Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Decree of the Most High God

Introduction
Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Psalm 2:10-12)

Daniel 4:19-27

Context

-In Daniel 4, the year is approximately 565 B.C. when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon writes about how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob powerfully humbled him. He writes ten years after he had another significant dream in his life; therefore, the events of chapter 4 start in 575 B.C. This would be the “personal testimony” of Nebuchadnezzar as he looks back over the last ten years and sees how God has worked powerfully in His life.
-in 575 B.C., Nebuchadnezzar had another troubling dream—something he experienced approximately 30 years earlier. In this dream, he sees a magnificent tree that grows stronger and taller than any other tree on earth. It is unlike any other tree on earth. However, the peace of this scene is shattered by the arrival of a “watcher” (angel) from heaven, declaring to other angels to chop down the tree, lop off its branches, and scatter its fruit. Nevertheless, the stump is protected by a fence so that it is not completely destroyed.
-The angel reveals that the tree represents a man, and therefore this man has grown stronger and more powerful than any other man on earth. However, he will be cut down in his power given the mind of an animal. This will last for seven periods of time.
-Nebuchadnezzar, terrified at what this dream might mean, first calls in the Babylonian wise men. However, they are unable to interpret his dream, so he calls in their president—the man Daniel.

The Interpretation
(v. 19-23)

19Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while, and his
thoughts alarmed him. The king answered and said, “Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.” Belteshazzar answered and said, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies! 20The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth, 21whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived—22it is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. 23And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’

Verse 19
-At the end of verse 18, Nebuchadnezzar turns to Daniel and asks him if he would interpret the dream. Nebuchadnezzar was alarmed and suddenly terrified at what he dreamed (v. 5). All the others previous to Daniel have failed (v. 7), and now Daniel stands alone before the royal court to interpret the dream.
-“Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was dismayed for a while”
(
אֱדַיִן דָּנִיֵּאל דִּי־שְׁמֵהּ בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּר אֶשְׁתּוֹמַם כְּשָׁעָה חֲדָה).
-“Daniel” (
דָּֽנִיֵּ֜אל) means “God is my judge”. “Belteshazzar” (בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּ֗ר) means “Bel, protect him”.
-Daniel was “dismayed” (
שׁמם), meaning he was greatly perplexed. Visibly, it means “stiffened in fright”. This is the first time in the book of Daniel 4 that Daniel experiences fear.
-This type of fear is being appalled and shocked (Jeremiah 2:12).
-This type of fear produces visible fright (Ezekiel 26:16; Ezekiel 27:35), which Daniel now exhibited.
-This type of fear is evidence that a dreadful end from God’s judgment is coming (Ezekiel 28:19).
-People felt this type of horror when they viewed Jesus hanging on the cross (Isaiah 52:14).
-He was dismayed “for a while” (
שָׁעָה), as the ESV translates it. Literally, it means “an hour” (KJV), but Daniel would not have stood in shock for an entire hour before the king. This simply refers to a period of time.
-Nebuchadnezzar also writes that Daniel’s “thoughts alarmed him” (
וְרַעְיֹנֹהִי יְבַהֲלֻנֵּהּ).
-This alarm is the same kind of sudden fright Nebuchadnezzar felt when he had his dream.
-As the reader will discover, Daniel was appalled because God gave him the interpretation instantaneously (v. 24). In the dream 30 years earlier, the king gave Daniel one evening to pray to God for the interpretation (Daniel 2:16), which God did (Daniel 2:17-19). Here, however, the interpretation came instantly to Daniel’s mind without a period of prayer.
-Remarkably, even though he himself is disturbed at his dream, Nebuchadnezzar attempts to comfort Daniel in this moment.
The king answered and said, ‘Belteshazzar, let not the dream or the interpretation alarm you.’”
-Daniel now breaks his silence after the king addresses him. “Belteshazzar answered and said, ‘My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!’”
-Daniel begins by saying that he wished the outcome of what the dream meant would be different—not because he shrank back from declaring God’s counsel to the king, but because of another reason that verse 27 reveals.
-He states, “May the dream be for those who hate you” (
מָרְאִי חֶלְמָא לְשָׂנְאַיִךְ) and “its interpretation for your enemies!” (וּפִשְׁרֵהּ לְעָרַיִךְ׃)
-With power comes many things, and with it always comes hatred, whether justified or unjustified. People can rage against those who hold more power than they do, as mankind wants to be the master of his own fate and the creator of his own destiny.
-Nebuchadnezzar had conquered all his “enemies”
(עַר), yet that did not mean he no longer had any.
Verse 20

-In the next four verses, Daniel will repeat Nebuchadnezzar’s dream back to him, and also give him the interpretive key in how to understand the dream. “The tree you saw, which grew and became strong, so that its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth…”
-Nebuchadnezzar saw this tree in his dream, which this time replaces the statue he saw in his dream 30 years earlier (Daniel 2:31).
-This tree “grew and became strong” (
דִּי רְבָה וּתְקִף) in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Daniel 4:11).
-Daniel repeats in verse 20 what Nebuchadnezzar stated in verse 11. This tree’s top “reached to heaven” (
יִמְטֵא לִשְׁמַיָּא), just like men desired the Tower of Babel to be like.
-This tree “was visible to the end of the whole earth” (
וַחֲזוֹתֵהּ לְכָל־אַרְעָא׃).
-Many men desire to become famous in their own day, but few achieve recognition beyond their own immediate scope of influence. However, some men like Nebuchadnezzar become famous globally not only in their own time, but also throughout all of time. Christians and non-Christians alike still study his life 2,550 years after he died.

