Series: Thru the Bible
Message: King Nebuchadnezzar loses his mind
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King Nebuchadnezzar loses his mind
As we begin the 4th chapter in Daniel we see a Nebuchadnezzar who has been humbled before God. What we are reading will seem odd at first because of the order in which the events are laid down before us.
This is a record of the king’s response to an event which isn’t mentioned as having happened until later. This is the time when God removed the sanity from the king and gave him the mind of an animal for 7 years. After this time, God in His mercy and graciousness returned Nebuchadnezzar’s sanity to him as well as his ruling authority and when this happened he explained to all his kingdom how God had humbled him and then restored him to power – offering Him praise!
“(1) King Nebuchadnezzar, to all peoples, nations, and language groups that live in all the land: Peace and prosperity! (2) I am delighted to tell you about the signs and wonders that the most high God has done for me. (3) “How great are His signs! How mighty are His wonders! His kingdom will last forever, and His authority continues from one generation to the next.”
(4) I, Nebuchadnezzar, was relaxing in my home, living luxuriously in my palace. (5) I saw a dream that frightened me badly. The things I imagined while lying on my bed – these visions of my mind – were terrifying me.
(6) So I issued an order for all the wise men of Babylon to be brought before me so that they could make known to me the interpretation of the dream.
(7) When the magicians, astrologers, wise men, and diviners entered, I recounted the dream for them. But they were unable to make known its interpretation to me.
(8) Later Daniel entered (whose name is Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom there is a spirit of the holy gods).
I recounted the dream for him as well, (9) saying, “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, in whom I know there to be a spirit of the holy gods and whom no mystery baffles, consider my dream that I saw and set forth its interpretation!
(10) Here are the visions of my mind while I was on my bed. While I was watching, there was a tree in the middle of the land. It was enormously tall. (11) The tree grew large and strong. Its top reached far into the sky; it could be seen from the borders of all the land. (12) Its foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful; on it there was food enough for all. Under it the wild animals used to seek shade, and in its branches the birds of the sky used to nest. All creatures used to feed themselves from it.
(13) While I was watching in my mind’s visions on my bed, a holy sentinel came down from heaven. (14) He called out loudly as follows: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches! Strip off its foliage and scatter its fruit! Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches! (15) But leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it surrounded by the grass of the field. Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the animals in the grass of the land.
The words “holy sentinel” is simply translated as holy angel in the Greek Old Testament or Septuagint, but even in the Hebrew it indicates a divine being who is watchful.
“(16) Let his mind be altered from that of a human being, and let an animal’s mind be given to him, and let seven periods of time go by for him.”
By which is almost certainly referring to 7 years, since the same wording is used later in chapter 7 and we have it on more confirmed ground that the usage there means years.
“(17) This announcement is by the decree of the sentinels; this decision is by the pronouncement of the holy ones, so that those who are alive may understand that the Most High has authority over human kingdoms, and He bestows them on whomever He wishes. He establishes over them even the lowliest of human beings.’
Again I draw your attention to God’s clearly stated sovereignty over who rules where.
“(18) “This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. Now you, Belteshazzar, declare its interpretation, for none of the wise men in my kingdom are able to make known to me the interpretation. But you can do so, for a spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
(19) Then Daniel (whose name is also Belteshazzar) was upset for a brief time; his thoughts were alarming him.
The king said, “Belteshazzar, don’t let the dream and its interpretation alarm you.”
But Belteshazzar replied, “Sir, if only the dream were for your enemies and its interpretation applied to your adversaries!
(20) The tree that you saw that grew large and strong, whose top reached to the sky, and which could be seen in all the land, (21) whose foliage was attractive and its fruit plentiful, and from which there was food available for all, under whose branches wild animals used to live, and in whose branches birds of the sky used to nest – (22) it is you, O king!
For you have become great and strong. Your greatness is such that it reaches to heaven, and your authority to the ends of the earth.
(23) As for the king seeing a holy sentinel coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave its taproot in the ground, with a band of iron and bronze around it, surrounded by the grass of the field. ”
Symbolisms in the bible are not always consistent. This may have more to do with the way it is used, what it is being compared with and the time, location and environment in which the metaphor or symbolism is used.
As we have pointed out before, iron is sometimes used metaphorically as a type of strength, unyielding qualities, bondage and such. It is placed side-by-side in comparison with silver in Isaiah which may symbolically represent replacing bondage with freedom, but that is subjective.
