THE MOST HIGH IS RULER OVER THE REALM OF MANKIND AND BESTOWS AUTHORITY ON WHOMEVER HE WISHES
Power Struggles can be quite dramatic. They take place all the time in the political realm. But when the highest authority on earth enters into a power struggle with the Majestic God, it is no contest. God stomps all over the boastful pride of any human ruler who tries to take credit and the glory for his position of power and authority or the accomplishments of his administration. The lesson can be quite painful as it was in the historical case of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Walvoord: the contest between God and Nebuchadnezzar is a broad illustration of God’s dealings with the entire human race and especially the Gentile world in its creaturely pride and failure to recognize the sovereignty of God.
THE MOST HIGH IS RULER OVER THE REALM OF MANKIND AND BESTOWS AUTHORITY ON WHOMEVER HE WISHES
(:1-3) PROLOGUE: ROYAL DECREE = PRAISE FOR GOD’S EVERLASTING DOMINION
A. (:1) Greeting From King Nebuchadnezzar
“Nebuchadnezzar the king to all the peoples, nations, and men of every language that live in all the earth: ‘May your peace abound!’”
B. (:2-3) Testimony Praising God
1. Testimony of God’s Personal Intervention and Provision
“It has seemed good to me to declare the signs and wonders which the Most High God has done for me.”
Bruce Hurt: Signs and wonders – This is a familiar idiom in Scripture (18x in the OT = Ex 7:3, Dt 4:34, 6:22, 7:19, 13:1, 13:2, 26:8, 28:46, 29:3, 34:11 Neh 9:10 Ps 135:9 Isa 8:18 Jer 32:20 32:21 Da 4:2 4:3 6:27) (16x in NT = Mt 24:24; Mk 13:22; Jn 4:48; Acts 2:19, 22, 43; 4:30; 5:12; 6:8; 7:36; 14:3; 15:12; Ro 15:19; 2Cor 12:12; 2Th 2:9; Heb 2:4)
2. Testimony of God’s Power
“How great are His signs
And how mighty are His wonders!”
3. Testimony of God’s Permanence and Dominion
“His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom
And His dominion is from generation to generation.”
Bruce Hurt: First, this is his royal proclamation, his personal witness of the saving hand of the Most High God. This is Nebuchadnezzar’s “Tract” if you will, of his personal encounter with the one true and living High God. And He’s not only the God of one nation or one people, but He is also the Lord God, the mighty Sovereign and King of all the nations and of all the peoples of the world.
I. (4-18) THE DREAM
A. (:4-5) Disturbing Nature of the Dream
“I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and flourishing in my palace. I 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.”
Wiersbe: Nebuchadnezzar was now enjoying a time of peace and security. After defeating all his enemies and completing several impressive building projects, he was able at last to rest at home and delight in what had been accomplished. Nebuchadnezzar thought that he was the builder of “Babylon the great” and the architect of hits peace and prosperity, but he was soon to learn that all these things had been permitted by the will of the Most High God.
B. (:6-9) Different Options for Interpretation
1. (:6-7) Option #1 = Secular Babylonian Sources
“ So 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. Then 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.”
2. (:8-9) Option #2 =Spiritual Connection to the Holy Gods = Daniel /Belteshazzar
“But 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, ‘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.’”
C. (:10-17) Details of the Dream
1. (:10-12) Huge Tree
a. (:10) Prominent Tree
“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.”
b. (:11) Powerful Tree
“The tree grew large and became strong
And its height reached to the sky,
And it was visible to the end of the whole earth.”
Gleason Archer Jr.: The portrayal of man in his pride as a lofty tree is a familiar OT symbol: “The Lord Almighty has a day in store for all the proud and lofty . . . (and they will be humbled), for all the cedars of Lebanon, tall and lofty, and all the oaks of Bashan” (Isa 2:12-13; cf. Isa 10:34). In 587 B.C., just a few years before King Nebuchadnezzar had this dream, Ezekiel had used a similar figure in describing the pride and fall of Assyria (Ezek 31:3-17).
Guzik: The tree in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream was noted for its size, strength, prominence, beauty, fruit, and shelter.
c. (:12) Productive Tree
“Its 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.”
2. (:13-16) Holy Messenger
a. (:13) Message From Heaven
“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.”
b. (:14) Message of Stripping Away All Dominion
“He 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.’”
c. (:15-16) Message of Being Reduced to Animal Existence
“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 in the grass of the earth.
