Daniel 4:1-37 (3:31-4:34)

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King Nebuchadnezzar’s proclamation was addressed to “all peoples, nations [tribes (Theodotion), and languages dwelling in all the earth.” “Languages” here refers to persons in the realm of the empire of Babylon who spoke languages other than that of the Chaldeans. Those “dwelling in all the earth” are the inhabitants of the entire territory over which Nebuchadnezzar ruled. For their “peace” to be increased would signify that the subjects would continue to prosper in a state of well-being and security. (4:1 [3:31])

In the proclamation, Nebuchadnezzar is portrayed as considering it good, or being pleased, to set forth the “signs and wonders the Most High God” had done toward him. (4:2 [3:32])

The proclamation concludes with words that extol the greatness or grandeur of God’s signs and the mightiness of his wonders. “Signs” could relate to the divinely provided revelations which could not have originated with any human and would, therefore, be “great.” The “wonders” or amazing deeds gave evidence of having as their source one whose power far transcended that of any human. God is identified as the Sovereign, the One whose kingdom is everlasting and whose dominion continues “from generation to generation.” (4:3 [3:33]; see the Notes section.)

The Septuagint dates the dream of Nebuchadnezzar to the eighteenth year of his reign. If this is understood to be the regnal year, it is the same year in which Nebuchadnezzar conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. Neither the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion includes the reference to a year, and it cannot be confirmed from other sources and does not harmonize with a reference in Jeremiah 52:30 to the twenty-third year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign when more Jews were taken into exile. (4:4 [4:1])

In his home, Nebuchadnezzar was “at ease,” undisturbed, or “living in peace” (LXX) and “prospering” in his palace [“on his throne” [LXX]. The Greek version of Theodotion has him saying that he was “prospering and thriving” in his home. (4:4 [4:1])

His state of tranquility appears to have been disrupted by a dream that frightened him. The images that flashed before him while sleeping in his bed and his mental perception of the visions he saw (“the visions of [his] head”) alarmed him. (4:5 [4:2]; see the Notes section.)

Nebuchadnezzar issued an order for “all the wise men of Babylon to be brought in” before him so that they might make known to him the interpretation of his disturbing dream. (4:6 [4:3]; see the Notes section.)

In response to Nebuchadnezzar’s official summons, the “magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans [Chaldean experts in the occult arts], and astrologers” (Gazarenes [a transliteration of the Aramaic word in the Greek text of Theodotion]) came in before him. After he related his dream to them, they were unable to interpret it. (4:7 [4:4])

Finally, Daniel came before King Nebuchadnezzar. Regarding “Belteshazzar” (Baltasar [Theodotion]), the new name which had been given to Daniel, the monarch is quoted as referring to it as being “according to the name of my god.” “Belteshazzar” means “guard the life of the king,” and this appears to be an invocation directed to Bel, a designation that came to be applied to Marduk, the chief deity of Babylon. Ancient inscriptions indicate that Nebuchadnezzar revered Merodach or Marduk. An inscription translated by J. M. Rodwell (Copyright 1901 by Colonial Press) begins with the words, “Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon, glorious Prince, worshipper of Marduk.” Nebuchadnezzar even attributed his birth to Merodach (Marduk), saying, “When he, the lord god my maker made me, the god Merodach, he deposited my germ in my mother’s (womb): then being conceived I was made.” (4:8 [4:5])

While the extant inscriptions make no mention of Daniel or YHWH, the God to whom Daniel was devoted, they do indicate that Nebuchadnezzar was deeply religious. In the biblical account, Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as recognizing Daniel to be a man in whom a “spirit of holy gods” was, and to him he related his dream. Based on the context, Daniel’s being designated as having a “spirit of holy gods” in him may be understood to indicate that he was regarded as divinely endowed with the ability to make known the revelations of the gods. In the Greek version of Theodotion, the designation “god” is singular and, in connection with “spirit,” could be rendered, “spirit of the holy God.” The plural “gods,” however, appears preferable, for Nebuchadnezzar was a polytheist. (4:8 [4:5])

Nebuchadnezzar called Daniel (Belshazzar) “chief of the magicians” and acknowledged him as one having the “spirit of holy gods” and one for whom no mystery was difficult. In the Aramaic text, the way in which Nebuchadnezzar starts his request to Daniel is elliptical (“visions of my dream that I saw”). The Greek version of Theodotion, however, completes the thought. “Hear the vision of the dream that I saw.” This is followed by the request, both in the Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion, “and tell me its interpretation.” (4:9 [4:6]; also see the comments on 4:8 [4:5].)

