Daniel 4:25
That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
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(25) They shall drive thee.—The third person plural verb in the active with an impersonal subject frequently stands for the second person singular passive. Thus these words mean “thou shalt be driven.” (Comp. Luke 16:9.)

4:19-27 Daniel was struck with amazement and terror at so heavy a judgment coming upon so great a prince, and gives advice with tenderness and respect. It is necessary, in repentance, that we not only cease to do evil, but learn to do good. Though it might not wholly prevent the judgment, yet the trouble may be longer before it comes, or shorter when it does come. And everlasting misery will be escaped by all who repent and turn to God.That they shall drive thee from men - That is, thou shalt be driven from the habitations of men; from the place which thou hast occupied among men. The prophet does not say "who" would do this, but he says that it "would" be done. The language is such as would be used of one who should become a maniac, and be thrust out of the ordinary society in which he had moved. The Greek of Theodotion here is: καὶ σὲ ἐκδιώξουσιν kai se ekdiōxousin. The Codex Chisianus has, "And the Most High and his angels shall run upon thee - κατατρἑχουσιν katatrechousin - leading thee into prison," or into detention - εἰς φυλακὴν eis phulakēn - "and shall thrust thee into a desert place." The general sense is, that he would be in such a state as to be treated like a beast rather than a man; that he would be removed from his ordinary abodes, and be a miserable and neglected outcast.

This commences the account of the calamity that was to come upon Nebuchadnezzar, and as there have been many opinions entertained as to the nature of this malady, it may be proper to notice some of them. Compare Bertholdt, pp. 286-292. Some have held that there was a real metamorphosis into some form of an animal, though his rational soul remained, so that he was able to acknowledge God and give praise to him. Cedrenus held that he was transformed into a beast, half lion and half ox. An unknown author, mentioned by Justin, maintained that the transformation was into an animal resembling what was seen in the visions of Ezekiel - the cherubim - composed of an eagle, a lion, an ox, and a man. In support of the opinion that there was a real transformation, an appeal has been made to the common belief among ancient nations, that such metamorphoses had actually occurred, and especially to what Herodotus (iv. 105) says of the "Neuri" (Νευροι Neuroi) "It is said by the Scythians, as well as by the Greeks who dwell in Scythia, that once in every year they are all of them changed into wolves, and that after remaining in that state for the space of a few days, they resume their former shape."

Herodotus adds, however, "This I do not believe, although they swear that it is true." An appeal is also made to an assertion of Apuleius, who says of himself that he was changed into an ass; and also to the "Metamorphoses" of Ovid. This supposed transformation of Nebuchadnezzar some have ascribed to Satan. - John Wier "de Prcestigiis Daemonum," I. 26, John 4:1. Others have attributed it to the arts of magic or incantation, and suppose that it was a change in appearance only. Augustine ("de Civit. Dei." lib. xviii. cap. 17), referring to what is said of Diomed and his followers on their return from Troy, that they were changed into birds, says that Varro, in proof of the truth of this, appeals to the fact that Circe changed Ulysses and his companions into beasts; and to the Arcadians, who, by swimming over a certain lake, were changed into wolves, and that "if they ate no man's flesh, at the end of nine years they swam over the same lake and became men again."

Varro farther mentions the case of a man by the name of Daemonetus, who, tasting of the sacrifices which the Arcadians offered (a child), was turned into a wolf, and became a man again at the end of two years. Augustine himself says, that when he was in Italy, he heard a report that there were women there, who, by giving one a little drug in cheese, had the power of turning him into an ass. See the curious discussion of Augustine how far this could be true, in his work "de Civit. Dei," lib. xviii. cap. 18. He supposes that under the influence of drugs men might be made to suppose they were thus transformed, or to have a recollection of what passed in such a state "as if" it were so. Cornelius a Lapide supposes that the transformation in the case of Nebuchadnezzar went only so far that his knees were bent in the other direction, like those of animals, and that he walked like animals. Origen, and many of those who have coincided with him in his allegorical mode of interpreting the Scriptures, supposed that the whole of this account is an allegory, designed to represent the fall of Satan, and his restoration again to the favor of God - in accordance with his belief of the doctrine of universal salvation.

