PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS
|Nebuchadnezzar's Second Dream||Nebuchadnezzar's Madness||Nebuchadnezzar's Second Dream||
(verse numbers different)
|Nebuchadnezzar Describes His Dream|
|4:15b-17||Daniel Interprets the Dream|
|Daniel Explains the Dream|
|4:24-27||The Dream Comes True|
|Nebuchadnezzar Praises God||Nebuchadnezzar Praises God|
READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")
FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL
This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.
1. First paragraph
2. Second paragraph
3. Third paragraph
A. The verse numbers differ from translation to translation because 4:1-3 is 3:31-33 in the original Aramaic text.
B. There are several recurrent themes
1. praise of YHWH
2. dream interpretation by YHWH
3. sovereignty of YHWH
C. There are many differences between the MT (Masoretic Text) and the LXX (Septuagint) in chapters 4-6.
D. This chapter seems to be a very Jewish theological document. It has long been disputed that a pagan polytheist like Nebuchadnezzar II could compose a chapter like this by himself (this chapter is in the first person singular except for the period of Nebuchadnezzar's madness). It is obvious from the book of Esther that King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) allowed both Haman and Mordecai to compose documents of their own in his name. Daniel is the Jewish theological influence behind this chapter.
E. Some of the specific reasons for why Nebuchadnezzar II could not have written this chapter are
1. theological content, v. 3
2. the style is in line with the rest of the book of Daniel
3. Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of in the third person, vv. 25-30
4. verse 29 seems to be written for non-Babylonian people
F. W.A. Criswell and E. J. Young assert that Nebuchadnezzar II is converted to the worship of YHWH because of this final, great sign of chapter 4. However, because of verse 8, it is obvious to me that although he was greatly impressed, he was not willing to convert to the monotheism of Israel. All known Babylonian documents of the period refer to him as a worshiper of Marduk.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:1-3
1Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: "May your peace abound! 2It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.
3How great are His signs
And how mighty are His wonders!
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
And His dominion is from generation to generation."
4:1 "Nebuchadnezzar" Verses 1-3 are in chapter 3 in the Hebrew Bible, but this context obviously starts a new section. His name means "may Nebo guard the boundary" (cf. v. 8).
▣ "all the peoples, nations, and men of every language" We must remember that the kingdom of neo-Babylon included many language groups (cf. 3:4,7,29; 6:25). This chapter seems to be a royal decree issued to praise the God of Judah for Nebuchadnezzar's restoration.
▣ "in all the earth" This, of course, refers to the known world of that day and is an example of a non-literal exaggeration (hyperbole).
▣ "‘May your peace abound'" This is parallel to 6:25 (cf. Ezra 4:17). This was a common idiom for initial greetings, meaning "welfare," "prosperity" (BDB 1116). Nebuchadnezzar is declaring, in a royal decree, the praises of the God of Judah, who he calls "the Most High God." See Special Topic at 4:2.
4:2 "the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me." Nebuchadnezzar II has now been confronted with YHWH in chapters 2, 3, and 4. The accumulating evidence of the existence, sovereignty, and covenant loyalty of the Jewish God is overwhelming.
The book of Daniel is characterized by lists and hendiadys. See the third paragraph of 2:12. The corresponding Hebrew terms for "signs," and "wonders" are often used together (cf. Exod. 7:3; 8:23; Deut. 4:34; 6:22; 7:19; 13:1,2; 26:8; 28:46; 29:3; 34:11; Neh. 9:10; Ps. 105:27; 135:9; Jer. 32:20). What God did for Israel in the Exodus (cf. Acts 7:36) He now displays to pagan kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius). The revelation continues in the life of Jesus (cf. Acts 2:22) and the gospel proclamation (cf. Acts 2:43; 4:30; 5:12; 8:13; 14:3). However, in the NT these two terms are usually associated with false Messiahs (cf. Matt. 24:24; Mark 13:22) or the Jewish people demanding evidence of Jesus' Messiahship (cf. Matt. 12:39; 16:1; John 4:48). God wants the world to know Him!
