Daniel Chapter Four, When The Dream Becomes A Nightmare
In our study of Daniel chapter four, we look at how pride can turn
a dream into a nightmare. We are reminded that pride is what brought about the rebellion
of angels and the same thing can happen with men.
King Nebuchadnezzar, To the peoples, nations and men of every
language, who live in all the world: May you prosper greatly!
This chapter opens with a royal proclamation from the King of
Babylon. This proclamation is different and the greeting would have made the people take
notice. The king, in chapter 3,
was full of pride and all about self but, as we see here, he is thinking of others in
wishing them prosperity.
It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and
wonders that the Most High God has performed for me.
The king begins what we will see is his testimony of what God had
done in his life. The people would have known that something had happened because this
man had built a statue of himself and made people bow down and worship him as a god.
Now, he is prepared to tell them of the real God.
How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an
eternal kingdom; his dominion endures from generation to generation.
It is amazing that we see this man who had been so prideful now
humbling himself in worship of God Almighty.
Daniel 4:4 & 5
I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at home in my palace, contented and
prosperous. I had a dream that made me afraid. As I was lying in my bed, the images and
visions that passed through my mind terrified me.
Now, the king begins to tell us what caused such a dramatic change
in his attitude. It started with a dream that got his attention.
Daniel 4:6 & 7
So I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before
me to interpret the dream for me. When the magicians, enchanters, astrologers and
diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me.
As we saw in chapter two,
the ungodly cannot interpret the things of God and so, when all the "wise men" were
called in to the king they could not help him. This is the same lesson that many of us
need to learn today as people are chasing after all kinds of wisdom but many are
unwilling to go to the true source of wisdom which is God. Instead of seeking counsel
from God's word, even Christians try the latest self help nonsense and psycho
Finally, Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. (He
is called Belteshazzar, after the name of my god, and the spirit of the holy gods is in
It is interesting to note here that the king is still caught up in
idolatry as he describes Daniel as having the "spirit of the holy gods". There are many
today with this same type of attitude in that they want to say that we are all going the
same place just taking different paths. As we shall see, that is still idolatry and it
is detestable to God.
I said, 'Belteshazzar, chief of the magicians, I know that the
spirit of the holy gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my
dream; interpret it for me.'
We see that the king had made Daniel the chief of the magicians and
so acknowledged the power of the God that Daniel served. But, he was still caught up in
idolatry as God does not share His position with any other so-called gods. He has seen
the power of God at work through Daniel but does not reject the false gods as he had
looked to them first.
These are the visions I saw while lying in my bed: I looked, and
there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The
tree grew large and strong and its top touched the sky; it was visible to the ends of
the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant, and on it was food for all.
Under it the beasts of the field found shelter, and the birds of the air lived in its
branches; from it every creature was fed.
So far, the vision seems to be a good thing as it is a giant tree
that is providing food and shelter to all. It reminds me of the tree of life described
22 where God provides for His people and the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was caught
up in his pride and strength as he considered himself to also be a god.
'In the visions I saw while lying on my bed, I looked, and there
before me was a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven. He called in a loud
voice: "Cut down the tree and trim off its branches; strip off its leaves and scatter
its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let
the stump and its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass
of the field."'
Now, we see the dream start to become a nightmare as it is decreed
that the magnificent tree be cut down. Many times a tree is used as the symbol for a man
in the Bible and Nebuchadnezzar must have thought of himself as this magnificent tree.
It must have shocked him to here the angel say that it must be cut down. The good news
is that they did not uproot the stump so there was the ability for the tree to grow
again. We see that the stump was restrained from growth on its own by these bands. We,
like Nebuchadnezzar, can become arrogant and see ourselves as a mighty tree but we must
remember to worship the Creator of the tree and give Him the praise instead of becoming
Daniel 4:15b & 16
'Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with
the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man
and let him be given the mind of an animal, till seven times pass by him.'
Now, we see that this man will be driven to act like an animal for
seven years. Nebuchadnezzar may have still held out hope that it was speaking of someone
else but deep inside he must have been horrified at the thought that it was speaking
'"The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare
the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over the
kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of
God explains the purpose of His actions which is so that men can
understand that He is in charge of all creation. Part of that being in charge is the
fact that He puts whoever He wants in positions of authority. Usually, these are not the
most superior of men but they are there because of the will of God and for His purposes.
This is true today as well in that God puts our political leaders in their place to
fulfill His purpose and many times they are humbled by the fact that they are being used
and cannot do it on their own.
