How do you explain King Nebuchadnezzar’s use of the term “the high God” and his freedom in verbally recognizing God’s dominion (Dan. 4.2), when twelve months later he continued to believe he himself was the ultimate in power (Dan. 4:30)? Did Nebuchadnezzar actually speak of the same God as did Daniel? Or were these common terms for any worshiped one? He sounds like quite a politician.
Daniel chapter 4 is the third of a series of divine encounters of God with this ruler. The first one is recorded in Daniel 2—Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and Daniel’s interpretation with God’s help. The second one, found in chapter 3, was God’s deliverance of Daniel’s three friends from the fiery furnace. In chapter 4 we find that Nebuchadnezzar had an additional dream of a tree, which showed Nebuchadnezzar’s coming great humbling. But before he got into the dream, he made the statement concerning God that you refer to in your question. He seemed to want to tell everyone how great God is, in view of what he had seen God do.
Following the stating of the dream, we read about its fulfillment beginning in verses 28 and 29. Twelve months elapsed between the dream and the day that insanity came upon Nebuchadnezzar, as the dream foretold. On that day, he walked around viewing the splendor of the royal palace. And splendor there was, as Babylon was perhaps the most dazzling city in all the world of that day. The tops of the city’s walls were wide enough to allow a chariot to pass another chariot. Other characteristics of the city gave it the distinction of having at least one of the seven wonders of the world!
But Nebuchadnezzar had forgotten Daniel’s words. Verse 30 indicates his great pride. Proverbs 16:19 says, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.” Nebuchadnezzar was about to become insane for seven years, living as an animal out in fields. Incidentally, historians substantiate this period of insanity in Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Berasus, a Babylonian historian, referred to a strange sickness in Nebuchadnezzar’s later life.
After Nebuchadnezzar recovered from his insanity, he gave a testimony concerning God’s sovereign authority. Many Bible students believe that Nebuchadnezzar had become a genuine child of God.
The account shows us the folly of pride and the need to be what God wants us to be. Nebuchadnezzar was an empire seeker and builder. We find this mentality in all areas of life, including in our Christian circles. May God deliver us from this sin and enable us to build up people spiritually, not build “empires.”
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