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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"
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.
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
"I know" refers to his knowledge of Daniel's skill many years before
hence he calls him "master of the magicians."
10. tree--So the Assyrian is compared to a "cedar"
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--
one incites his fellow angels to God's appointed work (compare
Re 14:15, 18).
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.
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
"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
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.
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
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
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.
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";
proves this, "mine understanding returned." The regency would leave him
to roam in the large beast-abounding parks attached to the palace.
26. thou shalt have known, &c.--a promise of spiritual grace to him,
causing the judgment to humble, not harden, his heart.
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