DANIEL - Chapter 4 Commentary


This chapter is opened by Nebuchadnezzar making a proclamation. It consists of a proclamation, public decree, or state paper of Nebuchadnezzar in which he recounts the sequence of events that transpired in his God induced humiliation. By the time of this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar is an old man. He had been king for about 40 years. Now he is telling, somewhat, about his latter life. This chapter has what is known as Nebuchadnezzar's tree dream. He tells of losing his kingdom and his freedom of life by insanity for seven years. The proud, self-centered king has erected an image at Dura, would never condescend to tell a story of his own humiliation. The power of God, however, can change even a king's proud heart.

When you look at the story of Nebuchadnezzar, chapter 3 would most likely leave you with the strong opinion that Nebuchadnezzar never fully converted. The commentary in these notes for chapter 3 purposefully gave a fair argument on this being true. With the study of chapter 4, that opinion may change. i.e. Before a major decision is made, as much information should be gained before one can make the decision. In this case read all the chapters of Nebuchadnezzar before an decision is made.

The tree vision is the next item into which Daniel was called. A temporary insanity played a strong part in the life of Nebuchadnezzar and the empire. The story actually assists the king by explaining the reason for his temporary insanity. It also shows the restoration of the sovereign to his kingdom to be the result of the hand of God. The beginning and end of this chapter lead us to hope, that Nebuchadnezzar was a monument of the power of Divine grace, and of the riches of Divine mercy. After he recovered from his madness, he told to distant places, and wrote down for future ages, how God had justly humbled and graciously restored him.

Do you think he converted? If yes, was it an intellectual conversion or a full heart conversion? Again, before the final decision, read verse 4:9.

There are some ancient manuscripts that say that Nebuchadnezzar wrote and sent this proclamation. The Septuagint (Greek version of OT) states he wrote an epistle to all. However, in the Bible he is probably orally proclaiming to the people of the kingdom. Nebbie said it was fair and appropriate to tell all what had happened to him to change his life.

Nebuchadnezzar, was calm and relaxed in his palace. This was one of the most magnificant palaces in the world. As said above, he was old by now, about 42 or 43 reigning years . He had recently conquered Egypt. This dream occurred about the 34th or 35th year of reign. About a year after, he has his malady for about 7 years. He now is telling about his whole life. He died at approximately the 45th reigning year. He starts telling about his vision. Before he related the Divine judgments upon him, for his pride he told about the warnings he had in his dream or vision. Nebuchadnezzar tells about how he was frightened about the dream.

Dreams occur more than twice as many times in the O.T. as in the N.T. More than half of the references in the O.T. is found in the apocalyptic books of Ezekiel and Daniel. Visions constituted one of the methods employed by God in the giving of revelation. Visions were not, strictly speaking, synonymous with dreams; but a state of sleep or relaxation, whether natural or induced. This seems to have been the primary circumstance whenever God revealed His message to the prophets in a vision. Daniel's visions of the rise and demise of world empires, John's visions in Revelation, and Paul's vision of the poignant appeal of the man from Macedonia are representative of the use God made of visions.


As he traditionally did over the years, he tells about how he called the "wise men" to interpret the dream. Notice that the "wise men" were still employed by the king, even though they had miserably failed him before. [I often wonder why Nebbie kept them.] This time he even told the men the contents of the dream. They still could not interpret the dream even after they had said in chapter 2 that if they knew what the dream was they could interpret it. Daniel is now requested to be brought to Nebbie to tell him what the dream meant.

It appears Daniel did not appear immediately, perhaps of his own choosing or perhaps because Nebuchadnezzar did not summon him for fear Daniel might tell him something he did not want to hear. I am sure we can assume Daniel had no respect for the wise men; so he may have chosen to wait for them to have the "first shot" at the dream. Daniel had enough confidence in himself that he had not problem with knowing he could help the king as needed. The king certainly did not forget that Daniel was the best. The king may only be acknowledging his own gods' supposed work in Daniel's life, or (since gods may be properly translated by the singular, God) it may indicate his recognition of the true God of Israel. This tree story is also used in Ezekiel (Ezek. 31:3-12) to describe in prophecy the tree of Assyria being "cut down".

Nebuchadnezzar tells of Belteshazzar (Babylonian name given to Daniel when he was first captured) the master or chief of the "wise men" being on the case of determining the dream. It is interesting to note that the word master in Hebrew is rab. This is the base for the word for rabbi or teacher. This infers that Daniel was the leading "teacher" and best of the "wise men".

