[This is an excerpt from my book, Mankind’s Final 7 Years Before Christ Returns: A verse-by-verse explanation of the book of Revelation]
4 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
Since Nebuchadnezzar was a king of war and conquest, this blessing of peace would have been an important prelude to his message.
We are told that the events of this message happened before the fiery furnace event of chapter 3, but that the message itself was not sent until afterward. Apparently, the events of chapter 3 awakened his desire to make known the signs and wonders God had given him.
By referring to God’s eternal kingdom, Nebuchadnezzar alludes to the instability of his own temporary kingdom.
Nebuchadnezzar evidently was troubled because he felt the dream was a divine warning. Also, he was at peace after his many conquests, and his kingdom flourished, which made the dream that much more alarming.
Apparently, Nebuchadnezzar didn’t threaten them as he had done in chapter 2. Perhaps he had become less tyrannical over the years, or perhaps the wise men had gotten wiser as to how they proclaimed their inabilities. Nebuchadnezzar had obviously called for these counselors enough times throughout his reign that he was confident of their abilities. The word “decree” can also be translated as “taste”, so perhaps he was simply testing them. We are not told if they actually tried to interpret the dream.
Daniel 2:48 states that Daniel was no longer one of the wise men, but was given a high position and placed in charge of the wise men. It is apparently this reason that Daniel did not come in with the rest of the wise men.
9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.
“Master of the magicians” could mean Daniel was still in charge of the wise men, or Nebuchadnezzar could simply be referring to Daniel as the greatest of the wise men.
12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.
15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:
17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
“Watchers” were believed to be angels which had the responsibility to watch over the affairs of mankind. The phrase “and an holy one” does not appear to refer to a second angel, but rather to the holiness of the angel so as to differentiate this angel from the watchers that rebelled against God (Jude 1:6; 2 Peter 2:4). See also- the apocryphal Book of Enoch.
The exact meaning of the phrase “the decree of the watchers” is debated, as to whether the angels had authority to pass judgment on Nebuchadnezzar or were strictly following orders from God. The phrase “the holy ones” appears to be referring to the angels. In verse 24, Daniel states the decree is from God.
18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee.
While Nebuchadnezzar says here the wise men “are not able”, verse 7 says they “did not” interpret the dream. This leaves us to question whether they were unable or simply unwilling. Even Daniel will hesitate with an answer.
19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies.
We can only guess how long Daniel was astonished and silent. The word translated “one hour” can also be translated “immediately” or “suddenly”.
The tree was so large it seemed to Nebuchadnezzar to be visible from anywhere on earth, and it was this view the vision intended to transfer.
Nebuchadnezzar probably had suspected that the dream related to him. In literature, great men are often referred to as trees (see also- Ezekiel 17:22-24; Isaiah 2:12-13). While many illustrations refer to great men as cedars to signify their strength and power, this is a fruit tree which provides for all the beasts and birds of the earth. (See also- Ezekiel 31:3-18; Isaiah 10:33-34)
The phrase “the end of the earth” may refer to the entirety of the world as far as Nebuchadnezzar was aware. Yet, the word earth can also be translated land, and his kingdom literally stretched from sea to sea.
23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him;
It is unclear whether the angel is giving orders to other watchers (verse 17), or simply stating what will happen. The word translated “hew” is plural, suggesting there was, in fact, a number of angels who would carry out the judgment.
Take note that it is not only Nebuchadnezzar who is affected by this judgment, but everyone would suffer loss. Not only was the tree cut down, but the leaves were shaken off and the fruit scattered so none could receive benefits from it. The shaking off of leaves, and scattering of fruit, may also refer to loss of conquered territories along with their tributes. The fleeing of beast and fowl seems to suggest that Nebuchadnezzar would be abandoned by those formerly loyal to him.
The word translated “stump”, as is used in other verses, refers to the living rootstock rather than the stub of a tree trunk. The band of iron and brass appears to be for the protection of new growth, and the drenching with dew for nourishment.
“Seven times” is generally believed to refer to seven years. In the Bible, however, the number seven is the symbol of completeness. The word translated “times” literally means time. Some believe it should be translated “seven seasons” (summers and winters), thus would be 3 ½ years. A form of this word was used in Daniel 2:8 when Nebuchadnezzar accused the wise men of trying to gain time. Other than the Bible, the only record we have of any such event is a gap of four years in the building programs of Nebuchadnezzar.
25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
There is much debate as to who would drive Nebuchadnezzar where, and what exactly would happen to him. The point here is that the majestic king would be humbled until a time when he came to acknowledge that it was God who is the true ruler of earth and who had made Nebuchadnezzar rich and powerful.
Nebuchadnezzar is told his kingdom is secured until the judgment is complete and he has returned to his position.
27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity.
Daniel was not only given the interpretation of the dream, but also the cause of it. He has now finished giving the divine interpretation, and begins giving his personal opinion that the king should stop being wicked in hope that the judgment can at least be delayed. (See also- Proverbs 28:13; 2 Peter 3:9)
From this verse through verse 33, Nebuchadnezzar is spoken of in the 3rd person. Apparently, he either left out the details that would put him in a bad light or simply didn’t remember them, and Daniel has inserted a historical narrative.
There is much debate as to where Nebuchadnezzar was actually walking. Whether in the palace, or on the palace roof, or on the wall, or in the famous gardens. It makes absolutely no difference.
There is some debate as to whether Nebuchadnezzar ignored the advice of Daniel, or followed it but fell back into his prideful habits.
32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws.
Again, there are many views as to the details of what actually happened to Nebuchadnezzar.
34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:
The narrative has now returned to the proclamation of Nebuchadnezzar.
35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?
Nebuchadnezzar is saying that all inhabitants of the earth, put together, are nothing compared to God. And while men and angels have free will, it is God’s will which will ultimately be accomplished. (See also- Isaiah 40:15-17)
36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me.
This is Nebuchadnezzar’s account of his restoration of a sound mind and to power, and the last we hear of him alive. Nebuchadnezzar’s praise of God does not mean he became a true follower of God, but simply that he honored God alongside the many gods he worshiped, though he does refer to God as the most high God (verses 2, 34). In fact, as I mentioned earlier, historians believe these events occurred before the events of the fiery furnace events in chapter 3, so we can be pretty sure that Nebuchadnezzar did not become a truly humble, God-fearing believer.