As Nebuchadnezzar lay asleep on his bed, the images that he beheld in his dream (which he referred to as the “visions of my head”) related to a tree. “In the midst of the earth” or the land, he beheld a tree of very great height. According to the Septuagint, the comments about the tree are related before Daniel is called to appear before Nebuchadnezzar. It quotes the monarch as saying, “I was sleeping, and look, a lofty tree was growing on the earth” or land. “Its appearance [was] great, and [there] was not another like it.” (4:10 [4:7])

“The tree grew and became strong,” with its top reaching the “heavens,” apparently appearing as if its top were touching the celestial vault. In view of the tree’s towering far above everything, it could be seen “to the end of all the earth,” or from horizon to horizon. According to the Greek version of Theodotion, the “extent” (kýtos, also meaning “crown”) of the tree reached the “ends of all the earth.” In the Septuagint, part of this description appears after words found in verse 12(9) of the Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion. It refers to the “appearance” of the tree as being “great” and its top getting near to heaven, or the celestial dome, and its “crown [kýtos, also meaning ‘extent’] to the clouds, filling [the space] under heaven. “The sun and the moon resided in it [the tree] and illuminated all the earth.” (4:11 [4:8])

The tree had “beautiful foliage” and “abundant fruit,” with “food for all on it.” Under the tree, “beasts [a collective singular in Aramaic] of the field,” or wild animals, found shade, and “birds of the heavens” nested or roosted on its branches, and “all flesh” (every creature or, if to be understood in more restrictive sense, people) could feed on what it produced. The Septuagint refers to fruit as “abundant and good” and as providing sustenance for “all living creatures.” Additionally, the Septuagint indicates the tree to have been of colossal size, with the branches being “about thirty stadia [c. 3.5 miles; c. 5.5 kilometers] long.” (4:12 [4:9])

While lying in his bed, Nebuchadnezzar continued to see developments that affected the tree. In the Aramaic text, he is quoted as saying, “I was seeing in the visions of my head on my bed.” The Greek text of Theodotion refers to a “vision of the night upon my bed,” whereas the Septuagint indicates that Nebuchadnezzar continued “looking in [his] sleep.” He saw a “watcher” (an “angel” [LXX]; “ir” [a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the text of Theodotion]), a “holy one,” descending “from the heavens.” According to the Septuagint, the “angel was sent in power from heaven,” suggesting that the angel was empowered or granted the authority to make the proclamation that had to be unfailingly fulfilled. (4:13 [4:10])

The “watcher” or “angel” called out “with strength” or with a loud voice, commanding that the tree be chopped down, its boughs cut off, its foliage shaken off, and its fruit scattered. As for the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) under the tree and the birds on its branches, they were to flee. The Septuagint includes the directive to cut down the tree but adds that it should be destroyed. It then gives the reason for the action as being that the Most High had decreed for the roots of the tree to be pulled out and for it to be made useless. (4:14 [4:11])

The main root of the tree (“stump of its roots” [Aramaic text and Greek version of Theodotion]; “one root” [LXX]) was to be left in the “earth” or the ground. What was left remaining in the ground was to be banded with iron and bronze or copper. This directive involving banding is not included in the Septuagint. (4:15 [4:12])