With some of the words of Nebuchadnezzar, we can say he was a pagan, worshipped idols and other gods, and probably would always be same. Note that Nebbie addresses Daniel as the servant of the king and master of the magicians; not as the servant of Daniel's God.

These three verses describe a great tree in Nebuchadnezzar dream. The tree is central to the earth which would be a focal point of other smaller trees. It is a great tree that is so tall it reaches into "heaven". The word shamayin can mean the sky or heavens. In other words, the tree was very tall but it does not necessarily mean the tree was actually reaching into heaven. Also, the words from Hebrew do not mean the tree was growing before his eyes. They mean the tree had grown to great height, as a normal tree would grow. These seemingly little details are important in dream interpretation because these differences could be different dream interpretations. It is fitting to consider this tree representing Babylon in the midst of other surrounding countries.

The leaves were very beautiful and plentiful. This could be significant of the splendor of Nebuchadnezzar's court, the most beautiful in the world. The fruits on the tree were many and perfect. The tree had enough good fruit for food or meat for all. The word meat is used to mean food for all. The tree obviously fed many. The birds built their nests and raised their families in the boughs of the tree. The strength of the tree signified protection also. It furnished food and protection for all.

This verse is stating that there was a holy presence sent from God. Now, what was sent. We again have a difference between the KJV and other versions. The KJV says two bodies were there, an watcher AND a holy one. The other versions say an angelic watcher came WHO WAS a holy one. We won't lose salvation by taking a stand one way or the other. However, let's look at the difference. The word watcher is a pagan term (remember who is talking at this time in scripture - Nebuchadnezzar). So Nebbie may be calling what he sees in the knowledge he has. A watcher is used as a person who watches over something or someone usually at night. It can also be a person who watches over the dead or sick. Therefore, an additional adjective of "the holy one" could be to describe a heavenly body, an angel, that is designated as a watcher (the angel's function). The KJV says a watcher AND a holy one. This could open a discussion that there was a watcher that was not holy and another body that was holy. The Daniel text, page 153 has a good discussion of the KJV version. Most commentaries on the KJV will cover this as two angels.

Whatever version read, the holy one(s) descend from heaven.

The angel says to cut down the tree. Not only will the tree be cut down but the branches will be cut off. The leaves and flowers were to be stripped from the tree. The fruit will be scattered. The animals and birds will now go away because there is no more food or protection. All or this could be a simple statement of what will occur. It could also be directives to the watcher or to heavenly angels who are under the direction of the holy one. BUT, the stump of the tree trunk shall not be destroyed. It will be left. This means that the tree will not be killed. It will be able to sprout again under the right conditions. The roots will still remain for foundation.This certainly indicates that no matter how big, tall, and powerful; under the right conditions, it can be brought down. However, there is always a stub that can sprout and become a new life filled with strength. For us it would be repentance. This could be thought of as a person being down to the depths of despair and then finally forced onto the knees. This can become a new growth (new birth) in God and the new growth can then flourish.

The band of iron and bronze probably represent protection over time. If water and sun have their way, the stump will split, crack, and rot away. If the tree is protected, it could perhaps come back to life. In the context of the scripture, Nebuchadnezzar became insane. In his sickness in that time (even in modern time), sometimes the patients would be bound for protection (as for a madman).

The remaining fresh grass and the dew from heaven are meant to describe the stump being left out in the fields so that later it could sprout again. The dew will supply just enough life water to keep it alive until the tree "comes back".

Read verse 15 very carefully. It starts out referring to an "it", the stump; then the words change to "his", a person. It now appears the scene brings in some personage. The KJV has an "it" for "wet with dew" and a "his" for "portion". The NASB and others have both referenced as "his". The person on the scene is probably what bothered the king more than anything else in the dream.

Now the holy one decrees that the person's mind would be replaced by the mind of a beast. The person knows in his heart and mind that he is an animal. It does not say that this insanity would be removed in seven years. However, most scholars feel it is implied. The periods are long, like years because of the length of hair referenced in verse 33.

All this was a sentence or decree on the person to show that God, the Most High, was ruler and in total control. He places people into leadership positions and He can take them out. Some of the meanest and greatest of persons sat on thrones.

Now Nebuchadnezzar turns the problem of interpretation over to Daniel. He had already tried the "wise men" and they were unsuccessful (even knowing the dream - the king told all of the dream; he did not forget it). [I still wonder why he kept those men over 40 years.]

