Daniel - Lesson 7

Court Contest (Chapter 4)

This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

Lesson 7
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Court Contest (Chapter 4)

I. Court Contest

A. Pride of Nebuchadnezzar

B. First person account

II. 4:1-3

III. 4:4-18

A. Babylonian wise men

B. Hebrew Narratives

C. Nebuchadnezzar's dream

IV. Daniel's Interpretation 4:19-27

V. Fulfillment of the dream 4:28-34

VI. Nebuchadnezzar's Restoration 4:34-37

VII. Historical Reflections

  • Join distinguished scholar and professor emeritus Dr. Tremper Longman for a study of the book of Daniel, a fascinating and inspiring part of the Bible. In this class, you'll explore six stories and four apocalyptic visions that all demonstrate God's control and ultimate victory, even in the face of evil and difficulty. Don't miss this opportunity to be encouraged and strengthened in your faith as you study the powerful messages of the book of Daniel with Dr. Longman.

  • Daniel is written in two parts. The first six chapters is history written in the form of a story. Chapters seven through twelve are apocalyptic literature. In the English Bible, it’s with the major prophets. In the Hebrew Bible it’s in the Writings. The Apocalyptic section has similarities to the book of Revelation. One of the main messages in the book of Daniel is that even if you are living in a culture that is toxic to your faith, living by faith can help you not only survive, but thrive.

  • By the time Daniel was written, the nation of the Jewish people was divided into the tribes of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC. Babylon overthrew Assyria in 612 BC then Judah in 605 BC. Daniel. Daniel and others were taken to Babylon and chosen to be trained as royal advisors.   

  • Daniel and his friends were willing to learn the language, literature and divination practices of the Babylonians even though it was potentially toxic to their faith. They temporarily chose to eat vegetables and water rather than the food and wine that the other officials in training were eating. The performed at the top of their class.

  • Nebuchadnezzar summoned the royal magicians and sorcerers and required them to tell him what his dream was and give him an interpretation of the dream. Daniel is able to do this because of the wisdom God gives him.

  • Daniel reveals the dream and the interpretation because God revealed it to him. The parts of the statue represent different worldly kingdoms. The stone that crushes the statue represents God’s rule over the kingdoms. Nebuchadnezzar recognizes Yahweh as being powerful.

  • Daniel and his friends were thrown into a fiery furnace as punishment for not worshipping an image of Nebuchadnezzar. God miraculously saved them and Nebuchadnezzar promoted them to positions in the royal court.

  • This is a story of a contest between Daniel and his friends and the Babylonian wise men. A major theme is the pride of Nebuchadnezzar and how that affects the outcome. Some of the story is narrated in by Nebuchadnezzar in the first person. Nebuchadnezzar has a dream. The Babylonian wise men don’t give him an interpretation, but Daniel does. Nebuchadnezzar experienced judgment but God restores him.

  • As we read and study the Old Testament, we can gain insights into redemptive history and see examples of how we should live. It can sometimes be a challenge to determine the continuity or discontinuity of a passage. A major theme in Daniel 4 and throughout the Bible is how pride can hinder your relationship with God. 

  • Belshazzar was a ruler in Babylon after Nebuchadnezzar died. During a banquet he hosted, he used the goblets from the temple in Jerusalem for his guests to drink out of. In the middle of a banquet, a hand appeared and wrote a message on the wall. Belshazzar called Daniel to interpret the message.

  • When Darius gave Daniel a position of authority in his government, the administrators underneath him were jealous. They devised a plan to trap Daniel and force Darius to execute him. God rescued Daniel and the administrators suffered the fate that they had planned for Daniel. The story shows that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and it’s important to live a life that is faithful to him.

  • Daniel had a vision of four beasts that were frightening in appearance. An angel explained the significance of the beasts in terms of historical kingdoms but didn’t say specifically which ones.

  • Daniel and Jeremiah both had messages from God but the way God communicated to each of them was different. The word “apocalypse” comes from the first word in Greek in the book of Revelation which means to reveal or uncover something. Some characteristics of apocalyptic literature are visions, dreams, a binary point of view, highly figurative language and the theme of hope based in confidence in God’s control over people and events that seem chaotic and overwhelming.

