Daniel 4:33
The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.
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(33) The thing fulfilled.—The malady of Nebuchadnezzar has frequently formed the subject of discussion, and it is now for the most part agreed that it was a form of mania known as lycanthropy. The peculiar features of it mentioned in this verse are partially connected with the life which the sufferer’s delusion forced him to lead. It appears, however, from the account in Daniel, that he retained his consciousness, as “he lifted up his eyes to heaven” (Daniel 4:34) before “his understanding” returned to him. Of this sickness nothing is recorded by Berosus, unless the vague statement “Nebuchadnezzar fell sick and died after a reign of forty-three years” be pressed. It is remarkable to observe that an interval is mentioned in his inscription during which he executed no great public works.

4:28-37 Pride and self-conceit are sins that beset great men. They are apt to take that glory to themselves which is due to God only. While the proud word was in the king's mouth, the powerful word came from God. His understanding and his memory were gone, and all the powers of the rational soul were broken. How careful we ought to be, not to do any thing which may provoke God to put us out of our senses! God resists the proud. Nebuchadnezzar would be more than a man, but God justly makes him less than a man. We may learn to believe concerning God, that the most high God lives for ever, and that his kingdom is like himself, everlasting, and universal. His power cannot be resisted. When men are brought to honour God, by confession of sin and acknowledging his sovereignty, then, and not till then, they may expect that God will honour them; not only restore them to the dignity they lost by the sin of the first Adam, but add excellent majesty to them, from the righteousness and grace of the Second Adam. Afflictions shall last no longer than till they have done the work for which they were sent. There can be no reasonable doubt that Nebuchadnezzar was a true penitent, and an accepted believer. It is thought that he did not live more than a year after his restoration. Thus the Lord knows how to abase those that walk in pride, but gives grace and consolation to the humble, broken-hearted sinner who calls upon Him.The same hour was the thing fulfilled - On the word hour, see the note at Daniel 4:19. The use of the word here would seem to confirm the suggestion there made that it means a brief period of time. The idea is clearly that it was done instantly. The event came suddenly upon him, without any interval, as he was speaking.

Till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers - By long neglect and inattention. The Greek version of Theodotion has in this place the word lions instead of eagles: "until his hairs were grown long like that of lions;" and the passage is paraphrased by Jackson thus, "until his hair was grown long and shagged like the mane of a lion." This would make good sense, but it is not the reading of the Chaldee. The Codex Chisianus reads it, "and my hairs were like the wings of an eagle, and my nails like those of a lion." The correct idea is, that his hair was neglected until in appearance it resembled the feathers of a bird.

And his nails like birds' claws - No unnatural thing, if he was driven out and neglected as the insane have been in much later times, and in much more civilized parts of the world. In regard to the probability of the statement here made respecting the treatment of Nebuchadnezzar, and the objection derived from it against the authenticity of the book of Daniel, see Introduction to the chapter, II.((1). In addition to what is said there, the following cases may be referred to as showing that there is no improbability in supposing that what is here stated actually occurred. The extracts are taken from the Second Annual Report of the Prison Discipline Society, and they describe the condition of some of the patients before they were admitted into the insane asylum at Worcester. If these things occurred in the commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in the nineteenth century of the Christian era, there is nothing incredible in supposing that a similar thing may have occurred in ancient pagan Babylon. "No. 1. Had been in prison twenty-eight years when he was brought to the Institution. During seven years he had not felt the influence of fire, and many nights he had not lain down for fear of freezing. He had not been shaved for twenty-eight years, and had been provoked and excited by the introduction of hundreds to see the exhibition of his raving. No. 2. Had been in one prison fourteen years: he was naked - his hair and beard grown long - and his skin so entirely filled with the dust of charcoal as to render it impossible, from its appearance, to discover what nation he was of. He was in the habit of screaming so loud as to annoy the whole neighborhood, and was considered a most dangerous and desperate man. No. 3. An old man of seventy years of age or more; had been chained for twenty-five years, and had his chain taken off but once in that time.

No. 4. A female: had so long been confined with a short chain as wholly to lose the use of her lower limbs. Her health had been materially impaired by confinement, and she was unable to stand, and had not walked for years. No. 8. Had been ten years without clothes: a most inconceivably filthy and degraded being: exceedingly violent and outrageous. No. 9. Another female, exceedingly filthy in her habits, had not worn clothes for two years, during which time she had been confined in a filthy cell, destitute of everything like comfort, tearing everything in pieces that was given her. No. 10. Had been insane eight years: almost the whole of the time in jail and in a cage."