▣ "Most High God" See Special Topic below.
4:3 "His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom" This verse is a poetic/hymnic text extolling God.
1. "His signs. . .and wonders" (cf. 6:27). God is actively involved in the lives of these Near Eastern kings (cf. chapters 2,3,4,5,6) to demonstrate His power and presence.
2. "everlasting kingdom" (cf. v. 34; 2:44; 6:26; 7:14,26). This is in contrast to the changing kingdom represented by the vision of chapter 2. These last two lines of poetry are very similar to the Hebrew of Ps. 145:13; also see Ps. 45:6; Lam. 5:19.
3. "dominion is from generation to generation." God's people are safe and secure in Him in each and every generation, even amidst war and exile. Physical circumstances (destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple) do not affect the peace and presence of God in the lives of His followers. These words and phrases are in a parallel relationship in v. 3. Semitic poetry must be interpreted in light of thought parallels, not rhyme.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:4-9
4"I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. 5I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me. 6So I gave orders to bring into my presence all the wise men of Babylon, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7Then the magicians, the conjurers, the Chaldeans and the diviners came in and I related the dream to them, but they could not make its interpretation known to me. 8But finally Daniel came in before me, whose name is Belteshazzar according to the name of my god, and in whom is a spirit of the holy gods; and I related the dream to him, saying, 9'O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, since I know that a spirit of the holy gods is in you and no mystery baffles you, tell me the visions of my dream which I have seen, along with its interpretation.'"
NASB"'was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace'"
NKJV"'was at rest in my house, and flourishing in my palace'"
NRSV"'was living at ease in my home and prospering in my palace'"
TEV"'was living comfortably in my palace'"
NJB"was living comfortably in my house, prosperously in my palace'"
This is another example of Semitic parallelism (as is v. 5). Nebuchadnezzar was experiencing the kind of prosperity that he had wished his hearers in v. 1.
This seems to be an allusion to the up-coming dream of a glorious tree. This type of human arrogance is prophesied in Isa. 47:7,8. Isaiah 13-14 and 46-47 are oracles of judgment against Babylon, which becomes the biblical symbol of human arrogance and pride.
4:5-7 Again the impotence of Babylon and its wise men is contrasted with the wise power and control of the God of Judah and her people.
4:6 "‘So I gave orders'" Nebuchadnezzar can make decrees (cf. 2:9,15; 3:10,29), but he could not produce the desired result (and neither could his wise men). This is in stark contrast to God's will being accomplished.
4:7 For the meaning of these terms see 1:20 or 2:2.
▣ "they could not make known its interpretation" It is unusual that they did not attempt an interpretation, given the fact that Nebuchadnezzar had revealed the dream. Possibly they were able to interpret it, but were afraid to.
It is surprising that Nebuchadnezzar calls on the same group of wise men which he previously had no confidence in (cf. 2:4-13), and also that he had forgotten his own decrees (2:4-49; 3:29) relating to YHWH.
4:8 "Daniel" means "God is my judge" (BDB 1088).
▣ "Belteshazzar" Daniel's name implies a Babylonian deity, "may protect his life" (BDB 1084). The Babylonian pantheon developed from the Sumerian pantheon. Originally deities were the patrons of specific cities. The god, Marduk, was known as "lord." Bel was originally the patron god of the city of Nippur, but came to be identified with Marduk, the pagan god of the city of Babylon (i.e. Bel, cf Isa. 46:1; Jer. 50:2; 51:44). It is uncertain exactly which god is implied by Daniel's name, but Marduk became the chief god of Babylon. Although Bel looks to be a part of Daniel's Babylonian name, it is not. Verse 8 functions as a parenthesis explaining the name, Belteshazzar (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV).
