Daniel 4:10
Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
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(10) A tree.—For this symbol of majesty, comp. Ezekiel 31:3, &c. The dream of Cambyses (Herod. i. 108) was of a similar nature.

Daniel 4:10-16. I saw, &c. — The substance of what the king relates is, that he saw in a dream “a tree, strong and flourishing; [in the midst of the earth, or of his empire;] its summit pierced the clouds, and its branches overshadowed the whole extent of his vast dominions: it was laden with fruit, and luxuriant in its foliage: the cattle reposed in its shade, and the fowls of the air lodged in its branches, and multitudes partook of its delicious fruit. But the king saw a celestial being, a watcher, and a holy one, come down from heaven; and heard him give orders, with a loud voice, that the tree should be hewn down, its branches lopped off, and its fruit scattered, and nothing left of it but the stump of its roots in the earth, which was to be secured, however, with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field. Words of menace follow, which are applicable only to a man, and plainly show, that the whole vision was typical of some dreadful calamity, to fall for a time, but for a time only, on some one of the sons of men.” — Bishop Horsley. The whole of this allegorical dream is explained in the subsequent part of the chapter; and therefore it will only be necessary to notice here two or three of the singular expressions and particulars found in it.

1st, By the terms watcher and holy one, or, as the expression is, Daniel 4:17, watchers and holy ones, has generally been understood some principal angel, or angels, the angelical orders being described as always attending upon God’s throne to receive and execute his commands: see Psalm 103:20; Matthew 18:10; and notes on Ezekiel 1:11; Ezekiel 1:24. For which reason they are called the eyes of the Lord, Zechariah 4:10. But Bishop Horsley, in his sermon on the 17th verse, strongly combats, and seems to have fully confuted this opinion. His train of reasoning is too long to be inserted here, and indeed it is not necessary to insert it, the following short extract being quite sufficient to clear up the point. “Those who understand the titles of watchers and holy ones of angelic beings, agree, that they must be principal angels — angels of the highest orders; which, if they are angels at all, must certainly be supposed: for it is to be observed, that it is not the mere execution of the judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar, but the decree itself, which is ascribed to them. The whole matter originated in their decree; and at their command the decree was executed. The holy ones are not said to hew down the tree, but to give command for the hewing of it down. Of how high order, indeed, must these watchers and holy ones have been, on whose decrees the judgments of God himself are founded, and by whom the warrant for the execution is finally issued? It is surprising, that such men as Calvin among the Protestants of the continent — such as Wells and the elder Lowth in our own church — and such as Calmet in the Church of Rome, should not have their eyes open to the error, and impiety indeed, of such an exposition as this which makes them angels, especially when the learned Grotius, in the extraordinary manner in which he recommends it, had set forth its merits, as it should seem, in a true light, when he says, that it represents God as acting like a great monarch ‘upon a decree of his senate:’ and when another of the most learned of its advocates imagines something might pass in the celestial senate, bearing some analogy to the forms of legislation used in the assemblies of the people at Rome, in the times of the republic. It might have been expected that the exposition would have needed no other confutation, in the judgment of men of piety and sober minds, than this fair statement of its principles by its ablest advocates. “The plain truth is, that these appellations, Watchers and Holy Ones, denote the persons in the Godhead; the first describing them by the vigilance of their universal providence, the second by the transcendent sanctity of their nature. The word rendered Holy Ones is so applied in other texts of Scripture, which make the sense of the other word, coupled with it here, indisputable. In perfect consistency with this exposition, and with no other, we find, in the 24th verse, that this decree of the Watchers and the Holy Ones is the decree of the Most High God; and in Daniel 4:13, God, who in regard to the plurality of the persons, is afterward described by these two plural nouns, Watchers and Holy Ones, is, in regard to the unity of the essence, described by the same nouns in the singular number, Watcher and Holy One. And this is a fuller confirmation of the truth of this exposition: for God is the only being to whom the same name in the singular and in the plural may be indiscriminately applied: and this change from the one number to another, without any thing in the principles of the language to account for it, is frequent in speaking of God in the Hebrew tongue, but unexampled in the case of any other being. The assertion, therefore, is, that God had decreed to execute a signal judgment upon Nebuchadnezzar for his pride and impiety, in order to prove, by the example of that mighty monarch, that ‘the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.’ To make the declaration the more solemn and striking, the terms in which it is conceived distinctly express that consent and concurrence of all the persons in the Trinity, in the design and execution of this judgment, which must be understood indeed in every act of the Godhead.”