Brass is even less defined in scripture having both positive and negative uses and it is possible that these are confused references to two different metals – one being actual brass and one bronze. More often than not “Brass” is used in Scripture as the symbol of what is firm, strong, lasting and thus can be used to symbolize hardness of heart, obstinacy, insensibility and sin.
In this case it likely means bondage and insensibility (foolishness, lacking sense or understanding) which is implied when he is told 7 years will pass before he understands.
Let it become damp with the dew of the sky, and let it live with the wild animals, until seven periods of time go by for him’ – (24) this is the interpretation, O king!
It is the decision of the Most High that this has happened to my lord the king. (25) You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and you will become damp with the dew of the sky.
Seven periods of time will pass by for you, before you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever He wishes.
(26) They said to leave the taproot of the tree, for your kingdom will be restored to you when you come to understand that heaven rules. (27) Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you.
Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged.”
The silence regarding the King’s immediate response to Daniel is somewhat telling. In other cases, the king gives a response – either good or bad, in this case nothing is said, but Daniel appears to be unpunished and free.
“(28) Now all of this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar.
(29) After twelve months, he happened to be walking around on the battlements of the royal palace of Babylon. (30) The king uttered these words:
“Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?”
(31) While these words were still on the king’s lips, a voice came down from heaven:
“It is hereby announced to you, King Nebuchadnezzar, that your kingdom has been removed from you! (32) You will be driven from human society, and you will live with the wild animals. You will be fed grass like oxen, and seven periods of time will pass by for you before you understand that the Most High is ruler over human kingdoms and gives them to whomever He wishes.”
This is another great testimony to the loving kindness, patience and long-suffering of God. He did not want to do this to the king, though He knew He was going to have to. Nevertheless, God gave Nebuchadnezzar the time to change his ways before judgment came.
Also of note here is that his judgment came upon the words of his own mouth – which is often the case.
He knew his pride was wrong and he did not address it in his heart. However, upon making such a prideful statement with his mouth regarding his kingdom being the result of his own power – he was judged.
As our Lord told us “By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned” – Matthew 12:37
“(33) Now in that very moment this pronouncement about Nebuchadnezzar came true.
He was driven from human society, he ate grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until his hair became long like an eagle’s feathers, and his nails like a bird’s claws.
(34) But at the end of the appointed time I, Nebuchadnezzar, looked up toward heaven, and my sanity returned to me. I extolled the Most High, and I praised and glorified the One Who lives forever.
How many times have we heard in scripture of God having appointed times. These usually refer to judgment, but also coincide with God advancing His plans on the earth – many times both!
“For His authority is an everlasting authority, and His kingdom extends from one generation to the next. (35) All the inhabitants of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as He wishes with the army of heaven and with those who inhabit the earth.
No one slaps His hand and says to Him, ‘What have You done?’
(36) At that time my sanity returned to me. I was restored to the honor of my kingdom, and my splendor returned to me.
My ministers and my nobles were seeking me out, and I was reinstated over my kingdom. I became even greater than before.”
Two things here…
1st – God’s calling on a life draws those within their delegate sphere to attend to them.
Notice how Kings automatically have those who will rise up and serve them. Teachers have those who will listen to them. Jesus just naturally had followers. God’s call and anointing, if you will, makes room for you and draws around you many who are to be within your sphere of authority and influence.
2nd – He became even greater than he was before. This reminds me of Job who after all his troubles and his repentance for believing and saying harsh things against God was restored and was blessed more than he had been before his troubles!
“(37) Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, for all His deeds are right and His ways are just. He is able to bring down those who live in pride.”
There is nothing known of the later days of Nebuchadnezzar, but from this statement and Daniel’s future mention of him to his son Belshazzar, it would seem that Nebuchadnezzar remained in this state of recognizing God as God!
“(1) King Belshazzar prepared a great banquet for a thousand of his nobles, and he was drinking wine in front of them all. (2) While under the influence of the wine, Belshazzar issued an order to bring in the gold and silver vessels – the ones that Nebuchadnezzar his father had confiscated from the temple in Jerusalem – so that the king and his nobles, together with his wives and his concubines, could drink from them.
(3) So they brought the gold and silver vessels that had been confiscated from the temple, the house of God in Jerusalem, and the king and his nobles, together with his wives and concubines, drank from them.
(4) As they drank wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood, and stone.
