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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Daniel 4

Verses 1-3

HOMILETICS

SECT. XIV.—THE ROYAL TESTIMONY (Chap. Daniel 4:1-3)

In this chapter we have a remarkable testimony from Nebuchadneszar himself [103]. The date usually assigned to it is about ten years after the erection of the golden image, probably towards the latter end of his life [104]. The king had still to be brought down from his pride. What was not unusual in the absence of a written revelation, a dream, was employed for this purpose. See Job 33:14-17. The dream, with its interpretation and fulfilment in a lengthened and humiliating affliction, made effectual [105]. As the result, we have the noble testimony in this chapter. Calvin observes that Daniel has no other object in relating the edict than to show the fruit of conversion in Nebuchadnezzar. The testimony remarkable in itself; still more so from the quarter from which it came—a king of kings, the head of the first great universal monarchy, a king who had been all his life a heathen and a devoted worshipper of idols. The testimony given in the form of a royal epistle, proclamation, or edict, addressed to all the subjects of his extensive empire. The chapter an example of the varied contents of the Bible. Out of the mouth of heathen monarchs, as well as of “babes and sucklings,” God able to ordain strength and perfect praise. The proclamation sets forth Jehovah’s greatness, truth, and justice; His supremacy as governor of the universe; His overruling providence among the nations of the world; His sovereignty in doing all according to His own will among angels and men, that will being the most perfect justice; His remarkable dealings with the king himself; and, finally, a humble confession of his sinfulness and pride, with the humiliating chastisement which it had entailed upon him. The testimony addressed to the various peoples under his rule with a view to their conversion to the only true God, the God of Israel. The whole breathes a spirit of sincerity and humility, of gratitude to God and good-will to men. The opening salutation probably more than a mere form. A deep earnestness and warm admiration indicated in the manner in which he refers to God’s dealings with himself. “How great are His signs, and how mighty are His wonders!” (Daniel 4:2-3). The proclamation also contains a high testimony in favour of Daniel, as an inspired prophet in whom was “the spirit of the holy gods,” and as a faithful counsellor of the king. The repetition of what Daniel had said in the interpretation of a former dream, many years before, regarding the “everlasting kingdom” which God was to set up, indicative of the deep impression which the prophet’s words had left upon his mind. The three first verses of the chapter, improperly forming the concluding ones in the Hebrew Bible and Greek version, serve as the preface or preamble to the edict. Among the lessons of this part of the testimony, as well as of the testimony in general, are the following:—

[103] “Nebuchadnezzar the king unto all people,” &c. Adam Clarke says: “This is a regular decree, and is one of the most ancient on record, and no doubt was copied from the state-papers of Babylon. Daniel has preserved it in the original language.” Grotius observes: “Daniel gives this wonderful history, not in his own words, but in those of the published edict itself, that there might remain no doubt about its trustworthiness.” Calvin says: “Daniel here gives the edict under the king’s name and person, afterwards relates what happened to the king, and at length returns to the king’s personal testimony; the change of the person speaking, however, not at all obscuring the sense.” This change of the speaker has been made an objection to the genuineness of the book. Hengstenberg remarks in reply: “We cannot by any means allow that this happens unwarily. With the exception of Daniel 4:19, where ‘the king’ stands for ‘I,’ which calls for no remark, because the same thing is found repeatedly in the decrees of the Persian kings (compare, e.g., Ezra 7:14-15), the use of the third person commences just where the narrative of the fulfilment of the divine threat of punishment begins (Daniel 4:28), and ends where the description of the sad ailment of Nebuchadnezzar comes to a close (Daniel 4:33). His restoration he describes again in the first person. This cannot possibly be accidental; and if not, then no argument can be taken from it against the genuineness, although we cannot assign with certainty the reason of the change It may be conjectured that Daniel disposed this part in a briefer or more detailed and exact narrative than as it stood in the edict (so Calvin); and now, to be chargeable with no falsehood, used the third person.”

[104] The Septuagint has introduced the words “in the eighteenth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,” which Ewald has adopted, but arbitrarily making it “in the twenty-eighth year,”&c.—Keil.

[105] Adam Clarke thinks that very probably Nebuchadnezzar was a true convert, that he relapsed no more into idolatry, and that he died in the faith of the God of Israel. Dr. Cumming remarks: “This closing epistle addressed by the King Nebuchadnezzar to his subjects breathes a quiet and a beautiful spirit, that indicates to my mind a change in his heart, a transformation of his character, a true and an actual conversion to God.” Among the older commentators, Willet thinks “the more probable and certain opinion is that Nebuchadnezzar in the end was saved.” He quotes Josephus, who Bays that all his life long alter this he acknowledged God and gave praise and glory to Him; Augustine, who remarks that, unlike Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar was humbled and so saved; and Theodoret, who contrasts the end of Nebuchadnezzar with that of Belshazzar, the one being foreseen to be amended by his correction, the other to be incorrigible. So Bullinger, Osiander, and Œcolampadius. Calvin thinks that “though in this edict Nebuchadnezzar does not describe what is required of a pious man long trained in God’s school, yet he shows how he had benefited under God’s rod, by attributing to Him the height of power, and adding the praise of justice and rectitude, while he confesses himself guilty.” Matthew Henry says, “Whether he continued in the same good mind that here he seems to have been in, we are not told, nor doth anything appear to the contrary but that he did; and if so great a blasphemer and persecutor did find mercy, he was not the last.” Dr. Taylor quotes Scott’s remark that “the beginning and conclusion of the chapter lead us at least to hope with prevailing confidence that Nebuchadnezzar was at last made a monument of the power of divine grace,” yet thinks that the conversion was still an imperfect one, as the king still speaks of the name of his god and of the spirit of the holy gods, as if, while acknowledging the supremacy of Jehovah, he still clung to the worship of inferior divinities. Hengstenberg, who seems to be of the same opinion, remarks, in reply to an objection made by Eichhorn and others against the genuineness of the edict, from the narrator making the king speak now as an orthodox Jew, and now again as an idolater: “Just this mode of representation would be expected in case the edict were genuine, and certainly affords a presumption that it is. It cannot be imagined that Nebuchadnezzar rooted out the inveterate superstition so quickly from his mind that the traces of it should not have appeared in connection with what he had learned from the instruction of Daniel. That a later Jew, bold in his fictions, would not have been satisfied with such a conversion of Nebuchadnezzar, is clear from the attempt of very many Jewish and Christian expositors to make the conversion as radical and complete as possible.” Dr. Pusey observes, “Although Nebuchadnezzar’s two first convictions of the greatness of the God of the Jews faded in time, we know of no relapse after the last. God triumphed at last, and won Nebuchadnezzar, as He does so many relapsing Christians.” Dr. Cox judiciously remarks, “How far this last return to the sentiments and expressions of religion was genuine, and whether we are to regard Nebuchadnezzar as finally converted to God, may be regarded as one of those questions which, while we are benevolently desirous of giving it the most favourable construction, must be referred to the great mass of unfathomable mysteries. The evidence we have a right to demand in general of a renewal of character must be proportioned to the nature of past delinquencies [and, may we not add, to the individual’s circumstances], and it often requires much holy skill to pilot our judgment between the Scylla and Charybdis of uncharitableness and laxity.”