33. driven from men—as a maniac fancying himself a wild beast. It is possible, a conspiracy of his nobles may have co-operated towards his having been "driven" forth as an outcast.

hairs … eagles' feathers—matted together, as the hair-like, thick plumage of the ossifraga eagle. The "nails," by being left uncut for years, would become like "claws."

He was driven from men; being bereft of his understanding, as a man distracted, he fled, and betook himself to the woods; or was thrust and driven out, either by popular tumults, or conspiracy of his nobles, or by his son Evil-merodach. Some think, when he raved, he was bound with chains, and after turned off loose into the woods among beasts.

And his nails like birds claws, which might easily grow in seven years to a prodigious length and deformity.

The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar,.... Whence it appears that this was a true history, and a matter of fact; and not a parable or allegory, as Origen thought, describing the fall of Lucifer or Satan; but relates what befell Nebuchadnezzar himself: nor was the change real as to soul and body; for then he would not have been the same person, not Nebuchadnezzar, and so not he himself punished, but the beast into which he was changed: and though there was a strange alteration, both in his body and mind; in some parts of his body, and perhaps in his voice, in his senses of feeling, tasting, and smelling, in his palate, and appetite, and stomach; in his rational powers, understanding, judgment, and memory; so that he acted like a beast, and choosing to live as one; yet so as to retain the essential parts of a man; his case was, that at once he fell raving mad and distracted, when they first bound him with chains, that he might not hurt himself and others, and afterwards turned him loose into the woods among the wild beasts; or perhaps into one of his parks, among the deer, hares, foxes, and such like creatures; whither he might incline to go, fancying himself to be a beast, and delight to be among them:

and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen; which he did by choice: so Aben Ezra reports of one in the island of Sardinia, who fled from his parents, and lost his reason, and lived among deer for many years, and went upon his hands and feet like them; and the king of the island going a hunting one day, caught many deer, and among them this man, that was taken for one: his parents came and owned him, and spoke to him, but he answered not; they set before him bread and wine, to eat and drink, but he refused; they then gave him grass with the deer and he ate that; and in the middle of the night made his escape to the deer or the field again.

And his body was wet with the dew of heaven: lying all night in the woods or fields without clothing:

till his hair was grown like eagles' feathers: thick, black, and strong; the hairs of his head having not been cut, not his beard shaved for seven years: the Septuagint and Arabic versions read, "as lions":

and his nails like birds' claws: the nails of his fingers and toes were hard, long, and sharp, like theirs, having not been cut during this time; this shows that the seven times are not to be understood of weeks or months, but of years. Some have understood all this as a real metamorphosis, and that Nebuchadnezzar was changed into a beast; the upper part of him was the form of an ox, and the lower part that of a lion, as Epiphanius (h); so Cyril (i) says of him, that he was changed into a beast, lived in a desert, had the nails and hair of a lion, ate grass like an ox; for he was a beast, not knowing who gave him the kingdom; and so others; closely adhering to the letter of the text, but wrongly, for reasons before given: nor is it to be ascribed merely to any natural disease of body, or melancholy in him, by which the fancy may be so disturbed, as for a person to imagine himself a beast; for though this was the case, yet not through any diseases, such as is called the lycanthropy; an much less to any witchcraft, or any diabolical art, exercised on him; but to the mighty hand of God, taking away the use of his reason, and throwing him into madness and distraction for the demonstration of his power, and humbling the pride of an insolent monarch; not but that God could, if it had been his pleasure, have changed him into a brute, as he turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt; and as a certain wicked nobleman in Muscovy was turned into a black dog, barking and howling, upon uttering horrible blasphemies against God for some judgment upon him, as Clurerius (k) relates, who had it, he says, from both ear and eye witnesses of it; but such a judgment was not inflicted on Nebuchadnezzar, not are such things usual. Herodotus (l) reports, though he himself did not credit it, of some people among the Scythians, that were every year, for a few days, changed into wolves, and then returned to their former shape again; and Pomponius Mela (m) relates the same of the same people; and the poets frequently speak of such transmutations; but these are all fictions and delusions.

(h) De Prophet. Vit. & Inter. C. 10. (i) Cateches. 2. sect. 11. (k) Apud Bucheim Dissertat. de Reg. Nebuchad. in Thesaur. Philol. Dissert. tom. 1. p. 890. (l) Melpomene, sive l. 4. c. 105. (m) De Situ Orbis, l. 2. c. 1.

The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws.
33. The same hour] Daniel 3:6.

the thing] or, the word, i.e. the announcement of Daniel 4:31-32.

did eat … was wet] The tenses express what was habitual (cf. Daniel 4:12).

till his hairs were grown, &c.] The delusion under which he was suffering leading him naturally to neglect his person.