Others suppose that the statement here means merely that there was a formidable conspiracy against him; that he was dethroned and bound with fetters; that he was then expelled from the court, and driven into exile; and that, as such, he lived a miserable life, finding a precarious subsistence in woods and wilds, among the beasts of the forest, until, by another revolution, he was restored again to the throne. It is not necessary to examine these various opinions, and to show their absurdity, their puerility, or their falsehood. Some of them are simply ridiculous, and none of them are demanded by any fair interpretation of the chapter. It may seem, perhaps, to be undignified even to refer to such opinions now; but this may serve to illustrate the method in which the Bible has been interpreted in former times, and the steps which have been taken before men arrived at a clear and rational interpretation of the sacred volume. It is indeed painful to reflect that such absurdities and puerilities have been in any way connected with the interpretation of the Word of God; sad to reflect that so many persons, in consequence of them, have discarded the Bible and the interpretations together as equally ridiculous and absurd. The true account in regard to the calamity of Nebuchadnezzar is undoubtedly the following:

(1) He was a maniac - made such by a direct Divine judgment on account of his pride, Daniel 4:30-31. The essential thing in the statement is, that he was deprived of his reason, and that he was treated as a maniac. Compare Introduction to the chapter, II.((1).

(2) The particular form of the insanity with which he was afflicted seems to have been that he imagined himself to be a beast; and, this idea having taken possession of his mind, he acted accordingly. It may be remarked in regard to this,

(a) that such a fancy is no uncommon thing among maniacs. Numerous instances of this may be seen in the various works on insanity - or indeed may be seen by merely visiting a lunatic asylum. One imagines that he is a king, and decks himself out with a scepter and a diadem; another that he is glass, and is filled with excessive anxiety lest he should be broken; others have regarded themselves as deprived of their proper nature as human beings; others as having been once dead, and restored to life again; others as having been dead and sent back into life without a heart; others as existing in a manner unlike any other mortals; others as having no rational soul. See Arnold "on Insanity," I. pp. 176-195. In all these cases, when such a fancy takes possession of the mind, there will be an effort on the part of the patient to act in exact conformity to this view of himself, and his whole conduct will be adapted to it. Nothing can convince him that it is not so; and there is no absurdity in supposing that, if the thought had taken possession of the mind of Nebuchadnezzar that he was a beast, he would live and act as a wild beast - just as it is said that he did.

(b) In itself considered, "if" Nebuchadnezzar was deprived of his reason, and for the cause assigned - his pride, nothing is more probable than that he would be left to imagine himself a beast, and to act like a beast. This would furnish the most striking contrast to his former state; would do most to bring down his pride; and would most effectually show the supremacy of the Most High.

(3) In this state of mind, fancying himself a wild beast, and endeavoring to act in conformity with this view, it is probable that he would be indulged as far as was consistent with his safety. Perhaps the regency would be induced to allow this partly from their long habits of deference to the will of an arbitrary monarch; partly because by this indulgence he would be less troublesome; and partly because a painful spectacle would thus be removed from the palace. We are not to suppose that he was permitted to roam in forests at large without any restraint, and without any supervision whatever. In Babylon, attached to the palace, there were doubtless, as there are all over the East, royal parks or gardens; there is every probability that in these parks there may have been assembled rare and strange animals as a royal menagerie; and it was doubtless in these parks, and among these animals that he was allowed to range. Painful as such a spectacle would be, yet it is not improbable that to such a maniac this would be allowed, as contributing to his gratification, or as a means of restoring him to his right mind.

(4) A king, however wide his empire, or magnifient his court, would be as likely to be subject to mental derangement as any other man. No situation in life can save the human mind from the liability to so overwhelming a calamity, nor should we deem it strange that it should come on a king as well as other men. The condition of Nebuchadnezzar, as represented by himself in this edict, was scarcely more pitiable than that of George III of England, though it is not surprising that in the eighteenth century of the Christian era, and in a Christian land, the treatment of the sovereign in such circumstances was different from that which a monarch received in pagan Babylon.