If the subject continues to be the main root (a designation in the masculine gender in Aramaic), it is being described as left amid the “grass of the field,” becoming wet with the “dew of the heavens” (the dew which the ancients perceived as descending from above), and having its “lot” with the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) “in the grass of the earth.” A number of translations convey this significance in their renderings. “But leave the stump with its roots in the ground, bound with hoops of iron and bronze, in the grass of the countryside. Let it be drenched by the dew of heaven and have its lot with the animals, eating grass.” (NJB) “Just leave the stump in the earth but bind it with iron and bronze chains so that it remains on the ground below between grass and herbs. Dew should fall on it; like the wild animals, it should lie in the grass.” (Nur den Stumpf lasst in der Erde, aber fesselt ihn mit eisernen und bronzenen Ketten, damit er unten am Boden bleibt zwischen Gras und Kräutern. Der Tau soll auf ihn fallen; wie das Wild soll er im Gras liegen. [German, Gute Nachricht Bibel]) (4:15 [4:12])

Other translations make the entire verse read so that only the first part of the verse applies to the stump with its roots. “But let the stump with its roots, bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground, in the grass of the field. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven, and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth.” (NIV) “But leave its stump and roots in the ground, surrounded by grass and held by chains of iron and bronze. Make sure that this ruler lives like the animals out in the open fields, unprotected from the dew.” (CEV) The wording of the Septuagint supports these renderings, for it refers to him as feeding “like a bovine” on grass with the “beasts of the earth in the mountains.” (4:15 [4:12])

If not already in the previous verse, the focus definitely shifts here to the one upon whom the dream was to be fulfilled. His “heart,” or the mental faculty that distinguishes a human from a wild animal, was to be changed as if he were given the “heart of a beast,” and “seven times” were to pass over him. The Greek version of Theodotion reads much like the Aramaic text, but a different rendering is found in the Septuagint. It indicates that his “body” would be changed “from the dew of heaven” and that he would feed with the beasts for “seven years.” (4:16 [4:13])

According to the Septuagint, his deranged state would last “until he recognizes that the Lord of heaven has authority over all those in heaven and those on the earth, and does whatever he wishes with them.” Both the Aramaic text and the Greek version of Theodotion represent the vision about the tree as conveying a message that has an application to all humans. The cutting down of the tree and associated developments are identified as taking place by reason of an edict by the “decree of watchers” (ir [a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the text of Theodotion]). The “matter” or sentence is also by the “word of holy ones.” As parallel expressions, “watchers” and “holy ones” apply to “angels.” The ultimate purpose for the carrying out of the decree was so that “all the living” might “know” or recognize that the Most High has dominion over the “kingdom of man [men (Theodotion)] and gives it to whom he will and sets up over it the lowliest one of men [one disdained of men (Theodotion)].” Accordingly, humans have no control over what the Most High may do or permit when it comes to rulership. (4:17 [4:14])

The Septuagint contains additional comments that are not found in the Aramaic text nor the Greek version of Theodotion. It quotes Nebuchadnezzar as saying that the tree “was cut down before [him] in one day” and that “its ruin was in one hour of the day.” Its “branches were given to every wind,” or were ripped from the tree and blown about or away. The tree itself was dragged away and thrown away. “And he” (the one to whom the dream applied) ate grass “with the beasts of the earth.” This one was delivered up to be under guards in confinement, and they bound his ankles and wrists with bronze or copper shackles, thus restraining his feet and his hands. All the things Nebuchadnezzar saw resulted in great wonderment for him, and “sleep escaped from [his] eyes.” (4:17 [4:14])

According to the Aramaic text, this was the dream that King Nebuchadnezzar saw and he wanted Daniel (Belteshazzar [Baltasar (Theodotion)] to tell him the interpretation, acknowledging that “all the wise men of [his] kingdom” could not make known the interpretation to him. He believed that Daniel could do so because the “spirit of holy gods” (the “holy God” [Theodotion]) was in him. (4:18 [4:15]; see the comments on 4:8 [4:5].)

