Daniel 4

Nebuchadnezzar's Second Vision

In order to fully understand this chapter, it is best to grasp how it is laid out. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, Daniel interpreted it, and Nebuchadnezzar lived out the dream in real life. Between the dream, the interpretation, and fulfillment are the results. In other words, the results of the dream and its fulfillment are listed at the beginning of the chapter and at the end. The chapter could be outlined in brief this way:

a) Nebuchadnezzar's outcome

b) Nebuchadnezzar's dream

c) Nebuchadnezzar's outcome

Nebuchadnezzar's Purpose (1-3)

Some thirty or more years, it would seem, had passed since the events of the fiery furnace. Nebuchadnezzar was wanting his entire empire to be aware of something that had happened to him at the hands of Yahweh, which had led to his complete praise and surrender to Him.

His praise to Yahweh was for the events and wonders that, while most painful, had produced in Nebuchadnezzar a means to recognize Yahweh's ultimate sovereignty.

The Dream (4-18)

Nebuchadnezzar had another dream during a period of great peace and prosperity, when he was enjoying the great wealth of his many conquests (4). The king was in bed when a vision struck his mind. The dream produced within his soul grave alarm (5). 

He sensed the dream was of divine origin and feared it spoke of some kind of looming catastrophe. On cue, he called again for his wizards to offer him an interpretation. This time, Nebuchadnezzar recounted the dream, but they could not break its code nor make sense of the king’s vision (7). Daniel was not present. It would seem the dream was so ominous that Nebuchadnezzar was seeking more reassurance than for the absolute truth of that which Daniel was certain to unveil. 

Something delayed Daniel; either he finally arrived or he was summoned. Essentially Daniel was told he was the last resort the king had to make sense of the dream. He told Daniel he possessed the "spirit of the gods" and there was nothing too difficult for Daniel to interpret. "Spirit of the gods" could mean either the spirit of gods or the Spirit of the Holy One, depending on how one would decide to translate it. Daniel was then told the dream.

There are three final and interesting points in this section:

a) When Daniel came before Nebuchadnezzar, he was called by his Babylonian name, a name given him in honor of a Babylonian god (8-9).

b) Daniel was called the chief wizard even though all of his insight came from Yahweh (9).

c) Nebuchadnezzar seems to be relating to his kingdom how he came to be a Yahweh-follower.

Nebuchadnezzar relates the details of dream:

a) a tree at the center of the earth

b) a tree of enormous size (10)

c) a tree of growing strength

d) a tree of enormous influence (11)

e) a tree beautiful to behold

f) a thriving tree

g) a tree as a source of prosperity to all

h) a tree of protection to all (12)

Nebuchadnezzar knew the tree represented himself, at the center of the earth, full of prosperity and power. Nebuchadnezzar further realized the chopping down of the tree portended a coming judgment.

Nebuchadnezzar then related what was to happen to the tree:

a) An angel/watcher came with an announcement (13).

b) The tree was to be cut down or judged.

c) The tree was to be stripped of its dignity and influence (14).

d) The tree was to be bound with a band of iron and bronze to keep the stump from splitting, leaving a hope for the tree to grow again.

The angel continued to announce judgment.

e) The mind of the one the tree represented was to be changed from human to beast, and the person would suffer from zoanthropy for seven years (zoanthropy is the obsessive belief that one is an animal) (16).

f) The announcement of the angel/watcher had a purpose: to bring the person represented by the tree to a knowledge that the Most High rules the kingdoms of men and raises up the lowliest of men to rule (17).

It’s important to note that God is always searching for the lowliest of persons, the last person one would naturally think of or choose to be ruler. He does not usually begin with those known as established leaders. This is evident in Scripture from the birth-order of the patriarchs to how he chose rulers throughout Scripture.

Nebuchadnezzar then turned to Daniel and told him that although he suspected the interpretation to be unfavorable, he also knew Daniel would be able to discern it (18).