(5) it cannot be shown that this did not come upon Nebuchadnezzar, as stated in this chapter Daniel 4:30-31, on account of his pride. That he was a proud and haughty monarch is apparent from all his history; that God would take some effectual means to humble him is in accordance with his dealings with mankind; that this would be a most effectual means of doing it cannot be doubted. No one can prove, in respect to any judgment that comes upon mankind, that it is not on account of some sin reigning in the heart; and when it is affirmed in a book claiming to be inspired, that a particular calamity is brought upon men on account of their transgressions, it cannot be demonstrated that the statement is not true. If these remarks are correct, then no well-founded objection can lie against the account here respecting the calamity that came upon this monarch in Babylon. This opinion in regard to the nature of the affliction which came upon Nebuchadnezzar, is probably what is now generally entertained, and it certainly meets all the circumstances of the case, and frees the narrative from material objection.

As a confirmation of its truth, I will copy here the opinion of Dr. Mead, as it is found in his "Medica Sacra:" "All the circumstances of Nebuchadnezzars cage agree so well with a hypochondriacal madness, that to me it appears evident that Nebuchadnezzar was seized with this distemper, and under its influence ran wild into the fields; and that, fancying himself transformed into an ox, he fed on grass after the manner of cattle. Forevery sort of madness is the result of a disturbed imagination; which this unhappy man labored under for full seven years. And through neglect of taking proper care of himself, his hair and nails grew to an uncommon length; whereby the latter, growing thicker and crooked, resembled the claws of birds. Now the ancients called people affected with this kind of madness, λυκάνθρωποι lukanthrōpoi, "wolf-men" - or κυνάνθρωποι kunanthrōpoi, "dog-men" - because they went abroad in the night imitating wolves or dogs; particularly intent upon opening the sepulchres of the dead, and had their legs much ulcerated, either from frequent falls or the bites of dogs. In like manner are the daughters of Proetus related to have been mad, who, as Virgil says, Ecl. vi. 48,

' - implerunt falsis mugitibus agros.'


25. they shall drive thee—a Chaldee idiom for "thou shalt be driven." Hypochondriacal madness was his malady, which "drove" him under the fancy that he was a beast, to "dwell with the beasts"; Da 4:34 proves this, "mine understanding returned." The regency would leave him to roam in the large beast-abounding parks attached to the palace.

eat grass—that is, vegetables, or herbs in general (Ge 3:18).

they shall wet thee—that is, thou shalt be wet.

till thou know, &c.—(Ps 83:17, 18; Jer 27:5).

Because thou hast lived a brutish, epicurean life, and wert lifted up above the common race of mankind in thy heart, therefore thy fate shall be, not to be cast out to live among the basest and meanest sort of men, which were hard enough; no, not among herdsmen, as if that were too good for him; but among the beasts, to herd with them. This was such a thundering peal, that it was wonderful the king could endure to hear without wrath and fury boiling in his heart, yet the Lord withheld him.

How hard is it for lofty princes to learn this lesson, that God is the giver of all they have, and will call them to account severely for all they do, and make the kings and kingdoms of the world to know they are his, and not theirs, and that their tenure is but at the will of the Lord solely, who can alter and alienate the property of all their enjoyments, being the high Lord paramount above all!

That they shall drive thee from men,.... From conversation with men, as unfit for it; from his court and palace, from his nobles and princes. Saadiah interprets this of the angels: it may be rendered impersonally or passively, as in Daniel 4:33, "thou shalt be driven from men" (r); not by his family, his wife and children; or by his nobles, who are afterwards said to seek him; but by the most high God, and to show his power over him; and it may be by means of his ministering angels; or he was driven by his own fancy and imagination, which was suffered of God to prevail over him, judging himself not a man, but a beast; and so it was most agreeable to him to live with beasts, and not men:

and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field; in the open air, or in some den and cavern, instead of being in his court, and among his nobles; a strange change of condition indeed! and in which he was preserved by divine Providence:

and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen; imagining himself to be a beast, he should choose this sort of food, and eat it, and feed upon it with a gust, as if he had really been one; and besides, having no other food, would be obliged to eat this, as well as his degenerate and depraved imagination led him to it:

and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven; strip him of his clothes, and leave him naked; so that he should have nothing to shelter him from the dew and rain, and other inclemencies of the heavens; and this his frenzy might lead him to do of himself:

and seven times shall pass over thee; which some understand of weeks, others of months, others of the seasons of winter and summer; but it is best to interpret it of seven whole years; See Gill on Daniel 4:16,

till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will; this was done, as for the instruction of men in general, so of Nebuchadnezzar in particular; that his proud heart and haughty spirit might be brought down, and be made to acknowledge that there was a God higher than he, that judgeth in the earth, and that rules and overrules, and disposes of all things in it according to his will and pleasure; see Daniel 4:17.