According to the rendering of the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar had not as yet related the dream to anyone. When he rose from his bed in the morning, he summoned Daniel, “the ruler of the wise men” and the leader of those rendering judgments regarding (or interpreting) dreams, and he related the dream to him. Daniel then made known to Nebuchadnezzar the complete interpretation. (4:18 [4:15])

Perceiving that the dream revealed unfavorable developments for King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel (Belteshazar [Baltasar (Theodotion)]) was “astonished” or dismayed for a time (literally, “one hour”) and his thoughts frightened or alarmed him. The Greek version of Theodotion says that he “was mute for about one hour and his thoughts troubled him.” A more detailed description of Daniel’s reaction is found in the Septuagint. Besides coming to be in a state of great astonishment or wonderment, his “conjecture rushed him and, becoming frightened, trembling seized him and his appearance changed. Having shaken his head for about an hour and having been astonished, he answered” the king with a subdued voice. (4:19 [4:16])

According to the Aramaic text and a similar rendering in the Greek version of Theodotion, King Nebuchadnezzar reassured Daniel (Belteshazar [Baltasar (Theodotion)] not to let the dream and its interpretation frighten him. The monarch did not want him to hold back from providing the interpretation of the dream in its entirety. (4:19 [4:16])

Daniel prefaced his explanation of the dream in a manner that avoided expressing the interpretation like a direct censure of the monarch. “My lord, may the dream [be] for those hating you, and its interpretation for your enemies.” Both the wording in the Septuagint and the text of Theodotion here are basically like that which is found in the Aramaic text.(4:19 [4:16])

The narration of Daniel’s words in the Septuagint immediately identifies Nebuchadnezzar as the “tree that had been planted in the earth,” or the ground, and the “appearance of which was great” or lofty. According to the Aramaic text, Daniel described the tree that Nebuchadnezzar had seen in his dream as one that had grown great or tall and had become strong or massive, with its height reaching the “heavens” (as if touching the celestial vault). In view of its tremendous size, the tree could be seen as far as land extended to the horizon (“to all the earth”) or, according to the version of Theodotion, “its extent” (kýtos, also meaning “crown”) was “into all the earth.” (4:20 [4:17])

Continuing the description of the tree, Daniel referred to its beautiful foliage and abundant fruits, its having food for all and providing a place for animals (“beasts of the field”) to dwell under its branches and for “birds of the heavens” (birds that fly in the air above the land) to roost or nest on its branches. Although referring to “all the birds of heaven” as nesting in the tree, the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic Text and the Greek version of Theodotion. It describes King Nebuchadnezzar as being served by the “strength of the earth and the nations and all the languages [people speaking languages other than that of the native Babylonians] to the ends of the earth and all the territories” or regions. The “strength of the earth” could be understood to refer to what the earth or land produces. (4:21 [4:18])

Daniel identified King Nebuchadnezzar as the one whom the massive tree represented, for he had “grown” like the tree and “become strong” as an absolute monarch with a vast empire under his dominion. His greatness or splendor as king had grown to the point that it appeared as if it reached the heavens or touched the celestial dome. His dominion extended to the “end of the earth” or came to include lands far away from the city of Babylon. (4:22 [4:19])

The Septuagint rendering has Daniel describing the tree as “exalted” and reaching heaven or the celestial vault and the top (literally, “crown” or “extent”) touching the clouds. Applying the image of the tree to Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel spoke of him as having been exalted “above all men who are upon the face of all the earth,” indicating that, as monarch, he had no equal among other men. The “heart” of the king, or he in his inmost self, had become exalted with “pride and strength toward the Holy One and his angels.” Nebuchadnezzar’s “works were seen,” for he had devastated the “house” or temple of “the living God” because of the “sins of the sanctified people.” Whereas ancient inscriptions indicate that the monarch gave credit to various deities, particularly Marduk (Merodach), for his accomplishments, he had no fear of YHWH, the Holy One, and his angels. Nebuchadnezzar directed his “strength” or military might against God’s people and so, as if he were superior to God, manifested himself as one who had become exalted with pride, not holding back from destroying God’s temple. (4:22 [4:19], LXX)

The Israelites had failed to live up to their covenant obligations as God’s holy or sanctified people, failing to conduct themselves in harmony with his commands. Therefore, he permitted Nebuchadnezzar to conquer them and to destroy his temple, the holy place that the people had defiled by their sinful pursuits. (4:22 [4:19], LXX)

Nebuchadnezzar, as Daniel went on to say, saw a “watcher” (an “angel” [LXX]; an “ir” (a transliteration of the Aramaic word ‘ir in the Greek text of Theodotion), a “holy one,” descending “from the heavens.” The Septuagint rendering indicates that the angel was “sent with power by the Lord,” suggesting that the heavenly messenger had God-given authority to command that the tree be chopped down and destroyed. (4:23 [4:20]; see 4:13-16 [4:10-13] for additional comments.)