  • In this lesson, you gain a deeper understanding of the book of Daniel, focusing on its themes, historical context, and preparation for spiritual battles in a challenging cultural environment.
  • You gain a deeper understanding of the Book of Daniel, its historical context, literary features, key themes, and significance within the Old Testament, while focusing on God's warfare against evil.
  • John the Baptist described Jesus coming as a warrior but the ministry of Jesus was different than what he expected. Since we live in phase 4, God gives us the power to fight spiritual battles. The God who led the people of Israel into battle in the Old Testament is the same God described in the New Testament who came as God in human form as Jesus.

  • The vision in Daniel 8 describes animals that represent kingdoms and individuals. While Daniel was seeing the vision, Gabriel came and explained its meaning. Antiochus Epiphanes fits the description of one of the horns in the vision. His persecution of the people of Israel and his desecration of the temple is similar to the way the anti-Christ is described in Revelation.

  • As Daniel is reading Scripture, he comes to the realization that what he is reading in the book of Jeremiah may actually be taking place at the time. His response is to begin by praying. He includes himself in confessing the sins of the people of Israel and appeals for God to rescue them from exile.

  • As Daniel is reading Jeremiah and praying, the angel Gabriel appears to Daniel to explain the vision to him. The numbers in the vision are symbolic but demonstrate that God has a plan and a time frame to accomplish it.

  • The final of Daniel’s four visions described in chapters 10-12. There is an introduction to the vision, description of the vision and instructions to Daniel. The answer to Daniel’s prayer was delayed because of spiritual warfare.

  • This vision covers the events surrounding the Persian and Greek rulers in the 3rd and 4th century BC. They are described in such detail that some people think it was written after they took place, not as a prophecy.

  • The righteous and the wicked have different fates in the after-life. Throughout Scripture there is progress of revelation. God is in control and he will be victorious. The prophecy that God gave Daniel describes events that will happen in the future. Celestial sources give final words to Daniel that are also addressed to readers of the book of Daniel. A theme that is emphasized throughout the book of Daniel is, in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory.  This is illustrated both in the stories of Daniel and his friends and in the visions of future events that Daniel has.

  • Daniel informs the imagery and message of the book of Revelation. They are the two books of the Bible with primarily apocalyptic themes. Daniel’s encounter with God and angels is similar to what John records in Revelation. Daniel is commanded to seal his prophecy and in Revelation, the seals are opened. The references Revelation to the beasts and three and a half years is also similar to Daniel.

Living in a toxic culture can be dangerous and risky, but when you live by faith, God can give you opportunities to thrive, succeed and be a testimony to God's power and love for people. A primary message of the prophecies of Daniel is that in spite of present difficulties, God is in control and he will have the final victory. God has not provided us with a precise date on the calendar for when that will happen, but he will accomplish his plan on his timetable.