Verse 21

-Daniel continues to recount the dream by saying, “…whose leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in which was food for all, under which beasts of the field found shade, and in whose branches the birds of the heavens lived…”
-Daniel repeats the fact that the tree had beautiful leaves, which is a sign of health and strength and life. Also, to have abundant fruit indicates that the tree is providing for others and being a source of strength and provision, as Daniel says
“in which was food for all”
(
וּמָזוֹן לְכֹלָּא־בֵהּ).
-Daniel says that the tree’s leaves provided protection for those underneath them. He says the tree is that “under which beasts of the field found shade” (
תְּחֹתוֹהִי תְּדוּר חֵיוַת בָּרָא).
-Also, not only did the leaves provide shade, the branches provided a safe haven for the birds of the sky to live.
Verse
22
-In verse 15, the angel gives an interpretive clue to the dream: the tree represents a man. Now, Daniel will reveal the specific identity of that man. He tells Nebuchadnezzar, “It is you, O king” (
אַנְתָּה־הוּא מַלְכָּא) who is that man. Daniel now directly, honestly, and honorably confronts Nebuchadnezzar because he is God’s mouthpiece to this pagan king.
-John Calvin had very wise words of counsel and insight regarding how Christians are to properly confront those who will be judged by God for their sin.
Here we see what I have touched upon, namely, how Daniel acted respectfully to the king, and thus was mindful of his prophetic duty, while he punctually discharged the commands of God. We must notice this distinction, for nothing is more difficult for ministers of the Word than to maintain this middle course. Some are always fulminating through a pretence of zeal, and forget themselves to be but men: they shew no sign of benevolence, but indulge in mere bitterness. Hence they have no authority, and all their admonitions are hateful. Next, they explain God’s Word with pride and boasting, when they frighten sinners without either humanity, or pain, or sympathy. Others, again, who are wicked and perfidious flatterers, gloss over the grossest iniquities; they object to both Prophets and Apostles, esteeming the fervour of their zeal to have driven away all human affections! Thus they delude miserable men, and destroy them by their flattery. But our Prophet, as all the rest, here shews how God’s servants ought to take a middle course. Thus Jeremiah, when prophesying adversity, feels sorrow and bitterness of spirit, and yet does not turn aside from unsparing reproof of the severest threats, as both sprang from God.[1]
-As Christians, we must clearly articulate the words of the living God (Acts 4:20) in a gracious (Philippians 4:5) and truthful manner (2 Corinthians 4:2).
-The tree that grew and became strong represents Nebuchadnezzar’s growth and increase of strength over the years. Daniel says, he is the king “who have grown and become strong”
(
דִּי רְבַית וּתְקֵפְתְּ).
-What Nebuchadnezzar did not realize (or refused to realize is that God was the One who caused him to grow and become strong, for He gave Egypt, Assyria, Judah, Syria, Tyre, and Phoenicia into Nebuchadnezzar’s hand.
-Nebuchadnezzar’s empire, just as Daniel told him 30 years earlier in Daniel 2, reflected his personal greatness.
Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth.”
-In some ways, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, has metaphorically become what men wanted the Tower of Babel to be in Babylon thousands of years before (Genesis 11:4). He is the pinnacle of ancient Babylonian pride and the icon of Babylonian achievement.
-Nebuchadnezzar received his greatness and his dominion not because of himself, but because the God of heaven gave that greatness and dominion to him (Daniel 2:37).

Verse 23
-Daniel now repeats the changing of the scene that Nebuchadnezzar first told him in verses 13-16. “And because the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven and saying, ‘Chop down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, in the tender grass of the field, and let him be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven periods of time pass over him,’”

-Daniel here implies that Nebuchadnezzar will lose his greatness, power, and influence among the nations. Furthermore, not only will he lose his kingdom, he will lose his mind until seven years pass.

The Indictment
(v. 24-26)

24This is the interpretation, O king: It is a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king, 25that you shall be driven from among men, and your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field. You shall be made to eat grass like an ox, and you shall be wet with the dew of heaven, and seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will. 26And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.
Verse 24

-Now in verse 24, Daniel says, “This is the interpretation, O king” (
דְּנָה פִשְׁרָא מַלְכָּא).
-This dream is none other than “a decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king” (
וּגְזֵרַת עִלַּיָּא הִיא דִּי מְטָת עַל־מָרְאִי מַלְכָּא׃).
-No matter how powerful a human ruler, God is supremely powerful (Isaiah 40:21-23).
-When God decrees something, it will certainly happen because God is entirely sovereign and supremely powerful (Psalm 33:8-11).
-In verse 17, the angel said that the decree was by the “watchers” (or angels); here, Daniel reveals that this decree of the angels is so because it ultimately is a “decree of the Most High”
(
וּגְזֵרַת עִלַּיָּא).
-Throughout history, God dealt sovereignly with human kings such as the king of Egypt (Exodus 14:4), King David (1 Chronicles 21:11-12), King Solomon (1 Kings 11:9-11), King Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1), King Herod (Acts 12:23), and many others.
-In reality, God has dealt sovereignly with every human ruler in every political structure in every nation in every time period (Proverbs 21:1).
-God is no passive heavenly supervisor. God is actively King throughout all of time and space (Revelation 4:1-8).