1. The power and efficacy of divine grace. The proclamation of the king an apparent evidence of a change of mind and heart where it might least be expected. Nebuchadnezzar apparently a case of remarkable though imperfect conversion. Among the evidences given of an inward change are—pride in a mighty monarch acknowledged and abandoned; a formerly idolatrous king now a preacher of the true God to his subjects; sin confessed, its chastisement related, and repentance declared. “How hardly shall they that have riches enter the kingdom of God!” Yet here is one who at the time was the richest on the face of the earth, apparently made to enter it as a little child. “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.” “Not many mighty, not many noble are called.” Yet, thanks to sovereign and omnipotent grace, some are. Nothing too difficult for the grace that, as we may believe, converted Nebuchadnezzar. No situation too high, as none is too mean, for its operation. “Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shall become a plain.”

2. Encouragement to pray and labour for the conversion of others. Many a prayer for the king’s conversion doubtless offered by Daniel and his three friends. These at length answered apparently in this edict. The testimony of Daniel’s life and lips at length effectual. His faithfulness to the king (Daniel 4:27) rewarded by the king’s testimony for God. The influence, though insensible, of a spiritual and consistent Christian’s life, accompanied by earnest persevering prayer, always powerful, and often efficacious in the most unlikely places and persons. “Ye are my witnesses.” Hopeful’s conversion mainly due to the spirit exhibited by Christian and Faithful in Vanity Fair. The trial of the three faithful Jews in connection with the fiery furnace now made to bear fruit. “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand.” The privilege of believers to be the “salt of the earth,” whether in a palace or a prison.

3. Thanks and praise to be rendered to God in every situation. Thanks especially due after mercies received and deliverance experienced. God’s gracious dealings with ourselves to be made know to others for His glory and their good. “Come, hear, all ye that fear God, and I will declare what He hath done for my soul.” “Many shall see it and fear, and put their trust in the Lord.” “Go home to thy friends and tell them how great things God hath done for thee.” No situation too lofty for making public acknowledgment of God and His mercies. Nebuchadnezzar an example to kings and those in high places. Not ashamed to confess God before his court, his princes, servants, and subjects. A throne a meet place to acknowledge Him by whom “kings reign and princes decree justice.” “Whosoever shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father and the holy angels.” Confession of God a natural duty. In Nebuchadnezzar the spontaneous effusion of a grateful and childlike spirit. “Whoso offereth praise glorifieth me.” May not this heathen king, recovered from his madness, put many a professing Christian to shame?

4. God’s works to be viewed with admiration and praise. The king struck with wonder and astonishment at those works. “How great are His signs! and how mighty are His wonders!” God’s works, whether in creation or in providence, wonderful both for their goodness and greatness. He is “fearful in praises, doing wonders.” The song of the glorified,—“Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty,”—echoed back from earth: “Thou art great, and doest wondrous things; thou art God alone.” Man’s sin not to regard the operation of his hands. “He hath made His wonderful works to be remembered” (Psalms 111:4). These wonders visible in Nature, Providence, and Grace. Discoverable in each individual’s case as well as in Nebuchadnezzar’s. The greatest wonder of all, the gift, incarnation, and death of the Son of God for man’s redemption, and, as the effect of it, the restoration of ruined millions to God’s friendship, family, and likeness. Men turned from the madness and the misery of sin to a life of wisdom, holiness, and peace, like Nebuchadnezzar’s deliverance, “the doing of the Lord, and marvellous in our eyes.”

Verses 4-26

HOMILETICS

SECT. XV.—THE DREAM OF THE TREE AND ITS INTERPRETATION (Chap. Daniel 4:4-26)

We come to the occasion of the royal proclamation. This was a dream and its remarkable fulfilment, the second prophetic dream vouchsafed to the king. The present one bearing more especially on the king himself. Its results, however, such as to affect his whole empire, but more particularly the Jews that were in it. The dream and its fulfilment an important step towards the release of the Jews, and at the same time towards the spread of the knowledge of the true God, and the preparation for the advent of the promised Messiah. We notice—

I. The dream itself. And here observe—

1. The time and circumstances of it (Daniel 4:4). “I was at rest in mine house.” “At rest,” after his conflicts and conquests. Probably calculating on ending his days in peace and prosperity, and enjoying the fruits of all his toils and hardships. Like the rich fool in the parable, “Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease; eat, drink, and be merry” (Luke 12:16-21). A godless rest one soon to be disturbed. A poor rest that which the world can give. Job’s experience: “I said, I shall die in my nest.” Yet, how soon was that nest to be rifled! “Flourishing in my palace.” Nebuchadnezzar now in the heyday of his prosperity, “flourishing like a green bay-tree.” Everywhere successful in his campaigns, and now the established head of the first universal empire. In his “palace,” not in his tent or on the battlefield. A palace, however, unable to exclude death from our thoughts or disturbing dreams from our slumbers. A prince’s palace as liable as a peasant’s cottage to the upbraidings of conscience, and to the forebodings of death and a judgment to come.

2. The contents of the dream (Daniel 4:10-17). Here we have

(1.) An immense, wide-spreading, fruit-bearing tree, a tree in its appearance and extent probably something like the banyan of the East, and seen still growing [106]. A large and noble tree, such as are common in Oriental countries; a well-known symbol for a powerful monarch or a prosperous individual. So of Pharaoh and his power (Ezekiel 31:3; Ezekiel 17:22).

(2.) A command from a superior being to cut it down; that being called a “watcher and a holy one” [107], having all the appearance of an angel, while “the matter” is said by him to be “from the decree [108] of the watchers, and the demand [109] by the word of the holy ones” (Daniel 4:17), as if coming forth from the celestial council.

