At that moment the sentence against Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from mankind. He ate grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.
I. WE SEE PRIDE VAUNTING ITSELF IN BOASTFUL VAIN-GLORY. A year had elapsed since the faithful voice of Daniel had wakened the conscience of the king. At first the monarch intended to reform, but procrastination destroyed the sensitiveness of feeling, blinded him to the imminence of danger, and gave momentum to his downward course. The city grew in magnitude and in magnificence. The royal plans proceeded towards completion. Outward prosperity shone upon him in still clearer glory, Notwithstanding, the hour of reckoning was about to strike. Walking upon his elevated palace-roof, and surveying the grandeur of the city, Nebuchadnezzar gave the reins to natural pride - thought and spoke as if there were none greater than he. This is the end pride ever aims at, viz. to make man a god unto himself. Yet was there a solitary stone in that vast pile that had been created by Nebuchadnezzar? Was the mind that designed the whole self-originated? Were the ten thousand artisans who had daily wrought upon those buildings the workmanship of man or of God? Pride is idolatry. Pride becomes mad atheism. There is no sin that is so frequently and freely condemned in Scripture as pride. By it the angels lost their high estate. Into this pit Adam fell. "Ye shall be as gods," the tempter said. "God resisteth the proud." They are a smoke in his nostrils. "Pride goeth before destruction." One step only between haughtiness and hell. Insolent arrogance verges on madness.
II. WE SEE HUMAN PRIDE MOVING TO ACTIVITY THE COUNSELS OF HEAVEN. If the statesmen or the artisans in Babylon overheard the utterance of the king, they might have regarded it as a harmless outburst of vanity. Yet God doth not so regard it. It disturbs the tranquillity of heaven. It is regarded there as the language of hostile defiance. The limit of God's forbearance was leached. There is a time to be quiet and a time to act. The cup of Nebuchadnezzar's sin was full. He had despised the messages of kindly expostulation from Jehovah, and now no delay was permitted. The king had barely ceased to speak when Jehovah responded. But the words of Nebuchadnezzar were not intended for the ears of God. Ah! still he heard them. He regarded them as an indirect menace to him, and he at once replies. The verdict has passed the Judge's lips. The kingdom is alienated. In a moment empire is lost. Rank, honour, power, are lost. Manhood is lost. Intelligence, memory, reason, love, - all lust. Bare existence only remains. Like the prodigal boy, he descends step by step into a deeper degradation, and at length herds with the beasts of the field. Yet this is but an outward and visible portraiture of the inward degradation.
III. WE SEE HUMAN PRIDE MEETING WITH FITTING RETRIBUTION. We have here in concrete form - in the history of a living person - the abstract truth, "He that exalteth himself shall be abased." This is its natural and fitting outcome - its proper fruit. We cannot doubt that every form and degree of sin has, in the Divine code, a suitable and adequate punishment. There is not simply one rigid penalty for every mode and measure of transgression. The justice that presides on the eternal throne has eyes of subtlest discrimination and balances of exquisite nicety. Every step in the judicial procedure of God is accordant with natural principles. Even the forces of material nature will possibly be employed in vindicating the Divine Majesty. The indolence and sensual indulgence of the Babylonian palace served to emasculate Nebuchadnezzar. The rousing energy which war had demanded in earlier years had braced the monarch's mind. But now the years of public peace had been so misused that inertia bred softness and luxury produced effeminacy. Step by step character deteriorated, though, perhaps, not detected by mortal eye. At length, by the Divine fiat, Reason abdicated her seat; the animal got the better of the man. In his imbecile condition the king imagined himself an ox, and preferred to browse in the fields. He was held last by this hallucination. His relatives and attendants, very possibly, feared to resist him. They humoured his infatuation until, in the royal paddock, his hair grew ragged and coarse, his nails became long and bent like eagles' claws. This is the monarch who disdained to recognize God - the monarch who plumed himself on his self-sufficiency! Draw near, all proud doffers of God, and see this portrait of yourselves! - D.
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.
Genesis 4:12), and he became like a satyr, or wild man, which differeth not from a beast but in shape; though he was not turned to a beast, yet this was a strange alteration to be so changed in an hour, that his nobles abhorred him, his subjects despised him, his servants forsook him, none would company with him but the beasts. Consider this, all that advance yourselves against God, and despise His word, as Nebuchadnezzar did. This was to show that God makes no more account of the wicked than of beasts, and, therefore, the Holy Ghost calleth them often by the name of beasts; showing now that sin and pleasure make them like beasts. When they have abused their wits often, and perverted their reason, at last God taketh their understanding from them, and they become like beasts, loathsome to themselves and others. Many such beasts we have still like Nebuchadnezzar, who were fitter to live in the desert among lions, where they might not annoy others, than in towns amongst men, where they infect more than the plague.
He was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen.