NASB, NRSV"a spirit of the holy gods"
NKJV"the Spirit of the Holy God"
JPS, NEB"the spirit of the holy gods"
If this phrase is from a polytheist (cf. v. 8a; 5:11,14) then surely this is not a reference to YHWH or His Spirit (the textual evidence is that the qualifying adjective "holy" is PLURAL, however, there is a Hebrew PLURAL equivalent in Josh. 24:19). The context (v. 9) implies that Nebuchadnezzar remembered Daniel's previous help of dream interpretation in chapter 2; if so, then this could be translated like the NKJV (cf. vv. 9,18). Remember the consistent theological emphasis is YHWH's power and control versus the Babylonian pantheon and government (cf. 2:20-23). "The spirit" would be understood as YHWH's influence in Daniel's giftedness (cf. 2:27-28,30,47).
This Aramaic phrase is similar to the Hebrew phrase used of Joseph in Gen. 41:38. Both Joseph and Daniel served pagan kings and interpreted their dreams.
4:9 "the chief of the magicians" Daniel was trained in the language and traditions of the Chaldeans (cf. 1:4). He was made the leader of the Babylonian wise men (cf. 1:20; 2:48). Daniel's abilities were from YHWH, not from Babylonian magic. These Babylonian wise men failed again and again (cf. 2:1-13; 4:7,18). Daniel's position caused later Jewish rabbis to criticize his cooperation with pagan culture and governments.
NASB"tell me the vision"
NKJV"explain to me the vision"
NRSV"hear the dream"
TEV"this is my dream"
NJB"this is the dream"
From these English translations it is obvious there are at least two ways to interpret the Aramaic text: (1) Nebuchadnezzar wanted Daniel to reveal the dream and its interpretation, like chapter 2 (NASB, NKJV) or (2) Nebuchadnezzar told Daniel the dream (as he did the other wise men, cf. v. 7 and NRSV, TEV, NJB) and wanted him to give the interpretation. The second makes sense contextually, but demands a revocalization of the Masoretic Consonantal Text.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:10-12
10"Now these were the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed: I was looking, and behold, there was a tree in the midst of the earth and its height was great.
11The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.
12Its foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant,
And in it was food for all.
The beasts of the field found shade under it,
And the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches,
And all living creatures fed themselves from it."
4:10 "behold" A Handbook on the Book of Daniel, by UBS, pp. 106-107, notes that this Aramaic interjection (BDB 1080) and its Hebrew equivalent (BDB 243) are used often in Daniel, but usually not translated.
1. Aramaic - 2:31; 4:10,13; 7:2,5,7,8(twice),13
2. Hebrew - 8:3,5,15,19; 9:18; 10:5,10,16; 11:2; 12:5
Its literary function is to energize the narrative.
▣ "a tree" This was apparently a common symbol of the power and pervasiveness of important men in the Ancient Near East(cf. Ezek. 31 and Herodotus 1.108; 7.19).
NASB, NKJV"in the midst of the earth"
NRSV"at the center of the earth"
TEV"in the middle of the earth"
NJB"in the middle of the world"
This is an idiomatic way of showing the extent and power of the neo-Babylon empire (cf. 2:38-39; 4:20-22). As always interpreters must take this figurative (hyperbolic) language in the sense it would have been used by a king in the ancient Near East. Nebuchadnezzar controlled the known world.
4:11 This verse has all PARTICIPLES, showing continuing action. The tree (kingdom) was still expanding.
▣ "its height reached to the sky" This phrase is reminiscent of the Tower of Babel in Gen. 11:4, which also denotes human arrogance and pride (cf. Isa. 14:14).
▣ "it was visible to the end of the whole earth" This is obviously poetic hyperbole.
4:12 The neo-Babylonian empire provided a safe and growing economic climate.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:13-18
13"I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.
14He shouted out and spoke as follows:
'Chop down the tree and cut off its branches,
Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit;
Let the beasts flee from under it
And the birds from its branches.
15Yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground,
But with a band of iron and bronze around it
In the new grass of the field;
And let him be drenched with the dew of heaven,
And let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth.