The Aramaic text says that the main root of the tree (“stump of its roots”) was to be left in the “earth” or the ground, with this remaining part to be banded with iron and bronze or copper and left in the “grass of the field.” There it was to become wet with the “dew of the heavens” and have its “lot” with the “beasts” (a collective singular in Aramaic) “until seven times” passed over it. (4:23 [4:20])

Daniel then indicated that the chopping down of the tree and the banding of the portion that remained would have its fulfillment upon Nebuchadnezzar. This was the “interpretation,” and what the Most High had decreed would befall the king, the one whom Daniel respectfully called “my lord.” (4:24 [4:21])

The Septuagint (4:23 [4:20]) quotes Daniel as saying, “The judgment of the great God will come upon you.” He also told Nebuchadnezzar that the “Most High and his angels” were pursuing him, indicating that there would be no escape for the king from what had been divinely decreed. (4:24 [4:21], LXX)

According to the Aramaic text, Nebuchadnezzar would be driven away from being among men and come to have his dwelling with the wild animals. He would be made to eat grass like bovines, become wet with dew, and have “seven times” pass over him until he came to know that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he wishes.” The Septuagint indicates that Nebuchadnezzar would be subjected to harsh treatment. He would be taken away to prison and sent away to a desert place or to an uninhabited location. (4:25 [4:22])

Applying the point about the main root of the tree having been preserved, Daniel assured Nebuchadnezzar that the kingdom would not be lost to him and that it was necessary for him to come to know that “the heavens are ruling” or that God is the true Sovereign. Daniel’s interpretation, according to the Septuagint, was that, because the “root of the tree” was spared from being uprooted, the place of Nebuchadnezzar’s throne would be preserved for him “for a time and an hour.” Nevertheless, preparations were being made against him. He would be flogged and subjected to judging. (4:26 [4:23])

Based on the interpretation, Daniel requested that Nebuchadnezzar might find his counsel to be acceptable. He advised the king to desist from sin and to practice righteousness and to show mercy to the poor, not making himself guilty of iniquity, which would have included not acting unjustly or oppressively. Possibly acting in this manner would contribute to the lengthening of his quietude, tranquility, or well-being. The Greek version of Theodotion expresses the thought that Nebuchadnezzar should atone for his sins through acts of mercy and for his injustices by compassion for the poor. “Perhaps,” Daniel is quoted as saying, “God will be forbearing [regarding] your transgressions.” (4:27 [4:24])

According to the Septuagint rendering, Daniel called attention to the fact that the “Lord lives in heaven, and his authority is over all the earth.” This appears to imply that Nebuchadnezzar, though an absolute monarch, was accountable to a far higher authority — God. Daniel advised Nebuchadnezzar to entreat God concerning his sins and atone for all his injustices with acts of mercy so that goodness may be given him and he might come to have many days on the “throne of [his] kingdom” and that God might not destroy him. He asked Nebuchadnezzar to “love” these “words” of counsel, for the word or message Daniel had spoken was “accurate,” and the monarch’s time was “complete.” This could be understood to mean that the time for divine judgment was at hand. (4:27 [4:24])

All that the dream about the massive tree indicated befell King Nebuchadnezzar. The Septuagint adds information not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. After Daniel concluded speaking, Nebuchadnezzar, having heard the “judgment of the vision” (the judgment the vision revealed), “reserved the words in his heart” (or in his inmost self). (4:28 [4:25])

About twelve months after Daniel had interpreted the dream about the huge tree, Nebuchadnezzar was walking “on the palace of the kingdom,” probably meaning the flat roof of the royal residence. In the Greek text of Theodotion, the reference is to the “sanctuary” or “temple.” This is because the Aramaic noun heykhál can designate either a temple or a palace. The Septuagint says that he walked “on the walls of the city with all his glory” (or splendidly attired) and passed through “its towers.” (4:29 [4:26])