(3.) The slump to be left in the ground, and made firm by a band of iron and brass [110], forbidding attempts to uproot it.

(4.) An intimation, by the same voice, that by the tree and its stump was represented a man.

(5.) The command that a man’s heart should be taken from him, and that “a beast’s heart be given him instead,” indicating the privation of intellect, with the appetites and desires of a beast of the field.

(6.) The continuance of this degradation to be a period here mystically termed “seven times” [111].

[106] “The tree grew and was strong.” “The perfects רְבָה (rebhah) and תְּקִיף (teqiph) express not the condition of the tree, but its increasing greatness and growth. Ch. B. Michaelis properly remarks, that Nebuchadnezzar saw the tree gradually grow and become always the stronger.”—Keil.

[107] “A watcher and a holy one.” “The decree of the watchers” (Daniel 4:13; Daniel 4:17). עִיר (’ir), עוּר (’oor), to watch, be awake. According to Gesenius, a name given to angels, as watching over the world and the affairs of men. The Sept, Greek Venetian, and the Hebrew versions have “angels;” while Aquila and Symmachus have ἐγρήγορος, and the Vulgate “vigil,” a watcher. Bertholdt compares them with the seven Amshaspands of the Persians, who are called “watchers of the world.” Keil opposes the idea that the language is formed in accordance with this Persian representation. The term “watcher” is applied by the Fathers and in the apocryphal Book of Enoch to evil angels as well as good ones. Nork thinks that Daniel here spoke the astrological language of the Babylonian Magi. More correct, however, to say that Nebuchadnezzar thus spoke. According to Calvin, a certain angel was doubtless intended, angels being so called either from their sleepless nature, or from their office as ministers of God’s wakeful providence, and as being always awake to their duty. From Daniel 4:17, Corn, a Lapide thinks the tutelary angel of Babylon is meant. The term “holy one” added to indicate a good angel, the ו vaw, “and,” being redundant, or rather denoting even, or “that is.” So Grotius and others. Hengstenberg remarks that the whole is made perfectly clear from the Babylonian religious ideas, with which of necessity the divine revelation made to Nebuchadnezzar would be mixed up in his mind. He quotes from Diodorus Siculus, who says that to the star-gods (the five planets) thirty others are subordinated, whom they call “gods of counsel,” θεοὶ βουλαίοι (עירין, irin), half of whom have the superintendence of the regions under the earth, while the others overlook what is going on among men and in heaven. Keil observes: “The ‘decree of the watchers’ is a conception not Biblical, but Babylonian-heathen. According to the doctrine of Scripture, the angels do not determine the fate of men, but God alone does, around whom the angels stand as ministering spirits to fulfil His commands and to make known His counsels to men.” To instruct the king that his religious conceptions of the gods, the עירין (irin), “watchers,” or θεοὶ βουλαίοι, were erroneous, was not necessary for the purpose of the divine message, which was to lead Nebuchadnezzar to an acknowledgment of the Most High, Daniel doing this afterwards by explaining that the decree was from the Most High Himself.

[108] “This matter is by the decree of the watchers,” פִּתְגָּמָא (pithgama), definite form of פִּתְגַּם (pithgam), “matter” (Daniel 3:16, at which see note). Here, a message. “By the decree,” בִּגְּזֵרַת (bigzerath), “by or in the decree;” from גְּזַר (gezar), to “cut, mark off,” hence to “define, determine;” whence the term גָּזְרִין (gozrin), to denote “astrologers,” as defining the fortunes of individuals from the position of the stars at the time of their birth, or as dividing the sky into various signs, like the ancient augurs. “The message consists in or rests on the decree of the watchers.” גְּזֵרָה (gezerah), the unchangeable decision, the “divine inevitable decree imposed on men and human things” (Buxtorf); the Fate in which the Chaldeans believed.—Keil.

[109] “The demand,” שְׁאֵלְתָּא (sheelta), a request, inquiry, or demand, from שְׁאַל (sheal), “to ask.” Keil, however, thinks that the meaning, lying in the etymon, request or question, is not here suitable, but only the derivative meaning, matter, as the object of the request or inquiry. “The word (or utterance) of the holy ones (or watchers) is the matter.” Older interpreters regarded the word as indicating the petition either of angels or men. Calvin and Junius refer it to the angels who accused Nebuchadnezzar before God, and who urged him by their prayers to humble the proud and exalt himself alone. Lyranus, whom Gaussen follows, thinks of the prayers of the saints in Babylon. They prayed, says M. Gaussen, for the conversion of the king, and God answers their prayers by bringing him for a time into the deepest humiliation. Polanus and Willet apply it to the angels, as only desiring that God’s decree might be accepted, and that the sentence given in heaven by God might be executed by men upon earth. Henry remarks: “The saints on earth petitioned for it, as well as the angels in heaven, God’s suffering people crying to Him for vengeance.”

[110] “A band of iron and brass.” Keil thinks the idea is not congruous to the stump of a tree, and that the words refer certainly to Nebuchadnezzar, though not to be understood, with Jerome and others, of the binding of the madman with chains, but figuratively or spiritually of the withdrawal of free self-determination through the fetter of madness (comp. Psalms 107:10; Job 36:8). The interpretation, however, refers it to the making his kingdom secure to him after his affliction (Daniel 4:26).