Dr. Tremper Longman
Daniel ot666-07
Court Contest (Chapter 4)
Lesson Transcript

Tremper Longman III [00:00:00] As we continue our study of the Book of Daniel by looking at Daniel for the fourth story in the first half of the book, which contains six separate accounts of Daniel in a foreign court illustrating the primary theme of in spite of present difficulties those Daniel three friends’ difficulties as well as the people of God's difficulties. God is in control, and He will have the final victory. Daniel Chapter four is different than Daniel. Chapter three. In that Dana, Chapter three was a story of of court conflict where the Babylonian wise men are trying to undermine the three friends of Daniel in terms of the requirement to bow to this gigantic golden statue and the plain of Dora. Here it's more a account of court contest, which is similar to Daniel chapter two, in that it's not so much conflict as much as the Babylonian wise men's inability to interpret Nebuchadnezzar was dream while Daniel, because of his relationship with the way is able to do so. We're also going to see that this is a story that centers around the issue of pride. Nebuchadnezzar is immense pride, which also will have important lessons for the people of God regarding the dangers of pride. It makes one almost immediately think of Proverbs 1618, which says, you know, pride goes before destruction. I mean, traditionally pride goes before a fall, a hardy spirit before a fall. So so this is a fascinating story on another account as well. Notice as we read Daniel chapter four, how Nebuchadnezzar is, for the most part, not throughout the whole book. He's the narrator. He's telling this story in the first person that's different from all the other stories, which are all sort of third person narration. And it begins with Novick and Nasr praising God, which is also different from other chapters where, yes, he'll praise God at the end. But here he anticipates conclusion by celebrating God and then we will also observe that in the middle of the story, particularly when the dream is fulfilled and Nebuchanezer finds himself having the mind beast like mind that it reverts to third person. Narration But of course, whenever Nasser is in that state of mind, he is not in any position to talk about the story in the first person. So, let's begin by reading that opening praise on behalf of Nebuchadnezzar, where he says to the nations and peoples of every language who live in all the earth now. Now, notice it's also in the form of a kind of royal decree or a letter written to the people of every language who live in all the earth. And of course, this is all the Earth and never Nasir's world, which is a big portion of humanity at the time that we know that he's speaking to the people within his kingdom, which stretches from Western Iran all the way to the Mediterranean and down to Syria and include the old Northern Empire and northern Kingdom of Israel, Jude as a vassal state as well as Saudi Arabia. What is today? Saudi Arabia? It's a vast empire even. Exceeding that of the previous Assyrian empire. But of course, he may also be announcing this to the broader world, including the Egyptians and so forth. And they would have been aware of other peoples, perhaps even those in Asia, since there are evidence of connections between China and Mesopotamia going way back before the time of Nebuchadnezzar. So he issues this proclamation, beginning with May you prosper greatly. It is my pleasure to tell you about the miraculous signs and wonders that the most high God has performed for me. How great are his signs? How mighty His wonders. His kingdom is an eternal kingdom. His dominion endures from generation to generation. Okay, so this opening sort of minimizes the suspense of the story in. And we know from the beginning that it's going to come to a good end for Navid Nasr. But on the other hand, it also kind of arouses our curiosity. I mean, why is Nebuchadnezzar making this type of proclamation? What did God do to make him who issued this worldwide proclamation? And the story begins in chapter four versus four through 18. Because I never Nasr was at home in my palace, contented and prosperous. I'll just pause here to briefly mentioned that this also has some literary similarities to Babylonian royal inscriptions. Something I studied in graduate school as I wrote a doctoral dissertation on what I called fictional Akkadian autobiographies. He goes on and says, I had a dream that made me afraid. And so this reminds us of chapter two. Right. So, we're going to see some similarities and differences between what happened in chapter two. And let's remember what we talked about in relationship to chapter one and two, that Daniel had been trained in sort of the technical type of dream interpretation that was current among the Mesopotamians, where the dreamer would report the dream to the dream interpreters, and then they would go and consult the commentaries and come back and tell the dreamer the significance of the interpretation. But we saw that contrasting with. Daniel in chapter two, where because the king at that point and we'll see it's different here but at that point refused to tell the interpreters, the diviners, the content of his dream. They were unable to help him. But Daniel, because he received a revelation from God, was able to tell him the content of the dream, plus the plus the interpretation. So again, I had a dream that made me afraid as I was lying in bed. The images and visions that pass through my mind terrified me. So, I commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be brought before me to interpret that dream for me. By all the wise men had