Daniel was struck (some versions "was appalled") or was in amazement and astonishment at so heavy a judgment coming upon so great a prince, and gives advise with tenderness and respect. Bible versions may have "astonied for one hour" or "astonied for a while". First "astonied" is an ancient term for a word like astonished or surprised. It is used in Ezra, Job, and Ezekiel also. The word used for "hour" is shaah. It does not necessarily have to mean a clock hour. I could mean a moment or a short period of time. Daniel, most assuredly was not intimidated by his interpretation of the dream. He begins by expressing his wish that the dream were to apply to Nebuchadnezzar's enemies rather than to him. Daniel had no trouble with the interpretation of the dream. He had reluctance to announce God's judgment to the king because he apparently had grown to love the king.

Daniel now with all the kindness he can render repeats the dream and tells the king that the tree is he, Nebuchadnezzar. He had grown strong and tall in power and strength. All people knew this. Notice in these three verses he does not mention the tree in a negative light. He wanted the king to know how much of a strong leader he was and how much empire he had and how much he had accomplished.

In these three verses Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar that all the chopping and stripping of the tree, the loss of the fruits and animals and birds signifies that the tree is felled down as Nebuchadnezzar will be. Then Daniel told the king that the king would The order to fell the great tree was prophetic of a temporary form of insanity known as lycanthropy in which a man imagines himself to be some form of animal. The word derives from the Greek lukos, or "wolf," and anthropos, meaning "man".During this diseased period, Nebuchadnezzar would find it impossible to continue with the affairs of state. The purpose of the lycanthropy was to remind the king of the transcendent sovereignty of the Lord.

The term "seven times" as used here in the KJV is a form of a very important term that should be understood before Revelation can be understood. The term "time" when used in the Bible as it is here "seven times" means seven years. The term "time plus times plus 1/2 time" several times. "Time" is a year; "times" is two years; 1/2 time is 1/2 year. So this means 1 year + 2 years + 1/2 year = 3 1/2 years. This is used quite a few times when referring to 1/2 of the 7 years of the tribulation. This will be understood more in the study of Revelation.

There was to be a return of Nebuchadnezzar to the throne. However, it was after seven years of insanity. His son Evil-Meredach was in control during the sickness. Nebbie's control would not be irretrievable, since the stump with its root would be left. The kingdom was still assured to him. The great lesson to be learned by Nebuchadnezzar was that God was all powerful and HE rules, not Nebbie.

After interpreting the dream, Daniel counseled the king to abandon his despotic ways and acknowledge the rule of God. He was to do justice. He has been an oppressive man; not showing mercy to the poor, many of whom were made poor by Nebuchadnezzar. He was to witness the whole nation of the Jews. He was to cease from his sins, repent, and bring forth fruits right with repentance. Then he might find mercy at the hand of God. To "break away" or "break off" from praq means to repent. In other words, repent to prolong your prosperity and rule.

All the things predicted occurred. He did not repent. Twelve months later, Nebuchadnezzar was walking either within the palace or on the roof of the palace, depending on the version read. Nebuchadnezzar was probably admiring the great city he had helped build, possibly from the top terrace of his famous "Hanging Gardens". Read verse 30 for the voice of conceit and inflated pride. The twelve months were given to Nebbie to change his ways. He did not. Why he did not follow the Daniel's advice we don't know and probably cannot be known. It may have been that he was so addicted to a life of wickedness and power that he would not break away from it, even though he admitted the fact that he was exposed to the awful judgment of God.

One year later, the sentence was executed. A voice from heaven spoke and took away all his kingdom and power. He was now a pitifully insane man with the mind of an animal. The king's illness was boanthropy (imagining himself to be an animal and acting accordingly) or lycanthropy (imagining himself to be a wolf). Nebuchadnezzar's illness was not a light case. The king was so completely deluded by hallucinations of his new role as beast that he was driven from the palace and from polite society. He was to eat and live as an animal. The expression "seven times shall pass over you" or "seven periods of time" means seven years as the usual in apocryphal writings.. He was insane seven years. His hair grew; his nails grew; he walked on all fours; he ate grass; etc. He was probably kept in one of the royal parks during his insanity.

At the end of the seven years, Nebuchadnezzar says that he raised his face to the heavens and blessed the Almighty. His insanity left him.


The conclusion comes in the return of the king's sanity and his restoration to the throne of Babylon. This verse reflects Nebbie's conclusions regarding of the dealings of God with men. Whether this confession may be construed as a conversion and a true submission to God is the subject of conjecture. The whole incident evidently occurred late in his reign. And evidence suggests that the king did not live more than a year after his restoration.

Return to Daniel Home Email to Bill
Return to BJM Master Home Page