Verse 25
-Daniel gives five indicative statements of what will surely come to pass. First, he says “that you shall be driven from among men” (
וְלָךְ טָרְדִין מִן־אֲנָשָׁא).
-“Shall be driven” (טרד) is a verb that means “chased away”. Nebuchadnezzar would literally be chased away “from among men”.
-Foreign armies could not chase Nebuchadnezzar away. The Jews could not drive him away. Any domestic enemies could not drive him away. Furthermore, Nebuchadnezzar has reigned securely and powerfully as king for over thirty years. Only God’s power at this point could bring him low.
-The man who sent nations into exile now would be exiled himself.

-Second, Daniel said that “your dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field”
(
וְעִם־חֵיוַת בָּרָא לֶהֱוֵה מְדֹרָךְ).
-The phrase “beasts of the field” means grazing animals such as cattle, which were abundant in the ancient empires (Jonah 4:11).
-Whereas Nebuchadnezzar’s dwelling is at the moment in his royal palace, that would change. Daniel prophesies that Nebuchadnezzar’s dwelling shall be with the “beasts of the field”.
-Third, Daniel says that “You shall be made to eat grass like an ox”
(
וְעִשְׂבָּא כְתוֹרִין לָךְ יְטַעֲמוּן).
-The question arises, how could a human ingest (let alone survive) on grass as we know it? First, the Aramaic word
עֲשַׂב (asab) means “green vegetation” and could include garden-variety vegetables. Second, grass is actually edible for humans, but unlike ruminants, they only have one stomach and therefore have difficulty in digesting green grass like cattle.
-He will be made to eat grass “like an ox” could refer to actually eating grass or the fact that he would graze for food like the animals did. It could refer more to how he ate than a statement stating that he ate the same grass that oxen did.

-“
The word translated “cattle” (tôrîn) refers particularly to “bulls” or “oxen” and indicates that Nebuchadnezzar’s type of lycanthropy would be the delusion that he was a bull or an ox, sometimes referred to more precisely as “boanthropy.” At night Nebuchadnezzar would not come inside like a man but would remain in the open field.[2]
-Fourth, Daniel says that “You shall be wet with the dew of heaven”
(
וּמִטַּל שְׁמַיָּא לָךְ מְצַבְּעִין).
-This statement indicates that Nebuchadnezzar will not live in human dwellings with other humans, even at night. At night he would live out in the fields just as the animals did, and hence in the morning would be drenched with the dew.
-Fifth, Daniel says that “seven periods of time shall pass over you, till you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will”.
-“Seven periods of time” (
וְשִׁבְעָה עִדָּנִין) refer to seven years, which is a very long time for Nebuchadnezzar to remain in this condition.
-Only until Nebuchadnezzar came to know that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will” would his sanity be restored. Even in the timeline of his repentance, God is exercising His sovereign will.
-Throughout his life, Nebuchadnezzar would at times acknowledge the God of Israel (Daniel 2:46; Daniel 3:28), but did not truly submit to Him or believe Him to be the only God (Daniel 3). Now, however, he would face the God of Heaven himself. This time, the God of Heaven would break him and later restore him.
Verse 26

-However, unlike the statue that was destroyed in Daniel 2:35, this tree would not be destroyed. Daniel repeats the decree of the angel that came down from heaven.
-“And as it was commanded to leave the stump of the roots of the tree, your kingdom shall be confirmed for you from the time that you know that Heaven rules.”
-In Scripture, stumps sometimes represent kings, and here this stump represents the Babylonian king.
-“Confirmed” (
קַיָּם) means “restored”, and indicates that God would give the kingdom back to Nebuchadnezzar.
-Kings very rarely received back their kingdoms in Scripture once they lost them. Manasseh of Judah would be an exception (2 Chronicles 33:10-13), and here Nebuchadnezzar is told he will be an exception as well.
-Even in judgment, God promised mercy. God does not take sadistic pleasure in the death of the wicked, but wills all men to repent and come to him in faith (Ezekiel 33:11).

-Our hope is that even though the Davidic tree was cut down, the stump of Jesse survived, and from that stump came our Messiah (Isaiah 11:1)


The Intercession
(v. 27)

Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
Verse 27

-Daniel now adds his own word of counsel at the end of recounting the dream and giving its interpretation. He says, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you”.
-The position to “counsel” (
מְלַךְ) the king would be one that high-ranking officials such as Daniel had. Among the many reasons God has put Daniel in this high government post is so that he can be a personal witness to the king about repentance and faith in the God of Israel.
-This verse is “the gospel according to Daniel”. He first states, “break off your sins”
(
לָהֵן מַלְכָּא מִלְכִּי יִשְׁפַּר עֲלַיִךְ)
-To “break off” (
פְרֻ֔ק) means literally “to tear away; to wipe away.”
-Daniel does not call them “shortcomings” or “unfortunate decisions” or “mistakes” or anything of the sort. He calls Nebuchadnezzar’s actions what they are—they are “your sins” (
חֲטָי).
-Daniel says that the king is instead to be one who is
practicing righteousness” (בְּצִדְקָה).
-How then can any man practice righteousness? By repenting of his sins and placing his faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who became incarnate and became our redemption.

-Throughout the Old Testament, faithful believers in God called unbelievers to repent (to turn away from) their sins (Isaiah 55:6-7).
-Throughout the New Testament, faithful believers in Jesus Christ called unbelievers to repent of their sins (Acts 3:19; Acts 26:20).         
-The Old Testament teaches that men repent of sins by having a fear of the Lord (Proverbs 16:6).
-The New Testament teaches that men repent of their sins by having a fear of Jesus Christ, who is the Lord of all men (Romans 10:9-10).
-The action of “
showing mercy to the oppressed” (בְּמִחַן עֲנָיִן) is both evidence of a changed life (Matthew 3:8) and also what a godly king was called to do (Psalm 41:1; Psalm 82:3).
-Daniel says that if the king does this,
there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.”
-The Old Testament teaches that all those who repent of their sins and turn to the Lord will find mercy from His hand (Proverbs 28:13; Ezekiel 18:21-22).
-The New Testament teaches that all those who repent of their sins will find redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:11-14).
-We are called to do the same that Daniel did, because we recognize that Jesus Christ is King over all the earth and has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:16-20).


