Decoding Daniel - an in depth Bible study of the book of Daniel

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Daniel 4

Outline and Background

The King's Praise - Daniel 4:1-3

The King's Perplexity and Positiveness - Daniel 4:4-9

The King's Problem - Daniel 4:10-18

The King's Punishment - Daniel 4:19-26

The King's Procrastination - Daniel 4:27-29

The King's Pride and Perversion - Daniel 4:30-33

The King's Preservation - Daniel 4:34-37

Application and Typical Prophecies

The King's Pride and Perversion - Daniel 4:30-33

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 1:20).

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, “immediately disappeared.”

Sir Henry Rawlinson recovered a damaged, Babylonian inscription by Nebuchadnezzar, which is translated as follows:

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 16:14).

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 zoo.

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 seven-year malady.

Bible Studies by Bob Conway

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Book of James

Life and Passion of Christ

The Holy Spirit

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Life of the Apostle Paul

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