2d, The command given by these watchers and holy ones may be considered as addressed to any of those creatures, animate or inanimate, that are to fulfil the Creator’s will; or the expression may be understood as being merely a prediction that the tree should be cut down, and its leaves shaken off, &c: and the hewing down of the tree signified only the removal of it for a time, not its entire destruction, because while the root remained in the ground new shoots might break forth, and so the tree grow up again. When it is added, let the beasts get away from under it, the meaning evidently is, let not his subjects rely upon him for protection, for he shall not be in a condition to afford them any, or to be the author of any good to them. Nevertheless (it is further commanded) leave the stump of his roots in the earth — By which is signified, that Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom should be preserved to him, and that no one should seize upon it during his exile, or affliction. The words, with a band of iron and brass, were meant to give still further assurance that his kingdom should remain unshaken and sure to him, like things held firm and immoveable by iron or brass. The next expression, in the tender grass of the field, either alludes to the circumstance of the stump of a tree lying buried and neglected in the field, till it is overgrown with grass and herbs, and so is not noticed; or it is a transition from the sign to the thing signified, from the tree to Nebuchadnezzar, represented by it, the tree with its stump being lost sight of, and a person coming in its stead, to whom only what follows is applicable. Let his heart be changed from man’s — “It is hard to say what the real nature of this transformation was. The Syriac seems to incline to a change of the mind, and probably it means no more than that his heart, or the nature of his constitution, was made savage and brutish, either by a real madness, or by such a slovenly neglect of himself, or deprivation of the proper use of his speech and limbs, as might reduce him to a state like the beasts. There is a kind of madness called lycanthropy, wherein men have the fury of wolves.” — Wintle. See Univ. Hist., p. 964. Scaliger thinks this madness of Nebuchadnezzar is obscurely hinted at in a document of Abydenus, produced by Eusebius; wherein, having represented the king, from the Chaldean writers, to have fallen into an ecstasy, and to have foretold the destruction of that empire by the Medes and Persians, the author adds, that immediately after uttering this prophecy he disappeared; which Scaliger expounds of the king’s being driven from his kingly state, and the society of men: see Scaliger’s notes upon the Ancient Fragments in the appendix to his work de Emendatione Temporum. See also Houbigant and Calmet on the metamorphosis of Nebuchadnezzar. And let seven times pass over him — Literally, Till seven times be changed upon him, that is, seven years, for so the expression evidently signifies in several parts of this book, as we shall see hereafter.

4:1-18 The beginning and end of this chapter lead us to hope, that Nebuchadnezzar was a monument of the power of Divine grace, and of the riches of Divine mercy. After he was recovered from his madness, he told to distant places, and wrote down for future ages, how God had justly humbled and graciously restored him. When a sinner comes to himself, he will promote the welfare of others, by making known the wondrous mercy of God. Nebuchadnezzar, before he related the Divine judgments upon him for his pride, told the warnings he had in a dream or vision. The meaning was explained to him. The person signified, was to be put down from honour, and to be deprived of the use of his reason seven years. This is surely the sorest of all temporal judgments. Whatever outward affliction God is pleased to lay upon us, we have cause to bear it patiently, and to be thankful that he continues the use of our reason, and the peace of our consciences. Yet if the Lord should see fit by such means to keep a sinner from multiplying crimes, or a believer from dishonouring his name, even the dreadful prevention would be far preferable to the evil conduct. God has determined it, as a righteous Judge, and the angels in heaven applaud. Not that the great God needs the counsel or concurrence of the angels, but it denotes the solemnity of this sentence. The demand is by the word of the holy ones, God's suffering people: when the oppressed cry to God, he will hear. Let us diligently seek blessings which can never be taken from us, and especially beware of pride and forgetfulness of God.Thus were the visions of my head in my bed - These are the things which I saw upon my bed. When he says that they were the "visions of his head," he states a doctrine which was then doubtless regarded as the truth, that the head is the seat of thought.

I saw - Margin, "was seeing." Chaldee, "seeing I saw." The phrase would imply attentive and calm contemplation. It was not a flitting vision; it was an object which he contemplated deliberately so as to retain a distinct remembrance of its form and appearance.

And, behold, a tree in the midst of the earth - Occupying a central position on the earth. It seems to have been by itself - remote from any forest: to have stood alone. Its central position, no less than its size and proportions, attracted his attention. Such a tree, thus towering to the heavens, and sending out its branches afar, and affording a shade to the beasts of the field, and a home to the fowls of heaven Daniel 4:12, was a striking emblem of a great and mighty monarch, and it undoubtedly occurred to Nebuchadnezzar at once that the vision had some reference to himself. Thus in Ezekiel 31:3, the Assyrian king is compared with a magnificent cedar: "Behold, the Assyrian was a cedar in Lebanon, with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of a high stature, and his top was among the thick boughs." Compare also Ezekiel 17:22-24, where "the high tree and the green tree" refer probably to Nebuchadnezzar. See the note at Isaiah 2:13. Compare Isaiah 10:18-19; Jeremiah 22:7, Jeremiah 22:23. Homer often compares his heroes to trees. Hector, felled by a stone, is compared with an oak overthrown by a thunderbolt. The fall of Simoisius is compared by him to that of a poplar, and that of Euphorbus to the fall of a beautiful olive. Nothing is more obvious than the comparison of a hero with a lofty tree of the forest, and hence, it was natural for Nebuchadnezzar to suppose that this vision had a reference to himself.

And the height thereof was great - In the next verse it is said to have reached to heaven.

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.

The visions of mine head; because the fancy and imagination is in the head; and he calls them

visions or

seeings, because eyes and sight are attributed to the understanding, and the thing seemed visible to him, as if he beheld it with his eyes.