This was a deliberately brazen thing to do. It was a flaunting of supposed authority in the face of the Israelites who were captive in his kingdom and under the nose of their God! As we will see, Belshazzar was well aware of all God had done to and with his father, also of his humility under the hand of the God of Israel AND his decree that all people in the kingdom honor Him. So this action was both egregious and deliberate.
One word of instruction as well. Solomon was told (presumably by his mother), and is recorded in Proverbs 31:5,6…
“(4) It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to crave strong drink, (5) lest they drink and forget what is decreed, and remove from all the poor their legal rights.”
“Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.” – Proverbs 20:1
“(5) At that very moment the fingers of a human hand appeared and wrote on the plaster of the royal palace wall, opposite the lampstand. The king was watching the back of the hand that was writing. (6) Then all the color drained from the king’s face and he became alarmed.
The joints of his hips gave way, and his knees began knocking together.
(7) The king called out loudly to summon the astrologers, wise men, and diviners. The king proclaimed to the wise men of Babylon that anyone who could read this inscription and disclose its interpretation would be clothed in purple and have a golden collar placed on his neck and be third ruler in the kingdom.
(8) So all the king’s wise men came in, but they were unable to read the writing or to make known its interpretation to the king.
(9) Then King Belshazzar was very terrified, and he was visibly shaken. His nobles were completely dumbfounded. (10) Due to the noise caused by the king and his nobles, the queen mother then entered the banquet room.
She said, “O king, live forever! Don’t be alarmed! Don’t be shaken! (11) There is a man in your kingdom who has within him a spirit of the holy gods.
In the days of your father, he proved to have insight, discernment, and wisdom like that of the gods. King Nebuchadnezzar your father appointed him chief of the magicians, astrologers, wise men, and diviners.”
You remember that the position of Queen Mother was an honorary one in the ancient world among royalty even in Israel. They were afforded certain liberties and often a voice before their son the king, but they did not have ruling authority.
“(12) Thus there was found in this man Daniel, whom the king renamed Belteshazzar, an extraordinary spirit, knowledge, and skill to interpret dreams, explain riddles, and solve difficult problems. Now summon Daniel, and he will disclose the interpretation.”
(13) So Daniel was brought in before the king.
The king said to Daniel, “Are you that Daniel who is one of the captives of Judah, whom my father the king brought from Judah? (14) I have heard about you, how there is a spirit of the gods in you, and how you have insight, discernment, and extraordinary wisdom.
(15) Now the wise men and astrologers were brought before me to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation. But they were unable to disclose the interpretation of the message. (16) However, I have heard that you are able to provide interpretations and to solve difficult problems. Now if you are able to read this writing and make known to me its interpretation, you will wear purple and have a golden collar around your neck and be third ruler in the kingdom.”
(17) But Daniel replied to the king, “Keep your gifts, and give your rewards to someone else! However, I will read the writing for the king and make known its interpretation.
(18) As for you, O king, the most high God bestowed on your father Nebuchadnezzar a kingdom, greatness, honor, and majesty. (19) Due to the greatness that he bestowed on him, all peoples, nations, and language groups were trembling with fear before him.
He killed whom he wished, he spared whom he wished, he exalted whom he wished, and he brought low whom he wished. (20) And when his mind became arrogant and his spirit filled with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and his honor was removed from him.
(21) He was driven from human society, his mind was changed to that of an animal, he lived with the wild donkeys, he was fed grass like oxen, and his body became damp with the dew of the sky, until he came to understand that the most high God rules over human kingdoms, and he appoints over them whomever He wishes.
(22) “But you, his son Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, although you knew all this.
(23) Instead, you have exalted yourself against the Lord of heaven. You brought before you the vessels from His temple, and you and your nobles, together with your wives and concubines, drank wine from them.
You praised the gods of silver, gold, bronze, iron, wood, and stone – gods that cannot see or hear or comprehend! But you have not glorified the God Who has in His control your very breath and all your ways!
(24) Therefore the palm of a hand was sent from Him, and this writing was inscribed.
(25) “This is the writing that was inscribed: MENE, MENE, TEQEL, and PHARSIN.
(26) This is the interpretation of the words:
As for mene – God has numbered your kingdom’s days and brought it to an end.
(27) As for teqel – you are weighed on the balances and found to be lacking.
(28) As for peres – your kingdom is divided and given over to the Medes and Persians.”