Apparently impressed by what he saw, Nebuchadnezzar said to himself, “[Is] this not great Babylon that I have built as a house of a kingdom by the strength of my might and for the honor of my majesty [or glory]?” The oldest extant Greek manuscript (P967) reads, “This is great Babylon that I have built in the strength of my might, and it will be called a house of my kingdom.” Another reading of the Septuagint, like the Aramaic text and the Greek text of Theodotion, concludes with “for the honor of my glory.” Nebuchadnezzar is thus revealed as viewing his building projects as having been completed because of his great authority to command and as serving to glorify him as monarch. (4:30 [4:27]; see the Notes section.)

“While the word” was still “in the mouth” of King Nebuchadnezzar, or while he was still speaking to himself about the “great Babylon,” a voice resounded “from heaven,” telling him that the kingdom had departed from him. The expanded text of the Septuagint reads, “And upon the completion of his word, he heard a voice from heaven: To you it is said, King Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar], the kingdom of Babylon has been taken away from you and is being given to another, to a disdained man in your house. Look! I am placing him over your kingdom, and he will receive your authority and your glory and your luxury so that you may know that the God of heaven has authority in the kingdom of men and to whomever he wishes he will give it. But until the rising of the sun, another king will rejoice in your house and will take possession of your glory and of your strength and of your authority.” Possibly the expression rendered “the rising of the sun” refers to the dawning of a brighter day for Nebuchadnezzar. The words about a “disdained man” parallel the thought expressed in verse 17 (14) of the Aramaic text and the Greek text of Theodotion, where the reference is to God setting over the “kingdom of men” the “lowliest one of men” or “one disdained of men” (Theodotion). (4:31 [4:28])

The divine expression of judgment against Nebuchadnezzar continued. He would be driven from among “men” (a collective singular in Aramaic) and have to reside with wild animals, being made to eat vegetation like bovines until “seven times” passed over him. This would be until he learned that the Most High rules over the “kingdom of men” (a collective singular in Aramaic) and gives it to whom he wishes. According to the Septuagint, “the angels” would pursue him for “seven years” and he would by no means be seen nor by any means speak with any man. He would be fed grass like a bovine, and greenery of the earth or land would be his pasture. Instead of “glory,” or his being granted honor, he would be bound, and someone else would have his luxurious house or palace and his kingdom. (4:32 [4:29])

In that “hour” or right then, the “word” or message directed against Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven from among men, having to eat grass like bovines and having “his body” made wet with the “dew from heaven” (from the celestial dome above the land, the place from which the ancients believed the dew to come). “His hair grew long like eagles,” probably meaning that it became long like the feathers of eagles (the “hair” or mane of lions [Theodotion]). His “nails” grew long “like birds” or like the claws of birds. According to the Septuagint, everything that had been made known to Nebuchadnezzar was to be fulfilled by the next morning. None of the things that had been mentioned would fail to occur. (4:33 [4:30]; see the Notes section regarding the expanded text of the Septuagint.)

“At the end of the days,” the seven times, or the “seven years,” Nebuchadnezzar raised his “eyes to the heavens,” or looked up to the celestial dome. His reasoning faculties returned to him. He then blessed the Most High, the One who lives forever (to time without limits; “into the age” [Theodotion]), and praised and honored him, “for his dominion is to limitless time and his kingdom from generation to generation.” According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar’s release from the time of his deranged state came at the end of the “seven years,” and his “sins” and his “acts of ignorance” (the Greek word for “ignorance” is plural) were “fulfilled” before the “God of heaven,” indicating that the judgment that befell him proved to be the complete penalty for his sins and his having acted in a divinely disapproved manner in his ignorance. Nebuchadnezzar made supplication to the great “God of gods” concerning his acts of ignorance. “And look! An angel called out [to him] from heaven, saying, Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar] serve the God of heaven, the Holy One, and give glory to the Most High. The kingdom of your nation is being returned to you.” (4:34 [4:31])

Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as acknowledging that God accounts “all those inhabiting the earth as nothing” and that he does “according to his will in the host of the heavens and among those inhabiting the earth.” No one can check “his hand” (stop him for taking action) or “can say” (challengingly tell him), “What are you doing?” God is Sovereign above all intelligent creatures — both hosts of angels and humans. (4:35 [4:32]; see the Notes section.)

