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Nebuchadnezzar the king, unto all people, nations, and
CHAP. IV. NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S MADNESS.
Nebuchadnezzar makes a proclamation to all peoples of the earth, in which he extols the power and greatness of the God of Israel (vv. 1—3, 34-37). The occasion of the proclamation is explained in vv. 4—33. Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, which the 'Chaldeans' were unable to interpret, but which was explained to him by Daniel. It was a symbolical prediction that a great humiliation would overtake the king: for seven years his reason would leave him; he would be deposed from his high estate, and driven to consort with cattle in the open fields, until he should learn that the Most High was the disposer of the kingdoms of the earth (ʊʊ. 4—27). At the end of twelve months, as the king was contemplating from his palace the city which he had built, the prediction was suddenly verified, and Nebuchadnezzar was bereft of his reason for seven years (vv. 28-33). At the end of that time he recovered; and as an acknowledgement of God's power and goodness towards him he issued his present proclamation (vv. 34-37). The actual confession is confined to vv. 2, 3, 37: the rest of the proclamation consisting of a narration of Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its fulfilment, which in vv. 19 -33 lapses even into the third person.
The chapter, like the preceding ones, has a didactic purpose. The character of the Chaldaean king is idealized: he is represented as the typical despot, proud, self-sufficient, and godless; and an incident of his life, recorded (probably) by tradition, is made the basis of a narrative illustrating the truth, that 'Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall' (Prov. xvi. 18). In point of fact, Nebuchadnezzar is shewn by his inscriptions to have been an extremely reverent and religious king (Introd., p. xxv f.); and though, no doubt, in the 'India House Inscription' he narrates with pride his buildings in Babylon, he both begins and ends with a full acknowledgement of his dependence upon Marduk, and with prayers for the continuance of his blessing. That he did not know the God of Israel was, naturally, a result of the circumstances of his position.
1-3. The Prologue of Nebuchadnezzar's proclamation.
that dwell in all the earth] The hyperbole seems to us extravagant; but it must be remembered that 'all the earth' in the O.T. has not the meaning which we attach to the expression, but denotes (substantially) Western Asia, from Elam and Media on the E., to Egypt and the 'isles of the sea' (i.e. the E. part of the Mediterranean Sea1) on the West, and that the greater part of this did fall within the real or nominal sovereignty of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings (cf. of Nebuchadnezzar himself, Jer. xxv. 26, "all the kingdoms which are upon the face of the earth," and the preceding enumeration, vv. 17-25; xxvii. 5-6). Standing titles of the Assyrian kings are 'king of multitudes' (=of the world), 'king of the four quarters of the earth'; and the same titles are adopted by Nabu-na'id, the last king of Babylon (KB. iii. 2, p. 97).
1 Though of course a few places to the W. of this were known, e.g. Tarshish.
languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I thought it good to shew the signs and wonders 2 that the high God hath wrought toward me. How great 3 are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: I saw a dream which made me afraid, 5 and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head
The Persian kings call themselves similarly, 'the great king, the king of kings, the king of the lands, the king of this great earth' (RP. ix. 73 ff.).
Peace be multiplied unto you] so vi. 25: cf. 1 Pet. i. 2; 2 Pet. i. 2. 2. I thought it good] better (R. V.) It hath seemed good unto me. to shew] to declare (ii. 4). 'Shew' suggests here, at least to modern readers, a wrong sense.
signs and wonders] similarly in Darius's decree (vi. 27). Cf. 'signs and portents,' Deut. iv. 34, vi. 22, vii. 19 al. (where the Targ. of Pseudo-Jon. represents 'portents' by the same word 'wonders,' which is used here). The meaning is, significant and surprising evidences of power. The phraseology of the proclamation, both in vv. 2, 3, and also in vv. 34, 35, 37, betrays its Jewish author.
the high God] God Most High (iii. 26).
toward] lit. with, i.e. (in dealing) with: cf. Ps. lxxxvi. 17 Heb. 3. an everlasting kingdom (vn)] cf. Ps. cxlv. 13 (
is from, &c.] more exactly, (endureth) with generation and generation (i.e. successive generations): so v. 34 (Aram. 31). For 'with,' cf. also vii. 2, and Ps. lxxii. 5 Heb. The thought of this and the preceding clause, as v. 34 b, Ps. cxlv. 13: cf. also ii. 44, vii. 146, 186.