Conclusion
-“You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:20-21 NIV)
-“‘The people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’ From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:16-17 ESV)


Recording
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Handout
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[1] Calvin, J., & Myers, T. (2010). Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Daniel (Vol. 1, p. 270). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[2] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 137). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Return of a Troubling Dream

Introduction
“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. Then many nations and great kings shall make him their slave.” (Jeremiah 27:5-7)

Daniel 4:4-18

Context

-In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar as an old man now writes a letter to all the provinces in the Babylonian Empire. At this moment, the Babylonian Empire is very prosperous and powerful, and there were no major threats to Babylonian supremacy at this moment in history.
-For over three decades, Daniel has faithfully served the Lord while being exiled in Babylon. While he should have been serving in the royal court of David’s family, national sin forced him into exile. However, even though he now lives in a godless empire, he continues to be a clear, courageous, and faithful testimony to the God of heaven in a land of idolatry, paganism, carnality, and falsehood. He has seen the Lord powerfully work in his life in amazing ways in order to preserve his life.
-If Daniel had died prematurely, God’s appointed prophet would not have proclaimed the message of the coming Messiah, help protect the Israelite people in exile, and declare how history would unfold until the end of time. However, God has shown Himself sovereign over Daniel’s life and over the life of all those in Babylon—including the life of King Nebuchadnezzar, who had for decades resisted God’s reign over his life and his empire.

The Vexation
(v. 4-9)
4I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. 
5I
saw a dream that made me afraid. As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me. 6So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me, that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream. 7Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in, and I told them the dream, but they could not make known to me its interpretation. 8At last Daniel came in before me—he who was named Belteshazzar after the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods—and I told him the dream, saying, 9“O Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you, tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation.
Verse 4

-Nebuchadnezzar opens the narrative by stating that “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house” (
אֲנָה נְבוּכַדְנֶצַּר שְׁלֵה הֲוֵית בְּבֵיתִי)
-“Ease” (שְׁלֵ֤ה) refers to calmness and tranquility. This refers to Nebuchadnezzar’s personal sense of comfort as he resides in his home in the capital city of this magnificent empire.
-He also writes that he was
prospering in my palace” (וְרַעְנַן בְּהֵיכְלִי׃)
-Not only is Nebuchadnezzar living in his royal residence, he is “prospering” (
רַעֲנַן). This refers not to quietness, but the flourishing of a green tree (Psalm 37:35). In other words, Babylon is enjoying a period of international peace and domestic tranquility that enables them to grow and flourish.
-Nebuchadnezzar had overcome every military threat in the decades he had ruled over Babylon. His wars with Assyria, Egypt, Israel, and Tyre (Ezekiel 29:17) were ended, and he now could focus on the “golden era” of Babylon. Similarly, King Solomon brought in the golden age of the Davidic kingdom after his father David conquered all the enemies of Israel.
-A sense of calmness and ease brings a sense of security, as King David says in Psalm 30:6.
-Ease and prosperity can be a poor indicator of peace with God (Luke 12:19-20).

Verse 5
-Nebuchadnezzar’s sense of peace is shattered, for he says, “I saw a dream that made me afraid.” (
חֵלֶם חֲזֵית וִידַחֲלִנַּנִי)
-This
“dream” (חֵ֫לֶם) is the same kind of dream in Daniel 2 (Daniel 2:4).
-As with the dream in Daniel 2 (Daniel 2:1), Nebuchadnezzar says that this dream “made me afraid”.
-
“Afraid” (דחל) refers to a sense of terror.
-This is the same type of terror that the appearance in the statue produced in Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2:31. Whereas Nebuchadnezzar had stared down the armies of the most powerful empires in his day, he had defeated them. He had seen much war, yet this single dream now terrifies him.
-Nebuchadnezzar further clarifies that,
“As I lay in bed the fancies and the visions of my head alarmed me.” (וְהַרְהֹרִין עַל־מִשְׁכְּבִי וְחֶזְוֵי רֵאשִׁי יְבַהֲלֻנַּנִי׃)
-“Fancies” (הַרְהֹר) refers to “mental images”, and indicates that Nebuchadnezzar saw things in his mind.
-
“Visions” (חֶזְוֵ֥י) indicates that this dream was visual and not simply auditory. Nebuchadnezzar does not merely hear things said---he sees things happen.
-Nebuchadnezzar is not drawn to a slow fear of this dream; rather, he is
“alarmed” (בהל). This is a sudden terror, not a slow dread.
Verse 6