16Let his mind be changed from that of a man
And let a beast's mind be given to him,
And let seven periods of time pass over him.
17This sentence is by the decree of the angelicwatchers
And the decision is a command of the holy ones,
In order that the living may know
That the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind,
And bestows it on whom He wishes And sets over it the lowliest of men.'
18This is the dream which I, King Nebuchadnezzar, have seen. Now you, Belteshazzar, tell me its interpretation, inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able to make known to me the interpretation; but you are able, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you."
4:13 "the angelic watcher" This means "one that stays awake" (BDB 1105, The Hebrew counterpart is used of God in Ps. 121:4). This Aramaic word and concept is used only in this chapter in the entire Bible. It is SINGULAR in v. 13 but PLURAL in verse 17. The Hebrew counterpart is used of angels in the inter-testamental books of Jubilees (4:15) and I Enoch (1:5) and for fallen angels (cf. I Enoch 10-16). It has been found in Cave 1 of the Qumran Text in "the Genesis Apocraphon" and is used for fallen angels. It is also known to be the title for the messenger of the gods in the Canaanite pantheon (Ras Shamra texts from Ugarit). We are uncertain if this is an allusion to Babylonian mythology or simply a unique way to refer to a special type of angel.
▣ "descended from heaven" Since the word "heaven" is also used in v. 11b, however in a different sense, this is a good opportunity to emphasize the crucial aspect of context in interpretation. Lexicons and dictionaries do not give meaning, only literary (or verbal) contexts give meaning. In v. 11 the term refers to the sky (cf. v. 15d), but in v. 13 (cf. vv. 26-31) it refers to the dwelling place of God or the gods.
4:14 "He shouted out" Apparently the reader is meant to understand that one of the holy watchers cried out to the other angelic beings (cf. v. 17). Remember, however, this is a highly symbolic and figurative dream, not time-space reality.
4:15 "a band of iron" There has been much discussion about the band. Most commentators assume that it was for the protection of the stump, although some see it as being related to the restraints that bound Nebuchadnezzar during the time that he was deranged.
The tree stands for the kingship of Nebuchadnezzar. God cuts down/brings down his kingdom (cf. Isa. 10:33-34; Ezek. 17:22-24). However, the stump remains and will regenerate. This metaphor is also used of the stump of Jesse (i.e. the Messiah, cf. Isa. 11:1; 53:2; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). This is the origin of the Messianic term "Branch" (i.e. netzer, cf. Isa. 4:2; Zech. 3:8; 6:12).
NASB"let him share with the beasts in the grass of the earth"
NKJV"let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth"
NRSV"let his lot be with the animals of the field in the grass of the earth"
TEV"let him live with the animals and the plants"
NJB"have its lot with the animals, eating grass"
As you can tell by thee English translations, there are two ways to understand this ambiguous phrase.
1. The king will live outdoors on the ground with the domestic animals (NASB, NRSV, TEV).
2. The king will eat grass like the domestic animals (NKJV, NJB).
4:16 "let his mind" This word is literally "heart," which in Hebrew was a metaphor for the mental processes and choices of the person.
NASB"and let seven periods of time pass over him"
NKJV, NRSV"let seven times pass over him"
TEV"for seven years"
NJB"seven times shall pass over him"
This phrase becomes theologically significant because
1. the term "seven" is used both literally and figuratively in the Bible. In Hebrew thought it is the perfect number going back to the creation week of Gen. 1.
2. the term "time" is used in several of the prophecies of Daniel. Is it referring to a specific period of time or a full or perfect period of time? These questions must be answered from context, not philology or lexicology.
The LXX has "seven years," but the term implies "seasons," "annual seasons." The time element is divinely set and known but recorded for us in a purposefully ambiguous way.
4:17 "This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers, And the decision is a command of the holy ones" This seems to imply that the angels made the decision on their own, but verse 24 shows the ultimate source of this decision was God. Again, it is important to realize that the Jews were uncertain at this time about their covenant relationship with God because the temple and Jerusalem (cf. Deut. 12:10) had been destroyed and the Davidic king taken into exile (cf. II Sam. 7). They needed Him to show them that He was in control of all of world history.