apparently doesn't include Daniel and three friends. So, I think it means this is a group of traditional native Babylonian wise men. When the magicians and chanters, astrologers and diviners came, I told them the dream, but they could not interpret it for me. Okay, so let's pause here for a moment. So, in the first instance of a dream and Daniel, Chapter two Nebuchadnezzar refused to tell the diviners the dream, and they were unable to do so. In this case. Nebuchadnezzar tells them the dream, but they can interpret it. Now, earlier I said it would be easy to interpret a dream. You'd be able to provide some kind of interpretation based on the dream, even if you just kind of made it up, you know? So. So what's going on here? I'm going to say that they probably were able to provide him an interpretation. But when we get into Daniel's interpretation of his dream, we're going to see that it's kind of not good news for Nebuchadnezzar. So I wonder whether this is not a case of inability, as much as unwillingness to give the bad news to the king. But whatever the reason and one of the things, by the way, you should know about Hebrew narrative generally, I think it's helpful to know this, that the biblical narrator technical term is reticent. That is, the biblical narrator is doing mostly showing rather than telling. There's often very little kind of evaluation of actions, explicit evaluations or or giving of motivations. So sometimes the narrator will give subtle clues that will allow the reader to enter into the story and understand the direction of the narrator's evaluation. But sometimes you can't. An example. Let me give you a couple of examples. First of all, remember the story of the he, the Hebrew midwives at the time that Pharaoh of Egypt issues this decree that the baby boys be killed at birth and then the the midwives refuse. They don't publicly refuse. They just don't follow through on that decree. And when the pharaoh confronts them about it, they say, well, you know, these Hebrew women are strong. They're not like Egyptian women. By the time we get there, the babies are already born, which is an out and out lie. And so some interpreters want to say it's always wrong in every circumstance to lie because of the eighth commandment, you shall not bear false witness. But then the narrator goes on to say, and God gave the midwives large families of their own. So he's not saying they did the right thing explicitly, but he's saying, you know, God gave them large families. That's kind of like, okay, they did the right thing. And when you think about it and you find other examples in the Torah, you can see that in certain situations lying is actually right, not wrong. And those situations seem to be those when the person asking for the truth are people asking for the truth, you know, are going to use it to harm other people. And so so the narrator is reticent in that regard. Or even I can't help but give another very favorite example of mine, even though it's kind of a gruesome story in Genesis 34, the story of the rape of Dinah, Jacob's daughter. And and you might remember the story that Diana goes into town with some Canaanite friends and she ends up getting raped by this Prince shek, them of the city of them. And and but the man wants to marry her. And so the father and the son, Prince come go out and ask that she can be allowed to marry Diana. And they say, you know, let's intermarry. Let your wealth be our wealth. Our wealth will be your wealth. And Jacob agrees. But Diana's two brothers, Levi and Simeon, say, yeah, they also agree. But they say, but you have to get circumcised. You have to get circumcised because that's our custom. And of course, we know from reading the story that they have a kind of. Dire and tension in this request. That is when all the men of shekels get circumcised. They're in a weakened condition, as we might imagine. And Levi and Simian execute the men of Chatham, and Jacob goes, He's beside himself. Look at what you've done. You've made us a stink in the nostrils of the Canaanites. Now we have to leave here. So whose side is the narrator on? How is the narrator evaluating this this story? And and by the way, the narrator in a biblical account, the guidance that the narrator gives, or as I would ultimately argue, is telling us what the not only the human author, but what the divine author is thinking about this event. Let's remember who has the last word in general. Genesis 34. It's not Jacob. It's Levi and Simeon. The story ends with Should they treat our sister like a whore? So on that basis, I think the narrator isn't explicitly evaluating, but is saying that. I won't say that Levi and Simeon are totally right and righteous in what they did, but I will say that that's a signal that the narrator thinks that Levi and Simeon were more correct than Jacob. Because after all, Jake, what was Jacob? If if Jacob Jacob's viewpoint won the day, what would have happened? The Canaanites and the Israelites would have intermarried. And this is not what God wants at this moment. Well, that story goes on in some interesting directions later that we can't get into now. But but my point is, yeah, you often have to look at kind of the subtle, subtle message sent by the narrator. So. So again, my point is that as we read biblical stories, often we're kind of at a loss for motivation and sometimes are invited by these subtle, yet clear clues to to speculate about a motivation. But but here, I don't think we can be absolutely certain, though. To me, it seems likely that they're unwilling to interpret it because of the negative message that it would send to King Nebuchadnezzar. So picking it up in verse eight, finally