Daniel Chapter 4 is the only chapter of the book of Daniel not written by Daniel himself. This is the personal testimony of the great king Nebuchadnezzar. It’s his own story about how he found God. It’s amazing! Here’s what happened.
Years rolled by. Nebuchadnezzar kept on building up Babylon and expanding his empire. He became even stronger and richer. King Nebuchadnezzar had created for himself, or so he thought, a great empire. Just ask him.
“The king spoke, saying, ‘Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honor of my majesty?’ ” (Daniel 4:30).
He was so proud of his achievements. Even arrogant. He was content and prosperous in his palace – too proud to give any credit to God and too proud to make any room for God in his life. But God is patient and He didn’t give up on Nebuchadnezzar.
For over 30 years God had been trying to reach Nebuchadnezzar. Repeatedly the king appears to make strides in the right direction, but then he relapses and goes back to his old arrogant ways. Finally, God is forced to take drastic steps. Almost immediately after Nebuchadnezzar makes his proud and arrogant boast, God sends him a shocking message. Here it is:
“King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you! And they shall drive you from men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. They shall make you eat grass like oxen; and seven times shall pass over you, until you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Daniel 4:31, 32).
And, God, true to His word, made this happen to the king. He, basically, went insane for a prolonged period. Leaving his palace and the company of human beings, he became like an animal, living outside, eating grass, and, well, to put it nicely, wasn’t very well groomed. Some believe that he was afflicted with what is known as “clinical lycanthropy,” a psychotic disease in which people think that they are animals.
Now, the sad thing is that the king had been warned, before all this happened, by Daniel the prophet. God used Daniel to bring prophecies or predictions to Nebuchadnezzar – prophecies about his kingdom and prophecies about himself. Daniel was an inspired wise man who brought the king messages from the true God about his life and times.
On this occasion, Nebuchadnezzar had another dream – a most impressive dream. This one he did not forget, but he couldn’t understand it. This dream greatly puzzled and disturbed him. And because they took dreams very seriously in that time and culture, he ordered all the wise men of Babylon to interpret the dream for him. None, though, were able.
However, he then told the dream to Daniel, one of the court’s wisest men. He told Daniel that he dreamed of a massive tree. It was enormous and strong. It reached way up into the sky and was visible to the ends of the earth.
The tree was home for all sorts of birds and animals and provided for their needs. However, in the dream someone came down from heaven and ordered the tree cut down. Only its stump and root remained. Then the person from heaven declared that the root and stump would face some real hard times.
Daniel interpreted the dream, saying that the great tree was the king himself and his kingdom, but that very hard times would come upon him. What were they?
“They shall drive you from men, your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make you eat grass like oxen. They shall wet you with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses.” (Daniel 4:25).
This was a terrible thing to say to a king in those days – especially one with a temper like Nebuchadnezzar’s. But Daniel was never afraid of doing his duty. Then, seeing the king was deeply moved by the dream and its message, Daniel gently encouraged him and provided hope by saying that, if he stopped being such a proud, arrogant and unrighteous ruler, perhaps “there may be a lengthening of your prosperity.” (Daniel 4:27). His kingdom could be restored.
God is so patient. Even after His fateful warning He waited one full year, hoping that Nebuchadnezzar would respond. However, proud King Nebuchadnezzar didn’t change, and those hard times came just as Daniel predicted, and lasted for seven long years.
Then, after the appointed time had past, Nebuchadnezzar came back to his normal senses. He’d been greatly humbled, and acknowledged the reality of God in heaven, and said:
“I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom is from generation to generation.” (Daniel 4:34).
In other words, he learned his lesson, repented, and turned in faith toward the true God. And, his kingdom was restored to him. He now understood that, regardless of how many men he controlled, or all the power and money that he had, it could all be taken away in an instant.
It took God over 30 years to reach Nebuchadnezzar, but at long last he acknowledged Him as the true God. No longer did Nebuchadnezzar exalt himself, instead he exalted and praised the God of heaven. The king discovered that once people recognize God as the rightful ruler in their lives, they have true peace.
A good lesson for us all. And let’s remember, that everything in the book of Daniel, including the story of Nebuchadnezzar, is focusing on last day events – our times. So, what God did for the ancient Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, He wants to do for us today. God patiently works with people. He doesn’t give up on us. He’s as patient with us as He was with Nebuchadnezzar.
Even though we slip and fall, He still loves us. Perhaps the way He works for us will not be as dramatic as His actions in Nebuchadnezzar’s behalf, but God is powerful and He intervenes in our lives. And when He does, we should accept Him and praise Him just like Nebuchadnezzar did.