Humanly speaking, and from a worldly perspective, the king
had every reason to be proud. He had conquered his whole world
and had built the great Babylonian Empire. In addition, he had
built the spectacular city of Babylon, whose massive walls,
hanging gardens, temple of Marduk and royal palace made it the
greatest city in the world. All had been done to glorify his
majesty. Power plus possessions plus prestige plus pride equal
poverty of soul for Nebuchadnezzar and a multitude of others.
THE KING’S PERVERSION (4:31-33). At the highest point
of self-glorification, Nebuchadnezzar’s mind snapped; for
seven years, he remained insane. Nebuchadnezzar’s
understanding and memory were gone, and all the powers of
the rational mind were broken. How careful we should be to
not do, or say, anything that might provoke God into
putting us out of our senses!
The mental disease Nebuchadnezzar suffered from is
rare. It is called “lycanthropy” (from the Greek word
lukos (lukos, wolf) and anthropos (anthropos, man), or
wolfman, because the person imagines himself to be a wolf,
a bear, or some other animal. This disease is known to
have afflicted, among others George III of England and
Otto of Bavaria.
Lycanthropy is the basis of the “werewolf” legends.
Nebuchadnezzar thought and acted like cattle (Aramaic for
“oxen” or “bulls”) for seven years.
In obvious reference to the king’s unusual malady,
Berossus, a Babylonian priest of the third century B.C.,
records that Nebuchadnezzar, having reigned forty-three
years, was suddenly invaded by sickness (Contra Apionem
According to Megasthenes, who lived form 313-280 B.C.,
the Chaldeans had told him that Nebuchadnezzar, while on
the roof of his palace, having completed his military
conquests, “was possessed by some god or other.”
Eusebius, in his Praeparatio Evanelica (9:41), quotes
Abydenus concerning Nebuchadnezzar in his last days “being
possessed by some god or other” and who, having uttered a
prophecy concerning the coming Persian conqueror,
Sir Henry Rawlinson recovered a damaged, Babylonian
inscription by Nebuchadnezzar, which is translated as
For four years the seat of my kingdom in my city . . .
did not rejoice my heart. In all my dominions I did not
build a high place of power, the precious treasures of my
kingdom I did not lay out. In the worship of Merodach my
lord, the joy of my heart in Babylon, the city of my
sovereignty, I did not sing his praises and I did not
furnish his altars, nor did I clear out the canals
(Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scriptural
Records, 185, 440 n. 29).
Nebuchadnezzar’s malady is a historical fact,
documented from various quarters. His case seems much like
that of the man with an evil spirit in Mark 5, whose
dwelling was among the tombs, and who was shunned by
society. God’s rule extends over the demonic forces and He
is able to overrule their evil for His good purposes,
which are always righteous and just. In Saul’s case, God
used an evil spirit to punish the king for his apostasy.
Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and
an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him (1 Samuel
Nebuchadnezzar munched on grass for the predicted
amount of time. Whether demon-possessed or mentally ill,
his appearance was as grotesque as his pride was in the
eyes of God. His body, no longer clothed in purple and
fine linen, grew hairs like feathers of an eagle. He was
wet with the dew of heaven; his fingernails and toenails
like the claws of birds.
The iron and bronze surrounding the stump may indicate
that Nebuchadnezzar munched on grass in one of the
palace’s parks where animals were kept, much like a modern
God probably used this dream to prepare Daniel for his
vision of the four beasts, described in chapter seven.
Daniel must have watched in horror as the most powerful
monarch humankind would ever offer went mad—acting like a
beast. It seems likely that Daniel remained prime
minister, and protected Nebuchadnezzar during his