4-18. Nebuchadnezzar describes his dream, which, as the wise men of Babylon were unable to interpret it, he laid before Daniel.
4. at rest] or at ease, prosperous. The word suggests the idea of contentment and security,-in a good or a bad sense, according to the context (Job xvi. 12, Ps. cxxii. 6; Job xii. 6, Ps. lxxiii. 12).
flourishing] The word is applied properly to a tree, and means spreading, luxuriant (Deut. xii. 2; 1 K. xiv. 23, al.). A.V., R.V., 'green,' which is correct only in so far as a luxuriant tree is also commonly a 'green' one: it is used figuratively of persons, as here, in Ps. xcii. 14 (cf. lii. 8).
5. the thoughts] imaginations (without the art.); cf. R.V. marg. The word is a peculiar one, and is found only here in the O.T. The idea expressed by it is probably that of fancyings, imaginings (in Syr. it means a mirage); in the Targums it is used especially (like the cognate verb) of sinful imaginations, as Is. lvii. 17 (for the Heb. 'way'), Ez. xxxviii. 10.
visions of my head] ii. 28.
6 troubled me. Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make 7 known unto me the interpretation of the dream. 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, 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: 10 that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. Thus were
troubled me] alarmed me: cf. v. 19, v. 6, 10, vii. 15, 28; also v. 9. The corresponding Hebrew word means to perturb or dismay.
6. The 'wise men' of Babylon (ii. 12) were summoned before the king, as on the occasion of his previous dream (ii. 2).
7. the magicians, the enchanters, the Chaldeans, and the determiners (of fates)] see on i. 21, ii. 2, and ii. 27.
8. at the last] It is difficult to understand how the Aram. can bear this meaning; though no doubt something substantially similar is what is intended. Behrmann renders, 'And (so it was) till another came in before me, (even) Daniel'; and Bevan (changing a point), ‘And yet another came in before me, (even) Daniel.'
according to the name of my god] viz. Bel. The 'Bel' in Belteshazzar is not really the name of the god, but (as explained on i. 7) is part of the word balâṭsu, 'his life'; but it may be only an assonance, not an etymology, which the king is represented as expressing,-just as Hebrew writers say, for instance, that Cain or Moses was so called because of the verbs I have gotten,' 'I have drawn out,' although philologically Cain cannot possibly mean 'gotten,' or Moses 'drawn out."
in whom is the spirit, &c.] imitated, it seems, from Gen. xli. 38 (of Joseph), 'a man in whom the spirit of God is.' On the sense of 'spirit' in the O.T., see on Joel ii. 28 (in the Cambridge Bible).
the holy gods] Nebuchadnezzar expresses himself as a polytheist : though in vv. 3, 34, 35 he uses language indistinguishable from that of pure monotheism. The same expression occurs in the Phoenician inscription of Eshmunazar, king of Sidon (3-4 cent. B.C.), lines 9 and 221. On the sense attaching to the term 'holy' (which has here hardly any ethical connotation, and means rather what we should express by divine'), see Hastings' Dict. of the Bible, ii. 395-7; and cf. Sanday-Headlam, Comm. on the Epistle to the Romans, on i. 7.
master of the magicians] see ii. 48.
troubleth thee] forceth, constraineth thee, i.e. reduces thee to straits.
Hogarth, Authority and Archæology (1899), p. 137 f.
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. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height there- 11 of reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: the leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit 12 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. I saw in 13 the visions of my head upon my bed, and behold, a watcher
10-17. Nebuchadnezzar's dream was of a mighty tree, the head of which towered to heaven, while its branches sheltered, and afforded nutriment for, the beasts and fowl of the earth: as he watched it, he heard the command given that it should be hewn down to the earth, and only its stump left standing. For the imagery, cf. Ez. xxxi. 3—9, 10 ff. (where the Assyrian is compared to a magnificent cedar, towering up loftily in Lebanon, but suddenly and ignominiously cut down), esp. v. 6; and the dream of Xerxes, recorded in Herod. vii. 19, in which the king saw himself crowned with the shoot of an olive-tree, the boughs of which covered the whole earth (τοὺς κλάδους γῆν πᾶσαν ἐπισχεῖν), until suddenly the crown about his head disappeared.
