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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.


Daniel proceeds with the explanation of the king’s dream, to whom the last verse which I explained yesterday applies. This ought to be expressed, because this message was sorrowful and bitter for the king. We know how indignantly kings are usually compelled not only to submit to orders, but even to be cited before God’s tribunal, where they must be overwhelmed in shame and disgrace. For we know how prosperity intoxicates the plebeian race. What, then, can happen to kings except forgetfulness of the condition of our nature when they attempt to free themselves from all inconvenience and trouble? For they do not consider themselves subject to the common necessities of mankind. As, therefore, Nebuchadnezzar could scarcely bear this message, here the Prophet admonishes him in a few words concerning the cutting down of the tree as the figure of that ruin which hung over him. He now follows this up at length, when he says, They shall cast thee out from among men, and thy habitation shall be with the beasts of the field. When Daniel had previously discoursed upon the Four Monarchies, there is no doubt about the king’s mind being at first exasperated; but this was far more severe, and in the king’s opinion far less tolerable, as he is compared to wild beasts, and cut off from the number of mankind, and then he was driven into the fields and woods to feed with the wild beasts. If Daniel had only said the king was to be despoiled of his royal dignity, he would have been greatly offended by that disgrace, but when he was subject to such extreme shame, he was, doubtless, inwardly maddened by it. But God still restrained his fury lest he should desire to be revenged upon the supposed injury which he suffered. For we shall afterwards see from the context that he did not grow wise again. Since, therefore, he always cherished the same pride, there is no doubt of his cruelty, for these two vices were united; but the Lord restrained his madness, and spared his holy Prophet. Meanwhile, the constancy of God’s servant is worthy of observation, as he does not obliquely hint at what should happen to the king, but relates clearly and at length how base and disgraceful a condition remained for him. They shall cast thee out, says he, from among men If he had said, thou shalt be as it were one of the common herd, and shalt not differ from the very dregs of the people, this would have been very severe. But when the king is ejected from the society of mankind, so that not a single corner remains, and he is not allowed to spend his life among ox-herds and swineherds, every one may judge for himself how odious this would be; nor does Daniel here hesitate to pronounce such a judgment.

The following clause has the same or at least similar weight, — Thy dwelling, says he, shall be with the beasts of the field, and its herb shall feed thee The plural number is used indefinitely in the original; and hence it may be properly translated, “Thou shalt feed on grass; thou shalt be watered by the dew of heaven; thy dwelling shall be with wild beasts.” I do not wish to philosophize with subtlety, as some do, who understand angels. I confess this to be true; but the Prophet simply teaches punishment to be at hand for the king of Babylon, while he should be reduced to extreme ignominy, and differ in nothing from the brutes. This liberty, therefore, as I have said, is worthy of notice, to shew us how God’s servants, who have to discharge the duty of teaching, cannot faithfully act their part unless they shut their eyes and despise all worldly grandeur. Hence, by the example of the king, let us learn our duty, and not be stubborn and perverse when God threatens us. Although, as we have said, Nebuchadnezzar did not grow wise, as the context will shew us, yet we shall see how he bore the terrible judgment denounced against him. If, therefore, we, who are but as refuse compared to him, cannot bear God’s threats when they are set before us,-he will be our witness and judge, who, though possessed of such mighty power, dared nothing against the Prophet. Now, at the end of the verse, the sentence formerly explained is repeated, — Until thou dost acknowledge, says he, how great a Lord there is in the kingdom of men, who delivers it to whomsoever he will. This passage teaches us again how difficult it is for us to attribute supreme power to God. In our language, indeed, we are great heralds of God’s glory, but still every one restricts his power, either by usurping something to himself, or by transferring it to some one else. Especially when God raises us to any degree of dignity, we forget ourselves to be men, and snatch away God’s honor from him, and desire to substitute ourselves for him. This disease is cured with difficulty, and the punishment which God inflicted on the king of Babylon is an example to us. A slight chastisement would have been sufficient unless this madness had been deeply seated in his bowels and marrow, since men claim to themselves the peculiar property of God. Hence they have need of a violent medicine to learn modesty and humility. In these days, monarchs, in their titles, always put forward themselves as kings, generals, and counts, by the grace of God; but how many falsely pretend to apply God’s name to themselves, for the purpose of securing the supreme power! For what is the meaning of that title of kings and princes — “by the grace of God?” except to avoid the acknowledgment of a superior. Meanwhile, they willingly trample upon that God with whose shield they protect themselves, — so far are they from seriously thinking themselves to reign by his permission! It is mere pretense, therefore, to boast that they reign through God’s favor. Since this is so, we may easily judge how proudly profane kings despise God, even though they make no fallacious use of his name, as those triflers who openly fawn upon him, and thus profane the name of his grace! It now follows:

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