[111] “Seven times.” The expression enigmatical and the meaning uncertain, though probably denoting seven years, the usual interpretation.—Josephus, Junius, Œcolampadius, &c. Grotius thinks seven years intended, according to the Chaldean mode of speaking, a year being the most common measure of time. Bullinger and others regard the term as indefinite. So Calvin, who, however, thinks it to indicate a long period, and probably seven years. Keil considers the duration of the divine punishment decreed against Nebuchadnezzar, for purposes connected with the history of redemption, uncertain whether to be understood as years, months, or weeks. So Hengstenberg, who remarks: “It must not be said that עִדַּן (’iddan), chap. Daniel 7:25, Daniel 12:7, occurs in the sense of years: it stands in both passages properly, as here, in the independent sense of time; the more strict definition is not in the word, but is only given afterwards. But even granting that a definite period was pointed out, we should not be warranted to assume seven years any more than seven other portions of time, however large or small they might be. Nor is a period of seven years at all required for the occurrence of what is related in the narrative.” Some, mentioned in Poole’s Synopsis, have supposed that the seven years were changed into seven mouths at the prayers of Daniel; while some Jewish writers, as Aben Ezra and Abarbanel, considered the time to be seven weeks. There is little doubt, however, that the period ordinarily understood, viz., seven years, is the correct one. Dr. Rule remarks that “times” for years is not unusual, and the phrase reminds one of the Gothic and Anglo-Saxon use of winters for years, as in Luke 2:42; John 8:57. The term “times” is well known in prophetic Scripture, especially in the expression “time, times, and half a time,” occurring both in Daniel and the Apocalypse, and is always understood of years, whether literal or figurative. Some students of prophecy have considered the “seven times” of Nebuchadnezzar’s madness as at once symbolical and prophetical, and as related both to the “seven times” of Israel’s threatened chastisement (Leviticus 26:18; Leviticus 26:24; Leviticus 26:28), and the “time, times, and half a time,” which is simply their half. Mr. Birks, in his “Elements of Prophecy,” remarks: “The king himself represents the succession of imperial sovereignty till the kingdom of Christ should come; the ‘seven times’ that passed over him must therefore represent the whole period of debasement in the Gentile kingdom, from the times of Nebuchadnezzar till their full redemption.” “These ‘seven times’ of the Gentiles,” says Mr. Bickersteth, “began with the subjection of Israel under Shalmaneser.” Following Mr. Birks and Mr. Bickersteth, Mr. Guinness (“Approaching Time of the End”) says, “The vision of the tree is not more symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar’s seven years’ insanity, than that incident itself is typical of certain moral and chronological features of the succession of Gentile monarchies, of which Nebuchadnezzar was both head and representative.” These features, he remarks, have been ignorance of God, idolatry, and cruel persecution of the saints—Nebuchadnezzar’s own previous character. The incidents in his life too, he thinks, answer to events in the scale of nations and centuries with which history makes us familiar. So the seven years’ bestial degradation of the monarch during his insanity answer to the period of Gentile rule represented by the wild beasts of a subsequent vision.

3. Its effect upon the king (Daniel 4:5). His disturbance probably from the apprehension that the dream was of a supernatural character and foreboded evil. Dreams believed at that period to be often of such a character [112]. Often productive of powerful emotions, both of pleasure and pain, though more frequently the latter. Dreams in general “from the multitude of business;” yet not always so. The mind in sleep accessible to God and to good or evil spirits. “Thou scarest me with dreams.” If a dream can so disturb, what the reality? A relief often to find that it was only a dream. Yet dreams graciously employed in the economy of divine providence (Job 33:15-18). Sometimes made to contribute both to the preserving of a life and the saving of a soul.

[112] The reader of the Iliad will remember the words, expressive of the confident belief of the period, which Homer puts into the mouth of one of his heroes—

Καὶ γὰρ τʼ ὄναρ ἐκ Διὸς ἐστίν.—Iliad, A. 63.

“For even a dream too is from Jove.”

4. The search for its interpretation (Daniel 4:6). The king anxious to have his dream explained. Henry observes: “When God gives us general warnings of His judgments, we should be desirous to understand His mind in them.” The interpretation of dreams an ancient belief. Such belief founded on a reality. The evidence of a connection between the visible and invisible worlds. The interpretation of dreams a study and profession in Babylon. One of the forms of soothsaying, and carried on for private gain. Generally an imposture, and failing when most needed. Joseph’s elevation in Egypt and Daniel’s in Babylon due to the interpretation of dreams, not as a human art but a divine illumination. Four classes of pretenders to such knowledge brought before the king [113]. All obliged to acknowledge their inability. Yet possibly, as time-servers, and actuated by personal considerations, now kept back by fear, the dream being obviously one of a sinister character, with a bearing upon the king himself. No small amount of courage required to declare to an Eastern despot the meaning of such a dream even when perceived. Daniel only sent for as a last resource. Faithful ministers most valued in a time of trouble or on a dying bed, but often not applied to till then.

[113] “Then came in the magicians,” &c, See note under chap. Daniel 2:2; Daniel 2:27.

II. The interpretation. We notice—

1. The effect of the meaning of the dream on Daniel himself (Daniel 4:19). The truth made known to Daniel at once. That truth distressing to the prophet because foreboding disaster to his royal master. His sensibility “honourable to his humanity, his loyalty, and his religion.” The dream only such as to distress all true friends of the king [114]. Faithful ministers deeply affected themselves by the denunciations they have to deliver to impenitent hearers. Paul the subject of continual sorrow of heart for his unbelieving countrymen. Tenderness and compassion among the most necessary qualifications for a minister of the gospel. The “bowels” of the Master needed.

[114] “The dream be to them that hate thee,” &c. That is, may it be fulfilled to them, or rest upon them. So Keil, who remarks: “As Daniel at once understood the interpretation of the dream, he was for a moment so astonished that he could not speak for terror at the thoughts which moved his soul. This amazement seized him because he wished well to the king, and yet he must now announce to him a weighty judgment from God.” He renders שָׁעָה (sha’ah), an “instant” or moment, instead of an “hour.”

2. The king’s appeal (Daniel 4:19). Desires Daniel to declare the interpretation, whatever evil it may forbode to himself. A good sign and a mark of sincerity when a man desires the truth to be faithfully told, however it may seem to go against him. Ahab an opposite example. “I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (1 Kings 22:8). Something much more hopeful in Nebuchadnezzar.

3. The interpretation itself (Daniel 4:20-26). Its details:

(1.) The tree is the king himself.
(2.) He was to be deprived of his reason, and thus to be driven from among men to dwell with the beasts of the field, eating grass like one of them [115].

(3.) This condition of things was to continue for a lengthened period, only, however, obscurely and enigmatically intimated as “seven times” that should pass over him; long enough for his entire aspect to become changed, although only until the end designed should be accomplished, and he should learn that not man, but the Most High, “ruleth in the kingdom of men” (Daniel 4:25).

(4.) His kingdom however should, in the meantime, be preserved to him, so that on the return of his reason he might again possess it Doleful tidings to the king, yet mixed with mercy. A dark cloud, but with a silver lining to it. So the gospel reveals the wrath of God against sin, but points the sinner to a refuge from that wrath. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36).