At that “time,” or at the end of the seven times or years, Nebuchadnezzar’s reasoning faculties returned to him, as also did his majesty and his magnificence for the glory or splendor of his kingdom or dominion. His counselors or advisers and nobles sought him, looking for him at the end of the seven times. Thereafter Nebuchadnezzar was once again established as monarch in his kingdom, and he became greater than he had been before the time of his derangement. (4:36 [4:33]; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.)

Nebuchadnezzar is quoted as saying, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and honor the King of the heavens, for all his works are truth [or right] and his ways are just, and those walking in pride he is able to humble.” According to the Septuagint, Nebuchadnezzar said that he acknowledged or gave thanks to the Most High and praised the One who “created the heaven and the earth and the seas and the rivers and all the things in them.” The reason for his grateful acknowledgment and praise was his recognizing that the Most High is “God of gods and Lord of lords and King of kings, for he performs signs and wonders and changes times and spans of time,” removing kings from their dominions and establishing others in their place. (4:37 [4:34]; see the Notes section.)


The first three verses (4:1-3 [3:31-33), though contained in the Greek version of Theodotion, are not included in the extant manuscripts of the Septuagint. Jerome, in his commentary on Daniel (translated by Gleason Archer), wrote, “The epistle of Nebuchadnezzar was inserted in the volume of the prophet, in order that the book might not afterwards be thought to have been manufactured by some other author, as the accuser (Porphyry) falsely asserts, but the product of Daniel himself.”

From ancient times to the present, the historicity of the account in chapter 4 has been called into question. Jerome was familiar with issues that had been raised and commented regarding the claims of others in his work on the book of Daniel. They “assert that it was absolutely impossible for a man who was reared in luxury to subsist on hay for seven years and to dwell among wild beasts for seven years without being at all mangled by them. Also they ask how the imperial authority could have been kept waiting for a mere madman, and how so mighty a kingdom could have gone without a king for so long a period. If, on the other hand, anyone had succeeded him on the throne, how foolish he would have to be thought to surrender an imperial authority which he had possessed for so long. Such a thing would be especially incredible since the historical records of the Chaldeans contain no such record, and since they recorded matters of far less import, it is impossible that they should have left things of major importance unmentioned.”

The first-century Jewish historian Josephus accepted the account at face value, and his summation of the narrative agrees with the extant Aramaic text and the version of Theodotion. Josephus wrote (Antiquities, X, x, 6), “A little while after this [the deliverance of Daniel’s companions from the furnace] the king saw in his sleep again another vision; how he should fall from his dominion, and feed among the wild beasts; and that, when he had lived in this manner in the desert for seven years, he should recover his dominion again. After he had seen this dream, he called the magicians together again, and inquired of them about it, and desired them to tell him what it signified; but when none of them could find out the meaning of the dream, nor discover it to the king, Daniel was the only person that explained it; and as he foretold, so it came to pass.”

Instead of dealing with issues that have been raised regarding the book of Daniel, this commentary will primarily focus on the message that is conveyed by the wording of the extant Aramaic text, the Greek version of Theodotion, and the ancient Greek translation. While the version of Theodotion reads much like the extant Aramaic text, the ancient Septuagint preserves a significantly different text that must have been based on an Aramaic text that is no longer extant.

In verse 5(2), the Septuagint text is shorter. “I saw a dream, and I became afraid, and fear fell upon me.”

The words of verses 6 through 9 (3 through 6) are not included in the Septuagint.

