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  • JAMIESON-FAUSSET-BROWN - DANIEL 4
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    CHAPTER 4

    Da 4:1-37. EDICT OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR CONTAINING HIS SECOND DREAM, RELATING TO HIMSELF.

    Punished with insanity for his haughtiness, he sinks to the level of the beasts (illustrating Ps 49:6, 12). The opposition between bestial and human life, set forth here, is a key to interpret the symbolism in the seventh chapter concerning the beasts and the Son of man. After his conquests, and his building in fifteen days a new palace, according to the heathen historian, ABYDENUS (268 B.C.), whose account confirms Daniel, he ascended upon his palace roof (Da 4:29, Margin), whence he could see the surrounding city which he had built, and seized by some deity, he predicted the Persian conquest of Babylon, adding a prayer that the Persian leader might on his return be borne where there is no path of men, and where the wild beasts graze (language evidently derived by tradition from Da 4:32, 33, though the application is different). In his insanity, his excited mind would naturally think of the coming conquest of Babylon by the Medo-Persians, already foretold to him in the second chapter.

    1. Peace--the usual salutation in the East, shalom, whence "salaam." The primitive revelation of the fall, and man's alienation from God, made "peace" to be felt as the first and deepest want of man. The Orientals (as the East was the cradle of revelation) retained the word by tradition.

    2. I thought it good--"It was seemly before me" (Ps 107:2-8).
    - signs--tokens significant of God's omnipotent agency. The plural is used, as it comprises the marvellous dream, the marvellous interpretation of it, and its marvellous issue.

    4. I was . . . at rest--my wars over, my kingdom at peace.
    - flourishing--"green." Image from a tree (Jer 17:8). Prosperous (Job 15:32).

    6. It may seem strange that Daniel was not first summoned. But it was ordered by God's providence that he should be reserved to the last, in order that all mere human means should be proved vain, before God manifested His power through His servant; thus the haughty king was stripped of all fleshly confidences. The Chaldees were the king's recognized interpreters of dreams; whereas Daniel's interpretation of the one in Da 2:24-45 had been a peculiar case, and very many years before; nor had he been consulted on such matters since.

    8. Belteshazzar--called so from the god Bel or Belus (see on Da 1:7).

    9. spirit of the holy gods--Nebuchadnezzar speaks as a heathen, who yet has imbibed some notions of the true God. Hence he speaks of "gods" in the plural but gives the epithet "holy," which applies to Jehovah alone, the heathen gods making no pretension to purity, even in the opinion of their votaries (De 32:31; compare Isa 63:11). "I know" refers to his knowledge of Daniel's skill many years before (Da 2:8); hence he calls him "master of the magicians."
    - troubleth--gives thee difficulty in explaining it.

    10. tree--So the Assyrian is compared to a "cedar" (Eze 31:3; compare Eze 17:24).
    - in the midst of the earth--denoting its conspicuous position as the center whence the imperial authority radiated in all directions.

    12. beasts . . . shadow under it--implying that God's purpose in establishing empires in the world is that they may be as trees affording men "fruits" for "meat," and a "shadow" for "rest" (compare La 4:20). But the world powers abuse their trust for self; therefore Messiah comes to plant the tree of His gospel kingdom, which alone shall realize God's purpose (Eze 17:23; Mt 13:32). HERODOTUS [7.19] mentions a dream (probably suggested by the tradition of this dream of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel) which Xerxes had; namely, that he was crowned with olive, and that the branches of the olive filled the whole earth, but that afterwards the crown vanished from his head: signifying his universal dominion soon to come to an end.

    13. watcher and an holy one--rather, "even an holy one." Only one angel is intended, and he not one of the bad, but of the holy angels. Called a "watcher," because ever on the watch to execute God's will [JEROME], (Ps 103:20, 21). Compare as to their watchfulness, Re 4:8, "full of eyes within . . . they rest not day and night." Also they watch good men committed to their charge (Ps 34:7; Heb 1:14); and watch over the evil to record their sins, and at God's bidding at last punish them (Jer 4:16, 17), "watchers" applied to human instruments of God's vengeance. As to GOD (Da 9:14; Job 7:12; 14:16; Jer 44:27). In a good sense (Ge 31:49; Jer 31:28). The idea of heavenly "watchers" under the supreme God (called in the Zendavesta of the Persian Zoroaster, Ormuzd) was founded on the primeval revelation as to evil angels having watched for an opportunity until they succeeded in tempting man to his ruin, and good angels ministering to God's servants (as Jacob, Ge 28:15; 32:1, 2). Compare the watching over Abraham for good, and over Sodom for wrath after long watching in vain for good men it it, for whose sake He would spare it, Ge 18:23-33; and over Lot for good, Ge 19:1-38 Daniel fitly puts in Nebuchadnezzar's mouth the expression, though not found elsewhere in Scripture, yet substantially sanctioned by it (2Ch 16:9; Pr 15:3; Jer 32:19), and natural to him according to Oriental modes of thought.

    14. Hew down-- (Mt 3:10; Lu 13:7). The holy (Jude 14) one incites his fellow angels to God's appointed work (compare Re 14:15, 18).
    - beasts get away from under it--It shall no longer afford them shelter (Eze 31:12).

    15. stump--The kingdom is still reserved secure for him at last, as a tree stump secured by a hoop of brass and iron from being split by the sun's heat, in the hope of its growing again (Isa 11:1; compare Job 14:7-9). BARNES refers it to the chaining of the royal maniac.