[115] “They shall make thee to eat grass as oxen.” According to the Syriac or Chaldaic idiom, for “Thou shalt be made,” &c, the indefinite plural standing for the passive. The subject thus remains altogether indefinite, so that one has neither to think of men or angels as the instruments of the infliction. “As to the eating of grass,” says Rösch, quoted by Keil, “there is nothing to perplex or that needs to be explained. It is a circumstance that has occurred in recent times, as, e.g., in the case of a woman in the Wütemberg asylum for the insane.” Keil also, in a note, quotes Friedreich, who observes, that “sometimes in physical maladies the nails assume a peculiarly monstrous luxuriance with deformity;” and that “it is an actual experience that the hair, the more it is exposed to the influence of the rough weather and to the sun’s rays, the more does it grow in hardness, and thus becomes like unto the feathers of an eagle.” See further under next Section.

4. The exhortation accompanying it (Daniel 4:27). Daniel yearns for the king’s welfare. Not satisfied with merely declaring the truth, adds faithful counsel and loving exhortation. An example to ministers. Warm and faithful application of a discourse a thing never to be omitted. The nail not merely to be made sharp, but driven in,—“fastened by the Master of assemblies.” Daniel’s counsel to the king is—

(1.) To give up sin [116]. No favour with God nor peace to ourselves till rebellion against God is given up. No peace to the wicked. Sin the great attracting rod to God’s wrath. The king’s character and life here too plainly but faithfully indicated.

(2.) To practise righteousness. Well-doing in general, and justice to his subjects in particular [117]. Not enough to cease to do evil; we must learn to do well. Duty has two sides, a positive and a negative,—“thou shalt” as well as “thou shalt not.” Not sufficient to be negatively good. The king’s character and life again hinted at. Oppression and injustice the usual accompaniments of despotism.

(3.) To show mercy to the poor. Something more than mere justice. Kings as well as their subjects to be not only just, but kind and merciful In relation to men, justice and mercy the two duties which God requires of us. “He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” Justice and mercy the reflection of God’s own character. Mercy that in which we are especially to resemble him. “Be ye merciful, as your Heavenly Father is merciful.” To love and do good to our fellow-men only another form of justice. Love a debt due to each. That debt never fully paid. Every man his neighbour’s debtor. That due to every one which we would wish every one to do to us in similar circumstances. Nebuchadnezzar’s past life again alluded to. Selfishness rather than regard to the poor the likely character of a despot. The greatest works in Egypt and India accomplished through the forced labours of the poor under the terror of the lash.

[116] “Break off thy sins.” פְרֻק (perooq), from פְרַק (peraq), to “break off, break in pieces,” hence to “separate, disjoin, put at a distance.” Theodotion and the Vulgate improperly render the word by one which means, to “redeem.” But, “though in the Targums, פרק is used for גָּאַל (gaal), and פָּדָה (padhah), to loosen, to unbind, of redeeming or ransoming of the first-born, an inheritance, or any other valuable possession, yet this use of the word by no means accords with sins as the object, because sins are not goods which one redeems or ransoms so as to retain them for his own use.”—Keil.

[117] “By righteousness.” Theodotion and the Vulgate commit a further error by rendering this word “alms.” The passage, says Keil, is thus made to teach the doctrine of salvation by works,—“Redeem thy sins by alms.” In this rendering they are followed by many Church Fathers and Rabbis; the later Jews holding the doctrine of the merit of works, while, as Keil observes in a footnote, the Catholic Church regards this passage as a locus classicus for the doctrine of the merit of works, against which the Apologia Conf. August, first set forth the right exposition.” The same expositor remarks: “צְדָקָה (tsedhaqah, ‘righteousness’) nowhere in the Old Testament’ means good-doing or alms. This meaning the self-righteous Rabbis first gave to the word in their writings. Daniel recommends the king to practise righteousness as the chief virtue of a ruler, in contrast to the unrighteousness of the despots, as Hgstb., Häv., Hofm., and Klief. have justly observed.” It may be noticed here that the term “righteousness” (δικαιοσὑνη) appears from the New Testament to have come to be used by the Jews in the time of the Saviour, and subsequently by Jewish Christians and others, in the sense of alms. In Matthew 6:1, while our version has “do not thine alms,” some ancient Greek copies have “do not thy righteousness.” The translators of the Bible, therefore, placed “righteousness” in the margin, while the Revisers of the New Testament have inserted it in the text as the preferable reading. The first verse, however, is the only place in the context where the word is used; in all the rest, Daniel 4:2-4, the word is “alms” (ἐλεημοσύνη). Righteousness is not to be confounded with alms. Calvin, however, thinks “righteousness” here means the same as grace or pity; the word pity or “mercy” being added by way of explanation, “righteousness” embracing all the duties of charity. “Righteousness,” indeed, as meaning almsgiving, may have been adopted from Psalms 112:9, which the apostle seems to have understood and quoted in that sense, 2 Corinthians 9:9.

5. The encouragement (Daniel 4:27). “If it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity;” marg. “a healing of thine error” [118]. Hope ever held out to the penitent. “Let the wicked forsake his way,” &c. (Isaiah 55:7). The threatened doom might not only be delayed, but possibly averted. So in the case of Nineveh. “Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him?” (Joel 2:14). “God, even when grievously offended, not inexorable.” Hezekiah’s prayer added fifteen years to his life. So might Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance. Or if the doom must come, the days might be shortened. The specified time of its continuance indefinite. “Seven times” might be seven years or seven months. Or a happy future might be made to succeed. A probationary period of twelve months afforded. Mercy Jehovah’s darling attribute. “He delighteth in mercy.” “Afflicteth not willingly, neither doth grieve the children of men.” “Ready to forgive.” The father runs to receive with the kiss of forgiveness the returning prodigal.

[118] “A lengthening of thy tranquillity;” marg. “a healing of thine error.” The Greek translator improperly has “perhaps God will be long-suffering to thee;” and the Vulgate, “perhaps He will pardon thy faults.” אַרְכָּא (area), says Keil, means continuance or length of time, as Daniel 7:12; and שְׁלֵוָא (sheleva), rest, safety, as the Hebrew שַׁלְוָה (shalvah), here the peaceful prosperity of life; hence the proper rendering, “If there may be a continuance of prosperity of life,” of which the condition placed before the king is reformation of life, the giving up of injustice and cruelty to the poor, and the practice of righteousness and mercy. Calvin prefers the rendering that stands in the margin: “As if he had said, This is the proper and genuine medicine;” adding that the more received sense is, “This medicine may be suitable to the error.” Calvin and Polanus thought the calamity might be alleviated, though the punishment might be inflicted. Willet observes that Daniel sustains the double character of a prophet and a faithful counsellor; knowing that if the king humbled himself in time, it would not be unprofitable for him, he counsels him, “if so it stood with God’s good pleasure.” Daniel, says Keil, knew nothing of a heathen Fatum, but he knew that the judgments of God were directed against men according to their conduct, and that punishment threatened could only be averted by repentance.