Let 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.”
Wiersbe: The banding of the stump may suggest that he was marked by God and protected by Him until His purposes for him were fulfilled.
Bruce Hurt: This is one of the more enigmatic aspects of this description and commentaries offer a wide range of interpretation. Some see the band as figurative allusion to the king’s being bound by mental illness. Others see it as a sign that the stump would be protected thus assuring its survival.
3. (:17) Humbling Lesson
“This sentence is by the decree of the angelic watchers
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.”
D. (:18) Demand that Daniel Provide the Interpretation
“This 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.”
II. (19-27) THE INTERPRETATION
A. (:19) Appalling Nature of the Interpretation
“Then 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!’”
Appalling = Causing shock or dismay; horrific
B. (:20-22) Interpretation of the Huge Tree = King Nebuchadnezzar
“The tree that you saw, which became large and grew strong, whose height reached to the sky and was visible to all the earth 21 and 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— 22 it 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.”
C. (:23-26) Interpretation of the Holy Messenger and the Humbling Lesson
“In 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,’ 24 this is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king: 25 that 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. 26 And 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.”
D. (:27) Application and Counsel
“Therefore, 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.”
Gleason Archer Jr.: Daniel needed real courage to inform his royal master that his rule was marred by the sin of oppression and callousness toward the poor and disadvantaged among his people. Daniel’s candor might have cost him his high office or even his life. But apparently Nebuchadnezzar was so intimidated by the dream as to feel that he had better do everything possible to placate the displeasure of the Almighty.
Specifically Daniel urged Nebuchadnezzar to adopt two new policies:
(1) to reexamine his conduct in the light of the moral law (understanding it as binding on him as on his subjects, even though as their sovereign he was immune to prosecution);
(2) to show a new sensitivity to the plight of the poor in his empire, protecting them instead of allowing the rich to exploit and oppress them.
III. (28-33) THE HISTORICAL FULFILLMENT
A. (:28) Summary Statement
“All this happened to Nebuchadnezzar the king.”
B. (:29-30) Situation = Consumed with Pride
“Twelve months later he was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon. 30 The 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?’”
Dwight Pentecost: God endured Nebuchadnezzar’s pride for 12 months. This may have been a period of grace in which God was giving Nebuchadnezzar an opportunity to turn to Him in repentance. But when Nebuchadnezzar ignored Daniel’s exhortation God, who had given Nebuchadnezzar his authority, announced the interruption of his rule.
C. (31-32) Sovereignty = the Issue
“While 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, 32 and 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.’”
Gleason Archer Jr.: This tremendously important principle had to be established in the minds of the captive Jews, serving out their years of bondage in Babylonia. They might well have wondered whether the God of Abraham, Moss, and Elijah was truly alive and able to stand before the triumphant Gentile nations that had reduced his holy city, Jerusalem, to rubble and his holy temple to ashes. It would have been easy for them to conclude, as all the pagan observers assumed, that the Hebrew nation had been so completely crushed and uprooted from their native land because their God was too weak to defend them from the might of the gods of Babylon: Marduk, Nebo, and Bel. True, the warnings in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 back in Moses’ day had been very clear that Yahweh would cast his people out of the Land of Promise should they ever prove unfaithful. But now they needed some definite demonstration that their Lord was the true and living God and that all the gods of the pagans were only idols. They needed a series of striking miracles to sustain their flagging faith and renew their waning courage as they waited for their deliverance from exile. The captive Jews needed to know that even the apparently limitless power of Nebuchadnezzar was under the control of the Lord God Almighty, who still cared for them and had a great future for them in their land. Therefore, each episode recorded in the first six chapters concludes with a triumphant demonstration of God’s sovereignty and faithfulness and his ability to crush the pride of unconverted mankind.
D. (:33) Shocking Fulfillment
“Immediately 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.”
IV. (:34-37) THE LESSON LEARNED
A. (:34) Lesson Learned – Praise for God’s Sovereignty and Everlasting Dominion
“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.”
B. (:35) Inability of Man to Thwart or Even Question God’s Purposes
“All 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?’”
C. (:36) Restoration and Exaltation of Nebuchadnezzar’s Reign
“At 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.”
D. (:37) Lesson Learned – Praise for God’s Sovereignty, Justice and Humbling of the Proud
“Now 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.”