Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.Daniel 4:4-5
'Remember,' Mr. F. W. H. Myers once wrote to a friend, 'that first of all a man must, from the torpor of a foul tranquillity, have his soul delivered unto war.'
Reference.—IV. 4, 5, 7.—S. Baring-Gould, Village Preaching for a Year, vol. ii. p. 183.
Can we believe that He whose words were so terrible against the pride of Egypt and Babylon, against that haughty insolence in men on which not Hebrew prophets only, but the heathen poets of Greece, looked with such peculiar and profound alarm,—that He will not visit it on those who, in their measure, are responsible for its words and temper, when it takes possession of a Christian nation? Can we doubt what His judgment will one day be on the cynical parade of exclusive selfishness, the cynical worship of mere dexterity and adroitness, in the sophists and tyrants of the old heathen world; and can we doubt what He will think when Christians, disciples of the Lord of truth and righteousness, let themselves be dazzled in matters of right and wrong, by the cleverness of intellectual fence?... We have almost elevated pride to the rank of a national virtue; so far from seeing any harm in it, we extol it as a noble and admirable thing. You see it unconsciously revealed in the look and bearing which meet you constantly in society and in the streets. You see it in that tone of insolence which seems to come so naturally to many of us in the expression of our disapproval and antipathy.
—R. W. Church.
We can figure the thought of Louis that day, when, all royally caparisoned for hunting, he met, at some sudden turning in the wood of Senart, a ragged peasant with a coffin; For whom?'—It was for a poor brother slave, whom Majesty had sometimes noticed slaving in those quarters. 'What did he die of?'—'Of hunger':—the king gave his steed the spur.
A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.
Kingsley, writing of Sir Walter Raleigh's haughty temper, observes: 'Proud? No wonder if the man be proud! "Is not this great Babylon, which I have built?" And yet all the while he has the most affecting consciousness that all this is not God's will, but the will of the flesh; that the house of fame is not the house of God; that its floor is not the rock of ages, but the sea of glass mingled with fire, which may crack beneath him at any moment, and let the nether flame burst up. He knows he is living in a splendid lie.'
In the preface to his Bible in Spain, Borrow attributes Spanish cruelties in religion not to fanaticism, but to the way in which Rome worked on the predominant feeling of pride in the Spanish nature: 'It was by humouring her pride that she was induced to waste her precious blood and treasure in Low Country wars, to launch the Armada, and to many other insane actions. Love of Rome had ever slight influence over her policy; but flattered by the title of Gonfaloniera of the Vicar of Jesus, and eager to prove herself not unworthy of the same, she shut her eyes, and rushed upon her own destruction with the cry of "Charge Spain".'
Sorrow, pain, and death are sweet to whosoever dares, instead of fighting with or flying from them, to draw near, to examine closely, to inquire humbly, into their nature and their function. He began to perceive that these three reputed enemies, hated and feared of all men, are, after all, the fashioners and teachers of humanity; to whom it is given to keep hearts pure, godly, and compassionate, to purge away the dross of pride, hardness, and arrogance, to break the iron bands of ambition, self-love, and vanity, to purify by endurance and by charity.
—Lucas Malet, Sir Richard Calmady.
The greatest obstacle to any improvement or change in John Bull's sentiments just now is the egregious vanity of the beast. He has been so plastered with flattery, that he has become an impervious mass of self-esteem. Nothing is so difficult as to alter the policy of individuals or nations who allow themselves to be persuaded that they are the 'envy of surrounding nations and the admiration of the world'. Time and adversity can alone operate in such cases.
—Cobden to John Bright, in 1851.
Reference.—IV. 34, 35.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xvi. No. 949.
Daniel 4:25; Daniel 4:37
This Nebuchadnezzar curse, that sends men to grass like oxen, seems to follow but too closely on the excess or continuance of national power and peace. In the perplexities of nations, in their struggle for existence, in their infancy, their impotence, or even their disorganization, they have higher hopes and nobler passions. Out of the suffering comes the serious mind; out of the salvation, the grateful heart; out of endurance, fortitude; out of deliverance, faith.
—Ruskin, Modern Painters.
I found occasion at this time to conclude, that the Unio of our river fords secretes pearls so much more frequently than the Unionidœ and Anadonta of our still pools and lakes, not from any specific peculiarity in the constitution of the creature, but from the effects of the habitat which it is its nature to choose. It receives in the fords and shallows of a rapid river many a rough blow from sticks and peebles carrried down in times of flood, and occasionally from the feet of men and animals that cross the stream during droughts; and the blows induce the morbid secretions of which pearls are the result. There seems to exist no inherent cause why Anadon cygnea, with its beautiful silvery nacre—as bright often, and always more delicate than that of Unio margaritiferus—should not be equally productive of pearls; but, secure from violence in its still pools and lakes, it does not produce a single pearl for a hundred that are ripened into value and beauty by the exposed, current-tossed Unionidœ of our rapid mountain rivers. Would that hardship and suffering bore always in a creature of a greatly higher family similar results, and that the hard buffets dealt him by fortune in the rough stream of life could be transmuted, by some blessed internal predisposition of his nature, into pearls of great price.
—Hugh Miller, My Schools and Schoolmasters.
Express confessions give definiteness to memories that might more easily melt away without them.
Reference.—IV. 37.—J. Keble, Sermons for the Sundays After Trinity, 262.
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.