February 4, 2012

Apocalypse Prophecy XV: Neb's Tree

Nebuchadnezzar's Second Dream (Daniel 4)

In the English translations, 4:1–3 serves as an introduction to chap. 4, whereas in the Aramaic they conclude Chapter 3. The English arrangement is preferred and it is generally recognized that these verses do, in fact, introduce Chapter 4. We see Nebuchadnezzar’s second dream and his third miraculous encounter with Israel’s God. Daniel did not date the dream and subsequent events described here, but they point to Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. His building have been concluded (4:30), there was peace throughout the empire (4:4). There are mentions to the king’s illness by Abydenus which was preserved by Eusebius and by a man named Berosus who was a third century B.C. Babylonian priest. The king’s illness appears to have begun a year after the dream and probably lasted seven years. Daniel would now have been about fifty years of age.

Daniel 3 is a proclamation by king Nebuchadnezzar to all the peoples of his kingdom, informing them of a wonderful event which the living God of heaven made Himself known as the ruler over the kingdoms of men. Neb’s makes known to his subjects he had dreamed a dream which filled him with uneasiness, and which the wise men of Babylon could not interpret, until Daniel came, who was able to do so. In his dream he saw a great tree, with vast branches and bearing much fruit, which reached up to heaven, under which beasts and birds found a lodging, shelter, and food.

A holy watcher (celestial being) came down from heaven and commanded the tree to be cut down, so that its roots only remained in the earth, but bound with iron and brass, till seven times shall pass, so that men may know the power of the Most High over the kingdoms of men. Daniel interpreted to him this dream, that the tree represented the Nebuchadnezzar himself, regarding whom it was resolved by Heaven that he should be driven forth from men. He would literally live among the beasts till seven times should pass, and he should know that the Highest rules over the kingdoms of men. After a year the dream began to be fulfilled, and Nebuchadnezzar fell into a state of madness, and became like a beast of the field. But after the appointed time his wits returned to him. He was again restored to his kingdom and became exceeding great, and now praised and honored the King of heaven.

This chapter is unusual in a number of ways. It contains some features similar to those of an epistle. It is the only chapter in Scripture composed under the authority of a pagan in that it is written from Nebuchadnezzar’s viewpoint. Daniel 4 is the king’s testimony of God’s operation in his life. A change from first person to third person and then back to first person happens here.

Yahweh had employed miracles in order to demonstrate his reality and power to Nebuchadnezzar. Not only the earlier fiery furnace episode, but even the experience related in this account was a wondrous sign to the king. We and Nebuchadnezzar see the divine dominion over all those in heaven and earth. God’s sovereignty and power are such that none can stay His hand. No one on earth has the wisdom or might to challenge the power or actions of the omnipotent and omniscient God. When Nebuchadnezzar repents God restored his kingdom and his honor, demonstrating the principle that God honors those who honor him. Nebuchadnezzar praised God for his greatness, power, and sovereignty. God’s amazing deeds had included a dream revealed and interpreted, three men delivered from a furnace and the removal and restoration of both

Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity and his kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar had finally come to his senses and realized that the God of Israel was the Most High God, not Nebs himself or the gods of Babylon. It was also vividly illustrated that his kingdoms as well as his lives could be taken away by the Lord at will. The king was now an old man and must have been very aware of his fragility. This recognition of the infinite realities is understandable considering the many ways in which God had demonstrated his reality and power to Nebuchadnezzar and the constant witness of Daniel in the court

The end of this chapter summarizes the moral implications nicely

“…and those who walk in pride He is able to humble” or the proverbial "pride goes before the fall".

Proverbs 16:18~Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

The king had learned a painful lesson. God hates pride and humbles those who will not acknowledge his sovereignty over them.

God’s concern for persons in every part of the world may also be observed here. Even in pagan Babylon there was a witness—spiritual light—to the power and reality of God…just as Christians are to be lights to the non-believers who dwell in darkness. God never wishes horrible experience on people but neither can God ignore or not judge sin—he gave Nebuchadnezzar a full year to repent. We see in God’s mercy and love the ordeal was permitted in order to bring the proud king to repentance.

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