How the Mighty Have Fallen! (Daniel 4)

Both Peter and James warn us, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6;1 Pet. 5:5). Pride is an ugly and consuming sin that God hates (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5). Pride comes from the heart (Mark 7:21-23) and leads to contention (Prov. 13:10; 28:25) and callousness (Dan. 5:20).The final outcome of this sin is dishonour (Prov. 11:2), debasement (Prov. 29:23) and finally destruction (Prov. 16:18; 18:12). In this post we are going to see how the Lord teaches Nebuchadnezzar that the Lord alone is in control, by humbling him.

Nebuchadnezzar recounts an occasion when he was experiencing ease and prosperity (Dan. 4:4). Then, he had a dream that made him afraid and alarmed (Dan. 4:5). Reminiscent of an earlier occasion (Dan. 2:2), Nebuchadnezzar summoned the wise men of his kingdom to interpret his dream but they could not (Dan. 4:6-7). When Daniel arrived, Nebuchadnezzar asked him to reveal the interpretation of the dream and acknowledged that Daniel had the Spirit of the holy God (Dan. 4:8, 9, 18). King Nebuchadnezzar shared his dream with Daniel. In it he saw a tall, strong and lush tree (Dan. 4:10-11) with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit. Beasts of the field found shade under it and the birds lodged in its branches (Dan. 4:12). Then he saw an angel (“a watcher”) descending from heaven instructing that the tree be chopped down and stripped of its leaves and fruit. However, the stump was to stay in the ground bound with iron and bronze(Dan. 4:15). The trunk represented a man who would think and behave like an animal for seven years (Dan. 4:16). The purpose of this dream was to teach mankind that, “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men” (Dan. :17).

After Daniel heard this dream, he was outwardly shocked for a period of time and “his thoughts alarmed” him because he knew the seriousness of this dream. Nebuchadnezzar observed how it affected Daniel and assured him to not be alarmed. Daniel respectfully desired that this dream be the fulfilment of Nebuchadnezzar’s worst enemies (Dan. :19). Daniel proceeds to interpret the dream by stating that the huge tree represented Nebuchadnezzar and his prosperous and far reaching kingdom (Dan. 4:20-22). Nebuchadnezzar kingdom will come to an end for a time, and he will display beastly behaviour for seven years (Dan. 4:23-25). This will occur until he knows “that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” (Dan. 4:25). The fact that the stump was left in the ground indicates that his kingdom will be restored (Dan. 4:26). Daniel called the king to repentance, so that the Lord may lengthen his prosperity (Dan. 4:27).

Despite Daniel’s bold and caring call to repentance, king Nebuchadnezzar perused his kingdom and boasted in his accomplishments (Dan. 4:28-30). The man was filled with pride. While uttering words of pride, a voice from Heaven spoke, “O King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: The kingdom has departed form you” (Dan. 4:31). He was then driven from the palace to pasture and behaved like a beast for seven years (Dan. 4:32-33).

At the end of this time, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled. He lifted up his eyes to Heaven (cf.Psalm 123:1Isaiah 40:26; 51:6), and then his sanity returned and he praised the Most High God (Dan. 4:34). The Lord restored to him his sanity and kingdom with greater abundance (4:36). Nebuchadnezzar declared, “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble” (Dan. 4:37).

What do we learn from such a striking and humbling event in the life of Nebuchadnezzar? I offer the following points in conclusion.

Firstly, the Lord is in control of all events and circumstances (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32). Secondly, we are to praise and honour God for all that we have (Dan. 4:2-3). Thirdly, we are to walk humbly before the Lord (Dan. 4:37), depending on Him for everything (Dan. 4:34-35). Finally, let us look to Jesus Christ who humbled Himself and was then highly exalted as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Phil 2:5-11).