Daniel came into my presence and I told him the dream. He's called Balthasar after the name of my God and the spirit of the Holy Gods is in him. So again, a couple of comments about how Netzer is characterizing Daniel. First of all, he's calling him Balthasar and acknowledging that that's because of his name being associated with his God, not Daniel's God. And then he says, the spirit of the Holy Gods is in him. And I think that's the correct interpretation I don't take. As we talked about before, that Nebuchadnezzar in the previous chapters has become an exclusive worshiper of way. I think he doesn't recognize at this point that Daniel's abilities come from Daniel's one and only God, though it is possible. I should I should admit, to translate the Hebrew phrase here, the Holy God Capital G in English, even though Hebrew doesn't have a capital because the term Elohim is plural, but is often used to refer to the one God. But as I say, I think the movie got it right here. And we're not to ascribe to never can Netzer exclusive believe in Yahweh. I said Balthasar. Chief of The Magicians. I know that the Spirit of the Holy Gods is in you, and no mystery is too difficult for you. Here is my dream. Interpret it for me. These are the visions I saw while lying in bed. I looked and there before me stood a tree in the middle of the land. Its height was enormous. The tree grew large and strong, and its top touched the sky. It was visible to the ends of the earth. Its leaves were beautiful, its fruit abundant. And on it was food for all. Under it, the wild animals found shelter and the birds lived in its branches. From it, every creature was fed. Okay, So. So in one sense, I mean, the symbolic value of this, what we might call a cosmic tree, is kind of obvious, though it's not necessarily obvious that the tree is to be associated with Nebuchadnezzar, as Daniel will tell him later. But but yeah, I mean, even in an ancient near Eastern context, even though literary texts that we have don't talk about a kind of tree of life or a cosmic tree, the iconography does. There are depictions of trees in Babylonian art. Tree in the center, animals eating from it and so forth. Simon Pillar, a well known Mesopotamian expert, referring to the iconography that we see from ancient Mesopotamia, says, quote, The tree represents the divine world order maintained by the king and the representative. To have the God ashore embodied in the wing desk hovering over the tree. So. So there is this iconographic. Use of a tree. Trees are symbolic, of course, of fertility growth and peace and prosperity. And Daniel is going to associate Neva Nasr with this tree. And when he does so, he's associating them with a symbol of life and showing that he is a life giver as king of this vast empire. 13. In the visions I saw while lying in bed, I looked. And there before me was a holy one. A messenger coming down from heaven. So. From. From NASA's perspective, he probably thinks that this might be some kind of lesser deity. But of course, from Daniel's perspective, this would be a reference to an angel coming down from heaven. He called in a loud voice, cut down the tree and trim off its branches, strip off its leaves and scatter its fruit. Let the animals flee from under it and the birds from its branches. But let the stump and its roots bound with iron and bronze, remain in the ground and the grass of the field. Again, the interpretation might be somewhat obvious that the tree this, this giver of life is going to be cut down. But it's interesting that the stump will be left. The roots will still be in the ground. There's a lot of debate over the significance of this band that goes around the tree, whether it's somehow protects the stump or or what exactly is its purpose. And it's one of those things about which we're a little bit unclear. So then it goes on and says, let him be drenched with the dew of heaven and let him live with the animals among the plants of the earth. Let his mind be changed from that of a man and let him be given the mind of an animal. Till seven times pass by for him. So now there's a kind of personification of the tree when it says Let him be drenched with the do of heaven. So the implicit message there is that this tree stands for somebody and it's becoming more and more obvious that that somebody must be Nebuchadnezzar and let his mind be changed from that of a man. Let him be given the mind of an animal till seven times pass by for him. Now, seven times is is in one sense kind of a ambiguous term. Seven time sometimes means simply a long time, not necessarily exactly seven years, but it can also mean seven years. The decision is announced by the messengers. The holy ones declare the verdict so that the living may know that the most high is sovereign over all kingdoms on Earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them. The lowliest of people. This is the dream that I can never Ezer had. Now better to tell me what it means for none of the wise men in my kingdom can interpret it for me. But you can, because the Spirit of the Holy God is in you. Okay, so in the next section, we get Daniel's interpretation for ultimately God's interpretation of this dream. In chapter four versus 19 to 27. We've already anticipated some of that interpretation. Then Daniel also called Baltasar was greatly perplexed for a time, and his thoughts terrified him. So the king said, Delta are do not let the dream or its meaning alarm you. Again, I think Daniel himself is this nervous about what this dream means for Navid Nasr and so never. Nasr prods him to tell him what it means, no matter what the significance is for him. Delta states are answered, My