I. PRIDE WARNED. Success had crowned Nebuchadnezzar, and now he "was at rest in his house, flourishing (as a tree) in his palace." But "a dream which made him afraid" came to him. Astonished to silence stood Daniel before the king. He hears the dream, and he knows the meaning of it. Wonder, pity, sorrow, as for a friend, locked Daniel's lips in silence. At last he finds voice, and stammers out the wish that the strange impending doom had been for the king's enemies rather than for the king. The cry of the holy one, "Hew down the tree," was to find bitter fulfilment in the king's experience. Strange warning for the ear accustomed to flattery. Daniel is more than a court official. He will be faithful adviser of the man. He would have him escape the coming doom. The cause of the approaching calamity was not physical, but moral. "Break off thy sins by righteousness," etc. The Divine threatenings are conditional. If the sinner repent, punishment is averted. Nebuchadnezzar is warned. He has a year's grace. Let him use it well.
II. PRIDE EXULTANT. The king was warned in vain. The year of grace left him as it had found him. "His heart was lifted up," and his mind hardened in pride. As he walked on his palace roof, which overlooked Babylon, he cried, "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?" By his own might he has done it all. "God is not in all his thoughts." What of us? Pride is not confined to king's houses or bosoms. Of what are men not proud? Are we free from this sin? Let us question ourselves.
III. PRIDE BROKEN. A man, smitten with the melancholy madness known as lycanthropy, he imagined himself an animal, and that animal an ox. This form of insanity is still known to medical science. Insane upon one point, he may have been sane upon every other. With beast imagination, he may still have preserved his consciousness of personal identity. This strange double consciousness! He felt like an ox; he knew he was a man. And so, with beast-heart, he wandered an outcast from his glory. Till seven times (perhaps years) passed over him, he dwelt with beast-heart among the beasts, and then reason returned. He looked up — sign that it had returned. He praised the God he had forgotten. Humbled, he was humble. No proud boasting now. He makes his boast in the Lord. And what have we worth having that we have not received? Let us live in the constant recognition of God as the fountain of all our blessings, and so escape the ingratitude of pride. From this sin, as from every other, only One can save us. In the Almighty, the lowly Saviour, let us find our refuge. He can forgive us for the past. He can aid us to watchfulness for the future. He can — he waits — to aid us to resist this and every sin.
(G. T. Coster.)
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."
(Cunningham Geikie, D.D.)1. What an incongruous thing it is for a king to be eating grass. It is good for cattle, but not fit for man. Yet the scene is as common as daylight. When I see a man of regal nature made to rule in realms of thought, capable of all moral elevation, besotting his faculties, attempting out of low sensualities to satisfy his immortal energies, coming down off his throne of power into brutalities, sacrificing his higher nature to his lower nature, coming down, and coming down, until all his influence for good is gone, I cry out, "There is a king eating grass like an ox."
2. Conviction is not conversion. Who is this man who makes the boast about Babylon? The very man who, under the revelation of dreams that Daniel made from Heaven, deeply humbled himself while he confessed that God is a God of gods cad a Lord of lords; yet behold that humbling and arousing did not result in a radical change. Conviction is merely a sight of sin; conversion is a view of pardon. Conviction is the pain, conversion is the messenger that cures it. Thousands have experienced the former who never experienced the latter.
3. Pride is the precursor of overthrow. He who is down cannot fall.
4. What a terrible thing is the loss of reason! In this world of sad sights, the saddest is the idiot's stare. Strong drink is the cause of more insanity than anything else.
5. How quickly turns the wheel of fortune, from how high up to how far down went Nebuchadnezzar. Of all fickle people in the world, Fortune is the most fickle.
6. Learn the comforting truth, that afflictions are arrested as soon as they have accomplished their mission; and
7. Connected with the most distressing judgments of God where are displays of Divine mercy. God might justly have left Nebuchadnezzar in the field, but infinite compassion brought him back to the palace.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)
(John Cumming, D.D.)I. THE LEADING EVENTS IN HIS HISTORY. Nebuchadnezzar was the son of Nabopollassar, and succeeded that monarch in the government of Chaldea in the year of the world 3399. He attacked and overcome Jehoiakim, robbed him of his treasures, and afterwards subdued and destroyed him (2 Kings 24:1). He also took Zedekiah captive, put out his eyes, and bound him in chains, arbor having put his sons to death in his presence. He plundered Jerusalem of its riches. The vessels of the temple he placed in the temples of his idols at Babylon.
II. THE MORE STRIKING FEATURES OF HIS PERSONAL CHARACTER.
1. He was a public notorious idolater. Yea, he was a maker and patroniser of idols (Daniel 3:1).
3. He was distinguished for his insatiable ambition.
III. AS THE SUBJECT BOTH OF THE DIVINE JUDGMENT AND MERCY. God brought His judgments upon him. His affliction:
1. Was insanity.
2. Was Divine. God' entered into the lists with him.
3. It was severe. Loss of property, of friends, of health, reputation, etc., often distressing.
4. It was singularly appropriate to his crimes. He made himself as God; God made him as a brute. He boasted of his glory; God made him utterly despicable.
5. Limited and followed by Divine mercy. Had it not, he would have been utterly consumed. God's mercy did not utterly forsake him.
6. Produced reformation. Hence he blessed God; and praised and honoured him that liveth for ever. Learn:
1. The universal government of God.
2. The wickedness of pride.
3. The greatness of Divine mercy.
4. The importance of the Divine favour.
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