(r) "truderis", Michaelis.

That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as {m} oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that {n} the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.

(m) Not that his shape or form was changed into a beast, but that he was either stricken mad, and so avoided man's company, or was cast out because of his tyranny, and so wandered among the beasts, and ate herbs and grass.

(n) Daniel shows the reason why God punished him in this way.

25. The sense of vv.15, 16, 17 b explained more distinctly: Nebuchadnezzar, imagining himself to be an animal, will act himself, and be treated by others, accordingly.

that they shall drive thee … and they shall make thee to eat … and they shall wet thee] R.V. that thou shalt be drivenand thou shalt be made to eat … and shalt be wet. In Aramaic, the 3rd pers. plur. with indef. subject is often used where we should employ the passive, even though the agent implicitly referred to is God, see e.g. Daniel 2:30 (lit. ‘that they should make known’), Daniel 3:4 (lit. ‘they command’), Daniel 4:16 (lit. ‘let them change … let them give’), 31 (lit. ‘they speak’),—in all which passages A.V. itself paraphrases by the passive. The same usage occurs sometimes in Biblical Hebrew (see on Daniel 1:12); and it is frequent in the later language, as Abhoth, iv. 7 (cited on Daniel 4:26)[242]. Cf. Matthew 5:15; Luke 6:38; Luke 6:44; Luke 12:20 (ἀπαιτοῦσιν); Revelation 12:6 τρέφωσιν (Daniel 4:14 τρέφεται).

[242] See further examples in Dalman, Die Worte Jesu (1898), p. 184.

Verse 25. - That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The Septuagint Version is here much briefer, and in that better, "And they shall put thee in guard, and send thee into a desert place." The Massoretic text, although it agrees with that from which Theodotion's Version, the Peshitta, and the Vulgate have been translated, is pleonastic. The Vulgate drops the causative element, and simply says, "Thou shalt eat grass like the ox, and thou shalt be wet with the dew of heaven." The Peshitta, while translating טְעַם by the aphel of 'acal - that is to say, making the meaning causative - renders צְבַע by the passive, titztaba; similarly Theodotion renders it. If we are to take the words of Daniel strictly, even in the Massoretic, much more if we take the Septuagint, text, he seems to have understood the dream to point, not to lycanthropy, but to an overthrow at the hands of his enemies, when they would compel him to eat grass in his distress, and, by depriving him of every shelter, force him to be wet with the dew of heaven. There is nothing to indicate that the compulsion should work within, and that by these inner scourges the messengers of the Most High would drive Nebuchadnezzar forth to the fields. Daniel 4:25Daniel interprets to the king his dream, repeating only here and there in an abbreviated form the substance of it in the same words, and then declares its reference to the king. With vv. 17 (Daniel 4:20) and 18 (Daniel 4:21) cf. vv. 8 (Daniel 4:11) and 9 (Daniel 4:12). The fuller description of the tree is subordinated to the relative clause, which thou hast seen, so that the subject is connected by הוּא (Daniel 4:19), representing the verb. subst., according to rule, with the predicate אילנא. The interpretation of the separate statements regarding the tree is also subordinated in the relative clauses to the subject. For the Kethiv רבית equals רביתּ, the Keri gives the shortened form רבת, with the elision of the third radical, analogous to the shortening of the following מטת for מטת. To the call of the angel to "cut down the tree," etc. (Daniel 4:20, cf. Daniel 4:10-13), Daniel gives the interpretation, Daniel 4:24, "This is the decree of the Most High which is come upon the king, that he shall be driven from men, and dwell among the beasts," etc. על מטא equals Hebr. על בּוא. The indefinite plur. form טרדין stands instead of the passive, as the following לך יטעמוּן and מצבּעין, cf. under Daniel 3:4. Thus the subject remains altogether indefinite, and one has neither to think on men who will drive him from their society, etc., nor of angels, of whom, perhaps, the expulsion of the king may be predicated, but scarcely the feeding on grass and being wet with dew.
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