Lord, if only the dream applied to your enemies and its meaning to your adversaries. One of the striking things we should note here is how Daniel, who has been deported years before to Babylon, against his will, has had his name changed, perhaps made a unique and forced to go to Babylonian university and serve the interests of the Babylonian empire, which has destroyed the town of Jerusalem and exiled the people. How he is not showing vindictiveness, but actually shows care and concern for Nebuchadnezzar. So he goes the tree you saw, which grew large and strong with its top touching the sky visible to the whole earth. So this idea of the top touching the sky too, and coming down to earth, there's a term that phenomenology of some religion use. Axis mundi, you know the place where heaven meets earth. So it's and Nebuchadnezzar is, as Daniel will say, he is that person. It's again, emphasizing his importance within the world order with beautiful leaves and abundant fruit, providing food for all, giving shelter to the wild animals and having nesting places and its branches for the birds. Your Majesty, you are that tree. You have become great and small. Your greatness is grown until it reaches the sky and your dominion extends to distant parts of the earth. Your Majesty saw a holy one, a messenger coming down from heaven and saying, Cut down the tree and destroy it. But leave the stump bound with iron and bronze in the grass of the field while its roots remain in the ground. Let him be drenched with the dew of heaven. Let him live with the wild animals and sell till seven times past five for him. This is the interpretation, Your Majesty. And this is the decree the most high has issued against my Lord, the King. You'll be driven away from people and you will live with wild animals. You will eat grass like the ox and be drenched with the dew of heaven. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge the most high as sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes. So here we're getting at the nub of the future problem. You know, it's not necessarily actually that Nebuchadnezzar has great power. It's his lack of recognition that his is a human power that is under the sovereign power of God. The command to leave the stump of the tree with the troops means that your kingdom will be restored when you acknowledge that heaven rules. Therefore, Your Majesty, be pleased to accept my advice. Renounce your sins by doing what is right and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that when you're. It may be that then your prosperity will continue. So perhaps Daniel is warning Nebuchadnezzar, you know, be on your guard, You know, have the right mindset. Don't think yourself greater than God. Maybe you can avoid this fate. Indeed. By the way, when it comes to ancient near Eastern divination, when you had a negative prognosis from a diviner, that wasn't the end of the story. I mean, this is from an ancient or Eastern perspective. You actually could. And we have examples, many examples of this that have been discovered by archeologists and read by experts in Akkadian that you can undergo a ritual that would help you avoid that. That undesired conclusion. And so you might think rightly that this is a bit could be a bit of a racket, right? That a diviner could say, Oh, this is going to be bad. Oh, by the way, you could do this ritual. You know, if you pay me this amount of money. I'm not sure how that worked with the king, but it worked that way with common people. But seriously, too, I mean, when. When a prophet spoke, he often spoke conditionally, you know, even within biblical literature. Jeremiah at the beginning of his ministry to the Jordanians before the actual Babylonian destruction of Jerusalem, would say, you know, you have sinned, repent or else. And if they repent right, then the negative consequence doesn't come now. Jeremiah also said, as a sign of your patents, simply submit Babylonian rule. I mean, it's not like they would escape with no consequences. But of course, the classic expression of this is Jonah. You know, Jonah, who is commissioned by God, to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, and to tell them. To repent and Jonah refuses to do that is supposed to go east to Nineveh. He gets on a ship and goes west and but God will have none of that. So he uses a great fish to swallow Jonah and vomit him toward Nineveh. And when he gets there, this reluctant prophet simply goes around the city, apparently saying, 40 days and none of our will be destroyed. He's probably supposed to say, unless you repent. He doesn't do that. But one of the fascinating things about the book of Jonah is how it contrasts this reluctant sort of mean spirited prophet with, you know, Gentiles who kind of bend over backwards to do the right thing, even though they don't know how to do the right thing. So the sailors don't want to throw Jonah overboard. They do. And in Denver, the king and the people go, well, we might as well try to repent. And and they don't know how to repent. So they go so far as to sort of comically dress their animals in sackcloth and put ashes on them as well as themselves. And and God relents. And of course, Jonah goes into a funk. So so I mean, that's one way to think about this that Daniel is encouraging never canards are. To acknowledge the sovereignty of God, to avoid the type of pride that would lead to His downfall. And. That's not how it plays out. In chapter four, verses 28 through 33, we have the fulfillment of it all. This happened to King Never Confessor, you know. So it starts with that kind of general statement. It all happened to him. And now we're going to get the