Verses 28-37

HOMILETICS

SECT. XVI.—NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S MADNESS (Chap. Daniel 4:28-37)

“Riches are not for ever; and doth the crown endure to all generations?” History presents us with many and great contrasts occurring in the experience of individuals, even in the course of a single day. The monarch who in the morning has swayed the sceptre over millions of his fellow-men, in the evening has been a solitary exile or a dishonoured corpse. Herod Agrippa, in the height of his prosperity, receives in the morning the idolatrous acclamations of thousands, and in the evening is the pitiable subject of a loathsome and incurable disease (Acts 12:21-23). But perhaps the most remarkable of such contrasts is that presented in this chapter. The most exalted of earthly monarchs in the morning, is in the evening eating grass with the beasts of the field. The section before us contains the fulfilment of the king’s dream and its interpretation. That fulfilment took place in the infliction of a species of madness, of which other instances are known, though happily of rare occurrence [119].

[119] The madness of Nebuchadnezzar, and so the genuineness of the whole chapter, denied by some from the absence of any mention of the occurrence in any other book of the Old Testament, and in any ancient heathen author. But mention in the former is unlikely; and the Greek historians are regarded as entirely worthless in respect to the older history of Asia; these writers, even Herodotus himself, saying nothing about Nebuchadnezzar at all. The object of the Chaldean historians, Berosus and Manetho, was to exalt their own nation, who were, therefore, not likely to mention the circumstance. Yet Berosus says that Nebuchadnezzar, after completing the threefold circumvallation around Babylon, “fell into a feeble state of health and died, having reigned forty-three years.” Abydenus, though in a confused manner, confirms the Scripture account, and says: “After this, as the Chaldeans relate, on ascending to the roof of his palace, he became inspired by some god [madness generally considered by the ancients as an inspiration], and delivered himself thus: ‘Babylonians, I, Nebuchadnezzar, foretell you a calamity that is to happen, which neither my ancestor Bel nor Queen Beltis can persuade the fates to avert. There shall come a Persian mule [one having parents of different countries], having your own gods in alliance with him, and he shall impose servitude upon you with the aid of a Mede, the boast of the Assyrians. Rather than this, would that some Charybdis or sea had engulfed him in utter destruction, or that he had been forced some other way through the desert, where there are no cities, and no path trodden by man, but where wild beasts feed and birds roam, where he must have wandered among rocks and precipices; and that I had found a happier end before becoming acquainted with such a disaster.’ Having thus said, he expired.” Even Bert-holdt is obliged to confess that “this rare legend is in its chief points identical with our account.”—Hengstenberg. A still more remarkable confirmation, however, has been discovered in a portion of the great Standard Inscription among the cuneiform monuments of the Babylonian empire brought to light by Rawlinson. Nebuchadnezzar there appears to say, after describing the construction of the most important of his great works: “For four years the seat of my kingdom did not rejoice my heart. In all my dominions 1 did not build a high place of power: the precious treasures of my kingdom I did not lay up. In Babylon, buildings for myself and the honour of my kingdom I did not lay out. In the worship of Merodach, my lord, the joy of my heart, in Babylon, the seat of his sovereignty, and the seat of my empire, I did not sing his praises; I did not furnish his altars with victims. Nor did I clear out the canals.”—Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, quoted by Dr. Taylor.

I. The time and place of the infliction. The time, twelvemonths after the dream—a sufficient period allowed for repentance. The opportunity, however, not improved. Sickbed resolutions often soon forgotten. Mere natural impressions evanescent. The time of the stroke was during the day, that it might be the more conspicuous as from the hand of God. The place was Babylon and the king’s own palace (Daniel 4:29). A palace, however gorgeous and well defended, not impervious to the stroke of affliction or the shaft of death.

II. The king’s employment at the time. “He walked in (or upon) the palace of the kingdom of Babylon” (Daniel 4:29). Perhaps walking on the roof and enjoying the prospect of the beautiful city on which he looked down, or promenading with his queen and courtiers in the celebrated hanging gardens of the palace. We have also the thoughts he was indulging and the language to which he was giving utterance. The king spake and said, “Is not this great Babylon [120], that I have built [121] for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30). ‘The king was indulging in self-gratulation and glorying in the works of his own hands. Babylon was indeed at that time a glorious city, and Nebuchadnezzar was the person who had enlarged and beautified it [122]. But, like Herod Agrippa at Cæsarea, he gave not God the glory. In raising Babylon to the pitch of grandeur which it had attained, he had done it only to himself. He was now worshipping the idol of his own hands, and himself as its creator. God was not in all his thoughts. To forget God the great sin that characterises prince and peasant in an unregenerate state. The sin for which the nations shall in justice be “turned into hell,” as robbing God of His glory (Psalms 9:17; Psalms 50:22).

[120] “Great Babylon.” The whole city, we are told, formed a perfect square, each side of which was 15 miles long, making a circuit of 60 miles, and an area of 360 square miles. Its walls were perhaps the most stupendous that ever existed. Constructed of brick, cemented together with bitumen, which grows hard by being exposed to the air, they rose to the height of 350 feet, and were 87 feet thick! Twenty-five magnificent streets, running in parallel lines, 150 feet wide and 15 miles long, traversed the city from north to south, being intersected by 25 others of similar dimensions from west to east; these streets being terminated by a hundred brazen gates, and forming by their intersections 626 large squares with a circumference of 600 feet. What was most admired, however, was the temple of the god Bel and the two royal palaces; these last occupying a space of nearly three square miles, containing the celebrated hanging gardens, formed on vaulted terraces 4000 feet square, rising one above the other to the height of the walls; the topmost platform having a spacious basin filled with water from the Euphrates, forced up by a powerful hydraulic engine.—Gaussen.

[121] “Which I have built.” בְּנָה (benah), “he built,” designates here not the building or founding of a city; for the founding of Babylon took place in the earliest times after the Flood (Genesis 11:0.), being dedicated to the god Belus, or the mythic Semiramis, in prehistoric times; but the building up, the enlargement, the adorning of the city “for the house of the kingdom,” or a royal residence.—Keil.