-As he had done in Daniel 2 decades before, so now Nebuchadnezzar does again. “So I made a decree that all the wise men of Babylon should be brought before me.”
(
וּמִנִּי שִׂים טְעֵם לְהַנְעָלָה קָדָמַי לְכֹל חַכִּימֵי בָבֶל)
-Nebuchadnezzar, having the authority as king, makes a “decree” (
טְעֵם) which would be a command to appear before the king. A decree is any command issued by a leading figure (Ezra 4:19-21; Ezra 5:13), and here it comes from the highest leader of Babylon—Nebuchadnezzar himself.
-Nebuchadnezzar commands that all the wise men of Babylon appear before him. He wants this to happen in order “that they might make known to me the interpretation of the dream.”
(
דִּי־פְשַׁר חֶלְמָא יְהוֹדְעֻנַּנִי׃) However, they did not all arrive at once, as Nebuchadnezzar soon reveals.
-In Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar did the same thing after a troubling dream—he commanded all the wise men of Babylon be brought before him (Daniel 2:2).
Verse 7
-“Then the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the astrologers came in”
(
בֵּאדַיִן עָלֲלִין  חַרְטֻמַיָּא אָשְׁפַיָּא כַּשְׂדָּיֵא  וְגָזְרַיָּא) This listing is nearly identical to the listing in Daniel 2:2, except with the absence of the sorcerers.
-“Magicians” (
חַרְטֻמַיָּא֙), were not so much those who practiced “black magic” or engaged in the occult and witchcraft, but rather functioned more as court scribes. They wrote on clay tablets with styluses the daily activities of the kingdom. Nevertheless, although these magicians served as royal scribes, they did practice the dark art of necromancy. They also studied omens, such as the stars (astrology) and sheep’s livers (hepatoscopy).
-“Enchanters” (
אָשַׁף) were those who used incantations and spells to communicate with the spirit world.
-“Chaldeans” (
כַּשְׂדָּי) were a specific class of men who worked as “wise men”. This career field persisted in the Persian culture even in the days of Jesus Christ, when “wise men” from the east came to find him.
-“Astrologers” (
גזר) were those who also functioned similarly to the magicians. They too functioned as scribes, but specialized in the practice of astrology, or determining the future based on the constellations and the planets.
-As Nebuchadnezzar did in Daniel 2, he reveals to these men the dream—these time he does not demand from them both the dream and its interpretation. He says, “I told them the dream” (
וְחֶלְמָא אָמַר). Perhaps Nebuchadnezzar had learned from his experience thirty years ago. Perhaps he had become more seasoned and more self-controlled. Perhaps he was not as disturbed as thirty years previously, and hence did not demand they tell him the dream. Nevertheless, Nebuchadnezzar does not tell us why he didn’t demand this, except to say what the results were.
-“But they could not make known to me its interpretation” (
וּפִשְׁרֵהּ לָא־מְהוֹדְעִין לִי׃).
-Throughout the Bible, we see the failure of turning to idolatry. We see the God of the Israelites show that the gods of Egypt are nothing at all through the ten plagues. We see Elijah at Mt. Carmel during the time of King Ahab of Israel. We see cases brought before Jesus that no one could solve, such as the woman with the issue of blood.
-The Bible condemns necromancy and witchcraft (Leviticus 19:11), and astrology (Deuteronomy 18:9-12), yet people still turn to these things for guidance and revelation in our day.
Verse 8
-Nebuchadnezzar announces that “at last Daniel came before me”
(
וְעַד אָחֳרֵין עַל קָדָמַי דָּנִיֵּאל).
-Not only is this significant that Daniel now arrives on the scene after all others have failed, but it is significant that this is the first recorded time that Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges him by his Hebrew name. Nebuchadnezzar never acknowledged Daniel as “Daniel” previously. He never acknowledged Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. But here, he acknowledges Daniel by his Jewish name and thus acknowledges who Daniel really is—the man whose judge is God.
-If we are faithful, the world will ultimately acknowledge us as who we really are—the people whom God has chosen, God has loved, and God has redeemed (Revelation 3:9).
-Just as in Daniel 2, Daniel entered the king’s court thirty years previously to reveal the contents of a dream (Daniel 2:24-25), so now God places him in the same situation again.
-For those who didn’t know Daniel by his Hebrew name or exactly who he was, Nebuchadnezzar clarifies that Daniel is “he who is named Belteshazzar after the name of my god” (
דִּי־שְׁמֵהּ בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּר כְּשֻׁם אֱלָהִי).
-“Belteshazzar” (
בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּר) means “Bel, protect him” and the “god” Nebuchadnezzar references may have been Marduk, the chief god of Babylon, or Nebo, which was the god after which Nebuchadnezzar was named.
-Nebuchadnezzar reminds his readers that Daniel, also known as Belteshazzar, is the one “in whom is the spirit of the holy gods” (
וְדִי רוּחַ־אֱלָהִין קַדִּישִׁין).
-This is a similar statement of that which Pharaoh says to Joseph (Genesis 41:38), thus subtly emphasizing the similarities in person and purpose between those two men that have already been revealed in this book.
-Some have stated that Nebuchadnezzar could not have been truly saved as a result of this verse, for the ESV and other translations render it as “holy gods” along with Nebuchadnezzar stating that Daniel was named after his personal god. However, the phrase “holy gods” can just as well be translated “Holy God”, and as Dr. John MacArthur says, “The meaning here and in verse 18…is rightly translated by some versions as ‘the Spirit of the Holy God’. Wording for the true God in the Hebrew in Joshua 24:19 is equivalent to the Aramaic here…Some translators believe he meant ‘a spirit of the holy gods.’ This is unlikely, since no pagan worshipers claimed purity or holiness for their deities. In fact, just the opposite was believed.”
-Further,
“Nebuchadnezzar’s words “after the name of my god” have been understood to mean that the king never truly came to accept Yahweh as his god, even after this encounter. Yet the phrase could mean no more than that Daniel was named after the gods of Nebuchadnezzar’s country, Babylon, or may be taken to describe the king’s condition as a Marduk worshiper at the time of the dream.[1]
-Nebuchadnezzar says, “and I told him the dream” (בֵּהּ וְחֶלְמָא קָדָמוֹהִי אַמְרֵת׃).
Verse 9
-In his direct address to Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar identifies Daniel at this moment as “Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians” (
בֵּלְטְשַׁאצַּר רַב חַרְטֻמַיָּא). He does not yet believe fully in Daniel’s God and does not yet identify Daniel by his Jewish identity.
-Daniel was made “chief of the magicians” over thirty years previously, and continued in this station at this moment. Because the magicians also functioned as scribes, and because Daniel was taught how to read, speak, and write in Aramaic as a young man (Daniel 1:3-4), he would have possessed a profound ability to write. God gives him this gift in order to have Daniel write the book after his name at the end of his life. This also points to the faithfulness of Daniel working in a pagan government.
-Nebuchadnezzar gives his reasons for why he chose Daniel now, “because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in you and that no mystery is too difficult for you”
-Nebuchadnezzar acknowledges that God had specially appointed Daniel to be his prophet in the pagan city of Babylon, and he remembered Daniel’s revelation of the dream over thirty years ago (Daniel 2:
-Nebuchadnezzar here attributes Daniel’s ability to Daniel’s own skill in interpretation. However, it was the God of heaven who gave Daniel his ability decades earlier (Daniel 1:17) and gave him the interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream over 30 years previously (Daniel 2:27-30)
-Because of Daniel’s position and his credentials, Nebuchadnezzar tells him, “Tell me the visions of my dream that I saw and their interpretation”
(
חֶזְוֵי חֶלְמִי דִי־חֲזֵית וּפִשְׁרֵהּ אֱמַר׃).