The concluding part of this verse is very similar in theological emphasis to 2:20. The entire book of Daniel makes this assertion again and again. To the Ancient Near Eastthe historical situation looked as if YHWH had been defeated by the Babylonian gods, but in reality YHWH was using the empires of the Fertile Crescent (Assyria, Babylon, Persia) to execute His will related to His people (cf. Isa. 10:5; Jer. 51:20). God's people were reaping the consequences of idolatry and rebellion (cf. Deut. 27-29). God needed to reassure His people and inform the pagan empires (v. 25) of the source of their current political and military prowess.
4:18 "inasmuch as none of the wise men of my kingdom is able" This is a recurrent theme (cf. 1:20; 2:4-13; 4:7; 5:7-8).
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:19-27
19Then Daniel, whose name is Belteshazzar, was appalled for a while as his thoughts alarmed him. The king responded and said, "Belteshazzar, do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you." Belteshazzar replied, "My lord, if only the dream applied to those who hate you and its interpretation to your adversaries! 20The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21and whose foliage was beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which the beasts of the field dwelt and in whose branches the birds of the sky lodged —22it is you, O king; for you have become great and grown strong, and your majesty has become great and reached to the sky and your dominion to the end of the earth. 23In that the king saw an angelic watcher, a holy one, descending from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it; yet leave the stump with its roots in the ground, but with a band of iron and bronze around it in the new grass of the field, and let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him share with the beasts of the field until seven periods of time pass over him', 24this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25that you be driven away from mankind and your dwelling place be with the beasts of the field, and you be given grass to eat like cattle and be drenched with the dew of heaven; and seven periods of time will pass over you, until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes. 26And in that it was commanded to leave the stump with the roots of the tree, your kingdom will be assured to you after you recognize that it is Heaven that rules. 27Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.'‘
4:19 "Daniel. . .was appalled for a while" Daniel was apparently very loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II and regretted having to reveal this judgment. Several times in the book of Daniel, Daniel is spiritually and physically affected by the revelations he receives (cf. 7:15,28; 8:27; 10:16,17).
It seems that "appalled" and "alarmed" are parallel grammatical structures so characteristic of the book of Daniel.
▣ "do not let the dream or its interpretation alarm you" Nebuchadnezzar had himself been alarmed by this dream (cf. v. 5).
▣ "those who hate you. . .to your enemies" This is another of many parallel phrases. This literary style characterizes the entire book (cf. vv. 21c,d, and e,f; 22a,b; 23c,d).
4:21 "He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding" In this context it refers to the four Jewish youth, especially Daniel (cf. v. 23) and not at all to the guild of Babylonian wise men.
4:22 "it is you, O king" The king himself as the representative of his empire is the focus of the dream, as in chapter 2 (v. 38b, "you are the head of gold").
4:25 "until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whomever He wishes" See full note at 4:17. This is the central and recurrent theme of Daniel (cf. Ps. 83:18; 97:9; Jer. 27:5; Rom. 9-11).
The LXX adds a temporal note at the beginning of this chapter and chapter 3 ("in the eighteenth year"). This would designate the year that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed. Nebuchadnezzar needed to recognize YHWH's permission for his apparent victory.
NASB"it is Heaven that rules"
NRSV"Heaven is sovereign"
TEV"God rules all the world"
NJB"the Most High rules over human sovereignty"
This is a circumlocution, a way of referring to deity without using a title/name (cf. Matt. 3:2, "kingdom of heaven"; and Luke 15:18,21, "sinned against heaven").
4:27 Daniel's advice to Nebuchadnezzar recognizes the biblical world-view (OT) that there is a holy God who requires righteousness. These words to a proud eastern monarch shows the basic ethical nature of reality. This reflects the covenant of Deut. 27-29. Sin and rebellion are the problem, but God is a God of mercy (cf. Isa. 55:6-7; Ezek. 18:21-22). These words to Nebuchadnezzar show Daniel's understanding that pagans are loved by God and can respond to Him by faith and life.
