About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 4

ch. 4:1-18    ch. 4:19-27    ch. 4:28-37

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Nebuchadnezzarís Dream Of A Tree (ch. 4:1-18)

Chapter 4 is not actually written by Daniel.  It is written by Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel has incorporated it into his writings.  It was probably written around 552 B. C..  So ironically, we have a pagan gentile king writing part of our Holy Bible.  That might surprise some of you.


In verse 1 we see the king addressed this comments to everyone living in the world, or as weíd say it, "the known world in his day".  Nebuchadnezzar addresses his letter this way because he basically was king over the whole known world at that time. He was addressing his subjects, those he ruled over.


The first statement that he makes is, "May you prosper greatly" which would have been a normal way to open any public letter.  Heís about to acknowledge "the Most High God" in what he says.  Some feel at this point that Nebuchadnezzar was a true believer and that they will see him in heaven someday.  I'm not so sure of that.  We must remember that the king viewed the God of the Bible as the highest god over all gods.  He was still a polytheistic pagan believing in many gods.  I think that disqualifies one from being a true believer in the god of the Bible.  If it doesn't, then the modern Emergent Church is right when it tries to unify all world religions.  I believe such a movement is wrong not Biblical.    


The king gives praise to God as any good Jew or Christian would do today by proclaiming that the Most High is great and mighty in His miraculous signs, signs that he had experienced first hand.  He also proclaims that Godís kingdom is an eternal kingdom and that His dominion endures from generation to generation, not like his own kingdom that he knew would come to an end at some point.  Again, people can say the right words and still have a wrong heart and unscriptural thinking.  The king fits this description.


In verses 4 through 9 the king tells how he was at home in comfort when he had another dream that bothered him.  Once again, he called in all the wise men and this time told them the dream, but they couldnít interpret it for him.  So Daniel comes in and is able to interpret the dream.  Why Nebuchadnezzar didnít learn his lesson and ask Daniel in the first place is beyond me. 


Part of the answer to this might be that although the king is now a believer in the fact that there is a Most High God, he still believes in his own secondary gods.  He even says so in verse 9.  In verse 9 Nebuchadnezzar says that Daniel is called Belteshazzar, after "the name of my gods".  So you can clearly see by the words "my gods" that he still believes in other gods.  He can't be a believer in the true sense of the word.  


Also in verse 9 the king says that "the spirit of the gods" are in Daniel.  Well, that is not correct.  It is the Holy Spirit of the One and Only God that comes upon Daniel and reveals these mysteries to him.  It isnít even that the Holy Spirit in Daniel because in Old Testament times the Holy Spirit did not normally reside in people as He does in believers today.  Again, the king isn't a true believer.  His head and heart is still a mess.  


Nebuchadnezzar would make a good multi-culturalist today, or as I said earlier, a good Emergent Churchman, because he has his own gods, but incorporates other gods into his theology. 


From verses 9 through 12 the king explains the vision to Daniel.  He saw a huge tree that could be visible from all over the earth.  There was enough fruit on the tree to feed all mankind and animals alike.  Birds of the air found their homes in its branches and animals found protection from the sun in its shade. 


In verses 13 to 15 we see a holy messenger come down from heaven and commanded that this tree be cut down to its stump.  The stump and the roots would be left and would be tied with iron and bronze.   


In verses 16 and 17 we see the pronouns "him" and "his" in reference to this tree.  So it is clear that this tree represents a man.  In the vision the holy messenger states that he will become like an animal in his thinking and behaviour.  He will live with the animals as if heís an animal himself.  The pronoun "he" refers to the king. 


Verse 17 tells us the reason why the man in the dream becomes like an animal.  It is actually Godís doing so that everyone of earth knows for a fact that God Himself is the one who sets up kings and kingdoms, and what He has set up, He can cause to fall.  I've said this before; we should understand that in whatever kind of political atmosphere a nation finds itself in, it is God who is ultimately in charge.  The Bible teaches that it is God who works behind the scenes to accomplish His will in the affairs of men and nations.



Danielís Interpretation (ch. 4:19-27)


In verse 19 we see that the dream and the interpretation perplexed Daniel.  It wasnít that he couldnít figure the dream out.  He was simply disturbed by what it meant.  Obviously Nebuchadnezzar saw that Daniel was perplexed.  He told Daniel not to worry about it.  Daniel wished that the dream applied to the kingís enemies but it obviously didnít and that is why he was so disturbed.


