Reading through the Bible together
In this chapter, Daniel pulled from the Babylonian archives a written account of Nebuchadnezzar’s own testimony. It is a startling, painful, confession of his sins, and yet a joyful experience of how he recovered because of the God of Daniel. Then he translated it into Aramaic and also placed it in the archives for future successors' reigns to verify what happened.
Nebuchadnezzar was a sinful man and unkind to the oppressed (v. 27). While Daniel was in the court the Lord gave Nebuchadnezzar a dream which took him through a valley of the shadow of death until he saw his own evil and came out of it higher than before. He starts to testify in typical official jargon as all ancient records of this kind started (v. 1-4). When the ordeal is over, he praises the God of Daniel for His protection and care.
When everything was going well with him, he had a special dream (v. 5). He saw a tree reaching high into the sky and all the animals and birds enjoyed both its protection and fruits. No one could interpret the dream (v. 7). Finally Daniel was called whose Babylonian name was Belteshazzar ( Bel was a god meaning "Lord" and belet is the feminine of it, meaning "Madame"). The tree was high (v. 11), beautiful, fruitful, and providing great shade and shelter (v. 12) symbolizing Nebuchadnezzar and his empire. It was the "bread basket" of the then known world. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw "a messenger, a holy one" coming from heaven (v. 13), and giving the order that the tree should be cut down (v. 14). The stump with its roots was to remain and the birds and animals would flee, meaning that all the representatives from various countries would "back away." Nebuchadnezzar, like the tree stump, was to be living in nature among the animals (v. 15). The messenger then announced a message from God that Nebuchadnezzar’s mind would change from that of a human to that of an animal. He would have a much lower IQ, presumably like that of a monkey (v. 16).
The divine message added a time-element: "until seven times pass by for him." The Babylonians used a six counting system alternated with a 10 counting one, but where did the "seven" come from? It is one of the most difficult answers for modern scholars as to why Mesopotamia became so fascinated by the number seven. It is not out of place for God to use seven for allocating a period of time. The Creation week was in seven days and the Sabbath is on the seventh day. The “seven times" mentioned was not strange to Nebuchadnezzar and Daniel. The Hemerologies were texts used by the fortunetellers in Babylon's palace to tell the king the message from the gods as to what he should do every "day" (hemera). For the fortune-tellers the expression "one time" meant one year of 360 days. Nebuchadnezzar also knew that when the word "time" was used it meant one full year. So Daniel did not have to explain the term to Nebuchadnezzar.
The problem was not that Nebuchadnezzar did not know how long the period was, the problem is that scholars and interpreters through the ages did not know what to make of "seven times." Some have thought that it meant “seasons.” The Calvinist commentary editor said that according to Calvin's opinion it meant an indefinite number. So why should the word “seven times” mean seven years.
Nebuchadnezzar knew the Spirit "of the holy gods" was in Daniel (v. 18). His problem was that he wanted to embrace all gods. From verse 19 Daniel explained, in the most diplomatic and careful manner he could, the application of the dream which God had given (v. 24). Then at the end Daniel added some advice (v. 27) suggesting that Nebuchadnezzar repent of his sins. Otherwise this disaster will surely take place to help him acknowledge where his breath and life are coming from (v. 25).
When Daniel walked out of the court, exactly one "time" or "twelve months" passed and nothing happened (v. 29). Nebuchadnezzar forgot the Word of God and shifted from belief to carelessness and self-exaltation just like Lucifer during the Rebellion in Heaven (v. 30). One day while Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the palace roof, this time it was not a messenger from heaven but God Himself who spoke to Nebuchadnezzar telling him that his authority had been taken away (v. 31). The change came immediately and Nebuchadnezzar left the palace to live with animals in nature (v. 33). As we can see, self-exaltation is really self-destructive.
After seven years, Nebuchadnezzar raised his eyes toward heaven" (v. 34) and praised God; honored Him, glorified Him, and recognized Him for who He is. Immediately, his sanity returned, he was given back his throne, and He was "even greater than before" (v. 36). No doubt, that those who walk in pride, God is able to humble" (v. 37).
Also we have the problem of self entering our good works and tainting them with the mind games of our greatness. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus to rescue us from ourselves. Amen.
Koot van Wyk, DLitt et Phil, Th.D.
Kyungpook National University
Sangju, South Korea.