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Adam Clarke Commentary

Daniel 4

Introduction

Nebuchadnezzar, after having subdued all the neighboring countries, and greatly enriched and adorned his own, became so intoxicated with his prosperity, as to draw down upon himself a very remarkable judgment, of which this chapter gives a particular account, in the very words of the edict or proclamation which the Babylonish monarch issued on his restoration to the throne. This state document begins with Nebuchadnezzar's acknowledging the hand of God in his late malady, Daniel 4:1 -3. It then gives an account of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, which portended the loss of his kingdom and reason for seven years, on account of his pride and arrogance, Daniel 4:4 -18. So it was explained by Daniel, Daniel 4:19 -27, and so it was verified by the event, Daniel 4:28 -33. It then recites how, at the end of the period fixed by the God of heaven for the duration of his malady, the Chaldean monarch became sensible of his dependence on the Supreme Being, and lifted up has eyes to heaven in devout acknowledgment of the sovereign majesty of the King of kings, the Ruler of the earth, whose dominion alone is universal, unchangeable, and everlasting, Daniel 4:34 -37.

Verse 1

Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people - This is a regular decree, and is one of the most ancient on record; and no doubt was copied from the state papers of Babylon. Daniel has preserved it in the original language.

Verse 2

I thought it good to show - A part of the decree was a recital of the wonders wrought by the hand of the true God in his kingdom and on his person.

Verse 3

How great are his signs! - There are no preternatural signs like his! His wonders - miraculous interferences, are mighty - they surpass all human power. He is the Sovereign of all kings, and his dominion is everlasting; and every generation is a proof of his all-governing influence. These are very fine sentiments, and show how deeply his mind was impressed with the majesty of God.

Verse 4

I - was at rest - I had returned to my palace in Babylon after having subdued Syria, Phoenicia, Judea, Egypt, and Arabia. It was probably these great conquests that puffed him up with pride, and brought that chastisement upon him which he afterwards describes. See the dream of the emblematical tree explained.

Verse 5

I saw a dream - See this dream circumstantially explained in the following verses.

Verse 10

I saw - a tree - This vision Nebuchadnezzar says made him afraid. What a mercy it is that God has hidden futurity from us! Were he to show every man the lot that is before him, the misery of the human race would be complete.Great men and princes are often represented, in the language of the prophets, under the similitude of trees; see Ezekiel 17:5 , Ezekiel 17:6 ; Ezekiel 31:3 , etc.; Jeremiah 22:15 ; Psalms 1:3 ; Psalms 37:35 .

Verse 13

A watcher and a holy one - These are both angels; but, according to the Chaldean oracles, of different orders. They appear, according to their opinions, to be a kind of judges of human actions who had the power of determining the lot of men; see Daniel 4:17 .

Verse 14

Hew down the tree - As the tree was to be cut down, the beasts are commanded to flee away from under his branches. His courtiers, officers, etc., all abandoned him as soon as his insanity appeared; but he soon fled from the society of men.

Verse 15

Leave the stump - Let him not be destroyed, nor his kingdom alienated.

Verse 16

Let his heart be changed - Let him conceive himself to be a beast, and act as such, herding among the beasts of the field.Let seven times pass over him - Let him continue in this state for seven years. I knew a man who was thus changed in his heart - in his imagination. He believed himself to be a bear, and would imitate the ursal growl, etc.; and the case did not appear to be hypochondriacal. Whether he ever came to sound mind, I know not.

Verse 17

This matter is by the decree of the watchers - See on Daniel 4:13 (note).The Most High ruleth - He never leaves the government of the world to man, to second causes, or to fortuitous occurrences. What are thus called are his agents; they are no moving causes.And setteth up - the basest of men - Those are permitted, these decreed."The throne ennobles no man: to be properly filled, the man must be noble. Some of the greatest and some of the meanest of men have sat on the throne. Kings differ in education, seldom in intellect, from the common mass of men; the power and authority are from God. The king himself may be given either in mercy or in wrath. When James II ruled this kingdom, it might well be said, God hath set up over it the basest of men. His successor was one of the best. The former nearly ruined it both in a civil and religious point of view; the latter was the means of restoring it in both these respects.

Verse 19

Daniel - was astonied for one hour - He saw the design of the dream, and he felt the great delicacy of interpreting it. He was not puzzled by the difficulties of it. He felt for the king, and for the nation; and with what force and delicacy does he express the general portent; "The dream to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies!"

Verse 20

The tree that thou sawest - The dream is so fully interpreted in the following verses that it needs no comment.

Verse 26

Thy kingdom shall he sure unto thee - No new king was set up; Evil-merodach his son was regent during his father's insanity.

Verse 27

Break off thy sins by righteousness - Do justice. Thou hast been an oppressive man; show mercy to the poor, many of whom have been made such by thyself: witness the whole nation of the Jews. He was to cease from his sins - repent and bring forth fruits meet for repentance, in order that he might find mercy at the hand of God.

Verse 30

Is not this great Babylon - Here his heart was inflated with pride; he attributed every thing to himself, and acknowledged God in nothing. The walls, hanging gardens, temple of Bel, and the royal palace, all built by Nebuchadnezzar, made it the greatest city in the world.

Verse 31

While the word was in the king's mouth - How awful to a victorious and proud king: "Thy kingdom is departed from thee!" All thy goods and gods are gone in a moment!

Verse 32

They shall make thee, etc. - Thou shalt be made to eat grass as oxen. The madness that fell upon him induced him to forsake society, and to run to the woods and deserts, where he lived like a wild beast, his hairs growing long and thick, so as to be a substitute for clothing; and his nails strong and hooked, that he might the better climb trees and grub up the ground, in order to get roots and earth-nuts. It was the mercy of God that thus clothed and accoutred him. His case seems much like that of the maniac in the Gospel, whose dwelling was among the tombs and in the mountains, and who shunned the society of men.

Verse 36

My reason returned - Every thing was fulfilled that was exhibited by the dream and its interpretation. It is very likely that this unfortunate king had so concealed himself that the place of his retreat was not found out; and the providence of God had so watched over every thing, that, on his return to his palace, he found his counselors and his lords, who received him gladly, and cleaved to and served him as they had formerly done.

Verse 37

Now I - praise and extol - It is very probable that Nebuchadnezzar was a true convert; that he relapsed no more into idolatry, and died in the faith of the God of Israel. It is supposed that he lived seventeen years after his restoration. But the authorized Version, which is followed in the margin, states the date of this decree to be b.c. 563, the year preceding Nebuchadnezzar's death.

Daniel 4


  1 Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you.
  2 I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders that the high God hath wrought toward me.
  3 How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
  4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace:
  5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.
  6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream.
  7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.
  8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying,
  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.
  10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold, a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
  11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:
  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.
  13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven;
  14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:
  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:
  16 Let his heart be changed from man's, and let a beast's heart be given unto him: and let seven times pass over him.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;
  21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation:
  22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.
  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;
  24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king:
  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.
  26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
  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.
  28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar.
  29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon.
  30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?
  31 While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee.
  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.
  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:
  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?
  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.
  37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

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