11, 12. The thoughts expressed by the symbolism of the dream are the central and commanding position taken in the world by Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom, its power, splendour, and prosperity, and the protection and support afforded by it, not only to those who strictly belonged to it, but also to all others who sought to enjoy the advantages supplied by it.
11. grew] was grown.
12. meat] in the old sense of the word (see on Am. v. 22; and cf. Gen. i. 29, 30), food in general, not what we now call 'meat.' So v. 21. The Aram. word occurs in Syr. and the Targums; and twice in the Heb. of the O.T., Gen. xlv. 23 (A.V. 'meat,' R.V. 'victual'), 2 Ch. xi. 23 (A.V., R.V. 'victual').
had shadow...dwelt...was fed of it] Better, were sheltering..., dwelling..., was being fed from it. The tenses of the original denote what was habitual, and therefore might be observed as taking place continuously at the time of the dream. Cf. for the thought Ez. xxxi. 6.
13. a watcher] i.e. not a guardian, but a wakeful one (Aq., Symm., ¿ypńyopos, Vulg. vigil); so vv. 17, 23. The term denotes an angel,or, possibly, a particular class of angels,-so called, either as being ever ready to fulfil the Divine behests, or as being ever wakeful for some particular purpose (e.g. praise). It is of frequent occurrence in the Book of Enoch (in the Greek typhyopo), where it is applied usually (i. 5, x. 9, 15, xii. 4, xiii. 10, xiv. 1, 3, xv. 2, xvi. 1, 2, xci. 15) to the fallen angels, but it is also (xii. 3, and perhaps xii. 2) used of the holy angels, though it is not perfectly clear (see the note in Dillmann's edition, p. 104 f.) whether it denotes them generally, or whether it is the name of a particular class (cf. Charles on i. 5, xxxix. 12): the use of
14 and a holy one came down from heaven; 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 15 away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: 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 16 with the beasts in the grass of the earth: let his heart be
the synonyms 'the holy angels who watch' in xx. I (in the Ethiopic, but not in the Greek text1) of six archangels, and 'those who sleep not' in xxxix. 12, 13, xl. 2, lxi. 12, lxxi. 7, of certain exalted angels who incessantly hymn the Almighty, and guard His throne, does not entirely remove the uncertainty. The same word which used here is also often used of angels in Syriac; see Payne Smith, Thes. Syr. col. 2843-4.
and a holy one] another term denoting an angel: in the O.T., Job v. 1, xv. 15, Ps. lxxxix. 5, 7, Zech. xiv. 5, Dan. viii. 13 [A. V. ‘saint' in these passages: see the note on viii. 13]; and repeatedly in the Book of Enoch, i. 9 (whence Jude 14), xii. 2, xiv. 23, xxxix. 5, &c. (see Charles' note on i. 9).
14. The strength and magnificence of the great tree are all to be stripped from it.
aloud] lit. with might, as iii. 4.
Hew down &c.] who are addressed, is not stated: as in other similar cases (Is. xiii. 2, xl. 3, lvii. 14, Jer. iv. 5, &c.), those whose duty it would naturally be to fulfil such a command are intended.
15. The destruction of the tree, however, is not to be total: a stump is to be left, which may ultimately grow again.
even in a band of iron and brass] Unless it might be supposed that it was customary, for any purpose, to place a metal band round the stump of a tree which had been cut down, the figure, it seems, must be here abandoned. Whether, however, that be the case or not, the reference, as the interpretation shews, is to something which Nebuchadnezzar would experience during his madness,--probably, either (Keil) the loss of mental freedom, or (Prince) the physical restraint and confinement to which he would naturally have then to submit.
in the tender grass of the field] There would be nothing remarkable in a tree being surrounded by grass; the tree, it is evident, must symbolize something for which such a position would be unnatural. What that is appears more distinctly in the sequel.
let his portion be, &c.] Let him share with them in the herbage of
herbage] the word used is a wider one than either 'grass' or 'tender (i.e. young) grass,' and includes vegetables and small shrubs (Gen. i. II, 12).
16. his heart] i.e. his intelligence: let him receive the understanding 1 See p. 356 in Charles' edition (Oxford, 1893).