Part of an inscription of Nebuchadnezzar describes his building activity and illustrates his pride in what he had accomplished. The expressions somewhat reflect the wording of verse 30(27). “Their foundations opposite to the waters in cement and brick I founded, and of strong stone of zamat-hati, bulls and images, the building of its interior skillfully I constructed: tall cedars for their porticos I arranged, ikki wood, cedar wood, with coverings of copper, on domes and arches: work in bronze I overlaid substantially on its gates, bulls of strong bronze and molten images for their thresholds, strongly. Those large gates for the admiration of multitudes of men with wreathed work I filled: the abode of Imzu-Bel, the invincible castle of Babylon, which no previous king had effected, 4,000 cubits complete, the walls of Babylon whose banner is invincible, as a high fortress by the ford of the rising sun, I carried round Babylon.” After mentioning his building a tall tower “like a mountain,” Nebuchadnezzar is represented as saying: “The great gates whose walls I constructed with ikki and pine woods and coverings of copper I overlaid them, to keep off enemies from the front of the wall of unconquered Babylon. Great waters like the might of the sea I brought near in abundance and their passing by was like the passing by of the great billows of the western ocean: passages through them were none, but heaps of earth I heaped up, and embankments of brickwork I caused to be constructed. The fortresses I skillfully strengthened and the city of Babylon I fitted to be a treasure city.”

After what is designated as verse 33 (verse 30), the Septuagint includes words that Nebuchadnezzar spoke but which are not found in the Aramaic text nor in the Greek version of Theodotion. “I, Nabouchodonosor [Nebuchadnezzar], king of Babylon, was bound for seven years. They fed me grass like a bovine, and from the greenery of the earth I ate. And after seven years I gave my soul to supplication, and I made entreaty concerning my sins before the face of the Lord, the God of heaven, and I made supplication to the great God of gods concerning my acts of ignorance.” (The Greek word here translated “ignorance” is plural.) Next Nebuchadnezzar described what happened to him during the course of the seven years. “And my hairs became like the wings of an eagle; my nails like those of a lion [or the claws of lion]. My flesh and my heart were changed, and I walked about naked with the beasts of the earth. I saw a dream, and suspicions seized me, and after a time much sleep took hold of me and drowsiness befell me.” The reference to the change of his flesh and his heart may be understood to denote that he began to act like a wild animal, not like a human.

For the words in verse 35 (verse 32), there is no parallel in the Septuagint.

In verse 36 (verse 33), the Septuagint reads, “At that time my kingdom was restored to me, and my glory was given back to me.” Nebuchadnezzar once again functioned as king and enjoyed the glory or dignity associated with his restored position in the kingdom.

At what is the end of the Aramaic text, the Septuagint adds an extensive section of additional expressions that are attributed to Nebuchadnezzar. “From now on I will serve him; and from fear of him, trembling has seized me, and all his holy ones I praise. For the gods of the nations do not have might in themselves to bestow the kingdom of a king to another king and to kill and to make alive and to perform signs and great and fear-inspiring wonders and to change extraordinary matters, just as the God of heaven performed with me and changed my great [or important] matters. All the days of my kingdom I, for the sake of my soul [or my life], will offer sacrifices to the Most High for a pleasing aroma to the Lord, and I will do what is acceptable before him — I and my people, my nation and my territories that [are] under my authority. And as many as have spoken against the God of heaven and as many as are caught speaking [against him], these I will sentence to death.

According to the Septuagint, King Nebuchadnezzar wrote a circular letter to his subjects of all nations (each in the respective place or location) and territories, and to those speaking languages other than that of the native Babylonians, and to every generation of the people. He directed them to “praise the Lord, the God of heaven,” and to present sacrifices and offerings to him. With reference to the sacrifice and offering, the manner in which they were to be brought is described with the adverb endóxos, meaning “honorably” or “gloriously.” This may refer to presenting the sacrifice or offering in a dignified way as was befitting the Most High. The apparent reason for Nebuchadnezzar’s directive was what God had done for him — again seating him upon his throne, enabling him to possess his former authority as king and the kingdom or dominion among his people, and having his greatness restored to him.

Nebuchadnezzar’s message to “all the nations and all the territories and all those living in them” was: “May peace be increased to you at every time. And now I will show you the deeds that the great God has done with me. It, however, seemed good to me to show you and your wise men that he is God and that his wonders [are] great. His kingdom [is] a kingdom for the ages to come [literally, into the age]; his authority [is] from generation to generation.” Nebuchadnezzar “sent letters about everything that happened to him in his kingdom to all the nations that were under his dominion.”