    16. heart--understanding (Isa 6:10).
    - times--that is, "years" (Da 12:7). "Seven" is the perfect number: a week of years: a complete revolution of time accompanying a complete revolution in his state of mind.

    17. demand--that is, determination; namely, as to the change to which Nebuchadnezzar is to be doomed. A solemn council of the heavenly ones is supposed (compare Job 1:6; 2:1), over which God presides supreme. His "decree" and "word" are therefore said to be theirs (compare Da 4:24, "decree of the Most High"); "the decree of the watchers," "the word of the holy ones." For He has placed particular kingdoms under the administration of angelic beings, subject to Him (Da 10:13, 20; 12:1). The word "demand," in the second clause, expresses a distinct idea from the first clause. Not only as members of God's council (Da 7:10; 1Ki 22:19; Ps 103:21; Zec 1:10) do they subscribe to His "decree," but that decree is in answer to their prayers, wherein they demand that every mortal who tries to obscure the glory of God shall be humbled [CALVIN]. Angels are grieved when God's prerogative is in the least infringed. How awful to Nebuchadnezzar to know that angels plead against him for his pride, and that the decree has been passed in the high court of heaven for his humiliation in answer to angels' demands! The conceptions are moulded in a form peculiarly adapted to Nebuchadnezzar's modes of thought.
    - the living--not as distinguished from the dead, but from the inhabitants of heaven, who "know" that which the men of the world need to the taught (Ps 9:16); the ungodly confess there is a God, but would gladly confine Him to heaven. But, saith Daniel, God ruleth not merely there, but "in the kingdom of men."
    - basest--the lowest in condition (1Sa 2:8; Lu 1:52). It is not one's talents, excellency, or noble birth, but God's will, which elevates to the throne. Nebuchadnezzar abased to the dunghill, and then restored, was to have in himself an experimental proof of this (Da 4:37).

    19. Daniel . . . Belteshazzar--The use of the Hebrew as well as the Chaldee name, so far from being an objection, as some have made it, is an undesigned mark of genuineness. In a proclamation to "all people," and one designed to honor the God of the Hebrews, Nebuchadnezzar would naturally use the Hebrew name (derived from El, "God," the name by which the prophet was best known among his countrymen), as well as the Gentile name by which he was known in the Chaldean empire.
    - astonied--overwhelmed with awe at the terrible import of the dream.
    - one hour--the original means often "a moment," or "short time," as in Da 3:6, 15.
    - let not the dream . . . trouble thee--Many despots would have punished a prophet who dared to foretell his overthrow. Nebuchadnezzar assures Daniel he may freely speak out.
    - the dream be to them that hate thee--We are to desire the prosperity of those under whose authority God's providence has placed us (Jer 29:7). The wish here is not so much against others, as for the king: a common formula (2Sa 18:32). It is not the language of uncharitable hatred.

    20. The tree is the king. The branches, the princes. The leaves, the soldiers. The fruits, the revenues. The shadow, the protection afforded to dependent states.

    22. It is thou--He speaks pointedly, and without circumlocution (2Sa 12:7). While pitying the king, he uncompromisingly pronounces his sentence of punishment. Let ministers steer the mean between, on the one hand, fulminations against sinners under the pretext of zeal, without any symptom of compassion; and, on the other, flattery of sinners under the pretext of moderation.
    - to the end of the earth-- (Jer 27:6-8). To the Caspian, Euxine, and Atlantic seas.

    24. decree of the Most High--What was termed in Da 4:17 by Nebuchadnezzar, "the decree of the watchers," is here more accurately termed by Daniel, "the decree of the Most High." They are but His ministers.

    25. they shall drive thee--a Chaldee idiom for "thou shalt be driven." Hypochondriacal madness was his malady, which "drove" him under the fancy that he was a beast, to "dwell with the beasts"; Da 4:34 proves this, "mine understanding returned." The regency would leave him to roam in the large beast-abounding parks attached to the palace.
    - eat grass--that is, vegetables, or herbs in general (Ge 3:18).
    - they shall wet thee--that is, thou shalt be wet.
    - till thou know, &c.-- (Ps 83:17, 18; Jer 27:5).

    26. thou shalt have known, &c.--a promise of spiritual grace to him, causing the judgment to humble, not harden, his heart.
    - heavens do rule--The plural is used, as addressed to Nebuchadnezzar, the head of an organized earthly kingdom, with various principalities under the supreme ruler. So "the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 4:17; Greek, "kingdom of the heavens") is a manifold organization, composed of various orders of angels, under the Most High (Eph 1:20, 21; 3:10; Col 1:16).

    27. break off--as a galling yoke (Ge 27:40); sin is a heavy load (Mt 11:28). The Septuagint and Vulgate translate not so well, "redeem," which is made an argument for Rome's doctrine of the expiation of sins by meritorious works. Even translate it so, it can only mean; Repent and show the reality of thy repentance by works of justice and charity (compare Lu 11:41); so God will remit thy punishment. The trouble will be longer before it comes, or shorter when it does come. Compare the cases of Hezekiah, Isa 38:1-5; Nineveh, Jon 3:5-10; Jer 18:7, 8. The change is not in God, but in the sinner who repents. As the king who had provoked God's judgments by sin, so he might avert it by a return to righteousness (compare Ps 41:1, 2; Ac 8:22). Probably, like most Oriental despots, Nebuchadnez

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