(29) Then, on Belshazzar’s orders, Daniel was clothed in purple, a golden collar was placed around his neck, and he was proclaimed third ruler in the kingdom. (30) And in that very night Belshazzar, the Babylonian king, was killed.
(31) So Darius the Mede took control of the kingdom when he was about sixty-two years old.”
If you remember, this was the beginning of the second kingdom in King Nebuchadnezzar’s first dream. The head was God and represented Babylon as ruled by Nebuchadnezzar, the second was silver and was to be ruled by the Medes & the Persains with its ultimate expression through Cyrus the Great.
You have to love the boldness of Daniel and his fidelity to God and His ways. He did NOT falter before the face of the king and he did not mince with words – nor did he express interest in the king’s gifts. He simply served God with honor and deference!
“(1) It seemed like a good idea to Darius to appoint over the kingdom 120 satraps who would be in charge of the entire kingdom.
(2) Over them would be three supervisors, one of whom was Daniel.
These satraps were accountable to them, so that the king’s interests might not incur damage.
(3) Now this Daniel was distinguishing himself above the other supervisors and the satraps, for he had an extraordinary spirit. In fact, the king intended to appoint him over the entire kingdom.
(4) Consequently the supervisors and satraps were trying to find some pretext against Daniel in connection with administrative matters. But they were unable to find any such damaging evidence, because he was trustworthy and guilty of no negligence or corruption.
(5) So these men concluded, “We won’t find any pretext against this man Daniel unless it is in connection with the law of his God.”
(6) So these supervisors and satraps came by collusion to the king and said to him, “O King Darius, live forever! (7) To all the supervisors of the kingdom, the prefects, satraps, counselors, and governors it seemed like a good idea for a royal edict to be issued and an interdict to be enforced.
For the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human other than you, O king, should be thrown into a den of lions.
(8) Now let the king issue a written interdict so that it cannot be altered, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed.”
(9) So King Darius issued the written interdict.
(10) When Daniel realized that a written decree had been issued, he entered his home, where the windows in his upper room opened toward Jerusalem.”
Why was he doing this?
If you remember that was the condition of restoring the land back to God’s people IF they were ever driven out of their land and taken into exile. It was prayed by King Solomon at the dedication of the temple.
This is recorded in 1Kings 7 & 8 and 2Chron. 6 & 7.
A summarized version of the one found in 1 Kings 8 (which is God’s response to the prayer, in which God restates WORD FOR WORD what Solomon prayed with an affirmation that He would respond as requested).
1Kings 8:22-53, “(22) Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in front of the entire congregation of Israel and spread out his hands toward heaven. (23) He said: LORD God of Israel, there is no God like You in heaven above or on earth below, keeping the gracious covenant with Your servants who walk before You with their whole heart.”
“(28) Listen to Your servant’s prayer and his petition, LORD my God, so that You may hear the cry and the prayer that Your servant prays before You today, (29) so that Your eyes may watch over this temple night and day, toward the place where You said: My name will be there, and so that You may hear the prayer that Your servant prays toward this place. (30) Hear the petition of Your servant and Your people Israel, which they pray toward this place. May You hear in Your dwelling place in heaven. May You hear and forgive.”
“(31) When a man sins against his neighbor and is forced to take an oath, and he comes to take an oath before Your altar in this temple, (32) may You hear in heaven and act. May You judge Your servants, condemning the wicked by bringing what he has done on his own head and providing justice for the righteous by rewarding him according to his righteousness.”
“(33) When Your people Israel are defeated before an enemy, because they have sinned against You, and they return to You and praise Your name, and they pray and plead with You for mercy in this temple, (34) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your people Israel. May You restore them to the land You gave their ancestors.”
“(35) When the skies are shut and there is no rain, because they have sinned against You, and they pray toward this place and praise Your name, and they turn from their sins because You are afflicting them, (36) may You hear in heaven and forgive the sin of Your servants and Your people Israel, so that You may teach them the good way they should walk in. May You send rain on Your land that You gave Your people for an inheritance.”
“(37) When there is famine on the earth, when there is pestilence, when there is blight, mildew, locust, or grasshopper, when their enemy besieges them in the region of their fortified cities, when there is any plague or illness, (38) whatever prayer or petition anyone from Your people Israel might have–each man knowing his own afflictions and spreading out his hands toward this temple– (39) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and may You forgive, act, and repay the man, according to all his ways, since You know his heart, for You alone know every human heart, (40) so that they may fear You all the days they live on the land You gave our ancestors.”
