Scripture reading – Daniel 4

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King Nebuchadnezzar was one of history’s greatest rulers and a man whose life was a testimony to the sovereignty of God. In the words of the prophet Jeremiah, Nebuchadnezzar was the servant of the LORD. God employed the king’s ambitions to judge Judah for that nation’s sin and rebellion (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10).

Nebuchadnezzar was no stranger to pride. He was the most powerful figure in the world of his day. His accomplishments were unrivaled. He was a mighty warrior, a great administrator, a visionary, and a master builder. His tenure as king spanned 43 years (605 BC-562 B.C.), and during his reign, Babylon grew from a city-state to an empire. Babylon, the capital city of the Chaldean empire, encompassed an estimated 14 square miles and was fortified by a triple line of walls. The outermost wall is believed to have stood 300 feet high and was 80 feet across at the top (described as wide enough for four chariots to race abreast).


Daniel 4 – The Trouble with Pride


Nebuchadnezzar’s Testimony (Daniel 4:1-3)

Notice that Daniel 4 records the king’s salutation to the people of his realm and a statement concerning his observations and experiences in life. Addressing in regal fashion “all people, nations, and languages” (Daniel 4:1), Nebuchadnezzar expressed his reason for addressing the citizens of his empire: “2I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. 3How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:2–3).

Those were not the words you expect from a ruthless, murderous pagan king. What had wrought such a profound change in the king? How did one of the most significant figures in human history come to express praise and faith in One God? Is it possible that the God of Israel and Daniel was no longer one deity among the king’s many idols and images?

Nebuchadnezzar’s Trepidation

Nebuchadnezzar’s Trepidation (4:4-18)

Daniel 4 finds Nebuchadnezzar enjoying the “golden years” of his reign. He was “at rest” (Daniel 4:4a), and his war years were behind him. The king was enjoying the fruits of his labor and the spoils of war; however, he was troubled by a dream, a vision that demanded interpretation.

The king summoned the wise men of Babylon” to interpret his dream. However, when he told them the vision of his dream, they “did not make known” to the king the meaning of his dream (notice the Scriptures do not say, “they did not know” but that “they did not make known” (Daniel 4:6-7). Finally, the king summoned Daniel and was confident he could interpret his dream and give him its meaning (Daniel 4:8-9). The king told Daniel his dream (Daniel 4:10-18), and when he was finished, we read that Daniel was speechless for an hour (Daniel 4:19).


Daniel’s Troubled Thoughts (Daniel 4:19-26)

Nebuchadnezzar, seeing that Daniel (also known by his Chaldean name, Belteshazzar) was troubled by the meaning of his dream (Daniel 4:19), urged him to interpret his dream. Daniel answered the king’s command by tactfully preparing him for the bad news, saying, “My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies” (Daniel 4:19c).

Daniel then explained the dream and said that the tree was a symbol of the king’s power and accomplishments (Daniel 4:20a, 22b). However, like the tree, Nebuchadnezzar would soon be cut down, deemed insane, and driven from the palace, where he would spend seven years living like a wild beast. Daniel urged the king to repent of his pride and warned him that only when he acknowledged the sovereignty of God on the earth would he be healed and restored as king (Daniel 4:26-27).


Nebuchadnezzar’s Trial (Daniel 4:28-34)

Twelve months passed (Daniel 4:29), and God patiently waited for the king to repent of his sinful pride and acknowledge Him as Sovereign. Finally, one day as Nebuchadnezzar was walking about the terrace of his palace, he boasted, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30)

The king’s pride exceeded God’s patience. The time of God’s judgment had come, and there was no further delay. We read, “While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee” (Daniel 4:31).

Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of his palace and lived like a wild beast for seven years. When the years of his humiliation were accomplished, “Nebuchadnezzar lifted up [his] eyes unto heaven, and [his] understanding returned unto [him] (Daniel 4:34a). The king acknowledged God’s rule, power, and the breadth of His eternal kingdom.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Transformation

Nebuchadnezzar’s Transformation (Daniel 4:34-35)

Nebuchadnezzar then confessed that the God of heaven is immutable. His kingdom and reign are eternal, “from generation to generation” (Daniel 4:34b). As He promised, the LORD restored the king to his throne (Daniel 4:36). Nebuchadnezzar confessed that the “King of heaven” is just. He can bring low the proud (Daniel 4:37). There is some dispute as to whether or not Nebuchadnezzar died a man of faith in the LORD as his God. However, there is no doubt that his life and transformation testified to God’s providence and grace.

Closing thoughts

The psalmist wrote, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4). It was only after Nebuchadnezzar was brought low that his heart and thoughts turned to the LORD.

I close on a personal note: Solomon observed, “For man also knoweth not his time” (Ecclesiastes 9:12). You and I cannot know when we might refuse to hear God’s Word for the last time. We do not know when we might listen to our final invitation or have the last opportunity to confess our sins, repent, and trust Christ as our Redeemer and Savior.

Please don’t wait until it is too late.

Copyright © 2024 – Travis D. Smith 

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