We see again here the character of Daniel.
The king was a pagan ruthless king.  Most people would have wanted him dead, but not Daniel.  Daniel's heart went out to the king, knowing that soon things would fall apart for him. 


In verses 20 to 23 Daniel tells the king that the tree is the king.  His influence over the whole earth had grown just as that tree had grown.  Nebuchadnezzar was the most powerful ruler on the earth.  He was the supreme ruler over the entire known world in his day.  History can clearly backs this up as being factual.


In verses 23 to 27 Daniel tells the king that God will send him to the animals and he will act and live like an animal  "until seven times" had passed.  "Seven times" is understood by most to mean "seven years".  It is also a historical fact that some kind of mental illness overtook Nebuchadnezzar and he did live and act like an animal for a period of time.  We see this in non-Biblical records. 


In the dream the king comes back from this state of mental illness and his kingdom is restored to him.  The whole purpose of the dream and its fulfillment is to make Nebuchadnezzar admit to the fact that he is not the pre-immanent one in the universe as he thinks.  It is God the Almighty, Danielís God, who sets up and deposes kings and kingdoms.


If God did this in Old Testament times I believe we can be assured that he can do the same today.  God is still in charge of nations and has the ability to put in place those He wants to be in charge. 


Daniel begs the king to accept his advice in light of this dream.  Daniel tells the king to renounce his sin by doing what is right and being kind to the oppressed.  Nebuchadnezzar was far from kind to those he oppressed.  What Daniel was telling the king was that he should repent.  Biblical repentance is seen clearly here.  Repentance is more than simply changing your mind about what sin is.  Repentance is leaving your life of sin in the dust as you flee from it.  This is what Daniel was telling the king. 


We should note a Biblical principle here.  Daniel tells the king to "renounce his sins".  What does this renouncing look like?  Does he merely renounce it with words?  No, Daniel tells the king that the way in which he should renounce his sins is to do right and to stop oppressing the oppressed.  The renunciation of sin must be seen in concrete actions.



The Dream Is Fulfilled  (ch. 4:28-37)


In verses 28 to 30 we see Nebuchadnezzar standing on the roof of his palace admiring his great kingdom that gave glory to himself.  This is the fundamental sin of both the devil and man.  Lucifer once said that "he would ascend", meaning, he would ascend to be like God.  Man says the same.  Both the devil and manís basic tendency is towards putting himself first and placing himself above all others, including God. This is what the king was doing and acknowledging as he was on his roof.


These words he spoke twelve months after receiving the dream and immediately he became like an animal with some kind of mental illness.


This took place as a voice came from heaven issuing a decree, just as the king had issued many a decree.  The voice said that heíd be driven away from people and live like an animal until seven times had passed by and until he acknowledged that the God of heaven has final authority over all there is. 


Iím not one hundred percent convinced that God installs and uninstalls every elected official the world, yet if he does, it should take away some of the way many Christians think about leadership in government.  Many speak very negatively against the world leaders, and for good cause, yet at the same time, those we speak against might well be there because God placed them there for His own reasons.  We therefore might want to think carefully how we speak about the ones God puts in authority over us.


In verse 37 Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes towards the Lord in apparent surrender and his sanity was restored to him.  Then once again the king gave glory to the God of heaven.  His praise includes the acknowledgement that Godís dominion is eternal, mankind is but nothing, and God does what He pleases with the powers of heaven and earth.  Note that God does what He pleases with the authorities in the heavenlies, as well as with the authorities on earth. This means that even the satanic powers are allowed to exist because of Godís will. What the king says here is Biblically correct.


Nebuchadnezzar closes by saying, "no one can hold back His hand or say, 'what have you done'".  No one can question what God does.  We accept it and give ourselves to his plans.


This chapter ends by the king acknowledging that everything God does is right and just, and that He is able to humble the proud, just as He humbled Nebuchadnezzar.  We all need to realize that God is just and all that He does is right, even if it appears to us as not being so right and just. 


What we see the king saying here might be though of by some as an acknowledgment of being a true believer, but again, as I've said before, I'm not so sure of that.  Remember, the king had said things like this before and he still believed as a polytheistic pagan.  He still believed in many gods.  We can't tell it by this passage, but we don't know if he still believes in many gods.  If he does, he is not a true believer.   


History tells us that itís likely that Nebuchadnezzar died a year or so after the events of chapter 4.



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