details. Notice again the switch from first person to third person here. 12 months later, as the king was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, 12 months later. So he lasted a year. I don't know whether God was giving him time or whether he had resisted that extreme hubris or pride that led to his downfall. But he's up on his roof, which is not too surprising in the ancient areas since roofs are living space. I mean, you might remember David on the roof and I think his first Samuel 11, where he sees Bathsheba, it'd be interesting and I haven't done this, but those two examples would lead me to maybe take a look if there are other scenes of people on roofs and if they get themselves in trouble. You know, again, I it's interesting from a literary point of view to notice that there are certain settings within the Bible that are often associated with certain consequences. Okay. Take this one, for example. Any time you see a man at a well or I shouldn't say any time, but a number of times, if a man's at a well and a woman is with him, a marriage is about to happen. You could think of, well, a servant going up and seeing Rebecca and Rebecca marrying Isaac or, you know, a little bit later when Jacob goes up to her, Ron and he goes to a well and he encounters Rachel there or Moses. When he goes to Midian, he goes at a well and the poor outcomes, which is interesting background, right? Scholars have pointed out. And John, Chapter four When Jesus is with the Samaritan woman at the well, it's kind of a fraught scene and disciples are going, What's this guy doing? But it's of course, not leading to a marriage. So Robert Alter, the literary scholar, calls these type scenes. And again, I, I would say I would insist that, again, like I say, we have story like histories. I would say that that does not mean that this did not happen. And perhaps there are sociological and cultural reasons there. I mean, they didn't have forgive the reference single bars back in the day. This is the well was a place of community meeting and things like that. Another kind of type scene as if you see somebody looking out the window, they might get thrown out like Jezebel. And so so I think I think it's interesting that he's on the roof. But of course, being on the roof of this royal palace, it gives him this broad perspective of the city of Babylon. And he says, Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence by my mighty power and for the glory of my Majesty. And and archeology has kind of confirmed and also ancient historians have talked about how Nebuchadnezzar is. Babylon was truly a marvel, and that even though he didn't build Babylon, Babylon has been around for many, many centuries. He certainly turned it into an extremely prosperous and beautiful city. And ancient historians talked about how there were two of the seven wonders of the ancient world there, the Hanging Gardens. The Hanging Gardens were sort of a manmade mountain. That was a garden area that, as I understand it, Nebuchadnezzar built for his medium and wife, Queen. His wife came from Medes, which was a hilly area. If you know anything about Mesopotamia, it's flat as a pancake. It's a alluvial plain. So as a token of love toward his median wife, he built a mountain there and made it a garden. And also the walls of Babylon. According to ancient Greek historian Herodotus and Xenophon. The walls surrounding Babylon stretched for eight kilometers and were so wide that you could ride a four horse chariot around its perimeter on top of the wall. So? So. So you can imagine somebody being tempted to relish in his achievements in this way, but it doesn't give acknowledgment to the true God. And and God wants to make an object lesson of this. KING Just like, you know, Pharaoh in Egypt during the exodus from Egypt was an object lesson of a human being who thought of themselves in divine proportions. So verse 31, even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven. This is where it's decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar. Your royal authority has been taken away from you. You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals. You will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the most high is sovereign over all kingdoms of the earth and gives them to anyone he wishes immediately. What has been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. Okay, so first of all, there have been attempts through the ages, just like with Jobe and his affliction, to give it a kind of medical diagnosis here. And I've heard people talk about a condition that is attested once or twice in the 20th century of things called bow and therapy. That is somebody who actually thinks they're an animal. But I don't think that's necessary. I mean, I think the bottom line is that he is losing his mind. So he's becoming beast like and he's not taking care of himself. And therefore, I don't think we have to give it a specific diagnosis to understand what's going on here. And I think Dana Fuel puts it well when she says, quote, A man who thinks he's like a God must become a beast to learn. He's only a human being. I think that's well-put. A man who thinks he is like a God must become a beast to learn he's only a human being. Again, I want to comment that, you know, Babylonian kings did not think they were a God in that sense. But in this sense. But then but I think that the point is he thinks he's like a god. All right. So it's not the end of the story. We know it's not the end of the story, because I've never seen Ezra's celebratory statements at the beginning of the chapter. So we learn about the healing in verses 34 to 37. At the end of the time, I never came