The same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen…
The great God, in order to describe his own power, calls upon Job to "behold everyone that is proud, and abase him. Look on everyone that is proud and bring him low, and tread down the wicked in their place; then will I confess unto thee, that thine own right hand can save thee " (Job 40:11); thereby intimating that it is the prerogative or peculiar glory of God to humble proud oppressors, and that one look of His,ye can bring them down.
I. THE CALAMITY ITSELF. In order to show how awful and remarkable this was, it will be necessary a little to consider the dignity of this monarch, and the state of his affairs. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon, the capital city of the Chaldean empire. He had been engaged in successful wars against the Tyrians, the Jews, and other neighbouring nations. He had overrun almost all Asia, and carried his arms into Africa. He had brought the Chaldean empire to the highest pitch of power and grandeur, and enriched his capital with the plunder of all the neighbouring nations.
II. THE CAUSE OF THE CALAMITY. And that was his pride. This vice provoked God to make him such a miserable spectacle. This unhappy monarch was strutting about contemplating its grandeur, and thinking himself a god, surveying the glories of his own creation, when this mortifying change came upon him. He lived about a year after this restoration, and one would hope he kept in this good mind, and died under the serious impression of these important truths. And it was happy for him to have lost his senses for a time, if it was the means of saving his soul. Having thus viewed this very affecting and miserable spectacle, let us receive instruction from it; and endeavour to enter into the following useful reflections upon this surprising event.
1. Let us reverence the almighty power of God, so illustriously displayed in it. "Where the word of a king is," saith Solomon, "there is power." Nebuchadnezzar's royal word had been accompanied with power to raise the grandeur of Babylon, and to conquer and impoverish whole nations. But when the royal word of the King of kings "fell from heaven saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom is departed from thee; the same hour was the thing fulfilled" (v. 31). And all his wise counsellors, skilful physicians, and mighty forces, could neither prevent nor remove the affliction. How easily can God bring down the highest! See how easily God can destroy the brightest genius, and confound the most subtle politician. This story is a glorious and everlasting proof of his supremacy and irresistible power. In this view let us consider it, and reverence the Almighty God. Nebuchadnezzar takes pains to inculcate these ideas of God upon all to whom this decree is made known.
2. See bow abominable prides is in the sight of God. It is the observation of a noble writer that this story is one of the finest, most humbling, and most instructive lessons to human vanity that ever was exhibited to it. It shows how detestable pride is in the sight of God, and informs us (they are Nebuchadnezzar's own words) that "those who walk in pride, God is able to abase." So his royal proclamation concludes; and it is a truth that we should never forget. "Pride was not made for man." It is unreasonable and absurd for a creature weak, dependent, and sinful, to be proud, a creature who derives all from God, owes everything to Him, and lives and moves and hath his being in Him. There are other instances of the loss of understanding besides this of Nebuchadnezzar, which are very mortifying to human vanity; instances where the faculties decayed by age, and where there appeared no immediate hand of Providence in them. Are you proud of your wit and sprightly parts? Think of Swift, who, having been generally admired for them, though in some instances he had abused them to vilify human nature, insult our present happy establishment, and ridicule many serious and exemplary Christians, became at last a mere child, had not the sense of a brute to feed himself, and was shown by his servants, for gain, as a curiosity. Are you proud of great learning and profound skill in the sciences? Think of Swisset, a celebrated German mathematician, of whom it was said by his learned contemporaries that "his capacities were almost above human." Yet in the advance of life he lost his understanding so far that he could scarce count twenty, and used to weep because he could not understand the arguments and demonstrations which he had published. Are you proud of honour, courage, conduct, and high reputation? Think of the great Duke of Marlborough, who, after he had been for so many years the pride of England, the terror of France, and wonder of Europe, became an idiot, and had not understanding sufficient to perform the common actions of life. Are you proud of wealth and power; your buildings, equipages, and. attendants; the numbers who are submissive and obedient to you? Think of Nebuchadnezzar. Amidst such affecting scenes, let not our eyes be lofty, nor our hearts haughty. Let us remember that "we hold even reason itself, that ennobling quality, that boasted prerogative and distinguishing perfection of human nature, upon a very precarious tenure; and, as one expresseth it, something with a human shape and voice hath often survived everything human besides." Let us attend to that charge of God. by Jeremiah: "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man glory in his riches" (Jeremiah 9:23). We may learn:
3. How much are they to be pitied who have lost their understanding. After having considered the case of Nebuchadnezzar, let us think with compassion on others, who in this respect resemble him, that they are destitute of reason. This is the ease of those who are naturally idiots, and. never discovered any considerable degree of rational thought, or manly actions. It is the case of those who, by violent disorders of body, are become delirious, or so overwhelmed with melancholy, that they think and judge wrong of themselves, and take everything by the worst handle. This is the case of many in the decline of life. Their faculties decay; they outlive even themselves, and become children a second time.
4. How thankful should we be for the continued exercise of our reason. "There is a spirit in man, and the inspiration of the Almighty hath giver him understanding." It is God's constant visitation that preserveth that spirit, and continueth the exercise of our faculties. Whoever seriously considers the intimate connection between the soul and body, and how easily and frequently the faculties of the mind are affected by the disorders and injuries of the body, will see constant cause to magnify the goodness of God, that there are not more persons deprived of their understanding; or who have it weakened to such a degree as to render them useless and burthensome to others. It is really astonishing that there are not more idiots and mad people, considering how tender and delicate the texture of the brain is, which is the seat of the soul and its sensations; considering how many accidents children are liable to, even under the care of the loudest mothers, much more while in the hands of mercenary nurses, from whom tenderness for other persons' children can never be expected, after they have put off all tenderness for their own. If our understandings remain, and our spirits are not wounded, we have ten thousand times more reason for thankfulness than complaint.
5. How careful should we be to preserve our reason, to improve it, and employ it to the best purposes! Understanding and knowledge is the highest natural perfection. Reason is the distinguishing glory of men above the brutes; and we should carefully avoid everything that tends to destroy or impair it. In this view I must solemnly warn you against gluttony and drunkenness. Every excess hurts the soul. It was Nebuchadnezzar's punishment to have "a beast's heart given to him"; it is a pity that any rational creatures should make beasts of themselves. There is nothing which is a greater enemy to the understanding than idleness. The faculties of many rust away for want of use or employment. They doze away their senses and become stupid and unprofitable. Finally, let us be careful to improve our understandings continually, by reading and reflection, by conversing with the wise and good, and especially by meditation on Divine things, and daily fervent prayer to the Father of lights and wisdom. Let us employ our faculties in a manner becoming rational creatures. Reason was given us that we might know God and ourselves; that we might contemplate His works and consider His doings; that we might know and practise the duties of our connections and relations in life, and especially study the glorious Gospel, which is able to make us "wise unto salvation."
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: The same hour was the thing fulfilled on Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and ate grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of the sky, until his hair was grown like eagles' [feathers], and his nails like birds' [claws].