The Vision

(v. 10-16)
10The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these: I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and its height was great. 11The tree grew and became strong, and its top reached to heaven, and it was visible to the end of the whole earth. 12Its leaves were beautiful and its fruit abundant, and in it was food for all. The beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches, and all flesh was fed from it. 13I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven. 14He proclaimed aloud and said thus: ‘Chop down the tree and lop off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches. 15But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze, amid the tender grass of the field. Let him be wet with the dew of heaven. Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth. 16Let his mind be changed from a man's, and let a beast's mind be given to him; and let seven periods of time pass over him.
Verse 10

-Whereas Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar his dream in Daniel 2, Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel the dream in Daniel 4. “The visions of my head as I lay in bed were these”
(
וְחֶזְוֵי רֵאשִׁי עַל־מִשְׁכְּבִי).
-He says, “I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth”
(
חָזֵה הֲוֵית וַאֲלוּ אִילָן בְּגוֹא אַרְעָא).
-The first defining characteristic of this tree is that “its height was great” (
וְרוּמֵהּ שַׂגִּיא׃)
-The use of “Great”
(שַׂגִּיא) means that this tree is unlike any other tree—it is enormous.
-What does this then mean? Daniel will reveal the meaning after Nebuchadnezzar is finished telling his dream.

Verse 11
-In his dream, this tree does not merely stay tall, but increases in splendor. “The tree grew and became strong” (
רְבָה אִילָנָא וּתְקִף).
-In Ezekiel 19:11, Daniel’s contemporary Ezekiel (who was taken in the second exile) spoke of a prophetic revelation where a tree grew stronger and stronger (Ezekiel 19:11).
-Nebuchadnezzar says that the height of this tree surpasses the height of every other tree “and its top reached to heaven” (
וְרוּמֵהּ יִמְטֵא לִשְׁמַיָּא).
-In Genesis, it was not a tree but a tower that the men of Babel wanted to build stronger and stronger to reach the heavens themselves (Genesis 11:4).