The parallelism of "sins" and "iniquities" is obvious, but also "righteousness" and "mercy to the poor" are parallel. This reflects the Jewish understanding of almsgiving (in the LXX translation as well as usage in the Targums and Talmud, cf. Ps. 112:3,9; Isa. 33:15; Matt. 6:1; II Cor. 9:6-11) as an expression of "righteousness" (i.e. God's character, cf. Isa. 58:6-11).
This is literally "tear off" or "break off" (BDB 1108, Peal IMPERATIVE, cf. Gen. 27:40). Humans have been given a free will. They must exercise it for righteousness, not self. There are pivotal moments of appropriate choices and accompanying actions. Seize the moral moment! Current choices determine future conditions.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:28-33
28All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king. 29Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30The king reflected and said, "Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?" 31While the word was in the king's mouth, a voice came from heaven, saying, "King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is declared: sovereignty has been removed from you, 32and you will be driven away from mankind, and your dwelling place will be with the beasts of the field. You will be given grass to eat like cattle, and seven periods of time will pass over you until you recognize that the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind and bestows it on whomever He wishes." 33Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled; and he was driven away from mankind and began eating grass like cattle, and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair had grown like eagles' feathers and his nails like birds' claws.
4:28 This summary verse is placed first, similar to vv. 1-3. This verse asserts a great biblical truth—what God says comes to be (cf. Num. 23:19c; Isa. 40:8; 45:23; 55:11). When all is said and done humanity's only hope is in the unchanging merciful character of God (cf. Mal. 3:6). His promises are an extension of His character.
4:29 "he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon" The ancients used the roof in the summertime as a cool place to rest and sleep.
4:30 "the king reflected and said" Pride has always been the major problem of fallen humanity (cf. Gen. 3; Isa. 14; Ezek. 28). This king had much to be proud of, as he is known from the Babylonian Archives as a great builder. Babylon's Hanging Gardens were one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The city itself had huge double walls. The inner wall of the city was 21 feet thick, 50 cubits high with towers every 60 feet. The outer wall was 11 feet thick, 42 miles in circumference, and 6 feet beyond the outer wall was a man-made moat, which channeled the waters of the Euphrates around the city for protection.
▣ "by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty" Several of these words are used in 2:37, where Nebuchadnezzar's possession of these is directly attributed to the God of Judah. All he has is a gift from God, but he thinks it is all from himself (cf. vv. 26,31,32; 2:37,44).
4:31 "a voice came from heaven" The rabbis assumed that this is the Bath-kol of the inter-biblical period, God's way of confirming His will during that time when there were no prophets in Israel. But, in context, it seems to refer to the decree of the angelic watchers (cf. vv. 12,23).
4:32-33 "Immediately the word concerning Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled" His malady is called lycantrophy or boanthrophy (cf. R. K. Harrison's Introduction to the OT, page 1115-1117).
There is even some historical documentation supporting Nebuchadnezzar's period of madness.
1. Berossus (priest of Bel who wrote three history books about Babylon in Greek in the fourth and third centuries b.c.). This tradition is recorded by Josephus (Against Apion 1.19-20).
2. Eusebius, Praep. Evang. IX.41, preserves the testimony of Abydenus (second century b.c.) that Nebuchadnezzar, in his last days, was possessed by some god or other (cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 1115).
▣ "his body was drenched with the dew of heaven" The temperature range in this part of the earth is 120 degrees in summer to below freezing in winter. One can imagine the physical changes which occurred in this man's body as he lived outdoors the year round.
NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:4:34-37
34"But at the end of that period, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever;
For His dominion is an everlasting dominion,
And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.
35All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
But He does according to His will in the host of heaven
And among the inhabitants of earth;
And no one can ward off His hand
Or say to Him, ‘What have You done?'