[122] In the Standard Inscription the king says of Babylon, “The city which is the delight of my eyes, which I have glorified.” It is known that after Nebuchadnezzar had finished his military career, he set himself to improve his territory and beautify his capital. According to Herodotus, the city was built on both sides of the Euphrates, the extent of the outer wall being about 56 miles, though Ctesias makes it only 42; the area being thus five or six times that of London. The houses were frequently three or four storeys high. In each of the two divisions of the city was a fortress or stronghold, the one being the royal palace, the other the temple of Bel. The two portions of the city were united by a bridge, at each extremity of which was a royal palace. The city was not only renovated throughout by Nebuchadnezzar, but surrounded with several lines of fortifications, and increased by the addition of a new quarter. Having finished its walls and adorned its gates, he constructed a new palace, in the grounds of which, in order to gratify the taste of the queen, he formed the celebrated hanging gardens. Rawlinson, in his Appendix to Herodotus, quoted by Dr. Rule, says, “The more northern mound, now called the Mujellibeh, and crowned with the building called the Kasr, is undoubtedly a construction of Nebuchadnezzar, and may be almost certainly identified with the new palace, adjoining his father’s (Nabopolassar’s), which is ascribed to him. The size of this mound, about 700 yards each way, shows the area covered by the palace mentioned in our text. The buildings here are of superior material; and the sculptures and bas-reliefs found in them give evidence of superior magnificence. Solid masses of masonry, consisting of pale yellow bricks of excellent quality, each one, with very rare exceptions, stamped with the name and titles of Nebuchadnezzar, give attestation to the truth of his recorded exclamation, ‘Is not this great Babylon which I have built?’ ”

III. The infliction itself (Daniel 4:31-33). The king was struck with a species of madness, in which the sufferer imagines himself a beast and acts as such [123]. The stroke was—

(1.) Sudden. The words of vainglory were still in his mouth when there fell a voice from heaven, heard by Nebuchadnezzar if by no other, “O king Nebuchadnezzar! to thee it is spoken, The kingdom is departed from thee, &c. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar” (Daniel 4:31-33). God’s strokes often slow, but sudden when they come “While they say, Peace and safety! then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, and they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).

(2.) Terrible. Reason was dethroned. The king suddenly imagines himself a beast, and begins to exhibit the instincts, cravings, and actions of such. As a madman, he is obliged to be removed from human society. “He was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen.” He was probably confined in a field, whither perhaps his changed instinct now led him, and where, as if bound with iron fetters, he indulges a bovine appetite with the beasts among which he herds. “Nebuchadnezzar,” says Matthew Henry, “would be more than a man, and God justly makes him less. God puts on a level with the beasts the man that sets up for a rival with his Maker.” The kingdom, as a matter of course, is for the time taken from him and administered by his nobles. His nails and the hair of his head and beard are allowed to grow, until the one looks like birds claws, and the other like eagles’ feathers. Alas, poor king! how changed from the glorious monarch surveying his city from the luxurious hanging gardens! And yet only a picture of the much sadder change that takes place with the sinner that is “driven away in his wickedness” by death. “The rich man died and was buried, and in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment.”

(3.) Irremediable. Physicians might not be wanting, but physicians were in vain. Means might be employed to remove the madness, but means were utterly powerless. The science and skill of the wise men could effect nothing. The magicians, sorcerers, and Chaldeans tried their arts to no purpose. The case was hopeless in respect to any aid from man. It was not hopeless, indeed, in regard to God; but till the “seven times “were fulfilled, and it pleased God to remove the affliction, all the powers of earth and hell would be ineffectual. That time would mercifully come; but till then, no created might could break those “bands of iron and brass.” Resemblance and contrast to the case of the finally impenitent. No remedy to the burning tongue and still more burning conscience. Whoever enters the doleful regions of the lost leaves hope behind. As in Nebuchadnezzar’s case, there is hope from God for the sinner while on earth; but, at the bourne that separates the visible from the invisible world, the law is, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still” (Revelation 22:11; Hebrews 9:27).

[123] In the view of Hengstenberg, the case was this: There is often in madness a violent desire after a free, solitary, wild life. In Nebuchadnezzar’s case, they humoured this propensity so far as it was feasible; only they had him watched that he might fall into no danger, and bound him with fetters that he might do himself no mischief. Probably they took care also that he should haunt those places only where he would not be exposed to the gaze of his subjects. Others, however, as Grotius, understand the binding with a band of iron and brass as referring to his kingdom, which was to be secured to him, rather than to his person. Probably both are intended. Keil observes that the malady of Nebuchadnezzar was that which is called insania zoanthropica, or, in the case of those who think themselves wolves, lycanthropia,—a malady in which men regard themselves as beasts, and imitate their manner of life. Dr. Pusey, who also considers the king’s madness a case of lycanthropy, quotes Dr. Brown, Commissioner of the Board of Lunacy for Scotland, who agrees in the same view, and says that the king probably “retained a perfect consciousness that he was Nebuchadnezzar during the whole course of his degradation.”

IV. Its continuance. “Seven times “were to pass over Nebuchadnezzar, and doubtless did so. “At the end of the days,” says the king himself in his relation of the case, “I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and my understanding returned unto me” (Daniel 4:34). The time, whatever it was—most probably seven years, as in chap. Daniel 11:13, margin, (see note [124] under the preceding section)—at length came to an end. What man could not effect, God then in His mercy did. The removal apparently connected with a humble acknowledgment, perhaps with an act of penitence and prayer. “I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven” [125]. Power in a single look that has submission, penitence, and prayer in it. “Look unto me and be ye saved.” “They looked unto Him and were lightened.” With such a look to heaven, in a mercifully granted gleam of consciousness, the king’s deliverance came. “And mine understanding returned unto me.” The seven dark and dismal years came to an end.

[124] “And I was established in my kingdom.” The supposed unlikeliness of this has been made an objection to the genuineness of the book. But, as Hengstenberg remarks, “several causes surely concurred to prevent the nobles from thinking of a change of rulers. Nebuchadnezzar was the pride of the nation; from his successor, Evil-Merodach, only mischief could be looked for; the highest officers in the realm must expect under him a deposition from their rank, as is so frequently the case in the East on a change of rulers. The general and the individual interest combined, therefore, to determine them to reserve the crown as long as possible for Nebuchadnezzar, in whose name and authority they were certainly not reluctant to rule without control.” To these reasons it may be added that the time during which the malady should continue was left uncertain, and might be short; or, if certain, the regency would only be for a definite period.

