Daniel 4:4–5, 28–37comment (0)
September 20, 2007
By Jim Barnette
Related Scripture: Daniel 4:4–5, 28–37
Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Ministerial Formation, Samford University Handling Success Successfully
Daniel 4:4–5, 28–37
It was while King Nebuchadnezzar was basking in contentment at the thought of all his achievements that his peace of mind was shattered by a troubling dream. The dream made him “afraid.” The adjective in Hebrew connotes a person shrinking away as crawling into a place to hide. The contrast between the king’s state of mind in verse four and verse five is striking. Even though God breaks in on Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual lethargy through the troubling dream, the calloused spirit of the king is revealed in his response. In agitation, he turned again to his magicians, astrologers and enchanters. They had failed him before, and here they failed him again. Once more, Daniel was brought in to interpret the dream.
Following Daniel’s interpretation of the dream (4:19–27), God graciously allowed Nebuchadnezzar a full year to repent of his sins. Unfortunately the king’s pride blinded him from doing so, and it was in a brief matter of time that the dream was fulfilled.
The king was “walking on the roof of the royal palace.” Buildings in Babylon were generally constructed with flat roofs. His palace was erected on one of the high points of Babylon. From this vantage point, Nebuchadnezzar could admire a great portion of his walled city. Historical records indicate that this king was unlike his predecessors. They had been intent on conquering and expanding the kingdom. Nebuchadnezzar was more interested in building up or restoring the walls, temples and palaces of Babylon. Most famous was the palace with the hanging gardens, identified by the Greeks as one of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It was probably upon this palace that he was walking.
It is clear that success had gone to the ruler’s head. A king customarily gave credit to his god, but Nebuchadnezzar boasted that the grandeur surrounding him was “by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty.” The first-person pronouns in verse 30 are emphatic in the Aramaic, highlighting his self-adulation. In his pride, the king took the glory that belonged to God alone.
By ignoring the clear warnings, Nebuchadnezzar brought disaster upon himself. His own boasting was interrupted by a voice from heaven, ostensibly from God, the “Most High.” Immediately the king began to act like an animal, and the strange behavior caused him to be “driven away from people.” His hair is described as growing like eagle’s feathers, and his nails were like “the claws of a bird.” In other words, his hair was matted and coarse, and his nails, never cut, were clawlike. Many connect the king’s symptoms with lycanthropy (from two Greek words meaning “wolf” and “man”), in which a person imagines himself or herself an animal. How ironic that this man who perceived himself as superior to other men has been reduced to subhuman. Superman has become Subman.
Restored to right mind, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes toward heaven, an act of surrender and submission to the sovereign God. The song of praise in verses 34 and 35 is reminiscent of other passages of exaltation (Ps. 145:13, 115:3; Isa. 14:27, 40:17).
Note the three dynamics at the heart of Nebuchadnezzar’s confession. First, he confessed God’s sovereignty. Second, Nebuchadnezzar confessed the creatureliness of humankind: “All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.” The heretofore boastful ruler recognized that the greatest of persons are nothing before the majestic Lord. Third, the king confessed the truthfulness and righteousness of God, “because everything He does is right and all His ways are just.” Finally Nebuchadnezzar confessed that God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble.
The king’s story is a portrayal of the application Peter made of this principle: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6). Such is the marvelous pattern of His saving grace.
Associate Professor of Religion and Director of Ministerial Formation, Samford University
Handling Success Successfully