Daniel 4

DateVersionReading Plan
@October 13, 2023ESV (2016)ESV Prophets Plan 2023


  • Nebuchadnezzar Praises God
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Second Dream
  • Daniel Interprets the Second Dream
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s Humiliation
  • Nebuchadnezzar Restored


The chapter opens with king Nebuchadnezzar’s announcement of “peace” to all the nations and that it seemed good to him to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God had done for him. The Aramaic word for peace or prosperity is related to the Hebrew word shalom. It conveys the idea of overall welfare and health. Nebuchadnezzar expresses praise to God, a common feature in neo-Babylonian and Persian letters. The phrase in Dan. 4:3 parallels the Psalms and the NT letters.

In Dan. 4:4-9, the king recounts his dream at a high level, that his visions alarmed him while he was at ease and prospering in his palace (Dan. 4:4). The king decreed the gathering of the magicians and enchanters for the dream’s interpretation, but they could not make it known (Dan. 4:6-7). Daniel came before the king after the magicians and Nebuchadnezzar told him the dream (Dan. 4:8). Nebuchadnezzar first acknowledged Daniel’s ability to interpret the dream because the “spirit of the holy gods” was in him. This betrays the king’s understanding of the source of Daniel’s power: God, who is among the holy gods.

Dan. 4:10-18 are the details of the king’s dream: a tree in the midst of the earth that grew and became strong, providing shade for the “beasts of the field” and “birds of the heavens” (Dan. 4:10-12). In the king’s visions as he lay in bed, “a watcher” (angel) proclaimed the tree be chopped down but a stump left “of its roots in the earth” (Dan. 4:13-15). The mind of the stump was to be changed from a man to that of a beast for “seven periods of time” (seven years) (Dan. 4:16). The sentence of the watcher was to make known that the Most High “rules the kingdom of men” and that He sets over the kingdom “the lowliest of men” (Dan. 4:17). Nebuchadnezzar then asks for Daniel’s interpretation, that none of the other wise men were capable and contrasted that with Daniel who was able to make it known because the “spirit of the holy gods” was in him.

In Dan. 4:19-27, Daniel reacts in alarm for a while and then answered the king. The king told Daniel not to be alarmed by the dream or its interpretation (Dan. 4:19). Daniel, knowing of the discipline that would befall the king, expressed desire for the interpretation to be for the king’s enemies. Daniel then lays out the dream’s interpretation, that the strong tree to be cut down was the king and that his portion was to be with the “beasts of the field” for “seven periods of time” (Dan. 4:20-23). This decree was from the “Most High” but the heavenly messenger (Dan. 4:13) was to carry it out. Daniel beckons the king to repent and practice righteousness that he might experience a lengthening of his prosperity (Dan. 4:27).

In Dan. 4:28-33, twelve months after his discourse with Daniel, the king responded by boasting of the great Babylon that he had built, glorifying himself instead of God (Dan. 4:28-30). Before Nebuchadnezzar could finish his thought, “a voice from heaven” speaks to Nebuchadnezzar directly and imposes judgment on him, further reinforcing what Daniel had previously told him. The word was immediately fulfilled against the king who “was driven out from among men and at grass like an ox” (Dan. 4:33).

In Dan. 4:34-37, at “the end of the days”, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his eyes to heaven and his reason was restored. His first reaction to restoration was blessing the Most High and praising and honoring “him who lives forever” (Dan. 4:34). Nebuchadnezzar’s majesty and splendor also returned to him at the same time as his reason, becoming even greater than he was before (Dan. 4:36). Nebuchadnezzar extolled and honored the “King of heaven”, confessing that all His works are right and that He is able to humble the proud (Dan. 4:37).


Continuing from the previous chapter, Nebuchadnezzar shares how it was good to him to show the signs and wonders God had done for him. The king then has another dream that entails a great tree and a “watcher” (angel) who proclaims it to be chopped down. The king seeks its interpretation and, after the magicians and enchanters fail, Daniel interprets the dream, telling the king that he is tree to be cut down and that his dwelling will be with the beasts of the field. The king reacts pridefully, boasting of his own greatness in building Babylon while walking on the roof of his palace. Before he could even finish his thought, a voice from heaven speaks to the king, passes sentence on him and immediately it is fulfilled. At the end of the days, the king lifted up his eyes to heaven and his reason, majesty and splendor is restored and he praises the King of heaven for his just ways and ability to humble the proud.

There is so much to pull from these verses, however, it was Nebuchadnezzar’s very erratic posture toward God that struck me today. The king initially praises God for His showing of signs and wonders but then has the second dream, receives its interpretation of coming discipline and responds by boasting of his “mighty power” and greatness of Babylon. He then receives the chastisement, only later to come back around to extolling God.

How much I see myself in these verses, vacillating in my orientation to God in similar ways. So many days I awake and feel a sense of distance or internal rebellion against God. It seems entirely random and rarely attributed to any circumstantial cause. I don’t aim to be despondent and yet I am. My only account for it is the deeply seeded sin from which I cannot part. Praise the Lord for His enduring patience and continued work within me, covering my sin completely with the blood of the Lamb, ever patient with me despite my waywardness and inconsistency.

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