-One could say that the passage of time matured the tree, yet its initial state in verse 10 indicates that this tree grows stronger in a very unusual way and becomes unusually and singularly strong.
-Moreover, “it was visible to the end of the whole earth” (
וַחֲזוֹתֵהּ לְסוֹף כָּל־אַרְעָא׃).
-This indicates that whatever this tree signifies, it signifies something or someone that surpasses everything else around it, and that is visible to the entire world.
Verse 12
-Nebuchadnezzar describes that “its leaves were beautiful” (
עָפְיֵהּ שַׁפִּיר).
-He also says, “and its fruit abundant” (
וְאִנְבֵּהּ שַׂגִּיא). This identifies this tree as a fruit tree.
-Not only is this fruit tree seen by all, all depend on it, for its fruit “was food for all”
(
וּמָזוֹן לְכֹלָּא־בֵהּ). Therefore, whatever this dream means, it signifies something or someone visible to all people and upon whom all people are dependent.
-Not only is the fruit food for all, “the beasts of the field found shade under it, and the birds of the heavens lived in its branches”
(
תְּחֹתוֹהִי תַּטְלֵל חֵיוַת בָּרָא וּבְעַנְפוֹהִי יְדֻרוּן צִפֲּרֵי שְׁמַיָּא).
-Therefore, this tree is not only seen by all and nourishes all who see it, but it also protects all those who dwell in it and under it.
-The same type of prophetic imagery is used in Ezekiel 31:6.
-Nebuchadnezzar has well established the fact that “all flesh was fed from it”
(
יִתְּזִין כָּל־בִּשְׂרָא׃).  
Verse 13
-All of a sudden, the part of the dream that terrified Nebuchadnezzar starts. “I saw in the visions of my head as I lay in bed, and behold, a watcher, a holy one, came down from heaven.”
-“Suddenly a heavenly “messenger, a holy one,” was observed “coming down from heaven.” Aramaic ʾălû, translated, “I looked, and there before me,” is an interjection that expresses great surprise and might be rendered more emphatically “look!” (cf. v. 10). Nebuchadnezzar was astounded by this heavenly personage. [2]
-Nebuchadnezzar calls this person “a watcher, a holy one” (
עִיר וְקַדִּישׁ) This is an unusual term, and is only found here in Daniel 4. However, the term “watcher”, also rendered “messenger” (NIV) literally means “Wakeful One” and was a term used in extra-biblical writings to refer to the always-observant, always-watching messengers of the gods.
-In extra-biblical writings, we learn that this term was used of those thought to be higher angels or demons who never slept and always watched what went on. This term does not refer to one of the Babylonian gods, but rather to their heavenly servants who watched what was done among men in the world. Some cultures, such as those represented by the Book of Enoch, thought them evil demons who watched what was done among men.
-This “Wakeful One” came down from heaven, which signifies not only his heavenly status, but also that he was in the service of some god.
Verse 14
-Nebuchadnezzar recalls that “he proclaimed aloud” (
קָרֵא בְחַיִל).
-He cried aloud and said thus. “Aloud,” exactly like the royal herald, in chap. 3:4; cf. 10:16; Isa. 58:1, etc[3]This indicates that the angel is not giving a message of his own accord, but on behalf of someone (or a group of individuals).
-What the heavenly messenger said was to other heavenly beings of lesser order than himself. “Chop down the tree”
(גֹּדּוּ אִילָנָא).
-This tree, which towered above all other trees and reached heaven itself, is ordered to be cut down and toppled. This is synonymous with the stone striking the statue at the base in Daniel 2:34.
-Not only was the tree to be toppled, it was to be completely destroyed. The angel orders, “lop off its branches” (
וְקַצִּצוּ עַנְפוֹהִי). This tree did not fall naturally, nor did its branches break by gravity. This tree will fall and be stripped of its branches by heavenly power, not human power.
-Further than cutting down the tree and cutting off its branches, this high-ranking angel orders to “strip off its leaves” (
אַתַּרוּ עָפְיֵהּ). These leaves formerly provided shade for the beasts of the earth in verse 12.
-Further, he cries aloud to “scatter its fruit” (
וּבַדַּרוּ אִנְבֵּהּ). This fruit formerly provided nourishment to all those in the world in verse 12.
-Now that the source of protection and nourishment is gone, the angel commands, “let the beasts flee from under it and the birds from its branches”.
-This tree, once so proud and mighty, now becomes toppled by heavenly power and completely broken and ruined of what it was before. It now has fallen to utter uselessness and lowliness.

Verse 15
-However, the tree would not be completely eradicated from existence like the statue was in Daniel 2:35. The angel also commands, “But leave the stump of its roots in the earth, bound with a band of iron and bronze”.
-This “band” (
אֱסוּר) would not be a band placed on the stump itself, but an iron and bronze fence that would protect the stump from being uprooted or burned. This means that although the tree is cut down by heavenly power, a small remnant of it is preserved by that same heavenly power (Job 14:7-9).
-Whenever a tree is cut down in the Bible and its stump left in the earth, it means there is a measure of redemption for what the fallen tree signifies. In Isaiah 6:13, the fallen house of David that was cut down contained the Messianic seed that was left in the stump, as Isaiah also states in Isaiah 11:1.
-The stump was to be left protected “amid the tender grass of the field” (
בְּדִתְאָא דִּי בָרָא). This indicates that the stump is left in a fertile area where grass can grow, and therefore a spark of life will continue in the stump.
-All of a sudden, the imagery changes from a tree to reveal what the tree signified: a man. The angel commands, “Let him be wet with the dew of heaven” (
וּבְטַל שְׁמַיָּא יִצְטַבַּע).
-This signifies that this man, whoever he may be, towered above all other men on the earth in prominence and glory. No one in the world was ignorant of him, and all men found provision and protection in his magnificence. However, the power of heaven cuts this man down, but preserves a spark of life so that this man is not killed and destroyed. However, this man will face judgment, yet in the midst of judgment, God’s mercy keeps him from dying or being killed.
-The fact that this man will be wet with the dew from heaven raises the question: does this mean that the man will live out in the wild, away from his human habitation? The next statement affirms this question. The angel says, “Let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth” (
וְעִם־חֵיוְתָא חֲלָקֵהּ בַּעֲשַׂב אַרְעָא׃).
Verse 16
-The angel states that this man will undergo psychological change. “Let his mind be changed from a man’s, and let a beast’s mind be given to him”
(
לִבְבֵהּ מִן־אֱנוֹשָׁא יְשַׁנּוֹן וּלְבַב חֵיוָה יִתְיְהִב לֵהּ).
-“This individual would actually believe himself to be an animal, a psychological phenomenon known as lycanthropy. “Lycanthropy” (lit., wolf-man) originally referred to the delusion of believing oneself to be a wolflike creature (the primitive werewolf superstition was inspired by this malady) but today has come to be a general designation regardless of the type of animal involved. P. Keck reports that studies “suggest that lycanthropy, though unusual, is very much alive in the twentieth century.” Persons involved in Keck’s studies believed themselves to be a wide assortment of animals—wolves, gerbils, dogs, birds, cats, rabbits, tigers, and an unidentified creature. In 1946 R. K. Harrison observed a patient in a British mental institution with an illness virtually identical to that described in the Book of Daniel. The patient wandered about the grounds of the institution eating grass as if he were a cow. His drink consisted of water. Harrison stated that “the only physical abnormality noted consisted of a lengthening of the hair and a coarse, thickened condition of the fingernails.”[4]
-In April of 2016, many online news outlets and news channels reported the fact that Richard Hernandez, formerly a husband, father, and banker, was becoming the first “human dragon”. He had “transitioned” into a “woman”, and then through extensive cosmetic surgeries and tattoos, made himself look like a “dragon”. He stated that he is “in the process of morphing into a human dragon, becoming a reptoid as I shed my human skin”.
-Dennis Avner was a man from Michigan who became famous in the 2000s for becoming the “stalking cat”. After more than a dozen surgeries and body modifications and tattoos, he made him look as close to a tiger as he could.
-Modern-day “Furry Conventions” are gatherings were individuals dress up as animals in order to express an “anthropomorphic animalistic” identity. These have increasingly gathered media attention in the last few years.
-“Transpecies-ism” is rare, but it is becoming slightly more common in our modern-world, where people deny proper sexuality, they deny their biological gender, and in some severe cases, deny their own humanity as a species.
-The angel says that this insanity will last for a certain period of time. He says, “Let seven periods of time pass over him” (
וְשִׁבְעָה עִדָּנִין יַחְלְפוּן עֲלוֹהִי׃).
-These seven “periods” (
עִדָּן) are most commonly understood to be years. Most ancient and modern interpreters throughout history have understood this period of time to be seven years.