36At that time my reason returned to me. And my majesty and splendor were restored to me for the glory of my kingdom, and my counselors and my nobles began seeking me out; so I was reestablished in my sovereignty, and surpassing greatness was added to me. 37Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt and honor the King of heaven, for all His works are true and His ways just, and He is able to humble those who walk in pride."
4:34 "at the end of that period" This refers to the specific time mentioned in 4:16, "seven periods of time." Most commentators think it refers to years, but this is speculation. However, the specificity confirms that God is in control of Nebuchadnezzar's condition and healing.
▣ "‘I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven'" This is a symbolic way of referring to his acknowledging God (cf. v. 36) and His sovereignty (cf. vv. 34-35).
▣ "the Most High" See Special Topic at 4:2.
▣ "Him who lives forever" This seems to be a play on the name "YHWH" from the Hebrew verb "to be" (cf. Exod. 3: 14). This theological affirmation is made several times in Daniel (cf. 4:34; 6:26; 12:7).
▣ "His dominion" This poetic theological affirmation is parallel to v. 3, as well as 2:44; 6:26-27.
4:35 This chapter has several poetic hymnic affirmations (cf. vv. 3,34-35,37).
▣ "all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing" This is not asserting that God does not love humanity, but that no human individual or nation can compare with God's power and authority (cf. Isa. 40:17; Jer. 10:10).
▣ "the host of heaven" This phrase can have two orientations (1) in texts relating to faithful Israel it refers to YHWH, the commander of the heavenly army of angels (cf. Josh. 5:14-15; I Kgs. 22:19; Ps. 103:20-21), but (2) in texts which relate to Mesopotamian empires, particularly Babylon, who advocate and use astrology or to idolatrous Israel, then it refers to YHWH as creator and controller of the heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars, etc., e.g. Deut. 4:19; 17:3; II Kgs. 17:16; Ps. 33:6; Isa. 34:4; 40:26; Jer. 8:2-3; 19:13).
▣ "and no one can ward off His hand" This word refers to child training or discipline. It is a strong emphasis on God's sovereignty over all humans and nations (cf. Isa. 43:13).
▣ "or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done'" This is another possible allusion to Isaiah (cf. 10:15; 45:9-13). The phrase is a metaphor often related to making pottery (cf. Isa. 29:16; Jer. 18; Rom. 9:19-22). God's total sovereignty is a recurrent theme (cf. II Chr. 20:6; Job 9:12).
4:37 "praise, exalt and honor" As is characteristic of Daniel several synonymous terms are used to make a strong emphasis.
▣ "the King of heaven" This is a title related to the concept of YHWH as king (cf. Jdgs. 8:23; I Sam. 8:7; Ps. 5:2; 29:10; 44:4; 47:6-8; 48:2; 68:24; 74:12; 84:3; 95:3; 97:1; 99:4; 146:10; Isa. 41:21; 43:15; 44:6; 52:7).
▣ "all His works are true and His ways just" Truth and justice are twin characteristics of YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:4; Ps. 33:4-5). The one true God reveals knowledge and acts fairly. He wants His people to emulate His character.
▣ "to humble those who walk in pride" This first refers to Nebuchadnezzar (and Belshazzar, cf. 5:20), but also to all Gentile empires represented by the image of four metals in chapter 2 (cf. Exod. 18:11). This is another common biblical theme (cf. Job 40:11-12; James 4:6,10;l I Pet. 5:5-6).
This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.
These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.
1. Who wrote this decree? The king or Daniel or both?
2. Why didn't Nebuchadnezzar call Daniel first to interpret his dream?
3. What or who was the tree a symbol of?
4. What or who are the watchers?
5. What is the purpose of the band around the tree (vs. 15)?
6. How long are the seven periods of time?
7. Does this prophecy have any significance outside the life of Nebuchadnezzar?
8. What was Nebuchadnezzar's disease and is it an uncommon medical problem?
9. How would you entitle this chapter?
10. Was Nebuchadnezzar converted?
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