'This is the dream that I, King Nebuchadnezzar, had. Now,
Belteshazzar, tell me what it means, for none of the wise men in my kingdom can
interpret it for me. But you can, because the spirit of the holy gods is in you.'
Once again, we see that the king tries all other options before
turning to the man of God. He realizes that there is something special about Daniel but
he still does not acknowledge the hand of the one true God. Like Daniel, many times
people will know that we (Christians) are different. They will see the power of God
displayed and still not acknowledge Him.
Then Daniel (also called Belteshazzar) was greatly perplexed for a
time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, 'Belteshazzar, do not let the
dream or its meaning alarm you.' Belteshazzar answered, 'My lord, if only the dream
applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries!'
Daniel must have immediately known the message behind the dream and
he was worried about telling it to the king.
'The tree you saw, which grew large and strong, with its top
touching the sky, visible to the whole earth, with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit,
providing food for all, giving shelter to the beasts of the field, and having nesting
places in its branches for the birds of the air - you, O king, are that tree! You have
become great and strong; your greatness has grown until it reaches the sky, and your
dominion extends to distant parts of the earth.'
We have all probably had someone tell us that they had good news
and bad news for us and ask which we wanted to hear first. Here, Daniel gives the king
the good news first which is the fact that the king has become as great as the tree of
'You, O king, saw a messenger, a holy one, coming down from heaven
and saying, "Cut down the tree and destroy it, but leave the stump, bound with iron and
bronze, in the grass of the field, while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be
drenched with the dew of heaven; let him live like the wild animals, until seven times
pass by for him."'
Now, the bad news is that the tree is to be cut down. God is good
and even with this bad news comes hope. We see that the roots of the tree are not
removed but instead are only restrained by the iron and bronze. In this, we see that God
is in control of all things and all things happen in His time.
'This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree the
Most High has issued against my lord the king: You will be driven away from people and
will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched with the
dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High
is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes. The command to
leave the stump of the tree with its roots means that your kingdom will be restored to
you when you acknowledge that Heaven rules. Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my
advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to
the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.'
The full meaning of the nightmare is made known as judgment is
pronounced on King Nebuchadnezzar. Even in this judgment there is hope as Daniel pleads
for the king to repent and acknowledge the hand of God at work in the lives of men. He
even tells the king that it could possibly be avoided if he would repent immediately. We
notice also that this is not simply reciting some words but is backed up by action. The
same thing is true for us today in that genuine repentance will be accompanied by action
and not simply saying some words.
All this happened to King Nebuchadnezzar. Twelve months later, as
the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, he said, 'Is not this
the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the
glory of my majesty?'
The number twelve, throughout the Bible, is associated with the
display of divine authority and here we see that twelve months after his vision the king
is still denying God's power. The king still does not acknowledge the fact that God had
him there. We may be quick to criticize the king but we must ask ourselves if we don't
do the same thing sometimes. It is easy to forget to give the credit to God when He
lifts us up and blesses us.
The words were still on his lips when a voice came from heaven,
'This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been
taken from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals;
you will eat grass like cattle. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge
that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he
wishes.' Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was
driven away from people and ate grass like cattle. His body was drenched with the dew of
heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of
As soon as he spoke this blasphemy, he was reminded of the judgment
that had been promised and it was swiftly executed. I am sure that the king did not
expect this swift judgment as he climbed up to the roof. In the same way, we walk around
many days without remembering that Jesus could come back at any moment.
Daniel 4:34 & 35
At the end of that time, I Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward
heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and
glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom
endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as
nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.
No one can hold back his hand or say to him: 'What have you done?'
The events unfolded just as the dream had shown and, at the
designated time, Nebuchadnezzar humbled himself and acknowledged God. As promised, his
sanity was restored and this is a beautiful promise to each of us in that, if we humble
ourselves and call on Jesus, He will restore our relationship with the Father.
Daniel 4:36 & 37
At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor
were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisors and nobles sought me out,
and I was restored to my throne, and became even greater than before. Now I,
Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the king of heaven, because everything he
does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to
Many things may seem to be given up when we come to faith in Christ
but the biggest thing is pride. It was only after the king was humbled that he could see
God at work. Likewise, it is only after our pride has been dealt with that we can see
what Jesus did for us on the cross. Like the king, it may look like we have lost much
more but God can restore more than we ever had just like he did for Nebuchadnezzar.