The Verdict

(v. 17-18)
17The sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the word of the holy ones, to the end that the living may know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will and sets over it the lowliest of men.’ 18This dream I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”

Verse 17

-The angel ends the vision by saying that “the sentence is by the decree of the watchers, the decision by the words of the holy one”.
­-The angels here do not merely announce the sentence of judgment, but also actively take part in deciding it.
-What this heavenly angel then says is the entire reason why the events in Daniel 4 occurred, both to illustrate God’s sovereignty over human government and human empires and also His sovereignty in salvation. These things happen in Daniel 4 “to the end that the living that the Most High rules the kingdom of men”.
-The Lord is the great King over all the earth (Psalm 47:2).
-The Lord’s kingdom actively rules over all human kingdoms, empires, and governments throughout human history (Psalm 103:19).
-The book of Daniel has previously stated that the Lord is our King, and He is King over all kings and rulers of the earth at any point in human history (Daniel 2:21).
-The angel says that the Most High “gives it to whom he will”
(
וּלְמַן־דִּי יִצְבֵּא יִתְּנִנַּהּ).
-The Lord declares that His sovereign power as the Creator enables Him to give dominion over other humans to any human He chooses (Jeremiah 27:5).
-All the empires Nebuchadnezzar had conquered were not ultimately because of his military might and power, but because God gave each of them specifically into his hand, such as Egypt, Tyre, Assyria, and Israel.
-The angel says that the Most High ultimately “sets over it the lowliest of men”
(
וּשְׁפַל אֲנָשִׁים יְקִים עֲלַיַּהּ׃).
-In the Old Testament, Hannah sang that the Lord sets up lowly men to rule in high places (1 Samuel 2:8), which the Psalmist repeated (Psalm 113:7-8).
-God set up a lowly last-born child who did shepherding work to be the promised king over His people—King David (1 Samuel 16:11-13).
-God ultimately took the Man most humiliated by the world and most humbled in God’s eyes and exalted Him as King of kings and Lord of Lords, for this lowly Man is none other than God’s own Son (Philippians 2:5-11).
-Jesus Christ is Lord over all the kings, rulers, presidents, prime ministers, and political figures of the earth (Revelation 1:5).
Verse 18
-Nebuchadnezzar has finished telling the dream. Now, he turns to Daniel to ask for the interpretation of the dream. He says, “This dream, I, King Nebuchadnezzar, saw. And you, O Belteshazzar, tell me the interpretation, because all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known to me the interpretation, but you are able, for the spirit of the holy gods is in you.”
-While the dream itself has not yet been interpreted, we do know thus far these things: Nebuchadnezzar saw a dream that made him afraid. This dream has striking parallels to the famous dream Nebuchadnezzar had approximately thirty years previously. This dream centers on a tree, which represents a man. This tree grows stronger and taller than any other tree on earth, signifying that this man grows stronger and more influential and more powerful than any other man of his time. This tree provides shade for all the beasts of the earth and refuge for all the birds of the air and fruit for all upon the earth. This man, whom the tree represents, is observed by the whole world, for he provides refuge and nourishment for all those under his influence and dominion. However, a messenger from God Himself comes down from heaven and declares that this man will be completely cut down, yet not completely destroyed. He will lose all his power and prestige, and will even become deranged and insane. Yet this will not occur forever, but for a period of seven years.
-This entire vision was given to Nebuchadnezzar by God to teach him, the Babylonians of his day, Daniel’s readers, and faithful Christians throughout all of history that the Most High rules all the kingdoms and governments of the world and gives them to whomever He will. Ultimately, He gave it all to His own Son, who was humiliated and laid low more than any other human being in history, but has in fact been raised to life and ascended to heaven as the divine King of kings and Lord of lords over heaven and earth.


Conclusion
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.’” (Matthew 28:18; John 3:35)

Recording
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[1] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 131). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[2] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 133). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.
[3] Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Zöckler, O., & Strong, J. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Daniel (p. 112). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
[4] Miller, S. R. (1994). Daniel (Vol. 18, p. 134). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.