The Interpretation (19-26)

Daniel was paralyzed after Nebuchadnezzar related the dream to him, his mind spinning with alarm. Nebuchadnezzar had to settle Daniel down to get Daniel to begin to share the meaning of the dream. Daniel expressed his love and warmth for Nebuchadnezzar, as he wished the dream to be for the king's adversaries and not directed at the king himself (19). Daniel gave meaning to the details of the dream: 

a) The tree Nebuchadnezzar saw was in fact representative of the king.

b) He was the enormous, beautiful, influential, thriving source of prosperity. The tree symbolized the king, who placed himself at the center of the earth, his dominion reaching the ends of the civilized world (20-22).

c) The angel/watcher who had come down to issue the decree had been sent by the Most High, Yahweh.

d) The stump exposed and bound with a bar symbolized Nebuchadnezzar's humiliation, cut down from his high and mighty position.

e) The seven periods symbolized the passing of seven years before Nebuchadnezzar would turn and recognize Yahweh as Most High (23-24).

Then Daniel moved to interpreting what the dream meant:

a) Nebuchadnezzar would suffer social anxiety and be driven into the fields away from people.

b) Nebuchadnezzar would suffer from clinical lycanthropy, meaning he would experience the rare psychiatric syndrome of thinking himself to be non-human, an animal, especially wolf-like.

c) Nebuchadnezzar would suffer this malady until his mind came to recognize Yahweh as the true Ruler and the One who gave him the kingdom he ruled over (25).

d) The leaving of the stump meant there was hope for Nebuchadnezzar to repent, turn to Yahweh, acknowledge Him as the true Sovereign of the world, and have his kingdom and his position restored to him (26).

Daniel's Counsel (27)

Daniel urgently advised Nebuchadnezzar to part with his sins and begin practicing humility and kindness as evidence that he had changed and had begun recognizing Yahweh as Ruler of the world. Daniel told him that if he did, Yahweh might show leniency and cancel the judgment.

Nebuchadnezzar's Discipline (28-33)

Nebuchadnezzar ignored Daniel's counsel and for twelve months began to enjoy the security of deceiving himself into thinking his dream and Daniel’s interpretation were inaccurate.

One day, Nebuchadnezzar was on the palace roof, surveying what he had accomplished, and he began to boast of the amazing city he had built, the gold he had accumulated, the palace he called home, and the majesty and glory of his court. A voice then came from heaven, announcing his kingdom had been taken from him and affirming as true all he had dreamed and all Daniel had interpreted to him a year earlier (28-32).

Decadence certainly accompanies opulence and luxury. No doubt Nebuchadnezzar imbibed many sorts of drugs. Whether his insanity was a total intervention of God or he was using the king’s decadence will never be known. What is known is Nebuchadnezzar was immediately driven into the fields to suffer from social anxiety, zoanthropy, and clinical lycanthropy. His hair grew wild and his nails became as claws. In a word, Nebuchadnezzar turned crazy, according to the word of the Lord (33).

Reason Restored (34-37)

At the end of the whole traumatic episode, Nebuchadnezzar returned to telling his story in the first person and recounted his conversion.

a) Nebuchadnezzar turned and fixed his eyes in dependence upon Yahweh.

b) As soon as he turned to Yahweh, Nebuchadnezzar's reason returned to him.

c) When Nebuchadnezzar became sane, the first thing he did was offer blessing and praise to Yahweh as having ultimate, enduring, superior dominion and as One who could not have His will thwarted (34-35).

Nebuchadnezzar went on to experience four restorations:

a) His psychosis was cured.

b) His dignity and honor were returned to him.

c) His political power was restored by those who had kept the government going in his absence.

d) His kingdom actually increased in greatness (36).

Nebuchadnezzar then went to praising Yahweh as One true to His word, as One whose ways are right, and as One who humbles those who are prideful and abusive to others (37). There is little doubt that Nebuchadnezzar now worshiped Yahweh exclusively and wholeheartedly.