Darby's Bible Synopsis
Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
In chapter 4 we see the manifestation of human pride; the king glories in the work of his hands, as though he had created his own greatness. This pride brings judgment. Power is reduced to the condition of the beasts that know not God, and are devoid of man's understanding. The only true privilege of man, that which ennobles him, is that he can look up to God and acknowledge Him. Without this he looks downward; he cannot suffice to himself; he is degraded. Dependence is his glory, for it sets him before God, gives him to know God; and his mind, associated with God, receives from Him its measure and its knowledge. Pride and independence separate man from God; he becomes a beast, devoid of real intelligence. Now this condition depicts that of the kingdoms of which the prophet speaks (looked at as a whole before God, and represented by the head established by God, Nebuchadnezzar). Seven times, or seven years, pass over the head of Nebuchadnezzar deprived of his reason. He had exalted himself; he had been humbled. The times of the Gentiles are characterised by the absence of all such understanding as would put governmental power in connection with God. To make idols, to build Babylon, and not to know God; such were the moral characteristics of a power that God had established in place of His own throne at Jerusalem. Such is the moral capacity of man in possession of that power which has been committed to him [See Note #1].
But the scene closes with testimony to the glory of the Most High God, the King of Heaven. Nebuchadnezzar recognises His majesty and blesses Him, now that His judgment is removed. He acknowledges Him as Him who liveth for ever, who abases and exalts whom He will, doing according to His will in heaven and on earth, all men being but vanity before His power and majesty. Here it is not the deliverance of the faithful which produces its effect, but the judgment that fell on the Gentiles themselves, who, after the judgment, are delivered, and understanding given them with respect to Jehovah; and that in connection with the testimony committed to the Jews by the Spirit of prophecy which God had bestowed on the remnant. The king lifts up his eyes to heaven, instead of being only a beast that looks down upon the earth. He becomes intelligent and submissive, and joyfully blesses the Most High God.
We may remark this title of "Most High." It is the name given to Jehovah in the interview between Melchisedec and Abraham, in which is added thereto, "Possessor of heaven and earth." This is, in fact, the character that God will assume when He shall gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth; and Christ shall be the true Melchisedec. The Gentiles shall be fully subjected to God. This will be the time of "the restitution of all things" spoken of by the prophets.
There are yet some detailed observations to be made. It is judgment, followed by deliverance, which produces this result. We may notice the force of this symbol of a great tree. It is a mighty one of the earth, capable of taking others under its protection. In this case it was one in the highest position possible for man. The fowls of the heaven had their habitation in it; that is to say, that all classes of persons sought shelter and protection in it. We learn also that God takes knowledge of the principles that guide the governments of the earth, considered as the depositaries of the power which they hold from God. Although it is not (as in Israel) His throne on the earth, God watches over all, and judges that to which He has committed authority. He does not rule immediately; but He holds responsible him to whom He has entrusted the rule, in order that he might own the authority of God as supreme in this world.
With respect to the term "watcher," I do not think that intelligence as to who it was that brought the decree of judgment goes beyond Nebuchadnezzar's religious condition. Daniel ascribes it immediately to the Most High. That angels may be its intelligent instruments, and that its administration may be in some sort committed to them, presents no difficulty; and the epistle to the Hebrews, as well as other scriptures, teaches us that angels are thus employed. The world to come will not be thus subjected to them. We see, in Verse 27 (Daniel 4:27), that Daniel sets his responsibility before Nebuchadnezzar, exhorting him to alter his conduct.
We may also remark here, that it is the "King of heaven" whom Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges. This was necessarily His place. The God of the earth had His throne at Jerusalem. But then Nebuchadnezzar would have had no place there. We never find the throne at Jerusalem in Daniel, either morally or prophetically. His prophecies always stop short of that. He is a captive among the Gentiles, faithful to God there, and taught of Him. But God cannot be to him the God of the earth [See Note #2]. It is the God of heaven, ruling everywhere and over all things, doing according to His will in heaven and on earth; but not yet reigning over the earth as the king of the earth. On the contrary, He had just renounced this; and had committed the power to Nebuchadnezzar, while He withdrew from the presence of His earthly people's iniquity to shut Himself up in His supreme and immutable power; the results of which would not be shewn till afterwards, but according to which He even then governed, although hidden from the eyes of men. The reader may perhaps expect more detail. It will be found in the communications made immediately to Daniel. But those who have laid hold of the principles we have been establishing (and the great object of these chapters is to present them) will possess elements of the greatest importance for understanding all the prophecies of this book; and without these principles the meaning of its revelations will never be clearly apprehended. It must be remembered that we are on the ground here of the Jews in captivity among the Gentiles, understanding God's dealings with them, and His judgment of their condition while the power had been left in their hands.
David's throne had been characterised by power in obedience, the king having to write out a copy of the law and observe it; Nebuchadnezzar's throne is one of absolute power, man supreme in the exercise of his own will-the twofold way of testing man in the place of authority.
The seed of David will not be in captivity at Babylon when God takes His place as the God of the earth.
I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.
How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:
I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.
Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.
But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying,
O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.
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 tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:
The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.
I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;
He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:
Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:
Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.
This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know 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.
This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.
Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.
The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;
Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him;
This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:
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.
And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
The king spake, and said, 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?
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.
And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
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.
And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellers and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.
Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.