Verse 33. - The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. The verse that is placed as parallel with this in the Septuagint differs very considerably. In the LXX. this verse is still part of the proclamation of the angel, "Early shall all these things be completed upon thee, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Baby-Ion, and nothing shall be awanting of all these things." This verse is properly without a correspondent in the Massoretic text. The next verse resumes the proclamation, "I Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon was bound seven years, and they fed me with grass as an ox. I ate from herbs of the earth." Then after a verse which Tischen-doff marks as an interpolation, but which really is a misplaced doublet, we have a continuation of ver. 30 (33 Authorized Version), "And my hairs became like feathers of an eagle, and my nails like those of the lion, and my flesh and my heart were changed, and I walked naked with the beasts of the earth." The fact that this is longer than the Massoretic text is decidedly against it. It seems to be a para-phrastic rendering of a text somewhat similar to the Massoretic. On the other hand, the fact that it retains the first person makes it at least possible that the condensation of the middle portion of this chapter, according to the received text, is not resorted to in this recension. It is to be noted that only a very few words in the Septuagint necessitate any idea of condensation: only in the beginning of ver. 27 Septuagint (28 Aramaic, 31 Authorized Version) is there a change of persons. This verse is rendered by Theodotion in a way much like the Massoretic text. The first portion of the verse is an exact translation of the Aramaic, but at the end the' rendering is, "till his hairs grew like those of lions, and his malls as those of birds." The Peshitta agrees exactly with the Massoretic. One cannot help being suspicious of this assertion of the hair being like eagles' feathers, partly because the eagle is a bird, and "birds" are spoken of in the next clause of the verse, and further there appears to be a pun on the last portion of the king's name in the word used for "eagle" (nesher). The Jewish scribes were prone to have such plays on names. Early in history it occurs, as when Abigail makes use of it to David in regard to her husband (1 Samuel 25:25), "Nabal is his name, and folly is with him." This possibly is the reason for the Hebrew variation in the name given to the Babylonian Nabu-kudur-utzur. Theodotion's version shows the result of reasoning - it is a scribe's emendation. That matted hair should have an appearance which suggested the feathers of birds, is natural enough, aria the utter inattention to matters of personal cleanliness is an exceedingly common symptom in cases of insanity. This personal neglect would naturally result also in the growth of the nails, and their incurring would give them vaguely the appearance of lions' claws. We can picture the Babylonian monarch that had, like his Ninevite predecessors, been finical about his curled locks and trimmed and jewelled fingers, walking in wild nakedness so far as his shackles permitted him, with hair-matted locks, and his nails misshapen and long. Daniel 4:33In this verse there is a brief comprehensive statement regarding the fulfilment of the dream to the king, which is then extended from v. 26 to 30. At the end of twelve months, i.e., after the expiry of twelve months from the time of the dream, the king betook himself to his palace at Babylon, i.e., to the flat roof of the palace; cf. 2 Samuel 11:2. The addition at Babylon does not indicate that the king was then living at a distance from Babylon, as Berth., v. Leng., Maur., and others imagine, but is altogether suitable to the matter, because Nebuchadnezzar certainly had palaces outside of Babylon, but it is made with special reference to the language of the king which follows regarding the greatness of Babylon. ענה means here not simply to begin to speak, but properly to answer, and suggests to us a foregoing colloquy of the king with himself in his own mind. Whether one may conclude from that, in connection with the statement of time, after twelve months, that Nebuchadnezzar, exactly one year after he had received the important dream, was actively engaging himself regarding that dream, must remain undetermined, and can be of no use to a psychological explanation of the occurrence of the dream. The thoughts which Nebuchadnezzar expresses in v. 26 (Daniel 4:29) are not favourable to such a supposition. Had the king remembered that dream and its interpretation, he would scarcely have spoken so proudly of his splendid city which he had built as he does in v. 27 (Daniel 4:30).

When he surveyed the great and magnificent city from the top of his palace, "pride overcame him," so that he dedicated the building of this great city as the house of his kingdom to the might of his power and the honour of his majesty. From the addition רבּתא it does not follow that this predicate was a standing Epitheton ornans of Babylon, as with חמת , Amos 6:2, and other towns of Asia; for although Pausanias and Strabo call Babylon μεγάλη and μεγίστη πόλις, yet it bears this designation as a surname in no ancient author. But in Revelation 14:8 this predicate, quoted from the passage before us, is given to Babylon, and in the mouth of Nebuchadnezzar it quite corresponds to the self-praise of his great might by which he had built Babylon as the residence of a great king. בּנה designates, as בּנה more frequently, not the building or founding of a city, for the founding of Babylon took place in the earliest times after the Flood (Genesis 11), and was dedicated to the god Belus, or the mythic Semiramis, i.e., in the pre-historic time; but בּנה means the building up, the enlargement, the adorning of the city מלכוּ לבּית, for the house of the kingdom, i.e., for a royal residence; cf. The related expression ממלכה בּית, Amos 7:13. בּית stands in this connection neither for town nor for היכל (Daniel 4:29), but has the meaning dwelling-place. The royalty of the Babylonian kingdom has its dwelling-place, its seat, in Babylon, the capital of the kingdom.