as or raised my eye toward heaven and my sanity was restored. Okay, here's a guy who is peace, like in his thinking, and the most he can do is go. I get it. You know, that's that's a sign of acknowledgment and therefore, repentance. You are greater than I am. You have reduced me to the beast like status. Then I praise the most high I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion. His kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him, What have you done? At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sat me out and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. Now I never can, as are praise and exalt and glorify the King of Heaven, because everything he does is right and all this ways are just. And those who walk in pride, he is able to humble. Okay. Okay. So before we leave this chapter, we're not going to leave it. I want to do a few more reflections on sort of the significance of this tax, even for our own lives. But before we leave this tax, I need to address a kind of important question, which is, is there any evidence from outside the Bible that King Nebuchadnezzar had this condition for a lengthy period of time? Nonetheless, seven years. And the answer is no. There is no direct evidence of this, though that might not be surprising for a couple of reasons. Number one, we don't have an exhaustive record of his reign. We have a lot of ancient texts that are associated with this reign, but we don't have any kind of exhaustive sort of year by year record. And that combined with the idea that this is not the type of thing that Babylonian historians would be apt to chronicle. But there's a further complication for those of us who are interested in history and comparative comparative studies, and that is we have an interesting document that was discovered in 1956. Actually, there are four different fragments of an Aramaic text that were discovered at the Dead Sea caves, you know, along the famous Qumran Dead Sea Scrolls weren't all biblical text. There were also other texts. And this tells an interesting story, and it's commonly called the prayer of Carbonates. And you can actually read an English translation of this in the context of Scripture, which is a three volume edition of of all kinds of ancient Near Eastern texts. It's a great kind of resource, if you're interested in reading about ancient or Eastern background has texts translated from the Akkadian, the Hittite, the Egyptian and so forth and so on. Sumerian, I participated in it. I did a few translations in my early days because my doctoral advisor, W.W. Harlow, was the main editor along with Lawson Younger at Trinity Seminary. But this text, which has been dated to 75 between 75 and 50 B.C., that is this copy of the text. The story itself might be even older, is called The Prayer of Nabonidus The Prayer of NAB a Night. Just I'm going to talk more about Nabonidus soon because Nabonidus is the last King of Babylon, though. Daniel presents a guy named Belshazzar as the last King of Babylon. We'll see this in the very next chapter. And there's actually a very interesting story about the relationship between Belshazzar and Nabonidus, but this pair of Nabonidus written and Aramaic found at the Dead Sea, talks about how this last King of Babylon name, Nabonidus, has a seven year madness where which is where he was comparable to a beast that says and then a Jewish diviner comes along and tells them that's because he's worshiping idols and that Jewish diviner right now. I'm sorry, Nero Nabonidus he then. First person acknowledges. Then I prayed before God. And as for my offense, he forgave. So. So what's the connection between these two? And there are scholars who say that the author of Daniel. Took a story about Nabonidus, who, by the way, and we'll talk why this is the case later. Many Babylonians thought was not so because of his distinctive religious beliefs, again, which I will describe later and then just ascribed to name a composer. But my point would be that, you know, the exact opposite could also equally be true, which is the story about Nebuchadnezzar is now being applied to this King Nabonidus. Some people want to argue that actually they both went crazy at different times, and that's a possibility. But but again, we're in the realm of speculation. So I thought it was important to address that issue because some of you listening out there might be aware of this issue and question. So so here's where I'm going to end my exposition of Daniel Chapter four. I'll stop here and take any questions you might have and then come back and do some further reflection about some things that we learn from this chapter. 

Audience Member [00:48:54] This is a call for total speculation on your part. But I find it interesting that so he was like an animal for all these years, and when he repented, no one had usurped him. And was that because people were so scared to death of him? 

Tremper Longman III [00:49:13] Yeah, I you know, again, we're. You're right. Total speculation. Maybe he had a circle of close confidants who were powerful people themselves who who maintained his throne, kept it private. Maybe. Maybe. And kept this whole episode private. I mean, we've had I remember at the end of Ronald Reagan a blessed memories name. He was getting senile toward the end of his presidency, according to reports. And, you know, that wasn't made known. And that's in a very public democracy. So so we we we unfortunately can't be certain why, though. The question is natural, because many times when a powerful ruler becomes weakened, then, as they say, people who are rivals, people who are vassals, use that as an occasion to to. To depose the person.