By Karen Thompson
Second in a Four-Part Series
The Pride of Nebuchadnezzar
This is our second installment in a four-part series on Nebuchadnezzar’s dream of the metal man in Daniel chapter two. In our first installment, we learned that Nebuchadnezzar had a dream of a fierce looking man. He wanted his wise men to interpret the dream. When they were unable to interpret the dream, Daniel and his friends asked God to give them the interpretation of the dream. As a result, Daniel dreamed the same dream as Nebuchadnezzar: a fierce looking man made up of different metals. Daniel told King Nebuchadnezzar that the head of gold on the metal man’s body represented him. Being told the golden head represented him went to Nebuchadnezzar’s head. He became full of pride.
After being told he was the head of gold on the metal man, Nebuchadnezzar immediately built a giant image made all of gold (Dan. 3). He then commanded those in his kingdom to worship it. Those who failed to bow down and worship it would be thrown into a fiery furnace. Daniel’s three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to bow down to the image because they refused to worship other gods than their own God. Nebuchadnezzar gave them another chance to repent and obey, otherwise they would be thrown into the fire. They declared, “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king” (Dan. 3:17–18). They were thrown into the fiery furnace.
God intervened and saved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego from the fire. Nebuchadnezzar was humbled when God set aside his command to burn those who refused to worship his golden image. God taught Nebuchadnezzar a lesson in humility. He got too big for his britches and began to think of himself as a god. He had to be taught a lesson in humility.
There were two things that Daniel said about God that were pertinent to Nebuchadnezzar. The king was to learn two things. The first thing he was to understand is that “God hath given thee [Nebuchadnezzar] a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory” (Dan. 2:37). God had given him his kingdom. He didn’t get it on his own ability. Nebuchadnezzar needed to know and acknowledge that God gave him his kingdom.
And the second thing the king was to understand is that “He removes kings and raises up kings” (Dan. 2:20). And that’s the lesson Nebuchadnezzar learns in Daniel chapter four! When a king gets too full of himself and does not acknowledge God in heaven, that king is headed for a lesson in humility.
The Testimony of Nebuchadnezzar
In Daniel chapter four, we find a personal testimony of Nebuchadnezzar. He shared his experience of how his pride put him on a collision course with God. The lesson Nebuchadnezzar learned is that God is able to set up kings and he is able to tear them down.
He began by saying, “I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation” (Dan. 4:2–3). Nebuchadnezzar’s comments are positive and full of praise. His attitude tells us he came out of this experience with God a better man. A more humble man. One who respects and reveres God almighty.
Nebuchadnezzar’s experience in Daniel chapter two is nearly repeated in chapter four. He dreamed another dream. This time he remembered the dream, and it troubled him and made him “afraid.” As before, he summoned his wise men to come at once. This time he told them his dream and asked them to interpret it for him. But none could interpret the dream. Since Daniel was able to interpret his other dream, he summoned for him to come. He told Daniel the dream.
“These were the visions of my head while on my bed: I was looking, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. The tree grew and became strong; its height reached to the heavens, and it could be seen to the ends of all the earth. Its leaves were lovely, its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, the birds of the heavens dwelt in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it” (Dan. 4:10–12 NKJV).
The dream started out to be very lovely, but it quickly turned into a nightmare. The king shared the details of how his lovely dream went from pleasant to dreadful:
“I saw in the visions of my head while on my bed, and there was a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He cried aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and cut off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts get out from under it, and the birds from its branches. Nevertheless leave the stump and roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field. Let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let him graze with the beasts on the grass of the earth. Let his heart be changed from that of a man, let him be given the heart of a beast, and let seven times pass over him. ‘This decision is by the decree of the watchers, and the sentence by the word of the holy ones, in order that the living may know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men.’” (Dan. 4:13–17)
The king asked Daniel if he could interpret his dream. Daniel, indeed, knew what the dream meant. He was troubled by the meaning of the dream and hesitated sharing it with the king, as it was not good news. The king told Daniel to not let the dream or its interpretation trouble him. Daniel then told the king that the tree represented him: “It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth” (v. 22). Daniel then interpreted the words of the watcher:
“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” (vv. 25–26).
Daniel told the king that he would one day go out of his mind and start acting like an animal, living outside. He would remain this way until “seven times shall pass over thee.” Commentaries agree this to be a period of seven years. His insanity would come to an end when he acknowledged that God ruled over the kingdom of men. Daniel offered the king advice that might prevent the dream from coming to pass.
“Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you; break off your sins and show the reality of your repentance by righteousness (right standing with God and moral and spiritual rectitude and rightness in every area and relation) and liberate yourself from your iniquities by showing mercy and loving-kindness to the poor and oppressed, that [if the king will repent] there may possibly be a continuance and lengthening of your peace and tranquility and a healing of your error.” (v. 27 Amp.)
We are not told what the king’s reaction was, if he believed it or not. But just one year later, Nebuchadnezzar was walking around in his royal palace in Babylon. Full of pride, he 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?” (v. 30). He failed to acknowledge that God gave him his kingdom. While the words were still in his mouth, a voice from heaven spoke and said:
“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” (vv. 31–32).
In that same hour, the king went mad and began to act like an animal. He was driven from men and began to live outside. Just as the watchman prophesied, his body was wet with dew each morning. He ate grass like an ox, his hair became like eagle’s feathers, and his nails grew like a bird’s claws.
At the end of seven years, Nebuchadnezzar said, “My understanding returned to me,” meaning he regained his sanity. He said:
“And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (vv. 34–35).
Just as the dream prophesied, after King Nebuchadnezzar regained his sanity, his kingdom was restored to him as well as his honor and splendor. In the end, a humbled Nebuchadnezzar finally acknowledged that God in heaven ruled over the kingdom of men. Said the king, “Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase” (v. 37). I remember one minister teaching on this said, “I think Nebuchadnezzar gave his life to God!”
Nebuchadnezzar’s story begins with a troubling dream and ends with a troubling dream, completing a full circle. It’s a lesson in pride and humility, and in repentance and restoration. It’s a story of how God responds to a man filled with pride. He humbles the man. And it’s a story of how God responds to a man who humbles himself. He restores the man to his former position. It’s a lesson for all humankind. God wants us to always acknowledge His blessings and to stay humble in His sight.
I can’t help but relate the story of Nebuchadnezzar to today’s political situation in America. God is well able to intervene in the affairs of nations. He is able to set up kings and to tear down kings. If He wants to elevate a certain person to a position of power, He is well able to do that. And if He puts a certain man in power, “none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest thou?”
I’ll leave you with the words the watcher declared in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. They are words that I think especially resonate today at this very time.
“This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (v.17)
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