“(41) Even for the foreigner who is not of Your people Israel but has come from a distant land because of Your name– (42) for they will hear of Your great name, mighty hand, and outstretched arm, and will come and pray toward this temple– (43) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, and do according to all the foreigner asks You for. Then all the people on earth will know Your name, to fear You as Your people Israel do and know that this temple I have built is called by Your name.”
“(44) When Your people go out to fight against their enemies, wherever You send them, and they pray to the LORD in the direction of the city You have chosen and the temple I have built for Your name, (45) may You hear their prayer and petition in heaven and uphold their cause.”
“(46) When they sin against You–for there is no one who does not sin–and You are angry with them and hand them over to the enemy, and their captors deport them to the enemy’s country–whether distant or nearby— (47) and when they come to their senses in the land where they were deported and repent and petition You in their captors’ land:
We have sinned and done wrong; we have been wicked,” (48) and when they return to You with their whole mind and heart in the land of their enemies who took them captive, and when they pray to You in the direction of their land that You gave their ancestors, the city You have chosen, and the temple I have built for Your name, (49) may You hear in heaven, Your dwelling place, their prayer and petition and uphold their cause. (50) May You forgive Your people who sinned against You and all their rebellions against You, and may You give them compassion in the eyes of their captors, so that they may be compassionate to them.
(51) For they are Your people and Your inheritance; You brought them out of Egypt, out of the middle of an iron furnace. (52) May Your eyes be open to Your servant’s petition and to the petition of Your people Israel, listening to them whenever they call to You. (53) For You, Lord GOD, have set them apart as Your inheritance from all the people on earth, as You spoke through Your servant Moses when You brought their ancestors out of Egypt.”
THAT is what Daniel was doing here!
So let’s read it again…
“(10) When Daniel realized that a written decree had been issued, he entered his home, where the windows in his upper room opened toward Jerusalem.”
Three times daily he was kneeling and offering prayers and thanks to his God just as he had been accustomed to do previously.
(11) Then those officials who had gone to the king came by collusion and found Daniel praying and asking for help before his God. (12) So they approached the king and said to him,
“Did you not issue an edict to the effect that for the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human other than to you, O king, would be thrown into a den of lions?”
The king replied, “That is correct, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed.”
(13) Then they said to the king, “Daniel, who is one of the captives from Judah, pays no attention to you, O king, or to the edict that you issued. Three times daily he offers his prayer.”
(14) When the king heard this, he was very upset and began thinking about how he might rescue Daniel.
Until late afternoon he was struggling to find a way to rescue him. (15) Then those men came by collusion to the king and said to him,
“Recall, O king, that it is a law of the Medes and Persians that no edict or decree that the king issues can be changed.”
(16) So the king gave the order, and Daniel was brought and thrown into a den of lions.
The king consoled Daniel by saying, “Your God Whom you continually serve will rescue you!”
(17) Then a stone was brought and placed over the opening to the den. The king sealed it with his signet ring and with those of his nobles so that nothing could be changed with regard to Daniel.
(18) Then the king departed to his palace. But he spent the night without eating, and no diversions were brought to him. He was unable to sleep.
(19) In the morning, at the earliest sign of daylight, the king got up and rushed to the lions’ den. (20) As he approached the den, he called out to Daniel in a worried voice,
“Daniel, servant of the living God, was your God Whom you continually serve able to rescue you from the lions?”
(21) Then Daniel spoke to the king, “O king, live forever! (22) My God sent His angel and closed the lions’ mouths so that they have not harmed me, because I was found to be innocent before him. Nor have I done any harm to you, O king.”
(23) Then the king was delighted and gave an order to haul Daniel up from the den.
So Daniel was hauled up out of the den. He had no injury of any kind, because he had trusted in his God.
(24) The king gave another order, and those men who had maliciously accused Daniel were brought and thrown into the lions’ den – they, their children, and their wives.
They did not even reach the bottom of the den before the lions overpowered them and crushed all their bones.
(25) Then King Darius wrote to all the peoples, nations, and language groups who were living in all the land:
“Peace and prosperity! (26) I have issued an edict that throughout all the dominion of my kingdom people are to revere and fear the God of Daniel. “For he is the living God; he endures forever. His kingdom will not be destroyed; His authority is forever. (27) He rescues and delivers and performs signs and wonders in the heavens and on the earth. He has rescued Daniel from the power of the lions!”
(28) So this Daniel prospered during the reign of Darius and the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”