[125] “I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven.” Thus paraphrased by Grotius: “I prayed to the God of heaven.” By Junius: “Before, I looked prone to the earth; now I looked up to heaven.” By Calvin: “Now I regarded the hand of Him that smote me, and acknowledged God to be a just Judge and the Revenger of the proud.”

V. The result (Daniel 4:34-37). The result an obvious change for the better in Nebuchadnezzar’s spiritual condition. Probably his real conversion to God. The last thing related of him by the Spirit of God is the humble public confession which he made, and the noble testimony to the true God which, for the benefit of all men, he delivered in the edict contained in this chapter. With this mental deliverance and spiritual change came also restoration to his royal rank, and to more than his former prosperity. His case strikingly similar to that of Job, whose captivity the Lord turned after his penitent humiliation and confession (Job 42:1-10). Calvin observes that Nebuchadnezzar did not raise his eyes to heaven till God drew him to Himself, and that the dream was a kind of entrance and preparation for repentance. “As seed seems to lie putrid in the earth before it brings forth its fruit, God sometimes works by gentle processes, and provides for the teaching, which seemed a long time useless, becoming both efficacious and fruitful.” From Nebuchadnezzar’s madness we may notice—

1. The danger and intoxicating effect of long-continued prosperity. Israel was guarded against the sin into which Nebuchadnezzar fell, and which entailed on him his heavy affliction. “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, &c. Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God, &c. And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is He that giveth thee power to get wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:11-18).

2. The abominable nature of pride in the sight of God. This especially the sin into which Nebuchadnezzar’s prosperity led him, and of which he makes special confession. Pride both a rivalry and a robbery of God, a deifying of the creature and an ignoring and despising of the Creator. The sin of Satan and of unregenerate men in general. “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God. God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalms 9:4).

3. The ability of God to abase and punish the proud. The lesson especially learned by Nebuchadnezzar from his affliction. Mind and body both under God’s control, and dependent on Him for their healthful preservation. His sustaining hand withdrawn, reason is dethroned, and the man of genius and intellect becomes a drivelling idiot. Diseases of every kind are but His servants and do His bidding. To madness, paralysis, and pain He has but to say “Come, and it cometh” (Matthew 8:9).

4. The certainty of divine threatenings unless averted by repentance. Months had passed away since the dream that so much disturbed the king’s peace. The dream and its interpretation, with the solemn exhortation of the prophet, had in the midst of his prosperity been forgotten. But God forgets not His threatenings. Judgment, though delayed, yet slumbers not. The warning unheeded, the hour of its fulfilment comes.

5. Mercy mingled with judgment in the present world. Gracious hopes held out to the penitent. The door of repentance kept open. Hope held out even to Nebuchadnezzar that the threatened punishment might be delayed, and would not be perpetual. What was faintly held out to him is made bright and clear to us in the Gospel. The bow in the cloud. In wrath God remembers mercy. The blood of the Surety shed, Justice can sheath her sword. This gracious state of things, however, confined to the present life. “It is appointed unto men once to die, and after death the judgment.”

6. The benefit of sanctified affliction. Nebuchadnezzar’s madness his greatest mercy. His loss of reason, and with that of everything but life, a greater gain to him than all his conquests. “Children,” said Themistocles, “we should have been undone, had we not been undone.” The best medicines often bitter and bad to take. “If our charity reach so far as to hope that Nebuchadnezzar did find mercy, we must admire free grace, by which he lost his wits for a while that he might save his soul for ever.”—M. Henry. It would be correct, though a paradox, to say he never truly had his senses till he lost them. So with multitudes; it was never well with them till it was ill.

7. The following are other useful reflections from the passage:—
(1.) Sin is of a hardening nature, retaining its hold in defiance of warnings and even of repeated punishments.

(2.) The most exalted of human beings is but an insignificant atom in the hand of Infinite Power.

(3.) God is never unmindful either of His threatenings or of His promises, which leave the impenitent nothing to hope, and the believing nothing to fear.

(4.) The punishments which God inflicts upon the wicked here or hereafter have relation to their character and demerits.

(5.) As the possession of reason is the highest distinction of man, so the continuance of our mental sanity, which might in one moment be deranged, either in sovereignty or in judgment, ought to inspire our most devout and daily gratitude to Him who is the author of it.—Cox.

8. The great lesson that Nebuchadnezzar was to learn from his affliction was GOD’S SUPREMACY AND GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD, or that “the heavens do rule” (Daniel 4:26). Two great disputes in the world, the one moral and the other intellectual. The first, whether God or man shall rule,—whether His will or mine shall be done. The second, whether an intelligent Supreme Being exercises a continual rule and providence in the world, or whether all happens according to blind fate or fixed natural laws; in other words, whether or not “the heavens do rule.” Objections against this:—

(1.) All things appear to happen according to fixed law, and to follow in a natural sequence of cause and effect.
(2.) The good suffer as well as the bad.
(3.) The innocent often suffer with and through the guilty.
(4.) The existence of sin and suffering at all in the world.
(5.) Men of the worst character often the highest and most prosperous.
(6.) Infants suffer and die.
(7.) The best and most useful often cut off prematurely in the midst, or even at the very beginning, of their usefulness. General answer to these objections:—We only know and see a part of God’s dealing. The web of Providence unfinished. Divine plans require time for their development. Eternity will solve all mysteries. What we know not now we shall know hereafter. Here we know only in part or in a fragmentary manner. Things will probably appear hereafter in a different light from what they do here. God alone sees the end from the beginning. Apparent evil often real good. Finite minds unable to judge the divine procedure. The present state subservient and preparatory to another. Special arguments that “the heavens do rule:”—
(1.) Right conduct, as a rule, brings peace and happiness.
(2.) Evil often overruled for good.
(3.) The wicked often signally and unexpectedly punished.
(4.) Sin and wrong-doing, as a rule, followed by suffering.
(5.) A sudden arrest often laid on high-handed wickedness.
(6.) Great events often made to turn upon and spring out of insignificant incidents.
(7.) Human life, on the whole, a state of comparative comfort, and the course of the world one of comparative regularity.
(8.) The laws of Nature beneficent, and such as to make suffering a consequence of sinning.
(9.) The history of nations, but more especially that of the Jewish people.
(10.) The facts of Christianity, with its origin, extension, and results even at the present day.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Daniel 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/daniel-4.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.