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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.


Here Nebuchadnezzar relates his dream, of which the interpretation will follow in its place. Yet because this narrative is cold and useless unless we should say something of the subject itself, it is necessary to make some remarks — the rest shall be deferred. First of all, under the figure of a tree Nebuchadnezzar himself is intended, not because it fully represents the king’s office, but because God appointed the existence of governments in the world for this purpose—to be like trees on whose fruits all men feed, and under whose shadow they rest. Hence this ordinance of God flourishes, because tyrants, however they are removed from the exercise of just and moderate dominion, whether they wish it or not, are compelled to be like trees; since it is better to live under the most cruel tyrant than without any government at all. Let us suppose all to be on one equal level, what would such anarchy bring forth? No one would wish to yield to others; every one would try the extent of his powers, and thus all would end in prey and plunder, and in the mere license of fraud and murder, and all the passions of mankind would have full and unbridled sway. Hence I have said, tyranny is better than anarchy, and more easily borne, because where there is no supreme governor there is none to preside and keep the rest in check. Wherefore they philosophize too minutely who think this to be a description of a king endued with superior virtues; for there was no such superiority in justice and equity in King Nebuchadnezzar. God principally wished to shew, by this figure, with what intention and with what political order he desires the world to be governed; and why he sets over it kings and monarchies and other magistrates. Then he desired to shew, secondly, although tyrants and other princes forget their duty, it is still divinely enjoined upon them, and yet God’s grace always shines forth in all governments. Tyrants endeavor to extinguish the whole light of equity and justice, and to mingle all things; but the Lord meanwhile restrains them in a secret and wonderful manner, and thus they are compelled to act usefully to the human race, whether they will or not. This then is the meaning of the figure or image of the tree.

It is now added, the birds of heaven dwelt amidst the branches, and the beasts lived by its sustenancewhich ought to be referred to mankind. For although even the beasts of the field profit by political order, yet we know society to have been ordained by God for the benefit of men. There is no doubt at all of the whole discourse being metaphorical, —nay, properly speaking, it is an allegory, since an allegory is only a continued metaphor. If Daniel had only represented the king under the figure of a tree, it would have been a metaphor; but when he pursues his own train of thought in a continuous tenor, his discourse becomes allegorical. He says, therefore, the beasts of the field dwelt under the tree, because we are sheltered by the protection of magistrates; and no heat of the sun so parches and burns up miserable men as living deprived of that shade under which God wished them to, repose. The birds of heaven also nestled in its boughs and leaves Some distinguish, with too much subtlety, between birds and beasts. It is sufficient for us to observe the Prophet noticing how men of every rank feel no small utility in the protection of princes; for if they were deprived of it, it were better for them to live like wild beasts than mutually to confide in each other. Such protection is needful, if we reflect upon the great pride natural to all, and the blindness of our self-love, and the furiousness of our lusts. As this is the case, God shews, in this dream, how all orders among us need the protection of magistrates; while pasture and food and shelter signify the various forms of usefulness which political order provides for us. For some might object—they have no need of government either for one reason or another; for if we discharge properly all the duties of life, we shall always. find God’s blessing sufficient for us.

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