With reference to the great buildings of Nebuchadnezzar in Babylon, vide the statements of Berosus in Josephi Ant. x. 11, 1, and con. Ap. i. 19, and of Abydenus in Eusebii praepar. evang. ix. 41, and Chron. i. p. 59; also the delineation of these buildings in Duncker's Gesch. des Alterth. i. p. 854ff. The presumption of this language appears in the words, "by the strength of my might, and for the splendour (honour) of my majesty." Thus Nebuchadnezzar describes himself as the creator of his kingdom and of its glory, while the building up of his capital as a residence bearing witness to his glory and his might pointed at the same time to the duration of his dynasty. This proud utterance is immediately followed by his humiliation by the omnipotent God. A voice fell from heaven. נפל as in Isaiah 9:7, of the sudden coming of a divine revelation. אמרין for the passive, as Daniel 3:4. The perf. עדּת denotes the matter as finished. At the moment when Nebuchadnezzar heard in his soul the voice from heaven, the prophecy begins to be fulfilled, the king becomes deranged, and is deprived of his royalty.

Daniel 4:29-30 (Daniel 4:32-33)


The fulfilling of the dream.

Nebuchadnezzar narrates the fulfilment of the dream altogether objectively, so that he speaks of himself in the third person. Berth., Hitz., and others find here that the author falls out of the role of the king into the narrative tone, and thus betrays the fact that some other than the king framed the edict. But this conclusion is opposed by the fact that Nebuchadnezzar from v. 31 speaks of his recovery again in the first person. Thus it is beyond doubt that the change of person has its reason in the matter itself. Certainly it could not be in this that Nebuchadnezzar thought it unbecoming to speak in his own person of his madness; for if he had had so tender a regard for his own person, he would not have published the whole occurrence in a manifesto addressed to his subjects. But the reason of his speaking of his madness in the third person, as if some other one were narrating it, lies simply in this, that in that condition he was not Ich equals Ego (Kliefoth). With the return of the Ich, I, on the recovery from his madness, Nebuchadnezzar begins again to narrate in the first person (v. 31 34).

Here the contents of the prophecy, v. 22 (v. 25), are repeated, and then in v. 30 (v. 33) it is stated that the word regarding Nebuchadnezzar immediately began to be fulfilled. On שׁעתא בהּ, cf. Daniel 3:6. ספת, from סוּף, to go to an end. The prophecy goes to an end when it is realized, is fulfilled. The fulfilling is related in the words of the prophecy. Nebuchadnezzar is driven from among men, viz., by his madness, in which he fled from intercourse with men, and lived under the open air of heaven as a beast among the beasts, eating grass like the cattle; and his person was so neglected, that his hair became like the eagles' fathers and his nails like birds' claws. כּנשׁרין and כּצפּרין are abbreviated comparisons; vide under Daniel 4:16. That this condition was a peculiar appearance of the madness is expressly mentioned in v. 31 (Daniel 4:34), where the recovery is designated as the restoration of his understanding.

This malady, in which men regard themselves as beasts and imitate their manner of life, is called insania zoanthropica, or, in the case of those who think themselves wolves, lycanthropia. The condition is described in a manner true to nature. Even "as to the eating of grass," as G. Rsch, in the Deutsch. Morgenl. Zeitschr. xv. p. 521, remarks, "there is nothing to perplex or that needs to be explained. It is a circumstance that has occurred in recent times, as e.g., in the case of a woman in the Wrttemberg asylum for the insane." Historical documents regarding this form of madness have been collected by Trusen in his Sitten, Gebr. u. Krank. der alten Hebrer, p. 205f., 2nd ed., and by Friedreich in Zur Bibel, i. p. 308f.

(Note: Regarding the statement, "his hair grew as the feathers of an eagle," etc., Friedr. remarks, p. 316, that, besides the neglect of the external appearance, there is also to be observed the circumstance that sometimes in psychical maladies the nails assume a peculiarly monstrous luxuriance with deformity. Besides, his remaining for a long time in the open air is to be considered, "for it is an actual experience that the hair, the more it is exposed to the influences of the rough weather and to the sun's rays, the more does it grow in hardness, and thus becomes like unto the feathers of an eagle.")

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