A tree: those that write of the language of the East tell us that a tree denote some excellent man. Thus the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel 31 throughout, describes the king of Assyria, and Pharaoh king of Egypt, in their flourish, height, and great fall, comparing them to huge cedars.

Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed,.... So things appeared to my fancy thus; they ran in my head or brain in a dream in my bed, as if I saw them with my eyes, as follows; for so I thought,

I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth; an emblem of a powerful prince well settled, and strongly supported in his power and government; so the Assyrian monarch, Ezekiel 31:3 and here Nebuchadnezzar himself, as it is afterwards explained; who was well established in his monarchy, the metropolis of which was Babylon; and which stood pretty much in the midst of the then known world:

and the height thereof was great; taller than trees in common; denoting the superiority of the Babylonian monarch over all kings and kingdoms of the earth.

Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a {f} tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.

(f) By the tree is signified the dignity of a king whom God ordains to be a defence for every type of man, and whose state is profitable for mankind.

10–17. Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was of a mighty tree, the head of which towered to heaven, while its branches sheltered, and afforded nutriment for, the beasts and fowl of the earth: as he watched it, he heard the command given that it should be hewn down to the earth, and only its stump left standing. For the imagery, cf. Ezekiel 31:3-10 ff. (where the Assyrian is compared to a magnificent cedar, towering up loftily in Lebanon, but suddenly and ignominiously cut down), esp. Daniel 4:6; and the dream of Xerxes, recorded in Herod. Daniel 7:19, in which the king saw himself crowned with the shoot of an olive-tree, the boughs of which covered the whole earth (τοὺς κλάδους γῆν πᾶσαν ἐπισχεῖν), until suddenly the crown about his head disappeared.

Verse 10. - Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The Septuagint is different here, "I was sleeping [on my couch], and behold a lofty tree springing out of the earth, and its appearance was great, and there was not another like to it." The words, "on my couch," are marked with an asterisk, denoting that they have been added, probably from Theodotion. There are indications here of a text slightly different from the Massoretic, even in the latter portion of the verse, where the LXX. and the Massoretic text come closest. Instead of bega,' (בְגוא), "in the midst of," the LXX. reading has been saggeee (שׂגִּיא), "great." The last clause is most widely different from the Massoretic text; instead of "and the height thereof was great," we have, "and there was no other like it." It is not easy to imagine how the one reading grew from the other, roomeh (דוּמֵה), "height," might easily be mistaken for דְמָה (demah), if roomeh were written defectively; but the rest of the clause cannot easily be explained The Massoretic text has a certain redundancy of meaning, which is suspicious. In this verse we are told the tree was "great;" the opening clause of the following says the tree grew; whereas the Septuagint, while asserting its loftiness, asserts also that it was "growing" (φνόμενον). On the whole, we prefer the Septuagint, as it does not proceed to assert further that the tree "grew great." Theodotion, while in the latter portion of the verse agreeing with the Massoretic text, omits the introductory clause. The Pe-shitta is a briefer recension of the Massoretic text, "The vision in my couch was - a tree in the midst of the earth, the height great." The reference here may be, to the sacred tree of the Assyrians, the symbol of life, which is so perpetually introduced into the sculptures of Nineveh, and seen also in some Babylonian cylinders, especially in connection with royal acts of worship, in Lenormant ('La Magie,' p. 27) we find that a sacred tree - a conifer of some sort as seen by the sculptures - was supposed to have the quality of breaking the power of the seven Maskim. Whatever the origin of this belief, it seems to have passed into the faith of Assyria and Babylon, and to have so permeated them that Ezekiel (31) describes Assyria as a mighty cedar. To pass from the empire to its ruler was a specially easy step in regard to an Oriental monarchy, in which the state was the monarch, in the midst of the earth. This refers to the notion each nation had that their own was the middle point, or omphalos, of the world. Though גַו (gav) meant originally really "back," not "middle," yet it is used of the furnace of fire in the preceding chapter, and the primitive meaning is entirely lost in the Targums. Daniel 4:10(Daniel 4:7-8)

Nebuchadnezzar in these verses tells his dream. The first part of v. 10 is an absolute nominal sentence: the visions of my head lying upon my bed, then I saw, etc. - A tree stood in the midst of the earth. Although already very high, yet it became always the greater and the stronger, so that it reached eve unto heaven and was visible to the ends of the earth. V. 11. The perf. רבה and תּקיף express not its condition, but its increasing greatness and strength. In the second hemistich the imperf. ימטא, as the form of the striving movement, corresponds to them. Daniel B. Michaelis properly remarks, that Nebuchadnezzar saw the tree gradually grow and become always the stronger. חזות, the sight, visibleness. Its visibility reached unto the ends of the earth. The lxx have correctly ἡ ὅρασις αὑτοῦ; so the Vulgate; while Theodotion, with τὸ κύτος αὐτοῦ, gives merely the sense, its largeness, or dome. Hitzig altogether improperly refers to the Arab. ḥawzah; for ḥwzh, from ḥwz, corresponds neither with the Hebr. חזה, nor does it mean extent, but comprehension, embracing, enclosure, according to which the meanings, tractus, latus, regio, given in the Arab. Lex., are to be estimated.

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