heaven” I do not understand, as in other places, the sun, moon, and stars, but angels and even demons, who may be called heavenly without absurdity, if we consider their origin, and their being “princes of the air.” Hence Daniel means to imply angels, demons, and men, to be equally governed by God’s will; and although the impious rush on intemperately, yet they are restrained by a secret bridle, and are prevented from executing whatever their lusts dictate. God therefore is said to do in the army of the heavens and also among men whatsoever he wishes; because he has the elect angels always obedient to him, and the devils are compelled to obey his command, although they strive in the contrary direction. We know how strongly the demons resist God, but yet they are compelled to obey him, not willingly, but by compulsion. But God acts among angels and demons just as among the inhabitants of the earth. He governs others by his Spirit, namely, his elect, who are afterwards regenerated by his Spirit, and they are so treated by him that his justice may truly shine forth in all their actions. He also acts upon the reprobate, but in another manner; for he draws them headlong by means of the devil; he impels them with his secret virtue; he strikes them by a spirit of dizziness; he blinds them and casts upon them a reprobate spirit, and hardens their hearts to contumacy. Behold how God does all things according to his own will among men and angels! There is also another mode of action, as far as concerns our outward condition; for God raises one aloft and depresses another. (Psalm 113:7.) Thus we see the rich made poor, and others raised from the dunghill, and placed in the highest stations of honor. The profane call this the sport of fortune! But the moderation of God’s providence is most just, although incomprehensible. Thus God acts according to his will among men and angels; but that interior action must be put in the first place, as we have said. It now follows:

Here Nebuchadnezzar explains at length what he had previously touched upon but shortly; for he had recovered his soundness of mind, and thus commends God’s mercy in being content with a moderate and temporary chastisement; and then he stretched forth his hand, and out of a beast formed a man again! He was not changed into a brute, as we have said, but he was treated with such ignominy, and made like wild beasts, and pastured with them. This deformity, then, was so dreadful, that his restoration might be called a kind of new creation. Hence with very good reason Nebuchadnezzar celebrates this grace of God. At that time, therefore, my intellect returned to me; he had said this once before, but since understanding and reason are inestimable blessings of God, Nebuchadnezzar inculcates this truth, and confesses himself to have experienced God’s singular grace, because he had returned to a sound mind. And at the same time he adds, he had returned to the honor and glory of his kingdom; because he had been consulted again by his counselors and elders How this was accomplished is unknown, since the memory of those times is buried, unless the princes of his kingdom were inclined to clemency — which is very probable — and desired among them the king who had been cast out. We do not say this was done by them on purpose, because God made use of them, and they were ignorantly carrying out his purposes. They had heard the voice from heaven, O King Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is said, thy kingdom is departed from thee! This indeed would be universally known and understood among all men; but we know how easily oblivion creeps over men when God speaks. These princes, then, were unaware of their doing God’s work when they demanded their king. In this way he returned to the dignity of his kingdom; and even additional dignity was next conferred upon him. At length it follows:

At the close of the edict, Nebuchadnezzar joins the ingenuous confession of his faults with the praises of God! What he says of the proud, he doubtless applies properly to himself; as if he had said, God wished to constitute me a remarkable monument of his method of humbling the proud for the instruction of all mankind. For I was inflated with pride, and God corrected this by so remarkable a punishment, that my example ought to profit the world at large. Hence I said, King Nebuchadnezzar does not simply return thanks to God, but at the same time confesses his fault, for though subdued with deserved harshness, yet his haughtiness could not be arrested by any lighter remedy. First of all he says, I praise, extol, and glorify the king of heaven! This heaping together of words doubtless proceeded from vehement affection. At the same time a contrast must be understood, on the principle formerly mentioned; since God is never rightly praised unless the ignominy of men is detected; he is not properly extolled, unless their loftiness is cast down; he is never glorified unless men are buried in shame and he prostrate in the dust. Hence, while Nebuchadnezzar here praises, extols, and glorifies God, he also confesses himself and all mortals to be nothing — as he did before — to deserve no praise but rather the utmost ignominy.

He adds, since all his works are truth Here קשוט, kesot, is taken for “rectitude or integrity.” For דיני-אמת, dini-ameth, mean true judgments, but refer here to equity. God’s works are therefore all truth, that is, all integrity, as if he had said, none of God’s works deserve blame. Then the explanation Follows, All his ways are judgments We see here the praise of God’s perfect justice; this ought to be referred to Nebuchadnezzar personally, as if he had said, God does not deal with me too strictly; I have no reason for expostulating with him, or for murmuring as if he were too severe with me. I confess, therefore, that I deserve whatever punishment I sustain. And why so? All his ways are justice; meaning the highest rectitude. Then, All his works are truth; that is, nothing contrary to equity is found there, nothing crooked, but everywhere the highest justice will shine forth. We see then how Nebuchadnezzar by this language condemns himself out of his own mouth by declaring God’s justice to be in all his works. This general form of expression does not prevent Nebuchadnezzar from openly and freely confessing himself a criminal before God’s tribunal; but it acquires greater force by his example, which admonishes us by the general confession of God’s justice, rectitude, and truthfulness in whatever he does. And this is worthy of notice, since many find no difficulty in celebrating God’s justice and rectitude when they are treated just as they like; but if God begins to treat them with severity, they then vomit forth their poison, and begin to quarrel with God, and to accuse him of injustice and cruelty. Since therefore Nebuchadnezzar here confesses God to be just and true in all his works, without any exception, notwithstanding his own severe chastisements, this confession is not feigned; for he necessarily utters what he says from the lowest depths of his heart, through his having experienced the rigor of the divine judgment.

He now adds at last, He can humble those who walk in pride. Here Nebuchadnezzar more openly displays his own disgrace, for he is not ashamed to confess his fault before the whole world, because his punishment was known to every one. As God then wished his folly to be universally detested, by making so horrible an example of him by his punishment, so Nebuchadnezzar now brings his own case forward, and bears witness to the justice of the penalty, in consequence of his extreme pride. Here then we see God’s power joined with his justice, as we have previously mentioned. He does not attribute to God a tyranny free from all law; for as soon as Nebuchadnezzar had confessed all God’s ways to be just, he condemns himself of pride directly afterwards. Hence he does not hesitate to expose his disgrace before mankind, that God may be glorified. And this is the true method of praising God, not only by confessing ourselves to be as nothing, but also by looking back upon our failings. We ought not only to acknowledge ourselves inwardly guilty before him, but also openly to testify the same before all mankind whenever it is necessary. And when he uses the word “humility,” this may be referred to outward dejection; for Nebuchadnezzar was humbled when God east him out into the woods to pass his life in company with the wild beasts. But he was also humbled for another reason, as if he had been a son of God. Since this humbling is twofold, Nebuchadnezzar wishes here to express the former kind, because God prostrates and throws down the proud. This is one kind of humiliation; but it becomes profitless unless God afterwards governs us by a spirit of submission. Hence Nebuchadnezzar does not here embrace the grace of God, which was worthy of no common praise and exaltation; and in this edict he does not describe what is required of a pious man long trained in God’s school; yet he shews how he had profited under God’s rod, by attributing to him the height of power. Besides this, he adds the praise of justice and rectitude, while he confesses himself guilty, and bears witness to the justice of the punishment which had been divinely inflicted on him.

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