The Book of Daniel, The Humiliation of King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel 4:24-33 - Lesson 19
Nebuchadnezzar has waited one hour for Daniel to come to himself for as the Bible says he was as a stone after hearing the dream of the king.
It was as if he was between a rock and a hard place for Daniel knew the troublesome part of the interpretation was not about the tranquil scene of the tree and its occupants that the king had pictured but about what was to take place afterwards.
So with encouragement from the king the interpretation goes forth.
Daniel 4:24-27, This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule. Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
God chose to communicate with King Nebuchadnezzar though dreams.
In his first dream the kingís idea of a lasting kingdom was dashed by God, by communication to him that a stone made without hands was coming to crush all kingdoms that generated from Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzarís reaction to this thought was one of rebellion as he erected a statue made of gold from head to toe in spite of Godís dream statue which depicted inferior kingdoms emanating from Babylon in the following centuries.
In his second dream the message is more personal, for Nebuchadnezzar is depicted as a great tree in which the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field find comfort and food.
It is a pleasant scene for a time, but trouble comes upon the scene as the tree is hewed down leaving only the stump, but in that stump lies hope for the tree to grow again.
But it is a scene of judgment, for Nebuchadnezzar does not operate his kingdom according to Godís plan, but instead sees only the kingdom as enhancing self aggrandizement, a personal ego trip in modern language.
The king is planting the seeds of self exaltation and where that happens God is always busy planning the reaping of a crop of humiliation from those seeds.
In this dream it is acknowledged that Babylon enjoys grandeur and magnificence as a kingdom.
The tree by its expanding height and increasing beauty shows the increasing majesty and splendor of Nebuchadnezzarís kingdom.
But the one thing that is missing in this kingdom is an understanding of why it enjoys majesty and splendor.
Why has God brought such a kingdom into existence?
Why does God bring any government, any nation into existence?
I think we can get somewhat of an answer by the last verse of this dream interpretation where Daniel encourages Nebuchadnezzar to repent of his iniquities by showing mercy to the poor.
27Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by showing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquility.
This is a revealing statement as to why God was about to humble this great king and to take his kingdom from him for a time, and in doing so draw Nebuchadnezzar to himself.
The picture of the king in the dream as this great tree providing shelter and food to the fowls and beasts is the standard which God expects of any king or government.
We, by our constitution expect our government to provide security for our land in order for peace and tranquility to reign, in order for commerce to prosper.
The tree was not there just to show how great it was but to function for the benefit of others.
Trees are made to provide benefit, not to show themselves mighty and beautiful.
This is the inference as to how Nebuchadnezzar saw himself, as a ruler.
He saw himself as the great king created solely to enjoy greatness and glory by the work of the fowls and the beasts.
He did not see himself as a king responsible to provide shelter and food for the birds of the air and the beasts of the field, providing for and protecting the earthly animals as did the tree.
Nebuchadnezzar by being told to show mercy on the poor was being told that he failed to understand the purpose of his kingdom in Godís plan.
He measured his kingdom in terms of how it made him look, how it showed his glory and his power, not in terms of what God intended for the kingdom.
Nor did he recognize that the glory for such a kingdom go to the Most High God.
He took to himself the glory that was rightfully anotherís and that is the essence of pride.
Pride points to the proud as the one who brings prosperity and not to God from whom all blessings flow.
He did not see himself as a steward of Godís wealth and power to be used to benefit the poor and the downtrodden but saw them only as those who were there to bring benefit to himself.
By inference of the instruction in verse 27 relative to the poor, it seems his actions revealed that he used his position to oppress the poor, perhaps even exacting taxes from them in order to enhance his position and power.
A modern day example of this is easily seen in the late Saddam Hussein of Iraq, which is modern day Babylon.
This same spirit dwelled in him.
His specialty was the building of palaces which brought no benefit to the people but only were built to enhance his position and power.
God brought him as low as a man can get for he exalted himself and God humbled him unto death by hanging.
Godís principal applies to men of today as it did to men like Nebuchadnezzar.
Exalt yourself and you shall be humbled!
Nebuchadnezzar is not excluded and he will be brought low for his life is a life of self exaltation.
He, like the tree, will be cut down and he, like the stump, will be in bondage for a period of seven years.
The tree no longer has power to provide comfort and food for now the king is pictured as a beast of the field.
As we will see in later verses he himself becomes bird-like, his hair becoming like eagles feathers and his nails like birdsí claws.
He will share the food of the field with the other beasts, and live without shelter, drenched with the dew of heaven, for the tree is gone.
But the banded stump tells us that there is hope for the king, for all that happens to him is not punitive but corrective.
God does not put him though this to destroy him but to deliver him, for the principal "Humble yourself and you will be exalted" also applies to Nebuchadnezzar.
Saddam Hussein never humbled himself and was defiant until his last breath but there is hope for the king of Danielís day.
This period of seven years of correction is to result in the kingís acknowledgement of the sovereignty of Almighty God, the God who rules in heaven, the God who both raises up kings and puts them down.
He will be restored to his kingdom when he acknowledges that he is simply an unworthy servant, who has been given stewardship of Godís wealth and power in order to benefit and bless others rather than exalt and glorify himself.
This is a lesson for all rulers, whether they be kings or presidents, or supervisors, principals, or pastors.
They are put in place by God to serve, to be simply a steward of that which God provides!
Daniel 4:28-33, All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, 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? While the word was in the kingís mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. 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 eaglesí feathers, and his nails like birdsí claws.
It is now one year after the dream interpretation of Daniel.
This chapter began with Nebuchadnezzar at rest in his house and flourishing in his palace.
One year later he is walking in the palace and musing about his own greatness and the greatness of the kingdom that, according to him, he had built by the might of his power and for his own honor.
There seems to have been no change in the king because of the dream.
He had honored and promoted Daniel after the first dream but there is no indication given to us in our passage of appreciation or promotion from the king to Daniel for the second dreamís interpretation.
The dream has had no impact upon the king for his actions are the same as before the dream.
But God has not forgotten: for whatsoever a man soweth he shall also reap.
The king has paid no attention to the warning and has not repented of his sins nor shown mercy to the poor as Daniel encouraged.
His pride in himself is willful and plentiful.
God has been patient with him and has given him a year to make amends.
He speaks these words and reveals his unchanged heart.
Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honor of my majesty?
The words were barely completed when a higher power entered the picture.
Pride thinks there is no higher power but there is always a higher power when it concerns men.
This is the higher power that is expressed in Proverbs 16:33:
The lot is cast into the lap but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.
Nebuchadnezzar had expressed himself and it was now Godís turn to dispose of the matter and He therefore commenced the humiliation of the king.
He was to be removed from any position of power.
He was no longer the sovereign.
He would no longer be a sane creature walking upright, but one like the beasts of the field, eating grass on all fours until he recognized his place among men, for that was his place, not a place among gods, but simply among men, for he was only a man.
And that recognition would only come when he recognized the sovereignty of God over men, and kings, kingdoms and nations.
The stump of the tree would only sprout again when Nebuchadnezzar recognized the Most High God whom his servant Daniel proclaimed.